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.

 

To Love Like You Do

A Prayer:

When you came to earth, You didn’t stand on street corners with signs that screamed condemnation. Oddly enough, You weren’t even the one shouting, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!”

You did your share of preaching—delivering theology from a fresh perspective—but mostly, You sat among the people, filling their bellies with bread and their ears with stories. Mostly, You saw people. You met them where they were and said, “Come follow Me.”

You chose them. You chose the ones who “weren’t good enough.” The ones who “didn’t quite measure up.” The ones who didn’t have all the answers. The ones with no future in spiritual things. Fishermen, tax collectors, zealots… Ordinary men.

Like me.

You surprised people when You claimed to be God incarnate. Because, of course, God would come with fire and brimstone. God would come to purge the earth of evil men, not cleanse the hearts of the broken and condemned.

We think we know You, but we don’t. We don’t know the way Your heart grieves to see us so caught up in religion that we neglect relationship. We don’t understand Your love for the least of these.

When I look around my world, I see a people who preach tolerance and live something else entirely—people who would throw stones rather than extend mercy.

Sometimes I think I hear You weeping. Sometimes I feel the God in my heart extend a hand toward one of the broken. Usually I’m not good at being God incarnate, so I walk on by, still feeling the ache of Your heart resounding within mine.

What will it take for me to love like You do?

God, reveal Yourself in me until I disappear into You.

Wanting More

Once upon a time, I chaperoned a youth conference in which the main speaker delivered a message which I will never forget. After all, it’s hard to block the image of a grown man singing Disney music.

Look at this stuff. Isn’t it neat? Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete? Wouldn’t you think I’m the girl—the girl who has everything? Look at this trove. Treasures untold. How many wonders can one cavern hold? Looking around here you’d think, “Sure. She’s got everything.” I’ve got gadgets and gizmos aplenty. I’ve got whozits and whatzits galore. You want thingamabobs? I’ve got twenty! But who cares? No big deal. I want more…

“SELFISH BRAT!”

The whole room burst into laughter at his outburst. It was the perfect opening to a message about entitlement and the self-centered culture teens are living in today.

But you know what? I think the guy missed the mark when it came down to what was really taking place in Ariel’s heart.

Because it wasn’t more stuff she wanted.

What the entire song boils down to is that the trinkets weren’t enough to satisfy the true desires of her heart. The entirety of the ocean couldn’t fulfill the hungry depths of her soul. She wanted something more than what the sea had to offer.

Throughout my life, I’ve heard a lot of people use the story of the little mermaid as an example of what not to do.  I’ll admit it’s pretty easy to take Ariel’s story and preach contentment.  After all, the seaweed is not always greener in someone else’s lake. And, honestly, it’s a bad idea to sacrifice everything in hopes of winning a guy’s affection.

And yet, in order to use the story for that sort of sermon, you have to take the side of the antagonist. Which means you’ve missed the heart of the story entirely.

Hans Christian Andersen, author of the original fairytale, was known for writing stories of great spiritual meaning. So what if Ariel’s longing for the human world represents something deeper than childish discontent? What if the kingdom beyond the ocean waves was really worth sacrificing everything for?

Consider this quote by C.S. Lewis: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

Ariel was made for another world. Deep in her heart, she knew that. It’s why she was so obsessed with gathering remnants of the human world. But eventually her broken trinkets weren’t enough.

I find myself identifying with her in this. The world doesn’t satisfy me in the ways I most long to be satisfied. When I look around at the things I’ve collected, I think, “Who cares? No big deal. I want more.”

I long for a world that lies beyond the surface of this place I call home. A world that holds all the magical things of which I can only dream.

Up where they walk, up where they run, up where they stay all day in the sun… wandering free. Wish I could be part of that world.

A Prayer
by Steven James

This world, stunning though it is,
doesn’t satisfy the part of me
that’s the most hungry…
I have a nagging thirst for more
than this world can provide.

Deepen it.

The Sound of Diamonds

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I believe in dreams. The big kind. The ones that push you past the realms of what might be considered practical and launch you into worlds beyond imagining. I’m always at the ready to champion dreams such as these.

Which is why when a friend asked a favor of me back in November, confessing she is aware I “don’t really do this on my blog,” I knew it would fit perfectly within this corner of the internet.

Because when it comes to launching Rachelle Rea’s first book, this is so much more than a cover reveal; it’s a Beyond Waiting success story.

I first met Rachelle during the summer of 2012, when she read my book and deemed the words within “life-changing.” We connected then, weaving our hearts together on the threads of the internet.

Rachelle is a single young woman, living her once upon a time journey, fighting her own dragons. She believes in whimsical. She believes in daring. She believes in living beyond reason and pursuing the things deep within her heart.

And I am so proud to stand beside her on the day one of her wildest dreams finally becomes a reality. Her first novel, The Sound of Diamonds, doesn’t actually release until June, but today is the day the world gets the first glimpse of the book cover.

So with no further ado…

sound of diamonds

In Reformation-era England, a converted rogue wants to restore his honor at whatever cost. Running from a tortured past, Dirk Godfrey knows he has only one chance at redemption.
An independent Catholic maiden seeking refuge in the Low Countries finds herself at the center of the Iconoclastic Fury. Jaded by tragedy, Gwyneth’s only hope of getting home is to trust the man she hates, and she soon discovers her poor vision is not the only thing that has been blinding her.
But the home Gwyneth knew is not what she once thought. When a dark secret and a twisted plot for power collide in a castle masquerading as a haven, will the saint and the sinner hold to hope…or be overcome? When Dirk’s plan fails, could all be lost?rachelle rea

But the celebration doesn’t stop there. The Sound of Diamonds is available for pre-order on Amazon. Go check it out, snatch it up, support a dream.

Oh, and while you’re waiting for the official release, you can get to know Rachelle’s daring heart a little better at rachellerea.com.

 

Giving Yourself Permission

“How about mango?” I ask.

And even though the question is delivered entirely without context, she knows exactly what I’m talking about.

So we skip off to my room and pore over paint chips (she prefers spiced pumpkin, by the way, and I think she may be right), and somewhere in the midst of all the scheming, a simple statement slips off my tongue.

“I feel better.”

And again, my mother is awesome enough to know I’m not just talking about paint chips.

“I’m glad,” she says. And then… “Do you think it’s because you gave yourself permission?”

I’m ashamed to say her summary was absolutely right. Ashamed to say it took me eight long months to finally give myself permission to be happy in this time and place. Eight long months before I learned to tell myself, “Rebekah, stop fighting. Stop striving, stop trying, stop hoping for something different when different is so very far away.”

I’m the kind of person who thrives on productivity. I have to produce something. I have to feel like something has been accomplished during my day. I have to have tangible evidence that I’m doing something worthwhile.

But evidence isn’t always tangible. We can’t always see what we have accomplished, and that’s where things start to get complicated. That’s where I start to doubt myself and my purpose and a hundred other stupid things.

I’m reading a book called A Million Little Ways. And in this book, the author said something that has completely revolutionized my way of thinking. When talking about her life, her gifts and passions, she comes to this realization:

My goal is a finished book—I call that my art. Yet there is a deeper work happening. I chase what I think is the art, but really that’s just the evidence… The real art is the invisible work happening in the depths of my soul as I uncover, sink, see, listen, and wait.

The book is just the souvenir.

Thank you, Emily Freeman, for turning my world on its head. For reminding me that I am more than this project that has me so completely frustrated. For reminding me that it’s not about the book. It has never been about the book.

I’m realizing that now. And little by little, I’m learning to give myself permission to live right where I’m at. One day, one minute, one ever-faithful brushstroke at a time.

 

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 surprisingly 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.