Why I LOVE the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference // Let Me Count the Ways

Blue Ridge Sky

Five ways to be exact.

Yes, there are more. Many more⎯but I’ll stick with my top five today. Like you, I’m busy preparing for the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference and it would take hours to list the reasons I absolutely love it and look forward to it every year.

 

5 Reasons I Love the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference {And You Will Too}

 

{one}

Clouds Coffee Cafe

Clouds Coffee Shop. Starbucks has nothing on this cafe since their remodel. It’s beautiful⎯but not nearly as beautiful as those who work there. Ladies like Loretta, aka, “the Foaminator” greet us with smiles and show genuine interest in our days… and they’ve seen it all. Everything from mascara-blotted cheeks following a difficult critique to giddy grins when a book proposal is accepted. If you’re searching for a place to escape, or to slurp down a fancy frappe or sip a decent cup of coffee, you’ll want to visit the Clouds.

{two}

Staff. Experts in their realm of the writing community come prepared to equip, encourage and inspire us. They’re approachable and leave a lasting impact on the lives of many. The fact that conferees are able to enjoy lunch and dinner with staffers is a bonus. I’m especially looking forward to sitting with Todd Starnes from FOX news again this year. He’s a staunch supporter of our faith but he’s also a lot of fun, as are many of those on staff. Who are you looking forward to sitting with this year?

{three}

Two Peas in One Strange Little Pod…Productions! Last year, in the wee hours of the night, my cohort in crime fellow pea, Dee Dee Parker, came up with an idea to film our disappointment over the lack of real snack food available in the vending machine on our floor. While those on the upper floors were feasting on Cheetos, candy bars, and peanuts, we were stuck with Daisy razors, plastic combs, Listerine, and hand wipes. Not to say these items weren’t needed when enclosed with hundreds of other people but we had our hygiene under control. Our appetites, not so much. We went on to produce a few more videos that week and heard more than once how our friendship inspired others, and for this, we thank God. {Watch for us again this year!}

{four}

Fellow Attendees  Fellow {Quirky} Writing Friends. You may arrive at the BRMCWC with fellow attendees but chances are, you will leave calling many of them friends. Where else can you spend days surrounded by other believers and writers who totally get you? Quirks and all.

{five}

Tech Savviness. The BRMCWC Facebook group is stellar. Especially for newcomers. There, you can ask any question you have about the BRMCWC experience. Want to know what to wear? What to pack? How to prepare for an appointment? No question is too silly. It’s a closed group and you’re among friends. You will find nothing but encouragement awaiting you. {Bravo, Bethany Jett!}

And let’s not forget the collaborative effort that goes into the BRMCWC Web site. Our exposure to top-notch information is no longer limited to one week at the conference. It’s now available five days a week. It’s obvious this team values our time by the information they share on a consistent basis. Scroll down the home page to find the Ridgecrest app. And finally, if you’re not already following Blue Ridge on Twitter, do so today – @BRMCWC.

Dee Dee Parker and Cathy Baker

The Two Peas in One Strange Little Pod…with Frappes!

So, these are my top five reasons I love Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference. I can’t imagine a better way to close out my month of LOVE posts than highlighting a conference that has changed my life in many ways.

If you are a returning attendee, what’s one thing do you love about the conference? If this is your first year to attend Blue Ridge, what are you most looking forward to?

“Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3

 

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Love… One Sip At A Time // A Valentine Tea Party

Valentine Tea Party

Because love isn’t limited to one day on a calendar I decided to share a few pictures from my Valentine Tea Party earlier this week.

I began hosting tea parties in 2002, with the highlight being an annual Christmas Tea — sometimes two. One with long-time friends and another one with new friends I’d made that year. I separated the two due to space issues. Basically, there was none.

In December 2007, I hosted my last tea party. During that Christmas Tea, I received word that my sweet grandmother had been admitted to the hospital. She would die only a few days later. I grieved longer than first realized. There was no desire to host a Christmas Tea the following year…or the next, and on and on.

But this recent move toward the mountains ushered in a fresh desire to host more teas and simple gatherings. And so it begins.

The Valentine Tea earlier this week was small, intimate. I consider my writer/critique group friends first, writers second. We pray for one another, share in both victories and struggles, and support what God has called us to do by giving honest feedback,  grounded in love.

Writers Critique Group

Marcia Moston, Carol Roper, and Beth Saadati

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I hope this is true as I have more pictures than words today.

Valentine Tea Roses

Initially, I’d plucked a neatly wrapped bunch of non-Valentine flowers out of one of the grocery store floral buckets. I knew they would be pretty enough, maybe even save a few pennies. And then I spotted these trio-colored roses. I quickly put the non-Valentine bunch of flowers back (and okay, a few Yasso’s). The roses were worth it.

Valentines Day Yogurt

One favorite treat (I think) was the yogurt, vanilla-almond granola, and fruit in half-pint jars. I ordered these mini (and I do mean mini) red spoons from Target. {I just realized I forgot to tie a bow around the top. Oops!}

Valentine Tea Scrabble

A last minute idea was to add a fun element by spelling out the obvious. After all, I was surrounded by gifted wordsmiths.

I admit to feeling a bit inept in preparing for the tea. The to-do lists began weeks prior but I had to continually remind myself that perfection was not the goal of this gathering (or any, really) but rather, the celebration of friendship…and kinsmanship in spirit and in deed.

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” -C.S. Lewis

Or too many reasons to celebrate with friends. -Cathy Baker

How did you celebrate Valentine’s Day this week? Please share! 

 

10 {Meaningful} Valentine Gifts Money Can’t Buy

Gifts Money Can't Buy

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, it’s the perfect time to gift those you love with something far more meaningful than flowers or candy. Or books. Wait, what?

No doubt the Beatles were onto something with the lyrics “Can’t Buy Me Love”. Love⎯real love⎯cannot be purchased or persuaded. This kind of love cannot be bound by a date circled in red on our daily calendar. It deserves to be wooed year-round and is not limited to spouses. The ideas below can also be gifted to others, including singles and widows in your life who could use a little extra love this Valentine’s Day.

So here are ten no-bow-required ideas for Valentine’s  Any Day.

Priceless Valentine Day Gifts

TEN PRICELESS GIFTS TO GIVE ANOTHER
A Road Trip

Okay, so there’s gas money involved but you get the idea. Take your spouse to a place nearby that holds a special meaning for you both. For us, it’s Applebees and we still celebrate our first date in 1990 by eating dinner there every January 6th. Don’t have such a place? It’s time you create one. Or visit the place where you gave your life to Christ. Once in a blue moon, I still drive by the brick duplex where my condemnation kneeled in the presence of unconditional love.

A Bloody Lip

The gift is biting your lip, not bloodying the lip of another.  One of the best gifts we can give to another is to speak less and listen more. {At least that’s what I’ve been told *wink*}. Seriously, there are times I have to pray to be more aware of what I’m blurting out – like in the car. I’m not a great passenger. Most of us know what pushes the buttons of those closest to us and it’s our responsibility to not only be aware of those buttons but to also be proactive in promoting peace. Even if it means biting your lip once in awhile.

A Skill

Are you a whiz at saving money at the grocery store? Offer these skills to a new wife or mom trying to make ends meet. Mad skills in the kitchen? Offer your help to a new college grad setting up their own place. Like to clean? {You are my hero} Offer a final clean up job for someone moving. Like to piddle with cars? A single mom would love your help. The list goes on.

Forgiveness

People who have trouble forgiving others have yet to grasp the depth of their own sin. There it is. It probably hurts as much to read that statement as it was to write it. But the truth is when I struggle to forgive I need only look in the mirror to be reminded of how much God has forgiven me. And the crusty layer of bitterness attempting to form around my heart is divinely pummeled to pieces. Forgiveness is not only a gift we give to others. It’s also one we give to ourselves.

A Sticky Note

Or a dozen. Nothing says “I love you” like sticky notes proclaiming the specific reasons you {and/or God} love another plastered all over the house. Add a Hershey’s kiss to each one? Boom!

A Prayer

I would rather the prayers of one person who I’m confident will pray than ten dozen people promising to pray. Follow up a time of prayer for a person with a note letting them know how you prayed specifically on their behalf. Or if you’re with the person, pray with them on the spot.

Serve

This is intended to be a tad different from sharing a skill in that you don’t require any skills to simply serve someone else. Deliver a meal. Serve a meal. Welcome someone new at church. Babysit for a single mom. Cut grass for the elderly person down the street. Visit a nursing home. Again, the list goes on.

Your Time

It’s our most precious commodity so to give it away to another is a gift no bow can wrap itself around. Take a walk together, plan a hike, go out for coffee even though you have a Keurig at home (no distractions). Sit around a campfire with a marshmallow in hand (along with a Hershey bar…and graham cracker, of course). Or set aside a specific time each week with the sole purpose of catching up with one another.

Write A Poem

Yes, a poem. You don’t have to be Mary Oliver or Robert Frost to pen your feelings in a melodic way. Need help getting started? Here’s a link on how to write a poem for Valentines Day.

Write A Love Letter

If writing poetry intimidates you, turn to a letter. Spilling your heart onto the pages are priceless gifts that are sure to be tucked away for further reading in the future. Could it possibly serve as a tangible reminder for the generations that may one day plunder through their family’s possessions? We never know. I’ve discovered priceless letters to loved ones in my family homes and they are treasured.

Now let’s go love on others with the indescribable love of Christ!

Do you have another idea to add? Or is there one above you plan to try this year? Please share in the comment section.

 

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