I will admit that I didn't expect to get as much from Women of Faith as I did. I thought I'd enjoy it and enjoy the time with my friends. I thought I'd hear some great speakers and music. I thought I'd be uplifted and I thought I'd cry and laugh. And all of that happened.
I didn't expect the complete reboot of my spiritual system.
First step when you encounter a computer problem? You call the IT guy and he says... "Did you restart your machine?"
This weekend, I restarted my machine.
In yesterday's post, I shared some of what I realized about what life had been doing to me lately, about my need to refocus, and about how I felt too visible and exposed.
There was so much more and there will never be words for all of it. And it's the kind of thing you have to experience and soak in and then you realize afterwards the impact it all had.
Monkeys In Your Cage
Dr. Henry Cloud spoke about a variety of topics but one thing really stayed with me.
He spoke of behavioral experiements done with monkeys a few decades ago where the scientists wanted to learn about stress and fear and the impact those things have on our systems. They would put a monkey in an enclosed environment and expose the monkey to high stress factors- loud noises, flashing lights, and so on. They would then study the brain waves and chemical changes of the monkey- like the rising cortisol levels. Cortisol is known as the "stress hormone." Next, the researchers wanted to understand how the monkey could best manage the stress.
They took the monkey's companion- the monkey that was present and well known to the stressed out monkey- and put the companion monkey into the stressful environment with the initial monkey.
Cortisol levels dropped by half.
We all need a monkey in our cage when we are going through the stress of life. No matter how big or how small those stresses are, having another monkey with us helps us get through it.
I'm very fortunate to have some great monkeys in my cage. I just have to remember to unclench my fists from my eyes and see that they are close by and reach out for them.
Don't Forget To Prune
Dr. Cloud also talked about endings and pruning. "What is in your today that doesn't fit in your tomorrow?" What is holding you back, what do you need to let go of, what is keeping you from blossoming? Am I doing what God called me to do or am I doing what the people around me want me to do? Sometimes, pruning means having to cut something good. Just because it's good doesn't mean it's what is best for your life's purpose.
If this speaks to you, I encourage you to click over to Facebook and check out this video of Dr. Cloud explaining it.
The Shepherd Knows Where To Find Me
Sheila Walsh is a woman with a story vastly different from my own but who understands the tragedy, suffering, and turmoil of a bad past. She's lived an amazing life and I found myself entranced as she shared some pretty intense and horrible things from her personal story that are on the same level of the horrible things that are part of my own personal story. And then she shared the story of a serious rock bottom time in her life and the intensely personal interaction she had with a Messenger of God.
I hope the story was true.
The message was true- no matter how far I stray, no matter how lost I am, no matter where I try to hide, my Shepherd will find me, my Father always loves me.
It Is Well With My Soul
I don't think words can express the amazing experience I had on this one... and even the video won't fully capture it. But when Natalie Grant sang an a capella version of "It Is Well" and 10,000 women sang back to her and she had tears and we all had tears and I get chills just thinking about how beautiful it all was... it was the essence and epitome of what Women of Faith is about. We were singularly connected and woven together with the music while we reached for God in worship.
You can watch video of the experience here.
Emotional Release Can Be Physically Draining
Oddly, I'm not sure I can go there again right now. I'll just say that Angie Smith's words touched me deeply and connected me to pain from my miscarriage in 2004 that I didn't realize was still so raw. I was so glad to have good friends on each side of me who allowed me to sob in my seat and who held me hands as I cried and who hugged me as soon as I was ready. Angie spoke before our lunch break and I felt exhausted and eager to retreat throughout the afternoon. I was still eager to hear and experience more, to fill up my soul and spirit. But my heart and was unexpectedly drained. And I think I needed to go to that place in order to be truly open to everything the weekend had offered to me.
I think that covers the most important things that I took away from the weekend. This was my first time attending Women of Faith and I am eager for it to be here again next year. My day at work today was different- I was filled with God's grace and eager to face the tasks ahead of me. I also really value the time I spent with women from my church. For any of you who read this- I value every moment. From clapping and hip bumping during the music to hand holding during my break down to getting away for lunch to a night of laughter, snacks, and a little bit of wine to making a new friend who seems like a long lost sister.
I think the thing about Women of Faith that is so important is that all of these things I took away from the event would end up being far less important in my life if I didn't have my church family, my church sisterhood, to help me stay connected and plugged in.
"And this is the part where I just back away and hope my words fade with me... or maybe I say The End."