Wednesday, February 24, 2016
When Jamie asked me if I had interest in attending this year's local If:Gathering at Nazareth the first Saturday in February, I was honestly on the fence about it. Typically viewed as a confident, self-aware woman to the world around me, social settings surrounded by lots of other woman tend to cause me a little anxiety. And because I am realizing more and more of my introverted tendencies, my first instinct is always to think of twenty good reasons why it just isn't a good idea to spend an entire Saturday learning about Jesus from women who are beautifully put together from head to toe, raising oodles of kids, and still finding time to host conferences for 500,000 women across the world, writing best-selling books, and starting global missions that preach the word of God to people who have never heard His name before. These women inspire me, but their big presence often leaves me feeling inadequate and unequipped to do anything big with Jesus right now. As a working mom striving to earn a doctorate and raise two little ones, I find it hard enough to keep up with laundry, make dinner, listen to my husband, and play with my kids, and by the end of the week, I'm tired and overridden with a sense of guilt for not being enough. My Saturdays and Sundays are my reset days, my much-needed time to hide in my house with my kids and earn back their love and most importantly, my self-worth as a wife and mom. Debilitating, but real for this season I'm in.
For five years now, I have embraced my role of mom in every sense of the word. Sure, society deemed me a "working mom" because we like to label and compartmentalize, and then judge based on those labels, but I did my very best to underscore my mom role and be everything I could for Cruz and Mila. Don't get me wrong, Jesus has blessed me with an amazing job that has provided for us and offered many accomplishments along the way, but above all, I just wanted to be a mom. Work provided some long-term stability, some meaningful relationships, and motivating opportunities, and that, with my family, was more than enough. Or so I thought. In the back of my mind, I always sort of felt like something was missing. Deep connections with other women in this very same season of mine, supporting each other, being there for one another, and growing as people and disciples of Jesus together was something I desired, but didn't think I could commit to. I started praying for this, started saying yes to more things, even when those twenty excuses seemed so legitimate, and soon enough, His grace found me at the If:Gathering with Jamie that first Saturday in February. It was a hard day, but a day I walked away from with a deeper sense of what it means to be a woman, a friend, and disciple of Jesus Christ.
I remember attending my first Rocky Mountain High youth retreat when I was in high school and the total high I felt upon returning home. I was on fire for change and didn't want that high to go away, even though there was a clear disconnect between the experience and the reality of everyday life. That is one of the things I loved most about the women that coordinated IF. Instead of hearing from amazing women with jobs and experiences that made me feel inadequate and unrelatable, I heard from amazing women who are real and raw and on the same journey as I am, living every day the best they can as they juggle and balance and wrestle with what it means to live in the name of Jesus. They invited us in with such true application - simple ways I can live with greater intentionality in my day to day life. And, they opened my eyes to the power of women and the complicated yet critical importance of connecting with a village of women who talk faith and live it together. And most of all, although not surprising to me, is that this day away that I thought was time away from what was most important to my Saturday, ended up being a blessing for my family. I came home, opened up to Beau about my learning, was intentional about being present with the kids, and felt excited to let my learning sit for awhile and listen and be receptive to the nudges I felt from God following our day away (more on that later).
I had three big takeaways after IF. My first lesson was a reminder that God is the author of our faith - not us. And all we have to do is search and long for him and he will show up. One of the speakers encouraged us to look for ways to create space for Him, and be aware of those times He creates space for us. She said she used to find herself consistently waking up in the middle of the night around 3:00. She would get so frustrated by this and spend her thoughts willing herself back to sleep. When it kept happening, she decided to instead turn her thoughts into prayers and spend that time in the middle of the night talking to Jesus. She soon found that this time became such an important part of her faith journey. Since then, I've started looking for these moments in my daily life - those frequent drives from school to school to observe students, those early few minutes I wake up before my alarm sounds, or those ten minutes I find myself mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. I've been loving my daily subscription to IF:Equip, and encourage all of you to sign up to be on their email list. Every weekday, they share a passage of scripture, and through short video segments, women from IF process it together and apply it to their lives. I've always found these daily, deliberate times to engage and reflect in God's word so powerful. I truly believe God works through us in these moments, giving us the desire and power to do what pleases him. It's my daily compass moment, and resets me in the right direction.
Lastly, the IF Gathering reinforced the importance of community. We see so many people throughout our days and engage in so many different relationships, but the ladies of IF stressed the importance of locking arms with a few women in a deeper, more deliberate way. A village, who you can be real and raw with, and learn from and grow with. Shelley Giglio summed it up best when she said that the expectations of women are hard and complicated, and we need each other. She revisited the story of Mary Magdalene, one of the most important women in the Bible. As the first woman to see the empty tomb, and later, the face of her friend, Jesus, after he rose from the dead, three things happened. First, she saw His power. Then, she heard Him, speak directly to her. And then, he told her to go and tell the good news to everyone she knew. When we see Jesus in our life, we are called to do the same as Mary Magdalene. To go, share Him with others, and make disciples of all nations. Whether that be in our schools, in our towns, or around our tables.