I am just coming off one of the best weekends of my life.
Where to start! At the beginning is always the best, so I'll just take you through my weekend. There is so much I want to tell you, but I'll give an overview for now so I don't overload you with a huge post.
Thursday afternoon, I picked up my sweet friend Jen to head off to Rochester NY. We left about 1:20pm and hit the border about a hour later. I felt such pride at handing over my spanking new passport. We made it to our hotel with no trouble, checked in and touched base with our husbands to let them know we arrived safely.
We headed out to locate the arena and the closest parking lot to it, then enjoyed dinner at Perkins, followed by visits to Target and Walmart. We were back in our hotel and in bed by about 11pm.
I woke up so excited on Friday morning I could barely stand it. We ate breakfast then drove over to the arena about a half hour before the doors opened. The energy in the Blue Cross Arena was off the charts! I could hardly sit still.
We heard from Sheila Walsh and Dr. Henry Cloud first. So many great takeaways from both speakers. I was taking as many notes as I could while trying to stay present in each moment. I was tweeting pics while they spoke and eventually had to stop because I was so caught up in what I was hearing.
When Sheila spoke, it was like she was speaking right into my heart. She encouraged us to live intentionally, to thank God while we're in the storm, not just once it's passed and for getting us through it. One of the many things she said that struck me was "You are not a victim. You are a daughter of the King! And that will never change." Wow!
She closed by singing Amazing Grace and it was absolutely beautiful.
Dr. Henry Cloud is the author of Boundaries and he was fantastic. He talked about what makes us happy, and necessary endings. Those things are a blog post all on their own! He told us that in order for God to get us from where we are to the Promised Land, it's going to hurt a little. We have to let go of where we are in order to go to where we are intended to be. Lots on that.
At the lunch break I was able to meet Cassandra who I met through my blog and we sat together for the rest of the session. Fun! I've mentioned before how I suck at small talk and get all rambly, and poor Cassandra had to endure that! Sorry friend! We did get to see each other a couple more times during the weekend and stayed in touch through Twitter.
The session ended around 3:30ish and Jen and I went back to the hotel to relax for a short bit then went to Appleby's for dinner. Lots of great conversation and great food. We returned to the arena for the evening session at 7pm.
Ken Davis had us in stitches and in tears. Utter brilliance. He shared a prayer that his granddaughter once prayed over him. "Dear God, Don't let my grandpa be afraid. Help him to think about rainbows and bunnies. Don't let him forget about Jesus." So simple, so sweet. A simple prayer I am sure I will say in those moments when I am too broken to form deeper thoughts. Don't let me be afraid. Don't let me forget about Jesus. Lots of great worship mixed in as well.
Saturday morning couldn't come fast enough. It was a full day of incredible speakers: Sheila Walsh, Luci Swindoll, Lisa Harper, Angie Smith (can't wait to tell you about her) and Nicole Johnson. As well as beautiful worship by the Women of Faith worship team, Natalie Grant and Mary Mary.
One of the high points of Women of Faith was when Sheila was sharing a tender moment spent with her dying mother in law, who believed that if it was Sheila that was sick, God would have healed her. Sheila reminded her of the song that her mother in law had sung to her grandson just that morning - Jesus Loves Me. And she began to sing it, and everyone in the arena joined in to sing with her.
8,000 Christian sisters all singing Jesus Loves Me as one. Can you imagine how beautiful that sounded? I turned around to look all around me and was overwhelmed. It was incredible. Jesus was with us in that arena. I felt it in my bones.
I heard things this weekend that my mind already knew. But for the first time in a very long time - if ever - my heart heard them. I felt so safe in that arena. So connected to His church. I felt almost afraid to leave when it was over. To return to the real world. Yet, I'm also excited to share with others what I experienced this weekend and to share the change that I can feel happening to my heart.
After a quick stop at the scariest pharmacy ever (I half expected my van to be stripped or to get stabbed) we were on our way home to our sweet families, hearts and minds full of God's truths and His love.
I wish I could find words strong enough to drive this home to each of you that are reading this: at some time in your life - the sooner the better! - attend this conference. They travel all across the US so there must be a location near to you. Bring a friend with you. The ticket price and time away from your family is worth it. YOU are worth it. Prepare to be changed forever.
**I was provided two free tickets by BookSneeze in return for two blog posts on this event. Thank you, BookSneeze, from the bottom of my heart!