Dina Martinez: [00:00:00] It’s, like, this cause and effect where it’s, like, as you make space and you make the time to ask those questions, it will naturally influence you towards flourishing. Sometimes we’re asking the wrong question because you’re asking the wrong question you don’t. You end up not finding something. So, if you change the dynamic of your question-asking and what you’re seeking out, if you change the framework to become more collective, you will find it.
Chealsia Smedley: [00:00:24] Welcome to the Created For Podcast, a space where our everyday lives intersect with God’s redemptive story,
Michele Davis: [00:00:30] Where together we learn from diverse voices, explore our unique callings and pursue communal flourishing.
Chealsia Smedley: [00:00:30] We’re your hosts, Chealsia Smedley.
Michele Davis: [00:00:39] And Michele Davis.
Chealsia Smedley: [00:00:42] What patterns are getting in the way of rest and healing for you? Have you thought about what would change if you started with belonging? What about thinking about the WE and flourishing together in community? These are some of the questions that my friend Kathia and I talked to Dina Martinez about, how God has been leading her to wrestle through some of these things, to push against faulty narratives around rest and work, and find practical ways to pursue communal flourishing.
Hi, Dina. I’m so glad that you are here on the Created For podcast. I really enjoyed the things that you shared in your Created For talk and hearing where you’re at in life right now, how God’s been working in you and through you. So, you are heading into sabbatical, but before that, you served as the national director for Destino Movement with Cru. And then, can you tell me a little bit more about yourself, your background? How’s life been for you the past few years?
Dina Martinez: [00:01:52] Yeah, I grew up in LA, in South Central, shout out, but I went to school at UC Santa Barbara, which was a culture shock for me. My parents are from El Salvador, so I’m a first generation here. And I think that is very important because it’s why I’m bilingual. Like, I think why I have a lot of resiliency skills just from being in my household and my neighborhood and stuff like that. I used to be on staff for 13 years with Destino, a ministry that upholds Latino values. My role specifically, so I was, like, a national director for the community role. So, one of the things that we had been figuring out was that with Latino students, it’s hard to, like, just not include their families. It needs to be a holistic experience. So, we decided to make a community chair to be able to include not just, like, students in the process but what does it look like to include community, like family members and church leaders along the way. And then also just in the last couple of years, becoming more aware of just some of the trauma and, like, healing work that I was feeling like I needed. So, I did ministry in Santa Barbara for a couple of years and in San Diego. And then when I moved from San Diego back into LA, which I told myself I would never move to LA because I was like, ‘Oh, LA is like so hard and hard to live there.’ And now I’m like, I don’t know if I would leave LA, but doing ministry in LA really, like, was highlighting to me just some of the hard realities of living in rough neighborhoods and some of the traumas that I hadn’t processed. One of my mentors was like, ‘Oh, you’re going to get triggered because you’re from the inner city.’ So, she did give me the warning and then told me I should start counseling beforehand. I was like, no, I don’t think so. I think I’m going to be fine. And then, yeah, realizing that I wasn’t, that I needed to go to therapy probably. So, then I started doing that, and I started seeing just how God was working through that. And I think that was the point of curiosity for me of, like, what does it look like for me to do holistic ministry and what does it look like for good news to be good news, not just in like Santa Barbara, in upper-middle-class white community, but what does it look like to experience goodness and God’s good news even in, like, hard neighborhoods and like a hard background?
Kathia Avilez: [00:04:36] So you’re about to go on a six-month sabbatical. So many Christians can easily get burnt out in ministry. What led to your burnout, and how did you make the brave choice to step away?
Dina Martinez: [00:04:47] I like how you asked that question. You’re like, ‘What led you to burnout?’ And it’s acknowledging the problem. You’re right. San Diego, for me, was one of my hardest ministry times. I think it’s almost, like, I blur out some things out because I feel like it was so intense. I would say I was probably feeling a lot of burnout already at 2016, which, if you think about it, it’s been like years. My team dynamics were hard overall, but I also had, like, a lot of personal stuff, a lot of family deaths that year. My dad had been sick. He’s not. He’s fine now. He’s healthy. But I say that, but it was really hard because I had to contend with a lot of things that year. I probably should have stepped out a while back, but I’m thankful I didn’t because I think I realized that a lot of people, they feel like, okay, I learned sabbatical, I learned about this thing, and then like, you want to do a hard pause, and life is not going to be able, like, when you’ve been on the go for most, at least for me, most of my life, I’ve been working since I was in high school, 17, 18, and then I grew up in a very high-stress environment. I’ve been reflecting a lot on that, that when you have high crisis environment, you end up like really good at a really young age on like problem-solving and how to stay action focused and, like, oriented towards work and towards doing something and, like, as a way to get through life.
Dina Martinez: [00:06:11] But eventually, it’s going to catch up to you. What ends up happening? The comeback, once everything has settled down, is like I started getting way more anxiety and more restless. Like there wasn’t a lot of, like, in my spirit rest because I was, like, what’s the next thing and what’s the next thing going to happen? So, I have physical time off, but I didn’t know how to rest, or what does that mean for me to slow down? One of the things I had to figure out was like, okay, how do I get my heart to settle? And the work, whether we’d like to or not, even in ministry work, is still fast-paced. And so, for somebody like me, I can get easily caught up in my cycle of, like, working to, like, avoid the restlessness piece. But to answer your question, when I started going to therapy is when I started realizing, Oh, there’s patterns for my soul rest and, like, actual patterns for rest, not just like physically but emotionally, spiritually. When I start implementing them, I think that’s where I started feeling more rest, but then I started making more space, if that makes sense, now that I have a full break. Yes, I have a full physical six months, but I’m glad that I did all this other work ahead of time because I feel like just to even unwind, to come to a different pattern of rest and rhythms and health. I.
Chealsia Smedley: [00:07:31] Yeah. And I think, too, like, I appreciate you sharing all of that because I think a lot of people can relate to it. Like our culture tells us to go, and then we end up in ministry. Like I think a lot of times you feel like, okay, I need to serve in the church, and I need to do this thing and that other thing. And you just continue to add on so many things, even in, like, spiritual realms, it’s the same message of like, okay, go serve more, do more. This kind of feeling of, yeah, things are piling up for a long time, but something needs to give so that we can actually realize, like, okay, I need to step back, I need to, like, this isn’t healthy. I can’t continue to live like this.
Dina Martinez: [00:08:11] And also, like, immigrant culture. So, my parents migrated from El Salvador here during a civil war. Yeah, I don’t think I’ve seen a day where my dad hasn’t worked, or my mom hasn’t worked. I think the only time they will not work is if they’re sick. It was really, like, a shocker for them for me to take six months off. It’s just so unheard of in the culture. Latinos in general. Like, one of the things that we pride ourselves in is we work hard. So, I think that in and of itself, too, for a lot of BIPOC folk and immigrant culture can be very much like you just never taught, you never taught about rest. And it makes sense because when there’s a lot of, like, systemic inequity, even just to survive or to catch up, you need to, like, sacrifice something. And that ends up being, like, healthy rhythms and rest.
Chealsia Smedley: [00:09:01] Yeah. This reminds me a little bit about in your Created For talk, when you talk about the story of David and Goliath and how David was trying to put on armor that didn’t fit him. Can you tell me a little bit more about that story, how God used that in your life?
Dina Martinez: [00:09:17] It goes back to that pattern of always being high alert and always like willing to, like, take action in this season. For me, not being a person or a warrior, like, who has all this armor to, like, work through ministry or to get through life. I feel like God is helping me to not work from that point. I felt very thankful because I was like, ‘Oh, I think God’s calling me to be myself, just like David was himself,’ like he was a shepherd, you know what I mean? The brother has not one day in the army, and here he is trying to fight this dude, like this giant. He’s, like, getting ready to face what nobody in their little army wants to face. And they tried to, like, give him all this stuff. And none of that is helping him. Like, he’s just kind of trust God, and whatever thing he’s good at, which was a slingshot at that point, you know what I mean? And to somebody, it’s very ridiculous. It’s like but also how God totally comes through for him in that process. And so, I think a lot of times we just want to, like, be the warrior everybody else is wanting to be, you know what I mean? And I feel like, God’s like, that’s not even who you are, and whoever you are, God’s going to help you with however way you came and whatever skill you have. And I think being okay with that, like, God didn’t shame him into it. God didn’t try to shape him into something, like, he just used whatever he was good at. And I think a lot of times I keep trying to fight that, and it’s like, okay, wait, like, who are you? How did God made you out to be? What is your background, and how do you live based on what those things are?
Dina Martinez: [00:10:58] So I think that was one thing. And then the other piece for me has been like, it’s okay not to have armor all the time to fight things, or you don’t always have to be fighting things, like God will still work and will still beat your giants, quote-unquote, without you needing to be a warrior all the time. You know what I mean? And so, I think I’ve been sitting in that reality and, like, being okay with what does it look like for me to be myself and not so worried about what people are wanting me to be or the type of leader people want me to be focused more on? Like, okay, who is God telling me I am, and how do I trust that and live by that? And also, what I found with God is that God loves me so much that I feel like God would move anything to be like, if you want joy and peace, how do I give that to you? That’s what you want. I want to give that to you. And God will move anything, really, when we trust Him because that’s what His Spirit is wanting for you. To the fruits of the Spirit in and of itself are peace, joy, love. And I think God’s the type of God that loves us a lot. And so, He’s willing to move things for us to be able to live our full selves and experience still like victory, joy, peace. Yeah.
Kathia Avilez: [00:12:25] I feel like we could talk all day. So, feel a little scattered brain, and I’m like, I want to ask this, and then I want to ask this. And I think being Mexican American myself, I relate to you in so many ways, but I also have so much to learn from you and your own experience being Salvadorian. You talk about being a collective person a lot. How did God use community in your life to make the decision to step away and to go on a six-month sabbatical?
Dina Martinez: [00:12:55] Yes, I think about the we a lot more than I think about the I. And I think for the longest in Western society, they want you to think about the I and the hyper-individualized forms of healing and stuff like that. And in the last two years, that has been the biggest thing for me has been like, okay, I’m all about healing for myself, and I need to heal. And like I told you guys in this whole chat right here has been that I went to therapy, and I got a lot of individual healing if you will. But the one thing that I was realizing that there’s not a lot out there was collective healing, and what does it look like to do some of this work together? Okay. And I’m so together that as I got healing that makes my family ask questions. I’m not, like, intentionally being like, you know what? How do I make this more collective? That’s not how it happens. It happens because I’m already connected and collective. So, by default, if I’m doing something, people are going to experience it. And I get told that a lot. I had one friend tell me I became more healthy after I started hanging out with you. I’m not telling her she needs to eat salads every day, but you know, that’s what you’re going to get if you come to my house. And so, I think that’s similar vibes. As I started doing therapy, guess what? Like 20 other people started doing therapy along the way.
Dina Martinez: [00:14:24] As I started thinking about self-care, self-care was implemented in all my staff teams that I was a part of, and everybody has to partake in it because if I’m going to do this, everybody’s doing this. That’s how I naturally am, okay? But in the process of like, okay, how do we do this with everybody, I’m realizing, Oh, there’s not, like, a framework for this, or there’s not, like, a lot of like, stuff out there. So then, now here I am digging, trying to find what is like the BIPOC collective experience for racial trauma, for abuse and how are we talking about it in our communities. And that’s where it, like, clicked that we don’t as often as I would want us to. So, I mean, I went on these deep dives on, like, how did the Native American and, like, how did, like, Asians do? How do, like, Black folk do it? How do Latinos do it? Deep dives. And I find that we do it. It’s just not like the way Western hyper-individualized therapy and trauma healing would like it to be. Then we also don’t document as much as white people will write like a full curriculum for their healing. It’s just not the way that we are wired. And I think for me, I’m realizing, oh, I want to learn how to do this for all of us, not just for myself.
Chealsia Smedley: Yeah Dina, I’m glad you brought that up. What do you feel like is one thing you’ve been able to learn in this process?
So, one of the things, as I was reading this, like the second or third time, I read that book because I love it so much. It’s called Decolonizing Wealth. But one of the things that they talk about in that book is the framework of a colonizer, which is like conquer, control, and exploit, versus a decolonized thinking is more like connect, relate, and belong. It’s a cycle, but, like, the purpose behind a decolonized way of thinking would be, like, for the sake of belonging to each other. We want to connect, and we want to understand each other, relate and then belong that we are for each other. That’s the collective thinking is like, versus individual thinking would be like I want to control something and then exploit it even in the most unconscious way. When you are just thinking about yourself, you are exploiting something to the maximum benefit for yourself because you never think about the other. And so, a lot of time, I’m finding that Western society and like Western medicine, it can be very much about how do I exploit something, like get to the maximum benefit. And that’s what liberation would look like. You just live life in all the pleasures of the world to yourself but never think about the other. I can talk about how that pattern fits everywhere. I see it like literally entrenched in everything, not just rest, work, and rest. That pattern is in both of those things, work and rest. And so, I think what I’m realizing is I want to figure out what liberation could look like, or rest would look like, even unto belonging to each other.
Dina Martinez: [00:17:32] So that’s where the collectivism comes from. And I think because we live in the US, I guess the reality would be like some people are going to be like they’re looking for freedom but unto themselves. And so, who are the people that are like wanting to do it together and for the sake of belonging and having community? And let me go kick it with those people. How do I do that for us, and how do we do collective work together? That’s how I’m like, okay, now I can explain it to people and to folk, and now I can be like, okay, this is what I’m trying to do, and this is what I’m trying to live. And I have a feeling that a lot of Latinos are already like, yes, that’s exactly, that’s the difference. That’s the difference between white, hyper-individualized Western society and, like a lot of BIPOC folk, they are trying to figure out what collectivism could look like, if that makes sense, how that gets lived out, though I’m realizing that it looks different for Native Americans. It looks different for Black people; it looks different for Latinos and Asian people. Like, it’s just going to look different. And so, I think we’re on the same track. We just need to figure out what does that look like for you and what does that look like for you? That’s what I’m learning.
Chealsia Smedley: [00:18:42] Yeah. I think that’s so powerful, just this shift of perspective, because we don’t realize how we’ve been conditioned to only think about ourselves, to not think about the other. And then what we really want, like, think what everybody wants is to belong, right? Like when we’re honest with ourselves.
Dina Martinez: [00:19:02] And I think that’s what attracts a lot of people to Christianity. To be honest, or to figure out who God is because we look and we long for a sense of belonging. I think our own little selfish ways makes us be like, okay, I want to belong, but I also want me. Like, that’s like, I choose me a lot. And I think that has been some of the mix between what I see in the US, particularly. Somehow, we have been sold the idea that if I’m thinking about the collective, I have to sacrifice myself, or my own well-being is not included in that. And the reality is, if everybody is thinking about the other, somebody is going to take care of you too. Like, eventually, you’ll get there.
Chealsia Smedley: [00:19:56] Have you had relationships where you feel like you’ve been able to do that?
Dina Martinez: [00:20:01] I think the best place I’ve seen that is with my sisters. So, it’s four of us all together. We’re all a year apart. We’ve been able to thrive together because we’ve been stuck together for so long. But we always think about each other. I’m in Oakland right now, taking care of my sister’s kids so she can travel. I mean, but she will take care of me too. She, you know what I mean? If I call my sister at any point in time and say, hey, I don’t have any money, any housing, anything. They’re not going to let me starve to death. They’re not going to judge me for it, either. Like we could have done some crazy things, and I’m going to still call my sister first because they just have way more compassion for me. They’re coming to care for me. And I think that’s the pattern where I’ve seen the collectivism and the being for each other work in the sense of belonging. But I know in my heart of hearts that no matter what, I’m always going to belong to my little pack here, like my little sister pack. And so, in that type of belonging, that’s rare. I realize that is rare. I think that’s how I probably survived a lot of life. But also, it’s rare. But I think because I’ve seen how that works and what my family dynamic with my sisters looks like, I think that’s what people want in life. And now, I’m not saying it’s perfect because, trust me, there’s always drama. But I think it has given me a glimpse of what belonging could look like.
Kathia Avilez: [00:21:33] Now you’re talking about your sisters reminds me of my sister. She’s, you know her, she’s in ministry, too, and I keep coming back to you talking about what it looks like to belong to one another. And I’m thinking about how a six-month sabbatical is really unheard of in the BIPOC space. You just don’t take a break, and then you’re talking about your family, and it almost feels like you’re carrying them with you into this six-month sabbatical. It makes me think about my sister and how in my family, really, and how when I like make the decisions that I do, when I experience healing, they get to be a part of it too.
Dina Martinez: [00:22:15] And I think that is the gospel in a lot of ways. I think of the passage of being one with God. It’s like that you belong to Him, and He belongs to you. That’s what that passage in John 17 is saying, where He’s talking about that Jesus, they would be one as like the Father and him are one. Jesus is saying I belong to Father, and the Father belongs back to me, and I want you to belong to me so that you could belong to the Father. And then the Father could belong to you. It’s like this whole little circle of belonging to each other that He wants you to partake in, and He wants you to understand it’s not just about, like, I get to go to heaven, and I won’t go to hell. Like, that’s not what it is. It’s saying that me and the Creator could be tight and that we would be able to be part of each other’s lives forever. And then He, like, tells you, okay, I’m sending the Holy Spirit so that you don’t forget that you belong. To a lot of the imagery is like hearing God’s voice. My sheep know, and they follow me. Like, if you go through all of that book and John, that’s the whole imagery is like a sense of belonging to God, and the end of John that if you want to have a relationship with God, you can. That’s what you know at the end. How that looks like and the what ifs and the details and how am I going to interact with God, like, that we can figure that out. He’s just saying, here’s your pack. That’s what He wants you to know. So that whole purpose behind that book is so you know that you have an origin, that you have a Creator, and the whole pattern of belonging, you see it throughout Scripture, and it starts with you knowing that Jesus wants to be, be one with you, like, belong to you, if that makes sense.
Kathia Avilez: [00:24:04] I’m like, wow, that that is, like, that was not taught in like, like, the American church. And that is a part of collective healing, like the work that you’re doing, the work that you get to do. Really, it’s a privilege because our parents just survived. They really did the best that they could. And yeah, I don’t; it just feels really significant.
Dina Martinez: [00:24:24] And one thing I will say too, as I hear you say that, that is one of the reasons why I feel like I gave myself permission, or God gave me permission, if you will, to take six months off is because if life in your ministry is about belonging, God and you’re one with God, like God’s gonna love you even if you work or you don’t work. You realize that, right? Like God’s going to still bless you. You can flourish, and even work patterns should be done unto rest and unto the glory of God. And so, I think it just shifted the whole perspective. I belong to God either way. No matter what I do, I belong to God, and Him and I are tight. Whether I am a national director or not, does that make sense? So, God will love me if I rewrite a whole leadership structure for Destino, as much as He loves me, if I do, like, literally nothing, that’s crazy. That’s crazy talk when you think about it, like you still are His pack, and you can be doing nothing.
Dina Martinez: [00:25:25] Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t be doing nothing, but also, it’s okay to not. Like, I feel like half the people doing ministry need to think about that because we get so scared or like the restlessness or like go into crisis mode because I’m not doing enough. We hear that intellectually and we practically still don’t do it. Like people have told me for years, you need to like rest. Years. And it just clicked. I have to understand that I belong to God first and that this is my pack to be able to even get to the point of, like, okay, I can chill. It’s kind of like when you get home, and you’re like, okay, the best naps are the ones where I take at home because I’m like, everybody’s here, I can go to sleep now. That’s kind of how I end up functioning in life. I’m like, oh, the best naps are at my mama’s house because, you know, I have my own house. They’re probably like, everybody’s in this house who I care about, and I go to sleep now. Yeah.
Chealsia Smedley: [00:26:18] That like feeling of being taken care of and safe. Like I can rest because I know that everyone I love is around me. And they got it. They’re going to hold it down.
Dina Martinez: [00:26:29] Yeah. Chealsia, you really also talk about, like, the safety piece, especially a lot of the violence that a lot of BIPOC folks have experienced. Like, we tend to be hyper-vigilant people because, yeah, if you don’t, if you’re not aware, you’re not going to be able to, like, see what’s coming to you next. Like that feeling? When you have, when you feel safe enough to chill, that is a gift. That’s a gift to be able to have a place that feels safe enough for you to be able to let down your guard for a second without feeling like somebody is going to gaslight you. Without feeling like somebody’s going to, like, say something that’s going to trigger you. Like it’s hard to find those spaces. And so, when you can find that you like, yes, you’re going to rest really well.
Kathia Avilez: [00:27:12] Yeah.
Chealsia Smedley: [00:27:12] It’s been so good to hear from you and to even think about the ways that in my own life, I’m like, dang, that narrative of I’m not doing enough is really seeping in. I need to remember that I belong. So, when we think about this idea of, like, okay, we want to pursue communal flourishing and participate in God’s redemption of our communities. What is one thing that you would want our listeners to take away at the end of this?
Dina Martinez: [00:27:39] Okay, I haven’t figured it out yet, so I think we collectively need to figure it out. I just want to say that out loud. I’m still literally learning. I promise you. I was just in a cohort thing that I was doing, and one of the speakers is talking. She’s Native American, and she was telling us about, like, how they process through the cycles of healing and stuff like that. But anyways, as they were doing that, I’m like, ooh, how do I apply this to myself so I can figure out how to do healing for myself? And then I was like, wait a minute, this isn’t by myself. That’s why I can’t even do this circle thing by myself because it’s not about me. Like I need the people around me to be able to do this processing circle together. And I started laughing at myself because I was like, dang, we’re so in the water. I don’t even realize how I’m in the water. But I think to answer your question after all of that story is, it will not happen by ourselves. We actually need each other to, like, have the conversation of what flourishing could look like together. Obviously, this is for listeners across the nation, and I won’t be able to, like, sit every day with people in the East Coast per se, like, practically speaking. But practically speaking, I can say with my people here locally and ask myself, who are my people? Practically speaking. Like my sisters, my family, the Latino community in LA, my friends in LA, my friends like have in my circle that I talk to, and how do we continue the conversation and hold ourselves accountable to flourishing together? If that makes sense? How do I hold my people accountable for my own flourishing and then for their flourishing? How do we live that out? Like asking, how do you know you belong to me, and I belong to you? Like that’s what I want to, like, sit and have a conversation with my sisters about. And we do. I started asking my friends and my sisters, what have you been dreaming about these days lately? Like, what does goodness look like for you? And yeah, how have you seen God, like, bring joy to you or bring goodness to you? What are your goals? What do you want to see? And I think as I started asking the questions, I find that it fuels my own dreaming. It fuels my own like, oh, if God could, like, yeah, that’s actually doable. Or if God could, like, I think if you’re praying for God to do that, I want to pray with you. I want to come alongside with you in that and then telling them my dream or what I would want or, and then I find a lot of collective enjoyment, like, hey, let’s all hang out. Let’s all, like, I think that’s the other piece. How do we also make space for ourselves and for with each other as we start processing? That becomes healing too. I find that, yeah, like the Latino women that I’m surrounded with, most of them, if not all of them, they like naturally create those spaces. It’s like this cause and effect where it’s like as you make space and you make the time to ask those questions, it will naturally influence you towards flourishing. Sometimes we’re asking the wrong question because you’re asking the wrong question you don’t, you end up not finding something. So, if you change the dynamic of your question-asking and what you’re seeking out, can you change the framework to become more collective? You will find it because the one thing that destroys, like, community and flourishing is like feeling like that you’re by yourself all the time. It is not always seen, but there is people wanting to find flourishing, or there is people that care about community and belonging. So that’s what I would tell folk would be like start asking different kinds of questions that are more collective and look for the people that are collective, and you will find them.
Kathia Avilez: [00:31:31] I’ve said it before, we could talk all day. I’m so excited that you’re taking the six-month sabbatical. I think even that feels like you’re paving a way, bringing, like, your family into it, and that people are helping you take this six months it feels like collective healing, and it gives me hope.
Chealsia Smedley: [00:31:55] So, who are the people in your life that you can begin to ask these questions to? To pursue communal flourishing. Questions like how do you know you belong to me and how do I know I belong to you? What is dreaming look like, and how is God brought goodness into your life? If you don’t have people around you that come to mind, Dina shared that they’re out there. So instead of simply looking for healing and freedom for yourself, what would change if you started looking for the people who want to pursue that together? At Created For, we’re with you as together we pursue communal flourishing.
Michele Davis: [00:32:35] For more ways to continue journeying with us, hit subscribe in your favorite podcast app. Check out the show notes for any links we referenced, and then go to cru.org/createdfor for a guided reflection based on this episode.