Each year, Kerri Weems, organizes the most wonderful conference for women called Shine. Pastor Kerri's vision for this conference has caused Shine to grow and expand in ways that are incredible and so far outside of the scope of any church experience I've EVER had! I am so blessed to be a part of Celebration Church and to be a part of this house that Pastors Stovall and Kerri Weems are building.
The person I am today is radically different from who I used to be. I was saved, married, and became a mother in a span of 2 years. The adjustment to becoming a Christian, a wife, and a mother totally swallowed me and I lost myself. I didn't know who I should be and so I became invisible. I lost my sense of style, I stopped taking care of myself, I never put myself in a position to make friends, and I forgot about the things that used to be important to me. I spent the first 6 years of my marriage birthing 4 children, every 2 years a child was born. That in itself is mind-boggling! I immersed myself in my bible but not in church. I attended church every Sunday and I attended bible studies and church functions as a dutiful Christian but I wasn't living, I was sleepwalking through life. I thought that as a Christian my life was over, in that I couldn't have fun like I used to, I couldn't dress with style, I couldn't be beautiful, I couldn't be crazy. I essentially changed my personality to “fit” with what I thought God wanted, what the church told me God wanted.
With having children, I naturally gained weight and didn't try to lose it. I ate and ate all the worst foods and I didn't care about myself or love myself enough to take care of me. My mission was to take care of my kids, be a wife, be a Christian and Libby was gone. My identity was not my own anymore. I only wore makeup on Sunday, I only dressed nice on Sunday and during the week I wore big, baggy gray t-shirts and sweat pants to work. I was miserable, but I loved the Lord and my only solace was the joy I felt during worship on Sunday and the joy I had reading and studying the word of God.
I wanted more for my life. I asked God, “Isn't there more to this life than what I am doing?” I yearned for purpose, direction, and destiny. My husband and I started talking about looking for a new church, a new life, and a fresh view of the world. We heard about Celebration Church and it was on our list of churches to visit. We are a mixed-race family and we wanted to be in a mixed-race congregation and most of the options were for one color congregations. I started to exercise and eat better and that changed my outlook of myself. God empowered me to work on my health and I started to take care of my appearance. At this point my 3rd child was 1 year old and I was 50 pounds overweight. Once I started to lose weight, I started to dress better and I started to go to the hair dresser regularly, I started to wear make up at work, I was transforming into me. I know that sounds funny, but I was rediscovering me. I started reaching out to others and making some friends.
Michael and I chose to visit Celebration Church first. We never went anywhere else after that. It was Shine 2007 weekend and Christine Caine was speaking that Sunday. Her fire and passion blew us away! We came from a congregation that didn't allow the women of the church to speak from the pulpit, where the women of the church didn't have a voice. We made the decision to join Celebration 2 months later and our lives have been revolutionized.
Flash forward 4 years...
I am now 30 pound lighter, I love to take care of myself, I have been empowered by Pastor Kerri's vision from Shine 2008, 2009, and 2010 to be the woman that God sees. I love myself, I love my sisters in Christ, I love my Lord, and I love my life!! Christine Caine challenged me to step into the destiny that God has for me and fulfill my purpose in the kingdom. Lisa Bevere challenged me to Fight Like a Girl. Priscilla Shirer taught me how to discern God's voice. Pastor Kerri has shown me God's love for me and how to have a panoramic view of the world around me. I was ready for Shine 2011. I knew God had something for me and I knew that I wanted to be a part of something bigger than me, to be a part of advancing God's kingdom.
For the first time, I served as a volunteer at Shine. I served alongside some of the most beautiful, well-dressed, on fire for God sisters that I've ever met! I was in the background, serving the volunteers breakfast and dinner. I felt so honored to be able to serve the ones who were serving the women attending the conference. I love preparing food for others. Hospitality is one of my gifts. Pastor Kerri has provided the opportunity for me to use my gifts for a kingdom purpose. I've been reading Lisa Bevere's book Lioness Arising which has woken a sleeping lioness that I didn't know was there in me. Pastor Kerri was right when she said that we don't lose our identity when we live full on for Christ...instead I have found myself! I know who I am in Christ now. I intend on using my life to further the kingdom of God, linking my arms with my sisters in Christ, living well with my prince, being the doorway of life as a woman, changing the way that I see things, praying powerful prayers, raising up my kids to fear God, and passionately and purposefully pursuing my destiny as a daughter of The Most High God. Thank you Pastor Kerri for loving God and stepping out in faith to fulfill your destiny. My life is forever changed. I will honor you by living my life dangerously and fully awake and by living a God-first life.
It is impossible to write in one blog everything that I have learned over the last 3 days. The Man-panel was awesome! All of the speakers that spoke into my life; Jentzen Franklin, Priscilla Shirer, Lisa Bevere, Mercy Lokulutu, Dr. Sandra Richter-author of The Epic of Eden, and Kerri Weems. The passion and dedication of the volunteers and staff at Celebration Church have moved me to give more of myself to the body of Christ than I ever have before. The worship team at Celebration, along with Kari Jobe make worshiping God so beautiful and moving. To see what goes on behind the scenes to make Shine amazing makes me so thankful that God brought me to this particular church, in this city, for such a time as this!