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.
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!