This past week, I had the opportunity to join women from around the world to go to the Muskokas, just north of Toronto and attend a leadership conference called NextLEVEL. There were about fifteen of us from different cultural backgrounds and work environments. As we sat around a room together, cozy with blankets and a crackling fire, we listened to one another share a bit about who we are and what brought us there. God often shows up, I know in my life, sprinkling opportunities in my path. This was definitely one of those times, but when it became my turn to answer, I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know why I was there. I had just heard women share about their incredible call in their countries and their work and obedience towards transformational change. Women leading teams or coming alongside other leaders speaking truth and bringing change to those around them. Why was I there?

There was a group of eight of us present that were connected to Partners International. Four were with our international partnerships in India, Nigeria, Brazil and Jordan. The other four of us were connected through our Canadian operations. It was a wonderful concept to join and go together to the leadership conference and it worked so well!

“My whole life I have felt too young, too shy, too something to be considered a leader.”

My whole life I have often felt too young, too shy, too something to be considered a leader. I’ve often needed the approval of others and had concluded that I need to prove myself worthy in every area of my life to get that approval. So, I work hard. This is not in and of itself a bad quality, but when you end up doing it on your own strength and remove God from it completely there is something unfulfilling and tiring about it. Not to mention never quite feeling like you’ve made it or done enough.

We spent the next days learning about God, ourselves and others. Eventually we learned some great tools of leadership as well but before that we had relationship with one another. The leadership studio is designed in a way that is thoughtful and impressive. Each room is interconnected and designed for learning and being with one another. Even our meals were shared around one single table, passing food along from one person to another. In the end these were some of the richest times. Getting to know one another over meals, speaking encouragement or lending a listening ear. We bonded over our families, our love for Christ and our desire to make a difference and to do all that God created us to do.I think that was my big personal take-away: God created me to do something and I was at the Leadership Studio this past week for a reason. He placed me there and now I need to stop proving myself and start letting God take control and take me to the place He wants me and show me all He can do in and through me. That surrender piece is huge. I desire to pour into others. I believe that is a God-given desire but to do that well, the self-love and care piece is essential. That was just my take away. Each one of us are so different and walked away with something different. Something we each needed to help us move forward in our life and work.

In the beginning, I was overwhelmed by the women I was rubbing shoulders with but in the end, when we sat around that same crackling fire sharing what we got out of our time together, it was different. My respect for these women only grew but my posture was different. I no longer felt I didn’t belong but cared for. I was no longer overwhelmed but inspired.

Everything in me wants to share with you everything about each NEXTLevel Leadershipperson I met and layout to you everything I’ve learned over the past 4-5 days but that would take too long and would not do it or them justice. So as a group, we will remember our time together, stay connected on Facebook and group texts and be thankful for the experience.

And instead for you, I will leave you with this reflection: No matter your gender, background or position, what is God calling you to? What opportunities is He sprinkling in your path that you may be overlooking? And are you ready to surrender and see what He has been waiting for you to do with Him?