Friday, June 28, 2013

Making a difference

"What do you want out of life? Out of a career?"

This was a question asked of me recently.

My answer was simple, though it was rooted with many deeper thoughts: I want to make a difference.

Do I have to be a CEO to make a change, make a difference? No.
  Do I have to have a job where everyone knows and sees what I do? No.
    Do I have to be a public speaker or writer or motivator to make a difference? No.
     Do I have to be an overseas missionary to influence others with God's love? No.

Making a difference starts with my heart motivations and moves through the creases of my words and my actions. Making a difference is something God does, using me.

I thought about who most impacted me over my life thus far. My mom. My friend, Julie. Those 2 are the first who come to mind every time. Did either of them have big time names or huge careers or places of great importance in a worldly sense of the word? No. But they both displayed incredible willingness. To be who and where God placed them.

I often have said "But I just make coffee". But God can use that. He can use a smile in a person's day.( I know He has used others' smiles in my day.)

God can use a simple encouraging word.
God can use my broken hearted moments to help someone. He can use my fallen moments where I have learned the depths of His grace. He can use my story. He can use my battle of what has been depression and anxiety. Why ? Because He has the victory. He has won for me. And He can use that to help someone else.

God can even use a perfect cup of coffee.

He has turned my sorrow to joy.
  He has brought healing where there was only pain.
   He has loved when I felt unloved.
      He has given grace when no one else did.
         He has overcome my battles.

But I had to let Him.

 And He can use that. To make a difference. When I let Him, and stop telling Him what I think it should be that makes the difference .

How do I make a difference? Is it my career path? NO.
   I make a difference starting with simple willingness. To be who He created me to be.

How will you make a difference today?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My running story continued

The anticipation was high and the excitement was almost exploding.

Somehow, I managed to sleep, though.

4 a.m.: Sunday morning. I went through my morning rituals: a cup of coffee. A bagel with peanut butter. Water. And more water. I kept thinking "Is this really happening? I am about to run a half marathon!"
  Butterflies consumed my stomach, but I was very excited and ready to go. Everyone loaded into the car, including my 2 sleepy eyed kids, as we drove off to the start line. I really didn't know what to expect, but I was ready. Looking back, one of my silliest fears was being afraid I'd get lost. I was afraid I'd be so slow that I wouldn't know where the miles were and where to turn. (Now I've done so many races that thought doesn't even cross my mind. ) There was drizzle rain in the air. Runners were everywhere. Music was loud. Port-a-potties took up blocks of Cincinnati streets. As I found a place to call my stretch and start area, my family found a place near the start line.
  A Kanye West song blared as the start gun went off. I couldn't stop smiling. I was really doing this! I won't take you through every detail of the race, but it was an amazing experience for me. There is never another "first race". A few of the memorable moments for me through the race were these:
   -By mile 2, I really had to go to the bathroom. I didn't want to stop, though. However, by mile 4 I really needed to. I wasn't a seasoned runner to use the side roads, as some of them did. (I'm still not one to do that in a race). Anyway, I found one and stopped. The blooper of the moment: no toilet paper. Oh well. It is what it is.... I define that moment as one of the few in becoming a true runner, when things like that don't totally stop you.
    -Mile 5(ish). : My family was on the sidelines with signs and screaming my name! I was grinning like a child. I didn't expect to see them until the finish, and their cheering gave me a new push. Soon after that I met up with another runner who was walking, and I fell in stride with her. She was sick. And she was still out there. I was inspired. She walk/ran with me for about 4 miles (up the big hill of the race) and then she took off on her own. I don't remember her name, but I will never forget her encouragement to me in that race.
   - The finish line: I wanted to find my family, but it was packed along the lines. Somehow, though, in the midst of all that, they'd found their place on a rooftop, and they were hollering my name. Somehow, I was able to zone out the crowd to hear them, and the emotions rolled in. I was about to cross the finish line. My first race. My first half marathon. My love growing deeper for running.  I held up 3 fingers to my husband up there: I was finishing in just under 3 hours. I was  completing my goal.

The story goes on, but it was a celebration moment, and a day I won't forget. I haven't stopped running since. The bad days happen, but the good ones do, too. I have run several half marathons (my favorite distance), I have done many 5K's, and I even got crazy enough to do a full marathon. And I keep going...

One of my memories of my mom is her avid interest and encouragement in all my races and my running. I clearly remember her saying, more than once, "Of all my children, I can't get over the fact that you are the one running races. You are my runner. I'm proud of you. " She'd shake her head, laugh, and hug me and tell me how proud she was of me. (Remember previous post, as to the fact that I was a drama nerd and a band geek, NOT a runner!)

Running has helped me through some of my worst moments in life, like when my mom was dying of cancer. There were days I ran through tears and anger and pain, but those runs were so cleansing. Those runs helped me to clear my head and keep going.
   Running has bred in me new dreams. I have been able to take my passion for running and create a 5K in memory of mom to raise scholarship funds.  I have developed new passions of hosting a racing event to spur on my mom's memory and bring glory to God through it.
      Running has helped me build a sense of confidence I never had before. I do not have, nor will I ever have, the typical marathon runners body. A person wouldn't look at me and say "Oh, she's a runner." But a person can talk with me and know that I am. Because it's about the heart. Running starts in the heart. Running starts in the mind. And those 2 combinations pack a powerful punch.
  And on that's past my running start time, so I am off for a few miles.

My running story.

Recently, a coffee shop customer asks me, "Did you run today? Do you ever get tired of that question? Can you really talk about running forever? I mean, really??"'

 I laughed. My answers:
 "Yes, I ran today. I run most mornings. No, I really don't get tired of that question, because yes, I can talk about running all the time. In fact, don't start me on it, or I may never quit!"

I am by no means a running expert, although perhaps one day I will pursue becoming a running coach. But, I am passionate about it. Running has helped me in countless ways, and I have been asked my running story, so here it is:

1998. The house phone rings. I will be entering my Junior year of high school. When I pick up the phone, I hear:
  "Is this Rachael?"
  "Yes," I reply.

He said, "Well, this is the cross country coach, and we are needing members for the team this year. Would you consider joining?"

I laugh inside. My older sister had run cross country. My older brother had played football. And my younger brother would soon enough become a hard core runner/track participant. Me? Well, I was the band geek and the drama nerd. But, my response was, "I will consider it. Give me  a couple of days to try it out."

The next day, I set out to see if cross country was something I could do. With my uncle's farm in sight, not quite a half mile down the country road, I started out. I couldn't even make it 2 houses down (on a country road, mind you) without stopping. There is NO way I am going to run cross country, I said. I am not a runner. And I never will be. This sport is not for me. I stuck strong with the band and drama.

Move forward 10 years. I am 26 years old. I work at Starbucks, and I didn't really have a hobby. I am a mom of 2 children, a wife, and a woman kind of struggling to find my own definitions in the midst of my family responsibilities.
   It was Saturday morning, and it was blazing hot. Our Starbucks store was part of the United States Air Force Marathon in Dayton, Oh. We served coffee in the general's tent, which happened to be on the finish line. Between making sure coffee was filled, we got to watch the runners finish. I watched now Air Force Marathon director, Rob Aguiar (he was then Assistant Director) run around like crazy with his walkie talkie, helping hurt but determined participants cross the finish line. I watched him work with the generals, as they passed out finishing medals. I watched Rob cheer on people across the line.We joked that he was running a marathon outside of the lines. I was fascinated.
    And then I watched all sizes cross the line. I saw 400 pound guys cross, dripping sweat but tearfilled at finishing. I witnessed 80 + year old men and women finish. I experienced groups of friends crossing, holding hands and cheering as they accomplished a life goal. I saw crazy, record- fast marathoners finish. I was also by the medical tent and witnessed the hurts and even the over heated vomiting runners.
    Running and finishing held no discrimination. Sizes,  Race,  and Ages Of all ranges finished that marathon (or half marathon). As I saw this happen, I said, "I'm going to do this. " I said it out loud.
 Whoops! Did I really say that? Me? The very much non runner??
 Yes, I did. A few joined me in the excitement (but theirs didn't last).

So, I went home and told my husband I was going to do the Flying Pig Marathon in the spring. He probably thought I was crazy. He knew as much as I did that I didn't run. But, he said ok, and so I began my journey of running. It started in September 2008 and I am still going strong, more in love with the sport than ever. Only to me, I don't think of it as a sport. I think of it as a getaway. I think of it as fun. I think of it as my time to be me. My time to be free. I think of it as a wonderful (even if challenging) experience. When I run, I am simply "me". It has become one of my definitions in the midst of life's chaos and responsibilities.

 Soon after I'd begun running, and I couldn't yet complete a full mile, my younger brother- my United States Marine Corps drill instructor brother- came into town. He, mind you, ran for his job most days. Well, he took me out running. And boy, did he run me! But you know what? He taught me some valuable lessons.  Tim taught me Some warm up drills. Some post run cool offs. Some lung building exercises. And you know what else? That day I ran with him (or he barked at me while I ran),  I completed my first mile without stopping. (He lied to me at one point when I asked him how far we'd gone. He said half a mile, when actually we were almost done with our mile! ) I hated him and loved him for helping me get through that point that I never thought would come.

  My training continued through the winter. Not being a seasoned runner, and not liking winter at all, as we moved into winter months, I did my training on a treadmill. Let me tell you that 6 miles on a treadmill is awful! I went to the running store and got the winter running gear and somehow fell in love with running out in the cold-yet another aspect I never thought I'd be doing.  On my longer training runs moving into April, just a few weeks from my very first race, a half marathon, my husband would drive along the route and drop me water bottles. I was falling in love with running. And in the process, I was learning many important lessons about myself. I was learning I could be more than I ever thought. I was learning that I could accomplish things I never thought I could do. I was learning I had a lot inside me to offer.

 Race day was approaching.

 The 2009 Flying Pig Half Marathon. We went into the expo and I became like a kid in a candy store. All the running gear you could imagine. Shirts that had fun sayings on them, like "Running is Cheaper than Therapy" Or "Running is my Happy Hour" or, one I've come to laugh at and love "Does this shirt make my butt look fast" (perhaps you have to be a runner to understand all the humor here...) . There were runners of all sizes inside that expo. There were races advertised. But the most important thing there: My race bib. My very first race bib.
  As much as I wanted to say all I wanted to do was finish, I really wanted to finish it under 3 hours. I know, that is s....l....o....w. But for me, it was an accomplishment. My friends had a big pasta dinner for me the night before, along with a big cookie that said "Beat the Pig" . The anticipation was high, and the excitement was almost exploding.

To be continued......

Sunday, June 23, 2013


As I sit here, deciding which topic to write about today, my mind is swirling in circles. So many topics, so many aspects of life in which I am growing right now, it can be overwhelming. What to share??
  So, this week, if I can find the space to do so, I will do my best to write a little bit of everything. Good things. Hard lessons. Dreams growing. Friendships changing. Life moving. Kids growing. God shaping.

It's Sunday evening.  6:18 pm.
  It has been very hot today, with the sun blazing down on the world around me. But currently, the wind is blowing, the thunder is heard in the distance, and the lighting is beginning to flash. A storm is rolling in.
 I love thunderstorms. I love the feel. I love the smell. I love the sound.  I love how they change in an instant.

It was a hot day, now turned pleasantly cool with the storm.

Storms can be beautiful.
Storms also can be devastating.

Sometimes it depends on the perspective. Other times it depends on the circumstance and the weather and the time as to what that storm will do.

Isn't life just like that??
 A storm rolls in, sometimes too quickly- maybe that storm is change; maybe that storm is hardship in marriage; maybe the storm is a job loss; maybe that storm is losing a loved one.  Regardless of what the "storm" looks like, as it comes in to life, it can beautiful, if we allow it. Or it can be devastating. Sometimes it depends on my perspective.

When I allow God into the storm, when I allow myself to see Him, that storm has a purpose. Just like we need the water to help our grass grow and trees to thrive, I need a storm- a change- an event to rock my world- to draw me nearer to Him. I need a storm to see Him in new ways so I can grow more mature.
  The storms have been, at times, more gentle. Other storms have been devastating. Looking back, some of those devastating storms were out of my control. Some were not. Yet, my responses could have been different. But God has taken those storms to mold me into a more beautiful creation, whether I thought I needed it or not. And I am so glad, even though it was like a tornado picking up a house and moving it, that He has changed me in the process.
  Changed me to see Him.
    Changed me to love deeper.
     Changed me to pray harder.
       Changed me to think clearer.
      Changed me to extend grace.
Remember my recent post about grace? One thought I've had since writing that is that I never truly understood grace in the real sense it is, until I had to truly experience it. Experiencing grace is beautiful and painful all in one. But in experiencing it, I came to understand the depth of what God does for me every time He extends grace. I came to understand the importance and the definition of what it is to show another person grace. True Grace. Be grace.

And like a storm and how it changes with seasons, I have come to see grief and how it changes with seasons as well. I first began this blog when i first said goodbye to mom. In looking back on some of those posts, I see how far God has brought me from the depths of grieving despair. Dark places. I hope you can see it, too. It has been quite the journey.
   Now, I live in light. I understand death more. I know how to let go better. I have learned through that storm and, hindsight, it has allowed new growth to bloom. It doesn't mean I don't still grieve- that grief just looks different. In fact, lately, I have missed my mom with a deeper sadness than I have in a very long time. Yet, that grief I feel looks different than it did 2 years ago. I have felt the pain of not having my mom here as my daughter grows up, and the pain of the realization that mom will not be here for any more monumental moments. And that has brought more sadness than I have experienced in a long time.
 Yet, God is faithful. I may not have my mom, but I know what she would be here saying. I also am so thankful for a few gifts of  wonderful women God has placed in my life. Women who have helped me along the way. A ray of sunshine through the storm.

 The thoughts are swirling around me, much like the trees' branches whipping in the wind.
   I want to write. I want to share, I want to allow the cracks of vulnerability open a little more so God can use me, somehow, some way.
      So this week I will come to you and share a little more. A little more about dreams. A little more about grace. A little more of my story- and yet, not my story, but God's. I am simply the vessel.

The storm is drawing near. The thunder is louder. The storm is coming.
  But I will wait to see what beauty it might bring with it.
It is true in life; it is true in nature. After the rain, we will see the sun.
 One day at a time.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Embrace the moment

Tears rolled down her cheeks as she kissed her sweet mama goodbye forever.
     Embrace the moments, she tells herself. They are gone all too quickly.

"Mom, please will you play a game with me?" Exhausted, she really didn't want to, but she remembered how quickly the moments are gone, so she says "Sure" with a smile and sits down with coffee in hand to play a game with her son. A moment in time stopped and captured in the heart of both mother and son.

"Mommy, will you please read to me?" Heartbroken and defeated from crying and grieving, she really didn't feel like reading. But then she recalled how life is so brief, so she sat down to read Amelia Bedelia with her daughter, only to end up in tears of laughter over the silliness of the book. A memory was made forever.

Her husband reminds her that one day the kids will be gone and it'll be just the 2 of them again . He asks for her to remember that life passes quickly, please remember the important things.  And so date nights become a purposeful, enjoyable time out and away  to rebuild.

The dishes sat in the sink. The laundry needed folded. The house really needed to be cleaned. Those reminders sat nagging in the back of the mind all day. And then her 9 year old says "Mommy, can we please jump on the trampoline?!"   A deep sigh, frustration of chores collected in mind, and exhaustion from the busiest sales day ever at work, she says "Yes. For at least 10 minutes."

She has a way to go in embracing the moments each time, but she desires to do that because she knows how quickly life passes by.

"She" is me.

Embracing the moments is so challenging when life screams at you to "Do. Do. Do." Stopping and allowing those beautiful memories to take shape is not an easy accomplishment. However, like a polaroid that captures a moment in time, so are the memories when we stop to embrace the moments.
  Moments like.....
     -My childrens laughter.
      - My husbands presence.
        - A conversation of listening to a fellow coffee lover who desperately needs someone to listen.
           - A cup of coffee with a friend.
             - A walk around the block with a neighbor
The moments are all around me, every day, to be taken in. Yet I so often am caught up in my "to do" list that I forget to stop and embrace the moments. yet, time doesn't stand still.
   Time doesn't stop for grief.
      Time doesn't stop for children growing up.
        Time doesn't slow down for a "growing old" together marriage
           Time doesn't slow down for growing friendships.

However, I am learning that when I stop....the moments are captured. When I slow down, I breathe in the beauty of memories made. I can embrace the moment......but I have to choose to do so.
   I have to choose to forget about my "to do" list sometimes.
     I have to choose to stop looking at all the mess around me and start looking at the moments in front of me.
       I have to choose to let go of what I am not and hold onto who I am.

         I have to allow God into the moment, and when I do, He opens my eyes to all that is around me. He opens my eyes to:
-To time with my kids. It has become so obvious to me that my time is so limited with my kids. They are rapidly growing. It's time I stop getting caught up in all the "to do" and start embracing the doing with them. Reading books, playing on the trampoline, taking walks, going to the park, having conversations, taking them to play dates, catching lightning bugs together.

-To the beauty around me. The sunshine. The warmth. The rain. The birds. The beauty.

-to the laughter. It's there. I can choose to be upset over small things, or I can choose to laugh at them.

-To the deep friendships I do have.

-To all He is creating me to be. To how He is molding me.

-To my gifts.

I cried endlessly when I let go of my mom. But I have so many beautiful memories with her. Memories that will forever be there. Memories I want my kids to have with me one day. Mom was always teaching me things through her life. And in her death she taught me that life is brief. I expected to have a lifetime of memories with my mom. I expected her to be here for my daughter becoming a young woman. I expected her to be here to go to the baseball games with us. I expected her to be here when I most need a hug or encouragement or someone to talk to. I expected her to be here for my lifetime. And yet at age 28, I had to say goodbye to her for this time on earth. But even as I sat by her bedside and said goodbye to her, she taught me. She taught me that life is brief. She taught me how life can change in just one moment. Blink, and the children are grown. Blink and the moment is gone. She taught me to  embrace life. She taught me to embrace the moments. She taught me that it was ok to leave dishes and to go play.  She taught me to live. And she taught me to let go. To let go of her. To let go of my to do list. To let go of the undone and see the accomplished. She taught me to "seize the day".
  So, I am reminded recently that one day; one moment at a time, I need to embrace my moments while they are here. Because all to quickly that can change.

Monday, June 17, 2013



That can be so many things.

A person's name.
   A verb
       an embraced quality.

Her name was Grace Elizabeth. She was a farm girl, then a school teacher, then a wife and then a mom.  She played the violin, she loved life, she was beautiful.

She was my grandmother. I never thought about her name much until I began dwelling on the topic of grace lately. And grandma's life-her marriage, especially-became a picture of her very own name: Grace. 
 She had a picture perfect life in some aspects, and then one day, it began to change. She forgot things. Her behaviors became stranger. In the end, her diagnosis became Schizophrenia.  Medicines weren't advanced. Doctors didn't know as much. It became a heartbreaking disease. But my grandpa showed her grace day in and out. He loved her like no love I'd seen. He wept upon deciding to have to put her in a nursing home. He drove to see her every week. He held her hand and sat by her side through many trying times. He displayed grace to Grace.

Grandpa's grace in their marriage is a quality picture of how God gives us grace. Day in and day out. He loves us when no one else will. He stays by our side when the world walks away. He weeps when we weep. He holds our hands through trying times. GRACE.

Grace is defined as unmerited,  divine assistance given humans for their sanctification;  approval, favor.

I recently read a quote that has stuck with me over the last few days. It said "Cut the threads of guilt with the edges of grace." (Lisa Terkeurst)

Just like a string that unravels from a blanket and reveals colors underneath, unexpected, as we tear away threads of guilt and replace them with grace, beautiful parts of our heart are revealed.  God is so good in that way.

Cut away guilt of bad decisions made.  Weave in threads of  God's forgiveness and grace.

Cut away threads of guilt over dirty dishes and laundry left undone. Replace them with joy of moments had with the kids and memories made. Allow grace in to the moment.

Cut away guilt over broken hearts, regretful moments, and bad memories. Replace it with a healed relationship, an unexpected laugh, and happy times. Grace can do that.

What if we all chose to live a life full of grace?
  Grace to forgive all the hurtful words said.
      Grace for the wrong things people have done to us.
          Grace upon ourselves when the beating up of our own actions and thoughts threaten to bombard.

God intended us to live in grace. To be grace to those so desperately needing it. To love the sinner, not the sin. To be different. To be grace.
  I love the picture of daily grace my grandpa lived out with grandma. He could have walked away. He could have gotten so discouraged that he quit. He could have given up. But he bestowed grace in a time most wouldn't. He set an example for generations to come. He loved grace. In every sense of the word.
  I also love the story found in John 8 of the Bible. A woman who deserved to be condemned found nothing but God's grace in the moment:
7But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”8Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.9When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court.10Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?”11She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”]

We all have scars of sin. They just look different on each person. Some visible. Some not.
   We all have moments we beat ourselves up, whether it be over a bad decision or a word unsaid or perhaps said; Maybe we beat ourselves up over eating something we shouldn't have or not being what we think we should be.
 What would life look like if we extended more grace? To others. To ourselves.
  God is all about grace. Why shouldn't I be the same?
 One day at a time. One hour at a time. A Grace filled life. That is what I want to be. Not for my glory, but for His. To point others to Him.
  GRACE. Peace. Joy. The more grace extended, the more peace we find. The more peace we find, the more joy we have. And that is true beauty.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A tribute to my dad

In light of father's day, I wanted to say thankyou to my dad, here for him and anyone else to read.
 I have been blessed with a wonderful dad. I am a daddy's girl at heart.

My dad.....
  - Taught me how to drive. It started on the tractor at age 8, continued on his  pickup truck and so on.
 - Taught me hard work ethics. I am a farmer's daughter. He taught me the value of working hard, the value of a dollar and the value of good work ethics.
 -Taught me about money. I watched dad be wise with his money always. I watched him give faithfully to God when we had nothing. I watched him sacrifice his needs for ours. I watched him buy us special gifts every now and then, and because those moments were rare, those gifts were always treasures. Sometimes it came in fudge covered cookies; sometimes it came in an outdoor play toy. No matter what fashion it arrived in to us, the gift was powerful.
 -Taught me about God. Through his life. Through his quiet prayer times at the table early morning. Through his being a kids' sunday school teacher (which he still does!) And through his every day conversations.

My dad.....
  -Loved me when I needed it most.
 -Forgave me when it was undeserved.
 -Laughed with me when life got crazy.
 -Cried when he gave me away.

My dad...
  -Used to throw me into my bed as alittle girl. He'd grab my hands and feet, say a little poem, and toss me into bed. Then we'd giggle and he'd give me one of his awful whisker rubs and we'd laugh even more.
 - Took me on drives. Through the country; through the fields. To his job sites.
 - Sang out at church to the hymns, even though his voice wasn't qualified for any record deals.
 -Served faithfully in childrens ministry, alongside mom often times; Served as a deacon at church; Has stood as a faithful farmer in the community; and is following God each day with his life.

My dad.....
  -Loved mom endlessly
 -Provided for mom selflessly
 -Cared for mom daily
 -Let go of mom gracefully
 - Grieved quietly
 -Moves on gently

Dad is an example to me every day. Not everyone gets my dad....but I do. I am a daddy's girl deep down. I'm so much like him in so many ways. I fall asleep on the couch after working hard all day. I worry endlessly at times about the most minor details. I laugh at really stupid jokes I tell. I strive to teach my kids to follow Jesus. I mess up,  but I get back up. I say uncommon phrases when I get mad-Fiddlesticks, for example. I try to end a conversation, but then continue it for another 10 minutes. I love to talk. (Dad closed up the church on numerous occasions.)
    My dad's love is unique. I am thankful for him daily. He has become a hero to me. And dad understands my grief unlike any other person in my life. He is probably the only one to grieve mom's passing harder than I have.
 I am so very thankful for my dad. Happy father's day !!!!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

It's the little things

The more I applied the idea of a glass half full to my life today, the more I realized just how happy the little things make me. It is also the little things that seem to make people I cross paths with every day be happy.
 And thus, today's blog is born. This is a light-hearted, carefree, kick off your shoes and smile kind of blog.
 So, please join me with your iced coffee (or perhaps summertime lemonade?) outside in the sunshine, while I share a few brief words about "the little things".
 These are some of the little things in life that make me smile. When I think of them, I just can't help but  grin. Because it is summer, and I really love the summer, today I will tell you summer time small things that are on my "happy list".
   - Lightning bugs
      -Jumping on the trampoline
  -My son's silly, semi-toothless grin
           -My daughter's giggle
-My husband's jokes
      - The feel of grass under my bare feet
 -Flip flops
      -Blazing hot sun in the afternoon
 -Driving with the windows down, radio up, singing at the top of my lungs
              -Birthdays and celebrations to go with them (May-August there is one constantly in our family! including me, my husband, and both kids)
     - Fireworks
           - Fresh smoothies
   -Orange popsicles
 - Star gazing
                    -Long walks
        -Sweaty, morning runs
-Warm breezes
   -wheat harvest and straw baling season
-Rhubarb pie
                     -Colorful flowers
        -Walks in the park with the family
   -Drive in movie theater
                -No school for the kids
    - Afternoon thunderstorms
 -The smell of rain
      -A warm, summer, early morning Rain Run
            -The smell of freshly mown grass
       -Making a customer smile
             -Giving my customers a place to be carefree in an often times stressful environment
 -A warm cup of coffee to wake me up at 4 am

These are just a handful of little things I thought of today as I experienced some and remembered some and enjoyed some. It's often times the little things that are overlooked, yet they bring so much joy! I am really a kid at heart. I allow seriousness and sadness in far too often to overcloud these little things that make me grin like a little girl.

My "glass" view

Is your glass half empty or half full?

This is a common question that has been passed down through the ages. I don't know where it began, but it has been an analogy that remains constant in life. (Mine, and most others' lives.) So, I want to reflect on that question for today.

I'd like to be able to say that I am a glass half full gal. However, I suppose it depends on through which glass I am looking at that moment. At work, I tend to be a glass half full gal. When it's busy, I can easily say I like it and the time passes quickly. When piles of dishes are pushed at me to polish, I do sort of groan, but as I have said in  a past blog Monotony to beautiful waves, I have learned to make those moments become prayerful and reflective times. And when the lines push through to the back of the shop, I smile and multitask that because I actually enjoy that push.

However, if you ask me in other areas if I look at things half empty or half full, I'd have to admit to you that I look at it half empty.
  A broken friendship.
    An argument.
       A negative word.
          An exhausting day.
             Less money.
However, a good friend and mentor has been helping me redirect those thoughts and to have them become half full glass thoughts.

Instead of seeing the friends who have disappointed me, left me or made me feel less than a good person, I need to see the friends who have stuck by my side and those friends who I do hang onto. Or even seeing it as a beautiful season in which I was able to have a certain friendship and grow and learn though that person, even if time or circumstances then put distance there.

Instead of seeing the argument, to see the depth of growth that comes from that. What did I learn? What good came from that?
  Instead of hearing the negative word, I need to hold onto the positive ones. I don't do this well, I admit. I dwell on the negative said to me. I internalize it. But that is not what God says to do. And so I strive to let go of it and see  what was positivly said to me that day.

Exhausting days happen. And for me, I can easily get caught up in that. Feeling tired and overwhelmed. Too many tasks with too few hands and too little time. However, I can look at that so differently. Thank you, Lord, that I am healthy and can get up at 4 every day and run. Thank you for my legs to move me and my hands to propel my movements. Thank you for a job . Thank you for a home in which I can do laundry. Thank you for a dishwasher, so I don't have to wash by hand. Thank you, Lord, for a body that is strong. Tired? yes. But thankful for all the gifts in my day that may lead to that exhaustion.

Less money? Well....I covered that a little in a previous blog, but honestly, as stressful as that can be at times, it can be a blessing. A lesson to teach the kids how to handle finances. A moment for me to realize what is truly important. A simple evening of games, trampoline fun, and snuggling on the couch instead of running around. A glass half full.

And as far as change goes....I have learned that change is one constant aspect of life.  To see that half full can be a challenge. However, change molds me. Change brings me closer to God. Change can be exciting, if I allow it. It can become an adventure instead of a dreaded event. A glass half full.

So, looking at a glass as half full rather than half empty is a challenge for me. Choosing to praise God instead of complain is not always easy for me. But I am striving towards that direction. It doesn't mean I  have to say "Thank you so much for all this change and thank you that I am so tired and feeling defeated by these negative times...." But what it means to me is that I can change my outlook on what I am seeing......I can find the positives. I can praise God for what is  good instead of telling Him everything that isn't. One day at a time. One minute at a time, even. I can start to see the glass as half full. And honestly, when I change my glass view to seeing it through God's eyes, the glass becomes entirely full. Not even just half full, but entirely full. God becomes enough for me, which fills me. Although I have to say often "God, You are enough for me." and it is hard to embrace that, He is enough. When things seem half empty, He makes them totally full, when I allow Him to do so.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Renovating Life, Part 2

"How do you like your changes so far?"

   That is a common question I answer all day right now, as the renovations are in place in the coffee shop . (See Renovating Life . ) As I have answered this question many times, (which I don't mind, really. With each person the conversation is a bit different),  I have begun to think on this aspect more and more.

My common answer to most people for that question is: "I like it, but I will like it even better when it is finished.  "

I began to think on that in the aspect of my own life. I am under constant renovation. My heart is being molded on a daily basis. Sometimes the molding is obvious- much like the first weekend of the renovations inside the coffee shop. The changes are evident to me and others alike. When God wants to change something inside me, He will use things in life, such as Simplifying Life, to help me become more like Him. To see more like He does. To become more of a light for Him. A year ago, I would say I went through a major renovation. I mean, God tore down walls, peeled the paint, scrubbed the floors and rebuilt me to some degree. My friendships changed, my outlook changed, my priorities changed....all for the good. But that was an exhausting journey, and yet today, there is a much more beautiful picture inside my heart. That would be an example of one of the renovations that would be more obvious to others.
   And yet some renovations are less noticeable to the public, but quite obvious between the renovator and the renovated. The second weekend of the coffee shop renovation was a simple fix, but a needed one. Tile was put in place, as well as a tile backsplash on the walls.  Most who walked in didn't really notice that, but I did. And just like that, there are many renovations inside me that are between me and God. Many minor adjustments I have to make, sometimes on a daily basis. A mindset change, which leads to An attitude change, which leads to a characteristic change.  A smile instead of a frown. A laugh instead of a cry. A positive word to myself, instead of a negative word. I will tell you that like most people, I am my own worst critic, but sometimes to a detrimental degree.  Sometimes I put my own self down so much I believe it and then it comes through in other ways. This is one way God has been renovating me lately.  having a mindset battle can be one of the most exhausting experiences. I have to work on a daily basis not to give into those negative thoughts. Instead of the "lies" I have to embrace the truths. I don't know why that is so challenging for me, but it is. However, I am working on it. Embracing what others see in me. But even more, what God sees in me.
  Last Monday, as renovations didn't quite make it as far as they were supposed to in the third phase, my boss says to me " Now, Rachael, don't get mad....I'm just going to tell you now.... the reopening is being pushed back another week."
  I laughed and said, "I wouldn't get mad about that!" But it's likely my impatience comes through as frustration which may interpret to another person as me being angry. It's also likely that perhaps I am so excited to be done and see the final new, that I get impatient at every word that means "wait..." And renovations in my heart are that same way. I want to become confident overnight. I want to love myself overnight. I want to be done with anxiety attacks and depression mood swings. But, it's a slow process. and a process of learning to lean into God more and more. Because renovations mean waiting. And waiting means growing. Over the last few months, these are some words I have been hearing from others and learning to embrace myself. More importantly, they are truths God tells me and I am embracing more and more through this process. Seeing an actual renovation take place in my every day world (my coffee shop) has made me pause to consider this whole concept inside of my own heart.
   I like to dress up, but I am a farm girl at heart. I love the blue jeans and boots and the farmland.
     I love to run. It is a part of me.
        I love to laugh! Belly laugh. Laugh til I cry laugh.
          I love to help people.
            I love coffee.
  I am Rachael.
    I am a wife.
      I am a mommy to 2 growing children.
        I am a writer.
         I am a barista...and proud of that.
        I am beautiful. (I have to make myself write that....that is one I don't embrace yet)
          I am loved.
             I am forgiven.
                 I am redeemed.
                    I am a daughter of the One true King.
                       I am accepted. Sins, scrapes, bruises, past mistakes, current talents, devolping dreams and all that I am. Faults and failures. Talents and Treasures.
        I am passionate about causes that matter and God is using those to touch others.
            I have talents. Perhaps not outward, visible talents to all, but they are inside of me blooming.
 These are just a handful of the truths. A few grains of truth found on a beach full of sand.

So, if you ask me today, " how do you like the changes so far?"  I will tell you, in regards to my heart renovations: " I love them. It will take a lifetime to finish this renovation, but I love what I am learning and seeing and becoming." (But you might have to remind me sometimes that I love this renovation!)
 One day at a time. One thought at a time. He is renovating me. And I love it. Painfully at times. But I love it.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Simplifying Life

Be careful what you ask God for : He answers every time!

Allow me to back this story up a little bit.

At the beginning of 2013, I began doing some digging within my heart. God opened up many windows of areas I could work more strongly on within myself. He showed me things that I could be molding (or rather, He could be molding in me), and opened my eyes to aspects of life which I wanted to change somewhat. In light of those revelations, I began to evaluate and pray more deeply. One of those things which I longed to embrace more once again in my life was simplicity. Thus, I began praying about it.

Warning: God answers, and not always how we might expect!

When I was growing up, I had an amazing childhood. Sure there were problems or moments that I didn't like, but overall, I was really happy. It didn't matter to me that I wore hand me down clothes or that our car was out of date. I didn't care that I had odd lunches that I carried with me to school. (That could be a totally different blog post, but in essence, mom made ends meet in every way possible, even with our sack lunches, and we had some weird food sometimes!)
Somehow, along the way, I lost some of that simplicity. I realized that I - and my kids- had become accustomed to having pretty much what we wanted. It by no means meant that we are rich, because we most certainly are not! But we were well enough off, that when we wanted something, we could usually get it. Not just needs, but wants, too. We both have good jobs. We have been blessed. But what was I teaching my kids in the process? What was I becoming myself?
So, I began praying and looking deeper and I began to see through a crack, and then through a wide open window that I needed to simplify my life.
This was my heart decision, not my husbands, so I knew this could be challenging. But I needed to return to simplicity and leave the longing of wants behind. I wanted to learn to give more again and to have less. Not for my glory, but for His.
Growing up, this is something both my parents taught me well and I saw through the window of praying that I had wandered a bit away from that direction. Dad was a farmer, and he worked really hard. Mom stayed at home. They made a lot of sacrifices, we embraced simplicity, and I never cared. At one time, dad worked farming, excavation, and even a third shift job to provide for us. I'll never forget those lessons. At that time, I didn't understand, and as a teenager, I was even hurt at moments that he was so busy. However, I have come to understand and appreciate what he was doing more than I will ever be able to verbalize to him.
All this being said,when I began evaluating this, I began to pray that God would teach me to simplify. And boy, has He! And it has been quite the challenge at moments. And to be honest, I didn't even realize until recently, that He was answering my prayer and I was re learning this aspect of life.
When I first started out on the journey of trying to simplify, it was challenging. My husband is good about getting me things. He likes to buy me things. As we would pass by something in the store and I would stop to admire it, he often would ask "Do you want it?" and saying no (in effort to simplify) was really hard at first. But as I prayed on it and began to practice it more, it became a little easier and more natural again. I began working with the kids a little bit on saving money and the cost of things and the importance of working hard for what we have. I wanted them to understand this more than they ever had to before. We began talking more about it on a regular basis. I began saying no to them about things far more often. I didn't realize how much guilt I often carried as a full time working mom that I would try to make up for many times by getting them something. (Tough admission to make there, by the way).
Please understand, I am not saying that having things or buying things is in any way wrong. What I am trying to say, is that for me, it had become more than it should be, and I wanted to re-learn that simplicity aspect.
And let me tell you, God answers.
Tax season came and the end result for us was far different than it ever has been or what we expected would be. That was the beginning of realizing how much God was answering. Then 2 different things on the cars broke (one right after the other, of course). Then bonuses were obsolete for a few months. Then the dryer broke. And so the list goes on. To a point of total reliance on God as to how we would get through til the next pay check. Groceries were re-evaluated. Meals became more simple. The answer became "no" more frequently. We gave up going out of town. We turned down dinner invitations out. And through all this, I would fervently pray that God would help my heart not to worry (yep, that is a first class problem with which I struggle) . I relearned what I needed and didn't need. I put kids' needs in place over all else. I collected change through the house so they could do the little end of school year events. Again, I know that being said, we weren't poor or even bad off, but it was far different than where we had to be for a very long time. It was a lesson I needed to relearn in life.
Dependance on God.

And He answered. He answered me by helping me relearn this aspect of life.
He answered by some really powerful lessons my kids have seemingly embraced in the process.
He answered by providing . EVERY TIME!!!

Through a neighbor.
Through a friend.
Through an offering.
Through collected change.
Through a lowered bill.

He has answered in countless ways.

When we ask Him to do something in our lives, He will. Maybe differently than how we pray for it, but He answers. It took me back to a conversation with my daughter a few months ago, and how she began praying for patience. A night or 2 after she began this prayer, she came home from school and told me this:
"Mommy, remember I asked God for patience? Well, He is doing it, but it is really hard. Today I had to have patience with the girl who sits next to me. Then I had to have patience while I waited for help. And then I had to have patience with Joseph this afternoon!"

You see, God answers. And maybe not how we expect or even want. But when we ask, He will answer. And I am so thankful he does. Because I know that with those answers, He is molding me deeper into His child. I heard an old song the other day, and I smiled at the words, as it reminded me of how God shapes us and answers our prayers. A few of the words go like this:

I didn't come lookin' for trouble
And I don't want to fight needlessly
But I'm not gonna hide in a bubble
If trouble comes for me
I can feel my heart beating faster
I can tell something's coming down
But if it's gonna make me grow stronger then…

Bring it on
Let the lightning flash, let the thunder roll, let the storm winds blow
Bring it on
Let the trouble come, let the hard rain fall, let it make me strong
Bring it on

Now, maybe you're thinkin' I'm crazy
And maybe I need to explain some things
‘Cause I know I've got an enemy waiting
Who wants to bring me pain
But what he never seems to remember
What he means for evil God works for good
So I will not retreat or surrender

Now, I don't want to sound like some hero
‘Cause it's God alone that my hope is in
But I'm not gonna run from the very things
That would drive me closer to Him
So bring it on

Bring it on
Let the lightning flash, let the thunder roll, let the storm winds blow
Bring it on
Let the trouble come, let it make me fall on the One who's strong
Bring it on
Let the lightning flash, let the thunder roll, let the storm winds blow
Bring it on
Let me be made weak so I'll know the strength of the One who's strong
Bring it on
Bring it on

So, Bring it On. I will trust God, One day at a time. He will answer. He will use these things to drive me closer to Him and answer my prayers, even if it looks different than I may have expected, one day at a time. One prayer at a time.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The end of one decade, the beginning of another

A new phase has begun in our home: Junior High.

Elizabeth has graduated to Junior High officially as of yesterday. And as of Sunday, she will join the Middle school group at church.

When did this happen???

We are entering a new phase as parents.
    The emotional swings of a young woman blossoming are in full swing.
       The days of being home every evening are over, as we have begun the taxi"ing" process of lessons and church and friends now.
             Our daughter is maturing and growing as a young woman should, and I mean that in a mentality sense as much of a physical sense.

This is a new phase for us.

I have to admit, I am quite excited, as I watch her unfold a little more each day. She is still an open book to us, and I will hold onto that as long as possible. She hasn't yet entered the world of liking  boys, to which I will also hold onto as long as possible. She is beginning to embrace her talents and loves, like writing and reading (hmmm....where does she get that from???). She is constantly learning and sharing. Elizabeth is also developing a deeper love for God every day, which is evident in her desire to serve as a missionary (which she will endeavor into this summer on her first missions trip). She also is constantly reflecting God's word to me in her assessments of herself. That in and of itself is a beautiful picture to capture forever.

I will also admit, I am scared to death of what is to come. And it is in these moments I desperately miss my mom. I really wish I had her to call up or to sit with over a cup of coffee and ask her how to survive this phase! As the emotional roller coaster ride begins, we gradually go uphill with the soft emotions and then quickly race downhill with a change in temperament. In this case, i am glad that I can remember slightly what I was like during that time in my life, as it helps me a little to know how to handle these hills. However, that being said, those same roller coaster hills can be as exhausting as they are scary. I am scared as she enters the phase of really developing deeper friendships. This is the time where her decisions will really begin to shine. This is the time where I really place her in God's hands and let her become who she is. (Not that we haven't always done that; I'm just emphasizing that this is a time where it is more evident we must be doing this constantly. Elementary was a bit different). This phase scares me a little bit because where I grew up in beautiful Cedarville, I was in the same school all my years (K-12), I had the same friends, I went to the same church-life was pretty even as far as all those circumstances go. For me, it's new for her to change up a school. It is new for me to not know all her friends. It is new for her to want this independence. And though it is all natural and good, it is scary still. I wish I had my mom to talk to about these things. I wish mom were here to assure me, as she always did, that I am doing a good job as a parent. I wish mom were here to listen to my fears. But I will also thank God for blessing me with a few women in life who have been through this-ones I can turn to regularly. And I will thank Him for that and use that. And talk to my mom out loud as if she were here anyway.

And so a new decade begins. Life is moving fast paced and full force with the kids' lives and our lives too. I dare to embrace all these changes and love them! I dare to savor each moment- the emotional roller coasters and the beautiful changes. Here, in these moments, I am glad that I made the decision to wait on going to school. I want my focus to be on my children through all these changes. I dare to be the mommy God wants me to be. I dare to learn through these moments. I dare to embrace the very same lessons I am teaching my daughter- like how her beauty is found within, not on the outside; like how she can achieve what she puts her mind to each day; like how God has a perfect plan for her life. She serves as a mirror to me many more times than I care to admit. And I am so thankful for this journey. Scared? Yes! Excited? Yes! But especially I am thankful. This journey of parenting, of entering these new decades holds challenges. But those challenges shape me. And as hard as it is for me to say it sometimes, I am thankful for those challenges. I am thankful for my daughter. I am thankful for my son, too, who is developing into all boy as he grows as well. And i am thankful for the beginning of a new phase.