Now, before you get too concerned about the fact that I used the alternative to “Merry Christmas” as the title for this blog, let me explain. I’ve been pondering the idea of seasons lately. Not holidays, or summer and winter and such, but the different seasons we go through in life. Not just by age, as in adolescence, young adulthood, the parenting years, retirement, etc. But the seasons God prepares for us individually and personally throughout our lives.
About twenty-five years ago I got the bug to start writing for publication. I read books about how to write, got into a critique group, attended writers’ conferences, and excitedly wrote what I dreamed of someday becoming a best-selling novel that would sit on bookstore shelves right between Angela Hunt and Jerry Jenkins!
When I lost my day job and needed to find something else to do for a living, I got into freelance editing. To my surprise, I discovered that I enjoyed polishing other people’s manuscripts even more than working on my own. I’ve been doing that ever since and still love it.
When I’d attended enough writers’ conferences to feel drawn to try getting on faculty at some, I found that I thoroughly enjoyed teaching. Another big surprise, as prior to that I had decided that public speaking was definitely not for me!
For several years I taught at Christian writers’ conferences across the country six to eight times a year. I was excited to have the opportunity to travel, to meet people in the publishing industry, to share what I had learned with newer writers. And I loved seeing some of the same people year after year when I spoke at the same or even at different writers’ conferences.
At one of those conferences, God gave me the idea to start a network for Christian freelance editors. I started with The Christian PEN, then Christian Editor Connection, which sponsors the Excellence in Editing Award, then the PENCON editors’ conference, then The PEN Institute, all of which were eventually brought together under one umbrella company: Christian Editor Network. I was super excited to help my fellow freelance editors find support and encouragement, education, networking, training, and camaraderie.
After speaking and teaching at writers’ conferences for several years, I started directing one in my local area. Soon after, I was invited to direct the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. What an honor and privilege that was! I soon discovered that I enjoyed directing writers’ conferences even more than speaking at them. And since I couldn’t really do both, I cut back on my speaking engagements.
Of course, with all this going on, working on my own writing took a backseat! But I was okay with that. Because I knew God had called me into these directions. And with each new season he brought me into, God gave me a passion to do that thing even more than the thing I’d had a passion about before.
In 2020, Mount Hermon made the difficult decision to stop sponsoring the Christian writers conference. I was devastated, as were many other Christian writers who had come to think of Mount Hermon as their home and the writers’ conference as their favorite family reunion. But I prayed, and after doing what I could to try to resurrect the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference and not coming up with a way to do it, I sensed God leading me in yet another direction: Christian writers retreats.
Of course I wanted to start by doing one at Mount Hermon! I looked into the details, put together a resource team, created a new company, signed a facility contract, and put on the very first Christian Writers Retreat at Mount Hermon in November.
True confession: At first, the retreat felt a bit like a consolation prize, something I did because I didn’t have the time or financial resources to put on a full conference. But by the end of that weekend, I realized that the retreat was exactly what I needed. I’ve been in the business long enough that I don’t really have to make contacts with new professionals in the industry. I already know many wonderful agents, acquisitions editors, and best-selling authors. And as it turns out, most of the projects I’ve felt God leading me to write (if I can ever find the time!) are for small niche markets, like my Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors, Editing Secrets of Best-Selling Authors, and Capitalization Dictionary for writers and editors. So I’m probably going to self-publish whatever I write in the future, which means I don’t really need professional connections. And yet, I love hanging out with Christian authors and others in the writing and publishing industry.
The writers retreat at Mount Hermon gave me an opportunity to do that, which was delightful. But I also received something far more important, satisfying, and exciting than writing or speaking at conferences or directing them. The focus of that retreat was to experience a deep connection with God, to hear his voice speaking clearly and powerfully about my writing journey as well as other areas of my life. And wow, did that ever happen!
My friend Kelly Harrel and I went up a couple of days early so we could do a pre-retreat at the Santa Cruz beach, knowing we wouldn’t be able to truly retreat that much at the retreat we were working together to put on! We spent about six hours just walking on the beach with God, with nothing else planned. We had this time separately, having decided that we wanted to spend a big block of time talking to no one except our heavenly Father. (With the exception of ordering lunch, of course.) That time was glorious! Walking on the beach and talking with God gave me clarity, comfort, peace, joy, and, yes, excitement for this current season in my life.
While I had arranged for a few writing-related activities at the retreat, including small-group genre gatherings and presentations from industry professionals Nick Harrison, Kay Strom, and Rusty Wright, I encouraged attendees to prayerfully consider whether to attend those sessions or to spend time walking among the California coastal redwoods that surround the Mount Hermon conference center, or to spend time in the lovely prayer chapel, or to sit in their rooms and ponder the quotes, Scripture verses, hymn lyrics, and reflection prompts in the retreat notebook. Dave and Keri Lippman, who have a Soul-Care ministry, provided worship and inspirational presentations and one-on-one spiritual direction sessions. Dave Talbott performed a mini concert on Saturday night and led our worship service on Sunday morning.
After the retreat, I loved reading the feedback from attendees! They confirmed that my goal for people to experience a powerful time with the Lord definitely happened. Here are a few testimonials to give you an idea of the impact this retreat had on those who came:
I had an amazing time at the Christian Writers Retreat at Mount Hermon. It was great to feel refreshed and reset. I made connections with writer friends and God, which was wonderful. I feel super refreshed and restored. The retreat filled my love, energy, and connection buckets. It was exactly what my heart and soul needed.
I’m glad this was a small retreat instead of the bigger conference. I came to the retreat very tired in many ways, so I was glad to not have a lot of teaching that I wouldn’t be able to follow through on at this time. I really needed more of a rest and deeper spiritual refreshment drawing from streams of Living Water, helping me listen more to Christ and focus on spiritual direction. A few of the other attendees encouraged me by sharing how the Holy Spirit is at work in their lives and through their writing projects.
The Christian Writers Retreat at Mount Hermon was restful, insightful, and encouraging. Absolutely loved the Soul Care sessions, both private and group—my favorite part, next to “retreating” on my own. Loved the fabulous notebook with helpful insights to focus on during a personal retreat. I also got the writing direction I came specifically for.
—Jarm Del Boccio
The Christian Writers Retreat at Mount Hermon is a gift of spiritual growth for writers. I needed this so much! I appreciated the flow of the scheduling giving private time as needed. The small groups were encouraging. The personal reflection time was much needed as I came seeking God’s face. Mount Hermon is a little bit of heaven and a safe haven. The Soul Care presentations were prayerfully presented as we were welcomed into worship, coming off the busyness and into the Kingdom of LOVE. Divine appointments throughout the retreat. This ministry is a blessing!
The Christian Writers Retreat at Mount Hermon was inspiring in many ways, especially being with other Christian writers and encouraging each other. The worship and workshops were inspiring, and so was the beautiful environment. I can hardly wait to go again next year.
The small size allowed me to meet more people. I enjoyed the freedom to attend each event or not without feeling like I was missing out on something that I’d paid for. I can go back and watch what I missed without an extra fee. The cost was doable, unlike the full conference.
—Michelle Janene Murray
I was in dire need of rest and refreshing, and I received both. Getting back to nature and away from my lists was such a blessing. I had pretty much quit writing, as it had become laborious, even during my morning quiet time. I needed a fresh time in a different place to renew my desire, or redirect it if that’s where God was leading. I needed this … all of it.
The Christian Writers Retreat at Mount Hermon offered rest, restoration, and fellowship with other writers in a relaxed environment without rushing from meeting to meeting or appointments. The best parts were basking in the rest and the fellowship with other writers. After 19 months of isolation, it was relaxing, restorative, and a sweet time of reflection.
At the Christian Writers Retreat at Mount Hermon, I had time to calm my brain and hear from God. I came with two of my friends and was content to hang with them and not feel the need to put myself out there like I usually do during a conference. The spiritual refreshment was amazing and especially valuable to me. I was glad to not have the frenzy of a conference. Made a few new friends, met God, and laughed with my peeps. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
This retreat was transformational for me! I desperately needed to hear from the Lord about my writing. The way the retreat was structured made it possible for me to spend uninterrupted time in God’s presence, listen to His voice, and hear directly from His heart. The messages spoke to the deep places in my heart and refreshed and encouraged me in ways I didn’t even know I needed. The personal reflection time was so good. I was in constant conversation with God the whole weekend, and by the time I left, I felt like He’d given me a breakthrough and released me from some deep fears I’d been carrying about my writing. It was the perfect balance of time alone with God and time learning and connecting with people. I came into this weekend carrying uncertainty and fear, and I left feeling encouraged and FREE. It was a weekend I’ll never forget.
The Christian Writers Retreat at Mount Hermon is a breath of fresh air for both experienced and beginning writers. I found it to be an opportunity for rest, refreshment, encouragement, and fellowship with others who share my passion for writing. It’s a new “must” on my yearly calendar.
—Nick Harrison, WordServe Literary
For a refreshing retreat without the obligations of teaching, meeting, or rushing between events, the Christian Writers Retreat at Mount Hermon fits the bill. By attending with an open heart for people across the board, I had a few of those special connections at the retreat. I also enjoyed an hour-long talk with God in the stained-glass chapel, a solo walk along the trail next to the bubbling creek, and a small-group hike to the cross on Sunday morning. All of this rejuvenated my soul for the busy year ahead.
I’m now beginning to plan retreats for 2022, one in Southern California in early summer and another one at Mount Hermon in the fall. God made it abundantly clear during the November retreat that he wants this to continue, and I believe with all my heart that they will become much-anticipated annual events as people discover how much they want and need a chance to get away, to enjoy reflection and rejuvenation and refreshment, to get the R&R they need to fill up their spiritual tanks so they can pour out in everything else they do for the Lord.
Each retreat will have a slightly different flavor because of the location, atmosphere, and activities, but all will have the focus of making a powerful connection with God in a way that just doesn’t seem possible in the midst of our busy daily routines.
I am super excited about this new season of my life. As a matter of fact, the idea of putting together a writers conference, or even speaking or teaching at one, no longer appeals to me quite as much! Not because those aren’t great things—they definitely are. And I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I had to do that for several years. I’ve just noticed that as each new season of my life comes in, God gives me more passion to do that than the passion I had to do the things he had me do in my previous season. What a blessing that is!
And who knows? Since putting together writers retreats is much less time consuming than directing conferences, I might actually have time in the new year to make some progress on my own writing projects. I’m pretty excited about that. Whether or not I ever have a novel on bookstore shelves between Angela Hunt and Jerry Jenkins.
What season are you in right now with your writing journey? Is it different from the seasons you’ve had in the past? Do you feel excited about the season you’re in, even if you kind of miss some things about the previous seasons?
Are you concerned about how long this current season might last or what changes might be ahead? You don’t need to stress about that. Scripture says we’re not to worry about anything but instead to pray about everything, thank God for what he has done, and enjoy his peace. Praise him for the season you’re in right now, thank him for the seasons he has brought you through in the past, and eagerly anticipate the new seasons he has in store for you. He has prepared them specifically for you … and he is preparing you for them.
And so I say, Seasons Greetings! May you have a wonderful Christmas season and a new year that is blessed exceedingly abundantly beyond all you could think or dream or imagine (Ephesians 3:20–21).