Saturday, February 21, 2015

the if: gathering (the first day)...



There I was, sitting, preparing, praying.

I was beyond excited to begin the journey that God had for me this weekend; again, He was already doing a lot of work in my heart and I knew this weekend would intensify that.

The Lord was faithful to give me so many things this weekend, so many gleanings that I am still processing through and harvesting in my heart. The speakers and guests at this conference were so vulnerable and transparent, and I am so thankful for that. Leading out of vulnerability is one of my personal mantras, so to see these women leading others through the rough periods of their life, where they had been in the wilderness, where life beat them and broke them, was such an honor. We heard from Jessica Sowards and April Smith who taught us “we can dance upon graves because we have Jesus” and that “we won’t just move mountains, we will burn them to the ground.” Powerful things, friends.

Founder of IF, Jennie Allen, set the tone for the weekend as we studied Numbers 13 and when she posed the questions:

Am I enough?
Are we going to be safe?
What will this cost me?

These questions are basic, but have intrinsic value to our souls. I recently met with a counselor at my church to greater understand trust and safety within relationships. He said that 2/3 of these questions are what we bring into this world, and our view is slowly molded in our experiences of God, people, and ourselves. Mercy. (I wish I had time to diviulge all of his wisdom! Another post for another time…)

Jennie led us to the place where we saw two storylines in the story of the Israelites… one of faith and one by sight; the two saw the land of milk and honey from the vantage point of faith, while the ten simply saw the giants ahead. They must have wondered, “If God is real, then what am I doing in the desert?” And friends, don’t we do that so often? If God is real, then why does my mom have cancer? If God is real, then why did my husband die overseas? If God is real, then why am I struggling to provide for myself? If God is real… BIG, HARD, MESSY QUESTIONS Y’ALL.

After a small break, we returned to hear Angie Smith, Jo Saxton, and Rebekah Lyons. Each woman, so full of life and redemption, each with amazing stories and passions… Angie Smith, our resident Natalie Portman look-alike, shared deep wounds of her past, encouraging women in their gifting’s and passions. She spoke on her desire to be a soccer player (and I instantly remembered my soccer days as a sweeper and forward and became instantly exhausted… for the love, SO MUCH RUNNING!) but her place as a cheerleader. Somehow, she saw being a cheerleader as being less then a soccer player. And her words spoke conviction to the crowd of 2,000 as she stated, “Angie, who told you that being a cheerleader wasn’t important?” Who has told us that we aren’t important? That being a mom isn’t important? That being a single woman in ministry isn’t important? That being a businesswoman wasn’t important? Holy Moses, truth sunk in hard…

“I stopped valuing my gifts because they weren’t what I valued in others…”

“We all have a want to be legitimate; we want something to legitimize our work, our places, our identities…”

On the panel of three, I have to admit, Jo Saxton was my absolute favorite. She is a passionate African-American woman with an incredible English accent; she immediately captured us with her humor, her story, and her gleanings on faith and the Israelites.

“We don’t live beyond what we think of ourselves; we cant live in the fullness of His promises without living in the fullness of our identities… Do you see yourself as a grasshopper?”

She spoke on the 12 tribes, how the Amalekites and Jebusites and Levites and all the other tribes were known for being the bullies or the ones with the great riches or the ones with the land and how we have our own tribes that captivate us; we have our own kingdom mindsets that trap us and enslave us with unbelief.

“Free people free people…”

Then, she spoke about her earthly father and the absence of him in her life. And friends, I have never been one to resent my earthly father for his lack of presence in my life, but Jo brought me to that place of emotion and feeling that I had no idea was there. She put words to feelings that have been resting deep down in my heart.

“How do I know that my Heavenly Father is for me when my
earthly father wasn’t?”

And that was when my jaw dropped to the floor. I don’t know how a father acts to his children because I never experienced that; I don’t know a father’s touch, his provision, his protection, his unconditional love. I know the opposite. And how does that impact my relationship with God? Gosh, my heart was pounding, my mind racing. I am still processing through this, even today as I type this.

Next, Rebekah Lyons shared with us her passion and desire for repentance in this generation, for a revival and circumcision of the heart. She stated that revival is “the infusion of the Spirit into the body that threatens to be a corpse”. May we be women who come fully alive in the blood of Christ!

We had a dinner break where I met two wonderful women from Texas. We shared life stories and queso and chips and I had the best enchiladas mole that I have ever tasted. (When in Texas, right?)

Now friends, here is the highlight of my weekend… JEN HATMAKER. I am confident that Jen Hatmaker and I would be great friends. She is that blend of godly and real that makes the devil fear for his life. I am so thankful that she writes and shares with the world her raw moments of motherhood, being a wife, being a follower of Christ. I thought I couldn’t speak more highly of her UNTIL FEBRUARY 6, 2015.

Jen walked up onto the stage in her big earrings and poncho, beautiful and eclectic as ever. And let me tell you, she captivated us with humor and truth for the next thirty minutes. She shared about her father and his character and how he “over-loved” her and her siblings. And then she went to that place where my heart heard things that I desperately needed to hear from the Lord. Here are ALL MY NOTES, free of charge:

“When you believe someone, you believe what they say about you…”

“Kingdom ways aren’t practical ways…”

“Expect a battle for faith; we become powerful with faith, it moves from our heads and into our lives…”

“We live out God’s kingdom to the fullness that we believe in it…”

“It can be so hard to trust a God who continuously sends us to the hard places; our limits blind us to Gods capacity…”

“We don’t believe in ourselves in Him,
we believe in ourselves in ourselves…”

“You don’t need full confidence in yourself,
you need full confidence in God…”

“Tiny God categories DON’T work…”

“Don’t wait until you have full possession of knowledge before you take full possession of God… Faith does not demand that God always explain Himself... Faith actually remains in tact and thrives in that place…”

“Faith does not inoculate us from being human…”

“What you want to be true in the day,
you find out if it is true in the night…”

“The Israelites were abused and tender, coming 
out of slavery and bondage mere weeks ago… 
the Promised Land was too terrifying to hope for…”

“Freedom, at times, is impossible to believe in.
Bondage is familiar, and we cling to that place…”

“Give your heart permission to trust Him…”

“Faith isn’t a formula to get to the good stuff… it is the good stuff…”

“Faith doesn’t rid us of insecurity, it overcomes it…”

“It is safe to trust a faithful God…”

All of these are amazing reflections, but can we notice where she starts talking about the Israelites? About how they were bruised and tender from bondage, and that His promises were actually too terrifying to hope for, to believe in? I AM AN ISRAELITE; I am coming out of a season where God was silent, where my heart was crushed, where I couldn’t see anything to hope in or for, and when I did, it was absolutely one-hundred percent too wonderful, so I retreated into fear, into doubt, into anxiety. I am telling you, coming from that place, I needed to hear and be reminded that faith is a good thing, that it is a hard thing, that I can have permission to trust a completely faithful God.

I think it is safe to say that good ole’ Jen rocked my spiritual world. Thank you and goodnight.

Next up were Bob and “Sweet” Maria Goff. What a fantastic, lively couple! They shared about their platform of love and how it has affected their marriage. Maria shared what it is like to love and support a man who is constantly adventuring and Bob shared about men, their fears and what they respect in a woman… And then, she said this:

“People who love people like Jesus are constantly misunderstood…”

SO GOOD. (Also, I was “so good-ing” all weekend. Just call me Jimmy Fallon.)

Next, Shelley Giglio led us women in a time of reflection and “selah”. A few more IF women spoke, and let me just tell you about the moment I had with Debbie Eaton… Debbie Eaton is an incredibly sweet woman, committed to the IF vision out here in Southern California. Debbie walked up on stage, took the microphone, and people, I FELT LIKE SHE WAS TELLING MY STORY. She stood there and told us that she was in a place of stillness, that the Lord was requiring her to be still and to watch Him do things. “God’s acceptance is not in the doing…” she said. “Yield to the pruning...” she said. “Be still and know that He is God…” she said. Chills covered every single crevice of my body… She just summed up my entire current convictions, the past three months of my life, and frankly, the year leading up to this year. It was like she knew. And she did. And I can’t wait to email her and meet her in Southern California.

And then Maragaret Feinberg stepped on to the stage and the tears fell out of my eyes. She shared about her battle with breast cancer and how the cancer may be gone, but the effects are not. She shared that God spoke to her amidst her healing…

“You don’t negotiate with me, you pray for your WHOLE healing…”

Our God is not one of negotiation when it comes to provision and healing, He is a God of full restoriation and redemption. ALL THE TEARS.

Ann Voskamp followed with a powerful monologue about brokenness… that the broken place is the breaking free place, that the Lord unfolds the folds of us and absorbs the quakes of our fears. We must break in order to give…

And that was the end of the first day, and the women saw that it was good.

Honestly friends, I have so much to dwell on and think through still. Looking over my notes, gleaning seconds from my first fruits of the conference, heart still racing at the things Jesus spoke to me.

And then, the sun rose on the second day...

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