I glanced curiously at her, trying to get a better look. She was on the other side of the room, so several other workshop attendees were blocking my view, but every once in a while I caught a glimpse.

She was wearing flip flops. Shoulder length hair. Pretty smile. I probably would not have immediately pegged her as an international speaker, yet that she was. She told the group she had just flown in, after her latest global tour.

I looked around the room and wondered how many others were international speakers. Had they spent the past week or month or year, sharing life-changing messages with people across the globe? I imagined their planes, carrying them from various parts of the world–all converging on Grand Rapids, MI.

Me? I had just scurried over from my house, across town. Rather than speaking to any important masses, I had been swapping riddles with my 11-year-old, as we painted rocks in the back yard. This contrast caused my stomach to churn in an old, familiar way.

Comparison. I was doing it again.

I ‘snapped to’ suddenly and realized that I had missed the last two points our workshop leader had made. Drat!

This is the effect that comparison always has on me. It cheats me out of learning from, and engaging other people. It causes me to withdraw–either with an inferiority complex or a superiority complex. Neither of those is helpful.

For the duration of the Speak Up Conference, I determined that I would refrain from comparison, and when I did so, I started noticing something. Both during presentations and in casual conversation, I was impressed by how unique we all were:

  • Some of the us were passionate about sharing our own dramatic stories of how God had intervened and rescued us from darkness. Others were passionate about interviewing others, and putting their stories into print.
  • Some of us were driven to represent a certain cause or mission field overseas. Others felt called to lead local Bible studies or women’s ministries.
  • Some of us were funny. Others were flowery and poetic.
  • Some of us were storytellers. Others of us were great at organizing information.

As I listened to the various voices and passions of the women around me, it dawned on me that each of my Speak Up ‘sisters’ had her own blend of gifts. Each of us had a unique calling from God. And He hadn’t brought us together for a competition. There would be no report card or class ranking posted at the end of the conference. Rather, He had pulled us all into a huddle to encourage and cheer each other on! We were all in this together–working in unison for one purpose: “Speaking Up” as representatives of Jesus!

This point was reinforced in several ways during the conference

  1. In a workshop on finding your ‘voice’, Jen Ferguson encouraged us to be ourselves. She said that if the words on a page don’t sound like something we would say, we shouldn’t be writing that way. Otherwise, our friends feel betrayed, wondering where we went!
  2. In a workshop for speakers, Cindy Bultema reminded us that when one of us wins, we all win. It’s because we’re on the same team! God’s team.
  3. My New Speaker Friends
    In my speaker small group, we were as different as could be. We looked different. We were from different parts of the country. We had different ministry goals. And we had different ways of communicating. But, as we critiqued and cheered for each other’s speeches (more cheering than critiquing), we became friends. We found each other at meals, and shared what we were learning. We stayed up way too late,  laughing till my sides ached. (Barbara, I will never forget your reinactment of your session with the image consultant!) We made promises to stay in touch and keep supporting each other from afar.

In short, I learned that when we celebrate our uniqueness (rather than comparing and sizing each other up), we experience community and unity! God wanted me to draw encouragement and support from my Speak Up Sisters, not compare myself with them.

On the last day of the conference, I saw the ‘international’ speaker in her flip flops. I wondered if she was hopping on a plane that afternoon, heading to the other side of the globe. Since I was absolutely exhausted, (having stayed up late, gabbing with my new speaker friends), and since I knew that my house was likely to be a complete disaster (with my family fending for themselves for 3 days), this thought completely overwhelmed me.

Boy, was I glad that I was heading across town, instead of to another continent. And I was thankful that God has called others–like my Speak Up Sister, to do His work on the other side of the globe.

Celebrating our unique calling gives us the courage to Speak Up With Confidence!

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