Sunday, December 18, 2016

AM~Erica's Search for the Manger

So anyway...

It's Christmastime. Not sure if you've figured that out yet or not, but here we are. And, per the usual, it has felt extremely hectic. The time I have allotted to get stuff done has seemed to loosen from my grasp as other schedules have worked their way into mine.


I'm in one of those places where I keep trying to find Christmas in the chaos.

All of a sudden, I feel like a ton of typical Christmas specials at once!

As we are entering the last week to get to Christmas, I think about a particular search of that special something I was hunting a few years ago:

...a manger.

I was to do one of my dances for Christmas Eve. I felt called to do "Mary Did You Know?" to dance to. I informed my daughter she would dance with me - no, I didn't give her the option. This duet would be the Angel showing Mary about the amazingness her Son would possess. Since I wanted the dance to begin Mary sitting at the manger with her newborn son, I needed the manger at the church to be put out there.

I went searching...

I looked high.
I looked low.
I looked over.
I looked under.
I looked through.
I looked around.
I looked behind.
I looked between.

No matter where I looked, I couldn't find the manger!

So I asked around.

I asked the children's ministry director.
I asked the ushers.
I asked staff.
I asked those who had been on staff for a long time.
I asked those who had helped with the children's play for a long time.
I asked those who had volunteered for a long time.

No one seemed to know where to find that manger!

Time was ticking closer to Christmas Eve services and doing that dance...and I still couldn't find that manger.

Oh, there were speculations of where it might be, but there was nothing definitive; there was no proof. The manger just...wasn't...there...

My daughter & I still worked on the dance while pretending the manger was there, still holding out hope we'd find it; I was holding out hope I would find it.

Christmas Eve came, and my daughter & I were ready for the dance, outfits ready, and we knew what to do. There was one thing missing from that dance: the manger.

I had to do what I felt I needed to - I improvised. I found a stand-in for the manger. A decent-sized basket would just have make do. A pretend manger for the plastic newborn King.

It wasn't the same. I didn't find the manger. I had to fake a manger. I had to pretend a basket was the same thing. It wasn't. It wasn't.

I had to shrug the whole thing off as an "oh well" moment. 

One of people I had asked counsel on for the manger is also a good friend. He has a way of finding a different perspective on situations. He lightheartedly said, "Huh! This sounds like it could be a Christmas movie for Lifetime, 'In Search of the Manger.' You know, the focus is on searching for a physical manger, and it turns out the manger was there all along..."

For a very long time, one of the ushers would ask me if I found the manger every chance he could get. I was actually pretty irritated thinking about never finding the manger, and I kept getting reminded.

After I stopped wondering where that manger went, it turned out it was tucked away in the church's attic - a place many people didn't realize they should look.

That's right - the manger was tucked in a secluded corner, just within reach, among the dust, the dirt, the clutter.

Pretty fitting.

I still think of that story from time-to-time. The search for that manger...

Here we are, a week from Christmas, and I'm caught in a whirlwind of Christmas chaos while trying to find that moment of Christmas. Trying to find that moment I keep searching for while the time keeps slipping off elsewhere...

Yesterday was our first "big snow." OK, it wasn't big, per se, but it was messy, it was cold. We stayed inside the best we could. A quiet moment in the chaos, sure. But it wasn't getting me to the point I felt I needed to be in for Christmas.

Due to some of the wintery mess & crazy-cold temperatures, many churches in the area closed this morning. Ours was not one of them. We were hoping roads would be OK enough for my poor car to get there. I wanted to be at church. My husband would be giving a message that I probably needed a reminder of, as he preached the 4th Advent sermon in his "Channel Surfing Christmas" series. You know, using several Christmas shows to make a point how the Christmas story is still relevant.

As I went into the kitchen, something caught my eye:

See that? Yeah, I did a double-take, too. I noticed a free-standing manger right outside my kitchen window. It was right there!

OK, after a little bit, and when the shock wore off, I did realize it was a play table in our neighbor's yard. It was just perfectly placed & covered in snow.

And it hit me: there's the manger! I've looked so hard for it, I didn't realize it's right there in front of me. Seemingly unattainable, out of reach, and looking everywhere for it except where it truly is. Right there. And not in the form I had ever expected.

When I do my Advent dance to "Prepare a Place," there is a line that I need to remember:
Set time aside, and be quiet, as you wait for the coming One.

Psalm 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God."

Yesterday was mostly a quiet day. Focus on here & now; waiting & anticipating the celebrating of Jesus' birth. Time was set aside in the cold, bleak weather of December. And I woke up to the manger.

Christ is coming, my friends.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

AM~Erica Had a Dickens of an Evening: Round 2

So anyway...

Last year, I discovered an incredible opportunity for the family to take part in. I was thrilled to be able to take in 'A Christmas Carol' one-man show as performed by, Gerald Dickens (the great-great grandson of Charles Dickens). IT WAS AN AMAZING EXPERIENCE!

I knew it had to be good when even the youngest (who I thought had tuned out) was talking about how good the performance was, and that Gerald was funny!

We get talking about holidays pretty early around here. When we talked about stuff to do to enjoy the fall & Christmas seasons, I remembered Gerald. I did a quick search to see if he might be returning this year. As it turned out, he WAS! YAY! So, we talked to the kids to see if it was something they wanted to do again. They were all in! So, on an early September day, I was signing up the family to go see Gerald Dickens for a second year in a row.

Well, tonight was that night. I got ready to go in some 50's style Christmasy attire. I thought about wearing some of my Victorian-inspired/steampunk type costuming, but I backed off this time. The rest of the family was ready to go. And off we went!

The parking lot was already pretty full. But we found a decent spot & worked our way in. We surveyed the room & decided to find our seats before taking in the refreshments set up in the back of the John Knox Pavilion.

On the way to find seats, I realized Captain Jack of Captain Jack's Steampunk Irregulars was in attendance! (He was at our AFSP Out of the Darkness Walk in October!) We greeted each other, as I think I may have looked familiar - even if I wasn't in a tutu.

During the Out of the Darkness walk for AFSP of KC

Then I got thinking that maybe I should have costumed myself a bit more Victorian.
Hmmm...maybe another time.

After we found some seats a little closer to the back, but still in the middle aisle, we sent the kids to the long line awaiting refreshment. My hubby & I were discussing the surroundings. One thing we realized was that we were sitting in nearly the same spot as last year. Interesting.

In the distance, I noticed my high school speech coach was there in attendance quite a bit closer to the stage than where we were camped out, so I couldn't get over to him. (Hi, Mr. Martin! *WAVES*) And we were enjoying the background sounds of the live Dickens-style choir being quite entertaining. The kids were still in the long line, so I approached them to have them just fix up some hot chocolate for their parents - OK, I asked for a hot chocolate/coffee combo.

Waiting on our refreshment from the kiddos before the show

The wonderful carolers before the show

Settled & waiting for the show to start!

The kids made it back with refreshment in the most adorable cups! We may need to find some...

Even though either the hot chocolate or the coffee was incredibly watered down, I still took in the drink while we waited for the performance to start.

One of the hosts approached the stage to give us a rundown of some housekeeping items, and then the official introduction of Gerald! YAY!

The familiar start of Trans-Siberian Orchestra's 'Christmas Eve Sarajevo' started as people were slowly taking their seats. C'mon, people! The show's starting!

After the performance last year, I went & found a copy of 'A Christmas Carol' to read again. It had been too many years! Not only was the purchase inspired by the performance, but I began to ponder the 1st spirit. I needed to know how that ghost was originally depicted!
I found that out, got to read the fully manuscript, see some wonderful illustrations, and was enlightened, once again, to the wonderful story.

The performance went on delightfully. Even with the extra talking, phone notifications going on (c'mon - who set their alarm to go off at the beginning of the show?) & some ringing, people just getting up & wandering around at odd times. Or how about the bus that showed up about 5 minutes before the show ended to pick up some of the older folks? They couldn't stay until the end?

Even with the extra distractions, Gerald, once again, gave an amazing telling of his great-great grandfather's storytelling! Again, every character was distinct, the energy was outstanding, and the emotions & expressions were fantastic! We were amazed by how flawless the show seemed to move, even with all the distractions. We are a theater family, so we understand the difficulty to keep things moving when you worked so hard to put it together, and others are attending, but paying no attention. We get it! We were embarrassed FOR the offenders. They really had no idea what they were there to witness!

Last year, there was no announcement of any meet & greet - so we left. Tonight was different. There would be a meet & greet afterward! There were souvenir programs being sold to have signed, but I had something different in mind: if he was going to sign things this time, I was bringing the book!

After a well-deserved standing ovation, we made our way to the back to decide if we were sticking around or not. After some himming & hawwing, we decided to get in line. It was just my daughter & I. The boys wanted no part of the line or the crowd.

While we stood there, and after some sweet geriatric parades went through the line to get to where they needed to be, Gerald made his way back out, slightly refreshed from surely a draining performance. He was kind enough to leave his beautiful costuming on. Probably for those of us who wanted photos, too.

As the line moved, my daughter & I were approached by a lady in front of us wanting to know if we'd take a group picture of the few in front of us. We were kind & agreed. She then started looking at my book & became greatly envious of it! She snatched it from my hand & demanded to know where I found it! Apparently I'm a "stinkpot" for finding the book a year ago & having the foresight to get it. Then another gal from the group asked if we'd also take a pic of just her with Gerald. Somehow I became the photographer for a group of folks I didn't even know.

It was time for the group to approach the table, and I prepared to take their set of photos as they had about 8 copies of 'A Christmas Carol' to have autographed.

In this time, my sons decided to join my daughter & me in line - they now wanted to meet the man, too. My hubby still wanted no part of it, even though he's thoroughly impressed with Mr. Dickens.

Finally the group posed with Gerald, and I snapped a couple of shots for the group; then I snapped a couple of shots with the one lady who wanted her own personal documentation.

Now, we were up!

We greeted a smiling Gerald, who was quite personable, and I handed my book to him.

He seemed genuinely delighted by it. He flipped through the golden-trimmed pages & noted it seemed to be a facsimile of the original manuscript. He even found some of the illustrations & pointed out how each one was originally colored by hand in that time.

The book cover was then opened at the front, and flipped to the title page. Ah! The autograph went right there, and was even dated!

We wanted a photo with him, too, of course. My daughter grabbed a guy close by to see if he'd be so kind to take a pic or two. Apparently there was a designated picture-taker, but she kept roaming when a photo was needed.
The kiddos & I gathered around the other side of the table with Gerald Dickens & put on our best smiles. Even the boys! They usually duck & try to stay out of photos. This is a BIG deal!

I thanked him for blogging. It's interesting to get the performer's point of view with each show. And I wondered what he was thinking of this crowd as he performed. He seemed surprised I read his blog, and then thanked me. I let him know I blogged about his performance last year, too. He seemed to remember! We went on our way as he bid us an aidue with, "See you next year!"

He was wonderful & generous with his time. A great moment for the kiddos, too.

We then headed home. Again, we beamed about the show! Although, my hubby had a hard time getting into it fully only due to the extra distractions, but we were all still thoroughly entertained!

Also, we might have to make this a tradition. I hope so. Even though it's free to the crowd, this is a wonderful event to attend! Seriously!

So, we are home, and this "stinkpot" plans on placing our signed copy of 'A Christmas Carol' prominently upon our shelves with our other decor in our first Christmas at our Believe Inn.

A great way to begin our Christmas season! You should think about taking it in, too.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

AM~Erica in Search of Modern Suffragettes

So anyway...

We are on countdown to less than 2 weeks until the end of trash-talking campaign ads as election season is winding down to a close.


I'm not ready for the Christmas commercials to begin, but the few I've seen have actually been refreshing, and a welcome change, compared to the doom & gloom of attack ads for the looming of Super Tuesday.

However, this means Super Tuesday is right around the corner. And it is incredibly important we get out there to vote on November 8th!

No, the presidential candidates are not the best of choices, but don't let this particular race deter you from voting if you are registered to vote.

This is Super Tuesday we are talking about! There's more than one issue & office on the ballot that need our voices heard!

If you click HERE, you will see a sample ballot for just my county. My municipality will have additional voting on top of this, as well as other surrounding municipalities. Look at all of it! There is a whole lot more going on, voting-wise, than just president. There's other federal, state, and local candidates & issues to focus on, too. It's my thinking that this ballot is not alone.

How do we break all of this down? If you go to BALLOTPEDIA, there you will find an incredible breakdown of the candidates & issues! Research this stuff so you know what & who you are voting on.

With all of that said, I want to, once again, turn my attention to my fella female registered voters across this great land:

Early voting has begun in many places. Even if you are voting early, or by absentee ballot, remember THE REVOLUTION! Get out your yellow, get a yellow sash, find something as a yellow sash, and get your vote on!

Whether you vote early, or if you vote on Super Tuesday, remind ourselves about what the suffragettes before us were fighting for. We haven't been casting ballots for a hundred years yet. This is still shiny & new. Let's keep using our 19th amendment right to get in there & make our voices heard.

Remember, when you vote, early or on November 8th, and no matter who or what it is you're voting for, let's use our harmony of voting voices to remind ourselves, remind each other, and remind the nation that we do vote.

When you go vote, like I said, remember to wear your yellow sash, or wear yellow (the main color of the American suffragette movement), then get a selfie or two:

* in front of the polling place, OUTSIDE
* with your voting sticker
* in your yellow

Be sure to hashtag it, across social media, with #YellowSashRevolution. Let's get this visual movement going!

Here's 2 of my sashes I've made, recently, along with my last sticker & other adornments I'm considering wearing.

Remember, there are laws about where photos can be taken, and what of, on voting day. There are states that don't allow photos inside the polling place or at the voting booth, but the grander scale is no photos of the ballot & who you have voted for!

Also, you are not to wear candidate &/or issue campaign wear inside the polling place.

Please be a smart voter. Use your right, use your head, use your heart, use your conscience, use your voice, wear your yellow, and go vote!

I'm not a "copy & paste this" or a "share this post" kind of person, but let's band together, as women registered to vote, and make our presence known!

You in? Who's with me?

UPDATE: Support the movement by getting your #YellowSashRevolution Twibbon added to your photo HERE!

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Saturday, October 8, 2016

AM~Erica's Reluctant Confession

So anyway...

I didn't want to do this.

I really didn't.

Honestly, I thought I was fine. But it turns out I was only "fine."

I've kept a dark secret for many years. Even darker than my SUICIDE & DEPRESSION JOURNEY.

Something triggered memories. Hard & scary memories. I don't want to talk about it. At all. But, as it turns out, I need to talk about it.

I want to throw up right now. I want to ugly cry right now. Because I didn't want to do it; I didn't want to bring this part of me up. But here goes...


Here I am, another woman who has been sexually assaulted.

Yep. I said it.

OK, I'm going to open up about my story. There could be triggers for anyone who has been through this, is going through it, or has been through worse. Brace yourselves.

(Begin Trigger Warning)


I had this guy friend in high school. I don't even remember how we met, really, but we just kind of clicked. And, for now, I'm going to call him "L."

L was someone I was really coming to care about. We talked every day, joked, shared stuff...
We were quickly becoming very good friends. And, as it happens with teenagers sometimes, I was developing quite a crush on him. But I didn't want to push anything since I didn't know if he felt the same way.

As our friendship grew, others were asking if we were "a thing." Others could certainly see a relationship building. But I would blow it off with a laugh, and so would L. But we never said we weren't - and, at the same time, we never said we were.

After a phone conversation one night, the question came up: What were we? And I think we decided we were "a thing!" I was pretty excited!

In the next day or two, when asked if we were a thing, L sort of denied it. We were...but we weren't. If Facebook was a thing back then, we probably would have been in a relationship labeled "It's Complicated." Ugh.

Even if we weren't a thing, we were still friends. I know, it's weird. I still cared for him, but we ultimately were "just friends."

We were "just friends" for a long time. Which was fine, actually.

I remember when he got a job where my mom taught. He was hired as an after school janitor, but that meant I got to talk to him a little more often. As friends.

One day, a mutual friend of ours had stopped by the school & we were sitting on a main staircase chatting. All of a sudden, L decided to roll on top of me! I quickly pushed him off in shock & confusion. Our mutual friend just sat there in shock, and said, "Uh...O...K?"
Really, I thought it was just me - like I had imagined it. But I didn't.
We never brought it back up, and I just took it as he was joking around. And we continued on as "just friends."

Some time after that, while we were at my mom's school (where he was working), L caught my attention & said he wanted to show me something. I didn't even think twice about it, and just followed him. I followed my friend...

L took me into the library. The librarian had already gone home for the day, so the lights were out. My guess was that he was going to show me some ridiculous book he found while cleaning in there. He took me to the back of the library...instead of showing me some ridiculous book, I found myself on my back, on the floor.

I realized he was on top of me, his hands held down my wrists, his legs trapped my legs...and he began to push his body down onto mine.

I panicked! What was happening? Who was this?

For a moment that seemed to last way too long, I wriggled a leg loose & kneed him in the groin! L collapsed into fetal position which freed me from his grip. And I ran.

I ran back to my mom's classroom to wait for her to be done so we could leave that place. And I said nothing.

Why? Why would I not tell what horrific thing my "friend" just did to me?
I had to weigh what I thought might be worse: silence or not being believed.

Since L had been a friend for so long, I really thought I wouldn't be believed. I couldn't handle that thought. I couldn't handle someone making his actions OK or telling me I provoked it somehow, so I stayed silent.

Not sure if anyone noticed I cut off any ties I had to him, but I did. I couldn't look at him, and I didn't want him in my presence. I was shaken, I was upset, I was hurt.

No, L didn't rape me, but he sure tried to. I believe he wanted to use our "complicated relationship" as an out to think I would just give in to him.

He got the surprise of a knee to the groin & loss of a friendship all in hopes he could take advantage of me.

Here we are, many years later, and I'm still affected by it. I was violated, and I was ashamed that it happened to me. I replayed it in my head many times wondering what I did to allow it to happen. Did I provoke it?

The answer is no. I didn't. I was a friend. L took advantage of my trust in him & tried to use it for his own pleasure.


(End Trigger Warning)

I try very hard to not bring up presidential candidate names. But I'm going to have to break my rule a bit.

Even though it was over a decade ago (wait...2005 was over a decade? I thought 10 years ago was the 90's!), Donald Trump was actively describing sexual assault as OK. He made it sound like he could use his power of stardom to gain trust from any woman he approached, then he could just purchase her, like a thing, with furniture, kissing, or grabbing...and acting like it's OK.

Though the stuff that came out in that audio was beyond disgusting, he has made women & people of color as things through his campaigning. And people, even women, have acted like this is OK.

Honestly, anyone who has been through a sexual assault or rape have been triggered horribly. This isn't something we can just look past & act like a lack-a-daisy apology makes it OK. Women were deeply affected by his actions.

As to those who want to raise this as a banner for him to step down, don't forget he brought up Bill Clinton. It doesn't make his actions any less, but he has a point. But hear me out...

Bill used his charisma to do much of the same thing to women. And he was PRAISED for it! Even by women! What's worse? His wife used each of these, on top of shaming of these women, to keep latched upon his charismatic coattail to get her to this point.

No, it's not the only thing that is surrounding these presidential candidates, but they have both used sexual assault as a power trip to get into where they are now.

That's right - both Donald AND Hillary are in this place by using power, that includes sexual assault of women, to get to this place, right now.

How's that koolaid taste? It's got a Koolaid Power: Sexual-Assault flavor. And it comes in Red AND Blue flavors!

I pray for these candidates. It's what Christ has told us to do. But I cannot stand on a platform that has the sexual assault of women as part of the podium...and certainly not back in the White House.

I prefer to shun all of it...
...much like L. I have shunned him. I've blocked him & want nothing to do with him. I do know he's asked about me. I know we still have mutual contacts. His name comes up in conversation from time-to-time...and I still feel sick in the pit of stomach & a chill go down my spine when his name comes up. I can't get around it. Yes, this means some of you reading this know him. You probably interact with him often, too.
But I can do my best to keep him away from affecting my life.

We should probably think about that very thing with these candidates. Keep them out of affecting our lives.

This is what I ask of you as a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend who has experienced sexual assault & was triggered.

Triggered enough to step out of my comfort zone & lay it out here for you see. Not for sympathy, but to see this entire debacle from a survivor's point of view. And it's dark.

I probably don't want to speak with my voice about this, but felt this needed to be shared. I didn't want to share. But we are at a point where it can't be silenced any longer.

OK...I'm going to go cry, maybe throw up, and maybe need another shower.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

AM~Erica's Yellow Sash Revolution

So anyway...

We have entered full on election season. The nasty attack ads are out, as well as the claws of those on the right AND on the left.

Today, there has been a BIG push to get registered to vote. This is awesome! Not only are there paper forms, you can also do it online (with a touchscreen device), and you can now do it on Snapchat!

Really, it couldn't be easier.

Now, if you are choosing to pass it up because you don't want to get picked for jury duty, just know that your name is already in the barrel when you get a driver's license, state ID, or even own property such as land. Not using your voice to try to make a difference just so you don't have to MAYBE get called for jury duty is actually a very pompous thing to do.

So everyone who will be 18 by election day should take this moment to get registered!

Now that this is covered, I want to address the lady voters.


Hi, fella Lady Voters!

Are you registered to vote? I sure hope so. Because I want you to to join me in a revolution!

Now, as in many revolutions, there is background to this. So let's get some women's herstory going on so you can find out what we can do.

Back in Victorian times, there was the push to get women votes. In the suffrage movement, there was a rise of suffragettes who fought for their right to vote! Literally fought!

Women were beaten, spat upon, and arrested during their protests to get a vote.

The suffragettes across the pond used the colors of purple, green & white to make their statement. Banners, sashes, signs - all promoting getting the right to vote.

The American suffragettes had much of the same statement, but they used yellow/gold with purple & white. The main color tended to be yellow. And this brings me to the revolution.

There is a large push for getting more registered voters. It appears there were 60 million eligible citizens that did not register for the last election. For so long you could only have paper copies of the registration form. I mean, you could find it online, but you could only print it out, fill it out & either mail it in or take it to the public library or election office on your own. Since then, you can now register online as long as you are using a touchscreen device (so you can write your signature). As of this week, you can now register to vote on Snapchat! It's that easy!

Once you have done that, here's the plan, ladies:

Find & wear a yellow sash. Thick yellow ribbon that proves the point that you are a registered American voter who happens to be female.

I kind of pointed it out in my previous blog post about voting. But I'm going to bring up some of the ways again.

1. Go hardcore, old school, Edwardian suffragette! Big Merry Widow hat, maybe with yellow somewhere on there. A maxi skirt or dress that is yellow, or has yellow, and some sensible shoes.

B. Even though women had already gotten the right to vote, we had to prove our worth more when having to step up in the work force during WWII. Rosie the Riveter is the mascot for these women, and tended to be in a red scarf. I propose showing the same strength in outfitting, just in yellow!

III. Dress as a 20's flapper in a lot of yellow. A drop-waist dress, so t-strap Mary Jane shoes and a yellow cloche hat. Especially since it was 1920 when we got the right to vote!

𝚫. Not ALL females could vote in the 20's - as a matter of fact, not EVERYONE could vote by then. It wasn't until the 60's until our colored brothers & sisters could vote. Remember the Selma march - and dress in yellow along those kinds of lines.

If nothing else, dress in yellow. Wear the sash.

Now, on the sash, you can add letters in purple to say "Votes for Women" or even "I Vote"/"iVote"; maybe "Female Voter" or something like "Voted." You can even put "Yellow Sash Revolution."

When you go vote, on voting day or as absentee, be sure to get a selfie of sorts with your voting sticker, maybe even in front of the voting sign.

~ Do NOT include your ballot!

~ Do NOT get your selfie IN the polling place!

~ Do NOT show others entering or exiting the polling place!

Be smart about your photo, include tagging it with #YellowSashRevolution on social media, and let's get the women back into the suffragette spirit of meaning business when we use our right, privilege & voice to vote!

So, who's in? Share the info, and let's get word out to our sister suffragettes!

Remember, it doesn't matter what party you vote for or are a part of, as long as we make it a Woman Suffragette Party on Super Tuesday!

Let's make a difference, let's make a mark!

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

AM~Erica's Confidence Collision

So anyway...

I'm a dancer.

I've danced nearly my entire life. I don't even remember when I wanted to become a dancer - but it was early enough that I don't remember, it just was. I've heard I picked my own CB handle when I was a wee tot. I was to be called "Dancing Girl" over the airwaves. This was before I began dancing. I was maybe all of 2 or 3 when that happened.

I began dancing at the age of 4. And I haven't stopped since.

I dance everywhere!

I dance in the car.
I dance in the kitchen.
I dance at the table.
I dance in the stores.
I dance when there's music.
I dance when there's no music.

But, with all of my background in taking & teaching dance, it's kind of become part of my own personal ministry.

I actually wanted to have my own dance studio. The very day I went to look at a space to rent, I got home to have my hubby tell me we had enough in place to buy a house. Both dreams laid out at once, but only one could happen - so we bought a house. And my studio dreams had to be put on hold for this moment.

I do believe God led me to dance so I could use my given gifts to turn it around to use for worship & praise. So I started doing liturgical dance many moons ago.

Slowly I have been working on my craft of storytelling. And, in this, using dance as storytelling - brining a song to life! Making each word &/or phrase into movement so it can be seen. Almost like sign language, but with the entire body instead of just hands & arms, and using the entire front of, or even the whole of, the sanctuary to fill the space with movement & story.

That's what I do. Instead of having a dance studio, I have a dance ministry!

I do want my dance friends to know that disappointment may come my direction when you know I've lost much of my terminology. I'm SO sorry! Please don't disown me. But I've been showing others how to move to tell a story, but using laymen's terms to help guide them. No matter, I'm trying to get people to move in story & praise, yo!

I love what I do, and I love when a story comes together - there's times it's even better than I originally pictured it in my head.
Right before I tell my story, as any presenter/performer should do, I get a bit nervous. How will the people react? Will they understand what I do? Will they grasp the story I'm wanting to tell?

I pray that The Word is received as I tell it, and I go do my thing.
Every time, I try to put my all into it. Where my eyes look, what my face says, where my hand placement is, where my foot is placed...everything. I do it to get the word across, I do it in praise, I do it in worship, I do it to bring a new facet to how The Word can be received.

Much like speaking of my mental illness, I do not do it for attention.  If folks enjoy it, and, even better, understand it - then awesome! If not, that's fine.

Here's where it gets weird for me:
Once I get a dance together, I want to be confident in my storytelling; I go out and do it with confidence! It's part of my passion, so I love doing it! But there's that stupid little voice in the back of my brain that makes me question.

I have been in churches with so much talent! Some with bigger pools of talent & backgrounds than I even feel like I could possibly dip my toe into. How could I be in that same group?

Because of what I do, even though I continue to challenge myself & others, I actually try to keep my routine formula fairly simple. I repeat a LOT! Why? Why do I do this? When there's competitive groups out there, or if you watch "So You Think You Can Dance" (that show keeps me inspired), you will see there's a lot of steps that go on during a dance. Really no repeating of anything - just a lot of challenging stuff.
Sometimes, as a storyteller who dances, I see many of the extra moves as "stuff."
I want each step &/or phrase to have a move. When I teach a dance to beginners (no matter the age), I want them to feel accomplished & like they know what is coming next. Once I come up with moves for the song's chorus, about a third of the dance is already done! BOOM!

But there's something else that comes with that:
When there's those who are experiencing this for the first time, or who take a while to settle into this style, they start to understand the story.

Now, here's where my confidence collides with my self-doubt:
Because I don't want attention from my storytelling, I cringe (on the inside) when I have people track me down to tell me they enjoyed it or to thank me. My insides just ball up as I fake a smile to try to say, "Thank you," back to them. It seems like such a frivolous & token gesture for something I hope had grander meaning. Sometimes I'll throw in the extra tag of, "...just doing what I was called to do." Then I give an awkward laugh afterward while I'm nearly crying inside.
I know these folks mean well, but it's not about me. At. All.

On top of that, I don't know how to handle being approached by those swimming over to me from the deep end of the talent pool. In our current church, we have some in our contemporary band who are professional actors in the Kansas City area. Like, all music-y & stuff, too! They amaze me with what they do, and what they bring. Sometimes, with the simplicity-for-comprehension dances, I wonder if they look at what I'm doing & thinking, "Really? This is all she has to offer?" I've been in musicals & competitive routines where we are all over the place & doing so many different things. This is the kind of thing these folks make a living around. And here I am, just offering up some moves to tell a story. More than likely in much more simple terms than they are used to.

So what the heck am I doing?

My insides curl up in fetal position when any of them come & hug me to tell me they love what I did. I know it's sincere - but that brain of mine can't help but believe it's for show. Much like my smile as I attempt to accept the compliment.

I don't do this for me. I do it for The Greater. I do it to share The Word in a different way. It's NOT about me!

But it becomes worth it when I hear that others would now love to join in the storytelling. That's a relief, actually.

Also, I think one of the most amazing compliments was when a woman approached me after me unveiling my dance ministry to our current church. While my insides are in fetal position, and I'm faking smiles & trying not to be awkward with responses, she told me this:
"['My Story'*] was my mother's favorite song. I never understood why. Until today - after watching your dance, I understand now."

* "My Story" by Big Daddy Weave includes part of the hymn "This Is My Story"

WOW! It's the comments like that which remind me it's OK to do what I do. It doesn't matter who's watching - if I'm doing it in praise & worship, while bringing The Word to life, then someone just might get it!

And I really need to remember I'm doing it for an audience of One - everyone else are just spectators.

But, if you are spectating, just know why I'm awkward later. I'm weird like that.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

AM~Erica's Suffragette Revival Revolution

So anyway...

Not sure if you remember, but it was almost a year ago when I REGISTERED TO VOTE. And it feels great being able to walk into my polling place to use my voice on a ballot.

Jump ahead to June of this year...
Because of some life changes, we bought a house! YAY! Which also meant a move! BOO! But the move is an exciting one for our family. We didn't move far, but it was a move nonetheless.

One of the biggest pains of moving is the having to change your address on EV-ER-Y-THING! UGH! However, since I started voting again, I was NOT going to let another move prevent me from voting again. One of the earliest things I did was to go change my address on my registration.

Now the system acted really weird after I did it, so I went to do it again just to make sure. I was told that my info had already been changed. So, I left it.

With all of the annoying & intrusive election ads (the attack ads included), I was researching the candidates for this primary to see which color koolaid ballot I would vote on (UGH! I hate being forced into a koolaid avenue!) along with the local questions.

Eventually a couple of voter registration reminder cards came in the mail. However, they were for the previous residents. Hmmmm...

I did the right thing & sent those cards back to the election board, but then I got concerned about my own registration. In, Missouri, as long as you are registered by the 4th Wednesday before the next election, you should be fine. I gave plenty of time!

Finally, since I heard NOTHING, I looked up my registration. To my great disappointment, my registration didn't get changed as originally thought. Grrrrr....

I tried my registration again, even though it took this time, I was very frustrated. I should be able to vote at MY polling place, in MY community. Even if it's a new place, I want to step up & make a difference where I'm getting settled. So I knew I would probably have to fight for my vote.

As I put out some feelers, in my angst, I was reminded of provisional ballots. I looked into it for Missouri, and check the definition & rights. I was hoping that this would be a last resort, because I wanted my vote counted!

So I began to devise a plan:  I thought back to nearly a year ago when I paid homage to suffragettes who fought so hard for women to be able to vote. Remember when I went digging into my costumes & hats to recreate an Edwardian suffragette to celebrate the women's vote?

Well, that look really appears to mean business. So I wanted to use that bit of history...or make it known that I planned to vote.

I went digging, went matching, tried pairing different combos together until I found what I thought would work, and then I prepared myself for my own personal march.

Just to show I was serious, I put selfie of it on social media to tell folks I was on may way to try to vote.

Then, I took a deep breath, grabbed some info I thought I might need, went with a plan in mind, and nervously headed over to my polling place.

I'm going to be honest, I was incredibly nervous. I watched people sauntering in & out of the space. Here I was, dressed like it was 1914, a plan together, but didn't know how it would all turn out. After a few minutes of some deep breaths & pulling my confidence together, I marched in with a purpose.

After getting a few odd looks & some compliments on my hat, I went in & pleaded my case firmly. I let them know my registration didn't appear to take when I did it in June, but I'm in the system & should be OK to vote, I gave my photo ID along with a utility bill to prove residence. The gentleman who was helping me didn't really question - he just took my info, got onto his computer to make some changes, filled out a form with some extra info, then handed me my stuff to be able to move on through to vote!
I signed in, got my ballot demo, then had to choose my koolaid ballot (UGH!); I then took my ballot into the voting station & made my informed choices - even on a stupid koolaid ballot. I answered my community's questions to be voted on, too. I walked over, inserted my completed ballot into the machine to be counted, then got my sticker! (It's what we're there for anyway, right?)

You know what? This experience really got me thinking.
(I know, I know...scary, right?)
I am very tempted to dress this way for every election. Or something very strong in this sense. And I thought about how awesome it would be to revive history...or having as many women dress in some way to remind people of what the suffragettes before us paved the way for! Wouldn't that be amazing? So I had some thoughts:

1. Dress as an Edwardian-era suffragette.
Wear a maxi skirt/dress, a button up blouse of sorts, comfortable-yet-stylish shoes, a large & embellished hat &/or updo, and a long vest, jacket or cardigan. Add in something masculine like a tie, cuffs or vest. Wear brooches or pins with American flags, promoting votes for women, or for a statement of feminism. Maybe even a voting sash just for some extra visuals.

2. Think Rosie the Riveter.
Go in wearing overalls or a denim/chambray shirt. Add in some yellow. Wear a yellow or gold head scarf or bandana. Why yellow or gold instead of red? Stick with me, I'll explain. But WE CAN DO IT!

3. Wear yellow &/or gold.
The color of yellow (or gold) was the main color of the American suffragette movement, along with white & purple - but definitely the yellow! Combine the color with the above statements, or just punch your ballot wearing yellow.

4. Remember the voting rights of our black sisters.
This is where I'd tell you to dress within the 60's & 70's thinking of the power of the Selma march. Wear yellow in that fashion.

My fella-femmes, we cannot put off registering to vote, or even ignoring a vote. We cannot let our women who fought for this down. We need to remind people as to why we can vote! All women who are our American citizens. Through any era where we got to step up to the voting booth.

Watch or rewatch "Suffragette" & "Selma" as reminders. And let us not forget that the idea of any of us voting started somewhere & built from there! It was a hard-fought path, but we are here.

Now then, it brings me to something else -
I encourage women to be informed voters. Not blind koolaid drinking, not blindly following how our husband votes or how our parents vote...but this is about how YOU vote - how WE vote! We don't necessarily have to sing in unison, but use our voices as a chorus of political harmony. Many of us have different views from another, but we have to be informed in using our part to vote for not just us, but how it effects the future beyond us. It's beyond just making history to see a particular person in office, but instead how they will truly work in the office they run for. Will they do it effectively, and are they truly fit for the office?

I highly encourage each of us to take those quizzes that test your feelings on different issues against several candidates to see who you match up with. And it's a reminder that there's more than 2 candidates running for president in November. Find out where you fit, don't get mad at those frustrated with the flavor of koolaid they are used to drinking, and get informed - not enamored. This is important as we use our hard-earned votes. Not for celebrity, but for the people.

Now, go forth, and vote! There's 3 months to make a good & informed decision. If you are not yet registered, get on it! You can do it online! There's no excuse. Let's make a statement in our chorus of women's voices!

Look at this! A line of women voters, in 1920, for their first presidential election in Minneapolis.

Look at this! First time black men AND women voters in 1965

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Friday, March 25, 2016

You & AM~Erica Need the Passion of Good Friday

So anyway...

The very day of today, we are told is a "good" day. Because it's Friday. And Friday is good.


Until we come to Good Friday.

Such a conundrum.

We are wrapping up Holy Week. We celebrate Palm Sunday! Jesus' time is coming & he's getting ready to take his place to solidify that He truly is THE Messiah!

Then, somehow, we want to jump to 7 days later & just celebrate again!
YAY! It's Easter! We get to wear pretty clothes & find eggs! We get chocolate bunnies, gorge ourselves on jelly beans, and maybe go to church...because you're supposed to. Right?


Hold it. There's so much more!

Do you ever pick up a book, read the first chapter, maybe one in the middle, just read the last chapter (or the last couple of pages) & call it a day? Do you get the whole story like that?

How about your favorite TV show you follow. Is there any that go in a progression with each episode with canon that gets included? Those shows! The dramas with building characters & storylines. What if you miss an episode or two?

My point is this:
You cannot truly get to the end of a season or series by just watching the first episode or two, then picking up at the very end thinking you know everything that happened.

Holy Week is the same way. Really the Bible is! But I want to focus on Holy Week for the moment. OK?

So we celebrate the big hoopla, shouting, "Hosanna," waving palms in hopes this Jesus guy is the Messiah who will save & deliver the people! We wave the palm branches at church services, we sing songs about "Hosanna," then we get ready for Easter egg hunts & hope things will be awesome & ready for church services next week...

...but there's more episodes between Palm Sunday & Easter Sunday...

The Last Supper is more than just a Renaissance painting by da Vinci. There's an actual story to it. And it's not as pretty as the painting makes it, even though it's based on the moment Jesus announces one of them will betray Him. Because there's more! He had a Passover meal with His 12 closest friends. His heart was heavy knowing what was probably coming. He knew about being betrayed by one of his 12 friends. He broke bread with them. He drank wine with them. He changed their perception about said bread & wine. He washed their feet. That's right: the Master did the unthinkable & washed the feet of His followers.

After Judas left in haste, in hopes of forcing the issue of his friend rising up as the Messiah would do in HIS mind, the feast winds down...and the uncomfortable, yet important story-building episodes are yet to come.

For the Last Supper was only Thursday. An important Thursday, but it's Friday that Jesus told his friends about when he broke the bread & shared the wine with them. It was foreshadowing to a later episode in the story...

It's usually this part of the story where many choose to just talk about a couple of things, or skip it all together. This part is too difficult to face. This part is too much, too graphic, to uncomfortable to face...

Just a few days ago, our television screen was tuned into the daring "The Passion: Live" broadcast. Tyler Perry had gathered several talents to bring the Word to life, and to keep it relevant. There were pre-recorded segments, there were songs performed live, there was a choir in a colosseum-style theatrical set up, there was an orchestra, and there was Tyler Perry telling the story, live, to thousands. There was even a pilgrimage journey carrying a large, lit cross through the streets of New Orleans as the broadcast was going. As the cross traveled, each shot showed more followers walking with it.

The use of secular music to tell the ages-old story was done very well, in my opinion. The acting was done so well, too! I didn't know what to expect, and kept my expectations tempered to very low. But as the songs were used, and the talent was on display in a relevant story...I got chills...then I found myself sobbing at times. It was a very creative way to bring the story to life again.

However...the broadcast did exactly what many others do. The sort of talked about the ugliness of the Passion portion of the story. Everything was so built up! The crowd called for the release of Barabbas, live on TV! And then there was a Cliff's Notes-type synopsis of the crucifixion. Then it was time to party again - because resurrection & Easter, yo! Gotta skip the hard part! People don't wanna know about the beating & the excruciating pain of the crucifixion!

*side note: The word "Excruciating" came from the description of the horrible pain of dying by crucifixion. The more you know.

All of a sudden, the broadcast actually lost steam. There could have been an extra 30 minutes, even, to cover (somehow creatively), the darkness of all of Friday. I even said that the lit cross, that had just made its way into the theatrical setting, could have been turned dark at the climax of the death. It would have been better than a commercial break & only quick explanation of the crucifixion by Tyler Perry, as if he had to work in a lecture of all of Friday in 5 minutes. SOMETHING could have been done!

But I digress...because Friday was crucial to get to the crucifixion!

In a time, when there is so much desensitization, how is it there's so much blood, so much dying, so much violence on TV & in movies that are out in the open for kids to see, even? The video games & videos that contain this stuff is just out there. There's true stories told, as well as "(loosely) based on true stories," where there's quite a bit of violent occurrences that general audiences don't to seem to mind right in front of them. However, something happens with the story about Jesus' final hours on Earth.
The flogging, the beating, the journey carrying the cross, the crucifixion...this doesn't seem to be covered too often, or even talked about.
It was bloody, gory, and yet we want to look the other way.

Why is that? Why is it that these other stories can be told, but THIS story gets glazed over somehow?

Not that Mel Gibson has done amazing things in the passed few years, but his telling of "The Passion of the Christ" is so hard to watch. The pain, the suffering, the blood, the beating, the violence, the gore...but it's probably the truest-to-form in the telling of the Passion story.
And it was rated 'R'. Yet kids can play these games where they shoot people, blood & guts flying...but they aren't allowed to watch what Jesus did for them.

Don't get me wrong, we haven't shown our kids. When it came out, we did feel they were too young at the time. But we aren't big on the shoot-em-up games, movies & shows. But we will talk about the suffering Jesus went through. And we bring up this movie.
And our kids will watch it soon. Because it's necessary. It will be harsh, uncomfortable, difficult to witness, but they need to know. And I need to be reminded.

Tonight, though we don't show the hardcore suffering of the Passion Jesus went through, our church does a good job of letting people know how much Jesus went through for each of us...even me.

However, I was challenged, 4 years ago, by my hubby to put together a readers theater, of sorts, covering the 14 stations of the cross. This is basically 14 of the final moments of Jesus' life following through the crucifixion and burial. There's some readings that are responsive, and there is a Catholic version that is usually used. However, I found some scripture passages used for a Protestant responsive reading (I believe, if memory serves me correctly). So I took these scriptures & built a readers theater script around it. There's a narrator, Jesus, Judas, chief high priest of the Sanhedrin, the trial, Pilate, the crowd yelling for the release of Barabbas & to crucify Jesus, and the criminals crucified with Jesus.

I've had a great group of readers all 5 years of doing the reading (this was the 5th year), and I've always done well getting through all of the reading, even the crowd yelling, every time...until tonight. Something about the crowd yelling for Jesus to be crucified was hard for me to get through. I almost didn't make it through my next line. I had to work very hard to hold myself together after the chilling thought of the crowd aggressively YELLING for Jesus to be crucified.

I still can't wrap my head around that. Jesus, an innocent man, being crucified for false sins. But he did so knowing each mark on his body, from the scratches of the thorns of the crown on His head, to the stripes from the flogging, all the way to the nails through His hands & feet, the insults & verbal abuse...each of these marking the sins of every single one of us. We all caused a mark on the body of a perfect who willingly took those marks all the way to the cross, and let all of the weight of sin of humankind, to allow it all to die there.

I left at least one of those deep marks. So did you. We all did. Our imperfect selves, wether we want to accept it or not, left a deep gash on the Lamb of God - God's own Son. We punished God, come to us as our own, just so He could take all of our mistakes that separate us from God.

Why? Why would He go through all of this? The insults? The beatings? The verbal abuse? The excruciating death?
Love. That's why. Love for you. Love for me.
LOVE! Unconditionally!

That's a lot to take in, folks. It's so hard to fathom anyone wanting to make that sacrifice. We say we would do it for our family or our friends...but for EVERYONE? Yes! Even for those who don't want to accept it. For them, too. And that "them" might include YOU!

Now, I hope churches, people & productions stop skipping over this important part - no matter how difficult it is. I just wonder if people don't know how to handle their part in Jesus' suffering, but we know something most didn't at that time: we know that Sunday's comin'! There's new life to celebrate! But it came at a great price. We cannot just make it the Cliff's Notes type of synopsis in Holy Week. If we are gonna face Palm Sunday, we'd better be prepared to brace for the confusion of Maundy Thursday as we remember Jesus in the breaking of the bread as His body, and consume the wine as His blood becoming a part of us. Because it foretells of the what we put Jesus through & why we ask for His grace to fall upon us.

As horrible as the suffering was for Jesus...the "good" part of this Friday is that He took all of that for us...all the way to the cross to allow it to die there. We just have to turn to Him and accept it. That's it.

A great deal of grace comes from Good Friday. Proof of that comes on Sunday morning...

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Friday, February 19, 2016

AM~Erica Sees Signs of Lent

So anyway...

Mardi Gras is over, and Lent is in full swing.
(some of my reflective Lenten thoughts, HERE)

In this past year, and the year going forward, I made a decision to keep my heart, mind & soul open to what God needs from me.
No, this is not a Lent-specific thing...but certainly a challenging one!

Many times, Christians will "preach" about being open to God's will...and blah-blah-blah! I find the non-Christians rolling their eyes & giving retort, usually; or just ignoring Christians completely.

But hear me out, OK?

I'm a visual-learner, mostly. But I try to keep my senses open to what may be asked of me.
Lately, when I feel my heart being opened to something else, I try to keep my whole being open to the Spirit, and in full-on prayer, to see where I am being guided.

If you have read some of my blog posts opening up about my struggles with depression & my failed suicide (reminder HERE, or you can click on that tab ^^^ up there about "My Struggles (Depression & Suicide), you will see that I try to stay open in a very scary subject, but try to remain open in what I should do next.
Actually...I have something coming very soon. I'm not ready to share yet. I'm freaking out, but so super stoked to be a part of it! But that will be another time...

Right now, I want to point out that I don't really ask God for signs. OK...sometimes I do, but I mostly ask for guidance & then stay as open as possible to possible signs of where I should take on next.

And it scares me! But that's how I know God is leading me. God wouldn't lead me to it if the task were to be easy. So I have to cling onto strength in Jesus & keep God in sight.

With that said, Lent is usually a time of reflection. I have tried taking on devotionals, reflecting, and then trying to put what I've learned relevantly into my life. And sometimes signs show up!

Several years ago, I remember getting ready for church on the first Sunday of Lent. As I got around, I walked into the living room, and nearly fell over when I saw what the sun was projecting onto the wall of the parsonage (aka - pastor's house; aka - clergy living quarters) when we were living in St. Louis:

YES! That's right. It was the sun shining thru the blinds on from the other side of the room!
I obviously had to get picture proof. I don't know if people would have really believed me if I just tried to tell them. I mean, c'mon! We are in the Show Me state. And I had to take my camera (it was just before the times of camera phones, kids) with me to church so I could bring some proof of what I'd found to any doubting Thomases I may have encountered!

And it really happened on the first Sunday of Lent that year. I'm still blown away by that moment on that morning.

Now, as I remain steadfast in the sense of being open to what God needs from me (again...not always so easy), I try to stay vigilant of any signs letting me know I'm heading the right direction, or that I need to change direction. Believe me when I say that I have certainly received signs! Even if I didn't ask for them.

Through the years, I have seen many inspirational photos going around. Some of the more intriguing ones seem to be what is seen in the sky, usually in the clouds. Usually it's forms of angels & things.

Today, the 2nd Friday of Lent, my hubby & I were on our way home from our weekly trip to the store. We were just talking about different things...and then I saw an amazing cloud right in front of me!

Pretty amazing! Right? A truly Divine sign in this moment.
And then my hubby commented that it looked like Ash Wednesday clouds...even if it was over a week later than Ash Wednesday. We discussed if it was a sign of Jesus coming back soon. But that is ALWAYS on the table, people! Don't ignore that fact! "Soon" to us is a much different timeframe than "soon" to God!

We were just shocked over the cloud formation. So much so, I decided to bring up the photo again...but then I noticed something above the clouds in cross formation, and was stunned!
(sorry for sounding like ridiculous click bait)

Do you see that? Do you see the winged clouds in the sky above it? It's like an angel or a dove, but definitely a Divine vision!

People, just know that God leaves us signs EVERYWHERE! And it's not always in visual form. Be aware. Just as God can take any form necessary to get a message across, God can also leave any God-sized sign for us. We just have to be open enough to figure out if it is as obvious as these clouds, or as small as a song lyric in a much-needed time.

We are in a time of wilderness, on a journey to seek out Easter. Though it is a solemn & spiritual time, we should enjoy the view along the way.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

AM~Erica's Beady Talk

So anyway...

As we begin Lent (my take on the season, HERE), we are recovering from a string of celebrating from Super Bowl, Lunar New Year, and Mardi Gras.

Many will prepare to have ashes spread across their foreheads in preparation as we remove celebratory decor that adorned our surroundings for the past few days, even weeks.

I surprised my family by pulling out a lot of my Mardi Gras decor and putting it up around the living room & dining room for our own celebration. Hadn't had a chance to do that in the past few years, so I was glad to be able to have some time, and energy (finally), to spruce the place up to look festive.

But, alas, the party is over, and decor must come down.

And as I was pulling down the masks & beads, it reminded me of something:

The beads really stuck with me, especially seeing them all together in a big bunch. I thought about the large number of beads at the AFSP Out of the Darkness Walks.

I've said it before (from my first walk - HERE, and my second walk - HERE) that looking at the layout of beads seems to have a very Mardi Gras/Carnival-type look at first glance.

These beads you see adorning necks at the Out of the Darkness walks have deep meaning. Each color is representative of someone in your life, as it relates to suicide survivors and the relationship they have with those they lost or with those who struggle (even themselves).

As amazing & beautiful it is to see these colors everywhere, the pain behind them is all-too real.

On any given Mardi Gras, I have no shame in loading up my neck with the green, purple & gold/yellow colors. I'm completely ridiculous like that. This fact really isn't news.
However, when it comes to the AFSP event aspect, the green stays around my neck. My struggle is painfully real. (check out my list of posts concerning my struggles HERE)

Since I know I'm not the only one who struggles, I wear the newest color addition to the spectrum: teal. There's those of you reading this, right now, who I know go through this hurt. Because you've told me. Which is a brave thing to do - to step up & just say something to someone.
I feel weird saying it's a brave thing to do. I say it, however, because I've been told the same thing. And I realize when you tell anyone - whether it's for the first time saying it, or if it's to someone new - it's completely nerve-racking! So it does take some courage to say something. And I'm so proud of you!

Because so many of us do struggle with surviving our own attempt &/or intense suicidal thoughts, I know I never want anyone else to got through that. So I support the cause. That means I wear a blue strand of beads, too.

My bead color combo is very different than anyone else's at the walks. There are so many who sport several of the colors, maybe a couple of the same color. The color combinations are nearly as unique as those who wear them around their necks.


As we enter into Lent, my focus is as different as the sets of beads, between Mardi Gras & AFSP. Though a beautiful time, it is much more solemn. We now enter a journey leading the beauty of Easter, just as the journey each of us who are part of AFSP hope to get to the beauty of no more suicide anywhere.

Anyway...beads. I was just contemplating the difference in the beads, how much they look alike, yet how different they really are. Just like each one of us - some of us may appear to be from the same mold, but we aren't.

Many times, we are all actually wandering through our own wilderness looking for Easter.

Keep going. Sometimes it gets darker before the day breaks. Good Friday was hard & excruciating, but it leads to the beauty of Easter.

Keep going.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica