Last spring 2023, I was invited to be a keynote speaker at the 2024 Vision Christian Writers Conference. My first thought? She asked the wrong person. How embarrassing to have to explain that I was the Robin with the “W.” between her first and last name, not the “other” Robin she’d obviously intended to ask.

But as it turned out, that Robynne had asked this one on purpose—and four more author-birdies to boot. And so began my year-long stomachache.

Don’t get me wrong. Nearly every day for nigh on thirty years, I’ve whipped out my portable pulpit and preached to these folks I live with—one-on-one or one-and-all. So you could say I’m no stranger to delivering a well-timed word. I’ve spoken to fellow homeschoolers and fellow writers, on podcasts and in interviews, in classrooms and on panels.

But something about stepping onto that Mount Hermon stage and into those workshops…I just felt unworthy and unable and unfit. An impostor. What did I have to offer? What could I teach them? Why would they want to hear from me?

My family spent 365+ days pumping me up. Listening to my speech, tutoring me on PowerPoint, brainstorming workshop ideas, praying for me and with me. They used my own words against me, repeated all my encouragement to believe they were good enough, and more important, to trust Jesus who is more than enough. Over and over, they told me, “You can do it.” “No one knows your story but you.” “They wouldn’t have asked you if…” Basically, go, Mama, go. Yet, all I heard was the little voice urging “Stay, Robin, stay.” “You can’t.” “You shouldn’t.”

But I went anyway.

I would love to say that as soon as I climbed onto the airport shuttle, I felt I was soaring with my own birds of a feather. That seeing those redwoods immediately filled me with a peace and a sense of wonder I’d never known. That there was standing room only in my workshops and I strode around that stage in high heels, totally confident, sharing all my favorite things, shouting, “You get a car!” (Or better yet, “You get a book deal!”)

But I cannot.

I will admit that I became tongue tied when Robin Lee Hatcher boarded the van and told me she loved my debut, A Long Time Comin’. That I slept with the lamp on and cried like a baby after I saw a huge black spider in the bathroom (courtesy of those redwoods). That I clung to the lectern the way Noah must have held onto the Ark, as my shelter in a maelstrom of emotions.

When my sweet and wise literary agent, Cynthia Ruchti, hugged me after my keynote, she tried to assure me that it reflected who I was as a person and as an author. Then she whispered, “How many times do you have to hear it before you believe it?”

The thing is, I did believe it. The problem was I didn’t believe I was enough—that person I reflected—which meant that my words must have fallen short as well.

But God, the most important “but” of all.

He had some personal workshopping to do on my heart and mind, what He started as I prepared for Mount Hermon and what He’s yet teaching me since I’ve wended my way back.

Do any of these lessons apply to you and your calling?

  • I am but a vessel. The Lord formed me, and it’s this Robin He intended to use—my nerves, my fears, my tears, and yes, my stories, my experiences, and my unique publishing journey. I don’t have to jump into some spiritual phone booth and jump out as some bolder, braver, and bestselling superhero to connect with other writers and glorify Him. Perhaps what I consider a flawed delivery will encourage someone else to step out in faith.

“And yet, O Lord, You are our Father.
    We are the clay, and You are the Potter.
    We all are formed by Your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)

  • He would, could, and will still transform and renew my mind, even though I’d hoped His plan was to take me to California and transform me into someone else. Wearing orange doesn’t empower me; God does. The same God I know and love, whether I’m working in my pajamas on my sofa or speaking to a hundred people I barely know 3000 miles away. Why do I need to change anything other than my clothes?

“You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!” (Psalm 139:5, 6)

  • I do have something to offer, and it’s God given. How I do it is as unique to me as my Southern accent and my bacon grease-stained thumbprint. I need to stop worrying I’m not good enough or the world won’t accept me because I don’t look, sound, write, share, or teach the same way as others.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10)

  • Always travel with a hat. They cover me during stormy weather or from stormy thoughts, which are both under God’s sovereign control. After my speech and each workshop, I had to fight doubt and thoughts like “you could’ve said this better” and “that didn’t make sense” and “I wasn’t as good as….” Such thoughts pummel me when I read my published work or scan reviews. I need my spiritual helmet to guard my mind and drown out the mocking voice that sounds eerily like my own so I can hear God only. (And I don’t need to tell you what mist and drizzle do to my hair!)

“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

  • “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) As a homeschooling mama, daughter, sister, and friend, I’m used to coming alongside others, loving, teaching, and helping. But this conference showed me that “being neighborly” also entailed encouraging other authors in their calling when I felt least able or qualified. Giving as I’d been given. Sharing my own hard-earned lessons–successes and shortfalls–showed me we all suffer from imposture syndrome. We all need a hand and a hug and a tissue. And at times, we even need a shoe! I will always love Robin Lee Hatcher for putting hands and feet to this command from the book of Matthew and killing that spider. 

“Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.” (1 Corinthians 10:24)

These are only a few of my life’s “travel tips.” What has God shown you about your life in Him and His life in you? What personal “buts” and scriptural rebuttals could you add to to this?

“We can make our plans,
    but the Lord determines our steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

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