Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I was them, and that is why I love them...

People often ask me the same question over and over again - "why do you choose to serve or work in the nonprofit sector?"

The answer is easy, Jesus asks us to serve the least of these... But the answer also goes deeper than that for me. I used to be them.. I was the least of these. I was part of the those I serve, and this great big amazing loving community lifted me up in my time of need. How can I not give back to a community that has given so much?

I think about all the things that have happened over the past few years and I can see God's plans weaved all through my ups and downs..

Just a few short years ago I became a single parent.  If you know me, you already know this.  What you may not know is that in that season I had to sit my pride aside and receive help and support.

I was a full-time student and worked two jobs, but still struggled to make ends meet.  I was lucky enough to receive grants and scholarships for school because of my academics and income bracket.  That helped... a lot.  I was given a scholarship from the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County, who went above and beyond just helping with educational costs but also surprised me by sponsoring my children and I for Christmas one year.  I will never forget the tears as they hit my cheek when I went to pick up items they had collected for us.  In humilty and grace I embraced their love for all the years up to that point I had been able to sponsor children in need, and then there we were.  Yet, they embraced me with such dignity and respect that I never had a reason to feel poor, or ugly, or used, or worthless.  They helped me realize I had purpose... My purpose was my children and working to improve my life and theirs.

Beyond this help I was able to get my son in a free Pre-K program that we qualified for so that I had one less childcare expense.  This school was also amazing for us!  Then the pin dropped... I had been involved with serving at the Samaritan Community Center as a volunteer for their snack packs program.  One Friday as I picked up Jake from school here he came with one of the very snack packs that I had helped pack the week before.  Again, humbling... It made me realize how incredible these types of resources were for children and families.  He would get so excited, and to this day he loves going back and volunteering or donating his allowance money to this program. 

I was also part of a program called Career Pathways that helped me with my textbooks for school and gas vouchers to and from.  I was given scholarships from the PEO, the Willard and Pat Walker Foundation, the Walmart Foundation, William Randolph Hearst, the Dean of the College, and many many more.  People supported me in ways unimaginable and I managed to make it through college with little to no out of pocket expense.'

I am now remarried and the Director of Development and Marketing for an organization that serves single parents in Northwest Arkansas.  How much more gratifying can it get?!

So, why do I serve?  Why would I serve?  Because I have known what it means to need, and I have also known what it is like to have plenty.  God commands us all to serve the poor, the oppressed, the fatherless, the widow.  We each have a story.  So before you believe that everyone who needs help is milking the system, please stop... The needs in this community are real, they are huge, and we all have a part to play in giving back.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

PaPa Crackers...

If you are a facebook friend or normal reader of my blog you know that my PaPa has been battling aggressive cancer for the past few months... During this time, I have tried to be at every appointment, with the exclusion of a few that conflicted with my work schedule.

Sitting through chemo treatments, hours in waiting rooms during scans, etc. may seem excruciating to some, but to me it has been a small offering to a man I owed so much to.  It has been an honor to be his grandchild, and not only that but he accepted me as a daughter as well when I needed a father to look up to.  Today my PaPa was rescued from this world, and taken up to be with Jesus... I know he is smiling down already...


It is no secret my childhood was a bit nontraditional, which I used to look at as a trial, but as I get older I see the joy in not being stereotypically "normal".  I lived with my grandparents when I was young, and when my mom married my stepdad we moved in with him when I was five, but even at that point I still stayed with my grandparents about half the time (or more).

Growing up my Grandma and PaPa had a major influence on me.  They taught me how to work hard, how to treat others with dignity and respect, and above all how to not take yourself so seriously that you cannot have fun.  Life's greatest moments are when you could careless what others think.

I was lucky enough to be the last kiddo raised in that household which meant I was extremely spoiled, :)

Most nights my Grandma would tuck me in bed, and before she could make it down the hallway to their room I had snuck out and ran down the other hall and hopped in their bed.  This trend continued even up until my early teen years, LOL, as it had grown to be a funny game we played. 

Then, I would sneak back out and watch Johnny Carson or Jay Leno with my PaPa.  When the "jokes" were over we would go get back into the big california king bed, where I would typically end up taking up the most room, :) and Grandma would tell us stories about the notorious turtle or bear or smurfs that lived in the woods and pond by our house.

Around 2am, my PaPa and I would always wake up and have a "midnight snack" - most times we would eat saltine crackers which quickly changed to the name "PaPa Crackers" since everyday we would eat them together, and I would help my Grandma put some in his packed lunch for work. 

To this day, me and my own children call saltines "PaPa Crackers"...  Most nights when we were snacking, my Grandma would eventually hear us and come join us by making a fresh pitcher of sweet tea and then back to bed we all went about 30 minutes later... That is after we turned on the flood lights to see if the turtles, bears, or smurfs were outside our bedroom window.  :)

This is just one memory of the millions we have made over the years... But tonight I felt like sharing it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

oh baby...

Well, those who read this that I am friends with on facebook already know the new developments in my pregnancy craziness... but for those who do not, a quick summary is that this week I went into pre-term labor, but was given a shot to help stop it.  I really need to make it a few more days to be considered full-term.

I think it would be a safe conclusion to say this pregnancy has been anything but easy...from having a miscarriage right before this pregnancy, to becoming pregnant again and having hyperemesis and being in and out of the hospital for dehydration repeatedly having IV fluids, then having severe bleeding right out of my first trimester and thinking we were losing the baby... only to discover I had something called placenta previa. 

Then a few weeks later, I had some pains in my lower right side, and they discovered a hernia in my incision from my past c-section.  The past few weeks I have had severe contractions off and on, and this week I started having extreme cramping in my back...leading to getting a shot to help stop labor.

So, it has not been easy... However, it has been humbling.

I have had to learn what it means to slow down.. what it means to say no to people and things... and what it means to learn how to rest (something I am still trying to learn)...

Each of my kids have taught me a new life lesson(s), when Jacob was born I learned what it meant to love, to parent, to sacrifice anything and everything for a baby.  When Greenlee was born I learned what it meant to have to be strong, to provide more than ever before, and to have more grace as I became a single parent.  With this baby, Baby Finley, I am starting to get the feeling God is trying to show me what it means to slow down.

I am ready to meet my new little man, but I want him to be ready.  I keep looking at this picture, which is sort of creepy but also very cool.  It brings me joy that he is already smiling.  :)

Monday, April 23, 2012

A poem for M

I felt like writing poetry tonight... This one is for our girl.

Someday you'll see the dreams I've had for you and you will reach even farther than I could have dreamed.

One day you'll hear the sound of my words as they echo from your own lips to the child you love and hurt for.

And that day you'll realize just how hard those words were to hear and how they are even harder to say.

You'll catch yourself smiling and maybe even burst into tears when you realize a small tiny part of you has become me, and that tiny part has been passed down from generation to generation.

It won't matter that I never carried you in my stomach, or that you were only my little girl for a short time, because regardless of how long I was your mother - you and I will never be the same. We have changed each other. We have cried together, we have experienced joy together, and we have disliked one another, only because we loved each other enough to love without always having to like.

Someday you will look back and realize the seeds that were planted in your life and know we gave you roots and I'll know we also gave you wings.

One day you'll experience loss, and another you'll experience joy. We will be there for both days to listen, sit, and smile.

And that day you'll know and truly believe that we are really your family.

You'll catch yourself smiling or maybe even burst into tears when you realize that trust and unconditional love really can and do exist, and you have both in us.

It won't matter if you and I haven't spoke in a while or if you lose your way. It won't be too long or too far to call on me. Because you and I will never be the same, whether your adventures are prodigal or practical, the love remains the same.

Someday, one day, and that day you are my daughter all the same. And my child, I wouldn't change a thing.

Loving people not the cause...

Another post that I wrote a couple weeks back...

Loving people, not the cause...

We are living in a very "cause-centered" time. You have people totally passionate about helping fight AIDS, or diabetes, or children, or hunger... All of which are amazing and I'm so glad we as a community (and nation) have got to this point...

BUT... There's always a but :)

But about a year ago, I realized that most people only knew Rachel as being "the one who helped teens". I was only known for that cause. And although thats not the worst thing in the world to be known for, lol, it wasn't what my life needed to be known as...

My cause is Jesus. My cause is loving all people. My cause is sticking up to social injustices.

And when I say people knew me as "the TASC girl" I knew me as that too :).

When I left working at the Teen Action and Support Center, I felt I left my passion also, and it took me a while to realize that God had only placed me there for a season, and that season was over, but the cause of Jesus in my life was really just unfolding.

I've spent the last year of my life growing passions that I never knew existed... I have been so fortunate to help fight hunger this year with The Farm, to help advocate for kids in foster care through The Call, to spend a little time with neglected and abused horses, to mentor a young adult through Saving Grace, to walk alongside of someone in the prison system and see them face joys and trials through their own personal redemption, to passionately help single parents at Havenwood, and to help the homeless into housing at Cobblestone.

I think God knew I needed to see the bigger picture. It's really not about any one of these causes, friends, although all are a noble and worthy cause of investing in...

But I don't want my legacy to be that I was the girl that did really well in advocating for something. I want to be known as the one advocating for someone - Jesus.

Every day we have the ability to do small acts of kindness and help change the world for Him. We just have to be willing, :)

Let your cause be bigger than anything here.

Frustration Station... Some Easter thoughts

I wrote this post a few weeks ago but had not had the chance to post it on here.  So, here goes...

Maybe I should keep my opinions to myself, but I find it hard to do that ;) especially these days.

As we approach Easter I want us to consider a few things...

We have all been given the gift of adoption through Christ. His pain, suffering, death, and resurrection allowed us the opportunity to enter into his worldly and eternal family. Aka our adoption story.

So, here is my rant... If we are called to be image bearers of Christ and were given adoption into His family, why do we make excuses to not care for the orphans in our community??

All the time, I hear my good Christian friends say how "if we only had more space we would foster...". Or "if we were in a better financial position...". Or "maybe after we have our 'own' kids" Or "I just don't want to ruin my own children by taking in someone else..."

You realize that if God used the same thought process as this we would not be able to have an eternal life, right?

I'm just saying -

do you live in a space bigger than a car? Or a cot in a shelter?

Then, you probably can offer a lot of kids more space than what they have right now.

Do you make more than minimum wage or do you work at all?

Then, you probably make more money than the homes they came from.

Want to have your 'Own' kids first?

Own kids, really? We are all God's children, so if you truly consider yourself a follower of Christ then please don't say things like that...

Scared of what it will do to your own children?

You may never be able to teach your kids more about grace and mercy than when you show them how to accept someone into your family who is lost and make them found.


I realize for some of us the call to help orphans may look different - we may not all be called to take a kiddo into our home, but we are all called to stand behind helping in some way - whether it be financially, opening our home, volunteering, babysitting, or donating items...

And one other thing, I am so grateful for all the sweet words and people who think we are doing this amazing and selfless thing, but let's get real we aren't doing very much at all... Fostering and adopting is tough, and it may get messy but that's not an excuse to not do it. We have to be obedient to what God has given us. It all belongs to Him anyway. We aren't martyrs LOL we are normal crazy people who don't have all the answers, yet we know to do nothing isn't acceptable.

We "christians" absolutely cannot have the logic that we can't help when we are beneficiaries of adoption ourselves. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

the art of "having it all together"...

I often laugh at how many emails, texts, or Facebook messages I get from people on daily/weekly basis asking me for advice because I "have it all together"...

Although, I am absolutely flattered and I LOVE to pray for people and if I can lend support or advice I am happy to and honored to, but the thing is I gave up trying to have it all together some time ago, lol...

Maybe what people are seeing is a disillusion of having it "all together" because I daily have to admit the complete opposite --- I don't have a clue most times, but I know Who does...

That is the beauty in living in brokenness though, really, when we realize that none of us can really ever have it all together, and if we ever think we do we probably really need a reality check or a slap in the face.

Most days our house is full of chaos, craziness, uncertainty, but one thing it never lacks is LOVE and FUN and rested assurance on something much greater than anything that I could provide or create... An assurance that only comes in a Savior.

I don't know what our future holds, and sometimes what the day will hold, but I do know that if God leads us to it, He will lead us through it. 

AND honestly sometimes I don't like where He leads us, but I always know it is with purpose - whether to grow me, prune me, learn something, or maybe it has absolutely nothing to do with me, my journey, my learning, but maybe He leads us places so that others can see and it resonate with them.

So, the point of this blog...

God has made us each beautiful... We are all broken, and if we can support one another and hold each other up that is absolutely what we are called to do. 

But never strive to have it all together...

Strive to live an uncomfortably, risky, and exhausting life for Him.  That is where He likes us best.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

dot dot dot...

I have mentally written about thirty blog posts between now and the last posted here, yet every time I go to write one down God has pulled me in another direction.

Maybe that is because He knew those words needed to stay between He and I, or maybe because He realized the value in writing them would become cheaper if they were typed for the world to see.

Today, I felt Him say, it is time.

Sit down.  Type what I tell you, and don't look back, so here I am, typing and trusting.

If we are friends on Facebook, you have probably kept up with some of the many fun happenings in my family - both crazy and routine.  You have read how my kids are still as silly as ever, my husband continues to serve me way more than I deserve, and how our teen is growing into a young woman that has to make difficult decisions on her future plans.  You have read how I get tired easily being pregnant, and how I am addicted to sweet tea currently.  You have read about my adventures at my new job, struggles with the kids' biological father, about my annoyances and joys... Well, some of them.

What haven't I shared?  A lot.

The one word that keeps coming to mind is "plucking".  Sounds a little gross, doesn't it?

One thing that seems to be a recurring theme in my life that last 365 days is how God continues to "pluck" people and things out of my life.  People and things I do not want plucked, that I feel very hurt each time they are.  Yet, now I am starting to see the thread of each......

Several months ago, God took away one of my best friends through a weird "argument" although it was not really an argument at all.  Nonchalantly, He decided we were not good for each other as friends anymore.  It was a really weird transition to go from having a best friend one day to not the next.  I still don't have closure with that friendship ending, but I know God keeps telling me "not to have closure for some reason".  Isn't it weird when you lose a friend or relationship, how you tend to go back and rethink through everything that led up, wondering am I in the wrong?  And you know deep down you aren't, but you can't help but think maybe if you would have said this, or would not have said that, that they would still be a part of your life somehow....

Before that friendship ended, God took me out of a job that I held too tightly to.  He just plucked me right out of it, and into an even more uncomfortable place that He knew was just for a season and then dropped me in a place that felt new and at home.  His timing is always right even when we don't see it at the time.

Just a couple months ago, I experienced another "plucking" of sorts when the girl I was mentoring no longer wanted me in her life.  I was left devastated, again... What had I done wrong? 

The last few weeks God has put reasoning behind the many "plucks" I have had.

"I am not plucking them from you.  I am plucking you from them because I need to take away the things you put before Me."


Sometimes God has to make things painfully obivious for me to keep my eyes on Him.  In prayer, it was as if I heard Him tell me recently.  I am going to bring you to your knees, or until your face hits the ground and you realize that you need Me before you need any other person. 

Living in brokenness is exactly where He wants me because then I give my independence up, and I become entirely dependent on Him.  So, the past few months I have really been clinging to Him and His promises. 

Am I saying He does not want me to have friends?!  NO!!!  In fact, He continues to bless me with some of the best friends a girl could ask for... BUT what He is saying to me, is that when I allow a friendship, a circumstance, a job, or a possession in higher regard or value over Him, I am not where I need to be.  And He will pluck me away from it as soon as I ask for His help... And He has. 

I hope whoever reads this post that it resonates with them.  It was not a pre-planned or well-thought out blog, instead it was just an outpour that Christ called me to sit and write.



Wednesday, January 25, 2012

listen... can you see the forest from the trees?

My husband is good at reminding me that sometimes, I need to stop, think, listen...

"Sometimes, Rach, you can't see the forest, because of the trees..."

Maybe I should back up a bit. 

In our house, to have a moment of quiet is a rariety.  Between kids running around, teens running around, newborns crying, ovens beeping, text messages blowing up, bible studies, phone calls, kid shuttling to games, practices, schools, appointments, my own work appointments, meetings, bath times, homework, cooking, cleaning, typing --- there is no moment to say - wow, quiet, wow, silence, wow, nothing.

I have become so used to noise over the years, that now when I don't have it I struggle to find a sense of peace.  I have to sleep with a television on for noise even.  Tis true. 

Now, at times (most times) I find myself living for the noises.  When the kids go away for a weekend here and there to their bio dads, the house gets a little quiet, too quiet.. (even though our teen and her baby are still here, and there is still plenty of clean-up for the week, and meetings, and emails, and everything).

But just to take a tiny moment of the noise away seems eerily uncomfortable.  The noise represents life: my crazy, wonderful, chaotic, fun, exhausting life...

I find this a common theme among many of my friends in the season of life we are in... But, I also feel like maybe in the midst of all this noise, we keep "waiting" for that breather time.  But as we "wait" for a time to not have as much noise, to quiet our lives, we are missing the "dwell" aspect that is far more important.

All the craziness, the hustle and bustle, the busy-ness, are the moments that 20 years from now we are going to look back on and wish we had taken more time to dwell in them.  Because let's face it, my kids are still little and I often cry when I look at pictures of them from just a couple years ago and think - "where did the time go??"

Well, the time is now.

So, here is a new challenge for myself and for many of you who find yourself in the same season...

Stop, and listen to the noise...  The noise of our lives are the memories that will last us a lifetime, they are the moments that we will cherish, and hold onto, they are the hugs are sons still give us, and butterfly kisses our baby girls still give us, they are the moments when you teach your teenager what it means to become a woman before she ventures out on her own, they are the moments where we should take an extra hour every few months to be the "homeroom mom" at our kids school, to cuddle with them, to create our own little stories and traditions...


The noise is beautiful... And twenty years from now, when my kids are all out of the house and Steve and I are here alone and the noise is gone... I am going to long for these crazy days.  Make each moment count, life is far too short, the chaos is beautiful :-)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

trust... never put a question mark where God has put a period...

Well, crap...

I have done it again.  I have started letting comparison be the thief of my joy.  And I feel stupid and guilty for doing it, but it seems like being transparent about my feelings and letting God have the glory in my weakness and sin is what I am being called to blog about this evening.

Hopefully this will resonate with someone, otherwise I am just exposing my ugly for no reason than to look like a complaining, sinful, brat....

So, here goes.  Steve and I have been on the journey to foster care for almost a year... It was around this time last year that we felt God saying leap, and shortly after I quit my job and we went to our first foster care meeting, which led to trainings, and background checks, FBI fingerprints, and safety locks on our cabinets, and buying a fire extinguisher, getting CPR certified, making and posting an emergency plan on our fridge, and every other crazy detail that goes into this process.  By July, we had checked every X on the to-do list, and were told all we needed was our final home study.

For six months we have been waiting on a home study... Now during which time we have had a LOT of changes in our household, no doubt, taking in one of my old students who was pregnant, me getting pregnant, issues with my kids' bio dad, job changes, pregnancy complications, you name it... BUT our hearts still yearn to be an open home and to take in more kids (even though realistically, we could probably only take one child more right now, and even then I know it will be crazier around here for a bit if we did).

We have sat and watched as some of the couples we had training with have opened, and yet here we still are.  There have been some glitches with DHS that was supposed to have a contract social worker do our home study, but they have failed to do so yet. 

This weekend another couple from our class posted that they were about to open as a home, and my heart kind of sunk.  Why on earth should I have that kind of reaction???  HELLO, this is awesome news.  This means another home will open, and more kids will be placed in a Christian home, my heart should be leaping for joy.  And honestly, this couple is really great, and they may actually read this blog and I hope they know it is not personal, but instead of a positive reaction, my heart reaction was one of sadness and disappointment for myself.

Isn't that a crappy thing for me to admit?

Well, I agree.  It is this big stupid sinful part of me that likes to question, "what is it God?  are we not ready? would it be too much for me right now?  are you changing your mind?  have I upset You?"

And the guilt started rolling in as I thought about here I sat feeling disappointment, when a child is going to benefit from this, and He just is not ready for us to be the ones to do it yet.

I have been praying about it all weekend, and have been really disgusted with myself.  Tonight I just asked God, "will you please take this ugliness away from me right now?"

A few minutes later I was browsing through Pinterest, and found this saying "Trust.  Never put a question mark where God has put a period."

Ok, God, I get it now :) - my ugliness, my guilt, my disappointment really had nothing to do with this other family getting good news, but everything to do with me taking my eyes off His promise for my life.  See, that is the worst part about what sin does... It will sneak into whatever crevice it can find, and try to blossom if you take your eyes off the path even for a second. 

I don't need to question God on why or how or what.  The answer has already been written - it will be when it is time. 

So, I humbly request to be forgiven for this ugly, and think about how Jesus as he dripped the blood from his face while nailed upon that cross knew one day that the sin he was dying for was to cover times such as these.  Times where my ugliness for the mission of what we are being called to in caring for the fatherless almost became stained by my sinful frustration.

So, we wait, we pray, and we love.  We love the kids that are in our home tonight, tomorrow, and next year :)

Friday, January 6, 2012

oh baby...

I posted this on Facebook yesterday, but realized I should probably post it here also.  Thanks for praying :)

So I haven't said much, but the past 24 hours have been both a joyous and scary time for our household.

Last night, I was so blessed to be in the room as a coach for Michayla as she went through her labor with baby Patrick. She did so well. He got here, we took lots of pictures, lots of smiles and then I felt something....

I immediately realized I was bleeding...severely.

I had a mini-panic attack. I grabbed a nurse and she and the doctor graciously checked me and agreed I needed to go to see my doctor immediately which was across town at the other hospital. So, after being up there for 36 hours while Mic was laboring, and being super exhausted, I went into scramble mode to get my stuff, make sure she was settled, and then went and got checked into the ER at the other hospital.

My mom helped with the kids, so Steve could meet me there. And we went in expecting the worst. There was a lot of bleeding.

We had to wait forever, but after blood tests, and IV fluids, and ultrasounds, and physical exams, and you name it, they sent us home "to rest" and all we knew was the baby still had a heart beat and looked okay, but there was no telling where or why I was bleeding... Just go wait it out until you can see your doctor tomorrow, and you may or may not miscarry.

What exactly were we waiting for?? Me to have a miscarriage? that's a real comforting thought.

Well, I sent a message out to a few dear prayer warrior friends and came home, propped my feet up as instructed, and fell asleep.

I woke up this morning, tried to get a few work projects done from my laptop, and then headed back to be with Michayla. I was still bleeding. It didn't look too promising.

She was doing amazing, and was going to rest up, and then it was time to head to my doctor's office.

It seemed as though I was there for hours, but really just one hour :)

According to my doctor, the baby is fine, and I have something called complete placenta previa.

I just have to be really careful, take it easy, rest a lot and will have much more frequent ultrasounds and checks...and I'll have to have a csection, which I was going to have to have anyway.

So, praise God! Whoohooo!!!!

Thank you for those who were praying and who will pray. I truly believe it was the power of those prayers that gave us this positive outcome.

We are blessed. Now, sleepy time for me :)


Monday, January 2, 2012

unfinished business

A year ago I started this blog... I cannot help but laugh a bit at my naive self, I think somehow I thought that within a year's time that I would have my whole life figured out, and have myself in order...  Now, we are rolling into a new year.  These are the words I wrote when starting this blog:

"I still want the things I have always wanted - to love and be loved while making the greatest impact I can for Him...

2011 is an opportunity to figure out what that dream looks like now. I am only good to others, if I am good to myself. 2011 is a chance for me to be the best me I can be me for me, and then use that to love others well... So, here we go. Thanks for joining in my journey. It's time to share my story, it is time to stop procrastinating... I have words that need to be written."

Well, with 95 posts, and 20 followers, lots of tears and kleenex while writing the above-mentioned posts, a totally different job, a totally different outlook on life and on what family is, I can say the journey is only still starting, and I am still trying to figure out the dream just as much now as ever before. 

2011 was good to me.  The biggest lesson I learned:  stop taking myself so seriously.

I never started this blog with the intent to have a million followers, or to sell ads or "monetize" as google likes to call it.  I honestly was and still am surprised and extremely honored when I have one single comment on here. 

This blog is really an extension of my heart, of the things that God puts on it, the things that frustrate me, the things that sometimes are the most difficult for me to talk about.  I have no idea how God will continue to use this thing, but I can say this:

this blog has taught me that transparency is the key to living well.  If I cannot be honest with myself, than I can never be honest to anyone who were to stumble upon this.

So, I have some unfinished business to this here blog, :) and if it is okay with you, I plan to keep writing on it for now :)

Blessings and lots of love for a new beautiful year,