Trading Darkness for the Dawn

The past 13 days have been been some of the heaviest I’ve carried.

Six weeks ago I started having ear pain. Long story short my primary care was concerned enough she wanted to refer me to an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Two weeks ago Wednesday I was gently cleaning my ear and found blood. I immediately called the doctor and they asked me to come in that day.

When my doctor was conducting his exam he found a lump in my lymph node. There’s a fairly extensive history of lymphoma in my family so there was quite a bit concern. He ordered a CT as soon as I could get in. I walked out of his office and started weeping. This new life, my new adventures, my hope of a fresh start felt stolen. It took about 10 days for the CT to get scheduled. And every day I carried the weight of the what if’s. 

Last Friday I went to the imaging center. I have terrible veins so the thought of getting an IV was already causing me anxiety. After the third attempt at an IV I really started to panic. On the 5th? attempt they hit a ligament and I cried out in pain. Once the tears started I couldn’t stop them.

It took three hours and literally 10 attempts but the nurse finally found a vein that would hold. At one point she told me she may have to send me out to the hospital to have them find the IV. The thought of not having the test done that day and having to wait even longer was excruciating. By this point I was resolved to the fact that I probably had lymphoma. I processed through what it would look like to support myself through it. If I’d be able to keep up with school work. What it would be like to lose my hair. I truly had prepared myself for the worst.

I vacillated all weekend between peace and despair. Knowing at some point in the next week I would probably have a conversation that could change the entire course of my life. The tech told me I’d probably have some sort of answer early this week. All day I anxiously awaited a phone call. Knots in my stomach. Remembering that I would be okay regardless.

I finally caved and called the doctor’s office. The receptionist told me she was unable to give me any information and I’d need the doctor to call me back. My heart sank. Usually a conversation with the doctor is not good. I sat on pins and needles for an hour and a half before I saw my phone light up.

I answered breathless with sweaty palms.

“Hi Rachel. I heard you were wanting to the know the results of your CT. It looks like everything is normal. It’s great news. The doctor looked at everything and it is normal, normal, normal.” I nearly wept with relief. There was no infection in my blood but even better there was NO CANCER.

I hung up the phone and released the breath I had been holding for 12 days.

I don’t think we feel the weight of the things we carry until we set them down. 

I knew I was hanging together by a thread and a prayer. I was unsettled and on edge. I walked on eggshells in my own life, waiting on this news before I let myself hope or dream. I just needed to know this outcome before I could process anything else.

I took a deep deep breath and let my shoulders relax. I called my family, I texted those closest to me, I hugged my co-workers who have been in the moment by moment trenches with me. I rejoiced at the goodness of the Lord through His mercy of being cancer-free. All the while knowing His goodness would not have been any less good if there had been a different outcome. And I truly had become settled in that.

So what is going on? It’s still the million dollar question. I’ve still got swelling in my lymph node and pain. But I see the doctor in a week and we’ll talk through more ideas. But for now I know there is nothing concerning looming.

I’ve had alot of time to process and reflect the past 12 days. I’ve thought about who I am and what I bring to this world. I’ve thought about the people in my life, both good and bad. I’ve thought about my hesitancy to try things or my insecurities at being seen. I’ve thought about it all. And I’ve truly realized how our lives can change in an instant. One moment we think we have an ear infection and the next we’re waiting to find out if we have cancer.

So life is precious. And fleeting. And wonderful. And messy. And it isn’t worth holding the heavy things that don’t need to be held. Because there will be enough heavy things we carry for ourselves and each other. If you see me around and I’ve dyed my hair or gotten a tattoo, it’s only because we’ve got one shot to do all the things and love all the people.

Hug your people tight today, dear ones. Make that phone call, send that text, write that email. All we’ve got is today. And it’s time to start living fearless and without regrets.

The Time I Broke Down in Front of My Professor


My birthday… was unreal. Seriously.

I had all these fears about turning 30 in a new city and it was probably my favorite birthday to date. Thank you for the way you love. For someone who loves words, I’m at a loss.

Now that is out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff.

Can I tell you that I am loving school? It is the hardest thing I have ever tackled academically and I am in love with it. I left my first week of classes, called my mom and told her this is exactly what I was created to do. I have never felt that before, such a profound connection to a calling. Denver Seminary has been amazing. Challenging, but amazing. I feel like if I’m not in class I’m doing homework for class. I’ve been able to keep up okay but I’m definitely applying myself in ways I never have before. I’m currently taking two classes. With fascinating classmates and even more fascinating professors.

Y’all, trying to start learning again after almost 10 years away is tough. Also, APA, what the…? I’m issuing a formal complaint against my first 16 years of education for telling me “nah girl, you good” when it came to MLA vs APA. Suck it, Cheyenne Mountain High School and Belmont.  

I’ve cried twice in my Thursday night class. Twice out of the 4? times I’ve had class. This past week I had to excuse myself. Like stand up, walk out the door, walk to the bathroom, and ugly cry. Because my professor gave us a simple prompt:

Who do you want to be when you’re 80?

The question was simple, the only directive not to include the “things” we wanted to accomplish, not an obituary, but a question.

Who do you want to be when you’re 80?

The tears came instantly.

Because for as long as I can remember, this answer has always been a wife and mother. Yet as my story unfolds, I find those things may not be the answer Jesus has for me. And I’ve learned to grieve through it while also holding on to hope and searching for who I want to be.

Through a haze of tears, here’s what I came up with:

I want to be a woman of love, of deep character. Someone who makes others feel safe and known. I want to be someone who has laughed at herself and enjoyed the nuances of life. I want to be a woman who found meaning in the way her story unfolded – that she is able to say “Look what the Lord has done! I have seen the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” I want to be a woman who creates family around her table — whether that is biological or not. Who always has open arms and an open heart. I want to be a woman who has never been afraid to try, who said yes more often than no. I want to be a woman with more laugh lines than frown lines, who appreciates the value of all humans. I want to be a woman who loves others more than herself. I want to be a woman who was known for her kindness to everyone she encountered. I want to be a woman who is humble and ever learning, who makes other feels at home. I want to be a woman who leaves a legacy with her words and her actions. I want to be a woman who has kept heaven as the lens of her gaze.

These words poured out of me. With all the hope and grief and desire I’ve encountered.

On my very best day I see glimpses of this woman. But most of the time she’s far from sight. I’ve not loved others well or more than myself. I’ve not been known for kindness or valued all humans. And Lord willing, I’ve got another 50 years to work on these things.

So as I finish writing this the emotion is pouring out and I cannot sort it out guys. At all. Like the snot, and the tears, and the mascara, and the choked down sobs. My professor catches my gaze and I make the ugly cry face. I excuse myself, walk to the bathroom, sob all the things, splash my face, and return to class to power through the last 20 minutes.

My professor sees me come back and gently approaches me while my classmates are discussing their non emotional breakdown answers.

“How ya doing? What’s going on?” she smiled at me, knowingly.

“I’m okay. I’m so sorry, I have no idea where that came from…” I offered apologetically while trying not to breakdown AGAIN. Sometime in the midst of her wise questions, my 30th birthday, and singleness, and shame, and ALL OF IT comes pouring out. I just dumped everything on my poor professor. So you know what her response was? To offer me time to come sit down in her office and process. She told me to email her about her friend’s blog and a sermon she did on singleness.

I watched that sermon tonight and never have I heard the language of the struggle of singleness spoken as eloquently as she did. I am floored I have the privilege of learning under her. Single friends, this. Married friends, this. Because you all have watched the wrestle of learning to hope IN Jesus and not IN marriage. Of grieving and hoping. Of longing for a companion. You’ve had a front row seat. But this woman gets it. And can share it without my tears and my fuzzy thoughts.

I don’t have much else to say, because I really want you to watch this sermon. Really. It’s so good.

But here’s what I will say — crying in class is not always a bad thing.


10 Things I Wish I Knew at 20

Dear Rachel,

There are only minutes remaining your twenties. A decade full of things you never could have expected — experiences, emotions, adventures. The fullness of life in all the heartbreak and wonder to a level you never could have hoped for.

We’ve been thinking alot about the past 10 years. How only traces of you was still remain. There’s a new woman who stares back at me. A woman who has the scars of life and lines of laughter etched on her body. She’s a little wiser, a little less naive, but still believes the best about people almost to a fault. She’s a woman I’ve grown to respect and even like if I’m honest.

You see, dear one, your twenties will be a crucible. You’re going to be sanctified, refined, put through the fire, you’ll go to hell and back, but you’ll survive. And not to spoil the ending, but you’re going to be captivated by where life takes you.

So tonight, as I’ve been looking back on where you are at 20, beloved, it also makes me look ahead, at the things to come in this next decade of life. I’ve heard our 30’s are your best years and I’m sure when I’m 40, I’ll want to tell 30 year old Rachel a few things as well. But I have yet to learn those lessons and instead I’ve got a few things I’d like to say to you. Things I wish I knew when I was turning 20.

  1. Yes, love, you will finally kiss a boy. Several in fact. This will be a tough thing throughout the next decade. You’ll go through another half a decade before you finally kiss a boy, but you get there. I promise.
  2. Going gluten – free will get easier. Everyone will catch on and it will become a fancy trend and you’ll get to eat a turkey sandwich and have birthday cake. Maybe even a pizza or two.
  3. You will lose more people you love. One Saturday morning you will wake up and find the world has shifted and the people you love are no longer on this earth. But you will have been given time and stories and love and legacy. You will get to say your goodbyes.
  4. Your community will change over and over and over again. People who are in your life right now will not be in your life in ten years. And people who become your soulmates are still years off. Your community will change, revolve, evolve, but one thing will stay consistent, you will have community. You will have people. You will be known.
  5. You will fall in love. True love. You will tell a boy you love him and hold your breath while you wait for his response. And then you’ll fall in love again and again. You’ll understand what it’s like to have butterflies and someone staring into your eyes and telling you they have butterflies. You’ll meet their parents and their siblings and their friends. You will be a girlfriend. You will dance in an empty ballroom around Christmas time and be told you are beautiful. You will fall hard and fast.
  6. You will get your heartbroken. It will be torn out of your chest and smashed to the ground. You will have dark nights you never imagined possible. You will feel like you will never be able to get out of bed again and frankly, you won’t want to. You will be devastated more than once by them leaving.
  7. But you’ll find strength in yourself. You’ll learn how to put one foot in front of the other and face the day with hope. You’ll learn that the scariest thing you thought could ever happen – finding love and losing love – will happen and you’ll be okay.
  8. You will travel around the world. You will have adventures and misadventures. You’ll be driven down windy back roads in India and through downtown DC. You’ll go coast to coast, you’ll bring back the red clay soil from Africa, all the while leaving bits of your heart scattered among the jungle. You will truly see the world.
  9. You go to grad school! Not only do you survive undergrad but Surprise! The thing you’ve always wondered about, the thing you’re actually called to do, the tugging in your spirit you try to ignore? It finally catches up to you. You stop running from it or being afraid of it. You face it straight on and realize it’s exactly what you were created to do. And it’s entirely opposite of what you’re doing right now.
  10. You live life. Fully. You engage in the beautiful and the ugly and the fun and the devastating. You feel it all. You learn how to not let it control you. You learn that it can be a bad day but it doesn’t mean it is a bad life. You learn gratitude for the small moments and large alike. You say yes more often than no. You’ve got the scars to prove it. But you’ve also got the beautiful things. The memories of a baby’s first cry, your first kiss, laughter at Thanksgiving with your family around, standing beside your best friends on one of the most important days of their life, the hilariously awkward things you’re going to say to people which become stories in their own right, the nights you’ll dance until 2am, the words your heart will become fluent in, the moments you’ll pinch yourself wondering if this is really your life. It is sweet girl, it is.

There are so many things to come for you. So many incredible and hard things. You’ll still want the same things when you’re about to turn 30. You’ll ache for a family of your own and someone to share your life with. But you’ll learn how to find depth and love and fulfillment with the life you’ve been given. Because it’s a gift, these precious days you’re living. They are a gift to be cherished regardless of how they look.

So Rachel, I hope you know that while your twenties feel a bit like a mess, they’re amazing. They’re beautiful. And they’re making you exactly who you need to be.

Here’s to hoping the next ten are as wonderful as the last.



I’m the One Who Got Away

I took a deep breath and let it out.

I was driving home from work and I realized — I was happy. Content. At peace.

It was the first time in a very long time I felt like I could take a deep breath. You know the kind — the ones that go into your marrow. Into your cells. They change you. They are life. They are rest. They are full.

I don’t know when it happened. Probably sometime between chasing dreams and cutting negative people out of my life. And on the cusp of my 30th year I’ve realized I don’t need any of them, nor do I owe any of them a single thing.

look what you’ve done
look what you have become
you’re a puppet, a fool, and a thief
with my eyes closed
’cause that’s how it goes
everyone knew it but me

It’s been a slow process, this awakening of contentment. It’s been messy and stilted. One step forward and two steps back. Full of tears and throwing my hands up in the air. Regrettable conversations and placing boundaries in my heart. But yet, I’m happier now than I’ve been in a very long time.

you’re a good looking loser
and I’m the one who got away

This contentment caught me unaware. It caught me on the edge of a meltdown. It was the calm after the storm. The sense that life had been wrecked by the hurricane yet you know the pieces can be put back together, you’ll find a new normal with scars of the wreckage. You’ll manage and not only manage but thrive.

with my eyes full of tears
and my hands with two beers
I’m as sorry as I am ashamed
should have been smarter
should have tried harder
should have been quick to your game

I hit a point where I finally admitted that I was so ashamed of my wrongs. Unable to admit the ways I screwed up, the ways I had offered my heart to the wrong men, the ways I should have known better. But the darkness caused by my sin choked the life out of me. It haunted me at night. Leaving only regret. It felt like I lost myself for a few months.

you’re a good looking loser
and I’m the one who got away
nobody said it’d be different this time
maybe you’re all the same

So the untangling process, the process of admitting my wrongs, the process of healing, the process of wrestling through this shame, took longer than I thought. It took more of my energy than I care to admit. Until one day, there was freedom. There was release. The chains broke and I found myself not caring. I didn’t care about the men in my past. I cared about the woman they’ve shaped me into — the good and the bad — but I realized I didn’t care about them. The final string in my heart severed and they floated away.

And I had my doubts
but I threw them all out
I had faith
there would be no price to pay

There’s a lightness to life when you don’t have the baggage of your past weighing you down. A focus when you’re not distracted by trying to figure out why you weren’t enough or where you went wrong or why they said the things they did. A hope when you lean into the things ahead. A joy when you realize your life won’t be the hard you were willing to choose. A love when you understand your heart has capacity for so much more than any of them realized.

I’ve wasted much of my life on men who did not want to my life given to them. I’ve wasted much of my thoughts on replaying the moments over and over. I’ve wasted much of my energy on trying to reconcile the past. And now I’m just done. Because I’m happy. And life is good. It is full with room for so much more.

On the cusp of 30, I’ve found love. And contentment. And peace. And joy. And they look nothing like I thought they would. It’s funny but I think I’ve found those things because I got away.

you’re a good looking loser
and I’m the one who got away

Yeah I’m the one, I’m the one, I’m the one, I’m the one who got away
Yeah I’m the one, I’m the one, I’m the one, I’m the one who got away
Yeah I’m the one, I’m the one, I’m the one, I’m the one who got away

So when I took that breath, in a lot of ways, it felt like I was breathing for the first time.

you’re a good looking loser
and I will do what I have to do