When I was little I used to wear my coat in every new situation and not take it off until I felt comfortable.
On the first day of school, every single year, I would get sick and throw up from the nerves of starting over again and having to meet new people.
Every time we moved to a new location, and before every cross country race, track meet or any time I had to be in front of people I would have a pit in my stomach and throw up from my nervousness.
Part of it is just how I’m wired…but part of it, admittedly, was fear of what people would think of me…most definitely, I can’t deny it…and part of it was that I much prefer being in the background. I didn’t want other people’s attention or focus to be on me. It made me scared I’d mess something up and it was clear that others did want that attention…and would be willing to do most anything to get it…staying small seemed to be the simplest option.
When I started writing I never in my life would have guessed it would have led to an invitation to speak. Call me crazy, but I seriously never considered it. Never in my life would I have sought out or asked for that kind of opportunity.
Yet last July the invitation came. For two weeks I avoided and ignored that little email praying the invitation would be retracted from my slow reply…but a tiny little whisper deep in my soul prompting me to accept was undeniably there. By God’s grace, and the persistent encouragement from the one inviting (Traaaaaaccccccccy), I somehow mustered up enough strength to say yes.
But…that little yes made me lose a LOT of sleep these past 7 months!!!
That little yes had me in tears the day before as I told Matt I didn’t want to do it.
That little yes had me throwing up in between putting on mascara and curling my hair as I got ready that morning, and that little yes had me thinking I really might pass out the moment they strapped on my microphone….
But that little yes has also stretched me, grown me, pushed me, shaped me, and challenged me in ways I never saw coming.
What has surprised me the most is that my little yes really wasn’t about me…at all.
I have seen God’s grace poured out, not only on me to get through that day, but on others whose lives have miraculously been impacted from the words God gave to be shared that day.
It wasn’t me…as if there’s anything good enough in me to truly help anyone.
I cannot take a bit of credit. But I see now how He was asking me to get out of the way, nerves included, so He could do a work…in my weakness, in spite of every reason I had against it.
Apparently God wanted to do something through this process of me learning to trust Him.
And apparently He wanted to do something in the lives of those that came to listen too…something I didn’t know, something I couldn’t have fabricated or manufactured and something I really hadn’t planned for.
I set my own bar pretty low for my first time speaking. “Don’t throw up,” was about the extent of what I could imagine. As long as I didn’t literally have to step away to puke, I’d consider that a ‘good enough’ job for me. But how wrong for me to think that this whole thing was only about me learning to keep my stomach under control!
He had a plan that went far beyond my fears and far past my own shortcomings and He took my little fishes and my little loaves of bread and decided to do something with them. It’s His work, not mine. I simply had to offer up what little I had.
That day, HE spoke to women’s hearts and breathed fresh life into their marriages.
I am amazed at some of the feedback and the stories that have been shared with me since I walked off that stage. Women encouraged to love more fiercely, more selflessly and to look to Jesus right in the middle of the hardship, right in the middle of the suffering…not just after it’s over. Women are encouraged to pursue the hard conversations, and are spurred on to keep pressing in toward their spouses. Women, despite their exhaustion, have joyfully and warmly welcomed their husband home from work and have carved out meaningful time to be intentional with one another. I have been so very incredibly humbled at the outpouring of stories since that day.
This past week the man that married Matt and me took the time to listen to my talk and afterward shared this quote:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people don’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Timo Cruz (Coach Carter)
Now…if I’m really honest that quote has a bit too much “Oprah-ish-spirituality-find-your-inner-light-and-love-it”…for me…which I can say I’m just not a fan of…at all. But I think our friend sharing that quote meant well and I can see his heart behind it. He felt that I was brave, and bold, even in my weakness, and that I should no longer let fear hold me back from the things I feel passionate about.
And I believe a quote like that encourages the mindset that God loves to use what we feel is weak, including our fears and insecurities, for His glory…and sometimes that can be scary…but also absolutely amazing and liberating and freeing beyond anything we would have even known to hope for! We were made to do hard things, because it’s in our most fragile state when we can proclaim Him most boldly!
Friends, let me encourage you…having someone tell you to not live in fear is FAR easier said than done. But I can promise you this…as I faced my own self doubt and quietly, tearfully, fearfully walked toward one of my biggest terrors, I saw Him use all of my weakness to set me aside and make Himself great, and I am confident He will do the same in you. Don’t be afraid of hard things.
If I am going to write about facing fears, then you can sure bet that I am going to encourage you to do the same! God doesn’t stretch us just for us. It’s so that we can encourage others too. So…what is it for you?
Is there something the Lord is calling you to and deep down you know it, but you’re afraid? Is there someone He is wanting you to speak to, but you’re intimidated? Have you been blessed with a gift or some talent that you know is meant to serve others, but you’re holding back from fear or insecurity or self-doubt? Is there some way you can serve, is there someone you can reach out to, is there something you might just be really good at but are scared to tell others about it? Maybe it’s something you think you’ll be horrible at, like I felt with speaking…but God is calling you anyway…what is it? Where are you shrinking back and playing small? Where is your heart needing to give a little “yes”?
Perfect love drives away fear so the beginning of combating fear is knowing you are already loved and already accepted…by Jesus.
If you have been interested in listening to what I shared that day, the audio is below. I was shaking then, just as I am now as I share this…but to HIM be the glory!
(FYI: I’m not the first voice you hear when you click on the link….the intro for me begins at about the 1.30 mark and I start speaking at the 4.30 mark)
To the women of Scottsdale Bible Church MOMS group,
I cannot possibly thank you enough for your open arms toward me and my family. I went to middle and high school…I was in a sorority…I’ve seen how women can be…and as I prepared to meet with you that day all sorts of thoughts of how I might be received swarmed in my mind. Not knowing any of you was such a hurdle to wrap my head around!
I didn’t hear a word Tracy said before I got up on stage…I was so worried I would literally pass out! And I missed everything she said as I got down off the stage! I was so worried I’d fall down those little steps from shaking so badly!!!
But…can I just say, I was blown away by your receptiveness and kindness. You didn’t seem phased that I had never spoken before or that I lost my place or that I had to sit on a stool to avoid puking! You welcomed me anyway! There is not one of you that I wouldn’t want to spend more time around! You took me in, made me feel right at home, embraced me, comforted me, encouraged me, celebrated with me and cried with me. You all felt like instant friends/family. I could have stayed the rest of the day talking with each of you and hearing your stories…and truly wish I could have!
To face these fears of speaking for the first time in such a warm and loving environment was such an incredible gift. I couldn’t possibly have imagined it going better. You all are amazing women! Thank you just doesn’t seem to be enough.
Before I left Jess asked me if I would consider coming again…and I jokingly told her that I would need a nap before I could answer her!!! I was so wiped out!!! But a few days went by and I knew I couldn’t say no. I can’t wait to see you all again! It would truly be my honor to be able to spend more time with all of you once more and I cannot wait to return next year!
Thank you so much for all of your kindness, generosity, warmth and care for me and my family! Please don’t stop welcoming strangers like me into your group in that same way! I cannot encourage you enough to keep loving others as you do! I pray that they would know you are His disciples by your love for one another….you all are truly a gift!
Phil 1:3 “I thank my God in every remembrance of you!”
With His love,