The Rush

“I want you to try slowing it down,” Kim said. “It’s like you’re in a rush to get to the landing. I want you to be in a rush to get in the air and just kind of float there for awhile. Like a little fairy.”

She’s right, I realize. While there are multiple steps to a jump, I find my mind fixated on the last one—-gliding backward with arms to the side and one leg extended behind me.

Crushed it.

Except I didn’t. Because the jump itself was sloppy and haphazard. Rushed. Like so many other things in my life.

I love accomplishing things. I love drawing check marks on to-do lists. I like looking at the finished product and saying, “Look what I have done!”

And I rush the process trying to get to the landing.

I find Kim’s voice rushing through my mind a lot these days. I guess that’s what a good coach does. She trains you to hear her gentle commands even when she’s not there to deliver them:

“Slow. Don’t rush. Cross and hold. Now look back and hold. Whoa. Hold that position. Now step forward. Hold. Now UP!”

And the funny thing is that I hardly think about the landing anymore. Landing is the easy thing. The natural thing. It requires so little of my focus.

Savoring those in-between moments… From the first crossover to the landing position… That’s the hard part. Being aware of my shoulders and my core… Being intentional about each step… That’s what kills me.

I spend too many of my days in a rush to get to the end of them. I look at the checklist of things I need to do and, instead of savoring each one, I simply rush through to the next.

Quiet time? Check. Workout? Check. Grocery shopping, house cleaning, coffee date? Check.

And by the time I crawl into bed, my day is a blur. It feels as sloppy as my waltz jump. As reckless as my Salchow. I may have gotten to the ending, but I failed to infuse intention into each step, and I feel the lack of it.

So I’m learning to slow down, both on the ice and off. To savor each step. To be present in each moment. To rush into the next thing, but then just kind of float there for awhile. Like a little fairy.

I like to think that someday I will be content to live a step-by-step kind of life.

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The Depths

“Take me into the depth of who You are and change me there.”

When Hannah Brencher gave me permission to #stealthisprayer a couple months ago, I gladly accepted. I posted it on my mirror. I scribbled it across multiple pages of my journal. It has become my daily battle cry.

“God, take me into the depth of who You are and change me there.”

I say it with all the sincerity my wayward heart can muster, longing for the depths while absently splashing in the shallows.

I think I like the water analogy because I don’t actually like water all that much. It’s easy to view this spiritual drought as something I’ve created for myself because of my aversion to diving in over my head. Like, Rebekah, you are holding back. Jump in, jump in, jump in.

My parents have a pond and I don’t think I ever swam in it until a couple weeks ago. I realize that’s ridiculous. It’s just that I don’t particularly like treading water and I really don’t like standing with my feet swallowed up in pond scum, so I guess I haven’t found a good reason to spend time there in the last twenty or so years it has existed.

I feed the fish, but I don’t swim with them. Thank you very much.

Even on the day in question, I had no intention of actually getting in the water. But since everyone else was hanging out there I figured, at the very least, I could change into my suit and soak up some sun. Which might have worked for me, except Caleb exists.

When I launched out onto that pond, perfectly dry on the pretty pink flotation device I mercifully found unoccupied, that little bugger came drifting over with an evil glint in his eyes. You know the one. It’s the look that says your fun in the sun is about to get flipped upside down. Literally.

“Don’t do it.” I tried to sound stern, but I probably sounded more whiny than anything. Because seriously, this was a little slice of heaven and how dare he take that from me? “Caleb, no.”

“What’s the point of being in a pond if you’re not going to get wet?” he pestered, splashing water onto my back as I helplessly protested.

And then he went under. And try as I may to sprawl my weight evenly across that raft, I was no match for Caleb’s determination.

“I’m sorry,” he lied, and swam away, leaving me in the middle of a pond with my arms draped across a raft that was no longer keeping me dry.

And you know what? It was really fun swimming around beneath the surface of that water. I might even do it again sometime.

So basically I’ve been asking God to play the role of Caleb in this story. To save me from the comfortable little existence I cling to by flipping my world upside down and immersing me in things I wouldn’t have necessarily chosen for myself. I’m not saying I don’t protest. I’m not pretending I don’t often clench my fists around the things I’m hesitant to release to Him.

In a lot of ways, my prayer is more of a reminder to myself to keep craving the depths. To keep moving into the things that scare me until I’m not afraid anymore. It’s a cry for total surrender even as I hold myself back.

“Take me into the depth of who You are and change me there.”

Finally Fearless

I’ve just come back from traveling the world.

No, seriously. I took a month long road trip that spanned eight thousand miles and seventeen states. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences in which I visited a few friends along the way, but also spent a solid two weeks literally living out of my car.

I think it’s the whole sleeping in the car thing that has led to the general consensus that I might be insane. Mostly, I just wanted to take an epic road trip without completely breaking the bank, and, hey, I didn’t die, now did I?

As I detailed my plans and/or recounted my travels, the phrase that kept resurfacing from the lips of friends and strangers alike is, “I would never be brave enough to do something like that.”

I had nothing to say to this. Mostly because I know there was nothing I could have said to myself when I first had the idea to maybe take off four years ago. As much as I wanted to go, I wasn’t quite ready to tackle such a venture on my own. I may have been the girl who toted “fearless” like a battle cry, but there was still a whole lot of fear in me.

The biggest thing I learned about myself on this journey is that I’m not afraid anymore. The things that used to strike fear into my heart didn’t even make me flinch. They made me excited instead.

I didn’t feel brave packing up half of my wardrobe and leaving behind the familiar in search of new sights. I felt relieved. Like staying wasn’t even an option anymore because going felt so necessary.

I needed that week in Kansas. I needed the chaos of shoving 30+ people in one home where you whisper, “Praise Jesus” upon finding an unoccupied bathroom. I needed the hugs and the laughter and did I mention the hugs?

I needed to hit the road and drive across countryside that looks nothing like I’ve seen back East.

I needed to hike high altitudes, and venture deep into caverns, and walk along shorelines my feet had never touched before.

I needed the people I stopped to see along the way. I needed their love and hospitality and showers. God knows I needed their showers.

I needed to get out and live because sometimes staying rooted in one spot feels more like withering away.

So I don’t know what to say to those people who aren’t there yet—the ones who think they can’t be brave—except this:

What I wished as I sat overlooking a canyon at Zion National Park was that I would have been braver ten years ago. Maybe not to the point of packing up my life and hitting the road for a month, but in smaller, seemingly insignificant ways.

I wished I would have spent more time downtown. I wished I would have ventured deeper into the Blue Ridge. I wished I would have taken off on spontaneous adventures all on my own instead of waiting for someone to invite me to tag along with them. I wished I would have splurged a little on seemingly silly things.

I wished I wouldn’t have always played it so safe and smart and practical.

There’s a time and a place for that, but it took up so much room in my life. Letting go, leaving all of that behind… I feel like a whole new person. And I like this person a whole lot better than the girl from before.

She’s happier. She’s a heck of a lot more fun. And she doesn’t feel stuck in a life she never wanted for herself.

She’s finally fearless in all the ways she wanted to be all those years ago.

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Party of One: A Book Review

Listen, we all know that singleness is my jam, so it should come as no surprise that I still collect books on this little fascination of mine. Honestly, most of them say the same old thing, which is why I’m popping in here to gush about finding a fresh perspective on the subject.

Party of One by Joy Beth Smith is not about providing more cliche answers, but about making room for the discussion the church is not having about sex and singleness. (And might I just add, it’s about dang time.) I did my fair share of blushing and cringing through a certain chapter, so I can confidently say that I don’t agree with every opinion voiced within these pages. Heck, I can’t say that the author agrees with every opinion she presented on behalf of her fellow single women, but at least we’re finally having the conversation.

While I’ve heard a whole lot of complaints over the years about purity culture and Joshua Harris’ infamous I Kissed Dating Goodbye, I didn’t understand how these things were to be blamed for a broken view of sexuality… until Joy Beth broke down all the things I was taught in youth group and so graciously explained how these teachings may have been harmful to me. Guys, it hurts how right she was. By the time I put this book down, I was feeling absolutely liberated.

My favorite concept from this book, however—the one that will stick with me forever—was the perspective a twenty-eight year old woman shared with Joy Beth on her ongoing struggle with still being single.

“It’s not what I was prepped for,” she said. “It’s not what I envisioned.”

She goes on to say that her whole life she was taught to be a wife and mother, but no one ever taught her to be a woman.

“My biggest struggle is knowing what womanhood looks like, what identity and completion look like, apart from the goal of marriage.”

And that, my friends, is why I champion the cause of the single Christian woman. Because we’re all struggling to find value in ourselves when church culture has taught us to find our worth in marriage and motherhood. Because we deserve better than to spend our lives waiting for a husband who may never come. We deserve to be validated as a Party of One.

So You Think You Can’t Dance

“Do you dance?”

It was perhaps the first question he ever asked me. I answered with a nervous laugh and a shake of my head. “No.”

Before I knew it, he had taken my hand, pulled me close, and started twirling me in a too-small kitchen.

Well, hello. Nice to meet you, too.

“You can dance,” he chastised me after a moment had passed.

“I can follow,” I countered, because somehow it didn’t seem to count as dancing so long as someone else was doing all of the creative work. While I’ve always longed to move my body with all the grace and confidence my sister displays, I simply can’t.

I can’t.

Two simple words. Five little letters dotted with the apostrophe of finality.

I can’t.

It’s hard to imagine a phrase so small could have the power to undo you, but it does. Over and over again, those words have confined me, strapping me down to a small existence where new limits are not reached.

My word for 2018, I quickly realized, is Horizon. Really, it’s a phrase: Bring Me That Horizon. (What can I say? I’ve always been obsessed with the pirate’s life.)

While the horizon is most commonly known as the line at which the earth’s surface and the sky appear to meet, it also refers to the limit of a person’s mental perception, experience, or interest.

In other words, it’s the “I can’t” moments. I think I’m supposed to conquer them this year. So I’m trying to face them head on—all those moments I instinctively greet with a, “No way, Jose.”

As I’ve been intentional about catching these thoughts, I’ve grown discouraged by the sheer volume of them. I had no idea how often I shut myself down.

“Really bend your knee and push that blade into the ice,” Kim coaches.

“My legs are not strong enough to hold that position. I can’t.”

“You’ve got to commit,” Gabe says as he instructs me through a front flip on the trampoline.

“It’s hard to commit to breaking my neck. I can’t.”

“Loosen your hips and move with it, girl!” Caleb calls as I’m tossed about on a mechanical bull.

“That defies every instinct of self-preservation in my body. I can’t.”

As I am my own worst critic, I don’t think it’s an accident that this challenge has come on the tail end of my Year of Together. I’ve gathered some pretty fantastic people (see above) who often give me that little boost of encouragement I needed. I’ve learned to take them at their word even when my doubts want to tell me they’re wrong. I am not a backspin prodigy; I can barely get my left foot off the ice for one rotation.

But I’ve learned to trust those voices. I’ve learned to lean into them and let them give me the strength I didn’t know that I had.

And a funny thing has happened to me over the last few months. I’ve become brave enough to dance in public—even when there is no one to follow. Because, surprisingly enough, my hips know how to move entirely on their own. Suddenly, they feel beautiful and confident and maybe even a little bit graceful. (And, if Shakira is to be believed, hips don’t lie, so it must be true.)

It’s amazing what a world of possibilities opens up when we stop telling ourselves we can’t and instead start whispering that we’ve got this. That this new challenge is going to be difficult, but we are strong and capable of conquering it.

I hope you’ll be brave enough to tell yourself you can.

An Experiment in Together

When I moved home to Ohio in 2014, I didn’t intend to stay this long. I thought I needed six months or maybe a year to figure out where I was going next, but I certainly intended to go. I was going to move on, explore the world, and see things I had never seen. While I’ve had a few adventures during that time, I mostly feel like I have spent the last three years waiting for release and finding myself blocked at every turn.

“What would you do if I asked you to stay?” God whispered into my soul.

I’ll tell you what I did. I cringed. I squirmed. I raged against the very idea of staying in one place for too long. Why would He ask me to stay when I only ever wanted to go?

I have always worn the word Fearless like the anthem Taylor Swift once penned it to be—plunging headfirst into the storm, dancing in my best dress. This was the image I had of myself. This was the girl I wanted to be. But at the beginning of 2016, God redefined this word for me.

I was reading the conclusion to Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. In this scene, Liraz—a most formidable warrior—watches over the two humans who stumbled into her world. She sneers at them because they are tiny and pathetic and out of place in a world at war.

Weak, she thought, still watching the human pair, but there was another word lurking, defying it. Fearless. They slept with their faces touching.”

And I felt God whisper into my heart again: “This is the kind of Fearless I want you to be. The kind of Fearless that is small and vulnerable and willing to come face to face with another human being.”

Well, I must have failed miserably at this missive because, at the beginning of 2017, He gave me another word: Together.

No word in the history of mankind has unsettled me quite so much as the word Together. At least Fearless was still my battle cry, even if I was meant to redefine exactly what that meant to me. Together was something else entirely. I do solo rather well, thank you very much, and there was nothing within me that even wanted to pursue the implications of this word… which was exactly my problem and most certainly why God stapled it to me.

So I attempted Together. Out of begrudging obligation, I made appointments and stuck with them even though I would have preferred to be elsewhere. Sure, there were exceptions. There were some really great moments with some truly wonderful people, but for the most part, I felt like I was colossally failing at Together.

And then I met the Ropers.

I’m still not entirely sure how this pack of brothers managed to fall into my life. All I know is that last summer they were just friends of a friend of a friend that my sister decided, for whatever reason, to reach out to on Snapchat. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Her phone became her constant companion. And how could it not when she had four brothers and three of their friends blowing it up 24/7?

I didn’t get it. Right up until the moment she got permission to bring some of her new friends on vacation with our family, I didn’t understand how, in such a short amount of time, these strangers she met on the internet could become her whole life.

But there I was, celebrating my family vacation with three extremely affectionate brothers and their spunky female cousin. And so, my vacation that was meant to provide an abundance of much-needed personal space became in experiment in Together. But for the first time possibly ever, that wasn’t a negative thing. For the first time since I can remember, I actually wanted to be with these people more than I wanted to be curled up in my room with a good book.

This is what people have in mind when they talk about Community, I thought. This is what Together is supposed to look like.

I think that alone would have been a catalyst into a new way of living, but God (who had certainly realized that I was finally grasping this concept and was perhaps concerned I would lose it if He didn’t act quick) let me keep the Ropers a little longer. After Dad offered them some work, they’ve been mostly living with my parents off and on since October.

The week Caleb first got to town, I curled right up on the couch next to him and laid my head on his shoulder. When he wrapped his arms around me and pressed his chin to my forehead, I recalled the words that have been singing on repeat in my mind these last two years:

Fearless. They slept with their faces touching.”

And I thought, I get it now. I think I’m finally there.

While I’m still the kind of Fearless that would dance in a storm in my best dress, I’ve realized that I’m not dancing alone anymore. There are other people out here in the storm with me and that is a beautiful, magical thing.

I didn’t think it was possible for me to crave Together like a flower craves sunlight, but here I am.

I have this friend—Katie. She’s nearly twenty and acts like the sassy little sister I never knew I wanted. She stayed at my apartment until 3:30am after a game night a few weeks ago and, as we were talking it dawned on me that I wanted those late night talks on a more consistent basis. I ended up asking her to move in with me. I guess it just seemed like the perfect culmination to my year of Together.

So now I have a roommate, and I know it’s still early, but I’m finding it perfect. I miss her when she’s not around, which feels a little pathetic, but also kind of beautiful.

I don’t know what this next year brings. I’m hoping for new horizons and the opportunity to travel more. But I know that whatever I do, I won’t be doing it alone anymore.

We live in a world with amazing technology at our fingertips. Home can be transient. Together can stretch across miles as long as you know how to do it right. I’m still learning, but I think I’ve learned enough that I can finally give it a try.

Here’s to Together.

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Heart vs. Will

The words “not my will” have been singing through my mind since my manager stated them so eloquently about a month ago. So it comes as no surprise that my most recent Bible Study book would lead me to the scene at the Garden of Gethsemane.

When faced with his own battle of “not my will,” author Gregory Hunt dissected the difference between willfulness and willingness.

“Without willfulness,” he states, “we would never get anything done. Willfulness is gumption, and gumption is good.”

But willfulness, he claims, only works until we get that that place where we can’t say for sure that there’s an alignment between our will and God’s. That is where willingness comes into play. Where willfulness may drive our lives, it is willingness that will give us the peace and rest our hearts so desperately crave.

As my rather unsettled heart skimmed over these pages, I realized that I have come to a point in my life where I’m trying to follow after God using willfulness rather than willingness. I find myself constantly striving to hold myself to a standard that used to come easily. While I am still all sorts of stubborn and determined enough to keep my feet on the right track, my heart has gone on hiatus.

My relationship with God these days reminds me, sadly, of that scene in First Knight after Arthur catches Guinevere with Lancelot.

“You love him!” Arthur accuses.

“I choose you,” Guinevere replies.

“Your will chooses me, but your heart chooses him.”

Ouch.

I find myself offering the same determined albeit feeble excuses as Guinevere about my will being stronger than my heart. (It is! It really is! Don’t you feel fortunate to be on the winning side of this battle?)

But God isn’t satisfied with my divided love. Or, as King Arthur would say, He doesn’t want me to love Him “in slices.” I may think my will is strong enough to hold this together, but when He asks me to look upon Him as I look upon my other loves… I can’t.

Because my will may be strong, but there are certain things only a heart can conjure.

So for the time being, I’ll be over here relearning how to fall in love will both my heart and my will.