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Thursday, October 3, 2013

ACFW Recap—But Not That Kind




by Susanne "Yeller-belly" Dietze

My first experience at American Christian Fiction Writers Conference, September 13-15, was an amazing weekend, but not entirely for the reasons you might think.
Inkies dressed for the Genre dinner! (back row) Jennifer AlLee (holding pic of Dina Sleiman), Barb Early, Lisa Karon Richardson (holding pic of Niki Turner), Anita Mae Draper, Gina Welborn, Suzie Johnson (holding pic of DeAnna Dodson). (front row) me, and Debra E Marvin (holding pic of CJ Chase)
Don’t get me wrong, the whole thing was a professional and personal blessing. I met my Inky sisters, other friends, and my agent in person for the first time. I worshiped with them. I learned a lot about writing. I spoke with editors about my projects. And the Awards gala was pretty special, too.

But God did a spiritual work in me that weekend, too.

Several months ago, I believed I'd heard His voice calling me to attend Conference. But I was so afraid to go.

I was afraid to believe He'd told me to do something so lavish, afraid to spend the money, afraid to leave my family, afraid of rejection, afraid that He might not bless me and the trip would be a huge mistake.

I was no spunky heroine. No brave Disney Princess. I was filled with Fear.
Yes, I've read this book. Sigh.
Then my friend Karen said something to me about the wonderful opportunity God had given me in sending me to the Conference. But, to my surprise, she didn't mean the opportunities I'd thought of: making contacts, meeting friends, or learning more about writing.  

She meant the opportunity God had given to me to face my fears!

Face them? I’d much rather deal with them privately (without all of you knowing!). Then, when I’m not afraid anymore, I'd be more than happy to take a step into that Great Unknown, appearing cool and collected all the while.

Except…it doesn’t work that way, does it? God didn’t part the Red Sea until His people arrived on its shore. We have to take steps of faith, trusting God rather than just saying we do.

Hope is some extraordinary spiritual grace that God gives us to control our fears, not to oust them. Vincent McNabb

I realized I might never banish my fears, so I decided to face them. And it wasn’t always easy. At night when I couldn't sleep, I’d remind myself of something that is indisputably true about God. I’d list His characteristics, His works, His attributes. He’s Sovereign. Creator. Savior. Redeemer. Friend. Protector. Lover of my soul. Strength and power, glory and might. He is able, capable, active, loving, and He could help me through this trip if He'd told me to go.

On my bed I remember You; I think of You through the watches of the night. Psalm 63:6

And wouldn’t you know it, God held me through every aspect of that trip, right from the first minute. On the plane, He sat me with the Conference photographer, romantic suspense author Emilie Hendryx, and a young missionary to Paris. The three of us had a wonderful conversation. I got off the plane to find Anita Mae Draper had waited for me at the shuttle, even though my plane was late. God gave me these loving gifts through His servants. And He didn’t stop showing me love, showering me with blessing upon blessing, fellowship and FUN. I wouldn’t have experienced any of it if I hadn’t put on my big girl pants and, with God's help, faced my fears.
With Carol finalist, our own Inky Lisa Karon Richardson
Eating and talking books with Barb, Deb, and Suzie
In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul. Psalm 94:19 NKJV

God is so good to us.

I hope you can forgive this for being a spiritual recap, if you were expecting a business-y one. I’ll post something on my blog soon about the business-side of my experience. Until then, I hope if there’s a fear staring you down, you’ll trust God, and if He gives you the opportunity to face it, you consider giving it a try.

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Susanne Dietze is, surprisingly, a Mama Bear when it comes to her family & friends. In fact, her over-protective tongue has gotten her into trouble a time or two. She can be found on www.susannedietze.com.

20 comments:

  1. Susie, seeing you at conference, I had no idea you struggled with fear about being there. Calm cool collected. Yep, that's how you appeared.

    Lessons learned . . .

    Sometimes I think we, Christians, get too weighed down by our sin. In other words, we've been forgiven yet we keep sinning so we don't feel worthy of being forgiven. We feel like we have to be extra good to justify forgiveness. But then we sin again. More guilt. More shame. More why can't I get this right? Ugh.

    So then we get to thinking why should we ask for God's blessings. We don't deserve it.

    I know I always feel awkward asking God to bless me. Seems selfish. The whole theological is it/isn't it . .. blech.

    A couple years ago I began to pray, "God remind me today how much you love me. Because scripture says we love You because YOu first loved us." I can't grow in my love for God in my own efforts. But the more God reveals His love . . . oh wow. And that love doesn't always come in the form of material things.

    Sometimes it, strangely, comes in the form of situations where I'm reminded to be patient, loving, extending of grace, humble to ask for forgiveness, to serve without complaint. Or to go to a conference and fellowship with my writer friends.

    Lovely post!!!! (Jen, those are for you! That one too.)

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  2. Good morning, Gina! Nice to know I hid it well. Once I was there, I was ok, but leading up to it, I was fretful. "How can I spend this money on myself when we had water damage to our ceiling and hubby's in a doctoral program and blah blah blah?" "What if my agent meets me and regrets signing me?" "What if....?"

    The problem isn't those questions. I think it's normal to have fearful questions. The problem is when I entertain them and let them take root and take over, especially when God has nudged me to go.

    It is so hard for me to ask for God's grace. It's one of those things where I know God loves lavishly, but I tend to act like it's for everybody else and not me, too.

    I love exclamation marks. Just sayin'. Oops, I mean, just sayin'!

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  3. I've been wanting/a little bit afraid of a job. I realized this is a fear I definitely need to overcome.

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  4. "My power is made perfect in weakness." What a wonderful post and great reminder that God uses our brokenness to show forth His power and glory while at the same time healing us. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. I loved this post, Susie. One thing it proves is that we never know what someone is struggling with. So thank you for that reminder.

    I really loved seeing you and Anita again, and I really loved meeting Deb, Lisa, Barb, Gina, and Jen!!! ;-)

    I wasn't sure about attending the conference, but God paved the way for me to be there. I know that for a fact, by some things that happened before and during the conference. I'm so glad I went, and I'm so glad we all had time together. :)

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  6. I can understand that, Dina. There are legitimate questions that go along with it, regarding childcare, money, family dynamics, etc. Plus it's a change.

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  7. Karl, you are so right! Thanks for sharing that Scripture, too. God is so good.

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  8. Suzie, I loved seeing you and Anita again, too--and Jen, whom I'd met before. Meeting the rest of the Inkies was such a blessing. I can definitely see why people attend this conference every year. It's the way to hang out with your dear friends!

    I'm glad you could come to conference, too. I know there were some obstacles in your way.

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  9. I wish I'd been there, but this was not my year to go. It has been, however a year of facing fears, just on different battlefields!

    For me, facing those fears and "doing it afraid" (hello, sleeping in a car in a parking lot in south Toledo) puts us in a place where it's actually easier to rely on God and trust Him than it is when we are all safe and snug in our comfort zones.

    Wow... with all the things all of us have faced up to in the last year, can you imagine how awesome we'll all be NEXT YEAR??

    Hugs to you, and thank you for sharing your fears and your triumphs!!! (Yes, guilty of the exclamation point overload... and ellipsis overuse. And I like italics a lot, too.) :)

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  10. Beautiful post, Suzie! I'm glad you stepped out in faith to be where God wanted you. If you hadn't, we wouldn't have met. I was so blessed by the Inkwell gang. What a great bunch of gals. Thanks for making this Aussie feel so welcome. :)

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  11. Thank you for sharing, Susie. For the record, I was having a horrible day until you walked through those doors at the airport. :D

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  12. Niki, I like ye olde ellipsis a lot. And em dashes.

    You have had quite a year, m'dear. I still marvel at your bravery, sleeping in your car in Toledo.

    I think you have shown great courage in many, many things.

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  13. Dottie, I am so happy I met you. You took quite a step of faith, too, traveling so far to attend conference! I am so happy you and Narelle made the journey. I pray your trip was a blessing, start to finish.

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  14. Aw Anita, you did have fun getting through Customs, didn't you? It was so sweet of you to wait for me at the shuttle. You are a great Conference roomie!

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  15. Great post, Susie! I didn't one teeny tiny bit of fear on you, so God was definitely at work.

    My first conference was very much the same, except that I didn't know anybody! It was my first writer's conference and I was scared spitless. But God blessed me with Lisa, and eventually, with all my Inky sisters and more wonderful, lifetime friends than I ever expected to have. When God gives us the opportunity to face our fears, he sure does bless us :)

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  16. I remember those days before conference when you struggled with the decision. I'm so glad you went. Imagine all you would have missed... and all the rest of us who would have missed 'you'!

    Great post Susie!

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  17. Jen, you were so brave to attend conference without knowing a soul. How intimidating that must have been! Praising God for the blessings He showered upon you when you went!

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  18. Ah, Deb...I would have missed so much. And I just had to wear that costume! Thank you for all your support!

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  19. ah yes. The dress. Perhaps that was my insurance you'd go!
    When you hemmed and hawed about going and mentioned a costume... you recall how quickly I tempted you with a regency dress?

    I have to say that I do at times wonder if I'm taking something as a YES when it's really just me looking for an excuse to do what I want.

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  20. Oops - posted my comment on Google+ hehe! But, I'll say it again! Great post and I'm so encouraged to hear what God did for you (and all of us) at the conference! Such a wonderful experience!

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