For the mothers

My minivan didn’t come with any techy stuff, because at the time we purchased it, we were simply grateful to be buying a second car. Bare bones was fine with us—no media jacks, no DVD player, no automatic doors. Wheels, a solid engine, and a/c was all we needed, thank you Mr. Salesman.

Unfortunately, that means when it comes to music, our options are the radio or whatever CDs we have that still play without skipping. So yesterday morning, I did like I always do when I get tired of the local stations and fished one of the two CDs I keep in the car (JJ Heller and Ellie Holcomb, my favorites) out from under a pile of board books and shoes and stale pretzels on the floor. I blew the crumbs off and slid it into the player.

It had been—it has been—a long, long week.

I just needed to quiet some of the voices. No more news alerts popping up on my phone today, please Jesus. No more horrifying headlines to scroll through. No more “We interrupt this program for the following breaking news.” No more live conferences. It’s just been too much. Too much.

The CD player whirred (I sighed with relief, it’s working today), and JJ’s clear, soothing voice surrounded me and my girls on our drive. The title track, “I Dream of You,” is a mother singing love and sweet dreams over her child as she drifts off to sleep. I play it for my girls often, and I play it when I hold little ones in the church nursery. It always has a quieting, calming effect—on them and on me:

When you fall asleep
What will you dream
Castles and kings

The story’s been read
And you rest your head
Warm in your bed

My love, may you dream
Of beautiful things
’Til the dawn of the day bright and new

Wherever you go
I want you to know
When I dream
I dream of you

Fly over the sea
Float on the breeze
Careless and free

When your journey ends
Wake up and then
Dream it again

My Love, may you dream
Of beautiful things
’Til the dawn of the day bright and new

Wherever you go
I want you to know
When I dream…

I dream of gentle wind blowing in
Time seems to slow
Away we go 

Moonlight fills up your room
Darling, you are my dream come true

(by JJ Heller and David Heller)

The evidence of that morning’s round of crying had barely vanished from my face—I am a splotchy crier—and there I was, driving through suburbia in my minivan, kids in the backseat, just a routine morning, tears rolling down my face.

Because of the mothers.

I sing songs over my children, I do it all the time. I sing in the car and while I change diapers. I pray for them as they drift off to sleep, that they won’t be afraid and that their dreams will be happy. Those mothers, the ones who lost their children this week—at a concert venue, at a nightclub, during a family vacation—I’m sure they sang songs of love over their babies, too.

I cry for the mothers.

I ache for them. They are living through the unimaginable. Your babies are your babies, no matter their age.

And yet, I know that there is hope and the promise of peace. That those lullabies we sing to comfort our babies aren’t only for their little hearts. They’re for the mothers’ hearts, too.

Listen.

Our Father is singing over us, over all of this fallen world. He knows His children by name, and He weeps with us. He knows we might be afraid to close our eyes at night, that we don’t want to see what our dreams are bound to drag to the surface from the depths of our minds. He knows that the darkness feels scary and lonely and that right now, the daylight doesn’t feel much better.

He is singing a sweet lullaby of peace, the kind of peace that is beyond what we can comprehend. The only kind of peace that can bind up a broken heart.

A song for the mothers.


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Every family has a story

Photo in photo: Dearly Photography

Photo in photo: Dearly Photography

You might look at our family of four and think, Picture perfect. They’re so blessed. And I wouldn’t argue with you—God has been good to us. Two healthy little girls, nearly six years apart, one favoring my hubby and the other favoring me (depending on who you ask).

But a photograph doesn’t tell you about the journey to today. It doesn’t tell you about the years of longing, about the negative pregnancy tests, about the envy, about the long conversations, about the prayers, or about the loss.

For every photo of a smiling family, there is a story. 

I can’t speak to the unimaginable pain and grief that accompanies infertility testing, treatments, and the like. I won’t pretend to be able to understand what that’s like. But I have walked through seasons of unanswered questions, waiting, and wondering if my family dreams were just that: dreams.

Our story is, most simply, that pregnancy has never come easily.

Early in our marriage, I watched women around me become pregnant and families begin to grow, the news of each new life delivering a stinging blow to my heart. I wanted to say I was happy for others and mean it. I dreamed of being a mom. One year went by, then two, then three. I had a pretty intense fear of doctors at that point and chose ignorance as the better option, though I was secretly deeply afraid that I wasn’t able to conceive and carry a child. Looking back, my three years of struggling were nothing but a drop in the bucket—I know this now. But at the time they felt endless. I know women who have endured much longer and who continue to endure. Pain in the waiting is real, whether it lasts one year or 15.

Then one cool November day, I discovered I was pregnant. One season of my life ended, and another began. It was the beginning of what can best be described as a totally bananas pregnancy and birth (that’s the medical term for it, totally bananas). The curveballs started early and kept on coming (hyperemesis gravidarum and kidney stones were two), and God taught me lesson after lesson about adjusting my expectations. Those lessons didn’t stop after she was born, either, but that, my friends, is a story for another day.

Ten months later, I was blindsided by an emergency surgery for a problem I didn’t know I had until it was too late. (If you ever have a nagging feeling that you should go to the doctor, go to the doctor.) When I awoke from the anesthesia, there was a doctor by my bed explaining they’d removed a good portion of my reproductive organs but that I shouldn’t worry, because one ovary “should” do the job of two. Wait, what now? Don’t you know how long it took to conceive the last baby? And that was with two ovaries! Now I only have one? What if all my eggs were literally in one basket? What if that was my good side, and now it’s gone? 

I felt robbed. The whole thing had been so sudden and so shocking. My feelings of loss were wrapped around dreams of babies that didn’t even exist, but I grieved. I felt my body had not only let me down, but my husband as well. What about his family dreams? Together we released our future to God and moved on, focusing all of our attention on our little girl. Faith sustained me. This wasn’t at all what I had in mind, but I knew I could trust Him.

I needed to believe with my whole being that God’s plans for me were better than anything I could dream up on my own. 

For the next four years I hovered in a strange place of wondering whether I was capable of conceiving another child. If it was medically an impossibility, I just didn’t want to know. When you start marking years off the calendar, you begin to assume. We talked frequently about our daughter being an only child; we dove into adoption research; my previous health issue threatened to repeat itself; I went back to work. Life moved on. And then—just as unexpectedly as it had happened the first time—we discovered that after all those years of no babies, I was pregnant.

The nervousness, excitement, and complete shock gave way to grief when I miscarried several weeks later. (Can I just say? No one warns you about what that’s like, physically or emotionally. Perhaps nothing can truly prepare you for it. Still, if you’ve been there, I wish I could hug you and tell you—everything you’ve felt or are feeling right now? Go ahead and feel it. You have permission to grieve even the tiniest life.)

Our sadness swallowed us up for a while. When I came up for air, my practical response was to reduce the entire horrible experience to a big, flashing sign from God that we weren’t meant to grow our family further—our daughter would be an only child, and we needed to be okay with that.

But that wasn’t the end. He would soon remind me, once again (why am I always surprised by this?), that He was the one writing the story, not me. He had more chapters coming, and the next one just happened to be really good.

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Photo: WriteTheRoughDraft

Our baby, our second little girl, turned 2 last weekend.

The chapter about the flood was followed by the part about the rainbow.

I know that no season in my life thus far has been without purpose—even if that purpose was simply for me to share this story with one of you reading right now, for His glory. I believe that wholeheartedly. I believe it for me, and I believe it for you, too—even if you are in the midst of what feels like the worst chapter of your life. He will redeem your story. There is more to come.

People have started asking if we’re planning to have any more kids. Close family and friends—and now all of you!—know our story, so at this stage of my life I don’t mind being asked. (But please, on behalf of those secretly struggling, don’t let curiosity get the better of you.)

I usually just laugh, shrug awkwardly, and stammer through some vague response. Knowing the twists and turns of our story so far, how could I assume to know the answer to that question?

I can’t peek ahead at the next chapter. The story of our family is in the hands of the Author.

We have to keep reading, turning one page at a time, soaking up the wonders, joys, heartaches, and love in every paragraph, trusting all along that He is good and that He loves us—and believing that He writes the best stories.

An extra note, because it is heavy on my heart this week:

If you are in a season of wondering and waiting, if you have received a diagnosis, if you are wading through the adoption process, if you are raising funds, if you are undergoing procedures, if you are grieving loss, if you are questioning what in the world God is planning for your family—you are not alone. 

And if you have walked through the dark days and broken through to light on the other side, whether it be through a child born, a child brought into your forever home, or simply peace in the uncertainty, praise God! Share your stories and yell hallelujahs for the miracles. Continue to support those who are still in the thick of it. You don’t have to give advice—just be a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on. Offer hope. Reach out. Squeeze a hand. Pray. 

We each have a story. Let’s be in this together. 

—Rebekah

April 24-30, 2016 is National Infertility Awareness Week. Read more here. 

Who tells your story?

My sis and I made a slight detour to Savannah on our drive home from the Influence Conference last weekend to stretch our legs and soak up some history, wandering around the cemetery and various squares, reading plaques and admiring statues. We also listened to the Hamilton soundtrack in the car… for the second time that weekend. It was quite the educational road trip.

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If you’re not familiar with the musical Hamilton (I wasn’t before my sister introduced me this weekend, but you’re probably cooler than I am), it tells the complicated story of the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton—set to R&B and hip-hop. It sounds a little crazy, and I was skeptical, not going to lie. But I was captivated from the first track, and for the next three hours got lost in the tale, the non-stop lyrics, the rhythm of it all. (I have to step into mom mode—or maybe just Rebekah mode—here for a sec and give you the PSA that this soundtrack does have some explicit lyrics and is labeled with a warning. If you know me personally, you know I can’t stand foul language. But I love musicals, and this show is phenomenal. Please don’t judge me. Thank you.) 

After listening to this production twice in two days, I haven’t been able to get one song in particular out of my head, and it’s the final number. The chorus repeats: “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” It’s haunting and powerful.

Who tells your story? 

I’m in the midst of a season where this theme of storytelling feels like my pulse, repeating everywhere from the conference I just attended, to the ministry of Shama Women, to our current sermon series at church (it’s titled The Story—okay God, I’m listening), to, well, Hamilton (yes, God spoke to me through a Broadway musical).

IMG_7219Here’s the thought I can’t escape from, and it’s really all I wanted to say here right now, as much as I would love to keep talking Hamilton with you:

Our stories matter, whether they seem big and dramatic or small and insignificant. I’ve lived a good chunk of years thinking that no one wants or needs to hear about my life because it’s not exciting enough. That’s a lie. Don’t let the enemy tell you that your story isn’t interesting enough to make an impact. On the flip side, don’t let the enemy tell you that your story is too crazy or too much for people to handle, either! God is writing your story for you specifically, and nothing He does—and I mean nothing—is without purpose.

Your story is a gift to someone. It might be a gift to a lot of people. IMG_7214

I think I read that C.S. Lewis defined friendship as the moment when one person says to another, “You too? I thought I was the only one.” (I hope that’s a real quote and not just something someone stuck on a meme.) The point is, our stories show us we’re not alone, if we are willing to share them. They connect us to each other. They inspire and encourage. They teach. Most importantly, they point anyone who will listen (or read) back to the Author of them all, who deserves all the glory.

Will we be brave enough to share them?

My voice, her story {a post for Shama Women}

I’m honored to be part of a team of bloggers writing on behalf of Shama Women, an initiative whose vision is to see thousands of women living in South Asia and the U.S. who share life and equip and encourage one another in ways that help them discover and live out their identity and purpose in Jesus. I was moved to hear of what this group is doing and the ways God is at work in a country where there is open hostility toward Christians and the lives of women are marginalized. “Shama” means candle—these women are shining light into a dark place.

This is my first piece for Shama Women, an introduction of sorts.


There are some women I know. Well, technically speaking, we’ve never met. More than likely, we won’t find ourselves face-to-face this side of heaven.

But they are my sisters, and with my mind’s eye, because of the stories passed to me from one who has met them, I can see them clearly.

Their village is gray and concrete. In the air lingers the stench of burning garbage. There can’t possibly be any life here.IMG_8416-1200x800

Or can there?

[… please click to read full post]

Quiet

Less talking, more listening.

Less writing, more studying.

Less noise, more quiet.


I’ve been working on the discipline of journaling. I have volume upon volume of journal pages filled during my high school and college years stacked in a closet, but somewhere in adulthood, between stepping into the working world and then stepping back out again (and in again, and out again), I stopped taking pen to paper.

Lately I’ve felt pressed with the need to take up the practice again, so I picked up a spiral-bound notebook and one of the pens my husband—who knows my fondness for office supplies—had stuffed into my Christmas stocking, and over the last few weeks have been scribbling away.

Sometimes I copy scripture, or a quote from the book I’m reading. This has gradually turned into writing down my own prayers, but most recently, I was surprised to find myself no longer writing to God, but seeing that the words in my notebook were those of Him speaking to me.

And He kept telling me to just hush.

When you’re trying to step into a calling as a writer, as a storyteller? Well, that’s not exactly what you want to hear from the One who, after all, did the calling.

I’ve been fighting the silence, evidenced by the handful of drafts sitting open on my screen. But nothing has come together, nothing has made my heart pound the way it only does when something right and good is in the works… so drafts they shall remain for now.

What I will share, though (because my heart is pounding as I type this), are those sentences from my journal where the pen scratch shifted away from my own ramblings and moved toward something that mattered more—His promises to my confused heart.

So, if you find any comfort or encouragement in these words, then they are for you as well:

Quiet. Hush. Be still.

Hold on to Me and to no one else.

Rest in Me and in nothing else.

Find your worth and value at the foot of the cross—not in friendships or appearances or invitations or accolades—in Me and Me alone.

You are who I say you are. You are the woman I created for such a time as this.

Follow Me, and Me alone.

Brave

A little late to the game, writing about my word of the year on January 14, am I right?

Well. Consider this an exercise in putting my word into practice.

You might not define blogging about a New Year’s resolution-y concept two weeks into the year as brave per say—maybe procrastination would be a more appropriate word, eh Rebekah?—but baby steps, people. I’m here at least. Thanks for giving me grace.

Every January I observe friends, churches, bloggers, instagrammers doing this thing—choosing that one word they want to define the year ahead. Sometimes the really organized ones announce their words in December, just to get a jump start, because come January the internet is going to be sick of reading these posts. Sorry, internet. Here’s another.

I have never been one who makes decisions easily (save for lifelong ones like choosing to follow Jesus or saying yes when my husband asked for my hand), so the thought of selecting one little word that I’m supposed to embrace and weave throughout my life for a year? Bah. No thanks. I have a hard enough time deciding what color to paint my toenails or what to fix for dinner. Order for dinner. Whatever.

I have enjoyed seeing what words other people choose and how they implement them, though. Last year I followed one friend’s journey with her word, no (such wisdom there), and read along as another friend explored what living free looked like for her. I loved reading about what they did with their words and how their choices impacted their lives and the people around them. But I never and I mean never follow through on resolutions. How can I commit to something for a year with life’s ever-changing seasons? Moving, switching jobs, having babies. Life is too unpredictable, and I loathe the feeling of letting myself down by not being able to follow through on something I’ve committed to.

But then one night a couple of weeks ago as I tried to fall asleep, God did as He always does. He made it clear to me that no, I didn’t have to choose a word if I didn’t want to—because He was giving me one whether I liked it or not. 

Not two days later, a friend asked via group text if any of us had done this “word of the year” thing. One by one we all began replying with our words, and I was filled with optimism about what this year could hold for each of these women. Kindness. Focus. Present. Discipline.  

Brave. 

My friend Lindsey wrote a fabulously helpful post for people wondering, I picked a word… Now what do I do with it? One of the things she’s done with her word of the year is to have a little brainstorming session and map it out on paper. (You had me at “This is pretty nerdy, but…”, Lindsey!) This was messy for me, as I prefer bullet points and this turned into bubbles all over my little section of paper, but as I sat on my bed and just wrote out whatever came to me about the word brave, I could feel God working on me. And as I scribbled (what in the world has happened to my handwriting in the last few years? Good grief), I started getting really, really excited about what could come from being brave this year. Not sky-diving brave (let’s be serious)—brave in being vulnerable when needed. Brave in asking questions instead of faking it. Brave in speaking up. Brave in getting to know people and letting them get to know me. Brave in tapping “publish.” Brave in not letting myself be defined as introvert.

I wrote, in the pink-papered notebook my 7-year-old gave me for Christmas, some things that will try to stop me from telling my story, some things I need to say Yes to, and some things that might be harder than my beginning-of-the-year-optimistic self realizes.

There will be more bubbles and scribbling on my notebook pages in the days to come, and my prayer is that the words God gives me here reflect how He’s shaping my 2016.

He has made me brave. IMG_3675

To give what I have and know it is enough

In college, I decided to major in journalism because I wasn’t quite sure what else to do with myself.

Most of my high school friends were education majors who had known from the time they were wee that they wanted to be teachers. Not having found anything that “made my heart beat faster,” as my old pastor used to say, I followed along for a while, even joining the Future Teachers of America club, because why not? I wasn’t an artist, wasn’t into science or math, and didn’t think anything technology-related would hold my attention. I could carry a tune and harmonize with my altos in church choir but I wasn’t a singer by any means, and the drama teacher always assigned me the role of peasant #6 or townsperson #2 so clearly acting wasn’t really my jam either. I was on the yearbook staff at my small high school and thought that was fun, so maybe journalism would be my best bet. I made good grades on my English papers and could diagram sentences like a boss, and I knew how to spell. And most importantly, a journalism track meant zero math courses, and I liked that idea a whole lot.

So off I went to the Communications building to first learn about marketing and the history of newspapers and magazines, which I found interesting. But as I moved through the years of college and into actual news reporting classes, I made a discovery. I didn’t really like writing the news—and haaated bugging people for interviews—and judging by the grades I received from my professors (mostly Orlando Sentinel adjuncts at the time), my writing was just okay. Feature writing was more fun—book review on Harry Potter? No prob!—but the feedback from my professor in that class didn’t leave me feeling too optimistic either.

Editing 1 though—the class where you memorize entries from the AP Stylebook (yup) and destroy sample articles with a red pen and proofreader’s marks galore—that class felt like home to me. Go figure. I got an A even though the prof said no one would… and thus began my career in copyediting. I guess if I’m not that great a writer myself, the least I can do is help other writers look better. Wah waaaah.

Yet somehow, here I am 10-ish *cough* years later with this blog and the stories in my head and the thoughts I try so hard to accurately express through written word. Lately I’ve struggled with this blogging business because the more I write, the more I want to read, and the more I read what other writers write, the more I feel like I’m back in journalism classes again with that disappointing, mediocre B scribbled atop every assignment, reminding me that I’m just okay at this and maybe I should just go back to helping other people with their writing.

It hurts.

There’s so much I want to do and often I feel too inadequate to even try. Too many things to attempt and not enough time. I want to encourage women. I want to help moms be better and kinder to one another and to our kids (and our husbands). I want to share these little thoughts I know God has put in my head for a purpose, whether it’s in a 1,000-word blog post or a quick sentence I throw out into the universe. I struggle with feeling like what I want to say is going to sound staged or fake or pretentious, because I hate that. I love it when people get real with each other in a way that is encouraging and promotes growth and change, steps forward—not pretty all the time. I still want to edit. I want to write a whole book. I want to organize all the photos I’ve ever taken and put them in albums so that when my children are grown, they will look back and know how much I loved them, because thousands and thousands of photos! 

I am quick to let my head take over and my thoughts spiral completely out of control. I get lost in them.

Rebekah. Stop.

What has Christ asked of me? For only the wisest and deepest words? For a sentence that will solve the world’s problems in addition to having layers and layers of meaning and mystery? For perfectly crafted, tweetable statements that someone will inevitably paste onto photos of sunsets and wildflowers to be reposted 26 times in a row on my Instagram feed?

No. He whispers to my heart simply,

Follow Me.

Share the stories I have given you as best you can, and know that I love your meager gifts—your B grades, your “just okay” words.

Be present with your children—the children I have entrusted to your care—in the everyday.

Love Me.

Love others. 

Just follow Me. 

We plant, trusting God for the growth.
We act in faith, trusting God for the outcome.
We build, trusting God to fill.
We offer, trusting God with the response.
Emily P. FreemanSimply Tuesday

The truth is, I need those other writers, the ones whose beautifully strung-together words frustrate me (why can’t I write like that?). I’m learning that God uses other people’s gifts to inspire me to use mine, however unworthy they are to my own critical eye. To encourage me to dig in a little more, to think harder, to study, and to remember that whatever I have to offer, God can and will use it if I just give it to Him.

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