This past weekend, myself and 190ish other women spent Friday afternoon through Saturday evening in a gymnasium at the If:Madison West gathering. In addition to listening to gifted women speak from the If:Gathering stage, there was a lot of laughing, some crying, lots of singing, and a good amount of discussions and prayer. I was SO GLAD to have a few of my good friends with me (thanks for coming, Jackie, Debbie, and Deborah!). We had some great discussion processing and praying through what we heard.
The If team walked us through the story of Joshua and the theme surrounding BELIEF. We looked at with faith is (and is not), explored reasons we have a hard time believing, heard ways on how we can believe, and dreamed of what could happen if we lived out our faith more courageously in our everyday lives.
Lots and lots of great things came out of this gathering, but I’m gonna give you my TOP FIVE.
#5 Rest. I sat in a room for a day and a half, full of other women, talking, listening and resting. We were catered a delicious meal (thanks to Bunky’s Cafe!) and I ate the most delicious chocolate cake. No one asked me for a bite of my food, to wipe their bottoms, get them a snack, put their robe on, or pick out every black bean out of their soup. No miniature child but her sweet chubby hand over my mouth so I would stop talking and pay attention to only her. I just sat and listened and shared what was on my heart. And before you judge, let me tell you, I was not the only one sitting around my table who were thinking the exact things :). A true gift of rest!
#4 Be courageous. Christine Caine spoke on Saturday afternoon on Joshua 1. First, she talked about how when the Lord came to Joshua, He said, “Moses my servant is dead. Now then….” He was calling Joshua to move forward. The days of Moses were over, but He was moving the Israelites forward. How many times do we look back to the past and think, “If I could only get back to that place, then …” We longingly remember sweet periods of our life when we felt like God was really working in our lives and through our lives. But now? Well, we’re still trying to get back to that. We’re hanging onto things that are dead. God’s saying to us, “yes, yes, I was working in that way or in that relationship or in that ministry. But come on, I’m moving on to something else. Please come with me– I’m working over here now– come on and join me.”
She also really encouraged us to not be afraid to be uncomfortable. We are created to be dangerous to the dark places of the world. The call of God is nearly always inconvenient.
#3 Hearing from local women who are changing their part of the world. Several people in our gathering shared parts of their journey of faith, but one woman in particular really impacted me. She’s the founder of Lilada’s Living Room, an organization that creates safe, healing spaces for female survivors of sexual abuse here in Madison. Lilada shared a little bit about how she got where she is today, and encouraged us to look at our places of pain when asking God to show us “our place” of calling or ministry. For many of us, it’s our places of pain that we think hold us back from taking that next step of faith. But in reality, God is inviting us to share with others the same comfort that He has ministered to us (2 Corinthians 1.3-7).
I just love hearing how God is working in our specific community. It’s really easy to not know what’s going on and believe that kingdom work is only trudging along. But hearing the stories of God healing, comforting, and saving women and men here in Madison- it’s encouraging and inspiring to say the least.
#2 Worshiping God through some AWESOME music! We had a fantastic team of musicians to lead us in singing worship to our God. To worship with women from all walks of life, from different churches around the city, in different styles– it was just beautiful.
#1 Lynne Hybels. Shauna Niequist sat with her momma (Lynne Hybels) on stage and together they told a beautiful story of a momma who wasn’t living into her own gifts, passions, and dreams for far too long, and how a resurrection of faith, hope, and healing at just the right time allowed a daughter to see exactly what she needed to see- a woman of faith, fully unleashed, living into a call that God had on her life. I had read part of the story before on Shauna’s blog, but to see Shauna and Lynne talk together on that stage– I wept. Daughters need their mommas to show them what it looks like to follow God and live into their giftings, not afraid of what others are going to do or say. It made me think of how much I want to set a good example for all my kids of what it looks like to follow God, even when it means doing life little untraditionally. As much as I want to be there for my kids as much as I can, I also want my kids to know that they are not the center of my world. Our God is. Lynne writes this on Shauna’s blog (I didnt take a single note from the actual If talk because I was giving 100% of my attention to the stage):
Most women I know are really good at giving. And we should be good at giving. We follow in the way of a Savior who gave himself for the world. But Jesus didn’t give himself indiscriminately; he didn’t give people everything they wanted. Jesus knew his calling from the Father; he knew the unique shape of the redemptive gift he was to give to the world. I believe that too many women give bits and pieces of themselves away, indiscriminately, for years and years, and never have the time or energy to discern their unique calling from God, never have the time or energy to play the redemptive role they are gifted and impassioned to play. The result is a lot of good-hearted, devout Christian women who are exhausted and depressed.”
Whew. Good stuff. Stuff I’m glad I hear now instead of 20 years down the road.
I had a great time at the If:Gathering– connecting with other local women, reflecting on great speakers’ messages, figuring out what faithfulness and belief and calling look like in our lives. Thanks to the If:Team for spearheading this event!
Also big shoutout to Zion City Church and Blackhawk Church for co-hosting this great event! It was so much fun and I think we should partner on more events like this in the future!
[Sidenote: I also really loved Jen Hatmaker’s talk on the topic of “what keeps us from believing?” I also didn’t take very good notes (I have a hard time keeping good notes while listening. Apparently I need to go back to college), so I didn’t list it above. The one thing I remember besides “The parent is in the elevator” situation is that she said that we live out God’s Kingdom to the same measure we really believe it. Bazinga.]