Beauty Amongst the Ashes
I’m feeling rather reflective as I look over this amazing journey of life. I sit in wonder of how God brings us into places we could have never imagined ever being. As a child and young adult, I wanted to be so much like Mother Teresa and live with orphans all day long. But God had different plans. I attended Central Bible College (Springfield, MO) and felt as if God had built the school just for me. But during my time there, I had an encounter that shook my course of life. I discovered an elderly home down the hill from the campus and adopted it as my own. I sought out the shut-ins at Maranatha Village and visited them on a regular basis. The urgent desire to go to nursing school rang loud and clear to me. This became a passion of mine and I felt as if, even during classes, it was difficult to focus on school. The needs of these precious grandparents whom family had deserted weighed heavily on my heart. It soon became a struggle for me to balance both, but I was grateful the Lord had opened the door for me to advocate for the least of these. That section of time opened the door for me to move forward into pursuing my passion. From CBC I attended Oral Roberts University (Tulsa, OK) and was accepted into their nursing program. This was it! I would focus my attention on nursing school then take this skill to the ends of the earth! My heart was open, my eyes were big, but little did I know the hurdles I would face. Finding kindred friendships was tough going. The teachers were focused, and not much tender loving care was extended. Still yet, I was determined to finish and then be on my way. The program was extremely difficult. I was only getting minimal grades while working so very hard. Before long the professors began to communicate “that I should marry a pastor and move on from the nursing program”. I fought tooth and nail. I shared with them my entire testimony at Central Bible College and how this was not just a degree, but a calling of God. Still yet, their minds were set in stone and they refused to budge. They dismissed me from their program. I took many, many prayer walks, crying out to God over and over again. Why would my Savior lead me to this place, only to fail? Where was His presence in the midst of what felt like abandonment? Do you know that our Abba Father sees us in our utter brokenness?
Man looks on the outward appearance but our God looks at the heart. Those early years were preparing me and shaping me for some of the beautiful, yet much more intense experiences throughout a life of ministry. I was learning that, when hurt and pain comes from another believer, it stings heavily, but also that the Lord is truly our defender in it all. At that time I felt as if man was killing my dreams and desires, but, after packing my bags and driving across the country back to my home in San Diego, the Lord met me in such a beautiful way. God always gives us beauty for ashes. The difficulty is not being able to see it right away. After some time, I met and married my wonderful husband and we began to pastor our first church. I wish I could say that, after my nursing program, my encounters with Christians were purely amazing, but life has brought many inevitable ebbs and flows. We have had to step away from several very trying situations. Once again, in God’s goodness, He has brought beauty for ashes. Beauty for ashes…how can this be? There is a devotional book called “Streams in the Desert”, written by Charles Cowman. Undoubtedly the author had to have walked through some “ashes experiences” to have penned such incredible words. He references how, during those dry times, God plants deep roots in our relationship with Him. We can see His goodness because, when we walk through darkness, we have the ability to search for deep things that can only be seen during shaking times.
Recently my husband and I have weathered another transition that simply led us on a detour away from vocational ministry--for the sake of healing. We were on staff at a church for 8 1/2 years. My husband endured hardship as he was ignored, put down on multiple levels, and many more devastating situations through which we knew it was not wise for us to stay any longer.
God has brought people my way, even in this time away from vocational ministry, to allow me to minister, allowing them to grieve in their brokenness. I have discovered through these years of my own desert experiences that it’s so easy to give quick answers. We want to solve others’ hurt. But allowing others, and ourselves, time to grieve losses, to not feel rushed back to strength when you are feeling weak, is very important. Throughout our marriage, my husband and I have pastored four churches and have six children. My approach to ministry is so different now from when we began. Since we have rarely lived near family, I have been purposefully training and investing in my children from the very beginning. Through that I have seen that moms need a safe place to sit, cry, and drink a cup of tea out of a pretty tea cup. It’s simple, really, meeting a need for others out of the realization of my own need. I began hosting Mother Teas in my home. Some of my older children serve at these teas. My desire is for moms to feel safe around my farm table as they are being served a beautiful steaming cup of tea. Ladies have spent up to six hours laying out their deepest needs as I hand them a tissue. My ministry has changed from serving in the church to allowing my home to be a place of refuge from the storms of life. Beauty for ashes. Yes, He’s still doing that in my life in so many ways.
Ruth Fravel and her husband, Scott, have been married and in full-time pastoral ministry for fourteen years. They have six children, ages 3 to 13. Her philosophy of ministry shifted when a caring senior pastor warned her about all she would miss of her children's lives if she maintained the pace she kept. Since that time the ministry-family balance became her primary priority. When rare free time becomes available (which means her husband must be home and on duty!) Ruth enjoys antiquing and frequenting a local French cafe in her current hometown of Colorado Springs, CO with her only daughter. "My greatest passion in ministry it to raise up my disciples--my children--at home to be launched into their life's callings. Through my example, I want my own children to learn to pray, serve, and reach out to others."