We were walking out of the hotel early Sunday morning, October 25th, 2014, catching the crack-of-dawn shuttle back to the airport. A rag-tag group of writers who had all come to Allume with an agenda: We planned to build our platforms, build connections, build our individual brand. But leaving together at the end of the weekend, 18 women crammed into one small bus, it was obvious that God was more concerned about building our faith, building relationships, building up hearts.
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)
I’m not saying that it’s wrong to have an agenda, as long as we come to each new day and opportunity remembering who’s plan always prevails… if we’re soft enough to yield.
Last year I was a newbie, a first timer, an Allume virgin, so to speak. I flew into South Carolina knowing one whole person there. Still, I had it all planned out – how I’d bring my beautiful business cards and tantalize people with my dynamic personality and conversation, I’d meet with agents and publishers, take copious notes, and leave with knowledge and connections that would benefit me in the future. That last line really sums it up.
I hope you don’t all hate me for being honest up front. I’m just taking a risk and painting this picture incase some of you are prone to the same first time hopes and dreams. And like I said, they’re not all bad… as long as we’re quick to bend in the direction God has planned for us to go. Yielding to His push, His pulse, His prodding.
When I first arrived at the hotel last year, the Lord immediately started orchestrating His plan for me. I settled into my hotel room, slipped into my first fun outfit, grabbed my first cute handbag, and rummaged through my things to make sure I had everything I needed to achieve my agenda. Only… where was my little orange business card case that perfectly matched my branding? NOT THERE – That’s where! And the only cards I had, were half a dozen rumpled ones stuffed in the backside of my wallet.
My roommate promised me that very few people even bring business cards and fewer still hand them out, and told me to just hold onto them if I ended up meeting with any agents or publishers. So I shoved them back into my wallet, and walked out of that hotel room telling the Lord that I was open to whatever He had planned for me.
The elevators announced the ground floor with a loud and happy “Ding” and the doors opened. Right off, I recognized a woman that I had connected with online and cautiously walked toward her group. I introduced myself to them and was astounded by the immediate welcome of so many like-minded women. There in that very moment I started relationships with Jacque Watkins, Brooke McGlothlin, Stacey Thacker, Heather MacFadyen, Diane Bailey and Wynter Evans Pitts. Enveloped in the instant familiarity and open-armed welcome of community, my agenda fell limp and purposeless to the ground – and I knew that God had something bigger and better in store for me than I had planned.
On the last night of our time together, God was kind enough to speak directly to my heart through our keynote speaker, Sophie Hudson. She had us laughing from the start, but then suddenly leaned into the microphone and started talking about relationships. This is what she said:
“We have got to choose building relationships over building anything else.”
I knew her words were God’s Word for me, for I had bought my ticket to Allume that year, thinking that I was going to learn how to build my blog. But God wanted me to catch the vision of building something even better… relationships. Sophie encouraged us to be a safe place for one another. She challenged us, “What you’ve been called to, does not diminish what the Lord has called me to.” And then she told the familiar story of Mary, the mother Jesus, arriving at her cousin Elizabeth’s home.
Sophie reminded us that Elizabeth was carrying an honest to goodness miracle inside of her! (And aren’t we all? Full of miracle stories, miracle families, miracle dreams, miracle callings?) Yet still, when Elizabeth saw young Mary, the child in her womb leapt, and she knew instantly that she was hugging another of God’s miracles! In that moment she wasn’t thinking about herself at all!
Elizabeth made no attempt to promote herself, steal the thunder, or show off her own miracle. Instead she announced in a loud voice: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (Luke 1:42-45)
I was seated in the very back of the room that night. As Sophie closed her message and the worship team took the stage I looked around the enormous dinning room and felt compelled to lift my hands. I prayed God’s blessing on each and every woman there. Then I thanked the Holy Spirit for gently shifting my gaze from my own agenda to His agenda, and then on from there to the plans He has for others around me.
This year as I prepare for Allume, I am praying the words that I had scribbled at the bottom of my note taking page that last night:
Dear Lord, Give me the eyes to see who I might encourage, support, and promote, rather than being on the lookout for others who might encourage, support, and promote me!”