I have tried numerous times to sit down and write out some thoughts on the She Speaks Conference, which I had the privilege of attending last month, but I every time, I have found myself overwhelmed by the task, every word and sentence I write so inadequate to express the overflowing encouragement that I received from She Speaks.
I have finally realized that perhaps I will never fully express in words everything that I gleaned from the conference, and you know what? I’m okay with that. After all, what a wonderful thing to have experienced something so magnificent that words simply will not describe it!
I walked away from my computer in frustration last week, after trying and failing again to summarize my trip, and my husband gently said, “Well, whenever you talk about it to people, the exact same words keep coming out of your mouth!” I realized that he was, of course, absolutely right, so here are some of the highlights that I keep expressing verbally whenever someone asks me, in person, about the conference.
1) IT. WAS. LIFE-CHANGING. I don’t like to throw that phrase around lightly, but the first evening, when I texted my husband after the pre-conference sessions, I blurted out, “This weekend is life-changing. Already.” And even though I hadn’t really thought too much about those words, I kept saying them all weekend, and they were not an exaggeration. I had my vision for the future of my writing clarified in some truly amazing ways, and the whole weekend was affirming and encouraging for me in more ways than I could have ever imagined.
2) Seeing 800 women from 42 states and 5 countries come together for 3 days with one sole purpose: to learn how to better use our gifts and talents for Christ and His kingdom… Well, that was pretty phenomenal. To put it mildly! When I registered the opening morning of the conference, the sweet lady behind the counter told me to make sure I put some Kleenex in my bag, because “Jesus and estrogen is a powerful combination, and this weekend, we’re gonna have a lot of both!” She couldn’t have been more right, and I was shocked by the frequency of my own tears as I basked in the experience of standing next to so many women from all over the world who wanted to honor God with the gifts He has given them. Even now, the memory of 800 women singing “In Christ Alone” makes me a little teary-eyed just thinking about it.
3) The teaching was truly excellent, but the relationships formed were, without a doubt, the best part of the weekend. When Lynn Cowell got up for the opening devotional talk at the pre-conference on Thursday and said, “Look at the women around you. These are your people!” I had an overwhelming sensation of community, which did not diminish for the entirety of the weekend. I realized that she was absolutely right; everywhere I turned, I met women who shared my passion for words and the power of communicating through language, and most of all, who shared my passion for Jesus and seeing His kingdom come through the “smallness” of our daily lives. The connection and community that we formed throughout the weekend was truly tremendous, and I know I made friendships that will last a lifetime.
4) The greatest gift of all, in terms of friendship, was the fact that this trip allowed me to finally meet my dear friend Melissa in person, after 7 years of long-distance friendship [from Sacramento to Orlando] that started the year that she was my college English teacher. I was taking distance-learning courses to complete my degree, and we quickly discovered what kindred spirits we were, and have kept in touch ever since then through every form of communication imaginable, except actually meeting in person. We roomed together for the conference, and I really think the only time we shut up and stopped talking was to sleep — and even that wasn’t very long! We had an absolute blast together, and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity, after all these years, to sit across the table from her and have real, face-to-face fellowship and conversation. Technology has allowed us to form a beautiful friendship that we never would have had otherwise, but after spending time in person, I know the long-distance version will never replace the joy of “in real life”!
In short, it was an amazing weekend full of rich and visible blessings straight from the Lord’s hand, and I am beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to take this trip. Without my husband’s gentle nudges to register and his unwavering support in all my endeavors leading up to the trip, I would never have made it, so thank you from the bottom of my heart, my love!
My only concern is that choosing She Speaks as my very first writing conference has spoiled me for life on any other conferences I might attend, since I know nothing else will ever match this experience!