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.

Books, What I'm Reading Wednesday

Counting Every Blessing {What I’m Reading Wednesday}

I’m not really a “new year’s resolutions” girl. Despite that, there is something about switching from December to January that stirs up some specific things in my soul, mainly a desire for the new.

I love a new day, a new journal, a new month, a new school year, a new pair of socks. I long for newness and delight in a clean slate.

Until this year I must admit that I got annoyed at the social media posts that seem to surface around the year end where people bashed the year before, saying they “can’t wait” for a year to be over and to start a new one. I may have rolled my eyes once or twice… until this year where that was me.

2018 had so many great things but also was one of the hardest years of my life so far. I desperately longed for it to be over, desperately longed for newness.

But here’s the thing: just because the clock hits midnight on a certain December date doesn’t mean everything instantly changes. It works in Disney movies but not real life. I think that’s why I found myself rolling my eyes at post in the past (and at myself this year.) It’s just another day, like any other day.

January 1 might not change things, but I don’t have to stay where I was… I can change things and that’s really what I was feeling heading into 2019… that I needed to change. Whether the circumstances that made 2018 challenging continued or not, I HAD to find new ways in this new year to look at them.

In preparing for a trip last week, I skimmed through the books on my shelf and those available for digital checkout from the library to take along and came across Ann Voskamp’s “One Thousand Gifts”. I’ve read this before, shortly after I came out. I loved it then, I’m loving it now. The lessons are nothing new, but the reminders so necessarily in this season.

“Joy is the realist 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.”

Joy. Yes, that’s what I want in 2019. That’s what’s been missing lately. Life. I was a full life.

“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.”

Rejecting joy. As strange as it sound, I know that. But choosing joy is the better way… a smack-in-the-face to the hard of life to say, “You can’t steal my joy.” Oh and light… that feels right too. In a dark, dark world we all need light. And so, as the author Ann does, I start counting the gifts.

1. hope

Yes, this is the greatest gift in this new year, a gift that comes from counting the other gifts.

2. Clouds, white and fluffy, a blanket in the sky

14. Sunshine

17. Chick-Fil-a waffle fries

21. Seeing young adults studying the Bible unprompted

36. a little girl in a wheelchair dancing with her daddy

And as the January days tick by and the list grows longer, hope grows, joy renews, light breaks in…

58. the fact that I got paid today to spend the day in Florida with a group of awesome young women playing mini golf, swimming in the pool, and dressing up as giant gift in a Christmas parade

59. Friends who check in and truly care

66. Banana with peanut butter

And I list the hard gifts too, the things we don’t want to be thankful for but can see God in, the gifts that come alongside the hard…

78. Grace to cry

79. Vulnerability and honesty in safe places

91. Scrapping plates in the dish room (not the glamorous job, but joy is found in humility too)

144. Access to health care (even if I see the gift in a week of too many medical appointments and being sick in the first place)

164. People who hold out hope for you when you can’t and honestly can say “I know what it feels like…”

And as I count the gifts, these words from another favorite book jump off the page confirming this challenge, this dare:

“We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.” Colossians‬ ‭1:11-14‬ ‭

Power.

Endurance.

Patience.

Joy that comes in thanking the Father.

An inheritance that’s secure.

Rescue from darkness.

Living in light.

Yes, I’ll count the gifts. The hard ones too. For the Giver is a a good one and he loves me, his dear daughter. And I guess this no-resolution girl has a resolution after all… to keep counting the blessings this year… maybe even two thousand and nineteen of them… maybe even more.

Because in counting the gifts, I find glimmers of joy.

In counting the gifts, I discover light for myself and light for the world.

In counting the gifts, I fight for hope.

Books, Uncategorized, What I'm Reading Wednesday

Best Books I Read in 2018

I read a lot this year. In addition to reading through all 66 books of the Bible I managed to make my way through 51 other books. It’s hard to decide which were the best, but here are a few that definitely rose to the top:

Daring to Hope by Katie Davis Majors
This was actually a re-read from 2017, but so worth it! I love the authentic and honest way in which Katie writes and even more so the way in which she lives. In a year where hope was at times hard to come by, this challenge to DARE to hope was a great reminder!

When God Made Light by Matthew Paul Turner
Yes, even some children’s books made my reading list for this year, and for good reason. This one by Matthew Paul Turner (along with his first children’s book “When God Made You”) are wonderful reads for children and adults alike. These books are also wonderfully illustrated by David Catrow

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
I can’t encourage people enough to read this book. It was a hard read, but such a good one, and a helpful one too. It’s one I need to read again and again, and other books like it, to understand more of what I likely will never completely be able to understand.

Everybody, Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People by Bob Goff
While the title does a pretty good job of summing up the entire book, this makes the top reads list simply because it was a FUN book to read. I got the audio copy from the library and loved listening to Bob’s adventurous stories chapter after chapter.

The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazis by Neal Bascomb
This piece of historical fiction is probably the closest I’ll come to adventure/spy type novels. I enjoyed hearing about aspects of history I didn’t know much about before.

Leading on Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion by Wayne Cordeiro
This was probably the best work-related book I read this year at the recommendation of a friend who found it to be helpful. In a season of illness that kept me from being at 100% at work, it was some great encouragement to keep moving forward despite limitations while still creating spaces and routines of rest.

It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered by Lysa TerKuerst
This new release probably gets my #1 spot for this year. The prayers based on Scripture at the end of each chapter alone made it worth me buying my own copy after having first borrowed it from the library. The honest way in which Lysa shares about life’s disappointments without feeling the need to wrap it all up with a nice pretty bow was refreshing. Life is raw sometimes but as the subtitle promises, strength can be found even in the most disappointing places.

WHAT WERE YOUR FAVORITES FROM 2018 THAT I SHOULD ADD TO MY 2019 LIST?

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(All links in this post are Amazon affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

Uncategorized

66 in 52 Challenge Wrap Up

At the beginning of 2018 I made it may goal to reflect on at least one verse from each book of the Bible in the year. I also hoped I would be able to read or listen to each book in it’s entirety. As with any good goal, it’s most successful when you are reasonable vs legalistic. As the year went on for me, artistic Bible journaling (while fun) took too much energy. Due to some health struggles I had to adapt the goal. The goal was never there to be something to check off and say I did, but rather a framework for connecting with Jesus. For those of you who joined the challenge, I pray that you also were able to adapt and use it simply as a tool to grow rather than a prescription to follow precisely.

I thankfully was able to read all 66 books this year, which is actually the first time I’ve done that straight through. Here are a few things I learned (or relearned) about myself and Scripture along the way:

  • “The same ol’ thing” gets old. I think one of the reasons past attempts to read straight through the Bible have failed has to do with pacing. Many of the other plans I’ve tried break it up to a few chapters a day. When you’re on your 2nd month in Leviticus or Isaiah it starts to turn into a chance to check the box. I found early on that this challenge fought against that. Because each week was a new book or books, it didn’t have time to get old. While it was a year-long challenge, it felt new again each week. I’m guessing for some it was annoying to have 50 chapters to read one week and 3 the next but personally I liked it.
  • Do it with friends. To be honest, the accountability of having to post about this challenge each week was probably one of the only reasons I actually made it through. I’ve heard from others that did it with friends or family members who said the encouragement from others and the chance to talk about what they were learning was the extra boost they needed to stick with it. While our personal relationship with God is just that… personal, having chances to share what we’re learning with others helps it sink even deeper into our souls.
  • Give yourself grace. I said this before, but when we get legalistic about reading Scripture, it takes away from the purpose of it. Reading God’s Word is designed to breath life into us. If the way we’re going about that feels like it’s sucking life out of us, we need to try something new. This challenge wouldn’t work for some people in the sense that it’s too structured and for others it doesn’t feel structured enough. Find what works for you but even within that, give yourself grace. Are you connecting with God and His word? Awesome. That’s what matters. So what if you’re two months “behind”?!? More than once when I was “behind” this year the words I ended up reading were EXACTLY what God knew I needed to hear in that week. His Word is alive and active and doesn’t have to fit within a weekly structure.
  • Every single word is important. I already knew this, but I found so much value in reading every word of every verse of every chapter of every book. It challenged my view of myself, God, humanity, and more… in all the best ways. I was able to see things more clearly than I had before, and other things I walked away more confused. It’s easy for me to pick and choose what to read and form a picture of God and life that may not be so close to accurate. Reading it all helps give context and meaning to harder to understand passages.

For those of you who joined me on this journey, share below in the comments… what were somethings you learned along the way?

ALSO, whether you technically “finished” the challenge or not, if you stuck with us throughout the last year and are still actively connecting with God each day, be sure to fill out the form here to get the personalized verse cards I promised at the beginning of the year!

Praying blessings over you all in the year to come that you would continue to find ways to connect with Jesus and His Word each day! 2017-11-27 11.56.19

66 in 52 Challenge

Revelation – Week 52 {66 in 52 Challenge}

This is the final part of the 66 in 52 Bible Journaling Challenge. Over the course of the 52 weeks in 2018, we focused in on one verse from each book of the Bible with many others who have signed up to join me. Click here to see the other 51 weeks.

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Week 52 - Revelation

The Big Picture of Revelation:

This final book in our Bible was written by John near the end of his life while a prisoner between 85-95 AD. In the first few chapters John depict a vision given by an angel that he was instructed to write down. These included messages for seven churches. Chapters 4-20 describe things he saw in the visions about God’s kingdom and heaven, especially describing Christ as the lamb who was slain for us but now reigns over all. We also hear of the devil being cast into the Lake of Fire and descriptions of hell.  In the final chapters 21-22 he describes the beauty of the new heaven and new earth, a place without pain or tears, a place Christ invites us to come and enjoy.

Tips for Reading Revelation:

Revelation is one of the books people are most hesitant to read. It all just seems so “weird”. Here are some things that may help as you read it:

  • Watch the Bible Project Videos linked below. They always do a great job of outlining books and helping understand key elements.
  • Understand the type of literature you’re reading. We read and comprehend poetry different than we would a science textbook. If we read Revelation similar to one of the letters we recently studied we’ll probably get confused. Revelation is considered apocalyptic literature which means it is filled with symbols. Some scenes can seem strange to us, but if you read closely, many clues are given for what the symbols stand for. While symbols and numbers aren’t necessarily meant to be literal, they do still convey literal truth and describe literal events. Dig to discover those truths.
  • Numbers are another key symbol in Revelation. For example the number seven is used over 50 times. The number seven represents wholeness or completeness. Other common numbers are 12 and 3 or multiples of these numbers.
  • As with all of Scripture let it interpret itself. Consider all that you’ve read up to this point and let that help you understand what you’re reading now. (e.g. People try to use this book to say that they can predict the end times, but God told us many other times in Scripture that it will come as a surprise. Yes, the signs are there, but we still will not know.) Also, consider what the message would have been to the original readers. Yes, it has relevance to us, but we only really discover that when we understand what it meant for the first Christians.

A Few Key Verses and Possible Reflection Questions/Prayers:

Some of us are planning to read through the whole book or books each week, while others are just focusing in on one verse per book. This section of the weekly intro post might help you narrow down a verse to reflect on for the week, but you do not have to choose one of these verse, pick any section of the book you want! These are just some ideas.

  • “When I saw {Jesus}, I fell at his feet as if I were dead. But he laid his right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living One. I died, but look–I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.” (Revelation 1:17-18)
    REFLECTION: How are these verses encouraging for you?
  • “They triumphed over {the accuser} by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (Revelation 12:11)
    REFLECTION: How have you seen the story of God’s work in lives lead to triumph over Satan’s accusations? How can you encourage someone this week with your story?
  • “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. And the One sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’…” (Revelation 21:4-5a)
    REFLECTION: Just take a few minutes to smile and dream about that beautiful, beautiful day. Praise God for His sacrifice that makes it possible for us to experience that some day!

Some Other Resources:

The Challenge:

So now it’s your turn! Pick a verse and settle in this week, or read through the whole book. If you post any picture or blogs on social media, tag them with #66in52challenge so we can all share in this journey together!

66 in 52 Challenge

1,2,3 John and Jude – Week 51 {66 in 52 Challenge}

This is part of the 66 in 52 Bible Journaling Challenge. Over the course of the 52 weeks in 2018, I will focus in on one verse from each book of the Bible with many others who have signed up to join me. Each week I will be posting a summary page with some thought about that week’s book(s) of the Bible along with some links that may help our reflection. Click here to sign up if you want to join us at any point along the journey!

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Week 51 - 1, 2, 3 John, Jude

The Big Picture of 1, 2, and 3 John:

These three books, written by John may be short but are packed full of truth and encouragement just as relevant today as it was for the original readers.  If I had to describe the first letter in three words they would be: life, light, and love. These concepts and themes weave their way through out the five chapters that make up the book. John longed for His readers to live in the new life of Jesus, shine that light in the dark world, and understand God’s great love for them. The second and third letters are much shorter, only one chapter each. John’s second letter emphasizes the longing that God’s children wold walk in the truth and let God’s truth and love abide in them. The last letter was written to Gaius encouraging him and others to continue in their faithful service to God and His servants.

The Big Picture of Jude:

Jude is another short book, only one chapter long, written by Jude (James’ brother and Jesus’ half-brother). There are two main points he speaks too: the danger of some false teachers that were present and an encouragement to remain faithful in the midst of trials. This was likely written about 10 years before 1-3 John around 75 A.D. We also hear Jude echoing other writers in reminding believers that our salvation is secure in Christ not because of anything we do but because of what Christ has done! He alone is able to present us holy before God (vs 24)!

Common Words in 1 John:

As I mentioned above, John is very repetitive in his themes in this first letter. Here are some common words or phrases and how many times they are found in the book (based on the New Living Translation):

  • Light (6) and Darkness (6)
  • Life/Living/Lives (49)
  • Truth/truly/true (19)
  • Love/loves (46)
  • God’s children/Child(ren) of God/dear children (20)

A Few Key Verses and Possible Reflection Questions/Prayers:

Some of us are planning to read through the whole book or books each week, while others are just focusing in on one verse per book. This section of the weekly intro post might help you narrow down a verse to reflect on for the week, but you do not have to choose one of these verse, pick any section of the book you want! These are just some ideas.

1 John

  • “This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light and there is no darkness in him at all.” (1 John 1:5)
    REFLECTION: Where have you seen the light of Christ invade your darkness lately?
  • “See how much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him.”  (1 John 3:1)
    REFLECTION: Take some time and just repeat this truth until it sinks into your soul: I am a beloved child of God! He lavishes his love on me!

2 John

  • “Grace, mercy, and peace, which comes from God the Father and from Jesus Christ–the Son of the Father–will continue to be with us who live in truth and love.” (2 John 1:3)
    REFLECTION:Where are you looking for grace, mercy, or peace apart from God? How has that not worked out?
  • “I am writing to remind you, dear friends, that we should love one another. This is not a new commandment, but one that we have had from the beginning.” (2 John 1:5)
    REFLECTION:How can you love someone intentionally this week?

3 John

  • “I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.” (3 John 1:4)
    REFLECTION:Who can you celebrate with this week who is following the truth? Tell them that you notice their often unseen faithfulness.

Jude

  • “But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you to eternal life. In this way you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.” (Jude 1:20-21)
    REFLECTION:Who can you build up in the faith this week as we wait for eternal life?

Some Other Resources:

The Challenge:

So now it’s your turn! Pick a verse and settle in this week, or read through the whole book. If you post any picture or blogs on social media, tag them with #66in52challenge so we can all share in this journey together!