I am glad that I "knew" my dream sisters before going I will honestly admit. But I had never met them inRL. So after driving to Tallahassee and finding this house (and my GPS taking me on the very scenic route to there and Starbucks) I walk up to the front door. From the second she opened the door I knew that this completely online friendship became a sisterhood. We drove for a little over 8 hours even though it was only supposed to take 6 and a half. We played the game of dueling GPS's and took a lot of wrong turns. Most of them were because we were talking so much we paid no attention to those GPS's. We FINALLY get to Greenville and check into our hotel room. This was quickly followed by a late night of talking with new inRL friends but old online friends. This online friendship that seamlessly flowed into real life is still amazing me today. We are sisters and it was not a meeting of friends it was a family reunion. When we met up with the rest of these amazing women on Thursday the family reunion only continued. I am grateful for these women who helped to keep me grounded and engaged the entire time.
|Photo by Melissa Aldrich|
That first night was filled with uncomfortableness and awe. I've said it before and I will say it again here. I am Church of Christ. So worship music with instrumentals, hands raised, and non-hymnal is not my norm. I love "Christian" music and I love to sing it but it has never been in my vocabulary as "worship" music- until this trip. Y'all- I have been doing it all wrong. I am not saying that I think instrumental music has a place in my worship service by no means. I am saying that seeing these men and women at this conference sing with eyes closed, hands raised, and their whole heart and mind focused on God and Jesus was eye opening and convictional (don't you love how I make up words sometimes?). I sat there uncomfortable but in awe. And then Ann Voskamp starts to speak. Oh my word. God pours out of this women in a way that you can't help but stop and listen. She is so soft spoken, kind, and lovely in person and then she stands on stage and she is powerful. Her voice does not have to be more this soft spoken lyrical music but there is power behind it. A power that says God is here. God loves you. God wants you! Oh be still my heart!!!!
The second day was full of sessions, naps, and more goodness. I went and I heard Holley speak and went to a blogging session to only be quickly followed by this overwhelming need for quiet and rest. So I scapped my afternoon session plans and took a nap. But I was up in time to go to hear Phil Vischer (aka the "veggie tales man"). To be reminded about how important our story is and being reminded about being conscious of how we live that story was great. At dinner that night, we heard Jennie Allen speak and realized how broken I am but that it is where I need to be. I need to be broken. I need to be able to say "Jesus- I can't do this without you. I need you!" I also loved hearing her say "Batman and parables- I'm a dork!" This woman was real as real could be. But the truly defining moment of the night came with Anthony Evans who told the sound guy to turn off the track. And then came "It is well with my soul". Y'all I tell you God was in that room. Never in my life have I heard anything so beautiful.
God was already working on my heart. He was. I could feel it. I was already raw. But Saturday morning was what I was looking forward to the most. Bianca Olthoff was the speaker. My first "real" blog that I followed. She had already inspired me. Her passion, her knowledge, her love for Christ, and her drive to end slavery in this world today. I was ready. I was prepared with kleenex that I could not find at the time. And I was still completely and totally shattered. As in I still have tears streaming down my face as I remember the total pull and shattering that happened. Tears flowed unchecked. And God worked on me through her. And my dear sister/friend/fellow dreamer reminded me to get a picture and to talk to talk to her again. (I was actually washing my hands in the bathroom Thursday night when she came walking in and I turned and introduced myself to her wet hands and all because I did not want to miss it.) So I waited. I helped the sponsor of the meal clean up to let the line go down. I stood there. I told myself I was not going to cry in front of her. (I did- as in the complete ugly cry.) And I got that picture. I told this woman how much I admired her. And she told me to listen to the mission laid on my heart. To keep going. To remember that I make a difference too. I have a voice to use. And in those words a new dream blossomed.
I did not make it to sessions that morning. It just didn't happen. Instead I poured out my heart to the woman and listened to her advice. That afternoon I worked with an amazing organization called Sole Hope and you will hear more about it in the months to come! I then met with friends. Got some books signed. I took pictures with friends. I also spent time writing in prayer journals for friends who I am even more thankful for now.
Sunday brought me home. Had me pouring my heart out to John and hoping that he understood. God used this weekend to change me and made me even more certain that I will be back next year. I am going to give Logan time to rest but my dream will begin in a couple of weeks. Because if these women can use their voices to spread the word of God, to encourage others, and to not stay in their comfort zones- I can too. I am about to get uncomfortable. And that is what God wants me to do. This time, I am listening!