Unexpected: Wednesday in the Word

UnexpectedUnexpected can strike fear into a person’s heart or create a surge of adrenaline as a new, unforeseen possibility opens up. Two weeks ago, I got hit with unexpected at a place where I thought I had it all figured out.

Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference is a favorite of mine. Having attended three years in a row, I know what to expect. Or I thought I knew what to expect.

I didn’t take anything to pitch to agents or acquisitions editors. I went to learn. The classes there are top-notch.

I hoped to see some of my friends from previous years. Writing may be a solitary profession, but there is inspiration and challenge in being with people who get you. I needed that.

And the worship! I love Russell and Kristi and their music ministry. To be led into the presence of God each morning and evening along with close to six hundred other worshippers is an amazing experience. I pray God blesses them as much as He does the conference attendees.

With my class list in hand, I set off and experienced my first taste of unexpected. I knew ahead of time, none of my writer friends from home were going to go with me. The idea of a seven and a half hour drive by myself in a tiny car on a crazy curvy road with rock walls on one side and drop-offs on the other and a million (no, I’m not exaggerating) semi trucks unnerved me.

I expected it, and I planned accordingly. I drove the majority of the way and stayed overnight at a motel to accomplish the more nerve-wracking portion of the trip when fresh the next morning. Oh how the unexpected almost undid me before I really got started.

I checked in, though the motel’s surroundings seemed a little suspicious. When I reached my room, the door was ajar and the sheets were on the floor. Had the housekeeper been abducted by aliens mid-cleaning?  I’ll never know. They upgraded me to a suite. I expected the term suite to be relative. I mean, I knew I wasn’t staying at the Ritz.

The floor lamps barely lit the room. Maybe they figured if the room was dark, people wouldn’t see the stains all over the couch I knew I wasn’t going to sit on that night. Or the melted spots in the carpet, bigger than cigarette burns but not distant enough to tell what created them. Maybe they didn’t want me to see the strange white stain on the olive green comforter or the fact that the white sheets were really more yellow.

I nearly had a meltdown. I checked for bugs and found no evidence, but I still couldn’t handle what I was supposed to sleep on. After a frantic call to my husband which included the possibility of spending at least two hundred extra dollars we didn’t have to rent a different room and losing the non-refundable price of the current room, I set out to find a Wal-Mart.

Fifty dollars later, I was the proud owner of a new sheet set, pillow, and fleece blanket. All these items covered the ones currently on the bed, allowing me some semblance of peace as I slept. (Side note: Each item was sealed in plastics bags and immediately washed in hot water with two rinses and then dried in the dryer for at least an hour to make sure nothing traveled home with me.) The next morning, I had an unexpected cold shower and promptly checked out of the room. I will never return.

The conference began without surprise. My room was comfortable, and I met up with friends from previous years. Unexpected hit again the first full day of the conference. Migraine. I couldn’t enjoy the music with my heading pounding its own beat. I struggled through my first class. Maybe lunch would help.

Those at the table with me prayed for me. Those I met before worship prayed for me. With these prayers supporting me, I made my way back to my room after lunch. I slept through my afternoon class and woke with the pain somewhat dulled. I medicated. Then, I carefully avoided loud sounds for the rest of the day and slept through the night to begin the second day feeling much better.

Unexpected hit again on Wednesday. I decided to pack my car before dinner and the mid-week awards ceremony. That way, I could take it easy on the last half day of the conference. I loaded my suitcases and searched my purse for my keys. Then, I searched my backpacks. After that, I dumped out my dirty clothes and rummaged the pockets. Finally, I dumped everything in every bag on my bed, growing more frantic in my search. Where were my keys?

It took a few trips to the car to unload. So, I knew I hadn’t left them in the ignition. With heavy steps, I went to my car. I searched through the front window. Nothing. The back seat was equally disappointing. I looked through the hatch-back window. There, almost covered by the sleeve of my jacket, were my keys. It was more than I could take when I called home. For the next fifteen minutes, if anyone spoke to me, I burst into tears.

Here I need to apologize to the ladies on the elevator who thought I’d lost my mind. Another author from my publishing house asked how my day was going. You guessed it. Waterworks. The woman was gracious and tried to help me brainstorm what to do. While she went to eat dinner, I went to the front desk. No luck. I needed to eat and prepare for the awards ceremony. Instead, I was waiting on security who couldn’t help me.

I was able to share my plight, without tears at this point, with a few I knew to see if they had a slim Jim to break into my car. No one did. It would solve it later. My friend reminded me I needed to eat. And I didn’t want to miss the awards. My car would still be there, locked, when the night’s events ended.

And it was. The manager gave me a lock-smith’s number. Instead of enjoying the reception after the program, I returned to my room to change and wait for the guy to come unlock my door. Took him thirty seconds to retrieve my keys. I need to learn how to do that.

As unexpected as all these things were, there’s more. First, there was the unexpected prayers and concern from people I’d only just met when dealing with my migraine and my keys. There was the unexpected discussion when I sat at Edwina’s table to compliment her on her wardrobe that day. The discussion turned serious, and the group of us shared our personal stories dealing with mental health issues and parenting. There was the woman struggling to know whether she needed to give up her writing dream. I was able to pray with her, right then and there. The unexpected blessings continued as I prayed with others too. My book, Cake That!, placed third in the Contemporary Romance category of the Selah competition. I had an editor ask my to update the proposal for my nature devotional and send it to her.

Someone asked the group to consider how God showed up for us at the conference. In that answer, I found my biggest unexpected moment. It came with the realization that my God moments weren’t related to the writing at all. They weren’t epiphanies from the classes I enjoyed. They weren’t contracts being signed. No. My God moments had to do with the people. God showed me the early church spirit through the people. Everyone coming together, supporting one another and sharing their wisdom and experience freely for the benefit of the group. People taking time to stop and immediately pray for the needs of others. Conferees cheering for the wins of their fellow writers, even when their own journey wasn’t going the way they planed.

My conference journey this year was full of unexpected. Both pleasantly and those experiences that were a bit more difficult. Looking back I’m reminded exactly who God is. “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts that your thoughts.'” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

What was unexpected to me, wasn’t unexpected to God. But more than that, He knew how to use each surprise to my benefit. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28). My God is the God of the unexpected, and He knew exactly what I needed to grow and be encouraged through this very unexpected conference experience. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.




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    The Conversation

  1. Lisa Schnedler says:

    Amen, Sister!
    I cannot tell you how many experiences I have had that have just been plain “wonky” – nothing like what I planned and hoped for. But, in the end, they nudged me ahead in a way that my well-designed plans would have never accomplished.
    God is good!
    Thank you for sharing this! I am grateful you are a friend on this journey!

    • Heather Greer says:

      Yes, God is good. Always good. It’s wonderful when we can look back and see how He’s been working all along. I’m glad I’ve gotten the opportunity to get to know you as well.

  2. Teresa A Moyer says:

    Oh my what an adventure you had! Love seeing God’s hand in each event along the way. God never promised us a smooth journey just promised to walk with us.

    • Heather Greer says:

      And I am so glad He does! It can be tough at times when the unexpected hits, but I’m always blessed when I look back and see how God worked.

  3. Donna Stearns says:

    It is in the unexpected God shows up reminding us how much we need him and how close he is.