My one word for 2013 was “exponential.” I’m not a numbers girl, so it rather surprized me when this was the word that came to mind last year. A math-y term, Lord? Really?
But as I explored the word, I realized: to be an “exponent” means to be a champion and an advocate. I could see how standing with another person would mean we could each grow and do far beyond our individual capacity.
I shared it with all of you at the end of last year—what I hoped and dreamed for us as a movement for 2013.
I could see a picture of “with”—unlocking the potential in each other as we flock together.
Not one plus one plus one. 1 + 1 + 1. (Even though that is good too.)
But us, standing together, to the power of many more joining us
the zing of multiplication.
Writing a post, looking back on what God has done in us through the past year on SheLoves, is becoming a new year’s tradition. But there is so much that has happened, I could easily write 5,000 words. I chose 10 exponential moments from 2013 to share with you, instead. [You’re welcome!]
1. Circles of Grace
In February, we rallied together in Circles of Grace—friends standing together and multiplied many times over from Vancouver to Texas to Cape Town to Brisbane to Dubai and beyond, each bringing her or his $10 to build a well for our Batwa friends in Bubanza, Burundi.
10 x 10 x 10 x 10 and then some. We raised over $15,000 for that well, which helped the community to drill deeper and put in a more sophisticated pump.
For me, one of the most special moments was when a solo mama at our church came up to me right after I shared my heart for this project.
“I’ve always wanted to build a well,” she told me. “It’s something God has stirred in my heart for a long time, but I could never give $10,000. Then she put a $10 bill in my hand and said, “But I can give this.”
I held that note up to Heaven and pleaded: O, Lord, please multiply this holy offering. And then God did, through so many of us who brought our friends and our $10 and our hearts.
Together we experienced the power of exponential. Together we became multiplied for the purposes of justice and equality.
At the end of February, we launched our very first zine. I still remember the day Sarah Richardson put up her hand to create this beautiful piece for us. “I can do that!” she said. Now, month after month, she brings the most beautiful offering, telling some of the stories of the people behind the words that we read together every day.
Exponential is seeing Sarah grow and give of herself every month.
Exponential is watching our editorial team coming alongside her. (Here’s looking at you, Bethany!)
Exponential is feeling like we are a movement, because the behind-the-scenes stories are increasing every month.
(Heads up: Our December zine is coming out tomorrow!)
3. Stronger, Before Bigger
I was running (ok, slowly) along the boardwalk during our family vacation in Maui in April, listening to a leadership podcast by Bill Hybels. I had many questions on my heart: How do we build this movement, Lord? What is Your heart?
I felt a little disheartened. Two years into SheLoves having a pulse, we were growing, but we weren’t exactly “blowing up” the Internet. It didn’t quite feel like exponential to me.
But I listened to the wisdom in that podcast and I came home from that vacation feeling covered. It’s ok if we’re not the fastest-growing site out there. It’s ok if we don’t have all the bells and whistles, yet. It’s ok if we don’t spread like a white hot fire, yet. It’s ok. Slow and steady does it.
At our next editorial meeting, I told the girls: I want us to grow stronger before we grow bigger.
I think there was a communal sigh of relief. We had a plan. God is in it.
So, this past year, we’ve worked on growing stronger. We wanted to be faithful to what we have, to each other and to the vision of that beautiful global Sisterhood finding her seat and her voice at the table.
We built our systems and streamlined our editorial team. (In fact, it’s only been one year since we’ve even had a whole team of editors.)
We spent time building community with each other. (#onewordcheckins, anyone?)
And prayed and rejoiced with Holly as she welcomed Baby Samuel into the world.
We sharpened our consistency. Six posts a week—Monday through Saturday. We publish at the same time daily.
We worked on our social media sharing schedule. We now have a team of three people who share every day’s post on our facebook page. It starts with a 3am (PST) share from Kenya when Katie Richardson’s children go down for a nap. The 7am share is handled by Daniela Schwartz and then our day editors share the post around 4pm. Meanwhile, editors also schedule tweets and Rebecca Graham faithfully manages our Twitter account.
Now when I look around our virtual living room at what God has done in us and is doing in us, it certainly feels like exponential.
4. Sisterhood Trip
In May, a handful of us gathered, first in Uganda, and then in Burundi for our first ever SheLoves/Amahoro Sisterhood trip.
Sisterhood had skin on and pyjammies and sunglasses and flip-flops. Sisterhood had unique accents and varied Myers-Briggs personalities and drank malaria pills.
We bonded, talking about racism in South Africa and oppression under the Roman Empire. We listened to our friends from Kenya talk about tribalism and our friends from the DRCongo show us a slideshow with their pride and their pain.
We bonded in worship and communion under the stars.
We bonded squished together onto too few chairs at the airport, waiting for our flight to Burundi.
We bonded when we turned on the taps for water from the SheLoves well in Bubanza, while the women and children sang and we couldn’t stop smiling.
Then, on a different day, we sat together under a thatched roof in Matara, Burundi, with friends from another community development project and we drank Fanta and Coke.
The community leaders spoke up and said, So, you’ve come to visit us twice now. We think it’s time that we save up and come and visit you in Canada.
“How much is a plane ticket?” they asked.
When we told them, they laughed, gasped and shook their heads.
But the mere thought—that this is what friends do—that friends visit each other, spend time together and grace each other with our presence …
It was a beautiful moment.
5. Moldova with Tina
Tina and I were the last of our Sisterhood group to fly out of Burundi in June. We had one more leg to our travels: we were going to Moldova. I’d been there in January with a group of bloggers from Children’s HopeChest and the team from Beginning of Life just felt like our people.
I was so moved by how they do the beautiful, holistic work of not only rescuing girls out of human trafficking, but working to shift their society so the larger story can change. I wanted Tina to see the work and meet our friends.
Again, we saw the difference a second visit makes. The way the girls hugged me—like I wasn’t just someone passing through, but a friend. And this time I’d brought one of my dearest friends to meet them!
On the Sunday afternoon before we were to fly home, Tina and I were invited for tea and cake by the Dubceak family. They turned out to be the parents of the beautiful Mila who’d been translating for us and had also shown us around the city with her hubby Serge. There may have been 12 of us around the table that afternoon as we ate layered honey cream cake, ice cream that didn’t seem to melt and bowls and bowls of cherries from the garden.
We lingered and listened and shared. History, jokes, our hearts.
All I know is that Tina and I drove away that Sunday, feeling like we’d been with family. Our Moldovan family.
It was another table. Another circle. More of our global family.
6. Facebook Shares and Likes
Confession: Summer online is always a little harder and slower for us. So, this year, as per usual, we expected our shares and “likes” to be a little lower over July and August, but we always concentrate on resting, refueling and strengthening community during this time.
When September came around, our daily visits kept going up, but the social share numbers (the facebook shares and likes, for example) remained too low. I made a few enquiries, but couldn’t get to the bottom of it. What was up?
It even felt a bit vain to care about the numbers.
Finally, when one of our writers complained that her facebook likes actually went down that day, instead of up, I knew something was really wrong. I sent our webmaster a screenshot of what was happening with our links. She realized that because we’d been using a third party application and scheduling our shares before the posts were published, facebook couldn’t “find” the post and treated it as non-existent. Hello!
As soon as we figured that out, we changed our system. We now go live a few minutes after midnight (PST) and posts only get shared once they are published.
For the past month, the results have been rather dramatic. Even exponential. The community we knew we had all along, is now clearly visible.
The interesting part of our dilemma, is that the low shares brought solidarity. We all learned to stand together and support each through the dry season. We discovered that these “likes” matter to every brave soul who puts her or his heart on the page; so we show up for one another.
For me, that is a moment.
7. Jesus Feminist
I don’t think a conversation around “exponential” is possible without mentioning our sis Sarah Bessey and her little yellow book, Jesus Feminist. We are so proud of her and how she is lighting up the Internet with her words and her heart and the radical notion that God sees women as people, too.
I was thrilled when Scott and I were invited to Brian’s secret launch party for Sarah. Tina asked me to share something from us. In front of some of her closest friends and family, I got to tell her, “Eshet Chayil, Sarah Bessey. You are a Woman of Valor.”
Because she is.
And that was a moment.
8. I Am From
In August, I got to do the “I am From” exercise with a group of women from Vancouver’s inner city—many of whom had struggled with homelessness, drug addiction and mental illness. When Phoenix shared her “I am From” poem, it was like a veil dropped. The room felt a little more honest, a little more human.
I knew I wanted to be part of making space for her at our table. So, what a privilege to have her lead us out in our poignant synchroblog this year, along with Claire. If you haven’t seen it yet, go take a peek at the 100+ gorgeous linkups. To me, these “I Am From” poems say, Our stories are each so unique, but we can meet together around a table and share our lives for greater good.
9. SheLoves Media Society
We put on our big girl boots this year and became a non-profit society in Canada. It means we are official, legit, the works. We can have a bank account and we can receive donations. We can sell advertising and products. For me, what it means is that we can grow, strengthen and do good things. Empowerment all around!
10. Keep A Girl in School
Probably the most poignant expression of “exponential” this year, for me, came through our Keep A Girl in School initiative. Not only did we raise $10,000 together, so girls in Northern Uganda can have a one-year-supply of sanitary products and not drop out of school, but it really was HOW it came about that showed me we get “exponential.”
It started with Mama Marilyn Skinner sharing the vision at RelateWomen and Megan Gahan saying, Yes.
But this wasn’t a one-woman effort. Or even a two-person effort. It became a four-person effort multiplied by every person and ministry who then came and stood with us. (Tina and Kupa, you blew me away.)
We became four to the power of many many many.
The way I had hoped we would be a sisterhood this year, but couldn’t quite know how. The way I think God imagined us to be when that word “exponential” dropped into my heart.
So: Thank you, dear SheLovelys, for the way we stand together, the way we make room for each, the way we call out the songs in each other’s hearts and the way we leap to do the difficult things.
Thank you for the way we, together, can be women who Love.
It is such an honour and a joy to do Life with you on these pages and beyond.