I propped the tote bag against my foot, leaned against the counter and checked the time on my phone. Only a few hours into the first day and the conference already exceeded my expectations, but the pace of activity sanded my nerves. Mental debate ensued.
Should I push forward to the next seminar or quietly slip back to my room for refreshing silence?
Solitude won the argument. Hungry and ornery feelings tipped the scale in favor of a few quiet moments alone with God and an icy, cold Coke.
I looked up to plan my escape route when she came into view. She smiled as she walked toward me.
“I think I know you from Twitter,” she’d said earlier in the lunch line as we filled our bowls with salad.
I only knew one other person in the sea of 800 women attending the event, so her greeting over the giant bowl of romaine leaves brought a ray of hope into this new place.
It’s a gift when a stranger becomes a friend.
Now, she was coming to speak to me a second time in the same path I’d picked for my escape.
“Hey, what are you about to do?” she asked.
Sheepishly, I admitted my two pressing needs: food and quiet.
Almost embarrassed to admit the overwhelmed feelings in the midst of incredible moments when it seemed everyone around me exuded energy to spare, she leaned in with surprising words.
Two of the most powerful words we can speak and hear are the words me, too.
God used her answer to build a bridge between my basic needs, bravely spoken to a stranger in a hallway to my deeper needs only He could see.
Our interaction was the first of several hallway events in this outer ring surrounding the stage in the grand ballroom where the main event took place.
Ah, the stage, the elevated platform glowed with light and attention positioned a few feet above a sea of eyes reflecting the glow drawing us in like moths to a microphone’s flame.
The stage, a shining goal, many of us attending the conference were secretly seeking.
We’d all worked hard to get here. The cost of showing up was great financially, taxing emotionally, and stressing to our relationships. We’d sacrificed in ways invisible to others amidst the expanse of cute tops, fresh haircuts, and painted toes. The call to speak or write burned bright in our souls fueled by countless hours of prayer and preparation to spread the Light of Jesus.
We long to be someone whose words matter, who moves mountains for the Lord, who makes a difference, and our vision suggests we need a stage.
(We don’t want to say that, but it’s true.)
And yet, in the hallways, those outer edges beyond the stage where we may wait for years to see big dreams come true, God offers back row baptisms, corner conversions, and floor seats filled with Holy Spirit flames.
The stage may or may not be our destination.
The platform may or may not propel us into notoriety.
The contract may or may not bear our name.
Yet, the hallway is open and available, and it’s full of us. In fact, it’s waiting on you and me to look beyond our dreams and see other dreamers in need.
The outer pathways swell with eyes of strangers needing our smiles and our hands reaching across with an honest embrace and prayers as we wait for appointments and approvals.
If we’re not careful, we focus so hard on getting out of the hallways in order to do something big and be somebody known that our drive sends us striving, networking, and hustling towards a stage, and we miss the miracle moments in the hallway.
As we gather next week, I will be looking for you in the hallways with open eyes and reaching hands because I am certain Jesus has bigger plans for your life than you could ever conceive.
See you in the hallway, friends.
To the girls with big dreams, tossing at night and wondering if you are good enough- business cards are nice and your picture is gorgeous, yet still you wonder if what you put on those flashy cards to describe what you do is a lie.
If no one else applauds your work, I will do it for you. While you are stressing about having a perfect proposal, dangling participles and your excessive need for unnecessary commas, something far greater is stirring below your tired, stressed out fingers.
While you polish your proposal, let God refinish your heart and remind you how even mighty warriors hid in the dark to do God’s holy work.
To polish something goes far deeper than you think; it goes beyond pretty words and pretty faces to refine a heart God wants to use.
God is whispering to you, “Be Strong and courageous.” Listen to who he says you are instead of the fearful timidity and insecurity that holds you back.
My husband told me just the other day that ideas fade, but callings don’t.
It’s because they are not allowed to. The gifts and that crazy, holy call you feel tugging on your heart is irrevocable, so don’t try to hand it back to God just because you found this whole thing weighty and weird. This is the best kind of weird.
Can I be real with you?
My very first year, I pitched the worst idea ever; really everything about it was completely ridiculous. And, I knew it. Yet after every appointment and meeting, I walked out of the room with another heart to love and learn from.
I was certain I would never see these people again, and I really wanted to go all in just because of the “what ifs”. What if I met a future mentor I was looking for who would push me to be better and guide me in all the areas I really need it? I had to be gutsy enough to risk walking into a room with a really bad idea just to meet her, just to witness the gifts God placed within her. Those fifteen awkward minutes during each appointment brought clarity and confidence.
What if I missed out on a God ordained friendship while tears were spilled, secrets were told, and hearts learned how to knit together fearlessly in the glory of telling our broken, unfinished stories?
I met my people and grew beyond one super bad idea and wasted ream of paper.
I didn’t really know what kind of writer I was. But, I knew who I was with sweaty palms and a compulsive need to hug complete strangers.
I met new friends in the hallways and found those were the moments that shaped me the most. It was one sentence that stuck with me, casually strung together brilliance that made me think a little and dig a little deeper.
If you want to be great, learn how to wait well.
Two years ago, a publisher encouraged me to meet a certain agent because he said she would “get me.” He was right, but I was not ready so I waited another year before I even approached her. I signed with her four months later. Fast forward to another sticky, hot summer and I have been working on the same proposal for an entire year. A whole year, y’all.
This month that proposal will sit in crowded inboxes waiting to be read.
While I was working, God has been carefully crafting the lost art of embracing seasons of waiting and living life in the crowded space of unfulfilled callings.
During this transition, I punched a clock for one year. It felt like ten. But, I knew I was living unwritten chapters in my book. I’ve learned so much. Somehow, waiting well and looking for my hallway moments is what I am most proud of.
Living our unwritten, unfinished stories out of the spotlight and in the shadows enables us to pursue the life-changing hallway moments that might not make us the next big thing, but it does make us available to the next small thing God has in store for us. This switches the focus from the spotlight to the supernatural. Isn’t that what we all long for? To be Jesus with skin on for the people around us?
The hallways are waiting for you, come find us.
Renee & Jennifer