Thursday, July 28, 2011

"She Speaks" Part Three: My GPS

July 23, 2011

"Hold My hand in joyful trust,
for I never leave your side."
July 23, Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

“Liz, your aimer is broken.” That's what my Dad said after he took me out to hit golf balls a few times when I was growing up. It’s true – I have a good backswing, but my follow through and aim are terrible. It has been proved time and again not only in golf, but also in map reading and direction following. Quite honestly, I would do a lot better if I had a GPS attached to me at all times.
So it really comes as no surprise that on the very first day of the "She Speaks" conference I went to the wrong session. But because I had prayed over every seat that I would sit in before I left, I realized I was in the place God had for me. Nonetheless, when I woke up on the second day I repeated my daily prayer asking the Lord to direct my steps and my conversations, placed my personal seminar schedule in the front of my notebook and thought, “I am not going to mess up again today! Today, I will make doubly sure to be in all the places I am supposed to be.”

And I was. It was a packed morning kicked off by the gifted Renee Swope, and later filled with tips on writing for magazines, devotional writing and platform building. After our session ended, the friend sitting next to me asked me where I was going.
I replied with great confidence, “The fiction writing panel.”  

She made a funny face. “Wow, that's pretty ambitious.”

“I guess so.”

I walked down the hall, entered the room and made a beeline for the front row. One of the authors on the panel was the wonderfully talented Nicole Seitz, whom I had the good fortune to sit next to at lunch the day before. She has published five novels with her sixth coming out this fall. Nicole came to hug me when she saw me. “I’m so glad you came!” she said.

The session began. There were five authors on the panel, as well as two moderators. Questions had been submitted in advance, and I dutifully took notes.

I don’t remember the question that was asked when Nicole answered as she did. But I do know that my life changed forever when she spoke.
“You all want to be in here, right? God has you in here for a reason, and He wants to take you through the process of writing a novel.”

At that moment, sitting on the front row, I started laughing. “I can’t believe I did it again, Lord! This is not the session I signed up for! This is not where I am supposed to be!”
And then, I couldn’t stop crying.

I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

My very own GPS – God Powered Steps – had taken me into the right room and given me a front row seat. The day before, He sat me next to Nicole Seitz at lunch, someone I had prayed for long before I met her. He blessed our conversation and she spoke directly into my heart.

You see, since I was in middle school I have wanted to write a novel. But it seems an insurmountable task, doesn’t it? I mean, how do you even write a novel? I had an idea for a story, but what would people even say if I told them? So I nursed the dream privately, and then I covered it up with life and babies and laundry.

I left it for dead.

Remember the parable about the Dead Girl (Luke 8:52-55)?
"Jesus said ‘(The dream) is not dead but asleep.’ ... he took her by the hand and said, ‘My child, get up!’"
Right then, in Concord, North Carolina, the Lord of Healing reached deep into my heart and woke up a dream too long ignored.

At breakfast on the last day before our final session, my GPS took me to a coffee station with just one other woman standing nearby. Because that is the way God rolls, it turned out to be Marybeth Whalen, Proverbs 31 team member, fiction author and one of the panel moderators. I told her about my experience on Saturday and confessed to her how scary it was to begin this journey. She understood completely, put words to some of the fears I had and comforted me, too.
I went to "She Speaks" thinking I would learn better how to write devotionals, or magazine articles or perhaps a Bible study for pre-teen girls. Then I met Jehovah-Rapha. I left knowing that God wants to take me through the process of writing a novel. I can't even imagine where to begin, but I will trust my God Powered Steps.

"She Speaks" Part Two: Jehovah-Rapha

July 22, 2011

There is a prayer room at the "She Speaks" conference. I read about it online as some of the previous attendees expressed their excitement to make a return visit. It seems the organizers of the conference pray over each of the people who will be there, and then prayerfully attach each person’s name to one of the names of God. I understood it to be a place of peace, and of quiet, amidst a cacophony of ideas and words on the other side of the door.

It was afternoon of the first day before I had a chance to visit. It was a smaller, dimly lit room made cozy by a rug on the floor, two prayer rails, several floor pillows and a few soft benches along the sides. At the front of the room were three tables, each with four or five 8 ½ x 11 pieces of paper. On the middle of each paper was a name of God, and taped along the edges were each person’s name.

I found my name rather quickly, on the paper with Jehovah-Rapha in the middle. It was not a name I knew. It means "The Lord Who Heals," and below in parentheses (God has provided the final cure for spiritual, physical and emotional sickness in Jesus Christ. God can heal us.)

I have to be honest. It didn’t knock my socks off. I was hoping for something a bit more, I don’t know, encouraging. More empowering. Basically, I was hoping for something better. How about El Elyon, The God Most High? Or Adonai, My Great Lord?

Then I thought, Oh great! I’m going to get sick! God is telling me that I am going to get sick but it will be okay because He will heal me.

I can laugh at that silliness, now that I understand. On the last morning, a few of the Proverbs 31 leaders participated in an alternately funny/emotional drama about how we are never satisfied with the gifts the Lord gives us. Generally, we want the gift the other person got and not the one God picked out for us. That is pretty much how I felt in the prayer room, like I had gotten the mini can of Coke while someone else got the two-liter bottle.

But that was before the Lord reminded me of the parable of the Dead Girl (Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:21-42, Luke 8:40-56). The sick little girl’s father had gone out to find Jesus, to bring Him back to his house so Jesus could heal her. She died before they returned.

“Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. ‘Stop wailing,’ Jesus said. ‘She is not dead but asleep.’ They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and said, ‘My child, get up!’ Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat.” Luke 8:52-55

Jehovah-Rapha, The Lord Who Heals.

Next - "She Speaks" Part Three: My GPS

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"She Speaks" Part One

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Proverbs 31 “She Speaks” conference in Concord, North Carolina. It was an amazing experience that I am processing in bits and pieces. Here is a glimpse at the conference through my eyes – the first of three installments.

July 21, 2011

I sat on the plane in a seat that wouldn’t recline. It only added to my discomfort. I was heading to a conference with 649 women, none of whom I had ever met in person. Certainly I had made some new Facebook friends and I was looking forward to the real life version of these people I had only seen in photos the size of my thumb.
Absently, I flipped through the magazines I brought with me. Am I really doing this? I thought. The conference was something I desired to attend for the last three years, but the timing was never right. This year, the Lord tugged on my heart on New Year’s Eve and whispered, “Go.” Six months later with my husband’s blessing, off I went.

For days and days leading up to the conference, I had prayed over every single detail. I prayed for the people I would sit next to at meals and in seminars. I prayed the Lord would show me why He wanted me to go in the first place. I prayed the Lord would direct my steps and my words as I took this giant leap of faith.
Thanks to a new FB friend, I had dinner plans on the first night. Since the conference does not technically begin until Friday there are no organized plans for those arriving early. But, I responded to the blanket invitation to meet in the hotel restaurant for dinner. “No, no, no,” said my introvert head. “Yes, I’d love to,” typed my fingers, which somehow knew better.

It was like a giant blind date, this first gathering. There were 30 of us split among three tables. And here is the crazy thing about social media – the people in those tiny pictures? They are actually real life, 3D versions, funnier and smarter and wiser than you even knew. Because She Speaks is a writer and speaker conference, nearly everyone there had a blog or two. So then I began to identify them by their blog titles: “Look! I’m having dinner with the LazyChristian! And there’s Jessie’s House! I can’t wait to go to the seminar with Chatting at the Sky.” It’s an odd thing, really, the way our minds work sometimes.
When I returned to my room, my discomfort had lessened. I had made some friends. I had gotten some of the vernacular down – “Are you on the writers’ track or the speakers’ track?” I learned to answer “writers’ track” without laughing. Still, I wasn't certain why I was there.

Next -  SS Part Two: Jehovah-Rapha