I pride myself on being organized, taking initiative and thinking ahead at all the possibilities. I fully endorsed the Girl Scouts Motto to “be prepared”.
So when this opportunity came up to attend the Mountainside Marketing Conference for Writers at the Ridgecrest Conference Center I went into warp organization mode. I planned for the weather – it’s downright cold in North Carolina right now, folks and these old arthritic bones don’t handle it well. Neither does the thought of sliding on freezing rain and breaking one of my fake hips. So boots, heavy shoes, warm sweaters, and a good coat – lots of padding to cushion a fall and survive the freezing temperatures. I planned what I needed to take as far as equipment: Smart phone, laptop, I-pad for reading and watching TV, plugs, charges, sign on and passwords to Twitter, Bookbub, Instagram, Facebook, Canva, WordPress, MailChimp and on and on and on the list goes.
Every imaginable possibility was thought of and prepared for.
God is laughing as I type this.
Gathering the stuff was easy – packing – not so much. Allegiant Airlines only allows you one carry-on and one checked bag (unless you want to sign a loan for a second bag). And the checked bag has a weight limit of 40 lbs. Now winter clothing and 40 lbs. are mutually exclusive. So three hours before departure I had to repack my bag about four times to get the weight under 40 lbs. I’m still in planning mode as I want to put my coat in the suitcase on the return flight so I don’t have to carry it on my way back to sunny Florida. I decided to put my C-Pap machine in my large roller bag brief case so I would not have to carry a second bag along with my brief case, purse and coat. I figured people in the airport might confuse me for a coat rack. I also wanted to put my make up bag in the brief case in case I made it to NC but my checked bag didn’t. I might be stinky and wearing yesterday’s clothes but I would be beautifully made up when the conference started. I got it all to fit but could barely lift it let along be able to get all the electronics out of the bag as I went through the Security Line. So I ditched the C-Pap but kept the make up bag. Horrors! I figured I might stop breathing at these high elevations but I would look great when they found me. Try not to judge me too hard.
The flight out of Orlando Sanford International Airport was great. It’s a small airport and while security was thorough, I forgot to declare my I-pad so they had to send it through again. I thanked them all for working throughout the government shutdown and told them I hoped it would not be for much longer. Asheville, while busy, was smooth sailing as well. Even my shuttle driver showed up and we were best friends by the time we left the airport proper.
OK, Loretta, so where is the hiccup? The hiccup was that because of the small airports, nonstop flights were limited so I was coming in a day ahead of the conference and by the time I got to my home away from home, there was no food service with the exception of the coffee shop. And the coffee shop was down the hill from the building where my room is. In fact there are lots of buildings on the campus of Ridgecrest Conference Center. But, I had the map which the reception desk circled where they were located, where my room was located and where the coffee shop was located. Good, I can read maps, I thought. My driver would drop me and my bags at the building where my room was and then I would make my way to the coffee shop. I had a plan. But the execution of the plan was a bit harder. It was dark out and while there were signs and muted lighting it was difficult to discern exactly where to go. I looked at the map with my flashlight on the phone. God bless the person who thought of that! So I followed the map. I was to go down to the first floor of my building, go outdoors to a covered walkway and enter another building which housed the conference rooms, down an elevator and out to another covered walkway. Then I was to go up the steps to a lovely little coffee shop. Simple enough. Except I got turned around in the second building and found myself near buildings marked for employee and staff only.
It was dark, and misty out with a white fog surrounding me. There was no one insight with only a text message to connect me to the front desk in a building that seemed way far away and down the mountainside of where I was. Which was where exactly? I was getting a little nervous and trying to decide whether I wanted someone to show up and help or not. I texted the front desk and was sent a link to the map. Maps are great as long as you understand which direction you are coming from and where you are going. But I could hear a voice telling me “Don’t anticipate. Don’t be afraid. I brought you to a Christian Retreat Center, Loretta, you’re safe and not alone”. I realized how foolish I was to not trust that I was in the arms of the Father and that all would be well. The peace that comes of knowing God had a handle on the big and the little helped me start to breathe again. I studied my map again, made an adjustment in direction and found that little coffee shop where two nice ladies made me a sandwich and along with chips, a chocolate muffin and a bottle of water found my way back to my room. Yippeeee!
The following morning as I looked out my window to the beautiful mountains on a sunny day I found myself excited to learn a lot, find God’s desires for the marketing of my book, and make new friends. To get the day off to a good healthy start, and to burn off some of that muffin at least, I found the fitness room and was well into 25 minutes on the treadmill when the lights went out. Thinking it was because I was the only one in the room I flapped my arms and hands like a chicken and tried to move my body without falling off the treadmill but the lights refused to come on. Only when I powered down and stepped off and walk to the light switch did the lights come back on. Taking it as a sign and truthfully an excuse I went back to my room, showered and dressed. I would make my way back down to the Dining Room for a good warm breakfast.
Except as I was trying to apply my makeup I realized I forgot to pack my magnifying mirror and without it I am lucky I can find my eyes let alone put eyeliner and mascara on them. Ever try putting on your make up with glasses on? My glasses have a wonderful platter paint appearance. Oh, well. I have been wanting to wear less make up anyway.
Once dressed I made my way down to the Dining Room. In the light of the day, all is clear and I can even follow the map. But apparently its only open from 7:15 – 8:15 and I missed it by 15 minutes. “Loretta, get with the program, girl” I heard that voice again. “Yes, Lord”. My faithful coffee shop was open and I was welcomed like a long lost cousin. Yogurt, a muffin, and a cup of coffee and I was good to go.
I am looking forward to the retreat not only for what I hope to learn (LOTS!) but because I can’t wait to see how God tames my need to control, anticipate, and organize everything. Stay tuned for Part two.