Leading & Loving It Conference 2023 IN: 

Because of I AM Header

Day One

Written by Liz Sarno

Have you ever been at a place in your ministry life where you stop one day and realize that you’ve been so busy serving that you haven’t bothered to get filled up in a while? That you’ve fallen into the trap of just doing ministry and in the process of pouring out, you’ve realized that you yourself are empty? I’ll be the first to say I’ve been there, and I know I’m not alone.

Regardless of your role, position, denomination, or church size, I think it’s safe to assume that if you are serving in any capacity, you are continually pouring out for others. That can mean that at some point, you might feel like your own vessel has nothing left in it to give. This can leave you feeling empty, hollow, dry and lonely.

The life of Moses can bring encouragement for those times. Moses was at a dry, empty place in his life, in the middle of a desert, hiding out, and basically escaping from his calling. Then he has an incredible encounter with God in Exodus 3. Moses had a choice when he saw the burning bush that day. He could’ve turned around and ran the other way, but he chose to step onto the Holy Ground and as a result He was introduced to “I AM”. In two small words, God gave him everything he would ever need to fulfill his calling. That burning bush in the desert was the first place that Moses met “I AM”, but it wasn’t the last. From that point on he continuously spent time with God, listened to His voice, and chose to be in His presence.

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I identify with Moses. My own insecurities, fears, worries, doubts and busyness have at times driven me to a desolate place filled with emptiness and loneliness. In my own desert, I have the opportunity to step into a holy place, and have an encounter where my life could
be changed forever. I had the opportunity to meet the great “I AM.” And just like Moses, I continuously choose to spend time with God, choose to listen to His voice and choose to be in His presence. It’s an absolute must for me. For us.

In the times when I have found myself feeling empty, I’ve reminded myself that the water mentioned by Jesus in John 4:14 enables me to never thirst again. So if I’m feeling dry, maybe it’s because I haven’t stopped to take a drink in a while. The Psalmist wrote about this very thing in Psalm 16:11 when he said, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” If in the presence of God there is fullness of joy, that means that emptiness cannot exist there, and neither can anything else that isn’t from Him. In order to be filled, however, I have to first get into His presence.

Matthew 11:28 in the Message Bible shares this promise from Jesus- “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.”

Is that you today? Are you tired? Are you worn out? Are you empty? Do you feel like you are in a desert?

Friend, there is a burning bush and a life-changing encounter waiting for you, but you have to make a choice. You can turn around and run the other direction or you can step into a holy place and come face to face with God Almighty. If you are feeling empty, I encourage you to put aside everything else and spend some time with Him today where you can allow Him to whisper to your longing heart.

Because of I AM, we are not empty. We are FILLED.

Day Two

Written by Lori Wilhite

There are a few sayings that can flat-out send chills down my spine. They are that terrifying.

Firstly: Mom, can you clip my toenails? … Um. No. Feet. Disgusting. Go get your dad.

Next: I invited people over, and they’ll be here in 15 minutes. … Seriously?! Disaster zone. Quick, throw all the junk in the closets. Hide the dirty dishes in the oven.

Lastly: Your wife will make you or break you in ministry. … Terrifying.

Yep. I heard that final one from the time of our engagement, and it haunted me. I was horrified by the thought that I could possibly be the reason my husband’s ministry might fail. Whoa. That was a heavy, heavy responsibility for a 20 year old.

So I started amassing a list of all the things that I deemed as weaknesses, faults and failures. And it was quite a long list. I thought that if I was clear on all of those mistakes, then maybe, just maybe, I could figure out a way to keep from wrecking my husband’s ministry. Instead they were like a 500 pound backpack full of fear and insecurity that absolutely wore me out and pulled me down.

I, surely, am not the only leader who has carried that insecurity and lugged around that fear.

In fact, I know I’m not. Just flip over to Exodus 3, and we’ll see a leader who was overwhelmed with his calling and the terror that he might not be the right man for the job – that he might totally mess it up. In just a few verses, God lays out his single plan for Moses’ life, and Moses protests that calling 5 different times.

Who am I?
How can I lead?
They won’t believe me.
I’m not a good speaker.
Send someone else.

I’m not good enough.
I’m not equipped.
I’m not qualified.
I’m not gifted.
There are so many others better than me.

Oh, Moses. I get you. I surely do. Then he’s met with these powerful words:

Tell them I AM sent you.

The One who is sovereign. The One who is all-knowing. The One who is all-powerful. The One who is so much bigger than any teeny-tiny box you might try to fit Me in. You tell them, I AM chose you, called you, sent you.

Years ago, I too, was protesting God’s call: I’m not good enough. I’m not equipped. I’m not qualified. I’m not gifted. There are so many others better than me. Then suddenly a friend grabbed me by the shoulders and asked, “Do you believe God is sovereign?”

Yes. Duh. Of course I do.

“Then do you not believe that God knew exactly what He was doing when He chose you? Do you not believe that God knew exactly who Jud needed for his wife? Do you not believe that God knew the pastor’s wife your church would need? Do you not believe He is sovereign?”

Whoa. Deep breath. Take a step back.

Yeah. I do. I do believe He’s sovereign. Even though I feel like I’m not equipped, qualified or quite gifted enough. Even though I know that there so many other exceedingly incredible women out there. Even though I worry that I might mess this whole ministry and leadership thing up. I will rest in the knowledge that I am chosen.

And so are you.

Because of I AM, we are CHOSEN.

Day Three

Written by Jenni Clayville

On July 8th, I received a phone call that my father didn’t feel well and they were going to the emergency room to get it checked out. The follow-up phone call informed us it was pancreatic cancer

My family went into hyper-mode.

Between July and September, I traveled between El Paso, Seattle and Hong Kong multiple times. I should mention that during that timespan, my kids went back to school… one of them starting homeschool… with me as his main educator. And of course, I still work full-time as the Worship and Creative Arts Pastor. Gatherings don’t just cease because family gets sick. My life was busy, to say the least.

On September 10th, 2016, he lost his battle and went to be with the Lord.

You would think life would slow down then but it didn’t. As the eldest daughter, I was charged with the arrangements of his funeral. It was a lot of work and I did not have the capacity for any of it. I still had to work, homeschool, be a wife, be a mother, be a sister, daughter, niece. I still had to LIVE.

Cancer does not work around your schedule or inconveniences.

Though I was no longer in hyper mode, I was now in survival mode. All I wanted to do was quit. Quit my job. Quit my friends, which I actually DID quit my friends for awhile. Quit LIFE. I was overwhelmed. However, there were three things I continued to do in the midst of all this.

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I’m going to be completely honest here. Much of my prayers in this time were not PG-13. And I know it was okay. God is big enough to handle all my feelings. Sometimes, I had no words when I prayed. I just asked God to hear the cries of my soul.
When I opened the Bible during this season, more often than not, my eyes just glazed over the words. In those times, I just sat and begged God to infuse me with memories of when the Word was alive and real. He came through every time.

One of my favorite verses is Joel 2:25. He writes, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.”

Revelation 21:4 says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone…”

I held onto the promises I was not seeing or feeling yet and it gave me HOPE.

We aren’t meant to live our lives in solitude. I am outgoing, but I am an introvert. In these times, I naturally draw towards isolation. Though having quietness to process is a good thing, isolation is not. Sound advice is worth it’s weight in gold. (Note: LALI has recently partnered with Blessing Ranch, so there are DEFINITELY resources for you if you feel alone.)

You may be saying, “You had time for that?” The answer is NO. I didn’t. I made time. Our bodies release endorphins when we exercise which interacts with our brain to reduce our perception of pain. Those endorphins also boost a positive and energizing outlook on life. Who doesn’t need more of that?

Why these three? Why prayer, professional counseling and exercise? Because they addressed my spiritual, emotional, mental AND physical well-being. I knew I was burning out so I fought it with the positive.

Don’t misunderstand me. I removed a lot in my life. I said “NO” to just about everything else. It was just too much. But I addressed the MOST important things, and decided not to do the rest during this season.

Seasons will come and go. We will have good seasons and hard seasons. Our results are dictated by how we choose to respond to those seasons. I choose to be fulfilled with God and the resources He gave me.

Because of I AM, we are fulfilled.

Day Four

Written by Stephanie Shouse

For years I’ve struggled between the issues of feeling unnoticed and feeling too noticed… know what I mean? “Pastor’s wife” is a position that gets a lot of personal attention: people notice what you wear to church, what you say on social media, what you do during the worship service.

This life of leadership has often been described as a fishbowl, and yet feeling UN-noticed is also an issue for many of us. If we’re not published authors or sought-after speakers, we feel unnoticed. If we serve in a small church, a rural community, or a forgotten mission field, we feel unnoticed. If our husband is asked to speak at an event and we’re only introduced as “his (nameless) lovely wife,” we feel unnoticed.

Have you ever felt unnoticed? Even by God?

One of our great heroes of the faith is Abraham. God gave him a powerful promise and a high calling. All the peoples of the world were blessed because of him! But there’s a person in Abraham’s life that often goes unnoticed: Hagar.

Hagar is a minor player in the story of Abraham, Friend of God, and her role was not a good one. She was the “other woman” who gave Abraham a son whose descendants became sworn enemies of God’s chosen people (read the whole story in Genesis 16). But before all that, she was a slave girl who felt mistreated, abandoned and unnoticed, who ran away, got lost in the desert and encountered the great I AM. God spoke to her, rescued her and set her straight, and from that point on Hagar referred to God as “El-Roi: the God Who Sees.”

Now, Hagar is not exactly a person who we want to model our lives after, but she points out a beautiful truth about God: no one goes unnoticed by the great I AM! And Hagar is not alone. Even some of the most influential leaders in Scripture felt overlooked or unnoticed in service to God.

David, the shepherd boy, was anointed to be king over all of Israel but had to spend several years playing background music for King Saul (1 Samuel 16). The prophet Isaiah felt like his work was useless and his words were falling on deaf ears (Isa. 49:4). And even John the Baptist’s ministry opportunities decreased when Jesus came on the scene causing his influence to become less and less in light of the new thing God was doing. Yet Jesus said that John was the best of the best (Matthew 11:11), Isaiah became the prophet who pointed to Jesus the Messiah centuries before His time, and David the shepherd boy became a powerful king and a man after God’s own heart.

Maybe, like Hagar, you’re married to someone who gets lots of notoriety while you remain unseen. Maybe, like David, you’re called to lead, but God has you serving behind the scenes. Maybe you feel as if your work is useless or your ministry isn’t what it used to be. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of needing to be noticed in order to feel important or valuable.

Our society is all about how much attention you can get: how many likes on Instagram, how many friends on Facebook, how many followers on Twitter, how many hits your video gets, how many speaking invitations you have or how often your name appears on the program. It’s all about getting noticed. But that’s not how God works.

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We don’t have to be famous to be important to God. He is the God who sees even “minor” players. And because we know He sees us, it shouldn’t matter if we’re noticed by anyone else. God tells us that we should do everything as if we’re working for him, our audience of One, and not working for the applause of people. The great I AM has called you, equipped you, and placed you where you are in life and ministry. He sees you, knows you, and loves you!

Because of I AM, we are NOTICED.

Day Five

Written by Linda Seidler

The confident woman. Who is she really? And do I have what it takes to be  completely confident in who God has called me to be?

I’ve often wondered that, and I wonder if you have to.

For most of us, the word ‘confident’ evokes the image of a woman who has it all together. She doesn’t struggle with self-doubt; she knows her purpose and position in ministry; she doesn’t question her calling; she is secure in her role as a wife and mother; she can handle all that life throws her way; she effortlessly manages her home, and the list goes on.

While most of us may see this as the image of a confident woman, this is not the realitywithin a confident woman.

You see, a confident woman knows that her confidence does not come from what she accomplishes as a ministry leader or her calmness in a tense situation. And she is assured that ‘who she is’ does not depend on how many loads of laundry she will get done or whether she attends the monthly women’s luncheon at church.

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A confident woman makes it apparent that the level of her confidence runs parallel to her dependance on God. It is not based on her performance level. A confident woman understands that the presence of imperfection in her life encourages her to rely on God to fill the places where she lacks. She knows that all temporal things on this earth will change, and because the great I AM never changes, she can be secure and confident in who she is, because of who He is.

Proverbs 3:26a says this, “For the LORD will be your confidence…”

Did you see that? God is your source of confidence! HE is who will give you the confidence you need! It’s called God-fidence, and it’s critical for you and I to start believing what HE says about us. We can’t depend on what others say and nor the unachievable expectations we place on ourselves. When we allow God to be our source of confidence, then we can stop the cycle of suffering through a lifetime of doubt and uncertainty in our personal lives, families and ministries.

So you may be wondering if there is anyone who really carries the mantle of confidence everyday? Is this confidence possible for me?

My answer to that is…yes! But many times, we have our ear tuned in more to a deceitful enemy who wants to tear us down instead of listening to our mighty God who wants to build us up.

So take some time, right now, to identify the specific areas where doubt and uncertainty reside within you. Then take a look at the following truths in God’s word and invite God to strengthen your heart and soul and mind to believe what he says.

Because of the great I AM, you can have confidence today that:

  1. You are chosen (Ephesians 1:4-5).
  2. You are qualified (2 Corinthians 3:5).
  3. God placed you here for such a time as this (Matthew 5:13-16).
  4. You can do all things through Christ Who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13).
  5. God has equipped, gifted and purposed you for great things (Hebrews 13:20-21).
  6. You are accepted (Colossians 1:21-22).
  7. God is preparing within you what He has prepared for you (Ephesians 2:10).
  8. You are forgiven (1 John 1:9).
  9. You are an overcomer (Romans 8:37).
  10. Your mistakes no longer condemn you (2 Peter 1:9).
  11. You are never alone (Hebrews 13:5).
  12. You are uniquely made (Psalm 139:14).
  13. You are unconditionally loved and eternally bound to God (Titus 3:4-5 & John 3:16).
  14. You have what it takes and are more than enough (Ephesians 1:17-18).
  15. You are redeemed (Ephesians 1:7).
  16. Your former shame has no power in your present (1 Peter 2:6).
  17. You are beautiful and without blemish (Psalm 139:14 & Hebrews 8:12).
  18. You are strong, and God has armed you with the potential to get through any obstacle you face (Isaiah 40:28-31).

Because of I AM, we are CONFIDENT.

Day Six

Written by Evelyn Kay


That is the best word to describe how life events had left me. These were not major life changes that did me in. No, these were little, every day events that left me completely exhausted at the end of the day without me even realizing it. Can you relate to any of these?

“Mrs. Kay, would you be willing to coordinate our school’s volunteer schedule this year?”

“Mom, I need a poster board for this project that’s due tomorrow.”

“Hey baby, the tire on your truck has a nail in it. Can you drop by the auto shop on the corner tomorrow and have them take a look at it?”

“Can I call you this week? I want to ask you about something.”

“Ev! We need a lunch date. I feel like I haven’t seen you in months!”

“Mom, I missed the bus.”

“Mom, I’m staying after school for tutoring. Can you pick me up later?”

“Can you volunteer at church school on Saturday?”

Feeling overwhelmed and fatigued was how I woke up and how I went to bed. God does not want us to live that way. We cannot be at our best for God if we are not first being refreshed by Him through his Word. He wants us to rest in Him. He says, “I’ll refresh tired bodies. I’ll restore tired souls.” (Jeremiah 31:25 MSG) We have to place our frazzled minds and tired bodies in a position to be refreshed by I AM.

Psalm 19:7 (NLT) says, “The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul.”

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If you are feeling like you are at a point of exhaustion, spiritually or mentally, spend some time today praying about two things: (1) establishing (or reestablishing) a Sabbath day in your week in order to spend some quality time with God, and (2) spending time each day in God’s word. We will never become fully refreshed on our own. Our refreshment comes as a result of the time we spend with God and in His Word. His Word is our first and only source for re-energizing our spirit.

I had to re-establish my Sabbath. I had once observed a Sabbath day faithfully, but then I began to let little, daily distractions convince me that it was okay to let that sweet time of communion with the Father be interrupted. Before I knew it, Thursdays were no longer my day of rest. I had failed to keep it holy. (Exodus 20:8) I didn’t trust God to take care of whatever was being neglected because of the rest I was taking.

Sabbath is not a suggestion; it is a command. We have to take time off – from wife-ing, mothering, ministering volunteering, working – to reconnect with our Father. Because of this, I choose to begin each day by reading God’s Word. In the first fifteen minutes of my day, I read a passage of scripture or a devotion and journal my thoughts and prayers. The reading plans and devotions on the You Version app have been especially helpful and encouraging.

Remember to be intentional about taking the time to stop, rest, and enjoy being in the presence of God. It is there that we will find restoration and rejuvenation to get through the tasks ahead. It is there that we block out the distractions in order to hear His voice.

I love the way the Message describes our time with God in Psalm 23:3: “True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.” When we take the time to “catch our breath,” we can take on whatever the day may bring. We don’t have to be frazzled.

Because of I AM, we are REFRESHED.

Day Seven

Written by Cindy Beall

I felt nothing.

I was numb at home. I loved my family because I was still serving them but my heart was just numb.

I was numb at church. I loved the people we led but simply went through the motions while I was there.

I was numb to just about everything. And even though I didn’t like where I was, I just couldn’t seem to crawl out of this place of just existing.

Ever been there? That place of just doing the same ole routines because you are expected to and you have absolutely no desire to do it. Where you so desperately want to experience life again and nothing, not even winning a free trip to Maui would make you feel better.

(Well, maybe it would make you feel a little better.)

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23

Eventually, I figured out why I was in this numb state of mind. I stopped guarding my heart. I let so many things into it that were unhealthy, impure, untrue, unlovely and quite frankly, ungodly. And when you allow all sorts of words that begin with -im or -un, your heart can’t not be affected. It just is and mine just was.

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I battled through this by doing the exact opposite of what I was doing. And I do mean battled. Instead of feeding my flesh and succumbing to it’s every desire, I chose to nourish my spirit instead. The flesh wants what it wants, when it wants, and how much it wants. I knew this and had to take radical action against it. So I did a lot of new things that weren’t really new but were “new to me” since I hadn’t been faithful in doing them.

I prayed more.
I worshipped more.
I read the Word more.
I listed to podcasts and messages more.
I read books more.

I didn’t focus on the stopping of the things that led my heart toward numbness. I simply focused on doing the things that would heal my very damaged and numb heart. I began to submerge my mind in God’s Word and held on to its truth. I didn’t allow my feelings to dictate my life. I listened to messages from godly men and women as they transplanted some of their courage into me.  As I did these things, they freed me.

And as I did this, as I pressed into the Father, my heart began to come alive. Again.

What’s got your heart? What types of things are you allowing to occupy most of your thoughts? What things do you listen to or watch on a regular basis? You could ask yourself any or all of these questions. But the real question to ask yourself is this: What are you feeding? The flesh or the Spirit?

As daughters of the greatest King of the world, we have all that we need to combat this place of numbness in our lives. We do. He deposited His power into us on the day of our salvation and we have everything we need for a life of godliness. We are overcomers in Christ and we can overcome any deceitful feelings that are wreaking havoc in our lives.

His power is just that amazing.

Because of I AM, we are ALIVE.

Day Eight

Written by Kimberly Scott

This year I turned 50. (Gulp.)

Needless to say I have a pair of Spanx for every occasion. It feels weird even writing that number down, because for so long it seemed far away. But I can tell you that being halfway to 100 has brought an enormous amount of perspective on my journey as a woman in this culture, in ministry and as a wife. I could agonize over the years I wasted trying to be enough in my various roles but if I could speak to my younger self, I would much rather pass on some solid truth bombs I gathered along the way.

Truth Bomb #1: When you get to be you, there is no competition.

Let me just speak to moms here. In the name of liberation, many mothers feel torn and burdened down with impossible expectations and pressure from what everyone else is doing.  These voices say things like, “all women must have a career” or “all ministry wives must stay home” or “all working mothers must rise to the top of their game while simultaneously being a BETTER mother than stay-at-home-moms.” Or this is my favorite: All moms should be thin, perky, weigh 115 pounds and be in great shape after birth with NO stretch marks!

Okay, can I just say that I was BORN a double-digit dress size and after giving birth to five kids, my hips now look like a relief map of Switzerland? I don’t fit into society’s norm at 5’10 for I am freakishly large. These are the realities of life, and we all fall short of measuring up to our culture’s expectation of what we should be.

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Truth Bomb #2: You were meant to shine!

Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.”

You were made to shine! You were made to illuminate and glorify your Heavenly Creator! Don’t waste another day trying to look like, sound like or act like anyone else.

When I was a little girl, I idolized my mom. She was a lovely, soft-spoken pastor’s wife that seemed to have the respect and admiration of everyone. Her words were chosen carefully and measured with grace. On the other hand, I was a loud, raucous tom boy that seemed to be the opposite of her in every way. I remember saying to her once, “Mommy, when I grow up I want to be just like you”. I’ll never forget what she told me that day. She took my face in her hands and looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Oh honey, don’t rob the kingdom of God of who you were meant to be! You will do things I will never be able to do because of how He made you!”

In other words, shine bright like a diamond, baby.

Truth Bomb #3: Realize it’s really not even about you.

The first time I was asked to speak at an event, I was tortured by my ongoing struggle of self-worth, my lack of experience in public speaking and an unhealthy fear of what people would think about my content and delivery. I know you understand this because it’s a common struggle in ministry. I was anguishing over this to my mom when she said to me, “Baby, you were born for this. And by the way, it’s not about you. It’s about Christ in you!”

That day I recognized something powerful that would anchor me through years of struggling with self-doubt. In my weakness, He will be strong! He actually loves our inabilities because He is able to shine through us when we come to Him with our hands out. He longs to take our broken stories, our fragile identities and fill in the gaps. He wants to to complete His unique creation with His own empowering Spirit. He comes along in our struggle and equips each of us to step out of the way so that our light can shine even brighter!

I want to remind you today that you are enough – just as you are.  Don’t let the world or even your church squeeze you into it’s mold! In the midst of all these demands is God, your Creator, who sees you as His image bearer. He has given you unique gifting, talents and circumstances to accomplish His specific call upon your life!

Because of I AM, we are ENOUGH.