Growing up Erica felt like God was simply a statue. There was no relationship, there was no real conversation. Everything changed when she learned you can have a relationship with Jesus and experience his presence.
Erica Parkerson: All of us are looking for the answer in life. And I think about Isaiah 49:16, which is one of my favorite verses. Like our names, they are engraved on God’s hand. He can’t possibly ever forget us. So, whatever situation you find yourself in, and you’re going no way, there’s no way out. There’s no way through. He will not forget you. He is with you. I’ve always prayed, Godbe with that person. If you hear heartbreaking news, God, please, no, he’s already. My new prayer, and this is going to be for the rest of my life is, God, make them aware of your presence and your nearness.
Narrator: We’ve all experienced it. You run into a friend from the past, but there’s something different. That you’re changed. Maybe there is a calm where there once was a storm. Maybe there is gentleness instead of harshness. There’s a new passion. A new life. What changed? Welcome to Brought Back to Life, a podcast where we explore stories of ordinary transformation.
Erica Parkerson: Hi, I’m Erica Parkerson. I co-host the Morning Show on SPIRIT 105.3, with Steve Sunshine. Growing up. I always kind of thought of Godas a statue. I figured he was real. That he was somebody up there, but I don’t know, maybe we couldn’t really have a conversation. It was kind of a one-way deal. I respected him, but I remember standing in a church parking lot one day and just saying bad words with my friend, just to see what would happen. Would there be a response? And she just looked at me and said, you’re in trouble. That’s where it started. I remember making my holy communion and I felt like a little bride. And I also remember having a Polaroid picture taken of me in front of my Michael Jackson poster in my bedroom. And that was very important.
So here you see me in this little white dress with the veil, and Michael Jackson. And I think about those days and how dedicated my mom was to bringing us to mass, Sunday after Sunday. My dad never came to church except for on Easter. And it was always a big, huge deal when he came. I used to pretend to have an allergy attack to leave early, or I would get up and go to the bathroom, but I loved the stained glass and I loved dipping my hand and the holy water.
And I loved Father Griffin’s laugh. I knew deep down, he really was real, but I, I couldn’t figure out the link to get there. But thank God for Jen Candido. She’s a lifelong friend. We were 16 at the time. She invited me on a Catholic retreat. Was a, a weekend away for teenagers up in the mountains, and I remember hearing an Amy Grant song called, I have decided.
Yeah, what have I decided? What’s happening here? What is stirring in me? And I remember seeing a quote on the wall and it said in the midst of winter, I finally learned the in me was an invincible summer. And it’s so funny because I thought that person who thought of those words put my thoughts into words. That’s how I felt. And my mom picked me up at the end of the weekend and I said, mom, it’s like, it’s like, Jesus is sitting right next to me. He’s real. He’s my friend. And my mom said, okay, I’m going to call my brother. My uncle Joe was the only person in our family who had a quote unquote personal relationship with Jesus. So, he immediately came over. We were living in my grandmother’s house. My room was in the basement. Blue carpet. He sat down with me in that basement and shared Christ. He had a power men Bible, which is these men… they broke things in the name of Jesus. Okay. This is the gospel truth. And he brought Carmen cassette tapes and he laid it all out.
You know, God died for you. Jesus died for you. He wants you to invite him into your heart and your life is going to change. And I’m like, wow, this is big. But he left and I didn’t make a decision. So about an hour later, I’m sitting on an exercise bike, and it was, I don’t know how to describe it, a light bulb went off. Okay, Lord, I accept you into my heart on an exercise bike.
Sarah Taylor: Tell me a little bit more about how it felt after you said that prayer on the bike.
Erica Parkerson: All of a sudden the cavalry cheese didn’t matter so much. Okay. So they were these really expensive pants that you had to go to macy’s to get. And all the girls in my high school, in New York had them. Things like that began to go away and I’ll never forget my friend, Shelly. She was my best friend growing up. I was telling her about all of these deep emotions that I feel accepted. Something is different. God is real. Never forget what she said. Erica, it’s just a phase. It’s just a phase. It’ll pass. And it hasn’t passed. Cause I’m now 45 and I still have that feeling. I still want everybody to like me. It’s totally a lifelong struggle, but I know that deep down, he will always love me, no matter how many times I screw up and fall down on my face. It was definitely not a phase.
When I graduated from high school, my parents moved to North Carolina from New York. I was 18. I got a job at the rainbow deli thinking I was going to go to college. And there’s a wonderful story that came out of my time at the rainbow deli. There was a rule there, nobody told dirty jokes around me. It was like an understated thing. Erica is kind of like the pure Christian. Don’t do that. But I was friends with everybody, you know, including Michael, he was one of the dishwashers back in the kitchen. I knew that he was kind of into partying and maybe even drugs, but we liked to talking to each other. And I had no idea that I had any impact on his life, until 20 years later, he found me on Facebook and said, I want you to know that it was because of my mom and you, that I came to Christ and I’m a pastor now. And I remember thinking everything in life is orchestrated by Jesus. Even a stint at the rainbow deli.
I never went to college because something else happened. I met my husband at Calvary church. We called it the Mary Kay church. It’s pink, gigantic cathedral in Charlotte, North Carolina. And I just remember seeing him in a Navy blue overcoat and going, he’s very handsome. Like to know that man. And we became friends. And I remember once he told me we were sitting by a campfire with our group of friends and he’s, I’ve never like had such a great friend, like a great Christian friend, like you. And I thought, okay, my hopes are dashed and I cried in tent. But later on, um, I realized he just wasn’t sure. I mean, there were nine years between us, but God worked out all, all of those details, and my husband just became my greatest fan in life and he always believed in me. He was the one who said you should write for the newspaper. He gave me the courage to interview all of these Christian influencers in our community.
And that’s how I got into radio because the local Christian radio host asked me to come on the morning show and talk about the Carolina Panther I interviewed. And that was the second time a light bulb went off in my life. When I knew I sat behind the mic and I’m like, I want to do this for the rest of my life, but how? Because at this point I had two kids, two wonderful kids, a daughter, and a son and God, again, worked out all of those details. I was involved in children’s ministry. So, I was behind a mic for years telling stories. He had me interviewing people for the newspaper and he gave me those skills and he uniquely equipped me to do the job and to fulfill the calling he had placed on my life. And I just thought that that was so beautiful. Looking back on all of those details.
I also want to say that being a mom, being a stay at home mom was important. Like, there’s a part of me that I wish that I had known that radio was my thing when I was 18 or 20, that I’d gone to college for it. Never went to school, never went to college… that never happened for me. And I kind of carry that, but I feel like it was God’s will for me to be with my kids when they were little. And then it was God’s will for me to be in radio when they were older.
I’ll never forget one story about my daughter, Hannah, when she was two, I was having a really low moment in my life. And she looked at me and she just said, mommy, God loves you. And it was one of the only times in my life. I felt like Godwas directly talking to me through a person, because she talked really late and she didn’t say much. And it was just one of those really meaningful moments as a mom, as a Christian, everything.
One of the hardest things about me becoming a Christian was knowing how dead set my dad was against believing in God. And as I said earlier, he only went to church on Easter. And I think my mom dragged him. I’m pretty sure. And so, I prayed for him constantly. And I also went to him, constantly. Preaching at him. Dad, I don’t want you to go to hell. And one day he threw the newspaper down, pretty violently, which is not my dad. You know, he’s a very patient. Kind person through that newspaper. I said, don’t you ever talk to me about this again, ever. And he went upstairs and I was just like, I really blew it. You know, I just wanted him to have the hope that I had found, and it was a closed door. But I never gave up. I prayed for 20 years. And one day I got a call and my dad told me to come over. He wanted to talk with me. And he said that he had just spent three hours in a church pew in Calvary church, the Mary Kay one, he sat in the back pew and for three hours, he poured out every bad thing he had ever done. And at the end, he was a Christian, and he wanted me to know, and this is unbelievable to me.
I honestly, I know I’m getting, I’m going to get emotional here, but he wears a gold cross around his neck. My father is Italian, but he doesn’t act like it. No matter what he’s wearing, I know that it’s under his shirt. I can kind of see the faint outline of it whenever I see his neck, and I always go, oh my goodness. My dad believes, like he was baptized in the church. I remember the entire congregation applauding because here’s this man with like the salt and pepper hair at the age of 62, saying yes to Jesus… after 20 years of his daughter, his wife, his other daughter, just please, God hear us, you know? And that moment, and to this day, when my mom went through, COVID all of the things, like, he’s the strong one in the faith. He’s the one when we thought my mom was going to die from COVID was the one texting, keep the faith. God, is taking care of your mom. And I mean, that to me is absolutely unbelievable. So if, I always think, I always tell people I have two friends, two close friends whose parents are not believers. And I say all the time, don’t stop praying. Don’t stop. You never know. And I try to pray for those two couples because I know what God can do. He can take a hard heart and he can soften it and he can come inside and live in it. And the change is unbelievable. I’ve learned to trust God, even when things don’t make sense. And I remember when he called me to leave my first radio job, and I remember going, that makes no sense. This is the best job I’ve ever had. And I prayed and prayed. Like I was on my face with my husband and we were praying and we knew the answer was, “Leave.” And what I hadn’t known at the time was that radio had become the number one thing in my life. If you had given me a piece of paper and said, write down your priorities in life, never would’ve written down radio, not as number one. But in my heart, they’d gotten all mixed up. And so for one year, and I’m talking when you’re to the day, well, I cried. And I didn’t want to see my family. I didn’t want to see anybody. I was always crying. As a matter of fact, I had to change my pillowcase at night. That’s how many tears were shed, because I missed the opportunity that I had to encourage people in that way.
I knew that I had been made to do it. Not that I was good at it, just that it was what I was supposed to do.
Sarah Taylor: How did you feel God calling you away from.
Erica Parkerson: There were some things happening at the office, and there were really hard things. And I remember thinking that we could still get past this. This is not like a deal breaker, but I still knew I had to go. It was something inside. It was God’s will. It’s never been clearer. Nothing else has ever been more clear to me in my life. There is so much gray. This was a black and white issue. And so I watched every episode of Monk, for the first few weeks. That was how I survived. Monk. And if I had known that that would probably be the last time I would live in the same zip code as my family, I would not have cried so much. I would have trusted God more. I would have visited all the time. And so, I like to tell my daughter because she’s waiting to meet the person she wants to spend her life with. I tell her don’t waste this time. And so, that time hasn’t been wasted.
But the reason I bring up this story is because of a dream God gave me in the middle of this disaster. He never quit on me, even though I was like, I can’t, I can’t go on. Um, I had a dream. It was like one in the morning. And I was on a cruise ship. I’m like, okay, this is kind of nice in the dream, I remember thinking this. And Jesus in the dream, it was his voice. And he was like, where’s this cruise ship going? And I said to beautiful places. And he said, you are too. And I, the fact that God speaks to you in the language, your love language, is so huge to me. He understands that I think in words and in pictures, and that was how he reached me. And so a year to the day that I walked out of my very first radio station, I was auditioning at another radio station.
And I remember thinking that’s not an accident. It wasn’t an accident that brave the Disney movie came out on the day I walked out of my first radio station. It was a little hug from God, a Godwink, even though I’m not a big fan of that word. Um, it was beautiful. And so he was with me through all of that.
And my daughter just joined the Y, and she’s been telling me how every day she’s putting heavier weights on her arms, to strengthen her arms. And I know what he does every single time we walk through a trial with him. We trust him more. And he can trust us with more. And it’s just this beautiful symbiotic relationship.
And what I’m trying to figure out is not to resist those times of strengthening. The lean into them. That’s what I’m desperately trying to learn. I thought that was hard. I thought that radio could make you cry, but when you find out that your son is, is deathly ill, that’s hard. That is not something you would ever choose.
As a matter of fact, as a parent, any parent knows this, you would take it away. Give it to me. My son at around the age of 15, started getting very sick. He was wasting away and he was ultimately diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. And it’s a very embarrassing disease. It’s humiliating. You have accidents often in public. Can be at school, can be coming home from a restaurant, can be at grandma’s house. All kinds of different things. So you just pretty much lose control. And I watched my son go from a football playing, mama’s making cookies, I’ll just eat two dozen at one sitting healthy boy, to a concentration camp victim. And, and it was happening day by day. Like he was skin and bones. There’s nothing left. And I remember we had this red couch that we got rid of because I associated with that time. We had this red couch and he would lay down on it and it looked as if he was fading into the cushion. And I would come home from work on my lunch break and I would sit there with him and think, is he going to be alive when I get home? And I would go in to do a radio show after that. God showed me later, the words that you were using to encourage people is how you were able to do that. You were using my words, and I understood that.
But at the time, the guilt as a mom, it’s like, why am I going to work right now? What is going on? And my husband was there for him. I’ve never seen such self sacrifice in my life. I mean, he made apple sauce from scratch. Yogurt from scratch. The love that he showed. But the, at that time, and this is kind of weird, but we still haven’t developed the habit of eating together as a family because during that time, we can never eat the same things and we ate separately. We’d never really gotten back to that. Um, every once in a while we will gather, or we go to a restaurant obviously, but we’ve never established that routine. And I think it’s just painful. Um, but Josh had like a very short list of things he could eat.
So it was hard. I remember there was this one moment where he was scrubbing the toilet and sobbing. Like scrubbing and sobbing. And I remember his little ball cap that he had on and he was just hysterical. Like he had reached his end and I said, well, I’m going to go to the grocery store. Cause I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t escape the pain. And I texted my friends. I was standing by the raw chicken. I texted my group of friends… you have to pray right now. You have to pray right now because I can’t do this. And it was the first time in my life, maybe the only time, I actually felt the effects of prayers. Like there was something happening inside of me that said, you’re going to be okay. It’s going to be okay.
It was shortly after that, we went to Duke University. The only way we got an appointment with this incredible doctor was through my husband’s uncle, who at 90 years old was still doing research for Duke. Unbelievable how God opened that door. Got us up there in two days. And I said to the surgeon, Dr. Thacker, how soon should we do this surgery? And she said, six months ago. And I remember those words and thinking, I’m the worst mom that ever lived. I waited too long. I shouldn’t have kept trying diets. Like you can imagine the arrows that were shooting through me. So, we knew that Josh would have to have his colon removed. That is four feet. The large intestine is four feet long, and he would have something called a J pouch, which is miraculous. It’s only been around for 20 years. And it substitutes for your large intestine. It’s a lot smaller. So, use your imagination. You have to use the bathroom more often when you have this.
So we knew that this would totally change Joshua’s life, but it would also save his life. He was going to die if we didn’t do this. So, he had to fast on Thanksgiving day. At the time, that felt like the meanest thing in the world. You can’t eat when everybody on the planet is celebrating food that day, you know? And we were in a hotel, a mile from Duke University and just, I remember my dad telling the goofiest stories because he was trying to keep us afloat.
I don’t know how Josh survived. That’s how sick he was that night. But he had the surgery, it was grueling. It was horrible. I have seen things that I don’t ever want to see again, but through it all God was with us. And my son was so brave. He had his moments, but he didn’t lose his faith. He trusted God, even when the surgeon said, look, this typically takes three surgeries, but it can be done in two. And Josh just kept believing. Mom, it’s going to be two. It’s going to be two. And it turned out Dr. Thacker did it in two. And when she walked into Joshua’s hospital room, he looked at her and he said, thank you for saving my life. Dr. Thacker, isn’t a warm and fuzzy person, but I could see her tearing up, and I’ll never forget that moment. I wasn’t prepared for the gaping hole that was in my son’s stomach. I didn’t realize what the healing process would be like. And when I saw it for the first time, I remember I was holding a Starbucks coffee, and it was the first time I really wanted to run screaming from the room, but I collected myself because that’s what moms do.
And I thought we’re going to call this the gunshot wound. We’re going to cool it up. And that’s what we did. And I watched my husband for six weeks, fill that hole with gauze every day, until that wound closed. And I remember thinking, God, you sent Will. You knew that will could do this, cause I couldn’t. It took a long time for Josh to get well, but I remember the first time he ate a bagel when he first ate a Chick-fil-A sandwich, and I remember the joy that just lit up his face. And I remember when the meat started coming back on his bones, when he could do other things, rather than watch Thor of Ragnar rock, please. I never want to see that movie again. It was on 24 7, you know, and I just, I remember when he was literally coming back to life, it reminded me when he was so sick.
And back to the future, there’s the picture that fades and you see like Michael J. Fox and the people and it’s being, that’s what it felt like. And it felt like the picture was coming back together. Again, he was coming back, he was raised from the dead. So, that was, that was just absolutely incredible. And to this day, there’s not a day that goes by that.
I go look at him, he’s, you know, a cashier at QFC. He brightens everybody’s day. He is a blessing and he has empathy for the people who are battling cancer and who lose spouses, at the grocery store, because he’s gone through so much. And now we have a Thanksgiving tradition. Every Thanksgiving morning, we eat cinnamon rolls because we can.
And so at the time when I thought it was so mean that Josh had to fast on Thanksgiving day, every Thanksgiving has become a reminder that Josh can eat and that Josh is well, and that’s what God does. He works everything out for our good and his glory. And when you’re in the midst of it, when you’re in your, I have to fast through Thanksgiving day season, he never leaves you.
I told Josh before he went into surgery, that we were going to have a scripture to take in there with us. We were going into battle. And together we chose Philippians 4:13 following his first surgery, the nurse assistant walked in, and what do you think was tattooed on his arm? Philippians 4:13. I knew God was in that room with us.
Narrator: For someone that doesn’t know Philippians 4:13 by heart….
Erica Parkerson: Yes, it is, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Narrator: That’s really a theme throughout your whole life.
Erica Parkerson: It is. It’s always been one of my favorite verses and it’s true. Like nothing, nothing I’ve done has been without his help and his love, and him telling me that everything’s going to be okay. And he’s always sent help.
There were unspeakable things that I saw through Josh’s journey. And I know that God showed up even in the bathroom. Maybe at the time, we couldn’t feel it so much, but I look back and I know he was there. He was holding us up. And then to watch Josh live out Philippians 4:13, to see him wearing a bag. Going to school. Not giving up. Having a sense of humor about it.
He named his IV, roly poly, that kind of stuff. And during his senior year of high school, he stood up in front of all of his peers and shared his story. That it was his faith, his family, and his sense of humor that got him through. I mean, that takes guts. That’s Philippians 4:13. Right? And so, yes, I prayed that Philippians 4:13 is my legacy for my kids. That would be my greatest wish because it certainly has been a theme for my life. Absolutely.
Narrator: And then another thing, whether you have radio or not, you love to give little tangible encouragements to everyone around you. So yes, it’s on the air, but it’s also off the air. I remember when I first met you and that you had, you were moving into a new house, so you had no couch, no furniture. You had nothing, but you said, come see my gifts closet. And you opened a door and in it, you were beginning to fill it with treasures that you were going to mail back to your niece, and then eventually nephew, he wasn’t born yet. But every place you go, you have eyes looking for things that are going to brighten someone else’s day. And before you even put furniture in your home, you are collecting gifts to bless others.
Erica Parkerson: Thank you. I, that means a lot that you remember that and that you notice that I, um, I learned that from my mom. My mom’s a giver and she’s got this huge heart to encourage people. And I just watched that my whole life. She’s the kind of person that says to the cashier. She’s buying a pack of gum. Do you want a piece of gum? So I just, I picked that up, I guess. I don’t know, but it’s a joy to do that.
Narrator: It just flows through you so naturally you don’t even think about it. It’s just, it’s just, is. There’s not enough post-its in the world to be able to handle the amount of encouraging notes you want to leave for people.
Erica Parkerson: You are so sweet by the way, I have a Caffe Ladro…
Narrator: Erica had just handed me a Caffe Ladro gift certificate because she knows. Oh, my word. That’s so funny. Um, Erica, thank you for sharing your story with us today. Any parting words or another verse that you want to leave? Anybody listening to this with?
Erica Parkerson: Yeah, definitely. God hasn’t forgotten you. No matter what you’re going through right now. You know, when you want to remember something, you might write it on a post-it note or you might even write it on your hand in Sharpie. And I feel like all of us were looking for the answer in life. And I think about Isaiah 49:16, which is one of my favorite verses. Like our names, your name, my name, they are engraved on God’s hand. He can’t possibly ever forget us. So, whatever situation you find yourself in, and you’re going no way, I there’s no way out. There’s no way through. He will not forget you. He is with you. I’ve always prayed, God, be with that person. If you hear heartbreaking news, God, please… no he’s already there. My new prayer and this is going to be for the rest of my life is God make them aware of your presence and your nearness.
And that’s my prayer for everybody. I love. And some days for myself,
Narrator: We are telling these stories of transformation so you can know and understand the power of Jesus in your own life. If you’d like to learn more about Jesus, and how he can bring you back to life, visit us at onpurposely.com/whoisjesus. You can follow Brought Back to Life on apple podcasts, iHeart radio or wherever you’re listening right now.
Thanks for listening to Brought Back to Life from Purposely.