NewComers Podcast Episode
Rough Edges Podcast with Sarah I. Fox Episode
Women in Youth Ministry Podcast Episode
Wesley Foundation at Georgia Tech
Preaching at Georgia Tech’s Wesley Foundation’s Sunday Service
Fighting Fear with Fear
Written in 2021 as the Middle School Program Coordinator at First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth. Link to the original blog post.
My list of fears runs long and deep: I have chronic nightmares of snakes and would be okay with their immediate extinction. I have an extremely clear memory of being a 4-year-old at Disney Land and having to be carried to the car by my mom because the fireworks ignited a crying/screaming fit (this would still be the case if my mom could still carry me and if I wanted to spend the 4th of July alone). I can’t be in an enclosed space with no windows by myself because I think I’ll get locked in (elevators are my arch-nemesis). And do not even get me started on sleep paralysis, car accidents, and getting lost.
Although these are a wide range of strange and seemingly unrelated fears, they all have the same effect on me: a fast-beating heart, teary eyes, sweaty palms, and weak knees combined with feeling debilitated, crippled and overwhelmed. And recently, I have been experiencing all these things because I am scared. However, not because of snakes or enclosed spaces, or fireworks. But because I’m leaving.
This is my last week here in Fort Worth as I will be moving back home to Atlanta to pursue my Master of Divinity at Emory University. And as excited as I am to go back home to the best city in the entire universe, to be able to drive 30 minutes to my mom’s house when I need a hug from her instead of waiting for 5 months, and to go to my dream seminary and to get my dream degree that God has been preparing my heart for longer than I ever realized, I’m scared. I’m scared I’ll go back home and the moonlight in Atlanta won’t be as beautiful as I remember it. I’m scared my community in Atlanta has changed too much and reconnection isn’t plausible. I’m scared that ministry isn’t actually my call and I’ll feel lost in seminary. I’m scared that I’ll wish I had stayed in Fort Worth. I’m scared to leave.
This fear I’m experiencing is real and it’s not going away. Just like how snakes aren’t going to disappear from the earth, fireworks aren’t going to stop being used on holidays, and I won’t be able to avoid going into elevators by myself forever, these things that terrify me aren’t going away. However, they don’t have to. They don’t have to go away so that I can keep moving forward and keep walking in my purpose on this earth without being crippled, paralyzed, or debilitated on my way. Because there is a different type of fear that renders the power of these fears over me insignificant. The type of fear that ignites us, fights for us, and drives us forward. This type of fear is nothing like the one that makes us either punch the bear or run from it.
This fear is the fear of God.
This fear is the type of fear that the bible says we should have for God where we hold God in awe or reverence. In other words, to fear God is to be in awe of God. This fear is to hold God’s holiness, divinity, majesty, glory, and power in such reverence that we are speechless. This fear of God changes everything because to be in awe of God, is to know God. It is to understand that our God is a God who has promised each and every single one of us an assured goodness. A God whose love for us is absolutely unstoppable and, therefore, makes us invincible. A God who can move the mountains, defy the cosmos, and shine light in the deepest crevices of the darkest evils and still is so intentional with God’s love for God’s children that God chooses to be Abba to each of us.
This understanding of God gives us the courage to step out in boldness and propels us forward. Holding God in such reverence and believing in the loving-kindness of God makes us brave. It emboldens us, strengthens us, empowers us, and gives us the ability to walk with assured footing with our chin high and chest out no matter what is before us and no matter what is to come.
I’m sad to go. I’m sad to leave Kat and Matt who have mentored me and have been two of the most cherished, fruitful, and beautiful relationships I have ever had. I’m sad to leave Brenda who was the office mother figure we all needed all the time. I’m sad to leave the middle schoolers, high schoolers, and adult volunteers who have blessed me and brought so much treasure to my life. I’m sad to go, I’m scared to leave, and I’m frightened about what the next 3 years will bring. AND, I will hold the Lord our God in such reverence and in such awe, that I will not be rendered unable to follow the path God has set out for me. I will walk forward and let the Divine lead as the Father shines a light before me, the Holy Spirit shines a light within me, and the Son shines a light beside me in eternal companionship.
My prayer for you is that no matter what circumstances you faced yesterday, are facing today, and will face tomorrow, that you will let the fear of God dictate your footing, propel you forward, and ignite a brave hope within you. From Atlanta, I will keep my eyes fixed on the Divine. Do it with me, FUMCFW.
All my love,
Overwhelming Gratitude: My Thoughts on Graduating from TCU
Written after I graduated from TCU in December 2020.
Today, I am overwhelmed. Not with pride, not with excitement, not with joy. But with gratitude. Gratitude for those who paved a way for people like me when it seemed like there was no way. For those who came before me and had a dream of a young black girl from the South being able to live out HER dreams, no matter how big and how wild they were. For those who were beaten, arrested, raped, lynched, and intimated for leaning into and depending on their faith in a Divine that wants better for their children. For those who made a promise and didn’t rest until they were assured that that promise would be kept to family members they would never meet. For the gladiators who said “no more” to Jim Crow and his systemic and institutionalized racist allies that reared their ugly heads in schools, diners, buses, doctor offices, voting sites, courthouses, and everywhere else. For those who looked the Goliath of an imperfect union in the face with a slingshot full of the vision of a more perfect union and didn’t stop until those stones knocked Goliath down. For those who shed tears and blood, released screams and sobs, let their innocence and freedom be taken away from them so that their descendants didn’t have to endure the same inhumane treatment and gross violation of fundamental human rights that they did. For my ancestors that are hopefully smiling big and are filled with joy and relief at the fact that I obtained a bachelor’s degree from a predominantly white, private, Christian, southern university – a small sign that their efforts were not meaningless nor wasted.
I am especially feeling overwhelming gratitude towards my absolute hero, Congressman John Lewis. The Civil Rights leader, the first of the Freedom Riders, the “Conscience of Congress,” the New York Times bestselling author, the head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the youngest speaker at the March on Washington, the leader of the march from Selma to Montgomery, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, NAACP Spingarn Medal, and the JFK Profile in Courage Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. Son of sharecroppers, John Lewis became a brilliant and shining beacon of hope as he showed the world what it meant to dream big, love hard, live faithfully, and not take “no” for an answer. He has taught me and thousands of others what it truly means to have, give and embody faith, patience, gentleness, humility, moral courage, respect, kindness, perseverance, civil disobedience, and determination.
Most of all, he’s taught us all what it means to, as he put it, “make good trouble, necessary trouble.” The type of trouble that trailblazers and world changers make (Gandhi, Dr. King, and the like). The type of trouble that Jesus made in that manger, on that cross, and in that tomb. The type of trouble that tears down the pillars of hate and cleans out the muddied waters of tyranny and paves a way for love, opportunity, equality, character, beauty, and excellence. The type of trouble that I hope and pray to make in my short time on this earth.
Today, as I have closed out the chapter of undergrad with my purple cap and gown in my closet waiting to be worn in May and look to the future as I follow my dream as a Master of Divinity student at Emory University, I am simply overwhelmed with gratitude. So, here’s to the gladiators I wish I could thank in person. Here’s to the promises kept to my generation and the promises I plan to keep to the next one. Here’s to devoting the rest of my life to making “good trouble, necessary trouble.”
Abba Songs: The Bible as a Playlist from Genesis to Revelation
Created a playlist of worship songs that correlated with each book of the Bible after I finished it in 2020.
- Genesis: Let It Happen
- Exodus: Pilgrim Days
- Leviticus: All Consuming Fire
- Numbers: Build your Kingdom Here
- Deuteronomy: Let them see You
- Joshua: Lead me
- Judges: Running in Circles
- Ruth: Waiting here for You
- 1 Samuel: What Faith can do
- 2 Samuel: I will follow
- 1 Kings: Hidden
- 2 Kings: the Lord our God
- 1 Chronicles: Seasons Change
- 2 Chronicles: Always
- Ezra: By Your Side
- Nehemiah: Climb
- Esther: I am not alone
- Job: Even when it hurts
- Psalms: Indescribable
- Proverbs: Nothing I hold onto
- Ecclesiastes: Father You Are All We Need
- Song of Songs: Beloved
- Isaiah: Give me Faith
- Jeremiah: Refiner
- Lamentations: Lord I need You
- Ezekiel: Sons & Daughters of God
- Daniel: Another in the Fire
- Hosea: Take a moment
- Joel: Good Good Father
- Amos: God With Us
- Obadiah: Nothing I Hold On To
- Jonah: Came to My Rescue
- Micah: Met By Love
- Nahum: How He Loves
- Habakkuk: Divinely Beautiful
- Zephaniah: Broken Vessels
- Haggai: The Blessing
- Zechariah: This Love
- Malachi: Great Are You Lord
- Matthew: Man of Sorrows
- Mark: King of Kings
- Luke: O Praise the Name
- John: When Love Sees You
- Acts: Commission
- Romans: The Simple Gospel
- 1 Corinthians: Reckless Love
- 2 Corinthians: I Rest in You
- Galatians: No longer Slaves
- Ephesians: Give Me a Song
- Philippians: Blameless
- Colossians: Set my Heart
- 1 Thessalonians: Never Going Back
- 2 Thessalonians: I Have Decided to Follow Jesus
- 1 Timothy: Hope Has a Name
- 2 Timothy: Oceans
- Titus: Scandal of Grace
- Philemon: From the Inside Out
- Hebrews: He is Jesus
- James: So Will I
- 1 Peter: Living Hope
- 2 Peter: Waiting Here For You
- 1 John: One Thing Remains
- 2 John: In Christ Alone
- 3 John: Captain
- Jude: I Will Rest
- Revelation: We Praise the Lamb
Simply Not Simple
Written in 2020 as the Middle School Program Coordinator at First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth. Link to the original blog post.
I went through a season of extreme sadness, loneliness, and anxiety during my last years of high school. Desperate to make these feelings go away, I gave in to temptations and detrimental behaviors that hurt myself, my family, and my friends. Eventually realizing the harm my behavior was causing, deciding to find a way to stop giving in to these temptations, and considering what I was taught in church, I remember thinking, “Oh, I get it. I just need to be a better Christian” and concluded that that would make things better (make me better). Therefore, I decided to pray harder, read the Bible more, and listen in church better. Simple enough. So, for weeks, I did all those things. However, the prayers were prayed, the Bible was read, and the sermons were written in my journal. But the tears, the temptations, and the pain still came. Exhausted, disappointed, and discouraged, I remember having one thought: “Shouldn’t this be simple?”
From my experiences as a “church kid,” I knew that humans no longer had to work for the grace, love, and salvation that Jesus Christ provides. However, still, the narrative I created in my head around the interconnectedness of humanity and God was essentially, “God loves you. So, keep acting like it.” This translated in my head as “God loves you. So, keep smiling,” “God loves you. So, do well in school,” “God loves you. So, keep going to church, reading your bible, praying every day, giving the correct answers in bible study, being outspoken about your faith, singing praise songs with great devotion,” etc. In other words, “God loves you. So, be perfect.” However, being perfect did not include being sad, anxious, and lonely. Being perfect did not include giving in to temptation. Therefore, if I felt this way and did these things, I was not good enough for God’s love or acceptable as a Christian. If that were true, where did I stand with God? My glass castle of reliance and certainty, built on the simplicity of my relationship with God, crumbled.
I have slowly reconstructed my glass castle of simplicity with those broken pieces of glass into an iron fort of security through experiences and lessons. Working with kids has shown me that teaching does not need to be done through perfect words or actions. But, instead, by showing up when they are uncertain that anyone will. Graduating and moving to Fort Worth has taught me that showing your sadness, homesickness, and loneliness does not make you less Christian. But instead, showing these feelings assures that kingdom work is done as much through the tears as through the smiles. Working in ministry at FUMCFW has taught me that ministry work oftentimes falls short of our own definitions of “perfect.” However, the fruit born from ministry work is not based on performative perfection but, instead, on graceful reliance on God. Letting the tears fall and the sobs loose has taught me that God does not shield God’s eyes during the bad nights and opens God’s arms again in the morning. Instead, God is there for the whole ride. All of these experiences point to the one thing that has become extremely, undeniably, inescapably clear to me: our relationship with God is a complicated gift that continues to give and give, even when it does not make sense and even when we do not want it. It is simply not simple.
I realize that during this season of uncertainty, relative chaos, and extreme anxiety, some of us may feel like we haven’t been “Christian enough” or reacted to recent events in the way that God’s people “should.” Some of us may feel ashamed and guilt-ridden that we haven’t kept our smiles on our faces, kept up with our daily spiritual practices, watched sermons as often as we used to, or anything else. So maybe, similar to me, your glass castle has shattered. However, I urge you to reconstruct. Create an iron fort built on the reality that our relationship with God isn’t an exchange, but a gift; that our God isn’t a simple God, but a good God; that our God doesn’t love perfection, but humanity. In other words, build your iron fort on the truth that our God and our relationship with God is simply not simple. And that is good, good news.
“To My Silent White Christian Friend”
Written in the summer of 2020 during the Black Lives Matter protests. This letter was accompanied by a video of me reading it that collectively got over 2,000 likes and 17,000 views. The video on Instagram.
Dear my Silent White Christian Friend,
I have cried at the altar with you, in that small chapel at our favorite place in Dahlonega. I have led groups of college students beside you, in that big church down the road in Johns Creek. I have gone to retreats with you, hosted by that one megachurch in Alpharetta. I have cried with you during worship nights, in that auditorium in Fort Worth. I have held hands with you in prayer, in that Van right before we went to pick up kids for Club. We’ve danced in the rain together after Friday pick-up once all our campers left. We’ve sang together during House Church. We’ve whispered prayers to one another during Campout. You’ve knelt in the dirt with me as we released our burdens to one another. You’ve washed a stranger’s feet with me. You’ve cleaned dining halls and served food and taught the Gospel with me. I’ve held your shuddering body with my shaking arms as we sobbed at the foot of a wooden cross in that church/camp/retreat.
I have shared my most intimate moments with you and our Jesus. And each and every time I think of those moments, I think of you. And each and every time I think of you, I smile.
And I want you to know that I see you posting about your products, your beach trips, your family’s weddings, your black cousin. And I want you to know that I like that you post those things. I want you to keep boosting your products and your vacations and your weddings and your family and all of that! But I also want you to know – I need you to know – that what is hurting me aren’t the things you’re posting. What is hurting me are the things you’re not.
Your silence is deafening.
I understand that you don’t have to picture your brother being the one brutalized in those videos. I understand that you don’t have to worry if your dad gets pulled over and if he’s going to end up arrested, hospitalized, or killed as a result every time he leaves his apartment. I understand that you don’t have to worry about rolling your windows back up when you’re sitting with your sister at a stop light because a white supremacist won’t throw lighter fluid into your car. I understand that you don’t have to hold your breath when you hear the door of your house open after your mom comes back from her walk, fearing that someday her cheeks will be tear-stained and her lips will tell you that a police officer had his way with her (as he did with many ancestors). I get that you don’t have to keep a list of things to remember to tell your black son to keep him alive (don’t walk in a store with your hands in your pockets, don’t wear baggie clothes, don’t stare at a white woman, don’t walk around with your shirt off, always keep your ID in hand, etc.). I get that you don’t have to keep a list of things to remember to tell your black daughter to keep her alive (don’t walk in front of a group of white men you don’t know, don’t walk into a store with a purse bigger than your palm, don’t be the only black girl at the party, etc.). I get that you don’t wake up in the middle of the night from nightmares because instead of George Floyd, it was the face of your dad, your mom, your sister, your cousin, your uncle, your grandma, your grandpa, your aunt, your– under that officer’s knee.
But more than anything, I want you to know that I understand that you might come from a conservative background and you might be scared to say Black Lives Matter when you’re feed is full of “All Lives Matter”. Or you’re afraid to be open about defunding the police because your college roommate has a “Blue Lives Matter” sticker on their car. And I understand that you might have grown up with privilege that has been unchecked and unaccounted for and you are now blind to it because you never needed to see it.
I understand. And I love you. Because that doesn’t take away from our times in Johns Creek, Dahlonega, Norcross, Fort Worth, (or) Alpharetta.
But, now, I’m asking you to show up for me. For my family. I’m asking you to understand my desperation for your help, the same way I understand your ignorance against being helpful. I’m asking you to post that BLM story. I’m asking you to retweet and share those petitions. I’m asking you to do this for me. Because your silence doesn’t make me feel like your “Sister in Christ” at all, as you have called me so many times. It doesn’t make me feel like the Jesus we worshipped together in public is the same one we worship separately in private. It doesn’t feel like the Gospel we preached together was any more than a show. Because the Jesus we love, the Church that our Jesus calls us to be, is a Jesus and a Church that loves so fiercely and proclaims so boldly and acts so intensely, that they are a force to be reckoned with.
My dear friend, I’m going to leave you with this: Your silence hurts. It does not protect your black brothers and sisters and it does not glorify our Jesus.
So, please, show up for me. Because Jesus showed up for you.
Your sister in Christ
Written in 2020 as the Youth Ministries intern at First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth. Link to the original blog post.
Gabby is headed home for the Summer, so we asked her to write a blog about something she learned this year, enjoy her wisdom, and keep her in your prayers until she returns to us this fall!
The best lesson I learned during the 2019-2020 school year was taught to me in the window seat of a Southwest flight in November.
Coming back to Fort Worth from my home in Atlanta, my plan for the solo plane ride was simple: To work.
Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that my work ethic is one of the most notable traits of my personality. My past four years at TCU have included nonstop jokes from friends about how I “live” at the TCU library, coercion by the same friends to stop studying for just an hour to come and hang out, and repeated phrases such as “Gabby, it’s okay if you don’t get a 95 on the test” or “Gabby, just take a break” or “Gabby, just get more than four hours of sleep tonight, please.” It’s safe to say that this notable trait has gotten me the GPA most parents would be proud of. However, it’s equally safe to say that this notable trait has taken its toll on my eating, sleeping, and self-esteem.
But nonetheless, my plan for this specific plane ride in November was to do what I always do: Work.
However, the plan failed because I found myself on this plane opening and closing and reopening different study apps on my phone, the many textbooks I had in my backpack, and my laptop with the multiple assignments I needed to complete on it. But nothing was sticking. I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t even get started. Nothing was satisfying the time I felt like I needed to occupy. And it was ANNOYING because I had things to do!
So beyond frustrated and with empty hands, I just sat there looking out the window. Thinking. For a long time.
In this moment with my thoughts, God led me to a realization and an idea: Maybe I was incredibly restless and dissatisfied because God just wanted me to be still. Maybe God didn’t want me to occupy my time by being productive in the way I thought productivity manifested. Maybe God wanted me to give the thought “If I’m not doing something productive, why am I doing it at all?” a break. Maybe God was working.
In that moment God was whispering, “Be still. Be here. With me.” My mind was yelling right back at God, “Okay, but I have to finish this book!” and “Okay, but I have to work on my speech for tomorrow!” and “Okay, but there is so much to do!” And God whispered again, “Right now, you are to be with me. So be.” And eventually, I listened. I looked out the window at the vastness of creation and I thought, God did that. I thought about the people in that flying tube with me and thought, God loves them. I felt my breath going in and out of my lungs and thought, God is the reason I am doing this.
Slowly, I started to think, maybe I don’t always need to be doing something “productive.” Maybe the best thing for me is just to sit and marvel at my Creator. Sit and listen to my Best Friend. Sit and lean into the Love of my Life. And all of a sudden, nothing sounded better. Nothing sounds better.
This school year was a whirlwind of very inconvenient incidences, both externally in the world and internally in my heart. Inconvenient incidences that made me stray from the productivity I find so much comfort in and made my naturally busy-bodied soul feel frustrated, angry, and disappointed. However, my God whispered in my soul and heart, again and again, the truth of real productivity. The truth of what’s really important to spend your time on: Stillness with God. This truth that my God, who is so good and patient with me, repeated to me over and over again, faithfully got me through the most unpredictable and disastrous school year of my life. And I am grateful.
So to all of my fellow busy-bodies out there: Be still.
It might be the most productive thing you do all day.
Your Apologetic Wife
Written in 2019 and given the highest award from TCU’s creative writing journal (the Helen Hamilton Award for Excellence in Creative Expression).