A couple weeks ago I gathered with 200 women from across the city of all races, stages, backgrounds, and ages. We filled the sanctuary of a local church and participated in IF: Gathering Local. I have loved IF:Gathering for years now. I follow them on instagram, watch clips from past conferences, and dream of attending the main conference in Austin. I had no idea IF:Local was a thing until two weeks before the conference. I instantly felt a pull to go and sent out a mass text trying to get at least one of my friends on board so that I didn’t have to go alone.
They responded, I signed up, and then when the weekend came up, THEY ALL BACKED OUT. Now I have great friends who all had perfect reasons for this happening. But it was kind of hilarious because it was everyone! The only friend who could come was leading another table (so we didn’t get to sit together) and an instagram freind who signed up too (but we had yet to meet IRL.) It was very clear that not only did the Lord want me at this conference but he also wanted to push me outside of my comfort zone.
God does things like that.
And although I got tricked into going by myself, I met new people and learned so much. I am currently staring at my notes wondering how I can sum up all the speakers into one organized post. Especially now that I have had weeks to mule it all over and get back to my day to day life.
“Open your eyes to see what the Lord is doing around you!” I scribbled in my journal. I’ve been learning a lot about the enneagram (that’s a whole story for another post!) but one of the things about my personality type (7w6) is this desire for more. The author goes on to even call it gluttony – always wanting more. More experiences, adventures, fun memories, friendships, followers, money, projects, ideas. I know we all struggle with that to a point but reading that I was really convicted. It is so true. The moment I find myself reaching one of my dreams or adventures, I long for the next one. Being present is so hard for me. I can easily look at my life and see what I lack. I see how and where I want Oak + Oats to still grow and not be content. Open the eyes to what is around me. Open my eyes to the present. Open my eyes to what the Lord has for me right now. Hearing that at the opening of the conference, my heart was awakened to a new way of living. It was the Lord saying stay with me – don’t get ahead, just look around.
As the conference continued, each speaker spoke on something different but they kept saying the same thing. Be here now. Let the Lord use you now. Keep your eyes on the Master. Be faithful. Be brave. Go where you are sent, stay where you are put, and give it all you’ve got. I sat there at a table in the middle of my city surrounded by people who were strangers just a day before.
What is right here in front of me? My city. My family. Oak + Oats. I’ll be honest, I read blogs who have exploded their readership, I follow Instagram accounts that a perfectly crafted and bustling with engagement (and numbers), I see income reports of creatives making $20K a month, I look at beautifully edited & consistent images from photographers, and I want all that. I wonder about the hard work I pour into this space and I ask myself if it is worth it. I try to read all the things and learn all the things to get to those “success” stories. I feel the burden of being an entrepreneur – the fluctuation of income, the long hours, the personal investment. Suddenly this good thing – this gift the Lord has given me – feels like a curse. When did I switch my gaze?
This is the ugly part of my heart. A heart that is prone to wander. A heart that so quickly gets caught up in more and doing it all myself. “Open your eyes to see what the Lord is doing around you!” This space is a gift. I want to be a faithful steward of it. The Lord is using this to provide for my family and that is amazing. My story isn’t everyone else’s. He has me here for now. I want to open my eyes bigger. Bigger to my city. Bigger to my family. And Bigger to Oak + Oats. Not always working for and wishing for what is next, but being present and thankful in right now.
I know a lot of this is a lot of heart chatter. Jumping from the pages of my journal to this wordpress document. But you may be able to relate to some of it. I don’t know your dreams, goals, struggles. I don’t know what your heart is pining for. While it isn’t bad to plan or set goals, it isn’t okay to live in the future. Always longing for what is next that you miss the now. I want to encourage you to be here now. I want to encourage you to open your eyes to what the Lord is doing around you. I want to encourage you to trust His plan because He will always take you where you need to be if you keep your eyes on the master.
PS: Here are all the new books on my list now that I went to the conference! So many of these ladies spoke at the conference and they were amazing!!
NEW BOOKS ON MY LIST
Photos by Ashlee Kay