Thursday, March 26, 2015

Scotland Update - Visa



Below is an email I've sent out to my supporters and prayer warriors tonight, March 25, 2015.



Hello everyone,


This is a long email, but I pray and hope you would all take the time to read it.

Thank you, firstly, for all your prayers and encouragements through this season of waiting for my visa. I am so blessed to have so many of you supporting me through this.

I found out last week that my visa application was denied, which came as quite a big shock for myself...simply because my eyes had been so focused on the expected outcome, I hadn't stopped to truly think about any other outcome.

I decided to take this past week and really come before the Lord in prayer and surrender, seeking Him and considering every avenue and option for my next steps before sharing all of this with you. Not because I didn't want the encouragement, but because I had questions with the Lord that I knew needed to be answered before I let you all know. As you can probably assume, this past week has been a pretty emotional one for me.

Just after sending my final bits of information and application for my visa, I was up one night having a hard time sleeping, worrying and wondering what the next steps might bring. Even with my focus on Scotland, I had always known that this denial was also a response.

As I prayed and opened my bible that night, He gave me these verses:

As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. For who is God, except the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? It is God who arms me with strength, And makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of deer, And sets me on my high places. - Psalm 18:30-33 NKJV

My prayer that night was one of surrender: knowing that, whatever the outcome of this time of waiting, I knew I could trust that His way is perfect and He would make my path straight (as Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us). If my visa was accepted, I would gladly jump on that plane and settle into life in Scotland. If it was denied, I would accept it as the closed door that it was and trust Him for my next "ministry placement". As hard as it was to submit that prayer to Him, I knew it was one I did with complete surrender.

So, long story short: I will not be returning back to Scotland as a long term missionary. I will, however, be making plans to go back on a short-term visitors visa to visit with, encourage, and say goodbye to those I've come to see as family over there. I won't have closure with the ministry the Lord blessed me with in Scotland until I can go back and truly spend time with the church family I've come to know, love, (and over the past 7 months, miss terribly) in Scotland.

As it turns out, the day I found out about by visa, those verses came back into my head and even in the midst of my mourning, sadness, and confusion, I had a peace in my heart knowing that this was the Lord's chosen path for me right now.

I also took a good long look at what the Lord was doing in my life at this exact moment and, through that lens, I saw multiple doors of ministry opening up for me at Shoreline and here in America that I couldn't ignore...opportunities I am even getting excited about! So, as hard as the news was, this realization did made the shock of having my visa denied a little less disheartening.

There are many "what now?"s and "why?"s and "what if?"s that I don't have the answers to right now. What I do know is that the Lord is still writing this story of mine and I am going to wake up each day and enjoy what He has for me. Will it come with tears? Yes. Will it come with doors that don't open when you want them to and doors that open when you didn't expect them? Yes. God's plans are always greater than our plans, we have only to trust in Him and walk in the path He has set before us.

So, what happens now? Please continue to pray for me. My ministry in Scotland isn't finished yet, as I will be heading back there within this next month to visit, say goodbye, and collect the rest of my things there.

How can you be praying? 
  • Firstly, for the Lord to provide other believers to step up into any needed roles in ministry in Alness. It's been such a blessing to hear updates about the church in Alness and how the Lord has already grown and blessed them since I left. Please continue to pray for our brothers and sisters there as they continue the Lord's work! 
  • For my final (short term) ministry trip back to Scotland coming up. I don't know dates or the duration of my stay yet, so please be in prayer for those details. I will continue to keep you all updated as I know more information.
  • For my next steps. After I return from Scotland, I will continue to stay on serving at Shoreline, but will also need to take the time to settle back into life here in California. Please pray for that transition (I've been here for 7 months, but haven't actually been treating this as home: living out of suitcases and travelling a lot, so the transition back to California as home will be a big one). 
  • For sensitivity and wisdom as I attempt to respond and answer questions regarding this new direction the Lord is taking me in. 
A note to my financial supporters: I am so grateful for how you've supported the ministry the Lord has called me to over the months and years. All the funds donated through Shepherd's Staff over my time here in the states has been held for my return back to Scotland. So, although my long term stay in Scotland is not happening, these funds will still be used for my short term trip and will continue to be used to help me return and settle back in the states. Shepherd's Staff is aware of this new change of plans and will be working with me to close my account with them after I return. Their policy is to continue collecting funds for up to 90 days after a missionary returns from the field as a transition period. My situation is a little different, so I will continue to keep you all informed as to any changes with my account as it comes up. If you have any questions at all regarding funds donated, or anything else in these regards, please don't hesitate to email me.

Again, thank you all...for every prayer, every smile, every email, every encouragement. I hope that as we finish out this season of my life together, you will have been encouraged and grown closer to the Lord through it as much as I have. I am so grateful for each of you. Thank you, again and again.

With love, joy, and tears, 
Erika

Friday, January 30, 2015

Vulnerable Living


Vulnerability is a necessary part of growing close to someone. It is also, consequently, a necessary ingredient in being deeply hurt. How it is something that requires trust, but isn't always something to be trusted.


...Life's synonym is vulnerability...

It is a common thread in all deeply felt and deeply desired aspects of life, but only when coupled with compatibility does it become like a living, growing organism. Breathe is taken in with the comfortability of knowing you are understood. Breath is released in knowing you find safety in the reciprocation.

...it's breath is compatibility...

And, quietly, the weak areas begin to be re-built and toughened. They take on a firm substance where once a sliver of paper-thin protection was. Health to a once weakened area is restored and growth becomes inevitable.

...with each inhale, we grow tough...

Then, a bold softening occurs in the corners of your life. Where the callouses and scars once were of past encounters when vulnerability was met with incompatibility, you begin to see a change. A smoothing. A softening. A renewing of what was once damaged is now brought back to refreshed glory.

...yet altogether remain tender...


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Now, I Stand.

The days go past.
The sun rises and lowers.
The weather changes.
And still, I wait.

The run gets tiring.
The pace quickens.
The energy wanes.
And so, I sit.

The tears flow.
The smiles fade.
The questions start.
And then, I kneel.

The hands clasp.
The prayers rise.
The listening deafens.
And here, I stay.

The end is without sight.
The understanding still unknown.
The peace washes over me.
And now, I stand.


I wrote this poem as I was spending time praying the other day. It's a little raw, a little real, and an overflow of the prayers and struggles I've been daily giving back to the Lord.

So, I was meant to be returning to Scotland this past week. The intention was always to go back to Scotland after the missions conference but, with the sponsorship/visa process being delayed, I am still here and have yet to purchase a return plane ticket.

I won't lie and say that my attitude has been great regarding all of this. I've run the gamut of emotions from frustration to confusion and questioning whether the Lord really wanted to send me back to Scotland in the first place. After a restful Christmas, and some of the conversations and messages at the mission conference, I can still confidently say that I am still called to Scotland, even if His timing is different from the timing we established.

These are few verses that have held me in peace over this season and given me hope:

Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD! Psalm 27:14 NKJV

Even in these times of unknown, I know who I need to be focused on and waiting on. It is the Lord alone who will open the right doors for me, at His right time.

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. 2 Corinthians 4:1 NKJV 

This verse was the beginning of a message at the missions conference. One thing the speaker said stuck with me: (paraphrased): Serving God is an undeserved privilege, given only by His mercy. You don't choose whether you will go or stay. The One (God) who called you into ministry is the only One who can call you out." In all of this, because of His mercy, we do NOT lose heart.

So, in light of all of this, I would covet your prayers: that the process would continue along at the Lord's pace and, in the meantime, He would sustain me in His peace and patience.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy 2014, Hello 2015


As many of you already know, the Christmas and wintry season is my favorite time of year. There's something in the scent of cinnamon, cranberry, and pine that brings about nostalgia. Much of that nostalgia turns into an chance for me to look back and see the great milestones, peaks, and valleys that have made up the year in review.

After Christmas, New Years comes and as I think over the year, I am reminded of all the Lord has done in my life and in the lives of those around me. I can look back and praise the Lord for all that He has done.

If you have a moment, this Rend Collective song's lyrics seems like the perfect way to wrap up my year (and hopefully yours as well) in praise to the One who guided and directed us along the way. (Here is a link to the lyrics as well).



So really, I just want to extend my gratitude to each of you. Since I can't be around all of you as often as I'd like, I want to thank you for the extra bits of communication I get from you through out the year: I love getting emails and letters from you guys giving me updates on your lives.

When I see you pop up on Facebook or in iMessage (even with just a quick "thinking of you" or "praying for you"), it reminds me that this ministry the Lord has called me to isn't just mine. You are all an integral part of it. You hold me up in prayer to the Lord as I raise my hands and let Him guide and use me along the way.

For this, and so much more, I am so grateful to the family and fellowship the Lord has brought into my life in 2014...and for what He has in store for 2015. So with that, I say

Hello, 2015. It's nice to see you.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Prayer of Thanks

I sat here a few nights ago, thinking about what I am thankful for as we come upon another Thanksgiving. I have to admit, this is one of my least favourite holidays...but it's one worth celebrating. Not because it is the last remaining holiday that keeps us from going into full-blown Christmas mode. Also not because of the food, the football, or the shopping afterwards. 

But because it is a day that should be celebrated as it's spelled out in the day's name itself: giving thanks.

I have so much to give thanks for. The greatest of these things is God's love and sacrifice that I might live my life fully in His hands. Giving thanks should always start with His sacrifice. From there, the list just begins to fill itself out...

So I wrote down a small prayer of thanks that I want to share with you.


As we gather once again, on a day that we have set aside to give thanks, I want to thank You...
For the sound of laughter, the chatter around the table, the unnecessary words and the words unspoken, thank You. Without the times of tears, we wouldn’t know how to laugh together. Without the words, we wouldn’t know when to be silent. and without regret, we wouldn’t know when to speak up next time. 
For every hug, eye roll, sarcastic joke, smiling face, and story told, thank You. It reminds me that around us there is joy and grief to be had, surrounded by those who keep us on our toes. There are people I share this day with who will continue to challenge me into a new person, tell me truth, and not be afraid to share the good and the bad as it comes. 
For the smells coming from the kitchen, the burnt bread, the leftovers we will have tomorrow and those who brought the feast to the table, thank You. It leaves me knowing I will have a full stomach and a full heart. It reminds me that we aren't the only ones celebrating today and that tomorrow as we gather at a different table, You will provide for us again. 
For the memories I've already made and the ones being made today. For the memories we wish we didn't have and the ones we never will, thank You. It is no mistake that each person is here today and it wasn't a mistake where we were ten years ago. Tomorrow is in Your hands and for that we are thankful. We trust that the memories You keep us from making and the ones we have yet to make are all crafted by Your hand.
Thank you, Lord. For your love. For your sacrifice. For all that you have done for me and for those I love. Thank you. 
Amen. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

I am here.

I am here. 

Sitting in an oversized chair, facing the window. 
The fog rolls along the horizon, narrowly kissing the ocean as the warm rays of the sun fights to overtake it.
The sea breeze billows through the open window as the salty air assails my senses. 

I am where home once was. 

I am sitting among friends - fellowshipping among family.
Those I will see are those who know me, whom I have known for many years. 
They have seen me grow up - from childhood to adulthood, from a baby in Christ to a missionary. 

This is familiar. 


I am home once again, navigating a new familiar, an old unknown. 
Faces I love and longed to see from a distance are now a part of my every day. 
And the sun still rises and I watch it lower itself daily, adding to a passage of time that I want to slow down and gain speed simultaneously. 

This is my now.

Until January, when everything becomes the new normal. 
When I return to where I left my heart and my new family, and once again restore new. 
To my new normal, with confident refreshment. When I will look at the sun fighting behind the clouds, the wind and the rain cascading down the hills and can finally say, 

I am here. 



Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Ministry Update

Hello from Morro Bay, CA! 

I'm sitting here overlooking the Pacific Ocean, back on the central coast, and excited for this coming {albeit short} season. I arrived back on August 26th and have been enjoying spending time with my family in Orange County and Bakersfield...but now I am here in Morro Bay and looking forward to all that the Lord has for me during my time here! =)

So, here's some questions regarding my furlough I thought you all might like answered.

How long are you here? 
I plan on flying back to Scotland around January 15 (along with a two year missionary visa!!). My furlough is a bit longer than a regular furlough due to a few reasons. Mainly, obtaining a new visa, renewing my passport (that is about to expire), fundraising, and spending the holidays with my family. 

What will you be doing while you're in the states? 
I will be spending most of my time serving at Shoreline Calvary Chapel (my sending church), fundraising, and sharing/speaking engagements (either sharing about my ministry, what the Lord has been teaching me, or my testimony). In addition to that, i will be focusing on getting everything squared away for my new visa, and getting to spend the holidays with my family before I fly back to Scotland in January. 

Where will you be? 
I will be mostly staying in Morro Bay, CA but plan on travelling for various reasons while I'm here. If you're in CA, and especially on the central coast, I would love to see you! 

How can we help? 
There are a few ways to help: firstly, prayer! Please pray that my time here would be fruitful and used by the Lord. Whether you're getting this update and are in another country yourself, or are busy and want to cheer me on from a distance, prayer is the best way to do that! 

Secondly, I would love to get a few speaking/sharing nights on the calendar (especially for those of you who live outside of the central coast). If you are involved in a church that would like to hear a missionary update, in a bible study that might want a guest speaker, or a ministry that could find encouragement in hearing the Lord's story in my life, please let me know! I would love to set up a date/time with you/your church! 

Lastly, if you're here on the central coast and would like to be involved in a few fundraisers on the horizon, please let me know. I've got some fun Christmas-themed fundraiser ideas that will hopefully be in the works soon. =) 

When can we see you? 
I know that right now, 4 months seems like ages and that I will have plenty of time to see everyone before I head back...but then Im going to blink and be like "what happened to the last four months?!" So, I am currently in the planning stages of an update time at Shoreline and a few sharing nights in the next few months. I will send out an email when I have those dates and hope to see many of you during those times! 

Again, if you have any more questions about anything please feel free to email me! Thank you so much for continuing to join me on this journey and praying for me. =)