That’s what happened this past weekend at the retreat in the mountains of Idaho.
It was an amazing time... a beautiful mix of sharing and listening, laughing and crying, exploring outdoors and gathering together in a cozy event space lined with string lights and flowers.
It was a time of holding on to what is good and letting go of all that hinders, a time of silencing shame and overcoming fear, and a time of remembering… you are enough.
I got home Sunday afternoon, reflected on all that happened, and cried. An overwhelmed, happy, how-does-God-do-that kind of cry. How does He take the stories from my life — the good, the bad, the small, and even the embarrassing — and use them to help other women, right where they’re at?
I’ll be totally honest. Many times, as a speaker, you head into an event and think who am I to be sharing? What do I even have to offer?
And then you realize that all you really have to offer is you — the real you and the stories from your life. Stories about successes and failures, stops and starts, fears and epiphany moments and the times you felt the most alone. Stories about being a mom and being a friend and messing things up, and learning in the repairing. Stories about feeling lost and finding your way and covering up, and breaking free.
But God takes your stories and does amazing things with them, if you let Him.
And so you say a prayer and get up there and allow yourself to be seen. And in doing so, you give others permission to do the same.
Then, one by one, what Brene Brown calls the power of “me too” unfolds… and you see the nods, the laughter, the tears, the arms around each other, the friends praying together, the woman coming up to you and thanking you because what you said is how she feels… and she doesn’t feel alone anymore.
When you let the walls down and invite others in, your story becomes an “our” story, and that’s where the real blooming happens.
That was the theme for the retreat, by the way: BLOOM. And I love how it created space to talk intentionally about becoming the woman you were meant to become.
We talked about how when you open yourself up to God’s amazing, free grace, it changes everything (because you start to live from a place of being unconditionally loved).
We talked about giving yourself compassion (why are we so hard on ourselves sometimes?) and giving each other compassion too (life has enough challenges; let’s not judge each other).
We talked about shame and how everyone experiences it. (I think Brene Brown’s definition is the best I’ve seen: “Shame is the most powerful master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not enough.”) When you realize you’re not the only one who has ever felt that way, it empowers you to bring your shame out of the dark and into the light. Another favorite Brene Brown quote of mine: “Shame can’t survive being spoken.” And it’s true. Test it.
We talked about fear and how to overcome it (and the fact that overcoming it doesn’t mean getting rid of it. It just means walking with it in a new way so it can propel you forward, not hold you back.) I love Sheryl Sandberg’s thoughts: “We need to shift from thinking I’m not ready to do that to thinking I want to do that and I’ll learn by doing it.”
I could tell you story after story about the learning and growing and letting go and new beginnings that I saw happen in that peaceful setting by the lake this weekend. Women held each other’s babies, and they held each other’s dreams too.
And that’s where I’ll end this – talking about new life and new dreams and next steps and moving forward together.
Because that’s what the weekend was about: beginnings and flourishing and becoming…
And it was a beautiful, beautiful thing.