Friday, May 24, 2013

Mini-Vans to Colorado & a Huge Thank You

Most of you know by now I'm taking a mission trip to Colorado at the end of June.  I just wanted to update to let you know how things are moving along. And how God has been faithful in supplying the funds for me and others to go on this trip.
The cost of the trip was $525. Last week, we announced to the group of youth going that the cost had been cut...nearly in half! Total cost of the trip is now $300.  And we are now driving instead of flying...which means I won't need a puke bucket on the way there and back.  My trip has been fully funded bc of some awesome people in my life that believe in me and the reason behind this pour out some love to others, with no strings attached. The way Jesus loves.  All of the money has been given, none of it is my own. 
I sold spaghetti dinner tickets, boxes of candy bars & and carnations on Mother's Day.  Then of course the remaining money was all donated by some pretty awesome people. 
I just wanted to thank all of you for contributing to this part of my journey. I really could not have done it without you. You know who you are. 
It's been really cool to see God move in the lives of those going on this trip with me. I've heard of many of the youth receiving anonymous donations for them to go on this trip. Most if not all of them, will be experiencing their first mission trip. 
It's so cool that they're seeing God's faithfulness move in their lives before we even get to Colorado. One of the youth's trip got completely paid for and he wasn't even planning on going.  I mean...come on!! That's amazing!  

Here's a little sneak peak into what we'll be doing while we're there;
Home makeover, youth rally, kids rally & white water rafting. (ok, so I may need the puke bucket for that.)
Just to name a few things.  Thank you again for supporting the vision of serving others that I hope to live out my life doing, with no strings attached. 
Here's a list of names of those going on the trip that you can be praying for. I love them all and can't wait to see how God helps them grow in this part of their journey with Him.
Pastors Mark & Tracee 
Pastor Sarah
Youth Leaders;
Tristan & Kerina (and me)
Alyssa, Tina, Cory, Evan, Donovan, Alex & Dustin. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013


One week ago I was packed into a sold out stadium at a concert. It was the most fun I've had in...well, it's been awhile. Sometimes I find myself reflecting. I've come to understand that reflecting is also part of the way I begin to heal. Reflecting inward brings healing to me. Reflecting outward brings healing to others. 

my first T-Swift concert!
So I reflected on what my day looked like one week ago. I was giddy with excitement to go see one of my favorite music artists in concert. I was beyond excited to scream "We are never ever ever getting back together!" along with 49,999 other raving fans. Well, 49, sister isn't a fan of Taylor Swift, but she went (and I'm pretty sure she had a fun time).  I actually felt like a girl, worried about what outfit I was going to wear, putting on my mascara in the car to save time. It was fun. And I remember as the the lights darkened and the color red filled the stage, I looked at my cousin as Taylor Swift appeared from behind a giant curtain and asked, "is this really happening right now?? Seriously?" 
It was. And I had so much fun. Have I already said that?? 

And as I keep reflecting on that night, I just cant get away from the feeling I have. I actually kinda
felt...inspired...? Yes...after a concert...I felt inspired. So over the course of my reflecting, I kept asking myself, "what has got me so worked up about Taylor Swift?!" 

And then I realized it. She is sharing her story. Over and over and over again. Night after night. Sold out, sold out, sold out. I watched a documentary a few nights ago and felt that same nagging inspiration. And it's because of something that she said in a personal interview. She talked about vulnerability. She said it hurts to be vulnerable and most would agree its not safe to be vulnerable. But that she does it anyway and shares her vulnerable stories with millions of people. 

In her song called, "Forever & Always" she addresses a break up that was hurtful & messy. The way she performs it onstage is nothing like I've ever seen before. She does it so...real. It's really her.  Not a singer singing about someone else's heartache...but her own. She drops to her knees after the song progresses from anger to sadness. She puts her head down and stretches a hand out toward the end of the stage and faces her palm up. About half a dozen girls reach for her hand and just hold on. Soon after, Taylor reaches out her other hand, palm up and it's swallowed by more reaches of comfort. The girls just hold her hands and rub her arm with a real vulnerable kind of comfort. Taylor has her head down on the stage the entire time and just let's the guitar play in the background as she just soaks in the comfort of touch. And yes, she DOES throw a chair! (check out the link to the video below, specifically starting at 3:55, but the whole video is good. i do not own this video)

The part of her interview comes back up and she shares what she was feeling during that moment with her vulnerability pouring out onstage. She describes it as the touch of their hands being comforting. She was sharing a real time in her life of real hurt with thousands of people. She described that moment as a very personal one, that "holding someone's hand is such a personal thing."
That inspired me...? But why? Maybe bc she doesn't seem so superhuman after all. Taylor Swift is personal. She spends hours before and after shows with fans, visits oncology florors, does special meet and greets before and after shows bc she knows it could all be gone in an instant. She still remembers where she came from. 

Sure shes super famous...but she's also super normal. 
Why am I so inspired? Because she tells her story and she knows it's risky, but she does it anyway.
I'm inspired bc I want to share my story, too. 

Hateful...a week later I'm in a fast-paced, patient-packed ER at work. The EMS wheels a patient into one of the trauma rooms, and shortly after, an alarm starts buzzing loudly. Nurses scurried out of rooms like ants escaping an ant hill and ran past the room I was in and into the trauma room. I've learned in my 2.5 years here at the hospital, that's never a good sign. I heard the secretary whisper, "that's the patient coding."  another nurse comes around the corner and says, "go get the husband. Is the husband here?"  Not good. After about 15 minutes, the nurses that pounded the floor to get to that trauma room emerged, their faces blank. They peeled of gloves and shook their heads. The woman died. They all went back to doing what they were doing before. Like nothing happened. About an hour later, the charge nurse lead the husband, the daughter and another relative to the room. On Mother's Day...someone's mom died. And I watched from 2 rooms away the shock that causes tears to dry up in deep wells of the soul. I almost forgot what I was doing until the young guy I was with sat up and asked, "how much longer until you're done babysitting?" 
It jolted me out of my empathy & I wanted to snap back, "I'm NOT your babysitter." but I didn't, even though the second time hearing it made me want to fly outa my chair and explain that I'm not a babysitter. That it offends me when people call me that. But I just answered somberly, "7am."
I snapped out of my empathetic state and accompanied him to the bathroom, where he spewed vomit all over the floor and walls. 

I shook my head to myself. 
"I can't wait to be done babysitting." 
It was then that I began to reflect on my day/night one week ago. How different it was. How polar opposite my Saturday nights were in the span of just a week. And the word 'reflection' holds tightly to my emotions. It chokes the life out of me sometimes. Reflection. It peels back layers that have since scabbed over and as milestones in life hit, the scab of reflection itches for healing.  

This mothers day I reflect. 12 months ago, instead of packing into a stadium with 50,000 people in it, I was crammed on a couch in a tiny apartment, pouring over old photos. About 14 of us piled over each other in my grandmas tiny apartment laughing and "remembering when." the same thought loomed in all of our minds as we turned pages of sepia-colored memories, worn with age & life. it would be the last mothers day for my grandma. And even though that sick feeling and nagging thought wove thru our minds, we continued to look at pictures, eat bean dip & make fun of the big-haired photos. 

Cancer. I reflect on that. It's what laid the final brutal assault on my otherwise healthy grandma, and stole her life. We remember & reflect on certain days. After 11 months, the scab of death itches & I want to rip it off in anger, but I know it'll hurt

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

I'm Erica. I'm 26. And I Love Taylor Swift.

I'm not sure I'd consider myself as being vocal about things that I like. Sometimes I feel it & other times I don't. Sometimes I just feel like its not worth the time it takes to argue out my point. And sometimes it's bc I really really want to be right...and other times I'm fine with believing why I want to like something even if no one else understands or thinks like I do. 

With that being said, I think Taylor Swift takes a lot of crap from a lot of people. And I'm guessing that the people that give her grief have no connection with her at all.  I dont have any connection with her that is two-way...I do follow her social media outlets (twitter, instagram) but other than that and having the most fun I've had in a long time at my first Taylor Swift concert over the weekend, me and TSwift aren't best friends.  

It's too easy to google something like, "Taylor Swift critics" & see loads of links pop up in under 2 seconds.  And yes, I mean literally, 2 seconds. I often wonder why it is that people criticize her & talk bad about her. I've heard the same thing year after year every time one of her new albums wins an award, or a new song of hers climbs the charts to the number one slot...and stays there for weeks. I've often thought, "who cares? What's your beef?" this is usually the answer I hear; "oh my gosh, ANOTHER song about a boyfriend. What a ______(insert inappropriate verbiage here)".  And for some odd reason, it kinda ticks me off.  I've heard numerous times how awful she is live in concert.  I've heard it all, it's no stayed secret.  
So I thought, "why does it make me mad when I hear someone raise a rebuttal to my explanation of why I love Taylor Swift?" I feel as though I have an answer, but I'll share it later.

I may even take some flak for "going public" with my secret of really loving Taylor & her music. But I don't care. And I say that not with venom spewing out of my mouth at 'Taylor haters' but with...feelings & emotion. 

I'm deep into the thought of story. 
And what's a story without feelings & emotions? Usually a biography. (joke). I think there's a common thread of DNA in all of us.  It's the thread of story. It's the thread that connects us to people we will never know & even those we know very well. Story connects human beings. Why? Because our story is the truest one someone will ever hear.
We like juicy facts. It intrigues us. It keeps us lunging for more, craning our necks to hear the next thing.  It reminds us, "hey, I'm not actually alone in this." 

Story connects us with God. Why? Because His Word is a story, the other truest one you'll ever read.  He's the Author & Finisher of every last story represented on earth and in heaven. God chose the method of story-telling to teach us about His relentless pursuit for us...we imperfect humans. He gives us rules to follow bc He loves us & wants His best for us. It's laced all throughout the Old & New Testament.  Stories upon stories of countless people, following Him, disobeying Him, but He still pursued them. Murderers, thieves, Pharisees, liars, gossips, unfaithful cheaters, betrayers, etc..  But...He STILL chose them, He still loved them. He loved them as much as He loves me now and even in 5 years from now, no matter what I do or don't do. His love is constant & unconditional. I know this from reading it time after time in His Story. 

I think it's just in us, the need we have to share our story. And there are handfuls of ways to do it and 
the way I'm good at it may not be the way that you're good at it.  And that's OK!! 
It's what makes us unique.  For some, it might be short, pithy sayings on a twitter account or fb post.
It may be public speaking. It might be in a lengthy text message, or email. It could be over coffee
once a week with a dear friend or mentor. Or it could be a stranger in the grocery store. Or like
me...writing a blog...about how much I love Taylor Swift. We're all linked and wired to share our

Have you ever considered, just maybe, Taylor Swift is sharing her story through song-writing? That she shares her talent (yes, I said talent) with grave vulnerability each time she writes in her journal and puts guitar chords to it? Or sits down at a piano and spills her emotion onto the keys in front of her? Have you ever considered...that Taylor Swift is a real human being? Like you?

I think that's what got me.  Of course I was EXCITED to see her live in concert.  Obviously. Of 
course I felt like a teenager stuck inside my 
mid-20's as I sat in angst, waiting for her to take the stage (and praying it would never end.)
Absolutely I felt like a little girl getting spoiled on Christmas when i opened my new Taylor Swift cd
& the concert ticket with it. Her cd was at the top of my Christmas list...I NEVER expected a concert

But the thing that got me was this; the look on her face after she sang her first song. It was on the big screen for 50,000 screaming fans to see.  But for some strange reason, I doubt 98% of them saw what
I saw.  I stared at the screen as I cheered and clapped. And it hit me. The look on her face, as she
scanned the crowd, made it feel like she was trying to connect with each face individually. 100,00
eyes staring at her 2, staring back at us. The look on her face said, "they all came" it was as
if her dream had come true right on that stage and she was really witnessing it for the very first time. 
She was sharing her story with thousands upon thousands of people. It's her way of sharing her story; 
writing music & performing it. 

What an amazing gift of influence she has. A sold out crowd came to hear a 23-year old's story.  She
sold out Ford Field...The Lions can't even do that on Thanksgiving day.  The show she did a couple
days prior in Kentucky sold out at 17,000. That's like filling up Joe Lous Arena 3 times & putting it into Ford Field...that's how big her crowd was on Saturday night.

In that moment of ear-deafening screaming, it was like I could hear her thoughts. She was astounded. More than we were. Much of her fans idolize her, but in that moment, I humanized her. She has feelings, emotions, tragedies, fears, family, friends & a story. Just like I do. Just like you do. The way we express our stories is different...and that's good. 

Earlier in my rant, I said it really ticks me off when I hear ppl complaining about who Taylor Swift is & what she's not. And heres the reason I came up with; bc shes a person to me, not just some idol on a pedestal.  I don't see her as some crazed alien with no feelings & no heart. She's a human...just like me...just like you. She has an address, a cell phone, a mom and dad and even a cat.  You can argue that she's different bc of the amount of money she has. You can say she's a stuck up _______ whatever that has no feelings.  You can criticize her for being fake.  But I have a hunch that she just wants to be herself....and then share that.  

Jeeeesh! Why you gotta be so mean? 😉