Relevant - It's Only the Beginning

rel86 Relevant was everything I expected, and nothing like I expected at the same time.

While I was aware there would be blogging tips to be learned, that was not my reason for going (after all, I could find all that stuff online). The reason I went was for the people; for the community of women; for the connections.

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My expectations were waaaay exceeded. But, I didn't feel the way I thought I would after I left. I didn't have this overwhelming urge to change my life around. It is only now that the urge is coming. Most of what I heard was just a confirmation of things God had already spoken to me. However, there were still some new things I learned.

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I spoke 1-on-1 with Ann Voskamp (such a beauty) about how God was changing my blogging vision and I shared with her my struggles. She said, "Of course! Because when God wants to use us and do something great, Satan is right there trying to mess it up." Yes, trying to turn God's blessing into a curse. He does this by leading us to be wrapped up in the numbers and statistics. By feeling like we have to be hoovering over our blog, or over Twitter.

Later, Ann spoke to us as a whole (and isn't she so beautiful? So passionate?) For those of you who didn't attend or who were unable to take notes for whatever reason, Ann will be sharing what she spoke about on her blog for the next 4 Tuesdays. She began by posting her "Bloggers Prayer" this week. She spoke on how to be an upside down Kingdom Blogger.

I encourage you to keep up with her posts the next 4 Tuesdays to really hear her heart, because I'm sure I missed much of it (being in and out with my baby and unable to take all the notes I wanted).

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What struck me most, though, was that we both (Ann & I) wake up every morning fighting for joy. My heart's desire is to have joy in all things and one of my biggest areas of struggle with this is mothering. Not because I don't enjoy my children, but because mothering is hard work and at times leaves me drained. And even sometimes leaves me feeling like a failure. (I'm sure none of you can relate. ;) )

She encouraged us to tell our stories...not our sermons. That really struck me, and in fact, it will be the cause of change on my blog with what and how I write. I often sit here, thinking I should be teaching something to my readers, but find myself lacking in what to teach. I have not lived enough to even be qualified to teach. So instead, I will write my story, my struggles, my service. My everydays.

God spoke to me at Relevant. But it wasn't as a loud trumpet. Rather, it was a still whisper. He told me that for me to love others (and love them well), I had to love myself - and I didn't. I hated how often I failed. I hated that I felt like a hypocrite. I hated that I couldn't keep up with life. I hated that I just didn't feel good about myself. And I'm not talking self-absorption. I'm talking self-love.

I will share more of that journey another day {subscribe so you can follow along.} :)

This is by no means the end of my journey through Relevant. It's really just the beginning.

Relevant - The Journey In

There is so much to share, I'm certain I can't cover it in one post alone. So here is part one of two, or maybe three posts on my experience at the Relevant Conference.

My journey there was a first for me. I had never been on a train before and was excited, yet nervous to embark on that adventure. I began my travels very early in the morning (around 1am). At 6am I arrived in Pittsburgh to change trains to get to Harrisburg. This was the part I was excited about, as I would see the  breath-taking scenery throughout the trip.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck just 10 minutes out of the Pittsburgh train station. A 19 year old male was walking, with his back turned and headphones on, down the railroad tracks. The conductor intensely and consistently blew the whistle so much so that the surrounding neighbors and nearby policeman knew something was wrong. Within seconds the train came to a hard, jolted stop.

Silence.

I knew something wasn't right, but didn't know what yet.

One of the crew members said we would be parked there for a while because the train had hit something and they had to check the train.

Time went by (30 mins? maybe). Another member of the train crew came and said, "Yes, there was an accident. We did hit a pedestrian and there was a fatality." This poor woman was so distraught, and understandably so. (You see her in the above news video that's linked to "tragedy struck).

We, the passengers, sat on the train for 2 1/2 hours while we watched detectives, investigators, photographers, news people, and train crew walk up and down the tracks. Wearing rubber gloves. Carrying clipboards. Camera in hand.

People lined the streets. We sat in disbelief. The first time this has happened in this area in 20 years -- and it happens to be my first train ride.

Read what happened after Relevant here.

After Relevant - God Saved My Family's Life

Before I get into how awesome Relevant was, I first want to share the end of my trip and how God literally saved mine and my family's lives. After my husband (and 4 other kiddos)  picked me up from the train station, we began our one hour journey back home. After some time into our drive we came across a traffic jam (construction). As we were traveling slowly (10-15mph) I noticed a weird noise coming from our front, right tire.

We thought maybe it was  a flat, but it wasn't a bumpy ride. In addition (my husband being an auto mechanic) mentioned if it were flat, the steering would be off.

So after the jam, we picked up speed and noticed a slight "thump, thump, thump". We pulled off the freeway into a nearby gas station so my husband could just take a quick look at it. He shook it and it didn't seem loose.

We returned to the freeway, but put our hazards on and went 55mph instead of 70mph. We heard a weird "pop" and the noise got louder. The steering changed and was now "off".

This whole time I'm praying for protection. We were still a little ways from home. So we got off the freeway to continue home on side roads. The noise continued to get worse as well as the steering. We come to our turn which puts us about 1/2 mile away from our house. I knew, I just knew that when we made this left turn it was going to happen. I was right.

Our wheel flew right off our car! Yes, our van was full of children.

I am thankful to God...because we were not on the freeway going 55-70 mph

I am thankful to God...we were going no more than 10 mph when the wheel flew off

I am thankful to God...that we were able to scrape our way safely onto the side of the road, out of traffic.

I am thankful to God...for protecting my family and showing me He is in control.

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The Relevant Conference - I'm Going!

So, have you heard the buzzing around the web about the Relevant conference my friends Sarah Mae, Jessica Heights, and Dana Adams (whom I haven't had the pleasure of connecting with yet) are putting on? Many of my favorite bloggers and speakers will be there!

When I first heard of the birthing of this conference (late last year), I thought, "Oh it sounds so fun, but there is no way I can go. My husband would never go for it. We wouldn't be able to afford it."

When I first brought the idea up with my husband, he made it very clear he was uncomfortable with the idea of me going [alone] on a trip to meet a bunch of people I'd never met before--a legitimate reason, for sure.

But I continued to connect and interact with Sarah Mae and Jessica throughout these months and would talk about them frequently to my husband.

This weekend, I casually brought up the idea again, and instead of the same expected answer, he began asking me questions about where it was, how much, etc. Hope peeked.

Obviously, having the support of my husband was first and foremost.

Very quickly things began to happen. Next thing I know, someone sponsored a hotel room for me [and my sweet baby boy]. Wow. I mean wow! That was 2 out of 3 obstacles I had to step over in order to get to Relevant. I had only one left.

Somewhere along the way, though, my hope waned--even though God had already taken care of two large aspects of making this trip possible!

He quietly told me to be patient. Boy, was I impatient! Because all of this began unfolding just Sunday, and here it is Thursday and I just couldn't wait! I didn't think there was a way to overcome this last obstacle. I questioned whether God would fill such a "trite" desire. Then I got an email.

Though my blog is yet small -- DownEast Basics agreed to sponsor my ticket to the Relevant Conference!!

DownEast Basics is a modest, stylish clothing line for women. If you are attending the Relevant Conference, you need to seriously peek at their new line for a great outfit to show off. Oh and don't forget to accessorize!!

I have an outfit all picked out and can't WAIT to show it off!

If you are interested in going to the Relevant Conference, there are still some tickets left, and the hotel discount still stands (until Sept. 30)!!

I hope to see you there!