Three weeks ago, I went with a group of women from my church to a women’s conference in Atlanta. Honest confession here: In my life, I’ve more often than not done the internal eye-rolling after I’ve asked a friend or coworker how a trip or a service or a meeting went, and was given the reply, “It changed my life.” That’s bad. I’m bad, I know. I’ve just always been skeptical that a moment of hearing someone preach or teach can become life-altering.
Today, I publicly scold myself for the eye-rolling.
Y’all, Atlanta changed my life. CHANGED. MY. LIFE.
I’m so excited to share with you how and why.
We left our church on a Thursday at 5. In the morning. Pre-sunrise. If you know me at all, it goes without saying that I definitely was not the woman bringing doughnuts, coffee and smiles to the group. Regardless of my inability to function that early in the morning, my ability to fall asleep anywhere and at any time sustained me on the van ride down to Atlanta. We had a saint of a man offer to be our “chauffeur” for the trip, and he drove us straight to the door of the arena where the conference was being held. The 13 ladies all piled out of the van, waited in line to get in, marched through the crowds, and found our seats in the nosebleeds of the venue. I think a bit of frustration had set in at that point, so the malfunctioned speaker system in our section intensified our stress level even more. After 30 minutes of not being able to hear the speakers (who had cost some of us more than we probably could’ve afforded), I’ll be the first to admit that I was not happy to be there. The thoughts “too much money” and “waste of time” were phrases I was mentally repeating over and over, and I was literally fidgeting in my seat.
Over the last year, one of the best lessons my husband has taught me is the importance of catching a problem before it snowballs and has the opportunity to cause some real damage. In my seat, I remembered Wes’s wisdom, and made the decision to change my thoughts. I needed a change of mindset and a change of mood, and I needed God’s help. So, right there in my seat, in the furthest-away section from Bishop T.D. Jakes, I wrote the following prayer:
Lord, please help me overcome my frustration. We can hardly hear anything, and from what we CAN hear, this conference seems like little more than a sales presentation. God, I want to be filled up with you and with your Holy Spirit…and I pray against any distractions. I’m not only asking for you to be with our group, but to show Yourself to our group. I love you, Lord. Thank you. Amen.
I wrote it, I whispered it outloud, and then bowed my head and closed my eyes. After my “amen,” I sat back up and decided to make friends with a woman in front of me since it seemed she was hearing the sermon better than we were. As I leaned forward, my notebook fell out of my lap, and a tiny piece of thick paper landed beside the book. I must let you know that this was a journal that I’d been writing in for weeks! My church and Bible study notes from the last four meetings were in this book, as well as my scribbled ideas for my next blog post(s). Not one time had this little piece of paper ever been seen or felt in the book. As I picked it up and read the quote on it, all I could do was get a little misty-eyed and thank God for showing up after I’d asked Him to.
“Only you can capture, in granular detail, the wonder and mystery of the vast world as you see it.
You write for the same reason you breathe—to live.
You are a writer. Write your life.”
I had come to this conference with almost unreachable expectations, one of which included my hope to have a sermon magically put me on a path I’d yet to discover on my own. It was so easy, and I was so quick to blame the blown speaker system, and eventually the main speaker himself, for my inability to grow closer to God and ultimately determine what my life’s purpose was. Over-dramatic? Maybe a bit. But I’d never been to a conference like this before, and after all the “changed my life” reactions I’d heard, my plans included a life revolution.
God showed me other plans. He showed me HIS plans for me.
When I pray, God hears me. When I write, God shows up. While I wish it was possible to have a sermon by T.D. Jakes or a funny story from Christine Caine or an audio book by Lysa TerKeurst in my ear at all times, the words of these powerful (and empowering) people do not cause God to become visible to me. God comes when I ask Him to come. God makes Himself seen by me when I ask Him to open my eyes! God’s voice can be heard by me when I ask him to open my ears! And what is the best way for me to tell the world of my one-on-one God experiences? You’re reading it.
I’ve written over 800 words at this point, and haven’t even gotten past the first hour of our 3-day experience at this conference. I have so many more stories! But, I’ll end this one. For now. God made me a listener. He made me a feeler. He made me a thinker and processer. And, after years of hearing this prophecy from so many people in my life, I’m finally allowing myself to realize that God made me a writer too. My incredible husband and I have committed to being obedient to God’s plan for us, and our God-sized dream includes writing a book (eek!). Until the time comes, I commit to you, my beloved readers, that I will write more often and with more purpose. I am excited, scared, and so thrilled to see what the future holds. I want to thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for embarking on this journey with us.
I can’t wait to share more stories of our Atlanta trip. Until then, I’ll leave you with one question (and please share your answer in the comments!):
How and where in your life does God show up?