Y'all. This is a long post, and I am sorry. I divided it into sections if you want to read it a few pieces at a time because I love you and I know sometimes reading is hard. But there was too much goodness NOT to share it all with you... and I want to take you through this experience with me. So let's roll.
Through a random series of events (and emails) I met the sweet and lovely Anne Watson – the Women's Ministry Director at Preston Trail Community Church. She invited me to attend the fall conference she was organizing, and as soon as she typed "JENNIE ALLEN" I was there! If you've been following for a few months now, you know Jennie is my gal. Anne had organized a Friday night and Saturday morning of worship and powerful story-telling, and I was pumped to attend.
I wasn't able to go on Saturday morning because I was very busy hustling my way around the city of Dallas in 13.1 miles (half marathon, still can't believe I did it!). But Friday was wonderful – I sat next to some sweet ladies from out of state and we laughed and cried and praised God together. At the time, I was going through a few weeks of radio silence with God and really wondering how to get myself back "under the faucet" with Him... so this Friday night could not have come at a more perfect time.
Jennie got up on stage to share the main message and my pen was flying. Here are a few notes from my journal...
- Shift your heart to a greater belief that He is real and He is coming back. When this happens, your problems won't go away but they will get a lot smaller in comparison to Him!
- Everyone is wondering – from the country club to the prison cell – "is He real?" We want a visual. We want to see God to say we believe. But God, in His divine authority, doesn't necessarily work in that way. His people are the ones that don't need a visual to believe in Him.
- The Bible says that it's for freedom we've been set free. This is big... it's really the story of the whole Bible. People are enslaved. They get set free. Then, we often see them do some crazy stuff... build arks. Face lions.
- Sometimes, there's a bit of a comatose thing that happens in Christendom in America – most people are rich (by the world's standards) and comfortable. They think they don't need Christ. We see amazing things happen in other countries because people there understand their need for Him. But we can't all sell our homes and move to Africa to see God move... we must simply believe.
- How big are the lies you believe? There are probably ten lies bouncing around in your head and two truths. If just the truths were there... what would happen if you let God use those and move through you? You might think, "that would be arrogant." That's a good line if you're doing something for yourself, but this isn't about you – it's about God.
- There is nothing you can imagine, no dream of your heart that is better than just being near to God for a second.
- God says, "I am the vine and you are the fruit. You're going to stay connected to me and we're going to do business."
- God doesn't ask us to take on a big task and then says, "Good luck with that." He equips us for every good work.
- I am small and inadequate but I fight with a God who takes a bunch of grasshoppers and fights battles... and wins.
- "I believe. Please help my unbelief." Don't leave here and think, "I haven't believed enough." He is the author and perfecter of our faith. He brings us here and gives us moments like this so that we can say, "OK, I'll try to let you move in me God."
Phew. As you can see, things started getting crazy. When Jennie was done, two more sweet ladies hopped up on stage and shared their stories. It was then that God started driving something home... and it started really freaking me out.
"Our past gives us perspective and grace for those who need it.
Start seeing the beauty in your story. Start seeing Me.
Tell your story... because it's actually a story about Me.
I've been doing a lot of healing in your relationships... I've been making them strong enough for you to tell your story about Me.
You've tried to be clean and neat and good to hide what you've done in your past and so that people will like you. All of that stuff that you've hidden away... that you've been forgiven for! It's not yours to hide.
Air out the laundry.
It's not a soap opera. It's not juicy gossip.
It's real life and you can't hide it.
Yes, you have failed. And you will fail again.
But I want you to serve Me openly, even through your failures."
I bawled like a baby. God was really working something deep in my heart, and asking me to consider how far He's brought me and to see the beautiful tapestry He's woven so far. It rocked me to my core. I've ignored my past for so long, y'all.
After all of this intensity, I walked out of the event a few minutes early to get a head-start home (I knew I needed to get in bed ASAP with that 13.1 miles looming over my head). I decided to pop into the bathroom before leaving and as I turned the corner, there was Jennie. By herself, walking in my direction down the hallway. I'm pretty sure I went into auto-pilot at this moment, because I found myself holding my arms out for a hug and saying, "Jennie! Hi!" With what I think was a slightly confused face, Jennie hugged me and said, "I have that jacket."
Because I'm not socially awkward at all – but mostly because I follow Jennie on Instagram and have noticed she wears the same jacket I own often – I responded with, "I know." Awwwesome! Pretty sure I turned ten shades of red after realizing what a creepy thing I said.
I mentioned that I had emailed her a few weeks back and gotten her reply and told her it was really helpful. We chatted very briefly and then went on our ways (again, socially awkward because I said, "bye, friend!").
I got in my car and immediately burst into tears.
For the past year, Chris has kept teasing me about meeting Jennie.
Saying, "You're bound to meet at some point! You're totally going to be besties." I couldn't wrap my mind around how I'd end up meeting her one-on-one and told him not to tease me.
And yet, there we were, two gals in a hallway at a church that a few weeks before I hadn't heard of from a friend I had very randomly (with God, not so randomly) met.
I know in the grand scheme of life, that may not seem like a historic moment, but for me... it was pretty serious.
As I was ugly crying and trying to find my way back to the highway, I kept asking God, "What are you doing??? What was that??? You're crazy!! What's going on, here???"
And I felt a very weighted response.
"You think meeting Jennie Allen is big? I am a God who specializes in big. I do big things, constantly, all the time. Big is part of who I am. You think this is big? Just wait until you see what else I have in store. Do you believe how big I am now? Are you starting to have a grasp of this? Open up your heart to My work, to My plans, and let's do some big things."
Oh, crap. That was mainly what I was thinking.
"Brittany, I need you to share your story. All of it.
You may think you can't. That it could hurt people. That it could hurt your reputation. But it is part of who you are. It is a testament to my provision, to my goodness. I need you to unlock the doors of your heart and share it openly, so that it can unlock the doors in the hearts of many others."
When I retaliated with, "I can't, I don't want to offend anyone" all I heard back was, "practice."
So I started to practice. On that last leg of my drive home, I started practicing my story. And I realized it wasn't going to hurt anyone who hears it or anyone who has been part of it, because it's not about them – it's about my God. And as I started speaking, the more beauty I began to see in my story. I saw God in the background of every moment, redeeming all of my shame and leading me to a new life with Him.
Last week, I practiced sharing my story for the first time to two very close friends. I told them everything I've just told you in this post, and asked them to help me stay close to God and speak with truth. I'm actively praying towards what God wants me to do with my story, and I believe that means sharing it here with all of you. And, I don't know if anyone's told you this yet, but... your story matters.