Sunday, September 29, 2013


Last month, August, was a big month for me. I turned 30. Thirty. One word, six letters, and two numbers brought together only by time.

Thirty had not meant much to me until that infamous day came, August 4th, 2013. I'd noticed it looming in the distance, somewhat hidden by the mountains of the future and the haze of today. But as I made my way through my 20s, I somewhat forgot it was a destination I was actually destined for. And then, there it was.

All of sudden, thirty wasn't just a number I joked about, or some mile marker off in the distance, or even a reminder to hurry up and get my “life” in order. It was all around me. And, surprisingly it felt good. It wrapped itself around me so naturally, so comfortably, I wondered if it was actually true. Am I really thirty? What does that even mean? Do I look thirty? I don't feel thirty… Wait, what does thirty feel like…. Should it feel different? Do I feel different? Hmmm.

It’s funny the assumptions you put onto something, or the expectations you attach to experiences before you’ve ever even had them. I supposed, if I'm honest, when I was in my early 20s, (that sounds so funny to say… my early 20s.. Tut tut tut!) and imagined what thirty would be like, I probably would have said something along these lines :

I will be married, semi-settled down, and have my life mainly “figured out.”                                                   (emphasis added on that final period)

And here I find myself, on September 29, 2013, nearly two months into my thirties…

Not married, or dating, or with any prospect of either at the moment. Less than 48 hours from beginning two months of the wildest travels I couldn't have even imagined on my own had I tried (Proverbs 16:9). Unsure of what this next year brings beyond the jingly days of December.

And the best part? I love it all... And I feel better than I've ever felt.

What does thirty feel like? Thirty feels like the adventures are just beginning. It feels like the person I am today is more me than the person that was “me” ten years ago. It feels like the skin I’m living in is more comfortable now, after being in it for three decades, than it was after only two. It feels like I am finally growing into more of myself, and that, my friends, is an incredible, indescribable, and welcome feeling.

On my animal themed 30th birthday, where I was a peacock :), a friend asked me what I wanted in this next year. After pausing for a moment, half for dramatic effect, and half because I had not thought about it at all yet, I answered with this, “I want to do things I have never done before. I want to step out in ways that make me feel a little uncomfortable. I want to take risks that seem unnatural to me.” I may regret saying those things, but for now I'm looking forward to where they could lead me.

Maybe it will be standing on a chair and telling a group of strangers in some random city square that they are chosen and dearly loved by the One True God, or helping lead a mass revival meeting somewhere in Africa where thousands get healed and saved... Maybe it will be booking a last minute ticket to a place I've never been, or traveling with only a carry-on and leaving my always overweight suitcase behind… Maybe it will be letting a friend take one step closer to my heart, or going on a date (yikes). Who knows...

Whatever it holds, I know this next year will be the best of my life, and the years after can only sequentially get better. Such is the beauty of growing up (in numbers not necessarily in heart ;), of getting more comfortable in your own skin, and embracing each year wholeheartedly as you grow more and more into the person you were created to be, and world changer you were destined to become...

Well, Thirty, you may have caught me off guard, but I am ready for you now. I am ready for me now.

Monday, February 18, 2013


One joy I find in coming back to my home in Minnesota, especially after being away for 8-10 months, is that I get to rediscover things I forgot I had. I joke that it’s like Christmas as I open drawers and find clothes I left behind, or look through the books on my shelves and find classics I don’t ever remember buying. Although, I would have to say one of the greatest discoveries I’ve found not in a drawer or stacked on a shelf, but scribbled on wrinkled pages of journals I wrote in years ago. It’s interesting to think that every December one year ends and another begins, and with that those journaled pages fade further and further into the past, till they are not much more than a speck in the distance, ink on a page. After a while we may not even be able to see them anymore. I don’t think we need to linger in the past, but I do think it’s important to revisit it once and a while, atleast long enough to find what we are looking for, and we are always looking for something.

Last night I decided, around 11:30pm, to flip through some of those pages till I found what I was looking for, only I didn’t know I was looking for anything, until I found it.

Growth. Ah yes. Looking back through those pages I now realize I was looking for growth. I wanted to see where I had been, and compare it with where I’m at now. The entry I found was written in 2010 while I was working at a camp in the woods of northern Wisconsin. I’m not sure if I was more challenged by it when I wrote it, almost this exact time three years ago, or when I read it again last night, but I wanted to share it with you in hopes that something fresh begins to stir in you as it has in me.

“So, lately, I’ve been thinking more about who I am. Craig (one of my bosses at the camp) asked me what makes me who I am, why I am the way I am. I gave him some excuse of an answer, but I didn’t think it was close to scratching the surface. When it really comes down to it I don’t know why I am the way I am. Obviously, I can say, “God,” and attribute it to his influence in my life, and yet I rarely read his word or enter into daily communion with him. Why is that? Distractions? Sin? Laziness? Selfishness? Yes, I think it’s a combination of these, but I also think it’s because I have so little an understanding of who Jesus really is, and what he means to my life, deeply, going beyond living a moral/right life. Anyone could do that if they put their mind to it. So what is it that truly separates me and makes me who I am? How does Christ affect me, and how am I “me”? How am I different with him, knowing him, than I would be without him? Especially when I am not consistently in his word pursuing him, pursuing a greater understanding of who he is, and pursuing a deeper love and awe of his relationship with me?

Sitting in youth group ( I was helping with a high school youth group at the time) I got this vision, desire, idea, call it whatever, to put aside the things that easily distract me from God and to seriously dedicate my time and mind to searching for him. Striving to discover who he really  is, and why I let my life be affected by him, beyond “he died for my sins.” Yes, I believe this and acknowledge it, but what does that mean? How do I know it and how can it be passed on? I can hardly answer why I live my life the way I do beyond the surface answer of “because he died to save me.” This sounds harsh, but how will someone with no concept of love or sacrifice grasp that concept? How can I explain my willingness to model my life after a man I barely know? If my little knowledge and “acquaintance” of a relationship with him is enough to live the way I do, how much more will I live, love, and sacrifice when I truly know him? When I open my life and mind to getting to know him better and more intimately? Who is this man that affects me so greatly, and yet, I know so little?

I’ve decided to take these next forty days to explore this. I’m moving out my books and movies, and dedicating my “alone” time to searching for, and seeking to know, the Jesus that gave himself for me in a way that I can never pretend to comprehend.

Tonight I’ve made this commitment, forty solid days; days of focus, days of surrender... Tomorrow it begins. Also, I’ve decided to use two notebooks. Once as a daily journal of what I am learning and where I saw God in that day, and the second as a study journal where I will record the passages I read and the scriptural journey I am pushing myself to embark upon.

I am finally ready, I think...”

So, what do you think? Are you ready? I’m thinking I’m about ready to embark on a new forty day journey. I want to spend the next forty days looking at the attributes of Jesus. I want to explore how he related to God the Father, how he related to people, how he lived, and how I can be more like him today than I was yesterday.

Jesus gave up food for forty days in the wilderness. Which is pretty intense... Will you spend forty days giving up more time in your day to discovering more Jesus?  There is so much more to him than we can even imagine, and it will take us the rest of our lives to come close to discovering that. In that case we better get started.


Thanks for reading this! If you are thinking about doing some kind of forty day “discovery” I would love to hear about it! It doesn’t matter when you start, but feel free to let me know about it through facebook, or go ahead and comment here. One guide I had as I journaled daily was to begin by asking myself "How was God real in my life today?" This takes the attention off of me and redirects it to him. It's also a cool way to be more intentional in acknowledging the presence of God is our lives daily. Ask yourself that, and then write down what comes to mind. Years down the road you will be thankful you did. I, from personal experience, can guarantee it! :)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Crowd surfing and book reading.

*Please proceed in numerical order, and excuse the semi abrupt ending in video 1... still working on my editing skills. *





Children of South Sudan.

Just wanted to share some of the clips of the children we met in Africa. This will help put faces to the post  "South Sudan taught me how to love" from a few weeks back:)   Enjoy!

Thursday, March 8, 2012


I literally felt like my heart was breaking when we left South Sudan. Even now as I write this the tears begin to surface and my heart again aches for the children of Wau. Those children who snuck into my life and stole my heart. 

Our first few days in Arua, Uganda were transitional and challenging. I was still trying to figure out what happened in S. Sudan, emotionally and spiritually, and how my heart could feel so greatly for a people I knew so little. I suppose it was a means of attempted protection or something, but in those first days I convinced myself there was no way I could “feel” so strongly again, especially so soon, and therefore probably wouldn’t get as attached to the people in Uganda as I had S. Sudan. So there it was, I had my mind made up...
And then Boy came along....

“What is your name?” I heard in a quiet voice. I looked to my left and saw a little boy with a shy smile hanging from a low tree branch. Again, “What is your name?”  to which I responded with my name, and in turn asked for his, “Boy” he replied. That was about the extent of our first interaction, but there was something in that little voice and those innocent eyes I’d never seen before. I can’t explain it, but as I walked away from that little boy I had a feeling I was in trouble. 
I saw Boy again the next day, and the next, and the next. Although his English was minimal I learned that he lived in a village nearby and that his mother, Margaret, was a student in the tailoring class held on base in Arua, Uganda, where our team was staying.  Each day Boy would come with his mother, sit outside the classroom entertaining his baby brother, or playing with whatever he could find until the class was finished, and each day, when I could, I would join him. We would sit together, drawing pictures on pieces of paper or throwing whatever we could at  whatever we could.
One day we spent hours trying to throw little rocks and pieces of cement into empty buckets and a rusty old wheelbarrow. On the days Boy drew pictures we’d practice the English words for what he’d drawn, and when we threw rocks into the wheelbarrow we celebrated with high fives, the yelling of “cha-CHING!” and a brief fist pump in the air to officially seal the deal. Who knew you could have so much fun with so little around you...  I remember one day I was sitting on the ground and slowly began to stand up to find more rocks and Boy said, “NO! you sit...” and he went to collect more rocks then laid them gingerly in my lap.  When that pile was gone he dusted the dirt off my skirt and got up to get me more.  This happened over and over for nearly 2 hours. It didn’t take long for me to realize God was busy sewing my heart to a little person yet again. I love how God isn’t limited by what we do or don’t think we are capable of...

Each time I saw Boy’s mom and she would greet me with a great big smile and say, “ahhh! Boy, he loves you! He does not want to leave. He wants to say here with you!” It melted my heart all over again.
 It’s often customary in Uganda that when you leave someone’s home they will escort you to the door, or even part of the way back to your home.  So, after tailoring class finished I began exercising this custom and walking Boy and his mother halfway to their home, and each time, without fail, Boy would turn, take my hand and escort me back to the base we had just left.  He would leave me at the gate and we’d wave “goodbye” and yell "bye bye, see you, byyyyeee see you tomorrow!" until we could no longer see each other around the curve of the dirt road. He even did this on a day I had come to visit him because he'd been sick with Malaria.
As days went on I knew the time we had together was nearing an end, and that saying “goodbye” to Uganda would not, in fact, be as easy as I had originally thought.
I began to think of things I could leave with them that would be meaningful, besides money. I remembered getting overtaken by rain as I walked Boy’s mother and baby brother home one day. They didn’t have money to buy an umbrella so we walked on and fought through the rain before it turned into a downpour convincing us it would be better to take shelter and wait it out. So the first thing on my list to leave them with was a big umbrella, which I could probably find in the market for around $4.

The second day I ever spent with Boy a few of us from the base were working on a volleyball net using two dead trees as posts. Once we got it set up Boy wasn’t interested in playing, but more than happy to sit along the side with his baby brother and keep tabs on my watch for me while I played. He loved that watch. I think it made him feel grown up the way he spun it around and looked at the bright blue color again his dark skin. Item number two I would leave, my blue watch.  
Boy’s mother, Margaret, was learning how to sew as a way to support and provide for her family. She hardly had the money to cover the minimal fees for the class so I knew the likelihood of having the extra money to buy fabric, atleast at this point in time, would be unlikely. So, another thing I added to the "leave" list was extra fabric for her to use in her class.

Item three I would leave with Margaret was my extra clothes, a few shirts and skirts that had survived my first Africa adventure and remained in surprisingly great condition.
The night before my team and I left I spent the afternoon with Boy, and waited for his mother Margaret outside the tailoring classroom. When class had finished and she came out I handed her the umbrella and the bag of things I wanted to leave with them. A big smile road across her face as she looked at the things, and Boy’s face exploded with teeth when I began to put the watch around his little wrist. “Boy, this watch has been to China, America, Holland, England, South Sudan and now... Now it is going to your house,” they both laughed and more big smiles escaped their lips. Margaret looked me right in the eyes and said, “Ahhh, Erica. Boy’s father died two years ago. Today you are his father. God has heard my prayers. Today you are my father and my mother. You take care of us. Thank you, thank you.” Those things didn’t seem like much to me, but they meant the world to them.

I walked them back to their home one final time, and as became our own custom Boy held my hand and escorted me back. I gave him a hug and we waved our final waves. “Bye bye! See you! Bye bye!” I could feel the tears beginning to rise up inside me once again, especially as he began to round the corner and his final words met my ears, “bye, bye, see you tomorrow!”  I knew he wouldn’t see me tomorrow, and he did too... those words had just become habit over the last 5 weeks. As his little figure faded in the distance I realized there was something else I'd be leaving with them, another piece of my heart.

I have actually gotten phone calls from Boy and Margaret a couple times since I’ve been back. They are doing well, and Boy is excited to begin school this next year. I love that little family so much, and I love that God, again, used someone unexpected to work in my heart and soften the hard areas I thought I could hold onto. Love has a whole new meaning since my time in Africa. Thanks for letting me share it with you :)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

My boys.

This is one of my favorite pictures, Casey, a girl from my team took. It so perfectly captures three of the boys in South Sudan who stole my heart. The one on the left, with the plaid open shirt, is Lufai(loo-fie), the little one in the middle is Lakong, and the tall one in blue, towards the right, is Henry. Henry is the boy I shared the story about in my last video post :)