What IF

photo-5IF I told you that it would change your life, would you go? IF I told you that you would leave maybe not knowing all the answers but anchored to the truth, would you listen? IF I told you that we were all in this together, would you be a part of it? IF:Gathering did all this and more for me a few weeks ago in Austin and I believe IF:Local can do the same for you right here at Chets.

I didn’t realize how much I needed this weekend until it was over. I had reasons, okay so more or less excuses why I couldn’t go. The world has a way of making the routines/demands of life seem more important than time carved out solely for focus on God. It’s amazing how much better life can be when you start to see it and live it through God’s lens.

The IF:Gathering is more than just a weekend conference or women’s retreat, it is a movement and this movement needs you. Through authentic Christian women, God is reminding us of our purpose. He uses those with a huge platform like authors and speakers but you’ll also hear Him just as loud through “regular” moms and wives thick in the weeds and heartache of ordinary life but choosing to have faith in Him.

IF is more than just women speaking. It is God moving. It is His word asking us to rise up, to own what we believe and to help anyone and everyone understand that His love and grace is available. It is the most important thing in this world. IF tackles big issues with which both unbelievers and Christians struggle- race, terrorism, human trafficking, etc.  IF challenges us to step up, step out and face the tough issues because if we have Him in our heart than that is enough to do something.

Throughout the weekend, it is clear that His word is the truth, that we need it and we are all called to do something with it. Being a part of IF:Local will give you an opportunity to discover what your faith means to you, what you need to change, how you need to grow and what’s next. IF reveals we are better together than apart. Our stories are not the same but our God is. We can be that cloud of witnesses that encourages and strengthens the Christians around us. We need each other.

IF is really simple. IF is going back to the basics of faith and living it. You won’t know it until you experience it for yourself but you need IF and IF needs you.

{This post was written by Mary-Lauren Eubank.  Mary-Lauren is a curly-haired Texas transplant who has fallen in love with Jacksonville beaches! She in the trenches of motherhood with two sassy and entertaining daughters. A busy body in the truest sense, she teaches fitness classes all week and runs her own business Jax Stroller Strength. Her family has been a member of Chets Creek for six years and she cameos in the nursery every month.To stay sane, Mary-Lauren requires a daily dose of dark chocolate, unwinds with a page-turner and folds laundry watching just the kind of reality TV that she will forbid her girls from watching in the future. A wannabe foodie, she loves to learn about, prepare, experiment and indulge in all things food…well except the shopping part with kids in tow. She is a contributor for Jax Moms Blog and an active volunteer at her oldest daughter’s school.}


IF:Chets – Recap and save the date!

Ladies!  Many of you are still asking about IF:Gathering.  How did it go?  What was it like?  What did you do?  It seems so long ago but many of the truths learned in that weekend are still being worked out in real lives.  Passions discovered.  Answering “yes” to calls from God.  Leaning more into Him.

One of our sweet Chets women wrote up a summary of her experience (in our pre-blog days).  We would love to share it with you now, even months later.  We hope it will help to continue to stir your hearts to gather with women as we seek God together.  Don’t forget to Save the Date for next year’s IF:Gathering on February 6-7, 2015.  For more information about IF, visit http://ifgathering.com/.

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As Eddie walked in from work one day last fall, I greeted him excitedly with, “There’s going to be a women’s conference in February and I think I’m going to host it at our house!”  He quickly replied, “Who are you and what have you done with my wife?!” You see, I’m not one to offer up my home, especially for an entire weekend, but God had been breaking down my perfectionist walls. Through a Tuesday morning Bible study I was leading, God was showing me what a lost art it had become for women to invite others into their “real life” and the resulting isolation. He had been calling me to open my home, whether it was “Pinterest perfect” or not, and this was the obvious opportunity.

photo-5As the event drew closer, I was becoming more and more excited. Eighteen amazing women had signed up to attend my group. It was a challenging event to explain to my guests for no speakers’ names were shared, no worship leaders were promoted and hosts weren’t even given a detailed schedule. This was all part of their purpose to glorify God’s name alone and I loved that. Yet, even with lack of detail, this forever-evolving event sold out in Austin within minutes. They opened up the event via simulcast and encouraged women to host local groups in their homes. Soon, host homes were popping up not just across our country, but also around the globe. God was up to something big and we could feel it. It was as if God was ushering in something new specifically to the women of my generation and younger. I couldn’t wait to hear what He wanted to say to us.

Screen shot 2014-06-02 at 2.10.48 PMMy group came together on a cold, rainy Friday night–each contributing chili, snacks, desserts, and even extra bowls. It was rather exciting not knowing what or who was next once we started the live feed. It felt new and organic, not polished and perfect. We had just been told there would be four sessions over two days based on Hebrews 12:1-2. They were: Throw Off the Sin that Entangles; Fix your Eyes on Jesus; Run your Marked Race; and Unleashed Together. During each session discussion questions were provided and since my group was rather large we broke out into two smaller groups. We all agreed that this is what made this “non-conference” so unique and special. We were given time to process what we were hearing and then dream together. One of the central themes was for this generation of women to discover their calling. We can get so caught up raising our children that we start thinking we will just have to catch up with God and His purposes for us once we reach the other side of motherhood. However, we were being challenged that it isn’t an either/or predicament. We can build our nest and draw close to His calling at the same time. That was freeing.

Our calling is simply where our passions and burdens collide. Knowing your gifts is a good start but knowing why God gave them to us is the key. We discovered this through discussing questions like, “What is holding you back? What risk is God calling you toward? How has comparison kept you from obedience? If our generation of Christ followers were united, what could happen?”

We took our discussion to lunch on Saturday where we sat around our bowls of hot Panera soup and took turns reading the card we had drawn. We helped one woman answer the question, “What makes your heart race?” It had been so long since she had even pondered the question that she was having trouble finding her answer. I’ll never forget how her face lit up and a smile spread across her face as we helped her unearth her passion.

The takeaways were as varied as the women who attended. One woman is answering the call to step out in faith to start homeschooling her daughter – a call she’s been feeling for some time now but hadn’t found the courage to say yes to yet. Another is reengaging her burden for orphan care, realizing she doesn’t need to go around the world to do that for she can go right down the street and help neighbors with their foster children. For another it was the realization what a stronghold the sin of comparison had become in her life. She is releasing the habit of worrying about what others might think and focusing on what God thinks.

There were tears and heartfelt confessions all shared in the context of a loving circle of like-minded women throughout the weekend. We discovered we are all wrestling with finding the time and energy to even discover our calling, let alone follow it. To truly unleash our God-given purpose, we realized we need to untether ourselves from our phones – where feelings of self-doubt rapidly creep in and comparisons thrive after browsing social media, Pinterest and mommy blogs. This is Satan at work in our generation; crippling us with fear and lack of courage. We are to run our own race; not turning to the right or left, “copying, comparing and competing” as one speaker put it, all the while encouragingour sisters to do the same. We are to keep our eyes on Jesus and live for that audience of One, not to make our name great but to make His Name known.

My takeaway was simply courage – finding the courage to pursue a calling I have felt but have not been able to share openly for all the fears listed above.  What was the call you wonder? I wanted to do more writing. Here I was just a week out from this amazing IF: Gathering, already doubting myself when I got the request to write up my experience of the IF weekend. God was indeed confirming my desire.

{This post was written by Kelley Hastings.  Kelley is married to her seminary sweetheart, Eddie, and they have two charming and rowdy boys. Kelley helps lead an adult LifeGroup and serves on the Chets Women’s Bible Study Team. She loves encouraging women to apply the truth of God’s Word and fully use their gifts. Her heart beats fast for infertility issues, adoption, caregivers and, of course, dark chocolate.}