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With Gratitude…

I recently posted this quote on my social media outlets…

“Beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it is the middle that counts the most. You need to remember that when you find yourself at the beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up.”

This comes from a cheesy chick-flick I have watched more times than I count, Hope Floats. But it seemed so fitting for where I was in this journey.  This past week, we retrieved all of our earthly belongings from our storage garage in PA and headed back to Kansas. 

A few months ago, here are some things I said out loud to people and the Lord…

  • “I will never move back to Kansas to live!”
  • “I will never pastor a church of less than 100 again.”
  • “I am never going to be a pastor again!”

Now, I guess that I should know better in telling the Lord, what I am never going to do. (Next time, I am going to try I will never live by the ocean, and I’ll never have a million dollars! 😊) Because I am confident He just sets up there and smiles. 

So, here I am, back where it started… Kansas. Pastoring…again. And, looking at rebuilding a church that I have already put much blood, sweat, and tears in. My nevers are now my realities. 

Honestly, I am pretty excited about it. While I know that the work ahead of me is crazy insane. I am also confident that these are the steps that God has ordained for this time in my life. Kansas is nowhere near my favorite cities (Washington DC, NYC, Boston). Kansas is many miles away from most of my kids and yet this is the place that God has called in this season. 

Through the pain and joy of the past years, I have learned that God is never wrong. (This never statement will never be disproved.) 

With gratitude…

Thank you, Lord, you show up in my life in ways I could not have scripted or imagined. 

Thank you, Family, for walking in hard places with me and to places we did not expect to be.

Thank you Friends (like family), who prayed, provided care, and loved us in the unknowns of the past few months. 

Thank you Trinity Wesleyan in Allentown, for the lessons learned and the lives impacted. You will forever be part of the ongoing God story in my life. 

Thank you BreakPointe for beliving in me enough to join you on the wild ride to rebuild and reimagine all that God has for you, me and His church. 

With gratitude, I cling to Jesus and look forward to the ride ahead.

What shape are you?

Perhaps a follow-up to my last blog is in order. Everything that I am or have experienced in my life has been leading me to this place. I can say I am a fairly optimistic person. For those who know me well, you know that I look for the good each day. It is something I have tried desperately to teach my children.  We have been sitting around our table for many years, discussing our Highs & Lows of each day. Now it looks more like a nightly Snapchat as we are scattered in many different regions of the country.

I am intentional about finding the beauty in each day, regardless of what my emotions or circumstances may be. For quite some time, I have struggled with being a circle peg trying to fit into a square hole. Being a woman pastor in a male-dominated world has often left me feeling this way.

However, that has not been the only way I have wrestled with this idea of just not sure where my place is and where does the circle fit? Maybe you can relate. Perhaps you have areas in your life that have left you asking similar questions. We all long to fit where God had gifted us and created us to be. We have a sense that there is a place and once we find it, we operate in all the joy and fullness that God has called us to. John 10:10 speaks of Jesus coming to give us full life.

It’s also good to remember that circles and squares can fit in the same box, they just can’t enter in the same way. All the holes/doors don’t match everyone. This was a great discovery for me recently. I don’t have to conform to the shape of a square to be a part, I can be a circle and entered into the space through the door that God has designed for me. It will fit me, not the square or triangle or whatever other shape you might be.

This is freeing, because it allows me to fully operate as the circle. I do not have to exhaust myself to be anything other than the circle that God created me to be. This also allows me to find the right box that I fit in.

God is doing a new thing… it’s big, beautiful, and completely outside of the box.  Some of it has been simmering in my soul for a while, and other pieces are new to the puzzle.

God is opening up my eyes to look at truths in the Bible and childhood stories to see how He is preparing me (and has prepared me) as a circle for this next chapter. While the honest and raw of it is somewhat disheartening, I remain hopeful.

We all have a choice to make in this life. We can spend our life exhausted trying to fit into places and things that God never intended us to fit in, or we can walk in the fullness of life he has for us. And when we do, there is no need to apologize or back down.  There will be peace to walk away from the things that distract and take our joy. There will be rejoicing as we find our tribe and community who love that we are the missing circle to their variety of shapes.

Wherever you are today, embrace your shape, your gifting, your calling, and walk boldly in that. And by all means, stop trying to squeeze into something that God didn’t shape you for!

You made me; you created me. Now give me the sense to follow your commands. May all who fear you find in me a cause for joy, for I have put my hope in your word. Ps. 119: 73-74

Being a circle in a square world…

Have you ever been disappointed? Recently I found myself disappointed. I had sent a couple of emails and left a few voice mails and all were unanswered. After a while, my mind and heart started down a path of destructive self-talk and disappointment.

“To be disappointed is to be discouraged or sad because of an unmet expectation regarding someone or something.”

If we aren’t careful, we can begin to attach our worth/value to the disappointment we feel.
As others let me down, I was reminded that I too have let people down. I have been the one that didn’t return the email or the call. Sometimes, I simply forgot but other times I just didn’t because I honestly didn’t know what to say or want to respond.

For the last few months, I have been digging into the foundations of my faith and my life. There has not been one aspect that has not been untouched. As I move toward a healthier more confident child of God, I also move away from toxic, unhealthy situations and behaviors. 

As disappointment started to creep in this week I reminded myself of some lessons I am learning.
A circle peg will never fit into a square hole. No matter how many times you push or twist. At some point, you have to rest in the fact you just do not fit into that ( you fill in the blank).

I am not for everyone, and everyone is not for me. That is a hard truth to digest as an Enneagram 2, for those who don’t know what that is, it is defined as the Helper. Then again, I have to preach truth to myself, I am not the savior of the world… Jesus is. He’s much better at anyway. I might smite the wrong people. 😉 

I was reminded of the scripture found in Jeremiah 17:7-10

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. 8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit. 9 “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? 10 But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.”

 I want to be like the tree planted, with deep roots, the tree is not bothered by drought or heat. I want to bear fruit, to the Spirit at work in my life. I want to be firmly planted in my Jesus, with deep roots to rest in His purpose for me and leave everyone else to Him to deal with. (He probably doesn’t need my help with that anyway!)

Let me encourage you today if you are riding the waves of disappointment, look to Jesus, not anyone else (including me). Sooner or later people will let you down. I will leave you with one of my favorite scriptures.

Hebrews 12:1-3 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.”

The Next Step?

Welcome to this space. Maybe this is your first time joining me, or maybe you have popped in once or twice before. Let me take a minute to give you a little bit about me, where I have been and who I am becoming. If you have read my bio linked at the top of the page, you know a little bit already.

As of May 1st, for the first time in 20 years, I am not on staff or leading a ministry. Within a three-month time (Feb-April), my bonus daughter, my dad, and my husband were all hospitalized with significant health issues, and I became very sick with COVID. All of this coincided with my last few weeks at a church I had served for seven years as the Lead Pastor.

By the middle of June, we had left our home, putting all our stuff in storage, leaving two children and one grandbaby in Pennsylvania, one child in New York City, another preparing a move to Michigan and our youngest moving with us. Everything about our lives was suddenly turned upside down.

We moved in with some friends, while determining next steps. Next steps? It’s currently the last day of August. In May, I had dreams of knowing exactly what that “next step” would be by the end of August. Today, I realize that the next step is being faithful every day that I wake up and God gives me breath in my lungs. The Next Steps are still TBD!

While summer begins to simmer down and fall starts to breathe into the horizon, my heart is anxious for this season to close out and the next one to come alive before me. There has been reckoning of emotions, actions, and relationships in this season. There has been the hard private work of dealing with emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical exhaustion. While the summer temperatures soared, it felt a little more like winter in our lives. But just as the promise of fall is right around the corner, the promise of a new season is alive and well in us as well. 

Therapy has been working with a Coach from PastorServe, counseling with my amazing counselor, reading books of all genres, and cooking with fresh, delicious ingredients.  All of those have approached a different aspect of my healing and discovery of who I am and who I am becoming. There has also been the face down, raw, real, and honest conversations with God. While I would love to report to you those have all been rainbows and unicorns, that has not been the case.

I recently made a list of the things that I have been or still grieving… I share this with you because I think the last two years have been a season of grief for everyone. I share from a place of wanting you to know that you are not alone, and perhaps together we can find the help and healing we all are searching for in this season.

Grief List…

  • Loss of job
  • Loss of home
  • Loss of family as we have known it
  • Loss of finances
  • Loss of relationships
  • Loss of identity
  • Loss of faith
  • Loss of “normal”

Let’s start with this…some things I chose. I chose to leave my job, and the ripple of effect of that decision led to some of the other losses. Sometimes, we must make hard decisions so that we can get our life, our family, and our souls back. There was no doubt that my decision to resign my position was the right and best decision. (more on this later)

Perhaps the most astonishing loss that you just read is faith…it’s the most astonishing one for me too. And it needs some clarification. First, let me say I still love Jesus. In this season, I had to do some reevaluation of my faith. There have been days (okay maybe weeks!) that I wanted to walk completely away from the church and my faith. There have been times in this journey that I have been so angry at the church, the politics of the church, the politicians that run the church and the people who throw daggers, all under the name of Jesus. We know that anger comes from a place of deep hurt and pain. Once I started dealing with the pain in honest ways and how the destruction of my faith journey was tied closely with that, I realized that Jesus was not the one behind it, but broken, messy people. And the last time I looked in the mirror I saw a broken, messy person looking back at me.

I have said many times, I try to offer grace in abundance because I know just how much I need grace. That is still true today. But in all of our lives there will come a time, when we will have to choose the boundaries we put in our lives to stop abuse, bullying, toxic behaviors, sin and unhealthy environments. While the rise and fall of Gina from top of the charts to forgotten by the denomination/people/church/community she served has many plots and twist…in the middle is Jesus.

On my way to Bible study last week, I was struck with the word pride. A year and half ago, I was preaching to 600 people a week (in person and online), meeting with School Board Presidents, Superintendents and launching a second campus. Lived in a very nice house and had all but one of my children in the same community.

Today, I live in bedroom of someone’s else’s house while all my stuff in a big metal box in PA. My family scattered and I lead a Bible study of four (and two of them are related to me!) To say I have been humbled might be the biggest understatement of the year!

However, this story is still being written. Faith is an ebb and flow of who God is creating and molding me to be. Your faith journey is the same way. God is taking all our circumstances, sin, doubt, questions, and life and molding us into the man or woman we were created to be. I will end with my life verses, that have sustained me and continue to speak to me.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:8-10

One reminder is fresh flowers. God’s beauty is all around. We are God’s Masterpiece!

 

 

 

Untangling the cords…

Recently, I found myself fighting with a tangled vacuum cord. Have you ever wrestled with a tangled cord? Wondering how something could become so tangled? The more I wrestled with it, the worse it seemed to get. I yanked, I pulled, with little change in how tangled it had become. 

 

I became very frustrated and before too long I realized that it wasn’t really the vacuum cord. It was feeling like all of life is a tangled mess that must be wrestled with. Can anyone say 2020? 

Finally, I slowed down, and calmly worked to get the cord untangled so it would be usable again. As I finished vacuuming the carpet and wrapped the cord once again, I wonder how many times we get frustrated with the tangles in our lives, and if we would just slow down, we could untangle it a whole quicker. 

The image of the tangled cord stayed with me most of the day, as it seemed I rushed from one tangled mess to the next. Becoming frustrated and weary of how so many things could become so tangled.  It doesn’t take long for us to realize that our world is pretty tangled. One side or the other has a way to untangled it, so they yank and pull. Meanwhile the knot in the middle grows tighter. 

I spend a lot of time trying to fix tangled messes. It seems like there is never a shortage. In the Psalms David spends a lot of time writing out his petitions to the Lord. Some of those Psalms he wrote during some pretty big, tangled messes, some of those messes he created himself, and others were brought on by others.  

After my battle with the tangled cord, my heart went to the words of David, written in the book of Psalms. 

But deal well with me, O Sovereign Lord, for the sake of your own reputation! Rescue me because you are so faithful and good. For I am poor and needy, and my heart is full of pain. Ps. 109: 21-22 

I felt like the Lord was saying, “let me untangle the mess because I am faithful and good. My strength and reputation are far greater and reaches beyond what you can imagine…”

I let the words soak in for a few minutes. I realized sometimes tangled cords/messes aren’t ours to untangle. But it is our job to slow down and listen to the Lord. Often in the hustle and bustle of life we try to push, pull and hurry through the tangles, when really, he is just asking us to let him handle it and rest in him. 

If we want to become usable again, we must become untangled. It usually takes some time and we remain calm. But on the other side of mess, is a story still waiting to be written. 

So, if you are feeling a little like a tangled mess today, go ahead, take a big breath, and let Him untangle the cord…