I recently got back from a weekend of an adventure that was both spontaneous, yet planned. Confusing? Yes, but I’ll explain. This past weekend was the Women of Joy conference in Pigeon Forge, TN, an event a few of the ladies from Life Community Church — including myself — attend annually. This is my third year going and I look forward to it every year. It’s spiritually uplifting (even with the lack of sleep) and it bands us as a group closer together.
This event comes with an itinerary. Each time we gather at the conference, we start off with worship and end with a prayer. On Friday nights, we have one speaker
share with us the word and how it can be applied to our lives, and then a comedian performs. On Saturdays, we have two speakers, then everyone breaks off for a few hours to grab lunch and have fun in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, or both followed by a concert at the conference center. Finally, on Sundays, our last speaker talks with us and we head home. This is the planned part of the adventure. Before we get to the spontaneous part, I’d like to share some highlights from the speakers.
“Sometimes when we look so hard at what we want and on what we want to see, we forget we aren’t here for ourselves but for others.”
“Nothing stopped Paul from sharing the Gospel: shipwrecks, prison, beatings, etc. No matter what, Paul kept going until the end of his days.”
“What surrounds you gets inside you.” (I forget the example she used here, but it’s sort of like ‘when you watch a lot of TV series and movies with a lot of cussing, you’re tempted to cuss more so than ever’. We must be careful what worldly things we surround ourselves with.)
“The disciples wanted Jesus to stay, but He knew it would be so much better when He left.” (The disciples didn’t want Jesus to face crucifixion; they wanted Him to remain with them.)Angela Thomas Pharr
“Brave people don’t NOT have fear, they just stop listening to the whisper of fear.”
“No one in the Bible knew how their story would end except Jesus.”
“I don’t live in this whale. I will get out of this darkness.” (In reference to Jonah.)
When speaking of the bravery of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago, she asked us to dive deeper into those verses instead of happily glancing over them. “What if they were standing at different sections of the crowd, not knowing anyone else would be standing with them when the rest of the crowd bowed? What if there were five close friends, but we only know of the three because the other two bowed?”
“You will not burn up in the situation you are in, but the thing holding you there will, like rope in a flame. Ask the Lord to burn it off, and let Him lead you out of the flames.”
“Peter was working when Jesus showed up and asked him to be brave. What will it take for you to be brave?”Annie F. Downs
“Love is difficult. Jesus went to the cross because of His love for us.”
“Look for the miraculous, because Jesus is in the details.”
In reference to Hebrews 13:2 — “Be aware of how you treat strangers, for they may be angels in disguise.”Karen Kingsbury
“Preach the word until God calls you home.”
“It is not always well with our circumstances, but it can be well with our soul.”
“Sometimes a heavy weight is dropped in the water and the water is shaken like a situation can shake us.”
“Sometimes our strengths are our liabilities.” “Sometimes when we say ‘Lord, you’ve never been this or that for me’, it’s because we haven’t let go of our strength and allowed Him to be that for us.” (She explained as an example how she had never allowed herself to emotionally unload to her husband and show him her emotional vulnerability because she was used to being strong in that area until she got the news her father was passing. Days later, she realized her husband had never been the emotional support she needed because her own strength wouldn’t allow him to see her vulnerable.)Jennifer Rothschild
I pray these highlights help you as they have helped me. (The ones that spoke to me the most was Annie’s comment ‘No one in the Bible knew how their story would end except Jesus’ and Karen’s reference to Hebrews 13:2. Which ones spoke to you?) These wonderful pieces of wisdom are spoken every year. I learned quickly my first year attending I needed to keep a writing pad handy when a speaker was on stage. Otherwise, I might forget something.
Now on to the spontaneous part. Since I’ve been going, we hadn’t missed a concert on Saturday nights. However, this year most of our group didn’t really know many of the songs the selected singer had sung and was reluctant to go. I had heard of the singer before and liked a few of his songs, but I was indifferent about the concert. Thus, when the rest of the van I rode in suggested a hike to Laurel Falls I was game. FYI, this was planned about two minutes after leaving the restaurant we had lunch at. We hopped in the van, did about three Mario-go-kart U-turns, and finally made it to Laurel Falls (pictured above).
I realized going up the mountain that, even though I’m not a country girl by any meanings (despite the fact that I unfortunately live in Kentucky; haha), I do like to hike. This was my first hike up a mountain (definitely need to work out more) and it was worth it. The whole journey to the top and the falls themselves was gorgeous. I loved standing near the edge of a cliff, seeing the water run down below and the mountains on the horizon. To sit peacefully by a waterfall and breath in the fresh, clean air was indescribable. Being surrounded by cornfields is not the same as being in the woods. This was pure nature, God’s beautiful artwork.
Unfortunately, we had to leave, but the spontaneous adventure wasn’t over. We had to make a stop at a retail store (which wasn’t spontaneous; I needed to go since that morning). When we came out, lo and behold a Chocolate Monkey was a block away. If you don’t know what a Chocolate Monkey is, it’s a dessert store. It has fudge, buck-eyes, and ice cream as well as chocolate dipped bananas on a stick, cheesecake on a stick, and key lime pie on a stick. One of the girls had been itching for a chocolate dipped banana since we entered Pigeon Forge. Thus, we had our dessert…before grabbing pizza at the Papa John’s next door. Our adventure ended on the rooftop of our hotel where they had a beautiful patio and a fire pit. We laughed until it began to rain, then we said our goodnights and began the last day of our trip.
Everyone had a blast this weekend; we’re still sharing memories and what spoke to us through texts. Families are hearing our adventures and we’re realizing you had to be there to get the jokes. All in all, it was amazing. I love every woman who got to go and I’m glad to be able to call them my sisters. We’re already counting down until the next trip. Only 360 more days until we take off again!
“Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.”Hebrews 13:1