Clothed with Grace


One of the best lessons I learned during the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference I attended last month occurred the night before I left for Dallas.

And it had nothing to do with writing.

Not specifically, though it certainly applies to writing and life in general. To a life hidden in Christ.

During the rush of bedtime/wrestle-mania/brush teeth-a-thon, I split open the boys’ Streams in the Desert for Kids devotional we’d started a few weeks back.

My eyes roved over the day’s devotion, but my mind was on other things.

Namely, the huge mass of clothing laying across our guest bed, the pile of shoes on the carpet, and the enormous open suitcase in which it all needed to fit.



My mind was on clothes.

I’m embarrassed to admit–though it’s true–the most stressful part of the writing conference was figuring out clothes. What would I wear each day, especially for the big fancy Gala/Award Ceremony Saturday night?

After all–let’s be honest. When a bunch of women get together (with a few brave men thrown in), we dress to impress. Each other. We want our hair done, makeup perfect, and a sharp outfit on.

I’m a capri and t-shirt–or in Florida winter, a jeans and t-shirt–kind of girl. I don’t do fancy. Maybe dressy is the more appropriate word. If you see me on a regular basis, you know that.

A friend called my style sporty casual, and I’m good with that.

Not that I don’t enjoy getting dressed up every now and then. (By every now and then I mean, oh, twice a year or so. Easter and Christmas parties work nicely, maybe a fancy date night thrown in for good measure.)

For the ACFW conference I had to plan out three days’ worth of outfits…you do the math.

8x8x4(5-2) + 16= stylish.

Wait. That’s not right.

I needed at least six tops, five pairs of pants (and a skirt, for good measure), and a couple of dresses.

Oh, and 14 pairs of shoes. I’m kidding.

Of course, I’m kidding.

I mean 12 pairs shoes.

My sister–and fashion consultant–was bone weary from my constant texts during the three weeks leading up to the conference.

“Does this look okay?”

“Are these shoes dressy enough?”

“How about this dress for the Gala? Why not!?”

Back to my point here. I read the boys’ devotional that hectic evening, the eve of the biggest venture in my writing career.

And God used my sons’ devotional to grab my shoulders and gently grasp my chin, pulling my gaze heavenward, away from the ridiculous mass of clothing to His fixed place on the throne of Heaven.

The daily devotional just happened to focus on Matthew 6:25-32.

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? (v. 25)…So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (v. 28).

That evening, short hours before I flew off on a jet plane with a jam-packed suitcase full of fancy new clothes, I regained a peace that passes all understanding.

Not because of something I did, but because of Who God is and the grace and peace He gives us when we keep our eyes on Him. Knowing He would work out all things for good during those exciting three days–including the very clothes I’d put on.

Because of Jesus, we’re clothed in grace.

Daily. Moment by moment.

“Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matt. 6:30)


Newbie Reflections: ACFW Post-Conference Takeaway

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The conference is over.

I can’t believe I just typed that sentence.

It’s September 21st, and I’m home in Tampa with two happy boys, a relieved hubby, and a dog that won’t stop licking me. I can live without the licking, but I’m sure glad to be home.

Since mid-June, the build up for this conference–in my own life and in the lives of other newbies (new ACFW conference attendees)–has been an exciting and heavy weight.

So, you might wonder, what does the annual ACFW conference consist of? What do writers do at writing conferences?

  • Sit in large silent groups with laptops open, feverishly typing away at a manuscript and avoiding eye contact at all cost? <Some write during conference, but mostly at night. And eye contact is encouraged.>
  • Throw sentence diagramming parties to make sure we’re following grammar rules to the nth degree in our stories? <Thank goodness, no!>
  • Take turns reading our favorite scene from our stories then acting them out? <Um, no.>

Here’s what DOES happen at a writers’ conference:

  • If you’re unrepresented, you pitch your story(ies) to agents, face-to-face (Sweaty palms, much?)
  • If you are represented by an agent, you pitch to editors from publishing houses (Normal people, the veterans assured us. Agents and editors are just like us, they said. And they really are.)
  • Meals shared with brand new middle grade writer friends.

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  • Panels with witty agents giving helpful advice and sharing industry nuggets about genre, sales figures, and self-publishing wisdom.
  • Really yummy food (no dishes for three days!)
  • Hugs and smiles from authors you’ve read and loved and look up to. Gratitude sigh, Carla Stewart, Anne Mateer, and Nancy Kimball.

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  • Smiles and encouragement from those who were newbies once, too (last year, even).
  • Thoughtful, timely words prayed over me as I was about to pitch for the first time, from a woman I didn’t know seated beside me (how I wish I’d gotten her name).
  • Getting all prettied-up for the Gala on Saturday night. Heels and all.

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  • Worshipping together each day, hands lifted, praising Jesus for Who He is before we even set about sharing our stories. He IS the story, we are the words to share His love and saving grace. This was probably my favorite part of the conference.
  • Spending time with my mom and sister, who came along for moral support.

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  • Really yummy desserts. (No dishes for three days!)
  • Seeing my name on the big screen as a YA Genesis finalist? Unforgettable and humbling. God’s grace, lit up.


  • Sitting in classes taught by boots-on-the-ground authors, veterans and those who have just been published, people brimming with advice, encouragement, and wisdom.
  • Really yummy chai lattes in the coffee shop. (No dishes for three days!)
  • New writing friends who clomped through airport parking garages with me in the Dallas heat.


  • Feeling the peace that passes all understanding guarding my heart as I waited to pitch to agents and editors, knowing dear friends and family were praying for that very thing. God’s peace.


The conference is over.

There will be next year, Lord willing. Nashville. And I won’t be a newbie. I’m glad for this.

In the meantime, we writers write. We plot, read, critique, write more, edit, talk dialogue aloud, and write more.

I’m so thankful to have gone to ACFW 2015.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10)



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