I'm still trying to process it all. I have my "Swag Bag" spilled out on the coffee table beside me in an attempt to organize not only my stuff but my thoughts. I loved getting to shop in the Sashes Market-- the place where handmade shop owners and designers could provide some of their products. Everything from books, pottery, artwork, clothing, and accessories was available to purchase. Check out the conference link to see all of the women who brought their amazing talents to the market. I was very excited to do a bit of Christmas shopping while also supporting incredible women and causes.
My dear friend Brittany is the one who introduced me to the Influence Conference and Network. We rode together to Indy and also roomed together with Erika. There is no doubt in my mind that God had plans for Brittany and I to meet and become fast friends. Brittany and I met at a wedding and our husbands work together. We have similar backgrounds, stories, and connections that had us laughing, crying, and feeling so loved by God. I loved rooming with her and Erika. Be sure to check out Erika's shop for some amazing handmade bags, clutches, and wristlets! She has style, talent, and a heart for Jesus! I enjoyed getting to know her some this weekend.
We arrived to Indy Thursday evening in time to settle into our rooms before going to the Welcome session and SoleHope shoe cutting party. Follow the link to their website to find out how you can contribute to this amazing organization that is changing lives of the people in Ethiopia.
The schedule of the conference included two main sessions where Jessi and Hayley, the conference hosts, shared some serious life and truth. Hayley spoke on Friday about the lies that women believe: that we can never mess up, that we must work to achieve a status, that emotions are unsafe, and more. When we believe such lies, it leads to shame, envy, pride, striving, discontent, distraction, and addiction. One of the things she said that hit me the hardest was "If you're believing lies, you cannot enjoy the freedom of the Truth." So convicting! Jessi spoke on Saturday morning about feminine influence. As women, we were born out of a need, and with intention and creativity. We were made to be helpers. She gave such a real description of the woman in Proverbs 31, a figure in the Bible that can often be intimidating for a woman today. I have always loved and admired this passage. But sometimes I feel like it is a long list of things I have to accomplish or I'm a failure. I mean really, I try my hardest to get up before the sun, keep our house tidy, and be a good wife but-- I don't bake bread, I don't sew, I don't have a vineyard, and I'm often fighting my fear of the future because it is out of my control. Jessi's explanation of the Proverbs 31 woman was that she is growing and that she is aiming to be like Christ. Rather than beat myself up for not being able to do all the literal things she did everyday, I can know that there is grace. Maybe one day I will bake bread, sew, and have a vineyard. But for now, I know that my gifts are from God alone and let Him use them. I can learn from my failure and find rest in God.
In addition to the two main sessions, there were several breakout sessions and workshops. Lara Casey shared amazing Biblical tips for strategy in our lives. I could type for days about all of the amazing points that she made. Simply put, we must follow Christ before following our dreams, set good goals, set ourselves up for success, and make it happen! I also got to hear (& meet) one of my favorite authors Shauna Niequist. If you read my first few posts, they were all praising her books and recipes. It was awesome getting to hear her in person. She spoke of the importance of community, being yourself as a writer, and slowing down. One point that she made that stuck with me is that the more we try to cram into life, the less we taste and feel. I think this only reinforced Lara Casey's point that we need to stop glorifying "busy." Shauna gave out copies of her books, as well as signed them. I was so excited/nervous/star-struck, that I was pretty much that awkward, smiling from ear to ear, fan. Even though I didn't say all I wanted, I am just glad to have heard her and even meet her!
Annie Downs was another fantastic speaker and author that shared about how important our battle against the "Mean Girl" is in our online life (as well as offline). I was quick to purchase her book Speak Love, and can't wait to read more about choosing words that give life rather than death. My favorite quote from her session was "He (Jesus) would never speak anything but love for us, so we should never speak anything but love for others." Can sister get an AMEN?!
I know I am probably forgetting some major moments, leaving something or someone out, and I apologize. There will be further explanations in the future I am sure. I am just very grateful for the experience, for the women who put this together, and for Brittany who told me about it. I can't wait to see what all God has in store for everyone who went, for me, and for this blog. If you are interested in joining the Influence Network, definitely check out their website in addition to the conference website.
We have such a privilege to use our social media for good and for God's glory. I am so thankful for a community of women who are wanting to do just that!