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.
Let me tell you a story about my heart. It's been hurt, it's been broken, it's been mended, it's been brought back to life.
After two years of singleness, I found myself with three guys who wanted to date me, and date them, I did. It was wild. It was a whirlwind. Spoiler alert: here I am a few weeks later, still single. Here's what I learned.
When we sit down next to loved ones and strangers and acquaintances and break bread, we are building love. We are building community.
Friends and family and well-meaning strangers, thank you for loving me so well. I know the heart behind your comments is one that is good and pure, but just know that I'm alive and well and happy and confident and content in my singleness. Please hear that.
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'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.
Once upon a time (because this is how all the best stories begin), I met a girl named Macy. I can't remember the specifics, but I knew that I had heard so many great things about her from so many people around my church, Hope. She just seemed like somebody I wanted to be friends with. Now, I've probably known her for more than a year, and I'm so incredibly grateful I get to call her friend.
This girl is a gem. She has this infectious joy and radiance about her that just lights up every room she's in. She's absolutely beautiful, completely genuine in every way, and one of the sweetest people I have ever called friend. She has a warm and welcoming way about her that makes you feel loved and valued when you interact with her-- she asks great questions, encourages endlessly, loves deeply, and is just such a delight.
You know those people that just make life sweeter and brighter and better? That's Macy. I love it.
Macy chases after Jesus in a way that is just so evident and so beautiful. Every conversation I've had with her, it's so clear that her heart is completely for Him, and that she's living every day in pursuit of what He has for her, even if it's things she never expected or necessarily wanted herself. That's true faith.
I'm so grateful for the times I've gotten to sit with Macy over iced chai lattes and just catch up. She doesn't live in Richmond anymore sadly, and I treasure the times she comes through town and I get to grab time with her! I've always left feeling encouraged and a lot less alone in whatever season of life I'm going through. She just gets it.
She's always adventuring around the country (and making me jealous), making time for the people she loves and always making the most of her trips and explorations. Even though she's a new teacher this year and I'm sure busier than she's ever been, she still took time to be part of this project and support what I'm doing here. What a friend.
I'm so excited and honored to share Macy's story with you!
My name is Macy. I am 22, a recent graduate of Clemson University, and a Social Studies teacher at Blythewood High School outside of Columbia, South Carolina. After years of saying I never wanted to return to the Columbia area, I have once again found myself here. And I love it. Navigating through the waters of post-grad, “real world” life is beautiful and scary all at the same time, but I know that wherever I am His hand guides me. This story is just a glimpse of my life, but it needs to be shared because it seems to follow and impact me throughout every season so far.
When I was four years old, I remember standing in front of my bathroom mirror, barely tall enough to see myself in it. I was wearing a turtleneck, jumper, and my hair was a wreck (some things never change). I asked myself, “Do I think I am pretty?” Immediately I heard a voice in my head that said, “No.” Unknown to me at the time, but my war with insecurity had just begun.
Insecurity followed me and planted more roots within me throughout the following years. It seemed like the older I became, the more I grew displeased with myself. In high school, this led to bad decision after bad decision in a search to find fulfillment, satisfaction, and a sense of belonging. This search mostly occurred through an obsession with relationships with boys. As long as I had a boy’s attention, I was silent about anything else that happened. I remember the first time a boy took advantage of me. I did nothing to stop it because I thought that a moment of desire from a boy would be enough to fill the insecurity in my heart. It never worked, but for some reason I kept thinking it would. I entered a season of continual sexual involvement with boys, never once finding strength within myself to fight for my worth. I’ve been taken advantage in many situations, from a room full of people to riding alone in a car with a boy. Insecurity makes us do things that we know are wrong, but appear to be easier to do than stand our ground and fight. So we give in. And we may feel okay for a moment, but that quickly fades.
When I began walking with the Lord in college, insecurity still followed me. While the impact of insecurity looked different than before, I still felt it deep within my soul. Insecurity left a constant feeling of unworthiness and dissatisfaction. If anything, it actually continued to increase and plant more roots within my soul. I am pretty open now about the fact that I did not enjoy most my college experience. I never felt like I belonged and experienced some of the loneliest years yet. It was a hard season, both emotionally and physically (ask me about breaking my foot some time). Yet, I endured. And I learned. And I grew.
Insecurity is often coupled with an abuse of the word “enough.” If I could just be skinny enough, pretty enough, rich enough, funny enough, smart enough, cool enough, then I would defeat insecurity. When Jesus went to the Cross, He took all of this with Him. The only “enough” that mattered after the Cross was that Jesus became enough. He is the only thing that is truly enough to satisfy me. The mindset that if I could just be enough for someone or something then I would defeat insecurity was not necessarily wrong. It was just flawed. I tend to fill in the position of someone or something with temporary things, but rarely turn towards Jesus for help.
The thing that annoys me about how we handle dealing with insecurity is that we treat it like a battle. A battle is a one-time thing. Insecurity is not a one-time thing. It is something that has been deeply driven into so many of our souls by sin, culture, and the enemy himself. It’s difficult to accept, but when I think poorly of myself, I actually insult God Himself. In Genesis, we see God looking down on Creation with favor. Genesis 1:31 says, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good….” Who am I to look upon an aspect of his creation, myself, and tell Him I don’t like it?
If we are going to truly fight and defeat insecurity, we have to be ready to endure the many battles that accompany this war. The sweet thing about this war is that we already know the end result. If we endure and fight, we will be victorious. Our anchor is in our Savior, not anything of this world. Our Savior is ready to bring beauty to these ashes.
Insecurity has brought me many scars. The thing I love about scars is how much we can learn from them. Scars show us the painful effects of a decision, situation, or choice while teaching us to not engage in them again. My scars hold me accountable. They allow me to be able to better help others. Do not be ashamed of your scars, they are part of your story. Insecurity may be a part of your story, but it is not your entire story. Jesus’ last words on the Cross were “Tetelestai.” This translates to “it is finished.” This means that insecurity is finished for us. It no longer has to keep domain over our lives. We can fight it.
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.
It's been a year now. It's strange to realize that, to wrap my head around how a whole 365 days have passed. A year since I told a circle table full of new faces about this project I was launching, this desire to share stories. A year since you eagerly jumped in before I had finished clumsily trying to explain it and said you wanted to dive in. A year since we sat at Panera just a few days later, in a booth I can't sit in again, and I heard you talk about your life in a way that drew me in. A year since I tried to avoid looking at your eyes, thinking "don't fall, don't fall, don't fall."
A year since I did.
But you left. I always knew the leaving was coming, it was the very first thing I learned about you. The paperwork had been done, the plans had been set, and you would be moving to Africa. It seemed wild, exotic, romantic.
But you left. And I broke. I had fallen, against my better judgment. I tried to hold on to the fraying end of a rope, but there was nothing left to cling to with so many miles and so much ocean between us.
You were the last one I said I loved. You were the last one I called mine. You were the last one I fell for. I don't know who will be next, if there will be somebody to be next. I hope there will be, someday.
Because of you, I learned something I needed badly to grasp. It is good to let others in, and it is good to let others go.
From the start, what we had was honesty and vulnerability and words and nothing held back. We got to a place of depth quickly, and it was both terrifying and exhilarating. You showed me people don't always run when true colors come out.
You showed me people aren't always for forever, but that even short seasons of togetherness can be beautiful and life-changing. My life was changed by the three months I spent getting to know you and letting you get to know me. It was changed even more by the weeks after you left, and the process of me learning that I'm okay on my own, strong on my own, capable on my own, alive on my own.
I've never been good at letting down my guard, at letting people see the twisted, tangled mess of my heart. You showed me it's worth it, no matter how it ends. You proved you were trustworthy and you were real with me in return. I've never been good at letting people go, at loosening my grip and cutting ties and moving on. Because of you, I've learned sometimes that's best.
Not everyone is meant to stay on stage for the entire play, some are just supporting characters whose roles are short and sweet in the spotlight. Their names will still be mentioned in the program, but they don't need to be in bold, they don't need to be highlighted, they don't need to have an encore. Their part was enough as it was, and the play better because they participated, but the show must go on and I must keep playing my own role once others fade behind the curtain.
Thank you for sharing your story and your summer with me, 365 days ago. Thank you for showing me the best kinds of Malbec wine, for dancing with me even when I was half asleep, for the game nights and the road trips, for teaching me your signature sultry-eye stare, for crushing me in bowling games and wearing monogrammed dress shirts, for never letting me win in a debate, and for always reading my words and my letters. Thank you for teaching me more in three months than I've still fully realized. It was a wild ride and I'm grateful for all of it.
Wishing you well always,
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.