I was honored to recently accept the President position with Oregon Christian Writers and we just finished an amazing Summer Conference at the Canby Grove Christian Center. We also held the award ceremony for the Cascade Christian Writers Contest. “We welcomed 170 contestants who submitted 251 entries to the 2023 Cascade Writing Contest this year. Contestants represented 35 states, Switzerland, Jamaica, Australia, and two Canadian provinces.” (1) Congratulations to all the finalists and winners!
Whoa. (Yes, just in case you thought OCW was just for Oregon peeps.)
I’m so very thankful to my amazing team. This conference and the awards would not have happened without them. To my very cool Board members (most prefer to be unnamed), I am so grateful for you and your year-round work. I would also like to send a curtsy to Summer Conference Director Christina Suzann Nelson, Sue Miholer, Amy Earls, Linda Kruschke, Donna Hues, Keynoter Amanda Dykes, numerous faculty members (30 workshops that you can order to watch if you want, along with the Keynote sessions and the agent/editor panel) and to the amazing mass of volunteers who worked very hard on putting on the best Summer Conference Ever! You are incredible! I thank you and am humbled to be at your side, serving.
I thought you might enjoy the devotional I wrote and read at the conference opening and also some conference pictures of the amazing time that we had. Of course, if you were at the conference, you’ve already heard this. But if not, I hope that you enjoy it.
My first writer’s conference was in Wheaton, Illinois at “Write to Publish”. I paid the fees and almost asked for my money back. Even sitting in the car getting ready to go into the building, I wanted to drive away. I forced myself outside, up the stairs, and into the lobby where I felt like a stranger but smiled, got my nametag and browsed the bookstore. All around me were people greeting and hugging each other. It seemed everyone knew someone – except me.
Worship was great and my first class, awesome. My anxiety was at an all-time high going into an agent appointment. But God took care of me in the most amazing way. He gave me a very kind agent and I about floated out of the auditorium afterwards. Finally, I received some confirmation that I was where God wanted me to be!
I not only received several confirmations that week at the conference, but I also soon recognized the truth. God had brought me to my true tribe. These were people who totally “got me”. Such a blessing when so many family and friends couldn’t quite understand why I was always spouting concepts, book ideas, passions I wanted to get out to the world and other odd tidbits. And that doesn’t even count the times when I’m writing and respond with a “huh?” and look up, truly confused, because I’m so buried in another world. Yes, my family has had to repeat questions many times, as well as occasional requests for dinner. (oops) Even last week, the dryer buzzer went off twice while I was writing. “There’s no way that was 50 minutes! That was like, ten!” But no, it was 50 minutes both times.
Here are some things I’ve learned in my writing journey.
1. I learned that unless I am using the gifts that He generously gave to me, I am not fully worshipping Him. Romans 12:6 says “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to use them accordingly.” There have been times in my life when I haven’t been able to fully use my gifts and times in my life when, due to trauma, I was unable to use my gifts effectively. When I chose to make changes in my life and heal from my trauma, God asked me to return to writing as part of my healing. “This is who I created you to be.” He whispered to me. “Beloved, you are mine.”
It is a part of our calling to do as He asks us, with what He has bestowed on us. As I use my gifts, the fullness of God becomes rich to me, I am the closest to Him, I am outward-focused on others instead of inward-focused on just myself (anxiety) and I also can make (with his help) a little impact for the Kingdom.
All part of His plan.
2. Secondly, I learned that sometimes the seeds we plant take a lot of time to harvest. I can get discouraged sometimes in God’s waiting room. When will my writing make a difference? An impact? And how can it when it seems like no publisher even wants it? In Mark 4 we learn the Parable of the Seed that is thrown in varied places on the ground. A seed either flourishes, gets choked out from weeds/thorns or dies from lack of nourishment. Sometimes, we don’t see the results of planting our seeds, but results ALWAYS happen when we plant according to the Lord’s desire – even years or generations later. I’ve now been privileged to learn that my efforts HAVE helped others, often weeks, months or years later. You will receive this too.
As we know, without seed planters there are no plants, no gardens, no jungles…and no reason for bees. Without seed planters there is no food to nourish us and no trees to clean the air. Did you know that according to the Arbor Day Foundation, in one year a mature tree will absorb more than 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen in exchange? Yes, that is how important seeds are, not to mention the spiritual seeds we plant as we exercise our gifts. Go forth and plant seeds.
3. Thirdly, I learned that my writing will not make an impact unless I “became real” as we learn in “The Velveteen Rabbit”. To remind you of the passage (because I’m quite sure you’ve all read it at least once), I will include it here. (2)
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
And then later…
The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him.
God is in Control
God uses our situations, traumas, pain, suffering and hurts in our lives to better other people – if we accept His assignment. It is the ultimate message to Satan that God is in control. And it is the biggest blessing in our lives when we use our experiences to assist others. It is part of becoming “Real”.
I want to leave you with a piece of scripture-perhaps one of several you might ponder this week.
Psalm 139: 1-18 (David)
1 You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
(1) Quote by Jennifer Anne Messing
(2) “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams, Public Domain
(Photos by Karen Barnett, Julie McDonald Zander and yours truly)