Monday, May 25, 2015

IF: Local Leader Gathering

I have an opportunity to attend a ministry leadership event this September in Orlando, Florida called IF:Local Leader Gathering, through means of a scholarship (valued at $325).  The way they are extending the scholarship to 5 woman is through a voting system.  Between May 25th-31st people will have the opportunity to vote.  The 5 winners will be announced June 1st.  I wanted to share a little more of my story below of what the Lord has been doing in my life these past few months and why I would love to attend this event but wanted to share the link to vote first so you don't miss it!  Please take a moment and vote for me, it would mean so much to have the chance to attend.  Please click HERE to vote!

Over the past several months the Lord has really been stirring things within and I feel such a calling on my life for ministry.  Well let me back up a little.  I felt called into ministry the summer before my senior year of high school.  I stood up at a summer youth camp when the speaker declared, "If you feel called into full-time ministry I want you to stand to your feet."  I was on my feet in 2 seconds flat....I responded so fast, not a second of hesitation.  That following summer I went on an incredible missions trip to Papua New Guinea and then off to Bible College in the fall. 

During my time in college I was involved as a youth leader in a local church and spent a year involved in a Saturday evening street ministry in Hollywood.  I also interned two summers at KLEOS Children's Community, a ministry that provided homes for children in crisis.  Children who had been abused, neglected or orphaned and were in need of loving homes where they could feel safe.

As a young adult I was full of life, passion, purpose, and boldness.  Any chance I had to share the gospel with others, I took.  I wasn't afraid to go to the dark streets of Hollywood late at night, interact with troubled teens, or stand before a group of marines and talk about Jesus.  Oh the stories I could share!

Somewhere along the way though I got fearful and put up walls.  I wasn't willing to step out in such big ways anymore and just wanted to live my safe & comfortable life. I think a huge factor was the terrorist attack on 9/11.  I was on my honeymoon in New York when 9/11 occurred.  I was struck by immense fear and just wanted to be back home and feel safe.  It was a very scary moment for our country and being so close to it all was alarming.  I think another factor was becoming a mom.  Having children does something to you.  I wasn't as willing to live "life on the edge" because what if something happened to me and then my children were without a mom?

I continued being involved in ministry...sort of.  My husband and I were youth pastors but when babies started coming I really took a back seat to everything.  I do believe there are seasons to our lives and when you are a mom of little ones, sometimes we do have to set outside ministries aside to focus on the needs of our family.  Those early years of diapers, naps, nursing, and having to do everything for our children is very draining and takes a lot out of you.  But looking back on things, and knowing what I know now, I think my children were easy for me to hide behind.

In the past 6 years of homeschooling I have certainly felt a call to minister to homeschool moms through my blog, monthly mom's nights that I organized, and REFUEL Time where homeschool parents could connect during our Friday School weekly sessions.  I loved every one of these things but deep down inside I knew I wasn't living to the full potential of what the Lord had for my life. 

Then in July 2014 my life was turned upside down by my husbands unexpected decision to leave our 13 year marriage.  As a result, I entered one of the darkest seasons of my life with immense grieving, brokenness, despair, pain and heartache!  I longed with every ounce of my being to save my marriage and I did everything in my ability to bring reconciliation.  It was a situation beyond my control and I finally had to lay it all down at the feet of Jesus.  I reached a point where I was completely emptied of myself, my fears, my desire to control everything, my worries, anxieties, and negative thinking.  It was that place of total emptiness and surrender that the Lord began to fill my life in a powerful way and the desires of my heart began to change.  I have grown immensely as a result of painful circumstances.  I have learned how desperately I need Jesus.  I am absolutely dependent on Him for everything.  I have reached a place where my life is completely His and whatever, however, whenever He wants to use my life...Here I am!  I want anything and everything the Lord has for my life. 

 As I was seeking the Lord and asking the question, "What do you have for my life?",  I came across the IF:Gathering ministry.  The very first thing you read on their website is, "We exist to gather, equip and unleash the next generation of women to live out their purpose."  The founder, Jennie Allen, shares how one evening while laying in bed with her husband they prayed a simple prayer, "Anything that you have for our lives we want".  In the weeks, months, and years that followed the Lord began to take their lives and do something remarkable with it.  They were strong Christians, pastors in fact, but realized they were not living to the full potential that God had for them.  They were playing it safe and God was asking them to step out of their comfort zone.

The name for their ministry, "IF:Gathering", came out of a question Jennie posed..."IF God is real...then what?"  If we truly believe in God, If we have experienced His love, grace, and forgiveness then how should our lives be lived out?  What should they look like?  Safe, cozy, and comfortable?  Or is God calling us to something that might require a little, or a lot, more of our lives?  A life that may be very uncomfortable at times?  A life of impact!  A life of courage and boldness!  A life full of meaningful relationships!  A life of community!  A life of purpose!

I feel called to a ministry outside the walls of one specific church.  I feel the call of evangelism and reaching out to those who for whatever reason are not involved in a local church as well as those who are attending church regularly.  Either way, church goers or not, if we are all real and honest about our lives, we face struggles, pain, heartache, grief, sorrow, or brokenness in one way or another.  We all need Jesus!

So in seeking answers and praying for direction I feel like the Lord is leading me to get involved as a local leader for IF:Gathering and I would absolutely love to have the chance to attend the leaders gathering with 500 other amazing women.  It will be a phenomenal time of prayer, worship, and training.  I will get to hear some incredible women speak and share their hearts.  I will receive tools and resources I can bring back and incorporate in my community.

One avenue I can be involved in this ministry is to offer IF:Local gatherings.  Every February they put on an amazing conference, but it would just be impossible to get every single person to the actual event.  So they offer live streaming so that local churches across the nation can put on a conference simultaneously in their community.  Or a digital video download can be purchased and the conference can be offered anytime throughout the year.  So this is something I would love to head up in the future!

IF:Gathering offers a monthly ministry opportunity called IF:Table that I have just implemented.  Their website explains it this way, "A place to gather women and share a simple meal and dive deep with people over real stories and Christ centered conversations. A time for a whole lot of laughter – and maybe a few tears – but time spent that leaves us with glad hearts. Full hearts. Grateful hearts."  It's inviting 5 women from around the community, friends and acquaintances alike, to spend 2 hours around your table, enjoying a simple meal, and taking turns answering 4 conversation card questions.  You can learn more on my Facebook community page: IF: Table Longview 

Jennie Allen, founder of IF:Gathering also has written several amazing small group Bible Studies that I would love to incorporate as well.  She is offering a free online Bible Study this summer if you would like to check it out: Anything Bible Study.

My heart is first and foremost for the lost to discover Jesus in a powerful, life transforming way.  My heart is to see women break free from whatever chains are hindering them from living a life of purpose.  My heart is to raise up other leaders, women living out their calling.  My heart is to see believers break free from religion and Sunday Christianity to a life that is sold-out completely for Jesus.  My heart is to live unashamed, to take risk, to step out of my comfort zone, to smile at a stranger, to pray on the spot with anyone who needs it, to go beyond the cordial/surface relationships and be real, raw, and transparent.  My heart is to share my story of all God has done in my life.  Because "IF God is real...then what?", well then lets make this life count for eternity!  

Are you with me?  Lets do it!

"Jesus I pray for those who have found themselves here reading this blog post who are in that place of longing for more, who feel that tug on their heart and a stirring deep within.  Direct their steps and open whatever doors you have for their life.  I pray they would choose to trust you like never before and begin to step out of the cozy, safe, comfortable life they have been living into the unknown, the unexpected, and the unfamiliar.  Give them courage and boldness for the life they are about to embark on.  They may be in for a wild ride but you will be with them every step of the way.  In Jesus mighty name I pray. Amen"


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