Saturday, May 29, 2010

the joy of dwelling (#6)

**this is part 6 of my testimony that i began posting on 5/17/10…thank you all for reading this. One more to go! **

Walking away from the youth group led me to walking towards a God ordained resting period. I clung to the verses from Habakkuk during this time of feeling bare, of being nothing but a fruitless dry tree, of gaining nourishment from the roots I had in the Lord's love. Eventually, the winter season was going to turn into spring as Song of Solomon 2:10-12 reminds us:

"My beloved spoke, and said to me: "Rise up, my love, my fair one, And come away.
For lo, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; The time of singing has come, And the voice of the turtledove Is heard in our land."

This verse is one that is always brought to my attention as I am dealing with hard situations. Erika, He says to me, it's time to walk in My spring time. It's time to start growing again. It's time to produce the fruit that you were made to produce. I have called you away from that dry, cold and lifeless wintry season. Your tears have caused the earth to bring forth flowers again. You had to shed the old foliage to make room for the new. There is life to be seen and to be experienced, come away with Me and lets find it!"

I found Spring time when I chose the Lord over myself, chose to trust that He knew me better than myself, and chose to follow His path.

It led me to an internship at church.
And a new job making jewelry where I was able to work from home and serve more freely.
And a new living situation with amazing roommates.

It led me to being filled up again and desiring to overflow.
And serving in the office at church.
And new and renewed friendships.
And learning how to be perfectly content in any situation the Lord puts in my path.

"Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass." Psalm 37:3-5

Every time the anxious questions of whether or not I was doing the right thing and whether or not I made the right choices came into my head, I was reminded of these verses. Trust in Him. Dwell in the land. Feed on His faithfulness...He will bring it to pass. I stopped serving in the youth group in July 2008.

It has been two years of learning... dwell
...commit good

two years of turning over every desire of my heart to Him...
...every hope
...every dream
...every promise
...every THING that could possibly blind my eyes from His desires for my heart.

It's what He wants. As we desire to do His will, He will begin to shape us accordingly. I hope I'm not the first to tell you that it WILL be painful at times. It will hurt when things-people, situations, jobs, items, relationships, plans-that are embedded deep within your heart have to be ripped out. It hurts, but the healing is something to look forward to. The Lord will not leave you broken. He is here to heal.

"When Jesus heard that, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." Matthew 9:12-13

(I want to once again let you know that the healing and the rest that I have continually found throughout my life is found only in the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. The bible says that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart, you will be saved (Romans 10:9-10). It's that simple. Please contact me if you want to talk more about this decision. More about the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.

the joy of change (#5)

**this is part 5 of my testimony that i began posting on 5/17/10**

I have been pondering on a metaphor recently: A fire that is only the size of a small candle wick will be blown out the minute it comes in contact with the smallest gust of wind; but a brush fire an acre wide will only get bigger as the wind hits it.

This compels me to think about the fire that is kindled within us as we lay our lives down to follow the Lord. I think of the times when I was a barely flickering light and the Lord shielded me, knowing I couldn't last on my own. Or the times when I was being grown, tested, and tried that I would glow…


These are the times that define us and make us who we are today. These are the moments that drive us to become something more. And it is in these times of trials and hardships that we are allowing the Lord to trim back our wicks, stoke our fires, and let His light shine so brightly in us that He gains all the glory.

And that kind of fire cannot be tamed easily.

I have been writing my testimony with this in mind. Those things I have shared have been the most defining moments of the past 7 years of my life. Yes, they have been tough but they have each, in their own way, been completely necessary.

Each moment carried in it heaviness and brought me to greater freedom to trust the Lord with more of my life. “Bittersweet” would be a good way of explaining it...especially the times when I have been asked to give up something that I have loved so dearly not knowing when the pain would go away.


After I began walking forward from the nanny position, my path led me into serving in the youth ministry at my church. I had started helping the youth group out while I was a nanny but once I left that job, I decided that I needed a job that wouldn't involve giving my heart away.

So I got a job at a bank. Which really was "heartless" and boring. It was the first job I ever took for security and not because it was a good fit. And at the same time I knew that I wouldn't be staying at that job forever, I realized that a heart is meant to be poured out. If it is hindered in one way, it will find another way to be spent. This time around, I began pouring it into the youth group.

I enjoyed serving in the high school youth ministry so much. I was blessed to help co-lead a girls bible study for three years, plan weekend trips, random outreach events, not to mention they let me become an integral part of each of their lives. I loved being there.

More than once I would say "I could never leave this ministry. It means so much to me. These kids are so much a part of my life. I could NEVER walk away from this..."

It was hard, too, though. I learned the truth of ministry from the front lines. I dealt with insecurities--my own and others. I handled situations beyond my own years and my own experiences. I learned how to let someone lean on you by turning them over to the Lord and how to turn someone over to the Lord by not giving them something to lean on.

Pouring my heart out in this ministry is something that I will never regret. Pastor Brian, the youth director, always warned us leaders that our actions will be seen and copied ten times worse. We, as examples, have to be willing to let ourselves be the example and have to recognize that they will always go one step (or ten) more to the extreme than we do.

Everything we, as leaders, did was watched and picked apart and used to gauge what was OK in the life of a high schooler.

I didn't always measure up to par on this one. I was still learning with them what the youth group motto says: 1 Tim 4:12 "Let no one despise your youth but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity."

Did I try my hardest to be the best example in all aspects of my life?
Did I encourage each student to make good choices that honored the Lord?
Did I try to point them in the right direction?
Did I choose to use my platform of leader and friend for positive influence?

Of course I did.

But I also allowed my prideful flesh to come in and think that it was me making the change in their lives.
I took credit when the credit was due to the Lord.
I stepped into roles that shouldn't have been mine to step into.
I stepped on toes and feet that I should have been washing.
And you can bet that every one of my actions was mimicked in one way or another.

Eventually, I whittled my way into a place where I thought that my presence in the youth ministry was necessary. Where I thought that, without me there, things would fall apart. I made myself a defining factor in my eyes when, in reality, the only defining factor in any ministry should be the Lord.
It was at this point that I had to let go. I was holding on too tightly. Trying too hard to make things the way I wanted them to be. I woke up one morning and realized, in all my fleshly glory, that I was embittered and lacked the joy to keep going in this ministry.

And, because I had told the Lord that I could "NEVER" leave, it took me exactly way too long to finally bring myself to a place humble enough to admit that I needed to leave.

To say "I needed a break" would be a downplay. I had someone tell me that I needed to be filled up again, or that I needed to just step away from the kind of ministry that drains you. ...but I was more than drained. I was rung out, squeezed dry, and left out in the sun.
I needed to learn how to retain Living Water again. I needed to not walk AWAY from this ministry, these kids, this place that I poured my heart into...I needed to walk TOWARDS the Lord's ministry, the Lord's love, the Lord's heart being poured out for me. I needed to come back to Him, for I was weary and weak and needed rest.

Another chapter of my testimony ended in tears and confusion...and a renewed sense of trust, knowing that I wasn't just walking away because I wanted to, but because I was called to. I was again just a daughter of God with no titles, no layers, no other way of recognizing myself other than who He wanted me to be. Just His.

I clung to the verses of the prophet Habakkuk 3:17-18: "Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls--Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation."

(If you have been through a dry season…a winter season…a season of pain, heartache, or weariness…know that you are first not alone and second have been given a way out. The bible says that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. If you want to know more about what true LIFE is in the Lord Jesus Christ, I want to tell you. He died and rose again three days later that, those who believe on Him and His resurrection, would be saved from death and given eternal life. It is as simple as saying “yes, Lord, I want that” and you, too, can rejoice in the God of your salvation as Habakkuk says. My email address is if you want to know more.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

the joy of being reminded of His love (#4)

**this is part 4 of my testimony that i began posting on 5/17/10**

So, I waited. I slowed down. I kept moving forward with my life.
Around this same time, I was blessed with a job as a nanny for a little boy. I started watching him when he was 2 months old and would be with him 4-6 days a week for 10-12 hours a day.

I had never been this close to a child before and didn't realize how much of my heart was going into it. I was with him for so much of his day because his mom was raising him on her own and she worked a very time consuming job. I would be there when he woke up and be with him, in his daily routine, until it was dinner and bath time.

I taught him new words, took him to new places, fed him new foods, dressed him, bathed him, loved him, cared for him, disciplined him...all the while learning how deep a love for another human can go. This child was finding a very solid and very deep place to settle into my heart and the more time I spent with him, the more I didn't want to let him go.

...Somewhere in the midst of it, I became his primary care giver.
...Somewhere in between feedings and walks and outings, I put a lot more than just my hours into caring for this sweet baby boy.
...Somewhere in the day to day life of taking care of this child, I refused to trust that the Lord would take better care of him than I could.
...Somewhere along the way, my heart got attached.
Then, as the Lord tried to reveal to me the dangers of holding onto something that was never mine in the first place, I tried not to listen.

He got louder. I held on tighter.

Eventually, the situation became something unhealthy and completely out of my control. I had been the primary care-giver for him for over 1.5 years when I chose to move in with him and his mom. The reasoning was that it would be easier to help out.

Boundaries started getting shady. She began asking me to spend more time with him--which led to her spending more time for herself and her own desires. I chose to spend more time with him because I thought I could make up for what he wasn't receiving from his mom.

Then, a moral issue came up that I knew in my heart of hearts I couldn't ignore.

I sat down with my pastor and told him the whole story, asking him for advice. He looked me straight in the eye and all he had to say was "Erika, I think you know what you need to do."
I had to leave.

I had allowed the situation to become unhealthy. I filled in the gaps of mothering this child when it was his mom that needed to be doing it. I worried about him as if he were mine to worry about when in reality, he was always the Lord's. I cared about him thinking I was the only one that would--when it was the Lord who was wanting to care for him through me.

It tore me apart to walk away from this situation but I knew I had to do it. The Lord, all along, kept telling me that He would take care of him. He would be with him even when I wasn't. I trusted His words and I trusted that the Lord could care for him in a way that I couldn't. But still, walking away from this child that I helped raise for almost two years was heartbreaking and painful.

It was the first time I knew true heartache and true loss. It was the first time I can remember my heart being left behind as I packed up boxes one day and drove away. My stuff came with me and I moved forward to another season, but my heart stayed behind with that little boy.

The day after I told his mom that I was leaving, I packed up my stuff. A week after I told her I was leaving was the last day that I ever saw that part of my heart again. His mom wouldn't let me keep in contact and I've had to be OK with that decision ever since.

More than just being OK with this situation, I came to understand that the Lord is the only One that will answer with Truth when you cry out to Him in heartache and pain.

I couldn't say that I was "happy" after this decision was made. I would never tell you that I was content with the decision, either. But I will tell you that it was the right decision. I will also tell you that it was the best decision I could have made simply because it was the decision that the Lord was asking me to make.

He asked me to trust Him with my heart. I gave it to Him when it was wounded and open from the pain of tearing it away from this family.

He asked me to trust His direction. I blindly stepped forward not knowing where I was going to be going next, but knowing, with full assurance, that He knew.

He asked me to hand it all back to Him and come to Him simply as myself. I obediently peeled back the layers of who I labeled myself to be in order to learn what it meant to simply be His daughter again.

I quietly sat and cried in my Father's arms as I continued to recognize that His ways are higher than mine and His thoughts are beyond my own. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Eventually, amidst tears and sorrow, He began leading me forward again…

(is there anything in your life that you are holding onto too tightly? Let Jesus Christ, the one who came down to this earth to bring you joy, take it from your hands. It will hurt, but it will heal. The bible says that we are to have no other gods before Him. He is a jealous God who not only wants all your heart, but wants to give you all of His. If you have never confessed Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, and want to know more about how to do this, please email me at

Friday, May 21, 2010

the joy of waiting (#3)

**this is part 3 of my testimony that i began posting on 5/17/10**

I asked God if I could go to Scotland.

I had been growing in the Lord and knew that I was "right" with Him. I knew that He was directing my path and giving me a chance to know more about Him. I still had a lot to learn (don't we always) and I was still pretty immature in a lot of aspects in my life. But I was happy. And that's where I thought I was meant to be: in a blissful Utopian-like world where there were daisy fields and butterflies, smiling faces and laughter. This was Christianity and this was where God would use me.

I kept seeking the Lord. I kept praying. I started looking into making plans for heading over to Scotland. I made steps to figuring out how I could come up alongside the church plant that was going to happen. I wondered when I was going to get to go. I was ready. I wanted to. I knew the message these people needed and I thought I knew what that was in my life. Happiness. They needed to smile. They needed joy. They needed to peel back the proverbial cloud that they were living under to experience true LIFE in the light of our Lord.

I waited for a response. He gave it. Someone once told me that God always response to prayers in three different ways: yes, no and wait.

And God responded to this prayer, too.

I didn't understand it, but I knew I needed to trust Him. If we were having a conversation, it would have gone something like this:

"Lord, my heart is breaking for these people...YOUR people...will you send me to Scotland?"
"Erika, wait."
"Wait, Lord?"
"Why? Why can't I go now? They need you! They need to hear about Your salvation!"
"Wait Erika."
"Until when? When can I go?"

The conversation ended as the Lord showed me the darkness of Scotland in contrast with the happiness of my life. I saw the smiles of people around me, the happiness I had in the life that He was allowing me to live at that time, and I wanted to bring what I felt to the UK.

He responded with a statement that still repeats in my mind to this day: "Erika, your joy needs to be found in Me first. You need to be grounded in My joy."

You see, friends, there is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness lasts only for a period of time. It is an emotion. It is circumstantial at best. Happiness comes from the moment, from the feeling, from surroundings. Sure, I was happy in my life. But where was my joy?

I didn't know. But I did know that God said "no" for now, but He also gave me hope.  Psalm 138:8 says "the Lord will perfect that which concerns me. Your mercies, O Lord, endure forever, do not forsake the works of Your hands." I was able to stand up and step forward knowing that His timing would be perfect. I began a course of waiting and, with that, started filling my "waiting period" with other things that would honor the Lord.

At this point, I started attending bible college. I had such a desire to know more about the Lord, but didn't know how else to pursue that. When the opportunity came up for me to take classes at a bible college that was offered at a local church, I looked into it immediately. By the end of 2003, I left Cuesta College and was attending only bible college and working full time.

I had a full plate as I was going to school, working full time, being on student staff in our college group, and all-together enjoying life.

But I kept wondering where I was going to find joy...

(as you continue to read my story, know that happiness is self-made. True happiness and joy only comes from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He died and rose again that we may know what true joy is: being in His presence. Our sin separates us from Him and He wants us to be with Him. He made a way for that to happen. If you want to know more, please email me at This decision is the most important one you will make in this life: will you accept His offer of salvation and choose a relationship with Jesus Christ?)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

the joy of a broken heart (#2)

Shortly after I moved back and began attending church regularly again, the Lord gave me a desire to get involved. Going to the college group showed me what true fellowship was, serving in children's ministry and on the media team helped me appreciate service in a way I had never known before, and seeing teams and missionaries go and come back gave me that passion to do something "more" for the Lord.

I was happy. I was content. I was surrounded by friends that I loved and in ministries that I enjoyed. In essence, I was "thriving" and I was ready to take on so much for the Lord's sake. I thought, for sure, this was what it was supposed to feel like as we surrendered our lives to the Lord. We reach out to Him and He gives us a smile-friendly life to lead. Right?

It was pretty soon after I remember getting involved that a short term trip came back from Scotland. It had been announced, around that same time, that one of the assistant pastors would be moving there to begin a work as well.

I can't remember my first thoughts upon hearing this announcement, but think about it: Scotland? Seriously? They aren't poor like certain places in Africa. They aren't devastated by wars like Ukraine. They aren't oppressed like China. They aren't lost tribes in the middle of the jungle. They aren't...well...typically a country one things of when you hear the word "missionary" at all. Why Scotland?

One Sunday, they showed us a video. As the song "Light of the World" began playing in the background, the video camera panned the darkened streets of Edinburgh. It showed centuries-old churches being used as occult shops. It showed kids so lost in their own world of self-satisfaction and hate that they couldn't even fathom unconditional love.

It showed a world desperate for the Love of God. It showed a country that had once sent out the first missionaries to un-churched people groups now unable to understand the joy of sharing that good news.

I remember crying. I remember wanting to reach out and hug those kids. I remember being angry at those shop owners who would turn what used to be a house of worship into a house of blasphemy. My heart burned with a desire to produce change but without the means to do so.

When a heart breaks, it does so in a million pieces. It is messy. It is real. It is also only something that can be healed by the Great Physician. Watching that video and hearing our pastor's heart for the lost of Scotland, my heart cried out. It broke in that messy, real way that is hard to clean up.

I prayed. I got on my knees. I asked the Lord to send me there. I wanted to give to these people the salvation that I had. I wanted to tell them that what they were doing was wrong. I wanted to give them HOPE and show them Who holds their future.

With a heart broken before the Lord, I sat at His feet and waited for a response...

"For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again." 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

(Friends, if you are reading this, then know that the verse above is talking about YOU. The One it is talking about is Jesus Christ and He died to bring you new life. Romans 9:9-10 says "that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." I would love to talk to you more about this decision:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

the joy of turning back to Him (#1)

I want to spend some time sharing a little bit about a big part of my heart. Congruently, this also means sharing some of my testimony. I will be posting segments of God’s story in my life for you to read over the next few weeks. Here is “part 1”…

8 years ago, I started attending a new church. I had just come "home" from a year of backsliding. This wasn't your typical "turn from the Lord and drink, do drugs, and date promiscuously" backsliding. It was sneakier than that. I walked away from any fellowship that I had and purposed to not go to church, read my bible, or do things "the right way."
I went after my own gods. That meant new work, new friends, a new town, a new identity. And I was miserable. But I was miserable with a smile on my face. I didn't go to sleep depressed and I didn't wake up thinking about how much my life sucked. I simply woke up and moved on with my day, calling myself a Christian, and yet, choosing how I wanted to live my life, did everything with my own terms. I had fun. I met some fun people, I was happy.

Then, one of my best friends came back from a mission trip to Ukraine. I drove to the coast to hang out with her (I was living in Bakersfield at the time) and hear about her trip. We spent upward of 4 hours talking about it. I left that day to drive home with a lot to think about. When she talked about her trip, you saw the joy in her smile. You saw the conviction of truth in her words. You saw the growth of her walk; you saw her maturity in the Lord. And I was jealous. I cried out the the Lord on that drive home. I needed to make some changes.

I wanted more of Him and I knew what that mean: turning back to Him, relying on Him, re-dedicating my life to Him. So, I laid it all down on the table. As I did, things started getting more clear for me. I was choosing my own friends: I needed to get back into fellowship. I was walking away from a closeness to the Lord: I needed to draw closer to the Lord by letting Him come near me again. I didn't want to change: I needed to WANT change. This shedding of myself and putting on of the Lord ultimately led to me turning around in a months time and moving back to the central coast. Moving in with new roommates. Attending a new church. Finding fulfillment in the Only One who can fulfill.

Ultimately, I look back at that time and I realized the foolishness of my own desires triumphing over the Lord's will in my life. Romans 1 talks about the Lord giving "them" over to their own desires and lusts...because it is what they chose. But the words of Jesus in Matthew is what resonate with me through that period of my life:

"Come to Me,

all you who labor and are heavy laden,

and I will give you rest.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,

for I am gentle and lowly in heart,

and you will find rest for your souls.

For My yoke is easy

and My burden is light."

Matt 11:28-30

For the first time in over a year, I felt light again. I was walking back into the JOY of following the Only one worth following. I could breathe again because I wasn't so focused on not trying to drop things. I ran freely into the rest that He offered.

I haven't regretted it since.

(If you are reading this and don't yet know the joy, freedom, light-weight rest that Jesus offers to everyone (that includes me and you!), please don't hesitate to ask! The bible says that we are all just as wretched as the next and yet, in all of our glorious filth, Jesus chose to come and offer us a way to become clean again. It is called salvation and it is only by truly believing that His Son was sent to this world as a payment for your filth and sin, died the death that we deserved, and conquered that sin by raising again from the dead 3 days later that we might have eternal life through Him. I would love the opportunity to tell you more: