Hello friends - it's been quite some time since I posted and I intend to fix that! Starting with a story.
Two days ago, 2/29/16, I needed to run to the bank to deposit some cash made from my daughter's first super successful (God) yard sale (I made $200!). But first I stopped at a local new WinnDixie for bananas and to say hello to my pal, Allen, who worked there.
Then I headed to the bank.
Ok, wait a minute - where is the money? I put it on the passenger seat when I left work - and remember scooping it up before I went to the store...
I could not figure out where it went. Searching everywhere in the car, console, pockets of my jacket, I was beginning to get frantic.
So back to W/D I went - looking everywhere. Talked to Allen. Said I lost my cash - did he see it in his aisle? Did someone return it (yeah, right) - wait... MAYBE it fell out of my pocket when I took my jacket off as I crossed the parking lot. Yes, it must've. Gosh, I told him - I am such a ding dong.
So I got the Mgr. to help - she offers to look at surveillance camera. Did money fall out of pocket? Or in the produce are by the bananas? Seriously - I AM a ding ding.
I looked up and saw Allen calling me back to his station (did the Mgr. tell him they found it?!)
No. He said, "The customer I was helping heard you and asked me to give me this to you."
A $100 bill.
The tears fell.
Allen continued, "We have a testimony. God is good."
Oh Allen - an amazing testimony.
Me: Please tell your customer she is a blessing and thank her next time she comes in.. (more tears)
Then I left, got in my car - after searching AGAIN. And no luck finding cash.
I realized there are TWO center console spots. I didn't want to look… (see I AM a ding dong)
I PRAISED GOD AGAIN FOR $100 BLESSING.
(and thanked him for generous, compassionate, GOOD people)
And remembered my prayer request from last Sunday: Help me make wise business decisions.
You see, I had an opportunity to go to Dallas for business conference but...
And Austin’s 5th birthday coming up this month.
And a senior in high school graduating...
Now I have to tell you about a visit to Walmart last week - a down and out dad approached me as I was loading the trunk with my groceries. He didn’t want $$. He asked if I could go back inside with him to get a few groceries for his family. He just started a new job - that day - but his family needed some help.
Me: These were meant for you (as I gave him all of my groceries - nearly $100 worth)
My visit to Walmart was going through my mind as well as something I heard Keith Urban say on AI this week: My life is not about what I have. But what I can give.
We reap what we sow.
So - with much trepidation - I opened the super small, practically non-existent top spot in the center console. The yard sale money was there. Not lost. I'm not (so much) a ding dong - well, yes, I pretty much still am! Lol
He hears our prayers.
He blesses us in so many unexpected ways.
God is good.
His direction is clear. I am going to Dallas. I am building my business. And will give God ALL the glory.
Be blessed ❤️
At 44, I welcomed my third (and final, hopefully! Lol) child! Ever since my husband and I learned we were expecting, I was over the moon. And once he arrived, it was love at first sight.
Austin joined his siblings, Christie (24 at the time) and Dallas (13 at the time). So I had some experience with little ones - although it had been a while. I was just so thankful God allowed me another opportunity to see the world through a child's eyes.
Boy, it's amazing how different you look at child-rearing when you're older. More patience. More grace. Did I mention more patience? Austin is now three – where does the time go? Truly. I can't count the number of times I thought: enjoy this moment, it will be over before you can blink. The moments when I would lay him down (sound asleep, mind you), only to have him snap those big brown eyes open and begin the 32nd round of crying. More rocking. Then the contorted climb out of the glider to tip-toe, gently laying the monkey down. Finally, silence!
As I watch him grow and learn – mastering one step before moving onto the next and most recently, to riding his "big boy bike"! – I'm reminded how patient our heavenly Father is with us. Through our screaming and crying as we learn and grow, He is always patient with us. He waits for us to join Him so we can enjoy the blessings he has for us.
Understanding what God had planned for me took me more time than I would like to admit. And I'm still learning! We are a stubborn people - forever trying to "make things happen". There is a saying: Let go and let God. It has proven to be true in my life.
Jeremiah 29:11 says God knows the plans He has for us. Plans to prosper and not hurt us. Plans to give us hope and a future.
The next couple of verses continue: "In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. (vs. 12-13).
If we seek God, we will find Him. I see Him everyday when I look at the sweet faces of my children. I see Him in the wonder of a brand-new day. I trust that He wants to prosper me. Living daily in that trust requires FAITH – and a desire to surrender to His plans for us.
Making an intentional choice to walk with God has changed me. He has plans for my future. I seek to serve Him and share His hope with others. I was in my mid-thirties before I truly began "living" - not worried about tomorrow but living for each moment. It wasn't until a few years later than I began to understand my purpose. Encouraging women who are struggling with tough decisions or those who just need to know someone understands them and believes in them. I sure do thank God for His patience with me!
Are you ready to change your life? Are you ready to embrace the plans He has for you? It will not be easy - but it is simple. Make the choice today to seek Him. He created you for a purpose too!
Come see me as I embark on my new adventure: www.CultivateChangeCoaching.com.
I'd love to hear what God is doing in your life :)
And I'll keep you posted with occasional Austin updates as we discover God's plans for him!
Today is the first day of the rest of your life! Let us rejoice and be glad in it! (Psalm 118:24)
Last night I presented the Color Code to the ladies at my church (Englewood Christian Church here in Jacksonville). The Color Code is a personality assessment based on who God created you to be. Your innate personality. It is a fascinating topic to me as I'm a curious person and love people. This test identifies your Core Motive - what makes you tick.
I always thought I was a people-pleaser based on my childhood experiences and upbringing. Turns out God created me with a Core Motive of "Peace" (I'm a White - take the test to see what color you are!) It's my nature to operate from a motive of Peace. Can't we all just get along?! Lol
So I thought I'd share some pics of me over the years. Enjoy! xo
And be sure to check out my new business site: www.CultivateChangeCoaching.com and sign up to receive updates from me. I promise I won't be a stalker! hehe I will be talking about the Color Code periodically.
P.S. I'd love to know what color YOU are! Leave me a note in the comments below ;)
By His Grace,
About a month ago, I was back home after attending the Christian Communicator's Conference at The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, in Asheville, North Carolina. I was still basking in the glow of that amazing experience!
I remember feeling so blessed to be there surrounded by like-minded women who were seeking how to best serve God. Women who, like me, felt God leading them to speak out and share their stories.
I originally heard about the conference back in April through a friend's website. She had attended and graduated the year before and had a button on her page. Curious, I clicked and discovered a unique speaking conference limited to 30 women. I was attracted to the inevitable intimacy of a group that small. Five days and four nights immersed in training at "a retreat center in Asheville, NC, designed to encourage, refresh and empower beliers who want to grow and deepen their faith." I wanted some of that! Lol Unfortunately, the registration was closed - all 30 spots were filled. They were, however, accepting email requests to be put on the waiting list.
On a wing and with much prayer, I sent an email to the conference organizer asking to be put on the waiting list. If God wanted me to attend, then He would open a spot. It was a long shot - with just 30 spots - but in early August, I received an email saying a spot just opened! God opened the door for me to attend, but it was through the prayers and generosity of family and friends that I was actually able to go.
I asked for specific prayers that God would make it clear that this is where he wanted me. But He already did. He made it crystal clear when I opened my email that day! God is always working and invites each of us to join Him. It's up to us to keep our ears and eyes open for the opportunities. Now I had to trust Him to provide the funds – and He did! I was, and still am, so humbled with how this worked out. A super special thank you to all the friends and family who supported me with prayer and financial gifts.
So on Wednesday August 28th, Annie (my new best friend! Lol) arrived at my house and picked me up. Out of the 30 women attending the conference, 2 of us were from Jacksonville, FL. Only God! A big thanks to Annie for listening to the Holy Spirit and inviting me to ride with her.
The 7 hour drive to Asheville, NC seemed to fly by. Annie and I shared our stories and how God had been working in each of our lives. We were both beyond excited to be attending the conference and looking forward to what was planned. (Loved this reminder on the gas price sign! Not only John 3:16, but a new favorite: Ephesians 3:16. "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.")
A sense of anticipation enveloped me when we exited the interstate and entered winding road leading to The Cove. There is nothing more peaceful and serene than being surrounded by the mountains, trees and nature of North Carolina. We were truly in God's country!
As I sit here reflecting on an experience that was beyond what words could convey, I am awed by God's wisdom. This conference was truly a life-changing 5 days. In addition to the teaching and practical side of the speaking business (paperwork, ugh! hehe), I was blessed to be surrounded by women who are now lifelong sisters. Whether or not I am ever invited to speak at a women's event, I have a family of new friends who will encourage me on my walk with the Lord :)
So what I've decided to do is let my photos do the talking, A picture truly can say a thousand words! I hope you enjoy my photo compilation and a brief summary of what I learned each day.
The conference began at 4:30pm on Wednesday, August 28th with the gathering of 30 different women in the classroom that would be our home base through Sunday. Each of us shared our "30 second commercial" introducing ourselves to the group. We then participated in a fun trivia game, trying to guess whose fun fact matched which lady. One of the women never made it down the bunny slope. Her family says the only thing about her that is coordinated is her outfits! Someone else was crowned Miss Sweet Potato. Another conference attendee survived a plane crash and travelled around the world.
What I learned after Day One is that no matter our size, shape, age, experience, mistakes, successes, failures - God can turn our mess into His message. Our tests become our testimony. God wants to use each of us for His glory.
Day two started with Praise and Worship led by Janet Roller. I was moved to tears through the beautiful singing of "As the Deer Pants for the Water" – a hymn sung at my wedding in Mexico by my dear friend Delaina. It happens to be my husband, Buddy's favorite song! The atmosphere at The Training Center was alive with God's presence. The day progressed with training sessions led by Vonda Skelton and Carolyn Knefely. Steps to a Powerful Ministry Presentation and Create an Empowering Purpose Statement were particularly helpful. I also attended a break out session designed to help us organize our business. The creative girl in me especially enjoyed making a Purpose Board (see photo below) by cutting out words and images from magazines and glueing to foam core. Afterwards, we were invited to share what our Purpose Board meant to us.
What I learned after Day Two is that God has given each of us a Purpose. That purpose is universal: to bring Him glory. How our Purpose is manifested is unique to each of us.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)
We were in for a treat on Day three! The day was packed with learning how to share our message with the world, taking care of the details of our speaking ministry, an etiquette class taught by Carolyn followed by a fabulous High Tea and a professional photo shoot courtesy of Cheryl Kaiser! In addition to that, Annie, Mary and I hit the trail (literally!) and hiked to The Chatlos Memorial Chapel after dinner.
What I learned after Day Three is that while nobody likes the word "promotion," we must remember Paul and his mission to share the Good News. God has called each of us to "... go and make disciples of all nations..." (Matthew 28:19). God is equipping me with the tools I'll need to share His word. I must do it - the time is now.
Today was the day we were presenting our 5-minute talk! At this point, God had given me my topic (Our Words are Gifts) but I still needed to tweak my presentation. After the morning's praise, worship and devotion, I spent some quiet time with the Lord to refine my message. The presentation's were being filmed by a professional video service, Two Girls Video Production, and we all wanted to be prepared. We were asked to support our new sisters by participating as audience members. The taping of the presentations would last all day. Some women shared their unique testimony, some shared a Bible truth, a couple were recording introductions to their ministries for their website. I wanted to share a Biblical truth to represent how I would speak at a Women's Event (my video will be posted after I finish editing!). I was honored to hear several talks that were clearly inspired.
What I learned after Day Four is that we all have stories. We have all experienced life – the good, the bad and the ugly. God allows trials not only to refine us, but that through our suffering we will draw nearer to Him. The comfort He provides when we seek Him is the comfort He wants us to extend to others when we share His Word. We are blessed to be a blessing.
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. ~ 1 Timothy 4:12
Our last day at The Cove was bittersweet. The conference was everything I imagined and more. There was such an intimacy to a smaller group. Close friendships were formed. God's presence was evident and powerful during each day's training. The women's presentations were inspired and humbling. There was a common thread during the week's discussions that I must mention: fear and feeling unworthy.
Who am I that God could use me?
What if I make a mistake?
I'm not good enough for this type of calling.
Lord, I know you are leading me to share your Word, but what could I really say that could make a difference?
Women throughout time have struggled with these lies. The enemy wants to deceive us and knows our weaknesses. We must be smarter. We must be stronger. God says you "... find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the Lord, "and will bring you back from captivity." (Jer. 29:12-14). The Lord is our strength and our refuge. He has created us for a purpose. His "grace is sufficient" and his power "Is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9). Oooh, I'm so thankful for this: GOD'S GRACE IS SUFFICIENT!
What I learned after Day Five is that barriers are built by the enemy. Jesus came so that we may LIVE. Fear has no place in our heart. We ARE valued. David knew this when he wrote, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." AMEN! (Psalm 139:13-14).
Friends, in this life we will face opposition. Satan will prey on our fears and hits below the belt. Especially when we have committed to serving God. What we can do is be prepared for battle! I would love to hear from you - leave me a comment and let me know what you think of The Cove!!
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:10-12)
Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel. ~ Ephesians 6:19
This month Austin will be 2 1/2 years old and he just gave me the most precious gift. He said he loved me for the very first time!
He is learning so much, so quickly — I just want to start the record button and film every moment! (I do take way more pictures than I should. Praise the Lord for the person who created digital cameras!)
I absolutely adore this age. My baby is becoming independent. He is starting to use the potty like a big boy and learning the rules, what he can and can't do.
And talking. Forming sentences - "Dat my boo wobot" (translation: that's my blue robot) - and repeating words.
Our conversation went like this:
Me: Austin, say "I"
Me. Say "love"
Me: Now say "you"
Me: Austin, say "I love you Mommy"
Austin: "I ove ew Mommy"
Ok, say it with me friends... "Awwww..."! My heart melted. So precious are these days. I want to make time stand still — but of course I can't. He's going to grow up, learn more words, make decisions, explore this world. My job is to teach him the tools to make good choices, be safe and use his words wisely.
Our words are gifts. Just like the impact Austin's words had on me, our words affect others. We have all been wounded by words. A thoughtless comment can leave a lasting impression. And on the flip side, encouraging someone with a "great job" or a simple "thank you" can make their day!
Proverbs 16:24 tells us, "Kind words are like honey — sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."
That old saying — sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me — is so not true! Words can hurt. And words bring healing.
We have a choice with what we say, but sometimes we speak without thinking. Unintentionally hurting someone's feelings or regretting saying "yes" so quickly! We often don't realize the gift of a kind word. Saying something nice may seem so minor from our perspective, but it could be just what the other person needed to hear.
Today I encourage you to memorize Ephesians 4:29: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
And remember this, "the tongue has the power of life and death." (Proverbs 18:21)
Give the gift of life today!
Have you been watching American Idol this season? Did you, like me, wonder if the show could survive another season? I must admit that I have been following this year's contestants since they began auditioning back in January.
It's been… uh, interesting... to say the least! With the addition of not one, but three brand new judges – one of them being Nicki Minaj – I felt like Idol had lost its appeal and was basically "done". I liked Keith Urban (for obvious reasons! Lol) and Mariah has always been a favorite of mine. Now Nicki… I wasn't quite sure what she would bring to the table.
After watching for several weeks now, I can honestly say that much of her feedback is thoughtful and insightful – surprisingly! She recognizes and celebrates the uniqueness of each person. She also brings her own sense of humor to the show. She is "seriously obsessed" with nearly every singer! She is often "so obsessed" with his voice, or her style. She has been "crazy obsessed" with a performer's stage presence and would pay to go to their concert "right now"! She cracks me up :)
Dictionary.com say obsessed means: to dominate or preoccupy the thoughts, feelings, or desires of.
What are we obsessed with? Who are we obsessed with?
Is there something we obsess over with such passion that we would PAY to pursue it?
God is obsessed like that. Over us. Yes, friend – He is "seriously obsessed" with you and pursues you with PASSION! The Bible tells us that God created us for his pleasure. He pursues us and delights in us.
Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. (Ephesians 1:4-6 NLT)
This line bears repeating: This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.
Wrap your head around that for a moment. God is obsessed with us. Wow.
This truth was recently revealed to me as I was studying for a Wednesday night Bible study. In Kasey Van Norman's "Named By God" Bible study, she says: "Once you begin to let go of your doubts and truly believe that the way God designed and created you was completely intentional, the concept of his love is a little easier to grasp."
It was as if a light bulb went off. One of those "ah-ha" moments where I literally felt a shift in my perspective.
God loves us as treasured children. He "made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb." (Psalm 139:13 NLT)
Psalm 139 continues:
"Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed."
(Psalm 139:14-16 NLT)
God pursues me.
Yes. He is.
He sent his son to pay the ultimate price for MY sin. As I consider exactly what Jesus experienced to reconcile us to God through his blood, I am humbled and crushed to think of my own selfishness. Jesus, who loved us so much and was without sin, carried OUR sin to the cross. He pursued us while we were dead (what can a dead person do?) – and gave us new life.
I want to be obsessed. I want to love Jesus like that. And I want to share that love with others. Friend, God is obsessed with your voice, your style and he paid the price to have you sing for Him for eternity.
Let's pursue Jesus with passion today.
Lord, thank you for who you are. Thank you for creating each of us uniquely and with purpose. Help us to see how special we are to you. Forgive us when we compare ourselves to others. Create in us a passion for you. Guide us as we seek you and delight in your ways. We are so blessed and often forget the sacrifice Jesus made for us. We want to live a life of freedom that only you can provide. Thank you for your grace. In your son's name, Amen.
In His Love,
Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace. (Romans 6:12-14 NLT)
I received the flyer from my boss. "Softball Challenge," it said. Hmmm... He was looking for folks to participate in a "friendly" game of softball against our parent company. FUN! Well… I play softball I thought to myself. Although it's been years since I've laced up my cleats. It's like riding a bike, right?
I actually love to play softball and have since I was 9 years old. I especially enjoy the camaraderie of team and the dugout ritual encouraging the batter to "swing level and run like the devil" – clap clap.
I can still smell the clay dirt of my hometown field and remember how the cool evening air held the promise of spring. The consistent rhythm of warming up – ground throws to first base then second, shortstop and third. Pop up throws to the pitcher. As a catcher, I was part of every play.
So I composed my reply, "Count me in!" and hit send. It wasn't long before I realized I needed to find my glove and ask my 15 yr. old to play catch with me. I needed to practice!
And so it is with our faith. If we want to grow in our relationship with Christ, we need to develop our "skills" and practice daily. Our adversary is Satan – and he's not interested in a "friendly" game of anything.
To be an effective player requires discipline. Discipline is not always easy, but it benefits the disciplined. The Bible is God's word to us. I have started reading www.BibleGateway.com each morning. Sometimes 5 minutes, sometimes 15. Starting my day this way makes me feel stronger and closer to God.
They say a habit is formed by doing something for 21 consecutive days. May I encourage you to start each morning reading a few scriptures? Perhaps start in the book of Proverbs and read the verse that corresponds to that day.
As we discipline ourselves to spend time with Jesus, the more we will love learning about Him. And the stronger our faith becomes. Psalm 119:11 says, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." When we study and memorize scripture, we can call on God's promises, especially when we are down in the bottom of the 5th.
When life throws us a curve ball – and we all know it will! – let's be prepared to respond. "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." John 14:26
So keep me in prayer – the softball game is tomorrow! I'm looking forward to reliving a bit of my youth and may be calling on memorized scripture myself. As I round the bases, I need to remember, "with God, all things are possible!" Matthew 19:26
Let's all "practice" our faith. Open the Bible. Read it. Share it. Play.
In His service,
Have you ever been driving and arrive at your destination, having no recollection of the trip? It's happened to me – numerous times. I'm cruising along. My mind is wandering and I'm not really paying attention to where I'm going. Inevitably, I (usually!) end up where I need to be, but I don't remember getting off the exit or making that last turn. It's a bit scary.
This kid knows where he's going!
As I opened my blog this morning to enter a new post, I noted the date of my last post: 7/30/12.
My last entry was in July? What?!
Today is October 9th. I'd like to know what happened to August. And what about September? Can someone tell me where did the last 2 months went?!
Like my driving example, I do not know how I ended up here. But – inevitably – here I am!
So often, we have plans to do this… or do that. LIke my "commitment" to share my story and encourage women by regularly blogging. I "air quote" the word commitment - because I know my absence indicates my lack of commitment. Sheesh…
You don't know this but I've written many posts – in my head… But how does that encourage others? How can I allow God to work through me when I put Him off? My heart's desire is to share Him with others. I certainly can't do that when I go through life on cruise control – only to realize days, weeks and even months have passed.
Commitment without action is null and void.
Perhaps you've made promises you've yet to keep. Or commitments that have fallen by the wayside. There are people you think about and want to call – just to say hello or make plans for lunch. Thank you cards that need to be written – and then actually mailed!
Or perhaps you feel like life is passing you by. You go through the same motions – day in and day out. Seemingly without any direction or purpose. Dear friend, we all have a purpose on this earth! We are here for God's glory. He wants you to bless others – using your specific gifts and talents. You may need a plan to discover that purpose or simply a reminder to be intentional with your time.
When I lose my way or struggle with the path I'm on, I will remember this:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord… (Colossians 3:23)
Starting my day focusing on God and His plan for me helps me feel more confident about completing my to-do list. Or not.
When I start my day asking God to guide my steps, I trust that this day will be full of purpose. His purpose. When I get off track, I will reset my internal GPS to keep me on the right path. Working for the Lord – according to His will.
The Bible says when we seek Him first, He promises to give us all these things... (Matthew 6:33)
Can I challenge to you to revisit your goals today? Do your plans line up with God's purpose for you? Are you intentional with your time? All of us are given 24 hours each day, then it's gone. I don't want to wake up to another 2 months gone!
Let me encourage you today to pay attention, stay focused, reset your GPS if necessary and make the most of today. This is the day He has made! Let's rejoice in it! (Psalm 118:24)
Dear God, please help us to recognize when we get off course. Help us to make adjustments - sooner rather than later. We pray that we will embrace each moment and opportunity to delight in You. Guide us on this life journey, seeking only to please You. Help us to understand Your will and get back on track when we take a wrong turn. We are so blessed and thankful that You love us. May we share Your love with others. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. (Psalm 37:4)
P.S. Now to mail my "thinking of you" cards!
Everything was packed and loaded in the trunk. Did I forget anything? No. At least I hoped not! I climbed into my rented Toyota and backed out of the driveway while the butterflies danced in my tummy. Finally! After many weeks of anticipation and preparation, I was on my way to Charlotte, North Carolina to spend 3 days with like-minded women at the She Speaks Conference, hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries.
Let me begin my telling you this was my 3rd conference. God planted the seed for me to share my story through speaking and writing back in 2006. I attended my first She Speaks Conference that year and was completely changed. So this was what I was called to do! At that point I didn't understand how, but I certainly understood why. God uses our stories to share His story. I was totally on board. I was on the Speaking track that first year and learned so much . The 2nd conference was in '09 and I signed up for the Writing track.
Fast forward to this year where I attended a combination of Writing and Speaking sessions filled with encouraging, educational and inspired "content." I was filled to overflowing with information and have the notebooks to prove it! The speakers were absolutely amazing. God was definitely "in the house" :)
But it was the women I met this year that truly touched my heart. Or rather it was how God was working through the women that moved me.
The email came a week or so ago from the director of the conference and said something like: During the conference, you should network, mingle and get to know your fellow attendees. (sidenote: I've actually tried to locate that email to no avail, so perhaps it was my subconscious I heard!)
Regardless, this became my M.O. — reaching out to women who asked questions during the sessions (specifically questions I wanted to ask but didn't!), introducing myself to the girls sitting next to me and basically making it a point to say hello and encourage others. It turns out I was the one blessed by the contacts I made.
Now you'd think there would be some envy or at least a glimpse of that green-eyed monster at an event hosting 600+ women who have ALL been called by God to share His message! Quite the contrary. I experienced such an example of Jesus living IN these women and working through them. It was extraordinary — and a testimony to the power of God's grace and love.
There's room at the table for everyone.
This message was shared during the first day of classes by Emily P. Freeman (author of Grace for the Good Girl) — and became my mantra for the entire weekend. There's room for her. And for her. And that one over there. And room for me too.
God has called me to share His story through mine. He calls each of us – as Christians – to be His ambassadors of Christ. God can use each of us as well. Our stories are as personal and unique as we are.
His story of hope, grace and forgiveness is the "message" — we are the messengers.
"I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should." (Ephesians 6:20)
My prayer is that every attendee at this year's She Speaks Conference was encouraged and inspired by the women they had the good fortune to meet. I know I was blessed — and have made lifelong connections. I'm already ready for next year!
I've been re-inspired to write and speak and share the story of Jesus — through my story.
There's room at the table for me too.
I lifted several items from the buggy and draped them over my arm as I entered the confined space. The dreaded fitting room. Oh, how I disliked trying on clothes. Especially with my post-pregnancy shape!
And so I began the arduous steps involved in ultimately modeling for myself.
First the pants: unclip from hard plastic hanger, tug over hips (if they make it past the thighs), button and zip (if you're lucky). Then the top: slide blouse off hanger - trying not to tangle useless strands of ribbon that end up hanging from your underarms), pull top over head or or slip arms into respective holes and button - again, if you're lucky :)
Then the fun begins. Turning this way and that to review your reflection. Front view, side view - and if you're REALLY lucky, you have a 3-way mirror and get to view your backside. Ugh! I've often wondered why department stores don't have those mirrors that make you look tall and slim. Instant 10 lb. weight loss!
Sadly, I've never encountered a dressing room mirror that stretched the truth. Pun intended :)
Mirrors are brutally honest. They reflect back to us what the world sees - the good and the bad.
We make choices every morning about what we'll wear for the day. What the world will see when they look at us. But do we remember to clothe ourselves in the armor of God? The Bible tells us to "Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes." (Ephesians 6:11)
To "put on" is a directive, telling us we need to do something. Paul says we must choose to wear the armor - it's not automatic.
"Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground... with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness..., and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Ephesians 6:13-17)
Recently, I have been especially convicted about putting on the "belt of truth". God is leading me to share my story and experiences through this blog. I am committed to being authentic and real so that others will be encouraged by the battles I've faced - and won - through God's strength. It won't always be pretty - but it will be honest.
"With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)
Just like we put on "our face", fix our hair or select a stylish outfit to prepare for the new day, we must also be prepared for the spiritual battle that is raging - often unseen - around us. And as much as I want a mirror to tell me I'm 10 lbs. lighter, the truth is the baby weight will come off if I continue to make healthy eating choices. And exercise more :)
Temptation and sin surround all of us. I struggle daily with procrastination! But I want the world to see Jesus reflected in me. So every morning, I prepare for battle by wearing God's armor. I choose to be honest. I embrace my day knowing the peace I've found through him. I lift the shield of faith against Satan's lies. I trust that God's protection will guide me.
Are you prepared today?
"Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)