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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.

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!

New things take time to bloom…

New things in life do not happen overnight. There is a process, there is peeling away the old and finding what things lie beneath the surface that need attention.  And that is the process I am in…peeling away what is so that I can make room for the new.

Since my last blog there have been so many of you who reached out and  made guesses what it is… Anywhere from going back to school, leaving my current church, to writing a book. I can tell you with great certainty that I am not leaving my current church. God is doing great things here and that is part of the new thing I am making room for. In just 4 short weeks we will launch a NEW Service! I am so excited about this. I can’t wait to see what impact this will have on God’s kingdom.  This is not about filling up a church with people, this is about leading people to Jesus. Making a difference to those who are desperately searching for something.

I am peeling away layers of living a life without margin for far too long. And yes I have made progress but not enough and I am convicted in this area. Peeling away layers of things that have to be dealt with if I am to be the leader, wife, mother, pastor, friend that God has called me to be. Soul searching and being still in His presence are all good things. I think in our world today we have lost the art of silence and solitude. So I am bringing those things back into my life slowly and intentionally.  I must if I am to move forward.

The new thing is coming in so many great an unexpected ways. And even though I am not ready to share all of those yet I know that through this journey God is doing something far greater than anything I could do on my own. I know that this process is to strengthen my own faith, to grow deeper in my walk, and to come out on the other side a little less stressed, tired and worn out.

The new thing will require sacrifice and that is a little scary at times. There are things in our lives that we have grown so attached to that are unhealthy for us and when we go to lay them down we feel safer picking them up again. But then we can’t see our real selves because we have hidden it behind the clutter.  When our lives are cluttered we can’t fully engage in all the things that Lord has called us too. When he says “taste and see that I am good” we have to slow down enough to do that.  If we truly want to worship him in his temple then we have to declutter our lives.

So something new is coming…Its big and its small. It is a thousand decisions to make between here and there. It is finding the new normal in which God is asking me to find. And my prayer is simply this..

 One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. Ps. 27:4

At the end of my life, I want nothing more than to be spent for Jesus. Spent for His kingdom’s sake. So in the mean time I have to make sure that all of my energy, time and resources reflect that.

Today, I challenge you to start a new thing that brings you closer to your truest self, the person God called you to be. I am reading Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist. I highly recommend this book. My next blog is going to be about some insights I am learning from her wisdom. The insights are opening my heart and eyes to the new thing that God is showing me.

Obviously so much is new for me these days. My nest is emptying out. BIG GULP! I have one child left at home. How I have and do define myself has shifted. My location has changed from Midwest to East Coast. And that is just to name a few. I made a list of events that has happened in the last 3 years and let’s just say wow! What roller coaster ride! And now I am ready to find my footing. Find the sweetness of tasting and seeing that the Lord is good. Finding the calm in the middle of all the changes (some good, some not so good) and rest in his promises, to TRUST him more! Which takes me back to my word for the year…and my inspiration board that reminds me of the things that are important. And it is there that I find Jesus, his rest, his blessing and his hand reaching out to mine…

to trust means less than ideal circumstances….

to trust means less than ideal circumstances….

My word for the year is trust. I should expect circumstances that help me grow in my ability to trust.

And really even though the plans aren’t going like I thought, I still do trust Him. I believe that He has the best in mind for all of us. I don’t doubt Him or His plan.

So I spent a lot of time thinking about my plans vs His plans. And really I believe that the plan that I had laid out was His plan, He just wanted to shake it up a little bit (or a BIG bit.) See my plan did include construction and prayer, just not now.  It did include a makeover for the youth room, just not today. My plan did include prayer, just not on this level.

This is how life goes though. We have hopes, dreams and plans.  God honoring dreams and plans. I know because my life has been filled with such things. And because we are human and only see the right now we make the best plans we can with what information we have. Sometimes we see the death of dreams take place so that better dreams can happen.  But only hindsight shows us those things. In the moment we feel the sting, we mourn the loss, or we question the why?

Here is the key and a question only you can answer… Do you believe God has your best in mind? Do you believe that God really wants what is best for you, your family, your community, your church? And if I am honest, sometimes I just think I know what is best. Only to realize I don’t know what He does.  And then….trust comes in the door. Faith takes root a little deeper… I read a quote by Nancy Willard…

” Live in your roots, not your branches”

I love that. If we live in the roots of our faith, we won’t be blown away when the plans change. Because we are safely secure in the roots of the One who created us, who loves us and has our best in mind.

So the journey of trust continues…

Is anyone out there…

Not even sure anyone still reads this… I myself let days, week and sometimes months go without as much as even logging in… Blank pages are intimidating… Words are powerful…and relationships are hard!

People write about all sorts of things these days. I find it unbelievable all the things people write about, take pictures of and do in our ever changing world.

For those of you who have read my blog for any length of time, you know that over a year ago, I lost all of my past blogs…maybe forever that is still unclear. And for some reason the other day I was thinking about all of them… all of the words that have been written that are simply gone now. Parts of me wants them back, so that I can see what they were, perhaps some were silly in nature, or angry, or trying to make some hidden point that really wasn’t all that hidden.  I hope some were filled with Hope and Christ’s love.

Words are powerful. We are getting into that time of year that happens every 4 years where I want to shut off all types of media so I don’t have to see or hear all the people talk about politics…who or who shouldn’t be our next president. I see Christians and Non Christians alike start tearing people apart… and I think we give Christ a black eye. My hope isn’t any one in Washington DC. Christ came to bring us all a full life. We should pray for our leaders and I do! But Christ doesn’t change based on who is residing in the White House! Whew! Boy am I thankful!

These days I find myself focusing in on a Word… Trust! My word for the year. And I think this word is super powerful. My verses of the year are found in Jeremiah 17:7-9. And it is a beautiful word picture of what trust looks like.

Verse 7 Starts with blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. Those who understand that they can trust The Lord. But then it goes on to what I believe is another level. “whose trust is  the Lord”. Its just not trusting him but all of our trust rest in Him. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we can trust him in everything… everything. When it hurts, when its hard, when we cry, when we laugh, when we get a new president, when we wake up and when we go to sleep. We can trust him.  And when we do… we will be like a tree planted by the water, with deep roots, watered by the stream, when heat (worries, the hard times) comes we keep green leaves, and we are not anxious and we never cease to bear fruit.

Wow! Don’t we all want that? I do. This year, I focus on trusting him more. In perhaps one of the best and not the best  times of my life. And yet you can have both at the same time. I trust him to lead me when and where he chooses. I accept the hard things as learning, discipline and growing opportunities. I rest in the fact that I can lean on him when I can’t stand anymore.  I praise him for the great days that happen on regular bases. The answers to prayers, the life change, the Holy Spirit moments that are so powerful I can’t even put them into words.

This year I can’t script what will take place but this I know…He is already there and I can trust him! I can trust him without worry. I can rest in his unchanging grace and mercy. I can rest in his love for me… and so can you!