Where there is no vision the people perish (Proverbs 29:18). This has never been a problem for me. The tendency in my mind is toward the opposite end of the dream spectrum.
Big. Amazing. Outlandish even.
That’s where my vision for a women’s conference began.
Women of Faith
I don’t remember what year I first attended the Women of Faith Conference in Portland. I know I had young children. I know it was my mother’s idea.
She wanted to do something with her daughters. At the time, she worked as a nurse at the hospital. My sister and I spent our hours chasing young children. If they were school-aged, my sister home-schooled her three.
I loved Women of Faith from the very first gape-mouthed, wide-eyed moment. Our tickets had us close enough to read the expressions on the speaker’s faces.
Patsy Clairmont made me laugh until my sides ached. Barbara Johnson had me hyperventilating with mirth one minute and choked by tears the next. Marilyn Meberg pulled up a chair, opened her Bible and talked to us as if we were in her living room.
My sister’s favorite part was the dramatic sketches by Nicole Johnson. I mean, the woman understood the heart and life of women and could portray it with brilliance. I loved doing skits and plays with our youth group, but I had never considered using acting talent to minister to others in this way.
We walked away from a Saturday at the Rose Garden Arena stunned, inspired and encouraged. If these women could take the stage and air their foibles to thousands of women, I could get up and dust myself off and serve God with my meager talents.
Maybe it was leading songs at Vacation Bible School or teaching 20 four-year-olds (a memorable week of Bible school there). I had the ability to teach, to write, to sing and I could do all of it for God’s glory.
Bigger is not Better
In 2015, the Women of Faith said farewell to the tour in Portland. The core group of speakers was retiring to move into different ministry. My sister and I sat in the darkened arena, weeping because a fabulous era of women’s ministry was closing its doors.
When my friend from church joined me on Saturday afternoon (my sister had to get back for a dinner engagement with her husband), it was her first experience in the conference. And even though she only heard two speakers, it touched her heart.
Women brushed by us while we stretched our legs between sessions. My friend’s eyes glittered with starry excitement. This was an incredible event. It was encouraging to see so many Christian women gathered for edification.
“This is where I think God is leading me.”
Yes, I said those words. Uttered them from my full heart into reality. After admitting the burden, there was no taking it back.
“On a smaller scale, of course.” Because bigger isn’t always better when you’re ministering to hurting and broken people.
“We could do this,” my friend said.
Just like that, she was on board. She could picture me sharing a lesson from the platform at our church to pews filled with women and teenagers. And we knew at least one other semi-local woman who had also published study books and had taught at a retreat we attended the year before.
What else could we offer at our one-day conference?
I didn’t see a darkened arena with spotlights dancing off my polished shoes. My imagination didn’t produce a sea of strange faces expecting my words to minister to whatever needs they had.
I saw my own church auditorium, its first five pews littered with familiar faces, women I’d met at the retreat. Or ladies who I’d grown up with who had married and moved to other churches.
These were busy women. They didn’t have time to sit down. And yet, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and he told her bustling sister that she had chosen wisely. Water and nourishment from the Word of Life couldn’t be taken away from her (but the clean house and sumptuous meal Martha was concerned about wouldn’t last long at all).
What could I offer them?
The Lord nudged my heart. “I can offer them comfort, encouragement and direction using your lips.”
No. There wasn’t an audible voice, but the still small whisper of the one who hammered at me until I wrote Mary the Mother of Jesus’ story struck again.
Lessons the Lord had taught me at our own ladies’ retreat pushed me forward. Women needed to know someone prayed for them. They had heavy burdens for loved ones that needed to be shared. I wanted to include a time for this at the conference.
Never in a million years would I place myself on a stage full of hundreds or thousands of strangers. But I can stand before sisters and share with them what the Lord has taught me.
We can encourage each other to move forward in our faith. Our paths of motherhood, wife hood and Christianity are too important to be abandoned.
The ladies in my church shared my vision immediately. Plans began falling in place.
On Saturday, October 22, 2016, we will host the first women’s conference at our church.
What is your vision? What is God calling you to do? Whatever it is, step forward with assurance. Trust his promise. He will carry you through.