What’s Next?

Last year, I took my commitment to grow as a communicator to another level when I attended the Speak Up Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I signed up to attend again this year, but was stressed over the time away from my family and the time off from work. I almost backed out.

I’m thankful I made the trip, because it was exactly what I needed. I didn’t believe it was possible for this year’s Speak Up Conference to be as outstanding as last year’s, but it exceeded my expectations again.

I reconnected with friends, made new ones, and learned a wealth of new information from the remarkable staff of publishing and speaking professionals. I’m summarizing my time at the conference this year differently than I did last year, because this year’s conference was a heart check.

The conference was exactly what I needed because I was reminded of a few things.

First, I was reminded God loves the broken and uses us too.

That’s all He has, because we’re all broken and we all, deep down, want to know our lives matter. We all want the day in and the day out of our lives to mean something, to know it’s not all a waste.

Sometimes, it’s easy to think there’s no way God could or would use the mess of my life for His kingdom purposes. But He has, He does, and He will.

Second, I was reminded why I do this.

God gave me the gift of writing, so I write to share my story, others’ stories, and the story of Jesus and how I’m learning to follow him wholeheartedly. I write to encourage, inspire, and connect. To give hope, to make you ponder a question you’ve never asked before, to make you laugh or cry. To help unlock a memory stored away. I write to help you see someone in a different light, or help you start the journey of forgiving, or put into words what you can’t seem to.

I write to pass it on.

If my experiences teach you something, reveal a truth, make you think about something you’ve never thought about before, or simply make you feel less alone, that is enough.

Lastly, I was reminded of Who this is all for. It’s all because of Him and for Him. When I gave my life to Jesus decades ago, I told Him to take it all. I meant it with all my heart, but I had no idea what I was in for. All I knew was He loved me and I didn’t want a life without Him. I’ve said yes to Jesus again and again since then and I’m saying yes now.

So what’s next? What do I do with all my ideas and dreams?

I’ll seek Him and pray. I’ll keep following Jesus, living my life, and loving the people God gave me. I’ll serve my family, do my job, and look for ways to love others. Prayerfully, with a heart to do it all well. I’ll learn as I go with plenty of mistakes. I’ll pray for opportunities to teach and serve and share my stories. I’ll write and I’ll dream.

And I’m more ready and determined than ever to live like it matters and inspire others to live like it matters.

What about you? What are your dreams and what’s next for you?

 

Photo by Raul Petri on Unsplash

 

 

 

The Take Away

Last week was a a life changer for me. My heart was refreshed, my confidence renewed, and I was reminded of why I do what I do. I attended a conference called Speak Up, a speaking and writing conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I will glean from the abundance of all that was shared at the conference for a long time. There’s still a lot for me to sort through but I know the people I encountered and the knowledge I gained are what impacted me the most.

The People

The most significant take away:  new friends, colleagues, and mentors who want me to succeed and are willing to share their knowledge and help me grow. They not only shared their expertise, they shared the stories of their lives. The kinds of stories that caused hope to grow in our hearts. The conference director, keynote speakers, other writers, an editor with a large publishing house or author of several books. Speaker to thousands or one just starting out. It didn’t matter….all were generous with their knowledge, stories and encouragement.

I was able to participate in a critiquing session at the conference. Authors, publishers, editors or literary agents were given samples of our writing to read aloud. The group then offered encouragement, feedback, and critique of our work. This was the first time professionals evaluated my writing and I’m thankful for the opportunity to hear from them.

The Knowledge

Without even meaning to, I learned a whole new vocabulary last week. I know what a pub board is and what literary agents and acquisition editors do. I learned how important felt need is to a book proposal and the process of a book getting published from beginning to end. I didn’t take the speaking track but I learned so much from those who did during our conversations at lunch or mingling in hallways.

The breakouts were valuable sources of information and practical advice on a variety of topics. I now have a collection of resources I’ll use over and over again as I take my next steps.

But what now?

I Work.

If I do nothing with the knowledge and renewed confidence I’ve gained then my time at the conference is wasted. I’m better equipped to do the work of writing and sharing what I write and what it takes is work. Lots of it.

Having a simple system or plan in place will help me stay focused and disciplined with the work. At least it will make the work more manageable.

Where Are You

Where are you in pursuing the dreams of your heart? What are your gifts and talents? Your work or craft? God gave them to you and they’re meant to be used to offer the world something wonderfully unique.

Each of you has received a gift to use to serve others. Be good stewards of God’s various gifts of grace.   1 Peter 4:10

Whatever your craft, passion, or dream – people, knowledge, and work are important influences.

Gather with others who share your passion or those who want to learn your craft. Whether they’re experts or newbies, the ideas and know-how exchanged will be beneficial. Who better to give feedback than someone who knows or wants to know your craft?

Surround yourself with people who believe in and encourage you. It’s important to have others who will remind you of why you do what you do and dream what you dream.

There are lots of ways to get the knowledge you need. Take classes offered at your local college. Join a club or read a book. Ask a master if you can watch and learn. And remember……you can Google and find a You Tube video of almost anything. Make a habit of learning something new about your passion every day.

Now the work.

Practice doesn’t always make perfect but it makes us better. Make time for the doing of your craft. For some of us this means it happens after a full day’s work, dinner, and laundry. A calendared plan will help get you through your low energy levels. This is also when those encouraging friends and mentors will remind you why you do what you do and give you the boost you need to keep at it.

One of the keynote speakers, Bruce Martin, quoted a verse in his talk. My verse. The one I’d underlined and highlighted and starred years ago because it said what I felt so strongly!

But if I say, “I will not mention the Lord
    or speak anymore in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire,
    a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
    indeed, I cannot.     Jeremiah 20:9

This is why I do what I do. More than with the words I write…..but with my life…..and how I live it. Every part of it. The good parts and the messy ones. My life at home and work. My writing and speaking. Who I am with the people who love me and those who hurt me. Who I am with strangers and friends.

Let our craft, passions, and dreams…….let our entire lives tell of the One who gave them to us.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

 

Am Learning

I’m attending my first writer’s conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This means several things.

First, it means I know I’m a writer.

Second, it means I’m telling others I’m a writer.

Both of those are remarkable because only a few years ago I wouldn’t say it. I thought it and part of me knew it, but I kept it to myself except to those who knew me best.

Attending this writer’s conference means some other things. It means I’m eager to learn from others about what to do with my writing. It also means I’m willing to make an investment in learning my craft.

I’ll share more about it after I’ve had time to process everything I’ve gained from being here, but I can confidently say after two full days of the conference that it’s one of the best investments I’ve ever made. It’s better than I anticipated and the knowledge, support, and encouragement I’ve received is priceless.

What’s your craft? What are you passionate about? What do you dream of doing?

I encourage you to take a step toward your passion. Make an investment to learn all you can. Connect with others who have the same dream.

And see what happens.

“You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.”     Matthew 5:14-15

 

Photo by Ian Schneider