I was only out of town for less than two days, but recovering from my trip to Women of Faith took almost a week. I admit I had trepidations about this event despite my excitement because my anxiety and fibromyalgia make traveling interesting and, honestly, kind of scary. While I knew the trip, the company and the experience of the conference itself would be full of fun, the practical aspects of long car rides, shared hotel rooms and HUGE crowds made me very anxious before-hand. Here's what I would have done differently:
- Don't overwork yourself the day before you leave. On Thursday I suddenly decided that my entire house needed to be cleaned and that my husband would starve or feel unloved if I didn't make him more meals than I knew he would eat while I was gone. I really thought I was doing the right thing by getting as many loads of dishes and laundry done ahead of time until I was standing in the church parking lot trying not to have a panic attack about all the things that could go wrong in my absence and my pastor basically told me to lighten up and that while my husband would miss my presence for the two days I was gone, he likely wouldn't miss me in the "depends-on-me" for everything sense, because the truth is, my husband does not depend on me for everything. I don't operate under that misapprehension on any other given day - somehow knowing I was leaving made me go a little mental. This is a full disclosure, just-being-honest sort of statement. I could have spent the day before my trip learning more about the speakers, or doing my nails, or any number of other things that would have brought me calm instead of stress.
- Don't worry about food unless you have planned ahead to cook and have facilities to do so. I say this because I and the group of women I attended this event with live in a small town and the event was being held in a big town. We were all eager to go to restaraunts that we otherwise don't get to go to and I had a good time treating myself to fancier meals than I would ever allow myself back home. I had brought some cup-o-noodle soups with me thinking that the hotel's coffee maker could make hot water for my soup but there was not a moment during the trip where I was hungry and could have saved some space in my bag. Breakfast at our hotel, and most hotels nowadays, was free, so I pocketed some bananas after I'd had as big of a breakfast as I wanted.
- Don't bother to bring a bible. "WHUUUT??" You might be asking. The arena is dark, the talks were short and did not really allow the time for 10,000 people to bust out their heavy bibles and find certain scriptures, and it just makes your bag that much heavier. The arena had rules about not recording video, but believe it or not the speakers encouraged use of phones for all number of things including selfies and app use. If you have a smart phone and have not tried Olive Tree or YouVersion for bible access on your phone, you really should give it a shot. I find I do the majority of my scripture reading on my phone at moments that don't really allow easy access to my physical bible, like in dark settings or just before bed when.
Stuff I wish I had done or brought:
- Do bring a flat pillow for sitting on. I do not understand sports fans. Being in a very crowded place with uncomfortable seats seems like as close to hell as those who know the Lord are going to get. The seats are much more uncomfortable than you're expecting. If you have any physical limitations whatsoever, you cannot possibly afford to leave your pillow home, and make sure to bring whatever else you may need to stay comfy like a cane and possibly even ear plugs. This event was just on my comfort threshold for volume, which is to say it was pretty quiet as far as large events go, but if you are sensitive it might be smart.
- Do take anti-chafing measures. I wore a skirt and climbed eleventy billion awkward stadium stairs that are like 2 inches high and 2 feet apart, just weird enough to make the already difficult experience of traversing stairs even more awkward. My thighs are still rashy and it's been 5 days! Wear pants, use anti-chafing ointment, whatever you do! I am thinner now than I have been in years and, as such, thought my chafing days were behind me. I believe that under certain circumstances most thighs will chafe, regardless of size. Even if you're not a chafer, just plan on maximizing your comfort when it comes to spots that will rub.
-Do bring an empty container for water and pack a lunch in an ice chest in your car. Concessions were insane at the event. There was only one kiosk serving coffee and the line wrapped around the entire venue. All drinks, including bottles of water, were $5 each and the lines were always long. The arena did not allow full containers to be brought inside but they did allow empty bottles which could be filled at drinking fountains. I do wish I had done this as I spent the event very thirsty. There are three good-sized breaks on the full day of the Women of Faith event which is enough time to go to your car and picnic. Veteran attendees brought radios, folding tables and chairs, and full spreads of food. In the future I'll probably plan to stop and grab a nice Panera sandwich and keep it in an ice chest. Bringing pre-prepared home-made food would have been way too stressful and our vehicle was full up.
-Do prepare for God to make himself known to you. This event was better than I expected it to be and all the wisdom is trickling its way through me even 5 days later. God was magnified, we all felt his presence, and I think most of the women there left feeling something positive and healing had been done inside them by the Lord. Corporate worship is powerful. Even if you think lots of music and singing and crowds are not your thing, just trust that God will zap you with some awesome love because he so so did!