Some of you know I recently got home from the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. (say that ten times fast) I'm finally in a place to process what I learned from this wonderful experience. It was like church camp for writers —with nice hotel rooms instead of cabins with mice. My roommate and I even stayed up too late each night telling stories and laughing just like camp, but we didn't have a counselor to tell us to shut up and go to bed. We chose classes and had the opportunity to sign up for appointments with agents, editors, and publishers. We also had key note speakers and worship was led by a talented husband and wife combo. Considering many of the conferees are trying to get published, we're a pretty nervous bunch and that praise and worship was our lifeblood throughout the week.
So why was I there? Last year I wrote a book for middle graders called Silvery Moon. It’s personal because many of its episodes are true events from a book of stories my Grandma Morgan wrote down for us about growing up on a farm in Indiana. If you knew my Grandma, you’ll agree she was sweet, soft-spoken, and a true Bible expert. Writing her story for young girls brought me so much joy.
At the conference, I spent much of my week talking about my book and explaining why kids would benefit from this story. I had cool marketing stuff I got printed at Staples. I memorized my pitch. I even planned two more books in case Silvery Moon ever becomes a series.
The meetings went well. I got a lot of encouragement and plenty of people asking me to send a proposal which is the goal at conferences, so my preparation wasn't wasted.
On the last day, instead of the regular couple who led us in worship, their daughter sang for us. She was maybe 12 and adorable with a great voice. She sang all the right words and notes, but what really moved me was her spirit. She was singing to her God who she obviously loves. And that’s when it hit me, whatever happens with Silvery Moon, I’m obeying God. He clearly asked me to write this book and I’m glad I obeyed. I may not be a bestseller or a famous author. But seeing that little girl on that stage made me think, this book has the potential to move other young people to fall in love with God. Others may sing to Him the way this girl is. What a privilege!
Another quick side story. Grandma loved the song “How Great Thou Art.” In fact she asked me to sing it at my grandpa’s funeral. At the time, I had been singing at a lot of funerals and had no trouble because I didn't know the deceased person. Sadly, if you sing at one old person's funeral, it's an easy place to get gigs. However, at Grandpa's, I couldn’t get through the song because I was crying too hard. I tried taking a drink and coming back and still...nothing but tears. Ryan, who was playing the guitar, said to the people attending the funeral, “You know this one. Let’s sing it together.” I love that man.
Since Grandma died, I can’t get through "How Great Thou Art" without crying. It’s impossible. I go to a modern church with contemporary music, so that shouldn't be too much of a problem right? Wrong. You’d be amazed at how many times this wonderful, old hymn comes up. And I always cry.
At the conference, they sang it right before one of my most anticipated appointments. I was wearing eye make-up for heaven's sake! I had to leave the room. Anyway, after I heard this young girl sing, I was overwhelmed by the privilege of telling my story to young people and suddenly, I felt a change.
I’m not kidding when I say, we sang “How Great Thou Art” at church last week -two days after arriving home from Blue Ridge. And you know what? For the first time in almost five years, no tears. Not one. Ryan was looking at me like, “what’s going on?” All I can think was, I’m obeying God. I can sing this song without tears because I’m telling Grandma’s story the way God asked me to. There’s no reason to cry anymore because He is great just like the song says.
We've all been on the other side of this before. God clearly asked us to do something and we ignored it. And here’s the thing, it didn’t work out. Whatever we did in place of God's request wasn’t successful. Maybe it was a foolish purchase, a bad relationship, or all of college. But obeying God? He blesses that. Check out Deuteronomy 28:1-6. Buckle up, ‘cause it’s a long one but really encouraging.
“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God: You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed. You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.”
How cool is that? We serve a God who loves to lavish blessings on us.
I could go on and on about all the things God taught me at the conference, but for now, I’ll say, if God is asking you to do something brave, obey Him. He will bless it. His promise not mine.