I don’t do nervous. Until recently, I believed that. Then unexpected fear came to visit.
It was only a three-minute presentation, but there I was, concerned about what to wear because I didn’t want to walk to the microphone with my pants sweat-clinging to the back of my legs from warm chairs.
In other words, I was nervous.
Earlier in my career, happiness was a microphone and a thousand-person audience. And a paycheck. 🙂 How could I be nervous about reading an excerpt from my latest book?
Theatre Night At Montrose
Thursday night at the Montrose Christian Writers Conference was Theatre Night, the event where writers read, sing, or perform their work within a three-minute limit. After days of fellowship, fun, clarity, and affirmation, I wanted to offer something more of myself to the wonderful folks I’d met and shared so much with during the week.
If others were brave enough to stand in the spotlight and reveal themselves, then I should also step up. Most people sent their material in ahead of time and came prepared. I didn’t.
When I heard the invitation for late entries, I signed up. Gulp.
God Loves to Turn Up the Heat
My Mac laptop was on it’s way to an Apple service center to resolve a recalled battery issue, so all I packed was an iPad and smartphone with no way to print. Following the rules as best I could, I emailed the chairwoman (who edited two of my projects) a link to an excerpt from The Breath of Horse Crazy shared on the WARHorses website.
I wanted to deliver a full message to my peers, not just something they’d find interesting but useless. This bunch is Christian, bathing me in Jesus since my Sunday arrival. To offer something meaningful, I added to and deleted from the excerpt, a challenge for this techno-klutzy gal.
A screenshot of the webpage captured the excerpt, making it impossible to edit. Pulling a few related paragraphs from elsewhere in the book, I wove the pieces together to create something whole.
Which meant I had to begin reading from the Notes app on my iPad, flip to the Photo app, read some of the text, then simply remember the ending.
This was a real concern because I am (1) a klutz, and (2) can’t easily read without magnifying glasses and decent light. I didn’t have my +4.0 reading glasses and the spotlight didn’t help because my iPad screen automatically dimmed on the spotlit stage.
I Practiced – I Stunk
I practiced to get every word in under three minutes. My first six or seven attempts stunk, I ran long, and my inflections were over the top. I repeatedly tweaked how much I read from one source and how little from another to maintain a complete message and make the time limit.
This would have been a no-brainer cakewalk when I spoke to larger audiences routinely. Sure, jumping between apps was awkward, doing it smoothly a gamble, and tapping in the right spot with the perfect emphasis to keep the size of the image large enough to read was risky, but taking the stage used to be exhilarating.
This time it wasn’t.
My Notes From That Night
These are the actual notes I wrote after the event.
Montrose, closing night. Why would I be nervous? Me, who used to thrill to an audience of a thousand people.July 18, 2019
Yet I prayed. And prayed. For calm.
Wasn’t I supposed to be an example?
Some of these folks knew I used to be a professional speaker. Before I changed professions…
Like Paul, I prayed for the message to be simple. To deliver it and not perform it.
I had my message prepared, although with a few potential stumbling blocks.
I couldn’t read all of it without going overtime.
I. Was. Not. going to go over the time limit because it would be rude to the other 28 performers.
Switching between two iPad apps. Really?
I read it well. Emphasized the appropriate words.
My voice was clear and unwavering.
As the 180 seconds ticked away I wondered two things:
Why was I nervous? I thought that was resolved, so —
Why were my knees knocking like a 74 Plymouth Fury about to throw a rod?
I love to teach. Interact. Respond. Not so much “speak” anymore. But I will. Because that’s part of what God expects me to do.
God Seeks Dependence
I believe God removes our confidence in existing skills to make us more dependent on His power, not our own. At least He does for me. Or asks us to do something we don’t do. Like, write books.
When God decided I would write and enter ministry it wasn’t because I knew what I was doing. I didn’t. Which was the point. We work best for Him when we work in His power and not our own.
That wasn’t difficult because it had to be His power. It was His idea, His plan, and I had to stick close or fall flat on my face, useless and embarrassed.
Talents and Skills Change
Before I was called to write and share messages I had more skills and talents than I do today. Some disappeared overnight. Literally.
At the time I designed and made jewelry. The last piece on my workspace was finished except for the sterling silver clasp. It was already there. All I had to do was attach it, but I couldn’t. My design brain hightailed it for parts unknown and my ability to finish the project rode along.
I understand that there are brain injuries that make previously simple tasks or skills impossible. Has a concert pianist ever suffered a trauma that left her without the ability to do anything more with a keyboard than stare at it?
There are more things I can’t easily do anymore. Standing up in front of a crowd to deliver a prepared message is one that flew the coop. Small groups are fabulous and I’m comfortable with any number of people if my role is to interact and respond.
I love “Stump the Clinician” questions!
Teaching, demonstrating, or leading a discussion is easy. I enjoy every moment. Counseling, problem-solving, or doing clinics don’t inspire fear, panic, or angst because they are part of the job God has for me.
Expect Your Skill Set to Shift
I’m confident in what I do and what I know. Helping people understand what blocks their desired changes by asking and answering questions is simple, familiar, and sweat-free. Knowing that God has a plan for me is my rock.
But, what I can do today will change. When it does, God will fill the empty place with something I need to keep walking the path He set me on.
He is faithful to do the same for you. Even if you sweat a little and lose your seas legs. God always equips those He calls.
Related reading: The Consequences of Change You Didn’t See Coming
From Purposefulfaith, 4 Reasons Why God Changes Plans