Before she even began giving the instructions, I had a story on my mind. It was one I had not thought of in quite some time.
When she gave the prompt, it fit perfectly. Surely it was meant to be. Before she even finished giving her final directions, my hand was moving vigorously across my notebook.
We only had five minutes. A room full of strangers; women from all walks of life, each of us with five minutes to write a completely impromptu and unedited story from this peculiar prompt: “Stranger.”
I was surrounded by them, and now I was to write a story concerning one. I had chosen one from years ago; a stranger who had only crossed paths with me for five minutes. Now I would write about her for the same duration of time, nearly a decade later.
Before me stood one of my favorite authors, a woman I greatly admire and had prayed all weekend for an opportunity to meet, and that opportunity was about to present itself.
Our time ended, and she asked for volunteers. All around the room hands shot up. She turned and pointed to me; one of three who would share their unedited stories.
When my turn came I rose confidently, but any poise painted across my face wavered when I began to read my wild scrawl of a story. That morning as I had donned my makeup and curled my hair, I had not anticipated giving a speech to a room full of strangers, especially a story of this delicate nature.
Five minutes is hardly enough time to set up a context, yet it would appear that it is just the perfect amount of time to confine a story to its raw vulnerability. Five minutes produces a rather naked story.
Earlier that morning had found me sitting before the Associate Publisher & Executive Editor of Zondervan Publishing, a woman who has worked thirty years in the publishing industry. During a ten minute meeting I would unpack my heart, overflowing with a passionate message that I can hardly pin to words.
My body buzzed with coffee, a meager effort to battle the fatigue from a night of sleep interrupted by our hungry infant, and an evacuation from the hotel after the fire alarm sounded at four in the morning.
I had arduously prepared over the past six months for this ten minutes I would spend with her. I had written, rewritten, prayed, cried, gathered a team to help, prepared proposal drafts, prayed more, bought some non-maternity outfits, and even gotten my nails done. The only other time I have gotten my nails done in my life was six years ago—on my wedding day. Up until recently I kind of thought “Mani-Pedi” was a breed of dog, the kind that get their own nails done.
On that weekend I had a meeting not only with the Associate Publisher of Zondervan, but also with Harvest House Publishing. Some of you have asked me how those meetings went.
They grounded me. They humbled me. They confirmed my passion for this message on intentional parenting that God has called us to.
“I love the concept for this book.” I heard it twice. Both publishers confirmed that there is something profound woven into this message. I also heard, “You’re not well enough known yet.” I had seen it coming. It’s an unfortunate shift in the publishing world that in order to be published, you must first be known. Yet they took my proposal, and both are passing it on to the next step!
Part of me expects the outcome I have heard from so many other writers that have walked before me, that the publishers will come back with my proposal and tell me to “Grow my platform”– to become better known, then this book can happen. Or maybe God has bigger plans than the publishers. For now we wait. Wondering. Praying. And writing.
Because this is what I came away with from my meetings with those publishers, and the other divine conversations I had over the weekend with authors, writers, and speakers—We are simply called to continue on in obedience to what God has called us to.
And God has not called me to make my name known; He has called me to make His name known. So that’s just what I’ll do. And I am confident that if I keep on showing up at the laptop, or with a piece of paper and pen, then He will make it happen. I am learning that when we simply show up and take a step of faith, He will show us great things.
Last weekend I stood before a room full of strangers and one of my favorite authors. My heart pounded within my chest, which is a notable occurrence for me, considering my rare disease which renders my body incapable of producing adrenaline. The unfamiliar sound of my own heartbeat echoed within my eardrums.
I willed my hand to stop shaking as I neared the microphone to my mouth. My voice trailed as I began to timidly speak my unedited story.
“She walked in in her designer clothes clinging tightly to her sun-bronzed skin. She stood near the counter, confident, but perhaps not. I suddenly felt uncomfortable in my bland green apron, and childish in those pigtails poking out from beneath my uniform hat. I took her order, and as I did, I began my game.
My gaze fell to her protruding hip bones, chiseled and taunting. Her white top allowing them to peak out. Her wrists were dainty, a trophy. Her collar bones, pristine.
‘For here or to go?’ I asked. She answered and walked on. She had won.
My break approached, and I pushed aside any previous thoughts of what I myself would order for lunch. Indeed, she had won.
I determined that tomorrow she would not. And so I went another day without eating.”
I prepared for six months for those ten minute meetings with book publishers last weekend, and I had entered into this experience with my focus being predominantly on those opportunities. But it ends up that a five-minute writing exercise, an impromptu speech drenched in vulnerability, and a “That was wonderful.” along with a hug from one of your favorite authors—that ended up being an even richer opportunity than those publisher meetings.
Because really, when you feel God calling you to something, the most rewarding and confirming thing you can do is simply to show up for the task, let Him handle the details, and watch in wonder as He orchestrates something far bigger than yourself and your name.