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.
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!