I was excited about the yes and also unsure if I had anything to say.
I started preparing for YouLEAD trusting that God did. I was keenly aware that without the Holy Spirit’s intervention, my words would fall flat.
After the first day of the conference, the breakout session leaders were invited to join the YouLEAD team for dinner. Someone casually mentioned we would be meeting up with the Living Proof Live team.
I leaned over to my mom and asked if there was any chance Beth Moore would be there. She confidently shook her head no and assured me it would be the event team but not her.
I was appointed to navigate us across Toronto since I was from "around here" (AKA Canada). Thankfully, we did eventually arrive at the restaurant after much prayer and the continuously recalculating GPS. We headed to the reserved area in the back where the two teams were meeting to eat. I rounded the corner and stopped dead in my tracks. Beth Moore was standing six feet away casually chatting it up with her team members.
I reminded myself to think like a cucumber and be cool. I appeared to be the only one in the room fighting the urge to act like a crazy person. I sat down and channelled my crazy into a text to my friend who was with me in Vancouver in 2008 (whose goal in life is to sing backup for Travis Cottrell one day). I typed, Oh my goodness… I am at dinner with Beth and Travis!!!!!!!
Her immediate response (which I fully anticipated) was, I'M DYING! I’M DYING! Feel free to introduce me! I know they're real people but seriously! This is an 8 year old miracle.
Then I remembered that I never play it cool nor have I ever been cool. Crazy is so much more me. So I got up and casually walked over to Travis Cottrell (the Living Proof Live worship leader) and said, "I'm so sorry but can I be that person? I would love to get a picture. My friend is just going to DIE when I send this to her."
(Even if you're acting crazy, it's better to appear cool and make your friend who's not there the crazy one. Sorry Amanda!)
He laughed and said sure. I passed my phone off to his friend Michael and prepared for the picture. As he stood up I turned to my left and Beth was walking towards me. I impulsively hugged her and said something super smooth like, "Thank you,” five times in a row.
She said, "You're Stephanie," and I thought how do you know my name? (My fabulous friend later pointed out when looking at the picture that I was wearing a nametag.)
I managed to say, "You're Beth. And this is just the craziest thing because in 2008...(and then inserted the 2008 story) and now 7 years later, I had this amazing opportunity to come and share a message with women at YOULead and now, I'm standing here telling you about it! God is just too much!"
And then she said, “Oh I could just listen to you all day! I know exactly what you mean! God just has a way to bringing things full circle. I just finished writing this book (says very casually with a humble wave of the hand)...”
I interjected, called Audacious (I had bought it earlier that day).
She continued, Oh yes (waving her hand casually) and Chris had a copy in her hands to read even before it went to be published. And she was the first person I worked with when I first started working with Lifeway 20 years ago. It was like God was bringing the thing full circle. That book is my life and ministry message.
I wrapped up with, He is SOOOOO good. So so so good. Can you be in the picture too?
She laughed and said sure but not before looking me in the eyes with the utmost sincerity and said, "It is a privilege to serve God with you."
I sat down after, unsure if I would be able to eat. Thankfully, I was able to act semi-normal for the rest of the night.
As exciting as it was to meet Beth, someone who has influenced me to love Jesus and His Word so much, what the real highlight of the trip was being completely overwhelmed and captivated by God. There are hardly words for experiencing Jesus Himself in fuller measure than I had before. I was beginning to realize that there was nothing on earth that would thrill me more than Him. I was completely captivated.
He took the message and made it alive and active in hearts like only He can. He connected me with Wendy— a woman who spoke the most life-giving encouragement over me after attending my breakout session. She volunteered to be my personal prayer warrior and has covered my family and I in prayer every single day for the past two years and seven months.
He moved me to tears in Karen’s breakout session on Spiritual Disciplines. She read through the Bible every year on behalf of children as they grew up, and had recently shifted to reading a Bible per year for each of her grandchildren. She shared about writing down prayers and notes for them in the margins as she reads.
I saw a picture of the body of Christ at work in the LifeWay team. One body with many parts who were all fulfilling their call to know Jesus and make Him known. There was no ranking system, no one out for applause; only servants who were happy to serve. God gave me new friends and planted more dreams in my heart.
As the lights of Toronto faded as the plane headed home, these words of Beth's echoed in my heart:
If you are not in the Word, you will not fully fulfill your calling.
Any chance of fully fulfilling my calling to know Jesus and make Him known would always begin by being with Him. Before parting ways, Wendy had asked me what was next. On the plane I jotted down these words: humility, spiritual discipline, freedom, authenticity and prayer.
Those were my only clues to what might be next.