Rachel Jenae

2017 Year in Review

If there was any year that feels like it marked me it was this one. This year felt like a line in the sand that I had to step over. No choice, but to let go and move forward. Things I’d held onto for years – principles, practices – I had to release. Release and trust. Trust that God’s grace is what holds me much more than my self-discipline and determination. He would finish what He began and all those things I was letting go of were simply part of us journeying together.

This year was one of the first years that I didn’t hear God speak much vision to my heart for the year. Maybe it’s because I couldn’t receive it even if He had. January seemed quiet. My heart felt still for the first time in a long time too. It was really my only option. I was grieving things that would never be and trying to keep moving forward, but it wasn’t time for that either. I was grieving relationships, grieving family dynamics, grieving the last two years and decisions I’d made that I was now paying for physically, grieving change and the lack thereof. The last two years of being strong and holding things in were now coming out.  We were never meant to carry this stuff, but we so often try to. Oh for the grace of God.

I started 2017 trying to get my bearings. That’s never how I hope a year will kick off. 2016 ended with changes and they were far from over!  I was still settling into my new role and team, and our church organization was heading into a very new season as well. The fog I’d felt since transitioning lingered into the Fall, and by Christmas I felt a fearful question creeping in, “Is my achiever broken”. This may sound funny to any non-achievers, but it felt quite scary in the moment. Every time I tried to rev up the engines to ignite achiever I found there was no fuel there. It was more empty than I had realized and possibly even broken (if that was such a thing).  Assuring myself that it would just take a little more time, I let myself off the hook to rest a bit more.

But the funny thing about a lifetime of achieving is that you think everyone else expects the same thing from you that you have learned to expect of yourself – the bar always going higher, the list always getting longer, the plates to juggle always increasing in number – but when God directs a man to hire you that does not care about your achieving and instead hired you for who you, you realize it is not the expectations of others that are driving you, but your own fear of inadequacy or something of the like.  It was the hard reality that I hadn’t learned to be ok with me quite yet. I wanted to be, but the truth is old habits die hard and letting go of achieving felt like something was being broken in me, or bet yet, dying. My identity was so woven around that way of living that I began to feel fractured. Who was I if I wasn’t achieving? I forced everyone around me to achieve as well – trying to put them under the same weight I felt – under the same impossible task list, the same perfectionism – so they would be as miserable as I was. It’s what I knew. It’s what was familiar. And I hated it about myself at the same time. This would be my 2017 wrestle.

Words over 2017 were few, but I grasped onto them like fresh hope. I’d heard “new beginnings are coming” in the summer of 2016, and they were happening all around me, but not the new ones I really wanted. I felt strongly this would be a year of activation, reconstruction, rebuilding, but with a broken achiever I wasn’t sure how any of that would happen. But timing is everything and I knew God was stripping away old things in order to reconstruct/rebuild according to His plans and purposes, not my own. Prophetically, I felt there would be a new grace to step into my calling, but if I’m honest my “calling” felt hazy too. “Expect the unexpected” He whispered. While I couldn’t see much, there’s one thing I’ve learned year after year, if nothing else, I can simply believe Him. So that’s what I started declaring when I could see nothing else, “I believe You.”

Joshua 1:1-9 was a passage I couldn’t get away from. It’s always been such an encouraging passage, but this time it scared me. I felt weak and broken and without courage. I kept trying to muster it up – kept trying to find it in places I’d found it before. Performance, discipline, routine, success – but this time I felt stripped bare with no crutches to find my inspiration. And maybe for the first time I could actually identify with Joshua.

Get going. The time has come. Cross this river. I’m giving you every place your foot steps. Just. As. I. Promised. I am with you. I won’t leave you. I won’t give up on you. Have strength. Have courage. You’ll inherit what I promised your ancestors. Carry out My Word. Don’t get off track. Practice the Word. And you’ll get where you’re going. Success is yours. Don’t be timid. Don’t get discouraged. I AM is with you.

January kicked off with a great trip to California with a few friends.  We visited Redding and Bethel church and had a grand 4-day weekend. It’s not a big city, but with lakes and mountains to explore, great coffee and a tour of Bethel Music – it was

I returned and shortly thereafter started having extreme pain in my right foot and ribs coming out in near my shoulder blades. I had to major scale back my workouts. These ribs continued to come out for the next 3 months along with a major right hip pain.  Working out came to standstill.  One more reminder that I was not going to achieve and perform this year – even for myself.

This friend got hitched!

My 35th birthday came with a sweet dinner with all of these friends. I’ve known them all for so long now that it’s hard to remember life before them. I’m grateful for each of them and the fun, depth, laughter, spontaneity, and so much more that they bring into my life.

I chopped my hair off and it felt like a declaration that I was ready to let go of even good things. 

I hosted the sweetest young adults group at my house and worship and food and laughter erupted. I had no idea what a gift this group would be. More people came than I ever expected and the worship times were oh so sweet. One night while waiting on the Lord in worship I realized I was waiting on someone else to hear from the Lord and speak up and God spoke almost audibily to my spirit and said, “If I’m going to speak to anyone, it’s going to be you. I put you as the leader of this group and it’s your home. Step into the mantle of leadership I’m giving you.” It was clear and I felt a very real shift in my heart/mind in my confidence of leading from then on.

I wrote a fun article for our Gateway Life magazine

I started reading a table magazine called Cultivate that couldn’t have come along at a better time and it led me to start asking God for a few very specific things:

  • Unlock my heart and emotions
  • Take the cap off my creativity (right brain)
  • Worship like never before – it’s time for wreckless abandon in worship

At the end of March I attended a retreat for 18 women who would all be apart of the leadership for REFRESH – an online women’s community and yearly retreat. My old bible school friend, Sarah Birkbeck, invited me to be apart and though I wouldn’t fully understand until later, this group of women was a much bigger answer to prayer than I knew. The leader’s retreat stunned me. These women were all so powerful and spoke so much encouragement into me. I felt like I was standing amidst mighty warriors that were hidden from the world.

April and May were tense days at work as we all prepared for layoffs.  It was a necessary season, and one I watched in awe of our leadership as they navigated the practical and heart-felt burden of caring for every person on staff. I held my job with open hands ready to stay or go. My boss transitioned to another campus and our department was put another a new executive, so more change began as we figured out how to navigate with less staff.

But there was also a lot of writing in April/May. I find that the hard places and seasons are where words find their way to the surface best. Deep places are stirred out of those times and their expression helps the soul find rest in the middle of it all. No answers. No quick fixes. Just being heard and seen and helping the head and heart connect amidst this world’s pain and suffering. They are like sweet honey on bitter days. You can read some of those thoughts here, here, here and here.

Summer in Texas can be wonderful or horrible depending on the heat, but this year it took it easy on us. We had a lot of fun outside/pool young adult activities and lots of grilling out with friends.

I had a quick visit from these faces.

In July I prepared to go out to Redding, CA for two weeks to attend a two week worship school at Bethel Church. The whole trip was wonderful – in the best way! So much amazing teaching, worship and new friendships. I stayed with 4 girls that felt like kindred spirits. I met so many new people at WorshipU and I felt something in me coming alive that had felt asleep for some time. God spoke so much to my heart on creativity and empowerment. I came home with pages and pages of what He was whispering to my heart over those two weeks. You can see a collection of photos in Redding here and other thoughts here.

These people popped down to Redding for a quick visit too.

Returning home was not at all what I expected or hoped. It was a fight. Within the week of returning the ribs in my shoulder started coming out again causing a lot of pain. Then two weeks later I found I had bronchitis. I was in the busiest time of year at work – planning our yearly Young Adults Weekend retreat, but I only made it to work about every other day for the next 7 weeks. It was brutal and the ache of my lunges and muscles was excruciating. Anxiety got the best of me during that time for more than just work, but I was exhausted. Slow Jams was right. And right about that same time a dear friend sent me this gift unbeknownst to her all that I was walking through. It was mid-October before I was really feeling good again. I made it through our Young Adults Weekend and Gateway Conference to then get away on my yearly Denver trip and finally got to meet Oakley. Colorado was beautiful as always in the fall and I finally made it down to Co. Springs to see Garden of the Gods as well.

As always, my trip to Denver provided lots of down time for writing and reflecting. I was weary. It had been a hard fall but I could see where things could have been much worse. I could see the breakthroughs all along the way. I was weary but hopeful. God spoke so many little reminders on that trip:

  • Breakthrough is coming for your weary heart.
  • Lean in. Press onward.
  • Keep worshiping.
  • Don’t revert to old habits.
  • Find His new habits for the new season.
  • Sing your way through and eventually out.
  • His presence is what heals and rests your heart and mind.
  • He’s for you.

At this point my year was in the home stretch. Christmas parties were in full swing. I started dating a great guy in November and he’s already shown me so much of God’s heart and my own. While I’m not sure what the future holds for us, I’m enjoying the journey as it unfolds.

We spent Thanksgiving in Illinois visiting family and then Christmas was at my parents with half the crew.

And I can’t believe how grown-up these two are looking.

It took me a long time to want to write about this year. It was nothing I hoped for, but I’m sure everything I needed. Redding was easily the highlight of the year. Oh and a small promotion I haven’t been able to talk about until now. Right before Thanksgiving I was promoted to being an Associate Pastor over Young Adults. It was something I’d had on my heart most of the year, but didn’t think was an option. As my boss told me the news we also talked about letting go – letting go of the old and stepping into the new. A theme I’d heard all year. I’d been in media and marketing for the last 7 years and loved it, but it was a new season and time to step into new things. As my boss prayed over me I felt God shifting things in my head and heart. He was setting me into this new position of leadership and all I could do was cry.  God had been working behind the scenes on this one for a long time and I was just getting caught up.

I’m not sad to see 2017 go, but in all it’s refining opportunities I’m utterly grateful for all that transpired. It’s not a year I’ll soon forget. Most of these photos feel like a decade ago! It was a rich year of personal growth and learning. A hard year of letting go and pruning. A grace-filled year of rest (sometimes forced). And while I felt in a cloudy haze most the year in regards to knowing what God was doing, I’ve seen His peace hold me steady and guide me. That cloud has slowly lifted to reveal beautiful surprises to end the year.

Friends, He’s faithful. He’s good and even when we can’t see, trust His goodness. Let go and then let go of some more and run to Him with all your fears. His perfect love will deal with it all.

My prayer for all of you is that 2018 would be a year of restoration. A year where He opens your eyes in new and fresh ways to the hope of His calling. You are dearly and overwhelmingly loved by a good, good Father.