I've had some big stuff going on in my life lately.  Doesn't it always seem as though things come all at once?  Crazy is a good word to describe it. In the past two weeks, I've turned 27,  attended a speaker/writer's conference with 649 other women and celebrated my fourth wedding anniversary.  From the outside, it might seem like these are just three events, but again, I think it is crazy the timing of it all.

Last year, we brought the girls home from the NICU on my 26th birthday as those of you who have been diligently following our blog recall.  It was a glorious day...a day that will forever be planted in my heart as a day that we saw God's grace and abundant love.  Finally, after 83 excruciatingly long days, the girls were home.  It was so fitting for them to come home on my 26th birthday because just a year before I had asked God to use me more for His kingdom.

That is where the writer's conference comes in.  Fast forward one year to Thursday, July 21st.  Waking up on my 27th birthday, I couldn't help but think how much things can change in a year.  Raleigh was out of town for work and I handed the girls off to my mom as I got on the interstate heading north.  Kissing them goodbye seemed surreal.  I knew I had to go and I wanted to go, but it was hard telling them goodbye.  Driving to North Carolina, I had a mix of emotions swirling around inside of me.  Fear, excitement, nervousness, eagerness...you name it, I felt it.  I knew that God had ordained this trip - that there was a reason for me to go  -  but I was so scared that after I went that my dreams would seem even more like a dream.  When I walked into the room, I saw 649 other women that had the same dream that I had.  Was there room for me?

There were young women, older women, fashionably dressed women, and humbly attired women.  I had spent so much time getting myself ready for this conference in the last few weeks and I just hoped that I wouldn't be ashamed.  God, was I really supposed to be here?  Did I look okay?  What exactly should I expect to happen here this weekend?

I have hinted around this topic on the blog for quite some time now.  Honestly, I've been too afraid to share my goals in fear of sounding silly. I needed to go to this conference to find out if I could really make it in this type of business. At the end of She Speaks, not only did I gain confidence but I learned the steps that I need to take in order for this goal to become a reality.

Me with my Speaker Evaluation Group and great leader Whitney!

The conference did such a great job of lifting us up.  Speakers like Lysa TerKeurst were honest about the criticisms writers face. Renee Swope taught us how to not throw away our confidence when things got tough. Ann Voskamp reminded us of the gifts we have been given and how we need to treasure each moment. In her own charming way, Micca Campbell closed our time with reminding us not to collect, compete, and control but rather to be content with what God gives us.

This brings me to mine and Raleigh's fourth wedding anniversary, which was the week that I got home. When we picked out our wedding date five years ago, I made Raleigh promise me that he wouldn't combine my birthday and our anniversary into one gift. I wanted these two occasions to remain separate. For me to attend this conference, we just had to make sacrifices for our anniversary this year.  I have to be honest...we didn't do a thing.  It made me sad and I started to compare and compete; I most certainly was not content. To make matters worse, Satan was throwing some major stones in my face once I got home from my amazingly blessed weekend. Raleigh had to kindly remind me of three important things:

1. He loved me and we don't have to show our love through gifts, trips, or fancy dinners 2. If God was calling me to write and speak on a bigger level, then He will open up the doors 3. That my confidence should be in Christ alone - not on Satan and not comparing myself to others

I needed the pep talk.  His points were valid and sincere.  God had been teaching me so much this past year and is not nearly done with me.  I've been in a fit of confusion these past couple of weeks and it has been hard to see things clearly.  The Jonah Bible Study has been great because it has reminded me to be obedient.  But, gosh, that sure is hard to do...especially when you feel like throwing in the towel.

Don't we all go through these seasons of life when everything - the good, the bad, and the ugly - all come at us at one time?  Friends, I encourage you to stay strong in Christ.  To truly treasure the simple joys in life.  Tonight, Raleigh and I gave the girls a bath before they went to bed.  They were splish-splashin', shriekin' and making silly faces but I was upset because I wasn't able to buy them a cute new outfit today.  Staring at my husband, I said, "Girls just have to look cute.  It is important."  Really, Christen?  Really?  I missed a special family moment with my comparisons.

When we compare - whether it is with our jobs, our children, our marriages - whatever...we lose sight of what is most important.  Gosh, it is crazy how much God cares for us.  He certainly has cared for me during these past two crazy weeks, it has just taken me this long to fully realize it.

Don't wait to see the merciful grace that our Savior has in store for you.  He has such great plans for our lives.

Till next time, let your light shine!

Blessings, christen