Monday, March 23, 2009

Star Struck

I'm going to try to pull myself together to explain in a calm and collected manner about my simply amazing weekend. Truth is, I'm still reeling a bit, so I may need frequent breaks to do a few cartwheels and give Jesus some praise. Except, maybe not quite so much on the cartwheel part because I don't know how to do them. But I'm definitely all about giving Him some major praise because He is amazing. And He has created some amazing people who have written some amazing books. And this weekend I got to meet many of those people! Oh, how I wish I knew how to do a cartwheel right now!!

Back in October, my daughter and her friend learned that a Christian Book Expo was going to be held in downtown Dallas, and she told me she wanted to go as an early sweet sixteen birthday celebration to meet many of the authors she so greatly admires. I agreed. Thanks to an outrageous deal on the internet and a timely coupon, I booked a room in a posh hotel in downtown, and Hannah and Morgan set off planning an ultimate girls weekend. We were excited about the authors scheduled to appear, and were looking forward to many of the panel discussions and speaking events, but we were completely unprepared for just how personal and meaningful this time would be for us.

Friday night, three authors were scheduled to appear at a local bookstore, so off we went with our favorite books, prepared to stand in line for hours to get signatures and shake a few hands. To our complete surprise, there was not a crowd at all. My heart ached for the authors. However, I kid not when I say that if God were ever to bring three talented and gracious women together in the presence of two young girls to be blessed, inspired, and unbelievably encouraged, it happened Friday night. I suppose they could have had a line of casual readers out the door, but instead they had two of their BIGGEST fans who were extraordinarily grateful to have the opportunity to not just meet the authors, but ask questions and hear stories, and truly get to know them! We stayed in the store for about an hour and a half, and we visited the entire time! Hannah and Morgan are both painfully shy, but the authors were kind and gracious and knew exactly how to draw the girls in. It took no time at all to develop a rousing and lively conversation that was so sweet, so genuine, and so completely unexpected! Such an opportunity was never even a thought in the girls' minds. It was as if they had an opportunity to live a moment they hadn't even dared to dream! I know I sound dramatic. :) My daughter loves to read, and has many favorite authors, but she holds a particular fondness for Beverly Lewis. She ADORES her. To watch Beverly Lewis receive Hannah so warmly, and then spend time in engaging conversation was such a blessing to me. I was delighted, and in awe! The other two authors present were Terri Blackstock and Tracie Peterson.

Terri Blackstock writes murder mysteries. She is confident and kind and very funny. She was wonderful! She saw Hannah and Morgan the following day and made a point of coming up to them so they could visit further. It is obvious in speaking with her that she is a smart cookie, and she is extremely personable.

Tracie Peterson is a hoot. She has traveled extensively in Alaska, which is the setting for much of her writing (as well as my dream vacation destination). She is bubbly and fun and an absolute girlfriend in every sense of the word. Tracie Peterson is who you want to go hang out at Starbucks with, to laugh and joke and drink something with lots of whipped cream on top. She is outrageously outgoing and wasted no time in roping the girls into her high energy, joy filled, spirit led presence. Loved her! We visited with her as well later in the weekend, and she greeted us like buddies. The girls were nuts for her.

Beverly Lewis. Miss Beverly. She embodies grace and humility. She is stunning, inside and out. It is so evident that she loves the Lord, loves her family, and loves people. She is just as shy as the girls, and in fact she said that Hannah and Morgan reminded her of herself when she was young. She made Hannah's little cup RUNNETH OVER. That's all I can say about that. She's a gem.

As you can see, Friday night was so perfect, we felt content and satisfied already. And we hadn't even been to the book expo yet! :)

Here is where I'm tempted to launch into my very own novel. I want to go on and on and post a hundred photos. (Want to go on and on? Or am already??) The bad news is, the expo was very poorly attended. Word just didn't get out well, and it was a gold mine of opportunity with very few of us there to appreciate it. Every major publisher was represented, and all of them had big names in attendance. There were over 200 authors present; speaking, signing books, and available to just hang out and talk! For the publishers, the poor attendance was obviously not what they had hoped. For us, it translated into an unbelievable opportunity. I not only met these people, I had time to actually visit with them! Emma was golden. Not only was she adorable as usual, she was also one of the only strollers in the whole place, so she got lots of attention. She was my "ticket". :) I was able to connect with many of the sweet people I met because they all were willing to talk and play with the cute baby!

We were there all day Saturday and Sunday. First thing I saw when I stepped inside the door on Saturday was a signing for the book I wrote about here. It's one of my favorite books of all time. I didn't even know they were going to be there, but I met Ron Hall and Denver. Emma flirted heavily with Denver, and he was way more interested in her than in books, so he just took a nice little break and came to play.

Emma and I watched Mike Berenstain draw bears and listened to him read us a book. It was fun to meet the "man behind the bears" and have him sign books for us. The bears were big favorites of the boys when they were younger. We even got the chance to hug on Brother and Sister Bear.

Janette Oke is a grandma through and through. She was precious with Emma. Janette is a pioneer in Christian fiction, and most of the women at that expo have her to thank for blazing a trail. Her work is legendary, and meeting her was an honor.

Sheila Walsh is one of my favorites. I love her work. She hosted the worship service Saturday evening, and I was glad to meet her and her twelve year old son, Christian. She was poised, and I felt an honesty from her that was comforting and assuring. (She's also physically very striking! Her beauty on the inside definitely seeps through and shines on the outside!)

Wanda Brunstetter has nurtured an intrigue and appreciation for the Amish. She and her incredibly cute husband were super talkative and made us feel so comfortable. She was another one the girls visited repeatedly throughout the weekend. This is a rather unfortunate shot of Emma, who was eating seven Nilla Wafers at once while meeting Wanda.

Nicole C. Mullen sang at the worship service. That girl has it. Her voice moves me to a heart of worship, and she knows how to make a friend. She came into the lobby after the service and extended herself graciously to those of us waiting to meet her. She and I have kids the same age, we both homeschool, and we have common interests. I ate her up. The picture of me isn't the best, as my big hair attacks Nicole's face, but I'm posting it anyway because I want to remember it. Me! Hugging Nicole!

The girl has talent, no doubt. And a bit of fashion sense too. Check out her shoes. I couldn't resist a picture of them. :)

Joy Williams is another incredible vocal artist. She's a talented baby entertainer too. I told Emma to rub up against her in hopes that just a smidge of that musical talent would rub off, because the poor kid certainly didn't get a drop of it in her genes. Joy is only 26 and sings like an angel.

Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn seemed to have sparked a marriage revival in the Christian community with their best selling books. I attended their session and learned a lot from them. They are very entertaining, and also have a heart for sharing how men and women can learn to better understand and appreciate one another. I found them fascinating.

Stormie O'Martian is a prayer mentor for so many women. She is a model of strength and faith. Her testimony is awesome, and she shares so openly and passionately about her struggles and victories in life. She and Emma played peek-a-boo with the book that Stormie signed for me. I asked her for wisdom in a particular area, and she encouraged me (in the most eloquent way!) to pray diligently for my children. I'm glad the book I chose for her to sign was The Power of a Praying Parent! :)

I've always admired Lisa Welchel. I grew up watching her as Blair on the Facts of Life, then followed her with interest when she became an outspoken advocate for homeschooling and Biblical parenting. She has practical advice for moms, and delivers it from a place of humility and comic relief. Isn't she cute?

Morgan's Mom, Leslie, joined us for the show on Saturday and I was so glad to have a friend to buddy around with. Leslie is a fan of Lisa's too.

I wish I could write and post pictures about every single "brush with greatness". :) There were many. Hannah and I had the opportunity to meet/see Randy Alcorn, Stephen Arterburn, Gary Chapman, Mindy Clark, Elizabeth George, Alex and Brett Harris, Liz Curtis Higgs, Jerry Jenkins, Robert Liparulo, Stephen Miller, Don Piper, Thelma Wells, Lee Strobel, and Lysa Terkeurst, among so many others. We were introduced to many new authors and inspired to read even more great books. There was an energy and excitement to the weekend that was palpable.

The last thing we did on Sunday was participate in Bible Across America. There is a huge tour bus crossing the nation to create a handwritten Bible. We each wrote one verse that will be printed, in our handwriting, and our names will appear in the index. Thousands of Americans will contribute to the project.

On our way out the door we stopped to say one last good-bye to Beverly Lewis. She is really something special to Hannah. Emma was playing with Beverly's nametag, so she took it off and gave it to her. We scored the ultimate souvenir. :)

All the books at the expo were discounted and many, many vendors were giving away free books. We came home and unloaded our haul to share our tales with the boys. Look at this stash!! Most of this was given to us! Our nightstands are well stocked with great reading for a long time to come.

Great memories. Great books. Great weekend.


Erin said...

Brooke!!! How exciting! I'm thrilled you and Hannah shared such an unforgetable weekend. What a blessing!

Angelsoup said...

What an awesome weekend for you guys. Note to self: Thou shall not covet...I love the new mini-library you arrived home with.