“It has been 5 years since I began Heroic Leadership Institute (HLI) at Duluth Vineyard. I was 19 years old and had just completed my Freshman year of college. I decided to attend HLI less than a month before it began which meant a quick transition and move to Duluth, MN. Walking in I had few expectations. Honestly, I remember being really excited about the people I was going to be experiencing this with. I imagined these people becoming some of my best friends, people who I could be raw and honest with.

5 years later I still find myself reflecting back to that time of my life. We were constantly moving, being challenged in every aspect of life, and running on lots of coffee. Some of those things haven’t changed…for instance coffee is a must and I find myself being challenged in every aspect of my life on a weekly basis. But, HLI instilled practices and memories within me that have remained within my heart as I have lived the “post HLI life” for the last 5 years.

Now, many of you may be wondering why in the world my title for this post is “Brownies”…and others of you may not have even noticed I had a title at all. When I am asked to share a story of how HLI impacted my life I always end up telling the brownie story. I felt it was fitting to share it here because it is an experience I have carried with me over the years, and an experience that Jesus has used to speak truth and guidance every time I walk into something new.

September 2013, my first month of HLI, my classmates and I woke up early on a Saturday morning to attend a workshop on prophecy taught by the one and only Brenda Gatlin. I sat in the lobby of Duluth Vineyard Church drinking my coffee while anxious thoughts tormented my mind. Brenda was teaching and everyone in attendance was engaged and interested and all I could think of was that she was going to have us practice prophecy. I was terrified. I was right, towards the end we began to practice, but to my relief we did it as a group instead of one on one. Brenda had asked a couple of people from the prayer team to be present in case something came up for a person and they needed extra prayer.

Jenna, a classmate and dear friend of mine, stood up and said that she had a picture of brownies. She wasn’t sure who the picture was for or even what it meant, but she felt compelled to share it. I knew immediately the picture was meant for me, and I had no idea why. After a couple minutes of convincing myself to go to Judy, a sweet mentor of mine who was part of the prayer team that day, I stood up to go and sit next to her.

I explained to Judy that I felt the picture was for me but didn’t know what it meant. We began to pray. We sat there quietly and Judy began to speak these words over me, she said the brownies represented a process. In order to receive a delicious warm gooey brownie a person first needs to buy the ingredients, combine and mix them together, put them in a pan, preheat the oven, wait for them to bake, wash the dishes while they cool off, and after all that you get to enjoy the brownie. But if you leave out one step you wouldn’t have the brownie and sometimes one step takes longer than the others, sometimes your out of an ingredient and you need to run to the store; each stage in essential and none can be skipped.

Judy then began to express that she felt the Lord was pressing upon her heart that I was entering a long process and as much as I wanted to get to the end with the delicious brownie I first needed to embrace the process and trust Him while in it. As she spoke these words I knew they were true and I walked away that day terrified of embracing the process.

Throughout HLI I would come up against many road blocks and Judy would remind me of the brownies. After leaving HLI my journey felt like I was in a rubber raft in the middle of a choppy ocean. I moved a lot, changed my mind constantly, doubted, panicked, experienced trauma, and yet every time I was reminded of brownies. Every time I knew that Jesus never wanted the bad, trauma, and heartbreak, and He never left the process. He walked with me every step, He brought peace into each step, peace that shouldn’t make sense which meant it could only come from Him.

I recently accepted an incredible dream job as a pastor of a local church in Minnesota. A job that I have dreamed about for 5 years since being in HLI, and I see where I want to be not just in my job but in my life and I hear Jesus gently whispering “brownies” to me when I begin to feel anxious, angry, or discontent. What I have discovered and continually need to be reminded of is that it isn’t always about getting to the end of a process or stage of life. Jesus has something for me and for you in each step; small and big victories, miracles, people, and so much more that would be missed if we didn’t take the time to fully embrace each step. Enjoy the process because when following Jesus there is a glorious delicious “brownie” waiting for you, a gift that only Jesus can give.”

—Kylie Erickson