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
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.”
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.
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.
8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.9 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!
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…
I have been thinking about numbers a lot lately… Numbers define and measure things.
We weigh ourselves (side note starting 2020, 25 less than 2019) We check our balance in our checking account (mine always seems to be lower than what I think!)
We set goals at work, at church at school and we wait and count the numbers so that we can measure results.
We are judged and evaluated by the numbers… My fear is that the charts we use don’t really tell the story… they don’t really give us good insight into the real or the whole story.
Did you know that only 11% of churches average over 200 people? Only 8% of people who go to church think that it is important to share their faith. (check Barna, CT today, pew studies and census reports)
As a pastor, leading people to a full life in Jesus that in turns leads them to share their faith is no small feat.
We measure ourselves by attendance (I call this butts in seats) budget (response to the mission, and obedience in biblical truths and discipleship) Salvation (those who encounter Jesus and accept him as their savior) Baptisms (those that make a public statement of faith).
And while those numbers tell a story, they don’t tell the whole story. Do those numbers tell us the impact we have on the community? The age-old question, would your community miss you if you weren’t there?
Churches should be thinking about how to repurpose the church to redeem the community. This question asked by Mark DeYmaz in his book “Disruption” has been on my heart and mind a lot. Now I should say that I was thinking this before I read it. For the past 5 years (really longer) I have been thinking about how the church is effective in making a difference in the community. Honestly, the “come and see me inside my 4 walls” just isn’t the model that will carry the church on in the years to come.
What does that mean? What does it look like? My vision for Trinity is to reach One Percent of the Lehigh Valley with the love of Jesus Christ (around 8500 people)
My word for this year came months ago, and honestly, it is not just 2020’s Word of the Year. It is my new focus. My new mission. My new ministry. Reimagine! Reimagine Church, Reimagine Community Development, Reimagine how people come to know Jesus. To think outside of my experiences, my history and my comfort to see God’s kingdom come here, as it is in heaven.
Did you know that the average church attenders will only come to church once every 4-6 weeks. That means to have a church that averages over 200 (only 11% of churches) you actually have to have 3x in people to reach that average attendance.
When we came to Trinity in 2014, average attendance was 60 people. With a responsibility list of about 175. Since that time our average attendance has grown to 380. But what I found interesting is that we have 621 people that are active on our list (meaning these 621 people come to Trinity “regularly”) then there is another 511 people who are on our list that come to Trinity 3-4 times a year. Which brings the number to 1,172 people who would call Trinity their home church.
Now let’s not forget the online people, because they are important and growing. Then there is another 250 per week (could be some of the people above who aren’t physically there but not all of them) tune in at some point during the week and watch some of the worship service.
Now then, we have over 300 people come to know Jesus and a little less than 100 people baptized in 5 years.
Numbers are tricky things, aren’t they? Some of you are going, “Wow! That’s great.” Others are saying other things… while others would say, Trinity is not multiplying , just adding… nothing to see here… add some campuses, do some other things like that… then maybe you will arrive…
But how about these numbers… in the last 3 years Trinity has impacted the lives of over 700 children in the Allentown School District. We have a group of ladies that we like to refer to as the Zumba ladies who every week invest in the lives of the homeless over the past few years that number is well into the hundreds. Or how about the couple that spends every Friday night in the prison discipling and leading a group of prisoners with the gospel.
Or how about the Zumba program that takes place at our church where over 100 women every week come through our doors, exercise together, then the leader shares a devotional and prays for them. Since it began over 350 ladies have come through our doors.
Or maybe we could talk about the Young Adult group that goes once a month to the Memory Care Facility up the street where they minister to 20 older adults who are not longer at a place they can come through the doors.
You see reaching the One Percent of the Lehigh Valley doesn’t always mean you have thousands of people walking through your doors… but it does mean that you equip believers to go and share Jesus. And Jesus is being shared.
Numbers are important and help us measure results. But numbers can’t be the only thing, or where we find our value. You see I won’t reach the 500 club (and yes this is a thing) I won’t be ask to speak at a large conference (that’s okay too) and no one will want an interview (well except my dad!)
But what I know is that the best is yet to come- what God is stirring in my heart and is laying before me is amazing. The dream that he has planted and is growing in my heart and imagination are beyond anything on my own strength or know how … but I can’t wait to see how it unfolds.
I am not satisfied with or okay with 2/3 of the world population not knowing Jesus. And if we don’t catch up to the fast pacing, ever changing culture we are in, the church will continue to be left behind.
Numbers do not define me or the mission. God defines me and the mission. When we start looking at other things, we can be blinded to the very things that are calling us forward.
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.
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...
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,...
Often times I can’t believe I am here. A few months ago, I stood behind the very pulpit my grandfather preached for over 25 years to the same church, living out his calling. Although, he didn’t get to see or know that I became a pastor, he would probably be the most shocked and proud.
In 15 days, I will be stepping way out of my comfort zone and going to a place I have being dreaming of going for a few years now, Sierra Leone Africa. I am grateful for the opportunity that has been granted to me and I can’t wait to see how God is going to use this trip to expand my vision and ministry.
And even though my excitement is mixed with some fear (anxiety!) I know that God is ordaining my steps. In the next few weeks I can’t wait to share all that God is doing and showing me for the future of the ministry he is calling me too.
If you think about it, pray for me as I go and all the last minute details will be worked out.
The biggest thing is not simply leaving my comfort zone but preparing my heart for what God is going to do in me and through me. I understand that when I return I won’t be the same. My vision will be changed, the lens in which I look at life will have a new perspective.
Let’s face it, we all have lens in which we look at life and it is easy to get stuck in believing that our vision is the only one. But the reality is, our vision needs to be checked regularly. And the older I get I realize that my vision is connected to the condition of my heart.
So here I go… October 31 I will board a plane, fly clear around the world (or at least half way) and for 10 days, I will experience and see things I have never seen or heard.
In the words of Toto- I bless the rains down in Africa!
Here I am in the dark of my living room, when I should be in bed, sleeping. My first meeting is at 6:45 in the morning. I should be doing what normal people do at this time of night…sleeping.
But here I am, awake. And my mind is racing with thoughts. I downloaded a new worship album Abiding Worship, by my good friends The Mark Dubbled Family. Its simply on repeat right now on Spodify. You should check it out.
Its been a really rough couple of weeks. Technically speaking I have been on vacation but the reality is often life doesn’t go as planned and real life takes place in the middle of our plans.
My father-in-law, Ben Colburn, finished his fight with cancer. I don’t know that I can adequately put all that down today. Its still fresh and in processing mode right now. What I know is God’s grace is good and holy. Death is not pretty but can be filled with peace when we know where we are going and it is our Heavenly Father we will see when we wake up on the other side.
What I know is that in my #didntgoasplanned life is God is still present, He’s still faithful and still working in me and around me. I can plan but God’s plans are better, even if I don’t always see it right away. We have been prayed for and over. I am eternally grateful for the ones who have walked this with us.
What I am learning in this season, is how to be Gina. Just as God created her to be. Leading well, even when its hard and not popular. Loving my family well in the places that each one is currently in and allowing them to learn who Jesus is in the middle of their #didntgoasplannedlife.
I think I must be a slow learner, because some lessons I have to keep repeating. Which brings me to my knees and humbled before the Lord. My messes, my questions, my doubts.
To sum it up, in the last 2 weeks we have driven 3,663 miles, we have gone to a wedding, a funeral, a family reunion, visited the Emergency Room, cancelled a family vacation for 8 people to Florida and have landed back home. Home… maybe just a building made of stone and wood, but so much more than the physical matter that makes it up. Home the place where we find the comfort of our bed, our favorite blanket, the smell of our favorite candle. The last 2 weeks, memories have been made, goodbyes and see you laters have been spoken and the promise of another meeting in a different time zone, and place… where this life will end and the next one begins with Jesus face to face.
I am in a sermon series right now called “This is our City”
I have been thinking about it and dreaming about it for months. Praying about
how God could use me and the church he has ask me to shepherd to make greater
impact for His Kingdom.
In the meantime, I have been reading books, studying
scripture and keeping a close eye on my city and my interactions with it. For
some they maybe wouldn’t call my City an actual city compared to other large
cities in the US. But Allentown is the fastest growing City in PA and is experiencing
growth all around.
This series has been eye opening, gut wrenching and thought
provoking. But honestly shouldn’t all series be that way? I started with the
scripture found in Deut. 14 27 And
do not neglect the Levites in your town, for they will receive no allotment of
land among you. 28 “At
the end of every third year, bring the entire tithe of that year’s harvest and
store it in the nearest town. 29 Give
it to the Levites, who will receive no allotment of land among you, as well as
to the foreigners living among you, the orphans, and the widows in your towns,
so they can eat and be satisfied. Then the Lord your God will bless
you in all your work.
This scripture I have read many times, but new insight popped
out at me. God loved community so much from beginning to now, he put a structure
in place to care for it. He loved is to much he put “churches” in community to
protect it, to care for it. He puts a whole tribe in place to guard community.
And if the church operates like it is supposed to then we would need a whole
lot less government involvement. And yet, the church hasn’t done a stellar job
at times in history of protecting the community and meeting its needs.
The directions are clear on how we are to care for the
community and the people in it. First, I should say, I do not have an answer for
the crisis on the border. I am not smart enough or educated enough to know how
to handle massive amounts of people seeking a fresh start, safety and basic
needs of life. And I am in no way making any kind of political statement here,
laws and the ability to support this must be in place or people fall through
the cracks, children get lost in the shuffle and lives are damaged not helped.
What I do know is that as a Christ Follower, I better be
taking care of them, showing them kindness, helping them in any way I can when
they show up in my community. That is the church’s job. Maybe it is helping
them navigate a broken process or helping them with basic needs or simply being
a friend with open heart and open home.
Taking care of the marginalized, the widows, the orphans, I
wish it was easy and clean. But it isn’t, it is difficult and messy. Looking at
the state of PA alone, over 15,000 children in our foster care system, and over
15,000 churches… what if just one family from each church stepped in… we would
take care of every child needing a home in the state of PA.
I love Jesus with all that I am, and sometimes I get it
right but often I get it wrong. I love the church, the body of believers called
to live out the great commission of Jesus Christ. My eyes have been open of
late to things I have never picked up on before. My heart has been broken in
fresh ways for the way the world is broken. But if I throw stones at the
church, who does that help? No one. It just shows the world that we can’t even
get along so why should they be part of it.
A year ago, March, something significant happened in my
life. I became a Gigi. Michel’le our beautiful bonus daughter gave birth to our
adorable little Nora. Her life was prayed over and for long before she took her
first breath. My days with Nora are filled with snuggles, giggles and playing. Maybe you wonder how this has to do with love
our city… Let me explain.
Nora looks a little different than me, I tell everyone she
has my eyes and smile. I don’t see her different than me, but that isn’t the
reality of the world we interact with. Recently we went to the store together,
she had her Starbucks Tea, I had mine (Shhh… don’t tell her mommy!) and I
noticed with fresh eyes how people begin to look at us. Some ladies gave me the
bless your heart for caring for “that” child look. Others looked away. But then
there was a young couple with their little boy, who waved, smiled and
interacted with Nora and we stopped and talked. Then as we were leaving a beautiful
African American couple stopped and talked to me about my beautiful
granddaughter. We exchanged names, information and where we went to church.
I left sad that racism on all sides exist. I left reflective on how I can be a voice of
change. The church I shepherd is 84% white and although it reflects our immediate
neighborhood it doesn’t reflect our city. We strive to honor God in our worship
not just reflecting just one style or ethic groups. Finding worship music that
transcends all races and styles. Looking at the global church and seeing what
can be done in multicultural, multi-generational settings. And yet even then,
those would still stay, we are just not doing it right or effective or reaching
I just don’t have the answer, other than my heart is that we
find ways to close gaps, heals hearts and be a true representation of the
global church of Jesus.
As I continue this Series “This is Our City” my prayer is
that it just won’t be four weeks in the year we look at how to make in roads
into making a bigger impact on our city. My prayer is that we take seriously
how to be the pastors of our neighborhoods, missionaries in our communities and
the people that carry the Hope of the world. That one day we will look back and
see that walls have been broken down, and God’s kingdom came here as is it in
I leave you with this quote from the book that I am reading
and rereading by Alan Briggs, Staying is
the New Going, For God’s work to become
tangible, it must become local, invading our everyday thinking and the places
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,
that you could
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.
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. 16 Rejoice 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)