inRL 2014 Conference Wrap Up

The pace of life can be so frenetic, at times, that I find it downright impossible to form connections in real life. I look for opportunities to meet others who share a desire to live life without just going through the motions.  I need flesh and blood people to come alongside and shoulder the burdens of life, with me.  I’m guessing you do too?

I’ll spare you the boring details of our whirlwind life over these past weeks, but suffice it to say that I am thrilled to be able to quietly sit down in front of my computer today and finally get to the important business of sharing about my inRL Conference meetup at the end of April.

The ladies of (in)courage deliver a constant stream of encouragement through that computer screen. To be able to share that with others is a gift.

We had another small gathering of five women, but make no mistake. Each one of these women were handpicked; by a God, who knows and sees.

Some arrived the night before to work together to get my home ready, to eat chocolates as we wrapped tissue paper around pretty little welcome gifts, and to laugh and cry as we watched the opening Friday night Keynotes. We sat around in our pajamas, quiet and comfortable, and listened as women opened up their hearts on the other side of the screen.

Saturday dawned beautiful. The rain that was predicted, wasn’t. There were calls made and emails sent, telling us that some couldn’t make it.  But, our spirits weren’t dampened a bit.  It’s almost as if with each new cancellation, our spirits were able to instantly see that this, this is exactly as it was supposed to be. The sun was streaming through the windows as we welcomed in two more brave souls.

We settled in to watch the Saturday Keynotes and it was obvious that heart connections were being made.  Community, the trials of living in one and the necessity of having one, was on full display.  Both in my living room and on that screen.

There were some priceless conversations about hurt.  And joy. Deeper bonds were forged. Friendships blossomed. As we stood around the table, eating and chatting together, I remember thinking that this is community. Right here, right now.

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Once again, I am so thankful for the vision that (in)courage had to provide this opportunity.  It helps me see, each time, how beautiful is the real life connecting to each of our sometimes web-weary souls.

And to the women who came… thank you.  Thank you for sharing yourselves.

Let’s do it again next year, okay?

 

 

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In Just Two Weeks

inRL_Conference_InviteThere is a longing in the hearts of so many women that I meet. My own, included.  It’s that deep desire to meet others whom you can ultimately call Your People.  To connect with others, even just a precious one or two, who get who you are at your core.

And when you do, it’s joy unbounded!

The (in)courage community provides that, in spades!

Community is vital to our thriving, as women. From college campuses to nursing home halls, we are wired to seek out others. We often hold broken things inside and pray for other flesh-and-blood friends to come alongside and hold the pieces gently with us. This world that we live in doesn’t always make that easy, does it?

You will find that at (in)courage!

You will find that at the (in)courage in Real Life Conference!

My relationships with this community began online.  I found my head nodding as I read blog posts as women shared deeply of what it means to actually do life, praying that you are being salt and light as you go along. These relationships developed further as I bravely joined a small group community of other Special Needs Mamas – again, through (in)courage.

In April of last year, I bravely stepped out, holding loosely to expectations, and hosted one of these conference meetups at my home.

And it was incredible!Hugging necks and looking into the eyes of so many people I’d only been able to interact with on the other side of the screen? Life fortifying!  You can read all about last year’s meetup here.

Do you long for these sorts of connections in your own life?

In just two weeks, I’ll get to meet a whole new slew of women through (in)courage’s inRL Conference. Each woman who joins a meetup is bravely venturing out into community for deeper conversations and connections.  I. Can’t. Wait!

If you’ve gotten to this point and feel a stirring in your own heart, click here.  You can join an (in)courage meetup in hundreds of different locations around the world! It’s free! It’s local! It’s community!

Do it. I want to see you be brave!

I Thought You Would Like To Know

Something really exciting is happening on Wednesday over at (in)courage.

Me and about 30,000 of my closest friends begin the Made To Crave Online Bible Study over at P31 Ministries this week.

I’ve got to get my unsuspecting children over to the Allergist for their annual “pricky hurty test“. Joy. Abounding.

Both of the Sweetchildren’s extra-curricular activities resume this week.

I’m still clearing out the clutter.

A writing deadline, a looming smoosh-and-squish appointment, and…

You feel me?

Aside from all of that, I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart!

Do you know why? (Raise your hands, please.)

Do you want to know why? (Rhetorical question, friends.)

My rash is disappearing! It is GOING AWAY! I could do the Texas Two-Step (if I knew how)!

I thought you would like to know.

Oh, yes indeedy!

I may even be able to throw on a 3/4 sleeved shirt to celebrate the balmy 50 degree spring day we’re having here today.

Just maybe.

Tell me about your week.  Please do.  Let’s share all of our Crazy together, kay?

With Chips and Salsa

Dear Katie,

In less than 7 weeks, I’m heading to South Carolina for the Allume Conference. With you.

And, in keeping with God’s deep and abiding love for me, He is allowing me to room with you. We may not have met face-to-face yet, but we know each other’s hearts.  And you get me. I’m deeply indebted to Dayspring’s (in)courage group for special needs mammas for making us fast friends. Time zones ain’t got nothin’ on us, girlfriend!

At Logan’s prompting, Katie, you graciously shared with me some things you thought I might oughta know before we take our relationship to the next level.  Thank you.  Bless you.  We share numbers 1, 2, 5, and 7 in common; so, it’s gonna be okay.

And… we’ll have chips and salsa.

With that said…

Sweetman insists that anyone who doesn’t live with me on a daily basis might be traumatized by All Of Me, all at once. In the spirit of good will (and knowing it’s too late for you to try to get out of rooming with me) I shall tell you some things, Sweet Katie. These things might just make our days together, in our cozy hotel room, slightly less harrowing.

I hope.

But, it’s gonna be okay.  Because, we’ll have chips and salsa.

Your #1 – the snoring thing? My Sweetman insists my snore is “delightful” and “cute”.  My children, on the other hand, insist it’s more on the order of The Bear Snores On. You, dear roommate, get to be the deciding vote! (And I come bearing brand new earplugs. For you. In case.)

You should probably say a quick prayer of thanks that we do not need to share a bed.  I am rarely still through the night. Sweetman likes to joke that the King sized bed in our bedroom is mainly mine.  He gets a 2 foot wide strip and a bungee cord.  Thank you Lord. And Amen.

Also, you should note that if you are looking for food items (above and beyond our beloved chips and salsa) that are of any nutritional value what-so-ever, you will not find them on my person.  You may, however, find a Twinkie. Or a Swiss Cake Roll.  Or both. Times three. I know you are trying to be good and gluten-free and such.  I will hide them if you wish. Or share.

Packing thrills me.  I wish I could lie and say what a nightmare it will be deciding what clothes to wear and shoes to bring and necklaces to lay out.  Sorry. The plotting and the planning? It’s in my blood. I will have my outfits paired up well ahead of time, with their chosen accessories.  I will hang them, with ever so much care, in our hotel closet as soon as I arrive. And then… I WILL FREAK OUT LIKE A MANIAC that I have brought ALL THE WRONG THINGS!

It’ll be okay.  We’ll have some chips and salsa.

I’m a total extrovert (I think you were already aware).  But, you may not know that I am an extrovert who needs naps to escape all the extroverting.  Don’t you worry, though, my sweet sidekick. I’ll send out the bat signal so that you can either join me or commit social crimes solo for a while.

I’m a Note Taking Nerdette; and I’m pretty proud of it.  I may not remember a dad-gum thing anyone said the entire day – but by George! I’ll have written it down. Somewhere…

We can go over all of those notes while we nosh on the never-ending chips and salsa. While in our jammies.  At bedtime.  That’s 8:00 p.m. sharp! And, while the jammies are indeed required, the flossing is entirely optional (because I don’t floss either).

Now, get on those tickets, kid.  I am NOT writing another one of these open letters.  I barely made it through this one. But I know it’ll all be better than okay.  I’m gonna hang with you. And I couldn’t be more excited!

With Chips and Salsa,

Missy

A Social Story About Shorts

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Shorts. We’re talking about shorts.  The kind you wear.

I’m over at (in)courage today in my (in)Able and (included) community, writing a social story about shorts.  And a deep need for something bigger than All The Patience to lean on when the learning curve is steep.

Join me over there, won’t you?  Just click the button below and you’ll be whisked away.  See you there!

InCourage Is My superpower

Yes indeedy!

 

Alpacas, Gerbils, and Community – Oh My!

“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.”

Matthew 18:20

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Did you know that Alpacas spit?  Maybe you were already privy to that information, but I always thought they were far too cultured for that.  Apparently, while they won’t spit at you, they will indeed spit out into the great beyond to share their disdain for something that you might be trying to introduce them to. Like, say… a harness for the first time.

And, did you know that there are Gerbil Rescuers? Oh, yes. There. Are. You know how you can bring home “two male gerbils” and 2 weeks later you awake to miraculously find that there are approximately 23 more are in the cage now, too?  There are kind folks who will swoop right in and help you make that right.

I learned these things, and so much more, from these beautiful new friends that I made at the inRL Meetup that took place at my home this weekend.

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I wrote here, back in March, that I had taken the leap and signed up for the (in)courage inRL (that’s in real life) meetups that were going to be taking place this past weekend, around the world. And not only did I sign up to attend, but also to host at my home. (‘Cuz I’m just extroverted like that).  I wrangled a sweet friend with Mad Decorating Skills to come help me in that area because God so clearly neglected to give me that particular skill set.  True story. (And that would be the beautiful lady on the far right up there!)

My friends, if you didn’t get a chance to make one of these this year?  Put it on your calendar for next year. NOW!  It was amazingly refreshing and uplifting and encouraging. And I have pictures to prove it, of course.

But first, I must show you how I started the morning.  I put on my brand spankin’ new white inRL t-shirt, and proceeded to get lipstick right on the front of it.  Lipstick that is, apparently, immune to any sort of stain stick. Trust me – we tried a few different ones.  I took it as a reminder, from the God that provided this opportunity for community, to Keep It Real.  Amen?

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As each new woman walked in, I reminded myself to breathe and to just brightly say, “Welcome!”, instead of rushing to explain what was staining the front of my t-shirt.

And do you know what was amazing?  No one noticed.

Do you want to know what else was amazing?  These women!  Not a single one was at the same stage of life as me.  Not a single one had a child with Autism.  There were two without any children at all. (Although, we’re all counting the Alpacas as children after our conversation!) We were all at various places in our faith journeys, in our work lives, and relationships.

We may not have been a large group, but God brought five women together to learn about what community can feel like -with all the pain and joy it brings with it – in real life.

And it was so good.  So. Very. Good.

With the icebreaker over and the gabbing winding down, we gathered around the screen to watch the webcast on Staying in Community. There were so many heads nodding throughout, that I thought heads were going to fall right off of bodies! Such wisdom was conveyed during the telling of these genuine and heartfelt stories during the webcast.  A few of my favorites were the following:

  • “We all need to be told it isn’t too late to make it beautiful.” –Angie Smith
  • “…we walk around and pick up a few of each other’s shards to add to a few of our own. Because that is what good friends do.  Become safe places to break wide open and share the shards of our mess.” – Kristen Strong
  • “The thing that wounds us is often the thing that God will walk us through again to heal us.” – Mary DeMuth
  • “Sometimes when we stay, it’s because our testimony isn’t about us at all- it’s entirely about Him.” _-TeriLynne Underwood
  • “You need imperfect people in your life to perfect your practice of love.” –Ann Voskamp

These were just a few of the many many thoughts I tucked into my heart during this webcast!

The talk of mentors had my head spinning for the rest of the day. I didn’t write down who said, “Mentors are like anchors. They ground us when things get rough.”  I chewed on that for hours!  And Marina Bromley spoke of the importance of being real: “One of the best gifts you can give to a mentee is to not be perfect – but perfectly open.”  Oh. My. Soul! Don’t we all just crave someone to be real with us?  Someone who will let us be ourselves and not turn us away when we botch it up and good? Who will call us to the carpet when we’re turning away purposefully?  And love on us when we aren’t?

Are you feeling like you missed a great opportunity?  Don’t! If you missed it, I do believe it will be made available later on, in DVD format. I’m going to tell you straight up to run and get yourself a copy, when it does! You will be so thankful.  And encouraged.  Who doesn’t want that?  Who doesn’t need that?

This is one event that I plan to take part in forevermore.  It did my heart and soul good to know that I was part of a larger community of women who are trusting in God to see us through every stage of life. And that we’re better… together.

Yes, indeedy!

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Wanna Get Away?

Right about the time that I reached into the very last box of Devil Dogs only to realize I was down to the final two…

And The Colds came back with a vengeance…

And someone named Rube Goldberg began interjecting himself into our peaceful homework routine…

And the mailbox got obliterated…

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That’s about the time I began to lose my mind.

Forget about the 2 loaves and 5 fishes multiplying. What about the 2 loads of clean laundry I just put away that have suddenly multiplied into 4 more loads I need to do? I do not like that kind of math. Oh no I don’t!

Whatever is a mama to do? Because a simple Calgon bath isn’t gonna take me away, y’all. (And if you don’t get that reference? That’s okay, we can still be friends.)

I’ll tell you what this mama started to do.  I started planning how I could get out of Dodge.

And I found a way to do it for free!  Yup, free.

Well, sort of.

The wonderful team of women over at (in)courage are inviting you (yes, you!) to their second annual (in)RL Virtual Beach House Retreat on April 26th and 27th. (That stands for In Real Life, in case you were wondering.)  With other women longing for a little spring get away, just like you! All you have to do is click here to find the community of (in)couragers meeting closest to you and register. Women in over 400 locations around the world are offering to host this virtual retreat from their homes or churches, or are choosing to meet up at restaurants or parks. From Jacksonville to Joplin to Japan, there’s sure to be an (in)RL meet-up near you.

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And me?  Well, I am hosting one of these meet-ups here, at my home.

“Um, she does realize this means she’s not going anywhere, right?”, you might be wondering.

Why, yes! Yes, I do.

You see, my Sweetman?  He’s da bomb diggety (And I don’t care that I’m the only one still using that phrase.  It’s fun. I like it.)  He offered to take the kids to the grandparent’s house that Friday night and stay until Sunday.

And even I realize what that means.  2 WHOLE DAYS TO MYSELF!  I apologize for the yelling.  I’m just so excited! I get to hang out with women longing to connect and drink hot chocolate without having to share the marshmallows and not worry about the laundry being sneaky and multiplying behind my back.  And doesn’t that just sound so… Awesome!!??

Ya with me now?

I promise, with this year’s theme of “The Challenge to Stay in Community”, we all have much to learn and share.  And celebrate! Isn’t this entire Spring season about celebrating the one Victory that makes community such a beautiful thing in the first place?

So, even if you don’t know a soul in the community group meeting nearest you, GO!  Run to register! Make some new friends with other women who are longing to get away and refresh their souls. You can find out more on the FAQ link or Register to host or Register to attend, here.

Have I piqued your interest?  I surely hope so.  And if you are the husband, brother, father, or loved one of a woman who could use some encouraging?  Send her over to (in)courage to find out more!  She’ll thank you. Promise.

And, if you live in New England, use one of the social media buttons to the right to contact me, and I’d be happy to share my meet-up info.  I’d love to meet some of you in real life. Oh, yes indeedy!