Fridays with Friends Guestblog by Connie Stevens
NEXT YEAR . . . AND THE WINNER IS--by Connie Stevens
In September of 2009, after many years of struggling, learning, praying, practicing, improving, being rejected, learning some more, achieving baby steps, learning some more, praying some more . . . well, you get the idea . . . I attended the annual conference of American Christian Fiction Writers. There is a tradition at the conference that takes place on the first night. Two editors from Barbour Publishing take the stage and announce the awarding of first-time contracts. It has always been one of my favorite parts of the conference. On that magical night in 2009, the title of my novel was announced. After screaming, laughing, crying, hugging, and some joy-filled phone calls, I had a few quiet moments to spend with God.
In the stillness, He let me re-live the excitement, but He also reminded me of the journey. There were countless times I remember wondering if this writing thing was really God’s direction for my life, or was it just something I wanted to do. Had I truly heard from Him in pursuing this crazy career or was this merely an obsessive hobby? While I re-read the letter of intent from Barbour Publishing, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of exciting roller coaster ride was ahead. But one thing I knew beyond any doubt: God walked with me through the pre-published journey. He would walk with me on this next level as well.
The following day—day two of the conference—during the worship time we sang While I’m Waiting, and it occurred to me that someone in that room of 500+ people there was a person who, like me, was wondering and waiting. Next year would be their time, but they didn’t know it yet. So I started praying for that person. I asked God to encourage them and motivate them, to keep them close to Him and honor Him with every word they wrote. I prayed for the person’s heart, knowing that in one year they would know the same joy I now experienced.
I prayed again the following day and the day after that. Have you ever prayed for a specific person without knowing who it was? Before I knew it, praying for “next year’s recipient” of the first-time contract became a privilege I anticipated every morning. It was impossible to keep the smile off my face as I prayed blessings for the person whose name I did not know.
As the time for the 2010 conference grew closer, my prayers grew too. My heart was stirred for this unknown person, and the anticipation of learning their identity swelled. In the opening general session, I was supposed to be working in the bookstore, but I snuck into the auditorium and stood at the back, my heart pounding, my hands clasped at my chin. The editors took the stage and the name was announced.
OH MY GOODNESS!!! The person for whom I’d prayed for an entire year was my dear friend, Rose McCauley!! I screamed. I cried. I praised God.
I knew she would be mobbed immediately after the session, so I held back and waited. When God gave us a moment, I told her how God had impressed on my heart to pray for “next year’s recipient” for the entire year. Rose immediately agreed to do the same. So this year, Rose is praying for that yet unnamed person who will hear their name called at the 2011 conference—the person who is at this moment still on the journey. What joy is in store for him/her! But there is another joy--the joy of praying for someone whose name we do not know.
Rose again: Dear Friends, I count it a privilege to continue this tradition Connie started of praying for this year's winner of the first contract from Barbour award. And if you will check out Connie's website below and the books she has published and has coming out, you will see how God has blessed her and is using her to bless her readers. Thank you, Connie, for sharing this memory with me and my readers, for your friendship and prayers over the years, and especially for your faithfulness in listening to God and following as He directs you!
Leave Me Never - January 2011 (Heartsong Presents)
Revealing Fire - May 2011 (Heartsong Presents)
Scars of Mercy -- Coming soon (Heartsong Presents)
Heart of Honor —2012 (Heartsong Presents)
Hope’s Dwelling Place – 2012 -- novella in the Sundays In Fredericksburg collection (Barbour Publishing)