My Friend Ericka

There’s another Ericka Clay.

I receive her emails from time to time (I suppose our email addresses are pretty close), and I’ve learned a lot about her.

She’s from Chicago. She has a daughter. She’s African American and enjoys martial arts and drives a luxury sedan. She travels a lot and has her own personal travel agent who plans vacations for her, like trips to the Bahamas.

Her two friends, Pam and Melvin, are getting married, and I’m invited to the wedding. Okay, she’s probably the one invited to the wedding but I’m the one who technically received the digitial invitation and can do a killer electric slide.

So you do the math.

It’s strange seeing your online counterpart live life and to take an extreme personal investment in someone you’ve never even met.

Well, maybe for some people.

I pray for her, Ericka Clay.

I pray for her friends, Pam and Melvin, that they have a beautiful wedding and a marriage that is a the true embodiment of God’s never ending love for them.

I pray for Ericka’s daughter and her upcoming parent/teacher meeting, which I’m sure will turn out just fine if she’s anything like her mother.

I pray for the trips Ericka takes and the car she drives, that both keep her safe on the road and in the air.

I pray for a woman I don’t know and will most likely never meet and who looks nothing like me and can’t know the thoughts in my head or the words in my heart.

But I pray for her, because her pulse throbs, and mine does too. She’s a child of God. And so am I.

I have His breath and so does she.

You see, it’s that simple.

We all need to stop making everything so complicated.

Complication is the devil’s dance, and right now, he’s doing it beautifully.

Let’s trip him up, shall we?

Let’s pray for and make friends with and serve those who are nothing at all like us.

And yet, everything we are, too.

The Black Hole of Bitterness

It’s easy to not want to forgive. To slide feet first into the black hole of memory and bitterness.

It’s punishing yourself, over and over again.

People have theories about forgiveness, especially people who lack forgiving hearts. They see it as pardoning someone else, owing a horrible human being a favor because anyone who steps on somebody else’s pride has to be horrible right?

You’re the innocent. A sacrificial lamb. There are no black marks brusing your own heart.

False.

None of us are innocent in this game called life. When I remember that, it’s a lot easier to spot the momentous wall I’ve built up against the world and to smash it to smithereens.

I have a choice: choke on the pure image of I’ve made of myself (an idol that doesn’t actually exist) and my ruinous intent for the person in question or breathe.

Choosing the former is easy. It feels good. It takes no resolve or dignity or internal fortitude to allow yourself to be consumed by bitterness and rage. It’s just a matter of standing still and letting it happen. And then watching the years go by as you turn into someone that doesn’t love and doesn’t receive it in return.

But forgiving someone is an act of worship. It is active and a complete denial of the evil that started this whole mess in the first place. It’s a strong indication to Satan that you are not someone to be messed with. You will not be blindsided by his attempt to stroke the fire of your anger.

You rise above.

Jesus was the ultimate forgiver. He laid His life down for everyone who didn’t deserve it, and he did it with a heart for God.

It wasn’t about Him. It wasn’t about the mountainous work of growing His hatred, an act that never truly affects the person we’re angry with but works like cancer in our own body as well as our relationships. It was about glorifying God and proving that nobody and no thing would ever make the detrimental mistake of believing He’d sidestep His purpose for a lifetime of internal misery.

Forgive. Let it go. You owe it to yourself and your God.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 2:24 

Hole in the Brain

My mind is shot.

I’m having a typical moment. Well, really not so typical as of late.

Just a moment that’s similar to ones in the past. Where I’m tired and coiled into myself and regret every choice I’ve ever made.

Hi, I’m Ericka. Nice to meet you.

It’s just a few things. Little things that weave together into a much larger blanket.

Or straight jacket.

It’s a moment where I walk away from the God of the universe and sit and pout because “life isn’t fair.”

This is apparently going to take a awhile.

Life’s hard when ADHD is thrown into the mix. It’s just…hard. But everything’s hard.

I’m not naive to that fact.

It’s just nice sometimes to recognize it. To say it out loud. To drop all need for pretense and picture perfect photos that angle out the dumpster fire in the corner.

And there God is. Waiting patiently in all His glory.

And there I am, hole in my bleeding brain, offering him that alongside my weather-beaten heart.

I’m afraid He might be getting the raw end of this deal. But something tells me He is and always will be okay with that.

Damaged People

I wake up in a weird panic sometimes.

I recommit myself to Jesus and pray for his mercy and forgiveness.

Something hits me squarely in the chest at night. Maybe it has something to do with the darkness.

There’s a lot of “us” versus “them” lately, no matter the particular issue. No matter the particular side.

What I feel in every inch of my being is that there are no good guys. We are all God’s people, created in His image.

And we’re all fallen creatures that will only come to see God when we submit our lives to Christ Jesus.

There is no such thing as all ways leading to heaven. There is only one way.

Don’t be fooled.

And this is why my heart spins in my chest sometimes. We’re getting closer to the end all the time. And there’s so much to do. And I will never ever measure up.

But my God takes me in His arms, and I can finally breathe again.

Because when we repent and we seek His solace, there is no “us” versus “them.” It’s only a damaged people yearning for a good, good Father.

And a good, good Father who will weed the bad from the good, an act of judgment that was never originally intended for our fragile human hearts.

It’s Not a Competition

There are too many amazing people in my life.

And I don’t necessarily mean successful ones.

Sunday’s Sermon reminded us that Jeremiah was a “failed” prophet. He never was able to persuade one person to follow the Lord.

But Jeremiah wasn’t a failure. Because maybe the point wasn’t His ability to change people.

Maybe the point was His utter reliance on God.

I think too often we associate our blessings, our financial gains, our business success with God’s favor for us.

But I’m not sure that’s always the case.

We were reminded during that same sermon that nowhere in the listing of the fruits of the spirit is the idea of being successful.

It’s certainly not a bad thing. But it’s not where our hearts and focus should be.

It should be for God and His people.

And I know so many who sacrifice and give because of their strong faith in Jesus.

And sometimes, I feel like I just don’t measure up.

But then I remember a few things:

1. God’s called each one of us to run a different race. I’ve been called in this season of life to write a book that gives Him all the glory. That takes time, effort, and dedication. And even though I take other opportunities to show my love for God and His people, right now, that’s where He wants my focus to be.

2. It’s not a competition. One person’s humble offering will far outweigh the bravado of someone the world deems successful.

3. It’s for Him, not for us. Like Jeremiah, everything we do is for Christ alone. We shouldn’t be in the business of gratifying our own hearts (or even the hearts of our family and friends). Everything we do should be for God alone, and only when our eyes are on Him can we truly serve those around us.

I may never be a New York Times best selling author. And I’m okay with that. Because the measure of my “success” hasn’t been made with human hands but with with a heavenly heart that will always far outweigh my own understanding.

I Am

I am.

Our children’s pastor shared a sermon yesterday that politely smacked me in the face.

See, I have this issue of being a control freak.

As a writer, I create worlds. And I very much want this one to be my own.

I like to dictate who I am in any moment, how my family comes off to other people. The way things “look” has always been a subject near and dear to my heart.

But that kind of grip on the world can be exhausting. And fortunately, I’ve learned to let go.

But there still are two very real problems that I face: 1. I like to believe I’m the main character in this story called life. 2. God is whatever I imagine Him to be at any given moment.

Both are incredibly hurtful lies that start to unravel my edges.

This story isn’t about me. Which is a great thing because we’d all be watching a thirty-something (emphasis on the something) woman wearing ankle-biting sweatpants in the middle of summer, trying to pretend she knows what “on trend” means.

She obviously does not. Just look at those sweatpants.

This story is about the Lord. We’re all here for His glory, and the suffering that sets our teeth on edge? It’s the crescendo, the final movement of sound and light that leads our eyes to the cross.

God redeems even when we’re too busy pointlessly gluing the pieces of our broken hearts.

I am.

He exists whether I want to believe it or not. He is the all powerful and wonderful mighty creator.

Everything starts from something. It’s the cymbal clash that’s always been audible behind my sternum.

And I know where the noise comes from. Why it keeps me writing until my fingers fall off and my eyes go blind.

This isn’t about me or you.

We only are because He is.

The Big Breath Mantra

Parenting is hard.

A lot of things are hard, but I digress. 

The phrase “His mercies are new every day,” keeps hitting me like a ton of bricks.

My mercies are hardly ever new. They’re barely refurbished.

I can hold a grudge so hard, it’s a miracle if it doesn’t break apart in my hand. And I’ve realized, I store up these angry little rocks in my heart even when it comes to the ones I love most.

Even when it comes to my daughter.

She’s a beautiful girl. She’s funny and outgoing and incredibly athletic (girl practically back handspringed out of the womb…ow), and is one of the most street smart people I know.

The only reason I’m not still looking for my car in the Wal-Mart parking lot is because of her.

But she’s strong-willed. And divisive. And manipulative. And an 8 on the enneagram (just like Stalin…but so was Dr. Martin Luther King so there’s hope, y’all).

And a sinner.

Just. Like. Me.

His mercies are new every day.

My mercies have to be new, too.

So that’s my big breath mantra getting me through this tween stage of parenting.

Nobody’s perfect. Not me. Not my daughter.

Only the Lord who grants us favor even when we least deserve it.