Sunday, January 1, 2017

Taking Back Ground

4 minutes. 
Sold Out. 
In under 4 minutes. 

IF:Austin 2016.
And I got a ticket!

I was blown away! 

IF:Gathering has been such an integral piece of my story over the last four years and I while I had hosted IF:Local for three years, I wanted to attend the live gathering in Austin, TX. God granted me a ticket! I was stoked! I wasn't sure how I'd make it work, but I was so thankful to have at least gotten a ticket. That's the hardest part! 

So I started praying for the way to be prepared for me. 

A flight from Charleston to Austin isn't cheap...neither are hotel rooms for 3 nights. It wasn't looking very hopeful!

Cue February when my husband's 18-month position at our church came to an end, he still (after 6 months of looking) didn't have a full time position, the church decided they didn't want to extend his position at all, 70 % of our income was cut out of our budget over-night, and we were asked to live off of our (meager) savings...with two small children and a third on the way...

I determined there was no way I could go. 
I contacted IF:Gathering administration and asked that they give my ticket to the next person on the waiting list. 

I knew it was what I had to do. What was best for my family. 
But it was hard! That once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was snatched from me. I believe that Satan did everything he could to keep me from going. And he succeeded. 

But God...
I once again hosted an IF:Local (pretty spur-of-the-moment) and more than 40 women from several different churches from around the area attended. God blessed that gathering of women immensely! 

September of 2016 when tickets to IF:Austin 2017 were to go on sale, I decided to try again for a ticket. 

2 minutes. 
This year they sold out in 2 minutes.

And AGAIN I got a ticket!

So that once-in-a-lifetime thing that the Enemy tried to steal?
God gave it back. 
He is restoring what the enemy attempted to destroy. 
He has stolen much from our family in the last year, but we are taking back that ground in the coming days, months, years.  
We aren't exactly sure what that looks like, but it definitely encompasses taking full advantage of this opportunity in front of me.
Hubs and I are convinced that we aren't letting anything keep me from going. 

Yesterday I purchased my airline ticket! 
I'm working on plans for a place to stay. 

It is happening. 
I'm beyond thrilled and thankful! 
I have no idea what God wants to do in my heart while I am there, but its obvious that He wants me there. I have no doubt there will be obstacles (like leaving my 9-month old super-clingy-to-momma baby...) but I know I am to push through. I know I am supposed to be there. 

So, will you pray with me? Will you pray for my family while I am away  next month? Will you pray for flights to go as planned and obstacles to be minimal? 

This will be a spiritual battle in the heavenlies and the only way to fight it will be with the spiritual weapon of prayer that we have been given. 


If you'd like to help me get there, I am putting all proceeds from my Etsy shop this month toward the cost of the trip. 


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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Year of "Rest"


2016 was the first time I chose one word for the year. 
It wasn't even that I had planned to but that Holy Spirit continued to impress upon my heart the word "rest", so I decided that was something to pay attention to and focus on. 

Initially I focused on physical rest.

Clearing my calendar. 

Learning to say "no" to things that weren't essential. 

Doing less. 

That was hard. I'm a person who enjoys being productive. I enjoy being involved with community and yet I was feeling called to give up so much of that. Pouring into my own family (mainly my children) more than others became a primary focus. But still slowing down is hard. 

Then things began to shift. I've mentioned before that we have faced a very difficult year and in February when things started to unravel the focus of this "rest" shifted from only physical to deeply spiritual. God was asking me to rest in Him. To simply "be" and allow Him to fight my battles. Allow Him to provide for me. Allow Him to protect me. Allow His plan to unfold rather than plowing through with what I thought the plan was. 


I snapped this picture a couple of days ago. 
My tiny girl completely at rest in the arms of her Papa. 
It completely captures the way God wanted me to rest in Him. Though I did not always have full trust like a sleeping babe in the arms of her Papa, I did learn to be more still and to wait on Him. 

And He proved faithful...time and time again. 

This Christmas wasn't what we expected. 

Our son was hospitalized for several days during the month of December and we still don't fully have a diagnosis as to what exactly was and is wrong. But that's another opportunity to rest in God's goodness. 


Just six days before Christmas my mother-in-law passed away unexpectedly. 
Two weeks in a row was were hit with very hard things. 
It definitely made for a difficult Advent and Christmas season. 
But again, it was an opportunity to rest. 

Despite all the hardships we have walked through this year, our family feels hopeful. 

God is proving faithful over and over. He is answering prayers. He is leading us. 

He is even allowing us to dream again.
Dream of the things He might have for us in the coming years. 

Just talking through a lot of hard things this week my husband referenced my word "rest". He said, "Don't you feel like its morphed so much this year? And now looking back at the end, we can see how so many of the things that held us captive, held us back from really running hard after God, have all been LAID TO REST."

Wow! Yes!
Until that moment I hadn't seen it, but that is true! 

So many of the things that kept us comfortable and kept us from fully pursuing dreams and callings (even good things like a community of people we love) have been laid to rest. They have been removed from our lives. And yes, we grieved. Oh! How we grieved the lose of so many things this calendar year! Death of relationships. Death of the vision we thought we were pursuing. Death (physical death) of loved ones (we lost my mother-in-law and also our family dog that had been with us for 8 years). 

So hard. So many tears.

While we still grieve some of those losses, there is hope in the grief. 
We are free from some of those things that were holding us in captivity. They've been laid to "rest". 

The work God has done in our hearts this year was excruciatingly painful. 
But now...NOW...looking back and looking forward--
all we see is redemption. Hope. Vision. Excitement. 

With the turning of the calendar we sense a turning of the tide. 
We are excited for what God has for our family this year.
We've spent hours over the last few weeks dreaming of what it will look like. Who knows...maybe we really have no clue what God intends for us this year, but its fun to dream! After several years of not having the freedom to dream our own dreams, we are reveling in the joy of dreaming God's dreams for us. Living loved. Following HIM. 

Thank you Jesus for 2016. 
For the hard ships and the glimmers of joy. 
For being a year that was painful...
for birthing so much out of that pain.



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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

She Believed She Couldn't...

I'm sure you've seen this quote floating around Pinterest...
or heard someone say it...

It's kind of inspiring, right? 
Don't get me wrong, I love the strength that God gives women and we seem to live in a culture (even within the church) that lives this belief out. Its a "boot straps" mentality. 

I recently heard someone challenge this quote with another...a better...a more accurate one. 

"She believed she couldn't, so God did!"

Several months ago during a time when my husband and I were being questioned regarding our call to pastor and plant a church, I was asked, "So do you think you're ready to be a pastor's wife?" This question with it's tone came as a shock to me. A fellow Christ-follower was the one asking...and asking with a hint of "I don't think you're ready" inflection. What shocked me wasn't the question it self or the tone with which it was asked. What shocked me the belief system behind that question. The belief that I could actually "be ready" for something that huge. 

If I had answered yes, I would have proved that I indeed was not ready. I would simply have proved arrogance. 
How arrogant would it be for me to say, "I'm absolutely ready! I've got this under control" because that's basically saying, "I don't need God for any of this...it's all me. I got it"

My answer
"No. I'm not ready. And I'll never be ready. That's why I need Jesus! It isn't faith if I don't need Jesus...if I can do it all myself." 

Do I believe I'm ready for the challenges ahead? 
Do I think I've got it under control? 

Absolutely not. 
But that's the beauty of the kingdom of  God. 

We can't. He can. 

His power is made perfect in our weakness. 

It's His work...not mine. I'm only called to obey His call and He will fulfill the rest. 

I've thought many times about answering that same question again.
If I'm ever asked again, I'll say the same thing and maybe add a little. 

"If you're asking me if I'm ready to plaster a smile on my face each Sunday, make sure my children's hair is perfectly combed and they behave in an acceptable manner, respond 'I'm fine' when asked how I'm doing, live in fear of what other's expect or think of me as a 'pastor's wife' then NO...I'll never be ready. BUT, if you're asking me if I'm ready to stand beside my husband, walk alongside fellow believers who are hurting, empathize with the lonely, walk out my own life without fear of man, show my weakness because its how others come to see the power of the gospel in my life, imperfectly yet intentionally seek to raise babies who grow to adults who love Jesus, and give my heart to those I serve as we walk imperfectly together, sin against one another, and worship at the foot of the cross...then my answer is YES!" 

I'm not "ready" because I can perform. I'm not "ready" because I can say the right things or do the acceptable thing. I'm not "ready" because I've mastered the art of life in a fish bowl. 
I'm only "ready" when I can recognize my brokenness and take it to Jesus. I'm only "ready" when I see that out of my deepest pain can come my greatest joy. I'm only "ready" when I'm walking with Holy Spirit toward the freedom and healing He is leading me toward...surrendered to Him. 

You may not be called to a man who is in ministry. You may be called to be a mother. To be a friend. To be a writer. To be a teacher. To be a nurse. To be a loving neighbor. To be a barista. To be an encouragement to someone. To be a light of the gospel in your workplace. Whatever it is you are called to, you aren't ready. You aren't capable. But if you're a Jesus follower, you know the one who is. His power lives in you. Rest there. Rest in your inability and His ability. When you know you can't you are in exactly the right place for seeing Holy Spirit take over and move in ways you've never dreamed. 

Ladies of the church, may we not buy into the "boot straps, believe in yourself and you can conquer anything" mentality of the world...but may we embrace the truth that we are broken, weak, and in desperate need of Jesus daily. 

Let's stop standing on the stage of performance 

Let's lay at the foot of the cross...

because only then will we have power...
only then will we be "ready" for what God has called us to. 


*This post was birthed after listening to The God Centered Mom Podcast with Lara Casey. The quote was hers and it settled deep in my heart and caused all of these thoughts to spill out. I want to be sure to give credit where it is due, so please take a moment to listen to this episode if you resonate with these thoughts." 

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Monday, December 12, 2016

He Who Breaks the Silence

Psalm 40 is not typically what you think of when you think of Scripture that references Christmas or the Advent season. But God placed these verses in my path last week and they have ministered so much grace to my soul! 


Advent--the arrival of a notable person, thing or event.

The beginning of the Christian church calendar year,  advent is the season (including four Sundays) leading up to the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ--Christmas. 

In my mind Advent is a season of waiting. Waiting on the arrival of a very notable person--Jesus. 

While he has already come, taking time out each year to wait for the celebration of his birth is important. The anticipation. The inward longing. 

As a child I waited to open gifts. That was the "notable event"! 
As an adult, I'm seeing more and more the joy in simply savoring Jesus--THE Gift. 

This Advent season has held highs and lows, ups and downs. Many are the moments I have longed to just hear Holy Spirit or see Him move in situations that I cannot control. I have prayed and begged to see Him. To hear Him. To deeply feel and know His love. This has been a very different Advent season. It hasn't held the same things that the last several years have held. We have experienced a lot of physical sickness and much soul grief. Yet there is joy. There is joy in the promise that Jesus is coming. Joy in knowing that He goes before us and makes our steps secure. Joy in believing that He alone is our rock. 

"I waited patiently for the Lord..."

I can't guarantee that I have or am waiting patiently! That's the hard part! 

"He set my feet upon a rock making my steps secure"

How many times this season I have thought about the Jewish people. The ones who didn't hear God for 400 years. The ones who wondered where He was! The ones who longed to hear His voice or see His good works. 

And there my heart resonates...and is convicted. 

I feel that longing that I'm certain the Israelites felt. The thing is, they felt it for MUCH longer! 400 years is an immensely long season of waiting. The last few months have felt like an eternity for me, but I simply cannot imagine 400 years. No wonder hearts grew faint in the waiting for the Christ. No wonder there were doubters. I understand in a deeper way the doubts and fears in the waiting for the Rescuer! 

From this side of the manger, it should be easier to wait well. We have seen the life of Christ through the account of the Gospels and we have Holy Spirit with us continually. The Jewish people had neither of those things to rest on. But they clung to promises...promises like Psalm 40. They clung to stories of God's provision, protection, and faithfulness as told to them by their grandparents....great grandparents. 

Yet we are still humans with tendencies to doubt what we cannot see. Waiting requires great faith. Great trust in what we cannot fully see at the moment. 

All He asks is for us to wait on Him and He will do the rest. 

May we each experience the groaning and agony of the silent waiting season because only then can we experience the full joy of arrival of Jesus--the seeing, the hearing, the knowing...the end of the waiting. 

Our Rescuer has come. 
He breaks the silence.
He shines light in darkness.
He redeems. 
He fights.
He directs.
He protects.
He defends. 
He has won the war against humanity. 

The waiting may seem dark and silent...but the hope is that the Light is coming for you and for me. 






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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A single red leaf

Walking up the sidewalk to our house this morning was like any other morning after pre-school drop off. Typically I don't pay much attention to anything around me except for what is next on the list. Today was different. 
Right in front of our porch steps something caught my eye. A beautiful red leaf. With it being Fall and November and all, this is to be expected. Leaves are all over our yard and our sidewalk and my porch steps. I sweep them and step on them almost daily. But most of the leaves are brown and yellow, not a vibrant red like this one. 
It stood out. 
It was different.
It was beautiful.



As I walked past, I noticed it and it became a passing thought. I unlocked the door with a baby in my arms who was ready for a nap and heard a still, small voice say, 
"Go take a picture of the leaf". 
Weird, right? 
I almost didn't do it. 
Thankfully, I'm learning to do even the weird things that still, small voice is telling me to do. 
I captured a picture on my phone and went on to put the baby down for her morning nap. 

Driving through town later in the day thoughts started pouring through my mind regarding that single red leaf surrounded by leaves that all look different from it but similar to one another. 

Isn't it eye-catchingly beautiful when we see that single red leaf amidst a slew of yellow and brown ones? Sure, the yellow and brown are beautiful on their own but that spark of red just does something for the human eye and mind. 

God gently told my soul (as I was microwaving my coffee at 3:30pm...hello, mom life) that if I saw that single red leaf as beautiful in its diversity, then why do I try so hard to look like the others around me? 

Girls! It hit me so hard! We, as women...as women of the church, we strive so hard to have the same gifts, the same calling, the same jeans, the same loves, the same "picture-perfect" family as everyone around us...and that is so boring!

There have been seasons of my life when I felt like the only things I was allowed to be "gifted" in was cooking food (a service for others) or babysitting kids (nursery at church or offering services to another mom "in need"). Neither of those give me life. Neither of those things make me come alive! They drain me. But that's what everyone else's gifting looked like. That's what others told me "I should" be doing. So, I did. 

No longer. 

There is so much beauty in being that single red leaf. 
In pursuing the gifts God graced me with. Graced you with! 

If we all pursue the same things. If we all look the same. Like the leaves in my yard we become dead and unnoticeable. But, if we are a spark of life like that single red leaf...if we use the gifts that bring us life then how much more can we bring life to others...how much more can the work of Holy Spirit be noticed in our lives! 

"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."
1 Corinthians 12:4-7

Varieties of gifts, services, and activities. But all given for the common good (the sake of building the church! and sharing the gospel to an unredeemed world!) by the same Spirit! 

We so often look around and feel as if we are not enough. Everyone is better. We should be doing what "so-and-so" is doing because it gets her affirmation and applause and isn't that what we all want? 

Here's a new perspective--
God is already applauding you.
He is already affirming you. 

So go with him.
Don't follow man's applause and be those boring yellow leaves that are abundant simply because everyone wants to be the yellow leaf that's getting applause from men. 
Follow Holy Spirit.
Follow the life giver...the gift giver. 
Be that single red leaf in a swirl of yellow ones.
Be the woman living her calling, pursuing her gifts, and serving others the way God calls you to for the sake of His kingdom. 
Don't despise your gifts and strive for those you don't have. 
Lean into your giftedness and seek God's face as to how He wants you to use it in whatever season you are in. If you ask Him and earnestly listen, He will tell you. And when He does, run after it with everything you have. 

Our time on earth is too short to be a yellow leaf.
Our calling from Scripture is to use the variety of gifts God has given us 
NOT to long for the ones we don't have. 

God needs each of us women.
God needs each of our daughters.
He needs our daughters to see us using our gifts rather than despising them and speaking life into their gifts (even the ones we don't understand...or maybe even ones we don't like). 
Be that spark of life.
That eye-catchingly beautiful single red leaf. 



Saturday, November 5, 2016

Seeing God on the Road (Part 1)

“Life is not always perfect. Like a road, it has many bends, ups and down, but that’s its beauty.” 
--Amit Ray


I'm sure many of you are curious about the details of our journey over the last year. In my previous post, I made mention of it being difficult year--full of ups and down--and while I'd never want to walk that road again, I'm thankful we have because it has brought us to where we are now. 
Seeing God lead down a path we couldn't fully see was hard but beautiful, and I want to give you a glimpse of how He led us. We are broken people asking God to use us...He shines through our brokenness which is what I hope you see so that you will not say, "Look at the Ervins!" but so you will say "Look at how great our God is!" 

There are so many details that I cannot include them all, but I'll hit the highlights and give you the best glimpse of God in our story that I can. 

In early 2016 it became apparent that we were not going to be able to church plant in the way we had been envisioning. So we began to pray and just ask God to lead us wherever he wanted us--we didn't know if that would even be church planting/revitalizing and we were open to whatever He had for us. 

On June 10 we were just finished up rehearsal for my sister's wedding when my mom "happened" upon a gentleman and his two grandsons walking down the street in front of the wedding venue. In her typical fashion, my mom struck up conversation and came to find out that one of the boys was around the same age as G-man. She encouraged him to find G and play with him. 

I was sitting on the porch and up came a little boy who asked me if I had seen G. Though I didn't know him, I figured it was okay to point him in G's direction...Michael had taken him to our cottage for a few minutes. I glanced over a few moments later and found Michael talking to the grandfather of the boy (typical of him to strike up conversation with anyone in his path). I honestly thought nothing of it until later that night when Michael informed me that the grandfather was a local pastor. As they continued talking Michael found out that he had a vision to train young men and send them out to revitalize or plant churches in the Appalachian region. Seriously?!? A "chance" meeting that led to that discussion. We were both shocked.

The next day Michael ran into him again and they talked briefly but made plans to have lunch soon. 
That lunch meeting proved to be pivotal. As they met and Michael listened it was as if this man shared the same vision...as if he had been inside Michael's head and heart. He was speaking words Michael and I had spoken in our own private conversations regarding church planting. The thing that totally struck us was when he mentioned that he could really see our family planting a church in a town like Clarksburg/Bridgeport, WV. Maybe not significant to just anyone, but that was the first town we had really looked at when we first began dreaming of church planting several years prior. We had loved the area and just could never get away from it. For him to say that he could see us in that exact town was another confirmation that we needed to follow Holy Spirit's leading and continue walking this road. Michael made plans to preach at his church the following month to just see how God would lead. 

The day came for us to load up the car with our three littles and drive the hour commute for Michael to preach. It was a horrible morning. The spiritual warfare was evident in each of our hearts. The closer we got to the church the worse it got. Our children were acting out, throwing tantrums in the car. Maybe that doesn't sound like a spiritual battle to you, but in my life my enemy knows how to get to me and its usually through my children causing chaos. That pushes my buttons like nothing else. Michael prayed over our family while we were in the car and once we arrived at the exit we pulled off to pray again and talk with the kids. Praying had an enormous effect on the chaos and brought peace to the entire situation. We were well received by the people at this small, Appalachian church. Lunch afterwards with the pastor and his family proved to be another confirmation. 

The discussion over lunch was simple. Nothing earth shattering to the casual on-looker, but without having to bring up the topics and questions we had already discussed, the pastor brought up each one of our concerns and thoughts. He even spoke to wounds in my heart that had developed over the past year...he spoke truth to them.
He asked us to take two weeks to pray about whether this was God's leading. We agreed.

We got in the car to leave and looked at one another. 
We both knew we didn't need two weeks. 
This was God's leading. 


To be continued...




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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. 



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