I realize that it's easy to "preach" at other people how they should be living their lives. I bet you wonder if I ever take my own advice. If I ever actually try to practically live out what I write on my blog...
Let me start by saying this. I have been revisiting and reevaluating by personal core values lately. I want to make sure I am still on the same page with them and that they are things I remain passionate about.
I am unsure about a couple on the list at this point, but one that I am sure will never ever get cut is this...authenticity.
I have always loved that word. Genuine too. They are words that encompass so much and that I have always kept close to my heart.
I am so passionate about living an authentic life. I want to live in a way that is honest and pure and as true as I can be to the things that I say I stand for and believe. Of course I am human, of course I will make mistakes...but to the best of my ability I want to practice what I preach. I say that to say, I write these blog posts from the purest most raw and honest place in myself that I possibly can. I write from exactly where I am with a little dash of where I have been and where I would like to end up. I never write things that I am not trying my hardest to live out practically every single day.
So, here is a perfect example of how I have been trying to practice what I preach as of late...a few ways that I practically lived out this concept of embracing each day for the gift that it is and a few thoughts that I had along the way...
I used to frequently write what I called simplicity notes. They were just conscious efforts on my part to pay attention to the lovely little moments in life that often go unnoticed and in turn leave us feeling like we are much worse off than we are in reality. They are me forcing myself to stop and breathe and find the beautiful around me even when it seems nowhere to be found.
"The dawning of each new day is a gift from Me, not to be taken for granted. The earth is vibrantly alive with My blessings, giving vivid testimony to My Presence. If you slow down your pace of life, you can find Me anywhere...The secret to being thankful is learning to see everything from My perspective. My world is your classroom."
A much younger version of myself made this clever little statement in my CBC senior sermon on joy.
"We are to embrace life, not just face it."
Here goes 26-year-old Rachel doing her very best to take her 21-year-old self's advice.
#1 For anyone who doesn't know yet, I currently work at Bath and Body Works. A classic retail, mall job. It has been hard for me to adjust to...the pay, the hours, the unpredictability of my schedule...BUT there are so many lovely things about the job that I have genuinely come to enjoy and embrace. First of all, the people are wonderful. I always leave laughing. And also, I get to see all of the neat, flowery, girly things that come in often before they even hit the shelves. Recently we brought out a spring line of scents based around southern charm. Something you should know about me...I LOVE flowers. Fresh, blooming, bright flowers of all kinds. So imagine my pure delight when I found a sweet little candle in Lilac Blossom AND this darling box of matches to go with. Couldn't resist this sweet little quote on the box, "Always bring flowers." I couldn't agree more and it made my week to bring this little treat home and to fill my bedroom with the scent of lilacs. Not to mention...I will most certainly be reusing both the match box and the little glass candle holder (future toothbrush holder) in my new home in Mexico.
#2 On that note...I really love candles and matches. I am not a fan of those fancy lighter thingies...they just aren't the same as old school matches. I love the way it sounds when you strike that match head on the box's edge. I love the way the flame ignites and the race to get the wicks lit before the match burns out or the flame creeps up too close to your fingers. Mostly I love the smell of a match or a candle when you blow them out. The other night when I lit my candle before I cuddled up in bed to do my devotions, I took a second to watch the match after I blew it out. I watched that sleek stream of smoke twirl and dance upward and vanish into the air and I paid extra close attention to the scent it left behind. See what I'm saying....it seems like a silly thing to take notice of, but it's a practice that makes us more aware of simplistic beauty all around us. If we will force ourselves to take just a moment and observe, our lives will be fuller and richer.
#3 One night last week when I was beyond ready for bed, Lincoln insisted he needed to go outside one more time before we settled in. So, I threw on a hoodie and my house shoes (do people still say that...?) And took him for a stroll around the yard. For some reason, I knelt down to pet him, and caught a glimpse of the moon through the tree in our front yard. It was stunning. This perfectly crisp white crescent strung up at just the right angle in a rich, velvety black sky. And what made it even more perfect was the faint shadow of the moon's remainder hovering behind the crisp cutout. It looked like the moon you grow up seeing in story books. I ended up sitting down in the dewy grass next to Lincoln and looking up for a bit. It was just too pretty not to look at.
#4 Now that it's getting nice out again (knock on wood) I have been opening the back door to our deck because Lincoln likes to come in and out. I know I have a silly little puppy, but he actually teaches me a lot about life from time to time. The other day I was walking through the kitchen getting ready to go somewhere, and happened to catch Lincoln out on the deck from the corner of my eye. It was sort of a typical spring day. The sun was trying to peek through the clouds and warm things up, but it was still generally overcast. But oh Lincoln, a little lover of sunshine, he had managed to find the one little strip of sunlight that had settled on the deck and had stretched out and closed his eyes to soak it in. I couldn't help but laugh! Again I went out and sat down next to him. I spent a second taking in how genuinely at peace he was in that little patch of sunshine. He wasn't moping around under a table inside, he didn't notice the mostly gray sky, he found the little sunlight there was (because there always is a little) and embraced it. He let the sunshine he could find be enough.
#5 Driving home from church last week I was pleasantly surprised to find that the temperature had drastically climbed and the sun had intensified since I had walked in. I enjoyed a nice long drive to meet my family for dinner with the windows down and my music playing and lots of wind in my hair. I made sure to take a deep breath and laugh a little to myself as I reminded myself that those are the moments I am supposed to be soaking in. Those are the moments when we really live.
#6 While I have absolutely not had a 100% success rate, I have been doing my best to consciously tell myself to embrace the day each morning before I get out of bed. I try to look out my window and say something like this, "Today is April 30, 2015. I will never ever have a chance to live this day again." It sort of wakes me up and opens my eyes and my heart to all of the beauty that Jesus has placed in "today."
#7 I have been working hard to readjust and reword my attitudes and perspectives in situations that come up each day. For example, I have found myself really not wanting to work out lately. I have been really unmotivated to go to the gym and such. But, one morning on my way to the gym, I thought. Nope. I need a major attitude adjustment. I need to be thankful that I am healthy enough to go to the gym and stay fit and that I have the time and resources to have a gym membership and spend time focusing on my health. Or forcing myself to pray for people or situations that are getting on my nerves. It's an exercise that's not always pleasant in the moment but one that I find really rewarding and helpful in this whole adventure of embracing life.
#8 I have found a new sweet treat. It's a way for me to indulge and not feel guilty. I am fairly healthy...okay to put it bluntly, I am a health nut. I don't eat most packaged foods and if I do they can't have sugar in the first five ingredients listed. Needless to say, I am not going to reach for a sleeve of Oreos when I am craving chocolate. And yes, even though I am pretty healthy, I still crave chocolate with the best of them. I've had this recipe pinned on Pinterest for a while but hadn't tried it until just recently...when one of those chocolate cravings threatened to send me to Target for some Reese's in a fit of rage.
It's simple really...
handful of ice
3/4-1 cup of almond milk (I use unsweetened vanilla)
1 tablespoon almond butter
1-2 generous spoons of pure cocoa powder
*let me note here...those measurements are really loose. I normally just eyeball it all...but I am not so picky as long as it tastes like chocolate and isn't costing me a ton of calories.
It's like a dark chocolate dream. No joke. It's just enough of a chocolate fix to keep me from caving into crummy sugary junk but to indulge that chocolate craving and still feel like I am living and enjoying food.
I also tried out some paleo pancakes this week to fight another craving. I am a sucker for a stack of pancakes... Just some banana, coconut flour, and eggs. Top them off with a little almond butter and I feel like I'm back in my beloved Seattle for brunch on a rainy day :)
3 large ripe bananas
1/3 cup coconut flour
coconut oil for frying
*I significantly reduced this recipe to only make a few, but they were pretty tasty! I love a good morning pancake with my cup of coffee.
okay...so this is not a food blog by any stretch of the imagination, but these little discoveries have been elements of joy in my daily grind the last couple of weeks.
#9 This past weekend I packed a bag and hit the road to Johnstown, PA to visit my dear friend Josh Watts. Josh and I met in Missouri and CBC and quickly became friends. We also served on a church planting team together out in Seattle. Believe it or not...life has happened so quickly this year that we have not seen each other since he left Seattle this past June! After being around each other so much for so long, that amount of time seemed like forever and completely unacceptable. So, in my attempt to embrace life and this season in particular, I decided it was time to make the trip. We may not live across campus or five blocks from each other any more, but we do live within driving distance and that is something to embrace.
It was a simple weekend really. We just hit up a couple of parks and a local coffee shop, played on the playground and of course the swings and I attended some church services where he led worship. We took another mini road trip to catch up with his lovely sister (who is adorably prego) and good ol' Ben and did coffee and dinner. There was lots of catching up, discussing theology and how we have learned and grown and ended up here and an insane amount of laughter. It was undoubtedly a weekend filled with those moments that make you stop and remember just how wonderful this life really is. It came at just the right time too. Sometimes I can get so caught up in my own head processing and analyzing everything that's happening. It's nice to have an old friend push pause on my brain and pull me out of that cyclical thinking and offer lots of fresh perspective and encouragement.
This kid always knows how to make me laugh and have a good time. Nothing like flying high on the swings with your pal.
A quick snapshot from our drive home from Maryland. Never take for granted the memories made on a road trip with a friend.
Candid moments are the best moments :)
Love sharing milestones with friends. Sometimes a long day in the car is way worth even just a few hours together. Scratch that...it's always worth it.
#10 On Wednesdays I hang out with a 12-year-old kid from my church and help him get his homework done before we go to youth group. Honestly, he can drive me insane sometimes. He's a 12-year-old boy for goodness sakes. What 12-year-old boy doesn't put up a fight about doing homework? Anyways. Sometimes I get frustrated with him. Last night he seemed to catch on that this was the case by the time we were driving home from church. When we got out of the car, he insisted on showing me all of the animals that have made homes in their yard. We proceeded to scout out the nests and even attempt a quacking conversation with the duck who appeared to be unresponsive. By the time we got inside we were both laughing so hard that we had to catch our breath. He reminded me that sometimes we have to just step back from the situation and the frustration and enjoy something simple and beautiful and a good laugh.
#11 This past week I also got to spend some time with my darling "little sister." I happen to be an only child...biologically anyways. But Jesus in His goodness and kindness has blessed me with so many lovely people that have become family. This "little girl" is one of them. I have known her since I was chasing her around the nursery. I have been her Bible Quiz coach, her VBS teacher, her camp counselor, her Missionettes sponsor, her "mentor" and most importantly her friend. She really has become like a little sister to me and it brings me so much joy to hear her heart and her passion to love and serve Jesus and to give her life for Him. Hannah helped me discover my passion and my calling in life and is one of the huge reasons I took a leap of faith and studied kids ministry at CBC. She challenges me and inspires me and makes me want to live a Holy life that she and other girls can look up to. I look more like Jesus because of this girl. We sipped some coffee and painted pottery and just drove around chatting about life. So thankful for these moments that are unique to this place and this season.
#13 My Seattle nanny family invited me on vacation to the beach again this year! I was beyond excited for a few reasons! First of all...this was a HUGE blessing and just another way that Jesus is providing as I trust Him and move forward in obedience to Mexico. I was worried about not having much income in the last month before moving. This was such a lovely answer to that prayer and concern. Not only will I be able to make some money right before moving so that I can have some cash to help make a home south of the border, I also get to make that money while spending a week at the beach with my two favorite kiddos. AND I will get to make some really special memories with them right before I leave. Not to mention, it will be nice to have a little refresher week after a long month of planning and packing and just before I dive into this next season of adventure. Jesus is so incredibly good to me. I just can't get over it!
My very first legit sand castle and my incredible sand castle sage. So much wisdom in one little girl.
So looking forward to more fun memories at Old Lyme Shores this summer with some super cool kids and their parents :)
#14 I am always very aware of it, but this week I was reminded again of how very blessed I am to call Central Bible College my alma mater. I had no idea what I was doing when I decided to leave everything I knew for a little Bible College in small town Missouri...but I am so thankful that Jesus knew. The fruit of that season is still very much flourishing in my life. I left with so many things. Certainly I do not have all of the answers and figuring out ministry and life with Jesus is a never ending process, but I left with deep rooted friendship and a network of resources and mentors to encourage me and walk with me. CBC really was a place unlike any other. Not only do I have friends who are so loyal and understanding and who challenge me and inspire me, the faculty is just as available to me even now. I don't know that every College president makes himself available to his students on Facebook... but mine did..and still does. Never am I afraid or shy about contacting even the highest staff member with a question or concern. That is community...that is family. Just this evening three of my dear friends from college all living in different states and time zones found a way to coordinate busy schedules to chat about life and ministry and to encourage each other. I should also mention that these same three ladies were the first to show up on my door step all the way from around the country when my daddy passed away. They have taught me so much about friendship and I know that I look more like Jesus and serve Him more passionately because I have called them friends. This was such a bright spot in my week.
I'll end with this little blurb from my journal on the evening of April 20
"I hope I live my life in a way that I really really see. My eyes are wide open and ready to see life around me. I mean really take it all in. Absorb it. Even the "simple" "little" things that are really miracles but that we often-well mostly don't take time to see or really care about or question. I want to see life as a miracle. All of it. I don't want to miss any of the beauty. There's just so much of it."
Get out there and live. Really, really live!