How to Leave Normal

January 21, 2015

Expect Embrace Give Up

The Road Not Taken” is one of the only works I can still recite after two decades of school. I have always been drawn to that overgrown path in the wilderness, even though it scares me a little even now. Truth is, IF:Gathering began as more of a hunch than a vision.

Today, many years since the hunch, IF:Gathering is a non-profit made up of tens of thousands of women who desire to gather, equip, and unleash our lives and the lives of others around the world for the glory of God and the good of people.

A few years before the birth of IF, I was ushered onto the established highway of the business of Christendom through the door of publishing. Influential people in the industry merged me onto the highway because they saw a seemingly sincere and passionate faith in Jesus. But at 75 mph- my sincere faith felt threatened by the business and structure of it all.

All the while, a quiet road off in the distance beckoned. I doubted I could ever build what God was growing within me without the covering of an institution that seemed to be holding up most everything that had ever succeeded.

Jesus certainly traveled the wilderness road and pursued people while He was here: “I am the good shepherd. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.” John 10:14,16 Jesus went after all kinds of people because all people need Him.

And while the Truth of God and his Word never change, cultures do. The Spirit and work of God continues to move in fresh ways through new methods. The Church throughout generations attests to this. It’s exactly what Paul meant when he said, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” I Corinthians 9:22

While I wish I were a more confident, rebellious pioneer, God had to nearly force me to the wild, new path He had for IF. I am however compelled to call as many of you as possible to the roads less traveled because there are many wandering who may never make it up to the highway. In fact, it seems we are looking at a generation disillusioned- standing off the highway, outside the gates of establishment. And if none of us go build and pioneer in the wild, we could miss an entire generation?

So if you have a similar hunch…. let me give you my notes from the wilderness:

1. Expect resistance. Actually more like upheaval. While to the world, IF is nothing but a success, behind the scenes in one year we have endured more conflict and difficult conversations than one should have in a lifetime.

2. Embrace the fear. Quit looking for footprints to follow. At first it is paralyzing to head into the wild. Learn to differentiate between the anxiety you feel when you are doing the wrong thing and the good butterflies you feel when you are braving new territory.

3. Give up on maps. There is not a right way to pioneer new territory. It is step-by-step journey, completely dependent on God, who usually only gives you the next step. I still crave a map and a guide, but I am learning to lean into the Spirit and God’s Word when I feel alone and lost and He has yet to forsake me. But do seek the counsel of those pioneers who have cut through the wilderness before. Their remarkable bravery can inspire the strength you need to take new steps.

4. Dont make a god out of being a rebel. Nothing stays new. So as soon as you think you are cutting a new path and people follow, the paving crew comes behind and turns your hipster little path into a 6 lane highway. Let following Jesus be your goal, not being a contrarian. Because in itself there is nothing special about wilderness paths. It’s the enjoyment of the God you love and the people who meet Jesus that makes it all mean something. Don’t lose sight of the point.

As IF grows, my greatest temptation will continue to be to conform, pave the road and choose an easier path, rather than the unknowns of a life without maps and plans. God protect me and let Yours be the only voice we hear whether we find ourselves on highways or overgrown paths.

What wild, new paths is God calling you to build and pioneer? What is stopping you?

Register for IF:Local in your hometown here!

(Originally Published at Relevant Magazine)

52 Responses to “How to Leave Normal”

  1. Thanks for this, Jennie! I love how God gives you such simple, through profound, messages to share. We are currently learning about the wilderness in many aspects of our life. God is teaching us so much and it’s terrifying and glorious at the same time! much love to you. xo.

  2. So thankful to Jesus and His amazing way to direct our every step. IF we let Him.
    I must share. Last weds. 1-14 I was sitting on my couch while my daughter was writing a essay for college due the following day. (last min teens)
    As time went by and it was 5:45 I felt Gods nudge to ask her if she wanted to stop and go to her life group that was starting that night. She said she was about finished and yes wanted to go. I was a mess ripped jeans converse a zip up and a hat.
    Well I felt like a mess lol.

    As I entered in to my church coffee shop I noticed a ton of women entering in. Oh yes the new womens study was starting as well. Hoping to just grab coffee and go I thought in my mind if my friend walks in and I run into her maybe im supposed to attend. Sure enough she comes in line right behind me. I was feeling very self conscious with this hat on but as she invited me in the woman at the desk had a zip up hoodie and hat on too. Thank you Jesus!

    Ok so I sat the table with other women gathered around and then it began. RESTLESS!
    Never heard of that or IF until that very moment. Then as I watched your first video play Jesus whispered in my ear the prayer I have been asking since May of last year was answered. You see I do not plan anything any more and I am often so terrified yet I have seen to much Jesus to stop walking step by step.

    I got hired at a nail salon last may and kept asking Him why I was there. Things were not going as I had thought or hoped for that matter. He kept telling me to stay put.
    The way He used your very words that night and His small voice said I was there to pick up someone who fell along the wayside of her race.

    Completey overwhelmed I couldn’t stop writing notes walked out and asked her to have coffee the next morning. Uncharted territory!

    thank you
    thanks be to Jesus

    That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ the father of glory may give to you
    the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him
    the eyes of your understanding being enlightened that you may know what
    is the hope of His calling

    • UGH!! Dying reading this. So good. Thank you Thank you Thank you for sharing your story- you really cannot know how much it encouraged me tonight.

  3. Rachel Hill

    thank you for braving the difficult conversations and enduring the conflict in order to obediently follow God in this step-by-step, hard yet beautiful, journey of IF!

    • Thank you for saying that Rachel- I never even think about it but thank you.

  4. Simple, wise, helpful words, spoken at just the right time for me. Thank you. And totally resonate with the call to adapt to win some (which is even my site name, after all!).

    The temptation to either conform or then delight in being non-conformist is a funny spectrum, isn’t it? You can get lost in the opinions and “what’s working elsewhere” and lose God’s perspective. What does HE want me to do? I’m currently asking that of God, and am very grateful for some wise ladies to run those questions by. If I’m going to pioneer and take the heat, I’d much rather do it in team with friends!

    • Amen to that- I have my people and it is way more fun!

  5. Speaks to my heart in so many ways, Jennie. We’re preparing for our time together in our little corner of Iowa, but your words reach further than that — into the deepest corners of my heart. Thankful for your authenticity + teaching.

  6. Hey Jennie, last year, I worked through Anything and then Restless while you and Jamie were doing the live sessions. Absolutely love your books and ended up doing a study over the summer with some amazing ladies. This year, I am part of an online community of women all facing the same struggles – infertility and trying to navigate the road, whether it is through treatment, adoption or simple waiting. The main study is through Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet and some other books, but next month we are talking about the Comparison Trap and Owning our Stories. I know that Restless fits in so perfectly with this topic! While we don’t have time to go through the entire book of Restless together by that time, was wondering if you had any suggestions for a section that would be best to review with the group, many who haven’t read the book yet. Thanks in advance, Jessica

    • Praying right now for your awesome group of kindred women. And do all the threads- that is the most helpful part of the book and study.

  7. Thank you for being so real with us when you share your heart. We can be so tempted to just follow the footsteps of those who have “made it,” or to seek guidebooks and road maps to do what seemingly works. I LOVE that you have chosen to simply follow Jesus, wherever He leads. I love that you have embraced being a pioneer but have decided in your heart that trail-blazing will not be your god. How awesome that you have chosen to be different, yet said that you will not seek to be a pioneer, but rather to follow Jesus. I have been reading about If: Gathering for sometime now and am excited to learn more, to see if this is a way that I could follow Jesus, alongside other women in my own community. Thank you!!!

    • Yes Courtney- come on! IF feels like one huge gigantic team.

  8. Jennie,

    Beautifully written!!

    There is a wilderness road out there with many lying along the road – fearful to get back up – and we need to stop and pick them up along the way. (I think you mentioned that somewhere else!)

    It looks different with the same Words from God. Last year, I was also struggling where God would have me to go. It was through your bravery that I started on a road less traveled – when I said to the Lord – Your Will – Your Way – make me brave and make me bold. He has not stopped giving me ways to be brave and to be bold.

    May I share a verse that He graciously gave to me last year that lifted me up?

    Jeremiah 6:16 – That day I told the LORD that I would walk in it. It has been a steady battle but He has been there with me all the way.

    He is with you too, Jennie – Hold His hand and He will lead you to places that you have never dreamed possible.

    Blessings to you,



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