She Speaks is an annual conference hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries. It’s for Christian women and is geared toward those pursuing a calling in writing, speaking, or leadership.
I apologize in advance for the length of this overview. I am still so overwhelmed and excited by my She Speaks experience. I definitely want to journal it while it’s still fresh and also share with all of you who asked me about my experience and prayed for me while I was gone. I am so grateful to all of you for the personal interest you’ve shown in me as well as your prayers.
I first heard about She Speaks a few years ago. One of my favorite authors, Jerry B. Jenkins, was a presenter that year and I desperately wanted to go and hear him speak. That was in 2014.
In 2014, I was still fresh off an 18-year prodigal journey. I was back on the right track with God, but not quite there. I believe God kept those doors closed for three years for a reason: I wasn’t ready.
The She Speaks doors opened when my priorities were back in line with God’s word. And now that I’m officially a She Speaks veteran, I’m grateful for God keeping that door closed for three years. It wasn’t for lack of trying. Either I missed the deadline, or the funds simply weren’t in place.
But this year, I got to go.
This was an amazing experience, and if I had attended earlier, I would have missed key points. His timing, yet again, proves to be perfect.
I have to interrupt my She Speaks chronicles to say – this is the most organized conference I have ever been to. The Proverbs 31 staff worked tirelessly to make this an event that gave every appearance of being seamless in its execution. Of course, the hand of the Holy Spirit was clearly on everything. It seemed every single detail was well-planned and perfectly orchestrated.
Frankly, I was feeling that way pre-conference! The communication system was fantastic. Everything from the pre-conference preparation conference calls (which were optional for attendees to maximize their She Speaks experience) to the final dessert / mix and mingle.
Every i was dotted.
Every t was crossed.
But let’s get to the main event.
WEDNESDAY, July 19, 2017
I drove to Matthews, NC on Wednesday before the conference to visit the Proverbs 31 Ministries offices for a time of prayer. I arrived right at 3:00 and was warmly greeted by a team of volunteers.
I was given a prayer guide and a volunteer gave me several options: I could listen to a video from P31 President, Lysa TerKeurst in the conference room; write a prayer for the staff and volunteers of She Speaks; visit Lysa TerKeurst’s office and write a prayer for her specifically; or write a prayer request for myself.
I did all of it.
The P31 office may be the prettiest office I’ve ever been in… bright, comfortable, efficient – the office feels peaceful, and it’s a place where much laughter and joy is undoubtedly shared.
After all – these are women who serve the Lord on a daily basis through ministry to women around the world!
It was a privilege to be there!
As I left, I was given two books – “Say Yes to God,” by Lysa TerKeurst and “Hearing the Voice of God,” a Proverbs 31 Ministries prayer journey.
Both will be treasured assets to my Faith-Library, and I can’t wait to read them!
After I left the office, I drove to Kannapolis.
If you read my daily prayer prompts, you may remember a few weeks ago I mentioned my prayer partner, Sandra. I met her through P31 (and their exceptional pre-She Speaks planning!), and she had graciously invited me to stay at her home.
Though I only live in 1 ½ hours from Concord, NC (where She Speaks took place), we were looking at some very long days. I had resigned myself to the drive, but Sandra’s invitation was so appreciated!
After unloading the car, and a quick tour of the house, we went to dinner and armed with our computers, began discussing the upcoming days.
We also were both working on book proposals as we had upcoming meetings with Christian publishers.
When we returned to her house, I went upstairs to the guest room and put the finishing touches on my book proposal.
By the time I turned off the light, it was around midnight. My body was tired, but my mind was spinning. I could not wait for the next day!
THURSDAY, July 20, 2017
While I’m not normally a morning person, I hopped out of bed easily on She Speaks Pre-Conference Day!
Sandra and I had plans to meet a friend of mine before the conference began. Melanie had driven in the night before and had already attended two previous She Speaks.
I have known Melanie since last year when I was a Compel subscriber. Compel is a Christian writing program, another ministry offered through Proverbs 31, and Melanie had been my small group leader.
I was thrilled to meet her and give her a big hug!
Sandra and I ended up eating lunch with her, and several other attendees before our first keynote speaker arrived.
Karen Ehman is a New York Times best-selling author and a member of the Proverbs 31 team. She gave the opening keynote address, and I was thrilled for the opportunity to hear her speak.
Funny, engaging, and inspiring, Karen reminded us that the heart of our individual callings / ministries boiled down to relationships.
She was the perfect person to lead this discussion, especially after her last book, “Listen. Love. Repeat,” which is my favorite Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study to date! That book’s tagline is “Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World.”
So if anyone knows about putting relationships first – it’s Karen!
One of my favorite things she said during her opening address was so profound – I’ve got it written and posted on top of my computer monitor: “Stop trying to be like her, and try to be like Him.”
Let that soak in for a minute.
While that’s marinating, let me share that every group meeting – from the pre-conference to the Friday and Saturday morning / evening sessions featured a talented music group led by London Gatch. With worship music designed to honor and glorify God, it set the stage for each main gathering to focus our minds on Who had called each of us to be there.
First Session: The Bonus Round – Coming Up with Additional Content, led by Karen Ehman
After hearing Karen Ehman speak only moments before, I knew I was in for a treat. She absolutely did not disappoint. This workshop offered very insightful ideas for planning content for readers. I definitely plan to implement some of her ideas for My Grace-Full Life!
Second Session: Brave Enough to Keep Going, led by Lynn Cowell
Still being new to faith-based writing, I was so glad I attended this session. Lynn offered practical suggestions for getting over insecurities in our respective callings. One of the HUGE takeaways from the whole conference came to me through this workshop. Lynn shared, “God will give us a passion for topics He wants us to learn from Him.” As someone who is WELL-AWARE that I am so not qualified to do what I’ve been doing, I absolutely LOVED this truth. I was so grateful for that insight.
Third Session: Developing Spiritual Confidence, by Wendy Blight
Wendy was, in a word, delightful. Her love for Jesus was so evident in her quiet, yet passionate workshop. She gave a brilliant discussion on the difference between Power and Authority. And who has which. I was left with several profound truths to mull over and with her session, our pre-conference day was over.
As a new volunteer for the Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies team, I was invited to a small gathering in one of the leaders’ suites.
Not only did I get to meet several of the long-time P31 volunteers and staff, including a new friend (Danielle) who has quickly come to feel like a little sister! But I was also able to meet several P31 writers, including Wendy Pope, Nicki Koziarz, Chrystal Evans Hurst, Karen Ehman, Whitney Capps, Wendy Blight, as well as several P31 OBS favorites – Melissa Taylor, Kendra Schwarz, and Beth Anderson.
It was a wonderful evening of fun conversation, and an opportunity to get to know women who share my love for Christ and the P31 organization!
I drove back to Sandra’s house totally excited for what was in store once the conference officially began. I called my husband and mom both en route and told them both the truth – She Speaks had already exceeded my expectations.
FRIDAY, July 21, 2017
Sandra and I arrived bright and early on Friday morning – around 9 AM. The main session began at 9:30, and after several minutes of worship music, we settled in to listen to Chris Hodges, a pastor from Alabama.
The title of his message was, “Dress for Success.” The foundation of his talk was based on Exodus 28, a chapter that outlines the priestly garments worn by Moses’ brother Aaron.
Chris deliberately went out of order so that he could address things from head to toe; his brilliant sermon challenged us:
- Crown of holiness over our minds. Holy means set apart, as opposed to perfect, and he wanted us to guard our minds against information that has no place in our lives.
- Breast piece of relationships. He challenged us to consider the names written on our hearts and the key point he made – “Lower your expectations of people and raise your expectation of God.”
- Undergarments of Rest. The undergarments worn by Aaron and the priests were made of linen, a fabric known for being breathable. He encouraged us to disconnect once a week, honor the Sabbath, and quiet our souls. In other words – take time to breathe.
- Garments of Praise. Bring hope, joy, and praise to the room. The key to joy is gratitude.
- Anointed with Oil. Representing unity.
Chris also had this to say, and I believe he was spot on, “The devil will always try to rob you where the Lord has blessed you.”
That is truth.
I could have left at that moment totally full of joy, but thankfully, the day was just getting started! AND BONUS! I got a free copy of his new book, “The Daniel Dilemma: How to Stand Firm and Love Well in a Culture of Compromise.” I can’t wait to read it!
First Session: Creating Biblical Content to Engage Your Reader, led by Leah DiPascal and Lindsey Smith
If there was any session that could make me question my place at this conference, this was the one. Don’t get me wrong – it was a wonderful workshop, and I have a full page of cramped notes to demonstrate my eagerness to absorb all they had to say!
But I knew in that hour that I was in way over my head.
I am not qualified to do this. I know I’m not.
But though I feel completely inadequate, I feel compelled to do it anyway.
My key takeaway from this workshop was not to be so busy studying about God that I forget to invite Him to be a part of the writing process. He is, without question, the best writing partner.
But this session did send me straight to the prayer room after it ended.
Second Session: The Verses that Keep Me Up at Night: The Risks and Responsibilities of the Christian Writer, led by Kathleen Kerr
Okay, I admit it. This session was enough to make me want to pack my bag and leave too. Yet again, though, the session was fantastic. Kathleen emphasized the point that if you’re going to write a Christian book, you’d better be committed to being Biblically-based. She challenged us to think, “Where is Christ in the book I’m writing?”
Kathleen offered several profound and poignant statements that I rushed to write down, but probably my favorites were, “Vague spirituality does not equate to Christianity” and “Do not write moral content that’s topped with Bible sauce.”
Our third session of the day was actually a networking opportunity. Ever diligent to the needs of the conference attendees, Proverbs 31 separated everyone by interest: Writing, Speaking, Leadership, or Balancing Kids and Ministry.
I chose the writing group.
Networking was broken into two sessions. I had to leave towards the end of my second session because I had an appointment to pitch a book idea to one of the publishers who were in attendance.
While I’m not going to get into the details about the publisher meetings, I want to share with you this specific moment.
If you haven’t figured it out yet – I LOVED She Speaks. This conference was unlike anything I’ve ever attended. There were over 700 women in attendance, not to mention several hundred staff, volunteers, presenters, vendors, and publishers.
I have never been to such an event where I felt so comfortable in my own skin.
I saw no evidence of competition, jealousies, cliques, or similar.
For that many women – that’s unheard of!!!
As I explained to my second networking group why I needed to leave, they stopped what they were doing and prayed over me.
The women on either side of me put their hands on me, and a total stranger prayed that my meeting would go well.
THAT is what Christian sisterhood should be about.
We were all writers.
All of us with the hopes of publishing a book in the future.
Yet, there was no jealousy.
There was no competition.
There was only encouragement.
There was prayer.
There was genuine love for each other as sisters in Christ.
These women were not threatened by competition because we know God has a purpose for each of us; a unique calling that He’s placed our individual hearts.
We are all a part of the body of Christ, and He is using us individually for the betterment of the kingdom.
I managed to stop crying by the time I got to the publisher’s appointment.
After dinner (by the way – KUDOS to the Embassy Suites. EXCELLENT food and fantastic service!!!!), we were blessed to hear Chrystal Evans Hurst speak.
Her upcoming book, “She’s Still There: Rescuing the Girl in You,” is the next Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies book! She’s also the co-author of “Kingdom Woman,” with her father, Tony Evans.
That woman can preach.
She based her message on the Woman at the Well, from John 4. She was brilliant in her ability to tie a story about the San Francisco Bridge and her multiple experiences to the story of the Woman at the Well.
I have a full page of notes from that session too (hand was fairly numb at this point!) but the truth is real: “God allows interruptions in our lives to give us the experience of a lifetime.”
If you read this before July 28th, you can hear this message for yourself. It’s on the First Five app (free on the iTunes store) and only available until 7/28 @ 11:59. Please watch it. She was incredible.
And that wrapped the official first day of the She Speaks conference.
SATURDAY, July 22, 2017
Despite not going to sleep before 1 AM on Saturday morning, I was up and at ‘em at 5 AM. After reading my Bible, devotions, writing my prayer prompt, and praying, I was dressed and ready to go!
I got to the conference a bit early because I wanted to go to the Compel breakfast. I had canceled my Compel membership a few months earlier but was seriously regretting that choice. Since Proverbs 31 only opens Compel a few times a year, I had a limited window to re-sign. (And yes, I did re-sign.)
After the breakfast, the first main session of the day was scheduled at 8:30 AM. It was going to be a LONG, CRAZY-FULL DAY! And I was ready to savor every single moment of it.
Whitney Capps is one of the First 5 writers, and I was familiar with her work. I have to admit – I was a bit surprised. Seeing her, she seemed very quiet and a little shy. However, that woman is a powerhouse when she starts talking.
Her focus was on the importance of the local church.
Her message hit home in a VERY powerful way. My husband and I have only recently joined our church. Long story, but what she spoke of resonated with conversations Wayne and I had back in January – the very things I wanted out of a church. We’ve been so blessed by our new church home, and I was grateful for Whitney’s words.
She had several key points that I want to share:
- The church should embrace who you are, not what you do.
- The church should hone our gifts. God does not waste our service to the bride of Christ.
- There are Biblical reasons to leave a church, but not a Biblical reason to NOT go or church-hop. We are called to be in church fellowship; physical limitations being the exception – you need to be a part of / engaged in your church.
- Find your “why” (purpose / calling) at your home church.
- Let Jesus convict my heart at church so I can be more like Him.
- Let the church make you a disciple-maker. If we’ve missed the great commission (Matthew 28:16-20), we’ve missed ministry.
First Session: How to Write a Book, led by Andrea Doering and Jennifer Leep
This session was fantastic, led by two Christian publishers. They emphasized several key points, the most valuable to me was the importance of keeping the reader in mind in everything I write. The addressed important topics such as the target audience, the writing process, writing life, marketplace, and more.
Second Session: How a Small-Time Blogger Can Actually Get a Book Contract, led by Jennifer Dukes Lee
I actually missed a chunk of this session as I had my second publisher appointment in the middle of it. I was a bit disappointed, but I was able to copy my neighbor’s notes and will review them a bit later.
I was able to pick up a great piece of advice though – Jennifer compared the audience to a dinner party. I was reminded – I need to thank all of you who are here now. I’m very grateful to all of you who read my prayer prompts every day or who read my column in Forsyth Family magazine. Your loyalty is something I’m grateful for every day!!! I pray for all of you!!!!
Before the conference, I had received an invitation to a donor lunch during She Speaks. What a fun time! We were able to talk to executive leadership from P31 and meet members of the P31 Board of Directors.
Our time together gave us some additional insights into how Proverbs 31 operates and upcoming vision and plans for the ministry.
I was delighted to be included!
Third Session: The Process of Publishing, led by Nicki Koziarz
Nicki is sweet as she can be and she shared about her experience getting her first book published. She was so fun; it was more like listening to an excited friend rather than sitting in a room of 100+ women! I was able to get some great notes from her and get a better understanding of the book publishing process.
Fourth Session: Tricks, Tips, and Apps for Creating Social Media Graphics From Your Phone, led by Lindsey Feldpausch
If you read the daily prayer prompts – you know they are always accompanied by a graphic. I create those each morning, and I was a bit hesitant about this session, but I’m glad I went. I learned about some apps I wasn’t familiar with, and I’m grateful for the experience that Lindsey so generously shared with everyone!
FINAL Evening Session
After months of looking forward to She Speaks, I could hardly believe we were almost finished! While I was starting to get a little sad, I was super excited to hear Liz Curtis Higgs give the final keynote.
That woman is HILARIOUS.
What an absolute hoot she was!!! Full of wisdom, wit, and Biblical insight, Liz is completely transparent. As the New York Times Bestselling author of the “Bad Girls of the Bible” books, Liz was quick to share her years of experience as a published writer.
Several key points from her session:
- I am writing for an audience of one – my Heavenly Father. Amen.
- Minister to the ones in front of me; God doesn’t have a scale of importance when it comes to people – everyone matters.
And with the end of her speech, She Speaks was finished.
The next day, a new friend wrote on Facebook, “She Speaks hang over is a real thing.” That is the truth.
I have the 2018 dates already marked on my calendar.
I cannot wait to experience it all over again.
The opportunity to pray with other women who share my love for Jesus and passion for sharing Him with others.
This was truly the experience of a lifetime for me.
I got home Saturday night around 11:30 and even managed to wake up in time for church the next morning. After church, we went to lunch with my mom, where I drank three cups of coffee, then promptly went home and took a three hour nap.
I called it “Exhilarated Exhaustion.”
My heartfelt and eternal gratitude to the Proverbs 31 team who made it all happen.
THANK YOU to my prayer partners, Sandra, for her prayers and generosity / hospitality. I am so grateful for the opportunity to stay in your lovely home.
And a GREAT BIG HUGE ENORMOUS THANK YOU to the BEST Mom in the world – She Speaks was my birthday and Christmas gift this year. It was the greatest gift my mom could ever give me. She gave me this experience because she loves me and believes in the calling God has put on my heart.
And she already knows this is what I want for Christmas / Birthday 2018 too. 🙂
CLICK HERE to see a video from the conference!