Bekah's Heart, Mental Health, Poetry/Songs, Prayer

Whatever Marks This Season (A Prayer for a Day Away)

At the start of 2021 I marked off 4 days in my calendar, approximately 3 months apart as days to step away, regroup, and reevaluate all aspects of my life. A day to simply rest or play or “go deep” or whatever my soul needs on that day.

The first one was to kick off the year, actually on New Year’s Day, dreaming and listening to what the year ahead may hold. The first days of April took me to a nearby lake where, as I sat down on a picnic table by the water, the words below found their way to paper.

My quarterly retreats will likely look very different but I’m pretty sure this prayer will be a consistent part in any day I desire to set apart. Maybe it’s useful for you as well…

A Prayer for Days Away

Jesus, I commit this day to You.
To the shaping of my life, my soul, my body, my plans.

A day to look back and remember
to recall Your faithfulness
to notice Your presence in each step
to bear witness to friends and celebrations.

A day to be present and rest
to be still and silent
to be loud and move my body
to simply be.

A day to look forward and dream
to make plans with Your Spirit’s help
to pray over what the next few months may hold
to trust for every step ahead.

In these moments may I feel the warm summer sun on my face,
crunchy fall leaves under my feet,
or the comfort of a blanket wrapped around me on a cold snowy day.
Whatever marks this season.

May the laughter be loud or the tears fall hard.
Whatever marks this season.

May I fast and pray
or delight in rich foods
or enjoy a simple picnic.
Whatever marks this season.

May this be a day of plans to follow and lots of words written or consumed
or a day to wander aimlessly where You would lead.
Whatever marks this season.

I release any expectations in this moment except this one:
to meet You here.

Like Mary at her Rabbi’s feet
I choose the one thing needful. (Luke 10:38-42)
Like Jacob wrestling until dawn
I will not let go unless You bless me. (Genesis 32:22:32)
Like Hannah who begged year after year
I pray with perseverance expecting days of joy. (1 Samuel 1-2)
Like Peter, James, and John, lead me up the mountain
to find “only Jesus”. (Mark 9:2-8)
Like David I pray,
“My heart has heard you say,
‘Come and talk with me.’
And my heart responds,
‘Lord, I am coming.’” (Psalm 27:8)

I am coming.
I am here…

This season in pictures…

a weary world..., Advent

O Come, Ye Unfaithful, Despairing, and Defeated

O Come, All Ye Faithful is one of my favorite Christmas hymns. The repeated refrain “O come let us adore Him” feels like it draws me closer and closer with each phrase. However, the first line struck me as odd when I heard it for the first time this season:

“O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant.”

“More like unfaithful, despairing, and defeated” came my sarcastic side-comment. (There might have been an eye roll as well.)

The specific week leading up to that thought had been discouraging, specifically in all the ways I felt I hadn’t lived up to the call God had for me, the ways I had been unfaithful, the ways I was discouraged and lacking joy in that moment, the ways I felt anything but triumphant. It all led me to wonder…

Is there room for me? Can I come too?

I’m not trying to criticize a beautiful hymn I love, yet I think it’s missing part of the picture. God does long for the faithful, joyful, and triumphant to come, but that’s not all. Time and time again throughout Scripture we see that Jesus came to earth so that the outcast, lonely, and discouraged could also come. That’s what this Advent and Christmas season is all about.

Yes, there was room for me. The adoration called for in this hymn comes when we remember that our Savior was born to redeem our unfaithfulness. In that there is true joy and triumph. It’s not about our faithfulness, but His. God of God. Light of Light. He is steady and true. All glory to Him, the Word who appeared in flesh.

So yes, come, faithful ones… come, let us adore Him.
Come, also, unfaithful ones.

Come with your weary hearts and your stubborn minds.
Come adore Him.

Come defeated and discouraged, lonely and lost.
Come adore Him.

Come joyful ones filled with hope.
Come cautious ones filled with doubt.
Come adore Him.

Come strong ones and weak ones.
Come adore Him.

O come, ye unfaithful, despairing, and defeated.

Oh come let us adore Him, Christ, the Lord!

woman alone looking up at the sky; snow falling with trees around
Bekah's Heart, Devotional, names of God

Certain Uncertainties

“And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? Psalm 39:7a

“Where do we go from here?”
This concept is not foreign to any of us living through 2020.

As plans change by the hour and uncertainty feels like the only certainty, our hearts are left wondering “what now?”

Yet, when all our hopes and expectations are dashed, Jesus steps in as Hope himself.

Where do we go? Well, if nothing else we’ve figured out where not to go. Verse 6 lays out some of that:
“We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it.”

Our hope is not in productivity or money. Nor is it in political leaders or a health care system. If our ultimate hope is in our plans or our people, even then we will often be left disillusioned, distracted, and disappointed.

And so…

And so, Lord, where do we go?

Where CAN we put our hope?

Our only hope is You. (Psalm 39:7b, 71:5)

And so…

“And so we have this hope as a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus, [our anchor of hope] has already gone in there for us.” Hebrews 6:18b-20a

“And this is the secret: Christ lives in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27

31 Days of Joy, Bekah's Heart, Joy

NOT 31 Days of Joy

Something I’ve learned over the last few years and even in this month of trying to focus on joy is the importance of intentionality in choosing joy.

I’m also learning that there can be intentionality in choosing to stop things that aren’t bringing joy to my life.

I’m discovering this 31 Day Blog Challenge actually fits in that category.

I was so excited when the month started to center in on this topic and blog about my journey. While the focus of joy has continued strong and so has my desire to blog, the pressure of writing specifically about that topic and doing it every day has not proved to be joyful.

So, I’m abandoning ship. It happened unintentionally a few days ago when I simply forgot but it caused me to pause. So today I consciously decided to not force myself to keep going in this daily rhythm.

I am keeping the goal of writing more and I also have my ears and heart tuned in for concepts of joy. (For example, it’s been crazy to see that there hasn’t been a day since the start of October where the word joy or rejoice didn’t show up in my daily Bible reading. It’s literally been there every single day.)

So yes. Joy and blogging remain goals but I’m choosing to actually LIVE in joy by putting aside an arbitrary expectation that wasn’t helping me live the very thing I was writing about.

This leads to my questions for you today…

1. What are the things that brought you joy this week?

2. What’s something you may need to stop because it is not adding value, meaning, or joy to your life?

31 Days of Joy

Joy in Imperfection

I hated last night’s blog post.

I loved the topic. I was honest in everything I said. I just didn’t feel like a good post to me. I wanted to delete it. I wanted to at least start over or maybe put it off and try that topic again a different day. I wanted perfection.

I posted it anyway.

There have actually be many in this month I haven’t really liked.

I’ve posted them anyway.

I feared that they aren’t as good as some of my other posts and wondered if people will be annoyed.

I keep posting anyway.

And I keep posting imperfect blogs because the whole point of this 31 blog challenge was to enjoy writing more and to focus on joy. If I stress myself out every night trying to get the “perfect post,” I’m not attaining either of those things.

Joy in imperfection means “okay” is okay.

Joy in imperfection means I have grace for myself (and not just in blogging).

Joy in imperfection allows space to grow.

Joy in imperfection feels approachable and real.

So even though I want to give up and abandon ship on this #31daysofjoy challenge, I will keep showing up. Because even in this, I’m discovering joy.

31 Days of Joy

Joy in Vulnerability

As I got off the phone with a friend tonight at the end of two hour long conversation, “joy” was the word that came to mind.

It seemed like a weird word since many of the things we talked about were not things I would tend to put in the category of “joyful.” But joy is often the emotion I feel after our conversations.

We get to talk about once a week and end up often sharing some of the hardest parts of life. We share good things about life and celebrate well together when those come along, but we’re also not afraid to go deep.

When we ask “how was your day” we expect to hear “horrible” if that was the truth. We confess the areas where sin and Satan trip us up. We cry and laugh together. We’re not afraid to call each other out and even have learned the value of bringing it up when one of us has done something that hurt the other.

Again, I was trying to process why “joy” is the word that comes to mind even when conversation topics are often so deep and hard. But I think it’s because of safety in that vulnerable place.

It is a true gift to be deeply known by someone and loved and valued in that space. For someone to see ALL your mess and mistakes and yet desire your good and cheer for you as you sort through it all, is a blessing.

Joy comes when we are known and loved.

Joy overwhelms when a friend draws near.

Joy brings peace and contentment when one we love can remind us things about ourselves that we have forgotten.

Vulnerability is hard and in many places it can be risky. But if we can find safe places to be our truest selves I think we may also be our most joyful selves.

31 Days of Joy

Sabbath Joy

Joy is…

Noticing what looked like it would be a gorgeous sunrise and taking time for a morning walk to watch it.

Joy is…

a blanket of fall covering a street with gorgeous colors that matched the sunrise.

Joy is …

time social distanced on a porch with my discipleship group in the morning and spontaneous afternoon walk around a lake with a friend.

Joy is…

laying under a tree, by the lake, on a Sunday afternoon, in the sun with the breeze blowing.

Joy is…

an evening of music and worship in this little church with a handful of people who are becoming so dear.

What did joy look like for you today?

31 Days of Joy

Joy and Glory

In addition to the theme of “joy” I’ve been intrigued lately by the concept of “glory”. While reading through Romans 8 two weeks in a row for some grad school assignments I noticed this word a few times. There are a ton of great things in this chapter of scripture that I come back to again and again, but I had never noticed the concept of glory. For the couple weeks that followed I’ve been alert to where else I see glory in scripture. Earlier this week a friend was also sharing about what God had been teaching her about bringing God glory in our lives.

As I spent some time in prayer this morning I found myself praying over a specific situation in life using both the concepts of joy and glory. I was asking God to act in this situation in ways that bring him glory but also bring me joy. I’ve heard and prayed something similar before “for His glory and our good”, but this was the first time I had altered it slightly to involve joy.

You can imagine my shock this evening when I was listening to a podcast as I wandered around town and this was the speaker’s main point:

“So the question is: how do you craft a life that brings God glory and brings you joy even if He never answers your deepest heart prayers?” – Annie F Downs

The more I’ve pondered this throughout the day the more I think those two things… God’s glory and my joy… are intertwined. When God gets the glory, that is often a joyful moment for me. And when I am filled with the deep joy of Jesus, God delights in that and is glorified.

I’m not sure where to land with this. There’s not a nice neat blog post “bow” to end with. But maybe we can just spend some time this weekend asking God to bring us joy and him glory through our lives.

31 Days of Joy

Quiet Joy

In sleeveless weather in October

In glorious fall colors lining the road

In walking out of a counseling session laughing

In favorite tea, and getting some loose leaf to enjoy another day as well

In friends to share life with, even if it’s one text message at a time

In taco salad on a Thursday night

In the smile of a 1 year old

In a favorite outfit

In making music in a dark sanctuary

In sharing truth and inviting others in

In deep peace and steady hope

In all this and more… there is…

joy.

It’s not always loud. It’s not always “happy”. I’m finding the “quiet” joy is perhaps my favorite kind. A confident trust at the end of the day, that no matter what that day held, in the end it’s all going to be okay.

31 Days of Joy

Harvesting Joy

In a conversation tonight with a friend, she recounted the seasons we often live in. When something new begins it’s like Spring. There is excitement, bright colors, and what seems like great joy.

Then, Summer. She mentioned the concept of farmers work plowing, preparing, planting. It’s hard, intentional work.

The harvest of Autumn is hard work as well, but there is also perhaps a sense of relief in that what was hoped for has come, the work that was put in produced something.

She was relating this to some seasons in our own lives where we’ve been able to see the reward of hard work, or gain courage to keep putting in for the hope of harvest.

All of this reminded me of a verse I read a couple days ago. It is such a clear picture of this and also ties in my month-long focus of joy:

“Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭126:4-6‬

Planting in tears…

Leads to harvesting in joy.

That seemed like a helpful reminder today. In some areas of my life I am seeing this from the end result. There is some great joy right now in some situations where hard work was literally watered with SO many tears. What a blessing to share great joy, proclaiming it loudly as I see what God has caused to grow.

At the same time, in my life and my friend’s there are other situations where the drudgery of planting still continues on. The tears continue to flow. The hard work is exhausting and we’re tempted to give in.

But this promise revives hope.

Planting in tears

Leads to harvesting in joy.

And so … “we run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this keeping our eyes on Jesus… who, because of the joy awaiting him, endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:1-3

Joy is coming, friends. Joy is coming.