Why Rise Matters to Me

Why Rise Matters to Me

I walked into a hotel room full of women, women I did not know. Women I would be spending the next three days with. Women I would come to love like we were long-lost friends. Women I still cherish and support.

When I signed up for my first trip with Rise (then Mended Women) months before the hotel room meet-and-greet, I was simply looking for an inexpensive way to attend the upcoming Justice Conference in Chicago. Holly Stallcup, Rise's Executive Director, had posted in a Facebook group I belonged to that her organization was looking to gather a group of women to not just attend the conference together, but to do community together during and after the conference.

In the end, I not only grew from the time spent in eye-opening, incredible workshops and keynotes during Justice Conference, but from the time I spent with the women in our group. We packed lunches together every night; we decompressed and continued hard conversations about what the conference was teaching us; we laughed and learned from each other.

The turning point for me, the moment that made me truly see the importance of Rise’s work, was a moment that would seem small to many.

It was our last night in Chicago, and some of the women had expressed interest in visiting several well-known Chicago destinations -- the Bean, Willis Tower, etc. I was feeling tired, so I was secretly dreading that I was going to have to pretend like I was OK, ready for a night of sight-seeing. I was ready to put my fake happy face on.

But that’s when Holly gave us all the space and platform we needed to say what WE needed.

As a caregiver by nature (where my Enneagram 2s at?), I’m not good at saying what I need. I just want everyone to be happy. I’m happy if other people are happy. Until I reach a point where I’ve given too much of myself and I’m just left exhausted and empty.

“You can say what you want to do,” Holly said to all of us that night. “I want you all to say what you need and want. We will make arrangements to make everyone comfortable. You just have to tell me.”

“I want to stay back and hang out,” I heard myself say. I said it. I said what I wanted. And no one shamed me for it. No one told me to suck it up and be a team player. No one told me I was being selfish.

I was allowed to be my full self.

Since then, I’ve been able to see firsthand how Rise offers this moment, a moment of being seen and accepted, to many other women. I recently went on another Rise trip, this time to the Festival of Faith & Writing in Michigan, and the group this time was made up of 20 women. We all introduced ourselves in a Facebook group before officially meeting in-person, and I felt honored as women shared details about themselves that we’re usually shamed for or feel embarrassed about: “I’m a snorer,” “I’m an introvert,” “I have to take medicine,” “I struggle with anxiety.”

Once we were all officially gathered together in the Airbnb just outside of Grand Rapids, I noticed once again the care Holly took in setting certain things up to make everyone comfortable and feel truly seen -- the bedrooms in the basement had been assigned to the women who shared they needed “me time” or a quiet place to sleep; women were told to say if they wanted to skip a keynote or entire day to rest and unwind; women who are a part of the Rise community but not on the trip had written letters to all of us, hand-delivered by Holly.

I watched women become each other’s cheerleaders. I watched women take care of each other. I watched what it looks like when a community of Jesus followers is truly the best place to be a woman.

And this is why the work Rise does matters. Because it’s not just a women’s ministry — it’s an organization where women are given an outlet to share their work and words. It’s an organization where spiritual gifts are affirmed and cherished. It’s an organization where women are reminded that they matter, in both their individual worlds and in the big picture of the Church.

And that, my friends, is something to be excited about.

Photo credit: rawpixel

#notwithoutmychild, and not without theirs either 

#notwithoutmychild, and not without theirs either 

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