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.”

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Count Up: Pushups & Pitchwars

 

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I dropped to the hallway floor with a grunt, my hands clutching carpet.

“Can you do ten?” Cole hovers over me, taller than the day before. My teenager won’t stop growing, and he’s a workout fiend knocking out twenty-five pushups without breaking a sweat.

I, however, sit sadly just on the right side of forty. And while I did many a push-up in my swimming days and have tried to stay in decent shape since, I don’t expect to keep up with my fit thirteen-year old.

“Yes, I can do ten.” Gulp.

I get into pushup position, hands flat, fingers spread and toes flexed. No knee pushups here. (Which is why I only do ten at a time.)

And so it begins. “One.”

I lower then raise my arms again. This is only two?

“One.” Cole calls out.

“What!? That was two.”

I lower my arms and raise them again, blood pounding in my temples. “Three!”

“One.” Giggles explode above me. Chase appears, a smiley blonde alongside his brown-haired brother.

I’m a boy mom—teasing is a given. But this? This is certainly torture.

I lower again, nearly kissing the carpet, then straighten wobbly arms supporting a body growing heavier by the second. “Four!”

“One!” Chase runs off, cackling.

I mumble something about making their own dinner then drop for my fifth pushup. “Five.”

“One.” Cole doesn’t grin very often, and as I look up, I can’t help grinning back despite my indignation at their poor counting skills.

“No, not one! That was five.”

He shrugs, nodding. “Okay, I’ll count right.”

So I begin again, or is it finish? Either way, the last five pushups prove ten times easier once he counts up. But on the last one, my arms betray me as a shuddering laugh takes over. That number–one–still resonates in my mind even though Cole’s not counting incorrectly.

I dissolve into a chuckling lump of limp mom muscles on the floor.

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It reminded me how much our encouragement toward others matters. How much we’re needed to count up.

***

During the month of August, I participated in a contest on Twitter called Pitchwars. Pitchwars includes a group of amazingly helpful published authors (mentors). Each mentor author reads dozens of entries, eventually choosing one to champion and prepare for an agent panel in November (along with keeping up with their own writing career).

It’s an incredible opportunity to meet and connect with writers in the same genre (I entered my middle grade story) and secure valuable feedback on your (submitted) story.

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I was thrilled when the author I submitted to asked for my full manuscript. Even though I wasn’t ultimately the writer she chose to mentor, it was an exciting three weeks of interacting and connecting, sharing about our stories, and meeting up with new critique partners—I have three now!

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After the initial sting of disappointment at not being chosen, I realized what I appreciated most was the community of Pitchwars–the positive words, funny GIFs & jokes exchanged, and especially the encouragement sprayed around like New Year’s confetti.

I’m reminded of James chapter three, about the power of the tongue and the strength of our words (spoken or typed) to bolster–or break down–others. “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!” (3:5)

Our tongues can start forest fires of gossip or send waves of much-needed encouragement.

Be an encourager. Count up.

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another…” (Eph. 4:32)