During my teen years, I would head to the public library to
check out back issues of SEVENTEEN magazine.
I rarely made eye contact with one particular librarian as she once arched her
eyebrows in my direction, lowered them long enough to view my selections
“Just how old are you?”
She might have called me “missy” but I don’t recall.
I quickly added a birthday and said, “15.”
My eyes would devour every detail of what most teenage age girls considered
the gospel truth.
Some articles were of minor interest to me and others I didn’t comprehend.
I did understand acne and although it wasn’t a major problem, a brief article
about this dreaded plight drew my attention.
In the margin with bold type contained the answer to my misery.
“Pimples seldom occur past age 21”.
21 seemed a universe away but it gave me a pursuit.
One day these breakouts would be
game. set. match. over.
Because SEVENTEEN magazine tells the truth.
Until I reached 22 and 25 and now at 49,
I know the falsehood of that bold print statement.
The grains in an hourglass fall through space,
collecting in heaps but their mass cannot bury
all things hard and inconvenient.
I was reminded of this truth in my life this past weekend while attending
the Faith and Culture Writers Conference.
I believe the Father loves me and knows me.
Yet I forget He knows my frame, my desires and my ways.
He knows even after my year of brave, walking into a crowd of
hundreds is not my sweet spot.
He knows I never want to impose or intrude or thrust myself upon
another even if it comes wrapped up in a writing treasure named Deidra.
The One who knows my name and every ounce of my frailty and
tendencies decided to take care of business before the conference
had even begun.
As I was standing in line to check-in to my room, I found myself behind
Cornelia, conference founder extraordinaire.
We embrace and she introduces
me to Phil Long, a stellar poet who wowed us last year.
He exits the lobby to find his room and suddenly there is Deidra Riggs.
Cornelia introduces us, we hug and exchange small talk.
I could tell she was weary from her trek across states and time zones
and she was gracious to ask me more questions than
I ventured to ask in return.
How tender of God to provide an introduction in natural surroundings
because he knows we are both just two travelers
pulling rolling suitcases.
See what I can do, Helen?
It’s not two steaming mugs at a
Starbucks but it will do.
And it did.
The breakouts I deal with at 49 are ones
I clearly thought would be laid to rest by now.
They are contained in a tiny box I check
“Do you want this to be your default mode?”
The box repeats,
I am not enough.
I am different.
I will not be included.
In any setting, I allow my eyes to inspect a room of people
and count how many I would term the life of the party.
My default is to open my trick or treat bag like Charlie Brown
“I got a rock called calm.”
Can I tell you how often I have rejected being calm?
For too long, I have said no thank you to the way God
has carved my soul.
Can I also tell you how often God and other people met me
in the calm this weekend?
Too many times to write in this post.
As I wrote in the beginning, I poured over SEVENTEEN
But I subscribed to ‘Teen magazine.
One day, I decided to write a letter to the editor.
I told him that I had been a subscriber for years and
I was considering canceling my subscription because I could
not follow the hair or make-up advice.
There was no one pictured within the magazine covers who bore
any resemblance to me.
How was I to know what type of make-up to wear when my eyes
were not blue or green and I didn’t have freckles?
I had an afro and not straight hair.
This was my quiet and calm rebellion.
Several issues later there were two African-American
identical twin sisters featured as models in the magazine.
I am confident mine was not the only complaint.
Perhaps it never occurred to them that two models of color
who looked exactly the same was not completely
solving the problem.
It was a step in a better direction but it also provided
me with unexpected instruction.
I will never learn who I am in the pages of a magazine.
I can’t understand beauty by someone else’s standard.
None of us are identical.
I still forget.
I still look at glossy covers and book deals and Facebook likes
as the indicator or final word in worthiness.
God guides me under his wing
and His love displays how I have
mistakenly read the wrong script.
My friend Pam, was to be at the writers conference
and a guest panelist but was unable to attend.
She asked via Instagram if I would consider writing about
This week, I would like to share a collection of
thoughts and quotes from some of the speakers.
You might believe semicolons, plot lines and
agents are the only topics at a writers conference.
You might be tempted to take the week off from this
I would encourage you to wander back and see if you might discover
yourself right along with me.
This past weekend
we talked about
faith, life and fears.
We shared tales of
rejection, messes and passions.
We admitted our dreams are good
and the need to be brave in writing
down our stories.
United we witnessed the power in proudly calling ourselves writers.
A book deal doesn’t define calling.
We all need to know who we are.
Won’t you join me this week?