It's amazing for me to read my blog post from one year ago as I reflected on last year's IF:Gathering. When I read my words and remember where I was just one year ago - lonely, searching, attempting to juggle being a working mom and going back to school for another degree, I get choked up when I think about how much God has been working on my heart this year. Some days, I feel like a completely different person! A little more broken perhaps, but Spirit-fed and renewed in the promise that God isn't finished with me yet.
From last year's post...
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.
Gosh, I am glad that was a short season. When I read that now, it's amazing to see a woman who was a lot more lost than what I even thought I was. A woman who was attempting to control her life by always getting ahead and following the world's standard of what I should be. A woman who compared herself to others and easily felt inadequate and powerless. A woman who made excuses as to why I "couldn't do anything big with Jesus" right now. A woman who shied away from building community with others. A woman who failed to see God's role and the power He could play in her life. But then God introduced me to IF and planted a seed in me that would continue to grow right on through to another February and another IF:Gathering last weekend.
This year, I could hardly wait for February 3 and 4. An entire weekend to sit and soak up God's word with other women from our community there to do the same thing. To soak up the wisdom and truth from women I have admired and leaned on so much this year. To dig into God's word, silence my mind, and let His truth challenge my heart and lead me more deeply in this year to come. I didn't feel inadequate, but empowered. I didn't feel anxious, but excited. I didn't feel debilitated, but full of God's spirit. I was ready to move.
And I tell you what, this year's IF:Gathering will be a weekend I think about hopefully forever. God moved all right, in our cozy little setting here in Cedar Falls, and in that big convention center down in Austin. He moved through the voices of Jennie Allen and Rebecka Lyons, Britt and Kate Merrick, Lysa TerKeurst and the amazing Jill Briscoe. But most of all, He moved through a woman named Michelle Boats, a woman most of us had never heard of. Michelle Boats is not a best-selling author, a public speaker, or even a pastor, but a simple person who followed God's simple call to invest and love on others, right in the place He put her. This year's entire gathering focused on the book of Acts, and the small simple ways God built his early church. Jennie said that the If:Gathering would not exist if it weren't for Michelle Boats, a woman who invited Jennie to coffee when she was a wandering college student. She said, "I would listen to the relationship she had with Jesus and I would want that relationship." There, on Michelle's living room floor, Jennie and a few of her college friends would open up their Bibles, explore the word of God, and learn what it meant to follow Him. It was through Michelle Boats that she learned what the great commission described in Matthew 28 meant for her life. Because you have been with me, go be with people, so they will then be with me.
The themes were simple: Ordinary, humble people will change the world. Don't live for more, bigger, or better, but instead strive for smaller, simpler, and deeper. We all have work to do, but first, we have to fall in love with Jesus all over again. And then, little by little, person by person, tile by tile, we can multiply and build a spiritual dwelling place here on earth. God's kingdom will come, if we rise up and do the work.
God moved in so many ways this weekend. He moved in deepening my friendship with Angie. He moved through new opportunities to dig into His word with Katie, Angie, and Natalie. He moved through texts from Kate, soaking up the very same call two hours away in Pella. He moved when he sat us next to a sweet sister named Chelsea, and two college girls, Sydney and Michaela. He moved through Kristen and a simple, but powerful note she left on my chair. He moved through new friendships born, a continued push on my heart to invest in my current place, and a powerful yet simple charge to know God more. He moved and seemed to whisper this matters all weekend long.
So often when I was listening to the women this weekend, I found myself nodding my head in agreement, or other times, wanting to shout an emphatic AMEN, for they so perfectly put into words things I have been trying to say for so long! So without further adieu, my favorite quotes and takeaways from IF:Gathering 2017:
..."I wanted to become a part of the kingdom of God because Michelle Boats asked me to coffee. That's it. And I fear we're about to have a generation of people who never had a Michelle Boats." (Jennie Allen)
..."There are two reasons this kind of relational discipleship is dying - 1) We have traded being with Jesus for doing things for Jesus; and 2) We are trying to go big when we should go small." (Jennie Allen)
..."Being a mom is a profound privilege. How amazing that our disciples are sitting around our kitchen table!"
..."In the early church, the disciples understood Jesus as God with us. They hadn't forgotten that Jesus was the only thing that mattered."
..."Being in the loving presence precedes showing that loving presence to others. Jesus just wants us. That's it." (Kate Merrick)
..."Acts is a wake-up call for us. A siren for the church. The disciples spoke the word and brought 3,000 people to Jesus and no one tweeted about it." (Rebecka Lyons)
..."We live in a divided time, yet in our unraveling, this is a beautiful time for the church." (Rebecka Lyons)
..."Women of God you are marked by righteousness and not bitterness. You are marked by generosity and not selfishness. You are marked by bravery and not fear. March for that." (Rebecka Lyons)
..."Beckon your daughters and your mothers and your sisters and your friends because YOU, the food people, you are the ones who feed the hungry, you house the orphan, you lift up the disabled, you reach across lines, lean in, and listen. You are not governed by fear, for you are the daughter of a king who has prepared you for a moment like this." (Rebecka Lyons)
..."God will place in our path people at just the right time. We need to pray to have open hearts and surrender."
..."Pray this prayer: Lord, use every part of who I am for Your good." (Jill Briscoe)
..."Whatever the orbit of your life, whatever you touch from your own two feet, that is your mission field." (Jill Briscoe)
..."Paul had no clue that billions would read his words. We have no idea what text or phone call might be invaded by the Holy Spirit." (Bianca Olthoff)
Through the laughter and the tears, the silence and the fellowship, the worship and the deep conversations tucked away in that little chapel, there were moments last weekend when I felt like I was breaking apart. The call to live out the great commission may sound simple, but it's surely not easy in a world that seems so upside down. There is much to distract us, so many battles to fight, and so much noise to drown out God's whisper. But as Rebecka Lyons so beautifully unpacked for us through the life of Stephen, it's when we break apart that the body of Christ can multiply. So, rise up, bring your cross, speak truth. For you are the daughter of a king.
"I believe you can read your Bible and mark it up and it can change your soul. I believe women, with women, on living room floors with their Bibles can change the world. That's IF."