Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I went to a community group last night, and they opened up the floor to have people share about what's going on in their life right now.  It took me a long time to build up the courage, but I felt led to say something.  In fact, I'd say I was feeling guilt at the idea of not saying anything-- especially since I've been so quick to report all the negative in my life, I thought that this is one of the mediums in which I should express gratitude as things have started to look up.  So I finally started to say, "Well... I'll share..." literally at the exact same time as the facilitator started to say, "Ok, well let's wrap up."  I backed down and said, "Oh, it's okay.  Nevermind."  And several people encouraged me to continue, insisting that we were not on a set schedule.   

So I briefly talked about the struggles I had faced last semester with my new move.  I actually never even went into why I moved here or anything about dance (this information will be important later)-- I just talked about my job, and being lonely, etc. I spent more time focusing on how little things are starting to turn around, and how I was finally learning to take everything one day at a time, and most importantly how I was being forced to depend on God for my strength since I've been stripped of all the financial, emotional, and spiritual luxuries that made my life so comfortable for so long.

And that was it, several people nodded showing understanding and agreement with what I was saying.  They were very supportive, and I was glad that I took the time to wrestle with my thoughts and force myself to articulate them-- more for me than anyone else, but I never could have expected what happened next...

After I finished speaking, the facilitator continued his "wrap up," as he was originally trying to do before I had interrupted.  He explained that the last few minutes were going to be ours.  The worship leader was going to play some closing songs, but we could feel free to sing, journal, pray, sit in silence-- whatever we needed.  I felt awkward.  I didn't really know what to do, but that didn't last long.  Within seconds, the girl next to me tapped my leg and whispered, "Thank you for sharing.  That was just for me... I needed to hear that."  We spoke for a few minutes, and she talked about how she is getting over a recent breakup.  But just last night she ran into her ex, and he was with his new girlfriend, so she came to the community group with a heavy heart.  She said she needed to hear about relinquishing herself to God, and needing to depend on him every day to give her the strength she needed to cope and move on.  While we were in our conversation, another girl approached us from across the room, "I just wanted to come over here and talk to you," she said to me.  "I just moved here in August from California, and I feel like I'm in the exact same situation that you said you were in.  It was really great to hear your take on it, and what God's teaching you during this time."  By the end of the night, SIX people came up to me to thank me for sharing what I did because in someway it spoke to them personally.  I mean, I get that I live in New York City, and everyone's a transplant from somewhere else, and everyone goes through their own story of loneliness and frustration, but I wish I could describe the wonder in their eyes as they felt that they were receiving a divine message of hope and encouragement... and perhaps the wonder in my eyes as I contemplated this divine orchestration of timing and placement.  Considering I almost didn't say anything, it was really incredible to see my simple words being used for part of God's intricate plan.

But here's the real kicker.  One of the people that approached me, Jeannie Jo-- I had never met her before last night-- said she was so moved by what I said that she wanted to pray for me.  So she proceeded to pray over my situation for about 5 minutes, and here were the closing words of her prayer: "God please remove this backpack from Rachael's back, and carry it for her, so she can dance freely up the mountainside..."

If you don't have chills right now, please refer back to the closing paragraphs of one of my previous posts entitled Deliverance...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Top Ten - Week of 1.10.11

Last weeks top ten (in order of occurrence):

10) Wayne- Last weekend I hung out at my brother's apartment and watched The Others with him and his friend.  It was nice to be around family and just relax for the night.

9) Harkness Institute- On Monday, I went to a FREE injury prevention assessment for dancers.  I met with a physical therapist, one-on-one, for about an hour and a half.  She had me do all kinds of exercises and stretches, and she identified areas of potential danger in my current alignment.  She also gave me a list of stretches to do work on my existing injuries and help improve my general performance.  My hamstrings have extensive damage after tearing one and pulling the other many years ago.  I've re-injured them many times over the years, and a great deal of scar tissue has built up as a result.  Recently they have gotten so tight, that I was feeling pain when I would bend over to put my shoes on.  This is heartbreaking for someone who used to roll in and out of her splits and almost touch her nose in a high-kick line.  I still don't know if I'll ever make it back to that degree of flexibility, but after just one week of doing the recommended stretches and using my foam roller before and after every class, I'm noticing significant changes.  It's exciting to watch the transformation.

8) Chelsea Community Group- Monday night I went to that community group that Sue recommended the night before, and it was awesome.  Everyone was extremely welcoming, and it was a great time of worship, discussion, and prayer.  I'm planning on becoming a regular.

7) HEAT!!!-- I went throughout the entire fall and half of winter (including the Great Blizzard) without heat in my apartment.  I used to lay in my bed for hours after the alarm went off because I didn't want to leave my comforter.  And when I would try to read of use the computer, I would bundle up in my winter coat and blankets, but my fingers would literally go numb since they had to be exposed in order to turn the pages or type.  It's a long, stupid story as to why we didn't have heat, but I finally have it, and it's glorious!  A whole new world!

6) Intermediate-  I started taking some Int and IntAdv classes and not psyching myself out at the label.  At BDC classes progress through Basic, Beginner, Advanced Beginner, Intermediate, and Intermediate Advanced.  I've mostly been taking AdvBeg classes and being sufficiently challenged at that level.  But for the past 2 weeks, I started trying to step out of my comfort zone, and push myself.  I still look a hot mess in those harder classes, but I'm picking up the choreography so much faster than I was at the beginning of my program, and I'm starting to let go more and just dance. 

5) Lyndsay- On Tuesday, I had drinks with Lyndsay.  She and I went to high school together and were officers on the dance team.  I haven't seem her in over 5 years, but she just moved to NYC this month, so we met up and were able to pick up where we left off.

4) Hillstone- Work went really well this week.  No one blew up at me; I made good money; and I even helped to encourage my co-worker who was struggling with some of the same issues I was dealing with at the beginning of my time there.  I also learned a new trick: even if I screw up with my table, as long as I leave a good LAST impression just before they're signing the charge slip, I get 20%.  So now I slide the credit card on the table, make direct eye-contact, give a huge smile, bat my eyelashes, and say, "Thank you soooo much!  Enjoy the rest of your evening!" Boom- 25 bucks. :)

3) Trader Joes- FIIIIINALLY went to Trader Joes, a grocery store that eeeeveryone's been talking about.  And now I get why they've been talking about it.  Everything is crazy cheap!  They have a lot of inexpensive organic products and they sell cheap pre-cooked meals.  I bought my groceries for the week for $36!  It was insane, and I am in love. 

2) Katie- Holy smokes, I love this girl!  I met Katie through Erica Stewart, who Facebook connected us when I first moved to NYC, and promised that we would get along well with each other.  What an understatement.  Since moving to NYC, the hardest I ever laugh is when I'm around this girl.  On Saturday, we went out for 'breakfast for dinner.'  I had blueberry pancakes at 8:30 at night, so it was already a great night.  But to top it off we went out for drinks.  We decided to look for "manly bars" as we called them, so our first stop was the bar on the corner that had at least 7 neon beer logos in the window.  Guys like shiny things and beer, so we figured we had the right spot.  And we were right.  Just to get to the bar, we had to push through about 12 guys-- probably the most straight men I've seen since I've moved to NYC.  Although we had a blast, we decided we're both awkward, and we're just going to have to live with that.  :) Our homework is to continue researching 'manly' bars and frequenting restaurants that have 'breakfast for dinner' options on their menu. 

1) GLEE- I'm working on a GLEE medley dance performance.  Jorge, one of the dancers in the program, is helping me choreograph it, and this morning we had a great rehearsal.  By the end of it, we were both grinning from ear to ear, so excited about the choreography that we came up with! Every week that I watch GLEE, I think about how that's EXACTLY what I wish I was doing, so I'm excited to put together this number and hopefully channel some of that inspiration. 

That's it- overall a great week! Looking forward to another one!

Monday, January 17, 2011


Last week was one of the best weeks that I've had in NYC!  Nothing spectacular happened, but after several months of doom and gloom entries, I want to be quick to share and give thanks when there's any sign of hope!

So last Sunday night I went to church, and the message really spoke to me.  On the inside I was really inspired by it, but I could still feel this could of depression that's been hovering over me for the past few months and really distancing me from God.  I feel like I've just been walking through the motions of my faith, and not really feeling the same vibrancy and passion that I felt before.  I've never been married, but I imagine one could compare it to when some couples' marriages become stale, and they know they still love each other, and they're in it for the long haul, but they also remember a time when they would get butterflies when they saw each other, and every day was that much more exciting as they got to experience life intricately intertwined with one another, but those days were far behind them.  That's where I was.  I could remember that time, and I wanted so desperately to have those emotions back, but I was numb-- giving in to the weight of my circumstances and slowly slipping away from communion with God.  I remember at one point a few months ago, having this profound realization that hell was less about flames and pitchforks, and more about the absence of God.  And as I walked further and further away from his presence, I was pulled further and further into my personal hell-- a downward spiral of negativity, ingratitude, and selfishness-- the opposite of everything I want to be in life.

Anyways, I don't know why this particular Sunday was the turning point.  I had gone to many sermons in weeks prior that were equally as inspiring, but I think the timing was just right with it being the start of a new year and all.  Nevertheless, at the end of the sermon, the pastor said that if you needed to talk to someone or wanted prayer, there would be people up in the front 'who would love to talk to you.'  That's typically the point when I tune out, start gathering my belongings, and put my coat on because there is clearly no way that I'm walking all the way to the front of the church to ask some stranger for prayer.  But that's because I've never been desperate before.  Desperate for change; desperate for hope.  So although every fiber of my flesh was screaming for me to walk out the door, my desperate soul led the way to the front alter.  I made awkward eye contact with a woman who smiled at me, and she motioned me to come sit down beside her.  We exchanged names, and within approximately 9 seconds, I was in uncontrollable tears, heaving and sobbing, explaining every emotion that I had bottled up since August.  I searched the depths of my heart, and left no rock unturned.  Sue didn't flinch-- she listened sympathetically, and ooh-ed and aaah-ed at all the right times to show me she understood my situation, and validated me in feeling the way I did.  Then she prayed for me and asked me to pray for myself.  She also encouraged me to join the community group that met on Mondays so I could start to get plugged in.  And that was it-- quick and painless-- and things have turned around eversince.  I feel as though I was hiking up the side of a mountain with a heavy backpack and someone just lifted the entire pack off my shoulders.  I'm still hiking, and it's still challenging, but without the heavy load I remember that I actually like hiking! I just couldn't handle that backpack anymore.

I'm finally able to see my surroundings in a more positive light, and everything seems to burst forth in a brighter hue than it did before.  I'm hopeful that this is the start of a far more colorful chapter than the previous 5 months that I will now start to refer to as the Dark Ages.  :)

"For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them."  Matthew 18: 20


Wednesday, January 12, 2011


We're several days into the new year... I'm a little behind... but I'm finally ready to make my new year's resolution.  I LOVE new beginnings, fresh starts, clean slates, and all that jazz.  One thing I loved about teaching and being a student is that we kinda used to get two "new year's" every year.  Every semester, we got to come back-- well-rested and ambitious-- with the long list of things we were going to swear to start doing consistently and the other list of things we promised we'd never do again.  It's exciting to take time to reflect on your past and basically dump all the baggage that we feel was weighing us down by the end of the year.  And it's weird that we feel like we need a random calendar date to tell us when it's appropriate to dump that burdensome baggage, but we all do it-- whether it's the beginning of a school semester, or on your birthday, or even just the next upcoming Monday--  we all use these arbitrary measures of time to free ourselves of old mistakes and bad habits, and give ourselves a chance to start anew-- and January 1st is viewed as the epitome of that opportunity for renewal.

So needless to say, I was more than a little disappointed when I realized I had to "give up" on New Year's and new year's resolutions.   It was actually a rather depressing moment that felt very similar to when I found out that the tooth fairy was just my mom, and that WWF wrestling is all staged (little known fact: when I was younger, I used to be obsessed with Hulk Hogan, and my brother and I used to slap our elbows and jump off the couch sideways pretending we were wrestlers jumping off the ropes... but I digress).  The point being, when I made the decision to give up "resolutions", it was a similar disappointing revelation: that as excited as I get about new years' resolutions, they've actually never worked for me.  I can't tell you of a single year that I have accomplished something as a a result of a January 1st resolution.  In fact, I'd say that by April or May, I couldn't even tell you what the resolution was, much less there being any semblance of actual follow-through.  Soooo I'm trying something new. Inspired by Shauna Niequist, an incredible author who came to speak at my church in Houston around lent season of 2009, I've taken up the practice of New Year's Themes.  During her visit, Shauna shared that she gave up Fear for lent.  That's right-- she gave up fear-- not chocolate, or television, or cursing, but the whole concept of fear and all of the limitations that it encompasses.  I was so moved; I let that idea sit on my heart and I wrestled with it from time to time throughout the rest of the year until I decided to take it on as my own theme for the year of 2010.   So last year was my first attempt at NYT's, and now I'm a huge fan.  There's still that excitement of new beginnings and starting over, but with less pressure of finding perfection at a specific task, and more attention to gently refining who I am, how I think, and how I engage in this life.

I still have my list of to-do's, and goals, and good habits that I hope to achieve for the year, and I'll share those as well in a future post, but I've also narrowed in on the theme that I plan to focus on as I journey through this year. For you IB fans, perhaps I could describe this as the "lens" through which I hope to view 2011.  I was sifting through my old notebooks, and I was once again inspired by the words of Shauna Niequist, which led me to my theme for this year which is: Drifting.

The following is the paraphrase of one of her talks at Ecclesia.  Forgive me for butchering her actual words, but I was scribbling furiously in my notebook, trying to capture the essence of her message:  

"When going through wilderness and change, and when our life does not follow the fairytale we had planned, we should ride it like a wave.  Our tendency is to lock our knees and try to resist the waves.  As a result we get slapped around, knocked over, and washed up on the shore gasping for air.  But if we can let go and try to float, God will take us to somewhere new.  Letting go doesn't mean just letting the wave wash over us until it's over, but it means giving into the power of the wave, and going with it.  Live in it, accept it, and be transformed by it.  Change is good-- in the way that childbirth, heartbreak, and failure is good-- it's extremely painful, especially when you try to fight it, but it opens us up, and we can learn from it..."

This is the perfect image of where I've been these past 5 months.  I'm in a season of wilderness and change, and all I've done is buckled my knees, trying to resist the changes-- and sure enough, I feel tattered, worn out, and exhausted... thrown onto the shore, spitting up sand, waiting to be swept out to sea again and dragged under the next wave.  But now I'm trying a new approach: drifting-- giving in to the power of the wave, trusting in the perfect plan of God my Father.  I want to stop insisting on my plans, and being disappointed when things don't work out accordingly, and instead lay on my back, close my eyes, and float.  And I don't want to just float along the coastline where I can easily swim to shore when I get tired or scared; I want to be carried so far out to sea that I can't see anything but water in any direction, and I have no idea where I am or where I'm going-- because that's when my faith is strengthened.   And when the time is right, I want to drift onto a new shore, a new person, having been transformed by my journey, and more importantly, fully confident that I am in the exact spot, doing the exact thing that God has planned for me because it was his will being done, not my own.

Don't get me wrong-- drifting should not be confused with laziness or lack of ambition or even passivity.  Have you tried floating recently?  It's actually much harder than I remember it being as a child.  If you don't do it just right, you'll start to sink below the surface of the water and you can't breathe freely anymore.  In order to stay afloat, you actually have to arch your back, tilt your chin towards the sky, keep your head leaning backwards-- if you try to look up and see where you are, you upset the balance and your legs start to go under, and there's a way to hold your arms to change your center of buoyancy, etc., etc.  What appears to be a simple and effortless task, actually involves a great deal of energy and focus for proper execution.  And that's just to stay afloat in still waters like a pool; imagine what it takes to float when you're out at sea folding in and out of the waves.  Likewise, I anticipate that this commitment to "drifting" will require similar discipline and diligence.  Every day, at every moment, for every situation, I have to make the decision to live by faith, and "lean not on my own understanding."

There's a haziness sitting over my future right now, and I'm going through lots of change and turmoil, but this year I'm choosing to not be anxious about it and not fight against it.  As the doubt and uncertainty creeps in about what I'll do after this dance program finishes... and what city/state/country I should move to... and how will I support myself financially... and what I ultimately want to do with my life... my natural tendency is to calling me to be overwhelmed, to start gripping for control, or to just give up and take the easy path, but my spirit is telling me: "Be still, and know that I am God."  So this year, I'm choosing to ignore the societal pressures that insist that I have a plan, and a backup plan, and an action plan, and 5-year plan.  I'm choosing to stop fighting against the difficulties that I'm facing in New York City, and instead embrace them and try to learn what God is revealing to me about myself and how he's trying to transform me.  This year, I'm choosing to drift.  Wish me luck!

 P.S. If you've never read Shauna Niequist's books, please go buy them now, and be inspired!  She'll change your life.  Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet-- enjoy!