SGM Trip to Women of Faith, Hugging Blogger Friends., a giveaway…and ANGIE SMITH!!!

I have so much to share…so many pictures, so many words, so many amazing things on my heart. Much of what God spoke to my heart this weekend will have to come in other posts…it’s just too much for one!

This weekend, the ladies of Sufficient Grace, along with some in real life friends and blogger friends (16 total) traveled to  the Women of Faith Conference in Columbus, Ohio to hear this brave, beautiful woman share her testimony of how God carried her as she carried her Audrey Caroline….

There may have also been some cheesecake at the (enter Hallelujah Chorus) Cheesecake Factory…

Now before my Made to Crave peeps get worried, check out these delicious and healthy lettuce wraps I chose as my main course:
We also shared some tears…and a whole lot of crazy laughter…

Some surprises…like hearing Laura Story sing her heart-piercing song Blessings
Some dancing by the edge of a very steep and high in the air drop by a much-braver-than-me Holly. Holly was getting her groove ON to some Mary, Mary!

I was holding on with a white-knuckled grip to the railing with one hand and my friend Stephanie with the other, while inching to my seat on jello legs, as Holly danced with abandon. But, I thoroughly enjoyed her freedom. It was a welcome distraction to the images in my head of me plunging to a gruesome death at the bottom of Nationwide Arena. I love that girl. Not just because she’s fearless, even when we’re miles in the air. But, also because of this:
We enjoyed the brisk walk to and and from the conference….

                                 But quickly learned the importance of landmark amongst female navigators when we couldn’t find our way back to the parking garage. I took a picture to remember. Stacie, a former secretary, took notes. For the record, her way was much more effective.

Riding the elevator, full of anticipation…

Nancy on the left and Stephanie on my right…some pretty special gals to have alongside you on life’s journey…

And, this picture below…this picture is the one I wasn’t going to share. You see, it depicts me in a less than flattering pose…and that just can’t be done in blog world. We must present the perfect picture, right? And an unflattering picture just won’t do! But, it was too funny and too full of the real me not to share it. And, this weekend has been about freedom.
So, let me tell you what’s going on in the picture below. The lovely Mattie and Holly’s sweet little pixie of a cousin Amber are to my left. You all know Holly, and that’s the lovely Erin to Holly’s right. Of course, our Lainey-girl is in the middle. Now, I was excited to see these girls…to hug them in real life. And, we needed a picture. So, I climbed over some chairs and thought I could just squeeze in between Holly’s and Amber’s seats real quick. Sounded good…but here’s the thing.
You know how some really big dogs, like maybe a Saint Bernard or bloodhound might think they are little lap dogs and just jump right up on you like a tiny chihuahua…only they aren’t so tiny. Well that’s what this picture reminds me of. It’s like I’m the Saint Bernard squishing the life out of little Amber. I’m sort of turned at a funny angle to squeeze in, which just makes it look even more like a big dog climbing on to a little lap, squeezing into a tiny space!! If you look closely, Amber does look slightly afraid! =) 

I love the girls of Sufficient Grace…

And, let me just take a moment to talk about this sweet Lainey. She was an angel throughout the entire conference. She happily bounced on our knees, was loved on and passed around, chewed on our necklaces, nursed when she was hungry, and just happily went along. We all had a chance for some Lainey love!
Love this pic with Mattie and laid-back Lainey…

The conference was full of inspiring speakers and beautiful worship. I have much to share from the words of Sheila Walsh, Nicole Johnson, and others. Words that God used to speak to the very depths of my heart, peeling back some of my layers. But, for this post…there’s only one speaker that I want to focus on.
Our very own, Angie Smith…

She took the stage, and we knew that every step to that platform was a battle. Angie struggles with anxiety. To take that stage alone is a challenge, but to take that stage to share the story that brushes the most tender places of her heart…that is a Goliath- sized giant of a challenge. But, Angie belongs to a big God. So she took the steps, and charmed us with her down to earth humor and grace. The reason we love her is that when we read her blog or talk to her, it is like we are sitting on the porch, sipping lemonade with an old friend. She is real, and compassionate, and holds none of it back.
Below, you’ll find another reason I can identify with sweet Angie. She talks with her hands and moves around so much that was hard to get a picture of her that wasn’t blurry! I might know a girl like that! ;)

We’ve read the story of Audrey Caroline. We know the beauty of Angie’s heart wrenching journey as she trusted the God who carried her. We know the God to “whom she belongs”. We know it, not only because of the eloquent, honest way she has written it on her blog and in her book, but because we have walked that path. We have danced our own ”sacred dance of grief and joy”. After listening to Angie speak, I leaned down to the mothers in our group, and said, “Angie was wonderful, but I want you to know that you are just as amazing and beautiful. Her story is our story as well. You are mothers who have walked this path, and chose to trust Him. The same God who carried Angie, carried  all of us.”
Any of us could tell a similar tale of beauty from ashes…
We walked that path. We heard those awful words. We waited for our babies. We trusted in God, when we couldn’t see. We held our babies in our arms for a brief moment and released them to the arms of Jesus. We clung to Him when our hearts were broken into tiny, shattered pieces and the ache was a canyon of sorrow with no relief. We cling to Him still.
We wept with Angie and felt like we were standing there with her, as she told her story, Audrey’s   
           story, God’s story…
         our story.
And, then we waited in line to meet this woman we call friend in our hearts. While in line, I met a beautiful mother named Rebecca, mommy to Charlie, who shared a bit of her son’s story. She was also looking forward to hugging the woman whose story resonated with her, as she grieved her son.
The anticipation mounts as we wait…Erin and I look forward eagerly.

We had been hoping to meet Angie, and she had emailed back that she would like to see us as well. This was her first event, so we weren’t sure when we could schedule our rendezvous. She was a bit busy after all! ;) Angie has such a compassionate heart, and would probably talk to everyone if she could. But, the staff was trying to keep her to a schedule. So, finding time to meet proved difficult. I wasn’t sure if it would even work, and kept praying that God would work it out. I so did not want the ladies in our group to be disappointed. She emailed me that maybe we could meet her at the book signing. So we grabbed our books and hopped in line early.
The staff was trying to hurry her along, and they were cutting off the line. I leaned over to one of them and said, “We are from Sufficient Grace, and it would mean so much for these mothers to meet Angie. She had emailed us that we could meet her here.” They nodded, but said she had to catch a flight and to keep it moving.
It was my turn, and I stepped forward to meet the author of the first blog I ever read.
I began, “I’m Kelly Gerken from Sufficient Grace.”
And, her face lit up as she squealed and hugged me tight…looking as excited to hug us, a we felt to meet and hug her. Like long lost friends, we embraced. We are Sundays after all. I never thought I’d feel this way about women I met on the internet. Only God could knit hearts together in such a way.
We hugged and she said she had told the staff when they cut off the line, “Make sure the Sufficient Grace girls are in the line.”
That blessed us beyond words. I can’t tell you what those moments were like as the line was held up and everything else, but the flashes of cameras and the tears falling stopped, while mothers with a common bond shared stories about babies that dwell in heaven. I introduced the moms and one by one they embraced Angie as she listened with compassion…weeping with those who weep as only one who has wept herself can. She would say she is an ugly crier…something like a “deranged gopher”, I believe? But, I would say that watching her cry with these women I love was one of the most beautiful sights of this weekend for me. The bond we mothers share is a special one. It is unlike anything else.
We thanked her for telling ”our story”…for being our voice…for glorifying God.

And, then…speaking of mothers and our common bond…
It was Holly’s turn to step up and meet Angie. While we were waiting in line to meet Angie, Lainey started to fuss. So, Holly did what mama’s do when their babies are hungry. She slapped on her Udder Cover and nursed the babe. When it was time to meet Angie, Holly was still feeding a happy Lainey. Angie, being the sweet-friend-sipping-lemonade-on-the-porch that she is wanted to meet little Lainey….I’ll let Holly tell you what happened next on her blog, as cameras snapped and mama’s shared!

I have so much more to say, but my eyes are bleary from all of the crying, laughing, and late night after-prom chaperoning (upon arriving home, I went straight to prom and did not get to bed until 4a.m.!) that occurred this weekend. I love every one of the ladies that came with us, and will cherish the moments of absolute deep belly laughter and deranged gopher crying tears we shared as God spoke to our hearts throughout this weekend. It was a grand adventure…that even included an unfortunate incident with our car and a deer on the way home. All was well (except for the deer, of course), thanks to Becki’s cool handed driving, a mighty tough orange jeep, and a God whose hand was upon His girls who giggled their way home.
It was two days filled with “Daddy’s little girl moments” and I’m so grateful for the women who were there to share it all.
Love you, girls…
P.S. You didn’t think I forgot about those of you who couldn’t make it, did you? You know, there’s nothing we like more than sharing the blessing. So…the book Angie was signing in the picture. That was for one of you! If you would like to be entered to win an autographed copy of Angie’s book, I Will Carry You, please mention it in the comments of this post.

Comments

  1. Kelly! Oh how fun and wonderful that weekend sounds! I wondered what it would be like meeting Angie, I am sure everyone who loves her says,"I lost a baby too" and I wondered if she would grow tired of hearing it. But it sounds like her heart is still soft to those of us who have walked her path as well. How wonderful! I already own her book, and have read it twice! ;) So please let someone else enjoy the blessing…

  2. Caroline says:

    I'm sure it was a fun weekend. So happy you got to meet Angie. I would love to win the book I haven't read it yet but I love Angie's Blog.
    Thanx for sharing all the fun & blessed times. Too bad I wasn't in Ohio I would have been there.
    Take care

  3. Kelly, the weekend was a blast and I had the greatest time ever! I wish the weekend could've lasted longer. I'm already excited for next year. :) Love you lots!! And thank you for all that you do and for allowing us the opportunity to meet Angie!!

  4. Ashley says:

    Sounds Like you ladies had a blast. I would love to win the book, sound like it would be a blessing and inspiration to all.

  5. Kristin says:

    Wow, Kelly! That sounds like the most amazing weekend! I am SO glad you had such a great time and I loved reading all about it.

  6. Angie Smith says:

    i am speechless with gratitude, friend. weepy tonight thinking of all of you ladies and your courageous and beautiful hearts, and fully humbled to be a voice for all of us. i would love to send something a little more personal to everyone who came…is there a way to send me their information? it would be an honor to hear all of your stories, and i am so apologetic about the time…it was too short. next time we will do coffee in our hotel rooms, jammies ON!!!!

    with all my love,
    angie smith

  7. Sarita Boyette says:

    What an amazing experience! I have to admit I'm a bit jealous! Really, I'm very glad all of you had a wonderful time and got to spend time with each other at such an amazing conference. You all look so pretty and happy!
    I would love to have a copy of her book, used, unsigned, whatever. I gave my copy away to another BLM and was glad to do so, but I have missed it so much!
    Thank you for sharing your experience – it made me feel like I was "there" a little bit. (((HUGS)))

  8. How awesome. I am definitely going to go the next time WOF comes to St. Louis.

  9. Okay, first off, holy crap, Angie Smith just commented!! Wow! How awesome, what a great weekend! She is coming here to MKE in Oct. and I am beyond pumped! And anyone sitting next to our cousin, Amber, looks big, trust me, we just do! And Holly for that matter :) I am so happy for you all! I feel like a proud Mama right now! Wow, I am speechless after your post!!

  10. Jenilee says:

    oh how I wish I could have been there with you… and to think I was just ACROSS THE STREET at the Columbus Convention Center! Ah! I'm so glad that you all had a wonderful time… and meeting Angie… what a precious moment for all of you! I'd love to be entered to win her book!

  11. Mattie says:

    Kelly- I can't even begin to tell you how blessed I was to be with you all. I just wish we would have had more talk time! If it weren't for the giveaway, I probably would have never been able to go. You are such a sweet woman and I can't wait to blog about my experience as well!

  12. It was wonderful to met all of you Bloggers. I realy enjoyed the weekend with all my sisters in Christ. Wish there would have been more time to get to know my new monkeys better. I was blessed to be there and I am excited to reconnect with my (our) Lord.

  13. Trisha Larson says:

    Oh I can't believe that I am saying this but I wish that I lived in Ohio (at least for 1 weekend a year). I just love your little support group.

    I would absolutely love to read Angie's book so please enter me in the giveaway.

    Hugs,
    Trisha

  14. What a great weekend, thank you for sharing your stories and pictures! I've been wanting to read Angie's book, I've heard good things about it, and have recommended it to others. If I won it, I'd read it and then donate it to another grieving mom, most like on my FB page.

  15. Jennifer Ross says:

    Beautiful Kelly! What a wonderful memory to hold onto, forever.

    Sadly, I have never read Angie's book, so I would like to take a swing at winning it. :)

    Lots of love…

  16. Kelly this is such a beautiful post! Every detail is so wonderfully described that it feels like I was there with you (and I really wish that I had been!). I'm hoping to attend the WOF conference when it comes to Minneapolis this fall, and after hearing your accounts there, I most definitely am going to do all I can to make it there!

    I would love to be entered in the contest for Angie's book, as I have yet to read it! Thanks for the opportunity, sweet friend!

    I love your amazingly beautiful heart!

  17. Oh Wow! I am just a wee bit jealous! OK maybe a whole lot! What a wonderful time you had! Someday I am going to have to make it there! And seeing Angie would be amazing! I just love her and she has an amazing heart! I want to read that book so please include me!

    BTW good job on your choice at the cheesecake factory, but please tell me you got a piece of cheesecake, or at least shared with someone. I am pretty sure I could not have passed that up!

    Blessings!

  18. Tiffany says:

    Oh how much fun did that look?! Wow. What an absolutely lovely post. Thank you so much for sharing. I am glad that I stumbled upon your blog.
    Be Blessed.
    ~Tiffany

  19. ~Kristi~ says:

    What a wonderful post. You tell the story of your experience in such vivid detail – I'm sure your day (and your memories) were blessed!!

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