On October 10th and 11th I attended the Women of Faith conference at the Amway Arena in Downtown Orlando. This was the first time I had ever attended a large, Christian conference like this and I was excited. I went with friends from my former church, Calvary Assembly of God. We sat together and carpooled both days. It was so much fun!
The theme of the conference this year was: From Surviving to Thriving
Here’s a picture I took inside the arena Friday night. This place is huge and we were up high!
I got to sit next to my dear friend and mentor Toni all weekend long. She is lovely in every way and has such an amazing testimony.
The conference opened with comedienne Anita Renfro who told us a hilarious story of going to the doctor, being confronted with a BMI chart which caused her to have an outbreak of the disease fibromyalgebra. Finally, the doctor deciphered the chart for her only to find out her diagnosis: she’s not tall enough. She went on to share that she remedied this problem by regularly wearing high-heeled shoes.
Following Anita was Lysa TerKeurst, founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries. Lysa spoke on “One Wise Woman” from II Samuel 20. She was very honest and humble about her testimony which includes an abortion a long time ago. She spoke on motherhood and their adoption of two teenage boys from Africa. I enjoyed her teaching very much and only wished she had been allowed to speak longer. Over the weekend, I noticed that the schedule only allowed for roughly 30 minutes of teaching per session.
Friday night ended with a mini-concert by Natalie Grant. I own some of Natalie’s music, but I must say hearing her live gave me new admiration for her talent. She was truly phenomenal and the best performer all weekend. She sang a new song called “Burn Bright” and she shared the real-life heartbreak behind the song: her young nephew in bondage to drug addiction, forsaking his family and his future for life on the streets. I was in tears. I know the pain of watching someone you love choose darkness over light.
Eight thousand ladies leaving an arena and parking garage causes quite a traffic jam, but my little carpool was busy talking about the great evening. I got home after 11pm and tried to settle down right away since we had an early start on Saturday morning.
Patsy Clairmont took the stage bright and early Saturday morning. She bounced all over the stage with energy and humor. Her opening line into her microphone was, “What are you going to do with your one precious and wild life?” She wove humor and truth together so well, it was as if I was laughing and getting knocked upside the head simultaneously. She talked about fear and how fear has friends. If you let one fear linger too long, he’ll invite his friends over. She talked about obeying God and living for Him and how for her that started by getting out of bed…literally…and then making her bed…so she couldn’t just crawl right back into it. She reminded us that when something gets ripe, it starts to rot: so always learn & grow. She concluded the exact way she started by challenging us to consider: What are you going to do with your one precious and wild life?
Sheila Walsh spoke next and although I don’t know her that well, I have a soft spot in my heart for her. She shared how as a little girl growing up in Scotland, she liked to walk the beach especially after a big storm because the wind and waves would often toss treasures from the sea up on to the shore. She used this as an analogy for how the storms of life can bring up to the surface things we didn’t know were buried within us or we thought we were over. She shared her testimony of an emotional breakdown and struggle with depression. Her victory has comes through learning and believing who she is in Christ Jesus. My notes include these quotes: “Forgiveness is God’s gift to us to enable us to live in a world that isn’t fair. The enemy has nothing in his arsenal to combat forgiveness.” “Guilt tells you you’ve done something. Shame tells you you are something.”
Next up was 48-year-old powerhouse Pentecostal preacher Christine Caine. She shared her testimony of finding out at age 33 that she had been abandoned and unwanted as an infant and that the parents who raised her were actually her adoptive parents. She encouraged us to latch on to the truth that we ARE Christ’s workmanship, created for good works (Ephesians 2:10). She shared a testimony of past abuse and offered this definition of abuse (which I found enlightening): to use something or someone for a purpose other than what it was designed for. She encouraged us that Christ shines beautifully thru our brokenness – and our brokenness is a bridge to people way more than fake success ever could be. She challenged us to realize that the work of Christ is fully complete. There’s no waiting. “Ladies, there will be no altered tomorrow to step into if you don’t do something today!”
After lunch and a mini-concert by Matthew West, the conference concluded with one final message from speaker Lisa Harper. For the last year, I’ve been following on social media Lisa’s journey to adopt 5-year-old Missy from Haiti. Lisa had a wonderful slide show of pictures and Instagram videos to show us…but the real treat was when Missy came out on stage. Lisa is 51 years old, never been married and now a new Mama. The amazing grace and adventure of God. After Missy left the stage, Lisa got right into her message out of Revelation 2:4. She challenged us to realize that all of the wonderful messages and truths we’ve heard this weekend will fall flat in time if we do not keep God as our first love. Our revival will be short-lived and we’ll be right back in survival mode if Christ is not given proper place in our hearts and lives. She shared a story of watching Missy play on a swingset at a park and Missy encountered a mean child. At first Lisa just observed the situation, but when the bullying reached an unacceptable level, Lisa intervened. She went in like a bull in a china shop to protect and defend her little girl. Later, she said The Lord nudged her, “I wish you’d fight that hard for me.” She closed by telling us that “Passivity is not an option. God wired us to fight.”
One particular highlight of the weekend was on a restroom break, Toni and I ran into Sarah Wehrli and Jenny Kutz, my pastor and a girlfriend from my new church. For me, it was like two worlds colliding: Toni from my Calvary season and now people from my new season…it was such a neat few minutes talking about the conference and the goodness of The Lord. The Holy Spirit even imparted a word thru Toni for Sarah. It was a sweet, divine appointment.
As I conclude this post, I pray I will remember and apply all that I learned and daily walk as the Woman of Faith God has equipped me (and you!) to be!