It’s been quite a week for me. For the past 16 months I have been planning for a trip I would lead to Cleveland. No, it wasn’t to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (although our bus driver did a drive by for us), but for the annual Women of Faith Conference. This was the 10th year I’ve taken a group, but the first time I’ve planned for more than 20 of us. In fact, this year we were almost 50!
We were a greatly varied group, and one member was dearly missed…she lives in much warmer climes now…but it was awesome to watch God move in all of them, and to see what He did with me. Our oldest member is well into her eighties, and our youngest was just 8 months. And what a delight to see 3 generations of Women of Faith travel together.
Patsy Clairmont, Andy Andrews and Marilyn Meberg were the main speakers, and Lisa Welchel (Blair from Fact of Life fame), Anita Renfroe, MaryBeth and Steven Curtis Chapman, and Mandisa were the guests. Their stories are powerful, each one has overcome, or is still dealing with significant life tragedies. Yet through it all – they trusted God and leaned into His promise to never leave us. Mandisa sang her song that I most identify with – “Broken Hallelujah”. She sings of being in a very broken place, and even though the praise is shattered, she still offers it. It’s a place of honesty and pure trust – being so broken by life’s situation, yet knowing that God is with us, and that His plan is always best.
Our 3 generations were a pleasure to watch – truly a Deuteronomy 6 family…and because I know the family – this history carries back past the grandma of this group. It’s a faith that is alive and passed from generation to generation, and the baby is growing into it, just as naturally as she breathes. It warms my heart, and makes me grateful to be able to peek in on this family dynamic. It underlined the importance of not making Jesus just a Sunday thing, and that faith is caught, not taught.
The flip side of the weekend was a reminder of how quickly I am to find fault in things, and how others around me must feel when I do so. Whenever you put that many people together for an extended period of time – someone will inevitably be unhappy about something. And so it was during our time away – the music was too loud for some, the room was too cold for others – the speakers didn’t appeal to everyone – our seats were too close…all things outside of my control, yet I found myself second guessing the planning, and feeling guilty that not all were elated with everything. I spent a fair bit of time reminding myself that Philippians 4 tells me to “…worry about nothing”, and
…to think on, whatever is lovely, pure…think on these things”. When I remembered to do that, the stressing over others went away. God is faithful and I know that once all have reflected on the weekend, He will have met everyone there, in a very real way.
Our bus driver was fantastic, and at one point he turned to me (while we were waiting for the ladies to board the bus), and said “so is this one of those, speak and everyone falls down gatherings?” When I told him that the main purpose of Women of Faith is to tell the women gathered that no matter what life has handed them, and how much others have told them they are worthless – God loves them deeply and desperately, and that He thinks they are the most beautiful piece of His creation. Well, his whole demeanor to us changed, and he even joined us inside that afternoon.
After coming home, I had the privilege of leading our Children’s Ministry the next morning. We were talking about Creation, and how God had it all planned out, right from the very beginning – including you and I. As we talked about this, one of our young men looked at me and said, “You mean that God knew who I would be, even before the earth was made? That’s really awesome, and kind of creepy, all at the same time.” His face was shining as he realized this.
What an awesome thing, to watch a child “get it”. To get that The Creator of the universe loves them like crazy, and He has known them before the world began…
A fitting reminder when I’m not feeling loved, or loveable – 3 separate encounters in very different circumstances – let me state the reality of God’s love, even though I’m the first to forget the truth. He loves me, and because I am His creation – I am beautiful. My prayer is that you know that truth too – it will change your life!