Late one night last year, I got an email from Renee Swope late at night. “Are you still up? Call me!” Renee and her family had just gotten the exciting news that it was time to go get Aster, their daughter that they were adopting from Ethiopia. Renee asked if I could cover one of her events in California, and I happily answered “yes”.
In the weeks before the event, I had several wonderful talks with the coordinator, prepared my messages and packed for CA with excitement. Renee had warned me that it’s a fun trip but a hard trip. “Friday night is especially hard,” she explained, “for a speaker when your body is screaming to go to bed about the time that you stand to speak.”
I felt the typical flutters as I was being introduced, but I square breathed through it as I stood to speak. I can’t really tell you what happened after that. Although I wasn’t nervous, I felt flat and tired. I’m a big face reader (not always a good idea as you’ll see), so I scanned the crowd for engaged, smiling faces without finding one. My funny stories got little patters of laughter, and I felt disconnected and unfocused.
I walked back to my room alone and in a panic. I was failing. I had failed the women at the event. I had failed Renee. I was failing God in my weekend assignment. The night was one of tossing and turning, and then I dragged my tired body out of bed to pray at dawn. As I walked down to the camp pond, I was overcome with discouragement and the heavy weight of responsibility. How could I spend the rest of the weekend with these women? I had blown the first impression, and I cried out to God to redeem the weekend.
In mid-plea, God’s firm but gentle voice rang through my head, “Amy if you will take your eyes off yourself and fix them on me…if you will fix your eyes on me and love the women here, it will all be ok.”
In the silence of the morning with the rosy dawn painting the surface of the pond, my heart settled and rested. God had given me something I could do, so I began to pray. I praised God for who He is. I thanked Him for the many good things that He had been doing. I asked Him to pour His love for the women at the event into my heart. Finally, I asked God to speak through me for the rest of the weekend–not for my sake but for the women there.
The breakfast bell rang, and as I walked into the bright cafeteria, women began to approach me. One after another wanted to share what God had spoken to them through me the night before. I couldn’t believe it! I’m still not sure what happened or why I thought I had done so miserably. Maybe the women had been as tired as I was. Maybe it was just a less emotional group. I really don’t know to this day.
What I do know is that God had used the situation to teach me the best tip yet about managing my nerves. Focus on Him and love the women that I am speaking to. Those things take my eyes off my own performance and settle me heart and nerves.
This wraps up our series on managing your nerves, but we’d still love to hear your tips! Next week we’ll start a series on how to make your messages lodge in the hearts of your audience. You can subscribe today so that you don’t miss a single one!