Sunday, October 19, 2014
Last weekend I had the privilege to attend a women's conference about 45 minutes away from our house. I was beyond nervous to attend because I wasn't going to know anyone there. I had communicated briefly with one of the conference coordinators and she was so gracious and kind via our facebook messages, but I was still shaking inside as I walked in the door on Friday evening. I went up to the third row and sat down, alone. Behind me a sweet lady introduced herself. I couldn't even talk because I just wanted to cry I felt so out of place and alone. I said hello, and then turned back around trying not to cry. (I later found out that that sweet woman had lost her husband a few weeks ago and was deeply grieving. It made her reachout so much more special knowing her story. She continued to reach out to me throughout the two days and we had some great conversations.) Two seats down from me was a lady and her friend from work who looked over at me and asked if I was saving the seat next to me for someone, I said no, I'm not saving it for anyone. She said, "Do you go to this church?" "No ma'm." "You're here all by yourself?!" "Yes, I do not know anyone here." (then started the waterfall of tears lol) She pulled my stuff to the chair next to her, put her arm around me and said, "Honey, you're sitting with me and my friend tonight. You know us. And if you are back tomorrow, and I truly hope you will be, you'll sit with us again." And the next day, I sat with them, ate lunch with them, and made two new friends. God is so amazing!
The theme of the conference was "What's Your Story?" and the purpose was to uplift the name of Christ through the stories of His daughters. We all have a story (our life story) and no matter how crazy, exciting, or boring we think our story is, God has given us our unique story for a purpose: to bring glory to Him. The speakers each shared her life story and showed again and again how God had brought her through, and every single one of them directed the praise and glory to God. It was awesome. The conference was 1) to encourage women to share their stories, maybe not in a huge group setting, but when God pricks your heart and whispers, "Tell her your story..." that we would be willing to swallow our pride and reflect glory to Him no matter the setting, and 2) that we would recognize God in our story. Challenging and powerful....I really want to share with you, briefly, some of the things I learned and loved....
As far as the overall conference goes, O MY SOUL. I was inspired, encouraged, and uplifted in my walk with God. Other than God's orchestration of Tim and I meeting, this was one of the most "God-specifically-orchestrated-this-for-me" experience of my life. I had no doubt in my mind that God wanted me (little me, special and loved by God) to be there. The way all the pieces fell into place, I couldn't argue with Him about going. I knew I needed to, even if it meant going alone.
I am not alone. I witnessed testimony after testimony of God's work and grace in the lives of the speakers. Some had backgrounds that far surpassed anything I could even imagine because I've had such a "perfect" life, and others brought me to tears as women who had grown up in church and were pillars in their church were open and transparent and admitted for God's glory, that they struggled too. I've struggled a lot since being married of feeling like I'm the only one...the only believer who struggles to read the Bible and pray, the only wife who falls short daily, the only daughter who doesn't call often enough, the only church member who sometimes just doesn't feel like going, the only friend who stinks at keeping in touch, and the list goes on and on. I'm not. (insert deep sigh of relief!) I'm not alone in my struggles; God repeated this truth to me through these Godly women over and over and over again during these amazing two days. One amazing woman contemplated telling her story, and until she actually shared her story, her friends and co-speakers weren't sure she'd have the courage to do it. But by God's grace, she opened up and shared her story, and that connection was the biggest of many God moments I experienced that weekend. I am truly grateful that she took God's prompting and shared her story.
Pride has no place in a life that desires to bring God glory. I'm so tired of Christians who pretend like they are perfect. It's sickening, and it absolutely doesn't bring glory to God. It's hypocritical and prideful, and we need to stop it. Like, right now. And I'm as guilty as the next gal. When we put on this front at the house of God, or even just around believers, we lie to our brothers and sisters in Christ; we lie to ourselves; we lie to God. He has given us a story to be used for His purposes, not so that we can hide all the bumps in the road and pretend like we are perfect. Gag me. To see these Godly women get up, open their souls, and let us examine their struggles to see a lesson or God's hand, was powerful; I truly can't find the words to express how powerful this lesson was to me. I don't want to be a fake that has no impact for Christ. I'm not saying that we have to bear our souls to just anyone and everyone and allow them to use our struggles as ammunition against us, but I am saying that I just want to be real. No more games. No more pretending. We can't be helped, encouraged, or prayed for, when we refuse to acknowledge that we struggle, and we can certainly never help a sister in Christ if we refuse to get off of our high horse. (Not sure what that phrase even means, but you know what I'm trying to say, right!? lol)
Recognize God EVERYWHERE. Mia, one of the conference speakers and a way talented musician, repeatedly said "But God" throughout her sessions. I fell in love with that concise truth. We can all say this throughout our stories, no matter how "mild" our testimony. But God. I would be married to an unsaved, Godless man, But God. I wouldn't have the most incredible Godly husband who far surpasses any dreams or expectations I could have ever had, But God. I would have never attended Christian school and college and made lifelong, eternal friends who I call "The Family," But God. I wouldn't have grown up in an incredible Christian home with my awesome, loving parents, But God. I wouldn't have the job I have or the beautiful home Tim and I share, But God. I wouldn't have made it through difficult seasons, But God. Are you seeing a pattern here?! :) He directs it all. EVERYTHING we have, every experience, every blessing, every trial would end so differently if God didn't intervene in our lives, save us as His children, and guide our steps as we seek Him. How scary would our lives be without Him?
Christ connects us, and it's a beautiful piece of our story. I went into the conference scared and alone to be in a room full of "strangers." I left with many new friends. I left with hugs and tears and promises to get together again soon. Christ brings us together with strangers; He binds our hearts together with a common love. We may have totally different backgrounds, stories, etc., but He is always the same. I'm thankful that God has been teaching me this truth over the last two years or so. People can do things differently than we do, and they can still love Jesus! Crazy, right?! Someone might worship, serve, prayer, or study differently than we do, and that's not a problem as long as their ways don't disagree with the Bible! I'm thankful that God has been stretching me with this truth, because I have met and learned from women who I would never have encountered with my old, closed heart.
God moved in that auditorium, and it was awesome. I want to praise Him for giving me the courage to attend by myself. That may seem to silly to you all that know me, because I'm typically pretty outgoing, but this wasn't on my turf, or in my home, this was so uncomfortable and scary for me. I also want to praise Him for wrapping his arms around me and showing me that I have a story that's worth sharing, and the purpose of that story is to bring Him glory. I want to thank him for showing me that I'm not alone in this journey. There are other sisters in Christ on this journey with me! Throughout the last week, two phrases have echoed through my mind, again and again....
I am not alone.
I hope these truths wrap themselves around your heart and encourage you to persevere.
Please check out these two music videos:
Mosaic - Women's Conference 2014 A beautiful video of pictures from the conference featuring Mathew West's "This is the Story of Your Life." (theme song of the conference)
You Are Not Alone - Mia Koehne If you aren't crying by the end of this video, you need to replay. :) Mia has such an incredible testimony and life story. Her joy is contagious!