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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