Even in This

Three years ago, I got a phone call. I knew little of the details (no one did at that point), but there had been an accident and the outcome was uncertain. The request was simply to pray.

And pray I did.

My faith was not small that day. As I told God what I knew of His character—as I reminded Him of another time He gave a little girl back her life—I truly believed my request to be simple.

I weaved a prayer of hope and trust, but, within an hour, I was picking up a pen to make an amendment to my prayer journal. Written there in red ink, like an editorial note to my future self, are the words:

You are good. All the time. Even in this.
That’s what I choose to believe.

The death of a ten-year-old girl seems a terrible segue into the current state of my life. In fact, I felt kind of guilty about recycling those words.

Those words are sacred. A memorial to Maggie.

And yet I find myself whispering “even in this” as if this could compare to the original moment in question.

It can’t. It really can’t.

The final words I exchanged with that child still haunt me, folks.

But the truth remains that God is good. All the time. Even in this.

Even in this. When my dreams have been derailed and forced to take the scenic route. When I’m twenty-five and, only now, finally moving out on my own. When I pick up a pen and the words won’t come and, when they do, I question their worth. When every ounce of me wants to go back to the girl I was at twenty because she was better than the person I am today.

I think that is the most frustrating thing. Because even if my dreams have not turned out according to plan, I should still be a better, stronger person than I was five years ago.

But I’m not. I’m really not.

My journals bear the proof.

I feel like I should read all of my journals like I read the ones from middle school. With a cringe followed by a wave of relief because I have grown up and overcome that stage of life. I should be able to look at my past and thank God I’m not that girl anymore.

But that’s not how I feel when I encounter the girl at twenty. The girl at twenty makes me want to weep for the things I have lost. I want it back. I want it all back.

Make the girl of twenty-five disappear and just give me twenty, please.

I am going to blame Grace Thornton for this sudden wave of melancholy. Because I was fine. I was fine until I started to read her book and she spoke of her quest for God, and her hunger for God, and her realizing that she had made her life all about God without ever really knowing Him. (There will be a full review of I Don’t Wait Anymore to follow because, seriously, all of the feels. But I digress…)

I was confused. Puzzled to think that I could have endured that same, glorious journey of a life fully abandoned to God only to end up back where I started from. Stuck in a pattern of serving Him simply because I do. And I should have recognized it earlier. Long before Grace. I should have known when friends started asking questions and I didn’t have the answers, or I was ashamed of the answers, or I just wanted to brush the entire conversation off because I was so very tired of fitting the stereotype—so very desperate to escape the pedestal.

I have felt like God has abandoned me, but perhaps I have abandoned Him.

I am reminded of the day Hannah Brencher answered the question, “How do you remind yourself God is with you, even on the hardest and darkest days?”

Her answer was as powerful as it was poetic.

“I hurl myself into the word of God,” she said. “On the days when I don’t feel God, and I assume he has packed a suitcase and left for Rio, I go and hunt him down. I look for him. I ask for him. I knock at his door. I make him answer.”

When I posted those words on Facebook a few months back, I received some critical feedback on the idea of “making” God answer. My friend’s opinion was that God was always right there, ready and waiting to respond to us when we call.

All right, so maybe I was the one who left for Rio and I’ve simply had to make a long trek back, but I couldn’t help being a little jealous of this person who has seemingly never had to knock on God’s door the way the widow from Jesus’ parable did (Luke 18). Night after night after night until he finally acknowledged her request.

Some people really do have a faith like that. A coworker once told me of a conversation she had with God. “As you know, the Holy Spirit is such a gentleman…”

She really said it like that. “As you know.” As if God quite obviously spoke to everyone so sweetly and gently.

I think God knows I don’t like things sugarcoated. Our conversations are a little more direct and, some might say, disrespectful. My holy spirit theology could be more accurately identified by my pastor friend who said the following words:

“Some people say the Holy Spirit is a gentleman. I beg to differ. He slapped Paul right off a horse. That’s not very gentlemanly.”

I have been slapped off my high-horse more times than I can count.

But God is good. All the time. Even in this.

Even in this, as I’m lying on the ground, world spinning around me. As I try to figure out what this means and where I’m meant to go from here. As I pound on God’s door and beg Him not to move to Rio—don’t You dare move to Rio—when I need Him so much right here, right now.

And He is here.

He is good, He is faithful, He is here.

That is what I choose to believe.

Yes, even in this.

Burning Dreams to Ashes

When I was eight years old, I had my life all figured out. I was going to be the next Amy Carmichael, never mind my green eyes. I figured after a stint in missions, I would settle down and start a family. I’d stay home with my six kids, of course.

Well, life doesn’t exactly play out like it did in our eight-year-old minds. In a strange turn of events, my brother was the one who moved to India. I went there once and decided it wasn’t for me. And after two years of working with Advancing Native Missions, I realized there was another dream overtaking the one I had crafted and cradled from childhood.

It was terrifying to say goodbye to all I’d ever thought I wanted. Terrifying to place my life in God’s hands as I chased an impossible dream. Even more terrifying to realize that I’ve just been in transition all along. That maybe I’ll just be in transition all my life.

That’s what life is, isn’t it? A transition from this world into the next. God putting us on this earth for a purpose that is never clearly defined.

What am I to do? Where am I to go? Who am I to be?

A few days ago, I set fire to the remnants of my life in Virginia. That’s how it felt watching all my blank checks go up in flames—that a dream was burning to ashes. Because I never dreamed that I’d be moving back in with my parents a few days shy of my 23rd birthday, uncertain of what the future holds from here.

My missions stint didn’t end in marriage, six kids sounds like a crazy lot of work right now, and that’s not all I want out of life anymore. I want something a little crazier than that, even if I’m not 100% certain what that crazy thing is.

I’m learning it’s okay to burn our dreams to ashes if it means that a new one will rise in its place. And I think it’s all right to stand in those places where you have no idea what’s coming just around the river bend. After all, if God wanted us to live a predictable life, He would have given us a manual with step by step instructions. But He didn’t, so I guess He must just like holding our hands as He walks us through the ups and downs.

The honest truth (and perhaps the reason this blog has been so silent here of late) is that I don’t know where I’m going to be six months from now. I don’t even know what I’m going to be doing six weeks from now. And Control Freak Rebekah doesn’t like that, but Rebekah Who Lives By Faith is coming to terms with it.

The remains of my goals and plans my be resting in the corner of a fire pit in Afton, Virginia, but that’s okay. Because God led me here for this time and season. And God is leading me into a much greater future than I could ever dream for myself.

And though I am not certain of many things, I have absolute confidence that He will call forth beauty from the ashes of my dreams.

ashes