Are you nervous around people you admire?
I stood in the buffet line staring at the empty seats in front of me, and tried to muster up some courage, when my new friend Sharon said, “If you don’t put your stuff at his table I will.”
The sign on the lunch table displayed his name in white against a red background—Allen Arnold, author. It was printed on the same red color representing the theme of the Mount Hermon Writing Conference in thick, capital letters: BOLD. Each table at the Conference was hosted by an author, agent or publisher.
Last summer, my friend Christine felt the Lord leading her to send me his book, The Story of With: A Better Way to Live, Love, & Create
I’m glad she listened. I spent those lazy summer days nestled amongst Tahoe evergreens, highlighting quotes and soaking in God’s love for me while my children splashed in the lake and my feet curled in the sand.
It’s a book about creating and dreaming WITH God, an allegory about the Father’s love for us.
“The key is relationship. Yet so many who believe God miss the experience of life with Him.”
“I believe He gives each of us a particular calling so He can spend time with us on that unique playground. This is a way for you and God to get to know each other better as you create together.”
I returned to my seat with my lunch when he sat down.
He glanced at my name tag, “So what do you write about, Valerie?”
Red boldness somehow rose above feelings of insignificance and my completely unpublished state, “I’m working on a book that will help women who are stuck living in fear.” Then we proceeded to talk about how the spirit of fear can be a generational stronghold and the importance of praying specifically to break that.
He offered to pray for me. His meal must have been getting cold. But he didn’t care. He was humble and genuine. And somehow I wasn’t thinking about the fact that I was talking with the founding publisher for Thomas Nelson Fiction who is now in ministry with John Eldredge at Ransomed Heart Ministries.
Liz Curtis Higgs, the author of over 28 books, including Bad Girls of the Bible: And What We Can Learn from Them, was the speaker at the conference. At the end of each message, she turns her back to the audience and lifts her hands to the heavens to give all glory and applause to God.
She made us laugh about the time her name was displayed in lights above her when she turned around and raised her hands (unbeknownst to herself). I held back tears when she took off her wig revealing the invasion of chemo. A tumor could not keep her from ministering God’s hope to us or erase the smile on her face and the joy of the Lord in her heart.
Living out the theme of the conference, I felt brave standing in line to schedule appointments with agents and editors. They were approachable and kind. One agent prayed after our appointment, and I felt God’s peace in my heart—His presence right there at the little round table in the coffee shop.
Before the main conference started, I attended a pre-conference clinic with a group of 5 writers where we each “critiqued” each other’s writing. When I found out the mentor of my group was a male, I felt a bit nervous because my submission was very vulnerable. I looked up Mick Silvas’s website and discovered he’s worked with Ann Voskamp. I love the transparency in Ann Voskamp’s writing and her poetic prose always seems to engage my heart and mind. Once again, I fought back feelings of insignificance.
During the critique group, when I would normally be intimidated by the status and accomplishments of others, their unassuming acceptance made me feel like I could be myself. Mick Silva was kind, encouraging and humble. He created a relaxing learning environment and I left feeling affirmed in my calling to write.
We all became friends. We shared our broken stories penned on paper and helped each other edit. When the main conference started, we passed each other on our way to different workshops and gave a quick hug or an encouraging glance.
(We took a series of pictures for the FB group. At first, I was embarrassed by my cheesy grin in this last photo, but now I like the picture because it shows I felt comfortable enough to be myself and show my goofy side.)
Monday night was the autograph party. I brought my copy of The Story of With: A Better Way to Live, Love, & Create so Allen Arnold could sign it. But I couldn’t find him. When I walked back to my room I saw his tall stature across the way through the windows of the sanctuary. He was probably ministering to someone. Just like he did with me. Still giving.
That’s what walking the path with God is. Giving. Pouring out. Where, as Ann Voskamp says, brokenness turns into good brokenness, which gives way to abundance. That was happening all around me over this weekend—writers sharing their stories filled with loss, grief, and pain. Their brokenness will turn into abundance when their words help someone walk the path of their own suffering.
The next morning, I felt God awaken me with sudden words that held my attention as I remembered where I was and that it was the last day of the conference. Bold and powerful words:
You are just as special as Allen Arnold.
You are just as loved as Allen Arnold.
You don’t need a signature.
I love you just as much.
God’s intimate love towards me was overwhelming. I knew Allen Arnold would have gladly signed my book, but probably felt that humble feeling that he was just like everyone else.
Francine Rivers, the best-selling author of over 20 Christian fiction books, including Redeeming Love, said she doesn’t display her awards inside her home. She doesn’t even think people should get awards.
Because God loves us all the same.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve published a book or not—if you’ve won that medal or contest, finished that marathon. It doesn’t matter where you’re at on the corporate ladder—what job you have, if people recognize your name or notice you. It doesn’t matter how many followers you have on Instagram—what you look like or how old you are.
Because God loves you the same. Just the same as anyone else!
Who do you look up to in this world?
Who do you admire? Who are you nervous to speak to?
Is it your favorite pastor, speaker, author, musician?
Whoever it is, God wants you to know—you are just as special.
And just as loved.
How can you value and be inspired by the people you admire without feeling inferior? Do you believe you are just as special and just as loved by God?