ICRS Reflections Part Two (long!)

Continued from the last post…

A lovely thing happened after the Alive Communications event (where Eugene Peterson spoke: amazing!!). A gal approached me by saying, “I wanted to meet you ever since I read your Publisher’s Weekly review.” I had no idea people actually read those things. She was an editor at a house I hadn’t written for. It was just one small confirmation from the Lord that this writing gig is something He wants me to continue. You see, sometimes I feel insecure about writing. As a writer, I plow forward stringing words together, not always knowing I’m up for the task. I doubt. I wonder. Getting that review, and then having others read it, confirmed that I am a writer after all. Silly, I know. I should be secure in my career/ministry choice without hearing words of encouragement, but those words really help once and awhile.

I especially enjoyed putting faces to names I’ve “met” on the Internet. What a joy it was to meet Camy Tang, Suzie Eller (and hubby), Kathi Macias, Tricia Goyer, Paula Moldenhauer and so many more. And to reconnect with my friends Sandi Glahn, Alice Crider, Deirdre Pool, Susan Carter, Heather Cady, Don Pape, Beth Jusino, Mick Silva, among many others. The best part of ICRS was connecting with friends new and old.

I did my first TV slot. Through a mix-up, I thought I was walking into a radio interview only to see a set, cameras, and a smiling lady sitting on a comfy chair. An assistant wired me to a microphone, and off we were to record a half hour show! I had no time to be nervous, so I just looked at the nice lady and told her stories. The time went by in a flash. As I walked out, I nearly ran into Stephen Baldwin. Weird! I was too surprised to introduce myself. As he went in, two other men came out and probed about our work in France. They asked if they could pray with me, which they did. It was such a blessing.

I also had the privilege of being interviewed for Family Life radio by Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine. We recorded two shows on top of the Holiday Inn, sitting across from each other with these huge microphones. It went swimmingly. It was such a blessing for me to be able to SEE my interviewers. I’ve been doing radio since January, but always late at night without the benefit of seeing my interviewers. Bob Lepine particularly encouraged me. “You have a unique gift,” he said. “Not many people can be authentic comfortably.” It was something echoed over and over throughout the week. I felt like the Lord was confirming a sense of gifting and calling in my life, that He had uniquely gifted me to speak and write honestly.

One of the most life-giving conversations I had with my friend Alice who works at WaterBrook. We shared deeply. I felt heard. We connected. Since that has sometimes been rare for me in France, I took a deep drink of Alice’s kindness and honesty.

My friend Sandi blessed me with encouraging words right before I fell asleep (we were roommates). She’s one of the most gracious, kind-hearted, spiritually-adept people I know. So her words were fresh water on my parched soul. Thank you, Sandi.

Oddly, one of the most life-altering things happened at a dive-ish Mexican restaurant a mile from downtown Denver. I’d invited friends in the biz to have Mexican food and do karaoke. About 20 of us got together. We laughed. We talked. We ate. We even sang. Normally, I’d be one who held back. I used to be joyful, outgoing, even crazy sometimes, but a lot of that part of me squelched over the past two years in France. I’ve become a bit somber, less outgoing, less relational. Many of you who have read my words know I’ve struggled with losing the Old Mary. And Jesus has been encouraging me to let Him transform me into a New Mary.

So on karaoke night, I took a deep breath and decided to do karaoke for the first time in my life. I sang “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” catapulting many of us back to the dear old eighties. Others sang. We all cheered each other. My last song was “Staying Alive,” complete with happening dance moves, alongside my friend Susan Meissner. What joy! What laughter! Something in me enlivened then. Isn’t it strange that God uses the funniest things to change us? The Almighty uses karaoke! I know there’s been a change. On the way to the USA, I didn’t speak with the passengers nearby, preferring silence. On the way back to France, I spent a good deal of time ministering to a crying teenager who was venturing back to Spain, leaving family and a boyfriend behind. I connected with a gal in the seat next to me and the man next to her. I’m alive!!!!!

I met with a few publishers, as I am between contracts right now (a bit unsettling) and am cautiously hopeful that I will be writing books again soon. One thing I’ve learned: in fiction, I’m a bit edgy and the things I write about are not exactly lighthearted. So publishers take a long gander at me before they’ll risk going to a pub board on my behalf. This brings up the idea of writing for the ABA (American Bookseller’s Association) in lieu of the CBA. I had the privilege of listening to Bret Lott at the Christys. He gave me hope that a Christian can write redemptive stories for the ABA market. I’m not sure, but perhaps all this is the impetus I need to pursue publication outside the CBA market. Jesus, show me what You want!

I also had the opportunity to meet a few writers who I had the privilege of editing and encouraging at Mount Hermon two years ago. Both are now published. I felt like I had grandchildren!

You know who is lovely? Kay Arthur. She attended the Harvest House Author Appreciation Dinner. She walked right up to me, Susan Meissner and Roxanne Henke and chatted with us all for 15 minutes. She was sweet, interested, and encouraging. I want to be like that when I grow up!

I was thankful to meet my publicists face to face. I look forward to working with them all in the future again. I didn’t know I would enjoy working with publicists, but all three have given me so much—great opportunities, great contacts. They’ve helped expand the influence of the books I’ve written.

On a down note, I have my numbers for my two books released this year, and they aren’t spectacular. I had a great talk with Janet Grant and Robin Jones Gunn (along with a friend of hers from Africa who had the sweetest spirit). Robin, who has written bundles of books, said some years she can make a living, others not. This encouraged and discouraged me. Thankfully, we don’t live on my income. We save it for retirement and education.

I’m encouraged that there might be a time when I can make a living so we don’t have to live forever on support. I’m discouraged because this business is so fickle. Success is fickle. I’m thankful we live for another Country, heaven, where prosperity of spirit is guaranteed. This reminds me to give it all to Jesus, to let success or “failure” rest in his able hands. Yes, it is discouraging when my numbers are less than stellar. I know that book sales are not a measure of me. I know I’m an unknown author. I know I need to rest and be patient. And as God gives me words to share, I’ll share them, sales or no sales.

Please pray for me as I discover what God wants for me. I have two nonfiction book ideas swirling around my head right now, as well as two fiction projects. Pray they’d find the appropriate home. And that I would continue to sink my soul into Jesus, falling headlong for Him again and again.

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