Around a couple of long tables in a room in Arkansas, (in)RL 2014: We Need Your Story was born.
The night before, Holley Gerth looked me straight in the eye over dinner and asked about my God-Sized Dream. Sweaty palms and all, I looked straight back and told her about story.
How much I love it, how important it is, and how when we keep our stories inside, we deny God glory.
Our stories are meant to be shared with one another.
Twelve hours later story became the theme for this year’s (in)RL. And so this past weekend? It was like watching a dream be birthed into a real live thing. There were tears and songs of praise as I read the captions on the Instagrams and the tweets coming in of how God was moving – all over the world – through the power of story.
I gathered with my people and a few new friends, too, and we watched together. We shared and I did my best to take it all in.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was beautiful.
The TV broke an hour before everyone showed up. The decorations didn’t turn out as planned. There were last minute cancelations.
But the girls walked in and I remembered that none of the “extra” stuff matters. I completely forgot to get a ‘before’ of the pretty set up and the yummy food, but we took way too many pictures with each other, candid shots capturing real life.
Because that’s what it’s about.
(in)RL is not about the Pinterest perfect life but about the real, every day, daily community and messy ordinary coming together.
Thirteen brave women showed up, not a single one knowing exactly what the day would look like, but trusting that God would show up, too.
He showed up and showed off.
There were laughs and a few tears and no, the discussion didn’t last for long… but already multiple girls have texted or emailed saying how encouraged they were and how this was important.
Community is both imperfect and important. It’s not going to look picture-perfect. It’s often going to hurt and maybe even scar – but it is worth it. I haven’t always believed that, but over time God used good community to heal me from bad community. They have shown me the way back with grace, love, and wisdom, and I was humbled and blessed to share one of my greatest treasures – my bible study – with women around the world.
They have loved past the scars and the broken places. They have helped me tear down the walls and instead we’re building bridges together.
It was both surreal and exciting and also completely nervewracking to sit on a couch and watch my own face appear on the screen. But it was okay, way more okay than I was expecting – because we did it together. We shared our stories because we wanted to hold open the door for others to do the same.
Life is better with these girls.
No one knew everyone upon entering the room, but we left with new friends and encouraged hearts.
And next week many of these same women will sit in cushioned chairs in an auditorium as I share my testimony – my story – with my college campus.
I am terrified.
I thought talking into a camera and sharing a little piece of my story with 5,000 women around the world was scary, but apparently sharing my story – not just a little piece or two but my story – with people in real life petrifies me. I’ve shared my story before over coffee with one or two at a time and it is one of my greatest joys, but in front of a crowd?
In so many ways, this is my worst fear come to life. Beyond the speaking and the microphone and the stage – although those things belong only in my nightmares – offering this piece of me to people in real life scares me more than anything.
Because they can do with it what they please. They can laugh or talk back or talk afterwards. I have no control over who will show up and somehow, in real life feels different.
There’s no computer screen in between us.
There’s no editing, no going back and re-saying or re-typing or re-anything.
I will be facing some of my worst fears. I will look the lies straight in the face and I will speak the name of Jesus. I will declare that He alone is good and I am a big mess, but that nothing is too much or not enough for Him.
I will speak, even if my voice shakes, and I will give Him the glory. I pray that I will speak only to Him and only for Him, that I will block out the voices with all the lies screaming people will run, be quiet – stay silent – or people will run.
I will run to Jesus.
And these friends in real life, these same women who gathered on a Saturday morning to share their stories, will listen to me share mine.
We’re doing it – together.
Many thanks to Diane Bailey, my sweet new off the screen and into real life friend, for many of these pictures – but mostly for being so brave and coming to a meet up of twelve silly college girls. We loved having you and I already can’t wait for our ice cream date!