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

Burning Dreams to Ashes

When I was eight years old, I had my life all figured out. I was going to be the next Amy Carmichael, never mind my green eyes. I figured after a stint in missions, I would settle down and start a family. I’d stay home with my six kids, of course.

Well, life doesn’t exactly play out like it did in our eight-year-old minds. In a strange turn of events, my brother was the one who moved to India. I went there once and decided it wasn’t for me. And after two years of working with Advancing Native Missions, I realized there was another dream overtaking the one I had crafted and cradled from childhood.

It was terrifying to say goodbye to all I’d ever thought I wanted. Terrifying to place my life in God’s hands as I chased an impossible dream. Even more terrifying to realize that I’ve just been in transition all along. That maybe I’ll just be in transition all my life.

That’s what life is, isn’t it? A transition from this world into the next. God putting us on this earth for a purpose that is never clearly defined.

What am I to do? Where am I to go? Who am I to be?

A few days ago, I set fire to the remnants of my life in Virginia. That’s how it felt watching all my blank checks go up in flames—that a dream was burning to ashes. Because I never dreamed that I’d be moving back in with my parents a few days shy of my 23rd birthday, uncertain of what the future holds from here.

My missions stint didn’t end in marriage, six kids sounds like a crazy lot of work right now, and that’s not all I want out of life anymore. I want something a little crazier than that, even if I’m not 100% certain what that crazy thing is.

I’m learning it’s okay to burn our dreams to ashes if it means that a new one will rise in its place. And I think it’s all right to stand in those places where you have no idea what’s coming just around the river bend. After all, if God wanted us to live a predictable life, He would have given us a manual with step by step instructions. But He didn’t, so I guess He must just like holding our hands as He walks us through the ups and downs.

The honest truth (and perhaps the reason this blog has been so silent here of late) is that I don’t know where I’m going to be six months from now. I don’t even know what I’m going to be doing six weeks from now. And Control Freak Rebekah doesn’t like that, but Rebekah Who Lives By Faith is coming to terms with it.

The remains of my goals and plans my be resting in the corner of a fire pit in Afton, Virginia, but that’s okay. Because God led me here for this time and season. And God is leading me into a much greater future than I could ever dream for myself.

And though I am not certain of many things, I have absolute confidence that He will call forth beauty from the ashes of my dreams.

ashes

Learning to Fall

I felt him falling, arching his back against my wrist as his head swung down between my knees. My heart fell with him even as my left hand shot out to wrap my fingers around his shirt and pull him back upright. I was greeted by a smile so big it crinkled his nose and squished his eyes into slits.

“You,” I said, my voice shaking, “have a lot of faith in me.”

Of course he did. Because I’ve been throwing that child around for half his life and I haven’t dropped him yet, but I think it’s time to tell sweet Oliver that he needs to at least warn me before he pulls a stunt like that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Prayer:

God, I wish I had half the faith in You that Oliver has in me, but I’ve never been a fan of falling. I’ve never been good at letting go of my illusion of control long enough to trust You will catch me.

I’m not at all like Oliver, smirking as you extend Your arms over the fence because I know You’re not going to put me down. I’m more like his little schoolmate Brooke, crying out and grabbing at Your face, Your neck, Your hair like You might actually leave me alone in the wilderness. But unlike Brooke, when You call off Your playful scare, I’m not smiling. I’m still shaken. I guess I’m not as forgiving as children tend to be.

But I want to trust You that much. I want to be able to smile in Your face in that moment before I arch my back and fall, knowing You won’t let me hit the ground.

I’ve done an awful lot of falling, but not enough trusting in my lifetime. I never was that kid You could swing through the air.

Because sometimes I don’t believe You would never let me fall. Sometimes I’m afraid You won’t be ready. Sometimes I doubt the strength in Your arms. So I hold on, clinging tightly to the collar of Your t-shirt and I miss the exhilarating joy of flying through the air.

But I don’t want to be that kid with the fearful eyes and clenched fists; I want to be the one whose arms hang loose and smile comes freely. The one laughing instead of whimpering. The one who is fully abandoned to the thrill of the fall and completely confident in the arms that hold me.

Help me, like Oliver, to never hold on, but trust You will never let go.

over the shoulder

I’m working on it, all right?

Calling Forth the Artist in Me

I never would have called myself an artist. My drawing skills are limited, and I never could figure out how to get the eyes right. Paints and brushes scared me because I never understood what to do with them. The first time I walked into a Michael’s I felt lost.

So naturally this art journaling thing has been a bit intimidating to me. But mostly it’s been amazing—calling forth the artist in me. And I wonder how long I’ve been stifling my abilities by denying myself the courage to try.

Throughout my childhood, I bounced through a lot of activities trying to find my place in this world. I couldn’t do a somersault, so gymnastics was out. I had a stint of being the worst (but friendliest) person on the baseball team, then I became a ballet school dropout. The only reason I stuck with piano lessons for so long is because I adored the time spent with my teacher.

Basically, I was bad at a lot of things. So when my knack for storytelling was discovered I latched onto it like a parasite, sucking life from the creative venue of writing. I filled stacks of journals with various thoughts, wrote letters to loved ones and virtual strangers alike, and started collecting fragments of story ideas.

Writing was my gift, my passion, my purpose. And somehow I managed to convince myself that writing was all I did well.

I stopped dancing anywhere but behind closed doors even though I loved moving to the music. I stopped using my pen to create anything other than words. I never touched a piano if anyone else was in the house.

And I sold myself short.

Because, while writing may be the thing I do best, it is not all I can do.

I was made for more.

You were made for more.

It took me many years to discover that we are all artists, designed to create beauty in the world around us through whatever medium we choose. But we don’t have to use only one.

I want to encourage you to branch out, test your limits, and challenge yourself to do more than you ever dreamed possible. Because you deserve more than the limited life you’ve safely created for yourself. You’re missing so much if you’re clinging to just one gift.

While nothing has opened entire worlds for me in the way writing does, painting stirs a part of my soul that writing has never touched. Dancing frees my heart to worship, and singing brings joy to the surface of my life in a way the written word never has.

And my life is so much richer for having multiple ways to express myself.

My friend, there’s more. There is more out there to be experienced if you’re brave enough to try. Brave enough to throw your arms wide open and embrace these different ways of expressing yourself. So please don’t sell yourself short. Please don’t limit your potential.

Pick up your paintbrush and point your toes. Paint, dance, sing. This world is a symphony. Life is your canvas. Don’t close your ears to the music. Don’t leave the pages blank.

Stretch yourself by sinking into the wonder of life in more than the typical way.

dreaming in color

Set Apart, Torn Apart

I started reading the book of Esther again. Now, I’m not usually one to jump on the bandwagon that everyone else is riding on, but I’ll make an exception for Esther. As far as my favorite Biblical characters go, she ranks right up there with Uriah the Hittite and the prophet Micaiah (aka So Much Swoon and Mr. Sass), but I digress…

Like everyone else, I admire Esther’s courage. I’m inspired by the fact that when it comes to making a life or death decision, Esther steps out and risks her neck for her people, even though she’s obviously scared out of her mind. But the part of the story that resonates in me more than anything else is when it’s mentioned that, before she ever met the king and became his bride, Esther was relocated to the best place in the harem and assigned seven personal maids.

You might think I’m moved by God’s obvious favor upon her even then. After all, everyone who shares a message about Esther talks about how she was set apart in this manner. But I’m a little more interested in how she might have been torn apart.

Because sometimes being set apart looks a whole lot like being isolated.

Think about it. Hegai moved her to the best place in the harem. We’re not told if this was completely separate from the other women or if it was still in the midst of them, but while I can’t guarantee where it landed her on a geographical scale, I can pretty confidently say where she ended up on the relationship scale. Basically this was a beauty competition and, by displaying this unmerited favor upon her, Hegai singled Esther out as the one to beat.

“Congratulations, dollface, you’re the most hated woman in Susa! Step right up to claim your prize.”

I mean, she still had her seven maids (and, judging from her reputation of winning people over in a heartbeat, they probably liked her), but I can’t help imagining that was the loneliest year of Esther’s life.

And I hate that this is the part of Esther’s story I find myself relating to the most when I would rather have the crown and the bravery and the saving a nation from destruction. But Esther’s story—and my story, too—would not be complete without the fear and the loneliness and the wondering if one life really matters in the grand scope of things.

I can’t imagine Esther was very grateful for her isolation when she was standing in the thick of it. It doesn’t have to be recorded within the pages of her story for me to know that spiteful comments and hurtful words were thrown her way. Girls are vicious, and I imagine Esther was torn apart during those twelve months of beauty treatments.

But God needed to get Esther alone in order to teach her to trust Him alone. This is obvious in later chapters of her story when she turns to Him and humbles herself in prayer, along with her seven maids that she apparently converted along the way (as evidenced by her comment about them praying with her in Esther 4:16). Check that out.  Esther was left with only a few women to trust and she transformed their lives. You go, girl!

I can’t help wondering what Esther’s life would have looked like without that season of isolation. We can know for certain that there are seven women who would not have had their lives transformed by her witness, but we also have to wonder how Esther would have stood in the midst of the masses. Would she still have transformed lives, or would she have conformed to the image these women expected of her?

Was Hegai’s favor a saving factor in Esther’s story? I imagine that it was. But I also imagine that Esther was confused by it. I can’t help but wonder how often she wished he hadn’t singled her out and made her the enemy of every other woman in the harem. Because being set apart hurts. There’s loneliness involved. And it’s even harder when we can’t see the big picture. While Esther knew she was there competing for the crown, I can’t imagine that she ever really believed she would be Xerxes’ choice of queen. She probably hoped, just as every other girl there hoped, but I’m sure her dreams were plagued by doubts.

Sometimes I feel as isolated as Esther. Maybe I’m not the most hated woman in Susa, but I remember feeling like the most ignored girl in Logan County, and sometimes I’ve felt like the most invisible woman in Charlottesville. Whether or not that was actually true, the feelings were very real, and they hurt.

Following Jesus hurts.

And I don’t know why God’s path has to be riddled with pain, but I do know that I serve a Creator who makes beauty from ashes. I follow an Author who turns orphaned peasants into queens. So whenever you’re feeling torn apart, just remember that the God who writes real-life fairy tales has set you apart for such a time as this, and when you come through these trials, dear one, you will stand in the presence of kings.

set apart

Letting Go of Me; Holding on to You

Over the weekend, my housemates and I took a personality test—just for fun. There was a lot of laughter as we tried to guess each other’s answers, pinning each other with words that didn’t fit at all, before giving a serious response. Overall it was an edifying experience, pointing out the strengths in each other and remembering certain occasions when Lynn was thoughtful and Ellen was inspiring and Amber was a mediator.

I learned a lot, mostly about the people I live with, but also about myself. Sometimes as I was poised to give one answer, everyone else would say another.

“Will the real Rebekah please stand up?”

There are things in myself I don’t see.
There are things in myself no one else sees.
There are things in my life people assume I’m good at because I’ve spent so much time forcing myself to be those things.

And I wonder what my life would look like if I learned to be a little more transparent. I wonder if maybe there’s a place for taking down the walls and letting myself be known just a little deeper.

I just finished reading Victoria Schwab’s The Unbound, where the main character is afraid of letting people too close because when she makes physical contact with someone, she can hear the noise of their lives. She can read their thoughts like a book. Their memories play like movies in her mind.

While I may not share Mackenzie’s supernatural gift, sometimes I think I’m also afraid of the noise. Afraid if I let someone too close, they are going to encounter mine, and I’m going to get tangled up in theirs. And by and by, I’ll be forced to realize that life is messy.

There are no simple answers. No perfect solutions. No easy way to navigate this big old world in which we live.

I’m pretty good at putting on a face and letting you see what I want you to see, but I’m not always good at letting it unravel and saying, “This—no, this right here—is who I truly am.”

Just this morning I was encouraged to be the kind of person who makes whoever she is with feel like they are the center of her universe. As I read those words, I knew that I wanted that. I knew I wanted to ascribe that kind of worth to everyone I encounter. But the longer I reflect on it, the more I realize I can’t be that kind of person if I’m withholding pieces of myself.

I’m realizing that God didn’t make me a whole person so that I can be half of one; He wants all the pieces of me to shine forth for His glory.

And it’s hard. It’s hard to expose that much. It’s exhausting to try to put your whole self into everything.

But this world deserves our everything.

You deserve my everything.

So here’s to being the kind of person who bares her heart, embraces the noise, and lets everyone be the center of her universe for however long they need to be.

center of our universe