Last year when the Top Nine came out, it got me thinking about the whole year. I went back and reread what I wrote last year to refresh my memory and to kind of kick start the writing for this year. In 2017, I started with the importance of remembrance and how it’s a Biblical truth for us to remember. But there are some years where it’s just difficult and painful to remember. I can’t say this year was crazy difficult or painful, but it was full of change, yet so much maintained the same. The spiritual battle of doubt was strong, maybe even more than usual, so this whole idea of looking backward is definitely more challenging this year than it was last year. As I read through last year’s review, it was almost as if 2017 Rachel was preparing 2018 Rachel for the “A Year in Review” Blog:
But what if, the year in review wasn’t just about our life’s circumstances but about what God did? What would a year in review be like then?
It is a Biblical truth for us to remember what God has done in and through our lives. All throughout the Bible, God calls His people to remember all that He has done.
Remembering what God has done for you, helps you remember God is mighty–even in the midst of seasons of sorrow.
Yes! Yes! Yes!
This year may not have been the easiest, but God is still in control. He’s still good. He’s still consistent. Just because change occurred or things maintained the same, God is still working–whether I’m actively aware of it or not. Knowing seasons come and go, I knew the blessing of 2017 as sweet as it was wouldn’t last forever because there has to be be a change in season at some point. And sometimes season changes are hard.
Similar to the seasons we experience in nature, things are bright and enjoyable like summer. Then fall occurs, and we have the changing colors which is beautiful, but the leaves are falling. With winter, the tree only has branches and plants are in hibernation. Snow comes and may even kill off some plants. Yet spring is right around the corner. The colors are coming back and there’s new life in the plants that once were dead.
The same is true for our lives. Each season offers something different, whether in summer or winter, or the years full of blessing or heartache; there’s something necessary about each season.
Where is God working in each season? How is He working in you? me?
At the end of 2017, God prepared me for the season to change. He showed me Romans 8:37 which says, “in all these things we are more than conquerors though Him who loved us.” This verse became my prayer, my anthem, and my reminder for 2018. The more I started to meditate on this verse, I thought about it backwards:
- “Him who loved us“–Wow! God loves me! This was huge. When the season changes, this can be the first thing we forget, but yet God shares His love to us–to me! This was a midst in walking through a changing season. Remembering that no matter what, God’s love is consistent and never changing and always there.
- “through Him“–This was huge for me! I came to the realization that I can’t do it. I can’t change life. I can’t fight the war against doubt on my own. I can’t serve in the church in my own strength. I can’t do it!! But God said, it’s only THROUGH HIM. In fact, this was so influential on me, I have it painted above my bed. Through Him because He loved me! Not because I offered anything, but just because of who God is.
- “we are more than conquerors through Him“–God gives all who trust in Him a name here: CONQUERORS. This is a battle word. It’s not a dainty, “let’s go have a cup of tea” kind of word, but a word with vivid imagery of strength and winning after a battle. Season changes are hard sometimes because we have to fight things–maybe sin, relationships, temptations, or difficult circumstances. But I learned this year I am conqueror not because I’m super awesome. But because He loved me! It doesn’t say I’m a conqueror because of all the effort I placed fighting my sin or manipulating my circumstances, but rather God’s Word says I’m a conqueror through Him because He loved me.
- “in ALL these things“–All may be a small word, but it includes everything. No matter what the season brings, it ALL works out for my good and for His glory. When I face the change, that’s included in the word ALL. I can be a conqueror of change because it’s through Him who loves me. When I face consistency and I just want it to change, I can wait knowing I’m a conqueror through Him who loves me.
Regardless of season, God is GOOD! Rejoice in who He is and remember all He has done! Take a look with me through 2018, and I would love to hear what God did in your year! Let me know by leaving a comment!
Friends and Community
I’m super thankful for the group of friends God placed in my life through the coffee shop! They seriously are a safe haven! We don’t get together as much as I would like to see everyone because the season is changing. We have married, engaged, and dating couples and us who are single! There have been new jobs or promotions. Our Bible study didn’t happen like it did last year, but not knowing when I would see everyone next, made me cherish the moments we did get together. We had a random dinner at Azzip at the beginning of the year, moving me, Pumpkin Carving, and Gingerbread House Decorating.
I love any chance to gather people together to worship, learn, and be in community. If:Gathering was and is that! Last year, we had about 50+ women gather together. It was absolutely beautiful. This was one of those faithful moments where God totally outshines Himself. Most people don’t know, but I contacted the church about hosting in November and needed to make a few more contacts before given the seal of approval. I hadn’t heard anything, so I went ahead and signed up thinking I would host people at my house because I was knew I should host the event! Literally on Christmas Eve 2017, I got approval and the event was in about a month. Planning kicked off quick as well as registration! And let me tell you, what I thought was only going to be a small gathering in my house ended up being a church/community event for women in the area to grow in their faith!
Not to mention the event itself was over the battle between doubt and faith. Things I had been battling spiritually were confronted head on through different speakers. Doubting God’s ability to change circumstances in the midst of everything changing, I started to doubt God. One of the speakers taught over Paul and Silas when they were in chains and I remember her saying worship was their battle cry. Since then, I’ve worship through the circumstances to see the Lord more clearly inspire of circumstances not changing.
Oh the joy! NOT! This has been a true test of faith from beginning to present time. A couple of years ago, I started feeling the Lord press on my heart writing. I didn’t know what this meant as to whether or not I would be writing a book someday or simply working in publishing. But also as a teacher in Kentucky, I knew eventually I would need my Masters to keep my license, but I didn’t want to waste money until I knew it was what God wanted. I started looking into different jobs in writing and the job description requested a Masters in English–which makes sense. After searching through all the different degree programs in Kentucky, there was only one place to go–Murray State. I applied. I was accepted. I enrolled.
So as you read through all these different moments, remember I took classes through all this. I cannot do any of it–especially grad school–without God. I knew I would fail if I didn’t keep Him at the center. And taking these classes, I’ve had the opportunity to talk about faith whether that be analyzing Matt Chandler’s sermons or poetry (thank you Lord for taking that class).
Here’s the irony, and really how you know God wants me to get a degree in English–I completed 6 hours of classes in the Spring Term, 9 hours of classes over the Summer, and then took another 6 hours of classes in the Fall Term. Now, to keep my teaching license in Kentucky, I needed 15 hours of coursework by Spring of 2019. Then an email was sent to everyone in the state in September stating a Masters degree is no longer required to keep teaching. LOL. Really? So here I am, three classes and a test shy of a degree. Don’t worry. God’s made it clear I need the degree. It will be finished! But you have to love the humor!
Worship is a huge part of my heart! This year, I was able to see Rend Collective, the Outcry Tour, and Lauren Daigle–not including the concerts I have on the weekly basis blaring the radio in the car or in my room.
There’s something about worshiping the Lord with others that is a glimpse of heaven. Rend Collective released their album Good News and hearing the album live was incredible! With life changing, their song “Weep With Me” stuck out to me so much. Their concerts are so full of celebration in God’s glory, but they took a second and understood not every season feels like a party, yet God is still good and can be glorified.
Outcry was great! So many different artists all in one place, but the worship was so real and authentic. Praising God focuses my mind on Him and not on the things around me. With so many new things in buying a house and grad school, and then things not changing, I was (am) desperate for God. Worship is a cure for my aching heart! Not to mention going with some good friends from church was a blast!
Where do I start? I literally L.O.V.E. my church. The people are incredible. Don’t get me wrong we’re sinners, definitely not perfect, but they are so great! We had a church wide emphasis on sharing the Gospel. Can we just take a moment and celebrate a church encouraging and providing a means of accountability for the church to share the Gospel? It’s so awesome! The goal was to have 1000 Gospel conversations this year and as of December 23, we had 1198 conversations. This is exciting!
Our Women’s Ministry is awesome! Julie Greenbank does an awesome job organizing different events for all of us to get together. I went to Los Bravos a couple of times and to the big summer party at Julie’s house for a cookout! These women offer so much knowledge and wisdom coming from all different perspectives and places in life!
In January, I started looking for a new place to live because the gracious family I lived with for two years needed the barn for baseball practice (they alone are a blessing from the Lord). I cannot tell you how great it was to live there! The barn holds so many dear memories from tricycle rides to the kids coming down and making desserts! But after looking at several different houses, I settled on the perfect house! I knew from the moment I walked in the house, it was my house!
I closed on the house on April 4th and immediately started renovations. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted and with the help of my parents, the Gartons, and a few friends the updates were completed in two weeks. Literally in one night the house went from dirty yellow walls to an uplifted gray with white molding. Everything happened so fast and by April 14th, it was time for move-in. I had quite the little army helping me move from the barn to the house! It’s amazing how God provides the people in every season.
Even though the house is still going through a facelift, it’s no longer the scary house that Emily and Lauren first visited; but now it’s a home. It’s been a great place to host people and I’m so excited to see what the Lord does through this house. Since I started looking for a house, my prayer has been God would make it a place of refuge and strength for anyone who walks in. It’s seriously not my house because I never saw myself buying a home by myself, so clearly this was a God thing! It’s not mine; it’s His! I’m excited to see what He does!
This year was so full of so many adventures. Every time I get out of Evansville, I try so hard to use it as a chance to rest my heart. I’ve learned over the years I have to find rest in God alone. As the seasons change, it’s so important for me to find those moments wherever I go, and sometimes it’s nice to get away. I went to Nashville and visited my dear friend Nichole! Although we aren’t together much, we pick up where we left off and she encourages me along the way. Together, we went to The Belonging Church, and it never ceases to amaze me how God speaks exactly what I need to hear when I need to hear it. He used this mini adventure as a way to speak truth into my heart!
Fast forward to the summer, I made my second trip to The Keys with Mikayla and Drew and our friend Nick joined us. We drove this year. Note to self–it’s worth the money to fly! Don’t worry, I didn’t fry myself like I did last year! The landscape was slightly different with the hurricane that blew through the year before. It was crazy to compare pictures of our trip in 2017 to 2018. The highlight of the trip was watching Drew propose to Mikayla! Of course she said yes! I’m so excited to celebrate their marriage this upcoming year!
If you’re ever wondering whether or not you should disciple someone, the answer should be a yes! There are so many benefits to it, including strengthening your own faith. In the spring, I was able to lead our high school girls small group! I love them all so much! It doesn’t take long before they become a big part of my life!
Emily and Lauren graduated from North this year leaving our small group, but our friendship goes on! At this point, my house is like their second home! I love having them over, even if they take “Welcome to Rachel’s NEW House” videos! No matter what I can count on them for a life.
One-on-one discipleship continued with Macci. She started her senior year in the fall and has applied for college (I’m only crying that another one of my girls is graduating and about to head off to college). It’s been awesome watching her wrestle with God over her future. I’ve watched her surround her plans to whatever He has in store! Her boldness in her faith, encourages me to be just as bold.
I also started meeting with Ashley this year! She’s so talented and way more intelligent than me! I have to ask her sometimes to dumb it down for me! Regardless, God is doing some mighty things through her. One of my favorite things about Ashley is her heart for people. It doesn’t matter age, intelligence, beliefs, or whatever else about you; she wants you to know you are loved and she offers it so well. She is gracious and kind. If anything, God has used Ashley to teach me how to be kind to myself and accept grace and compassion.
One very unexpected discipleship relationship happened with a long-time friend from high school, Sam. Sam and I have known each other for 12 years. We’ve not been intentional all those years mainly because she was a senior when I was a freshman. It was an unlikely friendship in high school, but God had such bigger plans. Here we are 12 years later, and I get the opportunity to go through Ephesians with her. It’s been a giant blessing, but we don’t have any pictures together yet! 😦 What went from high school, to random hellos, to an intentional coffee date, is now weekly discipleship. So many things have happened in those 12 years for us to be where we are today, but God used Sam to show me He is always at work behind the scenes. Literally, everything in life is on purpose and there’s not one thing God doesn’t see.
I prayed last year that I wanted to see God save 30 people this year–and I did. Our church saw so many salvations in Ecuador through the three mission trips there, and then at camp, I watched student after student stand proclaiming Jesus as their Lord and Savior. But personally I’ve seen God save 12 people I’m close with!
Shawn kicked off the year by getting baptized in January. Although baptism doesn’t save you, Shawn proclaimed Jesus as His Lord and Savior. Since then, he’s gone to be with the Lord, but watching Shawn share his story through writing was a commonality between the two of us.
I will never forget the day Ashley came to know Jesus. It was a random snow day and Lauren called me to come talk to a couple of her friends about Jesus; Ashley was there but wasn’t the one we were actually talking to. However, it was through this conversation God worked and revealed to her she wasn’t a believer. Ashley and I were in the car headed to Azzip when she said she needed Christ as her Savior and Lord.
Kayley is a special one! This sweet girl came to visit me in December at my classroom. I knew then she wanted to have a serious conversation, but I brushed it off. I left that conversation super convicted because I felt God encouraging me to have a spiritual conversation with her. It took until February for us to meet up, but when we did, she chose to place her faith in Christ!
Joe came to know Christ through Ashely’s story. When they say the multiplication process happens when you come to know the Lord–it’s real! You can’t help but tell others about what Jesus has done in your life.
Alex is a former SMS teacher and I love hanging out with him and his wife McKenzie at Proper. They are regulars as much as I am. But I got a text from McKenzie saying Alex had decided to follow Christ and was getting baptized! Of course, I had to be there! I loved celebrating and being God’s work in their family! I love them so much and am so thankful to do life with them–even if it’s the occasional basketball game or coffee!
Drake, Maelee, and Tristan! All three of these students were saved at camp this year! Drake and Maelee both came to know the Lord on the same day by talking to a leader. In both instances, they knew they could never do anything to save themselves, and they trusted Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. Tristan is a cool story! His sister, Chloe, shared the Gospel with Him outside and he put his faith and trust in the Lord, but I don’t have a picture with him either.
I’m not quite sure what God has in store for 2019, but I have come to the place in life where God is it! He’s the greatest and most important. Nothing compares to Him. For awhile that was just something I sang until I believed it, but now I can sing it and proclaim it as truth for my life.
I’ve learned that no matter what the year brings, God has called me a conqueror because of who He is and what He has finished through the work on the cross. Life is going to bring curveballs because we live in a broken word, but the God over ALL holds it ALL. It doesn’t matter if the war is waging, God goes before, He’s with me during, and He comes behind me. I am not alone. All I have is Christ, and for that, I can truly say I am a conqueror through Him!