Well, I’m trying to think of a more eloquent way to put it, but all that comes to mind is, “we did it!”
By “it,” I mean performing for 10,000 women at The Women of Joy Conference in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee last weekend. I was told there’d be 9,000 women at the event, which was already enough to make me squirm a little, but upon arrival I was corrected, “it’s actually about 10,000 women, only about a 1,000 more, so no big deal!” 😂.
When I first walked in and saw the venue space, I could not wrap my head around it, the chairs spread so far and so wide that not even a picture could capture it all. Surely the whole place won’t be full, I thought, but I thought wrong. The whole place packed out, women from all over the southeast and midwest, hungry for a girls’ weekend, a spiritual encounter and hopefully, a few laughs.
So that’s the “it” that we did: a show that size, for an hour, laughing all the way. And when I say “we,” I mean I absolutely could not have done it alone. We did it. First, my husband, Josh, who was with me every step of the way from the booking process to the week leading up to as I tried to prepare mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. After all, it takes a lot of work to make it look easy on stage!
Along with Josh goes a handful of people like my sister, Betsy, who joined us for the whole weekend, helped at the merch table and provided an overall sense of fun in the midst of what felt like a lot of pressure. She loved meeting all the ladies and by the end of the night she was signing copies of my book 🤣.
I’d never seen anything like it before, women and girls of all ages waited in line to get a copy of my book signed, grab a picture or just thank me for the laughter. Some waited more than an hour, many of whom met Josh and Betsy and enjoyed their company while waiting. By the time women reached me for a signature, Betsy and Josh had both signed the inside front cover… it was like signing a yearbook with some of my favorite people.
People kept thanking me for staying around, but I was the one who was grateful people would even want to wait to talk to me, let alone get a picture with me. My middle school self was thriving! “See kiddo,” I whispered back to her, “you’ll be alright, middle school is tough, hang in there!” The show ended at 9:30pm and we didn’t leave the venue until 11:45pm when the last person left. I was absolutely floored.
We went back the next day to sell more books and meet more people, we spent another four hours just talking with women and girls from all over, each with their own stories; some of struggle, some of triumph, all grateful to have had a break from it all just to laugh. “You inspire me to be myself,” one girl said, and that right there was worth it all.
Along with Betsy and Josh was my mom, who had been praying for me everyday since she first found out about me performing at Women of Joy. “I’m praying twice a day now, and so are my girls,” she said the week of the show (her girls are the ladies she prays with), “see, it’s not so bad to be on a southern lady’s prayer chain!” It was a clever jab at one of my jokes about prayer chains being a righteous way to gossip.
Other friends and family members joined in with encouragement and prayer as well. My dad and my mother-in-law often sent messages of encouragement or GIFS of love. Friends sent me voice memos and videos with words of support. Debbie, the woman who booked me and organized the whole weekend encouraged me like no other event planner/booker I’ve encountered. She cared, and she wanted me there, which made all the difference in the world for any amount of anxiety or nerves I might have felt leading up to it… I belonged there, and starting from a place of belonging versus trying to fit in is a game changer.
It’s not to say other comedy shows, producers and organizers haven’t been great, many have, but the spiritual piece is not something I’ve often encountered in the comedy world. I am neither a church comedian nor a club comic. I enjoy parts of both, but don’t fully resonate with either. I’m still in the middle of both my spiritual journey and my comedy journey. Social Media traps people into thinking they can’t grow any more, at least not in a public space. People think they need to find their audience and present their stance on everything they’ve “figured out.” While Comedy requires an audience, my goal in life is not to have an audience, and I certainly don’t have it all figured out. It’s an odd place to be… to still be growing, especially in public.
In some ways I still have a lot of healing to do from the church, unfortunately many people do, but unlike a number of “90s Christians” who’ve had some kind of awakening and decide to throw the baby out with the bath water, I simply can’t throw it all out. The church is still a wound for me, but I also still ache for the heart of Jesus and how He loves us. I still look for Him… in clubs, in churches, in theaters and bars… I’ve seen Him in all of the above, sometimes in the most unassuming of places. I’ve also wondered where He was, sometimes especially in the church.
I’ve been welcomed into churches and welcomed into clubs. I’ve also been “not a favorite” at churches and “not a favorite” at clubs. That’s life, some people will get ya, and some people won’t, and it’s okay. Even in my attempts to look for one, I’ve always had a hard time “finding my audience,” I just enjoy making people laugh, I don’t care who they are (I am a marketer’s worst nightmare). But, whether making fun of my own insecurities, oddities about the church, or just overall awkwardness of life, it’s like my sister Betsy said after my weekend with Women of Joy, “well, looks like you found your audience: 10,000 recovering Baptist women!”
The best part was I never went looking for that particular audience. Through the ebb and flow of life we all just found ourselves there, relating to each other, perhaps not about everything, but enough to see the good and enjoy each other’s company.
And so, another part of the “we” would have to be all the women who were there at Women of Joy (not all of whom were Baptist, I loved hearing one woman claim her Catholicism while able to jokingly add, “who else was going to bring the crippling guilt?” 🤣🤣. People who can laugh at themselves, I guess that’s my audience.
Hearing that many women laugh in unison was electric, almost unworldly. It was the first time it ever occurred to me that I hope Heaven has a comedy club. Maybe I will actually get to see Robin Williams perform one day, Gilda Radner too. I’m still unlearning a lot about church and relearning a lot about God, so I can’t claim to know much, but I do know that God has a sense of humor, and I think He gave me a dash of it, or at least lets me use it from time to time.
Even if I never get to experience anything like this past weekend again, I will forever be grateful that I got to experience it on this side of life.
“Thank you, God,” is something I mutter from time to time, whether as a sigh of relief or finally finding a parking spot. But as the last (not least) part of my “we,” I mean it sincerely when I say, thank you, God, that I did not go it alone, nor did I lose my sense of self, in the vastness of it all.
We did it.