The #90thankfuldays Challenge


“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.” — G. K. Chesterton


Autumn is almost here! This Friday marks 90 days until Thanksgiving. There’s a saying that goes like this: “It’s easy to find a hundred reasons to complain every day.” Pretty sure I tend to hit all 100 without even realizing it.

There are so many verses in the Bible that talk about giving thanks, letting our speech be edifying, and living in such a way that people incredulously ask about the hope/joy we have in us (and I’m not talking about being bubbly 24/7 – that exhausts everyone).

The Bible passage that stands forefront in my mind is Philippians 4:6-7, where it talks about not being anxious about anything, but to pray with thanksgiving, and the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds.

Why Be Thankful?

If you think about it, a lot of complaining stems from anxiety, which stems from selfishness/self-preservation (pride) and short-sightedness.

Notice the passage couples prayer with thanksgiving (this doesn’t mean you can’t come to the Lord with requests or confusion). Why is that? Have you ever noticed your mind frame and outlook on life, or even how you treat others, changes when you are dwelling on “happy thoughts” (to quote Peter Pan)? You’re not anxious or feel like complaining in that moment do you? So, prayer with thanksgiving results in a peace from God that will guard us….as long as we have that mindset. Verse 8 goes on to tell us to mediate on things honorable, excellent, just, lovely, etc. and to practice those things.

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice requires discipline. Bad (sinful) habits are hard to break. It requires prayer for a heart change and action (steps to get out of that habit). It’s such a struggle – even the apostle Paul talks about beating his body black and blue to bring it into submission.

All this to say, I want to practice and be more proactive at giving thanks more and complaining less.

Putting it Into Action

For awhile there was this hashtag/campaign about finding one thing a day that makes you happy: #100happydays. I want to start my own campaign, which I would love for you to join me in, to find one thing a day (at least) that I’m thankful for: #90thankfuldays. If I was more tech savvy and had thought about this months ago, then maybe I could have created a similar website like #100happydays…but, hey, I’m thankful for spontaneity in this case.  

I would encourage you to not only have fun adding it to your Instagram photos or Facebook statuses, but that you really would meditate on just how blessed you are (hard to see at times, I know) and be swept away by joy.

We’re Engaged!


Many of you have been chomping at the bit to know when, where, and how Chris proposed to me on December 14, 2013. So, I won’t keep you in suspense a moment longer!

Let me just preface this by saying this is no over-the-moon, tear-jerker, viral, YouTube phenomenon. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. This ultimately was memorable and special to us. For those of you who know me, my tastes and styles tend to reflect I’m more of a classic, simple kind of girl – so for me, this was perfection.

I love Christmastime. There’s something magical in the traditions, aromas and sights of the season – from picking out a tree to stringing up lights to curling up with a big mug of steaming hot chocolate (with Bailey’s of course). White lights are my all-time favorite. I love any excuse to decorate with them throughout the year. There’s something romantic about them and they way they can transform the look and feel of a space.

And, when it comes to Christmas trees, I have to confess I’m a little like Buddy in Elf, and can’t resist enthusiastically pointing them out (my fiancé can attest).

With that in mind, of course I was beyond thrilled that date night and Chris proposing had both those things in it.

This past week was a very busy one for both of us – so much so we had to push our midweek date night out to Saturday. At that point, we were thrilled to get the whole afternoon and evening to ourselves – it was like kids getting let out on spring break – the whole evening we goofed off and didn’t have a care in the world. That whole afternoon we got to veg out, and then took our time getting out the door for dinner at Original Pete’s in Midtown, Sacramento (they have delicious pizza – some of the best in town). After our meal we ended up bumping into people we knew from church, who were singing Christmas carols to the people brave enough to face the cold weather during 2nd Saturday (it’s an art walk type thing where galleries and shops stay open later and host various artists). It was fun getting to sing along with them for a few songs.


We then hopped in the car and parked in between the Capitol building and the Tower Bridge (which is painted gold and is a city landmark) with the plan of walking across the bridge and then walking to see the big Christmas tree in front of the Capitol. I’d never been across it (driving or walking) since I’ve been here, so Chris thought it would be fun to do. When you cross the bridge you are officially in West Sacramento. There’s a bike path and the Riverwalk on that side (take that, San Antonio). Looking across the water, you see the lights of downtown and Old Sacramento (and there Christmas tree). Unbeknownst to me, Chris was trying to locate the “perfect” view of the Sacramento skyline to propose. Aloud, he mentioned he wished he had brought his Nikon SLR along (photography is a fun, little, side hobby). Much to his chagrin, there was a couple with a camera and tripod doing long exposure photographs in the very spot he thought might be the best view of the city.


He decided to try Plan B: the Capitol Christmas tree. When we arrived, there were a lot of people snapping photos…of course I joined them. As I admired the tree, Chris said, “I just thought it would be more….impressive.” I laughed at the bummed tone in his voice, and wondered why the size of the tree mattered to him (since he’s not really into Christmas decorations), but pushed it to the back of my mind. As I discovered later, the public, crowded setting didn’t feel right to him.

Chris said, “We could go drive over to the Old Sacramento Christmas tree. Don’t they have a Theatre of Lights going on or something?” I replied (thinking he was being really sweet because he knew my enthusiasm for Christmas trees), “No, I’m good. Let’s go home and mix up drinks and watch a Christmas movie.” “Well, let’s drive back quickly to the Riverwalk and see if the couple has left that spot,” he suggested.

As he drove us over there, I was distracted with posting photos to Instagram. Got out of the car still debating of which filter to use (maybe I get a little obsessed at times), and forgot to put on my gloves (much to Chris’ delight). I said through chattering teeth, “Babe, it’s cold.” “You’ll warm up,” was his male reply.


We found the spot. He put his arm around me as we looked out across the river aglow, flickering with its reflection of the lights from the city, with the Old Sac Christmas tree in the distance. He started reminiscing about how much has happened in our lives in just the past three months. I added a few comments here and there, but was wondering why Chris was suddenly getting a little sappy (not that I minded)…

…Let me backtrack for a minute. Knowing our engagement was around the corner, we had booked a beautiful venue the weekend before – a 30-acre ranch with a Redwood grove on it in Santa Rosa, which we’re both excited about! Over Thanksgiving Chris kept asking, “So what cut do you want? The princess cut, right? And you’re a size 8, right?” All the while he was sitting on the ring and knew exactly what I wanted: a cushion cut and that my ring size was 6.5. But I didn’t know that, and assumed it was just a guy forgetful thing. So, the detailed person I am, thinking I’m being helpful, send him an email with a visual, the kind of cut, and my ring size. In one of the conversations we had he said he wouldn’t be able to get the ring until after the New Year. However, he was still convinced that somehow I knew and was on to him. Even my dad said, “Yeah, knowing my daughter, she knows.” Nope. No clue. Totally gullible. That man is good…

…Now back to the main story and continuing the conversation. I said, “And now we have a venue and are looking into invitations…big stuff.” After saying this, with his arm still around me, he craned his head sideways to meet my gaze, and with a twinkle in his eye he said, “Well, there’s only one thing left to do.” While I was looking puzzled – still convinced in my own mind that there was no way he had the ring – he knelt down on one knee, while whipping a box from his coat pocket, and said, “Rachel, will you marry me?” (I am reliving the emotion as I type this). As I caught the sparkle of the ring in the moonlight, it suddenly struck me this was really happening. I was so surprised I put my hands over my mouth, and then waved my arms enthusiastically about, and half-squealed, “YES! Yes, I will!”


He slipped the ring on my finger. The perfect fit. It was exactly what I wanted. But more importantly, he was the man I wanted. His love, and getting to do life with him “until death do us part,” is infinitely more valuable and beautiful and breathtaking – not to mention the best Christmas gift ever.


(sorry about some of the blurry pictures – my body was shaking from the cold)

Pulling From the Source


Recently, in the Twitterverse, I came across a post on a blog site titled: “Missional: Is it Religious Gentrification?” by Tyler Tully. Having just moved to Sacramento, and am in the thrust of joining with my boyfriend (there’s got to be a less “cheesy,” more fitting title – just saying), Chris, to start a church in Midtown, and having heard the word “missional living” tossed around, much like the word “discipleship,” of course I was interested in hearing someone’s take on this “movement.” Our mission at Midtown Community Church is “leading people to live Christ-centered lives every day.” We want to live as missionaries to the people of Midtown and to be the church to them – to love on and serve them – to do life with them. The question I’m always asking myself is what does that looks like in my life.

Having grown up in the church in the American culture, I don’t think I was ever encouraged or taught what the true posture of a Christian is – and I was blind to it to a certain extent. Being a Christian who follows the Great Commission and the Great Commandment requires a deliberate, intentional and disciplined way of living and thinking. Living missionally is most definitely not natural or easy. It’s not an extracurricular thing we do every so often – it encompasses and touches everything and who we are – because this lifestyle is how we’re called to live as Christ followers.

Back to the blog post I came across. There was a portion of it that really leaped out at me, and got a culmination of thoughts whirling around in my head that I decided to work out by writing down. Here’s one of Tully’s comments/perceptions on the missional movement:

The last 10 years have shown more buzz around the term missional, although many of us are still scratching our heads about what that really means…While we’re trying to understand, worship, and participate in building the Kingdom of a marginalized 1st century Galilean, we are still operating from a place of access, privilege, and homogeneity – and we need to admit that the missional movement conversation has been dominated by the Dominators, if we are to see any meaningful Kingdom building. In other words, the missional movement needs to repent.

My brain is like a ping pong match between his words and my own wrestling with what it looks like for me to live missionally – to be the church, making disciples, getting outside your “comfort zone” and pouring into the people around you. All of that is so heady and sounds amazing. There’s this stirring in your soul, much like the reaction Lucy, Peter and Susan had in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, to the statement: “Aslan is on the move.” It wells up when you read about men of God, like Daniel, or books like Crazy Love, You Lost Me or Tangible Kingdom. You say to yourself, “YES. I want to be a part of that. I want to live that way.” And then the inevitable “Ok, so now what do I do? What’s my role?” If I’ve discovered anything about human nature, and myself, I find there’s this subtle, easy tendency to live vicariously through other’s testimonies of how they’re living missionally – it sounds so grand. It’s that innate desire for a tangible kingdom – for something more than what this world has to offer. But, like bystanders at a sports game, you really have no stake in it – it’s not your victory or loss. You didn’t train, sweat, struggle, get pounded, or make the winning play. Fans may take it personally, but it’s definitely not physically affecting them.

I’ve come to realize that just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s complicated. That’s my problem – I tend to overthink because I’m a recovering perfectionist. I want to immediately know what I need to do, how to do it, and have “missional living” down overnight. Boom. Reality check. In asking “How do I do this?” “How do I get results?” I came to realize that I was stopping with “I” – that I was dependent on myself to find “solutions” and to make this missional thing happen. It’s rather exhausting, because, let’s be honest, we’re the worst saviors ever. After I arrived at this realization, I was struck with a “light-bulb moment” from a conversation on Psalm 1 this past Tuesday. This was it: It all boils down to the SOURCE of your approach to “go forth and make disciples.” Because here’s the truth we all know: Anyone and everyone can and does plug into their community (this fever among the millennials to belong, yet not commit), whether it be an intermural league or social club of some sort.

It’s a good to pour into others on their turf, but here’s the question: What source am I pulling from to pour out? If it starts stops with just me and my own willpower – well I already know that only takes me so far. It’s like a kid putting on a firefighter uniform. They can look it, wish it, but they sure aren’t it when it comes to putting out fires and saving lives. They don’t have the training and experience. Ah, now I’m getting somewhere (maybe). This is where we look back at my earlier reference to Psalm 1. Verses 1-3:

“How blessed is the one who does not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand in the pathway with sinner, or sit in the assembly of scoffers! Instead he finds pleasure in obeying the Lord’s commands; he meditates on his commands day and night. He is like a tree planted by flowing streams; it yields its fruit at the proper time, and its leaves never fall off. He succeeds in everything he does.”

It doesn’t say the blessed or godly man is defined by all the things he does, but by who he is, why he is blessed – and, in turn, how that shapes his everyday living. What’s his source? He takes pleasure in doing God’s commands – he fills up his mind and heart with knowing God’s Word. It correlates with the tree (“down by the river!!”) in verse 3. This tree can withstand any season and whatever that season throws at it because its roots are pulling directly from an unending supply of water. It doesn’t stop there though…with just the intake of water. The water causes something to happen to the tree. You see this outpouring and harvest of it bearing fruit…so others can taste and see God’s goodness. But the tree couldn’t have, in and of itself, produced the fruit or survived without the river/water/stream. Relationships.

I am praying for myself, each of you, and Midtown Community Church, that the Lord will give us more of a love and delight in pursuing Him, reading/memorizing His Word, obeying Him. Not that I don’t find delight in Him now, but I want more…and to do it better, more consistently and faithfully.

There are many things in this post that I could break down further, but it would become a book.

Bottom line: If I don’t fill myself up with Him, I have nothing to give to begin with.

Let’s guard against our tendency to make everything technical, legalistic or a 10-step process.

The One Behind all the Stories


For those C.S. Lewis lovers out there….

If you’ve done it before, you know what it’s like to move across states. Yes, it looks different for all of us, but the same underlying challenges are there: new job, new place, bruises and sore muscles from moving, taking your driver’s license test, change of address, license and registration, finding where the closest grocery store is, all the unexpected expenses – some big, some small – but they all add up, and getting lost – a lot …. to name a few.

Sometimes the speed they pound you at is overwhelming and unsettling, and you feel if you stop to think about it, you’ll break. Thoughts of doubt and/or despair can quickly seep into your mind.

It really all boils down to your perspective and your character when it comes to dealing with these situations. I hate to admit I’ve dealt with some of these situations with a negative and complaining “woe is me” spirit. But even in those times, the Lord has shown me his awesomeness in a way that rebukes me gently.

I’ve been reading a book called Living Like A Narnia: Christian Discipleship in Lewis’s Chronicles by Joe Rigney. In chapter 13, “Tell Me Your Sorrows,” he references The Horse and His Boy. I really related to Shasta (the boy), as you’ll see below, when he looks back and sees how “horrible” his past was and present situation is – how he’s “the unluckiest person in the whole world.” When “the Thing” says, “One who has waiting long for you to speak,” I choked up in realizing how often I go first to myself or others to “fix” or get out of tight scrapes – and even when it doesn’t work out I still somehow won’t go to God in prayer – to tell Him my sorrows – because I can’t “see” Him.

It was a wonderful, beautiful and humbling reminder of how God isn’t a God of chaos, but he is God in the chaos – that he “works all things together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28) That’s what I love about C.S. Lewis – the undertones that point us past ourselves – that stir up in us that natural desire for and delicious hope in a Savior.

For his entire life Shasta has been at the mercy of forces beyond his control, tossed about by events and circumstances, cut off from love, affection and security…to top it off…Something begins to walk along next to him, breathing deep sighs and filling Shasta with terror…In the dark he whispers, “Who are you?”

“One who has waited long for you to speak,” said the Thing. Its voice was not loud, but very large and deep.

“Are you – are you a giant?” asked Shasta.

“You might call me a giant,” said the Large Voice. “But I am not like the creatures you call giants.”

“I can’t see you at all,” said Shasta, after staring very hard. Then (for an even more terrible idea had come into his head) he said, almost in a scream, “You’re not – not something dead, are you? Oh please – please go away…Oh, I am the unluckiest person in the whole world!”

Then the Voice breathes a warm, reassuring breath on the frightened child and says, “Tell me your sorrows.”

And Shasta does – from being orphaned and beaten by his adoptive father, to fleeing from multiple lions and hiding in ghoulish tombs, to the heat and thirst of the desert, and the loneliness and hunger of the present moment.

And then the Voice surprises him by saying, “I do not call you unfortunate,” and then informs him that in all his journeys, there was only one lion, “but he was swift of foot.” And then, most shockingly of all, the Voice says, “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat that comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you”

In this moment, Shasta discovers that behind a frowning providence, Aslan hides a smiling face. All that he had called “bad luck” and “misfortune” was really the wise and good plan of the Great Lion. As he says to Aravis later, Aslan “seems to be at the back of all the stories.”

Don’t forget, for those of you who know the whole story (and for those of you who don’t), that Shasta, through these series of “unfortunate” events ends up being reunited with his long-lost father. The Lord provided, not only a full-time job, but a career, full of potential, in this position as marketing coordinator with a nationally recognized engineering firm. I admit was scared to let go of my former job, thinking there wasn’t anything I’d enjoy more or that I was giving up something precious or I’d get stuck in some job I hated, when, in fact, it was a dead-end job (although an enjoyable job and I had great coworkers and good boss). Best of all, I was reunited with the man I love. It’s amazing to see the One behind all my (and your) stories.

Lean On

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What do you lean on?

One of my favorite passages and promises in Scripture is Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”

I know It’s a very well-known verse, and probably appears on as many journal covers, bookmarks and coffee mugs as Joshua 24:15 and Isaiah 40:31. But this weekend, I wanted more from it – to scratch deeper beneath what I’ve gleaned from it so far and chew on it. So, here are my thoughts on it and what I’ve pulled in from other commentators.

I think the main aim of the verse is to walk in a straight path. Meaning, God doesn’t want us to veer off the path into disobedience or into a wasted life or anything that would dishonor Him. Whenever Scripture talks about paths, my mind leaps to John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress” and the path into the Slough of Despond and how they veered off the path, which led them to the prison of Giant Despair and Doubting Castle. So, that’s the goal: straight paths; straight to everlasting joy – straight to a God-honoring life.

There appear to be 3 steps to get there:

1) Trust in the Lord with all your heart. We need to bank on the promises of God – making our lives a moment-by-moment trusting in a good, all-powerful, unchanging, loving, all-providing and all-satisfying God. Brandon Barker, one of the spiritual formation pastors at The Village Church – Dallas Northway campus, said something Sunday evening I’ll never forget: “Some of us don’t lack boldness, we lack trust.”

2) Don’t rely on your own understanding. This is a conscious choice NOT to be self-reliant (why can’t this just be easier? The battle of self vs. God – so messy). To say to self, “Self, you are inadequate. Brain, you can’t come up with enough wisdom on your own.” I feel especially in the last few weeks that the Lord has been trying to break me of this. Now, getting away from self-reliance doesn’t mean you don’t make plans or don’t think…you just don’t bank on them. “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory belongs to the Lord.” (Proverbs 21:31) — James 4:13-15 also comes to mind. So, in the midst of our planning, thinking, etc., we’re leaning on something else and not leaning on our own resources. What a tight rope and balance.

3) In all your ways acknowledge Him. In Hebrew, this reads: In all your ways KNOW Him. At every turn, at every choice you make, at every new conversation you’re in….you’re sending up the message: “God, I acknowledge you here. I know you here. You are decisive here. I need you here.”

And if we follow those, and trust Him, He’s going to make our paths straight – going to keep us from wasting our lives and bring us into everlasting joy.

How AWESOME is that truth?! So, lean on – lean on the Lord.

(Note: ok, I admit I was trying to get clever and play off the book title “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, even though it doesn’t remotely relate – har har.)

Understanding Your Needs


This morning, when I read Matthew 6:33-34, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble,” I understood it in a whole new light.


Starting in verse 25, Jesus tells us reasons to not be anxious about our lives, what we’ll eat, drink, wear, etc., and points to the birds and flowers and how God feeds and clothes them (and are we not more valuable than them). I’ve always understood those verses to mean God is faithful and will provide everything we need. So you’d think that would mean we’d always be comfortable and safe from harm or pain. But this is not so, because I then think of Christians persecuted, raped, beaten, tortured, starving, and dying around the world. Also, for those of us who are sick, who’ve experienced loss, who are striving for something and can’t seem to get anywhere, who can’t seem to “catch a break,” who can’t afford to meet rent or buy groceries, etc. What about us/them? Is this an empty promise? Is He a cruel, unfeeling, unfair and unjust God? No. God never contradicts Himself. Indeed, He promised us that if they killed him they would kill us, too (Matt. 24:9). And Paul says (paraphrased) who can separate us from the love of God? Death, famine, plague, etc.? (Romans 8:35-39)

Quick detour. Think of it this way (I don’t claim originality with this analogy; I reference Matt Chandler, lead paster at The Village Church). Imagine you’re a parent (maybe you are), and your two-year-old wants a whole can of Coca-Cola (or your dog wants your slice of chocolate cake). Would you give it to them? No. Why not? Well, you don’t want them to get sick. Do they see it that way? Of course not. You’re the mean, bad person. We all know how this goes down. The pouty lip, whiny begging and then wailing as if you’d committed the worse crime to them. They see the treat as the best thing in the world for/to them. Are you being unfair and cruel or loving and merciful? You’re giving your child (or pet) what they need.

The revelation

Back to the passage. Here’s the beautiful part. If you look back to the beginning of verse 33, “…seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…” there’s where the answer is! God promises to gives us everything we need in order to serve and glorify Him…to further His kingdom. “…and all these things will be added to you.” So, whatever it takes, He will make sure you have it. What a glorious hope and assurance.

Isn’t that just AWESOME?!

The part of this that makes me quake is that it’s so easy to proclaim it and let type up these truths, and much harder to believe when the tribulation comes. I know how cowardly and pathetic my own heart is and how often I fail at the little tests.

Will we be able to say in those shaky, scary times, “It is well with my soul”?

Humility = Heroism


Humility is often viewed as negative or weak in our society. It’s all about the big “You” – standing up for yourself, using people to get to the next rung in your path to power and success, exploiting others’ weaknesses to reach your goals, doing things when they only promote your good, and even only going out of your way to help someone when it’s convenient for you.

Do you really think people in positions of great power are the happiest and most secure? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying people who are in positions of authority or power aren’t humble. There are some great leaders.

As Ken Blanchard says:

Humility doesn’t mean you think less of yourself. It means you think of yourself less.

Have you ever stopped to think about how humble of some of your favorite heroes/heroines in history – even comic book heroes? They laid down their lives for others and put their needs ahead of their own personal gain. Yet, there was a joy there. You admire them, even seek to be like them.

Humility is beautiful. It calls us to heroism. Not a heroism that puffs up or purposely calls attention to itself. It’s full of grace and thanksgiving. For Christians, it’s a recognition of what God in Christ has done for us “while we were yet sinners.” From that realization, it’s a heart full of love and obedience in living out what we’ve been called to do – to love God and love others (1 John 4:21, Mark 12:30-31). *As my friend, Billy, pointed out and summed up what I was getting at:

All heroes are a shadow of Christ.

Humility stems from love. And love makes you go out of your way for the other person. It’s grace given to you that leaves you shaking your head in glorious astonishment. I’ve seen it again and again in my own life and relationships, from my boyfriend, family and friends. It never ceases to blow my mind and riddle me with great joy.

This thought, and now post, actually stemmed from the movie “Emma” (from the book written by Jane Austen), when Mr. Knightly is proposing to Emma. They’ve been best friends for years, but a set of circumstances drives both of them to realize they love each other, but the other doesn’t know how the other feels. But just this scene, and what he did to “win” her, just evoked that strong imagery of how humility is heroic, romantic and beautiful, especially in relationships. It’s the heart and action behind the words that give the words that much more intimacy and power. Such grace.

Emma: But I feel so full of error, so mistaken in my make up to deserve you.

Mr. Knightley: And what of my flaws? I’ve humbled you, and I’ve lectured you, and you have born as no one could have born it. Perhaps it is our imperfections that makes us so perfect for one another.

*Added in later to original post.

It Doesn’t Get Better Than This (music-wise) in Dallas

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NEEDTOBREATHE – 2013 Drive All Night Tour at the Palladium / Photo by Rachel Duke

Last night’s NEEDTOBREATHE concert at the Palladium was even more awesome than I anticipated in my earlier blog post — due mostly to the sort of random, unplanned series of events, and the fact Chris came with me, which made it THAT much more awesome.

The doors opened at 8, so we wanted to get there right around that time. By the time we left the house we realized we didn’t have enough time to sit down and have a nice, chill dinner beforehand. Pulling up to park, Chris made a crack at the fact there would have been 14-year-old fan girls in line all day. I scoffed laughingly thinking he was seriously joking. WRONG. I so ate my doubts. There they were, skinny jeans and all, in masses lined up outside the venue door. I couldn’t believe it. I had seen them last year at the House of Blues, and there wasn’t anything like this.

Chris and I laughed so hard, and as we found the back of the line (a few blocks later) I teasingly pointed out that there were 40-year-olds at the back of the line, so Chris didn’t have to feel like he was the oldest guy there. We decided we weren’t going to get near the stage anyway, and didn’t want to spend the next half hour standing in line.

As luck would have it, I had done a photo shoot with TWG (magazine) earlier that week at the NYLO Hotel, which is a few blocks down from the Palladium. Afterwards the photographer treated my team to some drinks at this charming industrial-looking restaurant called Full Circle Tavern (check them out). Chris and I decided to have a drink and eat dinner. The weather was perfect and we sat right next to one of the big doorways (which are really those garage doors with all the windows, rolled up) for the next hour. The line grew to where people were lined up outside the restaurant. When we finished we hopped right in line and it began moving. Such an awesome and convenient turn of events!

We ended up standing in the middle of the wide, yet deep room. I expected to bump into people I knew that were going, but didn’t. NEEDTOBREATHE had never played to a crowd this big at one time in Dallas. There had to be at least 2,000 people in one space. It was so fun to sing along, jump up and down and let the inner 14-year-old out a little bit, which cracked up my boyfriend.

Here’s a short clip I managed to get of one of the songs they performed last night (Drive All Night — duh)

A Double Whammy


Okay, so I’ve now had two people nominate me for the Liebster Blog Award: My darling friend and sister of my heart, Michal and my dear friend (and soon-to-be a new mother) Hayley (who also happens to be Michal’s amazing sister-in-law). I’m telling you they don’t make sister-in-laws and friends like these two women anymore. Suffice to say, I have no choice but to participate in this wonderful opportunity after both these ladies have recommended mine; the point of all this being to direct more readers to blogs with fewer than 200 followers in a chain-mail form of nominating people. I also get to answer some questions about myself.

Eleven Random Facts about Rachel 

1. My major was journalism, but my passion lies with magazine writing. I am a advertising/marketing copywriter for two: Texas Wedding Guide and Design Guide magazines. I do everything from print writing (features) to anything online, including our social media.

2. I have a nerdy side that comes out in the form of quoting or relating most life circumstances to a movie or book quote.

3. I am ridiculously in love with all things chocolate. It’s the purest form of dessert, in my expert opinion. Also, I love wine. Especially enjoy a glass or two with my boyfriend after a long day. He actually has turned me into more of a wine snob. Interesting fact: He didn’t care for wine until he started dating me. I liked the sweeter, white wines, whereas he preferred the bite of reds. Now I prefer red wine over white because of him.

4. I love to cook or bake a new recipe at least once a week, and not just pin them on Pinterest. I mostly love it because I enjoy doing it for or with my boyfriend.

5. I’m addicted to working out, Pilates and road biking – although I don’t take any of them too seriously. I’ve done three 5Ks and Hotter ‘n Hell bike marathon last summer (53 miles).

6. I’m left-handed.

7. When it comes to being right-brained or left-brained, I’m pretty much smack dab in the middle, but tend to lean more to the left (I’ve got that artsy side).

8. If you had to compare me to a character in literature, I would be Marianne (Sense and Sensibility – passionate and a romantic) with a dose of Elizabeth (Pride and Prejudice – a love of books and extremely stubborn/opinionated) with a dash of Jane (P&P – inclined to think the best of people) and wishing I had more Elinor in me (S&S).

9. Don’t be fooled, I may appear to be an extrovert, but I feel I lean towards being more of an introvert – I like my thinking space.

10. My ancestry is Greek and German. Not sure what that indicates about me….stubborn and smart? To look at me (and my nose) you’d see the Greek in me.

11. One question I’ve been wondering this whole time: Why 11 random facts? Because it’s an odd number and these are odd facts?

Eleven Random Questions Given from Michal, via Hayley, via Rachel (why not?)

If there was one place in the world you would travel to, where would it be? Italy. I’m a HUGE history (and art) buff, and there’s so much history there from Rome, with its history of the catacombs and persecution of the early church. Then there’s Venice, with great composers like Vivaldi and other great artists.

Have you yet mastered the art of parallel parking? No, and I don’t think I ever will. I can manage if I have to, but I break out in stress sweat each time, anticipating the screech of metal.

What is your favorite word? Vivacious (it pretty much changes from month to month). According to Merriam-Webster: Adjective (esp. of a woman) Attractively lively and animated; Synonyms: Lively – sprightly – spirited – brisk – anitmated – alive.

What is your favorite season of the year and why? If I lived in Northern California, I would say, hands down, Summer. But since I’m in Dallas, Texas, I would have to say Autumn. There air is electric (and cooler) and there’s so many spices in the air. The anticipation of the upcoming holidays full of delicious food and fun celebrations with friends and family. I love how colorful fall is and that I finally get to pull out my brown boots and cardigans.

What are you looking forward to doing most this summer? Spending some quality time doing activities with my boyfriend that we’ve been unable to do because he’s been consumed with homework and finals the past few months. He’ll be graduating from seminary (DTS) this month.

What is your favorite quote or words of wisdom?  Almost every quote from C.S. Lewis hits the mark. There are so many good quotes – it’s hard to decide. So, instead of agonizing, I’ll share a quote from a book I’ve been reading (Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller) that’s encouraged and punched me in the gut: 

But I can guarantee that, whoever you marry, you will fall “out of like” with them. Powerful feelings of affection and delight will not and cannot be sustained. It is quite typical to lose the head-over-heels feelings for your mate even before you get married, because our emotions are tied to so many things within our physiology, psychology, and environment. Your feelings will ebb and flow, and if you follow our culture’s definition of “love,” you may conclude that this can’t be a person you should marry. Our culture glorifies romantic passion, and so we say, “If this was the person for me to marry, my feelings wouldn’t be so up and down.” In a chapter called Christian Marriage in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes:

People get from books the idea that if you have married the right person you may expect to go on “being in love” forever. As a result, when they find they are not, they think this proves they have made a mistake and are entitled to a change – not realizing that, when they have change, the glamour will presently go out of the new love just as it went out of the old one…

In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love seem to dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of a marriage is that is it a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must be tender, understanding, forgiving, and helpful.

Coffee or tea? Coffee. Usually one cup a day. But I love tea, too.

What is the last movie you watched? The King’s Speech (with Colin Firth). This is a must-see (and must-own) movie. The quotes and exchanges are so colorful and gripping.

If there is one person in the world (living) whom you aspire to be like, who would it be?  There really isn’t just one person, and most are peers I look up to.

What/who/where is your inspiration for writing? Two writers who most inspire me: C.S. Lewis and Jane Austen. They had such verve and incredible insight. Basically any book or blog where I love the writer’s voice and use of words, I get excited about what I do because I learn from them.

What is your favorite thing to do with your family? Movie and pizza nights or our random, but in-depth conversations on a topic.

Here are a few blogs I think deserve many more readers:

A Woman Alive by Michal Conger. I could read her blog all day because she has such a way with words. She writes with clarity and in a style that’s enjoyable to follow and easy to understand. She also possesses wisdom beyond her years.

Sweet Tooth Mama by Hayley Elseth. I have a horrible (but wonderful) sweet tooth and enjoy following her adventures in the land of delectable sweets and treats, the tips she gives and the resources she recommends. And she has fun images.

Austen’s Guide to Happiness by a mother and wife living in Australia. I recently stumbled across this blog, and if you’re a die-hard fan of Jane Austen, you may just love this blog. She ties in scenarios and characters in the books with real-life struggles and delights.

The Rabbit Room by S.D. Smith. Good stuff on here if you’re a lover of literature. It has some great resources like podcasts and its own bookstore.

Ok, to be honest, most blogs I follow have a huge following and very few of my friends have blogs. I will often stumble across some delightful blogs via Pinterest. Also, I’ll take time out of my day to read the blog from The Gospel Coalition, which features multiple guest bloggers.



Words cannot adequately express the sheer delight, my internal state of jumping up and down or my giddiness about seeing NEEDTOBREATHE in concert, for the second time, tomorrow night at the Palladium in downtown Dallas!!!

There’s so much to love about the kind of music this band produces.

1) The depth behind the seemingly light-hearted lyrics

2) Their energy onstage – their passion for their music, style and fans is evident – they can’t help but evoke passionate fans

3) Their antics and energy never wain throughout the performance – in fact, it becomes even more wild towards song 10

4) The history behind each song and their beginnings/journey as a band

5) The fact that their fans sing along loudly – it’s awesome

They are absolutely and must-see act to put on your bucket list. This is coming from a girl who doesn’t typically enjoy concerts or have money to throw at them. Worth every penny. I’ve been waiting in eager anticipation of this moment since I saw them in concert last year. Can I just add here how excited I am that my boyfriend is coming to this concert with me? It makes this THAT much more awesome!

I even printed off and took a photo of the tickets at work:

photo (9)

Tickets for Chris and I!!

Here’s an excerpt I pulled from Palladium’s site on them (my favorite parts are in bold):

“We wanted to make an important record in the way that people used to make records. Bands rarely have the time that allows them to create a game-changing album like Born to Run, Rumours, or Damn The Torpedoes. So we said, ‘Let’s set ourselves up to do that. Let’s believe in the songs enough that we’re willing to take the time they need and really push ourselves. It may sound nave, but we still have a dream that we’re going to make a record that’s going to change everything for us.”

When NEEDTOBREATHE’s Bear and Bo Rinehart set out to write the songs that appear on the band’s new album, The Reckoning, they felt something bigger awaited them. It wasn’t just commercial success either. The band’s last album The Outsiders hit No. 9 on Billboard’s Rock Albums chart, went Top 20 on the Top 200, saw the band sell out venues such as Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium and Chicago’s House of Blues, and score an impressive number of placements in blockbuster films and numerous prime time television-shows. Bear explains “There was always this creeping reminder that we needed to show what the last ten years on the road had taught us. If we couldn’t do that, everything we had worked for was meaningless.”

With their reputation as a must-see live act built from non-stop touring, the Rinehart brothers, pastor’s sons who hail from the rural South Carolina town of Possum Kingdom, along with drummer Joe Stillwell and bass player Seth Bolt, were determined to create a statement-making album that truly captured the magic behind this genuinely appealing rock band.

“We considered every note, every sound, and every lyric that went on this album,” Bo says of their fourth album The Reckoning, which was co-produced by the band with Rick Beato (who worked with the band on their records The Heat and The Outsiders), and was recorded over seven months mostly at their Plantation Studios in Charleston, SC. “Everything was put through the ‘Do we really believe in this or not,’ filter. We never settled. We were looking for a spark. Sometimes in the studio you’ve got to keep searching until something happens that feels magical. We were waiting for that moment to strike on each song before we called this album finished.” Bear adds, “At one point, we had done 10 different versions of the same song, but that process is what the record came to be about. We felt like no one could take this moment from us. I think you can feel the pressure we put on ourselves in every note of this record. The songs and the album became something much bigger than us … something we had to live up to.”

Lyrically, all roads lead from the album’s title, which Bear says has several different meanings, one of them being the justification of accounts. “I like the idea that you put in all this work and at some point it comes to a peak — that’s the reckoning time.”

What the band emerged with is a timeless-sounding album rooted in classic American rock and roll, unafraid to veer off into unexpected directions. Songs such as “Maybe They’re On To Us” address the paranoia of wondering whether people know too much about the band. “It also asks, ‘Are we still driven in the same way?’ We’re always questioning ourselves,” Bear says. Even the songs that may sound light-hearted on the surface, like “White Fences,” “Slumber,” and “Drive All Night,” explore serious themes. “‘White Fences’ is about the American dream of growing up in a big house with a white picket fence, but when the dream is broken and things don’t pan out the way you planned, asking who’s going to fix it,” Bo says. “‘Slumber’ is meant to be about how beauty is all around you but you just can’t see it because of the funk you’re in,” Bear says. “It speaks to something that we really care about which is giving yourself a chance.” And there’s “Drive All Night,” a galloping barnstormer that Bear sees as a statement on the false idea that one can run away from one’s problems. “The truth is, the more you run away, the worse it gets, whereas if you embrace the things around you, the more joy you’re going to have,” he says.

With their intriguing melodies and bright choruses, the songs on The Reckoning are certain to translate in the live setting, something that is crucial to the band. “The worst thing that could happen is you get done playing and people don’t think about you again. We’ll do whatever it takes to force people to make a decision about our band, whether they love us or not. It makes for more passionate fans.”

“We’ve always bought into the fact that anything worth having is going to cost you a lot, so I think we were prepared to lose everything. The Reckoning is our investigation into everything we believed to be true and a justification for everything we still do.”