Sunday, December 1, 2013

Joy Dare, Week 4 (and then some): Miracles, Nebraskans, Red Lights

Day 22: A Gift Grateful
Time with Emily and her husband Tim, Joy
Time with my teammates from Nebraska, Friends
The Lord, and His Might

Day 23: 3 Gifts Only in Christ
Miracles, Jamie and Eric having beautiful, prayed over, miracle baby Brookie
Grace, In seeing God cover over many sins in my life
Multiplying Human efforts for Greater purposes, in seeing the growth out of hard things

Day 24: 3 Gifts Humble
Workshop on diversity, Oh how little I know!
Concert of Prayer, wow..such a need for laborers!
Time with Barb, a dear living legend who initiated time with me!

Day 25: 3 Gifts Ugly-Beautiful
The cold, not-so sunny weather
My heart
Sweaty hugs goodbye from dear friends after a dance.

Day 26: 3 Gifts Preparing
Processing time to prepare my heart for the week
Preparing to have a voice with men through women's workshop
Preparing for a fun dinner with dear single women friends at a fancy restaurant

Day 27: A Gift Handemade, Held, Happy
A pumpkin chai, made by mom when I got home for Thanksgiving

Day 28: 3 Gifts in Community
Interesting conversation
Funny and wise older people
Kind hearts in the unexpected

Day 29: 3 Gifts Red
Red Nail Polish
Red Candle
Red Christmas lights on tree downtown

Day 30: 3 Gifts Astonishing
Greek ministry growth
Auburn beats Alabama
Cookout fun with Dad

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Joy Dare, Week 3: Aunt Status, Golden, Singleness

Joy Dare, Week 3

Day 15: 3 Gifts Golden: 
Starbucks Gold Card,
Little Gold shoes on a baby,
Gold staircase at the Oxford Exchange where we had Girl staff time.

Day 16: 3 Gifts Hard Eucharisto: 
Ann Voskamp describes it as the hard discipline to lean into the ugly…the hard times… and still be able to give thanks, find joy, find grace.)
For my years of singleness in my 20's as I think its helped me know myself more.
For  the lack of Bible Study women leaders, as I think its an opportunity to trust Jesus.
For raising support. Though hard at times, its one of the main things that has increased my trust in God the last 6 years.

Day 17: 3 Gifts of Laughter 
Laughing with Katie
Laughing with Mom
Hearing a little child laugh at the store

Day 18: A Gift made, shared, passed on
Two cupcakes from Dough Bakery, made by the baker, shared with my friend Laura who flew in from Kansas, and passed on to each other to try the other cupcake!

Day 19: 3 Gifts Autumn
Cotton on the side of the road as we drove on a rode trip
Cooler weather as we drove north

Day 20: 3 Gifts of Traditions
The Navigators and their dedication to Spiritual Generations
Heart Conversations at conferences with the single ladies
Seeing Deb pray for people at the conference

Day 21: 3 Gifts Family
My mom
My sister
My new niece or nephew coming in May:)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Joy Dare, Week 2: Freedom, Veterans, Pumpkins

Sweet, Salty, Sipped
Galatians 5

Day 8: A gift Sweet, Salty, Sipped: Starbucks Salted Caramel Mocha

Day 9: 3 Gifts from Harvest: Pumpkins, Butternut Squash, Honey Crisp Apples

Day 10: 3 Gifts found in Bible Reading: 
Galatians 5:1--Christ set me free to be free.
Galatians 5:6--Faith expressing itself through love is what counts, not how perfectly I do things.
Galatians 5:22--Things that come with Spirit living that I didn't earn, that are mine without limit

Day 11: 3 Gifts of Remembrance: 
My Grandfather LaFrance who served as a Marine. I never met him, but I see him as a hero.
My Grandmother who served as a Navy Nurse during WWII.
My Aunt Ann, who served in the Navy Reserves.
Thank you Veterans.

Day 12: 3 Gifts at Noon: Our first year Edgers: Katie, Austin and Maggie at staff meeting! Love them and so thankful for them!

Day 13: 3 Gifts Behind a Door: A blast of cool air outside the front door, Kim and Melanie at worship night, vegetable soup in the cabinet

Day 14: 3 Gifts Silence: First few moments waking up, Sitting by the fountain in Hyde Park, Right before bed minutes

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Joy Dare, Week 1: Curry, Kicks, and Freedom of Religion

God is giving amazing things to us all the time. In daily circumstances, He often steps in and crosses the heavenly threshold to remind us of relationship with Him. As I mentioned in my previous post, I've decided to take Ann Voskamp's Joy Dare challenge from her blog, based off her popular book 1000 gifts. Here is a record of this week's little joys, given from the Lord to me:

Student Prayers at USF

Day 1:  3 Gifts Eaten: Masaman Curry, Pumpkin Doughnut Hole, Baby Townhouse Crackers

Day 2: 3 Gifts Worn: Red Button Earrings, New Gray Kicks, FSU Shirt on a winning game day

Day 3: 3 Gifts that start with N: Night Chat with Charlene on Porch, Nice Weather and a picnic with  Mom on the porch, Nap after church

Day 4: A Gift Gathered, Given, Good: Gathered: friends for Bible study, Given: workshop on rest and work, Good: reminder from Elaine from Jesus Calling

Day 5: 3 Gifts-Acorn Size: Little white flowers on my walk.

Day 6: 3 Gifts Government: Freedom of Religion, The Postal Service, Education

Day 7: 3 Gifts from my Window: Shawna, Firepit, Rays of Sunshine

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Crime to Report

I have a crime to report. 

Someone stole my joy this week and I want it back. 

I also want to testify that there were other victims this week of the same culprit. As I sat and heard the heavy hearts of various friends, I realized that before I could look around, mine had also been snatched.  One glance away, and gone!

The truth is, sometimes life is just plain hard. Heartbreaking stories of depression, sin and its consequences, broken relationships, dying loved ones, general ungratefulness, lies that have replaced truth, and unbearable stress that causes tears can wear you down. And the more you hear, the harder it is to remember that there is hope for this joy to be restored.

This week, as I've mourned over the stolen goods and waited for the thief to be taken down, another one reared its head. Comparison, thief's nasty sidekick.

Teddy Roosevelt says "Comparison is the Thief of Joy." 

Not only did I mourn with the heartaches, losses and sadness, but I started looking at the stories of blessing from the non-victims with a sinister, ugly scowl. If I'm suffering, and these friends are suffering, how dare you share your good stories with us? And comparison distracted me while the thief stealthily snuck by, joy in tow. 

When I talked to one who guards the joy, He reminded me that He brings justice to the injustice and healing to the broken. The Lord heard my story, and came to assist. Not just assist, but to restore. Not just to restore, but to renew. Not just to renew, but to fight. And to conquer. And to free. And to secure. And to increase.

In Galatians 4,  the Holy Spirit, reminded me that I have the rights of freedom. That I am adopted by the one who calls the shots. That what is most perplexing is believing that bondage and slavery to death is actual reality and that joy is steal-able. But joy is not take-able. In actuality, joy is a gift that comes from living out of the good news. 

And the good news is this: that Jesus Christ has conquered all culprits of joy theft. 

Truly, this world is hard. But there is a better destiny, a restored order. In Jesus Christ, all things hold together and every tear is wiped away.  My joy and the joy of my friends is actually hidden in the incomparable riches of Christ, and our names are written in the book of life. These are things that can never rust, spoil, fade or be taken from us. And inheritance beyond here. And that is where joy is found! And that is where joy lives. Untouched by the world and its scheming thieves.

So like the psalmist writes in Psalm 42:5, we can say

"Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

My prayer this week, for these friends and for myself, is this: That in constant renewal and time with the Father, healing and wholeness and joy will make a clean sweep through our hearts. That we would be reminded that what we suspected was actually gone for good, never made its way past the door of our hearts. That the thief and his nasty sidekick have actually been defeated for years, starting the day Jesus died and rose. That Jesus' fulfillment of the law made a binding covenant with us where joy permanently resides. Oh the greatness of the King of Kings! Thank you,  dear Lord, for your victorious self!

In facing these things, I've decided to recall this joy to mind by taking the Joy Dare. Afterall, a grateful heart, is a joy-filled heart and leaves no room for evidence left by two locked up convicts. 

I believe this calls for a celebration. I mean after all, we can all agree that this case is now closed and joy is in order.

This blog brought to you by: Nice weather and Grilled Cheese on the porch with Mom. (The first of my Joy Dare answers!)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Land of More

Last week I made the 10 hour trek from Florida to Tennessee to serve on the director's team for the Navigator's summer program! Today is an exciting day! Our student team leaders arrive with their hearts full and their cars packed for a summer of leaning into the Lord, impacting college students from all over the southeast with the Gospel, and growing in character, wisdom, faith and skill.  They will be joined in a few days by the 120+ students who will be under their leadership and participating in SMS2013.

I have been challenged this week with my own inadequacy. I've been fighting a cold, some emotional ups and downs, and a bit of overwhelmedness, thinking, "Can I really handle the pace of the program and run with these students for the summer?"

This is when the Lord continues to remind me, "Rachel, not your strength, but mine. Not your ability, but my power through you. Where you are weak, dear girl, I am strong! The author of strength." 

This has been encouraging to me.

On a different note, I have taken several walks and breathed in the commercial mountain air of Pigeon Forge! It is crazy how many shows, shops, and neon signs line this town. I'm excited to check some of them out, but I realize that Pigeon Forge, who's slogan is "The Land of More" never likes silence or solitude. Its actually a kind of exhausting reality of how our world longs to be filled, and fills themselves with entertainment, earthly purchases, and grossly overpriced expenditures. 

Yet, beyond the parkway, are some amazing views of the Smoky Mountains! The Lord has used this to say "Look beyond the circumstances, the hustle and bustle, and see me! Keep your eyes fixed above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3).  The real "Land of More" lies in Jesus Christ, who purchased us with his blood and filled us with all the full measure of Christ (Ephesians 3). This too has been good for my heart.
Smoky Mountains and the Parkway from my Room!

I've also visited the local Walmart where, my roommate for the summer says, "Walmart is where everyone and their momma and their Bubba go to shop." I will say, in that one 30-minute trip I saw more beards and more mullets than maybe in all my life.

Please pray for the program as we all get excited for all the students to come this week:)  

This blog brought to you by Dolly Parton, who started Dollywood here and who, regardless of who you are,  will always love you.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Flock of Birds and A Chance Meeting

Boarding my connecting flight in Dallas, I made my way past my boss' seat and two other people going to the same conference as myself on how to train new staff.  Row 18..row 20...row 21. 21D. I take a deep breath. I put my red carry-on suitcase into the compartment overhead, sit down, buckle up and try not to focus on the last experience I had on a plane. I decide to take the inevitable risk of saying hi  to the person next to me, hoping to get my mind off myself. For the first time I look over and I actually take note and evaluate the state of the blonde lady in the window seat, and realize she looks a little like I feel.

"Hi. I'm Rachel. Are you ok?" (I try saying this without being offensive, as I notice her puffy red eyes with smeared blue eyeliner and disheveled hair.)

"No. No, I'm really not! Ive had the worst day," said my window seat companion with a panic in her eye.

"What happened?" 

At this point she starts waving her hands like she's having a hot flash and says, "my first plane caught on fire and we had an emergency landing. I was sitting next to the engine, I look out my window and I see a flock of birds fly into the engine." She gasps a little as the plane we are on revs up. "I can't do this! I can't do this," she says. 

"Wait what?!"

"On the first plane, I saw the flames and I smelled that awful smell, and smoke came through the cabin...and the air masks..and I texted my husband "I love you..I love you" over and over...Oh, I shouldn't be on this plane. But I've been waiting for 5 hours to fly to see my best friend in Colorado." She quickly closes the shade as our plane moves faster.

"What! That is crazy," I exclaim. "How are you feeling? You are brave to get on a second flight today," I say.  At this point, I ask a few more questions about what happened, but quickly realize that she may have a repeat of my own anxiety attack a month earlier if we continue to talk about the emergency landing. So, for a few minutes I try to calm her down. I ask about her kids, her husband and how they met. This seems to work. She shows me pictures on her phone. 

But after a few minutes, when the plane is still bouncing as it comes to altitude, I realize she is still not doing great. "I'm such a mess! I know its a hard story to believe! I'm sorry you have to sit next to me," she weakly smiles.

"Hey, Melissa...Can I tell you something? A month ago, I was on a plane, and had an anxiety attack, that I thought was a heart attack. So I kinda get it! And I've been nervous to fly on this plane too, because I've been wondering if I might have another anxiety episode."Would it be ok if I pray for us?"

At this Melissa grabs my hand dramatically and immediately bows her head with determination. Then she looks up, "I knew you were a Christan. Ok. Go!" She returns to prayer state. I say a quick prayer and then we continue talking.

I find out she has two kids, that her and her husband were high school sweethearts, that she's mad at the airline for not doing anything when all that happened earlier. I learn that she lives in Houston and has a new ATV that is bumblebee yellow--"to match my hair as it bounces in the wind." 

Then she asks the inevitable question. "Are you married? Do you have kids?" I tell her no, and she says "Don't worry, don't worry. I just know this is going to happen for you! You have a good heart. This is going to happen. You will get married, don't worry. Don't settle, but don't worry. You have a good heart." She repeats this probably 5 time throughout the remainder of our flight.  

After a little while,  she pulls out a encyclopedia size book, and shows it to me. "Actually I have this children's Bible that I borrowed from my son. I started this morning and because its been such a terrible day, I read from Genesis to Zephaniah." 

"You read all of this today?" I ask! 

"Yes! Its been a pretty stressful day! Did you know Moses wrote the first 5 books of the Bible? I didn't know that, but that's amazing to me. I want to read the real Bible someday, but don't know where to start."

 At this point, I get to share a Bible reading plan with her and she's so excited! "Yes! A Bible reading plan. You and I were suppose to sit next to eachother," she exclaims. And then "You wait for the right one, honey. You have a good heart. I know you won't be single forever."

I laugh to myself at how random and awesome this lady is.

By the end of it, I had a new friend in Texas, a place to stay if I ever come, food to eat that she will cookout for me, and a free pass to ride the yellow ATV, which "also will look great with your hair color, honey." She gave me a hug, thanked me, exchanged emails and numbers, and walked away as my director stared incredulously with wonder on his face. He said "Let me guess.." 

I interrupted and said "There is no way you will figure out what just happened. Its a CRAZY story."

As I walked out of the airport, I thought about how thankful I was that these things happen in life. When you bump into someone's life with your own, and you have an encounter that makes you friends, even for a moment, that's a real look into humanity. That somehow, ordained by God's sovereignty, I sat next to a lady on a plane who was in a worse state than I was, and helped me with my anxiety as I helped calm hers. That I could pass on a tool that's helped me in reading the Bible, and help her. That I was welcomed and loved by a random lady in the midst of something I was really nervous about. Really, it was God helping both of us. Its like this quote:

"Along the way you bump into people who make a dent on your life."~The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Thanks to my airplane friend, that dent was actually not a dent at all, but a blessing. 

This Blog brought to you by the ATV dealers of Texas and a God who knows the combined number of blonde hairs located in American Air flight, Row 21, where two random friends met one day in April.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Learning to be Irresponsible

I used to refer to responsibility as the “R” word. When I was 17 or 18, I loathed it. Isn’t it funny how something you loathe can quickly become something not only that you decide is good, but that you take on to a fault? 

This is what happened to me. Somewhere along the line, the “R” word became the adjective that I would put at the beginning of my name to play that “Get to know you game” that RA’s use for their floor during freshman year of college. Responsible Rachel, that’s me. 

Now, if you would have asked me if that is what I LIKED to be called, I would have psh-ed at you and given you a smirky "are you serious?!" look with a roll of the eyes. But, somehow, over the years, Responsible Rachel became more of a definition rather than a description, and an identity more than an identifier.

In the last three week, Responsible Rachel has been thrown into a tizzy seeing that despite her best effort, this fallacy she believes to be true, is actually quite the opposite of true.  To her shock and somewhat annoyance, She can hardly believe that she is not responsible for every person, every dish that needs cleaned on the counter, every problem happening in people's lives, and every perception of herself. 

The unraveling of Responsible Rachel came in the form of physical anxiety,  a perceived false heart attack on a plane. While Responsible Rachel became “Checking my Respiratory breathing and Rate of Heart Rachel" in seat 19D, in the back of her mind she thought, I hope that old redneck sort of a guy across the isle doesn’t have to become responsible if I have a heart attack. What is that! In the midst of my physical angst, I was thinking about how the guy across the isle would feel if I had a heart attack, deciding I would be responsible for his angst!

Something is seriously wrong with that picture. And with my thinking.

When I realized Responsible Rachel was not having a heart attack, just a break down, I quickly tried to pull it together, followed by a phone call to my Medical Mother, followed by a series of days where I actually couldn’t pull it together as I seeked help from a counselor, a doctor, friends and family.

Now, three weeks later, I am still struggling some with anxiety and learning how much of what I think I’m worth is wrapped up in how responsible I am. Thankfully, the Gracious God that we have is slowly showing me that Responsible is not the descriptor he wants in the front of my name as my definition. In his severe mercy, my descriptor is becoming stale and boring.

When telling my director in ministry about these anxiety things, he sincerely told me, “Rachel, you need to learn to be Irresponsible.” 

He didn’t mean I should stop wearing deodorant, show up three hours late to meet friends for lunch, or ignore engine lights in my car. What he meant was, I need to let go and say, you know what? That’s not my responsibility to deal with or fix. To say “no” to things and be ok with it. To recognize I am not anyone’s Savior or Fixer. There is only One that can do that for all human kind. His name is Jesus, the One and Only (John 1:14). How’s that for an Identity descriptor. That I need to be ok with not being in charge and need to surrender to the one who is. That I need to let Jesus’ love define me, not how much I can do in a day or how well I do those things. 

So this is where I am. I’m shedding Responsible as my identity for something else. For What? Ive decided I’m not coming up with one right now. I’m irresponsibly leaving that responsibility up to Jesus . I’m going to just relax and lean on Him for that answer and enjoy the freedom found in His responsible act on the cross. And that’s where I’m going to be defined. 

This Blog brought to you by College Resident Assistants around the nation, that join floors of crazy freshman together into life long friendships through games that later people blog about.

And now for your enjoyment, a throwback Thursday picture of my Freshman friends: