Thursday, July 30, 2015

#NotFineFriday July : Insecurity

I am so incredibly thankful to be back this month, with another #NotFineFriday blog tour. Last month was amazing and it's been incredible to watch God continue to move as women take off their "church perfect" masks and share their stories of how God is redeeming them in the midst of their struggles. None of us are "fine" and that's more than ok.

You see, we've got God working in us and through us. He sees our hurts, He sees our struggles. And He uses them all for His glory. But, the thing is, we've got to be willing to share them, to walk in openness and authenticity, in order for Him to work through them and touch our lives and the lives of those we influence.

God set my #NotFineFriday story in North Carolina this past week. I traveled down for this year's SheSpeaks conference - designed by it's organizers to equip and encourage Christian writing and speaking women to fully embrace the calls God has on their lives. The 800 conference attendees worshipped together, sat at the feet of some amazing Bible teachers (here's looking at you, Whitney Capps, Lysa TerKeurst and Liz Curtis Higgs....), picked up incredible tips from industry experts and had chances to present book ideas to leading Christian publishers.

I went down primarily to pursue a formal book deal. My ministry partner Marie and I have been really seeing God move through the wellness ministry we're building with his help. Our Facebook challenge groups are rockin' it, doctors are getting excited about what we're doing, and church groups are starting health ministries. We've felt the need to spread the message more widely, and I have a journalism degree, so it seemed like the right time to take the next step toward publishing a book.

Getting down to NC was chaotic. I've never been so spiritually attacked as I was in the weeks leading up to SheSpeaks - lingering health concerns began to rear their heads, family relationships soured, I was disorganized, distracted and downhearted. I thought about throwing in the towel and just staying home.

When I got there, I expected to feel relieved, but honestly, I felt so out of place. Everyone seemed to be so put together. With huge platforms - or well-established connections to all the speakers - or have years of experience - or be completely different from me in personality. Many of the attendees I met at first were so ... quiet. Reserved. Serene. Put together. Maybe a little introverted in all the best ways - you know, with the "I know what I'm doing, so I'll just sit here and observe with quiet dignity" looks on their faces.

I'm not any of that really. I come from a corporate marketing background. I have a massively extroverted personality. I'm incredibly insecure. Our many moves in the last years cause me to freeze when meeting new people - because I've started over so many times, I've been rejected a lot. Which is totally natural - it's impossible for everyone I meet to become my new best friend and I know that. It's just that all my rejection moments, that are typically spread out for most people, are bunched close together for me, because I've lived them in so many different places in a short span of time.

If not for this blog tour series, I'd never be admitting any of this to you. For real. It's so hard to write. 

I spent the first few hours of my time in North Carolina, surrounded by dear dear sisters in Christ, in a total emotional funk. Even though sweet friends immediately wrapped me up into the arms of their beautiful ministry group, allowing me to sit at their tables and with them on the front row of any speaker session they were also attending, I just couldn't shake the emotions bumping around in my head.

And then we headed into our first worship session. As the leaders began to sing and the band started strumming away on their instruments, conference organizers added the boxes in the picture below one-by-one to the stage.

As each box piled up, I read the words and felt the weight of my insecurity deep in my soul. So many of these boxes applied to me, right in that place, right in that moment.

And then, as we neared the crescendo of the song, the wall came down and Jesus shone through. 

The rest of the conference was full of breakdowns. SheSpeaks pretty much wrecked my life, actually, in all the best ways possible. That's a story for another post and I'm sure I'll tell it soon. In a nut shell, I'm not pursuing a publishing contract for my book, even though that opportunity presented itself. God gave me a bigger dream for both myself and my ministry.

Piece by piece and box by box, God brought down some walls that I'd spent years building around my heart and soul. Walls of sin, walls of bondage, walls of pride .... all mostly built on insecurity.

As I move forward now with life after SheSpeaks, I know I'm not the same. I feel stronger, bolder and more confident that God's going to use the wreckage of the wall He's brought down to build something stronger, more beautiful, more reflective of His glory.

If you're struggling with insecurity, just know that I'm praying this just for you right now:

Father God, I come before you humbled and in awe of who You are and how You work in our lives. You are so faithful and generous to bestow so many wonderful gifts upon us God. Please help us each to understand and appreciate our unique gifts and make it crystal clear to each one of us how you'd like us to best honor You with the way we use our time, talents and treasures. May we proclaim with boldness that You are the giver of all good things. In Your precious and Holy name I pray, Amen. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

#NotFineFriday - June Wrap-Up

Last Friday, I started a monthly blog tour I called "Not Fine Friday" and encouraged other writers to come share stories of their struggles and how God has used each situation to shine. I don't have a huge online "platform" or following (yet?), so I pretty much threw up a note on my personal and professional Facebook pages and gave the whole effort to God.

I was not prepared to see Him show up in such a big way.

I was vacationing in California and not really following my phone, blog or Facebook pages when the post went up. After just a few hours, I checked all my digital "stuff" and was amazed at what I saw.

The tour writers got real. They took off their masks of perfection and exposed broken places, shattered hearts, significant pain and devastating losses. Then, they shared how God put them back together again - He healed hearts, minds and bodies, He worked everything out for His good purpose (Romans 8:28).

Chains of bondage broke all over the place on Friday:
- Writers shared with me that their pages were registering some of their highest views ever - based on the few I heard from, our tour generated views in the thousands across our pages.
- Posts gave writers the opportunity to participate in the call of the Great Commission - their conversations with friends and readers allowed them to point their readers to Christ.
- Friendships were strengthened as friends realized their shared imperfections and similar struggles.

As I kept reading the incoming messages, these songs lyrics began to play in my head and they just wouldn't let go!

I'm not exactly sure why I was so surprised. 

There is SO much power in the name of Jesus and in the things we do for Him, in His name and for His glory. I guess I felt like maybe I was alone in my desire to see women open up about their hurts. I've been in a season of what feels like isolation as I've struggled with my autoimmune disease and my family continues to move frequently. I've been lonely and have felt small, insignificant, like I somehow missed my opportunity to make a significant contribution to the world. I thought a couple people (maybe) would read my post and I'd be lucky to have a few friends link up. Ha! Little did I know that God had different plans and all He required of me was a relatively small step forward in obedience.

This experience humbled me. And reminded me of the importance of continuing to place one foot in front of the other in a series of steps forward into obedience.

If you visited one or more of the blogs on our tour, and/or wrote a post, thank you so much for joining me in this journey and for taking your own steps forward in faith. I deeply appreciate you and am so thankful for you.

Check back on Friday, July 31 for our next #NotFineFriday.

Until then, be encouraged in God's good Word and rest in the grace of Jesus.