No Day But Today

 Photo: Emma Wilson

Photo: Emma Wilson

Contentment is one of those ever-elusive, constantly discussed parts of "good Christianity", I think.


It's very trendy to be single but be all, "it's okay, I'm content in the Lord" or to say things like, "Man, you just need to learn to be content. Like Paul was in jail that one time." We always assume that only the super-Christians are actually content. Because it seems there is constantly something in the way of us being cool with where we are in life.


And, if you're anything like me, not being content feels like a big fat sin. And with that comes a lot of shame. "Why am I not content? What's wrong with me? Why can't I freakin' chill?"
Know what I'm talking about? We get this guilt complex about not being able to "rest in the Lord" (whatever that means), and spend way too much time focusing on how ungrateful we are and it can be very stressful.


In the past six months or so, when people have asked how I'm doing, I've told them very honestly that I'm taking life one day at a time. Usually with a little giggle, and a devil-may-care hair toss, but the root of that phrase goes deep. There was a time when it really did take every grace from God for me to make it from sunrise to sunset. And even though I've got my swag back now, I still focus on taking life just one day at a time. Each day has enough troubles of its own, am I right?


Here are the perks of taking life on a day-to-day basis:


1) Is some looming future event stressing me the H out? Yes. Has that event arrived as of today? No. Can I live with the knowledge of that event today? Totally. So I don't have to worry about three months from now. Great.


2) A bad day is just that-- a bad day. A singular 24-hour period. Then I'll go to bed and wake up and get to start all over on a clean slate.


3) It's a lot easier to spot and appreciate little goodies in a day, when you treat that day like your first and last. Like my favorite customer coming to say hi, or frosted heart cookies at Provence.


Also, this: My very favorite phrase, It is what it is, has secret powers. By that I mean, I've been saying it to myself and out loud a whole lot. Sometimes flippantly, sometimes as a lifeline, but a whole lot regardless. And I think the words have somehow sunk into my soul and are actually starting to shape my responses. I am learning to shake it off, shake it off (to borrow a phrase). Acceptance brings an amazing amount of freedom.


The other day, I was talking to my friend Aaron about our dailys, and he asked how life was. "Great," I said. "It's beautiful. I'm not where I want to be, exactly, but I'm okay with where I'm at."


He nodded his head, "Man, being content is such a huge blessing. What a cool place to be."
And I was like, WAIT. WHAT. I'm content?? This is what being content is? I DID IT?!
Yes. Praise and hallelujah, yes. The best part is, I did exactly nothing. Jesus, in all His grace and kindness, snuck into my fear and discontent and antsy itches and taught my soul to breathe deeply. He gave me lots of dreams, while at the same time training me to be present, one day at a time.


The circumstances that were freaking me out one, three, and six months ago haven't changed. Life is marching forward and I'm still very much trying to figure it all out. But I am, for the first time in a long time, settled. Not settled in a trapped way. I have a ton of plans and a ton of dreams and my feet are bouncing with anticipation. The horizon is glowing with promise. But it's not here yet, and I'm okay to wait. There is much to learn and grow in right in front of me, and buckets of goodness to enjoy. No need to study the future forecast with a furrowed brow, right?
By the grace of God, I have stumbled into true contentment. It won't last forever, because life comes in seasons and lessons have to be relearned always. But I'm soaking it up now, and reveling in the sweetness. And it feels GOOD, you guys.

 

 

All You Need Is

 Photo: Emma Wilson

Photo: Emma Wilson

Have you ever gotten to the place of asking, "What's the point?"

Like, on a grand, existential scale. What is the actual point of anything, of life. I've gotten there a few times, as I try to sort out one thing or another. As I try to make sense of this life and the patterns of humanity and my own puzzling brain. What is the point?

My roommate, Chelsea, asked the question out loud this week. She asked in great earnest, coming from that place of just wanting to throw in the towel, because there's only so many times you can circle around the same ideas and canned answers before they start to seem worthless.

I didn't have a response. What I ended up saying sounded a little hollow, even as I said it. And after that I spent a lot of time thinking about the point of everything, and how that relates to my purpose and, ultimately, my identity. Because purpose and identity, I think, walk hand in hand. Part of knowing who I am is knowing what I'm meant to do. And here's where the "what is the point" question comes into play:

Say I'm good at making coffee. And I travel to cool places. And I make crafts. And I write a book, and it somehow gets wildly popular and I make some money. Say I'm known all across my city, I'm a person others recognize. Say I cross a bunch of things off a bucket list and people call me successful. Say all of that is true about me. On the other side of heaven, will it matter?

Not particularly.

So what is the point of it being true now, if this earth is temporary?

There is the existential crisis. I don't want my life to be pointless. I want to do big things and dream big dreams and make stuff happen.  But our time on earth is fleeting, and will not last. The things we do, say, create, and dream, will all vanish to nothingness in the grand scheme of eternity. That doesn't mean we shouldn't dream and create and do, but none of that is our ultimate purpose. So if all the doing fades away to nothing at the end of it all, then what is the point of even trying? 

What in the world is my purpose, actually? What will last into eternity?

I've been sitting on this all week, and have come up with only one answer. It's so simple, it doesn't seem right. But, the more I learn about the way God works, the more I'm understanding He is all about simplicity. So maybe this is getting close. 

In John 15, Jesus tells his disciples that in order to remain in his love, they must follow his commands. 

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete."

As I read, I kept glancing back up the chapter to see what exactly his commands were. Because, yes, obviously, I want to remain in Jesus' love, so, OKAY DUDE, tell me how to do that. But prior to verse nine, there is no mention of the commands that will, apparently, keep one in Christ's good graces. So I sped down the chapter, searching. 

And there it was, in verse 12. So simply put I was floored.

"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you."

The only command. All Jesus asks of me. My sole purpose. Because there is one thing that will not disappear when this world is done, and that is my soul. Your soul. The soul of every human that has ever existed. The soul is the one part of us that will go on forever, either with God or away from Him. Which, I think, is why Jesus commands us to love each other.

At the end of all my days, it won't matter if I had a great career or saw the Eiffel Tower or made myself known. What will matter is the condition of my soul. What will matter is whether or not I am in Christ's love. And, according to John, the only way to stay in his love is to follow his commands. And his command is to love. 

So in the search for identity, the question of purpose is simple: Love. Love big, and love well. As Jesus loves me. That's the whole point.

I Am Not Dainty

 Photo: Emma Wilson

Photo: Emma Wilson

A new movement is taking shape in my life. It keeps cropping up in conversation, and in thought. It is starting to confuse me, intrigue me, and drive me freakin' crazy.

Who am I? More specifically, who did God create me to be, and where did that creation get lost?

Do you ever ask yourself that question? I realize I am introspective to a fault, and probably spend way too much time in my own head, but I also think this question of identity is one every human has or will struggle with, if they are willing to do so. My friend Tim has this theory that the qualities God put within us as our greatest strengths are the things Satan attacks the hardest. Which can mean the things I hate most about myself, the things I most want to change, are the very things that could be my greatest weapon and gift for the Kingdom.

It's pretty mind-blowing to think about.

And here's why I think there is some truth to it: Yesterday morning, I had a brand meeting for the blog (see how I slipped that info in there? More on that soon) with my friend Callie, who instructed me to create two mood boards on Pinterest so she could get an idea of what my brand should be. I ended up putting together two very different boards. One, labeled "dreamy", was monochromatic, delicate, dainty and light. The other I called "boho", and it was blazing with color, very adventurous and earthy and loud. Truth be told, I was leaning toward the first one. When I showed it to Callie, she liked it just fine, and even cooed over some of the pictures I used. But when I showed her the boho board, she said "Oh, Rachel, this one is you."

I felt a little let down when she said it. Because I knew it to be true, but I didn't want it to be. I didn't say anything out loud, but I chewed over my reaction for the rest of the day. It would seem that I am trying to change something about myself. The bold, brassy, bright part of me. I would rather be labeled as the dainty, delicate minimalist. Why?

I"m asking the question very genuinely. I don't know why yet. But I think it's about time to find out. I think it will unlock some big stuff. Tim agreed with me. When I told him about the boards, and about how I don't want to be the loud, bright, emotional, bold version of myself, he asked why. "None of those things seem bad to me, Rachel," he said. "Why do you think they are?"

I don't know. I don't know, but I'm ready to start digging.

Slow Down, You Crazy Child.

Do you rest well? I do not. I am an on-the-go gal, thoroughly. My planner is full of coffee dates, and events, and if there is an inch of blank space, I am quick to call someone to fill it. My weeks are, more often than not, scheduled to the last second by Sunday night.

For a long time, I kept my calendar full because I was on the run from my fears about being alone and missing out. Then it just became habit to always, always have someplace to go. Only recently have I started to feel this little tug to just, like, chill. It's a very new sensation. But there are times when what I really do want is to just be at home.

The habit of always being busy is a hard one to kick. Even as I feel myself getting mentally exhausted, I still schedule one more coffee hang. Something in me feels the need to move, always. What is that? Why can I not rest?

So, yesterday was a Saturday. My morning was stacked high with plans for the farmer's market and monthly flea market, all with dear friends. Which is great. But Friday evening, one after the other, the plans fell through. My brain immediately jumped into hyperdrive. Gotta make new plans, who might be free? Who have I not seen in a bit? My fingers were literally hovering over my contacts list, when I felt the tug again. The tug to just. rest.

Oh. You mean I don't need to be busy tomorrow morning? It's okay to wake up to no plans?

So I did. Saturday morning, I slept in and awoke to bright winter sunshine bouncing off a fluffy dusting of snow. I stayed in my pajamas until noon. I made coffee. I started a new book, and got pretty far into it. I painted. Then I got a little antsy, so I called my mom. Which felt really good, because if I go too long at the start of a day without talking to someone I get stir crazy. Two of my roommates came back mid-morning and we shared big thoughts and also sat in quietness. For the first time in a long time, I wasn't doing. I was just being. And there was this light, airy sense of freedom around that whole beautiful morning that I realized was the spirit of restfulness.

I didn't leave my house until late afternoon. But the day didn't feel wasted, like I kind of thought it would. It had been a full day. A day of good talking, good thinking, and sweet rest. Instead of feeling spent, I felt full. Instead of needing to make plans happen, I felt content to let plans happen.

Starting now, I'm going to be a lot more intentional about taking time to rest. Because what yesterday taught me is that rest is joyful. And very, very necessary. If I can learn to rest, I will be better for it. For so long I relied on my community to fill me up. It got to the point where I literally needed them to survive. And, while community is great, if we treat community as a lifeline we will wear ourselves and everyone else out. If I don't know how to rest, and to be filled up in the stillness of solitude, I will become a taker instead of a giver. Which is not what I want at all. I want to be able to pour out as much as I'm being poured into, and not have to hang on to people for dear life. And I'm starting to think the key to being able to pour out is to know when to rest.

Who Are You?

 Photo: Emma Wilson

Photo: Emma Wilson

I read a lot of articles on BuzzFeed. Probably too much. I use it for dumb entertainment, sometimes for valid information, but mostly to take personality quizzes. I love personality quizzes. Please, World Wide Web, tell me which celebrity I should marry, or what my style is, or which Hogwarts house I should be sorted into (Hufflepuff, every time). Which, you know, is totally fine. Maybe.

It's been coming up a lot in my head, lately, the question of why I'm so into letting the internet tell me more about myself. Because, if we're being transparent, here, those quiz results carry way more weight than they should. Something about answering a series of completely absurd questions (What is your favorite meal? Where would you like to live?) and getting a certain description of myself at the end has become a sort of validation about who I am.

Yes, you read that right. I've gotten into this very bad habit of letting BuzzFeed quizzes define something about who I am.

WHAT?!

Now, listen, I'm not saying personality quizzes are bad. Mostly, they're hilarious and sometimes weirdly on point. But I kind of think this carries over into things like Myers-Briggs results, and aptitude tests, and the like. There is a part of me that clings to the results of these tests like a lifeline, because I've gotten in this habit of letting others name me. But at what point did it become okay for an outside source, especially one that knows my heart not at all, to speak into my identity?

Is this resonating with you? Do you know yourself? Are you completely confident in your identity, or is there a part of you that is unsure about who you are? And, if that's the case, do you let outside sources name the parts of you you can't identify? I think we all do, at some point or another. Probably far more often than we think. Here's a conclusion I've come to: our true selves are very hard for us to find, because they are buried under our expectations, our desires, outside opinions, and everything we are trying to make ourselves become. Am I right? Which is why there are times I turn to things like BuzzFeed, and my friends, and people who aren't friends at all, and I latch on to what they say about me because I don't know myself. Some of the things I latch onto are downright false. More often than not, the lies are things spoken innocently, but twisted by the Deceiver to feed my spirit poison. How easily he makes that happen! And how quick am I to believe it.

I think God wires into us the desire to be understood, and to understand ourselves. More than that, I think He very intentionally made it so the only way for us to truly begin to know ourselves is to first know Him. Our true selves, that identity hidden beneath layers of self-doubt, fear, expectation, opinions and culture, will never see the light until we are given the confidence to be freely who we are. And that confidence comes from exactly one place. The heart of God. He knows me, in a way no one else ever will. He understands how I am wired better than I do. The days that I feel like a crazy lunatic, God is not phased. He knows I like boys in plaid, but that boys with strong hands make me melt. He knows Myers-Briggs classifies me as ENFP, but there's a lot more to me than that. He knows. So why is it that it never occurs to me to ask Him about my identity? Why do I let everyone but God name me?

So I think maybe, for a bit, I'm going to take a break from BuzzFeed quizzes. Not because they're evil, but because my heart needs to learn where to seek its identity. Not on the internet, not in friends, not anywhere but in the heart of my Savior, who created me and knows me better than anyone, even Isabel Briggs Myers.

What It Is

Have you ever not spoken something out loud, in the hopes that not saying it will keep it from being real? I have. Twice, this week. Some silly part of my brain is reassuring me that if the words don't come out my mouth, if sound doesn't hit the air, the thing didn't really happen.

The reality is, no words of mine, spoken or unspoken, will change the actions of other people. A phrase I have come to use almost daily goes: "It is what it is." I don't have to like it, but I do have to acknowledge the facts. Which is a concept my very core pushes back against. I have this ideal, who doesn't?, about the way life should work, and how the dominoes should fall. A leads to B, leads to C, and the people that try hard will be rewarded. And it's not over until everything is rosy and beautiful. Another reality check: when dealing with humanity, there is very rarely a black and white, bow-on-top solution or resolution to anything. No matter how badly I want reconciliation, or an answer, or a rewind button, sometimes it just is what it is. There is no reconciliation, no answer, no rewinding. No grasping the past in an effort to change the future. I fully believe words of prayer hold immeasurable power, and the Lord answers our requests mightily in His time. But sometimes, no matter how hard we beg, He says, "This is how it's going to be. I know you don't like it, but this is what it is."

Some people say knowing God is in control of their circumstances brings them great peace. I find this to be absolutely not true 85% of the time. Because many times, God is not doing what I want, He is very much doing His own thing and, frankly, it drives me crazy. Have you ever been in that place of recognizing God's hand at work, and absolutely hating it? It feels childish. It feels wrong. But I'm pretty sure it's human. I'm pretty sure our inability to let go is something we have to unlearn. Unlearning starts with admitting we don't know everything. I may think I have the perfect solution, or be in the right, but that doesn't mean I'm right. Pride will tell me I am. The Lord will tell me, "you don't know all the pieces of this puzzle. I do." Unlearning is choosing to trust the Lord, literally no matter what. Even through tears and gritted teeth. The thing is, He will prove Himself faithful. He always does. We might not like a stretch of the journey, but His faithfulness is undeniable. If I know anything, it is that the Lord is always and forever faithful to complete whatever He has started.

I've been doing a lot of unlearning the last few months. A lot of leaning into what it looks like to let things be. It is what it is. I don't have to like it, and I can deal with that on my own time, but I do have to accept that, hey, this is it. And you know, there has been so much grace in the learning. For each step I took, the Lord bolstered my soul a little bit more. He strengthened the muscles of trust, peace, and rest. As I learned to let circumstances be, He gave me freedom.

Tonight, there is a familiar knot in my stomach. The very tips of my fingers are tingling with the desire to white-knuckle hang on to what I know is already gone. But as I sit here and breathe, the more dominant feeling is peace. Peace, because it is what it is. There are circumstances I can't change, reality that exists whether or not I say it out loud. With each inhale, I'm asking for rest. With each exhale, I'm letting go of a little more fear. That knot is loosening, slowly but surely. It is what it is. And God is who He is. So I choose peace, and joy, and rest.

"But let us go out with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us. Our yesterdays hold broken and irreversible things for us. It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Christ. 

Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him."

(Oswald Chambers)