Category Archives: Family

Happy Day

Dear Mom,

So I bet this is your first ever “blog” Mother’s Day card. I thought it fitting since you are one of the greatest supporters of my desire to write and share my heart and faith with others. So I realize it’s a bit public, but oh well, so is a billboard!

The last time I published something about you, I got quoted for the first time ever by another publication. That was a stroke to my ego, but more importantly it was a testimony to the kind of woman and mother you are–someone who makes people feel inspired or convicted or just plain grateful that someone like you exists.

Tonight Doug and I are sharing our home with a fellow classmate from Fuller. She needed to spend the night with someone involved in “incarnational ministry” and visit the ministry and ask questions. Earlier today I was anxious about the Hebrew test I will have Monday and my desparate need to study and prepare. Having a houseguest interrupted my ability to do that, but I am reminded of how you and Dad always had a bed or a couch or a floor somewhere for just about anyone who needed a place to stay–need I mention accordians?–and it was never about your convenience or ease. I hope that Mercy will grow up seeing her mom and dad do the same thing.

Tonight I was at Ralph’s trying to exchange the formula I purchased last night with my WIC coupons. I had accidentally picked out the wrong kind and the checkout lady noticed so she sent the bag boy back to the shelves to get the right kind. He bagged my things and I left, only to discover when I got home that he had again given us the incorrect kind. Tonight the store manager gave me a hard time. As soon as it was apparent that I was a WIC customer, his demeanor changed and he told me that they were out of the kind I needed and that he couldn’t help me. I told him that my baby can’t drink milk and this is a milk based formula and that he would give me a different kind–I would happily take a different brand if that was my only choice. He finally relented and gave me the larger size can in exchange for two of the four cans I brought to return. He told me repeatedly that they weren’t supposed to do this and that I needed to be more careful next time. Then he turned with a smile to the USC student waiting to order a keg of beer beside me. I was reminded of all the ways you would stand up and fight for me when I was young–getting me into the best programs at school; getting bus service for me when they told you they couldn’t help you. And it wasn’t just stuff for me or Anna, or now for David. Anywhere you encountered a system working against people, you would stand up and fight and you would not stop until right prevailed. I hope that Mercy will grow up seeing her mom bravely tackle obstacles and injustices, not just for her, but for many.

Tonight I sat in the green rocker holding my sweet Mercy asleep in my arms. I remembered all those nights that you would come and sit on my bed and rub my back or give me an arm scratch and listen to all the stories from my day, and you would often sit there patiently until I drifted off to sleep (often nodding off yourself). I realize that since marrying Doug, that precious ritual is gone (though it was alive and kicking up until that point) but I do my best to make up for it now with cuddles on the couch whenever I am home–though Mercy is stiff competition. Tonight as I gazed down at my sleeping baby, I almost suffocated with love for her. I hope that she will know many nights of ending her day with a mom beside her who will listen and talk and rub, and falling asleep knowing well how very much she is loved.

At our wedding, Pastor Mike said something about how Doug and I were made for each other. I feel the same way about you–that God gave me the mom God knew that I would need. Thanks for loving me. Thanks for making my life so very rich. And thank you for showing me what kind of mom I want Mercy to have. I love you. Happy Mother’s Day.

Erika

mercy-and-mama.jpg

P.S. Talk to Debbie Wilkins–she has something for you!

I do

I remember being single and really struggling with the idea of marrying someone and giving up my freedom to follow God wherever and however God would call me. I didn’t like the idea of giving up the “I” for the “We” because I felt like I would be held back somehow—no longer able to pack my bags and head for Africa or Chicago or anywhere else God might call me at any notice.

A wise friend told me to wait: to not marry until there was someone with whom I experienced MORE of life; MORE of God’s initiative and calling and direction than I had on my own.

So I waited. And waited some more. And then there he was. The one I tried to not want. The one I tried to tell myself I could live without.

My wise friend got it exactly right. Life with Doug is richer and more full than anything I ever could have imagined. There is more of God, not less.

Last week we had the pleasure of four friends from Seattle invading out little apartment and making their home with us. On Saturday they left to return to their own lives and callings back home, and while our apartment once again feels roomy and quiet, I miss them terribly. And it is not the morning Starbucks runs that Dick would make or the groceries that would just appear in the refrigerator or the extra hands that were quick to hold the baby that I miss. It is that being with them made life richer and more filled with God’s presence and grace.

I think this is what being the family of God is exactly about. It is that move away from singleness; from independence, self-reliance and “freedom” to a place where life is better together than it ever could be alone. It’s a lot like marriage and I understand why many are skeptical or afraid. Being yoked to one another is a lot of work. It can hurt. It is sacrificial. But just like life in our apartment last week, in all of the chaos and compromise, it is a treasure I don’t want to live without.

my burden is light

I love my baby. I love holding her, playing with her, talking to her, bathing her. I am one of those moms who simply cannot get enough of her little one.

With that said, when someone asks to hold her and I pass her into the arms of another, there is that moment where I straighten my back and shoulders and stretch my torso a bit. There is that feeling of release, relief, and the easing of a weight or burden, even if for only a few minutes. There is that sudden freedom to go to the bathroom by myself, or sit down and eat a plate of food unencumbered, or sit at the computer and read an email without her little hands grabbing at the mouse and shoving bills and papers onto the floor.

This week our church is hosting a group of kids and adults from my home church in Seattle, Washington. They are here this week to serve our church and our community through morning service projects at our tutoring center and at homes of church members, and through afternoon sports and dance camps for neighborhood children. It is an amazing group of people who chose to spend their spring break, many of them as families, not in Cancun or at Disneyland, but in the gritty streets of South Central.

I have been close to tears many times this week:

leaving the home of one of our church members who is widowed, wheelchair bound, and the primary caregiver for her elderly mother with Alzheimer’s disease where four members of the mission team were scrubbing walls, priming rooms for painting, scouring behind toilets, picking dropped pills up off the floor, and helping to organize the contents of a kitchen so that things could be accessed from a wheelchair;

standing in the middle of the street talking to a neighborhood woman and her son who had nothing to do with any of our camps or events but who had driven by our gathering time of singing with the kids in the park and had stopped their minivan to find out who we were and why we were doing what we were doing;

sitting in the auditorium of our local grade school watching a beautiful high school senior who is an accomplished dancer in Seattle teach dance to more than forty little girls—and remembering holding that young woman when she was the same age that my own little girl is now;

walking into the back classroom of the tutoring center I have directed for the past three years and having someone flip the light switch to reveal a brand new ceiling filled with new recessed light fixtures that fill the room with bright, warm light–no longer will young children and their tutors squint to learn new words on book pages that are barely illumined by a lone fluorescent light.

I love my life here in South Central. I love my church and the people I call neighbor and friend. I love the opportunities I have daily to wrestle with Jesus’ call to love mercy and to walk justly. There is nothing else that I would rather be doing.

But it is not always easy. And it can sometimes feel lonely. And so this week I am feeling that deep sense of a weight lifted, of responsibility shared; of partnership, companionship, and relief. I have stood on the sidelines of camp programs, free to chat with the watching moms. I have stood in the back of the group of kids singing, free to engage stopped minivans and curious neighbors in conversation. I have stood in the middle of a newly painted tutoring center, and watched others bend and sweat and cover themselves with paint so that children I love can be welcomed by cleanliness and beauty.

This week, twenty-nine people have come into our life here and humbly asked: “Can we hold your baby?”

the sacrifice of praise

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them to your foreheads.” Deuteronomy 11:18

I went into H and R Block last night with much fear and trembling. We had a lot of anxiety about our taxes and our prognosis was not good. After an hour and a half, Pat (my new favorite person), pushed the little button on her screen that totals everything up and there it was: not only did we not owe, we would be getting money back!

As I walked out the door of their office toward the street where I had parked, without meaning to, I burst into song. One of the worship choruses we sing just came pouring out. As I drove to my husband’s office to share our good news with him, I found myself belting out yet another hymn we sing at church.

I was struck by the gift of song—the way that words that are not our own become our own. The way a common language of praise and petition grows in the minds and hearts of a church family, creating language for all occasion; language that speaks what is true about “what is God and what is not” for every circumstance, and for all time.

My husband is very intentional about what we as a church sing. He is big about ‘substance’ trumping ‘style.’ I think he’s right—the songs that found their way out from my spirit onto my lips yesterday did not come because of their rhythm, ethnic background, or genre. They came out because what they say described what is true about me and about God. They came out because, in my situation yesterday, they gave words to the gratitude and thanksgiving I felt toward a God who did not abandon us. They came out because I needed to testify, to say what was true in my situation, and they gave me the words to do it.

paradise found

Yesterday we drove out to Joshua Tree National Park. The traffic on the 10 on the way out was slow going, so by the time we got there we had only a short time to actually enjoy the park. But it was worth every second of traffic endured! It is absolutely amazing there. We drove out, having never been there, expecting to see some of the desert wildflowers still in bloom. No such luck. But honestly I didn’t even care because the place was just so spectacular.

I was thrilled when a feisty jackrabbit appeared in front of our car and bounded off into the cluster of trees beside us. My husband went crazy with our little digital camera trying to capture the majesty of the place. Even our baby went nuts. I have never seen her kick and squeal and wave her arms and basically just dance as we held her like I did yesterday.

There were rock climbers everywhere, like little geckos scaling stone faces. It was so fun just to watch them–it definitely made us miss our little rock gym community back home. We decided we definitely needed to come back when we have our climbing shoes and a lot more time!

I am reminded of how important it is to find those places that feed your soul. Our best friends, S and J, recently stumbled across a spot five minutes from their home in Santa Monica that had the same affect on them. We all agreed that we needed to be better about finding those places and giving ourselves the joy of experiencing them.

What is it about standing high on a mountain or sitting among giant boulders and curious trees or gazing out at a spread of ocean waves that changes us? What does it give us that we don’t seem to get from all the other areas of our daily life? Where does its power come from?

How do you do it?

I had an interesting conversation the other night about boundaries—in relationships and in life in general. I am pretty sure that I am not a person that has a very mature understanding of what it means to operate with a lot of boundaries with people.

Today my husband had taken a day off from his seven day a week work schedule so that we could spend some time together as a family. The morning quickly disappeared with playtime with the baby, getting our tax paperwork ready, and random household chores. I was really looking forward to the afternoon—to doing something frivolous and fun together.

Instead, the three of us ended up commuting out in the afternoon rain and the ensuing L.A. traffic to Pasadena to pick up microphones that some friends are kindly loaning to us for our church service this Sunday. Ours were all stolen last Saturday night, along with all of our church’s sound equipment. So, because I am the board chair, and because my husband is the worship pastor, we have a great deal vested in having sound for our service this week. And this meant taking our one rare day off and losing a bulk of it to a tiresome journey.

I wonder what it means to protect yourself and your family in ministry. Would another high-boundary person have simply not gone to get the equipment, or let someone else carry the burden of making some kind of arrangement? What does it mean for us to be pastors here when we are not paid for our time and work, thus causing us to fill our lives to overflowing so that we can fulfill our ministry calling and pay our rent?

Or am I just making a big deal about a stupid rush hour car trip out to Pasadena…