6 Reasons to Love the ACFW Conference

Having arrived home a few days ago from an action- and information-packed American Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference in St. Louis, I’m still sorting through my myriad impressions.  Here’s a brief list of take-aways for me, as a fledging writer:

1) PEOPLE! On the macro level. . .

So many wonderful Christians who are there to teach, to learn.  There’s something wonderful about the body of Christ gathering in one spot together. . including the sheep who might be a little different from us.  . .  Yet the mass effect of Holy-Spirit cancels out differences and gels us together like nothing else can.

2) PEOPLE! On the micro level. . .

The delightful, lovely folks I bumped into all day long, wherever I went. . .God put each of them in my path for reasons only He knows, but we are “knit together in Him” (Colossians 2:2) like I’ve known them forever. . .I will continue to bounce ideas off of them in the future. . .and get their advice.

I don’t have a picture of one sweet friend, Julie, who prayed for me right before my editor appointments. But two other of my newest friends, Connie (in pink) and Elizabeth (pictured with me) are below:

3) Favorite authors I’ve read. . .

Going to the bookstore and actually seeing Terri Blackstock signing her books. .  Picking up a Karen Kingsbury novel off the table and finding it already signed. . .seeing and hearing Colleen Coble introduce a speaker at our general assembly. . . listening to Brandilyn Collins wonderfully emcee all conference long. . .

No, there are no pics of them; I didn’t stalk the more famous among us. I figured they just wanted to attend the conference like normal folks. (Although, I did manage a picture of Brandilyn from a distance, up above.)

4) Exciting new authors. . .

Attending an Erin Healy workshop on “Breaking the Rules in Christian Fiction”. . .taking notes on Jenny B. Jones’ “Dialogue Do’s and Don’ts”. .  . being steered to a new women’s fiction author, Gina Holmes, whom I now have downloaded on my Kindle, ready to read (thanks, Sabrina!). . .

5) New trends in writing. . .

How Young Adult fiction is picking up steam, targeting the vast market of young folks who gobble up anything supernatural/vampire/werewolf, etc, but presenting it with a Christian worldview. . . . and similarly the area of what’s called “speculative fic”, written for fantasy-seekers. . .I can’t write it, but I certainly appreciate the effort that goes into creating these genres. And don’t even get started on a topic foremost in a lot of  minds–that of e-pubbing–

5) Editors and Agents. . .

Getting to pitch my book baby to lots of different people in the industry of Christian publishing. . . treasuring their helpful and affirming feedback. . .where eating and sitting next to these movers and shakers helps me realize that yes, they are human, and as a new writer friend told me, “Realize these people wear underwear just like you and me!”. . .

6) Encouragement, hands down. . .

Writing is a lonely activity, yet ACFW was one big opportunity for me to mix it up with others who create books. I have come away with lots of craft instruction on HOW to write, sure, but the most valuable are the contacts He’s given me that I pray He will use to His glory.

If writing in God’s Name for the sake of God’s Kingdom doesn’t result in glorifying the Lord Jesus, then we should all hang up our pens/computers right now and find something else to do.

Yet we do.  Our hope, our mission, is that with stories we will continue to touch those readers who DO know Him. . .and reach those who don’t YET.

May Jesus be praised!

Lookin’ up,


Brunswick Stew

This is a cold-weather recipe that’s good for using up those “bits” of meat in the freezer.  Enjoy!

Brunswick Stew (16 servings now or freeze half for later!)

1 tablespoon oil                                                   hot sauce (optional)

About 1 cup chopped onions                          1 teaspoon of Old Bay seasoning (optional)

2 stalks celery, chopped                                        1 whole green bell pepper

2-3 lbs. of cooked & shredded/diced pork, beef, chicken, whatever meat you have stowed in your freezer

3 cans (14.5 oz) tomatoes with liquid, chopped    1 small pkg. frozen butter/lima beans

1 cup ketsup                                                     1 can (14.5 oz) niblet corn

1/2 cup hickory-flavored barbeque sauce            2 cans (14.5 oz) creamed corn

salt & pepper to taste

Instructions:  Heat oil bottom of large stock pot. Brown onions and celery until they get soft.  Add chopped meats, tomatoes & liquid, ketsup, barbecue sauce. Use salt & pepper to taste, add hot sauce if you wish, add Old Bay.  Immerse the whole green pepper down into the mixture.  Cook on low, stirring occasionally for 2 hours or until thick.

Stir in corn and lima beans and cook for 1 more hour. (Done when the beans are soft.) Remove green pepper, chop & add to stew or discard it (as in my household).  Great with cornbread or hot biscuits.

Lookin’ up,


Lessons From My Dog Andy

Photo by J. HuffmanWhite curly hair.  Fluffy spaniel ears.   The muscular build of a Jack Russell terrier.  And a fountain tail that spills all over his back.  This is Andy, our 6 1/2-year-old bichon frise.

A bichon frise, in plainer English, is what my husband Al calls ” a poodle on steroids.”   As you can see, his curly coat is the about only thing he has in common with his snooty French cousin.

Andy is my constant companion because he is in the truest sense of the word, a lapdog.  When I’m at work at my desk, he is at my feet.  When I’m reading in a chair, he is squeezed in beside me.  When in bed, he’s somewhere nestled against Al or me; even if it is hotter than blue blazes, that is where he must be.

A writer whose blog I follow, Cara Putnam, wrote about her dog’s influence on her a few weeks ago.  Also Scarlet Chasteen, wife of our retired pastor of 23 years Don Chasteen, shared a wonderful talk back in February entitled “What My Dog Has Taught Me About God.”  I’ve given this topic some real thought and thought I’d take a shot at it.

  • It’s good to stick close

At first I wasn’t too sure about a dog whose main idea of a good time was just to be next to me, but I’ve gotten used to it.

I have realized this is a valuable insight into how near I want to be to my loving Lord.  I should crave to be sheltered by His wing, inside His care, under His watchful eye.  Of course, the Lord is always that near to me.  The Bible says He never departs from me.  But how many times do I push away in my self-sufficiency, thinking I’ve got everything handled on my own?  I’m ashamed to say, too many.

The older I get and longer I am a child of God, the more I want to abide with Him, inside the warmth of His care, want Him to work through a surrendered me.  I get tired of seeing what I can do.  I want to become less, so He can become more.

  • It’s good to rest

Andy is a champion napper.  When I get up in the morning, his favorite place to be is snuggled in bed, next to whomever is sleeping the latest.  Whenever anyone in my house is fortunate enough to have a little down time and can steal time for a nap, he’s right there, begging to go too.  I don’t know what it is, but I think the little fellow has built-in radar to sense a person’s weariness.

Andy teaches me that I need to learn to rest better, to take advantage of those opportunities when the Lord says “Rest.”  Sometimes I get so busy in the day-to-day, I miss those chances to come away and just be.  Our bodies were not made to perform constantly without ensuing consequences.  I have to read the signals my body gives me and adjust my expectations accordingly.

  • It’s good to be content in little things

For Andy, dinnertime (at approximately 5:00 every evening, because he reminds me) is good.   He does a really good rendition of the “Snoopy happy dance.”

A red rubber ball with a squeaky tossed across the room is good.

A scratching all over, with accompanying belly rub by one of his humans, is good, too.

I am learning to be content in the little things God sends my way.  Although I will always have the joy of my salvation (thank you, G.C., for reminding me of this very truth recently), I also have contentment in blessings too numerous to count.  The blessing of my salvation and wonderful church family; of my earthly family; the basics of shelter/food/clothes; the  jobs God uses to help pay our bills; of an absolutely stunning day outside that He allows me to witness and enjoy.

Happiness is overrated and fleeting.  Contentment is the real deal and won’t change.  When I younger, I always looked forward to the next “big thing”—be it vacation, holiday, celebration, fun times.  Now that I’m older and wiser, those “big” things don’t hold a candle to the daily sprinklings of His pleasure He shows me.  He’s God.  And He’s Good, All The Time.

Would you pray with me?  Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for the flesh-and-blood lessons You put into our lives to point us up to You.  If we look hard enough, we can see Your love and pleasure written all over them. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!  May be never be bashful to share Your wonders, the amazing insights You reveal.  We love You, LORD!  Only through Jesus Christ can we come to You, Amen.

Lookin’ up,