Five Steps Behind

All my life, I’ve been the girl with a plan. By the age of eight, I already knew everything I wanted out of life. I used to feel sorry for people who didn’t feel that certainty early on—people who stand at their high school graduations with no answer to the question of what they plan to do with their lives.

Now I feel sorry for the people who do have an answer—the people who set out to do everything they’ve planned to do since they were eight years old only to find out it wasn’t what they wanted after all. The people who spend all their lives focused on the goal and miss the everyday miracles that take place around them.

I was that girl.

I am that girl.

And now, I’m finally learning not to be.

This year has been one of transition for me, and I had hoped it wouldn’t take the entirety of a year for me to find my purpose for this season of my life. But alas, December has come and I’m still hoping, still searching for direction.

Last night, I finally gave voice to my fear that this may be exactly where God wants me right now. Like, what if He actually took me seriously when I told Him I want to be a candle that shines alone in the dark? What if the whole time I’m tugging at my hair in frustration, God is sitting up there in heaven saying, “Sorry, sweetheart, but you asked for this”?

I feel like the rug has been ripped out from under my feet and I’m looking at the world from a whole new vantage point (on my back, on the floor). And while, it’s a painful thing, it’s also a surprising beautiful thing. Because in all the years I’ve been staring straight ahead, I’ve never noticed the intricacies of the ceiling pattern before.

Maybe God just wanted me to stop and marvel at the ceiling for a change.

I can hear Him now, whispering in my ear, “Little one, little one, why are you always five steps ahead when I’m lingering five steps behind?”

Over the past few years, I’ve talked a lot about embracing the moments and living the journey, but it’s not because I’m particularly good at that; it’s because it’s something I constantly struggle to do.

Last year was extremely hard for me. God stretched and challenged and broke me in ways I’d never been broken before. I guess you could say I was hoping this year would be easier. It was, but it wasn’t. Because, honestly, I don’t remember a thing.

I was too busy staring ahead, plodding forward, just trying to get on to the next big thing.

And I missed it.

I missed this year.

And I’m sorry it took me until December to finally notice the ceiling tiles.

So, while I’m not one for new year resolutions, my goal for 2015 is simply to live it. To take this girl who walks too fast for automatic doors, and make her slow down and admire the simple things.

Because I’ve spent too much of my life trying to stay five steps ahead, and I’ve missed out on so many things.

From now on, I hope to be found five steps behind, lingering over the simple masterpieces of life.

Absence and Other Tangible Things

“Absence has a presence, sometimes, and that was what she felt. Absence like crushed-dead grass where something has been and is no longer. Absence where a thread has been ripped, ragged, from a tapestry, leaving a gap that can never be mended.

“That was all she felt.”

When I first read those words in the midst of Laini Taylor’s Dreams of Gods and Monsters, they jolted me from the story as I realized, yes, this is a thing. A thing I have never heard described so aptly or beautifully.

Absence has a presence, sometimes. I’ve experienced it throughout the course of my life. Dying dreams, crushed hopes, and insufferable loss steal everything and yet leave something with you.

Absence. A great, gaping absence.

Words like these sing to me, making their way into my journals quite often. Maybe I just like the poetry of them, or maybe I have deeper issues that would require years of extensive counseling to unravel, but these are the things that come to mind when the world rocks crazy and I am at a loss. These are the words that resonate when my knees hit the carpet and the floodgates release the tears from my eyes.

But this morning, as the absence started creeping into my soul, something else crept there, too.

“All she felt,” the quote said.

But wait. That doesn’t have to be all.

But wait. There is more than absence like crushed-dead grass and tapestries ripped ragged.

As I found myself on my knees, in the beginning stages of grieving a gap that can never be mended, I remembered something…

God is, and always has been, the God who gives and takes away. He is, and always will be, good. And if He is good, then every single detail He has orchestrated in our lives is designed to bring good. Every joy. Every sorrow. Every tragedy that rips the very breath from our lungs.

The absence is intimidating. Its presence is strong. But is it all I feel?

Sometimes it is. Sometimes I find myself wanting only to sink down into the depths of it and never resurface. Sometimes it tries to swallow me up forever.

But it is not all there is.

When I turn my face toward the heavens, I find there is peace. There is grace, and joy, and hope.

And the absence? It’s a lie.

Crushed-dead grass can be renewed by the breath of the Creator. Tapestries can be remade by the hand of the Master Weaver.

Absence is not the only thing that has a presence. Not the only thing that can be felt.

Hope has a presence just as strong. Joy is a tangible thing. And grace is always there for the grasping.

Even in this. Yes, even in this.

like crushed-dead grass

 

The Best You Ever Played

It was my first piano recital. I had played the piece a hundred times, so I was familiar with it’s dark, slow rhythm. But I wasn’t familiar with the roomful of people who all had their eyes upon me.

I placed my little fingers on the keys and let the music fill the air.

When it was all over, my grandma wrapped me up in her arms and told me it was the best she had ever heard me play. She sounded sincere, but I knew she was lying. I had played the piece for her before and executed it flawlessly.

I missed two notes during my actual recital. And the perfectionist in me beat myself up for it so severely that I still remember it fifteen years later.

I’m not exactly sure why I’m remembering it now. Not sure why I’m thinking about fumbling over notes and how that relates to my life today.

I’m working my first secular job now, and it has made me think about how to live like Jesus in the world around me. Made me start wondering what to say and what to do and how to make my life add up to something that points toward heaven.

I can do a lot of thinking. And I can practice the words until they flow through my mind with all the practiced rhythm of that old recital piece.

But then I get out in the world. And everyone’s eyes are on me. And I get nervous. And my palms start to sweat. And I fumble over some of the notes.

So I’m standing there last night with my co-worker, realizing this girl needs Truth in her life, but fumbling over a way to deliver it.  Because all The Answers my mind is conjuring in that moment might sound a lot like judgement to someone who doesn’t know how much I love her wounded heart.

So I listen. And I nod. And I’m honest in those moments when I say I wouldn’t make the same decisions and, yes, her brother has legitimate concerns and she shouldn’t be upset with him for caring that deeply.

But the perfectionist in me lies in bed at night and scolds myself for doing it wrong. And as my mind rehearses all the things I could have said better, God shows up.

God walks right into my bedroom and curls up beside me and brushes the worries from my brow. God whispers in my ear and sounds a lot like my grandma when he says, “You did so well out there. That’s the best I’ve ever heard you play.”

And I say, “You must be lying. Didn’t you hear me fumbling over the notes?”

And God whispers, sure and strong, “You’ve been practicing that song forever, but it’s pretty worthless when there are no ears to hear it. But I saw you, just when you were poised above the keys. I recognized the very moment you realized a different song was needed. So, no, I’m not upset that you improvised. I’m not disappointed that you chose a different melody. And I don’t care that you fumbled over some of the notes. Because your heart was in that song, and I’m the only one who noticed.

“You did well. You did well. Yes, I do believe that’s the best you ever played.”

Bring Me That Horizon

Four years ago, I was a bright-eyed, nineteen-year-old girl walking out of a writers conference with the word platform pounding in her brain. I still hate that word just as I hated it then, but at the time it sent me to the internet searching for a place to plant my feet and find my audience. And this is what came of it—beyondwaiting.com.

I don’t like to leave things unfinished, and at times that was the only thing pulling me back to this corner of the internet. I started something, so I couldn’t just leave it there with weeks stretching between the words. I had succeeded in finding an audience, and I owed it to them to keep writing.

So I wrote. I wrote and my skill grew, and now I cringe to look back on those earlier posts because I don’t know who wrote them, but I hope it wasn’t really me. Because the girl who wrote those posts had room for a lot of growth.

And I have grown. I’ve changed. My words have taken on a new voice, though my heart has thus far stayed mostly true to her original course.

The winds are shifting now. There are new horizons to pursue.

And maybe the path I am choosing to take seems a detour from the one I have so faithfully paved over these last four years, but, honestly, Beyond Waiting was the detour from everything I really wanted for myself.

Because I’ve known since I was fourteen years old and writing snippets of stories as school assignments that crafting worlds was what made me come alive. I’ve known since my mother first held up that notebook containing pieces of Elena’s story and told me, “Rebekah, this is really, really good,” that I was going to be a novelist.

If this blog has been silent of late, it’s because I’ve been pouring my heart and soul into the first installment of a Young Adult Fantasy series. I’m in the editing phase, trying to make the words sing before I attempt to ship them off to an agent who expressed interest in the idea.

I’ve never been so excited. I’ve never been so horrified. I’ve never had butterflies dance through my tummy as hard as they do when I think about releasing this story into the hands of someone who may or may not love it as much as I do.

I’m focusing all my time and effort on writing novels now because this is the one thing I really want for myself—to be able to tell the stories beating in my heart and share them with the world. I don’t know what that means for beyondwaiting.com. I hope I’ll still find something to share with at least a little bit of consistency, but I’m through guilting myself into penning words for this space when my heart longs to spend those hours stitching stories.

I hope you understand. And I hope you know how very grateful I am for the support I have found here these last four years. I will carry the imprint of this season in my heart forever.

But for now…

Bring me that horizon.

horizon

Sidekick to Your Superhero

A friend of mine once performed one of those tests where she asked a group of us questions that were supposed to represent different aspects of our lives.

“I’m a little concerned,” she told me. “You said your favorite color is green, but you don’t know why. Your favorite color is supposed to represent the way you view yourself, and I wish you were a little more excited about it.”

Disappointing, perhaps, but accurate. (I don’t know why I like myself; I just do.)

“I think your second answer is really sweet though,” Alina continued. “Your favorite animal is supposed to represent how you view other people.”

This brought a smile to the entire group because, while I may not have gotten excited about the color green, I had a pretty cool monologue going on about why I like horses.

“I just think they’re incredible creatures,” I said. “I love to watch them run. Like, I could watch them for hours and not get tired of it.”

This conversation came to mind last night when I was trying to convince my brother that I think my purpose in life is to come alongside someone else. Because I would rather play sidekick to a superhero than set off to save the world by myself.

My brother insisted that two Batmans were better than a Batman and Robin combination, but I disagreed. Batman doesn’t need an exact replica of himself; he needs a Robin.

But if I absolutely had to be a superhero, I would be Violet from The Incredibles. I would be the girl who stands invisible on the sidelines until her brother is in mortal danger. I love that scene where Dash is cornered, certain he is about to be shot, when Violet throws herself over him, envelopes them both in a force field, and confesses she doesn’t know how she did it. Then Dash does what Dash does best as Violet continues to guard them from enemy fire.

That would be my superpower—the human shield. I know this because even in video games I adopt that role.

My sister taught me how to play Gears of War (because “guys dig chicks who play video games”), and while my siblings and their friends are all charging into the fray in search of bonus points and achievements, I make it my duty to keep them alive. So while they’re out there armed only with chainsaws and scorchers, I’m hanging back near the base, picking off anyone who would cause them harm.

And it makes me happy.

I find absolutely no joy in that game when I don’t have a partner to keep alive. Sure, I’m still shooting the same mutant creatures, but I’ve lost my purpose. I’ve got no one to protect. No one to support.

And though my brother was hard pressed to accept it, I’m the same way in real life.

There’s not a whole lot I want for myself, but I want the world for you. And I may not get excited about many things, but I will always be moved by watching you run, seeing you fly.

And I would be happy, always, to just be the sidekick to your superhero.

gears of war

 

Life As I Don’t Know It

Hopes and dreams and time wasted wishing I could fast-forward to the big moments already. So much of my life is spent waiting for things I never make happen. And I wonder where I would be right now if I pursued things as recklessly as I dream of doing.

So many hours compiled of wasted moments, strung together on the threads of my distraction. And I think it’s because there’s a shadow of doubt in me.

I’m not brave enough to challenge You to catch me when I leap.

But what if I was? What if I plunged headfirst into the unknown? What if I charged into the places I want to claim without fear or trepidation? What if I lived fully abandoned to You and the calling You have placed on my life?

Why is it so easy to cling to the comfortable and familiar when the after effects of the two are but a shadow of what my life was meant to be?

But somewhere in the corners of my mind, I hear You whisper:

“Life. Abundant Life.”

Bubbling over. Bursting at the seams. Spinning in ecstasy.

Life.

I settle. For so much less than You would offer me. For a life much simpler than Your grand design.

And I convince myself that this is the best there is while my heart remains carved out like a tree a woodpecker has claimed for its own—hollow, empty, resounding.

And You come knocking, knocking, knocking… to reveal what I’ve been missing all along.

Life. Abundant Life.

Life as I don’t know it.

Dance to the Beat of Your Fears

I used to harbor a deep fear that the Indians were going to scalp me.

That probably sounds ridiculous to anyone who didn’t grow up across the valley from Zane Caverns where war drums can be heard at various times of the year. Maybe it sounds ridiculous even if you did grow up within earshot of the caverns because maybe you didn’t have an older brother who was dead set on convincing you that the natives were coming for your scalp. (Brothers can be pretty doggone convincing.)

Even when I wised up and grew skeptical, arguing that if the Indians were coming they would take his scalp too, he responded with a statement so logical I lost the willpower to doubt him: “They won’t want my scalp because my hair is black like theirs. Yours is long and brown and beautiful. The Indians are going to want it.”

I take that as a compliment now, but at the time it served its intended purpose.

From that moment on, whenever the drums would start to pound in the distance, I would stick close to the house lest some Magua-lookalike would appear in my woods and come for me with bloody, outstretched hands. (This is why you don’t let small children watch The Last of the Mohicans. Cough, cough, Dad.)

And I remained confined by the boundaries of irrational fears.


Funny Fact about Fear: so much of it is, without question, irrational.

Our minds conjure up multiple scenarios and we fret and we worry and we dread all these things that never come to pass.

But they might, we think. They could.

And we confine ourselves to the same kind of boundaries I set for myself as a child.

Don’t leave the house. Stay away from the woods. They’re out there waiting, but you’re safe here. If you remain behind closed doors, they won’t find you.


As a child, I resented those festivals at the caverns. I resented them because I loved the woods. I loved climbing trees and splashing in the creek and painting tablets of slate with the juice of wild berries.

I resented the drums that played in the distance because they crafted fears that held me captive indoors when my little feet wanted to create a rhythm of my own, pounding down paths that had been carved by a thousand footsteps that had gone before.

But I was never brave enough to chance the woods when the Indians were on the warpath. I was never reckless enough to face my fears head-on.

Then I got a little older and discovered that the drums were a performance, the natives were friendly, and my scalp was never in any danger after all. And once I realized all of that, something strange happened…

I learned to love those drums.

And the same rhythm that once struck fear into my heart became music to my ears.


Some of us will spend our whole lives believing the natives are hostile. Some of us will never step outside the four walls of our homes because we’re afraid of what lurks in the woods.

But we are restless.

Though our fears may strap us down, the fact remains that, deep inside, We. Are. Restless.

And we want more than these safe little walls offer.

We want the world.

We want wide open skies and and an endless path before us, brimming with new things just waiting to be discovered.


Darling, you have two choices when those drums start pounding in the distance: you can hide, or you can dance.

I hope you dance in complete abandon, twirling to the beat of your fears.

the beat of your fears