Because of COVID, my speaking event schedule has been rather skimpy for the past two years. So I was thrilled when the good ladies of Grace Baptist in Gainesville, FL invited me to bring them a message from my book, More Beauty, Less Beast: Transforming Your Inner Ogre. You may recall that was the second book in my Take On Life series before we began expanding the Too Blessed to be Stressed line to 30+ books.
More Beauty, Less Beast was always one of my favorites, so I was excited to prepare my presentation scheduled for the end of the Saturday afternoon ladies conference.
But before I was slotted to take the stage, there was lots of spirited group singing, some marvelous specials by gifted singers, and two 30-minute talks – spread apart by several hours – given by a highly regarded teaching matriarch of the church. Someone the ladies all knew and loved.
As I sat there listening to her, I could feel my head begin to droop and my shoulders sag. Because she was stealing my show, covering almost all the points from my own carefully plotted out presentation, one by one.
She had no way of knowing this, of course. All she knew ahead of time was the title of the event, which was also the title of my book, More Beauty, Less Beast. I doubt she’d even read my book. But somehow her points were my points and I felt completely at a loss and befuddled as to what to do now.
How could I fix this? I couldn’t come up with an entirely new presentation at the last minute. I had written and rewritten my speech, practicing it every single day for the previous week. What new concept could I add at this late stage that would bless the ladies any differently than this very thorough teacher already had?
I was torn between the pressure of desperately flailing about for something fresh that would benefit the ladies who had gone to all kinds of trouble to come, and the selfish disappointment of being upstaged.
Although I thought all of this was privately ping-ponging through my head, my childhood best friend Jan (I like to say we’ve been bosom buddies since we got bosoms in the 7th grade) who was sitting beside me (she graciously gave up her entire day to help out with my book table and provide her sweet support to me) must’ve noticed my body language and deteriorating posture. She leaned close and whispered, “What’s wrong?”
I was so squeezed in the vise grip of panic that I could only shake my head. Barely. I felt like I’d been entombed in the frozen tundra of Antarctica for a century or two.
After the church lady’s talk ended, when everyone was standing to take a break, I finally was able to confide to Jan, “She just covered most of my speaking points. Everything I was planning to say. What am I going to do?”
Jan seriously considered the question. I knew she wouldn’t just slough it off as unimportant – she’s that kind of wonderful best friend.
Then she told me a story that gave me a glimmer of hope that my repetition of things they’d already heard wouldn’t disappoint the ladies as much as I feared.
Jan said that once she spent many hours coming up with an idea for a big VBS presentation for her assigned children’s age group, with elaborate staging and costuming details. (Jan is known far and wide in her community as a program planner extraordinaire who goes above and beyond with INCREDIBLE results.) She’d described her ideas to the person in charge of the entire VBS and then spent weeks creating a magnificent set.
When Jan arrived the first day of VBS, she was shocked to find that the person in charge had
heisted all her ideas and used them as the central set for the combined classes. Therefore, the kids who were later in her charge would have already seen the elements of the set she had painstakingly thought up and brought to life. All her work had been duplicated. It would be no big deal to them by then. She’d been upstaged. Her massive efforts had been hijacked.
She felt the same frustration and confusion that I was feeling now.
“So what did you do?” I asked, eager to hear her solution, for Jan is one of the godliest and wisest people I’ve ever known.
“Well, at first I was mad as a wet hen and I realized that anger was the wrong attitude if we were both doing all we could in the name of the Lord. I couldn’t change the physical material. So I prayed for a different attitude. And I called a godly friend. Her advice is exactly the advice I’ll give to you right now: Go ahead and do the same presentation, just do it your way. God will somehow make it completely different through your specific gifts and abilities and it will minister to the audience in an entirely unique way.”
Then Jan winked at me, gave me a bestie hug, and added, “Go ahead and make the same great points she did. Just do it BIGGER!”
So I did.
And Papa God did.
My attitude morphed into one of praise. I prefaced my presentation with thanks to the previous speaker, who, “laid the perfect groundwork by presenting many of the same biblical points I’ll be expanding upon.”
Then the Almighty showed up and stole the show from both of us. Exactly the way it always should be.
So tell me, BFF (Blessed Friend Forever), has the Lord ever stolen your show? Your awesome community of BFFs would love to hear about it!
Patricia Manucy says
This story makes me think of 2 Peter and how we read several references of “remind”, “reminder”, “recall” or similar wording. How often have you heard a message and thought “yes! That’s what I needed to hear. And I already knew that — how have I forgotten so quickly?”
I need reminding of the basics so often that I’m thinking conferences should actually be planned where speakers repeat the main points in each talk! No joke!
May the Lord richly bless you.
Excellent point, Patricia! Lots of wisdom in that … repetition is how we learn, isn’t it? I truly believe that practicing what we already know is every bit as important as adding new stuff. Hugs to you, girlfriend!
Roberta Thompson says
This past year has really been hard on our little church. We had 3 pastors then one was called to a ministry out of state, our senior pastor has been hit with COVID very hard and since July has been in and out of the hospital. We have one pastor left to Feed the Sheep and care for the flock. I am so glad that God Gave Us Pastors. I have had such a feeling that we all need to go back to the beginning of our salvation and look where we were and where we are now. God has given me a great opportunity to minister to our ladies group and each week I ask God for a message for them that will be what He wants for our Church. It has been so awesome to give the word that God gives me to our ladies and to have the Pastor touch on the same thing on Wednesday or Sunday. It is affirmation to what God is giving to me. The last message was given to me sitting at a stop light. Cant write it down but God continued to talk to me about what He wanted.
It was such a wonderful experience that as soon as I walked in the door to my home I said, Honey gotta go to my place , God is letting me know something. OK see you tomorrow….
When my pastor uses the same verses that God gave to me and talks about the same thing but makes it BIGGER. My Heart is Jumping up and down. Thank You God for doing your work and telling me even more from my pastor who You called to feed me.
I feel so blessed to have God confirming to me that the word I feel he is giving is Right On.
Oh, WOW, Roberta – your awesome and mature take on holy repetition left me breathless. I do believe my heart was jumping up and down too. You are so right – it IS confirmation that the thoughts are from Papa God’s own heart, directed to the hearts hearing them that He knows are in need of just that. I’m so glad that He is using you right now and your ministry to the ladies as hand-in-hand confirmation with the pastor of His message to His church. I’m pausing right now to lift you up in prayer to hear a continuous flow from the Throne Room with your spiritual ears wide open. Hugs to you, dear sister.
Paula M Yandow says
Oh Deb! First of all, how blessed you are with such a BFF! I don’t often comment after reading your uplifting words each week but oh how I look forward to each one. Your gift of putting things into herspective makes me feel better about my daily blunders and missteps. That God is always with me and has my back. I can just imagine your unique way of going over the same points but making them feel more personal, like listening to a good friend who cares about me as an audience member. Keep on keeping on, God is good!
You warm my heart, Paula, with your loving words of affirmation. Especially the part about my blunders making you feel better about your blunders! (HAHAHA!) Seriously, I’m glad you get it. That’s exactly why I try to be candid and honest about messing up while attempting to walk the walk of a Christ-follower – because I want to encourage all the others who are on the same journey and do it better together. I recently posted on FB about a struggle I was having with my selfish side and my selfless side about a particular issue; sadly, I got roasted by some well meaning Christians who were incensed that a Christian would have the audacity to admit to non-Christians that we wrestle with such things. After all, the Holy Spirit should be in complete control of our lives and we should be much more blameless than I apparently am. Anyway, it made me realize that although Papa God has called me to transparency, FB is NOT the place for it. So I’ll try to limit my faith boobarini’s to my blog. Thanks so much for taking the time to write and encourage me and our BBF community.
Cheryl Johnston says
I love how He works when we “Let go and let God.” I think He wanted to encourage you for all the planning and preparing you’d done. Loved your segue, too – praising the previous speaker for laying the groundwork. He will always make sure His word works! And you are His capable messenger.
Awww, I just love you to pieces, Cheryl. You have always had just the right words to comfort and make me feel more … well, capable, to use your own word. It has been my true joy and pleasure to have you in my life for the past – golly, has it really been 20 years? (Cheryl and I were in the same local writer’s group for a long, long time and she started blessing me way back when.) I know you’re grieving the recent loss of your beloved husband and I’m so, so sorry. I’m asking all our BFF community to join me in praying for our sister Cheryl as she mourns.
God is so good .. just when we thing we can’t do it .. he comes through and shows us we can .
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
So glad you were invited to speak at the church …
Yes! Amen and amen, Carol. Preach it, girl!
I’m hoping for more speaking invites now that things are beginning to open back up for this next year. I have a burning desire to share some Jesus-joy with my sisters and future BFFs.
If anyone out there knows of any women’s groups looking for an inspirational speaker on the topic of stress management (hot COVID topic right now, eh?), please put my name in the hat. Personal recommendations are the best way to spread the word. Many thanks!
And extra special thanks to you, Carol, for taking the time to write.
Kathryn Hotchkiss says
Deb, I can second Roberta Thompson’s experiences with getting a message at a stoplight and having the Pastor reiterate from the pulpit something God had given me to put in an article for our church ‘newsletter’. I have to go get my Surface Pro to type up what God gives me during my morning devotion time! (Lately THAT’S been my stoplight, and I’ve had quite a few of them recently!) I love it when you have someone take what you’ve written and expound on it, that to me is God applauding! I pray the speaker prior to you feels that way too. I SO love that the Holy Spirit came in and took over your talk. He speaks to each of us in ways we can understand. I often tell people, “You speak Kathy, don’t you?” I’m sure there were many women there that day who needed what the Holy Spirit had to say through you, through “Deb speak.”
As I’m getting known for saying at our church, “God is SO Cool!”
I love your posts and praise God for bringing your ministry into my life, Deb.
YES MA’AM!!!! I love it, Kathryn! God is SO cool! Can I quote you on that?
And your take on “God applauding” as well?
Your statement about “speaking Kathy” reminds me of the time I spoke at a church and when I ran an idea before the sweet gal in charge ahead of time, I noticed the astonished look on her face. “Oh. Is that tacky?” I asked her. After a long moment of thought, her face creased in a big smile and she replied, “Deb, you made tacky okay.”
Lifting you and your ministry up to Papa God’s throne this very minute, Kathy. Hugs!