I eased into my second Hutchmoot slowly, breaking in the weekend with a Wednesday night concert in Nashville. I sipped a hard cider while Andrew Peterson and JJ Heller played songs that had soothed my soul over the rockiness of the last year. Thursday morning I joined a small crowd in the warehouse behind Baja Burrito to learn from Jonathan Rogers about translating memory into story. I went for a walk through the neighborhood that hugs Church of the Redeemer.

And then it was time. I only came in once this year. I didn’t need any coaxing. I greeted old friends with hugs and met first timers with a gentle nudge toward the registration table. I shucked corn for that night’s dinner. But this year, Hutchmoot’s magic wasn’t in its sessions. It wasn’t in its music or its books. It wasn’t in an art project or a prayer. It wasn’t even in the amazing food. This year’s magic was summed up by S.D. Smith: What my brother does for me is reflect my story back to me with mercy and grace, so that I can see myself, more and more, the way God sees me.

This year I got to see my story reflected back to me over and over again, with grace and mercy. And even more than that, in a way that affirmed that God has been working – powerfully, graciously, kindly, faithfully-  in my life over this last year. It was teling with a friend how sharing her story last year impacted my story this year. It was surprising myself by being brave enough to ask Luci Shaw if the seat next to her at the dinner table was open. It was a late night chat with a friend who has walked with me through much of this last year (she was gracious enough to forgive me…and even laugh…when I fell asleep in the middle of a sentence). It was hearing several old friends comment on the difference they saw in me between last year and this year. “You have this caterpillar to butterfly thing going on,” one of them said.

Hutchmoot was all those things. But when the last notes of the Doxology faded into the rafters of the sanctuary, I was ready to see the skyline of Chicago. I was ready to be woken up by a little grey kitten playing with my hair. I was ready to see my new community at my church. For me, this year, the sweetest thing about Hutchmoot, was realizing I was going home. And I was glad.

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that that Lord is good; blessed is the one that takes refuge in him.” – Psalm 34: 4-8