Exactly Where You Want Me

The other night at Bible study, someone got brave enough to confess she was “just done.” She was frustrated beyond the point of inviting God into her daily life and hadn’t read her Bible in months.

She shared that with us. In Bible study. And I thought back to the many Wednesday nights I’ve sat quietly in my chair while feeling much the same way.

Rebekah, Rebekah, let down your hair…

So I’m sitting there beside her, feeling my heart completely break. Like, I just wanted to wrap this girl up in my arms and say, “I know exactly what you’re feeling. I was there not so long ago, myself.”

Then I started thinking about what it took to work myself out of that funk, because obviously if I know the way out, I want to share it with her. I don’t think I realized exactly how it happened until I wracked my brain trying to find answers last night. And I hope to God He has an easier way out for my friend.

Last fall, I was struggling pretty hard. The way life was meant to look in my head and the way it was panning out in reality didn’t exactly match up. I was in transition, and if you asked me, the transition was lasting way too long. I needed guidance, I needed direction, and, mostly, I needed the assurance that the place God had brought me to wasn’t the place He had intended for me all along. Because I was scared to death God had me exactly where He wanted me and I would just have to suck it up and get on with life according to His plan.

Then there was The Guy.

I reconnected with an old friend and we started tossing around the idea of a lifetime together. Suddenly everything made sense. Suddenly my discontent fell away and this transition became bearable. I could stick it out for another year if I had forever to look forward to.

“Forever” lasted about three months. That’s how long it took me to wake up from my fantasies and realize this guy wasn’t actually the best thing for me (and I probably wasn’t the best thing for him). It didn’t make sense at first. When I walked away from this relationship with absolutely nothing, I didn’t understand what God was doing.

You see, my first relationship wrecked me. Instantly and completely. Beautifully and poetically. There’s the Rebekah from before her first date and the Rebekah from after she said goodbye for the last time, and the two are pretty incomparable. (To the friend who told me “None of this will matter in a year or two” …you were wrong, and I am thankful.)

So of course I assumed that this more recent relationship wasn’t meant for me at all. Maybe God had something He needed to do in my boyfriend’s life, and I was just the vessel He chose. Because, yes, sometimes I am that narrow-minded.

But because of the honesty that greeted me the other night, I’m seeing that once again, the Rebekah I was before the first date and the Rebekah I am now that all the ties have been severed are not the same. Maybe it wasn’t as dramatic as the first time. Maybe it didn’t grow me in grace and redefine my worldview to the same extent the other did, but it was just enough to pull me out of that prison I had built using misplaced expectations.

God had to give me everything I thought I wanted so He could show me just how wrong I had been.

And it was hard at first. I felt like I didn’t have anywhere to put my feet because the path upon which I had been walking had been ripped out from under me. I was treading water, unable to discern up from down. And then finally, finally, there was the calm.

I stopped being scared God had me exactly where He wanted me, and simply accepted that, yes, this is His plan for my present. When I finally stopped refusing to see that God had a purpose for me in this space, I was able to catch a glimpse of what that purpose might be.

And for the first time since I moved home last summer, I can say I’m truly happy here.

While I want an easier path for my friend, I’m willing to pray for whatever it takes. Because, though the journey may be hard, it is nothing compared to the emptiness of trying to make it on your own. And I have a feeling she, like me, is going to have to do it the hard way. Because she knows all the Sunday School answers, but when the heart has wandered, answers are never enough.

Sometimes we silly sheep have to wander off into the woods because it’s not enough to hear the Shepherd’s voice echoing through the valley. We want to be found. We want to be lifted. We want to be cradled in His arms and carried out of the dark so we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that, yes, this is exactly where He wanted us all along.

The Sound of Diamonds – Review of a Dream

sound of diamondsYou may remember a few months back, I posted the cover reveal of an upcoming novel. Well, because Rachelle is so anxious to share her dream with the rest of the world, I was given an ARC (advanced reader copy) of The Sound of Diamonds and asked if I would review it. And because I will ever be a lifelong fan of watching a dream come true, I accepted.

After I accepted, I grew very, very nervous. I had to write a review, and God knows I don’t know how to write anything other than honest reviews. What if I hated it?

This was a legitimate concern, especially since The Sound of Diamonds is a giant leap outside the typical genres I read. I don’t do Christian fiction anymore, I’m only drawn to Historical stories on occasion, and I never, ever touch Romance.

So here I am, breaking all my own rules because the internet has blessed me with this tenuous connection to Rachelle Rea and God has blessed me with a love for her that is beyond all logical reason.

The Premise (in Rebekah’s Paraphrase):

There’s this girl named Gwyneth and she’s in a bit of trouble, but she doesn’t realize how much trouble she’s in until this guy, Dirk, shows up to save her. However, she hates Dirk because, as far as she’s convinced, the jerk killed her parents. So of course she doesn’t go willingly, and Dirk sort of has to abduct her, which is another crime altogether, so he’s doing a really sloppy job of clearing his soiled name. But, hey, whatever. He has an entire cross-country trip to convince her of his innocence… which should give him just enough time to fall in love along the way.

My Thoughts:

Rachelle wrote a book! And it’s being published!

That was seriously on the forefront of my mind the entire time, so it was impossibly hard to focus on reading/reviewing.

But, seriously, for all you readers out there… I was mostly impressed with how Rachelle handled all the aspects of faith in her debut novel. I find most Christian fiction to be a little preachy and cliché—like someone who wanted to preach a sermon decided it would be cute to dress it up as a story.

The Sound of Diamonds is definitely not a sermon, even though there were countless Biblical truths scattered throughout the plot. While the setting of the Iconoclastic Fury presented a perfect opportunity to debate the differences between the Catholic and the Protestant faith, Rachelle managed to do so without straying from the storyline. The author’s relationship with God resounds clear as diamonds, and the characters’ purposes are further fulfilled through their expression of faith.

My greatest dislike in the reading of this book can probably be summed up by the simple fact that it is a Romance. This was not a cute little story with a dash of romance in it; it was ultimately about Dirk and Gwyn falling in love.

Well, duh, you’re probably thinking. That’s what a Romance is.

And you would be right. That is what a Romance is, and that is precisely why I don’t read that genre. I don’t believe in love at first sight, and romantic clichés leave me rolling my eyes or fighting a gag reflex. (This fact surprises most people, especially the ones who know I live and breathe fairytales. Call me a contradiction, but it’s just the way I work.)

So, the love story was hard for me, as I prefer a little less mooning over each other and a lot more butt-kicking action.

But I will say, The Sound of Diamonds did have a touch of that fairytale magic that I live for. Not the pumpkins or witches or hundred-year-curses that can be summed up in a handful of pages, but the kind of magic where blind eyes are given sight and the rogue becomes the redeemed and good triumphs in the end. (Oops. Spoiler alert.)

Not bad, Rachelle. Not bad at all. Sorry that Dirk and Gwyn couldn’t quite win me over with their love story. Maybe they’ll have another shot at it in Book 2.

Rachelle Rea

Rachelle Rea plots her novels while driving around the little town she’s lived in all her life in her dream car, a pick-up truck. As a freelance editor, she enjoys mentoring fellow authors in the craft. A homeschool graduate and retired gymnast, she wrote the Sound of Diamonds the summer after her sophomore year of college. You can find her online at www.rachellerea.com

The Sound of Diamonds releases this very Monday—June 15th—so go check it out on Amazon.

The Villain in My Own Story

“Trusting in so much
That’s not worth trusting in
The person she’s now
Meets who she could’ve been.
There are two roads to travel
She chose the wrong one
Now there’s no going back
What’s done is done.”

The first time I read those words in Anne Jackson’s Permission to Speak Freely, they broke a more hopeful heart. A heart that believed in fresh new pages with every sunrise. Today, they still break my heart, but I don’t rage against the truth of them as surely as I did then.

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

God, I don’t even know who I could have been. Can hardly remember who I was. And I am trying so very hard not to think of what I am today—the villain in my own story.

I come before You wielding my anger like knives, my discontent as katanas. But when I stand before You in all my glorious rage, You don’t reach for Your weapons. You make no move to defend Yourself against my deadly advances.

It’s like that scene from The Mask of Zorro when the teacher instructs the pupil to choose his weapon, and Alejandro spins around, sword in hand, to find De La Vega holding a spoon.

A spoon.

Just like Alejandro, my anger morphs into confusion.

I came here to wage war and You are extending a dinner invitation.

And I know what will happen should I choose to sit down. You’ll tell me how You know I chose the wrong path. You’ll tell me how long You’ve been waiting for me to come home. You’ll tell me it’s high time I stop Taylor Swifting my way through life, because the lyrics You’ve written fit me better than Taylor’s ever could.

You’ll tell me redemption is only a heartbeat away, should I choose to accept it.

That’s where this whole plan breaks down—in the accepting. Because I am tired of blindly accepting things. Tired of being the observer in my own story. Tired of being the duty-fulfiller and the girl who simply does what needs to be done.

I sense You smile at that confession. You’ve been waiting so very long for me to stop merely drifting through life. My rebellion is a spark that might make You proud if I would only learn to rebel against the proper things.

I’m a little misguided, a little bit lost. And I am far from ready to release this spark that has led me astray.

Anne Jackson was wrong. It’s not that there is no going back; it’s that it is so very hard to find the willpower to turn around when the desire is still rooted this deep.

I would ask You to rescue me, but that would make me too much of a damsel in distress. I’d rather find my way back on my own.

You can leave the light on, though. Maybe sprinkle the path with bread crumbs, so I can pretend I’m the big, strong girl who can navigate the woods on her own, even though I know You are there, waiting in the shadows, bringing me from lost to found.

But that’s my pride talking. That’s the part of me that wants to go on pretending I am strong enough without You. So if we are going to get this right, you should probably come out of the shadows and take me by the hand so we can walk this path together.

And when I feel like looking back over my shoulder, squeeze my hand a little tighter to remind me that You’re there. Leading me out of the woods. Into the light. Guiding me home.

Swallowing Grace

I close Sunday nights at work. My managers think I’m a great closer because I leave the place spotless, but I hate closing. Not because of the mopping and the scrubbing and the dozen little things that always need done, but because it puts me in charge of my fellow co-workers for the night. No one leaves without my stamp of approval saying they did all they were supposed to do before they left.

This might not be a problem, except I’m somewhat of a doormat. I hate making waves. I don’t want to be that jerk who says, “Hey, I don’t think you did this well enough. Clean it again.”

For the most part, I’ve worked with a really great staff who will go the extra mile for me, but things have changed up in recent weeks, and last night… Well, last night, I had the ultimate test on my doormat character.

When my dear co-worker who will go unnamed in this post asked me to check her stuff, I was confused to find that she had only been assigned one task when everyone else had been assigned two, especially since I was the one assigning the tasks. But when I checked my list and looked at the job I had intended to give her, I was surprised to find my own name written there.

Now, I’m not one to assume bad things of people, so my first thought was, “Did I accidentally fill in my own name?” But no, that wasn’t my handwriting. When you looked at the rest of the list that I clearly wrote, it was obvious to see someone had erased this girl’s name and written mine in her place.

It was late. I was tired and confused and still naive enough not to assume the culprit was standing right next to me.

Then she made a fatal mistake. She saw the parmesan cheese shaker in my hand and asked if she needed to refill it and put it away.

My gaze snapped from the list to her face. “You wrapped the parm and pepper shakers?”

“Yeah.”

I looked at the list, then back to her, waiting for her to realize that she had just implicated herself in a crime. But judging by the fact that she wrote my name on a list where my name was never supposed to appear, I’m going to assume she wasn’t quite clever enough to realize she had “accidentally” done half of “my” task. Which wouldn’t make sense unless she knew the job was meant to be hers in the first place.

So there I am, waiting for her to stop lying to my face, when she asks, “So, am I good?”

And because I actually somewhat enjoy folding pizza boxes, I simply said, “Yeah, you’re good,” and scribbled my name on her cashout.

Minutes later, I was standing in the expo line with a stack of thirty pizza boxes, which caused quite a stir among my remaining co-workers, who knew the closer wasn’t responsible for tasks such as these.

“Did you give yourself that out?” one of them asked.

“No, but someone did.”

It wasn’t difficult for them to figure out what had happened, and that’s when the suggestions began.

“You shouldn’t just give her pizza boxes next week; you should give her something hard, like tea brewers.”

“Just give her an extra out. That’s what I would do.”

And I have to say all of their suggestions sounded really good. I could passive-aggressively make her Sunday nights miserable for as long as she works them. It’s really tempting to want to make her Sunday nights miserable, at least for a week or two.

But then I was driving home and God started stirring things up inside of me. He started talking about being a light in this world and reminded me of the passage in John 8 where Jesus extends grace to the woman caught in the act of adultery.

And that is when I knew for certain that, while revenge is sweet, grace is a bitter pill to swallow. Even in accepting it, your pride will be stung, but extending it to those who are unworthy… The best analogy I can come up with in this moment is that it’s like chugging a bottle of buffalo sauce, and that only makes sense if you know how the very smell of it nauseates me.

But it fits. When my stomach starts to swim at the thought of being the giver of grace in this situation, it’s about the only thing that fits.

I’m having a hard time imagining looking this co-worker in the eye and saying, “I know what you did with the outs list last week, and I forgive you. What do you say we start fresh?”

On the other hand, I can’t imagine it going any other way. God’s voice is loud in the hearts of those who have turned themselves over to Him.

So, I don’t know how this is going to turn out. Maybe I’ll say nothing and continue on with life as normal. Maybe I’ll keep the pencil poised over pizza boxes (and tea brewers and oh have fun with the soda machine) longer than I should. Or maybe I’ll finally find courage enough to open my mouth and speak the words that need to be said.

Letting Down My Hair

Last night did not go according to plan. I walked into Bible Study intending to reinvent myself. To be a louder, bolder version of Rebekah Snyder. To finally carve a little space for myself in the midst of this community. This didn’t happen for a couple reasons. One: an old friend showed up, so of course we spent the evening catching up on life. Two: I looked around the houseful of thirty-some people and could practically feel myself shrinking, wallflower that I am.

When I woke up this morning, I had no intention to write a blog post, at least not on Beyond Waiting. I was going to write something very poetic about wallflowers on my other blog.

Wait, what? Rebekah has another blog?

I first started rebekahsnyder.wordpress.com so I could play around with formats without completely ruining this blog. I threw the first three posts up there just so I could get a feel for the layout. And then I wrote something else. Something that was probably the most vulnerable piece I have ever written, but I couldn’t post it here. Mostly because I didn’t want to risk the subject seeing it, but also because it didn’t fit the style I had created for this blog. And that is how Vagabond became the home for all the words that haunt me.

The ones that aren’t safe. The ones that aren’t pretty. The ones that don’t fit the image I have crafted for this space.

So why would I mention it now?

Here of late, I’ve become painfully aware that I’ve lived the majority of my life on a pedestal of sorts, and it’s getting really old. When I wrote a friend about how I feel like Rapunzel alone in her tower, longing to commit pedestal suicide, she asked me a very pointed and troubling question:

“Who are you, sweet girl? Who are you when the perfectionism falls to the ground and all that is left is you? Who is that girl? Does she come out to other people? Or, is she all alone in the tower?”

tower prison

I realize my pedestal is something I have crafted with my own two hands, and this morning, as I started dreaming up a post for Vagabond, I realized it was just another way of hiding. And I heard That Voice, clear and strong: “Rebekah, Rebekah, let down your hair.”

So I’ve decided to stop hiding. I’ve decided to come out right here on this blog and confess that, yes, perfectionism has clung to me like a second skin, but I am oh so tired of not wearing my own.

While this blog has shifted and grown so much over the years, it has never been completely real. Although everything I have shared has been truth, I’ve never been fully honest. I’ve tried to be strong. I’ve tried to be the encourager. I have tried to be light in this world.

But I’ve never let down my hair. I’ve never come out of the tower. I’ve never told you that I might actually be Rapunzel. Oh yes, I Rapunzel so hard these days.

So I want to invite you to read the post that I first protected like a secret. Oddly enough, it, too, is about Rapunzel. I think it’s pretty beautiful. In fact, there are a few posts on that blog of which I am truly proud.

I just wanted to let you all know that I am coming out, at least, on the days I feel brave enough. Thank you so much for continuing to return and make me feel like my voice matters. Until next time…

let down your hair

 

Brave

On the day she dared to publicly confess that she felt brave for the first time in her life, a disillusioned reader wrote back to say she didn’t know the meaning of bravery. She was too young, her life was too pretty, she still had to live a little before she could staple herself with the title, “Brave.”

It’s amazing to me that there is a critic who would honestly think a girl is too young to be brave, when I’m sitting here on the other end of the spectrum thinking she is far too old to experience bravery for the first time.

Darling, if twenty-five is when you finally feel ready to face the danger, I can’t imagine how fearful your childhood must have been.

Because Brave is not for after you’ve survived it all; Brave is for a lifetime. You don’t need Brave once you’ve overcome; you need it for right there in the thick of the storm when the waves are crashing onto the deck and the ship is starting to crack in two.

Brave is for the band of children trekking deep into a forest that may be filled with coyotes and Indians on the warpath.

Brave is for the ten-year-old child who watches her grandmother succumb to cancer.

Brave is for the fourteen-year-old girl afloat deep in the ocean, urging her little brother to just keep swimming toward shore.

Brave is for the nineteen-year-old aspiring author, clutching a manuscript to her chest as she prepares to offer it up for rejection.

Brave is for the twenty-one-year-old young woman realizing everything she has ever dreamed of is not everything she imagined it would be.

Brave is for the new teacher, cradling a child whose whole world has fallen apart around him, trying not to fall apart with him.

Brave is for the girl with the broken heart, picking up the pieces and deciding she will love again.

Baby, you had better believe I wouldn’t be standing here today if I hadn’t learned to strap Brave to my shoulders like a parachute. I would have crashed. And burned. And died.

And I’m not even twenty-five yet.

But how else does a girl survive the way the world likes to throw her about even as it goes on spinning if she does not resolve to be Brave?

So if you think Brave is a cloak that doesn’t fit your shoulders just right, maybe you need to stand a little taller, darling. Just straighten on up and tug it snugly into place. I think you’ll find, with a little practice, that it fits you prettier than you might think.

Do me a favor and set the lies aside. Stop believing you’re too young, and that your life is too pretty, and that you have to live a little before you can staple Brave to your name.

You deserve a lifetime of bravery. I hope you find it. I hope you find it.

BRAVE

Liberate

Lately I’ve been playing a whole lot of Civilization V, and I like to think it’s not in vain. I’m going to assume the majority of my readers are unfamiliar with the game, so I’ll give you a quick rundown:

Basically, you start out as this tiny little city, and over the course of however many hundred turns you are willing to devote to this game, you become an unstoppable world power. At least, you attempt to become an unstoppable world power because the only other option is being purged from the face of the earth and no one wants that. Mostly, you choose your battles wisely and try not to think about how this game is a tragic reminder of the actual state of our world.

For the sake of  this story, you need to know that for each large civilization, there are two city-states. These are little cities that take up small pockets of the world and sometimes grant gifts to the civilizations they deem friends or allies (which is a great perk).

Now, in this particular game, my nearest neighbor was the city-state known as Rio de Janeiro. Rio and I were friends for most of the game, then for whatever reason, they became more impressed with the growing nation of Siam than my humble little China. Normally, their declaring allegiance to another civilization wouldn’t be a problem (besides perhaps the little slap in the face that says I’m not good enough for them, but I digress), but on this particular day, Rio’s change of allegiance was a monumental mistake. You see, Siam was at war with Carthage, and Carthage just happened to be Rio’s neighbor to the north.

In my brother’s oh-so-insightful words: “Say goodbye to Rio.”

However, this is me and my world of silly fixations, and I didn’t want to say goodbye to Rio. So I turned to said brother, who is far more experienced in the game than I, and asked how I could save them.

“Well, maybe if you give them some money, it will make them like you more than Siam. If they’re allies with you, Dido will make peace with them.”

So I followed his counsel and dropped 250 gold pieces at their doorstep. They proclaimed their love for me and the Carthaginian army retreated back into their borders. All is well in the world, right? Wrong.

It took all of two turns for Rio to turn back to Siam and declare war on the Queen of Carthage once again.

That’s when I had this striking thought which I voiced aloud to whoever cared to listen:

“Is this how Jesus feels?”

I mean, talk about bad decisions. You start a war you cannot possibly win, and when I offer you a way out, you aren’t even going to take it? Stupid, stupid city-state.

The war elephants march in. The city falls and is marked with the symbol of chains. The borders bleed into the royal purple of Carthage. And I am far more distressed than I should be in this situation.

Because, Rio, my silly little Rio, don’t you know how I wanted to protect you?

And as much as I find God in this, I’m struck by something even more disconcerting.

I find myself in Rio de Janeiro.

How many times have I turned away, distracted by other, shiny things? How many times have I misplaced my allegiance? How many times have I found the world pressing in around me, leaving me with no one but myself to blame? How many times have I worn chains and bled the colors of the enemy?

And how many times has God watched the mess I’ve made of my life while whispering, “Rebekah, my silly little Rebekah, don’t you know how I wanted to protect you?”

But this is not the end of the story. It never is.

Because Carthage is not the only one with an army. I have my resources, too. I come sweeping in like a riptide, like a hurricane, purging the city of every trace of Dido’s army. And when asked what I want to do with the city, I don’t hesitate.

It’s the same thing Jesus does for me every time He comes crashing into the midst of my messes. The same thing He does when the chains bind me tight and my borders bleed the wrong colors.

I don’t know why I stand there nervous every time, like I’m afraid the pattern will change just because I’ve done it for the thousandth time. Although I would be done with me by now, He never is.

He breaks the chains. He changes the colors.

My fingers hover over the button. I smile. I click.

Liberate.