It's hard to believe it's been two weeks already since I spent the week-end with 10,000 sisters at the Women of Faith conference. It's taken me this long to process it and be ready to write. I wish I had a DVD of the whole event, so I could listen again to all the amazing speaking and singing.
My first experience with WOF was when Kristen had been home from her anorexia treatment for a few months. Remuda Ranch sent us complimentary tickets - I realized when we were there this time that it must have been one of the first years (about 15 years ago) that WOF was in existence. We had lousy seats, way up in the nose bleed section, but I remember going home saying I was on "inspiration overload."
I have been privileged to go several more times, sometimes with Kristen and/or Angie, once with baby Olivia. This year we had a large group, and we were there all day Friday and Saturday. We had a great time at P.F. Chang's in downtown Denver on Friday night. Good food and fellowship.
I was sad to learn that two of my favorites were not going to be there - Luci Swindoll and Sheila Walsh. I couldn't imagine how it could be as good as usual without them. The WOF staff has grown a lot since they began, and now they take turns so not everyone has to travel every week-end. I learned that they will be here next year.
Patsy Clairmont is a tiny little lady who has been on the circuit for years - she was agoraphobic, healed by God, and now speaking to tens of thousands of women each year. She has the uncanny ability to take a minute daily happening in her life and turn it into a life lesson. She has you laughing one minute and crying the next. I love Patsy.
Marilyn Meberg is brilliant and sophisticated. Her background is in teaching English and more recently as a counselor. She always leaves us with some humor and great things to think about.
Lisa Welchel was Blair on the sitcom, "Facts of Life" back in the 80s. I didn't really watch this show, but Kristen did. I probably wouldn't have watched it if it was in my age bracket, but that's neither here nor there. I think Lisa was on her first year of speaking two years ago when I heard her for the first time. I have to say she has matured in her communication and content since then. And her hair is much longer now. Believe it or not, she's at the empty nest stage of her life.
Brenda Warner - does that name ring a bell? Her husband is Kurt Warner, who was named MVP in the Super Bowl a few years ago. When his team made it to the Super Bowl, his story was front page and first story news - he was the ultimate "rags to riches" story, with a testimony of God's grace and care. Brenda says her only claim to fame is being able to do the splits at age 45 - which she demonstrated there on the stage - and it made me hurt to watch her! But her firstborn child is now 22 - a special needs son who was rendered blind and deaf when his birth father dropped him when he was an infant. Kurt has been an amazing dad to him and her other children.
Karen Kingsbury - I'm sure many of you have read her books. I haven't, but I may now. She also had a great message for us - and she read us her latest children's book, about "last things" we do with our kids (and others) that we have no idea are the "lasts." It was a tear jerker - I need to buy it.
It's highly unusual to think of a man speaking at a huge women's gathering, but Andy Andrews fit right in - what a character. He realizes in his adulthood that he was most likely ADHD as a kid - and he still is, probably. He begins his message as he paces across the stage, up and down the stairs - rather nerve-wracking at first. But when he settles in, his words are powerful. He was orphaned at age 19, and for some reason ended up homeless, sleeping under a boardwalk, and in garages. But God mightily uses him and his story is astounding. And he is so very entertaining as well.
The music - oh, my, the music. You know me and music. Sometimes, in other years, I didn't enjoy the music as much as this year. But the worship team chose such great songs this year for all of us to sing together. My favorite moment of all was when all 10,000 of us sang "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" with only minimal keyboard accompaniment.
Amy Grant was there - she is just as beautiful as ever, and seems to not have aged since I first knew who she was. I'll never forget taking Kristen and her best friend from high school to Denver for her concert at Fiddler's Green, an outdoor venue. We got a room in a nice hotel, and the plan was for the two of them to drive to the concert while I waited in the hotel. I didn't realize what a nail-biting experience that would be. It poured rain that afternoon,and we didn't know if the concert would even happen. But we headed over to the amphitheater to check out where they should park, etc. The weather miraculously cleared up, the sun came out, and I remember watching the girls from the 5th floor of the hotel, driving off for their adventure - in my car. I relaxed until 10, when I thought they should be back. It was after 11 before they arrived, and I was a wreck by then. Seems as though they forgot where they parked, after all. Oh, my heart.
Mandisa - remember her? I was watching "American Idol" the fifth season, when she was a contestant. She made it to the final 10, but was eliminated not long after that. But she made her mark. I remember how nasty Simon Cowell was to her, and found this in her biography on Wikipedia:
"Idol judge Simon Cowell made several comments about Mandisa's weight after her successful audition. He first quipped are we 'going to have a bigger stage this year'. Then, when Paula Abdul commented that Mandisa had a 'Frenchie' growl to her voice, Cowell responded that a more apt comparison would be to France itself. These were among comments that . . . would be one of the reasons Mandisa would entitle her 2007 album True Beauty.
When Mandisa presented herself to the judges prior to the final cut-down to the season's 24 semi-finalists, she told Cowell: 'What I want to say to you is that, yes, you hurt me and I cried and it was painful, it really was. But I want you to know that I've forgiven you and that you don't need someone to apologize in order to forgive somebody. I figure that if Jesus could die so that all of my wrongs could be forgiven, I can certainly extend that same grace to you.' Cowell told Mandisa that he was 'humbled' and apologized to her immediately." I remember that moment and wonder if Simon ever thinks about it.
Mandisa is beautiful, has lost a lot of her weight, and has a great life going for her.
Sandi Patty - there is no voice like hers in Christian music. She's 55 and has not lost any of her power. She's been through a lot, and has written a book that I am anxious to read. I missed some of her words that day because I had a phone call come in at that moment that I needed to take. She has also come back from morbid obesity.
Sandi was one of several young artists given their first public exposure as back-up singers for the Bill Gaither trio. I remember well the night we went to a Gaither concert in Denver when there were two young singers in the back-up group, who were given a chance to sing a duet - Sandi Patty and Steve Green singing "Oh How I Love Him, How I Adore Him" - I get the chills just thinking of the magnificence of that soprano/tenor duet. They got a standing ovation and Bill remarked (as I'm sure he did every night), "I'm not going to let them sing again!" Larnell Harris was another one of those young up-and-comers Bill gave his start.
My second favorite musical moment was when Sandi sang and signed "We Shall Behold Him." Chillingly beautiful.
While I was gone, Dwight had the kids much of the time because of Kristen's work schedule. He got them to bed both nights, took them to McDonald's for breakfast on Saturday, and they were at Wendy's eating dinner when I got back into town. They spent Saturday "camping" - not overnight, but experiencing the tent and cooking outside thing. What a great grandpa he is!
I'm off to try to visit my good friends - I have had barely two hours to myself this week, and I'm up late tonight trying to catch up. See you soon!