It was unlike anything I expected, yet it was a weekend full of disappointment and frustrations. There is no way I should have come from this weekend with the uplifted spirit that I have right now. From all indications, I should be highly upset and in complete disgust.
But I'm not. And I believe it is because of my passion for life and of course, the leading and guidance of God's Spirit.
Let me explain. I'd prepared for this trip to Memphis for several months. My first form of commitment to this "investment in me" was to register for this writer's conference that was celebrating 11 years of existence. "Oh, this ought to be fantastic," I thought. As another month passed, I was still excited and sure about my commitment to myself, so I went on and made hotel reservations. So sure of myself, I even pre-paid because I wanted that expense out of the way.
Over the last several months, I've been very busy with other activities and opportunities, and certainly with new doors that have opened for me. Yet, I remained excited about the writer's conference and expected to walk away with new resources and motivation to keep me going in my journey. I have an insatiable desire to learn and for empowerment, and I expected nothing less than that from the conference.
That is what I expected, and that is what I walked away with, however, how I got it was quite different from what I imagined.
To begin with, I was disappointed with my hotel. I won't call the name because I am not about bashing anyone. But, I can tell you this, I will NEVER recommend them to anyone. Then, I was disappointed with the online agency I used to book my room because they failed to tell me about additional fees that would be required when I checked in. I can't say that I won't recommend them to anyone, but I would caution that you call the hotel directly if you ever go this route and find out from them directly if they require additional fees. Additionally, it's always good to keep records. I am an incurable pack-rat, and I do hold on to a lot of stuff. That really is my nature (unfortunately), but it is also a good thing. I had my printed confirmation and there was no record of any additional fees that were required by me. So, the hotel couldn't hold that against me (and it's always a good thing to be able to talk persuasively and fast and to be ready and able to hold your own when standing up for yourself).
I finally made it up to my room, hot and tired from the drive from Mississippi, and the very busy day I had prior to hitting the highway. I'd been up since a little before 5:00 am and my intentions were to get my daughter dressed and ready for school, and then return back to bed for more sleep. You know that never happened, now don't you! Didn't get much sleep the night before because I was busy doing stuff in preparation for my trip. I, of course, had to make sure that everything was okay at home. Made the necessary arrangements for my daughter, made provisions for my husband, took care of all that I needed to........except things for me! So, that morning, I finished writing the material I was working on for a 3-day class/workshop that I'm teaching this week. I needed to get the completed information into the program's leaders actually by Saturday. Well, since I wasn't going to be there on Saturday, I had to get it to them before I left.
I did. I spent the rest of the morning polishing it up and adding more content to the material. Well, those 4-hours of final writing truly set me back time-wise. On top of everything, there was one crucial thing that hadn't occured yet. I needed to pack! I wish I could be more like a former co-worker in New Orleans. I'll never forget the time that she and I, along with several other co-workers attended a week-long training in Dallas, TX. Well, about 2 weeks before we left, my dear co-worker asked me if I was finished with my packing yet. FINISHED!?! I hadn't even thought about packing by then. I have traveled often and unfortunately (or not), I usually don't "finish" or even "begin" until the night before. And I don't know if it's just a mental thing with me, but most of the time, I rarely sleep or I may get very little sleep the night before traveling. I don't know why, but I've always been like that. So, definitely, I'm normally in full swing with my packing then. I generally know what I'm taking, I know where everything is, and it's just a matter of putting it all together. As I told my co-worker, I may not pack physically long in advance, but I eventually do so mentally.
Anyway, I am finally in my hotel room. Fatigue has now hit me like a ton of bricks. It was hot, I'd driven for about 3 and a half hours from Crystal Springs non-stop to Memphis. And I'm "old school" (or call it thrifty and economical if you'd please), I'd packed a couple of sandwiches from home, which served as my dinner (ah.......visions of "Fred Sanford" traveling with his greasy paper bagged lunch comes to mind, doesn't it?!
Well, my bologna and cheese sandwich was good for dinner! I'm glad I saved that little money from needing to buy dinner because I was going to need it the next couple of days for parking fees...........some unnecessary due to the unorganization of the writer's conference! Little did I know that first night what I was in store for.
What was the first day of the conference proved to be an incredible let down and absolute total flop! I won't go into all of the details because again, I am not about bashing anyone. In fact, I hope that if the organizer of this conference attempts it again next year, it is successful. But, I will say this. I won't be there! I believe that intentions were good, but there was extreme unorganization all around.
It was frustrating, and every single person there was upset and disappointed. But, there were a group of participants who left a great lesson with me. They reminded me why I was there. They reminded each other. They were comforting. I was reminded that we never know where our blessings may come from and not to lose hope when things don't work out exactly how you planned them.
All of the "promised" events didn't take place, but what did occur was empowering for me. I learned a great deal and I believe that I made great connections. A lot of networking took place. And let me tell you this....the most amazing thing happened over this weekend. People knew ME. Yes, ME, ole "insignificant" Carla. One author, in fact, asked me specifically why she wasn't receiving my inspirational messages anymore. She was once on one of my lists, but after awhile, we lost contact. I first met her some years ago in Birmingham at another conference. Her name is Pat G'Orge-Walker, who is known by many as "Sister Betty". She originated Gospel Comedy some years back and began a new genre in writing.
Pat was also a panelist during the 2nd and final day of the conference. She was superb and it was from this day that I received my biggest shot in the arm of enthusiasm and the beginning of the new spring in my step. I was so inspired and encouraged by all of the meat that I was fed there.
I was happy to meet so many authors. Again, I was known by some whom I've been privileged to know from various online groups. Michelle Larks is one sister I would like for you to check out and support her work.
The conference really got off on the wrong foot and a bad start for a number of reasons. I do seriously hope that it's more organized next year and that the communication is much better. But I appreciate the stamina and good spirits of the authors who were there. They encouraged me so much and I'll never forget that.
Because I don't have my own published book...........yet........I was referred to as an "aspiring author". That was like a wake-up call for me because that "title" went against my grain. And that's because I KNOW that I am not simply "aspiring", I know that I "am". I was born a writer and it's something I've known all of my life. As I've often stated, I was writing even before I knew how to pick up a pencil and write my own name. It wasn't until a few years ago that I finally acknowledged who I am, and what I am. And it wasn't until recently that I decided that I am going to walk in my purpose and be all that I can be. I vow to myself, and to you, that for the next writer's conference I attend, I will be presented as Carla Y. Nix, the published author!
The last leg of my springy-step-awakening took place on my last day in Memphis. I had the profound honor of FINALLY meeting a dear friend of mine. His name is John Gilmore and he is the leader and spiritual guide of the Open Heart Spiritual Center. I met him in 1993, long before Open Heart was founded. We met online during a time when electronic communication was still very new. Some of you may be familiar with Prodigy, which was pretty big back in the day with the interactive electronic bulletin boards here in cyberspace.
John has always been a voice of reason and a myriad of wisdom and soundness. I can truly say that he has been like a big brother to me (well, we're the same age......but a big brother nonetheless). I think that he's a prodigy himself, born way ahead of his time. If you look up the word "mentor" in the dictionary, I am sure that John's picture would be there!
So, after 14 years of communicating with John, I have finally met him face-to-face. In a place where he is most comfortable, and where he belongs.....at Open Heart. His congregation was so warm and gracious. They greeted me with opened arms and treated me in a way that was genuine and free. I'll be honest and admit that because I knew that I was of a different "denomination" (for lack of a better word) than Open Heart's, I wasn't quite sure of what to expect, nor how I would feel. But, because I knew of the kind of person that John was, what I received there did not surprise me. I could not have met a better group of people. Nor, could I have enjoyed a better service. I loved the atmosphere and the spirit that enveloped me. Most of all, I thoroughly enjoyed the Message as delivered by John entitled "The Joseph Journey". One of my top favorites in the Bible. In fact, my very own pastor recently completed a series of studies on Joseph. Additionally, I've read and have heard a number of sermons regarding Joseph (beginning at Genesis 37) many times. Yet, John delivered the message with yet another twist, or from a different angle, that was well appreciated by me. It was extremely timely for me and it fell right in line with everything I'd gone through over the weekend with the disappointments and the not-so-perfect conference.
John spoke of Joseph's transformation and vividly pointed out that the Joseph who ended up being second in command in Egypt was not the same Joseph who danced around in his coat of many colors as a boy. Every single obstacle and tragedy that Joseph experienced shaped him, strengthened him, matured him, and equipped him to become the powerful man that he'd risen to. Joseph was transformed and had to move out of what John calls a "freeze frame" mentality. Had he remained there, he undoubtedly would not have helped his brothers when he had the opportunity to hurt them as much as they'd hurt him.
I thoroughly enjoyed the message and if I don't remember anything else, I will always be reminded to move out of the "freeze frame" mentality. I know that personally, I do have a problem of letting go. Holding on makes it nearly impossible to move forward.
I had a Life Coaching session this evening, and one thing I was reminded of is that we are what we think. As I stated that I was a writer, that it wasn't just a hobby or something I just happen to do, my coach put another interesting twist on it. He pointed out that another way to look at that is for me to acknowledge and maintain that I was BORN to write. I was created to write. I was designed to write. I'd never looked at it like that before, and as we talked, yet another spring was added to my step!
This all goes hand-in-hand with my experience at John's church. I was given the privilege of speaking before the congregation. It was an honor to do so and I did what I also know that I was born to do........to INSPIRE. I just hope that my words did touch and encourage hearts. That is my greatest, yet simplest desire in life. I believe that my desire was fulfilled!
Thank you, Open Heart, for the impression you've signed upon MY heart.
The Choice is Always Ours
You and I decide our actions, and even our outcomes and attitudes. Life isn't always fair and people will fail us. We mess up. We make mistakes. We hurt one another. Plans fall apart. As "willy-nilly" as I may seem, I am really a pretty structured person. I enjoy structure and limits in my life. I am not very disciplined, yet I thrive on being forced to discipline myself. I am probably the most complex and paradoxical person I know. So, when structure is removed, I tend to become quickly frustrated and dismayed. The fact that the writer's conference had very little structure and massive unorganization threw me off guard. I didn't expect it and I initially did not know how to react. But, I am so thankful for the other participants who encouraged me. I appreciate them reminding me of my purpose of being there. As Pat O'Gorge-Walker said, this conference was an investment in myself. I put something into the trip to Memphis, and with the help of God, I was going to take something positive away from it.
That, I did! There were lessons there, and as the saying goes, "the teacher will arrive when the student is ready." I was ready, and boy, did I learn a lot!
I walked away like a slinky! Multiple springs in my step!
I thank everyone who played such a significant role in my experience.
Now, I am more determined than ever to carry on in my journey. I again state that I am walking in my purpose. This weekend in Memphis was just one leg in that journey.
I cannot express enough my mantra......life should be lived and not simply endured. I wish each of you springy steps, a boost in morale, and a true passion for life!
Thanks for all of your love and support. Remember, feel free to contact me at any time.
Remember that if you would like for me to speak to your group, church, or youth group for inspiration, motivation, and/or teaching, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit my website at www.carlanix.com for more information on me as well.