Awkwardness vs. Opportunity Cutting a hole in the screen between us and the life we long for.

Date and Location

I’m sitting in my bed in the W’s Aloft in Columbia, South Carolina. I love these hotels. The minimalist styling appeals to the part of me that likes to have a sense of order and cleanliness. Which is to say it is COMPLETELY appealing.

My beautiful, organized room at the Aloft…

Tomorrow morning begins a two-day nonprofit leadership conference I’m attending. It’s the first time in quite a while that I’m doing something like this by myself. As a closet introvert, I’ve become intentional over the years about bringing someone with me whenever I travel. This time it was supposed to be A.J., but wrangling childcare for three kids, two cats and a chihuahua proved a little tricky at the last minute. So here I am, anticipating the awkward moments I’m sure to experience when I show up at “networking mixer” tomorrow morning…

  • That awkward moment when I will walk into a room full of people I don’t know, acting like I belong (no really, I do) but feeling for some weird reason like I don’t.
  • The polite but equally awkward smiles from other conference-goers like myself.
  • The moment of selecting where to sit, and awkwardly asking someone if that spot is open. (I think there may be assigned seating at this thing, which, while not without its own downsides, at least removes the question of where one should sit)
  • The awkward “turn to someone near you and say hello,” moment that’s bound to come. It happens every Sunday at church and you’d think I’d be used to it by now. But no.

Other stuff I worry about:

  • That the presentations will be boring.
  • That the room will be cold.
  • That I’ll regret driving 7 hours and missing three days of work for 2 days’ worth of awkward, boring, cold moments.

This is terrible, I think to myself. The whole drive here I was dreaming about the Hungry for Hope conference my org is hosting a year from now, and how excited I am, because I think it’s going to be our best one ever.

As I write this little laundry-list of anxieties, however, I realize that people are going to feel the same darned way about MY event. Some of them might even skip attending, which would be sad, because I happen to know how awesome it will be for them. Conferences can be life-changing, after all.

And so it is with this optimism that I choose to show up tomorrow, facing my awkwardness because I believe God has opportunities he has led me to discover here.

I’ll find out soon what those may be…

Date and Location

Today was an incredible day, and a reminder that if we let awkward moments keep us from doing things we want to do, we’ll miss out big-time.

Sure, I felt a little awkward walking into a room with strangers, but it didn’t take long to make a few new friends. And by the end of the day, I’d shared meals with some pretty awesome people, who even offered to pick up the tab! How’s that for God’s provision?

And then there was the heart-stuff he was doing in me throughout the day – showing me things both professionally and personally through what was happening on the stage.

This conference I’m attending is kind of controversial. For thirty years the nonprofit sector has been run from what many would call a “scarcity mentality” – that is, we never have enough money to do the work we need to do, and our posture (as NP leaders) is often one of desperate, shame-based begging, leading to discouragement, debt, and burnout. We wonder why we don’t have the funds to do the work we’re passionate about doing in healthier ways, but we haven’t really had a different model to follow.

Until now.

Today Dan Pallotta expanded on his massively popular Ted Talk about the broken view we’ve taken of charity work. You can watch it here if you want to see what I’m talking about:

Following Dan’s talk, the hosts of the conference shared a lot of empirical data (i.e. well-researched information) about how impossible it is to sustain the nonprofit sector without a radical shift in our thinking. It’s not a popular view. In fact, the organization hosting this event has faced an enormous amount of push-back from the NP industry as a whole. LOTS of people are upset about the idea of changing “business as usual,” even though it’s clearly not working with less than 5% of NP’s truly becoming successful and sustainable.

How like ALL of life this kind of thinking is…

I have a lot of admiration for the people who are willing to rock the boat. I’d like to say that I’m one of them. And perhaps I am, at least a little. I’m here at this highly controversial event, after all.

But I still have a long way to go…

Date and Location

The conference just wrapped and I am getting ready to hit the road back to Nashville. I had considered skipping out early, but I’m glad I stayed.

There were great conversations with lots of smart people, and the closing speaker shared a message of faith and hope that I suspect inspired even the least-religious in the room. Using the metaphor of the paralytic beside the pool of Bethesda, he made a powerful case for standing up against debilitating beliefs and laying claim to the healing – and PROVISION – God has for us.

I have much to chew on these next 7 hours as I head home…

Date and Location

As I write this, one of our two kitties is in the window, listening to a bird sing and blithely accepting that there’s a screen between him and the life he sees happening outside. He can’t do anything about the barriers in his life, but I don’t have to stay behind mine.

Axl, sitting in the window as I write…

The “screen” that stands between us and the life we want to live – the life GOD created us for – is often just that – a screen. A mesh of fears, assumptions and flat-out lies the enemy uses to make us believe we are powerless to experience the life we long for.

It’s time to cut a hole and fly…

Looking back at the past three days, I am overwhelmed by how God showed himself to me at an event I wasn’t that sure about attending in the first place. Through my faithfulness to follow his lead, God not only stirred fresh dreams in my heart, but showed me some powerful next steps in pursuing them. I have more hope today than I did three days ago, and the barriers are weakening.

Opportunity always requires risk, awkwardness being a small but tangible example of that.

I’m glad I didn’t let it hold me back this time.

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