I discovered that American
Christian Fiction Writers was going to hold their annual conference in
St. Louis this year, I was elated. Since the designated location was
only about a forty-minute drive from where I live, I knew I’d be able
to attend my first writer’s conference.
Or so I thought.
The deadline for the
registration loomed ahead. Every time I thought about signing up,
though, a voice whispered inside of me. No.
I massaged my forehead. Huh?
Have you ever tried to pull the
logic card on God when He speaks to you? Well, I did.
This doesn’t make
sense, Lord. Why would You tell me not to go? This conference is nearly
at my back door.
But, God, I have to.
How else am I going to meet editors and agents?
What about the book you
gave me to write? You know how hard I’ve struggled to finish this
manuscript. You’ve seen all the roadblocks hurled across my path.
So much for my logic.
At the beginning of August, a
doctor diagnosed stage four metastatic cancer in one of my brothers. He
said my sibling’s prognosis was grim. A light bulb went off in my
pea-sized brain. No wonder I wasn’t supposed to register for
I e-mailed my closest writing
friends, including the members of my critique group, asking them to
pray for my brother. Deep inside, I still clung to the hope I would
somehow make the conference, until one of my critique partners wrote
back to me.
No, don’t leave now.
You have time for other conferences. Your family needs you.
I was getting mighty tired of
hearing and seeing the word no.
So I decided to enter a writing
contest instead. Maybe I could get my foot in the door that way.
My oldest brother and I spent
the next few weeks in and out of the hospital, taking care of our
sibling. I even fought with some of the nurses when they didn’t get my
brother his pain medication on time. (Picture Shirley MacLaine in Terms
of Endearment: “Give my brother the shot!”) I felt like a
one-legged man in a high-jumping contest.
And I was losing.
In the middle of all this, we
still had to juggle seeing our mother in the nursing home.
Before I could blink, the
deadline for the writing contest was upon me, and then it passed me by
I was not a happy camper.
A few days later, I was doing
dishes in the kitchen one morning, and my husband strolled up behind
me. “The Lord says you’re like Gideon.”
I spun around from the sink,
whirling soapy water with me. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“You have great faith, Deb.”
“Then why do I feel as though
I’m about to fall apart? I don’t feel like I have any faith at all.”
“I’m just calling it like I see
Bless the man’s heart.
He wants to encourage me.
That same evening, time ticked
down for my visit with Mom. Since I’d been running myself ragged, not
to mention the contest I had missed, I was feeling a little snarky and
decided not to go.
I went upstairs, started to
change into my pajamas for the night, and again, I heard a still, small
Go? I’m tired, Lord.
I’ll run up there tomorrow.
I tossed my pajamas aside,
pulled my jeans back on, and went to see Mom.
After I arrived at the nursing
home, I wheeled my mother to the front visitors’ room, plopped down in
a chair across from her, and jiggled my leg.
“What’s the matter, honey?”
“Nothing, Mom. I’m tired.”
“Did you make the contest in
I shook my head. “No. I’ve had
too much going on.” I filled her in on everything, including arguing
with the nurses over my brother.
She leaned forward in her
wheelchair. “You need to slow down and take care of yourself.”
then reminded me of a time
when I was in high school. I’d been caught skipping classes one day.
The principal had called her and my dad into the office. “I worry about
your daughter. She’s constantly helping others, taking up for everyone.
Who’s going to help Debbie when she needs it?”
eyed my mom. Why was she
bringing this up now?
“It’s not about anyone helping
me, Mom. I’m tired of being the one nobody likes because I open my
mouth. I have a bigger mouth than all the boys put together do. That’s
why others don’t like me.”
Mom leaned forward, tears in her
eyes, and patted my leg. “I like you.”
Knowing I was about to cry, I
decided to do my usual to dodge my true emotions. “You have to like me.
You’re my mother.”
The rest of the visit went well,
but she kept admonishing me to take care of myself.
I wheeled her back to her room,
cradled my arms around her, and told her I loved her.
She looked up at me, a fresh
batch of tears in her eyes. “I love you.”
I turned to leave, but stopped
at the door. I rushed over, hugged her once more, and said, “Rest well,
Mom.” No sooner had the words come out of my mouth, than a strange
feeling welled up in my soul. Stop it, Debbie. The stress is
getting to you.
She asked about my brothers,
told me to tell them she loved them.
Right before bed that night, my
husband came back for another round about Gideon. As before, he told me
what great faith I had.
I wanted to believe him.
The following morning, I woke to
my husband’s voice. He cradled my face with his hands. “I need to talk
to you about something important, Deb.”
At seven o’clock in the
Thinking he was going on another
roll about Gideon, I waved him off. “I have to go to the bathroom
I brushed past him. “I’m
serious, honey. I really have to go.”
When I returned to the bed, he
gently cupped my face in his hands again. Maybe he was acting this way
because God had another word for me. I so desperately needed one.
“Honey,” he said, “the nursing
home called. Your mom died a few minutes ago.”
“No! No! No!”
“Yes, honey. She’s gone.”
I pushed his hands away. “I was
just up there last night. She’s fine. Those stupid idiots. They’ve got
the wrong person. What is wrong with those people?”
Within minutes, my oldest
brother came rushing into the room—and I knew. I fell against his chest
My heart is still breaking over
the matter, especially when I watch my other brother fighting for his
life, and I sure don’t feel like Gideon.
But God knew I would feel this
way all along, didn’t He? That’s why He spoke to me the way He did.
No conference, book, or any
amount of writing could replace the time I’ve had with my family.
I’m glad I listened.