I just spent four days in Nashville at the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference. It was fabulous! Workshops and worship and fellowship with hundreds of writers who are hard at work creating what the keynote speaker, Ted Dekker, terms “transformational fiction.”
The headline news is… I was a finalist for an award and, to my utter astonishment, I received it! They brought up the slide that revealed the winner and the name up there was actually mine! It was a surreal moment. I wove around the banquet tables and up the steps onto the draped platform in a disbelieving daze.
Don’t trip don’t trip don’t trip. Don’t trip!
There were at least 600 people in the room. All the movers and shakers in my corner of the publishing world. Yay me! I didn’t trip! And say hello to the new recipient of the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Genesis Award for Historical Fiction.
Okay, it’s the baby award. Their Carol Award for published novels is the big deal—and many wonderful writers in that room had multiple Carols and RITAs and INSPYs and other awards to their names. But receiving this one whooshed me from a nobody to at least a little somebody. It gave me a tiny blip on the radar screen which, among other things, might help open some publishing doors, Lord willing.
So that’s the headline, but as is so often the case the real story unfolds beneath the headline.
On Friday, I participated in a very impactful workshop by Allen Arnold, founder of Thomas Nelson Fiction, entitled “The Two Creative Realms.” The theme was exercising our gifts as storytellers in dynamic relationship with God. A high point was when they distributed a notebook to each of us, each of which included a prayed-over, individual note that was supposed to be our personalized message from God.
Great. Christian fortune cookies, I said to myself. And then I opened mine.
It was exactly what I needed. You see, I’ve always been a Martha, as in “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary…” (Luke 10:41-42) You should have seen me multitasking at that conference! Checking my work email, calling in for meetings, trying to keep up with social media.
But the Lord sent me a poignant reminder to anchor my focus where it belongs. I can write a million words and publish a dozen novels and receive every award the publishing world has to offer—highly hypothetical, but let’s go with it—but at the end of the day, if He doesn’t breathe life through every word, what does it matter?
“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “…All is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:1)
Or—and this was Allen Arnold’s message—I could write 100,000 words that never see the light of day. But if the Lord’s in it with me and I’m living out His calling on my life and I’m growing in Him through the process, what other audience do I need?
“Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman keeps awake in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)
I left that conference determined to live differently. Determined to be more intentional than ever about “watching over my heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) Determined to seek hard after only one award—the Well Done Good and Faithful Servant Award. Determined to shed some of the clutter in my life and tighten my focus on the
One. Necessary. Thing.