Monday, January 25, 2010

Meeting God in His Place

Conferences can be pretty emotional for some people, so the prayer room at ACFW stays busy. There are volunteers in the softly lit room during the day to pray with people or if someone wants to pray by themselves, they can go there for a little peace and quiet or just to regroup.

(Reminds me of the 7 or 8 churches on the ten mile stretch on the road that runs in front of my house. Something to think about, hmmm?)

What are some reasons people need a shoulder to cry on or an understanding friend at conferences? Writing conferences aren’t just reunions, they’re business meetings. Attendees want to make a good impression because they’re meeting with industry professionals to talk about books, stories, contracts.
If you’ve ever had a job interview, this should make perfect sense to you.

Some people have been reaching for the brass ring of publishing for many years. I know of people who have written 10, 20, and 30 manuscripts over a period of 20 or 25 years and they're still trying to break in. Some are on the verge of giving up when they finally sell their first manuscript. That adds up to a lot of people who are anxious and excited and afraid at the same time. They’ve faced a ton of interviews. No wonder they get a little sick to their stomach at the thought of another one!

Joshua 1:9 says, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD your God is with you wheresoever you go.”

Several years ago a lady had a major meltdown a couple of days into the conference. Some of it stemmed from problems she and her family faced at home: Problems that had been escalating over a period of years. They’d endured one financial disaster after another. In a last ditch effort to provide for his family, they moved to a different state where they knew no one so her husband would have a better chance at landing his dream job, only to have that door slammed in his face.

A group of friends prayed for her, but for the longest time, she was silent and didn't show any emotion whatsoever. Every once in awhile, she'd say that she couldn't take it anymore, that everyone kept saying that this was a trial and she would come out stronger in the end. But that just seemed like a slap in the face when she felt so defeated. Every time she thought things were getting better, she'd be handed something and have it snatched back.

When someone is going through a struggle, what can we say? How should we say it? I didn't know what to say to help her. All I could do was pray with the others. But by having understanding friends who prayed for her, and lifted her up, she began climbing out of the dark place that held her captive. She sought God again, and he helped her in her darkest hour.

1 John 3:22 “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His Commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”

Some of us who prayed for her were going through some tough times ourselves. One lady had some serious health issues, another faced financial woes, another worried about her children. But that didn’t stop us from offering comfort and encouragement to the one most in need at that moment. So focusing on others instead of our own problems and pain can help us to feel better ourselves.

Another friend had experienced rejection from publishing houses. She was tired and feeling defeated and thinking that maybe she would never be a published author. At the time, she was a finalist in one of the unpublished categories of a contest and to others, might have seemed like she had it all together. But she still felt like she’d never become a published author, and see tangible fruit from her labor. She hoped to just meet someone who would lift her spirits and say something that would encourage her. At one conference, a woman she barely knew asked if she could pray with her and said to send someone to lift her up, and speak words of encouragement to her….words similar to what my friend had prayed for herself but hadn’t told anybody else.

Isn’t that just like God?

Another friend stated that she spent the months after receiving her first contract, "convinced they would figure out they'd made a mistake!"
This was said partly in fun, but there is a grain of truth to her worry that maybe it was all a mistake. Sometimes we have to accept God’s perfect will in his perfect time. Easier said than done, I know. But we really don’t have a choice, do we?

And, yes, the friends I've mentioned here are all multi-published authors now. They’re all wonderful storytellers who worked hard at perfecting their craft, but you what they did that was even more important? They met God in His place.
Sounds like the perfect interview to me.


Heidi Geis said...

I attended my first ACFW conference this past year in Denver. While I did not actually go into the prayer room at the conference, I was prayed for in the back of the book store after starting up a conversation with Brandilyn Collins. She told me that she felt like God was telling her to pray for my left ear. What she did not know previous to praying for me is that a few weeks before I had been diagnosed with a vestibular head injury I had sustained in a car accident 2 1/2 years previous. I had been suffering from vertigo, disabling headaches, and balance problems (including falling down) all due to problems in my left ear. She prayed for my healing. I returned home and went to a physical therapy appointment. I told my vestibular therapist (a Christian) about this "divine appointment" and asked her to retest me because I believed I had been healed. In mid-August I tested at 76, with 100 being the worst. At this appointment, I tested at 4. FOUR! And I have not had a single occurrence since. I am so thankful that God prompted Brandilyn to pray with me, even in the back of the book store.

But that's not all. I sat at dinner Saturday night with Jim and Tracie Peterson, whose class I had signed up to take. I explained that I had missed the Friday morning class because of the vertigo and headaches and Saturday morning because I was in the book store with Brandilyn. Jim got up from his seat and came right over to where I sat and prayed with me, for my health and for my writing. It was amazing. I could not have been more surprised by both prayers. I think some people think of the ACFW conference as just a writing conference. I know I planned to take some classes to learn my craft better and maybe meet some nice people. I had no idea that God would meet me there, to show me that He had heard me and my fears and frustrations. I went to learn, and boy did I. I am so thankful that the people He used to minister to me were obedient and faithful to stop what they were doing and pray with me. Amazing.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh my stars, what a wonderful testimony, Pam. You got me teary.

Stop that, please.

And Heidi.


I know, I know, I shouldn't say that, but it fits. I'm teary again and it's NOT hormonal, it's that I totally feel and empathize with these stories, these feelings.

I could not have said it better, girls, and you know I don't often admit THAT.


Coffee's on. And Danish, bagels and Tim Horton's donuts. No time to cook this morning, dagnabbit!

Ladies. I love this. Truly.


Belinda Peterson said...

i've been to a few conferences and there is a different atmosphere at the ACFW conferences I've been to. I know I like the worship time also. It starts the day off right. Thanks for sharing this post. I know it came at a perfect time for me.
And yes, Heidi, what an amazing story. God is working on our behalf--all the time.
Praise Him for your recovery!!

Patty said...

I don't share this often but this seems a fitting place to share.

In 2004, I received a scholarship to attend the ACFW conference. I wasn't sure why--while I had served on the operating board and taken classes to improve my craft, I was 'playing' at writing. That is though I loved the idea of writing, I could never find the time to write. The closer I got the the conference the more convinced I shouldn't go. I almost gave the scholarship back so that someone who deserved to go could attend.

But my husband wouldn't let me--he kept telling me that God wanted me there. He didn't know why but I had to go and find out. So I went to Denver. The conference was great but I've got to tell you, I couldn't get comfortable, so I spent some time in the prayer room, asking that God would review
His will to me.

Then on the very last night I went to the very last class(Mary Griffinth Write Your Novel in 8 Minutes) thinking that maybe she could give me some ideas on finding some writing time. Instead, Mary's 'sermon' convicted me--it was in that moment I knew God had called me to write.

My books are published yet but I do know that I'm writing, writing every day because I've been called to this life.

Patty said...

Correction:My books are NOT published--guess that was just a hopeful slip! LOL

Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

Whoa. You gals have blown me away and humbled me with your testimonies.

Java is hot. Let's share a cup.

Obedience is a wonderful thing.

Cara Lynn James said...

Pam, what a wonderful blog. Isn't it great God will meet us wherever we are when we're looking for him?

Heidi, you certainly have an amazing testimony. So glad you were healed.

Pam Hillman said...

Heidi, I loved your testimony! Thank you for sharing.

That's what's so awesome about God.

He WILL find us...

in the back of a bookstore,
at meals,
in the dark hour when your kid is sick,
in the hospital,
and even in front of the computer monitor when your fingers are frozen, undecided where to go next.

Julie Lessman said...

Oh, Pammy, what a BEAUTIFUL way to kick off a week!! Like Ruthy (and everybody who reads your blog this morning, no doubt), I have tears in my eyes. Why? Because nothing does that like focusing on the only One that can give us peace and joy, the only One for Whom we breathe, live, write.

Ironically, I went to the ACFW conference prayer room in September for the first time in six ACFW conferences (ahem ... usually I cry and pray in my room ...), and it was balm to my aching soul. I don't care HOW many conferences I go to or how many friends I have, it always seems like tears come and prayers are needed. Which always reminds me that it's not about me, the appointments, contests or publication. It's about Him, and prayer has a way of leading us back to that very healing truth.

I smile now (and often) at a situation that happened in September. A dear friend came to the banquet table where I was sitting at the back of the room and squatted by my chair to say "hi." The next thing I know, she was crying and lamenting that getting published would never happen to her (uh, been there, done that, MANY times!). So we prayed together, and I promised I would pray for her from that point on. That was five months ago, and less than three months ago this precious woman signed a contract with one of the biggest publishers in the CBA!! Which proves prayer not always leads to peace because it always leads to Him, but it leads us to the path and purpose He has for each one of us. And .., in my humble opinion ... it is the KEY component to any successful conference.

Beautiful post, Pam -- thank you!


Pam Hillman said...

Lindi, I so agree. ACFW is special.

Patty, isn't it amazing how one small word, sentence, or one hour with someone with a message can turn a string of discouraged feelings around? God knew what he was doing to invite you to that place at that time, and to that exact class.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Great testimonies today. Love your post Pamster and Heidi what a wonderful blessing to be healed. And Patty, another miracle.

God is good and I could write for hours the miracles I've seen also, especially in the field of writing. Sometimes He uses us to help others, to teach others, and to minister to others all within the process of writing those novels.

We often think that publishing is the end all of our calling, but the people we meet along the way are also part of the calling.

Ruthy, thanks for the coffee and donuts. I do have time to cook this morning so will offer some biscuits and gravy to warm up your insides on a cold winter morning. Have fresh oranges off my tree. I chop them up and add walnuts and coconut. Yum.

Pam Hillman said...

Julie, I couldn't agree more.

Last night after I went to sleep, I thought that maybe I should have said something about how prayer does not lead to a sale, or a lucrative career in publishing, or in any field, for that matter.

Prayer doesn't lead to perfect health, or a perfect body (yes, I KNOW this one to be true!), or perfect eyesight.

But it does lead to perfect contentment in whatever God has in store for us. If we're in harmony with God and can look forward to an enternity in Heaven, what do a few disappointments in life mean?

Our desires will become His desires the closer we draw to Him.

Pam Hillman said...


I wish I could sit here and chat with you guys all day, but I can't. The day job calls.

Hmmm, I love biscuits and gravy, San. Have you ever tried tomato gravy on biscuits? Odd, but delish!

I'll check in with y'all around noon, I hope!

Janet Dean said...

Pam, thank you for the lovely post and precious reminder of how God works.

Heidi and Patty, thank you for sharing how God worked during the ACFW conferences. Heidi, your testimony is exciting proof of the healing power of prayer. What a joy it is to know God orchestrates those divine appointments. He loves us more than we can comprehend.


Leigh said...

Thanks for the wonderful start to the week, Pam -- I can just put myself into that picture and be content.

I've not yet been to an ACFW conference, but know that each conference has its own feel. One that meant the most to me was the She Speaks conference from Proverbs 31 Ministries a few years ago. When you walked in the prayer room, a basket on a side table held lots of little slips of paper. Each one had the name of a woman at the conference that weekend. The staff had prayed for each of us individually before the conference began and they gave us the chance to do the same. I was blown away.

Of course, She Speaks was smaller than some other conferences I've been to -- just under 200 attendees. But knowing they cared enough to pray for each of us beforehand was a tremendous gift.

My friend and I hated to leave that conference and its sweet spirit ...

Heidi and Patty, what wonderful stories you both have. Thanks for sharing them and reminding me that God can send us to conferences to learn a lot more than writing.

Mary Connealy said...

Pam, what a beautiful post. God bless you, girl.

Missy Tippens said...

What a beautiful post! And thank you to all who've shared in the comments as well.

I felt pulled into the ACFW prayer room in Denver as I was heading into a meal late. I'll never know why. And I didn't feel led to pray for anyone in particular. But I went and I prayed. Just me in there alone.

Vince said...

Hi Pam:

I think God has many plans for each of us – not just one plan. Each possible plan depends on the actions we take. It wouldn’t make sense to give man freewill while at the same time predetermining his future.

God may have one plan for us if we persist and acquire the skill set necessary to become published authors. He may also have another plan if we do not persist in our efforts. Ultimately, I think all of God’s plans have the same goal: to have us stay true to His teachings and join Him in heaven for an eternal HEA.

“What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” Matthew 16:26

Prayer is our opportunity to praise the Lord, quiet the mind, recharge our faith, and thank God for giving us the freedom pursue our dreams.


Tina Pinson said...

Thanks Pam

It's a really good post, touched off my emotions and made me think.

God has so much for everyone of us. And he meets us all in varying ways when we least expect it.

I suppose things would fare better between God and myself if I would just stop trying to cram him into my little box of plans and realize he has so much more for me.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Pam, thanks for reminding me of the wrenching emotions conference brings out in me! LOL! I love it, though.

Oh, Julie. Last September I was up in my room crying, telling myself to stop it this minute, that I was being terrible. I forced myself to stop and go down to dinner. I immediately saw Julie, and as soon as I saw her I thought, Julie would know exactly how I feel! And I was SOOOO happy to see her again (hadn't seen her since the year before!) and I just threw my arms around her and burst into tears. Poor Julie!

And poor Mary. She was so embarrassed by my uncontrolled display of emotion that she pretended to be offended that I hadn't cried when I first saw her.

But it's just that I wanted my book to be published so bad, and it had been rejected over and over for three years running, and so I was pretty much on the verge of tears every day of my life anyway. And just knowing that Julie is as bad as me (sorry, Julie. I hope you don't feel insulted) just made the dam burst. The dam bursts a lot at conferences, because there is so much at stake, and you feel it so strongly. And you're praying constantly, asking God to help you keep it all in perspective and see it all through the Spirit's eyes, but then you feel like you've failed and that makes it worse. And pile on top of that seeing old friends, people you love and admire, and the floodgates explode, especially for someone like me, who tries so hard to keep a lid on her emotions most of the time.

And Julie was SOOOOOOO sweet to pray for me. Thank you, Julie. I love you more than ... chocolate!!! And that's a lot.

And Heidi, I LOVE LOVE LOVE your story! LOVE IT! God is awesome!

Erica Vetsch said...

Between Pam's post and Heidi's I'm a streaming mess! Sigh. God is so good. And so much bigger than I ever give Him credit for.

Pepper Basham said...

Thanks for this. I just finished writing a post last night about disappointment in contest-land - and your words went straight to my heart...and spirit.

You know, I'm going to make it a point to go to the ACFW prayer room THIS YEAR because it will help keep my priorities in order. "Stuff" crowds in where the Holy Spirit should be the focus and then my vision gets all muddled - especially when I focus on myself. sigh

Thanks so much.

Pepper Basham said...

And I should defnitely thank God that I get to attend my FIRST ACFW conference this I should spend time in the prayer room just from a thankful heart ;-)


Carrie Turansky said...

What a wonderful post and sharing. Heidi, thanks for sharing the way God used those prayers for your healing. That is really encouraging! It reminds me how important it is to listen to the Spirit and step out in faith to pray for others when He prompts us to.
Looking forward to seeing many of you sweet friends at ACFW this year.

Julie Lessman said...

Hey, Mel, DEFINITELY not an insult, but the sweetest compliment I've gotten in a while, my friend. :)


Myra Johnson said...

Amazing post, Pam (and a moment or two of deja vu)! Discouragement, whether at a conference or just plodding through another lonely day at the computer, is real and rampant among writers--and it doesn't matter whether you're published or not.

That's why it's so good to be reminded how dear and cherished we are in God's eyes, how His plan is always so much better than what we could ever contrive for ourselves.

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

What a BEAUTIFUL post and lovely, encouraging comments. I have not had the honor of attending an ACFW conference yet, maybe some day...

Pam H said...But it (prayer) does lead to perfect contentment in whatever God has in store for us...

Oh how true this is. I am struggling to find contentment in my life since the passing of my beloved husband in August but these words and this truth keeps me hanging in there and clinging to God's promise of a hope and a future.

Thank you ALL for sharing your stories and testimonies - they have brought courage to my heart on a very rough day.


Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Your post, Pam, was a blessing. I've never been to a large Christian writer's conference, but I've been greatly encouraged through attending smaller ones where there is so much sharing and caring. The atmosphere is very different from that in a secular writer's group. You ladies here are a blessing to me, too.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

What a lovely bunch you all are!

Pam T, I'm so sorry you lost your husband. I didn't know that, sweet-cheeks, and it's small comfort to get a cyber sorry but I'm adding a big old cyber hug too. I hate good-byes, even the temporary ones.

Hey, nothing better to sooth emotions than hot tea and chocolate.

And more coffee.

I brought Gloria Jean's Butter rum for the Keurig and caramel vanilla creamer. Talk about decadence!!!!


And a whole big box of chocolates. I went for See's candies because Tina's agent loves them, Warren Buffett owns them, and two such smart people CAN'T be wrong.



Helen Gray said...


Your post was uplifting--and timely. The testimonies it generated were inspirational.

I had been struggling with discouragement and praying that God would show me what to do. I had been considering whether it was time for me to quit--yet I went ahead abd started a new WIP last week.

Yesterday morning I was ready to leave for church but had a few minutes, so I checked my e-mail. And received a message telling me that I finaled (placed second) in the Gotchas contest.

It was a nice dash of encouragement.


Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

Helen!!! Rock on!!! WOOOOHOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

KC Frantzen said...

Thanks everyone.
It's humbling to read your posts.

Pam Hillman said...

Leigh, thanks for sharing about the little slips of paper.

Once, a long time ago when ACFW was still very, very small, we had a list of the members. You chose the member before your name and after your name to be prayer partners with.

It was so neat to have those ladies to focus on, and all these years later, I still keep tabs on one of them since she's dear to my heart.

Pam Hillman said...

Well said, Vince!

Tina P, you only have a "little" box of plans? Lucky you! Mine's the size of the Taj Mahal! lol

Mel, I imagine you and Julie were a sight to see, both balling your eyes out...

You know, I need to add that not everyone wears their emotions on their sleeve. I'm not one to get overly emotional during conference, but I'm very sensitive to those who do.

It would be a sight if we all squalled at the drop of a hat, wouldn't we?

Pam Hillman said...

Hugs, Pamela T! You know, God doesn't take away the hurt, or wipe away the grief, he just hunkers down there with us and holds the box of tissue and cries right alongside us...for as long as we need Him to.

Okay, Ruthy, I've had my grilled chicken salad for supper (yes, it's supper here in the South, not dinner) and your mention of coffee has me headed to the kitchen for a cappucino.

Pam Hillman said...

Congratulations Helen!!! That is awesome news!

Kathleen L. Maher said...

This post was the last thing I expected. I think in my writing business I tend to run from God all day. BAM! did He trick me. I met him here in a big way today. I am so touched by all of your deep relationships with Him. Thanks.

Audra Harders said...

Pam, honey, no one could say it better. It's been a long day and sitting down to read your post and all the incredible testimonies has filled me with contentment.

Bless you all -- or would that be ya'll??

Missy Tippens said...

Congratulations, Helen!! So cool!! Don't you just love God's timing? :)

Audra, yes, that would be y'all. Come on, you can say it. Give it a try. ;)

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Perseverance--all those stories brought perseverence and trust to my mind. Thanks for sharing. I needed this today. What a great post to come back after a long hiatis from Seekerville to. Wonderful.