How God Answered My Prayers Through a Man Named Finis

He wasn’t where he was supposed to be on the first night of the conference.

Someone noticed an older man walking in a room that was off limits until it was officially opened by faculty. A few people rescued him with the same fervor one might have when rescuing sailors at sea. Writer’s conferences take sign-ups seriously, after all. *wink*

The man shuffled out of the room and stood nearby like a schooled student. His gray hair and age-worn hands stood out among the rest. I wondered about his story and the spunk required to hone his writing skills at that age. But the first thing I noticed about this man was the black eye that cushioned his glasses.

The following morning, I made my way to the cafeteria for breakfast.

 

I’d barely added grits to my butter when I spotted the black-eyed man sitting alone at a distant table.

 

I walked over, leaned down, and asked if he’d rather wait on someone or come over and sit with us. He quickly responded, “I’d much rather come sit with you.”

He met Dee Dee, along with several other friendly faces around the table for eight and introduced himself as Finis (pronounced fine-us). He drove from Texas despite a recent fall that left him with a black eye and a bum knee. We talked about the places he and his wife have lived over the years, one being my favorite tiny town, Saluda NC.

Over the next few days, I saw him in passing and during the large gatherings. He may have regretted sitting behind me, Dee Dee, and Carlton. But if he did, you would’ve never known it.

One night, we saw him at the Nibble Nook. (For those who watched our Two Peas video a couple of years ago in front of the Nibble Nook, I can attest to the fact that there is now nibbling going on in the nook.) But this time, Finis wasn’t alone. Two older volunteers from Ridgecrest walked through the doors behind him. As it turned out, he and one of the volunteers graduated high school together. It did my heart good to hear laughter coming from their corner.

On the final day of our conference, Finis and I found ourselves in a workshop together. By mid-afternoon, I noticed him packing up his laptop so I assumed he needed to get on the road headed back to Texas. As he walked up the aisle, he took a sharp right and came to tell me goodbye.

 

As we hugged, Finis whispered, “Thank you.”

My eyes felt more like puddles.

 

Meeting Finis was the highlight of my conference and a direct answer to my prayer before I left for the conference. So what did I pray? It went a little something like this:

Father, help me to be sensitive to other’s needs more than my own.

This may sound like a sweet prayer but rest assured, it was birthed from a place of conviction. You see, it’s very easy to get caught up in yourself⏤your appointments, your introductions to the “right” people, and promoting yourself and your books⏤at a writers conference.

I’m not suggesting those things are wrong when done with the right motivation, but I’ve returned from the conference more than once over the last eight years feeling like I missed something, or more importantly, someone.

I wish I could say I lived out the prayer 24/7 while at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. There were still missed opportunities and downright selfish moments, but I hope and pray I’ll become even more aware of those around me in the coming years, Lord willing.

 

Finis may have thanked me but I’m the one who should thank him.

 

He taught me:

  • We’re never too old to start something new or hone our current skills.
  • We never retire from our calling.
  • His willingness to drive hundreds of miles to accomplish this shows me that even as I age, I need to be willing to step out of my comfort zone.
  • And despite his fall (and the black eye badge of honor to prove it), he didn’t let what others might think discourage him from following through.

I hope my path crosses with Finis again before they cross in heaven.

But until then, thank you Finis.

 

Divider

While away at the conference, “Songs of Hope: 31 Days in the Psalms” released! This book includes thirty-one devotionals with reflection questions and short prayers. Twenty-five women, from all walks of life, share their stories of joy and heartache with an underlying thread of God’s hope. BONUS: Receive a FREE journal to go along with your study ordered by June 10th.

I’m both humbled and delighted to be one of those twenty-five women.

If you’d like to find out more information or order, click here! (This is an affiliate link, which means when you order through this link, I will receive the equivalent of a cup of coffee, at no extra charge to you.)

Thank you for stopping by the Tiny House on the Hill today!

 

 

 

3 Things to Remember When Opportunity Knocks

Door of Opportunity

I’m not a fan of surprises.

I figure life offers up an ample share of them, so to balance things out, I’ll take my daily hum in a rhythm of slow and steady.

Sometimes, though, surprises make themselves right at home, like the one that showed up at my “doorstep” a few months ago.

 

Opportunity knocked and I opened the door.

 

I can’t go into details now, but since that tap on my “door”, I’ve worked some of the hardest and longest hours since becoming a writer. At every turn, the words you-are-wasting-your-time flicked at my head like the curled fingers of a pesky brother.

 

And yet, somehow, this work feels like an act of obedience.

 

Regardless of our calling, flicks of discouragement aim to distract and discourage:

  • Who-do-you-think-you-are?
  • Can-God-really-use-this (or you)-for-His-glory?
  • Have-you-seen-what-______-is-doing? Why-should-you-bother?

Swatting at them only burns energy I have little of these days, so I’m learning to pause, take a breath, and face the pesky flicks with what we both know to be true:

 

1. We Need to Embrace the Opportunities But Release the Outcome

 

Opportunity knocks. We can either “open” the door, or pretend pamphlet peddlers are on the other side and ignore the taps. But it is God who determines what awaits us once we walk through the door.

The surprise knock on my door felt like a divine tapping of sorts, mainly because I didn’t go looking for it. It also aligns with the Word, and holds an opportunity to glorify Him. But this doesn’t mean the months of work will come to fruition as I hope, and that’s okay. I rest in knowing that I’m doing only what I can do⏤open the door.

 

I know the chances are slim for my “dream” outcome, but I don’t write for a dream.

 

I write for God.

 

And my guess is you do what you do for the same reason.

So we leverage those pesky flicks of discouragement by perceiving them as mini-opportunities to re-commit our work to the Lord, releasing the desire for a particular outcome, and trusting His best for us in every situation. Because here’s the thing:

When our joy is rooted in obedience rather than a particular outcome, there is a quiet satisfaction that roars of glory.

 

2. Only Truth Takes Lies Captive

 

Turn up the music, down another strong cup of joe, or check social media. It won’t matter. The pesky brother will use that time to strengthen his fat little fingers for a stronger flick when you return.

Let’s not waste our God-given time trying to run from discouragement. Let’s face it together, head on:

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV

When we release the desire to control the outcome, entrusting it to Christ, the lies lose their power, even their freedom to flick away as they please.

 

3. When Being Obedient There’s No Such Thing as Wasted Time

 

Take that, pesky brother! Surrendering the outcome to God means that time is no longer narrowed down to wise or wasted. Every moment of obedience is ripe with purpose.

 

“Growing closer to God is not the result of trying harder but of surrendering more.” Anonymous

 

So now I wait and pray to see what God will do and whatever that is, it is perfect for me.

But I still don’t like surprises.

Pink Line

Is there some way I can pray for you today? Maybe a door is opening or closing in your life, or perhaps you’re struggling to release the outcome. I welcome the opportunity to join arms with you in prayer.

*For confidential requests, feel free to message me via Facebook or contact me through my website.

 

5 Ways to Connect through the Business Cards You Collect

Bless through Business Cards

I’m all about collecting.

Over the years, I’ve collected bright vintage Pyrex bowls, fountain pens, anything our grandkids created, books, and even galvanized houses. Since our most recent move, however, my desire to collect has decreased (except for the grandkids creations, of course.) Moving has a way of doing that to a person.

 

But when I attend conferences, I enjoy collecting business cards.

 

Not for collecting sake, though. I request cards to remember the people God brought across my path. This year, I prayed for “holy introductions”, as Torry Martin calls them. You know, those unexpected run-ins and sit-bys. Like, Cheryl Crofoot Knapp, who I sat by at dinner, patiently waiting for the faculty member to arrive. And then there was Catherine Finger, whom I sat across at the Clouds Cafe. I thought I was there to catch up on emails but God had something different in mind. He always does, thankfully.

So, what do we do with the business cards we collect?

 

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5 Ways to Connect {and Bless} Those On the Business Cards We Collect

 

{1}

This is not my idea. Someone at our conference (whose name was not shared) suggested it. But it was too good not to mention: Put them in a bowl when you return home, choose one each day, and pray for that person and their ministry.

{2}

Another way to pray for new connections is something I do each year and I shared it in my post, How to Bless Those You Met at the Writer’s Conference.

{3}

Send requests to be Facebook friends to begin cultivating relationships.

{4}

Lay out the cards and take a picture. This way, you can preserve the information (and the face!) while keeping your office space decluttered.

{5}

Promote their work. I know, I know. It’s impossible to keep up with everyone. But I encourage you to let the Lord lead you in who you could promote from your fresh stack of cards. You didn’t meet the ministries represented on the business cards by coincidence. Being Facebook friends is the first step but if you resonate with their work, follow them on Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest too. When they have a victory, share it with others through your social media outlets.

One way I’m doing this today is by sharing the names of those I collected cards from this year at The Blue Ridge Mountains Writer’s Conference, along with a link to their site. Some I’ve known for awhile. But who could blame a girl for wanting a new card? *smile*

 

5 Ways to Bless Others With the Business Cards You Collect Click To Tweet

 

I wish I’d approached more peeps for a card exchange but it’s hard to keep up with all of these creative people!

 

One bonus idea: Obviously, we can’t sign up for everyone’s blogs but the truth of the matter is, that’s one of the best ways to support another. Many of us see our writing as a ministry and we welcome the opportunity to love you back!

 

So, do you have another idea for business cards or would you like to share the name & Web address (no phone numbers or addresses, please) of someone you met at Blue Ridge this year?

 

 

How I Boosted Meaningful Productivity Through These Rituals

Turntable

Daily rituals fascinate me.

Is there a secret to this creative energy bubbling up in writers, poets, artists, and musicians? Would my waking up earlier, staying up later, or drinking lattes with the perfect amount of froth propel my creative energy into overdrive? I can’t say for sure but I have discovered how a few (nine to be exact) wisely-placed rituals lead my day well. This is especially true on the days dedicated to writing, which have radically increased while finishing up my first e-book scheduled for release in April. {I’m excited to share more about that subject in a few weeks!}

Alarm clocks

9 Rituals That Boosts Creativity & Productivity

 

  • Wake up early. Now that Brian has an hour commute we’re waking up by 5:45 am. Even on weekends, I prefer to wake up early. Part of this, I’m convinced, is genetic. But I’m thankful I’ve always been an early riser. For me, embracing the feel of a full day is exhilarating. Add a cup of hot coffee to the mix, and the day is officially underway.
  • Cue the praise music. After breakfast, the TV goes off and the music comes on. I listen to three different channels on Pandora:  Brandon Gilliam {our son}, Aaron Keyes, and Bethel Music. I crank up the music for 15-20 minutes, sing, raise my arms toward heaven, and worship. Zephaniah 3:17 says the Lord sings over us. I love singing to Him in return.
  • A Conversation. The music stays on, but now it lays low. I read through the Bible chapter-by-chapter, keeping my small hardbound steno close by. Speaking, listening, praying⎯all lay the foundation for a glorifying kind of day. At least, that’s my prayer.
  • Get dressed/ready. Now that we live twenty minutes from civilization I don’t “go to town” nearly as much as I once did. It can be semi-tempting to leave on the pajamas and leave off the makeup. But I’ve recently come to see that, at least for me, getting ready helps me to view my writing as work/ministry⎯not a hobby. So I get dressed, comb my hair, and swipe on a little color — sometimes more, sometimes less. {Both grandmothers loved their lipstick. I suppose this is genetic, too.}
  • Switch the Pandora channel to George Winston. This simple swapping of stations triggers my mind that it’s time to shift to writing mode. I don’t play this station any time except when I write.
  • Sit at the desk, not the couch. Another trigger to prompt my brain that it’s time to work, not play.
  • Mute the phone and shut down Facebook. I still check both but only at set times.
  • Invite the Holy Spirit to join me in the process. He doesn’t require an invitation but it reminds me that He is with me, for me. That we are in this together.
  • Pour a cup of Paris tea. I reserve this treat for the afternoon, and it’s my way of winding down.

Paris Tea from HarneyI pretty much stumbled upon most of these rituals or at least their order, but when the creative process began clicking, there was no turning back. Tweaking my schedule has increased my productivity two-fold.

Your goals and the steps you choose to attain those goals will probably look different than mine {especially if you’re not an early riser *wink*} and that’s perfectly fine. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than one of my favorite finds, Mason Currey’s book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. It’s a peek into the minds of brilliant artists of all types. Their idiosyncracies make mine look mildly boring, and it’s a lovely feeling, I must say.

How about you? Do you have some type of ritual that helps you to be more creative and productive? Please share!

 

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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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Where to Write? 20 Inspiring + Unique Settings to Try in 2017

Writing OutsideIf you’re searching for creative and unique settings to create {whether that’s writing, painting, drawing, etc.} this year, I hope you’ll find the following suggestions helpful. At the very least, perhaps one or two will jumpstart another idea!

A well-loved writing spot is nice but there’s something to be said for venturing out to discover fresh and inspiring places to write. Not only does it awaken the senses, it also infuses the mind with new plots twists and settings for our stories, poetry, and the like. So pack your common sense {necessary for some of the locations}, laptop and/or writing pad/pen, healthy snacks, water, and a fold-up chair. I’d also suggest you pack your camera if you want to use something other than your phone for taking pictures. Being able to recall the specifics of a certain locale may come in handy in the future.

15 Inspiring + Unique Settings:

Taking Notes Outside

  • A construction site (in this case you may want to also pack a hard hat and ear plugs). Watching a building take shape over a period of time can inspire one to imagine their own story being built from the ground up. Or maybe the process could be used in a plot twist!
  • A vacant old house or home place where only the chimney still stands. Oh, the stories an old home place can tell if we’re only willing to be quiet and listen.
  • A local walking bridge. Try to enjoy this when the foot traffic isn’t busy.
  • Beside a local river. Pack a lunch and a blanket. Find joy in the small wonders surrounding you.
  • In the mall. Searching for fresh dialogue? Park yourself on a bench with a cup of coffee {a necessity for proper snooping} and take a listen. Or watch body language. It’s all there.
  • In your local airport. Either go inside or park where you can watch the planes land. Imagine the destination of the planes taking off. Enjoy the faces of those seeing loved ones for the first time in awhile.
  • On a dock overlooking a quiet lake.
  • Hop on a local bus and make a round trip around town.
  • Find a beautiful local garden and ask permission to write there for awhile.
  • Your local cemetery. {This isn’t as creepy as it sounds.} Much can be learned from a walk through an eternal resting spot.
  • Go to your local library. 
  • Forget the cafe — go to your favorite restaurant. Sit in the corner, order your favorite meal {or dessert}, and savor the moment, with pen in hand, of course.
  • A room or area in your home where you’ve never written before. Maybe it’s the kitchen, back porch, front porch, bedroom, etc. Or if you’re a young mom, the bathroom may be your only escape. Indulge yourself with a bubble bath while you allow ideas to soak in. {Sorry, pun intended}
  • Tour a local museum. Drink it in. Find a shady tree not far away, sit or park your vehicle and write down every detail you remember.
  • An empty high school stadium. {But a visible spot.}
Five Bonus Settings:
  • A zoo. Take a stroll through the animal park observing minute details. Who wouldn’t be awe-inspired by God’s creative design? This would be another good opportunity for lunch with a pen and paper.
  • An observatory. If you don’t have one where you live, simply step outside at night. Take notes on your phone or if it’s warm outside write beside a patio lamp. If it’s cold and you’re a brave soul, write by a campfire.
  • A rooftop terrace. Many cities have restaurants that offer rooftop dining. If it’s a pricey place, simply order dessert. Savor it…and the view.
  • A friend’s house. And if your friend happens to have a beautiful view or a lush garden, even better! You could trade places for the day or simply ask to write when they’re out and about for a few hours. After all, what are friends for?
  • Dare I say, an overnight stay? It doesn’t have to be far away but it’s surprising how a change of scenery can up our creative ante.

Elizabeth S. CraigI’m excited to share that the original post for the above 15 ideas was recently listed in Elizabeth S. Craigs’ “Top Tweets in 2016”. You will want to bookmark her post and revisit it many times over. It’s chock-full of the most popular tweets/links!

So now it’s your turn. Is there a particular setting listed above that strikes your fancy? Is there another setting you would like to add to the list? Please share!

 

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