Reading your words–your brave, honest, heart-deep, heart-full words–about (in)RL has been such a gift. You all are amazing and lovely, and we love seeing the many ways you stepped out in faith, connected with soul sisters and made the choice to stay in community–no matter what that looked like.
If you haven’t had a chance to take a look at the dozens of posts describing (in)RL experiences around the world, head over there this weekend.
One of the best parts about reading through post after post about women gathering and connecting is seeing how many of you share similar stories. You were nervous, you were excited, you were afraid nobody would show up. You heard us talk about small being the new big, but you wondered why more people weren’t RSVPing for your gathering. You scrubbed floors and baked cupcakes, and you ignored piles and dust and let children create centerpieces. You had breakthroughs and heart-to-hearts. You cried tears of laughter and pain and oh-she-gets-me.
Your (in)RL meetups were everything you hoped for–and nothing you expected. And they were all beautiful. We’ve gathered some of your reflections here. Enjoy!
God used good community to heal me from bad community. I bear the scars of broken community, but they tell the story of healing. It took time, friends. Times of good and times of hard but mainly just time. And love. Then I met these girls, and we were transparent and real and community to each other.
Kaitlyn, It Just Takes One
People on the Internet are amazing. I could not have survived this last year without my sisters from around the web and without their unwavering care and prayer-words for me. But I also could not have survived the last year without the women here in my Sunday-Saturday life, the ones who plunge their tired hands into a sink full of suds and wash my dishes.
I learned a lot that afternoon. I listened to some amazing women speak truth right into our hearts. But the biggest lesson that I learned was that when Jesus is present, we do not need to be afraid. And He was there, in the warm smiles and welcoming hugs. He was there, teaching us that if we follow Him, there is nothing to fear.
We all long to understand and be understood. That’s what community is about – coming together and choosing to understand, even in the hard times.
The women who showed up? They really showed up, hearts open and ready for filling. And God? He did not disappoint. He showed up too. Those hearts met in real life, and Real Life met our hearts there.
Anna, Girl with Blog
We chose to show up. My sisters were brave and chose to meet me. They were gracious as I stumbled through telling them why I love this community so much. And we choose now to stay. To pursue one another, encourage one another. To live life together. Because life together with my sisters is immeasurably more beautiful than I could ever begin to imagine.
(in)RL 2013 for me was nothing like the testimonials I read on (in)courage or like the video clips from last year where people talk about the amazing new bonds they formed with total strangers, who went on to become new friends. (in)RL 2013 was nothing like I expected, but everything that God wanted it to be. And, I am so grateful.
Elizabeth Anne, Seasons with Soul
What a breath of fresh air to be able to gather with sisters and just be. No need to try to impress anyone or be something I wasn’t. I learned a lot about myself on Saturday too: I am brave. I do know how to make friends. A group of women who have Christ in common have the most important commonality there is. And if you put enough glaze on it, no one will care that the top broke off the chocolate chip pound cake.
One Rebel Heart
Even after five hours we didn’t finish view the videos, for one-by-one these precious women opened up and were brave and bared their hearts. They told of their struggles and fears. Some poured free with tears. I could see through to the pain they wanted free of and heart-heavy for them, I leaned toward Abba. “Let’s pray.” And this, the beginning of something new. Beginning the work of God knitting the hearts of His daughters together because together, we are better.
Michele-Lyn, A Life Surrendered
We introduced ourselves and everyone got prizes. I asked the questions, “What is community?” and “How do we find it?” Slowly the answers came. But then, the third question in, it happened … that moment when we all knew, “This place is safe and I’m not alone.”
Teri Lynne Underwood
We laughed. We listened. We talked about how God made us to be in real live community and why it is a blessing and sometimes so hard. I also ate the most amazing brownie in real life. Yes, I did.
As it turns out, we all have a story about community, staying or not staying, the blessings, and the challenges attached to the people we let in and out of our lives. Each of us could talk about this topic for hours because God made us to fit with other people in one way or another. He made us to need it. He also made us to learn from it.
Stacey Thacker, 29 Lincoln Avenue
You see, it wasn’t just about being brave enough to show up at a stranger’s house and risk interaction (in)RL. It wasn’t just about drinking iced tea and eating baked potatoes with loads of toppings and strawberry spinach salad on the side. No. It was about the real me, seeing the real you, and connecting with one another because of the Jesus in us both.
I didn’t want to leave these women who made me feel perfectly loved in community. But the beauty is that I can come back. These women who live just moments from my home. It’s a choice to be in community, and I want to make that choice to gather with these women, with all of the women whom God has placed in my life.
My life is richer, my heart full, because of community.
Barbie, My Freshly Brewed Life
The day didn’t have to be perfect. My home didn’t have to be spotless. The conversation didn’t have to flow without any holding back. “Use this space, God. This is your home. Please, just use this space as you need today.”
I was so nervous about people coming over. I just wanted them to feel at home here. “Just let them feel at home here,” I prayed.
We did discuss the videos a bit, and we shared… (this is when the feelings of failure can swoop right in!) I wanted to go deep. I wanted to get to the heart of the matter when it comes to Community and why we are or aren’t connected in tight… If I am honest, I wanted the tears and the broken and the healing to follow… I wanted truth to reign supreme and love to be made manifest…
Sometimes I want the messy, when what He wants is the covering. Sometimes in order to get to the Real, it takes time… & that is ok… because the whole of the message of the day was the power of Staying.
Karrilee, Abiding Love Abounding Grace
Thank you, amazing sisters, for sharing your hearts and your stories with us. You are incredible and brave and beautiful, and we can’t wait for our next opportunity to meet with you (in)RL, in Real Life.