Category: Encouragement (Page 2 of 2)

Why you made it through…

I’m all about being transparent and real about my walk with God. I have to share a testimony that could be life changing for someone. 


A year ago today, I received a call from a friend who was considering suicide. I had a moment that was both humbling and sobering. This would be the third time in the last several years that God connected me to someone who was suicidal. I said, “Lord, why does this keep happening??” It took me a few moments, and He showed me. I can identify with what they are dealing with. Between the ages of 13-15, I attempted suicide 4 times. Three of the four times, I swallowed an entire bottle of aspirin. The fourth time, I tried to slit my wrists. When I think back on that time of my life, I felt like I was a nobody. I felt like no one cared for me, even the people who took care of me. At the time, I was under the custody of my biological grandfather and his wife. From the outside, I appeared to be well taken care of. We lived in a beautiful home, took family vacations and were involved in church. It appeared to be a perfect picture from the outside. But on the inside, I felt so empty and unloved. My mother had abandoned my brothers and I and I barely saw my father. Someone else was always taking care of me, and I never seemed to have any stability in my life. I would go in and out of moments of being “happy”, but my low moments were incredibly low. I would play this song called “Outside” by Mariah Carey, and it just spoke everything I was feeling. I would marinate on words of the song, these in particular:

“And God knows
That you’re standing on your own
Blind and unguided
Into a world divided
You’re thrown where you’re never quite the same
Although you try, try and try
To tell yourself you really are
But in your heart, uncertainty forever lies
You’ll always be somewhere on the outside.
You’ll always be somewhere on the outside.”


That uncertainty would follow me into my adulthood, and I made many decisions based on it. In the fall of 2005, the Lord really started to deal with me about my faith, and I had a choice to make. I could continue to trying to live doing it on my own, or I could lean on him for everything. I chose the latter. The point of this testimony is that the void, the uncertainty, and the darkness that I dealt with could not be handled like I handled everything in my day to day life. I had to truly receive Christ in my heart. I had to come to know Him. It wasn’t about going to church. It was about having a RELATIONSHIP with God. One where He would start to reveal to me who He created me to be, how He wanted me to operate, and why I went through many of the things I went through.

Understand that you don’t go through your trials for YOU. You go through some of them because one day, you will encounter someone that you will have to pray for, and pull up and out of that same type of situation. It’s not easy, and it’s not for the faint of heart. But God did not allow me to live through that, for someone to be connected to me and I not take action.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, it is imperative that you seek professional help. That’s just a part of the healing process. However, no amount of professional help puts breath in your body, knows the number of hairs on your head, or had a plan for your life before the foundation of the earth. God knew you before you were even formed in your mother’s womb. God is your help and your healer. Seek Him. Someone else’s deliverance is attached to your testimony. 

Blessed to be a blessing

Saturday was such an eventful day. As I paused to take a look at pictures that I had taken at a company event, I stopped and took in that I usually end up helping wherever I am in some capacity. And I love it. I read the words, “Santa’s Helper” on the front of our aprons and immediately thought, “I’m Kingdom Helper”. No matter where I’m serving (because that’s what it is to me no matter where I am) I was reminded of who GOD created me to be. As I thought about that, I felt so much joy. God deposits great things in us all. It’s up to you to tap into it.

The festivities ended with a beautiful event for the Women’s Ministry at my church, which was themed this year as “I’m Dreaming of a Pink Christmas”. My Pastor LOVES doing giveaways at each Gatekeepers event. Well, she got on stage and said she had one special gift in particular she wanted to give. She said she prayed about it, and the Lord told her to give it to Erica Thomas.

I could hardly believe it. I was honestly sitting in my chair thinking Mrs. Chrissie, our church secretary, should get it. This woman goes literally above and beyond the call of duty every time she does something. But I could hardly keep myself together. It blessed my heart so much. Pastor DeLana brought up a story about how a few years ago I kept winning cash at one of the giveaways. The Lord spoke to me that year and told me to give it to the person next to me. I even decided I was going to split the money between the two people beside me, but by the end of the event, the Lord clearly spoke that I was supposed to give it all to one person. This person later shared a testimony how the funds helped her through a difficult time. Soon after that seed was sown, I got a significant raise on my job. There is always a purpose to our sowing.

After Pastor D presented the gift, I went back to my seat, with the forethought of, “Lord, do I keep it or sow it??” Yes. I couldn’t help it. The Lord told me to KEEP it, but He didn’t tell me I couldn’t sow along with it!!!! So I decided that when I go and use my gift card, I’m taking somebody with me. Because I am Kingdom Helper. I was created to serve, and like my Pastor, I love to give.

When I think about why I love to give, I realized that everything I sow with a good heart and in good faith is returned to me in ways that always exceed what I sowed. Raises, cars and nice homes are cool…but they are “tip of the iceberg” types of blessings. There is nothing that can compare to having great health, immeasurable favor, and reconciled relationships, among other things. God has been so good to me. As His children, we were created in His image, so it should come easy to each of us to give.

Of course, there are other elements to consider. We don’t want to be foolish in our giving, and we must discern if God is really leading us to give, or if we are giving out of emotion or obligation. I’ve had my share of giving foolishly, and I have learned many a lesson. I love to help the homeless, but if you’re asking me for change and you smell like alcohol, I would much rather buy you something to eat than to hand you money. I even had a situation once where a man asked me for change to buy something to eat. I happened to have a snack in my car, along with an unopened bottle of tea. I handed the items to him and wished him a blessed day. I watched him in my rearview mirror walk over to the trashcan and threw it away. I was appalled, but I had peace in the fact that I used wisdom and discernment in attempting to help him. We often feel obligated to help others, but if it enables them to continue bad or destructive behavior, we have a choice not to be a part of that. It’s called tough love, and it’s ok to give that too.

I pray that these words have been a blessing to you. J

It has been graduation season all across the country. We have high school and college ceremonies, but even some elementary and secondary schools are recognizing advancement to the next grade with a “graduation” or an awards ceremony.

About a week ago, I attended a high school graduation. I was excited for each of the students that represented alongside the person whom I was there to support. The common theme was about becoming the generation to change the world. As each of the students walked across the stage, I envisioned them becoming the epitome of greatness, across all industries, sectors and fields, worldwide.

As I began to think about my journey since high school, I was proud of some moments, and not so proud of others, but nonetheless cognizant of the fact that life happens, and it didn’t always go the way I planned it.

Hear it: Life doesn’t always go as planned. 

We plan and execute, but circumstances and situations often thwart those plans. Don’t give up! Life will go on, and so should you. Follow God, and you can’t go wrong. 

The thing that came next enlightened me. I had to take a moment to marinate on the words that came into my mind: Every single decision made, creates your tomorrow.

Hear it: Every single decision you make creates your tomorrow. 

What you choose to do about your situations on a day to day basis could make or break future opportunities. In addition, not making a decision is still a way of making a choice. I know far too well that choosing not to do something can be just as destructive as doing the wrong thing altogether.

Graduates, take every opportunity to make the best decisions possible. I once had a conversation with someone and received one of the most profound statements I ever heard:

The difference between yesterday and tomorrow, is what you do today.  (Jeffrey Thomas)

Don’t throw away an opportunity to have a better tomorrow.

I pray these words have been a blessing to you!

Trusting in His time

During praise and worship, we were singing a song about waiting on God. God showed me something.

Sometimes when we are expecting something but there is a delay, we often get frustrated. We had an expectation and now we have to wait for whatever it was. God showed me a scenario where a “transaction” was happening. He discovered that something wasn’t right and said, “Hold on.” He had to fix something behind the scenes before the “transaction” could take place.

Your waiting season is God’s instruction to hold on. Two or three days, a week or even years seems like too long for us to wait for something, but 2 Peter 3:8 says one day and a thousand years are the same with God.

Wow. I have to marinate on that because I know there is more revelation that will come. But if a thousand years equals a day, the time we have to wait for God’s plan to manifest is is minor. Our concept of time is driven by this short life we live in the flesh. You have to set your mind on eternal things according to the word of God. That doesn’t just mean things of the spirit, that also means time. We serve the AUTHOR OF TIME. Yes, we should be good stewards of our time, but we must trust in Him and his plans.

Have confidence in His timing. He will not fail you. A delay is not a no. Just hold on.

The Formula: A Journey to Self Love

I was born under very unconventional circumstances. My mother was 17 years old on the day that I was born. She was visiting with her grandparents and said that day, she ate like a pig. She thought she had a bellyache, but had actually gone into labor. Several hours later, my great-grandpa, Tootsie, couldn’t get the light bulb in the fixture at the front door. The ambulance passed our property. They didn’t arrive until sometime after 3:25 a.m when I was born.

Needless to say, I have lived on almost thirty years from those moments. When I think back, I know that God’s plans for my life must have been great. From the time I arrived, the enemy has wanted to take me out. I endured many things in my childhood, from neglect and abandonment to rejection and suicide attempts. The constant in my life has been God sending people to love me and pour into me. To help me to understand that I am not a victim of my circumstances. I can rise above them. But, the thing I struggled with most was loving myself. There was a time when I questioned whether I was worthy of love and affection, and I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror without crying.

I got saved when I was 14. Initially, I didn’t understand anything more about salvation than attending church every Sunday. I went to church consistently, but it wasn’t until fall of 2005 that God really started to deal with me. I suddenly felt a peace in my life that I never knew. It was also the year I really started to transition both mentally and spiritually into the woman that I’ve become. I started to read books for leisure again, which was one of my favorite pastimes. Among the books I read were Too Blessed to be Stressed by Dr. Suzan Johnson and The Battle Belongs to The Lord by Joyce Meyer. These books, along with the bible, really helped me to build a foundation for my faith: Understanding that The Lord is real, and that He cares about me. Over the next several years, I would meet women who would pour into me. There were many, but a few were obviously God sent, and necessary for the transition into my new season.

I gained a friend and mentor, with whom I had a conversation that literally changed my life. At the end of this conversation she said, “I believe in you.” It was said with such intent and sincerity, that I know it was God who sent that message through her. I would go on to meet a fabulous, but God fearing Pastor who encourages women to “Be YOU… On Purpose.” That message was vital in my life. I started to reassess why and how I did things. I accepted that yes, I dropped out of college, but I realized that that does not define who I am. I stopped trying to speak with perfect diction to prove that I was educated. I started to really just speak the way ERICA would say it, even if it included “y’all”, one of my favorite words.

One of the most valuable things my granny taught me is that there is a time and a place for everything. I’m professional when I’m supposed to be, but I’m silly and I love to laugh, and also country at heart. I looked at my flaws as well as my weaknesses, and was honest with myself about them. I came to understand and respect that God created me. The same one who created the moon and the stars and all the beauty of the earth, yes, He created me. And I fell in love with God after that realization.

The awesome thing about this journey is that the closer I’ve gotten to God, the more I have learned about myself, and the more I have become more loving and accepting of not just myself, but others. This was what seemed to be the manifestation of Mark 12:29-31:

Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

The “formula” for self love, is to love God first. You will learn to love yourself in that process. In turn, you love your neighbor, the way you love yourself.

There is nothing better, than knowing that it was God Himself, who showed me how to love.

Reaching…

Today, I made a trip to the grocery store.  As I walked through the produce section, I approached the avocados. There was another person standing there, looking through to find some ripe ones. There were three ascending tiers of the fruit. The first tier held those which were overripe. These were no good for the salsa I was preparing. The second tier had ones which had not yet fully ripened. The third and highest tier appeared to have mostly unripe fruit, however I spotted a perfect one hiding. As I went to grab it, I realized it was a bit further than I expected. I had to reach to get it, and I finally got it. I realized any ripe avocados I found would more than likely be on the third and furthest tier. I fished around and finally found two more, and continued shopping. As I left, the other person was still there, looking through the same tier.

In the next section, I was looking for Santitas brand tortilla chips. I walked back and forth for a minute but didn’t see them. Finally, I got a little closer and noticed they were at the very top, and further back on the shelf. Again, I had to reach to get it. As I walked away from this section, God showed me something:

Sometimes you have to work a little bit harder than others are willing to, to get what you want in life. Sometimes you have to reach.

Now, I’m no stranger to this lesson. I dropped out of college. For years I was insecure about not having a college degree. But then God blessed me with an opportunity, one that actually required a college degree. God showed me that he didn’t call the “qualified”, he qualified the called. And He equipped me accordingly. I’m so grateful for His favor for opening that door, but hard work has been the key to maintaining my blessing. As I think about the letters in the word “reach”, there are a few things I would like to share, to help you on your path to becoming a hard worker:

R: Realize that you can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens you. The word of God confirms this in Philippians 4:13. Let this be the beginning of your confidence.

E: Engage yourself in what you do. Don’t do it just out of habit or ritual. Pay attention, understand it, and look beyond what you see with your eyes.

A: Attain more knowledge. Expand upon your skills by reading and studying your craft or job. Although you may be well qualified, it doesn’t hurt to learn more about the industry, how it is affected by current events, etc. In addition, do it on your own time, not just when/if your employer or job requires you to.

C: Challenge yourself. Just because the goal doesn’t look attainable doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push to reach that goal anyway.

H: Hold yourself accountable. Learn to stay on top of things. When you realize you haven’t, regroup and try again. Remember that you are ultimately responsible for what you allow in your life.

I pray these words encourage you.

Peace and blessings.

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