by Jen Hatmaker on December 4th, 2014

You know what I've learned? God is going to do what He is going to do. Sometimes the best laid plans fall straight into the gutter, and sometimes barely laid plans turn into something crazy powerful. That is how IF : Gathering feels to me. God swept in last year and started something strong, and now one year later, all over the world we have IF : Tables, IF : Local leaders, and women studying the Bible through IF : Equip every single day. We gathered around the world this fall for IF : Pray. God turned it into a whole thing before we barely even knew what was happening.

In two months, it is time for our second IF : Gathering here in Austin. To be sure, the conference here is powerful but its real legs exist everywhere else. Last year, over 40,000 women gathered in living rooms and churches and streamed it live. We could barely believe it. Women literally rose up everywhere and took responsibility for their people and their place.  The desire to gather, equip, and unleash our generation to love and serve God and this world is apparently a raging fire.

A few of you will join us here in Austin on February 6-7, but most of you will be snug as bugs in your own communities, exactly where you are needed. We are praying for an army of IF : Local leaders to rise up again, prepared to gather and lead your women in unity. We have so many resources for you: a whole community of IF : Local leaders online, materials, all the streaming conference content, promotional flyers, ideas. You don't have to do ONE SINGLE FANCY THING. IF has always operated out of this approach: "simple and pure."

I want to introduce you to an IF : Local leader who stepped up last year in her community and has seen God do a mighty work since then. Meet Lora Lightfoot!
Q: Hi Lora! Where do you live?
Merced, California!
Q: How have you used IF's tools & resources to lead in your local contexts?
The simple and pure mission of IF resonates with our hearts, and helps us encourage whoever comes in our path to connect with one another and grow in their faith and calling.  The tools/opportunities/resources were easy to use and energizing when combined with the excitement of linking arms with women who love God all over the world.The positive model of unity and diversity represented in IF leadership is refreshing and enables us to promote unity within our church family and our community.

The fruit looks like a diverse and united local leadership “team” with my friend Anna. Dinner Gatherings: 60 women sharing dinner around tables of 8; from different churches, age groups and backgrounds connecting and sharing their common faith. IF Tables hosted by leadership in private homes, which has led to other’s planning to host Tables as well! The first Prayer Gathering; 30 women attended and represented several churches in our community.Walking together in the Word by passing IF Equip on to everyone (I seriously should print business cards with the web address!) 
Q: What has been the scariest, most challenging aspect of leading for you?
Not knowing…walking in complete faith. For Anna and me, (we are sitting here, discussing this question) we had no idea what God was doing. We had common friends and attended the same church, but we were not “friends”. We had no idea why God was calling us together (at first I think she may have thought I was a stalker) but we knew God was preparing us for something. We started prayer walking and discussing what God might be doing months before we ever heard of IF.
When we did hear about IF in January, we both knew it was what God had been preparing us to do, together. (It is important that you hear that God put the mission on our heart and IF was the vehicle God used to get us there!) We have met almost every Friday since, to pray-walk her property (we hold all our events there) and listen for God’s direction. You will notice I did not say “plan” (though we do discuss details). We don’t plan far ahead, we don’t market, or even kill ourselves advertising…we pray, we listen and we wait for God to tell us what to do. This walk of faith has been so precious to us, so amazing, so faith building…and we don’t want that to change. We honestly don’t want IF to turn into the next “thing”.
Q: How has God awakened you?
I think this whole season, journey, whatever, has caused us to trust God more and ourselves less. We see the need for God all around us; people truly are seeking truth, fellowship, love, acceptance, hope and healing. We see the importance of passing our faith on, relationally and generationally, and we want to do everything in our means to meet the needs we can and ultimately direct women to Jesus. We are not the same people we were a year ago, we have changed; we’ve had to let go of self and how we operated in the past and surrender to God’s leading. IT IS AWESOME.
Q: How have your relationships with others deepened?
In a sentence: “On a path of no return - we’re not going back!”
As the relationship between us deepens (all the people who knew Anna and I separately are watching in AMAZEMENT, lol), the relationships between our women deepens, and the relationships in our church deepens, and the relationships in our community deepens. We have turned our circle from facing inward-to facing outward and our goal is to include as many women as we can in everything we do, especially behind the scenes.
Personally, as a former staff person, I “knew” a lot of people in the church. The problem was that so many times, I wasn’t present and I didn’t take the time to get to know them at all. I have confessed this publically, and I now spend a lot of my time just being present and getting to know others and hearing their stories, WHICH IS AMAZING!
Q: How have you seen God show up in your life and the life of the women you are gathering, equipping, and unleashing?
God has just shown up in so many tangible, exciting ways I don’t think I can express them adequately. I will say that I have seen TRANSFORMATION in the lives of women around me.
 I have watched as a gifted young woman stepped out of doubt and perfectionism and stepped into her calling as a worship leader, and I cried like a baby when I heard her share how IF had helped set her free to trust God in this area of her life. Sheri and I attended the IF Catalyst in GA; and God has her by the heart! (People actually comment on the change in her, it was visible!)
I have listened to Sally, an incredible prayer warrior, severely limited by MS, share at a dinner gathering how she has been praying for the revival she is seeing now FOR YEARS! Her prayers helped pave the way to what God is doing in us, and in our women alongside IF.
I think of Melinda, who almost left the church because no one called or cared for her when her father was very ill—but instead allowed God to turn that hurt into her mission; she goes out to those who are in the sick/in the hospital to offer prayer and support.
I listen to story after story of women who are being courageous in their faith; inviting others in their homes, reaching out to people who are unknown or different and are getting up close and personal in each other’s lives.
God has shown up in my own life by breaking my heart (in the best way possible) and setting me free from a stronghold of fear and doubt.  I am not the same woman I was last year…

We are praying for IF : Local like it is our job. It's time! No conference can EVER have the impact that thousands of local leaders will have influencing their actual communities. If you are considering leading an IF : Local gathering on February 6-7 (this can be 8 women in a living room or 350 women in a sanctuary), go here. If you are looking for an IF : Local event to join, go here. We have resources galore for you here.

Would you consider joining us? We believe in the local church so much. Our greatest hope for IF is not that it becomes some big thing but that it equips and supports YOU to impact your people and your place. If it was just some 2-day event in Austin, we'd quit today. But Lora's story reminds us that God is AT WORK and we get to be a small part of his movement in our generation. 

We can't wait to gather with you.

Did you take part in IF : Local last year? Or since? Can you tell me a little about your experience? What are your plans for this year?

by Jen Hatmaker on November 29th, 2014

I'm not a good guide for traditional gift-giving. I'm sure I told you, but I once bought Brandon front row tickets to Jamie Foxx's "stand up comedy show" which turned out to be his "concert." We couldn't hear for three days and it now stands as the monument to my well-intentioned but poorly executed gift-giving skillz. (To add insult to injury, Brandon is like the President of the United States of gift-giving. It is actually embarrassing.)

But listen up, gentle reader, because I may be unable to handle the fine print on a concert website, but I can track down socially conscious vendors and products that are not only INCREDIBLY AWESOME but take good care of the earth, the artisans, the community, and the world. We buy once, give twice here, and in a season where Americans will spend over 500 BILLION dollars in a matter of weeks (for the love), we should make sure some of those dollars go toward more than just filling our homes and closets with more things we don't need. Our dollars can actually be a powerful force for good. Women are famously easier to shop for in this genre, but I tracked down great gifts for men and kids, too. (Be also thinking about teachers, neighbors, friends, etc!)

by Jen Hatmaker on November 12th, 2014

I’m pretty much a Fun Time Girl. Laughter and humor are my go-to staples. Brandon and I have had this conversation 338482 in our marriage:
BH:      What movie do you want to rent?
JH:       A funny one.
Bless. It is just what I reach for. I just love to laugh. I like funny people and funny things. (My sub-category is sarcasm.) This is both my preference and my style.
But sometimes life is really, really hard and I am in the weeds. Sometimes I need sober, thoughtful instruction to lead and comfort me. Sometimes I crave depth in the midst of struggle. As one who thrives in exterior spiritual work, it is innately good for me to learn from someone with a strong interior constitution.
Many of you know my mom has cancer. It’s so dumb. We still can’t believe it. She looks so normal and plus we don’t get cancer. Mom is the only calm and stable person in our family. The rest of us are prone to hysteria and drama; you would think we had the cancer to hear us go on. Crisis has found our doorstep, and it is decidedly not funny (even though Dad asked us in the hospital after Mom’s surgery if she was going to make us dinner that night…we are somehow managing Cancer Humor which apparently is a thing).

by Jen Hatmaker on September 16th, 2014

No passing zones
This is not a thing here. Every zone is a passing zone. Those double yellow lines? Pure wishful thinking of the ET Transportation Department. Enormous bus coming right at you in the opposite lane? Still a passing zone. The middle of the road, the shoulder, the median, the sidewalk...all passing zones. It is irrelevant how many cars are next to you, in front of you, or coming at you. These are not details that matter. Simply beep your horn and barrel around someone. Everyone else will move. Except the donkeys. The donkeys will not be moved. The donkeys clearly have a death wish.

by Jen Hatmaker on September 12th, 2014

Here is what I find easy: describing the best practices of Help One Now, touting the capacity of Aschalew (the local HON leader), explaining the HON priorities of preserving families and empowering the Ethiopian people, specifically the most fragile ones. It is easy to talk about the effects of sponsorship because it is so measurable and obvious.
Here is what is harder: helping you GET IT. I can’t duplicate the look on these mothers’ faces as they describe how sponsorship has changed their lives. I can’t translate the smells, the songs, the laughter, the hope. I wish you could be here. It is no secret I love this country. Fine…guilty. I am not objective. Lots of reasons, including these two:

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