- 10,000 women
- incredible praise & worship music
- fabulous speakers
- phenomenal musical talent
- surprise guests
- tears, laughter, tender moments, pee your pants hilarity, thought-provoking questions, messages of hope, encouragement, and renewal
I'm no stranger to women's events, but it was immediately clear to me that this even was unlike the others. I was unable to quite put my finger on the difference until dramatist, Nicole Johnson was sharing her personal story. Speaking in regards to the "something beautiful" God makes from our broken pieces, she admitted that at a time when she was particularly struggling she "washed up on The Island of Misfit Toys that we know as Women of Faith." The ah-ha moment!!!! At other women's events I have attended, in all appearances everything was rehearsed, polished, and perfect. From the Women of Faith platform, musicians and speakers were both vulnerable and strong enough to share about clinical depression, divorce, abuse, childhood trauma, the baby blues, fear, the loss of a child, etc. Women of Faith was REAL! In being themselves, broken vessels... jars of clay being formed in the Potter's Hand... each woman (and one brave man) connected on a personal level with the thousands filling the arena.
One of the most impressive things to me was the "front porch." Oftentimes, at an event featuring multiple speakers/artists, those who aren't on stage are hiding in the wings doing their own thing. Instead, Women of Faith had a designated area at the base of the platform reserved for all those participating in the weekend. What a joy to see the others sitting on the sidelines worshipping with and rooting for their sisters! Adding to this incredible camaraderie, several of the speakers and artists featured at the Women of Faith - Over the Top events were in attendance to support the sisterhood that has formed. For an Island of Misfit Toys, Women of Faith is inviting, comfortable, and oh-so-sincere. I trusted that all the words spoken were bathed in prayer and from a place of conviction within the speaker's own heart. It was easy to be ushered into God's presence when the leadership so obviously dwells there daily.
I filled 2 programs with notes, so recounting all I gleaned from the weekend in a single blog post is virtually impossible. Instead, I will give you the highlights from each speaker. However, I know that my ever-growing TO-READ list has just gotten considerably longer as I've added titles from each of the speakers. I encourage you to do the same because I know you will be equally blessed.
"Peace is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of Christ."
"The Shepherd knows where to find you!"
"It's not your job to get yourself home - it's the Shepherd's!"
~I can still picture Sheila speaking with a worn, stuffed lamb in her hands. She shared some of her personal story of struggle, and it is clear that she knows the source of her strength. She was a bright light for Christ, and wow - can she sing!!! I had no idea. She is also extremely witty, humorous, and who doesn't love a Scottish accent?!
Dr. Henry Cloud
One of the few men brave enough to infiltrate the women's camp, Dr. Cloud shared some great truths from God's word. He spoke of happiness and reaching a place of SHALOM in our lives. He gave us the points of 1. Being a Giver, 2. Being Connected, and 3. Setting goals. Also, from an illustration about monkeys, he gave birth to a running joke the remainder of the weekend. Oh yes, 10,000 women turned to each other and said, "Baby, Be My Monkey!" You had to be there :-)
Lisa shared several stories including: a hilarious encounter with a seemingly "neck-ed man," the courteous and concerned bikers who stopped to check on her, the recovering addicts she mentors, and even her own father figure's conversion. It was evident that God has allowed Lisa the keen ability to see value and worth in the lives of all people. She shared a modern day account of the woman in John 8, and I know she had the women in the arena "all ears."
Frog in her throat and all, Luci was the voice urging ladies to live for others in Jesus name. She spoke of her involvement with World Vision as well as her relationship with a teenager who started a non-profit organization. In both cases, she has experienced the joy of giving generously and honors Christ in both her words and actions.
Using her theatrical talents, Nicole touched women's hearts identifying the many "HATS" a woman wears and the Invisible feeling that is often harbored inside. While each of the sketches touched me, I was most moved by her personal story. The broken pieces of stained glass represent so many things in Nicole's life, but I assure you that the Master Craftsman truly did piece together a stunning work of art. Nicole is a blessing to all who hear!
Admittedly, I have very few notes written down because I was absolutely spellbound by Angie Smith. Her quirky, comical personality and the sadness of her personal tragedy completely captivated me. Literally, I volleyed between side-splitting laughter and the ugly cry. Oh yeah... 10,000 women experiencing a bawl-fest, but oh the message of hope Angie gave to all. Even through the loss of her child, Angie was able to call to the Son of God - the One to Whom I Belong. Sweet Audrey Caroline most definitely had weight in this world and continues to do so as her short life is shared through her Momma's tears. Angie Smith is an absolute gem! She is endearing and a great communicator of God's love.
The dynamic duo was a single at Women of Faith. Only Erica Campbell was in attendance, yet she still performed her heart out. She did enough jumping around for two. I tweeted that I needed to get some Mary Mary on my iTunes. I could get my praise on and a workout :-) The most darling moment was created when Erica's 6-year-old daughter joined her on stage to sing Elmo's, "SING!" Oh my... not only could the little girl sing, but the moment was so tender and special. All the Momma hearts were warm and fuzzy and longing to cradle our little ones.
One of my all-time faves anyway - I was beyond thrilled to hear her in concert. She sang some hits including "Held" which also has a special meaning to me. This time though, the song became a timely tribute to those who lost their lives at the Indiana State Fair earlier in the week. It definitely provided some healing for those affected by this tragedy. The most profound moment was at the close of her time. Natalie sang an absolutely stunning a capella arrangement of "It Is Well." The old hymn's beautiful words rang loud and true as Natalie truly poured herself out as an offering on that stage. The entire room was on their feet... it was a preview of the angels voices in heaven no doubt. I still get goosebumps every time I think about it. WOW - God has truly gifted Natalie Grant, and she is definitely pointing others to the ultimate gift-giver! The Father of Lights!