Long Time, No Talk

Hey Friends!

I know it’s been awhile since you last heard from me…but that’s because (in case you missed it) I’ve been writing on my new and improved site, brookrakow.com!

I just posted a freshly penned poem, This One’s for the Sensitive Girl, and it would mean the world to me if you go and check it out. Right now!

Hope life is treating you well. Thanks for the support!

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P.S. if you haven’t yet, subscribe on my new site! You’ll get all my new posts (you know, in case you missed me 😉 ) and it would be a huge encouragement to me.

Happy Monday!

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This One’s For the S.A.H. Moms

“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”
– Proverbs 31:29

Wide Open

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I have a love-hate relationship with being asked questions that have never crossed my mind before. On one hand, I find the question fascinating and thought-provoking. On the other hand, feelings of idiocracy pelt my brain as I question why I have never questioned this question before. Just this past weekend, my boyfriend asked one of these questions.

“So how does your mom feel about the whole stay-at-home-mom thing?”

After dragging him to my nine-year-old brother’s midget football game (where he played all of 2 minutes due to the cast on his wrist), and then forcing him to come home with me and play soccer with my little siblings (okay, let’s be honest, my boyfriend loves my siblings because they absolutely adore him. Seriously. He comes to my house to hang out with them, not me), we found ourselves in the car together, dreaming about the future. As we discussed marriage and…

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When Waiting Steals Your Life

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My entire life has been a waiting period–

–waiting for summer to come. For high school to end. For college to begin. Waiting for the next trip, the next adventure, the next stage. Waiting for graduation and the “real world” to begin. Waiting for the moment when I finally know what I’m doing with my life.

Waiting. waiting…..waiting.

Yet, as soon as I reach the place that I spent so much time waiting for, I find myself longing for the next place. I allow Worry’s thin, cold fingers to shackle my mind and shove it down What If Blvd. Anxious thoughts spin round and round like dead leaves in the wind, not really going anywhere, freezing me in my stumbling tracks. Now, don’t get me wrong–while many of these consuming thoughts come packaged with dread and anxiety, an equal number are brightly painted with hopeful anticipation. But, the more time I spend waiting for whatever comes next, the less time I spend enjoying the moment that I am in.

Waiting is a master pickpocket.

Anticipation convinces the individual that what’s coming will be different–maybe better, maybe worse–but worthy of one’s thoughts above all else. It sneaks up behind, stealthily slipping past our defenses, and distracting  us just long enough to steal the here-and-now right out from under our noses.

I could swear that Shauna Niequist had watched a movie of my entire life when she penned,

“I have always, essentially, been waiting. Waiting to become something else, waiting to be that person I always thought I was on the verge of becoming, waiting for that life I thought I would have. In my head, I was always one step away. In high school, I was biding my time until I could become the college version of myself, the one my mind could see so clearly. In college, the post-college “adult” person was always looming in front of me, smarter, stronger, more organized. Then the married person, then the person I’d become when we have kids. For twenty years, literally, I have waited to become the thin version of myself, because that’s when life will really begin.

And through all that waiting, here I am. My life is passing, day by day, and I am waiting for it to start. I am waiting for that time, that person, that event when my life will finally begin. . .
John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” For me, life is what was happening while I was busy waiting for my big moment. I was ready for it and believed that the rest of my life would fade into the background, and that my big moment would carry me through life like a lifeboat. . .”
I don’t want to live this way–I want my life to glow with intention and leave behind a trail of sparkles. I want to be all there, to be so in love with whatever I’m doing that anticipation doesn’t stand a chance.

I want to live a life like the one Shauna Niequist describes in her book, Cold Tangerines:

“I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud.
And I don’t want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, and realize that my life
is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes.
I want to eat cold tangerines and sing out loud in the car with the windows open
and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing
and paint my walls the exact color of the sky right now.
I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties
and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down,
and I want my everyday to make God belly laugh,
glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift.”

But this is what I’m finding, in glimpses and flashes: this is it. This is it, in the best possible way. That thing I’m waiting for, that adventure, that move-score-worthy experience unfolding gracefully. This is it. Normal, daily life ticking by on our streets and sidewalks, in our houses and apartments, in our beds and at our dinner tables, in our dreams and prayers and fights and secrets – this pedestrian life is the most precious thing any of us will ever experience.

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Weeds and Jesus.

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Growing up, I swear my mother’s favorite response to, well, everything, was “go pull weeds.”

Bored? “go pull weeds.” Bickering? “go pull weeds.” Company’s coming? “go pull weeds.” It’s nice outside? “go pull weeds.” Had a bad day? “go pull weeds.” (okay, maybe not that last one! But seriously. Weeds, weeds, weeds.)

There was one weed in particular, however, that fascinated me. Long and viney, with tiny white, bell-shaped flowers that stuck to the end of my nose when I smelled them, this weed seemed to overtake my mom’s flower beds just as fast as we pulled them. I loved the satisfaction of pulling and pulling on one plant, stretching out the seemingly endless roots–but absolutely despised the way these weeds grew and twisted, entwining themselves in shrubs and day lilies and rose bushes.

Now, I’ve always been told that weeds are bad–that they exist because of Adam and Eve’s act of rebellion in the garden, live for the pleasure of choking the life out of beautiful plant growth, are only good when they are dead–yada, yada, yada.

But I’m somewhat of an optimist.

So, when I opened my email the other day and read a devotion from She Reads Truth (SRT), I was instantly reminded of those long viney weeds–and the picture of Jesus they created.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

Jesus is the vine–do you understand the beauty of that?? My feeble attempts to reach out to Him are unnecessary because He has already stretched His leafy vines towards me, long before I even thought I needed Him too. He wraps me up in the protection of His vines, holding me together (but giving life instead of sucking it out of me like weeds tend to do!)  Friends. Our closeness to the True Vine absolutely does not depend on our own attempts.

Can I get a hallelujah!?

And, because I love how Rebekah Lyons put it in her SRT devotion, I’ll let her summarize the wonder of this phenomenon:

My entire life I thought my closeness with Jesus was dependent upon me. But Jesus’ love draws us in for one thing: to come into His presence and His rest. That’s it. How many of us could use a little soul rest? And when we do come, the Vine takes the reins from there. He pulls us close and tethers us to Himself.

The greatness doesn’t stop there. This tethering becomes provision, meaning all the nutrients of heaven are offered to us right now, to renew us and bring us back to life. Jesus gives us everything we need in life to push back the darkness (2 Peter 1:3). He gently binds us to Himself. He brings forth fruit, grown from the life He’s given us, to then bring nourishment to the world. Jesus does it all. Fruit never comes from our own making—it grows to the measure we let Him grow it in us (John 15:5).”

Now, let us live in a way that lets the Vine bear much fruit through us. 

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The Day I Vandalized My Bible

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6:28 on a Monday morning. I hit snooze, but end up getting out of bed before my second alarm demands I do so because, as capable as I am at getting ready in 7 minutes flat, rushing isn’t something I thoroughly enjoy.

The lock of my door clicks, bidding me farewell as I depart for another 11 hour shift,  juggling keys, phone, and a travel mug of tea.

I shuffle home later that evening, most likely after a trip to the gym and/or a meeting or two. I shower, invent a new dinner from the random assortment of goods in my pantry (mocking me for not having grocery shopped any time recently.) Then I sit on the couch and allow Homework to take my hand and lead me to Dreamland–where I toss and turn until the next 6:28am.

Now, not everyday is the same (though the hours are) as I transition between full-time student two mornings and one night a week and full-time employee everyday. The variety flavors each day with a slightly different spice, even though the portions rarely vary; however, have you noticed yet which staple is missing from my daily diet?

That’s right–time with God.

You see, somewhere along the journey to where I am today, I seem to have picked up a hitchhiking thought process that tells me ten extra minutes of sleep is more important than time with God. It mocks my failures and makes me believe that I don’t even know where to begin anymore when I open my Bible…so I just don’t. Or, at least, I don’t as often as I used to.

The tight-knittedness of where I come from led me to subconsciously base my faith on my engagement with everyone else–my family, my friends, my church, my youth group, my Bible study group. I was so deeply involved in the Christian community that spending personal time with God just seemed natural. But then I went to college.

Oh sure, I go to a Christian university. But that almost seemed to make it harder for me. No youth group exists on campus because nearly everyone that would attend is already plugged into a college group at one of the various local churches. The Bible is a key component in most classes, making it almost like a textbook. Chapel happens daily. And, somewhere in these past few years, it no longer felt necessary to go out and engage in Christian fellowship because, well, it was just…there. Without me putting forth any effort.

And I became lazy.

So here I find myself, taking a brief second to reflect on Mondays and weekdays and weekends gone by. Days when I skimmed the pages of my Bible half-heartedly feeling lost–and days when I didn’t even attempt to lick up the crumbs of my Daily Bread.

And, let me tell you, I hate being this honest. I hate admitting that I am failing in an area that I was once so diligent in. But I suppose a Bread-hungry part of my soul desperately hopes that my vulnerability will encourage even one other person who is struggling with this same dilemma. I hope to create a sense of accountability in myself. I hope take joy in opening my Bible each and every day.

So I vandalized my Bible.

That’s right. Inspired by Rebekah Jones’ Bible Art Journaling, I pulled out my watercolor pencils and paint brushes and flipped open to Romans 12:2:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The colorful brain shown above reminds me that my mind needs to be transformed–that God has the power to let me see and live in vibrant colors as His love and mercy transform my life in a way that allows me to know Him more deeply. 

But why did I go to the extreme of painting the pages of my Bible?

I’ve tried numerous Bible study methods–the most common of which involves me simply picking a book of the Bible and reading through it one or two chapters a day. But this just hasn’t been working for me lately, and I end up walking away from my Bible feeling unsatisfied. And while I enjoy Proverbs 31 Ministries’ app that allows me to make sure God’s Word is the first thing I see on my phone in the mornings, I felt like I needed something more.

Something tangible.

Something that allowed me to dig deeper, even if it meant focusing on a smaller section.

Something that capitalized on my creative nature.

Something like vandalism.

Bible Art Journaling is a way for me to use the gifts God has given me as worship towards Him. It helps to slow my mind enough for me to focus on a small segment of Scripture that stands out to me so that I can create a visual reminder.

I guess the moral of my story is that there is no “right” way to grow closer to God, no “perfect” way to study the Bible. Sometimes it’s hard and sometimes you need to get creative and try new things. But one thing will always be right and perfect and unchanging, and that’s God’s immeasurable love and grace. 

Even when I vandalize my Bible.

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