Turn broken into beautiful. That’s the message Girlfriends in God brought to the Fishkill Baptist Annual Women’s Conference. Author Sharon Jaynes, bible study leader Mary Southerland and worship leader Gwen Smith shared their tales of brokenness, grace, forgiveness and joy with the multitude of women on May 3 through song, bible study and humor. Mothers, grandmothers, widowed and divorced, and single and married women, took time to spend Saturday worshiping and praising God; instead of busying themselves with weekend chores: chauffeuring children from baseball to soccer to dance, hustling in and out of grocery stores or malls, to name a few. As the conference chair said, “It is rare to find a woman resting on a Saturday morning.”
Gwen ignited the conference with poetic and heartfelt songs encouraging women of various denominations to raise hands, clap, or sway. I did all three; that’s the way the Spirit moves me. In between sessions Gwen, a songwriter, crooned her original songs with either guitar in hand, or piano tunes as well as a musical video. During her afternoon concert, like the psalmist cried to the Lord, so did Gwen. The mother of three created a prosaic poem about watching the Creator show off before dawn with an awe-inspiring sunrise while she sipped a cup of joe at Seattle’s Best. She also sang about the storm when God turns worthlessness into preciousness and guilt into forgiveness. What I enjoyed most about Gwen was her honesty.
“I didn’t come here to entertain you but to worship the Lord, so worship with me as I close my eyes and look to him.” And after I checked out her new cute shoes, I did.
Sharon Jaynes, soft spoken and humble, reminded us that as believers our victory comes in knowing who we are in Christ, what we have in Christ and where we are in Christ. She read affirmations from her book Experience the Ultimate Makeover: God’s Transforming Power. I am a saint. I am God’s a temple of God. I am sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit Who has been given as a pledge of my inheritance. I’m reconciled to God and am a minister of reconciliation. I am a child of God. In other words now your personage, possessions and your position.
Mary Southerland, a proud grandmother of twins, held nothing back as she stood on the platform and bluntly said, “Some things cannot be learned in the light. In the darkness and tough times God has gone before us and buried a treasure for us to find.” Why? So that we may know who God is (Isaiah 45:3). That’s the key to discovering the power of God’s grace. With that comes joy ‑ being deeply rooted in confidence that God is in control and realizing that we were created to praise God. Joy and praise are a choice, not a promise. However when we choose to praise God, we are choosing to trust Him.
In another session, Sharon talked about walking in total freedom by forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward (Philippians 3:13). Ouch. I’d been struggling with this verse for months. In October 2007, I resigned from my full-time post as a newspaper editor to teach as an adjunct professor in the English department and although I enjoyed both positions, I was alive and excited when it came to sharing my passion of writing with young adults and encouraging their lack of passion. (I have to admit, the spring semester was overwhelming when one student walked into class and said I hate writing. On the last week, before finals, he said “I forgot just how much I enjoyed writing.”)
Then the ouch, turned into an oozing soar, when she said to find the hidden treasure you have to share your scars with someone else to be a comfort for them as God has been a comfort to you. A bam she said the word “forgiveness.” Forgive yourself. That’s what I had to do. And it was the second time is less than a week that forgiveness had been placed on my heart.
Mary closed the conference with three simple steps to walking in joy: Realize we were made for joy, recognize the value of joy, and learn to be joyful. What a comfort and confirmation. A few weeks ago as I was riding through a storm, I could only say and pray “If it was not for the joy of Jesus, I would have slit my wrist. If it were not for the joy of Jesus I would bury myself in a ditch.” And his joy did just what Mary said, healed me, made me strong and eliminated my tension.
In the words of Gwen, when things do not turn out the way you planned remember to pray “grace,” “grace”, “grace” for the person, situation and circumstance.