September 5, 2016

The Celebration of Story

God is so good. Through a surprise chain of events and only HIS provision, I found myself heading to the airport on Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016. Ten weeks after my left (and final for a *while*) hip replacement.
O'Hare's airport for my connecting flight beat my feet up, but even that exhausting walk from Terminal C to Terminal E (all on time, praise the Lord!) could not deter my excitement.
I would be meeting so many dear friends and fellow book lover nerds (#bestillmynerdgirlheart) in a matter of hours. My fairy godmother Carrie of Reading is My Superpower and co-facilitator/inventor of the Christian Fiction Reader Retreat picked me up in Nashville and was my first hug. She gives THE greatest hugs.
Tucked into her car with the brave Singing Librarian navigating, (Sydney! How did I not get a photo with you?) we departed for the Nashville home Carrie rented for the week. Less than an hour later she gets a text that Laura Frantz is popping by to pick up some things of Bonnie's--another fearless leader and faith-filled soul who dreamt up the retreat.
THE Laura Frantz. Granted I could write THE next to  everybody's name I got to meet. But um, her novels are freaking amazing and Pepper still fangirls over her, so. I'm allowed.
She comes in all sweetness and light and gasps, "Meghan! Ohh I'm so glad you're here how're you feeling?!"
First "Be still my nerd-girl heart" moment. Props to Rachel/The Bookworm Mama for coining such an apt catchphrase.
And the rest of that first evening was spent with much laughter, lots of hugs and just such surrealness of being amongst my people. My tribe. Mikal finally got back to the house and burst in with a, "WHERE'S MY MEGHAN?!" with the sweet Rachael Wing tagging along beside her--a roommate and fellow fangirl who carried my bags for me up the steep flight of steps.
That first evening was somewhat of a blur, to be honest--my feet were screaming and the airport trekking was exhausting. But that did not fade my excitement at meeting Rachel Dixon (two Rachel's made for a fun time in more ways than one!), her friend Abi and fellow indie author Sarah Monzon. Who saved my feet with band-aids.
The next day dawns hazy, hot and humid--I felt right at home. Upon reaching the Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville the next day armed with my three books (two fiction, one strictly for autographs because of carry-on size luggage restrictions), we sign in and not five minutes later I hear a sweet foreign accent go, "I know you!" and it's THE Kara Isaac. #FreakingOutandFlailingAbout
Another "Pinch-Me" moment (I'm going out of order here. Bear with me) was when out of the corner of my eye during a session with Mary Connealy and Ruth Logan Herne, I see a flash of raven-black hair and Rachael dashes off with a muffled squeal. I turn and look and it's THE Pepper Basham in the doorway. Luckily I'm in a farther-back row and slip out and half-run over to her on my swollen feet. This woman has been (whether she intended it or not or perhaps I'm just that needy ;)  ) a light in my life, such an empathetic encourager and a constant source of inspiration--pointing me back to the Ultimate Author and Finisher of our faith. Both in the stories she writes, and just who she is. Getting to hug this dear woman for the first time was such a treasure.


To sit amongst like-minded bookish souls, and under the Spirit-led authors who shared their testimonies, participated in panel discussions (including the smooching panel that was so much fun to hear about--how to write fictional kisses!), and who all poured out so much of themselves.
It was a privilege.
Despite the amount of introverts in one room, no one knew a stranger. One activity was Author Speed Chats/Dates. The authors would rush around to cluster groups and we'd have five or so minutes with them to ask them anything and get to know them better. SO fun. And an ingenious idea. There were times of praise and worship and prayer and stories of how authors came to writing--tales of how God called them to Himself, and to writing--left me with tears in my eyes for the sheer grace of God.
Just...it was amazing.
The entire day. The heart and hard work three (incredibly modest!) women--Bonnie, Carrie, and Annie--did to put on this joyous day was felt in every minute that went off without a single hitch. There was such a current of empathy, encouragement, and genuine, transparent love throughout the day that I couldn't help but be moved to tears at times, smiling until my face hurt and just shaking my head at what God can do with willing hearts with a story to tell. And those hearts with a love of stories that point back to HIM.

I found in beginning this three-part series on my time in Nashville that I could write/talk for hours about the days there, the memories made and God's fingerprints over every second of every day. So I am hitting the high points, and continuing to ponder all of these things in my heart as real-life and "adulting" kick in now that I'm home sweet home.
Stay tuned tomorrow for when I share some photos and fun times lobby-lingering at THE ACFW conference!