We still have an answering  machine in our home.


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.


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.


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



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


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



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



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



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


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



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.”

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)