“I WENT TO A GARDEN PARTY TO REMINISE WITH MY OLD FRIENDS . . .” AN AUTHOR’S UPBEAT REVIEW OF A DEPRESSING SONG THAT HAS LITTLE TO DO ABOUT NOTHING . . .OTHER THAN, I LIKE RICKY NELSON AND CAN’T GET HIS BLASTED LYRICS OUT OF MY HEAD!
Back peddle to Saturday – July 9th, when I attended my first garden party, actually my first Christy Award banquet. A banquet I’d heard many a fishwives tale about, dreamt about, but never expected to attend—least of all—as a finalist in the Visionary Category. My heart was in maximum overdrive and my palms sweat. No, I wasn’t a train wreck, but I felt excited, unworthy and yet hopeful. Just ask my agent, Wendy Lawton, who repeatedly patted my clammy hands and soothed me with encouraging words, which for the life of me I can’t recall, except for the most important ones, “Remember, Linda, no matter the outcome you’re already a winner!”
Dearest Wendy, you were . . . are right. I am a winner, and not just for being a finalist in this prestigious contest. Even if most of the evening buzzed by me as a muddled haze, I’ll always remember my first Christy banquet. I’ll remember the hum of excited voices, the familiar and not so familiar faces. The numerous well wishes and, “I’m praying for you,” comments.
Meanwhile, the array of fashion statements that spanned from one finalist’s simplistic blue skirt and white blouse to Brandilyn’s infamous emerald sequined gown, that latter of which, I coveted for an entire five seconds until I admitted my generous endowed body would never do her beautiful gown justice.
And I’ll never forget when a pair of strong warm arms embraced me from behind only to be surprised by girlfriend Donita K. Paul, who I didn’t expect to see that night. I will not forget every one of you in ACFW who cheered me on before and after and banquet ended.
And I will always remember when a certain high profiled author hugged me and whispered, “You should have won.” Her caring remark touched my heart in the most healing way, because I knew she meant it.
I won’t forget Kregel’s acquisition editor, Dennis Hillman’s generous praise regarding LER or his walking stick umbrella that made him look quite British. I won’t forget Angela Hunt’s (whom I adore), fashionable late entrance that brought her to adorn our table. Nor the two Parable store retailers who during the unforgettable delicious meal that I didn't eat, asked Angie and moi how they should pitch our novels/novel (LOL) to their customers.
I didn’t know what I was eating, apparently broccoli, let alone how to answer their question. I looked densely at Angela who with her red hair was beautiful in her white dress and then I blurted, “Um, I’ve got nothing.”
Angie winked at me as if totally aware of the upheaval I was experiencing. She proceeded to calmly answer them and, good golly Miss Molly, she said what I would have said, were I of sound mind. To which I replied, “Ditto. Thanks, Angie!”
Mostly, after all was said and done, I won’t forget the humble appreciation God put upon this writer’s heart. Like every finalist at the banquet, I really wanted that first place award. I even sat there rehearsing my fifteen-second speech—yeah, that’s what my agent and Camy Tang highly suggested I limit myself too. D’oh! reality check! Unless I was totally zoned-out, not one winner spoke under a minute. LOL Then again, they know I’m not short on breath when it comes to yapping.
I didn’t win first place. And that’s okay. God knows better than anyone what I need and don’t need. The moment the MC read a line from the winning novel, I snapped out of my self-induced fog. I had prayed for God’s will to be done. It was. I then relaxed and gave Him the glory and thanks. I later recalled how, ‘Thanks’ was the ongoing theme that evening. How every winner including our keynote speaker, Bret Lott, thanked those responsible for she/he being brought to this place for the recognition of excellence in Christian fiction. Above all, each gave God their heartfelt praise and appreciation.
Over this past year, I have come to realize that receiving all the awards and nominations in the world doesn’t mean a hill of beans if we don’t grow from said experience and I’m not talking about our egos. They seem to grow just fine even without additional fertilization of contracts, nominations and awards. Speaking for myself of course. Grin
Besides gratitude to God almighty if I’ve gained anything, it awareness of the amazing support base of friends and family I have in ACFW and beyond. Thanks to each and every one of you, especially those who read LER and sent me feedback.
Now if I might further digress, (which I will) I want to share that in all honesty, the greatest highlight of my CBA experience was none of the above, not even walking the massive convention center staring in awe at the magnificent publisher booths or spotting and speaking to some of the Christian artists, whose music I listen to regularly.
It happened during the Sunday evening of worship sitting an elderly couple of retailers that brought me to my knees that included listening to Philip Yancey. Now let me share that the cause of this humbling experience was a worship talker that can distract and annoy me to no end. He was not an overt talker, but there were enough, “You say it, brother! God be praised!” And, “Yes, yes!” to make me silently mouth, “Great guns, I’m stuck with a, ‘talker.’”
Well after this amazing worship service ended, the little white-haired man turned to me and asked, “And what is your name?”
“Linda,” I said, swinging my purse strap over my shoulder.
He then grabbed my hand and pumping hard, said, “Well, Linda, God has asked me to speak a word over you.”
Never having experienced this before, I gulped, fearing the worst, like the negative thoughts I’d had toward this sweet little man.
“Linda, you have found great favor in God’s sight. He takes pleasure in your sincere praise and He blesses you beyond measure.”
All I could say was, “Um, gee, thanks,” as he hugged then released me.
Speechless, I nervously glanced at my new friend, Susanne Scheppmann who had heard the exchange. To my chagrin, she shrugged and said, “Whoa! And here I was complaining because he was a talker.”
“Yeah,” I admitted, “Same here.” I decided to speak with the man further, but when I turned back, he and his wife were gone. Susanne and I exchanged baffled looks. Strange, but for the moment I couldn’t help but wonder if they were angels. J
That instant, I concluded that no matter what I did in this world--even writing for God’s glory, only one-thing matters to Jesus, and that’s the condition of my heart.
Later that evening the CC artist group, Los Lonely Boys, sang their hit song, ‘How far is Heaven.’ Amidst clapping at half a beat off, and singing off-key I found myself in tears. For even though my present journey is proving to be incredible, I’ll trade every moment for Heaven.
Although always on a learning curve, I’m striving to be more content with whatever God gives me, which despite being cliché, mean our life on earth is about the individual journey that God takes us on. And, as for the destination well, for all of us here, hopefully that also is Heaven.
A Garden Party Review by: Linda Wichman
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.