Posted by: angelnorman | April 14, 2010

Women of Joy 2010: Day 1

One Saturday last spring, I received a call from my mother inviting me to attend the following year’s Women of Joy. She was having such a wonderful time there with her church women, and all she wanted was for me and my sister to go with her- on her dime, so completely free to us- in 2010. She said it could be our mother’s day gift to her. I signed up right away, as a weekend away sounded pretty heavenly. My sister signed up thinking I would say no and that she’d get out of it, because Women of Joy 2010 just happened to fall on her 22nd birthday and travelling 3.5 hours to essentially spend a weekend in church didn’t sound that appealing to her. But both of us were super excited by the time this past weekend rolled around and we set out for Sevierville, TN.

We arrived at the convention center early in the day. Most of us used this time to walk around and buy lots of goodies in the vendor area. There was jewelry, purses, t-shirts, books, movies, dvds, etc. I purchased a Women of Joy t-shirt (this year, they were in pink!) and of course pink earrings to match. I also purchased Karen Kingsbury’s children’s book, “Let Me Hold You Longer“, which is heart-wrenchingly sweet. It’s a story about how we as mothers should always celebrate the “lasts” of our children. So many times we go about celebrating the firsts- first words, first steps, first bathtime, first time up to bat at a t-ball game.. But often times we miss those precious lasts in our children’s lives- the last time the baby needs to be rocked to sleep, the last time they eat baby food, the last time we carry them on our hips, and the last time they ask for our advice. As I stood at Karen’s table and skimmed through the book, my eyes welled with tears. I had previously been so upset that I was missing Nick’s first t-ball game… after reading the book, I felt like I was being urged spiritually to remember that it wasn’t his last. And not missing his last game was something I could control.

We also used this time to snap some pictures. This is me with my friend and sister-in-Christ, Michelle. As you can see, I am already rocking the pink earrings.

Women of Joy is a Christian conference for women that began in 2004. It is presented by Philip Waldrep Ministries, and contains some of the best Christian speakers and performers around. This year, the lineup was Charles Billingsley, Lori Salierno, Anita Renfroe, Kay Arthur, Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith, and Karen Kingsbury.  According to their website, the Women of Joy conferences were thoughtfully designed to “offer an exciting, spiritually fulfilling experience for today’s women.” My mom is the Women’s Ministry Director for her church, and as such she was pretty much the organizer of the entire thing for our group of almost 50 women. When she handed us our itineraries, I knew that this was no mere getaway weekend. There was very little time scheduled for resting, to say the least.

There was time, however, for lots of good eating. This is me with the biggest glass of Sweet Tea I ever drank. Mmmm. As I was reminded at the conference this weekend, not everyone can appreciate the intricacies of sweet tea. Some people don’t even know how to make it. So as a public service announcement to you, here it goes.  Sweet tea is made by boiling the water (with tea bags) up till it’s over the temperature to melt sugar, removing from the heat and seeping, adding the sugar while the concoction is still hot so as to melt the sugar, “weakening” till desired taste with cold water, and then pouring over ice. Or at least that’s how this southern lady makes her tea 🙂

The most important thing to remember though is this:  A glass of sweet tea is not a glass of unsweetened tea with sugar substitute added. Repeat:  Sweet tea is NOT the same as sweetened tea.

Back to the conference after dinner. I wasn’t sure what to expect beyond staying busy, honestly. I had never even been to a Christian Women’s conference. But on day one, it became evident what I should expect: three days of worshiping a risen Christ and growing closer to God.

Nine thousand women were in attendance to this year’s WoJ conference in Sevierville. NINE THOUSAND! The exhibit halls (and the bathrooms!) were crowded with women from all over the southeast- some even from as far away as Maryland. And to go back to the bathrooms for a moment, I was really amazed that they converted all the men’s bathrooms in the convention center to women’s bathrooms, and even still the lines were, at times, horrendous.

The first night we were led in worship by Charles Billingsley, who was hilarious and amazing and a joy to my heart. The music was awesome, the atmosphere electric. I particularly delighted in seeing women really get into the music. Some were dancing, some were lifting their hands in praise, and almost everyone was clapping and swaying. It was a beautiful thing to witness. No one had to feel self-conscious about the way they praised their Savior. No one had to worry about their voice not being up to par to sing out loud to their God.

And afterwards, Lori Salierno spoke of her recent tribulations. In January of this year, she celebrated her 50th birthday. Ten days later, she learned that her husband, who is a minister, had been committing adultery for a long while. Despite her hardships, she somehow found a way to speak to us about staying positive and giving all your troubles to God. She encouraged all of us to remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that light is Jesus. He will bring you through it! Whatever it is you are dealing with, your faith will help you prevail. It was a very uplifting way to begin the weekend.

By the end of the night, I was drained emotionally and physically. I had cried a lot (of course.) But it was not bedtime when we got back to the hotel! It was time to celebrate someone else for a moment: my little sister! The women of my mom’s church all piled into our room for cake. Some came later than others and by the time it was all said and done, we had sung “Happy Birthday” to Courtney three different times.

Happy 22nd birthday, my tisseroni!

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