(For more details on the #Fearless40 challenge, just head over here. You’re welcome to join us anytime!)
Seconds after Jen Fulwiler and I picked the date for the 2015 Edel Gathering, I scribbled this onto my to-do list: “Count back nine months and make a note on calendar to lock down Natural Family Planning that month.”
If you don’t already know how that turned out, a couple months later I discovered that I was pregnant and due on…the very first day of Edel. Not a week before, or two weeks later, but on the very first day of our conference. (Never say God doesn’t have a sense of humor.)
I immediately set out to catalog all the terrible things that might possibly (and probably would) happen. I pictured childbirth in the hotel elevator, fainting at the cocktail party, my water breaking while standing on the stage in front of hundreds of women, medical emergencies, death…and that was only the beginning.
I wish I could tell you that my overdeveloped imagination had just run wild again and that in the end everything turned out fine. But in many ways, the weekend was worse than I had imagined. I mean, I didn’t die or even give birth, but it was pretty brutal. Here’s a recap:
- Right before the conference was set to begin, the water system in the downtown Charleston hotel where we were holding Edel died. And stayed dead for two days. There was not a single working shower or flushing toilet to be found (unless you headed downstairs to use the lobby bathroom or asked the staff to bring a bucket of water to your room).
- Then the air conditioning system started to malfunction. Did I mention that it was July? And that we were in super hot Charleston, SC? And that we could not shower?
- Probably due in part to the lack of air conditioning and running water, my body decided to attempt to get labor going. Contractions started and stopped all weekend long.
- Next, I found out that the stomach flu had invaded my home and Dan was left caring for six vomiting children all on his own.
- On top of everything else, I was worried that we would find ourselves in the position of having to refund money to our attendees. Money that we simply didn’t have. We’d barely broken even with the conference, had already paid the hotel in full, and neither of us were or are wealthy. Visions of bankruptcy court taunted me.
It was kind of a nightmare. I should have been a complete wreck. But strangely enough, I wasn’t.
Yes, a great many terrible things ended up happening that weekend. Yes, it was a huge challenge for me to run a conference on the weekend of my due date. Yes, I was concerned about Dan and the kids. And yes, I worried that our guests (who had invested a lot of money in the weekend) wouldn’t have a good time. But somehow, in spite of all these fears and difficulties, I was happy. I loved getting to hug friends from far away, sip wine and chat with them about their lives, and watch them kill it at karaoke. I was at peace.
It was only after the Edel Gathering had ended that I saw where my imagination had gone astray. Though I’d included all sorts of possible eventualities as I tried to imagine what might come to pass that weekend, I’d left out the most important component:
I’d forgotten to include God.
The reason that I experienced such peace that weekend was because God was with me. All throughout the conference, he stood by my side, helped me carry my crosses, and poured his grace into me. He gave me strength and joy and he showed me how to trust in him in the face of our many trials.
That was the moment that I began to train my imagination to turn away from darkness and toward the light. Ever since then, I have made a concerted effort to make sure that when I imagine my fears playing out, I include God in those pictures. Because these things you and I and everyone fear? I won’t lie to you, some of them very well may come to pass. But if and when they do, God will be there, too, giving us all the grace and peace and strength we will need to scale the mountain that stands before us.
Take a moment to imagine what it would feel like if the thing you’re afraid of actually came to pass. Let yourself feel that fear. But then invite God into the picture. In what ways might he be present? What graces might he give you to help you endure the situation? And what blessings might be waiting for you on the other side of your fear? Turn your imagination toward the light, watch as the darkness begins to dissipate, and be at peace, sweet friends.
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