Guest Blog from Mount Hermon Contest Winner

I asked the winner of my Promising Beginnings contest, Lori Freeland, to share some of her experiences at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, for which she won a full scholarship. Here’s “Part One” of her report.

My Journey of No Expectations

When God opens doors, He widens them stadium-size.

I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve walked by more than a few opportunities in the past. Mostly out of fear. Fear prompts some people to hide. Fear turned me into a control freak.

Somewhere between my mother’s you-can-be-anything speech and the rejection that comes in real life, I pasted my photo next to the word control in the Picture Dictionary. I am the poster girl for Make Your Own Destiny.

If I’m driving my life, I can avoid the agony of disappointment. Steer clear of risks leading to rejection. Protect my fragile ego. Buffer my very breakable heart.

I struggle with trusting God in my career. Always have. Yes, His Word says He wants good things for me. But what does that look like? What does that mean? Are His good things the same as my good things? Will He give? Or take away? How can I put my career in His hands when I’ve worked so hard for something that may or may not be of eternal value to Him?

The road to releasing my expectations began the day I entered the Promising Beginnings Contest to win a scholarship to Mount Hermon. Being the control addict I am, I type all my contests in a spreadsheet so I know when to cue the worry. A week before the results leaves just the right number of days to get a good, steady flow of anxiety going.

But after I clicked “send” for Kathy’s contest, I forgot to list it in my spreadsheet. So I forgot to worry.

Then one morning, I got this amazing e-mail:

Dear Lori:
CONGRATULATIONS! Out of more than 150 entries, YOU HAVE WON the Promising Beginnings contest with your submission of “Awakening.” This prize covers a FULL scholarship to the 2013 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, including registration, meals during the conference, and economy lodging.

Lori with Adelle and KathyAdelle Gabrielson, Kathy Ide, Lori FreelandI scrambled for a plane ticket to San Jose.

Since I hadn’t planned on winning, I didn’t have time to create a giant agenda. I wasn’t even sure why I was going to Mount Hermon. But I’d won the contest, so I knew God wanted me there.

I went to the airport as the clichéd blank slate—with no preconceived ideas. No frantic thrown-together agent/editor pitches. Nothing but my suitcase bursting with twice as many clothes as there were days of the conference.

Oh, yeah. I might have packed a few, or a hundred, of my insecurities. I didn’t ditch control freak overnight.

Then the questions came.

What was I doing? Kathy would be the only person I knew at the conference. As faculty, she’d be busy. I’d be on my own. Out of the safety zone I’d built over the last few years. Every time I’d tried to talk to someone about my book, it sounded like a preschooler wrote it. And the thought of actually pitching my manuscript? The word vomit came to mind.

God lifted my first anxiety as I stood in line to board the plane. The woman ahead of me had on a Mount Hermon sweatshirt. She turned, smiled, and introduced herself. I hadn’t even left Dallas and I already had a friend.

The whole week continued the same way. God opened door after door and gave me the courage to walk through every opportunity. All I had to do was leave my expectations back in Dallas.

Here a few of the things God did for me without my even having to ask.

  • Rachel WilliamsLori Freeland and Conference Director, Rachel WilliamsHe put me in a shuttle with an unidentified agent and editor. By the time those ladies hung their faculty badges around their necks, I’d already told them all about my book. My family. And my dog.
  • He gave me a double-occupancy room all to myself, when I’d expected a blind-date roommate.
  • He pushed me to go a day early to hang out with Kathy. I ended up getting to know the faculty over coffee and brownies on Thursday night. Way big deal. Without the racking nerves.
  • That night, I also met Rachel Williams, the conference director. She gave me a big hug and didn’t stop hugging me all week.
  • I thought I’d do the Fiction Morning Track, but God used Karen Ball to move me to Marketing, where I met Randy Ingermanson. Randy became my biggest champion and encourager.
  • God put me at the lunch and dinner tables with people I’d wanted to meet for years, where I got more than just a
    drive-by handshake. I made some friends.
  • I ran into Mona Hodgson and Jan Coleman. Ladies I hadn’t seen in years. My new Facebook friend, Ashley, showed up too.
  • All week, He put people in my path who needed encouragement from experiences I’d had. Or who had words of wisdom for me. And I made more friends. Friends at Mount Hermon tend to multiply exponentially.
  • He gave me the opportunity to stay up late every night and talk craft with people like über-agent Steve Laube, fiction how-to guy James Scott Bell, fiction guru Randy Ingermanson, children’s writer extraordinaire Christine Tangvald, and of course, super editor Kathy Ide.

Steve Laube 320x240Steve Laube and Lori FreelandThe best part? How proud Kathy was of me for winning the contest. How she made it a point to introduce me as her contest winner all week. Because of that, God gave me many opportunities to talk to agents and editors about my book—the book I wasn’t pitching—in a fun and relaxed way.

God showered me with blessings all week. Incredible blessings. All because I got on that plane and said, “Whatever happens, happens. I’m all yours, God.”

Stay tuned for Part Two: Fan Girl.