Women grow stronger spending time together and with Jesus.
This message resounded across Grace Family Church's Van Dyke campus during the Beautiful Conference, a women's ministry event held Feb. 1 and 2.
The conference, themed 'Stronger', featured speakers Hannah Brencher, founder of the World Needs More Love Letters, and best-selling Christian author Lisa Bevere.
Organizers chose the 2019 theme praying for a word, said Kristin Bonham, women's ministry director.
"Strength is for service, not for status," Bevere, 58, told a sanctuary of 1100 women, ranging from high school students to seniors.
For months I anticipated attending Beautiful, which Grace Family promoted online and at Sunday services.
Day one, I arrived minutes before 9 a.m., grabbed my name tag and waited for the doors to open. Volunteers sporting 'Stronger' t-shirts served coffee and snacks.
Inside, hosts called for volunteers to arm wrestle and dance on the sanctuary stage.
Worship leaders sang with raised hands.
Speakers shared personal experiences with depression and anxiety, discussing the benefits of everything from medication to prayer.
"When we clean up our thoughts, we detox our brain," said Kelly Wild, a licensed mental health counselor and wife to Grace pastor Dean Wild.
I attended Wild's conference breakout session entitled "Tame Your Brain." Other sessions included "Thriving in the Mommy Chaos", "Free to Be" and "Relationship Goals."
I received an affirmation note card, go-to scriptures and tools to combat irrational fears.
After lunch, author Hannah Brencher offered us an opportunity to write letters to strangers. Since 2011, Brencher's More Love Letters organization has sent more than 250,000 handwritten notes to people in need of encouragement and connection. I wrote to Maddey, a 14-year-old navigating the awkward teenage years and nominated by her mother.
"It's important to notice people," Brencher, 29, said.
Brencher, who suffered a severe depressive episode in her mid-twenties, described how supportive friends and family helped her survive.
"My mom would just hold me and pray through the night," Brencher said. "It can get better."
Lisa Bevere closed the conference speaking on her 2018 book Adamant: Finding Truth in a Universe of Opinions. Bevere and her husband John travel the world, both together and individually, preaching at churches, conference halls and stadiums. They run Messenger International, an organization focused on global evangelism.
Jesus is the adamant, our rock and immovable stone, Bevere said at the Beautiful Conference. Our strength, she said, comes from Him. Pride is weakness, not strength.
Bevere also urged women to stop judging one another, especially on social media.
"God is asking you and I to speak light," she said. "Judging is darkness."
I left the Beautiful Conference feeling more connected, both to my Grace sisters and my Heavenly father.
"I think the greatest take away is 'Stronger' together," Bonham said. "We're stronger when we share our lives with each other. We aren't created to keep our relationship with God to ourselves ... I believe He expanded the circles of every woman there this weekend to invite others in and to look up together."
GFC Beautiful also hosts weekly Bible studies and meet ups for women of all ages.
For more information on Hannah Brencher, visit hannahbrenchercreative.com and moreloveletters.com.
For more information on Lisa Bevere, visit messageinternational.org.
For more information on Beautiful at Grace Family Church, visit gfconline.com.