A Gathering of Goodwill Finds: Kitchen and Dining Edition

My posts lately have been a little heavy, so I wanted to share something fun with my readers that I’m passionate about:  Goodwill!  In 2012 I participated in Project XII, in which I committed to 12 months of not buying any new clothing or anything new to decorate my home.  I enjoyed the project so much and learned a lot, from shopping discipline to Goodwill hunting.  Today I want to share with you some of my favorite Goodwill finds for my kitchen and dining room.  Later I will share some of my favorite clothing finds and items for other areas of my house.

Just a little warning, my kitchen is the one area of my house where I allow myself to go crazy with color.  It doesn’t necessarily match, but it is filled with items I love and that make me smile.  That’s what decorating should be about, right?


I’m not sure why I love this plate so much, but I do.  I have never in my life had a plate hanging on any surface of my wall… until I found this plate.  This plate got me into Wal-Mart looking at plate hangers.  Something about it makes me smile.  I bought it at Goodwill for $1 or so.  It is something cheerful to look at while I wash dishes.

Below is one of the bare walls in my kitchen where I have added pops of color.  The clock is from Ikea.  I had the idea to hang our paella pan, and Jimmie had the idea to put our magnetic spice jars on the pan.  I love the way it looks!  Then on day at Goodwill I found the sketch of the plants on a plant stand, already matted in the right colors and framed.  I was so excited.  It was less than $5.


This is a close-up of the sketch:


Below is a red chair I got at Goodwill for $5!  It is sturdy and bright and I love it.  My kitchen table seats four, so when my niece moved in with us, we were always dragging a desk chair into the kitchen.  This was a perfect solution.  I love the way it looks against this wall.  It is also a convenient place to sit when we are coming in or going outside to the backyard.


Alert! If you don’t like the decor of the 70’s and chenille, avert your eyes. This is possibly one of my favorite finds ever at Goodwill. I had been looking for cute window valances for this window in my kitchen to no avail. When I saw these for $2, I snatched them up and have loved them every moment since. I also recently bought another set at a thrift store that I will be putting up for summer


This isn’t technically a Goodwill find, but it is a thrift store find.  A couple years ago when I was visiting my friend Whitney, I saw a cute little box she stored her silverware in on her counter.  Ever since then I have had my eyes open for something similar.  When I found this for $1, I snatched it up.  I love having the napkins and silverware together.  It makes setting the table so quick and easy, especially when the girls want to help.  Also, shout out to my mom for the adorable Pyrex dishes she got for me.  We have nuts in one and dried cranberries in the other.  It helps our girls have healthy snacks on hand.

IMG_2553Last spring I went garage sale-ing with my friends Heidi and Tasha and all of our girls.  When I found this green utility shelf for $2, my gracious friends agreed to cram it into the car (along with a massive plastic slide and other finds).  So, again, this is not specifically Goodwill, but cheap nonetheless.  My mom gave me the fruit basket and the vintage mixing bowls.  I found the basket where I keep extra napkins at a garage sale.  The yellow Pyrex casserole dish is from my friend Linda.  I love having my cookbooks out and handy, even though I don’t use them much.  In my ideal world, my friends would come over and browse through them when they are at my house.  That never happens, but my mom does sometimes.  And she is my friend, so I guess that counts!



Moving on to my dining room table…. last year I got really bored with my dining room table and wanted some kind of centerpiece that was very inexpensive and easy to move when we needed to use the table.  I have had this white tray for years and years and decided to search several Goodwills for glass pieces that matched my decor.  I thought I would have to go to a handful of stores before I would find the colors and shapes I wanted.  You can imagine my shock when I found ALL 5 at the first Goodwill I visited.  I really love the way this turned out.  I also love that it is portable when I need to use the table.



This is a closer-up look of the glass pieces I found.  I especially love the two jars with lids.


I am now a Goodwill convert.  This week I spent money on a new bunk bed for the girls’ room, bedding and sheets.  It felt so weird when I am so used to getting things at a steal of a price.  Anytime I need to decorate, Goodwill is my first stop.  I love the thrill of the hunt and the money that I don’t spend!

Which of my Goodwill/thrift-store finds is your favorite?  Do you shop at Goodwill, garage sales or thrift-stores?  What have been some of your favorite finds?  I would love for you to comment!  Also, if you haven’t subscribed to my blog, please do so by entering your e-mail address on the top right of my blog, just above my photo!  It will only be used to send you a link to new blog posts!  Thanks!



What I Gather About Comparison

quote-roosevelt-comparison-joyImage Source

I have heard this quote numerous times throughout my life and hadn’t really considered it until fairly recently.  During a trip to Cuba, my husband preached a message about comparing ourselves with one another based on 2 Corinthians 10.  It was such an eye-opening sermon.  I realize now that this is an area of weakness for me.

I am competitive, goal-oriented and persistent.  I tell myself that I have a realistic perception of my strengths and weaknesses (doesn’t everybody?).  Basically, I want to be the best, and I know when I’m not.  I find myself comparing Rachael to the kind of people who I am sure you would find amusing.  Let me just give you some examples.

Funny Rachael

I am not funny and I know this.  Yet, somehow I have this idea in the back of my head that buried somewhere deep down is a comedian, that I SHOULD be funny.I have a handful of friends who should be comedians by profession.  On that rare occasion when I make any of those friends laugh, I am caught so off guard that I literally have to take a moment, rewind, and figure out WHAT IN THE WORLD JUST HAPPENED?  I am no comedian, but there are times I want to be like those people who are.

Singer Rachael

I’ve been singing since I was old enough to carry a microphone and carry a tune.  School concerts, college choirs, solos at church, camps, conferences, in my car, in my kitchen.  You name it.  I love it and I realize I have a decent voice.  But let me assure you, I am my own worst critic.  Instead of comparing myself to the worship leader down the road, I compare myself to Mariah Carey.  Or Kari Jobe.  Or any other professional out there who is better than me.

Mom Rachael

I frequently compare myself to those moms who get up at 5 a.m. just to prepare a hearty breakfast for their kids and have a 30 minute devotion before school.  I compare myself to crafty mom, home-school mom, patient mom, mom of 5, athletic mom, chef mom, spiritual giant mom, birthday party mom… you name the type, at times I think I should be all of those moms wrapped into one package.

Writer Rachael

I have always enjoyed writing.  I excelled in writing sociological papers in college, probably because my writing is so straight-forward and lacks flourish.  Yet when I sit down with a Barbara Kingsolver book, I want to weep at my moron-self, incapable of painting a vivid picture with the most beautiful strand of words.  When I read the poetic Sarah Bessey, I want to give up on blogging all together.  When I read David Platt, I grieve that I can’t express my passion the way he does.  Give up, I say.

Spiritual Rachael

My Dad wrote me a letter before he died.  In it, he named a few women who are spiritual giants of the faith.  He told me to be one of those women.  I know his intentions were good, and I must say that his life and ministry lit a fire in me that has never died.  Yet often I compare myself to these women… the women who travel the country speaking at conferences.  I compare myself to the missionary you hear about who prayed and saw someone raised from the dead.  I compare myself to the women who get up to pray and study every morning without fail.

Physical Rachael

I would love to report to you, dear reader, that I am above this type of comparison.  While I have improved greatly, I still find myself looking in the mirror some days, unhappy with everything I see.  Frizzy hair, freckles, 25 extra pounds, flat nose, crooked teeth, boring clothes.  I see those women who weigh nothing running down the street in their workout clothes and kick myself for not having more discipline.  I get on the scale, hoping to have lost just one more pound so I can look just a little more like the images that bombard my mind of the “perfect woman.”


Even now, writing all of this so honestly, so openly, saddens me greatly.  I think Teddy Roosevelt was onto something.  What possible chance do I have at joy when I compare myself to someone who IS NOT ME?  After all, I can never be anyone other than the person God made me.  Sure, I can grow, set goals and reach them, push myself, have more discipline… but at the end of the day I am Rachael.  I’m pretty sure Rachael needs to shut up and stop listening to what Rachael says about Rachael.  Rachael needs to start listening to what God says about her.  What might that be?  I love what David had to say about God’s view of him:

You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.  How precious to me are your thoughts, O God. (From Psalms 139)

I am his creation.  He delights in me.  He saw enough value in me to pay the ultimate price…. just so I could know him.  He calls me friend.  He wants to walk with me, faults and all, in the cool of the day.  He knows my name.  He has the hairs on my head numbered.  He loves me just as I am.

And who are these people I’m comparing myself to, anyway?  Do I truly know any of them?  I guarantee that if I got to know them, I would realize that each and every one of them has struggles and shortcomings just like I do.  Do we realize that when we compare ourselves to someone, we are comparing ourselves to an idolized persona?  We are comparing ourselves to the voice, not the human.  We are comparing ourselves to the body, not that heart.  We are comparing ourselves to the works, not the soul.  We compare ourselves to some kind of facade.  We are trying to become more like someone rather than becoming more of ourselves in Christ Jesus.  He is the one we look to for the answers to who we are and who we are to become.  I want to be wrapped up, tied up and tangled up in Jesus, joyfully drawing strength and self-worth from the fact that I am loved by the King.

Do you struggle with comparison?  Does comparison rob you of your joy?  In what areas of your life do you find yourself comparing?  Please speak up so I know I’m not alone!







A Gathering of Links IV

blog2-1I heard on Thursday that the temperature in Indiana a year ago this week reached 80 degrees.  It has been so, so cold here and all I want to do is hibernate until spring comes with its warmth.  Contributing to my blah mood was a week spent with a sick baby.


She was so pitiful.  Thankfully, being holed up in the house, both unwilling and unable to leave, I at least had some good reading material.  I hope you enjoy my favorites from this past week or so.

My most popular post was Gathering Delight.  I truly appreciate all of the positive feedback in response to this post.  Let’s remember to be honest with each other about our shortcomings as parents.  We can draw from each other’s strength and stories to become the parents I know we can be.

My personal favorite post from my blog was A Gathering of Cuba Photos.  It took me back to a land I love.  Plus, I spent hours editing photos for the first time in Photoshop.  It’s a process, but one day I hope to have a clue what I’m doing!


From The Actual Pastor:  To Parents of Small Children… this made its way around the Internet this week!  I think so many parents of young children need to hear they are doing a good job.

From Luke at A Deeper Family.


From Sarah Bessey:  I love her “In which [love looks like]” posts.  The openness with which she speaks about her love for her husband and their journey is simply beautiful.

Spiritual Inspiration:

From A Holy Experience:  I love this idea of A Grace Garden for Easter.  What a fantastic way to create something beautiful with our kids to remind ourselves of the grace of God!

From Jen at A Deeper Family.  I love this post about being real with one another.

For Fun:

Design Mom’s Nigellissima.  I have been somewhat obsessed with Nigella for about ten years now.  I was thrilled to see that someone else has fallen in love with her.

At A Beautiful Mess… because who doesn’t love hummus?

If I were just a little more motivated to be crafty, I would make these salt dough eggs from Design Mom with the girls.

Please let me know if you like any of these links!  Also, what have been your favorite posts this week?  Are you reading anything worthwhile?  I would love to hear from you.

Finally, have you subscribed to my blog yet??  If not, please do!  Just enter your e-mail address where it says “Follow Rachael Gathers” above my picture on the top right of my blog.  You will receive a link to each new blog post.  Your e-mail address will not be used for any other purposes.  You can also follow Rachael Gathers in your favorite RSS feed using the RSS button at the top of my home page.  Next to that button you also have the opportunity to follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.  Whew, that’s a lot!! Thanks and enjoy the last night of your weekend!

A Gathering of Cuba Photos

The months I spent living in Cuba were some of the best of my life.  Someday I hope to share more about our life in Cuba.  Today, though, I want to share some photos of the time I spent in Cuba in November of 2012.  In all of my trips to Cuba, I had never stayed with our close friends.  Pastor Lorenzo, his wife Zulema and their four children are like family to me and I really wanted the opportunity to spend some time with them, experiencing their everyday lives.  So, our family stayed in Havana for a week for the national convention and various business.  Jimmie left with the girls, and I stayed four extra days just to be able to spend time in their home.  These are the photos from the time I spent there.  I hope you enjoy these insights into Cuban life and take time to read the captions!


This was taken a couple of days before Jimmie took the girls home.  Jimmie is with Dani, our pastor friend who also serves as a translator when we need one.  He has a machete and a coconut in his hand.  He had just cut it down from the tree behind them and used the machete to chop off the shell.  IMG_1288

I can’t remember the name of this man.  He is a neighbor of Lorenzo and Zulema and attends their church.  He uses their property to house his goats.  One of the goats belongs to Zulema as well.  Every morning he showed up at about 7 a.m. to take care of the goats and help Lorenzo with his work around the house.  At some point during the day, he left with four goats in hand to take them on a walk through the busy streets of their barrio.  It was quite a sight!

I love this photo for so many reasons.  He looks so Cuban to me.  Goats are hilarious creatures to me in general.  There are underwear hanging from the clothesline for all to see.  My towel that I used all week is hanging to dry on the right.  They also have YHVH = Jesus painted on their rusty pen for the animals.  As we always say, “Estámos en Cuba!”


Meet Zulema.  I love this photo of her.  She has her broom made from dried-out, fallen limbs.  Each morning after the kids left for school, she brushed the leaves and debris off of her “patio.”  Her patio is the dirt you see behind her. IMG_1291

These are two beautiful and special children, Abdias and Sarai.  A generous pastor from North Carolina gave a laptop to Pastor Lorenzo.  The kids love playing games on it and spend a lot of their free time doing just that.   IMG_1292

Zulema is at work in her kitchen here.  The water is frequently shut off, so you never really know if water will come out of that faucet when you turn it on.  The bucket behind her stores water for such occasions.  Here she is rinsing rice before cooking it. IMG_1295

One of the reasons I love Cuba is because it is so GREEN!  The tropical climate makes for beautiful foliage and gorgeous flowers.  Here you see some plants Zulema planted to beautify their patio.  The bench on the left is very sad.  They utilize everything, though, and won’t throw it away.  Also notice the rocker in the background.   Over half of the plastic is gone on the seat of the chair.  Let me just tell you, it is not a comfortable seat! IMG_1300

Lorenzo has quite a bit of land.  He has had some help getting the tools and seed necessary to farm a little.  When I was there, they were just getting started.  He had some help from two men from his church.  I love this photo.  Cuban farmers work.  I don’t know of a more exhausting job than farming in the tropical sun.  I admire them so much.  They hope to grow enough food to share with hungry church members and some to sell, as well. IMG_1309

Here Lorenzo is showing me how he cuts off the bottom portion under the banana bunch so that all of the water and nutrients go to the developing bunch.  I had never really seen a banana tree and found this fascinating. IMG_1312

Lorenzo is explaining his plans for their land. IMG_1313

The goat-herder helps on the farm.  Here he is spraying pesticides of some sort.  I’m going to pretend they are organic.  One day he invited me to his apartment.  We arrived and he had some kind of drink for me.  It tasted like a dreamscicle.  It basically was, made with goat’s milk.   IMG_1316

Beautiful!  There are so many varieties of bananas in Cuba, I absolutely cannot keep track.  One thing I do know?  You cook the green ones, you eat the small yellow ones.  You haven’t truly tasted a banana until you’ve tasted one of those yellow beauties in the back. IMG_1321

This is a portion of the inside of their house.  I took this photo mainly to show the electrical situation going on in their home.  Yikes!  Thankfully Lorenzo knows what he is doing with electricity.  I did purchase some electrical boxes and light switches for them during my stay.  IMG_1329

Tomatoes with vinegar, oil and salt.  Enough said. IMG_1340

I’m not sure I could love these people any more.  Even though they have so little, they bless me so tremendously.  They offer their love freely and without expectation.  They welcome me as one of their own family members.  My only sadness is that they are so far away. IMG_1343

Zulema, the beauty that she is, standing outside of their home. IMG_1344

Lorenzo, locking up the house. IMG_1345

If you’d like to read more about what I learned from my time in Cuba, please check out my post Cuba Gathers.  I hope these photos give you a glimpse into the everyday life of some of Cuba’s finest people.  What do you think after looking at these photos?  Would you want to stay somewhere like this?  Have you ever visited a place drastically different from your home?  I would love to hear your feedback!


Snow Gathers

seasonsI wasn’t expecting the snow today.  I am beyond ready for warmth and sunshine and sandals and t-shirts.  Yet today’s snow was a reminder to me that there is a season for everything.  So I tried to enjoy the beauty of what will hopefully be the last snow of the season.  Would we appreciate spring and summer as much without a long, cold winter?  Anyone from the south want to answer that for me?

I hope your Thursday is fantastic!

What I Gather About Snares


If it had not been the LORD who was on our side – let Israel now say -

If it had not been the LORD who was on our side when people rose up against us,

Then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us;

Then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us;

Then over us would have gone the raging waters.

Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth!

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped!

Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 124)

Flood, torrent, raging waters…. Mine was grief.  A flood of grief.  A torrent of grief.  Raging waters of grief.  Grief swallowed me alive at times.

My father, a shining beacon of strength and faith, was taken, ravaged by cancer, at my young age of 16.  The grief was natural.  I probably unknowingly went through the classic stages.  Somewhere along the new trajectory of my life, though, the grief became a snare.  What had been a natural response to the loss of a loved one became a snare that caged me in.  I was angry at God.  I blamed my poor choices on my monumental loss.  I set unrealistic expectations for myself, trying to honor the memory of my father.  I rarely expressed my grief out loud.  Panic attacks began, but few knew.  I became a pretender, capable of appearing fine to anyone and everyone.  Meanwhile my broken heart affected nearly every thought passing through my head.

The transition to healing is fuzzy in my mind.  My broken heart was eventually mended by my Healer.  Part of the healing process took place as a result of that line in bold in Psalm 124.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped!

In my times of prayer, I had an image in my head of myself as a bird, flying out of a snare.  To my amazement, after leaving, I would turn around and fly right back into the trap.  That soft, still voice began to deal with me.  He wanted the snare to be BROKEN.  Only when that snare of debilitating grief was truly broken could I be truly free.

Grief certainly isn’t the only snare I have faced in my life.  Many of us find ourselves in snares, sometimes without even realizing it.  Maybe it is a snare of:







Maybe it something else entirely.  Many of these emotions are natural.  But when they become a flood, a torrent or raging waters that swallow us alive, we must reach out for help.  Often turning to a trusted friend is helpful.  Sometimes professional help is needed.  However, first and foremost, we must reach out to our Savior.

Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

I believe that so often He is there, waiting for us to cry out to him for help, wanting to step in on our behalf. His love for us is immense enough that He doesn’t want to see us waste away in a snare.  He wants us to soar.  Beyond that, He wants to BREAK THE SNARE!  Through the help of Jesus Christ we can be victorious and never return to our prison of shame, anger or worry.  Too often we have some type of spiritual breakthrough and experience a moment of freedom, only to fly right back into our snare.  Why?  We are assured in Galatians 5:1:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Have you ever found yourself in some type of spiritual snare?  Has anyone ever felt a momentary breakthrough or freedom, only to return to the same cage?  This is a great opportunity to share your story of freedom!  I sure would love to hear it!

Also, if you need prayer or support for an overwhelming situation in your life, please feel free to contact me.  God Bless and BE FREE!!


A Gathering of Links III


I want to give a big THANK YOU to all of you have been reading my blog, commenting, sharing it with your friends and showing your support for this undertaking.  Sometimes it feels weird being so raw with such a wide audience, but you have welcomed me into the blog world so graciously.  I can’t thank you enough.  My most popular blog post this week, thanks to all of you was:

What I Gather About Women of Valor

These are some of my favorite blog posts from the last week or so.  I hope you enjoy some of them as much as I did!

For some parenting insight:

From A Holy Experience, parenting transparency.

From Fried Okra,  not feeling guilty about iPhone time.

For some spiritual inspiration and insight:

From A Deeper Story, living below the poverty line.

From Sarah Bessey, when art is like manna.

From How to Mend a Broken Life, the arm of a sower.

From A Holy Experience, letters to the wounded.

For some recipes:

From A Beautiful Mess, Thai style green beans and a coffee cream cheese cheesecake.

From A Cozy Kitchen, roasted cauliflower salad.

For dreaming of the beach:

From Girl in the Garage, a blog about her trip to Jamaica.  I needed to dream of the beach!

What have you been reading this week?  I would love to hear from you!


Gathering Delight


Bedtime. Let me set the scene for you.  Dinner is over.  Hopefully dishes are done.  There may or may not have been arguments about a certain 9-year-old practicing violin.  There may or may not have been screaming about a certain 3-year-old not wanting to get out of the bath.  Homework is done, sometimes after much complaining.  Mom is tired.  Dad just wants to sit down.  After bathroom trips, teeth-brushing, picking out clothes for the next day, another bathroom trip, and searching for the perfect stuffed animal or book for the night, we tuck them in, say prayers or play our thank-you-God game, and lights are out.  Okay, okay.  There may or may not be a threat about what will happen if either of those girls gets up.

Currently Isabel is in a stage where she is testing my bedtime limits.  She shares a room with Ava, so many nights she keeps Ava up for an hour or more.  She sings, talks, gets up, hits Ava, tickles Ava, climbs into bed with Ava.  Now that she is potty-trained, she comes in our room, having to go potty.  Again.  She slams the closet door, plays with her toys.  She makes messes, then opens and closes her bedroom door just to see if we are outside.  She.  Tests.  My.  Patience.

Ava knows that Mom has enough drama at bedtime and is usually pretty good about staying in her bed.  She knows getting out of bed means grounding from her Kindle.

I hope I have set the stage adequately for the happenings of Thursday night past.  This particular night we tried to get the girls in bed early because Ava had ISTEP testing the next morning.  I had told Ava that the next day I would not be home when she got off the bus and she would walk to Tasha’s house.  She was nervous about it, but we talked it though.  Tasha’s house is only a block or two away and Ava walks and rides her bike there from time to time.

About 30 minutes later, Ava was in our room.  I didn’t look up.  I didn’t want to lose my temper or get into a discussion.  It had been settled.  Ava would go to Tasha’s.  Jimmie walked her back in her room and was in there for a long time.  When he came back in our room, the discussion went something like this.

Jimmie:  Ava is sobbing.  She wants to see you.  She is nervous about tomorrow.

Rachael:  She has walked to her house before.  She goes to Kristi’s house, that is even farther.  She is being dramatic.

Jimmie:  She said she had a dream that someone kidnapped her by the park.  She is scared.

Rachael: (still relatively unmoved) Jimmie, she is just looking for reasons not to go to sleep.  This isn’t a big deal at all.


I believe that often when Jimmie raises his voice, it is the Holy Spirit speaking through him.

I walk into the room.  My baby is looking up at me, tears streaming down her face.  She reaches up, wraps her arms around me and holds on for dear life.  She is scared.  I finally come to my senses.  I speak soothing words.  I make other arrangements.  We make up.  I hold her, hug her.  I speak of Jesus as our protector.  I speak of fear and how it has no place in us when we know Jesus.  I pray over her.  I stroke her hair and watch her in wonder as she sleeps easily, comforted by my words and her Jesus.  I am so overwhelmed with love for this child, I think I may burst.

I hear the voice, somewhere deep inside, speaking truth I have avoided.  This is your child.  Take delight in her.  She is wondrous.  She is not an inconvenience, she is a delight.  Find joy in her.  Speak gently.  Show her grace.  Be a soft place to fall.  I delight in you, my child.  Now delight in her.  Your child.

I don’t know when it happened.  I always have moments of delight in Ava.  She is so smart and confident.  She is caring and strong.  She leads, she loves.  She has PASSION.  My head knows this, but for a while now I have been so consumed with myself, my problems  and my struggles that my heart wasn’t in it.  It may have been that way for a week.  Maybe a month.  I pray it wasn’t longer than that.  I was so grateful that God woke me up Thursday past.  It is easy for me to take delight in the 3-year-old who hugs mama all the time, says the cutest things, cuddles and kisses.  I thank Jesus that He reminded me that I must wonder at Ava.  She is a glorious gift.  If I look, I can see Jesus in her.  I can see the beauty of creation.  I can see His love in the way she loves.  I am delighting in her again.

He delights in me, after all.  The Bible tells me so.  Even when I fall terribly short as a mom.  Even though I am willful and resistant to His prompting.  Even if I get up when I’m supposed to stay put.  Even though I make messes.  Even if I pretend I need something when He has given me everything I need to rest.  Even when I talk when He wants me to be quiet and still.  Even if I slam doors He has opened so I can see the light.  Even if I annoy and hinder my brothers and sisters on this journey with me.  Even if I’m afraid when there is nothing to fear.  Even if I cry even though He has assured me everything will be okay.  In spite of myself, He delights in me after all.

Do you delight in your children?  Do you ever consider that God takes delight in you?  What obstacles keep you from delighting in your children?  I would love to hear that I’m not alone in this struggle!  This wasn’t a mom-moment I am proud of, but I thank God for the lesson that followed.


What I Gather About Women of Valor

Sarah Bessey is hosting a synchroblog in honor of International Women’s Day this Friday, March 8th.  Read here for her post on Patron Saints and Spiritual Midwives.


I love the idea of celebrating the women who have helped give me spiritual life along the way.  May I always pay respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed (Romans 13:7).  There are countless women who have poured themselves into me, supported me, encouraged me.  These women have been my friends, my family, my mentors, my inspiration.  They have taught me by example, spoken words of life, prophesied, transmitted spiritual wisdom and giftings.  They have defended me, stood in the gap for me, cried out to God on my behalf.  They have rejoiced in my joy, wept with me in my grief.  They have given spiritual life time and time again.  For that I honor them now.

To my mother, who has been my lifelong example of grace, wisdom and service.  No woman, no human being has taught me more.

To my grandmothers, one a fierce and fearless missionary, the other a gentle and enduring lover of Jesus.

To Chelsea, who brings joy and asks hard questions, the kind that make me run to my Savior for answers.

To the FAC spiritual giants, Judy Oliver, Jula Crider, Jamie Ball, Amy Beck, Sherri Palmer, Maria Kleiman, Billie Riley.  Mindy Whipple, I see Jesus in her eyes.  Shelly, a mentor despite her youth.  And Linda, who has believed in me, spoken encouragement and stood by my side in the most trying of times.  Who would I be without the influence of these women of valor?

I honor my friends along the way.  We learned together, made mistakes together, grew together.  And I will never forget.  Leah, Tania, Jodie, Mindy (quite a road we have walked!), Shanda, Whitney, Heather, Pashen, Haley, Erica… so many more.

The worship leaders I have never met…. they make me want to lock myself in a room alone with Jesus.  Darlene Zschech, Brook Fraser, Crystal Lewis, Ginny Owens, Kari Jobe, Kim Walker…so many more. I thank them.

The bloggers who get me on my knees and into scripture, searching for truth, searching for Jesus.  Sarah BesseyKathy EscobarJen Hatmaker, Ann Voskamp, Jennie Allen.

To those women of the faith who I admire mostly from afar.  Vickie Oliver, her ministry changed me, set a fire inside me.  Her words were like salve on an open wound of grief.  Dorothy Roca, Kim Sciscoe, Deborah Tisdale (who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself), Faythe Gill, Judith St.Clair.  God bless them for their lives spent for Him.

Women of Gathering… Tasha, the Proverbs friend who loves at all times… turned sister in times of adversity (17:17).  Sara, whose faith astounds me and is my motherly role-model.  Heidi, whose prophetic voice calls me to the deep places.  Chellee, Andrea, Nichole, Beth, Norma, Marty.  My co-laborers, my heart is full to be on this journey with these women of valor, my friends.

Estrella of Cuba, she died as a Christian should die, with joy and anticipation of the future.  Just as she lived.  Zulema of Cuba… no-one has loved me as fiercely.  She lives and breathes Jesus.

The ones to whom I am accountable… Tanya, a warrior.  Her strength makes me strong.  Her passion is infectious.  Lori, she sees me so clearly and speaks so honestly.  What would I do without her voice, the scriptures she speaks in the moment they are needed most.

So, in celebration of International Women’s Day, I honor these women.  I pray that God reward them for their investment into me and into His kingdom.  My only hope is I am able to do the same for someone else and that women of this caliber come along to help birth my girls in the Spirit.

Finally, for two things I ask your forgiveness.  First, forgive me if I forgot your name.  I know there are people I left out and rest assured, I thank God for you and the oversight wasn’t intentional in the least.  Second, please forgive me for all of the incomplete sentences in this post :)  I was in a flow and sentence structure didn’t seem to matter.

How about you?  Who are your spiritual midwives?  Who deserves to be honored in your life as a woman of valor?  I would love to hear about it and feel free to link up with Sarah’s synchroblog as well!


Cuba Gathers


I learned the hard way just how much Cuba gathers.  During our time in Cuba, I didn’t experience the traditional culture shock.  I embraced the new and different food with open heart and mouth.  I adored the simplistic lifestyle.  Lack of technology was the breath of fresh air I desperately needed after years of technology overload.  The absence of my native language was exhilarating.  It fueled my desire to perfect Spanish and was a beautiful cadence in my ears.

The gathering of Cubans was the biggest culture shock for me.  Cuban life revolves around gathering, but their idea of gathering is above and beyond anything I had ever witnessed.  Need some examples?  I have plenty.

Hundreds of people gathering in groups on any given street, chatting and laughing.

Neighbors gathering on the front porch of someone’s house, sipping cafe.

Church members gathering nearly every night for some type of activity.

Kids gathering on the streets or in an open field, playing futbol.

The friendly gathering at the bus stops.

The routine gathering of people just stopping by for a visit.

On our first three-month stay as appointed missionaries to Cuba, I was on gathering overload.  Did they really want me to be in 90 degree conference center ALL DAY for a conference?  Was it REALLY okay for pastors and leaders to stop by our home WHENEVER THEY WANTED?  Was it necessary to sit around and chat for an hour after Bible study on a weeknight and not get home until 11?  I’m sad to say that my heart was closed up to this type of gathering.  I wanted gathering to take place on my terms, in a way I understood, in a way I could maintain my comfort level.

Of course, this is major missionary fail.  My grandfather, a career missionary, gave me one piece of advice.

Don’t try to change them, Rachael.

I thought he was talking about the way they did church.  Turns out, I was resisting the way Cubans gather…. selflessly, whole-heartedly, without hesitation, lovingly, joyfully…

I can’t pinpoint when I started to open myself up to this Cuban lifestyle of gathering.  Perhaps it was watching our pastor friend Juan come by to check on us EVERY DAY.  He cooked for us.  He showed us where to buy our food at the best prices.  He was our bodyguard, even when we didn’t need one.  He sat in our home, filling it with the sound of guitar and voice, singing for us the songs God had given him in the middle of the night.


Perhaps it was the literal interpretation of greeting each other with a holy kiss, those moments when young and old, male and female kissed my cheek simply wanting to display their love for their sister in Christ.

Perhaps it was the day I went into a home where no-one should live, let alone two beautiful children, obviously hungry.  Perhaps it was the moment that little girl brought me bread.  Perhaps it was the way she gobbled it up after I had taken an obligatory bite and then passed it on to her.

Perhaps it was the four days I spent in the home of my sister in Christ with her husband and four children.  Perhaps it was seeing how they open their home EVERY DAY to anyone and everyone who needs prayer, support, food…. in spite of their obvious need for food for themselves.  Perhaps it was the way they gathered together for a church service inside their ever-so-mosest home… and yet I felt the presence of God sweep over us in a way I had never quite experienced.


I still struggle to carry this practice of gathering into my life here in Indiana.  It is hard when neighbors pull into their garages, not to be seen again until morning.  It is hard when my schedule and my needs seem to always become the priority.  It is hard when I close my heart, not wanting to be exposed and raw, especially after the rejection I have felt from doing just that.  It is hard when our culture tells us “church” happens on Sunday or Bible study night.  Lots of circumstances, ideals and selfish desires make this lifestyle of gathering hard.  Yet I have determined after my time in Cuba that it is worth fighting for.  The beauty of this lifestyle of community pulls at my heart and I can’t help but remember that Jesus gathered.  He gathered with thousands, with 12, with one at times.  He opened himself up to ridicule and judgement, even death, in order to show forth his extravagant love and gather us to Him.  Cuba gathers.  Jesus gathered and still gathers.  Therefore, Rachael gathers… or at least is learning to gather.

What gatherings are the most meaningful to you?  Where in your life do you experience community?  Do you struggle opening your home to others?  Do you long for this lifestyle of community or resist it?  I would love to get a conversation started!