Four Lessons from She Speaks 2017

Have you ever tried to put a mountaintop experience into words? I am trying to condense what I learned at She Speaks 2017 today, because God worked so powerfully I can’t help but share. Here are four big lessons I’m reflecting upon this Monday afternoon.

God cares about my fears.

I felt silly asking people to pray for my fear of flying when bigger things matter, but He answered those prayers in such a special way.

God knows that I face scary situations, like medical procedures, much better with more information. On the flight there, my seatmate was an amateur pilot. He pulled up an app on his tablet and showed me the exact same screen our pilot was viewing. He was able to show me turbulence before we reached it, so I felt better prepared when it happened.

On my flight home, I sat next to a Boeing engineer. His job is designing electrical systems for airplanes. He shared so much information that I now have a beginner’s grasp on flight patterns. On both flights I spoke with these men for two straight hours, which helped distract me from my anxiety.

Here’s the best part. As far as I can tell, neither of these men are professing Christians. But because they felt their presence was helpful to me, they were wide open to listening to my Christian worldview. One has become a Facebook friend, and the other sent me an encouraging message after he read my blog. Who knows how God will work in their lives through our encounters!

God cares about my feelings.

One of my publisher appointments was glorious. The next one…not so much. I left with a spirit of total confusion. While I walked down the hallway, trying to sort out my thoughts, a woman sitting at a table turned her head at just the right time and called my name. She had recently subscribed to my blog, and I was excited to meet her. But she could see the confusion on my face, and asked if I was doing okay. I shared what had just happened and she listened intently.

After we talked for a while, she offered to pray with me. As we held hands and prayed together, she said, “God, we know you are not the author of confusion.” God’s peace flowed back into my heart as my brand-new friend kept praying. Next time I feel conflicted or confused, I’m calling a friend right then and asking them to pray.

Another feeling God addressed was my guilt over attending She Speaks while my daughter celebrated her ninth birthday on Saturday. I’ve never missed one of my children’s birthdays, and I was secretly hurting. That morning, God spoke right to my heart through Whitney Capps’ message. She said, “If we obey our calling to write or speak, we will miss out on family events. But our families will see that Jesus is the center of our lives, not them.” I felt like God was hand-delivering me a bouquet of flowers with a card that read, “You’re in the right place at the right time.” Of course, tears overcame me in that moment, as they did in almost every session! Can I get an Amen?

God cares about my friendships.

God gave me so many friends through this conference. In the past eight months, I began linking up with dozens of other bloggers and getting to know them online. At the conference, I felt popular for the first time in my life as so many women came up to say “hi” in person. If you’re not linking up your blog posts yet, I can’t recommend it more highly, because you will have dozens of instant friends when you walk in the door of future conferences. I also made great connections in the official Facebook group. If you attend She Speaks in the future, make sure to sign up for the group as soon as you book your trip to maximize your opportunities.

God also taught me to BE a good friend at the conference. At the end of one session, the woman next to me asked me about my copious note-taking. I thought she was a blogger, but she is an agent for some top names in Christian publishing. She was thrilled that I invited her to lunch with me. We visited for almost two hours and I felt like I received a $300 consultation for free, all before she asked me to share my one-sheet. Even though she doesn’t typically represent first-time authors, she was willing to listen to me because she felt included and invited. I got some fabulous advice on how to improve my book. The most beautiful thing happened…when I shared my memoir-based material, she opened up with her own family story. If I had treated her like a power-wielding gatekeeper rather than a friend, I would have missed out on those rich blessings.

God cares about my future.

My two favorite sessions were by Lynn Cowell and Jennifer Dukes Lee. God gave me hope for my future in each special session.

In Jennifer’s session, “How a Small-Time Blogger Can Actually Get a Book Contract,” I learned how many other authors with platforms smaller than mine got book contracts. The knowledge she shared poured hope straight into my often-discouraged soul. I am no longer obsessing about my platform–it’s in God’s hands. I will keep asking, seeking, and knocking, but I will no longer fret after hearing her inspiring message. I loved how Jennifer explained that Jesus left the church in the hands of about 120 people when He ascended to heaven. That’s a platform most publishers would reject, but look at what God did through that “tiny” platform!

Lynn Cowell’s session was titled “Brave Enough to Keep Going.” She was rejected 19 times before her first book deal. Her message of perseverance gave me the strength to keep moving forward. Then God did something amazing through her talk.

Lynn said something like, “I don’t enjoy talking to strangers any more than you do. But I’m going to make you do it anyway!” She gave us a series of questions to discuss with our neighbor. I turned to the woman sitting next to me, a textbook introvert who was in her little comfort zone against the wall. With each question, she opened up a bit more and we found more common ground. We were surprised at how many ways our stories intersected.

By the end of the session, she said, “I am hosting a conference at my church in November. Would you like to be one of the speakers?” I came to the conference on the writing track, hoping to informally learn about speaking from my roommate. I didn’t expect to get booked for a speaking engagement, especially because I’m just starting out! I think God heard me say in my heart, “I’m open to speaking,” and then He threw the doors open.

God has just begun to unfold His plans and purpose for my future, and I’m thankful He revealed great things to me at She Speaks 2017.

I’d love to hear from you if you are a She Speaks attendee! Please share in the comments, and I can learn even MORE from your experiences!


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86 thoughts on “Four Lessons from She Speaks 2017

  1. WOW! I can’t believe you’ve been able to process that much so quickly! I adore SheSpeaks and cannot wait until I get to go back! Such a beautiful gathering of like minded women committed to the creator! Thrilled you had such a wonderful experience!

    1. Hi Liz! I wrote down lots of notes while I was there, and stopped in a Panera cafe on the way home. I gave myself Monday off to ease back into my schedule, and writing a blog post felt like a good way to process what I learned. Hope to see you at She Speaks 2018!

      1. Dear Sarah, I hesitated about reading your post by I haven’t attended SS, and feeling a bit out of the loop. But your spirit of hospitality welcomed me into your experience with specific examples of God speaks, then broaden them into encouragement for others. Congratulations on tremendous steps in moving forward, and prayers for your ongoing progress.

        1. Thank you for this dear comment. I treasure your prayers, and I hope it inspires you. Keep praying about whether God is calling you to attend any conference, this one or a different one. I’ve attended one in St. Louis, four in my hometown, and this great one in NC. Each conference was a stepping stone and very valuable for me. Blessings to you1

          1. I went to a conference in 2013 at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. It was called something like “Faith in Writing,” and I believe it is held annually in the summertime. Excellent course for faith-based writers.

        2. When I answer in Disqus, it doesn’t pop up here. So I’m replying again! I’m glad you read my post even in your uncertainty. I’ve attended several other conferences and always learn something new. They are fabulous networking opportunities too. My huge stack of business cards from She Speaks proves it!

  2. I so appreciated you sharing about your experience, Sarah! God had much for you to experience and share with us all! It will be exciting to see how all of this unfolds in your life! Blessings!

    1. Thank you Joanne! It was amazing, and I got to meet dozens of blogger friends. Hopefully we can meet in person someday too!

    1. I am still on cloud nine from all the amazing experiences. I had to break my blogging fast to share them with you!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing, Sarah! I really wanted to go, but couldn’t – so I enjoyed reading your experience! It makes we want to start planning now for next year!

    1. Hi Alyson! She Speaks was fabulous, and I hope to meet you there next year! Sign up for updates at, and the registration begins in February. It sells out quickly, and costs quite a bundle, so I’m saving up $100 per month starting now. I visited your blog–it is lovely! Just signed up for your weekly printables. That’s a great idea I may start for my own subscribers soon. Thanks for inspiring me!

      1. Thank you SO much Sarah! That means a lot! I would love to meet you next year too! And the feeling is mutual – your blog and your art is wonderful! I’m subscribing to yours too! (I know, I know – too many exclamation points – but you made my day!)

        1. Thank you for subscribing, Alyson! That’s a huge blessing and I’m glad we’re now supporting each other’s platform building as mutual subscribers!

        2. Hi Alyson, replying here because it doesn’t show up in Disqus. I’m so very glad we’re mutually supporting each other now. Thanks for your kind words, and you’ll see hand-illustrated printables from me very soon!

  4. Sarah, thank you for sharing your experiences with She Speaks. Thank you for your gift of writing and sharing your stories. God places us where we need to be while giving us the opportunity to serve. He blessed you in so many ways by serving others at the conference. Your heart is full!

    1. Hi Donna, it was an amazing experience. I’m so glad to share just a bit of what God taught me in this post!

    1. Aimee, you will love it! See my reply to Alyson below for a few pointers. I’d love to meet you there in 2018!

  5. Wow, wow, wow! I love it when God is in our details like that! It is evident His hand is placing you where you need to be for everything. 🙂

    1. Hi Kelly! Glad you enjoyed the stories. I could share many more, and maybe I will do that in a blog series next year. Blessings to you!

  6. Feelings are such liars, Sarah but you have been reminded of God’s truth in his love and care for you. God has used this time to impact you in profound ways. Thanks for sharing with us.

    1. Hi Debby, I am such a sensitive person that I need to examine feelings all the time. I’m glad both my little and big feelings matter so much to God. Indeed, he used the conference to profoundly affect me. I can’t recommend it more highly to my blogging friends!

  7. You’ve shared several beautiful nuggets in this recap. Thank you! It encourages and inspires me to hear of stories where God weaves little connections and powerful moments. I loved reading how God opened a door with someone you might not have connected with outside this experience! Yay!

    1. Thank you Jolene! I’m still marveling at how mysteriously and powerfully God’s hand works when we open ourselves fully to his movement. I’m glad my story gave your reason to praise God with me!

  8. Sarah, “ask and it shall be given.” I asked you to share when I replied to your comment on my blog this morning so I feel special!!! Great report on SheSpeaks 2017.

    1. Thanks Susan! I keep seeing your book pop up on other blogs, and I really hope your launch went well. You’d love She Speaks if you’ve never attended before. Blessings to you!

  9. I love that you’ve taken the time to sort through all the gifts this time away gave you, Sarah. Too often, we hit the ground running when we return from big events. Thanks for sharing your learnings with us …

    1. Hi Linda. I read a fabulous tip from Michael Hyatt, the king of productivity. He said he always builds in a day or two after his vacations to process email and get back on track. That’s exactly what I did, and I’m so grateful for his suggestion!

    1. Hi Sue! I’m glad to know that you attended it in the past. I’d love to hear any wisdom you have to share based on last year’s conference. Thanks for visiting today!

      1. I wrote two blogs last summer – it’s good for me to reread (I hesitate to place links here but you can message or email me – I did form a new tagline that’s a beauty! and I learned I’m a speaker-who-writes rather than the other way around. )

        1. Wow, a speaker-who-writes! I didn’t know that. I feel more like a writer-who-speaks. You can send me a message through my Contact page if you wish. Blessings to you!

  10. Oh I hope to go next year!! Thank you for sharing your experience. Isn’t it amazing how God bends down to take us by the hand and lead us by still waters. He cares about the big fears, He cares about the small ones. What a great God we serve!!

  11. God is always in the details of our lives. I find that once I open my eyes and start to look for Him, I can see Him everywhere. So glad that your conference was a great experience, but how great that you saw Jesus!

    1. I saw Jesus everywhere at the conference. It was a beautiful experience, a true taste of heaven among one thousand other believers. Life-changing!

  12. She Speaks is so great! I didn’t go this year but I’ve been blessed just seeing the pictures and reading the snippets in everyone’s feed. This conference is such a mile marker for the reasons you mentioned — I loved the worship and the women I met. And how personally tender is God to sit you right next to two men who could calm your fear? I’m looking forward to seeing what God will continue to pour in and through you, Sarah!

    1. Hi Lisa! Yes, I absolutely loved the worship times and all the women I met. It was so easy to simply smile at someone and make a new friend for life. I agree, God’s love was personalized for me on my two flights, and I hope it transfers over into their hearts too. Hope to see you at a future She Speaks conference!

    1. Bethany, thank you for your kind words. The Lord is surely faithful to me, and I can’t wait to see what else unfolds from my time there!

  13. So happy to read this, Sarah! I went to She Speaks in 2015 and had such a wonderful experience! May the Lord continue to unfold His plans for you and your writing ministry!

    1. Glad to know we are fellow SS graduates, Betsy! Such a wonderful gathering of Christian writers and speakers who all want to glorify God. Blessings to you!

  14. Oh, Sarah! Love, love, love this. What an exciting update. So glad God was faithful to meet you there. I think my favorites were Chrystal Hurst and Whitney Capps. Those were powerful keynotes that touched my life. And, I adored meeting you and so many others…hearing your voices, seeing your faces, hugging your necks…such a blessing. Can’t wait to go back and do it again. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, friend. Hope you’ve got up on your sleep. (I’m getting there, but not quite there yet.) ((xoxo))

    1. Yes, those were very powerful keynote speeches. I adored meeting you too, dear one! I am slowly catching up on sleep…Sunday I crashed, and Monday I got 10 hours. Yay!

  15. Sounds as though you walked away full. #Beautiful. I love how your fear of flying prayers were answered. Did my heart good to read of His faithfulness in such a real way. Thanks for swinging by my blog, Sarah. Best wishes as you walk with Him into the future.

    1. Thank you Kristi! I will probably drive next time instead, if I can get a friend to come along on the 10+ hour drive. But I’m thankful for these blessings experienced through flying in 2017.

  16. Great post, Sarah. Wish I had known you were there. I have a fear of flying too. Don’t like it one bit. But I live close enough to drive to Concord/Charlotte. Thanks for the post, loved it and She Speaks exceeded my expectations this year. I’m blogging about it next week since I already had a guest writer today. Hugs!

    1. Karen, I think I saw you in one of the sessions and then got distracted. You were on my list of women to meet. Hopefully we can meet again some other time. Can’t wait to see your post about it next week! Allison Wixted and Lyli Dunbar are both hosting linkups for She Speaks posts!

  17. This is so beautiful, thank you for sharing your experience! Also, I love the story about the men that you met on your flight. It’s really encouraging to me! I love that you were bold and courageous to share your beliefs and not back down…planting seeds 🙂

    1. Hi Dana! Thanks for your visit. Yes, I was thankful that those men listened without judgment. I didn’t preach to them, I just shared what I was doing and how God is working in my life. I hope they both found it inspiring. Blessings to you!

  18. Thank you for sharing! God is amazing. I love reading about She Speaks through the eyes of another. I don’t know if we met or not, but I am so glad we shared this experience together!!!! Praying for you!!!

    1. I have so many business cards from She Speaks, it’s hard to tell if I met them or just picked up a card. I’m glad we were in the same place at the same time though. If we both go to She Speaks 2018, let’s plan to say hi in person. Thanks for praying…I’ll do the same for you!

  19. Hi Sarah! So fun to delve into your unique SS experience! Thanks for bravely sharing your highs, lows, and everything in between! Praying for you as you explore speaking!

    So thankful we met in person at SS! Though brief, your kindness shined. Your encouraging and open heart is what I saw and what that agent saw! Blessings and stay in touch!

    And thanks for sharing this awesome post in my SS 2017 Link Up!

    1. I’m very thankful we met in person too! You have an infectious enthusiasm, and your blog truly is wonderful. Hope that you form a new, encouraging community in your linkup!

  20. What an amazing experience, Sarah, not just at She Speaks but on your way there and your way back. I did not go to SS this year because I did need to put my family first. But, I am still reaping the benefits from the years I have attended SS. God is so good.

    1. No surprise to me that you attended past She Speaks gatherings. Your talent and expertise shines through your blog! I’m glad you are still reaping benefits, years later. I’m sure it will be the same way for me!

  21. What a wonderful experience you had. Thanks for sharing all of it–especially how God met you in the places that were hard. That’s an encouragement for me. (And, as a fellow nervous-flyer, I’ll just say that asking for prayer about that is wise. This is how we can see God meeting us.)

    1. Hi Natalie! I’m so glad you found it to be encouraging. I hope it inspires to to pray next time you need to fly. 🙂

  22. Wow, God certainly answered those flying prayers is perfect God form! What a great testimony, Sarah! Sounds like a great conference – congratulations on all your successes!

    1. Hi June, thanks for visiting! It was wonderful, and I can’t recommend it highly enough!

  23. I sure loved reading this! Last year I faced fear in a big way when I flew by myself for the first time to Arizona to mini retreat to meet some blogging friends. I have been overcoming my fear of driving on freeways to places I’ve never been—so flying was tackling something that felt beyond scary to me. God did the same and I ended up meeting the nicest lady. We talked the entire 2 hours during the flight. I met her while boarding and when she found out I’ve never flown by myself she offered to sit by me. God is so good! One day I would love to attend She Speaks. I live in CA so the flight would be a lot longer—but I know one day I will be on it! I love how you shared the confusion you faced and how God led you through it by giving you encouragement. What a blessing!

    1. Hi Valerie! I think I know which retreat you mentioned, as I’ve seen photos on Lori’s blog. I met several CA ladies at the She Speaks conference, so others had to endure the long flights as you did. I’m glad you were encouraged, and thanks for visiting!

    1. I know–I can’t believe we didn’t meet. But I guess that’s bound to happen in a conference that large! Glad to know God eased your fears at the conference too!

  24. Sarah- I enjoyed this! Honestly, I’m nervous to attend SheSpeaks because it seems so much bigger than I: to meeting publishers, to having people to sit by (going alone knowing no one IRL), and it becoming so real. Sitting in my home writing and blogging is one thing, going public and admitting I’m a writer is scary.
    Thank you for calming some fears of mine!
    Visiting from #Faith’nFriends

    1. Julie, you will love it. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, you will feel at home–I’m sure! If you decide to go next year, I’ll be glad to meet you IRL!

  25. Congrats on landing a speaking engagement! How fitting that it happened at She Speaks right?! God is so good! I want to thank you for sharing your experience with us at Salt & Light. I long to attend a blogging conference so it’s awesome to get that special glimpse through your eyes. I’ve chosen you for this week’s feature at Salt & Light so more ladies can read about your experience : )

  26. Well, Sarah, you know how much I loved She Speaks! And meeting you in person was one of my favorite things! I love all that you shared here! It was great to read how God worked! She Speaks was definitely not of the best things that has happened in my writing journey so far!

    1. Meeting you was one of my favorite things too, friend! And She Speaks is one of my writing career mountaintop experiences too. I hope we can attend together in 2018!

  27. Sarah! You have shared such nuggets of gold with us wow! I almost cried when I read the words you shared from Jennifer. It is so true that God really knows what he’s doing! You are beautiful inside and out and gosh…I really want to go to this conference even more now. AND I pray he makes a way for us to meet one day. xoxo

    1. Hi Meghan! Yes, Jennifer’s talk was so powerful. I felt like God was directly speaking to me through her. Thank you so very much for your kind words. I would love to meet you IRL too! Hopefully at She Speaks 2018!!!

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