Looking Beyond the Ribbons

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By Beth K. Vogt

There’s a basic ACFW Conference To Do list that starts months before the actual event:
1. Confront the whole “do I attend or do I not attend” decision
2. Register online, selecting your classes and appointment preferences
3. Make your travel arrangements
4. Count the days until …

… the conference starts – which it does, in just three days!

A lot happens at the ACFW conference, but today I want to start – and stop – with what you pick up at the registration desk. You’ll be greeted with smiles and a mixed chorus of “we’re glad you’re here” and “welcome” as someone hands you that wonderful ACFW bag containing your nametag and various multicolored ribbons. These little strips of blue, red, green, gold purple and white – to name just a few of the colors – identify you for the duration of the conference. You may have one or two ribbons, while the person walking past you may have a veritable streamer that drags on the floor and threatens to trip people.

Here are some ribbons you can expect to see:

• First Time Attendee
• Debut Author
• Genesis Finalist
• Carol Finalist
• Author
• Volunteer
• {Fill in the blank} ACFW Zone
• {Fill in the blank} Literary Agency

I confess to being both overwhelmed and enamored with all the ribbons when I attended my first conference. Who were these superhero writers with reams of ribbons trailing from their nametag? How could I earn my own ribbon rainbow – and become an author-volunteer-finalist-repped-etc-etc-etc-etc attendee?

There’s no denying there’s a certain thrill when you earn the right to attach the “author” ribbon to your nametag. Or being a finalist. Even being a first-time attendee signifies the sacrificing of time and money to be at the conference – an achievement in its own right.

Go ahead and wear your ribbons. Go ahead and check out other people’s ribbons. It’s what we do at conferences.

But consider this: Look beyond the ribbons. Look at the person behind the nametag – behind the labels, if you will. The person sitting next to you loves writing, just like you do. The person sitting across the table from you is passionate about their faith, just like you are. The person who looks lost … guess what? They probably are – and no matter how many ribbons they are wearing or you are wearing, you can probably help each other. The person who looks as tired as you feel … yeah, that’s true too.

And try this: When you look at the ribbons on other attendees’ nametags, pause for a moment and remember that God would add these “supernatural ribbons”:

• Chosen (John 15:16)
• Beloved (Colossians 3:12)
• Forgiven (1 John 1:9)
• Blessed (Ephesians 1:3)
• Confident (Ephesians 3:12)
• Thankful (Ephesians 5:20)
• Growing (Colossians 2:7)
• Victorious (1 John 5:4)
• Redeemed (Galatians 3:13)
• A New Creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)

If you could make a custom ribbon and add it to your ACFW nametag, what would it be?

Beth Vogt April 2013 Beth K. Vogt believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” A 2015 RITA® Finalist and a 2015 and 2014 Carol Award finalist, Beth is a contemporary romance novelist with Howard Books. Her 2014 novel, Somebody Like You, was one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2014. In 2015 she introduced her destination wedding series with both an e-novella, Can’t Buy Me Love (May) and a novel, Crazy Little Thing Called Love (June). Connect with Beth at bethvogt.com.

Comments 0

  1. Beth, so well-written. Yeah, I’ve fallen into the trap of letting my (lack of) ribbons define me . . . at least to me. Your encouragement to look beyond the ribbons is spot-on. Most, if not all, of us feel “less than” sometimes. 🙂

    Let’s see, the ribbons that I would add would be: God’s girl, and Delighted In. Because that’s what God does with each of us—He calls us His own, and He delights in us.

  2. Beth–since I never ever thought my life after retiring from medicine would include nine (soon to be ten) published novels, I think my ribbon would be “Blessed.”
    Thanks for the great post that puts all this in perspective.

  3. What a beautiful post!

    I’m a first-time attendee and have occasionally caught myself worrying over how many ribbons I’ll have, haha! Then I realized how silly that was when God has provided this amazing opportunity to connect with other word-lovers from all over the country.

    Thank you, Beth, for speaking straight to the heart. I can’t wait to be there!

  4. Richard:
    My ribbon this year is “Surprise!” since I’m staying home — despite having registered for the conference and been selected to teach a workshop. And another ribbon would be “Content” because I know this is where God wants me to be.
    Natalie: I would hand you the ribbon “Surprise!” too — because you will be surprised by all God has waiting for you at the ACFW conference!

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