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For the Girls

Today is the International Day of the Girl. The girl, who in so many places is denied education; is denied a voice as her future and even sometimes her spouse is decided for her; is denied a childhood as she is married off at barely double digits; is aborted or given up because she is the less desirable gender to bring into this world; is denied. Here in the United States where she’s far more fortunate, her struggles will be confined to unequal salary, to being objectified and occasionally harassed by those around her, and to avoiding being that one out of every six females over age 12 who will have a rape attempt made against her. The girl, who will grow into a woman – at once nurturing to those around her with a backbone of steel. The girl, formed of the rib of Adam, perfectly designed and destined for her partner – the only reason why life continues to cycle. The girl. Behind the innocent smiles and laughter, she will have so much to navigate in her life. And so today I’ve spent a lot of time praying for girls everywhere. I’m sharing my biggest prayers here, in the hopes that you’ll stand with me in agreement. It’s time they all know that we stand with them:

-I pray that you know you are here for a reason and nobody else can fulfill it for you. You were made on purpose, with specific gifts and callings. The world is a more beautiful place because you’re in it. So that voice in your head that says you’re not enough, that you can’t, and that you’re worthless and alone….I rebuke all that right now and call it out for the lie that it is. I pray you be who you are, boldly and freely.
-I pray that even in the deepest darkest parts of your heart you KNOW you were fearfully and wonderfullly made. That you would know you are valuable beyond words or price. That you would know there is nothing on this earth that can diminish you. No words, no abuse is stronger than what was inherently woven into your creation. Whatever you face in your life, I pray you know it doesn’t define you. Your identity comes from somewhere so much higher. You and your truth are seen, known and loved and IN THE NAME OF JESUS, may you know it.
-I pray you know your strength – and its source. You were made with authority and IN HIM you can overcome anything.
-I pray that you have freedom to access the education and resources that you need to cultivate the gifts you carry, and I pray your voice is never silenced. I pray right now against any chains or oppression that would come your way because girl, you were created to be Royalty. I pray you be infused with a faith stronger than hardship, that you would know you have a Provider and Protector even when all seems lost and it seems you’re out of options.
-I pray you honor your body. It’s the only one you get and it was created with just as much value as the rest of you. I pray you never resort to thinking it defines you, and that you never feel the need to craft your self-worth around it. Treat it like it belongs to someone you love. I know there’s a vast number of girls who live in areas where their bodies are their only means of survival and provision for their families. If you’re in one of them I pray you see that for the lie that it is. You were created by a God of abundance, who hears and answers your cries, who can fill your every need. You are never alone, you’re never forsaken and you don’t have to live as if you are.
-I pray you don’t cast your pearls before swine.There’s a time to cut your losses and move on. Know it and do it. You’re worth more than that.
-I pray you know, and I mean KNOW, that wherever you find yourself, whatever choices you’ve made or dark paths you’ve walked, you’re never too far gone. There’s always hope. Shame be off you in the name of Jesus. There’s no condemnation, not here, not in Him.
-And finally I pray you know that you are celebrated not just today but every day, and that the delight of the Father is on you always as His daughter. Let that knowledge nourish your spirit and fuel your soul.
From the newborn girl to the young-at-heart, from the girl down the street, to the teenage prostitute on another continent, I’m for you. The prayers of my heart are for you. Because you’re a girl. And today, the world stands with you.

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Reflections

Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord. –Psalm 27:14

When we first started this blog, I was a single woman still grieving a breakup that had happened a couple years prior. I struggled to move on from that relationship even though I knew it wasn’t God’s will for me. Every year that went by became more distressing as I saw my chances at motherhood waning.

There were times during this period that I was blissfully aware of God’s presence and provision. I was content to wait for His best for me. I recognized that my singlehood brought unique opportunities to serve Him. Yet, there were painful stretches of time where I failed to see Him through my loneliness and despair. There were many difficult days. The years of being alone weighed on me. I constantly felt guilty because I knew that He was everything that I needed, and yet I still desired human companionship.

Today I am a married woman with three beautiful step-children. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for these precious gifts in my life! My husband is so loving and caring. He is very attentive to my needs and treats me far better than I deserve. He treats me so well that I have trouble accepting it. I never quite believed that anyone could care about me enough to treat me the way he does.

My step-children are sweet and respectful. They accepted me into the family almost immediately. Growing closer to them has probably been the most fulfilling aspect of my life to date. It was the day I met them that I knew my relationship with their father could work. I would not allow myself to fall for him until I knew I could love his children too. Really love them. It would not have been fair to the children or their dad if I could not.

I wish I could go back and tell my single self that she will be okay. I would tell her that the years of singlehood will be worth the wait. That God is setting everything up and not to lament the period of preparation. I would tell her that I couldn’t have met my husband sooner because neither of us were in the place we needed to be yet, but that it would make our meeting that much sweeter when the time came. People tried to tell me this, but I struggled to believe them.

That’s not to say that marriage and step-parenting is all sunshine and rainbows. It’s hard work. It’s draining. But it’s so rewarding. It is so beautiful. It is everything I hoped it would be.

God has been by my side through all of it. Through the lonely days that came before and the sometimes all-consuming days I experience now. God truly has our best in mind. He sincerely takes care of our every need. He loves us more than anyone else ever has or ever can. He is all in all. Every good and perfect gift comes from Him.

If you are single (or in some other period of waiting), please believe me, God is working things out for your good. He sees your struggle. He knows your tears. He’s allowing this trial in your life because He knows you are growing through it. Lean into Him and give Him all your cares. Put your trust in Him. His timing is impeccable.

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

 

Meeting Isaac

I have been woefully neglectful in keeping up with this blog. In fact, it has been over a year since my last post! And what a year it has been! I have MUCH to update you on. In my last post I was lamenting my long time single status and sharing that I was intentionally putting myself “out there” a little more to better position myself to be found by the one God had chosen to be my partner in this life.

Amazingly, just days after that post was written I met him! It was sort of by accident, though not by coincidence. After waiting years for the right guy to just show up at my church, I dreadfully joined a couple of Christian dating sites that espouse the doctrines of my local congregation. I was always against meeting someone online, but being very introverted and having no single guys in our church I finally started opening up to the idea. It was a pretty horrible experience. I talked to several men, all of whom were clearly not the one. There was the guy who outright told me that I was ugly. There was the guy who upon a Google search (yes, guys, we google you) was found to be on several porn sites in addition to the Christian dating site. There was the guy who rejected me because I wasn’t a virgin (I didn’t become a Christian until my mid twenties). He told me that he knew my past was under the blood, but he just couldn’t get past it. Then there was the guy who seemed great on paper, but in all of our conversations, he never asked me a single thing about me. I was good enough to date, but not good enough to actually get to know. His thinking was that I would be his helpmate which meant that I would be helping him with his ministry and therefore my dreams and goals in life didn’t matter. He was not interested in who I am as a person at all. I was very frustrated by these encounters and had almost resigned myself to being single forever.

Then one day one of my friends (who writes tech reviews for a living) asked for some volunteers to download a new app and tell her what we thought of it so that she could write a review. It was not a dating app, it was just a platform where ideas could be exchanged.  I decided to help her out and give this new app a try. Someone on the app posted something and I posted a response. While I was responding, someone else also responded. This sparked a conversation between the other responder and myself. The original poster never returned to the thread, but I hit it off right away with the other guy that had also responded. We talked all night long. In that very first conversation he already knew more about me than the last guy had learned in all the time we had been talking. We chatted for hours the next day too. And the day after that. I vacillated between being utterly drawn to him and holding back out of fear. There were a hundred different times that I almost ended the conversation because it seemed crazy that I was talking for so long to a stranger. He could be anyone. He could say anything and I would have no way of knowing if he was telling the truth. I was very nervous about the entire thing. I always jump ship even when there is no sign of a leak so I kept having to remind myself that he hadn’t said anything wrong yet. I kept reminding myself that I had committed to putting myself out there a little more and that until he gave me a legitimate reason to end the conversation there was no need to do so. He didn’t know where I was or any identifiable information about me. The worst thing that could happen would be that I would have wasted a few hours of my life.

I learned that this man was raised an Orthodox Jew, but had converted to Christianity in his early adulthood. He had attended Bible College only twenty minutes from where I lived and that he lives only about 15 minutes from where I go to church. I was intrigued! Eventually, I gave him my number so that we could text directly. After a while he asked if he could call me. I said yes, and then didn’t answer the phone when he called! At this point, he still didn’t know what I looked like. I was sure once he saw me that he would run for the hills. I didn’t want to get my hopes up only to have them dashed. We ended up connecting on Facebook. It was after we connected there that I could see he was probably being truthful about the things that he had told me so far. His Facebook page had been created years prior so I knew it wasn’t likely to be a fake account. It also confirmed the things he had told me and it started to put me at ease. Amazingly, he wasn’t scared off by my profile picture. Ha! Eventually, we met in person (in a public setting of course). That’s when things got real. He and I were a great fit! Only a couple of weeks before we connected I had made a list of all the qualities I would like in a husband. I wrote down 32 items and he perfectly matched 31 of them! Interestingly, the new app didn’t last long. It was shut down only days after we met. We like to think it only existed for that short time so that the two of us could meet.

We often joke on this blog that we are “looking for our Isaac.” Wouldn’t you know that this man’s Hebrew name is Isaac! There are many things that my “Isaac” had been prophesied to be. I never put much stock in these prophesies because I think that people tend to fit them to what they want rather than what is, but here was this man fitting every one of them!

I spent much time in prayer as I was getting to know him. I kept asking God to close the door if he wasn’t the one, but every time I asked this, the door kept opening wider. He began attending my church shortly after we met and has been faithfully attending since. I watched prayerfully as he interacted with my friends, family, and brothers and sisters in the Lord. I spent a lot of time on my knees while we were dating. I took some time off away from him to be sure he was the one.

Things moved quickly for us. Within a few months he had given me a promise ring. A few months later and we were engaged. Now a year after meeting him, we have just recently been married!

I never imagined that my life would change so quickly, but it has been an amazing journey. He is thoughtful and sweet. He treats me so well that I have trouble accepting it at times. He is not without flaws, but nothing has ever felt so right as knowing he is the one God meant for me. He is the one I have been waiting all these years for.

I cannot describe how glad I am that I waited. There were many times where I considered settling. There were times that I was tempted to compromise my holiness and standards. There were times when I was so lonely that I almost wished I lived somewhere where they do arranged marriages. That thought frightens me now. I could have missed out. I might have missed all of these blessings.

If you are still waiting for your Isaac. Please don’t give up or do anything you might later regret. If God has not said no to marriage for you, keep waiting for God’s best for you! Do not give up or give in to temptation. Keep waiting!

In His Love,

Rebekah L.

Becoming a Tree

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. ~ Psalm 1

This Psalm is on my heart this week, thanks largely to a podcast I was listening to by Patricia King (listen here if you so desire), about becoming a tree. If we root ourselves in Him, and drink of the Living Water that is Him, we will always bear fruit. Always. And our leaves will never wither. What an amazing life that looks like!

Sometimes, of course, this seems like a tall order. I don’t know about you but I tend to have a “hindsight is 20/20” viewpoint sometimes. I get caught up in my daily existence in NY. I get bogged down in dodging bikers, double and triple parked vans, errant pedestrians, and don’t even get me started on the taxis. I want to pour out on all of these people. At least, here at home while sitting at my computer, of course I want to pour out on all these people. In the moment though, when you’re speeding past me, my main thought is jumping out of the way of the puddle you’re splashing all over me. Some days I’m more successful at keeping a Christ-like perspective. But not every day, not all the time.

This is why this Psalm ministers to my heart so much. Patricia King touches on it too in that podcast – not every tree is huge and strong with these big rigid trunks.  Some trees are small.  They’re tender. Their trunks are flexible and their leaves flutter.  Some trees bend a bit in the breeze.  Does this mean they can’t be feeding from the living water? Of course not. They are still beautiful, still rooted – and still fruitful. Some days I’m the kind of tree that every kid wants to hang a tire swing from or build a treehouse on.  I’m so full of Jesus that I have no problem praying for that person on the subway. I have no problem stopping to love on a homeless person (and no that does not mean dropping some spare change into their palm and walking off!). Other days….I’m more like a ficus. One stiff breeze and I feel like I’m blowing over. Forget standing with Him for miracles – on these days I barely get prayer time in and dishes cleaned! On these less productive days, I sometimes feel like a waste of Christianity (ok I’m being dramatic. I probably don’t feel THAT badly about myself, but I certainly don’t feel fruitful either). But I can take heart in this fact: if I’m in Him, I am still bearing fruit.   It doesn’t always look the same every day, and it’s nice to know it doesn’t have to. I’m still ‘rooted’. 

Also, being rooted in Him means your leaves never wither. Do you know what that means? It means you can go through a transition period. You can have changes in your life – times of trial don’t affect your God-given destiny or keep you from blossoming. How cool is that?

The flip side, of course, is to be like the chaff. The Psalm basically say that if you’re not a tree, you’re the chaff. Chaff, for you non-farmer types, is basically a husk. It’s a dry scaly casing that goes around grains. It’s largely useless, it’s indigestible to humans (I think they do chop it up in certain animal feed though), and it has to be removed before the grains can be used. This is done by ‘threshing’ (read: milling, or pounding, the grain to loosen the chaff). Once you do this, the loose chaff can be removed by ‘winnowing’ – this means repeatedly tossing grains into a light wind so the loose chaff can blow away. Now you know the exact analogy the Psalm is making when they talk about the chaff blowing away. And here you thought you wouldn’t learn anything today!

Why is this important? Well, because it shows just how stubborn the chaff is – how stubborn wickedness can be. It can encase itself around us pretty quickly. And once it’s there, getting rid of it isn’t always easy. I mean the chaff has to literally get beaten off the nutritious grain. Now, I can think of several things I’d like to do today – going through a spiritual beating isn’t one of them. Best to just find a way to be in Him every day, be it pouring out onto others or taking care of my home. It’s also encouraging though – because we are sometimes called to shed things within us that aren’t of God, and it’s usually done by bringing us through a time of trial (sometimes a spiritual “threshing” is unavoidable!). In the end, when we’ve cried our tears and submitted our burdens and allowed God in to heal, the bad stuff He threshed off of us? It doesn’t cling to us anymore. It’s not part of us. It’s so loose that a light wind can carry it away. If that’s not encouraging I don’t know what is!

I leave you all with an encouragement to be in Him today. Find a way to drink of the Living Water, today and every day. Some days you might be a mighty oak. Some days you might be a shrub. But find a way to be rooted in Him, to drink of Him anyway. Even if it’s just to repent how UN-Christlike you’ve been that day! Allow Him in and He will ensure your endeavors bear fruit.

God bless! And, a BIG thanks to Rebekah L who helped me with a few technical issues regarding the format of this post – if you think it’s a long one now you should’ve seen the original version!

~Rebekah A

Unrelenting

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Hi everyone! It has been a long time since I’ve last posted. The reasons are varied, but not too profound, so I’ll spare you the details.

Basically I just took some time to seek Him and grow in Him. I’ve increased my study of His word. I’ve increased my worship in both my heart and my home. I’ve started stepping out of my comfort zone in prayer – with intercession, with strangers and friends alike. I’ve been playing piano as a form of worship, rather than just playing. I’ve been getting more discernment on my visions and words for people. I’ve been working on going deeper – the depths of His heart call to mine and I have been trying to respond. This has involved Him revealing things in the depths of my heart that are so ingrained I just chalked them up to personality traits. But they’re not. They’re learned behaviors that get in the way of true intimacy with Him. Most recently, I (along with Rebekah L) have been involved in a book study with a group of Marshallese ladies – it is amazing to see God’s heart for this tiny island nation unfold.

Suffice to say it’s been a process – a beautiful exercise of being stretched in love and faith. Much has happened – about a squillion blog posts worth. And I’ve learned some things. I’ve learned it’s ok to be lost – He’ll always, always find me. I’ve learned that faith isn’t always pretty, but He’s captivated by the sight of it anyway. I’ve learned His grace is beautiful and will wash over me even when I least deserve it. But the bottom line is, what I’ve learned the most, is that Jesus loves me as I am just as much as He would love me if I were perfect. But even though His love for me is at this moment fiercer and stronger than anything I have ever felt, He will not give up on the girl He initially created – on the one He created me to be. The fullness of the identity He has for me. His mercy is literally unending, but He will never give up shaping me and refining the shape of my heart until I am fully, wholly His. Until no part of me belongs to the past I left behind.

The same is true for us all. No matter where we’ve been lately. No matter how far we fall, no matter where our starting point is. No matter if we’re at the peak of success or at rock bottom. His love is unrelenting, and He will love us right to the person He created in the first place.

To that end, I give you a song of the day. There is beauty in His love, just as there is beauty in your heart. Where your hangups and imperfections start, so does His grace. His yoke is easy, His peace is abundant and I pray you are washed in it today.

God bless!

Rebekah A

Rahab Gets Married

rings“As God by creation made two of one, so again by marriage He made one of two.” ~ Thomas Adam

For those of you who have followed my Rahab series over the last two years, I have some exciting news! Hint – It’s in the title of this post. 😉 Yes, the lovely young woman referred to in these posts has gotten hitched.

This is significant because it represents a total separation from her past. As a woman who was forced to sell her body (by her own parents no less), she did not even dare to dream she would ever get out of her old life. She had resigned herself to the idea that she would have to endure her “profession” until she became too old to continue attracting clients. She often worried how she would support herself when that day finally came. The idea of marriage was so far beyond her realm of possibilities that she couldn’t even entertain the idea.

Starting when she was very young her father told her repeatedly that as a member of his family she belonged to him and had no choice but to do as he told her. He said, “Until you have a family of your own, you belong to me. And no one will ever marry someone as filthy and used up as you are. You will never find a man who is willing to marry someone like you.” He was the reason she became “filthy and used up”, but yet used that as the rationale that no one would ever marry her and that she was doomed to always be his property to be rented out as he pleased.

But God!

Oh how God can take all of man’s plans and turn them on their head! When the world saw someone who was filthy and used up, God saw a woman to be redeemed! Jesus Christ is still in the business of cleansing and making new! He took a woman of ill repute and completely turned her life around! She now knows the Lord; she has been delivered from her life of degradation, and filled with His Spirit.

God has seen fit to give her a godly man as a husband. Even by her father’s twisted justification, she is free from him by virtue of having been married. The thing she never thought possible has come to pass by way of Jesus Christ. God took a terrible circumstance and used it for both her and her new husband’s good. They met through a series of cruel tricks by both his parents and hers. He never saw the deception coming, fell right into their trap, and committed a serious mistake. By all outward appearances this should have ended very very badly.

But God!

This man repented of his sin, and became a representation of Christ to this woman who was so desperately lost in darkness. He modeled love. She was filled with anger and bitterness. She fought back at him with sharp words and a hateful attitude. He kept reaching out in the love of Christ. He ignored her hurtful behavior. Through every angry word and difficult encounter he continued to show godly love in a way that she had never seen. In fact, she had never experienced any kind of love at all. Not from friends. Not from men. Not from family members. Not even her own parents.

But God!

God used this man to show real love. And real love prevailed. Through it all God kept reaching for her. He did a miracle in her life. She surrendered to Him and it changed everything.

Her faith in Him is incredible. I have seen her grow in spiritual maturity so quickly. Her prayers are deep and strong. Her level of commitment is rare among Christians. She has already become a role model for the women in her church. She is a woman who knows what God has done for her.

There is no greater freedom than that of living for Jesus Christ!

Congratulations, Rahab. May your marriage be as strong and resilient as you have been. May the goodness and mercy of the Lord follow you both all the days of your lives. May you and your husband be blessed with a love that grows stronger every day and moves you ever closer to the Lord.

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

More in the Rahab Series:

Being Rahab (Part 1)

Revisiting Rahab (Part 2)

The Faith of Rahab (Part 3)

Praying with Rahab (Part 4)

Moving On, Moving Up, Moving in Him

movingLast week I moved to a new apartment. I spent almost seven years living in a teeny tiny studio apartment. Though I recognize that many have far less than I do, it was just one room and was not even the kind that has a little kitchenette area. I literally slept four feet from my refrigerator. Let me tell you that you don’t realize how loud a refrigerator is until you have to sleep four feet away from one! The apartment was in a building with 16 units and mostly housed sketchy drug users and drunken college students. Being kept awake at all hours of the night because of the partying was a common occurrence. It was not the most spiritual of environments. That being said, it was a roof over my head and it afforded me the opportunity to completely pay off all my debts.

I had planned to only spend one year in that ratty little apartment, but one year stretched to two, then two to three, and at some point something weird happened in my psyche; I lost hope that I would ever get out of there. You see I was dating this guy who to me seemed to be the world. He promised me he would get me out of that terrible environment. We dreamed of the day we’d get married and he’d carry me over the threshold away from that place. When things fell apart between us I sort of just resigned myself to the fact that I would live in that horrible little place forever. Financially, I could afford something a little better for at least two years before I made the move. But I just couldn’t make the move. I didn’t feel I deserved any better and somehow moving meant giving up on the dream that he would take me away from that place. I had convinced myself that it was the last place I would live until I got married, so moving felt like admitting I would be single forever; I would never get anything better in life.

Thank God for that still small voice! In prayer recently God whispered to me of His love, His care, His intentions for my life. That drug infested place just doesn’t fit into those plans.  In a moment of letting that old fairytale go, I realized that I should never have been depending on a man to get me out of that place. I was still there because I believed a man was the answer to my problem, when the answer was in God! Jesus is the one who takes care of me. He is the one who provides for me! I realized He wanted better for me and He was willing to provide it!

So I prayed that if I should move this year that the landlord wouldn’t approach me with a new lease to sign until I found a reasonably affordable place. In all the years I lived there, the landlord was never late in getting the new lease to me, but this year he was! In fact, the landlord who never forgot, seemingly forgot for over three months! So while I waited for the new lease I began casually looking for a new apartment. At first I didn’t have much luck. All the decent apartments were way out of my price range. I had almost resigned myself to another year in my dilapidated studio.

But then just like that, the door opened! My co-worker found out her downstairs neighbor was moving out. I spoke to her landlord and agreed to go look at the new place. I prayed that if it was the right place that I would feel comfortable with the new landlord, the new apartment, and the new neighborhood. I also prayed that if it wasn’t the right place that the door would close and the landlord would rent it out to someone other than me. The day I saw the place, I knew it was for me. It isn’t a huge apartment, but it’s a huge step up from where I was living. It’s actually a two bedroom and has a decent size kitchen and living room. I had a good report with the landlord right away and he even gave me the keys that very day even though I hadn’t yet given him a dime of my money! Amazingly, the new rent is LESS than the old apartment was! And it isn’t in a building with 16 units. There are only two apartments in the house; mine and my co-workers. That means no more listening to partying at all hours of the night. Also, my cat absolutely loves the new place. That may seem trivial to most, but it was a big confirmation for me. My cat has experienced incredible stress every time I’ve moved. When I moved into that horrible apartment he cried non-stop day and night for three days straight. It’s been a little over a week now and he is still as happy as a clam in the new place. Instead of crying, he’s been purring non-stop. He is running around and playing like he used to when he was a kitten. I thought he had stopped playing because he is getting up there in years and his eyesight isn’t what it used to be, but now I’m starting to believe he was just as depressed in that other apartment as I was.

For me, moving was so much more than just a physical relocation. It was accepting that what I had with that guy is over – and that’s okay. It’s believing that God wants the best for me. It’s knowing that all good gifts come from Him!

What a blessing! The Lord is so good to us! Truly! I think we so often live beneath our privilege. The Lord wants us to ask of Him and depend on Him to provide for us. Our blessings don’t come through spouses or children or bosses; they come from the Lord! He is the source of our joy. I thank God for that still small voice that reminded me that He is the one who cares for me. The Lord is good!

In His Love,
Rebekah L.