Rachel Jenae

2015 Year in Review

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I’ve tried to think of just one word that sums up 2015, but it feels like 3 years packed into one and with it multiple seasons in each. Discovery. Adventure. Hope. Courage. Maturing. Waiting. Freedom. Mountains. Gifts. Favor. Not the gifts and favor you usually ask for, but the kind that you know will last forever and produce a life you couldn’t have made on your own. The best kind. So, with words for days and pictures just the same, here is 2015 in Review!

The first third of the year started with a slew of doors opening. There was this new adventure of answering questions about who I am and who I feel called to be. Somehow people had found a glimpse of my storage room of dreams, and they were trying to blow the dust off the shelves. If I’m honest, it was an incredibly vulnerable, scary process. They were poking around in a room of my heart that I had constructed in a perfectly ordered fashion and confined to a nice storage room. Everything was in order the way I had left it and it was just fine. I was fine. I only went in there to look, but not actually touch. Not that I’d actually realized this, but subconsciously this is how I was living. They were asking me to dare to take old dreams off the shelf and open-handedly place them before the Lord to see if it was time for them to be breathed on again. And of course they were asking all of this in a small timeframe, where my analyzing, controlling, figure-it-all out, keep-it-safe, mind had to just let go. Courage is what it feels like looking back, but I never felt courageous at the time. I simply felt favor that didn’t make sense. God was sending specific people to me, that didn’t even know me, to help open the door to that room, ask the right questions, and encourage – put courage in me – to go take things off the shelf again. I use to be the one who moved too quickly and way too confidently for my own good, but now I dare say God’s trying to pick up the pace and I’m dearly holding onto safety far more than I should or realize. The first third of 2015 was a season of awakening, of daring to hope again, and being incredibly encouraged.

This line from a song summed up the season well.

In early January JBU College girlfriends surprised me and came in town for my birthday weekend. It was the best surprise! I’ve now known these girls for 15 years and their consistency through the seasons means more than the distance between us. They are soul sisters through and through.

Other birthday festivities commenced as well and these friends make each year so sweet and life so rich. In early spring I took a little road trip with a dear sister friend down to Austin. We drank way too much coffee and visited way too many resale shops. With Austin’s uniqueness around every corner and deep convos and laughter always present, it was a refreshing trip to say the least.

As I mentioned, a ton of doors opened this spring, but a ton of doors also closed. Learning from each opportunity was fun and adventurous at first, but following God through each door, even when the outcome may not turn out the way you like is a process like walking a tightrope. You can only look straight ahead. If you start holding onto anything on either side that you think you want, instead of holding your hands open and simply following where God’s leading, disappointment will weigh you down. If you listen to any lies of rejection, your sure to turn back and the next door you walk through will be to a pity party that you’re sure to stay at for far too long. No, trust is your only option.  Trust the process. Trust the work being done in the process. Trust the one you’re following.

Moving into summer, university life slowed down quite a bit and our marketing department transitioned as our director moved on to another job. It felt like there was a lot of uncertainty in the air not only at work, but also at home, as my house lease was coming up.  Life was quite busy as I was in full swing planning a mission trip to Belize, seeing a natural-pathic doctor to get a few health issues sorted out and meeting with an amazing christian couple for counseling and mentoring (To tell you all about the detox I was on and the counsel I received would take a book to sum up, so I’ll just say it was the most freeing summer physically and emotionally that I didn’t know I even needed, and I’d recommend it to anyone!) Everything I was doing was great, but it was a lot. More doors continued to open with other opportunities, and as much as I wanted to be open to whatever God was doing I was too exhausted to even think about transition in any area of my life. I soon felt like I was at the end of my rope and had no vision for what God was doing, but then…

At just the perfect timing,  I had a key conversation I hope I never forget.  A man I look up to and greatly respect shared with me a very direct word that God had given him for me. He said God wanted me to stay put. That God was doing something in me in this season and if I moved I would mess it up. I was exactly where I needed to be. It was simple, but the words hit me like a load of bricks and made me sit back in my chair. God really did have me. He knew my address, my situation, and He had a plan for it all. That simple thought shifted my perspective on everything. Within two weeks, I had a promotion in my job, I had my housing situation figured out, and went on one of the best mission trips to-date, with an incredible God-picked team to Belize. Maybe those things would have happened regardless of that conversation, but I have to wonder if it was partly because of that word and in choosing to just sit back that God brought breakthrough. Isn’t God just waiting for us to take our hands off the wheel, give up control and surrender so He can say, “Ok, now watch this”? A perfectly timed word shifted everything.

Mid summer I went on a short weekend trip to NYC with a few friends. We biked Central Park, ate at a ton of cute little restaurants, went to a Broadway show, attended Hillsong NYC and hit up a few baseball games too (the Rangers beat the Yankees too!). It was a great trip!

Fun with roommates.

Parents came in town for a visit.

And finally it was time for Belize! I loved so much about this trip. The team was phenomenal. When you have a team with no drama and everyone ready to serve wherever, it’s easy to have incredible unity. That was this team. We cleaned and set up for a 3 day youth conference, put on a 2 day softball camp and tournament and played any other sport kids would come out to play. We hiked into the mountains to see a beautiful 3 tier water-fall. We played more mafia than I care to ever do again. We went door-to-door, met amazing families, heard their stories and prayed for many of them. And probably the best part was meeting a young boy named Terrence. He was completely hunched over sitting on his doorstep when we met him and we invited him to the youth conference we were having. He came to the conference and ended up having a time of prayer over him specifically. There wasn’t much improvement at the time, but over the last 6 months since we were there, Terrance has started walking and has regained more mobile skills than he’s had in years. (Here’s a short recap video on the trip and HERE’s a video of Terrence walking!)  God is doing a lot in Mango Creek, Belize and I can’t wait to go back again soon!

Belize was one of those sweet mountain-top experiences. It was a gift at the top of a mountain. I felt like I’d been climbing this huge mountain for months and getting to Belize felt like I’d reached a peak. Like I could see for miles. Like my muscles were finally feeling stronger from the climb. Like my lungs were finally catching up. The joy, the fruit, the view…it was all worth it. It was this sweet gift. Nothing I deserved and I had only barely made it after wanting to quit and turn back so many times. I hadn’t gotten here alone. He’d carried me. Then one morning I heard God whisper, “Breathe it in. There’s always a reward at the top for choosing to climb and not turn back. You’ve reached a peak, but it’s not the top. You don’t have to go higher, but if you want to I’ll lead you higher. It will get harder before it gets easier, but remember what you feel right now, cause it will always be worth it. You don’t climb in your strength, you climb in mine. When you can’t see or feel anything but the pain of the climb, remember I carried you up this far and I’ll carry you the rest the way if you choose to go.  The air will get thinner, the route will get harder, the climbers will be fewer, but it will always be worth it.” And with a braveheart-like conviction I wanted to shout, but I knew I’d wake the team still sleeping, so I whispered, the way He so often whispers to me, yes. Yes I want to go. Yes, I want to follow. Yes, I want You to keep carrying me. Not even three days after returning from that trip I realized the cost of that yes. The climb has gotten steeper. I’ve felt like I’ve slipped and failed more than succeeded, but I know He’s got me. I know He’s still carrying me and the journey with him, is better than any easy road without Him and I can’t wait to see what’s at the top.

Until next time Belize. 

And just like that fall was here and beginning of what felt like the third year within 2015. While one part of life seemed incredibly challenging, others felt like random sweet gifts. I joined quite possibly the most fun softball team ever and yet we didn’t win one game. Who knew that was even possible! If you know me, you know that I’m highly competitive, but this team taught me a lot and I laughed too much to care about anything else. #TeamProdigals with a perfect record.

Another fun addition to the fall was joining this group of ladies. Through what felt like a random invitation I was invited to join a group of young ladies growing in leadership. In a season with a lot of climbing, it was a place I found encouragement I didn’t know I needed. 

This fall I grew herbs successfully. I refinished a table my grandfather made. I started wearing hats more. Gateway Conference came and went and TKU was well represented. And worship at our GRP campus continued, but in a tent, while they refinished our sanctuary that opens early January 2016!!!  I made a quick trip up to Arkansas to see family and saw the cherubs in action. I have a hard time believing that they are already this grown up. 

Photography life was consumed in university life this year and I feel like I learned a ton and have so much more to learn. Lots of events and stories filled 2015 and I’m grateful for all of the students God continues to draw to The King’s University and to hear each of their unique stories.

And just like that the holidays were here and Christmas was in full swing with these two roommates. We decorated in mid-november (crazy, I know!) with plenty of time to enjoy it all season long.

I spent Thanksgiving with family, that you can see more of HERE, and I went home again for Christmas to spend a few days with my parents. It’s a rare treat to have them all to myself, but it was incredibly restful and full of great convos with my parents as always. The weather was perfect and the scenery was showing off, so I’ll wrap up the year with a few pics of the backwoods of Arkansas and the rest and beauty that came with it.

So what’s in store for 2016? The words I received last year couldn’t have been more right on and while themes and seasons tend to pay little attention to our calendar year, I’ve seen words continue to build and overlap into multiple years and build momentum. So I’m sure I’ll be adding to this over the next couple weeks, but here are the things I’m hearing so far:

-Hope. Faith is the substance of things hoped for. His hope will not disappoint. Dare to hope again. (Heb 11:1, Rom 5:5, Lam 3:21)

-Say yes to receiving. You can do a lot, but just say yes to receiving. Spread your arms wide like a bowl and watch what God pours into you.

-Give yourself permission to be excellent.

-This is a year to thrive. Use what the enemy tried to use against you to build an altar to glorify the Lord. Use what you do have, where you are now.

-Your miracle is here, not there, but you must first recognize what you already have. Those are the ingredients for your miracle.

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