Last year for (in)RL I hid.

I fled up the coast to the safe (and most beautiful) friendship of one of my oldest and best of friends. The weekend that all of you met in homes and in churches and you met new people, I met Lisa on the beach.

It was the most amazing couple of days: we ate breakfast, we went shopping, we walked on the sand. But to be very honest, I asked her to meet me on purpose during that weekend last April: I wanted an excuse not to have to either go to an inRL event or to host one myself.

And to be honest once more, it’s okay that I hid. I feel no guilt or shame about it.

Sometimes we need that one-on-one with our oldest person to feel normal again. Sometimes we crave that friend who knows us so well that she can finish our sentences. The one we can Facetime at 9pm after we’ve taken off our makeup and are sitting in bed. Sometimes being alone, being safe and cocooned is a good thing. It’s hard to live four hours away from our best friends.

There is a time to hide.

And if you, the ones who are reading this on your phones or in the early morning dark, or while your toddlers tear up the living room or while dinner burns in the kitchen, if you feel like you need to hide this year, you have our full permission to stay home.  If that is what will feed your heart and mend your soul, then be released with grace. Go to coffee with a good friend or take a bike ride with your sister; find community in that way

It’s okay to hide once in awhile. Please know that it is okay. In fact, it’s more than okay. You have our blessing.

There is a time to hide, but there is also a time to invite others into community. This year I’ve decided not to hide. In fact I’ve decided to host.

If you know me at all you know that’s big-time-crazy-talk for a private introvert like me. But I’m in a place this year where in order to feed my soul and to mend my heart, I need that community around me. I need my friends. I need you.

So I’m creaking open my private heart and my private life for those of you who’ll join me. And if you are attending one or hosting one, you are doing the same thing.

We don’t take this lightly. We know it is hard and uncomfortable and even a little scary. We know this.

But it’s all important. The one-on-one moments, the bigger group of community: each has a perfect place and time.

And I’ll find my time for one-on-one conversations with Lisa later in the year, I’m sure.  We’ll have a coffee or a morning or something to fill that place in our hearts with special friendship. There will be time for that.

But this April? I won’t hide. I’ll be here with you.

You can still sign up to host or attend an (in)RL event near you. If you are in Orange County, California you are personally invited to my house! Click here for my (in)RL event. If you are somewhere else, click here to be taken to a list of meetups and click here to register.

Are you going? Are you hosting? Why did you decide to do it this year?

Or why did you decide to not?

Today we’re giving away 100 (in)RL t-shirts to 100 people randomly selected from anyone registered (or who registers by) midnight EST on Tuesday. Whoot! If you haven’t registered yet – it’s FREE and you could win a t-shirt.

Click here to register!

  • Melissa

    I love that the t-shirts don’t have words splashed across the chest. Well done in(RL) folks!!!

    • Sarah Markley

      i agree!!

  • Marina Bromley

    Last year I hosted because I’d been so blessed by the blogs I’ve spent reading for so long, and it made a difference in my world!
    THIS year I’m hosting (despite being new to the community) because I KNOW that there have got to be OTHER new women that want to connect and be blessed!!
    I’m passing out the save the date cards like crazy, (even to complete strangers in coffee houses and malls!!), and have switched to the invitations (printed on 1/2 sheets) because I love the description of “who it’s for…” – so even if every woman doesn’t decide to come to the (in)RL I’m hosting, I’m hoping that they will get tuned in to (in), and maybe host their own!
    All for God’s Glory!!

    • anna {girlwithblog}

      Marina I love that you’re handing out your invites to strangers in coffee houses!! That’s awesome! Rock on, girl!

    • Sarah Markley

      right!! oh how fun! save the dates! I did not get that fancy at all =)

    • Jenni Saake “InfertilityMom”

      I love that you are handing out cards, even to total strangers! :D

  • Beth Williams

    Sometimes people just need “down time” or “alone time”. After driving and working all week, put in workouts, etc. the stress can be there and you just want to vege out with 1 person quietly. I find hiding is cathartic for me and my husband–it beings us closer together.

    This year I decided to join in(RL) conference because I feel I know many of the writers here on this blog and I have been inspired by the writers and responders. I would love to see you all face to face and really really get to know you deep down intimately!

    • Sarah Markley

      i agree beth! hiding is cathartic for me too =)

  • jen

    LOVE that shirt!!!!!

    • Sarah Markley


  • Lesley

    I am registered and would love a shirt. Don’t really know what to expect doing this but I know God will meet with and bless us for doing it. Excited for what’s to come. Thanks!

    • Sarah Markley

      i am too, lesley!

  • Becky @ From Ministry to Motherhood

    I’m all for hiding being a super private introvert myself but you’re right, there is a time when we are called into community. I try to remember that and balance those things in my life so I’m not too far in either camp. :) I’ll have to see if there’s a meeting somewhere near my home…

    • Sarah Markley

      oh i hope you do. it’s hard when we are private and introverted (raising my hand first!) but sometimes its good to get out there. good for you, becky! i’m so happy you might go. =)

  • Beth Werner Lee

    I didn’t exactly hide last year but I didn’t sign up partly because of the cost (thank you that it’s free) and partly because it was a really busy time of year for my professor husband, wrapping up the semester, grading.

    But this year I jumped right in and registered. Partly it’s because this year I am taking my writing more seriously (set aside Mondays to write, among other things) and so also I want to encourage the other bloggers in my city (Santa Barbara). So I’ll host, even though my house isn’t big and my screen isn’t very large, but I can probably swing a chocolate fountain.

    • Sarah Markley

      chocolate fountain? now there’s an idea. and i was just going to do cupcakes =)

      i love santa barbara by the way. =)

  • Cathy B*****y

    I LOVE this TSHIRT! Will they also be available to those hosting and attending? I cant wait to see God open the doors to the impossible and improbable- outside of Him! I am signed up to host, totally and absolutely a faith step!

    • Sarah Markley

      i’m not sure cathy. we’ll have to ask on that one. i’ll try to find out for you. =)

    • Sarah Markley

      Cathy – I guess you can buy them in the online store =)

    • Mandy @ (in)courage

      Cathy- you can find the t-shirts here: thanks!

  • Teresa

    what a wonderful read… and oh so true… blessings to your year.

    • Sarah Markley

      thank you teresa!! =)

  • Karen

    I am planning on hiding this year! The month of May is going to be CRAZY for us with a college graduation, a wedding, a high school graduation and putting our house on the market. That is my plan!

    However, God has just opened the door for me to run an 8 week bible study with the ladies in my neighborhood and I would not be surprised if He asks me to open my home to them for that weekend! :-) I will if He asks!

    • Sarah Markley

      i love it karen!! =)

    • Karen

      btw…I have a tshirt from last year and do not need another one….

  • Christy

    If we signed up already, are we already registered? The link doesn’t work for me from this page.

    • Lisa-Jo @lisajobaker

      Yes ma’am – if you’re already registered, you’re already entered :)

  • Darlene

    Sarah, thank you for sharing. I’m an introvert as well. Recently, I have found that being an ‘introvert’ does not mean there’s something wrong with me. It just means I do things differently. I think perhaps, for us introverts this is the first step. This year I plan on attending one of the groups. Perhaps in the future, I too, may find the courage to open my home to complete strangers. Isn’t that what Christ asks of us anyway?

  • Jenni Saake “InfertilityMom”

    Last year I “hid” because I was newly home from the hospital and terribly conscious of new disabilities. This year I would have liked to host, but couldn’t pull anything off, physically, since I am still quite dependent on others for the basic survival/function of our home. But I’m thrilled that a God has called an area hostess this year and I am taking this broken Temple God has chosen to dwell within, and going (actually bringing my mom, or rather she is bringing me, since I no longer can drive).

  • Deborah

    I attended last year and was planning on hosting an event at my house this year, but, I’m stepping out on my own and joining a whole bunch of other women going to Pudach, KY for quilt week, all by myself. Major for me. So I’ll be finding community a different way this year. Looking forward to next year and I will host on event! Hope you have a wonderful time.

  • Missy

    The fact that you gave readers of (in)courage the “out” to forgo meet-ups is a gift. And the fact that you are hosting one this year is brave and wonderful! I hope you enjoy the tar out of this experience, Sarah! I’m hosting in New Hampshire and nervous and excited and all those good things. :)

  • ~Karrilee~

    LOVE the shirt… LOVE the grace and permission to hide if needed! I am hosting this year and to be honest – I haven’t done much prep work or thinking or promoting it just yet! I am teaching at a women’s retreat in March and once that is off my plate – I am going to see what kind of havoc I can wreak with parking – hoping to fill my home with friends and soon-to-be friends alike! It’s not in the numbers – so if it is just a few of us – that is fine by me but I am hungering for new community… and I am leaning in to my OneWord this year in trying to be more open and take more risks… afterall, one can’t really PLAN for “Surprise!” right?

  • Michele D

    Well that was weird. I clicked over because I thought, oh an (in)courage t-shirt, I’d love one! Not realizing it was for people who registered for the April conference. Thought it was registration for a group. Right before this, I was on my way to the grocery store thinking about the April conf and wondering if I should host, since there isn’t any yet in my area. Hosting is way out of my comfort zone. I asked God to let me know if he wants me to host. Lol. Guess I know now. Alright!!

    • Kaitlyn@incourage

      LOVE that – what a “coincidence” :)

  • Joyce M.

    I kind of hid last year too, and then regretted it after I saw all the tweets. I am with you all the way on the introvert thing. I am signed up to host up here in the SF Bay Area, but would totally go to yours down south if we were down that way. We recently started a young families group at our church (our first meeting was yesterday actually), and I think this is just what we need to build our community. :)

  • Amie

    These shirts are so soft and comfortable. I have one from last year. :)

  • Cindy in PA

    Last year I registered and waited for someone else to step up to host. That didn’t happen and I remember watching the videos and at one point had my 5 month old granddaughter on my lap and whispered to her that “she was my community.”

    This year I am stepping outside my comfort zone and hosting. So far there are 5 or 6 of us registered and I am already feeling blessed by voluntarily opening my home to local women I don’t know yet.

  • lisa lehmann

    i’m so proud of you. and i completely understand. maybe one day i will be able to walk out from my “private” too. in the mean time, i’m jealous. part of me would love to be there…. {{hugs}}

  • Donna

    I’ll be by myself. I need a quiet retreat to ask direction from Him and to pray focussed.

  • Margaret Feinberg

    Love the beach picture! Think I’m ready for summer.

  • Heather Peters

    I am registered….and would love a free shirt. BUT, will look into buying one even if i don’t “win” one.

  • muchalone

    Love the honesty here…and I love how you decided to do what would be the best community for you without feeling forced to participate in ‘programmed community’…sometimes, it really does help to program community…especially for those of us who just don’t seem to be able to figure it out on our own. I love the concept of in(RL), but I am not one who is gifted in connecting. I pray that meaningful connections will be made between women around the world at this event. The potential for encouraging others is endless…

  • nancy bouwens

    ahh yes- I see this give away promo was several days ago- and alas I have most likely missed it BUT i do want to say whoever designed these T’s did a fab job and I say FAB!! BLESSINGS see you all at the event in April !

  • Debra Bacon

    Until this year did I know what (in)RL was about. I had seen it on the (in)courage site, heard others talk about it, and I so wanted to know. To be a part. I was a BIG scary room on a website and I never clicked it to find out who, what, when or why.

    Then there was this year – after becoming an (in)courager in Session 1, I began to feel more at home in community. Virtual community filled with strangers mostly. The thought of meeting any of them (in)RL (in real life), horrified me. I prayed about it. I certainly wanted to be a part, but, how much a part, I was not so sure.

    Then my husband said to me one day – you love this (in)courage community. What are you afraid of – host one – here – at our home.

    WHAT??? In my home? It’s not fancy, it’s home – our comfortable, beautiful home to me, to us.

    Well, a bit more prayer and I felt God’s gentle nudge. I’m hosting this year. HA! Yes – hosting in my home (in)RL 2013. I have four people signed up so far. I am not scared – well maybe a little.

    Anyone in my area is invited, just go here: to sign up for Corsicana, TX (near Dallas).

    Thank you for sharing your heart, Sarah.