Friend, if I haven’t already, I wish I was sitting across from you to tell you this.
Scratch that. I wish we were sitting next to each other, my head resting in the crevice between your jaw-line and shoulder on the same side of the booth. Fingers intertwined. That’s where I wish we were.
I wish you could see me pause, as I think about my word choice and witness the deep line in my forehead form when I cannot figure out the proper phrasing. You’d probably see the coloring of my blue top darken from cobalt to navy beneath my armpits because while I have convinced my mind and heart I am not nervous nor anxious, I haven’t figured out how to get my body to believe that, as well. It also be may confusing for you though, as I speak with a smile on my face and a steadiness in my voice, as I believe I’ve been given full peace to walk in my Father’s will.
However, since we cannot be together, in person or at my favorite coffee and wine bar in this moment (get you a café who can do both), I have resorted to this for the public announcement route. This is probably overdue and for that I apologize, but I am also extremely grateful to have had time and space to process and cry and celebrate.
I am moving to Bulgaria for the next year!
This is the moment that we would either clink coffee mugs or you would ask me where Bulgaria is . . . usually one of the two happens.
You may already know this or this might be completely new news to you (my bad), but my hope is over the course of the past few months I’ve been able to tell you in person or over the phone so you could hear it from me-me and not internet-me. I have gone back and forth on the best way to tell people that you are leaving the country for a year. While Instagram announcements are extremely helpful for gathering everyone up, saying it once, and then dropping the mic, I think they tend to be more self-glorifying than God-glorifying – so I wanted to add on a bit.
My hope in writing this is that my Father, who first and forever most-deeply has loved me, is glorified through the story and mess of a broken and beloved 22 year-old.
When I was 19 and had just finished my sophomore year of college, I got my dream internship at a firm on Wall Street. Some of my most vivid memories from college are of that night — the phone call, the dancing, the running up-and-down my sorority home’s hallway, and the euphoric feeling of man, maybe I’ve made it.
I moved to New York that summer and did my finance thing and, well, didn’t really enjoy it as much as I told people I did. I forgot my dad’s birthday that summer because I worked late and felt sleep-deprived. I liked a boy that summer that I couldn’t communicate well with. I had a friend who needed counsel that I couldn’t provide for. It took the Lord giving me everything I thought I wanted, to realize that it wasn’t in fact what I wanted. At all.
This is a lesson the Lord has taught me and retaught me the past several years. That while I have desired a certain career, longed for a particular boyfriend, and waited for specific silkiness to suddenly appear in my coarse hair, those things weren’t what I actually wanted in the first place. I often get caught up in forgetting the differences between my disease and my symptoms — my disease being my Sin and my separation from Love, and my symptoms being, well, everything else I fill that canyon-gap with.
For the last few months I have been in my hometown of suburban Ohio and have been filled to the brim, chalked-full of morning coffee dates with my sister, nights spent binge-watching Law & Order SVU, runs around my Alma Mater, and evenings reminiscing at breweries with friends. I’ve gotten the simplest days and the fullest moments in one.
A fullness that I’m excited to take with me. The gift I have in living in Bulgaria next year is one that brings me to my knees in praise. I have looked at the Lord so many times the last few months asking why He chose me, thanking Him but still failing to understand how someone so unworthy gets such a good gift. And in the spaces where I have wondered and wandered, He has reminded me that I already have everything I need.
As I wait for the package to arrive, He has shown me that the delivery date has passed.
I don’t feel qualified to have the privilege to go, and I do not know if I’ll feel prepared when my flight leaves in a couple weeks, but I feel free. You see, while there were tears of happiness when the email emerged in my inbox that I got to go, there were also tears of fear.
While I’m in Bulgaria, my sister will be walking through her freshman year of college. Some of my best friends will be changing their last names. There will be celebrations, which also means there will be tragedies that I’ll miss and cannot plan ahead for. I won’t be there when my dad crosses the finish line to his first marathon in the last five years, and if I had it my way, I’d be crossing it with him. But, like everything in life, there’s an opportunity cost.
I probably will not be Soph’s go-to phone call next year when her first college crisis strikes. If the inability to physically be there doesn’t prohibit it, the seven-hour time difference probably will. I got sad thinking about the wedding pictures that will be posted that I want to be in, the moments where my friends commit to another human for the rest of their lives.
As I began to look at what I wouldn’t be able to witness live, the Lord reminded me of my name.
Not needed, not in-demand. Rather chosen. He has chose me.
I write this feeling like the most fortunate woman in the world. I do not feel this way because I have everything my heart has ever desired: that’s far from the truth. There are friends whose graves I wish didn’t have their names engraved in the stone, and there are days where I wake up feeling like I am in a physical war with the insecurity that can come with a relationship status. While my Instagram profile may glisten, my soul has not always been a mirror of that.
I believe I am the most fortunate though, because I know that I am not, in any way, shape, or form, needed. That, as much as I like to convince myself I am, the Lord does not, and has not ever needed me. He deeply wants me, desires me, longs for my voice when I run away, as a good Father and great Husband would, but I have no burden from believing that the salvation of my friends and the well-being of my people are dependent on the narrow shoulders of a simple woman named Erica.
I think many of us need to be needed. It is okay to say that out loud and confess it — I get it. It is oddly pleasurable to believe that we are needed by the people around us. However, in His graciousness, the Lord has used a season where the world wants to tell me how awesome I am, for His son to whisper to me how perfectly small I am. That my life, a worthy life for my Savior, is indeed a vapor, a blip on the radar of eternity.
So, friends, I am moving to Bulgaria. With a couple suitcases and mediocre knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet, I get to live my dream. I will be teaching high school English as a Fulbright scholar at Atanas Burov School of Economics and Administration. I am ecstatic. I will be writing about it here, and I am floored for the adventure. I am also excited for each of you: for the freshman starting college — my heart is a bit envious knowing the joy that will come during the next four years, for the new Mom endeavoring into sleepless nights, for the 20-something man shopping for engagement rings and learning what clarity means, and for each of my friends beginning their careers, wearing wedding bands, moving to the big city, fundraising for a role in ministry, realizing you can no longer go out every night, and venturing to the post-grad world — I am with you. How sweet it is to be held in the same space by the same Father, regardless of the place.
I believe we are each living the dream. Every single day. A beautiful, love-stuffed and therefore oxygen-less dream of being affectionately and unfathomably desired by the Fullness of life itself. A dream of freedom. The freedom of not being needed, but the honor of being desired. What a privilege it is to walk this earth. From Cincinnati to Tuscaloosa to New York to Boston to Bulgaria, I stand with each of you always.
*This site, E (ericaboden.wordpress.com), is not an official Fulbright Program site. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of its author and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.