Twenty-Sixteen

Twenty-Sixteen

Hi, friends! Happy New Year!!!

What a year it has been! So many amazing, difficult, wonderful, frustrating and beautiful things have happened over the past 365 days in my life and in our world- and I’m very grateful I got to experience some of them.

Before I dive into these moments, I just want to say that I know this hasn’t been the greatest year for everybody and many people are excited to see the end of 2016… BUT I am so thankful that God gave us this year and the hard moments because I believe we wouldn’t be who we are without them.

God is still King in the difficult, dark places of this world and He is still sitting on the throne when we feel like He has left us- He is in control over every single circumstance in our life and He is working to make every moment reflect and glorify His Kingdom!

So, yes…it’s been an interesting year but I believe that there have been just as many, if not more, blessings and good moments as there have been bad moments. And at the end of the day, God is still good and He has a purpose for each of our lives!

At the beginning of the year I wrote a post called A Year Full of Revival and it was about God’s promise for this year. Every year God gives me a word as a symbol for what is to come, in 2015 it was “light” and in 2016 it was “revival”.

I remember when I listened to my pastor give the first sermon of the year on God’s word for our church, the word was breakthrough. I felt like God was confirming my word, revival by giving our church this word. In my heart, those two actions go hand-in-hand and this confirmation gave me the faith to believe that God would fulfill His promise of revival.

As I already said, this year was beautiful and difficult in more ways than one. Of course, it was an amazing year for many reasons, here are some of the highlights…

My family and I got Rocky, our sweet blessing of a puppy after praying that God would provide the right dog for our family.

I turned 19 years old and got to go to New York City for the first time with my dad to celebrate (we saw The Lion King on Broadway and it was magical!).


I finished my freshman year of college and my last semester at NCTC in May and began my sophomore year of college and first semester at UNT in August.

I’ve made so many amazing new friends and have had the blessing of reconnecting with family.

I got to be a leader at my church’s summer youth camp, HUB Camp, for the first time and had an absolute blast!

I had the privilege of voting in my first presidential election.

And I got to go to Europe for the first time and travel through Greece and Italy with my sister!*

But, 2016 has also been a really difficult year too…

I’ve had ongoing health issues throughout the year that have made me feel constantly tired, sick and weak.

I’ve felt alone, unnoticed and hurt at times.

I watched my 18-year-old cousin battle against (and BEAT! Praise God!) the evils of cancer.

I’ve struggled with temptations and fleshly sins.

I have painfully watched people I love numb themselves with the world.

And I’ve had moments of crippling doubt and fear that have left me feeling completely in the dark.

If I’m being honest, there have been more moments of hopelessness and frustration than there have been of faith and thankfulness for God. And as I look back on this blessing of a year, I can see how unintentionally self-focused I was when I thought I was striving to be focused on Him.

Thankfully, God still works and moves in and through us whether we are focused on Him or not but I just realized how much sweeter the hard moments would have been if I had been looking to Him instead of looking for a way to fix the situation myself.

This year God did revive my heart, my life and my family.

He has slowly begun to knock down the ungodly beliefs that have tried to take root in my heart and has replaced them with His permanent promises of love, freedom and grace.

He has opened my eyes to the Godly relationships He has placed in my life so naturally that I didn’t even realize they were there. He has revived my perspective to see His beauty and “Only God” moments instead of getting stuck in my everyday routine.

He has been faithful with a seemingly impossible promise that He gave me at the beginning of the year. He told me that my family would go to Georgia (where my dad’s family is) and reconcile relationships, something that I believed He would do one day but never thought He would make happen this year. He also said that I would go to Passion 2017 in Georgia.

All I can say is, God is faithful because I am writing this post from Georgia right now and have had the blessing of reconnecting with family members who I didn’t think I would ever see again. I’m also going to Passion 2017 in two days to experience God’s awesomeness with thousands of college students from around the world.

God is faithful, even when we are not. Thank goodness! And He has made this year better than any resolution I could have created or attempted to actually follow through with.

He is the Great Reviver and His word is true.

My prayer for all of us this year is to focus on the promises He thoughtfully gave us in the greatest love letter of all, the Bible. He already knows every joyful moment, heartbreak and breakthrough that this year holds for our lives.

I pray that we will focus our attention from what could happen this year, to the One who has already made and will make all things happen for His good.

Sending lots of love, joy and peace to everyone this New Year’s Eve and am believing that He will do great things in and through each of us in 2017 and beyond!

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” -Romans 8:28

These are a few pictures that highlight my year through a lens of travel, fun & spending time with loved ones
*A blog post about my AMAZING trip to Europe will be coming soon, I would like to say I’ve started to write it or have been working on it but the truth is I haven’t. But I want to write it and tell you all about it, so be on the lookout…

 

 

 

 

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Heavenly Expectation

Heavenly Expectation

ex·pec·ta·tion·it·is
noun
  1. a fake disease I made up to describe my crippling desire for things to be exactly the way I expect and want them to be.

I have a bad case of “expectationitis” and I get it really bad during the holidays because I LOVE traditions and the holidays are full of them.

Every year, around Christmastime I have to intentionally pray that God will give me the patience and open mind to experience His season the way He wants me to, instead of the way I want me to. And, if I’m being really honest it’s hard…and most times, I end up trying to control things. I don’t want to, but it still happens.

I’m convinced this is how the enemy gets me, he makes me feel like everything has to feel and happen a certain way- when in reality everything that will happen has already been orchestrated by God to happen that way and is usually unexpected.

God’s plans are always greater than my expectations. It’s a truth we all know, but “expectationitis” can still sneak up. This Christmas was no exception, but I really do believe God taught me a valuable lesson during this holiday season that He will use to shape me throughout the rest of the year- because this is something I really struggle with year round.

As I have gotten older, God has started to open my eyes to why He placed the feeling of expectation in our hearts during this time of year in the first place. It isn’t so that we can eagerly expect to hang certain ornaments with certain people on a certain day or watch that one movie we love to watch on Christmas Eve.

The feelings of expectation are not for what and how we celebrate, they are for Who and why we celebrate- Jesus.

I always have to remind myself that we may know the ending of Jesus’ birth story, but the people who lived in the story didn’t have this same knowledge. They were desperately waiting in expectation for the Prince of Peace to be born and save them from themselves. I can only imagine the joy they experienced when they heard the Savior was born and their promised hope had come.

Even though I already know this part of His story, I still desire to have that same expectation for Him every year.

My prayer for all of us is to not let the enemy get us hung up on our own fleeting expectations, but instead for God to guide us into Heavenly expectation and adoration for Him on December 25th and every day after.

Our reason for expectation isn’t always easy to remember during the chaos of our everyday lives but it is always true- whether we choose to realize it or not- because He is always constant.

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or death.” -Philippians 1:20

Photography by Ashley Linch
 

Twenty-Fifteen

Twenty-Fifteen

Hi, everyone! Happy New Year!!!
I can’t believe 2015 is coming to a close. It feels like just yesterday I was setting my New Year’s resolutions & writing about all the wonderful things God had in store for 2015 (all of them true & even better than I could have imagined!). 

At the beginning of the year I wrote a blog post about 2015 titled “A Year Full of Light” because God had told me that is what this year would be. I remember the night He gave me the word “light”- I was watching the flame of a single candle dance & flicker in a dark room, every time I thought it would go out it never did. The flame would change but the light would never leave it- that’s the moment He told me. 

As long as I am a burning flame for God, my life will never lose its light. 

Now, I will be honest, this past month has worn my flame out quite a bit & has made it difficult to see the light. But that’s why I’m so thankful for this blog, which serves as a reminder of how faithful God has been during these past 365 days. I’ve had this little blog for about a year now (which also seems crazy to me!) & it’s been so wonderful to look back at my writing & see how God has truly illuminated my life & all of 2015 with His goodness.

I was able to “look back” at this year in a special way, thanks to a truly wonderful surprise I received from WordPress-they essentially wrapped up everything “Curly Hair & Cheerful Heart” did by summarizing all of my moments from the past year! I thought this would be the perfect “last post” of 2015 because I want to share this special part of my world with you- my friends, family & fellow blogger buddies- who continue to read the words I write & encourage me to follow this passion of mine. There wouldn’t be a “summary” to look at without all of the support from those around me (both physically & virtually!).

You guys continue to remind me how blessed I am & how GOOD God is! I am so looking forward to the new days ahead & all of the crazy amazing things He is going to do in our world & each of our lives! 

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for visiting my tiny corner of the blogosphere & for making this year one full of so much light & love. I hope you have a very Happy New Year & can’t wait to see you on the other side!

Rachel

Curly Hair & Cheerful Heart’s Year In Blogging: Click here

Each of these photos is a cover photo from a blog post I wrote in 2015
Fruit Smoothie For The Soul

Fruit Smoothie For The Soul

 

 

We all have a soul. I believe it is what makes us who we are- our passions, desires and beliefs all intertwined into this being that lives inside of us. I also believe our spiritual souls can get just as unhealthy and sick as our physical bodies.It seems like such a simple concept, yet I didn’t realize how sick my soul had become until recently. It’s not like I had done anything bad (in the worldly sense) & my life was going really well (in the worldly sense).

This is the worst kind of toxic soul I could have, if you ask me, because I began to mistake my outward appearance to be the same as my inward appearance. Over time my heart had pushed out God’s promises and power and had become full of anxiety and judgement and fear.

I realize that this is bound to happen- I mean, I am a silly, impressionable human who lives in a world that is trying to bombard my heart with anything but the truth! But just like my physical body has to be cleansed daily- my spirit has to be cleaned out too. And that was something I had forgotten to do in the midst of attempting to keep my life under control.

So when I would spend time with God, I felt so cluttered & distant from Him. I couldn’t get my mind to focus or I would get so caught up in trying to have this “perfect” meeting with Him that I would forget the whole purpose of just laying at His feet & resting in Him. I would pray and get way off track (like, “What should I have for lunch?” off track!). I would procrastinate doing my morning devotional until I only had a few seconds to squeeze it in or else I’d be late to wherever I was running off to.

Basically, I was already so full of the toxic stuff that I had no room for His fruit to grow in my heart. Instead, I was trying to survive on my own, self-produced (& extremely expired!) fruit.

That’s a weird place to be in- especially when you aren’t truly aware of it. You feel anxious and discontent & like you’re always missing something. Thank goodness He opened my eyes to what was happening inside me.

You know what my soul needed? A fruit smoothie* made by the true Smoothie King!

Love.

Joy.

Peace.

Patience.

Kindness.

Goodness.

Faithfulness.

Gentleness.

Self-control.

All of them! Blended up together into fresh, juicy spirit-filled goodness. My soul needed a detox. So so so badly. It needed to flush out the worldly toxins & darkness- it needed a spiritual fruit smoothie.

So (thankfully!) that’s what God has been pouring over my heart & soul for these past few weeks. And it tastes gooood.

Now, I’m not perfect & I most certainly do not embody a soul full of His “fruit of the spirit smoothie” all day, every day- but I am seeking Him to give me glimpses of how good a life full of His fruit is & having that kind of perspective changes everything.

When my soul is focused on His fruit- His love, His joy, His peace, His patience, His kindness, His goodness, His faithfulness, His gentleness & His self-control- everything is so much clearer.

I am so thankful that I have a Father who loves me enough to clean up my messy soul & treats me to the sweetest fruit smoothie this world has ever known.

Being His daughter is always the yummiest & most satisfying adventure for my soul.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”-Galatians 5:22-23

 

*Shout out to Jacelyn & all of my crazy AMAZING sixth grade ladies for coming up with this “fruit smoothie” revelation during small group discussion! Y’all remind me each week how simple God’s love is & how sweet life is when we choose to follow Jesus! I love you girls so super much!

Here Comes The Sun

Here Comes The Sun

Bright. 

Gloomy. 

Joyful. 

Numb. 

Refreshing. 

Beautiful.

Our lives and memories are overflowing with these tangible feelings. They make us who we have been, who we are and who we will be.

I am generally a very outgoing and joyful person. I believe in optimism and in loving and encouraging those around me. But- every now and then- I am overcome by a storm which clouds my heart and head, making it difficult to see the sun that shines so brightly in my life. I am not given a warning or time to prepare- the dark clouds just come.

And it may not be a fun and cheerful topic, but it is reality: we all experience these stormy seasons at some point during our lives. I want to remind anyone out there who may be weathering through a storm that every person has had a few gloomy clouds. Because we are exactly that: people. 

We are human. 

Life is messy. 

The weather changes, but the sun does not. 

See, that’s the thing about gray skies: they only stay around for a little while. And even though we can’t always see the sun, it never truly leaves our atmosphere.

You are not a person without sunshine. Actually, you are the sunshine. 

We carry the bright warmth of the sun with us wherever we go- with or without the dark clouds. 

It’s in your genuine smile as you walk down the street and wave to a perfect stranger. 

It’s in your uncontrollably contagious laughter. 

It’s in the light-hearted conversations you have with your friends and family. 

It’s in the moments you forget the world is watching and you get lost in the beauty of life.

I could go on and on- because your radiance is everywhereBeing the light in someone else’s day does not have to be a big gesture, but it does involve you to beBy being who you are and sharing your joy with another person, you get the opportunity to break through those few gloomy clouds hovering over them for a moment. You get to remind them what sunshine looks like because your light brings out the light in others.

So. If you are walking through a season of gloominess and gray skies, I want you to know: you are not alone & that everyday you are being used to help brighten someone else’s life (whether you realize it or not). I challenge you to embrace this season. I challenge you to find a way to get some sunshine to break through your clouds. I challenge you to realize that experiencing light again is possible.

Gloomy days come and go but the sun is always there. Waiting. Hoping. Being bright and bold for you when you need it most.

Do not lose hope. Here comes the sun.

Right Place, Right Time

Right Place, Right Time

Have you ever been so buried within yourself that it takes witnessing a truly great random act of kindness to bring you back to your senses?

That was me this morning.

I was running late. My car was almost past the E. I had to reluctantly skip breakfast. My hair wasn’t dry…

Nothing was going my way. It was definitely a Monday morning.

I sat at the red light. One foot clamped down on the brake, the other hovering over the gas pedal. All I could think about was the next light, the next turn, the next moment.

“What if I am late?”

“Will being on time ever become a part of my routine?”

“Why can’t I get it together?”

My mind was racing.

I cranked my music up a little louder, as if that would help drown out my nerve-racking circumstances.

“C’mon! I don’t have all day. Turn green already!”

And then, one of the most heart-warming moments took place before my eyes in the middle of a crazy intersection.

I had been so busy focusing on the winding road ahead that I hadn’t noticed what was happening in the lane beside me.

There was a young teenage boy attempting to push a large caravan vehicle out of the left turn lane, into the middle of the intersection and into a nearby parking lot.

The van had stalled and he knew this tiny sliver of time the red light had given him was his only chance to rid the intersection of the vehicle.

This small, young boy was pushing this van full of his mother and siblings by himself with barely any progress.

He was almost in the center of the intersection by now. The light was about to turn green at any moment.

Suddenly, another set of hands joined the boy’s.

The man in the car behind him had jumped out and began to push the big piece of metal alongside the kid.

It was as if he had just appeared out of thin air.

The light turned green.

I drove away, trying to soak up every ounce of the moment I had just witnessed.

I couldn’t stop smiling. There were tears forming in my eyes.

“Wow.”

I looked at the drivers of the speedy cars surrounding me, all of them seemed very focused on the road. None seemed to have been phased by what they just saw.

Or maybe I’m the only one who really saw it.

That man could have been that boy’s Angel, maybe my eyes were opened for those few seconds to another world.

The World not of this world.

Maybe this Angel had been there the whole time, I just didn’t see him at first.

It sounds crazy.

But it also makes complete sense.

Whether he was human or Guardian, he was an angel no doubt.

I didn’t see a stalled car being forced out of the way for the convenience of the other cars on the road.

It was so much more.

It was a split-second demonstration of pure selflessness, a truly rare occurrence.

That boy didn’t have to get out and singlehandedly tow his family’s van by himself. But he did.

That man didn’t have to turn on his hazards, jump out of the car and help that young boy. But he did.

I didn’t have to take that specific route I did to get back to school. But I did.

It’s amazing how so many variables fell apart so this one moment could fall together.

I was aggravated at that red light. It was taking forever. I had places to be.

But while I viewed it as my time-consuming foe, that young boy saw it as his sweet friend.

In that moment, I realized how minuscule the power of my foes are in comparison to my many, many friends.

The world is chalk-full of crazy, beautiful moments.

Moments that often go unnoticed or unappreciated.

But sometimes, sometimes we are given the gift of being at the right place at the right time and we get to witness one of those crazy, beautiful moments.

And it is in those moments that

Smiles are formed.

Faith is restored.

and

Lives are shaped.

All because someone decided to follow the pattern of their heart instead of the pattern of this world.

Today, in the middle of an intersection, I was lucky enough to watch that decision unfold into something simply divine.

Suddenly all I could think about was the goodness in others, not the unfortunate circumstances of my lethargic Monday.

Sometimes all it takes to change the course of an entire day is one person sacrificing a couple of seconds of their life to help another life.

That’s exactly what happened to me and I can’t wait until it happens to you.

Kid At Heart

Kid At Heart

I am 17-years-old and I still go to a pediatric dentist.

Surprisingly, I know I’m not the only one my age who still goes to a pediatric dentist.

But that is beside the point. I am still an (almost) grown woman sitting in a waiting room next to toddlers. While this fact is a little embarrassing, I had one of the best experiences there this past week.

I repeat. I had one of the best experiences at the dentist. I believe that this is the first time that statement has ever been uttered…

My appointment was on October 30th.

My little sister, who is 16, (HA! You totally thought she was going to be appropriately aged to make this whole “pediatric” thing less weird. Nope.)

Anyways. October 30th.

Now, as an (almost) adult, my brain was totally not thinking about anything other than how we were going to be late and how my day was not going well at all and how school is stressing me out and how I need to fill up my gas tank and how I need to finish my homework I procrastinated and ALL of the other “almost adult” things that consume my daily thoughts.

So we walk into the doors and are greeted by the front desk lady who appears to be dressed like some sort of bizarre geisha?

“Oh! It’s October 30th. Halloween is tomorrow. Remember?”

This thought was muffled by the overwhelming shouts of life. Tomorrow is Halloween and she is dressed up. At first, I didn’t think much of it.

I sat down and began cramming my homework that was due within the next hour upon my return to the wonderful world of highschool.

Suddenly, a blonde little girl in a sparkling princess costume came running out of the back room to her daddy. She was carrying a balloon.

“She’s a little girl. Little girls practically LIVE in princess costumes…”

Logically, I made sense of this tiny burst of joy in a place you would expect to be joyless. I mean…I was the one in the pediatric dentist. Should I really be surprised by a toddler in a costume?

“Rachel!”, I heard my dentist yell from the door that lead to where all the dental magic happens.

I was still cramming and writing, trying to somehow finish up my overdue mountain of homework. Why couldn’t she have come a few minutes later? I’ll just finish this last sentence and…

“You can come whenever you’re ready. We’ll be in the back.”

With my head still buried in the colossal pile of homework, I nodded. Didn’t even look up.

I finished writing my sentence and then stood up.

My dentist and sister were already halfway towards the door so I jogged to catch up with them.

As we entered the “Lair of Shiny Teeth”, I saw Obi Wan Kenobi walk by.

Yes. Obi Wan.

Well, not THE Obi Wan. It was one of the dentist’s dressed up like him…but still.

I then turned around to my dentist and realized she was dressed as Luke Skywalker.

“OH! It’s October 30th! Halloween is TOMORROW! Remember???”

And this time, I heard my brain. This time, I realized I was surrounded by Star Wars characters in a dentist office.

I began to smile a big, giddy smile.

“Best. Day. Ever.”

I then proceeded to name each character that the dentist’s were dressed up as, much to their surprise. (Seventeen year old girl, remember?)

And then a thought I had pushed aside resurfaced. The lady at the front desk was not dressed as some “bizarre geisha”, she was dressed as the one and only Padmé Amidala.

I had my teeth worked on by Han Solo, Darth Maul and Yoda while I simultaneously had a light saber fight against Darth Vader. I won.

It was the most out of this world (pun intended!) dentist visit I had ever had.

Even amidst such a mundane job, these grown adults were getting into the spirit of Halloween more than most kids. It was honestly refreshing to witness.

Did I mention they had a balloon animal maker and face painter on stand-by? Just sitting in the midst of all of the dentists, waiting to spread some more joy.

You have to understand, this hadn’t been my day. Actually, this hadn’t been my week or even my month. It’s been a tough year for me.

I walked into that dentist office with a lot of craziness on my mind. Past craziness, present craziness and (most definitely!) future craziness.

So you can bet the last place I was expecting to brighten up my gloomy day was at my routine pediatric dentist visit on October 30th.

But God works in mysterious ways, He can turn something less than average into something heart-warming and beautiful- like having a bunch of Star Wars characters clean my teeth.

I walked out of that place with an unforgettable memory of a randomly awesome experience. (I also walked out of there as Wonder Woman, thanks to that face-painter.)

I guess it’s true when they say that happiness is everywhere, even though

sometimes

you have to look a little harder for it.