You Can’t Touch Her

I watched a handful of preschoolers chase one of their little friends around a playground when, suddenly, the little girl who was being chased made a beeline for my arms. I held her to my chest and shooed the other kids away with my free arm while explaining, “I’m base. You can’t touch her as long as I’ve got her.”

So the kids backed up and waited until Charleigh gained the courage to run again. She jumped up, knowing she didn’t have to outrun the others for long—just long enough. Once around the playground, back into my arms, and repeat.

Except one time, Charleigh didn’t make it back into my arms. One time, she didn’t quite run fast enough. One time, I watched her get tackled by one of her little friends. She was taking a beating, and even though they were all laughing and enjoying themselves, I knew it was only a matter of time before things got out of control and someone got injured.

It was time to change the rules.

I stood to my feet, cleared a few preschoolers out of my path, and pulled Charleigh into my arms. “Ah, ah,” I warned when the other kids rushed at us. “You can’t touch her; I’m base, remember?”

I’ve been replaying that scene in my mind for weeks because, sometimes, I feel a lot like Charleigh. When life swells up all around me and I’m starting to feel overwhelmed, I just know that I’ve got to make it back to God’s arms and it will all be okay. He holds me close as I catch my breath and my heart rate returns to normal. He soothes me and comforts me, stroking my hair, sheltering me from all those things that threaten to consume me.

Because He’s base, remember? And nothing can touch me as long as I’m in His arms.

Then I’m off again to repeat the same pattern. Only sometimes, like Charleigh, I don’t quite make it back in time. Sometimes I find that life overwhelms me and I’m lying facedown in the dirt. And just when I think I’ll never get back up, the rules change. The base moves.

And God is there, picking me up, brushing me off, and saying to my struggles, “Ah, ah. You can’t touch her; I’m base, remember?”

Sometimes God lets us run to Him. He stands there with open arms, waiting to be the shelter we so desperately need because He wants for us to seek Him. He wants for us to declare our need for Him. And we’re the ones who have to come crawling back to fall at His feet and say, “God, I need You right now. I need You so bad.”

But sometimes… Sometimes we’re in too deep. Sometimes it hurts too much to crawl. Sometimes we can’t quite make it back on our own.

And that’s when the rules change.

That’s when God stands to His feet and pushes our struggles out of the way until there’s nothing left but Him and us. That’s when we’re safe again.

So if life is beating you down, just turn around and see that He’s standing there, arms outstretched, waiting for you to fall into the warmth of His embrace. Waiting for you to let Him set things right.

Because He’s base, remember? And nothing can touch you as long as you’re in His arms.

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.

Life. Is. Messy.

The past few months, God has been teaching me to appreciate things a little more deeply. In the midst of this little life lesson, a few other things have come up. Things like love and trust and daring to take chances in places where I’ve failed in the past. And the more I dwell on these things, the more I come to realize that…

Life. Is. Messy.

You won’t make it to the other side without a few bruises and scars. And if you do, you have not experienced the fullest extent of what life was intended to be.

The other day, I busted out the finger paints at the preschool where I work, and you should have seen those kids’ faces. They know how to live. They know how to dive in with both hands and make the most of the messes. They understand what it means to create beauty from chaos.

You would think that children so young are only just learning to live, but I’ve discovered that life and wonder are something you have from birth and are only in danger of forgetting as the years go by. These kids—three and four years old—know the secret to changing the world. Or perhaps they are merely the only ones who are unafraid to try.

I’ve met a lot of admirable people, and I’ve been inspired by the stories of those who have chased their dreams and caught them. But if you were to ask me right now who I want to be like when I grow up, I would probably name one of those bright-eyed children who left their perfect, messy hand prints on my heart. Because, yes, there have been days when my heart was touched by a motivational story, but these children inspire me. Every. Single. Day.

Because of them, I can find beauty in the hundredth rainbow I draw. Because of them, I clap my hands when their constant excavating of the playground uncovers an earthworm.

“You should paint your nails,” they say, and I do. “You should braid your hair,” they encourage, and I will. Because the simplest things delight them and, somehow, their wide-eyed wonder sinks into my heart and makes me delight in the little things, too.

And if I must grow up, I want to do so with at least a hint of the wonder that dances in the eyes of a three-year-old boy when you let him experience the world upside-down for the umpteenth time. I want to live with his trusting heart that is not the least bit concerned that I may drop him on his head. I want to know what it’s like to live with such abandon. But mostly, I want to dive into life headfirst with both hands, unafraid of the messes. Because as a handful of preschoolers recently made abundantly clear to me…

The Miracle of Unbreaking

If there’s one thing I’ve learned with certainty in the twenty-one years I’ve walked this earth, it’s that my world is broken. And my greatest fear in this moment is that you may be broken, too.

I know far too many people who have been crushed by the weight of this world. Sometimes I look at the pieces of their shattered lives and nearly fall into despair. Because there behind the haunted eyes, I see a trace of a girl I used to know. And I remember that she was all smiles and potential then. Now she has a past with the potential to drag her down as she drinks of a sorrow so deep it only leaves her empty.

But somewhere beneath the pain and the lies, her true value remains. She’s every bit as beautiful as she was five years ago… only a little less innocent.

And I know that when she looks at her life, she doesn’t see what I see. She doesn’t see the potential that remains in the depths of her soul, begging for release. No, what she sees is a disaster—a disaster so overwhelming, it leaves no room for believing in starting over and second chances and a God who makes all things new.

Because she’s broken.
And I… I don’t just want to fix her. I want to unbreak her. I want to restore the life and beauty that once was.

If I even half believed she would hear me, I’d tell her that the potential is still there. That life is still fresh and bright and beautiful on the other side of the darkness. But her ears are closed to me right now. They’re closed to hope and faith and the impossible things that are made possible through the God of impossibilities.

If I could rewind time, I would go back to the place where she was still impressionable—back to the place where a word I said might have made all the difference—and I would say all those things that I forgot to mention. I would breathe hope and instill courage and whisper syllables of impossible dreams fulfilled.

I would unbreak her.
I would keep her from falling or at least be there to catch her when the ground shifted from underneath her feet.

But I don’t have a time machine, though I am still a firm believer in second chances. So maybe my second chance comes in the form of someone else.

Maybe my second chance is you.

And maybe these are exactly the words you needed to hear at exactly this moment.

Maybe this is the start of your unbreaking.

And maybe there are others who are still waiting to be unbroken. So I’ll look for the girl with the starry-eyes—the one with impressionable innocence that screams of potential—and I’ll take her by the hand and walk with her into the life my first friend forfeited. Because if I couldn’t keep her from falling, maybe I will have at least learned to catch someone else.

And maybe it’s not too late to be part of the miracle of unbreaking.

The Way I Was

About a month ago, my best friend handed me fifteen pages documenting the last year of her life–the year she was diagnosed with primary lymphedema. It was everything I thought a year in the life of Katie should be. I laughed, I cried, and I walked away with a burning to desire to tell the story of a courageous young woman who dared to embrace the life God handed her. She graciously gave me permission to share these words with you…

Strange how I thought I was in control of my life. I thought that I was in control of my dreams. Like when I was ten and knew, in the very depths of me, that I would be married at seventeen. Well, seventeen came and went.

I thought I was in control of my time. But I realized that time is slipping through my fingers. Time reminds me of the sand I would grasp as a child. I tried so hard to hold onto it. But grain by grain it would be stolen away by the wind, the waves, of the desire to let go and build a castle instead.

I thought I was in control of my body. HA! That sneaky little twit proved me wrong with all the grace and quiet of an avalanche.

Most of the time the reality of my situation seems unreal. But there are days when it hits me. When I feel like one more stair to climb is too much to ask. When someone looks at me in disappointment because I have no energy to “come with” or “hang out” or “chill.”

I’m so glad that I haven’t gone off the deep end because trouble came my way. Without God’s grace I would have. I’m so thankful that I turned to Him. So many of my friends aren’t turning to Him in their trouble… no wonder they feel so hopeless.

I hate when people say, “you’re gonna get better.” Are they God? How do they know that? People have this strange idea that you want them to make you FEEL better or FEEL hopeful, when really all you want is for them to stand by you in the suffering. It’s like those parents who make promises to their children when they’re not really sure. They pacify the need while offering no solution to the need. Why? I feel like God is so honest and open. Sure, He is Great and Mysterious but He’s not out to get me by some form of trickery. He is so crystal clear in His love for me. He doesn’t pacify with promises of “I’m going to heal you, Katie.” But He does promise to never leave me or forsake me.

There are times when I get discouraged and start to complain to God saying, “Why God? Why can’t I just feel good? Why can’t I just live like a normal person?” It is in these times that I am hit with the realization that I’m not on this earth so I can live in comfort and be perfectly happy. I am on this earth to bring glory to my God. When contemplating the suffering of the Son of God, I realize I’m not entitled to a life of ease. My Friend laid down His life for me because He loved me. I want to love Him that way.

God brought me to the place where I COULD NOT live without His helping me to live. He brought me so low and took away so much, not because He hated me, but because He wanted my blinded, starry eyes to see the truth. The truth that this, all this that surrounds us, is but a shadow of real living. All this means nothing without Him. I’m thankful for the agony because it brought me to my knees… where I should have been all along. And I don’t want to be healed if it means that I, in my humanness, go back to the way I was. You see, I couldn’t be desperate for Him until I was TRULY desperate for Him. Every day I’m asking for His help. And every day, He is right by my side.

Katie Beth sometimes believes in as many as six impossible things before breakfast, which is perhaps why she is one of Rebekah’s nearest and dearest friends. This past year, God has taken her on a whirlwind of a trip where she is learning to disappear and let Jesus shine through her suffering. The full version of her story includes a dragon, a Brazilian dancer, and Frank Sinatra… but it might also involve a murder if I dared to share those details with all of you.

Overflow

Yesterday, during youth group, Ray played a video that started with the image of a glass of dirty, dark water. Then these two young people opened their mouths and began to speak about who we are in Christ. As the Truth poured from their lips, a faucet started dripping. Drip. Drip. Drip.

The longer they spoke, the more the faucet opened. From drip to steady trickle. From steady trickle to a nonstop stream of clear water. The water poured into the glass until it overflowed, forcing the original, contaminated water out and replacing it with the clean substance that gives life.

I loved the imagery in that video. Because that is exactly what Truth does for us.

There are so many lies in the world. Lies that we hear every day. Many of those lies are easily identified, but others… Others are easier to accept as truth. Others sink more easily into our hearts and cloud the view God intended for us to have of ourselves.

There’s this thing called Truth. And most of us know the Truth, but find it so easy to forget. So impossible to believe. But the Truth remains:

You are a child of God, chosen before the creation of the world.

You are more than a conqueror.

You are redeemed from the curse of the law, delivered from the power of darkness, and free from condemnation.

You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

You are the bride of Christ.

You are God’s workmanship, created to do great things.

You have been given abundant, overflowing life.

You, just like the clear glass of water from the video, have something to offer the world. Something that is pure and beautiful and life-giving. You have Truth.

And though the world is busy pretending that it doesn’t need Truth, there are billions of people on this planet who are aching for what you have. 

So let the Truth sink deeply into your heart. Let it transform the way you see yourself. And let it overflow until it brings life to this dying world.

The Should-do Would-do Life

The other day, I came upon what I thought was the best writing advice I ever received. Then I realized that Victoria Schwab’s advice on the “should-do would-do” book dilemma can be applied to far more than just writing. I believe it’s something we all need to hear – permission we all need to be given. I’d highly recommend hopping over to Victoria’s website and reading the full article. (I’d also recommend getting your hands on her debut novel The Near Witch because it’s a literary work of art.) But here’s the life-encompassing twist I’ve put on Miss Schwab’s writing advice:

Throughout the course of your life, you’ll find a whole let of people who know just what you “should” do. And a lot of them are probably right. See, the should-do life is the one that makes sense. It’s the one that pays the bills and keeps you living in comfort. It’s the one that protects you from the risk of rejection. It’s the ordinary, logical, everyone-is-living it life – the one that ensures your survival.

…Then there’s the would-do life. The one that exists only in the back of your mind and your wildest dreams. The one that lingers on the fringes of your reality, begging to be realized. It’s the life you would choose if only you didn’t have all those should-do dilemmas weighing you down.

So what do you do when you come to the crossroads between what you should do and what you would do? Yes, it’s hard because it defies all logic, but Victoria Schwab and I both beg you to always, always, ALWAYS choose the would-do life. Why? Here’s Victoria’s response to that question:

“Because I picked the SHOULD DO path. I did it willingly. And now I’m changing course. I’m setting down the SHOULD DO and picking up the WOULD DO, and it is terrifying and maybe a bad idea (and that’s my writer brain begging, pleading) but the moment I opened THAT document, the WOULD DO one, I smiled. The moment I started typing, I lost myself. There was joy in the journey again.”

My friend, I can guarantee you that life is too short to live the should-do life. That joy in the journey is worth it. Your passions were given to you for a purpose and, by all means, you were meant to embrace them. So release your hesitations. Let go of all your fears. Close your eyes for just one minute and dream the would-do dream.

At the beginning of this year, I finally chose the would-do path. And I know I’m not a math person, but three months later, I’m crunching numbers that don’t make sense and realizing that, somehow, God is taking care of me (just like He said He would).

And I know with most certainty that there is joy – such a wondrous, freeing, beautiful joy – in choosing the would-do life.

When Life Happens

“You can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him.”

Profound insight from the world’s favorite, seriously confused fish. I think this line from Finding Nemo makes us laugh because it is such an obvious statement, but in all actuality, it’s also a great reminder.

We tend to play it safe. We protect others. We protect ourselves. And in doing so, we miss out on a vital part of living. We weren’t made to live in a bubble. We were made to thrive and explore, push ourselves to our limits, and yes, even fail sometimes.

You know how babies learn to walk? By falling down. If they never fall, they never learn to balance. By sheltering and protecting our kids, we keep them from living to their fullest potential. We keep them from excelling at things in which they could truly thrive. And, as Dory would say: “Not much fun for little Harpo.”

Sometimes life happens. Sometimes we find that things aren’t going according to plan. Sometimes we face challenges that knock us down. But that doesn’t mean we should stay down. That doesn’t mean we should sequester ourselves away from the world in hopes that we will never again feel the sting of failure.

When you attempt to protect yourself from the bad things, you accidentally block out the good things, as well. You can’t never let anything happen to you. Then nothing would ever happen to you. You can’t find acceptance without risking rejection. You can’t experience success without risking failure. It’s not possible to embrace what is good in life without coming across a few bad things in the process.

It’s time to move beyond the comfortable, little space you’ve created for yourself and attempt great things. It’s time to let things happen. I’m confident that you can overcome whatever trials may come your way as long as you take some advice from Dory and…

Just. Keep. Swimming.

The Life I Never Planned

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I can’t even count the number of times that question has been asked of me. I was never one of those kids who struggled with an answer. I had my entire life figured out by the time I was eight. I was going to be a missionary and a mother. Eventually my writing dream slipped in there too, and by the time I left home, I was set in my plans.

It’s funny how plans change. How the life I once dreamed of is not the life I am currently living. Right now, I’m a missionary drop-out, soon-to-be-published author of the kind of books I never wanted to write with no husband in the foreseeable future. Sometimes I roll my eyes and say that God mocks me, but honestly… Honestly I’m coming to terms with the fact that God knows best.

That He sees the dreams I never dreamed.

That His dreams are better than my dreams.

If you look at people throughout history – people who are famous for doing extraordinary things – I’m willing to bet they didn’t set out to accomplish those things in the beginning. I’m willing to bet that God interrupted their lives with a purpose that was greater than their imaginings.

Take Mary in the Bible, for instance. I’ll bet all Mary really wanted was to marry Joseph and live happily ever after in her comfortable little life. Then came the angel that declared she would give birth to the Son of God. Say what?

God gave Mary a task that was way, WAY beyond anything she could have ever asked or imagined. And it wasn’t easy. Her community scorned her for what they assumed to be an illegitimate pregnancy, her fiance nearly kicked her to the curb (and who could blame him?), and the last Mary sighting in the Bible is at the foot of the cross where she watched her son suffer a horrible death.

Following God’s call on her life cost Mary everything. It hurt. It hurt so much worse than her comfortable dreams of happily ever after ever could. But I’m willing to bet that if you asked Mary if she wished she had done things differently, she would say no. She wouldn’t have it any other way. She had traded her old dreams for a new promise.

And the miracle was worth the price she paid.

As I find myself thinking things like, “This isn’t how I thought my life would turn out,” and “I never asked for this ~ wouldn’t have chosen this,” I think of Mary. And I ask myself if this miracle will be worth the price I paid. Though sometimes it’s hard to imagine, I trust that my final answer will be yes. Yes, it was so worth it. I’m trading my old dreams for a new promise.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tell Everybody I’m On My Way

If you read my journal entries here of late, you would probably think I’m bi-polar. In all actuality, I’m on a roller-coaster ride called the publishing process. Take it from a girl in the midst of the drama, writing a book is not for the faint of heart. But here I am, living my dream, and finding that it isn’t always, well… a dream. Sometimes it’s more like a nightmare.

Life is hard work, full of ups and downs and ugly circumstances that will try to get the best of you. Sometimes you’ll sing; sometimes you’ll scream. And sometimes you’ll feel like giving up. Yes, sometimes you’ll want to quit. Sometimes you’ll tell God that you’re done – just plain done – with the situation that is causing you stress. With everything.

I’ve felt like that a lot lately. I’ve been telling God that I’m done. I’m so done. I’m beyond waiting for Beyond Waiting.

BUT GOD…

God has a way of reminding us of things. And when I cease to live the journey, He never fails to step in and remind me that life is more than a destination. This time, he used a bear – a little bear whose words of wisdom were composed by Phil Collins. Now, I’m not a huge fan of the movie Brother Bear (in fact, the only thing I like about it is that the musical score was written by Phil Collins and it therefore reminds me of my brother), but a brief clip of lyrics jumped out at me the other day and convicted my frustrated heart.

“Tell everybody I’m on my way
and I’m loving every step I take.”

I realized something the moment I heard those words. I’m on my way. And the situation I’m walking through is a necessary part of getting there. And I want to be able to say that I’m loving every step I take, but I can’t say that yet. The steps have been hard. My feet have felt heavy. And the view has been less than spectacular. But I am on my way. And though the journey is long and hard, you’re on your way too. And one day, every step will have been worth it. Let that thought lift your spirits and carry you through the mundane.

And don’t forget to tell everybody you’re on your way and loving every step you take.