Have you ever entered an experience with a certain sort of expectation? I’ve done this. Many times. Sometimes those expectations are satisfied. More often, though, mine have been disappointed.
I just arrived home from my sixth ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference. It’s hard to believe I’ve gone to so many. Most of those years, I’ve tucked hopes and dreams along with clothes into my luggage.
Each year, those hopes and dreams have shifted.
When I registered for this year’s conference in April, I expected to have a new story penned and ready to pitch to editors.
Then, summer happened.
If you’ve read my blog over the last number of months you know my summer hours were filled with many things, very little of which included time to work on my story.
Besides that, this story, this “baby” I’ve meditated on, prayed over—agonized over, really—just wouldn’t let me write it. It was as if I held this big, unwieldy bag of ideas that refused to fall neatly into place.
I brainstormed it (probably to death), tried to make all those beautiful ideas fit into the story I thought I was going to write.
But the darn thing wouldn’t work. My head—and my heart—couldn’t tame it.
As I stepped onto the plane last week, I wondered what God had for me over the next few days. Because, obviously, my conference experience would not include pitching my story.
I walked through the doors of the hotel in Dallas, checked in, and searched for a late breakfast. A peaceful hush permeated the atrium of the hotel. I found a place to grab a meal and prayed about this conference. I asked God to use me to encourage others. That was my hope and my expectation.
Who knew He would use others to encourage me in the deepest places?
Some years, I attend all the workshops and courses I sign up for. And then there are years like this one.
I almost overslept for my all day workshop with author and well-known writing teacher, James Scott Bell. When my roommate woke me, I had less than an hour before I was due to be in class.
When we head into an event without expectations, God has ways of surprising us.
Thursday night, someone I respect spoke words of life over my dream. Those words penetrated deep into my heart and challenged me to bring them before God. I know my Father has plans for me on this writing journey.
But the plans spoken over me? They’re way bigger than anything I can accomplish in my own strength.
It was as if God was asking me, “Do you believe I can do big things with you, with your writing?”
My hearted quavered out a “Yes, Lord.”
There’s something humbling about knowing others are intentionally working to help you achieve your dream.
This weekend was about connections. I chatted with well-known people I’ve only heard about. Reconnecting with friends refreshed my spirit. Hearing how God is using others’ writing lifted my praises to God on their behalf.
Something special happens when we can rejoice for others with a genuinely joyful heart.
I knew I had nothing to pitch this year. Praying for friends before they went into their pitch appointments and then hearing about how their time with agents and editors played out excited me for them.
I have a mentor who has been instrumental in helping me make my writing more authentic. She spent time with me brainstorming a new story . . . one that resonates on a heart-level.
My biggest takeaways from this year’s conference are three-fold:
Writing-wise—In my writing, my characters need to be real, relatable. Readers enjoy stories about characters who could be their friends.
People-wise—The people-connections are huge on this sometimes lonely journey. God uses relationships to prepare us to walk out His calling. Whether we are dreaming of one day being published, or we are writing for ourselves, we need each other.
Personal-wise—When we go into a situation that lends itself to certain expectations, and we let go of those? God does surprising things in our hearts and lives.
When we can release our plans and agendas and wait for God to bring about His? That’s when things really get exciting.
What about you? If you read fiction, what makes for a compelling story in your mind? How has God helped you manage expectations?