We received this a few days ago from one of the women in our Preacher Girl Community on Facebook (This group is specifically for female lead pastors. We’re hoping to help start additional PGCs soon.). Around the country, the five of us suddenly and simultaneously experienced a dust-storm and had to begin taking cover and wiping our eyes. Amazing how that happened. This is the type of friendship God has brought us through our cohort, and what we desire and vision to see happen for so many other women and folks in ministry. Thank you, Em!
Uppety French word which roughly translated into Southern means “Awe, Thanks y’all!”
Growing up Assemblies of God there was a popular phrase, which was prayed out over me in a lot of prayer lines (or tunnels depending on how many showed up that Sunday night). It seemed everyone loved to use the phrase, “Fill her up, Lord.” Now, I wasn’t sure if they were all praying that because they had run out of other things to say and were at a loss for how to pray for an awkwardly un-proportional pre-teen, but it always conjured up images of me as a version of my Mom’s brown Toyo Minivan sitting at the Hot Spot (gas station) in my hometown while Jesus would come out to “Fill ‘er up”. This always led to inappropriate prayer line (or tunnel) giggling.
However, as the new lead pastor of a Church plant I am starting to see that “Fill her up” prayer come to fruition in ways I never imagined as a Sally Hansen permed adolescent. Lately, I have found my thoughts filled with endless to-do lists, my time filled with a zillion chores, and quite surprisingly my bottom has started to fill because of the countless hours I now spend upon it. This has led me to the necessity of adding one more thing to my already full schedule…exercise. I wanted to get the biggest bang for my buck so I chose running…well jogging…slow jogging…walking with a sort of hop in the middle. Currently, after 5 weeks of couch to 5K I can almost “run” 8 consecutive minutes. I have yet to find a sticker for the minivan that says 1K, but I’ll keep looking.
This is what “running” looks like for me:
- I don’t have a lot of stamina. Some people love running because they can think clearly or pray. I too have clarity of focus; all I think about is how hard it is and how much longer I have to go. I also think a lot about air and how much I want it. I tried praying, but it always being a prayer about air and finishing. About 2 minutes in, I start getting all the thoughts about quitting because no one will care if I do, and those thoughts follow me and start screaming louder and louder throughout the duration of my “run”.
- I run alone. Partly because of how remote I am, and partly because I am extremely self-conscious.
- I am slow. I mean really slow. Like AARP-member-who-doesn’t-have-a-prayer-of-getting-into-the-Senior-Olympics-cause-let’s-face-it-those-guys-are-rock-stars slow.
When I am in the process of “running” I feel like I look like this:
After I finish though, I always feel like I look like this:
- Overwhelming. It’s the stickers. You know the 5K, 13.1, and 26.2 stickers? The magnitude of those races is overwhelming to me. I drove those distances in my car to see how far they were, and y’all it is REALLY far. And people do that with just their legs.
And what is interesting to me, is how my “running” so easily parallels the way I feel as a beginning pastor these days; low on stamina, plagued by thoughts of quitting, alone, slow, and self-conscious, and often overwhelmed by the magnitude of this race.
Enter The Preacher Girls.
When it comes to the ministry, these are the girls who know all the right stretches. They are the pretty pony-tail girls whose hair swishes back in forth like a metronome through their eight minute miles. They have the cute running shoes that match their outfits. When they sit down there is no sign of cottage cheese where their leg meets the chair because they aren’t just fit, they are toned. They are the girls who understand words like “nutrition” and “carbing” and know which power bars don’t taste like compressed sewer sludge. They are powerful, confident, and they always run up hills. Then after they finish they have time to post a photo of their not-purple faces to FB before they bike another 27 miles home. Sigh…
*Insert Homage Background Music Here*
Things I have learned about preacher girls that surprised me:
- They are not a clique. Preacher girls are inclusive. They haven’t met me, and yet they love me. For instance, I was shocked tonight to have one of them respond to a particularly traumatic moment in my life by calling me “Em”, not “Emily”, “Em”. That is not something a clique does. That is something my Kindergarten teacher (that I love did). That is something my husband does. This is something my best friend from highschool does. I have never met this sweet lady, but she “Em’d” me. I love her. I love her because she loves me like an “Em”. She could have run right by me, but she saw me. All these ladies seem to see me, and they include me as one of their own… and we haven’t even met yet. I belong to a group of people I have never met, even when I don’t belong with the people I have met. To these ladies I am “Em”.
- They are so supportive. These ladies have prayed, commiserated, encouraged, given advice, and invited me to learn and grow alongside them. They don’t just improve themselves, they improve everyone they are near. You cannot walk through their lives without coming out better on the other side. They don’t have to provide trainings, blogs, group pages, and meet-and-greets, but they do. Why? Because they are going to build up everyone they meet. They know how hard it is in this career and so they are going to do everything in their power not only to better themselves, but better others in this profession as well; and in turn they are supporting the generations that will follow.
- They don’t run alone. They link arms. They surround and cheer on their running mates. They check in on one another. They don’t isolate themselves, but rather gather all their individual lights into one bright beam of light to signal to all the lone runners where they are and where to come to join forces. It makes picking off the weak ones that much harder I’m sure.
- They are powerful, confident, and they always run up hills. They are smart, poised, well read, and gracious. I can’t help but feel sorry for whoever decides to go head to head with them in the dark alley ways of debate. They know their stuff. It’s almost mind-blowing how fast they can rattle off an apologetic or site a source. You need to know something, someone in this group has written a paper on it. And that’s another thing, they are always writing, which encourages me to write too. Pretty much most of what they do encourages me. I have even started running up hills.
- They love a challenge. Who says we can’t preach? No building, no congregation, no money…no problem. It may take longer, they may have to go places and do things that most of the other gender never has to do. They may face obstacles that other pastors never will, but quit…not in their vocabulary. They will put their heads together and share resources and it is A.Maz.Ing all that they accomplish. These girls are NOT overwhelmed by the magnitude of this race. It’s inspiring really.
So tonight when I was kicked down, I cried out and the Preacher Girls were right there. I had no air. I wanted to quit. And that’s when y’all showed up in force. I had a lot of really good friends that I have never physically met rush to help me up, brush me off, encourage me to keep running. So here I go, inspired yet again by a GREAT cloud of witnesses. I hope one day soon to meet you toned, savvy, sisters and thank you personally for being such a huge support and encouragement to me, but until then I want to say that because of y’all tonight the prayers of those old Church friends of mine from years gone by to “Fill her up, Lord” have been answered in you.
I really do love y’all! Thanks for everything you do.
Appalachian born and raised, Emily Houser now ministers to the mountain people of East Tennessee. Specifically, she works in the women’s jail there, and is currently church planting in Cocke (yes, you read that correctly) County, TN, where they still handle snakes in the Spirit-filled churches (not hers) and fight cockes (but not in church cause that’s just sacrilegious). She loves Jesus, her family, mowing, and Dolly Parton… in that order.