The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Number 6:24-26
Divine Appointment #4 is not about a specific event, but many divine appointments. You see, I was not only the recipient of specific incidences, but also the giver of many smaller ones. We ate most of our meals together as a group and every time I sat down at a table, it was filled with different people that I had not met before. I started out the conference resolving to push myself beyond introvert and say “May I join you? And please join me.” Seated at a table with strangers, the first thing everyone did was pull out their business cards and pass them around as though we were playing a game of business card poker. Then, we settled down to get to know each other. The tables seated eight to ten people and the noise in the ballroom was high, so generally, we only became acquainted with the people right around us. It was amazing to me how often I was seated next to a person who writes or wants to write historical fiction. I was able to share a lot of tips such as familysearch.com is a free version of ancestry.com, how to use the National Archives or Library of Congress websites, the value of local history museums and archives, or the need for researching speech, language, clothing and food. I was an anomaly being a professional historian, not many people get to meet one since we are a rare breed, and it felt good to mentor others as so many were pouring themselves into me. It was a reminder that you never know when God is going to use you to encourage someone else. I had similar experiences with my roommates staying up until 12:30 talking like girls at a sleepover. We shared our testimonies, asked questions, and sought advice. The time together was truly a retreat in the best sense of the word. The other important encounters I had were in the hallways. I have never, ever been somewhere where people smiled all the time. Even at Disney World, “the happiest place on earth”, you encounter some grumpy people. Walking between classes, on the elevator or in the lobby, conference attendees were pleasant, smiling and happy. Once you dug deeper, you might hear their underlying story of illness, hardship, family concerns, but on their faces remained a smile. They were genuinely happy to be at the conference and flashed smiles that made you happy to be there, too. By the end of the weekend, I realized I needed to use my smile muscles more because they were just as tired from smiling as my legs were from walking between rooms! A lot of the women’s conferences I attended in recent years were held in large stadiums with little personal interaction, but ACFW was much more than a writer’s conference, it scheduled intentionally planned times to get to know each other on a deeper level; something I need to incorporate into my daily life.