Good morning everyone! I hope you’re having a happy Thursday. I’m a wee bit late getting this post up because I’ve been sick this week. Things are on the upswing, however! I wanted to share from my heart about some of my ACFW conference experiences.
I know that many of you are planning to “Meet Me in St. Louis” (Woo-hoo! LOVE that song!) and you’re not sure what to expect out of the conference. You’re nervous, excited, hyper, exhausted (from working on your manuscript) and basically frazzled. Deep breath. Let me start by saying that God always seems to time these ACFW conferences perfectly. It might not seem that way, but it’s true.
My first (Houston) ACFW conference experience was a rush. Because I live in the Houston area, I didn’t stay at the hotel (big mistake). I drove back and forth. This would’ve been fine, but my car broke down. I managed to hobble back and forth from house to hotel with my car dying all the way…every day! Still, I wouldn’t have missed the conference for the world. What great teaching! I still remember Gail Martin’s class, to this day! And Robin Lee Hatcher’s prayer time at the end of the conference…wow! Talk about God’s perfect timing!
My next (Nashville) conference, I was terribly sick. At the time I didn’t realize I was in a flare with an autoimmune disease. I just knew I’d been terribly ill. Somehow I managed to board the plane (alone) from Houston to Nashville. I asked for the very back seat because I was so sick. When I arrived at the conference, I spent much of the time in my hotel room with my roomie (Martha Rogers) tending to me. I managed to crawl out of bed long enough to find out that my novel, Hurricane (about the Galveston hurricane of 1900) took second place in the historical category of the BOTY contest. Talk about a dose of vitamins! That, and the amazing class Brandilyn Collins taught on backstory, were enough to help me shake off my illness and perk up. Add to that some amazing stories from our speaker, Karen Ball, and I was off and running!
My next (Dallas, 2006) conference was bittersweet. We buried my father the day before we left for the conference. I arrived at the conference in a wash of tears. There, in that place, God used Rachel Hauck and the worship team to minister hope and healing to me in a way I’d never before experienced. What a precious, precious year that was, and how I leaned on my godly, anointed writing friends to see me through!
My next (Minneapolis, 2008) conference was a whirlwind! Just a few days before we were to fly out of Houston, Hurricane Ike hit! Our airport was shut down and all flights canceled. I can’t tell you what a mess we encountered, trying to arrange flights. But I HAD to get there. Rachel Hauck had asked me to do a devotion the first night AND I was teaching for the very first time (Plot Shots/plotting). It took a village to figure out a plan, but Kathleen Y’Barbo, Linda Kozar and I managed to get a flight that took us into Minneapolis earlier than planned. My precious friend (Rosemary Morton) happens to live in Minneapolis, so she put us up for the night. I had some amazing experiences at the conference and loved the event at the Mall of the Americas. My class went well and so did the devotion.
My next (Denver) conference offered me some precious time with friends, as well as great classes. A couple of my books finaled in BOTY/Carol Awards, which is always fun. But my strongest memory happened in the van on the way back to the airport, where Eileen Key (that precious woman) presented the gospel message to our driver in the most natural, loving way I’d ever seen. Talk about sharing your faith!
Friends, prepare yourselves. The conference experience will be filled with high highs and low lows. There will be reasons to cry and reasons to celebrate. If your emotions tend to run the gamut, prepare yourselves!
God wants to meet you at the ACFW conference. I can promise you, from my own experience, that He will use the experience to both refine and cleanse you. There will be moments when jealousy creeps in and there will be moments when you feel about as important as a flea. But isn’t that the point? This is all about exalting Him, not us. Once we shake off our insecurities and realize that He longs to use us, then we’re free to soar.
So, where are you today, writers? On a mountaintop? In a valley? Prepare yourself! The ACFW conference will have you leaping mountains, carrying backpacks through the valley, and soaring new heights…all in a matter of a few days. Start praying now. God will meet you there…I promise!
You can learn more about Janice Thompson and her books here.