It was beautiful.
I sit here, days after an amazing weekend, and I’m speechless. I don’t know what to write or say. I’m very aware that any words I use will fall short of sharing my experience with you. I wasn’t kidding when I said on Facebook that this was like a women’s conference on steroids. Each speaker, each conversation in the living room and over tables, gave me so much meat and truth, that I’m finding it impossible to just sit and process it all. I have pages of notes. PAGES. I filled over half of a brand-new journal. And I need to sit with the journal, with Jesus, and perhaps watch IF again, and just let it sink into my marrow.
But let me back up… You can read about my other IF:Gathering thoughts here, from the moment I first heard about it to deciding to host a local group here. I’m not gong to lie, when we first moved the IF:Local group from a church to my mom’s home due to numbers, I felt like a bit of a failure. Despite knowing that God would move hearts and that the women who were meant to come, would come, it felt like I fell short of delivering. But as I came to terms with the idea of a smaller group, I realized the treasure we had ahead of us in an intimate environment, in allowing for real conversations, in meeting with each other over tables. And it was during the first break, discussing the questions given to us, it became apparent that this was a better environment for a lot of the women attending.
(Can I just pause for a moment and thank the women who stepped out on a limb with me? Not knowing what IF: was really about, not knowing what to expect, or who would come, beautiful women who said “I’m in” and helped me plan, makes calls, contacts, who excitedly told other women about IF:, who put forth much effort in making this come together. Becky, Rachel, my sister, Christine, my mom, Rebecca, and my cousin, Abby. Thank YOU!! Thank you for joining me on this crazy ride. The planning, the coffee dates, the laughing, the conversations, the visions, they were all part of this adventure.)
The worship was… amazing. Abby was originally going to lead a worship team for our gathering, but as the group was moved, it was decided that we could just sing along with the worship team at IF:Austin. We worried, a little, about how that would look and would we feel as though we were worshipping while singing along with a video feed. And the answer, unequivocally is YES. Sitting there and listening to the women online and in the living room, lifting their voices to praise and worship Jesus… It was beautiful. And it brought me to tears more than once. And when they sang “Oceans” by Hillsong, I could barely keep the tears inside. (If you read my other posts, you’ll know why that song became my anthem this year.)
When the conference first began, Jennie Allen and some of the other women on the leadership team took the stage first. I laughed when Jennie admitted that they didn’t know what IF: was or what it would look like or where it would take us. She said, “It’s like we blew a dog whistle, and everyone came running. You didn’t know why you were coming, but you came.” And so to everyone who was asked, or asked the question, “What is IF:?” There’s not really an answer, except to say, we want to love Jesus and love people. Together. As a group of women, unified, building each other up, encouraging each other in the race. And that was quickly evident in the group of women gathered in my mom’s house this weekend. Even Dr. Tara Jenkins called it a “What is it?” blessing.
There were many things I’m taking away from the conference… I felt as though each speaker had some something specifically for me to hear. And there are infinite ways to apply them in my life, on a personal level and as a church. And I’m sure I’ll share as I process through them. But it felt as though there was larger theme. God IS doing a new thing. In me, in the church, in this time. I don’t even know what that looks like, just as I didn’t know how to describe IF:. The question I have to answer is, will I step out in obedience? Will I be one that says yes? It doesn’t even matter what the question is, or what He’s asking of me, of us. Am I willing to say yes, to my Lord and Savior? The ONE who saved me from myself, the ONE who gave everything?! How do I not say yes to Him?
I want to run the race. I want to love and encourage those in the race with me. I want to step over to the sidelines and encourage the women who are limping and tired and crippled, and tend to their needs so they can run their race again. I want to allow myself to be vulnerable and open, to ask for help, when its my turn to limp to the sideline. I want a church to sit across tables and have hard conversations, where they acknowledge their differences and decide the only thing that matters is that we love Jesus. I want a church that starts standing FOR things, instead of being known for what we’re against. I want… I want to leave nothing on this earth, I want to know that I gave it all.
Now I get to sit and figure out how that looks in my life, knowing that in grace I will have moments of failure, I will have seasons of running strong. And in neither of those times, does my Father love me any more or any less.
When I get to heaven and am standing before Him, I want my cheeks to be flushed from the labor of what I did in response to the way He saved me. -Angie Smith