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Learning to Lead

God told me this year would be different. I could feel it in my bones in January. He was clear: leadership would change and I’d need my gaze up to change with Him.

Even still, I couldn’t imagine what He’d do in this arena over the next 342 days.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

The way He moved so faithfully and kindly would ingrain these words from Paul into my heart for all time. I couldn’t imagine how God intended to move, but I knew it’d start with my own understanding of leading.

February brought the first instance of hearing a sermon that’s message was: 
Start where you are. 
Use what you have.
Do what you can.
Trust Jesus as the multiplier. 

This was the first of three times this message would be preached over me this year. In the ebb and flow of this ministry year, God knew I’d need to be reminded over and over it’s not my striving but my surrender He needs most. 

You see, the call to women’s ministry is one I still didn’t quite get. Why would God call up a woman who struggles with female friendships to lead the women of her church family? As such, I’ve been hesitant to claim myself as the women’s ministry leader. For several seasons I got away with the excuse I didn’t want to step on toes of teammates. We’d finally found our rhythm after a season of stumbling as a team. Surely God wouldn’t want me to throw a wrench in this gift of new rhythm. Right?

I’m thinking wrong. 

By October God stripped me of my team. Every last one of them. Might I add: they stepped aside for all the right reasons, too. He gave me no option in the matter. There I was. The last woman standing. And so it was: I was - am - the women’s ministry leader.

It took 9 months of God preparing my heart for month 10. The month He’d force me to claim what He’d called me to all along: leadership of women. I had dragged my feet and my obedience long enough. It was time to wholeheartedly embrace the opportunity He’s given me to lead.

My teammates worried I felt abandoned, but oddly enough I felt more seen by God than ever before. 

My mentor and my pastors spoke affirmation over this leadership leaving only one thing to do:

Start where I was.
Use what I had.
Do what I could.
Trust Jesus as the multiplier. 

And so, I did. 

What I could not have done in my own striving, He did in the midst of my surrender. He multiplied the laborers among our women. Several women to lead a November gathering. Another to lead December. And even more: a woman who’s ready to be all in with me among a leadership team. 

New fruit began to ripen despite the painful pruning. 

Then, December 9, God would strip me of the comfort of my pastor. The teacher who brought our family back into the local church. The pastor who baptized me a couple years later when we became members of the church. The leader who allowed a platform for me to lead among our women and encouraged me in this path. The pastor who always, always points me back to the feet of Jesus and the foundation of God’s Word.

In the midst of God’s faithfulness among leading women, it hadn’t crossed my mind that He’d prune back the good fruit of our pastor. And to be quite frank, I thought maybe it was time for me to throw in the towel following this change.

I began to doubt Him even though His hand of faithfulness was evident in the midst of changes. It took other saints on assignment - mentors, friends, church staff and our family pastor - to be reminded: the mission is too important to quit.

So, I’m staying in my lane. I’m pressing in for the sake of the Gospel. I’m leaning into the women of my church family and asking Him for the greater measure. I’m remembering the calling isn’t mine to quit anyway.

This year, He’s refined the pride of my heart that kept me from understanding why He’d choose me for women’s leadership. January Erin had no clue. By the grace of God, December Erin knows the answer. It’s been learned through hard-fought running in my lane with great humility.

Now I know. He chooses me because it’s not about my ability to feel successful in relationships with women, but rather my commitment to point women to their relationship with Him. It’s not about me at all and for that I’m so thankful.

With 23 days left in the year, I can hardly see the next step in front of me, but I can see His light and love all around in abundance.

Leadership has changed just as He said it would. As much as I push back against change, I’ve learned when things change, He and I change too. Changing as I yield to Him, growing in Him, that’s all I ever want in this life.

“If everything’s about to change then you better trust the One who’s changing it.” Annie F. Downs

So I join with Paul in proclaiming: Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations. Forever and ever. Amen.

A Note to Jackson: Your 7th Birthday

Keep being who God created you to be; don’t shy away from the way He created you. This was my prayer on the eve of your birthday last year. In your year of being 6, I prayed you’d lean into this wild, caring soul you are.

You see, even at age 6 I’ve seen this world press on your heart to conform, but baby this world is not our home and being fully who you are in Christ means you’re going to stand out a little.

Even still, this year I saw you fight for comfort in your own skin. You set goals, developed skills, sought out new friends and claimed the freedom to be fully you. As your mama, it’s a hard yet rewarding season to see you step into.

A Look at the Heart of Lent

This week, the Church turned its calendar to Lent. This is a season near to my heart and walk as a believer. If you’re unfamiliar with the Church calendar, it’s simply a way for believers to structure our seasons and offers us an opportunity to mark our days by the life of Christ.

Observing Lent isn’t a requirement commanded in scripture. Rather, it’s a rhythm developed by the early Church to realign the posture of our hearts as we prepare for Easter. Lent is a slow, still season of remembrance and repentance as we look to the life of Jesus leading up to His death and resurrection.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes with Holy Week, the final week before Easter Sunday. It’s a season spanning 40 days with Sundays serving as feast days (46 days total). Congregations observe Lent in various ways, but the overarching purpose of Lent is to return, repent and remember the life of Jesus Christ.

God beckons each of us to a quiet, reflective season of fasting and repentance. Every person will approach Lent differently just as congregations do. It’s a personal time in the walk of a believer that can’t be compared to one another.

Jesus' cross at Calvary made a way for us to return to the Father. So, we return in acknowledging our sin nature and remembering that we fall short of the glory of God but are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23)

As we return, we enter into the refining practice of repentance. We humbly bring our sin before God in confession and turn toward Him with our whole hearts (Joel 2:12). We repent and turn to Him not to dwell in despair, but so times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19-20). Lent is an invitation to sit in the tension of the weight of our sin and the depth of His grace.

There’s always much talk about giving up something during Lent. The practice of self-denial or fasting isn’t one we should take on flippantly. It's an opportunity to intentionally fast from things of the world to feast on the Word of God and work of Christ. Through prayer and supplication we should seek personal discernment for how God wants us to observe Lent.

Fasting and self-denial are practiced during this season to reflect and engage with Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. It’s not a time to outdo your brother or sister in Christ. It’s a personal conviction the Lord will be faithful to reveal if you ask Him. Fasting or self-denial is an opportunity to elevate Christ over self.

“For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ.” Robert Murray M'Cheyne

Through spiritual disciplines and quiet reflection God uses the season of Lent to renew our minds, transform our hearts and restore us to the joy of His salvation.

My pastor once challenged us to begin each day at Calvary. Can I renew this challenge to us during this season of Lent? As our feet hit the ground each morning may we be a people whose eyes are fixed on the Cross.

"After all it is meant to be the church's springtime, a time when, out of the darkness of sin's winter, a repentant, empowered people emerges." Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter

Wholehearted Finishings: February Goals

It took me a few seasons to embrace goal setting as a spiritual discipline. Through surrender, discernment and perseverance I've found a joyful rhythm in goal setting. Monthly goals, even annual goals, aren't about checking off a list rather it's about bridging the gap between professed Gospel values and practiced Gospel values.

Wholehearted Finishing is all about taking off the old self and putting on the new. Each month I breakdown my big-picture annual goals into actionable monthly, weekly and daily items. Little by little progress adds up. And in evaluating the little by little margin to see God's faithfulness is created. 

Good Reads: Church of the Small Things

Sometimes the biggest things God does start out in the smallest most ordinary acts of daily faithfulness. The things we do so often and with so little fanfare that we don’t even think about them anymore. We can spend so much time wondering and worrying if we’re fulfilling God’s primary will for our lives. Yet, ultimately God’s will isn’t about the things we achieve it’s about the people we become. Life is more about how He uses us to make a difference to the people who cross our paths even when we’re just going about our normal sometimes boring lives.