In just a few weeks, I’ll be in Austin, Texas for IF:Gathering. Lucky for me, just like last year, I get to be part of the hosting team along with my great pal Joy Eggerichs, particularly hosting the IF:Local livestream.

Ever since last February, it has been hilarious how many people at churches or events will walk up to me, all squinty-eyed-like, trying to figure out why I look familiar, and they say, “uhh… why do I know you? WWAAAAAIIITTT! You hosted IF:Local!” and then they will proceed to tell me the sweetest story of what their experience was like watching the event from their own town, many in their own churches or homes.

I know IF:Local matters because it gives thousands and thousands of women who can’t make it to Austin the chance to experience the same content with their hometown girls.

But IF:Local matters even more for women like my friend Lindsey. I asked if she would tell you her story of how attending IF:Local in 2014 while bedridden has completely changed her life.

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bottleoftears

My bed is cozy. When I say cozy I mean that I quite literally have the softest sheets on the planet. There are no less than seven unique and perfectly weighted pillows piled up against a rustic headboard. I have a mattress that only dreams are made of. Sounds good, right? The truth is right after finishing this cozy bed, my world unraveled.

Five years ago I was diagnosed with an invisible enemy called Chronic Lyme Disease. My health eroded and everything changed. About the same time my hubby and I brought home our precious girl from Guatemala. Our daughter suffers from complex developmental trauma and lives in a near constant state of anxiety. Our lives became centred around two hard realities, Lyme Disease and Trauma Parenting. I began to feel like a prisoner in my home. My cozy bed became my pit of despair.

Now fast forward with me to the day that I decided to get out of bed. The weekend of IF:Gathering 2014. Since I couldn’t leave my house because of my illness, I didn’t fit into either defined category- being in Austin for IF:Gathering or going to a meet-up for IF:Local. I laughed and declared that I was having IF: My Bed (in pajamas, without make-up).

God met me that day. I had no idea how much the isolation of battling a chronic disease had been crippling me. I needed to hear that God was not through with me. While watching IF: Gathering online I chose to live again. I chose to get out of bed (despite the immense pain and fatigue of Lyme Disease). I chose to be present in my story and not wish it away even if I never felt better.

Though I was confined to my home I asked God how I could comfort others. God’s response was like a bolt of lightning – start a ministry and call it Bottle of Tears.

Today Bottle of Tears is about mailing hope in vintage bottles to those who need it most as a reminder that they are deeply loved and not forgotten. I get to pray for people who are hurting as each bottle leaves my house. I get to watch hundreds of people comfort one another. I want to spend the rest of my time on earth loving others right where they are. 

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I don’t know your plans for February 6-7, 2015.

Maybe you’ll be with us in Austin for IF:Gathering.

Maybe you’re going to gather up with other women in your area and watching the IF:Local livestream. (Don’t know if there is an IF:Local planned around you? Search here! If you can’t find one, but want to host an event where women can gather? Plan that here!)

But maybe you have to work on Friday. Or you can’t travel to where a meet-up is happening. Or you, like Lindsey, are homebound, bedridden, or for any reason unable to leave your house or room.

Hey. I’m Annie. I’m your friend. And I’m inviting you to hang with ME at IF:Local.

God will meet you there, just like He’ll meet us in Austin. And it’ll be ME, your local yahoo, just on the other side of the screen!

Hope to see you there.

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You in? What’s your plan for this year’s IF:Gathering?

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