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Episode 10: Unlabeling: Embracing Identity Beyond the Titles

As we journey through life, we often find ourselves adorned with various labels. These labels can come from our professions, our roles in society, or even from the perceptions of those around us. They can empower us, define us, and sometimes, limit us. But what happens when we step away from these labels? What do we find at the core of our being?

Twenty weeks ago, I stepped down from a stage I had known for a quarter of a century. I left behind titles like Pastor, Preacher, Minister, and Reverend. Yet, despite shedding these labels, I found that they still clung to me, not just as titles, but as integral parts of my identity. It was a realization that while roles might change, the essence of who we are remains.

In this week’s episode of “Gina’s Table,” we delve into the heart of identity. We explore the labels that divide and the truth that unites. Jesus came to reconcile us, not to fragment us into isolated entities. When we let labels dictate our interactions, we miss out on the richness of community, the warmth of friendships, and the tranquility of peace.

This podcast began as a platform for conversation, for sharing the messy, beautiful reality of faith and life. It’s a space where we can question, laugh, and grow together. And as we conclude this chapter on labels, I share a personal story—a story of perceived failure, of wounds and healing, of rediscovery.

Failure is a label many of us know too well. It’s a shadow that can follow us, a weight that can feel impossible to shed. But it’s also a label that doesn’t have to define us. Our worth isn’t measured by our successes or failures, but by our inherent value as Children of God.

As I sat alone at the table these past weeks, I’ve wrestled with the labels I’ve carried. Some were self-imposed, others were thrust upon me. But in the quiet moments, in the presence of God, I’ve begun to see myself not through the lens of these labels, but through the eyes of grace.

So, as we wrap up this topic—for now—I invite you to join me at the table. Let’s set aside the labels that confine us and embrace the one true label that matters: we are made in the image of God, loved, valued, and called to be His children.

As you listen to this episode, I encourage you to reflect on the labels you’ve been carrying. Which ones serve you, and which ones are you ready to let go?

Remember, at Gina’s Table, there’s always a seat for you, just as you are.

Episode One: Gina’s Table- Notes from the Table!

Welcome to the inaugural blog post for “Gina’s Table,” a podcast that’s all about fostering community, embracing our authentic selves, and addressing the pressing issues of our time. In this post, we’ll delve into the themes of the first episode and explore the vision behind Gina’s Table.

I, Gina Colburn, the voice and spirit behind the podcast, I’m not just the host, but a fellow traveler on life’s journey. At 47 years young, I bring a wealth of experience from my 25 years in ministry and my rich family life. But it’s my passion for genuine connection that truly sets the stage for the podcast.

Gina’s Table isn’t just a metaphor; it’s a mission. In a world where stages and screens often dominate, I advocate for a return to the table—a place of intimate conversation, shared meals, and deep understanding. I share startling statistics about loneliness and isolation, highlighting the need for real, face-to-face community.

I envision a movement where tables become the heart of neighborhoods, fostering connections and providing a sense of belonging. I challenge listeners to create their tables, extending the warmth and hospitality that I have cultivated for years.
Gina’s Table is about action, not just conversation. With a commitment to partnering with local schools to eliminate lunchroom debt, Gina sets an example of how community tables can also be a force for tangible change.

From pop culture to parenting, from faith to food, Gina’s Table promises to be a space where all topics are on the menu. It’s a place where listeners can expect to engage with a wide array of subjects, always with a focus on inclusivity and understanding.

Perhaps the most powerful message of Gina’s Table is the call to show up as our true selves. I will share my own journey of shedding expectations and labels to embrace my own authentic self—a journey I invite you, the listeners to join.

As I extend a warm welcome to my virtual table, I encourage everyone to come as they are, with all their quirks, dreams, and stories. It’s an invitation to find community, to engage in meaningful dialogue, and to discover a place where everyone belongs.

Gina’s Table is more than a podcast; it’s a starting point for a larger conversation about community, identity, and shared humanity. As I say, “Let’s come to the tables… as we are. As you are.” So, pull up a chair, pour yourself some iced tea, and join the conversation at Gina’s Table.

This blog post aims to encapsulate the essence of the first episode of Gina’s Table and to invite readers to become active participants in this burgeoning community. Whether through listening to the podcast, engaging in local initiatives, or simply embracing their true selves, everyone is welcome at Gina’s Table.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. I can’t wait to see where the conversation leads us next.

Welcome to Gina’s Table.

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!