On the Corner of Boundary and Adventure

I don’t know who named the streets in Beaufort, South Carolina, but I could hug the guy who juxtaposed Boundary and Adventure. In the eight years I’ve been heading south for September I’ve been drawn to that street—Adventure, that is. Funny thing is, I never set toe or tread on it until a little over a week ago.

And it makes sense, I suppose, that I’ve never turned down that road in the past. Because Boundary Street will take me where I need to go. It’s the main drag through town—the road everyone drives in comfort knowing it will lead to all the important things, while Adventure Street is just a little road that leads to God only knows where. Hence the name “Adventure,” right?

I think life is a lot like the streets of Beaufort. Everyone says they want a little adventure, but they’re too afraid to step outside the familiar confines of the boundaries they’ve made for themselves. I’m guilty of it, too. That’s why I made a little detour on the way to the beach last week. That’s why I pulled my car over to the side of the road and took a little stroll that fine Saturday afternoon.

I’m guilty of singing Disney tunes as I go throughout my day. I can’t count the number of times the lyrics, “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere” have come out my mouth. And in the moment I think I mean them, but I don’t. Not really. Because I bypass Adventure and keep on cruising down Boundary more often in life than I care to admit. I could have the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack blasting from my car speakers as I sing along with the reprise of “Belle” and still drive right past Adventure Street. Because Boundary is so comfortable and familiar and I never have been one for scenic routes.

But I think we all need a little more Adventure in our lives. I think we all need to take those detours that lead us down abandoned side streets. I think we all need to do a lot more than sing about the adventure we want to live. So get ready to slow down and take a right turn up ahead.

Adventure is calling your name.

boundary and adventure

 

The Climb of Faith

There’s something extremely spiritual about rock climbing, at least for me. Nothing quite makes me question my faith like dangling from a rope thirty feet off the ground. Yesterday was my first rock climbing excursion since my rather tragic experience as a child, and I will confess that it was not any easier dropping off that wall the second time around. It’s not a trust issue; it’s a control issue. I knew my friend on belay was more than capable of safely delivering me to the ground, but I felt that this whole unsettling falling sensation could have easily been avoided if I could just retrace my steps back down the wall.

How ironic that the path I would choose is actually the more dangerous one. Because if I had tried to climb back down the wall, David would have needed to give the rope some slack. Then, if I would have fallen, the rope—no longer in lock position—would have slipped right through the carabiner and let me drop to the ground (unless my friend has some super-fast reflexes, but I’m not going to be the one to find out).

In any case, rock climbing is a dangerous sport for a control freak like me because, as I was reminded yesterday, it left me with very little control.

And maybe that’s okay. Because maybe I need to learn to let go every once in awhile. And maybe I need to stop depending so heavily on Rebekah and lean on God a little bit more.

Because maybe God is my guy on belay, and maybe I’ve always needed the Voice of Someone who can see the whole picture saying, “There’s one by your right knee. Right there. Yeah, that’s the one. Now put all your weight on your left foot and push yourself up. You can do it. Just push yourself up.”

Yesterday, my friends got to be the people keeping me from falling and encouraging me to try again when I don’t succeed the first time, but that’s what God has been for me every single day of my life. He’s the One holding me up, tugging on the rope at times to lift me where I need to be (thanks, Dave, for that analogy). He’s the One who lets me back down to try a different path when I realize I’m in way over my head. He’s the One who lowers me down gently when my arms turn to noodles and I just can’t—no, I can’t—climb any more. And He’s the One who sits by my side as I catch my breath, patiently waiting until I’m ready to try again.

And if I can rely so fully on my friends during one Sunday afternoon of rock climbing, I think I can trust that God has my back the rest of the week. So here’s to that great climb of faith my life has turned out to be.

“Climbing.”

“Climb on.”

psalm 56.13

Caught Up in Forever

I could pass entire days dreaming. I mean, I’m a novelist. It’s what I do. I dream up worlds and stories and characters. But sometimes… Sometimes those dreams get a little out of control. Sometimes I forget to draw the line between fantasy and reality. Sometimes I really do spend entire days dreaming, and I don’t feel that my life has benefited from it.

Ever heard the phrase “too much of a good thing”? Dreams can be like that. While they are an absolute vital part of our existence, you can get so wrapped up in them that they cease to be a good thing.

Because it’s hard to dream and do at the same time. If all you’re doing is envisioning the future, but not taking the steps necessary to get there, you have a problem. A big problem. You’re stuck in a rut. Your dreams are stale. And I wonder…

I wonder what you’re doing about Right Now.

Because, once upon a time, I used to wake up in the morning and tell myself to live the journey. I’d whisper the words of a Steven-James-penned poem to myself as I went throughout my day. Live the Journey. Live. Because I used to believe in embracing the moments and grasping the now that slipped so quickly through my fingertips. But then I forgot. I got so caught up in the future that I forgot to leave room for the now.

I tell myself over and over again to slow down and let life catch up, and sometimes I do. Sometimes I stop to breathe and look around me and revel in the beauty of my life here and now. But sometimes I’m too caught up in forever to care about what happens day to day.

And I feel that life is one, endless cycle of me getting it right only to find that I’ve gotten it wrong. And my journals are full of scribbled pleas to remember what is truly important. That I’m going to miss forever if I don’t learn to embrace the now.

Because I realize there is so much I don’t know about forever. It’s unpredictable. Unable to be grasped and labeled and categorized and tucked safely away into a box where I can control it. But right now… Right now is within my reach, and maybe it won’t stay forever. Maybe it will flicker like a firefly–here for a season, gone the next. Maybe it will lift itself up on butterfly wings and float away on the breeze. But maybe… Maybe before it goes, it will first dance its way into my heart, leaving footprints on my memory of a life well lived.

Because, yes, I don’t know much of anything about forever, but I know what’s in front of me right now. And I know I need to slow down and simply breathe in right now. And I know it’s my duty–my God-given duty–to live right now.

So here’s to letting go of forever.

caught up in forever

The View From Right Here

I have to confess that I’ve had sort of a bad attitude about life lately. Because if life is a game of Candy Land, I’ve been stuck in Molasses Swamp for eighteen turns now. And if life is a climb, I’ve been on this mountain far too long and I’m not even sure how close I am to the top.

And when your entire journey has been a heart racing, thigh straining, lung bursting climb straight up the mountain, it’s easy to get discouraged. Even after you’ve finally reached the top, it’s easy to forget the view. Because the climb down isn’t any better. In fact, sometimes straight down is even worse than straight up. Every knee-jarring step leads you farther from the view, and if you get your focus in the wrong place, you’ll quickly forget the wonder of watching the fog part to unfold an entire world before you.

I’ve found myself wanting to fast-forward a year or so—just far enough that I don’t have to be in this rut any longer. Just far enough that I’ve actually got life somewhat figured out. And then I realize how laughable that thought is, because when have I ever had life figured out? Sure, there was a time I thought I did, but when I look at how far I am from that dream now…

And once again, I find the words of Hannah Brencher echoing in my head.

“Life will lose its worth if you are only ripping to find the answers.”

And I find that her words are a reprimand because I’m missing life now, in this moment, because I’m so caught up in where I want to be some day in the future.

And maybe I don’t need to be at the top right now.

Maybe it’s enough to just stop and take a deep breath, filling my lungs with life, enjoying the feel of the mist on my skin.

Maybe it’s enough to know that I’ve climbed mountains like this before and it has always, always, always been worth it.

And maybe it’s time to remember that the view from the top isn’t always the most important one.

Maybe it’s time to take in the view from right here.

the view from right here

Relearning the Song

My dad grew up pretty close to the tracks. To this day, he doesn’t register the sound of a train whistle.

There are sounds we can tune out. Sounds to which we can grow deaf. We do this mostly to protect ourselves. Rather than allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by constant background noises, we simply choose what we want to hear.

But what happens when we stop hearing altogether? What happens when we accidentally start tuning out the important things in life?

I fell in love with Jesus through the analogy of dance (Thank you, Shannon Kubiak).

Jesus and I have “a song.” That song has been the background music of my entire life—always present and always beckoning me to join the dance of a lifetime. Sometimes I can close my eyes, hear that song, and imagine myself twirling in Jesus’ arms. But other times, I stop hearing the song altogether. Because, like everything else in my life, I’ve become accustomed to tuning it out.

I’ve grown so used to doing my own thing. I’ve allowed myself to become distracted by all the other noises vying for my attention, and I’ve forgotten the one song that truly matters. It has been lost somewhere amidst the many background noises in my life.

But guess what?

My dad can hear a train if he chooses. If the sound is observed by someone else, he will often stop to listen. And you’ll see it register in his eyes when that train whistle blows.

That gives me hope.

Because if my dad can hear a sound he has been blocking out all his life in the name of a good night’s sleep, then surely I can recapture the melody that has eluded me in recent days.

Oh yes, when I just close my eyes, take a deep breath, and really listen, I can hear the soft refrains echoing through the caverns of my soul.

And I find that my feet cannot help but dance.

sitting on train tracks

The Beautifully Painful Path

There’s a video that recently went viral called A Pep Talk from Kid President to You. If you have not yet been “pep-talked,” you should stop reading this right now and go watch the video because it’s a great message and the speaker is totally adorable.

Anyway… There are a lot of great quotes crammed into that short video, but I find the one the resonates most with me today is where he quotes (or technically misquotes) Robert Frost.

“Two roads diverged in the woods… and I took the road less traveled.”

“AND IT HURT, MAN!”

I couldn’t help laughing at the dramatics as this child rants about rocks and thorns and glass. (“Not cool, Robert Frost.”) But at the same time I feel the weight of his declaration because I know… I know about those less traveled paths and how they hurt really bad. I know what it’s like to have those moments of doubt where I wonder if the other path would have been a better choice.

But then, I didn’t choose the less-traveled path; I was basically forced down it. So maybe a quote that resonates better with me is the words of the witty Maureen Johnson:

“There are times in life when only one path is presented to you. The path may be rocky, on fire, populated by poisonous cottonmouth snakes… but it’s your path.”

I’ll forgive her the redundant expression about poisonous cottonmouth snakes (duh), because I feel for her main character as I read those words. I know all about that dangerous path being the only one. And let me tell you… IT HURTS, MAN!

It has been exactly one year since I was officially declared a published author. One year since Beyond Waiting became a tangible object I could share with all of you. One year that feels like a lifetime. Because it has been so much longer than a year for me. It has, in fact, been three years. Three years of rocks and thorns and poisonous snakes.

All those months riddled with late night arguments where I explained to God that I am a novelist and will therefore never write anything other than a novel (Ha!).

All those stressful days of computer malfunctions and printer jams and last minute edits that wouldn’t save.

And then there was The Night. The Night I sat in a hotel corridor, waiting to be called in for a meeting with a publisher as my leg bounced frantically from a combination of nerves and the five glasses of sweet tea I was trying so hard to retain. The Night that woman (who has clearly never undergone the pains of presenting a book proposal) said to me in her thick, southern drawl, “It’s okay, honey. There’s nothing to be nervous about.”

I cried tears and lost sleep and threw my body all out of whack from the stress of this journey.

It hurt, man.
Really bad.

But you know something? Even if I could go back and choose a different path, I wouldn’t.

Because the journey was as beautiful as it was painful.

For every tear I cried, there were a dozen smiles. For every minute of sleep I lost, there was a moment when I was fully alive.

I argued with God and I danced with Him.

The computer malfunctioned, but the words never stopped spilling from my fingertips.

When the printer jammed, someone fixed it.

And on that very night I nearly died from a nervous breakdown and/or an overdose of sweet tea, Shannon Primicerio gave me a hug and promised me an endorsement.

I held a book in my hands. It had my name on the cover. I opened it up and buried my nose in its crisp, white pages. I handed it to a friend and watched him bury his nose in those crisp, white pages (because apparently we have the same, odd habit when it comes to books).

I watched a dream come true.

And there are people all around the world who thank me for the words I almost didn’t write.

Because I almost gave up and started paving my own path.

Almost.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

the road less traveled

Your Gift to the World

Every single one of us was born with an innate desire to leave a mark on the world. Like footprints stamped in concrete or initials carved into trees, we need a way of saying to the world, “I was here.”

But what do those things tell us about the person who left them behind? Very little, actually.

The other night, I watched Lincoln for the first time and I couldn’t help wondering, as Daniel Day-Lewis filled the screen, “Is that what Lincoln was really like?”  How much of that story was fiction and how much was fact? I’m willing to bet the director made most of it up. Why?

Because as famous as Abraham Lincoln was, we have no way of truly knowing him. We have the written accounts of what he said or how others perceived him, but while that gives us a glimpse into his life, it doesn’t tell us the heart and soul of him. It doesn’t tell us who Abraham Lincoln really was.

Here’s my rather morbid confession: I. Love. Graveyards.

I love wandering through them in my spare time and considering each headstone—the final mark each person left on the world. It doesn’t tell us much. Just a name and two dates. Just a single slab a granite that says, “Yes, I was here.”

But when I walk through cemeteries, I ask other questions. What did this person look like? What were her dreams? And did she ever succeed in bringing those dreams to life? To me, each headstone marks a story known only to those who knew the person and knew them well.

And I realize that in the grand scope of things—when you consider how many others have lived and died and given their all in this world—you and I will only touch a mere handful of lives. That may sound frightfully discouraging until you realize one, important fact.

It’s not about the number of people we touch, but how deeply we touch them.

I think sometimes we’re so concerned with trying to touch the whole world that we run frantically about, brushing elbows with hundreds of strangers. “There,”  we think. “Now I’ve touched them.”  But if we want to be truthful, we must realize that those people at the supermarket are going to forget our faces the moment we pass from view.

You have been given a precious few lives to impact on this earth. And if you do it right, they will carry your legacy on to future generations. And maybe somewhere along the line they will have forgotten your name and face, but someone will know your heartbeat. And perhaps long after you’re gone, someone else will have a heart that beats to that same rhythm.

And you will have touched the world, my friend.

That heartbeat is your gift to the world.

touching the world

Learning to Share Joy

While reading Han’s Christian Andersen’s The Old Street Lamp, I stumbled across this quote: “Joy that we cannot share with others is only half enjoyed.”

Perhaps the reason it jumped out at me is because I’ve been focusing on community and the importance of sharing our lives with others and I just forced out the most difficult post for Devotional Diva on living together (which you’ll be able to read in a couple of weeks).

And there are those words. Mocking me. Haunting me.

“Joy that we cannot share with others is only half enjoyed.”

I once had a co-worker ask me, “Don’t you get excited about anything?”

My initial thought was, “Well, of course I get excited.” And I do. On the inside. But it takes a pretty big event to get me jumping up and down.

Maybe I don’t share joy very well. And while this frustrated my co-worker to no end, I was never really bothered by this fact until I read that quote.

“Joy that we cannot share with others is only half enjoyed.”

What if I’ve only been half enjoying my life? What if I’ve only been half enjoying yours? And what would happen if I learned to finally, fully share my joy?

Because I’m pretty sure I have friends who get more (outwardly) excited about events in my life than I do. Just yesterday I had a friend ask me what the current word count on my novel is and when I answered him, he smiled real big and said, “Whoa, that’s a novel.”

And I casually responded, “Yeah, it’s coming along,” when the proper response was probably something more like, “OH MY GOSH, I KNOW! Isn’t it awesome?”

Because I have a right to get excited. I have a right to express that excitement.

I have a right to experience joy to the fullest by daring to share it with others.

My joy. Your joy. I’m ready to “enjoy” it.

So please, share your joy with me in the comments so we can both experience the full measure of joy.

"Joy that we cannot share with others is only half enjoyed."

The Needy Kind

I once informed my family that I was going to spend some time with Jesus.

“Tell Him I said, ‘hi,'” my mom said.

Then my brother (who was not five, but twenty-three) chimed in, “Tell Him I want a pony.”

We all got some laughs out of that one, but when I sit down and really think about it, I find that the confession that slips off my tongue is, “I’m not really the needy kind, except when it comes to You.”

Because I’m pretty independent. I’m not one to ask people for help until I’ve tried it on my own and discovered that I really can’t do it. But that’s not the case when it comes to my prayer journals. And I’m not saying that every page details me asking for a pony. There are days where I write out lists of things I’m thankful for and marvel at how God managed to blow my mind yet again, but when I flip through the pages that reflect my spiritual walk, I find that so many of my prayers include me asking for something.

To be sheltered close to God’s heart.

To learn to see with His eyes.

That God will grant favor to that missionary who is very much a part of my heart.

That I will find joy in His presence and hope in the hard times.

And I think, when’s the last time I shut myself away from the world simply to tell God “hi”?

I can’t remember. I think there was a time, once, when I would wake up in the morning and whisper a greeting to the One who shapes my days, but it has been too long ago. I’ve become needy in all the wrong ways.

Or maybe the problem is that I’m not needy enough.

I want to be the kind of needy that craves time spent in His presence.

I want to be the kind of needy that reaches out to Him the moment I wake up.

I want to be the kind of needy that can’t live without knowing He’s right by my side every, single moment of the day.

I want to be the kind of needy that doesn’t need answers; only Him.

And if I have one request today, it’s that He would be enough.

Taking That Step

Once upon a time, a little girl went rock climbing. She was all of maybe ten years old and the climbing wall at the museum didn’t look so threatening in the face of the dirt cliff she scaled on a regular basis. In fact, the climbing wasn’t hard in the least, and when she reached the top she could have stayed there looking down at the crowd of people forever… because the only way down was to jump.

I remember that moment clearly—wondering why I couldn’t simply climb back down the wall, retracing my steps and placing my weight where I could trust it, rather than dangling at the end of a rope high above the museum floor. Because I could have done that. I gladly would have done that. But no, they wanted me to step out over that ledge and simply hope for the best, and I’m sure you understand why I wasn’t really comfortable with that.

“Rebekah, I’ve got you,” my dad said, drawing my attention to where he sat at the other end of my rope and causing me to wonder how he could have so much faith in this system. “Just step out. Let go.”

I shook my head and backed away from the ledge. From the fear. From the unknown.

Sometimes I doubt my Father. And I’m not talking about the one who sat at the end of my rope that day (though I surely doubted him in that moment). I’m talking about the One who has been holding my rope since the day He first designed to set me on this planet.

The other day I had one of those moments where I was really questioning the sanity of God’s plan for my life. It was just another one of those days when I was looking at the path before me and thinking that there is surely a better way. So there I was, trying to rearrange the details of my life, when I heard God whisper, “Rebekah, have I not been faithful?”

Ugh.

“Then why are you considering this? Why do you doubt?”

Well, I guess it’s because this past year has been a bit of a rock climbing experience for me. Scaling the wall wasn’t difficult at all, but I’m still standing here trying to muster the courage to jump. I’ve realized how often I’m tempted to reach for those familiar footholds. To navigate life on my own. But all the while, God is asking me to jump. And I’m standing there shaking my head and shouting, “Are you crazy?”

“Rebekah, I’ve got you,” God promises. “Just step out. Let go.”

You know, I don’t really remember what took place that day at the museum. I’m not sure if I finally took that step on my own or if my dad gave a gentle tug on the rope, sweeping my feet out from under me and leaving me with no other choice (he at least threatened to do just that, because that image stands out in my mind like an actual memory would). I do remember not falling to my death. And I even remember thinking that (dare I confess this?) the ride down was actually kind of fun.

I also know that I’m standing here today, faced with the same choice. And, you know, I’m thinking it might be best to simply close my eyes, take a deep breath, and step out into the expanse before me.

Ready. Set. Go.rock climbing collage