I was focused on several projects, but still thinking of all the people I met, teachings I'd heard and conversations I had at The Gospel Coalition Women's Conference 2012 last weekend in Orlando, FL. Here are some random observations, highlights (imho), and moments of impact for me.
- We arrived to find almost 4,000 women who had traveled from all over the country and world to hear God's word exposited. I later found out that The Gospel Coalition Conference which began in 2000 had 5,600 people in attendance in 2011. That is amazing to me - women are hungry to hear about God!
- I don't know what the breakdown was exactly, but there were a lot of young women! Single young women, married young women, women with strollers and babies in tow, nursing mothers, working young women - young women period! It could be that I'm just getting older and everyone looks young to me, but I have to say I was so encouraged by seeing this generation come out in force!
- Women are weary. Peer closely through the veil of excitement surrounding the conference, look a bit more intently into the faces of the women and you can see evidences of too little sleep, to much "to do", and over anxious hearts. For what? Anxious over what? The husbands and children they left behind to attend his conference, the jobs they took off time from and the work awaiting them when they return, their ailing mother whose care has been left in someone elses' hands for the weekend. Some as I mentioned were nursing infants and distress over pumping and plugged milk ducts and not enough baby wipes were loud distractions for them. One woman I know left her twelve week old infant at home. She was so distressed and anxious that she decided to leave Friday night and drive to meet her husband so she could bring her baby boy back to the conference with her! She had been up since 5am, drove 3 hours that morning, sat through a day of sessions and left that night, returning to her room after 11pm!
- In her opening remarks author and speaker Elyse Fitzpatrick expressed thankfulness that this was a "no fluff zone" conference. Don't get me wrong - there was laughter and giggles and plenty of reminders of the fact that women were in attendance.
- A stroll through the bookstore gave evidence to the fact that the intent of the conference was to teach women more about who God is. Pastor and author Tullian Tchividjian had a corner of a table as Crossway promoted his books along with a myriad of gospel drenched writers.
I picked up a quantity of this little gem by Pastor Tim Keller. I plan to use it in ministry at the church I work at.
- Conversations with other women were profound. More on this in posts to come, but suffice to say that as weary as we all were, great conversations were taking place. I am reminded that in our busy hectic lives as moms, wives and employees we have precious little time to do this - and what a gift it is.
- Freedom. This may not be a word you would associate with a conference. But here goes. In Christ, we are free. Women are free. The gospel of Jesus Christ is an announcement that Jesus has done for us what we could never do for ourselves. He has set the captives free by his death and resurrection. He loves us unconditionally and knowing that frees us to be who God made us to be. Women, uniquely designed and fashioned for a purpose. Loved immensely, infinitely, eternally by our heavenly Father who can do no other than love us because of his Son's sacrifice on our behalf. For me, this freedom allowed me to slow down, take a breath and relax - I didn't feel like I had to "do it all", get to everything and "not waste a minute". Resting in the liberation of the gospel allowed me to focus and enjoy all that God had for me...even when it meant lingering in a conversation even though a session had started. I pray that women know this freedom of "done". That in the busyness of that weekend they rested in the joy of their salvation knowing the burden is off their shoulders...they don't have to do more and try harder and they are not somehow wasting their life or missing out on what God has for them.
- I don't know what the other workshops were like in terms of attendance, but I do know the workshop Called to Work by Lydia Brownback and Marriage through Gospel Eyes: Mrs. Law or Mrs. Grace? by Jani Ortlund were packed out! Two conclusions: 1. lots of Christian women work and want to know how to live out their faith in the workplace, and 2. women are concerned with their marriages.
- We like our coffee. Let's just say there were lots of long lines at the coffee stations! (read what happens when others get in the way of women (me) and their coffee here :)
- I was very thankful for all of the practical insight and professional advice that came out of the Focus Gathering - Women Writing: Perspectives on the World of Publishing – Online and Off. I have shared my notes with a couple other friends already.
- All of the speakers were good. I especially enjoyed Elyse Fitzpatrick on Saturday speak on her book Council From The Cross. I am hoping she will be a plenary speaker next year. There is a huge need for women to know the freedom and liberation of the gospel. We as women can become so focused on the "doing" and forget that the command was "believe". When Jesus was asked "what must I do to be doing the works of God?" he replied; "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent”. Elyse Fitzpatrick is an amazing teacher and she proclaims the liberating truths of the gospel clearly, concisely and compassionately.