PASTOR GEORGIE KELSEY

 
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My five-year-old's favorite game right now is "Hide and Go Seek." The one-year-old and I count to twenty (well the one-year-old just mimics the tone of my voice as I count), and the five-year-old runs off giggling as he tries to find a new hiding spot in our small 2-bedroom apartment. I spend a long time pretending I can’t find him while he makes very obvious "clue" sounds. Then inevitably I "find" him, and we all laugh — a lot. We then run back to the couch, and he calls out "Right, this time I’m counting mom!"

Being found is exhilarating when you’re five years old and in the safety of your little apartment. 

Have you ever been lost? I can’t say I was the type of child to ever get lost; I was far too aware and cautious to ever get lost. Although, I do remember once being in a pasta shop with my mom, as we waited for our sheet of pasta to go through the machine — and miraculously become fettuccine — I must have gotten distracted and then lost my mom in the busy shop. My heart started to pound inside my chest as I became aware that I was no longer accompanied by a grown up. I turned, and much to the relief of my little three-year-old heart, I looked straight ahead and saw what I thought was my moms faded Levi 501s. Without a second thought, I ran to those jeans and buried my face in the soft worn denim, my little arms wrapped around one mom thigh. A moment later I looked up and instead of seeing my mom’s dark shiny brown hair and olive skin, I saw a strange blonde perm! I had not found my grown up, I had found another mom clad in the classic Levi 501 uniform of the mid 1980s. 

Later in life, I found myself a little lost, well, maybe a lot lost — and I discovered what it meant to find Christ. It’s not that He was ever lost, but rather that I had lost sight of Him.

 In Jeremiah 23:23-24, it says, "'Am I a God who is near,' declares the Lord, 'And not a God far off? Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?' declares the Lord. 'Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?' declares the Lord."

Our God never loses sight of us. He always desires us to draw close to Him. He watches us always and loves us always. Our God is love (1 John 4:8), and He is always near, ready and waiting for us to turn toward Him. We might feel lost, but He always knows exactly where we are, listening for our voice, our giggle, our cry. 

Being lost and then found was more about my position than His. His position never changed; I was never lost to Him. He always knew where I was, and He always watched over me. Being "found" to me is all about me "finding" Christ. I searched for Him in a broken place, and there I found Him, bent low, His hands outstretched, a smile on His face and hope and adventure in His eyes. 

This is His stance toward humanity, His sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters. Let’s be women who see Him and find Him and emulate His stance toward humanity — bringing love, acceptance, truth and freedom into the lives around us, drawing others to find their heavenly home in Christ.

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TRICIA SERRANTONIO

 
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When was a time where you were far off and God found you?

It’s so amazing to think that God strives to find us! I was lost my entire life in ways I was not even aware of – what’s funny is that we define “lost” by big issues, battles or bad happenings in our lives. I was captive to the thought that I had it pretty good. How naïve! “Pretty good” isn’t worth anything without Jesus as the foundation. No matter where I thought I was, He found me by showing me that I actually was very lost, and that true success and value is in Him first – that “far off” is all the same level of “far off” without Him.

I lived in excess and never held myself accountable for it. I had rollercoaster experiences with temporary inspiration and fulfillment – with a defining side dish of people pleasing. This pattern led to constant confusion. When He found me, He pulled me back instantly. God directed me away from behaviors that I branded as “no big deal”, and revealed to me how they were harmful. He thrusted me into a foreign life of self-control. It was such a real and powerful experience that I could not resist His embrace, and no longer wanted to. That’s how specific He was with me – I suddenly had (and still have) conviction over the exact actions that held me back from His freedom, clarity, joy and satisfaction. Encountering Him was so radical and instant, and I have not been confused since. I am thankful every day.

How has God shaped your identity a Daughter since you were found?

He first showed me how I constantly need Him: that mountains which I deemed impossible to climb, the Holy Spirit gave me the divine courage to practically skip over. He constantly reminds me to keep my eyes on His son - the benefits of doing life with Jesus are immeasurable and undeniable. He never leaves. After God happily proved Himself to me, there is absolutely nothing I want separate from Him. His potential and His plan is far more purposeful than anything I could envision on my own. We are both pretty thrilled now that He has my attention!

It’s an exciting process to relearn how to live with God in every inch of your life. I just want to become the woman He created, versus being committed to who I thought I was – letting go and allowing change is letting Him work, but is also not always easy. So far I find that I can be bold in a ways I never was before. I understand that happiness changes, but His joy is permanent and remains. I know that He is strengthening me in the face of emotions. I have learned that love is a choice; that He is alive; that every step is a part of the process; that I have authority; that grace is so powerful and also hard to grasp sometimes; and that we are not found only once.

Serving Him has completely revamped what I know life to be, and there is so much more to learn. The journey has just begun!

 

 

CHANDLER TRULOVE PEARIS

 
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“God does not called the qualified, He qualifies the called.” This has been my mantra for the past year. I say it to myself whenever I doubt being where I am. Which is very, very often. If someone told me a year ago that I would be here at C3 Brooklyn serving, building, leading — I would have pulled a Jonah and ran the other way.

I approached coming to Christ like coming home past curfew. I was hesitant but hopeful that I would be welcomed. I was expecting to find a very disappointed parent waiting on the couch, wondering where I’ve been and why I was getting home so late. I approached the throne room covered in my shame and ready to plead my case. But I’m realizing now that that’s not the heart of the Father.

I didn’t grow up planted in a home church. We went from Catholic Mass to Jehovah Witness Kingdom Hall services to non-denominational services. It was hard for me to build a relationship with God when I was presented different versions of Him. And it was even harder because I was made to believe I could only have access to Him through a spiritual leader. I had questions and fears and curiosities about God, but if my spiritual leaders couldn’t answer me or their responses didn't satisfy me, I assumed God couldn’t either.

So I packed up all my “God theories,” and I left. I went out into the world seeking answers to the big looming questions I had: Who am I? And what am I supposed to be doing? I searched for it in family, relationships and my career. I walked into every room carrying the shame of everything I wasn’t because I had no idea who I was.

To be honest, I still can’t say that I do or that I know what I’m supposed to be doing. What I do know is, that after all these years of running away I was welcomed home by God. With all my questions, theories, fears, defenses and doubts, God was still sitting on the couch when I finally arrived. And He’s not the least bit tired, He’s not annoyed, and He’s not ready to punish me. Instead He’s sitting there with a blanket and snacks, excited to show me what He has planned for me. He met me right where I was and has reassured me of His love daily. He gave me a family ready to support and celebrate me. He calls me daughter with pride and joy.

I can’t believe the way God has been working in my life this past year since deciding to follow Jesus. There are days when it is hard to sit on the couch with Him and rest in His love. There are days when I can’t believe I am who He is calling to qualify. On those days I have to remind myself that I am not disqualified from the promises of God because of my past. That those years of missing the mark were actually part of God’s perfect plan for my life. I am one of His masterpieces, and He’s so proud to call me His.

 

PASTOR GEORGIE KELSEY

 
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It’s a beautiful moment when we find out we have each been crafted and formed in detail by our heavenly Father. Your personality, the way you think and feel and see. Your giftings and unique quirks, all beautifully woven together into little cells that make up you! The wonderful Creator has truly created and formed each of us uniquely. Facets of His beauty and wonder are displayed in each of us. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.

But the truth about God’s creation is that although we were formed in such detail in our mothers’ wombs (see Psalm 139:13), we are constantly being re-formed by Him. As we yield ourselves to the transformative Holy Spirit and receive new life by the blood of Christ, we become renewed day by day. His nature is revealed to us and therefore more of our true intended nature is able to be set into full flight by the freedom found only in Christ! We begin to find new life in Christ and find who we are in Christ — our true God-intended identity is formed and purpose begins to be revealed.

In my personal experience these forming moments aren't the easiest ones — but it is in the moments of deep surrender, when our human will or “sin nature” is essentially broken open and submitted to Christ, that we experience true freedom in Christ and truly discover who we are in Him. In Matthew 16:25, Jesus says, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” As we let go of who we thought we were or who the world has told us we are or categorized us as, and begin to accept our new identity and freedom in Christ (who He originally intended us to be), it can often feel like losing our life, but Jesus’ promise is that as we surrender, we will find true life, true purpose and our true identity.

As we let go of the sin that so easily entangles (Hebrews 12:1) and instead choose Christ, we are formed into His likeness and reflect the image of God to those around us. His beauty begins to shine from the inside out, and we become beacons of light and hope to a broken world, shining the love of Christ to those around us.

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TINA PARK

 
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How has God transformed you?
God has radically changed the way I view my life and everyone and everything in it. Since becoming a Christian, I feel like I see my life with an eternal lens. In my daily life, especially in my workplace, seeing with an eternal lens means sitting in a conference room full of people and seeing individual human souls who don't know God, or walking back to my desk and recognizing the people God has placed in the cubicles around me. Carrying that eternal purpose empowers me daily to listen more intently, to speak life into others more boldly, to extend grace more abundantly, to cultivate relationships more deeply, and most of all, to love more fiercely. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul declares, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” The old way of viewing my life: with anxiety, hopelessness, and shame, has been replaced with a new missional vision of instilling peace, carrying hope and spreading joy.

 

 

What have you experienced him pruning in your life and rebuilding?
I believe that God has been patiently pruning and rebuilding the way I view Him as a Father and how I view my identity as a daughter. Growing up, I felt like I had to gain love and approval from my parents through success and hard work and a higher salary — basically a list of endless achievements. Often I find myself equating my relationship with my parents with my relationship with God. Having a revelation that I don't have to work for God's love has been both freeing and yet challenging for me. It almost seems too good to be true! I've gone through my whole life thinking I needed to prove myself to earn this love from God. But God is patient with me and is undoing the lifelong patterns that have hindered me from confidently accepting my identity as a daughter of Christ. I have to remind myself to rest in the promise that God loves me not with a merit-based love, but He loves me with an unconditional type of love: with no strings attached.

 

How do you trust what God is building when you can’t yet see the end result?

One of my favorite verses is Jeremiah 17:7-8:
The man who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence indeed is the Lord, is blessed.
He will be like a tree planted by water:
it sends its roots out toward a stream,
it doesn’t fear when heat comes,
and its foliage remains green.
It will not worry in a year of drought
or cease producing fruit.

I love this illustration of a tree being planted beside a stream. This tree is not only withstanding periods of harsh drought but flourishing and producing even more fruit! I imagine that the tree is only able to survive because it has roots stretching deep into the earth — tapping into the nutrients it has stored over seasons of warm summers and bountiful rain. Similarly in my life, when I am going through periods of drought or hardship, I have to tap into those life-giving, unchanging truths that I know about the character of God and the way He uses hardship to craft and mold me. Paul writes, "Affliction produces endurance, endurance produces character, and proven character produces hope. And this hope does not disappoint because God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit" (Romans 5:1-5). God calls me not to just "get through" these periods of drought but to experience those moments with boldness where we flourish and thrive! I am able to do that because of the promise of hope given to me through the Holy Spirit: the promise that He loves me and wants to do a good work in me. That truth then becomes the light that guides me through.

STEFANIA MARIN

 
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How has God transformed you?
He has transformed me by showing me that I have been fearfully and wonderfully created with a purpose. After struggling with depression and self-worth, this powerful revelation has changed my life. I used to think I was worthless, too fragile, and that the world was better off without me. I would focus on the negative in my life and thought He didn’t love me because He allowed bad things to happen to me. Oh boy, was I wrong. He loved me so much that He carried me and held my hand through it all, guiding me and never once forsaking me. He used each and every struggle I encountered to show me how much I need Him and how worthy I am. Every struggle had a purpose. He used each one of them to work in a certain area of my life. He wanted to heal and transform my heart because He saw more in me than I could possibly see. All I needed to do was surrender and allow Him to mold me to be the strong and courageous woman I am today.

 

Psalm 139:13 says, “He created my inmost being and knit me together in my mother's womb.” He has loved me even before I was born, and now I finally know why. He sees me as His precious, valiant daughter that was created to spread His gracious and joyous spirit.

 

What have you experienced him pruning in your life and rebuilding?
It’s a beautiful thing knowing that the perfect artist has worked so hard on His masterpiece and yet still wants to continue doing so. I have a hard time letting go control of things but when I look at all He has done in my life, how can I not trust in His perfect plans for my life (His masterpiece)? My life is a work in progress and I’ve learned to be ok with that. However, I still have to learn and need to practice letting go and resting in Him. As a wife and mother I make the mistake of thinking that if I don’t get things done around the house or in my family’s life, no one will. I carry a burden that was never given to me in the first place. I get caught up in all the things I have to get done and lose track of what’s important.

God has been showing me that He wants me to surrender and trust in Him to take care of us. The Bible says in Proverbs 3:5-6 to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight”. I love that He promises to straighten our paths when we choose to rely and submit to Him.

I don’t want to set the wrong example to my son of a prideful, controlling mother. I want him to grow up seeing me as a woman of faith who wholeheartedly loves Jesus and surrenders in her artist’s hands.

 

How do you trust what God is building when you can’t yet see the end result?
Trusting God to finish the work He has begun in me has demanded so much faith. It has required me to believe that He loves me and has the best plans for my life. When fear and uncertainty start taking a hold of me, I stop and re-evaluate where I’ve been and where I am now. I ask myself, “If my past is filled with so much mercy and faithfulness, how much more will He have for my future?”

The Bible is filled with so many promises of blessings, and I choose to take hold of each one of them and declare them over my life. I don’t know what the future holds but I’m certain He won’t give up on me. He will be the loving Father He’s always been and will continue to mold me into the purpose-filled woman He has created me to be.

 

PASTOR GEORGIE KELSEY

 
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In James 1:2 we are encouraged to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance”. To consider a trial “pure joy” seems counterintuitive because often in a trial we can feel like we are going backwards and getting weaker, not stronger. However if we fully allow a trial to do it’s work in our lives it has the ability to strengthen us and form us into the person we need to be to fulfill the call of God on our lives. Trials form character and strength in our lives; they cause us to lean on Christ and truly surrender our lives to Him alone. A trial is actually a beautiful thing if we consider the things of God beautiful. Trials form true beauty in our lives.

As women we are often taught that beauty is external, but the truth is that true beauty is formed inwardly and shines from the inside out. In my life I have faced some trials, and I have not responded perfectly with faith.  I’ve often stumbled, and there have been times when I’ve felt like I was just clinging to the hem of Jesus' garment! But I’ve found that all Jesus really requires is that we hold on to Him, and cling to Him during the trial — and He meets us right where we are. Sometimes it’s just a battle to open the Bible or utter a word in prayer, but He hears that word and He comes quickly. There have been dark moments when all I’ve been able to muster is a groan or a muffled “Help me, Jesus” into a tear soaked pillow! Sometimes strength just means looking to Jesus when you don't understand anything, and giving Him your mustard seed faith. Sometimes strength looks like weakness, but when we give it to Jesus He fills our weakness with His strength and imparts His character into our lives. Jesus wants to form us and shape us into the born again overcomer who He died to save; He has a strength available to us that can only be found when we truly surrender all to Him. Let’s be women who find our strength in Christ and Christ alone.

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SAMANTHA RAMOS

 
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When I was sixteen years old my life dramatically shifted. Though it was almost ten years ago, I remember it all very vividly. It started out as a normal Wednesday morning, I got ready for school, and before leaving I took my dog out for a walk. While outside I checked my voicemail and heard a message from a frantic guy, but I was only able to make out a few words “your mom.. accident.. I’m sorry.” I didn’t recognize the guy’s voice or the phone number so I just assumed that it wasn’t a message that was meant for me. I deleted the voicemail and went about my morning. When I got back inside of my house the main phone line rang and it was my aunt. At this point it seemed bizarre to have all of these calls coming in early in the morning. I knew something was up, and my world shattered when the news finally hit me. The guy from the voicemail, was trying to tell me something, but it was my aunt who was able to translate the news — my mom had died in a car accident the night before.

I remember weeping for weeks, not wanting to do anything but cry in bed. I couldn’t understand why this had to happen. I was in denial; there had to be some sort of mistake. It felt completely surreal, and it took some time to accept this as my new reality. At the time I was so angry and confused, especially since there were four other people in the car but my mom was the only one who didn’t survive. I had so many questions and I wanted answers — instead I found comfort. I had a relationship with Jesus at this time, and I remember just weeping and asking for peace, for strength. I knew without Jesus I would just go about life being angry and bitter, and the pain I felt in my heart was too great to bear on my own.

It was through this experience that I truly experienced peace that surpasses all understanding in the midst of pain and hardship. I had no answers, no closure, but by grace I had peace. I knew that even though I was hurting that God was holding me together, enabling me to process through the pain.

I do not remember the words I spoke at her funeral, but it was that day that my cousin turned his life around and rededicated his life to God. My cousin’s life decision reminded me of how God works all this out for His glory, even when our hearts are broken.

It’s been almost ten years since I heard her voice and felt her loving embrace. As I have gotten older there’s so many questions that I realize I didn’t ever think to ask my mother, and so many milestones that I wish I got to share with her. I have chosen to believe that God is working it all out with purpose for His glory, which empowers me to be strong in the grace.