Saturday, June 23, 2012

Why I'm Not at TGC Women's Conference


On my way to the airport this morning, I snapped the above shot of the incredible sunrise. After I had taken the photo, I glanced at its image in my phone and could not help but see the giant heart glowing back at me. I interpreted it as a sign that everything would go as planned today. That I would make my flight (I had more than enough time to make it on any other day...except for today), that the Lord would give me words to speak truth and love to the women at The Gospel Coalition, that the Spirit would move mightily despite me, and that I would get to spend time with women I know and love, and women I don't know yet but still love.

The Lord had a different plan.

This glowing heart in the sky was a reminder that because I am His, everything works out for my good and His glory--that instead of my talking about His being the stability of our times, He proved Himself to be just that.

As I walked into the terminal, I knew it would take an act of God to get me to my flight on time. But, He is that kind of God. He can do the impossible. A line full of families with Mickey-eared children and couples dressed for beachy weather snaked past security, in front of the ticket agents and down the hall to baggage claim. No worries, I had plenty of time--a full hour. This just meant I'd have to make due with airplane coffee rather than Starbucks. The digits on my phone kept creeping closer and closer to boarding time. Once that time passed and I was still in line, I became a bit more nervous. Just as I made it through security with 2 minutes to spare before take-off, I was informed that they had given my seat away. 


I would love to say that I rejoiced in God's sovereignty and that it would all work out for my joy and His glory. But, to be honest, I felt kicked in the gut. Tears brimmed. I thought, Lord, I know You are sovereign. I know You are good. I know this is part of Your plan, but I am struggling to understand it. 

The gate agents did what they could to get me on another flight. They handed me a voucher to put me on stand-by for the next flight and encouraged me to grab a coffee and breathe. I followed their instructions. However, when I got to the next flight's gate, my name kept inching lower and lower on the stand-by list. I was then informed that all the flights from Dallas to Orlando were oversold.

I lost it.

I could no longer contain the tears! I felt so burdened for the women at TGC and burdened with this message--that He would be the stability of our times, an abundance of salvation, wisdom and knowledge. I was a blubbering mess right there at gate C36 at the DFW airport.

The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps.
Proverbs 16:9


A sweet voice broke the onslaught of "what if I had..."s and "if only..."s that were bombarding my mind. Are you okay?, she asked. Through sniffles and breath-gathering pauses, I related my story to this precious woman. I even unpacked what I'd prepared to share at the workshop with her. I told her how the Lord had proven to be the stability of my times through Matt's brain tumor diagnosis and the uncertainty that comes with that, and what I felt like the Lord showed me about Himself through it.

Her response was staggering.

She felt like the Lord had purposed us to meet, and for me to share my story with her. It became apparent that the Lord was pursuing her. She knows Him, but the Lord was inviting her to return to Him.

Once it became apparent that I would not make any flight to Orlando today, I exchanged cell numbers with her. She texted this to me a few hours later:

I got confirmed on a flight leaving at 3:30 today. Only seat open until tomorrow. I was just sitting here reflecting on our encounter and I have no doubts that your preparation for your testimony and talk on suffering was not wasted. I'm sorry that the women in Florida did not get to hear you speak, but I feel as though my heart heard something it needed to hear and I'm glad we were able to have the time to talk. We have an AWESOME God!


I thought I knew what that big heart in the sky meant, but the Lord showed me something better. He showed me how intimately He loves us. He showed me that He personally knows what each of us is going through and has gone through. He showed me that He enters in! He orchestrates and establishes the most intricate of details! He showed me that all other props--a flight schedule, a security line, a healthy husband, my plan for my life--cannot truly sustain. Only He is unshakeable. Only He can be the stability of our times.

For all you precious, precious women at The Gospel Coalition's Women's Conference, please know that I am praying for you. More than good doctrine (though it is important!), I pray you get more of JESUS this weekend, in whatever form He may present Himself---in the expected and the unexpected. I pray I get another chance to share with you, some way, some how.

35 comments:

beaming beauties said...

Wow!! how awesome HE is. Thank you for sharing with us--HIS plans for you today.

mcleancounseling said...

Wow! What a story of God's daily involvement in our lives. I was so encouraged by this! Thank you for sharing.

Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...

Oh Lauren --- I am in tears.

Jesus left the 99 for the 1 --- and you bring Truth and more of our Savior to this one woman?

And to me, reading right here...

This:

"He showed me how intimately He loves us... He showed me that He enters in! He orchestrates and establishes the most intricate of details! Only He is unshakeable. Only He can be the stability of our times."

The tears flow --- the exquisite beauty and Truth of this -- of Him! Yes, yes, yes.

With you, bowing the knee to His perfect sovereignty, knowing that He is using all things for His good, to ultimately bring more glory to Himself.

All my love, ((Lauren)) -- with you for the Gospel, that Christ would be glorified in all things...
Ann

kimlenon said...

Thanks for sharing this great reminder and being willing to allow Him to use you, despite the disappointing circumstances. God had that divine appointment between you and her, no doubt she will remember how God pursued her and you shared in her life.

Cheryl said...

Mrs. Chandler, Due to your heart being sensitive to the HS, you may have changed someone's life who will impact others for years to come. It was worth it.

Feeling your pain in SC,
Cheryl Braswell

Anonymous said...

Gave me goosebumps. God be praised!

Pat

Katie said...

I was signed up for your workshop and was disappointed! BUT GOD (which seems to be a key phrase for this conference) knew that I needed to go to Carrie Sandom's workshop on Studying the Word for some much needed advice on how to teach the women in our church how to treasure His Word. He knows what we need, and I trust that many other women had a similar experience because He is good even when (especially when!) things don't go according to plan.

Corynne Escalante said...

I'm sorry you didn't make it! But thank you for this reminder to trust and hope in God when it's not easy or natural to do. I've been impressed wth Jeremiah 17:7 where it says, "blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose hope is the Lord." making Him my hope instead of my circumstances...

I missed the conference also, and I had been looking forward to going for the past year or so... So knowing that I wasn't the only one out and also to be reminded that He is sovereign was just what I needed! <3

The FitzGerald Family said...

It truly is difficult when His sovereignty preempts our plans, but isn't it amazing when He allows us to see the reason. I'm glad you shared your story and your picture! May Jesus be mightily praised!

Anonymous said...

I do not know if the submittal of my comment will be allowed, but I will write and then attempt to send...and trust God in His Sovereignty over all the details. 

I was excited to see a day or so ago, that the TGC confenerence would be broadcast live online. This announcement had been like a kiss from the Lord sent especially to my heart. You see, when I first heard about this meeting, I longed to attend with a friend, but God had other plans and like yours, my physical attendance was simply not to be. Then in the first pre-conference message that I was able to virtually attend, Don Carson reminded me that the LORD, Himself, and HIS Gospel is my joy,  not a gathering, or a service, or a relationship, no matter how righteous and godly the object of my pursuit may seem to be. 

As a pediatric nurse practitioner, I am privileged to care for some precious families that love the Lord and bless me with their witness. In conversing with a particular mother yesterday afternoon, after having spent my lunch break with Don Carson, I was prompted by her to listen online to the preaching of Matt Chandler (whom I had heard of, but not yet sought out).  Later that evening, I continued to hear the conference broadcast live, and looking ahead to the schedule for today, I was thrilled to see your name and message title.  I had researched your husband briefly when I came home from the clinic and  remembered hearing about his brain tumor diagnosis in 2009, because my own little boy was fighting cancer that same year (www.caringbridge.org/visit/willpatton).

You probably know the rest of the story. I realized today you weren't speaking after all, though at the time I did not know why.  I soon saw on Facebook the link to your blog, read your words, and delighted in the over-ruling plans of the Lord. I look forward to reading more about your family and hearing the preaching of your husband. I suspect that God will reveal more of His grandeur to me, as displayed through the physical storms in the life of your family. My child's cancer journey proved to be a chisel in the hand of the Lord refining and perfecting each member of my family in ways we would not have chosen, but in hindsight, could never shun. His light does indeed shine brightest in our darkest moments.

Thank you for posting this story on your blog. I do rejoice in the sovereignty of God. I do hope in the One Who rules the wind and the waves and all the details of the world. I may not have been graced to hear you audibly speak today, but in it all, I have still heard much from HIM, the stability of our times. I pray your weekend at home is filled with the goodness of our Lord.

Stephen Branine said...

Thanks Lauren for this post. Thanks Matt for linking to this post via Twitter. I am a guy. I am pastor in OR married to a girl who wanted to go to TGC12 real bad. She couldn't. Not this year. So chances are I would never have heard your talk at the conference. I read this though and I was immensely encouraged. I am encouraged in the steadfast faithfulness of God to show himself in clouds, security lines, standby, and providential "I needed to meet you" happenings. I am encouraged to hear that you broke down (sorry), because it tells everyone reading who looks up to you and your husband that this is sometimes what Christians do. Christians who are well known and well respected. Christians who write books, blogs, and sing music we sing in churches. Christians who have a strong grasp of sovereignty. This is like David in the Psalms, Elijah in the cave, and me at my job. So thank you, for the reminder that I would not have been reminded of had you made that flight. God is good, and I am so glad you were able to encourage that lady in DFW and all of us.

God bless.

Adenike Adebiyi said...

Hi Lauren, I thank God for your honesty in your disappointment at the airport and how God in his sovereignty allowed you to prepare your message for just one person and not the TGC women in Florida (or others like myself online).

I am following the conference online from England and I so so so so so(hear the stress of so) wanted to hear you speak and was extremely disappointed when the message came that you were not able to make it. How come, i had been gearing my entire day towards this moment, i was looking forward to hearing Matt Chandler's wife speak how could I be denied of that entitlement (obviously not entitled), I have to say i was a little sad.
But then I decided to go on to Google to find a message by you and then came across your blog. I was repentant as I found out about the sister in Christ that you met at the airport.

I realised that I was sinful in my expectations of the conference. I was not relying on THE TRUE LIVING GOD speaking to me through whoever was on the stage,but I was relying on the strength and eloquence of particular well known speakers speaking to me.

From the word of God in Isaiah 6 which Dr Piper preached on this morning...woe to me! for I am lost, a woman of unclean lips...but my guilt is taken away and my sin atoned for...in the Holy seed.

I thank God that he is a FATHER that disciplines and chastises us in every way possible to make us more into the image of HIS SON JESUS CHRIST. To HIM be all glory forever and ever and ever!

JohnT. said...

Thanks for sharing this amazing story. In these days of big conferences, it's easy to think of them and getting to speak to hundreds of people as the "bigger deal.". Obviously, on this day, God saw that woman's heart as the bigger deal.

God has really used your family to bless so many lives in so many different ways.

Nicole said...

Hi Lauren,
Thanks for sharing with us so quickly. Since last summer I had been interested in attending this conference, but it did not seem to be the wisest choice for me this summer. This morning I was delighted to find that The Gospel Coalition was providing a live stream of the conference online. I was looking forward to hearing you speak! But God allowed you to speak in another format than what we all expected today! I find the testimony of your experience today so neat, because just this last Sunday morning I was sharing with a group of how I think we sometimes miss seeing God. We face two choices when our plans and agenda do not go accordingly. Choice number one is to shut down, see only the negatives and wallow in self pity. Choice number two is to look up and say "Lord, what do you want to accomplish through this?". Lauren, today you chose number two! I appreciate your excellent example of candid transparency and humility! Only God knows the many other reasons He allowed you to remain home this weekend. Two songs some to mind: Michael W. Smith's "Providence": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2HbrNcfmYs and the praise song "You Direct My Steps": http://www.worship.co.za/tfh/tfh-3209.asp
From a Sister In Christ, Nicole - Dallas, TX.

Emonne said...

Wow. Your post is so encouraging. As a speaker myself, I can only imagine the gut-dropping feeling of missing a flight to share a message that was burning in your heart. As you stated, God had other plans. Just the fact that He would have you study, prepare, pray and carry this message with such passion for one single soul in the DFW Intl Airport is another reminded of what kind of Father we have. He always goes after "the one". The large heart picture that you took reminds me of how big His heart is for us, and how He is our El Roi (The God Who Sees Us). Thank you for sharing your heart with us today and sharing how God used you in the midst of what seemed to be a disappointing setback. Even through this post, God is being glorified and your delay was not in vain.

Thank you.

Emonne

nthecity said...

This is so beautiful. Our Jesus is SO good! Praise Him for everything He does. His glory is our joy.

Courtney said...

What a wonderful testimony of God's Purpose and Provision in our lives! He is Forever Glorious!

Kayla Williford said...

How beautifully sovereign He is--so edified by this story of His goodness and grace!

Freddy said...

Thank you for sharing Lauren! My wife was in your breakout session but when I spoke to her earlier she mentioned how you weren't able to make it because you missed your flight. Never would I have imagined it was for His glory! You have preached your message today with your life! Continue decreasing sister so that He may increase! Can't wait to forward this post to my wife.

TrueWorship said...

We missed you at conference today but we know Gods sovereign plan is at work. If God wills we will see you next year at conference :)

Sarah said...

But God, rich in mercy made a way! He is amazing! And I always love a great airport story!

Chelsea said...

Amazing. He is a gracious, gracious God, and His ways are not ours. Great photo as wel! And reminder.

Gayla said...

So, you expect me to believe God planned the whole bit? The heart in the sky, the late seat, the woman.....at the well..... I mean terminal? Oh, yes! Yes! Yes! He did! What an awesome set of blessings for every single one of us. Your message from him and through him could not be sweeter.... Hugs from a Missouri farm woman.

Freddy said...

Thank you for sharing Lauren! My wife was in your breakout session but when I spoke to her earlier she mentioned how you weren't able to make it because you missed your flight. Never would I have imagined it was for His glory! You have preached your message today with your life! Continue decreasing sister so that He may increase! Can't wait to forward this post to my wife.

Barb said...

Yes! and Lauren, this was not the only moment like this that happened this weekend; I had one of my own with a taxi driver! So sorry you didn't make it but thank you for sharing with us, & keep on sharing with others!

Leigh said...

What a lovely truth - what a perfect illustration (a life lived in the day to day moment) of His intention, His intricate, breathing will for each one of His own.

Thank you for sharing this. I have been praying for your family for so long. I met you once, long ago, at The Village. I had visited to see Matt preach - something I hadn't heard since high school. When he was in college, he volunteered in our youth ministry in Abilene. I have such wonderfully fond memories from those years, from our youth group. After seeing him surprisingly, years later while I was attending UNT, at the Grapevine Mills mall during a Shane and Shane concert, we caught up briefly and he shared about you - his wonderful family - and about how God was a rich designer of life and growth.

I trail off because I just know - I've known for so long - how fiercely and fervently our Father loves His children. Your family - your life, Lauren - is no exception. And to hear this story - to be reminded of how He brings us from one degree of glory to the next, I am beaming with thankfulness.

You were meant to speak with that woman. Think of the heavenly joy when the words passed between you - when you were obedient to what your King wanted you to say - despite the audience looking differently than you expected. I am rejoicing for so much. Thank you for sharing. We are all in benefit. He is breathtaking in His sovereignty.

loved4ever said...

Thank you for sharing this post. I was attending the conference and was looking forward specifically to your workshop. I was so disappointed when I heard the news, but after reading this blog I know I cannot complain as God had another purpose in mind for you. I hope to hear you speak another time!

Hollie said...

Lauren, thank you.

The Davises said...

Thank you for sharing Lauren. Your family's transparency has always been so encouraging. God is good and in control, James and I are telling ourselves this each and every day. :-)

Lauren Williams said...

This is straight Phil 1:12. So sad that u had to miss but love what came about!

upward & outward said...

Lauren,
I was scheduled to be in your session and was so bummed when I heard you didn't make it. Hearing you share was one of the things I was looking forward to most from this conference. However, just as God has a different and sweet plan for you, he had one for me too. Since your session was not available, I found myself sitting on the floor because there wasn't a single chair left, listening to Paige Benton Brown talk about the importance of relationships. Her session was not at all what I though it was going to be about and honestly, I ams thankful I got to hear it live. Because of the personal nature of which she shared, it was the only workshop NOT recorded.
Thank you for sharing, from your raw, honest, heart, how this change in plans affected you...and thank you for choosing to accept and rejoice in Jesus' sovereign (& therefore sweeter) plans for you.
Grace to you and the fam!
Tracy in Maryland

Jocelyn said...

Lauren, Thank you so much for sharing this. Love knowing that others see that it is not coincidence at work in our lives, but the LORD at work even in what we see as mishaps.

peteyarr said...

Lauren, I read your blog post during the dinner break on Saturday. I wasn't scheduled for your workshop, but had heard that one of the speakers had missed their plane and was unable to make it.

The verse you quoted, Proverbs 16:9, became a whisper in my ear for the remainder of the conference for it summed up my weekend. - I had planned for a debrief day by the pool after the conference but ended up in my hotel room thanks to Tropical Storm Debby. A meeting I had anticipated through a connection never happened. I came to the conference alone but didn't anticipate how lonely I would feel.

But that verse helped me keep everything in perspective. I learned A LOT from the conference, but this was one of the biggest lessons. Thanks for sharing, your lesson helped me learn mine.

Dottie in Him said...

Thank you sharing your heart. A dear friend sent this to me and all I could think was"Man makes his plans, but God orders our steps", and I am sure glad he does, because I sure can mess up!!

MaureenM said...

I'm new to your blog and just read this post. How lovely! Love to see His plans in action even though we struggle with them sometimes. I've been learning the same thing lately in different ways. The voice in my head keeps reminding me of the one lost sheep..and the rejoicing over that one!! :)