Clarice G. James writes smart, fun, relatable contemporary women’s fiction. Her four novels, Party of One, Doubleheader, Manhattan Grace, and The Girl He Knew, are woven together with colorful threads of humor, faith, romance, and mystery.
When Clarice G. James isn’t writing, she’s reading, encouraging fellow writers, or organizing author events. She and her husband David, a short story writer, live in Hudson, New Hampshire. Together, they have five children and ten grandchildren.
We Cannot Out Give God by Clarice G. James
About four months ago, I scheduled two back-to-back author talks and one book signing on Cape Cod for the first week in December. I was especially excited because I was raised on the Cape and had lived most of my life there.
The trip from my home in New Hampshire would involve an overnight stay, so I enlisted the help of my friend, Deb. In lieu of a paycheck, I gave her the title of “Road Manager” and promised her a hotel with a pool. She does love her a nice pool.
In addition to the hosts inviting their contacts, many people responded positively to my email invitations and social media posts. I’d even re-connected via Facebook with some of my former high school classmates who’d expressed interest.
And these are just the people I know about! I thought.
My bookmarks were printed, my author talks polished, and my outside signage was perfect to entice unsuspecting passers-by. I packed my books in multiple bins, even gift-wrapping many in time for Christmas. As my hopes grew, I’d add more books to my bins “just to be sure.”
Clarice G. James: The book tour to beat all my previous book tours!
Despite my expectations, I did my due diligence. I checked and double-checked with those in charge of each event to make sure we were still on before I confirmed my hotel reservations. Their answers were always a variation of, “Oh, yes! Can’t wait! Thank you so much! We’re so looking forward to it!”
Then, the night before I was to leave, I opened this email: “Hello Clarice, I am sorry to say due to an issue with our newsletter that went out late, we do not have anyone signed up for your talk here tomorrow at 1:30. If we could reschedule for a later date that would be great. All the Best.”
All the Best? Seriously?
I was disappointed … and perturbed. Dropping my head in my hands, I prayed. Deuteronomy 1:15 came to mind: “Some were responsible for a thousand people, some for a hundred, some for fifty, and some for ten.”
What are you trying to tell me, God?
I sensed I was supposed to go despite the dismal outlook, so I took a deep breath and typed: “I hope you will reconsider. Perhaps an email can go out today to let members know? Or a Facebook post? I’d be happy to help in any way I can.”
The host reconsidered, and I was on my way—albeit a little less puffed up than before.
We arrived twenty minutes prior to the start. A cluster of my former high school classmates were waiting at the entrance. I hadn’t seen these women since our graduation five decades ago. The truth is I hadn’t even known them that well in school and had never made much attempt to keep in touch with anyone from my class.
Another friend, who’d brought a guest along, waved to me from across the parking lot. When we entered the building, four other women were waiting inside. A minute into my talk, my sister-in-law slipped in.
The total count of 15 was less than the grand number I’d fantasized about, but they sure made up for any lack by their enthusiasm. Those who had read some of my books had brought them for me to sign. They talked about my characters the same way I did myself. I have never been more encouraged by an audience’s response.
Since half the group was made up of my classmates, I mentioned our former English teacher who had inspired me to write. I was stupefied when a woman raised her hand and said, “He’s in the next room giving a talk now.”
“He is? Here? Now?”
Once the eighty-something-year-old teacher concluded his talk, he joined us. I was able to thank him in person after all these years. When I showed him his name in the Acknowledgements of my first novel, he seemed genuinely touched.
Clarice G. James: How good is God?
When Deb and I checked into our hotel, the front desk clerk informed me that I’d booked two rooms instead of one. She corrected my error right then, saving me an aggravating phone call. As a treat, we had the nice, warm swimming pool to ourselves!
The next morning, we were about 1,000 feet from the next venue when I got a call: “I’m so sorry. Only three people signed up, and two cancelled this morning. Do you want to reschedule?”
I chuckled and said, “One person is good enough for me! I’m on my way.”
The program director and her receptionist joined the lone guest for my talk. By the end of our time there, I knew beyond doubt that we were all there to encourage this one woman. She’d signed up as an attempt to break through her grief and loneliness during this difficult time of year. I’m pretty sure I did as much listening as talking that morning.
The program director plans to consult with other Cape Cod directors to have me back for a Sheer Joy of Writing workshop in the spring.
The next event—a book signing at a friend’s café—started off slow. In fact, my friend had even forgotten I was coming that day. Humility strikes again! Deb and I enjoyed lunch, then set up the book table. While waiting for someone, anyone, to come by, I prayed, Lord, please show me why I’m here.
A few feet to my right, a middle-aged woman sat with a young adult male who was in his own world texting a friend.
I leaned over and joked, “Would you like a book to read until he’s done?”
She laughed, then before I knew it, we were in a conversation about her life and the daily challenges she faces: an autistic son, a five-year-old adopted daughter, and a demanding job. I don’t know if anything I said helped, but sometimes it’s enough to know someone cares.
Soon after our conversation came to a close, one by one, four longtime friends entered with wide smiles on their faces. We spent the next hour catching up.
What if I’d pouted and canceled? What if I’d listened to the world’s wisdom and made this trip about audience size and sales? Instead, I paid heed to the Lord’s leading and was rewarded with a passel of early Christmas gifts:
- A fun road trip with a good friend.
- A reunion with classmates.
- The privilege to thank a mentor.
- Mutual support and encouragement.
- Five-star service from a three-star hotel.
- The chance to listen and offer comfort.
- An opportunity for a speaking engagement in the spring.
- Yes, even some book sales!
When will I learn I cannot out give God?
During this Christmas season and in the coming New Year, I pray we all take the time to appreciate God’s gifts, designed specifically for us and wrapped in his love and faithfulness.
God’s best to you and yours in 2020!
Clarice G. James
How to find Clarice G. James:
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Lord, please bless each word Clarice G. James writes for You.
~ For Jesus’ sake