THE BEAUTY OF COMMUNITY | influence conf
Two years ago, I quit my job, moved home with my parents and started a blog. I felt strongly led by the Lord to share my heart openly on these pages. To pursue my dream of freelance writing. And my passion to speak into young women's lives - to encourage them in their lives and faith by talking about real issues. A "ministry" started to grow, spontaneously, through this little blog. Connecting with other women on a heart-to-heart level. Finding kindred spirits and really-true-friends. Out of nowhere, an "email ministry" began and high school and college age young women began writing to me and sharing their stories, their struggles, their hearts. I found like-minded women through the Internet, through this blog world. And yet, I lacked community. I lacked that feeling I remembered from college - sitting around with sisters, sipping coffee and just "being." I missed the "in-person" camaraderie, the sisterhood. And that's when I found out about Influence Conference. It was a new conference, never before hosted and a new venture for the ladies who led it. Financially, I was in a season of trusting the Lord big time. A season of holding my hands open, giving him my fears and hopes and dreams. When I first read about the Influence Conference online, I immediately felt a stirring in my heart: Oh, I have to go! These women are just like me. They are kindred spirits, I know it. This is just the kind of conference I would love to go to - to connect, mingle, bond with, and build a sisterhood and community! All of which I lacked desperately at the time. And yet, I could [in no way] afford it at the time. I remember, oh so clearly, one Saturday afternoon that summer. How I checked social media + noticed many "blog friends" announcing their ticket purchases and plans for Influence. How passionately I wanted to go. Yet, how impossible it seemed. I slipped into my bed in the afternoon and shed a few tears. Lord, there is no way for me to attend, I can't afford it right now. But, oh how I wish I could go. DING. My phone email rang out. Wiping away a black-mascara-tear, I picked up my phone and read my newest email. From a blog friend I knew only from heart-to-heart Skype dates and encouraging emails. She simply wrote these words:
I'm excited to meet you in October, Erin.
This is for you.
Scrolling down, even bigger tears filled my eyes. My "blog friend" bought me a ticket to Influence. And just like that, I was going to attend. The Lord answered my prayer. In the most unexpected way. This gal knew nothing of my prayers or desire to go.
Friends, it blew me away. She later shared with me how she stood in worship at church that morning + felt strongly [out of nowhere!] the Lord speak to her heart, to purchase a ticket for me. She wrestled + wondered. Budgeted and counted. Really, Lord? And then, she obeyed.
I hopped on a plane from LAX to the MidWest that October. And spent the sweetest three days in Indianapolis with some of the most amazing women I've ever met.
Community came around me in those few days and enveloped me in a new, refreshing, raw, real, tangible, overwhelmingly good way. I felt understood. Not so alone. The speakers were so relatable. The girls I shared a room with were kindred spirits. The ladies I chatted with - grandmas and new mamas and single twenty-somethings - were all gems and the kind of women who felt like sisters. I attended that first year and the next, too - serving as a community leader and speaking to the sweet single gals.
Sisters, I highly recommend joining the community at Influence Conference. Despite fears and questions and insecurities - the ones I had the first and second years.
What if my blog is not 'big' enough?
What if I am not accepted by these other women?
They're all wives and moms, I'm still unmarried and single... what if I don't fit in?
What if I don't dress like or look like or act like 'the ideal blogger'?
Oh, friends. I faced the fears. The insecurities. The struggles of flying half-way across the country and putting myself out there. Being vulnerable and real and open to sisters I only knew online. But, you guys - it was oh so worth it.
I will always remember the worship night that ended the conference on year one. How I ugly-cried through the entire hour. How I felt like I was standing beneath a waterfall of blessings and felt the Lord presence in a way I hadn't for years. How the brokenness and pain in my life those years melted into worship and healing began to come. In a way I hadn't felt at church, even.
There is something sacred about women coming together - blogger or non-blogger, it doesn't matter at Influence Conference - and being sisters. Being friends. Learning. Growing. Chatting. Having coffee dates. It is powerful and life-changing and world-changing.
Sister, I hope you join me and these beautiful-hearted women in our community. And build your online family + sisterhood.
'Cause, it's really good, healing and beautiful.
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