Rachel Jenae

2016 Year in Review

2016 was the year of New Beginnings. The first half of the year raced by like I was climbing a steep mountain and the second half has been slower than I thought I knew how to walk. There’s a part of me that only wants to focus on the latter half of the year – the good, the easy, the healing – but I have learned that more growth takes place under the surface in the hard seasons. More soil being tilled, more weeds being pulled, more dead branches being pruned off – yes, while I don’t “feel” happy thoughts for those seasons, I have learned to gratefully rejoice regardless of what I see or feel. For it’s only in the seasons to follow that I gain perspective on it’s purpose. I found this post from early 2016 and it sums up the climb…

There is hope in my surrender…

Surrender and letting go can often feel painful and fearful, but when we remember who we’re letting go to – a good, good father, who has good plans for us – the surrender turns into an act of hope.

The Word God spoke to my heart to start the year was “Receive”.  To open my arms as wide as possible and lift them upward to create a large bowl in the air – that’s how I was to live this year. The fall of 2015 had sucked the life out of me at work and I’m not sure I had the energy to do much more than raise my hands in this posture. But I also knew this was a new posture that I didn’t know very well. Simply Receive. I would do my best to try.

I began the year celebrating my birthday weekend in beautiful Seattle. The air was crisp, the mountains stunning and time away with a camera in my hand was just what my heart needed.

Hope rolled in upon every dreary cloud that this year was going to be special. “Open your arms wide like a bowl and say yes to receiving,” He whispered. Could it really be that easy?

Sweet friends threw me a birthday dinner and my wonderful roommate Esther made the best cake! A year fails to go by where I’m not overwhelmed with gratitude for the rich friendships in my life. They are iron-sharpening, joy-reminding, gifts I am continually in awe of. I also received four journals for my birthday, which never happens, and I knew God was promptly me to write more. 

In February I was asked to teach a class as part of a 6-week class on relationships. I was very hesitant, but it was more than clear that this was an opportunity God was setting me up for. I told a friend how much teaching in the class made me squirm – not out of nerves, but the subject: singleness. It was clear that sharing my story down right scared me and I knew there was something deeper there. Shame. Lurking around my apprehension was a deep rooted shame I’d started to believe about my story that needed uncovered. That marriage equaled all the good things and singleness did not and there is where God confronted it all. He was whispering again, but this time setting me free from something I had no idea had held me captive. “Loosen your grip on your dreams and open your hands to receive what God has today – He can hold onto all He’s put in your heart. He’s not withholding – but always giving, always delighting in you. Open your hands.”

I was finally able to put some of what God showed me into a post HERE.  This is easily one of the most impactful words He’s ever spoken to me and I know will be something I refer to repeatedly.

God wanted to be their King. He wanted to be the one to fight for them- to protect them. But they demanded their own way.

This friend got hitched!

One of my favorite people came through Dallas for a quick trip. Leah is a bosom friend from college and a kindred spirit.Then per usual, we had our JBU Girls Trip weekend. This year it was in Omaha, Nebraska and much colder than anticipated. 

Somewhere around this same time I did a little thing. It’s a first and feels like a life mantra to never forget. Only a couple months after getting this a man I didn’t know at all gave me a word about living a life that hands out hope like candy. Little did he know how much I hoped to do just that!

I spent Easter at my parents with some of the family together. 

Then I had a quick visit from my other sister-in-love and niece. 

I started dealing with some extreme neck pain during March that I knew was my body reacting to the intense stress I was living in daily. I knew I needed to clean off my plate and reprioritize some things. Work demanded a lot of me, but I demanded even more of myself and that standard was never met and never enough. I was my worst critique and worst slave driver. My body couldn’t live under these demands and was showing it’s restraint. I knew the Holy Spirit was asking me to let the walls down. Choose vulnerability again. Choose grace and mercy. Choose intentionally and lean in instead of pull away when things get hard. Change only comes if things change and things needed to change. The question was two-fold, maybe I needed to change my surroundings, but more than that I needed to change me – or I knew I’d take all of this with me into the new.

I’ve stayed involved with worship and love the opportunity to be apart of this team. 

Photography stayed a constant – at work and of my feet ;)

During the month of April God spoke so much to my heart. He told me it was a year of breakthrough and new beginnings. Ceilings were becoming floors. He began to speak to my heart about recovering and restoring what only He could. He started giving me hints on what to write about and used others to encourage me along the way. God was delivering me through a hard season, not simply out.

May was a fun month. I reflected on it being my 14 year anniversary since moving to Texas, which was hard to believe. I heard God say it represented a completion of sorts and new beginnings were to follow. Transition was coming.

I also spent the month getting ready for a much anticipated trip to Zambia. I’d heard about an opportunity to go through an organization called Family Legacy where I could go work with their summer camp program and also learn more about their sponsorship program. Preparing had been seamless until I had a scary online encounter that shook me at my core and caused me to rethink my trip. I was panic stricken and not sure how to move forward, but you can read about all of that here and how God walked me into wide open spaces like only He can.

This organization blew me away with their sustainability model and the way they are changing a nation from the inside out – providing jobs, a great education and raising up leaders to lead this country in a new direction. Not to mention that my time working with the summer camp program was life changing. I had 10 beautiful 10 year-olds under my care all week and each day we laughed, danced and even cried together. Their smiles and personalities pulled at parts of my heart I didn’t know existed. I wrote about the entire experience more HERE and HERE.

Returning from Zambia was a whirlwind of emotions. Jumping back into the speed of life in America is always hard. Encountering such needs and little humans who are desperate for your love and care and now returning back to the blessings of abundance and 9-5 security and the wrestle that lies within it all. Every time I step outside this country’s borders I am given the opportunity to holy recalibration. To let go, to slow down, to embrace contentment and to be reminded that I have been blessed to be a blessing.

The biggest thing God spoke to me on this trip was through a simple word from the girl I was rooming with. One morning she shared what God was speaking to her about Isaiah 43.  Up to this point I’m not sure I could have told you anything about that passage or if I’d really ever read it, but it stopped me in my tracks. God had been speaking to me so much over the last two months about “new” and now He was giving me a word straight from His Word.

June would be the beginning of the “new”. New beginnings. 

A position opened up for me to transition back to Gateway to work with our Young Adults ministry.  It happened very quickly, but was very clear God was opening the door at this specific time and I was excited for the opportunity. For the last 8 years I’d been working in corporate world, doing marketing and support media at Gateway, but this was a shift back to ministry.  I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say I was also apprehensive. I felt confident in my skills and left brain, but a good part of my new role still allowed me to do those things, so it felt like a win-win.

The pace was the biggest transition of all. I had no idea how burnt out I really was at TKU. It’s strange to look back now and see the fog I was in mentally. I felt as if all engines had come to a complete stop in my mind and were steaming. But like with any new job the first three months are acclimating and I knew I had time to rest a bit.

I kicked off my first garden and boy did my green thumb surprise me!

There were lots of other fun events this year – weddings of dear friends, my roommate Esther finishing up her masters and baseball games and all the things!

Finished out the year with this team – the best team. 

In late July we celebrated the legacy of my grandfather (my mom’s dad).  My grandmother had passed almost 3 years earlier and it was bitter sweet to all gather together in his honor of joining her. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much – not out of grief, but out of overwhelming gratitude. I was asked to speak at the memorial and while I hope it was beautiful and honoring, I struggled to stay composed through it all as I shared about building on his legacy.  The word I’d heard earlier in the year was a now a tangible reality – ceilings of one generation were floors for the next. The full speech can be found HERE.

August was full of encouragement. Words of hope and trust were spoken to my heart at our yearly church presbytery. And I finally put words to the New Season I felt God calling me into.

I took a fun trip to Bentonville, Arkansas with my friend Lauren to explore on a long weekend and make some new memories. We drank tons of coffee, ate good food and laughed a ton – what more could we want!

The Fall was FULL…as always. I’ve come to fully expect and prepare for a busy fall and plan the rest of my year accordingly. The church-world is very busy in the fall with conferences, retreats and holiday breaks.

I made my annual trip to Denver and enjoyed it as always. I saw my friend Leah, who’s expecting her first. I explored more coffee shops and did more writing and head-clearing. I saw my friend Diana in Ft. Collins. And I did a fun photoshoot with a new friend Lisa.

I also led a trip down to Louisiana where there was horrible flooding and naively endangered my entire team by exposing them to asbestos. We prayed, I laughed through my teeth and we helped lots of people. This couple barely made it out of flood waters and we spent the day hearing their stories.

We had our annual Gateway Young Adults Weekend (retreat) and over 300 came to join us for a weekend of powerful worship, teaching and lots of fun. I also enjoyed one of the most magical evenings at a lantern festival! If you have the opportunity, you must go!

The holidays were wonderful and we added a new niece to the Tankersley crew.  Meet Adeline Tankersley. Then I got to spend Christmas with my Tankersley grandparents and catching up with them. My grandmother has already been moved into a nursing home for more care and support, but they’re both doing well.

All in all 2016 was a year of new beginnings just like God said. I am in awe of all that He did and walked me through. Zambia was a trip that was the greatest gift and perfectly timed. My heart for adoption growing deeper. I entered into rest the second half of the year and from my laid back boss, to my new job, to things going on in our organization – it all reinforced that it was not time to run, but rest.  God’s doing a brand new thing and I must learn to let go so I can follow.