Everybody Does NOT Have a Water Buffalo… (and that’s okay)

William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, once said, “Don’t instill, or allow anybody else to instill into the hearts of your girls the idea that marriage is the chief end of life. If you do, don’t be surprised if they get engaged to the first empty, useless fool they come across.”

I’m pretty sure William Booth wins Dad of the Century award, because I’ve never heard of anyone else from the 1800’s preaching about how women might be made for something more than marriage and motherhood. You, Mr. Booth, were ahead of your time. I applaud you.

In any case, that quote ingrained itself in my mind when I was researching Beyond Waiting and continues to occasionally surface in my mind. I think about it when I’m watching movies or scrolling Facebook or otherwise observing human interaction.

We are a culture obsessed with love, creating hopeless romantics who dare to dream that there is someone out there for everyone. We have turned our lives into a quest to find that perfect someone in hopes that they might complete us. Those who are lucky find their way to happily ever after while others…

Well, others might find themselves bouncing from partner to partner, always hoping that the next one might be The One. Perhaps they settle down, but fear they chose poorly. Perhaps they can’t shake the feeling that someone better is out there waiting. Perhaps they will go out in search of that elusive person, or maybe they will cling to the person they have because anything is better than being alone. Am I right?

All my life, I’ve been told that choosing a person to spend the rest of my life with is the most important decision I would ever make (aside from the decision to follow Jesus, of course). While I see the wisdom in this, I have to question why no one ever told me that I also had a choice in whether or not I would choose a person. Or warned me that I might really, really want a person, but not be able to find someone who was right for me.

It seemed like that was never up for debate. Because of course I would marry. Doesn’t everyone?

Remember that silly song where Larry the Cucumber sings about how everybody’s got a water buffalo and Archibald Asparagus rips into him about what a ridiculous claim that is while begging him to stop before they start getting nasty letters from people demanding to know where their water buffalo is?

*deep breath*

Basically, I think y’all should stop promising people that God will bring them a spouse because God is starting to get nasty letters from people who have been single longer than they anticipated.

I’m serious, folks. We are not doing anyone any good by feeding them empty promises of inevitable romance. Maybe marriage is in their future—heck, it may even likely be in their future—but it may not be. And we have to be okay with that.

We need to stop talking about marriage as if it is THE beginning and acknowledge that it is simply a beginning—that there are a thousand different roads you can take that will lead to a fulfilling life, and marriage is merely one of them.

A friend of mine recently shared his own struggle with prolonged singleness and talked of reshaping his perspective to see that marriage is the probably just the latest thing he is chasing in the age-old “if I can just have this one thing, I’ll be happy” cycle.

I think his heart is in the right place, but what I don’t think is that now that his heart is in the right place, God is going to come swooping in like, “Aha! Finally, you are prepared. Here is your bride, my good and faithful servant!”

It could happen, and I will rejoice with him if it does because that’s fun and exciting and full of possibility. But the thing is, I am rejoicing already because God is doing a new thing in my friend’s life and that’s what I’m excited about.

So often, I hear people talk about marriage like it is some kind of heavenly reward. People have long promised me that when I have my heart in the right place, God will bless me by bringing that special someone into my life. But you know what I think? I think God didn’t present Levi to me like some kind of gold star for a job well done; I think He chose Levi for me when he realized the area I needed to grow in was community. I was so good at functioning independently, and then God was like, “Yeah, but let’s see how you do with Together.”

This relationship has been one more way of God ripping the rug out from under my feet to show me a new perspective. This chapter of my life is just one more beginning—one more tool meant to reshape me. Same as writing. And traveling. And skating.

That’s something no one ever told me when they were singing about relationships like Larry the Cucumber sings about water buffalo.

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.”

Not My Will

If I were ever to introduce myself at any kind of Anonymous meeting, it would look something like this: “My name is Rebekah and I’m a control freak.” Although, I’m not sure they have support groups for people like me because it’s awfully hard to have a meeting where everyone is in charge.

My support group consists of individuals who speak truth into my life whether I welcome it or not. Take for instance my manager Kathy. She’s my sounding board for a lot of things because, while she loves me and is invested in my life, she’s also far enough removed from my personal situations to provide the completely objective third party opinion I so desperately need.

Our most recent dump-fest involved me pouring out my little heart and confessing that I didn’t know what to do with the mess I had created of things.

“Maybe that’s the point,” Kathy said.

I stood there quietly, waiting for the real advice, because that obscure statement was not about to cut it.

“You know, sometimes you just have to step back and say, ‘Not my will.’ Not Rebekah’s will. Rebekah wants to be the ******* dictator.”

(You know, for a completely objective third party observer, this just got profoundly personal.)

Ahem.

Not my will.

The words, as you may well know, were made famous by Jesus when He asked God for a different path to redemption. In that light, it makes me feel pretty pathetic for even complaining because my cup of suffering has nothing on what Jesus was walking through.

And yet, even before the cross, Jesus humbled Himself enough to surrender all control, confining Himself to a human body with all of its human limitations. (Okay, so maybe not ALL of the human limitations. Most of us can’t exactly walk on water.) The God who shaped the stars revealed Himself to the world in the form of a helpless newborn babe.

The ******* dictator in my cringes.

I’m still learning to surrender myself to the mercy of others. I’ve spent the last three years in Ohio learning how to be the staying kind of fearless. Striving to make the word Together sound like a desirable thing. I am on my way to becoming less independent, but moments like these remind me that I am not there yet.

I’m not the kind of fearless a small child can be. There aren’t many people I trust to keep me from falling when I throw myself into their arms.

I’d rather hold the whole world together on my own, thank you very much.

But I’m learning—-ever so slowly and stubbornly and all of that stuff—-that I can’t dictate every single detail of my life and that my will fails me more often than not because, no matter how desperately I try, I don’t actually control the cosmos.

But here I am, still standing even as everything crumbles around me. And I realize that I don’t have to hold the whole world together in the palms of my hands. I don’t have to be the ******* dictator.

And for the first time in a long time, I’m okay with that. For the first time in a long time, I can say, “Not my will” without fearing what the future holds.

And maybe that’s the point.

A Jump in My Waltz

My instructors failed to tell me how quickly I had advanced before I signed up for this last round of figure skating lessons, so I signed up for a class that is below my skill level. My classmates consist of four middle-aged women who are only just learning to navigate the ice. Naturally they are impressed by my simplest of spins.

“It must be easier when you’re young,” the oldest of my classmates observed. “You’re probably not afraid of falling.”

If I were not afraid of falling, I would be jumping by now.

I didn’t say the words aloud. I’m not even sure I could have forced them from my dumbstruck mind if I had tried. Because as I sat there with the words tucked safely within my thoughts, I wondered if they were true. Is my fear of falling the only thing keeping my blades on the ice? Could it be as simple and yet as complicated as a mind game?

My instructors seem to believe so. I hear their voices filtering through my thoughts.

Elaine: “You’re holding back.”

Austin: “You’re overthinking it.”

Gary: “It’s all in your head.”

It is not “all in my head,” there’s quite a bit in my uncoordinated feet, too.

(For whatever reason, Gary has always been the easiest to argue with.)

But the truth remains that I am afraid of falling. I don’t like sprawling across the ice. I am not fond of limping through Walmart after a particularly grueling lesson. And while purple is one of my favorite colors, I’d rather not see it blooming in bruises across my knee.

As far as I’ve come since I first walked into the Chiller and strapped my mom’s old skates to my feet, I have definitely not arrived. I still don’t fully trust my skates, or my feet, or my balance.

So I hold back. I overthink it. I go through all the motions, but I still won’t put a jump in my waltz. Because I’m afraid the landing might be painful. What is meant to be a three-step routine—waltz, waltz, jump—turns into an endless cycle of waltzing in circles thinking this time I might risk it.

But I never do.

And it’s not only on ice that I feel this way. I let fear cripple me in just about every aspect of life.

My heart says to take the risk, make the leap.

My mind asks, “But what if I fall?”

I think too far ahead. I analyze every possible movement. I worry over the ending before I’ve even begun.

I waltz and waltz and waltz in continuous circles never finding the courage to jump.

When it comes to making the great leaps in life, we could all use a change of perspective.

You could fall. You really could. You could collect a few more bruises, leaving you to limp through life another day more.

Or you could stick the landing. You really could. And just think of how glorious that will be.

Some questions will never be answered until we take that leap.

“But what if I fall?”

Oh, but darling, what if you don’t?

What if you land this? What if you check right into that perfect glide?

Let us all be brave enough to put a little jump in our waltz.

Hunting Unicorns

“You are far more complex than I realized.”

I shrug in response to the statement. “People are complex.”

“No,” he says. “People are not that complex. You are.”

But people are that complex. Every single human being that walks this earth consists of many layers, multiple facets. Whether we are lovers of fairytales who are the furthest thing from romantics (Who, me?) or admirers of magic living in an ordinary, mundane world, we are all walking contradictions. Some of us just don’t realize it yet.

Me? I’m a writer—an artist, if you will—and artists tend to delve deeper into life than most people dare to go. That doesn’t mean the others are not capable of such feats; it simply means they haven’t been curious enough to explore.

Sometimes I consider how simple my life might be if I had never left this town. I have tried (and failed) to wrap my mind around what it would be like to have gotten married right out of high school and given birth to those six kids my childhood self thought I wanted. What would I think and feel and believe had I settled for what was right in front of me and never explored the expanse of the world?

I think I could be quite happy there, in my simple life, not knowing any different. Because, you know what they say: ignorance is bliss. I, however, never afforded myself that luxury. I reached for something bigger, deeper, different.

I got a taste of the world and now I cannot go back to being a small town girl. It’s a beautiful thing; it’s a terrible thing. It’s where I am right now.

And last night, my current predicament led to a long conversation with a middle aged man about how I am a genuine, one-of-a-kind, there-is-no-one-else-even-remotely-like-me-in-the-world. Despite my protests that I am not “looking” for anyone, thank you very much, he insists that I am looking for something that does not exist. There are no such thing as unicorns, he says.

At this point in the conversation, I am still more amused than annoyed, so I smirk. “You think I should settle for a horse and just glue a piece of antler on his head?”

Herein lies the real problem with people who tell you that you need to lower the impossible standards they imagine you to have: they are never clear about where the mysterious line is drawn. What is the perfect amount of compromise? Where do my standards switch from high to impossible?

I am still trying to figure out why in the blazes that if what I want is this…

unicorn-dimensions-unicorns-17788267-1024-768

…I should have to settle for this?

grinch2bdog2bfallen2bwith2bantlers

(I’m sorry, Max, that’s not fair. I love you. You are my favorite. But you are not a unicorn or a reindeer. You are a dog—the very best of dogs. Keep being a dog.)

I’m going to be honest here. I don’t think I demand anything unreasonable out of life. I want to write books, but they don’t have to be number one bestsellers (although I obviously would not complain if they were). I want to bounce around the world for years to come and maybe have a flight experience where nothing is delayed or cancelled or otherwise complicated. And if I ever do get married, I just want it to be to someone who thinks and feels about the world the same way I do.

If I am looking, it is for someone to share in an adventure. I don’t want a small life. I don’t want safe, comfortable, or conventional. I don’t want the shallow, the superficial, or the daily grind. I want to always search bigger, dig deeper, and see beyond what most people dare to dream.

Perhaps what I want is unreasonable after all—a life lived entirely Beyond Reason. A life fully abandoned to faith. And trust. And perhaps a touch of pixie dust.

Honestly, I’ll be okay if I never find a unicorn, so long as the journey is magical.

Where is God?

Wednesday night Bible Study. We talked about how easy it is to read some books of the Bible and how difficult it is to push through the others, but how necessary both are.

“Right now I’m reading 2 Samuel,” my friend said. “People are slaughtering each other and it’s hard to find a loving God in that.”

I think it must be a very hard thing to read the entirety of the Bible if you are just looking for love. If you are looking for all of the traits of God you already find familiar. If you are trying to summarize Him, to tie Him nice and pretty with a bow.

“God is Love.”

You’ll find those words on wall plaques and church signs. You’ll hear them tumbling off the lips of Christians near and far. They’re the words we use to win others over—the first introduction to our beliefs. While they are not untrue, they are not the whole truth either.

Yes, God is Love, but that is not all He is.

Way back in the book of Exodus, God introduced Himself to Moses as I AM WHO I AM.

Not I AM LOVE. Not I AM JUSTICE. Not I AM PEACE or LIBERATION or FREEDOM THROUGH THE AGES. When the Creator of the universe elected to introduce Himself to a human being, He chose the title I AM.

It means nothing. It means everything. Even after years of pondering that statement, I struggle to understand it. I’ve never met anyone else who could introduce themselves simply as I AM.

But God is. He encompasses everything. More than love. More than justice. More than peace or liberation or freedom through the ages.

Today, as I consider the conversation from Wednesday night, I cannot help but think of how well my friend’s words fit not only 2 Samuel, but the world in which we live today.

“People are slaughtering each other. It’s hard to find a loving God in that.”

Maybe it’s also to find a just God or a peaceful God or even a God of liberation.

Maybe it’s just plain hard to find God. Period. Where is God in all of this?

My neighbors talk of the end times. They tell me I should be afraid. Afraid to go to concerts or conventions or, really, even to work. It’s a crazy world out there. Crazy people. Anything could happen.

But I’m not afraid. Even though I “should” be.

“For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

So if you’re asking where God is, He’s right here. When Jesus ascended into heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell among His people.

Christians, you are not allowed to ask where God is in all of this; you should already know. He should already be present in your heart and in your home.

You don’t get to be the ones sitting inside, trembling in fear. You get to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a broken world. You get to be Love. You get to be Justice. You get to be Peace and Liberation and Freedom Through the Ages.

You get to be I AM.

And if the world still can’t see that a loving God exists, then we have failed them.

So, where are you taking God today?

The Justice Side

I spent the summer working at a day camp for elementary aged children. People who know I work with preschoolers assume this must have been easy for me. It wasn’t. There’s a big difference between a four-year-old and a nine-year-old, and while the former can solve just about any conflict with a hug, the latter can hold a petty grudge for a week. Or a month. Or a summer.

Sometimes that building felt like a war zone, grenades of hateful words being thrown back and forth. Girl to boy, boy to girl. Then the division would start in their own camps. Sometimes the ultimate bomb went off and left just about everyone in tears. And this whole time I was trying to keep the peace, often working to interfere before any major catastrophes could happen. It was exhausting.

One day I was standing on the sidelines of a kickball game, offering my services as referee. As I declared one of the boys “safe,” his competition turned on me and spewed, “It’s no fair. You’re on the boys side!”

My co-worker (who, by the way, was on the boy’s side) rushed to my defense with the dramatic exclamation, “She’s on the side of justice!”

I laughed at his antics then, but six months later, that’s a phrase that sticks with me.

“She’s on the side of justice.”

I don’t know about you, but the word “justice” often turns my mind to things like sex-trafficking and child slavery and all number of other atrocities taking place in the world. People who are “on the side of justice” are people who fight for the end of these horrors. But while I certainly don’t agree with any of those things, I don’t take an active role in vanquishing them either. So am I really on the side of justice?

Yes, I am. Because justice is so much more than abolishing slavery and taking a wrecking ball to the red light districts of the world.

Justice is, quite simply, the quality of being just, impartial, or fair.

Justice is admitting that the little guy did make it to first base when an entire team of girls is saying he’s out.

Justice is saying you can’t lock a kid out of the girl’s room for the sole crime of being younger than you.

Justice is evenly distributing the beanbags when the older girls want to sit on a mountain of them.

Justice is the little things.

And justice is hard.

Because it’s so much easier not to argue. It’s so much easier to let the masses rule and to find a new niche for the child who is bullied. But it’s not right. It’s not just.

So I hope it can always be said of me that I’m on the side of justice. I hope I’ll always be the one raising my voice and righting the wrongs.

Because the world needs a few more people on the Justice Side. And we’ve got to burst into it Red-Rover style. We’ve got to hold firm and catch people in the net of it until they get all wrapped up in Justice’s arms.

Won’t you come over? Won’t you come over and join the Side of Justice today?

Fall for Him ~ A Book Review

Up until about a month ago, I had never been asked to write a book review. But when I got an email from Brenda Rogers asking if I would look over her e-book, I couldn’t refuse. Especially when I hopped over to check out her book website and found the words, “You do not have to recover from singleness. There is a better way.”

Yep. Hooked.

So I told Brenda to send me the book. After all, it’s only natural for an author to be curious about someone who wrote about the same subject from a completely different angle. …And that’s where the whole review thing got hard. Not because I didn’t agree with what she was saying, but because I couldn’t relate with what she was saying.

The subtitle should have given it away. Fall for Him: 25 Challenges from a Recovering Single. I am not—and have never been—a recovering single. There are girls who say, “Woe is me. I’ll never find Mr. Right. Just call me an old maid.” And then there are girls who are all like, “Whoo! I’m single! Footloose and fancy-free, that’s me.” *happy dance*

Now, those are two extremes, but on a scale of Sobbing to Celebrating, I’m doing a moonwalk on the C. I’m happy with my life as it is. I’m truly content to be single until God brings the right man into my life. And if that’s where you are, then this book isn’t for you.

But… what I saw in this book is a lot of what I was seeing when I decided to write Beyond Waiting. Because there are girls who struggle with their singleness. There are women who are struggling to find contentment regardless of their relationship status. And Brenda does a better job connecting with them than I ever could, because Brenda lived there. Brenda knows what it is to long for marriage more than she longs for her Savior.

And while Fall for Him was written for a woman much different than me, I was still able to pull out a few very profound truths.

fall for himLike, Brenda rocks that verse about God giving you the desires of your heart.

She reminds us that, marriage and talents aside, our only true calling is to bring glory to God…

And that community is essential to any human being…

That “shame is not present in holiness”…

And (preach it, sister) there is more to being equally yoked than just being saved.

So if singleness is a struggle for you, I’d encourage you to check out Brenda’s book. It may just change your outlook on life as you know it.

 

Word of the Year

If I’ve established anything in my two years of blogging, I hope it’s that I don’t exactly go about things the typical way. I’m the girl who trashed my list of what I want in a future husband. I’m the girl who doesn’t believe in five-year plans. And when it comes to New Years resolutions, I laugh in the face of 2013. Because there is only one thing I know about this coming year: It won’t be anything like I would expect it to be.

I know people—several people—who assign words to their years. One year they will focus on joy and the next, courage. It’s a great idea in theory, and it seems to be working out for them. As for me… Like I said, I’m not typical.

I took a look through the journals that document this year of my life and was surprised by what I found. Because I had expectations for 2012, and I didn’t find them in the pages of this year. In the midst of  unrealized dreams being realized and falling in love with a new job and discovering Hannah Brencher *squeal*, I also found that birthing dreams is hard and messy and not at all like I once imagined it would be.

“Every day is different,” I find in January. “As fickle as the emotions of the four-year-olds I work with. One moment they’re spitting at you; the next moment they’ve wrapped their arms around your hips and nuzzled their face into your side.”

There was a dream coming into being, but there was also opposition and confusion and heartache and goodbyes.

“God, it wasn’t supposed to be like this,” February claims. “I don’t know how it was supposed to be, but certainly not like this.”

Because if I could have chosen a word for this year, it would have been something about stepping out. Something about dreams coming true and hopes being realized. It would have been the year my purpose unfolded and my ministry skyrocketed. And it did. In so many ways, all of those things were true. But God was doing something deeper beneath the surface. Something I didn’t realize I needed until it threaded its way through the pages of my story and, eventually, onto the face of the internet.

Vulnerability.
Approachability.
Trust.

Those were the words God would give me this year. Words I didn’t even realize were missing from my vocabulary until He whispered them into my heart. Those words lingered beneath the surface of my reality, begging to be fully realized.

I had finally allowed entrance to those two crazy guys who only ever wanted to befriend me, but it took a little longer for me to understand that there was more to letting them in than finally agreeing to go to their stupid Christmas party two years ago. That’s where it all began—the vulnerability, the learning to be approachable, the willingness to open myself up and trust that they’re not going to hurt me.

“Here’s to becoming approachable,” I wrote in June.

“Here’s to being vulnerable,” followed in September.

And November hit me with the weight of it all: “I’m going to put myself back in the arena. Open myself to more wounds, more scars. And more grace.”Here's to becoming approachable.

It’s not what I would have thought—what I would have chosen—for this year, but it is what I needed. And I have no idea what my story will be in 2013. I have no words to define this year I’ve yet to know. But I’m certain that it’s going to be something far beyond what I would ever dream for myself. Because God… He’s awesome like that.

Here’s to another year of walking hand in hand with the God who knows me better than I know myself.

Something About Dating…

So, I wrote my third guest post for Devotional Diva. One thing I really love about guest posting for Renee is that it is always challenging. I’ve had to step outside the box and/or delve into some issues that I don’t spend much time talking about. First she had me write about becoming approachable… which I’m not—I’m totally not. Then she had me addressing some issues with my skinny little body… which I tend not to talk about because most people don’t understand that “skinny” isn’t a good thing. Today, I’m talking about dating… which is laughable.

But, you see, someone asked me how I felt about not being allowed to date until I was sixteen and, for the first time in my life, I actually thought about it. And the answer I came up with was really quite beautiful. It made me want to hug my dad (and I probably would have if he weren’t 450 miles away).

So here’s my thoughts about dads being involved in their daughter’s dating life: Get all up in the middle of it, please. Even if she tells you she doesn’t want you there. Because she’s lying. And here’s why I believe that.