I had the amazing privilege of attending the She Speaks conference from Proverbs 31 Ministries last weekend. There is so much to say and think and process through… It’s truly an incomparable event. It’s well-run, phenomenally organized, perfectly staffed and tailored to Christian women writers, speakers and leaders down to the last detail. It is unequivocally the best conference I’ve attended.
Even so, the things listed above are not what make it exceptional.
Lysa Terkeurst, the President of Proverbs 31 Ministries, leads this group of breath-taking women in a culture of sisterhood, team playing and true humility that exceeds my capacity to describe in a way that does it justice. The vision and execution of equipping women to learn and teach God’s Word is inspired….and unanimous. Each of the leaders and staff members has embraced the core values, and none of them waver in the slightest from the mantra.
“We have to go to God’s Word, to truly be with Him, in order to stay in alignment with His assignment. Keep the sacred space. Getting sent out is second.” Lysa Terkeurst
Every speaker wove this theme throughout her lessons and advice seamlessly, which tells me that they walk this walk as well as talk the talk. They were gracious and funny and wise, giving us a plethora of tools to put in our arsenal for study and use, sprinkling each lesson with the reminder to really listen for God’s voice….and then do as He says.
Are we serving where needed, regardless of what that looks like, knowing that our call is never mundane?
I was uplifted, overwhelmed, encouraged and enriched.
I was mentally and emotionally spent by the end of my time there.
And I was determined to stay true to the spirit and wisdom shared by these women I so admire. I prayed for God to help me hear Him clearly, to have the discernment to understand when and how He speaks to me, and to have the discipline and humility to obey by serving as He wills even when it doesn’t match up to what I plan or think.
I spent my last night there meditating on this while girding myself up for the return home, knowing that His voice gets harder to hear and His will feels less clear in the chaos and noise of my everyday space. I waited at the gate to board the plane, anxious to get seated, anticipating a few hours of concentrated reading/studying/writing time as I processed through my copious notes, aware that my patience would have to increase back at home, given the distractions and people who constantly need me in some form or fashion.
As usual, God had a different idea; and it became obvious that my testing would begin the moment I stepped onto the plane.
I made my way down the aisle and found my seat. Looking at the row behind mine, I discovered that a family of five was sitting there – two parents and three children below the age of four…on their first flight as a family. Two of the kids were wired, bouncing in their seats with excitement and chattering non-stop when I made eye contact, the baby was already not happy to be there, her mommy looked incredibly stressed and was on the verge of a small freak-out (every mom recognizes that look, we’ve all been there), and her husband was trying to follow orders as fast as she was spitting them out. Turning my head to the seat next to mine, I saw a lovely teen girl, who I had noticed at boarding because she was escorted onto the plane as it was her first time flying alone and she had special needs.
All thoughts of focused study time flew out the proverbial window at this point.
I didn’t get upset, not really. I could almost hear the question: “What now? What are you going to do? Do you remember the point?”
And I found that I actually did. I smiled at the kids as they jabbered excitedly about their first time on a plane, their first time going to Texas, all the things they thought would happen during the flight. I joked with their mommy about the adventure of flying with three kids, and how we had just done so last month. I had a lovely visit with my new friend, Misty, as she told me her entire life story and exclaimed over how fun flying is. She chatted about her best friend, and how he would miss her while she was gone, and about how her sister fixed her very own room up since she was staying there for a whole month.
Transparent moment: I might have given myself a tiny mental pat on the back, preening at my cheerfully smooth handling of this curve ball….which set me up for a bit more correction.
The real fun began when the plane started moving. Misty was quite insistent I look out the window with her to see take-off; and then she began to loudly proclaim that she hoped we had a good pilot because planes can crash, you know. She saw it on the news once, so she knows it’s true. It could happen to any plane, even ours.
Those of you who know me, or have been reading this blog for a while, may already be chuckling. For those of you just tuning in, let me bring you up to speed.
I don’t fly well. At all.
I hate flying. I am terrified of planes. I generally spend take-off and landing with my eyes closed praying and/or singing Amazing Grace under my breath as I try not to cry or vomit. I envision plane crashes with tremendous ease. Every instance is cause for alarm.
This flight was oversold. Which means they kept asking people to give up their seats for vouchers. It also means the luggage space was over capacity, so they had several of people check their carry-on at the gate. More luggage means heavier plane. What if we went over the weight limit? What if they underestimated fuel needs, not realizing how packed the flight was? I was already shaking as I boarded.
Before take-off, the flight attendant came and asked the guy in front of me if he would switch seats with someone in the exit row who didn’t feel comfortable sitting there. The man who ended up sitting in front of me was a perfectly healthy, normal-looking gentleman in his 50’s or 60’s. Why would he switch? Why would he be uncomfortable? Did he know something? Had he placed an explosive device under his seat?
Apparently, if there’s not a crash, I’ll create a terrorist.
It’s ridiculous, I know, but I can’t help it. Every time I fly, I mentally end up with my children orphaned and my husband a widower who (after a less-than-meets-my-approval period of time) marries a 25 year-old blonde aerobics instructor who has no idea how to properly care for either him or his kids.
I am a lunatic. But, I’m a lunatic who listens when the promptings are so very obvious.
What else was there to do, other than agree that yes, planes can crash and assure her that our pilot was much too skilled to let it happen? How else could I respond, except to lean over and look out the window at everything she pointed at while maintaining a pleasant facade as I fervently prayed I wouldn’t throw up all over her? Who better to sit there, comfortably unfazed by this beautiful and special child of God than a mother who works with special children as a career?
Even as He works to teach us lessons, He provides….. for everyone.
And what a lesson He was driving home. He reminded me, as He does with increasing regularity, that the call to love my neighbor, the command to love His children, always comes first. Always. Without exception. Without equivocation. Without end.
Perhaps because I was more open than usual to listening, He decided I had done reasonably well, and to further drive home His ability to provide for and pursue us, He threw me a bone. About an hour into the flight, the kids settled down, the baby stopped crying, and my friend decided to take a nap.
So, I got to write and journal and study a bit. And the exact instant I lifted the pen from my final sentence, Misty woke up, ready to resume our chat and share her M & M’s.
God is so good. And I was so humbled at the reminder of His goodness (following that tiny slap on the wrist).
He thinks of everything, and loves us enough to cover the details that fill our minds and trouble or excite our hearts. No whisper is too silent. No prayer is too small. No slip-up is too large. No accomplishment goes unnoticed….even if He has to guide us in baby steps to the goal.
What a gift. What a blessing. What a Father.
Solidarity, sisters. When He speaks, listen.