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

Joy in Your Presence

My life has been so busy lately. That’s been my answer for everyone who asks how I’ve been.

Busy. Busy, busy, busy.

Maybe that’s why Psalm 16:11 hit me like a slap in the face:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s the kind of verse that makes me realize how far off track I’ve been here of late. Caught up in the mundane. Just pushing to get through another moment. Another day.

In the hustle and bustle of everything happening in my life—the tasks I have to complete and the dreams I yearn to see fulfilled—I’ve forgotten an essential thing.

There is joy to be found in the journey. Joy to be found in the One who gives life to those as undeserving as I.

And I find that what I’ve been missing these last few weeks is joy. The joy I used to find in His presence. The joy that unveils itself with every step God leads me through.

The path of life is just that: life. It’s not meant to be routine. It’s not intended to become mundane. It is meant to be lived. Fully. With joy in His presence and eternal pleasures at His right hand.

And for too long I’ve been forgetting to live so fully.

Today I come to find joy in His presence again.

A Light That Shines in the Darkness

My mom recently asked me if I could recommend any Christian books my little sister could read. Having been reading young adult fiction for the last year, my list of “Christian” books isn’t very large. When I explained that fact to my mother, she teased me for my sudden fascination with “heathen” books and music.

Well, you know what they say. When you turn a sheltered, homeschooled child out on her own…

But seriously. My mom was completely messing with me, but if I’m honest with myself, I do sometimes fear that the stuff I’ve been reading is going to color my world with shades of gray (but not fifty shades of it because I’m not even touching that). So I started looking at the shape my life has taken since I stepped outside of the Christian genre. This may sound strange to say, but I think I’m better for it.

Young adult fiction challenges me in a way that Christian fiction never did because instead of flowing smoothly with the worldview I was raised with, it grates against every fiber of my core. There have been books that I’ve cringed through and others that I’ve set aside because they’re not even worth finishing. They present a series of “what if’s” that Christian fiction had protected me from.

The thing is… I like being challenged. I like questioning my convictions and wondering how they would hold up under fire. I like being stirred to anger or moved to brokenness over the scenarios that present themselves to me. I like when a song comes on the radio and I’m reminded to pray for the state of my world… even if it means I have to change the channel every couple of songs.

And I know there is a fine line between convictions and compromise. I know that when you walk too closely to the edge, there’s always a chance of falling. That’s why I spend my mornings with a Bible on my lap and a pen in my hand. That’s why I still crank up the praise music and dance my heart out in worship. That’s why I cling to the promise that God will hold me up if I will simply trust in Him.

Over the past year, my calling has shifted in so many ways. I stopped working at a mission’s organization because I wanted to write full time and because I realized that my calling was to this nation, not the nations. I decided that I’m writing YA fiction with an underlying theme of grace rather than overtly Christian fiction.

Somewhere in the course of the past year, I realized that I don’t want to be a light that shines amidst all the other candles; I want to be the one who stands alone in the dark.

And I know that suggests that I’m going to spend a large portion of my time feeling very, very lonely, but I’ll keep shining—keep calling others forth—hoping that I will one day leave a trail of bright, flickering flames where there was once nothing but darkness.

Growing Pains

“The prerequisites for growth,” Bruce Mau said, are “the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.” Perhaps that is why so many of us reach a point where we simply stop growing. It’s not easy to let an event change us from the inside out.

Or perhaps we simply reach that place where our bodies have ceased growing and we think maybe the rest of us has grown up as well. Now there’s a laughable thought.

I’ve said before that I’m the kind of girl who always had a plan. I always imagined I had my life figured out. I always thought I knew exactly what I wanted. Maybe that’s why I stopped growing. Maybe when I reached that place where my mornings were devoted to my writing, I thought I had finally arrived.

Because this is what I wanted. And even though I knew there was always room for growth, I had let myself believe it could only be the small stuff from here on out. I was settled. I was certain. I was in that dangerously comfortable place… until God reminded me of how often I’m more like a three-year-old girl in her pink tutu and plastic tiara, claiming that I’m going to be a princess when I grow up (which I don’t think I ever actually said growing up, but the principle remains and you know that every three-year-old girl has thought it).

“Darling,” God whispered, “you’re still growing. You’re still in the stages of becoming and discovering and finding it’s not always so easy to stand with your head held high.”

The past few weeks, God and I have been discussing my flaws and, let me tell you, there’s a reason they call them growing pains instead of growing pleasures. I’m learning that there is a price to pay for the joy of becoming. Slowly but surely, I’m accepting the pain for the blessing it truly is.

And if you’re finding it hard to move past the growing pains, just remember that those sharp pangs in your ankles rendering it hard to walk right now are going to make you a little more surefooted in the future. The spasms shooting up your arms are making you strong enough to carry the loads you were never able to shoulder in the past.

Because Little One, Little One, you were made for so much more… You were meant to be so much bigger. You were created for greater things.

But you’re still growing. And it still hurts, though sometimes it’s glorious to realize how tall you’re now standing. But you were made for greater heights than this. For longer reach. So don’t you dare become content to stay just as you are. Because you’re still growing. And yes, it’s a painfully glorious thing.

Full Circle

There’s a rule about stories (that may or may not be unspoken) that the story needs to come full circle. It needs to begin with somewhat of a theme or idea that ties into the ending. That’s what makes a good story. And that is why most of us aren’t writing novels about our lives. We have too many loose ends. Too many things that don’t make sense, and won’t make sense this side of heaven. In a novel, things have to be justifiable… otherwise the reader won’t buy into it. In life, we just have to trust that the Author knows what He’s doing… even when we think the pages of our lives look like a dozen different story ideas crammed between the covers of one book.

Maybe that’s why I was so surprised to find that my last journal has the makings of a novel. Okay, so maybe the stories in the middle aren’t exactly what anyone would want to read (or what I would want anyone to read), but the past seven months of my life have truly come full circle. For example… Page One: March 3, 2012 talks about how rough my recent transition in life was and how desperate I am for Jesus. Then it says this:

I’ve taken some advice from my brother’s musical friend Phil Collins and recognized that I’m on my way. And instead of dreading the future–instead of letting the uncertainties consume my heart–I choose to love every step I take.

I finished that same journal last night with an entry that began with the words, “Today was beautiful–and I’m not just talking about the weather.” And the final paragraph–my farewell words to posterity–read:

Life is a journey with unexpected twists in the road–an adventure far beyond my imagining. And I’m finally not ripping to find the answers. I’m finally content with seeing just this one step. So tell everybody I’m on my way… and I’m loving every step I take.

So, it may not be novel material, but for now I’m content to know that God is bringing my story full circle. Today, I’m satisfied to trust that God is alive and at work in my life and that He will not leave a work unfinished.

So if you’re finding that your life feels like a dozen stories mixed up in one, that’s okay. Because you’re on your way. God is still working on bringing you full circle. And He will bring you full circle… many times in your life.

(Side Note: If you’re still needing a pick-me-up, I recommend Phil Collins. He’s always good for that.)

A Letter to My Fears

A year ago, I conquered you—held you back for long enough to say to my parents, “So, I’m leaving my job because I just have to write full time. And I know I’ll probably be bussing tables or something just to pay the bills, but what do you think?”

And even as I waited for them to tell me what they thought, I knew what I thought—what you would have me think. This was ridiculous. This was impossible. How could I even think such a thing? And I half-expected my parents to be the rational adults they are and tell me the same thing. But if I conquered you for a moment, my dad wiped you away forever when he said the words, “You have your father’s blessing,” which are words every daughter needs to hear at least once in her lifetime. Because if my father could approve of me just barely getting by, then you had no room to protest.

I chose the words that would propel me onward over the doubts that held me back.

Not that you wouldn’t resurface. Not that you wouldn’t come knocking on my door saying, “About that writing gig… How’s that going for you?” As if you didn’t know I struggle. As if you hadn’t figured out that words are hard to birth some days.

And people might say that your constant presence in my life means that I haven’t conquered you after all. But we both know the truth. We both know there is a difference between the Fear of last year and the Fear of today. While you may still come knocking on my door uninvited, I certainly don’t ask you to come in and stay awhile. Not anymore.

No sir, I’ve wised up to your ways. Now, when I open the door to see your face, I tell you you’ve got the wrong address. The girl you’re looking for has long moved on and, no, I don’t know where to find her.

And I might be the sort of person who would kindly take you in, except my table is already full of new friends. Friends like Hope and Promise and Faith and Trust and Believing, and, well, I’m just not sure there’s room for one more. Besides, you sort of give my friends a bad feeling, and everyone knows that you should never ignore a friend’s warning about a guy. And when you have five friends who are all sharing the same disapproval… Well, call it an intervention if you must, but I’m cutting you out of my life for good.

I used to be in this dead-end relationship with you, but I’ve realized the error of my ways. And don’t think you can come crawling back here and sweet-talk your way back into my heart when I’m feeling a little down.

You see, this world holds something better for me, and you didn’t want me to see it because you knew it meant leaving you. And you knew I had it in me to leave or you wouldn’t have tried to hide the truth for so long.

So this is goodbye—I’m cutting my ties. And don’t you come knocking around here, no sir. Don’t you dare come knocking.

The Night We Lit Up the World

I recently read a book called Permission to Speak Freely, which may explain some of the recent posts/conversations/letters I’ve been writing. There was a lot of the book that I disagreed with. A lot of things didn’t resonate with me or sit well in my stomach at all. But I loved the principal of it. I loved the idea that we all need to be a little bit more vulnerable. We all need permission to speak freely.

But one of the quotes that really struck me wasn’t about speaking freely at all. Toward the end of the book, the author quotes a friend saying, “As we grow up, we learn a great deal about the mysteries that perplexed us when we were small. We learn that the sun doesn’t go to bed after all. Our earth just turns away from her for a bit. The stars that look like diamonds sparkling in the sky are really nasty balls of flaming gas. And bit by bit, we surrender the magic that was our constant companion.”

I stared at those words. Blinked a few times. And then I dared to ask why. What’s wrong with believing in sleepy suns and skies filled with diamonds? What’s wrong with holding onto magic?

And I know I talk all the time about embracing magic and wonder and living that childlike faith that Jesus told His disciples they must have. It’s because I believe in it. I believe in letting yourself be awed by things that others may try to reason away.

Last week I spent an evening with two, beautiful preschoolers who introduced me to the magic of glow sand. We walked outside with our containers of blue and green and yellow and orange, sprinkling it across the ground until you would have believed that fairies had been dancing there.

The world was filled with wonder. The yard was aglow with pixie dust. I had it on my hands and in my hair and even between my toes. We laughed and we danced and we felt we could fly. It was magical. Absolutely magical.

But when you think about it, it was just sand. Gritty, dirty sand that would, in four hours, lose its sparkle. Like Cinderella’s carriage turning back into a pumpkin, the magic would be gone. And I would be in desperate need of a shower.

Most people might have considered that before they threw it in their hair. Most people might have been content to let the sand spill out on the ground, lighting up the night for a moment only to be forever lost to the world when morning came around. And you can probably bet that most people would not have sprinkled it over a friend’s shoulders while shouting, “Think happy thoughts!”

Because most people aren’t such big fans of Peter Pan and Neverland and all that “second star to the right and straight on ’til morning” nonsense. Most people, as it was quoted in Permission to Speak Freely, have bit by bit surrendered the magic that was our constant companion.

But I, for one, am not content to be one of those people.

I, for one, will continue to believe in suns that fall asleep and diamonds that sparkle in the night sky.

I, for one, will continue to light up the world with magic that glows only for a moment and wonder that dances forever in our hearts.

Because God never intended for us to lose our amazement. He never wanted us to walk through life scientifically explaining away the miracles He created.

No, I think He wanted us to live a little more like the children who kiss the sun goodnight and marvel at the endless amount of diamonds in the sky. I think He wanted us to hold onto wonder and light up the world with our belief that the world is magical after all.

Remind Me Once Again…

You know how it is when you keep reading the same thing over and over again in a dozen different places until you start to get the impression that maybe God is trying to tell you something? That happens to me a lot, it would seem.

I’ve been struggling again with embracing the moments. With contenting myself with the journey instead of yearning for the destination. I’d just like to arrive already, you know? So naturally, when I read Hannah Brencher’s latest post, it deeply resonated with me. You should read the whole thing because it’s beautiful, but to give you a summary, Hannah writes of her impatience with God’s plans and how she often wishes He would show her the whole picture instead of revealing it in pieces. And when she thinks about why He doesn’t, she writes:

“He knows I’ll surely bypass the Little Things to get straight to the Big Things. Steer clear of the hard lessons to propel straight towards the goodness. And then never learn how much it means, or how badly I can want something. So bad that I taste it in my tears when I fall asleep in pillow case puddles one night.”

And then there are the words that God whispers to her on those tear stained nights.  “Life will lose its worth if you are only ripping to find the answers,” and “Trust me, trust me, I am the road map much grander than you.”

I marveled at the words. Found myself surrendering everything all over again saying, “Yes, God. I will trust You.”

Then the next morning I got up and picked up Steven James’ book Becoming Real, which I’ve been reading during my quiet times. And there in those pages I found the words, “God doesn’t usually dump the road map for the rest of our lives into our laps and say, ‘See you at the finish line!’ He wants to walk beside us and call out directions along the way.”

“Trust me, trust me, I am the road map much grander than you.”

And I knew He was trying to tell me something with the whole road map illustration. It sounded to me a little something like, “Hey Rebekah, live the journey here!”

Because I’ve been trying too hard to read a map that was never meant to make sense to my mind. Now I’m trying hard to trust that God does know better than me–to convince myself that I don’t need to know that way; I just need to know that God is walking it with me.

Little by little–day by day–I’m learning what it means to surrender. I’m learning how it feels to live.

The Story of Today

This Sunday in youth group, we studied Psalm 34:8: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refugein him.”

In small group, the idea was to share a story about how God has been good to you. One? Just one story? How could I possibly upload to these girls how great God is with just one story? Which story would I choose? And does one story even begin to cover the hundreds and thousands of days when God has proved Himself absolutely and totally 100% faithful?

I remember one other day in youth group when we talked about Jesus moments and God encounters–those days when there was no denying His hand in our lives. We got a little off track (typical), so I asked the girls why it was so easy to talk about everything but those Jesus moments. One student answered me, “It’s easy to talk about the other stuff because it happens every day. Jesus moments only happen once in awhile.”

I think I literally heard God’s heart breaking in that moment. It was like I could hear Him say, “What? Every single day I’ve breathed into being? Every single sunset I’ve painted? Every single gift I’ve handed to you throughout the course of your day? Did you not appreciate any of it? Did you not see that I was the One giving it to you?”

Sometimes I feel like God is simply jumping up and down on the sidelines of our lives screaming, “Hey, I’m right here! Look at me! Me–your biggest fan.”

And we go right on living as if He isn’t there. As if Jesus moments only happen once in a blue moon. As if we only have one story to tell–one single moment when God actually showed up and changed everything.

And we forget. We forget that ever single moment of our lives is God-breathed. Shaped and crafted by His hands. We forget that every moment is a Jesus moment, alive with wonder and possibility.

We talk about work and school and sports and the weather because, once again, God didn’t show up in a way that we could clearly see.

But I think what we need to ask for is the gift of awareness and the ability to see the numerous gifts God crafts for us each day. Because every single day is another story to tell of how God has been so good. So alive. So wonderful to me.

Let’s not forget to look for the story of today.