Last Friday I took a whirlwind trip to Atlanta and back in one day to share some thoughts on branding and making things happen at AmericasMart. It was my first time to “The Mart” and it was incredible.
AmericasMart is one of the world’s largest permanent wholesale trade centers, spanning four buildings totaling seven million square feet. It’s big y’all. The Mart opened in 1957 and hosts several trade shows every year including Atlanta Apparel, Gift and Home Furnishings Market and the VOW Bridal Market (where I’ll be speaking again on Thursday, September 19, at 8am — come see me!). In short, it’s where stores go to find the best new products to sell.
I was so nervous about flying to and from Atlanta all in one day, but God most definitely blessed this experience. I got through security in jiffy, sat next to a show cat on the flight there, had a great experience on the MARTA (my first time!) and got to The Mart an hour earlier than I thought. And then I started seeing my photo everywhere… which is totally completely super weird.
I kept thinking people were looking at me funny wondering why my hair didn’t look as awesome as my photos. My internal answer: I have toddler. No time for hair-doing on Thursday night before I left. Ha!
I had prayed hard about this presentation. Really hard. I prayed that I would in some way be used by God to be a light. It’s a very out-of-body experience for me to speak lately. Meaning, I can’t believe this is my life. My path. My story. I tell my story each time I speak — sometimes a short version and in Making Things Happen I tell the whole thing — and it always makes me feel awe.
Awe because I’ve been changed and keep changing. Awe because I am so flawed and God loves me and changes me anyway. It’s so surreal to watch as God unfolds His plans — and boy do they unfold fast! I have been singing this song in my head as I put this post together. This is the same song that our whole church sang right after Ari was baptized a year and a half ago and it totally speaks my heart.
Some favorite snippets from the lyrics:
I’ve been changed, healed, freed, delivered.
I’ve found joy, peace, grace and favor.
Right now is the moment.
Today; Today is the day.
I’ve been changed.
I have waited for this moment to come
And I won’t let it pass me by…
Like I mentioned in my last post, God is never done with me and just when I think the waters are calm, another tidal wave hits. As I spoke in Atlanta on Friday afternoon, I was taken aback by how comfortable I felt in my own skin, how joy bubbles over at times where there used to be a dry wasteland, how passionate I am about connecting with others and helping them fulfill their greatest potential. This is not the me I knew just a few years ago!
Reflecting on change as a way to catapult forward has been the theme around these parts lately. I asked Emily to share some thoughts in our staff meeting this morning about her last four years with Southern Weddings and this is what she had to say:
The remarkable thing about the change is that it has all moved in a forward direction, as the mission becomes clearer, the roles become more clearly defined, and the content solidifies. It’s not always easy — I, like most people, prefer to be comfortable rather than stretched, and it’s tempting to be satisfied “for good” every time we hit a milestone and the dust settles. But, the incremental point just down the road has always proved to be worth reaching. And when you get to the place where you can look back on four years, those incremental changes add up to a landscape that is truly astounding.
Change stretches us and sometimes stretching ourselves is what ignites the change. Change doesn’t have to be a giant leap. Even the tiniest changes add up to a completely new life — a brilliant horizon.
I am so grateful for change and our path and whatever is ahead. My life is filled with ups and downs but more ups because I know who is in control and it’s not me. I’ve learned that when I find out what pleases the Lord and do it, I start to see my path more clearly. Find out what pleases Him. Not what pleases everyone around you. Whatever good is on your heart right this moment, don’t let that escape you.
Above, doing a high kick to show off my teal heels as I talked about Tieks and how wonderful their client experience is.
That’s all I have ever been able to do that has never ever failed me: Ask. Seek. Knock. My 3 tips for finding your path:
1. Ask: Ask Him to guide you. Talk to God. Even if you’ve never talked to Him before ever in your life (yes, talking to “air” can be weird at first), He’s pretty much the best listener. Ask for Him to show you what to do. Praying and talking to Him in prayer is just like building any other relationship (except God never fails us like all humans can) so it takes time. Give it time. First dates can be awkward but a first date can turn into a beautiful marriage and a family after many soulful conversations.
2. Seek: Read the Bible. If that sounds overwhelming, just start somewhere small. Reading Mark is a great quick way to get to know Jesus’s story. You can also listen to the audio version, which I do a LOT (when I am walking in the morning with Grace, while I clean the house, in the car, etc). I love the New Living Translation’s audio here.
3. Knock: Do something. Act on the good that God puts on your heart. When you seek Him, he will open doors you never thought possible (and some you didn’t want Him to open), but there are amazing adventures that await you.
Adventures with God, I’m learning, usually mean that you have to give something up — OK, lots of things — so that He can fill you up to the brim with joy unspeakable.
I almost wrote that “it’s not something that can happen overnight” but that’s not correct. Your life can change in the blink of an eye — literally — when you start choosing Him and seeking Him and saying YES to what matters and letting go of everything else.
That means letting go of your own plans and finding out what good plans He wants you to step into. It takes 9 parts total abandon and humility in realizing that your plans may not be the right plans and 1 part taking physical action to choose Him. That’s not a theologically perfect formula, but that’s sure what it has felt like in my life. And I think I’m just starting to scratch the surface myself…
Sometimes — most of the time — God calls us to do radical, big, wonderful things with our lives for Him. Do what He wants you to do and trust that His plans are way better than ours. They really are.
After I finished speaking, I felt such immense gratitude and I wanted to pour that out on others. I didn’t realize how much of a permasmile I had on my face until Anna sent me these photographs yesterday. There were a lot of hugs (check out the slideshow below and the rest of the photographs) and I could have stayed for hours to talk to people about their hopes and dreams. God is good. This joy you see is not from me, it’s from Him.
Lately I’ve been feeling a deeper awareness of my responsibility to be a light for Him and to let go of self (I have such a long way to go — more than I can explain in a blog post!) and in that crazy big heart challenge (read: tears and praying harder than ever for God to direct my steps and my words), God has been showing me that a deeper joy comes in change. In stripping away the layers of our comfort for the sake of others. In admitting that I am so flawed and in dire need of a guide, someone to tell me how to fly right and someone who has gone before me to show me how to serve others, because on my own I’m totally lost.
Thank you, Lord, for sending Jesus to show us the way. He lived the way you want us to live — giving everything away. Thank you Lord for joy and friends and the ability to share our lives together and learn from each other.
I learned far more from the amazing people who joined me last Friday than I could ever teach them. Namely, my friend Kelly. We weren’t able to catch a great photo together, but the photo above of us hugging is plenty. Kelly’s presence on Friday was the greatest gift. She’s been fighting breast cancer and was as radiant as ever. Kelly, you being there made my year. You inspire me to no end.
Ha! I look like a total goof above. And no I don’t drink coffee. I am just grateful to not be living the life I once lived. That’s why I always say, “God is good.” I had 8 million doubts and questions and I made so many mistakes (and still do) but He grabbed me by my heart strings and hasn’t let go since. And He promises that He never will.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
Thank you to so many who blessed me with encouragement and your ears to listen last week. It made a profound impression on my heart and I can’t wait to come back to Atlanta in the fall for more hugs!
Enormous thanks to the AmericasMart team and to Amanda (above) who found me on social media somehow. I am so grateful for this experience!
GIVEAWAY: The Instax Mini winner never claimed the prize (I wait 30 days and if it’s not claimed I give it away to someone else!), so I’m giving it away again! Simply leave a comment here telling me what you’re grateful for and how you’ve been changed in the last few years – big or small. I’ll pick a random winner on August 1!
Photos by my new lovely friend Anna.