Killing pride.

My god is me.

I’ve never had a hard time loving myself.

And hating myself.

And focusing on myself.

It’s the sin of pride. Of utter disillusionment.

And it’s all over Twitter.

It’s all over the world.

Our fear is tricky.

It has a way of coiling, snake-like into our knees and elbows.

It becomes us.

And we play victim to it.

Sometimes, master.

But then for a few of us,

there’s that moment we give it up.

We exchange the world for the One

who created it.

And we’re left with fresh eyes,

Old lens and retina scalpeled

and peeled, soaking in a hot-white

reality where truth is buried deep

and lies are swallowed whole.

We are new.

Fresh.

But the stink

can still seep into

the pores.

There’s always

a stalking, walking

lion,

ready to devour.

But then again,

there’s also the

hopefully-winged

beating of our

hearts.

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Let’s get published, y’all.

You guys.

I need to get my stuff published.

But my stuff has a heart for Jesus and a gritty way of expressing itself.

So, “Good luck, Ericka” right?

WRONG.

Because my good friend, Veronica, just solved all of my problems.

She’s created the Heart of Flesh Literary Journal that is seeking writers like me.

And if you happen to be just like us, please submit your work, too.

Think of the ministry this could be, connecting Christians and non-Christians and aptly producing works that ACCURATELY portray the Christian faith.

No hair braiding or hand holding here, folks.

Can you do me a favor and share this post so we can get the word out? Tweet, Facebook, call your grandmother.

You should probably call your grandmother anyways.

I’d appreciate it. And so would she.

Here’s to creative genius, a deep love for the Savior, and painting the dark with light.

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How to choose Jesus and still write fiction.

The before and after.

I was writing a novel before choosing Jesus (I hate saying “became a Christian.” It just sounds like I filled out some sort of information card and put fifty cents into a jar. It was more like seventy-five so whatevs…).

This novel was a small child I carried in my brain, and I did everything I could to write it into submission and “Christianize” it so to speak, but as all writers understand, you can’t make your characters do anything other than make you go crazy.

(There were an awful amount of curse words in it now that I’m thinking about it. But these things happen. Maybe not to other people but definitely to me.)

So I stopped writing. I started blogging and even toyed with the notion of writing a non-fiction book about my faith journey.

But I figured I should probably read the Bible first so scratch that.

So then I submitted a brilliant poetry manuscript to a poetry contest and guess who didn’t win first place and a one thousand dollar grand prize?

Me. It was me.

I started to get frustrated, but then I realized whenever things get frustrating, it’s God saying, “Ericka, for the love of tripe, quit freaking out. We all know you’re terribly good at it, but nobody is giving away awards to thirty-four-year-old homeschooling mothers who just got coffee on their sweatshirts and are trying to clean their kitchen floors with their tears.”

But can you imagine? I’d absolutely toast the competition.

God speaks to us in a million different ways. My favorite is when I’m quiet and turn down the surrounding noise and my journey starts to click in place again without me even trying.

Right now? That’s writing a blog where I share my thoughts and the heart I have for a savior who never stops saving me.

And it’s also writing a collection of short stories I’m keeping close to my soul, the “after” Jesus piece that’s sparked by His will for my life and my passion for following the curving line that leads from one person’s life to another.

I don’t have to be the old me.

I can just be the better one.


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He loves you, not your Lexus.

Commercialized Christianity.

I termed it this way to one of my very cool blog readers (Hi, Daniel!), and it’s stuck like gum to the shoe that is my brain.

Or something like that.

I don’t know if you feel it, but it seems pretty prevalent. Doctrine based on the prosperity gospel (this concept that financial blessing and physical well-being are always God’s will for a person…um….have these people met God?) and other false doctrine tends to lend itself to this new-fangled term.

Or maybe it’s old-fangled. Maybe there’s a whole Wikipedia page about it that I’m too lazy look up. In that case, apologies.

I guess my issue now (as well as back in the day when God was the last thing on my mind…right after getting an “oil change.” I mean, that just sounds gross) is that people turn the grit and grime of Biblical living into a beautiful little present with just the cutest little bow on top.

Have you gone outside?

Nothing cute about that mess.

This life is no different from when Moses was wandering out in the desert, face in his hands.

True, Christ came and He rose and we have that good news (no wait, BEST news) in our hearts that makes this life so worth living now.

But there is absolutely nothing cutesy and safe about this walk with Christ. In fact, let me remind of you something:

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:33 

When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” Luke 9:1-5

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:57-62

It might just be me, but I’m getting the sinking suspicion Jesus isn’t too concerned with how many Lexuses I own.

I’m not saying having money is bad. I’m not saying being prosperous is bad. And I’m definitely not saying that’s not God’s will for you.

What I am saying is that your security, safety, and good fortune are not the point of the Gospel.

Jesus is the point of the Gospel. How He lived and died and loves you and me and every sinner in this world despite the fact that we certainly don’t deserve it.

Maybe, just maybe we shouldn’t read the Bible to learn about ourselves, and instead, read the Bible to learn about Him.

One last note: Have you ever read the Book of Job? Do you understand the point of Job’s story? It’s this idea that God allowed so many horrible things to happen to poor Job, not to punish him, but to elevate him to a spiritual status like none other.

God loved Job. So God gave Job a trial to further their relationship together and to release Job of everything that doesn’t matter in this world.

Everything but God.

And I can assure you this: Job never received a Lexus.

And I have a feeling that Job didn’t care.


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All the thoughts in my head.

Last week I started getting panic attacks again.

An all out black fear that wouldn’t let me breathe.

It tried to convince me God doesn’t exist.

And I was choking on that lie, that misguided belief.

Before Jesus, I pretty much ascribed to the theory that my mind was dented sometime during the manufacturing process and all of my thoughts were simply the result of an imperfect production process.

I think differently now.

Sometimes I’ll be thinking something and it’s woven into something darker and larger than myself which facilitates such a deep fear that I know didn’t do this all on my own.

I’m not that talented.

I know I had help.

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)

And I think sometimes Satan still roams, preys on those whose eyes are finally open and now live with the deepest faith. 

On the intuitive ones who have known him for the longest time.

I mean, wouldn’t you want back what you were once convinced was yours to keep?

How easy to take a mind, to snatch at what God has created and render it fruitless.

But how easy to know and love a God who’s never really let it go in the first place.


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Finding road, not water.

I started an email account for my daughter when she was a baby.

And I wrote emails to her pretty regularly so you have to imagine that inbox looking like the chronicled thoughts of a post-partum lunatic.

I mean, I don’t want to brag, but at some points in my life, I could have definitely given Sylvia Plath a run for her money.

There was one evening, driving on the JFK bridge (John F. Kennedy Causeway if we’re going to get all technical about it) that connects Flour Bluff to Padre Island. And to this day, that bridge is representative of the very thin veil that exists between my heaven and hell.

Because that day, her screaming was so bad, I thought about it. About what metal and concrete and the slow-fast glide into a solid sheet of water would feel like.

How nice it would be if everything just got a little bit quiet.

It’s not something I’m ashamed of as much as it’s something I refer back to, thumbing through to my beginning chapters and telling myself: “See. That was what darkness felt like.”

And then I turn my face to the sun.

But sometimes it comes back, that old familiar feeling. I break bread with it in my closet, give it a little room to sort through my shoes and rifle through my shirts. I imagine it looks at me and smirks, “Look who thinks she’s all grown up.”

But we never are. Not on our own.

There’s you. There’s that voice telling you to venture out. To search that quiet.

To make everything stop.

But then there’s God.

Because that night, who do you think steadied my hands and straightened my gaze, my eyes finding road, not water?

I can guarantee you, it wasn’t the post-partum lunatic.

So here. One last email:

Dear Ava,

Your mother’s crazy.

But she loves you.

And she’s never needed anything except for God’s unfailing light.

If that’s the only thing I teach you, then I think we’ve won.

Love,

Your Mother

 


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To suffering: until we meet again.

My Job period is coming to a close.

If you haven’t heard me screaming from my rooftop and seen the clumps of hair I’ve been scattering through the city, then let me bring you up to speed: I’m thirty-three-years-old. And I’ve been battling acne.

It’s been a hard turn of events for someone who was once stopped in the street by a member of the male sex in his mid-twenties and was told point blank, “You are really naturally pretty.”

It also may have been in the middle of the night. And that guy might have been stumbling drunk out of a bar.

But still.

I’ve learned this: I’m a very vain person, and I put a lot of stock into my looks. Which is really too bad because despite the acne, my looks are leaving me and will continue to do so.

Age, man. It’s a losing battle.

But I’ve chosen better instead of bitterness. I’ve chosen the Job route: getting angry at God only to have a conversation with Him and to really understand that He is the Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth. And maybe this point in my life isn’t a punishment but an opportunity.

An opportunity to get over myself and learn who I really am.

Without all that wretched prettiness getting in the way.

I have a purpose, a calling. An urge to write truth and let it sting the page.

Maybe I’ll focus on that for a little bit. And let the catcalls of a mid-twenties drunkard be the faint whisper of a bitterly sweet life.

Once here. Now gone.

Bring on the future.


Never fear. I’ll be writing another post about how exactly I cured my acne in case you, too, are an early-thirties victim of this Job-like epidemic. Prayers and hugs to you. And perhaps start walking around aimlessly in the city to find some drunk dude willing to give you well meaning compliments.

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Cuter than a bucket full of baby chicks.

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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