|left photo by Casey Wiegand and right by Live Laugh Studios|
I rarely have that "I gotta get this out of me" feeling.
I had it pretty intense right before my session at Influence and I have it pretty intensely now as I write this post. This is a 100% Jessi recap. Not an official-host-business-thanking-all-the-right people post. Just the words I need to share about the weekend because I've been so honored to read so many of yours.
You know, influence is a tricky thing. Feeling the weight of it and feeling the weight of the One who brings it and backs it up. It's a tricky thing. Being a woman, a tricky thing. Being a wife and a mom and a pastor's wife and a daughter and a sister and a friend and someone who sits behind her laptop, clicking away - calling other women to step into something that terrifies her - incredibly tricky thing.
I had a view of The Influence Conference that I feel incredibly overly blessed beyond my imagination to have had. I woke up on Wednesday morning of last week and texted Hayley something along the lines of "THANK YOU for doing this with me. For letting me be the one to do it with you." Being there as we sat on the futon in my office six months ago, being there on the drive to Nashville where it started to sink in. On the phone calls where we both cried our eyes out due to stress and really wondered if we'd made a huge mistake. Being there for the semi-tense budget talks with the husbands and the dreamy strategic calls. Sitting on her couch months later and getting crazy eyes once again as we talked about The Influence Network. The group skypes where it started to come together in the end with Moriah & Casey, the simulcast, the last week calls where we prayed with our husbands. The dinner the night before. I don't take one ounce of that perspective for granted.
But one thing I've learned is that when you're leading people - ANY people - you often have to walk through what you want to lead them in. If you want to teach women how to be married, you gotta be married. If you want to teach someone how to make muffins - you will sound dumb if you've never seen an oven. If you want a group of women to believe and walk in the reality that they have incredible influence because they've been called and anointed by God for such a time as this - in their homes, families, communities, businesses, friendships, and churches: YOU have to also believe that. And you may have to walk through not believing it before you do.
So that's how I arrived to Influence. Having seen all the work, having seen the weight of how huge an accomplishment it would be if we pulled it off and very much feeling like a scared little girl who was playing dress up. Feeling like a fraud. Feeling exposed and if someone else told me one more time what a big deal this was, I might hide under a pillow because then I'll have to face the fact that what I'm telling women - YOU HAVE INFLUENCE - is true for me too. And so on Thursday, as the pieces slowly came together, I could barely hold myself together. When I saw the decorations, I cried. When I opened the volunteer meeting, I cried. When the market opened, I cried. When my sister (who'd surprised me) and my mom arrived from South Carolina and said how proud they were of me, I cried. When Hayley, Casey, Moriah, and I sat on stage and stared out at the 200 women who had SHOWN UP EXPECTANT, I wanted to cry, but I didn't:).
|photos by Kerrie Williams|
When I saw Hayley's husband mouth "I am so proud of you", I knew it. When Brittany texted me during the opening session and said "200 women are here to make much of JESUS", I knew it. When my husband sat through Jami Nato's session in awe and excitement, when one of our amazing audio visual volunteers started tweeting how powerful the sessions were, when you ladies left session after session with tears in your eyes - I knew it. When I found 15 of you in the bar on Friday night with mascara stained faces. When #InfluenceConf trended on twitter just under the VP debate. When ladies told me they'd done more business in the market in a few hours than they had in a few months. When I saw women huddled together praying and planning and strategizing. When I met with my own business accountability group and we all had stars in our eyes. When we met up to read truth together on Saturday morning. When I read through all the tweets and now as I read through the recaps, and when worship finished on Saturday night - I knew it.
We didn't make this up.
He has given us Influence.
Because He loves us and He loves us enough to let us join in the work of making much of Himself.
I came home and immediately wanted to hide again. On Sunday night, I went to church - desperate to pretend like I hadn't just been exposed to one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen. I wanted to pretend like "oh that was fun!" but not to own up that it was real and raw and powerful ministry. It would've been better if I could act like I'd spent the weekend in my little internet doll house, playing with my make believe friends, with little weight attached to the whole thing. I want YOU to believe that this is real life. That the things that happened in your heart and business and marriage and friendships are real, but maybe I'd like to ignore they're real for me.
But it's just not true, y'all.
God is alive and moving in this community and He has started a ball rolling that not even I or Hayley or any speaker or community leader can stop or thwart. I think He wants to USE use women, in powerful ways - in our kitchens. In our dorms. Online. In our neighbors houses. On the shelves of the bookstore. I think our eyes have been opened, our tents stretched, our borders increased, and I think we're responsible for a little bit more now. Even if it's just recognizing that HE is going to do a little bit more in us, we will actually do none of the heavy lifting.
And I won't pretend anymore that I'm not thrilled to be a part of it. Terrified. And thrilled.
Our common thread is the Good News.
And that we (all of us, even me) - have influence.
Be sure to check out the links below for other recaps and for sure go sign up at The Influence Network. As the big things start rolling out (the conference was only the beginning!), we want you to be on the front lines.