I AM Conference 2019: What I Learned About Faith, Friendship, & Traveling Solo

My 23rd birthday weekend was one full of fun, worship, and exploring. As I am finally able to sit in my home and relax, I am still in awe that I spent the weekend in Tupelo, Mississippi. The I AM conference was more than worth the drive and the money; it was an experience that left my friend and I filled with the Holy Spirit, self-worth, and ambition, so when I say I traveled solo, I mean traveling without family at my side.

Krissi, a conference host, said during prayer over the crowd of anxious girls, “Thank you Jesus for getting these girls here tonight,” and being the only two women who drove from out of state to get here, I knew that somehow that one was for us.

i am conference 2019

Just a few weeks ago, I was fighting tooth and nail to go on this trip. I had my bank app pulled up with a piece of paper on my desk, trying to budget out the next few weeks so I could pay for a  hotel and my ticket, and before I knew it, I booked a hotel three minutes from the church the conference was being held at.

I actually booked a hotel before I bought my ticket because I was afraid if no one could come with me, I would have to cancel my trip. I asked my boyfriend, my friends, and even my mom and dad, but I am currently the only gal unemployed and graduated with plenty of free time to just up and go. I wasn’t going to let the thought of traveling alone back me down from going on this trip.

When I woke up just a few days before my birthday, I realized I did indeed have a friend who was a faithful Christian and who I believed needed this roadtrip just as bad as I did. I texted my some-day sister-in-law that morning, come to Mississippi with me!She had some hesitations, which were understandable. She needed to make sure her daughter had a babysitter and she had the money to spare, but just a few hours later, my trip became our trip, and we were pumped!

Four A.M on Saturday morning, the car was packed, our hair was thrown up in buns, and we were on our way to the South. Most of this trip was done in a snow storm and I honestly believe Jesus (and a 2017 Fusion) was the only reason we made it there safely!

The entire drive down, from 4 A.M to 1 P.M, Claar and I talked about politics, love, heartbreak, depression, faith, hopes, and dreams. We laughed and felt our friendship grow every mile. That in itself was a huge blessing; Claar and I already spend so much time together (it’s hard not to when we’re dating brothers) and we finally got to spend quality girl time together, opening up and talking about our lives.

As I listened to her spill her guts to me about some really tough things she’s gone through in life, I realized there is always someone who needs your presence, who may need your perspective, or just a listening ear. There is someone out there (maybe close by) who is going through or went through a similar situation, and you can have a heart to heart about it.

So, if this trip was meant for anything, it was bringing together two women who will eventually be family! Who knew we needed a 16-hour road trip, some spontaneous decisions, and a lot of chocolate hummus to do just that?!

So all other reasoning aside, when I found out someone I absolutely adore was going to be speaking at the conference, I knew I had to be there. I discovered Jordan Dooley (author, creator of Soul Scripts, public speaker) when I picked up her Devotional for College Girls.

I used this book to bring together my sorority sisters to talk about our life as faithful college women; I invited every woman no matter than view on religion, because it turned out to be a whole-hearted conversation about, well, life! We didn’t get through the whole book, but just having that memory of my sisters and I praying together is one I will always cherish.

I follow Jordan on Instagram and have always loved her bubbly personality, her writing, her messages, etc. So if going to Mississippi in a snow storm meant that I could meet Jordan AND get a picture with her, my butt was going to be in seat at that conference.

As much as I was excited (and as much as I practice mindfulness), I ended up completely embarrassing myself because as soon as I stepped up to meet her, I blacked out and word vomited. I had rehearsed what I wanted to say to her all day. “I love your writing, I’ve read your book, and I just love you!” (I’m pretty sure it came out “Blog… book… I love you!) I told her (I think) how much she inspired me and how much I loved everything she does and stands for.

We also had the privilege of meeting Jasmine Murray (singer/song writer) and watching her perform. Luckily, I will eventually have the picture of us four together to remember that day!

During worship, I felt so much gratitude. I was so lucky to have a friend there worshiping with me. It’s so easy to feel alone in faith, but in that moment, I was so full of joy and community.

I was also grateful to be in the midst of so many young ladies. 99% of the audience were high school girls, and I was inspiring to see girls that age so invested in their faith and freely raising their hands to the Lord. I know I definitely wasn’t that confident in my faith at that age and didn’t understand who I was in God’s eyes, so I felt genuinely so proud of each of them.

Before we left the conference, I went back to Krissi, who was diligently reading off names of girls who could go in and meet Jordan and Jasmine, and I thanked her. I thanked her because she was working her tail off, I thanked her because her prayer at the end of the conference brought me to tears, I thanked her because she helped me when Claar needed to buy her ticket after online registration closed. I didn’t want to leave without showing my utmost appreciation for those who made this possible.

“You are the daughter of the King.”
“I am who He says I am.”
“I know what you said, I know what you did, you are still worthy.”
“You are called to be fearless.”
“I’ve never seen mountains move, but I know that a mountain can move from in front of me to behind me as faith keeps me moving forward.”
“Did you know that the seat you are sitting in has had your name on it much longer than just a few weeks? You were meant to be here!”

Those are just a few quotes from that evening, that really stuck with me, words that I will never forget because they touched my heart in that moment. Even though I barely had enough money for this road trip, even though the weather made the roads dangerous, even though everyone was telling us not to go, God made it possible because He said we were worthy and we needed to be there in those seats that night.

We came home feeling empowered and fearless, full of self-love and self-worth, ready to live out our faith fearlessly, and feeling free indeed.

~ Shelby B.
Insta: Shelbycolada
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