Well, all my intentions for posting about my experiences at the 2011 ACFW Conference have gone awry. A husband out of town, a billion real-life demands and crises, and the sneaking feeling that the previous piece I wrote doesn’t reflect what, weeks later, I know the conference was really about, for me.
This was highlighted when I was asked to share my conference experiences with my local writer’s group. What workshops did I attend? (I signed up for several but in actuality—very few. I had trouble sitting still. Maybe it was motherhood-induced ADHD ... or maybe the Holy Spirit, since several times it resulted in some very kewl God-meetings.) What agents/editors did I meet? (Unofficially, several, since I volunteered as an appointment timekeeper and had a blast getting to be the one to walk into the appointment rooms and call TIME. Officially—two, one who wasn’t interested in even looking at my proposal, but kindly offered advice when I spontaneously spilled my frustration to her, and another who did ask to see my proposal.) What did I learn? Who did I meet? Will I be sending out my proposals to anyone?
I did have the excitement of meeting people I hadn’t before. I had the joy of rooming with one of my closest writing friends, and spent one evening playing a very non-writerly card game with a group of speculative writers. I brazenly stalked an editor, something I don’t recommend if you’re new to conferences and/or the writing industry; it was risky enough for me, who had previously met the person I was stalking. I had the absolute delight of seeing my roommate win a Carol award for one of her recently published books—this after spending the gala dinner discussing such things as raising poultry with her and her editor.
Most of all, I had the joy of being in the right place at the right time to talk to, encourage, and minister to people—and be ministered to. For the first time in five conferences, I made it to the Friday evening Harp-and-Bowl intercessory worship session, and I stepped out in faith to pray for a healing that had nothing to do, I thought, with my writing, and everything to do with who I am as a wife, mother, and child of God. (And God has been answering that prayer in startling ways!)
A few times I wondered if this would be my last conference. My getting to be there this year was an amazing gift, though I’ve wondered if I’ll ever be able to write anything that’s commercially viable. At home, my kids were falling apart (I’d left my older teens in charge of their younger siblings, as my conference plans had been made before my husband’s assignment out-of-country), and there were moments I wondered if it was all really worth it. I wrestled with the question posed by our keynote speaker, “Why do you write? Would you keep writing even if you knew you’d never sell a single story, that no one would ever read your work?” But I tried hard to savor every moment, to just be where I was meant at each moment, and by the end of the last full day, I felt full to overflowing with happiness.
And then—it was all overshadowed the next morning by news of the house fire that claimed the greater part of my mom and stepdad’s material possessions. God not only graciously spared their lives, but arranged it so I’d already be there within driving distance, with plans already in place to visit those next couple of days. For the first few hours, I was overwhelmed with wave after wave of gratitude and brief sorrow for the things lost, which was everything that my mother hadn’t already given away from family photographs, antique furniture, and her jewelry and book collections. In the last few weeks, I find myself reexamining what’s truly important to me, what I really need to keep and what I can let go of—and not just material possessions. I’ve had my deep insecurity and inability to control my temper revealed as a lack of trust in God. (If I release my right to be angry, will God really defend me?) And ... I’m learning to let go.
To me, that’s what the ACFW conference was. Committing myself on a deeper level than ever before to an awesome Creator who loves me more than I can imagine, and who works even the disasters in my life for ultimate good. Laying down every weight, and the sin that so easily entangles me, and running with patience the race set before me. And incredibly, though I feel the possibility of being published has largely passed me by, or is still years down the road, I’m writing again, and finding a deep joy and satisfaction in it.
Better is one day in your courts, oh Lord, than a thousand elsewhere!