"Not particularly friendly."
"Fiercely loyal, but may be too intense for many social situations."
"W i l l t h r i v e i n s o l i t u d e."
These descriptive results from a variety of personality tests I've taken over the years ring through my head as I prepare yet again, for a writers conference.
As I create my checklists, I overthink through every possible meet and greet. Will I come across too intensely to the woman I chat with on social media, vowing my undying loyalty of best friendom, because we both happen to have a couple of online laughs?
Packing my bags, I ponder if I will scare people away with my "Resting Introvert Face" and be approachable to exactly zero people.
And as the plane lands at my destination, I rehearse my elevator speech since a writers conference small talk always begins with, "so, what do you write?"
I have to psych myself up for the conference because each general session, meal and breakout session is a new opportunity for small talk, and meeting tons of people for the first time that I may never see again. And while this may sound like a lot of fun to others, I these as opportunities to be "not particularly friendly," or "too intense." I am the posterwoman for awkward, after all.
But as soon as I walk onto the campus of Ridgecrest to attend the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, I'm reminded of how silly and exaggerated my thoughts are. The authenticity of the staff at Ridgecrest and their eagerness to serve reflects the light of God. His peace washes over me as I join my tribe of creatives.
Hugs, squeals, and cries echo through the lobby as folks meet up for second or tenth year in a row. Busy volunteers and leadership team members are hurried in their movements, but never rushed, always stopping to say, "hello," or "thank you for coming."
These are my people.
The first morning I awoke, I read Romans 15:5-6: "Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." I prayed that He might send someone with whom I could develop and deeply personal and lasting relationship. I prayed He would grant like-mindedness so we could come together in worship and relationship.
He did. I believe he sent someone who needed me as much as I needed them. I believe He brought us together in like-mindedness so we could pray for each other, hold each other accountable, and come together to bring Him glory.
I may not be great at small talk or answering, "what do you write?" fifty times in four days (by the end, I was saying simply, 'non-fiction'), or participating in the lobby talks, but I cherished the intimate one-on-one discussions I had with people God brought together in like-mindedness. I am grateful at the attention to my work and the suggestions for improvement. And I am blessed beyond measure at the multitude of people who were there to ensure others were successful.
I was surrounded by artists, authors, teachers, superstars, musicians and tons of creatives with their own quirks, hangups, insecurities, and complaints. The most beautiful souls bared their hearts in unique and creative ways. Tears, laughter, games, skits, songs, dances, food, stories, and early morning walks brought each story, each journey to life. As one conference speaker put it, we're all a bunch of weirdos.
By the end of the week, I realize I may not be as awkward as I envision, or as intense as described. Coming to Blue Ridge reminds me that my preference for solitude has not given me a life sentence for isolation. It turns out, I'm just weird, and at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, I fit right in.
This lovely outfit is courtesy of my awesome hubby. During Genre Night at BRMCWC, we get to dress in a way that reflects our writing genre. Since I am the Introverted Believer, I wore my Personal Space Enforcer. It was a hit!
You're next! Did you attend the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference? What was your most memorable take-away? What other conferences have made an impact on you?