St. Louis + Christy Awards

Those of you who are following me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (all the social media venues!) may have already heard that I just got back from a three day trip to St. Louis to attend the Christy Awards Dinner and the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS).

My first novel, Interrupted: Life Beyond Words, was nominated for a Christy Award for the Young Adult Category. When I first heard about a month and a half ago, my world was rocked. The Christys are like the Academy Awards of the writing world! I couldn’t believe that a book that I had written when I was fourteen years old, on my bed in the evenings after I finished up my math homework, was up against some of the greatest authors in the Christian writing world. It was just mindblowing.

Zondervan flew me and my dad out to St. Louis this week to attend the award ceremony. I got to wear a pretty dress, force my dad to don a coat and tie, and enjoy a beautiful evening surrounded by so many inspiring authors, agents, editors, and other legends of the Christian publishing world. I hugged Janette Oke, and Kristen Heitzmann, and brushed shoulders with dozens of award winning authors who light up my world. And as I was sitting there at my table, surrounded by friends from Zondervan and other prolific writers and editors, I had this mind-reeling thought: “I am one of them now.”

And it was a notion that completely humbled and inspired me. Because even though my book may not have won big this year (I lost to the incredibly sweet Marilyn Sue Shank’s “Child of the Mountains”, which I cannot wait to read!), I was still there. I was a part of something big and beautiful and significant. Because even though most of these people had been writing and publishing books longer than I’ve been alive, I was able to stand by their side on stage and get my medal alongside them.

I was sitting on the windowsill in our hotel room the morning after the award ceremony, holding the medal in my hand and swimming through the sea of memories from the night before. Had I really hugged Jannette Oke? Had Steve Laube really shook my hand and congragulated me and said how he remembered me sending him my first ever query letter when I was only fourteen years old? Had the manager of the American Christian Fiction Writers guild really sat across from me at supper and encouraged me to join some networks and meet other writers and spend time with them in Indianapolis this fall? Had I really shook hands with and hugged and been complimented by so many brilliant writers and agents and editors that I held so much respect for? It must have all been a dream.

But it wasn’t! It was real! And I thank God for the opportunity to have been able to spend that wonderful evening with other writers who praise His name and who just want to spend their lives writing stories that point others to Christ. Just like me.

It was an amazing, incredible experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I left the Christys feeling inspired and encouraged. Now I just want to write, write, write, and to find a network of writing friends who will continue to encourage me along the way. Let’s all do that for each other!

 

 

-Rachel

(Sorry for the poor-quality pictures! Since my computer is still broken and I can’t edit any photos, I’ve just been using my phone a lot)

Aren’t We All Creating Something?

I have a problem. It’s that I simultaneously hate to label myself and need to label myself at the same time. I think it could be called “Being a Teenage Girl”. Because I am the first one to protest if someone dares to put me in some type of stereotyped box. I don’t like to be “the funny one” or “the serious one” or “the mature one” or “the self-absorbed egotistical one”. I mean, why can’t I be all of those things at once? Or none of them? Or all but one? (Because I would prefer to leave out the self-absorbed part, truthfully. I prefer to keep that a secret)

But at the same time, when I’m feeling lazy or a little bit arrogant, I tend to just stereotype myself so I don’t feel like I have to be accountable to anyone. If someone is ratting me out for being late for something, I’m just “a laid-back kind of person.” If one of my friends feels uncomfortable that I’m monopolizing a conversation, I claim I’m just “talkative”. And this week when I was making up excuses for why I hate math and science, I dismissively claimed that I don’t deal with those things because I’m more of a “creative” person.

That’s when my friend shot back with a comment that stopped me in my tracks. “But all things are creative to some point,” he pointed out. “We were created to create, even if that means using our academic minds more.”

Wow. It was another one of those moments in life where I was completely flabbergasted at the fact that I might have indeed been wrong about something, and that someone else had an amazing idea that I had never considered. Because my friend was right. Mathematicians are creating something. They’re creating solutions, and theories, and structured outlines of the way the universe works. And scientists are creating theories and politicians are creating social structures and musicians are creating melodies. And every single person on the face of this earth is creating something, and doing something, and their whole lives just kind of revolve around what that something is.

Because we serve a God who is a Creator, and because we are made in His image, we reflect that aspect of His character. And He has given us each unique talents and abilities, and it is up to us to use those abilities to create things that will glorify Him. Things that will build up those around us and point others to the amazingly beautiful and awesome God that we serve.

When we are filled with bitterness and anger and pride, we are creating problems. We are creating dissension and conflict and sin.

But when we take our unique gifts, abilities, and interests and begin taking steps to use them to change the world around us… That’s when we start creating things of value. When God is reflected in our lives.

One of the greatest questions we can ask ourselves then, isn’t whether or not we were blessed with creativity, or academics, or physical strength, or something else entirely. It’s asking ourselves what we are going to create with what we have been blessed with. I only have one shot at this life (I know–YOLO, y’all) and I want my world to revolve around creating something that is going to bring God glory. Because He is the one who holds my world and everything in it.

So that’s my foot-in-my-mouth moment of the week. God took one careless comment I made and turned it in my face to show me a greater truth about Him. What do you know? It’s almost as if He plans stuff like that…

-Rachel

 

The Rest of My Life Ahead of Me

I graduated high school last week. For over a month beforehand, my life was a flurry of party planning, traveling, test-taking, and organizing so that I could end my high school education with a bang. And celebrate we did–I threw a huge party for one hundred of my closest friends and danced the night away while eating pie and trying on silly hats.

But once the venue was cleaned, the food was gone, and the thank-you notes were all mailed, I had a freak-out moment. So this is it.

My life will never be the same from here on out.

It’s crazy when you start kindergarten and you’re five years old with half a dozen missing teeth and a slightly crooked haircut. And you’re just excited because you already know your colors and half your numbers and you can’t wait to learn how to read American Girl books for yourself. And then flash forward five years and you’re on the cusp of middle school, trying to convince your mom to let you go to the movie theater by yourself and waiting all day to do your schoolwork because Saxon 7/6 is just SO HARD. Before you know it, middle school is over and  you’re a HIGH SCHOOLER with the whole world at your feet…. And no free time because you have to memorize thirty vocabulary words for every dang science test. And then it’s a flurry of graduation parties, final tests, and setting up plans for the fall.

And then it’s over. And all your friends are packing up and moving away to college and you find yourself standing in an awkward valley of in-between-ness. Are you an adult now? Or just a child who memorized enough facts to graduate high school?

For me, the high school years were probably some of the craziest, adventurous, and tumultuous years of my life. To think that when I started on this journey four years ago I was just a bright-eyed fourteen-year-old girl with the makings of a story on her computer and a bunch of ideas stored up in her head. Now, by the grace of God, I have managed not only to survive ninth through twelfth grade, but I have been blessed with opportunities to travel, speak, write, and meet so many people.

And yet, sometimes it’s easy for me to look at all the wonderful things God has placed before me and wonder, “What if this is the best my life is going to get?” If I peak when I’m young, will it all go downhill from here? Will I be that thirty-year-old woman who shakes her head and says despairingly, “If only I was sixteen again. Back when my life was actually interesting and full of promise.”

It’s a scary thought–wondering what the future holds. Because if there’s one thing the past four years has taught me, it’s that God always seems to have some trick up His sleeve. Just when I feel like I know where my life is going, something happens to completely turn it all around! But what if those plans aren’t want I want for myself? What if I end up going on some big adventure that I can’t handle, or, even worse, don’t get to embark on any kind of journey at all?

I guess one thing I can’t help but pray is that God will do something big in my life in these in-between years. I’m not a child anymore, but I’m still growing into the woman He wants me to be. I just want to be able to say that these years were not a waste. I’m constantly growing, changing, developing relationships, and figuring out what I want to do with my life.

I’m not sure how long this next phase of life will last. I’ll probably either end up getting married at eighteen and completely shocking EVERYONE, or waiting a long time and writing lots of books and traveling to all kinds of places. (Although, the first one seems a bit unlikely, I’m sad to say. I think I’d need a boyfriend for that one to actually come true. Sorry, all you romantics…)

One thing’s for sure: I want all of you along for the ride with me! I can’t wait for all the blog entries, photos, and videos that I’ll get to share over the next few years highlighting everything that’s going on in my life. Because even though I think I’m pretty boring ninety percent of the time (let’s not lie–the other ten percent of me is pretty darn amazing ;) ), God does seem to be at work making exciting things happen! So let’s see what’s in store!

-Rachel

Back When I Was a Dramatic Child

I’m back. For good, I swear. Ah, that break was nice and EXACTLY what I needed, but I missed you guys and I needed to get back to my snarky, extremely wise self. So I returned. You’re welcome.

Anyway, I found something the other day I thought you might appreciate. My stack of old journals! Yes, siree, I was a journalin’ child. I wrote in a journal almost every day for six years, I think. And I have seven full journals to show for it.

I cringe reading through my old entries. Because even though the majority of them contain the good old corny “Guess what I scrapbooked today!” and “Guess what museum we went to today!” entries, there are also waaaay too many entries talking about books, more books, and also my extremely unfortunate life. Because I complained. A LOT.

Seriously, you must read some of these entries and shake your head at what a dramatic child I was. And thank the Lord I didn’t blog back then.

 

November 26, 2007

Our house smells like a stink bomb. You see, I accidentally caught the stove on fire when I was baking an apple pie the other night, and today when Mom put the oven on self-cleaner it made the house STINK!!! I’m afraid the smell will be in my hair tonight at the dance recital. Oh, that would be sooo embarrassing! Hannah says, “Our house smells like stink bugs took over the world and invaded our house first and sprayed all their stink on us.” She’s doing school in my room since the rest of the house is unbearable.

 

April 17, 2008

Ooooh! I’m cutting wisdom teeth in the two sides of my mouth plus I just got my braces tightened yesterday, so the pain is tremendous. Now I can see why babies wail their heads off when they’re teething, poor little things. I would cry too, if it weren’t for: 1) the disgrace and 2) the unnecessary pain that opening my jaws would bring.

 

October 8, 2008

Lately I’ve been trying to throw myself into another story, but I haven’t been successful. I was just getting into this script I was working on when the computer crashed and deleted it. All twelve pages! (Which is a lot, when all you’re writing is dialog) Mom says God let the computer crash for a reason. She thinks maybe my movie would have been a huge success, and all the money and fame would have ruined me. Maybe she’s right, but I still liked that script.

 

February 28, 2009

Today was one of the worst days I’ve had in a long time. It was cold and miserable and wet and Hannah’s recovering from the stomach bug and Mom wouldn’t let us go out and I had no photos to scrapbook nor books to read and, to make matters worse, Daddy was power washing the house so there was an awful humming sound all day! And did I mention the dishwasher melted a cutting board and produced the awful stench of burning plastic throughout the living room? I thought I was going to die!

But wait. I saved the best for last. Behold, the “Jalapeno Hands” incident, as cleverly recorded by my thirteen-year-old pen.

December 31, 2008

I was making chili for dinner tonight at about 10:00 this morning. This involved slicing one jalapeno pepper. By 10:45, my hands were beginning to burn. So I put some lotion on them, thinking they were suffering from dry skin. By 11:00 they were red and swollen and I was crying so hard I could hardly speak. Mom’s “Oh, it’s just your dry skin” quickly changed into “I’ll go get Dad” when she saw I couldn’t even bend my fingers or hold a book. Dad came in, saw my miserable estate, and quickly asked, “What has she recently eaten or touched?” “Jalapenos,” was Mom’s response.

Now, let me take a minute to describe to you what I was feeling thoughout all this. If you’ve ever burned yourself, you can sympathize. It literally felt like someone had taken my bare hand, stuck it in the fire, and held it there for five minutes. It still hurts a little now, and it’s 9:43 PM.

Anyway, Dad prescribed I wash my hands well and rub some Benadryl lotion all over them. Then, I was sent to bed with a wet towel for my hands.

By 12:20, I could hold a spoon and feed myself a lunch of yogurt and reheated potatoes. By 12:45, I could hold a book (Yay!) and managed to dictate my history questions to Mom. I could finally type around 1:15, and by 1:45, I was feeling so much better, that I could play the piano.

Sometime between all this, Mom looked up jalapeno reactions on the internet. She found dozens of sites describing this “Jalapeno Hands” mystery, for which there is no cure.

 

*

So there you have it. Aren’t you glad you aren’t related to me???

Did/do you journal? What did you journal about?

-Rachel