A Time to Keep Silence

I’m not sure if the news on racial divides these days is really worse than it was before, or if I’m just paying more attention because it’s happening in my hometown. It’s possible that I just can’t ignore it now because my newsfeed is full of it. I’m ashamed to admit having publicly ignored it before. Beginning with Ferguson, whenever #blacklivesmatter, #bluelivesmatter and #alllivesmatter came across my newsfeed during the last couple of years I just went on a facebook hiding spree of those I found particularly distasteful (sometimes outright racist), hit the “like” button on a few posts or articles I “supported” and moved on. I didn’t want to engage. The thought of posting something of my own and having to talk to someone I disagreed with was too overwhelming. If you are not already aware, this is a prime example of my own white privilege.

But this time… this time it was too close to home. I returned to Baton Rouge after 10 months out of the country on the day Alton Sterling was executed. I sat in front of the television most of the day, tears streaming down my face during every news break. I wept, and I watched as my Facebook newsfeed filled with passion and compassion from friends and writers all over the country… I decided to “like” and “share” without thought to who may disagree. The time for me to keep silent has come to an end. Meanwhile, I couldn’t help noticing that many of my Baton Rouge friends, both black and white, remained silent on the front of racial reconciliation. I engaged with more friends out of state than I did here. And I was so encouraged to see others, like myself, who’d previously been quiet come out in public support of Black Lives. I started a screenshot collection of their posts. I desperately wanted to see a silver lining.

But yesterday morning, something changed. At first, all I saw were postings of news reports on more violence and the deaths of Baton Rouge Police Officers. If I’m being honest, I fought numbness and forced myself to face the sadness of continued loss of life. I’ve grown weary of tragedy. But as the day progressed and I refreshed my newsfeed, I didn’t just feel sad. I started to get angry. People who have been largely silent in the face of tragedies the past few weeks suddenly found their voice, railing against “these people” in all caps. I saw profile pictures light up with blue flames and blue lines, one after another. I was reminded I had facebook connections I’d honestly forgotten were there, it’d been so long since they posted anything. I was annoyed at the convenience of their grief. How is it that they have only just had their hearts broken enough to publicly lament? How have they escaped this tearing, this wound, inflicted by injustice upon injustice, the kind that feels like torture, intended to make you scream?

Rumi-On-Silence

In my disillusionment I briefly entertained the notion of deleting the facebook app from my phone and disengaging, just to curb my growing annoyance at people I otherwise know to be kind and reasonable. But then, among the local support from the silent ones I began to see support and prayers for Baton Rouge from my friends around the country, the same ones who’ve been defending black lives with vigor. I was reminded by them that standing for justice and fighting for love is not something we do only when it is convenient to our pet causes. Lament is worthy of being heard no matter where it’s coming from.

I have to confess that the most telling silence the last few weeks has been that of my black friends here in Baton Rouge. And I know because I’ve checked their pages just to be sure I haven’t missed something. Some of them are people I have had painful, halting conversations with about exactly how it’s different to grow up as a black American – particularly in the South. They are the ones who made my blind eyes see colors as they truly are, not how I wish them to be. And while the rest of the country seems in an uproar over the things taking place in our hometown, they grieve quietly. I know, because I’ve reached out to a few of them. While I want to wail, rend my garments and scream, I watch their eyes fill but refuse to spill, demonstrating a strength that comes from years of practice I have no concept of. I echo their fears. I want to say, “This isn’t my Baton Rouge. This isn’t my city.” But when I listen to them I know that isn’t true. This has been my city for years. I just didn’t want to see it.

I was talking to a black friend last week who said she wants to do something to bring change. Talking doesn’t seem to make enough of a difference. I told her that her story can make a difference. That people like me desperately need to hear voices like hers. I told her about my screenshot collection. I told her that her voice matters. She looked back at my tear filled eyes and said, “Bekah, how are you going to tell me my voice matters when my life doesn’t even matter?”

I felt my heart crack and later, it shattered. What could I say? I could tell her that her life matters, to me. I could start there. I could use my voice of privilege to try to make others see how much her life matters. But it doesn’t seem like enough. I alone cannot make her believe a truth she has seen disputed in the blood of her brothers all her life. That night, I sobbed in the arms of my father over the injustice. Coming to believe I have a voice worth hearing has been one of the most affirming experiences of my life. Knowing that she is unable to believe the same simply because her skin is a different color, broke me. It isn’t fair. It shouldn’t be that way. I want it to be different.

For my black friends I understand if now is a time to keep silence. I understand if the weight is too much. This is a grief you cannot count on all of humanity to share. I wish you could. Like Job, perhaps you must sit in silence. I want to sit with you. But, I want to learn better from the friends of Job. If you will permit me, I will lament for you… And when your time of silence is past, I will do whatever I can to be sure your voice is heard. Because your life matters.

But so does your voice.

 

Bond of Sisters, Bond of Christ

Those who know me only through my blog or other social media outlets know me as a singular person. Rebekah Hope. But to those who run in the circles of friends and family I am one part of a duet known as “Bekah and Jordan” or more commonly “The Ward Girls”. One part is rarely without the other. My sister and I share something special. Actually, we share most everything – an apartment, a car, clothing, and countless other things. We’re rarely apart. We don’t think twice about it. It’s our “normal”. Neither realizes how abnormal or unique this relationship is until we get the funny looks and the exclamations of “It’s so great you and your sister can do that! My siblings and I could never…”

But it wasn’t always this way. In my early teens I made a lot of the 18 months and 2 grade levels between Jordan and I. I was determined that we would never be on the same playing field in any arena, convinced I was superior as the older, “wiser” sister. As teenagers we fought constantly. I love sharing this story because  watching peoples faces as Jordan and I tandem in the telling is the best part. When they see our relationship now they can hardly believe there was a time we didn’t get along – at all. Aside from my own salvation, this is the greatest miracle God has done in my life.
I will never forget the night. At fifteen years old, after a particularly bad argument with Jordan, I was praying on the floor of my bedroom. I couldn’t reconcile my desire to please the Lord with the way I acted towards my sister. I knew it wasn’t right. But she was my little sister. What did she know? What gave her the right to correct me in anything? God stopped that thought with these words, “That girl in the next room? You need her. She sees the absolute worst parts of you and loves you anyway. I gave her to you for a reason.” That night repentance took place. Many cleansing tears were shed. We agreed in prayer for the first time as sisters and we’ve never been the same since.  
I never would’ve anticipated how much I would grow to need my sister over the years. In the beginning learning to swallow my pride and allow my sister to address my attitude was rough. But now there are few who can speak into my life with the impact that she does. Jordan is one of the best listeners I know, but when she speaks – pay attention. It’s not hard to do because she gets right to the point! (among our friends this is known as “the chin quiver” – when Jordan gets passionate she hits right on the mark!) I love that about her. She speaks the truth to me whether I want to hear it or not. My stubborn heart needs that.

People have told us that we bicker like an old married couple. We laugh, because we know it’s true. But it’s taught us how to resolve conflicts quickly. There is so much we have learned from each other and continue to learn. After so many years doing everything together it took a bit to adjust to the fact that we have completely separate interests. She can spend hours doing crafts of all kinds (knitting, quilting, sewing, etc. I swear the girl is a 70 year old woman in a 21 year olds body) leaving me completely bored. While I spend hours writing and she’s probably read only about a half dozen of my blog posts.

One of the things that I’m most grateful for is that Jordan has taught me how to laugh at myself. I take things way too seriously and make a dramatic big deal out of just about everything. She makes me see things through her eyes and realize how ridiculous I’m being. Jordan reminds me of this verse from Proverbs 31, “She is clothed with strength and dignity and laughs without fear of the future.” So often she sees the bigger picture, therefore finding it easier to laugh in the present. There are few things I enjoy more than laughing with my sister.

I have only to look at Jordan to be reminded of the redemptive power of God. There is no way that we would have a relationship apart from Him. I am in awe of the miracle that took place in our relationship 8 years ago and consider it an honor to be a part of this duo. What a privilege to be associated with such a God-fearing, talented, and beautiful young woman!

Jordan, I am so proud of the woman you are growing into. Each talent amazes me with your handmade dresses, beautiful quilts, woven jewelry and perfect pie crusts. Every day I see your heart transformed to look more and more like Jesus. You have the heart of a servant in every way. Thank you for working so tirelessly to serve me. You never complain, though you have every right to. I am so grateful for the example you set for me. I thank God for you, my precious sister. I love you.  

Snapshots

Why is it that when someone takes an unannounced blog hiatus, they feel the need to provide excuses or somehow explain the absence? It’s an unspoken pressure – and I know I’m not the only blogger who feels it.

So yes, I took an unannounced hiatus. All I know to tell you is that my inspiration fled for a time. But it has returned. My hands are itching to write once again. I can feel the fountain of words bubbling beneath the surface, and I am relieved.

But until the time that those words find their way these digital pages I thought I might share a few pictures with you – my blog followers – of what I’ve been up to for the last two months. You can actually see where my renewed inspiration comes from.

Jordan and I visited Houston with some dear friends of ours. We took a day trip to Austin, TX where the photo below was taken in this great crafty antique shop on Congress. Austin is a great city!

Me, Jordan {sister}, and Arielle

We had some grand adventures and tried new things (as always) like Coconut water that we got from a Malaysian Restaurant! Jaclyn (our friend in Houston) knows all these great places for great food! We wandered around Chinatown seeing odd sites and avoiding Durian Fruit every time we turned around. Jaclyn and her husband Orlando are as fabulous as my big sisters. And if you know me, you know my big sisters are pretty spectacular.

Jordan, Me, Jaclyn and Arielle

If you have been on Pinterest for any length of time it’s likely that you seen this idea to give 60 memories for a fathers 60th birthday. This was inspiration defined! Our beloved Poppie turned 60 years old at the end of October and we managed to gather notes and letters from friends old and new, co-workers, church members, neighbors, and family.

Jordan stamped all 60 envelopes

I was absolutely overwhelmed to see the ways my father has effected so many lives. I plan on publishing what I wrote to him here on the blog sometime soon. This project produced many tears and much laughter, and our Poppie was so very blessed by it.

Tears as they were read aloud.

At the beginning of November Jordan and I decided to take a spontaneous trip back up The Natchez Trace where these adventures happened. This time were were going camping and hiking!

Me at the Parkway Entrance 

We had a great time hiking all 13 miles of trails in Tishomingo State Park. Even though most of the leaves had fallen, it was still beautiful!

Our shadows on Swinging Bridge over Bear Creek
We did a lot of smiling

We also listened to this song a lot on this trip. I love this group. You can download it for free here.

And finally, over this past Thanksgiving weekend, I turned 23.  I had an amazing time with my family and got some great gifts (Thank you Jordan for Bonhoeffer on Radio Theatre). As an excuse to get out of the house Jordan and I took my niece, Leah, and got manicures (in pale neutral shades).

Of course we did. 

I’ve got to tell you guys that my niece is one of the most amazing teenagers I’ve ever met. It shouldn’t surprise me, because she has some great parents. I enjoyed every moment with her, as you can see from the pictures below.

A very happy birthday indeed
We got our “no evils” a little out of order

And y’all. This chick is gor-ge-ous. If my future children are even half as beautiful as my nieces, this family is going to have to take stock in the weapons industry.

Photo from my shoot with her this weekend.

I can’t tell you the last time I’ve enjoyed my family so much. And still am. We made some lovely memories.

So the loveliness continues. I love the holidays. I love cuddling under a blanket (new new fluffy, fleecy one!) with some tea to watch old Christmas movies. I’m looking forward to an entire month of these kind of indulgences. It’s the simple things…

milktea with honey #favorite

Contentment

I was just sitting here (in my apartment) trying to come up with a sufficient facebook status to sum up my weekend. To sum up how I feel right now. But I don’t want to be one of “those people” who uses social media to list every little thing they did that day, knowing you may not care what I did this weekend. You may not care about the little things that make me happy. I am known for {perhaps} being {overly} sentimental. But I can’t just let this pass me by without memorializing it somehow. I feel contentment. Better yet, I feel blessed. So allow me to count the blessings that have touched my heart this weekend.

My right eye almost closes when I really smile.
  • Balloons, helium, and the various forms of giggling they produce
  • Bright blue birthday cake (Yes, the cake itself was dyed blue!)
  • Roller skating
  • Captivating – this book is challenging me in so many ways
  • Hugs and love from my 8 year old niece
  • Having the title “my Bekah-wekah” bestowed on me in lieu of “Aunt Bekah”
  • Holding the hand of “my ‘Mara-Beara” in the grocery store (she really is the sweetest thing EVER)
  • Long talks with friends and sisters
  • Slow, rainy car rides that give me plenty of time to think, pray and worship
  • Technology, allowing me to talk to my best friend every day, despite her being several countries away
  • Naps
  • Rainy long weekends
  • Remembering that this weekend marks 8 years of fellowship with the church body I am a part of

I love the little things. I love that God made me to love the little things. I love seeing Him in them. My heart sighs with contentment on nights like this. I feel His peace washing over me, and I just want to pour gratitude back to Him for all these things so freely given, so grossly undeserved.

“O GOD, My heart is steadfast. 
I will sing and give praise…” 
~Psalm 108:1

Open Letter to Amber

Amber is on a cruise with her husband this week. I wrote her this email last night, and decided that it was too important not to share. Transformation is becoming tangible. 

I am sitting on the floor of my living room in front of our box fan, cooling off. As I write this I have no idea where you are (I mean, a hurricane is sort of bearing down on the Bahamas right now so I would hope and pray you are not there!) and I have no idea when you’ll get this.

Let me start off by saying that I have missed you so much this week. For so many reasons. I’ve wanted to call you up so many times this week and it makes me sad that I can’t. But there must be a reason for that because this forces me to write down what is taking place in my body. I want to record these things and never forget how this feels.

My friend and co-worker, Carnisha, started a blog this week called MyLastFatYear.wordpress.com and let me tell you, it is AWESOME! She is on a journey to lose over 70lbs, and has lost over 35 of it in the last year or so. Amazing. I am so proud of her. This blog is chronicling her quest to lose the rest of the weight by January of 2012. She has inspired me. Tuesday she texted me saying that she was thinking about doing 2 workouts that day and I told her, “Go for it! You’re a machine.” She credited me that night (on twitter) with being responsible for motivating her. As a result, I was motivated and downloaded the “Couch to 5k” app on my phone. This is a 9 week program that eases you into it through walking/jogging intervals. They are 20-30 minute workouts 3 times a week. SO doable. It was 10pm when I downloaded the app but I was determined to start that night.

The first week starts with 60 second spurts of running alternating 90 seconds of walking. I got to the last cycle of running (with Jordan walking/race-walking nearby) and told Jordan, “I can’t do it. This last one. I can’t do it.” My back was seizing with muscle cramps from lack of proper oxygen. My legs were shaking. I thought I was done. But Jordan looked back at me and gently encouraged, “You can do it Bekah. It’s 60 seconds. Just push through it.” So… I took those words to heart… and, I did it! It took every bit of willpower in me. I pushed out the last 60 seconds with the last chorus of “God is Enough” in my ears (thank you Bebo for introducing me to Lecrae). It was precisely what I needed in that moment. I was elated when I finished. It felt amazing.

And you know what? I just did it again. I hit that “wall” on the second to last circuit. I didn’t think I could finish. I was doubling over from the cramps in my back. But I pushed through, with my muscles literally trembling. And the last one was easier. When I was finished I just left my headphones in and started praying and praising God out loud, thanking Him for the strength that he has given me to do this. Thanking Him that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and my body was built to do this. I have been the stubborn one all these years. I have been the one who has refused to make my body do what it was created to. The strength was there all the time, I just had to reach out and grasp it. I can do this, through Christ who strengthens me. This realization literally made me dance in the street. I might have lifted my hands in worship. I might have turned a circle or two. I might have concluded that by taking off in a sprint to the end of the road, simply because I can. I am 22 years old and I have been given a body that is capable of running, because of HIM. And I love Him, Amber. I am in love with the Person who created the veins running through my body taking blood, oxygen and nutrients to every inch of me. I love the One who created the organs that cause me to sweat, crafted my lungs to breathe, shaped my muscles to move. I love that He created chemicals in my brain to release after exercise, giving me this unbelievable, overjoyed feeling and emotion. Everything inside of me points to the wonder of who He is.

I hope you’re having a wonderful and relaxing week and that your vacation hasn’t been rudely interrupted because of the storm. I miss you, and I love you, and I look forward to sitting down to talk with you when you return.

Love,
Bekah Hope

Have you ever experienced this when exercising? Do you have any advice for me as I embark on this new adventure?

Changed Mind. Changed Body.

I’ve debated over whether I should say anything more about my weight loss journey here. But after I gutted myself last time I suppose I have nothing left to be ashamed of. I am now over 25 pounds lighter than when I began. I don’t want this to be about me though. Accolades make me uncomfortable. I’m not looking for a pat on the back from anyone. Rather, I want to use this small milestone to acknowledge the people in my life who have supported me and loved me through this process. I haven’t made it easy.

It comes as no surprise to those who know me when I say that I am by nature very headstrong. You will not easily convince me to do something I don’t want to do. But through the admonishment of my friends and the grace of God, that is changing.

I have a couple of very special friends who are in this endeavor with me; my sister Jordan and friend Amber. In the beginning – truthfully the first 3 months – they all but dragged me along as we learned to eat healthier and work out. While they swapped stories of success or failure, I sat silently sulking and just praying for the conversation to be over. I said before that I wanted diet in secret. So the last thing I wanted to do was talk about it. What I failed to realize is that my silence turned me into a leech. While they were talking things out they were provoking each other to love and good works. They were encouraging me… and I was sucking life from them while giving nothing back. These girls fleshed this out with me – with persistence.

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” (Proverbs 27:6) I know this saying to be true. I found myself standing in my bedroom talking with Amber and Jordan one Sunday a few months ago. We didn’t have a typical house church meeting – the Holy Spirit had ideas of His own that morning. These faithful women gently and cautiously confronted me in my stubbornness and sulking attitude. It was not easy to hear. I looked in the mirror that day. Not literally – I was all too familiar and unsatisfied with my physical reflection. I saw my reflection in an altogether different way – through their eyes. And it wasn’t pretty.

I’d grudgingly made the outward changes necessary. I followed our meal plans. I exercised (when I felt like it). I thought that was enough. But my attitude stank. Through the faithfulness of these young women I saw Jesus Christ, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” While I was being stubborn and selfish, they encouraged me, hoping Christ in me. They extended mercy when I’d done nothing to earn it, and showed me the grace to change. The faithful wounds inflicted that day prompted the first fruits of repentance growing in me. I would not be where I am today if not for their continual support and encouragement. They have forgiven much.

Each of us have charm necklaces that are telling the story of our journey. A pearl marks the beginning, and an initial pendant marks the loss of the first 10 pounds. The third pendant is a post with the wordmetanoia inscribed into it. It’s the Greek word for “repentance”, meaning change the way you think. This marks the loss of 20 pounds. And it’s been a significant reminder to me that my mind is changing in the way that I approach food and exercise. This is not a “lose-weight-quick” scheme. This is a lifestyle change. There are permanent changes happening in my heart, mind, and body through this process. I no longer crave foods that aren’t good for me. My body is being conditioned to crave movement and action. This may sound crazy but I’ve grown to love feeling sore after I’ve really pushed myself working out. I crave that feeling! My mind has changed for good. Repentance has taken place by the grace of God and I am amazed.

1 Timothy 4:8 says this, “For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that is now and of that which is to come.”


This rings to true to me. It’s my experience that God had to change the way I think, transforming my mind, before my body – my flesh – followed suit. And that is what is important. Because my body will one day give out. There will come a day when I’m no longer able to do the things I’m capable of now. But the lessons I have learned in this – the relationships that I have gained – are of far more profit than my physical body changing. I’ve entered a whole new level of friendship with Jordan and Amber. Jordan is my sister, and I’ve known Amber for 8 years, but despite that our hearts have been knit together in ways we couldn’t have imagined when we took the first step in this journey. This has proven to me that godliness is profitable for all things – especially my relationships. I am so grateful for their faithfulness to me, their patience, and the love that is continually being poured out. “By this all  will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”


So, thank you, Amber and Jordan. I know you are His.