“It’s Never Inappropriate to Be Fabulous”

I have a confession. I’m a major hat person. Like, I’m probably one of the few Americans who watched the Royal Wedding three million years ago (wait–was that only three years ago?) and actually swooned over all the crazy fascinators. I just don’t get what isn’t amazing about having a fuzzy, fluffy bright pink ball on your head? Honestly, people.

But then… There’s vintage hats. And suddenly we’re talking about a whole new class of amazingness. Those berets, cloches, and fascinators? Yep. They really do it for me. And the more I browsed Pinterest, the more I longed to be that girl who could look absolutely stunning in a grey wool beret while walking down the aisles of Walmart. Or who could throw a straw boater on her head one sunny afternoon and go boating down the river with her girlfriends.

The more hats I saw, the more I really wanted “that kind of girl” to be me.

My ultimate moment of envy and weakness came when I stumbled across the swoon-worthy shop Poppycock Vintage. And I laid eyes on this little number.

Um… Yes. Hot pink? Check. Bow-like topping? Yes. Fluffy pink netting? Oh yes. I was long gone. I really, really wanted a hot pink, bow-like little hat with fluffy hot pink netting. But I knew I could never pull it off.

Because I am a reader (and because I was now strangely obsessed with this new shop), I started going through the archives and drooling over all the completely un-wearable hats. Green felt fedoras. Pink wool berets with big felt flowers. Black fascinators and argyle bucket hats. Basically, my dream closet right at my fingertips.

Curious about the woman who owned this wonderland of vintage toppers, I clicked on the “about page” and started reading about the shop. “Get ahead? Get a hat!” the absolutely adorable (and very red-headed) Ashley Webb wrote. “I’ve had more people than I can count contact me to say that they love hats and want to wear them, but they ‘just can’t pull off hats.’ Nonsense! It’s all about finding the right hat.”

I felt a little sinking hand raising in the pit of my stomach. Ummm… That was me. That was me who said that. Sorry.

“These days,” Ashley’s write-up continued, ”Most people have the mindset that wearing a hat is reserved only for old ladies at church or for an event like the derby. They’re viewed as flamboyant pieces, worn only for special occasions. But who says all hats are flamboyant? Who says you can’t wear a hat to go shopping, or to school, or on a night out? If you put that hat on, and you look amazing, who cares what the social norm is?”

And then came the words that completely rocked my world and changed my perspective on life, liberty, and justice (or maybe just hats).

“It’s never inappropriate to be fabulous!”

And bam. That did it for me. I went out and bought a hat. And then another. And then a couple more. And all of the sudden, I was wearing vintage hats. (Want proof? Check this out. Oh, and this. And this) And yes, I’m sure it’s strange to some people. I’ve been given more than one strange look at the grocery store. But you know what I finally realized?

I can go my whole life worrying about what other people think about me, or I can just be fabulous and get it over with.

So I’m a hat person. Big deal. I also like bright colors. And shoes with bows. And coral lipstick. And you know what? I’m pretty content with that. I enjoy wearing vintage dresses to Walmart and orange suede heels to parties and brooches in the shape of lizards. I enjoy being myself, and I think that if everyone just enjoyed life a little bit more, they might find themselves to be a little bit more fabulous too.

-Rachel

Letters to Ceiling Fans

I wrote a letter to my ceiling fan yesterday.

I don’t think I’ve ever started out a blog entry with a stranger first sentence.

But back to the ceiling fan. I really hate my ceiling fan. Like I really, really hate it. It’s black and shiny and it’s lightbulbs look like stage lights and I never ever dust it so it’s covered in icky cobwebs. And it seems the only time I ever really notice my ceiling fan is when I’m lying flat on my back staring up at the ceiling with a sulky or depressed disposition. Usually I’m crying, or on the verge of it. Sometimes I’m mad and I just lay there with my fists clenched at my sides, watching my reflection spinning around and around above me.

This is what led me to write a letter to my poor, unappreciated fan. It was written while sitting on my bed, looking up at the spinning blades through teary eyes. And you’ll never ever find it here on my blog because it’s a very personal letter and it discusses things only my ceiling fan and I have been through and I doubt you’d want that close of a look into my head anyway.

But the truth is, my ceiling fan has seen me through a lot. Broken friendships, breakups, nasty comments, spilled rumors, and thoughtless words. It’s been there for teary midnight prayers, long phone calls with close friends, and hour-long discussions with my mom and sisters. That poor fan has watched me type thousands of pages, scribble countless letters, and send the longest emails. It’s seen me laugh, sob, gasp, and squeal so many times it must be absolutely sick of hearing my voice.

My ceiling fan knows me really well.

I’ve slept in this same bedroom for six years. I’ve fallen asleep to the rocking and creaking of this ugly, shiny black fan two thousand one hundred and ninety times.

I don’t know how much longer I’ll live in this house with my parents and sisters and cat and the kitchen bar that has nail polish stains and the brown suede sofa that Daddy falls asleep on every Sunday afternoon. I can’t count down the days until I take someone else’s last name or I fly to another continent to start a new adventure or I decide to take my sister up on the offer to buy our own place and fill it with shoes and cats and ice cream.

I’m not sure how many more nights I’ll spend staring up at this very same ceiling fan and watching tiny little Rachels spinning round and round in its shiny reflection.

But I do know that there will always be new days. That I will always meet new people who will love me and who will probably hurt me and who will make my life beautiful and breathless and fun. I know that I’ll always make mistakes and I’ll never truly have “no regrets” and that there will be half a million times I’ll want to stick my size seven-and-a-half foot in my too-small mouth. I might not always have ceiling fans, but I’ll always have moments of sadness and frustration.

And I know that this is the way God will be working in my life. I know that He’ll be here in these moments and that I’ll never be left on my own with my lighting fixtures to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing in this world. I know that even in the times when I feel lost or a bit discouraged, that He’ll be showing me which way to go. And I know that even when I do something as completely and utterly dopey as writing a letter to my ceiling fan (or a blog post about it, for that matter), He’ll still be smiling to Himself at just how beautiful this life He’s given me really is. And I know that I don’t have to try very hard to see it that way, too.

-Rachel

The Name Game

They say that writers end up giving their kids the strangest names. A part of me is pretty sure this is going to end up being true. Why? Because we waste all the other great names in the world on our characters so that the only ones left are the offbeat, no-one-knows-how-on-earth-to-pronounce-them names that didn’t make it past the first draft of one of our novels. I know that my own dad is absolutely terrified one of his grandkids is going to end up being named “Bronte” or “Kennedy” or “Emerson.” (Believe me, I’ve threatened)

I did have to place a ban on using my favorite names in my books though about a year or two ago when I suddenly realized that I was going to use up all my favorite prospects on fictional characters that I’d never want my kids to feel they have to compare to! So ever since I decided that good names were out, coming up with characters for my books has become a slightly tricky, endlessly humorous game that I have to play with myself once or twice a year when I start pounding out a new novel idea.

How do you come up with names for your characters?

For me, it’s never an easy task. I hate over-used names, over-obscure names, overly feminine or masculine names, names that are too short or too long, and names that belong to people I know in real life. (Because how weird is it to get a message from that guy you haven’t talked to since ninth grade asking, “So, did that character have anything to do with…. um.., ya know… me?”)

The first thing I do when starting a new book is to go through my trusty old baby naming book. *cringe* Yes, I do own one of those books. My dad always warns me not to let any guy see me flipping through it because nothing turns men off more than thoughts of weddings and babies. However, I happen to be very proud of my baby names book and the immense help it offers me. Through the years, I’ve gone through and highlighted names that I like just enough to use in a book and just not enough to want to use for my firstborn child. So I’ve created a pretty immense list of so-so names that work perfectly for everyday characters in my little books.

Main characters are harder. Main characters need names that stand out. That have a story behind them. That fit with their cultural, historical, and family backgrounds. Take Allie Everly, for instance, from my first novel “Interrupted”. Allie’s given name is “Alcyone”, which is the name of a star in the constellation Taurus. Totally random, but it completely seemed like something that an avid star-gazer and dreamer (like Allie’s mother) would want to name her daughter! But because “Alcyone” is a little overwhelming (not to mention hard to pronounce), I decided to give her the nickname “Allie”. Short, sweet, and nothing I’d necessarily want to name any of my daughters anyway. Make sense?

I’m still having trouble with male names, though. I either really hate or really love guys’ names. Ever since I was a little girl, there’s only been about five boys names I actually like. All the others I utterly despise. Of course, this will make it hard for me to get married one day since–hello!–I’m either going to passionately love or totally despise my husband’s name. But it’s even more frustrating to write a book with male characters whose names you aren’t fond of. *grumpy face* Usually, I just go with one of the names that I hate the least, or a name that I secretly like but don’t think I could name one of my kids. Case in point: Frank Leggett. I love the name Frank. I want to name all of my sons Frank! I want to have five little Franks with freckles and bowties and impish crooked smiles. But I don’t see my husband, wherever he is, however cool he might be, allowing five Franks in our house. And so, I had to satisfy myself with putting Frank in a book instead.

Oh, and one last word on last names. Just read the phone book. Until you come across a man named “Vincent Tickle” and you laugh so hard you honestly think you’re going to pass out. Then maybe it’s time to put the phone book away. Because that seriously is some poor man’s name. And it’s not right to make fun of him in a book even though his name tickled you so much. And so literally too.

-Rachel

{Life is Art} Project: Week Three

Autumn has officially arrived in Virginia. And for us this means days spent in fuzzy socks, boots, and scarves, munching on apples and carving pumpkins. What a picture-perfect fall week.

I started off the week still somewhat sad from the death of our cat last Saturday. As I drove to a photoshoot I had already booked that evening, I fought back tears and listened to “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” on repeat. The sky was cloudy and I wasn’t in the mood for taking pictures.

But then this little spitfire beauty stole my heart all over again.

These actually ended up being some of my favorite family pictures I’ve done yet. Funny how God works. Bringing so much joy to a day that I thought would be forever marked with sadness.

I also did a lot of reflective thinking this week. Now that I’m eighteen, I find myself constantly asking, “Who am I?” This is me. No makeup, no photoshop, no illusions of being perfect or spotless in anyway. I’m sometimes an adult and very much a child and I have a pretty crazy, beautiful, sweet, funny life.

This week we went to one of our favorite annual autumn events — Fall at the Thompsons House. So many sweet memories, sticky marshmallowy fingers, and bumpy hayrides.

I’m so glad we live in a world where there are falls. In a world where there is color. In a world where there are frosty noses and wooly jackets and pumpkins for sale.

Our wifi at home was out for most of this week, which meant multiple trips to Colonial Williamsburg to sit at my favorite little café and work on my computer. Colonial Williamsburg looks so much like England sometimes… I wonder why that might be? 

The families that I photographed at Colonial Williamsburg were absolutely precious, though. Thanks, guys, for reminding me how great it is to just chow down on an apple and for showing me that falling in love is really too much fun.

Every Saturday morning I make a big breakfast for the family and we all sit together and listen to James Taylor or Johnny Cash or watch old reruns of “I Love Lucy”. These are some of the greatest, warmest, sweetest moments in my life. Because there’s nothing like mushy fried apples and cheesy scrambled eggs to start off your weekend right…

I hope that next week will be filled with half as many smiles, laughs, sunsets, and sweet crunchy apples…

How was your week beautiful?

-Rachel

 

New Blog Schedule

Blogging is something that has been on my mind a LOT lately. Mainly because I want to be a better blogger. I know that bloggers say that ALL THE DANG TIME, but I’m completely serious. I’ve been praying for God to give me ideas on how to expand and better my blog, and after taking a short poll on Facebook last night to determine what you all would like to see more of, I realized you guys kind of like everything.

And I kind of like everything too.

Because I’m not just a writer. Or just a thinker. Or just a photographer. Or just a Christian.

I’m an eighteen year old girl with a head full of thoughts, dreams, ideas, jokes, and love. And I need to get it all out in a semi-coherent way if I’m going to take you all along on the crazy safari ride that is my life (with as few animals as possible, thankyouverymuch).

And so I decided to take my mom’s advice and make a schedule. (No, she didn’t necessarily tell me to create a blog schedule, she’s just really into schedules in general)

From here on out, I will be doing my best to blog six times a week. (Gulp. That’s right. Six.) You can expect to wake up and find a post from me every Monday through Saturday. And, if you want to subscribe to my email list at the bottom of the page (see where it says “Get me in your mailbox”?) then I will send you a recap of the week every Saturday directly to your mailbox so that you can basically be reminded of me in every aspect of your virtual life.

So without further ado, here is our upcoming blog schedule.

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Mondays: Writing Advice

I need to talk more about writing on here. I don’t discuss it nearly as much as I should, which is a shame since, duh! I am a writer! But because I focus so much on noticing and enjoying life (and that’s where I get all the inspiration for my stories), I sometimes neglect to share my tips and advice for all the budding writers out there who read my blog. So rest assured that every Monday you will get a few tidbits of writing advice from me right here on this blog. (Gosh, I was so tempted to write “this here blog”. That’s when you know you’ve lived in the country for too long)

Tuesdays: Inside My Head

Sometimes, I just need an outlet to share what God’s doing in my life and what He’s been teaching me lately. Whether it’s about family, guys, friendships, struggles, discouragement, joy, or any other topic I could possibly think of—I need to talk about it. I’m a talker. (Ask anyone who knows me in real life to affirm this and you’ll be astounded by how strongly they agree) And so I need to get my thoughts out there and share what areas I’ve been growing you. You all have always seemed to respond really well to this in the past, so hopefully you’ll be encouraged even more by it in the future!

Wednesdays: Video Blogs

Do you all remember back when I used to actually post video blogs on a regular basis? Yeah, my memory isn’t that good either. But I always enjoyed making short video entries answering questions, giving updates, and sharing little bits of advice. So send me any questions or thoughts you might have and I’ll do my best to answer them in upcoming videos!

Thursday: Rambling Funnies

Because some of you actually think I’m semi-humorous. Some of you don’t. The second group can feel free to avoid my blog on Thursdays because I’ll probably be talking about random silly things.

Friday: Interviews

I’m always encouraged whenever I discover that there are other godly, like-minded women out there serving God in both ordinary and extraordinary ways. So I’ve been praying that God would give me the chance to talk to these women and feature them on my blog. I’m seeking out both well-known and “regular” ladies to feature, so if you know of anyone who would be a great fit (whether it’s your favorite Christian singer, an amazing blogger, or just your best friend’s sister) let me know!

Saturday: {Life is Art} Project

Life is amazing. God is amazing. I’m a photographer and a writer, and I hope that I’m always trying to see the beauty in the world around me. So every Saturday you can expect to see a little recap of my week, with photos and thoughts and quotes and reflections on what God is doing in my life. It’s a great way to end the week, and it always makes me look forward to the next one!

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So that’s it, folks. This is a huge commitment for sure, but I am more than excited to see how this goes! If you think about it, please comment and share and show some love every now and then. It makes me happy.

-Rachel

Sponsor a Family {This Christmas}

What’s the most expensive item on your Christmas list this year? A new pair of shoes? A Wii? A car or shiny new bicycle?

For me, making Christmas lists is always tricky. I always feel like I have everything I really need, and whenever something comes up throughout the year that I want, I simply save up and buy it. Picking out gifts for others is even worse. Even though I get so much joy out of carefully selecting and wrapping presents, I have a mini-anxiety attack every time someone opens my gift. What if they already have it? Or if it doesn’t work for them and they can’t return it?

This Christmas, I decided to try out something new. Something kind of radical.

Inspired by my friend Elaini and her amazing love for orphans in India (you remember my interview with her last week?), I decided to try to do something that would actually benefit someone else this Christmas. Elaini asked if I would consider helping raise $1,000 for her kiddos and without hesitation I said yes. Of course I wanted to help those beautiful little boys and girls! I just had no idea how on earth I would raise that much money.

Then… tada! God hits me with an idea. Why not combine my love of photography with my heart for these kids and create an amazing way for everyone in our community to get involved–all the while getting something beautiful in return?

And so I jumped out on a limb and started advertising something really cool. Family Portrait sessions for $150–with all the proceeds going toward Warm Blankets International. (Taking out only what I needed to cover my gas costs)

It’s been absolutely crazy ever since I started advertising these sessions, and I’ve been amazed at how many individuals God has moved to help support me in this way! True, they are getting great family photos in exchange, but how cool to know that their money is going toward helping shape the lives of boys and girls thousands of miles away?

It doesn’t have to stop with my friends and family in Virginia, though. I would absolutely love it if you would consider donating, too! There are so many great families I would love to bless with photos who just don’t have $150 to give toward the orphans. But there have been a few very sweet individuals in my community who have donated $150 in order that a family could get their portraits done, and so that little boys and girls could hear about Jesus this Christmas!

This Christmas, give a gift that really counts. If you’re interested in donating $150, I will give a free portrait session to a deserving family in my community. Then I will donate all the proceeds towards Warm Blanket Care International! I will also send you a personal thank you card, and if your donation is a gift, I will write a sweet little note to the recipient explaining what you gave.

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” – James 1:27

It’s a small drop in the bucket. A tiny knick in the wood. But when you consider what this gift will mean to real, live boys and girls this Christmas… The eternal, unending results of your sacrificial giving… There really is no better way to spend your money this holiday season.

If you’re interested in giving a donation, no matter how large or small, please email me at rachelcokerwrites(at)hotmail(dot)com. And if you’re interested in helping these kiddos by fundraising in your own community, watch this video!

-Rachel

How to Be Funny

Notice how the title of this post is not in the least bit funny. You’d think that if someone was going to write a post on how to be an entertaining and humorous person, you’d want a semi-snarky or clever title. But nope! None of that here.

Just straight-up advice on funniness and how to attain it.

I’m not a super funny person, actually. In our house, Hannah and my dad definitely get the title of “Cleverest Family Members”, while I’m simply, “The Kid That Wrote a Book”. (And also, “The Kid With Too Many Shoes”) I’m not always as sarcastic or quick-witted as some of my friends and I certainly have no false illusions of becoming a comedian or writing a best-selling tongue-and-cheek exposition on life one day.

That being said, I still make some people laugh and I certainly love it when others do the same to me. And since so many of you seem to appreciate my ramblings on topics like Pride and Prejudice and Anne Shirley, I thought I’d share a few of my absolutely non-funny thoughts on being a funny person.

Ready? (Set let’s go, dance floor pro, I know you know I go psycho… Okay, okay, let’s stop quoting Will Smith and get back to the topic at hand)

First off, stop trying to be funny. Seriously, some people just try too hard. Nothing hurts more than witnessing one of your friends trying desperately to crack jokes in order to impress people that clearly would rather just eat food already than listen to a bunch of lukewarm jokes. Food always trumps humor, so it’s important to remember that. But even when there is no pie around, you still shouldn’t be so desperate to make people laugh that you find yourself standing there searching your brain for funny things to say. You’ll probably remember where you left your spare set of keys (dang, I just remembered that mine are in the pocket of my camera bag), a promise you made your little sister that morning, or the fact that you owe someone money. But you won’t remember any good jokes. They all will just fly out of your head and trying to force one will be a sad, sad sight.

Secondly, learn to laugh at yourself. Some people take themselves way too seriously. Guess what? You’re not that great. You’re actually kind of dumb sometimes, and occasionally your hair looks like a barbaric army marched through it, and every now and then you’ll think that “unique” is pronounced “un-cue”. And people might think that’s funny and you just need to roll with it! Don’t let yourself be so offended or self-righteous or perfect all the time. I cannot count the amount of times that I have just wanted to bury my head in the ground like an ostrich at some absolutely mortifying event, when I really just need to laugh it off and move on. Some of my most cringe-inducing moments (crashing my bike into a brick wall, singing “Waiter, Bring me Water” at my second grade talent show, asking a thirty-year-old what grade she was in) have turned out to be the best memories to spill whenever I want to cheer someone up or give them a good chuckle.

Thirdly, find humor in whatever quirky interests make you you. You all have probably realized by now that I am a huge book nerd. Because of that, things like someone making fun of Pride and Prejudice are entertaining to me. I actually find it humorous to think about my mom pushing a modern-day Mr. Darcy on me. Someone who doesn’t like to read isn’t going to find that clever at all. In fact, they’ll probably stereotype me as a homeschooler and wonder if I wear long flannel nightgowns to bed (I don’t. I prefer my long nightgowns to be cotton, naturally. We homeschoolers have sensitive skin…) and shield my eyes whenever I see a Jack-o-Lantern. On the other hand, my sister thinks that cats are funny. I really don’t see the humor in cats at all, even the fat ones with lazy eyes and tongues sticking out. But she thinks she’s going to grow up to be an old crocheting cat lady and because of that, even the sight of cats makes her laugh. Put cats on a grandmotherly sweater and boom! She’s in hysterics. (I’m wondering if they fired the woman who designed that sweater and where she now gets the money to buy the expensive canned food I’m sure her feline friends require)

And lastly, learn to make yourself laugh, even if no one else is laughing around you. I can’t stress how important this is. So you wrote a scene in your book that you find hysterical, but that your writing teacher doesn’t even crack a smile at. Who cares? Why does it honestly matter if no one gets your favorite joke? (I, for one, am always telling chemistry jokes and getting no reaction) At the end of the day, laugh at the things that make you laugh! It’s really just that simple. Don’t worry about trying to get someone else’s humor. You’ll drive yourself crazy attempting to appreciate and imitate the sophisticated sarcasm of others. Surround yourself with people who make you smile. People who you might not one hundred percent get or appreciate, but who still never fail to put a grin on your face. And if you think something’s humorous, then just roll with it. Learn to enjoy life and to laugh at all its beautiful twists and turns.

At the end of the day, I bet you’re a pretty funny person.

-Rachel

{Life is Art} Project: Week Two

Well, I can definitely say that this week was so, so lovely. Honestly, you know how some weeks (ahem: last week) seem so long and hard and then others (this week) are full of so many beautiful moments, smiles, and memories that you just can’t help but smile when you flip through the photos? Yeah, it was that good.

Continuing on with this new project, I thought I’d share with you a few lovely moments from this past week. Life was beautiful.

My new friend Lily makes my heart smile so big. I spent a lot of time this week with this girl–staying up late laughing and talking and making ourselves tired in the morning, walking around an amusement park in the rain and going in every haunted house we could find, eating fries and ice cream and drinking tea, and dancing the night away at our birthday party. She’s such a treasure to us.

My sister came out with a few new skirt designs this week! So many precious moments were spent together this week–shopping for fabric, tiptoeing around a bookstore, looking over photos, and marketing her designs. I’m so proud of this beautiful young lady, and I’m honored to have a part in photographing her designs.

Afternoons spent  piled in a minivan with good friends, sharing life stories and coaxing trucks to honk at us, driving up a mountain, munching on apple cider donuts and chocolate pretzels, climbing trees, taking pictures, and sharing innumerable smiles, laughs, and memories.

Life is measured by the joy found in the little things.

I was blessed to spend time with wonderful families, photographing their laughs and smiles and love for each other.

On a more somber note, we put one of our cats down this week. We’d had Esther for thirteen years and she’d become an irreplaceable part of the family. Those of you who know me know that I am not an animal person, but even I shed a few tears over this loss. Ruthie was definitely the most effected. Esther had grown so sick and raggedy in her last few months–to the point of her looking more like a beast than a cat. And yet Ruthie was the one to continually love on her and take care of her. It was such a sad thing to see that loss. I didn’t think I’d cry when my dad took her away, but I sat on the kitchen floor with tears rolling down my cheeks, not wanting to say goodbye.

The week ended on a high note, though. Hannah and I celebrated our 16th and 18th birthdays (along with two of our friends who turned 17 and 19) last night with a big, stylish 1920′s bash. Because a little party never killed nobody…

How was your week beautiful?

-Rachel

A Beautiful Heart: Miss Elaini

Meet my best friend. Wow, it feels so strange to say that but it’s true in so many ways! I first had the pleasure of meeting this lovely lady back in January of this year, when a hastily-planned meet up in Seattle brought us together for the first time. East Coast girl met West Coast girl and an instant friendship was formed. Since then, Elaini has become my number one source of encouragement, humor, and advice. Every Skype date, handwritten note, funny or sweet text, and Facebook message makes my mouth positively burst from smiling so big.

Elaini graciously agreed to be the first woman interviewed for this new segment on my blog. For those of you who don’t know, Elaini runs the blog www.misselainious.com, where she has raised over $70,000 for orphans in India through Warm Blankets International. Her “100 Days” Project, where she re-styled and wore the same dress one hundred days in a row to raise awareness of these orphans was when I first heard of the darling Miss Elaini. But beyond her pretty face and keen fashion sense, her beautiful heart is more than inspiring for anyone who has a love for God’s orphans all over the world.

Elaini is from the small, but vibrant city of Portland, Oregon! I’ve only visited once, but Oregon is definitely one of those places that make you want to open your eyes as wide as you possibly can to soak in all of the beauty that God created. “And,” Elaini adds, “all the tasty food options don’t hurt either.”

Finding tasty food that’s also organic and gluten-free is very important to Elaini, who has suffered from health problems ever since she was a young girl. “I can be very weak,” she admits. “Some days as I wake up I know that I really need Jesus to get through each moment of the day. It’s a constant reminder that His power is made perfect in weakness. Recognizing my physical need for Christ has led me to a deep understanding of my spiritual need of Him as well.”

Her hunger to serve Christ in every area of her life spilled out in the form of a very special project, involving a certain little black dress, that Elaini started in May 2011. “1 Dress, 100 Days” was created out of a desire to help care for the Indian orphans that had captured Elaini’s heart. Because health issues kept her from going to India to help the little kiddos herself, she dreamed up a project that has enabled her to raise over $76,000 for Warm Blankets International so far! Combining her loves of fashion and fundraising, she styled and wore the same little black dress for 100 Days, encouraging readers who were interested in her project to donate money to Warm Blankets so that more supplies could be sent to her little “kiddos”!

Although some might think it strange to set up a fundraiser through a fashion blog, Elaini sees only positive aspects of her unique approach. “Fashion is extremely tantalizing but it can be frivolous so by combining style and a cause that I’m passionate about I feel like you get the best of both worlds.” She enjoys having fun with her naturally feminine characteristics, like her long eyelashes and tiny waist, and sees fashion as a way to combine creativity and heart. Her blog is able to speak to an entire audience of fashion-savvy young ladies with a heart for seeing God’s Kingdom won throughout the earth.

And yet, despite running a successful blog, seeking to raise $100K for orphans, and working hard at the business venture she started with her father this year, dande (where you can buy absolutely beautiful minimalistic wood wallets!), Elaini insists that she’s just another carefree twenty-five year old girl at heart. “I’m definitely twenty-five years young,” she laughs. ”Life is already going fast enough. I think one of the best things about this age is knowing who I am and where my identity rests.  I’m far more comfortable just being me.  At this point in my life I’ve had a tiny bit of experience and lots to still learn but I also have crazy dreams and I actually think I can accomplish them!”

There really is no way to describe what an impact Elaini has had on my life, or what joy she has brought to it! I asked her what her definition of a good friend is, and she answered, “Someone I can trust. A person who is loyal as well as genuine and real. When it comes down to it, I think we all want someone who cares and takes the time to show that.”

Elaini is one of my few but great true friends. She is the girl who will text me at three in the morning to tell me that I’m loved by God or at two in the afternoon to tell me that she misses me. She sends me verses, photos, and little tidbits that make her giggle. When I’m sad, she can tell just by the tone of my text. She prays for me, encourages me, and brings so much happiness to my soul.

And yet, the most beautiful way that my friendship with Elaini has encouraged me is the way that she points others toward Christ with her words, actions, and life. “I’ve really been meditating on Psalm 23,” she told me recently. “I’ve heard it countless times, but in the last few months I think I finally heard what it was saying. It’s so beautiful and encouraging. The Lord IS my Shepherd and I shall NOT want.” You can just hear the passion and joy in her voice as she continues, “In the last part of the Psalm it states ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.’ When you look up the Hebrew meaning of the phrase ‘will follow’ it literally means pursue, chase, or run after. Now that is a beautiful promise!”

There are some people that the Lord brings into your life to just encourage and strengthen you. Elaini is one of those people to me. And whether or not you ever get a chance to meet her yourself, I hope that you are just encouraged by her absolutely beautiful heart for Christ!

Elaini’s blog: www.misselanious.com. Read here to see how you can get involved in helping raise $100K for the orphans in India by Christmas! Also, be sure to check out dande, the company that Elaini started with her father this summer!

-Rachel

[NOTE: This is part of a new segment on my blog featuring interviews of inspiring women from all over the world. A few times a month, I'd like to share interviews and photos of women who have touched my life, both from up close and far away. So if you have any suggestions of women you'd like to see interviewed--famous or unknown--just let me know and I'll do my best to get them on the blog!]