A little rain didn't stop 2,400 women and nearly 700 girls from attending the Time Out for Women and Time Out for Girls events in Portland, Ore., Nov. 15-16. I attended with my daughter and several other mother/daughter groups from Eugene, a city about 110 miles south of Portland. This was our second time attending together, and we enjoyed it even more than last year. The theme "Higher" put me on a spiritual high as I committed to elevate my life to a higher level.
The mood in the Oregon Convention Center was electric as women found their seats and met with friends. More than once I heard people exclaim as they saw someone unexpected or renewed an old friendship. Tour manager Laura Korth welcomed us promptly at 6:30 p.m. and introduced our theme. I really appreciated the scripture she shared with us, Isaiah 55:9. Five minutes in and I was feeling more inspired already.
Deseret Book’s Time Out for Women events are inspirational events including musicans, authors and other presenters targeted at women and the Time Out for Girls events are for girls 12 to 17 years old. This year, Time Out for Women events were in nearly 20 cities across the U.S. and Canada.
Justin Cash and Calee Reed were the musical guests for the night. Cash played "Don't Worry, Be Happy," and it was an invitation to put the cares of the world aside for three hours. T.C. Christensen was our first speaker. I am unfamiliar with most of his films, but enjoyed his stories. He focused mostly on his latest film, “Ephraim's Rescue,” about Ephraim Hanks, an early member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who lived a remarkable life. Christensen encouraged us to realize our spiritual gifts and magnify them and to be willing to serve immediately when needed.
Reed's beautiful, ethereal voice and touching lyrics were enjoyable to listen to. As she shared the story of her mom's death from cancer at age 50, I thought of my friend Britney, who had a similar experience. I know Reed's story touched Britney, who was in the audience, as well as many others. Her song "She Put the Music In Me" inspired me to keep singing to my children, even as they grow older.
Cash's easy-going nature and eclectic taste in music made for an entertaining presentation. I liked his idea of "God's sweeping saves." Sometimes God does sweep in and help us in miraculous ways. We need to remember that he is God and can do all things.
The final presenter of the evening was author Heidi Swinton. She talked about living a higher life but not stepping over others to get there. Looking up was an important part of her message as she shared with us things she learned from writing "To the Rescue," the biography of President Thomas S. Monson. By looking up we can see the face of God, and we can also see people around us who need our help.
The evening left me lifting my head a little higher. I collected my daughter, who had great things to say about Jericho Road and the fun music they presented. After chatting over milkshakes it was time to get to bed so we could be ready for Saturday.
Saturday morning began with Chris Williams. His description of loneliness and anguish after the accident that took the life of his wife and children was heart-wrenching. As he described his prayers during this time, I felt absolutely in tune with what he was saying. He said he felt like Heavenly Father listened first, for as long as he poured out his heart, and then came back and taught him about the Savior and how he could help. Williams reminded me about the worth of every individual soul as he spoke about his interactions with the young man whose reckless decisions killed Williams' loved ones. Jesus Christ taught us about three words that can help so many of us as we use the Atonement to forgive and repent, "let it go." Chris's message is one I won't be letting go of soon.
Listening to Emily Watts was a pleasure. She is honest and forthright about who she is. Her stories were humorous and warm, and she had everyone laughing. Watts reminded me that I need to trust in Heavenly Father and his plan. He has the big picture. The most profound moment of the day for me came toward the end of Watts' presentation. She talked about how Heavenly Father protects our children beyond what we are aware of. Then she presented an idea that struck my soul to its core. It is that children's spirits respond to spiritual nourishment despite the age their bodies are. She was referring to infants, but I think I can apply this to my older children as well. When the Holy Ghost is present as I teach my children, our spirits can communicate as pure love and truth is shared.
Next up was Brad Wilcox. He mentioned an idea several other presenters shared, which is that we need to recognize and use our gifts. I loved his phrase "growth is optional; progress is a choice." I do want to choose to progress and change. Wilcox's loving way of delivering his message made me want to lift myself higher.
Jericho Road sang and talked to us throughout the day. It's got to be a tough job to make 2,400 women get up and dance, but they did it well. Their biggest crowd pleaser was a boy band medley, which had most people singing along.
In the afternoon we heard from Jennifer Brinkerhoff Platt and Emily Freeman. Platt talked about living an intentional life and recognizing daily personal messages from God. I can see the value in both of these ideas. She said that Satan wants to isolate us, but living the gospel can bring us closer to others. This is so true; I feel it in my own life. Looking outward and loving and serving others always makes me feel better and closer to God. Her admonition to pay more attention to the rituals in our lives made taking the sacrament more meaningful to me.
I appreciate that Freeman mentioned doubting and the apostle Thomas, as I think most people have doubts and moments of weakness throughout their lives. Her advice to turn to the scriptures to find answers isn't new, but she enforced it with great examples from her life. As she talked about the Lord giving us reaching moments, chances to stretch and grow, I found myself hoping for such opportunities to come my way.
For me, Time Out for Women ended too soon. I could have soaked up a few more hours. My daughter enjoyed Time Out for Girls event as well, especially hearing the humorous stories from presenters like Hank Smith and Kris Belcher. She and her friends looked uplifted and happy as they met us after each session. I'm looking forward to applying the messages and invitations I received over the next several months as I look for ways to live a higher life.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.