Monday, August 3, 2009

What I Learned at She Speaks, Part 1

I went into my She Speaks weekend feeling just slightly intimidated. I felt like God was nudging me out of my comfort zone—He has been for a while—but this was way, way out. I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend an entire weekend with a group of type-A women who had written books and spoken to big groups and who have actual readers on their blogs. All things I don’t do or have.

But I went, primarily out of obedience, and I was blessed. My spirit was revived and I left feeling absolutely peaceful about what had taken place.

This week I’m going to be writing about a few things I learned at She Speaks. Today’s lesson: A little kindness goes a long way.

Like I said, I knew NO ONE going into this weekend. Sure, I had met a couple of people through blogging, online, but that’s not the same as getting to know them in person. So when I got off the plane in Charlotte I took a deep breath and thought, “Well, here I go.”

I had to find a shuttle to get to the hotel, and as soon as I walked outside I saw a group of well-dressed women standing around talking and laughing. They could not have been sweeter as I introduced myself. I had a great time talking to Amy and Lisa (who doesn’t have a blog but hopefully will soon) in the shuttle on the way to the hotel.

As I was walking through the lobby to check into the hotel, I heard someone shout, “Shelly!! There you are!” I turned around and saw Jo-Lynne walking toward me with her arms out to give me a big hug. She had recognized me from my picture right here on ye old blog. Friends, I cannot tell you what that meant to me. First of all, I was scared, so to have someone reach out to me like that was a welcome relief. Second, Jo-Lynne is a rock star in the blogging world (I know this because she's listed in my Mom Agenda under "Mom Blogs") and I am the dung on a circus elephant’s toenail, so to have someone like her greet me so warmly was just like handing me a warm towel fresh out of the dryer and wrapping me up in it. Such a blessing.

Jo-Lynne and I chatted for a few minutes and she immediately invited me over to meet a couple of other bloggy rock stars: Tina (Antique Mommy—she’s over on my right sidebar) and Dawn. They were all heading out to lunch, so they invited me and my new friends from the shuttle to come along. Just like that I felt embraced and a part of things. It was just beautiful.

I have to tell you, that was not an isolated incident. Wherever I went I met people who were genuinely interested in me. Asking questions. Looking me in the eye. Commenting on my dress (can I tell you that I enjoyed that just a little?). Seriously, though, it is rare to find people who are genuinely interested in you and your success.

And then there’s Lysa. Dear, sweet Lysa. She’s not only a rock star, she’s a real person. I counted more than three times that she stopped and made a point to come over to me to see how I was doing. Me. Little old me. Now, I’ve met Lysa a few times, but to tell you the truth, we’ve never had an extended one-on-one time of conversation—she’s much too busy for that, and I don’t fault her for that at all. But she calls me her friend, and that means so much to me. She’s the real deal, that Lysa.

My weekend was bookended by kindness. Jo-Lynne provided the front bookend, and Leslie provided the back bookend. As I was leaving the hotel, dragging my suitcase behind me, I passed a woman in the hall and we exchanged glances. Suddenly she came over to me and said, “I feel like I have to meet you. I’ve seen you so many times this weekend, and I feel like I know you. Do we know each other?” Turns out we didn’t, but we had a couple of things in common. Like, she lived in Florida and I’m here in Illinois. You know, the usual stuff. (Just kidding!) No, Leslie has two daughters, just about the same ages as two of mine. She knew someone from Wheaton. But here’s the cool thing . . . that someone would take the time to say, “I think I’d like to meet you,” and then actually act on it.

As I write this post I’m deeply convicted. I attend a big church full of type-A women who can sometimes feel threatening to me. I feel like that circus elephant’s toenail dung so often as I walk through the hallways, wondering what I have to offer. But then I wonder . . . how many other women at my church feel like that too? And what can I do to foster an atmosphere of genuine warmth and good-cheer among ourselves, right where we are?

Before we left for She Speaks, we were encouraged to get rid of our sense of competition for the weekend. To just treat one another as beloved sisters and to encourage each other in our calling. That truly was the spirit of the weekend, and it felt rare to me. Special. And you know what? It works!

I hope that I can learn from that and transfer that feeling of encouragement to the women at my church. I would love for our huge Women’s Bible Study that meets on Wednesday mornings to be a place where women could open up, be real, be inviting, and NOT be competing. And I hope that can start with me.


  1. Oh yes, yes, yes to all of that. She Speaks, where women gather together and lift each other up. It refreshes my soul.

  2. Hey Shelly - I just got to say - you do have actual readers on your blog. I check daily for new posts.

  3. What am I? Chopped liver? :)

    SOOO glad you had a good time and learned such a great lesson! It's already got my wheels turning, since I've been so wrapped up in myself lately. I can't wait to hear more!

  4. I was going to say what Lisa said but she beat me to it. I am offended!!!! You HAVE actual readers! I am one of them!!!

    Just kidding about the offended thing but wanted to get your attention.

    Love you!

  5. Awww, thanks friends. I love that you check every day--you are why I do this! Love you all too!

  6. Welcome home, Shelly! So glad you had a wonderful time! I was thinking about you the whole weekend. Can't wait to hear all the stories!!!

  7. So glad that you had a wonderful time! And I totally would have found you to say Hi if I had been there :-) I can't wait to read more of what you learned and how God moved.


  8. Shelly, I’m so glad you had such a good time. I was excited earlier this morning when I saw you in Jo-Lynne’s picture – that looks like a fun lunch! I wish we’d had more time to visit – and I wish our visiting time hadn’t fallen when I was overly tired and overly chatty. But even so, it was still so nice to meet you. I hope there’s a “next time” soon!!

  9. Shelly,
    I am so glad that you enjoyed "She Speaks". I would have loved to have met you as well.
    So many women, so little time!!
    Bless you girl,

  10. Lindsey, I wish you could have been there too--we would have had fun. Pat, you're right about the so many women so little time thing. Whew!!

    Thanks for your ineterest, everyone.

  11. Awww, this means so much. Coming to She Speaks, I already considered you a friend. I was so excited to see you wheeling your suitcase into the lobby of the hotel. I knew you instantly. (Or hoped I did. I wasn't so fortunate with RaleighGirl, lol.)

    And I agree that Lysa is an exquisite roll model of grace and openness. I adore her and the way she makes everyone feel important.

    As far as this rockstar business goes, I just have to laugh. It's all relative. That's how I felt when Boomama recognized me at the airport. ;-)

    I look forward to reading Part 2!

  12. Ditto to what Lisa and Linda said! You know we count on you to brighten our day!!

  13. Hi Shelly!

    "I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend an entire weekend with a group of type-A women who had written books and spoken to big groups and who have actual readers on their blogs. All things I don’t do or have."

    I love this statement! That was me! It was great to meet you (in line to do something...can't remember...on Sunday morning)!

    You can count me as one of your blog readers now!


  14. Glad I somehow got here to your blog. I was the leader for a women's ministry in a very small non-denominational church and it was multi-cultural. Competition was the one thing that I saw that kept the women from working in unity and holding one another up. And out of competition came jealousy. I told them that we were there to complete one another--not to compete with one another. This is a problem I believe for many women in the church. If we could only see how that holds us back from doing mighty things in the name of the Lord as a unified body of Christ. Thanks for the post.

  15. What a huge reminder to all of us... to be real, be warm and don't compare. I think you used the word compete but they're the same thing, really. You are so valuable.
    P.S. I didn't know you taught college!! Not surprised... I learn something new every day.

  16. I think you deserved to be there more than almost anyone I know. You are a phenomenal writer and communicator. A great mom. You so obviously love Jesus and your husband...

    You are not the dung on a circus elephant's toenail, but I do applaud you for the analogy. See? That's what I'm talking about!