Beauty, peace, hope, joy, love, adventure, challenge, compassion, encouragement, miraculous provision… these are all words that describe my experience this week.
Do you ever feel prompted to do something, but have no idea why? Several months ago God nudged my heart and said, “Come on, let’s do this! I have an adventure planned for you. If you don’t follow Me in obedience I will still love you unconditionally, but you will miss out on something special I have planned just for you.”
If you know me at all, you know that I hate to miss out on things. I really, really hate it! Because I’ve lived with chronic illness for so long I’ve had more than my fair share of “missing out on things” experiences. When I was a child my favorite phrase was, “Me go too!” It didn’t matter where we were going, I didn’t want to be left behind.
When God nudged my heart to attend the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, I said “yes” because I didn’t want to miss out on what He had planned for me. I honestly didn’t know if it was going to be a happy blessing or another tough lesson He wanted to teach me, but I was fully committed.
Going to a conference on the other side of the country is a big commitment in time, health, and finances. I must admit that I felt a little guilty going. I don’t have a lot of money, but God provided. I’m still recovering from major health issues, but God sustained me and was my strength. I didn’t have anything in particular to pitch to an editor or agent, just a lot of ideas; I longed for a sense of direction and confirmation.
I made a choice to attend with a completely open heart. My goal was to show up and see how God would work. Friends, I was blown away. Never in a million years of million years would I have guessed what God had in store for me.
This was my second year attending this conference, but unlike the first year I was attending on my own. I was rooming with a gal I met in the conference Facebook group. We met for the first time when I arrived. God blessed me with my sweet roommate Patty who is now a dear friend. After we met, we decided to hit up Clouds Coffee Shop right away; coffee is always a good ice breaker! Standing in line we met others who were also attending the conference alone, most of them newbies. We chatted over coffee, went to supper together, and were thrilled to see each other throughout the week.
Those new friends were just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to the excitement of seeing “old” friends, every time I turned around I made a new friend. And you guys, these aren’t just “Oh hi, nice to make your acquaintance friends.” These are kindred spirits who will be my friends the rest of my life. They are the men and women who will walk along side me on my writing journey, encourage me, challenge me, and remind me that I can do this. An in turn, I get to do the same for them. This, this is the body of Christ at work.
At the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference (#BRMCWC) every attendee is given at least two appointments with editors and/or agents. I didn’t have anything in particular to pitch, but I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity. I went to the appointments looking for general advice and direction and ended up pitching the book God laid on my heart two years ago when I was here. Both agents loved the idea and want me to go home and write it. Everyone I told about the idea loved it. I have clear direction about what to do when I get home. Start writing this book!
I met some of my favorite authors such as Daivs Bunn and Steven James (who both like my book idea!); Davis Bunn was a particular encouragement to me and I am thrilled to have met him. One of my favorite people in the world is Tosca Lee. I started out admiring her writing, but a couple of years ago we became friends and now I admire her as an incredible human being. I was able to sit under her teaching for three days in a class called “Writing Unforgettable Characters.” This was a priceless experience that was part therapy and part boot camp!
Tuesday night was Genre Night; I had a blast dressing up as a Biker Chick and seeing everyone else’s costumes. Writers are some creative people and the outfits were fantastic! Tuesday night was also Book Signing Night. About a month ago I was published along with 19 other contributors, many BRMCWC attendees. Those of us at the conference gathered around a table and signed our book, “Breaking the Chains.” It was my first book signing and what a place to have it! Yes, it was surreal to be signing my book in the same room as so many talented, famous authors.
Wednesday night was the awards ceremony. I entered two contests and was shocked and thrilled when I placed in both. I received an Honorable Mention for an article I wrote called, “The Clandestine Life of Bestselling Author Tosca Lee.” Tosca was in the audience and came up front to give me a giant hug. I’m sorry to say I cried all over her pretty scarf! (Okay, I’m not sorry, it was my first award for writing and I was a little emotional.) A few minutes later my short story, “One More Step” won second place. This story is deeply personal and a little, how should I say it – untypical, unique, out of the box, scandalous even – so when I won it was a confirmation that my unique writing style is accepted.
I’m becoming more confident in my writing voice; I’m allowing ME to shine through. It’s a little scary to reveal yourself to the world, but I’ve learned that the only way readers will connect with me and learn from me is if I’m honest and completely true to myself, no matter how different I am. Frankly, I’m a walking contradiction, but that’s what sets me apart and allows me to encourage those of you who are also walking contradictions.
I love Jesus; I also love riding my motorcycle, shooting targets at the range, fishing, healthy junk food, adventures of every kind, reading for hours in a quiet corner, binge watching British crime shows on Netflix, wearing edgy jewelry made from metal and delicate jewels for special occasions, I love holy jeans and frilly dresses. I’m a tiny girl who looks much younger than she is, but I have dreams the size of the mountain Ridgecrest Conference Center is built upon.
I choose to embrace my uniqueness because I’m not a mistake. I have a story to tell and I’m the only one who can tell it. I won’t back down; I won’t change to conform to norms or fit into any box the world tries to stuff me in; I won’t allow anyone but Jesus to tell me how to live my life. I am a daughter of the King of kings and Lord of lords and I will speak the words He gives me in a way that is unique to the way He made me. Only then will my words transform lives and help all of us see the beauty, hope, and adventure that God surrounds us with every day – gifts He gives us so that we can know Him better.
Let’s be the individuals God made us to be. Let’s let our uniquness shine a bright light into a world that needs every ray of light it can get. Let’s be the people we wish we could be; there’s nothing holding us back but our own insecurities.
Are you a walking contradiction too? If so, welcome home, you’ve found your tribe! In the comments share what makes you unique so we can celebrate our wonderful quirkiness together.
Until next time,
egrinbergaMay 26, 2017 at 3:39 pm
Loved this dearest Jo! I want to read that short story!!!! I am so happy and proud of you!
Josie SilerMay 26, 2017 at 6:51 pm
Thank you dear friend!
Annie SilerMay 26, 2017 at 4:26 pm
I’m blown away by the way God is working in your life! (Not surprised..but blown away nevertheless). He’s SO GOOD, and I’m “to the moon and back” thrilled for you! Love you so much!♡
Josie SilerMay 26, 2017 at 6:51 pm
Me too! Love you bunches!
barbarabruttMay 26, 2017 at 9:09 pm
Yessssssssss! You sound like the ideal dichotomy for the perfect character!! It was so lovely to meet you on Wednesday, and I love hearing how God spoke to your heart this week!!
Josie SilerMay 26, 2017 at 10:10 pm
I’m so happy we met and got to hang out for a little while. I’m also happy that I didn’t have to look up what dichotomy means, thanks to Tosca Lee’s excellent class! 💚
barbarabruttMay 28, 2017 at 1:30 pm
It just struck me as amusing because we’d spent three days talking about dichotomies and HOW IMPORTANT they are for every and any character. 😉
Josie SilerMay 28, 2017 at 1:36 pm
Well, I have been called a character… 😂
joshuajmastersMay 29, 2017 at 8:48 am
It was great reading about your experience. I look forward to seeing you next year!
Josie SilerMay 29, 2017 at 8:50 am
Thanks! It was great seeing you, especially on genre night! God bless your writing.
crickettMay 29, 2017 at 11:17 am
Well said, Josie! I loved getting to meet you at BR. You’re a great example to me. Thank you!
Josie SilerMay 29, 2017 at 11:19 am
It was wonderful to meet you, Crickett! God bless you on your writing journey.