51: These Are My Friends

51: These Are My Friends

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman

These Are My Friends

There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met.

~Author Unknown

I was away when the landline rang. My husband took the call and answered confidently, “I’m sure she would be happy to.”

I would have said, “No, I’ve never done that. I’m not qualified.” But he said “yes,” and the next day they contacted me with the details.

A women’s conference was being planned for our church district. It was to be their first. The draw would be an outside speaker, one whose name everyone would recognize, which would be sure to increase the size of the crowd. However, several speakers from within the state were also being invited to speak. I was asked to be one of them.

Me! A pastor’s wife in a small but growing mission church. The most public speaking I had done was in front of the students in my high school classes or when I taught leadership classes to small groups within the church. But to speak to women whom I had never met, I couldn’t even imagine it.

The topic they wanted me to address was one I was passionate about, and before the conversation ended, I had consented.

During the next several months, I studied. I wrote. I prayed. I practiced. Somewhere during those weeks, I remembered that the two greatest fears people had were death and public speaking. I began to understand those fears.

The week before the conference was to begin we were notified that because so many women had preregistered there was a change of venue — to the largest church in the town. If only I could back out! But it was too late. My name was already listed on the program.

The architecture of the building was traditional — long and narrow with two sections of pews, a center aisle, and a balcony across the back. From my vantage point on the platform, the rows seemed to stretch forever, and it was packed — standing room only.

When I was introduced to speak, I rose and reached for the microphone. Suddenly, my legs felt like rubber. I thought my knees were going to buckle and I was going to fall if I kept standing there. I needed to move around to get the blood circulating once again. While this was happening, I said something to distract the situation. That’s when I heard them break into a friendly laugh. They thought I was funny!

In that moment, everything changed. These people were my friends! Peace replaced fear, and confidence flooded over me. That’s when I realized I was made for this.

Another invitation came from them the following year. For me, everything had changed, and I looked forward to the opportunity.

A few months after the second conference, my phone rang with another invitation. This time, it was to be to a much larger crowd. The “outside” speaker was inviting me to speak at their conference in a state over 800 miles away.

The event would last three-and-a-half days. Instead of several hundred attending, now there were several thousand. It was a plus that I was unknown to most of them because they had no expectations. I noticed that I was to be the eighteenth presenter and was not scheduled to speak until the last day. Plenty of time for my old fears to return.

But the moment I rose to speak, peace and confidence replaced fear.

During the next several years, my calendar began filling up with speaking invitations across the United States and abroad. And it all happened because of one phone call answered by my husband that forced me out of my comfort zone and into a whole new zone of empowering women just like me.

~Phyllis Bird Nordstrom

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