Behind the Scenes

 

 

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Photos by Sweetlife Photography (www.lovethesweetlife.com)

I will never forget the wisdom passed on to us during a very difficult time, from very close friends.  Jake and Anna came to visit us in the hospital the day Maya was born (and would take her newborn pictures a week later!  If you’re in the Portland area and in need of photographers, they are truly the BEST in the biz and you won’t be sorry you hired them!).  It was the day before she began experiencing complications and had to be transferred to the NICU.  The next few days that followed were a blur of doctors, little sleep, tubes and tests for our little girl.  I don’t think I’ve cried so much in my life, yet I don’t think I’ve ever felt so supported and cared for in all my life.  People all over the country were praying for our sweet Maya, and our church community (which Jake and Anna were a big part of) was right there along side us the whole way.
0512_Liilard-Maya_37I remember talking to them afterwards, explaining how the doctors really couldn’t find anything and somehow Maya just kept improving enough to the point where they sent us home.

We were amazed at all the drama that ensued only to lead us to the doctor’s prognosis of “I guess she just decided to puke green stuff.  It’s odd, we don’t know why, but she’s okay.”  And she was.  Even though generally a newborn who is less than 24 hours old and has not swallowed meconium should not constantly projectile vomit bright green (we were told most likely she had an intestinal blockage and would possibly need immediate surgery), she suddenly began slowly holding down milk and spitting up much more normal colored spit up.  She no longer gagged all day long.  By day four, we were about ready to be discharged…  This time WITH a baby!0512_Liilard-Maya_56

“I guess it was a fluke thing,” I remember David and I telling Jake and Anna one afternoon.  “She just stopped vomiting green, and it became like normal baby spit up,” we continued.  “It must have just been a really weird fluke thing.”

Then Jake said something I will never forget.

“You don’t know that,” he said, looking at Maya.  “You had a loooot of people praying.  You never know what God was up to behind the scenes.”

It was as if a light bulb went off in my head.

Wisdom, straight up!

This has become one of my life’s mantras, no joke.  We seriously don’t know what God is up to behind the scenes.  We do know that He is good (Psalm 116:5), He loves us (Romans 5:8) and has plans to give us a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).  He is sovereign (just close your eyes and turn to any psalm, you will see “Oh Sovereign Lord” written on every other one!), His purpose prevails above all (Proverbs 19:21) and all things can be used for his glory (John 9:1-3).  He is at work even when we can’t see (Numbers 22:31)!

0512_Liilard-Maya_02Krista already shared about Elisha the prophet and his assistant when they were being chased by the King of Aram.  When surrounded by the king’s army, the young man trembled in fear.  Yet God opened his eyes and he saw far more of the Lord’s army ready to fight than the King of Aram’s.  God was working behind the scenes, and when He allowed the man’s eyes to open, suddenly everything changed.  The king’s army was the same, but the circumstances were substantially different.

The same kind of thing happened with Balaam in Numbers 22.  He was frustrated that his donkey would not do what he was commanding it so he began beating the poor animal!  Little did he know that the Lord was working behind the scenes…

31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the roadway with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam bowed his head and fell face down on the ground before him.

32 “Why did you beat your donkey those three times?” the angel of the Lord demanded. “Look, I have come to block your way because you are stubbornly resisting me. 33 Three times the donkey saw me and shied away; otherwise, I would certainly have killed you by now and spared the donkey.”

34 Then Balaam confessed to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned. I didn’t realize you were standing in the road to block my way. I will return home if you are against my going.”

God can still do this today.  He may or may not open our eyes to physically see what He is up to– he may or may not invite us into the script to know exactly what it is He’s up to– but we can be assured He still works behind the scenes.

As Perry Noble would say in his book Overwhelmed, “It may be time to stop praying, ‘God, get me out of this’ and begin praying, ‘Jesus, let me see You.'” (p. 81).

It is a peaceful, all consuming, overwhelming, ABUNDANT feeling to truly know that God is working behind the scenes on our behalf.

It is also incredibly life giving, gracious, and precious beyond words to have friends who speak wisdom into our lives, even in the hardest of times.  We are so thankful for Jake and Anna’s friendship.  And they take pretty amazing photos too :).

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***This post is not sponsored by Sweetlife photography; all these opinions are purely my own.  Like I mentioned, if you live in the pacific northwest and need photography for any reason, these guys will beyond impress you.  Not only are they incredibly talented, but they are so. much. fun. You won’t be disappointed!  Check them out at www.lovethesweetlife.com

An Excerpt

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Often I will thumb back over my journal and read and re-read what God’s done in my life. I think it’s a cool way of remembering how He moves and writes the storyline of my life.  The following is a short excerpt from my journal…  While I wouldn’t normally post a personal entry from my journal, reading back on this from a few weeks ago I couldn’t help but think it could possibly be an encouragement to someone else.  I hope whatever it is you are facing, you will remember and see freshly how God works on our behalf!  Thank you all for coming along with me on this journey!

 

June 29, 2014

God,

Do you remember how you paved the way?!  You remember how you found a buyer for our house in 9 days?!  Remember how you closed the door on those other jobs and led David specifically here to the NY region?  Remember how you found us an amazing home to rent?  Remember how you then brought my best friend out here too?

I’ve seen your hand in this…  I see You, but still… Often I feel so lonely here.

Do you remember how you paved the way?!  Can you remind me that you will make it all worth it?!  I feel guilty even saying that, but it’s how I feel.  Lord there are so many good things about being here…  Krista, Jean, Chris, Debbie, David, Joe and Denae, the church, the library, my favorite Italian market…  But I miss having true community and I feel like it’s been a challenge for us to connect here than it ever has before.  But God– do you remember how you brought us here?!

And then I hear him saying…

Child,

Remember how I brought you here?!  Sold you home, found you a home, got everything lined up?  It’s because I purposed it that way.  I made it that way for a specific reason.  I am working in ways behind the scenes that are for My glory, My honor and your good.  I brought you here…  Trust and believe when I say I will provide.  Obey me still and I will show up abundantly.  Oh ye of little faith!

I’m sorry, Lord.  I’m sorry for doubting your goodness, your faithfulness, your perfect plan.  Help me to see You in all of this, to know You more.  Oh that I would know you more!  Oh that I would believe You!  I feel like an Israelite who has been led out of Egypt complaining.  And I feel like You’re frustrated with me; You’re like “HELLO, been there, done that, don’t you know the ending already?!  Canaan Rachel!”

Ok, God.  I get it.  Help me to trust You in all things.  Help me to seek your face FIRST.  Help me to let go of my dreams and embrace YOURS.  To RISK for the sake of the greatness of the Kingdom!  I’m ready.  Okay.  Thank you for reminding ME.

Sometimes when we start off reminding God, He just ends up reminding us.  He is faithful, true and good.  May Him who started a good work in us bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6)!

This is why I write down my Ebenezer stones.  I know that while I’d like to think I’m a super rock star like Moses, I’m really just more of an Israelite at heart.  I am quick to forget and slow to remember.  Keeping track of the stones– the many, many ways God pulls through and rescues or works or executes in my life– reminds me to stop and remember.  I cannot allow forgetfulness here.  He is, was, and always will be the beginning and the end and the middle of everything.  Now that, I must say, is an Urban Hallelujah! 🙂

 

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Not Pretty, But Beautiful

I can't believe my baby girl is 2! :)

I can’t believe my baby girl is 2! 🙂

I was scampering around the internet, trying to find something super cool and fun to do in celebration of Maya’s 2nd birthday.  She made it to 2!  I thought to myself.  This is a huge feat for not just her but for us!  We’ve got to make it super exciting!  Super COOL!  Super FUN!!!

Just like you’d expect, ain’t nobody living up to pressure like THAT.  Go figure it was pressure I was putting on myself.  So after a couple hours of looking up ideas from here to New York City to Paramus to Riverdale, I cashed in my chips and decided it wouldn’t be a pinterest pretty party.  No, no, no.  Maybe one year; yes– definitely some year, but this would not be the year.  Number two would not be the photogenic party…  It would be the opposite actually!  Just us, some cake, a few presents, and of course the beautiful birthday girl. 🙂

And you know what?

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Super cool, super fun table setting 😉

It wasn’t pretty.  The “Happy Birthday” sign I bought at Target ended up not having the “A” in “happy”.  We ate frozen potstickers on paper plates and put a candle in a store bought coffee cake.  We wore two-dollar party hats and sang the birthday song somewhat off key.  I didn’t edit a single one of these photos.  I cherished the entire evening.  It. Was. BEAUTIFUL.  I thought to myself, screw pretty.  I’ll take beautiful today.

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Happy birthday sweet girl 🙂

Mamahood has surprised me in so many ways.  I am surprised I enjoy it this much, humbled by how much I don’t know, and encouraged to learn that what I do know most likely won’t really matter.  I am so grateful God changed my dreams and that my husband supports my decision to stay home.  I am ever in love with the little heart my girl has and it’s ability captivate mine.  I had no idea I would like being a mother.  I had no idea I would love her this much.  Mamahood, while a crazy rodeo, has won me over.

To all of you out there in blog land, who look around at the messes and your middle piles (because come on, we all have a middle pile, yes?  The dirty pile, the clean pile, the middle pile that’s somewhere in between but surely will be worn again!) it’s more than fine if it’s not pretty today.  It’s okay you’re serving dinner out of that 9×13 pan and not that pretty serving platter.  It’s really alright that your cupcakes were made from a box.  They probably taste amazing, if it’s the same box mix I use! 😉  It’s beautiful what you’re able to give your family.  Whatever it is.  Easy mac or Five cheese macaroni, it’s all beautiful.

Even if it’s not pretty!

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When the Plot Thickens

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Sometimes, when God is writing the storyline of your life, He throws a twist in the plot so thick you can barely see through it.  The ending you thought was destined to happen suddenly seems impossible and it feels as if the only certainty is surprise.  There He goes, thickening the plot and shaking things up!

I’ve always been one to raise my hand for adventure…  But this?  This was supposed to be where I’d live my happy ending!

I guess He writes better stories anyway so I should just trust Him already.  I mean He did part a couple of seas, feed thousands of people from nothing, create a whole universe with the breath of his voice, close the mouths of lions, took a magic hand and wrote on a wall…  Yeah, he’s pretty much got it when it comes to writing stories.

Still, I wonder.

How will you write this into my story, Lord?  Don’t forget about me!

On Monday the rumors were confirmed as true.  The company my husband works for is relocating their North American corporate sales and marketing headquarters to TEXAS.  While it really has no impact on us right now since he works for a regional field office, our sure bet of “all roads lead back to California” folded.  It now appears as though all roads lead to Plano, Texas!

How the heck are we supposed to get back to California now?!

Yes, I realize that it’s just a job.  One can quit a job and get another and all that.  But that is easier said than done, and his job is not one he’d easily walk away from.

As I was taking Maya for a walk that day, I felt a strange sense of ease.  Calmness.  It was almost as if relief swept over me.  I could not understand this for the life of me, since missing California is what I’ve been bitching about ever since we moved here.  But there in the parking lot of CVS with my bag of clearance Easter jelly beans I realized God knows and God’s got this.  My get out of jail free card is gone and it’s as if God was the one to throw it out the window.  No more holding onto that card waiting for the perfect time to use it.  He says “I’ve got this, I’m the author and the perfecter and my grace is sufficient.”

Will I let Him keep writing, or take back the pen?

If I trust that God is marching ahead (Judges 4:14) I’ve got to believe this turn of events is purely part of the story.  I must lay this at his feet and leave it there, believing He knows.

And so the plot thickens…  But what good story doesn’t?  May I give Him back the pen that is already His to begin with and wait with expectation.

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Safe to be Real

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I promise to be honest here in this space.

I know it’s a public, online community where anyone can read these thoughts.  But we promised when we started the blog to be real.  Not inappropriately airing dirty laundry, not gossipy or show-offy, but authentic.  Vulnerable, real women who want not just to live, but to THRIVE.  And nobody be thrivin’ on fakeness, people.

I know it’s tempting to make myself sound better or more spiritual or less annoying; to embellish or exaggerate feelings or events.  It’s easier to post pictures of my two year old holding her lip gloss exclaiming “I’m beautiful!” rather than the permanent marker she decided to grace her lips (and therefore her teeth) with.  I’d rather show you the perfect dinner I plated “food network style” than the disgusting homemade “sauce” I whipped up, or the flowers my husband brought than the argument we had regarding whipped cream.

I know it’s easy to get carried away with trying to look smart or cool and ‘real’.  Just look at Facebook; everybody’s doing it.

It’s also tempting to just write about all the stuff I want to complain about, and not share the celebration or joy that I experience each day too.  That’s not fair either, and hardly a true picture of my real life.  I’d rather not dance between the two– boasting or complaining.

I will just be me, hopefully.

It’s hard to be real, the real raw, vulnerable real that makes a deep friendship.  I grew up in a community that seemed to prefer to see you at your best– nobody’s parents fought, everyone bought MAC makeup and we were all going to grow up and live the dream, whatever that was at the time.  Then in college I realized that’s not real life.  The people I thought were perfect had affairs or quit their awesome spiritual jobs or got divorced or married or both or went down a path I’d never expect.

And it begged the question of me…

Am I safe to be real with?

Can my friend open her heart and tell me her deep pain, unafraid of judgement or shock or disappointment?  Can that same friend share her exuberant joy and excitement without fear of jealousy, downplay or hidden contempt?

I want to be safe to be real with.

And reality is that sometimes I will judge, sometimes I will be jealous, sometimes I will be shocked but I will not hide behind the facade that everything’s perfect (insert smile and head tilt here).

I want to be safe to be real with.

So now I pose the question to you.

Are you safe to be real with?

Can your child tell you they were tempted to try something you’d curse?  Can your spouse tell you he/she feels alone?  Can a friend give you deep news without a judgmental stare?

Let’s be safe to be real with.  We all crave it, want it, need it.

It doesn’t mean it’s open game for gossip, complaining, rolling of eyes or even revealing all the details of private matters.  It simply means we share each other’s burdens, and rejoice with those who rejoice.  We let someone mourn with us, really mourn with us when mourning is appropriate and share joy when joy abounds.  It isn’t covering up the mourning with fake joy or downplaying the joy with a standard “it’s okay.”

Let’s be safe to be real with.

So what do you say?  Are you in?

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Rachel’s Road to New Jersey- Part II

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20 And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. 21 He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea[a] when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God. (Joshua 4:20-24)

I wonder how many Israelite children saw those stones and stopped to wonder; to ask their parents what the heck a bunch of stones from a river were doing in the middle of the sand in the desert.  I wonder how many parents stopped to tell the story.  I wonder if the stones just started blending in to the landscaping over time or if the people began to forget.  In the daily monotony of chores, work, play and mealtimes, did the awe of His work slowly dissipate into a distant memory? 

I don’t want to forget.

When the days are hard and I miss my friends, church, work and house, I don’t want to forget how he clearly paved the way for us to be here.  When I’m not sure I like being here and wonder if we made the right decision to move, I don’t want to forget how he orchestrated everything to make it happen.  When I get teary seeing Sarah’s facebook pictures of her little man and wish our babies could grow up together, I don’t want to forget his attention to every detail.  I don’t want to forget the ‘stones’ God placed in our lives that demonstrated his leading as we made our way to New Jersey.  I pause and breathe in a hallelujah because those stones must be remembered.  They are river stones in the middle of a desert, after all!  So here are my stones, my Ebenezer rocks that remind me of God’s help and faithfulness in our journey.

It started while we were in the NICU.

Maya was admitted via one of those “Panda Units” which is just a kid-friendly term for incubator ambulance.  Tubes were everywhere and her little arm was hooked up to an IV at only a day old.  I have no idea how you can find a place to insert an IV on a newborn; they’re so tiny.  Men with ghost-buster looking backpacks came in and hooked her all up and put her in this incubator thing, then put her in the ambulance while I had to wait to be discharged.  You never think you’ll be wheeled out of the hospital without your baby and get in the car with an empty carseat.  Nevertheless, it happened and we spent the next couple days in the NICU.  During our stay, David got a call to interview for a job in Kansas City.  So in between feedings, doctors in and out with tests and holding our new bundle of joy, he escaped to the lobby to interview for a new job.

Talk about a lot to take in. 

A few days after coming home we found out he didn’t get the position.  I breathed a silent hallelujah– actually we both did– because the timing just seemed so off even though it was a little disappointing not to be chosen.  We loved our life in Oregon and now we had a new little person to care for and love so we were completely distracted, enamored and busy with her.  Even though we were ready to move on if the Lord called us to, we were happy if things stayed constant too.  And constant they remained– even if only for four short months.

Then God threw my eggs in a creek, too. 

It was as if God was using the experience in the NICU and the relief/disappointment of not getting the Kansas City job to prepare our hearts.  We were beginning to realize that trust and obedience go hand in hand.  Trust is an act of obedience.  With Maya’s health, with David’s job, with my dream to stay home full time as a wife and mama– in all of it we had to trust it into His hands.

Four months after our stay in the NICU, David got a call from his boss telling him about two opportunities he wanted David to pursue.  One was in Kansas City again and the other  in New Jersey.  Talk about a roller coaster!  Two totally different parts of the country, two completely opposite costs of living and two stark contrasts from Portland, Oregon.  Even though these positions were open to anyone in the company throughout the country, I had this underlying feeling that we would be moving.  We prayed and prayed and prayed.  We prayed that God would lead and make it painstakingly clear where we were supposed to go or if we were supposed to stay.  We prayed each detail would be handled with certainty.  And we prayed we would be courageous enough to obey.  There were just so many questions we had.

And then He began to take out stones and pile them up as a demonstration of His grace and faithfulness in our lives, taking care of each question I’d pondered and guiding each detail with certainty.  Each question I’d previously sighed begged a stone in my lap.

Which job?  Any of them?  Do we stay?  Go?  What do we DO Lord?!

David flew out to interview in person for both jobs (continuing that roller coaster!), but in the end God made it very clear.  We were thrown for a loop, though!  The Kansas City position was offered to someone else and the New Jersey position was offered to David.  It was completely the opposite of what we expected for many reasons, but it was very clear.  We were going to New Jersey!

How would our house sell?

It sold within 10 days.  Well, actually, we accepted an offer on the 10th day.  It took a little longer to close, but it sold exactly when we needed it to.  We broke even– even in this housing market!  Unbelievable.

Where would we live?

David found a charming little house a few miles from his new office, but when we went to put in an offer to rent it, someone else took it right out from under us!  We began searching for apartments, ready to significantly downsize, when a coworker told him about a friend who might be interested in renting their home which was larger and closer to work.  We now rent their spacious house and it’s only a mile and a half from David’s office.  Talk about grace!

Could we afford for me to stay home with our baby girl out there?  The cost of living was so intense!

The cost of living is intense!  God didn’t change that. 🙂  But because of the nature of our relocation, I qualified for unemployment (relocating due to a spouse’s job transfer).  Having this financial help while we figure out our budget here is an unbelievable blessing!

Where would we go to church?

David and I take this extremely seriously, and I knew it would be hard because nothing would compare to our church in Oregon, WCC.  Especially since non-denominational churches in New Jersey are very hard to come by.  But after a couple months of visiting different places, we found a great church that we are excited to belong to and now call home.  TLCC has been a blessing to us already!

What would people be like?  Would we make new friends easily?

The gravy in all of this is that Krista is close by I cannot believe the amazingness of this or begin to articulate the incredible blessing she is to me.  People say the population density out here is greater than anywhere else in the country– but it can be very lonely even though you’re surrounded by people everywhere.  Knowing that we have such dear friends close by takes the pressure off.  We are slowly making friends at church and I belong to a mom’s group (yes, I am now one of those women!), but if I’m having a bad day I know I can call Krista up and visit her in the city.  Our little girls can celebrate birthdays together.  We can relate to all the change we’re going through and celebrate our tiny hallelujahs together– in person!  When I found out her and Ricky were coming, I just shook my head in complete amazement and gratefulness.  Gravy I tell you.  Absolute gravy!

And so we continue on this road in New Jersey, waiting in expectation for what God will continue to do here.  It’s so exciting to be a part of His story!  I’m grateful to be on this journey– grateful to go through it alongside Krista– and with all of you.

Thanks for reading.

“Samuel took a single rock and set it upright between Mizpah and Shen.  he named it ‘Ebenezer’ (Rock of Help) saying, ‘this marks the place where God helped us.'” ~1 Samuel 7:12 (The Message bible)

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Rachel’s Road to New Jersey- Part I

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Have you ever felt completely content but at the same time ready for a change?

It’s hard to explain, but that’s how I felt right before we moved here.

My baby girl was six months old.  I’d gone back to work four months after she arrived to a job I really enjoyed– even though my heart wanted to be home with her full time.  Even so, David and I had arranged child care that we were thrilled with and he no longer had overnight travel with his job.  Adjusting to this new little person, returning to work and getting my hubby home during the week was all falling into place.  We even started a new community group at church and had renovated a bathroom.  Livin’ the dream. 🙂

It was the oddest feeling to be totally happy and content in our circumstances but ready and willing to uproot it all at the same time.

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Packing up our home in Oregon was bittersweet!

In a moment your life can change. I try to remember that when I get stuck in a rut. In a blink of an eye, the world as you know it can spin into something that barely resembles itself. That’s what happened to us at least.  One day we were picking the last of September’s sweet blackberries in Oregon and the next hurricane Sandy and storm Nemo were crouched out our door.  Within a matter of weeks my man had heard about a job, flown out for an interview, accepted the position and we’d sold our house.  I quit my job.  Pretty soon Krista was driving us to the airport and I was bawling my eyes out.  Even though I was ready for this, it was hard.  I didn’t know anyone in New Jersey!  Everything was so expensive out there!

But God was demonstrating his hand in everything.  When the entire thing didn’t make sense, there He was, leading the way.

Little by little, he was giving me my daily bread.  I remember so clearly wanting more; just as the Israelites grumbled over their manna in the desert– contentment deserting them as they yearned for meat– I was dying to know how things were going to sort themselves out.

How would our house sell?

Where would we live?

Could we afford for me to stay home with our baby girl out there?  The cost of living was so intense!

Where would we go to church?

What would people be like?  Would we make new friends easily?

Now that I’ve been here for five months (wow, has it been that long?!), I can clearly see how He worked out each detail with precision.

Joshua set up 12 stones to serve as a sign of remembrance of how God led them through the Jordan river (Joshua 4:20-24).  Samuel set up an Ebenezer rock to remind the Israelites how God helped and delivered them from the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:12-13).  And me– I have my own theoretical stones and Ebenezer rocks to remind myself of how God brought us here.

Next week I’ll share some of my own ‘stones’ and ‘rocks’. 🙂  Thanks for reading!

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