I recently received the weekend outline for an upcoming women's conference I am leading worship and speaking for. I have been a part of this conference, at this church, with these people before. It's the kind of place you want to come back to and invite your friends- the ones who don't like church (or most Christians for that matter)- because you know your friends are safe there. They will be treated like family and prayed over for months before they arrive. They will take in thoughtful, excellent content and be exposed to Jesus in the best possible ways. I trust these ladies and this church. And if you know me personally, you know that is saying a whoooooole lot. After having only been with them for a few short days two years ago they have remained my people and several of them have been deeply impactful voices in my life since that time.
So they asked me back and being asked back is always such a gift. And last week they sent me the outline for the weekend. The weekend's theme? Embrace the Life You Were Meant to Lead. Friday night starts off withRebekah Lyons and I. She wrote an amazing book called Free Fall to Fly and it's about being brave enough to fall so that you can eventually fly. It is beautiful and vulnerable and freeing. The first session? Embrace Brave.
That session starts with an interview, the outline says. An interview with me. The outline actually reads, "Becky interviews Jenny Simmons focusing on her life since her visit in 2013; asthma, death of her sister’s babies, loss of grandparents, etc." Then the outline references a blog from this year where I wrote, "How many times have I not done something simply because I wasn't brave enough to stick one foot out over the ledge into the unknown?"
I read the outline and thought, "Gosh. Brave. Who am I to talk about being brave? Sarah should be on that stage. She's the one that lost her babies and she's the one that has been brave enough to wake up each morning and take another breath. Brave enough to keep living. Brave enough to keep calling God her good and faithful friend. Brave enough to get pregnant again. She should be on stage. Not me."
I got teary eyed as I still do when I think about the loss of Maggie and Ellen. Almost a year later and I still cry at the tiniest thought of their short lives and the utter hell our family walked through this time last year.
I put the computer down determined not to cry. I got a text from Ryan a few minutes later saying he needed to go ahead and get airline tickets booked for that conference- were these the right dates?
October 2nd-October 3rd
My heart nearly stopped. October 2nd, the day I am going to be on stage talking about how God makes us brave? That is the one year anniversary of Maggie and Ellen's short lives and deaths. The day I flew to Oklahoma in a fury and mom and I sat with Ray and Sarah as those baby girls pushed their way into earth and then straight into heaven.
No wonder the Holy Spirit told me only moments earlier... Sarah should be on that stage.
And so I called her and said, "I have no idea how you want to spend the girls' first birthday. I really don't, and any way you choose is perfect. Maybe at the cemetery? Maybe quietly at home? Or maybe in front of 1,000 women telling them how it is possible to live out your worst nightmare and find God to STILL be present, near, gracious, compassionate, merciful and full of love? What it looks like to keep living and how God keeps meeting you and making you brave? You probably don't want to do that. But Sarah I trust this church. I trust them with our story and with you. And you don't have to but..."
"There's no where else I want to be..." she interrupted.
"I don't even know if the church will want that..." I said quickly not wanting to make any promises.
And she repeated the same thing. "There's no other place I want to be. Yes. The answer is yes. I want to worship that night."
And the ladies at the church felt the same thing in their spirits immediately. This was bigger than us. This was orchestrated by God himself.
God continues to weave tiny glimpses of redemption and beauty into our stories. There are very few places I would entrust my sister to on this incredibly monumental "1st." It is no accident that I am at The Hills Church on Friday, October 2nd talking about what it means to stick one foot out in front of the other, taking God's hand, and choosing to be brave. No accident that I will lead women that night in the very songs that Matt Maher sang at the girls' funeral...
Lord I need you, oh I need you.
Every hour I need you.
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God how I need you...
No accident at all. Just another gift from a faithful God who shows up in the brokenness of this world and redeems and redeems and redeems. God restores our souls. God MAKES US BRAVE.
So on the one year anniversary of Maggie and Ellen's life you will find my family worshipping (with all kinds of tears). And women of all ages- consider this your personal invitation to join us that night in Dallas/Ft.Worth. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world that night. I am in AWE of how God has once again divinely touched our story with his mercy, grace and presence.
For more information regarding the Embrace Brave conference on October 2nd-3rd visit: thehillsembrace.org/home/