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)
(If you're looking for the "She Speaks" Scholarship information, scroll down to my 4/13 blog entry! And thanks!)
Have you ever felt like you just missed the bus?
Like life is passing you by and you forgot to "get onboard?"
I actually witnessed this literally the other day. On my way to work I was behind a city bus as it completely passed a scheduled stop. There was a young man waiting and I watched him stare incredulously as it drove by. I almost laughed at the look on his face - but didn't of course!
He most definitely "missed the bus!"
I could almost feel his frustration and helplessness as he watched the bus round the corner and vanish from sight. He might've been on his way to work — or a job interview. Perhaps he was going to visit friends. But one thing was clear: he was going to be late, if not miss his appointment altogether. He was going to have to adjust his plans.
Life moves so fast sometimes, doesn't it? It's easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless. So many things to do, not enough time. And then our plans change. Sometimes through no fault of our own. Like the young man who missed his bus.
It's during these times that we can lean on the Lord. He understands when we feel frustrated and helpless. He wants us to trust him. We need to remember his "plans to prosper... and not to harm... , plans to give... hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)
When we get too busy, we lose sight of our priorities and what's most important: our faith, our family, friends, our goals, ourselves. God may then orchestrate a situation that forces us to slow down, regroup and breathe. I know I need to slow down when I feel like I'm getting sick and have no energy. I can almost hear God telling me to rest and focus on him. "Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him." (Psalm 62:4-6)
Other times, I can sense the Lord telling me to wait. This is especially difficult for me. I want to make things happen — now! Patience was not one of my virtues. And I know I have missed out on the "prosper" part of his plan simply because I could not wait. Thankfully, I have learned how to trust the Lord and wait. More often than not, he has something better coming along. One of my favorite Bible verses is Proverbs 3:5: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Why is that so hard to do sometimes?!
So today let me encourage you to slow down. Take a deep breath. If you don't know what to do — simply wait. Trust that God knows what's best for you. The obstacles you face today may hide God's blessing for you tomorrow.
Missing the bus may be just what you needed.
More favorites scriptures:
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
~ Lamentations 3:25-27
For in this hope we were saved.
But hope that is seen is no hope at all.
Who hopes for what they already have?
But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
~ Romans 8:24-26
Once upon a time there was a sweet little girl who loved to talk. She was also the oldest of four children and took this responsibility very seriously. It was up to her to protect her 3 little brothers, wasn't it? They needed to do what she told them. But more often than not, they did not need (or want) her protection. And they definitely didn't do what she said! She was sort of a bossy little girl and maybe not so sweet after all! So she grew up wishing she was an only child (true story!).
The little girl grew up in the 70s and 80s facing many of the same challenges every kid has to face. Obey your parents. Do your homework. Make friends. She didn't have any problems making friends. She was an agreeable, easy-going girl. But ask her to speak in front of her classmates and she froze up with fear. A million humiliating scenarios would run through her mind: tripping in front of the class, forgetting what to say, the kids laughing at me. And most importantly "How do I look?"
Needless to say, over the years the little girl had to speak in front of a group of classmates. And it never got easier. So life went on and the little girl grew up. She would marry, have children — and divorce. At one point during her life, she joined a direct sales company where she HAD to speak in front of people. So she would talk about the product: jewelry (what woman can't talk about jewelry?!). And she would tell her story. How she was raising two children as a single mom and earning extra income selling jewelry. She would also share her faith. This particular company was founded on biblical principles, so it was okay, right?!
Well, as you might have guessed, the little girl is me. As I grew my Premier Designs jewelry business, I began feeling more and more comfortable speaking in front of women. I began to hear God's calling in my life to continue to share my story — and my faith.
I did not always walk with the Lord over those years. My relationship with him was almost non-existent during different times in my life. Oh, I always "believed" and prayed — especially when I needed something or after making another bad decision. But I always felt like I wasn't "good" enough for God. How could he love me? I was a mess! So when I would "mess up" - I vowed to "be better."
Well, good news! God doesn't expect us to be perfect! (whew!) He forgives us when we mess up. He loves us in spite of our mistakes. That's why he sent Jesus to die in our place, for sins he knew we would make. But God does expect us to trust him - and obey.
I am trusting God today. That he will continue to work in my life and lead me to share his word. This website and blog are part of that plan. I still need to do my part. It's been a couple of months since my last posting. Unacceptable! hehe Seriously though, I strive to obey and struggle with trust. Life gets busy. My to-do list gets longer. Things need to go my way! But like Paul, I am "...forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me..." (Philippians 3:13-15)
God has opened a door for me recently but I need your help to walk through it. There is an annual conference specifically designed for women like me, www.shespeaksconference.com. Women who feel called to share their story and God's word. I am hoping to attend this summer and am launching a fundraiser. Will you prayerfully consider sponsoring me? If you feel compelled to support this effort, please click here to email me and I will send you the information. OR click on the document below - it has all the details!
I would love your prayers and financial support. Even if it's just $10! It's a tax-deductible donation to help me pay for the weekend conference. I am trusting that the Lord will provide!
Thank you in advance :)
P.S. Here's a picture of me and my three brothers. I'm glad I'm not an only child after all!
_2012 - a new year. A time for reflection and a time for purpose.
Time for setting goals for the future (I don’t like saying ‘resolutions!’) and reflecting on the past. And while it’s easy for most of us to reflect, it’s not so easy to make those goals. Personally, I struggle with that dirty ‘P’ word: procrastination. I imagine a lot of us do.
Why is it so hard to begin? I make a ton of plans in my head and visualizing has never been a problem. I can ‘see’ how I’d look 20 lbs. thinner. And I can picture speaking to women’s weekend retreats and Bible classes. It’s the ‘DOING’ that trips me up. Have you been there? Do you struggle with starting a project or beginning something new?
__For me, starting something new is a challenge because I have to step out of my comfort zone. Making specific changes (goals and plans) requires me to change – another dirty word! Instead of looking at change as scary or uncomfortable, my ‘goal’ (!) is to look at change as opportunity. Opportunity to make a difference in the world. Well, in my little section of the world anyway. Beginning with my family and my friends. And eventually – in God’s time - reaching women who could be inspired by my faith journey.
So as another year begins, I am determined to make the changes necessary to realize my goals. My fear now is that I will be reflecting on 2012 in 12 months and be in the same place I am today! Totally unacceptable... and definitely uncomfortable.
Setting goals is like putting wings on your dreams. Specifying my goals in writing will help me stay focused and make them seem real and actually attainable. This is going to require discipline (ugh! Another one of those words) and ‘on purpose’ choices. Our choices should move us toward our goals, not away from them.
I'm a big fan of 'to do' lists. Mostly because of how I feel when I check off an item on that list. That sense of accomplishment. Do you get the same feeling? I am committed to making smaller, mini-goals that will help me accomplish my bigger ‘opportunity’ – and I have now put it in writing!
I am excited about writing down my smaller goals to support the bigger picture. Writing this blog is the first step to one of them: encouraging women.
Now about those 20 lbs…