Monday, March 23, 2009

Oh, To Stay in the Comfort Zone

I love my husband for many reasons, but the reason I’m thinking about right now is that he never lets me get away with anything. See, for weeks I’ve been pestering him about this little conference I’d like to attend next summer. It’s called “She Speaks” and it’s hosted by Proverbs 31 ministries—you know, the “small” ministry that’s run by my “friend,” Lysa.

Well, my dear husband, B, when approached by me about said conference said, “Sure, honey, I’ll send you to ‘She Speaks’ but you have to do something for me first.” (No, it’s not what you’re thinking!)

B threw down a challenge. He said that if I really wanted to attend this conference I’d have to work for it by submitting some of my writing. Ten queries was his “fee.”

Now, if you’re a writer, ten queries may not seem like that much work to you, but to me, who had never in my life submitted an article, ten queries is kind of like climbing a mountain. I’m trying, but I’m not sure I’m going to make it. Air and water are desperately lacking.

So last week, Lysa announced what I thought was going to be my saving grace. She announced a contest—one lucky person would win a full scholarship to “She Speaks” this summer. All we have to do is write a blog post about it.

Surely, if I won the scholarship, B wouldn’t make me finish my quest for the queries, would he?


Like I said, he never lets me get away with anything.

Nope, the gauntlet had been thrown and there was no taking it back. Even if I win the scholarship, I can’t go unless those 10 queries get written.

Well, the story continues, because I’m not giving up. I’m as stubborn as B, and I want to go to this conference . . . BAD . . . so I’m not only going to write those ten queries, I’m also going to win a scholarship. Maybe.

But then I got to thinking about this scholarship contest thing. And I realized something. There are so many more reasons for Lysa to NOT give me the scholarship than for her TO give me the scholarship. And here they are: nine reasons Lysa should not give me the “She Speaks” scholarship and one reason she should.

1. Even though I’ve taught writing for years, and even though I’ve encouraged my students to submit their work for publication, I’ve never submitted anything for publication. So, technically, I’m not really a writer.

2. I have no confidence in my abilities. Zero. So I obviously should not attend a conference which requires people to actually think they might have some iota of ability.

3. I’m terrified of failure. And rejection. Conferences like “She Speaks” are for people who can get in there and try, maybe fall down, but then get back up again. People like me cannot benefit in any way from putting themselves in a situation where they might not regain consciousness if they tripped and landed on their kiester.

4. I’m terrible at small talk. Give me a big topic like politics or ecclesiology and I’m fine. But make me talk to a group of women about shoes and purses, and I’m headed for trouble. These things tax me beyond belief.

5. I’m not much for crowds. Put me in a room full of strangers and my heart starts racing, my hands start to sweat, and my eyes glaze over. I can’t seem to figure out how to maneuver a crowd—do I stand next to the wall or do I walk straight toward the middle? Do I pick out one person to talk to or do I just join a group and act like I belong there? It’s stressful, I tell you!

6. The blog. Oh my. Just look around you—my blog needs serious help! I definitely don’t deserve to win any kind of scholarship based on this very busy, pink-and-green-ness you see in front of you. I obviously have a lot to learn on my own before I attend a conference like this.

7. And speaking of the blog. Do you have to have actual readers to get into this conference? Because I used to have five, I may now have six, but I still don’t have many. Maybe that’s because I’m not great at networking—another fine reason to not let me come to your conference.

8. Speaking of speaking . . . (was I?) I spoke to a group of 300 or so women at my church a couple of months ago. It was fun. I really enjoyed it. I think I did a pretty good job, too, but since then nobody’s been banging on my door to get me to do it again. Maybe I wasn’t very good at sharing my story. Maybe I don’t know how to get anyone to ask me to speak again. Maybe I’m a psychotic mess who should just stay home on the couch and eat mint M&Ms.

9. And then there’s the clothing situation. Apparently women who attend this conference have actual jobs because you have to dress “business casual,” whatever that means. If the conference planners could see me now, they would never even let me near their door: old running shoes, black sweat pants, gray Old Navy 4th of July t-shirt from 2003, and a white hoodie bearing the name of my daughter’s high school mascot. Classy, huh?

So, you see, there is no reason I should win the scholarship to “She Speaks.”

But one.

I’m feeling called. No, not to the conference necessarily, but to sharing what God’s done in my life. My story isn’t earth-shattering. God didn’t pick me up out of life of sex-drugs-and-rock-n-roll. But it’s my story, and for some reason I feel God calling me to share it.

Now, lots of people are called to share. Some obey; others don’t. I haven’t done such a good job in the obedience department so far, and that’s why I need to be there.

Recently God has been talking to me about pride. If you look at the list of nine reasons I shouldn’t go to the conference, each one of them in some way is tied to pride. I have for too long been worried about what others think of me rather than of what God thinks of me. I have let my own impression of myself get in the way of doing something that I think God wants me to do.

But that time is past, and I’m moving on. Getting over myself. Trying, bit by bit, to live in obedience.

This blog is a first step, literally. A stepping out of my comfort zone and sharing just a little of my heart. But there’s more. The ten queries will help. And so will saying “yes” to other opportunities to share as they come my way.

Who knows? God may shut the doors for me because of my disobedience—that happens, you know. But I’m praying that doors will open, and that I’ll be rid of myself so that He can use me.

In the meantime, I’ve got some shopping to do.


  1. I am not a writer nor do I proclaim to even come close. You make comments about your inability to write, however I believe that you have a lot to say and you say it eloquently and are to the point. I have only recently begun to read your blog but have come to depend on it. I am so excited to see there is a new excerpt in your world. I think you do a fabulous job and that you sell yourself short. Truly you have the 'gift' and even though you are not published, you have the talent. Thank you for continuing to blog and I look forward to your next one.

  2. I really enjoyed this entry! Sounds like you are the perfect person to attend She Speaks :) Don't mean to scare you or anything...but that 'I'm just feeling called' thing doesn't really go away.

    So get writing, you! And I hope to meet you against a wall somewhere at She Speaks!

  3. I could write an entire post in response to your honest musings. God has been speaking to me about dumping off the baggage of judging myself against the excellence of others. Because it paralyzes me from freely using MY gifts. Be who you are. It's MORE than enough because of who HE is in you.

    Are you a runner if you run, but not in marathons? Are you a writer if you write but have never been published? Are you a singer if you sing, but only loudly in the shower? I think God says YES, if that's what He's called you.

  4. From one writer to another (and yes, you are a writer) I'm hoping you and I both make it to She Speaks.

    Here are a couple of things to consider --
    a (writing) rejection means you're one step closer to publication.

    Crowds are just LOTS of little groups. You'll be wonderful!

    Writing is a passion and if God has called you to it, He will equip you. Don't write in your strength but in His.

  5. Shelly, I agree with Lisa L. I have come to "depend" upon your blog. I look forward to it everyday. I am disappointed when you let it lapse a day or two. (My goodness, do you actually have a life too?) I guess what I'm trying to say is this. Even if I had never read your blog I would have believed you could do anything you wanted to do based on the fact that I know YOU. I believe in you and know that God uses you in many ways all the time. Your blog is just confirmation of that to me.
    Love you!

  6. Hi Shelly, So explain to this non-writer what a "query" is.

  7. Oh my dear friends, I cannot tell you how much your sweet comments mean to me. You are much too kind, really.

    Sheroll, a "query" is a letter to an editor that's kind of like a pitch. You basically tell them your idea for a story and ask if their magazine wouldn't pretty-please be interested in publishing it. Humbling? Yes. Long process? Yes. Worth it? Yes.

  8. Shelly,
    What a great post! I must say that as soon as I clicked on your blog, I thought it was so cute; I like the pink and green! How wonderful that you have a husband who holds you accountable in such a supportive way! I, too, hate crowds and have trouble with small talk and would much prefer to talk about big issues. I think it's wonderful that you're going to the conference and think that She Speaks is a perfect fit for you!

  9. You don't have to submit to be a writer!!! :) You write on your blog!!! You're a wonderful writer!!!

    The first time I went to She Speaks in 2005, I was EXACTLY where you are. Scared to death. Out of my comfort zone. In fact, I used that phrase over and over to describe the weekend.

    You'll see when you get there, it's so unintimidating...inviting, even.

    Plus, I'll be there whether I win or not, so we can hang.

    Loved your post.

  10. I went to She Speaks last year by myself...not knowing anyone else in attendance.
    I say you'll fit right in!

  11. Wait, did I write this post? No, this is Shelly's blog, not mine...but the sentiments are much, much, MUCH the same. I have to tell you, I laughed out loud at #4. You and me both, sister, you and me both. Take a look at my blog if you don't believe me. And #2--check. #3--check. #5--check again. #8--so there.

    And #7? My readers are few and far between and decreasing by the week, or so sitemeter tells me! I do love reading your blog--so maybe it's more or six or seven, right? :-)

    May the Lord achieve His purposes in you, to the praise of His glory!

  12. Hi. I hopped over here from Lysa's scholarship post. I love your entry! You are so funny... and honest. I hope you don't win the scholarship. But only because that would mean I didn't. :) I am going to follow you though and leave comments from time to time. Now you'll have like 8 readers. :)We have a lot in common.

  13. We could be twins!! I laughed out loud at everything you said-- I am the exact same way!!! I didn't get that impression when I met you though!!

    Praying for your dream and wishing you luck in the contest!

  14. Oh, Shelly, just knowing you're gonna be there makes me wish even more I was, too. Right now, I have no plans, though....

    After having gone, I'm certain more people feel like you than don't; Emily's a sweetheart and she will seek you out. So will others. You'll be so GLAD you stepped out of your comfort zone--and that God is dealing with layers of pride--so continue looking at him, not your perceived weaknesses.

    :) I'll be staying tuned!

  15. Just found your blog, Shelly, and I love it! It's beautiful (like the pink & green!) and I love what you have to say. I guess you have 7 readers now ; ).