Labor (With Purpose) Day

I am giddy (in an I’m-tired-because-I’m-not-sleeping-and-I’m-almost-40-so-how-giddy-do-I-really-get-anymore kind of way!) Nonetheless, I’m so crazy excited for the upcoming Labor Day weekend! Three days to rest, relax, and enjoy time away from the labor of every day life. I will soak in every wonderful, lazy minute!

But when Tuesday arrives, I want to be ready. I want to prepare my heart and mind for the young people God has hand-picked for the job transition program I coordinate. I want to see each of them as my ministry. I want to labor with purpose.

Admittedly, I didn’t even want to return to this job. It’s a great job, don’t get me wrong. It’s fairly stress free with only minor challenges in each day. It’s slow-paced and a welcomed reprieve from seven years in a more hectic educational setting. It isn’t, however, where I pictured myself this year. MY plan was different! MY plan was what I wanted!  MY plan was better! (isn’t that what we always think?!) God’s plan, though, has me here. Right where HE wants me.

Chew on that thought a moment. Right where HE wants me. This place. These students. This time. It’s all a part of God’s plan. Just like Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘ Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.'” He’s got plans for ME! Little ol’ me has the Universe’s most perfect event planner in charge of my future. Does it get any better than that?! No, it doesn’t, but still, I tend to go back to that place where I think I could do a better job. I believe I know best what my future should become. I believe I am somehow in control.  I believe I need to back off! I simply need to show up. I simply need to do the job with confidence. I simply need to be grateful.  I simply need to remember that my labor has purpose! Simply put, yours does, too!  A big God has big plans for YOU, too!

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” – Colossians 3:23

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A letter to the curly haired two-year-old in the balloon dress…

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It’s me…your mom. And it’s almost ten years later. And you’re about to enter middle school. And I have so much to tell you. And I feel like time is racing past with such determination and speed. And I want to slow down for a minute to tell you just a few of those things that are on my heart.

First of all, congratulations! You made it through elementary school! You learned your letters and your numbers. You conquered the playground and learned that sharing won’t really kill you. You discovered friendships, teachers who make you feel loved, and that knowledge is the key to opening so many important doors in life. You did it!

Secondly, you’re off! The world of middle school is both frightening and overwhelming. It is strange and awkward. And it is critical. It is the time in your life when you will begin to understand that those letters you learned in elementary can be put onto paper in such a way that it sets your soul free. It is the time in life when those numbers you learned turn into phone numbers of new friends who, sometimes sadly, replace the old ones. It is the time in life when the playground equipment no longer exists but your social interactions intensify exponentially. It is the time when your emotions will be confusing, exciting, terrifying, and liberating, all within a ten minute span of time. It is the time when you begin to learn who you are and, most importantly, why you should be proud of that person. It is the time when you may face some very tough situations and will have to remember that God said, “Never will I leave you nor forsake you.” It is the time when you must sometimes dig deep and trust that He truly means never.

Thirdly, I’m so very proud of you! You have shed the balloon dress for more “grown-up” attire but you always choose modesty over what may be popular. You may not have those darling curls bouncing about while you walk but you wake in the morning still believing that there are more important things in the day than making sure each hair is in its perfect place. You still have that sweet spirit and concern for others that has been ingrained in your soul since the day you were born. You are a wonderful, compassionate, funny, and faith-filled young lady who gets even better with age.

And lastly, my dear daughter, thank you! Thank you for letting me have a front row seat to this time in your life. I hope you remember that here, in this family, you are loved.

A new journey…a new logo!

Today, I created a new logo for my counseling practice! It seems like a little thing but in reality, it’s BIG. Yes, it was super easy but it was thrilling, too! I know it’s late and I know sometimes I get cheesy, but for me, that logo means the beginning of a new journey. One that will lead me deeper into a calling God has so clearly put on my life. A journey that requires complete trust in a God who knows the destination.

This logo is a statement that I have finally become willing to give up the plans I made for myself so that I can simply follow. This logo says, in a sense, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”

And I wonder…am I ready? Or, more accurately, will I EVER be ready? Will it ever get easier to follow without fear? Will it ever become second nature for me to fully rely on God to provide every tool I need to do this job He has put before me? I don’t know. My gut is kind of telling me “no” but I want to believe there’s a resounding “YES!” somewhere on this side of life.

Even if there isn’t, though, I say we go, Lord! I say You keep moving in ways that leave me speechless! I say You open the flood gates of blessings on this venture…not for me but for those You bring to me! I say You do this! I’m Yours!

All Along Anyway

Sometimes, there just aren’t enough words. There is no possible way to fully express the preciousness of seeing God’s hand on every little detail of life.

As I led the Bible study of 11-year-old girls last night, I was struggling to keep up! These sweet (but rather chatty and often vociferous!) girls were going a mile a minute through our study. I felt like the pace was too fast. Their conversations too scattered. Their attentions too distracted. I was concerned they were “missing it.” I feared I had not done enough to “get it right” for tonight. And because I was focused too much on the negatives, I almost missed the positive. I was drowning in the “I” and forgot to let the “He” do what He does.

My sweet Morgan threw me the life preserver. “So,” she asked, “God chose US?”

“Yes,” I responded, a little stumped. Hadn’t I already said that?

“And, He knows we are all sinners, right?”

“Of course! He knows everything about us!” Goodness! Maybe I’m not teaching the basics as well as I had thought!

“And, He knew before we were even born that we would be sinners, right?”

Something stopped me. Deep breath, Rachel! You need to really listen. “Yes,” I said a little quieter.

“And, He has loved us all along anyway?”

There it was. That moment I can (and often do) skim over so easily. “Yes, Morgan. All along.”

She sat quietly for a few seconds, soaking the thought in for perhaps the first time in her life. “That’s amazing.”

I couldn’t breathe! It IS amazing! It’s BEYOND amazing! And I almost missed the whole moment! I almost got lost in what WASN’T working that I completely forgot…He is ALWAYS working!

As I looked around at the 13 girls in the room, I knew I was unworthy. I knew I was watching a handful of fertile hearts soak in what it all meant. Three or four of the other girls were realizing the depth of Morgan’s words. “He has loved us all along anyway.” God was whispering into their young souls and no side chatter or distracted giggles would spoil it. He was, for maybe the first time in their eleven years, making it personal. And He had loved ME enough to let me watch!

The moment passed almost as quickly as it had come, but a few of us were changed. At least one of us was…the one who had thought for a minute she was somehow the leader.

Thank You, God, for loving us so personally that you don’t let us ruin it! Thank You for moments of such life changing positives in a world so full of negatives. Thank You for loving us all along anyway!

Chapter 37 and 9 months

It’s unbelievable to me how quickly the chapters of our lives are written. Each year ushers in something new. Plans turn on a dime. God flips a switch and says, “Oh, you! You seriously thought you knew the plans I have for you? Aren’t you darling?!”

And just like that, God has closed one door in my life, only to open another. He has enlightened me to all that can be done for His glory with my community mental health license and He is quietly whispering to me, “You don’t have to know exactly WHERE I want you…just be willing to go when the time is right.” And I want to be willing. I REALLY want to be willing!

To be willing, though, requires giving up control and, if you know me at all, you know that’s one of the hardest things for me to give up. Looking back, however, I know God has been stripping me of my need for control most of my adult life. From the moment a three-year-old Morgan made her bed for the first time on her own, He has made it clear that my way is not the only right way…it is, in fact, often the most difficult way to go. When I let go, life is just easier!

So, today, as chapter 37 and 9 months of my life story begins, I’m letting go. I like to think it’s making God smile!

Just Over the Hill

As I walked out the doors of my night job the other night, I was startled by the sight of them.  They stopped dead in their tracks and I knew I had startled them, too.  Two deer stood at the edge of the parking lot just at the top of a slight hill.   They were watching my every move.  I stood holding my breath.   They were beautiful and awesome and frightening all at the same time.

And then, without a sound, a third deer popped up beside the first two.   My co-worker quietly whispered, “You know, there are probably 30 more just over that hill.”  I thought for a minute.  She was probably right.   There had to be more I couldn’t see from where I stood.

Yet again, God used something some might consider insignificant to get my attention.   Yet again, I am grateful beyond words for His sweet and subtle reminders.

You see, life is full of uncertainties.   I know that comes as a surprise to some of you (!) but it’s true!  Where will I be working next year?   Where will my spouse be working?  Where will the money come from next week?  When will this trail conclude?  When?  Where?  How?  And most importantly…why?   But there is so much we cannot see.   We cannot see from one minute to the next but praise the Lord…He can!  He holds in His hands not only our yesterdays and todays but because He is God, He also holds our tomorrows.

Just like the deer, I can only see what is right in front of me.   I couldn’t see how many of the majestic animals stood just over the hill, just like I have no idea what comes next in life.   But God sees it all and knows exactly what joy He will bring in the morning!

A song we sang at church on Sunday sums it up…”Today is the day You have made.   I will rejoice and be glad in it.  I won’t worry about tomorrow.   I’m trusting in what You say.  Today is the day!”

The tasting of God

I decided this year I wasn’t going to send Christmas cards.  The reasons were two-fold…I didn’t want to incur the expense and who wanted to hear that Marc and I had both lost our jobs, I had gotten mine back and added another, and he was still looking.  I figured this was the year to let it ride.

Then, God sent another one of His all-too-unsubtle reminders that I was looking at things from the wrong perspective.  He sent a friend who has been through hardship that far surpasses my own.

This friend is an Islamic man who converted to Christianity even though he knew it could mean sacrificing his life.  And his family almost did just that…take his life because he chose to follow Jesus.  As I sat and listened to my friend’s story of salvation, he said something that truly moved me to my core.  He was struggling to find the English word that would explain the experience and told me that in Arabic, it actually means “the tasting of God.”  He likened it to God being the very food you need in order to survive.  I likened it to chocolate cake!

When I taste a really moist piece of chocolate cake with chocolate icing, my mouth is filled so completely with the flavor that I know I must savor every second of that moment.  I know that since I don’t eat cake like that every day, I have to remember the flavor.  I want to hold that bite in my mouth just a little longer.  I want to find every word to describe that bite of cake so that I can tell the chef how amazing it was.

Then it hit me.  In the midst of our job losses, the ups and downs of getting called back to school, and the busyness of working two jobs, I had the best piece of chocolate cake on my plate…just waiting to be enjoyed.  I had Jesus!

And Jesus has been so obviously present every step along this journey we’ve been on.  Why then do I so often forget to savor His presence?  Why then do I not hold His blessings in my mind for just one more second so that I can remember the essence of their flavor?  Why then do I forget to tell others about His perfectly sweet and filling joy?

So, this Christmas, as you sit down to take a break from whatever journey you find yourself on, my prayer for you is that you taste God.  Let Him overtake you.  Savor His flavor.  Hold onto Him for a second longer.  And be filled!