LeadHER

Just Be Yourself

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By Cathie Ostapchuk

Last week I experienced the FONFI = ‘the fear of not fitting in,’ and without realizing it, found myself subtly trying to change my language, my look, my essence to fit what I thought this group was looking for. It was refreshing to know I was comfortable in my own skin after I realized that the pressure to conform, to be invited in, to be liked, to be one of the crowd, was just an invisible external distraction that took my eyes off my own unique path.

Have you experienced that? I heard from a woman in another province that she felt like she was trying to fit into a perceived inner circle and wanted to know how she could crack that barrier. So many times we feel the pain of trying to be ‘in’ whether we have small or large spheres of influence, and that insidious reminder that maybe we don’t really belong captures our waking moments.

You cannot, and should not EVER try to be all things to all people.

When you try to be relevant - change a little here, a little there to fit in to the ‘group,’ to speak the speak you think people want to hear, to sound wiser, or look younger, hipper, or more profound – just to be in the imaginary ‘circle,’ you actually diminish your impact, and your ability to steward your service is watered down.

You become irrelevant when you are not authentic.

Your relevance comes from your relationship with your Creator because He tells you who you are and whose you are. His Triune Circle is the only place you will ever truly be at home anyway. Just be yourself. Mind your business. Keep your head down and your hope anchored up. Maybe He is calling you to invite others into your circle. The misfits. The marginalized. The unlovelies. The beautifully broken.

There is a stunning relevance in that sacred space of belonging. It reminds us that Jesus pitched His tent among us and became one of us without asking us to clean ourselves up and be better version of ourselves before He said “Come, follow me.”
 
Jesus Himself felt the pressure to fit in, to conform, to do the things people wanted Him to do: to go here, to go there – on His followers’ timetable - to heal everyone all of the time and even turn the children away so He could focus on bigger platforms. His clarity of purpose and identity was heard in His words from John 12:49 -

“For I’m not speaking as someone who is self-appointed, but I speak by the authority of the Father himself who sent me, and who instructed me what to say.”

There was never any question in Jesus’ mind as to what to say and how to say it so He would be accepted. His relevant ‘speak’ came from His relationship with His Heavenly Father.

He reminds His followers in John 6:38 “For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will”…and perhaps we could imagine the added words, “and not to do what people expect me to do.”

Just be yourself. Some will love you. Some will hate you. But everyone else is already taken, so embrace the call and crafting on your life. There will be times you need to go solo but if you are not concerned with everyone liking you all of the time, it will free them up to follow you. Head down. Hope anchored up. Go well.


LeadHER: Find Your Voice and Help Others Find Theirs

Written By: Cathie Ostapchuk 

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It is not “good” voices or “bad” voices that I am listening for, but voices that come from somewhere near the heart and that do not seem afraid to be heard.”
- Barbara Brown Taylor

Gather Women exists to connect, equip and champion women of Canada so that they are empowered and encouraged to influence their world for Jesus Christ.

In order to be influencers, we need to find our voice – individually and collectively. As a movement, we unpack our mandate with a bit more clarity when we describe what we are doing when we gather women:

Creating spaces for connection, Biblical teaching and equipping
Championing a culture of support
Calling Forth a national voice for Canadian Christian women, coast to coast

What does our national, collective voice sound like?  How do we find it and claim it?

Voice is more than simply speaking; it engages the whole self - mind, body, spirit - your true self. Voice is a theological concept because utterance is directly connected to how God expressed God’s own self. God spoke, and in doing so God revealed God’s self.

Speech is revelation. Voice is intimately tied to theological revelation. In ministry, our speaking is not just our own but for the sake of God’s own expression. We speak, in part, for God, and God speaks through us. God counts on us to emit the words of God and the Word of God so that others might hear the promises of God in their own lives. Your voice and God’s voice intersect in your expression. You and I need to know what we believe, own what we believe, and speak what we believe with confidence. What do you believe about your inherent value as one created in God’s image, regardless of gender? What do you believe about your God-given gifts and their value in the Kingdom?

Voice is personal – what you say, how you say it, your vocabulary, accent, intonation, when you speak up and when you don’t - all reveal your identity and your character. To believe in your own voice, you have to believe in your identity and your own experience and believe that it deserves to be spoken out loud.

Believing in your voice means remembering who you are, which will demand an intentional reclaiming of your identity as a daughter of the Most High.

Do you know who you are and whose you are? Do you self-silence your voice because you place a higher value on the voices of others than you do your own?

Voice also shapes how you do ministry and influence those around you. Who in your world do you sense wants to speak but has never been invited or allowed to speak? How can you help them articulate their theology, opinions and faith story? Because of who you are and all you are called to be which has yet to unfold (a woman in ministry, a woman in leadership in the church, or elsewhere, a woman with influence), women, and even men, will come to you for help to find their voice.

When you are able to utter your truth, you automatically invite others to imagine the same. You invite them to envisage what is possible for them.

There are voices in this nation that have been unheard for too long. Voices of women who have let others determine their value and diminished their worth. 

I know that it's a big audacious goal to claim that we as a national movement can call forth a national voice. But that remains our goal. The national voice can only rise when each woman decides that she will no longer be afraid to be heard. Sometimes the fear comes from a theological assumption, a challenging context, or, most often, a lack of confidence. 

We want to keep affirming over and over again that every voice matters in this nation. Every woman matters in this nation. We desire to reflect a generationally, denominationally, geographically and culturally diverse yet unified voice.

Your voice matters to us. But you have to find it – and with encouragement, as we invite the voices of women into greater expression and presence, we want you to share it with us.

Don’t be afraid to be heard. Speak your truth. The words of Jeremiah ring in my ears daily when I shrink back from using my voice to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, or fail to speak on behalf of the voiceless:

“Then the LORD reached out and touched my mouth and said, “Look, I have put my words in your mouth!”  (Jeremiah 1:9)

Find your voice and help others find theirs. It matters to you, to those who need you to speak for them, and to God, who has given you your voice to share His gospel. 


LeadHER: Know Your Name

Written By: Lindsay Wadsworth

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Throughout the first couple years of my oldest son’s life, we were regularly told he looked like Prince George. We have been stopped by excited monarchy groupies at the grocery store, the doctor’s office and in my grandmother’s living room.

The royal sightings have slowed as Isaac has grown out of his baby face, but there was one memorable instance last Labour Day weekend. Isaac and I were out shopping for his first day of Kindergarten (cue: all the feelings) when a woman in a minivan pulled over beside us and shouted loudly out her window.

"He looks JUST like that adorable Prince George! Exactly like him!"

I politely laughed, forced a smile, and kept walking. Isaac looked up at me confused, if not a little annoyed, and demanded:

"What did she say?"

(A side note about Isaac: he is strong-willed, precocious and brave. He basically came into this world speaking in full sentences, and has not stopped. Not much is lost on him.)

"Oh nothing, buddy. She just thought you looked like someone," I replied.

Isaac was indignant. Glaring at the minivan he shouted,

"Well- I am someone. I'm Isaac!"

I choked back the massive lump that had suddenly formed in my throat and hid my welling eyes behind my shades. I affirmed that yes, that is indeed exactly who he is. Isaac turned his little nose to the air and carried on. He cared not who little George was, or what fancy romper he'd been wearing across the pond last week. Isaac knew who he was, and that the suggestion of anything else was outrageous.

I felt such assurance in how my little boy had declared his identity so resolutely, so immediately. My tender heart inflated with hope for Isaac’s adventures in the great big world of elementary school.

As He often does via this altar we call parenting, my heavenly Father has transformed this scene into a profound challenge for my soul. I can hear Him softly asking me,

“Do you know your name- the one that I have called you?”

I confess that too often, I believe the lies of the enemy as he whispers in my ear the names timid, incapable and insignificant. He tells me I’m anxious and unsure, ugly and ashamed. Uncontested, the whispers grow gradually louder until they are white noise- a backdrop that drowns out the truth.

I hear my own voice introduce myself as too busy, inexperienced, unimportant, and afraid. I compare myself to the ‘perfection’ I scroll by online and the thief steals my joy, kills my confidence, and destroys my hope.

But Abba Father lifts me out of this grave of falsehood and tells me who I am- His. I am a daughter of the Most High King, a citizen of heaven and a co-heir with Christ. Almighty God labels me redeemed, anointed and righteous. I am wonderfully made by the Creator Himself. I am His beloved. I am a vessel of the Holy Spirit. “Free” is written across my forehead with the blood of the Lamb. I am a whole new creation.

I must choose to say ‘yes and amen’ to my God-given names, and ‘no’ to that mistaken identity. When I do, I choose life. I affirm my role in the Kingdom that is both right now and yet to come. And when I hear you proclaiming your rightful name, it gives me courage and it fills me with hope.

May we be a generation of women who remind and affirm, who encourage and inspire, and who speak His truth when a sister has forgotten. May we know our names- may we know each others’- and may we stand up together, a mighty army.

Join me in turning off the white noise. Then, dear sisters- with all the conviction of a stubborn three-year-old- let’s tell them who we are.

Yes and amen?

“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine.” - Isaiah 43:1

“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?”- Romans 8:31


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