milky way.

I am reflecting on a moment turned journal entry I had way back in 2012 and sharing some of those feelings that still apply to my life today.

I am currently in the middle of two great adventures: having just returned to the states from Nicaragua and venturing out to Haiti in 2 days. As my heart sits processing the previous trip and anticipating the next, I begin to realize how close to God’s heart are the poor and the weak. It’s 9pm. It’s completely dark. I bring my guitar out to the middle of a soccer field and stare up into the sky. “Is that the Milky Way?” “Ya, I think it is.” The grass is damp with dew and I share my thoughts out loud to the lord. I am smack dab in the middle of God’s plan for my life. Here in Nicaragua, with no one else around, I look up into the sky and my heart expresses His greatness:

God, You are so great! You have created these beautiful stars; every one created for a purpose, each galaxy and each planet, hand-crafted by the one and only Almighty God. Each star sings Your praise and each planet shouts Your glory. And here I am. I feel so tiny and insignificant but You still made me, a unique creature that stands somewhere between 5'3 and 5'4 with a funny laugh and still does not fully grasp the idea of danger. A little creature full of adventure simply longing to scream of the greatness of her Creator in any way possible. Here I sit on this damp field with my heart wide open as I speak out. I begin to relive the steps of my life. During those times in my life, steps that seemed insignificant or even out of place, but now I begin to see their significance. Each step, each “mistake”, each decision placed there by You and used to sing of Your glory! 

Listen up! I want you to hear something! There is a God so powerful that He created galaxies and He also created you and your heart. He created your thoughts and all of those things in your life that you count as mistakes, He wants to use to speak of His glory. He wants to take your scars, your wounds, your hands and your feet and He wants to take those things out unto the world so that His glory is on display. The life we have been given is not so that we can simply live and die but so we can be an empty canvas for God to paint His perfect plan all over. You just have to be willing. Sit as I sit, look up into the heavens and begin to declare His goodness. Then open your heart and speak out loud that you are ready and willing to surrender your life to His plan. No longer do you strive to live for yourself and your desires but you desire His desires. I want you to know that your life is significant when it is in the hands of your Maker who created you and designed you to be a Masterpiece of God’s glory on display for the world to see. I promise His plan is much better than whatever you have in mind for your life.

Psalm 8

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory 
    in the heavens. 
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens, 
    the work of your fingers, 
the moon and the stars, 
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor. 
You made them rulers over the works of your hands; 
    you put everything under their feet: 
all flocks and herds, 
    and the animals of the wild, 
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea, 
    all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

I don’t know what my life will look like next year. I don’t even know my very next step but what I do know is that God has made me a masterpiece and has called me to great things. I like to think of life as a painting. When you draw, you erase but when you paint you cover up. You layer. My canvas is by no means complete but it has some paint on it. It is not a neat painting. More abstract, lots of color, but nothing has been erased. I have layers. What may have looked like a mistake has been covered up by a different stroke, maybe a different color, but never erased. 

My favorite lines in the song “Come Thou Fount” goes like this:

Prone to wander Lord I feel it

Prone to leave the God I love

Here’s my heart Lord

Take and seal it

Seal it for thy courts above

I feel like this a lot. I pray because I feel like my heart has a tendency to wander and leave the God I love. I don’t understand how I can be so selfish after all He has done with this little painting. How can I still manage to drift away from His perfection and His goodness? Yet, still I do. So I pray:

Here’s my heart Lord, take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above. Seal it for your plan and purpose.

Rachel Fenimore
the way of love.

What does it mean to love?

We admit we are afraid of commitment to another human being. We know the damage we can cause. We have seen the tears fall down their faces and we have felt the tears fall down our own. We know the hurt we are capable of inflicting and we run. We know if we are capable of such horrendous things, we are certain others are quite capable of these things too, so we run.  Some of us have locked away a precious part of our being in order to save ourselves from this pain and there are others who cause the hurt and never feel the pain - these are the people we fear and the people we fear we may become. We lock away our deepest emotions, lock away our deepest fears and the moment someone beckons these things to the surface, we run. 

One thing I am certain of is caring for another is hard work. I’m talking about a selfless sacrifice of yourself in order to accept someone else's selfless sacrifice of their self. The idea of giving someone else the ability to make you feel your most joyous moments and your most scarring pain is a scary thought. Just the thought that another person has the ability to make you laugh and cry all in the same night, it is no wonder we run. The risk you take by letting a friend cross that line into your heart, that place where only a few select are allowed to go. The risk is this will either be the person you spend the rest of your life with or you will never talk to them again. That is what we risk when we choose to love, when we let ourselves care for someone and allow them to care for us in return. 

All of this is enough to make our head spin. It is no wonder we live in a world that chooses lust over love. It is no wonder we choose to disconnect our emotion and our heart from our touch. It is no wonder we can kiss and never feel a thing. I know we were not designed to live like this. Something feels wrong when learn to separate our emotion from our actions. I don’t have a solution to this problem. I can’t say some magical line that will click in the minds of the masses for us to realize what we are doing. I wish more than anything that this was an easy fix. That this thing we call “love” was easy. We pass along our hurt to one another. When you decide to walk away you also make the decision to bury the heart of the person behind you. A man walks away from commitment and leaves a woman with a hard heart. And those two who took a small chance to open up their heart for just a moment both leave with a scar. Then, some time later, they each find another and repeat. Once again, they receive a scar and leave a scar. But this is not how it is suppose to be. And we know it.

We are made to love. We are created to have this unexplainable connection between us and another human being. We are designed to commit ourselves to someone else. We weren’t created to fear, or lust, or run, or hide but to love. But we choose fear over love because we believe by doing so we are protecting ourselves and others when in reality our heart just takes another hit.

We know love is supposed to be beautiful. We know love is supposed to conquer all and encourage us in our endeavors. We know love is supposed to be the thing that holds the moving pieces together, brings peace to the storms, and draw us closer to one another. We know love is supposed to bring out the best in us and drive us to do the most powerful things. We know love is supposed to be a daring adventure and make us smile until our stomachs are sore. We know love is a beautiful mess. So why do we hurt more than we heal?

The reason for so much hurt is we aren’t willing to do what is required of true love. You want to love? This is what it takes! You’re tired of this fake selfish “love”? This is what it takes! You say the words “I love you” … do you really? Because this is what it takes! 

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

   Love never gives up. 
   Love cares more for others than for self. 
   Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. 
   Love doesn’t strut, 
   Doesn’t have a swelled head, 
   Doesn’t force itself on others, 
   Isn’t always “me first," 
   Doesn’t fly off the handle, 
   Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, 
   Doesn’t revel when others grovel, 
   Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, 
   Puts up with anything, 
   Trusts God always, 
   Always looks for the best, 
   Never looks back, 
   But keeps going to the end. Love never dies. (MSG) 

Following the rules of love doesn't mean it comes without pain and vulnerability. This list is hard and we are selfish people. Of course there will be some pain, some tears, some molding, shaping and changing of our hearts. No doubt this will be the most difficult and rewarding thing your heart will ever do. Don’t love too soon and don’t wait until it is too late. Know what is required of you before you love and require the same in return. Fight for the real deal because love is the most beautiful thing on this planet. 

Rachel Fenimore
don't be frustrated. be faithful.

Have you ever felt stuck waiting on God? Waiting on Him to move, change someones heart, change your own heart, change a situation, open a door, close a door, provide an opportunity…I could go on. Today I am reminded of Exodus, adversity, and the glory of God. 

Exodus 7:1-5

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.”

Moses really had a play by play from God, something I wish I had so many times. The Lord tells him “just say what I tell you, Pharaoh won’t corporate but I will shake everything up so everyone will see my glory and then you all can go.” Sounds simple enough.

As I read this I can’t help but think of my own life. How many times have I read about the promises of God but my circumstances are not lining up? I am praying, reading the Word, receiving counsel but doors are closing, people are not cooperating, and I am not receiving the promise of the Lord or the answer to my prayers. As I let my frustration, impatience, and hurt sink in I hear the Lord speak:

Sometimes I hold situations back and I hold peoples tongues to make way for my glory, perfect plan, and goodness in your life. I am protecting you and providing for you. This will reflect my glory in your life more than you can imagine. Do you see it? Do you perceive it? See, I am doing a NEW thing. Don’t be frustrated. Be faithful.

Just because I don’t see the fulfillment of all of God’s promises at my ripe old age of 28 doesn’t mean for a second He won’t fulfill His promises to completion in my life. Just because doors close doesn’t mean God isn’t in the process of opening another. I am humbled today and reminded I don’t have all of the answers. Just because I ask the Lord to do something specific in my life does not mean what I am asking is HIS plan, no matter how Biblical and perfect it may seem to me. 

This is not to discount my prayers or tell you not to pray for specific situations and certain people, just remember even when those things don’t come through the way you thought they should, it could be the Lord holding something back, hardening someones heart, closing doors so that HIS perfect plan and glory be accomplished in your life. It hurts. It really hurts. Sometimes you feel overlooked, unwanted, unworthy; surely this isn’t the plan of the Lord, it hurts too bad. What if your hurt is protection from something even more severe? What if your hurt is preparing you to accept the perfect gift coming your way? What if your hurt is an avenue for the glory of God to shine through you even brighter? 

I can’t think of a situation yet where I have seen the Lord’s faithfulness where I can say I wish He would have done it differently or my plan was better and yet I still sit here frustrated with the waiting, with the unknown. I am here trusting my unknown future to a known God and while I know this is the most perfect place to put my trust I still feel like my world is falling apart. Even through my tears I reluctantly turn my uncertainty back to the Lord, He still comforts me and is abundantly faithful. 

Rachel Fenimore
love yourself.

Confidence is a funny thing. We haven't found that perfect balance between being arrogant or critical of ourselves and no matter where we find ourselves someone will always tell us to be more of the other. I tend to be overly critical of myself and I think many of those who are accused of being arrogant may fall into this category as well, more than we may think. 

Why am I so critical of myself? Why have I allowed Instagram to define beauty and proceed to rate where I fall on this imaginary scale? Why have I let men tell me who and who not to be? Why have I assumed lack of encouragement from others equates to me not being good enough? And honestly, what all does this look like biblically? I put this question last because unfortunately this tends to be the order of my thought process. 

"For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." - Ephesians 2:10

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." - 1 Peter 2:9

"Love your neighbor as yourself." - Matthew 22:39

I have taken these scriptures and applied them to others. I am good at loving others. I want to give and serve until I am fresh out of energy. I am excited to see God's chosen people as I travel the world and especially while I am doing ministry. I find it much easier to get excited about others being God's special possession than it is for me to see myself as God's special possession.

Today God woke me up to remind me to love myself. "Love your neighbor as yourself." Most people quote this scripture assuming people love themselves great so we are to love others just as great. But I think God is also telling us we must first love ourselves before loving others. I can't fully express something I haven't experienced. It's like someone who has never been to Paris, looking at a photo and describing Paris to someone else who has never been. It is incomplete. I need to come back to the understanding of what Christ did for ME on that cross. I need a refreshing of God's calling and purpose on MY life first because from that fullness I can describe the love of Christ with such detail and depth because I know it first hand.

How do we balance loving ourselves in a non-arrogant way? How do I love myself well? Let's reverse the scripture. Love yourself as you love your neighbor. I love others because Christ loves them. I know he saved them and I have grace and mercy toward them because I know that is a godly response to their actions. They are human. They may let me down but I extend forgiveness because Christ asked me to extend forgiveness.

So I must also extend grace, mercy, and forgiveness to myself. Not because I am a great person but because God is a great God and I am his child created in his image just like those I see around me. I can't love others well if I am not healthy - body, mind, and spirit. If I am upset with myself I can take it out on others. If I am frantic or angry with myself I may also be frantic and angry with those around me. 

You should go and love yourself. Take care of yourself in a practical way. Take a yoga class. Exercise. Use essential oils. Meditate. Breathe. Read scripture and funny books. Get godly council. Have grace for yourself. Hold a baby. Pet a puppy. Talk to a therapist. Listen to good music. Change up your diet a bit. Be still. Do nothing for 15 minutes or even 15 seconds. Unfollow those people who get you worked up. Get a massage.

Look in the mirror. Look into your own eyes. Speak the promises of God over yourself. You are lovable and valuable. You are filled with joy, strength, and hope. You are a child of God. You have purpose. You are enough. You are just who you need to be. You are a work in progress that God has already called a masterpiece. 

I want you to know, I am not writing this blog after I have learned this valuable lesson. I am writing this in the midst of this valuable lesson. I am learning today to love myself because yesterday I didn't. 

Rachel Fenimore
balance.

"How do you maintain balance in your life?"

Isn't that the question we have for everyone who "seems to have it together"? 

Balance is tough no matter what your daily looks like so here are my tips for those with a routine and also for those of us who the only thing consistent about our life is inconsistency. 

Tips to maintain balance

1. Define balance for you. Balance does not mean equal amount of traveling, parenting, gym time, office work, creativity, and blogging each day. If your life is mostly routine, look for ways to add a little spunk and adventure to the mix. If your life is mostly random, look for moments to help you feel grounded. You most likely will not have an equal amount of routine and spontaneity but you can achieve balance between these two extremes. Live in one of these worlds and add splashes of the other.

2. Prioritize. We are not designed to go 100% on 100 different activities. We don't like to admit it but sometimes somethings gotta give. Write down the things you want to give 100% to in the order you wish to give to them. Also prioritize the things that fall lower on your list. We fill our extra time with activities that don't benefit us or that we don't particularly enjoy much more than we think. 

3. Do your best and don't be so hard on yourself. Don't be so afraid of failure that you don't try the things you really want to do. I am just one of the millions of bloggers out there and it took me way too long to actually publish this blog. Do the things you love and do your best at them. Once you start over criticizing yourself and comparing yourself to others, the things you once loved are no longer enjoyable and the balance is off. 

4. Define your wants and needs - keep your needs list smallSometimes there is only a slight difference between the two but it can make all the difference. What are the things you truly need in order to flourish? What are the things you really want that may help you flourish in the most important areas of your life? 

small, practical things you can do to maintain balance

1. Declutter. Get rid of clothes you don't wear, clean out the junk drawer, unsubscribe from emails you keep deleting.

2. Make small changes and goals. Switch from coffee to tea. Hold the cheese on a sandwich. Don't add salt. Drink more water. Go to bed an hour earlier. Take the stairs. If you don't have an hour to go to the gym, just run for 20 mins. We have a tendency to focus on big life goals that take years to accomplish. Making small, daily attainable goals makes us feel successful and motivates us to do more.

3. Multitask. Call a friend while you drive (hands free of course). Listen to an audio book while you workout. Check your email while you use the bathroom (I know you already do this one). Maximize the time you have.

4. Create to-do lists and keep a calendar. Make yourself a to-do list so when you have 5 minutes here and there you can use that time well instead of wasting it on something else. Keeping a calendar will show you have more free time than you think. Schedule what to do in that free time so you don't blow it on something useless. 

It doesn't always work out perfectly. I struggle with wanting to explore other places more and wanting to be in better shape. I don't really have a home church, which is actually really hard for me. I have lazy days, off days, and completely unproductive days. But I've realized, balance isn't about finding perfection but about embracing life's adventures and mysteries the best way we can. 

Rachel FenimoreComment
beautiful worship.

A dim church service. Eyes are closed. Hands are raised. The strum of an acoustic guitar. Voices singing songs of worship. This is what most of us think when we think of worship, am I right? But what about this…

“Then Moses presented the ram to the LORD for the burnt offering. Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the ram's head, and Moses slaughtered it. Then Moses took the ram’s blood and splattered it against all sides of the alter. Then he cut the ram into pieces, and he burned the head, some of its pieces, and the fat on the alter. After washing the internal organs and the legs with water, Moses burned the entire ram on the alter as a burnt offering. It was a pleasing aroma, a special gift presented to the Lord, just as the Lord commanded him.” Leviticus 8:18-21

Disgusting, I know! But what if worship wasn’t all about the fancy songs and the good music? When we hear the word worship we think of something beautiful, usually a song. Worship is not just about our mind or our emotions and just like us, worship may not always feel great. Worship is an act of communication with God. It doesn't have to be beautiful, showy, public, or emotional. It is giving God the contents of our heart, which may be the dirtiest part of our lives. 

Obviously that scripture was from the Old Testament and no one worships by cutting up a ram now, but it shows us that worship may not always be beautiful. Most of the time it is sacrificial. 

Sacrifices require work, tears, and change. They require giving up something - an animal, like in the Old Testament, or maybe a habit, like now. We are creatures of habit. We continue to do something no matter how bad it hurts us. But once we realize we need to give it up, it seems like giving it up hurts more than hanging onto it.

God wants our heart. The dirty, the bad, the smelly, the pure, the hard, and whatever else may be in a heart because it is a pleasing aroma, a special gift presented to the Lord, just as the Lord commanded. Giving up our heart is a sacrifice, no matter who you give it to. It takes love, commitment, and yourself. 

Worship is giving yourself to God. You may be giving Him the good with a heart of thankfulness or maybe you've have hit rock bottom and you’re giving Him everything that is left so he can lift you up. Or like most, you are somewhere in between. You have your good days and you have your bad days and you just take each as a part of life. Instead, thank God for the good and pray through the bad. He may take your hand and walk you through the fire, He may pluck you from it, or He may extinguish the fire all together. How He works is still a mystery to me. 

Music is a part of worship. Songs help us to relay the contents or desires of our heart. But the music is not the worship. The worship is how you communicate with God while the music is playing.

Worship requires sacrifice - sacrifice requires death, which is not a beautiful thought. In the Old Testament it was the death of an animal, now it is the death of ourselves and our will in order to take on God and His will. But we are only dying to ourselves to gain what God has, which is beautiful.

Rachel Fenimore Comment
the question that cannot be answered.

When I was a little girl I was curious about everything and not much has changed. I would go to my friends saying, “Did you know there is a question that can never be answered?” Usually that question was followed by curious eyes or blank faces. “It’s the question ‘Why’?” Growing up my grandpa would tell me something and I would respond with “Why?!” He would answer my question, but again I would respond with “Why?!” After about 10 why’s he would look at me with frustration and respond, “Nothing why!” I would smile because no one could answer my question. 

But why? Why can no one answer the question why? The statement used to answer the question why can always be followed by another why, which can present an extremely frustrating situation for those of us who are particularly curious. 

I begin my usual walk on Sunday afternoon. About halfway through I decide to sit along the edge of the pond in the middle of my neighborhood and rest. Not because I was tired from walking, but to rest from busy, ordinary, routine, apathy, disappointment, frustration - life. My eyes are soon drawn to a beautiful plant by my foot. I simply think to myself, “Oh how pretty,” and continue to allow my eyes to wander. Then that question pops up: Why? Why is this plant so beautiful? Like a child, I dig until I find an answer. So that is literally what I do. I dig up the plant only to find a disgusting root. Not a surprise since I am quite aware that plants have roots, but I continue to dig into the mind of God. Why? Why is this root disgusting? It is covered in dirt, hidden, and possibly one of the most unattractive elements of nature, yet it is the one thing that produces everything beautiful we see. 

Faith. God simply responds with the word Faith. I often wonder how I can come up with such complex questions and God can respond with one word. Of course I am not satisfied with this simply answer. Faith? Why? Why Faith? Then it begins to come together.

If everything in life was beautiful, if every aspect of us was beautiful - what would be the purpose of Faith? Why would we need Faith? There is a reason why we lack in some areas, why good and bad things happen to us, and why we have struggles. If we did not, why would we need God? If I understood everything, Faith would be unnecessary and actually non existent. We would have nothing to believe in - no hope. We would have nothing bigger than ourselves to reach toward.

That is why God invented this unanswerable question. It constantly gives us something to follow, to seek. We will always be able to ask the question why and at times He will answer and then we will wonder about something else. I believe that is why he created the universe so vast and the ocean so deep. We will always be curious and always seek in order to pull closer to the heart of God. “Seek Me and you will find Me when you seek Me with all of your heart.” We will find God, but that question why is there to keep us seeking - to keep us searching. God loves when we long for Him. We must recognize we have something lacking in our life and we must trust Him to fill it - and there will always be something. "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." But in this journey of life, never loose sight of the question. Keep asking. Keep searching. Draw near to God. Do not hold on to your life and try to figure it out on your own. It will never work. Have Faith and trust the One who created you. 

Realize like that plant, the most beautiful aspects of your life usually come from something seemingly insignificant and ugly. If our beauty came from a problem it had to be God who intervened. This search is evident in nature - a plant constantly supplied with everything it needs right when it needs it has an extremely shallow root system. But a plant that must search deep into the ground to find what it needs has a thick, deep root system. Our strength comes from our lack. In order for us to become stronger, we must strive for what we need.

Talk to Him today. Ask Him a few questions. You will never have all of the answers but that is the point where you realize what an amazing God we serve. Your finite mind cannot even conceive everything about Him. Why? Faith. Trust. We have to understand we cannot be in control and we cannot answer all the questions. We were not meant to have all of the answers. Why? 

Because He is God. 

Rachel FenimoreComment