#StainedGlassDec guest post by Erika Kraus
Many of you followed along as I helped tell the stories of some brilliant souls in Haiti over the summer. I had the honor and privilege of being a part of that when a girl I knew from church called one day in March to ask if I would be willing to help. We spent a lot of hours over several months piecing together these stories of hope, and in the process, Erika became one of my dearest friends. God has used Erika and her story to ignite hope in me this year, in the midst of being storm tossed and afraid, and I have found a wholeness in Jesus through walking closely with her in this season that has sustained me in some of my hardest places. She’s a kindred spirit and a marvelous comrade, and I am so unbelievably proud to introduce her and this tiny piece of her beautiful story to you.
Just out of college I joined a team of friends who wanted to plant a church in the Northwest. At the mature ages of 23 & 24 (one married couple and 5 single people), we drove budget trucks and trailers from our home state of Texas and settled into the gorgeous city of Seattle.
It took no time to realize that we were completely in over our heads. But we dug in together and built family out of our weakness – a community that has become a place of life and discovery for many people over the years.
I’ve learned that being a part of anything that has substance costs something of you.
I’ve also learned that while you are investing in one dream you might simultaneously be longing for another. That some dreams reach maturity while others are busy digging a hole of longing inside of you…so deep sometimes, that you can feel haunted and hollow in the waiting.
That’s how it’s been for home and me.
My 2nd year in Seattle I lived in a blue house with girls that were almost likes sisters. We had dance parties, hosted holidays, and missed buses together. That was great, but starting a church was tough – we were learning so much and becoming so much at the same time. I was also dating someone long-distance – a lovely and tumultuous experience that ended after a year while living in that house. Right after the break-up my best friend moved to Dallas to be with her mom who was fighting cancer. And then my sister and another close friend fell in love and got engaged and my other best friends had a baby.
I was grieving with one friend, thrilled for the others, and gutted for me — emptied out from dreaming so big and working so hard, and from stretching my heart across the United States to build a life with someone that ultimately didn’t work out.
Weary from constant transition, but still smitten with Seattle, I started dreaming about owning my own home and settling in for the next 20 years. Every time I’d pray about my future I’d be filled with hope and for months there was this picture in my head of a gorgeous grey craftsman house with white trim. It felt like such a miracle, yet almost tangible, so I’d pray for “that” house and what I dreamt came with it…
Lovely home. In a city I love. With a family of my own. Neighboring people I adore.
A crossroads in my life came when through a series of events and a journey of surrender I realized to my own shock that this Seattle season was coming to a close and I was being invited into an unknown adventure.
There was a huge white canvas on my wall for at least 6 months before I moved just to remind myself that empty spaces are wide open to being beautifully filled.
Headed back to Texas at 28 (4 neighborhoods, 5 houses and 11 housemates later), I was out on a limb in faith, and dealing with an incredible amount of anxiety. Some of the most important things I thought I was made for and moving toward were getting smaller and smaller, like a ship drifting out to sea, losing its lights on shore.
While I was dealing with fading lights and a couple anxiety attacks — a devastating earthquake struck Haiti.
In transition, I was completely available to volunteer for the relief effort. What started as a couple hours a week turned into my full-time job. I flew back and forth with relief teams and planned a recovery effort for 150+ families living in tents in a soccer field.
My team lived in relief worker guesthouses and beach bungalows temporarily but some of us eventually moved into a grey concrete house with razor wire, mosquito nets, and security guards. We initially had no electricity or running water, cooked over a fire, and sweated ourselves to sleep. A far cry from living in a grey craftsman in the drizzly cool northwest, but I was alive to life and riding a wave of grace.
That year we partnered with a community on the Western coast to build 176 colorfully painted homes throughout the village. The tents in the soccer field gradually disappeared, families planted gardens around their new homes and people started to hope again.
These days my Facebook feed is flooded with newly engaged couples, ten-year anniversaries, brand new babies, and gorgeously decorated first (or second) homes. I’m almost 5 years into working in Haiti and the ache for a family of my own neighboring close friends swells again.
The other day it occurred to me that all these years without a home of my own, in a world of waiting — I’ve stretched, and grown to love and build homes for hundreds.
My hollow made a miraculous home for hope.
And I’m seeing these days that hope is all about expansion – you stretch and make deposits and while you wait they grow interest. In the end what you hoped for is so much larger than what you thought.
The longing that dug a hole in me was both current and prophetic. It spoke about who I was and who I was becoming, but was never the full story.
God took my grey house and dream neighborhood, my love for beauty, family and friends as a deposit…and he multiplied it in neighborhoods throughout Seattle, and in families throughout Haiti. That deposit wasn’t just about what I did, though. It grew interest inside of me as well. I’ve known camaraderie and purpose to depths many dream of – and I’m blessed to have been hollowed enough of my own ambition and self-making to host a contagious sort of Hope.
This is the MIRACLE of Grace.
The ache can be flipped into a promise – and while everything is going exactly the wrong direction – still, our deepest dreams are being realized.
Sometimes we can only see what’s not happening — but often the greatest stories of our life, the places we experience extravagant favor and lavish it on others, flow out of the caverns we live with, waiting to be filled.
Living somewhere between Texas and Haiti for the last 4.5 years following the earthquake in 2010, Erika gets to see heaven come to earth and rubble get made new every day. She is small-town and city girl simultaneously, a globe-trotting adventurer, that won’t settle for anything but living life to the fullest. She loves the Church and its many expressions and enjoys collaborating to see things change for better in the world around her. Hosting dinner parties and exploring new cities are always a win in her book. Follow her adventures on Instagram and read stories of some of her favorite people in Haiti and the ways they are making a wake in the the world around them at beyondtherubble.com.