Saturday, November 26, 2011

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. And His name is Jesus.

Ok. So obviously Jesus isn't a mystical chubby man with a hankering for milk and cookies that has a knack for fitting thru pencil thin chimneys. Or a key to every house without a chimney. And no. Jesus doesn't have little elf people busily tinkering with Jack-in-the-box or fastening wii game systems together. But there is one thing they have in common: they both give gifts. And I'm convinced...even if you're on the 'naughty' list, you'd still get a gift. Even from Jesus.

So much hustle and bustle around this time. I think people use Thanksgiving as more of a checkpoint rather than a time to indulge in the real meaning. Giving thanks. And that doesnt mean giving thanks for the huge stack of Black Friday ads in the newspaper. Come on. How obsessed are we over THINGS! they are just things. Things. They will break, become obsolete, get worn once to a Christmas dinner, played once, slobbered on by the dog and shrink in the dryer. Things. It makes me sick. I've been cussed out before by a lady on Christmas Eve wanting to buy her middle schooler a laptop. I mean...clearly it was my fault that she waited until 2 hours before the store closed to start her Christmas shopping. Clearly. People don't appreciate what they have now. Or what Santa brought them last Christmas. My mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I truly didn't know. I thought for a second, "nothing i ask for and nothing I do get will really make me happy. Maybe for a week."

Now that I'm older...the 'things' don't mean anything to me. They're just things. But when I can be grateful for what I have...then i know I have everything I need. And yea. My clothes need replacing. My dress shoes are almost sole-less. My car squeaks. My socks don't match when I go to bed. Our desktop computer is stoneaged. I'm too tall for my twin bed. But Jesus gives me everything I need. and most of those things aren't things at all. I have a job. I have a reliable vehicle...that I can afford and I feel safe in. My family loves me. I have a winter jacket. The people in my life are so quality I can't even understand it. I have an amazing church. And I have Jesus. And He has me. Forever.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Get me a medical degree...STAT!

Ok. So sometimes...I don't have a lot to share. And other life events are kinda worth sharing. I think? Anyway. Sometimes I think I'm lucky enough to have random bursts of profoundness. Sometimes...I can be profound. Other times...blogs serve as a minute peek inside a life. How cool?! This peek inside my life proves 1 thing very profoundly...I was in the right place at the right time. Legit. I really was.

Tonight, the girls hockey team I fake help coach had an away game. I wasn't sure I'd make it back in time for my overnight shift. And if I'm gonna be completely honest...I thought maybe I woulda been back in time for my shift, but I wasn't too certain i would be able to stay awake for my shift. So I used my better judgement. I didn't go. I'm glad they won...but I'm even more glad i didn't go. And here's why. I heard my mom open the laundry room door and greet my spastic 7 pound ferocious Yorkie. She brougt him into the garage with her so he could 'help her carry in the groceries' I groggily opened my crusted, sinus eye lids and heard a shout. I sat up and listened harder. My mom was yelling something. I flung the blanket off me and leapt off the couch and hurried to the garage. My mom was saying something about my dog having gotten into the trash that was on it's way to the trash cans. I looked and spotted the torn hole in the trash bag. I slipped on my dads big honkin' shoes and ran down the steps. My dog was walking around with his head stooped and trying to lie down.

I inspected the trash bag. Chicken bones were sticking out of the hole. Normally I would've panicked. This has happened before. His eyes would begin to close, his breathing labored and his tongue would turn blue. My mom picked him up and out of desperation and anger that he was choking, I screamed at him and shoved my fingers into his little mouthful of teeth to try to make him gag up the chicken bones. He's just as stubborn as I am. He didn't want to let that food go. He had worked so hard to rip thru that stinkin trash bag. No way he was just gonna give up the precious chicken just because I was yelling at him and cramming my fingers down his throat, past his little (and very sharp!) teeth. It wasnt working. My mom put him down, hoping that he would just bring it up on his own without the forced gagging. He continued to just circle the garage, clearly in angst. He would lie down then get back up. I didnt know what to do!

 Finally I reached down and grabbed him around his tummy. I lifted him up so his back legs were in the air and that forced his head downward. I started to gently massage his tummy hoping that would force the chicken bones out. It actually worked. But he didn't want to let the food go! I could hear him bringing up the food but he just wouldn't give up. But neither would I. I used my nicest tone, as if he could understand me, and just kept saying, it's ok, it's ok. I kept massaging his little tummy and hoping he would eventually throw up the chicken bones. After about 5 minutes my mom said, "Pull him away, pull him away!" I did and he finally threw up some of the bones. I listened to his breathing and I could tell he was still laboring. It wasn't all out. I put him back down on the ground and kept massaging around his belly and coaxing him to let it go. A few more minutes, and some silent prayers and he threw up the rest. I wiped his face and listened again to his breathing. His eyes looked tired and heavy but I knew he was ok. I rubbed his back and just kept saying, it's ok. It's ok. As if my human comfort was doing anything. I put him down to see how he would walk. Or if he would circle and then lie down. He started walking around, frantically. I got nervous but then I realized he was just trying to find the rest of the chicken. He was back to normal.

That little brat. It was definitely scary. And gross, i might add. But after I walked in the house and fed him a treat for my life-saving efforts, I realized if I had gone to that game, I wouldn't have been home yet. I would've gotten a frantic phone call from my mom on my way home. Driving thru sideways blowing rain. And I would've freaked out. I wouldn't have known what to do. And honestly, I didn't know what to do for the little guy while he was choking. Then instinctively, I reached down and started massaging his tummy. Like I knew what I was doing. Ha! I had no idea. But it worked. And that little brat is back to normal. At this hour, I imagine he's snuggled up nice and tight to my mom under a mound of blankets. Right where he should be.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

He loves me...He loves me not (as much)

I suppose the universal visual for this post title is one of a saddened little girl. Sittng on the corner of her bed, hopelessly picking pedals off a flower. Letting them mindlessly flutter to the floor as she recites the familiar phrase. He loves me, he loves me not. Each time, with every painful pluck, her heart skips when she says, "he loves me!" and then her heart sinks lower than the floor when she realizes the last picked pedal is coordinated with an, "he loves me not."

And don't we do that with God? Well...I do. Example: "Today I read my Bible." He loves me! Two hours later...I stole a candy bar. "He hates me." example: "I went to church today!" he loves me! "I slept in and missed church." He loves me not as much." Let me settle the score...what a load of crap!!! God doesn't some days love you or I more or less. And then on other days stick His nose up at us bc we've made a mistake. Or made a really stupid mistake. Really really really dumb things are going to happen. And those really dumb things...I've probably done. You've probably done! You might have even done a stupid thing already! So what. God's love will never be conditional. Ever. When Jesus died for us, he didn't decide which dumb things be would forgive us for. His love covers a multitude of sin (and really dumb things that we do). Jesus died on a cross between 2 thieves! And he talked to them. Jesus talked to a real live sinner while they both hung on a cross...dying a painful, belittling death. That thief met Jesus on that cross. And then again in Heaven when he died.

God doesn't measure His love. We do. He probably scratches his head when we humans pick off the pedals convincing ourselves that the God of the universe isnt allowed to love us. Stop it! I'm not saying...should we sin bc love abounds? Heck no! But it will happen. And when it does, repent, ask God for His forgiveness that He's already given in His Son Jesus, and move on in him. His love will always be the only unconditional love. And in the depths of the secret parts of our hearts, we all want to be loved unconditionally Right? I think so.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Is God Mean?: My bumpy journey to believe again

This is something I've not shared with hardly anyone. But now, after 4 years, I've begun to find healing in my heartache. I hope beyond hope this helps to bring clarity and healing to those that read this post, Even as I continue to find and experience the same for my own life.

Four years ago today, a friend that I played high school hockey with was killed in a single car accident. Her car wrapped around a tree and she was killed instantly. I read the news in my tiny Bible school dorm room on my laptop from my hometown newspaper online. Instantly my eyes scanned the page to find a name. I got so angry when I couldnt find it. Then i saw her name. My heart began to pound. My face contorted and my eyes welled up instantly with tears. I couldnt think I couldn't feel. I just cried. Sitting at my desk hunched over convulsing in tears. My door was open and no sooner had i started crying did I hear 2 of my hallmates slip into my room and put their warm hands on my back in comfort. And then...they started to pray. I dont remember what they prayed. I'm certain I wasnt interested in hearing anything to do with God. Clearly this was His fault. I believed that all the way up until just recently. But hating what He had done to my friend wasn't the only reason I had for being angry at God. This is where i share my true heartache.

One year to the day and almost to the hour, I was in my own single car accident. Incidentally, I was driving back to NY after a last minute decision to come home for the weekend to grieve Ashley's death. I left my house at 5. It was pitch black by now and it had just began to snow. As soon as I got into my car, I began to cry. Not only was the snow an obstruction to my very cautious driving, now my waterworks were an obstruction. I drove thru Canada with both hands on the wheel, chest nearly touching the steering wheel as i strained to see out my windshield. I even thought of turning back. But i decided to trudge thru. I cried for the entire 3 hours thru Canada. Once I got to the NY border I was only 1.5 hours from my apartment. I stopped to get a drink to help keep me alert. It had just begun to snow again.
Soon the salt trucks were out. I slowed my speed to 55mph. The limit was 65mph. But I wanted to be careful just in case there was ice that I couldn't see. Meanwhile having Ashley on my mind. I was trying to stay focused. About 5 minutes after passing the salt trucks and a handful of semi trucks, I noticed a pickup truck in front of me violently swerve. It was almost like he was avoiding something like a deer or some other debris. I scooted closer to my steering wheel and moved my foot slowly from the accelerator to the brake to avoid whatever was up ahead. My cautious driving sent me into a tailspin. I was driving over black ice when I pushed the brake pedal. My car immediately and violently swerved and was now traveling up the highway sideways, my driver side facing all the trucks I had just passed. I took my hands off the wheel and my feet off the pedals and clenched my fists and opened my mouth to pray. As soon as I did, my car slammed head on at 50mph into the guardrail in the passing left lane and bounced my car back into the 2-lane highway, still turned sideways in the middle of the 2 lanes. In that moment, in those quick 10 seconds, I prepared myself for death. I knew I was going to die. Spoiler alert...I didn't. The only thing I could see in my mind was getting T-boned by all those semi trucks I had just passed. I closed my eyes, clenched my fists to prepare for the impact and said aloud, "God, please make it fast. I dont want to be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life." smash. My car had smashed into the right lane guardrail and parallel parked itself better than any human could right up against the guardrail. I slammed on the gas bc I thought i was still in the middle of the road. I couldnt see bc my hood was crushed up and I couldnt see over it. I finally realized where I was and had to crawl out my passenger window. I ran away from my car bc I was sure someone else was going to slide into the black ice and smash my car. As soon as i got out, all the semi trucks I passed roared by. I couldnt cry. I couldn't talk. I couldn't feel. I waved frantically at all the passing cars but no one stopped. Until a state trooper did and took my info and drove me to a toll booth station where i waited for my boss and her husband to come get me.

I totaled my car. My seat belt, the design work of something called a crumble zone in Saturns and God, saved my life. Without the crumble zone, the insides of my car underneath my hood would have come thru the dash and crushed me. Instead of smashing thru, it crumbled. A full 3 feet.
From that day on the eve of November 18th, until recently, I shook my fist at God for sparing my life and taking the life of my friend. I toiled day and night. Even in my dreams. Randomly I would flashback and relive the accident.

My true heartache was wrapped up in my 'why's'
Why did you let her die! Why did you let me live?
Wake up...feel guilt. Walk thru my day...feel guilt. Lay in bed at night...cry away the guilt. Or at least until I fell asleep. Every year on the anniversary of Ashley's death and the heightened state of my anger towards God for not sparing her life, but sparing mine, i felt like my head swirled around in the darkness of anger. i felt like i was a little kid with a flashlight that kept going out while i was searching for an answer as to why.  Why, God? Why are you so heartless? Why God? Why are you so careless?  Why, GOD!?!?! Why didn't you save her? 

For nearly 3 years i walked in that hellish storm. asking why. shaking my fists at Him. shaking my head at him. how was God good? He wasn't! I could never believe again that He was good. Or could i? 

This is what i've learned.  I've never learned the why, but i've learned to ask different questions. I don't ask Him why He didn't save her. I don't ask Him why He saved me. This is what i do know. He DID save her. He saved her from injury just like He saved me from injury. Yes, the outcomes were different. Ashley never would have been the kind to be ok with you dwelling on something negative, especially if it was about her. she would want you to embrace life, embrace the second chances. And how beautiful is that because God is the exact same way. He wants you to embrace life. He wants you to embrace the second chances.  i wish like hell i could change what happened. but i've learned i cannot. i can't ever.  not with any bad thing that has ever happened.  Here's the rest of the truth.  God is still good.  the only thing that changed was my heart. He never changed. I just needed someone to blame for my indescribable hurt.  and God was it.  He's not anymore. and even though, yes, i do sometimes experience my indescribable hurt, i am overcome with memories from that day, from that week and i am stricken with paralyzing grief once again...this time, I know that i know that He's good. no matter what.  it's taken me 3 years to finally realize this again.  God is good and life sometimes is not. sometimes, it sucks. and sometimes, it hurts like hell. and sometimes, it's not fair. 
but this i know, God is ALWAYS faithful in every situation. and sometimes, what we think is faithful just isn't. in every situation, in every season, He is and always will be God.  Yea. i still miss her. But i suppose God missed her more. and when i think about it like that, i'm a little more ok. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Trust fall

...though yes, i trust Fall to be one of my favorite seasons of the year and every year, it shows up and meets my high expectations, what with it's golden crisp leaves, the brisk mornings that cause you to look like a chain smoker when you first walk outside and breathe, the new hoodies that don my closet rack and the start of college football, i am not talking about trusting the season, Fall. I'm talking about the act of a trust fall. ya know...when you have someone standing behind you and you throw your arms out to the sides of you in a wingspan formation and let your feet come up off of the ground and you fall into the arms of the person standing behind you...well, hopefully.  if they weren't would just be a fall. though perhaps more hilarious...not more fun. unless it was a pile of leaves you were falling in...then, very different story.

it seems that lately, i've had, wanted, to trust God more. with...everything actually.  turns out...He likes it when we trust Him. He WANTS us to trust Him.  i feel like most times, when we say, "Yea i just need to trust God more" it's for like, material things...which is totally fine! i'm not knocking the physical need. we are mankind. we need things sometimes.  so, don't get all pissy! (yet...)

I think today, in these times, we tend to forget that we can not just trust Him for the physical needs we have...a car, a job, an income, our health, our families, clothes, etc. but more so, for the emotional stuff. the junk that sits on the inside. the stuff that swirls around like an eddy of leaves in the very pit of our souls. the stuff, the junk that can't even be put into mere words. maybe it comes out  in your tears, or a mad journaling session. maybe there's a song that accurately describes what you just cannot put into words. but the ease in the midst of the not understanding, is that He totally understands. Completely. Absolutely.  He gets it.  oh my gosh. so many times we toil in our own muck. we sit in our own pity. and it's comfortable. why? because we don't move. we sit in it.  or we go the total oppostite way.  we run. we shove that stuff down. and we become resentful. hardened to the grace of God...when deep down...isn't that what we want to begin with?  i say yes. because i've been both of those rotten places.  i'm not saying crap doesn't happen to good people...and shoot, even awesome things happen to not so good people.  that's just the world we live in. it's not fair all the time.  but let's stop and remember...was it really fair that Jesus died because of all of our sin and our junk and our self pity and our hardened hearts? i think not.

let me be more clear...
i've had crap happen in my life. crap still happens in my life. i could list that crap...but i don't want pity or sympathy. I have God and He can heal me. people cannot.  and i'm not even saying that i've not allowed people into my crappy crap. you need people. besides sacrificing His one and only Son, God's greatest gift to mankind was and still is people.

wow. God is so good. His peace is the only thing that can calm a raging sea. quiet a disasterous storm.  and be in all places at all times. right now...He's with me. right now, He's with you. Emmanuel...God with us. 
Each day, i trust fall into His grace.    

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

finally...i caved.

ok. time to update.  So this will be the 3rd time i will have attempted to post this dang thing.  i tried the first time and was actually pleasantly happy with the way my writing turned out.  then i hit publish. and i got an error message. i was PIIIISSSSSED!!!! i frantically searched my history, no luck. with no luck, hit the back button. my last hope was to check the drafts section of my posts...gahhh!!! it wasn't there either.  so begrudgingly, i redid another one.  but this time, i copied it! i opened my email and hit paste and nothing came up. tried again. nothing. and one more time...still nothing.  so i hit publish. and i hit that error message again. feeling my hopes fall i decided to shut off my iPod and quit it.  seriously, my 2nd post of the original was less than adequate. so. i gave it a few days. and im going to attempt one last time, hoping the error messages have ceased to exist. for the sake of me pulling out another patch of hair. (just kidding...i could never pull out enough of my hair). 
ready. begin.

Hi. I'm Erica. a different one than before.  still me. just...different. changed. im still stubborn. one of my best qualities.  my stubbornness got in the way, but then one day, it didn't.  and then one day, i remembered God has called me to do something. something amazing.  amazing because He is amazing.  not because i am. 

That being said, i'll form a new paragraph, because I'm starting a new thought. i learned to do that in one of my classes.  not math class. i hate math. for the past 4 months, i have been constantly becoming undone with the knowledge of how...(i need to make sure i get this right)...gently-kind-hearted God is to me.  How incredibly patient He is.  oh my goodness.  i felt like the children of Israel, walking around, wondering what in the heck i was accomplishing.  then one day, i sent an email to a church i had been going to for a couple Sundays.  then a day after that i got a return email. then the day after that i met with Julie.  the week after that i was volunteering in the offices a few times a week.  then a few weeks after that, i finally stepped into the cusp of what God has been slowly revealing to me all along.  my heart is enveloped in the next generation. to equip them and raise them up to equip and raise up the generation behind know God and His loving kindness.  His mercy. His forgiveness.  to be a part of raising up a real generation to serve and know a real Jesus. cuz He is real.

For the past couple months, i've been absolutely incredibly blessed to be able to have the opportunity to serve God alongside one of the best "yellows" i've ever had the privilege of meeting.  in a nutshell, i shadow my church's youth pastor.  and when i say she's incredible...i have seriously and superlatively missed the mark in describing just how blessed i am to serve God with her.  to weave in and out of the lives of the youth that come every Sunday night, sewing seeds of goodness and mercy. of truth and trust.

Thanks a lot, youth group. and Sarah. and Laura. because for the past couple of months i have been feeling a bit more frustrated. a bit more blah.  a bit more restless.  in regards to my job.  most of you know that im a patient sitter at the hospital. i sit with suicide precaution, elderly/dementia patients 4 nights a week.  and after almost 12 months of being yelled at, kicked at, scratched, punched, cussed out and felt up by an old man with Alzheimer's, i'm so glad i've finally caved and begun to walk into the fullness of what God has molded my heart to do. when i first noticed my shorter patience (i have a lot of it, don't worry), i wondered why.this is it: it's because I'm finally doing something that fulfills my heart and touches only the surface of my destiny, in serving the youth group at my church.  not sitting with patients, at least not forever, in an either freezing cold, dark hospital room, or a sauna-like, bright as the surface of the sun ER room, contemplating my nearest escape if  patient X decides to become combative towards me. but to truly truly serve God with others that love Him and follow Him wherever He leads them.  it just so happens He is leading me into the brokenness and triumphs of the lives of young people.

and i'm so lucky to be on this journey with some of the most                                                                                                amazing people i have ever met.  (yes, that is a shout-out)