“I have been trying to put IF: Gathering Northwest Arkansas 2014 into words. In our corner of the world, on-line and all over, God is doing something so amazingly fun to be a part of and to watch. He is connecting the hearts of women. When Jennie Allen and her tribe of ladies announced their plans for this vague event/movement/space I immediately thought, “I have no idea what this is, but I’m IN!“. And just like Jennie describes…
God puts a stone in the water for you to step on and you do. And then you wait for him to give you another stone. You loose faith for a second. You ask him for more and there it is… another stone. And then another. And pretty soon you realize you are walking on water.
The short version of the back-story goes something like this: God took me and showed me more and more of himself. So much that I began having a crazy passion-like desire (picture Jerry Maguire here) to BRING MY PEOPLE WITH ME into the PROMISED LAND. (See?… already yelling like J.M.).
I watched most of IF: Gathering live from Austin on my couch last February during another snowy weekend. I was in the middle of studying Restless by Jennie Allen (life changing. not being dramatic) and her passion for Jesus is contagious. I wanted to gather my tribe and tune-in to IF: Gathering together but I needed a co-host. Someone to say, “You aren’t crazy to host an IF: Local gathering. It will change people. Let’s do it!“
Fast forward 5 months and I get a message from a local pastor who has a friend named Amy at his church who wants to plan an IF: Gathering NWA. He Googled that very thing and my name came up. I went all crazy replying “YES, I’m IN” and I am pretty sure he thought I was nuts with all of the enthusiasm. And because I gave my number to a complete stranger (in my defense I Googled him right back to make sure he was real). 😉
As women do, I met 3 ladies from the City Church at the park for a play date. And so it began. My God-sent co-host, Amy Barclay came directly from Austin with a passion for community and Justice and most importantly, Jesus.
Jesus. The one who knows every hair on our heads put a calling in Jennie Allen’s heart to “Gather and Equip our generation of women to serve Christ.” God put the dream to bring IF: Local Gathering to Northwest Arkansas in my heart and in Amy’s.
Then, He poured out His provision. He provided a space with beautiful decorations and an awesome praise and worship team. He provided food and childcare.
Seventy ladies showed up over the weekend to hear from Jen Hatmaker, Christine Caine, Rebekah Lyons, Jennie Allen and more via video and some cool local chicas as well. We laughed and cried and shared our stories as most women’s events do, but something else happened on September 12-13th, 2014.
And that is still what I am having trouble putting into words.
But…I will try.
A community of women coming together from all different denominations. And some with no church home. Gathering to confess our questions, our sins, our fears.
Unlocking each other’s chains that immobilize us and replacing them with Truth. Chains of self-hatred, comparison, inadequacies.
Empowering each other with God’s promises. That He is Enough. That His mercies never end. That His grace is sufficient. That He. Loves. You. And, once you jump into that Love you are never the same.
And once you are free, you want to go set others free. You want to grab all of your running partners and do life together. To seek His face with each other every day.
And THEN… you want to GO and BE the hands and feet of Christ to the hurting world watching you. Oh, that we don’t spend all of our days huddled up with other Christ-followers trying to solve all of our worldly problems while there are people ALL AROUND US who need us to look up!!! We will be brave together. We will do more for others.
Over the weekend we briefly introduced our tribe to organizations who are helping. Organizations who need us when we feel called. Help One Now. Cobble Stone Project Initiatives: Laundry Love, Cobblestone Farm. And so many others that are serving.
And then, we will get up tomorrow morning and do it all over again. I don’t want to paint an unrealistic picture of Heaven on earth. Nope, friends and sisters (can I call you sister yet?)… we are still HERE on this earth with each other. All fleshy and broken. And that is good news for two reasons:
1) it keeps me running back into the arms of Jesus and
2) it reminds me that this is not our home. “