A Perfect Gift

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God recently surprised me above what I could have asked or imagined. As my tears flowed and shock coursed through my veins, James 1:7 flashed in my mind.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

My local writers’ group asked if I’d put together a presentation on entering writing contests for our January meeting. Though the thought of getting in front of adults makes my stomach somersault, I’d had a feeling for months that this would be part of my writing path.

Sharing what I’ve learned. Helping other writers on their publishing journey. Guiding those a few steps behind, so they can catch up.

I was nervous but really excited {but nervous}.

(Did I mention I was nervous?) 

In preparation I pulled together this information and that information, eager to share all I’d learned in a *hopefully* positive and coherent manner.

A couple writer friends from the group got in touch, letting me know they’d be there. Grateful for their support, I gathered my materials that evening and headed to the church where we meet.

I arrived fifteen minutes early, just behind a group member who’s about to move. We chatted about the process of packing up her home of many years. I unloaded the books I’d brought and set out the paperwork for the presentation on entering writing contests.

A couple minutes later, another person walked in. When I glanced sideways, smiling a welcome, my breath caught.

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Someone so dear, so unexpected, walked in. And though we’d never met, I knew her.

Almost three years ago, Vie judged my entry in a contest (I didn’t know this at the time; we only connected afterward, when I emailed my thank you letters to judges).

Her comments on that entry (my middle grade story) touched and encouraged me tremendously. In some moments, those precious words kept me afloat amidst a sea of negativity and rejection.

  • I printed the email and taped her comments to my computer and the bulletin board in our office.
  • I read and reread those words when road blocks and closed doors and sheer time weighed on my shoulders and made me want to give up.
  • I hoped and prayed to meet her one day and give her a big hug for the gift she’d been and the kind encouragement she showed.

We live quite far apart, and finding an opportunity to meet at writing conferences never materialized.

So when she appeared that evening, smiling tentatively as I’m about to give a presentation on writing contests, I lost it. (She wasn’t sure if I’d recognize her.)

She said she’ll never forget my face. I just remember bursting into tears because of the gift it was to see her in person, at that moment.

(She happened to be in my home state when she saw my post about the presentation.)

Having her there….it meant the world. It was a gift from God I hadn’t expected. But isn’t that just like the Lord? We think we want this or that, and instead He surprises us with such good and perfect gifts.

This sweet woman’s encouragement three years ago also affirmed the heart of my presentation that night:

We’re not writing in a vacuum. Pray for others. Encourage others. God calls us to love and serve others on this writing journey (sometimes, even above ourselves).

This is the key ingredient to the writing life…loving and helping others. Otherwise, we write in vain.

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…” (Phil. 1:3)

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Messages

We still have an answering  machine in our home.

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It’s stuck on the wall between our kitchen and dining room, a 20th Century relic I just can’t part with.

My husband has grumbled about getting rid of our home phone and the machine, but I have a couple long-distance friends I talk with regularly, and I despise talking on my cell phone. So understanding hubby set it up that when we’re home and calls come in on our cell phones, we can answer on the home phone.

When the number blinks, we have new messages. Either an “IRS” rep demanding we call NOW before our bank account explodes or the ortho office reminding me about my older son’s appointment.

{Thank goodness the political season is over.}

But there are five saved messages that will never get deleted from our compact answering machine. In Lord of the Rings dialect, they’re my PRECIOUS.

They’re cheerful, congratulatory female voices letting me know You’re A Semifinalist or You’re A Finalist.

When I met one of the lovely message-leavers at a local writing conference last year, I started the conversation with, “Your voice is on my answering machine.” She got that deer-in-the-headlights look (in Florida, it’s more like squirrel-in-the-headlights) until I explained who I was and why her voice was on my machine. Then we laughed.

Those five saved messages slowly added up, little numbers that equaled Fulfilled Promises of this writing dream that took root decades ago and grew, bit by bit, until it stretched my aching heart.

Until this happened last weekend.

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It’s a gift I still can’t fully believe and am so grateful for.

But there were other messages along the winding, wondering years, too. I see them more clearly now. Emails that healed the tender ache, notes that pressed me forward despite longing to give up.

Words prayed over me that wrapped me in the Father’s love.

Messages from writer friends, encouraging words just when I needed them. And messages in God’s Word.

“But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.”

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks.”

“Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”

“Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

“But none of these things move me, nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

Are you on a heart journey? Traveling a path you know you’re supposed to, but the end is out of sight? I’m not there yet either friend, and I’m realizing in shades of blinding, sunset beauty…that’s the point.

The goal isn’t the final objective. The goal is the journey–and the messages we leave and receive along the way. They’re grace and friendship and love and selflessness.

Here are a few pictures from the ACFW conference and Gala last weekend.

 

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Cathy Gohlke, my favorite historical author. What a blessing to meet her!

 

 

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Sweet author Lynne Pleau. She’s also from Newtown!

 

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A writer and a gentleman, Joseph Courtemanche. He taught a class about basic weaponry at ACFW!

 

 

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Fun, encouraging friends Deanna & Lucy. What a joy to laugh & celebrate with other writers!

 

 

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Fellow finalist Deborah Clack. A sweet, funny fellow writer I’m so glad I had the chance to meet!

 

 

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What a blessing that my mom and sister joined me this weekend.

 

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Just, you know, sleeping with my Genesis award Saturday night. 🙂

 

 

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That this even has my name on it still makes me catch my breath. SO thankful!

 

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.”