It was in January that he said those words to me from his blue chair across the room to the left corner of the couch where I sat week after week. I knew he was right, but I didn't like it.
From the hard to the hopeful to the random, here are the little things I learned this spring!
When we sit down next to loved ones and strangers and acquaintances and break bread, we are building love. We are building community.
These are the things that bring me back again, the things that restore a sense of calm, the things that remind me of what is good, of what is true, of what truly matters when things start to feel out of control.
A day in Washington, D.C. spent marveling at incredible art, catching up with a sweet friend, and devouring vegan tacos is a day WELL spent. Here's a quick recap!
Today's prompt: Shout out five of your favorite bloggers. Who are your regular reads?
I love this! Any chance I get to brag about my favorite online friends, I will without a doubt. Here are five of the ladies I love dearly and cannot speak highly enough about!
Amber at Mr. Thomas & Me
Amber has become one of my absolute nearest and dearest online writer friends turned #collaboreads collaborator and pen pal and Rising teammate. She has a heart of gold, a beautiful way with words, and such an honest and unfiltered way of letting us into her life and soul through her online spaces. She loves deeply and it comes through everything she writes or creates in her shop. She shared her story through my Story Seeker project, so if you want to start somewhere and get to know her, check that out here! She is the host of several link-ups that I LOVE (including The Letter Link-Up, Speak Up, and, of course, #COLLABOREADS with me!) and it just shows her desire to build community wherever she goes.
Taylor at Schmusings
A long time ago, I stumbled upon beautiful hand lettering and calligraphy that I loved (probably through my wedding photog friends The Herrintons) and made my way to the website of the girl behind it all. Her name is Taylor, and she has since become someone I very much love and admire and appreciate. We struck up a conversation, and she shared her incredibly powerful story through Story Seeker, and I've just felt deeply connected to her after hearing what she has gone through and how she has kept her faith and kept chasing after the Lord despite it all. This girl is talented in so many ways. I love that she is now part of my team at The Rising and also writing on her newly designed website frequently too-- she is hilarious and honest and blunt and sassy and sarcastic and genuine all at the same time. It's a winning combo.
Hannah at Hannah Brencher
It's been quite a long time that I've been reading Hannah's words and falling in love with them. I don't think talking about her blog and her heart will quite do it all justice-- she's all about loving people well, connecting them and making them feel less alone, listening to their stories, mending broken hearts, all together sharing it through an intricately woven tapestry of words that break your heart and put it back together all in one. I've heard her speak at Yellow Conference and hugged her afterward, a little starstruck all the while. Her book is amazing, read it. Her blog is amazing too, read that also. Basically, just soak up all the HB you can, because she's the best of the best in this biz.
You can find her here: website / twitter / instagram / more love letters / if you find this email
Annie at The Free and Wild Blog
I have gotten to know this girl over the past few months and just adore her. We have a lot in common (like both being gluten free and vegan which is a rare find!) and I just absolutely love her heart for the Lord, her husband, her people, and her city. She also was part of Story Seeker, and I absolutely fell in love with Baltimore hearing her talk about it. This girl just has such a fire in her to chase after the Lord's will for her life and to serve her community. It's infectious and beautiful. I love reading her words.
You can find her here: website
Sara Gilmore at Wonder and Wandering
I don't have any idea how I first found Sara's site, but I'm so glad that I did. I have loved following her life and adventures and seeing her faith play out through the hard and the joyful times of life through her words. She's a truly gifted writer and I'm moved by her posts every time. I feel like I know her well even though we've never spoken, and I'm always quick to read every new thing she shares. Her words are rich, her heart big, her life a true picture of what it looks like to run the race the Lord sets before us.
I'm learning lately that life is a lot about just showing up.
In the mornings, when I'm only half-awake and still mostly grumpy-- show up, at the dining room table, with my Bible and my journal and a mug of coffee still too hot to drink. Be present before the Lord.
When the work day hours begin, when I'm not feeling inspired and my to-do list is miles long-- show up, find a place to start, and begin there. Do the work.
When the evening cools down, when I'm tired and Netflix beckons-- show up, put the sneakers on, take your keys, and go walk. Let the wind blow around you, see the sun set in the sky before you, feel the strength coming back as you move your muscles and stretch your legs. Go move.
When a friend gets news that is crushing, devastating, horrifying, and tragic-- show up, stand by her side, offer the few words you can find, and just love. Be there in love.
When there's a meeting on your calendar for this evening but the day has been long and draining-- show up, sit around the table, and let the wisdom, passion, and hearts of those women recharge you. Be fueled by their fire.
I want to show up. I want to be present. The news around me reminds me that this life is so short, and I don't want to stay asleep and afraid and miss it all. I want to rise up, awake from my slumber, and show up.
We need each other. We need people that show up and don't bail when life is hard or heavy. We need friends that prove through their presence and their constancy that they are trustworthy and true. We need to be reminded through the people that love us that the Lord's love is endless and relentless. When they show up, we remember that He does too, and that He always will.
Show up today. Be there. Be present. The Lord meets us when we show up ready, willing, and open. He will make it all worth something wonderful.
Find more Friday Freewrite posts here!
Wide open spaces out the windshield in front of me, sun shining, scenes changing, music blasting, fingers tapping, wind blowing my hair around my face.
Standing in a room full to the brim with no empty seat to be found, colored lights shining from the stage, and hundreds of voices joining together to sing, to praise, to worship, to know we aren't in this alone, to know there's One who is worthy of all this and so much more.
Hot coffee in a handmade mug cupped in my hands, the steam rising to meet my lips, the flavor sweet but not too much so.
A new journal, the pages cracking open, the scent of the paper, the smoothness of untouched grids on that creamy background, the glide of an inky pen over it all as the words start coming.
Her little arms wrapping around my leg to squeeze me tight, because I haven't seen her in three weeks, and she missed me, I can tell. Her bigger sister sandwiching me in another hug too, giggles and wild streams of words flying everywhere.
The words in small black type, surrounded by smaller black numbers, whispering words of life and love and redemption to my soul.
Sitting at my desk, the new one my dad built, in the new room I now live in, in the new apartment with a new roommate, with new art on the walls, but typing on the same old computer, feeling the same old need to write but same old procrastination pulling me away, the same old heart learning so many new things and finally, finally, putting them into words.
The afternoon sun shining through my windows, shadows of tree branches dancing on my floor, the wind outside carrying faint hints of the fall I know is coming.
Trying to hammer in nails to our new walls, and laughing harder than I've laughed in a while when all they did is bend and bend and bend again.
The ache of muscles so sore from moving everything I own from one home to another, reminding me I should move like this more often, I should push myself harder, I should be thankful for a body that works and should strengthen it better.
Phone calls with an old friend and wine+Bachelor nights with a new one.
These are the things that make me feel alive. These are the things I am grateful for.
Life lately has seemed like one big lesson in learning grace. Not just as a pretty little church word, but as the big, gutsy, life-changing, transformative gift.
Grace is changing everything about me.
I'm a perfectionist. My parents raised me with high standards and expected me to be my very best, and I took that very seriously. I've realized there's a lot more people pleaser in me than I ever cared to admit. I'm an all-star at getting things done. Responsibility is my number one strength according to Strengths Finder, and I love leadership positions and having a clearly defined role to play. I'm impossibly hard on myself and ridiculously critical too.
But grace is changing everything about me.
A dear, dear friend this week saw me break down completely as I realized how this standard of perfection and the consequent feelings of failure and frustration have been eroding all areas of my life.
I rambled as I realized I expect too much out of myself, and when I fail or fall short, I quit and give up. I lock my heart up from people when relationships don't progress like I should in the time I think they should. I give up on projects when I can't figure things out in the time I think it should take. I pull away from God when I don't feel like I'm living well or I don't think He's responding. It's always been how I handle things-- I'm impulsive and spiteful and excellent at giving up when things get hard.
He looked right at me and told me gently, "that's not who you are, though." I laughed while still crying and was baffled-- it's what I do, though. It's what I do in every area of my life. How can it not be who I am? Isn't what I do also who I am?
He smiled at me and I avoided eye contact and he told me none of that is who I am. None of the guardedness, the pushing people away, the stress and the anxiety, the feelings of failure and desire to just quit, none of the critiques and the shortcomings, none of the roles I play or the positions I hold or the work I do... none of them are me.
I am Rachel.
Rachel. At my core, that's who I am.
This friend told me: "It's like trying to describe God. You can say God is love and God is justice and God is mercy and hope and all of these things, but it doesn't get to the core of who He is. God is GOD."
I'm a perfectionist and I've failed at projects on my plate and I've let people down and I've damaged relationships and I've struggled and I'm stressed and overwhelmed...but none of those things are who I am.
I am RACHEL.
Grace is changing me from who I was to who the Lord has planned for me to be.
When I accept the massive gift of grace that's right in front of me, it changes me. It puts broken pieces back together again. It transforms me. It makes me new.
There is grace for me in my work when I can't accomplish the tasks on my plate. A coworker stepped in and helped with the part I couldn't figure out and the project got done and looked great. Grace like that is changing me.
There is grace for me when I shut people out and close myself off from friendships. A friend came to town and told me over Chinese food that it was a phone call several years ago that I had forgotten ever making that made it clear to her that our friendship would last. She told me it was because I called and wanted to figure out if something was wrong that she realized we would stay close. I realized I've since become a friend that doesn't put much effort in, and I saw that she was now the friend fighting to stay close despite my lack of trying. That friend is the one who texts me when I feel like a mess and reminds me that I'm okay, that I'm loved, that I'm strong, that feeling how I'm feeling "IS NORMAL!" Grace like that is changing me.
There is grace for me when I've run far away and squandered everything good I was given and am the perfect picture of the prodigal son.
There is grace for me when I return, head hung low, ashamed that I couldn't have just stayed where I was loved and wanted.
There is grace for me when I put other things in the Lord's place in my life.
There is grace for me when I fail to love well, fail to extend a helping hand, fail to fight for justice, fail to be the hands and feet of Jesus, fail to show mercy, fail to be present.
There is grace for me even when I struggle to have grace for myself.
Grace is changing everything about me.
The sin, the shortcomings, the struggles, the stress...they aren't me. I am Rachel. God is GOD. I am beloved and chosen and covered in His amazing, amazing grace.
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.