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  • Up The Ante

    August 4, 2009

    The thing about giving a speech, for beginners or remedials like me, is that there is a wide canyon between what actually comes out of your mouth and how it is playing out in your head.  And it is frustrating to me, this disconnect; that I can’t make myself do outside my head what I can so easily do inside my head.

    In my head, my voice is as warm and golden as melted butterscotch.  Outside my head, my voice is more akin to the sound of an angry wet cat wearing nose plugs.  Inside my head, my pacing is mellow, pauses are dramatic and gestures punctuate meaning.  Outside my head, my pacing is that of a spooked race horse and my gestures are more akin to muscle spasms.  Inside my head, my audience is nodding and dabbing tears and chuckling at my subtle humor.  Outside my head, 15 people are staring back at me like my hair just caught fire.

    In my head, I’m also four inches taller and 10 pounds lighter and I am not wearing discount store pants hemmed up with blue painters tape.  And I look a little more like Charlize Theron.

    The afternoon of The Big 5, I was sitting in a session listening to a speaker give practical and expert advice and encouragement in the fine art of oratory.  In one ear, I was feeling her encouragement and I was envisioning myself living out her expertise. I was thinking, oh yes siree, I can do it!  But in the other ear, I was hearing, “Who do you think you are? You?  Sharing the gospel? Seriously? Have you heard your voice?”

    And I would say, yes, as a matter of fact I have heard my voice, I have a voice recorder! And then I would cringe and shudder and wince. Who do I think I am, indeed.

    The longer I sat there, the tighter I wound myself into a big sticky ball of anxiety and doubt.

    So I quietly slipped out of the session to take in a long deep breath, walk off my anxiety and to try to shake the great discourager off my shoulder.  I was in a bit of a throw down with the evil one.  And so if you saw a crazy lady coming out of the restrooms  shaking her fist at the air and hissing, “Do NOT mess with ME!” — that was me.

    As I walked towards the restrooms, I saw Lysa Terkeurst and her assistant Holly pow-wowing at a little table in the lobby.  They waved me over, so I stopped and said hello.  I can’t even remember what was said, but when Lysa talks to you, she always looks fully into your eyes and beyond into your being, no matter she is just saying hello or delivering the gospel. And Holly is perhaps the wisest, sanest most unflappable woman on the planet.

    As I looked into Lysa’s unblinking gray green eyes, I wanted to close mine tight. I did not want to look at her because something was already tapping on the door of my heart, asking me to up the ante on the anxiety, to raise the bar, to scrape off another layer of skin, to give more than I had.  And I did not want to answer that call.

    A few minutes later, on my way back to my session, I passed Lysa and Holly again. They were still sitting at the little table, engaged deeply in conversation.  I was relieved that I could slip past them and go merrily on my anxious way back to the session, unnoticed.  I walked past them just a few steps and then something stopped me dead in my tracks and turned me around.

    I walked back to the table they were huddled over.  They both looked up and smiled at me politely, even though, clearly, I was interrupting.  I hate to interrupt. I spend most of my waking hours trying to avoid interrupting or being a bother to others, hence my fear of making phone calls.  And here I was interrupting the busiest woman at the conference.

    I didn’t know exactly why I was standing there interrupting, so I just blurted out, “Lysa, do you ever go to the speaker evaluation groups? You know, to hear the speakers?”

    She said that she used to do that but it just made the speakers even more nervous.

    Exactly. Up the anxiety ante. That was what I was supposed to do. That’s why I was standing there.

    I heard myself ask her if she would be willing to come hear me give my speech.  After about two seconds of schedule checking and wrangling, she said yes.  And really, that says way more about her than me.

    Just so you are clear on what transpired here, I asked the leader of a large conference, a nationally known speaker and author, who was scheduled to lead a session at the very same time I was speaking, to come listen to my piddly little five-minute speech.  And she said yes.  It would be like getting off the tourist’s bus at Buckingham palace, spotting the queen and running up to her and asking her to stop by your room for a spot of tea. And she says yes.

    Up the ante, He said.  Then depend on me.

    I don’t really think it was just a coincidence that Lysa and Holly were sitting just outside the session I was in. I don’t think that Lysa and Holly woke up that morning thinking they should follow me around and sit outside the sessions I was attending just in case I might need to ask them to do some crazy, unscheduled thing. I’m pretty sure not.  Not planned. Not coincidence.

    After the session, I went back to my room to practice and to pray and then practice and pray a little more.  What I had to give to God was not great, I know that, He knows that, but I was going to give all I had and more. I was going to up the ante not because I wanted to, but because He asked me.

    So Lysa and Holly came and listened to my speech. And I did okay.

    I recorded my speech with a little pocket recorder I carry around with me and when I listened to it later, it bridged the mighty canyon between what I heard in my head and what actually transpired.  It was the most honest of all evaluations.

    I was nervous.  I spoke too fast.  I dropped a few key lines. The faces that stared back at me were mostly wide-eyed and puzzled. The written feed back was mixed — some got what I was saying, some didn’t.  But none of that really matters.

    It wasn’t about my performance, it was about my obedience.

    I was called to up the ante that day, to lean a little harder on my Jehovah-Rapha.  And I was obedient.

    And that is all that matters.

    30 Comments »

    1. Tam says:

      This is an excellent post. Thank you for sharing all of this. I especially love your words: “It was not about my performance, it was about my obedience”. This applies to so may situations. A person doesn’t have to be giving speeches to utilize these wise words. Thank you for saying them in your straight forward way. I hope sometime to hear you speak.

      I don’t give speeches, but I am a classically trained singer and I do perform a few times a year. Here’s some ideas I’ve used with good results.

      1. If your throat and mouth feel dry, chew very gently on the sides of your tongue. This will produce saliva.

      2. Cold water will encourage the muscles in your throat to contract and be tense, leading to tension in the sound of your voice. Keep the water lukewarm or use a lozenge or hard candy instead.

      3. If your jaw feels tight, wiggle your toes. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it works.

      I wish you all the best in your speaking engagements.

      August 4th, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    2. Julie Gillies says:

      Many years ago God told me, “The pressure to perform is not on YOU, it’s on the Holy Spirit.” I only WISH I had remembered those words on Friday night. It might have prevented the meltdown I experienced in my hotel room afterwards.

      I’m proud of you, though. You asked Lysa to watch you, and I’m certain there is a reason. Baptism by fire or something. LOL And she is just the sweetest thing ever to drop everything to come hear you speak. You can only go up from here, girl!

      August 4th, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    3. Jen@Balancing Beauty and Bedlam says:

      Did you pop into my mind about those evaluations? So many gems of wisdom in this post, but I’m still stuck on the fact you asked Lysa and Holly to come in…WOW! Love you for that. :)

      August 4th, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    4. tom says:

      Hit the nail on the head! It is about obedience to His will. He provides, He encourages, He strengthens, He directs. Rely on Him, do what He asks, and no matter what anyone says, you’re right on.

      I couldn’t help but think of Moses as you described trying to talk God out of having you deliver the speech.

      I am inspired by your obedience.

      August 4th, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    5. Kim says:

      I am inspired by your obedience too! Wonderful post! I totally do the same in my head, outta my head scenarios all the time.

      August 4th, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    6. Pam says:

      Bless you!

      August 4th, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    7. Shelly W. says:

      What a wonderful challenge to all of us to up the ante every day. I love that.

      (And I think you are amazingly brave.)

      August 4th, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    8. Kelley Smith says:

      Stepping out, especially when it seems awkward, is a scary thing. You go girl!!!

      August 4th, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    9. Sarah S. says:

      Hearing what to obey –shushing the other yakkity yak noises around us — is almost as hard for me as obeying. Proud of you for doing both.

      * * *
      So true. I really struggle with listening for and hearing that clear small voice and trusting it.

      August 4th, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    10. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect says:

      I heard the story from someone in your group of what you’d done – how you’d asked Lysa to listen to your presentation. I was blown away then, but reading your account of it all just gave me chills. The person who was in your group was EXTREMELY impressed with your presentation; I believe she said you rocked. :)

      * * *
      I did not rock, nor did I roll. :-) But I did okay. For once I yielded to God’s nudging and was obedient.

      That you passed along your friends kind words puts wind in my sails today. Thank you!

      August 4th, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    11. Stretch Mark Mama says:

      I keep thinking I’ll make a little “webcam” video intro of me to add to my blog. And then I’m all like, “Once they hear the VOICE behind the snark…well, bye-bye subscribers.”

      (*smile*)

      August 4th, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    12. boomama says:

      Love this. So proud of you!

      August 4th, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    13. Kathy Vaughan says:

      I am learning about obedience. Not the study of obedience, but the doing of it. Should have it down by now, but nope, still learning. Sometimes it is hard, but it oh, so rewarding! Years ago I heard Gail McDonald speak about our “audience of One”. We need only think about pleasing Him. Hard to do, since I am deep down such a prideful person. But I am learning the joy that comes from knowing that I have pleased the Father. Thanks for sharing so honestly your struggle, and your choice to obey. You are such an encouragement to me.

      August 4th, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    14. Iota says:

      I think you are brave – to speak, to ask Lysa to listen, and then to write about it here. Three things!

      August 4th, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    15. Kay says:

      I would have been petrified! We had to give ‘testimonies’ in front of the staff (!!!)and other ppl in our new members class once at a church in order to join. I thought I was gonna die. It was so hard to condense something that took me five lengthy posts (and could have taken more) to write and say that in 5 minutes and have it be relevant.

      I’m sure you did great though! I’m so glad it was such an amazing atmosphere. *jealous*

      * * *
      Well that is the challenging part – speaking of something as big and complicated and messy as one’s walk with the Lord and to speak of it in a meaningful way — in three or five minutes. ~AM

      August 4th, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    16. Stacey says:

      I am impressed, not only did you see and talk with Lysa & Holly but you asked for their opinions– That is awesome!
      Very proud of you !
      I have had to speak before and I found that practicing late at night(so no one would hear)in front of a mirror helped me.For me, having an audience was easier than doing TV (Telethon)and little or no audience!
      {I spoke on behalf of my daughter about her medical issues, and I was told after I had finished, that crying was helpful to getting pledges!)good thing I cry well when I talk about my daughter! :)

      August 4th, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    17. Dee from Tennessee says:

      Ditto, ditto, ditto to what has been written!

      August 4th, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    18. Lysa TerKeurst says:

      This post seriously touches my heart… ’cause you have no idea what an honor it was for me to come hear you!

      Do you know the first time you left me a comment on my blog, I peed in my pants? I was so happy and shocked, I had to call Holly and tell her.

      So, the gal sitting in your audience that day was not “Lysa the speaker/ author” it was “Lysa your friend who deeply admires you.”

      August 4th, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    19. Dana Bailey says:

      This is my first time visiting your blog, but Amy Bayliss convinced me I needed to. I will be back!

      Fantastic post! Excellent.

      I have talked with Holly on the phone & was so impressed with her genuineness and gracious spirit.

      I am enjoying reading everyone’s take on the She Speaks conference. I hope to go one day.

      August 4th, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    20. Nan says:

      Oh, I’m sure there are no coincidences!

      August 4th, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    21. Kathy says:

      Good thing He equips who He calls – instead of waiting until we were equipped first….I would be standing in line forever.

      Proud. of. you. I’m praying extra blessings on you for your obedience. and for saying “yes” when he upped the ante.

      August 5th, 2009 at 12:22 am

    22. Karen says:

      …Thanks for sharing this AM- of course, as always, written with your wonderful humor and detail- and such an encouragement for those of us still learning to lean! ;)

      August 5th, 2009 at 8:27 am

    23. Especially Heather says:

      I heard this story from someone that was in your speaking group and was totally awe inspired at your courage. I am so much more awe inspired hearing it in full detail.

      You are one gutsy girl, but what I love about you is that you give the glory to the one that deserves it. That inspires me.
      -H

      August 5th, 2009 at 9:49 am

    24. patois says:

      Wow. Very inspiring, your listening and obeying and talking and delivering.

      August 5th, 2009 at 11:11 am

    25. LarryWho says:

      I read a story about an illiterate and homeless man named Joe Bananas. This was not his true last name; it was the one everyone knew him by in a section of New York city.

      After Joe gave his life to the Lord, he stood on street corners day after day and proclaimed, “I’m just bananas about Jesus.”

      His little message affected hundreds of lives before he died.

      August 5th, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    26. Ann G says:

      It’s always a good thing to be obedient to God and not usually an easy thing to do. I’m so glad you did what God asked, and can’t wait to hear how He will reward you for your obedience!

      August 5th, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    27. Sarah says:

      Whoot and amen!!!!!

      August 6th, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    28. Hillary @ The Other Mama says:

      OK. I was there and you were phenominal. And you better slap me if I was looking at you as if your hair was on fire. I loved every minute of it! You were on fire for God and that’s what came through- and the tape recorder will never catch that.
      You were and ARE amazing!
      I think your obeidience to something that seemed over the top and crazy will make a big impact on your road in the future. And that didn’t come from a fortune cookie- I mean it!
      Hugs!!

      August 6th, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    29. LauraLee@Selah says:

      Perfectly and totally my feelings, emotions, thoughts, everything exactly. It’s kind of when I think about my Christian life. I imagine being so much more Godly and wise in my head, and then I gotta go and ruin it while I’m actually living! I get it. So wish I could’ve been there. I love hearing you talk!

      August 6th, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    30. Amy @ Living Locurto says:

      WOW! That is so cool. Way to listen to what God was telling you. I think having them there probably made you more aware and better. That’s so cool. Glad you survived! I might have fainted… or at least had sweat pouring down my sides:-)

      August 7th, 2009 at 5:52 pm

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