A year ago yesterday, I was baptized. You may not have known that — it wasn’t on Instagram and I didn’t write about it, I didn’t really mention it to many people. 365 days ago, I asked my friend Julia Halpin (who now dotes a new last name, Allspaw) if she would baptize me. She was excited; heck, she invited me over right then and offered to dunk me in her parent’s bathtub. I declined the bathtub offer, began a group message (the logical first step, people), invited two other friends to join, set a date of the 22nd and waited. The 22nd rolled around, we piled into my Ford minivan and drove to Caesar’s Creek.
I don’t remember a lot about the day, to be honest. Julia baptized me in a freezing lake in Ohio during the middle of December. I cried a tiny bit. I cut my foot on a rock. Megan was baptized after me; Katie captured it all on camera (God bless the live photo).
However, I specifically remember the last thing I was saying as rocks rolled over my feet, before the icy creek water fully submerged me. Everything I have and everything I am is Yours. Take it all and make me more like you, Jesus.
I remember this especially because over the next year, the Lord did that. He took the parts and pieces and fragments and fractions I was giving Him and asked for more. He molded the parts of me I wanted to keep safe and protected and away from Him.
It wasn’t glamorous.
It wasn’t photo-worthy and oftentimes felt too painful or overwhelming to write about.
I could write a hundred things on the last year of my life from where I sit now: joyful stories, painful anecdotes, embarrassing ways I’ve acted and a description of my favorite breathing techniques when I’m overwhelmed. I could cover an array of topics and categories, from Alabama sorority houses to Harvard fraternity houses, but that’s not what I want to share today. I want to share five things the Lord has taught and whispered to me throughout 2016.
So, here I sit with both my feet propped up on the edge of my chair, my face holding a soft smile, intense amounts of nostalgia, a huge fuzzy scarf grazing my nose (warding off the Ohio cold), and my slightly-shaking, over-caffeinated hands drumming against the keys: let’s roll, friends.
Your testimony and story doesn’t have a period.
I don’t know when I believed and when I was told that I have this crisp, final, slightly-messy, yet fully-beautiful testimony that is finished, but that is junk. My entire life I’ve had this story. A story I kind of liked, to be honest. It can be two minutes or twenty, depending on the audience and the situation at hand.
I do a brief introduction on me, add a little sarcasm or some self-deprecating humor, tell people who I was until I was 17 (making sure I highlight that I was both the girl who was called “pizza face” and wore a cheer uniform), talk about meeting Jesus at a Young Life camp at 17, say what I love about life now, smile sweetly, slam my period down and yell, Dunzo!
That was it.
Simple enough, down to a science. Then 2016 happened. My testimony that I thought was controlled and cut has now become this scattered, all-hands-on-deck, here’s the really, really broken and the really, superbly beautiful epic Jesus is writing. I don’t know why I believed if I was following Jesus for several years that it is finished meant my story was, too. Ha ha ha cracked the code and now I get to sit and sip my coffee/water/Coke/margarita/beverage of choice! I think I secretly wanted that luxury, that comfort.
Well, like I said, 2016 came. And it brought break-ups and brides-to-be, deaths and diagnoses, trials and triumphs and about everything else we can bring in without ruining my alliteration. How do I talk about the Jesus I know now, the one I have felt stitch my soul? The One I thought backhanded me after I was baptized and the One I realized that was actually molding me, making me gentle, softening some of my edges?
I don’t know.
It’s not composed. It’s not eloquent; there’s no bow on top, and it sure isn’t finished. Neither is yours. The beautiful will still be polished and you’ll spend every second on this earth uncovering more parts of the Lord’s soul — I pray we both do forever.
I cannot tell you how many times I start something with I know this sounds crazy but . . . to then ramble for twenty minutes, possibly cry, and then have the person looking across from me go “Erica, you’re not crazy — I’ve been there.”
I can fully convince myself I am the only person in the world struggling with X, frustrated with Y, and feeling deeply hurt by Z; I convince myself that I’m a nut-job woman and probably need to never speak because I am naked and afraid and all-alone in this imaginary desert.
How many times has something hurt you or pained you or frustrated you, but you swallowed it and smiled and nodded gently? How many times have you suppressed what you are going through because it’s probably too much or not the right time or makes you uncomfy? (I hope me using the word uncomfy makes you uncomfortable.)
You are not the only person who has cried themselves to sleep. You are not the only person in a relationship who has struggled with boundaries. You are not the only person who cannot remember what they did the night before. You are not the only person who has doubts.
We need to start talking. We need to bring it to ears that listen and hearts that empathize. We need to work through our fear of people loving us and leaving us, and we need to risk it and maybe word-vomit and maybe change our favorite color to a more transparent shade for a bit. Bring your darkness to the light; bring the junk to the table.
Your tomorrow is happening.
Call them. Write the note. Pop the champagne. Ask out the girl. Quit the mundane. Walk up and introduce yourself.
We live for this elusive and promised day that we think is in our pocket. We spend our time staring at screens and watching characters move and lusting over the life we want via Instagram. We wait to run into that person again to say hi or make a joke, to tell someone that we are grateful for them, but yet we don’t reach out for fear of . . . fear of what, again?
We live for this alleged day that’s coming where we will wake up and be who we were created to be — this glamorized day where we get the body and the boy, the career and the car, the dog and the dreams. (I know, the alliteration game is strong today.) Oh, I wish it was coming, but it’s not. We are promised this moment and this breath.
This day to be the person we are supposed to be.
Dance at the reception. Cry at the newborn. Launch the business. Plan the engagement. Try out for the team. Send in the application.
Cuddle with the puppy. Turn down the glamorous job with shiny retirement benefits to do what you love. Apologize when you are an ass. Swallow your pride. Cut your hair and paint your nails. Book the trip.
Run hard and sprint fast after your dreams because tomorrow is the moving clock looking at you on your wall.
Have short accounts and long hugs.
I’m not a pacifist; I feel like I need to preface this one with that fact, but my kids will grow up and say this during grace before dinner. Or maybe I will write it on a piece of paper and tape it above the door, and they will have to jump and hit it every morning they leave for school.
I am a notorious 9-rounds, I’m going to duke it out with God (or my mom or whatever wall is in my way) until I get what I think I want. And if I don’t get what I want, I’ll take what I’m given but you can bet money that I won’t fake like I’m pleased about this scenario (charming, right?).
We are all learning right now. Everyone is malleable, everyone is messing up. Everyone is trying to change the world, yet sometimes it seems like the only thing we are actually changing is our profile picture. We are all still finding our voices and determining our beliefs. We carry ourselves with the confidence of 25 year-old supermodels strutting in Jimmy Choo’s, but are still learning to jog in Nike’s.
We’ve all been wrong and we’ve all been wronged. We’ve all had people we should’ve stood by, and we’ve all been surprised when people have sat down around us. It’s a brutal two-way street. It’s a cyclical and corrupt train that sometimes hurt people hurt people.
No one is perfect.
Tomorrow is new.
Hugs can speak for themselves when you can’t, and you should never go to bed upset.
The best is ahead.
There are first kisses and rainy days and empty coffee cups and shelves of books and the smell of new leather in your future.
There are puppies to be held, interviews to be rocked, babies to be had, and jobs to walk away from in your future.
There are flights to jump on, hands to hold, countries to run through, and a plentiful stack of life chats and queso in your future.
There are sister-in-laws to meet, Dad’s to ask for their blessing, lives to save, and more of the Lord’s heart to discover in your future.
There are movies worth crying over and people worth celebrating, and days and sunsets that will be forever masked and painted and preserved in your mind. All of this. All ahead of you.
As I have begun gearing up to graduate college, everyone is reminding me to savor it — that these are my best years. To a degree, I agree with that. I know that time is fleeting and I won’t always be able to go on runs and get an Icee at 2 am, but I also believe it gets better.
When we have Jesus, when we know Jesus, we are on a ramp — a 45 degree uphill incline ramp. The best is ahead of us, and no, you aren’t peaking.
2017 may just be your best year yet.
I am running in the 121st Boston Marathon on April 17th! If you are interested in donating to the Boston Bruins Foundation on my behalf, the link is below. The youth of Boston appreciate it, and I appreciate it, as well! Thanks, sweet people.