Love Birds

As Joshua and I have been approaching marriage, we’ve been asked the stereotypical question numerous times: How did you two meet?

In our story, that’s actually a rather difficult question to answer. How did we meet? Back in Fall of 2016, according to Joshua we met once, but I have no recollection of it. We were at a prayer team meeting for our church on a day when I was incredibly stressed. I had left work for a bit to attend the meeting, and my girls were on my mind. (I worked at The Sparrow’s Nest, a maternity home for teenagers. Check it out: http://www.thesparrowsneststl.org/ )

The next time we met, I remembered him but he didn’t remember me. It was the beginning of January 2017. I had just gotten back in town from my sister’s figure skating competition and was attending a prayer team meeting. Joshua spoke that evening on prayer, and I remembered thinking, “Huh. I wonder if he’s single,” but I quickly shook it off and moved on.

Enter February 2017. I was teaching in our children’s church and Joshua’s small group was volunteering. I went through the typical questions of getting to know a volunteer: What do you do for a living? How long have you been attending this church? Do you know so-and-so? Etc. He asked what I do for a living, and when I told him I worked at The Sparrow’s Nest, he got incredibly excited. I remember asking, “Wait, you know about Sparrow?” From my experience, it was strange that a young man knew about any maternity home, and especially a specific one for teenagers. The conversation continued, and Joshua asked to volunteer, so I passed on his email to our volunteer coordinator.

Leaving that conversation, my coworker friend who was also part of it, called it out that Joshua was interested in me. I blew it off and thought there was no way.

Now, it’s my understanding that Joshua did volunteer at Sparrow once without my involvement in the planning. Since then, I found out that he did want to volunteer to catch my attention, but decided that would not be the best way to go about pursuing me.

Over the course of the next few weeks, Joshua watched the Facebook Live videos I made for Sparrow. This next piece of information is important: I always wore a ring on my right ring finger and a ring on my left middle finger. In Facebook Live, the image is flipped and Joshua thought I had an engagement ring on my left ring finger, thus giving up hope on pursuing me.

May 13th, 2017. I had forgotten about posting a video on Sparrow’s Facebook page asking for someone to help with overflowing gutters, thus also forgetting that Joshua had offered to come over and clean out the gutters. I also typically did not work weekends, but I was working this entire weekend to accommodate for being short staffed. Around 5p, here came Joshua ready to clean out gutters, and I couldn’t for the life of me remember why he was there, much less his name. An awkward conversation begins, and then all is well in the world. I show him the gutters and offer to hold the bag while he scoops out the grossness.

Following my typical routine of engaging in conversation with volunteers, I ask questions to get to know him and let him know we are thankful for his help. As the conversation continues, my little brain secretary’s jaw drops as I begin to realize we share many similar interests and views on life. I asked God a simple question: “God, is he mine?” I received a simple answer: “Yes.” My brain secretary closed her mouth, flipped her hair, put her hands on her hips, and with slight attitude told God, “Welp, then you’re going to have to make it happen.”

You all know where this is going… God made it happen.

Before leaving Sparrow, Joshua asked me to let him know next time I would be going trail running. (Guess who didn’t let him know… This girl right here.) A couple of weeks later he found me teaching in children’s church and invited me to go trail running Saturday at 6a. I thought, “Goodness, this guy is crazy!” But, I agreed.

And the rest was history.

Remember that little blurb about my rings? It turns out that on the way to Sparrow to clean out the gutters, Joshua couldn’t figure out why he was on his way to help out, especially because he thought I was already betrothed to someone else. At Sparrow he discovered that I was single and had crazy big hopes and dreams for my future.

Beginning there, God knitted our hearts together.

From the beginning, I noticed Joshua’s kindness, something I was lacking in offering myself. Through Joshua, God kept reminding me to be kind to myself and to not run from this forming relationship. I personally was shown that there are God-fearing trustworthy men in this world who respect women. Possibly most importantly, I saw, and still see, how God orchestrates each of our lives perfectly, even when we can’t see it. There were many, many opportunities and possibilities that could have kept Joshua and myself apart, but even before we knew each other, we were turning down opportunities to take new jobs and to travel long term to foreign lands without knowing why we felt called away from them, only to be led to each other.

I can also tell you this: When people ask why we chose each other, we both can confidently reply that we didn’t choose each other. God chose us for each other.

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mzungu.

Emotions are stirring and memories are flooding back. I’m sitting here in St. Louis at a time of racial tension being reminded of how the Lord our God made His presence known to me in Africa. Until today, I had yet to beginning blogging about my time spent in Uganda and Kenya, two weeks that changed my heart and mind forever.

You see, there were many, many moments that grasped my heart, begging me to think past myself and question the world around me. Right now, I could choose to write about the malnourished children, the sewage flooding the streets, or even the beauty of the landscape, but I’m being prompted to write about something deeper. Specifically, my heart was stirred every single day I as there on my outlook of ethnic differences.

Up until stepping foot in Entebbe, Uganda, I had never been a minority. I grew up comfortably white suburbia middle-class. With what all I’m about to say, I need to set some disclaimers. I am not claiming to understand what it is like to live life as a minority. I understand that with what I experienced in Africa as the minority, it was still widely known that because I am white, I am also affluent. Now please, continue to hear me out.

From the time we landed in Uganda to the moment we left Kenya, I could count on my fingers how many white people we saw outside of our group. I found myself embarrassed to be white, wondering why God created me this color and why in the world I have been incredibly blessed while so many people are in a deep need that I will never understand. I had to consistently remind myself of the truth that God created me this color for a reason, even if the reason had yet to be disclosed to me.

Being blatantly honest, to walk around and hear people call out to you (not in a derogatory fashion-I asked about this), “Hey, mzungu! See you, mzungu!” quickly became annoying. From my understanding and brief google search, mzungu simply means white person or one from European descent. Why was I being pointed out because of my skin color? Something I stood by going into the trip and something I still stand by is this fact: we are all human.

I shared this with a lady with whom we met in the slums of Nairobi, and after reading Psalm 103:1-5, in her beautiful Swahili tongue she stated it so perfectly:

“We all have the same Strength in us. Our colors don’t matter because our souls are the same. We remember what God has done in our lives. We wear the crown He has given us and we fly like eagles.”

For clarification, Swahili and English do not translate directly word for word but from the translation I received, my heart soared. This woman, I have no doubt from the prompting of the Holy Spirit, shared nearly exactly what had been on my heart. I think we can all learn from her wisdom. Though we all look different, our souls are the same.

My friends, I will never be able to say this enough. We are all human. For my friends who are madly in love with our Heavenly Father, always remember we are called to love God and love His people.

Walk in love and soar like eagles.

-Erica

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 103:1-5 (ESV)

Africa Travel/Prayer Itinerary

Hi Friends!

Tomorrow’s the big day! My journey to Uganda and Kenya with Under the Same Tree begins 2p when I leave for the airport! I want to thank each of you for your prayers and donations to help make this trip a possibility.

Many of you have asked for an itinerary in order to specifically pray based on where I’ll be, so here you go! (Times are based on my location.)

Friday, August 11th:
Takeoff from St. Louis at 4p
Takeoff from Chicago at 8:30p

Saturday, August 12th:
Land in Dubai at 7:10p

Sunday, August 13th:
Takeoff from Dubai 9:20a
Land in Entebbe, Uganda at 1:50p

Stay in Kiboga, Uganda

Sunday, August 20th:
Travel from Kiboga, Uganda to Nairobi, Kenya

Stay in Nairobi, Kenya

Saturday, August 26th:
Takeoff from Nairobi at 10:45p

Sunday, August 27th (my dad’s birthday!):
Land in Dubai at 4:50a
Takeoff from Dubai at 9:40a
Land in Chicago at 3:30p
Takeoff from Chicago at 6:30p
Land in St. Louis at 7:40p

Thank you so much for your prayers during this trip! In addition to prayers for vision and mission with UTST, I would also like to ask for prayers that I would have vision for my future. As many of you may already know, my heart has been drawn to Africa for as long as I can remember. I’m certain that I will eventually be called to the mission field fulltime once I’m in my career, so this trip is also serving as a vision trip for myself. Is this where I’m being called? Does God have some other undisclosed place in mind? Please pray that my heart is aligned with God’s will. In conclusion, God has already shown me so many blessings in preparation, and I can only begin to imagine all He has in store for my time in Uganda and Kenya. I’ll post updates as I’m able!

Much love,

Erica

flabbergasted.

Flabbergasted is a word I never foresaw myself using to describe worshipping God. Or at least that was the truth until today. I woke up and saw a notification on my phone about a donation that left me with less than $300 to fundraise to serve in Africa. I was speechless, the only word coming to my mind being “flabbergasted.”

I thought, “Really, God? There has to be a word to better describe this feeling.” You see, I thought “flabbergasted” had a negative connotation, so I was confused about why this was the word at the forefront of my thoughts. Out of curiosity, I looked up the meaning.

Amazed. Astonished. Astounded.

Okay, yep. That’s exactly how I felt while still laying in bed in complete awe of our Provider. I could hardly believe I was so close to being fully funded. My fundraising prayer that past few days was that God would provide a large donation, and He did just that. A few hours passed and donations came pouring in. My personal goal was to be done fundraising by July 31st, yet He provided by the 28th.

During this month of fundraising, I have found myself in complete awe of God. I have seen Him provide in ways that I can’t even try to claim as my own doing. He has provided me with a peace and calmness completely opposite of my normal character. He has brought all glory to Himself.

A few weeks ago I was brought to this scripture:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 5:6-11

Humbled is what I’ve been.

I’ve learned that He cares for me. He fully loves me and I am fully accepted by Him. Nothing in this world compares to His plan for each and every person because His plan is Perfect.

So yes, I am sitting here typing this fully flabbergasted by our loving Father.

Why Under the Same Tree?

Hi friends!

I’m only one week into fundraising to serve in Kenya and Uganda with Under the Same Tree (UTST) and have been incredibly blessed by your outpouring of love and support! At this moment in time, you all have helped me raise $1,051 of my $4,000 fundraising goal! I am so in awe of God with His provision through you!

In this post, I want to share with you how I was led to serve with UTST (https://www.underthesametree.com/). About a year ago, I was pursuing serving in Africa long-term with a larger organization. Though the application and interview process grew me even closer to Christ, I began feeling unrest in my heart about the path I was pursuing. It was at this point I was introduced to UTST and knew I needed to be part of this team, thus discontinuing my application with the other organization. (More details about this moment in my life here: https://ericagrogg.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/my-journey-to-yes-and-yes-again/).

At this point you may be wondering, “So, Erica, what about UTST was such an appeal to you and continues to tug at your heart?” First and foremost, UTST is Christ centered, striving to provide Gospel-centered programs to the communities it serves and its principles are rooted in fundamentals of the Christian faith. I have noticed a strong emphasis on preserving human dignity while equipping communities to prevent poverty-related vulnerabilities through economic empowerment. Here’s a question I often ask myself that I feel UTST works towards: How do we help people feel more human?

Through my work experience, reading interests, and faith, I have developed a heart for trying to answer this question. I yearn to find ways to help people feel a little more human, to feel included, and to learn how to advocate for themselves. In the time I have served alongside other volunteers at UTST, I’ve picked up on the same heart in each of us.

To wrap up, here’s where I need your help: I still need to raise $2,949. I would also love to meet with each of you one-on-one to talk more about this opportunity. To financially support this opportunity, donating straight to my PayPal account (PayPal.me/EricaGrogg) is ideal in order to avoid extra fees from GoFundMe. That being said, I do also have a GoFundMe account if you feel more comfortable donating via that route: https://www.gofundme.com/send-erica-to-africa. Whichever you decide, please know that your support is an incredible blessing.

Please let me know if you have any questions!

Much love,

Erica

Psalm 67

“Okay God, I’ll go.”

“’Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!’”      Psalm 46:10

To “be still” is so counterintuitive to what society screams at us. We live in such a “go-go-go” world where to pause and rest seems like a foreign act. Being still is continuously a struggle for me. It never fails, I try to control my life, which only leads to more stress and anxiety until I repent and surrender to God.

This happened to me in the recent past. I reached a point of being overwhelmed by stress and shutting down. I’ve been watching every facet of my identity begin to crumble, leaving me to discover my sole identity in Christ.

How so?

I’m leaving the comfort of a full-time job to return to school and seek a part-time job.

I’m moving out of my parents’ house to be closer to school.

I’m changing to a different church body to be able to serve in the community in which I’ll be living.

I’m experiencing the strong single woman identity I’ve built for myself come crashing down.

I’m volunteering with an organization that tugs at my heart and is leading me to Africa.

God has undeniably orchestrated the timing and presentation of each of these changes, yet I have still tried to maintain a false sense of control. It wasn’t until I metaphorically threw my hands up and said, “Okay God, I’ll go” that I found full peace in my changing life.

Now you may be asking, “Go where?” My surrender to God was specifically in regards to following His lead to change church bodies, but as I’m typing this, I’m realizing there is so much more tied into this action of going.

So once again, “Go where?”

To go where God leads me.

To exalt Him among the nations.

To exalt Him in the earth.

The simplicity of the words used in my response does not grasp the depth of the meaning. To go where God leads me means to trust the unknown, to be okay with only seeing the next step in front of me and nothing further, to let go of control.

Here’s where I need your help. In the midst of so many life changes, I have also felt called to serve in Uganda and Kenya August 12th-27th with Under the Same Tree. In regards to the timing of this trip, I am already so in awe of God: I’ll be leaving one week after moving into my apartment and returning the day before classes begin. My goal is to be fully funded by the end of July. I need to raise a total of $4,000, which breaks down to $1,000 per week. This amount will serve to provide my airfare, housing, and food, along with a donation to Under the Same Tree. Will you please prayerfully consider financially supporting my time in Africa? I would also love to meet with each of you one-on-one to talk more about this opportunity. Please check out my GoFundMe page for a simple place to financially support me and also track my progress and updates! https://www.gofundme.com/send-erica-to-africa

Please let me know if you have any questions!

Much love,

Erica

One Year Sober

I bought two pairs of running shoes today. Why? To celebrate. Now you’re probably IMG_6431wondering how two pairs of shoes constitute a celebration.

Well, I’m one year sober today.

(Gasp!)

Approaching this day, I knew I needed to be vulnerable and write something, but I have also had a lot of fear as the day drew closer.

The thing is, I don’t fit the picture of an alcoholic that most people have in their mind, or at least what I had in mine. I’m young. I wasn’t drinking every day. I was capable of having one drink and calling it quits. I was successful.

Image-1

I’m not going to go into detail, but behind every smile you may have seen on my face, there was pain waiting to be drowned in wine. Successes were celebrated with tequila. Happiness came with beer. Whiskey provided relief from this world.

Eventually, I lost touch with who I was, who I wanted to be. I was worshipping alcohol, craving the sweet, sweet burn of the next drop, the next night not remembered, the next emotion unfelt.

A year ago today, that came to an end. I knew I was using alcohol as a vice, but I always figured one more glass wouldn’t hurt. I knew I needed to stop drinking, but I didn’t want to let go.

What a lot of people don’t know is I was presented with an ultimatum. As I was pouring myself a glass of wine, I felt God so clearly lay on my heart, “It’s alcohol or me.”

Either God is everything, or he is nothing.

My last glass poured went down the sink drain.

I didn’t know what not drinking would look like. Frankly, I was scared. My life the past almost five years functioned around alcohol. How would I turn down a drink offered to me? What if people judge me? Well, so what. I knew this was a choice I needed to make and stick to.

The past year came with struggle. I still crave the rich flavor of red wine, the belief that everything will be better with one more glass. Wine has been offered to me and I have had to politely decline, wondering what aromatic flavors I’m missing.

There has also been the self-judgment, which has been prominent the past week. Am I really an alcoholic? How did this become my life? This isn’t who I wanted to be, but this is who I am.

And let’s not forget the enemy’s favorite weapon: shame.

I woke up this morning expecting to be excited that I made it a year without drinking, but instead I was overwhelmed with shame. “God, I know this isn’t what you meant for me. I feel like I’m honoring you in not drinking. Why do I feel this way?” I was brought to tears and very irritable from being overwhelmed with shame. How was I supposed to be excited for this day if it’s already starting so rough?

Fortunately, I was advised to celebrate. So then I brainstormed: how would I celebrate? A lot of people didn’t know I stopped drinking, so I knew I had to be vulnerable, especially for prayer to overcome this intense feeling of shame. So, that’s what I did, which was way out of my comfort zone.

Here comes the part with the shoes: I already knew I wanted two new pairs of running shoes to reward myself, but I didn’t have it in my mind to buy them today. I miraculously found some spare time, so I knew I needed to buy them today. Buying the shoes woIMG_6428uld be my celebration. I found myself at the store, and my friend happened to be working. I can’t even explain how excited I was to see her. She usually doesn’t work Sundays. I sat there while she was sizing my feet, telling her why I was buying these shoes today. Also, I was genuinely excited while telling her I reached one year of sobriety. The hour or so I was at the store was possibly the best hour of the day. I felt so much joy radiating from this friend of mine. My heart was happy. God knew I needed to be released from the shame, and he used her to bring me that taste of freedom.

You’re probably wondering, why two pairs? Honestly, I only have one simple answer: a pair for trail running and a pair for road running, and buying two pairs was a special treat to myself.

Here’s my last thought: maybe, just maybe, those shoes represent freedom. Running is my time to talk to God, to listen to what he has to say to me. It’s my time to be alone, to be myself, to be free.

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” Romans 8:1-2