Today is August 25th. Exactly 90 days until Thanksgiving.
I believe there are two things in this world that can do more to improve our attitude, inspire hope, create unity, and spread love more than anything else, and I’m challenging myself to be more intentional about both. They are, as you might have guessed, genuine thankfulness, and giving to others.
Two years ago I was inspired by a colleague to do a “100 Happy Days” challenge. What at first seemed like a fun exercise to focus on my blessings, turned into a real lesson on the power of positivity and living each day to its fullest. I discovered that when we challenge ourselves to find something to be happy about each day — even if it was just a pretty sunset or a few moments reading a book on my porch — it was easy to live every day in triumph and gratitude.
Intentionally seeking out joy is a sure way to find it.
My hope is this challenge will have a similar impact. Intentionally seeking opportunities to give to others, and/or find things to be thankful for will help me turn my focus away from selfish pursuits, lies from the enemy, and worldly defeat.
Even better — why don’t you join me? Post a photo or story each day about your moment of thanks or giving (or both) to social media and tag it with #90DaysOfThanksAndGiving . I would love to share this journey with you. Maybe together we can help turn the conversation on social media from anger and condemnation to love and gratitude.
“Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.” – Ephesians 3:20
I pulled into an open space in the large parking lot, turned off the ignition, took a deep breath and let it out slowly. As I got out of my car and started to walk toward the doors of the large convention center, where I would join 800 other women, I prayed silently. “Here I go, Lord. I don’t know why exactly you brought me here, but I will be fine with whatever happens this weekend. Even if the message is that I’m not ready, that’s fine. I will be OK with whatever lessons you want me to learn.” And then, just before I reached the doors, I heard His reply: “Why do you put limitations on me? Do you think that I cannot do great things with you? Do not doubt my power and my purpose for bringing you here!”
Yes, Lord…message received!
With shoulders back and head held high, I walked through those doors ready for what lie ahead.
That was the beginning of two amazing days at the She Speaks 2014 conference. The conference is designed to train and educate Christian women who feel called to use their gifts to write or speak. Whether the desire is to lead a women’s bible study or speak to a stadium of women, to write blog posts or best-selling books, She Speaks is for “women seeking to live out the unique calling God has placed on their lives.” I first heard about the conference two years ago and was completely gob-smacked about the idea. I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but God was already working on my heart and preparing me.
Having just finished grad school in May, I had absolutely no intention of going to the conference this year. But a series of events that were so perfectly aligned they can only be credited to Godly intervention, led me here to Concord, NC and this convention center, with a book proposal in hand. You see, not only had God made it so I could attend the conference, two weeks prior to leaving I was notified that I was eligible to have a meeting with one of the many publishers that would be at the conference.
The first day was an equal mix of inspiration and education. It was intimidating to be there by myself with all of these women. Despite God’s loud-and-clear message to me on my way into the convention center, I looked around the large ballroom before the opening session and thought, “how do I possibly belong here? I just started my blog 4 weeks ago! I don’t have a platform or a big following. My degree is in marketing, not theology! Why do I think I’m even qualified to be a writer?” I was sure that all 799 other women were way more experienced and qualified than I.
I sat down at a table of other women; we made polite introductions, discussed where we were from, etc. Then I was caught off-guard by the next question that came, “are you a speaker or a writer?” Say, what? They are assuming if I’m here I must already be one of these? Oh gosh, I really don’t belong. “I’m, uh, um, an aspiring writer,” I say as my neck heats up and my face flushes. The other women smile and nod.
The rest of the first day I went from session to session, furiously taking notes about the ins-and-outs of a successful book proposal, and the process of turning ideas into a book people actually want to read. I was awe-struck and inspired to hear from NY Times bestselling authors like Shaunti Feldhahn (For Women Only), Jerry B. Jenkins (Left Behind Series, and a bazillion other books), and Lysa TerKeurst (Unglued, Am I Messing Up My Kids, etc.) and I tried to just be a sponge.
At the end of the day I went back to my hotel room to make some last-minute changes to my book proposal based on the day’s learnings. My appointment was at 2:15 the next day and I was really starting to get nervous. By 10:30 p.m. I called my best friend in a panic. I still doubted what I was doing there, I doubted my proposal was any good. Heck I doubted if I was even ready to be putting together a proposal. What were my qualifications to be writing a book? But my dear, sweet friend talked me off the ledge and reminded me that God put this on my heart for a reason. He paved the way for me to attend this conference for a reason. He got me an appointment with a publisher…for a reason. It was time to put away my doubt and fear and trust God. Then she prayed for me while I sat on the other end of the phone with tears in my eyes.
The next morning I woke up early, showered and dressed, and arrived at Kinkos the moment they opened so I could print out the revised proposal. The morning’s sessions were amazing. Renee Swope talked about letting go of fear and self-doubt (boy did I need to hear that message). I met more women, and we talked about our reasons for being there. Everyone was incredibly friendly and genuinely interested in hearing about my proposal and blog. But as the day inched closer and closer to that 2:15 appointment, I felt the butterflies creeping in again. At lunchtime I grabbed my food and sat at an empty table. As the the room started to fill up and I continued to sit alone I felt increasingly uncomfortable. Then a woman walked up and asked me if the seat beside me was taken. I welcomed her to sit and we introduced ourselves. Her name was Joy. (Sometimes God is so obvious, isn’t he?) Joy and I talked about many things — our call to write, our “day jobs”, our children, various places we had lived. I don’t remember exactly how the conversation moved along, but suddenly Joy said, “You are a writer. God put that on your heart and gave you the skills you need. You have to own it.” I just looked at her for a moment, at a loss for words. Then I finally said, “I don’t think it was an accident that you came and sat beside me.”
The meeting with the publisher went well. Really well. Of course I won’t know for a few more weeks if my proposal will get passed on to the next phase, but whether this publishing house chooses to publish my book or not doesn’t really matter because it’s not the end of this journey. It took God telling me three different times over the weekend before I really got it. But I know that “God’s power is at work within me and is able to do far more than I would ever dare to ask or even dream of— infinitely beyond my highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.” (Ephesians 3:20)
I know that He put this desire on my heart for a reason and He is not to be underestimated.
I know it’s not about my words, but about the word.