Expanding Our Tent Stakes and Taking Ground for the Kingdom

30 Sep

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Last week in church our amazing Pastor, Todd Rodarmel, gave an amazing message. I know it was on something else entirely, but I was so completely captured by one line of what he said that I literally couldn’t hear anything else. He talked about the verse in Isaiah 54:2 that says,

“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.” (NIV)

He explained that, to him, this verse is about widening the reach of the Kingdom of God in this world… about claiming ground for Jesus. He told us that each of our homes is like a tent stake in the ground for the church. The church is so much bigger than just the building where services are held and the city on its postal address because it has us as the members dwelling in homes that are called to be outposts (or “tent stakes”) that widen the reach of the tent.

To me, that snippet of his message spoke loudly above all the rest because the night before I had a crazy vivid dream. I dreamt that my husband and I were at the home of some of our closest friends. We were talking and the wife was clearly angry with us. She looked right at me and said, “You don’t even care about us. You never even invited us to church!” Her husband sat next to her, looking heartbroken by our betrayal.

How could this be?! These have been some of our closest friends. They were there for us from the time we first started dating, when we got engaged, stood by our side at our wedding and were some of the first people to come to our home to bring us dinner when our son was born. Had we really never invited them to church? We’ve talked with them about our beliefs, and they know we are Christians, but had we failed to directly extend to them the offer of eternal salvation?

We had.

How could we?! The excuses are all too common… They aren’t interested in religion. They know we go to church. If they wanted to come they would ask. They would feel uncomfortable and too pressured if we brought it up. I don’t want to offend them.

How sad.

I am to be a tent stake. A strong tent stake claiming ground for the Kingdom of God. There are people within my tent covering that I am called to bring into the family of God. There are people that without my bold obedience will not ever be invited to church. There are people within my sphere of influence that have no other Christian friends to carry this mantle. It is MY responsibility. I cannot pass the buck.

These people are my friends, my neighbors, my coworkers. This is my ground to hold.

I went home and created a list of people that I will be praying for daily, that their hearts will be prepared to receive the message of Jesus. Beyond that, I am praying for my own heart. That it will be bold enough to extend the invitation to everyone on my list, that there will be no one who knows my name that has not personally received an invitation to come inside the tent.

Who are you inviting to church this week?

25

28 Apr

Since starting this blog just over four years ago (yes FOUR!), many incredible things have happened. Here’s the highlights… My life was radically changed during a season of full-time missionary work in India. I came home to Orange County, CA. I met an incredible man who loved Jesus with all his heart, worked heard, and had a really big brain that challenged me to keep up. I married him. I got a job. A real job. The kind you wear a pantsuit to and starts at 9 and ends at 6 every day. Shock: I liked it. A lot! And I was good at it. The hubs and I saved our money and bought a house. The hubs changed jobs. So did I. We loved each other (still do!). We decided we wanted to have a baby. We got pregnant! We had a baby. I retired from my 9-6 pantsuit routine and picked up a new job: MOM. I fell in love with photography again. I opened a photo studio in my home. I got more work than I could handle (praise Jesus!). My son turned 1 (crazy!). And I… I turned 25.

Which I realize isn’t really that big of a deal. It’s not. I totally doesn’t put me in the “old” category (which I think you only end up in if you want to). But it still is a bit of a mile-marker that makes you take a look at all the ground you’ve covered… and all that lies ahead. I’m incredibly proud of all I’ve done in my little life. I feel so fulfilled in motherhood. It’s really the greatest, most honorable title I’ve ever held and I absolutely love it. But there’s also things I’ve always wanted to accomplish that are still left undone. Silly things, really, but they’re still there. Things like: get 6-pack abs, feel totally 100% confident in a bikini, feel like I’ve defined my┬ástyle and honed my skill fully in photography, learn how to cook really well, grow a garden, get rid of my acne, be more fashionable, read more, learn to surf. Silly things.

But if they’re so silly and simple, why haven’t I done them? And they aren’t silly – to me, at least. So I made a list and got started. Here’s to 25 and being more “myself” than I’ve ever been. What is it you’ve always wanted to do? And what excuse do you need to put to bed so you can finally get going?

I Love You

3 Oct

I don’t know you, but I love you.

I don’t know what will make you laugh, but I can’t wait to laugh with you.

I don’t know the color of your eyes, but they are already beautiful to me.

I don’t know the color of your hair, but I can’t wait to run my fingers through it.

I don’t know the sound of your voice, but I can’t wait to listen to every word you say.

I don’t know the things you will do wrong, but I forgive you already.

I don’t know what you will grow up to be, but I am already proud.

I don’t know you, but I love you with all of my heart.

How we found out!

21 Sep

Baby Ulrich was very elusive in his or her first few weeks of life. I was late on my monthly cycle and since we had been trying I immediately rushed to the grocery store to get a pregnancy test. The box will tell you that the test is something like 99% effective by the time of your first day of your missed period. Well I am a part of that special 1% because one week and 6 pregnancy tests later I was still getting results that we did NOT have a baby on board. Encouraged by my incredible sister-in-law Jenny, I waited a bit longer before determining in my mind that I was not pregnant. Sure enough, one week later I took a test on a whim. As that faint vertical pink line began to appear I couldn’t believe my eyes! It got darker and darker… And there it was! Pregnant.

I called Michael twice in a row at work hoping he would answer. He whispered, “What’s up?” on the second try. I said, “Guess!” I guess the excitement in my voice must have been a giveaway because he knew right off. We shared in the excitement over the phone for a few moments before Michael returned to work.

And I was immediately changed forever.

The beginning of the rest of our lives…

And baby makes three…

21 Sep

My husband Michael and I have really been enjoying marriage over the last year. We kicked it off with the most perfect wedding a girl could ever dream of and the most amazing honeymoon ever in Playa del Carmen. Over the last year we’ve enjoyed delicious dinners out, surprise Christmas vacations, birthday parties, and the list goes on. We even bought the cutest dream home this past June. I’ve relished in every second of making that home our little love nest. We’ve been incredibly blessed with great jobs that we both thoroughly enjoy- I head up the training department at my father’s property management company (with a little photography on the side for fun!) and Michael recently made the switch from teaching to engineering. We are also blessed to live less than 15 minutes away from every single immediate family member on both sides… A huge blessing since our families are also our favorite people to spend time with. Marriage has been surprisingly calm and peaceful (in contrast to what many say about the difficulty of the first year). So what do you do when life is perfect? Well I don’t believe there can be too much of a good thing. Too much of a good thing is a great thing! So we decided to add a little more love to the equation…

The first addition to our little family will be making his or her grand entrance sometime around May 17th, 2013! We couldn’t be more excited! Our families are thrilled too (especially my mom and dad since they will be first-time grandparents!) We will continue to share family updates through our blog for those of you interested in sharing this journey with us. We love each of you and are blessed to share in this extremely fun time with you.

All our best,
Michael, Erika and Baby Ulrich

You’re Not Just Wishful Thinking

10 Jul

We’re not naive, as believers. Not children hoping to cling to a jolly bearded man in a red suit at Christmastime, though they know deep down it’s foolish. We’re not merely optimistic, believing conveniently in a better place for those we love who have passed. Our God is not a fictional coping mechanism for our brokenness.

It’s easy to let these whispers of the enemy drift too long in our minds. They’re everywhere. I’ve seen all too many of my friends fall prey to these whisperings, claiming that my Jesus is nothing more than smoke and mirrors and that the goosebumps you feel during worship are just the product of a good bass and a lot of hype.

And there have been moments when I’ve wondered, too.

There have been many times when I’ve prayed for the sick and they were not healed. When I’ve called “Holy Spirit, come…” and felt nothing. When I’ve knocked on the door, so to speak, and…heard silence reply from the other side.

So what do we do with this? Do these times debunk Christianity altogether? Does this mean that we’ve all bought into the world’s biggest sham of all time?

That’s your call. What you do with these times is up to you.

But as for me, I’ve decided that there’s just too much evidence on the side of Heaven.

I’ve seen brokenness and divorce and sorrow and pain in this world, sure. But I’ve also seen triumphant love stories flying in the face of all the world’s statistics. I’ve seen too many beautiful sunsets and heard too many stories of the miraculous. I’ve gotten far too many goosebumps during worship and I’ve felt the whoooosh of the Spirit as He dances through a room.

So, I’m going to choose to wait a little longer for the Spirit to come. I’m going to knock a little louder at the door of my Savior. I’m going to pray again. And again. And again… until the lame walk and the deaf hear. Call it foolish if you wish, but I have been anchored by my few beautiful and treasured experiences in the throneroom of God. He’s given me a promise and I believe He will keep it.

I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back, no turning back.

Loved Into the Light… A Must Read!

24 Jun

My incredible mother, LaVonne Earl, spent the last year and a half writing one of the most powerful books I have ever read. It gently and beautifully dissects the false teachings of the Mormon Church, while also leading the reader through prayers specifically intended to release them from religious bondage. Always keeping an eye on the love and grace of Jesus Christ, I know any Christian will find this book to be a necessary addition to their personal library. It is now fully published and available on Amazon. Follow the link below to get your own copy today! Also feel free to contact me with any questions you may have regarding the book or our family’s personal exodus from the Mormon Church.

http://www.amazon.com/Loved-into-Light-Shining-Mormonism/dp/098553821X/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Also, if you or someone you know is on their own journey in leaving religious bondage of any kind, check out the links below to find incredible life-giving resources.

Mormon Recovery Ministry

Your Kingdom Inheritance