In an attempt to assess my own anticipation and preparation I have been asking my friends, “How are you feeling and what are you sensing in these days leading up to being together in Orlando for the first ever IF: Leaders Gathering?” In just one week 550 of us will gather to lean in together to the whisper of the Holy Spirit. We will listen and look for His Spirit to move in us and instruct us. We will come together as one church, as leaders in various cities, small towns, college campuses, and suburban neighborhoods, as lovers who desire to live lives laid down for the Gospel in our own local contexts.
Some of us are coming with a friend or two or fifteen. Some of us are coming alone. However we are coming, we bring with us our stuff–the good and the bad. We bring our expectations– the good and the bad. Some of us are coming full of fire in our bellies and ready to storm the gates of hell. Some of us are coming dripping wet from the buckets of water –otherwise known as life–that have been heaped upon us in attempt to extinguish our fire and our fight.
In some way, I think all of us are coming with our souls full of hope and our flesh fighting insecurity, fear, and comparison.
Me? I wish I could adequately weave words around the state of my soul and my situation as I come into this Gathering. I’ll try.
I’m coming with the wildest excitement over so many things, not the least of which is that I will finally get to be face to face with a sister who has become the dearest, most precious friend. The story of Jama (that’s what I’ll call it when I write her post in my series on friendship… one day…) began through facebook; it became a weekly hour long (at least) long distance coffee date over the phone. This woman has come alongside me, cried with me, prayed faith into my dreams, and listened–oh has she listened! Jama is the kind of friend every girl imagines when she very first at a young age realizes what a true friend is and dreams she might have one of her very own. She is gracious and constant, loyal and generous. When God was giving out gifts, He gave her all the ones I didn’t happen to end up with: compassion, gentleness, empathy, sensitivity…which is why I am so thankful God knew I would need her to both soften and sharpen me! We’ve never had the privilege of being in the same location together and this will be one of the greatest thrills for me at IF:Leaders Gathering– to share it with her and to journey through together.
It seems incredibly apparent that this time together in Orlando is incredibly strategic on the Lord’s part for connecting lives and hearts that would not have otherwise, in any other situation been able to connect.
God is building bridges of relationship to further His Gospel and to flat-out tell the enemy that his time messing with competition and comparison in His daughters is done!
Melissa is my soul sister. She is a gift straight from God’s heart to mine and she will be there. If you do not know Melissa, you can “meet her” through her writing here and if you’re headed to Orlando, I’m telling you– you’ll want to find her, hug her, and ask her to share her “purse cookies” with you (which she will readily share). Ever since we first met 2 1/2 years ago in line at IF:Austin she has been a friend who will speak the truth in love (and spank me with it if necessary), encourage, cheer on, and flat out be my biggest fan. She leads with incredible boldness and humor and loves and protects her friends fiercely. Melissa has taught me the true meaning of being each other’s biggest fan and sharing…she’s big on sharing (more on that in a minute).
And can I tell you about Kelly?! Kelly is a Colorado girl I have had the honor of journeying with for nearly 6 years. I even got to design and arrange her wedding flowers (you can take a peek here)! This girl is spirited, loves adventure and the outdoors, and shies away from NOTHING! Mama to three teenagers and a tiny 2 year old, real estate agent, fly fishing enthusiast, hunter, and wife to a skilled and creative builder/business owner are among her accolades. While I love all of those things about her, the thing that has drawn me into deep friendship with Kelly is her passion for living a life laid-down for Jesus with no excuses. This girl loves Jesus and isn’t quiet about it, yet the thing that preaches loudest is her very life.
And then there are these girls…
A small army of IF: Colorado girls are boarding a plane and headed southeast together on Sunday morning and some are coming in on Saturday. Some of the girls and I sat in a living room together months before IF 2015. Most of us didn’t know each other, but I will tell you that when I walked in I felt like I had come home to dear friends who really truly understood me and each other. There was no hint of comparison, jealousy, pretension, or fluff. From the moment we met we became this incredible cheering section for each other in prayer and in action. To get to be in their space again, to hear what the Lord is stirring in their hearts, to be able to pray over and breathe life into each other’s God-given dreams makes my heart beat just a little faster.
This thing called IF that God is moving is so much wilder than I ever imagined it would be. (I bet Jennie and her team feel the same way times a million)! There is something that is shifting in our times … things are hard and perhaps they’ve always been this hard, but now we know and we can’t look away and do nothing. The church is realizing the divisiveness of some of her doctrine and denominationalization (I just made that word up). She is coming together to begin/continue loving each other and to show the world who Jesus is in the way we love well all who we come near. There is something stirring; it’s this echo that is resounding in the hearts and minds of followers of Jesus and it sounds a lot like, “He who is coming will come and He will not delay.” (Heb. 7:37) There is a new sense of urgency to drop our petty differences and rally around the one thing we agree on, JESUS and making Him known to all people in truth and in love.
Where there was competition, I see women promoting and sharing each other’s gifts and strengths and ministries. Where there was jealousy, I see women fighting for celebration of one another. Where there was insecurity that your gain means my loss, I see women giving away what could rightfully be their own gain (personally or vocationally) to another realizing that when you are on the same team, a win for you is a win for us.
You know my friend Melissa? Well, instead of hoarding all of her incredible friends (and she has incredible friends) to herself, she has graciously shared many of them with me. Who does that?! She does. I met Alli because of a conversation I had with Melissa that went something like this:
M: “You have to meet my friend Alli. You two need to know each other.”
Upon wrapping up our conversation, Melissa proceeded to text me Alli’s information along with a separate text that said, “Oh and You’re Welcome.” 🙂
I figure I love Melissa and (clearly) she has great discernment and wisdom in the friends she chooses…so I text Alli. Next thing I know, we’re having a facetime conversation that lasts for over one hour and has developed into yet another precious long-distance, not yet met face-to-face friendship! In one week, I will get to hug my friend’s neck for the first time while we sit alongside the girl who will again remind us who made the moment possible by saying, “Oh and you’re welcome!”
Next week women from all walks of life, leading in our local contexts will gather. We will be (to name just a few): career women, mamas of biological kiddos, adoptive mamas, married, single, leaders of large (in quantity) ministries, leaders of intimate living room/coffee shop ministry, church planters. Some will be passionate about cultural and racial bridge building while others are pulled to be advocates speaking out on behalf of the current refugee situation. We will be fashionistas in all kinds of coordinating accessories and we’ll be yoga pants and comfort-first style makers. We will be extroverts, introverts, and (I hear) a whole slew of ambiverts (if you’re not sure what this is, neither was I — so Thanks Google!). Some of us will have met Jesus just recently; some of us will have known Him our whole lives.
This week women from all walks of life, leading in our local contexts will battle insecurity, jealousy, old fears, new fears, comparison, disunity, lies regarding who we are and whose we are, shame, guilt, inadequacy, brokenness in relationships, anxiety, depression.
This week women from all walks of life will be praying for each other for: God to have the victory in each one of our battles. We will pray courage, confidence in who HE says we are, truth, joy, peace, grace, faith, redemption, unity, celebration, freedom, and love for one another and for those God longs to know Him. We will be praying as we wrestle, for those preparing and leading our time; for the leadership, staff, and IFterns.
In one week, we will be stepping into this sacred space where we are going to ask the Holy Spirit to move in our midst and to have His way and we will lay down our desire to demand our own.
We will hear Him whisper and shout in the space that has been prepared for just that very purpose.
We will lean in together, press our ear up against our Father’s chest, and beg Him to let us all hear and feel and get in rhythm with His heartbeat.
We will worship in every expression imaginable; we will pray with one voice; we will share stories of how God has been faithful to us; and it will be the most faintest of faint shadow-glimpses of heaven.
I. Can. Not. Wait.
If you are are leading an IF:Local and if you are going to the IF:Leaders Gathering, as you are prepare to be together next week: What are your fears? Can we commit to pray over one another?! What are you expectant/excited about? What story can you tell of how God has used IF as a tool in your church, community or life to transform lives for Christ?