Bekah's Heart, Thyroid, transition

Though I sit in darkness…

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light!” (Micah 7:7-8)

Social media has pros and cons but one of my favorite elements is the way in which it allows you to easily look back. Through things like TimeHop or Facebook memories I can see little glimpses into years past, reminders of the good times and the hard.

The last few weeks have proved fascinating whenever I click on the “memories” section, especially the most recent years. I didn’t remember until now just how hard each of the last two years started out.

January of 2018 was month number two of a six-month waiting period trying to figure out what was wrong with my body. Tracking every symptom, painful biopsies, countless doctor’s visits, wondering and waiting to find out if I had cancer only to be told over and over again, ‘we don’t know’. I was in a place of fighting for peace and for joy. I was determined, but also many days, defeated.

Fast forward to January of 2019. Surgery was seven months past and the initial wounds caused by removing half of a vital organ from my body were well on their way to being an easily-forgotten scar. However, the impact of removing that organ caused complete chaos in my body physically, mentally, and emotionally. I went from being under-medicated in the months directly after surgery to now grossly over-medicated causing muscle weakness, extreme fatigue, anxiety, depression, and literally dozens of other symptoms. Because my body was weak and exhausted so many of the ways I generally dealt with stress and the emotional impacts weren’t options as they made the physical symptoms worse. Every day was a fight to get out of bed and there was nothing more I could do than what I already was besides wait for the hormones in my body to balance out.

January 2020. I found myself reflecting to a friend, “I think it’s been over 2 years since I felt this healthy. Life is not at all without its challenges right now, but I’m doing so well and it feels so good.” When I made that comment I was mainly referring to new life-giving rhythms I recently found. Between the health challenges of 2018 and 2019, attempting to buy a house (and then not buying a house), and the transition to a new job across the country far from most of my support system, rhythms and routines had been seriously lacking for a really long time in my life.

Christmas break provided a reset and suddenly I now find myself weeks into some sustainable ways to connect with God and friends and care for my body and exercise and de-stress. Facebook Memories keeps confirming the reality day after day that it’s not just daily rhythms that have been restored in this new season… my whole being has. In the looking back I see glimpses and reminders of how hard and painful those days really were. Even some posts that may have looked positive to others, documenting the determined fight for joy, I recall how much of a fight it really took to make that a reality in a given day.

While I’ve only recently discovered this verse from Micah it’s been sweet to look back and see how this is a prayer God answered.

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light!” (Micah 7:7-8)

In those stumbling days of 2018 and the darkest days of 2019, I heard the Lord whisper (mainly through my friends and family): “Though you have fallen, you will rise. Though you sit in darkness, I will be your light!”

Some days I couldn’t believe Him. (And that’s when I’m thankful for the friends who held out hope for me.) But our ever-faithful God came through!

Great is His faithfulness! His mercies are new every morning! Therefore, I too, dared to hope! (Lamentations 3:21:23)

My enemy, Satan, did not win. The one determined to take me down by attacking the most vulnerable parts of me, only forced me to lean in closer to my Savior. I won’t say I didn’t sometimes believe his lies that I’d never be effective in ministry again or that I’d always be in pain or depressed. But instead of taking me out of the game, those seasons just stripped away some unhealthy aspects of the way I did life and ministry and made me stronger yet. Instead of the enemy gloating over me, I now can do that over him!

Though I fell, I have now risen.

Though I stumbled in the darkness, the Lord was and IS my light.

Hard times will come again, that I know for sure, “But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.”

Amen. Let it be so!

Until that day when we rise from death and pain forever. Until the day when darkness ceases for good. I watch and wait in hope.

Amen and amen!

Bekah's Heart, Music, transition

Follow You Anywhere

It was a Monday night. I was at a young adult worship night at a local church when I first heard the words of this song, a prayer to God:

“You make it easy to love You
You are good and You are kind
You bring joy into my life
You make it easy to trust You
You have never left my side
You’ve been faithful every time”

I was singing along but the prayer in my brain was not quite on board. The situation I was in forced me to wrestle more than agree:

“God you don’t really make it easy to love and trust you. Actually, it’s really hard. Yes, you bring joy and are trustworthy, but ‘easy’??? Definitely not the word I would have chosen if I was writing this song.”

What annoyed me more was that a lot of the rest of song was truly the cry of my heart that night:

“All I want is You
Jesus, all I want is You

You are the refuge I run to
You are the fire that leads me through the night
I’ll follow You anywhere
There’s a million reasons to trust You
Nothing to fear for You are by my side
I’ll follow You anywhere”

I awoke at 4am with these words on my heart, praying through a situation I had brought before God a million times before, but yet again was burdened by. There WERE a million reasons to trust God (and that’s not hyperbole!) So I placed this situation back in God’s hands and chose trust, honestly crying out that I’d follow His lead wherever that took me.

Little did I know that God about 12 hours later I would get a phone call that would dramatically change my life. God was indeed preparing my heart to trust and follow and it had nothing to do with what I was praying about.


Fast forward nearly 6 months. I now live in a different state, learning a new career, sitting in an unfamiliar church pew wondering when and where and how I’ll find the kind of community and connection I left behind in Buffalo. This “church-shopping-as-a-church-worker” thing is still a bit foreign, yet I’m thankful for opportunities to rest and be renewed on Sunday mornings soaking in God’s Word without distraction. As the first lyrics of the first song came out of the speakers and then my mouth, the tears fell instantly from my eyes:

“You make it easy to love You
You are good and You are kind
You bring joy into my life
You make it easy to trust You
You have never left my side
You’ve been faithful every time

I’ll follow you anywhere”

It feels like this song has become an anthem in this season. An anthem I never really wanted. A prayer I still am not 100% sure about. A cry of trust and dependence on the faithfulness of God. Literally 6 months ago the life I get up and live each day now wasn’t even on my radar. Who knew that “anywhere” would mean the cornfields of Nebraska?

God. God knew.

I’m not sure it will ever be “easy” to trust God, but what I found comforting on this Sunday morning in looking back is that there are no regrets. I’m realizing that there never are when we’re following God. God knows exactly where “anywhere” for each of us is and has a million blessings in that place. Making the decision to say “yes” when God asks us to follow Him actually IS of the easiest decisions of life. (Despite the many hard things that come along with those decisions.) It’s easy because His track record is 100%. It’s easy because He is faithful, always. It’s easy because of the way He protects and provides along the journey.

And so I guess my prayer remains:

“Wherever You lead me
Whatever it costs me
All I want is You
Jesus, all I want is You

I’ll follow You anywhere.”

I’ll follow You into this week to love on the people you put in my path.

I’ll follow You when it’s lonely and I miss my friends and family in NY.

I’ll follow You into interactions with my teammates.

I’ll follow You into tough conversations or joyful celebrations with my students.

I’ll follow You with my eyes wide open for the joys and blessings You have waiting along the way.

“There’s a million reasons to trust You
Nothing to fear for You are by my side
I’ll follow You anywhere
Follow You anywhere”

Bekah's Heart, transition

I’ve Walked These Halls

I’ve walked these halls.
I’ve wandered these buildings.
I’ve sat in these offices (and in some potentially unfortunate cases maybe in these same exact chairs).

I went to school here.
I left.
Nine years later: I’m back.

Once a student. Now staff.
Always a Bulldog.

So much seems the same and yet so different.

I’ve lived in this town… kind of. The brick-paved streets feel familiar as I make my way to restaurants and stores and businesses around.

Some remain. Some have changed.

And I find myself back on the same 2.7 mile path on the east side of town where I pounded the pavement training for my first half-marathon 10 years ago. And the curves are the same, the bridges bring back memories, the sunrises and sunsets still beautiful.

It’s so similar and yet so different.

This time as I ponder this “moving back” yet “staring over”, the difference hits me:

The trees have grown. It makes sense that they’re bigger now, but it takes me a while to notice.

Wide open spaces now filled in with green leaves and big brown branches.

And I realize that I, too, am the same and yet so different.

The buds that began sprouting in my life in the spring of 2010 are flowering now in 2019. And branches beginning to grow out of control have been pruned and cut back by life and loving humans placed around me. Like wear-and-tear on dorm room furniture, I have a few more scars than when I walked out of this place in a graduation cap. And in other ways I’m stronger now than I’ve ever known.

Scripture tells us that “those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.”

And I can’t help think of the tears sown on Ruth B third,
and SW Pit,
and in the very office that now has my name on the door.

What seeds were watered then that God is bringing to life here nearly a decade later?

I see them springing up all over the place.
Morning by morning,
day by day:
New mercies. New life.
New songs of joy.

In renewed passion.
In a great team.
In gifts and experiences uniquely preparing me for this work.
In 49 amazing human beings who walked on campus tonight … and many more in the days ahead.
In the chance to walk with them through this year.
In hope that maybe a decade from now they’ll find themselves looking back on these years and know without a doubt that God used this time to shape them uniquely for the calling He has on their lives.

Yes, I’ve walked these halls.
And I’m glad to walk them again.

Bekah's Heart, transition

One Month In: What Do I Need?

Today marks exactly one month of living in Seward. My house is starting to feel a bit more like a home, I’ve got at least some clue of what my job will entail (how to do it all will come later), and I’m starting to settle in to small town life.

One new thing for me is how I experience Sunday mornings. It’s a weird thing to able to walk into church and just be present. No need to make sure volunteer slots are covered or collect mission trip payments or track down people I need to connect with. I wouldn’t trade my years working in a church for anything, AND what a blessing it is to be more present in that space and time on Sunday mornings.

Normally a place to worship comes with a place of employment for church workers, but that’s not the case when your ministry takes place outside of a church. So I’ve been hopping around trying to figure out where I fit. This week I actually went to worship services at two churches in town… and I was exactly where God needed me. I’m still a little amazed at how perfectly these two messages fit together centered on completely different texts/themes.

The first message was based on Luke’s telling of a time when Jesus was at his friend’s house. His friend Martha was busy preparing a meal for all the guests while her sister sat at Jesus feet listening to Him. Pastor Bruick’s message to us echoed Jesus’ caring invitation to Martha to “please sit down”. To sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to Him is, as the passage says, the one thing we all need most.

The sermon at the second church didn’t miss a beat as Pastor Mike’s first question to us was: What do you need most today?

Just in case the message didn’t get through powerfully at the first service (which it did!) God wanted to make it extra clear to me today:

All I need is Him.

There are plenty of ways I could have answered that question of what do I need. There are things I need to still find for my new home. There are needs I have related to figuring out my job. I have a need to establish community in this new town. Our needs are many, but in that moment, framed within the context of Jesus’ invitation to sit and listen, my greatest need was so clear…

Jesus, I need You.

After church someone mentioned that I really seemed at peace. At first it caught me off guard a little, because there have been some hard things, really hard things, in the last few months, years, weeks.

Peace? Really?

But the more I thought about it the more he was right: there is peace… deep peace… despite and right in the middle of these hard things. I’ve been operating in such a place of uncertainty and chaos for the last 18 months that I almost missed the spacious place God has brought me into.

The hard things haven’t disappeared but with a lot of things stripped away from me in this new season I’ve become more dependent on God than ever before. God’s voice has been clear and (most days) I’ve been taking Him up on His ongoing invitation to “Please sit down.” I’ve been running straight to Him with the hard and in that space it gets easier to sort out the lies. It gets easier to hear truth: I am loved and chosen and precious. Period. Full stop.

That trumps everything. That brings peace.

Peace isn’t one of those things that means everything is wonderful in life. Instead it’s a confidence in knowing: it will be okay.

Worry fades.

Striving stops.

Anxiety releases.

No matter what happens today, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe loves me. He always has and always will. That truth, my friends, brings peace. That is the one thing I need today.

Bekah's Heart, Joy, transition

Grief and Gratitude

Grieving.

It’s a weird thing. Everyone’s grief process is different. Even when people experience what seems like “the same exact loss,” how they each walk through that grief changes (as it should!) from person to person. However, whether the loss is big or small, I feel like there is something that happens almost every time at some point along the way. Sometimes this moment happens immediately, other times it takes weeks or months, sometimes it happens again and again and again.

You’re going along in your grief, doing this hard thing. Maybe the grief is completely overwhelming you and the loss of the person or dream or job or house or life you thought would be is all you can focus on. But then, suddenly, unexpectedly, you find yourself laughing or enjoying something. And THEN, in a split second, you wonder: “Is this okay?”

In seasons of grief, there’s something about a moment feeling “normal” or even dare we say “good” that feels somehow “wrong”. It seems we’re discounting the impact of that loss, especially if the loss involved a person. We feel a pull to stay in the grief as a way to hold on to what is no more. We fear that if we enjoy the here and now we somehow have to let go of what was.

I experienced one of these awkward moments today. I was at work. Laughing with my teammates…. hard… at one point laughing so hard I was crying. It seemed everywhere we turned today there was something to laugh about. But, I didn’t know what to do with that in the midst of the loss of leaving Buffalo, and missing my incredible teammates there, and being so far from my friends and family who have become so dear.

But then, I stumbled into the answer… an unexpected grace. As I let myself, in that split second, just feel all the things… the joy and the sadness, the good and the hard, I suddenly found myself overwhelmed with gratitude.

I am thankful for nine amazing years in Buffalo AND new beginnings in Nebraska. I’m thankful for not just one but TWO teams that love to laugh (some people don’t ever get that in their whole careers!!!). I’m thankful for friends back “home” in Buffalo who still care for me well even while I start to try (not there yet) to call this place “home”. I’m just insanely grateful.

I don’t have to choose between all the feelings as if one would betray the other. Instead, I let them all lead me into a graceful space of gratitude. And that’s what we do with these awkward moments of grief… we give thanks. We give thanks for what was… and is… and will be. We give thanks for a God who walks with us through it all. We give thanks IN the circumstances not necessarily always FOR them. We give thanks because gratitude reorients our focus on the One who gives all good things.

And suddenly I’m reminded of how this whole year started for me… with a call to gratitude, back on January 1, with these words from Ann Voskamp on page 1 of my journal:

“Joy is the realest reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped. God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: Joy.

Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world.

When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, LIFE GROWS! The clouds open when we mouth thanks.”

And so I pick up my pen and I continue the list started 6.5 months ago… counting the gifts of this year one by one…

1237. A beautiful sunrise while out on an early morning run

1238. Teammates who love to laugh

1239. Seeing VBS pictures from Buffalo

1240. Being able to “be real” with teammates, sharing the joys and challenges, even only a few weeks in to the new job

1241. Memories shared of college days

1242. Becoming a NE resident

1243. Multiple Buffalo friends texting to check in today

1244. A hilarious video of my precious godsons

1245. A courageous 10-year old girl smiling with friends and singing praise to Jesus at VBS only weeks after brain surgery

1246. Joy

1247. Peace

1248. Hope

1249. New mercies

1250. Grace to grieve with gratitude

Bekah's Heart, Poetry/Songs, Prayer

New Morning. New Mercies. – A Morning Prayer

New morning.
New mercies.

The fears and failures of yesterday have past.
The doubts and dreadful moments
The sin and its stain
Washed clean.
Restored.
New.

Father, at the beginning of this new day,
we dare to hope:
hope for life abundant
hope for joy
hope for connection and community
hope for a chance to play a critical role in the story You’re writing in this world
hope for hope itself.

We cling to this hope as we remember:
Your faithfulness is great.
Your mercies begin afresh each new day and each new day You do not fail.
Your steadfast love never ends:
Love for me.
Love for those around me.
Loved as a child.
Nothing that happens today–
nothing done to us
or nothing we do–
can separate us from that love,
Your love.

When Satan tries to steal, kill, and destroy our lives this day–
if tears flow like rivers or
our souls say “everything I had hoped for is lost”
if the missteps and mistakes lead us astray
if the trials and temptations feel too much—
May we not be consumed by anything but
Your faithful grace.

For no one is abandoned by You, Lord, forever.
You show compassion
Because of the greatness of Your unfailing love.

Let us live loved today.

You are good to those who depend on you.
May we depend not on ourselves.
When we’re tempted to take things into our own hands
teach us to rest in Your loving hands,
hands that hold the world.
From that place of dependence and love, establish the work of our hands this day.
Let us ever be aware
of where You are at work around us
and joyfully say “Yes!”
to each invitation to join in.

In the morning, O Lord, You hear our voice;
in the morning we lay our requests before You
and wait in expectation.
It is good to declare:
Your steadfast love in the morning
and Your faithfulness at night.
When this day comes to an end,
may Your love still be echoing in our souls
and witness of your faithfulness flowing from our mouths.
Great is your faithfulness!
Amen.

(Based off of Lamentations 3:18, 21-24, 31-32, Zephaniah 3:5, Romans 8:38-39, John 10:10, Psalm 92:1-2, and Psalm 5:3)

Bekah's Heart, transition

“It’s Okay. It’s Your First Time.”

With all the change and transition in my life I got the unexpected chance to spend a few summer days with my family down in Kansas. In the past 9 years, summer has been my busiest season at work so time away with family is limited, especially due to the distance.

On Wednesday, I had the chance to take my youngest niece Maddie to swimming lessons. After reviewing the things they learned the day before the instructor began to teach Maddie how to blow out air under water instead of just holding her breath. Maddie was all over blowing out of her mouth, but figuring out how to blow air out of her nose was a little more challenging. She did okay but when she came up was a little frustrated. The instructor was so kind and quick to encourage her:

“It’s okay. It’s your first time, you don’t have to be perfect.”

And they went on and kept learning. That was it.

As I sat there waiting for swimming lessons to end (and made plans to go get ice cream after with my niece), I thought about the comment from the teacher. She was so quick to offer grace, encouragement, and ideas of how to keep learning.

While I’m not really nervous at all about starting a new job tomorrow, I felt in that moment by the pool that God was echoing the same lessons he taught me through the phrase “we haven’t been this way before.” It feels as if God is reminding me, even now, before the new jobs starts that I don’t have to be perfect at everything, especially the things I’ve never done before. Just because I’m capable and experienced at some things doesn’t mean I’ll understand everything. I need to ask questions and speak up.

Even while filling out some paperwork in HR last Thursday I found myself confused by some of the acronyms being thrown around. In those moments I have two choices, I can either paste a smile on and fumble my way through it oblivious to what’s actually going on or I can give myself grace to say, “It’s okay. This is my first time. I don’t have to be perfect.” and ask for help.

In the same pool where Maddie was learning to pick up rings from the bottom of the pool (and trying SO hard to remember to keep her mouth closed underwater) was a boy about 6 years older than her. Instead of practicing blowing air out of his nose like Maddie, his teacher was helping him perfect his swimming strokes to make them more efficient than they were. The 10 year old didn’t need to remember to keep his mouth closed any more. The 4 year old didn’t need to be trying to swim lengths of the pool all by herself. But the 10 year old’s lessons could only happen because at some point he spent time working on the basics.

I am so excited about this new beginning, also it’s hard to leave what I know and have learned for the last 9 years. While I left the place and job responsibilities, this isn’t a complete starting over. Rather, I get to build on and use what I already know. I get to take with me into this new job all I’ve learned about ministry and life and college students from my ministry experiences both in Buffalo and when I worked on the Student Life team in college. I won’t know everything I need to know for this new job and that’s okay, but I can depend on what I do already know, and the people around me who know more than me to fill in the gaps.

More than anything I’m depending on Jesus. Later that night after swimming lessons I was sitting with my nieces and mom while changing my phone number to be a Nebraska area code. My older niece commented “You’re getting a new phone number?!?” To which I replied “yes.” She responded, “And a new house? And a new job? And a new EVERYTHING?!?”

Yes, dear Karlie, it doesn’t feel like EVERYTHING is new right now. But there is also peace. As I’ve completely given up my plans of what I thought my life would look like, I’m stepping into His plans which I’m sure will be greater than I can imagine. He knows I haven’t been this way before. He knows “it’s my first time” at a lot of things and I might need some space for learning and failure along the way. He knows more about me than I even know about myself. He knows. I can rest in that.

In my nearly 2000 miles of driving over the last week and a half, I’ve listened to a lot of music and podcasts. Here are two quotes I stumbled upon, one from a song and one from a teaching, that have echoed in my soul the last few days. I actually woke up with this song in my head this morning:

Why do I doubt the things You promised

When Your truth has never failed before

’Cause Your ways are infinite, mine are limited

You give life and I want to start living it

I will put my trust in You

I’ll take my whole world

Put it into Your hands

I’m so tired of my plans

I’m giving it all to You

Lord, take my whole life

It is mine no longer

You have always been stronger

I’m giving it all to You” – Song by Carrollton

A pretty good anthem for this season, if you ask me! It goes on to say in the bridge:

“If it’s not Your plan

I don’t want it

I don’t want it

Take my hand

I’ll keep walking

I’ll keep walking”

And that’s what I’ve done. Each day for the last few months… just keep walking. One foot in front of the other doing the next thing in front of me. Or as Dory would say “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Swimming Swimming Swimming Swimming.” And this quote from James Bryan Smith is a mantra to repeat each step or stroke of the way:

“I am one in whom Christ delights and dwells. I live in the strong and unshakable kingdom of God. The kingdom is not in trouble and neither am I.”

Swim on dear friends. Whatever new is in front of you this week, give yourself grace if it’s not perfect the first time. Your value and worth depends 0% on your performance but rather is secure, strong and unshakeable. You are one in whom Christ delights and dwells. That’s what really matters!