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. 

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