Welcome to my blog...

Green trees, cool water, a gentle breeze...the perfect place to sit at the feet of the Master and learn. Jesus taught so often on the shoreline, and He's still speaking today.

This is where I share the lessons He teaches me, often during the time I spend on the shores of a local lake. I don't have all the answers...and some days I don't have any. But I go here when I need to draw near to Him in a tangible way. Come with me...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Step of Faith

"We live between New York and Philly... surely there's got to be a writer's conference around here!"

I had been blogging for a year and had taken a stab at writing a memoir a year or so before that, but the burning desire to attend a writer's conference was suddenly all consuming and came out of nowhere.

I did some research, but the only ones I found cost hundreds of dollars and were far from home.  I shared my frustration with a friend about finding one locally...one that didn't require the additional expense of flight arrangements and hotel rooms.

A few days later, she sent me the name of a conference one of her friends had attended.  It was just 20 minutes from my home...the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer's Conference.

The cost was much more reasonable, but still more than I could afford.  However, there was a scholarship available so I held out some hope.

Then I looked at the seminars being offered.  Terms like query letter and elevator pitch were sprinkled all over the page.  I had no idea what any of that meant.

And the scholarship essays?  My heart sank.  One of the questions was "If you could lay one of your works at Jesus' feet, which would it be and why?"

One of my "works"?  I had about 3 dozen blog posts and a half-written memoir.  Nothing published.  I was no author.  I had no real "works".

Man, I was in way over my head.  

Fear began to mount.

And doubt.

And self-deprecation.

Who was I to think I could be a writer?  Sure, I composed radio commercials for the past few years, but really, it was just 30 and 60 seconds of why you should buy a car from XYZ or why Spa ABC offered a more relaxing atmosphere.

Not exactly War and Peace.  Nothing of real consequence.

I pushed the thought away as a crazy dream.  

But God kept nudging.

So I picked up the application again, prayed about the questions and started writing.  

A few days later, I was shocked to learn I had been awarded a full scholarship for classes.

There were some early bird specials the day before the full conference, meals, and the opportunity to have my manuscript and blog critiqued, but each thing bore an additional cost.  

Then more miracles. 

My step-mother heard about what I wanted to do and sent a check to cover the meals and specials.  A friend gave me the money for the critiques.  Someone even slipped me a few bucks for gas.  God provided for every cost.

It sure was looking like this sudden burning desire...this crazy dream...was God orchestrated.

The application had one more thing.  A writing competition.  There were four categories - one each for published and non-published authors in poetry and prose.  The conference theme was "Write His Answer" based on Habakkuk 2:2, and the essay was to reflect the same theme.  Although I was beginning to believe God wanted me there, I still felt I was out of my league.  Doubt was still hanging on for dear life.  Finally, the deadline to submit the essay passed - the decision had been made for me.

That Sunday, I mentioned my lingering doubts to my pastor and he encouraged me with Joshua 1:9.  

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  

Even to a writer's conference when you fear you're not really a writer and you're discouraged by your lack of knowledge.

When I returned home from church I found an email from the woman who runs the conference.  The deadline for the essay was extended.  

I sat down and wrote.

A few weeks later, I attended the conference.  Not knowing what to expect, but not wanting to go to interviews with some of the conference staff empty-handed, I took two of my blog posts and reworked them into devotions.

They were both accepted and published by christiandevotions.us, an online devotional web site.  My blog and manuscript got favorable feedback.  In fact, eight months later, an editor I met at that conference reached out to me and I am now in the process of writing a second week of devotions for The Quiet Hour - the first week's worth will be published this June.  I also met some really amazing writers and established new friendships.

But the biggest surprise came the last day of the conference.

I won the essay competition for a non-published author in the prose category.  The prize?  Half off the following year's conference.  Maybe this writing thing wasn't just a one and done.

Taking the first step was hard.  It always is.  I can come up with a million reasons NOT to do something. But once I stepped out in faith...set aside the fear and doubt and believed if God was in it, He would make a way, things began to fall into place.  

What dream is God whispering in your ear that fear and doubt are trying to drown out?  

Lean in and listen...then step out in faith.

Once again, I'm pleased to link up with Godsizeddreams.com.  For more encouragement on stepping out in faith to follow the dream God has called you to, click on the link: God-sized Dreamers Link Up


  1. Toni, I remember you going to the conference, but I don't think I knew all of these incredible details!! Isn't God so good? WOW. Thank you for sharing!!

    1. Christine-I sent you an email about things around that time. I remember because I mentioned how I had told a co-worker about how God orchestrated all the funds and I said to him "All I have to pay for is the gas" at which point, he opened his wallet and said "now God has taken care of all the expenses". You wrote back to say you were glad to hear it because you had thought about getting and sending me a gas card to help, but were afraid I'd think you were a stalker or something since we'd just recently come to know each other :) I thought it was so incredibly sweet that you had even thought to do that for a stranger. Your big heart was evident to me even then!

  2. This is so inspiring, so encouraging. I'm so pleased for you, and I'm praising God with you!

    1. So glad it spoke to you :) It's certainly been a huge praise in my life, and I continue to be surprised by God's blessings in this area.