The If: Gathering 2017
If…one little word made up of 2 letters. But that one little word holds so much hope and possibility.
There are so many things we can put after that one little word. I have asked myself things like… What if I lost my sight or what if I lost my home or one of my children. Questions that spark thought and sadness. There are the other “if” questions. What would I do if I were rich…if I didn’t have to work for money…if I could go anywhere in the world. Questions that spark thought and hope.
A few years ago I was introduced to another questions that starts with the word “If”. If God were real, how would you be living your life differently?
Now, if you really think about that question, and I don’t care who you are or what you believe, if you really were to ask yourself that question, you would have to stop and think. For a long time.
There are so many people in this world and we all believe different things, we have different tastes and styles. We have different beliefs about simple things like whether you should leash your dog at the park or not, to complex things like how to raise a child. We are faced with so many decisions about things on a daily basis. 35,000 actually according to some studies that have been conducted. 35,000 decisions a day. Some small, some large but all decisions that we have to reason with our mind.
So when the question was asked, “If God were real…” I stopped to think. I know that I believe in God but do I live my life from the perspective that He’s real? How would that change things? How would that affect my interactions with my children, my husband, a hungry man on the street?
I’ve always loved learning, growing, studying new things and this question propelled me into deep thought. I was introduced to this question through my church. Linda Mazzerello had I believe stumbled across the first If: Gathering via a blog by Ann Voskamp. (Let me just say if you haven’t heard of Ann Voskamp, she’s a trip! The word that comes to mind when I think of her is ‘severe’. She’s super intense and delivers the word unlike anyone I’ve ever seen. Kind of a spoken word style.) Linda brought the gathering to our church, I think three years ago, by showing a selection of videos of speakers from the conference over 4 Sunday nights. I went and was incredibly moved by what I saw, heard, felt.
Jennie Allen – Founder of If: Gathering
Let me back up just a bit so you can more fully understand the conference and how it started. (From the words on the If: Gathering site:) “In 2007 Jennie Allen sensed God telling her to disciple a generation. It seemed to be an impossible and improbable calling. Jennie knew that if this call was truly from God, then He would make it a reality. So for years she waited, took small steps of obedience, and watched God begin to open doors and give favor. The vision was to gather, equip, and unleash women to live out God’s calling on their lives. So Jennie, together with a team of friends, formally established If: Gathering. In our wildest of dreams, we couldn’t have imagined what would happen next.” (You can read the full If story HERE.)
And so began my own journey and inquiry into this deep question. Each year our church has brought The If: Gathering to the women of Marin Covenant and any other women that wanted to participate from the area. Showing videos, sharing stories, helping to create “If Tables” which consists of 6 women coming together, once a month to share a meal and 4 questions, bringing them closer to God and their unique calling. I’ve loved it and have looked forward to it each year. But this past year I felt a calling to go and be a part of the actual conference. Be in the room with the 2000 women who gathered from all over the world. I wasn’t sure it was going to happen but I prayed and I knew that if it was meant to be, God would help orchestrate the plan.
To my amazement and surprise everything fell into place in a way that when I learned that I was actually going to Austin I dropped to my knees, tears bursting forth, and prayed in gratitude. I think what brought me to my knees was knowing that the calling I had felt to be there was real and that God truly orchestrated my being able to go.
It was a powerful experience, being at If. I think my biggest takeaway from the weekend was something that was asked by Jennie Allen on day one. She asked if we are distracted by trying to do the “big things”. That what Jesus asks us to do on our walk here on earth are the “little things”. Loving people. Going deeper not bigger. To love your neighbor, the people closest to you. At the end of the conference we were asked to write the name(s) down on one side of a magnet of the person or people that brought you to God. To recognize most often it’s a person that does this, that shepherds you toward a life with God or Christ. Then she asked us to write a name or two or more on the other side of the magnet of whom we want to disciple. Returning the gift we were given. My parents, Matt’s parents, Rebecca, Matt, my sister were the names I wrote on the back. All people who brought me in some way closer to God. When I thought about who’s name I would write on the other side, I didn’t need to think long. I felt so strongly that my first job here on this earth is to steward my children. They are the most important people in my life with whom I want to share my connection to God. I couldn’t imagine putting anyone else’s names down on that tile. If they are ever asked when they’re older who helped shepherd their walk with God I would hope my name would be on their list.
I feel like I’ve been given the most important job in the world to be their mom. To love them, teach them how to love others and to show them how to love God. It makes me emotional just thinking about it now. And really, even if you don’t believe in God but you are a parent, isn’t that what we all hope to do? To love them above all else and teach them how to love others? To be gentle with them. To guide them in a direction so they can leave you someday and be whole and complete on their own. That’s my hope, my calling.
To say I had an amazing weekend is an understatement. I basically spent my weekend eating, praying and crying with a group of amazing women. I have deep gratitude for Linda and her two daughters, Marlene, Kelley, Anne, Dani and Emily. I’m marking my calendar now in hopes that I’ll get to go again next year. If you’re interested in learning more about the If:Gathering and perhaps attending an If: Local next year here’s the link to their site: If: Gathering
And they always have a study going so if that’s something you’re interested in…go to If: Equip
I’ll leave you with the same question that started my journey. What IF God were real? What if? Leave me a comment, send me an email. Let me know what you think, I would love to hear from you. And I have to also leave you with some images from my journey. I didn’t bring my camera but made due with my phone. Sometimes I just need a break from it all but I can’t stop myself from capturing memories. 🙂