Friday, October 28, 2011

Waiting: Our posture, pleasure, and joy

Each year my beloved church cares for the single ladies in the congregation by hosting what I like to call the Cherish/Build up/Encourage/and Love-On-The-Single-Ladies talk. There's a panel of a couple pastors and they just pray for us, prepare a short talk, draw our attention to some scripture, and open up for Q & A. It's always something I like to attend.

Quick side note-- Let me be honest, I always walk in my church feeling very feminine, very loved, and very cherished. I don't ever feel looked down on because I'm not married, nor do I feel like my singleness is looked on as a dire problem/predicament/disease to be solved. Instead I feel very much an equally loved and cherished member of the Body. It's definitely not a perfect place filled with perfect people (because they don't exist), but it is a place filled with repenting sinners who are making a concerted effort to intentionally love and protect the single women in the congregation and make them feel treasured. And it's working.

So this Q&A time is great and I thought I'd share a couple highlights that I remember from past talks:

My pastor, Mark, was asked about 1 Corinthians 7:9 from one of the women in our congregation. It's the passage that talks about marrying rather than burning with passion. In a really caring way, he told her that he wasn't going to answer her question, but rather build up a framework for her to understand what she was asking. Big picture, if you will.  So, Mark explained that the posture of a Christian is to be in waiting. He shared some things that he has waited for for many years (like his children to be baptized, family relationships, etc). He explained that we wait for a wide variety of things! Whether we are waiting for a spouse, or for a friend to become a Christian, or freedom from pain or sickness or other things-- we are always waiting for something. What we have in common is that we are all waiting for Christ's beautiful, majestic return (Lord, haste that day), and until then there will be many other things that we will be waiting for. He encouraged us to see our waiting in light and context of the big picture. Really helpful (of course he said it much more eloquently than I did). It's also great to think about what we don't have to wait for-- like mercy and forgiveness, God's Word, prayer, His joy, peace, restoration, and many other things.  Overall thought-- the posture of a Christian is to be in waiting.

Another thing Mark said -- he said he didn't want any other woman to be attracted to him, only his wife Connie. It was just really good to hear that. Something very simple but it struck me-- love does not want "all eyes on me" or many lovers. Love wants one, and wants to be faithful to that one.

In light of those two things, let this selection from a Paul Tripp article sink in:

"Waiting, therefore, is not a sign that your world is out of control. Rather, it is a sign that your world is under the wise and infinitely attentive control of a God of fathomless wisdom and boundless love. This means you can rest as you wait, not because you like to wait, but because you trust the One who is calling you to wait."

"Wait for the Lord. Be strong, take heart, and wait for the Lord." Psalm 27:14.

Wait faithfully, prayerfully, and joyfully, beloved!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cherish This: No Condemnation!

"Nothing is more precious than hearing God say to us personally: No condemnation. Or hearing him pronounce the words over our guilty heads, Justified! If you cherish this verdict and this standing with God, then cherish your union with Christ. Make it part of what you value most in the world."

John Piper

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Bit of Perspective

Perspective. Sustainability. Wisdom.

All words which I'm becoming acquainted with more and more (and finding out that we have been strangers from each other). Perspective, in particular, has been challenging for me the past several months.

Sometimes I cannot seem to pull myself back and take a look at the big picture. I seem to find this most difficult when I'm in the middle of something really, really hard- like a sudden change of job or housing, a difficult relationship, financial squeeze, a disappointed hope, or even when I lack perseverance or self-control to finish a goal or project. Perspective. That's what I need. I need to hear the truth and I need the long view (which by the way is probably why I've been camping out in Romans 8 for nearly the entire year of 2011, and highly recommend doing so. The work is finished. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.).

The other night a friend and I were reading after dinner (well, we really only had dessert. Whatever, that's beyond the point) and she asked me if I had the book A Gospel Primer. A dear friend gave me a copy before moving to DC and it has been a great encouragement to me. I grabbed it and she read me the section called Perspective in Trials -- I have been camping there this whole week. 

I'm going to leave adequate space between sentences to give my mind a bit more room to wrap around and be saturated in these truths. I invite you to let your mind and heart do the same. Soak this truth up--

"More than anything else I could ever do, the gospel enables me to embrace my tribulations and thereby position myself to gain full benefit from them.

For the gospel is the one great permanent circumstance in which I live and move; and every hardship in my life is allowed by God only because it serves His gospel purposes in me.

When I view my circumstances in this light, I realize that the gospel is not just one piece of good news that fits into my life somewhere among all the bad.

I realize instead that the gospel makes genuinely good news out of every other aspect of my life, including my severest trials (Romans 5:1-5).

The good news about my trials is that God is forcing them to BOW to his gospel purposes and do good unto me by improving my character and making me more conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28; James 1:2-4; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10).  [[Insert big hallelujahs here! Yes, Romans 8!!]]

Preaching the gospel to myself each day provides a lens through which I can view my trials in this way and see the true cause for rejoicing that exists in them.

I can then embrace trials as friends and allow them to do God's good work in me."

Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer.

Buy it. Read it every day. And bask in the richness of the gospel!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Pictorial September Review

Honest moment: September is my favorite month. 

Of course this largely has to do with my birthday... but it also has to do with very important calendar landmarks like the release of Pumpkin Spice lattes at Starbucks (they tell you October 1, but of course you can ask for it before!), and the beginning of leaves changing, and cooler weather, and everybody skipping to work while holding hands with total strangers, and new school (office) supplies, and babies smiling, and all other wonderful things : )

September is the perfect segway to all things fall... ahh fall...

Here's a quick overview of September 2011:

The month started off beautifully with a dear friend's wedding.

Kimberlee was a ravishing and energetic bride!
Highlights of the wedding weekend: A lovely rehearsal dinner where I was spiritually encouraged by hearing stories of God's faithfulness in both Paul and Kimberlee's lives. Kimberlee flying on my bed at the butt crack of dawn the morning of her wedding.  Perhaps I was a bit cranky at first (I was), but looking back it was so sweet to see her excitement and join her. Hands down, the DJ at the reception (Kimberlee's cousin!) did the most fantastic job!  He played snippits of songs (instead of the full song) and, before we knew it, we danced for hours! It was perfect. Great wedding party with lots of personality!

Then I had a special birthday!

At a cute dessert/wine bar before KARAOKE. You heard me.

The average woman will not tell you her age; however, I've never considered myself average. I will proudly claim these 27 years and be honest that they have been hard, beautiful, painful, good, and SATURATED with mercy from God. I hope to detail some of that mercy on this blog-- but most of that will be told through living life with me. So, let's have (decaf) coffee sometime (before 9 BAHA). 

The Newlyweds: Paul & Kimberlee Curtis. Love this. 
Minutes before I got a giant smooch on both sides.  Rascals.

Matt & Erica-- some of my first DC friends. Erica and I like going on bike rides and getting fruit and veg at Eastern Market. AND frozen yogurt :) 

Sweet friends, Kalani and Hannah, came all the way up from Tennessee to celebrate. Had so much fun with these two!
Fellow business barbie, my Lindsey Loulla Lou-Lou Bear, and Reggie in the background. Dear friends. 

Brandon, Jonathan, and Amber. Treasure nuggets.
The Girls! I love group pictures.
Me and the boys flexing... and Larrie. Classic.
The whole gang! The group slimmed quite a bit once we announced we were going to sing Karaoke afterward... : )

So grateful for all these faces and hearts and friends. Keep your eyes peeled for an October overview... :)

Monday, October 24, 2011

My Habibti is Coming!

Cannot wait to see this little girl and her mommy, my best friend, Jenee! They arrive this week as an extended birthday present to me- I'm one lucky girl! So excited for their visit (already listening to as many Celine Dion and 80's songs as I can!!!). 
Aunty Bek & Jolie girl, July 2011
 Jenee and I have been friends since 6th grade and it was around that time that we began calling each other "Habibti," which in its feminine form means "Sweetheart" in Lebanese. She will always be my Habibti! And now that she's a mommy, there's a little mini-Habibti joining her on this trip. Super excited to spend extended Rebekah-Jenee-Jolie time. Side note, Jenee and I may or may not have used to take days off school just to spend time with each other. Fun fact- Jenee married my cousin Nate and so now we are related! Dreams do come true.

Jolie likes Starbucks. Good genes ;)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Thoughts from the 20's and 120's

I've been sick for a week and I'll be honest, it's been yucky feeling achy and having hot flashes-- but it's also been strangely refreshing. I've rested and slept.  I've taken a break from doing my hair and makeup.  I've tackled menial (but important) projects like my filing system, answering e-mails, and updating Quicken. And, I've had opportunities to catch up on fun stuff like iTunes updates and blogging. Now even though my ears are still blocked, my nose is still overproducing, and I have a cough like a smoker, I'm still grateful for the rest, quiet, and stillness that sickness inevitably provides. I crave rest and quiet, and see this as a strange blessing.

But with all the rest, cabin fever inevitably occurs... So, I escaped the apartment this morning-- A little overconfident, I think. I went to a garage sale on my way to the dry cleaners and the bank. Got a fun mirror and thought I purchased a Rascal Flatts CD (opened it up and it was Beyonce. Halo). Tricky garage sale people... Anyway, when I went to the dry cleaners, I said to the owner, "Good morning, Charlene. I'm here to pick up dry cleaning" and handed her my ticket. She then proceeded to give me a strange look and then went to fetch my clothes. Forgetting that I was in sweats had my hair in a skony tail, and was probably looking like death run over... She said to me, "Miss Tooley, I did not recognize you." I told her I wasn't feeling well and chuckled a little bit. That whole scene reminded me of the time in high school where Jenee and I took a semester break from wearing makeup. No one ever asked Jenee what was wrong, but a classmate Nick was really concerned about me during the first week of this experiment. I remember him tapping me on the shoulder in first period English class and asking me if I felt okay. I told him I felt fine, and he assured me that I looked sick. Awesome. Jenee and I still laugh about that.

Okay, that is definitely enough rambling...

A friend stopped in to visit me tonight. After fighting this relentless virus all week, it was sweet to have the company of a dear one who knows me well... who brings me tea... and chocolate : ) Been craving chocolate and popsicles all day.

Anyway, we spent some time in the 20's and the 120's of the Psalms after catching up. A few highlights I thought I would share:

"Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."  Psalm 23:6.  A reminder that goodness and love (some versions use 'mercy') will follow me because goodness and love is an unchanging characteristic of God.  He does not change, neither will his intention to do me good or show me his love. Hardest to believe in times of pain or suffering, but still just as true.

"No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame [...]."  A consistent theme in the Psalm 20's, especially 25 & 27.  I daily struggle with feelings of shame. This promise deeply comforts me and serves as a reminder to fix my eyes and my hope on God, who will never shame me. His son has born all my sorrows and taken on all my shame, therefore removing it from me (Isaiah 53). Praise God.

"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." Psalm 27:13-14. Linds read this over and over. Reminded of my pastor Mark's encouragement that the posture of a Christian is to be in waiting. We're always waiting for something-- someone to repent and believe in Christ, Christ's coming return (ultimately), but so many other things in the meantime- like jobs, heart change, provision, friendship, understanding, wisdom, relationships, answers, etc. Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord, Rebekah.

"I lift up my eyes to the hills-- where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." Psalm 121.

"Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever."  Psalm 125:1.  Another picture for us to materialize how sturdy, firm, reliable it is to trust in God.

"Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him."  Psalm 126: 5-6.  Besides Romans 8, this is my favorite verse in Scripture.  I remember the college chorale I was a member of sang a version of it my sophomore year. Little did I know these two verses paint a picture of God's faithfulness to me over the years, as I have faithfully worked through things with many tears, trusting that God would use it all for good and reap a harvest of righteousness in my life. Oh Romans 8, once again. He will surely work it all together for his good, and he is already doing so. Trust him, Rebekah.

Definitely pulling it together in this statement -- I'm still learning to trust. Learning to process.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Brewers

Missing these dear friends today.
Ben & Amy.
With the Brewer gentlemen: Hacket, Butler, and Lee. Those precious red eyes filled with tears.
I praise God for the tender men God is making even now. 
With the Brewer ladies: Katie, Emory Anne, Jane Haley, and Amy.

The whole crew at their going away party in September.

I especially love this lady, and miss being near her.

A few fun photos of times past with the Brewer fam...

Hair treatments for the girls. We pretended that they were "at the beach salon," towel and all. Steph and Katie came to the "beach" with us, too.

Emory Anne and Janey, wrapped up in saran wrap for their special hair treatment.  Love my girls!

One of many Friday night pizza/game nights playing The Great Dalmudi. Lindsey was enjoying crown-time.  Classic!

I just praise God for this family and miss them dearly. Like my pastor always reminds our church, we must learn to "hug the parade," as it is likely that those who are dear will move away in a few short years, or in this case, one year. I am so grateful for the way Ben and Amy and their family pursued relationship with me. I'll have to write a whole other post about how it all started. 

Going to bed with a grateful heart for this family. A great way to end today.