Wednesday, June 22, 2011

More Than Just a Name

Those who know me in person know that "Rebekah" is not the name I go by. If there is some chance that I am introduced as "Rebekah" I will probably shake your hand, smile and say, "Please, call me Bekah." All of my email signatures and social media bear the shortened version of my name.

"Rebekah" is a name I have associated with being in trouble most of my life. My parents only used it when I was being severely reprimanded. I vividly recall flushing with dread every time they called "Rebekah Hope!" into the backyard. I would run down the mental list of mischief I'd been in, wondering which fiasco I'd be answering for this time. This is a habit I carried with me into adult life, growing anxious each time a teacher or supervisor used my given name.

I hated being called "Rebekah" all through middle school and high school. The guys in my classes quickly discovered this and taunted me relentlessly. There were two Rebekahs in my small high school. Since we had many of the same classes, it was decided early on that she would go by "Rebecca" and I was "Bekah". If someone slipped up and used my given name, I would rarely acknowledge them because I assumed they were addressing the other girl.

Last October, when I started this blog, I was wrestling with God. Earlier in the year I'd spent some time allowing myself to be courted by a guy with whom it ended up not working out. But in the midst of that the Lord stirred up dreams in me that I thought were dead. I was angry because I felt like He dangled something in front of me only to snatch it away. In the midst of expressing this to Him one afternoon, He spoke to me.

"You are not the first to get a promise from me only to see it unfulfilled within your timeline. I promised Abram and Sarai a child - and they waited, in faith, for the promise to be fulfilled. While they waited, I changed their names. As I am changing yours. It is no accident that your name is Rebekah Hope. You will no longer associate that name with anger, trouble, and anxiety. In the book of Genesis Rebekah was found as a wife through her service. You will be found serving me. Do not sit idle. Pour yourself into serving the least of these. Rebekah Hope, you have been so named for a reason. Hope in me. Serve me forever. Then it will no longer matter how long it takes to be found."
 I was - and still am - floored each time I read that. Has God really given me a promise and changed my name? I'm learning to quell my anxieties when I hear the name "Rebekah". And I'm learning to believe the promise He gave me even when it seems so unlikely.

I gave my blog this title as an act of faith. This is a daily reminder of how God has spoken over my life and a testament of His faithfulness to me. It's more than just my name.

Monday, June 20, 2011

How Did I Get Here?

I've been doing a lot of blog reading lately, which has me thinking about how I got here, and why I'm writing. Text has always been the medium where I've been most comfortable. I started writing at 11 or 12, shortly after my dad drilled grammar rules into my head through many tearful home-school sessions. After memorizing 436 proofreading symbols, I finally learned to love words.

My first online platform was "Teen-Open-Diary". Yes, it was as bad as it sounds. This was before MySpace was on anyone's radar. I created an "anonymous" profile, which I promptly emailed to my closest friends, and I began to write with gusto. I filled page after page of internet content with my every angst-filled teenage thought. "Relationship" trials, school drama, prayers, tears, depression. I treated that platform like my personal diary - completely uncensored as though no one was reading it. I cringe now, remembering that I thrived off of the drama my "honesty" created. Eventually the open-diary network was hacked one too many times and shut down, gratefully leaving me with only a few entries in my hardback journal as a reminder of the emotion-crazed pre-teen I was.

Shortly thereafter I joined a new youth group and found out that - wait - there are some deep, dark thoughts that only a few should know about? And the opposite sex shouldn't be on that list (especially at 15)? So, I stopped writing in all public forums and began to write for myself. I internalized everything that year, filling two journals and a sketchbook. I wrote pages of letters that I never sent, and some that I did. In that year I laid aside several destructive relationships and began to learn to relate to real people in real ways. This was a process. I can't tell you how many hours I wasted trying to speak my heart only to give up and write it down, passing it to the person across from me. Writing became a form of bondage for me.

Because this continued to be a problem, someone challenged me to give it up for a season and told me that, "It's out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, not the pen writes." I laid my pen down and put the journals aside. That year I learned to talk. I learned to voice my heart. I was no longer bound to the pen. But I still didn't trust it. I was afraid that in this medium where I felt so comfortable I would say too much.

I tried for a while to write anonymously through Xanga, but I gave up after 5 entries the first time I crossed the line of "too personal" - even though no one was reading it. Then my friends jumped on the blogger bandwagon. I quickly found where I was safe - writing exclusively about the things the Lord was teaching me. I spoke only of struggles in the past-tense, from the side of victory. Prudence dictated that I keep things on a surface level while I learned to safely relate to the opposite sex, both virtually and physically. Eventually it came naturally - at least in person. But when it comes to writing, I have danced on eggshells for years, careful not to say anything that might later incriminate me.

I've realized that as a 22 year old young woman I can trust myself with a pen again. With some maturity has come discernment, proven in the fact that the hand-written version of this (I'm a little old-fashioned that way) has sentences with lines through them that won't end up in my final draft.

I want to tell my stories - both past and present. To testify of what I have been saved from, now safely removed from who I used to be. Maybe by removing the vague cloud that has covered my writing, I'll find out that I am not alone. And maybe... you will too.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

To the Fathers

This is a testimony that I wrote and gave at a Father-Daughter banquet early last year. I think it is appropriate to honor my Father right now by sharing this. May it be an exhortation and encouragement to you as well.

The photo to the left of my sister Jordan and Poppie was taken a couple of years ago on the Baton Rouge barge dock downtown. I had it printed and framed for Fathers day that year.

Good evening -
I don’t think there’s anyone here that doesn’t know my sister, myself and my Father – or "Poppie" – as many of you affectionately refer to him. What some of you may not know is that I am the 5th of 6 daughters – 6 daughters who were raised in a ONE bathroom house. I think it would be fair to say that my Daddy has had his share of experience raising girls!

I want to testify tonight about the difference that the words of a Father can make to his daughter. Right now you are "the man" in your little girls’ life. I can only imagine the great weight of responsibility that comes with parenthood. But I want to encourage you to take advantage of this small window of opportunity that’s been given to you to endear yourself to your little girls.

My Father isn't perfect, and I don’t believe he would have me give you that impression. But I want to share with you some of the things he has done, raising us, that have made a lasting impact on my life. My sister and I, like most little girls, loved to play dress up. We spent hours in our room playing with makeup, veils, crowns and frou-frou dresses. When we dressed up we would wait in the front yard for Poppie to get home from work so that we could show off our handiwork. We were rarely disappointed. He would tell us how beautiful we were - even if we had mascara on our noses or lipstick out of line. It didn't matter that our dresses were 5 sizes too big and stained with kool-aid. In this way he earned our constant affection and devotion. We knew we were pretty because “Poppie said so!” and he was the final word.

As we grew older the dress-up sessions were a little more serious. We came home from shopping excursions with Momma to show off our purchases. No matter what he was doing Poppie would pause to look at all the new things and give his approval. But it never really mattered what we wore. We always knew that we were beautiful - inside and out- because He took every opportunity to tell us so. Countless times he spontaneously looked at one or both of us and said something like, “I am so blessed to have such pretty girls who love Jesus SO much.”

The consistent affirmation we received has had lasting repercussions as we’re entering adult life. Today, as a young woman who has been taught to be modest in all things - protecting the eyes of the young men around me - I feel confident that I can go unashamed to my father after purchasing something and ask, “Hey Pop, is this immodest? Do you see any reason that I should return it?” And I trust that he will give me an honest answer, looking out for my best interest, and helping me guard my virtue. I have learned to value his opinion first as my father, but also as a man.

It should be no surprise that in our culture media plays a part in shaping the image that young girls strive to achieve. But I’m here to tell you that fathers have a vital role in shaping who their daughters aspire to be. It’s almost cliché to say this; Your words as a father hold the power of life and death. I cannot explain why I want it, and I can't get rid of the desire for my Fathers approval. As a child, I craved his laughter. I would put on the most ridiculous antics and tell him endless knock-knock jokes just to know that I put a genuine smile on his face. Conversely, because I crave his approval, his criticism or correction strikes deeper than almost anyone else's. To this day there a few things that humble me as much as the stern voice of my Father. Without even knowing or meaning to, a Father can inflict lasting wounds on his daughter through harsh criticism - especially of her appearance. But the knowledge that her father is proud of her, that he values her, no matter how many opportunities she's given him for disappointment, can be the core of confidence for a girl of any age.

Let me give you an example. I was not the most popular girl in middle school. I was awkward around boys, I had frizzy hair – and I was the “goody-two-shoes”. I particularly remember one day that my dad dropped me off at school. He joined hands with me, praying briefly as he always did before letting me go. As soon as he looked up at me he tugged on one of my pigtail braids and said, “I love it when you wear your hair like this. It makes me feel like you’re still my little girl who isn’t growing up too fast.” That simple statement made my day! I walked through the gates of the school grinning from ear to ear and joined my friends. The first thing one of the boys said to me was “Why do you wear your hair like that?? It looks so stupid. You look like a little farm girl.” I couldn’t have cared less. What that silly boy thought about me paled in comparison to the glowing approval I’d just received from my Father. And those boys knew it. As a result they were terrified of my "precious Poppie”, who despite his 6'4" frame, is a big teddy bear. They knew he had my heart. He spoke words of encouragement and affirmation and without even knowing it my Father protected me from seeking the attention of other boys. He spared me so much heartache and insecurity through his uplifting words.

I look back and I know that because I was secure in my fathers’ love and affection, I didn’t need the affection of any other boy. I didn’t go seeking the attention that so many girls do – and they come back with broken hearts that they're too ashamed of to turn to their Fathers. Please - take every opportunity to share with your daughters how beautiful each of them are. Be sparing and thoughtful with criticism. I know for some of you this may not be easy. The Word of God says that “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” It is vital that your daughters hear your heart for them. It can, and it will make a lasting impact on how they view themselves for the rest of their lives. Because if you don’t say the things she needs to hear from a man, then she will find someone else who will...

Allow me to note that your little girl will never grow tired of hearing your heart. Just last week I got a voicemail from my Poppie. He was just calling to tell me – with tears choking his voice – how much he cherishes me and how proud he is of the godly woman I have become. He left a similar message on Jordans phone. I have no idea what prompted this, but it made me feel incredibly cherished. As a single young lady without a date in sight, I still need to hear those words from my Father.

I want to take this opportunity to say Thank You to my Poppie. Thank you, for your fervent prayers, and your constant encouragement that has helped me become a woman who is growing in character. I love you.