Thursday, December 31, 2015

What I learned in 2015

   As the year comes to a close today, instead of my monthly blog of what I learned this month, I want to share what I learned this year. That's no small task, considering this year has taught me more lessons than I ever would have imagined. This year, I let go of some friends and welcomed some new ones. Amanda and Sharon have become beautiful jewels to me in the minefield of life. I have gone to new places, and experienced new atmospheres and adventures. But if I had to sum of the year in one word, that word would be "Growth". I have experienced phenomenal growth this year. Maybe not everyone around me can see it, but I know it transpired, and that is what counts the most. Let me share how this has unfolded for me this year, and what the biggest lessons of the year were for me.

   I started out the  year claiming my word for the year to be "different." ( You can read what I wrote here in January about the word.) I had no idea what that would entail, but I could not get over the word at the beginning of the year. I wanted to make better decisions, which would lead to me being different. I wanted to learn and grow, stepping out of my box, my comfort zone, in uncomfortable ways. I wanted to embrace being different, because what makes a person different is what makes a person beautiful. I wanted to take those aspects of being different to make a difference. I thought about the word all year long, but I have dwelt on it the last few days, pondering if i really applied that word to my life.

   Whether or not those around me would agree, I believe I embraced becoming different this year. I'm still me, but I found deeper roots this year, in essence producing growth and becoming different. Without it intentionally becoming so, the phrase "Let Go" became a huge part of my year, and in letting go, I believe I became different. I didn't put those two together until I began reflecting on the 2015 year. Letting go isn't quitting. Letting go, for me, became Letting God. and when I "let God", He began reshaping my life, from the inside out, making me different. Letting go and becoming different is not an easy journey. I have shed many tears over lost friendships. I wrestled with God over the fact that I am such a goal setter, and He was teaching me to be content in some ways I never had. In letting go of some career goals, at least for now, my heart took on a different shape. I have grieved losses as I have let go of some things and people. However, in letting go, I also have found new freedom. Freedom to be me, and not apologize for it. Freedom to share my heart more openly. Freedom to love deeper. Freedom to be who God has designed me to be, not who or what others have always been wanting or asking me to be.

   I stepped out of my comfort zone and began to pursue a mission trip to Colombia. That trip, which is only 5 weeks away now, began transforming me and making me different from the get-go. I grew in my faith, watching God's leading and provision. And I am stepping out of my comfort zone to use gifts that have sat on the shelf for a while now. Fear is not always a bad emotion; fear is quite humbling and growth-provoking in the right scenarios.

   I have read a few books this year that have absolutely changed my perspective on a few aspects of my life, and in essence, have helped me grow and become different. Sight Shift,  which helped me recognize my struggle with self-control. Unbroken, which is an incredible true story about faith and forgiveness and perseverance. Unbroken, the story of Louis Zamerini, was what initially prompted my journey of letting go, only I had no idea what was in store with those words. Boundaries is a book I should have read years ago. Then again, all things come at the appropriate time. From this book, I learned much about my people-pleasing ways and I learned the ever important value of saying No, which is a word I have not adequately executed over the years.

   Over the course of the last year, I processed events and words deeply. I always do this, but this year's journey was different. Some days I privately grieved in my heart. Some days the anxiety plagued me. However, this time I wasn't listening to the voices of others telling me about me; I was listening to what God tells me about me. And as I walked this journey quietly, and often times alone, I found confidence I have been lacking for many years. I found the truths that have often been whispered about me, but I never believed. So, when asked what I learned in 2015, I learned how to be a better me. I Learned what being different means for Rachael. I learned to let go and let God. I said goodbye to some old friends, but welcomed some new. I learned how to say No. I have not perfected these new differences by any means, but I have made significant progress, and I cannot wait to see what 2016 will bring. One day at a time!

Friday, December 18, 2015

And He will be called...

Isaiah 9:6 "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called
 Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." 

I have heard those verses read on hundreds of occassions through my lifetime, and yet this year, the verse stands out in a new way. I love that about Scripture. You can read a passage countless times, almost to a point of being mundane, but even still, you can capture new meanings all the time.
 It's how God speaks to us.
His Word.

I have thought on these verses more this year than I have previous years, though, because each of those names given to our Savior hold true for who He is, but in different seasons of life, we embrace specific names more strongly than others.
  I find beauty in all of them, but in this season of life, the words Prince of Peace are ringing the truest for me this Christmas season.

 I started out December saying I was going to slow down. I wanted to purposefully be still. But I have not succeeded in that. And some days, it's not that my schedule is jam packed; it's more that my mind is full. I can't turn off the thoughts. You can call it the writer in me, or the emotional woman that I am, but whatever the case, my mind is often exhausted at the end of the day from all the different thoughts it's processing.
  Some are silly, others serious.
 Some are tough scenarios, others are dumb situations.
   Sometimes it's the battle of the mind, fighting off all the old negative thoughts and replacing them with the positive truthful ones, which takes a lot of energy for me.
  2015 has been an amazing year for me, one which I am excited to share more about over the next few days/weeks. But, I still battle anxiety.
 It is part of me, part of my story.
  Anxiety to me is like what diabetes is to a diabetic.
 It is an every day journey, some days high, some days low, but medication helps regulate it, and it's part of my story.
 A diabetic can help me understand what is needed for their body to function properly.
 I can help others understand what anxiety is, and what I need to be healthy.

Agree or disagree with me; anxiety often times is a central debate among the world.
                        But it's part of my story, and I am OK with that.

The point is, I have anxiety, so when the verse says he will be called... Prince of Peace... I embrace those words, because peace is what my mind most often needs.

Peace is defined as freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility. Which is what I have been longing for, but see how the anxiety interrupts that?

Prince is defined as a male ruler.

Put that together: Jesus is the male ruler of quiet, tranquility and freedom from disturbance.

Oh, how my soul longs for that and I am so glad that God sent His Son so many years ago on Christmas day to be that for me! I just have to learn to sit still long enough to let that sink in to my heart and mind.

  So, the verse takes on new meaning for me this year as I dwell on it.
What does your soul long for today? Is it the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father? Or are you like me and need the Prince of Peace?

 He is all of those and more.... we just have to sit still and let Him show His love in those ways.
                                                            One day at a time.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Adoption is beautiful.
 I have known friends who have adopted children, and their stories have always touched me.
But last week, the beauty of adoption became very real in our family.
 Last week, my sister and her husband adopted William.

 William had been in foster care for several years, and about 8 months ago, my sister and her husband became his foster family. Fast forward.... and last week he became adopted and officially part of the family.

 William is a little spitfire, and I got along with him from the start. He is full of energy and a thousand questions. He always wants to play, and he loves his desserts. William's story touches me deeply. I have the hardest time wrapping my head around a mother (or a father) not wanting their child, and yet that is a very real, every day occurrence. The events and the things William endured the last many years are heartbreaking to me.
 And yet they haven't broken him.

 He laughs and is full of joy.
   He is inquisitive and curious, like the little monkey, Curious George.
He has a streak of independence that is fierce, but will carry him far in life.
   The hurts he has endured are more than many of us will ever face, and yet he has more love in his little heart than those of us who have known love forever.
 And now he is part of our family.

 I could not post pictures of William until now. And now that he is part of the family, I can proudly introduce him.  This little boy, and his story, have stolen a little piece of my heart.
  Adoption is beautiful.

  I do not have a story that resembles William's at all. I grew up in a very loving home. But I
am reminded through this event that we are chosen adopted children of God.
 We are broken, but God has chosen to take us in.
We are inquisitive- constantly questioning God and His reasons and His events; but God has chosen to answer every "why" with his continual presence and love.
  We try to be independent and choose our own way; and each and every time, God is waiting with open arms to accept us when we get back on the right path.
   In fact,  no matter how many times we walk away or choose our own path or question Him, He chooses us every time.
  We are undeserving, but that is the beauty of it all.... God displays grace and love every day. We don't have to do anything to earn His acceptance.
     We are adopted children of God.
Ephesians 1 says : Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

  Last week, William became part of our family through the court system. I love that little boy deeply already.
    Years ago, God adopted me as His daughter, and loved me with a fierce love like one I will never experience otherwise. 

 Adoption is beautiful. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Journey to Colombia

I have chosen to label all my posts about my upcoming trip, "Journey to Colombia" because, while the trip is essentially  a mere 8 days long, all these months leading up to it are a deeper journey in  my life. Some of it takes me back to my high school days, even, which is what I want to share today in regards to the unfolding of this upcoming February trip.
 So, If you are so willing to bear with me traveling through time, I want to give you a glimpse into my heart for why this journey is so meaningful, and how it struck me so strongly this weekend.

 I grew up in a church which was very missions oriented. Our church supported missionaries from all over the world. If you named a region, I probably could tell you the name of someone there whom we  prayed for and supported. Missions- sharing the love of Jesus- was a topic spoken often of in my Sunday School classes and my home as well. Mom had cards with missionaries pictures on them in her Bible and through the house, and we frequently would speak of their stories over the dinner table.
 My interest in missions was planted as a young girl. I had a great concept of what a missionary was, but mostly thought of them as people overseas sharing God's love.
 In high school, my heart for missions grew, while my love for the Spanish language also grew. I began to feel and think that maybe that was my life's calling. And while I had a very good grasp on the concept of missionaries, I still don't think I had an entire picture of their careers.  I went on "mission trips" in high school, ministering in areas around the United States, but I think I still believed that being a missionary meant going overseas. When my church youth group had the opportunity to go on a overseas missions trip, I had to sadly pass up the opportunity for various reasons.
 I still had a taste and a craving to do that work, but not the entire concept.

 As I graduated high school and went to a year of Bible college, my chosen school activity/ministry was to teach English to foreign students. As I had the opportunity to launch into that world, I began to see missions as an every day activity. Right in my backyard was an opportunity to minister to young people who came from a different culture and did not have the knowledge of Jesus. I didn't have to be preaching to minister to them; teaching them our language and being there for them was being a missionary to them.  Through simply loving on them, doors of opportunity opened to share why I, as a busy American, wanted to take the time to teach them our language.
 That summer I had the opportunity to travel overseas to El Salvador and Honduras and experience the "other country" aspect of missionary world. While I did absolutely enjoy that experience, I also had a better concept of missionary work.

 We are all missionaries. Whether it's overseas or in a school as a teacher. Whether we are a stay at home mom or work in a hospital. Whether we teach English to nationals or teach English overseas. If we have the love of the Lord in our lives, then we have the ability to share the message any where we go.

 Needless to say, I chose not to further pursue the overseas part of missionary work, but that piece and desire always lived in a part of my heart.

I got married and had children- a new form of missionary work. A long term one, for sure! But in the meantime, while I lived in Florida, I had great opportunities to teach my Honduran and Mexican neighbors English. I was amazed at the opportunities God always gave me.

 When we moved back to Ohio, those opportunities were different. Remembering that I was an every day missionary was difficult at times. Fast forward a few years...
 My friend Kristen went on her Colombia trip as I shared here. At that time, I was in a dark place, having lost mom and not very stable emotionally or spiritually. But God was preparing me, and I didn't even know it.

Which leads me to the current place of pursuing the mission to Colombia in February. The same one Kristen attended.

 Yesterday at my church, I was taken back to my high school remembrances of my love of missions, as I sat through what is called a commissioning service. For those who do not know what that is, it's when a person chooses to make their life's work be missions. And once they go through training to do so, and are preparing to leave the United States (or stay, depending on their chosen location) their home church will "commission" them, pray over them, and allow the entire church to be part of the sending off process.
 My church today doesn't have a lot of these, but growing up I frequently had the opportunity to see missionaries sent off.  But as I sat through this service yesterday and watched my friends, Bryce and Natasha, be commissioned for Togo, Africa, I was taken back to those high school memories.

 And the corner of my heart that still beats for missions.

  And the lessons learned of being a missionary in my own every day interactions.

   And to my current journey to Colombia.

If and when you have the love of the Lord and the knowledge of his saving grace in your heart, YOU are a missionary. I  am a missionary. Whether it's in my job, in my home with my husband and kids, talking with a neighbor, or.... preparing to go to Colombia for a week. There was a song we used to sing growing up, that I finally have a better understanding of now as an adult, and it came back to me recently. The words say:

Be a missionary every day; Tell the world that Jesus is the way. The Lord is soon returning, there is not time to lose. So... be a missionary... God's own emissary. Be a missionary today! Let's Go! 

 To see a little more about where I am going, feel free to visit Mission to Colombia on Facebook.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What I Learned in November

The calendar page turned to December yesterday. The last month of 2015. Time just keeps moving faster, doesn't it?
  While most people are hustling and bustling around, I am being purposeful in slowing down and savoring the moments. I should be more diligent in doing this all year, but... baby steps :). It feels good to say no a little more often to the extra events, and take in more family memory moments through this season.
 But as I reflect on the month of November, I am thankful for the lessons learned and the memories made.

1. Salt water offers more than we think.
   My friend sent me this quote, and I really found it profound and true, in the simplest terms.
"I know the cure for everything: Salt water... in one form or another. Sweat, tears, or the salt sea." - Karen Blixen.
   It was followed by saying... There's nothing that one or all of those can't fix.
Ponder that. It's not spiritual, but there is much truth found in that statement.

2. I DO like skinny jeans!
  A few years ago, when skinny jeans became popular, I tried them on and hated them because I didn't have the body fit for them. I swore I never would own a pair. But.... this month I decided I really wanted to wear my boots on top of my jeans, which would require skinny jeans. So.... I tried them on and lo and behold- I liked them! (Kudos to my husband, who bought them for me as a surprise!) In fact, they are becoming my favorite pair of jeans :)  You just have to find the right pair.

3. Lisa is my laughing buddy
  I absolutely love to laugh. And we laugh a lot. Sometimes over a silly memory we have created. Sometimes over a dumb statement. Sometimes over an inside joke.  We create silly abreviations only the 2 of us would understand. And we simply have fun together. Here, you will see photos of us being silly in Indianapolis. We spent more time finding silly stuff like this around the city than we did other things (besides work, that is). Best way to sight see!

4. I love campfires. This isn't news. Just a reminder.
 Thanksgiving this year was the most relaxing one we have had in years! We really enjoyed some serious down time as a family. And that included a "campfire", with a cup of coffee, of course!

5. Let Go continues...
  The more I think I have learned about letting go, the more I continue to see. Letting go is freeing, but it has painful lessons with it, too. I have a feeling now that the door is opened on this journey for me, it's going to stay open and I will continue learning how to let go and what to let go. I shared a little bit here if you missed it earlier this month.

6. Lindor Chocolates have become my favorite delicate chocolate treat.

7. I am Charlie Brown
  Peanuts have long been my favorite cartoon. My daughter and I went to see the new Peanuts movie, and boy, could I relate to Charlie Brown. Great movie, with a great message, honestly. And a reminder that it's not about what we can do or can't do, it's about character. Snoopy is my favorite, but I am for sure like Charlie Brown.