"How did the conference go?"
Many of you have asked me since watching my Instagram stories where my husband was building this gorgeous handmade pop-up shop setup for me.
God did not answer my prayers in the way I hoped He would.
I spent much time praying - weeks preparing - for a conference this past Saturday.
I've prayerfully decided to let this part of my journey unfold in real-time before you.
It's a little edited, but this blog post is basically my journal entry from early Sunday morning, processing with the Lord what happened at the conference.
I write down my thoughts and feelings in black and white words - because forming each word is an intentional choice that goes from my unseen mind and heart into my hand and my visible world.
It's helpful to me to see the perspective and response I'm choosing.
I don't want a life directed by my all-over-the-place thoughts and feelings. But by intentional choices in His presence, in the brilliant light of who He is.
I shape words so I can better cooperate with the Word who is shaping me.
I pray exposing a part of my process to you encourages and strengthens you in your own relationship with God.
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Abba, I'm recording this next step in my journey so Your faithfulness will be better recognized and understood in the future.
Yesterday can easily feel like a "quit-worthy" event.
It was a massive loss in terms of money and time invested vs. immediate return.
It seems like a lot invested for no profit.
But - to the best of my ability, I sought You and followed You each step of the way.
You know my sincere desire is to obey and follow You. I know my desire lines up with Your will. You know my frustration, confusion, exhaustion.
So what now, Lord?
I know You want me to be a good steward of the resources You've given me (time, skills, money, relationships, etc.).
I'm trying. But nothing about how this event ended up feels like good stewardship.
If I am going to practice what I teach - I need to take some time now to remember.
I need to remember You.
I need to remember my personal experience of how You've always lead me perfectly. How You've guided me flawlessly.
You've led me into a desert before. More than once.
You've lead me through experiencing loss is the way to gain.
(You brought this verse to mind: "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." -Matthew 16:25)
On the books, I have to mark this event as a loss.
In my personal history, the times You previously orchestrated or allowed me to experience loss - You have always had greater gain in store for me (and other people) because of the experience.
Your "no" and "not this way" and "not yet" has always been because You can see a much bigger picture than I can.
I can trust You, and lean on You as I continue. I choose to not lean on my own understanding.
It's not my job to fully understand everything at every step of the way. It is my work to acknowledge You, submit to You, remember You, obey You.
Because You have proven Yourself to be the most faithful, loving Being I've ever encountered. Bar none. Uncontested.
In the vein of loving You with all my mind, I will record the logical train of thought You've given as I choose to follow You further when the path doesn't seem "logical" to continue.
The success path I'm on is not to follow You to financial gain (though I'll take that along the way gratefully, Lord!).
Obedience, especially beyond my limited understanding, is how I've seen You show up, move, work, save, bless, heal, restore, resurrect. Obedience beyond understanding is the only way to continue to discover Your promises are trustworthy and true.
I don't understand why taking a financial loss was best at this point.
But I know if I respond in faith - that will please You.
That is my primary goal. To please You. Because I know everything that pleases You is good, worthwhile, trustworthy, and true.
I can put my money where my mouth is.
I can trust and follow You with my money. I can praise You in the process that sometimes looks and feels like loss.
It is a real, physical loss.
But -- You've told me I am a Personal Trainer for other people's faith.
Specifically, to strengthen the core of their faith by strengthening their memory.
To help them remember what they've experienced of You.
Maybe You will use this loss in a way that more effectively strengthens those You've given me the opportunity to serve than if I had hit my sales goals.
This is a hard set of core-work exercise, but I will demonstrate how to breathe, push through with ordinary faithfulness, feel the burn, and then rest in You. I know growth of my faith-muscles is happening - even if I feel wiped out after this workout.
The Way leads to greatest gain by the path of loss.
"Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." - Matthew 16:25
Am I willing to walk this path of loss?
Because I've known the gain You bring to be worth any loss.
I know You empty my hands to fill them with better-than-I-asked-for. More than I can imagine.
Sometimes faith looks like foolishness.
Like stepping out of the safety of a boat onto the unstable water. You are the God who commanded your disciple to do this. You are the Spirit I sing to when I pray "lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever You would call me..."
As You, My Rock, stand out on the water, hand extended for me to come to You, these words are in my mind: Where my treasure is - there my heart will be also.
You are my treasure.
My heart is with You.
May my life and work flow and overflow from the Fount of every blessing. Tune my heart to sing Thy grace.
I still come running to You with a bucket.
You reminded me of what You gave me to share with my friend just a couple of days ago.
Where there's victory, there's a battle.
Where there's victory, there is always a battle.
The battle is for my faith.
And the victory is already won. I am Yours.
There is nothing more logical than following and trusting Someone who knows my path from the beginning of time all the way into eternity.
If I was on Shark Tank, Kevin O'Leary would tell me to take my business "out back and shoot it." He'd say it's a hobby, not a business, because it doesn't yet make money.
My business is to strengthen the faith of those You bring my way.
Whatever happens through gold foil art prints, IG posts, email newsletters - I won't quit this work. I know it is profitable in the most profound, eternal way. (For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? - Matthew 16:26).
I'll readjust my methods as You lead, and pray through decisions to be as wise as possible. But if I deceive myself that every step of following You to success looks like gain and feels like victory - I'll never thrive on this journey.
Great victory feels like a hard battle that is trained for, fought, and finally won.
Great gain looks like real loss at some crossroads in following the greatest Giver.
If I can't follow You beyond a point of understanding - I'm not really following You at all.
All my history is in Your favor to trust You.
Also - it's not about me.
Is my business really to serve and meet the needs of others? Yes.
Then here You go, Lord. I offer this experience and my transparent processing as a service of love.
I offer how I exercise my faith moving forward when I don't understand.
I will share the raw honesty of what this looks like, and feels like, not knowing where the road will go, but trusting the One I'm traveling with.
My prayer now is not "why have You allowed this?" or "how is this going to work out?". My prayer is "what now, Lord? Show me the next step, and I will take it. I trust that I will understand the why and how when it's best for me to.
For now, I stand in faith until the next step is lit for me.
Where You lead, I will follow.
And I give you my hurt.
It hurts that my mother-in-law watched as my husband and I spent a full two weeks and many late nights building the display and preparing, saying she hoped it would be worth it. My husband stopped work on our tiny home to do this for me.
It hurts that several loved ones gave up so much of their time and energy to watch my kids while I worked.
It hurts that my dad gave me $400 towards the purchase of frames (a gift, not debt), because at the last conference I attended the frames I had sold out so quickly, and people wanted more. It hurts that I only sold one this time.
I wanted so badly to come back and say I'd made an obvious return on those investments.
But this is what You leave me with for now, Lord, and I'll meditate on it.
Not every loss is a failure. Not every gain is a success.
Not every loss is a failure.
Not every gain is a success.
And for now, Lord, I leave You with this:
"Lead on, O King eternal,
we follow, not with fears,
for gladness breaks like morning
where'er Thy face appears.
Thy cross is lifted o'er us,
we journey in its light;
the crown awaits the conquest;
lead on, O God of might."
I choose to continue the success path of surrendered obedience to You alone.