*This post is a follow-up to an article I wrote for Red Tent Living. You can read that article here.
Anticipation can be a tricky thing. We’ve probably all experienced being excited about something that is upcoming. We have our hopes and dreams of how it will all play out. When the time comes, reality is rarely exactly like our expectations. Instead, it can be anywhere from what we envisioned to being a big disappointment with our hopes dashed. Close to the former is when our hopes aren’t met like we expected, but the experience is still fabulous. Which would this be for me?
I was elated when I registered for the conference, long before the gathering was to happen. Seven months of imagining, hope, and questions were finally coming to fulfillment. The Brave On Conference was about to begin!
On the way to the airport, I had expressed my questions to my friend. ” I wonder how many people will be there. I wonder if we’ll sit at tables all day or only for dinner. How many people do you think will be at each table?”
The unexpressed question was, “Would any of the people I wanted to talk to also want to talk to me?” I was excited about meeting them, but wasn’t as sure that it would flow both ways.
Going with the theme of “Brave On” and the subtopic of “bravery with others,” I’d chosen to sit at a table with all strangers. I knew I’d also have to be brave in initiating conversations with those writers I’d like to meet in person.
My friends, Julie and Becky, and I arrived at the Goehi Center precisely when registration opened, thus avoiding the lines that were to come. We entered a beautiful space – an old furniture factory renovated into an event center. Walking past an indoor fountain with Koi fish meandering peacefully, we headed past elevated tables with water bottles, the coffee station, sitting areas with comfortable chairs, and carefully restored brick walls containing tall windows. We checked in at the registration table, received our table assignments and nametags, and proceeded to our respective tables to deposit our bags. The large room we entered had round tables laid with white tablecloths and flowers. The open-beam ceilings were strung with globe string lights, giving the room an inviting coziness.
I soon saw one of the regular Red Tent writers, with whom I’d had some correspondence, across the room. “Libby!” I exclaimed.
“Angela! It’s so good to meet you at last!” A hug followed. The first connection was made. As I talked with Libby and the other ladies standing in the circle, I met some new people and others I recognized from their writer bios on Red Tent. Interactions like these followed as my hope of meeting other writers was realized. There was also the occasional time when I’d introduce myself to someone I thought might recognize me, from comments and replies on the website, and be met with blank or puzzled looks. That was okay too.
The interactions with other writers and attendees, some brief and some long, were affirming and positive. I gave encouragement and I received encouragement. I was able to thank others, encourage others, hear and see others, and share part of my own story.
The conference was a women’s conference with no denominational affiliations. As such, there was a wide range of theological beliefs among us. I wondered how that would play out with the speakers. Many of the speakers were regular writers for Red Tent Living. We also had Sarah Bessey, author of a book titled The Jesus Feminist, a title which can raise eyebrows even before reading. Nichole Nordeman sang and shared with us. Thankfully, the speakers avoided extremes and there was little with which anyone could have an issue. The sub-topics of being brave with God, self, and others worked well for this.
I took many notes, both for focus and to keep straight the insightful and wise words of a variety of speakers. It was fascinating to watch speakers whom I knew were nervous, yet speak beautifully and powerfully. I was mesmerized by poetry recitation and stories. Nichole’s songs and shared words touched many hearts.
Here are some favorite tidbits that I recorded in my notebook.
- Sarah Bessey – “Sometimes the most fearless thing we can do is show up in our present lives.”
- Susan Tucker reminded us that sometimes the work of God takes time.
- Bethany Cabell pointed out that God is here with us, in the middle of struggles and pain.
- Libby Kurz, on poetry – “Take your own pain and shame and craft it into a freaking work of art!” This is my favorite quote of the day.
- Mary Jane Hamilton – When you’ve had a good experience, don’t mess it up later with self-doubt about what you said and did.
- Jennifer Stamness – Lean into your pain, like you would lean into a friend’s pain. Don’t resist or check out. Sit with it for a while.
- Janet Stark – Be aware of what soothes you (smells, cup of tea, etc.). Speak truth to your self critic. Everyone is different and has different capacities. Only you know what you need (i.e. crowds drain you).
- Ellen Oelson- Get to know your own stress signs and stop and listen when you notice them. If you ignore them, your feelings can come out in ways harmful to others. Caring for self balances caring for others.
- Katy Johnson – “Brokenness is surrender. I need a Savior!”
- Lindsay Braman did the art notes below. These are a few of them. She did one for each speaker.
Where did the conference fit on my spectrum, compared to my expectations? It wasn’t exactly as I’d hoped, but it was still fabulous! I also enjoyed the rest of the trip, because I was privileged to spend time with my friends, Julie and Becky, as well. On Saturday evening, I told my friends, “I am full.” I wasn’t referring to the food, but the fact that I was satisfied and full with the good experiences I’d had.