Crystal Stine

You did it. You, brave one, chose community over fear. You opened your homes to women whose faces you’ve only seen in tiny square boxes online. You drove to the home of a new friend, leaving your family behind on a lovely Saturday afternoon. You mingled with ladies who brought their stories with them – stories that sound like fairy tales, stories that sound like nightmares – and you made small talk and welcomed them into your own story.

st8oftheheart

You did it. You chose to share your story, your real answer to “how are you?”, your fears about community. You watched other women speak their truth on Friday night, and as you tweeted tears rolled hot down cheeks because for maybe the first time, you found your people. There were other women – in your computer! – who had the same questions and fears and hopes, and you bonded with them instantly from across oceans and states and county lines. Couch to couch, city to city, you laughed with new friends and garnered courage from them.

amykrancewendt

You did it. You let your guard down and let another into the story He has been writing in your life. And in sharing your story, you welcomed another to share hers. Maybe it was the first invitation to do so that she’s ever received. Girl, you did that. In opening your hands, your heart, you gave someone else the chance to do the same.

Oh, sister you and me

We are community

Laying down our stones

Open hands are free to hold

And maybe it’s your stories that will be the tie

That binds us to each other…

-from the (in)RL theme song

You did something EXTRAordinary this weekend. Can you feel it? Can you feel the release of your shoulders, resting just a little easier than they were last week? Can you feel the extra bounce in your step that comes from feeling a part of a community? Can you feel the little bit of lightness in your spirit that’s the result of time spent in fellowship with sisters?

kaitlyn b

We feel it. As the tweets and Instagrams poured in from meetups around the globe, we watched through our tears, too – ever grateful and in awe of The One who created us for community, who created community for us. We watched as you glowed, welcoming women and their stories into your life. We watched as you embraced brave, as you rocked small as the new big, as you encouraged each other. And yeah, we watched as you brought delicious treats to the tables (um, you all know how to nosh. YUM.) We saw you support causes bigger than yourself and make an enormous difference in the lives of many, many of His children. We watched as you stepped out and welcomed your real life.

inRL collage

And we still want – we NEED – your story. Write about your (in)RL 2014 experience on your own blog and link it up below, or add your story to the comments. These voices together – your voices! – are what make a choir, and if even one doesn’t chime in, things start sounding off-key. Have you heard it enough to believe it yet? YOUR story. That’s what the world needs. Yours. So start here and share the thing that only you can: YOUR story.

{Photos shared by YOU on instagram. Search for more fun photos with the #inRL hashtag.}
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  • http://www.jacquewatkins.com Jacque Watkins

    What an amazing time we had! Thank you for sharing your stories on video, and making space and time for us to share ours. What a healing gift community can be, and this place? The way you champion it..it really is beautiful gift. To all of you behind the scenes of (in)RL, thank you. Thank you for not only dreaming for this to be a home for the hearts of women, but for making it reality. What a blessing you are! xoxo

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com Anna Rendell

      There is really such healing in *good* community, isn’t there? So glad you were able to experience this! Thanks for all you do to build such community in your real life.

  • http://walkingwellwithgod.blogspot.com Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God

    (in)courage team,

    What a terrific weekend! We had a small meet up group, but it was so evident that God hand picked each of us to be there. A big shout out to Bekah our wonderful hostess! We met at 2 pm and I didn’t get home until 6 pm. It’s truly amazing what happens when we dare to be real…to go deeper. The most blessed moment was our closing prayer time. What a joy and balm to be prayed over for strength to go home and continue to live out my story. Thanks so much for prompting us all to get together and live in community! I feel truly blessed!
    Blessings to all of you for sharing your stories,
    Bev

    • http://www.facebook.com/nico.cubby Nico Smith

      I invited my wonderful husband to church with me last night. unfortunately, I don’t think he felt the least bit comfortable. In the Pentecostal faith, there is a strong belief that guys shouldn’t grow their hair long. There’s nothing in the Bible about not growing your hair long if you’re a guy. For girls, there’s a strong belief that we should wear clothes that show nothing-a belief that dresses should be worn all the time. We both know this isn’t so, that God sees us just as we are on the inside, and He doesn’t care about what we look like on the outside.

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com Anna Rendell

      Oh Bev, you nailed it – when we’re brave enough to share our ‘real’, when we answer with the truth instead of with ‘fine’… that’s when God moves big. So happy you were able to experience this through (in)RL this weekend – sounds like a wonderful gathering!!

  • http://www.ahearteninglife.com Christy @ A Heartening Life

    Thank you for providing an opportunity for bravery to gather. For women to reach out and sign up and knock on a strangers door and be welcomed in. For a means to make new friends and share difficult stories, to laugh and cry together. It was a beautiful day and it was nothing what I thought it would be and that was the best part! I imagine it’s an immense undertaking, but I see it’s worth. This year in particular, with the theme of “we need your story” was particularly meaningful.

    Christy @ A Heartening Life
    http://www.ahearteninglife.com

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com Anna Rendell

      Christy, thank you for that encouragement! It’s stories like yours that bring (in)RL to, well, life! =) Love that this years theme in particular spoke to you. Thank you for sharing here!!

  • http://dayebydaye.com Becky Daye

    Dear (in)RL team,

    The end of April is such a busy time for me. My oldest celebrates her birthday on April 30th. My youngest was born last year on May 7th. AND YET, in the midst of all the birthday busyness, I am overwhelmed by the beauty of community. This conference was the best yet and I find myself so blessed, my heart so full on this Monday morning.

    So thank you for your faithfulness, your generosity, your opening of arms so wide for women to come in. All of the women in my group were so blessed! I love your hearts and I love the way Jesus gets the glory!!! It leaves me all teary.

    Much love,
    Becky

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com Anna Rendell

      Becky I am so happy to hear about your gathering!! You made time for community, even amidst your busy season, and I am so glad to hear that it was worth it for you. Love that your heart is full – even on a Monday! =)

      ps – (in)RL gets me all teary too.

      • http://dayebydaye.com Becky Daye

        Glad I’m not the only one! :) It was so great to hear your heart on screen Anna! Thankful for you!

  • http://alyssazech.blogspot.com AlyssaZ

    Your first incourage post!! Girl, you did a fantastic job! You are so encouraging and just darn adorable!

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com Anna Rendell

      Alyssa, thank you!! Can’t tell you how I appreciate that! =) I’m so happy I got to see you this weekend, even for just a minute! What an awesome day – so glad you got to be a part of it. HUGS, friend!

  • http://ifmeadowsspeak.blogspot.com/ tammy@meadows speak

    I am continually surprised by how God shows up through others. This was my first time to host. I live in the sticks, in the middle of dairy barns, ranches, and commercial chicken farms, ya’ll. Think one hour round trips to a town of 13,000. But it was the women. Those beautiful hearts who came to lay it on the line, they blow me away. A friend of mine said it true: “These raw stories happen because we’re being intentional and up front about it. So they come prepared to share them.” This is it. Intentional sharing.

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com Anna Rendell

      Tammy, I would so make a round trip to your neck of the woods. I lived in the country for a year and LOVED where we lived! But the big difference was that while I was there, I had no community, no inRL friendships. It was so, so hard and I was miserable.

      I am thrilled that God brought those women to your home, that you opened it up, created intentional space for sharing, and that the women who came to your home took full advantage of that space and chose to be intentional in their sharing. Thank you for what you were brave enough to do this (in)RL weekend – it matters deeply!!

  • http://www.amy-clary.com Amy

    I am just beyond blessed by this weekend and my heart is still trying to grab onto the words that spin around it – trying to weave it in and make it part of what is life to my soul. You ladies are such an amazing blessing. Thank you. Thanks to each of you for your “yes”. You have changed many lives this weekend and mine is one.

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com Anna Rendell

      Oh Amy, thank you for the encouragement! You are a blessing! Thank you for the brave ways in which you foster community in your real life – you are a vessel that He is using.

  • Jeannette

    This was my first (in)RL conference and even though I could not go to a meet up because of certain circumstances I did feel the large sense of community all around me during the videos on Friday and watching everyone tweet and connect. It is comforting and inspiring. I can’t wait till next year where I can hopefully host a meet up. God bless you for doing this and pulling together so many women of different stories to create a larger, everlasting story of praising God.

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com Anna Rendell

      Jeannette, I think that’s the best and coolest part of (in)RL – the ability to foster and feel that sense of community even if something prevents us from participating face-to-face! Such a unique aspect to this event. I am so glad you felt it to be true, and were inspired and comforted (those are perfect words to describe my feelings about it too!)

  • http://maddychristinehope.com Hope

    I wish I could have been part of it this year… hopefully next year! Being in Burkina is a good replacement though ;-)

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com Anna Rendell

      Wow, Hope! I just clicked over and read your Burkina story – so inspiring! Praying blessings and safety and open hearts over you and your family while there (and yes – hoping you’re able to join us next year!)

  • http://www.rhondaquaney.com/ Rhonda Quaney

    Thank you for allowing me to join, even though I was unable to host as I had planned. The speakers were each and every one a blessing. The message was so important and beautiful. Such an extreme amount of work went into every detail. I appreciate you and was deeply blessed. Love to all. ♥

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com Anna Rendell

      Hi Rhonda! So glad you were able to tune into the broadcasts. The behind-the-scenes (in)RL team paid such close attention to those details, didn’t they? They really pulled out all the stops! Thank you for the encouragement!

  • http://enthusiasticallydawn.com dawn

    Oh, I am still overwhelmed by the busy weekend and outpouring of God’s faithfulness and amazing (as always) grace! Hoping to write up a post and link here later today of tonight! Thank you all at (in) Courage and all of the IC CHICKIES – you are all a true encouragement.

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com Anna Rendell

      Yay Dawn – so glad you’re full of things to process! =) Grateful for your being a part of (in)RL this year!

      ps – I totally want to know who the IC CHICKIES are. That sounds like fun. =)

      • http://enthusiasticallydawn.com dawn

        Anna that means YOU! IC = (in)Courage Chickies= Women ! IC CHICKIES! You all!

        • http://www.girlwithblog.com Anna Rendell

          ah ha ha! Did I mention that I had a baby last week? And am not quite thinking clearly? =) Thanks for that, Dawn =)

  • http://eggthoughts.wordpress.com Frances

    Ahhh! A Nebraska cornfield made it into an inRL post! :) More importantly, standing in front of the corn field: three amazing ladies with beautiful smiles & hearts. I’m excited about how the inRL incourage community is growing in our area!

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com Anna Rendell

      Love that, Frances!! We are excited with you! =)

  • http://mlsgregg.com Marie

    I am EXCITED to read all the linky entries! No doubt women were touched, talked do and perhaps smacked a little by God. I know I was. :)

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com Anna Rendell

      ‘…smacked a little by God.’ I love that! And no doubt, it’s true. I don’t know about you, but whenever there’s a linky, I find about eleventyfive tabs open to read =)

  • http://www.encouragingworkingmoms.com Amanda

    So happy to see you writing in one of my favorite places, sweet friend!! And I’m so glad you came to our meetup with your sweet babygirl, even for a little while. :) Thanks for all you did to help prepare and pull off our event! Love you!

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com Anna Rendell

      I love you friend!!! Thank you for your sweet encouragement. I’m so glad we could make it for a bit this weekend.

  • http://www.kristybyerscomedian.blogspot.com Kristy Byes

    We had such a good time yesterday. The testimonies on the videos really spoke to the ladies at our meet up and to me as well. It took awhile, but eventually everyone was willing to share their story. I was touched that this one girl brought her mother. And she was convicted that she needed to share more of herself and get involved in the community of her local church. What blew my mind is that she is from California and we were meeting in SC. She came because she was visiting her daughter and wanted to come, otherwise, she would have never heard of it. God know exactly when and what we need.

    Our main take away? “God wants to be the hero of our story.” He does’t want us to be able to say “this is what I did”. He wants us to be able to say “this is what God did”. Our story is entwined with His. That’s what “story” is all about. Relationships. Mainly relationship with Him.

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com Anna Rendell

      So wonderful to hear your stories, Kristy! Thank you so much for sharing them here with all of us. And your main takeaway? Beautiful. He does want that, and He is that hero. We are totally entwined with His story, and His story is for us. Lovely takeaway, Kristy.

  • http://www.lorilara.com Lori Lara

    I’m brand new to your site, and I’m loving reading through these powerful women’s stories. Wow. I feel like I hit the jackpot of vulnerability and hope.

    For many years in writing about my testimony of healing from depression, PTSD, and almost 20 years of an eating disorder, I felt alone and naked and utterly the odd girl out. I seriously didn’t know a soul who shared my story. But I knew God wanted me to keep writing so others could be set free. So, I did, and now you’re here. What a wonderful community.

    Thank you for providing a way for us to share our stories with each other. May God’s healing pour through each of us…Can’t wait to read more!

    Thanks again. May God blow your mind with His plan for you.

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com Anna Rendell

      Welcome to (in)courage, Lori!! I am so glad you’ve found this virtual beach house. We sure hope you feel like you can kick up your feet and stay up talking with girlfriends late into the night.

      Lori, you are so not alone. In your journey, in your story, in your walk with Him. And you are so brave to share your story here. You are so right – He does encourage us to share our stories, the ones He journeys through with us in, so that others may find solace and peace too. Thank you for stepping out in faith here with the (in)courage community. I will remember you in prayer.

  • http://www.treasuredupandpondered.blogspot.com Bevy @ Treasured Up and Pondered

    Hey! So sad I had to miss all of this. I did sign up – with HUGE hopes of being able to “find time” somewhere to read and join in. I knew I wouldn’t be able to attend an actual meet-up but had hoped to view online at home. Sadly, that never happened..
    I was just a tad bit busy all weekend…
    My husband, kids and I ended up having 22 members of my personal immediate family (I’m the oldest of nine) to our home for (a late Easter) Sunday dinner which crept on into the evening and we rounded out the evening with a homemade stromboli supper. I guess that was Community in {real life} – as real as it gets. :)

    HOWEVER – the real reason I write tonight is that my heart is heavy for many and any blog(gy) sisters/friends and or families (extended or immediate) who may have experienced firsthand, any of the devastation and tremendous loss that these vicious and deadly tornadoes may have caused…as they ripped through the Southern and Midwestern States, last night (Sunday) and even more to follow for tonight (Monday, 4/28). My prayers and thoughts go out.

    Especially, as I am sure there were several ladies that have sat in {in} RL circles and communities over the weekend that are truly experiencing that NOW to a whole new level…. more than ever they need the prayers and love and {{HUGS}} of the online community more than ever.

    Let us pray.

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com Anna Rendell

      Connecting with the (in)RL community may not have happened for you this weekend, but you’re sure right in that you had huge real life community of your own happening!!

      We too are keeping those dear ones in prayer. Thank you for bringing that here, right into plain sight in this community.

  • http://www.msmoozysopenhouse.com Debra @ Msmoozys Open House

    Thanks so much for letting us link up, now I just added my blog post to the (in)RL event but should we also post our stories here as well or will there be another place to add them?

    Thanks

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com Anna Rendell

      Debra, link it up right above with the Linky tool! This is the place to link it =)

      • http://www.crystalstine.me Crystal

        Jinx ;) (can you jinx a blog comment? did that just happen?)

        • http://www.girlwithblog.com Anna Rendell

          Of course it did! Of course you can! And of course we would! =)

    • http://www.crystalstine.me Crystal

      Hey Debra! The link up above is the place to share your (in)RL story :)

      • http://www.msmoozysopenhouse.com Debra @ Msmoozys Open House

        Thanks Ladies, I just link my new page that has MY STORY on it above. I did post my (in)RL meet up blog post earlier but after seeing your comments I added a link to my NEW blog page…… :-)

  • http://asonebeingtaught.wordpress.com/ Esther

    Four women, including me (the first time host) gathered together for the meetup on Saturday. It was after the first lady arrived that I received the call that one of my sisters had died. Oh the loving kindness of our Father in that He did not allow me to be alone when I received the news that changed my story. We were all ministered to profoundly by the webcast and are now part of each other’s story as we were not before. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for providing the opportunity to gather in this unique way.
    Esther

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com Anna Rendell

      Oh sweet Esther. I am so, so very sorry for your loss. How brave of you to continue in community after receiving such news! I am profoundly touched that you chose to continue with the event, allowed yourself to be ministered to in a time of immediate grief, and that those women were there to surround you. Gifts, though shrouded, all around.

      Thank you for sharing your story, first with your (in)RL guests and now with us. I’ll be keeping you and your family in prayer.

  • Kristen

    Thank you Anna for inviting me to my first (in)RL event. I had so much fun. What a lovely group of ladies. I found myself just taking it all in. I’m sure I’m not the only one who isn’t quite ready to share their story. I know God will give me the words to speak when the time is right. At least now I know I have the community I need to eventually share my story. Thank you for that. Peace and blessings to you all.

  • http://www.rachelbritz.com Rachel Britz

    Anna, it is because of you that I ventured to host my first {in}RL conference. Thank you, friend. What a blessing it was to our community of 30 women! God completely used this day to edify His girls. Woot!

  • Donna

    I was on my own and was able to watch Friday night’s video on Saturday morning. Still had the page up, was in the middle of watching the Saturday video just now when it started freezing up. Refreshed my page and the video is gone. So disappointed! Is the Saturday video gone for good.

  • Cheryl Powers

    I live way out in the country, and so was very surprised to see a hostess advertised within 25 miles of me. My husband and I were able to find the location, but there was no person’s name or phone # to contact; after driving out there the day before, left my phone # with the next door neighbor (her father or FIL) and asked him to have her call me but no contact was made. Reading others’ stories makes re sad that I was not able to connect with someone, and hope that maybe next time more info will be provided.

  • Beth WIlliams

    I did not get to do IN (RL) but tried to listen to speakers on Sunday and they were not available. Will they be available anytime again?

    I had family issues and a parent in rehab.

  • http://songskatesang.com/ Kate @ Songs Kate Sang
  • http://www.missindeedy.com Missy

    I’ll be posting my inRL meetup post this weekend. I hosted a beautiful gathering of 5 women, again, here in NH. We had a slumber party the night before and watched the Friday webcast in our jammies. Sharing our hearts was a beautiful thing.

    I literally closed the door on the last friend Saturday afternoon, and started packing to leave for our family vacation the next day. I think I can finally think straight enough to sit down and write about it now. :) I love this community!