This year I had the opportunity to join forces with an incredible community of women known as Leading & Loving It. For years, I’ve followed Lori Wilhite, Brandi Wilson and the team online from a distance, but last week I was doing ministry up close and personal with them, sitting across the table from them, laughing until we cried because we were so tired. Last week I was riding a mechanical bull with them. Seriously. And I held on for dear life for a full 51.6 seconds thank you very much. Seven days ago I was staring into the eyes of some of the strongest women I know asking hard questions and receiving really brave answers.
This past Spring when Lori asked me to join the team by managing the blog, I had no idea the magnitude of the adventure I was about to jump on. She may not have realized it at the time, but in that simple invitation, Lori offered me the gift of three of my greatest passions colliding: writing, helping women become who God made them to be, and ultimately helping the church become who God designed her to be as well.
As we opened the Leading & Loving It Re:Treat 2014 last Tuesday, I couldn’t help but stand in complete awe with tears streaming down my face as I watched a room of over 550 women worship Jesus in uninhibited abandon. Moments before I had interacted with these women as they arrived in the lobby. I met them face to face. I hugged them. I looked into their eyes. Some were filled with uncontainable joy. Others were filled with questions. Still others conveyed that they were doing everything in their power to hang on. I know those eyes far too well because I’ve lived in each of their gazes.
In that moment of worship—the band playing, vocalists leading, hands lifted high, voices praising in unison—everything in me paused. I surveyed the room in a slo-mo state, as if time hit the brakes on its own fast-moving train. “This is it, baby girl,” God whispered. “This is your passion colliding. This is what I’ve created you for.”
Instantly my heart broke for women I didn’t know. Sure, I had met them, but I didn’t intimately know them. But I know God created them for something magnificent. I am confident that each of those 550 women were hand-crafted as a beautiful masterpiece. I know that every woman worshipping in that room is so very special and I don’t want any of them to give up.
Growing up a pastor’s kid I’ve seen the good, the bad and the down-right ugly side of church. And in the midst of it, years later, I’m convinced more than ever that the church is a lighthouse offering hope to a broken world. We need pastors and ministry leaders and staff to make this thing called church happen. And we need women to make church happen too. Beside every married pastor is a woman partnering with him to make him the man God created him to be. Women serve on and lead church staffs, volunteer, and are married to dudes that work at churches. Last week, I saw the opportunity to help hundreds of churches discover health and a rejuvenated sense of passion in the eyes of 550 women. Here’s the truth I came face-to-face with: if those women went home from the Leading & Loving It Re:Treat healthy, their churches would, in turn, find health too.
Women are key players in this thing we call ministry. Somewhat tongue-in-cheek we say the statement, “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Well maybe that’s more true than we’d like to let on. Maybe it’s really a reality that the stronger women are, the stronger we can call those around us to be as well. Maybe if we choose to not give up, other’s will have the courage to stand their ground as well.
Ministry is hard. It’s messy and it’s broken and it’s completely beautiful. Sometimes it’s hard to stay encouraged. At times, it sounds so much more intriguing to throw in the towel and choose a different line of work. But dear friend, if you’re reading this sensing that quickening in your heart, that catch in your breath, please, please don’t give up. Don’t quit. You weren’t designed to walk away. You were fashioned to be a warrior. God built you strong—even if you don’t feel it in this moment, you are strong.
Throughout the course of Re:Treat, I kept coming back to that moment of worship where it all began. Hands raised high. Voices loud, unashamed. A surge of hope and strength flowed freely building upon each day until that final moment when cars were packed and airplanes boarded. As women left, I looked into their eyes again and noticed something different: fight. Their fight was back. They were standing their ground. They were going back to the places God planted them firmly staking their place in the ground saying, “I am strong. I can do this.”
And you know what, I’m saying that too. I am strong. I can do this.
So can you.