(in)RL~ We Need YOUR Story!
It was early on a Sunday morning. Eight women had gathered from all over the city of Rochester to scrapbook and swim. One woman arrived in her red SUV. Another came in carrying a yo-yo. The women danced as they greeted one another. They charged as they ate muffins and drank lemonade. The women heard barking and knew that it was time for the hike to begin. They climbed to their seats and made sure their vases were close by.
One woman cried, another laughed as they watched the video conference. “I’ll be back”, someone shared and everyone ran.
Everyone sighed. The fellowship was lovely, the food was slimy, the videos were beautiful. A rough time was had by all and as the clumsy women posed for a picture, the woman wearing a purple bra said, “When can we do this again?!!!”
This mad lib was the ice breaker for our (in)RL get together. (in)RL -which stands for in real life- is an online conference started by the website Incourage. The purpose is to connect women beyond blog posts and online interactions. Incourage provides video sessions and women gather in their own communities to view the videos together. This is the 3rd annual conference and my third time hosting or co-hosting the event.
As I thought about the theme for the weekend- We need YOUR story- it seemed like a perfect way to begin our time together. With a story. A story that all of us wrote together. A story that is better because of all of the women involved in writing it.
Although our story tells you that we had eight women at our meet up, in reality, there were 13 women who shared the morning together. We watched the videos together. We paused for discussion. We cried, we hugged, we prayed for one another.
I am always amazed when a group of women is able to share with one another on a heart level. These women shared a bit of their stories- the difficult, the messy, the beautiful- and the love that was extended was breathtaking. Some of these women are very close friends, but most were meeting for the first time or at least sharing a part of themselves for the first time.
We rejoiced with giveaways that seemed so personal as if it had all been part of God’s plan that these women would win what they did. The giveaways were based on each woman entering a drawing by sharing their middle name, the year they were born, their favorite subject in school and the farthest they have traveled.
Each woman seemed to resonate with a different speaker which is the beauty of presenting a conference that allows so many different speakers to share. I found myself nodding along as Jennie Allen spoke about trying to gain approval her whole life. And then finally getting to the place where she realized that she needed to wrestle with her sin and seek only to please God. It is the message that God seems to be impressing on my heart of late and I was so blessed by the challenge that she gave!
Being vulnerable. Opening ourselves up to community. Meeting hurts with compassion. Sharing a bench.
This is what doing real life with one another looks like.
While it might feel scary to open yourself up to someone else, it is always worth it. There are real, true, faithful friends out there, but the only way to find them is to be one yourself. And then to never give up your pursuit.
Step out of that comfort zone that keeps you from pursuing friends. Because those friends who you can call at any moment? The ones who will drop everything and be there in a heartbeat? Those friendships are worth so much more than any rejection, any hurt, any betrayal.
I don’t know anyone that hasn’t been wounded by community. But when we are able to move past the hurt, we discover that others have a story that just might encourage us right where we need it. Some may have a story that will move us from those stuck places and get us back on track. And others might challenge us to see the world just a little bit differently.
Have you shared your story in real life? Have you been willing to go deep with others? Are you willing to go beyond the shallow?
I hope you are able to answer yes! Because we need YOUR story. It matters. You never know who might be blessed because you were willing to share.
(in)RL. Imperfect. Inspiring. Incredibly sweet!