Community Brew // Open Your Bible

I've never been the kind of girl to logically think through life. I'm far from being a pro/con list maker. I go with my gut on most things; I just know when my heart is in something and content and when it's not. Deep down, I know that's the Holy Spirit working through me and in my life, on my behalf.

There's been a stirring within me lately. My heart just hasn't been content. I haven't been satisfied with what was going on in my life and have been searching for something, something more. I was a lukewarm Christian for a long time but the Lord slowly taught me that knowing about Him and truly abiding in Him are two different things. I can't remember the exact moment that it clicked in me, but He's been working on my heart ever-so-slightly through the years, pruning me and trimming me into the woman He wants me to be. 

I believe that we as Christians go through different seasons in life. There are time when I feel like the Lord is so near, my walk with Him is in step with where He wants me to be, and all is right in my world. And then there are times when I've fallen off the track a little bit; maybe I got distracted by something shiny over on another road and lost my path for a little while. I believe the Lord is always there, waiting for us and working in us, but letting us learn our lessons and come back to Him willingly.

I've been in the latter season lately. My heart just wasn't in it. I knew there was something missing, but I didn't know what, so I've just been praying that the Lord would reveal it to me, help me remedy what was going on within me, because it wasn't a place I wanted to be in. It's an uncomfortable place and my sinful heart was searching in all the wrong places for all the answers I needed. 

It took me a while to quiet my anxious heart to hear His voice, and I was a little caught off guard by what He told me. "Do you know me, Rachel? Do you? Or are you too busy reading books about me instead of MY book?" Whoa, Lord. Whoa. 

And there it was. Right in front of my face. Stacks of books. Yes, Lord. You're right, I know. I'm quick to read Jen Hatmaker or Shauna Niequist or Ann Voskamp. I love their words. I love their stories. I love reading about my God through women I admire. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, and I will continue to read these incredible women. But how right the Lord was. I went to grab my Bible to open it, and it took me a bit to even find it, it had been that long. Shameful. 

I've slowly been learning that it's time for me to stop waiting for someone to teach me the Gospel--it's time for me to feed it to myself. I was still using the same Bible I had in junior high, which is sentimental for me, but did nothing to help me learn and grow. So out I went to buy a study Bible and another one in a different translation. It's intimidating, y'all. From the girl who can find any book of the Bible in 6 seconds or less, the Bible is hard to get into when you feel overwhelmed and don't know where to start. That's the Devil making me feel like an outsider to my own God, the One who created me and wrote the Book.

I just wanted to read the words breathed by Him. I just wanted to learn and hear His words and read His story of redemption in the lives of those who came before us. Because in reality, this story is MY story, too. Not just Moses and John the Baptist and Mary. It's my redemption story too. So that's what I did, I just started reading. A sweet friend of mine knew I had been struggling and suggested I get the She Reads Truth study called "Open Your Bible." It's been a breath of fresh air to my heart--just what I needed to get back into the Word. 

Friends, if you've been searching for something more and have known something is missing, know Him. Abide in Him. Don't just know about Him. There are too many people in this world who live their lives knowing about Jesus but never living for Jesus and it's heartbreaking. My biggest prayer lately is that He would just convict me and change me and cleanse me. I'm so desperate to abide in Him that it's almost tangible, and I pray that you are too, sweet friend. Even when He seems like He's so far away, remember that His book is right in front of us...all you have to do is open it and you get a glimpse of our Maker. Now that's a beautiful truth. 

I'm linking up with my favorites, Rachel and Madison for Community Brew! I pray that you'll join in and share with us what the Lord is doing in your life right now. Xoxo

Friday // Coffee Date

Oh friend, I wish you knew how badly I wish I could really sit down with you and drink a cup of coffee. I need some quality, face to face time, disconnected from the world and from our phones and from responsibility. Some weeks are all rainbows and fall leaves, others weigh a little heavier on my heart. This week is the latter, and I need an escape.

If we were having coffee, I'd tell you how glad I am that it's Friday. I'm actually off this weekend, which is a rarity for a nurse, and I'll be celebrating the wedding of one of my best friends! It's bound to be a weekend full of joy and lots of fun. 

If we were having coffee, I'd probably wax poetic about our back porch and how I think it has magical powers. There's just something about that's surrounded by trees turning all the colors of fall, there's no time obligations, and all we do is just enjoy each other. It's just the kind of place I need after a long week.

If we were having coffee, I'd probably ask you what kind of Bible you have. I've been on a mission to find a new translation lately. There are so many options out there, I just had no idea! I'm torn between an ESV study Bible and a journaling Bible, so I may just get both. 

If we were having coffee, you'd probably hear how crappy my day was yesterday. You know those days...where every stop light is red, everyone pulls out in front of you, and nothing seems to go right? Yep, that kind of day. I couldn't even pinpoint a one thing if I had to; it was just overall crummy, but it was nothing that a glass of wine and Gilmore Girls couldn't fix.

If we were having coffee, I'd tell you that I was nervous to give a toast to my best friend at her rehearsal dinner tonight. I have so many good things that I want to tell her about marriage, and so many funny memories that I'd love to share, that I'll probably get tongue-tied and cry and end it quicker than I started.

If we were having coffee, you would probably be able to tell that there's a lot on my mind lately. I'm just preoccupied--my mind is always wandering and thinking and dreaming. Something is stirring within me; it's hard to describe it just yet. God's working in me and on me and while I'm so thankful for His hand in my life, but I'm anxious to see where He's leading me. I'm praying that some of these feelings come out onto paper soon so I can share them with you. 

If we were having coffee, I'd probably try to convince you to get another cup just so we could keep talking. Coffee dates are good for the soul, don't you think? What would you tell me if we were having coffee?

Happy Friday, loves! Xoxo

Linking up with Jenna from Dearest Love today! 

Walker Wedding // Our First Look

I'm finally getting around to sharing some of our wedding photos with all of you and it just makes my heart go pitter patter to look back over them! It may have been almost 9 months ago, but these memories are still fresh in my mind.

I always planned to not see Andrew until the moment the church doors opened. There was just something magical about that to me, but slowly, as we planned, I realized that wasn't the best option for us. We were both ready to see each other and wanted to spend a little quality time alone before the ceremony, so we had a first look and I haven't regretted it a second since. My grandmother thought it was just the most absurd idea, to see the groom before the ceremony, but I just smiled and knew it was perfect for us. 

Our first look was the best moment--sweet and simple and private. All I wanted was to just hold his hand, check him out in his suit, kiss him, tell him how much I loved him and how ready I was to be his wife. We both cried and I tried hard not to ruin my makeup. Those brief, precious moments will always be etched into my mind...the last moments of our time as an engaged couple, before we became the Walkers. 

all photos by foto

I look back at these and can still feel that same giddiness I felt that day--nerves and excitement and anticipation all rolled into one. Seeing my groom for the first time was one of my favorite moments of the whole weekend, so I'm so thankful we got these shots! I know I'll love these for years to come. Xoxo

Quick to Listen and Slow to Speak // Communication in Marriage

Marriage has taught me all kinds of things in the last 9 months. Good things, new things, and sometimes not-so-good things about myself. It's been a sweet nine months filled with lots of joy but also a lot of learning on both of our parts. A relationship becomes more than just a relationship when it becomes more of a commitment than just a courtship. 

Lately I've been realizing how wrong I can be. I'm a prideful person, which tends to be par for the course with us humans. I don't necessarily like being wrong, and I sure don't like to admit that I was wrong in the first place. I've been working on being more humble and gentle--an outspoken, prideful woman isn't the kind of wife that God intended me to be. Pride gets in the way of growth and healing between spouses, and that just can't be the way it happens in a marriage. 

The other night, Andrew and I were watching Parenthood together and I casually spouted off some comment that I thought would be funny. The blank stare that I got back from him told me it came off quite differently than I intended it to, and I immediately regretted opening my mouth. And the subsequently, I started trying to cover my tracks and brush it off with other excuses, watering it down with generalizations, anything to make me appear less foolish. 

It hurt his feelings and it turned into an argument because I couldn't just apologize. One of our agreements as husband and wife when it comes to fighting is that if we can't resolve it by discussing it, we need a few minutes apart to cool down, reevaluate, and clear our minds. So naturally, I stomped off, as good wives do, and crossed my arms across my chest and had a fight with God that went something like this:

Me: "But doesn't he know I was just joking? I didn't mean it. It was supposed to be funny. I'm not wrong, he needs to not be so sensitive."
God: "Rachel, you're wrong."
Me: "But God, I shouldn't have to apologize. Can't he just admit he took it the wrong way and it be over?"
God: "Rachel, submit to your husband."
Me: "Ugh, God. Why are you right? I don't want to apologize."
God: "Rachel, child, you're wrong. Apologize."

So I came back to him with my tail between my legs and admitted my wrong-doing and asked him to forgive me. It may not be the easiest thing to do in a marriage, but it's always the right thing. Sometimes I need to put aside my childish way of thinking, when I'm too prideful to admit when I'm wrong, in order to grow and learn and make something beautiful come from the ashes of that argument. 

Satan uses our quick tempered responses as a way to drive a wedge between man and wife--I act like our words don't matter but that's just not the case. The words of my mouth should encourage him and lift him up, not hurt his feelings and require an apology from me. 

I opened my Bible later that night and this verse was staring back at me:
"Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." Ephesians 4:29 
"That it may give grace to those who hear." That part struck me right in the chest--those words of mine did anything but give my husband grace. He deserves a lot more than thrown-together sentences and excuses, he deserves for me to be careful and considerate with my communication, choosing words that restore and strengthen him. Isn't that what I owe him as his wife, his helpmate, his life partner?

There's a reason the Bible tells us in James to be "quick to listen and slow to speak." I think if I held that verse at a little higher importance in our marriage, less arguments would happen and more trust and honesty and openness would grow. The Lord knows I'm quick to speak and slow to think about it first, and He's slowly teaching me to be more gentle in my words, especially to my husband, because we made vows to each other, to honor and to love each other. That's what really matters at the end of the day; that through my marriage, I'm glorifying the Lord. 

Do any of you have trouble with communicating? Are you quick to speak like I am? How do you keep yourself accountable and encouraging with your words? 

Friday // Highs & Lows

I may be the only one who thinks this about this week, but it has flown by! It's been a big blur with a lot of "what day is it?" questions coming from me. I catch myself letting the days run together, but trying to savor the moments, so every now and then, I make myself stop and be present in the moment. And then came Friday's Highs & Lows, a little diddy I may pull out of my hat every now and then to celebrate the good moments and be honest about the not-so-good. A little salty to cut the sweet, right? That's what life is all about.

So highs for this week?

//I went to the neuroopthalmologist on Tuesday for my every-6-week check up, and they were pleasantly surprised with the progress I've made so far. I was told I'm "the model patient for psuedotumor cerebrii" and to keep up the good work, which made me feel like I've accomplished something in the grand scheme of things lately. 24 pounds down and still taking medication every day--a lifestyle that's become the norm for me lately! I'm defeating this illness one day at a time!

//I got a new Bible and I am so beyond thrilled about it. More on that later!

//I got to keep this sweet face yesterday for a few hours and she just has me wrapped around her little fingers. My niece might be the cutest thing I've ever seen, if I do say so myself.

//I finished Shauna Niequist's Orange Tangerines two nights ago, then sat on our back porch and just cried while wishing the book wasn't over. Her words are beautiful and inspiring and heartbreaking all at the same time, and they just make me want to get up and change the world, hug my loved ones, and squeeze the heck out of every moment, all at the same time. Read it, girls. Read it. I'm telling you, just do it.

And the lows? 

//My poor husband is sick. Upper respiratory infection, complete with a Rocephin shot, steroid shot, and lots of cold medicine. So I got to spend the afternoon with him yesterday, watching our DVR, handing him Kleenex, and napping like we had no other obligations. I hate that he's sick, but I love having extra time with him. Oh, and the only thing that sounded good to him was breakfast for dinner, so that's a plus for me, don't you think?

// I have to work this weekend. Which means today is basically my Monday. Which sucks tremendously. The nightshift's biggest drawback is definitely missing out on weekend plans! And on the lines of missing out, the Renew Blog Retreat is starting today and I am beyond sad not to be a part of such an amazing weekend with such fantastic girls! Some of my favorite blog buds will be there, and I know they're going to have a blast. Girls, I'm thinking about y'all and praying for your time together!

//The flu shot. Enough said.

It's been a good week--I can't complain! What are have your highs and lows been this week? Happy Friday, loves! Xoxo

My Two Favorite Wedding Gifts

As soon as you get engaged, wedding showers and parties are planned by loved ones. Friends and family start asking you what you want as wedding gifts and registries are completed. From fine china, every day dinnerware, pots and pans, to towels, linens, mixers, and decor, there are more options for gifts than you could ever imagine. The boxes and wrapping paper start to pile up, your thank-you note list expands tremendously, and you're overwhelmed in the best way at all the love poured out on you and your soon-to-be husband. 

A close friend of mine is getting married in 2015 and has been registering over the past few days. She came to me yesterday wanting to know what she "had to register for" and what she would actually use. She asked, "but what was your favorite gift, Rach?" I smiled at her, told her to pick what she liked, and let her family do the rest. And then I told her about my favorite wedding gifts, and I think it soothed her overwhelming heart a little bit. 

My favorite gift is a tie between two things--one given to me at a kitchen shower and one given to me the morning of our wedding. It would be easy to say my favorite gift is my Kitchenaid mixer (which is awesome!) or even the gorgeous earrings I received with my new monogram. You'd think it would be something as cool as a deep fryer or bread maker, a wine rack or framed print of Oxford. But if I'm honest, it's not something I could ever buy, and neither of them are anything I could ever replace. If my house was burning, these two things would be in the handful of items that come out with me.

The first is a recipe book hand written by my grandmother. Our family traditions and recipes passed down for generations, loved by our crew, written in my grandmother's handwriting. It's so precious to me because there are little notes in the margins of all of the recipe cards with tips, suggestions, encouragement, and Bible verses. I cried when I unwrapped it, and told her she would never know how much that meant to me, and I meant that. It's priceless and a treasure and I am so grateful to have it. 

It makes my heart happy to think about cooking in the kitchen with my little ones one day, teaching them how their great grandmother makes the best strawberry cake or the most delicious cordon bleu. Even after she's gone, I'll have a little piece of her with me, through her words and recipes. 

The second gift that trumps all wedding gifts is a gift I received the morning of our wedding from my sister, mother, and other bridesmaids. It's a little book filled with notes, memories, encouragement, and advice from all the girls I love the most in this world. They handed it to me after I already had my makeup done, so I knew it would have to be read later, because just thinking about it made me tear up. I read those letters on the plane on the way to Jamaica, and sobbed like a baby. I'm sure Andrew thought he had married a crazy lady!

I'm a words girl. Words are the way I feel loved, the way I feel needed. Words speak life into me and are a treasured gift, so this little book is so dear to my heart.

Sometimes the most thoughtful, valued wedding gifts are those that can't be bought at a store. So the next time you're purchasing a gift for a wedding or a shower for a loved one, think outside the box and give them something they'll hold dear to their heart. Because after all, I'd never grab my deep fryer if my house was burning down. Xoxo

Decor Love // Autumn Edition

I saw a friend post on Facebook the other day that she just "couldn't get behind all the fall decorations." I think I may have gasped out loud when I read that. If you've been around here for any time, you know my love for fall...really, my love for any changing of the seasons or holiday. And while said friend of mine may not embrace pumpkins, burlap, and warm colors, I'm welcoming them with open arms and open hearts.

I didn't go all out this year as I've done in previous years (think mini hay bales and corn stalks...yes!) because I'm embracing the less is more way of life lately. In decor and in life in general. And I must say, I've loved the way it's turned out. Simple and classic, yet festive. 

These fall colors just do something to me--it makes our home cozy and comfortable and creates a warm environment for us to enjoy. Light a pumpkin-scented candle and I may as well die of happiness. 

It's true what they say... I really am so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers, because I can totally get behind our home being this festive.

Are you into the fall decor? What are your favorite ways to make your home reflect the seasons or holidays? I'd love to hear! Xoxo

When Words are Hard and Staying Busy is Easy

Words are hard sometimes. Really hard. 

I know any writer would agree with me. And although I don't consider myself a writer by any means, I love to write, journal, and day dream, so writer's block hits me too. I find there's a fine line between being dried up on the creative front and being in the middle of a writer's block, because I can still write in this state of confusion. My journal is still being filled up. It just seems dull to me. My sparkle is gone and what good is a post without a little bit of sparkle? I'm missing that extra "umph" that makes it more than just words on a screen or on a page. 

I tweeted the other day about this issue I've been having and got lots of suggestions on how to feed my creativity--reading (books, magazines, recipes, label of ingredients, anything!) listening to music, surrounding myself with uplifting people, etc. And those are all so true. I've been spending my free time lately in my "writing spot" just hoping inspiration would strike.

And then I read this post from my most awesome friend Ashten about being in "limbo" and it's as if she read my mind and took my thoughts and wrote about them. 

I poured my third cup (yes, third...don't judge) of coffee and sat back to just think. I spent a lot of time yesterday just praying. Praying that the Lord would open doors for me. Praying that the Lord would help me to find my spark again, to give me the desire to write and write with a purpose. Praying that He would use me in a way that I never expected. 

As I'm praying all of this, He ever so gently reminded me of my busy-ness. I always have something to do. My off days are usually planned from start to end, just to be doing something, just to avoid the couch, just to avoid the feeling of "lazy."  And you know what? There's a difference in good busy and bad busy. There's the kind of busy that stimulates you and grows you and make you work harder and reach farther for what you have your heart set on. Then there's the kind of busy that becomes monotonous, something to do just to say you've done it. Meetings, dinners, obligations that are strictly that--obligations. 

No wonder I'm drained and spent. I go, go, go and never plug in and refresh--and therefore my writing, my cooking, my day dreaming, my relationships--really, my life--suffers. Like Ashten said, I'm a lifestyle blogger who has no real "lifestyle" to speak of--my calendar would bore you, because I'm pouring myself into things that don't matter. And the things that do matter? I'm half-heartedly doing because I don't have the time to put my full attention towards. 

When life is good, I'm inspired and I write. Inspiration strikes me on both spectrums, the good and the bad of life. There's not much of a creative process to it; it comes out of interactions, thoughts, dreams, and lessons. My journal gets the first draft, then my blog gets the ones that come next. When life is hard, my journal gets more action than ever, and my writing thrives, then too. But that in between is when I flounder, when I don't know where to turn next and feel ludicrous to think I could ever be deemed a "writer." That in between is when I have to dig deep and create something good from where I am, from the season I'm in, from the people I'm surrounded by. 

So that's where I am now. I don't want to make some huge, dramatic gesture of saying "from now on, I'll only do things that make me better" because come on, that's just not realistic.   Life doesn't work that way. But when I sit back and really ponder on it, that's really the basis of it all, if we're honest with ourselves. That's what I should be doing, as crazy and absurd as the idea sounds. I think it's time to start focusing my attention, my heart, my actions, and my time on that way of thinking--does this make me a better person? Does this bring glory to God? Does this further relationships that matter? Am I just staying busy to be busy?

And wouldn't you know, that busy-ness I talk of gets right in the way of my creative process, in the way my brain works, in the way I deal with life, struggle, happiness, and so on. 

Do you fall prey to the "sin of being busy"? Is that something you struggle with in your life? If so, how to do you deal with it? I'd love to hear your tips! Xoxo

// Currently

//smelling my Fall Scentsy scents...pumpkin roll is my go-to when the seasons start to change.

//loving the gorgeous, romantic lace detail on the dress I received from eShakti--be looking for a fashion post soon featuring that beauty of a dress!

//planning a trip to New York in the Spring with some girlfriends. NYC is my favorite place in the world, so all my free time is being spent day dreaming about the city and planning our fun-packed agenda. Any suggestions on restaurants or must-sees while there?

//baking anything and everything that involves pumpkin, starting with some delicious pumpkin bread. It's not officially fall in my home until this recipe is made!

//celebrating 8 months of married bliss with my husband by watching our wedding video from the wonderful and amazing Nicole and Tyler at 314 Productions! It's one thing to love the product you receive from a vendor, it's another thing to fall (even more) in love with the couple behind the brand. The Coles are a blessing to us and I'm so grateful they were there to capture our big day.

Linking up with the lovely Jenna from Dearest Love today to share all of my current favorites!