Claudine Phillips

if:table: the begining

“I’m new here.”

This seems to be my mantra these past few months since moving here to California. New faces greeting me…and not greeting me. New places to navigate; and often get lost in. New spaces to fill, particularly my “people” space. There are holes in my life that need filling.


Moving does alot of things. I have learned that in the first year of moving anywhere, I am most likely to meet more new people than I will meet in the next five years of living here. It is almost like I am free-falling. Like I have jumped off a cliff looking for something, someone, to grab a hold of, to stick to .

From the outside, it looks like I am connecting.  I have light conversations with neighbors, the kids teachers, and the parents of  my kids friends at school. But I am missing something. I am missing that deeper connection that carries me in the day. That kind of friend that I find I’m thinking about and thanking God for in my life. These kind of friendships take time, I know. These kind of friendships are not going to show up at my doorstep either.

Enter the IF:Gathering.

My BFF, who lives in Texas, has been one of “my people” that has been getting me through this lonely part of moving to my new-to-me city. She mentioned Jennie Allen’s IF:Gathering coming up and encouraged me to see if there was a local group hosting her online simulcast.

Guess what? The closest gathering was 100 miles from me. So what do you do when you know no one in a city? You invite complete strangers to your home and hope they come! I signed up as the Central Coast host for the IF:Gathering and posted on Facebook of my invitation. I made food, picked flowers from my garden {previous owners had planted- lucky me}, put out yummy drinks, and took a deep breath and waited. Four people showed up! Two I had met and two were new to me! I was elated!

It was an incredible two days. The line up of speakers was amazing and my heart was encouraged to keep gathering. Shauna Niequist and Susie Davis had proposed the concept of the IF:table and it was a perfect excuse to keep inviting my newly forming community to gather regularly. Since then, we have had three gatherings. Each one goes deeper then the last because we are getting to know each other on a level that is impossible to connect in the carpool line.

As we gather and break bread, we are strangers leaning in, listening, learning, and loving. We are connecting through authenticity and vulnerability. I’d rather be no where else with women than in a a place of wholehearted connectivity. We have laughed, cried, and have eaten some incredible food.

IF:Table has been a lifeline for this new kid on the block. At the end of the evening, when the last of my women leave, my cup is full to the brim. So full that it over flows to give back to other women that were not gathered around my table that night. I have a renewed sense of energy to invite, encourage, and relate.

If you, at all, can relate to that feeling like there is more to your community than what you are experiencing, I encourage you to take the first step and invite. Start an IF:Table in your home. I bet you are not the only one in your community that feels the way you do. Let God inspire. It takes only one person to start a movement. Be the place women gather to find strength, belonging, and love. I promise you won’t regret it.

I would love to hear about your If:Table gatherings. Leave your thoughts in the comments below!