These two men are two of the most important men in the life of my husband. They both called him out on it.
Rev. James 'Buster' Yelton is Stephen's uncle. The brother of his Mom. Buster has been in the ministry most of his life, and he's an amazing preacher, now retired, but still showing Gods love throughout his life. A few years ago, Stephen and I, along with our then only three kids went to hear Buster's last sermon in his church before his retirement. He said in that sermon that he believed there were some in the church who were called to preach, then he delivered his message. Two preachers came out of that congregation. One is his current pastor. The other, he knew.. was his nephew.
At that point I had not heard the stories of Stephen preaching to his family when he was younger- carrying around his Bible and saying that he was going to grow up to proclaim Gods word. I did not know that he loved to baptize his sister.. repetitively (I believe there was an ulterior motive there!) I didn't even know where he stood in regards to God, and frankly, he didn't know where I did either. We didn't talk about God, we just avoided the subject as we lived our lives the way that we wanted to live them. We had started going back to church occasionally after we got married and Sister was born, but it was nothing with much dedication. I hadn't been a regular church attendee or a member since I was eleven, and I imagined it would just always be like that. I didn't know why Stephen would go to church for awhile, then back away and head in the other direction. Why did it matter- why did it bother him so? In 2008 I listened to a pastor online, and God spoke to me through his message and turned my heart around. I longed for that closeness with God and that feeling of a church family. However.. every time my husband got close, he would run in the opposite direction.
One day I was photographing a wedding and Stephen was with me. Rev. Jody Almond was the minister who was marrying the couple. I had met Jody at another wedding earlier in the year, so we spoke a bit, but after the wedding was over and the photos were done, I had to run home to get back to my kids, and Stephen stayed behind a bit to talk to Jody. He called me when he was heading home to tell me that he had talked to him a lot, and that we were going to his church that Sunday. I was nervous. I had never been to a church that wasn't one that my Mom went too, or one that his Mom went too.. and this was a lot of people who I knew some of, but didn't know anyone very well.
Stephen and Jody instantly became friends, and Stephen began to confide in him like I had never seen him confide before. He had never had a friend who was also a Godly council. It didn't take long for Jody to see the calling in Stephen that he had known was there his entire life, but had spent most of his life running from.. and that was his call to preach. We knew within just a few weeks that we had found our home church, so we joined immediately. After a few months of being dedicated members, Stephen realized that his run was over.. it was time for him to either submit to his calling, or never serve the way that God created him to serve. He stood before the church and nervously proclaimed his calling, and our entire church knelt to pray with us.
The first time I heard him preach- I knew that was it. I knew that didn't come from Stephen.. I knew it wasn't something he put together on his own. I knew, in my heart, that this was it. My husband was a preacher.. we were called to serve God. It was so scary at first.. but as I began to pray about it, I realized, what an honor! What an unbelievable honor for God to call my husband to be his man. To speak on his behalf! It all made sense. All of our relationship, I had known that Stephen was blessed with a unique gift of speaking, of reading and knowing people.. a sense of compassion for those who felt unworthy. An infallible forgiving heart. He was created to do this..
This past Sunday was a very significant day in our ministry and our lives. Buster, along with Jody, ordained Stephen into the ministry. Both of them touched our hearts in the things that they said, the kind words, the encouragement. Buster charged both of us into the ministry, and they anointed and prayed over my husband and his ministry... I could feel God all over the place, and it was certainly an amazing day that I will not soon forget.
So now, me, along with my husband, Reverend Stephen Duncan.. now have dedicated ourselves to serving in ministry. We believe with all of our hearts that we are on the brink of God calling us into the ministry that he has designed for our lives. It is scary, I can't say that it isn't, because as of now Stephen is not sure where God will call him.. to evangelism, pastorship.. we are uncertain. The only thing we are certain of is that God has called us to serve, and that our hearts desire is to do that to the best of our abilities. Please pray for us!
Are we 'ready' for this? I don't think anyone can honestly ever say that they are completely prepared for the unknown. I believe God is working overtime in our lives at the moment to 'begin' to prepare us. I don't believe that we are ever completely done, God is always working in our lives, so to say that we are 'ready' would be untrue. But we are willing. We are willing to learn, willing to grow, and willing to follow. That's a scary thing for me. I've lived my entire life as one who has to be in control of everything. I've always had a tight grip on the rope, and I can see, one by one, God picking my fingers off of it. It scares me, but the unknown is always scary. The ONE thing that I do know, and honestly the only thing that I must know, is that God is in control. He is the one who is leading, and we are but following, and since he is the one that created us, he knows what is best even when we don't believe that he does. Its going to be really hard for me to shape my heart in that matter- to learn just to obey, not to question God.. but he's working on that in me.
Right now, I'm simply allowing God to work. I'm stepping back, and allowing him to do what he must. Its hard, and he knows its hard, that's why he's guiding me in baby steps, one step at a time. He knows that I'm struggling with the unknown, and he's comforting my heart. I am so thankful for his love, for his grace and his kindness, that he would not teach me to swim by throwing me in the water.. but by being there to hold onto me. My husband does well just being tossed in, he learns to swim very quickly.. but God is kind enough to care gently for my heart, and help me. For that, I am eternally grateful.
I want to be everything that God created me to be. I want to know him, because I have read his word and drawn close. I want to be the Godly mother that my children need, to sharpen them into mighty arrows. I want to be the Godly help meet that my husband needs me to be, to encourage him in times of trouble.. to lighten his load and fill him with grace. To be this person, its going to take a LOT of dying to self.. its going to take a lot of stepping back and re-examining things and priorities in my life.. but I'm willing. I'm willing to learn to be the woman God needs me to be, for the people God put me here to serve.. and I'm thankful that he's helping me.
Its not easy. Every corner is opposition. At ever turn, I can just feel how unworthy we are to even be considered to serve. Buster told us that Satan would work overtime in our lives, and that's just what he has done. He has tried- so hard to beat us down. There are so many things that have came into my heart lately, proving our unworthiness. Who are you to serve and almighty God.. don't you remember where you came from? Don't you remember the person you used to be? Granted- don't you know the person that you are, how dark and bitter your heart can be? How can someone so unworthy serve God? Its very crippling to be faced with the truth and magnitude of our unrighteousness.. but I have to believe in grace, and I have to have faith, because without that I'm nothing. Through Gods grace I am worthy, although the world may not see it as so. I believe that's a big step in learning to serve- is to see just how unworthy we are of doing so. The devil keeps reminding me.. over and over.. he keeps discouraging my heart and filling it with chaos... but then there's the peace.. the peace that only comes from the almighty.. and he is so sweet, so comforting. No.. personally I don't believe for a second that we can serve- I don't believe we can be who God needs us to be, I don't believe that we can do all that we are called to do. I don't believe that we are far enough from our past for people to see past that, I can't believe that others will believe in us or even give us the chance to prove that we are trying- but I have to hold onto the faith that this is what God is called us to do, no matter how unworthy I feel of doing it.. he must have something BIG in mind, and he will see us through it no matter what, as long as we keep our eyes on him.
I've never seen my husband so on fire before. I've never seen his heart so engulfed and I love it. He is taking some classes at a local Bible college and I'm so proud of him. I can not wait to see the man that God is creating in him. I've always known he had a special gift about him to speak and to encourage others.. I'm so thankful that God can use his talents for his glory, and so thankful that Stephen is allowing him to do so! So pray for us as we embark on this unknown journey.. and thank you, for all the prayers you have sent up already. We are SO blessed and honored to be called to serve God, so unworthy, but so blessed!