Have you ever felt the chasm of where you are and where you want to be/know you should be/feel God has called you to be? Maybe it’s in an area of personal or spiritual growth. Maybe it’s in your career. Maybe it’s in your marriage, parenting, friendships. Or possibly it’s a call to write, speak or lead others. I know that chasm all to well. It can be lonely, frustrating, discouraging, and exhausting. I’ve cried out to God for help (and whined and cried to my husband and friends).
One of the ways He’s begun to connect the dots of where I am and where I know I need to be — in my writing and speaking and as a woman of God — has been through the Speak Up Conference.
I’ve written about how I went two years ago, not knowing anyone, and God confirmed that even though I wasn’t sure what He was calling me to do, I was to just keep growing and waiting. Within six months, I had a contract for my first book. By the next conference, the book would be in the hands of the publisher and scheduled for publication. God has used Speak Up and the people I meet there to continue to connect the dots in my life. It’s like a giant, happy family reunion each year.
This year was no exception. I again find myself in the “Now what, God?” phase. I walked away inspired, encouraged, and in awe of what He is doing through so many fantastic people across the country. Here are some of my favorite highlights.
1. Red Hot Faith
At my first Speak Up Conference, I met Cindy Bultema, and discovered we go to the same church. She’s been a huge encourager to me over the years, and one of the people God has used to connect my dots. When I first met her, she told me about this Bible study she had written called “Red Hot Faith.” For two years I’ve listened to her talk about it, helped her bounce ideas around, and prayed for this Bible study. Finally, at the conference, I had the opportunity to hear her teach some of the material during the opening session. WOWZERS! What a powerful Bible study, and how exciting to see how God has connected the dots for Cindy over the past couple years. The Red Hot Faith Bible study will be available Spring 2014 through Discovery House Publishers. You can even pre-order it here. You DON’T want to miss it!
2. Meeting online friends IRL
It used to be that you’d go to a conference, make new friends, and then write letters to stay in touch. With social media, now we can make friends BEFORE we go to a conference and stay in touch so much more easily after the conference. I first met Colleen on Facebook, months ago, through a mutual friend. Colleen is one of the most beautiful people I know – inside and out. She has an inspiring faith. Trust me, you’ll be hearing more from Colleen in the future.
I met Jen through her blog a few months ago as well. It was such a joy to meet her in real life. She’s as fun and lovely in person as she is online. She asked if she could feature my book on her blog, (UM, yes!) and then had the brilliant idea to record a video blog together at the conference. Even though we were so tired we could barely think straight, we had a blast recording this video. Jen has a book coming out in the next year, and it is going to be a powerful tool for healing and growth for couples. I will definitely be sharing it with you when it releases! (Side note, Jen came last year to the conference and got a contract with a publisher!)
3. Having the opportunity to serve and encourage others
One of my favorite parts of the conference was the opportunity to faciliate a couple of speaker critique groups. I love, love, love these sessions. Not only do I get to meet some incredible people from across the country, I have the privilege of hearing them share their stories and encourage them to keep going. My first conference, I was terrified of the speaker critique times, but it ended up being the most encouraging thing I’ve ever done. It’s such an honor to pay that encouragement forward. God is moving His people across the nation and they are bringing His truth in creative passionate ways!
I also had the chance to teach a workshop on social media. The room was packed and we zoomed through a ton of information. I enjoy teaching this class for a variety of reasons, but my favorite is the opportunity to let people know they don’t have to do it all. I point them back to their first love, their calling (which isn’t social media), and then teach them how this can be a tool to support what God has called them to do. It’s so easy to get caught in the social media web frenzy and forget that it’s not the end-all-be-all.
There’s so much more to tell! For more photos from the weekend, you can check out my album here on Facebook.
If you’re interested in writing or speaking, but you’re not sure how to connect the dots, mark your calendars for the next Speak Up Conference, June 26-28, 2014 at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan!
For more great stories about the conference, check out the link up on Cindy Bultema’s blog today!