Hi. / Because Denise said.

I’m not so sure I have a license to write a blog. But then again, where do you get a license for something like this? I feel like at some point, at a certain age, we decide we’ve had enough solid life experience accumulate to where the contents of our heads or hearts or both are overflowing and the overflow needs to go somewhere. The last post was about how I was losing my best friend  and possibly my mind —
but thank God for my boyfriend.

Hahahhahhahhahhahahhhhahhahhhahhahh

(I mean, thank God for him. Sure. He’s great. But we’re not together anymore.)
I don’t even live in the same state.
I have moved half-way across the country. I left my job. Left the “great actor’s dream” being 28 and in NYC and going after fame. I left a church I was totally happy at. I left my friends who I adore and miss every day. I left my routine.

So, why?

Basically because God said “It’s time to go home,” and poured an ocean of favor on my move here. Also, my sister had twins. And my grandmother is probably going to go to heaven soon. And I want to be here for all of that. So, it was time to say goodbye and run towards the life God has for me here.

But then I get here and, uh-oh: same temptations, same triggers, same old desires.
And right now I’m in my jammies, sitting in my living room, contemplating what to do with another day in St. Louis, on the prowl for a job, asking God for some direction, and trying to do the single thing with grace. Again.

(Can I just be real and say that’s what I’m doing? Cool.)

I don’t have it figured out. I’m full of imperfections. And I don’t want this blog to be some kind of presumptuous soap box where I put a bow on my thoughts and feelings. I tried that, the whole nice bow thing. And you know what, God untied it, opened up the box, shook out the contents, and messed ’em all up. In a good way.

My prayer recently has revolved around one desire:

“God, create a pure heart in me.”

This echoes psalm 51:10 where David cries out to God where he says, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (NIV). In some translations it says a “clean heart”. In others, he asks  for a “right spirit” or a “loyal spirit”.

Language is my love language.
God uses words and phrases, in multiple languages, some of which I don’t know, to talk to me. He uses lyrics from songs that have nothing to do with Him to speak to me. He’s pretty creative. So, when he showed me this verse, I knew it was a word for me. It was exactly what I needed in this season.

To me, the psalmist’s words point to what is at the heart of our relationship with God: a hunger to be authentic, to be real with him. David asks for a loyal, right, steadfast spirit as well as a pure heart, a clean heart. // We cannot be real with God unless we show him our heart — as it is. Jesus says “come as you are”, right? Not cleaned up, or masquerading as something we aren’t.  So, when we allow God into our heart, and he begins to heal it, we can’t help but be made aware: we have an opportunity to become more like him. To know him. To choose him.

I want to commit to writing about pain, joy, being single, searching for the real thing in a world obsessed with counterfeits, going deeper with God, and everything in between.

I’m not a therapist or a pastor or a novelist. I don’t go to ministry school. I’m an actor who got radically saved who is hungry for more.

(Are you still interested? If yes, great. If not, but you like Christian blogs, I suggest you read blogs by Andi Andrews, Rhema Trayner, Jen Hatmeyer and Ashley Abercrombie. They are like me, but wiser, hotter, and married.)

 

This entry is called “hi” because I want to reintroduce myself.

 

Hi. I’m Rachel. I have zero of this together. Jesus is holding all of this ish together for me. All of my good qualities are the gems placed inside of me before I knew left from right. I just moved back to St. Louis. Theatre is my thing. I have no job — but that will change. And I am the oldest unmarried woman in the history of my family. So, there is that.

 

Here are some thoughts

When will I get married

Why am I not married

Why am I not married

Why why Jesus why

…. Why.

 

I miss sex. (Oops, am I allowed to say that? I did.)

Nope, I’m not a virgin. Yes, I have desires. Yes, I have been abstinent from sex for over three years. Yes, it is a struggle and I have made poor choices. Yes, I continue to commit my heart to God even when it all, and especially when it all, gets super sloppy and I don’t know what to do. And Yes, I totally believe in Jesus and that he makes all things new. And yes, it is a p-r-o-c-e-s-s. Process.

 

But here’s the thing:

How do I walk out purity? How do I live a life worthy of the calling of God amidst a whole city of temptation, an industry riddled with sin and desire, and in a generation where “now” is paramount, and when the word purity in general makes me think of creepy religious things I used to be a part of? Like, how do I do that?

I don’t have a road map, but God has been dropping some major wisdom on me. So, here is what I have learned over the last two weeks and I hope it helps you with whatever is going on in your week, in today, whatever you’re walking in.

  1. Talk to him. God is an amazing listener and he knows just what to say. And he cares. So much. About every detail. Period.
  2. Repent and forgive. Shame and perfectionism are rooted in a religious spirit and directly oppose mercy, the beautiful antidote to pain. Forgiving yourself for needing to perform for God instead of receiving his love is a great start. And then ask where to go from there.
  3. Get a community. This is essential. Friends are everything. We need people who hold us accountable. We need people who laugh with us! We need people who refresh our spirit! We need people.
  4. Be seen. Actually show up to that thing you planned to go to, that coffee date you set, that buddy’s gig you said you would be at. Get out. The enemy hates it when you connect to other people and invest in your life. That’s why he wants you to resist it. So, tell him where he can stick it and get on with life.
  5. Persevere. You can do anything for one day.
    sidenote: I  used to be in AA and I still love the phrase “one day at a time”. It’s so true. And, in fact, that’s totally a biblical principal. When Jesus speaks to his disciples about their day to day tasks, he basically says there is grace per day, so don’t worry, because each day has enough troubles as it is – so, one day at a time.

I promise to be more topic oriented at some point and I will have verses and they will fit nicely into a theme and a story. but today is just about putting this out there, about stepping out and writing, even when I feel like “but it has been so long… who really cares?… will anyone read it?”

If we live for the validation of likes or comments or whatever — is that really life and life abundantly?

Here’s my heart and prayer for today: that we could all boldly step a little further towards where God is calling us. That we could greet his expectations and each other with a “Hello, I’m present” and know that the conversation will continue on. One step, one word, one night’s sleep, one dream, one moment at a time.

Rach

P.s. thank you Denise for constantly telling me I should write more. This is for you.

A014-St-Louis-Cathedral

 

 

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Back to School: An Update!

“So, what are you learning out there?”

I’ve been asked this question roughly a hundred times in the last three months — and I never really know how to respond. Depending on who’s asking, my answer becomes a little less this, or a little more that, or a bit less Christian-ese. Oh, it’s a word. What I’ve learned so far in this mountain town somewhere between the Pacific and the desert is a work in progress, but I’d love to share a couple gems from my last few months. Wherever we may fall on the faith spectrum, I’m believing there’s truth in here for everyone.


 

We can change. 
My whole life I have been the student who turned things in just under the wire, or late. I decided when I came here I was going to be different, this time. So far, I have been early or on time with nearly all of my assignments. This is a big deal for me. I’m not being graded on any of my assignments and interestingly enough, I’m more determined than ever to be on time. It’s crazy how removing a label of good, bad, or best can encourage us to actually be our best. Going a little deeper, I wonder if the reason I handed things in late for so long was to be noticed. In this learning environment where value isn’t earned by performance; whether we deal or conceal is entirely up to us. Old habits may die hard, but they can die.

Ritual is important.
While I’m single, I have the gift of cultivating good habits on my own. Even this spontaneous, adventurous gal needs some staples! For me, those are getting enough rest, enjoying a morning coffee with Jesus, eating well and making solo time to process. I’m an introvert, so I need time alone to recharge. In the middle of studying, learning, lots of deep digging, and reflection, I try to keep a model in place. Yes, I still get distracted and off track sometimes, but it’s good to know I have a system that works, no matter what the day throws at me, or where I go next.

Great leaders call out great leaders.
Honor is one of the main tenants of the culture at BSSM. Practically, this means the students and faculty stand and applaud nearly every speaker, whether we know them or not. We hosted a speaker from the Redding Area Bus Authority (RABA) to outline their partnership with us — and we gave her a standing ovation before she even spoke. Her face glowed as 1,500 strangers shouted and clapped for her civil service. I don’t think I’ll ever forget this special moment because it raised my standard of what honor looks like. Most of us learn to celebrate others only after they have done something for us. But here, we learn to call out and celebrate greatness even before we see it in action. Instead of getting wrapped up in jealousy or suspicion, I’m learning to be a great leader is to recognize others even if they don’t see it, and sometimes, especially, if they aren’t acting it. One of my mentors once said “We can learn to be great leaders and understand identity in tandem. But we can’t do leadership without identity.” Leadership means calling out gold and letting it shine.

Fun is so much more important than I thought.
During an Inner Healing class taught by Jason Vallotton, an extraordinary author and gifted counselor, he explained the process of discovering others’ subconscious belief systems. For example, one of his patients was engaging in unhealthy habits only when returning from vacation. They realized this cycle came from the belief system they could only have fun on vacation and not at home, hence engaging the unhealthy habit to fill a void. To change this belief, this patient had to proactively plan fun after vacation, and then, they had to reward themselves for fun. Wow. This was revelatory for me.
The truth is, after a certain age, I realized I had only built fun around dating, drinking and validation. I’m in the process of learning how to get over myself, have fun again, and not attach it to unhealthy habits. Sounds weird, sometimes it feels weird, but it’s so good. Whether I end up in formal ministry or not — I’ve had way too many conversations with people of faith who take themselves so seriously. Living holy doesn’t mean we have to live grumpy. Jesus went to weddings and rode donkeys and had dinner parties and laughed and had a good time, and so can we.

It’s okay to not know.
Waiting for an answer will only take us deeper into purpose, truth and vulnerability, if we let it. Should I get a job? Am I ready to date? How do I trust again after getting hurt? What do I want? If all my bills were paid off today and my finances were covered — what would I do? What are my dreams? Do I have dreams bigger than my lifetime? It’s hard to have a vision for legacy sometimes without a partner to share it with yet, or a family to hand it down to. The challenge is to keep asking the right questions and rest in hope for answers.


So, where is she now?
At this moment, I’m at Heritage Roasting Co. in Shasta County. Today, I got my first financial milestone covered for my FIRST EVER missions trip to COLOMBIA!! This trip is a dream. I still have about $1,600 left to raise, but I am so excited and expectant for a miracle. If you’re reading this and you love Columbia or me or both or you just love to give, you can give here: Colombia missions!

Also, little/big announcement: I’m writing my first children’s book!
I have no clue what it will look like, but I know it’s a great thing. Advice is welcome!

Last but not least, I’m doing homework like a good student, but I have a mountain view, so no complaints over here. I hope you enjoyed this handful of gems from the last two months, and they kind of help to answer the question. There’s so much more I could share, but for now, this will do.

All the way from sunny California to wherever you are,
R.

 

 

transfiguration.

trans·fig·u·ra·tion
tran(t)sˌfiɡyəˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun
  1. a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state.
    “in this light the junk undergoes a transfiguration; it shines”

I love a great transformation.
Whether it’s “Fixer Upper”, a 7 day workout challenge, or a DIY project — most people get a jolt of inspiration from “before and after” photos. Even if we aren’t passionate about fashion, cleanses or urban-chic anything; we love seeing results. I shamelessly partake in all of the above, but it’s a different story when it comes to something that feels a little more irreversible. Like chopping off five inches of my hair last week.

When we want change to manifest in our lives, it happens one of two ways: inside out, or outside in. For example, our heart might leap when we see new muscular definition after consistently exercising; our skin can glow when we finally let go of that resentment. All three of my tattoos were created internally before I placed them externally. I got more manicures in my three years in NYC than my whole life, they were external experiences which brought about an internal shift of confidence.


 

In 2015, God asked me to refrain from cutting my hair.
My whole life, I’ve impulsively chopped my maple locks whenever I wanted an easy way to bring about a personal revolution. The temp fix lasted a few days, but the real change I desired was always deeper than my roots. There’s a great deal of spiritual significance attached to hair. Hair has been linked to faith in many cultures and to biblical figures who are deeply wise, strong, and faithful. Look at Samson — His hair was literally his strength. Multiple times in OT scripture, long hair is even enforced as a law. There’s something about the process of taking care of something, learning to be patient.

In 2015, God was walking me out of a whole lifestyle of addiction. And even though it was a small vice, chopping off my hair to change something inside was no longer going to work. So I said “yes” and put down the scissors. I wanted to cut it many times, but every time I was reminded of the promise I made to God, and kept on growing.


 

You don’t see a lot of brides in magazines with short hair. It’s all about those romantic, lustrous locks. When I got engaged, my hair was the longest it had ever been. I wanted to be aisle ready. Even when the engagement and relationship ended, I kept growing it. In the brief romance which followed, I still kept growing it, hopeful. And after that ended, I almost felt like growing my hair was an act of defiance against doubt that I’d ever be a bride. But as the summer months pressed on, I found myself hiding in my hair. Rarely styling it, letting it get tangled. Knotted. Untrimmed. On my drive to CA, I started to ponder a haircut. I had a dream about getting my hair chopped off. I interpreted it as losing honor. I was torn. I had conversations with others about what God taught me by growing it, how it made me feel feminine — but deep down, it felt like religious rhetoric. And I was secretly, deeply disappointed.

I thought of the men who had run their fingers through my long hair on a warm day and how they were gone, now. I thought of how it sometimes looked like a nest for a bird which was nowhere to be found. I thought of how a cut might make me look like a mom. I thought of if that was bad or not. I thought of how I was tired of thinking I couldn’t be a bride without long hair.

The other day in worship, we sang “Let it Happen” from United Pursuit and the main verse at the end sings out:

So, take me back, back to the beginning
When I was young, running through the fields with you.

Those words hit my heart and I started leaping and dancing like a kid again. I thought of young Rachel. Wild and free, with a short bob, bouncing in the sun as she ran down the street. I talked with God for a long time about why I was still growing my hair. He said I was still growing it for a man; not to be close to Him. What started as a test of my patience, became my test of God to provide on my timeline. I repented and asked for what He wanted. And He said, You were my bride before you had any hair. 

So, within 24 hours, I chopped it — not as a reaction to who didn’t choose me; but because I realized I was chosen a long time ago, and it had nothing to do with my hair. The whole night was a divine appointment. I treated myself to a nice salon and my stylist went to my school and we talked love, and faith and Jesus the whole time. Then, I celebrated with a good ale afterwards and ended up talking to a pilot from my hometown all night, who is actually fighting the current Delta Fire here in Redding.


 

It’s a new season, but not because I got a hair cut. It’s because God transformed my heart and I am renewed in Him every day. He is the greatest Master of Transfiguration. He brings beauty from ashes. Rivers from dry valleys. Life from death. He is the Great Artist. Because of what Jesus sacrificed, I get to be His bride forever. Forever. He chooses me every day. He chooses all of us. He breaks us from old laws and brings us into new covenant: love. The moment we recognize the power in one encounter with Him, every other temporary make-over loses its allure, because we have been seen and are loved by the Greatest Lover who brings transfiguration to every area of our heart, mind and spirit.

Saying goodbye; gateway to the west.

It’s sweltering outside in that Missouri way where you know a wild storm is about to blow through and clear out all our dinner patio plans for the next week. I love it. I love thunderstorms. As a child, those wild summer storms were my highlight of August; otherwise, I hated this time of year.  In stark contrast to the other kiddos practically running out of their parents’ van and into school hallways, once again; returning to school brought me crippling anxiety. What began as a knot in my throat grew into paralyzing fear by lunch and eventually a full blown panic attack, usually while class was happening. This lasted from age 5 to 12 and sometimes lingered through October.
Needless to say, my academic/social career didn’t get off to a great start.

It’s a miracle I’m a teacher. I spend a lot of my time in schools, surrounded by students of all ages. I have a special compassion for troubled kids. I look back and see the hand of God leading me to theatre to learn how to express myself, leading me to other introverts who became my friends, leading me to writing and music and art. I see God leading me to the joy of public speaking and seeing my inner gift of teaching. Now, it all makes sense. But back then, I didn’t see the plan — all I could see was fear. Every once in a while, I feel like I’m right back there in third grade, locked in my room so I didn’t have to go to school.  My mother, the poor soul, the terror I put her through. I’m eternally grateful she was so patient with me, always encouraging me to walk through my fear and not lay down in it.

Needs to be said: Parents are miracles. With all their flaws and shortcomings and criticisms, at times; they are still miracles.


This is my final week in St. Louis, my hometown of nearly 27 years. I have so many emotions happening all the time in every which way. I’ve found myself driving, a lot. Missing turns so I can go on familiar roads, wondering if it will be my last time in that neighborhood, ‘so, why not?’ On Friday, I will teach my final acting class in St. Louis, pile all the belongings I can into my car, donate the rest, pick up my mom, and hit the road for California. I’m going to ministry school in Redding, CA and taking a week or so to get there. It’s about the journey and driving through so much natural beauty, I can’t help but make a few pit stops.

So much has happened in the last two years since I returned, I don’t really know where to begin. It’s too much to write it all down. Some of it isn’t for sharing. Some of it’s still in process. But here are some things I learned.

When God tells you to go somewhere, Go.
I left my budding acting career in NYC to return home at 27. It was the death of my dream to be a full time professional actor; but it was also the birth of many new dreams. I had placed so much worth on my career — I needed to re-calibrate. It was time to be close to family, even if I didn’t know where it would lead. God provided the apartment and the job and the friends at the perfect time. He continually placed me at others’ crossroads to speak light and truth into their life, to listen, to learn from them. Your obedience is tied to others’ breakthrough and the ripple is much bigger than we think.

Think Big.
Even though this STL chapter only lasted two years, it will be a monumental chapter of my life. I just know it. So much of what I do the next few decades will be the fruit of these two years. All the prayers and tears and writing and dreaming. It matters. Don’t discount what can be accomplished only in a “small” time frame. If you know Christ, you are created for an eternal purpose on an eternal timeline. When things feel cramped, keep walking and ask for patience.

Also —Don’t settle for what you know will not work. Relationships, jobs, endeavors — don’t hold on just because you think something better won’t come around. If we have our eyes fixed on God, we can’t help but run towards greatness. And sometimes, for a season, that means alone, or jobless, or a little broke — keep going.

Own your sh*t.
Yesterday, I threw a goodbye party and about 20% of the people I invited actually came. Not gonna lie, even though the reasons were valid, I’m sure — I was disappointed. I took a little walk to calm down and then I realized — This happened at my graduation party. And my STL moving party. And my NYC leaving party. And now, again. Guess who’s the common denominator, everyone?

Image result for its me gif

I can’t take responsibility for others. But I need to ask — why do I put so much stock in attendance if they showed up in friendship? Also, if certain people tend to flake on the regular, why would it change now? Just being real.

I need to own my expectations of others. I need to own my poor victim issues. I need to own my “black sheep” issues. Then, I need to hold them up to the truth of scripture and who God says I am. I need to lay them down and not agree with them anymore. It’s true! If I have an issue, I need to take ownership. Otherwise, I don’t get to talk about the issue.

Sow where you’re planted until the last day.
People are still there. God is still moving. Don’t give up. Keep loving and praying and listening and going. There’s work to be done, everywhere. Try to see the one every day.

Boundaries are your Best Friend.
Boundaries aren’t walls — they aren’t meant to separate us from others to harm them. They’re placed with the sole purpose to maintain peace and joy. I learned my first year home there are places I’m no longer allowed to go. Certain people, bars, and cultures trigger me to return to old habits; and it’s not worth my joy. Being tested is one thing; entering temptation and saying “come at me” is another. This can look like entertaining addiction, or lashing out at a loved one. This can look like ignoring financial obligations for an expensive thrill, or using sex to speed up physical intimacy only designed for marriage. We need to set healthy boundaries and we need positive accountability to remind us why they’re in place when we forget. We cannot give away what we cannot cultivate.

You will be defined by what and who you allow to define you.
This is simple and very true. Boss, boyfriend, wife, parent, ex, friend, coworker, that stranger who cut you off  — you get to choose who’s writing your story, today.

Learn to let it go. Really.
The heartbreak I experienced this year after ending a relationship rocked me to my core, and I’m still processing parts of it. But I’m smiling, now. I’m laughing. I’m planning my future. I’m dreaming, again. I’m traveling. I’m running in my lane — and I’m doing it, alone. Without him. Without my old addictive comforts. Without filling my heart space with another guy. Without needing more to feel full. I have no idea where God is taking me, but I know wherever I’m going: I can trust Him. It’s the most exhilarating, terrifying feeling ever. Some days are really hard, still. But I let it go, I forgive, again. I pray blessing, again. I wish well, again. I love hard, again. I let it go, again.

There are a million more things, but that’s enough for now.

St. Louis, I love you. I will always love you. I’ll return, but not to stay. Just to visit, like old friends. Stay wild and humid and free.

R.

A Time for Everything

He has made everything beautiful and appropriate in its time.
He has also planted eternity
[a sense of divine purpose] in the human heart [a mysterious longing which nothing under the sun can satisfy, except God]—yet man cannot find out (comprehend, grasp) what God has done (His overall plan) from the beginning to the end.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 AMP

The longer I walk this earth, the more clearly I see my most valuable commodity: Time. Who I spend it with, what I spend it on, where I spend it — they all matter much more now than they did a few years ago. Not because I’m stressed or anxious there’s not enough time — I believe it’s because the more I understand my value and the value within others, the more I see what’s wasteful and what’s essential.

I took an intentional hiatus from writing these past two months.

Not because I didn’t have things to say or I had lost my desire to write; but because there was so much internal conflict within me, I didn’t want to misuse my God given platform to air out pain. There’s tremendous value in sharing what’s on our heart with community as we process; but it’s not an excuse to prolong emotional maturity. Some words are private and some are public: discernment is key. A lot happened in two months — Paris, turning 30, single life, grieving, moving — and I’m sure I’ll write about it all someday.  But for now, I’m focused on the value of time.


 

A while ago, I asked friends for prompts and two struck me today regarding time:
1.”Why it’s so hard for so many people to just apologize when they’re wrong.”
2.”Being stuck.”

A time to search and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep and a time to throw away.
Ecclesiastes 3:6 AMP

The title of this piece is a reference to Ecclesiastes 3 which addresses a wide array of different seasons in life and their specific, individual, divine purpose. In this scripture, the author of Ecclesiastes, mostly believed to be Solomon by scholars, reminds us there’s a given season for all things under the sun. This particular verse feels very timely as I’m in the 837th round of “Keep/Toss/Goodwill” before I move in two weeks, but it also applies to our hearts and our pursuit of an apology/ getting unstuck.

Wrestling with the desire for closure or relief granted by an apology can be excruciating; but sometimes we don’t even know what we want people to apologize for — we just want an apology. Even when we do get to hear those seemingly magic words; they don’t set us free the way we had hoped or relieve us from the avalanche of grief boulders we’ve been struggling to crawl out from underneath. We find ourselves still angry a week, a month, a year later — clenching our jaw, lashing out at our neighbor, still broken.

Unforgiveness is one of the most disgusting time thieves on this planet. Whether we think we’re actually getting even by withholding grace (Spoiler alert: you’re only poisoning yourself, friend) or we don’t know how to do it — unforgiveness has to go. However, before we extend forgiveness, we must count the cost of what was lost.

I know I’ve said this before, but I keep driving this home because we could avoid so, so, so much unnecessary pain and prolonged healing if we did this. We need to acknowledge how we have been grieved, place the offense and the offender before God, actually grieve, and then begin the process of forgiveness. Grief and walking out forgiveness can happen in tandem — but we can’t do the latter first. Getting full Kingdom Justice in a situation where you have been hurt, taken advantage of or abandoned can only happen when all parties get whole and healed and that means extending the kind of forgiveness which comes from an honest place where pain has been recognized; not hidden. Walking out forgiveness looks different for everyone and there are a ton of resources out there. For me, it starts with prayer, an acknowledgement of pain and going from there, day by day, 70 x 7.

Wait passionately for God, don’t leave the path. He’ll give you your place in the sun while you watch the wicked lose it.
Psalm 37: 34 MSG

Psalms is my go-to when I feel stuck and Psalm 37 has brought me comfort when I needed a reminder God sees my situation and His justice is higher. The Message version of this verse highlights how we are to wait for God to bring us into the sun, to the light place — not others. There’s actually no power or authority which others carry to make you whole. It is in the passionate wait for God where we are made complete. Where we’re prepared for our place to walk in forgiveness: unstuck and free.

Why don’t people apologize? The answers are endless and it depends on the person.
Why do we expect apologies? See above.

There is a time to confront in love, to ask for an answer, to seek out truth. And there is also a time after you have fought to understand or get eye to eye with someone where it’s time to count our loss, give it to the Lord, and rest in the truth that He will bring justice. When we are at a stalemate, we need to remember God always gets the last word and He is for us; not against us.

Getting unstuck can happen as easily as a good hour of laughter, but at times it can also feel as daunting as navigating a ship in the middle of a storm at night.  Maybe we have unknowingly agreed with a spirit of defeat or self-hatred, of despair or strife. No matter where we are, how deep the well feels and how many times we have tried to crawl out — whoever this is for — there is hope. The morning will come. The chain will break. The gate will open. The healing will take place. The pain will pass.

As I wrote that, I felt the Holy Spirit come over me so strongly I had to stop writing. If you are reading this right now and you are stuck, I am contending for your breakthrough. I pray for breakthrough in your heart, spirit, body, mind, and soul — that the Lord would give you the peace you are seeking and the answers you have been hoping for.


 

This morning, I sat across from my high school theatre teacher at her cozy kitchen table where she offered me coffee and danishes. The moment she opened the front door, the twelve years since I last saw her faded away and I was overcome with joy to see her once again. We spent all morning catching up and laughing and getting misty eyed. I began to share some current heartache of mine and she lovingly stopped me with a raised hand. She looked me square in the eye in the way only a teacher can, and with a half encouragement-half command, she said,

“That’s done. You need to let it go and move on to all the things God has in front of you.”

This morning, at that table, those words went directly into my heart.

Friends, I’ve prayed over and over the last 6 months to move on, spent hours on my knees in front of God, went to Paris searching for a resolution. Heck, my Dad said the same thing to me yesterday. But in that moment this morning — something changed.

It is God’s timing, and God’s perfect timing alone, in which seasons shift. We cannot force our way into spring or summer, just as we cannot force our way into wholeness or being “unstuck”. We must see where we are and ask God what is our part to play, then decide whether we’re up to the challenge, willing to be His hands and feet — no matter what.

Your time is valuable. You are valuable.  There’s no going back. There’s no fixing or being your own hero. But there is a loving One who sees you and knows exactly what you need, right now, in this season. Today, for me, that included a danish and a big hug and writing. Later this afternoon, it includes getting a tattoo (squeal), and tonight it includes getting dinner with a friend I love.

However and with whomever God is calling you to invest your time — do it. Letting go, or pressing in. Planting, or harvesting. Walking, or running. They’re all options. Choose for today and get after it.

 

R.

fun(employment).

After a full two weeks of travelling, seeing family & friends, and refreshing my heart — I’ve returned home. I spent all of yesterday watching Disney movies (no shame) and vegging — even though the sun was out. Can I get an amen from people who struggle with “wasting a sunny day” — I always feel guilty about this! But sometimes, our heart just needs a day to decompress. Now, in between a coffee date and a lunch date, I gladly welcome the sun pouring in through the window as I’m cozied up at Shaw’s Coffee on The Hill, a quiet Italian neighborhood lined with brick shotgun houses & pasta eateries.

As the daughter of two parents who are still working well into their late 60s, it’s easy for me to look at an entire month of having no steady job as irresponsible. I started working at 12 to help my next door neighbor with yard work. At 15 I had my first job at a local chocolate shop and since then I’ve always (mostly) had a job. However, there were a few times in my life where I wound up jobless, sometimes because I quit, sometimes because I got fired.

If there was a song called “A Few of My Least Favorite Things” from a musical called “The Sound of Shame” — getting fired would be right there at the top of the list along with break-ups and witnessing injustice. The severe rejection we feel when a superior confirms we are no long desired as an employee, no matter the reason, goes deep. It’s embarrassing. It brings up all the lies we tell ourselves about not being good or smart enough. In fact, I spend a lot more time grieving a poor job experience than a poor relationship.


Whether you’re at your dream job, struggling with your current one, or searching for the next gig; having peace outside your work value is essential. If we are constantly looking for satisfaction in our career (or in any one area of life for that matter) eventually we’ll burn out or God will kindly remove it from you, first. I say “kindly” because it’s actually His kindness which keeps us out of pride, and in His grace.

There are a million blogs out there about how to develop your work habits, determining your calling, etc — but I think it’s equally important to ask ourselves if we actually know how to be unemployed. Whether it was our will or not; being without a job can be a season of incredible acceleration in character, heart, and focus.

Three significant times I was unemployed:

  1. Summer of 2012. I started having panic attacks and my worst one happened while I was driving to work and nearly died in a car accident. I quit working at Trader Joe’s/ was kindly excused from my job and spent the next month and a half traveling up the west coast and house sitting in STL. What I learned: I thought I wanted to live in LA, but I really didn’t. Also, the people in LA weren’t happier than I was. I started praying because I saw a side of myself that was so dark, it scared me. Soon after, I started going to church and that began a whole new journey.
  2. Winter of 2013. After quitting my day shift at a local pub, I spent a month crying out to God. I cried out to Him in desperation, in a way I never had before. I remember being on the floor in my mother’s apartment, weeping, crying out for change. Within a month, I began a nanny job which changed my life forever (I love you, Sweet Karen, wherever you are) and applied/ was accepted to an acting program in NY. God is faithful.
  3. Fall of 2016. After moving back to St. Louis in early August, I spent two months job hunting. Even though I was teaching an acting class, it wasn’t enough. Just when I started to drift into discouragement, the Lord blessed me with an incredible job at The Rep with a handful of people who would become some of my closest friends. But because this time I knew the Lord and I knew He was faithful — I didn’t worry. I spent the two months exploring my city, meeting new people, adventuring on a budget. It was the best decision I made, to actually invest my time into living instead of worrying.

Now, as I look ahead, in a couple weeks I’ll be non-stop busy teaching at COCA — a life long dream of mine. I attended COCA as a kid in St. Louis from 5 to 13 years old and it’s such a beautiful full circle gift to teach there. However, until then, it’s a daily choice to invest. To spend my time with those who need a friend, to read my bible, to rest in Jesus, to adventure with Holy Spirit into unknown territory, to fast, to grow.

Here are some questions I’m trying to ask myself every day, job or no job. I hope they bless you and I hope, no matter where you are — starting a new business, working a day job, retired, or grieving the loss of a job — you know Good Things are ahead.

Am I investing in the temporary or in the Eternal?
How am I blessing others?
What is my daily ministry?
Am I finding my value in who God says I am; or the world?
Do I feel love in this season?

R.

Championing 30: pt. 1

T-Minus two months until I kiss my twenties buh-bye, and I could not be happier. Girl, you were fun but you were a TRAINWRECK sometimes tho. For real. But before I get down to business here, let me set the tone for this blog:
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Yes, I’m listening to Spice Girls rn.

I was always BIG on birthdays and my mom has the pictures to prove it. Yet, somehow in my 20s, I stopped really celebrating. I downplayed how much I enjoy rocking a great party dress and a day full of soaking up the love with friends. I dismissed my value and the belief I was worth celebrating at all. I’ve decided that’s one of many things staying in this decade. I tend to write a lot of blogs about really digging into the heart — but this one is a bit lighter. I’ve processed so much these last three months and y’all, it is so, so good to be on the other side. My heart feels happy, my step is light, and my dreams are big.

I’ve learned a lot this past decade and I think I’ll be on the “Championing 30” topic for a bit — but here’s just the first bite of the cupcake for you. So, here’s a list of a few things I’ve learned and I’m leaving in my 20s. Some are easy to part with (like doing that lemon cayenne cleanse, girl, you done) and some are hard (can’t ignore those student loans anymore, babe). Also, this is not just for women. Just saying, men.

But here we go:

1. Don’t buy a Groupon for the dentist. Okay, yes I was that aloof. I needed a teeth cleaning and I went to a dentist who was cheap — and my poor gums paid for it the next two weeks. This also applies to eye doctors. And when you find a massage parlor in Queens who has a $19 Groupon special — just walk away, friend. The Gold: Invest in yourself and budget wisely for what matters.

2. Your resume won’t be on your gravestone. I worked tirelessly to build my theatrical resume, thinking it would be the key to true happiness; it wasn’t. I’ve wrapped so many projects feeling unfulfilled because my value died with the show. The adventure God wants to take us on is bigger than a line on paper. The Gold: Character over ambition, always.

3. If the shoes aren’t comfortable, don’t wear them. No matter how expensive they are. And I’m not just talking about shoes, here. If you’re continuing to walk in a lifestyle that’s causing you grief or pain, you don’t have to stay there. If it’s bleeding you, pass it on to Goodwill, honey. The Gold: There are shoes out there which will actually fit you and, for real, you can do better.

4. When you hear a theme: listen up. “Does this person really honor you?” “Are you having to compromise what’s important?” “Are your values acknowledged there?” “Are you happy?” “Is drinking an issue for you?” “Do you need to take a break?” — Of course we need to use discernment about who is speaking into our lives because words are powerful. But, friend, when you notice those closest to you all start asking you questions like the ones above, you better check yo’ self before you wreck yo’ self. The Gold: Surround yourself with trusted mirrors and don’t hide from what they reveal. They’re not trying to hurt you; they’re loving you enough to shed light on deception.

5. If the love doesn’t feel like 90s R&B I don’t want it. I saw this somewhere and never forgot it. If it’s not passionate, soulful, playful and upfront — forget it. We all have struggles, but we don’t need the drama to have something real. God has perfect timing so if you haven’t found someone who makes you want to shoop, it’s okay. The Gold: Just chill and pray and keep your eyes open and someday you will be nayhoooo-ing your way down the aisle, OK?

6. Not every friend/mentor is for every season. When people get busy, it doesn’t mean they’ve stopped caring. When someone forgets to text or email, it doesn’t mean it’s over. I’ve damaged a lot of relationships by placing unreasonable expectations on people, and also by not reciprocating love for friends who sincerely cared for me. It’s vital to your relational well being to understand a person’s calling is not to be your ride or die, crying pillow, or punching bag. They are their own person with their own needs, in their own season. The Gold: Have honest expectations, confront in love if you must, but hold your loved ones with open hands so they feel welcome and safe; not indentured.

7. Laugh, more. I spent a lot of my 20s feeling melancholy, smoking cigarettes and listening to Elliott Smith, wondering why I wasn’t happy. GIRL, IT WAS THE CIGARETTES AND ELLIOTT SMITH OK. Anyways, at some point I realized laughter/ deep breathing was actually important, so I made space for it. I created space for exercise, I changed up what shows I watch, and I started nannying. Y’all kids are funny! Yes, there are times when we feel like we’ll never laugh again and grieving is important. But that’s a season; not a lifestyle. The Gold: Laughter and tears are equally important.

That’s all for now friends! Would love to hear your 20s gems in if you’re willing to share!

 

R.

peace.

I was going to write a blog all about Psalm 37:4. About how to discern what’s a desire of your heart that’s God given versus a flesh desire, and how to delight in the Lord not just so He can grant our desires; but solely to delight because He is Worthy. However, the more I wrote, the more I felt like it was just the prelude to what God actually wanted to talk about: Peace.

Later on in Psalm 37:37, David says it this way:
“Consider the blameless, observe the upright; a future awaits those who seek peace.”

If I weave those two verses together, it looks something like this: Upright, peaceful, blameless, delighted in the Lord = a future with Godly desires granted.

A God designed desire of our heart – whether it be for travel, marriage, family, adventure, or so many other wonderful dreams –  is always accompanied by peace. I believe in the whirlwind of desire, or even in the eye of a storm — God’s desire is not just for our peace;  but that we would multiply it and throw it around like confetti.

I have an understanding that because God is 1. Our Creator and 2. A Good Father, He knows our heart and loves to lavish us with the best gifts. However, sometimes a desire we think is God’s will is actually a distraction. Or sometimes we attach a true Godly desire to worldly success and validation, and the outcome is pain. Somehow the relationship, the career, the big move didn’t grant us the joy or fulfillment we thought it would. And when we don’t let God heal our broken expectations, we’re left questioning, hurt and, eventually, broken.


Are we in the relationship because we’re ready, or bored?
Are we getting the tattoo because it’s significant, or timely?
Are we moving because we feel called, or impatient?
Are we saying yes because it’s right, or we just don’t know how to say no?

Discernment is really the name of the game, here.
With discernment comes truth and with truth comes peace.
I struggled with a pretty size-able dilemma earlier this week. I prayed and fasted for an answer.  I worshiped. I wept. I thought I heard clearly; but had no peace. Eventually, I got so tired of trying to hear to God, in the midst of a frantic panic, I opened my bible — AND THERE HE WAS. Shocker, right?

See, I was looking for a Yes or No; He was looking for relationship. And as soon as His love entered my heart again, I could breathe. The fog lifted.

In His word, I was reminded He has already provided The Answer for every question, concern, desire, request and hope we’ll ever have. I believe the reason Jesus is named the Prince of Peace is because it was His Royal inheritance. And if I am seated with Christ, then it is mine, as well. The question is whether or not I’ll pick up the mantle of peace at the cost of my own timing and plans.


I still have a million unanswered questions and I won’t stop asking. But I know that whatever His answer; peace is there. Also, friends, peace is active. It’s not lazy to rest in Him. When we are too tired to do anything but rest — we are connected to a living God, an artist who is always creating, even in our stillness. Sometimes especially in our stillness.

In the world, we have to fight and work our way up to peace.
In the Kingdom, we can receive it first. Peace is not simply our reward for seeking Him, it’s a posture of our heart from which we live. Akin to purity and joy.

I truly believe that His peace is what we’re actually seeking at the heart of it all. A deeper knowing we are on the right path and can trust His road map no matter what. I spent the last decade fighting to be seen. I feel like so many of my desires and dreams in my twenties have been about me. About what I hope to accomplish, where I want to go, what I want to do. Now, knowing I’m seen, I want to see others. I want my thirties and forties and all the decades to be about throwing around peace and joy and freedom like confetti. I want it to be less of me and more of Him.

So, friend, I see you. And peace be with you, today and tomorrow, and a million days after.

R.