A little over three years ago I saw a “burning bush” that would forever change the course of my life. I was a children’s pastor in Virginia Beach, when God spoke to me through what I believe to be a prophetic dream. I share all of the details of this dream in my first book, which is nearing completion. But, basically, the dream was a picture of me and many other women living in extreme oppression, numbing our pain with substances, and living as “the walking dead.”
In the dream, I escaped captivity and countless women followed. So, in an act of faith, I literally quit my children’s pastor job, which symbolized oppression for me (though, I struggled with even greater oppression by the enemy in my private life). Not that children’s ministry is oppressive whatsoever for some men and women. In fact, I have a unique appreciation for children’s ministry after I was a children’s pastor. I think it is perhaps the hardest and most important pastoral position in the local church. But I never felt called to be a children’s pastor.
I took the position after 7 months of extreme depression. In that time, I doubted my calling to be a minister to teens and adults. I doubted my faith. And, most devastating, I doubted God’s love for me (Perhaps this is the very sin that forced me into the wilderness – doubting God’s faithfulness). I wondered why God put this passion & knowing in my heart, that I was called be a minister when I was 13 years old. I wondered why the evangelical church did not want me as a female minister to teens or adults. I wondered why I was even born. I truly did not want to live anymore, as I never had any other goals but to be a minister.
I truly thought that I had wasted my life, and I had no idea what to do. All of my education was in theology and ministry. My husband and I were drowning in student loan debt and medical bills (as I was very sick). I didn’t know where to work, so I finally accepted “my place” as a female minister in the evangelical church as a children’s pastor. As Moses did, I headed even deeper into the desert to begin God’s “post-graduate training.”
In the “desert,” I learned the humble ways of tending to a flock of children, perhaps the most precious of God’s sheep. The little lambs taught me more than I could ever have taught them. I carried a staff in my hand, that I had used to slay the great gender debate in seminary. I thought for sure I would graduate, and become a prestigious professor of some sort, and change the way things were for women in ministry once and for all.
However, God had other plans for that staff. God would use it to help me tend to little lambs, and climb massive mountains in the desert. Like most do when they first head into the wilderness, I essentially withdrew from society. I was severely wounded, and was carrying with me great spiritual, emotional, mental, and even physical baggage. I had but one companion, Luke. God gave me a spouse to help me through my very intense wilderness experience; my very own “Aaron” if you will (my spouse, but also a faithful brother).
It was as if God looked across all of America and found the one and only man who would be able to withstand the way I would react to my wilderness – my non-stop grumbling, my non-stop hysterical crying, my angry tongue, my bitter heart, my countless insecurities, and my many failures he would have to endure. When a man loves a woman, he will do this sort of thing. It is a phenomenon that I cannot understand, because I would have left me a very long time ago.
In fact, in many ways, I did leave me. I stopped loving myself many times. I allowed the cares and temptations of this world to carry me away many times.
As a children’s pastor and many times up until now, I could not see who I was born to be. I could not see the future that God had for me through all of the painful trials, how Spirit was teaching me to be faithful with the small things (often the most precious things) before trusting me with the big things.
I stubbornly bucked against the process every step of the way, just as the Israelites bucked against God as they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. I thought that after I had my burning bush moment, that that would be the end of my wilderness experience, but it turned out that it was only the beginning.
Yet, God took the very common thing in my hand, and transformed it into my staff of authority. I started a blog and posted my master’s thesis. It has taken me a while to realize this, but my master’s thesis is just OK. In fact, it is basic and common, nothing to be extremely impressed by. But that is just how God is, isn’t it? God uses what the world sees as foolish to confound those who believe they are wise.
I was just a foolish woman, holding a common master’s thesis in my hand. Yet, my master’s thesis is what gave me some authority to speak, and it has been read thousands and thousands of times. So here I am out in the wilderness with just a basic wooden staff, leading a people to freedom. We are a broken people indeed. As they say, “You can take the Israelites out of Egypt, but taking the Egypt out of the Israelites is a different story.”
Here in the desert God is purifying me, which means every weakness that I have ever had, every wound, every painful memory, every shameful moment, every character flaw, every ounce of ego, every sickness, and every sinful disposition has risen to the surface of my being. I have been tested over and over, and have failed many of the tests. Many times, I have cried out to God and others for forgiveness.
But here is the beautiful thing about the tests in the wilderness – they are not graded and you get to retake the tests you fail over and over until you pass. The Spirit of God has not allowed me to skip any steps in the wilderness. When I try to, She gently pulls me back in.
With that said, recently when I shared with you that Luke and I were moving to Pittsburgh and starting a church, I was unknowingly skipping like 20 steps that I have to walk through before I am mature enough to move away from my current community, and shepherd a flock of grown sheep. The truth is that my rough edges are still being smoothed out, and my heart is still being purified.
Of course, I will never reach a place of perfect holiness, but I do believe that God is asking me to take a few steps back and let Spirit work Her powers of healing & purifying me a bit more before I take on such a heavy task.
And so, Luke and I together found peace in what seemed a better decision for this season. We decided to finally plant some roots, and we are doing so among family and close friends, in my hometown of Washington, PA. We are buying our first home. It is small, but very sweet, and we look forward to fixing it up together.
Believe me, I still have plans to do ministry out of our home, and will most likely still start “The Table” in Washington for whoever is in need of a meal, some love, and some conversation; but, I am going to slow down with the whole idea of planting a church.
Now, if a church should organically stem from our in-home small group meetings, I would be beyond blessed to be the pastor of that church, water it, tend to it, and help it to grow. But, whatever is established, it will be established by a leader discovering herself in the wilderness.
A Few Updates for Those Who Support My Ministry:
- My small “Christian Advice & Support” business is finally off the ground and is doing quite well. I have been meeting one on one with about three women or men each week via Skype or by phone call. If you or someone you love are in need of pastoral support from a female or simply need help building your social media platform, I would love to meet with you! I have kept the cost very affordable, and much of the funds I make go right back into my ministry. Find out more about this service below (and keep scrolling for two more updates) —>
- I am thrilled to be speaking at the “Word of Grace Conference” at The Father’s House Church in Fort Collins, CO June 19-22nd (2017). I will be sharing about my “Wilderness Experience” more, and will be teaching on lessons we all must learn before receiving the promises God makes us. It will no doubt be my most vulnerable message yet, and I covet your prayers. I would love to see you there! You can buy your ticket by heading to my speaking page, which I will post below. Further, I would be honored to come speak at your church, conference, college, or event next! Please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in having me speak or head over to my speaking page —>
- Lastly, if you value my ministry and have been blessed by it, I humbly ask you to consider financially donating to it. I do not make a paycheck off of my online writing and social media ministry, and have dedicated over 40 hours a week to advocating for women in ministry and gender equality inside & outside of the Church non-stop for the past 3 years. I have not asked for much financial support, because I know many of us have been burned by ministries manipulating for money; but, I financially struggle quite often and truly need regular financial supporters. My husband and I have poured all of our own money into this ministry because we believe with our whole hearts that God is tired of the stale religion & bad theology oppressing His daughters, and we know that my message of gender equality and spiritual freedom for women is born of the Spirit. And if you cannot financially donate, please pray that God would send us financial donations. We know that we serve a God who provides, and refuse to worry! Please donate here —>
Thank you so much for your love and support; it gives me hope and endurance to keep going!