Imagine you’re sitting in your seat at the Dallas Fort Worth airport on your connecting flight for ACFW Conference in San Antonio. The flight is so full that they’ve committed your carry on luggage to checked bags. You’re assigned seat is B the middle. Seat C on the aisle is filled, and A, the window seat, waits vacantly for its designated member. You wonder which traveler will settle between you and the window. Will they be pleasant and allow you to peer across them during take off? Or will they slide the window shade low blocking your view?
You watch the row of travelers dwindle to four as people scoot into their personal travel spaces. You’re alert, prepared to rise the instant your temporary neighbor A requires access to the tiny row of three.
As the last few travelers push by a woman with a huge backpack stops and motions toward seat A. The person seated on my right rises and moves into the aisle. I obediently follow suit and the new arrival squeezes toward the window. She struggles to squirm out of her backpack wedged between our row and the next.
I say, “Can I help you with that?”
She says, “No, I think I can manage, Barbara.”
I’m stunned. I wonder if I’m wearing a name badge.
All I see is a curtain of blonde and brown hair. She turns her face and my jaw unhinges.
Considering the infinite number of possible seat buddy combinations for 143 passengers with many connecting flights, how did my critique partner from nearly four years ago, whom I’d never met in the flesh, end up assigned to the seat right next to mine?
A random accident? Coincidence? I prefer to think divine appointment.
Is it any wonder that our God, who is all about relationship, would have divine appointments and assigned meetings in mind when he brings hundreds of his creative children together to praise, worship and learn at the 2019 ACFW COnference in San Antonio? And would anyone question that even the smallest and briefest encounter between two of his children is under the watchful eye and guidance of our loving Father?
My favorite things about ACFW Conference have nothing to do with the location or glamorous accommodations. Sure it’s nice to get away from my ordinary life (which is really a rather extraordinary life) for a few days, but beautiful are the interactions between God’s kids as they share experiences, skills and encouragement with one another. And joining praise and worship at ACFW feeds the weariest of souls.
In 2018, I attended my first ACFW Conference and boy was I nervous. There wasn’t a single person in Nashville I’d met in person and the first timers loop taught by Cara Putman, Carol Moncado, and Brandilyn Collins was the floating white ring on a deep sea. I’d encourage anyone who plans to attend their first ACFW Conference in 2020 to sign up for the first timer’s loop.
I attended a second ACFW this year in San Antonio and am awed by the realization of everything that had transpired in my writing life during the past twelve months. Brandilyn’s directions to say hello to first timers had a new clarity as I reconnected with people I’d met the year before. My heart understood how brave first timers are for attending conference, and the lightbulb of encouragement brightened. So often we don’t realize how up lifting is the smallest hello or a smile to the person on the elevator (or in the restroom.)
And while the classes at ACFW are wonderful, worthy, and educational, conversations in the hall, at meals, or after hours in the lobby listening to the stories and aspirations of another are strengthening.
ACFW is a safe place for even the most introverted creative. It’s a group of your own kind who cheer each other forward. It’s the place where people, even the editors and agents in nerve-wracking appointments, are for you. A spot where a hand up is normal and we’re encouraged to seek God’s direction.
Isn’t this unity and encouragement exactly what God wants to see in the body of Christ? I can’t help but think ACFW 2019 in San Antonio caused him to smile.
Did you see God’s supernatural hand at conference? If you didn’t attend, are you hoping you’ll have the opportunity soon? Can I answer any questions that might hold you back? Can I pray for your opportunity? Please tell me in the comments below.
I can’t wait to meet you.
Barbara Ellin Fox