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!

Bekah's Heart, transition

We have not been this way before.

We have not been this way before.

I woke up this morning with this phrase in my head. There is no denying God was trying to speak truth to me from the moment I had conscious thought. I’d need His presence, His leading.

It’s a phrase that’s come up a few times over the last couple of months and it actually comes from Scripture.

As the Israelites ended their wilderness wanderings and prepared to enter the promised land, a lot of change and transition was going on. Most notably, Moses died and Joshua took over leading the people.

It was a time of grieving, a time of excitement, a time of confusion, a time of concern, a time of wondering, “What comes next?”.

In one sense this was the moment that their whole people group had waited decades for, longing to enter the promised land. What should have been a journey counted in days, ended up being 40 years of wandering in the wilderness because of doubt and disobedience. All of the initial generation died and now, at the beginning of the book of Joshua, the next generation prepares to walk into this amazing land and life that God has prepared for them.

But they weren’t so sure, and God knew it. To actually claim this land that God said belonged to them wouldn’t be easy. There would be battles on every side, towns to take over, armies to overcome. And before they even got to that, they’d have to literally walk through a river. I’m sure some of them were tempted to say, “you know maybe the wilderness isn’t so bad.”

The baton had been passed from Moses to Joshua. God had spoken his command (over and over) to “Be strong and courageous” and trust that God was with them wherever they went (Joshua 1). The spies had snuck in and determined that the people of the land were actually scared of the Israelites. Rahab, who protected them, said herself, “I know that the Lord has given you this land.” (Joshua 2). The spies report back and the next morning, it was finally time.

Time to move. Time to take that first step into the new life God had for them.

They headed to the river and prepared for what was next. Three days they waited at the river and then God gave these directions to His people through their leaders:

“When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before…” (Joshua 3:3-4)

The ark of the covenant was a physical representation of God’s presence among His people. With the ark out in front, it was clear where to go, which steps to take. It was as if God was saying, “Keep your eyes locked in on Me! You haven’t traveled here before. You haven’t done this, so let Me lead.”

This verse has been such a great reminder to me in recent weeks.

At times I felt so much pressure to “do this season right.” While I’ve learned over the years what it looks like to live and walk in grace, Satan was pushing ALL my perfectionist buttons. I wanted to end well in Buffalo, to finish strong, but I often messed things up in the process. In those moments God reminded, “Bekah, you have not been this way before. Keep your eyes locked in on me. It will be okay.”

I looked around at some friends going through some of the hardest moments of their lives and struggled to figure out how God was calling me to leave in the midst of it. I wrestled with how these relationships might look different in the way I support them than they have for the last nine years. Again, “Bekah, you have not been this way before. Keep your eyes locked in on me.”

My announcement to leave First Trinity left our church wondering, “What’s next?”. We were already anticipating a lot of transition in the years ahead, but this wasn’t one of the anticipated changes. I see them navigating it so well and am excited to see the beginnings of what God is up to, but also sad that I won’t get to be part of it. He calls to all of us in those moments, “You have not been this way before. Keep your eyes locked in on me. I will lead you.”

And on this day, my final day in Buffalo, it is such grace to wake with those words first on my mind:

“We have not been this way before.”

I’ve lived my whole post-college adult life here in Buffalo. This is what I know. This is where I’ve discovered my own identity and settled into life. I have family here and connections in the community. I was excited to dig roots in even deeper buying a house. And now so much changes.

This new job is different. While ministry is ministry, ministry in a congregational setting is very different than in higher ed world. There will be many things I don’t know and have to learn and adjust to. While I went to school in Seward, to live there as a member of the community is different. To be closer to my Kansas family and farther from my New York Family brings new adventures in figuring out how to relate to people, not to mention trying to grow old and form new relationships in Nebraska. I’ll have to figure out what it’s like to be a professional church worker who doesn’t actually work at a church and just goes to worship on a weekend like a “normal” person. I’ll have to retrain my brain to actually be able to work on Mondays after 9 years of that being my day of rest and Sabbath.

I haven’t been this way before.

I don’t have to do this season perfect; I probably won’t. I don’t have to map it all out, plan and produce, act like I’ve got it all together. At times, that was the type of behavior that actually kept the Israelites wandering.

I’ve just got to lock my eyes in on the One who knows every step and has already walked it. To lean into Him as I go through the waters. To trust that while there may be some battles ahead, a time will come where there is “peace on every side” (Joshua 21:44).

And so the Israelites headed out. The priests, carrying the ark, headed toward the waters edge. Unlike in the splitting of the Red Sea that took them out of slavery, this time there was another level of trust. The waters didn’t split until they took the first step into the Jordan River. They had to get a little wet in trust, but when they did the water splitting was only the beginning of the wondrous works of God they would witness in this new land.

It’s true, I haven’t been this way before but it’s time to get my feet wet and watch what God will do!

Bekah's Heart

It’s been a while…

It’s been awhile since I used this space to share life. It is not for lack of things to share, quite the opposite actually.

The last time I posted, back in February, was a few days before I got to walk through a beautiful house that I fell in love with and later put an offer in on. I got the contract and jumped through all the hoops to buy the home. However, God has different plans and the week of closing I was offered a job (that I wasn’t looking for) in Nebraska.

I’m not sure whether “whirlwind” or “whiplash” describes it better, but suffice it to say a couple months ago I could never have imagined this is what my life would look like today.

Within the next few days I will finish up my job here in Western New York and within the next couple weeks I WILL be settling into a new house but renting instead of buying and in Seward, NE instead of WNY.

Writing is one of the best ways I process things and I’ve been wanting to write here a lot over the last few months but … well partly it was just too hard. But here we are now, ready or not.

For a few years of my time in Buffalo I lived in a house next door to the church where I work. Next to me lived a teammate and his family who, in those years as neighbors, became my NY family. Five years ago this week, those two house were torn down. We knew before moving into these homes that were owned by the church that they would eventually be leveled to create space for a much-needed parking area and preschool playground.

2019-06-13 08.40.00

To see these pictures pop up on Facebook this week hit me in a raw, real, but also helpful way. It was as if I was seeing an actual picture of what life feels like right now.

But it didn’t stay a pile of torn up house pieces. I love to walk through that area each week and see the beautiful playground and spaces where people coming to this building to meet Jesus can park. It’s a reminder of the good that came from the loss of those homes. At the time, we (my neighbors and I) especially felt the loss of not living next door to each other. But with a little intentionality, our relationships have grown even deeper despite the distance. It gives me hope for the new and good God will bring out of the current losses in my life and the lives of people around me. And with a little intentionality, I trust relationships will continue to grow.

Soon after I shared with some kids that are dear to me here that I would be leaving WNY, one of them ended up in tears while looking out the window at their home. Her mom went over and asked what she was upset about and, looking at some construction workers replacing their neighbor’s sidewalk, she cried, “I WANT OUR OLD SIDEWALK BACK! I LIKE OUR SIDEWALK.” We knew, even if she couldn’t name it, she was processing more than just losing the sidewalk.

A few days later, when the work was complete, my five-year old friend proudly told her parents, “Look! The new sidewalk is really good.”

I have cried out in similar ways to God in these last weeks… “I want my old life back! I like my life here in Buffalo!” I look forward to the day when we can all confidently say, “The new sidewalk is really good.”

pathway-1629027__340

He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Look! I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'” (Revelation 21:5)

Bekah's Heart, names of God

Lifter of My Head

“But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.”
Psalm 3:3

“I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people. … I broke the yoke of slavery from your neck so you can walk with your heads held high.” Leviticus 26:12-13

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2

Look up, my daughter.
There’s so much to see.

Those downcast eyes.
That downcast mind.
Your downcast soul.

Look up to the mountains.
Look up and see the snow falling softly.
Look up to notice: I am near.

Break free from the chains, the slavery, the fear.
Break out of the darkness, O Child of Light.

I am your God, your help, your shield.
I never falter, never fail, never forget.

I am the Lifter of Your Head.

So look up.

Be amazed.
Be held.
Be the beautiful woman I’ve made you to be.

A woman with her
head
held
high.