The first time they met, my dad felt it necessary to inform my soon-to-be husband that “Abigail is a complex woman.”
At first, I hated that he said this… Moi? Complex? Hardly.
Complex felt complicated and I shunned the idea of being a complicated woman.
But, in the twenty years since this, I have come to understand what my dad was shedding light on.
Take a recipe for example. A complicated recipe is one that’s difficult to follow or figure out. A complex recipe on the other hand is one with depth… layers of steps, flavors, and ingredients that create a dish not easily replicated or discerned at first taste.
I’ve learned to love complexity. I’ve learned to love being a “complex woman.”
Following Jesus where Jesus goes breeds complexity.
It’s messy. It’s risky. It causes me to do things, feel things, and think things that add layers of depth to my life.
And, as long as I’ve known Jesus, I’ve sought to be in this space.
Other than eat eggplant, there’s not much I wouldn’t do if it’s something I think Jesus would do.
A little bit about how I got here…
In 1997 it seemed like a good idea to spend seven months serving and studying oversees. Though I was only 19-years-old, I was already very well-traveled and craved experiencing the world on my own. I began my journey serving in India alongside Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity.
In Calcutta, I learned to be alone with God. I learned fierce desperation. I learned how to empty myself of myself; shaking and shaking out every last drop.
From India, I traveled to Israel where I would study for a semester.
In Jerusalem, I learned need for others. I learned that I had a false self and a true self that spent too much time together. I learned vulnerability.
On a rooftop on Mt. Zion I said “hello” to my husband for the first time. Little did I know that one hello would become a lifetime of beautiful hello’s. A year later, we were married.
In 2000 I graduated from Azusa Pacific University with a B.A. in Global Studies. Immediately following I became the director of a grassroots, non-profit organization called Our Neighborhood Homework House.
At the Homework House I learned to suffer with… truly suffer. I learned my weaknesses. I learned my strengths. But, best of all, I learned my capacity to love– ruthlessly resilient, bloody knuckles, sleepless nights kind of love. It was this crazy, black-hole of love for other people’s kids that God confirmed to my husband and I that our family would grow someday through adoption.
But, first, Grace. In 2006, I labored all day for a little girl who would come to show me that God’s imagination was so much bigger and better than mine.
In 2008, I resigned from the Homework House and took on a title that said something about me that had been true since my conversion at 5-years-old. And there was something about this honest alignment of the external and internal that set me free.
I became a pastor. You can read a little bit more about this journey here, Becoming a Pastor Made a Woman Out of Me and here, A Day in the Life of a Female Pastor. As the Lead Pastor of Vineyard Church Glendora, I have come to understand what it means to heal and be healed in the same breath.
In 2009, I experienced a different kind of labor… It was a different kind of pushing and pain to get to my Adia. It involved interviews and papers to sign, social workers and court dates, but the end joy was just as sweet. Out of something terribly broken, God brought new life.
Then, in 2013, a son. An unexpected gift that became another opportunity to join a healing plan. Sitting alone with him in a government office, swaddled tight and sleeping peacefully, I gazed at him and said, “We’re going to be okay. We can do this.” I was terrified of the journey ahead and I think somewhere in his unconscious mind he was too. But, by God’s grace, we are okay. We did it. And I am grateful to get to love him forever.
In 2014, I went back to school to earn my Master of Arts in Global Leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary. Learning and listening deeply are the fuel I run on.
And then, the most fantastic, crazy surprise of all… a fourth child in my womb at 40 years old. Sweet Hope. None of us knew it, but we all needed her.
I love my family. I love the church. I love everything God does day-in and day-out to communicate relentless love to us. And I love the invitation God gives to join in on the fun. It’s all so messy and gritty.
I love the complexity of my life.
My life quote: “His friendship will not fail me, nor His counsel, nor His love. In his strength I will dare and dare and dare until I die.” -Joan of Arc