I’ve been to Women of Faith a total of six times, and this year will be my seventh! Each year has been so life changing, such a blessing, and better than the last! Check this out…
Let me give you some history of my journey with Women of Faith and how it has impacted me. I first went to Women of Faith in 2006 for the Contagious Joy conference. I was asked to go with two friends from church. I was very nervous; I would be driving by myself from San Antonio, TX to Houston, TX. This wouldn’t have been that big of a deal normally, I’d made that drive many many times. What made this different was that just a few months before I had gotten out of the hospital for major depression. I was very anxious about the drive, but I was really convicted to go. This conference was amazing and I was so touched! I had never experienced anything like this before! I was unable to attend the Friday event because of work; I could not take any time off for this because I had been off so much because of my hospitalization. I made it Friday evening and Saturday’s conference blew me away! I had never heard of Women of Faith, I was a baby Christian, these speakers were new to me, the artists were new to me, and the concept was new to me. I was touched beyond belief! I learned my life verse that weekend… Psalm 139:14… go look it up, I’m not gonna tell you! ;o)
The next year the same two ladies put together a small group from our church to attend the National Conference which was located there in San Antonio! That was awesome! Attending with a group was so much fun! We all stayed in a hotel together, we all went to dinner during the break, and they had put together a dessert reception for us Friday evening after the sessions. We stayed up late and talked about what we had experienced, what the speakers had talked about, it was like a slumber party! One really special thing for me was that my mother-in-law was able to fly in from Pennsylvania to go with us! I love my mother-in-law and I was so happy she was able to do that! Another amazing experience with such growth toward God and amazing new friendships!
In 2008 for the National conference we did the same thing! Again, awesome! This year though we did a pajama party “theme” for the dessert reception! Can you imagine 15-20 women roaming a hotel in their pajamas? It was fabulous! My mother-in-law wasn’t able to come, but I shared a room with my two best friends, and it was so awesome! We stayed up again talking and visiting, and rehashing what we had heard and seen that night. Crying, laughing, sharing, caring, something you never forget. One of the most amazing things a woman can do. Slumber parties as an adult are awesome, I highly recommend it! Friday night we were also blessed to see the Max Lucado 3:16 talk, presentation, what would you call it? Amazing! Fabulous! Life changing!
Later in 2008 we moved from Texas to Arizona and the Infinite Grace conference was here. My best friend Dawn (aka Lucy) was able to fly out here and attend with me. We volunteered. It was amazing, and hard work! This was also the first time we had floor seats, which made getting to our seats a bit hectic! We had already purchased the tickets when we decided to volunteer, so we were able to work out something about the free tickets, I don’t remember how exactly. We got there early, worked hard, stayed a bit after, and had an awesome time! It was so amazing to help out. We worked one of the retail tables, so we would leave the sessions a few minutes early to get to the table and head back in a few minutes after it started. That’s what made getting to the seats a bit difficult; being on the floor it was harder to get down there with so many people already in there. When they provide you with your free tickets for volunteering I believe they are close to the top in a certain section, so you can pop in and out easier. We stayed in a hotel nearby and getting there Friday night was an adventure, to say the least! I don’t think we slept much and we were so tired at the end of the day Saturday, but it is so worth it! One thing that I learned from volunteering is that while they are sharing the gospel onstage they close down the merchandise tables. Nothing is sold while the speaker is sharing the message of Christ and salvation. I was so moved by this. I did not know that because in other years I have always been in my seat during this, when we volunteered we had already slipped upstairs to be there when the session ended. That moved me to tears.
In 2009 Dawn flew out again to go with me, this time to A Grand New Day. It was in downtown Phoenix at the US Airways center so it wasn’t as far of a drive, but we stayed in a hotel again and took the Light Rail from the hotel to the venue. We got floor seats again, and it was so neat to be sitting behind the, “porch,” where the speakers sit. We got to see them interact with one another first hand, and I think we saw a couple of them tweeting about the event too! I know we were! It was an interesting trip back and forth from the hotel though. There was a truck in the parking lot of our hotel asking for prayer for a little girl who was sick, we did. On our way back to the conference Friday night we saw a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk smoking crack, right there in the open. I was afraid; Dawn didn’t realize what it was until I told her though. I realized on the train though that I really shouldn’t be afraid. God is there with me, and He was protecting me. Again, an amazing time, very little sleep because we were up most of the night talking, laughing, and crying. Oh, and did I mention we had matching pajamas?
Last year was the first year that Women of Faith did two different conferences in different cities. I thought that was cool, except that I was sad I wasn’t going to see all the speakers. We would be seeing Imagine here in Phoenix. I had put together a small group of ladies from our church to go, I was sad though because for the first time since 2007 Dawn would not be with me. However, at the last minute some of the ladies were not able to go so I had to find people to take their seats. God took care of it though, of course. One lady was still able to use her ticket, one lady from our small group said she would love to go, Dawn was able to come at the last minute (YAY!), and then myself. I had one ticket left, but at the last minute something happened and God brought someone along who was able to use the ticket and be blessed out of her socks by Women of Faith! This time we couldn’t stay in a hotel, but it didn’t matter! The conference was still amazing and life changing! Dawn and I spent the night talking and laughing, crying and sharing. Unfortunately Dawn and I were unable to attend on Saturday, but the other ladies were so blessed and it was life changing for them! I am so blessed by that!
2011!!! I am SO excited! I have been given an amazing opportunity; you see I wasn’t going to go this year. We couldn’t afford it. Then, I received an e-mail from Booksneeze about a giveaway. They were giving their bloggers an opportunity to receive two tickets to a Women of Faith conference in their area if they would blog about it. I didn’t think I had a chance. You see, although I do get traffic, I don’t get many comments… so I wasn’t sure, but I submitted my information anyway and prayed. “God, this is in your hands.” Then I received an e-mail, I had been selected! I was so excited! So, who do I ask to use the extra ticket? Dawn of course. I called and told her to discuss it with her husband. Finances, school, whether she could physically do it, etc. A while later I got her call back… “YES!” So she’s coming! I’m so excited! I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us this year at Over the Top!
As I’ve gone to Women of Faith conferences I’ve been introduced to some women who are moving and powerful. Patsy Clairmont, Marilyn Meberg, Luci Swindoll, Sheila Walsh, Nicole Johnson, Thelma Wells, Lisa Harper, Nicole Johnson, Chonda Pierce, Anita Renfroe, the list goes on. I’ve had the privilege of seeing some amazing artists such as Nicole C. Mullen, Mandisa, Avalon, Sandi Patty, Steven Curtis Chapman, Ayiesha Woods, and the fabulous Women of Faith Worship Team. I have seen Max Lucado, Marcus Buckingham, Henry Cloud, Steve Arterburn, and others I can’t even count. The thing about the speakers and artists is that they are real. They aren’t just up there flashing their names and being famous. They speak from their lives and their hearts. They share their stories. They laugh, they cry, they are there with you. It’s intimate, even in an arena with thousands of people. I’ve seen friends be moved to tears, I’ve held them as the walls protecting their secret pains crumble. I’ve held their hands and laughed hilariously as joy they didn’t know they had has rushed forth and seen smiles burst out that have been hidden for years. I’ve been with friends who had no light in their eyes and as they walk into the room with thousands of other women praising God and feel his presence seen a sparkle come into their eye like never before. It’s an amazing experience. To hear someone that you’ve never met, like Chonda Pierce, share her struggle with depression and that she is headed back to the hospital for that depression moves you… to listen to Sheila Walsh’s story about her childhood and her depression and relate to it so much moves you, to hear a “friend” like Thelma Wells tell you she is no longer going to be touring with Women of Faith… to see Luci Swindoll come out in a wheelchair a couple of times because she isn’t feeling well… to hear Patsy Clairmont tell her stories, Marilyn Meburg hers, and on and on… these women in just a few short years, even though I have never met them, have become my friends in a way, because they share themselves with us. They share themselves in a way that is real and true, and that touches me because it is so much like my hurts and pains! I think it is so much like a lot of women’s hurts and pains. God uses them in that way with thousands of women every time a Woman of Faith conference begins.
The most important thing though? Women of Faith conferences are about God, pure and simple. The speakers talk about Him, about how He guides them and helps them. Not about how they are perfect or how their lives are so perfect now and yours can be too if you just believe, but about how they are broken and He is working in that brokenness. About how He helps us, how He loves us, how He wants us to let Him do those things, and He wants us to love Him back. It’s not a feel good happy happy joy joy ministry. It’s real, and its life changing. You will laugh, you will cry, and you will make memories that will last a lifetime. You’ll make memories with friends, but more importantly memories with God. If you have the opportunity to attend a Women of Faith conference take it, grab onto it with both hands, you won’t regret it! If you happen to be attending the one in Phoenix next month let me know, I’d love to say hi!
Don’t forget to come back here in late September/early October to see my blog about what Dawn and I experience at Over the Top this year… I can’t wait to tell you about it!