“What if ‘taking a risk for God’ were less about jumping off cliffs and going and more about examining our motives and opening our eyes to how God might be wanting to use us right where we are, embracing the uncomfortable in our midst?”
I recently had an extremely big decision to make. For anyone that knows me, you know that I am one of the most indecisive people on the planet. For over a year or so, I have been attending Elevation Church in Charlotte almost every Saturday. From the very first time that I attended, I fell in love with the overwhelming presence of the Spirit and the beautiful hearts of the people. So, back in July, I started to look for apartments. One bedroom apartments in Charlotte for a poor college kid- crazy! So, I kind of quit looking. Over the course of the next few months, my best friend and I met two girls who both moved here for Elevation- one across the country, and the other- across the world! The very first night all of us met for the first time, we spent three hours in a parking lot praying and prophesying over each other. Needless to say, this was the beginning of something amazing. Truly a divine appointment.
So, as the months continued, the four of us had made plans to move in together. I was beyond ready! Then, as the move-in day got closer, I began to battle an extreme sense of fear and the worst anxiety I’ve ever experienced. I’ve never moved away from home so this was new to me. Through a lot of prayer and encouragement from the blessings that I call friends, I was okay. However, the week before I was supposed to move, I met with my current pastor and his wife, as well as my worship leader. Without attempting to sway my decision, they began to ask me questions about why I was going and how I was going to use my spiritual gifts there. Questions began to flood my mind and I knew that I needed time to process. I needed time with my Jesus- to seek His will for me. I needed His guidance. I immediately knew what I needed to do.
Ever since I was little girl, I’ve traveled with my family up to Montreat, NC. Being outside is one of my favorite places to be- surrounded by mountains. So, I took the day and went up there just to get away and process everything. So as I sat down on my favorite picnic table with my Bible and my journal, with the rush of the waterfall behind me. It was in this moment that I just emptied myself and sat in silence- letting Him speak.
As I was reading Ezekiel 10, a ladybug landed on my Bible. So, I looked up what ladybugs meant. Here’s what I found: “Ladybugs aid in pollination. They also control aphids, which attack plants and crops. Ladybugs congregate in the fall to hibernate.” Interesting, right? The cool thing was, this was the first day of Fall- September 22. As I sat there, watching this ladybug, I thought to myself, shouldn’t this ladybug be getting ready to hibernate? Shouldn’t this ladybug be with the others? Out of curiosity, I looked up the number of spots on the ladybug: 16. 16 is the number of love. I felt like God wanted me to know that regardless of whatever decision I made, He would love me and that I was put on this earth to love and be loved. I am a perfectionist and I do not like to make mistakes or fail. I know, unrealistic, right?
In my meeting with my pastor and his wife, he had told me that before they came to our church the word “harvest” had been prophesied over them by 2 or 3 different people. So, I looked up what the number 103 meant (the number of one of the Morganton exits.) It means “to harvest; gather.” Not a coincidence.
Then, I read 1 Peter 4:10-11: “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.” Immediately after my meeting with my pastor earlier that week, I had taken a spiritual gifts test: shepherding, evangelism, and mercy were my top gifts.
1 Samuel 16:23 talks about David and Saul and how whenever Saul was rejected as king because he had turned his back on God, he was tormented by a spirit. “And whenever the tormenting spirit from God troubled Saul, David would play the harp. Then Saul would feel better, and the tormenting spirit would go away.” When David used his gift, Saul was released from the grips of the spirit. Then, I began to remember some of the things that had been prophesied over me:
“God wants to war with your worship. He wants to use your voice like a hammer to beat down strongholds.”
“He wants to use your voice to charge the atmosphere with His presence.”
As I sat there, I was reminded of a sermon that I heard at Elevation called “Heavy Handed” by Larry Brey. I will never forget one of the things he said: “God puts in your hands what His heart is heavy for.” I began to think of the youth that God has given me the opportunity to mentor and the ways that He has stretched me and allowed me to lead worship. The song “Take Courage” by Lindy Conant replayed in my mind: “Silence will be broken with our lives, as we live out the love of Jesus Christ. What our eyes have seen our hearts cannot ignore. We’ll lead this generation to the glory of the Lord.”
Over the past year or so, the valley of dry bones has been a recurring theme. In a town that is flooded with religion and blinded by ritual, the Spirit can’t freely move. It’s heartbreaking. Frustrating even. On this day, when I read Ezekiel 37, verse 7 stood out to me and I read it as I hadn’t before. “As I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons.” The words “as I spoke” stood out to me because as he was being obedient, God produced the results.
The definition of a valley is “a low area of land between hills or mountains, typically with a river or stream flowing through it.” The Catawba River runs through Morganton, Rutherford College (my hometown!), Rhodhiss, Hickory, and Catawba into Lake Norman. The valley of dry bones will be flooded with the Spirit. I know that is God’s heart.
Towards the end of my trip, another ladybug landed on me. This time, it landed on my ear and it scared me, so I flung it on the table. I didn’t hurt it! As I watched this one, it kept trying to hide, but after much effort, I counted 18 spots- the number of bondage. I was curious to see what this ladybug did. However, after intently staring at it, it eventually disappeared. I know. I sound insane at this point but I could not find it! Jesus came to give us freedom- all of us- every nation. Every single soul. Bondage has to disappear when Jesus shows up.
Earlier this year, I went with my mentors and my best friend on a prayer journey for our county and the surrounding counties. We began to ask God to flood this place with His presence. In remembering these precious moments of warring for my hometown, I was reminded of the things that God showed me when the fires broke out at South Mountain and how even in devastation, He is still God and He can use everything. No pain is wasted. He can use the fire to refine and mold us into the epitome of all that He calls us to be.
So, I didn’t go to Charlotte. I used to view Charlotte as my “leap of faith” and it definitely would have been but, I also began to wonder, what if staying requires just as much faith? What if clinging to the promises of what God has spoken even when I don’t see the results is exactly where He wants me: in a constant state of faith. He is moving me into a new level of trust with Him.
As much as I love Elevation and all that God is doing there, I had to stay here. Morganton is my mission field. I’ve been reading a book called, “Watchman Prayer” by Dutch Sheets. In this book, Dutch says that, “If God wants to bring revival to America, and He does, then we can have revival. We, the Church, hold the keys. We are His body- His hands, feet, voice- and what He does, He’ll do through us. We’re Plan A and there is no Plan B… I want to state with boldness: If you are willing to obey God fully, walk in faith and never give up, you can have anything God wants you to have. And that absolutely includes revival in your local community.”
“You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.”
So far, this hasn’t been the easiest season of my life but, I serve a God who will never leave my side. He makes me brave.