I am a Believer
Hi, my name is Rachel, I am a believer, and this is my story.
I come to you a month before my 31st birthday. In my almost 31 years, my life has been touched many times by God, and I know I have been guided exactly to this spot. I have survived things I don’t usually speak about on the internet. I have taken big risks. I have had, at times, super human strength that could not be explained. I have walked a path of my own awakening and empowerment and truly have built the life of my dreams on the eve of 31.
So this must be where my new chapter begins because even after all of these amazing blessings, personal growth, and radical transformations, I have been depressed, scared, and devoid of something massive that’s missing. I’ve sought counsel, prayed, read and listened to books, hired coaches, and reached out to friends.
In the world and space I live in, it’s ultra important to be politically correct: Harm no one, stand up for what’s right, be open hearted, care, lead with love, raise your vibration, be conscious of your privilege and do something about it. But what happens when you’re doing all of these things and it’s exhausting you? Does that mean you’re not a good enough person? Does that mean you need to work on your manifesting skills? Does that mean you’ve taken steps backwards instead of forwards?
Around this time of year in 2010, I was going into my senior year of college. My world was crumbling down around me. I was looking into the future and was scared. I happened to walk across the drillfield at Virginia Tech and saw nice looking students giving out popsicles. I walked up and was greeted with kindness and love. They gave me a popsicle in the hot, almost autumn-feeling sun and told me a little bit about Cru, Campus Crusade for Christ. I decided right then and there I would sign up for a small women’s bible study. I would turn over this new leaf and try.
In 2010, I found Jesus. The real one I doubted was even out there. I accepted him into my heart, and I was filled with new life and feelings that I had never experienced before. I was on a new path, and clearly it was one I would never forget, beautiful nervous baptism and all. But my life became good and actually kind of easy for the first time, and just like working out in the gym and then reaching your goal, I slacked off and I wandered. I walked up to all the tables with nice people and thought if they were talking about love and kindness then it was all one of the same. Please know, I am not about excluding or shaming anyone. I am simply saying, I personally stopped pursuing my own relationship with Christ. God has been present with me in my heart, always, and I know I can’t look back and question or doubt. I have been drawn into this exact spot.
In 2017, I gave birth to our son, Barnes. Witnessing my birth, it’s as if I’m witnessing my own spiritual experience: I went in, guns blazing with zero surrender. I put it all on me. I believed “I” could do it. I believed “I” was strong enough. No one knew I was carrying a 10 lb baby with a 15 cm head. No one knew I would actually not be able to fit him through my body. It was bone on bone with every contraction and terrified, swollen push. No one knew in hour 3 of unmedicated pushing, when I felt like I had been left behind and my words and inner strength and my fight stripped from me from exhaustion, that I wanted to die. The darkness sucked me in on what I thought was going to be the best day of my life, right before my husband’s eyes who I couldn’t even tell any of this to or get out the words that this was what was happening inside of me. But I had one thing to cling to and it had nothing to do with my birth affirmations in calligraphy on the wall. I had only ONE positive thing popping into my heart and mind, and it was like a flotation ring flung into a murky, black sea that bobbed up just for a moment for me to put my fingers on before I got pulled back down: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13.
Our son will be two years old in 3 months and as a parent, I need Jesus. As a wife, I need Jesus. As a leader, I need Jesus. In this world we are living in, I need Jesus. Because my heart just can’t take it otherwise. I am not strong enough. I was made to crave perfect love in an imperfect world. I have struggled so hard with thinking there can only be one way. I’ve existed in this watered-down version of optional Christianity where Bible verses are tossed around like quotes and songs of worship are used for motivational events without any credit given to the author of them all. I confess: I can’t do it. I can’t make it all the same or melt it down together to create one thing. The only way I know the way is because I have been saved.
To this day, the best compliment I ever received was this: “You have the light of Jesus shining all around you and through you.” I’ve never forgotten it. It was in 2010 in an auto repair shop when my tires had just been slashed, and I was replacing them with what seemed like the last $400 to my name. I hope one day, I get to hear that again.
If you’d like to keep reading, I’m sharing more of my story and stepping stones below.
This Can’t Be All There Is
I looked around my beautiful new house and was overwhelmed. It was everything I had always dreamed of — from the farmhouse sink, to the most beautiful wooden front door, to enough closets with space that we couldn’t even fill them with all of our things, light that poured in to every room, gorgeous views around each turn. It truly was my dream house nestled into my dream life at 30, and I knew that what was wrong with me, what had been eating me inside, was not going away with even this number one life goal of mine now fulfilled.
So what was wrong with me? Why did it feel like my heart was rotting? That’s not to say I was living as a horrible person. I loved others, poured the best of me into my work, loved Brian and Barnes so much, was kind and did the right thing over and over again, but it was like I could see my life and beautiful things and people in front of me yet couldn’t fully touch them, couldn’t deeply feel them. I had fleeting moments of awesome joy but would worry because I knew they would leave me and I would be back to where my current “set point” was.
My set point looked a little like this: I woke up happy it was a new day but with zero pure-fearless-joy driving me in my heart. I got up early to read and connect with my higher power, do morning rituals to set me up for the kind of day I would be proud of, make Barnes breakfast, get dressed, and get ready to be my little man’s first face. I would come up with my message for the day for my content and social media followers with goals to keep connecting, stay relevant, add value, and hopefully grow my platform.
Over the past 4 years, I have been speaking, teaching, and holding space for others around: “What happens when you surrender, let go, and trust?” I’ve guided and coached hundreds of women to living their truth and crafting an existence by pursuing a life that is awakened, brave, and true. I have been the first one to follow my own advice and that’s why I can look back and see plunge after plunge of my God-given gifts in action, but now I can see the tear and disconnect where my intentional walk of faith was the biggest link of all that was missing.
We love to grate ourselves over the hot and burning coals of our own mistakes. We love to replay the worst of us and times we completely ate it, failed, and fell flat on our faces. We create waves of doubt that reach such heights there is almost no way for us to pop up and over to the other side, but that is not at all what any of this is about. After 4 years of doing the work I truly have felt called to do and that I love but without my purposeful walk of faith (and this is very embarrassing to share), I was left empty, alone, terrified, and scared. I like to think of the really big goals of my dreams as the mountains God put in front of my young mind to be my focus so that I would be so excited to tell others: “Hey! This is where I am going, don’t you want to come?! I’m going to a place where my wildest dreams come true; I can see it, and I know you can hear that I believe it. So come with me because you can too!” And guess what? Hundreds have followed me. Maybe more. I have led us all through leading myself to a place of personal utopia with good vibes, fun things to play with, amazing views, and the belief that we’ll figure out our own way and spiritual path through mixing them all together, pulling a card, meditating with a crystal, and calling it a day. Even now, I’m a little turned around. You mean, that’s not the way to have a solid and growing faith? That’s not the way to worship and live life so fully nothing scares you into the corners of your every day anxiety? Truly, I have been asking this.
Now here’s the most important part if you haven’t thrown your phone down with irritation, disgust, or whatever may be coming up for you — the shame that I feel and you may be feeling too actually can be dismissed immediately. Hi racing heart and hives crawling up my neck, you can now go. Because guess what. No matter what I have done, believed, practiced or tried it’s not held against me. Nope. Nada. The ultimate price has already been paid. The cool club I’m talking about is filled with every single kind of mistake, wrongdoing, backwards way of thinking, and beyond. There is no scorecard or report card, and there is no one waiting to laugh in my face or yours. Real believers, they’re open-hearted and just looking for a chance to help, and they have their set of stories and personal choices, too. I am not alone and neither are you.
So How Did I Get Here?
I want to be clear to the go-getter, to the person who is driven and who can accomplish (and does) pretty much anything she puts her heart and mind to. By this year, 2019, I have reached all of the goals I thought would make me happy (besides writing “the book” and other big plans I have dreamed up for myself since I was a girl.) I found the kind of love and safety in a relationship with my husband I hoped with everything I had for when I was a scared little girl. I became a mother to our incredible, healthy son who truly is the light of our life. I created a career using the gifts I have been given with so much room to keep growing. We moved and bought our dream house on 3 acres with room for friends and family to be with us with nature all around. I hit business goals and worked alongside people I have admired from afar for years. I reached a place in my personal fitness, health, and habits where I am so happy with my body and how I feel. My friendships are amazing and deep. So what could be missing? As I share, I realize just how blessed I am. Shouldn’t these things be more than enough for one person, even in an entire lifetime? I know what you may be thinking, how could someone NOT enjoy all of this? But without Jesus and a personal relationship with him, the more success and joy that came, became the greater my fall.
I wanted to write down the recent steps, more than anything for my own memory, but also to illustrate it usually is never just one thing that gets us where God is calling out to us to go.
This has been fast but has also been slow. Meaning, I have had countless moments knowing something is not right, like it’s off. I talked to Brian many times about my depression and anxiety creeping back in and the way I knew I was sleeping too much to avoid being awake. I was reactive no matter how hard I tried, and I was just bummed out and scared most days. I would keep myself busy and distracted enough not to notice as often as I could, and I would rise to every occasion so put me to work, please! Hamster wheels. I gave myself hamster wheels so that I didn’t wade into the bleakness of my heart amid the soiled shavings.
In rapid-fire order…
August 22, 2019, Green Bay Leadership Retreat: I attended a leadership retreat in Green Bay, WI that let me put my focus on a part of my work and in doing so, let me see myself and my struggles through a lens that felt a little safer. There, after digging deep, I finally understood where I was putting my power and my worth, and it was in the hands of other humans. It sounds simple, but I was ready for the lesson. I realized my perfectionism and people-pleasing had taken me this far, and the ride was over. Here’s the kicker, I finally wanted it to be. I reclaimed my power. I also had a very personal conversation with my dear friend and mentor, Deena Kretzer, about my walk of faith, and I even said at one point, buckled into the airplane seat with no where to go, “I usually don’t discuss religion” as the conversation heated up about Jesus. No mistakes. No accidents.
Current status of my marriage and parenting: I reached the cul-de-sac of wanting more and getting looped around, again and again, with leaning on my own understandings: Terrified to miss moments and trying so hard to be present and wanting to feel deep connection and knowing somehow it was possible, but what I was doing wasn’t my answer. If it’s broke, let’s fix it.
Overall place in my professional work: Utter stuck-ness and frustration, impatience to the max, completely ego driven but in all honesty, not on purpose. I know my gifts were given to me for a divine reason, and I’ve been trying on my own to make them perform at the levels I know they were created to go.
August 28, 2019, Conversation with Laurel: On a FaceTime date with my longtime dear friend and mentor, she heard me out and told me like it was: I was all ego. It was hard for me to hear but is one of the biggest stepping stones on this path. After I got off the call with her, I knew what I had to do. I had to look, AGAIN, in the mirror and see what was there. I had to have another inner conversation, and I knew my answers were not “out there”. I took myself down to the studs and really looked at my life. In the midst of feeling my current worst, like a bruised up, soggy, punching bag I had done all to myself, I asked honestly and simply: When was the time I was the happiest and most free? My answer surprised me. It wasn’t my wedding day, it wasn’t my birthing day, it wasn’t when I left my full-time job to start my own thing, it wasn’t the countless amazing times I’ve had with friends or even sitting front row at Celine Dion. It was when my life should have been the scariest as my family broke apart, as I was getting ready to graduate with no desire to get a corporate, well-paying job, and as I was staring down the barrel of living my brand new adult life with loads of student loan debt, single, with plans to move back home to my tiny hometown with my mom. It was 2010, and you maybe recall earlier from my story, it was when I met and began my relationship with Jesus.
I put all of these pieces together on top of the years and other layers and it was as if suddenly, I could see. I could see so clearly how I had walked away and how my life was operating because of it. So then, I did what every lost soul would do, I got on Instagram.
August 25, 2019, original posting of Lindsay Letters, mother to Eva: I have a feeling no amount of a stranger’s appreciation and gratitude can help when your baby girl is in the fight for her life, but I will try and will keep trying because I refuse to sweep this massive moment of faith under the rug and just say to myself it was something I just happened to see online. Eva Love experienced a traumatic brain injury on a normal day. It is probably every parent’s worst nightmare. I saw a friend share her post and felt called to go read it; it was the announcement of Eva’s injury. As I read Lindsay’s words, tears filled my eyes, and I was wiping them away with every heartbeat and word read. I started watching for updates and praying as hard as I could, sending my heart and energy into the hospital room. In every post, in every way, I got to see Jesus again in Lindsay and her family’s faith and realized Jesus was the only way I knew this healing would have a chance of happening. Eva’s journey started to dig up and unearth the current stirrings in my own heart where the paint had already been peeling away. There is just something about the way Lindsay has vulnerably shared and it all is being woven together that is terrifyingly miraculous in itself. In this very moment, it sounds like Eva is improving against all odds, but the fight is not over yet so let’s keep praying for complete and divine healing. But what I saw was this: Here is a family who has every reason to hate the world and their life as they know it. Instead though, I have watched them shakily and steadily cling to their faith and praise their God. So hard! I have watched them call Jesus into the story the whole time. I have watched them be accepting and loving to others, whether believers or not. I have seen as much as one can see from an Instagram post as they somehow exude peace amidst utter despair and chaos. I have watched friends be touched, and I have felt called to stand and praise His name.
I write all of this and share it as my testimony of someone who was lost, kind of knew it, but didn’t actually know how much I needed to be re-found. If it helps encourage you on your walk of faith or beginning one, that is good news. If it makes you want to turn away from me, that is okay. This new chapter is just beginning. My hands and heart are open to be used for His name, and I know, in my own way and walk, God has been preparing me for this moment, forever, to lead me right into now for a time such as this.
With love, rachel.