Earlier this summer I received two free tickets as a promotional partnership between BookSneeze and Women of Faith to attend an upcoming conference. Conference city: Indianapolis. Conference theme: “Imagine.” Conference dates: Aug 19 & 20. Conference company: This was a girlfriend’s only weekend. No husbands allowed.
Away we go!
Excited, I packed two days beforehand. The 3 hour trip was fun time to catch up on life and things with my conference-buddy, Karin. We pulled up into downtown Indianapolis on Friday night sometime around 10:30 pm—an hour later than I expected. (I always forget the time zone change occurs in Indiana!) and were in the hotel unpacking by 11:00pm. In my haste of packing early, I did the unthinkable: *I forgot my camera*! I win two free tickets to a Women of Faith conference under the promise to blog about my experience and I forget my camera?! Yep. Sorry people.
Initial (and a wee bit superficial) thoughts
As someone who likes to organize and plan, I was quite impressed with the overall operation of the conference. A Women of Faith conference is run like a well-oiled machine. Sessions start and end on time. Breaks are provided to stretch and shop. Dozens of smiling, happy volunteers are available at every corner to help direct guests to needed services, booths, snacks, or seats. And, I was simply amazed by the ability of the meal team to feed all 10,000 ladies a boxed lunch in just about an hour! What an incredible accomplishment!
Moving Along (to the deeper stuff)
Prior to the conference I knew little of the speakers on the line-up for this weekend: Sheila Walsh, Henry Cloud, Lisa Harper, Nicole Johnson, Angie Smith, Luci Swindoll. But each is now etched into my memory … forever.
One by one these ladies took the stage and shared a bit of their souls. Each had a different story to share, one no less painful than the others. It is through their honesty and transparency that we, the audience, were able to glimpse the grace and love and power of God at work in each of their lives. Which in turn provides the hope, confidence, assurance and promise that He will do for me what He has done for them.
With humour, witt, honesty, and raw emotion, Sheila, Lisa, Nicole, and Angie opened their wounds, pulled back the curtain to their lives, shared their hearts, and held us captivated by the retelling of the storms (weathered, lived and survived) in their lives. No piddly thunderstorms, mind you, we’re talking hurricanes with Gail-force winds. Sheila Walsh spoke of a mental breakdown. Lisa Harper shared a rocky relationship with her step-father. Nicole Johnson spoke of the broken-pieces of her life falling apart. Angie Smith recounted difficulties during her fifth pregnancy and losing her baby girl just a few hours after giving birth. This was heavy, heavy stuff. Not a dry eye in the house. It was impossible not to be moved, touched, stirred by such transparency, emotion, and hope. Hope? Seriously? Yes. Certainly each of these women shared experiences categorized whole-heartedly as “walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death” (Psalm 23).
Yet, I believe Sheila Walsh said it best: “For there to be a shadow there has to be Light.”
In moments of despair, it was God who comforted. In moments of darkness, it was God who provided light. In times of confusion and fear, it was God who calmed the soul and directed the heart. In moments of loss and pain, it was God who renewed and restored.
The reason all were able to walk the difficult road is rooted in clinging to the Light of Christ; of God walking with them every step of the way, guiding, healing, comforting, encouraging, carrying, and loving them along every bump, pothole or mountain. The message, clear: God is present and active in our lives. God cares so much for each and every one of us. God will never abandon us. God is faithful to tend and care for his sheep.
I believe the impact of this conference will continue unfolding itself for years to come. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and plan to attend more Women of Faith events in the future.
A Small Critique (If I may)
The theme for this particular conference is “Imagine.” Taken from Ephesians 2:20:
“Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” At the onset of the conference guests were invited to imagine ‘beyond our best life’ and allow God to work within big dreams.
I do not think “Imagine” is an accurate representation of this 2-day conference tour or a genuine reflection of the level of transformation that has occurred in the lives of the speakers. Seems to me a better theme would be Redeemed or Whole or Broken for this is how I saw each of the speakers: humble, articulate women who bared heart & soul of a particularly dark and difficult period of life. Each conveyed how the love of God carried them through and promised the same hope to all within earshot. Yet I felt an incongruity throughout the weekend. I struggled to see the steps taken by each to get from “the pit” to “the platform.”
If the focus of the conference, Imagine, is to offer a space for women to begin dreaming and thinking of a life without bounds, how does one do that if one is presently in the pit? Not that I am starting in the pit, mind you. But I imagine that quite a few hundred of the women in attendance would identify as being in a pit of some kind: divorce, financial worries, abusive relationship, loss, grief, etc. Put 10,000 women in a room together and you are bound to run into more than a handful who are struggling with a great huge weight on their shoulders due to some difficult circumstances in life. Could practical steps have been offered to help the women in the pit find their way onto level ground?
So, for whatever it’s worth, these are my thoughts on a great 2-day conference. If you have the chance to go, you must! I am thankful to BookSneeze and Women of Faith for offering free tickets to a very powerful weekend. I am encouraged and inspired and greatly humbled by this amazingly tender God we serve.
(Ok, so, one of my favorite parts of the weekend was watching Natalie Grant perform. She is awesome. Period. I am a fan. Yep.)