Monday, September 24, 2012

Distilling Niagara

Me on the left and Mary Connealy on the right, rockin our red banquet shoes at the 2012 ACFW Awards Gala. 

Home from conference. And...Wow. I was so blessed. I'm still processing, distilling, mulling, and otherwise ruminating over everything I saw and did and heard and experienced.

All I can say is God spoke words into my heart through His people. He forced me to ask some questions I've been trying to ignore. Questions like "Where is your identity? Because if it is anything other than in Christ, it's in the wrong place." and "What would your life look like if every day was a celebration of My goodness?"

This was SO different from my previous five ACFW Conference experiences. Those conferences leaned heavily on learning how to write better, learning the ins and outs of the publishing business, and learning how to move my career in the direction I would like it to go. They were all about the writing and the goal of getting published. In short, they were all about me and my goals and agendas.

Not so at this year's conference. I focused very little on my writing, though Davis Bunn's class and his thoughts and insights in how to write hope into our fiction for a hopeless, post-modern world were amazing.

Instead, I felt God focusing on my heart. You see, it's been a strange summer in my writing life. Without a current contract to work on, I've floundered. Researching a little, blogging a little, reading some craft books, but not writing. Aimless and wondering what was in store. I've had constant deadlines for four years now, and sometimes more than one. There's always been a goal, an agenda, a promise to fulfill. But now my work is out on submission, and I'm waiting. I thought I was waiting on the Lord, but mostly I was just waiting. :)

So God decided to gently remind me of a few things, and He chose to do it while I was in Texas.

This year at the conference, I deepened relationships and listened to wise counsel. I met with my agent, who gave great advice and with whom, for the first time, I felt we'd worked together long enough, communicated enough, so I could really relax and be honest about how things were going with me. (This is NOT a reflection on her, because she's...well, awesome! Rather it's a reflection on my insecurities and doubts, those doubts about my identity that God is working on.)

Throughout this conference, where I had no editorial appointments, no real agenda, nothing I wanted to accomplish or had to do in order for the conference to be deemed a success for me, I found myself listening more. I tried to focus on listening to the stories of those around me, and more importantly, I tried to listen to what God was saying. I felt God pouring His love and life and grace into some areas of my heart that I'd been withholding from Him. Areas that, through my actions, I had allowed to dry out and wither. Areas that are now springing to life under His grace.

Hopefully, through all this rambling, you can see that I had a wonderful time, and that it was a growing experience for me. I'm refreshed, renewed, eager to get to work, and so very thankful.

This song from our worship time especially blessed me. Do you know it?

You are Good 
Brian Johnson, Jeremy Riddle Bethel Music Publishing c 2010 

I want to scream it out 
From every mountain top 
Your goodness knows no bounds 
Your goodness never stops 
Your mercy follows me 
Your kindness fills my life 
Your Love amazes me 

I sing because You are good 
And I dance because You are good 
And I shout because You are good 
You are good to me to me 

Nothing and no one comes 
Anywhere close to You 
The earth and oceans deep 
Only reflect this truth 
And in my darkest night 
You shine as bright as day 
Your Love amazes me 

With a cry of praise my heart will proclaim 
You are good You are good 
In the Sun or rain my life celebrates 
You are good You are good

You'll notice I underlined the last two lines. They keep repeating in my head and heart. What would my life look like if every day, sun or rain, my life was a celebration of the goodness of God?


  1. Erica, there are a few things here that hit home with me. One, I've somewhat been in the same place. I've never had deadlines or contractual obligations to fulfill, but for the first time in six years I didn't have a story to work on. I'd finished up my revisions, sent off submissions, twiddled my thumbs, stalked my email (I'm still dong that). I'd felt done in. I wondered if there was another story in me. I tried forcing myself to work on a story that needs to be written but I know isn't CBA publishable as it is. So I waited. And waited. And freaked. I thought I had missed the boat. My dream of sailing along in this publishing world was over.

    I fought hard to keep my feelings of doubt in check. I clung to the fact that no matter what, writing career or not, God would never leave me. During one of our conversations a while back God reminded me of Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. My immediate response was "Lord, if I delight myself in You wouldn't you be my desire?" I felt him smile.

    That was over a year ago and a lot has happened since the, but what you just wrote about where your identity is, is exactly what God's been trying to show me. If I don't reflect Christ, I am nothing. My identity has to be in Him and Him alone.

    I know this is a long response, but the other thing that resonated with me, was his goodness. I was absolutely heartbroken about not going to conference. I thought for sure God was going to provide a way for me. I cried on Sunday but I continued to pray up the day of conference, but He chose not to allow me to go. You see, in my mind, I have two manuscripts. They're complete and polished. If ever there was a time for me to go, it was now. As it became evident I was not going, even in my disappointment, I thanked Him. After all, His timing is perfect.

    Something occurred at home, something that would have drove me nuts being 8 hrs away. I needed to be home and He knew that. He is so very good.

    Thank you for the post and the words of encouragement. I'm glad you had a wonderful time and the God spoke to you.

    1. Christina, thank you for your heartfelt response. I'm finding out more and more how many writers go through these periods of doubt and dryness.

      I'm so thankful that, as you said, Christ never leaves us, and HE is our identity and the true desire of our hearts.

  2. Amazing insight! Loved that song too, and now it's in my head :)

    1. I went and found it on youtube so I could listen to it again and again. :)

  3. I love that song but never heard of it! I bet you had fun at ACFW! :)

    1. Livia, I had a wonderful time at ACFW, and if you search for You Are Good Bethel Church on youtube, you can hear the song.

  4. I've never heard of that song either! Thank you! I love your thoughts, Erica, but it is so surprising to hear that even you have self-doubt. I guess all of us struggle with that! You are amazing! Never forget it!!!

    1. Sherrinda! I was soooo happy to get to meet you in person!

      And that doubt dragon pursues us all from time to time.

      Thank you for your encouragement!

  5. I love this. You summed up many of the same things I felt at this conference. I did pitch this year, but I wasn't nearly as nervous as in past years. I was really able to concentrate on relationships with other writers and my relationship with the Lord. It was awesome.

    1. Julie, it was so nice to get to see you! I'm glad your pitches went well and weren't wracked with nerves. :)

  6. Glad you're home and had a wonderful conference. Love your red shoes, too.

  7. I loved getting to spend so much time with you at conference, Erica. What a blessing that was for me. And I loved seeing your cute red shoes in person. =)

    1. Keli, you blessed me every time I saw you!

      I'm trying to think where I can wear my red shoes next.

  8. Your honesty touches me, Erica. I'm registered for the Surrey Int'l Writers' Conference next month. It doesn't have a Christian focus but is the only conference close enough that I can manage to attend, and I've gone every second year since 2004. I love being immersed in the writers' community there and I learn new things and meet wonderful people every time. But I have a ms to pitch that straddles CBA ABA markets, written from a Christian perspective, and I doubt it will be of interest to any of the agents.

    A year ago I queried one Christian agent who I thought would be a good match, but that didn't work out and I haven't queried since. I've been in limbo this past year. God gave me a definite nudge to write Christian fiction but I guess I need a further nudge to know what to do with it. In the meantime, I'm focusing on Him and holding onto Psalm 27:14, "Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage."

    I'm glad you had such a wonderful experience at ACFW and are feeling renewed. (BTW, your red shoes rock!!!!)

    1. Carol, I'm glad you can get together with other writers, and hopefully God will give you some clear direction with what He wants you to do with your writing talents.

      Sometimes that waiting is the hardest thing God asks us to do. Especially for someone like me who just wants to "do something" all the time in pursuit of my goals.