I've heard about the Women of Faith women's conferences for a number of years now. I never bought tickets because it was 3 hours away from my home, it seemed expensive to me (when adding in the price of food and lodging), and the promo videos shown at my church seemed to always have this as one of their main messages: "Women need to get away from their families to take a break, in order to feel satisfied and fulfilled as a woman."
Maybe that wasn't their main philosophy, but since that isn't my philosophy in life, I decided years ago to not attend. I mean, women haven't been able to get away from their daily routines and families except for the last 75 years, unless they were in the top upper crust of society. Does that mean that thousands of years of womens' lives were unfilled, or wasted? Especially those who are believers in Christ? I hope not! I must admit, I just wasn't interested in attending a conference if it hinted strongly at this message.
Until I was invited to apply for two free passes to the Women of Faith conference this last spring. I'm a book reviewer for BookSneeze (Thomas Nelson Publishers), and they were encouraging their book reviewers to apply for a set of two passes to the conference.
I decided, "Hey, what can it hurt? If I'm accepted, it will be much less expensive to attend! And if I don't really enjoy it, that's not a lot of money I'm losing."
So I applied. And I was accepted! Now to choose who would go along with me!
I prayed right away, "Lord, please show me the best person to take with me on this special trip, who needs Your encouragement, love, and grace in October."
Again and again, the Lord brought my cousin, Jayne, to mind. She was SO excited to learn that the Lord brought her to my thoughts over several weeks' time.
Then, something unfortunate happened. I was curious to read an acquaintance's own personal review of her trip to the Women of Faith conference in her area, but unfortunately, she was quite disappointed with the weekend, and while she was gentle in her review, there were quite a few things she did not like: the music, the speakers' books being pushed, one of the speakers who did the splits on stage, the seating being too dark to take notes, and the fact that Bible verses weren't mentioned very often.
Now, I was feeling confused...and frustrated. Oh, I did not want to be setting myself up for a weekend where I was going to feel mis-er-a-ble.
Jayne and I were able to split the cost of gas and parking to our event location, and we were able to join up with four other bloggers (two whom I knew already) and share two nice motel rooms between the six of us, so our lodging was very inexpensive - and only for one night. The motel provided a good, hot breakfast, and Women of Faith provided boxed lunches for both days. For one of the dinners, I was able to use a gift card someone had given us, so we really spent hardly any money at all on the entire weekend event!
Okay, here's where I tell you what I thought about our weekend away!
The event was highly orchestrated and planned, in order to be smooth and flow well. Even the worship team had choreographed their walking patterns as they sang. For me, it wasn't too "over the top" and "television-like". Instead, I found this relaxing and not distracting at all.
The music was beautiful! I love music of almost all genres, and I found the music to be tasteful and respectful, but also a ton of fun!
I had heard that the speakers' books were going to be pushed throughout the whole weekend, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that their books were rarely mentioned. Yes, they had tables of books outside the arena seating area where their books could be purchased, and rooms where book signings were taking place, but several speakers never even mentioned their book titles once.
It was too dark to take notes. Fortunately for us, on the second day of the conference, we were given almost front-row seats down by the central stage. We were able to benefit from the great lighting, and take notes! But for everyone else in the audience who wasn't down on the floor, they were in the dark. :(
The only negative thing I really didn't care for was hearing about the "Women of Faith credit card". Since the book of Proverbs warns us regularly about the problem of being a borrower and owing money, I'm not sure why a Christian organization would feel they had the freedom to promote their own credit card. I was disappointed to see this.
I do wish that passages of Scripture were mentioned more often than they were. But I also didn't feel like the Bible was overlooked, either. I was able to write down plenty of Bible verses! And nothing I heard that weekend caused any red flags to go up in my mind.
It was a fabulous weekend!
I've listened to Patsy Clairmont's life stories on Focus on the Family for the last 30 years. I've learned so much from her! She has gone through some seriously hard times in her life, including being bedridden for months at a time due to agoraphobia. I can't imagine being terrified to leave my home, let alone my bedroom or my bed, but this was a big part of her adult years. She is recovering - obviously - or else she wouldn't be on stage in front of 10,000 people!
Here are some helpful tidbits of godly advice from Patsy when we are going through a crisis:
1. Ask for prayer from others!
2. Never underestimate the power of prayer!
3. People matter for the words they say or text to us.
4. Say, "I love you." It renews our hope. It destroys our fear.
5. Change can be good. What if our resistance to change prevents healing from happening?
6. So many changes seem threatening or disastrous to us when it's God's hand in molding our life and spirit.
I'd never heard of Marilyn Meberg before, but like all of the other speakers, she was fabulous! Here's what I took from her talks: Many of us want more of a good thing, craving something new and better all the time, so we'll go chase after adrenaline rushes to get more of that good thing. Life without God's purpose is wanting more and more but never being satisfied.
We think that the next stage of life will satisfy the cravings of our hearts. Augustine said, "You, God, have created us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in You."
Ecclesiastes 3:11 - God has planted eternity into our hearts.
II Corinthians 5:5 - When God says, "You're satisfied in My presence," (in heaven), there will be no more yearnings.
Lisa Welchel is well known to most people as "Blair" in The Facts of Life. I never watched that show when I was growing up in the 1980s, because we didn't get that channel! My only experiences with Lisa Welchel are in reading some of the books she's written in the last ten years.
Lisa talked a lot about having friendships with other women. She encouraged us to learn to extend more grace to ourselves, and to also ask God to give us more grace for our friends. Here were her three lessons about friendship:
1. If you want a friend, you need to be the kind of friend you want to have. Don't place expectations on your friend to fulfill your needs. Instead, be grateful for who they are and what they give to you.
2. Identify safe friends. Keep at a safe distance, at first. Pay attention to how they gossip or are judgmental. Look for women who are full of positive comments, steering conversation to other topics when gossip comes up.
3. Avoid women who look like they "have it all together," that gal to whom it is really important to look perfect. Find someone who has failed yet still desires to seek the Lord and will give you grace as well when you fail.
I began listening to Sandi Patty's music back when I was a kid. Yes, I know she has more of an "opera-style" voice, but I wasn't opposed to that, and there weren't really that many options available on the Christian music scene in the early 1980s. Her voice is still spine-tingling, amazing, perfect pitch. Loved it!
Okay, I have to admit that I'd never heard of Mandisa before the Women of Faith conference. Obviously, I'm not an American Idol follower. It's not that I wouldn't enjoy the program, I just rarely watch television shows. When I got home and told my girls about the musicians, they squealed when I mentioned Mandisa. "Did you get her autograph?" "Did you buy her CD?" Um, nope. I didn't know my girls even knew who she was! Sorry, girls.
Selah is a three-person musical group that combines country and bluegrass, classic rock and classic contemporary Christian music, and pop and urban gospel.
Whew! Maybe that would seem impossible to mix together, but we enjoyed their music a lot. Very inspirational!
Andy Andrews was the only male speaker at the conference. At first, I thought, "What? Why would a man be speaking at a women's conference?" Well, he was simply amazing, that's why. And it was one of his products I ended up buying at the conference, not one of the ladies' books or materials! Ha!
All in all, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend at "'Women of Faith: Over the Top." Given the opportunity to be able to have free passes to attend, I'd go again! Or, if we suddenly won the lottery (which we don't even play), I'd go again and bring a bunch of my friends with me!
You may learn more about the Women of Faith conference programs and see if you'll have one of their conferences near you in 2011 and 2012! I'm glad I turned from skeptic to learner that weekend. Whew!
I was given two free tickets by the Book Sneeze program for Thomas Nelson in exchange for promotion of the event and an honest review.
Hi! I'm Julieanne!