Monday, January 23, 2017

The Women in the Room





My eyes opened and I was in this room.

It was dark but warm and it smelled of burning wax. It was quiet. It was calm. There was an altar, or what I think was an altar. It was surrounded by candlelight. As I approached it I could see that the candles were being held by people, by women. 

All colors. All creeds. All ages. All shapes. Women.

I don't know how many of them were there, thousands maybe, but it seemed endless. 

Their eyes held stories but they didn't speak until I saw them. They didn't share until I asked. They didn't give until they knew I was listening...

The first one spoke her voice shaking;

"I can't have children. So forgive me if I don't understand your right to choose. Because it doesn't feel like that choice was given to me."

I nodded. I didn't know what to say. I'm sorry, I thought. Because I just thought you were trying to take away my rights.

This woman looked familiar;

"I used to go to church. I never felt like I fit in. And if I don't fit into the Kingdom of God then where the hell do I fit in?"

I get that. 

Another woman spoke in Spanish;

"My ten year old daughter is smart. She is funny and wise and I know she will do amazing things with her life. I just won't get to see them. I wasn't born here so I'm told I don't belong here. I leave tomorrow."

I started to cry and want my mother...

"I don't believe in God...but I hope he believes in me."

I wanted to tell her I think he does...but it didn't seem like the right time...

"I am in love. I want to raise children. I want to have a home and build a life. They make me feel alive, important...smart. But you tell me I can't marry her."

I have told you that before. I didn't understand.

"I don't want to screw up my kids."

You won't.

Another spoke;

"I pray everyday. But because you don't understand my language this prayer scares you. I wish you knew I was asking for grace."

I will remember this.

One after another begin speaking now;

"I get one thousand and one dirty looks from all of you. I'm too young. I'm too stupid. I wasn't careful. But not one of you has commended me for keeping this baby. Isn't that what you stand for? Tell me I am brave, just once."

You are right. You are brave.

"I love Jesus. And I love people too. And dammit I am just trying to do the right thing."

Me too.

"My husband had an affair 22 years ago but the world won't let ME forget it."

And I have joked about it.

"This is my last pill. And I am scared.  Because you showed me you didn't care if I had health care or not."

I wasn't thinking about you. I was thinking about me.

"I am not a racist cop."

I'll stop watching the news.

"I have a disability and everyone wants to be my hero."

I'll stop.

"The scars on my wrist don't hurt anymore. I am healed."

Then maybe I can be too.

"I've been touched when I didn't want to be touched."

I'm furious.

"Someone asked me how I got here. Did I swim or did I climb? And that their new president is going to make me leave. What the hell."

What the hell.

"I cannot believe that I even have to tell you that my life matters."

It matters.

These were just the ones I remembered. So many of them spoke. Some said the same thing, actually most of them said the same things. Similar but personal. Intertwined, tangled up, threaded like a tapestry of pain and joy, love and hate, goodness, and intent. Strength.

The Women in the room. They saw that they needed each other. 

They saw what they had to fight for. So they stopped fighting each other.
They saw the love that they needed. So they started spreading it around.

They asked me of my story...

I took a breathe and said;

"I grew up never questioning anything. Now that I am grown I question everything."

They said that now my eyes are open. You cannot stand without understanding. And all passion is empty without compassion. 

I am awake now.

And God, don't let me stay the same. 








Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Donald Trump is our next president....and it might not be so bad.



This morning felt cold and dark. I don't blame it on day light savings, I blame it on Election Day hangover.

I voted for Hillary.

So today seems unbelievable. I am disappointed. I am sad. I am confused. It seems like a 100 million steps back, but if there is one thing I have learned it is that not all things are as they seem.

This man stands for absolutely nothing that I believe in....but what I am coming to realize is that maybe he isn't supposed to. You see, 4 years ago I also voted for Obama. But last month when my 5 year old son came home telling me that there were boys at his school that were picking on him I didn't hop on my phone and call Barack and ask him what do. I was the one who knelt down to my boy, held him tight, told him how important he was and prayed that he would learn compassion from this. Three months ago when my grandmother and father passed away 12 days apart I didn't ask Joe Biden to come speak at their funerals. Instead my family huddled around each other, wept, and swore we would live this life to the brim.

Ladies and gentlemen, maybe we needed the push. Maybe we needed a cold glass of water thrown in our faces so we would open our eyes. Maybe we needed to be kicked in the gut so we could see OUR strength, our potential, our capabilities, and our abilities. Whether you like it or not this man is our next president but he is not raising our babies, he is not fixing our marriages, and it is not his job to love YOUR neighbor. Maybe we got lazy and forgot to fight, because we have had this amazing president who has fought hard for all people. Maybe we forgot to take responsibility for each other. Maybe we neglected our own voices, gifts, callings, missions, and maybe we let our braveness slip.

But not anymore.

Facebook and twitter are a hot mess of emotion today, but haven't you seen glimpses of unity? Have you not seen rays of hope? Have you not witnessed fire in bones and love in hearts. People are rising and people are getting brave. Women are louder than ever and there are men fighting right alongside them. We are not ashes, we are not mere skin and bones, we are souls who have been awaken. We are hearts that are ready because we have felt the hurt and now are able to heal.

That to me is revolution. That to me is God moving in and through us. That to me is what Jesus meant by saying "LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." Because as much as I see sadness I see bravery. As much as I see discouragement I see people lifting each other back up and telling them they matter. I have seen more Christians loving on LGBTQ communities, opening their arms to immigrants, and welcoming back the lost and lonely. (Or maybe I am just friends with the right people wink wink)

We are apathetic no more. And maybe this is what had to happen. We know now more than ever what a responsibility we have to keep each other free. We will replace fear with love and we will excuse despair from our hearts. At the end of my life I will look into the eyes of my two sons and tell them I was not afraid. I will tell them I fought hard for them to have a better world. I will tell them I never gave up. I will be firm in my faith. I will pray for Trump, because I believe in a God who can do ALL THINGS. I will do my duty. I will not drop anchor here.

Let's make this mess our message. Let's get up, dust off our feet, and be brave.

Love hard and let freedom ring.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

twothousandfourteen

Here we are boys and girls! 

One day away from a new year! So while you are thinking of New Years resolutions, goals, pounds you want to lose and hairs you want to cut....here I am excited to tell you things I have loved, learned, maybe regret about this past year. my last resolution was to read 12 books. One for every month. I honestly did it and yes they were chapter books. I decided not to have any goals this year and just to be good at what I'm already good at. I guess that is a goal afterall....






So with much anticipation here are 10 (because 14 feels too long) lessons/ideas/etc I learned in 2014:

1) Be a friend who shows up. I've gotten better at this in 2014 because of example. We don't like to ask for help. It's a weird and stupid tick we humans pride ourselves in. But when I was sad, discouraged, tired, packing boxes, etc, and I had my friends ask to help.... I decided to let them because 1) they would or 2) they were just saying it to be nice and that means I didn't have to worry about sending them a Christmas card. JUST KINDA KIDDING! So these friends that showed up showed me how to show up.  (Woah.) And when their kids were sick I brought them food, when they needed help I helped. I showed up unexpectedly and brought coffee because that is what friends do. My friend Shanna told me "Sometimes you don't know what you need until someone gives it to you." Thad was in the hospital with croup and she showed up, brought me a book, a hot drink, and sat with me. And it has changed me. My friend Carly drives 6 hours to be at my son's birthday partys even if it's a less than 24 hour trip because she wants to be here. My friend Emily checks in almost every other day to see how I am doing just because.  I've made some lifers this year and they have taught me well.  So book flights and visit. Cook extra food and share. Tell someone why you like them. Show up for your friends.





2) Don't judge moms for being on their phones at the park because we play with our kids all day and now our children are occupied so I'm going to check my effing Instagram.

3) There is nothing wrong with having a few favorite swear words in your vocabulary. I'm sorry I'm not sorry but there is something incredibly freeing in telling your husband about the "asshole at Trader Joe's who moved your cart over with your kid still in it." You'll thank me later.

4) Find something you love and don't apologize for it....unless it's like drugs/stripping then you don't get what I'm saying. I fell in love a bit with running his year. There is nothing more peaceful to me then blaring worship music with my feet hitting the pavement. But it takes work and time. Sometimes it means dinner won't be made until I get back. Sometimes it means Josh gets Thad ready in the mornings or I miss out on a little family time....nothing crazy but I love it. It has become my time with Jesus and it makes me feel really good. What's your thing? DO IT. Because you love it and that matters.




5) Realize that your husband is human. He needs rest too. Sometimes I think he has it SO  much easier than me because he gets to wear fancy clothes, eat meals already made for him, be alone, and not wipe toddler butts....but he's still human. And he needs to me to look out for him. Have his back. Not hound him with to do lists and chores but to check in. Pray for him. And...you might hate me for this but....FREE him to do things HE LOVES AND WANTS TO DO! He is not a bionic robot. He needs rest.






6) God only says truths about me. So when I feel fat or frumpy, not good enough or mean, I have had to train myself  to ask "is this something God would say to me?" And if it's not then I drown it out with truth. Because I'm good enough. I'm made with wonder. His spirit dwells in me and I am free. I am funny and I'm a good friend. I can make people laugh and feel loved. Free people free people.




7) "here I am" vs "there you are" I want to be someone who focuses on others instead of trying to be the center. I want to love others in a way that enables them to be themselves. I want to be a person who other people can tell their fears to, dreams to, prayers to, weaknesses to. I want to be someone who other people feel safe around. Thanks God Jesus showed me how. I'm working on it.




8) I am learning how to be funny without being mean. (My grandma does this very well.)




9) My son will be his own person. Who God created him to be. With or without my consent. I want him to be kind and generous, gentle and polite, wise and loving, but Jesus will teach him those things best so I need to do my best to teach him Jesus.








10) Carry this world with an open hand. I believe in heaven. I believe that this isn't where my story ends and this isn't where my hope is. So my clothes and my shoes, my kitchen tools and cars. This is just stuff being lent to me so that I can share it. Share what I have and who I am. So when money, and bills, and "will we ever own a house" crowds my heart I can remember that these worries don't create my story. And when people I love die, and hurt, are in pain, and hearts are broken I can remember that there is a place with no weeping, where pain is not in our vocabulary, and sorrow doesn't have a place to stay. It's not an apathtic attitude towards life but a lighter touch on this world and an urgency to share who Jesus is and has been to me. 





This year has taught me so much. It's been hard and cold at times but I have never felt more loved and more comfortable in my own skin. And my hope is that I will be able to run with that. As free as ever.


Happy new year! 


YOU are loved and treasured and GOOD ENOUGH!!

-erika


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

150 %

*******************************************************************
********************************************************************
No book, piece of advice, blog, article, or any other attempt of instruction prepares you for parenthood. No one can tell you how much it will change you. Grow you. Work out the things you though mattered into the things that really do.

It is the purest of all joys to be this boy's mom. 

He is funny, kind, gentle, compassionate, thoughtful, smart, and incredibly handsome. 

Growing him in my body was difficult, but getting to see him grow in front of my eyes is effortless enjoyment.

I like who I am as a mother, I am more patient, I get to use my gifts, and I feel honored I get to be the one who (along with my amazing husband) teaches him about Jesus. I get to understand more than I did before about how much God loves me. How much He wants to give me good things.How blessed He must feel when I love Him back. When I thank Him. When I talk to Him. When I desire to be close to Him. 

Motherhood is a powerful force. It is a mighty calling. It is a constant, self sacrificing, pouring it all out kind of affection. It is exhausting, it is the push, the press, it is a "dinner is burning, heads are hurting, but you need to come and see that all my toy cars are piled on top of this puzzle or I am going to have a meltdown." kind of perseverance. 

It is your all. 

150 %.

And I highly recommend it.


Happy Wednesday friends,

-E

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Elsa is my homegirl.

I know....another "thing" about Frozen. But stick with me because you might like what I have to say....


Elsa is my homegirl.


I wish I was better at photoshop. I would totally deck her out in lip liner and have her sharpie in her eyebrows. Call me "Eeeeelllllzzza" she would say.

Okay here we go.

Yes, I am another person on the planet who really enjoyed Frozen. The humor, the animation, good lawd THE MUSIC! It was great...don't stone me but I still think Brave was my favorite....BUT I really enjoyed Frozen. I favor a good love story that doesn't always end up with a princess marrying a prince. That's my gig. But I have to admit to you and the 15 other people that might read this blog....I totally cried the first time I heard "Let it go". Who else did....let's be honest.

Josh and I took Thad to see the movie and we were kind of like "eh ok...this is good." But when the storyline of Elsa ran deeper I remember feeling that lump in my stomach like...oh shoot...a young girl basically thinking she has to hide who she is from the world and hold people at a distance so she won't hurt them...but at the same time being perfect, putting on a show...while not being able to use her gifts. Crap. That's me. At least it was. That was me for about 23 years of my life. Elsa. Is. My Home girl.

I always knew growing up in the church and of course in ministry came with certain responsibilities. Being a youth mentor, a worship leader, even a wife can leave you kind of wondering who really knows you. I mean we all know who you are supposed to be, supposed to act and what you are supposed to do. I mean a youth leader for example, well you need to read your bible..all the time, like how dare you take a break from your bible and read The Hunger Games. How dare you. You shouldn't cuss, you shouldn't listen to "secular" music, honestly....you shouldn't watch Greys Anatomy. A worship leader, well you need to follow those rules as well, right, on top of you need to have be HAPPY EVERY TIME you lead worship! And a wife....oh gosh...you need to cook well, clean, iron underpants, and you need to submit. Always let the husband lead. Always. 

I'm going to give you a bit of a spoiler....I "failed". At all of those duties. I couldn't get it down. You see...I love to read. I love to read my bible, the Word of God makes me weep because it moves me, it changes me. It literally lifts my spirit....but I can't read it all day. I am very much a processor. I need to chew and munch and gnaw and digest something for a while...and while I am letting the fact that I need to love my enemies more set in...I can read post-apocalyptic fiction and lose myself for a bit. I love worship music....but there is only so many times one can jog to "I can only imagine" and need some Katy Perry up in here. And let's be honest...if there were Christian TV shows...I'd watch...no no I wouldn't....but I see no harm in indulging in 2 hours of "Chopped". 

When I was a worship leader it was hard for me. I LOVED leading people to Jesus through music. Loved it. But it is hard work! It's emotionally exhausting. I mean you are essentially singing your heart out to Jesus in front of people...everyday Sunday. It's intimate. It's vulnerable. I admire those who have that gift and passion to share that with others. I am sure they have days where they don't want to do it. I am sure they ave days where they are sad for one reason or another. I wasn't always happy leading worship but I did still love it.

And being a wife.....good lawwwwdddd. I've been married for almost 7 years and I am still learning how this works...granted I tend to learn things the hard way (IE "Don't touch that it's hot! Ow I burned my hand!") I have had to find my style in being a wife and that doesn't necessarily fit in with what I was taught. When Josh and I first got married I hated to cook. I loved cereal and pizza. Up until 3 years ago I've come to really enjoy it but I remember sitting in a borders 4 weeks before my wedding reading cook books and being terrified that I was going to suck. My poor husband will eat burnt food forever! When really if I cook it is a blessing to Josh but he would rather me listen to his day then feast on the finest of meals. I wish someone would have told me that, but now I know. Josh is a grown man. I don't have to iron his clothes or even put them away. He's happy that they are clean. I wish someone would have told me that, but now I know. And this whole submission thing scared the living daylights out of me. I mean, I don't even trust myself...how the hell am I supposed to trust someone else and a MAN (Insert witty daddy issues joke here) to lead the rest of my life. I just peed myself. Here is what we have figured out. We work best when we both lead. If I just had to sit around and wait for Josh to lead in every aspect of our lives things would not get done! I would be pissed off and resentful and he would be bitter and disappointed. So now he knows I will follow him wherever he takes us in life. Whatever job or goal he wants to enter into I have his back, I'm on his team forever and always....but I get to share my opinions, my fears, and if I have a bad feeling about something we pray. And sometimes He initiates prayer and sometimes I do. And I don't have to hold these "super spiritual godly man expectations on how a husband is supposed to lead" over him because we are a team. We both push and lead. We both pull and bow. And we love eachother, we respect and honor each other, and now more than ever I know God is glorfiied in our marriage. I wish someone would have told me that, but now thank God I know.

I think my personal performance of "Let it go" was when I let go of all those preconceived notions of what I was supposed to look like. I was seeking the approval of other more than I was embracing who God made me to be. So I let my hair down. I used my gifts. I spoke up. I let people in and know who I was and if it wasn't what they wanted then they could look elsewhere and I wasn't mad about it. Sometimes people aren't always ready for you. Don't blame them.

You know the part where at the end of the movie where Elsa is getting ready to share her powers with the people of the city? She says "Are you ready?" I like to think that is the part of me I like best. The ability to freely say "Are you ready? Let me show you who I am and what I can do." It's easier to love yourself that way, to love others, and to most importantly allow the God who created you to show off His moves.

Hallelujah. Let it go.

Until next time,
-Erika