Carla sat on the edge of her seat in the coffee shop in nervous anticipation as she tried to read the stoic face of her friend across the table. Leila was motionless, except for the movement of her blue eyes slowly crisscrossing the paper that was between the two women.
As Leila lowered the paper and looked at Carla she said, “Seriously, you wrote this?”
“Yeah”, replied Carla hesitantly, “what do you think?”
“It’s amazing. I had no idea you could write like this”.
“Me neither. Who knew? I’ve never written anything but audit reports.”
“How did you find out about the writing competition?” Leila asked as she sipped her skinny no-whip café mocha.
“What a loaded question” Carla thought, as her mind raced back to the beginning of her journey two years ago.
It all started when Leila called to invite me to a women’s conference. Leila and I rarely had time to talk on the phone, much less have a girl’s night out, so I jumped at the chance to get out of town for a few days with my best pal. Honestly, she could have invited me to a tractor pull and I would have eagerly said yes. But as the day grew closer, I grew more agitated. What was I thinking -- a women’s conference? I hadn’t been to church on a regular basis in years. And I definitely wasn’t into that touchy-feely stuff I was sure dominated such events.
Soon enough, the day I had come to dread arrived and we set out on our trip. The conference was in a large convention center and there were women everywhere -- laughing, smiling, hugging, even standing patiently in snaking bathroom lines. As we passed from lobby into the arena, I stopped short. The nearly 16,000 seat facility was at capacity. An odd thought passed through my subconscious, “Who knew there even were 16,000 Christian women in Georgia?” That should have been a warning to me just how empty I was spiritually, but the thought left no lasting impression as we crawled over woman after woman to get to our seats.
I had no expectations for what the day would be like. Had someone told me it would be life-changing I would have laughed out loud. As it turned out life-changing is an understatement. During those two days I was hit over the head with the hard truth of just how empty my life was and before I left the second day I desperately wanted what the other 16,000 women displayed so openly.
Over the next week, I began to pray, something I hadn’t done seriously in years, if ever. I prayed fervently, thanking God for allowing me to live long enough to realize what an idiot I had been. And in my normal over-achiever way, over the next few weeks I devoured every bible study I could find, trying to play catch-up for the last twenty years. When I wasn’t reading, I surfed the internet looking for websites that could offer answers to the questions I had. That’s when I found the writing competition website.
Who knew that six weeks later I would be sitting in a doctor’s office hearing that my husband had three tumors, one of them in his pancreas. Who knew that for weeks after I would be hundreds of miles from home, family and friends, sitting by his hospital bed, waiting for test results and surgery outcomes.
Who knew that less than two weeks after arriving home from the hospital, another illness would descend upon our household and for another eight weeks this medical crisis would dominate my life.
Who knew? God did and He had patiently waited for just the right moment to get my attention -- a women‘s conference I had already made up my mind not to enjoy. During the weeks after the conference, and before my husband’s diagnosis, I embarked on a crash course of reading about God’s power, love and comfort. What I learned in that short time enabled me to endure the trying months ahead. I certainly was not sure of what the future held, but I was full of confidence that God was going to be with me every step of the way no matter the outcome.
“Earth to Carla”, Leila teased, bring me back to the present. “So, how did you find out about the writing contest?”
“You might want to get another mocha.” Carla replied with a sparkle in her eye.
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