She came from two hours away, knowing no one.
She lost her infant son just months ago. His funeral was at this church.
Her whole family brought her here, napping in the car while she came inside for an hour.
She used to battle addiction.
That table of five – they’re all widowed.
She feels fat and ugly today.
She came with her daughter.
She is afraid people will see right thru her constructed veneer.
Her miracle pregnancy ended last month at mere weeks, ectopic.
She struggles with depression and anxiety.
She didn’t graduate.
Her husband cuts with words.
Her daughter was stillborn.
She doesn’t fit in.

These hearts and more – about 50 in all – gather in one windowless room, the ground transformed to holy. We eat and drink and giggle nervously, waiting to slip into easy conversation with one another. The tables are decorated beautifully, with shells from the sea, candles, lovely sayings of truth from sisters in Christ.

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There is food, both savory and sweet. We eat, but we’re all hungry for a different kind of nourishment. And the videos we watch and the conversations we bravely have provide it in spades. Slowly, with boldness, we share our stories with used-to-be strangers. Strangers that begin connecting faces to avatars, names to handles, hearts to blogs.

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As the videos played on and challenges are issued through the speakers – challenges to stay in community, to open up, to create benches on which conversations may take place & friendships may flourish – our shoulders soften and we sink into our seats a little bit. We take notes and make commitments  to ourselves and our God, and nod heads in agreement with the speakers. We take chances – playing a ‘human scavenger hunt’ mixer, sharing pieces of ourselves and our stories, worshiping together, eating together, using the Photobooth props together =) – and we are not hurt in doing so. Rather, we are blessed as we open up to each other, choosing community over fear.

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Co-hosts, co-incouragers, friends =) | my lovely friend Vicki |
The Boy was enthralled with LisaJo | he & I stopped in the photobooth =)

To help us make that choice, Amanda & I hosted a Twitter chat the week before, using the platform as the connecting tool that it can be to ‘meet’ one another so we could have some kind of starting ground. Women loved it, answering questions and asking their own and reaching out and not being silent. They loved it so much that actually:

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Our hashtag trended on Twitter (that means it was tweeted a LOT). Amazing. Only God.

Amanda and I threw open our doors, merely providing the decorated space, mixer, prizes and a place to sit. The women who showed up? They really showed up, hearts open and ready for filling. And God? He did not disappoint. He showed up too. =) Husby led us in worship to close our lovely day, and as we sang I’m sure something broke free in us all. Something in heaven opened too, and our voices rose straight to The One we were singing of. And since that beautiful day, a Facebook group has been started, conversations continued, plans to meet for ice cream made, dates chosen.

Those hearts met in real life, and Real Life met our hearts there.

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most of our inRLMN group

{girl with blog}

**for the second year, (in)courage has opened the doors to their virtual beach house and ushered over 6000 women inside for the inRL conference. Amanda and I were honored to host in the Twin Cities, where about 50 women gathered at my church. We’re excited for next year already =)**

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