Monday, September 26, 2011

Blog Sugar



I have been thinking all day about writing this post. Well, pretty much only when I wasn't cradling and feeding my brand new & precious nephew, but I'll save all of that goodness for a future post.

As I laid my head down on my pillow last night I thanked the Lord for all of the love I felt at Blog Sugar. I thanked Him for all of the lovely and special women I met; the ones I felt like I already knew so well and the ones I encountered for the very first time. I thanked Him for the opportunity I was given to be there and to share in the somewhat bizarre & surreal, but wonderful gift of meeting and hugging someone in person for the first time, yet feeling as though I knew their heart and soul already. And though I also prayed that he would help me sleep since I had to wake up only four hours later to catch a flight to Arizona, I continued to pray for all of the ladies I met, for all of the speakers who so beautifully shared their stories, for the creators and organizers of the event for making it happen and for me. I prayed that the Lord would use my blog and my life as a vessel for His glory and that someday and somehow He can shine His light throughout this community by using me in any way He desires and in the way that so many of these women have done for me.

I drove to the convention center not knowing at all what to expect. I was a little nervous, really excited and somewhat worried that I might have over dressed. When I arrived I met Kacie in the parking lot and with nervous hearts & exclamations of "I'm so glad we're here together otherwise I would be too scared to come alone!" we made our way inside.



I felt, as I'm sure Kacie might have as well, that there were going to be so many bloggers there who already had a huge following and that me and my little ole blog didn't belong. I also worried about how social I was going to be able to be because, to be completely honest, I get intimidated around a lot of people, especially ones I admire and whose blogs I read. I am the quintessential introvert so putting myself out there,  introducing myself, and especially small talk, can be quite the challenge for me. But I have to say that I was so relieved when others approached me and ease began to sink in with all the smiling and welcoming faces. We mingled, drank Shirley Temples and began to recognize and meet so many faces. The whole atmosphere was so calming and lovely and friendly.


The decor by Laura over at Ascot Friday was fabulous (before I knew she worked on the visual team at Anthro I thought to myself, "This decor is so amazingly Anthro-esque."). Her panel was, like her decor, was so inspiring and motivating. I'm so happy I attended. She discussed how to cultivate your own personal style and many of the points she made were taken directly from the book I <3 Your Style, a book that I had been wanting for so long when I worked at Anthro, but never did pick up. You bet your bottom dollar I'll be swooping that thing up asap. We also did a fun activity of cutting out photos in magazines of images that inspire us and represent our own personal style, or what we would want it to be. I'll be doing that as well in the near future because although Pinterest is a perfect place for that, I like to have something tangible to look through and touch and filter through as the years go by in order to solidify my personal style. 


The other two panels I attended were focused more on how to share your own personal story and journey while being true to your unique self. The first was a heartfelt and open panel led by the amazing Heather at Life Made Lovely. Her testimony and story of struggle really resonated with each of us sitting there listening to her speak her heart. I was so in awe of her and the strength that the Lord has gifted her with. I don't think there was a dry eye among us. She spoke with such conviction and assuredness of how God has used her story and her blog to reach to so many through compassion and love. She encouraged us all to not be afraid to tell our own unique stories of pain and brokenness, but always making sure to keep the Lord first in mind and letting Him use us and our blogs as a vessel to speak His truth.


Sarah Markley headed up the last panel I attended and spoke on how to always remember that the most important thing is to stay true to ourselves, to never be fake or phony, to always write from the heart. I took away with me little pages in my notebook scribbled with all of the fantastic tips and tools that she equipped us with in order to be a blogger of integrity and authenticity. I am so grateful for all of the pearls she imparted to us.


The food was tasty and the treats were amazing. As you can see, we were all given a delicious little mini doughnut. Kacie and I stole a second one from the empty seats next to us, I mean how could we let it go to waste? And the woopie pies?!?! The salted brown butter rice krispie treats?!?!?! I died. So yummy.


There were fabulous giveaways and SWAG bags! The opportunity to connect with so many new bloggers (I'm sorry to all of the ladies whose business cards I received, I will have to link up to you and follow when I get back home from AZ since I left my SWAG bag at home) and to meet the ones I've been wanting to meet for so long.


Some of my favorites included the precious and kind Hannah Singer, whom I had been wanting to meet for quite some time. She is every bit as sweet and loving and kind and gentle as you would imagine her to be. I love that woman!


Danielle at Take Heart who presented the non-profit organization Love146 which had to of touched the hearts of every single human in that room (I will post more on this later).


Adrian of Sweet Sugary Goodness and her sister Erin, who were both so warm and funny. I was SO grateful that she recognized & approached me so that we could connect! Funny story: we went to the same high school and I was friends with their sister, Emily. Small world, right??


And, of course, the incredible Rachel Reeves. I love that woman to pieces. Meeting her was the highlight of my night. She has been such a joy and a light in my life and I'm so blessed to have finally hugged her and spoken with her face to face. Plus, Blog Sugar would not have happened without her and therefore I owe my wonderful first blog meet up experience to her. The Lord has truly and remarkably used her life and her blog to bring so many people together and give me an example of what kind of blogger I want to be. I seriously cannot say enough wonderful things about her, but in order to keep myself from sounding like a total geek, I shall cease for now.


As Kacie and I walked back to the parking lot, hearts and tummies full, we shared so much that's been on our minds, what the Lord has been uprooting in our hearts and it occurred to me as I drove away, ADELE blasting through my speakers, that I had just left something remarkable. There are so many beautiful, strong and unique women within this community and it is so encouraging to me that we can all be there for each other and share in the love and the grace that God has shared with us. It's difficult to put into words what it's like to have this community of supportive women. 


I think Rachel said it best when she wrote in a previous post, "I have since given up on trying to explain or convince friends, family or strangers, the many beautiful encounters I have had online. I don't try to win the war of words when it comes to the reality of my relationships.

I simply hold tight those friends that I have made and know that it's no different than any other friendship. It's based on something that is real because I am real. I'm here, I write, I share. So do they.
We learn and grow with one another. We navigate through this weird, surreal and sometimes strange online world together. We are just as real of friends as anyone else. If we are disqualified because we met through blogging than that's just an argument that won't measure up and I won't fight...We, "bloggers", are changing the landscape of friendships.
Perceptions are changing and I am learning that just because someone might not be used to the idea doesn't mean that it isn't a valid and meaningful (and life-changing) option."

I won't ever forget my first experience of becoming face to face with the online community and I can't wait for the next Blog Sugar.

{Kacie and I by the end of the night}
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