mayfair & valencia

 I.

A former coworker of mine told me once that I wouldn't truly know who I was until I turned 25. She would go on and on about 25 being the magic number, as if to say I would wake up one day and all of the pieces would have fallen into place. I shrugged her words off like an itchy sweater, attempting to breathe in patience and remember that some of the most brilliant people I have ever known are twice or even three times my own age and still figuring out who they are in a world where not all the pieces seem to fit.

Needless to say, I didn't feel any different when I woke up on my birthday this year. There was no shift in the cosmos to mark the occasion by jolting me into a sense of belonging in my own skin. I didn't feel any more secure than I had the day before.

Actually, by the time my head hit the pillow, I felt as though the rug had been pulled out from under me. What had begun as a strange and uncomfortable few days was starting to feel more like a strange and uncomfortable month for me and God. As the days progressed, I began to feel more and more as though something was getting in the way, but I didn't have the slightest idea how to go about naming it.

II.

In her prayer journal, Flannery O'Connor writes about worrying that her own shadow will grow so large that she will no longer be able to see God. She writes that she cannot love God the way that she wants to. I chewed on these words for a long time, but didn't dare let anyone else into my shared fear. I have battled long and hard against that kind of deep vulnerability.

The truth is, I've been content with giving breadcrumbs. I want you to believe in my rehearsed authenticity. I want you to applaud my filtered version of honesty and marvel at how even my wrecks and insecurities are graceful and worthy of awe and envy. The effort to build this image, this platform, overwhelms my thoughts. Everything I say and do is motivated by the hope that you'll keep following my breadcrumb trail.

What's more, I do the same thing with God. And I cross my fingers in hopes that no one will realize how desperately lost I feel. Its all fun and games until you wake up one day and realize that living lost just doesn't cut it anymore, and that in the end, all your attempts to fill the holes and numb the pain have just been miserable failures.

III.

Lately, I've spent a lot of nights sitting cross legged on the floor. There have been tears for days, as I have slowly started to give up the fight. I simply asked God to search me, to reveal this ill identified chasm between us. I'm learning that God isn't one to back down from a challenge, because as soon as I prayed it, I wanted to take the words back. I prayed and retracted and prayed and retracted: search me, but don't look too hard; show me, but don't make me look for too long.

I would turn everything off in an effort to clear my mind and pray, but I could never make it work for more than a few minutes at a time before once again craving some form of entertainment -- something mindless to distract me from what was brewing inside me.

IV.

On my birthday, a favorite blogger of mine hosted a writing webinar. A handful of people were live Tweeting as it went on, and when I pulled up my feed, this word knocked the breath out of me:

if we want to be found, we have to be honest about where we are. 

There was nothing magical about turning 25. The cosmos didn't shift, but something in my heart did. I heard God whisper. I know you want to be found. 

So here I am: trying unfiltered honesty on for size, begging that no one walk away. And these days, my prayers sound something like this:

Lord, I want to be found. Help me to want you more. Help me to care less about building an image for myself and more about the image that you have already graced me with. Help me to find security in you, and not in hollow attempts to puff myself up. Keep me small. Keep me grateful. 

As Flannery said, it would be the greatest bliss. 

So be it.

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 Sending Prayer

falls

{For K+K, who have been the very hands and feet of Jesus to C and I since day one. We love you more than these words could express.}

I knew in the pit of my stomach when you told us you wanted to have dinner that you had something you needed to say, and I tried to shake off the feeling that the news was going to be bad. And when you announced you were leaving five minutes into pizza, my heart plummeted.

The truth is, I have never been good at sending, as it has always felt like more of a goodbye and less of a see you later. But then, I've always been a worst case scenario thinker, so that shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone. And believe me when I say that I am something of a champion at grieving in these situations. As soon as your car pulled away, I was reduced to a puddle, repeating that I knew it, I just knew it, and I don't want you to go.

There is nothing I love more than what God has created here, among our friends -- our brothers and sisters who have grown to feel like just that. And all at once, last night around our dinner table, there was a moment where everything seemed to just stop. And I thought back to the hilarious first meeting, the Tuesday night when we were all seated in a circle in the foyer talking about perseverance, the car ride across town when we invited people to come to church, the time you filled up our gas tank, finally getting baptized, the softball games, the worship. Your friendship has changed me, grown me, made me so much better.

And now, you've been called away, called to take Christ into uncharted hearts in a new place. While it hurts to see you leave, I know (what feels like) our loss is great gain for the people God has placed in your path. And in the midst of grief and tears, a promise was recalled to my mind: He who begins the work will be faithful to complete it. He knows the plans he has for us.

As you go, there will be a deluge of emotion -- an overflow of the tears and excitement that we are already beginning to feel as we anticipate your absence. Know this: even though my heart hurts to see you go, it beats for the vision God has given you, and I could not be more excited to see how your future unfolds. So I offer this prayer, the simplest and yet the most effective means I have to bless you as we prepare to send you on your next leg of the race.

When there is uncertainty, may you be rooted in and reminded of the promises of a faithful God.

When you feel as though you lack direction, may you remember that He goes before you.

When there is need, may you not grow anxious, but trust that the Lord will provide.

When you feel inadequate, may you be strengthened by the knowledge that you are fully equipped.

When you feel restless, may your soul find rest in the Lord.

May you continue to let your light shine brightly, as an example for all believers and as ambassadors for Christ.

May joy and peace and hope be ever overflowing as you trust Him with all of your heart,

and may you always find His grace to be sufficient.

In the name of Jesus, so be it.