5 Ways To Rock A Conference When You’re An Introvert

5 Ways to Rock a Conference as an Introvert

If you ever want to see me act completely awkward, put me at a conference with several hundred women who are changing the world with their words while I wander around trying not to get lost in the crowd. Or trying TO get lost in the crowd I never know which I would prefer!

Here’s the thing. I’m an introvert. Give me a computer screen, a keyboard, and a few minutes to put my thoughts together (with some heavy use of a backspace and several moments to stare blankly into space) and I can come across like this social ninja who has it all together.

In reality? Walking into Allume last year by myself was the single most terrifying thing that happened to me in all of 2012. I knew no one. If the conference hadn’t been 45 minutes from my house, I probably would have talked myself out of attending because of the fear of being by myself in a crowd of hundreds. And I’ll admit, while there were some fabulously amazing, life changing, God-inspired moments, there were also times when I wished I could melt into the walls. At one point I remember contemplating skipping lunch just to avoid the crowded buffet lines, or sitting and pretending to be on the phone rather than admit that I didn’t have anyone to hang out with.

If you’re an introvert and I’ll have the blessing of meeting you at Allume, I want to encourage you. We can rock a blogging conference! Here are some tricks I learned last year:

1. Show up.

This is key. You can’t rock it if you aren’t there! Can’t be there in person? You are officially in charge of keeping the Twitter party going!

2. Connect before the conference.

If this is your first time attending, join the “newbies” Facebook group. Put yourself out there online before the conference so that you already have friends you can look forward to meeting when you get there! Read the blogs of the other attendees, connect on Twitter, start putting real names to faces (you know..instead of Twitter handles..because it’s not awkward at all to only know someone by their Twitter name..ahem..). Connecting before the conference is also a great way to find roommates!

3. Do your homework.

If you’ve ever taken a DISC assessment, you’ll get what I mean when I say I’m a “high C.” Like a 99 on the scale. Mama loves her some information. So one of the things that helps me feel a little less anxious before a conference is to learn everything I can about the agenda, the speakers, the sessions, and the other attendees. Last year I even made a fabulous binder so I could remember who I wanted to meet, what sessions I wanted to go to, and where I needed to be at what time. It gives me a focus – so when I’m overwhelmed about meeting 300 women, I can take a step back and look for the women on my list first, to make the room seem a little smaller.

4. Give yourself grace.

Sometimes, it’s ok to take a break. The entire conference is going to be jam packed full of incredible information and resources. Even if you wanted to, you wouldn’t be able to be at everything. Need to leave the socializing time a little early to go grab a quiet shower and regroup? Snag a cupcake for the road and go for it. Feel God nudging you to take some quiet time for prayer? Follow His lead. It will be ok.

5. Ask questions!

Wondering if you should bring business cards? Or what to pack to wear in South Carolina in October? Or how breakout sessions will work? Ask us! Ask on these blog posts, ask on Facebook, ask on Twitter – we’re here for you. No question is too small or too silly.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? What are your biggest concerns about going to a big conference? I’d love to answer your questions or know how to pray for you!

On The Move

On The Move, by Crystal Stine; www.allume.com

It’s been over four years since I started blogging. Four years, 536 blog posts, hundreds of thousands of words given to me by God to use for His glory. It’s been a testimony of God’s faithfulness, the power of persevering, of discovering who I am, Whose I am, and why I write. It’s been so much more than a hobby.

Without my blog, I would not have:

  • Been introduced to the power of online community
  • Discovered my passion for encouraging women
  • Chased a God Sized Dream to become a Virtual Assistant
  • Met some incredible, life long friends
  • Been brave enough to go to Allume by myself last year
  • Watched God open – and close – doors to completely change my life

In my story, more than anything else, God has used my love for writing to bring me closer to Him. He has called me to stay in it, in faith, when I wonder why I should bother. In those moments when looking at blog statistics and comments and reach and all the other things that scream “success” whisper “failure” at me, God reminds me of the moment in middle school when a teacher saw my talent and invited me to join the school newspaper. He brings back the memories of the joy when I saw my stories in print for the first time. He reminds me that I once wanted to live in New York City and work for a magazine as an editor.

I laugh now at those dreams because they are so far from where I are, a toddler mama writing blog posts in a small town coffee shop. But really? Though the journey has been different, the passion is still there. The desire to write words that bless others – it now looks like encouraging women instead of working at a magazine. The joy of seeing my story printed – it now looks like guest posts at my favorite sites and seeing friends sharing my words when they touch a special place in their hearts.

This writing testimony? It has God’s fingerprints all over it, but I never see them when I’m in the middle of the mess, the early mornings of writing, the deadlines and the goals. It takes a moment of intentional reflection to look back and see what God has done, how He has changed me, and where He has taken me. He has a plan for your writing too – a story He wants you to tell, a testimony of faithfulness, answered prayer, His glory shining through words typed weary and afraid. God is on the move – let’s take a minute to see where He’s taking us. 

One Day She’ll Know

There are stories that need to be told. Blog posts that God has put on my heart to share, important words about life, Scripture, encouragement, chasing dreams. But sometimes? Among the piles of laundry, making your toddler their third hotdog in two days, and trying to figure out what happens between your new 9-5 when the old normal has been striped away – those stories can seem so far away from reality, the words hard to find.

One Day She'll Know

But those normal, mundane moments – when you add them up and pour love into them? When you write the words of the day-to-day of motherhood and marriage and life? They become more. They become our legacy, our gift to our children to let them know what life was like when they were little. Words they can read later to their children, moments of childhood captured & shared, stories of love, laughter, temper tantrums and survival. My daughter? One day she’ll read the story of how desperately we prayed for her. And then, probably as a teenager, we’ll share the story of her toddler meltdowns and her hatred of the bathtub. And then, when she is a mommy and facing the same challenges, we’ll pass along the stories of midnight car rides with parents desperate for sleep and how we survived on coffee, prayer, and encouragement.

All of these moments, in themselves, will never make me a famous author with book contracts and thousands of followers. But together, they’re so much more. They’re our legacy and our testament to God’s faithfulness.

One day she’ll read about herself, but also about how God answered prayers for our marriage. How He provided in perfect timing in ways beyond our imaginations, and how He walked us each through a road of refinement so beautifully painful that we could only be shaped more like Him. One day she’ll know how God changed our lives dramatically in six short months, when we asked Him to reveal God Sized Dreams and He opened and closed all the doors to get us here. She will read how God knew our hearts, our loves, even down to small things like gifts for our favorite coffee when we could no longer afford it on one income.

And while I write the words for her, I write them for you, too. I write the stories because in some small way I hope that you feel like you can relate. I pray that something I share makes you feel less alone. We walk this road as sisters, hearts desiring to create a community of women and writers, mamas and wives, who love God and others. We can change the world, change generations with the words we write. God can use our simple stories to move mountains, to build community that extends beyond blog posts and Twitter conversations. I’ve experienced a sisterhood so strong that it walks through my front door with the Papa John’s guy, dinner sent from a friend across the country, and it makes me want to tell the story so someone else can hear that God is faithful.  So I write them for myself, to help me remember God’s provision in my life, His goodness and kindness and perfect timing. I write them for her, a legacy of words. I share them with you, my sisters.

And above all, I pray that my story never gets in the way of God’s glory.

Choosing to Celebrate When It’s Not Your Turn

Celebrate

I read the excitement all over my social media feeds. Another amazing new community celebrating their start with a wonderful group of talented women who would be pouring words of encouragement into an exciting new venture. Or maybe it was a new blog that had just started and suddenly had hundreds of followers. Or maybe it was a conference team, a popular blog post, an opportunity of a lifetime presented to someone.

Someone else.

As in … not me.

Sure I do this/that/the other thing and yeah, I’m busy and have a family to take care of and probably not enough hours in the day as it is. But do you know where my mind immediately went?

“Why NOT me?”

It’s ugly, this side of pursuing my passions. The jealousy that springs up when my writing and talent aren’t being admired. When I’m not the first, second, or last chosen. When I’m not even in the running for something I never even knew was an opportunity.  It’s like the elementary school playground all over again but this time the enemy sneaks in with attacks so stealthy I’m nearly knocked flat.

Thoughts of “Oh this is so exciting for them!” turn to “I wonder why they didn’t think of asking me?” Then before I know it I’ve drifted down the path of “Maybe I should just give it all up. I’m really not a very good writer anyway.  I’m not sure anyone would miss me if I just silently walked away.” In the middle of the most exciting, blessed, fruitful time of my life, the enemy had just tried to convince me to leave what God created me to do. I recognized it for what it was, this time, and asked God to show me a different way.

God called me back. Spoke firmly to my heart what He wanted from my hands. I went to those new sites and left comments of love and encouragement. Sometimes through tears. But they didn’t need to know that. I joined the blog that had hundreds of followers because I knew I would learn to be a better writer through their shared wisdom. I sent a message of congratulations to the friend who just received the opportunity of a lifetime.

We are writers. Words are the core of who we are. They affect us deeply – good and bad – and the only way to escape the lies of the enemy is to listen to the Word of God speak into our hearts and let it lead our actions.

It doesn’t take 500-700 perfectly edited words with a great Pinterest friendly graphic to impact someone’s life. Sometimes, all it takes to make a difference is to use your gifts to pour encouragement into the lives of the other writers around you.

  • Celebrate with one another.
  • Confess your weaknesses and pray together over text messages and emails.
  • Share posts and build community.
  • Leave a {high five} in a blog comment when the enemy tells you it “should be you.”

You know what? God has other plans for you, my friend. Plans that are good and perfect for you. For your writing style, your words, your passion. We can’t all be chosen all the time. But we can all celebrate our friends when it’s their turn. You never know who might see you loving on your fellow writers, encouraging your sisters, supporting conferences and opportunities and decide that their project? You would be just the right person for the job.

A Modern Proverbs 31 Story

allume_stine

Hands groggily find phones and slide alarms into the snooze position to steal a few more precious minutes of sleep. Eyes bleary, feet hit a chilly floor to find coffee and solitude in the early morning hours, before toddler wakes and demands are made. Padding down the hallway to find community on the other side of the screen, women and mothers and wives and friends who travel these same early morning hours to work, plan, pray, and cheer together. Silent feet slide over and around and avoid spots known for creaking and cracking, ninja-like mama skills on display.

I meet God in the darkness, in the weary “before” time of my day. He meets me there, over cups of coffee, laptop clicking, living Word on touchscreens and the Holy Spirit alive and present in my closet office. I embrace my role as a Proverbs 31 woman:

“First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started. She senses the worth of her work, is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.” (Proverbs 31, MSG)

It’s a modern day version, early rising to connect on Twitter and start my day with Jesus loving accountability sisters, rolling up sleeves to work a corporate job, no hurry to call it quits for the day because the late night hours are when the joy-work happens.

Then there are days when those feet make it out of bed with just enough time to head out the door. There are days when the “to do” list grows and the dishes aren’t cleaned and the toddler won’t listen (and all she says is “no”…all…the…time…). There are days when the countdown to bedtime means mama is SO in a hurry to call it quits for the day.

And I am thankful for grace.

The  heart-work is done in the spare hours, the ones leading up to brushing teeth, finding baby doll, and waiting the eight years it takes a toddler to slide down 14 stairs when her hands are full of all. the. things. that are essential for a ten minute car ride. There is weariness in those hours, but an exhausted joy that comes from knowing that this work? The reason my sleeves are rolled up before the sun has peaked over the horizon? This is what God had in mind me for me from the very beginning. I am created for this work.

My cup runs over in the late hours, typing words that make souls stronger, planning and encouraging and writing and saying yes to my dreams. In the hours after lights are off, dinner is away, the bathtime bubbles have been stomped and little girl is snuggled asleep for the night. I’m in no hurry to call it quits for the day when I know the pouring into I receive when I pour out what God has put on my heart. The dream-work doesn’t get done during the mundane hours of 9-5. It happens in the sacrifice, the bleary, weary eyes of one who can no longer strive on her own but goes on purely by the saving grace of a Father who holds doors open just enough to let hope shine through.

And so a cup of coffee is poured as sleeves are rolled up. It’s a new day, friends. Let’s get to work.

Why Encouragement Works

photo (7)

Encourage one another.

It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Would you like to know a secret? It has been the single most effective way for me to build my blog.

And also required the heaviest sifting of my heart to find.

It has brought me the most joy and has found me more often than not on my knees before the Father in tears. I have had to put my selfish pride behind me and do things – in blogging, online communities, and real life – that bring glory to God. And it’s hard.

My natural tendency is to strive. To have a goal and do everything in my power to make it happen. When it works, my pride grows. When it fails, my pride suffers and I become insecure, comparing and wondering why it worked for “her” but not me. And that, sweet friends, is an ugly path I have traveled down far too often.

It is only by the grace of God, a powerful refining, and a softened heart that I now know the full joy of offering praise for the success of others. It’s not always easy. It takes practice, reaching out to someone and celebrating their achievement when you wish it was yours. In a world where competition is the norm and women are expected to be catty, not congratulatory, it takes practice.

But I can promise you this. When you go out of your way to share someone else’s amazing blog post, leave an encouraging comment for a blogger you admire, or send another writer information about an opportunity you think they would be perfect for, you are doing a hard thing. You are choosing not to keep it all for yourself, you are choosing to admit that you are not the only one who can do this thing and you showing this world that Christ’s light shines brightly when we live for Him and not ourselves. As I’ve opened my heart to those around me, as I’ve joined community and sought ways to encourage others, He has blessed me in incredible and unexpected ways.

Today, my amazing writing friends, let’s give God the opportunity to poke some holes in our pride so He has more room to shine. Be a light. Love one another the way Christ has commanded us to and take this “light living” from the pages of Scripture to the screens of blogs and out into our daily lives.

Encourage one another.

Who is God calling you to encourage today?

Crystal Stine
http://www.crystalstine.me

Change Lives, Live as Light

The words you are writing are important.

The ones trapped in your heart, the words you have to close your eyes to type because you aren’t sure if you have the courage to make your fingers move across the keyboard?  Someone needs to read them today.

The story you’re living and the legacy you’re leaving is one built by God, hand-crafted from breath and Word and you are the only one who can share it with the world. God did not mistakenly give you a passion for writing, communicating, speaking, song writing, rapping, singing, worshiping, glorifying – any way you slice it, the words are yours and the story is God’s and you are here to tell it.

light

Sometimes the story is hard. And it takes courage to put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, heart out for the world to judge.

Do it anyway.

Sometimes the story is funny. And it takes courage to be a light and shine Jesus, to share love and laughter with strangers who might not “get” you.

Do it anyway.

Sometimes the story seems like it’s been told before. And it takes courage to tell it again, your way, with your words, believing that someone needs to hear it from you.

Write the words.

I know how hard and discouraging it can be. I know what it’s like to steal minutes and hours in a closet-office away from the sleepy morning cries of a toddler snuggling with her daddy because that’s the only time you have. I know what it’s like to write with sleepy eyes late into the night with reality TV in the background and your laptop on your knees. I know how easy it is to believe that my words don’t matter. I know what it’s like to want to give up and I also know the blessing that comes from doing it anyway. I know what it’s like to click “publish” and read nearly the exact same post from a bigger blogger the next day. (you know, like my last post here at Allume!)

Don’t be discouraged. Don’t give up. Whether you realize it in this life or not, your words, when used for God’s glory, will change lives. Use the gifts God has given you and be the light someone else might desperately be searching for – let’s change some lives. 

 

Crystal Stine
http://crystalstine.blogspot.com

Avoiding “Um” and Claiming “Writer”

I recently had the following conversation with some co-workers after mentioning that I was looking for inexpensive airfare to South Carolina:

Them: “Oh, what’s in South Caroline?”

Me: “A blogging conference that I’m hoping to go to in the fall.”

Them: “Oh. You blog? What about? Who is it for?”

Me: “Um. You know. Just life. And. Stuff.”

I am nothing if not verbose and descriptive. I really wanted to just smack myself in the forehead after that conversation. Why was I nervous about telling them what I write about? Why didn’t I mention that I happen to be a contributing writer for Allume, the conference I’m hoping to go to? Why was it awkward to say that I write about my faith, my family and my passion is encouraging women?

Nope.

Clearly I went with “Um.”

And I missed an opportunity to not only share with my coworkers a piece of my life that I am passionate about, but I missed sharing about Christ. I missed sharing stories of the amazing women I met in real life at Allume last year, of the incredible opportunities that have occurred because of my writing, and mostly? I missed the chance to claim my title as “writer.”

In my embarrassment of having to figure out how to explain what it is I do, I let my insecurity run the show. So I decided to take a minute to figure how to avoid it in the future. Trust me. This is not ground breaking. It’s been done before.

I developed an elevator speech.

You know, the “how would you present your blog/brand/job/goals/etc. to someone if you only had a short elevator ride to do it in” speech. 30 seconds, max. One or two sentences to say what you do, why you do it, and how it’s unique.

Here’s mine: “I write because I love God and feel called to encourage other women through blogging, with the hope of building community through shared stories of life, faith and motherhood.”

You, my sweet blogging friends? Claim your title of “writer” today and avoid the “um.”  I’d be blessed if you would take a few minutes and tell us your elevator speech in the comments – I’d love to read them!  

Confession of an Achievement Addict

God is sifting me. 

Luke 22:31 “Crystal, Crystal, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Crystal, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your sisters.” (paraphrased)

God is taking what I considered to be my best and is shaking it free. My pride is being sifted out so all that remains is a humble heart and a body that can’t take a single step without the strength of the Holy Spirit. 

I have spent the last several years climbing. Quickly. Piling up achievements, honors, glory, praise, rewards. I’ve earned degrees, promotions, raises, elite certifications, hugs from high level executives. I’ve felt invincible.

And I acted like it. 

Until, by the grace of God, I almost lost it all. 

 I’ve been shaken to the core, rocked straight off that ladder I was so proud to be climbing. And the sifting? Goodness, friends it hurts. The tearing down of pride has left me empty, emotionally drained and questioning all I’ve worked for, all I’ve done, and where I go from here. 

My flesh would lean toward anger. If I could choose, I would point out everyone else’s flaws, faults and failures to keep that last toe on the rung of achievement. This refining though? It rips away what I would choose and leaves me weak to anything but the leading of the Spirit.

And in the tears and prayer God revealed a plan. To lift others up. To encourage, teach, lead, cheer for others. My coworkers. To lay aside my aspirations for achievement and help them rise to the next level. To step back from the growing, let roots dig deep and rest. 

For this achievement addict? It’s hard to stand to the side. But I know that in the end, when my faith does not fail and the sifting has glorified God, I will be able to add to the legacy I leave my daughter and my sisters in Christ. I will be able to strengthen others with my testimony. My daughter will see that I can succeed where it counts – bringing glory to the kingdom of God – and not just where I earn the praise.

So in this season of sifting and refining, I praise God for the opportunity to go through this process. For the strength He gives me each day, the humble heart He’s developing in me, and the way He’s using the gifts He blessed me with – encouragement – to bring honor to His name outside of my comfort zone. 

Because I know that the God of Angel Armies is always by my side. Even – no, especially – in this season. 

Crystal – http://crystalstine.blogspot.com

Counting on Christmas

The day draws closer. The countdown has begun. Whether you’re counting 25 days of Christmas movies on ABC Family, 12 Days of Christmas, or Sundays in Advent, Christmas is a season of counting. 

We count sleeps in my house. And I might get a *little* excited when I find out that someone else counts down in sleeps. It’s fun, you should try it {grin}.

There is something about this season, with the intentional counting of days, numbering them and celebrating them as they go by that makes time go just a little slower. The expectation of celebration at the end of the countdown makes the days between a little sweeter, a little longer. The chill in the air, hope for snow (but no ice, I hate ice), dreams of snuggling in comfortable clothes with sleepy little ones on brisk winter mornings while coffee brews energy in the kitchen. 

The counting helps me slow down and realize that it’s not about the craziness. Christmas isn’t about who gets which “it” gift, who spent more money, who has the cuter wrapping paper, who used post it notes instead of gift tags. 

Christmas is about Christ. It’s about the counting. Counting on Him to fulfill the prophecy set forth generations before His feet touched the earth. Counting down to the day Word became Flesh and the clock started. The counting down, not toward Christmas carols and decorations but toward eternity. Jesus came to earth. God became man. Lived among us, died for us, to give us a gift we could never earn – eternal life. 

This Christmas season, I hope you know that He did that for you? Came here, for you? You are loved by the same God who has created and counted the grains of sand in the ocean and has counted every hair on your head. Jesus counts you as His beloved. 

And because He counts us, we count down, toward the beginning of it all. 

Merry Christmas, from my family to each of yours. 

 

Crystal Stine

Broken for the Broken Hearted

I don’t hear from God very often, and when I do I usually need someone like Trina Holden to tell me that it happened (thank you for that).

I was sitting sleepily in one of my favorite Bible studies on a Saturday morning. The weather outside was crisp, memories of the snowy days to come lingering on the chill, and inside it was warm and comforting. We meet in a home that is so incredibly peaceful and beautiful that I can honestly say it’s one of the few places I covet. My heart is at peace the moment I walk through the door- always unlocked, always ready for the next visitor. The soft cadence of women’s voices moves through the home, inviting.  Multi-generational, from infants to great-grandmothers, we come together as sisters in Christ to learn Truth.

To be honest? I was a little distracted. My mind kept wandering to Allume. To conversations with sweet Michele-Lyn who has a heart broken by God to courageously and selflessly save babies. Conversations with Kris, Stacey, Holley, Lisa-Jo, Stephanie: women who have a purpose and direction from God and who shine Jesus. And I wondered, as my ears picked up bits and pieces of the lesson about the Holy Spirit, what God wanted to break my heart for, what He wanted to use me for…if He even wanted that?

I may be the only one who was surprised that I would find a response nestled in the soft places of my heart during a lesson on the Holy Spirit. I mean. Really.

I wrote it quickly in the margin of my notebook, afraid to forget and, admittedly, even a little bit afraid to claim it: “He breaks my heart for the broken hearts of others.”

Not a specific people group or country. Not what the “in” cause is in our church or in my group of friends. Nothing new. No “I’m sending you to THIS country” or “I want you to sell all your things” or “I want you to lead/preach/teach/quit your job/move to a new state/start a church/etc.”

In a way, this revelation? It’s more of a confirmation. A reason why God created me to wear my heart on my sleeve, to live life so empathetically that I hurt when others hurt. It explains the lump in my throat when a sister shares a heartache and the desire I have to share authentically and encourage relentlessly because I know. I know what it’s like. And I can do this calling from anywhere. With my family.

And now?

I guess I wait on the Lord to open the doors He wants for me. 


Crystal Stine
http://crystalstine.blogspot.com

Be Filled

I wrote a cute post for today. It had a fun theme, I had it planned in my head for two weeks, and over the weekend I felt convicted to write something else. 

You see, that post? The cute one? It was all about me. It pointed to me. To what I wanted to say, what I wanted to tell you about myself with a little twist at the end that added a sprinkling of God. Sometimes in this amazing online community – even when I’m surrounded by women who love & shine Christ – it becomes about me. It becomes about writing something that will be reTweeted and shared on Facebook, about comparing myself to the “big bloggers” and creating my “brand” online.

It needs to be about Him. 

God doesn’t want to be a seasoning at the end of a blog post, something so subtle that a reader might not be able to tell that what I write is for God’s glory and not mine. He calls US to be the salt and light. He doesn’t say “go live your life and, if you think of Me, add a quick mention of Me at the end.” I am convicted by the grace of a God who loves me enough to pull me away from myself. He reminds me to give glory in all things because He alone is the One who provides. Everything I write about, the words I use, the ability to use social media to communicate a message – those are gifts from Him to do His work in this ever changing world. 

God loves community. He created the first community with Adam & Eve when He Himself determined that it was not good for Adam to be alone. We are created to live life together, and the blessings of blogging and social media have been tremendous assets in my relationship with Christ. I have found accountability, encouragement and friendship. But I have also allowed myself to become so caught up in trying to be all things for all people across all areas of my life – including social media – that I become empty. And I try to keep pouring out and suddenly it becomes easier for it to become all about me. Sweet friends – take time to refill. 

God love us enough to use us where we are. Even – maybe especially – when we are empty. I am humbled to my knees when He reminds me that I am chosen, loved, and redeemed. You are chosen by the God who created the entire universe. You were given talents and gifts by the God who formed everything from nothing. He loves you, and we’re called to be part of community and love one another because the One who designed our lives is Love. God has great plans to use your life for His glory, He has plans for good, He has plans to redeem. Take time to be filled. 

I don’t write this because I have it all together. I write these words because I’m, quite frankly, a big messy work in progress. As it is written so beautifully in Philippians 3:12-14: “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”

Crystal Stine

The Key

The cool, crisp air slipped past my skin as footsteps fell on crushed gravel paths. No music, no TV, no small child climbing me like a jungle gym. Everything was simplified.

One foot in front of the other.

Breathe in. Breathe out.
 
Pray for the timer to beep so the torture can stop for a minute and this out of shape, no endurance “wanna be” runner can gasp for air and come to her senses.

Not me.

 
I’m tempted to give up on running. I really don’t like it, I’m actually pretty awful at it, and I’m slower than a snail stuck in gum. When I was looking for a good beginner running app in the iTunes store, I settled on C25K (“couch to 5k”) simply because they didn’t offer one called “Nutella and Sweatpants to 5K.”
 
I’m really not sure what part of my brain thought that meeting a good friend (who happens to love running, is running a half marathon, and has been running for years) for a nice short run was a smart idea. She was gracious. She ran slowly. She waved to other runners and chatted and made it look easy and part of me hated her for it while the other part was completely envious. She encouraged me every step of the way, gave me tips & made me laugh. She didn’t mind that I was breathing like Darth Vader for the 3 minutes of running.
 
I had every intention of pushing myself well beyond my usual 2 miles. I had 4 miles in mind. If I could do that, well the 5K would be easy peasy, right? God had some very interesting alternative plans for me that morning. Starting with realizing around 1.5 miles that I’d lost my car key. You know. The one that was OH SO SECURELY tucked inside my iPod shuffle arm band. Apparently my amazing muscle tone (ahem…jiggle) and graceful running (see: elephant stampede) somehow knocked it loose from its home. And being the observant gal that I am, I had no idea when it happened.
 
I waved goodbye to my friend as she ran the 11 miles back to her car and turned around to retrace my steps. A million thoughts ran through my head about where my key could be. What I would do if I didn’t find it (cell phone may have been locked securely in the car. I am all about safety.). Worst case scenario on top of worst case scenario. The weather was still gorgeous, cool and crisp, but the uncertainty of my ability to drive home to my family took away any hope I had of enjoying the walk back to my car. Oh there was no running on the way back – I feared that if I ran, I would focus on my breathing/stride/time and zip right past that key on the ground.
 
All I could do was pray. For over a mile of crunchy, tree-shaded trail I prayed that God would help me find that key. I passed three gigantic dogs pulling their owners on a run and prayed that they hadn’t eaten my key. Or worse. Ick. I walked past other runners, walkers, hikers and prayed that they weren’t hoarding my key in their pocket so they could steal my car later. I prayed that my car would still be in the parking lot when I returned to it. I prayed that God would just tell me when to stop on the trail when I got to my key.

I spent a beautiful autumn Sunday morning trusting God to help me find that key. And He did. Right at the trail head. In the middle of the path. Where all those dogs, runners, walkers, hikers, and bike riders had gone past it and left it untouched. By the grace of God I found my key, and in doing so realized that the key to it all was leaving it in God’s hands.

So now, looking ahead to where God has me in this season, I know the key is right in front of me. More rest, peace, wisdom and clarity. I don’t need to be in an emergency situation to stop and lean on God – but I do need to hand control over to Him in my every day. My plans are nice, but His are perfect. So I’ll turn off the TV, let the little one use me as a jungle gym, and turn it over to the One who cares about the big stuff, the little stuff, and all the stuff in between.  
 
I might never be a runner, but at least now I’m moving in the right direction.
 
Crystal Stine

Handing Over Control

“I love the uncertainty of what’s ahead as long as I’m in the security of God’s hands.” 
– Beth Moore, “James: Mercy Triumphs” 
 
I like change. 
 
Ahem. I should clarify.
 
I like change that I have control over and know that the end result will benefit yours truly. Change is good. I heard once that you should change your hairstyle if you’ve gone 3 months without someone complimenting you on how your hair looks. Easy. I change my nail polish weekly. In fact, I couldn’t choose a color this last time so every fingernail hitting this laptop keyboard is different. Changing clothes can take me from a “blah” mood to feeling fabulous and ready to take on the world. A change of scenery can give me new perspective on a situation I’m going through. Living in PA I get to be blessed by the change of seasons and nothing thrills me more to move from icky hot summer into gorgeous cool fall. Bring on the pumpkin spice lattes, football games & fires.
 
But if I’m going to be honest with you (and we know I can’t be any other way), real – significant – change scares me. The kind of change that you have no control over, no idea what the end will be, and certainly no clue about what outfit you should wear when it’s all said and done. 
 
 
I would avoid the scary changes if I could. I would do everything to stay in my comfort zone at home, at work, at church, and with friends. I would never have to go through uncertainty at work, not knowing where I’ll be working, who I’ll report to, or what I’ll be doing. I wouldn’t have to wonder why God might be calling us away from our church – with no idea what the future would hold. It would all be wrapped up, status quo….and probably really really boring.
 
My posts here at Allume seem to have a theme where I share the baby steps I’m taking in my walk with Christ. This is one of the big ones for me. Convincing my Type-A, controlling heart to trust that God has the best plan for me. That I can walk into uncertainty with excitement because I know that the God of the universe has gone before me and nothing surprises Him. I can walk confidently. I can pursue what He has put on my heart without fear. I can write that song He put in my heart, I can wake up early to be in His Word (even though I’m NOT a morning person), I can do the hard thing and be ok with change because my God will hold me in His hand.
 
And friend? He’s got you, too. 
 
Whatever change you have going on in your life right now, you are not going through it all by yourself. The struggles, questions, fears, uncertainty – practice giving it over to God’s quite capable hands. I’ll be there with you – handing over a piece of control at a time, praying my way through it. Praying for you, through it. 
 
It’s easy to be excited about changing your hairstyle. Let’s pray for each other that we would learn to be as confident through the big stuff – and that how we handle those situations would shine the Father’s grace & glory on those around us. 
 
How can we pray for you today?

Unlocking My Inner Nehemiah

It was one of “those” weeks. Nothing was going right at work. I was irritated with my boss, the clothes in my closet, and life in general.  Our baby girl was sick and refused to eat. My alarm failed to go off three days in a row and I missed my time at the gym. I messed up my shower routine and shaved my legs BEFORE washing my hair. I put blush on before my foundation. I had to iron a shirt with my straight iron (on the plus side, it worked!). During my quiet time on our deck my sweet husband locked me out of the house.

Locked. Out.

In my pjs.

At 6:30 a.m.

And he got in the shower, so my annoyed, pounding on the door was futile. I fumed. I fussed. I finally remembered where the spare key was hidden. Off I traipsed, around the yard in my shabby pajamas, barefoot, annoyed, and had to try EVERY DOOR before I found the one our key opened.

Y’all didn’t know I was so full of grace and loveliness in the mornings, did you? Oh yes. I’m a charmer. Ahem.

I wish I could tell you that God spoke a good Word into my heart while I was in the shower that morning, about forgiveness or being still and enjoying the time I had outside with His creation.  But I can’t lie to you. I’m entirely too humbled to share this space to make myself out to be more than I am. I was just fed up with the foolishness of my week and wanted to cry “uncle.” Or just cry.

Instead, I write to you. I tell you about my bad week, hoping it will make someone feel less alone for not having the perfect reaction all the time. And as it gets out of my head and onto the screen, it makes space to hear God to remind me that He is doing a good work in my heart, whether I recognize it or not. He has plans for me, changes He desires in my heart and my relationship with Him, and the big one, right now, is prayer. He wants me to learn to pray, to follow the example of the faithful in scripture, like Nehemiah.

Nehemiah who chose prayer first, action second (if at all). Nehemiah  prayed for months when he heard what was happening in Jerusalem (Chapter 1) before he had an opportunity to act. He prayed under his breath before asking permission to go rebuild the wall (Chapter 2). He prayed when the builders were under attack (Chapter 4), before arming them and reminding them to focus on God and their families, and on and on.

God wants me to trust that He hears me, as frustrated as I am when I feel like a broken record and nothing seems to change for months at a time. When I feel attacked. When I forget why I’m doing what it is He called me to do. When I feel locked out of where I think I should be and nothing I do is working, He wants me to pray.

I’m nearly 30, and I admit that I don’t really know how to pray. I can say the words, sure, but my heart isn’t always engaged. I am, however, desperate and willing to learn. If this is an area you struggle with, I’d invite you to join me in asking God to reveal how we can unlock the doors to a fruitful and sweet prayer life with Him.

As I study through Nehemiah this summer, I’m committing to pray faithfully for God to reveal to my heart how He wants me to use the passions and talents He’s given me, to open doors and to walk in faith. What has God asked you to commit to prayer this season?

A Calling

I said yes to God the other day, driving home from work on a Tuesday. For once in this dreary PA spring it wasn’t raining and I was thinking about how beautiful the sky was. Randomly, in the  middle of that thought, in my heart I heard: “I want you to speak.”

Maybe now is a good time to fill in the blanks.

God isn’t just asking me to talk more at work or at home. He was asking me to put myself out there and offer to speak His truth to a group of high school students in Western PA. Sound scary? Yeah. It is. The worship band that I’m blessed to manage has the opportunity throughout the year to play at youth events, and I’m not being biased at all when I tell you these guys are amazing. God glorifying men who love to use the talents He gave them to share Truth? It gives me chills.

Occasionally we’ll also be asked to speak at one of these events, and either Nick, our electric guitar player, or Chris, our drummer, will share their testimony and speak to the theme of the event. I usually prefer a back stage role.

Did I mention that God asked me to speak? And I said yes? Oh and the theme of the event?

Fear. 

In the time it took me to finish my drive home I had thought of a few good examples I could use – degrees of fear that I’ve experienced. I even thought about sharing with them how hubs (our bass player) and I met, tried to think of funny “openers” and solid verses to encourage them, like Joshua 1:9 “Be strong and courageous, the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (my life verse). And then I got scared.

And the enemy started with the “what ifs” and I almost didn’t even tell my husband about it. But I did. And he was supportive. So I sent a text to see if anyone was giving the talk at our show. Ahem. See what I did there? I got nervous and didn’t say “Hey guys, God wants me to do this talk” – which they would have supported 100%. I asked if anyone else was doing it. And someone is, because they always do. So I didn’t say anything else.

If you were hoping for a fairy tale ending, I’m not your girl. My journey in my relationship with Jesus is beautiful, but not perfect. 

I said yes to God. In a “baby steps” kind of way I can be ok knowing that I received His request with an open heart and tried. I won’t consider it a failure that I’m not in front of those students this time. But you can bet I’ll be praying for courage, a new opportunity, and the chance to use this story for His glory.