The Strain

There’s a Frank O’Hara poem called “My Heart” that begins with the following lines:

I’m not going to cry all the time

Nor shall I laugh all the time

I don’t prefer one “strain” to another

This week has been a week of strains. (And it’s only Wednesday…funny how that works, right?) I had a complete and utter breakdown Monday morning when I backed my car into my dad’s truck. Just completely slammed into it, leaving his truck unharmed and my back bumper nearly detached. I rubbed at hot tears in my eyes and ran to my room, avoiding everyone’s questions, comments, and suggestions. Locked the door like a nine-year-old and curled up in bed. Not crying. Not yelling. Just lying in a sort of semi-frozen state of stress and never wanting to leave my room again.

At least not until November.

It wasn’t even October yet.

SOMETIMES I WONDER HOW LIFE CAN BE FILLED WITH SUCH UPS AND DOWNS. And maybe it’s because I’m an optimist or perhaps I just have a wonderful life, but I feel like I’m constantly marveling and enjoying and soaking things in. There’s so much good and so many laughs.

But sometimes I cry. No, a lot of the time I cry. Sometimes I can’t even force tears. I just squeeze my eyes shut and want to sleep, sleep, sleep instead of live, live, live.

MONDAY WAS ONE OF THOSE DAYS WHEN IT ALL COMPILED AND I WANTED TO JUST LOSE IT. My computer had crashed and was in the shop about fifty minutes from my home. I’d ruined the tail end of my car on my way to get it. I was stuck at home with no computer and no car stressing about the six girls who were coming in five days and the SATs I’d be taking the weekend after they left and all the grocery shopping and cooking and cleaning and planning I’d have to do in between. My mind was swimming laps without the aim of winning any medals. Just aimlessly paddling and paddling and not heading anywhere.

My boyfriend texted and asked if I was okay. My best friend seemed concerned and wanted to know what was up and why did my tone sound different. I’M JUST STRESSED, OKAY? Angry capital letters delivered on an iPhone screen somewhere, and I’m sure they were both a little taken aback. (I’m the optimist, remember?)

I told them I needed to write and just get it all out and that I’d be okay to talk and pray with them after I’d put words to some of my feelings. So I opened up my journal and made a list and just started scribbling.

THINGS THAT CAUSE ME STRESS

messed up cars

passive aggressive discussions with my dad

the feeling that I’m stretched out and

waiting

but I don’t know what for

scraping the bottom of my savings

giving up on a “want” to fix a “need”

broken computers fifty minutes away

grocery lists–the prospect of grocery shopping

six girls being here for three days

not being good enough

or smart enough or old enough

feeling like others see the things I lack

falling behind

algebra

actually, mainly geometry

not getting the future I want

not escaping

but also feeling like I need to escape

falling out of love

staying in love and having to maintain it

staying me

seeing fears written into lists

I took a deep breath and put the pen down. My fingers were actually cramping from my need to write so quickly into such little crooked letters. It looked like a foreign language and it stared back. Bold. Messy. Harsh.

And so I turned the page. And made another list.

BUT, AS ALWAYS, GIFTS

words and knowing I have words

money and knowing I do have money

the ability to make choices

others having confidence in me ($400 kind of confidence)

seeing things work out

knowing they always do

not needing a million friends because I’m never without any

food–always food. peanut butter + chocolate

three sisters sitting barefoot on the bed

not always needing to escape

sometimes, despite the urge, feeling okay to stay.

Part of the reason why I read poetry, like Frank O’Hara’s, is because seeing my feelings written in someone else’s words gives me the confidence to be able to say: okay. I will be fine, I will live through this like the millions of other people who have before me. I’m realizing that there is no preferring one strain to another. There will be days where I will laugh and laugh and fill my cup with sunshine and there will be days when I will want to cry but will only find cold beds and harsh stark words in my hands.

I’M HAPPY WITH THE BALANCE AND I DO LOVE THE TIP AND SWAY. Because it really does tip this way some days, but it will sway back with time.

-Rachel

 

When You’re Seventeen

I missed my sister Hannah’s seventeenth birthday because I was still living in Thailand back in June. So once I got the chance to come home and photograph her properly to document this new page in her life, she was already seventeen and two months.

I tried to remember what I was like at seventeen and two months. My second book had just come out less than a year earlier. I had spent the summer in Key West with my family then I came home and had my senior portraits taken by my best friend’s mom. I remember feeling so grown up. Last year of high school. The future on the horizon. I remember thinking that seventeen might finally be the year I fell in love or traveled to another country or figured out what I was going to do for the rest of my life.

That makes me laugh now because none of those things happened when I was seventeen. Some of them I’m still waiting to happen.

But seventeen is a beautiful age. No longer a child, yet not quite an adult.

-Rachel

Please Help Me Pick Out Some Books!

I’m in a bit of a pickle, you see. In just three weeks time, I will be boarding a flight to Asia and will have to suffer about twenty hours of air travel. TWENTY HOURS. *starts hyperventilating*

To make things worse, I don’t have an ipad. Or a Nook. Or a Kindle. Or anything even slightly technological that would help me out with the entertainment factor on a long and brain-suckingly endless flight. So I plan on bringing books and snacks. Books and snacks. Books and snacks. (This has become my mantra)

The obvious problem, of course, it that I can only fit a few books into my carry-on bag. Those books have to last me my whole eighteen-week-long trip to Asia and both sets of flights. Talk about a dilemma!

I don’t really want to bring something I’ve read before, so I’m trying to branch out and pack four or five new titles to enjoy while I’m away. But that’s where I need your help. I have some ideas, and I want to get feedback and suggestions. Let me know what you’ve read (and enjoyed) lately, and what you would suggest!

Here’s what I’m thinking.

 

The Fault in Our Stars

 

Yes, I know it’s depressing. Please don’t spoil it for me, but I have heard the horrific tales of women who literally bathed themselves in a warm flood of tears after reading this. BUT. I’ve also heard that it’s amazingly good, and I’m thinking that as long as I can read it behind a pair of incognito *cough cough* sunglasses on an airplane, I should be fine. Right?

What’s Your Mark?

 

I read about this one on Ann Voskamp’s blog and as someone who has a heart for missions and service, I’m really longing to read this and see how God has worked in the lives of other ordinary individuals. Problem is, it’s sold out on Amazon. Anyone know where else I could find this? Has anyone read it yet?

 

The History of Love

 

I put this in my Amazon cart with a bit of trepidation. The reason being that I have no idea if this is a wholesome book or one of those titles that I will just end up wasting my money on. I know that it’s amazingly written because I have read sections, and a blogger that I really respect had nothing but good things to say about it. So I’m stepping out in faith and hoping that it’s a worthy read. Does anyone know for sure?

 

Pleasing People: How Not to Be an Approval Junkie

 

Might actually tackle this one before I leave. Because I’ve already been peeking in it and I know it’s good. This is something I desperately need, as an extrovert and general people-pleaser, so I’m excited to see what God teaches me through this one! I promise I’ll share…

 

Death by Living: Life is Meant to be Spent

 

Because “Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl” was the best book I ever read and my soul needs to soak up some more of this goodness.

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So those are the new titles I’m considering. Thoughts? I may just end up packing all my old favorites in spite of it all. Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl is really dying to be re-read, now that I think about it…

-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

Please Excuse My Rudeness

I’m a bad blogger. Sorry, everyone for going AWOL, but I have had a CRAZY past two weeks! I was in NJ for a week (and even got to spend a day in NYC–did you see the pictures yet?) and then spent the next week frantically preparing for my big high school graduation party! (That’s right–I’m a free woman now!)

I have tons of pictures and stories to share, but I’m going to need another day or two to get it all together. :) Until then, feel free to browse my archives, or check out my more frequently updated fashion blog instead!

-Rachel

Giveaway Winner + Our Newest Venture…

First off, thank you all so much for your incredibly sweet comments on my new site! I, just like a lot of you, simultaneously love and hate change, so this was definitely exciting and scary for me. But I think it’s going to pay off!

To celebrate my new site, I hosted a giveaway last week for two autographed books, and I am happy to announce that the winner is… Layla! Layla, I’ll be emailing you shortly with info on how to get you your books. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Okay, so just in case you didn’t think the last few weeks could get any more exciting, I’m going to hit you with some SUPER fantastical news. ::Drumroll please:: My sister Hannah and I have decided to combine our passions for fashion and photography and start a style blog together!!!! Yay!!! (you may all cheer now)

 Don’t worry, I’ll still be blogging here with all my thoughts on writing, life, and general randomness. The new blog is going to be shared by me and Hannah, though, and we will be posting (Lord-willing) five times a week with fresh, new, and exciting content. A new outfit to be inspired by every day!

The new blog is called she said {she wore} and you can check it out here! There’s already a week’s worth of content on there because we wanted you all to have some cool stuff to look at on your first visit! So check it out, comment on your favorite look, and sign up for email updates! Oh, and you can see our facebook page here and follow us on twitter here. (Oh my gosh–so many places to find me/us)

So what do you think? Are you excited about seeing even more of the Coker gals on the world-wide-web? Are you looking forward to having a blog you can visit every morning for fashion inspiration that is cute, modest, AND affordable? Do you just love us? (Let me hear you say—yeah!!!)

Obviously, I’m too excited for my own good. What can I say? I love working with my sister on something we’re both passionate about, as another way to serve our King.

-Rachel

P.S. In case you wanted those links again: blog, facebook, twitter.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes… (+Giveaway)

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy…”

Ah. I have no idea what that means anyway. When I think of changes, I don’t think of beautiful, lyrical poetry. I think of David Bowie, strutting around on a stage, stuttering out “Ch-ch-ch-changes…” Blame my homeschool upbringing.

So, you may have noticed that we’ve moved sites! It’s a little nerve-wracking, because I got soooo comfortable with my wordpress site. Too comfortable. It was time for a change of pace. Plus, it was getting way too annoying to direct people to www.rachelcoker.WORDPRESS.com. I needed my own “dot.com”.

Which brings us here! Today. To the launch of my new website.

We’ve made a lot of changes. Most of the archives are gone. Sorry, but I couldn’t move two and a half years of blogging to a whole new site! So we’re starting fresh here. If you want to go back and read my former witty posts, you are welcome to check out the archives here. But hopefully this site will be full of funnies very shortly.

In fact, to celebrate the new site, I’m hosting a giveaway! That’s right! One winner will be mailed two autographed copies of my books, “Interrupted” and “Chasing Jupiter”! To enter, all you have to do is answer this question, “Do you like change, or hate it?”

For extra entries, you can:

  • Share my Facebook post about the giveaway
  • Tweet about the giveaway (be sure to link the blog and tag @RachelCoker3 so I can see it!)
  • Pin one of the book covers above and mention the giveaway in your description!

Each person can enter up to four times! Let the competition begin, and let’s celebrate the new blog!

(Giveaway open to U.S. citizens only; ends Saturday, May 4th at 10 PM EST)

-Rachel