Brutally Honest

I don’t want you to ever think my life is perfect. I especially don’t want you to be deceived by my posts on social media that I have everything figured out. If we are being completely real, brutally honest, I do not live a perfect life and I definitely do not have everything figured out.

Over the last month or so, God has been showing me just how weak I am. For whatever reason, the idea that I am strong enough and can do it all started to creep into my life. I have no clue when the “I can do it all” mindset set in, but I am very much aware NOW that I cannot do it all.

This whole shift started one night at the coffee shop. I was talking with one of my best friends and just encouraging her through a tough time. During the midst of the conversation, I could see she had bought into the lie that she was supposed to handle everything perfectly, and be strong enough to do it all. I could see her fighting back the tears the whole time, afraid to show some sort of weakness to me. I looked at her and said, “It’s okay to admit that you’re not strong enough.” I reminded her that even though we are weak individuals, God is the Almighty. He has the ultimate strength.

I went home that night thinking about our conversation and praying for my friend, but then I felt God pressing on my heart the same words I had just spoken to her. God was telling me: Rachel, it’s okay to admit that you’re not strong enough. But instead of admitting to God I was weak and I needed Him to carry me, I continued to carry life with my own strength.

This is a constant battle for me, just so you know. I have seasons of life where I recognized my weaknesses and my need for God’s strength, but overtime somewhere along the journey I start to believe that I can handle it.

A few nights later, God pressed that same statement onto my heart again. And this time, I was angry. I remember that night well, and it was for sure not posted on Instagram or Facebook. It was one of those nights where I was just so angry and sad and hurt–BROKEN–so there was LOTS of ugly crying. In my anger, I asked the question WHY a whole bunch. I demanded (not a joke) answers from the Lord. If you’re at all familiar with Job when He is asking God for his day in court wanting answers from God, that was me.

But then, I was able to admit that I can’t. I was broken–still am broken. Because I can’t do it. I can’t be who everyone wants me to be because it’s too much pressure. I can’t be patient on my own because I want things now. I can’t control outcomes because that’s not my power. I can’t do it.

Through lots of tears, I finally admitted to God, “I need you. I am not strong enough to keep going on my own.”

So with that statement, I opened up my Bible to the book of Esther to hear from God. I was still angry. I was more broken now than I was when I started praying. I was hurting. And I still wanted answers.

Immediately, I started reading through that portion of Esther, and God started to speak, but it was not what I wanted to hear. It wasn’t providing the answers I was looking for. So as I read through God’s Word, I continued praying the same way–demanding answers, admitting my lack of ability to do anything on my own, begging God to speak something else. I was working through Beth Moore’s study on Esther at the time, and it got to this point where she referenced Philippians 4:13. I’m really familiar with this verse, so I kind of quickly reread it, but she had another verse to reference–Romans 8:37. I wasn’t as familiar with this one, so I went into it with fresh eyes.

“in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

Romans 8:37

The Holy Spirit used this verse to speak directly into my heart:

Did you see that part about in all these things? Everything you just prayed for is included in the word ALL.

You’re right. You can’t do it all. But did you notice what it says next? You are a conqueror through Him–that’s Me. You are a conqueror in all these things because of Me. Because of My love for You.

You will never be able to do anything on your own. But My love carries you. 

In that moment, a wave of peace flooded my heart to where I can’t even explain it. Through my absolute surrender that I can’t do it, God provided me with peace because He reminded me that it’s THROUGH HIM not through Rachel.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t live without the strength of God.

When you see these pictures below, on Instagram, or on Facebook, do not be deceived. I am not strong. I am weak. And I will gladly proclaim that brutally honest truth until the day I die because it’s not through me. It’s through Him.

He is Mighty–A Year in Review

My top nine images of 2017 have really sparked this whole “year in review” thing. It got me thinking about the word remember.

What does remembering really mean?

According to Google’s dictionary the word remember means “have in or be able to bring to one’s mind an awareness of (someone or something that one has seen, known, or experienced in the past).” I love that part about bringing to mind the things we have seen, known, or experienced because that pretty much includes remembering the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s whatever has happened in the past.

For me personally, there have been years where there has been immense pain. I didn’t want to look back because all I saw was pain and darkness. Even the thought of a specific circumstance would cause almost immediate tears to form in my eyes. However, there have also been years where the look back on life has been one of adventure, fun, and complete happiness.

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. It’s actually mentioned in the Bible 168 times (can be more or less depending on your version). There is clearly something powerful about remembering.

So why is remembering such an important thing?

There’s a story in Joshua 3-4 where the Israelites cross the Jordan River. This is an incredible story. If you aren’t familiar with it, take the time to go read both of these chapters–right now! It seriously is incredible! But the basic concept of the story, is the Israelites cross a really powerful river because of God. He stopped the river from flowing simply to show that He cared for the Israelites. After the Israelites passed through, God tells them to set 12 stones aside “so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”

We see here just in one example, God used a physical object (the stones) to show the world who He is, to show the world He is mighty.

Remembering what God has done for you, helps you remember God is mighty–even in the midst of seasons of sorrow.

Your remembrance could allow the world to see He is mighty!

When we direct our focus on what God has done for us and who He is instead of life’s circumstances, it’s going to produce joy simply because we can rest on the promise that God is working all things for good (Romans 8:28). So whatever situation you are personally in, I would like to challenge you not to just look back at the circumstances that have occurred in your life this year, but rather all that God has done.

Personally, I would love to sit and have coffee with each of you and hear all about what God has done in your life this year! It’s encouraging to me to see God’s hand at work in the lives of others. If you want to share what God has done in your life this year, leave me a comment or send me a message here. But I would love to share with you, my “stones” of what God has done in, around, and through my life this year.


Friends and Community

One of the greatest things God has done this year, has been blessing me with some pretty great friends. It literally dates back to January when things started to all come together. It’s weird because I had just prayed asking God to give me some good community (people I could have deep conversations with and who challenged me). This group of friends does exactly that. I have learned about myself in some pretty crazy ways. My friends are most certainly not afraid to call me out, but they do it in love. They sharpen me when it comes to what I believe. It’s really just incredible. We’ve prayed together. We’ve cried and laughed together. We’ve celebrated together. We’ve even traveled to many different places together. I’ve seen God use my friends to share the gospel with tons of people. I’ve watched my friends disciple people who have been in their lives for years and have watched others start discipling and meeting with others. God’s hand is at work with this great group of people! I’m thankful for y’all in so many ways!

Nothing to Prove

At the end of 2016, Jennie Allen wrote Nothing to Prove and I had the privilege of being on her launch team (which basically means I got to help promote the book before it was released). I read it in November of 2016, and started wrestling with the idea of starting a book club at my school for some of the teachers there for us to go through the book. I didn’t really take a chance on sending out an invite until mid-January. To me it was this great risk and moderately big time commitment, but I knew I wanted to see God work at school, so I sent an email.

img_0943With about twelve women signed up to participate in the book club, I was so impressed at God. I was only expecting like 4-8 people and God totally kept them coming. I don’t remember exactly, but I think around 20 women ended up buying the book! God used the book club in so many ways! I remember each Wednesday, I would just listen to these women talk about God’s movement in their own lives and all God did was use them to tell me the risk was worth it. It was through this book club that I learned when God impresses something upon your heart, it’s 100% worth it. God was there and I watched Him move. It was the coolest thing to be apart of!

Totally fan-girling as well because I got to meet Jennie Allen at the beginning of February and just thank her for her obedience to the Lord in her ministry! God has used her books to remind me I was worth dying for and I have nothing to prove because Christ finished the work on the cross.

Quiet Moments

I think so often times we busy ourselves so much, we don’t really know how to just be still and see God. But for me, the quiet, still moments is when I see God clearly for myself. In these moments, God speaks to me. There are so many things I could write about how God has used the quiet moments to speak truth into my life, but the one recently God has been teaching me through Esther is His timing is perfect. It’s never late, and it’s never early. He is in control of all things, so He is ALWAYS on time.

God has spoken truth into my heart this year through the books of Esther, 1 & 2 Samuel, Nehemiah, Isaiah, John, and 1 & 2 Corinthians. It’s been a great journey through the Word! I’m grateful God speaks when we quiet our hearts before Him.

These quiet moments are usually processed through different people in my life, but two that are absolutely foundational to my walk with Jesus are Alysia and Barbara. I’m not quite sure I would be where I am if it weren’t for these two great ladies! They are a shoulder to cry on, a listener, and an encourager on my journey with Christ! They invite me into their homes and allow me to live life with them. Thank you for helping me BEHOLD Jesus each and every day.

My Church

For starters, I was transitioning between churches at the beginning of the year. I wasn’t quite looking to get involved anywhere, but really just wanted to soak in, but God had other plans (and His plans were way better). At some point in March, our Family Discipleship Pastor found out I had worked in student ministry in my old church and wanted to see if I would be interested in serving.

img_5490We meet for coffee; and at the beginning, I felt pretty standoffish because I had my own plans of not being involved, but the more we talked the more our hearts for ministry aligned. I could tell God was placing me here for a specific purpose. By the end of that conversation, an opportunity to go to Ecuador had opened as well as an internship, which is funny because remember I had no intentions of getting involved. Thankfully, God knows best!

img_2479God has used my church to reach the lost, make disciples of all nations, and minister into my heart. The leadership God has placed over my life has been a huge encouragement into my personal walk with Jesus. They have challenged me to literally go places I was scared to go. They walked with me through some really difficult times. And through it all, God was there. He was and continues to use my church as way to draw me nearer to Him.

The Internship

I would just like to remind you, I had no intentions of getting involved at my church and God had other plans. The internship was an awesome experience, one that I am so thankful for! I had the opportunity to hang out with students and serve all summer long!  We had VBS and as much as I’m not good with little kids, I got to see these sweet kids come to know Jesus. Watching them pray to receive Christ and watch their hearts be made alive was clearly the work of the Holy Spirit. It was awesome to see God take something dead and breathe life into it! It’s only something He can do!

img_3883I also got to go to camp with our middle school and high school students! At this point, I didn’t really know them, but by the end of the week, they were just a bunch of little brother and sisters! I got to watch God breathe more life into two of our students that came with us. The excitement a new believer has because the joy of the Lord is literally now inside of them is a miracle–each salvation is a miracle.

Just for the record, at the end of 2016 I had been praying about switching careers. I felt this pull from God to seek something in publishing, writing, or editing books. I wasn’t sure where this was going to go, but I just started looking at different jobs in that field to see what it would take to one day work in the writing field. One of the things that was recommended was a Masters in English (which I start in January), but it was also looking for previous experience in ministry. Outside of volunteering in churches for 10 years, I didn’t have “official” experience. I just prayed God would provide opportunities to serve Him so I could do whatever He called me into. I prayed that in January, and then in March when I met with our Family Discipleship Pastor, the internship was available. God is just too cool!

img_5152

Ecuador

img_3036There’s so much that I could say about Ecuador and what God did there and you can read that by clicking on this link. But what I simply want to share is something that isn’t included in that blog post which is God used this trip (from the time in the airport to my quiet time in Ecuador) to tell me it was time to talk. For a period of time, God had silenced me when it came to an area of my life, but God specifically spoke reconciliation into my heart during this trip. It really had nothing to do with Ecuador, but just what happened because of Ecuador. It was pretty awesome that God would use a conversation with my pastor and then my quiet time to speak so clearly into my heart. Now was the time to speak.

Salvations

This is probably the coolest thing I get to talk about simply because I get to talk about the new brothers and sisters we have in the family of Christ! I had prayed at the beginning of the year, I wanted to see God save (here is what I mean by “save”) more people. But then at the beginning of the summer, I prayed more specially telling God I wanted to see Him save 5 people before the end of the summer. Well, God taught me this year He is capable of doing more than we think or imagine. Apparently 5 was just too small for God, because even at camp I saw hundreds of students profess faith for the first time, so then I prayed that God would either directly use me in 5 different people’s salvation or that they would be in my life for a period of time. What you see here, are simply the six people God has placed in my life this year who I have had the honor of seeing God take them from death into life!

I know I’ve already said it before, but salvation is a miracle! The fact that I have gotten to see so many salvations this year is just pure evidence God is real. He is alive and He is working.

Discipling and Small Group

img_4297

img_5512Discipling is one of my favorite things to do! I love meeting with students and talking about what Jesus is doing in their lives! I love walking through books of the Bible and being able to just be apart of watching them grow in their faith. Through discipleship I was able to meet with about 6 different girls! I wanted to be consistent with them and I’m definitely thankful for the time we have had together! Small group is the same way! At the beginning of small group, I was only anticipating about 4-5 girls, but we have about 10 that come regularly!

img_5247So what has God done through discipleship and small group? Well, I have seen God open the eyes and hearts of these girls to reading God’s Word. Several girls have grown in just their desire to reading His Word. According to my small group girls, they come and when we discuss God’s Word they leave “shook” or “in the feels,” which I think is a good thing. We also have tons of fun together just because the laughter never stops!

But for me God has used these girls to speak to me. There are times I will be teaching something to them, but it’s really to me. A good example of what God taught me through teaching them was when we walked through John 2 earlier this semester. God taught me what it is like to have Faith Like the Servants.

img_5189


Again, I would so love to have coffee and discuss all the intricate details that I know are missing from this list of what God has done in this season, but I would also just like to tell you there are things in my life that I have prayed all year (and some for years) for God to move. For whatever reason, God hasn’t moved there yet, but again, I know His timing is perfect. This year is evidence of that.

And if you are in a season of sorrow, it’s a season. I don’t know when it will be over, but I do know there’s a season of celebration around the corner. When it comes, you celebrate. The sorrow you have experienced in life, makes you appreciate the celebration so much more!

So if you find yourself struggling to remember what God has done this year in you, think about your salvation–that alone is a miracle. Think about what God has taught you–the discipline teachings as well as the gentle reminders. Did anything good happen? Because that’s God too, and that deserves to be celebrated even if it’s simple!

God loves it when we remember what He did.

Your remembrance could allow the world to see He is mighty!

How Do We Remember?

When you find yourself frustrated, full of questions, and confused–-do you forget all that God has done for you? Do you forget God’s very teachings? Or do you live a life remembering all that God has done?

If you’re anything like me, you forget. A little while ago, I talked about my forgetfulness, and how God graciously called me to remember all that He has done (Click Here to Read that Blog). Then I started to think about what this actually looks like in life. How do you and I remember all that God has done in our lives? How do we remember the very words He has spoken into our hearts?

Over the last few years in my walk with Christ, God has placed people and different Bible studies that have helped shaped what remembering looks like in practice–not just something in theory. I thought I would share the ways I try (because I’m still learning) to remember God’s word in my life:

1. Get Into God’s Word

When I am in the Word and actively reading about God, the Holy Spirit reminds me of the very truths I have forgotten. The scary part is sometimes I didn’t even know I had forgotten God’s truth. Getting into God’s Word allows our hearts to be reminded of the truths about our Heavenly Father. It directs our focus on the things of God’s kingdom instead of the earth.

2. Prayer Journal

This is a must in my personal walk with Christ. I could write a completely separate blog about this, but my prayer journal has been an awesome way for me to look back on all that God has done in my life and even the different things He has taught me. I write my prayers in my prayer journal, which allows me to be focused when I talk to God. It also gives me something to look back on. I can go back and look at my prayers from the past and see the prayers God has answered. I also take notes in my journal; that allows me to look at notes from sermons at church or even small group discussion points.

3. Godly Mentor(s)

I have a couple of different women in my life (both older) who have discipled me in my walk with Christ. This is so crucial, simply because I cannot walk this journey alone. I need (we need) people cheering me (us) on the journey. When Paul was writing to Timothy in his second letter, Paul says, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Paul was mentoring, or discipling, Timothy. Paul reminds Timothy of the strength we have in Christ. Not only did Paul remind Timothy of where his strength comes from, but he also encouraged Timothy to spread the gospel to others. The mentors I have in my life genuinely remind me of where my strength comes from (especially in those low moments) and also point me towards sharing my faith with others.

4. Worship

One of my favorite ways to reconnect with the Lord is through worship–in the car, getting ready, pretty much anywhere at anytime. More often than not, God uses worship to speak to me. When I stand before the Lord and worship, I can only be in awe of Him; I can’t think about my problems or even the things I desire–only Him! Praising God gives the opportunity to see Him and be reminded of His goodness, new every morning mercy, unending love, abundant grace, and unexplainable peace. When we worship (and by worship I mean heart wide open, probably ugly crying, hands raised, maybe even bowed knees with your face to the ground kind of worship), our hearts are aligned with God and we are reminded of the multiple promises He has generously given to us!

5. Community

It’s absolutely amazing how God uses community. In Hebrews, the author writes, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” These two verses say so much! We should meet with other believers so we can be encouraged by the work God is doing not only in our lives, but in the lives of others. When we talk about how God is moving in the hearts of others, it produces more love towards God and other people, as well as a desire to do more good works with the Lord. For the seasons of my life when I have felt like God isn’t moving, meeting with community (other believers walking the same journey) has encouraged me to see the places God is at work and He hasn’t forgotten about me. Not only can community help show you where God is working, but your community is walking with you on the journey of faith. They know where your struggling in your walk, so they too can remind you of the promises of God–whether that’s planned time with community (like a small group) or unplanned community (like hanging out at a coffee shop)! I cannot tell you how thankful I am for my community that reminds me of the promises of God!

So what now?

Get into God’s Word, grab a notebook to start prayer journaling, find a mentor, worship, and gather your community. It will be worth it! Before you know it, you will experience God in a whole new way!

A House of Cards

Here recently, I felt life’s little worries start to creep up in my heart. I found myself being scared, questioning, and worrying about all sorts of things. Day by day it seemed like the questions were getting bigger and the worries grew stronger. I was afraid I was letting people down or worrying about my future. Then I started to be consumed with how I could make things better.

I knew and wanted to believe that if I casted all my fears and worries on God, He would take care of them, but instead I found myself believing God didn’t care enough about me to take care of my fears, questions, and worries. This led me to think I needed to be the one to handle life’s little (sometimes big) worries on my own.

Now, I know this idea is a L I E simply because I still forget to rinse the sink out after I brush my teeth. So how in the world am I suppose to take care of my biggest fears and worries? It just doesn’t make logical sense.

But that’s how the enemy works. He likes to make me (maybe even you) think I can handle life all on my own. Sometimes, the enemy even convinces me that I can do the “fixing”, or whatever I think should be done, better than God. Again, this is a L I E! 

The even scarier part, is that I didn’t even know I was trying to take control over my life. I didn’t even recognize I had stopped trusting the Lord.

Then, I read Psalm 27. It’s only 14 verses, but there’s so much in those fourteen verses–so much truth; so much life!

Psalm 27:1
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?”

Light brings life. Look around, we’ve experienced an early spring and already the light we have had in our little area of the world has brought so much life. Birds are out, people want to be outside, those little (annoying) bugs are even out and about. The light brings out the life. And my light comes from the Lord. He–the light of the world–brings life to me.

And God is even more than that.

He’s my salvation. He’s the very reason I have life. I didn’t even know I needed saving, remember? I didn’t even recognize myself taking over and trying to fix the little world around me. But God knew if I stayed on the control-freak path, full of worry and fear, it would end in destruction.

So He saved me from myself.

He’s my light. He’s my salvation. He’s given me life even when I didn’t know I needed it. This is real proof that God d o e s care about me. Because He’s already done these things, what then could possibly scare me? There is nothing left to be scared of when I realize and believe God gives me life.

It is the same for you. When you realize that God is your light and your salvation, life starts to get a little easier simply because there’s nothing left to fear.

God, the giver of life, will not let you down.

And there’s more…

Psalm 27:5
“For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.”

Did you catch what all this verse says God will do?

God will hide me (you) in His shelter when trouble comes.

God will conceal me.

God will lift me high upon a rock.

Don’t be surprised when trouble comes because God’s Word is honest with us that it will come. We live in a post-Genesis 3 world where sin has corrupted our hearts, yet God tells us that when trouble occurs in our life (or in my case when life’s worries are creeping in), He will provide His shelter. He will even provide a covering for us. Notice how it does not say, “You need to find shelter on the day of trouble.” It says, “He will hide me… in the day of trouble.”

These verses, really the whole chapter, provided such freedom for me. This chapter has set me free from my fears, my worries, and even my questions (or doubts). God used Psalm 27 to speak life into me.

I was attempting to build my own shelter, and the shelter I was trying to build for myself was no better than a house built with a deck of cards. I don’t have much experience with building a house of cards, but when I have attempted to build one, I remember being scared to breathe for fear the house would fall. I also remember that if I added the wrong card at the wrong spot, the whole place would crumble down. It wouldn’t take much of anything to knock my little house of cards down.

nca_2124

I was doing the same thing with my life. I was carefully laying out all my fears, worries, and questions and strategically placing them where I thought they should go. But just like a house of cards, I was scared to breathe. I didn’t want the house to crash. I didn’t want anything out of my control interfering with the way I built my house.

B U T God, in His great love offers me His shelter–something that is stronger than I could ever build in my own strength; in my own control.

As I read through Psalm 27, I felt like God was saying, “Rachel, what are you trying to build? Why are you trying to build something when I’m already offering you a better shelter? Come to me and I will provide your shelter. Come to me and I will cover you. Come to me and I will lift you up. The shelter I provide will not fall down. I hold you up. I am the one protecting you from the trouble this world brings. Stop building your own house, it will only fall down.”

It was in this moment, I had a choice to either continue building my house of cards or to trust God’s shelter. But I was tired of building, and I wanted rest, so I ran to the Lord, let Him cover me, and I found rest.

But what about you? Are you building a house of cards? Or are you resting inside the shelter that God’s provided for you?

It is my prayer that we (myself included) stop building a house of cards and run to the shelter the Lord has provided.