Last March I was asked if I would consider speaking at a Women's Retreat in the Fall for a church in Dallas, Oregon. I had received the inquiry from a fellow pastor's wife that I had gone to college with, yet have gotten to know mostly through social media over the years.
As in, she mostly knows about me through my writing--and has never heard me 'speak' to a group of people. When I got her facebook message I quite literally laughed out loud. Me, speak? Ha ha ha! I'm the writer, Rob's the speaker.
So I responded to her that I've never really had much of an opportunity to speak or teach to people over the age of 11, and encouraged her to really consider whether or not they would want to take a chance on a 'newbie' at an event like this.
But lo and behold, they did, and I accepted. After all, it was still 6 months away. I would have plenty of time to prepare. It would be a good experience. And really, God uses regular everyday people in the lives of others all of the time. So it's not unreasonable to think he could use me, in spite of my lack of experience and imperfections, right? So I took a leap of faith. A really, really big one. This was way outside of my comfort zone.
The retreat was this past weekend. It's now done. It's over. In the blink of an eye it has become mere memory. All of those hours of studying, writing, praying, preparing and fretting, were for a weekend that came and went so quickly that less than 24 hours later I'm looking back thinking, "Whoa, did that actually happen?"
Well, it did. And people keep asking me how it went. So here's my attempt at answering that question in a relatively short post.
Overall, it was good. I think. I don't really know. I certainly had a number of ladies give me positive feedback and encouragement. But then when I think about it, I can't imagine that any of those really kind ladies would have told me if I'd done an awful job, right? It's not like it was recorded or that I had a good friend there to give me an honest, objective opinion on how I did as a first time speaker. So I drove away thinking, "I'm not sure how I will answer the question, 'How did it go?'" Because I'm not sure how it went for other people, I just know how it went for me.
And it wasn't all sunshine and roses from my end. I got up to the camp a few hours before it started. The road between Albany and Falls City are all back roads. As in, no gas stations and plenty of opportunities to make the wrong turn. And apparently I'm a woman who likes opportunities.
I didn't need a gas station to ask for directions though. I needed a gas station for gas. As in, I had none. I had forgotten to stop to get gas on my way out of town and didn't realize how desperately I needed it until I was well into the middle of nowhere.
But finally, I turned into the camp. I was directed to the 'party animal' cabin where I had opted to stay, and I started to unload my car. I walked into the empty cabin with my arms full of stuff and suddenly I realized: I had no bedding. Or towels. These items have typically been a part of our accommodations at the ladies retreats our church does, so it hadn't even crossed my mind to ask about the really practical things. Whoops!
And then I hiked over to the chapel where I would be speaking and I realize, I also don't have a flash drive to move my power point from my lap top to the computer they were using. While I felt aptly prepared for my message, I felt terribly unprepared in every other area. I was starting to unravel and the weekend hadn't even officially started yet.
Before the session began the camp host was rounding up some extra bedding and towels for me, the awesome tech lady got my files transferred and someone had assured me they'd help me solve my gas issue. But my nerves were already fried.
I got up to speak, basically first thing, and things kept unraveling. The podium was too big for 4'11" little ole me, so we pulled it up next to the stage so that I could stand on the stage and you know... see over the podium. The mic had been positioned on the stage, which made it too far away from my notes, which clearly I hadn't printed out in big enough font. The front lights were down, which wasn't helping matters either. I had some impromptu audience participation that I loved, but it didn't help me track with my notes which I was already struggling to see. At one point I got really hot, and flushed. And I was pretty sure I was going to die.
I'm pretty sure that was the longest 10 minutes of my life. And that was only the introduction. I wouldn't actually start speaking through my messages until the next day. Honestly, I'm pretty sure it was a complete train wreck.
I went to bed Friday night feeling completely defeated. My head ached. My throat hurt. My ego was crushed and I was absolutely certain that I shouldn't be there. The only problem was, I couldn't leave. After all, I am the speaker. And I have no gas... so I couldn't drive off even if I wanted to! "Why, oh why, did you ask me to do this God, this is way beyond me. Clearly, I can't speak in front of other people."
I set my alarm for early Saturday morning to try to magically memorize all these pages worth of notes, as to not repeat everything that happened Friday night. As I opened my eyes at 6:15 am, even before my alarm went off, I had an epiphany. I'm not sure if these were words straight from God, or just the peace of God, or some combination thereof, but I just remember waking up in a haze with the words going through my head, "This is your story. This is Ruth's story. You know these stories. You don't need your notes. You've got this. You've got this."
So I sat down with my Bible and my pen and scribbled some key words and stopping points on the pages of my new favorite book, the book of Ruth. Ready or not, this was about to happen...