Advent is not about me. Freedom!

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So there I was teaching last month, zooming through Colossians 3 and giving women ways to let the peace of Christ rule in their homes over the holiday season. I felt the Lord depositing some serious truth and freedom into me as I prepared, so I was in the zone that night. And then out of nowhere, bam! Someone typed something along the lines of, What are some of the traditions the Kincaid Parade enjoys during the holidays?

In a melodramatic sort of way, tradition is a trigger topic for me. Tradition means I feel the pressure to make memories and leave a legacy. Tradition means I have the potential to mess up, to let people down, to fail. Failure. Fear of failure. It always comes down to this for me, doesn’t it? But enough about that.

But y’all? Advent is not about me. It’s not about my identity as a mother, or my skills or creativity. It’s not about making memories or leaving a legacy. Advent is not about tradition. It’s about receiving a gift I didn’t deserve. And once I’ve received that gift, it’s about enjoying things like the holidays through its filter. I’m intimately aware of how good grace feels when I don’t deserve it. I’ve got that receiving-the-gift part down pretty solid. Now it’s time to move on to the enjoying-the-holidays part. Now it’s time to embrace a little tradition. Here’s how I do that.

I buy all of the kids silly, footed pajamas every winter. I also get them each a new ornament, based on something they loved or experienced that year. We cut down our trees at a nearby farm. We eat Chinese food on Christmas Eve after church. Whoever finds the hidden pickle ornament in the tree gets to open the first present. I wrap all of my presents in brown paper, year after year. Once our children are old enough to appreciate gifts, they each receive three.

Well look at that! An actual list. I’m excited to build on it, with timidity and joy and freedom. I’m also excited to see what sorts of traditions you women enjoy! No rules. Just give us all a little taste of what your Christmas looks like. The sky’s the limit. Join the link-up below.



What I’ve learned about being white.

I’ve been sitting on this idea for awhile, feeling a bit hesitant to write about it. There’s so much out there right now, with Ferguson and other stories captivating our nation’s attention. A lot of it is such good stuff, and I don’t want to add to the noise unless I have something to say. If you read this post, or you follow me on Twitter, you know that I’ve been watching closely. I can’t look away. This is too important for my generation, and the one coming after it. But then I saw this last week, and I knew it was time to speak up. I couldn’t even read the entire piece because it made me sick to my stomach. This was me, you guys.

I grew up at a privileged, Christian school with a solid and consistent group of black friends. It was a K-12 school, so I literally went through life with the same people for over a decade. Like all kids do, we’d get hung up on certain trends and jokes. There was the Why does it have to be a color thing? response whenever the word black was used in any sort of context in the classroom. There were comments about oreo cookies when we’d line up for photos at parties. I put a Confederate flag sticker on my truck when I turned sixteen, and nobody ever said a word to me about it. I even watched as two of my black friends made a joke about watermelon when picking out candy one time.

I assumed it was all in good fun, until the day I made one of those comments to them. They were so gracious with me, but they absolutely put me in my place. You don’t get to make those jokes, Rach. About that same time, I noticed someone had scratched f*** you through the Confederate flag sticker on my truck. I asked one of my black friends if he was offended by it, and he spoke such wisdom to me. If you have to ask, why have it up there at all?

I’m grateful I didn’t make it out of high school without such valuable lessons. I quickly learned a thing about being a white girl with black friends. I quickly learned a thing about being white in general. I’m a spectator to a culture and background that is not my own. It’s an honor to be a part of it, sure. I’m grateful to get in the mix and learn about it and bring value to it. But their story is not my story. Their past is not my past. The jokes and the comments and the flags were never pointed at me. These weren’t my feelings at stake. Thank God my friends of color were gracious and gentle with me. I’ve kept up with them throughout the years and repeated the sentiments over and over. I’m sorry. I’m grateful. I’m listening.

Of course, this can go beyond race. I could get much broader and talk about respect in general. Just because your friend jokes about his nose doesn’t give you freedom to poke fun. Just because your coworker complains about the burden of a special-needs child doesn’t give you license to join her. But let’s stay on race today, for just a minute. It’s incredibly tender and difficult to stay on a topic like this because it makes people uncomfortable. So let’s get uncomfortable and stay there.

I have the freedom to feel however I want. I can laugh at jokes and make comments and put flags in places. That’s my right. However, I do not have the right to assume that people feel the way I do or understand my heart. I do not have the right to explain or defend my way into living a lifestyle that devalues people. My intentions will never speak louder than my actions. As a white person, I don’t think I have the right to feel any sort of way about how people of color should feel or should think.

When you want to learn something, get out of your story and into someone else’s. Go to where the wisdom is. It’s exactly what I did, and I was humbled in the most beautiful and painful of ways. Once I saw life through a new lens, I could no longer defend a Confederate flag sticker on my car. I could no longer laugh at watermelon jokes.

I decided never again did I want to have a conversation like the one in high school. Never again did I want to watch someone I loved tell me how much I’d hurt them with my ignorance. So I just stopped, right then and there. I repented. I stayed in the mix, but with new eyes and new ears and a new mouth and a new heart. I saw the jokes and comments and flags for how hurtful and and degrading and divisive they were, and suddenly my intentions didn’t matter anymore. I began striving for a life of reconciliation. I wanted a lifestyle that removes all barriers.

These days, that lifestyle looks like a lot of listening. A lot of asking questions. A lot of reading. A lot of conversations with my kids. There’s a revolution happening in front of our eyes, people. I’m doing my best to arm the next generation to join it, by bringing value and peace to every person they encounter.

The day after.

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I’ve spent the last few years learning the art of being content in my season. I’ve tried to stop anticipating the future at the expense of the present. I’ve begun to sit into my feelings more – the joy, the sorrow, whatever it is I’m experiencing. I want to move through life without regret, knowing that I’ve wrung every last drop out of the now as I leave it behind.

But the day after holidays make me so, so happy. I find an almost unreasonable amount of joy at cleaning up and packing away and starting over. The kids helped me put away the fall decor and bring in the winter stuff yesterday,  while the Christmas tunes and a fire roared in the background. We don’t have a tree yet or anything, but I strung up our old paper snowflakes and our new prints after everyone went to sleep. The evening absolutely refueled me.

Advent brings a sort of anticipation that’s completely acceptable. There’s a sense of freedom to look forward to a new thing. Don’t lose sight of the now, but remember what’s stirring and get excited about it. Permission granted? I’ll take it.

It was fresh, and it was loud.

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I got married ten days before Christmas. Everything was cold and warm, at the same time. It was as perfect as we’d pictured. Candles amongst flowers, holly berries tucked into corsages. That week felt like a dream. In the days following, we tried our best to figure out how to handle holiday traditions that we had brought into our marriage. Whose houses do we visit, and when? When do we open presents, and how many? It was a whirlwind few weeks, and we made it through, but it wasn’t easy. It was fresh, and it was loud.

I remember sitting in my in-laws’ living room on Christmas Day, watching twenty people open presents at the same time. There was screaming, laughing, paper flying. Nobody could see the floor. Nobody knew what anyone had received or given. Nobody stood a chance at being heard. I watched in horror, with a little fascination on the side. I’d grown up with a quiet and tidy, one-person-at-a-time-and-please-don’t-rip-the-paper tradition. I didn’t know how to wrap my brain parts around what I was experiencing.

As the years have passed, we’ve sort of hit our holiday stride. We’ve set up boundaries and torn down walls. I’d call it an awkward, bumpy rhythm, but it’s a rhythm nonetheless. And it’s ours. It beats to the song of the Kincaid Parade, and I’ve grown imperfectly comfortable with it.

I’ll be sharing more tomorrow night, and I’d love to have you.

Surprise! (No.)

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I’ll never be able to use that word again, will I? I am most definitely am NOT pregnant.

However… I most definitely AM speaking at next year’s Influence Conference in Indianapolis! I’m honored for the opportunity to make a little noise alongside some pretty fantastic women, all of whom were announced today. We’ve still got nearly a year to go and I’m already prickly with anticipation. For real.

What are you waiting for? You’re certainly not still dragging your feet about the “Influence is for internet girls” thing, right? Because I think we squashed that (in the best way) during this year’s conference. While we care a lot about building God’s kingdom online, while we care a lot about taking back the Internet for good, we’re a lot MORE passionate about equipping women in general. So internet-lover or not, grab your ticket… while there are still some left. See you next September!

Get after it.

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I used to think God guided us by opening and closing doors, but now I know sometimes God wants us to kick some doors down. -Bob Goff

In seventh grade, I got cut from the middle school basketball team. I wasn’t as fast as some of the other girls, so I didn’t hustle. I wasn’t as strong as some of the other girls, so I didn’t get physical. I remember being more embarrassed than disappointed, but I wasn’t surprised to see my name missing from the list. The coach was driving the activity bus for a field trip a week or two after tryouts, and she waited until all of the other kids had cleared out. She stared at me in the giant review mirror.  “Do you want to know why you didn’t make my team? You’re not tenacious enough. You need to be more tenacious. I’d love to see you work on that and come back next year.”

I spent the next several years learning how to navigate this idea of tenacity and femininity, a balance of which I still haven’t completely mastered. But I am sure am grateful for that middle school basketball coach who wasn’t afraid to call something out in me, something that she didn’t see but wanted to.

As I venture into new territory in motherhood, I’m struck by my desire to see my kids learn tenacity over success. Whether it be sports, lifestyle choices, friendships, chores, music preferences, grades, personal style, or straight up eating a meal at the dinner table… it doesn’t matter. I want my family to be one that walks in freedom. I want my kids to feel safe enough to try things, even when they’re scared. I want them to learn what it means to get after it.

So I’ve been using that phrase a lot lately. Shooting text messages to the ones who can read, or yelling across the lawn to the ones who can’t. Get after it! It’s fun to watch each personality develop and change throughout the years. Some of them don’t need the coaching. Tenacity is just something that comes naturally to them. But some of them are a little like seventh-grade Rachael. I sure hope that if it doesn’t sink in now with me at home, they’ll run into a middle school basketball coach on an empty activity bus someday.

An easy DIY pineapple costume!

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I had the pleasure of partying as a pineapple at the Ridge Church #costumearoo this past weekend! I’ve been sitting on this dress for months. It came from Goodwill and I just knew it’d come in handy someday. I’m not the craftiest of them all, but my husband helped and we knocked this headpiece out in an hour or so. I had to secure it with several bobby pins, as well as duck through doorways… but it was fun nonetheless!

 

Five things lately.

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Reading Love Does and Women of the Word, both of which are absolutely changing my life. I’ve never read Bob’s book front to back before, so I figured it was about time. And Jen’s words on knowing about the Bible versus knowing its intricacies and connections are seriously piercing. I actually look forward to hopping into bed fifteen minutes earlier, just so I can end my day with a little reading time.

Writing not much on here, right? I’m working on a couple of little themed pieces for the blog, but I’m in no rush. We have to be filled before we can pour, hence the aforementioned books. I’m also being intentional with my Powersheets. My daily goals this month are my favorite – practice yoga, read the Word, straight my bedroom, spend ten minutes outside, and kiss my husband. I entitled them, “self care and beyond!”

Celebrating Ames’ Emmanuel’s fifth birthday. We partied all day long.

Anticipating The Happy Mommy Box anniversary event. Aside from celebrating the fact that this small business thrived for the last year and blessed hundreds of women, I’m excited to see some of them come together for an evening of fun and encouragement. I’m honored for the opportunity to speak to them about motherhood, the weight of which is certainly not lost on me.

Remembering a much-needed pep talk on freedom with my bosses/besties last week.

Jess: As you cling to freedom and swing into it, remember that it is soft and submissive.

Hayley: Get loud, but make sure you’re clanging for others’ freedom and not yours. You’re already free.

A little fall treat!

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I’m working on a few little somethings for this space, but for now… how about a little style post? I collaborated with Fashionable for a neat project. One might have figured out by now that I ain’t no fashion blogger, but I had fun and I’m happy with how it turned out. In addition, they’re offering readers a sweet incentive to do some fall shopping. For two days only, y’all get a 15% discount on Fashionable products! Enter RACHFAVES at checkout. Enjoy!

Five things on a friday.

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Recipes to help you stay out of the kitchen:

1. Chicken lettuce wraps. I’m using this (inappropriate but accurately titled) recipe. I prepare it in the morning, and it only requires fifteen minutes or so over the stovetop! I don’t usually buy the butter or iceberg lettuce either, because it doesn’t keep as long. Try using Romaine, and if it’s too messy… present the whole thing as a salad.

2. Homemade pizza with Trader Joe’s dough & sauce.  I’ve heard from-scratch crust is cheaper and just as easy, but this is where I am these days. I serve it alongside carrot sticks and whatever other raw veggies we have lying around. Don’t forget the ranch!

3. Fancy salads. I always add kale to the lettuce, and then whatever toppings fit the theme – black & bleu, Southwestern, etc. My favorite combination is one I threw together from leftovers – chopped egg, shredded chicken, raw broccoli, and an Asian peanut vinaigrette.

4. Baked ziti from this site. It only needs half an hour in the oven, so prep it whenever (even days before) and then store it in the fridge until you’re ready to bake. Per usual, salad is my go-to side.

5. Grilled chicken & pineapple kabobs with corn on the cob. I slather butter and parmesan cheese and garlic onto the corn, lay it on foil, and grill it alongside the chicken. 15 minutes or so and everything is done. Serve with… you guessed it! A salad.