I'm home from a jam-packed weekend with 30 other ladies, who traveled to the Smoky Mountains for a Women of Joy conference. This year was extra special because my Momma came along.
Oh, the laughs we shared!
The conference was a first for mom - and many of the other ladies, so I stood in prayer for them. I remember my first WOJ and how anxious I was, even if it was with women I knew and respected from church. Never really being a "slumber party" type gal or having a roommate, those kinds of situations still tend to make me nervous.
Cades Cove (mom's first) and a souvenir jaunt down the strip. We did not do any outlet shopping and I was thrilled that my carmates didn't mind one bit.
The rest of our time was spent with 10,000 other women praising God and soaking up His word. Have you ever sung Amazing Grace with 10,000 other women? Truly, Amazing! I get goosebumps still, just thinking about it. So many moments in worship I was brought to tears in the sheer beauty of it, the privilege it was to be there, and the connection I felt to my Savior.
We were blessed to hear from admired writers and speakers, like Angela Thomas, and funny-til-you-pee comedian, Chondra Pierce. Every speaker had a nugget of information and whisper from God for each women at the conference, I believe. There were several salvations through the course of the weekend from the crowd. Though every head was bowed, there was a sense of connection in hearing those words, "welcome to the family" and cause for rejoicing.
I scribbled notes in the dark when I could, as their words resonated within me. The bad part was that I didn't record the speaker who said it. So, if you're inspired just google Women of Joy and check out all the amazing women who are a part of it! :)
As Satan does, he attempted often to spoil our weekend. Months ago, he set to attacking Mom in efforts to keep her even from going. He distracted and hissed, throwing up inconveniences and roadblocks wherever possible.
Our final night, both Mom and I were feeling a little weary. The long walks to the conference, followed by a wobbly path on the strip, hustling to a concert (to catch the last two songs!), and lack of sleep saw us both in great physical pain. So much so that going up two flights of steps for our prayer gathering felt daunting. Though Mom would've done it, I could see in her eyes she really couldn't afford it. My twenty-year younger body was screaming in protest so I could only imagine hers. But I missed hearing the testimonies of our group.
As he so often does, Satan set to circling around me, trying to fill my heart with anger toward having so much pain. Some of our physical issues are hereditary, though the majority of mine come from a motorcycle wreck ten years ago. The devil loves to make me wonder why my God would put me through such daily pain and keep me from being able to move and do as I would like.
And I'm sure he would've wanted nothing more than to send us both to bed unhappy and second-guessing our attendance. But I've learned that a sure-fire way to send him packing is by pulling out my Bible and standing in prayer.
So even though I couldn't join the group physically, I was there in spirit. Voices above me became background music for my Bible reading. And in their quiet moments, I would pray for whoever was sharing or might be in need. In the end, our sweet friend who rode home with us shared some of the stories from the night.
Those testimonies were much needed fillers for the nearly 9 hour drive we would endure on our way back. It should've taken half that time, but I guess when you have 10,000 people leaving one place, there's bound to be a traffic jam!
At several points along our ride, we were astounded at the hatefulness of others on the road. Trucks tailgating and honking in areas we couldn't go faster if we wanted. Fingers and curse words tossed our way. But we didn't let it steal our joy. Momma would throw on her bright red clown nose for a laugh. At just the needed moment a fellow WOJer would let us weave. And God kept sending us signs and hugs.
Now, I can't even recall most of them but, in one extra tense situation, He sent message after message, using billboards, bumper stickers and even an exit sign for "Trinity Lane" to remind us who was in control.
Dropping my passengers off to their loved ones, I returned home to mine. Both of my guys had spent time straightening up the house and doing laundry and had a hot dinner ready for me, complete with warm from the oven brownies. It allowed me to relax and soak up their company, sharing the highlights from the weekend. My JOY was complete.