My Life is Not My Own

Hi all!

This post is going to be raw, so I’m going to dive on in.

I might be going to Africa for two years. Yep, you read that correctly: two years. Even typing it seems incredibly scary to me and makes it so real.

But here’s the thing: I don’t know for sure if I’ll be going. I’ve been invited to Africa Inland Mission’s (AIM) Connect Week in November, which is where I will officially find out if I’ll be journeying to Africa or not.

Oh wait, you need some background information, don’t you?! Okay, let me back up…

Back in December, it hit me that I am at a point in my life where I can fairly easily get up and go anywhere. I pictured multiple short-term missions, but God was starting to lay it on my heart that I could be gone longer.

Umm, no thank you, God. I’ll pursue short-term missions, lasting about three months, but definitely not longer.

Who did I think I was to tell God no? Hadn’t I already learned many times over that God always gets His way?

Fast forward to February. I found out about AIM and this Training in Ministry Outreach (TIMO) program that lasts for two years and includes building relationships, learning a new language, and… wait for it… HOMEWORK! Yes, I am so crazy that I actually miss being in school! I wanted to apply for TIMO right then, but I knew I needed to be still.

At the end of March, I journeyed to Ecuador with my church and fell in love with the international mission field.

Upon arriving home, I applied for TIMO. Even applying was a process and brought me into even deeper reliance on God. Every conversation I had about AIM was pointing me towards TIMO, but I didn’t want to apply and possibly be gone for two years… Nevertheless, I applied.

And was asked to fill out another application.

Then was asked to interview.

And now I have been invited to Connect Week in Atlanta.

To be blatantly honest and put my heart out there, in my humanness I was hoping to not be invited to Connect Week. It would be easier to not have to tell people about Africa and instead continue living my fairly comfortable life. I pictured myself being excited about being invited because that meant I had a good interview. But, I wasn’t. I saw the invitation email and broke down crying. My anxiety rose. It was like a part of my life was ripped away. Being invited means I’m that much closer to going to Africa for two years, and therefore sacrificing all of my life. Quite honestly, it sucks.

But wait, maybe that’s the point.

Maybe God is asking me to sacrifice every earthly thing that brings me comfort and happiness. He could very well be asking me to miss my sister’s graduation, two years of my grandparents’ lives, the comfort of living at home, my community, amongst so many other things that hurt my heart to leave.

The entire process has been a constant reminder of this simple truth: my life is not my own.

I struggle with believing that He is a good, good Father. Why is He calling me away? Why is He using me? Why have I been blessed with a heart for missions and spreading the Gospel message? Can’t He send someone else?

Yes, His mission will be completed even if I say no, but why would I when the God of the universe is calling me?

When you’re called, you go.

So, I’m at least going to Connect Week. When I received the email, there wasn’t a question of going or not; I broke down crying just the week before and said, “Yes, God. If You lead me, I will go. If I am invited to Connect Week, I will go. Make the desires of my heart match your own.” It’s also my understanding that I would not be leaving for at least a year, but I’ll know more in November.

This post barely scratches the surface of the struggles and pains of this process, of God leading me more into Him, and being taught that He is literally all I need, even finding joy in my pain. Maybe I’ll write more posts about different parts of the process leading up to now. But, I would like to ask this of you: if you are interested in learning more about this journey to Africa, please, ask me any questions. I’ll try to be an open book. Feel free to Facebook, email (erica.grogg@hotmail.com), text, or call me. I would love to include you in this journey.

In closing, I would like to ask a couple of things. (No, this is not where I reach out asking for financial support… Although, that post will be coming in the near future.) Right now, I’m asking for you to join me in prayer. Please pray for my family’s hearts in this. I can only imagine what it is like to see your daughter/granddaughter/niece travel to a foreign land for so long. Please pray for my heart as I prepare to take another step forward in God’s global mission, and that the desires of my heart would line up with His plans for me. Pray against spiritual warfare, as I know the enemy will not make this easy, and that in the midst of spiritual warfare I would cling even more tightly to God. And please, I beg you, pray for the people already out on the mission field, those preparing to leave, and those starting to recognize their calling.

And just like that, it was time to come out of hiding.

Much love,

Erica

“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

My Beloved Child

Sometimes words are laid on my heart that I feel I need to write down and share. This is my heart, portraying a vision I received from God two weeks ago during worship through music at my church. These specific words you are about to read have been forming on my heart for a few days, and I finally listened and wrote them down. I struggle with seeing how God could possibly love me as His daughter, but this picture He painted for me reminds me of His love for all of His children. I pray these words touch you as you read them, and that you, too, run into His arms.

 

The Father is sitting on His throne in His throne room and the Daughter is timidly walking in and pauses.

Daughter: Father, may I approach you?

Father: Yes, my child. Come.

Daughter: Are you sure, Father? I don’t want to bother you. You seem so busy.

Father: Yes, please come to me.

Daughter: Okay, Father. (Daughter slowly walks a little farther into the throne room and stops.) Umm, I have some things I want to talk to you about, if you don’t mind.

Father: What is it? I am here for you.

Daughter: Well, umm, it’s just that… I have a problem. You see, I’ve been hurt in so many ways…

Father: Oh, my darling, don’t you see? Those hurts and pains bring you closer to me. When was the last time we spoke, my child? You start to draw away, but I am always here.

Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
and righteousness looks down from the sky.
Psalm 85:10-11

Daughter: But Father, how can you keep accepting me? How can I trust you, with all this pain I have felt before?

Father: Darling, I am always here. Though you turn away, I will be here to welcome you back. You can trust me, this I promise you.

May he grant you your heart’s desire
and fulfill all your plans!
May we shout for joy over your salvation,
and in the name or our God set up our banners!

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
Psalm 20:4-5, 7

Daughter: But Father, what about when I feel like I don’t belong to you?

Father: My dear child, you do. You do belong to me.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.
John 10:27-30

Daughter: (Kneeling down where she is standing in the middle of the throne room) Okay Father, I hear you. But there’s something else… What about when I am questioning your love for me?

Father: Oh darling, my beloved. I have a love for you deeper than you can fathom. It’s deeper than the oceans, larger than the seas. Beloved child, I sent my Son to walk the earth, being tested and tried, yet blameless bear the burden of the cross, that He would die and rise again, conquering all sin, once and for all. Daughter, you are my beloved.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20

Daughter: (Slowly standing up) Abba, Father. Why? Why do you love me so, that you would send your Son to save me?

Father: My child, it is because even when sometimes you don’t see it, you need me. You need my Son, your Savior. You need my Spirit to fill you. Please, my beloved child, come to me.

The Father opens His arms wide and slightly leans forward.

My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away,
for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
The fig tree ripens its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away.
Song of Solomon 2:10-13

And the daughter runs into her Father’s arms.

 

All of the above verses are from the English Standard Version Bible.

 

The Journey

IMG_0181A year ago today I fell madly in love with God, my Savior and Redeemer. He literally plucked me out of the lifestyle I was living and turned me 180 degrees to follow Him. It’s been a beautiful walk, but to say the walk has been easy would be an understatement. It’s been more of a hike up and down a mountain. Let me paint a picture for you.

Picture yourself starting in a low valley of flowers, in awe of the majestic mountains surrounding you. Your goal: to reach the peak of one of the mountains. You start your walk at a leisurely pace, feeling wrapped up in the beauty surrounding you, carrying all of your hiking equipment and food. It’s all fine and dandy for a bit, and then you start your ascent upward and the task suddenly seems daunting. This is where you start to meet a little bit of resistance, but you continue onward and somehow still find some joy in the adventure. The pine trees now surrounding you limit your view. You can only see the path in front of you, but not where it’s leading you. You have faith that you will be led to the mountain peak even though you cannot see it. There are a few ups and downs, some twists and turns, a creek to leap over here and there. After a couple of hours, you finally reach the tree line, but you look up and can’t believe how far you still have to go. You rely on skills you have previously learned to keep you pushing on. After a few more hours of winding your way through rocky terrain, you’re exhausted. The end is in sight, but you just don’t see how you can make it the last bit of the way up the mountain. You look back at where you started, where you have been, and stand in awe. How was it that tiny little you started so low in the valley, but have made it so high? How did you survive the forest? The rock? You look back towards the peak. So close yet so far. Nevertheless, close to giving up, you trek on. Your body and mind are tired, but somehow you carry through. Finally, you’re at the top. Oh, how beautiful! You can see peaks for miles upon miles. It seems like the perfect resting place, filled with the grandeur of the view, but it’s time to move on. Starting the descent seems simple enough, and overall it is since you are filled to the brim with unexplainable joy from the journey. You make it down the mountain with a new outlook on the glory of it all. Then, you repeat it the next day.

Here’s where God comes in: He was there every bit of the way for the journey. In fact, the journey up and down the mountain was in service to Him, and even better, He carried you through the journey. He was your backpack, shoes, food, motivation and joy. He was and is forever your everything. Nothing can replace Him. No, the trek up and down the mountain wasn’t near as glorious as anticipated, but it was worth it, right? To catch just a glimpse of His creation from the peak was simply breathtaking. The joy from the journey was inexplicable; you’re left without words. You may have been brought to tears and believed you could not continue on, but the trials taught you to lean more into your Heavenly Father, trusting Him for guidance and life.

That’s what my year has been like. Right off the top of my mind I can identify three mountains God has gently carried me up, never letting go even when I turn away. His love is steadfast, merciful, and gracious. I am incredibly thankful for Him never letting go and drawing me back when I turn away. I promise you, He is worth it. Christ is worth the journey and the view. I am incredibly thankful to be worth it to God, that He would send His only Son to overcome death for you and me. For that, I daily give praise.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

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A Different Type of Freedom

Fourth of July. July Fourth. Independence Day. Whatever you want to call it, this date is celebrated here in the United States as the anniversary of the day the Declaration of Independence was approved and the Thirteen Colonies gained independence from Great Britain in 1776. (I’m not a history buff, so thank you for bearing with me during my “one sentence history lesson!”) Today, I am thankful for the independence and freedom I have here in the States, but IMG_0547.PNGI can’t help but think about a more significant freedom I have, a freedom I yearn for others to experience and I pray they find: freedom in Christ.

Flashback: Wednesday, June 22nd. I was absolutely filled to the brim and overflowing with joy. I was unexplainably elated, crying happy tears with no names. All I could utter was praise to God.
I tried to hold back the tears, but to no avail. And that was okay. When I finally got the tears under control, I walked into church and completely lost it again when two young boys in my mlkidz class ran up to me and hugged me. After having some alone time crying and offering praise, I held it together for mlkidz and continued on through the evening. I was thankful to see two of my good friends during service, who also helped me process through these crazy (but good!) emotions. It wasn’t until the next day that I was able to put words to my emotions: I was feeling total freedom in Christ instead of bondage in sin.

Here’s my point: I can’t explain the freedom found in Christ to someone who hasn’t experienced His love. My heart hurts for people who do not know Christ, both in this country and out. I daily pray for people, both people in my life and people I have never met, to experience Christ’s love and freedom. Tonight as everyone celebrates the freedom of this country, I can’t help but wonder what it would look like if the whole world were celebrating freedom in Christ. I picture it being absolutely beautiful, a beauty that cannot be described.

Perseverance, Patience and Prayer

A devotional I wrote to present to a lovely group of business folks:

Hi! I’m Erica Grogg and I’m a house aide at The Sparrow’s Nest Maternity Home. We are a home for teenage girls who are pregnant and/or mothering. In my role as a house aide, I am a mentor and a teacher. We get vulnerable with each other, praying God’s redeeming love shows through at all times. At The Sparrow’s Nest, Christ’s love, grace, and mercy are central to our ministry. We have the opportunity to lead and disciple girls from many walks of life, and ultimately we pray for their salvation. Working in ministry can definitely be trying, but that shouldn’t be surprising. The enemy absolutely hates the furthering of God’s kingdom here on earth. Even so, the victories we have are so worth the trials.

In my time at The Sparrow’s Nest, I have noticed three characteristics appearing almost constantly: perseverance, patience and prayer. In my time with you, I would like to go a little deeper into how these three play a part in life at a maternity home and also life in general. So buckle up and here we go!

Perseverance: From a simple Google search, I found this definition of perseverance: steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. Working with teenagers definitely takes a lot of perseverance. I find that we at Sparrow try so hard to persuade our girls to make good healthy choices, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Or better yet, we’re met with resistance. Oh goodness can it be trying and taxing on us when the girls don’t complete our requests in our timing or when they don’t see how things benefit them, but we persevere. I can’t say this perseverance comes naturally, but rather these are times we lean more into God to carry us through. Romans 5:3-5 discuses the joy of perseverance: “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” It is our joy to have trials so we can persevere in Christ and feel God’s love. This leads me to Ephesians 4:11-16: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” In our humanness it is so easy to fall victim to our emotions being tossed to and fro, but it is the reliance on God that allows us to be steadfast through the trials.

Patience: Oh, patience… This is a good one. What I have personally learned is that patience does not come from me, but rather comes from God. I can very easily be quick tempered, but at Sparrow, as in daily walking with God, those are not characteristics I want to portray and be known for. That said I have to fairly often pray for patience. I can get very aggravated with girls not pursuing opportunities that would only benefit them, so I have to pray for patience in meeting them at their needs, not where I feel like they should be. I feel like that’s something to be said about interactions with anyone in life… praying to meet them where they are. This can take a lot of patience, but I promise you patience is possible. If you’ve ever been to a wedding, I’m fairly certain you’ve heard the infamous passage from 1 Corinthians 13 starting with “Love is patient, love is kind.” Love is not pushing, annoyed, or rude. Love is patient and kind. To be patient is to love. Patience is also a fruit of the Spirit, as stated in Galatians 5:22-23. Due to the Spirit being in us, patience can and will shine through us. Literally, praise the Lord for patience!

Prayer: Above all else, I believe that constant communication with God is vital to a relationship with Him, and there are so many opportunities to do so in daily life. At Sparrow, prayer is the foundation of all things. We pray for decisions that will be made, girls we don’t know yet who might need our services, girls who are with us, girls who have left the Nest, amongst others. Just the other day, I was painting in some of the rooms and while doing so was praying for the girls who would eventually live in each of the rooms. As a staff, we also pray for each other. Being willing to be vulnerable together helps connect us even more than if we were merely working together without deeper conversation. I want to challenge you to constant prayer. Pray for the opportunity to share Christ with someone. Pray that coworkers who do not know Christ will see Him shining through you. Pray for someone you’re emailing. Pray for God to search your heart and rid you of yourself so He can shine through even more. There are so many opportunities for prayer. In Ephesians 6:16-18, it is says, “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” As followers of Christ, we also have the confidence that God hears our prayers. As stated in 1 John 5:14, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” I mean, come on. We have the opportunity to approach our King, our Heavenly Father, through prayer. Who else can approach their king in that fashion?

In closing, I want to leave you with one more thought: never forget love. People we all meet will typically not fit our idea of the “perfect human” mold. Even though that is true, we are called to love one another as Christ loves us. John 13:34. I know there are so many times in business as in life that it can be incredibly difficult to love, especially with a love as deeply as Christ’s unconditional love for us, but I urge you to pray for the ability to love that deeply.

 

 

Ecuador and Prayer

Hi all!

It’s time for a recap of the mission trip in Ecuador I was on with my church family! After several failed attempts at creating a well written, highly thought through and edited post on everything I learned and experienced in Ecuador, I came to the conclusion that there is no possible way to verbalize exactly everything I learned. So here I go with my imperfect, minimally self-critiqued attempt at sharing with you my experience in Ecuador!

First, God allowed me to see several answered prayers. Some were as small as me being comfortable camping (I had a fear of camping before this trip!), while others were larger and a continuation of daily praying to God to rid me of myself and to glorify Him in everything I do. This was apparent to me in a few ways… For one, a very superficial struggle of mine is being able to love people well whom have not bathed in a while and just overall do not seem clean. I realized God broke me of this while I was playing with a young girl’s hair in the jungle, then realizing I had been hugging and letting the indigenous women kiss me on the cheek. These would usually be big no-no’s for me, but something within me was stirring and changing. Another one, as most of the people close to me know, anyone would very rarely see me out in public in anything less “fancy” than jeans and a V-neck shirt, and I’ll almost always be wearing some make-up. Well, that’s not at all how we dressed in the jungle: basketball shorts, a loose shirt, and no make-up? It didn’t even bother me. I fairly often thought, “Who am I?” (in a good way) but thankfully God allowed me to see that He was working in me.

Something huge I felt was the unexplainable overwhelming joy and peace I felt in watching my teammates have selfless servant’s hearts and so well love everyone we encountered. It was evident that we as a team were dying to ourselves and glorifying our God while serving and loving others. It was an unexplainable joy and peace I felt, the type that I believe can only be given by God. It was a moment I can look back on and say I was in a moment of shalom. Prior to the trip, I had very few times of coming to moments of almost feeling shalom, but had felt like something was missing. In Ecuador, I felt and knew shalom when in feeling the God-given joy of selfless serving. The Holy Spirit was very present.

Also, I learned what it is like to plead in prayer for others. Leading up to Ecuador, I was pleading in prayer for many reasons, most of which were for my own selfish gain. I wanted God to answer my questions, and I wanted Him to answer them in my timing. Well, God is not defined by our circumstances, but He defines our circumstances. He answered my prayers for my life in His timing, which of course was way better than my own timing desire could have been, but first he led me to a place in pleading for others. I learned how to plead in prayer for a group of people I had yet to even meet, then eventually plead while watching them in their village. In my humanness I wanted God to answer my prayers for them while I was there, but I rest and trust in the fact that I know His timing is better than I can imagine. In the mean time, I continue to plead for them and know that He is hearing my prayers. After all, he heard and answered mine.

Here’s the most overwhelming element I learned in Ecuador: the power of redemption and freedom in Christ. My prayer in the couple of months leading up to Ecuador involved me begging God to tell me why He created me the way He did, making me who I am. In my insecurity, I was begging God to reveal to me why I was allowed to walk a path of darkness for a while and to free me of shame that the enemy was using to try to control my life. Guess what, He did! I experienced an overwhelming feeling of freedom in Christ and healing, freeing me of my bondage to shame in my story. His redeeming love is stronger than any love I’ve experienced before. I once again fell in love with my Redeemer and Savior. I am His beloved.

I could keep going on and on about my experience in Ecuador, but I don’t have enough words, nor words adequate enough, to describe how God molded my heart while there. I want to leave you with this: Our God is larger than our human minds can even fathom. He’s larger than you and me. He’s larger than a country, larger than our hurts and pains. He has everything perfectly orchestrated for His glory. We are to delight in Him, and He delights in us. One of my prayers going into, on, and now even after the trip is Psalm 67. I urge you to read it and make it your prayer. “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy…let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!”

Much love,

Erica

“As indeed he says in Hosea, ‘Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” Romans 9:25

“I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine; he grazes among the lilies.” Song of Solomon 6:3
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Almost There!

Hi friends! Thanks to so much support already, I’m only $150 away from my Ecuador mission trip fundraising goal of $950! How awesome would it be if funding could be completed by, mmm say, tomorrow night? $150 breaks down to approximately: 30 lattes from Starbucks, 15 months at Club Fitness, 10 meals at a chain restaurant, and about ¼ of an iPhone 6s. Will you please contribute a cup of coffee or two?

PayPal: Create a PayPal account for free! (https://www.paypal.com/home). Next choose “Send & Request,” then “Send money to friends and family.” At that point, you can enter either my email (erica.grogg@hotmail.com) or name (Erica Grogg). You will see my picture.

Cash or check: please give cash or check donations to me directly, or via mail. I will send you my address if this is your preferable route.

Thank you!

-Erica