Stay

“In most of my church tradition, no one ever mentioned the holy work of staying.”

One minute I’m kicked back in my chair and the next I am scrambling upright, paying rapt attention to the book in my hands, trying to get closer to these words and the way they sing over this current season of my life.

I’ve never been one to pick a word of the year, but I selected one quite by accident on the first day of 2016. I thought the word was Fearless, only redefined. The kind of Fearless that makes you Stay when all you really want to do is Pack Up and Go.

“By all means, be Fearless,” I’ve whispered to myself while tucked into the darkened corners of 2016, “Just make sure it’s the Staying kind.”

So I read on, wanting to know what else Sarah Bessey had to say about the holy work of Staying.

“It’s a different kind of fearless,” she wrote.

I flailed. I squealed. I scrambled for my phone so I could Instagram the moment into a mantra for the masses. (It is 2016, after all.)

The girl who penned that blog post on the first of the year did not know what it meant to Stay. She knew Fearless only in the form of jumping on a plane and traveling to foreign lands and adventure is out there if only you are willing to chase it. Those things didn’t scare her the way they did many others. She felt quite content and at ease walking the streets of Mumbai and clasping hands with little, beggar children.

But ask her to Stay… Ask her to Stay and she trembles like a leaf trying to free itself from its mother branch, hoping to abandon herself to the whims of the wind. Why would she want to remain anchored to the tree when she could go for a swim along a breeze?

Hannah Brencher likens Staying to a monster that hides in the closet once you hit adulthood. She showed up in my inbox just this morning to remind me of how scared we all are of that word. And here I thought it was just me.

But it’s not just me. Sarah Bessey and Hannah Brencher stepped in to say, “Me, too. I’m learning how to be the Staying Kind of Fearless, too.”

Maybe you’re there with us. If so, welcome to the club.

The worst thing we can ever do to ourselves is believe that it’s just us. That we are alone in the world. That no one else has words that they give teeth and claws. That no one else pulls the blankets up over their heads to hide from the monsters we fear. That the monsters are entirely our own and no one else finds them as terrifying as we do.

I dedicated 2016 to becoming the Staying Kind of Fearless, but I didn’t really want to. If I am going to be perfectly honest, all I’ve wanted all along was to Pack Up and Go. I’ve looked to the heavens more times than I can count, asking, “Why am I still here?”

Because this isn’t what I wanted for myself. I never wanted to unlace my world traveling shoes and settle into Smalltown, USA.

But I stayed. Maybe I’ve been more begrudging than fearless, but I’m still here. And I’m showing up where I’m at, and being present in the moment, and learning to go deeper instead of wider. I’m realizing that maybe I don’t need to leave pieces of myself scattered across the globe; maybe I just need to throw my whole self into one place.

Staying is the kind of ministry that takes a vulnerability I have never learned. But I am learning now. Slowly, but surely I am figuring out what it means to be the Staying Kind of Fearless. Even if, for now, that requires sorting through a whole bundle of fear.

Reduce Me to Love

“Reduce me to love.”

These words, penned by the one and only Hannah Brencher, showed up in my Instagram feed yesterday morning. Like many of Hannah’s words, they enraptured me.

“Reduce me to love,” she said. And then she proceeded to tell of how she gets in her own way. How often she abandons Love in favor of Expectations and Productivity.

“So please, just reduce me to love,” she prayed. “Nothing more. Nothing greater. I know it won’t be easy. I know it should be simple, but it’s not.”

We fill our lives with so many meaningless (but often well-meaning) things. We try to accomplish so much in hopes of making a name for ourselves. We sing to the tune of Busy, Busy, Dreadfully Busy and leave Love by the wayside.

Love is just one more thing to worry about, and we haven’t got the time. There is no room even in the margins of our busy schedules to add this thing called Love.

But the reason I keep coming back to Hannah’s statement is because she uses such an unconventional choice of words. “Reduce,” she says. “Reduce me to love.”

Not, “Enable me to love.” Not, “Grow me in love,” or “Help me make room for love,” or “Fill me with a love that would overflow into the lives of those around me.”

No, she uses the word reduce. As if Love is a thing of which we are all capable if only we slow down enough to let it do its work. As if it lingers there in our hearts, just waiting for the opportunity to stretch out its hands and work its simple magic.

Because Love really is a very simple thing. Sure, we act as though it is something grand and lofty and hard to come by, but Love is a very simple thing at the core.

Love is a plate of food, wrapped and waiting in the refrigerator for the daughter who won’t get off work until ten.

Love is the handful of wildflowers you stop to pick on the way to a friend’s house because they are her favorite color.

Love is a name remembered. A ponytail tugged. A diaper changed. A late night trip into town for waffles.

Love is one single phone call/email/text message away.

Love is a series of simple things. The kinds of things that don’t require much. In fact, they require very little. Love requires us, not to be more, but to be less. To reduce ourselves from all of our lofty aspirations and checklists for productivity, challenging us to be—just be—that little thing that lingers when all distractions are stripped away.

Challenging us to be Love.

So please, reduce me to love

Nothing more. Nothing greater. Nothing important or pretentious.

Just Love.

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Say Goodbye to Plan B

I’ve said before that Hannah Brencher is one of the most amazing human beings that ever walked this planet. I’m in love with her message, and her heartbeat, and the way she weaves such simple syllables into music that sings to my soul. But mostly I love that, though we’ve never met beyond the realm of digital acquaintance, she’s like the best friend I never knew I needed, giving me what she calls “a good butt-kicking pep talk” just when I’m set to give up.

Sometimes I think about how much I want to be her. Other times I think about how I already am her, and she is me. How else could she know? How else could she manage to speak such specifics to my fears, my doubts, my hesitations? How else could she know the depths of my dreams and the intense longing I have to make the world a more beautiful place before I go?

When I stumbled into my inbox yesterday afternoon, I had to remind myself to breathe. Because she did it again: that thing where she’s writing to the whole wide world, but I’m looking between the lines and finding the words, “Yeah, I’m talking to you, Rebekah Snyder.”

“Plan B doesn’t fit you,” she wrote.

“Yup. That’s right. Said it. Meant it. Plan B is where you are standing when you decide that you are too afraid to step out there and let life smack you in the face with blessings and confetti. Plan B is the shaky, but seemingly secure, house you construct for yourself when you want to avoid risk and keep all the pieces intact. Two fun facts for the day: a) nothing worthwhile in this lifetime is fit to be controlled b) Plan B ain’t for you.”

I’d never thought of that until yesterday: how maybe Plan B is the worst possible idea I’ve ever concocted in my life because it could keep me from living Plan A.

Because I’ve thought before, like probably every person thinks, “What do I do if this all goes wrong? What’s my back-up plan?”

There is no back-up plan. There’s doing and there’s failing. And there’s the brushing dirt and debris from your skin and starting over from scratch if that’s what it takes to make your dreams happen. It’s do, or die trying. And maybe it’s not very encouraging to think about the die trying part, but, darling, I don’t think there’s ever a reason to give up on Plan A. Maybe you’ve got to tweak your methods a bit, but don’t you ever give up on the goal. It’s not worth it.

Remember the parable of the talents? You know, the story Jesus told about the three guys who were entrusted with the king’s money? The first two guys took a risk, and they were commended for it. The third guy buried his portion in order to insure it was still intact when the king returned, and he got in trouble. Why? Because talents were meant to be invested.

Sometimes I wonder what the king in the story would have done if the other guys had failed. Would he be angry with them for losing it all, or would they have been commended for trying? Had the third guy invested, but lost everything, would his ending have turned out differently? I don’t know. But I do know this:

This world is not the end.

We forget that too often. Or we know it somewhere in the back of our minds, but we haven’t let it transform the way we live. Because if we were really convinced that this life is but a blip on the scale of eternity, we wouldn’t be so afraid to live a daring life. We wouldn’t try so hard to make sure our futures are safe and comfortable and secure.

I think that shows a lack of trust on our part. I think that if God decided to give us a season of life on this earth, He wanted us to live it, and not just in our safe little comfortable existence that we call living. When God gave you a dream, He never intended for you to fall back on Plan B. He never intended for you to find ways around it because, let’s face it, it was a crazy dream, after all.

I think we all need to take a little bit of advice from Hannah Brencher and “get real clear on the things you always, always said you would fight for before you learned how easy and safe it felt to stand in your own way.”

I’ll leave you to contemplate, and hopefully write your Dear John letter to Plan B.

Plan B

Ruined, Wrecked, Undone: A Tribute to 2013

In my first post of 2013, I wrote about how maybe it’s best to be undone. I laugh now, not because I’ve changed my mind, but because I should have known the kind of year that would follow a statement such as that.

Stepping out in faith, walking hand-in-hand with tragedy, having my heart broken over and over again… I’m tempted to say that 2013 is a year I could have gone without, but I don’t think that’s true. As much as I feel I would have preferred to skip right over it, I think I needed this year of undoing.

It’s strange to think I didn’t see the theme until I looked back over the last twelve months, but God has been ripping me from my isolation, stripping me of self, forcing me to realize that I am my brother’s keeper and making me realize that maybe, sometimes, it’s okay to let my brother keep me.

I’ve spent years believing I’m strong enough to stand alone, but I’m finding that what I’ve needed most is to be strong enough to say that I need you.

Because I could spend a lifetime alone. I could. It would be easy, even. Much easier than setting my wants and needs aside in favor of another.

But it wouldn’t be right.

Because what is the purpose of a life that is not lived for others? Why am I even on this earth if I was not meant to live for something much bigger than myself?

If I’m only living for me, God can take me home right now. If I don’t have the hope of leaving a mark on the world, I’ve no purpose in this life.

In the last twelve months, I’ve learned to live beyond myself. I don’t have it mastered quite yet, and honestly I don’t hold high hopes of ever doing it exactly right, but I am trying. To live beyond me. To think about how my actions are going to impact the eternal.

To think about you. To live for you. To make every breath I breathe be one that will make the world a more beautiful place for you.

If I were to choose the methods that grow me, I wouldn’t have picked 2013.  Sometimes I think there wasn’t a moment of last year that didn’t feel like a freight train bowling me over.

But, once upon a time, I read a post by Hannah Brencher and made her words my battle cry:

“But if anyone inquires about the humility of a broken heart, I think it is quite worth it at the end of each day. To extend one’s own heart and allow it to be ruined completely, in hope that through the wreckage, someone else’s heart will dance today.”

I’ve been undone in the style of Revolution.
Ruined to the tune of Hannah Brencher.
Finding I’m a soldier in all of this.

But my heart is still dancing. Even through the wreckage, my heart is still dancing.

And that’s why I’m thankful for 2013, trials and tragedy included. That’s why I can look with expectancy to 2014.

Because my Jesus is shaping me, molding me, and sometimes breaking me, until I’m everything I needed to be all along.

I have a long way to go.
I have a most faithful Guide.

Ruined, Wrecked, Undone…

But not abandoned.

The Victim Song

Hannah Brencher has done it again. She has blown up my heart with a series of syllables scattered across a page because she’s magical like that. And, really, I think you should bounce over there and read the whole thing because it is, after all, 25 things every woman needs to know. Things like leggings are not pants (can I get an amen?), and confidence is sexy, and maybe it’s good to actually know your geography, girl.

But the message that tripped me up today was Hannah’s final point—Number 25:

“Darling, darling–the victim song is never going to fit you. It will never be good enough for your lungs. It will never be good enough for your time. You are stronger than you know and more graceful than you know. Don’t let the parts of you that want to be a victim live on any longer. You’ve got a voice… you’ve got a story… Do us all a favor and use it. Without any apologies. Without any stepping back. If ever you need a listener, come find me…”

And I wonder how many of us live with that victim mentality. I wonder how many of us cut ourselves off at the knees because we’ve been cut off before. I wonder how many of us live with the lie that our voice is not strong enough. Our story is not big enough. Our words are not powerful enough.

I wonder how many of us drown out the song of our worth with the mournful refrains of the victim song.

vic·tim

Noun
  1. A person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action.
  2. A person who is tricked or duped: “the victim of a hoax”.

We. Are. Killing. Ourselves.

And maybe we were harmed by someone else. Maybe we were tricked or duped or injured as a result of actions that were not our own. And if you were the victim of some horrible crime, I’m terribly sorry for that.

But in the past, you were a victim. Today, you don’t have to be. Oh no, you don’t have to be.

You don’t have to keep reliving the moments that destroyed you. You don’t have to keep repeating the words that wounded your spirit. You don’t have to be the victim of your memories.

Darling, darling, that victim song will never be good enough for your lungs.

There’s a better tune out there, waiting to whistle through your windpipes. Waiting to show the world that you are so much more than a victim. You’ve got more worth than that.

And maybe you’re thinking, “Rebekah, you don’t know. You’ve had it so easy. You’ve never experienced what I’ve experienced.”

And you would be right. I’ve shed plenty of tears for loved ones, but I don’t know what it is to be a victim. Not like that.

So let me introduce you to someone who understands. I want you to meet a girl who knows the lyrics of the victim song more strongly than she does her own name. This is the girl who has been on the receiving end of a crime so terrible I hate to put words to it. This is a victim of India’s sex trade.

ValuableBut see the bends of her smile? That soft knowing that she doesn’t have to be a victim anymore? See the new lyrics she holds close to her heart because someone sang them into her when they pulled her from the brothel that had long been her prison?

That victim song doesn’t fit her any longer. To be honest, it never did.
Because she was valuable all along.

All those nights when her heart cried with the horror of it, there was a song that hoped to fill her with its beauty. A song of redemption and value and worth.

That’s the song she was meant to sing. That’s the song she would pass on to you.

So take a deep breath and let it fill your lungs.

Love Lettering the World

Earlier this year, I fell in love with Hannah Brencher’s heart. I fell in love with her desire to spread love into the dark corners of the world because, in my own heart of hearts, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. But the thing that amazes me most is that Hannah’s ministry stemmed from a very selfish desire. In her own words:

“Anyone who knows me–knows the heart of me, and the bone of me, and the bends of my smile–knows why I really started writing love letters. It was not some strange aficionado for stationery. Never a day in my life have I ached to bring the art form of letter writing back to her fullness. It wasn’t a racing heart for cursive & curves on a page. It was a fear that I was very much alone in this world. It was a fear that I might never feel whole again. It was fear that not a single soul needed my footprints, my input, my laughter. It was a crippling belief that I would live and die and I would never have made noise in this world.”

And so the girl who was rather desperately in need of a love letter started leaving the kinds of words she yearned to hear for strangers to read. She lit up New York City one heart at a time and, in the process, healed her own. That’s what happens when you take your eyes off of yourself and start writing for other people.

I started writing for me. Because I had words bottled up in my heart that needed somewhere to go. Sometimes I still write for myself. Sometimes there’s a message God is pounding into my heart so fervently that it is all I can write. And the beautiful thing about those blog posts is that I get comments from all of you saying how badly you needed to hear those words, too.

When I set out to love letter the world, it started writing letters back to me. Letters that said, “I needed your words. You’ve given me permission to dream.” Letters that said, “Thank you for the reminder. It set my heart back on the right track again.” Letters that said, “Your voice, your words, your heart—they matter. They matter.”

Maybe I was more like Hannah Brencher than I thought—maybe I wrote out of my own fear that I would live and die having never made noise in this world—because your words mean the world to me.

Today I am ever so thankful for you, my readers, who believe that the words that flow from my heart through my fingertips are worth your time. I’m grateful that you make me feel as though my efforts matter. You’ve helped me realize that the world isn’t as big as it once appeared, and that I am changing it…

one love letter at a time

Define “Beauty”

Human beings have a really bad habit of comparing ourselves to others. We also have a horrible habit of declaring some people more beautiful than others. As if we have a right to declare one of God’s masterpieces more perfect than the next. And maybe it has everything to do with the fact that I have an extremely vulnerable post going up on the Devotional Diva website tomorrow, but I want to take a moment and talk about beauty.

If you’re like most women, you probably don’t believe that you’re beautiful. You don’t believe you’re valuable. And I’m willing to bet that you have features you hate.

Because someone once told you what beautiful was, and you never quite fit the mold.

Two months ago, I stumbled across a post on Good Women Project that recommended I write my body a love letter. It was more of an apology. For all the years I took it for granted. For all the times I convinced myself not to care about my appearance. For all the years I resented my body because I knew what the genetics said I could have been. But after twenty-one years, I finally penned the words:

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Because we all have our idea of what beautiful is, and you were never mine.”

And I told myself I’m beautiful. I praised the features I love rather than critiqued the ones I hate. It was a healing experience. A powerful experience. An experience I would recommend  to every woman on the planet.

Write your body a love letter. Because you’re beautiful like that.

Because for years and years, you’ve fed yourself lies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; and you deserve a little truth in your diet.

You deserve the kind of truth that Hannah Brencher weaves into her blog post about bullying our bodies.
You deserve the kind of love letter that compares you to a breathtaking sunset.
You deserve to know that God made you beautiful.
And you deserve to hear it from yourself.

So write your body a love letter. Be honest. Be kind. And be sure to tell yourself you’re beautiful.

Because you are.