IF: Gathering


It’s been a few years since I first sat face-to-face with Jennie Allen, listening to her pour out her heart for ministry. Our Mexican food got cold while we were caught up in processing important things like our calling, the meaning of grace, the nearness of a God who makes Himself small on our behalf, and where in the world she got that fabulous necklace.

I’m going to be incredibly (and very vulnerably) honest with you. For those of you who have read here for awhile it won’t be any great surprise to know that I have always struggled with the feeling of “fitting in.”

As an elementary school student, I blamed it on a combination of anxiety and the lack of a velour Jordache shirt (I got one eventually. It was maroon, and every bit as fabulous as you would imagine it was. It did nothing for my social status but it was as soft as…well, fake velvet. So there was that.).

In high school, I finally made the cheerleading squad. Fully expecting this to be a social pinnacle, I was disappointed the first day I wore my uniform to school and everyone still treated me like I was still a mere mortal. Did NOT see that coming.

I also didn’t anticipate the middle of the night prank calls, when they called me names and told me how much I was hated.

What stung the most was hearing my dad’s labored breathing, having picked up the phone at the same moment I had, pulling him out of sleep and into my shadowed world. I won’t forget that sound. Not ever. Because I knew he was more hurt than I was, and long after the dial tone stopped I was still crying and he was still listening.

The truth is, I have always played the part very well.

But inside, I’m restless and doubtful. I tend to feel like I don’t actually have much to offer and I’m just painting enough of the image to make it look like it might one day be a masterpiece. Just show enough, but not too much.

I spend a lot of my time doing exactly that, and it’s no coincidence that the word “sketch” has shown up here many times. It feels like an appropriate metaphor for me, and maybe for you as well.

When I show the basic outline, there’s room for it to become something beautiful and profound. But the moment I reach for the bold red for the flames that night or the deep blue of my childhood swimming pond, I’m giving away the truth that might paint me instead.

Before the beginning of time, God stretched out life like a canvas, rounding the edges of our days and setting us on display for Himself. But even here, in the room where I’m supposed to feel comforted and connected and understood, I don’t.

It’s not just one room. It’s a long turquoise-colored carpet in a Baptist church where I watched my feet go one in front of the other, praying they wouldn’t follow me out. I pretended to be on my phone because I knew I was going to cry if I heard their voices together. My third week there in Bible class and they never invited me to lunch. It’s a small thing, I know. But the small things add up.

Some of it is laughable now; all the times as a new believer (at the ripe age of 24) when I mistakenly believed that the land of the Christians was somehow different than all the other places. Should it be? Yes. But you and I know that’s not always the case.

Why ruin a beautiful work of art with details like my personal theology or doubts about faith? Because if I can just manage the outlines, I won’t have to bleed truth at the risk of being shut out.

There have been many conversations over the past several years where food has grown cold while words lingered and stirred my heart. And they have, in their entirety, convinced me of one very simple fact.

I am often much more consumed with the brushstrokes I’m making than the image He is  displaying of Himself through me.

He is the artist, not I.

My job is to tremble at the thought of being a part of it, pointing there and not here.

While it’s good and necessary to have convictions, we’re missing the point when we allow them to completely alienate us from those we could learn from. And when we avoid the conversation because we’re concerned with how it affects our presentation, we have put God behind a lens that makes Him blurry to a watching world.

When Jennie asked me to be part of a leadership team several months ago, I was surprised. I saw the list of other names and I couldn’t figure out why mine was there. It isn’t false humility; it’s truly how I respond. I don’t have a degree. I don’t feel capable. I had to google post-millennialism once on my pink-striped IPhone during a conversation so I would know why I was nodding my head.

I am one sweater away, people. One sweater.

And I wonder if you would say the same.

You can’t find your niche, your tribe, your cause, or your voice. Or maybe you have given up on finding those things because right now you just need to find silence in a house where kids scream and make art with your mascara (ON THE MIRROR, ON HER FACE, AND ALL OVER THE TOILET SEAT. Hypothetically speaking, of course.) and the word “purpose” feels loaded.

So instead of figuring out where we fit, we decide to draw boundaries instead. We use language and terms and issues to define ourselves by what we aren’t.

And quite frankly, this little crew that’s come together doesn’t tend to be in agreement about a lot of it. Don’t get me wrong; when it comes down to a Jesus-loving, gospel-saturated, God-seeking bunch, we’re there together.

Some of the words I’ve avoided for years have come up in conversation. As I feel myself bristle at that thought of being associated with that particular theology, I realize how outrageously egotistical it is to presume I honor God with that line of thinking. No, I likely wouldn’t have chosen these conversations, but that’s the wonder of it all. On paper it looks a little like a chaotic mess of belief systems and convictions.

But in person it feels like home.

Over and over what I feel like He’s saying to me (and to a lot of us) is this:

Have the conversations. Listen to the wisdom that’s been given to you. Realize that your time is short and the kingdom is close. What are you doing with your hours and your breath?

There is a tension that exists in our day, and I have done a magnificent job of teetering between pretending it isn’t there and feeling strangled by it.

But what if we didn’t?

That’s what she asked me over tacos and diet coke. And it’s been years, but the question still burns in my soul.

What if we had some conversations and let God be God, directing and equipping women to live in ways that magnify Him? What if we set aside our preconceived notions and just gathered to listen and obey Him?

What if?

And so, we are.

I want you to be with us if you can, because we want your voice, your opinion, and your heart. This is the beginning of something that will prayerfully honor the Lord and speak forward into generations to come, and we’re excited to be a part of it. I hope you will be as well:)

There are no pre-qualifications, no hoops to jump through, and no google prohibitions should the need for clarification arise. You’re welcome here, regardless of your views on   pressing issues or your inability to commit to velour this season.

Jennie explains the vision behind the gathering a bit HERE and also talks about how you can be involved on a local level or come to Austin and join us. Feel free to come to the IF: website as well if you just want to look around and make yourself at home.

If you choose to come to Austin on Feb. 7th-8th (and I so hope you do!), grab your tickets fast, because they are limited in quantity (not many) and price (whatever you feel led to give).  We will gather together and link our arms and talk about God’s work in and among us, and will gratefully accept the gift of togetherness for the sake of the gospel. And also we will laugh and eat a lot.

Tickets go up for grabs at 11:00 am TODAY for those on the email list. So exciting!!!!

Please pray that He would be glorified despite our meager offerings, and that we would continue to seek His face, His will, and His kingdom above all else.

With love,                          

Angie


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  • http://www.momsmustardseeds.com/ Rebecca Brandt

    This looks amazing! I love that you have considered where every woman is – I am praying God will bring me to IF – It sounds like the place I need to be….

  • Sharon

    Hope I can go. Love this article about fitting in, finding your niche, etc. I’m feeling that way in life presently- waiting on God to show me- as He has changed me so much this past year and friendships, etc, are being changed/revived/etc. I loved this line: “You can’t find your niche, your tribe, your cause, or your voice. Or maybe you have given up on finding those things…” Yep.

    Hoping to be there- thank you for what you do!!! And for being REAL!

  • brenda

    Angie, perfectly written, sister! I have read I Will Carry You and it was a huge piece in healing my hurt in a failed adoption where we had to return our tiny son to his birthmother. Thank you for playing your part in this beautiful symphony of the Body of believers. I am so grateful. I just got registered for the If: Gathering and can not wait to see what God might multiply through us all as we gather. Oh He will get all the glory and it’s gonna be gooooood! :)

  • Rachelle H

    You are precious. There are many of us who would feel that way about you–the “she’s talking to ME?” feeling :) You are gifted beyond belief with your words and how you relate to people, and you are BEAUTIFUL! One would just assume you were the popular girl! Thanks for opening up and sharing–I know I’ve been there. I know God has plans for us all, but i’ts obvious He has BIG plans for you! You’ve already been used and given so much–of course Jennie would want you a part of it! Selah is coming to FBC Hendersonville (my church now) in a couple of weeks. If you are going to be on this side of town, I’d love to see you before/after. (We met at DotMom back in Feb. in Frisco, but we’ve moved here now). we’d love to host you or help in any way! rachelle

  • Aisha

    I was a blubbering mess reading this!!! I can relate to you so much. The anxiety since childhood, not feeling like I fit in, even though it looks like I do just fine! I have been ill with a chronic illness for a few years. I had to quit my job, drop out of nursing school (my dream) because of it. I have been praying sooo hard that He would show me what my niche, my tribe and my voice are! Until then, I wait in silence for further instructions from Him! Thank you sooo much for this blog. Truly, you are a blessing!

  • Casey Springer

    praying about if this is something we can and should do in our area. hugs to you from another on who never fits in.

  • Sharon Talbot

    Oh Angie. This post you’ve written has come to me at such amazing timing and it’s so like God to do something like that. I’m going to be incredibly honest with you as well and tell you that it fascinates me that you still have a hard time fitting in. Because I follow you on Instagram and see your very fun, lively energetic pictures with so many friends that you have and I always think to myself “I could never be like her. I could never fit in that well with other people and have that many friends….she is such an amazing person and everyone loves her”. So hearing you say what you did in your post shocks me. I always think to myself that I would love to meet you and hang out with you because you have so much fun! (And I will be moving to Nashville in the near future ;)
    It does my heart good to know that even you have a struggle with fitting in. Thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing your heart like you always do so well. You have been such a blessing to me for a lot of years without even knowing it, through your blog and your books. Thank you!

  • AmyinBuffalo

    Angie….I was debating on emailing you this comment or posting it here. I decided to post it here. When we met at Buffalo State in 1997-1998, I wanted to be your friend because I felt like I WOULD fit in better if YOU were MY friend. I bet you didn’t see that one coming. But it’s true. I think of you quite often and always wanted to thank you for being my bestest college friend who made ME feel better when I was around YOU! xoxo -Amy

  • http://sojensparks.blogspot.com/ Jen

    “You can’t find your niche, your tribe, your cause, or your voice. Or maybe you have given up on finding those things because right now you just need to find silence in a house where kids scream and make art with your mascara (ON THE MIRROR, ON HER FACE, AND ALL OVER THE TOILET SEAT. Hypothetically speaking, of course.) and the word “purpose” feels loaded.

    So instead of figuring out where we fit, we decide to draw boundaries instead. We use language and terms and issues to define ourselves by what we aren’t.”

    *points* That.

    I’m still blaming the pain meds on the ache those words make me feel, and how I’m clearly overly emotional after surgery because what the heck is with the tear trickling down my face?

    Wish I could come. I’d be awkward and stoic and behind my boundaries hoping someone likes me along with you.

  • Summer

    I just stumbled upon this… and I cannot tell you how much it has moved me… I will be attending IF… solo, not personally or internet-wise knowing a soul there, in hopes that He moves in me and through me… I took a chance signing up, snagging a ticket, booking planes and hotels… knowing IF was where I was supposed to be… all of this is so uncomfortable and new to me, and I pray I have the courage to leave my hotel room come Friday morning and go into Austin City Music Hall… Thank you for writing this, as it is something that I would have written… I can still see the look of sadness on my dad’s face as he pulled down the toilet paper from the trees in front of our house, after my ‘friends’ rolled it… and that was 15 years ago… still breaks my heart.