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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2016: The Side Effects of Living

I have never met a year so widely despised as 2016. Every time I get online it seems there is something new to blame on that silly string of numbers: Dear 2016, why you gotta do me like that?

This whole year, according to the internet, has been the worst. It has been one thing after another, tragedy upon tragedy. A girl can’t even catch her breath. People are counting down the days until the year is over, praying 2017 brings relief from the horror.

I understand. I’ve spent the majority of this year striving against the hardships, wishing for a different kind of life than the one I’m living now.

It’s easy, I think, to focus on the tragedies. Why is it that bad things seem so much more substantial than the good?

Because if I take a step back to see this year for all it has held—triumph, tragedy, and everything in between—2016 has had its fair share of beautiful moments. In fact, one might even say that 2016 was Bucket List material.

In 2016, I tried snowboarding for the first time. When I wasn’t any good at that, I tried skiing instead. And since I was already well on my way to the Winter Olympics, I took figure skating classes and learned how to twirl. I’m still a little ungraceful and haven’t managed a waltz jump yet, but I’ve accomplished my goal of dancing on ice.

I’ve had random first-time adventures with friends. Like eating out of a taco truck with Dave, rolling down that huge hill at the Reservoir with Makayla, and letting Stephen steer me around a pond in a little rowboat with a motor attached.

I went to Mexico.

I got my first apartment.

I finally learned to hold my own in Call of Duty.

I met the New York Times Bestselling Author that I’ve been following since the unsung Book One.

I read an unpublished manuscript and told the author how she could make it stronger. (Y’all remember the name Annie Sullivan. Her stories are going to be on shelves one day and you don’t want to miss out.)

I visited the Columbus Museum of Art.

I fired an official FBI handgun.

I completed my Goodreads Reading Challenge with four days to spare.

I gained a niece, a nephew, a sister-in-law, and four perfect little cousins.

How could I ever convince myself that 2016 was anything less than beautiful?

Because I wrenched my knee while attempting to snowboard?

Because I sprawled out across the ice more times than I care to count?

Because I failed at crossovers and spent an afternoon limping through Walmart?

Because I missed a whole string of flights and spent the night in the Charlotte airport?

Because the latest draft of my novel is not anywhere close to where the story needs to be?

Because I don’t have any control over what is going on in the world around me?

These are mere side effects of being alive in the world. But I am alive, and that’s a gift. If I fail at something it means that I’ve tried. If I keep persisting it means that I’m slowly getting better.

I can look at this year and hate it for all the ways it was not so good, or I can choose to celebrate the moments where I accomplished something, no matter how small.

Personally, I’m going to choose joy. I’m going to choose thankfulness. I’m going to choose celebration.

No, I am not out of the woods yet, but you know what? It’s kind of magical here.

While I’m not much of one for New Year’s Resolutions or the ever-popular Word of the Year, I think it’s safe to say I’ll be making gratitude a theme for 2017.

Because I am tired of living a life this full while letting myself believe that it’s empty.

Here’s to 2016.

Here’s to a lifetime of moments such as these.

And here’s to learning to cherish them.

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…

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…I should have to settle for this?

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(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.

The Deep End

Hello, my name is Rebekah and I have commitment issues.

I am basically terrified of committing to anything. Not because I lack trust or fear betrayal, but because I am so terribly bad at un-committing from things.

My mama named me Devoted; it clung to me something fierce. I blame her for everything.

Just kidding.

But seriously, I way over-committed myself this winter. I thought I was going to Africa for two months. My plan when I came back was to play fill-in nanny for a few months and figure out where I was going from there.

I didn’t go to Africa. Which means I didn’t quit my other job. Which means I was working fifty-ish hours a week on a sleep schedule that resembled a tilt-a-whirl. Late nights. Early mornings. Up and down and spinning around and would someone just let me off this ride before I get sick?

I developed a love/hate relationship with the short hours between 12 and 5am. If I didn’t require sleep, I would have spent that precious time writing. But five hours doesn’t cut it for this girl.

For sleeping or for writing.

I came out of this experience like a zombie, stumbling through the familiar motions of life, but having forgotten how to feel any of it. Seriously, guys, I almost died. Or maybe I just wanted to die. It’s all a little fuzzy now.

I do remember having a complete mental breakdown in the month of March and calling in dead to both of my jobs one tragic Monday. I think I spent that Monday curled up in the fetal position, telling myself over and over that this was no way to live. No. Way. To. Live.

That’s when the plotting, the searching, the scheming began. What could I do to make myself feel alive again?

“I want to do something crazy,” I confessed to one of the regulars one day. “But I’m too responsible. And I’m tired of being responsible. Is it too late for my rebellious streak to kick in?”

He just chuckled and encouraged me to please go on with my “bad girl speech.”

“Ah, let’s face it,” I lamented. “I’m probably not going to go off the deep end. I just really want to.”

“Let me know when you do,” he said, in a way that made me realize that he and I have two, very different definitions of Off the Deep End.

Because to a girl who has walked the straight and narrow most all of her life, Off the Deep End isn’t drinking and partying and waking up in a stranger’s bed. That sort of stuff has no appeal whatsoever to me.

My idea of Off the Deep End is jumping in my car and driving all the way to the west coast just because I’m curious to see how different the Pacific Ocean looks from the one I tend to frequent.

It’s backpacking through Europe because history and poetry and, eh, why not?

It’s jumping on the next plane to the Maldives because I hear they’ve got this restaurant there that is entirely underwater and it’s like eating in the world’s biggest aquarium. Plus beaches and paradise and the possibility of a life-changing encounter in an airport.

It’s restless feet and a gypsy soul, and who has time for superficial stuff when adventure is there for the chasing?

I talk about that stuff all the time. Daring adventures, impossible dreams, a life Beyond Reason…

But I don’t live it. Not as often as I would like. I’m far too practical for that.

I sort through everything, over-analyze it, and dismiss the things that don’t have a “purpose.” As if every single thing I do has to be of insurmountable significance or I won’t do it at all.

Those are my options: Do or do not.

And mostly I convince myself it’s best to do not. As if accomplishing nothing is better than accomplishing something if there is no significance attached.

Maybe the only significance the above list would have is to make me happy. To shake things up. To splash a little bit of color into the life my tedious hands have painted in layers of gray. And maybe that would be okay. Maybe it’s not a bad thing, or a crazy thing, or an irresponsible thing to step into new spaces and be an adventurer every once in awhile.

But this time I settled for something a little closer to home. I signed up for ice skating lessons.

Yeah, I know. It’s a bit of a letdown after the suggestions above. But ice skating is something that always makes me feel alive, and I wanted to learn the mechanics of it. I wanted to know how to twirl.

Saturday was my first class. It was good, I guess. But it was less of the exhilarating freedom of flying so fast and more of the nitty-gritty details of learning to propel myself backwards. And when I say “propel,” I mean propel is the goal, but it’s a little more tedious than that right now. It’s slowly sliding and scraping my way across the surface and ending up facing forward again before I even know what happened.

I think that’s an accurate reflection of my life right now. There was a time when I just blindly soared through it, laughing and living it up. I’m in a different season right now—a more intentional one. I’m studying the mechanics of it, learning how to do it right. I’m just slowly scraping by right now, but I am okay with that.

Because one day soon, I’m going to know how to twirl.

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And so, my darlings, I will leave you with this:

Do something that makes you feel alive.

Because we all need to learn how to take the breathless, fearful step Off the Deep End.

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.

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Touch the World

I watched Nim’s Island the other night. Not my favorite movie, but it happened to spark something in my heart on this particular night. If you haven’t seen the movie, when eleven-year-old Nim’s father gets lost at sea, she sends a distress call to the adventure hero, Alex Rover. Unfortunately, Alex Rover is actually Alexandra Rover – a novelist who happens to be “mildly agoraphobic” and hasn’t left her apartment in six months. But when she gets this email from Nim, she finds herself on a rescue mission.

So in this particular scene, Alexandra stands just inside the door of her apartment, unable to move. Her fictional character Alex Rover (who often makes appearances in the flesh), stands outside the door with his arm extended to her. “Take my hand, Alexandra. Touch the world.”

A rather panicked Alexandra gives the classic response: “I don’t want to touch the world. It’s not sanitary!”

Story of my life. Well, not the unsanitary part. If anything, I probably have an underdeveloped fear of germs. But I can relate to the fear of “touching the world”. I generally shy away from such adventures because it’s not easy, not safe, not practical, not “me”… The list goes on. (I’m pretty much a master at coming up with excuses.)

I feel a lot like Alexandra Rover. I feel like I’m standing at the doorway of an incredible adventure, but I’m too afraid to take the next step because I’m not sure what the next step even is. And there God stands, reaching out to me. “Take my hand, Rebekah. Touch the world.”

I don’t want to touch the world. I do, but I don’t. I do, but I’m scared. I do, but… I do. I do want to touch the world. I do want to leave a mark here. I do want to take God’s hand and step out into the unknown. I do… even when I don’t.

The same arm He extends to me is extended to you. So come along with me. Forget your fears, take His hand, and touch the world.

Life Begins Now

7 AM, the usual morning lineup:
Start on the chores and sweep ’til the floor’s all clean
Polish and wax, do laundry, and mop and shine up
Sweep again, and by then it’s like 7:15.

And so I’ll read a book
Or maybe two or three
I’ll add a few new paintings to my gallery
I’ll play guitar and knit
And cook and basically
Just wonder when will my life begin?

Thus begins Disney’s Tangled. These words launch Rapunzel into the adventure of a lifetime – the only adventure our heroine has ever experienced.

I find it interesting that Rapunzel was still waiting for her life to begin at sixteen years of age. It’s easy to assume that her life couldn’t begin until Flynn rescued her from the tower, but if you’ll look again, you’ll see that Rapunzel was the one who let herself down from the tower.

So here is the irony of Rapunzel’s opening song: she was always the one who held the power to make her life begin. It wasn’t that life couldn’t begin, but that it wouldn’t begin because it was fear that kept Rapunzel in that tower all those years.

I believe that many of us are just like Rapunzel, staring out the window at an unfamiliar world, wondering when our lives will begin. Some of us will stare out that window our entire lives, never daring to leave the prison we call home. Some of us will never take the first step, never dare to leave the tower and feel the cool grass on our toes.

I pray that you will be one who will pursue your dreams. The world is unfolding before you. The possibilities are endless. What will you choose to do with your life?

It doesn’t matter how young (or old) you are; it’s never too early (or late) for life to begin. No matter how long you’ve waited or how many mistakes you’ve made, today is a new day.

So come now, Rapunzel, let down your hair. Climb down from your tower and let the adventure begin.

Life begins now.