Confidence Conference

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8
I volunteered at the Confidence Conference last year for a few hours, and I was impressed.  Not impressed at what God did, but what my young friends had put together and pulled off.  Hundreds of teenaged young ladies milling around, laughing, excited.  A main speaker who made them laugh and cry.  A band, a real band, that played a concert in the evening after providing worship for the teens during the day.  This wasn't a shabbily put together event.  These young friends of mine put on a real event.  And I was fascinated. 
When I was asked to be a speaker for the break out sessions this year, I was skeptical.  I knew one of the organizers and thought she was just being kind to ask.  Sure, I teach sometimes and I write more frequently, but I don't necessarily have the credentials of a speaking ministry.  Without giving it enough thought to turn it down, I said yes half hoping she would say "psych!"  She didn't, however, and, somehow, I was on the schedule.

Four sessions in one day. Telling my story, which can be awkward and cumbersome once, but I was going to do it four times! And of course inspiration to put the whole session came 2 evenings before the concert. I went to bed before the conference in knots wondering how I could get swindled into doing this. Who was I to think I had a message anyway??? But I left it with God as I drifted off to sleep.

On the day of the conference, I timidly ventured into this odd opportunity with props, my computer and lots of brothers and sisters praying for me.  I thought I had all my bases covered, but I found myself unprepared more often than not.  Like when the sweet middle school girl raised her hand proudly to tell me that she often feels different because she has arthritis and we talked about the ways that God might redeem that.  The young woman who bravely told her story about having a year when she went from relationship to relationship and how she was struggling to put her past behind her while her classmates only saw the same person.  Another edgy young lady shared that she is told that she has a bad attitude, but that she is really just trying to hide her insecurity.  The leaders who spoke to me after the session how they still struggle with not being held in bondage to what they have done in the past, despite years of grace and thanked me for reminding them of Galatians 5:1. People who appear much churchier than I shared how I could have been telling their story. The petite woman who ventured up to me to ask how long it might take till she is whole.  My heart... I heard my heart crashing like a glass to the floor and smashing into pieces.

We prayed together, as much for their needs as for mine. I didn't have all the answers that I imagined might soothe their wounds. I prayed silently while my mouth spoke other words-Father, we need you! I still pray for them, and me, in much the same way. We can do so little to change. We need HIS grace. I prayed even today for those who told me their names and those who were too shy.  

It is so challenging to put together what happened that day.  I don't know if I can.  It seemed so simple when my friend, the sweet scoundrel, asked me to share my story. I went to offer the young girls some hope, some encouragement.  I found that it happened quite the other way.  God showed up.  He encouraged both of us through one small story, a prayer prayed over and over, and the joy of knowing that our God redeems the past for our benefit and the benefit of others. 

I felt humbled and small at the end of the day. I was empty. Tired. But the peace I received, of seeing God show up in the day-in the faces of the young ladies, in the events of the day, in small and huge ways, and the amazement of knowing what a big and gracious God I love-and who loves me!, I can barely believe it still. 

Thank you, to all those who planned the Confidence Conference, to all those who attended the conference, and to all those who served at the conference. I have been blessed. More than I deserve. But that's what my session was all about, too...Saved by Grace.


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