How many surprises can a three-day writers’ retreat produce? I wasn’t even sure why I was there.
I went to Singing Hills Camp in NH, knowing just one other person. I left on hugging terms with countless others. Unexpected connections:
- “Are you related to Rachel? I was a counselor at Camp Fireside.”
- “I know you from West Church.”
- “I’m writing a trilogy set on your cousin’s campground on Martha’s Vineyard.”
- “My daughter Emily was good friends with your granddaughter Britta.”
- “Yes, I’m the pastor from Chester, Vermont.”
- “I led David Midwood to the Lord.”
More people I hadn’t known: My roommate Sandra, a pastor’s wife and kindred spirit. Rebecca, shy and unassuming but an astonishing poet. Valerie Shepard, daughter of Elisabeth Elliot. Deb, a professional reviewer who agreed to take on Dynamo for a possible review. Workshop leaders from whom I learned much.
And Tessa. Born in Iran, she writes biblical fiction. (She bought The Stones, my biblical fiction on King David; I bought her novel on Ruth.) Tessa was everywhere, loving on everyone. My designated critiquer, she looked at a chapter from my next book, An Unpresentable Glory. Could find little wrong with it; I write professionally, etc. Music to my ears, but Tessa displayed far more depth than simply speaking kind words about my writing.
The weekend retreat finished with a communion service on Sunday morning, and Tessa gave a message based on Ruth. A dynamic speaker, yes, but her part in serving the communion elements was like Jesus himself standing there, speaking my name, pouring love into my heart. I wept, along with many others in the group. I have never experienced such a powerful communion service and won’t soon forget it.
An additional, bizarre surprise, apart from that special moment:
I, who never, ever win anything, won THREE THINGS that weekend. Couldn’t believe it. My number was called twice, my name a third time. Had to have been a God thing.
I still didn’t know why I was there, but God spoke to me—loudly—“You’re here because I want you here.”
Thank you, Lord. Your surprises were excellent medicine for my soul.