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Annual conference inspires COG women and girls
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Annual conference inspires COG women and girls
By Brandi Cartwright
The writer attends the Church of God Big Sandy and the Church of God Tulsa Fellowship, Mounds, Okla. She lives with her husband, Trey, in Nacogdoches, Texas.

BIG SANDY, Texas--The East Texas Christian Women's Conference has become a staple in my springtime diet. For six years at the annual event, I have enjoyed the company of scores of women who are trying to follow God.

This year's theme, the weekend of March 10-12, was "Seek the Lord and Live," and I found the topics this year particularly moving.

One of the major themes was "Stress" and how to deal with it. It was this topic that started the conference off with an interactive workshop by Linda Benton of Nacogdoches, Texas, called "Stress: Take Control and Protect Yourself."

This particular workshop hit home with me because Ms. Benton gave an identity to a life philosophy I have always had: that you are the only person who can directly control and affect your attitude.

She showed through Scripture, authors of books and psychologists that no one can offend you, make you happy, make you sad, make you angry, make you a victim, make you feel-- whatever.

Ms. Benton's workshop set the tone for the conference in reminding us that we should not let stress and life get in the way of seeking the Lord.

Saturday morning had two great seminars by Thalia Hufton of Hawkins, Texas ("Seeing Is Believing"), and Brenda Ross of Tyler ("Is It Still Lemonade?").

God's presence

Mrs. Hufton presented the challenge of realizing the need to exhort each other and advised us on ways to help us experience God's presence.

Mrs. Ross's stirring words were to help us understand and be ready to help minister and comfort the seriously ill and their caregivers.

She was recently the caregiver for her husband, Jim, who died of an aggressive form of cancer Nov. 17, 2005. (See related articles including "A Church of God Member Who Has Terminal Cancer Explains What It's Like to Face Eternity," by Bill Stough, The Journal, September-October 2005.)

I cannot even begin to imagine the strength it took for Mrs. Ross to be willing to speak about her recent personal experiences in a public format.

Lyna Jane Bryant of Sulphur Springs, Texas, led the music this year, doing a great job of getting people to present a broad range of music.

The women from the Tulsa (Okla.) Fellowship Choir sang several inspiring songs, and a group of women from the North Texas Fellowship in Yahweh, based in Celina, sang several numbers I had never heard but thoroughly enjoyed.

I delight in worshiping the Lord through music, and the music program was quite successful at the conference.

Breaking out

One of the best formats at the conference is the breakout sessions. For those of you who have not attended a conference, this is how it goes:

Four or five women who live in the host area volunteer to have their houses invaded by 15-20 women for about two and one-half hours. They provide wonderful, tasty little lunches, and this in itself is a good reason to attend.

But wait. There's more. Another woman is in charge of a particular discussion topic, and we all get to have an informative, informal discussion.

The food was superb, and I'm not just saying that because I went to my mother-in-law's home; it really was.

I heard from women who visited the other homes that their hostesses were equally as splendid. I believe these women who graciously open up their homes deserve our thanks, and I am sure I am not the only one who would want to say thank you and we appreciate you (all mentioned in this article live not far from Big Sandy unless otherwise noted).

Hostesses this year were Linda Cartwright, Tat Tomes, Nadine Van Laecken, Jeri Holcomb and Darcy Stahl.

Suicide prevention

Their respective breakout leaders were Jeana Anderson of Russellville, Ark. ("Seasons and Seasoning"), Sharon Ledy ("Depression and Suicide Prevention"), Laurie Fisher ("The Journey Is the Joy"), Jeri Holcomb ("How Many Straws Are On Your Camel, and, By the Way, Who Put Them There?") and Thalia Hufton ("Building Relationships That Will Last for Eternity-- Starting Now!").

As usual, I learned something from each of the women who participated in my chosen discussion group, and I appreciate those who spoke out in the breakouts. For some, giving a seminar is not something of interest, but they add tremendous value to the breakout sessions by helping answer questions and relating their experiences.

Because the breakout sessions have been so successful, there are now more time slots for them. In the late afternoon (back at the Church of God Big Sandy's building) four more topics were discussed:

  • "Fear Factor: God's Challenges," by Amie Hufton.

  • "Are You Taking Off or Landing?," by Tat Tomes.

  • "The Fire Song of Praise," by Renee Steel of Tulsa, Okla.

  • "What Is Your Real Age?," by Carol Bald.

I heard bits and pieces from each group (I was taking pictures at the time), and each group had discussion and smiles all around.

Not a fast

If you haven't already noticed, food is a big part of the conference. We have breakfast and lunch provided on Saturday and Sunday, and Saturday night is the sit-down dinner.

Most people reading this are probably wondering why, if this weekend is supposed to rejuvenate and refresh women, is there so much cooking involved?

Well, if you come next year, make sure you bring your husband because he will be able to contribute to your rejuvenating experience by serving dinner!

Yes, the men of the Church of God Big Sandy and husbands of the participating wives serve up our food.

Tony Contos (who is a fabulous chef) makes a meal that is definitely worth the drive. After a meal that included Mr. Contos's beef Wellington, we had more music, breakout discussions and massages. Yes, massages. All in all, a relaxing end to an eventful day.

Voices in your head

Sunday had four more seminars:

  • "Worry: The Wide Road to Nowhere," by Renetta Wilson of Celina.

  • "I'm Sorry, What Did You Say?," by Judy Post of Houston, Texas.

  • "The Voices in Your Head: Recognizing God's Voice," by Sharon Ledy.

  • "The Small Things," by Paula Hughes.

The conference concluded with a prayer group led by the master of ceremonies for the weekend, Nancy White.

If you have the chance to come to a women's conference presented under the auspices of the Church of God Big Sandy, I believe you will not be disappointed.

Thanks to such get-togethers, I have friends all across the country and we can meet and encourage each other to continue to follow (or look for) the path God wants us to take.

Mark your calendar for March 9-11, 2007, and maybe we'll see you next year!

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