I was blessed to attend at the last-minute through a scholarship and the lovely Anne Bogel offering space for me to crash in on. We had met at Blissdom and we’ve connected over the past year. The first night in I was offered a chance to room with another Blissdom friend, Virginia and her two roommates Bree and Andi. Since Anne’s husband Will was going to be staying that first night it would have made things a tad crowded and awkward. Even though he fit right in at Influence, he is still a dude.
So I was going into this conference with the expectations of amazing content and the chance to reconnect with some friends while making some new ones.
I am good at this. Making new friends. I made lots of them at Blissdom, but I realized as soon as I stepped into the lobby at Influence that this would be different.
I am drawn to the one in the corner, the one by themselves awkwardly texting, the one holding their coffee cup looking for an empty seat and someone to beckon them to join in. These are the ones I relate to, I want to pull them into the fold and let them know they are welcomed. My heart aches for the new girl, the one who stands on the fringe of conversations while everyone else’s backs turn inward, often without knowing that they have closed the circle.
But when I arrived to check in, I realized I was carrying more baggage than a carry on and purse. I was bringing with me the insecurities of a past world of mean girls, popular cliques with their gaggle of giggling friends that would stream past me without a glance. And so, upon seeing a Pinterest board of beautiful trendy gals with top buns, cute accessories, knee-high boots, rocking their skinny jeans, I felt myself faltering. I flashed back to middle school and I felt my stomach drop low and gurgling into my core. These girls weren’t the kind that needed to be included, they already were.
Fear seized me and I was choking on it. I made a study of my feet, dug into my bag for gum, pulled out my cell phone and scrolled through nothing. Because I am great at extending a warm welcome to the new girl, but I really stink at being her.
I hate being the one to approach a group of gals already engaged and talking amongst themselves to be smiled at quickly, and then the conversations continues and you stand there not sure if you should leave or stay, because it feels like it wouldn’t matter either way.
And I went on and met some wonderful warm women but I couldn’t shake this nagging feeling that kept rearing it’s head. You don’t really belong here.
I heard Jessi, Hailey, Casey, and Moriah talk about how they want egos and insecurities checked at the door, and I believed what their heart spoke but I still didn’t really approach any of them.
I hadn’t made the connections beforehand so I didn’t know if you were a famous blogger or just started. I didn’t know what your avatar or blog design looked like. I didn’t know if you sold things in your Etsy shop, but I did sense that you already knew each other and were happy to see each other and hang out with together, and while I totally get that, a part of me felt excluded.
When I came home and streamed through the posts and instagrams, I realized I was absent from most of them. I suppose I could have photo bombed everyone but instead I was always hiding behind my iPhone.
I sat in on some amazing content that was an answer to many prayers about this blog (more on that later.)
And then the final night came. I had had highs and lows emotionally for the entire weekend vacillating between feeling very connecting and then suddenly on the outside again.
And then we gathered into the conference center and the lights dimmed and our voices rose together in worship and I was brought down. As I fought back tears there in the dark room, they broke free and flooded my cheeks with dewy renewal.
I was wrecked. God was there, all along. And the layers being peeled back from my heart were those of a broken and contrite spirit.
Because even though I can’t rock skinny jeans, or fix an elegant top bun or figure out how to wear ankle booties without looking ridiculous, I still fit. I am a part of this body and we worship the same God.
We all want our influence to extend the gospel to those who have never grasped His grace, and we’re all unique in how we do it. And it’s only the lies from the enemy that tell me anything different. And these are the same lies I have always believed, that are just so dang loud sometimes. I keep thinking I am healed and that I’ve dealt with my baggage and then I look down and see it’s bumping against my heels as I pull it with me.
And I remembered that it isn’t about me at all. It never is. It is always, ALWAYS, about Him.
And I realized that I had wasted precious opportunities to step out of my comfort zone and risk it all to be known and to know. To share the Jesus that I know is in me because I was too worried about the me that I put out there.
God is still working on the healing part but if I had it to do over, I would be brave, because I do belong. I am His.