Photo Essay: Leaving My Fear on the Mountain

Friends... they cherish each other’s hopes. They are kind to each other’s dreams.
— Quote by Henry David Thoreau

Arriving at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer's Conference, fear surged through my body. I had questions of God. What am I doing here? I'm too old. With 475 fellow conferees, many who have multiple works published, I asked, Who will be my friend and encourage me?

The Lord answered my questions right away, but not as I expected. He beckoned me over a bridge, one that felt uncomfortable. "Who will you be a friend to? Encourage?"

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Friendships are formed over meals at conferences and as James and I sat down to dinner the first evening, one woman, a nurse who'd felt God calling her to the conference just weeks earlier, needed a listening ear. I felt her concern, What am I doing here? I have no work to pitch. A friendship blossomed.  

At breakfast the next morning a young woman who'd never attended a writer's conference sat between her parents. I felt her fear. What am I doing here? I'm just nineteen and working on my first novel. James and I opened a conversation and soon, the three newbies loosened up and Christ began working in our hearts to form a bond.

There were many opportunities throughout the week to be a friend to someone like the morning I offered encouraging words to a woman who wasn't having a positive conference experience. She was asking a question. What am I doing here? I feel my work is all wrong.

And the young college student who joined us at lunch. What am I doing here? These people have much more experience than I.

Or the handicapped who attended. What am I doing here? It's hard for me to get around campus.

Many in their thirties and forties thought of their families back home. What am I doing here? I have too many other responsibilities and no time  to write.

Even the speakers, instructors and editors needed an encouraging word here and there. What am I doing here? Am I inspiring anyone? Are my students learning? Do they appreciate how tiring it is for an editor to listen to one pitch after another?

And yet God brought us together, young and old, strong and weak, published and unpublished to learn and grow and serve Him through our craft.

The week turned out to be wonderful as God put me in a position I feared, reaching out and befriending others. We sat together in class or assembly, we waved as we passed on campus, we offered a word of encouragement while waiting to pitch our work to editors. 

By Thursday afternoon when the conference ended, we hugged and prepared to leave for all parts of the country. I knew God had been faithful. He had something for each of us, no matter our circumstances. I'd made friends I couldn't wait to get to know better.  And somehow our weaknesses didn't matter anymore. Our bodies were exhausted, our minds packed with information, but we were leaving our fear behind on the mountain, on fire for the Lord now, ready to write and wait for Him to open doors.