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Confession of the Girl Pastor Next Door…

This is a hard  to write, but heartfelt, prayerful and hopefully helpful. To bring glory to my Jesus who is at work in my life and in the lives of those around me.

Over the last few months, there has been some pretty significant things take place that have laid heavy on my heart and mind. In the middle of each one, I have had to ask the Lord, where do you want me to move, go and do in this season.
Often times during these times of prayer it was met with silence. Those silent moments were scary, a little angry filled and doubtful. I needed God to show up and I felt like he had turned his back. Now, I know that isn’t the case but my heart was just in turmoil.
Over the next few days and weeks, One thing after another kept piling on the stack. You know how it is when you ignore the mail pile on your dining room table for awhile- its starts to be an eyesore and overwhelming. That is how this was. One thing after another piling on the heaviness of my heart.
I found myself faced with the very real realities of being woman in man’s world. The rules are different for us, no matter how much “they” say they aren’t. I found myself once again questioning and wondering is this worth it? I can love people and share Jesus without this title, and often times I think it would be better and easier too. I sincerely wonder how loyalty to anything, anyone, or organization is worth it. And realizing my loyalty to Jesus is all that matters these days. No matter what others say or do.
The contrast of the shiny title and worn reality of wearing the title. One Bible is the Bible I received when I was ordained, while the other is the one  is in my hands everyday. Written in, highlighted, it bears the marks and the tears.
 
People you love and you have invested in walk out of your life and out of your church. You not only  do you get deleted but you get blocked- to try to be erased from the lives of people.
It has been said that I need to celebrate the victories more, so I have been trying to celebrate what is good and awesome in this season. Spending more time reflecting on the pieces of what I need to be thankful for. And there is a lot. I have an amazing husband and marriage. 4 great children, and a growing church. I am thankful.
But there is also the challenges layered between all of it.  Changes, burdens, unanswered questions and prayers. So once again, I found myself in the dark place that I had visited 8 years ago. Depression and  anxiety have a way of creeping up on you when you aren’t looking.
So to admit that, brings with it fear. Fear that yes Female leaders are weak and this is what happens. That I will now be seen as a weak leader/pastor who can’t handle it all. That I will be seen as a quitter. That somehow in the middle of all of this- all things will fall apart.
This has led to some serious health concerns and a night stand filled with medicine bottles- a nightly reminder that something is broken, and unhealthy right now. And all though the hope is that it is all stressed related and once we get that figured out the rest will be better, there are still test to run, pills to swallow and details to work out.
What do you do when the last hard five years come crashing down on you? How do you take your mind down the path of healing, reconciling and freedom when for five years you have just kept going pushing hard just to prove,
  1.  that you could
  2.  that you were worthy.

 

What happens when you look back and you admit that people and organizations let you down and elevated people who hid sins of others and dealt with the sins of others behind closed doors, while their victims lay in the ruin and the mess. What do you do when you see leadership lie, change their story, and bully others around, while others know and see and just respond with, well hopefully in the future it won’t be like this anymore. What happens when you think people are your friends but you realize it is one sided? Or you just aren’t needed in their life?

Lessons that I am learning in this season are hard, fought for and challenging to say the least. A scripture kept coming up…
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Normally the part of this scripture that sticks out to us is the first part, Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid. And normally I cling to that… but lately its the last part of the scripture that has been speaking to me. God is with you wherever you go… But what happens when God calls us to Go and it doesn’t quite make sense. Because honestly right now, I don’t want to be strong and courageous.
The past  5 years God has called me to Go in a lot of ways I didn’t quite understand and if I would have been scripting my story, well I would have scripted it differently. I would have had less go in the story and more stay. Maybe you can relate?
Over the past few months, God has been stirring in me what I will respectfully call a holy discomfort in my heart. There is a lot of changes going on around me. But I am finding that God is moving me from where I am now to something deeper. If I am honest, he has been pointing out the parched places of my soul. He has been stirring in me a need to regain some spiritual footing, and work toward health and wholeness. He has been pointing out the places that I need to surrender, the things (or people) I need to forgive and confess my lack of trust.
I just thought by now, at 41 I would have my life a little more figure out and a little more settled. But maybe it is 41 that brings that. As I dig, climb and search my way out of this darkness back into God’s light, I don’t have to do it alone. I am reminded of Paul’s words found in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 MSG.
It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.
These battles I am facing our ones that will only be won on my knees. These battles are fought with tools that clear the ground of every obstruction to build lives of obedience.
What I also can say with confidence is that I love Jesus more than I ever have. I am broken, messy and so far from perfect I can’t even see perfection on the dial. But in the midst of that, I am his daughter and that is enough.

Is your trust without borders?

Recently I had the opportunity to do something I have never done, and that was visit the Bahamas. First of all, let me start by saying that the ocean in the Bahamas does not even come close to comparing to the Ocean in my normal spots ( Florida and New Jersey). It was breathtaking.  However, I didn’t expect some of the things I encountered. Some seem silly now that I look back and think about them.

I found that as Jason and I started to walk out into the ocean, we encountered the coral reef, which is not comfortable to walk on.  I kept thinking, “wow I wish I had some kind of shoe on so this wouldn’t hurt so bad.” And as we walked Jason kept leading me deeper and deeper into the water. Before too long, I was standing on my tip toes just to keep my head above water. My heart begins to pound, and fear begins to take over. I said to Jason, “Hey maybe we should go back to the beach.” He assured me we were fine, and I quote “Gina, Just relax!”

Let me pause right there, relax seems like a far-fetched idea that I like to think about and say that one day I will do but in practice, relax isn’t something I do well. Just ask the Chiropractor and the people who have tried to give me a massage. Where they tell me over and over “relax”.

 

So here we are in the most beautiful place I have been in my life, the water is clear I can see the fish swimming around me. I am with my favorite person and I am filled with fear! Then Jason has a brilliant idea. He thinks we should just lay on our backs and float. So… he attempts to help me with this. This becomes a comical scene in which I am sure everyone around us thinks I am crazy. (which we know already!) Jason finally lets go, and there I am floating in the Ocean looking up at the beautiful blue sky with traces of white clouds. It was then I heard His Voice (at first it sounded a lot like Jason- when he said “Gina’s that is what God wants to do for you!) As my heart begin to settle, God in his love for me- spoke.

In His still small voice, spoke my name. He began to break down some things that I had been struggling with and he ask me again- “Gina do you trust me? Do you trust me with your future? Your children? Your ministry? Do you really trust me to lead you and hold you when you feel like you will sink?”

The song Oceans came to my mind…

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

 

Before too long the laughter turned to tears as my tears rolled into the deep ocean. I floated for a few more minutes. And we began to make our way back to the beach. I wish I could tell you that I was relaxed and filled with a renew trust. Instead I knew that this was the beginning of some work I needed to do. Or maybe perhaps a better way to say it would be work that God needed to do in me.

In Philippians 1:6 it says this promise to us…  being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. God is faithful to complete his work in us.

And as we were walking back to the beach, we encountered that reef again. God reminded me- Gina you can swim. You don’t have to walk over this painful part- you can swim. It was such a profound moment for me. I started to swim. Something I hadn’t done in years. Something that I hadn’t found the time for, or thought I was good at. And instead of walking over the pain, I swam through it. Its funny the things we walk through that if we would just relax we could swim over.

This time in the Ocean- is still working in me. I believe God was preparing me for what was to come. Since I have come home, two people I loved have passed away. I have had to deal with family situations that were hard and continue to need wisdom, grace and courage. Professionally and in my ministry, there are things that have come up that I wasn’t prepared for and have sent me to my knees desperately seeking the One who calls me my name in the middle of the Ocean and sees me in the turmoil of my realities.

I came across a scripture again that I have read many times found in 1 Thessalonians 5. 1Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil. 23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

Some great truths to remember there. But then verse 24- the One who calls you (me) is faithful- and HE WILL DO IT!

He has called me- and he made no mistake by calling me by name. And he is faithful. He will do it. I must rejoice always, pray, give thanks accept his will for me. I am who he says I am not who any one in this world says I am… and as he has confirmed so many times in my life. I am his masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10)

And so are you!

More Questions…

I have more questions than answers tonight. I find myself typing this out with tears streaming down my face, and my chest feels so tight I think I might choke.  I don’t understand and trust me, I get I don’t have to understand. I found myself today saying something I have said to a 100 people… our circumstances don’t take God by surprise!  but man do they take us by surprise? I found myself angry, confused, tired, and ready to give up. And while all those emotions are still circling around my heart and mind I have to see them as they are… as emotions- feelings.

And I am wresting with what God is doing in this season. Pastors wrestle too. Pastors have bad days and bad weeks. We get overwhelmed and tired. Don’t worry I have heard from the Pastors who say they don’t or if you do then somehow you don’t love your job or aren’t called… or whatever else. But the reality is… I am fully human, I just happened to be a pastor. No superpowers here. Just a 40 year old wife, mom and pastor who every day is trying to figure this thing out called life. Every day wondering and praying I made the right decisions and discerned the right way the voice of Jesus.

And I am sick to death of the voices in my head, and the social media interactions, and the lack of return calls and messages being okay. Because they aren’t. I am sick of bantering be kind, stop the division, have healthy relationships, surrender all to God, because it is all his anyway, when none of it seems to matter…

Tomorrow will be better- I will be able to go through all my emotions, and questions and hopefully surrender and silence all the voices and chatter that doesn’t belong to God…until then I’ll soak up the birds chirping, the sunset and my favorite people in the world.

She designed the life she loved…

I found a piece of art recently and hung it in on my wall- it simply said “she designed the life she loved.”  Everyday I look at it and it reminds me I have choices to make.  Choices to make that will help me live a life I love. There are so many things I love!  But the reminder each day staring at me helps me make choices that help create spaces and places for those things I love.

Over the past few months I have been processing through quite a bit. My reading list has included, Present Over Perfect, Breaking Busy, Uninvited, Surrender, High Impact Leader, Strengthening the Soul of your Leadership… just to name a few. They all have similar themes and through it I have found myself working on some things. Praying over even more and being pretty vulnerable before the Lord.

A couple of post ago I talked about doing something new, it was coming but I never fully said what it was. And the reality is the new thing is a work in progress, and it is slow and it takes some blood, sweat and tears. It is adding in something while subtracting some others. It is asking the right questions at the right time and being okay with whatever the answers are.

You see designing the life I love is a whole lot of being okay with things when they don’t go as planned. Finding the high road when life comes at you in waves of things that are hard, heartbreaking and amazing all at once.  Designing a life you love is realizing that I control very little and trusting in the One who does it control it all.

In the process of all of that and turning 40 this year I am ready to conquer somethings on my list that have been there for way to long. I am giving up on some of the list and throwing them out. But the things that remain I am embracing in a new way, a new passion.

I am seeking the Lord with a new desire to be who he has called me to be- not anyone else. Because anyone else I try to be will not be all that God has called me too.

In the meantime, I struggle with the tension of where I am and where I am going. I wrestle with the tension of is and what will be. I embrace the tension that grows my faith and makes me a better version of myself.

She designed a life she loved…

What happened to us…

What happened to us? Most days I feel like I live a in parallel universe. There is no respect for anyone or anything. Name calling and mud slinging are the normal behavior. We post it on our social media, we scream it on the corners and we march down the streets. We don’t listen to anyone who thinks differently than us because they are stupid.  We live in fear of what if’s and what’s next. We live in fear of being honest with our thoughts or feelings in fear of being labeled something we are not.

Division is all around us, and it’s not new. I get that. What I don’t get is us, the church. We seem to be just as scared as those who don’t claim to be the church. We throw insults and naming call like it’s our right to do.  I am white so that must make me white privileged. Which means I must be racist, a bigot, a homophobe  and against all immigration just to name a few…in case you are wondering, I don’t like being labeled or called names.

If I think we should respect each other regardless of where we find ourselves in this mess we call a political arena then I simply don’t understand what is going on around me. I see one group of Christians post negative comments and disrespect toward the president elect and incoming administration.

I see another group post against current President and administration. There are too many direct quotes to put them all here…

I know, freedom of speech… I get it! I am thankful for it. It’s why I can write and post a blog. It’s why I can stand on a stage each week and speak freely. But where does that freedom become dangerous? When words hurt and destroy and create division. Is that what Jesus stood for? I thought he came to reconcile…

Then I hear the fears of a mom who adopted children from Mexico. Her adult children, who served in the military, being harassed by people on the street saying they were going to be sent back to where they belong.  This is not okay! This is wrong! Please stop!

I have dinner with a family who immigrated here many years ago and hear their stories of sacrifice to give up everything to come to America.

I am not excusing bad behavior but both political parties are full of bad behavior, name calling and disrespect. Can we please not model this in the church?  My hope has never been in the President of the United States.  Some presidential elections the candidate of my choice wins while other times they don’t. I have not taken to the streets to protest. I have not called my neighbors names because they didn’t agree with me, and I for sure did not offer up disrespect for those who hold the office.  I might not agree but it doesn’t give me the right to lay down what it means to be Christlike.  I ask myself often, do I want to be right… or do I want a relationship with that person? And frankly I want the relationship. I want people to see Jesus, and he modeled respect, love, forgiveness. He said to pray for those in authority over us. Pray! It is really hard to pray for someone you are bad mouthing on the side, and it’s really hard to continue to bad mouth someone you are spending time in prayer for.

Hillary Clinton was not the hope of this world! Donald Trump is not the hope of this World! Jesus Christ is! And the church I serve has let me down and left me disillusioned in what our calling is. Then I remind myself I serve the God of the universe, he is the One who saved me, transformed me and called me by name. I rest in that!

My prayer tonight is that healing will begin. That we will fervently pray for neighbors, for our new President and his family. That we will pray that those things that have been broken by this election season will be healed. That all people will see Jesus flowing from those of us who call ourselves Christ Followers. That the Church will be the church, feeding the hungry, caring for the widows and the orphans, sharing the gospel of Jesus.