I went to the Influence Conference this weekend having no idea what to expect: maybe they’d give us some tips, or tricks, and we’d probably mingle some. I really wasn’t sure.
The last thing I expected to happen at the conference was for God to totally reroute me, like the loving voice of Siri, gently showing me I’ve veered off course and helping me get back on the right track.
The ideas and inspiration I gained at the conference will keep me busy for a decade, but there were three main takeaways I went home with. Maybe they’ll help you too.
- Build His kingdom, not yours
Jess Connolly with her dimples and sassy red lipstick brought down the house on Saturday morning. We were laughing, we were crying, sometimes we were doing both at the same time. By the end you felt like you’d been given the pep talk of a lifetime, and a loving pat on the butt… or at least that’s how I felt.
“God hates your kingdom,” she told us, “but He loves His kingdom.” Her words brought clarity to something I’ve been feeling for a while now: Cold hard conviction.
I’ve been working by butt off recently—writing until I run out of words and making bigger and bolder plans than ever. But something’s been wrong, off, nagging me in the pit of my stomach.
I’ve been building my kingdom, not Gods. Everything I’ve been doing has been about me, if I’m being honest, with His name slapped on the front for good measure.
I’ve known for a while I’ve been doing this—Jess just helped put words to it.
It’s sad, but it’s true, and I think a lot of us are guilty of this. God gives us gifts, talents, ideas and we run after them, at first doing it for Him. But the further we get down that road, the easier it is for it to start to become about us: Our fame, our glory, our success.
My first instinct was to quit it all. God, I’ve made Instagram all about me, I wanted to thrash dramatically. Here! Have it back! Promptly deleting the app from my phone (but not deleting my account in case… you know… He lets me have it back.)
But Jess stopped my thoughts in their track: God gave you this for a reason, knowing full well you’d make it about you. He doesn’t want it back; He just wants it to be about Him instead.
- Keep your eyes on your own paper
Lately, I’ve spent lots of time on my Instagram and Pinterest, searching for ideas and making plans. I’ve been calling it “creative research,” and I maintain it has been, even though from the outside it just looks like I’m looking at pretty things.
But something has happened as I’ve been doing my “research” and keeping up with everyone else’s new ventures: I’ve become seriously discouraged.
“Research” has begun looking oddly similar to “comparison,” with a dash of hopelessly on the side as it feels like every good idea is already taken.
But God rerouted that too this weekend, admonishing me like a teacher: “Stephanie, keep your eyes on your own paper!”
I’ve spent so much time looking at everyone else’s creations, I’m too busy comparing and feeling discouraged to create anything myself.
And so instead of looking at what other people are doing, I want to redirect my gaze, looking out the window and at the world around me. I want to dream my own dreams, and then, on my own paper, I want to create the things God made me specifically to create.
- Stop focusing on who’s following you, and go somewhere worth following
The tough thing about creativity is that it’s hard to measure. It’s hard to measure the beauty in a photo the way you can count calories burned, or miles run, or money earned.
It’s hard to know if you’re doing a good job, if you’re getting better or worse. Words don’t have values attached to them. It’s not like high school. Blog posts don’t earn grades.
No, creative life is largely immeasurable, which is why it’s so intoxicating that now we’ve been given some numbers to watch.
If you’re a blogger, or an Instagrammer, or are involved in any kind of social media, you know the thrill you get when you see your numbers go up. One more follower, one more Like, 10 more views. It puts a deliciously tangible reward to something that’s previously lacked that kind of measurable encouragement.
And this is, for the most part, a good thing.
It’s good to have a way of monitoring your growth, seeing what things are working, and what you should do more of.
But the problem comes when your following becomes your focus, which is what’s been happening in my life recently.
Instead of capturing life with my iPhone, I’ve been capturing things I hope will earn more followers (which is really embarrassing to admit). Instead of writing meaningful words that inspire me to live better and more fully, I’ve been worrying whether or not my readers will like it—watching stats climb like watching the grass grow, refreshing the page every few minutes for an update.
I’m embarrassed to say how long I’ve been off-roading in the wrong direction, and this weekend God instructed me to make a hard left in this area of my life.
And so with my tail between my legs, but the inspiration of knowing I can do better, I’ve vowed to stay away from watching my stats. I’ll still check them every once in awhile, but before I reach for my phone, or go to refresh the page, I’m asking myself this: Are you watching who’s following you? Or are you living a life worth following?
And I promptly put my phone back down and open a book instead.
I came out of this weekend invigorated. I feel empowered deep in my bones, the whisper of God urging me forward, “I’ve made you for something great Stephanie, you can do this,” and promising to keep rerouting me each time I get off course.
I don’t know what that’s going to look like exactly, but I’m going to blaze some new trails and see what I find. It’s not going to be perfect, but I think it’ll be fun. I’d love to have you along for the ride.