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Fifteen days to go before a new year! Time to reflect and make plans for what’s next. My countdown began the week of Thanksgiving. I set time aside to evaluate what worked well, what needs adjusting, and what or who needs removing from my life.

Tweetable: The paradigm in my world is already shifting, and it feels great! @GailDudley

First, the back story. Many of you know, I was traveling the world speaking, teaching, and hosting missionary prayer summits. I also served as the vice president of an international women’s ministry building multi-cultural ministry teams across America. At the end of my tenure as vice president of that ministry, I served as a consultant with churches building administration teams and implementing policies and procedures.

In 2016, I pretty much walked away from everything except for the church I pastored alongside my husband. I was exhausted. I traveled and served daily. I recall waking up in places not knowing where I was, what day of the week it was, or the time zone I had entered. In one week, I had traveled to all four time zones in the United States. I made a promise that when I made it home, I would shut everything down, and I did. The problem was, I never picked it back up. People would extend invitations to me, and I would turn them down. Pastors and Presidents of ministries and churches would ask me to consult with them on administration, and I said, “No.” I thought I would just do church with my husband and stay home.

It was July 1, 2018, after hearing a confirming word from God, we closed the church we had planted and were pastoring. Since then, it has been a challenging season for me. I won’t lie. I grieved closing the church, although I knew God called us to do so. I have been from church to church since then, seeking a place to align with, and as of today, I have not found that place to call home. However, I have found peace. I have rid myself of religion and now fully live authentic ministry doing what I do on a different platform.

Insert Hannah.

You know the story. Hannah was married to Elkanah. He loved Hannah and would give her a double portion of meat whenever the day came for him to sacrifice. However, the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb. Her rival…the other woman of Elkanah kept provoking her to irritate her. This went on for years. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, Peninnah…the other woman would mess with her until she wept and would not eat. Elkanah did not understand and would ask Hannah questions. He even asked, “Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

Then something happened as we see in verse nine of 1 Samuel chapter one. Hannah stood up. “Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up.” That’s where I am today. I’m reflecting over the last few years and have tapped into my strength that comes from God. I have reconnected with the power of God that will become my manual for 2020.

Tweetable: No, I never took a seat. I became radical. I started using my voice differently. @GailDudley

The Holy Spirit showed me that come January 2020; my famine is over. My wrestling is over. I passed the test. If you could see me as I type these words, you would see tears streaming down my face. My word for 2019 was ‘freedom.’ My theme song, which isn’t a gospel melody or a hymn, had me press through each day of the year. The lyrics go something like this, “Freedom! Freedom! I can’t move. Freedom, cut me loose! Singin’, freedom! Freedom! Where are you? Cause I need freedom too!…Hey! I’ma keep running. Cause a winner don’t quit on themselves.” Yes, I’ll tell you. The song is by Beyoncé. Sometimes we over-spiritualize everything. A simple song that I heard one day in 2018 became my theme song for 2019, and it changed my world, pushing me into ministry with God that I cannot explain. So, don’t judge me.

I have sung, I surrender all. I’ve belted out, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” I can jam to, “How Great is our God.” I have wept hearing so many gospel songs and spirituals and have laid prostrate before God listening to worship music. Those are all amazing songs, AND ‘Freedom’ did something for me. Chains were broken. I look at that song as God getting my attention telling me that I am free to move about the world doing ministry as God has gifted me.

Sometimes we become our own worst enemy. We try so hard to be so deep and find ourselves in the same space where nothing has changed. It’s time to be free and do things differently. We have the manual. It’s called the Bible. Stop waiting for someone else to co-sign what God has already ordained.

I have heard the cries of women asking for help. I have received calls, emails, and have read articles of women going through tough situations. People are looking for authentic disciples who can relate to their pain and challenges. People need help. Financial. Marital. Health. Career. They are looking for those of us who will move beyond the pew and church language and help without condemnation.

Every last one of us has some sort of obstacle we have faced or are currently facing. Hannah, until verse nine, walked around in bondage. She knew God. Yet, she was so consumed with Peninnah that she may have missed out on ministering to her. Now there’s a thought!

I, too, have had my moments. I was consumed with life as I knew it until God shook it up. I’m not sure God ever called me to quit. Honestly, I didn’t ask Him. I made my moves without waiting on the Lord until recently. He’s been waking me up over the last eleven months. I am now making Hannah moves. I am taking a stand on what makes my heart sing and lines up with who God created me to be. I now stand in God’s power.

Oh, to see and experience what’s next! I’m ready! Are you ready?

If you are ready to walk into the next chapter of your life story, here are three things I want to leave with you.

  • Stand up! At some point, you have to take responsibility for your life. Year after year, Hannah was provoked and irritated by a naysayer. Here’s the truth. Peninnah may have been so intimidated by Hannah that she was on assignment to shut her down. It worked for several years until Hannah stood up from the table. I can see Hannah pushing back from that table with great force and power. I can even hear her saying, “Enough!” Stop being stuck in your situation and take a stand.
  • Pray your prayer! Your prayer will not make sense to anyone but you and God. Eli in 1 Samuel was thinking she was drunk. Nope! I believe Hannah was praying in an unknown tongue connecting directly with God. I imagine Hannah’s prayer going something like this, “Lord, for years, I have tolerated this mess, but I’m at the point where I will not take it anymore. I have had enough living like this. I’ve missed the time of joy with you focused on what others have and have done to me. I have focused on what I do not have, but today… Lord ~ Here I stand ~ Help me ~ Deliver me ~ Save me ~ Don’t forget about me ~ Heal Me ~ Here I am making myself available to be used all for Your glory!”
  • Lift up your head! “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.” (Psalm 24: 7-8)

For me, I have taken a stand, prayed my prayer, and lifted my head. Small groups are forming within Ministry in Motion. I’m returning to building multi-cultural ministries around America. I’m focused on coaching Spiritual Formation utilizing my education from Ashland Theological Seminary. God has gifted me to be multi-talented, and I’m now free to use all of my gifts.

My story is not over. Your story is not over either!

Watch out world. Gail Dudley is back!

What’s your comeback story?

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