02 November 2004

Five of us ladies from church had quite the adventure recently. We left on a Friday morning from my house and headed for Minneapolis. Jason Taylor, the JHi Youth Retreat Speaker and Ryan’s childhood friend, was staying the weekend with us. He was quite surprised when lots of people were all of a sudden at the house and he was still in his pajamas. We finally got on the road about 9am. With only one pit stop on the way, we arrived at the Mall of America about 1pm. It took a while to find parking and then we were inside this massive mall. Of course we needed to have lunch so I suggested Bubba Gumps. I felt horrible because it was expensive and not so great food. After lunch the ladies went on to shop. My buddy Renessa is still nursing and needed to take care of duties so I went back to the van with her and we chatted. About the time she was done and we went back into the mall, we had 20 minutes to shop. I made sure to find Victoria’s Secret and make a quick purchase before leaving. We walked through one other store before meeting up with our pals to head for the hotel. Our meeting spot happened to be near a Hooters. That’s so NOT a family restaurant. Who do they think they’re lying to? I couldn’t believe that there were young teenage boys in there and that the girls really do wear skimpy clothing. Outrageous!

We took the long way to the hotel, checked in, freshened up quickly and headed back South towards downtown. For as much time as we spent driving there, it would have been better to hang out at the mall a bit longer and go straight to the conference. After venturing through downtown with HORRIBLE directions trying to find the arena, we made our way into the parking ramp. Eventually we arrived at our seats – the nose bleeds. I’m not kidding you, we were in the second row from the top! It was great, you could see everything, it was just really small in size :) It was so good to sit in an arena with 18,000 other women to hear some great stories, see some great drama and worship.
I went last year and it was right after I got bucked off my horse and was still having massive headaches, back issues and couldn’t stay balanced when standing. This time I was refreshed, feeling good and teachable. What a difference that makes. I loved every bit of it, every speaker, every music artist – the whole weekend was wonderful. Saturday afternoon, Tammy Trent shared her story. Tammy is the singer who lost her husband while on the last day of their vacation in Jamaica – September 10, 2001. What a heart wrenching story. I had heard it before but there was newness this time and it was so much more personal. Plus she shared details that I had not heard her share before. I cried. Each time I’ve heard her talk, it has helped me to appreciate Ryan that much more. I have such a wonderful and loving husband. Tomorrow he might be gone forever so I need to make sure he knows how very special he is. At the close of the conference one of the speakers got up to tell us about the head stage guy. Friday night after the conference, he said he didn’t feel good and was going outside to get some fresh air. As he walked down the isle, he collapsed. They rushed to the hospital to find that he had a brain anurism and wasn’t looking hopeful. The guy is from Philedelphia and has a wife and 5 year old son. Life truly can be gone in an instant.
I left there Saturday night emotionally drained but encouraged. We had a great bonding time together and I look forward to going again next year. Next time we won’t count on internet directions to get us around and through the city :)

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