A heart to heart

So much on my heart lately. A lot has transpired the last 7 months and I'm not just talking about the 'rona. However, shutting down and the closing of church, stores and all the other places I would frequent, caused me to no longer be distracted by the things that once did. God had been tapping on my heart and soul since last year. With the busy-ness of work, ministry and other commitments, it was easy to avoid because, at the time, I didn't really like what He was prompting in me. I was happy and, as long as I ignored the other stuff, I was in my happy, cozy bubble.

In August of 2019, I sat in my favorite coffee shop doing what I have done for the previous four years - intentionally writing out what I felt the Holy Spirit was prompting for women's ministry. All Summer, the vision casting took place and, this moment, was when it all went on to a document. This time, however, it felt different. Each time I wanted to go all in with casting vision, there was a pause. It wasn't so much a "road block", because the ideas were there! I recognized it immediately because this wasn't the first time the Holy Spirit has done this in my life.

Two times, in my past, have I experienced a "Holy Spirit Pivot". I'm not sure if this is a real term but, I am making it one. These pivots took place when I was happily serving and feeling quite comfortable with how life was going - both in ministry, job and school. Then, something else would grab my attention. It was like God gently guiding my face to look at something else He really wanted me to see. The first time was a mission trip (one short term and a second long term) to Guatemala. It was incredible to be part of the how the Holy Spirit was guiding and transforming me - mind, heart and soul. The second time this happened was when I took a faith leap and moved to Chicago for two years. Each of these moments contained very similar lead ups to the actual event. I felt pulled away from the commitments I was involved with. Relationships shifted and things I always thought I would feel passionate about weren't as important anymore. Responsibilities were no longer mine and it was time to pass the baton. If I didn't know it was the Lord, all these things would have been very frustrating. But God showed me there was a reason for the intentional pivot so He could prepare me for His plans.

August 2019 was another Holy Spirit Pivot. I immediately tilted my head up and, because I was in the middle of a coffee shop and didn't want to scare the patrons sitting next to me, internally asked "God, what are ya doin???"

Typically, when these moments have popped up, I immediately tell several people but, again, there was a pause. I felt very strongly that God wanted this to remain between the two of us because He was going to be doing some very tender, deep cultivating with me and He would let me know when the time to share was right. I trusted Him. As the weeks went by, I would only confess this to a couple of people who I knew would pray for me and not influence me too much. Their main goal was to remind me God was in control. They were not directly involved with me in ministry and that is exactly what God intended because HE wanted to be the only influencer.

Another things you need to know about me is when God does this Holy Spirit Pivots with me, I get excited and want to rush time. This time, however, I didn't want to rush. In fact, I wanted to go as slow as possible because, even though the intense passion I once had for the ministry I was leading was fading, I still loved it , and my role, too much to let go. Oof, talk about a moment of humility... because that mindset meant it was all about me and what I wanted - not so much about what God was wanting.

Over the next 6 months, everything I did was forced. Facilitating Bible studies, events, and other activities and such were not enjoyable nor were they easy. The motivation was almost gone and I did a pretty good job of faking it until I made it! It wasn't because I was burnt out or didn't want to. It was more about realizing the reality of what God was doing. Thanks to events, work and other commitments, however, it was easy to avoid. I mean, I didn't have the time so, it just wasn't going to happen.

Then, the world shut down.

The only places I had to go were work and home. Thankfully, I was considered and essential worker (don't even get me started on that whole "essential" thing. Another topic for another post!) so, I was able to still keep a schedule of some sort. Due to no longer having weeknight or weekend commitments, my time was suddenly wide open for God to press in with this pivot. I didn't like it. But I knew it was time and I couldn't avoid it any longer.

Fervent prayers went up. I devoured scripture. I wrestled with it and cried quite a bit. Again I wanted to let others in on what was going on but God kept telling me "not yet, we're not done, I will let you know". I had to trust His timing and I did. It wouldn't be until a camping trip at the end of July when everything would come to fruition. I was alone at my little resort camp site (because I am a glamper people, I need my amenities), sitting in my chair, scribbling fervently in my spiral notebook. Scripture was pouring out and there were multiple times I had to lean my head back in worship. I did an Instagram live that day because God finally said it was time. He was calling me to the front line of battle. A place I had never been before. I guess we are all on the front line, so to speak, but this was a vocal front line. I had always been the one to keep quiet, pray, be kind and obedient. But God was telling me that wasn't my place anymore.

I reread Ruth and Esther and Deborah. All women, in the Old Testament, who did some incredible things that took incredible faith. While I didn't compare myself, or what my calling was, with them - I read those passages to be encouraged. It lit a fire and I knew it was time.

This has been the first year I have been deeply involved, and vocal, about politics. I am what some might call a "staunch conservative" who believes in life, liberty and justice for all. I believe in the sanctity of marriage between man and woman. I believe that the biological gender we are born with is the one we are no matter what. I believe that abortion is wrong. I believe in racial and Biblical unity over critical race theory or anything else that would say otherwise. I believe in the traditional role of women and men. Historical Christianity, as presented in the 66 books of the Bible, are what I dive into instead of turning to the progressive christianity that is infiltrating our churches and, unfortunately, our leaders in the faith. So many are conflicted, confused and floundering but won't admit it or won't stare it down. Instead, they are able to mask it with scripture that is taken out of context or by doing something that makes them feel good.

After that camping trip, I was ready to begin this next journey. I knew it was going to be hard for many reasons. For one, I knew it was time to step away from the ministry I led. Part of my new journey including going back to school so, I wouldn't have been able to lead anyway but, I knew there was far more to it than that. God kept armoring me up with scripture and people. Whenever I started to doubt or second guess, He was oh so faithful to remind me His truth. I am so thankful for a faithful God! Especially when I don't deserve it because of my constant doubting and questioning.

It was also time to let everyone who needed to know, know. That was going to be the hardest part but, I let God guide my conversations. They weren't easy. They went almost as expected because God had already prepared me for what was to come. Relationships were affected in both negative and positive ways which, any other time would have left me frustrated but, I suppose I am in a season now where nothing surprises me anymore. People who were at one time a constant in my life, seemed to abandoned ship and I never heard from them again. There were hurt feelings all around. The slowly widening chasm of disconnect had gotten larger and it was all very sad. I grieved. I questioned again and again if this was the right thing to do. But God continually reminded me through scripture and those closest to me that yes, this was right - as long as I continually put Him first and only did things to please HIM, it was the right path. I could trust Him with everyone and anything else.

All of it hasn't been sad and lonely though. Actually, it's been quite the opposite. Yes I have grieved and continue to from time to time, but God has shown me what He has made me capable of. The steadfast relationships in my life have gotten stronger. New relationships have formed and some broken relationships have been restored. I am not alone both spiritually and physically. It was like a huge weight I had been carrying for 12 months, was suddenly lifted off. A weight that I didn't even know was on my shoulders. I have a somewhat comical vision in my head about what that looks like - Jesus strutting over, lifting it up by His pointer finger and doing one of those cool basketball spins and then launching it off far and away. Then, He takes me by the hand and whispers to me, "Melissa, the best is yet to come. Come on!"

The other vision that God has given me during this whole experience is what cultivation looks like. Whenever I drive out into the county, as we call it here where all the farms are, I always love seeing the big machines cultivating the ground. For me, that time of year signifies preparation. It's an integral part of growing crops and, ultimately, harvest time. I immediately realized this season has been a giant cultivation. God has been turning over soil and exposing what has been hiding underneath - the good and the bad; the truth and the lies; the generosity and the greed; the light and the dark.

So, what has all this, ultimately, brought me to? Well, I am heavily involved with politics. I know, so crazy. I left leading ministry to pursue getting my Bachelors in Business Administration. I have also left the church I have served at for the past five years for many reasons of which will be saved for a different post series I am working on. It's not all bad. Some may call it controversial. The experience has definitely opened my eyes to relationships, who will stick by you, forgiveness and grace, cliques within the church and the people who are with you through thick and thin, not just because of what you will do for them. Oh and the guilt trips! (Oh boy, I know I opened up a big ole can of worms with that!!!) But mostly, due to a very discouraging disconnect within the overarching leadership. Just a quick blurb so you can understand, the church I served at was a church plant of a larger, mega church. I have attended since 1997 before it began to do all the church planting. I saw changes in leadership over the years which have led to my final decision to leave. Again, more about that coming soon because I know that leaves a big question mark for many! I will say the church plant I attended, during the time I was serving and committed, was wonderful and right where God wanted me...until He told me to leave.

The final thing this has brought me to is what God has called me to do and that is be a voice on the front lines of this battle. It scares me but, I know it was the right thing to do. I can no longer "not say anything" because I don't want people to hate me. Who do I serve? Them, or God? The answer to that is clear. I cannot be worried about what people think of me or if I need to be "nice" with my words. Sometimes, it is going to be hard to hear but I make sure those words come straight from scripture and the Lord. I speak up when He tells me to. I am quiet, well... this is still a discipline I'm currently working on... when He tells me to be. Fear can no longer control my decisions. A year ago I preached on moving from a place of comfort to courage. This message was more for me than I realized.

To be continued...


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