We’re counting down to January 14 when registration goes live for our (in) real life conference! It’s FREE this year – whoot! So save the date for April 26 & 27, 2013. In the meantime, we’re delighted to be featuring a few of our favorite posts from women who participated in last year’s event. We’re sharing them here so you can get a peek at what all the excitement is about.
After a weekend of extreme awesomeness, I thought it would be easy to write a post about the incredible experience (in)RL was for me, but I found myself overwhelmed by the all of the feelings and thoughts that came rushing to my head. I feel like I spent a weekend partying with God, and I do not mean that in a disrespectful way. Because I am thinking, if God had a worldwide party with His daughters, this is how it would be. This would be His way of saying “Alright, girls. It is time y’all meet because my daughters will not be strangers to each other.” I like to think of God as having a humorous side (and apparently with a Southern accent).
I have a hard time meeting people and making friends, because I am accustomed to being by myself. But when I heard about (in)RL, something told me to give it a try. Deep down I have been craving for that sense of not just community but also sisterhood. Often I have wondered what it would be like to meet some of the people that like me, follow and comment at the (in)courage site on a daily basis. And so, I decided to give this a try; after all, my word for this year is “intentional” and can it get more intentional than this? On Friday was the kickoff webcast, and still I was a bit hesitant but I kept listening. Then as they were discussing how community can make or break us, these words came across the screen:
And I thought: this is me, right here. This is how I feel on a daily basis. I have been told that it is sad that I do not have a ton of friends, but I do not feel sad. Should I? As I kept asking myself all of these questions, I did know in my heart that this conference was the right first step towards stepping out of this sometimes secluded life which in all honesty lacks in community. And so I kept watching, and by the end of the night I was crying big time as I watched the video about Sara (from Gitzen Girl) who went to meet her Father and maker this past Fall. It was poignant, bittersweet and lovely. It left me feeling like I had just been crying (with joy because Sara would not have it any other way) with sisters, and I felt encouraged as if in their own words they were telling me that community doesn’t always hurt. And that feeling carried me through the next day for our local meetup here in Fayetteville, NC.
I can go on and on about this meetup and I will probably need two posts to describe it, so I am going to point the things that really stood up for me:
No. 1 I was struck by how eager we all were to share our experiences in Christ, whether good or bad, this meeting reiterated that God does works in mysterious ways, and all with the end state of making us stronger and more faithful.
No. 2 I loved that although I was the only single girl, I did not feel left out, something that usually happens to me. They were so welcoming and lovely in their suggestions and comments that I was blown away.
No. 3 I think it is hilarious that we shared two things in this group: either we go to the same church (and didn’t know it! how is that possible?!) or our significant others work in the same unit! Again, how we have not met before is mind blowing because Fayetteville is the All-American military town, and everyone seems to know each other here at Fort Bragg.
No. 4 It was heartwarming that even though we started as strangers, it was a very personal experience. We talked, we laughed, and we shed tears… and then laughed some more. And talked gluten-free food, and couponing (who would have thought I would end up learning about couponing?), dogs, kids… and then we shed some tears when talking about a son with an illness, or my father’s cancer and how slowly God has been opening his heart to accept Him… and then we laughed some more through the tears. It was a true (in) real life gathering.
No. 5 One of my favorite moments of the meetup was meeting Sarah. You see, Sarah is not a blogger and she did not know about (in)courage and (in)RL was. She found out through Twitter and decided to check it out. Here is why this was one of my favorite parts of the afternoon: She and I go to the same church and I have never met her before. That in itself was great but then she talked about how she was feeling this call to get involved with stopping child trafficking and I was stunned. You see, this is a cause that has always moved me, possibly because I have three nieces whom I love as if they were my own, and I worry about the predators that roam our streets. Because of that I am currently working on a project I feel very strongly about called the Hope + Faith Project, which aims at bringing education and awareness about human trafficking to high school students. I have been pretty fortunate to have received correspondence from the Stop Human Trafficking Organization and they are going to assist me with advice and suggestions about how to get this started. The H+F Project is still in the gestation phase but I feel pretty positive about it. Anyhow, enter Sarah and her wish to get involved with this cause. So, needless to say, we left the meetup with plans to talk and email about getting the project moving forward. I think there is a reason we both came to this meeting and have a heart full of a desire to help with this cause.
No. 6 I realized that my type A control freak personality can sometimes block me from being approachable or approaching others. I have been like this since I was little but this has become more so since I am a military officer, and I have used that to keep people at bay. More importantly, I realized as we shared our experiences how I have used this personality to guard myself, to keep me from getting hurt by friendships like in the past. And I have been praying to change this area of my life.
No. 7 What a difference social media can make! I think part of the success of (in)RL was the instant feedback via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram of the meetups and webcasts. This was a worlwide event involving approximately 1,700 participants and being able to share this event as it was happening was in the words of Mary Poppins “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”.
In all, this was one of the most positive experiences I have ever had in my life. Simply inspired. It was fellowship but also so much more than that. It was coming together for His Glory, to give Him thanks, to let Him know that His daughters love Him and want to make a difference in the world by spreading His Word. It was fabulous to meet these cyber friends and see them transform from friends in the computer to friends with skin. It totally made my weekend. If you did not have a chance to experience the (in)RL weekend, you can still do by getting the DVD and Study Book Set. It is well worth it. I want to thank the (in)courage team for putting together a fantastic “un-conference” and cannot wait until next year! Finally I leave you with some of the best quotes from this weekend; may they fill your heart as they filled mine.
“Your story matters because YOU matter because the God who made you is writing a story through you.”
Doris Swift says
I LOVE the last line (well, really the entire post, but especially the last line!), where you said “Your story matters because YOU matter because the God who made you is writing a story through you.” Thank you, because I too truly believe every woman of God should speak out and share His story to encourage others.
Lisa-Jo @lisajobaker says
I’ve read this post so many times and it gives me all kinds of goose bumps every time….just love this testimony so very much!
Beth Williams says
This give me reason to try this year’s In(RL) conference. I am shy by nature-getting more outgoing as I age. It is hard for an almost middle-aged, married, working, country girl to make friends.
Most of the woman at church have children & even grandchildren & it’s hard to relate to that. I have some hobbies–running/exercise, dancing, watching some nice tv show when time permits.
We would love for you to be a part this year Beth! Let us know if you have any questions. 🙂