Dream Guide 2019

Welcome to 2019!

It’s become an annual tradition for me to fill out Jennie Allen’s Dream Guide each year! I love it simply because it’s a great opportunity to reflect on some specific areas of my life in ways God has grown me in the past year as well as how I hope God will grow me throughout the coming year.

I would love for you to join me in this dreaming journey! The two main questions she asks us to reflect on in each are of our lives are: 1. How did you grow in the last year? And 2. What are your goals for 2019?


I am thankful for:

  1. My God who speaks to me!
  2. Family and Friends
  3. NorthWoods Church
  4. South Middle School
  5. The Little Sweet House on Villa
  6. Proper Coffee
  7. The Baristas at Starbucks–especially the ones in Henderson, KY
  8. Being able to Travel
  9. Books about Jesus
  10. Still Moments

Spiritual

Alone Time//Connect With God

I’ve said this before, but having a daily quiet time literally was the hardest thing for me to obtain. It seemed there wasn’t enough time in the day to read, and even if there was time, Netflix or hanging out with friends always sounded better. There was a great shift in my heart in 2016 when I really learned how to be still with God. Since then, I’ve been able to maintain a regular quiet time with the Lord. Let me tell you, this is only by God’s grace alone. This is not a desire I initially had, but rather something over time God placed in my heart.

My alone time with God has become the thing I look forward to the most. In different seasons of life it’s at different times of the day–sometimes multiple times a day. But if you haven’t gotten into a regular rhythm of spending time with the Lord, please let me encourage you–God speaks when we listen. 2018 was a hard year. Things I wanted to happen haven’t happened; and things I didn’t expect to happen (aka buying a house) happened. I couldn’t have prepared for or processed anything without the time I spent with God. He carried me through everything 2018 brought. I say all that to say that God is in control. He literally made me a conqueror through Him.

At the end of 2017, I knew the upcoming year was going to be a challenge, yet God knew what I needed to learn. God talked to me and prepared me. He told me in everything I went through I would be a conqueror through Him. Although I didn’t grasp this concept the minute God spoke it to me, it was something I learned over time. I watched God tell me, “You can do this through me because I love you.” I watched God teach me His love. I watched Him show me He never changes–He is the same. I watched God be what I needed when I needed it. I watched Him carry me in everything life threw at me.

So similar to what happened in 2017, I did the same thing at the end of 2018. I started praying about what God wanted me to focus on for 2019. My mentor gave me this great book to read through Advent and one of the first passages to read was Psalm 27. I’m not sure how this exactly related to Advent, but it was most certainly what I needed. There’s so much Truth about who God is and what He will do in this one chapter. There’s so much about how we should interact with God. There’s hope. There’s joy. There’s pain. And through it all, it says “I will sing and make melody to the Lord,” and I knew God was revealing a theme of celebration in every season.

2019 will be a year of celebration.

This was later confirmed–unexpectedly at that–while I listened to Louie Giglio preach a sermon live from Passion 2019. I went into listening with the hope God would affirm Psalm 27 as the focus for my 2019, and that’s exactly what He did. I always love it when God speaks so clearly. His graciousness is overwhelming!

In my year of celebration, I know life is still going to happen. But I’m looking forward to celebrating God’s goodness and His faithfulness in whatever the year brings.

As far as meeting and setting goals, last year, I wanted to work on memorizing Scripture. I started off working through different verses. I think I was able to memorize eight different passages, but come April or May–I slacked. I would definitely love to continue to memorize more of Scripture, specifically Psalm 27. But with the theme of the year, I want to be able to celebrate God every day.

Church//Serve//Tithe

Church

Our focus as a church in 2018 was to have 1000 Gospel conversations. We wanted to actually share the gift God had given us! The accountability aspect of this totally pushed me to share my faith more than usual. I knew I talked about Jesus, but actually sharing the Gospel on a weekly basis was pretty cool. Each week in church we would have a space on our connect card (a paper apart of our bulletin) to check if we had a Gospel conversation and how many. Each time I had a conversation, I remember being so excited to celebrate the opportunity God created!

This year our focus is on ONE. Who is our one person that we want to be intentional with? We have a card with a blank. I’m not sure who my ONE is yet, but I have a couple of names floating around in my head. Regardless, I love to be intentional with the people God places in my life. I feel like they are there for a reason, so I need to be intentional in those spaces.

Serve

The big areas of my life that I serve in are Student Ministry and a little bit in Women’s Ministry. Last year, I finished up the spring semester leading a small group on Wednesday nights, but due to grad school classes, I didn’t get to serve there in ministry. So this year, I’m so ready to get back in the swing of things. It’s going to be a bit different than in the past, instead of teaching a small group; I actually will be teaching our middle school students on a weekly basis. I’m excited to serve in this area, but also praying God will speak.

Beyond just the big areas of service, I really want to be looking for the little areas as well. How can I serve the people I am around on a daily basis? Maybe this is helping a student with homework or getting a teacher’s copies at work for them. Regardless, I want to extend the hand of service to them with a joyful heart. I’m praying my attitude will not be one of inconvenience, but rather gratitude.

Tithe

Money is scary if we let it control our lives. Speaking as someone who took a long time to surrender my fiances to the Lord, I missed out on God’s provision. But since letting God be God over my fiances, I have watched Him consistently provide for me. This year alone, He gifted me a house that is within my monthly budget, a brand new refrigerator FOR FREE (the original was growing mold on the inside of it), a trip to Ecuador, all these other little trips to go see friends or to be in community with others, and a way to pay for grad school. It’s literally amazing what happens when you let God be in control of your fiances. He is God over all, and now I’m just praying for finances for a roof–my house has to get a new one this year–and my plumbing needs to be looked at.

Outreach//Ministry

For me outreach and ministry go hand and hand. As I’ve stated before, I try to be intentional with everyone the Lord has me around. My biggest sphere of influence is at my school. I’ve had students ask me about my relationship with God every year, but in the Fall of 2018, I know there were even more conversations than usual. Part of me thinks so many kids are desperate for truth , they want it wherever they can get it. I even have conversations with different co-workers. I love being able to talk about Jesus because He gave me life. It’s this great gift!

I’ve also started to minister to some of the girls at Starbucks on my way to work. It’s not much at a time because our interaction is sometimes only a “Good Morning, have a great day!” but I love the crew there! I would love to be able to actually get to know them more and hear more about their stories! They definitely make my day by providing coffee, and I do want to serve and love them well.

My goal last year wasn’t really a “me” goal, but a God goal. I wanted to see God save 30 people, and I know He did just that. It was crazy to look back on all that God accomplished through the year, but even people I didn’t know, I was able to hear story after story of salvations. I love watching God work!

Discipleship//Mentorship

I have said for so long that effective discipleship is consistent discipleship. I firmly believe that. Part of consistency allows the opportunity to speak life. In 2018, I had several different ladies that I got to meet with, but I also hung out with some other girls as well. The intentional living was apart of our time together no matter how long or how short. In 2019, I want to focus more on celebrating all that my girls are doing really well at. I think sometimes I forget to celebrate what God is doing in them and that’s what I want to focus on this year. Find ways to celebrate them in all that they do and be more of an encouragement as we go through life.


Relational

Friendships//Friends I Need//Friends Who Need Me 

I have been fortunate enough to find a great group of friends from Proper Coffee. It seems every year we add more to our little group, but it’s so great to be able to do life with them. We are learning to be more intentional though because seasons are changing and we have to actually make an effort to hang out with each other.

I definitely want to make having friends over at my house a priority this year. Life is way more enjoyable when I have my people doing life with me rather than by myself.

Extended Family//Neighbors//Coworkers 

With my family, we’ve spent more time together, which has been really great. They’ve been such a blessing with my house and I’m thankful for that. I also was able to vacation with my sister, which was a cheap little get away. Any chance for us to get away somewhere warm and next to the beach is one of my favorite things to do! Bring on 2019 and hopefully another getaway!

I actually have neighbors! It’s so weird growing up in a neighborhood where you knew everyone, to living on a street where you only know one neighbor. I don’t exactly know how to go about being present to my neighbors, especially when I’m rarely home. Yet, I really would like to spend more time getting to know them!

I spend so much time with my coworkers and being able to serve them better is one thing I want to do better. I want to find ways to encourage them more and lift them up. We spend so much time together and sometimes it’s hard, but having each other makes it easier.


Personal

Food//Exercise//Health

A couple of years ago, I had a dream of losing 25 pounds and last year the dream was to keep it off. I managed to keep off the weight! In the past I have had a fear of gyms and became a member of Planet Fitness and really enjoy my time there! I like being able to work out! I still don’t like to sweat or even the moments of working out, but I enjoy the results of working out! There’s so many spiritual ties to that concept it’s not even funny! I’ll save that for later. But for 2019, I want to make it apart of my weekly life to go to the gym. I had my moments in 2018 that were good in consistent (like waking up at 5am everyday and worked out at home), but then stopped after straining my neck. This year, the goal is to find a routine that isn’t leaving me exhausted, but is still toning the little muscles I have!

Books to Read

Ahhh!!! There are so many great books out there that I want to soak up. Right now, I’m in the middle of Wild and Free and I love it. But I have so many others that I want to read on my shelf. Last year I was able to read two of Jen Wilken’s books and a couple of other ones. Grad school takes away some of my reading time right now, but that will be over come the summer! YEAH!!

Dreams//Memories to Make

Personally last year was all about the seasonal memories. I honestly forgot about that dream until rereading it, but it actually happened. I didn’t get to go ice skating though, but everything else was in there. I had all the seasonal memories! Maybe this year, I’ll take it up a notch now that I have a house! I love it when the house is all decorated for each season! Something about the little decorations just make it feel like home!

I also want to write a book some day! Maybe that will happen some year, I don’t know. Part of me is a little scared to do it because of criticism. It just doesn’t seem like it will happen. I would love to write and speak, but only God knows what my platform will be.

This year, I have so many friends having babies and getting married! I’m excited to be apart of all the celebrations and to celebrate new season in life! I can’t wait for one of best friends to get married! She’s been a huge part of my life the last five or so years and now I get to watch her marry her best friend! It’s so cool! Ahh!!! Cannot wait!

Travel

I remember last year people telling me every time they got on any sort of social media they found me in a different place. The more I started to think about it, the more truth I saw in that statement. I do travel quite a bit even for short little day trips to visit some of my friends or even to just do what we call a “picture trip”, but there’s something about being in the car and jamming to worship music that brings people together.

I’m not sure what this year looks like, after all, I started this blog in Nashville! And I received an invite to visit my friend in Chicago for her birthday! More little trips are probably on the horizon! Hopefully even a trip to Ecuador again! Last year, we had problems with our flight so we didn’t get to go, but hoping this year to go back!


Work

Finances

I hit on this already, but everything is already God’s. He owns everything. all I have to do is be faithful with what He provides. I know grad school is expensive as well as a new roof, but God will make a way! He has been faithful in providing me with a fill time job I love! I even get the opportunity to work at my church part time! God just keeps providing! It’s what He does! And He’s way better at it than I will ever be!

Personal Growth//Education

This section is super cool for me to talk about because God is capable of doing so much! Last year, I started my Masters in English in January. This month I start two more classes, and hopefully, this time next year I will be completely finished with my Masters! I have to take a test to finish it up; but otherwise, I have it almost finished. God is so good!

In addition to completing my Masters, I have started cooking so much at my house! During the school year, I rarely eat out (minus the weekends). I have a habit of meal prepping that works and I love it! There’s really nothing like a home-cooked meal! I’ve been able to try new things that I otherwise wouldn’t try! I even meal prep my breakfast! No more $5+a week for Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches–I make my own! 🙂

I have even blogged more in 2018 than I did in 2017! So I’m at a high right now! I’m excited to see what God will continue to do through this blog! Hopefully this year, there will be even more!

Projects

I keep talking about this Remembrance Board that I have yet to be completed. But with owning a home, there are so many projects! I want flooring in the basement, trim needs to be painted in the bedroom, hang some pictures, paint the vanity, paint the closet doors, build a bar for downstairs, and the list just keeps going on! Those are just some of the things on the inside of the house, and the outside I want to plant flowers and make it look all cute like it is on the inside!


Celebrate

No matter what, God has taught me I am a conqueror because of His love for me! There’s so much on the “To-Do” List for 2019, but I want to find ways to celebrate all that God has done throughout the whole year! I want to rejoice and make melody to the Lord because of His great Name! I want to wait well! I want to know and believe He is working a good plan for my life! I want to seek Him more!

All of these things are mentioned in Psalm 27. I’ve made this my chapter for the year. It has 14 verses, and I want to write two verses per day; in total that would mean that I have written this chapter once every week! Already, God points out different words or phrases each day! I’m into week 2 now, and God shows up!

Here’s to 2019 and all the work God will accomplish this year!

Psalm 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
    of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
    to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
    it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
    my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
    yet I will be confident.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
    and to inquire in his temple.

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.

And now my head shall be lifted up
    above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
    sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
    be gracious to me and answer me!
You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
    “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
    Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
    O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
    O God of my salvation!
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
    but the Lord will take me in.

11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    and lead me on a level path
    because of my enemies.
12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
    for false witnesses have risen against me,
    and they breathe out violence.

13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord!

Happy Thanksgiving Every Day

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Thankfulness is one of those things that shouldn’t just be one day a year! Don’t get me wrong, I love that we pick one day a year to gather the people we love the most to tell each other what we are thankful for, but imagine what life would be like if we shared what we are thankful for each day.

If your thanksgiving is anything like the ones I participate in, hearing what everyone is thankful for is so encouraging to me. I spend Thanksgiving Lunch with one of my mentors, and at the end of everyone sharing what they’re thankful for, she looks at each person at the table and explains why she is thankful for that person. This is radically encouraging to me, yet it’s so simple. Again, imagine what it would be like if we celebrated thanksgiving each day.

Scripture reminds us to be thankful each day in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 where Paul tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Did you catch that? It’s the will of God for us to give thanks. I don’t know about you, but I want to walk in the will of the Lord. But let’s be honest, there are times where it is challenging to find something we are thankful for. Some of you, maybe even today are struggling to find something you’re thankful for. Paul reminds believers since we’ve “received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Paul tells us that we have something to be thankful for–receiving Christ. Even if every circumstance has been challenging this year, remember that you have received Christ. Christ willingly gave up his luxurious life to come dwell in this broken. Thankfully (did you catch that), He didn’t come to be OF the world, but to SAVE the world from their sins, my sins, YOUR sins. If you believe this in your heart and declare Him as Savior and Lord, then you have a reason to be thankful! In fact, your thankfulness is abounding. There is no limit to all that you could possibly be thankful for.

Now here’s the thing, when we gather together and share all that we are thankful for, we actually are remembering all that God has graciously blessed us with; even if that’s a roof over your head and food in your belly. But we also remember what God has done. See remembrance and thankfulness go hand and hand. When we remember what God has done, we become thankful. In those moments, we are reminded of our human limitations and how much we need an infinite God who is limitless! Which is why Jesus is capable of living the perfect life, to die the death you and I deserve, and graciously gives us life.

That is something to remember and be thankful for!

This idea of remembering and being thankful is not a new concept. When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, Moses told them to remember how God saved them from their old life in slavery; which led to a heart posture of thankfulness and turned into worship. Another example of this is when Jesus came, He told us to remember His sacrifice through the Lord’s supper; but then even while He called the disciples to remember, He told them to give thanks!

My challenge to you today as you’re eating your turkey, or spending time on your phones shopping; to remember, to be thankful, and then to worship.

We have an abundance to be thankful for, so let’s celebrate everyday and not just today! Let’s have a Happy Thanksgiving every day!!

Why? For Your Good and His Glory

Why?

The question we all want answered.

We start asking the question pretty much when we learn to talk and it grows into adulthood. We want to know: why the grass is green, why I can’t walk on the street, why I have to help set the table, why do I need to be quiet, why I have to clean, why I have to do homework, why It hurts, why bad things happen, why, why, why, why, why?

I think we can all agree that when we’ve been asked these questions, our responses can vary. There are those moments when we stop and actually give a genuine, thoughtful response; yet, other times we rush and give a short answer.

I think if someone asked me why the grass is green, I would say something like “I don’t know” but I definitely accept that it’s green. I just don’t put a lot of thought into knowing the answer simply because I’m not super worried about why the grass is green. It’s always green. Now, I may look it up eventually in order to answer that question, but it’s not something I care about, so I can accept that the grass is green. The answer to that why doesn’t change anything about my present, I just accept it.

But then there are those “growth” why questions: why I can’t walk on the street, why I have to help set the table, why do I need to be quiet, why I have to clean, why I have to do homework, etc. I know I asked these questions growing up, and there would be times where my parents would say, “because I said so,” and other times they would provide a reason. If it was about walking on the street, it was for my protection. If it was being quiet (this was usually in church), I was disturbing other people. If it was cleaning, I was told I was a member of the house and needed to do my share, and it was also preparing me for my future. If it was homework, it was to learn. In each instance, there was a definite reason as to why each circumstance took place. Each thing I begrudgingly did (walking on the sidewalk, being quiet, cleaning, or homework) was for my good and for my growth. These things were not to harm me or to make me miserable, but to shape me and prepare me for the next stage of life.

Then there are those questions from a state of pain: why does it hurt or why did this terrible thing happen? We want answers so there’s an explanation for the pain whether physical, emotional, or spiritual.

Quite honestly, I don’t have the answers. I rarely know the answers to my own “why” questions, but WHAT IF the painful why questions are just a different growth question? We’ve learned the answers to walking on the sidewalk, cleaning, and doing homework; but could it be that the new level of WHY is really just a new level of growth that we have yet to see come to be answered? Here’s the thing, I cannot tell you WHY anything happens, but I do know that God teaches us a very clear truth:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28

Did you catch that?

God is working it all together for your good. You may not know your why answer, but think about the good that God has promised. Whatever circumstance you’re in the midst of, I can promise you because it’s a promise from God that he’s working it for your good.

Let’s take a moment and be real:

It hurts.

We can’t see the immediate answers to our questions which hurts. Often times the reasons we are asking why are based out of loss, grief, pain, suffering, or unexplained waiting.

I think the question becomes: what do we do when we hurt from unanswered questions?

RUN TO THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN GIVE YOU ANSWERS.

I think so often we run to things we think will provide answers like our friends and family, social media, news, ourselves, and so on. But don’t run to those because at some point they will let you down.

The only thing that promises to work for your good is God.

Run to him.

What happens if he doesn’t answer right away?

You’re in good company.

Job lost his whole family and begged God and pleaded with God for answers and it had absolutely nothing to do with Job, but rather the spiritual realm that Job couldn’t see. God blessed Job more than Job could imagine because of his faithfulness. God worked the loss for Job’s good and for God’s glory.

Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years before having Isaac. They took their unanswered questions into their own hands, but even with that choice, God grew their faithfulness. God demonstrated that He was faithful to fulfill His word. God worked it all for their good and His glory.

Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. After many other things, he goes to jail for something he didn’t do. Yet God saw the whole thing. God didn’t give immediate answers to Josephs’s questions, but later Jospeh interprets a dream and is able to save Egypt from famine. It was through the famine that God brought Joseph’s family back together. God worked it out for everyone’s good and His glory.

These are just from Scripture…. but look at this….

Rachel Clark (yes this is me) didn’t get the job she wanted in Bowling Green. The plans she had set for herself and thought God wanted for her didn’t happen. Instead she moved home, got a job and started volunteering in the church. She met some pretty amazing girls and discipled one for a long time. That girl came to know Jesus and is now going on the mission field. Likewise, Rachel is still waiting for God to fulfill His word, but in the meantime she’s gotten to travel to Ecuador and be apart of the global church, intern at a church, and almost earn a masters degree in English that she still doesn’t know why she’s getting it. But through it all, God is working it for her good and His glory.

Run to God. Find your rest in Him. It’s only through Him can you continue on when it’s harder than you could have imagined!

Why is this happening? I don’t know, but remember God is working it to be for your good and for His glory!!

God is For You

I’ve said this before, but I want you to know there is way more to my social media than what is actually displayed. I want to be transparent in that because I think it’s so easy for us to look at each other’s feeds and start comparing and coveting, wanting what everyone else has, not really content with what God has placed before us. And since we are being honest here, I need you to know that I struggle with this myself. I see my friends living the life I dreamed I would be living; and instead, I’m not anywhere close. I struggle just like you. I–in no way, shape, or form–have this all figured out. I am literally living the daily battle with you.

I wanted to start here because I want us on the same page. I don’t want you to think you’re going through this life alone. I don’t want you to think you’re the only one struggling. I don’t want you to think you’re unloved. I really just want you to be able to stand your ground in Christ.

So why here?

Quite honestly, I’ve been living in the midst of the battle. Nothing crazy has happened. I’ve just been waiting on the Lord for quite sometime, and waiting well is hard work. See there are two categories of waiters: those who wait well and those who DO NOT wait well. I’m sure you can guess which category I fall into, but I’m most certainly in the DO NOT category.

I can’t really tell you the reason behind this, but while I wait on the Lord for life to happen according to His time table and not my own, I get impatient. I want what I want, when I want it. Read that again. And again. It sounds like a preschooler doesn’t it? If you answered no, thank you for being so kind to me, but the answer is YES! It does sound like a preschooler, or maybe even an ungrateful kid. But y’all, this is me! I pray these prayers all the time asking God when the waiting will be over because I am discontent in my present.

That’s my battle (at least right now)–DISCONTENTMENT.

Discontentment gives Satan a wedge to start speaking lies into life, the heart, and the mind. And with full disclosure, when I start letting those lies be the thing I hear, I turn into an even bigger mess. It’s. A. Vicious. Cycle.

The only way out of this cycle is laying the lies at the feet of Jesus.

This is so hard for me to do. You would think that believing the truth is easy because there’s evidence in my life that says God is for me and He is with me; He will not let me down. But it is so easy for me to believe the lies. Culture is very loud and can easily drown out God’s truth. My own selfishness is loud and can drown God out. Expectations others have (said or unsaid) can also be that thing that speaks so loudly.

Yet, God’s voice is still, consistent, and calm.

So right now in a place of discontentment, I find myself needing more time to be still with God. That’s hard right now because life is busy. I’m teaching full time, taking 6 hours of grad school, discipling some girls from church, trying to update my house, and at some point hang out with some friends.

How do you balance it all?

Since we are being real, you need to know that I’m not really good at this. Some months are better than others, and right now it’s not been a great one. Because things have been hectic, being still and just spending time with God has been more like a checklist thing, and even in my checklist mindset the goodness of God is so good. He literally will take my unmotivated heart and soften it to really hear, and other days my exhaustion is so loud that I make myself deaf to the tenderness of God’s words. Regardless, God still speaks to me even when my motivation is out of discipline instead of desire.

Now, the longer I make my quiet time just something to check off, the greater discontentment swells in my heart. Renewing that rest with the Lord requires me laying my control of circumstances I’m waiting to change down. It’s saying, “Lord, I admit I can’t do this. I need you to help me!” When that happens, when I actually let go, the discontent stops swelling inside of me, opening me up to hear from the Lord with ears ready to hear.

But it takes confession.

This confession usually happens after I’ve spent sometime worshipping. For me, worshipping is the way my heart stops focusing on me and draws my focus up to God. It redirects my path of sight not on the things before me, but rather the things above. And you know the last time I consciously made a choice to worship instead of watching tv was while cleaning. Usually I would have turned the tv on as background noise, but instead I put the worship playlist on. It was in the midst of cleaning and worshipping that I was able to realign my heart to God.

In case you were wondering, this was super recent–as in a week ago. I was just in a funk.

But it took this worship/cleaning session to remember that God is for me. I need to stop looking around and look up (In case you haven’t heard about it, check out Lauren Daigle’s new album “Look Up Child” it’s literally all about getting your eyes up).

When you get your eyes off the circumstances around you and focus on the God who saved you, you will (I will) remember that God is for you.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? – Romans 8:31

Don’t let those lies speak into you. Instead rest on the one who is FOR YOU!

Worship Him not because of your circumstances, but because He is your Father, Savior, Redeemer, Creator, and the Name Above All Names.

Following Jesus

A couple of months ago The Go Project contacted me about writing for their blog and asked me one question: What does it mean to follow Jesus? Take a look at their website, and check out what I wrote for them below or click here!

What does it mean to follow Jesus?

I think this is one of the greatest questions to ask only because at some point there’s going to be a crossroads and you’re going to decide Jesus or that something else.

See the Gospel is a recognition of Jesus Christ as Savior AND Lord. I think most people don’t have a problem with Jesus being their Savior; who doesn’t want Heaven? But for most people the hang up when deciding to follow Jesus is accepting Him as Lord over your life. This means you’re making Him the BOSS over your life. You’re saying, “God, whatever you want to do with my life, I’m okay with that, even if it’s nothing like I plan or dream,” and this statement is difficult.

For me, I made the decision to follow Jesus when I was 7. Yes, I know I was young, but I was absolutely convinced that I was sinful and in need of a Savior and I knew I needed God to direct my life.

But this acceptance of Jesus as Savior and Lord is a daily thing for me. It’s a daily acceptance that I am not in charge of my life. I, by no means, am perfect at this. In fact, I’m far from perfect! I love my dreams and I love my own ideas, so surrendering what I love most is extremely difficult.

But here’s what I’ve learned: each time I’ve given up a dream or plan, Jesus was (and is) with me, and His plans and dreams for my life are immeasurably better than anything I could possibly imagine for myself.

Really?? Is this really true??

Yes!!

Back in 2015, I was faced with a decision: what will I put first—the things of God or the things of this world? I knew I said God you’re first in all things, but what does that look like for God to actually be first? That means giving up anything that gets in the way of Him.

Let me be honest, I battled with this for a solid 6 months. I would challenge God and ask the WHY question multiple times! I wanted an immediate, easy fix, but that is not what God had in mind (and now I’m so thankful for this long journey). After many nights of tears, meeting with mentors and counselors, and earnestly seeking after God, I gave it all up to Him. Anything that was above Him, I separated myself from that—and I’m talking about lifelong relationships and physical objects. This was not easy, but each step of the way, God was there. He proved Himself faithful in each place of surrender.

Was there immediate blessing because of obedience? Yes, but it was much smaller than I thought it would be. I think we are so used to receiving BIG rewards for our own goodness that anything less than that disappoints us. That was me. I thought because I acted in obedience, God would allow me to slay my own Goliath, but no. The blessings I received were just little moments here and there—such as finding it amazing that God speaks to me in my quiet time or God providing a meal for me. These were huge blessings. I didn’t need to slay Goliath in order to be blessed big time and that was something God was teaching me—the little blessings are big time blessings!!

It was through this time I really started to enjoy God. And God kept me in this place for about 2 years. It was a place of getting to know God, allowing Him to get to know me, and resting in who He is.

When 2017 rolled around, God was pushing me out of this new found comfort and on into a new push in ministry. I knew by now if God was calling me to it, it was easier to just do it. I gave God 2017 and just told Him I wanted to see Him be big.

Now here’s the cool part: God showed up! He showed up immeasurably more than I could have imagined. Saying YES to giving it all up ended in an immeasurable amount of blessing—and it’s still happening. Deciding to give it all up, gave the God all the space to do immeasurably more in my life.

In 2017, I was scared to start a Bible study with women from school, but knew that’s what God wanted. I sent an email to 8 ladies and 20 bought the book we studied. Even still to this day those ladies are more involved in the local church, and a couple of them are now leading Bible studies!

I even took a trip to Ecuador and watched God move in the hearts of the Ecuadorians, but even in my own life God challenged me in forgiving others and grew me in ways I didn’t even know needed growth.

But the mundane was even a blessing. The student I discipled for 3 years was graduating high school and taking big leaps in her faith to trust the Lord in everything. Even when she left for college, God provided 3 new girls to start meeting with regularly. Watching these ladies grow in their faith is quite possibly one of the biggest blessings of all. There is nothing like watching others in the faith follow Jesus with everything!

All of this is simply the beginning of whatever God has in store for my life. He’s up to a far better story than I could ever write for myself. Each time He asks me to do something hard, He always provides the peace, courage, and strength to do it. Some I begrudgingly do, but after walking in obedience with Him, I know it’s far better than anything I could dream up, and somewhere along the journey my begrudgingly attitude changes.

Following Jesus is difficult. If anyone says it’s easy—they are lying. But it is WORTH IT! Every bit of it, it’s worth it.

The relationship with God can be summed up into multiple words, but I think it can be ultimately traced back to Matthew 28:18-20 when Jesus gave a command to the disciples to GO! It doesn’t matter if God is calling you to give something up, GO for it. If God is calling you into a realm of ministry, GO! If God is calling you into a deeper relationship, GO! If you’re like I’ve never made Jesus my Savior AND Lord, GO! If God is calling you into a season of waiting, GO there.

Living a life with Jesus is one of action! It’s not one of sitting, but rather a journey of GOING wherever the Lord leads.

I firmly believe living a life with Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior will be the best decision you could ever make in this life. Jesus brings you the life you ultimately need! Yes, it’s hard, but it’s totally worth it.

GO.

Enough or Too Much?

I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to be the person everyone else wants me to be. I tried to find my identity in what other’s expected me to be, and that left me feeling empty and not enough.

I think back to school achievement; and it didn’t matter how many A’s I had in school, I always didn’t feel good enough.

Then when it came to guys, they never liked me–there was always another girl. Since we live in a culture that says you have to be in a relationship pretty much at all times; I thought there was something wrong with me, which only made me feel like I wasn’t good enough for a guy.

Fully accepting that I am not perfect, I was terrified (and still am) to make a mistake. I was afraid of making a mistake for fear that I would let someone down and disappoint them. And if I did mess up, I wasn’t surprised, but still felt the disappointment from others, which again reiterated not being good enough.

All of these stem from the idea that I seek approval from others. I want others to accept me for the things I do, but the truth is, God says that even when I was a child of wrath, He still loved me enough to be enough for the payment of my sins.

The thing that I got backwards (and still battle to get right) is that even when I was dead in my sin, there was absolutely nothing I could ever do to be accepted by God. I couldn’t get enough straight A’s in school, have the perfect relationship, or never disappoint anyone because of how good I am. The truth is I was not ever good. Romans 3:12 says that “no one does good, not even one”, which basically let’s me know that all my “good” achievements are actually pointless. I was literally never going to be enough because I’m not even good.

So how do I become good or even enough?

The Holy Spirit renewed my vision of the gospel. I was reminded through mentors, church, discipleship groups, and most importantly my own Bible study, that I have been made enough in Christ Jesus. It was Jesus’ perfect life that allowed Him to be the payment for my sin, my not good self. When I accepted that my actions were never going to be enough, is finally when I could rest that Jesus is enough, which makes me enough. It’s only by the blood of Christ that I am made enough.

img_1928Now, I believe Jesus has made me enough–that is TRUTH. But I’m still battling believing I have to do things in order to be enough. I believed a lie for 23 years of life, so really I’m recently uprooting this lie and replacing it with truth. I’m finding all types of new layers of this lie in my heart that I constantly have to uproot. It’s only through my personal quiet time have I been able to give God my heart for Him to restore.

But I’ve come to a place where I know I AM ENOUGH! Not by anything I have done, but because of what Christ has done for me.

If you’re like, “Rachel, how in the world do I start having a quiet time?” I’m so glad you asked!! Here’s a blog from a bit ago that talks about how I have my quiet time: The Reality of Quality Time and if you’re looking for some Bible Reading Tips or Prayer Journaling tips, feel free to check out those pages as well.

But if you’re like, “Rachel, I struggle with the same thing! I never feel like I’m enough,” or some of you may be like “I feel like I’m too much at times,” then I have a great resource for you!

There’s this awesome FLIP Book called Always Enough | Never Too Much by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan. Together, they have written a devotional with two different messages combined into one book. They genuinely believed we have all been in this boat of not feeling enough or feeling like we are too much:

We’ve all been there. We know that sneaking, small voice in our heads all too well—you’re too loud. Too quiet. Too young. Too old. Too unimportant. Too ugly. Too silly. Too serious. You’re not as successful as she is—look at her perfect family, look at her high-powered job, look at her great hair and size 4 skinny jeans. Why can’t you be more like her—be more in general? Why do you expect so much from everyone? Why can’t you take up less space? Ask for less? Be less? The lies track well-worn paths in our minds and our hearts, wearing us down and making us question our role in God’s kingdom.

Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan, bestselling authors of Wild and Free will help you replace those lies with God’s truth. This devotional flip-book is designed for you, the woman who feels like she can be both too much and not enough—sometimes in the same day. When you banish lies and insecurities and find your identity in Jesus, you can embrace these truths: You are always enough. You are never too much.

As someone who battles the feeling of not being enough, this book has been an encouragement to my wandering heart. The devotionals are backed with solid scripture and words of encouragement to the reader. No doubt, it has spoken truth into my life just by reading it in the afternoon. It’s a great pick me up when I start doubting my identity in Christ.

Feel free to enter the giveaway for a chance to grab your own copy of this book! Even if you don’t win, you need to pick this book up! It’s a great one!

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Click Here to Enter Giveaway

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A Powerful God in a Crazy Life

About a month ago, I stood with my feet sinking deep into the sand of the ocean. As far as my eyes could see there was water, which eventually met the sky. I remember feeling so small in comparison to the vastness of the ocean. I even talked to one of my friends about God’s size and how He is so infinite that I will never be able to understand His power.

img_0419I sat along the shore just watching the waves come in. I remembered Jesus calming the storm and the disciples taking a mental note that even the winds and waves obey Him. I remember confessing to the Lord that I am not as obedient as a wave. If God tells me to do something, I reluctantly do it after being told to do it. But watching the waves come in, I was reminded of my disobedience.

The ocean (and I would even say the mountains) has this ability to draw me out of my self-absorbed pit because when I’m there, I’m reminded of God and all that He’s capable of doing. But I don’t live next to an ocean. I can’t go see it everyday. I have a beautiful backyard, but there aren’t mountains or an ocean–just a barn and some trees.

When I got back from the ocean, the power of God seemed to disappear as we drove away from Florida. The closer we got to home, the pressure of getting everything done increased. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for me to go back to my self-absorbed pit.

I was greeted with the enormous pressure of grad school. My friends who read this know exactly what I’m going to say–it’s kicking my butt. From the very beginning of the class, I have felt like an elementary student taking a graduate level class in poetry, British poetry at that. Poetry is it’s own language, with its own terms, and I’m completely clueless. I’m convinced that it takes me double time what it takes everyone else because other than Dr. Suess or Shel Silverstein, I’m completely inexperienced. But it is hard and taking up pretty much all of my free time.

Then it’s summer time and I do multiple things with our church during the summer! I absolutely love it! The relationships we get to build with our students is probably one of my favorite things about the whole year! The depth of community that’s built in the summer and watching God work in the lives of our students is literally one of the greatest joys.

Oh and I bought a house in April, so I’ve been slowly updating and changing some things here and there. Nothing super major, but just things like putting cabinets back on, organizing things, or hanging some sweet patio lights.

But all of these things take time. And the lack of time with an increase of pressure, created a greater self-absorbed me and a powerful God being squished to fit into a small time-frame. In essence, I started seeing my circumstances and present situation as something that held more power than God.

DISCLAIMER: I know that sounds ridiculous. And if anything you should just stop reading this blog, because I’m telling you I have absolutely nothing to offer you. I literally just confessed to you that I saw the pressures of life greater than God.

And that’s true about what I felt, but completely not true about God. I was believing (and still struggle with this) a LIE. I literally saw my present stressors greater than God and I believed this lie.

The fact that I believed God was smaller than my present situation started eating at my soul. Things that are foundational to my faith, I started to question:

  • God, how can you be good?
  • God, how are you loving me? I can’t feel it. Show me your love for me. I literally cannot see it.
  • God, I don’t think you’re faithful. I don’t think you’re true to your word.

And let me be super honest with you, I came home from the beach, June 1 and as I’m writing this it’s June 25. So we are talking less than a month I went from being absolutely certain that God is good, God is loving, and God is faithful to God isn’t good, God isn’t loving, and God isn’t faithful.

What changed?

I can promise you it wasn’t God. Scripture promises us that God does not change. Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.” Even Malachi echoes this with “For I the Lord do not change.” It’s impossible for God to change.

What changed? ME!

Sitting at the ocean, I had all the time in the world to rejuvenate and rest in the power of God’s presence. Then when I came home, God’s presence was (and is) here, but the pressure of life caved in. I was still in the Word, but I was going to God with a very anxious heart and not leaving the pressures at His feet. I wasn’t allowing myself to find rest in God mainly because I thought I had the power over life.

I distinctly remember three occasions over the last month where I created space and clearly heard God’s voice. One occurred on my back patio, and the other two happened in the midst of my nightly quiet time. It never ceases to amaze me just how patient God is with me because even in my questioning of God, He still speaks.

How gracious is God for Him to speak to me?

I literally had just finished praying asking the Lord to reveal to me His goodness, His love, and His faithfulness to me. He quickly responded with His power, but that was exactly what I needed to hear! My daily quiet time was in Acts 12.

Again, remember I literally have nothing to offer you, but God’s Word is so amazing and full of Truth that this is what y’all need to listen to–not my words.

Just a little background on the passage: the church is brand spanking new, and it’s spreading like wild fire. But as the church is growing, persecution is also taking place. King Herod started going after believers. In fact, right before this passage he murders James and arrests Peter. But God’s work is not done–it’s simply beginning. Check this out from Acts 12:6-11:

Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.”And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him.When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

Wow!! Not that the pressure of a busy schedule quite compares to Peter being bound in chains to two guards behind an iron gate, but being completely real and vulnerable…. I totally feel like this in life. It feels like the chains of life are just so much stronger. But there’s good news–God is our rescuer.

God is CLEARLY powerful and COMPLETELY in control.

It’s crazy to think that I had just seen God’s overwhelming power by watching the waves and the winds obey Him in Florida, but it’s hard to see God’s power back here at home. But then this passage came along, and God made His power quite possibly more known to me through this passage than at the ocean. Here’s what God showed me:

1. It doesn’t matter what you’re chained to.

Peter was chained to two men. The passage doesn’t say that they were giant, but I’m guessing they had to be pretty large. King Herod really wanted Peter gone because Peter sharing the gospel was a threat to King Herod’s kingdom, so it makes sense that he had the biggest men watching Peter. But even big men were not a problem for God. Verse 7 says, “And the chains fell off his hands.”

When I read this, I was awestruck. I’ve been feeling so weighed down with grad school and life, that I just came to accept the weight. But Christ wants us to give Him our burdens. Jesus told us in Matthew 11:28-29 to “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” When we actually allow God the time and space and we surrender any power we feel we have over our chains, God moves. He makes the chains fall, and we can finally see who holds the Power.

2. After the chains fall and you face an iron gate, God is still with you because He goes before you.

It’s so easy once our chains fall and we experience that freedom to completely freak out when we get to that closed door, but God is not at all surprised by that gate. We like to spend time analyzing how to open the gate and question how God could even open it, but we completely miss God’s power when we do that (this is me by the way!). God is at work. He knew the gate was going to be there for Peter; He knew the Red Sea was going to be there for the Israelites running out of Egypt; and He knows your personal gate before you get there. He’s God. It’s when the gate comes, we get to see God’s power when HE opens it.

Can you imagine this scene, the angel and Peter escaping 2 soldiers and now walk up to an iron gate and verse 10 says the gate “opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street.” That’s power. God is not just in control over the wind and the waves, but even the gates that are in our lives. God didn’t need Peter to sit and analyze how to open the gate, God just opened it. God is in control. Paul puts it this way, “he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” God has us. He is with us. When we can finally see that God goes before us and holding all things together, we are reminded of who holds the power–it’s not me and it’s not you; it’s God.

3. Seeing God’s power over the chains and the gates assures us of God’s goodness, God’s love, and God’s faithfulness.

I don’t know about you, but like I mentioned earlier, all I ever do is question the chains or question the gate that are currently present in my life. I don’t understand why I’m being chained and that creates doubt of God’s character. But it’s in the deliverance from the chains that I see God’s power in a completely new light that causes me to walk in a more surrendered life. Being set free from my chains allows me to see God’s power in a new way that brings me life–it strengthens what I believe about God.

When I read Peter’s experience, I can’t help but hear his reaction to this great rescue: “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod.” Peter is set free and he vocalizes that He is reassured this is a work from the Lord and not just a vision. I’m not quite sure if Peter struggled to see God’s goodness, love, or faithfulness, but I am sure that Peter recognized God’s power.

So what happens when we recognize who holds the power?

Our chains and our gates may be a way for God to demonstrate His great power over our lives, which allows us to see God’s goodness, love, and faithfulness towards us in a much deeper way.

Now here’s the thing, I’m definitely not perfect at this. I still don’t understand just how God’s power works in my life, but what I do know is that when I prayed, “Lord, this life is too crazy right now–set me free,” God revealed to me His power. The Holy Spirit was telling me: Rachel, I see where you are. I see you working on grad school, I see you doing ministry, I see this house. I’m here with you and just like I set Peter free from the weight of the chains, I’m here setting you free. I’m here providing you rest. Come to me. Rest in the power of my hand.

Just to be clear, when God set me free, my circumstances didn’t change, but what changed was my perspective. Before reading this passage, I thought I held the power. I thought I was the one having to do this all by myself. I thought I was the one searching for a key, trying to get out of the gate.

But what I was set free from was a mindset of control. I don’t have control, God does.

So yes, life is still crazy and grad school is still hard.

But the chains of thinking I have to control it all has been released because I know God holds the power.


P.S. If you made it this far, congratulations! But I wanted to show you one more example of God’s power. It’s simply the ending to the story with King Herod. See King Herod wanted people to look at him as a god, and Acts 12:23 says, “Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.” If that’s not a demonstration of power, I’m not sure what is.

God is simply using His Word to tell me to breathe because He’s all-powerful and can get someone eaten by worms.