This year didn't start well for me. I didn't think I wanted to share about this here, but I think it's actually a good thing for me to do.
I haven't been writing much (if you didn't notice, it's totally okay) and it felt like time to share why.
When we sit down next to loved ones and strangers and acquaintances and break bread, we are building love. We are building community.
I was getting so sick of the numbers games, the comparison, the pressure to share, the phoniness of it all, just the whole Internet thing, to be honest... but then I realized I needed to make some key changes to make the Internet a place I enjoyed again.
I've heard it said that women are catty, that we are competitive and cutthroat and caught up in our appearances. My experiences have taught me just the opposite is true. I have found that women are compassionate, encouraging, eager to build each other up, and passionate about loving each other and the Lord well. I've seen incredible, unbelievable, powerful things happen when women come together.
In 2014, I went to a women's gathering at my church here in Richmond called un/defined. I didn't know quite what to expect, but I loved everything about it. It was a HUGE event, and it was so good. Laughter, covers of Lorde's song "Royals," funny spoof videos, bold teaching, stunning worship, vulnerable conversations, community-building, and a fantastic experience down to the very details.
Now, I'm part of team planning the next gathering of un/defined. Over the past few months, I've sat around tables with this team of women, and they have continually reminded me of all the goodness about women gathering together. These women are all different ages and in different stages of life, with different gifts and abilities and interests...but they unite for one common goal: to see women changed by the love of the Lord. They (quite honestly) are the best.
We're a small group, but I've seen God move in mighty ways in us already. We're a small sampling of the women who will join us for un/defined in January, but we are believing together that He'll do for the big event what He's doing among our small team.
We laugh hard together, to the point of tears sometimes, at jokes and at sentences that come out all tangled up in the most hilarious ways. We pray together, honestly coming before our Father with all that our hearts are longing for and wrestling with. We plan together, all of us using our strengths to join together and bring this gathering to life.
When women come together, beautiful things happen. This team has been proof of that to me.
At the last un/defined, I saw the goodness of the female community like I had never seen before. The room was packed. The energy was electric. The experience was amazing and empowering and exciting. I still feel that momentum now, almost two years later. Women came (hundreds and hundreds of them) and let down their guards and got real with each other and with God, and they left those two days changed.
I believe the same will happen in January. I believe women will come (hundreds and hundreds and HUNDREDS of them) and let down their guards and get real with each other and with God, and leave after two days changed.
I can't wait.
The world might try to tell us about who women are, but I want to listen to what God tells us. He says we are beloved and we are beautiful and we are His. He calls us to gather together and to seek Him with all of our hearts. He tells us He wants to give us life to the full, to know us intimately, to love us relentlessly.
I want to invite you to join us if you possibly can. I can't wait to see all that the Lord will do, and I want you to be a part of it. Come experience life to the full with us.
I'm cheating a little bit today, and sharing a post I wrote for my column on The Rising. It's about people and letting them in and letting them love you.
I’m an introvert—truly, deeply, completely. I am drained by people more than I am charged by them. I could (and do) spend hours and hours and even days totally alone and I thrive.
But I know now that I need people. I truly, deeply, completely need other people.
I never used to think I did. I spent much of my high school years feeling like I was totally okay without anyone close to me, that with God on my side, I would just conquer life by myself. I didn’t want to let people in (a cross-country move and a clique-infested high school scarred me) and I didn’t think I needed to.
Life got hard. My heart got broken. Things fell apart.
More than ever, I didn’t want to let people love me. I didn’t even want to let people really see me. I just wanted to get by.
Every day in October, I'm writing whatever comes to mind when I focus on one word.
You can find all of my Write 31 Days posts HERE.
This summer has been a season of waiting for me. Waiting all summer for my big, exciting road trip. Waiting for my job to evolve to the next stage, the one where my hours and responsibilities grow and my bank account (thankfully) does the same. Waiting to move into a new home with a new roommate in a new part of town. Waiting to launch a website that has been months in the remaking and redesigning. Waiting for the actual seasons to change so the heat and humidity would be left behind.
This past year has been an even longer season of waiting for me, too. Waiting to figure out which city to call home-- a new one, or this one here by the river? Waiting to meet somebody to be my person. Waiting for the community that challenges me, loves me, and becomes my people. Waiting for clarity. Waiting for discernment. Waiting for direction.
Sometimes it can be hard to define waiting. It can be hard to know if we are just ignoring, or if we aren't ready, or if it's already in front of us but we just haven't realized it yet. But waiting, according to the dictionary, is "the action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or until something else happens."
Waiting is an action.
I picked up a book that had long been on my shelves, one written by an author of fiction that I love, and just fourteen pages in, I was met with this passage that struck me:
I couldn't have written a more accurate passage to bring waiting to life.
Waiting is hard and it can be heavy. It can feel hopeless at times and hopeful at others. It's full of longing and learning. It's a time of cultivation and creation. It is full of so much searching and seeking and learning how to stay, to be still, to speak and to be silent too.
I am not any less because I am waiting. The things that I am waiting for will surely add goodness and richness and beauty to my life, but my life is not bad or poor or ugly right now.
My life right now is good, even though I'm waiting.
My heart right now is full, even though it is still longing for things yet to be.
My identity is confident and sure, even though roles might change and relationships will come and go.
Sue Monk Kidd also talked about how the imagery of cocoons and butterflies resonated with her during her own season of waiting, and I love what she says here about cocoons:
I'm learning that waiting is both active and passive, that it's necessary even in the ways that it is hard, that it is worthwhile to enter into it fully and wholly and openly.
Only after seasons of waiting can new fruit come forth.
Today's Blog-tember prompt: Write a letter to sixteen-year-old you. Any advice or funny stories?
This is about to get real, so get ready.
Dear 16-year-old me,
Oh, sweet girl. I have so many things to tell you. High school is so hard, I know. You feel alone and your heart is broken. You moved all the way across the country last year and it totally rocked your whole world-- everything and everyone you knew and loved is so far away and it's really hard to be the new girl in a school full of cliques.
I know it's hard to be in hallways full of people and feel alone. I know it's hard to hear the hateful words they are whispering as they pass you and to remember those words aren't truth. I know it's hard to see the vicious threats come through to your inbox, to realize that even church girls can be bullies. I know it's hard to rise above it, to try to be the bigger person, to let the words roll off your back when they're cutting into you like daggers. I know it's hard to feel like there is any good in your world right now.
Sweet girl, if only I could dry your tears and whisper words of love to you. If only I could go back and make all the bad go away, take the hurt away, and wrap you up in a bubble so the bullies can't get to you. They are cruel. They are hurtful. They are in the wrong.
I'm so proud of you. I'm proud of how you keep falling back on your faith, even when it feels like the whole world was falling apart. I'm proud of how you keep opening your heart, even though it has been so badly broken. I'm proud of the words you spill onto pages and pages of journals, because they are honest and true and raw and you are brave enough to write them down.
The rest of high school will be hard, I can't lie to you about that. You will get through it. You will come home crying and collapse on the couch more times than I can count, but you will make it through.
You will make new friends that you will still talk to even six years later. You will fall in love with a boy for the first time and it will be life-changing to spend two years with him. You will find your passions and pursue them, through leading worship at your church, and through the school newspaper, and through your own writing.
Those years are the hardest ones. They're full of more heartache and heartbreak than any teenager should have to endure. But those years are the ones that set the stage for a glorious story of redemption that your Creator is writing through your life. Those years are the darkness, but the light is coming, and it's going to be radiant. People will see a change in you and they will know it's only Jesus. That's a good, good thing, love. That's what this life is all about.
I know you don't understand why anyone in the world likes high school, and why any adult ever says that it's the best time of your life. Even when you're 23, you won't understand that. That's okay. High school was hell for you, but the rest of your life? Girl, it gets GOOD. Really good.
Hold tight to your faith and your family. Know that your parents are always going to be your biggest fans, your rock-solid foundation, your best friends, and your most trusted confidantes. They love you. Let them. Be good to them, even though you're moody and hurting and you want to lash out. Know that it won't always feel like life is a battle of you against the world. There are good, trustworthy, honest, kind people, and you'll meet them soon. They'll love you relentlessly and you'll learn to trust friends and community again. It will be the best thing that ever happens to you.
Hear me when I say this, sixteen-year-old self: You are brave. You are beautiful. You are beloved. You are going through hard times, but they are not in vain. You are worthy of love. You have been created by a God who loves everything about you, even when the people around you don't. You are where you are for a purpose, because it's part of a bigger story that is better than you ever dared to hope. You are hurt, but you will heal. You are struggling, but you will rejoice soon.
It's always darkest before the dawn. Hold tight. Hold on to hope. I'm so proud of you.
All my love and more,
Since I'm currently on a two-week road trip across the country and back, there won't be any new stories this week or next. Have no fear though, here are several amazing stories back brought to life from the archives of the past year!
"Surrendering my own sense of control is something I’ll always struggle with because it is such a deeply rooted habit. In the past year though, I’ve learned the beauty of total surrender. By putting my trust in something bigger than myself, I’m taking a huge risk. But this risk has completely changed me."
this story was originally published july 23, 2014
"The reality of the situation, however, (and the reality I had managed to overlook as I struggled with my decisions) is that I never played the game simply to make the NHL. I play for the sound of skates hitting the ice. I play for the smooth, glistening, fresh-cut sheet. I play for the sweat, the soreness, the pain, and the pressure."
this story was originally published october 8, 2014
"It has now been a year, and we’ve discovered that it is the uncertain, anxious, and expectant waves in our marriage that has taught us to love more than we thought imaginable. In faith, we decided to get married when we did because that’s what we felt God was guiding us to do. Today, we have no doubt about His plan, as He has opened doors left and right for us to continue walking forward in the intention He has for our marriage."
Interested in sharing your story? You'll find everything you need to know here-- drop me an email and let's chat! I can't wait to hear from you.
Last summer, a bunch of conversations and questions and searching culminated in the launch of a new project. I was seeking a richer life in Richmond, craving community, and longing to be real with the people around me. I wanted to share my story and I wanted to hear the stories of others.
Story Seeker was born last June.
Exactly one year ago today, I wrote this post about it.
From June of 2014 through April of this year, 18 people shared their stories. 18 people bared heart and soul and spilled it all onto the page. 18 people grew me in incredible ways, opened my eyes and my heart to pain and joy I had never considered, reminded me we're never alone, and became parts of my heart.
Story Seeker is an amazing thing. It's also a hard thing. I realized as I sat across the table or sat at my computer that these stories were going to wreck me and break my heart and feel heavy. They were also going to put my heart back together, to make me celebrate, to fill me with joy and hope for humanity.
Life got busy. We say that so much, and it's a poor excuse. What happened is I let it slide. I let the stories fall to the wayside and let other things take priority in my life and with my time.
But now? Now I'm in a season where all community has been put on pause, and I find myself craving connection and community and coffee dates all over again. So I'm committing to bringing Story Seeker to life again.
She had a feeling like the world she was in just didn't fit right anymore. Sitting on a couch with a plate of pancakes in her lap, she looked at the laughing faces around the circle and realized she felt far away. If she wasn't there, would they notice? She didn't wonder in a cynical way, didn't accuse or blame or resent, she just wondered.
And then, she took a step back. She bowed out as gracefully as she knew how, letting those people still laugh in their circle, just without her. Her heart didn't hurt, didn't ache, didn't mourn. She just felt like those people somehow weren't her people. They are beautiful, wonderful, talented, kind-hearted people, but they just weren't her people.
She didn't know who her people were. Sitting on a porch with a mug of coffee in hand, she looked at the sky above her and realized she felt far away. The people who she had written about in journals, the ones who told her words she still clings to, taught her lessons she's still working through, shared stories she still remembers, those people felt far away.
She didn't feel alone, really. She knew she wasn't. She knew there was a friend a few hours north, one across the country by a big blue lake, one in a colonial town, one working as a beach bartender, one in school for photography, one just a bedroom away, and a list of many more beside them.
But where were her right here, up close, sharing meals, clinking drinks, bumping elbows in the aisles, living in the nitty gritty of her everyday people?
Where were the ones who she couldn't hide from? Where were the ones who would show up at the front door when she didn't reply to a text for hours, just to check in? Where were the ones who would flop down on the end of the bed and just listen to the venting, the processing, the crying? Where were the ones who would pull up, windows down, music blasting, ready for a wild and unplanned adventure around town, just because it's sunny and seventy-five and why not?
She had a feeling her world just didn't fit right anymore, like she had been trying to stay wrapped up in skin she had outgrown.
Maybe her people were somewhere else, in some other city of some other state. Maybe they were just down the street, and she didn't know because she didn't wander over there. Maybe her people were waiting for another day, another season, another year to appear. Maybe the people she was searching for was really just one Person, the One she strayed from and struggled to stay wholeheartedly connected to, even though she yearned for that.
She had a feeling something needed to change. Maybe it was her. Maybe it was her zip code. Maybe it was her outlook. Maybe it was her eyes. Maybe it was her heart. Maybe it was a lot of things that all boiled down to little things.
She decided today would be the day one little thing changed. And then tomorrow, she would try another. Her world was hers but it was also His, and she knew she had stayed still and stagnant and silent too long.
She needed to shed her old skin, wriggle out into a new world, and set off in search of her people and her purpose.
This has been a huge week of firsts on this little blog...my first giveaway (open until midnight tonight! you could win a book and it's super simple so check it out here!) and now my first vlog. I'm loving this.
As you have heard (I'm sure), #fireworkpeople rocked my world in 2014. The women I have met through this incredible community are beautiful and brave and full of the very best ideas-- like this monthly vlogging link up hosted by Amber and Annie.
These two...I can't even find words to do them justice. They're on fire. Watch their intro video if you want to get to know them a little bit-- you'll fall in love with them, I'm sure of it.
Here's how this thing works! Every month, on the first Friday, I'll post a vlog as part of the Speak Up link up. You'll get to see my face and hear my voice and get to know Rachel the real person, not just the one behind a screen sharing words, and it's going to be great.
Within seconds of seeing Amber and Annie on my screen, I felt like I really and truly knew them. I've been reading their words and chatting with them on social media for months, but as soon as I saw their faces and their mannerisms (adorable) and heard their voices, they became real people to me in a whole new way. That's the beauty of this whole thing and what drew me in instantly.
I can't wait to link up with everyone else and connect to even more women around the world as we all share our voices and speak up each month. Feel free to join in this time or next time if you want to be part of the fun, too. Let's hope I get better at this whole vlogging thing with practice...
Anyway, here we go: WILD and FREE is this month's theme. Here's my vlog in all of its glory!