sunsets

BLOG-TEMBER: An Introduction

The Internet has brought amazing people into my world that I NEVER would have met otherwise. It's the coolest thing, and I'm thankful for those people every single day. I've partnered with friends and made ideas come to life, I've joined friends and vlogged for the first time ever, I've met fellow gluten-free vegans...etc.

One of these amazing friends is Bailey. She's one of the very best. She's hosting The Blog-Tember Challenge this month, with a prompt every day for all of September. Because I know myself and know that I could never manage a post a day on top of my regular blogging (and on top of the launch of The Rising too), I'm going to just be picking and choosing different days to jump in on, but I am so excited! Thanks to Bailey for organizing and hosting this awesome challenge!

Today's prompt is this: Introduce yourself however you like! Pics, vlog, collage, your choice :)

So, HI FRIENDS.

I'm Rachel. My initials are RAD, which is why you see them up there in the corner. My favorite color is emerald green (my birthstone), so that's up there in that logo too, and the arrow is significant to me for a lot of reasons. I even got it tattooed on the side of my foot! To me, an arrow is such a simple tool, basically useless on its own. In the hands of a skilled Archer, though, it can go so far and hit a target and actually have an impact. My life is like that-- useless on its own, but in the hands of the One who made me, I can actually go the distance and have an impact for His kingdom because He is the one sending me. It's a reminder to run the race He's set before me, to give Him the glory, and to never be too proud on my own.

I'm an INFJ, and Strengths Finder says my strengths are responsibility, connectedness, belief, intellection, and empathy (if you're into that kind of thing like I am!).

I work for Rethink Creative Group and our faith-based blog The Rising is my baby. We re-launch on Sept. 8-- stay tuned! 

I've been a believer my entire life, and was baptized when I was 7. My testimony is one of brokenness and redemption, heartbreak and healing, trying to live life on my own then learning how to embrace and love community, trying to be self-sufficient, failing, and then learning the sweet, beautiful, radical gift of grace, and a whole lot of falling flat on my face before a Lord that is merciful and so mighty to save me time and time again. I'm daily amazed by Him. 

I was born in Maryland, grew up in Arizona, and now live in Virginia. I've learned that home isn't places, but people, love, and a whole lot of pieces put together.

I'm a gluten-free vegan. Yes, it's hard. Yes, I still get my protein. Yes, I love it. No, I don't want to eat a burger, but thanks to everyone who always says that! ;)

I have another tattoo on my arm that I love love love, and you can read the story behind it here.

I'm a major bookworm. I write monthly blog posts about what I'm reading here, and my friend Amber and I host the #COLLABOREADS link up every month here!

I love adventure, exploring new cities, finding fun coffeeshops and drinking too much coffee, spending hours in bookstores, being outside, napping in my Eno hammock, traveling, scouring farmers markets for the best fresh produce and WILDFLOWERS, and experiencing everything I can everywhere I go.

I absolutely love sunsets and have been known to dangerously try to capture them in pictures while driving...oops.

I have a braid or a bun in my hair most days. It's a wild mane otherwise, and a girl's gotta do what she's gotta do.

I created this project called Story Seeker last summer as a way to get to truly know new people and swap stories. It has changed my life. You can read the stories here. If you want to share yours, I would be honored and absolutely overjoyed to hear and share it! 

I made a bucket list for 2015 and have LOVED how much it has pushed me to do new things!

I'm a liiiiiiittle obsessed with Shark Week. I watch a TON of Food Network and HGTV. I love love love Friday Night Lights, Grey's Anatomy, New Girl, Scandal, Bachelor/Bachelorette (guilty pleasure), Parenthood, Nashville, One Tree Hill, and How to Get Away with Murder. Wow, that's a lot of shows.

I'm a huge hockey fan-- GO CAPS. I grew up going to Phoenix Coyotes games and my high school boyfriend played and loved hockey too, so I got really into it and am now a diehard Washington Capitals fan through good and bad. Other sports? Eh. 

I'm learning lately to live my life with eyes open. I want to wake up from my slumber, calm the chaos, and make all of my life matter and be meaningful. I'm choosing to be grateful daily, even when I feel overwhelmed or out of control. 

It's so fun to share more about myself, but now I want to know more about YOU. Share a fun fact in the comments, friends! :)

 

SELAH // Three Months In


Selah. Pause and praise. Be still and know. Stop, wait, rest, worship.

2015 has been wild so far. Three months in (how...) and I've found myself seeking selah more and more and more. My soul needs it. My heart longs for it. Everything within me yearns to just stop and be still, to pause and to praise.

Schedules are crazy, hours fly by, and the pressure to hurry mounts with each passing second as the stress builds. I don't want that.

I want selah.

Evenings where the to-do list is a mile long, but I know it can wait until morning, so I stand in the front yard just to watch the sunset. Mornings where emails crowd my inbox, begging for my reply,  but I keep the screens off and soak up Scripture instead. Commutes in the car with music just a click of a button away, but instead driving in silence, my heart spilling prayers and worries and wants to my listening Lord.

I want selah.

It's a choice, this selah thing. It's a choice to be still. It's a choice to be silent. It's a choice to worship. It's a choice to find joy. 

I choose selah. I loosen my white-knuckled grip on control. I let go of the tasks and the to-dos. I exhale all the pent-up stress that's kept my breath shallow and shaky.

I choose selah. I sink into the true rest my weary bones desperately need. I let my heartbeat calm, surrendering to its Maker, as I let His words flood me and His mercy comfort me. I let my words be few. I let my spirit soar with His. I choose to pause and praise. I choose selah.


Though the cities will always be chaotic, though people will always hurry, though the world flies by in a mess of noise and motion, creation reflects the Creator. Beautiful. Still. Indescribable. This video shows the contrast wonderfully.


After an exhausting day of nannying combined with stress about deadlines and a dozen things that needed to get done yesterday, this sunset was ahead of me the entire drive home. And instead of worrying about the things I needed to do, instead of stressing, instead of drowning out my thoughts with the latest Mat Kearney album, I drove home in silence, just watching. Just staring at the glory of God on display before me. Just choosing selah.


This playlist was on the top of my Spotify page when I opened it up, and I turned it on as I started to work on some writing and blog updates. I expected songs with lyrics, but there were none. Before long, I felt calm and at peace. Before long, I felt my eyes welling up with tears. The simple melodies were all my soul needed to finally breathe, to finally let go, to finally release. I stopped working and just sat and listened as the music filled the room and filled my heart. Who knew a simple "Stress Relief" playlist could bring such sweet selah?


It helps me to get out of the house, to be in a place where there are people around and the smell of roasting coffee beans and the white noise of conversations and clanking plates. It helps me to change my surroundings. It helps me to sit at a new table, pull out my Bible and journal, and pour my heart out onto paper. For an hour or so before the real work of my day begins, this helps me. Intentionally making an effort to pause. Intentionally making an effort to praise. Intentionally carving out room and choosing to devote my time to selah.


May the next three months (and the rest of this year) be even more devoted to selah. May I choose to pause and choose to praise, no matter what comes. May I choose to make the Lord the focus of my days, today and every day. 

Glory from the Gloom

It had been a rainy day. A dreary day. The kind of rain that just lingers for long hours, falling from a heavy, dense and gloomy sky. Late afternoon came, although nothing but the clock would tell you that, the sun masked by layer on layer of murky clouds.

The rain slowed to a mist, a few drops here and there, the clouds glided away to the next town, and shy rays of light started to break through. A glorious, bright and clear rainbow cut through the clouds like an effervescent path to glory. And on the other side of the sky, if you swiveled your eyes around 180 degrees, there it was.  

A masterpiece was on display. It wasn't framed behind glass with ropes holding back pushy crowds. It wasn't locked up in a museum's special exhibit. It was spread across the sky, and I was sitting in the middle of the parking lot on wet asphalt to watch it. 

 

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Glorious. Radiant. Breathtaking. Not even those words contain it or come close. Those colors don't have names. That sunset couldn't be captured in a photo. The immensity doesn't translate through a screen.  

That type of beauty could only come after the rain, after all the rain had fallen from the sky and all the darkness had consumed the day, after the clouds had hung heavy and full of the weight of the rain, the storm.

It was worth it. A million stormy days in a row would be worth it to see the sky light up like that, to see every second bring a new burst of gold, new streak of pink, new shadow of purple. I couldn't look away. I was mesmerized, captivated. I was in awe that such beauty came on such a gray day.  

Then bursting forth, in glorious day... Amen to that.

Glory comes after gloom. Beauty comes from brokenness. Light comes after loss.  

The storms, the rain, the hurt, the darkness, those aren't the end of the story. Hold on, hold tight, wait it out. Wait for the masterpiece that will blow you away. Wait for the next scene, the one you can't quite imagine or foresee. Wait on the Lord and know He is the author of a story of glory in your life.

There's good...but then there's GREAT.

I'm pretty convinced that sunsets are how God tells me he loves me. Every time I see that big ball of light start to sink out of sight and the colors start to splash across the sky, I'm reminded of how my God is a glorious Creator who wants to romance me with what He can do.

I was driving to the mall after work the other night, and I just had a feeling it was going to be one of those evenings where the sky was going to look fantastic. I was honestly getting frustrated that the way I was driving didn't let me look at the setting sun, but thankfully I arrived and was able to park before it really started to set. Of course, I got out of my car, whipped out my phone, and started taking pictures of the fiery sky. Natural response, right? I mean, it was beautiful, how could I not!

Most of the sky was a rich, inky blue that was beautiful on its own, but then the clouds around the sun lit up with shocking shades of pink and purple, with streaks of yellow and orange weaving around the cottony clouds. I snapped several pictures, but had to run my errands, so I tore myself away and went inside.

I wasn't really embarrassed at all that people in the parking lot had seen me standing there taking pictures of the sky above the outline of the mall. That sky was gorgeous, and I wanted to soak it all in. The words "the Lord saw what He had made, and it was good" kept echoing in my head. Yeah, Abba, that was good, I thought as I waited in line at the customer service desk.

But then, just a few short minutes later, I came back outside. And that fiery, gorgeous sunset was even better.

All the colors had intensified, the boldness of them all more vivid and shocking then even just a few hundred seconds prior. I know it sounds weird, but I just stood there and laughed. I didn't even try to take another picture of it. I knew my phone couldn't capture all that my eyes were taking in. Not even an Instagram filter could make that sky look as remarkable as it did in that moment.

As I drove home after the colors had all faded and the sky turned dark, I kept thinking that we so often settle for good. We have things that are pretty, that make us happy, that are worth capturing and remembering, and we think that's the end. We snap the pictures and settle and continue onward, not even knowing that right around the corner is something that is more incredible than we realized was possible.

I really thought that sunset was unbelievable. I thought it was incredible. I thought it was good. But I didn't know that right around the corner in just a few short minutes, it would become immeasurably more beautiful. It would become GREAT.

I settled. I snapped a picture because I thought it was done. How often do I do that in my life? Not literally take pictures because I think things are good (even though I do that too), but how often do I just accept what's in front of me instead of praying and believing there will be more?

I've heard people say before that good is the enemy of great. To an extent, I would agree.

When we settle for less than all that our lives or our circumstances or our relationships could be, we are cheating ourselves out of the fullness and richness of what God intends for us.

My challenge to you (and myself) is this: Believe that there is greatness ahead. Believe that there is more than just good. Hold on, be patient, wait. Pray boldly and pray big, believing that God can do more than just good. Because He can, and He will. He will do immeasurably more. And it's going to be great.

How have you seen God do great things in your life when you could have settled for just good? How has God wowed you with more than you could have dreamed of? Leave a comment and share your stories!

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