The atrophy and the harvest.

If I could only make use of one word to describe my feelings and thoughts over the past few months, it would be hungry. Like the kind of hungry you get when you've skipped lunch and now can't decide what you want for dinner because each idea sounds more enticing than the last.

It started back in April, when my husband announced that he wanted to begin looking for a new place to live. In the beginning, I tried to shake the nagging thought that if I just had enough faith, a door would open for us to return to the town where we lived in college -- where we still have close friends and faithfully attend church. I knew in my heart of hearts that it was an unlikely scenario, but I hoped for it anyway, in spite of the overwhelming odds. Eventually, I even became frustrated with God, who seemed to hide away in silent ignorance of my longing.

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At the same time as we were searching for a new place to live, I was reading Shauna Niequist's book Bittersweet. Its the kind of book that you could easily devour in a single lazy afternoon, but it is so good that you would never want to. I made her words last for three whole weeks, carefully counting each one and considering the lesson it wanted to teach me. I turned the words over like stones, feeling their weight in my palms.

I've never been good at living in the bittersweet tension of right here and right now. I live in haste -- craving God's plan for tomorrow, and ignoring the plan that he has for today.

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The summer of 2011, I fell and broke my leg while working at a camp at college. I knew the instant it happened that it was bad, and I remember the doctor telling me, with shockingly poor bedside manner, just how bad it was. The bone was broken clean through just above my ankle, which had been dislocated, and I had fractured a bone in my foot.

The group of fellow leaders prayed for healing, softly laying hands on my pitifully casted limb. But there was no instantaneous healing. Instead, there was surgery and physical therapy. As painful as the physical injury was, some instances of vulnerability were even more so. And I remember the day when a friend nervously told me that he questioned whether or not the lack of healing was due to his own lack of faith.

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When I was preparing to graduate from college, I had this fear that the school would find a reason to withhold my diploma. I imagined them combing my academic file with a fine toothed comb, in search of even the smallest setback. I'm sorry, we cannot let you graduate, they would say. You have a seven cent fine in the library. Or worse, we recalculated the points for your statistics final, and you did not pass the course. I was considering all the scenarios, even as my class practiced entering the chapel, rising and being seated on cue. My gut lurched at the thought of the past four years of blood, sweat, and tears being for naught.

And now, looking back, I wonder. Is this really how I view God? Like some distant registrar, combing through a file in search of failure? Waiting until the last possible moment, when all my hopes are up, to let me know I still owe him?

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When I finally took the moon boot off of my newly healed leg, half of my calf muscle had all but disappeared. I think it was Danielle LaPorte who talked about how the desire muscle can atrophy. It was one of those concepts that left me short of breath, realizing that my dreams are chilling out on the back burner, their consistency being morphed into that of day old oatmeal.

I've talked a lot about my dreams lately, but I haven't been terribly specific. I'm also not very explicit about my goals -- mostly because accountability makes me squeamish, and the last thing I want to do is disappoint. I'm afraid of what will happen if the engine stalls. So for the most part, I settle for simply wishing things were different.

I do this with God, too. I want him, but at the same time, I'm afraid to want him. I echo Flannery O'Connor's prayer, dear God, I cannot love thee the way I want. 

Recently, I threw my prayer journal across my bedroom in a fit of frustration. I wanted to get rid of it as quickly as possible after coming to the incredibly painful realization that I have been holding back. There were so many things I was unable to scribble out onto the pages that night. But how on earth do I even begin to explain to God just how hungry I am --  and how I'm ashamed to admit that I've asked him just to throw me a bone instead of going hard after the whole harvest?

I want to know his wild thoughts, to walk in ways that are higher than my own. I want the green pastures.

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I've always been mesmerized by other people's pastures. The days and weeks have quickly turned into months and years as I have fought to contort myself, make myself look more like them so maybe I could snatch a piece of their harvest. I'm always forgetting the truth: my failed attempts to be other people are of no use; he just wants me: my dreams, my wrecks, my fears of being small, my willfulness, my heart. 

All this time, I've feared specificity. I've always thought that if I'm too specific, I probably won't find exactly what I want. But James says that we do not have because we do not ask. The simplicity of grace always leaves me breathless, wanting more.

So I prepare to break up the hardened ground, in hopes that the seeds find good soil.

A place to lay my heart.

March 12, 2015, 4 31 PM   erinsalmon   VSCO Grid Its after two a.m. now -- my house is finally clean, and John Waller is flooding through my headphones. I've never been good at waiting, and I think God must know this about me, because he continually makes me practice. I've always thought it easy to sense him moving when things are happening. I felt him moving when Kevin and Katie were called to minister in a different state. I knew he was near when I learned of the death of David and Jessica's baby boy. I sensed his presence so strongly when I spoke vows two summers ago.

But he doesn't seem so close on an idle Thursday night filled up by laundry and dishes and scrubbing the ring around the bathtub. Real estate agents are coming to look at our house tomorrow -- our landlady has decided she wants to sell, and we do not want to buy -- ergo, we must begin looking for another place to rent. But the truth is, our hearts are not here. Our hearts ache for a town two counties over: the city where we went to college, cultivated deeply rooted friendships, fell in love, and where we still attend church. The Lord was faithful to provide this little house, right in the middle of town. He was faithful to open doors for our jobs. But the door to return to Toccoa remains closed, for now.

We're in the bittersweet balance of in between: trusting that the Lord has us where he wants us today, and at the same time, longing for the hope of his plan for tomorrow. Sometimes, it just seems like too much to cope with. I've busied myself, hardened my heart in frustration at times. I've struggled with loneliness like never before. At my worst, I've given in to the thought that this season is devoid of purpose -- that God is just being mean for the sake of it, and thank you but no thank you, God, I don't think I could possibly take anything of value away from this, so you can just quit while you're behind, because this is not at all what I had in mind. 

It seems like life is just piling up, and I've got a lot of questions -- but at the end of the day, it boils down to the basics: who am I, and what am I called to?

I know in my heart of hearts that he isn't hiding -- I've just been avoiding him. It isn't something I'm particularly proud to admit, but there it is. I'm broken, sick and tired of eating manna in the wilderness. I don't want to pray, don't want to want anymore because the wanting is just too painful. Patience is a pill I have vehemently refused.

I reached something of a crossroads over dinner tonight. Earlier in the night, Craig admitted that he felt like a failure. I couldn't help but echo the sentiment for myself. And oh how the invisible dam behind my eyelids struggled to contain the surge of hot liquid salt. I told him that it seemed like the right time to pray -- time to remember that peace is not a place on the map, but the person of Christ, who desires to flood the here and now with glory. He invites us to cast our cares on him, because he cares for us. He is our refuge.

So I lift my eyes once more, and whisper a prayer for consolation that brings forth joy, a prayer that all else would fade away in the light of his goodness. I'm confident that I will see his goodness, even in this place.

A reminder on the days when I don't feel ready.

At twenty-three years old, I had barely even been to an amusement park when the six year old brother spotted a carnival parked behind the mall. I am no adrenaline junkie, and besides, my parents always said those things were a waste of money anyway. But C's parents are slightly more spontaneous than mine, so we climbed the hill to the parking lot, paid what was admittedly a lot of money, and earned our wrist bands. I swallowed hard. The first ride was more or less a gigantic swing that lifted us side to side at dizzying speeds that made me think that my stomach was going to fall out of any number of orifices. I thought, surely our brother will be scared, surely it will be too fast and too high. But he loved every last minute of it. By the time the ride had slowed to a stop, he was ready, hungry for more. I still remember how my shoes seemed to be stuck to the ground, be it from the spilled cola or my anxiety, and how all the sudden I was falling on my face to worship the God who made the sturdy earth beneath me.

Then there was the time that I boldly announced to C that I wanted to go zip lining for our anniversary this year, and before I could grab the words and stuff them back in, he had already purchased a canopy tour. Even though we were never that high off the ground, the walk up to the first platform had me thinking that I had made a huge mistake.

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I ended up going on every single ride at the carnival. If you asked, I would tell you that I just didn't want to be shown up by a fearless six year old, but deep down, I think I was desperate to just let go. What amazing, life altering, kingdom expanding, chain breaking things could happen if I just learned to let go?

Because the truth is, we can never experience true freedom when our anxious feet are cemented to the platform, refusing to jump. We won't ever feel like we can do the impossible, if we're clinging for dear life to what feels easy and comfortable. If I were to get really honest, I think most days I'm not sure if I can trust God to be the harness. Most days, I don't think letting go will really accomplish anything.

But scripture is literally overflowing with the testimonies of what God can do when we get ready and let go: Ephesians says that He is able to do immeasurably more than what we can ask or imagine.

For this girl who likes things to be easily controlled and measured and managed, letting go seems crazy, even irresponsible. But somewhere deep inside, I'm ready. I'm ready to encounter life outside my often smothering boundaries with a God who is absolutely boundless, ready for my story to become His love letter, ready to be changed.

I'm ready to feel His wind in my hair and soar.

Linking up with Kate and the Five Minute Friday girls today. 

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in search of golden things:

I have been silent here for what feels like forever. There have been a few false starts: halfhearted posts that sit idly in my drafts folder, paragraphs written and rewritten a hundred times, only to be given up on in the end. I did something strange this morning: I turned the radio off for my commute to work. I sit here physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually exhausted. But the truth is, I think underneath all the exhaustion is the bitter fear of silence and stillness. White space intimidates me, and I hasten to fill it. I have said yes to too many things over the past few weeks, and in the process of the seemingly unending yes, I have said no to my husband, my home, and my health. I had a panic attack recently, and pretty much live in fear of having another one. Last night, my drive home was spent in sniveling tears. I have been packing heavy for too long, allowing each person, each snide social media post, each frustrating situation to take up residence in my heart. I wonder what this is, this stark inability to let things simply roll off my back.

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset The rain is falling outside my open window, speeding cars humming and splashing as they travel up and down Grant Street, and this is the first silent moment I have had in ages, and what do I want but to turn on the music, check Facebook, browse for something new to occupy. I can only take so much silence, so much stillness, before I begin to get antsy. I start to twiddle my thumbs and shift uncomfortably in my chair, my stomach uneasy, hanging in the balance between craving the quiet and fearing it.

I think, I must be doing something, must be completing something, must be meeting with someone, answering someone's call. But the phone sits quiet on my desk, and deep down inside, I secretly dread the ring. I dread someone else needing another answer, blaming me for another problem, and I can't help but take responsibility.

I stare at the wall, painted deep red and scarred from too many nails, and I think of all the things that have been nailed to the deep red walls of my heart. I think about the possibility of being sick from all of this, and how the only sure antidote to sickness is worship. Worship is the only anti-venom when the snake slithers.

We worship by building the kingdom through the passions Creator God infused in our cells before the foundation of the world. We worship by magnifying His light in the things that bring joy to our hearts: the things that give life.

Sometimes its hard to find any semblance of life when the whole world seems stormy gray. I search for the signs, and my mind wanders to the pink tickle of mimosa flowers, the new grass sprouting in our front yard that began as the tiniest of seeds poured out of our hands, and I remember that we are made the same way: to push up through the black layers of earth and respond to the rain with one brave bloom, and another, and another, until all has come alive.

There comes a time when we must reevaluate the yes and the no, a time to return to that which renews after spending so much time in the desert.

Hence this blog.

Linking up with Lisa Jo Baker and a host of other brave and beautiful women for Five Minute Friday.

When You Know its Time to Change Your Mantra

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Five of us women piled laughing into her great big sports utility vehicle. We had been in training together for four weeks, the latest of which brought us to the hustle and chaos of the city. We had taken turns driving each day to a different lunch destination, and as we pulled into the narrow space, I jokingly admitted that I would be afraid to drive such a massive car.

And then it happened.

The one in the front seat turned to me and said “you’ve got to stop saying you’re afraid.”

Ouch. Barely a month after meeting me, she speaks these words. And I wonder how many times a week — a day, even — I say that I am afraid. I know that I am an anxious person, but do I really let that anxiety overflow from my heart and through my lips often enough for her to pick up on it so quickly? I sit quiet though lunch, embarrassed and pondering.

Read more over at (in)courage

When the world threatens to fall apart.

It occurs to me that I have barely stopped to breathe in the past ten months. And now that I've paused to write, my whole essence heaves a sigh. They say that transitions, even happy ones, cause turmoil in our systems. We have to grieve when we move from one chapter to the next. Turning the pages can be traumatic. Because sometimes, you're catapulted like a rag doll. Other times, you have to place your hand on the doorknob of change and walk through, one baby step at a time. And I don't know which one is more frightening. Its no big secret that life moves so much faster than we want it to.

My last semester of college, I juggled twenty-one hours worth of college classes that included an internship. In February, I got engaged. In April, I got hit with a fourteen hundred dollar bill on my student account and was afraid to tell my dad about it. I graduated in May and got married in June. At one point during the months since, I worked myself into a ridiculous state thinking I was pregnant, despite routinely taking my birth control pills. Because Craig works full time, I spent my days alone for the most part, in search of my own employment, and in late September, I finally heard back from one of my prospects. I got my first driver's license at nearly twenty-three years old. And I now work as a case manager for the Division of Family and Children's Services.

It has most certainly been a year of transitions. And looking back, I have been scared to death throughout the overwhelming majority of it.

There was a day at the tail end of summer that I told my friend Mat that I spent my days paralyzed by anxiety. I don't think I had ever been so matter of fact about it as I was that day. We were in the middle of the woods, hiking down towards the river, and I could barely look up the entire time for fear I would step on a snake.

I'm not proud of my anxiety. It is the most gruesome limitation.

I can only describe it this way: no matter how many storms you've weathered, anxiety is constantly telling you that the next one will be different; the next storm will be the one to steal away your soul. No matter how many times that person has been sympathetic to your needs, loved you through successes and failures, the next one will be the one to strip away that faithfulness.The world, your world, is constantly threatening to fall apart.

Fear shrinks the heart.

Emily Freeman talks about how we tend to glorify people who appear to have it all together, and I think she's right. I have spent the past ten months bracing myself at every turn, gripping my life and trying like hell to keep things together.

The past ten months have taught me that I don't have to keep it together in my own strength.  They have reinforced the heart-knowledge that I do not have to strive.

Colossians says He is before all things, and in Him, all things hold together. Romans says He is working all things together for my good. Psalms says He watches and protects me tirelessly, that He is my keeper. It assures me that when I am faithful to follow where He leads, that He will enlarge my heart.

Even when it seems like the world is threatening to fall apart. I am held together. 

Bob Goff says our actions should betray our uncertainty. And sometimes the most difficult action is simply choosing to fill our lungs with oxygen again.