Goodbye 19 & sophomore year/Hello 20 & summer

At this time last year, I hadn’t been on an airplane since I was 2. In the past year, I have flown east and west, sat in lines, cried when my flight was delayed, and constantly begged for the window seat.

At this time last year, I was fairly confident of what I thought my life would look like–the people in it, what I would be doing. And now I sit a year later and have no idea of what the Lord will make out of my pieces and plans.

Life has changed a lot in the past year for me. My friend just asked me how I would describe my last semester. “Last semester in 3 words,” he said. “Go.”

Since I am just a natural-born comedian (please pick up on my sarcasm here), I started with what seemed like the most appropriate answer: “I. Don’t. Know.”

He wasn’t amused and pressed me harder. And that’s when I realized the honest truth wasn’t what most people would want to hear. The honest truth is that this last semester was exhausting. It was painful, at times ugly, and challenging like I’ve never experienced. However, that’s not what people actually want to hear. They want to hear about the smiles: shining moments, opportunities, and happy memories. There are a lot of those. I’m extremely fortunate that there are a lot of moments from this past semester and past year–probably more than I deserve–that I will look back on and will not be able to suppress my smile. There’s a lot of good that has come from my past few months; however, there is also a lot of brokenness, healing, and prayer that went into them.

That’s the honest truth.

The honest truth is that life was rarely as put together as my instagram feed would tell you, and my life involved a lot more of me being carried–by God, by my loving friends, and by my selfless family–than my pride would want to admit.

I learned what it meant to listen, to actually listen to God. I learned what it meant to have something you really want, and listen to God when that may not be what He wants for you. I got an opportunity to intern at a Young Life camp–an opportunity I wanted dearly–but somewhere through praying that this was where I was supposed to be, Jesus left me questioning whether this was my plan or His. I declined reluctantly and learned a couple weeks later that my best friend would also be interning at that camp and we would have had the opportunity to spend all summer together loving and serving High School kids. I was wrecked. I was so angry. I was looking at God with questions–I follow you, you made it apparent this wasn’t your plan, and this is what I get? 

And Jesus, full of love and grace always kept whispering–just wait, Erica. Patience, my love. A month or so later, I was accepting an offer with my dream firm.

I learned quite the bit of cliches, too. (I know, so mainstream to admit.) I learned how everyone will want to be with you when you appear to be on top, but true friends are the ones there in the mess and through the pain. I am so thankful to have celebrated my small and seemingly larger successes with so many loving people, and I am so thankful to the people that were there by my bedside the next week–when life was extremely less glamorous and immensely more painful. Erica’s sickness of 2015 demands a huge thankful to my incredible sorority sisters who tucked me into bed, called an ambulance, and stayed 8+ hours with me through the night at a hospital (living in the house with you all has been one of the biggest blessings of my life). A thank you to my friends who came and sat next to me, prayed over me, forced me to eat crackers and try to take sips of water. You guys are family (the real MVPs), and I truly would not have gotten through that without you all.

I learned that it doesn’t matter how old I get, my friends I grew up with and from high school will somehow always make me a proud mom. You guys understand before you try to be understood, have provided me with endless roadtrips, and remind me that I may just be the luckiest girl in the entire world. Thank you for making Columbia, Athens, Columbus, Knoxville, Oxford, and Clifton my second homes. Mileage is just a number and I am so thankful we are dispersed across the continental U.S. Despite how much I want to hog you all, the world deserves to also know and love you.

I learned how to let Jesus heal great loss. The loss of a sweet and precious friend. The brokenness that accompanies you, leaving you desperate and lonely at times. I learned that I will probably never understand, but I can be understood by Him and by so many others. I learned that healing can come from your friend’s passenger seats, from Ben & Jerry’s, from hours and hours of worship; I learned that just when you think the tears are all out, they aren’t. They come back and come back strong and leave you in the storm, clinging to the greatest rock.

I have been in the Dark Room. I have been in the process of being marked, molded, chiseled by God. It has hurt at times and I haven’t enjoyed every minute, but He is gracious and faithful through that. The world was determined to wreck and shatter me, to leave me a broken mess. And God, our conqueror and creator, came in and mended the tears and bruises. God called me out of darkness into His palm and let me rest.

Thank you, my loving friends who don’t listen to me when I wanted my 20th birthday to sneak by unknown, and who showered me with surprises, love, and encouragement. Thank you to the Vortex, for being the ultimate getaway and break from the chaotic world–you girls are the best. Thank you, my gracious best friends who (despite my wishes) kidnap me because they believe I needed a break. Thank you to the people who call “just to check in” because those were some of the greatest hours of my life, and to my summer staff family for providing me with more love, prayers, and fullness than I knew possible (forever grateful for the best June of my life). Thank you to the sibs. Zach, a couple years ago you told me that if everyone likes you, you’re not standing up for anything that matters–you have made me strong even though you are 10 hours away. Soph, you being my sister is a testament to how much Jesus loves me; thank you for making me worry less and laugh way, way more.

Thank you Christine Caine for putting a name on where I was, and for reminding me that God is faithful in The Dark Room. Thank you to our God, who is generous in love and grace, who answers the same questions, who carries me, who raises up the broken to life.

Thank you, the hardest and greatest year of my life. I am excited to leave you behind and so incredibly grateful for every single second and all you taught me.

***

Ps 138:3 In the day when I cried out, You answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul.

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