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