A Manifesto from Myself

I wrote this letter to myself a year ago. I’d completely forgotten it in an old mostly used up spiral notebook that still has notes in it from high school. I came across it a few days ago and it left me breathless and bolstered. If you need a little bolstering, this is for you, too. 

Oh, Hey Love.

A year from now you won’t recognize yourself. This year will be one of wild unencumberment. You are going to let go of so many things you never knew you didn’t need. You will learn how to stop praying and worry will disappear from your life. You will learn that you don’t need many material things to be happy. You just need people where mutual love is deep. You will let go of the god you have always known and dive into the deep unknown. You will learn how to stop treading water, float, and trust whatever current is carrying you. Because that which is beautiful is often trustworthy.

You will let go of your dreams for marriage and family and learn things about your own sexuality that make your whole life make sense. Don’t fight it. You know how fluid these dreams can be. Even if they leave, they may one day come back to you reimagined in beauty that takes your breath away.

You will watch your plans vanish and it will be the most freeing feeling. For the first time in your life you believe that you can go anywhere and do anything. You are surrounded by people who believe in you. They will make you know that you are worthy. Their love will give you wings to pursue your wildest dreams.

You will lose your hair. Not from stress this time. By choice, taken into your own hands and removed bit by bit. It will be a slow letting go of who you used to be and the dreams you used to have. Others will help you celebrate this transformation. In the absence of your lifelong security blanket you will grow secure in the fact that you are loved for who you are, not for any outward feature.

You will let go of your home, of the city you once called your own. You will know that the place that sheltered you for a time has edged you out of the nest. It will never feel the same again and you wouldn’t want it to. You’ve outgrown Baton Rouge, and it’s okay.

You will learn how to stand on your own but also how to reach out for help when you need it. You will need help. It’s okay. Reach your hand forward. But also reach it back and to either side for those friends who will need your support as much as you need theirs.

This year will be one of as many heartaches as triumphs, often precipitated by the same events. Lean in. Find the joy. Because it’s there. In abundant measures that will propel you forward.

You will become so much more yourself. And baby, you will shine.

GradSmile

The day that I graduated from Massage Therapy school

Advertisements

For When You Feel Like a Mess

An open letter for all my single sisters… 

Dearheart,

I could’ve written your letter. In fact, I wrote another version of it a few years ago. It’s part of a collection I have to my some-day husband (which are now in line to be burned, but that’s another story). I know well the longing mixed with anxiety. You want companionship but you know the timing isn’t right. And in many ways that’s a healthy place to be. To be self-aware enough to recognize that you have some heart-healing to do is so, so good.

But may I tell you somethin’ you probably already know? There’s never going to be a time when you feel completely “ready” to fall in love. Husband or no husband, we may always feel like we’re a mess. It seems like the universal plight of women to perpetually feel as though we are not enough. So I’m gonna tell you somethin’ maybe you don’t know…

You. are. enough.

Right here. Right now. In this moment. There is nothing lacking in you. You are beautiful, whole, complete. Perfect. The one who formed you in the womb smiles on you. He loves you so completely just as you are. He is not withholding anything from you – not even a husband. Your single status is not a punishment for not desiring Him, serving Him, or loving Him – enough. The fact that you love Him is so evident! And guess what? He delights in your love! 

So rest in Him. Don’t worry that your desire for a husband is a betrayal of your desire for God. It’s not. God created you with that desire and to deny it would be to deny your humanity. If someone tries to tell you that you just need to lose yourself in Jesus before He will bring you a husband? Don’t listen. That’s an unsubstantiated load of crap. Yes, love Jesus. Yes, seek to serve Him. There’s nothing wrong with losing yourself in worship of Him. But He isn’t in the trading business and no amount of praying or reading your bible or church attendance will earn you bargaining chips. He’s a good Father who will withhold no good gift from you. The very nature of a gift is that it is given without expectation of return.

My advice? Start looking for the gifts. He gives them every day. It might take the form of a hug from a friend, a delicious thunderstorm, or the wind in your hair on a lonely country road. Every day, in these small ways, He is showering His love on you. He’s telling you that you are enough.

You are worthy of each gift simply because you are His.

#HowHeLovesMe

#HowHeLovesMe

And one day, who can say when, He may give you a husband. But it won’t be because you’ve earned it, or because you’re finally “ready” or because you’ve prayed enough or served enough and He’s gotten all He can out of your singleness. It will be simply because He loves you. No more or less than all the other days when He gave you sunsets, and snowflakes and stars. Just because you are His child.

It’s my prayer that the truth of His boundless love begins to heal your heart, the way it’s been healing mine.

All my love,

Rebekah Hope

I keep track of His everyday gifts to me with a hashtag on instagram – #HowHeLovesMe
Please follow me there, use the hashtag and share with me how you see His love?

The Girl I Once Was

The girls we once were are coming back to us now…

The girl I once was is coming back to me and she’s not who I expected her to be.

Prior to this year most of my childhood memories were sweet and carefree. My sisters and I love to linger around the dinner table recounting the mischief we got into and the fun we had. We laugh with new friends over old family stories and our parents smile a benediction over us. Despite the fact that we didn’t always have much, we had vivid imaginations and we used them well.

I used my imagination to distance myself from trauma. I know now that this is called dissociation. I was often in a dream world and felt like I was floating outside of my body without any ability to bring myself back to earth. Teachers called me a daydreamer. They said I never stayed focused. In the fourth grade I was diagnosed with attention-deficit-disorder. But the medicine didn’t work, because the deficit wasn’t in my attention; it was in my emotions.

I am well practiced at numbing myself, like making an arm or leg fall asleep. When it tries to come back to life it’s all kinds of prickly painful, so I adjust the tourniquet and deaden it again. But the girl I once was is insisting that I wake up. She won’t take no for an answer; she is coming back to me, unbidden. She’s making her voice heard in spite of my attempts to keep her quiet. She visits me in my dreams. I feel her presence when I wake, re-living her experiences in flashes. For the first time, I am feeling what she never allowed herself to feel.

Run Free

The little girl I once was came to me in a dream last night. She’d escaped from her family, away from everything and everyone that hurt her, and she was looking for love. She was orphaned and came to me for help. But rather than embrace her, I have turned on her. I have thought her a liar, refused to listen and ignored her pain because it is inconvenient to me.

She wears a mask of well practiced sweetness and perfection that does not betray her wounds.  I want to love her, it’s not hard to love her. But a child who runs away so young must have baggage, and I know it will take time to reveal and process all the pain. She will not trust easily. But she is mine. She is me. I can’t help it, I want her.

If she is going to be healed I must create a safe place for her to speak. She needs to know that her story is heard and believed. She must be assured that she can speak at any time without restriction. She has to believe that she will not be rejected for the truths that she tells. She must feel that she belongs.

So I hold my arms out to her. When no one else will listen to her, I will make space for her words. When she feels no one will believe her, I will accept her truths. When she is drowning in turmoil, I will pray peace over her. I will cry with her, grieve with her, embrace her.

The girl I once was is coming back to me now. It’s time I paid attention.

 

I am coming late to this link up with Story Sessions. I am inspired by these brave souls and honored to be counted among them. Read their stories, won’t you? And share your own? You deserve to be heard. 

Going Bare: Uncovering

My friends know that my word for the year is “Naked.” Consequently, I have gotten several text messages, emails, pins, and tweets sent to me with things that relate to it. (I welcome these!) It’s been interesting to receive them because I’m getting a wide perspective of how my friends see nakedness. “Naked” can be funny, or beautiful, or poignant and vulnerable. It can cause us to hide, or draw us out of the darkness. Nakedness can be literal or figurative or both. And sometimes the intangible forms of it feel more real than what we see and touch.

Almost every definition of the word “naked” speaks of being without a covering in some form. I think this is telling. What is it about nakedness that makes us want to cover up? Is it an instinctual reflex? There are few among us who would not immediately reach for something with which to cover ourselves if we were happened upon in our nakedness, even by those whom we most love and trust. Why do we do this? Is it actually instinct, or is this learned behavior? How do our coverings serve us? What are they protecting? And why?

mychainsaregone.orgCertainly coverings serve a purpose to protect us from harsh elements and from those with intent to harm us. But I am questioning the widely accepted axiom that lacking a covering – whether it is emotional, physical, or spiritual  – is anything short of immoral.  This was my starting point.  Equating nakedness with immorality, I  learned to judge harshly those who did not share my view of “modesty.” I condescended people who wore their hearts on their sleeves, showed a little too much skin, or claimed to follow Christ while unattached to a tangible authority. If you were “uncovered” in any way, you lost credibility in my eyes.  Not any longer. I am learning to recognize this view for the judgment that it is instead of the foundational truth I once thought it to be.

This year, I’ve spent quite a bit of time contemplating nakedness and all the forms it takes. I am coming to see that there are contexts in which being uncovered is appropriate and even necessary: in friendship, for intimacy (emotional, physical and spiritual), or even for the simple sake of beauty.

Uncovering is often necessary for healing to take place. Sunshine, it is said, is the best disinfectant. But many, myself included, find this quite difficult.  We have learned to associate uncovering with shame and contempt. Abuse damages the purity of exposure. It teaches us that to be uncovered is to be violated, to be judged as we have judged. For many, the beauty of uncovering is marred when we are robbed of the choice to reveal.

///

I recently got this text from a dear friend who was thinking about my word:

“I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah.”  Psalm 32:5 …

‘I did not cover my iniquity’ = being naked and raw before God.

Selah.

I let the words sink into me and spent the afternoon pondering how confession is related to uncovering. Having grown up in the church, I understand that God is omniscient; He sees it all. Fulfilling the law of unintended consequences, this has always been a great source of fear for me.  I came to expect His punishment around every corner. But David the Psalmist doesn’t seem to share that fear. In his prayer, he was compelled to uncover. To be naked and raw, and this wasn’t the first time.

There is something significant in uncovering; becoming naked in confession before the God who created us. But it’s hard, isn’t it? I often hesitate because I have carried the same judgments I held about uncovering in every other part of life into my relationship with Him. I would dare say that the shame, contempt, and fear of exposure is even greater with God than it is with humans. Cognitively, I know that He has no unforeseen revelation in my nakedness, but that does little to reassure me. So, patiently and knowingly, He waits until I know that I am safe.  He does this for all of us.  He does not violate us by forcefully removing our covering. He wants to be invited into our trust.

A few nights ago, He asked me to talk to Him. Somehow, I’d forgotten that I had a choice to do that. Desperately, but willingly I opened my mouth and the words came pouring out, speaking into existence everything He already knew. I bared myself, confessing the worst of my judgments, the fears and lies I have believed. God did not shy away from me. He who formed me told me that He has redeemed me, called me by name, and I am His. He reminded me that I am precious in His eyes, and that He loves me. Nothing that I uncovered caused Him to turn away.

There’s something beautiful in knowing that we can bare ourselves before Him without shame. It is like a little taste of the intimacy of Eden. I am learning that the uncovering of nakedness is not a consequence or a punishment. We are invited to approach the Throne of Grace with confidence, completely without shame. It is not an obligation or requirement. We will not be rejected. He is waiting to embrace us, with open arms. We are invited to join Him in the garden, but to do so requires us to be vulnerable.

This kind of vulnerability reveals beauty, fosters intimacy, and brings healing through uncovering. It’s not something to be afraid of. And it’s worth it.

{The image above came from MyChainsAreGone.org – a website that has been integral in the transformation of my thinking as I’ve examined my theology on nakedness and the body. If I haven’t already linked you to the site through a conversation we’ve had, I encourage you to read it and prayerfully consider what it has to say. These truths are changing my life!}

Read the rest of the “Going Bare” series here

Dichotomy: Part II

“…And I wanna draw a map, and sing:
‘He restoreth my soul, and leadeth me in righteous paths,
Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death’
As if I believe it.
And I used to believe it, and someday I will again.
But right now I’m barely holding on to the love that saved me from sin
And I don’t know who I am, the whore or the virgin,
Or just a girl with a heart as dark as death itself and a whitewashed tomb for skin.

And I need a resurrection…” ~ Dichotomized, Emily Joy

…This poem became my prayer. I wasn’t sure if the “me” that “should be” was who I was , or if who I felt I was – a confused, broken, and lost girl – was actually me. I didn’t know what was happening. In a moment of clarity I said that I felt like the older brother in the story of the prodigal son. I’d done everything right, followed the rules, served faithfully, put in the long hours — because if I didn’t, who would?  And how was I rewarded? My heart was torn out and trampled on. And I felt cheated. It was like bitterly watching as a prodigal came home to the loving embrace of the Father and I couldn’t be a part of it.

It wasn’t fair.

It had been a long time since I’d felt the embrace of the Father. I no longer knew what it felt like to respond to His love. I only served because I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t. I was afraid of going to hell. I was afraid of disappointing everyone. I was afraid that without all my Christian duties, without my “title,” I would lose myself.  I knew that service motivated by fear wasn’t sustainable. But no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t make myself love Him.

I was done.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” ~ John 8:36

I knew I was a “son.” But I’d never felt free. I had made myself into a slave, trying to pay off a debt I no longer owed. I wanted to know what it was like to be the prodigal, to run away for a while. I made up my mind that if I ever came back it would be because I wanted to, because I loved the Father, not because I was afraid.

Fearfully, I confessed this to a friend who wisely told me,

“God has given you your freedom, Bekah. If you want to get the hell outta dodge, then do it. He’s not making you stay. Really. It might take a little time ‘outta dodge’ to realize that He’s not putting dogs on you to bring you back.*” 

So before I could think too much about it, I walked away. Quietly, tentatively, not even sure where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do.

I didn’t get very far.

Grace is an Ocean

Grace is an Ocean

Within a week of walking away I found myself swimming in the deep sea of forgetfulness, long suppressed memories floating to the surface. And suddenly, I needed Him. I didn’t have time to examine my motives or wonder if He loved me. All I could do was cling to the hem of His garment. And He picked me up. And washed me, over and over with the water of His word, His grace, His love. He held my hand and walked with me, shining His light in the darkest corners of my memories.

I’ve spent the last 5 months sinking into His oceans of grace, becoming saturated by His love. Under the reign of spiritual abuse, grace and love were meted out only in the smallest measures lest they be “abused” in excess. I never knew they were available to me in endless quantities. The law of the Spirit of Life has set me free.

I am free, indeed.

I know I’m not the only one who has ever been unable to receive the grace and love of God. As the “older son” I felt like I was spinning wheels trying to feel worthy, trying to make the Father notice me. But I was with Him all along, and everything He had was available to me.

Whether you’re the older son or the prodigal, He’s waiting.

Come home brother, sister. Lets go swimming. 

Part I..

*He knew I’d be back – he just didn’t tell me. 

One Word: Stay

Before I heard anything about One Word 365 I knew what my word would be for 2013. Nine months later, I don’t remember how it came to me, but I knew it would require tenacity.

My word for this year is stay.

Stay

I love the Hebrew translation: to lean on, trust in {God}, support. When God gave me this word I knew this would be a year of continually leaning on and trusting in Him. My feet felt shaky beneath me. But the truth is, I didn’t know the Hebrew translation when the word was given to me. My understanding was much more literal.

… Stay where you are.

… Stay when it is awkward and uncomfortable.

… Stay, do not run away.

… Stay with the pain. He will be revealed in it.

… Stay, plant your feet in this place because there is work to be done.

In other words, Selah. Pause here and think on this. 

“Stay? For an entire year?” I resigned and let the word sink into me. But I have been hesitant to speak of it to anyone. In Christian society it’s not acceptable to stay in one place for a year. I was afraid of being misunderstood, that people who care about me would conclude I am assuming a passive position that would lead to staleness and stagnation. I was afraid of criticism or carefully worded correction. So I embraced the word privately.

In this place, I have been anything but passive. When the “fight or flight” instinct kicks in, I must consciously choose to fight. Running away, or “flying” has been my default in years past. I’m very good at distracting, avoiding, and numbing myself so I don’t have to feel pain. To stay here with my feet planted means that I can’t run away from what I feel. This is not a position of wallowing. I am reaching for all the tools at my disposal to fight effectively. I’ve been doing ministry with a friend to get to the root of things purposefully and intentionally. I’m facing things I would rather not face and it involves a lot of hard work. But staying is not without fruit. For every lie that is faced and conquered, truth rises up in its place.

It’s hard to stay and not feel like you are falling behind. I’m nine months into this year and I’m just coming to realize and accept that my journey looks completely different from the people around me. And that’s okay. Your experience, your journey, does not invalidate mine. So if you pass me by? I will send you with a blessing, and I will stay. I will stay here, leaning on and trusting in the God who holds us each right where we are.

Letter to my 18 year old self

Springtime 130_edited-1

Hey mahlove.

Do you have a few minutes? Take a deep breath. Take a few. Settle your heart. Why are you in a hurry?

You have time.

I know you are anxious to be on your way right now. You feel ready for all the pieces to fall into place so that life can start. And you might be ready. I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but be patient. You have a lot of life to live. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.

Do not waste time.

Just because you have time doesn’t mean you should let it pass you by waiting for all of the “missing pieces” to fall into place. You are waiting on love, waiting on adventure and waiting on “life as it should be” to come in and sweep you off your feet. But don’t take “waiting on the Lord” literally. You want to learn photography? Pick up the camera. You want to travel? Go! Don’t wait for anyone to do it with you. You might find you enjoy your own company. Start living. Love and adventure will find you in ways you can’t anticipate along the way.

Do not be afraid to dream.

You are afraid to dream because you don’t want to be disappointed. You don’t want to dream outside of the will of God. Bekah, listen to me. He gave you that wild imagination. He gave you the vision. You won’t be disappointed as often as you think – rather your dreams will change. That’s okay. It doesn’t mean you didn’t hear God. Hold your dreams loosely. You will know the sweetest freedom in understanding that every dream has a season. Let them go when you need to, but keep your hands open and learn to recognize when new ones are given. Embrace your dreaming heart. Let yourself hope.

Heartbreak does not make you a failure.

Despite what you have learned, being disappointed and/or brokenhearted does not mean that you have done something wrong. You have not somehow ruined the will of God for your life. It doesn’t mean that you “didn’t guard your heart well enough.” Heartbreak is a part of growing up. Through it you will learn so much about yourself, what you need and even what you want {it’s okay to want some things}. Lean into heartbreak — you will be glad for it.

Your heart and emotions are not dangerous.

I know you believe your heart is deceitful and your emotions can’t be trusted. Let me give you something to think about: They are being redeemed, just like every other part of you. They are not excluded when you are made new in Christ. We have an enemy that deceives us and he will use our hearts to do it, but that is why God gave us His spirit to dwell. The law says your heart is deceitful. You are not under the law. Your emotions are good, even healthy. God gave them to you and through them you will know His heart. You will feel His compassion, justice, joy and many other things through your emotions. There is nothing to fear because He is Lord of you and He is making all of you new

You don’t know it now, but He delights in you.

Your Heavenly Father smiles on you. Take a moment and reflect on that. Don’t dismiss it. Silence the arguments in your head explaining it away, convincing you it couldn’t possibly be true. You are spending so much energy trying to please Him – take a moment to delight in Him. Let him love you as you are, rather than arguing that you are not enough, not “as you should be.” You are covered by His grace and He sees you as beautiful. If you let Him love you, loving Him in return and obeying Him will not only be easier, it will be infinitely sweeter.

I could warn you of pitfalls or even people to avoid, but then what stories would you have to tell? There will be struggle, and pain, and humility, and deep, abiding joy. Do not be timid. Embrace life in all of its abundance. It worth it. He is worth it all.

With great affection,

Rebekah Hope

PS: Listen to this song. You’ll get it.

 

What word of advice would you give to yourself at 18 years old?