Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.

Parents asked us, “if your friends jump off a bridge will you?” but maybe they should have asked would we jump if we didn’t have any friends.

Journal entry: July 2018

I honestly can’t tell you why I wrote that five months ago. I have a feeling my anxiety and fear played a huge part. Did I plan on jumping off a bridge? I don’t think so, but those kind of things cross your mind when you’re overwhelmed and can’t think straight. 

I can tell you one thing, though. I will never think about jumping off a bridge again. Nor will I ever answer sarcastically when someone says, “would you jump off a bridge if your friends did?”

Today changed my life. 

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.

I had just snapped the above picture. Yeah, Jesus and His reckless love are closer than they appear. 

Preparing for a 40 minute drive home, I decided to ponder what the picture really meant. But my pondering came to a screeching halt quickly.

There we were. Coming up on a bridge that goes across the interstate. Because the bridge has sidewalks along it, there is a safety fence surrounding it. Now at first I wasn’t entirely sure what I was seeing. I noticed a car off to the side with both of the doors open. And then I saw a guy who appeared to be squatting on the inside of the bridge. 

However, as we approached the bridge I realized the man was hanging on the outside of the safety fence; dangling over the interstate we were driving on! And there appeared to be a woman on the inside of the bridge pleading for the man to come back over the fence. 

My heart stopped. Me and the driver were both in shock and I don’t think we realized fully what was happening. As we drove under the bridge I looked up to see the man reach the bottom of the fence with one foot now hanging off. I was speechless. But God gave me one word. I yelled, “PRAY!” 

Immediately we began praying. What else could we do?! We couldn’t remember what bridge it was and so we couldn’t call 911. We turned around and hoped someone had already called the police since traffic was fairly busy. As we passed the bridge again, we saw the man back on the bridge, inside the fence, being detained by the police. I’d like to say my heart started back up, but it’s been hours since the incident and I’m still shaking. 

Our entire day was orchestrated for that very moment. God had us pass under that bridge, knowing we would do the only thing us humans can do…pray.

Remember my journal entry up top? Would we jump if we didn’t have any friends? I’m not saying the man obviously has no friends if he was willing to jump, I’m just saying he clearly didn’t have THE friend [John 15:15]. 

This man thought taking his life was a solution. And it destroys me knowing it. He didn’t see hope. But let me tell you something about Jesus. Just like that picture says, His love is closer than it appears. The man thought no one cared or understood. And yet Jesus orchestrated our entire day to intercede for him, a complete stranger, when he needed it most. 

Jesus made sure we found what we needed at the store. And made us wait just long enough in the check-out line. He gave us patience to allow others to go in front of us. He gave us confusion to drive a little slower when we almost took a wrong turn. All so we could drive under just as that man’s foot was reaching down to the busy interstate.

As we drove home after our u-turn to make sure he was okay,  my friend said, “it’s hard to fathom people denying God’s existence when things like this happen.” The only thing I could think to say was that too many people focus on why God would let him jump in the first place rather than focusing on the fact God saved him. 

Friends, we have free will. And that means we have freedom to deny His love and ignore His existence. Trust me, I did it for years. But He’s still fighting for your heart. And I promise He is closer than He appears. ALWAYS. We only have to let Him in. Let Him know we NEED him. 

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

Psalm 145:18 ESV

…that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him. Yet He is actually not far from each one of us…

Acts 17:27 ESV

I continue to pray for the man on the bridge. My heart aches for him. May God reveal His love and peace to him. May he reach his hand out to find his Creator. He will never know what kind of love was given on his behalf today. But I pray he realizes the love that was given for him so many years ago on the cross. 

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16 KJV

Father, I thank you for keeping the man on the bridge safe. Thank you for orchestrating our day and hearing our prayers. May this be a reminder of why it is so important to be in relationship and constant contact with You. My walk with you is not only about me but also those around me who I can fight for. Abba, Your love truly is reckless and unconditional. I ask that you continue to show me this world through Your eyes and with Your heart. And may Your will be done here as it is in Heaven. ❤

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

Galatians 5:13 NIV

From Her Fortress.

Shipless and Alive

I have a new motto. It goes like this: “Erika, there will be no loss of life. Just your ship.”

And y’all are thinking, you have a ship? Whaaaaat? Yup, I have a ship. And so do you.

Let me explain.

In Acts 27 Paul has just set sail for Rome. However, not long after, the crew came against some intense storms. So intense Paul said, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives” [Acts 27:10]. Paul advised them to stop. But they had their own opinions. They put their trust in their own understandings. And so they continued forward.

Unfortunately, the storms became worse. And they had to begin throwing the cargo over. Then the ship’s tackle [Acts 27:18-19]. And still it worsened. For fourteen days the crew endured extreme panic and anxiety. They didn’t eat and I imagine they didn’t do much sleeping. The conditions became so bad these men knew and accepted that they were going to die [Acts 27:20].

It’s over. But wait.

Paul said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.”

Woah. Did anyone else hear that? The whisper of the Holy Spirit?

Let me help you hear it too.

How many times have you found yourself in sheer dread. You accepted you were going to die. This is the end. Your broken heart. Your anxiety. Your depression. Your job. Your kids. Life. It all wins. And you? Defeated. Slumping back as your ship slowly (or quickly) begins to take on water and sink.

But Paul tells us to take heart. What does that even mean? After all, it feels like the only heart you’re taking is a heart attack.

Take heart: to have more courage or confidence; cheer up. ~ Source: Collins Dictionary

HA! “I told you so…should of listened to me…but cheer up.” Paul really knows how to comfort doesn’t he?

But that’s exactly what I heard God tell me during the worst dread and panic I’ve ever felt in my life. He said, “Calm down. You aren’t going to die. You’re just going to lose your ship.”

I keep alluding to this ship thing. Maybe I should tell you all what the ship represents. Well. What was the ship to Paul’s crew?

  • Protection/Safety
  • Comfort
  • Navigation
  • Confidence

What else?

Those men depended on that ship for a lot. I’m sure hearing you won’t lose your life but you’ll lose your ship was a bit contradicting to them. After all, how do you survive without the above?

My ship was confidence. Comfort. A sense of safety. My ship was myself. And during the worst moment of my life God said it would be destroyed. But I wouldn’t die. Contradicting, right? Or maybe not.

During those times of panic and terror, God’s grace was saving me; especially when the feelings were from my disobedience in the first place.

Those men lost their ship. But they survived. So they had to find a new way to navigate. To survive.

My life has been shipwrecked. But I’m alive by God’s grace.

He is my new peace. My new comfort. My new protection. My new confidence.

There is no loss of life here. I’m simply shipless. Shipless and alive.

And I thank God for allowing the storm to shatter me. For removing me from the control center I never belonged in.

What’s your ship? Are you prepared to lose it that He may be your new everything? I promise it may seem tragic through your eyes. But through His eyes, it’s only the beginning of freedom.

Father, thank You for saving me. Thank You for wrecking my ship that I may look to You for my survival. For so long I put my trust and confidence in things around me. Even when I found You I tried to keep You boxed up. God, it took a storm, a massive upset to abandon confidence in myself. But thank You for the storm that dropped me in Your hands. Abba, I put my trust in You. I give You my life. 

With abandonment,

From Her Fortress ❤

Not MY ministry.

A few weeks ago I received a word at church that went like this:

I have put a voice in your heart and a song in your voice. And you my daughter need to use it for my glory. For I have not put it there to hide it. I have put it there to be used to bless, to glorify, not only this people but also to Me.

This was after the worship leader politely nudged me to be a part of the worship team MULTIPLE times. Here’s the thing. Anyone who knows me knows I sing 24/7! Like I literally have a song for everything. But put a microphone in front of my mouth and NOTHING will come out.

So imagine my denial when I was told God put a song in my heart. Ha. I think they got the wrong person. Not me. I’ve never even felt compelled to sing on a stage before. That’s not MY ministry!

Let me say that again. I said, “That’s not my ministry!”

How many of us use that line on the daily? We feel nudged throughout the day to go and pray for someone. Or even just talk to them. But, “nah God, not my ministry.”

Go tell the lady in front of you that God loves her. “Nah God, not my ministry.”

Here’s the lesson I learned.

Is singing my ministry? IT IS IF GOD TELLS ME TO SING.

We become so consumed by the big picture. God, you said everyone has been given a purpose. What’s mine? And we begin to pray for our purpose to be shown. The problem is, we have one purpose in mind.

But I have a question. Do painters smile? Or walk or talk? Do you think they sing even if only in the shower? YEP. Even you in your daily life. You have a job. But what do you do outside of the job?

I’m afraid we’ve begun to look at Christians the same way we looked at our teachers in elementary school. They were our teachers. They lived at the school. Had no friends or families. And did nothing outside of school. No hobbies or other talents. All they could and would do is TEACH.

Is that true? No. Was it ever true? No.

Perhaps God has called you to a specific ministry. But that doesn’t mean you get to ignore all of His other requests.

Tonight I’m thankful for our worship leader who obeyed God more than I did. Who straight up called me out.

I was willing to say no and shake my head to the God of the universe. But as soon as a leader of the church grabbed a mic and said my name in front of everyone I was up on stage. I had it twisted, right? I agree. But again, thank God for putting obedience in my leader and making the conviction overwhelming in my heart.

You’ve got my attention, God. 

As I got on stage and grabbed the mic all I heard was, “Erika, you claim I’m the Almighty God, but you thought you could tell Me no and that I had misspoken.” And I have to admit. I wasn’t a bit nervous. In fact, I think I was secretly excited. God put me in my place!

And as I walked back to my seat after it was all said and done I heard, “you pray for many great things. But I have to know I have your obedience in the small things first.”

One who is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in very little is also dishonest in much. ~ Luke 16:10 ESV

My jaw dropped. How often do we question God for all of our unanswered prayers while we stand and let fear and pride restrain us from obeying in the small tasks?

Who then, really is your god? For far too long my god has been fear. My god has been pride. But I won’t sit content in this any longer. And if you see me doing it again, say something! Hold me accountable!

That verse in Luke really puts things into perspective. And it is so true. Why would God be able to trust us with great works and blessings if we can’t even participate in the smallest? To think of every time I failed to be faithful in the very little…wow. Forgive me, Father.

Heavenly Father I ask that you remind me daily who is in control. That this is not my life but Your’s. Father help me to humble myself. May my confidence in my flesh be crucified and resurrected as faith in You. Help me to grow into the servant Christ was as He walked this earth. I know every day is a constant battle. But I know You are in control and You uphold me with Your righteous right hand (Isa. 41:10).

And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. ~ Philippians 2:8 KJV

“Oh God who makes the mountains move come wrestle us and win.” God, last night you wrestled me and won. And I am so thankful. For I know you woke up a sleeping giant within me!

In Jesus name,

From Her Fortress. ❤

We’re all sponges.

When From Her Fortress takes to video…

Every now and again I share a video on my social media feeds. Writing is my passion, but as we all know, some lessons are better shown than typed. Below is something I recorded about a year ago. No fancy recording equipment! Just me, my iPhone and a toaster to hold it up!

~~~~~~~~~

It’s important to know what to keep and what to wring out at the end of every day. Hope you all enjoy!

With love,

From Her Fortress.

Domestic violence, you lost.

I give it to abuse…it’s a cruel demon; a highly sophisticated one. Fourteen years of physical and emotional abuse and I’m still finding new wounds. Since the age of six my life has been ruled by hate.

I hated the way my dad treated my mom.

I hated the way she stayed with him.

I hated the way my family did nothing to stop it.

I hated lying to protect them.

I hated the way my heart broke over and over even when I knew what to expect.

And a fresh one: I hate reading what the beautifully charismatic woman pictured next to me has gone through.

Domestic violence is a cycle. My parents’ childhoods couldn’t be more proof of this. They both became entangled in the net not knowing how to live their lives without this demon. And that’s heavy. How can I hate people who were simply trying to survive themselves?

That’s why I wake up every morning with the agenda of slaying this demon. The cycle will end at my feet. Not because of my strength, but God’s.

It’s been five years since I escaped the world that left my heart suffocating every day. And only in the past year have I begun to grow again. To find out who’s underneath all the false identities I’ve been given since childhood. If left to my own efforts I would still be laying shattered in a corner. But God has been working for me.

  • He gave me hope when I couldn’t see past the night.
  • He gave me mercy when I wanted to hate my mom for staying.
  • He gave me forgiveness to walk up to my dad and show him the love he never could give.
  • He gives me strength to see the blessings that come from living such a dark childhood.
  • And finally, He guides me as I avoid situations that have the potential of starting another cycle.

The only victim here today is the demon of domestic violence. In this room is his final resting place; the survivors around me standing over him with unimaginable strength.

Domestic violence, you intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. [Gen. 50:20 NLT]

My past has given me a voice. And I will use it for every person who is fighting so tirelessly to survive.

Standing tall,

From Her Fortress


 

The area agency in my county held a fundraising event to honor the story of a woman who lost her life earlier this year to domestic violence. Survivors were given a platform to share their stories alongside pictures taken by an area artist, Carrie Louise Wood. The above post was my entry, with featured photo by the artist mentioned above. Thank you to those who continue to bring awareness to the demon of domestic violence.