Networking and building relationships are important parts of any career.
Networking is a large part of my career in the creative arts. I invest money and time into writer’s conferences, email listservs, and Facebook groups so I can connect with other people in the publishing industry. Keeping in touch has landed me writing jobs and speaking gigs and has helped me hone my craft. Writing can be a lonely, isolating business, and it’s nice to chum around with people who love words and ideas. as much as I do. Most important, building relationships within the writing community and with the people I write about reminds me that people are more important than programs. Interacting with others gives us a chance to encourage each other and build each other up, just like the Bible instructs us to do.
Sometimes, networking is not easy. Because of my vision loss, networking at conferences is a challenge. I’m a slow learner – I’ve finally learned to ask God to help me find people. On Day Two of my last writer’s conference, I made a list of the faculty I wanted to speak with and prayed that God would lead me to them. He did! One faculty member stepped behind me in the food line at lunch, another sat across the table from me, culminating in an hour-long conversation. A joke among writers is that you never trap an editor in the bathroom to pitch your book. (Can you believe there are reports of authors sliding their manuscript under the door of a bathroom stall? Well, I’ve had editors follow ME out of the bathroom to engage me about my writing projects.)
“Lord, who do You want me to see?”
After such a successful day of networking, on Day Three, I felt guilty. God had graciously answered my request but it was so me focused. That morning, I prayed, “Lord who do You want me to see?” Did He ever have some creative ideas that I could have never predicted.
At lunch, I sat beside a fellow conferee. We chatted then exchanged business cards. Her card contained the Salvation Army logo. “I used to work for the Salvation Army,” I exclaimed.
She was familiar with the curriculum I had collaborated on with the Salvation Army ten years ago; in fact, told me it was still being used. In turn, I was able to tell her how God had put that same curriculum in the hands of a mission team in Sri Lanka and that it was reaching 700 children a week with the gospel message. I could tell she was delighted to hear about the impact material from their organization was having in ways they had not begun to consider.
I was amazed. Of all the people at that conference I could have connected with in the final hours of the schedule, God arranged for me to meet Ann so we could have that mutually encouraging conversation.
Networking God’s way every day.
Fast forward to the present. One morning, during my quiet moments, I realized my prayer, “Who do You want me to see?” applies to more than my networking attempts at conferences. I need to pray that prayer every morning as I look over my schedule for the day. Recently, I’ve found myself going in so many directions, and I’ve become irritable at the interruptions and demands. In repentance, I realized I needed to renew my efforts to view interruptions as Divine Appointments. I needed to ask, “Lord, who do YOU want me to see today?”
That particular day, my datebook showed I had the morning free but, in the afternoon, I was to help a group of workers sing a song for our children’s after school program and then help in the pre-Kindergarten room if another worker didn’t show. I found myself mildly irritated at the interruption to my writing schedule but, wanting to support the children’s program, I headed for the church.
When I arrived, I discovered there had been a miscommunication. The song had been part of the previous week’s lesson and the other worker did make it. Frustration rose in my throat. Okay, then why am I here?
- As my body poised to turn and go home, God handed me my to-do list:
a teenager called me to the church phone. A church member wanted information about our church’s mid-week meal to see if it was safe for her son, newly diagnosed with Celiac Disease.
- A mom brought in a crying child who didn’t want to stay for the children’s program – we learned his father had died two weeks ago and he wasn’t about to let Mom out of his sight.
- One of the workers tried to juggle her two-year-old on her hip while teaching – her husband who usually cared for the little girl was late home from work. I took the child to the nursery.
- An older boy was having a difficult day and pounded his frustrations into a pile of Legos. I stayed nearby to prevent escalation.
Availability means “being there.”
“I’m so glad you helped today,” the children’s program director told me.
I laughed. “What did I do?’
“You were here,” she said.
My irritation at my interrupted schedule snuck out the back door. God answered my prayer to see who He wanted me to see. He got me in the door of the church building and then gave me His networking list.
Are you ready to show up?
A popular catch phrase today is “God showed up.” I have trouble with that phrase. God is always present. When we see Him at work, it isn’t that He wasn’t there before. It’s more that our eyes have become open to see what He is doing and how He is working. Instead, God cares whether we show up. Are we willing to relinquish our agendas to go where He directs us? If I desire to know what He wants me to do, I need to lay aside my own wants so I can do His bidding.
So often, daily schedules turn out far different than what we expect. If we ask, “Lord, who do You want me to see?” those unexpected twists and turns in our day become His blueprint. Being available means relinquishing our expectations and agendas so He can lead us where He needs us most. At the end of the day, we can feel contentment rather than frustration, because we know we’ve been at the core of His will.
Being available to God means a willingness to simply “be there” and engage with the people God brings across our day.