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Monthly Archives: October 2013

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Those Four Days I Spent at a Blogging Conference

I flew through Washington Dulles on my way to Allume. The blogging conference in Greenville, South Carolina where 452 women came together last weekend to figure out how to collectively make God famous on the internet. In the world.

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I had an hour layover. So I found a turkey brie sandwich at a Cosi deli and sat down at my gate to eat it. I knew it was one of the last moments I would have alone for four days, so I took some time to breathe and think through my expectations for the weekend.

Then I realized I had no idea what to expect, except for one thing. I fully expected to be overwhelmed. And, really, how does one prepare herself for overwhelmed? So I gave up the thinking-through and struck up a conversation with the woman next to me.

As soon as I got there, my expectations became reality.

Seriously. Over. Whelmed.

It started when my roommate and I rode the elevator with NY Times bestselling author Melanie Shankle and asked her name. (Um, duh! Melanie Shankle. You know, the lady that will speak tomorrow morning? The one whose book you adored?!?)

It came with me to the first meetup, with all the new people, where everyone and everyone else was better at doing what I’m usually so good at. I introduced myself to Tricia Goyer, the amazing author of more that 35 books and asked her name too. (Hello, Bria! Have you looked at any Twitter picture? Ever?)

And, yes, the overwhelmed followed me into dinner that first night. That’s when the awesome Barefoot Mel so graciously saw what must have been the picture of a holy-cow-this- is-a-lot-of-women-and-what-the-heck-am-I-doing-here scream. (Seriously, I felt a little bit like crawling into a corner and rocking while sucking my thumb.) She gave me a hug and asked me to sit with her and her friends.

I felt a little bit like Nemo. I was really ok, but at the same time terrified. Wanting to sit back and soak it all in, but still wanting to be at the forefront with all the famous people I’d already seen. I didn’t want to see them as famous, I wanted to see them as fellow Jesus-chasers. I wasn’t there to compete. But it was hard to remember.

My thoughts were loud. Super duper loud. And crazy. Ann Voskamp spoke at dinner that night, and I loved what God had her say, but I felt like His voice was a distant echo bouncing off all the loud that was in my heart.

So I found the prayer room after dinner. A big dimly lit, softly music-ed room (did I just make that word up? I think I just made that word up!) full of godly women who wanted to be Jesus with shoes on for those of us who might want to find respite there throughout the weekend.

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God gave me a beautiful new friend who asked if she could pray with me. I said yes.

We prayed for God’s voice to speak. Prayed for clarity of purpose. Then I grabbed my prayer journal and wrote these words:

Dear Lord,

The noise is big. I want to hear You. Please help me hear You. And help me obey.

Amen.

And then I heard God speak.

Okay, not really like that. But kind of.

Three times last weekend, God gave me specific answers I had asked for. Three no-doubt-about-it times He let me know He wants me all-in. He used three different people (two agents, one speaker) to assure me and to prod me and to tell me to get over it and just do it. Get the word out about Him and the amazing life He wants us to live.

Just. Write. Bria.

Quit worrying about screwing up your motives. Or your kids. Trust that He won’t let you. Trust Him to keep you on track. And just do what God has given you to do. Take the next step. Write the next word. Publish the next post. Love the person right in front of you. Just show them Jesus.

He reminded me that first morning in South Carolina, Greenville Hyatt, room 545’s shower, why I was there. It had nothing to do with meeting famous people or being less than or more of a writer or a networker or even a follower of Jesus Christ.

I was there because He ordained it.

God wanted me there. So I was there.

He gave me people to meet. Women to befriend. Bloggers to love.

And he clarified my purpose in writing what I do. He gave me words of assurance in moments at lunch. At a breakout session. And lunch the next day.

So today I have purpose I hadn’t realized I had. I have so much to tell you about those clarifying words He spoke ever so clearly. But I’m pushing 850 words here, and I want you to come back. 😉 So I promise I’ll tell you. Just not quite yet.

Have you ever felt like God gave you an answer you’d been waiting to hear? Do you think I’m crazy?

When Broken People Show Off God’s Amazing

I have known our dining room table and its chairs since I was ten. And by known, I mean I sat at it regularly for probably twenty-some years total. (But to tell you the exact number would require too much math, and we all know how I feel about math.) I did math homework there. And English. And French. And… well, you get the picture.

old chairs

Now my kids do their homework on it.

That probably sounds cool. Like a family heirloom or something.

The truth is, though, my parents got a new dining room table six years ago, and we needed one. So we took it off their hands. And by took it off their hands, I mean it was easier to give to us than to figure out how to sell it on Craig’s List or something.

I am grateful.

I am also ready for a new table.

Because this one is old. It’s rock solid, but not my style. The years upon years worth of water stains make the top look like a not-wood but not-a-color kind of color. It needs a perpetual covering, which I can’t seem to find.

When I (finally) cleaned my house today, I found myself less than enthused about it. Usually after I clean, I like my living space so much more.

But today I realized the rugs are getting old. And the couch has stains. And the curtains feel old too. And I want my house to be more up-to-date and put together than I feel like it is.

Tomorrow I have a new friend coming over for coffee. I know it will be great. But somehow I feel like it would be better if I had my house more together. And a new dining room table.

Maybe you can relate.

Because we like to put our best foot forward when people come over. We like to feel prepared.

But what if God’s definition of prepared is different than ours?

Not necessarily when it comes to cleaning the house, although that might fit too. But when our lives feel all messy, and we don’t feel like we can handle a particular purpose set before us. A certain job God leads us into.

I’ve been writing through the book of Judges the last few weeks over at Everyday With God.

Seriously. Each of the judges God chose to save Israel during that time had major issues. Fear. Doubt. Pride. Speaking rashly. Indiscretion. And that’s just the beginning.

Still, God used them. He picked each one right our of their messy lives and accomplished His purpose anyway.

He didn’t wait for them to get all cleaned up. He didn’t wait until they felt ready. He knew they were already there. Because they had Him on their side. He was all the preparation they needed.

I wonder how many of those God-appointed judges wanted to get it all together before they led their people to victory.

My guess? Approximately all of them.

Because it’s not natural to step out into the forefront, where everyone can see us, when we’re all dirty and messed up and don’t feel ready for the display.

God on Display

But we forget that we aren’t the ones on display.

God is.

And He’s really good at displaying Himself from inside our brokenness. Right through our cracks and dried on mud.

So I’ve been thinking . . .

What if God purposely chose those people BECAUSE they didn’t have it all together?

What if He wants to use my home BECAUSE it’s less than perfect? What if He wants to use me BECAUSE of my cracks? What if He wants to use you BECAUSE of your weaknesses?

What if that’s how He shows Himself off?

Does that thought scare you? Or does it free you up? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments . . .

 

**Join us in Judges? You can find it here . . . This one and this one are my favorites so far.

The Beautiful Beggar

I’d seen him a few times around the city. He looked normal enough. Except for the sign he held stating his need.

I remember him well. He always looked so sad. Leaning against the wall holding that sign. Early thirties was my guess. Clean cut. Not your normal beggar type.

That’s what struck me. It’s why I remember him. Even after nine whole years.

We walked by one day, both kids in the stroller, headed into a store. We had fresh milk in our basket for the next morning’s cereal. Fresh milk and joy from the provision we’d taken for granted for far too long.

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I’d used my last few coins on the milk, so I had nothing left to give him.

That’s when I realized the Holy Spirit’s nudge, the words spoken by Jesus Christ Himself, “anyone who gives . . . a cup of water in my name . . .”

So I grabbed the milk, walked up to the man on the street, and I asked, 

Would you like some milk?

I will never forget the look on his face. It was as if I had offered dignity in the form of eye-contact and some words.

As I looked him in the eye and smiled, he answered yes and thank you

Sure, that man needed milk. But more than that, I believe he needed to know he’d been noticed. That’s why the Holy Spirit led me to offer it to him. Wanted me to show him Jesus’ love in the form of His attention.

I read the story of Peter and John and the beggar at the Beautiful Gate in Jerusalem, and I can’t help but wonder at Peter’s response when the beggar asked him for money.

Look at us!

They would give him what he needed. Not just money, but the love of the Creator. Not just a word, but the notice of God.

Peter offered this man dignity he’d likely not known for many years, if ever.

Relying on others to carry him to “work” every. single. day. Avoiding eye contact with so many “godly” men who passed through the gate, even as they passed judgment on him for the shame he could not shake.

I read this story about God working through His people, and I wonder at the gift the Holy Spirit gave that beggar that day. Beauty fulfilled in a life restored.

The beautiful beggar noticed by God. Shame erased. Healed completely.

I consider the beggar and wonder at my own need. My own propensity to want to be noticed. I don’t like to admit it, but I’m a beggar, too.

If we look hard enough, I believe we can all find ourselves in that beggar as well. We need more than we know to ask for. More than we could possibly come up with on our own.

But Almighty God always offers abundance. He gives grace beyond our wildest imaginings. Even the grace we don’t realize we need. Healing and life outside the limits of anything we could ask.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think . . . (Ephesians 3:20)