Looking Back at 2018

Looking Back at 2018

Happy New Year! We are officially in 2019 and I just can’t believe it.

I’ve made it a “thing” to post a recap of the year for the past few years now. So, naturally when December 31 hit I felt like I had to sit down and hammer out a post. Silly, I know, but this is really how my brain works.

Also, I feel like this is a really good time to hit “pause” and remind you that the word God gave me for this year was “rest.” Yet, I spent the last day of the year stressing out about something I told myself I had to do with excellence. Cue laugh track here.

Anyways, I felt this enormous sense of pressure to sit down and write a great post that somehow captured the way God moved and all the milestones in-between while still being relatable. Spoiler alert: I did not get it written by my own self-imposed New Year’s Eve deadline.

I ended up spending most of the day hanging out with my siblings and friend, Dom, who is in town from Australia. Then, I threw together a brief 2018 recap on my Instagram story to at least acknowledge the end of the year (Very original, I know!) and then before I knew it it was midnight and time to yell “Happy New Year!”

When I felt pressure to post, I just kept telling myself, “It’s really okay. If you want to get it done, you will get it done but just relax.” Don’t get it twisted, I still let the worry and stress creep into my thoughts but I ultimately ended up relaxing about it.

And even though I am typing this at 10:32 p.m. New Year’s Day to get it done, choosing to be present yesterday instead of charging ahead into what I felt I had to do is a big step for me. It shows me that God has worked on me and grown a restful spirit in me- even if it’s been small progress.

So, in these very first days of 2019, I just want to remind you that the same is true for you.

God has worked in you this year. He has moved you closer to who you want to become, even if you don’t realize it. And the best part is, He has not loved you any less or forgotten you in the process.

As I look back on the year 2018 turned out to be, I am having to trust that this is the truth in my life, too.

This year was so many things for me. It was exciting, challenging, difficult, good and hard all at the same time. But I’m learning that is how God works, He has a purpose for each of us in the highs and the lows.

I think often times I’ve always thought of the highs and the lows as being separate- and sometimes they are- but this year God taught me that they can also be deeply intertwined…

In January, I started working as an Arts & Life writer for my college paper, the North Texas Daily, in Spring 2018. I was awarded “Reporter of the Month” in January and was published in the paper many times. I gained so much confidence as a writer and learned a ton during the semester. I ended up being offered a paid position as a senior staff writer for Fall 2018. It was still a good experience but it was more work and I felt it. It lead to anxiety and dread (I wrote about it in my blog post called “Anxiety, Rest & Jesus”) so I made the decision to leave the paper in December. It was a rollercoaster ride and the paper was a major part of my year that I am very thankful for. Leaving was hard but I have felt peace and energy since.

In February, my dad’s uncle, Uncle Bob, passed away. He was the closest thing I had to a grandpa on my dad’s side and meant a lot to our family. Even though it was a sad time, it ended up working out for all five of us to get on a plane and go to his funeral in Georgia in the middle of our school semester. It felt like a miracle and was a really sweet time.

My sister, Ashley, and I got our wisdom teeth out during Spring Break with no complications (Hallelujah!) but it was a week full of applesauce and pain. The unglamorous, forced break ended up being what we both needed, though.

I finished out my three years as a middle school girls leader with the same group of ladies I started with in 2015. Watching them grow from 6th graders to 8th graders was one of the greasiest privileges of my life. Leaving them to go into high school felt bittersweet but I knew it was time. My last Wednesday HUB was the day before my 21st birthday and they threw me a surprise party…it was one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had. Oh, and I went to Los Angeles to celebrate with my dad, too. Seriously, the best!

I was offered my dream editorial internship at D Magazine over the summer and took it! It was very exciting and a wonderful learning experience. But it also ended up being really hard, from the commute to Dallas to learning how to fit into the different workplace environment. In the end, God used me in an unexpected way and reminded me that His plans are always greater. And I made some lifelong friends along the way!

And I spent all the moments in-between through the year loving, crying, laughing and living with wonderful family and friends.

Of course, there were more highlights than I can count that were just absolutely wonderful. And some pretty disappointing low points, too, that were just plain hard. I think we both know I could sit here and write about all of them for a long, long time…

So, instead, I’m just going to say that 2018 was a year I am thankful I got to be a part of. When I look at all the tiny puzzle pieces that create the picture of this year I see laughs, so many tears, hurt-filled words and moments of celebration. I see adventures and scary steps into the unknown. I see strength and healing and endurance and rest. Each piece is important and a part of me now.

And when I step back, I really see a clear, beautiful and real picture of Jesus. Not cheesy, not sugar-coated…just Him and His love that has held me together through it all.

I tell you all these things not to brag about myself or make my year seem like something it wasn’t.I mainly just want to share the reality of my year through the redemptive lenses of Jesus.

He is always who He says He is, always doing what He says He will do- saving us.

I don’t know what 2018 looked like for you. I have a feeling you have some highs and lows and some in-betweens, too. But my ultimate hope for all of us is that we can step back and remember Jesus. I hope we can remember how He moved boldly through our year so that we can receive His grace to step forward into the fresh, new year He is giving us.

So, Happy New Year! I have a really good feeling 2019 is going to be His best one yet.

“Be alert, be present. I’m about to dosomething brand-new.It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?

There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,rivers in the badlands.

Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’—the coyotes and the buzzards— because I provided water in the desert,rivers through the sun-baked earth, drinking water for the people I chose,the people I made especially for myself,a people custom-made to praise me.”

-Isaiah 43:19-21 (MSG)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

-Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

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Twenty-Seventeen // A Year of Obedience

Twenty-Seventeen // A Year of Obedience

Hi, friends! Happy New Year!!!

Wow, I can’t believe we are about to step into a new year already! 2017 has been absolutely incredible for so many reasons, I am just so grateful for all the memories and adventures God has filled this year with.

I also know it’s been awhile since I’ve dusted off my keys and typed up a new blog post on here. Let me just say that while 2017 has been amazing, it has also been one of the craziest and busiest years of my life. More than ever this year I found myself struggling to find energy to make time for the things I am passionate about once I finish the things I am obligated to do. It has been a year of growth and God has really opened my eyes to the importance of being intentional with the time and passions He has given me.

Anyways, all this to say, I have missed y’all and can’t wait to fill you in on all that God has done this year! Like I said, it has been an incredible year of growth and learning to trust Him more in my every day circumstances.

At the beginning of 2017 God gave me a word as a symbol for the year, as He has been doing for the past couple years. Sometimes it’s just a holy echo that I hear throughout the year and sometimes it’s a word of encouragement meant to remind me of His goodness. In 2015 it was “light” and in 2016 it was “revival.”

Well, at first I wasn’t exactly sure what God’s word for this year was but I had a strong feeling it had something to do with striving less and thriving more. Thriving in my relationship with Him, in my relationship with others and just in the everyday moments of this life He has so graciously given to me.

I have a really hard time doing this simple thing. When my flesh is in control I am really hard on myself, I am an over-thinker to the max. I always joke that I overthink about overthinking because deep down I really do. I catch myself striving to think differently or depend on Him instead of just being in His presence and letting Him help me take each and every un-Godly thought captive.

So, when I started to ask Him what the word for 2017 was, I really thought He was telling me it was “thrive.”

I thought, “I love that word and what it means. It’s so lively and bright.”

And I wasn’t wrong, it is a great concept to really wrap your heart around instead of just your mind. But I also wasn’t completely correct because God quickly told me, “No. Your word is obedience. Obey me and see how you thrive.”

Obedience? Honestly, that’s not very cool or original when you think about it. And it’s also something I’ve struggled with when it comes to my relationship with God and just life in general. But God was right, like He always is, and “obedience” ended up being my word for the year.

This has been a year of pursuing an obedient life and faith, not because I’ve been “bad” or “wrong” in the past, but because God has so much more He wants to show me. But in order to go to those deeper places with Him, it takes obedience and trust. And it’s a process, one that takes time and isn’t perfect by any means.

So, my response to pursue obedience was to finally do the one simple thing He has always wanted me to do: read my Bible. It seems so silly and obvious, but when it gets down to it reading the Bible has never been something that has stuck in my life.

I’ve always found myself being so excited to start a Bible plan or a devotional, just to stop after day three, or sooner. But after I went to Passion 2017 (which was AMAZING by the way, I wrote about that in my last post- A Story Of God’s Faithfulness) there was a genuine hunger deep in my soul for God’s Word that I’ve NEVER felt before. I could tell this time was different, it wasn’t motivated by anything other than God’s love for me. I could feel that this step of obedience was how He was going to reveal my identity as His daughter and draw me closer to Himself.

So, on January 8, 2017 I started the She Reads Truth’s Bible In A Year reading plan.* And now, on December 31, 2017, I can genuinely say that this step of obedience He called me to almost 365 days ago has changed my life forever.

Through His strength I have been able to stay on track with the plan (of course I hit some bumps and got behind multiple times because I’m human, this has not been a perfect journey by any means!) and it has lifted my faith like crazy.  Seriously, I have never felt more rooted in my faith and more sure of my God. His story is incredible. It is such a weapon against the insecurities and doubts and desires the world tries to give us.

I think if I had to pick one part of my year to magnify that would be it, His Word. Getting to read His whole story has easily been the defining factor of 2017 and for that I am so grateful.

I wanted to share this important part of my year not to try to glorify myself…I think the main thing I want to say is that God calls us to be obedient and consistently in His presence not as a punishment or as a chore but because He loves us so much. He knows how intense the world is and how loud the voices of everyone else is. But it’s when we choose to make His voice the greatest that we begin to believe who He is and who He says we are.

The Bible is not boring, it is not a textbook or a fairy tale. It’s the living, breathing and active story of God that roots us so deeply into His love, grace and desire to be with us that we are able to shake off the lies of the world and take on the truths of the Kingdom.

It is real and it is a game changer. I have been exposed to something greater than this world has to offer and my hope is that every person who believes in God and wants to live for Him will read His Word because it truly is the best way to get to know Him.

Of course, this wasn’t the only way God moved this year and it certainly wasn’t the only time He called me to be obedient by taking a next step. 2017 has been an adventure in more ways than one, here are some of the highlights…

In March, my family spontaneously decided to go on a family ski trip to Colorado through Young Life with some of our family friends. It was such an unexpected, refreshing and fun time. Plus, getting to be surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation in the mountains is always good for the soul.

In April, God called me to say “Yes!” to work at a Christian summer camp in Oklahoma called Camp Walk On Water, which was a dream that had been in my heart for awhile. It was scary at first but it quickly turned into the second best decision of 2017. Words can’t express how much my heart needed the mini adventures, forever friends and perspective changes that God gave me at camp every day. Summer 2017 was definitely the best summer I’ve ever had!

In July, I got to be a leader at HUB Camp, my church’s youth camp, for the last time with the same sweet girls who I’ve gotten to lead for the past three years. It was so special and God gave me so many sweet moments that I will always keep in my heart.

In August, I started my junior year of college and second year at The University of North Texas. It started off being the most stressful semester of college so far, God brought me through some serious anxiety and reminded me that He is with me no matter how hard the challenges of school get! I ended up finishing the semester stronger than ever- God is good!

And throughout the whole year, in-between all the highlights, God has constantly used my amazing family, sweet friends and awesome church to remind me how good He is.

It has been an amazing year. I am so grateful that He asked me to turn my heart towards obedience this year and I firmly believe this is not just for 2017 but it’s a lifestyle. I still have so much to learn when it comes to obedience, and while I know it isn’t easy, I am confident it is so worth it. And the best part of it is, it’s not about what I do for Him, is all about what He has already done. He wants us to be obedient because He has amazing truths He wants to reveal to us to take us deeper with Him.

My prayer for all of us this year is to be obedient in loving God and others by focusing on the promises He has already thoughtfully given 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 and I believe He has so many beautiful adventures in store for this new year.

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 2018 and beyond!

“Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him.” -Psalm 128:1

*The She Reads Truth “Bible In A Year” study is a very thoughtfully designed plan, each day there are typically two to three chapters from an Old Testament book, one chapter of a New Testament book and then a couple Psalms in the middle of the week. Reading the Old Testament up against the New Testament really makes the beauty of God’s grace and the salvation we are freely given through Jesus so apparent. If you are looking to read the entire Bible, I would highly recommend this plan! P.S. You don’t have to be a “She” to read this, it’s both He and She friendly. 🙂

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…

 

 

 

 

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