By Linda S. Cerro
In the Spring of last year, Coast Hills offered women a Bible study on the life of Jonah by popular Bible teacher, Priscilla Shirer entitled, “Navigating a Life Interrupted”. On the first day of this study, Gina McLane found her own life interrupted when instead of attending the study as she had planned, she found herself racing to Arizona as her beloved stepfather had been admitted to the hospital with cancer.
Prior to this interruption, Gina had overcome a failed first marriage, many years of being a single mom to her two boys, and dealing with her dysfunctional birth family. She found success in direct sales and has built a comfortable life with her husband Jerry, in a close knit local neighborhood. She recalls having a relationship with God from an early age, seeking out and finding His comforting presence amidst a chaotic home life. She came to Coast Hills when the campus opened in Aliso Viejo in 1993.
By her own admission, she attended church for the benefit of her boys but never pursued connection within the community. A short while later at a neighbor’s invitation, Gina attended her first Bible study in years, “Breaking Free” by teacher Beth Moore. At the same time, Pastor Ken began a study on the book of Ruth at weekend services. Powerful truths beyond Gina’s basic faith that God existed and loved her began a work inside her…something new was stirring in Gina and she sensed that “God was up to something big!”
We fast-forward to this Spring, as Gina flew down the freeway to her stepfather’s bedside at the hospital in Arizona. Angry and worried tears flowed between her prayers for strength, healing and direction. God had indeed interrupted her life; this season would turn out to be her last months with not only her stepfather, but her real father as well.
Like Jonah, Gina very reluctantly accepted this interruption. She was angry about being called to become a caretaker for a man who lived so far away when others in her family simply weren’t taking or couldn’t be trusted with the responsibility. She was angry that, up to this point, she wasn’t even aware that her stepfather was so sick. Gina spent a number of angry drives to Arizona before accepting what she felt God was asking her to do all along: set her life aside and move her stepfather into her house. There, he could receive better care and she could closely monitor it.
Jonah’s life was interrupted when God asked him to go to Nineveh to warn the ancient city that they would be overthrown due to their wicked ways. Gina’s Nineveh came to her in the person of her stepfather. God not only wanted her to bless him, but He also sought to reveal His deep love for Gina, through His church, and by displaying His sufficiency for her in every situation.
The exhausting days of full-time care-giving, trying to offer encouragement in such a tough situation, the stress of dealing with multiple doctors, emergency trips to the hospital, and trying to find the right recipe of medications and healthy eating to prolong the inevitable were difficult enough. She also found out that her real father’s cancer had spread, sending him to a hospital all the way in Oklahoma. As this story unfolded, Gina lost both fathers in a span of 10 days.
How did Gina make it through? Even full of anger and resentment at the circumstances she found herself in, she came to the same conclusion as Jonah … go with God and just trust Him! Seeking out prayer and support from her small group, neighbors, Coast Hills pastoral staff, attending weekend worship services, Bible study, listening to Christian music and what the Bible refers to as the “work of the Holy Spirit”, Gina has found her anger melting away. Instead, she feels grateful to have shared precious time with her stepfather and to have been able to make his last months more comfortable in her loving care. She’s grateful to have shared a timely phone call with her real father in Oklahoma before he died. She’s also experienced a change in her priorities. Material things, the “stuff”, doesn’t matter now like it did before. She’s more patient and passionate about living close to God and serving His people.
She’s recently felt a divine “push” to serve and connect more at Coast Hills. She stepped up to be one of the coordinators for Family Promise, a local outreach to the homeless community. She and husband Jerry continue to be an active part of a close-knit D-Group in their home. She’s also found attending a grief support group to be helpful. And a recent puppy purchase has brought lots of laughter back into her home.
Even though she is still grieving the loss of these two important men in her life and processing the intensity of what she experienced, the presence of the Lord and the truths of the Bible have strengthened her with even greater intensity. Like never before in her life, Gina knows who is in charge … it’s not her, and she’s okay with that. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.”
—Proverbs 3:5 & 6