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I have some very exciting news to share with you (cue drumroll)…I am a member of the choir at my church!! Close friends or family might wonder why on earth I would do this. For the rest of you, the GIF speaks for itself!

When times are tough, things aren’t going your way, the world seems to be against you, there is always one common denominator… God, or the lack thereof. In these situations, reflecting on where you stand with God and when the last time you had a daddy/daughter day or bro day might be a good indicator. People may assume that God loves us and that He is there to wait on us, answer our prayers and make each situation work out the way we want it to. But that isn’t how it works. Our relationship with God is no different than the relationship you have with your mom, best friend, or partner. Each of us have to put in the effort to get out positive results and work in our relationship with God, just like we would in those other relationships. In our everyday busy lives, its easy to play “God.” I am planning where I’m going to live, when I’m going to have children, when I’ll get that promotion, where I’ll be in five years and the list goes on-meanwhile, God’s chuckling saying “it’s cute they try.”

I know this is a problem. So what did I do? Take action! I joined the choir at church! I need to get back to Him because at the center is where I will find peace. Are you being active in your relationship with God? If not, start! Join a bible class, attend church, volunteer more often, have a random acts of kindness day, donate to charity, whatever it may be, do it! That’s the thing about God- He’ll patiently wait until you’re ready but its an equal partnership, so don’t forget your part!

Now, excuse me while I go practice my vocal cords (:

So you want to go out on your own, huh?

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Where my entrepreneurs at? This ones for you!

Lately, I’ve been all hopped up on creating something new….but in the words of my friend Daymond John, “you can never create anything new. You can only re-brand something that already exsisted.” Thanks Daymond. Anyways, to better educate myself, I have been high on Shark Tank, NPR’s How I built this and all the books I can get my hands on. I’m not kidding..I’m reading more right now than I did in high school and college combined! From marketing strategies, financial advice, encouragement, tips and tricks, you would think all of those things should be enough to make you think you can go out there and fly. You get all excited about your idea/product/service/plan/app/etc and start thinking out the details. But wait…out of nowhere comes Eeyore, the not so lovable, gray cloud of pessimism that reminds you that you cannot do it. Good versus evil. God vs. well…you know who. Well screw that! Here are my tips of what you should do TODAY to make these dreams a reality!

  • Educate yourself!! Read, study, watch, listen, network-whatever you have to do to fully understand your industry, trends and competition! And remember friends, these things are FREE!! *or low cost
  • Write it down! If you don’t have all the details figured out, how are you going to explain it to someone else? Every time you’ve got a thought about it, WRITE IT! From daydreaming to logistics, it all matters!
  • Create a plan! When are you going to put this dream into action? renting a booth? calling a vendor? creating a mock up product? Writing this article? Put a deadline on these tasks, no matter how small they are!
  • Find support! Support ranges from friends & family all the way to financial support! Its great to have your buddies cheer you on and to help build and maintain that confidence (hooray you for taking this step!) but you also need financial support. KickStarter, anyone?
  • Go! You’ve completed steps 1-4, now DO IT! And because you may be a millennial…market it like no ones watching!!! Again, marketing can be free if you do it the right way!!

I now need to follow my own advice and fly like the bird I am. Who’s with me?!

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Everyone, meet Sarah! Sarah is a beautiful young woman with an enormous talent—dancing! Sarah stayed with us for a night while she came to the Big Apple to audition for the opportunity of a lifetime. Realizing that Sarah traveled alone, had auditioned for a role that could change the course of her future and was younger, we felt that we needed to be her support system. While she was away, we decorated with banners, steamers, the whole works, to show her that what she did was couragous and worth celebrating, regardless of the outcome!

While Sarah’s talent may be obvious, a lot of us have gifts, passions and talents that are much more subtle. Would it be fair for all of us to dance like Sarah? Would it be special if we could all sing and dance like Beyonce? Write like Shakespeare? Be powerful like Susan B. Anthony? Wouldn’t it be boring and repetitive if we all could qualify for The Voice or skate like Rob Dyrdek? I’ll leave that to be rhetorical. While I may wish from time to time I could be like someone else or have a talent like someone else, God created us all with different skill sets and passions so that we could all compliment each other and make up the Body of Christ.

God hand selects talents, passions and skills for each person. And each person plays a part in the larger puzzle of the Body of Christ. Sarah makes up the thumb…she is a dancer, extrovert who loves learning. Beyonce is the wrist…she is a singer and dancer, with confidence for miles. Then you have Rob who is the pinkytoe. Rob is a skateboarder and entrepreneur who is rowdy and fun. You see, you need each and every one of these people and traits to make up the whole body. Remember the song? All the way from your head, down to your toes? Look at this verse to help clarify this, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.” Also, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;” For myself, I believe my talent is a quiet one; not outspoken like singing, dancing, skateboarding or protesting. My talent is that I have a love for God and I very much want to write about it. He has given me the talents and passion to be a writer and to be generous and compassionate with others. I am the bellybutton.

You can also take this concept and apply it to why we all look different. For example, I have light (some may even say pale) skin, blonde hair and green eyes. While my husband has brown skin, brown hair and brown eyes. I don’t know about you but I think it wouldn’t be as fun if everyone looked like me. Or him. We need a blend, a mix of all combinations to make up the Body of Christ. We all need to be different looking, acting, engaging, competing, reacting and living in different ways; that is the way God created it to be!! And if you are reading this saying “Well I haven’t discovered my God given talent or passion yet,” then my response would be…hang tight friend, you’re in for a fun ride!

And to not leave you all in suspense, our dear friend Sarah got selected and will be professionally dancing soon to come in Israel!! Can I get a Hallelujah?!

Earth, Wind and Science?

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The other day while standing around in the kitchen, my husband asks, “What are your thoughts on evolution?” I remember thinking, oh crap, is this going to be one of those “Is it the chicken or the egg” conversations? Evolution seems like one of those hush-hush topics that people don’t really like to talk about, just like politics, sexual orientation and religion. A lot of times what happens is people just say, “Toh-mato, tah-mato” and thats the end of the conversation. But not here…!

Let me be frank in saying, there are a lot of things regarding evolution that I do not know or understand. For one thing, I couldn’t even take a stab at why people were worshipping cats at one point. But what I do feel confident saying is that God created it all. Just look at it here, Genesis 5:1-2, “…When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind” when they were created.” 

Do I believe that Adam and Eve started our entire civilization? Yes. I believe that we are all descendants of Adam and Eve and that we truly are all brothers and sisters. (Don’t think about that too hard or you might think its gross!) Do I believe that Mankind once were apes? It’s complicated. I believe that Adam and Eve were the, for a lack of a better word, prototypes of Mankind and they did not look like what we look like today. Adam and Eve most likely looked very ape like. As Mankind grew on this Earth and grew smarter-God too grew and became more aware of what humans needed to survive. Just as God was learning with Adam and Eve, I believe that God created these species (whether dinosaurs, rare fish, mammals, and maybe even sasquatch) that sounded great in theory but alongside his precious Mankind, the two could not live together and because we are God’s precious people, we always won out.

Do I believe in science? Absolutely. Science has gotten us very far in this world (look at me now as I write on an electronic device that circulates the internet whos satelittes hover the Earth.) However, I view science like this: Science is the temporary bandaid to fix our problems. Let me explain what I mean through an example. It is no secret that our Earth is “sick” or “feeling blue” and scientists have named it Global Warming. But when you look at The Bible, it talks about the signs of the world ending (too deep of a conversation for now.) Scientists can slap a bandaid on the Earth with all of these technologies and solar panels but that will not stop what will happen inevitably. Or think about when a friend gets cancer. The scientists may have came up with a treatment but ultimately, God will take that friend from the Earth on His timing. But science is a nice bandaid in the meantime to make you feel better. Science cannot stop Jesus from returning to Earth to take us Home and that will happen on His timing no matter what new technology or strategy has been discussed.

Evolution is a big topic and of course, I do not know the answers but I am happy to report that I know God has created all, even scientists. The two things can live together and they have since the beginning of time. I hope you can see it not so much as a black & white topic but more so that science is just a small pawn in the game of Life (#totalpun #notonpurpose)

What it means to be a Christian

As a culture or maybe even on a larger scale, people misconstrue the word “Christian.” The way they picture a Christian is: a bible freak, typically judgmental,  someone who doesn’t drink/smoke/swear/or any other sin and the list goes on. But just to be clear…that is NOT what a Christian looks like. Yes, occasionally you will meet this type. And yes, (come at me with a pitch fork) these type of Christians give the rest a bad name.

But here is what I am and what other Christians surrounding me look like: First off, we look just like everyone else: dress the same, talk the same and eat the same. We do drink and if that’s your thing, smoke, swear and do all other types of sins. Note: I am not proudly proclaiming this BUT I am human, as are you, and sins are inevitable. Refer to Romans 3:23-24: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Us Christians are NOT perfect and do not claim to be. But there’s a big difference here when we do sin (things like: talk bad about a friend, steal, cheat, or I’ll say it…being homosexual), we bring it to the Lord. We actually notice and feel bad about the sin we did and handle that business with God. Yes, Christians try to do much less of these things but when they do happen (and like I said, inevitably) we know who to go to. I think to best illustrate my point is through this example:

My husband and I (both proudly Christians and do not hide it in our lives) have guests stay at our home from time-to-time, people typically traveling to the big city and need a place to crash. Anyways, we had this younger guy, around our age stay with us. We all got along really well and had a lot in common. We ended up inviting him to dinner that night and when we came back home, talked the whole night about all sorts of topics. During the conversation, Juan and I kept mentioning things like “being blessed”, “going to church”, “our church group,” and other phrases that sparked a larger conversation. Our guest, lets call him Michael, out of the blue said, “What’s your denomination?” Now here is where I’m going to stop and vent for a second: Maybe it’s a millennial type of thought but the idea of having all of these sectors like Lutheran, Baptist, Southern Baptist and whatever else they’re calling themselves, is dividing us as a nation!! We’re splitting hairs because of a few differences when in reality, no one actually can say with 100% certainty the real truth. So to Michaels question and to anyone who has ever asked this, I reply “We are simply Christians.” Michael then says “Wooh, I never expected that.” Michael had the idea that a Christian was the stuffy person who was forcing religion down everyone’s throat, basically the misconstrued idea as I mentioned above. This ultimately led to a beautiful conversation about what a Christian really looks like. Michael himself is not a Christian but he kept asking us questions about our faith. What always inspires me is the hungriness living inside people, them wanting to know more about Christians and The Lord we proudly stand behind. It is inherent for every single person to be curious about their maker and if I get to be apart of that curiosity,  it is very exciting! From that conversation, we invited Michael to church with us on Sunday. He seemed hesitant when we suggested the idea. Just know, we might bring it up again but if he says he is not comfortable, ready, wanting to go, then there is no further push. God works on his own timing with people and we, the Christians, need to respect that, but also, we will be ready to talk when the opportunity presents itself.

This topic has been on my mind this past week and I felt it was important to get this out there. Look at my IG posts, I look like a normal girl right? I have fun, occasionally drink, I do things that the Lord would frown upon (sin) but guess what…I AM A CHRISTIAN, DAUGHTER OF CHRIST! HEAR ME ROAR!!

 

 

The Shepard and The Sheep

Have you ever just felt lost? You’re moving around, doing your normal day to day but don’t understand how this connects to the things in your heart? Well then…welcome to the club; The exclusive club called adulthood. For me, God is taking me through a journey right now. Career, relationships, current state of mind, all of it just doesn’t make sense. I always come back to the question, “what am I doing here?” Once you get to a certain place, you can hear God speaking to you. Sometimes people mistake this for you overthinking or your inner voice but ultimately, that’s your dad saying “No. No. Not that but THAT!” I look at what I’m going through as a tug of war; God is holding the rope on the one side (filled with thoughts on non-profits, giving back to my community, love, compassion, generosity) and on the other side is Erica, the human filled with greed, success, temptation, among other things. So badly I want God to win but for some reason, I’m fighting it. The evil thoughts seep into my mind of, “that’s not possible,” and “you could never do that.” I know these come from the enemy. I trust in my Lord with all my heart but sometimes my brain doesn’t follow as quickly. My prayer for each and every one of you, if you’re in this same place with whatever  you’re feeling lost with, is that you would let God win. Think of yourself as a sheep and God is the Shepard. The Shepard is guiding us towards the path but because we are easily side tracked and foolish, we stop for water, look at flowers and dose off. Meanwhile, the Shepard is waiting patiently while we make our way to the path. I guess I’m still staring at the dandelions…

 

Testimony Thursday

(Better know as thirsty Thursday). Let me warn: This is a long testimony but 100% worth the read!

In 2013, my relationship with God forever changed. It all started when I was working alone one weekday at the bridal salon. It was a rather slow day until…SHE walked in! Two beautiful twins came into the store, both engaged, both shopping for dresses but definitely not both enthused. Right away, I noticed Amber more so. She was dainty, quiet and seemingly fearful of the experience. Her twin, Stacy, couldn’t be more different- energetic, thrilled and ready to try on dresses. As I politely asked both of them their wedding dates, ideas and what types of dresses they had in mind, Amber would hardly tell me any information. I could see that between the two girls,  Stacy had a lot of thoughts, ideas about her wedding but Amber, not so much. I didn’t push though. I proceed with Stacy; asking her to point out the dresses she liked and going through the motions but ultimately, I was mesmerized by Amber. Once Stacy was done trying on dresses and had found her favorites, we both naturally turned it over to Amber. Slowly, Amber let out small pieces of information that would make up the puzzle which was her. Piece by piece and jag by jag, I found out that Amber had gotten a double mastectomy, gotten over thyroid cancer, had a baby, all while having a life threatening celiac disease that only made each of these early issues more problematic. Trying not to scare her off by my questions and sadness that I felt for her, she let out that she was afraid of not making it to her wedding and that she was so confident that she would die before reaching this date that was a year away. Trying to change the mood slightly, I challenged her to try on one dress, just one, to see how it would make her feel. She obliged to her twin Stacy as well as the polite bridal salon employee.

When Amber came out of that dressing room, wearing that wedding dress, she took our breath away! She looked stunning. Once Amber turned to the mirror and saw herself, she couldn’t help but feel the same. For the first time, Amber was twirling, smiling, saying that she felt beautiful and actually had confidence in her wedding. Quickly though, the devil swooped in to say that she would never make it to her wedding date. After only mere minutes of her confessing that she loved the gown and seeing a light within her, she took it off and went back to her timid self. Thankfully though, we spent a few more hours learning about each other and I quickly found out that Amber was having a benefit in one month to help with her medical costs. For some reason, Amber and Stacy invited me and I promised that I would attend. 

Later that night, I had the hardest time sleeping. I tossed and turned as I prayed to God asking, “Lord, why did we cross paths?” and “what could I possibly do to help her?” After a long nights rest (no one said it was a good nights rest), I woke up with what felt like a lighting bulb over my head. Instantly, I knew what I was being told to do! I called my mom to tell her: “Mom, I know what I’m suppose to do for Amber. I’m suppose to buy her that wedding dress that she loved and bring it to her benefit.” Of course, this might have seemed crazy from an outside perspective with the dress costing $3200, the benefit being a month away, being a broke college student and not knowing Amber well enough (as said by my mom and friends.) But I didn’t care. I so strongly had this placed on my heart that no matter how far fetched it seemed, I knew nothing was crazy with God in the plan. So that same day, I got to work. I told my bosses that I was going to buy that dress off the rack for Amber and asked that they wouldn’t sell it during the month. I took the rest of the month to create a Facebook page asking for donations for the cause, going door-to-door telling the story, going business-to-business to plead with business owners, I talked with my bridal connections to see if we could make deals when it came to alterations, florists, photographers and other servicers and I used my own tax return money to ensure that the dress would become Amber’s.

Praise our Holy God who can make all things happen in His name! As Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Through His power, I raised $3200 within a month, bought Amber’s dress, had a packet full of discounts and freebies from wedding vendors and I was ready to show up to Amber’s benefit with all of this in tow. Now, keep in mind that at this point, Amber knew NOTHING!! However, Stacy and their mom knew what I was up to because I wanted to make sure they would be okay with it. Story back on. I showed up to Ambers benefit more nervous than I had ever been! When Amber saw me, she was so happy that I actually came and of course being oblivious what my full intentions were. At a certain part in the evening, Stacy had told Amber that she wanted to speak privately with her outside. Meanwhile, word had spread of what was going to happen and a small crowd followed outside. Once Amber was in location and was wondering what in God’s name was going on, she made eye contact with me. I headed toward her with a binder in my hand and a dress bag on my side and started telling her that I had something for her. Amber starting crying as we embraced in a hug, wondering what was going on. Clear as day, I said, “I’m here to tell you that you will make it to your wedding day and here is the proof.” And as 100% that I’m a girl, 100% that those words were not mine. We both shed tears and I explained that I had gotten her this dress because I knew finances were hard and she has been through a lot but God knows and wants you to have this.

This was the strongest experience that has ever happen to me in God. The greatest lesson I was shown from this is that the gifts and passions that each one of us is given ,was given from God and when He needs to use those things, He will call upon you. And also, trusting in the Lord. I feel so happy that through this experience, not once did I question His vision. Many times Satan was telling me that it was impossible or stupid but I never listened. God will always win.

Friends, open your heart. Realize that each and every talent, passion, skill you have was purposely selected for you to have; But not without a cost. When He calls upon you, be ready to use it! It’s a great honor to be used in that way and really, it is our duty!

On the flip side of all of this is Ambers experience. Amber made her way back to Christ!! Can I get an Amen?! Through everything she was going through, she lost her faith. She couldn’t see God through the pain and suffering but the date of her benefit came and God reinstated her faith! He said, “Amber, I’m here. I’ve been here. Don’t give up because I haven’t.” And just like that, I (a very small piece) was used in the much larger picture of restoring a faith or many faiths that day and God gets all the glory!!!

Like I said, I know it was a long story but I appreciate you reading it until the end! I hope that something about this touches your heart and who knows, maybe will reinstate your faith!