Have you ever not known that you needed something until after you’ve gotten it? I mean one of those things that you never had before but after you had gotten it (or the experience of it) you wonder how you had lived without for so long? I was like that with my baby carrier after our second was born and it was given to me. This past weekend was such an experience for me also.
You see, I got to go to the Women of Faith, Over the Top conference in Kansas City. Until last weekend, I had never gotten to go to a conference or women’s event like that. The events that the church ladies were going to would conflict with things like well, due dates for our children, be utterly and prohibitively expensive or be on topics that have no real bearing on my life. Plus add in the added fun of juggling childcare….This last weekend was one that I didn’t know I needed.
I was rather apprehensive about going as the time crept closer for me to leave. Having never gone to something like this, I had no idea what to expect. Was there going to be liberal theology taught? How feminist was it going to be? I’m sure most of my readers have figured out by now that I am not liberal in the least and feminism is something that I won’t support or tolerate. I was worried about how high up in the Sprint Center my seats were (you see, I have had this “little” issue with heights for a long time….And by little, I mean I was escorted down from our seats in the Georgia Dome when I was in high school when our band got to go to the Peach Bowl. The seats were so high you were looking down on the jumbotrons and I hyperventilated until I about blacked out) I also am not a fan of driving in Kansas City. I get lost on the freeway up there….And what in the world was I supposed to wear? In fact, I was so apprehensive over the whole weekend that I seriously considered not going. The what ifs were starting to creep in and whisper to the fear growing inside to the point I wanted to just stay home and care for my family like a dutiful wife should (at least, I was raised that way. The wife/mom never leaves her family for any reason as it would be irresponsible to do so).
My husband heard my main complaints, told me I was worrying over nothing and to go, have a good time and to let myself be open to the whole experience and that I had earned a break. He’s good at giving me advice like that. In fact, he’s normally right.
I had the most amazing time at the conference. And for me to admit something like that means it was good. I don’t as a general rule enjoy large gatherings. In fact, I’ve been known to leave the grocery store if it was too busy. And this was a large gathering. Like 6000 women of all ages and stages of life in one arena.
My sister-in-law and I got into Kansas City on Thursday night. That was a chore itself. We got lost not once, but twice on the way to the hotel…And then we had issues with check in. After we got that halfway resolved and in our room we went out on the hunt for some supper. We ended up at a popular fast food hamburger place and got our food to go as it was becoming dark and we really didn’t want to be out too much in an unfamiliar city after the sun went down. We get back to the hotel, we eat our supper and it is shaping up to be a nice relaxing evening. Until I started feeling kind of sick….It was about an hour and a half after we had eaten…Same symptoms as the food poisoning HubbaHubba and I had back when we had the issues with our car the week and a half before Women of Faith…I so was now wishing to just crawl in a hole and cry. At least the bathroom in the hotel had some pretty tiles to look at.
We got up on time to leave Friday morning and my innards were still feeling a bit like they were going through the wringer. I didn’t have any Immodium or Pepto on me, not like I can normally tolerate them anyway. I’m one of those people where I would rather suffer with the issue than deal with worse side effects that I normally get. I was scared to eat anything in case I had to make a mad dash to what was for sure an over-crowded rest room. So I skipped breakfast. Yeah, that was brilliant, I know. However, I thankfully never had to dash to the rest room at all on Friday. But man, was I starving at lunch.
The event kicked off on Friday morning. At that time the seating was general admission, so after my Sister-in-Law and I made it through the metal detectors and had our purses inspected for contraband (no outside food or drinks or weapons) we found some friends of ours and sat with them in their group from church.
Patsy Clairmont and Andy Andrews were our main speakers for the day after we all joined together in praise and worship of our Savior. They are both wonderful speakers and if you have the opportunity to see either of them, I highly recommend it. They both have a gift to tell stories that get you laughing while still delivering truth. They both conveyed the importance of listening for God to direct you, but to not sit and wait for Him to move when you should be moving yourself. I think the best quote of the day was from Andy Andrews; “God feeds the birds, but he doesn’t throw the worms into their nests.” So true. God does feed the birds, but He expects them to do their part. You can’t beg God to change you if you aren’t willing to work on it the way He tells you to (I speak from personal experience on that one).
During the lunch break, I got to meet up with a friend of mine from high school back in small farming community Illinois. I hadn’t seen anyone since graduating from my class so it was nice to her and her sweet baby boy (which I got to hold. Nothing like teeny snuggles). I also saw some people from town here that came with their church. And at the end as we were leaving I saw a few ladies from the church we attend. My church didn’t coordinate a group to go and we had no idea we were all going. It was interesting seeing friends from back in high school, and every stage of life since then.
After supper on Friday evening, we had our assigned seating. I was stunned to realize that my tickets were for the floor. And they were only eight rows back. Nearly within spitting distance of the Front Porch (a floor stage extension where those on the docket to speak sit while waiting to take the stage so they can benefit from the other speakers). Don’t worry, I can’t spit to save my life so none of the speakers were in danger from me.
At Over the Top, the speakers were Andy Andrews, Patsy Clairmont (who was getting over a severe case of laryngitis). Sandi Patty, Brenda Warner, Lisa Whelchel and we were supposed to have had Marilyn Meberg speak also. Unfortunately, Marilyn ended up confined to her home due to a nasty virus that has been making the rounds rendering flight impractical for her. Mandisa was also there to sing and share. And the newly engaged Deborah Joy Winans provided drama (she publically announced her engagement on Friday evening at Over the Top. It was a joy to be able to share with her in her excitement. And seeing all the speakers gather around here and gush was sweet too).
Each of the speakers shared from their hearts. They are all ladies I would love to have as my next door neighbors (hey, there are three houses for sale on my block if anyone is interested….). They told about how God has guided them through the tougher times in life and has brought them through to be better. The ladies (and gent) were all real. They shared their flaws and showed that they too are human. I think at times we see these people (and people like them) and we put them on pedestals that we have no right to erect and place them on. Everyone, no matter how famous they are is a flawed human being, no exceptions. I also could see how each of the ladies there to speak were friends with each other and you could tell that they cared about each other deeply. It was so refreshing to see them supporting each other and helping each other (and hearing the stories of pranks pulled on each other). Sandi Patty had some of her children there (turns out, Anna Trent, our emcee for the weekend is her daughter, another daughter was working with the book tables and three of her sons were there also). And we also got to sing Happy Birthday to Brenda Warner’s mother-in-law.
I was very impressed with how the Women of Faith team handled the surprise that Marilyn Meberg wasn’t able to arrive as scheduled. There was no feeling of panic from anyone from the team and I thought they exuded a calm assurance that God had something worked out, they just needed to find the answer. The answer came in the form of Amy Grant. She was traveling on down to Wichita from Iowa on tour and was able to make a quick stop to be the “after lunch entertainment” for Saturday (she has also spoken with Women of Faith). It caused a change in scheduling, however things still ran smoothly. I know from the production standpoint, arranging the logistics of everything wasn’t easy. However, they made it look easy.
I was also impressed with the system they had to pass out lunch both days. It worked beautifully and lunch was tasty (a sandwich with meat, a piece of fruit, chips and something sweet both days with a small bottle of water). I also liked the fact that any extra lunches were donated to the local Rescue Mission.
The concourse had tables set up so you could look at books from the speakers and hopefully buy some. The bibliophile that I am had a hard time staying away from those tables. Someday I will have a book budget again. And what a glorious day that will be. (I’ve learned that it is better for me to not look at all when I can’t afford something than to look and be disappointed that I can’t get it. Besides, if I am supposed to have something like some books I do want, it will come at the right time and probably in a way I would never expect. I speak from experience on that too)
I am not an emotional person. I don’t cry easily, I don’t put stock into feelings. I don’t get carried away with events and being moved in that regard. However, I can say with certainty that God was there. During the worship times, I felt shivers and just the presence of our King. A feeling I’ve had three other times like that. It was amazing to be singing praise to our Lord with women who were nearly three times my age, to even junior high girls there. It was powerful and I have never seen anything like it.
None of the speakers espoused anything liberal or feministic. For which I am grateful. Each person from the worship leaders, the emcee and speakers did a great job keeping away from doctrines and dogmas and just spoke Biblical truths. I so appreciated that. It is so rare to be able to band together with believers across so many different denominational backgrounds and be able to be one body. The way the church was meant to be.
Aesthetically I loved the décor. It wasn’t overpowering, too fluffy and frou frou. The stage was circular and plexiglass. I loved how the walls under it were equipped to change colors with the lighting for the scrim. And I loved the scrim being used as curtains over the line array speakers. The amount of televisions surrounding the stage was just right for those of us sitting on the floor to see the words to the songs and the faces of the speakers when they were facing the other areas of the arena. The tech crew did a great job (my techie husband has trained me well, as you can see).
I also have to applaud the sign interpreters. They did an excellent job conveying the message during the general admission portion when I was seated where I could see them. They did a phenomenal job showing the beat of the music while interpreting the meaning of the songs. (that was former deaf ministry major Crissyanna there. I notice things like that).
Over the Top was way beyond anything I had hoped it would be (at the risk of the pun, it was an Over the Top experience. Wow, that’s out. I had been fighting against using it all this time). Having never gone to a women’s conference before, I never realized how incredible they can be. I was edified, challenged and moved beyond words. I loved the camaraderie between us all. I want that kind of relationship daily in my own life. As I was driving back home, I had quite a bit of time to think in the quiet of the car and it struck me that as a culture, we don’t band together much anymore. Sure, people swarmed Joplin after the tornado, and we are grateful for everyone who came to help us. But in our everyday lives, we are so isolated. We don’t get together to can food, work on quilts or help out with planting gardens the way people would help out in generations past (and in some cultures still today). I grew up in the rise of the Internet and then social media and we are all so disconnected from each other nowadays. We aren’t made for isolation. Isolation gives the enemy an easier foothold (yeah, I know about that one too, we get caught in the trap that we’re all alone and no one cares and nothing matters and life goes downhill fast.). I know the best times in my life I had a close friend or two to share and live life with. It struck me that I miss that more than I realized.
My only real complaint over the whole conference was the fact that they did push a Visa card with the Women of Faith logo (they never asked anyone to apply from the stage during the conference, however, some people were out asking for you to apply on the concourse and a full page advertisement for it was in the program). I do not like credit cards. We are warned repeatedly about the use of money we don’t have in the Bible. While I do understand that in this society, you almost have to have a plastic card to use a hotel, purchase anything online and such, I don’t think that Christian organizations should be putting their logos on them. I think that it could be seen as a stamp of approval of the credit industry and the use of money which you don’t have (which I am sure isn’t what was necessarily intended and I will say that I do believe that credit cards can and should be used responsibly. I just don’t think it is the place of anyone to put their logo on one and ask for people to apply for it to get a free gift.).
I came back from Over the Top refreshed and energized. I am so glad I went. And glad for my husband’s wise words for me before I left. I hope I get to go to go next year. And have a book budget.
I was given two tickets to Women of Faith, Over the Top held in Kansas City, Missouri as a part of the Booksneeze program in exchange for a blog post before the conference and review of the conference after (and tweeting during it). All opinions are mine and mine alone, and no other compensation was received..