A legion of roundtops covered in black tablecloths consumed the ballroom. My friends and I plopped our belongings down at a table in the back. The room squawked with the chatter of over 250 ministry leaders, speakers and authors.
It was August of 2015. I had recently been approved to become an alliance partner with the Women’s Non-Profit Alliance. Living Soul was now official.
The day before two of my gal pals Jenny Broughton and Lyn Smith had traveled with me to attend their annual conference in Plano, Texas at the Hope Center. Jenny had set up an appointment to meet with June Hunt in the Hope Center on Friday. June founded the Hope Center, a permanent home for nearly 40 nonprofit Christian ministries that share common space, a technology backbone, and amenities under one roof. It is an incredible facility.
June Hunt is also the founder of Hope for the Heart, the author of the 100 volume counseling library, the Biblical Counseling Library and has two daily radio broadcasts airing through approximately 900 outlets world wide.
Since Lyn and I were in the waiting room, we were invited to go back into June’s office to meet her. We were beyond thrilled. I first heard June speak at the American Association of Christian Counselor’s meeting in Nashville in 2014. From that moment on I knew…when I grow up, I want to be a June.
I shot this pic of Jenny and June holding hands and walking out together. Jenny is just like that. She makes friends where ever she goes.
The next morning bright and early, we arrived at the conference. Besides the founder, Terri Burnett, who had approved my application to become an alliance partner, they were the only women I knew in the sea of faces.
“While you go put your books out, Lyn and I are going to grab some coffee and see what kind of goodies they have,” Jenny said.
Terri had suggested that I bring copies of Love Junkies to put out on her exhibit table. I arranged them artfully and stood behind the booth, trying to appear like I belonged.
“No one knows me here. I’m not speaking. I’ll likely be taking these right back home with me,” I thought.
Ladies were grabbing coffee, giving hugs and saying hello to friends. NO one was looking at the book tables.
I flashed a smile at a lady approaching me. She returned a friendly greeting…
to a lady standing just beyond me.
People think that being an author brings some kind of instant celebrity. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Having your entire life exposed on 5″ x 8″ sheets of paper in 12-point Times New Roman font doesn’t make you famous…it makes you naked.
The whole time I felt like a puppy in cage at PetSmart wagging its tail hoping that some little kid would come by and convince his mother to take it home. I guarded my post a few more minutes before deciding my time would be better spent mixing with the ladies.
Moments later, the microphone let out a shrill as Terri attempted to settle the herd down for the day.
Maybe after lunch the ladies will look at the exhibit booths.
At 12:00 sharp, the Styrofoam boxes arrived. Soon the sound of laughter and crinkling sandwich paper filled the air. I glanced at the booths. Except for a few random visitors, they were empty. My stomach was growling. I decided to eat.
Just before the lunch break was over, however, a sudden wave of obligation swept over me: You SHOULD go stand by the booth.
“I guess I can handle ten more minutes of awkwardness,” I thought.
I put on my best smile hoping to snatch someone to talk to.
“Hi, I’m Christy Johnson,” I said to the close lady. I felt like a NoPest Strip waiting for a victim.
“Terri Sullivan,” the close lady said with a worn out look. “Nice to meet you.”
Great. I’ve intruded on someone with zero interest.
I tucked my defeat back inside and continued with forced enthusiasm.
“Who are you here with, Terri?”
“Hilltop Recovery Center, a drug and alcohol rehab center for women.”
“This is my administrative assistant, Amy Carter. She lives in our transitional home for women in recovery.”
Maybe I’ll catch a fly after all.
“You should check out my book for your women,” I said. “Love Junkies, 7 Steps for Breaking the Toxic Relationship Cycle.”
Terri drew closer.
“There is a video teaching series that goes with the book that is really powerful for small discipleship groups.”
Terri picked up the book. She looked at the back cover and handed it to Amy. “This looks like it might be something great for our ladies. You check it out.”
Sighing, Terri looked my way. “Christy, we’ll visit later. I’m just spent. Exhausted and ready to explode, but this leader…” she paused, let out a sarcastic laugh and pointed to herself, “has gotta stay focused for the rest of the day if I’m going to be good to lead anyone.”
I spoke with Amy for a bit and gave her a copy of the book to review, all the while wondering if Terri’s exit was her polite attempt to say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
A few weeks later Amy messaged me. “I started reading Love Junkies right away and can’t put it down! Terri and I want to start a group at Hilltop.”
I marveled at God’s ability to connect me with exactly the right ladies in a sea of leaders at just the right moment. In the ten short minutes at my post, God drew her in.
I’m glad I listened to the nudge to leave my comfort zone at my Styrofoam box because…
I didn’t just catch one fly, I caught a whole picnic full!
The Love Junkies discipleship group started at Hilltop Recovery Center in February. The ladies fell in love with the study and Terri arranged for me to come visit the ladies in March. I was excited. This would be Living Soul’s first mission trip!
Today Terri and I laugh about our first encounter. “After my lousy disclosure about my leadership capabilities, I’m surprised you had any confidence in me at all,” Terri jokes.
My First “Mission” Trip for Living Soul
First let me say this: A ministry trip doesn’t have to be out of the country to be a mission trip. There are plenty of missions in our own backyard.
My trip to Hilltop was phenomenal.
There is no greater joy than seeing women “get” the gospel. Women in recovery are at a place where they soak up truth like a Magic Growing Animal Capsule. You know…those toy sponge animals that grow five times their size in water. Desperation for change makes them dedicated. There’s no looking back. They are focused. Committed.
I love these ladies:
Here’s what some of them said about the Love U for Love Junkies discipleship curriculum:
I am finally seeing why every relationship in my life has been unhealthy. Love Junkies is taking me to the next level in my healing. THANK YOU!
I finally understand how abusive relationships have manipulated my own self-worth. Now I know God loves me even if others don’t.
Manda Mandrell, one of the amazing girls on my advisory team went with me. I love my Manda. The only problem is that Terri loves her too. Every time I turned around she showered her with kisses and threatened to steal her from me.
We had so much fun. Manda and I stayed overnight at the ladies home on Hilltop’s 50 acre acreage. In the morning Amy made us breakfast and the girls that didn’t have to scoot out to work joined us. We laughed non-stop.
Laughter is contagious. Especially Amy’s. Seriously.
You gotta hear Amy’s laugh. Come on. Listen to it. The clip is 2 seconds. You got time for that!
Did you laugh?
You know what is amazing about Amy’s laugh? Amy came to Hilltop on Christmas day 2 years ago. Nowhere to turn.
“I’ve never been able to stay clean for long,” says Amy. “But Terri took me in on a day when most would ignore me and say ‘I’m busy with family, call back tomorrow.’ Now this is my home and I’m not leaving!”
Isn’t the land beautiful?
You know what’s even more beautiful? How God takes the broken and makes them a vessel of healing.
Amy is attending Criswell Bible College and wants to minister someday. When this session of Love Junkies is over, she will help Terri start another class.
Women recovering from addiction all struggle with some type of love addiction. Love Junkies will be part of Hilltop’s curriculum from now on.
Terri Sullivan, Founder of Hilltop Recovery Ministries