31 Days of Joy

Weekend Moments of Joy {31 Days of Joy}

Video chat with my godsons so they could show me their rock and dinosaur

A slow-start Saturday

A gorgeous day for a homecoming football game

Kicking off Sabbath with Mexican takeout (with leftovers to enjoy for Sunday lunch as well!)

FaceTiming with the whole fam

A couple hours in the hammock in the sun on a Sunday afternoon

A new month of dwelldifferently.com keychains, cards, and tattoos to memorize a new verse with my godkids and friends

Making music in worship

Another attempt at perfecting an apple cider donut recipe

Texting and FaceTiming some Buffalo connections

Sunday mornings in God’s word with 3 beautiful friends

A hard conversation with a friend

Home Reno TV shows

Sunshine

Not setting an alarm

Flowers for my dining room table

A Sunday afternoon walk around the neighborhood while listening to a favorite podcast

A new pillow

Some new songs to blast really loud in the car on the way to/from a Lincoln

Remembering joy in some hard moments too

Fuzzy blankets and tea

So many awesome pastors in my life

Tortilla chips

A project to get excited about

A cozy sweater

Feeling refreshed and ready for another work week

31 Days of Joy

She considered Him. {31 Days of Joy}

“By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭11:11‬

She considered Him faithful.

She considered Him good.

The One who made a promise, she considered Him.

In her longing, hoping, waiting, she considered Him.

In her giving up of dreams, in letting go of hope, in waiting no more, she considered Him.

She believed despite doubt.

She laughed, and named her son, “he laughs”. Joy returns.

She held on. He held her.

She saw the impossible before her, and considered Him.

She considered Him faithful.

She considered Him good.

She considered Him.

31 Days of Joy

Unexciting Joy {31 Days of Joy}

Day 2 of this month long challenge writing about joy and I’m already struggling a bit.

I thought back through my day to see what I could write about and while there were little moments of joy (like getting a piece of mail from my awesome goddaughter!) that was summed up in a nice Instagram post, not really blog-worthy.

Yet, looking a little deeper at my day I realized a type of joy that’s hard to describe. I don’t know if I’ve very noticed it before. The best word I seem to find to explain it is “unexciting” joy.

Often the first thought of joy is happy, exciting, smiles, and laughter. It’s the “wear a sparkly prom dress to work” kind of situation.

Today didn’t include much laughter or sparkles. It was actually kind of a busy, boring day.

But it wasn’t a joyless.

The joy was present in feeling understood and listened to by a colleague, in time praying with one of my RCs, in digging into some data that I hope tells me more about my students.

I cherished the joy in being proud of myself for forcing my body out the door to go for a walk when I would have rather crashed on the couch.

I experienced the contentment aspect of joy when God provided wisdom and discernment in a difficult conversation.

I uncovered other people’s reasons for joy mentioned in my daily Bible readings.

I fought hard for joy when something didn’t go my way.

I shared joy with a friend when she sent me a picture of a rainbow.

I’ve never really thought about it before but “unexciting” joy is the sustaining kind. It steadies us. It goes unnoticed, yet is vital.

It can’t always be prom dresses and confetti poppers. Sometimes it’s a simple caring act from a stranger or a knowing glance from a friend.

We get to the end of a day and our shoulders settle, the corners of our lips curl up ever so slightly, we close our eyes, and exhale.

This too is joy.

31 Days of Joy

Prom Dresses & Defiant Joy {31 Days of Joy}

I wore my daughter’s prom dress to work today.

Let me guess some of the things you may be thinking right now:
1. Why?!?
2. What daughter?
3. No really, why?

Let’s clear up number 2 first since that’s the quick answer: While I don’t yet have biological children of my own, I did get the opportunity to host a 17-year old exchange student from the Faroe Islands a few years ago. She’s beautiful. Her country is beautiful. I love her so much! (You can read about it, and her, in one of my previous October Write 31 Day Challenges: 31 Days on Instant Motherhood).

Now back to the other question at hand… why did I wear her prom dress that I found unexpectedly in a dress bag with some bridesmaid apparel that I thought had been donated to the local prom dress collection long ago?

The simple, surface level answer is that it’s Spirit week at the university where I work and today was “Dress Your Best” day. But the truth is I have many options of (slightly less bold) options of dress clothes I could have picked. So here are a few of the many little things that piece together to do something kind of ridiculous today… When I saw it in the closet it made me laugh and smile. Who wouldn’t? It’s super sparkly and fun. Also, it just seemed just ridiculous enough that I might actually fit into it that it was worth a shot.

It also brought back so many great memories of my year with Elisa. While there were challenges for sure in taking a 17-year old and a 28-year old from two cultures and countries, with 2 different first languages, and throwing them into this weird “mom/daughter/single first time parenting/exploring a new culture/awkward age gap” kind of situation for 10 months, there were also incredible moments as well. This dress made me think of many of them like the night she picked it out, both of us knowing it was perfect. I even remember us getting the family size container of Panera’s tomato soup on the way home because she wasn’t feeling good and it was one of her favorites.

Two people, one wearing the same dress the author was wearing in the first picture, standing outside a house

Then there’s actual prom night where I treasure the memory of me and Elisa’s real mom both standing behind her in the bathroom both working together to do her hair before sending her off. Also, the idea that I would potential wear it for homecoming week made me think of her first and only experience with an American homecoming week. Oh the “blood sweat and tears” some evenings as we tried to piece together a wardrobe for the next day’s adventure. (I’m still pretty proud of our Dora the Explorer backpack!)

Two young women standing by some lockers in a hallway

Reason 3#: Simply put, why not? 🙂

And on to #4: Defiance. Yes, this was perhaps the biggest reason I threw on the silver sparkly dress and walked across a college campus this morning. One of Satan’s most annoying tactics is to make us believe that what other people think of us is what matters most in this world. I’m sure I’m not the only one who goes to battle with him in this area regularly. The fearful, self-conscious Bekah wanted to play it safe. She wanted to participate in the day, but not stand out at all.

I hesitated, afraid of how others would respond. To wear the dress was a practical step toward not really caring if other participated or not, to not caring if they thought I was crazy, to doing something simply because it sounded fun.

And all of that leads to my final reason, and also the reason I’m blogging about the whole experience now:

JOY.

Wearing this dress brought joy to my day, and I think other people too. (Even if they were just laughing at how ridiculous it was.)

I wanted to participate again in the annual Write 31 Day blogging challenge that occurs each October. I’ve jumped in a few years in the past and never regretted the accountability that comes with having to show up every single day to write. It randomly came to mind Tuesday and last night as I considered what I wanted this year’s theme to be, I pondered what I needed and what the world needed right now.

First, I thought about peace. In anxious uncertain times, peace definitely applies.

Then I thought maybe I’d just copy what I did in 2015 where I didn’t really pick a specific theme but focused on the concept of taking “31 Days to Just Write“. Write about anything and everything, just show up.

But then it struck me. What we all could use a little more of right now is JOY. We need fun and spontaneity, hard-fought joy and small delights. This season is universally just so hard. We need… I need… to notice joy, watch for joy, celebrate joy, choose joy. Day in and day out. Moment after moment.

So here we are.

Day 1.

A whole month ahead of us, focused on joy.

And it all started with a sparkly dress on a random Thursday.

What brought you joy today? Share in the comments below!

Logo with text: 31 Days of Joy; October 2020
Bekah's Heart, Just Write, Music

The Stories We Tell

When I wake up with a worship song or Scripture already in my mind as my first waking thought, I pay attention. A few days ago, these lyrics were on repeat as I transitioned into my day:

“You write a beautiful story. You write a beautiful story.
From glory to glory. I believe.
You write a beautiful story. You write a beautiful story.
Beginning to ending and in between.” ~ Beautiful Story by Andrew Holt, Mia Fieldes, Robert Marvin

To be honest, I wanted to joyfully believe these words but in the moment it felt more a mantra I needed to repeat over and over to convince myself of. All the same, I was thankful my day was starting with this reminder.

As I pondered this concept more, I considered God’s Word and realized: it’s true. Looking back I can see it clearly that our God does write an insanely beautiful story. The day to day moments often don’t seem so sweet but when you see both the beginning and the end, and the redemption that happens along the way, it becomes clear.

The hard part that we’re living right now is not the end of the story, but it still can be beautiful. Or perhaps how we TELL the story is what really shapes this view.

We can walk through a challenging season of life (like the one we’re all currently living) and have it be all about how hard it was, how tired we were, all the ways people didn’t treat us well or we hurt them, all the ways we messed up, etc.

OR

The narrative I tell can be about how day after day God showed up, how faithful and constant He was when everything was changing, how He provided strength when we had none.

It’s not that the first reality isn’t true, but it doesn’t really capture the beauty of the real story God is writing.

My tendency is to stay focused on the first half. I don’t think I’m the only human who does this. But to do that without also shifting my heart and my words to God’s role and action leaves the story incomplete. If that’s how a movie or book was written we’d label it “boring”. It’s not what people would want to take in.

But Jesus, He writes beautiful stories, stories filled with redemption, with restoration, with faithfulness.

May that be the story I tell this day, this week, with my life.

Which leads me to another recent favorite song called “The Story I’ll Tell” by Alton Eugene, Benji Cowart, Naomi Raine which include these lyrics:

“And I’ll testify of the battles you’ve won
How you were my portion when there wasn’t enough
I’ll sing a song of the seas that we crossed
The waters you parted
The waves that I walked

Oh, oh, oh, My God did not fail
Oh, oh, oh, it’s the story I’ll tell
Oh, oh, oh, I know it is well
Oh, oh, oh, is the story I’ll tell” 

That is the story I want to be telling through my life, the song I want to come out of my mouth. Just like I described above, this song, especially in it’s verses, doesn’t ignore the hard and painful aspects of life. It names them all, but it doesn’t stop there. It continues declaring truth that we can trust the pain is not the only part of the story. Rather, because of the faithfulness of God, we know that on the other side we’ll have a water parting, wave-walking, victorious story of provision. It may not happen in this life, but we will some day look back on this moment, yes even a moment in 2020, and see God’s hand on it and in it.

The song ends: 

“All that is left is highest praises
So sing hallelujah to the Rock of Ages”

My prayer is that I’d see and pay attention to God’s hand day by day. May we not have to wait until we look back on this time to be able to tell the beautiful story God’s writing. I want God to get the praise, even today.

a weary world..., Bekah's Heart, Devotional

“deute!”

deute
This was the call I heard as I laid awake at 3:45 am one Friday morning at some point in the early days of the pandemic. No, I don’t know Greek, but I stumbled upon this word that is often translated as “come” or “come now” as I was poking around in Matthew 11. I found myself processing what it looked liked to live these words in the middle of pandemic, in the middle of some of the hardest most stressful days of my job, in the middle of exhaustion and loneliness:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
There it was right at the very beginning.
Duete. Come.
With sleep clearly not happening that very early morning, I got up and “came” not really sure where God was calling me to. As I searched more about this word, I discovered Jesus used this call quite often throughout His days on earth. In the verses above and in Mark 6 we see this as a call to come away and rest, but that’s not the only “come”.
In Matthew 4 and Mark 1, “duete” is the “follow me” used by Jesus to call His disciples into ministry.
Matthew 25 documents the parable of the sheep and the goats. The goats are told to “depart from” him, sent away to eternal punishment. The sheep though? “duete” … come … inherit the Kingdom.
After the resurrection, the disciples are out on a boat fishing and they hear a voice call out, “Come and have breakfast” and suddenly, maybe because of the repeated use of this word, they know it is the Lord. “duete”
How beautiful to see all the ways Jesus used this word. Jesus didn’t just call his disciples to the hard work before them of ministry. He also called them into rest, into meals, into His Kingdom. Each aspect of those callings just as important as the other.
In this weary, worn season that never seems to end, what could our life look like if each day we woke up and listened for Jesus’ “duete” call. Maybe today that call looks more like caring for yourself, getting away and being restored. Or perhaps he’s asking you to walk into challenging situations. Maybe he just wants to sit down and have breakfast with you. No matter what, the call is clear… “Come. Be near me. Do this with me. See what I have in store for today.”
Jesus isn’t the only one who uses this word in scripture though. Others often use it when pointing to Jesus.
The Samaritan woman invites her whole community to “Come and see a man who told me all that I ever did!” “duete”
And the angels at the empty tomb… “Come and see the place where he lay.” “duete”
In these two instances it didn’t stop with “come”. The come was followed with “then go”:
Come and see.
Come and rest.
Come and have breakfast.
Come!
Then go!
Go and tell!
Go and teach!
Go and share!
Go and echo Jesus’ call …
“duete”.

Sea of Galilee, where Jesus invited the disciples to come and hv
Sea of Galilee (Where Jesus invited the disciples to come and have breakfast.)

Uncategorized

A Prayer for a Friend (and me)

I wrote this prayer last night in a text message to a friend. Some of the lines were focused on her struggles, some of them maybe more on mine. Most of them focused on the truths God’s been speaking on repeat into my life over the last weeks and months.

So if you need some holy truths on a hard night (or morning) here’s a prayer that maybe isn’t just for me and my friend:

Jesus, we need you.

We’re tired. We’re discouraged. We feel overworked and overwhelmed and are just over it.

Remind us that you do not give to us as the world gives. You give good gifts. You give peace. Let your peace RULE in our hearts this night.

Don’t let Satan win. He only steals and kills and destroys and we’re just so sick of seeing his work around us and in us. Be bigger God. Bring life. Oh how we long for the days of abundant life. Restore our joy.

We need you.

We need you.

Calm our hearts and calm our minds.

Let peace rule. Let rest reign. Let our whole beings remember you are still in control.

Oh how we need you this night. Give us sweet sleep Jesus. We desperately need it. Amen

(John 14:27, James 1:17; Colossians 3:15; John 10:10; Psalm 51:12; Psalm 94:19: Psalm 127:2)

Devotional, Lent

Angels, Stand Down

Angels are one of those topics that people seem to either be really fascinated by or generally stay away from. These warrior messengers of God may be hard for us to wrap our human minds around, but their presence throughout Scripture is undeniable.

Around Christmas this year a teammate and I ended up in a conversation centered around the angels present in the narratives of Jesus’ life. Many of us know about the angel that announced Jesus’ birth to his mother Mary, explaining how she, a virgin, would conceive the Messiah. Then there’s the angel that appeared to Joseph saying, “It’s okay, go ahead and marry Mary.”

Here’s were a theme of protection by the angels starts. Biology and all of history up to this point in time was working against Joseph believing Mary’s story. According to Old Testament laws, Mary could have even been stoned to death for her presumed act of adultery, no care given to the child inside her. While Joseph was already trying to figure out a way to avoid that, the angel that appeared to him sealed the deal, confirming he should go forward with the wedding.

Angels appeared again on the night Jesus was born, announcing the good news to Shepherds nearby.

A while later, after the wise men arrived, God sent an angel to Joseph, warning him that Jesus’ life was in danger. A messenger appeared again when the coast was clear to return.

Even here, at the beginning of Jesus’ life, angels were on the seen fighting for and protecting God made flesh, Immanuel. This fully God yet fully man being had a great purpose in the world, and He had a whole army of God working to make sure He could carry it out.  Matthew even records a group of angels ministering to Jesus after His temptation by Satan in the wilderness and one appeared again in the garden the night before Jesus’ death.

But a few hours later, as Jesus’ hung on the cross, the presence of this warrior army was not to be found. All throughout Jesus’ life they were on call to provide and protect, but in this moment of greatest need, not one could be found. Matthew’s Gospel gives us a glimpse behind the curtain of the spiritual realm to see why. As one of Jesus’ disciples attempted to use physical earthly war to fight of those seeking to arrest Him, Jesus replied,

“Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think that I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:52-53)

They actually were there, on call, watching the whole thing happen. During the time of Christ, a roman legion was 6,000 soldiers. If this was the measurement Jesus was referring to, then more than 72,000 angels were there, ready to jump in at any moment, should the Father say the word. But instead of “attack” or “protect” or “get him out of this sticky situation,” it seems the Father was saying,

“Angels, stand down.”

The next verse in Matthew’s narrative reminds us why Jesus didn’t call out to his Daddy to send out the troops:

“But if I did, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that describe what must happen now.”

72,000 angels ready to save one.

One God-man willing to suffer to save all of us humans.

It’s mindblowing really. Yet, it’s true. We can only imagine the agony of the Father not sending 12 legions and even more to save his dear Son. But that just goes to show how precious we, His sons and daughters, really are to Him.

The angels didn’t show up. The Son was beaten, murdered, and placed in a tomb.

That’s the reality of this day, this “Good” Friday we “celebrate” each year.


Thankfully, though, the angels’ work wasn’t actually done:

“Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. … Then the angel spoke to the women. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ … “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen.” (Matthew 28:1-6)

While only one showed up on the scene, I bet they all were rejoicing! Forty days later, Jesus took his rightful place on the throne in heaven surrounded by the legions of angels. No longer were these warrior messengers being told to “stand down” and hold back. Instead, they gather, with all the saints, bowing down, praising Him for that moment on the cross, worshiping Him forever.

“I looked again and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and of the living beings and the elders. And they sang in a mighty chorus: ‘Worthy is the lamb who was slaughtered—to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.’ And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang: ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.’” (Revelation 5:11-13)

Oh, how I long to join that song.
Oh, how I long for that day.

cross

Lent

“Save, now!” – A Palm Sunday Reflection

I wake up and I know I need this week to be different. In these days of global pandemic, of soul searching, of anxious uncertainty, I know need this week, this Holy Week, to be one where I lean in and linger long and listen well.

I hit play before my feet hit the floor and the words begin to settle my soul. The podcaster puts aside her own words this week and speaks the Words of Scripture. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are her special “guests” today as they begin to tell us what happened in this week thousands of year ago, this Holy Week.

Certain phrases strike me like they never have before:

The crowd gathered.
A simple phrase, yet one in such contrast to our current reality. No crowds will gather on this day, not physically at least. I picture this scene, the complete opposite of social distancing.  

If anyone asks you, “Why are you doing this?” Tell Him, “The Lord needs it…”
I consider the ways God has called me, often to things that don’t make sense to others. In words and actions they ask, “Why are you doing this?” and in reality I, like these disciples untying the donkey, don’t really know. The full picture isn’t clear yet, but this much I do know: the Lord asked; I will obey. The Lord needs it.

He went to the temple, and he looked around at everything.
He sees. Oh, he sees. He sees all the thing that break our heart, they break his as well. We can imagine what he saw that day in the temple… his response to come in the days to follow. In this day, he seems to avoid action, but really, he’s taking it all in and as he does, he weeps.

“If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace?!?”
Heartbroken, longing to give his people peace, yet seeing all the ways they turn the other way. Downcast heart, I can hear him asking these words to me as well as I flirt with the things that promise peace and give only the opposite.

Do not be afraid, Your king is coming.
Oh, friends, the King is on the way! He is not absent. He is not turning his face away. He came on that first Palm Sunday and he will come again in ALL his glory and there won’t be enough palm branches to wave or coats to lay down to honor him enough.

“If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
The Pharisees, they tried to stop the praise, tried to stop the crowds and the disciples from bringing honor to their King. But when a King comes, one worthy of all honor, glory, and power, the praise can’t be stopped. May I live my life in such a way that I make the stones keep quiet. And so we say, 

Hosanna!
A cry of honor and celebration. Literally, it means “Save, now!”  Yes, this is the collective cry of our hearts this day. Save us! Save us now! Save us as the only One who can. From sin. From disease. From addition. From pride. From broken relationships. From anxiety. From all this and more. Save! Now! Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. 

Hosanna in the Highest! 

palm sunday

Bekah's Heart, Just Write

Fasting from Isolation in the Midst of Pandemic

Lent. It’s a season known for fasting. As I journey though a devotion book suggesting a new fast for each day, the suggested fasts have ranged from “collecting praise” to an actual physical meal. I had to laugh when I came across the most recent suggestion. “Today, fast from isolation.”

In a current world climate where “social distancing” is the buzzword in efforts to slow down the spread of a pandemic and many are being told to stay home or to isolate in their offices at work, I found it ironic that God, through my devotion, was encouraging me to fast from isolation today.

The reality is that with or without COVID-19, WE NEED EACH OTHER!

We can’t do this life alone and while we my physically need to maintain some distance for a while, I think we all should make it a goal to “fast” from isolation today and for all the days and weeks ahead.

As a coworker reminded me yesterday “Don’t go it alone!”

So what’s that practically look like? How do we fast from the very thing our employers, health departments, and friends are encouraging us to add to our lives? In a phrase, “be creative!”

1. Text, call, or FaceTime a friend. Grieve together, celebrate together, process this crazy life together. It may not happen in the normal classroom/office space or in a crowded arena watching a game, but you can still do life together from a distance.

2. Find ways to support each other. If a friend is sick, drop off some supplies on their doorstep with a little note. If you know a nurse or other professional who is caring for those directly impacted by this disease, simply ask them how they’re doing and maybe get them a gift card to a restaurant near their work or home so they don’t have to worry about cooking after extra long days.

3. Snail mail! If you are one who has to be home for a long time, maybe write some notes. Wash your hands well and then get to writing. (Maybe spray a little Lysol on it before dropping it in the mailbox.) 🙂

4. Offer people patience. This is an overwhelming, anxious time for many sorting through the impact pandemic has on lives. Whether your decisions impact hundreds or the decisions of others greatly impact you and your family, offer compassion and grace towards each other. We’ll get through this but we can’t see each other as the enemy.

5. Worship. Even if your church closes or you need to avoid social gatherings, don’t forget to find moments of worship. This is a way we can fast from isolation by connecting with the God who is always with us. Also, worship connects us relationally with others who join in worshipping the God who is still overall and in all, the God who remains faithful. We may not be in the same room but can join in the same spirit of worship that unites and connects us.

6. Enjoy and don’t take for granted what limited social interaction you may have. If you’re “stuck” at home with your family, break out the games. Make Spring 2020 the season you look back on as one of your favorite family times. If you get to interact with others at work, enjoy that time and use it to build each other up. When you’re in the grocery store, be kind to others who are also just trying to find a couple rolls of toilet paper.

7. Make use of technology. Start up a phone app game with a friend that lives across the country. Video chat with people who can’t have visitors right now. Watch a movie “together” or read a book and then talk about it.

8. Make plans for when this all settles down and you can get together again. Use this time apart to make grand plans for face-to-face connection when it’s possible.

Well, there are a few ideas. What else would you add? How are you going to join me in fasting from isolation even in the midst of pandemic? How are you going to show love and compassion perhaps in ways that are different than you’re used to? How can COVID-19 push us toward expanding our repertoire for how we connect and care for each other? Get creative today!