Cuter than a bucket full of baby chicks.

I’m writing again.

Like, no.

I’m writing with the purpose of publishing my work and achieving my dreams.

This is insanity when you think about it.

I had a short stint of blogging and getting somewhat popular with the whole blog thing and publishing a book with a publishing company and being a small time big star on the interwebs.

But mostly in my head.

So where do I get off thinking I can do this again and turn it into something bigger than before?

Well, you know, God and what not.

STORY TIME!!!!

There was once a girl named Ericka who was as cute as a baby squirrel born in a basket of daffodils and she was given the ability to write. From whom? No one because she didn’t believe in God and was convinced the afterlife was nothing more than a cold dead existence sitting still in a cinder block room for hours on end.

Adorable.

Ericka lived a life that was mildly entertaining and posted about it on the internets. People came from all over: their lackluster Facebook profiles, that article about how skim milk can give you acne, that Reddit thread where that one guy keeps spelling “their” incorrectly… And they laughed and clapped and screamed “Dance, monkey dance!” when reading one of her posts or watching her videos and Ericka did just that. She danced on her two legs that were cuter than a baby deer who’s just opened its eyes for the very first time.

But then sadness: unforeseen circumstances, sleepless nights, sleep paralysis, extreme depression all came at her at once and sucked out her small woodlandesque creature cuteness until she became kind of like Meredith from The Office.

But one night she prayed and told Jesus she’d trust him and promptly remove her head from her backside. The next night? Pure, unadulterated sleep.

She started listening to God. She took a real office job that hurt every ounce of her creative being but knew this is what Jesus was calling her to do. She stood up for her employees, garnered friendships, led by example and watched quite a few regain their love of Jesus.

And then that part of her journey was over and the next call was to come home and homeschool her daughter which has not yet ended in the house being set on fire.

Miraculous.

The voice is calling again and Ericka is listening. It says “Ask and you shall receive.” It’s telling her that her faithfulness will be rewarded and she has a gut deep inkling that this will result in a real writing career, some way some how.

Because God doesn’t disappoint. The world does and sometimes He asks very hard things of people. But these things are the very best things.

If only because they help you regain the gorgeousness of a doughy-limbed bunny frolicking through the first winter snow.

The End.

First steps have been taken. I’ve entered my poetry manuscript into a contest, and I have an eerily good feeling about it.

I know that writing is the way I bring people to Jesus. I know God has plans for me (and you, too, by the by). So I’ve decided to stop getting in my own way, to stop getting down that I’m not where I want to be right this very moment.

Because I feel the path beneath my feet, and I know it will get me exactly where God needs me.

Even if that means turning into a round-eyed kitten lovingly embracing her puppy best friend.

I’ll sacrifice if I have to.

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Let the dead bury their dead.

Ego.

I have a heaping pile of that to give away.

I’m smart. No, really.

I get that I can’t tell time and have a hard time doing simple math (“simple” is really a misnomer and should be ashamed of itself for hanging out with math in the first place), but I once took an Internet IQ test, and let’s just say I should be doing your taxes right now.

And here’s the thing: we’re all at fault.

And maybe not just ego, but pride, too.

I kind of think the worst thing in the world is to be proud. 

I can’t tell you how many people (myself included) strut around this place (Earth) like we’re the fourth member of Hanson.

Have you taken a hard look at us lately?

We kind of suck, you guys.

The world, our world, America is quickly dissolving into a pot of stewed tomatoes. We smell terrible and are the most hideous shade of vermilion.

And even if we mean well, storming to the polls, shaking our Internet fists at the wrong in the world…we still think on an individual level that we got it all figured it out (our way is the right way, correct?).

But do we?

I have a hard time believing in collective thought, meaning, I have a hard time fitting inside the restraints of what “I SHOULD BE” and doing anything at all that somebody tells me to do.

It’s why I sacrifice a majority of my time as a living mannequin for the auto section of Wal-Mart.  

And I’m always in awe of people on the interwebs, how self-assured they are of their thoughts, beliefs, social acceptances, political alliances, when in the background, the bills aren’t getting paid, the violence is getting worse, the sickness is worming its way in.

The car won’t start.

Pride is the tip of the mountain, the zenith (shout out to my fourth grade vocabulary test. I owned you like a beast), the uppermost point of something built on hidden failures and too much time spent pointing fingers instead of taking a hard, long internal sweep of the soul.

And that dang mountain has a stench about it that’s worst than a whole vat of stewed tomatoes.

You can’t love Jesus and serve two masters, his heart and your staunch convictions.

You can’t worry about the state of everything and call yourself a Christian.

“Follow me, and let the dead bury the dead.” (Matthew 8:22)

Meaning? Let go of it all and start walking His path.

There’s a lot of talk in the Bible about those who call themselves Christians truly not getting it. And not getting it is the worst thing in the world.

Because when you don’t understand and are frustrated by the state of things that you truly can’t control, you’re too busy fretting to love.

And love, complete faith in Christ, and moving through the world with an empathetic heart will get you much farther than taking sides and teetering on your soapbox.

SPOILER ALERT: you’re going to die. But you have today. You have your home, your children, small steps to make changes where it counts.

You might not be able to take the whole world in your hands and conform it to what you think is best. But you can you start praying and listening and doing what HE thinks is best.

And I don’t know about you, but I think there’s something to be said about closing your eyes and letting go.

Well, I better get a move on. Those heavy duty windshield wipers aren’t going to artfully model themselves. 

Everything must go.

Okay.

Not everything.

Clothes are probably a must.

But I don’t know.

We (my husband and I…just assume from here on out that “we” refers to me and a man I tricked into marrying me ten years ago and stays because I’ve hidden his keys…in the ice maker…shhh…) love watching Naked and Afraid.

At first, I just assumed it was a bunch of naked people running around for the sake of ratings.

And yes, it kind of is.

But it’s also so much more.

Take for instance the three alpha males who continuously pray to God before they score during a hunt and even though they reek of testosterone and electric eel slime, they check their egos at the door and even keep offering the other naked group on the show the food they’ve killed because, and I quote, “It’s the Christ-like thing to do.”

You’ve never seen so many naked Christians.

I think I’m writing this because I wanted to tell a fellow Christian friend how much this show rocked but then I didn’t because I thought she’d judge me.

HOW. MESSED. UP. IS. THAT.

Here’s why I think we shouldn’t judge: there’s a very intricate web being woven at any given moment and you only get a glimpse of a few basic strands.

What I mean is that God is moving all of us, those who believe in Him and those who don’t. And just because you assume certain things shouldn’t be done/said/thought by those who love Jesus doesn’t mean that you’re the final authority on what should be done/said/thought by those who love Jesus (Matthew 7:1-5).

That’s…well…kind of Jesus’s domain.

Things aren’t as defined as I once thought they were. I think we wade waist deep in a big ‘ol sea of gray when walking this Earth.

But God knows that. He knows our hearts, and He’s molding us as we tip toe down the path he’s mapped out for us even when our feet are tired.

So when you see someone walking down their own path, open your heart and snap shut your criticism. Pray that God has them as tightly as He’s holding you.

And if you notice their feet are bare, don’t judge. But maybe offer them some shoes.

The lost art of listening.

I can feel the Lord talking to me.

A lot of times I make myself too busy to hear it.

Dishes and laundry and teaching a nine-year-old and car washes and grocery pick ups and gymnastics classes and homeschool co-ops and field trips and family time and hurt and love and pain and laughter.

And my fingers purposefully jammed in my ears.

I love God. I love what He has to tell me.

And sometimes I love the sound of my own voice better.

He’s gifted me so much.

The way my mother, by all accounts, should have died at least five times by now.

Once when she was younger and skidded under a moving truck on her bike but just dusted herself off and kept on biking (she was the original Ava) and here most recently during her reconstruction surgery after battling (and winning) against breast cancer.

A double mastectomy didn’t get her down.

Crohns doesn’t keep her down.

Having organs plucked from her insides doesn’t keep her down.

And if you ask her what keeps her so alive she’d never say her own will.

She’d say God’s.

So you’d think I’d live ear glued to the golden telephone listening and existing through every word spoken.

I won’t make the mistake of the Israelites. I won’t turn my back on God.

Ha.

Turning, sometimes, is the only move I know how to make.

Fortunately, God’s got that move covered, too.

So He’s always seeking my face.

My soul.

My heart.

He is always on the ready to call me back home.

When in doubt, meow.

I keep coming back to Zipporah.

Zipporah was Moses’s wife, and she had a really cool name.

You’re learning so much today!

I think about her a lot now, whereas in her place, I’d usually think about things like what my super hero capability would be (learning to speak cat so I could properly meow) or that time my dad told me that maybe what we think of as existence is really just the fleeting thought of a hungry beetle.

I should call him. And ask him to stop talking to people.

In a kind of crazy passage of the Bible (hahahaha….all of them??), there’s a part where Zipporah intervenes on behalf of her husband to keep God from killing him (Exodus 4:24-26).

Moses REALLY dropped the ball by not circumcising his son (which is kind of like saying “Oh, God, we’re good over here, we don’t really need to follow you or anything and also more steak, less mana?”), so Zipporah picked up his slack and did it for him and she was so MAD (I mean, ew, right?). But she did it because she feared God and she loved her husband.

What I’m trying to say is that Zipporah was, well, a smart cookie, observant, and a woman of action.

And she didn’t crumble.

But let’s talk about the crumbling.

I’ve spent a good thirty-three years breaking apart like a delicious cookie.

My usual drug of choice was a depression/anxiety/body dysmorphia cocktail that I used to chug on the regular.

And I tried the whole inner ME thing. The tapping into the space that exists apparently right behind you breastbone, and if you magically turn that key, you’re in control of your destiny, your feelings, your onslaught of sneaky emotions that choke you up and leave you regretting breath the first thing in the morning.

And maybe, just maybe you start believing my dad’s beetle theory.

But Zipporah just didn’t roll like that because really, that truth just doesn’t exist. She trusted God even when everything was on her shoulders, namely the fate of her husband, which in turn, affected her own fate.

She wasn’t a super human on her own accord and actually, wasn’t really a super human at all (her meowing was terrible…look it up), but yet another regular ‘ol person God used to do great things.

That is YOU. YOU are suffocating right now, are you not? YOU wake up and are watching your world burn at the edges, the flames licking your cheeks. And YOU are doing that thing where you’re clawing at your breastbone, looking for the answers.

And ME? I’m going to ask you one simple favor: please stop.

I know what it’s like to keep spinning, uncontrollably, and look in the mirror to find the eyes of somebody who’s unhinged and floating through life like the momentary thought of a beetle.

YOU are amazing. But YOU can’t do it alone.

And Zipporah couldn’t either or Moses or David or Jeremiah or Mary or that guy down the street who keeps parking his car in his yard like he wants me to angrily meow at him.

We’re all just human, friend. And there’s no secret recipe you need to tap into. But there is a God who’s patiently waiting, who can keep you from crumbling like the delicious cookie you are.

All you got to do is ask.

Also? Meow.

Maybe it’s more than just karma.

We’re moving soon, and I have no idea where.

I am quite the planner, and the fact that I can’t plan right now is pretty catastrophic. It’s right up there with having to wear pants every day.

Have you met pants?

Evil.

I realize now, however, that this is a test of my faith and commitment to God’s plan for me whereas before I would have suspected it was the universe firing down at me for the time I had my best friend break up with my eighth grade boyfriend over the phone.

I mean, I was tired and hate confrontation and pants would have probably somehow beeen involved so no thank you.

But my beliefs have been reshaped, and I’m no longer a lifelong member of the karma club. I think if there were a “universe” that doled out consequences, there would be a few more people hiding in their pantries right now (because that’s where the snacks are. Duh).

It makes a lot more sense to me to believe there’s a God that leaves some people to their own devices. They might be smiling now, but trust me. Life goes fast and with it? That smile.

So my heart knows that I don’t need to know or see anything to fully confirm my belief that God’s got this. And really, that’s such a relief to know.

For the majority of my life, as the beautifully budding humanist I once was, I put so much emphasis on my inner MEMEMEMEMEMEME! I thought I was pretty spectacular and could handle just about anything.

Which was hilarious if you’ve ever seen me attempt to open a jar of pickles. Or find a pair of pants in a sea of shirts.

It’s like when there’s ten thousand spoons and all you need is a knife. Beautiful imagery. Someone should write a song about that.

Anyways, what I’m trying to say is if you’re in a dire “what the frick??” moment and can’t see beyond two inches in front of your nose. Hold tight.

Close those eyes of yours because they’re not doing you much good right now, are they? Deep breath now. And a prayer, letting God know that you trust Him, you believe in Him, and you will let him guide you along this beautifully horrifying road known as life.

And that you will wear pants no matter how much it cuts to the core of your very soul.

Soul paper cut. Ow.

Beyond skin deep.

My skin is rebelling.

This is not what my skin does.

Remember my other organs? How beautifully I’ve been crafted by God that even the medical community has frequently commented on it in the past? (Matt stop rolling your eyes.)

Well, my skin has jumped ship recently.

It’s my fault. As the only child of a woman who is the skin care queen (my mother looks like my slightly older baby sitter. And I’m sure when we’re out, fellow store patrons are relieved knowing someone is keeping an on me), I was given a solid diet of Paula’s Choice products since I was ten.

This is probably why for the longest time waiters were mad at me for ordering so much alcohol. Or maybe it was because I like to order through interpretative dance. Either way.

Ava recently received her first Paula’s Choice skin care kit from my mother this year as well so you can understand that this isn’t a gift given in passing. This is a serious family tradition that marks the beginning of a life characterized by angry waiters and gluing your ID to your forehead.

And I’ve been failing horribly.

I think somewhere down the line I just assumed I had naturally beautiful skin as a consolation prize for telling time making me so mad/sad.

And I’m kind of cheap. And if the Internet tells me slathering a tub of butter on my skin will turn me into a glorious baby deer, I’m gonna do it.

So for weeks, I was poring through articles and firsthand accounts about how certain incredibly cheap DIY skin care routines were the bomb diggity (shout out to sixth grade Ericka, represent!). Ahem.

I tried everything from slathering honey on my face (I was so delicious) to rubbing powdered turmeric into my cheeks for a healthy glow (jaundice is a kind of healthy…right?).

All along I was denying the very thing that kept my skin healthy and my photo on the wall of every bar in the tri-state area.

Faith, like good skincare, can often be neglected. Or maybe it’s never been tapped in the first place.

I’ve been there. I went from Catholic, to “maybe there’s a God,” to “there’s no god but long live Gloria Steinem,” to “anyone going to eat the rest of this guacamole?” to “I’ve been up three nights in a row with night terrors and who peed on the kitchen floor?” (Fortunately, it was dog pee. You can stop holding your breath now.)

My life has never been linear, at least not in my head. I have a knack for cutting people out of it like trying to win a Japanese game show and if you meet me in person after reading my blog posts, you might find me incredibly dull, if not adorably kid-sister like. I’ve already built the fort so…

But God is forever reaching out to me. I know that. And what’s weird you guys is that I FEEL it. Like Justin Beiber once randomly sang on Instagram:

And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine

(Yeah, he’s gone super Jesus. So…Armageddon soon. Just a friendly warning.)

God would do anything to get me back on track and fully enveloped in His love. Even when I’m off dazed and wandering in the forest, terrorizing a bee hive so I can slather its honey on my face.

My skin is healing now. My mother actually emergency called the Paula Choice’s customer service line to map out a custom plan for my skin and the products should be arriving soon (Some mothers bake cookies… Okay, mine bakes cookies, too. She just looks twenty while doing it).

In her words: “There is NOTHING. I mean NOTHING I need in this world other than my skin care products. Not all my purses, not all my shoes…okay wait, Jesus. Jesus first…then my skincare products.” And if you’ve ever seen that woman’s closet, this is saying something. I’d really like to vacation there one day.

Moral? 

Don’t forget what makes your soul clean and heart healthy. God will never forsake you, so pay him back the favor, mmmkay?

Now let’s go order margaritas and get yelled at. 

Do they really love Jesus?

Poetry.

Let’s talk about that.

I do this weird thing where I’m like really really good at poetry. Better than I am at talking about how good I am at things.

And you have to imagine how frustrating it is to be so good at something nobody likes.

It’s like if I were really really good at giving lobotomies.

It just doesn’t pay, son.

But I’m doing it anyways.

I’m currently writing a compilation of poems after I’ve read, processed, and become slightly terrified from reading portions of the Bible.

Let’s talk about the terror.

It’s not a type of terror that encourages me to fear God as in run away screaming and crying and praying that hiding behind a giant bag of organic quinoa chips in the pantry will somehow throw God off my scent (yes, we are an organic quinoa chip household. Deal with it).

It’s more of a fear of other humans. People who have somehow taken the Bible and mass produced a sticky sweet “Christianity” that involves driving an over-sized SUV and dedicating Starbucks as the weekly Bible study hangout.

And you got to realize how horrible I feel lumping a whole segment of the population into this kind of category. It’s always been “us” versus “them” in this society and until we all accept Christ, it’s always going to be that way, folks.

So I don’t mean to perpetuate that type of behavior, but you have to admit, going to church and being given a nasty stare from a soccer mom/super model who just loves her Jesus oh so much kind of gives you a bad taste in your mouth.

And dude, I’ve so been there.

Here’s the thing: look at Jesus. Look back at the soccer mom/super model. Now look back at Jesus. Now look at my Tom’s. Aren’t they adorable? Okay, now back at the soccer mom/super model.

What’s the problem here? Besides the fact that I don’t own ALL the Toms? It’s the fact that people like soccer mom/super model is representing Christ when really, she’s just representing herself.

And that sucks for us who have really undergone something incredible and want to share it with our friends, family, strangers who are hurting in this world. It so sucks that someone who looks down their nose at you is also telling you that this is what Christianity is all about: perfectly coiffed hair, bright red lipstick, big ‘ol Louis Vuitton that’s liable to smack you in the face if you’re genetically blessed to be 5’4″ and incapable of possessing moderately passable reflexes (*cough* *cough* Ericka).

But it’s not.

It’s exactly what the Bible has been telling us this whole time. It’s about imperfection, human struggle, dirt and feces and all consuming self-hatred and loathing for others and intense love that makes you want to vomit a little bit and a reliance on God because the truth of the matter is that YOU WILL NEVER BE GOOD ENOUGH. And the other truth of the matter? That’s perfectly okay and as it should be.

God has you and loves you. And here’s the thing: God loves soccer mom/super model, too. The old me would have keyed an incredibly life-like rendering of that time I posed with a cardboard cut out of JTT into the side of her Denali. Some would even have considered it an idiot-savant level of artistic expression.

The new me? Well, I’m a lot less “fun” these days. So what I’d do instead is pray for her. Not in that condescending “bless your heart” Southern way that is totally epic but not at all appropriate. But a real prayer. That she will understand and accept Jesus thoroughly and fully and start walking the narrow path.

Otherwise, one day, she’ll stumble and fall down the broad road, shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone whose hearts have turned stone hard, missing her car, her Ericka-sized purse, but very little else.

Getting over myself.

Thirty-three is hard for me.

It’s hard for someone who was consistently mistaken for a sixteen-year-old in her twenties. One time a pharmacist yelled at me because he thought I was skipping school since the high school was right next door. I was twenty-three. And pregnant. But you know, South Texas, y’all.

And the other day I had to verify my age (who knows for what, exactly. I have a horrible memory. I was most likely just talking to a random street lamp), and I had this stupidly expectant look on my face that read, “Ha! What do you think about that!” But the guy just nodded like thirty-three seemed like a pretty good fit.

Heathen.

You have to understand that up until this point I’ve lived my life like an only child who has been constantly patted on the head. And I don’t mean that to be condescending because it’s not.

Really, it’s nice to be patted, and to be told you have movie star teeth by your dentist, and to be given a gold star by your doctor because you’re in peak physical shape, and to be told by your hairdresser that your hair color is such a pretty shade, and she can’t actually verbalize what color it is because it’s like nothing she’s ever seen before and to be congratulated on the fact that you know how to write words in a way that stumps other people when for you it’s pretty much like scratching a mosquito bite.

What I’m trying to say is that for the longest time I thought I was pretty dang amazing.

And I lived like it. Smug but at the same time self-deprecating because if you play it right, you can make people jealous of you and love you all at the same time. It helps with getting what you want in life.

Now, you see why I need Jesus?

I’m not that person anymore. And apparently my face is following suit. I have lines in the forehead that used to be my thinking lines. They’d pop out whenever I was writing poetry, or think tanking that parallel parking business (cars are the worst), or figuring out why Taylor Hanson hadn’t been nominated president yet. But then they’d subside and my forehead was nice and smooth, the type of forehead you’d imagine would belong to a sixteen-year-old looking twenty-three-year-old pregnant woman getting yelled at in her local neighborhood pharmacy.

But they live on my forehead now even when I’m not thinking and doing things like blankly staring into a void, wondering why I’m talking to a street lamp. I also have smile lines which I find incredibly offensive because I’ve lived most my life trying not to smile for this very reason. All through my childhood my mother would be like “Smile, like your friends do. You look so upset!” And I’d just think, Smile like those hooligans?? I’d like to see what that bad decision does to their faces in thirty years.

Sigh.

My face is thinner now. My teeth yellower, probably. I don’t know. I’m still pretty obsessed with having movie star teeth seeing that I’m the lead in Ericka: The Woman Who’s Hiding Behind Her Pants in the Closet so She Doesn’t Have to Make Dinner. It’s on Lifetime.

But the rest of me has taken that step on a downhill slope. And you know what? I’m really not that mad about it. Don’t get me wrong. For someone who’s struggled with body dysmorphia for most of her life, there was a period where I was glued to the mirror wondering why God was so mad at me and decided to take it out on my face.

But He’s not.

Aging is the consequence of sin, my friends. It’s something that’s going to happen, and in a way, it’s kind of nice when you think about it. It puts into check all those pats on the head, the nice compliments, the pride you take in the color of your hair, the shine in your eyes.

It’s there, for now. But not for long.

So at the end of the day, you have to take a long hard look at yourself, and go beyond the forehead lines and the evidence of past smiles and ask yourself: What do I believe?

Because there are only two choices in this world when you get right down to it.

And you can look sixteen all you want. But it’s never going to change that truth.