To all of the people in my life who are facing something scary/challenging/heartbreaking:

 

There is a light at the end of this tunnel. 

 

You will make it out of the darkness, and the fear, and the loneliness. 

 

There is hope-there is always hope.

 

Even when you are sad, there is something to smile about.

 

In ten years, you can look back on this period in your life and learn why you went through it.

 

Plus, you will have made it through.

 

There is always someone you can turn to.

 

God will always love you.

 

Do not let your darkness hinder your light-find joy in life even through the sadness.

 

I am praying for you.

 

You are in my heart, and on my mind.  And I bet I’m not the only one thinking of you.

 

Pain and sorrow are temporary, but love is forever.

 

Your friend,

Rachel

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Some time ago, I learned about a situation involving one of the elders at my church.  It is pretty well known that he is an avid beer drinker, and he had posted something online about the brew he was working on.  A member of the church (I am not sure who) took offense to this statement and complained about how he was ‘not setting an appropriate example’ as an elder and youth ministries leader.

Although the story was told over lunch, and to quite a bit of laughter, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of annoyance.  This elder is a really good man, with a wonderful family.  He is smart, kind, and a natural leader, and here was somebody questioning his example because he brews his own beer!

I feel sometimes like we get so focused on the little details and the technicalities of following Christ, we forget that ultimately we are called to a life of freedom.  We get to enter into a relationship with the God of the universe, and here we are debating about alcohol and tattoos!  It’s annoying, to say the least.  In fact, it’s more than annoying.  It’s wrong.

I’m not saying that we get to live however we want (we don’t), nor am I saying that Christians are not called to a better, set apart way of life (we are).  What I’m saying is that when Christianity is treated as a ‘religion’ with rigid rules and a specific do and don’t list, the true beauty of salvation gets lost in the details.  This ‘set apart’ life we are called to is not always easy, and it comes with expectations, but it is so amazing and free and beautiful that it makes me sad when it is trivialized by legalization.

I could go on and on, but I think I’m going to go have a glass of wine and look at my tattoos.

I have a sore throat.  This morning I woke up and felt that nagging pain, and I thought, well that’s not good.  But, I stayed positive, thinking that maybe with a glass of water, a hot shower, and cough drops it would go away.

No such luck.

The pain is still there, and when I realized that it wasn’t going away (at about 7:30 this morning) I started to panic.  See, a sore throat and croaky voice may not be a big deal to most, but to someone who uses her voice to lead worship every Sunday…well, let’s just say it threatened to ruin my day.  I didn’t know what to do.  I started thinking of the best way to resolve the issue, all the while desperately popping Ricolas and praying.  Should I go see a doctor?  Should I go home and try to sleep it off?  Should I drown myself in tea?  This can’t be happening-I’m a singer, for goodness sake!

I thought you were a servant of Christ, first and foremost.

This thought stopped me in the midst of my fretting.  See, I started reading Romans yesterday, and I took special notice of the way Paul defines himself in his greeting.  He calls himself a servant of Christ, and nothing but that.  I thought that was such a neat thing, that Paul would find his entire identity in servanthood, and I prayed that whole day for such an attitude. 

And now, here I was, freaking out about a sore throat!  I mean, it is true that I sing to serve, but even when my voice is compromised I am still a servant.  Unfortunately I forgot that temporarily, and I am sorry I did. 

But I learned something today (or rather I refreshed a lesson I had already learned but had forgotten).  In ten years I may not have an amazing voice.  I may not be a lot of things that I currently find identity in.  But one thing will never change-my identity in Christ, as a daughter and servant.

So, Aaron, the guy who leads the high school band, will be covering for me and Nason in middle school service this week.  And he’s going to do an awesome job!

Normally I try and keep my posts positive and happy.  I try and find the good in life and celebrate it here.  Even with this post I have tried to find the optimistic spin, but I need to be completely honest.  I am really sad.

There’s some stuff going on in my life and the lives of those very close to me that is scary and serious, and it has left me exhausted and depressed.  I have felt like this for the past several days, and no matter what I do it always comes back.  There will be some major changes coming up in the near future.  And I am fearful of how it’s going to leave those involved.

Out of respect for the wishes of those who are involved, I can not talk about it, so please do not ask me what’s going on.  Everything is being handled as best as it can, so do not offer to help or anything.  Now, it’s all a matter of waiting on God’s plan.  Just pray, and accept the fact that I am sad.

On the sign for Log Cabin Village (the upper camp on the UCYC campus) it reads “a life changing experience.”  If I had to sum up this entire week into one phrase, that would probably be it.  For many of our students, this past week was life changing in some way or another.

Just a quick background on UCYC: UCYC stands for United Christian Youth Camps.  It was started in Prescott in the 1950’s and has since hosted summer and winter camps for students k-12.  There is a lower camp (Ponderosa) where the elementary camps usually happen, and an upper camp (Log Cabin Village) where the older camps happen.  The days are filled with competitions, games, activities like paintball and rock climbing, amazing worship (this year led by DSM) and incredible speakers.

All of these new experiences and opportunities leads to an atmosphere where students can try new things without worry.  The first challenge Matt, our speaker this last week, gave the students was to try.  he told them to try things they were nervous about, to try the things they had never done before, and most of all to try Jesus this week.

Our students definitely tried this week.  nearly all of our students did something new, or tried something that scared them, or took the lessons and the worship to heart.  We had a number of students either accept Jesus for the first time or rededicate or make some other decision to deepen their walk with God.  In my small group (we divide students up for discussion groups after morning sessions) we had some really awesome discussions; even though many were ‘off topic,’ they were still great discussions.  One that stands out is the morning we had a talk about how to really know if the Bible was true, which was tough (because the Bible can never be completely proven or disproven) but good (because we got to talk a lot about the evidence and also stepping out in faith).

There were so many stories from this trip, I wouldn’t even know where to begin.  I could fill so many posts with stories from camp.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I have at least one story about every student who went this week.  But I’m just going to leave it at this: we have an amazing, brave, smart, goofy, and beautiful group of students at my church, who took the ‘try’ challenge and rolled with it, making it an incredible camp experience for themselves, their fellow students, and us leaders.  It was a truly inspirational week.

I was afraid on my first day of college.  I was not nervous about finding my friends, grades, or getting lost.  I was nervous about the things I would be taught.  See, a lot of people told me that my faith would be challenged in college.  I had heard the statistics about Christian college students turning away from their faith, I was aware of the fact that many students and faculty did not share my belief in Christ, and I knew that the things I would be taught may not line up with the way I was raised.  So, I was very nervous when I entered my first class on my first day.

Now, three years later, I can honestly say that all the things I feared about my faith being challenged came true.  But, instead of letting those things get in the way of my relationship with God, I used them to strengthen it.  In my Psychology classes especially, I came to appreciate God’s design more than ever before. 

 

Neurons in the brain (Image property of Gustavus Adolphus College)

One of those moments was in Cognitive Development last semester, when we watched a film about the development of the prenatal brain.  Although there are 100 billion neurons in the brain, each neuron has a specific area and a specific function, and that is where it always ends up.  It was as though it is programmed, and it was truly amazing.

I have learned so much about just how incredibly brilliant God is, and I have found more and more that science does point to a design.  But, mostly, I have learned that challenges to faith are not a bad thing, because they sharpen and refine just what it is that you believe.  Challenges force you to take a critical look at the God you worship.  And, that’s not bad.  I think that some of the best growth comes from doubt and struggle.  When it happened for me, I found a God who is loving, and beautiful, and so incredibly intelligent and powerful.  I used the challenges to my beliefs to strengthen them, and I am a better follower of Christ for it.

Sunday mornings are usually the most hectic for Nason and I.  We are among the first people to arrive at church, in order to help set up the student room for service.  As a result, one of the things that is typically cut out of the morning routine is personal grooming.  Sure, we shower, we brush our teeth, we choose what to wear, but aside from the necessary hygienic aspects of the morning routine, we don’t do much.  We leave for church, still a little asleep, with wet hair and no makeup.  I still haven’t decided if the shirt I wore with my skirt today really matched.

And yet, this morning I felt beautiful.

Later today we went to Nason’s parents’ house for lunch, and ended up staying for most of the afternoon.  My mother-in-law, Nancy, just started selling Mary Kay, and so while we were there she showed me some of the products she thought I would like.  I tried a new facial cleanser, and amazing moisturizer, and a mineral foundation, which I also loved.  I plan to buy the moisturizer and the foundation once we get paid this week.

And you know what?  Looking in the mirror, with the makeup, I felt beautiful.

I do not wear makeup every day.  I don’t really wear jewelry, or get manicures, or put on perfume all the time.  It’s not that I don’t like all of it, not at all.  When I wear makeup I like the way I look.  I like jewelry, and I love the look of a manicure, and I always feel a little more girly with a spritz of perfume.  For me, all of the primping and grooming is fun.  But (unless it’s the daily habits which result in good hygiene) I don’t think it’s a necessity.

For a long time I was insecure about the way I looked.  I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin; it took me a while to really get that God makes us the way He makes us for a reason.  We are all beautiful, even if not in the conventional, worldly view of beauty, because God made us, and God doesn’t make ugly people.  Psalm 139 13-15 says, ” 

13For you formed my inward parts;
   you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works;
   my soul knows it very well.

I like makeup, and dresses, and perfume.  I think they are fun, and they make me feel girly and cute.  But I know that makeup does not make me beautiful.  God makes me beautiful, and being conscious of that fact alone makes me feel more cherished and beautiful than makeup ever could.

Challenge: Go one day without makeup, or perfume, or whatever you can not bear to leave the house without doing (aside from showering, brushing teeth, etc).  Try it for one day.  Keep in the front of your mind that you are beautiful, with or without the ‘beauty’ products.  Tape Psalm 139 to your car visor or mirror if that helps.