Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Around the curve

You know when you're driving a curvy road and you can't see what's around the next turn? You can see the turn, but nothing beyond that? 

That is the best way to describe our life for the last year. 

Last September we said "No" to a very good opportunity to come alongside a church and help them grow/replant. If you've been around here anytime at all, you know that is our dream. Our calling. 
Saying no was hard. But the events that followed were even harder. 

Without going into too much detail, we faced a critique from leaders in our lives that was difficult to hear. After praying through their thoughts and recommendations as well as seeking counsel from mentors and people who know us well, we recognized that we disagreed with them. God was telling us to continue our pursuit of church planting/re-planting despite recommendations to do the opposite. It was extremely difficult to go against those in our lives whom we love, but we also knew that we could not forsake God's calling in exchange for man's wisdom. 

Throughout the process we were questioned. Our maturity was questioned. Our calling was questioned. Our gifts and skill sets were questioned. The health of our marriage was questioned. Our friendships were compromised. 

But through everything, one thing remained the same...

Our faithful Father. 
He continued to lead us around that curve. 
We could see nothing in front of us. Those in our immediate line of sight were telling us to turn around. But God kept pressing us forward

Throughout this process Holy Spirit has continually brought me to meditate on Exodus 14:14 

"The Lord will fight for you
You need only to be silent."

How hard that has been! To keep silent when I want to defend. But, how beautiful it has been to see Him defend us. When others try to defame by going to friends and trying to spin our story in a different light, He has stepped in and stopped it. He has been fighting battles that we were not aware were waging until after the fact. Which causes my heart to rejoice and affirm that we are indeed not fighting against flesh and blood. That truth allows me to forgive the humans that have hurt us, because I know that they are not the real enemy. The real enemy is Satan, and he will use whoever he can to wound us. He will cause division and cause man to war against man so that the gospel is hindered. I refuse to allow that. My only enemy is Satan. I heard someone a few months ago say, "What Satan can separate He can dominate". Truth. This is all taking a little rabbit trail, but sisters let's join together against the real enemy and stop warring against our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

All of that to say, we have made our way around that big, long, hard turn in the road. Where there was fog we now have clarity. God has lead us to join with the Southern Baptist Convention in West Virginia to plant/re-plant a church in our region within the next year. Currently we are working with another SBC church doing an "internship" and hope to launch into a new work within a year. It has all been such a crazy process. Feelings of excitement, pain, loneliness, anticipation, and rest have accompanied us on our journey. We are beyond excited to see what God has for us as we pursue this dream that he has placed in us. This calling that He has lead us in. There are tons of things to still figure out, but we know that He will continue this work that he started and all of our questions (How? Where? When?) will be answered in time as we follow Him. 

We're around the curve and moving forward, onward, and upward. 


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Evie's Birth Story

I want to introduce you all to the newest member of the Ervin clan...

Miss Evie G 

She's now three months old so the introduction is a little late, but I couldn't let another moment go by without officially documenting her arrival here in this little space! You know, based on other posts, that I adore birth stories...but my own babies' birth stories are always my favorite. They have each been so different and Miss Evie did not disappoint! 

Actually, it started a little earlier than planned. Back in March Evie (or my body...not sure which) decided that 31 weeks we a good time to deliver a baby which landed us in the hospital for about a week while they stopped labor (twice) and made sure we were okay to head home. Then after that, things went perfectly and she stayed growing inside of me for another 7 weeks. It was definitely a scary experience, and maybe one day I'll write it out here for you, but let's keep the focus of this post on her actual arrival. 

Many of you read G-man's birth story of how we barely made it to the hospital before he was born. I was worried this time that we wouldn't make it. We actually prayed that God would allow us to make it before it became another stressful situation, and while I really wanted another birth center birth (like E's birth) I wasn't so set on it that I would risk birthing a baby in the car on the 30 minute drive there. So we were totally open to a hospital birth this time around. 

Friday evening, May 6, we went to Chick Fil A for dinner to celebrate a cousin's birthday. I was grumpy (ask Hubs or my mom...they'll tell you). I simply wasn't in the mood to be around screaming kids (two of them my own) and trying to coerce them to sit and eat chicken nuggets while they desperately just wanted to play in the play area. Braxton-Hicks contractions had become a norm for me with this pregnancy. Every. Evening. They weren't painful, but I could feel the tightening of my belly and it was simply not comfortable. All of that combined with being "done" with pregnancy and hormones...made for a perfect storm for a grumpy momma. 

After dinner my mom took the kids for a little while so Hubs and I had a quiet ride home where we talked about how we were SO ready to meet this little girl. Kids came home and went to bed while I sat on the porch with my mom and her roommate and just relaxed. Mom commented on how hard my belly looked...and she was right! Those Braxton-Hicks were still coming and going. It was totally normal. As I went in to go to bed, I didn't think much of my continuing BH contractions because honestly every night when I went to bed I had them. But then I woke up to go to the bathroom around midnight and was still feeling them. I woke Michael up and told him that it wasn't normal for me to continue to feel them, but I did not want to be one of those women who went to the hospital in "false labor"...but I didn't want another almost-unattended-unplanned-homebirth! We decided to call the midwife on call. She knew my story and basically told me to come get checked. She'd rather send me home than me birth a baby at home alone. I agreed! 

We got to the hospital (a couple miles down the road) around 1:00am on Saturday. They knew I was coming so they were ready for me and she checked my cervix. She had checked me on Wednesday at my office visit and I was 3cm 80% effaced. At this point, I was 4cm and 90% effaced so she decided to monitor me for an hour or two to see what happened. Some friends who were out late (and who knew what was happening) brought Michael much needed coffee. Both of us had only slept about an hour. Around 3:00am I was dilated to 5cm, so they admitted me. We were definitely having a baby. 

Our doula came once they admitted me and around 6:00am I was at 7cm. Progressing pretty quickly but really feeling no pain. I know. Its crazy. You hate me. But seriously. I was shocked too. With E I felt serious intense pain during transition so I was ready to have it hit me at 8cm. It had been so easy up until that point and thinking of the pain coming made me sick to my stomach! I was scared and unsure I could do it...again. At 8cm I still only felt mild cramp like contractions. Not painful but definitely could feel the muscles tense up. The nurses were astounded that I was still walking the halls at 8cm! But, despite the walking I stalled at 8cm. Maybe my body was tired but I wanted to birth this girl before the midwives switched shifts. So she broke my water and we kept walking and doing other squats and such to get baby girl in the best position. 

Let's be honest...my doula and Hubs were bored to tears. Hubs actually fell asleep multiple times because we were just sitting around waiting basically. There wasn't much for the doula to do because I wasn't in as much pain as I expected and I didn't really need any "support" at the time. It made the time really drag by.

Several hours later I was still at 8cm. The midwife I really wanted to deliver had left and the new one started talking Pitocin. I had heard horrible things about it so I declined at first. Finally after another hour at 8cm I decided I would do it. I honestly expected the worst. Really hard contractions that were unbearable (after going to 8cm with hardly feeling much at all). I braced myself...but it never came. The contractions picked up, yes, but they were only slightly more intense. Definitely still tolerable. within an hour or two I was at 10cm and fully effaced. Ready to push! 

That's when the pain hit. 
And it hit hard. 

Hubs said I pushed for 12 minutes but it felt like an eternity.

Then she was born. 

My beautiful Evangeline. 
All 6 pounds and 2 ounces of her.

I cried and just keep saying "she's beautiful". 
I don't know if it was the pre-term labor and all that stress around her possibly being born too early and what that would mean for her/us or what it was. She is the only baby I have delivered and cried upon seeing. It was precious. 

It was the day before Mother's Day...and adding another little one to our family was the perfect way to celebrate! 

Looking back to G-man's birth...I think it was similar. I was in active labor but didn't feel anything until it was time to push and I was still at home. Thankfully this time around, God gave me that gut instinct to go ahead and go get checked because even though I wasn't in pain I knew something was different with (what I thought were) the BH contractions. 

**These lovely newborn photos were taken by our friend Anna**

*Our amazing and patient doula and hospital photographer was our friend Andrea*


Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Frugal Valentine

Alright...I understand that the word "frugal" doesn't typically equal "romantic". But stick with me hear! If you are like me, you want to celebrate Valentine's day with your spouse (or significant other) but maybe your budget is a little tight. How do you swing a decent Valentine celebration with little extra cash when things like a simple bouquet of flowers go up in price significantly for that day alone? 

Valentine Mantle decor from our little apartment 4 years ago.

The last few Valentine's days we have skipping the fancy restaurants and expensive meals, flowers, and gifts and opted for something a little simpler. 


Yes. We ate at a fast food restaurant on Valentine's day. But there was good reason! 
Qdoba has a special promotion on Valentine's day--

If you kiss at the register you get a buy one get one free meal!

So we have basically gotten our meals on Valentine's day the last few years for half price! How great is that? Granted...it isn't the most romantic location, or the most exquisite food. But its a date that isn't expensive. 

It looks like Qdoba is offering this promotion again this Valentine's day! If you have a local Qdoba you should look into whether or not they are going to have this promotion going on. 

We typically follow up our dinner with a movie, dessert, or wandering the mall with coffee for a little while. I prefer something where we can talk because with two small children at home, talking uninterruptedly is a rarity! 

I'd love to hear how you celebrate a more frugal Valentine's day. 
You can leave your ideas in the comments! 


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

February Currently

February is now in full swing! The ground hog didn't see his shadow, so we are hoping for an early Spring! Today I'm linking up with Gold and Bloom to share my February "Currently"! This is always a fun post to think through, write and share with you! This month I'm sharing what I am -sending-eating-dreaming-smelling-hearting. 

sending... emojis. it seems like almost every time I send a text message I am tempted to put a little smiling emoji in it. I've been trying not to do it too often because...is that annoying for there to be a smiley with every text? yes. I think so. 

eating... less sugary treats. more fruit. blueberries in particular are my favorite right now although they are a bit more expensive than in summer months. I splurge a little every few weeks and pick up a pint for myself. 

dreaming... about Spring. This winter has been nice--warmer with one major snow. Just how I like it. Now we can move on to warmer weather and sunshine (and baby's due date)!

smelling... my morning coffee. candles (I've been lighting more around the house lately in attempt to bring a little cheer to the dreariness of winter). fretting falling rain.

hearting... Sally Clarkson's new book The Life Giving Home that I got on my doorstep yesterday. Spotify playlist Hymns for Hipsters (check it out). 

I pray you are enjoying this first week of February and looking forward to what God has in store for you and your family this month! Don't forget...its LEAP YEAR! 
Happy February!


Monday, February 1, 2016

What I Learned in January

How is January over already? Does anyone feel like the ball just dropped and the confetti has barely been cleaned up? Yep. That's me. But amazingly enough, it is over and we are all moving on into February!

One of my favorite pictures of my littles. He wanted to dance with
his big sister. 

Before I move on, I like to take time to reflect on what I have learned over the last month. Not that I can really take any credit for. It is God who has been graciously opening my eyes, showing me areas where I need to grow and blind spots I didn't know I had.  

1. REST has been so good. You'll recall that "REST" is my word for 2016 and to be honest, I didn't know how desperately I needed rest until I took some time for it. I'm not talking about sleeping all the time or being lazy (although I have given myself more grace to nap during this season) but simply creating some white space in my schedule. I've said no to things that would drain me or leave me depleted with only leftovers to give my family. I have said yes to things that fill me up and allow me to have more to give my family. I have taken more lavender baths in the last month than in the year. We have majorly slowed down as a family. We aren't running all over town on errands or just for fun. We are staying home more in the evenings and simply being together. It has been so good. My soul is so much more full. I have actually enjoyed cooking dinner on more than one occasion (typically its a rush and I don't look forward to it at all). The snow storm last week really pushed us into rest because we were snowed in for 2 days. It was glorious. Yes...by the end we all had some cabin fever, but overall we just loved a slower pace. 
Only one month in and rest has filled my soul more than I could have realized. I cannot imagine what the year will be like if I am able to keep rest in my sights and continue on this path of creating space.

2. Our baby now has a title. We debated for a while over whether or not to find out the gender of baby #3. With #1 we waited until birth to find out and it was so much fun! With #2 some friends threw us a gender reveal party just a couple months before the birth and finding out with our family and friends was also extremely fun! So with #3 we were torn. But, we decided to do something different. We found out and then we revealed to our family and friends in differing ways at different times. I'm pretty sure some of them probably still don't know. We didn't want a big announcement on social media (just yet). We have taken our time telling everyone in unique little ways. We mailed most of our family and some friends a "scratch off" ticket. Some friends found out a little early because we were staying with them while our furnace was being replaced on the day we found out--so we colored some sparkling grape juice and poured it as a celebration. 
Are you curious yet? 
Baby #3 (who will arrive in May) has the title of....

little sister. 

My E-girl has been praying for a little sister, so we are all excited, but she is ecstatic! 

3. Slow mornings are my favorite. I just really enjoy a good, slow morning. Savoring the coffee in my cup, reading, journaling, NOT having to get up and get out the door early. Just relaxing and enjoying. Most days that doesn't happen. Most days are pretty full...getting E to pre-school, heading to doctor's appointments, making sure the pantry is stocked and picking up other household essentials. But those days when I sleep past my alarm, soak up the morning sun streaming through the windows, slowly sip the coffee from my mug and maybe even make pancakes for my family (rather than cereal or oatmeal), those are mornings that make me feel at peace. Those are the mornings I look forward to! 

4. There are several new dinner options that my family really enjoys! In the last month, I have found a couple new recipes that my family really seems to enjoy. This makes me happy. It is so easy to get into a rut when it comes to meal planning and I am always happy to find a new recipe (or two) that my family will eat and enjoy! One of them is Italian Chicken and Quinoa Soup. It is extremely easy and is made in the crock pot! My kids aren't huge soup fans, but when given a sandwich or something to dip in it, they love it. San Fransisco Style Pork Chops served with mashed potatoes and green beans--HIT! Like, out-of-the-park-home-run-HIT! Hubs really loves it and the kids gobble it up! A friend made them for us and I got the recipe from her. I have made the recipe at least 2-3 times since she gave it to me because I haven't met a person who doesn't like it! 

5. Creating beautiful spaces bring me joy. I think I have known this for a while, but I am realizing its depth. I have wrestled with finding what God has created me to do, doing it, and serving others with it. While I sometimes enjoy cooking, cooking is not life-giving to me. Yes. I will serve others with food when that is necessary, but it doesn't get my heart beating rapidly. Caring for children (whether nursery at church, babysitting for friends, etc) is not life-giving to me. But both of those things are BIG ways women typically serve within a church context. That a music--I love music as well but in this season I don't have the time to invest in my piano playing to be able to do it well and truly serve others with it. So I wrestled with how God wired me. How did he create me to serve the body? What makes me come alive when I'm doing it? And how can I use it to serve others?
Since reading The Nester's book, I have seen just how much creating beautiful, peaceful spaces in my home has given life to me as well as my family and friends who come to spend time here. But I never saw it as ministry...until today. Yes. Today.

I am hosting an IF:Local gathering this weekend at our church. Its the third year we have done one, but we are actually decorating and trying to create a place of comfort and peace that allows the women coming to feel comfortable and safe....kind of like sitting in a friend's living room with a warm cup of coffee. So I have been dreaming and scheming decorating ideas for a little more than a week. Today I shopped my house and gathered some of my favorite things to decorate with. We are keeping decorating simple--candles, twinkle lights, lanterns, items from nature--but beautiful. While I was gathering my candles and lanterns and dreaming of where they would go in the welcome center of the church, it hit me...this is what I am made to do. AND I am loving and serving others by doing it! God has given me a way to use my creativity to bring beauty, joy, comfort to other ladies this weekend. When I finally saw it as a service and not just a hobby, it filled my soul! Now, I don't know what using this gift for the church looks like outside of this weekend, but I know I am supposed to because God created that love for creating beauty within me. 

6. A cup of coffee might just make me cry. I'm going to be really honest here for a minute (**note--if you don't like raw honesty you can skip this last one**). Mondays are usually hard for me, but today was beyond hard. Before we had even had lunch the day felt heavier than I could bare. Too many things going on "behind the scenes" and trials that my family is walking through. I know so much of it is a spiritual battle leading up to IF:Local this weekend. There's not a doubt in my mind that my soul's enemy is trying to shake me, distract me, and discourage me this week as I seek to gather women, pray, worship, and have our hearts challenged and freed by the work of Jesus. I felt overwhelmed. I cried half the morning (maybe some pregnancy hormones at work here too). Then I got a text from one of my "IF girls" (that's how I refer to the girls who have been with me in the IF:gathering vision since the first one) sent a text

"my shirt (along with a goodie) is on your porch. Purple table..."

I was expecting her to drop off a shirt for this weekend and I think my mind totally dismissed the "along with a goodie" part because when I opened the door I was only expected a bag with her shirt in it. Instead, there was also a little snack and cup of coffee. Yep. I definitely cried. Who knew something so simple would be so meaningful on a day like today! God knew. He prompted her. She listened. And I am so thankful. Friends like these girls are one of God's greatest answers to prayer in my life. I prayed for heart knit together like this...knowing one another deeply...walking through life with one another in the mundane little things not just the exciting or hard big things. This was one of those mundane little things in life that God used to show me he has heard my prayers for women like this in my life. He has answered. He is gracious.

I'm sure there are many more things I have learned over the last month. And I pray I continue learning lessons in my life both big and small. I hope God never stops showing me my need and his grace.

Check out all the other "What I learned" posts over at Chatting at the Sky


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Sharing Stories, Hope & Encouragement

I hope you're ready to use your imagination with me a little this morning!
Ready? Alright!

Put yourself in these circumstances...
You're a young woman
who just gave birth to her first born (a daughter) 3 months ago.

That's a nice thought, right?

Right as your daughter turns 3 months old you are diagnosed with cancer
You're given 15 months to live with typical treatment


There is a more risky treatment available that could extend your life a few years but it is just that...risky and expensive.

What would you do?

If you're like me, you'd probably cry, get angry, cry more, hold your baby extra tightly, snuggle up with your husband who is also scared and hurting. You'd weigh your options and begin to worry about everything that goes with each option (side effects, risks, finances, etc).

This is not just a scenario to be played out in our minds, but this is the real-life story of Heath Von St. James. Just three months after her daughter was born, she was diagnosed with mesothelioma-- a form of lung cancer caused (most often) by asbestos exposure. When Heather was a little girl, she would wear her father's work jacket around when he returned home each evening not knowing that the asbestos particles she was inhaling would eventually lead to cancer...a very aggressive form of cancer.

Like all of us, Heather and her husband were scared, but they faced this entire ordeal with courage and determination. Upon hearing the 15 month prognosis and the other more risky option, they immediately decided to go for the second option. Wouldn't you? What mother can imagine dying before her baby is 2 years old? It was really their only hope. But what mother can imagine having her lung totally removed? That's scary, but not too scary when it comes to saving your life.

In the face of having this intensive procedure, Heather's sister coined the phrase "Lung Leavin' Day" to help make the scary day seem a little less scary. Heather's family gathered to write their fears on plates and smash them into a fire  as a symbolic way of letting their fears go.

On February 2, 2006 Heather Von St. James had the procedure done to remove the cancerous lung.

Now, 10 years later she is still celebrating with her family! She is a survivor of what looked like a very hopeless diagnosis. She has seen her daughter grow, spent more time with her husband and family, and grown courageous in more ways than one. She is now sharing her story to raise awareness for mesothelioma research and treatment.

This February 2 will mark 10 years since the original "Lung Leavin' Day". Heather and her family will gather again to celebrate, write out their fears, and burn them. Ten years is a remarkable milestone when the original prognosis was 15 months! Heather's story has encouraged many others facing a battle for their lives. Take some time to read a little more about Heather's journey and learn about mesothelioma caused by asbestos.

You can check out more of Heather's story here 

or Lung Leavin' Day here!

Then consider your story. It might not seem quite as "heroic" or "courageous" but just like Heather, you have a story. A story that could encourage someone. A story that could give hope. A story that God is writing for you. It may seem simple. Your life may have been relatively easy...or maybe it was extraordinarily hard. Whatever your story, God wants to use it to bring hope to others.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 says
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all or affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too."

Each one of our stories has hard elements as well as exciting, fun, and beautiful chapters. God wants to work through each of our stories to share His love, grace, comfort and freedom with those around us. So, what's your story?

Be courageous. Share.
It just might encourage someone. 


Monday, January 11, 2016

One Little Word

I might be a little bit behind on the "one little word" trend. Typically I spend an afternoon with Hubs planning goals for the year, but this year that just didn't happen. I kept stressing over it in my head, but with sickness over Christmas and other things to keep up with we just never got a chance to get away and go to a quiet spot to think, reflect, and plan. 

So I decided that this year I would keep things a little simpler.
Instead of creating a laundry list of goals that our family would like to see accomplished, I would choose one word for myself to set a precedent for the year. 

As I began praying about it the word that God kept showing me was "rest". 

I tried (believe me I tried) to find a different word. A popular blogger had already chosen that word and I didn't want to seem like I was mimicking her. Also, rest is hard. That's a hard word to define your year. I think it is hard for me because I am such a do-er. I find a lot of my identity in what I am able to get done or how productive I am able to be.  

But God would not stop putting that word before me each morning. It was the only word that sounded right. The only one I could think of. 

So I surrendered to it and finally wrote it out in my journal. 

2016 will be a year of rest. 

Now, I'm not sure what that looks like. 
But I know it doesn't just mean physical rest. It means spiritual rest as well. 
Resting in God and his sovereignty when I don't understand what is going on. And let me tell you...I have had to put that into practice so much earlier in the year than I anticipated! The ball had hardly dropped in Times Square before life started spinning out of control. 

I am trying to make time for physical rest as well...and being pregnant that is so helpful! My energy has been lacking this entire pregnancy and since I have given myself permission to rest each day, I don't feel as guilty for that afternoon nap. 

"Rest" also means saying "no" to things I might otherwise have said "yes" to. 

Jen Hatmaker really helped me with this post she put on Instagram a week or so ago:

jenhatmakerAs you move into 2016 hoping for a saner schedule that prioritizes your actual life and keeps you focused on the things that matter the most, let me share the decision-making filter my agent Curtis always gives me: "If it's not a HELL YES, then it's a no." So that medium yes, that I-feel-like-should yes, that guilty yes, that coerced yes, that I-actually-hate-this-thing yes, that I-guess-so yes, that who-else-will-do-it yes, that careless yes, that default yes, that resentful yes, that I-probably-shouldn't-but-struggle-with-boundaries yes? 
NO. Nope. 
No thank you. I am unable to commit to that this year. Thank you so much for asking, but any new yes I give right now means a no to my family and sanity. I am so flattered you asked and count on my prayers, but I am at my maximum bandwidth right now. I appreciate your work so much, but I've already committed my time and energy this year. I've loved being a part of this, but I am no longer able to continue. We are aggressively focused on x, y, and z this year, so as a family we've agreed on no new commitments. This is what I can give but won't be able to do more right now. 
Now, the things that make your heart race, your blood pump, the fire in your belly burn, your gifts to leap to life, and keep your family and home healthy and strong...the hell yeses? ALL IN, BABY.

So when people I love have put opportunities before me to serve that take my energy from my family and  that don't make my gifts leap to life...I've said "no". Not always what I want to say because I want to serve, I want to be helpful, I want to love well. But saying "no" isn't unloving.

Holly Gerth puts it this way in her book You're Loved No Matter What" 
"Real friends love your 'no' as much as they love your 'yes'. Mary and Martha received a 'no' when they wanted Jesus to come right away.But that 'no' led to the resurrection of Lazarus--a miracle beyond what they could have imagined when they first asked Jesus to come. I wonder if Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and Jesus embraced and wept again when they were reunited. But this time the tears would not have been from sorrow. Instead they would be the kind we shed when we see how God can transform even a painful 'no' into a glorious 'YES".

Her words have deeply encouraged me and strengthened my "no" because it is a purposeful "no". 

"Rest" will be a struggle for this productivity seeker this year. But it will be a good struggle. A sanctifying struggle that I pray teaches me more about myself and my God and allows me to focus on the things that really bring life to my soul rather than all the things I feel like I should be doing that actually drain me. 

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