Last fall when they announced there would be a Pursuit Conference in the spring of 2016, I tried to figure out how in the world I could get there and justify going to two conferences within 6 months of each other. But I just couldn’t fully justify it. So when one last email came from Karen Stott about spaces being available after the new year, I looked at Ben and told him what I’d been thinking, “I really want to go, but I just don’t know if it’s the most feasible thing.”
But he knows what this conference has meant to me and that this would be the last one for at least a year or more. So he told me to not worry about anything and to go! After checking with my mom that she could watch Catherine during the day that week, I bought my ticket and was SO excited! Although a bit nervous because with this conference being in the spring instead of the fall, there were going to be a lot of new people… which was exciting and scary all at once for this introvert!
But instead of being fearful, I handed it over to the Lord and prayed for my heart, for opportune conversations, and that I wouldn’t mentally be exhausted by meeting so many new people in a short amount of time :-) And He definitely answered those prayers!
I knew one of my sweet friends, Makenzie, that I’d met a couple of years ago would be there, but when I walked into the vendor market and saw my friend Abby that I also met a couple of year ago, I may have squealed and hugged her a little too tight! I was beside myself with how excited I was to see these dear friends and get to spend real-life time with them! That’s the most wonderful thing and the worst thing of having friends in this industry… I’ve been able to meet people from all over who do what I do and understand the ins and outs, but I don’t always get to see them in person.
And between the speakers and conversations with these ladies and new friends that I met, it seemed like I was crying every hour on the hour the first day I was there! I had no idea what was going on or what God was trying to tell me. So all I could do was pray and ask Him what He wanted me to hear… and what came to me was that I needed to be listening. For me. Listening to Him for what He wanted to tell ME, not what I thought other people needed to be hearing. And it actually changed the way I approached the rest of the week and I’m so thankful.
There were several new speakers going this year that I was really looking forward to sitting and listening to… one being a woman I’ve known for over a decade now! Logan Wolfram just released her first book, Curious Faith, and she also hosts the Allume Conference that happens in Greenville, SC each year.
The coolest thing was she spoke on something that is so close to my heart… waiting on the Lord, for His plans and the journey He has marked out for us. It’s true that we could take control and manufacture our own way, but trust me when I say that has never worked out for me.
Let me introduce you to Amena Brown. All I will say is, you’re welcome.
This is Makenzie, who I mentioned earlier. She wanted some head shots while we were in one of the most beautiful places and I was thrilled to help her out with that. She is wonderful inside and out! When I met her a couple years ago at lunch, we hit it off and I found out that she and her husband were hoping for children. So we prayed for each other as they waited and Ben and I were starting to think about our own family. Then, about 3-4 months before Catherine was born, I found out that they would soon be bringing home their own daughter through adoption!! I hate that we live in different states because these two little girls would have so much fun together! Not to mention how much her mom and I would love it :-)
And this is Dianne. She came with Makenzie for her first conference and I loved getting to meet her!
Not to mention she’s awesome in front of the camera!
Finally, this beautiful girl is Dana who was also my roommate for the week! The Lord has paired me with incredible roommates each of the 5 conferences I’ve been able to go to and this year was no exception. Dana, it was a joy to meet you and to come away with a new friend!
Tuesday night, after our head shot session (try saying that three times fast), we had the amazing community dinner outside, above the pond and as the sun set.
After the tables were cleared, the sun had set, and everyone had gone inside, this is what was left.
A table that had housed a delicious meal, all kinds of conversations, and women that God is using in SO many ways.
There were so many incredible speakers that I did not get photos of. When God told me to LISTEN, I tried to focus on that instead of getting photos of each and everything that was going on. So please know that this week was full of so many things that there was no way I could blog about them all :-)
Also, there are so many beautiful nooks and crannies at Winshape!
The theme of the week was “A Way in the Wilderness” and it was based on Isaiah 43:19 which says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
And the sub theme of the week seemed to be DIRT. So when Mary Marantz gave her talk, we all just had to laugh because she was sticking with the theme for sure!
Let me just say that if you ever have the chance to go to one of her workshops or just hear her speak, take advantage. She is a wonderful woman, a talented photographer and a daughter of the King. And she has a way with words like few people do. Also, be sure to have tissues :-)
And then Jon Acuff spoke. If you haven’t heard of him, now you have. He’s hilarious and motivating and does not take chasing dreams lightly. In fact, he has several books that will help you work on getting over that fear to pursue those dreams. So be sure you check out his website.
The last night on campus, as usual, was amazing. And since it was the 5th conference, and the last one for a while, several people and speakers came up on stage to say a personal thank you to Karen for listening to God so many years ago to create this thing called Pursuit and so that He could bring women creatives together for so many different reasons. And a handful of them sat on this couch and were able to tell Karen how He has affected them through Pursuit.
It was beautiful.
And oh my goodness. This song. I’ve been singing it for the last few weeks and I don’t foresee that changing anytime soon.
Several years ago on a high school retreat, I realized that taking photos during worship is a way that God allows me to worship. And the first night at the conference, I noticed how the lights were hitting just right and I knew I couldn’t leave without getting a photo from this spot. And I’m so glad I did.
Karen, now it’s my turn to say thanks. You have done so much for me these last several years and I am so thankful. You encouraged me as a mom before we started our family. You hugged me tight just a few days after we found out our first pregnancy wasn’t viable and cried tears of sadness with me. And since then, you’ve been a light into this life as a work-at-home mom and I’m so thankful.
But what you may not realize is how you listening to God to begin Pursuit has had a ripple effect over the years. I’ve been able to meet so many Christian women creatives that I wouldn’t have otherwise met. And each of those women have affected me in ways I still haven’t seen the end of. So thank you for being obedient because it’s opened doors for so many of us in ways we didn’t realize we needed! I love you and your heart so much and I hope to see you again soon (rather than later).
And to end the post on a less sappy note, there was a photobooth and much fun was had with it… along with some piñatas.
Karen and I ventured out to get some things for the last event of the conference… and I’m so glad we got photos!
But that just made it more hilarious when, at the end of the night, Dana, Dianne, Makenzie and I used pieces of said piñatas to take some of the candy back to our rooms with us :-)