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.

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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.”

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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.

Bekah's Heart, What I'm Reading Wednesday

Yes, Please!

One of the books I recently finished was Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. I think it might have been a better fit in a different season of life, but I still enjoyed her spunky spirit, honesty, and vulnerability that came across so well in the audio-book version I listened too.

While I finished the book a couple weeks ago, suddenly a passage of it came to mind last Saturday night.

I was texting a friend about other stuff and mentioned how tired I was. It had been a good day, but a long one and body and brain were maxed out. She offered to drive over and do a simple task for me.

I turned her down.

It felt ridiculous. It felt dumb to let her stop what she was doing to come do something so simple for me. I couldn’t shake the thoughts of “Seriously, Bekah, just get up and do this task that literally will take less than a minute.”

She wanted to help. She wanted to serve me. She wanted to love me in this tangible way, even if it seemed silly to me.

But I said no.

Long story short, she came over anyway. (Because when you have friends that are like family, that’s just what you do for each other.) While I had already done the task, she showed up “just to give me a hug”. She lingered. She sat with me and simply was the friend I needed that night… the friend I almost missed out on because of my own stubbornness.

As she left, suddenly a section from that book popped into my mind. I didn’t process it too deeply the first time I heard it, having been framed in the context of motherhood. After this experience with my friend I realized that while I’m not a mother, the general concept still applies, especially in this current season I find myself in:

“Find a tribe of people who are in a similar walk of life as you are. Once you find them, be honest about where you are and what you’re struggling with. Learn to ask for help, and when someone offers help, accept it! Accept any and all help you can get and consider it a gift from God! I cannot tell you how many women ask me how I “do it all,” and when I tell them that I’ve learned to ask for help, they look at me as if I’m an alien.

“Like, help with what?”

For example, when your mother-in-law says she’ll come for the afternoon and entertain the kids, say, “Yes, please.” If your husband offers to fold the laundry (even when you don’t think he’s good at folding towels), say, “Yes, please.” If your girlfriend says she wants to bring you dinner but you feel bad that you’re putting her out, say, “Yes, please.” Or if your elementary school offers afternoon classes that will occupy your rambunctious boys for an additional hour and a half, say, “Yes, please.”

What can give you more time, more space, more freedom to find your center? Whatever it is, say, “Yes, please” to that!” – Rachel Hollis – Girl, Wash Your Face

When talking about self care and boundaries, we often talk about how the hardest but best thing to say is “no”. “No” to extra commitments. “No” to social engagements that aren’t fun for you. “No” to tasks and to-do list items.

Perhaps another favorite phrase should actually be: “Yes, please.”

I am WAY better at receiving help (and sometimes even asking for it!) than I used to be. I learned even more after my surgery in May when I had to depend on those around me for everything. However, it’s still easy for pride to slip in from time to time and I push away help in the process.

Just because I’m technically capable of doing something doesn’t mean help isn’t valuable. I may not NEED it, but perhaps help is a gift my friends (and ultimately, my God) want to give. So, my prayer is to be come more of a “Yes, please” person.

If someone volunteers to do something for me at work, I pray I will simply say, “Yes, please”.

If a friend offers to plan the details of an outing I initiated, I’ll ignore the nagging voice that nags: “You should be responsible for following through on this” and simply smile and say “Yes, please.”

If a family member or mentor or friend offers to spend time to talk and encourage me on a good day or a hard day or just any random day, I hope I’ll quickly say, “Yes, please.”

I’ve always found joy when others let me serve them. It baffles me that I can’t seem to remember the reverse is also true: maybe others find joy in serving me.

So, if my best friend wants to come put my groceries away or do my dishes or just stop by to give me a hug at 8:30 on a Saturday night because she loves me and wants to serve me… I pray next time I won’t turn her down, but instead will unlock the door and text back: “Yes, please!”

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Other Books I’m Reading or Finished Recently:

Bekah's Heart, Devotional

Redefining Productivity

On Tuesday I got to have dinner with a dear friend. We always love any time we can get together; this time felt extra special as she prepares to move to another city soon. As we cooked together, ate our meal, and then grabbed some blankets and headed toward the living room, life poured out of both of us. We shared updates on what’s going on in our worlds but also processed some things out loud for the first time, discovering more about ourselves along the way.

As the evening came to a close we decided to spend some time in prayer with each other. One of the things this friend prayed for me has lingered with me since. She asked God to open my eyes to a new way of looking at productivity… that when He is calling me to do good work while at my job or home, I would be productive in that, but that sitting on the couch and doing nothing while my body heals might also feel like productivity. She prayed that when He calls me to the traditional concepts we think of with productivity that He would provide the energy, but then kept coming back to examples we would normally label “unproductive”.

The awesome part is that even as she prayed, God began redefining this word and concept for me. It struck me in that moment that the word “productive” has as its root the word “produce”. Even with this in mind, I might default to asking “Jesus what do you want me to do, or ‘produce’, in this day that can bring you glory?”

However, on that night, Jesus flipped the question. My prayer suddenly became, “Jesus what do You want to produce in me?”

Productivity isn’t bad, but I’m learning that God cares more about the fruit He’s producing in my life than the efforts of my labor. And our Master Gardner can bring fruit out of any situation. Perhaps productivity, in this season of rest and healing, looks less like getting things checked off the to-do list and more like producing peace in my heart. Maybe He’s less concerned about the fruit of my ministry and longs to produce more patience and dependence on Him.

A while back I shared a passage from Jeremiah as a defining scripture for this current season of life. As my friend prayed the other night it came suddenly to mind again:

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8 (emphasis added)

Trees don’t have to “work hard” to produce fruit. The fruit comes because that’s what they were created to do.

An apple tree doesn’t stress and toil over how to make the apples come. No, if it’s rooted in the soil, receiving the nutrients it needs, protected from elements or creatures that may try to ruin it, it just produces fruit. Related, an apple tree will never succeed at producing oranges; it’s just not designed for that.

Productivity does not come from the work I put in. Instead, it comes from where I’m rooted.

I know that my life as a human is not meant to be literally as passive as that of a tree. All the way back in Genesis, before sin entered the world, we were designed for work. However, I must keep in mind that whenever the work feels forced or pressured, it might not be the kind of productivity God desires. It won’t always be easy (and often it will be hard), but if it’s not coming from my identity in Christ and and purpose God has on my life, it’s likely that I’m trying to produce oranges as an apple tree. (And that just leaves everyone with unmet expectations and a bunch of wasted effort.)

Also, this verse doesn’t say that there won’t be things threatening that production. The heat and drought come. However, rooted near the river of living water, trusting, and letting my roots draw nourishment from this never-ending stream means that whether I’m “at the top of my game” or “laying on the couch” (as my friend prayed), production never stops. The fruit keeps coming because it was never up to me in the first place. Jesus said it this way:

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. … Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. … When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.” John 15:1-9

Jesus, produce Your fruit deep in my soul. Keep me rooted near the river. Amen.

Bekah's Heart, Mental Health

What I’ve Noticed Recently About Mental Health

For as long as I can remember God has given me great compassion for those who deal with mental illness. These brave warriors get up every day and fight battles that those around them may know nothing about. I’ve always hated the stigma around mental illness for many reasons but most of all, because it is one of the biggest reasons precious people stay trapped, unhealthy, and hurting. Anytime I’ve tried to put into words my frustration with the shame our world puts on those battling depression, anxiety, and the like, I feel I come up short.

But here we are again. One more attempt. One more hope that maybe one more way of looking at it will make sense to potentially one more person. And it’s all inspired by a little pink pill.

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Yep, this little pill the size of a mini chocolate chip gave me some new perspective. Perhaps what I learned might be helpful for you as well.

Back in May I had half of my thyroid removed and while my left half is putting in some great work (Good job, Thyroid!), it can’t really keep up with producing the amount of thyroid hormones my body needs to function each day.

So, I now take a little pink pill each morning. The hope and prayer is that over time this little pink pill will now do something my body can’t.

What strikes me is that I haven’t had a single person tell me I shouldn’t take this pill. (Besides some crazy people on the internet who want to sell me their own version of something that they claim works better, but I’m not talking about them right now.)

I had a part of my body removed and taking this pill will do what my body can’t do for itself anymore. It’s pretty straight forward. It seems good and normal and right to just about everyone I’ve come across.

Yet, I look around at so many friends and families members who literally have some of the same exact symptoms and mental health struggles I do right now, but because the cause of their depression or anxiety or brain fog or fatigue is different, they’re treated completely different.

I’ve been dealing with this for almost 10 months now. In that time no one has told me I should “ just pray more” or “have more faith” when I’m so tired I can barely get out of bed. No one has told me to “snap out of it” or “pull myself together” on days when I’m depressed or struggling to form a coherent sentence or when I took time off work to heal from surgery. No one has told me the medicine I started taking last week is unnecessary and I should “just trust God to heal me.”

No one.

My friends whose hormones are out of wack, but for other reasons hear that kind of crap all. the. time.

Here’s the reality: Anyone dealing with a mental health challenge IS battling a PHYSICAL illness. While I understand the concept of the category of mental illnesses, I think even that label sometimes reinforces the false concept that “it’s all in our heads” when we struggle with these things. Yes, these problems impact the way we think and the way our brains work which is why that title fits. (It also makes it that much HARDER than other physical illnesses to navigate.)

When our bodies and minds battle with these illnesses it is most often because something is physically off in our bodies. It can come from trauma, a problem with the neurotransmitters in our brains, or even genetics. Another key contributing factor: an imbalance of hormones… the very thing I’m dealing with right now.

It frustrates me that simply because the cause of MY hormones being off is as obvious as the 2 inch scar on my neck, I get offered grace and understanding that so many in this world never receive.

As I’ve battled days of fatigue and brain fog and depression waiting for my thyroid replacement medicine to kick in, the people around me encourage me and support me and help me do tangible things I didn’t feel capable of doing. Yes, they’ve prayed with me, encouraged me in my faith, and asked God again and again for healing on my behalf. They also told me to take a nap or go home early from work.

When I had my surgery, people showed up at my door for weeks with homemade meals and drove me to appointments and sent me cards and gifts and ice cream.

Even before that, when I walked through months of trying to figure out what was actually wrong with my body and what doctors could maybe do to fix it, friends and family texted me and listened to me and asked about how doctor visits went.

So if you don’t know how to help friends battling things like anxiety or depression or bipolar disorder … maybe just start there:

Send the text. Make the meal. Mail the card.
Drive them to the doctor.
Sit with them in their tears.
Go on a walk with them.
Ask them how a therapy appointment went.
Laugh with them.

Buy them ice cream!!!

Yes, mental illness is harder to explain than a broken arm or even a thyroid removal. You may not “get it” and it might make you a bit uncomfortable.

But it’s not that complicated: Just show up, people!

Your friends need your love not judgment.

Oh! And if (whether temporarily or for the rest of their lives) they need a little pink or white or blue or some other color pill to help them feel like a normal functioning human being, by all means stop shaming them for it. Maybe throw them a party instead and celebrate that there might just possibly be a way out of their fog.