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She talks to Jesus.

I talk to Jesus all the time.

But not in a super weird religious way that doesn’t fit right but in a sort of, “Oh hey there, best friend, this guy is offering us free popcorn. You want some, too?” kind of way which often gets me kicked out of Wal-Mart.

It’s like I take Him in by osmosis, deep breath by deep breath.

And I think it might be for a few reasons:

  • I’m growing deeper in my faith journey. I’m learning more. I’m learning to love others which has never been my cup of tea. I’m making myself available to people, which I supposed is part of that whole loving thing. Again, it hurts. (The fact that my husband and I routinely joke about my icy heart and RBF should tell you a thing or two. Which he kind of loves because I can’t be moved, y’all.)
  • The world is ending. I feel like one of those crazies on a street corner with the sign and unwashed hair but the crazy has worn off and all I see is a deep commitment to truth in their eyes.
  • I’ve cut the fat. There are so many distractions on the daily. I’ve removed so many in my life that I now feel like I have my finger on the pulse of who God is and who He created me to be.

Perfection? Ah, heck no.

But growth? I’ve got that one down pat.

And really, it all began with one little word to the Father Almighty:

“Hello.”

Insert Adele sound clip here.

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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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Beyond skin deep.

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. 


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Bibles and blazers, oh my.

The closest I ever got to reading the Bible growing up was the Bible as Fiction class I took in college.

Wait. Scratch that.

I did have a religion class I took in high school. (Think Catholic. All Girls. Blazers. A sobering realization later in life that not everyone gets a brand new car on their sixteenth birthday. Yeah.)

I remember having to tab those really thin, practically see through pages and either accidentally sticking the pages together or ripping them apart.

So I easily equated the Bible with equal parts frustration and anger over the years.

Plus it’s antiquated, right? I mean look at us now. All evolved and emotionally sensitive to each others’ needs.

I’m sorry. I just fell out of my chair from all the laughing. And the idea of me wearing a blazer.

Okay, so what if it’s not antiquated? What if it applies even if socially things have changed a bit over the years? How does this book reflect our lives and more importantly, how does this book guide each individual human being on the planet to become the living embodiment of Christ’s love on earth?

That’s a pretty big ask in my book. And I know what wearing polyester on a daily basis feels like.

So, where do we begin?

I always like to begin at the beginning if only to live my life like a Lewis Carroll novel. And I find that beginnings are easier when you have back up.

Enter the Bible Project.

The Bible Project is a series on YouTube that breaks down what exactly the Bible is, how to read it, and how it connects with Jesus in ways that’s hard to fathom for us simple plebeians who are still lamenting the fact that Hanson is no longer played on the radio. 

Above is their What is the Bible? video. Every video of theirs is beautifully animated, well-researched, and put into understandable terms that WILL BLOW YOUR MIND.

Take that super annoying and not at all useful Bible tabs.

But because these guys have built such an amazing ministry and have a heart for truly spreading the Good News to others, they also have a website where you can download written materials that take studying the Bible to the next level.

And I don’t know if you know anything about me but studying is how I like to get my party on. They don’t call me Party Pants Clay for no reason. And by “they” I mean me. And my dog. She’s half-chihuahua so you know she’s legit.

The Bible Project crew offers study notes on various topics, but I’m linking their How to Read the Bible study notes here.

“But Ericka, I don’t even own a Bible and don’t have the magnificent shoulders necessary to pull of a blazer like you do.” 

I know, you guys. I know.

 

But then here’s this brilliance: Tim and Jon, the co-founders of The Bible Project, already knew that and developed an easily accessible Bible app like the glorious wizards they are.

It’s called the Read Scripture app and breaks down the Bible into digestible chunks and even sprinkles their informative videos and meditative/prayer opportunities throughout.

And again, no tabbing required.

I cannot stress that enough.

I’m creating a resources page on my site that will have this type of info handy for you all.

I know what it’s like to live in the darkness. And there will be plenty of opportunity to get into the nitty gritty of my past life. But just know, it only seems like the end because the end is whispering hard in your ear.

But so is God.

It’s up to you to decide who you’re going to listen to. And the Bible can help you do just that.

No blazer required. Fortunately.


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