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

Your Worth is Not Measured in Numbers

This blog has been shrouded in silence because life has offered little to speak of lately. Well, little Big Things anyway. That’s what I’ve been waiting for—something big. Something earth-shaking. I’ve been waiting for words big enough to wrap the whole world in the power of them.

Maybe that’s ridiculous, but it’s what I want. It’s what we all want, really. Every time we post a status online, we are searching for validation.

Let me be completely honest here:

Validation, on a large scale, is a stupid dream. Of course we want approval. Of course we want affirmation that our words and our actions and our lives have value. But you don’t need dozens or hundreds of people for that; you just need one.

Last night, my brother walked out of his bedroom with this big, stupid grin on his face. His eyes were glazed over, his mind somewhere else. I recognized that look because it’s the same one that was on my face when I finished reading Vicious and Cress and Everbound. It was the smile inspired by a story that roused a heart to its feet.

And, in Micah’s case, I put that smile there. It was my manuscript that was still tripping through his mind. My characters that had won his heart and captured his imagination.

In the eight years I’ve spent dreaming of becoming a published author, this was the first time I thought I would be okay if that dream never came true. I could have written this book for Micah, and that would be enough.

We don’t realize often enough that the impact we have on a single life is important.

We want numbers. And the internet has made it easy to put a number on our worth. So many likes on this status. So many hits on this blog. And we’ve given numbers the power to either make or break us.

They break us more often than not, because it will never be enough. There could always be one more. There could always be one thousand more.

We miss the immeasurable moments of our lives because we’re waiting on the big things—publication, promotions, marriage, children… Always looking for the next best thing and failing to realize the value of the small moments.

Because the little things add up. They may not boast the big numbers, but once you collect enough moments, they really add up.

Because your worth is not measured in the status that got seventy likes. It is not measured in the blog post that went viral. That was just one moment. One moment out of many that happened to capture the eye of more people than you may have expected.

I could get published. I could become a New York Times bestseller. And I won’t lie and say that the numbers won’t mean something to me. But numbers—no matter how high they count—could never be as real as the smile on my brother’s face when he first read my words and declared them good.

I’ve been floundering these last few weeks, trying to find my footing in the world again. I’ve been waiting for big events and failing to delight in the small.

Life doesn’t “begin” when I finally get a job again; life has been happening for a long time now.

The important things are not what I’ve often imagined them to be. And the moments in which I find true value are these:

Snuggling on a couch with my sister, laughing at the latest YouTube video we’ve discovered together.

Watching my brother do a happy dance as I print the last two-thirds of my manuscript for him.

Noticing the slight swell of a belly on my sister-in-law.

Being informed by my father that he is selling me to a childhood friend in exchange for goats. (Long, funny story here.)

When my mother comes home from Goodwill with an exact replica of a pan she has possessed all my past… to put back for my future.

These—the things cannot be measured in numbers—are the important things. And it is these moments that hold me when the numbers fluctuate and the world rocks crazy and I don’t know where to stand anymore.

Braving the Waters

Oswald Chambers said that faith is deliberate confidence in the character of a God whose ways you may not understand at the time.

I like that. I like that faith is not just a shot in the dark—a frantic grasping at something unknown. While the circumstances may be uncertain, our God is not. We can be confident in His character. We can trust our Father’s heart.

That’s what faith is, isn’t it? It’s being that child who launches himself into his father’s arms, never doubting that his daddy will be faithful to catch him.

I’ve watched a lot of children interact with their fathers. I’ve had a lot of children place their unwavering trust in me. Believe me when I say that kids don’t hesitate, not once you’ve earned their implicit trust. They don’t stand at the drop-off and wonder if this will be the one time you fail to catch them. They just jump.

I remember so clearly that day at the beach. I was maybe eight or nine at the time—old enough¬† that I should have been confident enough to play in the ocean waves, but I wasn’t. I never did like water. I always did fear the unknown.

So I sat on the shore and watched my family splash in the surf until my dad decided he wanted me to be more than an observer in our family vacation. I was hesitant, but he promised he wouldn’t let anything happen to me. He promised he wouldn’t let go of my hand.

When that wave washed over my head and ripped me from his grasp, I was angry. There I was, somersaulting through the surf, wondering when I would finally get the opportunity to breathe again, and thinking of how my father had betrayed me. He promised nothing would happen. He promised he wouldn’t let go.

I think we have it on video… that moment where I stormed back to shore and buried my face in my knees because I didn’t want to look at my dad after that. But when I think back to that day at the ocean, I realize that maybe Dad wasn’t the one who let go. Maybe in that moment the water crested above my head and my mind started screaming at me to retreat, I did exactly that. Instead of bracing myself for impact, I let go of my father’s hand.

And my feet came up, and my head went down, and the sky and the sand and the sky came to meet me over and over again. And when I finally came up, sputtering for breath, I was too disoriented to realize that he had been right there all along, reaching to pull me back to my feet, keeping his promise that he wouldn’t leave me alone in the ocean.

This happened with my earthly father only once, but I cannot even begin to count the number of times I’ve braved the waves with my Heavenly Father only to find myself running scared when the waters rise above my head.

I think I’ve finally reached the point where I’ve stopped accusing Him of being the one to let me go under, but I don’t know if I’ve quite reached the point where I fully trust Him to hold me steady when the waves come crashing down.

But I want to.

Because I don’t want to be afraid of life. I don’t want to be beaten by the waves. I want to live with deliberate confidence in my Father’s character. I want to face the ocean with Him. I want to say to the entirety of the sea, “You cannot defeat me.” Not because I am stronger than the tides, but because my Father commands them.

I wonder what it would have looked like that day at the beach had I not turned back toward shore when that wave began to swallow me. I wonder what would have happened if I had clung to my father’s arm instead. I wonder if I would have opened my eyes to find us standing safely on the other side.

It’s too late for my childhood self, but not too late for the Rebekah who wades the oceans of life with the God who spoke them into being.

So as this next wave rises above my head, I don’t think of retreat.

My Father has my hand. My Father has my heart. My Father has my faith.

We go under.

braving the waters