The Story Inside of Us

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” — Maya Angelou

We’re all familiar with brokenness to one degree or another. It doesn’t matter if we grew up with the white picket fence or in the drug addicted streets of the big city, hurt has somehow found us. As many as there are of you and I, there are that many ways we can respond to the pain. I personally found comfort in anger and callousness, which served me pretty well for a while, that is I guess if you enjoy living life terrified, insecure and lacking any sort of depth. Living on the defense and running from every scary emotion is exhausting. I wonder how many of us spend too many of our days dodging life, rather than living it? Living doesn’t mean bypassing the hard stuff, it means embracing it. It means staring the painful things down until the fear bows to our relentless pursuit of healing. I’ve spent much of my adult life trying to figure out why I do the things I do. I believe the more self aware we become, the more healthy we become. More understanding of ourselves leads to more understanding of others. So while none of us have ever officially arrived to complete healing this side of Heaven, I would like to share my journey up until this point in hopes that one of you might be encouraged.

My journey toward healing began about thirteen years ago. I found myself depleted, angry and out of options. Life as it was just wasn’t working for me. Abusing alcohol and running from one mountain top experience to the next had lost its luster. Turning my life over to the Lord, mostly as a last resort kind of option, started what I couldn’t have understood then as the sanctification process in my life. See for me, hitting rock bottom was the safest place for me to land. It’s been in these last thirteen years that I’ve come to understand God to be both God, that is Elohim and Lord, that is Adonai. Elohim describes Him to be all powerful, while Adonai describes Him to be personal. Personal. Not far off and out of touch, but present and willing to walk through the darkest of my days with me. It’s a transforming realization to make for each believer when we come to understand not only the sovereignty of God, but also the intimate love of a Father. A good Father. See what I saw as a last desperate attempt at figuring life out, He saw as an opportunity to show His faithfulness and goodness to an ordinary sinner like myself.

There are many ways that His loving touch has transformed my life, and many avenues in which He used to do so. I want to share some of the priceless lessons I’ve learned along the way so far. First, I’ve undoubtedly come to understand that there is more strength in vulnerability than I ever found in the well polished facade of being bulletproof. Pretending to be strong serves no real purpose, and makes it impossible to allow others in. I’ve found more freedom in tears than I ever found in the furrowed brow of a ragging temper. The easy answer is giving way to the emotion, the difficult part is practicing self control. I’ve gained more self control in a loosened grip than I ever felt possible through the white knuckles of fear. Just because we hold more tightly doesn’t mean more control. Interestingly, it usually means the opposite accompanied by more anxiety and stress. Our attempt to control is just an elution. I’ve also found that facing things takes more bravery than I ever thought possible. Honestly, in a lot of ways, it’s easier to not deal with the difficult parts of life. After all, no one is forcing you to crack open the ugly parts and ask the difficult questions. So who besides you will really know the difference? Don’t be fooled. In the long run, we’ll all be found out. Life has a glorious way of exposing us, make no mistake about that. I’ve also learned that emotions don’t have to rule me, that they are necessary indicators and lousy leaders. I see that it takes work for many of us, not only to find our voice, but also to sift through the piles of rubble that life can leave in its wake. Most importantly, I’ve learned that no one else is going to do the hard work for me. It requires consistency and diligence on my part. No one else can want it for me more than I want it for me. I would say the same is true for you. When I was twenty one years old looking for a sense of purpose and direction I did it for myself. Now, with three children and a forth on the way, I do it for them and for my marriage. Our family, especially our children, deserve the best version of us. They deserve the hard work it takes to get healthy, and I don’t mean physically, although I would argue that’s important as well. We get one shot at our children’s childhood. Give them the best gift (aside from their salvation) that we can give them, the healthiest version of us possible!

I should probably warn you though. Just because we start walking in the direction of healthy living doesn’t necessarily mean others around us will do the same, or even understand what we’re going through. One of the biggest battles I’ve fought on the inside has been having to grasp this reality. I mentioned earlier self awareness and how once we begin to make some of your own personal realizations, it’s much easier to notice these types of things in others. One of the more difficult hurdles for me has been understanding and accepting that I cannot place my expectations on others. It’s important to know that we cannot change anyone. We can only operate and respond out of what we have come to understand about ourselves. It’s a heartbreaking reality when we finally accept that what we need from someone we will never receive. It’s also very liberating. Making the decision to heal from any anger, disappointment or resentment is my decision to make and doesn’t have anything to do with anyone else. Allowing those in our lives to be who they are doesn’t mean we excuse the behavior, it just means we’ve come to accept things for what they are and we no longer have to allow their behavior to effect our emotional state. This, by the way, is very often much easier said than done. We are all at different places in the journey and some of us simply may not be at a place yet where others actions don’t effect us. That’s ok. It’s very much a process that we have to be patience with ourselves through. This type of work doesn’t happen overnight.

So I would encourage you, if there are areas in your life that just don’t seem to be working, or areas that seem to be a cycle that you can’t quite gain any traction on, examine that. Examine the hurtful places. Talk about the hard things. Ask yourself why you do the things you do and don’t be afraid of the answers. Take a deep dive on the insecurities that occupy the deep parts of your heart. Keep searching and staring intently into your life until you’re so comfortable with the answers that you don’t need anyone else to understand. Being real and honest with ourselves is the first step towards emotional healing. This is one of the Lord’s greatest gifts to each of us in our journey with Him, and the best part is, He promises we don’t have to do it alone! There is one thing I know for certain, living life in abundance is proving to be worth the fight.

“You call out to God for help and he helps—he’s a good Father that way. But don’t forget, he’s also a responsible Father, and won’t let you get by with sloppy living. Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ’s sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no afterthought. Even though it has only lately—at the end of the ages—become public knowledge, God always knew he was going to do this for you. It’s because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God.”
‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭1:17-21‬ ‭MSG‬‬

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

Sex Before Marriage

Hi I’m Erika. I’m a pastor’s wife and I was sexually active before marriage. Whew! Now that we got that out of the way…

In all seriousness, I do want to talk about this not only because I think it’s incredibly important but also because it’s incredibly relevant in our world today. What you’re NOT about to hear me say is that sin is okay and it shouldn’t be taken seriously. If you’ve been here before, you know this ain’t that kinda blog. This year my husband and I will celebrate ten years of marriage and I feel like now having been on both sides of this thing I’ve got some thoughts I’d like to share.

I’ve spent the better part of the last ten years repairing, examining and healing from decisions I made before I was married. My decision to be sexually active outside of marriage has impacted me greatly. Sex is such a gift, but when taken out of its rightful context, it can’t help but have major ramifications. The lasting lingering effects is something our culture doesn’t really want to discuss. Not surprisingly. Our “hookup culture” likes to sell the lie that you can sleep with whoever, whenever with a simple click of a button and you’ll be all the better for it. You know, YOLO. (Are people even saying that still? I’ve become that person.) This just simply isn’t true. There are lasting, lingering effects. You just might not know it yet. For some of us, we made these decisions knowing what we were doing wasn’t right. For others, God had not yet opened our minds and hearts to His truth. Either way, there is hope.

What I know now. God’s design is always best. It’s always right. We can rest assured that if His word says it, it’s not only what’s right for us, He also has our best interest in mind. His word promises that He works for the good of those that love Him. Those that love Him. How do we know if we love Him? By our obedience. Notice it doesn’t say for the good of those who treat His word like a suggestion. Anytime we stray outside the boundaries and guidelines He has given us, we experience the consequences of sin. One thing I know for sure about sin, it takes you farther than you ever wanted to go and keeps you longer than you ever wanted to stay. Of this you can be certain.

There came a moment in time where I confessed that I knew what I was doing was wrong, I asked for forgiveness and I made a promise to the Lord that I would practice abstinence until my wedding night. I kept that promise. In the time between that conversation with the Lord and marrying my husband Michael so much healing took place in my life. He began to strip the guilt and shame I was carrying from my decisions. He gave me back my self respect and my dignity. I began to understand that I was NOT damaged goods. That God saw me, He forgave me, He loved me and He still had a purpose for me. Notice though, that the consequences of my decisions didn’t just go away because I got right before the Lord. My heart and soul were still effected by my decisions. I saw multiple counselors over the years and have even struggled in my intimacy with my husband off and on during that time. THIS is what I mean when I say, sin will take you farther than you wanted to go and keep you longer than you wanted to stay. When the enemy whispers in our ear, he knows exactly what he’s doing.

If you’re reading this, there’s about a 100% chance that if you’ve struggled in this area you’ve run into Christians who hear the words “sex before marriage” and gasp at the idea of such a thing. They’re the ones who respond with the underlying tone of, “Well you’ve really done it, there’s no going back now!” The inexcusable screw up. Let’s get real. Those people, are not your people. In fact, if you’re reading this and you are those people, do us all a giant favor and lay off. Would you? There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. And if those who are in Christ don’t receive condemnation from Him, what on earth makes you think we have to receive it from you? In fact, if things are so neat and tidy in your world, there’s really no need for Jesus to be a part of it in the first place, is there?

What does this look like in my life today? I set the bar high for my kids, especially my girls. I really do. I expect a lot because I know they’re capable of a lot. I hold myself to an even higher standard. Not only in what they hear me say, but also in my actions. I know they will follow my example. Not my words, my example. I have honest (and appropriate) conversations with them. I want them to be aware of what the world is about to slam them with. I want them to be able to identify the lies and combat them with truth. I want them to love who they are and what they look like not because someone else does or tells them to, but because of what their Creator says about them. I want them to know that the most respectful thing a man can do is keep his hands off them until the right time. I want them to know that they have the right and authority to make those calls. I want them to understand to the bone that affirmation from anyone, but especially from men, does not define them or make them worthy. This is the kind of women empowerment I can get behind.

But you know what? None of this guarantees that my sixteen year old daughter isn’t going to come to me crying because she’s pregnant. I can do all the “right” things, I can have all the “right” conversations, but the reality is, I’m not in control. I’m not in control of anything for that matter, but I’m certainly not in control of the choices my children will ultimately make. Yes I can guide them and point them in the right direction. Yes I can pray over them daily, as I do, for the Lord to protect them, equip them and give them a deep understanding of who He is and what He’s about. I would certainly encourage parents in that. At some point though, we have to understand that we can’t take credit for the good that our children do, and we can’t personalize the bad decisions they will make. It isn’t personal. They are people. And they will act accordingly. We paralyze our kids when we slap a label on them that says, “No mistakes, be perfect.” The truth is, often times we’re more concerned about how our children’s behavior is going to make us look than we are developing and molding young people into adults of substance that will make a difference in this world. It’s been my experience that Christians are sometimes far more concerned with the image than they are remembering that we are all image bearers and every single one of us falls short.

So if you find yourself in a situation like mine today just remember, it’s ok. You’re only one decision away from redemption. You don’t need anyone else’s permission to take a hold of what is yours in Christ.

“If you, GOD, kept records on wrongdoings, who would stand a chance? As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit, and that’s why you’re worshiped.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭130:3-4‬ ‭MSG‬‬

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭9:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The Kind of Anger That Propels

Thoughts to my Christian friends.

I’m wrestling through some anger. Not the kind of anger that causes me to go pre Jesus Erika and crack bottles over anyone’s head, so don’t run for the door just yet. This is the kind of anger that will no longer allow me to go along to get along. The kind that propels me to speak up. It’s moving out of fear of what others will think or what others will say into the space of embracing the fire for the sake of justice. There seems to be a list of topics that Conservative Christians avoid like the plague. Just to name a few, things like abortion, same sex marriage, equality, and most anything related to the LGBTQ community. If you’re like me, you might be asking yourself, “but how, how do I speak out in regards to these topics without being labeled as a bigot”, or one of the many other names that you’ll probably get called? I think that’s the thing though. You will receive backlash, you will receive, dare I say it? Persecution. Actually I didn’t say it, Jesus did. In fact, He tells us to expect it. Did you know though, that it doesn’t have to one without the other? We can hold strong to our convictions, be the light of Christ to those around us, and still practice love and boldness. It doesn’t have to be, rather shouldn’t be, one without the other. I love that passage in Micah that reminds us that He has shown us what is good and that what He requires of us is to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with Him. We’ve been given more than enough grounds to anchor our feet firmly in His Truth to tackle the battles of today’s culture that does all that it can to obliterate Truth from the planet. We can do these things, and we can do it with humility and boldness, all at the same time.

So to jump right in here, these are some of the things that keep me up at night. There is an absolute assault taking place against the family in our culture today. We’ve decided we get to decide how this family thing works. Forget the original design, we have new ideas. Want to have two dad’s? Great! Two mom’s? Even better. Imagine the efficiency of that laundry. (There is a progressive feminist that read that and now hates me.) It doesn’t matter how many times you repeat a lie, it’s still a lie. Like the lie “love is love”. I can’t even with this one. I guess we’ve also decided we know a better definition of love. So when your thirteen year old daughter comes home and tells you she’s in love with her forty-two year old boyfriend, or girlfriend for that matter, I guess the response is going to be, “Well great! Because after all, love is love!” This is irresponsible at best and needs to be called accordingly. So where does this leave us? Christians we can’t be surprised when what I’m describing is our world today because much of our world today is Godless. Big G. Quite frankly, it is to be expected. Post modern culture is trying to mold God’s created reality into a reality that they approve of, one that fits their definition of love, marriage, hate, equality, justice, male, female, tolerance, bigotry, and oppression. That does not mean, however, that we are to sit back and take it. A mature, discerning worldview does not need to fear the false messages that the world throws at us. What seems to be the response of many of us though, is that of comfort and safety, or honestly not even knowing where to start. I’ve been guilty as well. We end up being people that others will never say a bad word about. Our comfort zone is cozy and certainly won’t ever require us to rock the boat. We’re careful never to step on anyone’s toes, and when the day is done all is well because everyone likes us. Interestingly, if you’re a Christian, the “go along to get along” narrative is difficult to find in the Bible. In response to the Gospel, we should all be propelled into action. How that looks though, can be different for all of us. If you’re looking for some places to start here are a few ideas. Study linguistic theft, the epidemic of self-helpism in our culture right now, postmodernism, moral relativism, Marxism, feminism, and if you want to be really annoyed, progressive Christianity. Find out ways to be able to defend what you believe and then stand up for it!

Jehovah’s Witness

I don’t particularly like to be burdened by controversial topics. I know the risk I run when I start talking about things that people get upset about. So out of the gate I’d like to say, the Bible is clear. If I do not have love, I am bankrupt. I’d like to note that standing up for Truth does not have to mean the absence of love. In fact, it shouldn’t ever mean the absence of love. We all have the right to be treated with kindness and respect, and to voice what we believe. (Thank you America) We do not, however, have the right to not be offended. With that being said, here are some thoughts I have following my recent visit with two Jehovah Witness women that knocked on my front door.

I love honest speculation. I love questions. I love understanding the entirety of the story, not just bits and pieces. I love knowing why you believe what you believe. I’m also interested to know if you know why you believe what you believe. Because I know for certain that I’m not the only Christian who has been a part of these conversations and walked away with more questions (and a little confusion I might add) I dug a little into what felt like semantics in the conversation that took place. I’ve learned a lot and I want to share with any Christ follower that is interested. My hope is that if need be, you will find yourselves a little more prepared for the next drop in. Here are some things you might hear your Jehovah’s Witness friend say, and what they actually mean.

“If you consider yourself a Christian, then we believe the same things.” False. What they actually should say to you is, “We have rewritten the narrative to say what we want it to say, but we are experts on packaging it to sound like it’s the same.”

“We read the same Bible.” This is also false. What they actually should say is, “At one point we used the King James Version of the Bible. Over time, we moved to the NIV translation, and now we use the New World Translation.” For those of you who are not familiar with the NWT, this is not a translation of the Bible. This is a translation of their version of the Bible. Much of the wording has been changed and even in some cases when the Greek of the New Testament is translated, there are words added that actually do not even exist in the Greek language. (See their John 14: 10 -11 for an example) This is done to fit their agenda of holding that Jesus is actually not who He claims to be, or at least not entirely. To add to this, there’s also a very high chance they will come with a tablet or phone of some kind. It felt like a ploy to hide under the “translation” facade. They’re sure to show you scripture, especially those that you’ll recognize from the actual Word of God. At first glance, their “bible” looks much likes ours. Ask them to show you John 1:1. Their version is fundamentally different than what God’s Word actually says. Again, to meet their agenda. Interestingly, Revelation 22:18-19 is the same. I’ll let you check that one out.

These were the two big statements I took from my conversation that I felt to be incredibly misleading and deceitful. Here are a few other thoughts I’ve wrestled with and would encourage you to do the same.

So why? Why, if we believe the same thing, are you still standing on my front porch trying to persuade me? The “why” behind the Jehovah Witness faith is to be apart of the 140,000 chosen people of God. The better you are, the more converts you gain, the better your chances are of being in that (uncomfortably) small number of people God has chosen. I can’t help but recall Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not by works, so that no one can boast.” (That’s my emphasis.)

Additionally, no one of this religion wants to talk about who actually wrote, or a better word I guess would be, translated their “bible”. Go back and objectively investigate the origins of these ideals. When taken into account in it’s entirety, there has been major deception from the start. Look for information regarding William Miller, Charles T. Russell, and Nelson Barbour as a few examples. Research The Watchtower of 1884. Speaking of 1884, it’s interesting to note that this religion isn’t really even that old! When they start talking to you about ancient transcripts and scrolls, (which they will) that’s a good point to make.

When asked what the difference between what I believe and what they believe, the biggest contrast I found to be was they do not believe in the Trinity. Hints why all the scriptures regarding Jesus as fully man and fully God have been re translated. (Is that a word?) I was told on multiple occasions that “the word Trinity isn’t even in the Bible”. To which you can respond, neither is Jehovah’s Witness.

Lastly, something to consider. In the cases where people choose to leave these types of beliefs, there’s a high price to pay. They are utterly outcast. Ostracized, and abandoned usually by their entire family. This can be seen in Scientology and Mormonism as well. Many who are in these situations are born into them. It’s all they’ve ever known. This would be a big reason why conversions are few out of these types of scenarios. For many, they lose everything. To me, this is an astounding price to pay on the bases of faulty theology, and blatant inconsistencies. This, in all honesty, breaks my heart for these people.

I must say, I have to give serious kudos to those that are willing to go knock on a complete stranger’s door for the purpose of sharing what they believe. I respect it. I don’t know too many Christians that are willing to do that, and I would probably lump myself in that category most days. However, my strong advice to you would be, don’t mistake someone’s sincerity for their accuracy. Do your research and practice some honest speculation and inquiry. I’ll leave you with this last thought. None of these people or belief systems are the enemy. We have a real enemy and his plan is always to steal, kill and destroy. When Jesus was in the desert being tempted, (See Matthew 4, or Luke 4) Satan exposed himself in a big way. He shows us that he is keenly aware of God’s Word and he is a master at deception, twisting and falsifying truth. He did it then, and he continues that in our world today. When conversing with these people, remember that. Love them and be gracious with them. They just don’t know the Truth… yet!

“Don’t believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. Not everyone who talks about God comes from God. There are a lot of lying preachers loose in the world.” 1 John 4:1-3 MSG

“Pro-life but…”

I’m becoming increasingly more uncomfortable with easy, churchy answers and half truths irritate me. The thoughtless arrogance of the religious has marketed my faith in a way that I resist on what feels like a daily basis. So when it comes to hard topics, I’ve felt myself cowering. Not because I fear others opposing my opinions, although I do desire for others to like me. My concern and hesitation is not being able to articulate Truth in a way that is soaked in the same grace that I’ve been offered. My convictions are strong. I make no apologies for that. What is equally important to me though, is that before anyone knows what I believe, they know Who I believe. Christians, before we can speak to hard things, we must connect before we ever attempt to correct. Before anyone ever knows where we stand on hard topics, they need to know the redeeming, and faithful love of our Father. They need to know that there is a God in Heaven that sees them, and longs to know them. He has set eternity in each of our hearts and created each of us in His image with a purpose in mind. This is fundamental. 

That being said, I want to delicately speak to something that’s so dear to my heart. To preface this, I’d like to say, I know women who have chosen both abortion and life. They are both one and the same to me. Women worthy of love and respect. It’s crucial, however, for Christians to articulate the conversation around this topic in a very clear, gracious way. Every, and I mean every human life has value. I’d ask that you spare me the argument that actual life starts at a certain number of weeks. From the moment of conception, this is life. This is how our Creator created. So often times I feel as though this argument is a ploy to make us feel better about killing our babies. I’m just simply not buying it. 

Have you heard people say, “I’m pro-life, but…”? I have. I’ve even wrestled with my own thoughts in regards to this subject. (Many pro-choicers will even say, they wouldn’t ever have an abortion, but they don’t want to tell someone else they can’t) What I mean is, one of the big push backs you’ll receive in debating these circumstances is scenarios where women have been raped or in instances of incest that have resulted in pregnancy. I want to start here by side stepping for a second and saying that I absolutely cannot fathom the pain, despair and confusion that being perpetrated in these ways can effect someone’s life. It’s evil and must be called accordingly. I would be the first in line to validate the most severe consequence to these heinous crimes. There is absolutely no excuse in which these situations are ever acceptable. My heart breaks for women who have endured such pain. That being said, I want to go back to what I said before. Every single human life has value. I can no longer be silent for the voiceless on the premise that these cases are the norm. Spend even just a little amount of time researching the statistics and it’s clear. A very small percentage of abortions each year fall under these two categories. On a personal note, it’s very rare in any case for me to state my stance on a situation I’ve never been in myself. I’ve been around long enough now to know to “never say never.” I am careful and methodical when it comes to determining why I believe what I believe. I always try to see it from all angles. Even in circumstances where I vehemently disagree. So this is where I land and I would encourage those that hold a Biblical world view to consider and protect. God’s word is bursting with promise and life. When studied in its entirety, (which I’m always in the process of doing) we see that bad things happen. Bad things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people. Bad things happen as a result of sin and bad things happen as a result of living in a fallen world. This is our reality. When we come to faith in Christ, and only through Christ, the old is gone, the new is here. These promises of hope become our own. We need hope in darkness. It’s in this hope that we can look deep into the face of a woman who has been violated and left with an unplanned pregnancy with the deepest compassion and love. With a heart that says, ‘What has been done to you is wrong, and I’m so sorry. I would be honored to walk along side you during this process and support you in any way I can.’ We can be a constant reminder in the midst of darkness that we serve a God that works in all things for the good of those that love Him. We have options Christians. Options that don’t involve devaluing lives. EVERY SINGLE HUMAN LIFE HAS VALUE regardless of the circumstances in which it was created. Don’t let our culture move you on this.

A second part to my many thoughts on the matter are the unseen effects. What many who advocate for abortion won’t tell you is the long term emotional toll that killing your baby will leave behind. This isn’t a normal part of the conversation. Look up studies done on the mental impact of abortion. Not surprisingly guilt, shame and anxiety top the charts in these findings. 

So what’s at the core? I always ask myself this question. Even in my own life. What is my “why?” Usually the longer I dig, the more I ask, the uglier it gets. The god of self is a real thing. Since the beginning of time we’ve decided we know better than the Creator. That’s what got us into this mess to begin with. So in exploring these things, I’ve noticed that not all that oppose my stance are just evil people that want to kill babies. There are many, not all, but many delightful, well rounded people who simply don’t see abortion in the same light as I do. What it comes down to on a fundamental level is this. So often in my life I think I know better. That’s real. I think I know a better way. I have a better idea. I can get there faster. If I just take matters into my own hands, I’ve got what it takes. I’ll be the best, I’ll do the best. I ignorantly put my trust in the god of self. This is original sin. And friends, until we wrap our minds around the basics of life and the design that was originally created, we will always find ourselves in turmoil and in conversations about whether or not it’s okay to kill our babies. Just like so many other hot topics of our day, it’s a heart issue. The good news is, there is a better way. So Christians, stand your ground. Do your research. Know why you believe what you believe and stand by that. Our battle is not again flesh and blood. So battle on both in the spiritual and the physical and don’t back down. Perfect love drives out fear!

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those that love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18

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.

 

7d599c16436ea0d9f79b2c9932431b02

 

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.

 

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

 

 

 

 

 

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.