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]


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.


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.  


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.


Give us more stories

To say that my family is in a time of transition would be an understatement.

The best way to describe it is to say it feels like standing on the edge of a cliff, or getting ready to leap from a plane (yeah, like I’d ever do that), or summoning the courage to make The Call to push a button or flip a switch. I don’t do well with these types of decisions. I hem and haw over choices like French vanilla versus hazelnut, or whether it feels like a red-striped-shirt day or a blue-striped-shirt day (most days are one or the other, you know).

So at the beginning of 2015, when my husband and I decided—for sure this time—that I should transition out of my part-time job to be home with our girls, I gave myself plenty of time to change my mind. And I mean plenty. I gave my boss four months’ notice. I felt strongly about this decision, and there were many factors involved, but I struggled hard with it. Still, I just kept feeling God telling me that He had this. I just needed to do what He had put on my heart, and He would handle the rest.

I shouldn’t have been so surprised that He would put our faith to the test.

In March, things started falling apart at my husband’s job. It’s a long, crazy story that I’ll spare you, except to say that we were now down to one income—my part-time one. In April, he began a “leave of absence.” After five years of him working at the same company, the whole thing felt surreal. I didn’t really process any of it.

Then we got a call from our daughter’s school about financial aid for next year, and it wasn’t good news. I broke down over that one. The woman on the phone was incredibly kind, and of course had no idea that her call came minutes after my suddenly jobless husband had walked in the door from work at 10 a.m. It was too much. We got down on our knees and prayed. I don’t remember much of what we said, except for these words from my husband, which have stayed with me:

“God, give us more stories.”

The next couple of weeks went by fairly quietly, but all the time I was fretting on the inside. Why in the world would I choose to leave a perfectly good job right now? The clock was ticking away toward my last day. Was I completely crazy to follow through and walk away from it? I asked my husband frequently if he still felt it was the right decision. Thank goodness I married a man whose strengths are a match for my weaknesses, and vice versa. He reminded me regularly of all the reasons we talked about and prayed over so long ago. My calling had not changed. We would not flounder.

Then things started to shift.

I got together with a lovely group of women—fellow moms from my daughter’s school—and shared with a few what we’d been going through. It is humbling and painful to be honest about topics like this, but it is good for the soul to share and feel safe in doing so. Their response was so encouraging, and I felt a little bit of the weight I’d been carrying float away. Everything is going to be ok. 

The next day, my daughter finally lost a tooth that for weeks had been hanging on for dear life. This doesn’t have much to do with the rest of this post, but it had been causing her a great deal of worry and stress, and I considered it a huge victory. Age 6 is a roller coaster, y’all.

That same afternoon, I got a call from her school, and the same sweet woman who had informed me of bad news weeks before had a few questions. We discovered that a typo on our application had led to our aid denial. Yep—the nit-picky editor behind this blog had made an error, and a significant one at that. Long story short, our daughter will be returning to her school in the fall.

Over the course of the past month, my husband met with several friends wanting to connect him with job opportunities. I am in awe of the way our community rallied around both of us. The day after the tooth and the phone call, one of these connections led to an offer of work and the possibility of a future partnership. What the future holds, we don’t know, but we are adding this to the always-growing list of God’s provisions. It is another story He is writing so that we will be able to connect with and encourage someone else who is walking through a similar season.

“Give us more stories,” indeed. It’s funny—one of the things I love most about my job is that I get to be a story-gatherer, and then I get to share with our church community (and anyone who stumbles across our blog or magazine) all the incredible things God has done, and all that He continues to do. I will miss that. But I’m excited to have this gift of time with my kids (though I know there will be days when I will long for my little desk and adults to chat with over tacos in a lunch meeting). I know that God will keep writing stories for my family, and I look forward to sharing them. Most likely during nap time.

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