I've become that Senior.

That Senior who is sitting in the library currently working on an Annotated Bibliography and starting to become nostalgic.

There are days when I don't want to be at this school anymore, but today is different.

A few months ago, I was sitting at a table with my roommate of three years and her fiance, of whom I've watched grow a beautiful relationship in college. And I thought, I really want to get this assignment done. Then I look up and one of my best friends, Sam Skold, walks in to talk to someone across the room.

I began to realize how much I will truly miss this. I will miss being around Julie who continues to remind me to stay focused and stop making faces at her. I will miss seeing Sam Skold and all my other wondering TC friends at Touring Choir practice. It will be completely different a year from now, and I don't think I appreciate these moments enough.

I talked to an alumni friend on homecoming weekend. We sat outside under a tent as it rained and had a life-giving conversation. At the start, I asked him, "So, how are you doing?" He turned to me and said, "Well, Rachel, I just really miss this place. I miss the vibrant community that encouraged me so often. I miss being around earnest hunger for more of the Lord in every person." As I listened to him I started feeling convicted. Convicted about all the time I had become annoyed with this campus. Convicted about the times I didn't take opportunities to understand God more deeply with other people. And I especially felt convicted about the times I had said that I hate this place, or I'm so ready to get out of here.

Sure, the work sucks sometimes. And sure, people can be judgmental, forgetful, unintentional in friendship, and just plain inconsiderate.

But people are like that every where else too.

College is a rare time in your life when you can run down to your friend's room (or in other words "home") at 2 am and pray with her because she doesn't know if her parents will stay together in the next month or she's stressing out about a test the next day. It's this weird time of life when everyone is in the same stage of life and living within a mile of each other. College is weird. But it's a very special time. I should be appreciating it more.

And now, I'm taking my last final of the Fall Semester at 2 pm, and I'll be heading home for Christmas break. I don't really know what next semester will be like, but I know that I will savor every moment - good or bad.


Single isn't Single

It's been a year since I've been "in a relationship." I put that in quotes because I never labeled it as such during the fact, but I was pretty emotionally committed to someone.

I've learned a lot. I've messed up a lot. I have cried a lot.

I've done a lot of growing with other people.

Yes, as a single young woman I am growing "on my own" as most would say. Although, I think there's a huge misconception about being single. Many people think you are literally a single person, and you don't have anyone around you to lean on. You are completely alone.

I'll tell you one thing: You don't have be alone when you're single. 

When I first became "single" I felt very alone. I had closed a door to someone that I had emotionally depended on for a good bit of time. It's when you feel most alone that you must reach out. The enemy loves to steal, kill, and destroy, so he wants you to think you are all alone. Don't give him that power. Reach out in prayer and petition, ask someone to pray with you or for you, or go talk to someone trustworthy about your hurts and stresses.

Maybe you're saying, "Well, there's no one I can talk to! Everyone has been busy or turned away from me." Pray for the Lord to provide. He will give you someone to talk to, I have faith for it.

Since becoming single, I have surrounded myself with people that honestly care about my heart. God always had those people right in front of me, it was just a matter of me actually opening up and allowing those people to truly be my support system.

If you are going through a lonely time, don't stay secluded. Cry out to the Lord for help. He desires to show you that He can provide you with anything and everything you need.


Seeking Understanding

Today, I've had time to sit and think. This is a rare occurrence.

Being at college prevents me from being able to simply think. I'm constantly absorbing information from class, books, and the people around me. I was talking to a good friend after finals and he said, "I want to just be able to sit and think on my own for a year." That statement made me think, wait no I think on my own all the time interpreting the information around me. It's been so good to be alone in a room without trying to understand someone else's theory or idea. I can think on my own. I can think about Jesus and my life. So this is what I was thinking:

I have been waiting and hoping for worldly treasures lately. First of all, I have been desiring a relationship. Any relationship. I want to be close to someone. I want someone to know me deeply and be able to understand me completely.

I sound like a selfish, hormonal teenager when I think like that.

But you know what? It's not possible. No one on earth will ever understand who I am to the fullest. There are people that know me well, but they will never fill the gap that the Lord is supposed to fill. One of man's deepest desires is to be intimate spiritually, emotionally, and physically with someone. It is natural for me to desire this, but when I start looking for intimacy in the wrong places my heart becomes weary because those places are never fulfilling. I exhibit a lack of faith when I decide to make that intimacy happen with someone that can not fill the gap. 

A lack of faith. So what exactly should I have faith for?

I should have faith that the Lord has promised deep intimacy with Him. I can walk with and talk to Him about anything and everything because He already knows me

Being understood and feeling understood are two different experiences. Feeling understood is like when you have dinner with your best friend and begin to tell them a story or how you felt about something that happened in your life, and you stop mid-sentence out of a lack for words while they just say, "Yeah, I understand what you're saying." Then, they proceed to finish your sentence with how you feel and say it 10 times better than you ever would. Then you're left with this huge sigh of relief knowing that someone out there understands what you are going through. This is one of the most comforting experiences to have.

So now I'm thinking, I want to not only be understood but feel understood by those around me. Then the Lord reminded me of the Prayer of St. Francis.
Oh Lord, grant that I seek not
To be consoled, but to console
Not to be understood, but to understand
Not to be loved, but to love
For it is in giving that we receive
In forgiving that we are forgiven
In pardoning that we are pardoned
And in dying that we're born to eternal life.

Lemme just say: #humility.
It's not my job to force an intimate relationship with someone so I can feel understood completely, it's my job to seek to understand others. It's my joy to love others with love from the Father even when it's really hard. I have faith that Jesus wants my relationships and friendships to be enriched because I am giving instead of always taking.

Thank you, Lord, for giving me the opportunity to love. Thank You for giving me wonderful people in my life that grow me and challenge me. Continue to humble me and show me how You have provided each day. 


A Challenge for You and for Me

So today I learned about Sonship and living out of a whole heart at my ministry internship in Grove City. It was so good to realize the lies I believed about God the Father, and in turn replace those lies with truth about Him. For example, I thought God would never be satisfied with my performance because I can never possibly be perfect. My relationship with Him was basically me striving and trying to measure up to His standard, when in reality all He wants is for me to know that He loves me. I can never be perfect, but God doesn’t see my imperfections. He sees the finished product of a pure vessel He has made with Rachel Smith, and He is also walking with me on this journey of perfecting and molding my heart to be one with Him. Every day I wake up in the morning, and I find that even in my sleep God has started to burn away desires and sinful thoughts that don’t align with His heart. He has started a Holy Fire within my heart that lives on perfect oil, and anything that isn’t of His spirit is being burnt out or rooted out. It’s a redemptive and beautiful journey, but there is pain and a lot of emotional struggle that goes along with this process. It’s a good thing He is my protector, and in my weakness He is strong. 

Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

(Side Note: I used to hate reading this verse or anything else in the Bible that spoke to purity because I used to live out of a lie that claimed I wasn't pure. I used to think that I couldn't be pure because of the sin I had committed. I thought I had gone too far from the group of sheep and explored too much, and the shepherd could not possibly find me in my mess. God broke that lie a week ago, and I can finally read these verses again and embrace them as God joyfully purifying my heart. I don't want to hide in shame anymore and avoid these beautiful verses!) 

This verse isn’t just talking about guarding our heart within relationships with the opposite sex. It’s talking about guarding our heart against things that can plant bad seeds and in turn produce bad fruit. Movies, music, conversations, and books can all plant bad seeds if we are not keeping watch. I’m not saying take it to the extreme and only listen to Christian music or Christian movies, but be aware of what you are putting through your mind. Don’t give the enemy a chance to slip in and start to plant seeds that can cause sin or bad fruit. When we’re living out of a whole heart fully devoted to the presence of God, His presence will be so strong within us that we can change atmospheres when walking into a room. We can minister to others simply by being there. It’s not us though, it’s all Jesus. Jesus wants to shepherd His children by using us. We are instruments of bringing God’s love and grace into someone's heart.

I’ve heard a lot of speeches on guarding my heart from worldly influences that can produce bad fruit. I’ve known this since I was probably 10 or 11. But being reminded of this right after breaking a lot of lies within my heart a week ago was important because I want to be actively seeking and watching for things that may not be good for my heart. I don’t want to just write down the 4 easy steps of living out of pure and whole heart in my journal. I want to actually do it. God is not only speaking to my heart, but He is also engaging my heart and spirit to do what I hear.

So this week I have 51 hours of work scheduled, and during work and in the in-betweens I will be consistently seeking after the heart of God. I want to live out of a whole heart within the interactions I have with other people and in the quiet place with Jesus. I pray for supernatural encounters with Jesus privately and in public. I want to see His kingdom advance this week. I ask that you join with me in this and live in His presence. He promises that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us.


An Unexpected Season.

It's 1:40 AM, and I am trying to write this paper before finals hit me. It's so hard when I'm trying to process everything that happened today.

Let's just start with how faithful God is. Yeah, I know you probably hear it a lot. God is faithful! Just trust Him! I heard that in my head and from others this whole semester, and I thought I knew why I was hearing this. God is faithful, but He likes to surprise us. He likes to show us just how faithful He is to us. He loves to lavish His love on us. 

I thought that I was going to get an RA position when I applied in February. I thought in March I would get that "faithful" letter in the mail saying I had gotten the position. Instead a letter came telling me that I wouldn't be an RA. I was on the waiting list, but I couldn't hope for a position. I was so angry and confused at first, but then I was mostly confused. God so clearly told me He wanted me to serve in this position. However, I had to accept the fact that I wasn't going to get it. So I waited for another opportunity, but every opportunity that arose God ended up rejecting it for me. For a while, I thought I wasn't good enough. I thought, "I don't have the skill sets to speak into another person's life." I started to doubt my major. I started to doubt my whole career path. 

But God kept saying, "Trust me."

Okay. Sure. I'll trust you, God. But, I don't understand. I really don't understand, and I'm kind of mad about it. I want to serve Your children here at Grove City, but You keep shutting the door on every opportunity. 

Guys. I didn't say any magical prayer. I didn't wait with joy. I kind of pouted about it for a while. I was just confused and hurt. I had opened my heart up to people, and I felt stepped on. For a month, I just didn't want to talk to God anymore. I would try to journal or read the Word, but it confused me more than comforted me. I stopped playing guitar because I no longer yearned to worship a God who I couldn't seem to trust. I was sinning; I turned my back on Him.

Yet His love is more powerful than my sin. He loves me regardless of how sinful I am or how I treat Him. About two weeks ago, I started talking to God again. I kept asking God to give me hunger. I wanted to want Him again. It's interesting how when we think that we've taken two steps back, God is usually bringing us forward in our faith. I began to trust Him. I stopped worrying about things like getting a job this summer and where I would serve next year, and I simply worshiped the Lord. I worshiped Him regardless of how crappy I felt. It was out of obedience and thankfulness for all His gifts to me. I have a wonderful family. I get to go to Grove City College. I get to learn from women who serve the Lord with humble hearts in everything they do. 

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4
This verse became my theme. I needed to continue to delight in Him and not in what I desired. It was hard to let go of what I wanted, but God gave me the strength. Usually, when we don't get what we want, God is going to give us something much better. 

He did. He gave me intimacy with Him. He taught me that delighting in intimacy with him is more important than service job on campus.  God gave me an RA position, but I wouldn't have learned about His intimacy if I had found out as everyone else.  The women on the hall don't need me, but God wants me there. The timing was perfect in every way because it completely redeemed several hearts, mine included. 

So God is faithful. I wasn't expecting to actually get the position and more. God increased my trust in Him ten-fold, and He increased my desire to truly stay with Him even when life seems bleak. Most of all, He increased my faith in His promises, and peacefully resting in His intimacy is better than worrying or stress. Jesus is so good, and I'm so excited for the year to come. 


Expressing Love to the Invisible

I think about Jesus a lot. I read about Jesus a lot. I pray to Jesus a lot, but I rarely feel Jesus a lot. I worship something that is invisible. I talk to someone who is invisible. I read about someone who is here but still invisible. 

What's the point? Why is Jesus invisible? Why does He expect me to love Him?

Jesus showed me something. An invisible person and spirit actually put something in front of my face.  He showed me my worth. 

That's so backwards. Why would he show me my worth when all I see is my failure and all I want to see is His glory?

Because our King is a humble King. He left his throne and lived inside a virgin's womb for nine months. Because when he shows me my worth, all I want to do is give Him the glory for that worth. My worth is only existent because of the Creator. 

I'm a new creation. I pick up my cross every morning and walk because of the Holy Spirit inside of me. My flesh tells me to stop, but my Spirit tells me to go. I can sing and say, "I love you, Lord," because of my identity in Christ. I can enjoy the warmth and laughter of the Holy Spirit. It's all because of Jesus, the King. 

So yes, Jesus is invisible, but He's so real. He loved me first, and now I can love him. I can show him love by turning my heart away from the "treasures" of the world and towards Him. I can show him love by creating songs, dances, and paintings. I can use the talents he instilled in my heart and love His people through them. 

"Because you are His daughter or son, God sent the Spirit of his Son into your heart, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father!" " Galations 4:6


Our House

There is freedom in knowing that I'm never going to find the perfect friend on earth. Nobody is going to be perfect, so why try to find the perfect friend that is able to take care of my heart the right way?

I like to think of my heart as a house. I own this house. It's decorated in every room to reflect who I am as a daughter. Every room has a purpose, and the most untouched part of my house is my bedroom. My bedroom is reserved for the people who I know will come in and really appreciate why I'm letting them in there. My bedroom is usually locked for the people I know will destroy it. There have been several points in my life where I have let people in there, boys and girls, and they have decided that it wasn't important enough to them. They either immediately left without appreciating it, or they decided to rip it apart. 

It's like if you showed your best friend in first grade your most prized treasure, but they decided it wasn't that cool or threw it on the ground and stomped on it. 

My heart is so precious. Your heart is so precious. It is most precious to Jesus. Jesus is the only friend who will perfectly appreciate every room of my heart. 

I have community because friends can come into my house and see the places where it is broken. They can point out that the picture in my living room is crooked, or they can tell me that my plumbing for my kitchen needs repaired.  Jesus gave us friends so we can spur each other on into a deeper relationship with Him.

So I will build my spiritual house up with the truths of Jesus, and I will not let the enemy or unworthy visitors tear it down with deceit which births sin.