How to Throw a Disney-Themed Sleepover

Maturity hasn’t always been my strongest point. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love reading big books and having serious conversations on theology, history, and ethics (maybe not politics though). But I have a soft spot for Percy Jackson, Taylor Swift, and… Disney.

Luckily for me, my sisters and most of my friends are just as weak as I am, which makes for the most incredible adventures. My sister Hannah and I had actually been wanting to watch old Disney movies for quite some time, so when one of our best friends Lily turned sixteen last week, we decided we had to seize the opportunity.

We didn’t really have enough money for a full-out party, but we did surprise Lily with a legit Disney princess-themed sleepover. And can I just say how amazing it was? 

Decorating was easy enough (especially considering we threw it all together that morning). I found these hanging lanterns leftover from my sixteenth birthday party (“Tangled”, anyone?) and Hannah and I made a big sign out of bits of scrap fabric from her sewing studio. We scavenged the house for every Disney-related item we could find (including stacks and stacks of old VHS’s) and even put together little dinglehopper place settings.

Lily was the perfect birthday girl. Cute and glowing. We decided we were all going to wear plastic tiaras all weekend and I swear I didn’t take mine off until it was time to go to church on Sunday morning.

For supper, we decided to make purple pancakes. Just for the heck of it. I’m pretty sure it was a better idea in my mind than in reality, but you can’t beat purple food!

Of course, it took us over half an hour to eat, because we had this playing. And we belted out every song. Twice.

In case you’re wondering what we did all evening, we basically watched old Disney VHS’s. And played Disney Scene-It. And sang a lot. And painted our nails in Elsa and Anna palettes.

I couldn’t find any Disney wrapping paper chilling out around our house (why, Mom?), so I decided to use white paper on Lily’s gift and cover it with every Disney song lyric I could possibly think of. Believe me when I say that took a while. Even for me. Her face when she opened it, however, was PRICELESS. From Hannah: “Frozen” fleece pillows. From Me: A photoshopped photo of Lily and Dr. Who. (I’ve never seen it before, but Lily is a hardcore Whovian)

Hannah, our master cake baker, made the most heavenly chocolate cake ever. And since we always seem to be out of candles, I had the bright idea to stick a sparkler on it. We may have set off the smoke alarm and driven the dog CRAZY, but that was a really exciting cake.

And that’s how you throw a Disney-themed sleepover, folks. Be warned, though, because there is one huge side-effect. You’ll probably get attached to your crown and remember a bunch of random things from your childhood and have Mary Poppins songs stuck in your head for a week. But other than that, it’s pretty sweet.

Happy birthday, Lily!

-Rachel

 

Dear Future Rachel

 

Dear Future Rachel,

When you’re twenty-eight, I hope you:

  • Remember that love is a gift. If you’ve found it, you’re blessed. If you haven’t, you’re not being cheated in life. Learn to be content, and you will always be happy.
  • Always have a heart pierced for others. Treasure your youth, and pour it out into the lives of everyone around you.
  • Preach the Gospel to yourself everyday. Satan will try to steal you of your joy and make you feel worthless, but meditate on Christ’s selfless love for you daily.
  • Remind yourself of the consequences of sin. Any time you are tempted, remind yourself of the cost of your sin. Don’t forget the cross.
  • Sing in the car. Loudly, vibrantly, and without any care for propriety.

 

When you’re thirty-eight, I hope you:

  • Kiss your husband every day. On the mouth. In front of your kids.
  • Experiment in the kitchen. Don’t bake the same thing everyday. Make your kids green eggs and ham every once in a while.
  • Go for walks by yourself. Pray. Seek God in the quiet moments and the crazy moments and the beautiful moments in-between.
  • Buy jeans based on the fit and not the size. Forget about the labels and eat ice cream on Friday nights. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and if your face is wreathed in smiles, all beholders will find you stunning.

 

When you’re forty-eight, I hope you:

  • Wake up early to read the Word by yourself every morning.
  • Build relationships with the younger women around you, and encourage them to hold hands with their husbands and laugh about spilled milk.
  • Take your daughters bra shopping and be the kind of mom that they can goof around with. No embarrassment. Just pride in being beautiful and feminine and happy.
  • Re-read the books you haven’t touched since you were in high school. Learn history all over again through your children’s studies.
  • Always make time for a quick kiss. A child’s story. A bedtime hug.

 

When you’re fifty-eight, I hope you:

  • Carry around pictures of your grandkids everywhere.
  • Dance with your husband in the quiet moments when your house is empty and silent.
  • Wake up with the sunshine and take your vitamins every morning.
  • Share the Gospel on a regular basis.
  • Wear lipstick and let your hair go grey.

 

When you’re sixty-eight, I hope you:

  • Eat soup daily.
  • Travel the country and see all the beautiful things you never had time for in your youth.
  • Pinch cheeks in the most obnoxious manner possible.
  • Buy a child an icecream cone and smile more than they do.

 

When you’re seventy-eight, I hope you:

  • Close your eyes each night with the knowledge that you are loved by God. Deeply, passionately, and tenderly. And that nothing you could ever do would be enough to pay that back.
  • See your family on a regular basis.
  • Look at old photographs and remember things.
  • Smile through your pain, laugh on your hardest days, and show the world that a life hidden in Christ is a life well-lived.

 

Love,

Your Eighteen-Year-Old Self

Please Wear Color

If I have even the slightest awareness of my audience, I’m guessing that a lot of you are girls. And if you’re girls then you probably, like me, have put a lot of thought into what you wear and how you dress. Because as a young Christian woman in the world today, it can be so hard to figure out what to wear! I remember breaking down and crying in Kohl’s when I was about thirteen years old because I couldn’t find any skirts that covered my thighs or tops that reached my belt. Everything was just too short, too tight, and too uncomfortable. And even though my style has evolved over the years, I still find it just frustrating to find cute clothes that actually cover me up!

That’s why I was absolutely over the moon to receive an email from one of my favorite stores, DownEast Basics, asking if I was interested in becoming their January stylist. In case you haven’t heard of DownEast Basics, I just have to let you know how much my sister and I have benefited from their online shop. I get their catalog in the mail, and I’m always drooling over the beautiful bright clothes. I’ve bought several miscellaneous things from them throughout the years (they have amazing sales) and I couldn’t wait to see what was in their January catalog!

Being a stylist was basically the funnest job ever. I got to look through the catalog and pick out lots of my favorite items and show how I would style them!

I kept pinching myself the whole time like, “What? This is me? I’m a stylist? What kind of parallel universe have I entered?”

The most amazing part was that DownEast Basics sent me a gift card as a thank you and I was able to get some really beautiful pieces for this spring! I let my sisters and my mom each pick out sweaters (they are definitely sweater people) and then I used the rest of the money to get myself a few new things. Let me tell you, you can’t beat these prices. My money stretched so much further than I was expecting.

My style philosophy, like so many other aspects of my life, is to embrace color and beauty. I want pieces that are bright, classic, and comfortable! I love the concept of being a modern-day Audrey Hepburn (or maybe not–what did she weigh, like seventy pounds?) and being able to go about my everyday life with class and elegance.

{wearing this amazing eyelet pencil skirt–can’t even get over this shade of orange}

{even my sister Hannah agrees–every girl needs a little striped dress}

{introducing the world’s largest bag of chocolate chips and the world’s comfiest maxi skirt, which I’ve seriously been wearing all day since it’s ten times better than pajamas}

{and my new favorite striped top which goes perfectly with happy or dramatic faces and must be worn with lipstick — Revlon’s “Love that Pink”, to be specific}

I guess you could say that finding good clothes at a good price makes me pretty happy. I mean, how could you not have a good day when wearing a hot pink striped top or an aqua maxi skirt? It just seems impossible to me.

I really hope that this post is an encouragement to those of you who are on the hunt for cute modest clothing. I really don’t feel frumpy at all and neither should you! (Oh, and for those of you who are asking about swimsuits… DownEast Basics sells those too)

Check out the whole feature on their blog here and maybe even check out the site and let me know what you think! I’m not making any money off of anything you might buy. I’m just curious to see what you like!

-Rachel

{P.S. Please let me know if you liked this post and if you might be interested to hear me talk about some more of my favorite sites or brands in the future! Your feedback is very helpful}

Open Call for Topics!

So. Good news and bad news. Good news is that I’m going overseas for a few months to study photojournalism in Asia! Bad news is that I’ve decided not to worry about writing up blog posts while I’m gone.

HOWEVER. Before you freak out on me, I should let you know that I do plan on writing and scheduling posts that will be up while I’m gone! I should be gone from March to the end of June, so that gives me about a month and a half to prepare some posts for you. I’ll reveal some more about my trip and what I’ll be doing before I leave, but for now I need blog post ideas!

I’ve never had to schedule this many posts ahead of time, but I don’t want the blog to be a barren wasteland while I’m gone! I already have some vlogs, interviews, and even a guest post or two lined up, but I’d love to hear what you guys are interested in hearing about!

So I give you full permission to comment below with any ideas you might have. Questions about writing, life, singleness, relationships, family, fashion, faith, travel–you name it! If I have even the slightest bit of knowledge on the topic, I will try to address it.

This is basically your chance to get an entire blog entry out of your questions, so please don’t be shy. If I don’t get any comments I might cry and shut down the blog for four months! 

-Rachel

P.S. I’m getting really close to 500 likes on my Facebook page! When I get to the big 5-0-0 I’m going to have a really special giveaway, so go like and share my page here!

Seriously. Be a Better Blogger.

I have lots of readers email or message me asking for blogging advice. How do I get more followers? How do I develop my own voice in the blogging world? How do I know what to write about?

Honestly, I can’t figure out the getting more followers things. So if any of you have advice on that, feel free to jump right in. I hear there’s this thing called Twitter? (You can follow me there, by the way) Also Facebook? (Guess what, I’m there too) But at the end of the day, I really don’t know anything about either of those social media havens. Maybe if I did, I’d have fifty million followers and Taylor Swift would be my bff.

But I do know how to write. And I know how to speak my mind. And, guess what? Some people seem to like that. Seven or eight hundred of you, at least. And while that doesn’t seem like a HUGE following to me, I’ll definitely take it. If seven hundred people are actually interested in my life, I’ve got to start putting some effort into this blogging thing. So while I still doubt I know anything at all about blogging, I’ll go ahead and share some of my thoughts for those of you who are just starting out (or already floating along) in the crashing ocean of the blogosphere.

First off, don’t worry about getting your own website. Yes, I do own www.rachelcoker.com, and I love it. But for years, all I had was a little wordpress site, and it was fine! I still had several hundred followers, I still felt “in control” of my blog, and it still looked good! I really miss my little wordpress blog sometimes, especially since I wasn’t able to transfer all of my old posts when I switched sites. (You can read all the good old stuff here) For those of you who are just setting out though, I wouldn’t worry about spending all the time and money on building a personal site. Just start up a wordpress or blogspot site and get to blogging!

I also really recommend the use of all original images. All of the photos you’ll find on this site are my own, unless otherwise noted. Even for most of the interviews or writing posts. If you’re not careful about borrowing images from other sites, you can risk getting reported or even sued! People can be really touchy about using their photos without permission, so don’t take the risk! Get a camera and start messing around with photography. Or ask your gifted friends if they’d like to contribute some photos! (And be sure to give them credit) It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Just learn how to take nice simple photos to go along with your posts. It will add visual interest, beauty, and originality to your blog.

One of the most important technique to develop in blogging is the ability to find your own voice. There are so many bloggers out there, and they’re all talking about the same things. What is it that makes you different? You don’t have to have an amazing story or be an incredibly unique person. You just have to be you. Are you funny? Good. Weave that sarcasm or dry humor into your blog posts. Have you always felt older than your age? Then roll with it! Write down your insightful thoughts and ask others what they think. Know what makes you unique and special and don’t be afraid to use it.

At the end of a day, though, your success as a blogger is probably going to be directly proportional to how honest you are. Are you covering up bits of your life and making everything seem glossy and perfect? Okay. You can do that. Just don’t expect anyone to feel connected to you. If you’re constantly searching to see what blog topics are “popular” and will “draw the most viewers”, you’re also setting yourself up for failure. Blogging for the sake of an audience never made any sense to me, and I don’t think your readers will be too attracted to it either.

But if you have a voice. If you need to tell a story. If you stay up late at night with thoughts and comments and painful, honest truths running through your mind that you need to let out, then start a blog. Be yourself, and don’t care about what others might think. Ask questions. Start dialogs. Admit your mistakes. Praise God for your successes!

Blog because the world is beautiful and your life is crazy and you just can’t keep it to yourself. It might take time for people to catch on. You probably won’t become an overnight sensation. But when readers do finally stumble across your humble little site, they’ll fall in love. You’ll find readers who will laugh, cry, and celebrate with you in every season of life.

That’s why I blog, and that’s why I’m always praying I can become a better blogger. A more honest blogger. Someone who doesn’t feel like she needs to share every single detail of her life, but who feels comfortable sharing what God is doing to rock her world. I just want to be a blogger who connects and reaches individuals’ lives. I can always get better, and you can too!

-Rachel

P.S. More helpful, mind-numbingly simplistic blog tips, since I know you wanted them: get a FB like button for the bottom of your page, have annual giveaways and get people to fb and tweet about them, reach out to people you admire and ask them to take place on your blog, and get on every social media platform that you possibly can.

Photos from a Snowy Day

Have you seen “Frozen” yet? I’ve been listening to the soundtrack pretty much non-stop as of late (confession: HUGE Disney fan here), and I made what I thought was a pretty witty Facebook status based on it the other day. DO YOU WANT TO BUILD A SNOWMAN?? Nevermind. It’s Virginia.

Lo, and behold, it snowed the next day. True, it lasted for about an hour and was completely gone by early afternoon. But my sisters and I still took a chance to put off school and work to run around the yard with our puppy, letting ice melt on our cheeks and snapping pictures before it was all gone. (I cleverly cut a hole in a plastic bag and wrapped it around my camera. Don’t laugh. It works.)

I rarely share glimpses into my personal life because I want to respect the privacy of my family and friends, but I do want to include more photos into my blog this year. This is what my life is like. Unexpected snow flurries, puppy dog eyes, and two sisters who are almost as tall as I am now.

-Rachel

Video Blog: My Favorite Books

Find out what books make up my “Top Five” favorites! And then please supply me with your favorite titles as well, so that I might have more books to read and fall in love with.

Oh, and if you haven’t checked out my Youtube channel yet or subscribed for updates, do that here!

-Rachel

Why Write?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about writing. It’s something that I’ve always taken for granted, because it comes so easily to me. I love words and my brain is constantly turning with the combination of words, thoughts, and pictures. But lately, as I’ve been moving more toward a focus on journalism and personal writing, with a slight step away from fiction, I’ve been wondering what they all have in common? What are, and what should be, my motivations for writing?

It’s been said that every book and every story ever written has just been a different reordering of the same twenty-six letters. But for some reason, when I read this, something hot and angry bubbles up inside of me. Why do we cheapen words like that? Why would we even for a second liken the lives and loves and passions and hopes and fears of millions as the mere arranging of twenty-six individual letters?

I just have to believe that words are more than just their letters.

And so, I did some deep soul-searching to ask the Lord to show me why He gave me (and so many others) this desire to write. To put pen to paper and describe the feelings and questions and smiley faces of my heart. And this is what I came up with.

I write because my memory won’t last forever, but my words might.

I don’t write about life with the assumption that one day, when my body is cold in the grave, my words will be crumpled up and burned, the ashes blown away with the next strong gust of wind. I write with the expectation that, one day, these words will serve as a bridge. I write because my body is slowly decaying more every day, and because my mind is weak. But I don’t want my thoughts to fade with my sin-cursed memory. I want to be able to sit in a warm bed one day with my grandkids and think back on what it was like to be eighteen. I want to run my fingers over the yellowing pages and faded ink and remember the laughs and tears and watermelon seeds and rollercoaster rides I experienced in my youth. I don’t want to forget the way it felt to watch a leaf spin and fall and press my back against the beams of my front porch as I pondered God’s love for me. These are the moments that will slip away from me and hide forever, if I don’t press them into pages now.

I write because my life is a story that fits into God’s story.

I don’t know why God decided to make me. I’m not sure what kind of mood He was in on the day that He decided to combine wild hair, awkwardly long limbs, a loud voice, and a dry sense of humor into the creation that is Rachel Coker. Honestly, it never fails to baffle me. But I do know that He created me for a purpose, and that He chose to make me a part of His story. I may only be a small act in the grand play of creation (in fact, I’m probably just one of the short witty lines or head bumps that get thrown into a dramatic scene for a little much-needed comic relief) but I have a part. And that means that my life is worth something. Every morning, every conversation, every dream are all working toward the glorious grand finale. And so I want to keep track of it all! I want people to know how my little, insignificant, fleeting life was actually a part of God’s amazing plan for redemption and glory.

I write because I love people.

Because my family means something to me. Because every new face I meet is a new friend to gain, and a new heart to treasure. Because I see the beauty in laugh lines, the grace in grey hair, and the miracle of dimpled baby skin. The world is spinning at a rate fast enough to cause my heart to pound a little more just thinking about it, but it contains the gift of life. I write because there are so many lives to see, enjoy, and capture. I will always have another smile to see. There will always be a new friend to meet. No matter how grey or painful or sad my life becomes, there will always be eyes to look into and souls to touch. And I don’t want to miss any of them.

I write because my brain is a birdcage and writing is the key.

There is a freedom that comes through words. An ability to soar. To escape. To savor things outside of my own little corner of the world. The more that I write, the more I realize that life is bigger than just me and that I need to actually experience and record things in order to understand that. Writing liberates me because it minimizes me. When I start scratching down thoughts on my own feelings, I start to see how much feeling there is outside of myself. How much I’ve yet to discover. And that’s a thought that fills me with excitement and joy.

And lastly,

I write because I was born a writer.

I can’t explain it. Which is terribly ironic and causes me to second-guess everything I ever believed about my own ability to tell and to share. But at the end of the day, my head is filled with words. My heart is full of stories. My life is an endless cycle of hearing and sharing. Of learning and telling.

“But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

I want to be a treasurer of thoughts. A keeper of moments. A teller of all the beautiful, crazy, heart-pounding things the Lord reveals to me in my lifetime. And as long as I have paper, pen, and clarity of mind, I will continue to treasure, keep, and share these things, expounding them into all the beautiful words that twenty-six letters will allow.

-Rachel

The Fairytale Mindset

Before you read this, please understand the following.

I’m writing this as an eighteen year old girl. I’m writing this as someone who has never been kissed or even held hands with a boy. I’m writing this as someone who does not have all the answers, and who doesn’t have any false illusions of being an expert on these subjects. Hopefully, I’m writing this in humility and in searching my own heart, which is definitely deceitfully wicked and completely un-understandable at times. I’m not trying to judge anyone, or force my views upon anyone else.

I went on my first date when I was seventeen. Yes, I was under eighteen. Yes, everyone thought my parents were crazy for letting me go somewhere alone with a member of the male specimen (although we did drive separately and there were several thousand people surrounding us as we awkwardly walked around outside with our hands in our own pockets).

Before you start getting all interested, though, I’m not planning on telling you all the details of my love life in this post. Someday, I’ll probably tell the whole story and you’ll get to indulge in your nosiness all you want. Today, you’re just getting little snippets, though. Snippets like the picture of me on my first date, wearing bright orange cords (“You’ll be able to find me when you get there because I’ll be wearing bright orange pants!” I told him, much to his horror) and with windblown hair, walking around with a nose reddened from the December breeze. I was finally getting to spend the afternoon with a guy that I liked a lot. He’d won my respect as a friend and had followed all the rules when it came to asking my dad permission to take me out, meeting the family, and getting to know me from a distance. And he was serious about me. Dead serious.

Long story short, that relationship lasted for about three months. We broke up over the phone, because he was on a trip several states away, and it was completely mutual. As far as I know, there were no hard feelings. We’ve seen each other since then, and while I won’t lead you guys to believe that being in and out of a relationship is as un-messy as your mom’s kitchen sink (or maybe it’s just my mom who is like that), it’s fine. There were no tears, no fights, and no more than a handful of “shoot-me-now” awkward moments. He’s an amazingly godly guy who loves the Lord and will make a great husband to someone one day!

It just won’t be me, I realized. And so I ended that relationship with the assumption that I would just have to start searching for my husband elsewhere. In a Bible study, maybe. At a church. In the middle of a book signing. At the grocery store, for Pete’s sake.

He could be ANYWHERE.

When I wrote my little comical parody of “Pride and Prejudice” a few months ago, I was completely taken aback by the almost viral response it got. Ten times more views than any of my other posts to date. I was laughing about it with my family and I think I made the comment, “I guess people found it funny!” My dad just shrugged and said, “There’s truth to it. For every truly funny thing, there’s gotta be a little truth behind it.”

It took a few days for that to sink in. But when it did, it really sank. Deep to my bones. To my guilty heart. The heart that, ever since I was old enough to realize that boys and girls are different, longed to have someone tell her that she was pretty and special and sweet and smart. The heart that wanted to be held, nurtured, and flattered. The heart that sought after a match, and wasn’t going to take “Wait” for an answer. Because waiting is boring and some of us just want to know all the answers right now. And what girl, when she’s so desperate to fall in love and so eager to make it happen with whomever seems interested, can resist a handsome, sweet guy who seems to genuinely like and respect her?

And so I’ve made mistakes. I’m not here to list them for you, or to ask you to judge my life or my heart. God’s pretty good at doing that Himself. But there did finally come a day when my heart was completely captured. Snatched up, tucked away, and treated like the treasure that it is. And it wasn’t a tall, handsome, bowtie-wearing stranger who did it.

It was God.

My heart stopped fluttering the moment I realized that no man is ever going to make me truly happy. I’m never going to wake up one day and think that the man by my side is a perfect gift from the Lord sent to meet my every need and fill my every empty spot.

My emotions stopped swirling when I realized that I might never find someone who makes me belly laugh every single morning, even when I’m sick or cramping or about to give birth to his child.

My longings stopped controlling me when I opened my eyes and finally understood that no man will ever be able to read my mind, or know my heart, or completely capture me in every way imaginable.

Because that’s not what men are for. That’s what God is for.

For years, I’ve grown up with the mindset that my whole childhood, teen, and young adult years are just a “holding place” for the day when I’ll be married and my life will be fulfilled. I’ve approached friendships with just about every male I know as a tentative “beginnings of a relationship” mindset. I’ve made my own plans for the future, and tried to direct my own steps. I’ve attempted to match myself and failed horribly.

We all laugh at Lizzie and Jane and Lydia and Mrs. Bennett, but why? Because, but for the grace of God, that is us. That is me. A woman solely focused on one thing: holy matrimony. A heart yearning for a six-foot-two male by myself with dark curly hair and freckles. Someone to listen to my heart, to hold my hand, and to supply a warm pillow for me to dry my tears.

But when did we replace God with marriage? When did we, as young women, shift our eyes from the true lover of our souls and seek to find contentment in shy telephone calls and awkward hand-holding in the park?

Marriage is a beautiful thing. Love is a beautiful thing. I can think of few things that would make me happier than to know that God has a wonderful, godly young man out there who will never know me perfectly and will probably make me mad nine days out of ten and will forget to turn off the light in the laundry room, but who I will love, cherish, and delight in. I look forward to that day, should God bring it to pass!

But I’m ready to be done with the guessing. With the wondering–could it be this guy? Or could it be that guy? I’m through with asking God to show me my husband and I’m ready to just ask God to show me Himself. To let me know Him more fully. To let me fall more in love with Jesus everyday.

Marriage is never going to make you truly happy.

Jesus will make you truly happy. 

Love will never bring you true contentment.

Christ will.

I don’t look back over my past experiences with romance or young men with regrets or embarrassment. If I did, I probably wouldn’t be sharing them with you right now. All I want to do is share honestly what God has taught me about love at this time in my life. My life isn’t a fairytale. I’m not a believer in pumpkin carriages or magical first kisses or princes who ride in on horseback.

I’m a believer in grace. In unconditional love from God our Father. I believe that God cares about me enough to completely satisfy me every day of my life. In love and out of love. Through messy relationships and beautiful ones. Through broken friendships, broken hearts, and nights spent knocking on the gas station door asking for a carton of ice cream because you just broke up with your boyfriend. (Yep. Been there.)

I don’t have to look forward to the day I fall in love. Because I already am in love. Passionately, gloriously, and miraculously loved and cherished by my Lord. And when you think about it that way, why would I waste a single moment waiting for a guy anyway?

-Rachel

Enjoying the Journey: Jessica Deagle

For the rest of my life, whenever I see a hot air balloon, I will think of Jessica Deagle. Simply because the first time I ever met Jessica, she was talking about hot air balloons. Her rich voice, brimming with Southern twang, was vibrating with words full of excitement and hope for the journey that lies before her. I was only one of two dozen girls in the room hanging on her every word. Jessica was teaching us an important lesson, and one that still sticks in my mind today. Enjoy life’s journey. Like a hot air balloon ride.

I’d been dying to talk with Jessica ever since the evening I first heard her speak. To be honest, I felt a little bit like a nervous fan-girl when I asked around for her contact information and first sent her an email address. When she responded a few weeks later graciously asking my forgiveness for her delay and explaining that she’d thrown a Nancy Drew themed sleepover for her daughter, I was smitten. This woman was amazing, and I had to learn her story.

The Deagles invited me into their home one evening a few weeks before Christmas for dinner and my much-longed-for interview. Upon arriving, I was greeted by three smiling little faces (one missing quite a few teeth) and the charm of Southern hospitality wrapped around me. The kids ran around and threw leaves and even danced for me while I snapped a few pictures. Then Jessica instructed them to go play at their grandparents’ house for a bit while we took the time to chat.

We sat on the floor in her living room, surrounded by family pictures and Bible verses lining the walls. Feeling a little nervous all over again that I was getting the chance to talk to this inspiring woman, I pull out my notebook and began asking a few preliminary questions about her life and childhood.

The sweet and thick accent came from a childhood spent in Dublin, Georgia, where she was born into a small Christian family and lived a sweet and simple life for eighteen years. Jessica shares that she came to Christ at a young age, and remembers what it was like to try to walk a pure life through the pressures of high school. “Praise the Lord for giving me such strong Christian parents,” she says with a small smile. “I always remember viewing the worldiness around me as something that I didn’t want to be a part of. There came a time when I definitely began making that distinction. Choosing to love and follow Christ and trying to keep myself off the throne. It’s all about dying to yourself every day, which I started to learn at a young age.”

One of the passions of Jessica’s heart, from a very young age, has always been global missions. “I grew up in a Baptist church and I remember sitting there as a child during the Lottie Moon Christmas offerings and my heart just feeling compelled to give. I would have taken off my earrings and put them in the offering plate if I could have!” She expresses the inner turmoil she faced, though, over choosing to pursue missions over the musical career she always wanted to have. Because she loved music, she longed to follow her talents and enroll in the music department of her college. But deep in her heart, Jessica describes the unique sense of calling she felt to missions. “I just knew that anything I would do in college would be missions related. I didn’t like nursing school, but that’s what I knew I had to do to prepare myself for life on the mission field.” She remembers one day, after her sister graduated, when she just sat on her bed and cried out to God, and feeling a confirmation in her heart that this was His plan for her. “I just had a call. A call to go. I wanted my life to count for the Kingdom of God. I didn’t like my nursing studies—in fact, I’d often look longingly at the students walking up to the music department every week—but it was worth it. I knew God wanted to use this in my life one day.”

Very shortly after Jessica graduated college, her world was rocked by an invitation to move to Honduras and open a medical clinic for a children’s orphanage. She laughs now at the challenges and joys she faced during her time in Honduras. “I was not a doctor!” Her eyes crinkle at the corners as she shakes her head. “But these kids had no one. They wanted a doctor, but they would settle for a nurse. God just put it all together! All these different companies sent me equipment and medicine.” She sits up and starts pointing to different body parts that she mended. “Oh, and one time a boy got a machete wound. I was really excited about that—It was something I’d never get to do as a nurse in the US! And I’d been practicing stitching on a banana. I definitely prayed a lot because everything I did was only by the grace of God! I was just a nurse! I didn’t know what I was doing!”

It was while she was in Honduras that she met her husband, William, the manager of another orphanage in the country. They married and eventually moved back to the United States, but Jessica still talks fondly about her time as a single young woman on the mission field. “It’s a season of your life that will never be like any other season. Don’t waste tears on being single. Love will come! You don’t have to position yourself. You are positioned already in the will of God!”

As a single young woman, I confess to her that this is already something I’m struggling with. How do you live out these years to the fullest, without worrying about marriage or discovering what God’s will for your life is?

Jessica laughs gently and squeezes my hand. By now, we’re in the kitchen, checking on the casserole in the oven and setting the table for dinner. “You have to find yourself in Christ, Rachel,” she says, her smile warm. “God cares about where you go to college and who you marry. He cares about what food you’re eating! But we get so caught up in the specific will that we forget about the general will of God. The general vision—to love him with all our soul, mind, and strength. Are you pursuing God? Are you loving people? Are you serving? Do you prefer others? Does the person beside you want the bigger piece of pie?”

I smile at that. She has no idea how close to home she hit with the pie comment.

“You always need to do a check-up on yourself first. Then, just start to daily inquire of the Lord. Go ask God for the vision. You won’t have to wait very long!”

Jessica shares with me the vision her and her husband have created for their family. “Proverbs 19:20 says that without vision, the people perish. Our vision for this time in life is to enjoy the journey. So often, we might be going through the motions, but we’re not really living!”

She says that when they first introduced the idea to their kids, they described it as a picture of living in a hot air balloon. They were on a journey to a destination, but they were going to enjoy it! They would work at casting away the heavy sandbags in their life and take time to appreciate the beauty surrounding them. It was such a lovely picture of the Christian life that I couldn’t help but wonder—How am I enjoying life’s journey?

Hearing Jessica talk about seasons in life reminded me of my own recent ponderings on the beauty of life’s seasons. Her words were full of encouragement and salt for me. The way she loved me was beautiful. The way she honestly cared about my struggles and wanted to build me up in Christ was an amazing testimony to a life that is lived selflessly, joyfully, and in complete fulfillment.

As I sat at the Deagle’s dinner table that night and listened to their playful bantering about books, gladiators, and food, I couldn’t help but pray that my life would always be able to express the same joy in Christ that Jessica’s does. May I experience that same call to go. To love. To serve others. And to keep my eye on the destination of this life, while never forgetting to enjoy the journey.

-Rachel