The Waters

It’s so difficult to watch your spouse struggle. It’s even more difficult to watch in a way that says, I can’t fix this. It was clear at the onset that this was way bigger than me, it was way bigger than Michael and we weren’t going to make it though this without medical intervention.

In the blink of an eye, through the simplicity of one single text message, a wall that took years of building and perfecting came crumbling down. A wall that hid the pain not only from others, but also from himself. I watched as my husband seemingly fell apart a little more each day before my eyes. Conversations were different. He was physically present, but he was not there. He began missing common exits on the road, and leaving work everyday hours before normal. His ability to regulate his mood was unreliable. He was suicidal and remarked regularly how he wished he was no longer alive. He was unpredictable, and unlike the person I remembered marrying. What we didn’t realize up until this point was that Michael endured years and years of physical, sexual, and verbal abuse as a child. I have since learned that there are many ways that we can respond to this kind of pain and trauma. In Michael’s case, for survival purposes, his brain blocked all these traumatic memories in an attempt to protect him. If you’re like me, you probably had no clue our brains were even capable of such things. It’s utterly shocking to me, to be honest.

With each day that passed I felt fear knocking on the door of my heart.  As I type that, tears well up in my eyes. You don’t forget that kind of fear. He had night terrors that jolted me from my sleep. He would scream, and sometimes in his attempt to “get away” would slam into things around our room unaware of what he was doing.  There were times where he would voice the abuse he was reliving in that moment. Things I’ll never be able to unhear or forget. The deep sadness that was in our home could almost be felt tangibly. In the coming months, Michael would spend countless hours in many different forms of therapy at a residential facility in Tennessee that specializes in trauma. To this day, I believe this saved his life.

November 28, 2018, just days after this all began I got a word from the Lord. It was out of Psalm chapter eighty nine. I recorded it in my journal. It says,

“My hand will sustain him, surely my arm will strengthen him. The enemy will not get the better of him; the wicked will not oppress him. I will crush his foes before him and strike down his adversaries. My faithful love will be with him, and through My name his strength will be exalted. I will set his hand over the sea, his right hand over the rivers. He will call out to Me, ‘You are my Father, My God, the Rock, my Savior.”

God was not silent in my sadness. He was speaking. My mind said, Erika you have a husband and three children that need you right now. The Spirit inside me whispered, “They’re mine.” I think often times when we pray in big faith, it should come with a tagline. Something to the effect of, “This answer probably won’t look the way you think it’s going to look.” The reality is, I do have a husband and three children that need me. What they don’t need from me is to get out of my lane and attempt to control things that aren’t meant for my control. My prayer for years has been that the Lord would use our family to be a light for Him. (Eesh! What am I asking? I’m saying out loud to myself right now.) You know what the Lord is teaching me? He cares more about our character than He does anything we could possible do for Him. He comes for the heart. He sets the captive free. And so often that process is hard and very messy. It will take you to the edge of yourself and beckon you into deeper, unfamiliar waters. Waters where you’re uncomfortable, and your faith is deepened and your love for Him grows abundantly. It’s out of that love where He uses us to be His hands and feet. Not in our own strength and certainly not in our own understanding. It’s rarely ever the road we would’ve chosen for ourselves.

I’ve watched my husband come further in nine months with the work of God’s hand in his life than I’ve seen in the last nine years. I feel as though I’ve witnessed a miracle unfold right in front of me. I’m so unbelievably proud and inspired by the bravery and determination I see in his eyes. He sees in new ways, he lives in new ways, and he loves in new ways. He’s more present and mindful and has a more healthy approach to all aspects of life in general.  He and I both know his story is far from over, and there is more growth to come. However, neither of us can dispute the healing that has already taken place in his life. Never for one second be ashamed of asking for help. Never for one second let anyone make you feel like less than for seeing a counselor, a therapist or any of the like. It takes a lot of guts to first be real with yourself, and secondly to be real with others. Get the help you deserve and get free! The waters are waiting.

Read more about how life is unfolding for us on Michael’s blog linked here.

Friendship 

“It’s impossible to live the right life when you have the wrong friends.” Craig Groeschel

Friendships are always evolving, wouldn’t you agree? And not only are the relationships themselves evolving, our definition of what we would consider to be a friend evolves as well.

I can recall the types of “friends” I had during my teens and into my early twenties. Good heavens, can somebody feel me? Makes me grateful for that evolution I mentioned. Isn’t that season necessary though? It’s impossible to really appreciate a good friendship if you haven’t had a few shallow, one sided, selfish friendships to grow from. I feel like the Lord has taught me a lot in this area over the last six or seven years. Here’s where I’ve landed and the guidelines I try to stick to when it comes to my friendships.

It starts with you. The day I began looking inward, I was on my way to better friendships. Instead of approaching a friendship wondering what I could get out of it, I began looking for ways that I could contribute to the relationship. I began working toward being the type of friend I wanted in another person.

There is a necessary season of cutting ties to experience growth. This was painful for me. This was also the same time that the Lord was really working in my life in lots of areas. Pruning, if you will. It hurt. It was lonely. But oh, sister. How beautiful the growth it brought into my life. Growth and relationships I still benefit from today. There hasn’t been one thing that the Lord has asked me to lay down that I have looked back on and wished I hadn’t. NOT ONE.

Not everyone gets the free pass to be your friend. This is what you didn’t hear me say. I didn’t say not everyone deserves your respect or your kindness. And I didn’t say don’t be friendly. What I’m getting at here is filtering those that have access to your most precious, private spaces. Guarding your heart and using great wisdom and discernment when it comes to the people you allow in. I wholeheartedly believe that those we surround ourselves with are essential to the story we want to tell with our lives. Friendships are such a sweet, sweet, wonderful blessing. They possess the power to make or break us. Know your worth. For this reason I say, not everyone gets a free pass.

Not all friendships are created equal. What do I mean? There are different, but necessary, levels of friendships. Be ok with that. From your acquaintances, to your play-date park moms, women at the gym, women in your church, people you see daily, to narrowing the funnel down to the closest relationships you have. Your bestie for the restie! Yeah I said it. Different levels of friendships are ok, and in my opinion, very natural and healthy.  You don’t have to divulge all to everyone. This is also a great place to practice wisdom when sharing your life.

Are you the problem? Is your life a revolving door of friends? Are you constantly “on the outs” with someone? Are you always, or frequently the victim? Does drama seem to follow you wherever you go? Do you always talk about yourself, rarely pausing to consider others? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I’m gonna break it to you gently. There’s about a 100% chance that you’re the problem. Begin to ask yourself what you can do to contribute to others lives instead of taking from it. A life lived all about ourselves isn’t much of a life at all. It takes some effort to learn how to give instead of always take. Be intentional.

Here’s what this all boils down to. You can have a lifetime of shallow friendships that come and go with the wind, or you can get vulnerable, do some self reflection and soul searching and gain real, deep, true friendships that will alter your definition of what a friend truly is. What story are you telling from the friends you choose? Might be time to make some hard decisions. Do it. You won’t be sorry.

The Fear of The Lord

The phrase “the fear of the Lord” involves:

  • Trusting in God’s commands and goodness.
  • A willingness to accept His higher understanding.
  • Surrendering to His will.
  • It is underscored by a genuine love and affection.
  • Tempered by awe and reverence.

Sometimes there are sermons that I didn’t know my heart needed. Today was one of those days. Gary Thomas brought THE NOISE this morning with a wonderful  word on what exactly “fearing” the Lord means. While I had some understanding of the word, as always, there is more to know. It was such a great reminder of the incredible God I live to know.

Now, most of us attribute the word fear to being frightened, or scared. This is NOT the case when we see it used in reference to the Lord. Pretty awesome! Check the scriptures below.

Psalm 33:18: God protects those who fear Him. We all have desires that can be destructive to our lives. Sometimes we act on those desires. However, when we grow in our fear of the Lord, we better understand how these decisions hurt and hinder us. We can’t trust ourselves. CONTRARY TO WHAT OUR CULTURE WILL TELL YOU. “Just follow your heart! Just do what makes you happy!” (Insert eye rolling emoji here.) We need the Bible, the wisdom it brings, and God’s guidance to protect us.

Psalm 25:12: He directs those who fear Him.

Psalm 25:12-13: Those who fear the Lord and their children will live in prosperity. THIS IS NOT A PLUG FOR THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL, THAT’S TRASH. This is real, Biblical truth on how trusting Lord establishes our paths for His glory. Not only for what we can get from Him.

Psalm 25:14: He calls those who fear him friends.

Psalm 103:17-18: God shows mercy to those who fear Him.

Psalm 145:19: God grants the desires of those who fear Him.

Psalm 115:13: No matter your social status, He will  bless those that fear Him.

 

Now look at these fresh flowers and be happy.

 

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A note to my daughter.

The last four and a half years have not only been four of the best years of my life, they’ve also served as a foundation on which I’ve learned so much about myself, the good and the bad, as well as what loving another person really means and the kind of sacrifice it really takes to love well. I have a few things I want to share with you.

First. Beauty is a state of mind. NOT a state of body.

I’m on your side; especially on the days it doesn’t feel like it. I will be your best friend, but I’ll be your mother more.

Inevitably, I will disappoint you. The ultimate safe place in your heart belongs to the Lord.

Be the friend you wish you had. Good friends love at all times. Period.

Prince charming isn’t a fairytale. He’s a myth. If you’re waiting for the “perfect” one, you’re wasting your time.

Bad hair days are inevitable.

I’m more interested in your growth than your happiness.

Be brave enough to do what’s right, despite the culture.

Challenge yourself.

You’re the most brave when you’re the most scared. Keep going anyways.

A good mascara is worth the investment.

Wash your face every night. It’s the best kind of beauty routine.

Protect your heart. But don’t be afraid of a broken heart. You’ll love again.

You won’t always be able to control what others think of you. Move on.

Always fight fair. But don’t be afraid to fight.

Husbands need a wife. Not another mom.

Good girls aren’t boring.

Jesus died a gruesome death on our behalf. So that we wouldn’t only live, but live abundantly and victoriously. Walk in that Truth.

The world needs your point of view.

They say history repeats itself, and so does fashion. Don’t wear Jnco’s. Ever.

It’s true what they say about childbirth. And then some.

Don’t be afraid of conflict. If you have a problem with someone, lovingly approach them. You’re responsible for the way you conduct yourself, not for their response.

Your body is not just yours. It’s a gift for your husband.

Sex for the first time will require a beautiful sense of humor and a partner that’s in it for life.

A good cry is great therapy. Just don’t watch yourself in the mirror. It gets weird.

You can always come home.

Taylor Swift is tha bomb. Haters gonna hate.

Encouraging and building up your husband will go farther than you’ll ever know.

Womanhood is a gift.

Value your friendships. Quality, not quantity.

Always hear both sides of the story first.

We teach others how to treat us. Humility and kindness always, but don’t hesitate for second to stand up for yourself.

Mean girls turn into mean women. Love them. They need it most.

Don’t be deceived. Being the most popular, the life of the party, or the prettiest aren’t bad things, but they don’t mean a thing.

Don’t ever miss a good chance to shut up.

All productive members of society change the toilet paper roll when it’s out. That’s all I’ll say about that.

The way we see ourselves has an enormous impact on how we see and treat others.

God has gifted you uniquely. Not to keep them to yourself, but to grow and multiply and be fruitful and faithful with them.

And lastly, you’ll always, always be my baby girl Emersyn Lynne! I love you more than you know.

 

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The Day I Had to Start Caring What Everyone Thinks

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…” Philippians 1:27

It was sort of an alternate universe to me. Not only had I prided myself for years for not giving a rip what anyone else thought about me or the things I did, sadly, it wasn’t even an act. It was as genuine and as real as I sit here today. I had no qualms about writing you off and not ever giving it another thought. Your opinion mattered little to me and I had no hesitation about telling you where you could put it. Unfortunately, that mindset followed me into my relationship with the Lord. Only I got a little bit better about hiding it, or at least gained a little tack about it anyways. Instead of saying anything, I began to only think it. I would listen. Smile. Totally make fun of you in my head, and silently decide you were an idiot. So rude, right?

One day, I felt the Lord nudging me. As if to say, “I don’t care what these people think of you, but I do care what they think of Me. This isn’t about you.” It was sort of like God had begun a softening process on my heart and life. One that has proved to be a very loooong, sometimes painful, process. It continues to be something I have to work through daily. Taking others opinions, thoughts and criticisms on my life doesn’t come natural to me. I wholeheartedly believe it’s due to being in a state of defense my entire life. When I accepted Christ, He took on all the things I had to be defensive about and He continues to show me that I don’t have to live my life on the defense… I have the freedom in Him to love without reservation and to allow others into my life. Even into the not-so-pretty parts of my life. I have the freedom to listen and not get defensive. To consider other’s thoughts, and to filter them through scripture, prayer and my own personal outlook. I have the freedom to disagree respectfully but to allow others to be heard. If we call ourselves Christians, we have an obligation to point our lives towards Christ. ALL aspects of it. Not just the ones that are comfortable for us. Philippians 1:27 says, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…” God is saying this. This isn’t about you. Regardless of what you think, or what you’ve been taught your entire life, this is all about Me. I have a plan. I’m sitting on the throne. I am King. I am in control. Conduct yourself in such a way that acknowledges that and points others to me. I have a plan for each of you that your minds can’t even fully comprehend. Come be a part of My story. Come let Me love you and set you free. I’m waiting.

Don’t delay. May we all walk in His freedom this day.

My ♥ today.

“God hasn’t called us to show up, but to go out.”

-Perry Noble

The Lord your God is with you, he is might to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

 No matter whe…

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No matter where I am.
No matter who I’m with.
No matter my reputation.
No matter what you think.
No matter my circumstance.
No matter my frustration.
No matter my weakness.
No matter my down fall.
No matter my status.
 
There You are.
 
“The righteous will live by faith.”
-Paul