We've all had moments where we look back at events in our lives and feel a tinge of sadness or nostalgia over a certain period of time, Not because it was a sad time but because we long to have one of those moments back. Perhaps the way you felt on your wedding day, or the day your children were born, their first steps, the day they started kindergarten and High School (Abby starts High School next year!), seeing your children marry their best friend. I had this sadness or nostalgia feeling last night when I went to see the Women of Faith: An Amazing Joyful Journey movie.
I remember going to my very first Women of Faith conference, The Great Adventure, in 2003. I wasn't particularly looking forward to it and was doing it because it was the nice Pastor's wife thing to do since I had been approached by a few woman to organize a group to go. I had NO idea the impact these conferences would have on my life. From the moment that even started, I was was drawn in. The conference started with thousands of woman worshipping through music. Hearing thousands of Women singing together was like nothing I had ever heard. Then the speakers got up and spoke. They were relevant, funny, encouraging, and they all shared messages of God's love and redemption. When you left that arena Saturday evening you knew God loved you and you knew that the only way to experience the joy and peace was through a personal relationship with Christ and you were very clearly given the opportunity to make that decision.
Every year after that first conference I looked forward to attending. I became a group leader and brought as many as 30 ladies.
In 2009 I attended the conference in Tampa, FL and one of the guest speakers was Mary Beth Chapman. Mary Beth spoke about the tragic loss of their sweet Maria Sue and the struggles their family had gone through. I purchased her book "Choosing To See" at the conference and little did I know at the time, how God would use that book to change the Altman family... Forever. It was this book that Katie read and then felt called to take a short missions trip to Luoyang, China to show God's love to orphans. I think you know the rest of the story. Well I guess it isn't the rest of the story because our story is still being written
Women of Faith has been a blessing in my relationships. I've developed relationships that started by attending a conference with some women from my church. I don't think I would have gotten to know these women the way that I did if it wasn't for attending a conference together.
I can't say enough about the quality of the speakers I've heard over the years. I just love hearing Lucy speak and tell stories about her mother and daddy and her brothers. It has reminded me of the kind of legacy I want to leave for my children. Patsy Clairmont uses words the way an artist uses a pencil and paints. She has a way of saying something in a powerful way. Shelia's honesty and vulnerability is always refreshing. God has used her brokenness to encourage so many women who struggle with clinical depression. Marilyn Meberg has my sense of humor....it's a little quirky. I love the story about the Ajax sticker, and David better watch out for one of those stickers, you never know when it could appear (you had to be there). More than her humor, I love how Marilyn could end the conferences with an invitation to accept Christ as your Savior. Thelma Wells is a picture of strength. She allowed a difficult childhood and racial issues during her years as a young woman to mold her into the woman of faith she is today, when it could have done the opposite. Stories of God's mercy and grace from people like Sandy Patty, Tammy Trent, Carol Kent, and Jennifer Rothschild have been etched in my heart and I will not forget them. Then there is Mary Graham. You could not attend a conference and not feel welcome if Mary was there. I remember when Florida was having the string of hurricanes and life was stressful. We had left our home not knowing what would be left when we returned during one of the storms and when we came home and everything was well, there was a recorded telephone message from Mary Graham telling the people of Florida that Women of Faith was praying for us. I know it was a recorded message, but I felt like she was talking directly to me.
I feel sad and nostalgic as I write this blog, but just like with my children, God will continue to write a story of bigger and better things. I am looking forward to attending the Belong Tour with Patsy Clairmont and Jenn Hatmaker with my girlfriends and my daughter and daughter in law and I can't wait to make new memories with them!