Nero’s Candle

I couldn’t be

brighter

if Nero dipped

me in wax

and lit me

in the green

of his garden,

a human torch

aglow,

hair and skin

and heart

melting and sparking

meant to snuff

me out,

but only

steering eyes

to the force

of my

fire.

The Night Man

I had a dream

about the other

you,

the good one,

the one that loves

to hear me breathe

and asks me how my day

was.

I can’t help it, though,

to think

of the half-shadow

of the sometimes man,

of his arms wrapping

me up into himself

until everything stings

of midnight.

It’s the darkness

that comes calling,

that will devour us all,

but in the other side of

you,

the not so bright one,

I hold my breath

as if drowning

because it sometimes

feels like I am.

But when my eyes open,

that’s the best part of it

all.

To see the startburst surge

against black felt.

To desire utter nothingness

only to be introduced

to light.

Evil Teeth

They are so white

and so pretty

and fit perfectly

within two sets

of gums.

They’re rooted

just so,

and when the people

see them, they rejoice.

But here our little hearts

weep and wail

because truth

is a bitter sword

between our own

teeth.

Not evil,

but not pretty either,

biting down on

cold steel

and tasting

the blood of

our martyred

hearts.

Bones

I gathered you up,

a little pile of bones,

to whisper some things

that have sharp-edged me

into the thing I was never

ever before.

I sought to talk to you

until talking was a thing

that hurt my throat.

And never before

have I spoken

to a ghost

but the ghost

of you is all

I have.

And then God,

took my chin,

and touched my heart,

and “look up” was the thing

I did.

And never ever

Before did I seek

to be sought,

but then He saw me,

He saw the once was

of you,

And thought to do

the thing He always does.

He held me

while I

cried.

A Thousand Papercuts

Writing this feels a little like walking to the guillotine. Honestly, I’ve never done it, but I’m sure my physical reaction would be similar.

My eyes hurt from the unchecked tears, and I can’t breathe. My skin feels like it’s suffering a thousand papercuts.

It’s death, just the slow-stepped version of it.

Our dog died Christmas morning. That sounds too neat. Too cut and dry.

Okay, so here’s this: my everything died Christmas morning. Not just my dog, but my past, my security, my understanding of this world.

My mistaken hope in what I can see and hold with my hands.

Roxie. Her name was Roxie. And we had her for thirteen years. A lifetime compact in a small body who loved me, unconditionally. I don’t know how to do that, frankly. I don’t know how to love anything so complete and pure. But she did. She taught me that.

I’m still learning.

The worst is maybe at night where I’ve forgotten who I am and what this feels like until my eyes open, and for one unfiltered second, everything is as it should be, until it isn’t. There are no good morning kisses. No early breakfast and bathroom break. No sharp barks at her bowl and the back door to inform me of the former. There’s no her. There’s no holding her and the way she’d grab my face with her paws and kiss me, and I swear that kiss could heal my heart.

I’m not always so good at living. I’m not always so good at peopling. I doubt myself and play the reel tape of all my mistakes, and Roxie was like having an assistant coach who’d kick me in the shins and tell me to stop being so hard on myself.

I guess my greatest fear is that I don’t know how to navigate something like that alone.

There’s a new phase on the horizon. It was inching in while Roxie was still here. My daughter is growing older and plays with her friends in the afternoon. My husband has a full time job. And then there’s me. I write. I do that. I’m not that bad at it, I guess. But the thing is, my computer never talks back. It won’t give me a hug. It won’t wake me out of my reverie with a sharp bark and a look.

I am now left to my own devices. The world is my oyster, as they say. And it seems to taste pretty rotten.

There are good things that have come from this. God has stripped me bare, and when He does that, I have to cling to Him. There is no other option. I can get angry. I can walk away. But when I do, I feel more alone than before.

He’s making me move, and my feet stumble towards him.

But there’s also the unknown, the bitter fact that there’s no Scriptural evidence that dogs go to heaven or anywhere pleasant for that matter. But I suppose, also, there’s no Scriptural evidence that they don’t. It would just be nice to have a window in the sky, a thin piece of glass I could press my nose against to watch her. To know she’s still safe and loved.

And that’s the thing. I’m no longer in control of that. And it hurts like hell.

So here’s something I’d like to say:

Dear Roxie,

You were and are so beautiful. You prepared me for motherhood. You helped prepare my heart to love others. You saw so much. You witnessed who I was before Jesus and who I was after. You gave me so much love and friendship, and when I doubted who I was and what I have to offer, I could see it reflected back to me in your eyes. We all miss you. Daddy and me and Ava and Rocco. We’re peering down a tunnel that leads away from this place, this moment. And it’s hard to keep walking and leave you here. But I’m afraid I don’t have any other option. We’ve been really good to each other in our grief. And we’ll continue to love each other like we loved you.

I’m sorry, baby girl. I’m sorry I have no say in this. I’m sorry I couldn’t keep you here forever. And my biggest prayer is that all of this is quite all right. That somewhere, you’re kicking me in the shins again, you’re holding my face in your tiny paws, and you’re telling me everything is perfectly as it should be.

I love you.

Mama

Like I said, a thousand papercuts, all screaming for attention. And all I have in my back pocket is the wind on my face and a Father who heals all wounds.

I pray with all my heart, it is enough.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” 

Romans 8:28

Running With Wolves

I gave my testimony the other night before the women’s group at my church. It was surreal. I hate public speaking, and crowds, and people focusing all their attention on me (which is why I’ll ask you a million questions so I never have to talk about myself), but I prayed hard that the Holy Spirit would take the lead and boy, did he ever.

I’m pretty sure I blacked out, but everyone said I did well so there’s that.

Following Jesus means doing hard things. It sometimes means giving everything about yourself for little return. And here’s the rub: why am I even holding my hand out, waiting to receive something in the first place?

This isn’t about me. It’s about Him.

In Luke (14:25-34), there’s a passage that talks about counting the cost of following Jesus. I’ve encountered people who seem to think church is just a weekly commitment, a Sunday ritual that’s as familiar as making a morning cup of coffee but not much more.

Why even go?

I don’t go to church to socialize. I HATE socializing, which again, is why I have to pray every second I’m there that the Holy Spirit takes over and softens my heart. I tend to be a cynical creature and have to ask God on the daily to tame my acerbic tongue and steady my eyes in my head lest they roll right out of their sockets.

The old Ericka was a real peach, FYI.

I go to church because hurting people go to church, and I want to know those people. I’m a “fringe seeker.” I want to know where the pained ones congregate so I can be there, too. I want to hear their stories. I want to pray with them. I want them to see what’s happened to me, behind what looks like a relatively put together person. Because we all have that: our outward persona. It’s our inward one that’s worth sharing.

Jesus said to be shrewd (Luke 16:1-13). To keep our eyes out for the wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 10:16). I think this is something that most Christians forget about. People generally just want to be nice, and make friends, and not rock the boat. But I want truth. I want to use my brain and heart to navigate towards those who are truly called to seek God.

Because that’s the thing: not everyone at church is.

But again, I have to also give my thoughts and words and mind and heart to Jesus. I am not the judge here. I keep my eyes open, but I also have to keep my love constantly available.

Because I used to be the problem, the wolf likely to devour a few beating hearts.

And if I can change, well, so can anyone.

Ericka

The One in Which I Die

I think what I’m about to embark on will be huge but not in the sense that I always thought it would. And I’m starting to realize the gift in that.

The younger me (let’s call her “Little Ericka” for funsies) would spend hours in front of the mirror, pretending to sit on Oprah’s white couch as she deprecatingly answered all of O’s questions about how she was able to publish fourteen million books and marry Prince William at the ripe old age of sixteen.

Delusions of grandeur. I’m afraid to look that phrase up in the dictionary lest I see somebody I used to know.

Nowadays? I’m dying. I don’t mean that literally (although technically, we’re all doing that, some just slower than others). What I mean is that I’m suffocating the illusion I always had in the back of my brain of who I was “supposed” to be. Or maybe I should say “disillusionment.” I am no more that naive little girl who thought blinking would produce a multi-million dollar book deal.

Let’s just say, I’m sitting here because it definitely didn’t.

Who I am is no longer wrought by my own hands. Instead? I’ve given me to Jesus. (And yeah, considering I was an atheist five mere years ago, I get how weird that will sound to a lot of you). But I’ve given everything I am over to my Creator, and I’m patiently waiting as He reveals the me I shall become.

You know that phrase “it’s all in the journey”? They’re not lying about that. It’s not about the goal itself or achieving it or the way your heart beats to break your ribs when you’ve accomplished the unimaginable. It’s about perservering as God molds you into the perfect version of you for HIS glory.

Not yours. Certainly not mine.

It’s about Him. It’s why I created this imprint. I want to be the vessel He uses to bring others (and myself) closer to Him.

I’ve never met Oprah. I most likely never will.

But I’ve met an incredible Father who keeps opening doors and windows for my willing little heart. And really? That’s all that matters anymore.

Ericka

The Art of Listening

I love a good meme.

And I also don’t.

I forget how beautifully quiet the world is when I’m not on Facebook. I forget how God made me to be a listener, not a sponge for other people’s thoughts and opinions.

I get back on sometimes because I mistakenly believe I have to be a “normal” person (or a “normie” as I like to call them). I have to scroll and read and like so I can remind myself that I have friends.

But I don’t have to do any of that. I can be a friend by sacrificing my time and offering an ear, one-on-one.

And I don’t have to post it to prove it.

I don’t have to subject myself to the degradation of others. I don’t have to subject myself to the onslaught of noise.

I am in control of what I want to absorb. And if it’s not Christ-like, what good does it to know it? To hold it in my heart?

Because if I’m not on the ready to receive God’s word, I might just blink and miss it.

And no meme in the world is worth something like that.

None, whatsoever.

“Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Matthew 11:15