Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hide and Seek Him

If you grew up in a two parent home you are likely familiar with the following scenario: A child is wailing loudly in protest to whichever parent happens to be administering discipline.

"I want my daaaaaaddyyyyyyyy!"

You would often find me so, curled into the back of my closet, sitting on piles of stuffed animals and discarded prom dresses. I would cry for whichever parent had not crossed me - hoping they would hear from the living room on the other side of the wall.

Then there was a day that I opened my mouth to cry for my mother or father and found that I could not call for either. I knew that neither would offer the comfort I sought. My tears became suddenly silent and I whispered,

 "I want my Jesus." 

I sought comfort from the only constant in my life. I didn't need to make a sound in order to be heard.

Today I can recapture my tiny closet sanctuary with perfect clarity. The pattern of my best Sunday dresses, walling me in, are burned into memory. The uneven plaster carelessly applied to walls never meant to be examined so closely. And the words, written in green crayon, "I want my Jesus."

That closet became my refuge. It was there my heart broke for the first time over friendships broken and lost. In that place I felt fully the first effects of loneliness and rejection. Pressed against three walls, I cried, confident each tear was captured by a Savior who loves me. I never cried for anyone else after that first prayer was whispered. My soul found its' resting place.

The place I used to hide taught me to hide myself in Him.

I have been hiding ever since. Not in a closet. These days my soul finds more refuge in the open air, admiring the handiwork of my Heavenly Father. I have sought Him from dried-up drainage canals, and in pine-carpeted woods, in clearings of wildflower fields, graveyards, and winding country roads.

I'm tempted to wrap this up with a nice little bow. I could do a concordance search on the word "hide" and find the deeper meaning, paired with a few quotes from the Psalms to solidify my position. But that wouldn't be real.  The fact is that right now my soul is seeking sanctuary again. I wish so much to return to my closet. I have very little that is familiar to me right now. I am vulnerable. I am broken. I am being humbled. And all I know to do is cry, "I want my Jesus."

Friday, October 12, 2012

True Reflection

Note to self.

Write about why you hide. 
And don't worry about how long it is. 
Don't try to make it pretty. 
Every story does not have to contain an overwhelming moral. 
Otherwise you only have a collection of personal platitudes. 
Be free in your writing. 
Be honest. 
Don't look for the solution all the time. 
Let the hard questions hang for just a little while.
Share when you don't want to. 
Read through your own eyes instead of criticizing through someone else's. 
Hit "publish" without proofing.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

It's Only Up to You

I'm not sure that anyone would describe me as a particularly ambitious person. I have a death-fear of disappointment so I tend to keep my goals and expectations low. I am exceptionally good at meeting the status-quo. Sure, I have a few broad life goals - fall in love, get married, have a few babies - but those are things I don't have much control over. I can't necessarily make them happen in a set time frame.

Last week after she rattled off a short-list of things she wants to do in the next couple of years, Jordan asked me, "Bekah, is there anything that you want to do?" I had to answer honestly. I've never thought about it. So I started to. And once I put some things on paper I realized that the things I want to do are not far out of my reach. The only thing standing in my way is me.

This song by Bronze Radio Return came on while I was doing my dreaming. I love these lyrics.

...The crowd stands still
No one's moving they'd just rather stand and wait until
Someone starts to move
Someone starts to move

Shake, Shake, Shake
It's all what you make of it, take what you will
You know, know, know your only mistake
Is if you stand still
So Shake, Shake, Shake,
It's all what you make of it, break it until 
You know, know, know your only mistake 
Is if you stand still
It's only up to you
It's only up to you

Am I the only one who relates to that? It feels like I've been waiting for someone else to make the first move with my life! I'm a capable leader. But I prefer to follow. Forging my way ahead, alone scares the bejeezies out of me. I want to be brave. I want to change. So I will not stand still.

I wrote out a list of 30 things I want to do before I'm 30 years old. Some of them are things I've always wanted to do, and some of them made the list simply because I'm scared to do them. I know that following those conquered fears will be dozens of mini-epiphanies. But I want to share my list here so I'll have some accountable - if only to myself - for actually doing it.

  1. Sing in public
  2. Own a pair of Tevas
  3. Live debt-free
  4. Take a photography or Photoshop class
  5. Visit Washington DC and see the Presidential Monuments and Holocaust Museum
  6. Go sledding (in SNOW!)
  7. Complete every page of at least one journal
  8. Read the Bible cover to cover
  9. Explore a cave
  10. Be thoroughly kissed on the stroke of a New Year
  11. Order an actual drink at an actual bar
  12. Put my feet into the Pacific Ocean
  13. Go backpacking up a real mountain
  14. Join (and go to) a gym
  15. Learn to keep plants alive
  16. Save $3,000 (we're working on a "3" theme here, so why not?)
  17. Have short hair
  18. Visit Europe (I couldn't possibly pinpoint one place. This'll hafta do.)
  19. Run a 5k
  20. Run a 10k
  21. Have my writing published
  22. Photograph a wedding
  23. Learn how to use fondant
  24. Live alone
  25. Teach a bible study
  26. See a counselor
  27. Define my sense of style (Rock it.)
  28. Make a swing in the middle of the woods
  29. Learn to dance (lessons, anyone?)
  30. Buy an original piece of art that I adore
What about you? Is there anything holding you back from dreaming? Do you have a list of goals or dreams?

P.S. I will be coming back to this post periodically to cross off the items I've completed!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Ready Soul

This post is a part of the Travel Stories series at Prodigal Magazine

I was ready. Four hundred forty-four miles of winding, commercialism-free road lay ahead of us. My tiny car was packed for camping along the Natchez Trace Parkway, spanning the distance between Natchez, Mississippi and Nashville, Tennessee.

Two hours into the trip, with rain pouring in sheets, my sister and I realized we forgot something vital – prayer. So we stopped and prayed that God’s will be done on this trip. That we would be His hands and feet to all we encountered. For protection. And almost as an afterthought – that He roll away the rain clouds. Within minutes I was able to open the sunroof, marveling at the love of my Heavenly Father.

Natchez Trace Parkway after the rain

We drove this way for 170 miles until heavy grey clouds began to drop hail onto the road ahead. It took me several seconds to identify this form of precipitation since I’d rarely seen it as a child. There was no mistake when the first piece hit the windshield, sounding like a gunshot. We began to pray, out loud. I wasn’t sure how the glass roof panel of my car would hold up. The hail picked up in speed and size as we continued to drive, scanning the horizon for any kind of shelter. We drove for 2 full miles this way. At the rate we were going and the rate of hailstones falling, we should’ve been hit countless times. Yet, I can count on one hand the number of hailstones that hit my vehicle during that stretch. Five - five pieces of ice. In my eyes we were experiencing a miracle. I don’t know how the Lord protected us, I only know He did.

Finally, we reached a crossroads and followed a truck into a tiny town. The hail was reaching golf-ball size. Immediately we were aware of a deafening screech that took me only seconds to identify where I’d heard the sound before. Twister. The tornado siren turned its din on us, making my heart rate increase two fold. We needed shelter and we needed it fast. My sister pulled up to the French Camp, Mississippi post office where we dashed inside the small cinder block building.

The postal clerk invited us into the back of the building and showed us where she’d cleared space underneath a steel table if we needed to hunker down there. A radio blared gospel music, frequently interrupted with foreboding weather updates. We made nervous small-talk with the Postal Clerk while we tried to reach family and friends to let them know where we were. When the hail finally gave way to rain, we all trooped next door to the French Camp Visitors Center to wait out the rest of the storm. People of all ages milled about. Judging from the “LSU” logos emblazoned across our sweatshirts everyone immediately surmised where we were from and that we’d been traveling the Natchez Trace.

We were introduced to a couple of young ladies with “French Camp Academy” nametags who began filling us in on the day’s events. Tekoa – who is named after the hometown of the Hebrew prophet Amos – informed us that we’d landed in a town with a population of 350 that was home to a Christian boarding school for young people from broken homes. She and Summer told us about the work they did with the Academy and the teenage girls they mentored. I felt a tug on my heart, sensing they were of kindred spirit so I said, “I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume you girls love Jesus a whole lot. Otherwise, I don’t think you’d be doing this out here. Am I right?” Smiles spread across their faces. They affirmed my suspicions and began openly sharing their passion for being examples of purity to the young girls in their lives.

Tears pricked my eyes. They were speaking our language. After several minutes exchanging testimonies and stories I was overcome by the providence of being stranded in this town with these people. It was apparent with every passing moment that God planted us there for a purpose.

By the early afternoon the storms passed and sun was peeking out. Summer and Tekoa began making plans to go back to work, preparing for a conference that evening. It was apparent from their discussion they were shorthanded. My sister and I looked at each other. We knew. This was why we were here. Our campsite in Northeast Mississippi could wait. I nervously offered our services to the girls, telling them we were available to help in whatever necessary capacity – making beds, cleaning toilets, mopping floors, or whatever else they needed. Sure, we sounded crazy. But I also knew with every beat of my heart that this is where God wanted us.

So we went to work! We shared stories while we made beds and marveled at the hand of God so obvious in each of our lives. That night Tekoa invited us back to her apartment for dinner where we shared heartbreaks and healing. My sister and I were both convicted and encouraged. We felt Jesus Christ in the flesh when they offered us hot showers and put us up for the night. The next morning we were speechless as we drove past swaths of tornado damaged trees within a mile of where we'd taken shelter. God truly protected us.

French Camp, MS at Sunrise

Prior to the trip I’d been meditating on this quote by Oswald Chambers, Be ready for the sudden surprise visits of God. A ready person never needs to get ready. Think of the time we waste trying to get ready when God has called! The burning bush is a symbol of everything that surrounds the ready soul, it is ablaze with the presence of God.For one day my soul was ready – ready for God to interrupt with anything. He filled that day with miracles and divine appointments. Remembering this trip always makes me wonder; if the Lord can do so much with a ready soul surrendered for one day, what can he do with a ready soul surrendered to Him for a lifetime?

Monday, June 11, 2012

In the Hands of the Potter

I've recently encountered circumstances that have made me come face to face with things that I don't like in myself. Perhaps it's being in a new house church surrounded by new friends that has made me strikingly aware of the impressions I am making. I've seen these things in myself before. And I always assumed that if I am displeased with myself, how much more is my Heavenly Father displeased?

I think I would probably prefer that the Lord just make me into a little clone of Jesus. It's hard to imagine the Creator of the universe formed and fashioned me - uniquely - to worship Him. I find myself wanting to love Him like others do. I have the privilege of walking with some amazing women of God and I often think to myself, "If only I could be like her. I want the sweet, encouraging spirit of Hollie. I want the hospitality of Deb. I want the steadfastness of Lauren." There are so many beautiful traits in the women around me that I wish I had. I'm constantly comparing myself to others and seeing ways that I just don't measure up.

I was recently praying about this part of who I am that I don't particularly like. It's a part of my personality where it seems most of my problems, struggles and temptations stem from. Once again, I found myself pleading with the Lord, "Please, take this away! I don't want to be this way anymore. I don't want to be this person! I don't like who I am." In that moment, God spoke to my heart saying,

"Who are you to say to me, 'Why have you made me like this?' I made you this way for a reason. I am not going to take it away. I am going to redeem you.
For years my friends and family have reminded me that this part of who I am is both a weakness and a strength. However, it is only a strength when submitted to the Lord. Those reminders have consistently gone in  one ear and out the other. That's not what I wanted to hear. I wanted someone to help me pray it away. Because all I could see were the glaring weaknesses this brought to my life. All I saw was imperfection and I just wanted Him to cut it out. That's the easy way, right? Just start over? For years now I have wrestled with God over this; never understanding why it wouldn't just go away and wondering how I was failing in my pleading prayers. I was unyielding in my desire to see it gone.

The pressure of the Potters hand
As soon as the Lord spoke to my heart I saw myself as the stubborn lump of clay {of Isaiah 29:16}, refusing to yield to the hand of the Potter and insisting, "I don't like how you have made me." Regardless of my objection this is a part of who I am; a part of who He wants me to be. God reminded me of this passage in Psalm 130:5-7

 "I wait for the Lord, my soul waits and in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy and with Him is abundant redemption." 
What does He see?
He says that there is abundant redemption - even for the areas of my life that I would've thought were un-redeemable. But the ugliness I see cannot be transformed until I yield to His will and accept this part of who I am. I have to stop fighting Him before transformation can take place. I have wasted so much time just wishing I could be someone else or have some other personality when all I need to do is simply yield myself to Him.

This concept is particularly powerful to me because my earthly father is a Potter. I've grown up alongside the potters wheel and I know that the transformation from a hard, stubborn lump of clay to a beautiful and useful vessel is not an easy one. Stubborn clay is beaten, thrown, drenched in water, sliced and sometimes re-worked several times before it becomes something useful. I know this transformation process won't be easy. But I know I can trust the Potter. Ultimately He will get more glory when I allow Him to redeem beauty from these ashes.

So I choose to hope in the Lord. With Him is abundant redemption.

Are there things you don't like about yourself? Do you believe they can be redeemed?

Pottery photographs are of my Poppie and were taken by me March 2011.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bond of Sisters, Bond of Christ

Those who know me only through my blog or other social media outlets know me as a singular person. Rebekah Hope. But to those who run in the circles of friends and family I am one part of a duet known as "Bekah and Jordan" or more commonly "The Ward Girls". One part is rarely without the other. My sister and I share something special. Actually, we share most everything - an apartment, a car, clothing, and countless other things. We're rarely apart. We don't think twice about it. It's our "normal". Neither realizes how abnormal or unique this relationship is until we get the funny looks and the exclamations of "It's so great you and your sister can do that! My siblings and I could never..."

But it wasn't always this way. In my early teens I made a lot of the 18 months and 2 grade levels between Jordan and I. I was determined that we would never be on the same playing field in any arena, convinced I was superior as the older, "wiser" sister. As teenagers we fought constantly. I love sharing this story because  watching peoples faces as Jordan and I tandem in the telling is the best part. When they see our relationship now they can hardly believe there was a time we didn't get along - at all. Aside from my own salvation, this is the greatest miracle God has done in my life.

I will never forget the night. At fifteen years old, after a particularly bad argument with Jordan, I was praying on the floor of my bedroom. I couldn't reconcile my desire to please the Lord with the way I acted towards my sister. I knew it wasn't right. But she was my little sister. What did she know? What gave her the right to correct me in anything? God stopped that thought with these words, "That girl in the next room? You need her. She sees the absolute worst parts of you and loves you anyway. I gave her to you for a reason." That night repentance took place. Many cleansing tears were shed. We agreed in prayer for the first time as sisters and we've never been the same since.  

I never would've anticipated how much I would grow to need my sister over the years. In the beginning learning to swallow my pride and allow my sister to address my attitude was rough. But now there are few who can speak into my life with the impact that she does. Jordan is one of the best listeners I know, but when she speaks - pay attention. It's not hard to do because she gets right to the point! (among our friends this is known as "the chin quiver" - when Jordan gets passionate she hits right on the mark!) I love that about her. She speaks the truth to me whether I want to hear it or not. My stubborn heart needs that.

People have told us that we bicker like an old married couple. We laugh, because we know it's true. But it's taught us how to resolve conflicts quickly. There is so much we have learned from each other and continue to learn. After so many years doing everything together it took a bit to adjust to the fact that we have completely separate interests. She can spend hours doing crafts of all kinds (knitting, quilting, sewing, etc. I swear the girl is a 70 year old woman in a 21 year olds body) leaving me completely bored. While I spend hours writing and she's probably read only about a half dozen of my blog posts.

One of the things that I'm most grateful for is that Jordan has taught me how to laugh at myself. I take things way too seriously and make a dramatic big deal out of just about everything. She makes me see things through her eyes and realize how ridiculous I'm being. Jordan reminds me of this verse from Proverbs 31, "She is clothed with strength and dignity and laughs without fear of the future." So often she sees the bigger picture, therefore finding it easier to laugh in the present. There are few things I enjoy more than laughing with my sister.

I have only to look at Jordan to be reminded of the redemptive power of God. There is no way that we would have a relationship apart from Him. I am in awe of the miracle that took place in our relationship 8 years ago and consider it an honor to be a part of this duo. What a privilege to be associated with such a God-fearing, talented, and beautiful young woman!

Jordan, I am so proud of the woman you are growing into. Each talent amazes me with your handmade dresses, beautiful quilts, woven jewelry and perfect pie crusts. Every day I see your heart transformed to look more and more like Jesus. You have the heart of a servant in every way. Thank you for working so tirelessly to serve me. You never complain, though you have every right to. I am so grateful for the example you set for me. I thank God for you, my precious sister. I love you.  

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Cry of Desperation

This is an illustration that I wrote several years ago after reading Luke 18:35-43. I pictured the scene vividly, looking something like this.

The scent of my own sweat was heavy that day as I sat on the edge of the road near Jericho. I listened to the cicadas buzzing, keeping my ears tuned for the sound of footsteps. There hadn't been many travelers on the road that day. I ran my fingers inside my empty alms bowl, wondering if I would be able to find a meal that evening - my only meal for the day. My stomach growled at the thought of food, and I sighed.

In the distance I heard voices, coming towards me slowly. Before long, multitudes of people were passing me by on every side, pressing me to stand and pushing me further off the road. Confused, I asked where all these people were coming from and someone told me, "The Great Rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, is passing by Jericho!" The Rabbi? Jesus? Could this be the great teacher I'd heard so much about? My cousin told me of how He'd recently healed ten lepers in a village of Galilee. There was rumor that He was the Messiah, the one we'd waited for, our Redeemer. I heard that He healed the blind before. Surely He could heal me. But how would He even see me? There were many people here. I heard voices all around me. How could I get His attention? How do I even know where He is?

Before I could stop myself I lifted my voice and began to cry out, "Jesus! Son of David! Have mercy on me!" I knew I looked like a madman. "Jesus! Have mercy on me!" I felt heat rush up my face in embarrassment as I struggled to make myself heard over the crowd of voices. The people closest to me grew quiet and I could feel the judgmental stares. I pushed aside my shame and continued to cry, "Have mercy on me, Jesus! Jesus!" Someone shoved against me roughly and said, "Be quiet man! Don't disturb the master with your yelling!" Even still, as the crowd continued to move past me I lifted my voice louder, straining to make myself heard. My mouth and throat were coated with dust stirred by the crowd. I couldn't stop now! I had hope. Hope that I would see the Son of God. Desperation grew in me and I cried out with urgency, "Son of David, have mercy on me! Jesus! Have mercy on me!"

I soon realized that the constant shove toward the city ceased. I paused to listen, trying to understand why they stopped. In the distance a voice gave a command that I couldn't quite hear. People around me started murmuring and whispering. I heard a woman ask, "What is the Master going to say to him?" Him? Who did she mean? Someone nearby muttered in frustration, "The whole crowd is stopping because that blind fool couldn't keep his mouth shut!" I don't think he cared that I heard him. I felt the stillness grow before I heard it. Suddenly, a man took hold of my arm and spoke, "The Master would like to see you. I will lead you to Him." One of His followers began to lead to me through the crowd to the place where Jesus stood. I stumbled behind him, sure that my beating heart could be heard by all those standing in silence around me.

You did not need to tell me the moment I stood before the Son of David. His very presence was one of authority - yet not authority that induced fear. Rather, my heart became still in perfect peace. The multitude collectively held their breath, awaiting His words. Would He rebuke me? Touch me? Send me away? He simply asked me a question, "What do you want me to do for you?" Relief flooded my mind, I felt as though I were a child being offered a wish for my greatest desire. But this was no wish - the man before me was the very Son of God who could bring the impossible to pass. Overcome with emotion, my request came through a sob, "Lord, that I may receive my sight!" Oh! I will never forget His words to me! "Receive your sight; your faith has made you well." Immediately my eyes were opened and I saw! Oh, the light! The Light! The Light of the World flooded my darkness. And from that moment forward I knew I would follow Him.

I plan on following this with a post about the desperate cries of our hearts. But in the meantime...

Have you ever cried out in desperation? What was the response?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Bound to Please

I am a people-pleaser. I always have been. I want to make sure that everyone is happy, but more importantly I want to be sure they are happy with me. Nothing makes me more uneasy than the thought that someone might, possibly be upset with me. This has caused an endless amount of anxiety in my life, because like all of us, I am full of faults. I put my foot in my mouth. Often. I have been known to step on more than a few toes. But this is so desperately not who I want to be. As a result, I learned from a very young age to apologize well, and apologize often. I've since been told that I have an "I'm sorry" problem. I apologize senselessly for the most ridiculous things that are completely out of my control. All because I desperately want those around me to be pleased. Most importantly, I want the Lord to be pleased, but all too often I forget this in my search for human approval.

For example: I didn't graduate from high school in the conventional way. I didn't complete four years and walk across the stage. The way I saw it I "dropped out" and got my GED. Which is true. But I decided to drop out having obtained all necessary credits apart from 1 in English. I went on to earn nearly perfect scores in the English portions of the GED test, and I began working an entire year earlier than most of my peers. But I couldn't get excited about that. I was sure when I received that "General Equivalency Diploma" it might as well  have stamped "loser" across my forehead (despite the fact that many of my home-schooled friends had the same document). I was so ashamed by what I imagined people to be thinking of me, since I certainly didn't think much of myself. So when my parents threw me a surprise graduation party, I was mortified. They revealed that dozens of people were gathered to honor my accomplishments and I secretly wanted to crawl into a hole and cry. I was surprised to find that these people were genuinely proud of me, even if I wasn't proud of myself. It was then I began to see that perhaps my perceptions of how people saw me were not as true as I believed.

Worrying about what others may think of me and the decisions that I make has caused no small amount of anxiety for me, especially in the last year. This fear has unfortunately made me hesitate in the directions God has clearly given to me. So it came as no surprise that the words He spoke to me for this year began with, "Please me."  Please Him. Not "Please your family." or "Please your friends." or "Please your church." or even "Please yourself." His word is to please Him. I spent the last year learning to hear his voice. Now I must learn to obey Him, no matter the cost. His is the only opinion that matters in the end. He alone is the one I will give account to. I would say that I have lost sight of this goal, but the truth is I'm not sure I've ever had sight of it.

If I'm being completely honest the thought of publishing this blog scares me silly. My mind is racing over all the ways that it could be misunderstood or taken out of context. I worry, "Will they think that I'm trying to dismiss godly counsel in favor of my own opinion?" When this couldn't be further from the truth.

The Lord spoke to me saying, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you." If I make it my singular goal to seek His kingdom rather than the approval of man, He promises to sustain me. I must let go of the obsession I have with pleasing everyone all the time and turn my attention to pleasing Him alone. This fight to change the way I think has only just begun, but I have no doubt that He will transform what is broken. Instead of being bound to please men, I am bound to please my Heavenly Father. There is no greater delight. He will set me free.

Do you ever struggle with pleasing man vs. pleasing God? How do you overcome this?