Storage Wars – Heart Edition

As life happened, I began using my heart as a storage unit. Each box sealed shut, labeled, and stacked. We’ve all moved enough in our lives to have a mental picture. Each disaster, each love, each loss…all represented by a taped box.  And storage units aren’t the greatest living quarters. They usually don’t have electricity. No heat. The bad ones can be damp. And don’t forget the many bugs that inhabit the place.

One day I had a conversation with a friend. She was speaking from a place that I had never lived. She had peace in her heart. Passion that surpassed anything I had ever possessed. As I sat there, trying to pretend like I was in the same headspace, I couldn’t help but feel jealous. How the heck did she get to this place? And why can’t I?

That conversation stirred some feelings in my heart. Feelings that I didn’t understand or know how to handle. Something was moving in that storage unit. At first I assumed it was just another one of those bugs, looking for food in a desert. But I had nothing more to offer them. I couldn’t feed them. No more fear. No more depression. No more alcohol. They were starving to death. Too weak to move. Which means something else was in that storage unit. I tried to ignore it. But I couldn’t.

Ya’ll know what heartburn is? Well, I was experiencing that. But not physically. No, it was almost emotionally. Where was this coming from?! I had to know. Step one? Start unpacking that storage unit. I needed to find whatever was in there. And woah, talk about not being ready for that kind of labor. There were boxes in there that I didn’t even know about!! Others were mislabeled. We all know that frustration. Nothing like having the kitchen pans placed in the bathroom. I had “Heartless” on a box that contained abuse and abandonment. That feeling of being unworthy and not good enough wasn’t a “me” issue. It was the result of something that happened to me. And by mislabeling it I never had the chance to really unpack and evaluate its contents.

Some boxes were too heavy to move on my own. Others were so old they were falling apart. But I kept going. I couldn’t see anything moving. However, one day I caught the faint smell of smoke. Strange. I couldn’t see the smoke so it must be someone else’s unit. I eventually made a path to the very back wall of my unit. There were still many boxes around me. But a path is better than nothing right? As I pushed a small box (labelled “Lonely”) to the side, I saw something unexpected. There was a fire. The size of a candle flame, maybe smaller. That wasn’t even the craziest part. There was a man huddled to the flame.

How in the world could a man survive where not even insects were thriving?! He looked up at me with eyes that spoke for themselves. It was like the last hug you received before your grandma passed away. The late nights sitting in a field gazing at the stars. Listening to birds chirping in the distance. Waves crashing against a shoreline. His gaze silenced everything else. We were no longer in a damp, dark storage unit. We were among the clouds. And his embrace brought comfort and peace that I couldn’t understand.

If I told you my heart was no longer a storage unit I would be lying. I’m not perfect. My heart is not perfect. BUT! I do have a Healer, a Counselor, a Father helping me get through those boxes. They no longer come in taped up. They are wide open. Ready to be sorted and trashed just as fast as they come. He also helped me move those boxes that were too frail or heavy to move on my own.

The small flame that He was guarding when I found Him is still burning strong. In fact, it glows brighter and burns hotter every day. On my weakest days He is there with His arms wide open. All while protecting the flame. And on my greatest days He is there gazing with the satisfaction only a Parent can give. Throwing all of the useless boxes into the fire. Causing sparks to fly and smoke to rise. He plans to use my heart to start a wildfire that stretches to the storage units of others.

Our relationship has grown and I visit Him daily. I no longer have to search for Him at the back because He has helped me make a place for Him front and center. Day by day we turn my heart into a home; where love grows, joy thrives, and darkness is defeated.

I hear some of you. “What if I’m too weak to even make that initial path to find Him?” Well, my friend. I would love to help. We weren’t placed here for some of us to succeed while others drown. More than that, He doesn’t expect you to make a solo journey to Him. No. His word says all you have to do is SEEK Him with all your heart and you will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). He isn’t behind those boxes hiding. He’s waiting for you to pursue Him.

Look into your heart. What do you see? Boxes? Start moving them. Toss them. Ask someone to help. Go find Him. He’s there. Just like that game that you played when you were a child. “Marco?” “Polo!”

He’ll direct you. “Jesus?” – “Erika!”

With love, from my fortress. ❤

Hello, Maker of the Moon


Last night I was driving home with my mom and sister. I was admiring all of the stars and decided to play a song called “Maker of the Moon”.

“Hello maker of the moon. Your creation has inspired my every move.” But there was one little problem. I couldn’t find the moon. It was nowhere to be found in this clear, Saturday night sky. I couldn’t wait to get out of the car and look above us. Determined that it was there the whole time. As I jumped out and looked up…I found nothing.

Where did the moon go?! How did we go without noticing up to this moment? I’m the kind of girl who likes answers. So I had to Google this mystery. This is what I found:

“A new moon rises when the sun rises. It sets when the sun sets. It crosses the sky with the sun during the day. It’s only as the moon moves in orbit, as its lighted hemisphere begins to come into view from Earth.. [].”

I was content with this new found knowledge but felt something significant hadn’t hit yet, so I took a screenshot and moved on with my night. Fast forward nearly 24 hours.

“I feel like you’re the woman I always knew you’d become but I don’t know you. It’s beautiful.”

Woah, what an impactful sentence. One that doesn’t seem too pleasant coming from a friend. Talk about a heart check. Have I been changing that much? But hey, if she is willing to accept my change and think it’s beautiful…she’s a KEEPER, ya’ll! ❤

Erika has officially become MIA. As I was hashing this statement out in my mind and heart I thought about last night and the moon. Those around me finally noticed my absence, just as I did the moon’s. But oh man, what a glorious revelation.

When the moon cannot be found it’s because it’s rising and setting with the sun. Talk about a God moment! For a moment I was sad to hear the statement from my friend. But it uncovered so much more.

The old Erika has been missing. Unfound by those around her. Why? Because she’s going through a transformation. And now? She is rising and setting with the SON.

Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection. – Romans 6:4-5 KJV

The AMP version…

…we too might walk habitually in newness of life [abandoning our old ways]. For if we have become one with Him [permanently united] in the likeness of His death, we will also certainly be [one with Him and share fully] in the likeness of His resurrection.

If abandoning self means that I have to go AWOL for a bit…I’m alright with that. Why? Because sharing fully in the likeness of Jesus Christ’s resurrection tells me that I will experience more love, mercy, and grace than my human mind could ever possibly fathom.

Father, thank you for showing that change is good. My friend said it best. It’s beautiful. Being unrecognizable and missing in You is BEAUTIFUL. And when the time is right I will be revealed to those around me. Your light shining through me, lighting the darkness around.

As Chris Tomlin sings in one of my current faves,

“I’m dressed in Your royalty. Your Holy Spirit lives in me. I see my past has been redeemed. The new has come. Now, I have resurrection power living on the inside.”

Thank you, Maker of the moon…Maker of this new Erika.

From Her Fortress. ❤

Love defined.

Lately I’ve been struggling with knowing the purpose of new relationships in my life. Struggling because I have such a hard time accepting the love of others.

I felt drawn to that one quote, “you accept the love you think you deserve.” Hmm…so true.

But what about with God? His love is so crazy! It’s unfathomable. It’s constant. Unwavering. Perfect. As one song puts it, “More faithful than the rising sun.” The sun rises every day! How can something be more faithful than that?!

But if we accept the love we think we deserve, shouldn’t we look at our definition of love?

The dictionary gives three main ones:

  1. An intense affection for another person based on personal ties
  2. A strong affection for another person based on shared experiences or interests
  3. The deep tenderness, affection, and concern felt for a person with whom one has or wishes to have a relationship based on sexual attraction


So what is our definition? Many of us have or are living by that third definition. And if that is my definition, and that is the love I’m willing to accept…then how in the heck do I accept God’s? We seek relationships based off of this definition and then we ask God, why can’t You send me someone who loves me…well by using your definition then He technically is sending you someone who “loves” you.

Meanwhile, you’re missing His love because it is nowhere near your definition. It flies right on by.

So imagine if He sent you someone who is a definition of His love, would you recognize it? You say, “nah Erika, that doesn’t exist. I’ve watched every person I love abandon me either physically or emotionally.” I thought the same. But mmm. Take a second and close your eyes. Every time that happened, God was standing there. And you just kept crying out for Him to send you someone who loves you….by your definition. So it became a cycle.

Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. – Philippians 2:3

Imagine a love like that. You think woah, what happened to all that self-love talk Erika. No, it is still there. We are to love ourselves but then consider others as more important. And if you’re worried, think of it like this. While I’m busy making you more important, you do the same…holy smokes. Talk about a balance. That’s love.

So I’ll leave you with this:

What is your definition of love? What love do you accept? I challenge you to seek God’s love in those around you. And watch what happens when you open your hearts to His type of love. Because God thinks differently than that coffee cup posted above. He loves you more than coffee, and He LOVES proving it.

Don’t make the same mistake I did. I asked for a love like God’s and then didn’t prepare myself for His answer. There is nothing on this earth that can hold the same definition. Everything is changing. Even yourself. Shoot, I’m pretty sure I change at least once a day. Always improving and growing. But God…CONSTANT. In order for our human minds to comprehend that, we must create a definition of constant. We cannot base His love on any of our previous definitions…it has no rival.

We must intentionally prepare for and seek His kind of love because it will go by unnoticed otherwise. So open your eyes, your ears, your heart and soul and watch as God renews every definition you’ve ever had.

And don’t think that after one sign He’s done with you. It took me 5 signs before I even got this message. It’s always amazing what happens when we allow the dots to connect.

With love, From Her Fortress. ❤



Love used to look like that one boy who caught your eye. His smile sending shocks through your chest. And when you were ignored, your heart melted. His lack of love sent your self-love running.

And you wish you could say it only happened once. But ten years pass and you can predict the motions that follow. Now you look in the mirror and you see a blur. Who is she, staring back? A mind imprisoned by the words and actions of others.

Where do you go next? This place is so desolate. The opening above seems so far up. How will you make it?

One day you find solace in whispering your own name. As the word presses past your lips a step appears. Excited, you say it again. This time louder. Nothing. What happened? Why didn’t it work?

As time passes you slump down on the step. One day you recall your favorite memory. Another step appears, almost causing you to retreat to the bottom. Your favorite memory creates a smile. And you start seeking what else used to make you smile. Several more steps appear. Now you’ve figured out the system.

The mission is to find yourself. Each day you must choose to rediscover who you are. When you make it close to the opening, you find yourself tired. You haven’t rested in so long. It’s hard to lay down during the constant climb.

You think that maybe it would be better to climb back down to take a break before continuing. But as you take your first step down, the top one disappears. And what worked to reveal that step before, no longer works. Now what do you do? What haven’t you done yet?

At just that moment you say, “maybe I don’t need to climb any higher. I know who I am, and I love her for it.” At the utterance of those words, you can’t even blink before the hole begins to shrink. It’s over.

And with a new definition of love, you climb out. Ready to pass onto others the gift you have received.

With self-love, from her fortress. ❤

Dear younger me

Dear younger me,

Look at you. So eager to walk across that gym floor and receive your Kindergarten diploma. I’m so proud of you. Six years old and ready to take on the world. I know you have some summer fun to get to, but first I want to tell you a couple of things.

  1. I promise that you will one day be as happy as you are now. Unfortunately, it won’t always be that way. You’ll go through some tough times. Worse than falling and scraping your knee on the playground. But just as you get back up to play, you’ll do the same in life.
  2. You’re going to feel left out. Your clothes won’t be new and you won’t have cool stories of family vacations. Kids will laugh. But don’t let that keep you from being you. Continue to be that crazy little girl that I’ve grown to love.
  3.  You know how you love racing all the boys during recess? Keep it up. One day that training will allow you to meet all sorts of people. Mentors, friends…family. You’ll be running all over the place!
  4. That older brother of yours sure can be a pain, huh? Not to mention that new little sister you have. Those two are your best friends for life, okay? They’ll be right next to you during the toughest times…so keep them close!
  5. What is it you want to be when you grow up? A teacher isn’t it? Well, keep your passion. And no matter where your path goes, know that there will be a million and one opportunities to teach people.
  6. In the next couple of years you are going to get called a lot of names other than Erika. But remember, you control who you are. Shrug it off, babe.
  7. You’re already such a hard little worker. Grandpa absolutely loves giving you all sorts of jobs. But one day you’ll grow tired of mowing the lawn and picking up cigarette butts. Promise me you’ll keep doing it. Spend as much time with him as you can. Play your imaginary guitar with him and bust a move; he’ll be gone before you know it.
  8. Sunshine, you aren’t going to get sucked up by a tornado. Stop being scared of those storms and enjoy the view. You’ll grow to love dancing in the rain.
  9. Go give your mom and dad a huge hug once you finish reading this. Things will get shaky for the next couple of years. But I promise they’ll come back around. In the meantime, you’re about to gain some super powers called resilience and determination.
  10. Finally, take careful notice of those around you. God is going to give you many angels throughout your journey. They’ll be of all shapes, colors, sizes, and species. You won’t see it at first, but they are what will get you through.

If you made it all the way through this letter then goodness, they need to put you at a 5th grade reading level or something. Such a smart little cookie.

Chin up, buttercup. That same beautiful smile you have now will keep shining through (minus all those gaps). No situation or person is going to keep you from succeeding. So go get em’ girl.

I love you,

From our fortress.

Use YOUR eyes.

It has been six months since I graduated. In that time I feel as though two worlds have slammed into each other. When I left this place I was a naive, scared eighteen year old girl. I cried when my mom left me in that dorm room. I thought that was the lowest I would get. I was wrong.

I spent four years separating myself from anything that ever was. At the time I don’t think I would have registered as so, but now I see that I was trying to reinvent myself. And I did. It wasn’t always a smooth ride. In fact I don’t think it ever was. The self I was trying to create definitely took many drafts. Drafts that I wish not to claim, but I must.

But I won’t bore you all with my life story. I’ve done that too much already. I never would have dreamed of ending up in my hometown after graduation. Yet here I am. And if I thought that the young woman who walked across McPherson College’s stage in May was the final draft of Erika, wow was I wrong.

Try going back to a town where everyone expects the girl they knew four years ago. And what makes that so frustrating is that I don’t even remember that girl. I guess I have my perspective of what she was like, but no one shared with me theirs.

Now I hear things like, “you act like I don’t know you” from my own family members. And it makes me cringe because they don’t know me. They weren’t keeping up on the last 4 years of changes. And because of that, they’re still reading the first edition of Erika without even picking up the 2nd. Let alone the 3rd that is being written now.

Anyways, you get the picture. I’m in this town that has preconceived ideas of me. But they aren’t the only guilty ones. I came back here, wearing the same glasses I wore four years ago. Seeing everything in the same light. The difference is that I ditched my glasses months ago.

I started to get involved in the community (thank God for my boss throwing me into it). And let me tell you, this little town truly is a gem. The servant leadership and sacrifices that take place here are tremendous. The townies reading this are probably thinking I’ve gone crazy, but maybe they have the wrong glasses on, too.

I grew up in a family that had (still has) no/limited sense of community. I don’t think it’s their fault. They went through many struggles and only ever had family to count on. Outsiders aren’t something I was ever taught to put trust in. They have bad intentions and only look out for themselves.

Luckily, while I was away reinventing myself for the past four years, I was also changing my definition of community. In that time I learned to lean on those who didn’t have the same blood as me. And this is why my two worlds crashed into each other.

Here I am with my new glasses on. The glasses that highlight community in all of its glory. But now I’m around my family again. And they don’t realize it, but they are constantly trying to rip my new glasses off to put the old ones back on. I want to share my eyes, but they have to be willing to accept them first.

To save this from being a therapy session, I’ll say this: There will always be something or someone trying to pull you back in time. The familiarity of the old you is comfort to them. But sometimes selfishness is good. And this is one of them times. You’re writing a new, better version of yourself for a reason. Don’t start ripping out pages to make others feel better. Work on you. Publish that edition. And then start on another.

Growth and change never stop. In the words of Dory, “just keep swimming”.

With love, from my fortress. ❤

Changing perspective.

Today has been especially draining. Do you ever feel like you wasted a whole day? There was absolutely nothing I did today to change the world. And those kind of days leave me feeling helpless. And hopeless.

I feel like I have all of these ideas in my head. People I want to help and things I want to do. But after days like today, I can’t help but feel that I may be getting ahead of myself.

As I sit at my desk, with my head in my hands, I stop. This is how stagnation begins. A slow fade. Self-doubt. Self-pity. Self self self. And what a day to be stuck on self.

Time’s Person of the Year: The Silence Breakers. If any one of those individuals had succumbed to self-doubt or self-pity that campaign would never have been. If they thought that their one post couldn’t change the world, no change would have taken place.

And just like that I lift my head from my hands. There is no time to throw a pity party. Today, I choose to let those brave women and men be a lesson. We are never invisible. Our struggle. Our pain. Our dreams. Never invisible.

Stagnation is a slow fade. Something that creeps up on you while you have your head in your hands. And before you know it, you have no energy to lift back up.

We can’t take on the evils of the world if we are stuck on ourselves. So lift your heads. Maybe you can’t change the world today but you can change your perspective. Some days hold more impact than others. And know that each day you’re looking ahead instead of down, is a day that we are one step closer to progress.

oh Christmas tree.

I’m not much of a fan of Christmas. I feel like people have taken it so far from where it began. For this reason, I don’t decorate…like Grinch level. But this year is a little different. I’m out on my own. Friends are kind of MIA and work takes up much of my time. I wanted something beautiful to come home to this Christmas season.

I walked by the tree aisle at the local store…toyed with the idea of making my own stocking. But then I found my answer! I recently found a picture of a “tree” created by a stack of old books! BINGO! I love books more than Christmas. So maybe making a tree out of books would allow the season to grow on me. And boy was I right.

I just finished making my book tree. And wow, what a blessing in disguise it turned out to be. As I began making the foundation I pulled the largest books. A thesaurus because sometimes finding the right word is a journey, an english book from the 1930s, and a book that I read my junior year of high school that shaped a large part of who I am today. I continued stacking.

Oh, there’s that book I read that inspired my love for child psychology! And the one that began my secret obsession of Ayn Rand. Many that caused me to pause and remember the happiness I felt walking into the used bookstore where they were found. Even a small blue book that my 5th grade teacher gave me…the first book I ever received with a personal message in it. ❤

A sign language book that has been with me since grade school. A dictionary received as a Kansas Scholar. Poetry and religious books that pulled me from dark places this summer.  Robert Frost with messages of love. And books that have been bought and anxiously waiting to be read…(anyone else have that problem? oops, haha).

And every tree has to have an angel at the top. So I placed my angel right where he belongs. Keep shining bright, Grandpa.

I didn’t expect to gain so much from this little tree. I never realized how much of who I am can be found by opening these covers. I always question myself. Worried that maybe one day I will run too far away from me and who I want to be. But I think as long as I have the contents of this tree I will never lose Erika.

I may have just put this tree up tonight but it’s been in the works for over 12 years. Thank you to those who have helped me create this masterpiece. You will never know how much I am continually impacted by every page stacked here beside me.

With love, from my fortress ❤

Pinch me. I’m dreaming.

I remember telling my friends that I would never get to travel the world. I knew there was no way I would get a job that would let me go anywhere beyond my desk. They told me I could always travel on my own. I found that hilarious. Before college I had barely escaped the boundaries of Kansas by car, let alone an airplane. I made up excuses that my background didn’t give me the foundation to know how to travel (like what does that even mean??).  That my anxiety would squash me dead before I even started packing.

Now here I am. Six months out of college. I’ve walked the beaches of Costa Rica. Sat on the edge of cliffs as the Atlantic crashes into Ireland. Sailed into a San Diego sunset. Relaxed in a London coffee shop. Flown over deserts and mountains. And walked the streets of New York City.

If you had walked up to me as a high school freshman and told me what my life would become…I would do two things: Externally, I would laugh in your face. And internally, I would of started the biggest anxiety attack I’ve ever had.

You may be reading this and thinking, Okay Erika. Calm down. So what, you’ve taken a couple of plane rides. And yes it could seem that way to you. But to me, this is like God answering every prayer I ever had. Every birthday wish coming true. But I don’t remember wishing or praying for any of this. Do I deserve this? Can I enjoy it? Or will it seem as though I am bragging?

Isn’t it crazy how even when we are happy we second guess it? What kind of question is “Do I deserve it?” EVERYONE deserves to be happy. And the only time it is unacceptable is if you are the only happy one around. I’m allowed to be happy. But once I am full, I have to make sure I am sharing that happiness. God is blessing me so much. So how can I pay that forward and bless someone else? I sure can’t buy them a plane ticket, but I can tell them stories and show appreciation.

This post might not be as exciting as my others but I’ve been storing this in my fortress. Along this journey I’m learning how to best receive these experiences so that I can give back just as much.

As a child I used to hug my pillow as tight as I could and pray for a better tomorrow. Never did I imagine those tomorrows looking like today.