Writing With God is Inconvenient – (2016 ACFW Conference Recap)

I’ve rewritten the start of this post at least six times, mainly because I don’t know which direction I should take when summing up this year’s ACFW Conference.

Should I be goofy and talk about how I accidentally hugged a complete stranger (oops)? Should I be excited and mention how I totally chased down Ted Dekker for a photo? Should I be vulnerable and confess how I internally compared my writing, my looks, my jokes, and even my shoes to those of my peers? Should I be exhausted and reveal that we stayed up until 3am almost every night (and still haven’t recovered)? Or should I be serious and share how I cried through most of Friday just because EVERY. SINGLE. MESSAGE. seemed to be written specifically for me and my tired soul?


So much happened at the 2016 ACFW Conference I couldn’t begin to tell you it all. And maybe that’s a good thing because some of it was meant just for me. But there’s too much for me to keep for myself, and much of it took place in Allen Arnold’s class: The Two Creative Realms.

This class was an invitation to take my calling into a new creative realm that is defined by intimate relationship with the Creator. (Read that again.) We tackled the stories we were writing, but also the stories we were living. I want to share with you two of my favorite takeaways:

Takeaway #1: The prize of writing is relationship.

The prize isn’t a published book, it’s not fame, it’s not making a living. The prize is relationship . . . with our Creator. And this goes for anything. Allen talked about how Satan will always try to change the definition of success. (Tweet this) He’ll try to tell you that it’s anything other than communion with God.

But success is doing things “with” God. If we’re raising our kids, writing our books, cooking our meals, flying through our to-do list, commuting to work, traveling, painting, teaching, reading, learning, etc with God every day . . . then we can go to sleep every night feeling fully successful . . . because we’ve finally let go of the things that defined success.

All these thoughts arise from Allen’s teaching and I can’t take credit for them. I was extremely excited to hear he’d just released a book that cover this, titled The Story of With. *purchases immediately*

The STory of With - Allen Arnold

I get distracted. Easily. I can lose sight of writing with God and I’ll start feeling like I’m failing. Failing my publisher. Failing my readers. Failing myself. Failing my husband. And yet those are not what define my success.

Anyone relate? We start losing sight of what succeeding is? We start losing sight of Jesus as our everything.

Takeaway #2 – Writing with God is inconvenient

The word inconvenient is like nails on a chalkboard. Today’s culture demands convenience, the logical route, time-saving instant gratification. Efficiency. I myself start getting antsy when I can’t fit my creativity into a practical timeline.

But inefficiency is okay. Allen pointed us to some Bible stories. Was having the Israelites wander in the wilderness for 40 years the most efficient way to get them to the Promised Land? Uh . . . no. Was Jonah sailing in the opposite direction of Nineveh and then getting swallowed by a fish the most efficient way for him to get there? Definitely no. But that’s because their stories, and our stories, are about transformation. (Tweet this) They’re not about speed or getting from point A to point B.

God’s version of “efficiency” isn’t the same as ours. His version of efficiency is shalom–the way things were intended to be. Communion with Him. Relationship. Journey.


Perhaps this blog post is a jumbled mix up of emotions and conference notes, but I’ve returned home at the start of a new journey that I can see will be even more beautiful than the one I’ve been on. This class has reminded me that…

“You can believe in God, but still miss life with Him.” – Allen Arnold

And though I wouldn’t say I’ve been missing life with God, I’m ready to live it even more fully with Him. Thank you for joining me in my melting pot of thoughts

Your turn!

Did any of this make sense? 😛

What has your definition of success been?

Do you ever find yourself distracted by efficiency and convenience? In what ways?




About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
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  1. Oh, Nadine. This post makes perfect sense, almost too much sense. My definition of success has been finishing; my prize hasn’t been with God. Thank you for this post. <3

  2. Thanks for sharing this post, Nadine! Communion. This year, that’s what I’ve been seeking. Or trying to seek. That daily closeness with Him in everything. But for a while, I’ve been really struggling with that when it comes to writing and defining writing success. And to be honest, I’ve been tired. So tired of worrying about failing, tired of worrying about the numbers and the appearances – so much so that writing itself became a challenge because I was having a hard time of seeing it as anything different than the numbers and the appearances.

    Slowly, these past few months, God has been turning that around for me. Reawakening my love for the stories that we can live and write. Thanks for sharing your thoughts from this class. Wish I could have attended it. It sounds like it was amazing. But you can bet that I’m heading over now to buy that book!

    • Aww Gillian, thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your heart. I just finished reading through the book and, after some added journaling, I found myself secure in my identity in Christ and not (too) nervous about other people’s opinions regarding my writing!

      Praying for you, friend. *hugs*

  3. There was a time when I was jealous of people who could write fast and produce, produce, produce… I use to to think I was missing out on Opportunity because I couldn’t get something out. It dawned on me one day I’m just a slow writer. That’s the way it is. Allen came and did a one day mini conf for our ACFW chap back in April. It was a small group of us, but I was amazed how many people in that group were struggling (Some who had success and had hit USA Today Bestseller List even). I never knew I was in the Orphan Realm until then. Even today I have to stop and remind my self that I need to write with Him and not apart from Him. Great Post.


    Our stories aren’t about efficiency and convenience, they’re about transformation. That’s exactly what I needed to hear, I think. So often we get caught up in wanting to hurry up and get stuff done…but God’s ways are not our ways, and His timeline sure doesn’t look like the “hurry up” timeline sometimes. But that’s okay. He knows what He’s doing, and He’s in the business of transformation, not efficiency, and certainly not convenience.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

  5. This so spoke to me. My writing plan this past year fell apart. It started well. I had my manuscript edited and began (at the editor’s suggestion) a rewrite. My plan was to have it done and polished by Realm Makers. God (and my day job) had other plans. I’m on my dream project in my chosen profession. Inefficient yes but also important. I’m reading through the Pentateuch right now. Glad you cited Moses’s story because it connects why I’m reading it now. Can I confess that I probably enjoy Leviticus more than most people? The details are fascinating and not boring to me at all. I’m also reading The Cost of Discipleship. I’m realizing that this study is as much a part of my writing as plotting, character development, and words on the page. Even more so as I’m leaning toward general market. I’m praying over my story as never before.

    • I think it’s awesome that you enjoy Leviticus. There is so much to be learned from that book (and from Numbers!) when we slow down and see the importance of the details.

      I am praying for you, too, friend! I know that God honors your flexibility to His will!

  6. Oh my goodness!! This settles it. I NEED to get myself to ACFW……it sounds amazing. 😀 😀 (My favorite part of Realm Makers was the deep spiritual applications I made in my writing life. The fun and geekery was awesome, too, but the spiritual takeaway was immense!)

    And this is SO true. After Realm Makers I finally realized I’d made my writing (and specifically my story I’ve had to put aside for now) into an idol and an identity, and I had to come to terms with that and turn ALL my writing over to God, to the point where I unclenched my clammy little writer hands and submitted even to the possibility I might not write for weeks…months…maybe years…maybe never again.

    And then He pretty much immediately (like, that night!) brought me a short story to write, like a little bolt of lightning to my soul. I’m still working on it, lengthening it into a longer short. But I’m taking my sweet time, praying for guidance, waiting for inspiration. Sometimes I wait more than a week between scenes. It’s not convenient, but I feel this is how He’s leading me to write right now. And that’s important! Writing what He wants me to write right now is important, because the point of writing is to serve Him, not to “do something great” or “get fans” or “finish something”. It’s an act of worship toward Him in my labors. 🙂

    • I owe so much growth and life-change to ACFW. I think you’d learn SO MUCH! But I’m so glad you went to Realm Makers this year! It’s a wonderful conference of camaraderie and family.

      What incredible revelations God’s been giving you regarding your writing. You will be blessed for your obedience and willing heart, my friend! *hugs*

  7. Allen Arnold’s class was the only class that I have ever had a down-in-my-bones, goose-bumps-racing-across-my-arms spiritual awakening moment. Then we had Ted Dekker blowing our minds. And I was close to tears the whole time. And I’m not all that sentimental.

  8. So glad you had such an incredible time at ACFW. I’m still wrapping my mind around your posts and thoughts. Thanks for sharing it! I’ve added the book to my to-buy list!

    Writing is hardly convenient or an efficient career plan in the first place. Ha!
    If efficiency and convenience is related to trying to do things by the book (and what the world is telling you) when art and storytelling is much more subjective and volatile and deep, then yeah. I have stepped back to reevaluate life and writing. Because God’s ways aren’t our ways. I can read all the books, blogs, etc from the gurus of the how-tos, but that doesn’t mean it will work for me. I might have to go through the desert first or some other adventure that will refine me and bring me closer to God. I lose sight of my path because I’m looking for approval in the wrong place. But I am pushing through and leaning into God, because He is the one who is guiding me and who can answer my questions.

    A blog I once read a long time ago, pointed out that the meaning of success to God is very different than it is to humans. She used Isaiah, I think, as an example. By man’s standards, he wasn’t successful. But by God’s, he was, because he obeyed.

    I wish you the best on your writing journey!

    • “Writing is hardly convenient or an efficient career plan in the first place.” — Ha! Good point! I hadn’t even really looked at it that way!

      I love what you say about success. That, too, was a message in this class. Such a beautiful revelation!

      • Thanks! By the way, I bought the book! Will begin slowly making my way through it as I am reading The Autistic Brain too. I’m in non-fiction mode right now. Ha!

  9. Serena Kaylen Crompton

    Nadine, didn’t Allen say to google “The Story of With” to join the online group? Have you tried to do this? I can’t find it.

  10. I finally got around to reading this, and it is SO, SO GOOD!! I seriously love everything Allen Arnold has to say because, Creating. With. God. Also, the writing journey is so much more fulfilling when it’s about the JOURNEY (with God) and not the end-game. AND YOU TALKED TO TED DEKKER! #jealous Thanks for sharing your melting pot thoughts with us! 😀

  11. Nadine … wonderful takeaways from the Conference. Thank you for sharing so vulnerably.

    Doing life with God … it’s exciting isn’t it knowing the Creator of the universe wants to hang out and do life together.

    Lovely meeting you. I wish we’d had a bit more time to chat.

I love hearing from you!