“You carry a color inside of you that only you possess.”—Martijn van Tilborgh
This past week, I had the privilege of attending KidMin Nation MegaCon 2018—a gathering of children’s and youth ministers from over 10 nations. On top of being a fun road trip and a socially rewarding experience, the conference also proved to be a spiritual encouragement for me. I learned a lot about what my husband does in children’s ministry, and came away with a new confidence as to my own calling, as well.
My self-esteem when it comes to calling hasn’t always been the highest. I tend to put up a front to disguise the fact that, many times, I feel insecure as I watch others fulfilling their callings. One concern I had heading into MegaCon was that I would be too preoccupied with insecurity to appreciate and learn from others there. In the past, I’ve felt afraid to join Josh in his ministry space, feeling I’m inadequate. I’m more reserved, so dancing wildly and going crazy with kids isn’t exactly “my thing,” though I’ve done my best in the past to express myself more. God has repeatedly affirmed to me over the years that each of us is uniquely designed by Him to bring His Word to the world—and this is good. The conference ingrained that truth into me in a new way.
Arriving at Cornerstone Nashville that first morning, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I felt excited. Colorful booths lined the entrance spaces outside the sanctuary. A gleaming, white car sat out front—the grand prize for the drawing on the last day. Friendly faces wearing lanyards with hometowns drifted amongst the crowds. Near the baptismal, a charming marketplace area was arranged, housing books and ministry resources. A coffee shop offered fuel for the 12-hour days of sessions. Everyone we talked to was so friendly and positive. As the sessions began and Josh left to do his video work for the staff, I studied my list of rooms and chose sessions I felt would benefit me both individually, as a writer, and as a children’s minister’s wife.
[Cornerstone Nashville, the gracious host for the conference that week]
God would design my experience to highlight new “themes” on each of the three days (yes, hi, I’m a writer…). That first day, I felt Him affirm my unique design and identity afresh. If I trusted that He creates each of us according to His purposes, that should play out in my daily life. It wasn’t an accident that I was where I was. Rather than erasing a part of myself, partnering in children’s ministry with Josh is opportunity to express my gifts in ways only I can do so to aid him and others. I am starting to truly believe that I belong in these circles as time goes on, which, two years ago, would have seemed impossible.
The second day continued by emphasizing that the focus of our ministries is God’s glory and others’ benefit. If my eyes are on Him and others, I won’t have time to drown in insecurity. Ultimately, it’s not about any one of us, but about Jesus. Creativity and expression come through Him, for Him. Ideas began to percolate in my mind of how I can use my gifts to bring life to others in the ways He’s designed me to do so. Writing letters to church members, one-on-one relationships, and behind the scenes help…I jotted notes in my notebook and marveled at the sense of possibility I felt.
Lastly, on the third day, I felt God’s encouragement to expand the horizons of my imagination. The conference was themed “Color Outside the Lines” this year—in other words, go beyond conventions and prayerfully create something new. Just as God instituted the Temple to be the solution for His people until Jesus became the more perfect replacement, there come times when visions need to be revamped, updated, refreshed. What conventions are holding us back from experiencing His fullest for us?
I felt encouraged, at the end of all this, because the very roadblocks I’d previously perceived in my life began turning into opportunities for God to uniquely work through me. Occupational flexibility, rather than a failure, became in my mind an opportunity to reach out to volunteers and families in the church. My differentiated skill set, rather than a shortcoming, became a complementary color in the mural God is painting in our family and community. My lack of expertise in children’s ministry became a conduit for God’s glory.
As the co-founder of the conference, Martijn van Tilborgh, said on the first day, “You carry a color inside of you that only you possess.” I am learning to cherish and express my color, motivated by the knowledge that God gives us revelation and then responsibility to live it out.
My encouragement to anyone feeling discouraged or directionless is this:
It may feel like there’s no intentionality to what God is doing—where He’s placed you, the skills He’s given you, who your “audience” is. You may feel like you’re an afterthought in His plan. The truth is that He knit you together and laid out good works for you to do, every day of your life planned out in His book before one of them came to be. You are an intentional, artisanal masterpiece.
While self-help philosophy would follow this up with “You can do anything,” God’s Word says we rely on Christ for our ability to do anything. And Who better than our Creator? He’s crafting a work of art with your life. Trust Him with the pen, and color outside the lines again. You’ll look back and smile when He begins to reveal His plan. I surely am.
To close out, I wanted to reference a couple of resources for those who are currently exploring new opportunities or directions like me. Whether you know your calling(s), need encouragement, or have no clue what to pursue, these two books have been inspiring and encouraging to me.
The first is The Artisan Soul by Erwin Raphael McManus. The leader of a California Christian creative community named Mosaic, McManus contends that every believer is inherently creative, expressing the identity of God in unique ways. Painters, bakers, financial experts—we all create because our Creator does.
McManus writes, “When we hear God’s voice, we finally find our voice. When we find our voice, we discover we finally have something to say, and that when we speak, our words have power.” This book is a quick yet dense read that encourages individuality under the umbrella of Divine design. God wants to use us to reveal different facets of Himself. None of us are inferior, as revealed by Jesus’s water-to-wine miracle: He creates the best wine because our creations reflect our nature. McManus explains, “You not speak light into existence and then create a $3 bottle of sangria.” (This is the part where I say something cheesy, like, “You’re an Italian cab, baby.” But don’t blame me…I’m married to a children’s minister.)
The second book is called Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. University professors who specialize in design thinking, Burnett and Evans apply this strategy to designing not only technology but lives. What brings you to life? What activities and decisions give us insight into our passions? There are extensive exercises in this book, as well as the workbook, that help the reader pinpoint which experiences are key to designing a thriving existence. I’d highly recommend it to anyone going through a transition phase.
KidMin Nation MegaCon was a blessing to me. God used it to affirm my identity, lift my eyes off myself, and expand my imagination. I gained confidence, motivation to write, and ideas about how to serve others well in my position.
[I also got to watch my husband run around with a camera, which was fun]
Here are some other photos from our time in Nashville. We spent several nights on Music Row, which was magical.
And even ran into the state record pumpkin (yes, this is real)!
I want to hear from you, too! What’s your favorite conference or convention that you’ve been to, and what did you learn from it?
Thanks so much for reading, and have a blessed day. ❤