Which brings me to a pet peeve...some friends who have asked me to host this in the past, but aren't coming. The other day I took the time to call 40 women friends or colleagues. Why? Because I care. Many are coming to Unstoppable, and in fact this isn't just a Florida thing, but quite a number of women in ministry are flying in across the country for Unstoppable. But some of the very people who said, "I so desperately need something like this. Have you thought about hosting something?" aren't coming. Why? Two reasons, I've heard. Although they say, "it sounds incredible and I wish I could be there," they say:,
1) "I can't get away from the church right now...they need me for this, they need me for that..."
2) The church, or "we" (meaning they personally) are tight financially right now.
Years ago I was in this same boat. I put everyone and everything before myself. And where did it get me? Working 60-70 hours a week, (90 sometimes around Easter/Christmas and stuff like that), living on latte and Hershey bars, 40 lbs. overweight, and out of control. I tried so hard to be what everyone else needed but inside was falling apart. Then a few years ago I said, "NO MORE!" I decided to be a friend to myself. I recently read a quote: “To live unfaithfully to yourself is to do others great damage.” I realized, I was not doing my husband, my kids, my church or my friends any favors by not investing in myself and giving them everything. I read an article by Bill Hybels that said we need to spend 50% of our time LEADING OURSELVES.
Self leadership has become incredibly important to me in the past several years and I'm a different person now as a result of it. Things like riding my bike and walking are important to me. Even when things are terribly busy with the church, and Joy calls me and says, "Do you and Larry want to meet Keith and I half way for dinner tonight?" I'll drop everything and go. Why? Because I know I'm going to be a better person for it. The work that I'm coming back to will be done better because I have been enriched and refreshed by spending time with my friends in ministry.
My weight watcher leader always tells us, "don't break self promises." Many women in ministry say, "I'm going to start doing something for myself..." but another day comes and they aren't any different. They stay on the same merry go round they have been on for years and at some point, they're going to crack.
When people don't come to something, you often hear, "well, God has the people here that he wants here...it's not all about numbers..." and I agree with that - I am not all about numbers either. But why do I say what I've said here? Simply because I care about women and I don't want to see another casualty. Not a month goes by where I don't hear about somebody dropping off the scene and I get so sick of it. It doesn't have to happen. Pastor's wives don't have to get in the car, start driving, and never come back. This is why I sat down and took time to call 40 friends. (I know, some of you are wondering, "does she really have 40 close friends? Please understand by this statement, I am not talking 40 close intimate friends, but 40 people who I am associated with in ministry, in my network, that I at least occasionally do ministry with, see at functions, etc.) And honestly I'll probably pick up the phone again and call 20 oor 30 more before this is over. Why? Anybody who knows me knows I don't like talking on the phone (I'm an e-mail person or an "in person" person). But it's like this - I really honestly have a heart for women who are serving in ministry. I have a passion to encourage them and to connect them with each other.
That connection is so important. It's not about connecting them with "me", it's about connecting them with a woman or a few women in ministry who can be that support system for them. Yes, we all have Jesus, obviously. But sometimes you just need someone "with skin on" as they say, to walk beside you, put an arm around you and say, "you can do this". Or sometimes you need somebody to hold you while you cry because you are hurting over something in the church but you can't talk to anyone about it inside the church. Or sometimes you just need to go out for coffee or to the movies with somebody you can start talking to and not wonder, "is what I'm saying right now going to come back to bite me one day?"
I'm trying to give people a place to find these type of connections. I've done pastoring partners (http://www.pastoringpartners.com/) since 1998 and that has been great, but I long to have a face to face connection. For years now I have made it a priority to get together with other women in ministry myself, but I realize a lot of people don't. They don't know what they are missing!!! With Unstoppable, I hope to let them see what they are missing, and get them connected.
I believe if women really want to come God will make a way. Often, he makes a way through our will! Yesterday I was talking to Pastor Jenn and she said, "Money's not an excuse. If they want to come, they can sell hot dogs at the church and raise the money!" I know that sounds funny to some of you, but where there's a will there's a way. (For the record, Jenn and I have both sold hot dogs to do things we wanted to do but didn't have money for personally or in the church account. In fact, Jenn herself raised $200 in one Sunday on hotdogs. Both of us have been in ministry quite a while now and we're still not beyond this. I know most look at Jenn Lee as a classy woman (she is) who has it all together and doesn't have a care or a need in the world, but even she had to sell hotdogs to do what she wanted to do in ministry. When we are passionate about something, we'll do it no matter what we have to do. I have no shame when it comes to achieving God-given desires or dreams. Right now I'm wanting to achieve a dream at the church that we just don't have money for at this time and I'm thinking about selling S'mores as people are coming out the doors of the church. No kidding. Stop laughing.)
One pastor I know felt like he and his wife were on the brink of a marriage breakdown. They had no money, but in desperation for his marriage, he charged a vacation getaway for the two of them on his credit card. The time they spent saved their marriage. They paid on that credit card for a while but at least they aren't divorced! I really believe, we have to do what it takes to invest in ourselves because truly no one is standing in line to do it for us and if I had to sell hot dogs, smores, or put it on my credit card, I would.
If you're reading this...pray for us! I say "us" because it's not about me. Our speaker team is radically committed to this. Obviously Lindsay is committed to this, or I wouldn't have asked her to help me in doing this. Aside from her and I, we have some of my friends ~ Pastor Jenn Lee (co-pastor of First Assembly's Church on the Ridge, Frostproof), Pastor Sandy Phinazee (co-pastor at First Assembly of God, Callahan), Pastor Sheri Hawley (co-pastor at Garden Grove Assembly of God, Winter Haven) and Pastor Andrea Fruscella (co-pastor of First Coast Christian Center, Jacksonville). These women are one with me in heart and soul about this conference and are encouraging women in their network of friends about it. Andrea is so passionate about it, she's driving to certain pastor's wives homes who have "given up" of sorts (people who have dropped off the scene) and she's personally going to talk to them and encourage them to come. I really believe this is some women's divine appointment who are getting ready to become a tragedy should a miracle not take place. I believe in miracles and I know some are going to take place that weekend. If you're reading this, pray with us women of God who are standing in the gap right now and fasting and praying for the women who will attend Unstoppable and those who need to attend who are struggling with investing in themselves right now. I so desperately want them to be truly "Unstoppable" in life and in ministry.