Thursday, September 15, 2011
I booked my hotel, invited a friend, and geared up for an uplifting girls' weekend. Then things started to unravel. My friend had to back out. So I cancelled the hotel and decided it was safest to attend only the Friday day sessions alone. I was a little bummed, but still anticipated whatever God had in store.
I pulled into the parking lot and entered the Wells Fargo Center. Worship had started, but I took the next few minutes to browse the book tables and use the restroom. Back on the concourse, I nearly jumped when I ran into my friend Diane. Now I had someone to sit with! (The Friday day portion was general seating.)
I settled in with Diane and company, excited to hear Sheila Walsh, one of my all-time favorite speakers. I credit Sheila's book Honestly (on her experience with mental illness) as the catalyst for seeking counseling for my own struggles. Whenever Sheila teaches insights on God's truth, it feels like hugs shared over tea and crumpets around her kitchen table. She talked about how unanswered prayers mean God has a bigger miracle in store than the one we've asked for. She reminded us of God's promises and the bleeding woman Jesus instructed to "go in peace." This challenged me on the lack of peace during our hurried mornings to get to the bus stop.
Soon Dr. Henry Cloud took the stage. He had a warm delivery and a great message as well. His first session focused on happiness. Research shows that happy people are givers (with joy and boundaries); are connected; and have "stretch" goals (that push us out of our comfort zone.) He believes this mainstream research points to things God outlines for us in His word. Too often we hear 3-point sermons: God's good. You're bad. Try harder. But Scripture tells us that Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He wants to heal us. And He wants us to imagine.
In his afternoon session, Dr. Cloud focused on necessary endings. This was hard (he warned us it would be,) but it was exactly what I needed to hear. Ecclesiastes talks about beginnings and endings. Even good things have seasons. Sometimes God calls us out of something (like a job, church, and friendships in my case) to something new. Dr. Cloud challenged us to consider what needs to end in our lives (isolation? an impossible-to-please person or church? temporary satisfactions that can never fulfill?) Refusing to look to those things or even ourselves - and having a real connection with God - will give us a life greater than we ever imagined.
Another bonus of my beautiful mess was making new friends with ladies from Diane's church. We talked about caring for aging parents, caring for our children, and the unique callings God has for our lives.
In the end, spending time with an old friend, making new friends, and hearing good, applicable teaching made my Women of Faith experience greater than I ever imagined, too. I would take God's beautiful mess over my best laid plans any day!
Women of Faith is a faith-based women's organization encouraging women of all ages and stages in life to grow in faith and spiritual maturity through a relationship with Jesus Christ and an understanding of God’s love and grace. For more information, visit womenoffaith.com.
Disclaimer: BookSneeze / Women of Faith provided two free tickets in exchange for my social media coverage and promotion of this event, although the views expressed are strictly my own.