This weekend we hosted a local meet-up of (in)courage's (in) Real Life Conference. As I process what to share with you about it, so much comes to mind. Here is my attempt to put it into words and pictures from my phone with poor lighting :)
The courage of the ladies who showed up...
Going to an event you've never heard of can be intimidating. And we all have excellent reasons for avoiding the awkwardness altogether by just not going. Yet, a group of women of showed up anyway Friday evening and Saturday morning.
And beyond showing up, they opened up. Meeting each other, sharing stories, discussing the videos and revealing a need to keep these conversations going. I was incredibly blessed, and am so appreciative, for each of these women.
The needs of the local community these ladies represent...
You know that feeling when you're surrounded by people--in your home, community, church--and somehow still feel alone?
Our conversations and discussions this weekend noted that we've all been there at some time. Feeling alone and friendless. And I don't think that's true only for us who were there this weekend. I believe many more in our community--Christian and not--feel this way. Feel in some way unsupported, unencouraged, isolated, alone.
I have dreamed of solutions for this common need in our local community. While I feel for each woman that feels this way, it is reassuring to know the need is there and the effort is worth it. Each woman represented by the group that showed up is worth it.
The power of our stories...
This year's conference theme was "Your Story Matters" or "We Need Your Story." As ladies shared about themselves with each other before and after the keynote videos, and as we shared our own experiences in response to the videos, it became obvious to me the power of our stories.
Each story seemed to have an element of overcoming. Overcoming a hurt or a struggle or a particular challenge or roadblock. Sometimes the story is progressed enough to have a resolution, and many other times it's still in the process with only the hope of overcoming.
Wherever we are in our stories, they are our testimonies of the power of Jesus.
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. // Rev. 12:11And just the little bits of stories I heard this weekend was absolutely evidence of that. Our stories matter for ourselves, for others, and ultimately for the glory of God. As they bring us together in His purpose, in His healing, and in His truth and love.
The significance of each person's contribution...
As we worked on setting things up in the college student center, my husband pointed out, "This was just going to be a small get-together with a few people in our apartment gathered around our laptop." And that was the original plan.
Of course, when I shared the idea with my mom and sister, we pooled our ideas and resources together to make it bigger and better. And a last-minute visit from a family friend who saw the heart of this event and volunteered her own time and resources. Even for a small gathering, hosting was a big task by myself. Then, when it got bigger, somehow the work was better.
We encouraged each other and affirmed each other's ideas. We redirected each other back to a simple focus when we got distracted. And together, our weaknesses weren't hindering because we had another's strengths to fill in the gaps.
Then, there's Daniel, my amazingly supportive husband. The man who hears out my ideas and even encourages them. He's there in the beginning to help set up and be sure the technology is ready, there in the middle caring for our kids, and there at the end helping put things back to normal. And he's there all along the way to keep me from giving up.
And we can't forget the (in)courage team and those involved with providing and orchestrating all of the (in)RL resources. The speakers sharing their own powerful and engaging stories, and the people who made it possible for us to bring this message and event to our local community. They made it possible for us to focus on our local women and those details that helped make our time together special.
Our contributions, however small, are important.
The working of the Spirit...
When there were no meet-ups planned for our town, it seemed obvious I needed to host. Not just to create a Lincoln location. Maybe more importantly to tip my toes into an outreach idea that has been evolving over the last year or so.
The idea: Bringing that special conference feel that I loved for free to those in my own hometown who can't afford it. Because the gospel should be free, right? Because even us can't-afford-a-conference-much-less-travel-and-hotel women deserve some conference-like encouragement, empowerment, and pampering, right?
So, that is just a snippet of the dream. Bringing conferences on a smaller, local scale to the women in my community for free.
And (in)RL gave the perfect outlet to test that idea out. Because they were providing the material--the speakers and theme and all of that nitty gritty planning. All I needed to do was invite the women and make them feel special. Even if it was just a tiny handful of women that could fit into our tiny apartment.
Then, before bringing it up to others, my sister started talking about the same vision of reaching out to local women with special events. We got excited that we both wanted the same thing without realizing it, and agreed (in)RL was a perfect opportunity to try it out.
By the time my mom, sister and I were all done with our dreaming and scheming together, the meet-up was a Saturday morning and Friday evening event with over 90 people invited (about 30 or so showed up), crafty details, and custom-designed booklet/journals. Definitely a dream turned reality.
The best part...
This weekend was just the beginning. The beginning of a dream, a passion, a ministry taking shape and happening... here in our real, local lives.
linked up: incourage
A Story to Tell
The Prodigal's Brother and My Story
Everything We Do
Safer than a Known Way