This past weekend was Women of Faith Charlotte! This was truly a fantastic event.
If you've never attended a large women's conference, this is definitely the one to start with. All of the speakers and musicians were very professional and yet very authentic. You didn't leave with the impression that they didn't have issues or were somehow better than you; in fact, we left with a very good idea of what all of their issues are - but we also learned about how they deal with them Biblically.
Throughout this two day event, I laughed, I cried, and sometimes I laughed until I cried.
This year's theme is "Imagine." Here's how it went:
Sheila Walsh was up first, and she's brilliant. Her story is amazing and I love the way that she teaches from the Bible. She also had us all in stitches from her second sentence, and we pretty much stayed there for the rest of her sessions, despite the depth of her information.
Let me make one thing very clear, however: I would be happy to pay the WoF fee just to sit and listen to Sheila speak for two days. Her accent is amazing, her jokes are funny, and if she were the sum total of the conference, it would all be worth it.
That there's more is just icing on the cake.
Each guest left me with at least a few nuggets. Dr. Henry Cloud left me with many. I loved the format of the first day as Dr. Cloud and Sheila Walsh alternated speaking. They complemented each other well and provided great information.
The nugget I left this final session with, however, I think needs to be made into a t-shirt. Dr. Cloud told us about how humans are made for connection, both with God and with each other. How this type of close, trusting relationship lowers our stress levels, improves our overall emotional health, and is just a great thing. He told us about a study done with monkeys that proves this scientifically, and then asked us: "Who's your monkey?" I'm happy to report that I have several close monkeys whom I can call on in good times and bad - and I'm adding this new catchphrase to my everyday vocabulary.
The worship team had amazing voices and reminded me of Point of Grace. Through both familiar and unfamiliar songs, they opened each session and got me ready to worship and to learn.
After a break for dinner, Ken Davis reminded us that God is the author of joy. He inspired quite a lot of it with his stories that night - this man is funny!
Natalie Grant closed the evening with a concert. She sang "It Is Well With My Soul" a cappella as her final song, and her sweet voice just did wonders to those lyrics. I'll never hear it the same way again.
The entire Women of Faith team took the stage to end the evening. Seeing everyone together and dancing ended the night on a high note - and hearing 7000 female voices raised in song was inspiring!
The format of Day Two was more like the other conferences I've attended. Each speaker took turns sharing. Lisa Harper gave her testimony and somehow kept me laughing, all at the same time. She has a new book out called Stumbling into Grace, and I'll definitely be looking this one up.
Nicole Johnson did a few skits during the course of the event, and she also spoke about anger and how women typically deal with it. This was probably the most serious and heavy session of the entire conference. I could relate to much of her information.
Karen Kingsbury was the only speaker whom I had heard before coming to this conference. I fully expected to hear a repeat of what I'd heard before - after all, she's a busy lady - and while some of the information was the same, many of the illustrating stories were different.
Several of the authors and musicians did meet and greets and signed their work, and I tried several times to make it into Karen's line, but no matter how early I went, the line was always closed. This is my only regret from the conference - I would have loved to have met her!
Luci Swindoll was up next. Sharing a bit from her colorful life as well as the Gospel message, I loved Luci's outlook on life. If nobody tells you not to, do it! Think outside the box! Dream big! What a great philosophy - and a great way to try new things and put yourself out there creatively.
Mary Mary gave a concert on Saturday afternoon. Being unfamiliar with much of their music, this was a great introduction. They were high energy and funny and told great truths through their music.
Even the ceiling was pretty.
All in all, I was sad to leave the Women of Faith arena. Encouraged, inspired, and excited for more, my monkey and I headed home, already making plans for 2012.
Do you live within driving distance of Charlotte, NC? Women of Faith will be making a stop there on October 19-20, 2012, and tickets are on sale now! They're also stopping in Greensboro, NC, for a single-day event in March. All the details can be found at the Women of Faith website.
The thoughts and views expressed here are solely my own, but I was given a pair of tickets from Thomas Nelson in exchange for sharing my experience. Thanks, Thomas Nelson - I'll be back!
Have you been to a Women of Faith conference? How was your experience?