We are Seen.
We are Heard.
We are Valued.
We are Connected.
We are Brave.
My dad died. I quit my job. We moved. I was bored. I applied for a book launch team. I was rejected. I met 4500 other rejects. We became sister-warrior-friends. I applied to another book launch. I was accepted. I heard a whisper about women coming together to celebrate and empower each other. The whisper became a roar. I drove 2300km to see this thing for myself. I am changed.
When I was 18 years old I wanted to be a pastor. I wanted to be in full time ministry. I wanted to teach people about the Jesus I knew. I wanted to be a listening ear and a soft place to land. I wanted to encourage and inspire. I wanted to work alongside my fellow followers for the good of The Kingdom. I wanted to lead and learn and grow and love in ministry. And then all of the tiny, crazy, unexpected pieces of life happened and years passed. I felt as though I had missed my chance.
I spent years wifing, mothering, friending and surviving. My home, and heart, was filled with tiny people - some I gave birth to and are forever mine, others came to our home to be cared for and loved for a season before moving on into their next step. I filled my days with play groups, trips to the library and coffee dates at the park. My night were long, sleepless and filled with desperate prayers for my children, my neighbour's children, my friends' marriages, for the sick, the broken hearted, the lost and and the hurting. I longed for More but life was already more than I could manage.
Those years faded into the Middle Years. The Wee Ones grew. We branched out to see the world, to see our neighbours. We donated to those in need, served breakfast to the homeless, took supplies to areas devastated by natural disasters. The kids held craft sales and bake sales to help sick children and former child soldiers. We volunteered at church and in our community but it still wasn't enough. Not for me. Not for my heart that ached to be In Ministry.
Then it happened! I became a pastor. I was asked to do the very thing I had longed dreamed of. I was In Ministry. I lead Children's Ministry and Ladies Bible Studies and Family Events. I trained a team of volunteers, talked about the Jesus I knew and listened to the dear hearts in my world. I was living the dream! And then I wasn't.
The decision to leave my position at the church was devastating on many levels. Leaving the community I had grown to love, the friends who became like family, left me feeling wingless and vulnerable. Leaving the role as 'pastor' was heartbreaking. It was all I had wanted and never thought I'd have and now it was gone - almost as if it had never happened. I felt lost, out of sync and finished. The year that followed was difficult. The struggle to remember that my identity was not found in a job title but in Christ was daily. I felt so disconnected from everything that had brought me joy.
It took the better part of 9 months for me to get a grip on myself again. It took connecting with my 4500 fellow book launch rejectees. It took reconnecting with old friends from my high school and young adult days. It took reading my own book to remind myself of what I already knew. It took hearing the echoes of my dad's voice saying, 'Give your head a shake!" It took all these pieces, and more, to wake me up to the truth that I have always been In Ministry.
Every trip to the park with the tines, every prayer whispered in the twilight hours, every casual chat in the school yard, every cup of coffee poured and laugh shared between friends was ministry. The boxes of toys my kids packed for an orphanage in Mexico was ministry. The hours they spent making beaded necklaces to sell to help former child soldiers was ministry. Standing on a chilly street corner, handing out coffee to the the homeless was ministry. Staying up all night to watch my dad sleep, so my mom could rest in those last days of his life was ministry. Walking beside my mom daily on her grief journey was ministry. And opening my heart to The One, the few, the many that I have encountered over the years is ministry.
This life of ministry, and the revelation that this is the life I live, is what brought me to the moment of walking into a church 2300km from home and feeling more at home than I had in ages. I was suddenly with My People again. The People who do the hard work of life, side by side, and love each other better for it. The People who feel deeply, think deeply and love endlessly. The People who are imperfect and know it but show up anyway. The People who care about the Big Things while living through the small things. The People who talk about things that matter, like poverty, equality, justice and mercy, while wearing leopard print and heels. The People who the beauty in me just as I see the beauty in them.
I sat in this place of utter belonging and soaked in every word, whisper and prayer spoken. I was on the verge of tears all day because I could not believe that such a place was real. That there were really other people who felt both too much and not enough, also, but were claiming their place as fully enough in Christ. I felt as though I was sitting in a dream.
And then we took communion together.
It was there in that holy moment that I looked up and saw them. Not the women in the room, not these beautiful strangers who share my heart but the familiar faces who share my life. My People. The ones I have lived this whole life with. The ones who have sipped my coffee and shared my story. The ones who have nursed their babies on my living room couch. The ones who held my hand as I cried at their kitchen table. The ones who have surrounded me every day of my life - with their prayer and their presence. These beautiful women of my everyday life. These are My People … The People.
It took me gathering with strangers halfway across the country to remember that there are people right here, in the heart of the prairies, who care and love and think and serve and dream and live deeply and passionately. There are people right here who are starving for connection, who are looking for an opportunity to Be More and Love More. There are brave, strong, lovely people right here with beautiful stories of redemption, reconciliation, hope recovered and faith filled lives. There are people right here.
This place I went to discover all of this was an event called Gather Women. Its an invitation to connect and share the stories that are uniquely Canadian, that are uniquely us. The heart of Gather Women is to inspire and empower women to gather where they are, with the women in their world, to encourage and celebrate what God is doing in every corner of our beautiful country. This movement is just beginning but its growing strong.
I encourage you to learn more about Gather Women and consider how you might invite the women in your world to gather with you. Gather Circles is a great way to open the door to conversations and relationships. Invite a couple of ladies over and spend six weeks learning together. Or check out one of the Regional Events. I know that this sounds a bit like an info-mercial but I LOVE what Gather Women is doing! I will write more about this movement and what it is teaching me in the weeks and months to come. I invite you to journey with me. Once you've connected with Gather Women (the blog is a great place to start) please feel free to comment here or on my author page on Facebook. I'll be posting quotes and thoughts from the Gather Event I attended and from the different speakers and leaders of Gather during the coming weeks. I'll also be hosting a Gather Circle in Winnipeg.
I have long dreamed of a day when God's daughters would link arms across Canada to celebrate, empower, dream and act on His behalf. That day is here. Gather Women is doing it! Ive seen it and I want to be part of it because when we gather …
We are Seen.
We are Heard.
We are Valued.
We are Connected.
We are Brave.