Coffee Date Friday // Volume V

Blog silence from me is usually never a good thing. I've been away from the computer a lot lately, busy traveling and living life (aka working all the time), and I've missed this little space. In the moments in between adventures and shifts at the hospital, I've been brainstorming and attempting to refocus my heart and my mind on where I want to take my blog. You'll hear a lot more about that soon, but today, I'm just glad to be here with you, chatting about anything and everything.

You know I love a coffee date--spilling my heart in numbered points is right up my alley, all day every day. I want us to come together and just write, about life, about our weeks, about whatever is on our minds. And can I tell you my new favorite drink? Chai tea latte. I had my first in Manhattan and it was the best thing ever! 

Today, I'm co-hosting with the sweet and wonderful Jenna from Dearest Love blog and she's always a blast to sponsor. I hope you'll go check her out if you haven't already--you'll love her as much as I do! 

So here's how this thing works this week:

1. What are your highs and lows from the week? Comment below!
2. Link up one post from this week that gives a glimpse into your life lately. This could be a coffee date, highs and lows, recent update, etc. Make sure it's a link to your post and not your blog URL.
3. Important: Comment on the blog that linked up before you. This linkup us about building community, so this step is important. Feel free to comment on more than just one!
4. Share about the coffee date via social media using the hashtag #coffeedatefriday.

Here we go, friends. Have I told you lately that I'm SO glad you're here? Because I am. Like big time. 

Highs this week:

// If you follow me on Instagram, you know I was in NYC last week. Browsing through my photos on my camera and phone this week has seriously been the funnest thing ever. We took SO many pictures and I'm loving all the little memories we captured. Be looking for a Best and Worst post on NYC soon!

// Our little Mississippi town got 6 inches of snow on Wednesday. Y'all, it never, and I mean NEVER snows here. If it does, it melts immediately. So watching those huge flakes fall and transform Oxford into a winter wonderland was just magical. I'm telling you, snow makes everything prettier. I'm sure those of you up North would disagree, but there's something breathtaking and serene about fresh fallen snow. Isn't it gorgeous?

// I posted this picture of my brand! spanking! new! journaling Bible last night and shared a little of my heart behind it--I'm thrilled to merge my journal and my Bible into one book and spread His colors and inspiration over the scriptures. I've been seeing more and more journaling gals on IG lately, and it just pushed me to break out of my black and white style of Bible study and open my heart into a new way to worship Him--letting my creativity and my Creator collide. Here we go!

Low for this week...

// There are a couple of things going on in my life right now that I have literally NO control over. I'm really struggling with letting Him be in complete trusting Him regardless of circumstances. Because in reality, that's what He calls us to do every single day of our lives. Some things are easy for me to hand over to the Lord. Other things, not so much. I'm working on it and struggling through the mess that my selfishness brings. But you know what? His grace covers me, even when I'm stubborn. So even in my mess, I know He's working on me. Instead of praying for Him to change my circumstances, I'm asking Him to change me too. 

// Weight loss. It sucks, you know that? I lost 9 lbs before leaving for New York and then enjoyed every bite of food I could while there. I didn't gain any pounds while on vacation, but I'm stuck at the same weight now. I can't wait to share with y'all my thoughts on Weight Watchers, my Fitbit, and how the journey is going.

So friends, what are your highs and lows for this week? Link up below and fill me in, it's time for a little catch up session! Happy weekend, xoxo

#heartofEphesians || Week Two

I'm so glad you're here today, friends. How is your study going? I am continually amazed by how much good God has poured into the book of Ephesians. These short 6 chapters have filled my heart in a way I didn't expect! 

I hope you're getting into the habit of picking up your Bible; I'm quick to scroll through Instagram or thumb through a book in a moment of downtime, but I'm learning that the more I open my Bible, the more I reflect God's goodness. My words are kinder, my actions are more gentle, my demeanor more calm. Slowly but surely, He's refining me. And I hope He's working in your heart too.

We're covering Ephesians 2:14-22 and Ephesians 3 this week, two big chunks of scripture that are overflowing with His truths. 

Let's start with the verses in Ephesians 2:

Verse 14 says, "For He Himself is our Peace, who has made us both one and has broken down by His flesh the diving wall of hostility." What is Paul talking about here? It's explained more in Chapter 3, but here's the gist. He's addressing the tension between the Jews and the Gentiles. The Jews believed they were God's chosen people and that no other group had favor as they did. My Bible titles this section as the Revealing of God's Great Mystery. The next verses tell us what the mystery was--that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross to break down those walls we as humans build between ourselves. Jesus and only Jesus is the source of real reconciliation and true unity in the Church. He is the Peace that heals those wounds. There was no Jew or Gentile, but rather Christian, or follower of Christ. That's what the cross did for the Church.

Verse 18 goes on to say, "For through Him, we both have access in One Spirit to the Father." Jesus is the only reason we are worthy enough to access God; the cross made that possible. 

Chapter 2 goes on to talk about the church being built on the foundation of God, with Christ as the cornerstone of the church. Verse 22 says "...being built together into a dwelling place by God through the Holy Spirit." I love that Paul says dwelling place here--to dwell means to take up permanent residence somewhere, so that just says that the Holy Spirit is building us, brick by brick, with Christ as our cornerstone to create a home for God in our hearts. Good stuff, isn't it?

Now, Chapter 3. I'll pick up around verse 8, when Paul talks from his perspective. He says "though I am the least of all the saints" and paints the perfect picture of humility, of true servanthood. He knew that without God's help, he could accomplish nothing and everything he did would be in vain. Our unworthiness leads to nothingness without the righteousness of God.

Verse 12 is another that I wish I could tattoo on my forehead: "In Him and through Him, we may approach the Lord with boldness, freedom, and confidence." What an incredible privilege we have as believers. We have the ability to enter directly into God's presence with a prayer. And the best part? He's waiting there with open arms. 

I want y'all to grab your Bibles right here. If you're reading this at home, stop for a second and open your Bible. Or open another tab and look up Ephesians 3:16-21. Read it. And read it again. And then do a happy dance. 

"So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:17-19

Those verses just overwhelm me with the love of the Father. HOW can He love me that much? Friends, I hope you know the love of the Lord. Just read that again and let those words wash over you. Let them calm your soul. 

And then it gets even better. Can you believe it?

"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21

Y'all, these two verses just stirs my heart. It makes me want to shout His praises. He's not just able to do beyond what we ask of Him, He's able to do abundantly beyond. But even then, He's not done--He is able to do far more abundantly than what we ask. And there's more... "Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than what we ask or think, according to the Power that works within us. Whoa. 

We've got to remember here though; Paul isn't telling us to ask for material miracles. He wants us to long for Christ to dwell in our hearts so that we have an understanding of this great Love He has for us. He is able to do far more abundantly beyond what we ask because of three things-- because of His love for us, because He is omnipotent, and because He is good. Plain and simple. And this is the God that we serve, the God who lives in our hearts. If this doesn't fire you up, I don't know what will, friends. What incredible truth for us as believers! 

I don't know about you, but I AM FULL OF JOY this morning reading back through these verses. Good stuff, I tell you. I hope these chapters have stirred your heart and given you a little deeper glimpse into the love God has for us.  

Today, let's encourage each other. Let's pray for each other. Let's let kind words come from our mouths. Because after reading all of that goodness, that's what I want my life to be like. Full of goodness. Full of His truth. Full of His wisdom. We can make that choice today! 

What has God been laying on your hearts? What are you learning? I can't wait to hear! Join in our link-up and spread some Ephesians love! 

Friday's Five || All the Good Things

Y'all, it's Friday and the sun is shining and I'm off work for three nights in a row. It's like the best day ever. You know Fridays are my favorite days for random posts, so here I am with a Friday Five, filled with all the good things that happened this week. I wish I could use emojis to show y'all my joy today!

one. Andrew and I celebrated our first anniversary this past Sunday and it was pretty much the best day ever. I worked the night before and got off at 7, then came home to a home-cooked breakfast and flowers. That man knows the way to my heart! We got dressed up for dinner that night and toasted to a year of marriage--they say the first year is the hardest, but it's been a year full of blessings for us. I hope God gives us 99 more just like this one. (Pardon the iPhone picture, I was too chicken to pull out my DSLR at dinner.) Oh, and year-old wedding cake? Pretty terrible. But year-old champagne made up for that. Cheers!

two. My cute husband loves a project. He's happiest when he's working with his hands or holding a tool, making a mess all over the garage. I love the way his engineering mind works. He worked on a "secret" gift for me for a couple of days and he was so excited about it, and I couldn't wait to see what he had up his sleeve. He did some research and perfected transferring photos to wood, then made me the sweetest thing--a wood transfer photo with one of our engagement shots. I love that his hands created this for me!

three. Have you seen this video from the cutest sister duo ever? I was already obsessed with them (and this song) to begin with, but now this video has totally sealed the deal. Can't stop listening to it. Seriously, click on the link and go watch it and make your day infinitely better in a matter of minutes.

four. The traditional first anniversary gift is paper, so when I saw this cute little One Line a Day journal, I grabbed it, knowing Andrew and I would love doing this together. (Or rather, I'd love making him do it with me, but whatever.) I'm all about 2015 being a year to treasure the little moments as well as the big, so this one line a day is going to be such a fantastic way for us to document the daily joys and memories and little things in life we'd probably otherwise forget. It's waiting for 5 years of life to fill its pages and I'm a little excited to start.

five. I signed up for Weight Watchers on Monday. That's another post for another day that's coming soon, but my newest little obsession came in the mail two nights ago and I can't get enough of it already. My Fitbit. I polled some friends on Facebook and everyone recommended it, and so far, it's living up to its expectations! I love the accountability it gives me--I can already tell I'm more conscious about being active and getting my steps in for the day. It's like a challenge against myself. I have a feeling this is the start of something great in my life--time for a healthier me! 

six. Tricked ya, you get an extra one today, just because I want to share this with y'all! That Ann Voskamp, she knows what she's talking about. I've felt like a big screw up lately but even in my weakness, He is strong. Even in the middle of my mess, His grace covers it and redeems me. I hope you're reading our #heartofEphesians Bible study, because that's just what Paul is talking about right now. Come join us! 

Happy Friday, friends! Fill this weekend with lots of joy and laughter. xoxo

I'm linking up for the first time with Karli from September Farm today for Oh Hey, Friday! 

#heartofEphesians // Week One

Friends! Welcome to the first week and link-up of the #heartofEphesians study! Oh, how I wish we were all sitting down to discuss these chapters together, maybe over a cup of coffee or some tea. How perfect would that be? I hope the Lord has blessed you this week with your studies--I know He has already opened my eyes to so much goodness that this book holds.

I know the Lord is going to bless our time together, whether it be 5 people or 500 people. I pray that you just open your heart and open your Bibles and start right where you are, in the middle of whatever is going on in your life, because the Lord has you here for a reason! 

The first chapter of Ephesians is so encouraging to me. It spells out the promises God has for us as Christians:
1) We are chosen by the Father (v3-6)
2) We are redeemed by the Son (v7-12)
3) We are sealed by the Holy Spirit (v13-14)

That right there makes me want to say "amen!" 

I caught myself getting more and more excited with these verses as I kept reading, almost like I was listening to a riveting sermon. Verse 4 struck me and changed my point of view-- "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him." Does that stun you like it stuns me? The Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ chose me and knew my name before the foundation of the world was even laid. He then says, " In Him, we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Hims who works all things according to the counsel of His will" (verse 5.) 

God made the decision about us long before we made any decision about Him. Jesus' redemption on the Cross paid my debt, and that decision was made before all of creation was even in existence. The redemption God intended for believers, He accomplished successfully at Calvary. 

And the fact that He chose me--my salvation has no dependence on my works or my accomplishments. It's all dependent on Him. We aren't saved because we deserve to be saved; we are saved because God is gracious. 

Jesus is Lord and God is in control--when life seems chaotic and as if nothing is going as planned, Ephesians holds the key to us resting in the fact that nothing can alter His plan for us--He works all things out for the good, for the praise of His glory.

Paul goes on to pray over this church, that they would know Christ and would know Him intimately, not just know about Him. 
"I pray that the eyes of your heart be enlightened, that you may know the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the incomparably great power toward us who believe."  vs 18
Y'all, this same power that Paul is praying over this church, the power that He is writing to Ephesus about, is the same power that lives inside of you and's the power of the Holy Spirit, and through God, we have complete assurance of victory. We have the access to this power and you know what's even more amazing? There is nothing too difficult for the Lord. No task too great, no prayer request too large, no mess too messy for Him. If we just call upon His name, it's right there. 

Oh man, is that good stuff or what? 

And chapter 2 only gets better. It's all about being made alive in Christ...the product of the redemption on the Cross. 

Paul starts out by saying in verse 1, "you were dead in your trespasses and sin, walking in the ways of this world"...and it hits me, that's my past spelled out, right there in the Bible. Dead in my sinfulness and walking in the flesh, not in the Spirit. Paul writes about this to remind the church that we all are filled with a dirty, sinful nature and we all fall short of the glory of God, no matter how "good" we think we are. 

...and then my favorite part of the chapter comes in verse 4. 

"But God, being rich in mercy because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our sin, made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved." verse 4

I love that "But God..." I picture it like the suspenseful part of a movie when someone is about to fall off a cliff or walk right into the bad guy's trap and someone comes in and saves the day...that's this. That's the Lord in the downward spiral of our sinfulness. We were about to die in our sinfulness, but God loved us enough to give us redemption. But God. He comes in and saved us. He didn't give us what we deserved, He covered us with mercy and forgave us. We weren't good enough, but God is.

And then we go back to the goodness of "by grace we are saved." There's that theme again, just like in chapter 1. It's not of our own works, it's by grace. It's by God. Paul reminds them over and over again that salvation is not through works, but through Christ Jesus, and Him only. And even to this day, we need to repeat that over and over, day in and day out. We don't have to strive to do good works or to win God's approval. That's not what He wants for us. He wants our hearts, humbled and surrendered before Him, realizing that we're a mess and we can't get it right on our own. That's when we need Him the most. 

The last section of this reading has some of really, really good stuff: since we as believers are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, we need to show that same love and mercy to those around us and have a servant's heart. We're supposed show Jesus to them in our actions and further His kingdom, making His name known among the people. Telling of His goodness. Because that's what Paul writes about believers in Ephesians 2:10 "created in Christ to do good works." Good works=making Him famous among the people, making His church grow and making disciples out of others.

That's what it's all about, friends...making sure He's at the center of it all and making His name famous, not our own. It's not about us. It's about Him and His goodness and His mercy and love in our lives. It's about all the things He's done to turn our worlds upside down in the best way. 

I'll be the first to say that I'm a big ole hot mess most of the time and don't have it anywhere near together, but it's by His grace that I'm saved, not by myself. Not of my own works, praise the Lord, literally, because I'd fail that test in a heartbeat. Isn't that a precious truth to rest in today? Rest in it, friends. Know that it's okay to not have it all figured out. Because the Lord does, and that's all that matters. 

Which verses stood out to you? Is God revealing some truths in your life that you needed to hear today? What can we pray for in your life? 

I so hope you're joining us on this study. Just get that Bible open and read and see what the Lord has to say to you today. I guarantee it'll be a blessing! xoxo

Introducing Heart of the Word || Ephesians

If there's one thing I've learned about my faith through the years, it's that there's a difference in knowing about the Lord and truly knowing Him. I spent many years pretending I knew God intimately when all I really knew were the stories the Bible told about Him and His people. I could quote a verse for you quickly, due to years of Sunday school, youth group, and Bible drills, but my heart was empty. From the outside, I seemed to have it all together as a Christ follower; from the heart, I was broken and lost and I didn't even realize it. 

The Lord has slowly opened my eyes to this and over the past year, I've truly learned what it means to dig myself into His word, to spend time with Him and not just read a story about Him on a page. It's easy to read the Bible as a fun adventure or history story, but it's so much more than that. It's HIS story, it's OUR redemption through Him, and it's His love letter to me.

When I made my goals for this year, all seemed to pale in comparison to the first one I wrote down: pour myself into His Word daily, know Him more intimately, and pray that He pours His blessings over me through it. 

The Word of the Lord seems to come alive when you read it with those intentions. And you know what else is pretty awesome? Finding sisters in Christ who have the same desires and needs for their spiritual life to walk this journey with you. 

That's where HEART OF THE WORD comes in.

Today starts our study of Ephesians. I'm joining in with Bailey from Brave Love, Katie of A Place to Dwell, Rachel from Our Yellow Door, and Sarah of Joyfully Organized to get deeper into His word and to grow more as a church and as a community and we so hope you'll join us. 

Bailey and I worked on a "mission statement" for this month of scripture and I love what Ephesians is going to bring: 

Ephesians is a letter of encouragement and advice, written to remind believers of our immeasurable blessings in Jesus, teaching us not only to be thankful for them, but to live in a manner worthy of them. Paul reminds us that the church is not confined to four walls, that the church is HIS people, every race and every nation, people who love Christ and want to spend their days serving Him. Ephesians is all about having Christ at the center. 

Isn't that what it's all about? Christ at the center. Cultivating the church to serve Him better. 

Over the next month, we just simply want you to cover yourself in His Word. There are no rules or regulations to go by, we are just here to open our Bibles, read the goodness before us, and apply it to our lives. We will encourage each other and follow along daily with the hashtags #heartoftheword and #heartofEphesians on social media! 

Each week, there will be a link-up on one of our blogs to offer a place to join in with a blog post, a vlog, a comment on one of our blogs, an Instagram update/Twitter shout-out, whatever your heart desires; we just want you to share what the Lord is teaching you on this journey. We just want to cultivate this community further and we want to support and encourage each other in the process!

We have come up with a calendar for anyone who may want structure, but feel free to study it with your own system. I will be following the breakdown provided below in an effort to spend more time on smaller sections of scripture. Below is also a list of which blog to link to on our weekly link-ups which will take place each Thursday.

Week 1February 2 - 7 //  Ephesians 1 - 2:13 // Link-Up @ Our Yellow Door
Week 2February 8 - 14 // Ephesians 2:14 - 3 // Link-Up here @ Rachel Rewritten
Week 3February 15 - 21 // Ephesians 4 + Psalm 63 // Link-Up @ Joyfully Organized
Week 4February 22 - 28 // Ephesians 5 + 6 // Link-Up @ A Place to Dwell

The readings are about 2 chapters a week (totally manageable) so we added a Psalm to the third week to open up another book of the Bible. We have a blog button that you are free to use on any post, place on your sidebar, post on Instagram, whatever! We want you to make this study your own and figure out the best way for you to simply fill your day with the scripture. There is a link-up on Bailey's blog for you to join if you are interested in what this study has to offer--I think that will help us all get to know each other better. 

We are so overjoyed at the thought of what the Lord could do through this. It's a month of scripture reading--no book, no Bible study, no commentaries, just His word. We pray that you'll join us and that you'll spread the word to get others connected!

Lord Jesus, thank you. Thank you for this community and for these women who are reading. I pray that you'll move in this study and you'll grow us in your Word and in your Truths over this next month. Holy Spirit, you are welcome here. Bless this time we share together for the furthering of your Church! That's what our hearts long for, Jesus. 

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One Year of Marriage + A Love Letter

Today, Andrew and I celebrate one year of being married. One year!

The fact that we have already spent 365 days as husband and wife just baffles me--it brings tears to my eyes and makes me so thankful that the Lord saw fit for us to have this time together. 

This year has been all that I imagined and more, but at the same time completely what I never expected, if that makes any sense.

If marriage has taught me anything, it's how imperfect I am. I've learned more about myself this year than I thought possible. They say that marriage is the best magnifying glass--all my faults and shortcomings seem to be put on display at times. It's humbling, to say the least.

And in true Rachel fashion, I find today fitting to write a little love note to the love of my life. After all, words are my love language and this blog is my heart, spilled out.

        My sweet Andrew,

One year. Can you believe it?

I remember the first time I saw you. I remember what you were wearing, how your hair looked, how nice you were. I don't remember the words I said to you (but you and your mother have since reminded me) but I remember the way you made me feel. I had a crush on you from the very beginning. 9 years ago, you stole my heart and I didn't even realize it. 

9 years later, here we are. 5 years of friendship, 3 years of dating, and one year of marriage under our belt. One year of newlywed-ness accomplished.

I've been your wife, your partner, your confidant, your accomplice for a whole year now. I still look over at you, see the wedding band on your finger, and fall a little more in love; and in that moment, I'm giddy that I get to do life with you, with my best friend. 

What a year it's been!

A year of joy, lots of nights of laughter until we cry, inside jokes that make no sense, and more happiness than can be measured.

A year of adventure, of celebration, of soaking in life and thanking God for every step along the way.

A year of loss, of hurt, complete with plenty of tears but even more love in the midst of sorrow.

A year of forgiveness and learning to say 'I'm sorry' first, even when we don't want to, because love forgives and love isn't self-seeking. Because this marriage thing isn't easy all the time and because we both make mistakes. 

A year of wanting to be more like Christ to be a better wife to you. The Lord has taught me that I will never be enough for you and you for me, but through Him, He is sanctifying us and making us more like Him. His grace is sufficient enough in our weaknesses, and boy, I have a lot of them. This year has taught me that marriage is our journey and God is pruning us in the process. It's beautiful and hard and scary at the same time.

Your love makes me come alive. When I am beat down and discouraged and lost in the chaos of life, you bring me back to life. You are my safe place. You are where I'm home.

My fairy-tale loving self has learned that love doesn't have to be a grand gesture to be romantic. It doesn't have to be roses and candlelight and poems in order to sweep me off my feet and make me feel treasured. I've learned that you doing the dishes or getting the groceries for me is what makes my heart go pitter-patter, and I don't hate it one bit. You love me well.

We have a long life ahead of us and I can't wait to do it and experience the world all by your side. Hopefully with a few babies added to the mix. Thank you for stealing my heart 9 years ago. Here's to 99 more together, me and you.

All my love, forever and always,