So let me step back and start from the beginning. About a month or so ago, someone I follow on Facebook posted that her husband had a way to get some free tickets to various WOF events (thank you soooo much Jessica & Matthew Turner!!!!). I contacted him, and he put me into contact with Lindsey Talerico, a Social Media Specialist with World Vision. Women of Faith has partnered with World Vision for many years (look below, I have some information on World Vision at the bottom of the post). Lindsey was able to score two tickets for me, which was thrilling! I knew my friend Jennifer would really love to go, as she's on a new/rejuvenated path in Christianity and this would be a wonderful opportunity for her to grow more on her journey.
So I've been patiently waiting for WOF for about a month. Wouldn't you know it, two days before the conference started, I come down with a wicked head cold. I figured I'd just tote enough DayQuil and Kleenex with me to keep me generally satisfied as to not bother the people around me. It also worked out because I never realized how much I would CRY at this conference!! Blame the head cold cloud of misjudgement. Jeez, I cry at church. I cry at cute commercials, I can cry if my son gives the dog a cuddle. Why it never occurred to me to bring extra Kleenex to a Women of Faith conference is beyond me.
Jennifer and I decided to make it a fun girls-only weekend, getting a hotel and leaving the husbands and kids at home. We lucked out that the first day of the conference fell on Veteran's Day, and both of our husbands had the day off. My husband is a Tech Sergeant with the United States Air Force, so he deserved the day off. Maybe it wasn't the nicest thing to leave him on Veteran's Day with our three-year-old son...but I considered it quality father-son bonding time. It turns out that our son was also sick with some sort of stomach bug...and I found out a bit later the first day of the conference that he had given it to me as well. So I had a head cold plus the stomach bug at WOF. I felt like I should have been sitting in a Lysol bubble. At one point, one of the speakers told us to stand up and shake the hand of two people near us, and I screamed, "I'm sick, don't touch me!!". Really amazing personable skills, don't you think?
Upon arriving at the venue, the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, we were stoked to see our tickets at Will Call said Floor 1, Row B. We were so excited and couldn't wait to get in there!! Of course, they had a wonderful table of WOF materials right at the entrances. Most of you don't know me, but one of my biggest pitfalls is books. I looove books. I love reading all types: historical, fiction, comedy, spiritual, growth/development, parenting...I lose myself in books and love to think of ways books can change my life. Seeing an entire table of books made me entirely too happy. I came home with a daily devotional, two other devotionals, a CD of worship music, a beautiful WOF bag, and a mug. Jennifer purchased a Christmas present for my son, which was an amazing set of toddler based materials, including a book called "I Thank God For Mommy", a bedtime prayer book for toddlers, and a toddler bible. I am so excited to get into reading these with my son!
I'm on the left, Jennifer is on the right
Lori Robertson, VP of Creative & Production at WOF, and our host
One of my absolute favorite parts of the conference was each time we were able to worship. Four lovely ladies led the worship songs, all blessed with absolutely amazing voices. It was so wonderful to hear 7,000 Christian women singing their hearts out with love for their God. Ironically on the way to the conference, I told Jennifer that I was NOT the type of person who felt the need to put my hands in the air and reach to God while singing. That I was just that person who sang the songs and probably spent more time focusing on people-watching. I always considered the actual sermon at church to be the only part that I "needed" to be part of. Well, you know what?? This conference totally changed me. I felt an awesome connection during a couple of songs that I've never felt before. I think I'll approach worship differently from now on.
We were so lucky to have a panel of speakers like this!
Two concerts took place as well, with Mandisa and Amy Grant. Deborah Joy Winans did a couple of "drama" bits both days to provide a comedic break, but luckily all of the speakers were capable of comedy throughout their bits. At one point Jennifer and I were trying to decide how to describe Andy Andrews, and Jennifer decided that he is "very enthusiastic through movement"...in other words, he was all over the place!! He was absolutely hysterical, and made amazing points. For example, don't ask if something is wrong. Ask if something is a wise thing to do. Great point!
I thought this picture was funny just because you can tell how much these gals got into the song Mandisa was singing!!
I wasn't that enthralled with seeing Mandisa....until she opened her mouth. Good Lord, she can SING!! Pick up her CD, she has some amazing uplifting songs on there.
Brenda Warner. In case you were wondering "who" she is, its NFL quarterback Kurt Warner's wife. But she has an amazing story, and is such a great woman of God. And she's pretty funny too. The fact that she has personally given birth to SEVEN kids and looks like this??? Totally not fair.
Mandisa again. Maybe I was a teeny tiny bit obsessed.
Amy Grant. One of the best things about her concert was that she totally just winged it. When she suddenly felt the vibe to do something else, that is what she did. Great concert!!
Andy Andrews. The fact that I got this photo was impressive just because the majority of the time he was on the stage he was running around up there, all the pics were fuzzy! Lots of the time he spent down at the audience level and interacted with people there. He was hysterical, and so heartfelt and full of great information. Wonderful MAN of Faith!!
Throughout both days, I learned how every woman goes through crisis situations. In fact, Andy Andrews pointed out we are all either coming out of a crisis, going into a crisis, or waiting for the inevitable next crisis to come. Its just the way life is. To hear how these remarkable women have faced horrific situations and trusted God really blew me away. It made me reflect upon my life and how I've handled things. When I was pregnant with my son, it was one complication after another. A week after finding out I was pregnant, I was told I was going to miscarry. When that didn't happen, suddenly it was twins. Oh, no, now its just one. Oh, now we are concerned about the location of the placenta. Oh, that's fine now. And lastly, diagnostic tests revealed swelling of of the brain and kidneys. I had to undergo so many ultrasounds and tests to determine what could potentially be wrong with my baby. I vividly remember sitting in the hospital bathroom stall sobbing and repeating over and over again, "I hate you God! Why are you doing this to me?" Now, I don't hate God. I have never hated God. This was just a momentary lapse of my spirit and ability to see clearly. I had been fighting for this baby since the first moment. I couldn't understand why I was on this path and what I was supposed to learn. I now can reflect and look back on things. Maybe this bad thing "happened" to me because it was my opportunity to glorify God. Maybe this was my chance to bring the glory of the Lord to someone else. Or, as I now believe, maybe it was the good swift kick in my own tooshie to get me back on the right track. My son is now three years old, and the most beautiful little angel/hellion on the planet. He makes me laugh and cry in the same minute. As I watch him learn and grow, I am astounded at the fact that I helped create him. He has a genetic disorder that sums up all of the problems he's had since birth, and even some of the issues chronicled during pregnancy. Now that we finally know his diagnosis, we are able to move forward with therapy and get him caught up to his age group. He sees therapists weekly and attends a special needs preschool each day, and his remarkable growth just in the past few weeks never ceases to amaze me.
Here are the amazing things I took away from the conference:
- You can say you have Jesus in your life, but are you actually LIVING that way?
- When you're faithful in the little things, the Lord will give you more
- God designed us with a WILL that is stronger than our emotions
- God pursues us until we are on the right path
- Forgiveness is a decision, not an emotion. Forgiveness is about us putting away the past
- Fear is nothing but misuse of the creative imagination God has placed in us
- Mistakes are different from choices: you can apologize for a mistake, but you need to ask for forgiveness for a bad choice
If you are interested in learning about the awesome things World Vision is doing, or if you wish to learn about how to sponsor a child in nearly 100 countries around the world, visit http://www.worldvision.org for information. There are also other opportunities to donate and help out, as well as information on ways World Vision assists those in needs in the United States.