It always amazes me how much my inward thoughts shape the way I see events in my life. Attending ACFW this year was a very different experience than the previous two years. I believe this is due, in part, to the fact that I am more confident in who I am as God’s girl, and as a writer. I know more how things work, what’s expected (though pitching my books still makes me tremble), and I’m getting to know more people.
Meeting up with people I know before the conference began helped set my mind and heart in a good place. That sense of belonging—knowing I’m accepted—gave me peace and a quiet confidence that I was supposed to be at ACFW. For those who don’t deal with insecurity and rejection, this may not make sense.
Some of my highlights for conference this year included meeting new people—in the industry as well as on my end of the writing journey: pre-agented and pre-published. Friendships began and were deepened as I spent time talking with others.
The classes I sat in on opened my eyes on how to make my stories stronger and more meaningful.
I also loved serving at the registration desk. Meeting new faces and hugging those I knew filled me with joy. Giving up a couple hours at the conference to serve a time keeper for the appointments was a blast. As people sat in the waiting area preparing to go in for appointments with industry professionals, I watched faces. Privately, I prayed for those who looked scared. I remember the first time I walked in for appointments. I was scared!
We want so badly to make a good first impression that we sometimes forget, it’s more about networking than about landing an agent or an editor. I’m finally understanding this truth.
Following are a few lessons I learned (or re-learned) at ACFW 2014:
- There is joy in serving. Both in formal and informal capacities, the opportunities to serve ministered to my own spirit. Praying for others offered the greatest joy in serving this year.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for prayer. I had a mind battle shortly before an appointment where I wanted to make a good impression. I asked a friend to pray with me. She did, and her words of encouragement bolstered me.
- Remember it’s not all about you. Keeping our eyes focused on how we can serve and encourage others enables us to walk in joy, even when we feel nervous.
- Things don’t usually go the way you expect, but that’s okay. God’s plans are often different than ours. Will we be okay with this, or will choose to garb ourselves in a mantle of frustration?
- Look for ways to encourage others. Speaking words of life not only lifts another’s spirit, it also lifts our own. I want my words to edify those who hear them, to point them to Jesus.
- Don’t let insecurities speak louder than the truth. For anyone who walks in skin like mine, it sometimes feels like I’ll never truly fit in. When kind words are spoken, I’m learning (slowly) to take them at face value, rather than to question if the speaker said them with an ulterior motive or with insincerity.
- Know your identity. And it isn’t in how many books you’ve published, if you’re agented, or if you won the latest contest. I was humbled to win the My Book Therapy’s 2014 Frasier award. As wonderful as it is to win an award like that, my identity is not Jeanne Takenaka—2014 Frasier winner, or writer, or any other label. Ultimately, I am Jeanne Takenaka—child of the Lord, beloved and cherished by Him. God’s girl.
Any talent or identifier beyond this is what He uses to continue to mold me into the woman He designed me to be. It’s meant to be His vehicle to touch those in my world.
The biggest lesson I learned is that God’s got this whole writing thing. He’s leading and guiding me. My prayer is for the ability to view the people He leads into my life and the circumstances He allows me to walk through with His perspective.
What about you? If you attended ACFW, what were your highlights or lessons learned? If you didn’t, what heart lessons have you learned lately?