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Saturday, September 29, 2012

The spirit of Christmas--a little early

Traditionally, my family lives by an iron-clad principle: NO Christmas until after Thanksgiving. We shake our heads in disgust at Christmas trees in the stores, wrapping paper out early, commercialized Baby Jesus and the angels. People who put their trees up before Halloween for crying out loud.

But the most important rule? NO Christmas movies between December 26 and until after the turkey has been eaten on Thanksgiving of the following year. It's just our thing. Each holiday gets its special time to just be...

But this year, I'm the one my kids are looking at, shaking their judgy heads and scowling.

Because here's the thing...

I have been working on a Christmas story the last few days. Which means watching a ton of Christmas movies to get me in the mood. So who cares what my kids think?

In the Bateman home it doesn't feel like Christmas until Thanksgiving night. We put up the tree, watch Elf or Jingle all the Way, and drink hot chocolate, plus bake cookies, but with all the leftover pie, we barely eat them.

Something about Christmas in September has pulled me into the Christmas spirit and I feel hope rising.

What is it about the Christmas season that does this? I mean really. We spend a ton of money, stress about family visits and worry that the kids are going to be disappointed at the things they "didn't" get. And yet, that feeling of hope prevails throughout the whole season. I love that.

I love snow and lights and too much food. I love baby faces sticky with their first taste of candy cane, peanut butter fudge, wrapping paper, Christmas carols, the three wise men and plastic dolls in wooden mangers. Christmas cards all filled out and never mailed (sheepish grin).

My heart is full of Christmas today. Hope, love, peace on earth, angels, and possibility.

I want pie and hot chocolate and ten inches of fluffy, white snow, just wet enough to make a great snowball and a lopsided snowman.

I want to think about Joseph and a big-bellied Mary, baby Jesus, the gift. The one. The savior.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Reflections of ACFW conference

The last few days I have been in Dallas at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference. I haven’t attended this or any other big conference in years and wouldn’t have gone this time except for two things: Felt like God said to (which is big), Michael Hyatt was keynote (if you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know who that is, Google him. You’ll be glad you did).

Here’s the thing, on day one, I felt like a slug. No one knows me anymore.

My pastor gave a quote a few weeks ago talking about church-skippers that went something like: The more you miss, the less you’re missed.

That’s sort of what happened. ACFW grew up without me and I spent the first day catching my breath.

Day two I readjusted and realized that it was nice not to be recognized or to have any responsibility, so I blended into the crowd, attended workshops, visited with hopeful writers, reminding them how much Jesus loves them and how this really isn’t about them, rather it’s about the readers we serve. They want to feel that, but for now, we all know it really is all about us in the beginning—they won’t truly understand until later after they’re published and God teaches them to get over themselves. And God will do that, because of His great love.☺

I reconnected with old friends I haven't seen in a few years.

And I learned the names of all the baristas in the Lobby Starbucks—they are amazing young people on the cusp of life and I told them to go buy Michael Hyatt’s book and be fabulous. ☺ Forgot to tell them Jesus loves them. But that’s the thing about living your Christianity out loud. You don’t have to tell them anything. Just be nice and they’ll know.

I’ve been doing a lot less talking and a lot more listening. My feet are swollen, my body aches, and I’m still not sure why God wanted me to come. I drove down from Missouri with a crazy bunch of new writers in a minivan and I’m really excited to hear all their news on the way home. I know my friend, Carol has received several requests from agents for proposals. My stomach flutters up for her. I remember that feeling.

I also want to say to her, and all hopeful writers: Remember you aren’t writing to be published, but to finish your race, whatever the end looks like for you. God calls us to things with no guarantees of the end results. We’d all like to be NYT bestsellers, but logically, we won’t be. The most we can ask for is to learn what we’re supposed to learn—remember holiness is more important than happiness (not that you can’t have both, but the pursuit of happiness is secondary to going deeper with Jesus).

So the conference is over, tears have been shed, stomach still aches from the gut-splitting laughter, reconnected with good friends. I did have a couple of low moments I’m still trying to figure out—weird moments of miscommunication that I’m not sure I could have made better but wish I could.

All in all, I’m so very grateful to have attended with 700 members of this community of writers and publishers that God allowed me to blend with. They understand pain and process, mountain highs and valley lows, rejection and success.

We are writers.

To entertain, to serve, to share a journey with our readers.

But mostly, we write as worship for an audience of One. I was reminded of that this week.
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