“This feels like Disneyland!” I hear women squeal as the ballroom doors of the Concord, NC Embassy Suites swing open to welcome its newest guests for the weekend.
700 women from 42 states and 5 countries all with the same passion – Jesus - attending Proverbs 31 - She Speaks conference. 548 there for the very first time.
The sterile ballroom had been transformed with the flawless touch of drift wood centerpieces, birdcages, white hydrangeas perfume and graceful vintage furniture filling our hearts with a Welcome Home sensation.
Lysa TerKeurst, President of Proverbs 31, greeted us - “Unrush Me, Lord”. Challenging us to not set our heart to a rhythm of rush. When we rush through life and say “yes” to everything we are left living an overwhelmed schedule aching with an underwhelmed soul. I have reread this last sticky statement over and over - “Unrush me Lord - so the best of who I am comes out.”
My next two breakout sessions were Be You and Overcoming Stage Fright. I’m commanded to love but I have a desire to please. Be you! The most important things I learned in both sessions – It’s not about me and it’s all about Jesus. It’s so about Jesus. Here are a few takeaways that I cannot wait to study in depth:
- Free yourself from the cancer of comparison.
- You were made for a God sized dream.
- The gospel is a change agent. Not you.
- Jesus was the ultimate communicator.
- I’m robbing my audience if I focus on me.
- Build your God confidence.
- Every “I” story must have a “you” message.
- Change perception to rely on God. Not on I. Desperation into total dependence.
- Drink OJ before public speaking.
- Learn to laugh at yourself.
- Pray more than you prepare.
Lunch time! I met a great group of ladies each with their own story and footprint. I went to the beach recently – seeing all of the thousands of sand footprints captured my heart. Some small, some long, some wide, some narrow. Each different. Each special. Each loved. Every footprint is a person with a unique heart and their own story loved deeply by God. When I listened and met new friends I thought about each new face and name similar to the beach footprints.
It was time for my first publisher appointment with Discovery House! I was greeted by a sweet face with a reserved smile. I took a deep breath and dove into telling her about the journal. “Spending time with God will change your life!” Like she needed me to tell her. Editor in chief of Discovery House Publishing and Christian lady herself – really Mary? Time raced by. I illustrated with all my stuff what my quite time used to look like before I had the journal. Then I showed her what my quiet time looks like now with the journal. After a fifteen minute passionate and enthusiastic pitch - she handed me her business card and said she would “be in touch.” I wonder how many others heard these empty words.
The next few hours were filled with laughs with my small speaking group. I provided most of the laughs sharing my sweaty situation during my publisher meeting. Sweaty situation you ask? During my publisher appointment I had soaked my blouse. I’m talking the after hot yoga type sweating -- covering most of my arm, stomach and entire back. The kind of sweat you know is happening but hope no one else can see. It was not pleasurable and deathly embarrassing but God is freeing me from the bondage of perfection. In the past – my simple sweat episode would have become, “Mary, you’re such a bad writer. You are not good enough to be here with all these perfect women.” Instead, I simply changed my shirt and went on with my day. Glory to glory!
Dinnertime. I met my new best friend Sarah, with an “h” just like my sister. It was so nice to have a friend in a sea of new faces. I was SO looking forward to this evening! I attended Passion conference a few years ago and God put on my heart the unimaginable issue of human sex trafficking in America and in the world. There are 27 million sex slaves in hostage - more than any other time. Read more at a21campaign.com. Tonight’s speaker is Christine Caine, founder of A21 campaign. I cannot explain in words - God did a deep heart surgery in me through her this night. I focus on myself so much. I forget who my life is ultimately about: Jesus. She challenged us, “Make sure the light that is in you, is greater than the light that is on you.” Oh, how this is my prayer and my heart cries for this! Jesus it is You, not I, that I want to make famous. Not me! I did not take one note during her talk. I wanted to soak it all in for me in hopes that it would ultimately transform me. I’m dying for transformation. “Get off Facebook and get your face in the BOOK!” YES! My ultimate heart’s desire is to die myself and live for Him.
Late that night I face planted in the bed. Exhausted but changed. A heart change. All of the money spent and journal preparation time invested for this conference just paid off many times over. The heart transformation I received this night was life changing. I will never be the same.
The next morning I woke up with a new heart! No shower, yesterday’s hair, some fresh makeup and I skipped to the first session. I’ve discovered a new me! Yes! Renee Swoop! I was so thrilled. I just completed her Bible Study, A Confident Heart. No longer living in self-doubt but on the promises of God! Her message was simple, Girl you already have what It takes. Believe it and Bring IT! Bring IT!
My next Breakout sessions were Finding your Niche and Getting over your Past. A few takeaways:
- What sets YOUR heart on fire?
- Your purpose: not too broad and not too narrow.
- Identify your rhythm of life. It’s not the same as anyone else’s.
- In a sea of noise what makes me stand out?
- Your book is for “her”. Define “her.”
- If you’re like Mary at the feet of Jesus there is no critic that can take you down any further. You are already at his feet.
- When it involves someone else, never write out of pain, write out of healing.
- God can use us not despite our past but because of our past.
- I am transformed through the blood of Christ.
- God has been divinely designing our life all along.
- Let God turn your past into purpose and there will be complete transformation.
- God never wastes our pain.
- Go with your heart and not your resume.
- Low self-esteem is #1 issue with Christian women.
- Move from safe zone to faith zone.
- Coincidences are God incidences.
We grabbed boxed lunches and were scheduled to be with our speaking groups the next three hours. We all prepared a five-minute sermon to be critiqued. I cannot tell you the peace that was in me. I’ve done a lot public speaking recently as I’ve given my testimony different places and led chapel at Raleigh Rescue Mission. Each time I’ve been terrified - almost paralyzed. Today was different. Today my mind was off my own insecurities and how maybe - just one lady - might see the hand of God in my story and be forever changed. My talk was on Romans 8:28. God through all the trials and my own mistakes has truly changed my life for good. I had to rush out and head to my last publisher appointment with Thomas Nelson. No sweating today. If God wants to use me and this journal it will succeed. God had taken the pressure off of me to make it succeed. It was about quiet time and how much it changed my life from the inside out. Pressure is off.
Last dinner and last message from beautiful, Lysa TerKeurst. She spoke so clearly. Girls, we are called but this is no joke. “THIS – IS – NO – JOKE,” she cried. We must go and share. Go and share the name of Jesus to all nations.
What a weekend?! Heart changing time - growing with Jesus - for Him to be glorified in everything- and let’s GO AND SHARE HIS name!
And Girlfriend, “It was better than Disneyland!”