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How to Bless Those You Met At The Writer’s Conference (and 4 Highlights From Blue Ridge)

BRmtnsNow that the dust is settling from last week’s Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference, highlights {and ideas} are beginning to surface.

First, the highlights:

 

 

 

 

{ONE}

BRHelenrevised

Highlight: Meeting Helen McIntosh

Forging new friendships and celebrating established ones. There was a time in February when I considered not attending Blue Ridge this year (gasp!). I didn’t have a particular project to pitch, and with us prepping for a move, I thought the money should be allocated toward that goal, but it was Brian who insisted I go — “if for no other reason than to re-connect with friends, you only see once a year.” Yep, that’s my hubby! As it turned out, this was a defining year at Blue Ridge when it came to meeting new friends and deepening established ones. Rosie Williams (fellow Hope Writer!) Robin Luftig, Leigh Ann Thomas, Tammy Van Gils, Jodie Bailey, Meredith Mills, Donna Nabors, Karen Friday, Jean Wilund, Nan Jones, and sweet Helen McIntosh, author of Messages to Myself, Overcoming a Distorted Self-Image, are just some of the new friends I met last week and look forward to establishing relationships within the coming years.

 

{TWO}

Eva Marie Everson’s Visual of Nehemiah’s Wall. I admit I was tired and ready for my evening pick-me-up (which usually consisted of peanut butter crackers and a soda) when Eva Marie told everyone to get up at the end of her keynote speech and stand around the room. As she read from Nehemiah, four hundred + people lined the walls, exhorting everyone to take their place at the “wall,” much like the 44 separate groups of people who had specific tasks to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. There was a job for every group, each person, to fulfill — and our calling is no different, regardless of what it is. I can’t do what you do in exactly the same way and vice versa because God handcrafted each of us. We literally broke the mold! You have your place at the wall, and I have mine. Now let’s get to it!

 

{THREE}

BRcoffeeIt’s not just about the coffee. It rarely is, right? Starbucks sells an experience, and it’s no different for the Clouds Cafe on the Ridgecrest Conference campus. Yes, it’s newly renovated but the polished floors and expanded menu are not what makes this gathering place memorable. It’s the people who serve/volunteer there. Women like Loretta and Linda (lovingly known to Marcia Moston and me as the “froth queens”). Seeing their smiles is an experience I look forward to every single year.

 

 

 

{FOUR}

God Stepped Up When I Stepped Out…of My Comfort Zone. Two friends made this clear at Blue Ridge. One quietly offered me a hand to join in the adventure. The other threw me overboard to sink or swim. I love them both and God used both approaches to reveal Himself.

BRDDmerevisedWhile staying in my room Saturday night, Dee Dee Parker came up with the brilliant idea (at 2:00 AM)  to do a fun video the next morning on the subject of snacks at Blue Ridge, or the lack thereof, in our nearby vending machine. Now I’m the girl who doesn’t even like to have my picture taken, but something inside (perhaps it was the lack of sleep) said, “Go for it!” And we did. {2Peasin1LittlePod…Productions! #wejustwanttobeablessing} We proceeded to do two more videos that were also well-received. (Thank you!) But what touched us most was the feedback from those who shared how our friendship was evident in the video. Some even said they wanted to attend the conference next year to be a part of the fun. “Comfort zone” Cathy would not have dared to shoot a silly video, but because Dee Dee invited me to join in the fun, and I was willing to step over the proverbial line between silly and serious, new friends were made. From what we hear, many were blessed. To God be the glory!

BRLoriresizedbLori Roeleveld, a sweet friend and mentor in many ways, scooted shoved me out of my comfort zone a little differently. After I shared how I’ve never liked being called out in a class setting with Lori over lunch, she promptly stood up, shouting to Jim Rubart, one table over, how he needed to put me on the spot in the next session. Really? 🙂 It wasn’t until I actually began considering skipping that class the next day that I knew this was much bigger than my insecurities. Feeling certain that Jim’s class was one I needed to attend, it was no surprise the enemy would try to use an innocent and well-intended shout-out to prompt my fears into action. Not only did I attend the final class, but I also thanked Lori for the outburst that initially had me shaken because it led to an opportunity to stand steadfast, stomping my fears into smithereens.

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blessing fellow writers-1

Edie Melson, our fearless leader and Director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference, encouraged us to exchange business cards with one another again this year. While there’s an array of reasons for doing this, there is one I’ve overlooked in the past⎯the opportunity to pray for fellow writers. As I begin to write each morning, I will lay my hands on the piles of cards and pray for them, for us. Prayers like:

  • business cardsKeep our motives pure, Lord. (Psalm 139: 23,24) Flesh pinches the tenderest of places, tempting us to put the spotlight on ourselves, our name, and our brand when our greatest desire is to reflect You, Your name, and Your kingdom alone.
  • Keep our priorities aligned in a way that pleases You, Lord. What do we gain if our name is on a book but find it no longer written on the hearts of those we love?
  • Keep our eyes fixed on You, Jesus. For You are the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Let the things on earth grow strangely dim as we rejoice and write in the light of your love.
  • Help us run this journey as companions, not competitors. There is no room in the kingdom for competition. This is not Your desire for us. We are on the same team: Team Your Glory.
  • Infuse our writing with divine creativity for You are Creator! Your Spirit indwells within us, equipping us to write beyond our means. As Al Gansky said in his keynote speech, “Creativity Begins With The Creator.” Amen.
  • Help us to release our work for Your glory. Some are called to plant, and some to water, but You alone, God, bring growth, landing our work in Your chosen places. We don’t need to manipulate, beg, or sulk. Help us to embrace truth — that You are for us, not against us, even when we cannot see, hear, or feel You at work.
  • Help us to find our validation in You alone, Jesus.

Now it’s your turn! Please take a moment to share one of your highlights from last week’s conference (or another one!). Or, feel free to share which of the above prayers you will begin praying for yourself and fellow writers.

 

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The Applause of One

 

Only hours before the awards ceremony at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference, I crossed paths with Julie at the Cloud Cafe. Although I’d received a positive critique from Dr. Donn Taylor the day prior, I had low expectations of placing in this year’s poetry contest and I was disappointed — not in the assumed outcome, but by the fact that I was…well, disappointed. Why did the award mean so much? Did it mean too much? Would a loss deter me from the path of poetry?

God, through Julie, helped me to see how I was on the cusp of believing the lie that a piece of paper could validate my writing—to myself and to others. God alone stirs this heart to communicate and takes the work to places of His making. I simply need to be obedient (is there anything simple about obedience?)

Tears flowed. Hope arose. God’s Validation Gratefully Received. Win or Lose.

Later than evening, as Eva Marie Everson announced the winners for the poetry category, peace sheltered my heart from any possible disappointment. And then I heard these unexpected words: In first place, the winner is…“The One” by Cathy Baker.

Can I be honest? Hearing your name called, while thunderous applause erupts from those you most respect, is an unforgettable experience. And yet, while making my way to the stage I recalled a quote written in my journal many years ago:

“It matters not if the world has heard or approves or understands…the only applause we’re meant to seek is that of nail-scarred hands.” ― B.J. Hoff

To God be the glory.

 

Not What My Hands Have Done


Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul;
not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God;
not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful load.

These guilty hands are raised, filthy rags are all I bring
And I have come to hide beneath your wings
These holy hands are raised, Washed in the fountain of your grace
And now I wear your righteousness

Thy work alone oh Christ can ease this weight of sin
Thy blood alone, oh Lamb of God, can give me peace within
Thy Love to me, oh God, not mine oh Lord to Thee
Can rid me of this dark unrest and set my Spirit free

Thy grace alone oh God to me can pardon speak
Thy power alone oh Lamb of God can this sore bondage break
No other work save thine, no other blood will do
No strength but that which is divine can bear me safely through

I praise the God of grace; I trust his truth and might
He calls me his, I call him mine, My God, my Joy, my Light
My Lord has saved my life and freely pardon gives;
I love because he first loved me, I live because he lives.

– Aaron Keyes

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