Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Relevant Story

Finding the words to describe my experience at the Relevant conference will not be easy. But the first step, as always, is putting pen to paper (or in my case, fingers to keyboard) and just diving in.

Before I left for Relevant, I had
completely lost my motivation for blogging. My most recent posts chronicled my Haiti trip, simply because I felt I owed it to those who had participated in the giveaways and raffles that I posted in order to raise money for the trip. I didn’t want to leave anyone wondering if I was a complete liar who hadn’t gone there at all, or whether I had just set up shop in Port Au Prince and not returned. In all reality, though, I don’t think anyone was waiting with bated breath for those posts, because I had so completely slipped off the radar of the blogosphere. And in all reality, it’s a completely self-involved notion to imagine that anyone is waiting with bated breath to hear what I have to say.

I had become exhausted by all the tweeting, facebooking, reading, writing, commenting, e-mailing… and all other tasks involved with trying to be a "successful" blogger. The number of blog subscriptions pouring into my inbox became overwhelming, and I felt that I was responsible to read them all. At some point
I basically just gave up on all of it and let myself become nearly invisible in cyberland.

So, the date was approaching… the conference that I had been so excited to attend when I bought the ticket. Back in the days
when blogging was a joy and not a chore, and the idea of networking and fellowshipping with other Christian women bloggers left me with a feeling of exhilaration and anticipation, as opposed to an onslaught of social anxiety. But I knew that God wanted me there, so I obeyed. And oh, how He blessed me for my obedience.

I must admit, the social anxiety piece did not fade when I arrived at the conference. I was surrounded by beautiful, sweet, down to earth, and exceptionally real women, some of whose
hearts and voices I’ve known for months from reading their blogs. I still felt overwhelmed. For those of you who met me and thought I seemed guarded, stand-offish, or, on some occasions, comatose, please excuse my bizarre behavior. Behind my glazed eyes and plastered smile was just a socially phobic introvert who was overwhelmed with it all, but bursting to yell out, “You are all so amazing! Can we be best friends?” And to those I genuinely got to know, thank you for sticking it out with me.

It turns out, though, that social networking was not the reason God had me at the conference. His purpose in bringing me there was not that I meet and mingle with other women. He wanted me there to meet with
Him. I hope there is another Relevant conference next year, and that by that time I’ll be less overwhelmed with everything so that I can get to know many of the sweet women better. But I will be eternally blessed by the way God spoke to my heart at this year’s conference.

It was surprising, at a blogging conference, to hear the message of making your blog less of a priority. But this was the underlying, or in some cases overriding message, of every speaker at Relevant. They encouraged their captive audience that their relationship with the Lord should be first priority, and for those who had them (which I’m pretty sure was everyone at the conference but me) their husbands and children should be second. If, and only if, there was extra time and energy beyond those two priorities, blogging could find its place.

I do not, as you know from reading my blog or at least the last paragraph, have a husband or children. But God, through the obedient vessels that were the speakers at the Relevant conference, drove the point home that He should always be my priority, and He rarely is. In the past, blogging was an excuse, or in more serious terms, an idol. But as my excitement for it faded, other things took its place (general distractions of this life.) No matter what though, I always seem to find something to put before Him.

In sum, what I learned at my first blogging conference had nothing to do with blogging at all. I need to return my heart to my Lord, and make Him my very first priority in all things.

Additionally, I learned a ton about blogging intentionally and authentically, and over the next few months I hope to figure out how to integrate all that information and wisdom into my own blogging. On top of that, I was released from the insane pressure I was putting on myself to keep up with everyone and everything in the social networking world. I would love to pass on many of the lessons I learned. I also want to be more vulnerable in sharing all the pieces of my own story, which was another major theme at the conference. But I can’t promise anything immediate, because I have a lot of lost time to make up with my Savior. And I know that
HE is waiting with bated breath to spend time with me.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Haiti: The Hope

"Before them the earth shakes,
the sky trembles,
the sun and the moon are darkened,
and the stars no longer shine.
The Lord thunders at the head of his army;
his forces are beyond number,
and mighty are those who obey his command.
The day of the Lord is great;
It is dreadful.
Who can endure it?
'Even now,' declares the Lord,
'return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.'
Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity."

Joel 2:10-13

If you'd like to, you can read the first 3 parts of my Haiti Journey here: The Heartbreak, The Joy, and The Work. Now for the best way to end things, with Hope:

I was in the middle of Beth Moore's study of Esther when I went to Haiti. This was certainly no accident. In week four, she refers to several verses in Joel. These verses (above) were absolutely what I needed to read while I was there, so that I could experience hope rather than despair in light of what I was seeing and experiencing.

Beth Moore says this: "God had told his people from the time of Moses that He'd protect them and fight their battles for them as long as they worshipped Him only. If they forgot Him, He would still love them but He would not shield them. Instead, He'd use their enemies to turn His people back to Him."

I don't know whether God caused the earthquake in Haiti, but I know that He allowed it to happen. I don't know why Haiti, I certainly don't believe that the people there are any more wicked than the rest of us sinners. But I do know that God is just, loving, gracious and compassionate. And I know that He will use whatever means He needs to return our hearts to Him.

After reading these verses on my air mattress on the cement floor of a Haitian school, I was comforted. Because there is a revival happening in Haiti. Souls are returning to their father.

The next day, I heard a woman's story of her experience during the earthquake. I can't properly tell the story, nor explain how much it moved me. But what I remember most is that she told us that after the earth stopped shaking, there was a beat of silence, and then a terrible wail went up throughout the city of Port Au Prince (and the rest of the country, no doubt.) A weeping and mourning in the land, the likes of which she had never heard before and would never forget.

And with weeping and mourning, we return to Him. He relents from sending calamity, but He will. So that we can spend an eternity with Him, laughing and dancing. That is the hope, my friends.

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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Haiti: The Work

The first two parts of my Haiti Journey are here: The Heartbreak and The Joy

The work that we did in Haiti was at a school called Gressier, which will house about 1,000 kids when it is open. Here are some pictures of the work site:

This is the beautiful view from the back of the school:

Some of the time, we worked on clearing the classrooms of the construction rubble. Before we went in they looked like this:

And after a lot of shoveling, pick-axing, and wheelbarrowing, they looked like this:

The rest of the time we spent shoveling and sifting dirt and sand which would later be mixed to make cement.

This was my "boss," Elifa (I have no idea if that's how you spell it.) His only English was "spread" (the dirt) and "Wait for me, I'll be right back." He was a bit of a perfectionist, but when I finally got it right, he was sure to let me know that he was happy with my work. ("Moi contente.")

We took breaks under the shade tree, to get out of the beating sun. The only problem was the fire ants that would dive bomb from the tree and bite the heck out of us. But the shade was still worth it.

We also spent a lot of break time with the kids who lived on the property, and the neighborhood kids who came to visit with us.

I cried the day we went to our work site to say goodbye. Even though the physical labor was the hardest I've ever worked in my life, and the heat and humidity was exhausting to work in, the time I spent on the site was my favorite part of the trip. Working side by side with the Haitian men, and trying our best to communicate despite the language barrier, but finding that by the third day, they were our friends. Seeing the progress in the school and knowing that many kids would be blessed by it. Laughing and playing with the kids, and seeing their precious faces everyday. It went by in a flash, and I was not ready to leave. But I wouldn't trade the experience for the world.

The last piece in the Haiti Journey is The Hope.

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