Monday, January 30, 2017

On Addiction...

Addiction isn't simply a physical phenomenon. Its rooted deep in our souls. 

Our souls are designed to crave...we are designed to crave Jesus.

Yet we seek to fulfill that craving with many other things and in many other ways. 
Anything that provides us with satisfaction (albeit temporary) other than Jesus will become our drug. 

For the physical addict it is obvious. It shows itself in physical manifestations by depleting their physical appearance and affecting their mental capacity. Yet for the soul addict it can be deceptively masqueraded as normal...even applauded.

Those addicted to physical substances crave that substance to feel satisfied. Those addicted to something deeper in their soul crave that to be okay, secure, and self-approved of. 

So often we say things like "Well, that's what alcohol will do to you" or "Drugs will rob you of your life." And yes. So true. Substances like alcohol and heroin can rob you of your life and bring death at an early age. But soul addictions will rob you of your life even while you live. 

Addiction to approval. Addiction to self-promotion. Addiction to self-sufficiency. Addiction to performance. Addiction to applause of men.
All these will rob you of your life while you still live on this earth. 

I should know. I have experienced it. 
I have lived seeking approval from man and come up empty. I have pushed aside my dreams and pursuit of my gifts because they weren't approved of by others. I'll be the first to tell you, it sucks the life out of slowly that you almost don't notice it until everything you knew to be true shatters into a thousand pieces and you wake up from the stupor of living a life that isn't the one God created you for. The life you've been living is the one someone else wants to you live (a masquerade) so that it makes them feel good, look good, have the ability to pursue their vision even at the cost of your life. 

We are only free when our hearts are completely filled with Jesus. 

That's the bottom line, ladies and gentlemen. 

Anything that draws our hearts away from the simplicity of the gospel call
Loving God and loving others
will destroy your life. Will kill you. 
Maybe not physically. 
Maybe not so that anyone can see.

But it will. 

Our souls were made to crave. 
We were designed to be addicted to Jesus. 
To crave seeing His glory spread.
To get our high from watching Him at work in the world and standing in awe of His might. 

We (the Christian church) look down on addicts. 

We look at them as their "condition". We define them by their sin. 

We tell them they need Jesus. 
We tell them they need to "get clean" or "stay sober" to be a father, mother, employee... 

The truth is, they are already father, mother, sister, brother, cousin, employee, friend, co-worker...

And further
They are no different than us.
It looks different. Oh, it looks very different.

See we are "responsible." We are holding it together (at least on the outside). We look "normal". We can hold down a job. We can provide for our families. We don't abandon our children. The list of why we are different (and in our eyes, better) goes on and on. 

But take a look at your heart. 

You (I) are no better. 
Without Jesus as the only satisfier of our souls, we die. 

Our addiction is different, but it is present in our hearts. 

My heart breaks over my own condemnation of others when my heart has been in the same condition as their physical body.

Lord, help me to find my satisfaction only in YOU. 
Let me high come from Christ and His untamable love for me.
Enable me to love other addicts--especially the soul-addicts that think they are alight, because they're the hardest ones to love-- the way you love. 

My family has stared death in the face twice in the last six week. 
Both times the root has been addiction to physical substance. 
These words are simply what God is doing within me as I process these deaths. 
These words welled up within my soul and basically spilled out onto the screen as I typed. 
Thank you for taking the time to read my heart and how God is changing and shaping it. 
Our family appreciates all your prayers and kind thoughts during these difficult days. 


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Doing the Dishes-- A Book Review

I wouldn't completely consider myself a slob, but with the demands of caring for three littles and a husband my house tends to get the short end of the stick. 

You'd think by now (3 kiddos in and almost 9 years of marriage) I'd have this whole house keeping thing down....cue Real Life. 

I've heard Dana K. White on several different podcasts and read her blog a few times. When her book came out it was on the top of my list for this year. We've been in this house for a little over a year, but getting into a routine of keeping things tidy hasn't come to fruition. Maybe because of all the change we have gone through in the last 18 months...I just couldn't get a handle on things. 

Remember my word for this year? THRIVE? included house keeping too. 
Because really, don't we all do better when our space is neat? I do.

So Dana White from A Slob Comes Clean released a book recently and I picked it up with a gift card I got as a Christmas gift.

This isn't my typical read, but I'm here to tell you that I loved it! 
She shares her struggle with house keeping and how she finally challenged herself (by writing a blog) and overcame much of her angst with house keeping.

It isn't rocket science or anything earth shattering that she shares, but it works! 

Her basic premise-- Do The Dishes. 

Sounds too good to be true, right? 

Well...the hard part is actually doing the dishes. Making yourself.

I started putting her habits into practice as I was finishing up the book. My kitchen is tiny and its honestly my least favorite space in our house because it's tiny counters are typically full of dishes and the like. It always seems cluttered, unkept, and generally difficult to work in. When it comes time to make dinner I struggle to work effectively because things are dirty or not where they are supposed to be. I get easily frustrated. 

When I started doing my dishes every day and sweeping the floor (the first two habits she suggests) things changed. Now, I actually had to do the work, but it became easier each day...just like she said it would. 

Girls, there was one day that I walked by the kitchen and actually did a double-take because it was the middle of the day. 

I'm not claiming to have this thing licked (you should see the kitchen after last week's travel and the busyness of this last weekend) but it really is helping me and transforming our home...slowly...but transformation takes time.

If you're looking for a little lot of help with your home, pick up a copy of this book. 
Dana's down-to-earth advice and humor (combined with short, easy-to-read chapters) will have you inspired and encouraged that you can keep a tidy home! 

*Update--I have actually finished 2 books so far this year! My reading goal for 2017 is moving right along! Look out for another book review coming soon!*


Friday, January 20, 2017

Year to Thrive

I'd still consider myself a "rookie" when it comes to choosing a word for the year. 
Myriads of others have done it for many years, but this is only my second year. I recently wrote a post on my Year of Rest.

As we approached the end of 2016, I really had no idea what word God was leading me to for the coming year. Yet while reading The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines I became increasingly inspired. The risks they took to pursue their dreams. The ways God had to show up for them because they stepped out in faith to pursue those dreams. The way some of their dreams had to die for a season and then God resurrected them later in life. It was inspiring to me. Then I came across the chapter where Joanna spends several pages discussing a season in which she felt as though she was simply surviving life and what it looked like for her to thrive. 

She was speaking my language. 
Through the ups and downs of the last few years (along with the challenges that come with three littles), I have often felt as though I were hanging on for the ride, letting life live me rather than living life. 

It felt a bit ridiculous to choose the word Thrive because I read it in someone else's book. 
It felt like cheating. 
But Holy Spirit kept bringing me back to that word and that desire deep in my soul to truly thrive this year. 

to prosper; flourish; bloom

That's the one little word that is helping direct 2017 for me. 

And for the first time in a few years, I feel that I have the freedom to truly flourish in the ways God is directing me unhindered by man's opinions. There's freedom to bloom in my areas of giftedness rather than feeling as if my gifts are "less-than" because they aren't as outwardly useful to others. 

Now my questions have become, "What does 'Thrive' look like for me?"
Holy Spirit keeps graciously whispering answers to that question in my mind. He keeps guiding me. 

I believe the first thing I'm called to on this journey to thrive is to attend IF:Gathering 2017 in Austin, TX. Girls, that feels daunting! Leaving babies, flying across the country alone, staying with people I only know through social media...

Totally NOT typical Rachel. 
But since when does God do "typical"? 
He's calling me to step into the unknown and follow...and so I must. Anything else would be disobedience and that's simply not a place I'm willing to live. 
Risk is scary. It requires faith. Isn't that what the gospel is all about? 
Its risky. It requires faith. It goes against every logical bone in our being.
But its good. 

Other things Holy Spirit keeps whispering is that "thriving" looks simple. mundane. ordinary. 
Like investing in time with my family. Cooking meals. Running errands. 
Just doing those things with intention and focus and (are you ready for it?) JOY! 

He's impressed upon my heart a few categories or areas of my life where I can easily put a spirit of thriving into practice: 

those things I always want to do with my kids...but never do because of time? yeah. do those. make time. Focus on joy in parenting even in the hard. Spend special time with Michael to invest more deeply in our marriage. 
 Its simple things--like feeding kids early, putting them to bed and eating our dinner late...alone...and actually talking! 
Putting phones away, not even charging them in the bedroom, being less distracted.
Reading more to the kids. Playing outside more. 

recently my menu plan has gotten so "blah!". I like to rotate meals and make easy things that everyone enjoys, but I'm ready for some pep! Adding some new things and being a bit more adventurous. 
So I checked out some cookbooks from the library and despite having food limitations, I'm going to adapt some recipes from Pioneer Woman (and others). 
We picked up some maize flour at Jungle Jim's I can make my kids a Ugandan meal. 
Taco Tuesdays anyone? We've talked for a while about implementing a simple monthly taco night where the door is open for anyone to join. With littles and our schedule its hard but we want to make it work.  

books. piles and stacks and heaps of them! We love books and enjoy reading yet so often I get halfway through and find something else to read. 
Three specific things this year
finish books I've started
read at least 10 books I already own but never read
read more fiction

spiritual growth
in all my years as a believer, I've never made it through the Bible in a year (check the above section on reading...). I found a plan this year that is only 5 days per week which gives room to miss a day or two and not be completely defeated.
So that's the plan. Read through the Bible with this reading plan. I've done okay so far! We'll check in later in the year!

I'll be honest, so much is not nailed down for us this year. We see many changes on the horizon. Changes that in years past would have scared us. Things we would have said "definitely not" to feel like a peaceful "yes" now. We are even excited about things we said we would "never" do! Isn't God funny? He gives us our desires and changes them as He sees fit (Proverbs 21:1) for His purposes in our lives and for our Joy.

May you bloom into the person God has created YOU to be this year! 


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Taking Back Ground

4 minutes. 
Sold Out. 
In under 4 minutes. 

IF:Austin 2016.
And I got a ticket!

I was blown away! 

IF:Gathering has been such an integral piece of my story over the last four years and I while I had hosted IF:Local for three years, I wanted to attend the live gathering in Austin, TX. God granted me a ticket! I was stoked! I wasn't sure how I'd make it work, but I was so thankful to have at least gotten a ticket. That's the hardest part! 

So I started praying for the way to be prepared for me. 

A flight from Charleston to Austin isn't cheap...neither are hotel rooms for 3 nights. It wasn't looking very hopeful!

Cue February when my husband's 18-month position at our church came to an end, he still (after 6 months of looking) didn't have a full time position, the church decided they didn't want to extend his position at all, 70 % of our income was cut out of our budget over-night, and we were asked to live off of our (meager) savings...with two small children and a third on the way...

I determined there was no way I could go. 
I contacted IF:Gathering administration and asked that they give my ticket to the next person on the waiting list. 

I knew it was what I had to do. What was best for my family. 
But it was hard! That once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was snatched from me. I believe that Satan did everything he could to keep me from going. And he succeeded. 

But God...
I once again hosted an IF:Local (pretty spur-of-the-moment) and more than 40 women from several different churches from around the area attended. God blessed that gathering of women immensely! 

September of 2016 when tickets to IF:Austin 2017 were to go on sale, I decided to try again for a ticket. 

2 minutes. 
This year they sold out in 2 minutes.

And AGAIN I got a ticket!

So that once-in-a-lifetime thing that the Enemy tried to steal?
God gave it back. 
He is restoring what the enemy attempted to destroy. 
He has stolen much from our family in the last year, but we are taking back that ground in the coming days, months, years.  
We aren't exactly sure what that looks like, but it definitely encompasses taking full advantage of this opportunity in front of me.
Hubs and I are convinced that we aren't letting anything keep me from going. 

Yesterday I purchased my airline ticket! 
I'm working on plans for a place to stay. 

It is happening. 
I'm beyond thrilled and thankful! 
I have no idea what God wants to do in my heart while I am there, but its obvious that He wants me there. I have no doubt there will be obstacles (like leaving my 9-month old super-clingy-to-momma baby...) but I know I am to push through. I know I am supposed to be there. 

So, will you pray with me? Will you pray for my family while I am away  next month? Will you pray for flights to go as planned and obstacles to be minimal? 

This will be a spiritual battle in the heavenlies and the only way to fight it will be with the spiritual weapon of prayer that we have been given. 

If you'd like to help me get there, I am putting all proceeds from my Etsy shop this month toward the cost of the trip. 


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Year of "Rest"

2016 was the first time I chose one word for the year. 
It wasn't even that I had planned to but that Holy Spirit continued to impress upon my heart the word "rest", so I decided that was something to pay attention to and focus on. 

Initially I focused on physical rest.

Clearing my calendar. 

Learning to say "no" to things that weren't essential. 

Doing less. 

That was hard. I'm a person who enjoys being productive. I enjoy being involved with community and yet I was feeling called to give up so much of that. Pouring into my own family (mainly my children) more than others became a primary focus. But still slowing down is hard. 

Then things began to shift. I've mentioned before that we have faced a very difficult year and in February when things started to unravel the focus of this "rest" shifted from only physical to deeply spiritual. God was asking me to rest in Him. To simply "be" and allow Him to fight my battles. Allow Him to provide for me. Allow Him to protect me. Allow His plan to unfold rather than plowing through with what I thought the plan was. 

I snapped this picture a couple of days ago. 
My tiny girl completely at rest in the arms of her Papa. 
It completely captures the way God wanted me to rest in Him. Though I did not always have full trust like a sleeping babe in the arms of her Papa, I did learn to be more still and to wait on Him. 

And He proved faithful...time and time again. 

This Christmas wasn't what we expected. 

Our son was hospitalized for several days during the month of December and we still don't fully have a diagnosis as to what exactly was and is wrong. But that's another opportunity to rest in God's goodness. 

Just six days before Christmas my mother-in-law passed away unexpectedly. 
Two weeks in a row was were hit with very hard things. 
It definitely made for a difficult Advent and Christmas season. 
But again, it was an opportunity to rest. 

Despite all the hardships we have walked through this year, our family feels hopeful. 

God is proving faithful over and over. He is answering prayers. He is leading us. 

He is even allowing us to dream again.
Dream of the things He might have for us in the coming years. 

Just talking through a lot of hard things this week my husband referenced my word "rest". He said, "Don't you feel like its morphed so much this year? And now looking back at the end, we can see how so many of the things that held us captive, held us back from really running hard after God, have all been LAID TO REST."

Wow! Yes!
Until that moment I hadn't seen it, but that is true! 

So many of the things that kept us comfortable and kept us from fully pursuing dreams and callings (even good things like a community of people we love) have been laid to rest. They have been removed from our lives. And yes, we grieved. Oh! How we grieved the lose of so many things this calendar year! Death of relationships. Death of the vision we thought we were pursuing. Death (physical death) of loved ones (we lost my mother-in-law and also our family dog that had been with us for 8 years). 

So hard. So many tears.

While we still grieve some of those losses, there is hope in the grief. 
We are free from some of those things that were holding us in captivity. They've been laid to "rest". 

The work God has done in our hearts this year was excruciatingly painful. 
But now...NOW...looking back and looking forward--
all we see is redemption. Hope. Vision. Excitement. 

With the turning of the calendar we sense a turning of the tide. 
We are excited for what God has for our family this year.
We've spent hours over the last few weeks dreaming of what it will look like. Who knows...maybe we really have no clue what God intends for us this year, but its fun to dream! After several years of not having the freedom to dream our own dreams, we are reveling in the joy of dreaming God's dreams for us. Living loved. Following HIM. 

Thank you Jesus for 2016. 
For the hard ships and the glimmers of joy. 
For being a year that was painful...
for birthing so much out of that pain.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

She Believed She Couldn't...

I'm sure you've seen this quote floating around Pinterest...
or heard someone say it...

It's kind of inspiring, right? 
Don't get me wrong, I love the strength that God gives women and we seem to live in a culture (even within the church) that lives this belief out. Its a "boot straps" mentality. 

I recently heard someone challenge this quote with another...a better...a more accurate one. 

"She believed she couldn't, so God did!"

Several months ago during a time when my husband and I were being questioned regarding our call to pastor and plant a church, I was asked, "So do you think you're ready to be a pastor's wife?" This question with it's tone came as a shock to me. A fellow Christ-follower was the one asking...and asking with a hint of "I don't think you're ready" inflection. What shocked me wasn't the question it self or the tone with which it was asked. What shocked me the belief system behind that question. The belief that I could actually "be ready" for something that huge. 

If I had answered yes, I would have proved that I indeed was not ready. I would simply have proved arrogance. 
How arrogant would it be for me to say, "I'm absolutely ready! I've got this under control" because that's basically saying, "I don't need God for any of's all me. I got it"

My answer
"No. I'm not ready. And I'll never be ready. That's why I need Jesus! It isn't faith if I don't need Jesus...if I can do it all myself." 

Do I believe I'm ready for the challenges ahead? 
Do I think I've got it under control? 

Absolutely not. 
But that's the beauty of the kingdom of  God. 

We can't. He can. 

His power is made perfect in our weakness. 

It's His work...not mine. I'm only called to obey His call and He will fulfill the rest. 

I've thought many times about answering that same question again.
If I'm ever asked again, I'll say the same thing and maybe add a little. 

"If you're asking me if I'm ready to plaster a smile on my face each Sunday, make sure my children's hair is perfectly combed and they behave in an acceptable manner, respond 'I'm fine' when asked how I'm doing, live in fear of what other's expect or think of me as a 'pastor's wife' then NO...I'll never be ready. BUT, if you're asking me if I'm ready to stand beside my husband, walk alongside fellow believers who are hurting, empathize with the lonely, walk out my own life without fear of man, show my weakness because its how others come to see the power of the gospel in my life, imperfectly yet intentionally seek to raise babies who grow to adults who love Jesus, and give my heart to those I serve as we walk imperfectly together, sin against one another, and worship at the foot of the cross...then my answer is YES!" 

I'm not "ready" because I can perform. I'm not "ready" because I can say the right things or do the acceptable thing. I'm not "ready" because I've mastered the art of life in a fish bowl. 
I'm only "ready" when I can recognize my brokenness and take it to Jesus. I'm only "ready" when I see that out of my deepest pain can come my greatest joy. I'm only "ready" when I'm walking with Holy Spirit toward the freedom and healing He is leading me toward...surrendered to Him. 

You may not be called to a man who is in ministry. You may be called to be a mother. To be a friend. To be a writer. To be a teacher. To be a nurse. To be a loving neighbor. To be a barista. To be an encouragement to someone. To be a light of the gospel in your workplace. Whatever it is you are called to, you aren't ready. You aren't capable. But if you're a Jesus follower, you know the one who is. His power lives in you. Rest there. Rest in your inability and His ability. When you know you can't you are in exactly the right place for seeing Holy Spirit take over and move in ways you've never dreamed. 

Ladies of the church, may we not buy into the "boot straps, believe in yourself and you can conquer anything" mentality of the world...but may we embrace the truth that we are broken, weak, and in desperate need of Jesus daily. 

Let's stop standing on the stage of performance 

Let's lay at the foot of the cross...

because only then will we have power...
only then will we be "ready" for what God has called us to. 

*This post was birthed after listening to The God Centered Mom Podcast with Lara Casey. The quote was hers and it settled deep in my heart and caused all of these thoughts to spill out. I want to be sure to give credit where it is due, so please take a moment to listen to this episode if you resonate with these thoughts." 


Monday, December 12, 2016

He Who Breaks the Silence

Psalm 40 is not typically what you think of when you think of Scripture that references Christmas or the Advent season. But God placed these verses in my path last week and they have ministered so much grace to my soul! 

Advent--the arrival of a notable person, thing or event.

The beginning of the Christian church calendar year,  advent is the season (including four Sundays) leading up to the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ--Christmas. 

In my mind Advent is a season of waiting. Waiting on the arrival of a very notable person--Jesus. 

While he has already come, taking time out each year to wait for the celebration of his birth is important. The anticipation. The inward longing. 

As a child I waited to open gifts. That was the "notable event"! 
As an adult, I'm seeing more and more the joy in simply savoring Jesus--THE Gift. 

This Advent season has held highs and lows, ups and downs. Many are the moments I have longed to just hear Holy Spirit or see Him move in situations that I cannot control. I have prayed and begged to see Him. To hear Him. To deeply feel and know His love. This has been a very different Advent season. It hasn't held the same things that the last several years have held. We have experienced a lot of physical sickness and much soul grief. Yet there is joy. There is joy in the promise that Jesus is coming. Joy in knowing that He goes before us and makes our steps secure. Joy in believing that He alone is our rock. 

"I waited patiently for the Lord..."

I can't guarantee that I have or am waiting patiently! That's the hard part! 

"He set my feet upon a rock making my steps secure"

How many times this season I have thought about the Jewish people. The ones who didn't hear God for 400 years. The ones who wondered where He was! The ones who longed to hear His voice or see His good works. 

And there my heart resonates...and is convicted. 

I feel that longing that I'm certain the Israelites felt. The thing is, they felt it for MUCH longer! 400 years is an immensely long season of waiting. The last few months have felt like an eternity for me, but I simply cannot imagine 400 years. No wonder hearts grew faint in the waiting for the Christ. No wonder there were doubters. I understand in a deeper way the doubts and fears in the waiting for the Rescuer! 

From this side of the manger, it should be easier to wait well. We have seen the life of Christ through the account of the Gospels and we have Holy Spirit with us continually. The Jewish people had neither of those things to rest on. But they clung to promises...promises like Psalm 40. They clung to stories of God's provision, protection, and faithfulness as told to them by their grandparents....great grandparents. 

Yet we are still humans with tendencies to doubt what we cannot see. Waiting requires great faith. Great trust in what we cannot fully see at the moment. 

All He asks is for us to wait on Him and He will do the rest. 

May we each experience the groaning and agony of the silent waiting season because only then can we experience the full joy of arrival of Jesus--the seeing, the hearing, the knowing...the end of the waiting. 

Our Rescuer has come. 
He breaks the silence.
He shines light in darkness.
He redeems. 
He fights.
He directs.
He protects.
He defends. 
He has won the war against humanity. 

The waiting may seem dark and silent...but the hope is that the Light is coming for you and for me. 

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