"A Blogging Conference Worth Every Penny: Want to Win A Free Pass?The words on my computer screen caught my attention. It was mid-November. And, just the day before I had prayed, Lord, should I be using social media and blogging to do ministry?

Could this be an answer to my prayer? I wondered. I followed the link on Judy Dunn's Blog, entered the contest, and committed the outcome to the Lord.

I received my answer a few days later. I won! I was one of two randomly selected (or, should I say, divinely appointed) winners to the New Media Expo. I was so excited. I was going to start the new year in Vegas at a social media convention.

However, when the time came to pack my suitcases, I began to have doubts. Why did I win? What am I doing going to this conference? My blog is so small and my social media skills are so weak....On and on, doubts and fears taunted me...I am sure there are others who would benefit from the conference more than me.

Despite my doubts, I believed the pass that I won, courtesy of Bob Dunn, was a gift from the Lord. The opportunity to learn more about social media and blogging was the answer to my prayers.

The first morning of the conference, surrounded by hundreds of experts who were successful and influential in the blog and social media world, I was still asking the same questions. Timidly, I mapped out the sessions I wanted to attend. Then, I took fastidious notes during each workshop, because I wanted to be a good steward with the gift I had been given.;

On day two, my doubts continued. So, as I walked from my hotel room to the conference center I prayed, "Lord, Why am I here? What can I do for you today? How would You use me here?For something in my heart was telling me God had more reasons for me to be there than simply lectures and note taking.

Thankful for a Starbucks near the meeting halls, I stopped to grab breakfast and my morning ice tea. A woman offered me a seat at her table, and we began to talk. Our conversation soon veered away from formalities and conference topics to personal details. I'm worried about my teenage son, she shared.

I blog about parenting teenagers, I said. And, there at a Starbucks in Las Vegas, we talked about pain and loss, faith and hope, as well as God's promises for redemption and the power of a mother's prayers. She took notes on my parenting tips; I took notes about her social media advice. Then, before going our separate ways, we prayed together. And, joy filled my heart; I knew why I was there.

On the last morning, as I headed to Starbucks once again, I whispered, Lord, Thank You that I am here. What would You have me to learn? And, how would you use me today?
I ordered a venti black-ice-tea, and some oatmeal. Then, I found a small table, where I sat to plan out my day. Can I join you, I was interrupted by a gentleman I had met earlier while standing in line.

Sure, I said.

Could we put aside conference talk? he asked as he sat down.

And suddenly, I found myself sharing God's Word with a successful conference attendeewho was worried about his marriage. There, in the middle of Starbucks, we discussed the Bible's instruction for a man to love his wife. I shared the apostle Peter's admonition for husbands to live with their wives in an understanding way so nothing would hinder their prayer life. Our conversation was brief, as he had to run to another appointment. But, before he left he turned, looked me in the eye, and asked, Would you pray for me and my wife?

There I sat, tea untouched, oatmeal cold, but, my heart soaring. God heard and answered my prayers. He put me in the right place, at the right time. And, once again, I saw another reason why I was there.

I am home now. The conference is over. 2013 is in full swing. But, I can't forget the prayer I said in November. A prayer God answered with a randomly selected pass to attend a conference in January. An answer not only to help inform and further equip me to use blogging and social media for ministry. But, as only God can do, to use my time there for "divine appointments" to encourage and pray with a worried mom, as well as share scripture and pray for a hurting husband.

I am excited for all the Lord has in store for the year ahead. I hope and pray that you are too! Remember, when you visit me after February 1, at cathyhorning.com, you will find my new website. There, you will find me posting more on my blogs. And, you will find regular tips and words of encouragement on my Facebook ministry page, as well as on Twitter. I hope you will visit me there. May God bless you richly in 2013!