I don’t even know where to begin. This weekend has just been SO full of Christ. I actually wanted to write yesterday, but I was so exhausted I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. But I’m doing it now! So there is that. Anyway, I have so much to tell you guys about this weekend, and I’m sorry if it turns out to be rather lengthy, but there’s been so much packed into these two or three days, you just would not believe. I’ll start with Friday…
Friday was AMAZING. I went to the Extraordinary Women’s Conference in Pensacola, Florida with some really lovely ladies from my church. I think there were 15 of us in all. I was a little wary about it at first because I don’t know anyone really well and I certainly hadn’t even met any except one of these girls I went with. We carpooled up the the civic center around 4:30pm. I rode with two lovely ladies, Jill and Lisa. They are both really sweet and I really enjoyed riding with them. We met the other ladies up there around 5 and I was a little overwhelmed. I have a bit of social anxiety, but it was awesome and God just took that away from me. I met a few of the other girls who were juniors or seniors in high school and they were really awesome and I immediately felt comfortable among this group of women…which was really something because I am rather self-conscious and I can’t help but kind of withdraw around people I don’t know, but God just pushed me out of my comfort zone, and made me comfortable there…funny thing.
Well, we get our seats (it was first come first serve, so it was a little crazy) and I ended up in a row by myself feeling very alone and forlorn. I thought back to my prayer that God would move someone to reach out to me and one of the girls two rows up got my attention and asked if I wanted to sit between her and Lisa. I said “Yes!” of course. I felt right in my element, even amidst these women I barely knew and the 4000 other women there, but that was okay, because we all were there for one reason: to celebrate and praise our Holy Father, Jesus Christ. Michael O’Brien was the first on-stage with his band. He has a wonderful singing voice and he really is very funny. Great guy. We opened the evening with worship and it was truly wonderful. It was beautiful and the Spirit of God was strong in that arena. It really moved my heart. There is nothing like singing worship with 4000 other women; literally, there is absolutely NOTHING like it. I loved it. I can’t wait until I can do it again.
After we finished worship, we sat and Chonda Pierce made her way up onto the stage. If you don’t know who she is (I didn’t at the time), she is a Christian comedian. She shared her testimony through stand-up comedy. It was hilarious and heart-breaking. She really has a way with words. It was especially funny because there was a man (with his wife) in the very front row in front of the stage and she spotted him and just picked on him all night. It was so funny. She is a wonderful, sassy little lady. I wish I could have met her. She spoke about her marriage mostly and her husband and the troubles they went through throughout the years.
After Chonda, we closed the night with a Jeremy Camp concert. Talk about terrific. Amazing. Wholly other. It was so so so great. I had never seen JC in person until Friday and he is just an absolutely wonderful man of God. We sang and praised and danced and worshiped and it was so wonderful. It is a night I will not forget any time soon.
Saturday Michael O’Brien opened us in worship again. He has a knack for integrating comedy with music. Funny guy. Great music. It’s almost even better than the previous day because by then I felt right at home in that huge stadium among these wonderful women. I cannot for the life of me remember what order these women spoke in (even though it was just yesterday!), so forgive me, but there was so much content and information I took in I might get things a little jumbled.
Anyway, here we go. The most notable speakers I remember were Kasey Van Norman, Margaret Feinberg, and Mrs. Kay Robertson (YES, from Duck Dynasty). One thing all of these women had in common were heart-breaking testimonies. Kasey spilled her life out on the stage and my heart hurt so badly for her. She so wanted to please God in her early years that she got caught up in trying to earn his grace by doing the things of Christ (Sunday school and sermon, Wednesday night church, ministry, following rules, etc). When she was young she was brutally raped. This event caused her to immediately turn from God. She did not believe God loved her if he would let this happen to her. She turned to drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, and other things out of spite, trying to fill the hole this trauma left in her heart. She got to a point so low in her life that she had noone else to turn to…except Jesus. From there she began to rebuild and recommit. She healed from this tragedy, got married, had two beautiful children, and then she began to stray. She became unhappy in her marriage and ended up in an affair that lasted 3 years. After the people in her community and her husband found out about the affair, she was crushed. Rejected. Alienated. She said these were some of the darkest times in her life and when things got to the point where she couldn’t handle it anymore, she tried to take her own life. She was unsuccessful. In the six months following God worked wonders in her life, healing her heart and mending her marriage. A few years later she was rushed to the hospital after an ovarian cyst rupture, and they ended up finding that she had incurable Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. They gave her five year to live (this was 2011). She received 4 chemo treatments before she decided to stop. She is still living with this deadly cancer. She knows each day could be her last, so she lives as if it might be. She loves the Lord and has come back from the trauma this world afflicted upon her. She doesn’t blame God. She addressed the fact that God is really in control. She said that we have to believe it. He is in control of everything; the good AND the bad. He was in control when she was an innocent child, and he was in control when she was raped. It is hard to fathom; why would he let that happen, if he was in control? It is a difficult question. She said simply… until we are broken down so far to the point where we have noone and nothing left to hold onto, we cannot experience the true redemption and healing of Christ. It’s a hard pill to swallow. A lot of people won’t like it. I am having trouble wrapping my mind around it…but I do believe there is truth in what she says. She also said this: “There IS a design in your distress; it is to know him and love him more.”
The next extraordinary woman speaking was a lady named Margaret Feinberg. She is just a spunky little woman with a big heart and her eyes on God. She was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, but that hasn’t slowed her down any. She said it herself; “I’m as feisty as ever!!” She was a breath of fresh air. She spoke to us about the unbelievers in our life. You can’t really talk to them about God or they just lock down and shut you out. And she says that’s okay. We just have to be patient and witness by doing instead of saying. By showing them the love of Christ. She had some friends who were unbelievers. They had just lost their mother and were going through a particularly trying time. She got the notion to pick up a large pack of toilet paper and take it to their house one day. No spoken need; no request. God just moved in her heart and she obeyed. She knocked on the door and the entire family was there gathered in the living room. They were confused by the gift, but told her to place it in the bathroom. They asked her why she brought it, she said that she felt like she should. She stayed for a while to visit then went back home. The next day her friend got a hold of her and asked her, “How did you know we needed toilet paper? How did you know we only had 2 rolls left and we had 10 people in the house?” The same week they brought something else they felt they should bring, to find that it was just what the family had been needing. Her friend came to know Christ through that. Really, guys, it’s the little things. Don’t just talk about God’s love. Don’t just say “Jesus loves you.” SHOW IT. DO LOVE. It is so much more tangible.
At this point, an orphan choir from Compassion International performed on stage (they were from India and Ecuador I believe) and it was wonderful. I had prayed for the Lord to break my heart for the least of these, and I thought I’d experienced that true heartbreak before….I hadn’t. The moment these children began to sing and dance, praising and worshiping God, I was overcome by this INTENSE hurt. My heart literally felt like it was breaking in my chest. I cried and it took everything I had not to burst out sobbing. The performance was amazing and wonderful and these children were so full of this intense JOY, and here I was threatening to collapse in sobs. I am not over-exaggerating. I am not being a drama-queen. God broke my heart. The feeling became even more intense when one of the little boys on stage stood there, spread his arms out wide and invited us to join them in worship. I almost lost it. And as soon as it came, it began to lighten. And I am so thankful for that experience, for that heartbreak. If anything, it was a confirmation for where I long to be: on the field with orphans. And if it weren’t for that heartbreak, I wouldn’t have done what happened next. Women were passing out random child sponsorship packets. You didn’t know who you were getting. Now, Compassion works in 24 or 25 different countries, in four different continents. I tried to keep my hand down. In that moment I told the Lord, “God, I already sponsor one child in Zambia. I can only afford one. I really can’t…” Almost as if the Holy Spirit took control of my arm (I certainly didn’t feel like I had much control of it) my arm shot straight in the air and I was handed a packet. A little boy named Felix was pictured on the front. “Felix is from Burkina Faso.” This probably wouldn’t mean anything at all to you, and for just a few minutes it didn’t mean anything to me either. I was actually going to place give his packet back; a college student with no income paying around $80/month on these kids wasn’t really the plan I had after all. But then something suddenly clicked in my head. Something I really couldn’t believe I remembered. Two or so weeks ago, maybe three, I took a silly facebook quiz that told me my perfect place to live; I got Burkina Faso. When this clicked in my brain, I was floored. I shared this information with my mother, and then my friend Jill. My previous thoughts were gone. This was my kid. My little boy. I was going to sponsor him. And I’ll tell you something else, I was on Twitter this morning and I follow Compassion on there…and what do I see not even four tweets down but a picture of a couple of boys with a link and the tweet said, “See photos taken by a sponsor child in Burkina Faso.” Isn’t that uncanny? I felt like God was hitting me over the head with this place. Burkina Faso. I want to go. I will go. I will go there and meet Felix. I want to go this year. I will be on the World Race next year, Lord willing…that’s eleven months… I will be in Zambia for a month, but it is in southeast Africa…Burkina Faso is in northwest Africa…there is no way I’d be able to make it over there. Hopefully I can figure something out for this year though….I would absolutely love to go. I have a feeling that may be where God wants me.
Okay, I will get back on track. One of the last speakers was Mrs. Kay. She is a wonderful lady who went through many more trials and hardships than I ever would have expected. She gave us her testimony, revealing years of hurt and pain within her marriage. We learned about her journey with Jesus and about the state of her heart and her spiritual faith. She is an amazing woman who has been through so much…I really wanted to just give her a hug. I wanted to give all of these women a great, big hug and tell them I love them. Never in my life would I have thought, “Yeah, I’m gonna go to this conference and God is gonna break and change my heart and give me more responsibility and convict me and love me.” I almost didn’t go to this thing because it involved me actually being around people I don’t know. But I am so glad I went. Possibly one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.
Anyway, funny thing about the sponsorship; now I sponsor two kids. I cancelled my WoW subscription in order to sponsor Sandy each month, and just last week sometime I decided I was going to get rid of my smartphone plan to save about $50 each month. Stock it away, do something with it, I don’t know. I was just tired of paying so much for a phone. I was going to grab a cheapo dumb phone to keep rollover minutes on for use in case of emergency though, which would have been about 12-15 bucks a month, bringing my savings down to about $35/mo tops. I guess God laughed when I decided I wanted to save that money, because now it is being used to sponsor Felix. Which I’m fine with. I may be unemployed, but I have the money.
Okay. I think I’m done in for the night, you guys. If you are still reading, thanks for sticking this out. I love you. The next post will come up soon this week. The topic: Taking the bible literally and answering the question, “What’s the big deal with quoting scripture?” Just some stuff I really feel like God has laid on my heart to write about, so open your hearts and open your minds. Pray for conviction (I’m not out to convict anyone, but through conviction we can grow in our faith; I pray everyday to be convicted). Also, if you guys could pray for my godson, he is getting surgery Tuesday. It’s outpatient surgery, but still. Love you all!