What a perfect way to end my summer. I spent this past weekend in Atlanta with my friend Kendall at the Women of Faith 2011 conference. Over the years I have realized what a true friend she has become and I am so glad to have her in my life. Let me back up before we begin.
Earlier this summer I visited Kendall in Hilton Head, SC at her family's beach house. We spent a few hours on the beach catching up on each others lives. One of our bonding ties has always been Bebo Norman. We were both long time fans when we first met & later went to one of his concerts in Dalonegah, GA. Ever since, we have been chasing the thrill. Every year it seems we try to find another one that we can both somehow manange to attend together- it hasn't happened yet. So along with Bebo comes the topic of faith and I mentioned to her that I felt like I needed some kind of get-away...a spiritual retreat of some sort...everybody needs a refresher every now and then. Well, pretty sure God was in on that conversation because she just so happened to know of one. She talked about this "Women of Faith" thing that her mom goes to year after year. Kendall was talked into going last year and thought it would be a bunch of old ladies, but was pleasantly surprised when she arrived to be in fellowship with women of ALL ages. Sharing, learning, singing, laughing, and being refreshed in spirit, together. Come to find out, her mom had an extra ticket this year. Guess who became the lucky ticket holder? :) The perfect solution to my soul-restoration dilemma.
Fast forward to this past weekend. After my anxiety-ridden drive through the big city, we started off the weekend with a dinner at the Cheesecake Factory in Atlanta. Holy HUGE desserts, batman. Got to meet all the girls in the group and found out that 2 of them are special education teachers just like me! Lots of teachers around, but sometimes hard to find ones who do specifically what I do. Nice to find new friends.
The next morning we all gathered in Philips Arena and thats where it all began. Two full days of learning and feeling uplifted. If you know me well, you know that I took notes the entire time. It's what I do. I'm a note-taker.
All the ladies who spoke had their own unique story and they were there to proclaim that life is hard. God never told us that it wouldn't be, but He did tell us that he will stay with us all the way through it. He works everything together for our good.
Here are a few tidbits that were my favorites from different speakers:
Sheila Walsh: (I've hyperlinked each of these women's names so that you can go straight to their blog or find out more about them.)
- "When the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of change, that is when we'll change."
- How do we know if something is "God's will?" We can ask ourselves 1) Is it contrary to the revealed word of God? 2) Have we taken counsel from Godly friends? 3) Ask for confirmation from the Holy Spirit.
- In our anger or excitement, if we feel compelled to make a quick decision, don't do it right away. Take time out and sit with God first. There is no wisdom in being rash.
- Satan is not omniscient. He has no idea what we are going to do with the lies he feeds us.
- Peace is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of Christ.
Natalie Grant. Gotta love this girl. Her song, "Held" has been on repeat ever since I heard her sing it this weekend. "Your Great Name" is my other fave.
Laura Story sang, "Mighty to Save," which is one I have been listening to for a couple years now. I always loved this song by Laura Story, but this weekend she became a real person to me and I got to hear HER story. She told of how she married her highschool (or was it college?) sweetheart and how its been 7 wonderful years, but 7 hard years. A year and 1/2 into thier marriage, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor that has affected his memory to the point that he went through phases of not knowing exactly who she was. She has obviously been praying for his healing, and as far as he has come, he hasn't been healed. Makes me feel silly for worrying over minor relationship issues when her life has been turned upside down after getting married. Her faith in God despite the circumstances is very inspiring to me.
- People love coffee not because they are thirsty, but because of the way it brings us together. We don't usually go out to get coffee with a friend because we love coffee so much, but because we want to spend time with that particular friend. Jesus said he would give us life to the full...in her words... a "Fresh Brewed Life," also the title of her book. Not a life where the days go by uneventfully and routinely, but a life so that we are always being surprised, used up, days filled with joy and new blessings.
Mary Mary dropped a beat & performed "Shackles"and "The God In Me." I broke it down a little and danced in front of my seat. I hear a beat and I must dance. Rap is my guilty pleasure.
And my VERY FAVORITE of the all the girls: Angie Smith. I could relate to her from the minute she walked onto the stage. Probably because she mentioned her fear of public speaking. I hear ya, sister. But- if you've read nothing else from this blog....please read her storyabout her daugher, Audrey Caroline. I'm addicted to her blog now. Hearing Angie speak in person had me laughing one minute and crying the next. One of those people who you know is real and genuine. She also spoke such comforting words when she talked about Jesus, "The Son of God, the One to whom I belong."
I forgot to metion that Kendall is 8 months pregnant with a little girl! So she was a trooper to go to such a busy event for 2 days straight. Thankfully we found some seats away from the crowd to take a breather for a few minutes.
So, I will be going back next year. Who wants to go with me?