The 2016 Art of Homemaking Conference at Southwestern Seminary, Oct. 27-29, highlighted the importance of trusting and serving God in all circumstances and exhorted women to find strength and joy in the Lord Jesus Christ during every season of life. Comprising six plenary sessions and multiple breakout sessions, the conference offered ample opportunity for increasing knowledge in specific areas of life as well as receiving spiritual encouragement and nourishment from renowned speakers.

Plenary session presenters this year included Alan and Lisa Robertson, Lorna Reeves, Rhonda Harrington Kelley, Candi Finch, Monica Patrick and Dorothy Kelley Patterson. Alan and Lisa Robertson, who appear on the television series “Duck Dynasty,” spoke during the first plenary session, Oct. 27 (see here).

The second plenary session, which took place the following evening, was led by Lorna Reeves, editor of TeaTime Magazine. She spoke on the topic of tradition and leaving a “legacy of faith.”

Family and cultural traditions that are passed on to new generations are important, Reeves said, but ultimately are not of utmost importance. She added that even Christian traditions can be good, but if not biblical, they are ultimately distracting for Christians and for the church.

“I think sometimes we get held captive by human tradition,” Reeves said. “We buy into the lie that our appearance is what matters, or that worship style is what matters, or whatever human tradition grabs us.”

She urged women to keep their focus on Christ, for that is what matters most. Among the practical methods she offered for keeping Christ as one’s focus, she encouraged women to set aside time each morning to study the Word. Doing this, Reeves explained, will not only prepare them for the day, but will also set an example for their families.

On Saturday morning, the conference resumed with Rhonda Harrington Kelley, wife of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley, speaking on the topic of godly influence and where such influence is found. More specifically, she shared her own experiences of godly influences throughout her life and why they have been formative in her Christian walk.

“No matter what stage of life you find yourself in now or in the future, I pray that you will not look to the world but to the Word to find women you can emulate in your own life,” Kelley said. She further emphasized the importance of not only being mindful of who and what women allow themselves to be influenced by, but also being mindful of how they influence others.

Candi Finch, assistant professor of theology in women’s studies at Southwestern Seminary, used her plenary session to discuss the importance of finding true contentment in God alone. “So many of us in here are discontent because we are looking for other people to satisfy us,” Finch explained.

“We are looking for other people to give us worth and value. But God is enough. … Contentment does not come from circumstances. It comes from focusing on Christ.”

Emphasizing that Christians’ citizenship is not earthly but heavenly, Finch explained that Christians must focus on the Lord Jesus Christ and cultivate a heart of obedience. “You will never find contentment [while] actively engaging in sin,” she said. “When you are obedient—when you say, ‘Yes, Lord, I will do it Your way’—something in our spirit coincides with His, and we’re like, ‘I am in the place that I should be. This is right and good.’”

Monica Patrick, wife of Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Communications Charles Patrick, spoke next on the importance of perseverance and faith during the difficult trials of life. “The Bible is full of instances of suffering, trials [and] difficult times,” she said. “[But] it is not to be compared with the glory that is coming.”

Recounting her past years of struggle with stage 4 breast cancer, Patrick said, “We have to trust God works all things together for good according to His perfect will.” She explained that through her illness, God enabled her to share the Gospel and the peace and comfort of Christ with those around her, including other cancer patients and her doctor. Encouraging the audience to “count it all joy” when difficulties strike, Patrick praised God for His faithfulness in sending loving people and promises through Scripture throughout her time of suffering.

The conference’s final speaker was First Lady of Southwestern Dorothy Patterson, who spoke from Mark 14 with the title, “She did what she could.” Citing the biblical example of the woman who broke the alabaster jar of perfume and poured it out on Jesus, Patterson highlighted the importance of pouring oneself out for God’s service.

“When you give of your time and your energy to the Lord Jesus, whether it is on a mission field, ... whether it is as a pastor’s wife, a seminary president’s wife, a student, a children’s worker, a biblical counselor, whatever you do—a lady who goes around serving tea parties to women who need comfort and help, whatever it is—you give that to the Lord Jesus, and it is never a waste,” Patterson said. “He treasures that which you give to Him, especially if you are giving up yourself.”

On Friday, to complement the plenary sessions, conference participants chose four breakout sessions from a roster of 20 different offerings, which touched on such realms of life as spirituality, family, home, hospitality, politics and gender issues. One track was led by Barbara O’Chester, who has led countless marriage retreats across the country. Her sessions provided women the opportunity to probe deeply into biblical principles concerning submission, marital intimacy, parent-child relationships and the Holy Spirit.

The Southwestern Bazaar was also open to attendees throughout the final day of the conference. This allowed Southwestern students and families engaged in cottage industries and home businesses to bring out homemade goods to exhibit and sell, including items such as jewelry, ceramics, paintings, baked goods, doilies, baby clothes and children’s books.

To learn more about Southwestern’s opportunities for equipping in women’s ministry, including studies in family and consumer sciences, visit swbts.edu/wp