BuildingBridges

What if you believed it? What if you really truly, way down deep in your soul, believed that your story mattered?

What if you lived in such a way that created space, opening the door wide for conversations and community?

It’s as easy as beginning with three simple words: what’s your story?

You don’t have to be a story-teller to tell your story well. You just have to be willing.

When I fell in love with the word ‘story’ last summer, God began to teach me that to keep our stories to ourselves is to deny Him glory. Suddenly I was sharing here that there is power in your story. Within days I began asking near-strangers on coffee dates and the first words to tumble out of my mouth were “So, what’s your story?”

I got a few blank stares and a couple “umm, what exactly do you mean?” mumblings, but I would quietly offer to share first and before we knew it, the coffee was cold and our hearts were knit together.

I’m convinced nothing binds hearts together as quickly as story.

This past weekend you gathered with friends and strangers alike, opening the doors to your home and to your heart, and inviting women in.

You risked brave and shared your story and found community. You did it.

You discovered that building bridges instead of walls is risky, but it is worth it.

And this past weekend? That’s exactly what you did. You decorated and prepared yummy foods, all so that women would feel at home. You clicked play and then pressed pause so that you could share in real life – because that’s what it’s really about.

We’ve gathered some of your sweet words from this past weekend and have been reminded all over again – our stories aren’t really all too different, but each one is important.

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He chose this weekend to redeem the rejection of my rejection. He showed me that all of those “no’s” were simply preparing the way for other women to say “me, too.” -Crystal Stine

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. Meeting up on Saturday wasn’t perfect but it was beautiful. God showed up and showed off. -Kaitlyn Bouchillon

Brave knocked on my door seven times this Saturday. And watching brave on the television cultivated courageous sharing in my living room. Women connected only by Christ encouraged and empathized, spoke truth and showered love on each other. -Christy Willard

Each woman came with a story and we spent time sharing our own. There were threads sown through each tale told, though we represented almost three generations of women. We have to be willing to risk our real life self for the sake of knowing and truly being known by another. -Jessica Wolstenholm

Our time together was a shy mix of getting to know you, sharing the messy, laughing at it all, and eating (because of course). God reminded me that He connects His daughters. I don’t know that I would have ever crossed paths with these women otherwise. -Jessica Hoover

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This is about a gritty bravery of being naked with an intentional community willing to go there with you. This is about setting captives free and shedding Light on darkness. This is about knowing some of our hidden pieces are poison to our souls. This about releasing lies and shame. This is (in)Real Life and it is not found in numbers. It is about invitation, despite how many do or do not cross your threshold. This is about becoming a door. -Tammy Hendricksmeyer

We share our stories because there is power in needing Jesus together. And we all need Jesus. -Katie Kump

“I’ll go first,” I said. And I couldn’t help but cry as I shared how my story was relating to what I heard. After my story, another was shared…and another. Yes, this is the power of knowing that your story matters. This is what happens when we choose to believe our stories can help or encourage or speak healing to someone else. Our ugly or ordinary stories become a song of worship…like, “I once was lost but now I’m found….” -Amy Clary

Our three hours together flew by. We could have easily met for another hour. I was so blessed by each woman who came and their courage to share their story. They didn’t just show up physically, they showed up with honesty and vulnerability; it was beautiful. -Katie Reid

Being vulnerable. Opening ourselves up to community. Meeting hurts with compassion. Sharing a bench. This is what doing real life with one another looks like. -Becky Daye

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For me, this has been one of the most profound, life-affirming weeks I’ve had in years. I am still unravelling and processing what this all means, but the most remarkable thing that has come from it so far? I was able to untangle My Story in my mind. -Anna Marie

It was so worth pressing through and going to my first (in)RL meet-up. I connected with old friends and met new ones. I enjoyed hearing the hearts and stories of the (In)courage writers and my friends at the meet-up. Even though, I was familiar with them (my friends), there were somethings I was hearing for the first time.  As they shared their hearts, stories and struggles, etc…I felt more connected to them and related to their stories. I’m glad I went anyway, even as a nervous, afraid, late, confused and frustrated first-time (in)RL meet-up gal. It was worth it! -Confessions of a Letter

I think overall, it was the encouragement to share the pretty and the messy of our stories, it was the bench we all huddled on together, and mostly – it was the power of feeling really heard that gathered our hearts in closer! -Karrilee Aggett

I thought I knew what community was, that it meant having this huge group of women around me, and what I learned was that community can be forged even with just one person if you open your heart and let God do his thing. -Amanda Ortega

I have always thought my story was insignificant and that the lessons I learn are for me only. After meeting some amazing ladies it was evident that no matter what background, religion or differences we share we all had something in common; We all had a story. -Shawna Solmen

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Thank you for sharing your beautiful hearts and stories with us this weekend! Thank you for trusting community one more time. Thank you for choosing to step out brave and believe that community happens when we lay down the stones and offer empty hands to hold.

You are EXTRAordinary and we love you more than chocolate chip cookies straight from the oven.

To read more (in)RL stories, visit our link-up.

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  1. 1

    Kaitlyn,
    Thank you again, (in)courage, for giving us a safe place where we could share our stories and know that they would be received with loving and grace-filled hearts. Our ordinary stories did become an “act of worship”. Thank you for awakening in me a renewed determination to build bridges…to build community in whatever situations the Lord puts me in.
    Blessings,
    Bev

  2. 3

    Such beautiful thoughts, encouragement, love, strength, and community shared over last weekend! Thank you for sharing your thoughts ladies on your precious weekends together. Maybe next year this will be a motivator for me to jump in :)

    Happy Friday!

  3. 5

    Love your words and your heart, Kaitlyn! So good to see the picture of my gals right here! Thanks for including us. Thanks again to (in)courage for their commitment to community and their support in helping us build it right here in our own communities!

  4. 7

    Thanks for including our inRL PA story here! Building bridges is so much better than walls! Thanks incourage for creating an intentional space for women who wouldn’t normally connect or even know of each other to come together. It’s a beautiful thing!

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

  5. 9

    One of my favorite lines is still “God showed up and showed off”! Love that, Kaitlyn! What a joy to be a part of a community of sisters that never stop welcoming others in. I have been blessed beyond words by this community and by the sweet women who have joined me in real life as we go deep with one another.

  6. 11

    Even though I participated by myself, the conference was all about community for me. It was all about connecting with other women. I’ve found new friends on Twitter, new blogs to follow and I feel better about reaching out in friendship to those in my daily life than I have in a long time. Thank you so much for In Real Life!

    • 12

      Love love that you still found community! Because I’m with ya, it’s there in between computers, too! I’m really glad you were a part of (in)RL, Marie, and I’m so glad it was an encouragement to keep building bridges and connecting.

  7. 13

    I absolutely LOVE this community of lovely ladies because we can be exactly who we are, no need for a mask! Each day I read the new posts and I don’t think it can get better, than the next post arrives and it always does. Pulling me closer to Him and allowing me to expose myself without fear of judgement because in real life God is the only Judge! Thank you for your words meeting me at the inbox this morning Kaitlyn! I pray you have a great weekend!

  8. 15

    Thank you encourage for giving up a safe place to share are story. And showing how God wants us to share Our stories with other I am glad that I met some wonderful sisters. Thank all pf you for your love, encouragement, thoughts and strengths . This has been a motivational for me to work on the rest of the this year. For me to work toward and praying about jumping in next year you are wonderful sisters. Tara

  9. 17
    Cathy Webster says:

    I wanted to sign up, but I don’t facebook or twitter so when I tried to registered it wouldn’t accept Canada and I didn’t have passwords (I’m not a techi)…so I will live vicariously through your daily (in)courage
    posts.

    • 18

      Oh no, I’m so sorry to hear that Cathy! By all means please email us if that happens again and we can help walk you through! But I’m so glad you check in with the daily posts! The door is wide open and you are always welcome in.

  10. 19

    Such beauty in vulnerability and sharing among other sisters. This (in)RL community is blowing me away and I’m so excited to be a new part of it. I am looking forward to participating in a real life meet-up next time and maybe even host one myself. Who knows…;) Thank you for sharing pieces of many of these meet-ups. There is such release and freedom in sharing our stories and learning we are really not alone after all. xoxo, Meredith

    • 20

      We’re so glad you’re a part of it! And attending a meet up (or hosting!!!) would be so much fun and I hope you do that next year – in my opinion, it’s the best part. :) You’re right, sharing our stories is powerful and brings freedom.

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