Visitin’ the West Coast

So in case you’ve been wondering why I’ve kinda been MIA lately, I’ve been visiting my best friend across the country–Elaini! For my graduation gift this summer, my mom surprised me with round trip tickets to visit Portland for two and a half weeks this summer. And while I had every intention of blogging while I was there, it looks like I only got two posts published. The rest of my time was spent shopping, eating icecream, camping, fishing, visiting the coast, and taking a ridiculous amount of selfies.

These are the kind of pictures that show what my life looks like behind the scenes. The funny faces, the poor quality iphone photos, the sense of adventure and wonder at all the beautiful things I get to see and experience. It was an amazing sixteen days and I can’t wait to visit again (hopefully soon!).

Did you do anything fun this summer?

-Rachel

I May Never be a Jet-Setter (Or Have Perfect Hair)

I have a confession. I’ve always had this one big massive dream in the back of my head that I’m usually kinda embarrassed to admit to people. I want to travel the world. But it’s worse than that. I don’t just want to travel the world one day and soak up all of God’s glorious creation. I want to travel the world right now. I want to hop on big jets (sitting first-class, of course, and always getting a window seat) and wrap my cashmere scarf around my neck and check my vintage baby blue leather suitcase all over this big old world. And I want to meet important people and sit in cute cafes and take photos at every castle and temple and monument ever created.

Oh. And I also want perfect hair.

You would not believe how many times I have struggled over these two desires. Like, I can’t talk about it, because hearing about people who have gone to Europe or Africa or Asia makes me all tingly in my spine and hot in my stomach. Why can’t that be me? And don’t even get me started on people with perfect hair–that’s just a whole different story.

So you spend your whole life thinking about the day that you will finally step foot in Greece or Tokyo with your perfectly coiffed chignon and everything will just fall into place and the skies will burst open with the most glorious sunlight and some opera singer will begin belting Puccini in a stunning mezzo soprano. And life will be beautiful.

And then one day you realize: You know what? I may never be a jet-setter. I may always have semi-frizzy, uncontrollable hair.

But life is still beautiful. My life is still beautiful.

I’m in Portland right now! I’m visiting my dear friend Elaini and in a few days I’ll get to spend some time with my wonderful agent Bill. And I have more postcards on my dresser than most seventeen-year-olds could hope for, and my suitcase has seen a lot of wear and tear lugging it around this beautiful country, and the lack of humidity in Oregon means that my hair is semi-decent looking for once.

And I know that God is good and that He always has me right where He wants me and I couldn’t ask for anything more!

-Rachel

Life Advice From Anne Shirley

Anne Shirley is kinda my icon, in a lot of ways. I know that many girls look up to Beyonce to be fierce, or Condaleeza Rice to be intelligent, or Audrey Hepburn to be classy, but I look to good ol’ Carrots. And it’s not just because I’ve read the Anne of Green Gables series a million times straight (because I have). It’s because in the pages of L.M. Montgomery’s books, you can glean all kinds of wisdom on life, love, and happiness.

I shall demonstrate.

Things I have learned from Anne Shirley:

1) Never accept an unwanted nickname from anyone.

What would Anne’s life have been like if she had let that teacher call her “Anne-without-an-e” or hadn’t stood up (and smacked down) on rotten old Gilbert Blythe when he tried to call her “Carrots”? She was a woman who stood up for her right to choose her own nickname. Goodness knows “Cordelia” would have been accepted in a heartbeat, but she had the decency and presence of mind to know when a name was only going to cause her grief and eternal sorrow. She was “Anne-with-an-e” and she made sure everyone knew it.

2) Bosom friends are hard to find, and when you make a kindred spirit, you keep it

If only you came to my little small town and took a look around–you would realize just how difficult it is to make a kindred spirit. Bosom friends are exceedingly rare, and you’re more likely to come across a group of guys laughing over “Nacho Libre” than you are a girl you can have tea and plan your future with. If you, by chance, happen to find a young lady who shares your romantic soul and love of puffed sleeves, you must latch on to her in a creepily possessive way and make sure nothing but death itself comes between you and your kindred spirit.

3) Always check the label on food and drinks

So Anne probably wasn’t worried about processed chemicals or red dye no. 40, but her ignorance to read the labels of suspiciously red drinks should be a caution to us all. Always read the label before you gulp down two glasses full. You could be slowly killing yourself. Or at least making yourself drunk. (Lesson=learned)

4) Puffed sleeves are always a great fashion statement

You may have thought they died out in the eighties, but no–puffed sleeves shall one day make a comeback. And we Anne-fans will be rejoicing. Because the poofier the sleeve, the…. well… I’m not really sure, but I know that guys like big sleeves. (See Napoleon Dynamite for further details)

And last, but not least:

5) Never count out anyone when it comes to true love

Now Anne may not have realized this one straight off the bat, but Gilbert was the most perfectest guy ever for her. And the romance between Gil and Anne just goes to show that you never can exactly count out every hair-pulling, competitive, smart-mouthed, flirtatious, nerdy, incorrigible boy. Because he just might be the man for you.

*

And thus we conclude our life lessons learned from the experience of Anne Shirley. I think she is truly a beacon of wisdom for us all, if you look at it this way. Now we should all go around naming every single thing we come in contact with (“Lake of Shining Waters”, “Parking Garage of Cement Pillars”) and breaking our slates (would the 21st century equivalents be laptops???) over cute guys’ heads. Have fun!

(Also, remember when I did the same thing for Pride and Prejudice?)

-Rachel

The Friends I Haven’t Met Yet

Those of you who follow me on Twitter, may have seen my obnoxiously happy tweet the other day: “Sometimes I think of all the friends I’ve yet to meet and it really makes me smile.” I’m sure that just made you want to gag yourself with a spoon, right? Because you know me to be a pretty pessimistic, sarcastic, non-romantic person who doesn’t tend to fall for the usual clichés of modern popular culture.

However, I had a small revelation last week that came just completely out of the blue. And I just couldn’t wait to share it with you, no matter how seemingly cheesy it might be.

I’ve never had very many friends. I’ll spare you the sob story, but basically I grew up awkwardly tall, cubby, frizzy-haired, and with more personality than most people can handle. I was a loud talker and a big dreamer and it was never easy for me to build bonding relationships with people my age.

It used to bother me to no end when I was in middle school, and I would spend many nights crying on my bed asking my mom why I hadn’t been invited to a birthday party in three years, and why all of my “friends” would say hi to me on Sunday and then completely forget about me when they went about the rest of their lives. I longed for a soulmate–a kindred spirit. One girl that I could share my heart with and stay up late under the covers giggling and whispering and making fun of Hannah Montana with. I had my sisters, true, but I yearned for acceptance outside of my family. For proof that I wasn’t a complete freak, and that someone would actually want to spend time with me.

I spent most of those awkward years of my life writing, reading, and doing school. I’m not kidding when I say I was literally invited to two birthday parties my whole middle school years. Because I remember them both vividly!

My life now is much different. I have a lot of friends, and I’ve been blessed with a great circle of amazing people (of all ages!) that God has placed around me. Almost every week, I go to movie nights and pizza nights and shopping days with different groups of people. And even though I may have only one or two friends that I feel I can fully share my heart with–I’m blessed. Beyond blessed.

About a year ago, I was talking with my mom about those in-between years when I felt so discouraged and so alone in the world. Even now, with years of hindsight in my favor, it’s still hard to think about those days. But my mom completely blew my mind when she just shrugged and said, “Yes, but Rachel, look what God was doing in your life at that time. If you’d had the friends you wanted then, would you have poured your heart into writing and growing in Christ? Would you be where you are right now if you had spent your middle school years at bowling alleys and pizza parties?”

It was so true. All those nights I spent crying out to God were shaping me into the person I am now. Someone who trusts Him, and serves Him with my gifts. Someone who is beyond thankful for the friends I have, but who doesn’t depend on people to make her happy. Someone who can go with the flow no matter who she’s with, because she’s just grateful to have people to talk to.

If I had been able to look forward when I was twelve to what my life looks like now, I don’t know if I would have had the patience to wait five years. I would have been completely controlled by the desire to have more friends, more social activities, more playmates. Instead of being happy right where I was, I would have pined after another situation to satisfy me.

Life is good. Right now. Just like this.

I have so many more friends to meet and people to bond with. I trust, without a doubt, that what I know right now is just a taste of the beautiful relationships God will grow in foster in my life someday. I will meet soulmates, kindred spirits, best friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ who will make my life that much happier and more beautiful.

I cannot wait to meet these people. To wrap my arms around them and pray for them and watch God move in their lives as I watch right along side them. I am beyond excited to love on the friends I haven’t met yet. And I hope that every time I feel the least bit sorry for myself or long for something more, God will just remind me of all the wonderful things He has in store for me, and I’ll get excited all over again!

-Rachel

Video Blog: The Story Behind My First Story

It’s been a while since I’ve done a video blog since my computer has been broken for a month now! (Unfortunately, my laptop is completely dead and I need to get a new computer–sob!) So I borrowed my sister’s laptop to make a video blog today. The quality is… unfortunate… but I think my cheerfulness and smiling face make up for that! ;)

Here is the story behind my first story.

-Rachel

How to Take a Great Author Photo

If you creep around on my Facebook page at all, you’ve probably already seen this. If not, I hope it makes you smile.

I first came across this funny photo on Pinterest, and it made me giggle. Partly because it’s totally absurd and partly because none of these authors probably even realized they were being totally absurd. They’re just so serious about their laser beam eyes and placing their index fingers in their ears. *sigh* Writers…

You guys just went crazy over this photo, and I thought you might get a laugh out of a spin-off version. And so, I took these authors’ words to heart and made my own version of “How to Take a Great Author Photo: Rachel Coker Edition”.

That would be:

1) Include cats (dead stuffed ones that have no nails)

2) Stick your index finger in your ear (subtly)

3) If you’re worth it, flaunt it (if you’re not, use Monopoly money)

4) Remember you need their votes this year (all your wildest dreams will come true…)

5) Act like you’ve got better things to do (because you do)

 

I asked readers to comment with their favorite photo, and I promise that tomorrow I will change my profile pic for the week to the most popular photo! So which one makes you laugh the most?

-Rachel

Who am I?

I’m generally not a link-clicker. You know how some people post links almost every day on Facebook and while some of us actually read them, others just pretend they never saw them and scroll on by? Yeah, I’m definitely in the latter group. But whenever my friend Elaini shares a link, I just have to see what’s inspiring her, since her heart for Christ is amazing and I’m constantly encouraged by what she posts. This morning it was a link to a blog entry written by the lovely Ann Voskamp.

I must admit, I’m a lurker on Mrs. Voskamp’s blog. Ever since I first heard her name a little over two years ago, when I discovered she was also signed with the same literary agent as me, I’ve been continually encouraged by the beautiful posts about life, Christ, and the beauty in the world around us. But I think this was one of the best posts I’ve read yet.

First off, look through the post without reading the words. Read the smiles. Soak in the joy on the faces and the arms wrapped around each other and the sparkling little girl eyes. Notice the outstretched hands, reaching to Heaven, serving each other, and braiding hair.

Then read the words. All of them. Just do it, okay? I’ll wait patiently until you’re finished.

Do you feel what I feel? That burning ache in your chest that we were created to do something other than what we see in the four walls around us? The realization that the God who is bigger and greater and more beautiful than anything we could ever imagine has plans for you that far outreach your own expectations? And that those plans are for you to show that love to others?

I’m the first to admit I fall prey to the symptoms of a first world lifestyle. I like my closet full of shoes and my well-stocked refridgerator and the fact that I always have enough money to keep gas in my car and to go out with my friends to a movie on a Friday night. I get cranky when my laptop dies for two weeks or when I find out I was put in the infant nursery when I like the toddlers ten times better. I’ve fallen prey to passionate political discussions and have seen people around me get into arguments and verbal debates over health care, taxes, and whether or not to wear ties or sneakers to church. I’ve stressed about jobs, wondered about college, and bit my nails over the prospect that I might never fall in love or get to travel the world.

And yet how many nights have I tossed in my bed sleepless over the hearts that are breaking around me? Over the millions and millions of women and children and boys and girls that are barefoot and scabby-kneed, waiting for the love of Jesus to warm their calloused hearts and spread a beautiful smile on their faces? While I’ve grumbled about tax forms and complained about our lack of cookies and cream ice cream, how many hearts have I forgotten?

In her blog, Mrs. Voskamp reminds us that:

Living radical isn’t about where you live — it’s about how you love.

It’s about realizing– Love doesn’t happen when you arrive in a certain place. It happens when your heart arrives in a certain place – wherever you are, right where you are, dirt road Africa or side street America.

Because it isn’t where we love. It’s how we love. It’s who we love. The reward of loving is in the loving; loving is itself the great outcome of loving. The success of loving is in how we change because we kept on loving – regardless of any thing else changing. The value of loving is in the value of being like Christ.

People are starved for Christ everywhere; there are poor too down our streets and down our halls and downs our pews. Radical begins finding them and radically loving them.

Who am I loving right now? Am I loving myself, with all my selfish flaws and whims and desires? Or am I loving those around me?

It’s the age old question–how does a Christian lay down his life for Christ? By laying down his life for others.

When I was twelve years old, I went on a short mission trip to the Eastern Shore of Virginia to put together a mini bible school for the children of the migrant workers who tended the tomato crops there. It was a mind-reeling trip, in more ways than one. The most significant part of the trip–the image that was ingrained in my mind, was of the home that housed many of the children. It was this big old warehouse, with peeling white paint and a tin roof. The windows were all open without screens, because of the slight breeze outside and the lack of air conditioning inside. And as we pulled up in our church van, the windows were suddenly crowded with little boys and girls, sticking their heads out and waving their tanned hands at us.

I remember feeling something pull inside my heart. And I went home and wrote about it and my dad put it up for the whole church to see and I had lots of people tell me that my words saddened them or encouraged them or made them want to go on a mission trip. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my whole life is a mission trip, in a way.

Who am I? I am a missionary. And to tell the truth, I do a pretty crummy job at it.

Those migrant worker children opened my eyes to a big truth that had been right in front of me the whole time. I am surrounded by children, and women, and families all around me. Men and woman with that same God-shaped hole in their hearts despite the smiles on their faces and the shine of their well-maintained cars. Human beings with the same needs and aches and desires that we all have, and with no way of knowing how to fill those crevices in their souls.

How well am I reaching out my hands to these people? I may not have been sent by God to Africa (at least not yet), and I may not have been entrusted with the lives of little orphans girls like Katie, or a family with mouths to feed and hearts to tend like Mrs. Voskamp, but God has put me in this life, in this part of the world, for a reason. And how am I opening my heart–opening my hands–and reaching out to others?

Mrs. Voskamp talks about the Esther generation. The women who have been gifted by God with the ability to minister to others–for a time such as this. Who am I? I am an Esther, in my small way. And the sooner I embrace that calling and live my life with open arms and an open heart, the sooner I can fully understand the joy that is found in loving people.

Oh, God, may that always be my number one prayer in life. And may others always see that reflected in me.

As Mrs. Voskamp said:

Hospitality is Life with no Gates.

Hospitality means if there is room in the heart —

there is always room in the house.

-Rachel

Because It Will Make You Feel Way Better Today To Realize I Was a Hideous Child

My sister said that people will probably use this post to blackmail me, but the way I see it, if you are the one posting absolutely atrocious photos of yourself online, you’re kind of beating everyone to the chase, right?

I’ve struggled with self-confidence over the years. I’ve always thought I was too tall, too pudgy, too frizzy, and just too awkward to handle. I’ve beat myself up about wanting to be cuter, thinner, and smarter, and I’ve had mornings where I looked in the mirror and thought, (in the words of Mia Thermopolis) “This is as good as it’s going to get.”

I say all this with a smile on my face because, thank the Lord, those mornings are now few and in between. Not because I think I’m suddenly some gorgeous model with perfect skin and hair (Heaven knows I’m NOT) but because I’ve finally gotten to a place where I’ve realized that God made me this way and I would be questioning His goodness toward me if I wanted to look like anyone else! Yes, I have unsually curly hair and my voice is pretty loud and I do have a tendency to scrunch my nose up when I laugh, but I’m okay with all of that. This is how God made me!

However, I would be lying if I said I didn’t still cringe at the photos of me from age seven to fourteen. Because my imperfections have always been far from cute, and my old photos have been known to cause friends to snort, honk, and choke on their food. So in case you were feeling a little down about yourself today, I figured I’d share a few photos from my “wall of shame” (yes, we have a wall of photos in our house that I steer guests away from because it holds just too many embarrassing memories. But I’m not above laughing at myself! So laugh away with me!

As you can see, I started off just totes adorbs. I had that cute shiny hair and a blank expression that always seemed to say, “I’m breaking into your soul. You will do as I command and you will give me all your cheese.” (I had a strange obsession with cheese about this age)

Then I would smile. And it would hurt people’s eyes because my smile was more like a grimace and I just looked weird.

And then sometimes I would swim. And hold my breath while someone took a picture of me. (Whose idea was it to create UNDERWATER CAMERAS???? Does ANYONE look good underwater??? You can’t even breathe!)

Oh but my awkward stage hadn’t even begun yet… When I was in second grade, I got glasses. I also gained about thirty pounds and developed the “signature sinister smile”. Ruthie was born and apparently I liked to hold her while smiling at the camera like a total creeper ninety percent of the time.

Most of my photos from this time period have mysteriously disappeared…

Oh no, wait. I think the WORST stage was when I went through all those awkward hormonal changes and my hair literally went from straight to curly. In a slow, gradual process that involved my hair turning curly on the top and straight on the bottom. Every day was a bad hair day and I was literally cringing as I flipped through these photos in the album. To spare myself some agony, I shall only post one. Have yourself a… hairy… Christmas.

But then I turned eleven. And I was suddenly cool. Haha, not.

My cousin and I clearly thought we were hot stuff, though. I can include her in this too since she’s totally gorgeous now. But this was the first time we ever wore makeup and I think that toxins from the eyeshadow seeped its way into our brains.

And just to leave things on an exceptionally good (bad) note, here is the best (worst) photo of all. Me, one month shy of my twelfth birthday. Insane hair, manic smile, braces, glasses, and a camp t-shirt to boot. I’m so going to hate myself for this tomorrow…

So you see, the next time you look in the mirror all you have to do is conjour up in your mind just one of these photos and you’ll suddenly feel a million times better about yourself! Remember that you’re beautiful!

-Rachel

 

P.S. This is me and my sister now.