The IF:Gathering in Austin this weekend was incredible.
Like, life-changing, soul-soothing, heart-wrenching, terrifyingly good.
Woman after woman after woman took the stage and poured themselves out for the glory of God.
Broken, wounded, human women not trying to be something special. Just sharing the story God is writing in their lives and the beautiful ways Jesus has redeemed them.
Former prostitutes, unwanted orphans, terminally ill, liberal, conservative, tattooed, pierced, older, younger, black, white, hispanic, goody two-shoes, famous, ordinary women.
One after another. Sharing their stories. Sharing the hope that is within them. Sharing the unique message God has given each of them.
Yet so much the same.
As Jen Hatmaker said toward the end of the weekend, “You can play your note and I can play mine and together it will make a song that sounds like freedom to the captives.”
Each of our “notes” are different and that’s good! I think so often we want the same note as that other, prettier, more popular and “together” woman over there.
But we need to play our own note.
I’m kind of terrified of my note.
But I know that God wants us to play our notes loudly. He wants us to “cross divides and find each other” (Sarah Bessey).
I honestly wish I could transcribe my entire notebook into this post. I wish I could passionately share with you the wonderful truths that each woman shared with us this weekend.
If something in you feels pulled to hear what was laid out there this weekend, the whole things is available as a digital download on the IF website. It will probably be the best $25 you’ve ever spent.
BUT, let me also tell you that the weekend started out rough for me…
I only got an hour and 45 minutes sleep the night before I left. I started out laying in bed feeling amped up after several days of working like crazy to get everything in order before I left. I ended up feeling anxious about getting so little sleep. You know, the whole, “if I fall asleep now I’ll get 4 hours of sleep. If I fall asleep now, I’ll get 3 hours of sleep…”
I ended up with less than 2 hours, and it made for a rocky start.
I dozed on both flights to Austin, but not enough and not deep at all.
Then, plans changed about meeting up at the airport and riding to the hotel…not always easy for a control freak like me.
I didn’t know the other girls we were rooming with and had trouble connecting which is always hard for me since I want my soul to connect with everyone else’s soul as soon as I meet them. No pressure. Lol
After grabbing a cab into the city, we quickly dropped our stuff at the hotel and set out on foot in the freezing temperature (literally in the 30’s in FREAKING TEXAS) to get to the Music Hall for registration. We grabbed a fast lunch at a local hipster grocery (which was adorable) and conversation was at best awkward.
I was off my game. Tired. Grumpy. Not feeling at all able to be friendly and outgoing. Being uncertain of the relationship dynamics among our roomie group.
It wasn’t great.
Then, we rushed back to the venue for the first session. Our roomies darted off to special leadership seating and Diana and I could only sit together at the far end of a back table in the dark.
Literally as far from the main event action as you could possibly be.
To say we felt discouraged is an understatement.
Why were we here? Why had we made arrangements to be away from our families for the weekend and shell out all the money to fly to Austin just to sit in the dark, cold, back corner of this event?
I penned these words in my notebook and trusted that God would make a way:
Father, sitting in the cold, dark corner of this beautiful room, I am wondering why I am here. Please have your way with me. Please open my heart and unclench my fists.
Let’s just say He did.
By the end of the first session, my heart was open, my fists were unclenched and I knew why I was there.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
God wants to set me free.
What IF I let Him?