Sunday, August 21, 2011

Finding Faith in Atlanta


Where to begin? As you know, I had the fabulous opportunity to attend the Atlanta Women of Faith Conference. The good folks at Book Sneeze generously gave me tickets for the Friday and Saturday conference. Since they gave me two tickets (one for me/one for a friend), I asked my 'lil Sis, Jfer, to make the scene with me. Our days leading up to the event were a bit troublesome, leaving us wondering if we would even be able to get out of town. All our planning paid off, and we were able to start our journey Thursday afternoon.

Not Minnie, but her twin.

As we were making tracks down I-85 in Minnie, I began checking off my To-Do list. You know...I should probably do this before I leave the house. Good advice for the next road trip. I gasped just a bit, spun around in my seat, and sure enough...I packed everything except one item. My dress. Yes, bloggy friends, I forgot my pretty new floral dress, which I had worked so hard on all week to finish in time for the conference. Well, SNOT. I managed to laugh it off, and count my blessings that I just so happened to pack an extra dress. Now listen here bloggy friends...if you've never believed in spiritual warfare, this might just be the time to give it an extra thought. Only the devil would mess up a girl's plan to look good. ☺

Excellent and friendly staff await you at Fairfield Inn in Buckhead
You can use your Marriott Rewards here!

We arrived at our hotel in Buckhead (a blessing indeed...we stayed free using Marriott points...woo-hoo!), checked in, freshened up, and went back down to the front desk to talk about traveling through the city. We asked about MARTA, and quickly decided we were too small-town to give her a try. Hopping back into Minnie (Jfer's minivan), we plugged in our destination coordinates, and headed to IKEA. After three hours (yes, 3!) of eyeballing every last item in that gorgeous store, we scurried to the checkout line...because the store was closing.

IKEA in 17th Street
Surprisingly, we have no trouble finding fabulous stores.

Digressing...I love IKEA! It's fun to walk through the rooms, gain new ideas, and simply look at all the gadgetry. I also love the prices! I purchased:
  • 12 Stackable Drinking Glasses
  • 4 Kitchen Towels
  • 3 Trash Bins
  • 2 Scrub Brushes
  • 1 Lambswool Duster
And my total? $22.03! Did I tell you I love IKEA?! If you've never been, plan to spend A LOT of time in this store. They even have a Cafeteria, cause that Swedish guy who started it all, must've known people get hungry while they shop...Digressing complete. ☺


Friday morning, Jfer and I spent our devotion time together. It was sensational to be able to discuss our faith walks, scripture readings, and overall thoughts on certain passages with Jfer...uninterrupted. Usually, our conversations are stop-and-go with children interjecting. We then readied ourselves for the day, and headed to Philips Arena in downtown Atlanta. We parked (and really should've paid attention to which lot we were parked!) and grabbed our tickets.

Once inside, we found our seats...excellent Floor seats!...and being the chatty girls we are, instantly made friends with the ladies around us. They were a sweet bunch from Elberton, GA. Actually, I think I frightened them a bit when I asked them if I could take their picture and post it on my blog. ☺

The gals from Elberton, GA

All excited in Atlanta at Philips Arena

The lights dimmed and the praising began! Know what I love about women leading praise? The songs are in a key I can sing without straining. ☺ We praised with beautiful harmonies being led by The Worship Team of Jenifer Thigpen from Orlando, Florida; Janice Gaines from Nashville, Tennessee; Laura Cooksey from Dunwoody, Georgia; and Allison Abbott from Nashville, Tennessee. Can I just tell ya these girls not only have some amazing vocal chops, they are all gorgeous!

The WOF Worship Team
You can see better photos of them here
 With our hearts and spirits soaring from all the praising, we readied ourselves for the speakers. I'm going to be real honest with you. Having never been to a Faith Conference, I had no idea what to expect. I didn't know if I was going to be in a room full of "Crazy Religious People" that wanted me to talk in tongues, or if I was going to be asked to donate my life savings to help 'save' others. I didn't know if the women would be 'stuffy' and 'uptight'. I just didn't know. I'm so happy to report back to y'all and tell you, having no idea totally blew me away when the conference began.

These speakers come from all walks of life, from all over the country, and are so...real. There was one who had been molested, one who had been in a mental hospital, one whose husband had a brain tumor, one who lost a child, and one who suffered from a debilitating divorce. In the midst of all these life-altering events, one thing remained constant and true...their faith.

While there was much laughter, you could also hear collective gasps, tears, and even stunned silence. It was exhausting and refreshing all at the same time. All the speakers were fabulous. My favorites were Sheila Walsh and Lisa Harper. I love the sense of humor that's woven into their life stories. I loved how they made Bible passages written thousands of years ago relevant and meaningful today. I loved that they both took a moment to stop and speak to the crazy girl who is Seams Inspired. ☺

Seams Inspired and Sheila Walsh wearing their best 'Princess' smiles
Doesn't she just 'rock' that leopard print?
I first knew of Sheila Walsh as the children's author of Gigi, God's Little Princess. After hearing her speak, I cannot wait to get my hands on her books for adults. For a list of her books, check out her fabulous website and blog...Sheila Walsh.

Seams Inspired and Lisa Harper
I put my arm around her in hopes of yanking off and stealing that leather jacket!
 I'd never heard of Lisa Harper before this event. Where have I been and what have I been missing?!? She is this rough-and-tumble gal who rides a Harley and has a degree in Theology. I've never quite thought of familiar bible stories in the context she told them. It forever changed my outlook on 'old' and 'dated' passages, bringing them into current relevancy for me. This girl is busy! I took a look at her website and schedule. Whew! She's on the road...A LOT. How exciting for me to learn she'll be in my town (actually just a couple of miles from my home!) twice next year. Be sure to check her site and calendar. If she's near you, go see her! You can thank me later.

The Friday morning events finished, and we were on break for a few hours. Thank goodness it was hours. Remember when I said you should notate your parking location? For those of you who don't know me or my sister, let me tell you a little something about us...we have no Internal Compass. Our Moral Compasses work excellent; however, our Internal Compasses are on permanent malfunction...After determining the door we think we needed to exit, we asked one of the security personnel where the parking garage was. In turn, we were asked, "Which one?"

Holy frijoles! There's more than ONE parking garage?!? After deliberating, and me saying, "It's probably across from where we are right now." We took a left (I say 'left' because I have no idea whether that was North, South, East or Internal Compass) and walked to the corner of Philips Arena. Hmmm...this doesn't look familiar. We took another left, and again...hmmm.

Somewhere in this vicinity, Minnie was awaiting us to find her.

Digressing...this is exactly why I am not a City Girl. I like my small town and it's small town blocks. Have you ever walked a City Block? They are long and crowded! And Philips Arena melds into the CNN Center and the Omni Hotel. Yikes!...Digressing complete.

After walking around the ENTIRE square of Philips Arena, CNN, and some dolphin statue, we were right back where we began. And yes, bloggy friends, across from where we started was the entrance to the Parking Garage. Minnie happily beeped at us as we unlocked the doors. We actually remembered which row we were parked. We simply didn't notate the garage we were in at the beginning of our WOF journey...duh!

While we had made plans to meet up with some of the fabulous bloggers who were also at the WOF Event, Atlanta traffic quickly changed that. Apparently, on Friday evening, there was also a Falcons' game, along with several other downtown events. Even though we started out early, we were unable to connect with the bloggers. We did; however, manage to meet up during the breaks.

Crystal from Soul Munchies, Rebecca from Mom's Mustard Seeds, and me.
Sorry for the dark snaps. No flash on the phone! 

Lora's future MIL, Lora from Take Me the Way I Am, Rebecca from Mom's Mustard Seeds, and me.
Stop by their blogs and leave some comment love! They are so inspiring. ☺

Friday evening ended all too quickly; and Jfer and I, remembering where we parked this time, headed back to our hotel. While chatting with my husband, I looked out onto the stretch of highway and asked, "Are we on the right road?"
I'm not kidding about the No Internal Compass from which we suffer! Alas, we were in the wrong lane when I85/I75 split. We quickly recalculated our directions...oh, did I mention we had a GPS system with us the entire trip?...and found ourselves on Wesley Road heading back to Buckhead. Wow! No traffic with a direct street that took us all the way to Piedmont Road. It was Divine Intervention for the Warfare we had been facing. If you've never travelled down Wesley Road in Atlanta, take a side trip. There are some of the most beautiful homes I have ever seen!
Saturday was uneventful in terms of travel. Even after leaving the WOF Conference Friday evening feeling so refreshed, I was worried Saturday's event would be long and possibly not hold my attention. I was wrong! We were greeted by the most upbeat and fabulous usher I have ever met. Philips Arena HR Department...if you're reading this, give Miss P. a raise!

The fabulous Miss P, our usher at Philips Arena.
She has the most infectious smile you've ever seen!

We hugged our new Elberton, GA friends and had a fun time chatting. These ladies were familiar with our town, and we spoke of great places (you know I mean restaurants, right? Great places always start with food!) to visit when they travelled up our way. I think I mean northeast, but you never know. 

More new friends from Elberton, GA
Aren't they beautiful? Love those t-shirts!

We started off the morning with more praise and worship. The speakers were just as fabulous as they were the night before. Nicole Johnson is incredibly talented as a dramatist, and equally inspiring as she shared her life story. When Angie Smith spoke, I felt as though we were just having a one-on-one chat. Her story is amazing. As a new believer, God tested her faith in ways I've truly prayed He wouldn't test mine. If you click no other link I've provided, please click on Angie's. She began as a blogger like you and me, who decided to share her heart through words. You'll be inspired in your walk...pinky promise.
We rounded out our evening with a show-stopping concert by Mary Mary. Oh. My. these girls know how to praise! These sisters have a commanding stage presence. Their energy is palpable. The talent that exudes from their vocal cords is envious. Since they are sisters, their rapport with one another is a delight. They finish one another's sentences, and they have some hilarious stories to go along with their music. Can't place them? Here's a link to one of my favorite Mary Mary songs, Shackles
I could go on and on, about Women of Faith in Atlanta. I think I'll save some of the stories for future blog posts. I'm truly forever grateful to Book Sneeze for this opportunity. Not only did I get to share a laughter-filled weekend with my sister, I met virtual friends who instantly became 'real' friends as we praised our Father and heard of His faithfulness and love for us. Thank you Women of Faith! From the bottom of my faith-filled heart, I can't wait to attend next year!

Sharing a sweet moment with Jfer at the Women of Faith Conference in Atlanta
Photo courtesy of Mom's Mustard Seeds

Disclosure:  Book Sneeze in conjunction with Women of Faith provided me with two tickets to attend the Women of Faith Conference in Atlanta. In return, I was asked to give an honest account of my experience. I was not required to give a positive review.
What is the most memorable faith moment you've had?
Whew! Did you make it through this entire post? Thanks for hanging in there with me! ☺
Happy Sunday!

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