There’s something God taught me when I went to my first conference. Just go. Just be. Love every second of where you are, because He put you there. And don’t expect anything. Because what God does is almost always what you never see coming.
I never saw Friday night coming.
As my dad and I were setting up the food table, I remarked that I thought there’d maybe be twenty or thirty people. I was looking forward to an evening of signing a few books, eating some really good food brought by my really good friends, and chatting with whoever showed up. I guess sort of like a birthday party. With books.
What happened still seems insane to me. People showed up a little early, so I sort of stood and talked and signed as I did. And I never stopped. Friends. Family. Coworkers. Students. Former students. Strangers. Over 100 books. Gone.
But it wasn’t that. It was who came. For a girl like me who has always struggled with what it means to be loved, I think God used Friday night to show me. My uncle drove 90 minutes. Two of my closest friends came from Washington, DC and Virginia. People from my church. A former student came with her baby. My college best friend whom I haven’t seen in five years. My co-workers. Students. My church family. High school friends.
My high school Senior AP English teacher.
That was the moment when it all drew into sharp, if surreal, focus. The moment when God said, “Look what I did, child.” See, right there in that room, I understood the meaning of “full circle.” When I was in high school, I wanted to be an experimental psychologist. I wrote for fun at home, a hobby, never something a lot of people knew about. But, as the story goes, I found myself in a creative writing class in high school with a teacher who saw something in me and handed my work to the AP English teacher, who told me she wanted me in her class. I went reluctantly. And in that class, I found out writing was more than a hobby. It was a passion. And I found out God wanted me to use it. Glenda Cook encouraged me like no one ever had. I walked out of her classroom and into college as an English and writing major… and as a teacher. Without her, I’d have likely never become a writer. To have her standing there when what God used her to start came it’s fruition was positively mindboggling.
I had not seen her since the day I graduated. When I looked up and saw her standing there and she held out her arms to me, I’m pretty sure I ran. I know for sure I cried. Overwhelmed. By the love of all of those people in that room. By the love it took for her to drive three hours for a student she taught twenty years ago. By the love of a God who orchestrated it all.
Earlier, I said as the story goes… Because Friday night, she told me it didn’t go that way at all. After I spoke and retold that story, the one about her getting my writing from the creative writing teacher, she walked up to me and said, “Let me tell you a God thing.” I was wrong all these years. My creative writing teacher never talked about me to her. Never passed on any of my work. As she put it, one day, she was walking up the hall, spotted me, and thought, “I have to have that student in my class.”
See? That’s how God works. Because twenty years ago, I never saw Friday night coming.