Winning the Guideposts contest has been a dream of mine for at least a decade. I’ve made several submissions and have always anticipated the contest deadline for months prior.

This year. Not so much. The deadline blindsided me. It snuck up on me like this week in Oklahoma when Old Man Winter showed up in the middle of October. What happened to fall? Are we just skipping it this year?

I was shocked. Three days before the deadline I stumbled on the Guideposts website for some random reason.

Wait! WHAT??

The deadline is in three days? I thought the contest was just last year. No one in my critique group mentioned the contest. Not even my critique group leader and Guidepost writer extraordinaire, Melanie Hemry, reminded me. Crickets! What was up with that?

Frantic, I scrambled through my files looking for something to submit. The first piece was perfect. Until I realized I’d already submitted it. The second piece I found was perfect too. Until I realized I’d already submitted it. The third piece…you see where this is going. They were all REJECTED.

Without time to write anything else, I rummaged through my files and found a blog post I wrote in 2009. Speed crafting a cover letter, I attached my submission and hit send. What did I have to lose?

Sometimes good things happen when we least expect it. When we have nothing to do with the glory because God wants it all (which always makes a much better story). Out of 3500 submissions, nothing I did warranted a win. A piece never critiqued. A blog post just shy of a decade old. An entry pushed into the contest just before the finish line.

Only God.

One of the other workshop winners, Cynthia Dobbs, is also from Oklahoma. Originally from India, she ministers with her husband to students on the campus of OSU in Stillwater. Even though she favors orange and I red, we became fast friends.

 

We made our travel arrangements to fly out together. Cynthia showed up at the airport with a backpack and one small bag that would fit in the overhead compartment. I showed up with my sure hope I can cram it in the overhead bin carry-on and my 6XL suitcase that I hoped would not exceed the 50 pound weight limit.

We were instructed to bring “comfortable” attire. What exactly does that mean? Sneakers and sweats? Yoga pants and hoodies? Or did their version of comfortable cover the other spectrum of casual? A variation of sophisticated New York swag à la Madison Fifth Avenue‘s finest?

A vision of being nominated for an episode of What Not to Wear startled me.

I better pack my entire closet.

Just to be sure.

Besides that, I had to accommodate my treacherous travel disability—the I’m not the mood to wear that today dilemma.

#NoShame

Monday afternoon, October 8, we arrived in New York and caught an Uber to Rye, New York on Long Island Sound. The workshop would be held at the Wainwright house. We arrived just before dinner.

All of our meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner were buffet style. We had an entire hour for every mealtime, which left plenty of time for conversation and connection. And the food…all I can say is I scoured Pinterest when I got home for recipes. My taste buds were so happy! I’ve already made the curry chicken we had on the last day. Coconut milk, celery, raisins. MMMMMmmmmm.

The female workshoppers and some of the editorial staff stayed in the Fonrose house next door to the Wainwright House. Named after Mrs. Fonrose, it was rumored that her ghost roamed the hallways at night. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep. Plus, did you notice…four women in one room? ZZZZZzzzzzz. Think sorority sisters with a mix of menopause.

Locked into a mansion with 11 other workshoppers and a plethora of Guidepost editors, I felt as though I stepped into another time zone. All of our sessions, morning, afternoon and evening, were held in the library. How appropriate.

There are too many people to name in all of these photos, but pictured in the bottom left are three of the editors, Edward Grinnan, Amy Wong, and Jim Hinch along with one of the workshoppers, Dixie Kethley.

The winning workshoppers (alphabetically by first name) include:

Christy Johnson, Cynthia Dobbs, Danita Jones, Darryl Stewart ( the only guy!), Diane Stark (Dee), Dixie Kethley, Edwina Perkins, Ericka Loynes, Jeannette Levellie, Leah Latimer, Leanne Jackson and Mayra Fernandez.

Each of us were each assigned a small group with one of the managing editors. Cynthia and I were both in Jim Hinch’s group. Each afternoon, we broke up into our small groups to applaud admire critique the manuscripts we’d submitted.

The rest of our sessions were instructional seminars conducted by various editors. I learned so much about the art of writing and all things Guideposts. There’s no way to describe the memories made. The workshop was an experience of a lifetime!

Most of my friends asked if I got to see the sights of the city. There was no time in the schedule for that. This was a working trip. BUT we were dismissed at 1:00 pm on Friday afternoon and since our flight didn’t depart until 6:00 pm, Cynthia suggested that we should take a train ride to Grand Central Station. Fun fact: the train ride was an hour and an Uber ride to the airport another. So we only had at best one hour in the city. I agreed. It was better than sitting at the airport, right?

But remember the closet I’d packed? Can you picture me hauling my sure hope I can cram it in the overhead bin carry-on AND my 6XL suitcase around the streets of I♥NYC?

Desperate times called for desperate measures. My suitcase had a zipper that when unzipped gave a little extra width to pack in more. As luck would have it, I jammed and CRAMMED my other bag inside it. Even though Cynthia took this picture without my luggage, I wanted to give you a visual of how crazy I looked strolling the streets of NYC with all of my worldly belongings in tow. No mistaking this tourist. But at least I set foot in the city.

I will give you every place where you set your foot (Joshua 1:3).

Never give up on your dreams. Whether it’s a writing dream, a relationship you’re praying for or any other purpose God has laid on your heart, He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above all that you can ask, think or imagine! And usually when you least expect it:)

May every blessing be yours!

PS Visit my own blog to see even more pictures!

Christy Johnson is proof that God allows U-turns. A domestic abuse survivor turned champion of forgiveness, Christy is a sought after soul-health coach, author of Love Junkies, national speaker and founder of Living Soul.