Sandi Patty, Stephen Curtis, Mary Beth, and more….Part One

As you’ve heard if you’ve been remotely near this blog recently, I spent an amazing weekend of renewal and encouragement at the Women of Faith Conference in Columbus with some wonderful blog and in real-life friends. I’ve been meaning to write about the speakers, and in particular…Mary Beth Chapman.

As thousands of women poured into Nationwide Stadium, I reflected on the ways that God had blessed our time in Columbus. Two girls bopping around the city, not really knowing their way around. He had been our guide, parting seas of traffic to smooth the path before us, setting up divine appointments with soft-hearted chaplains who genuinely cared about grieving families, and leading us to just the right hospital (one we weren’t planning to go to) when we “lost our way” for a moment. It seems we thought we were lost, but we were on His path all along. I smiled as I thought of how He mulitiplied the three tickets we purchased, and how several beautiful women of faith who otherwise would not have, gathered together to find refreshment and encouragement last weekend.

The lights dimmed and the worship team took the stage. Thousands of voices joined as one to praise their Father. Sweet Jennilee sat to my right and Becki to my left.

Soon Anita Renfroe, hysterical and quite gifted in “breaking the ice” had us all laughing deep belly laughs until tears filled our eyes. Oh, that girl is seventy kinds of funny! Love her…

While Mandisa sat wrapped in her Snuggi on the “porch”, Sandi Patty took the stage and melted us with the beauty of her indescribably phenomenal voice. There are no words that could do it justice. Hearing Sandi sing is like getting a specially-wrapped gift straight from heaven. Perhaps in heaven everyone will sound like Sandi…wouldn’t that be something? I think I could listen to her for eternity.

Sandi shared about her battle with her weight. I loved when she said that she released seventy-five pounds…because if you lose something you intend to get it back!

She spoke of a time when she was rejected by Disney to work as one of their singers, because of her weight…

She said that it was devastating.

She thought she stood on the edge of a dream.

Then she felt that she was on the edge of disaster.

She later realized that she was on the edge of the divine.

…where grace begins…

Soon after that time, she had the opportunity to tour with the Gaithers and there she learned many things that have taken her to where she is today.

Later, she shared a time when she struggled with feeling like she would never be enough…

Moms, wives, women on planet earth…have you ever felt that way? Ever felt like you could never be enough? Can I get an amen, sister?!

She told how the Lord revealed to her this message:

“You are enough for Me and I am enough for you…”

And, she said, “We are worthy of His love…we are enough…”

Because of Jesus, we are worthy and we are enough…

What I love the most about Sandi’s message, though is how she referred to the time when she started to work on losing weight as “peeling back the layers”…what a woman after my own heart. She gets it. You know, for those of us comfort eaters…it is a “peeling back the layers” process. And, what’s underneath isn’t pretty! At least not all of it…O.K., most of it!!

———

Next, that little spitfire, Patsy Clairmont stepped on to the stage. Did you know that Patsy once battled (and still does at times) agoraphobia? Patsy’s son battled a life-threatening case of H1N1 this past year. I’d love to go into detail, but I’ll just give you the gist of her message. I know you are all waiting to hear about Mary Beth and Stephen…and I have a lot to say about that.

Patsy said…

Prayer matters…
Love matters…
People matter…
Recovery is a process…
Never give up…

“Sometimes change is good.” And when circumstances change and we resist…thinking they look a certain way, reacting in fear and hesitation….as in her journey with her son’s illness and recovery…ask…as the Lord whispered to her heart…

“What if this change is for good?”

I like that…and I love you, Patsy…

Oh…one more thing Patsy said, when talking about feeling protective of our families. You know how it is when you are in the hospital with a loved one and you’re not sure about the choices they’re making?

She said…

“We gals can rise up mighty when it comes to our people!”

Yes, we can, Miss Patsy…yes, we can! =)

——————-

Stephen Curtis Chapman took the stage…

We held our breath…

He sang…”Sink or swim, I’m diving in…”

He sang the words, and we knew he meant every nuance. We knew that when the river’s high, the water’s deep…He was going in, trusting God whether He would sink or swim…

We know where He has walked…

Before he sang a heart-wrenching “Butterfly Kisses”, he said…

“I can sing this song because I am going to sing and dance again with my princess, my Cinderella…”

He spoke of his Maria Sue who went to be with Jesus on May 21, 2008 after a tragic accident. She was five years old.

More of Stephen’s words of hope…

“…we anchor ourselves to the hope of the gospel…”

“God is going to make everything new…take that hope and promise to this moment…live with hope and purpose…anchor ourselves to Him. Our future is so far greater than our short past….

I will continue to sing until I get to dance with her again…”

The sea of grief is relentless. Many of you know that. Many of you are being tossed about mercilessly as we speak…helpless in the clutches of the storm. People can talk of hope…of the promises of Jesus. But, those words coming from this father…who has lived this pain and experienced the hope of that anchor as he clutches onto it for dear life while the sea roars around him.

Him, we listen to. We know he knows of that which he speaks. He knows it in an intensely real way.

Watching him, was faith and courage in action. I watched as he bit his lip several times to fight back the tears. The beauty and the brokenness were woven into his eyes, lilting forth in the sound of his beautiful voice, pouring through the haunting words promising that indeed, beauty will rise from these ashes. His unabashed love for his wife, his children, his Savior shining, nay…oozing out of every core of his being.

It was like beholding rising beauty.

With pride (and humility, too), he teared up as he introduced his wife Mary Beth.

Again, we held our breath, knowing that we were being given a precious gift. This was the first time sweet Mary Beth had taken the Women of Faith stage and shared the most tender pieces of her heart. What an unimaginable privilege that we could be invited into such a sacred place. For it is an incredible gift to be allowed to walk with a grieving heart…to hear the testimonies of God’s grace in the valley of the shadow of death.

She tenderly made her way to the stage. Her eyes drawn with grief, her body still carrying the weight of sorrow on her tiny frame, she displayed more courage than I have the words to convey. She stood in the middle of the stadium shuffling her papers in her shaking hands, taking a moment to get her voice. We embraced her with every fiber of our hearts.

When she hesitated, tearing up for a moment…words of encouragement were shouted from various parts of the filled stadium.

“We love you, Mary Beth….”

And, we cried with her…

She found her voice, though…and beauty rose. Beauty, courage, strength, faith, hope. Those aren’t just words…not when you are beholding one who stands in the very grip of His grace. Nothing is more real.

More on what Mary Beth said coming soon in another post…

To be continued…

Comments

  1. I'm so disappointed I didn't know about this conference. I live about 10-15 minutes from Nationwide and would have loved to have gone. I'm glad you had a good time in our city and thank you for spreading your ministry to our local hospitals. :)

  2. I'm so glad you had the opportunity to attend the Women of Faith conference. I was able to attend last year and enjoyed it so much. I love the honesty of the speakers. What a blessing to hear Stephen Curtis Chapman sing and especially that particular song. I can't imagine that there was a dry eye in the audience.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and impressions of the weekend. Mandisa has such a beautiful voice!

    Blessings,
    Debbie

  3. Jennifer Ross says:

    First, here is your "amen sister!" lol

    You have described this conference so well. While reading this post, I felt the lump in my throat grow tighter and tighter. Thank you for sharing in such detail. I look foward to reading about the rest of the conference.

  4. Kristin says:

    Wow, Kelly! This was such an amazing post! I could feel the emotions you described as I read it! I read Patsy's biography way back before I ever started blogging, before I had hope, and her book gave me a glimmer of hope that one day I would be able to go places too again, without severe anxiety. I would love to see her someday!

  5. Just Breathe says:

    I have an award and a tag for you on my blog. (Just Breathe)

  6. Girl in the dark says:

    This is absolutely beautiful. The way you described this left me in tears and feeling like I could have been there.

  7. I heard the Chapman's son Kaleb in concert recently and he and his brother Will talked about Maria and you're right – beauty and courage rose and their Savior was glorified in a new way!! Can't wait to hear more about what she said.

    I've been to Women of Faith before and they have the BEST conferences!! I'm going to have to make plans to attend again soon!

  8. Lisette says:

    Wow, everything sounds so amazing. I would have loved to be there.

  9. I can almost imagine how it all went. I'm tearing up just thinking of SCC and Mary Beth talking!! I can't wait to hear what she had to say.

  10. the Spocks says:

    What a great opportunity to go to that. Steven Chapman is wonderful, I heard him at Disney and we are going to a concert next week. His talent and love for God are wonderful.

    Thank you for visiting my blog.
    Have a great weekend.

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