Why Go to IF: Gathering?

IF Gathering header

When I’ve talked to women about IF and encouraged them to come, many shrug their shoulders and say, “Why? What’s it for? What’s the purpose?”

Why should you even come? Is it just another women’s event? Another feel good opportunity, but life doesn’t really change? A chance for Christian authors and speakers to build their brand and add to their sales?

Honestly, any of these are possible. It’s a matter of our own hearts.

But, why? Why do I say you should come to IF: Gathering? Is it because I’m on our local planning team and want to see it succeed? It’d be nice to have big numbers and max out our seating, but no, I don’t want you to come just to fill a chair. {Success in the Kingdom of God is only measured by faithfulness, never numbers.}

Why should you come to IF: Gathering?

It’s an opportunity.

A chance to stop and pause in our busy lives and intentionally seek the face of God together as His daughters. To let down our false walls of age, music preferences, and denominational differences to seek the One who made us with his own hands, the One who saved us from the pit of despair and calls us to be one.

It’s an opportunity to breathe and reflect, to worship the Lord unrushed.

Sure, we’ll hear from popular speaks, but honestly, what I’m most excited about is the chance to sit around the table with you—sisters in my own community and share what God is doing in our lives and to seek how He wants us to live and work together to build His kingdom. 

I know it can be weird, perhaps even off-putting to hear someone say, “God is moving! Won’t you join us?” There is nothing inherently special about IF: Gathering. You can not come and still seek His face and see God moving. He moves everyday.

But this? This is an opportunity for you, for us to move together. To let Him transform our lives, not just in our homes or our churches, but to grasp hands across our cities and say, “Let’s do this together.” We are not individual units, but one whole.

Maybe you’re nervous, scared, think you’re too messed up. Come. We’re nervous too…all carrying a bit of our own baggage.

You haven’t been to church in years, don’t even know if you like God anymore. Come. There’s no gimmicks, no member rolls. Come and listen.

Your heart is broken and weeping loss. Come. So many of us have been there too. We’ll hold your hand and weep with you.

You’re busy, life is hectic, you barely stop these days. Come. Rest, breathe, be poured into by the Bearer of Burdens.

The harvest is ready, the broken and lost are many, God is ready and we are the hands and feet of Christ. 

We won’t do this thing perfectly, I assure you. But with God among us we will be blessed.

10885533_10152436878141568_8791353344812636549_nIf you’re local we’d love to have you join us at our local IF: Gathering. You can find more information here and join our Facebook group to stay in touch.

You can find a IF: Gathering in your area here.

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Perfect {scattered & pixelated} Peace

There are blocks and puzzle pieces scattered across the bare floor. A ball and a few cheerios keep them company. It’s so easy to see the pieces of our lives scattered, messy, waiting for someone to come along and pull us back together.

I string up the blinds and light welcomes itself into the room. The window screen reminds me how often my pictures look pixelated, grainy. When I edit I use the Tranquil effect, blurring pixels into an ethereal glow. It doesn’t pass me that I use Tranquil to quiet the fuzziness of my everyday life.

I’m learning to stop calling it mundane.

In the process, in the living of the picture, it feels broken, smudged, scattered—not as it should be. It lacks the feel of hope…of life, I desire. The image of peace and tranquility I strain for isn’t crushed cheerios and fallen wooden towers.

But then—the pixelated grain blurs to shine in time and there, in that moment of raising blinds, peering through meshed screen, this is peace.

There is no perfect life, no perfect home, no idealized reality.

But there is perfect peace.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you,  because he trusts in you.”

Isaiah 26:8

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Restless

An Invitation to Get RestlessI got an advanced copy of Jennie Allen’s new book Restless: Because You Were Made for More at Allume in the fall. It looked interesting, but not interesting to start reading.

In January I began flipping through it. I’d open to a random page in the book and begin reading, then I began underlining. I’d put it down and a few days later I’d pick it up again and find myself nodding through another passage. Finally, I just started from the beginning.

“There are no such things as spiritual and secular jobs—we just made that up. God calls people to himself, and then to display him in every way, wherever we are. So are you called to teach or write or mother or build homes or fly planes? Beautiful. Do it as unto the Lord.”

I don’t think I’ve underlined a book this much since Grace for the Good Girl. There’s so much truth and awakening and just practical steps to life that I’m texting my friend pictures of passages of the book telling her to read it. (She bought it and is underlining like me too.)

"We were made to work in the mundane, but we aren't defined by the mundane." Jennie Allen

One thing I really enjoy about Jennie’s approach is that you’re working through these questions and taking time to examine your life—seeing what lies you’ve believed, what you need to throw off, and the pieces of your life God’s been weaving together for his greater purposes, mainly his glory.

You need to read this book.

“This isn’t a book about you all the sudden finding a secret way to matter; it’s about realizing you already matter, and therefore can deeply desire to make your few days here count in light of all that is ahead for us as children of such a God.”

Restless: An Invitation to Journey

Allen continues,

“The Spirit of God has dreams for you.

And he has given you an abundance of gifts, resources, people, and vision to accomplish his dreams for you. If you do not feel that way yet, you will.

What if?

What if the things you love to do collided with the plans God has laid out for you from before the foundations of the earth?

What if the random relationships and activities in your life all of the sudden had a focus and felt intentional and meaningful?

What if the things that have caused the most hurt in your life became the birthplace of your deepest passions?

What if you could get past your fears and insecurities and spend the rest of your life running your guts out after his purposes for you?”

 

What do you think? What’s stirring restless in you?

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When You’ve Forgotten How to Fight

It seems to happen that whenever I think I’ve figured something out either God or the devil challenges me on it.

The last few days it’s been the latter.

I’ve begun to see some of the threads God’s been weaving for his purposes in my life experiences in the last few weeks. It’s been encouraging, like a light flickering in my head…a knowing, a joy in His fruition. And more than that, I’ve been sensing a deeper contentment with my season of life—finding, not quite a balance, but a sense of peace in the many parts of my multi-faceted life and desires.

I’d even told a few friends about the shift.

But yesterday, perhaps even a little bit the day before, I took the bait and fell.

Swirling into a mire of self-loatheing, bitterness, frustration. I heaped failing upon failing on myself and convinced myself I had more in common with the dripping wife than the one who was praised in the gates.

I surveyed my life and measured how short I’d come in being the mother my children need, the mother I want to be for them. I saw all my passions, all the stories and books and plans and dreams circling in my head as selfish, competing with my family, and never. going. to. happen.

I saw the peace I felt as a lie. Not that the peace God gives was a lie, but somehow in the midst of it all I was all the hypocrite. I went through my day barely containing my stomping feet. Children disobeying, an answer I didn’t like, the clock raging against me, the tasks that require no skill…all of it came hurling against me. I responded like Solomon murmuring, “Meaningless! It’s all meaningless!”

Worthless. I’m worthless, the lie echoed. I saw myself failing in every area of my life and it heaped on more frustration.

I had spiraled into despair. Even now I’m just beginning to see strays of light in the fog. The weight of my sin, the contriving of hell’s lies makes my chest feel like it’s going to implode.

***

I’ve been looking through my old journals a lot lately. I use to journal quite proficiently, pages a day. What strikes me about the Jess of 6-7 years ago was I was quite the fighter…something of a woman warrior. I didn’t just recognize my sin, confess, and move on.

I went deeper. I asked, “Why?” Then I asked the why of “why?” I identified strongholds and what fueled them. I repented, again and again. I invited other people to intercede on my behalf—to fight for and with me. I asked God a lot of questions…and I listened, I waited for an answer. I heard him. And I ate his truth.

I saw Satan as an active enemy and if I let myself look at my actions and reactions long enough, I’d notice his lies and go after them. Nothing was too small.

And I journaled my way through.

***

Whenever I think back on these years, I don’t remember the pain and struggle I read in those prayers, introspection, and confession. I’ve forgotten all the times my sin was pointed out to me. I’ve forgotten all the tears I cried, though I recorded them all.

When I think back on those years, I remember them fondly. Those years were the birth of my freedom. Those were the years of my greatest growth spiritually. Those were the years I felt closest to God.

It’s funny that I remember the pleasure, but not the pain.

***

I’m sensing God calling me into a similar season. Perhaps it was never meant to stop. But it did…and the reasons it trailed off are still present. Motherhood, amid other life circumstances, exhausted and emptied me to the point I didn’t feel I could press into freedom, into Jesus, with the same fervor as before.

This recent spiral reminded me of the suffocating I felt in my soul prior to this season. It felt out of control, hopeless. I was a ship in a storm spiraling into a vortex of despair. Oh, that Satan…he knows where to hit me.

***

It’s hard to accept grace as truth, see good when you’re convinced life is hopeless. When you’ve bit just a tiny slice of the devil’s slanderous pie, Truth feels like the cure just out of reach. But by the grace of God—the waves have stilled and, though the light is dim, hope flickers.

Nothing has changed, and yet, perhaps, everything has.

It’s time to dust off the armor.

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A Love for Real Life

Real love, like real life, has no boundaries.I set the vase on the shelf. Light pours through the window dancing off the rosebuds.

They look so pretty sitting there.

I look down.

The remnants of an early morning wake-up and Bible bookmarks. I’m tempted to move them. They’ll soil the picture of perfect.

The thought comes to me,

Real love, like real life, has no boundaries.

This real love gift is part of my real life: flowers, saline solution, receipts, and all. There aren’t walls to erect that’ll keep the messy out. It’s all part of my life…this love.

We have stains and drop popcorn on the floor. We leave the bathroom door open and talk about things that’d embarrass. Circles darken our eyes and we wake-up with morning breath. We get frustrated, lose tempers, and can’t hear each other over the noise the kids are making.

We steal kisses in scattered, scrambled moments. We laugh and hold those heart connecting moments in seconds instead of hours. Often I laugh at the romantic notions I had in those early days. Oh, they’re nice, but they don’t last.

To be romantic, love had to fit a certain picture: clean, reliable with a hint of spontaneity, filled with flowers and songs strummed and long walks under the stars.

That was before kids and pain, bills and deadlines, the hard places and the just getting by…before the in-between became real life back when I still held love as that wedding day photo in a gilded frame.

But this—

this love is better. It’s real. All of it. And it’s ours for the taking.

Real love is more than a perfect picture.

Real love doesn’t give up when life get dirty. Real love clings to Christ’s promises when life feels lifeless. Real love wipes sweat and vomit. Real love bears under the weight of lost jobs and new jobs. Real love holds you when you feel unlovable.

It isn’t pristine. It may be little smudged around the edges, but it’s hardy and tough. It’ll last long after the perfect picture fades.

 

 

**Edited from the archives.**

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