Please Stop Calling Me Brave


Well, we’re in!

We have two full-grown women living in this tiny house with two cats and a 70lb dog. And the smallest bathroom I’ve ever seen in my life.

But my piano fits in the living room!

It’s funny–since I moved in, I’ve just wanted to invite people over every day. I’m usually the type that likes to come home and talk to my dog and no one else. But there’s something about this place that makes me want people walking through it day in and day out. And no, it’s not because I’m afraid of the ghetto. It’s actually very quiet aside from the trains (which I LOVE by the way, they’re huge and powerful and awesome).

I keep hearing things like “you all are so brave” or “you’re an idiot, you’re going to be shot if you get home after dark.” I think you all would be very disappointed in how not-scary this neighborhood is. We haven’t heard any gunshots, no screaming matches, the loudest ruckus I hear is Percy shouting “Good Morning Miss Rachel, How are you today?! I do hope you have a lovely day!” as he’s crossing the street to take care of our next-door neighbor.

I’m not trying to minimize the danger that often comes with a culture of poverty. I acknowledge that we need to be smart, that there are people around us who would steal my things if I had anything worth stealing, or would love a chance at that cute little white girl. I mean come on, I’m hot stuff. But, that was true of the campus at Ohio University, too. And OU didn’t have Miss Brown.

The first time we met Miss Brown, she said “people might mess with your house, I’m not good at yellin, but I’m good at shootin’ em.” I have to be honest, I think I’d enjoy seeing little Miss Brown, no teeth and in her nightgown (the only thing I’ve ever seen her wear), step out on her stoop with a 45. The truth is, if someone uninvited walked up to my door, there’s not a person on our block who wouldn’t interfere.

It sparks joy to be sure, but it also makes me angry. Most people I know look at Jackson Courts and see a dark and broken place. I have something for you to consider:

In the past 6 years, I’ve lived in 9 different places. 9 different apartments/houses in 9 different communities, with 9 different groups of neighbors. I can’t tell you the name of a single neighbor–until house number 9. I never had neighbors greet me in the morning. I never had them welcome me into their home. They were strangers to me, and I was a stranger to them. You want to talk about darkness? Brokenness? My complete disregard for the people in need around me – that’s darkness. My unwillingness to help someone in need because I don’t want to step out of my world of comfort and privilege – that’s brokenness.

These people don’t need me. They don’t need Deb. They’ve been quite content without us day to day, they’ve faced hardship and challenges that I couldn’t imagine. I’m the new kid on the block, they’re letting me into their community, offering me support and protection. They’ve invited me into their family and haven’t asked a thing in return. If that’s broken, I’m damn glad I’m a part of it.

All in all, I’m happy with my move to 908. Yes, it’s a neighborhood of poverty. Yes, I can’t walk in my back yard barefoot until we get all the glass and concrete cleaned out. Yes, the door is an ugly color. You might think I’m crazy or brave or stupid, but my commute is 40 minutes shorter and I can watch trains, so I’d say it’s a pretty good decision.

Choking On Your Generosity

Dear Givers (of Money and Prayer),

First, I apologize for my headline, it was my attempt at a funny joke around how choked up I was all day thinking about the incredible generosity of my friends and family.

Yesterday’s post was one of the most humbling experiences I’ve had. In fact, I adjusted my Facebook settings so that certain people wouldn’t see it because I suck at fully humbling myself at the feet of Jesus. But shoot, just a mustard seed and 20 minutes, that’s all it takes. 20 minutes! I don’t get it. My mind really struggles to comprehend that kind of selfless generosity. It’s a beautiful slap in the face, reminding me that my doubt and fear is irrelevant and powerless in the light of God’s vision.

And did you notice how hilarious that guy is?

The end of my post said “Okay, now that I’ve convinced all but two of you not to give me money, I’ll make the ask.” Guess how many people had donated when the $500 goal was met?


My initial response? “Ok smart-ass, you’re hysterical.” Followed by literally falling to my knees with my face to the floor crying and praising my smart-ass God.

A dear friend of mine sent me a message later in the night that said “you are awesome. i can’t do shit like you’re doing… ain’t my gift. but you go rock the crap out of the ghetto.” I responded letting her know I can only do this because there are people like her doing the shit I can’t do.

That’s me doing a terrible job of articulating this very important fact:

We need each other. I desperately need you. I can’t accomplish what I was created to accomplish without you. Thank you for being there for me. For loving like Jesus loves and for trusting me to walk in his purpose.

I’m sure to screw things up time and again, but the assurance I have in knowing that you are walking and praying with me in this is enough to strip my fears and doubts away, leaving room for nothing but loving God and loving his people.

Thank you. I love you. Keep loving people well.

Your Sister/Daughter/Friend,


A (Very Very Very) Humbling Plea for Help

I’m about to ask you for money.

If you’re still reading, you’re probably a better person than I am. It’s rare that I respond to a request for money unless it’s a cause or an individual I very strongly believe in. I’m not a fan of American charity – spending thousands of dollars to fly across the world and read a book to some kids for a week. I know that I’m being extreme and that there are a number of amazing ministries in the world that are truly making an impact. My concern is not with them, my concern is with the folks who blindly throw their money to any hand that reaches out, not in generosity, but to feel the instant gratification of being “charitable”. It’s another box to check in the Good Christian To-Do list.

And now, here I am, asking you for money.

Why I Need Money

To pay my rent. No, I’m not kidding. I had a subleaser lined up and she backed out today. I’m supposed to move on Saturday…I can’t afford to pay two rents. And you all–I have to move this weekend.

Why I Have to Move This Weekend

2 years ago I began hanging out with a group of inner-city children in a low-income housing development behind the bar that my church meets in. I call them my ghetto babies, but Deb says that’s not PC, so I’m trying to get out of that habit. She, Deb, has been working with the group as well, and one day we decided that we should live there.

You know all those wonderful things that mission groups do with kids? Classes and winter coats, and Christmas gifts… we don’t do any of that. What we do is far less structured and far less extravagant. We eat fruit and crackers and we draw chalk murals across the basketball courts. We talk about boys and football and make up jumprope songs. We talk about the last time they’ve seen their dad, if they know who he is. We tell them we love them, and after a year or so, they began to say it back. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to show you pictures of them looking painfully sad…but there is a Sarah Mclachlan song at the end of this post.)

We’re not there to bestow blessing upon them as we look down in pity. We’re family. They’re our brothers and sisters, our friends and neighbors, we love these people deeply and consistently.

I’m not saying this to diminish missions by any means, I’m very much supportive of the visions God instills in his people. But I am a firm believer that the ministries that are most effective are those that recognize that the church isn’t under a roof, its among the people. All people. That’s all we want: we want to go to our people.

This isn’t sexy, it isn’t awe-inspiring or revolutionary. It’s a simple effort to love people well.

So, this is my proposal: I need $500 and I need it quickly. My promise to you is that I will put every penny back into this community. Whether that’s starting a community garden or buying a new hula hoop, it will all go back to these families. I’ll track and document it here publicly and you will be my accountability partner.

Hold Up, I Might Not Want Your Money

If you don’t know me, or you don’t trust me to pay this back, I don’t want your money. We are called to be good stewards, not ignorant impulsive fools. I don’t want you to donate to something you don’t believe in.

If You’re Still Here

Okay, now that I’ve convinced all but two of you not to give me money, I’ll make the ask. Take a moment to pray, consider who I am and what we’re doing in this neighborhood. If it’s something you feel led to donate to, I pray that you’ll be blessed tremendously in it. And I’ll freaking love you forever.

Visit the link below and donate to move me to the ghetto.

Just kidding about the Sarah Mclachlan song.

High Heels, Harleys, and Sexual Frustration

I’ve been a little frustrated lately. I’m reaching that age–ladies, you know the one–there’s a great internal war going on. One side demands that I dominate the world as a bold and capable woman, the other insists that I get married and make beautiful babies that grow up to dominate the world as bold and capable men or women.

This debate makes it nearly impossible for me to date. Each side is afraid to commit to dating a man who might pull me to the other side, and so I go back and forth, trying to figure out what “my type” is.

Liberal or conservative? Spontaneous or stable? Wildly adventurous or deeply rooted? Harley or crotch rocket? Ok, so we all know my answer to that one, but trying to figure out what kind of men I’m attracted to is like trying to figure out what pair of heels to wear. There is an absurd number of them, all completely different, the pair I want to wear doesn’t at all match the outfit I want to wear, and if I’m being completely honest, I don’t want to wear shoes in the first place! So what’s a girl to do?

And then I actually have to walk in them–all day, step by step, over and over again. It’s a lot of pressure trying to convince a guy that he should keep going on dates over and over again! And friend, I don’t know how well you know me, but there is one key thing that regularly interrupts this date sequence for me: sex.

I make men wait.

And wait.

And wait.

FYI – men suck at waiting.

After being continuously rejected over the sex factor, it’s impossible not to doubt myself. It’s the 21st century. Sex is na20150208-230259-82979574.jpgtural. There are studies that prove it’s good for your health for Pete’s sake! Why am I letting good and beautiful men get away over something as simple as sex?!

My little sister called me last weekend. Actually, she texted me “Rach :(” which sent me into an immediate panic. Assuming my whole family just died, I called her.

Her boyfriend broke up with her unexpectedly. I could tell she was crushed and confused, but listening to her tell me the heartbreaking details, I was beaming. I mean glowing smile from ear to ear, there might have been tears of joy at one point.

My sister is an amazing woman. She’s been through a lot of really unfair shit in her life and somehow still has a heart of gold, ridiculously gentle and sweet. She gives her love so freely to anyone who needs it. Unfortunately, she developed a bad habit, I think around 12 or 13, maybe earlier. She started defining her worth in others’ desire for her love, particularly in men’s desire for her love.

She’s handed pieces of her heart to people who didn’t know how to protect it and she’s suffered greatly for it.

On the phone that day, she started recounting her typical arguments with her boyfriend, which had recently grown increasingly common. She told him that she wouldn’t move in with him, that his grabbing her ass in public made her uncomfortable and insecure, that she didn’t want to sit around while he got high with his buddies, that she wanted conversation and time together instead of jumping to sex at every available opportunity.

I sat there in awe as my baby sister taught me what it means to be a woman of value. How to demand respect. How to believe in the value of the individual and of intimacy. And then to have the strength to maintain the standards based on those beliefs, despite the awful ridicule and rejection it brings from the world.

Prude, naive, ignorant, judgmental, self-righteous, “a fucking waste of time,” I’ve heard it all. It’s lonely and disheartening, over and over and over again. But there was something so beautiful about my sister demanding more for herself. There was something so beautiful about her rejection of what the world told her to be.

I realize now what that something so beautiful is – it’s truth.

It doesn’t really matter what stereotype the men I date fall under. It doesn’t matter if I spend the next 10 years conquering the world or spend next summer on my honeymoon. (Like next next summer obviously, next summer would be ridiculous.) What matters is that in whatever company or situation I find myself in, I know the truth of who I am. Because if I lose sight of truth, I become who the world wants me to be and my value is diminished to the latest trend or cultural norm.

I’m too good for that.

I will live my life in strength and in love. I’ll conquer whatever part of the world I’m exploring at the moment and I’ll marry a man who seeks truth because that’s who I am.

And that man better be in damn good shape, all this pent up sexual frustration has to go somewhere.

Status Update (Ya, Another One of Those New Year Posts)

Happy New Year!

I’m not at all prepared for a new year. I don’t have any resolutions or big life goals. I don’t have an exhilarating feeling of renewal and opportunity. I don’t even have one of those things that you blow on where the little paper tube unrolls and makes a dying squeaky toy sound.

I do have a new dart board; that’s pretty exciting.

A lot has changed in the past few months, and if I really sit down and think about it, these changes have some significant implications for the coming year. So I thought I’d ramble about them a bit..

My Big Six of 2015

1. Fear is Stupid

It’s amazing that we are all so limited by fear when we are all so capable of amazing things. We have different fears that manifest in different ways, limiting our ability to understand others’ fears and their manifestations. We create a great big mess for each other, but are too afraid to be vulnerable enough to clean it up.

My fears are pretty easy to identify. Or at least I thought they were until I started actually telling people what they are. The general reaction is genuine surprise. People are surprised that my confidence is accompanied by fear of failure. ee32d794963183999cf0199638430990They’re surprised that though I believe I’m a woman worth catching, no man would want to catch me. They’re surprised that despite my bold pursuit of greatness and my childlike love for life, I am crippled by the fear of disappointing the people who love me.

These fears then send me into an awful state of laziness and I do nothing for fear of doing something disappointing.

The goofy thing of it all is that if we could just step forward in spite of our fears, we’d probably end up a lot closer to the awesome people we so desperately long to be.

2. I Live With A Female

I live in a little two-bedroom apartment with a wonderful little lady named Haley. I don’t know her at all, we met on the day she moved in, but she’s wonderful and our dogs are best friends.

Now I didn’t realize this until just a few weeks ago, but I haven’t lived with just females in almost four years. My past five living situations (I’ll just roll past how ridiculous it is that I’ve lived in five different places in four years…) have included men. A couple gay, a couple straight, an occasional woman mixed in, but always men.

I don’t have anything significant to say about this, just an interesting observation. I’ll let you know if I have some sort magnificent revelation about my inner woman.

3. Goodbye Camel, Hello Fox

I moved to Nashville after being offered a job at cj Advertising, a full-service agency serving personal injury attorneys. It had its ups and downs, I could list the good things or rant about the bad, but instead I’ll just acknowledge that I learned a lot, loved the beer camels, met some wonderful people, and I’m glad to be gone.

One day as I was standing at my desk, I got a phone call.

“Hey Rach, I have a series of questions I want you to answer, they’re all yes or no so that no one around you will get suspicious.”

I was immediately annoyed. I was in the middle of something, but it was a friend and I’m a good friend so I listened.

Me: “Hey Colton, I’m great, thanks for asking! How are you?”

Colton: “I’m good. Are you happy at your job?”

Me: “Am I happy…”

Colton: “Ya, just generally speaking, are you satisfied, do you feel like you’re accomplishing all you could accomplish, [insert 10 minutes of asking the same question in different ways]?”

Me: “No.”

He spent the next 45 minutes telling me about something he wanted to do with some company and a possible position that didn’t actually exist yet but might exist and that I might be a good candidate and that it was all top secret.

I hung up the phone and laughed as I told my coworker about how crazy my friends are.

After a few other conversations, an interview, and about a week on the new job, I finally figured out what it was he was trying to communicate.

I am now a proud employee of FoxFuel Creative, LLC. A strategic digital agency in Nashville, TN, founded by three brilliant men, one of which is my friend and boss, Colton Mulligan.

4. The Lady in the Fox Den

Did I mention that it’s me and a bunch of dudes?

10377237_10205479861856601_6851326808687808052_nFoxFuel has five employees, four of which are men. I love them all, they’re crazy brilliant and kind men who care about other people. Also, they’re men.

I’ve never had trouble being “a woman in a man’s world”, I can hold my own pretty well. But I have to admit, this little chapter is a bit more challenging. I’m wrestling through this internal battle of being gentle and compassionate and being a feminist. I know the two aren’t mutually exclusive, but it’s a tough balance to build. Two character traits of mine make it particularly difficult: I tend to take on the weight of others, and I have an innate ability to see the heart behind someone’s actions, which is what I then base my own actions on.

These are both wonderful and awful traits to have. They’re particularly difficult to manage in the business world because I’m a woman surrounded by men who equate meekness with weakness and submission with surrender. I’m quite confident that many have doubted me, have discredited me, have ignored me entirely.And while they can’t understand why I care more about them as individuals than I ever will about their profit, I’m also confident that in time, I will earn the respect and trust of my coworkers and clients.

Because ultimately, the next big thing always ends up the last old thing, and the greatest victory is shadowed by the smallest failure. The only consistent and unwavering truth in any field is that we need each other. From the blue collar mechanic to the 1% CEO, without other people, you have nothing.

5. But Really, My View of Men Sucks

Right before the whole fox thing popped up, I realized that I have a pretty terrible view of men. Which is funny because I like men. I tend to get along with men better than women and I like that I don’t have to talk about my feelings or body image or The Bachelor.

It may be more accurate to say that I have a terrible view of what my role is as a woman in relation to men. I’m a motivator, a rock, the elephant that carries the world. I carry the weight of others without reservation.

The problem is that I’m a really tiny elephant and I’m really bad at balancing an entire globe on my back.

6. The Peach Inside

Once I got past the elephant thing, I started asking other people who I am. Their responses were encouraging, flattering, ego-boosting, and all those warm fuzzies you expect. However, I have friends who are just as blunt and bull-shit-intolerant as I am.

There was one warning that I received from every individual I asked in one form or another: I am a soft fuzzy peachy person, until you reach the core.

I will give anyone almost all of me. Sweet and nourishing, tender and pleasant. But there is something in the pit of me that is hard and jagged. It’s not bitter or dangerous, but it is a fortress. It grew and hardened through life’s challenges and for a time, it was necessary in order to protect what is held within it. It didn’t seem to have an impact, I could keep it hidden beneath the luscious fruit with no real consequence, and I succeeded in sustaining others for quite some time.

In 2014, I ran out of fruit. The tender skin torn away, the sweet nectar depleted. My hardened core was left exposed. I couldn’t hide the anger and bitterness I held for people in the church. I couldn’t hide the guard and resistance that I built from my family’s destruction. I couldn’t hide the little hermit cave I built with weird scary things hanging at the entrance of my heart to deter anyone who might find it. I was terrified, humiliated, ashamed that I couldn’t offer more. And then I discovered people.

These people aren’t here to ask me for more. They aren’t here to ridicule my pit or tell me how to hide it. They don’t give a damn about the pit. They want to release what it holds inside.

Inside? I’ve been so focused on the pit, that I forgot what it was there to protect.

dscn0636There’s something amazing in that pit. A seed that at one time was small and vulnerable and needed protected. And now, it waits. Ready to grow and bloom, creating not just one little peach, but a magnificent tree that produces life season after season. That provides protection in the hurt of the world and sustenance in a starving culture.

I have life within me and yes, it is vulnerable, and yes it is small, but if I can just have the courage to break away the pit and face the sun, I will become a new fortress.

No longer sustained by my own fruit, this fortress will be a temple. A place of everlasting hope, life, and love.

And yes, you are invited to sit in the shade of my branches, but know that I won’t let you stay there–you have your own fortress to build.

10 Things I’ve Learned As A Nashville Noob

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So I’ve been in Nashville for a year and I’ve managed to learn a few things…

1. The smallest amount of precipitation sends the entire city into a panic.

This is not an exaggeration. We had less than an inch of snow and every major highway into the city was shut down. Schools all closed, government offices closed, news stations were urging people to stay in their homes unless it was absolutely unavoidable…I went to Target and tried on shoes. Had the whole place to myself.

2. It’s awkward when your best friend in the state thinks of you as “that new girl who’s around sometimes.” 

When you don’t know anyone in a brand new place, your first friend is automatically your best friend because they’re your only friend. For a while there, I’m pretty sure my best friend in TN didn’t know my first name.

3. It’s nearly impossible not to be insecure in your first big kid job.

I know how to do my job and I do it well, but I can’t keep track of how many times I let others fill me with doubt. I like to make people happy and I try to take others’ views into consideration, but sometimes people just suck. They’ll tear you down, throw you under the bus, manipulate you – and for no good reason. My default setting is to believe that everyone is wonderful. It’ll knock the wind out of you when you realize that isn’t always true.

4. Loneliness is an awful feeling.

I don’t have a very good concept of time or distance so I’ve never been homesick or missed certain individuals to any extreme extent. It offends people at times, giving them the impression that I don’t care about them which isn’t at all true. I’m just very confident in the fact that I have people who love me. I don’t need to constantly be in touch with them to remember that.

However, I’ve discovered that I very much undervalued the physical presence of people who know me. It’s intimidating to be in a world where no one knows anything about you. It sounds freeing initially, having the ability to be whoever you want. But I found it slightly terrifying. I think I feared that if I didn’t have people around me who could remind me of who I am, that I might forget myself. Turns out that’s not so bad – there were pieces of me that I needed to let go of.

5. Dogs don’t do well on wood floors.

For the second half of last year, I lived in a house that had wood flooring at the bottom of the stairs. In this house, my awesome dog would develop a severe limp about every two weeks. I eventually figured out that the two were related. He’d go plummeting down the stairs, hit the wood floor and BOOM, spread eagle.

This also revealed that I am certain to be a terrible parent. Not once did I take my poor dog to the vet to make sure he was ok. My philosophy was to wait it out. I wasn’t about to pay for a vet to tell me he pulled a muscle. So I waited out the 2-3 weeks of his barely being able to walk, confident that he’d be fine. So far so good.

6. My dad is not invincible.

If you read my post on figleaf back in July, you know that my dad hit a deer on his motorcycle that summer. This was the most difficult time of my life. I was physically sick and emotionally, a complete wreck. I wanted so much to be with him, but I didn’t go home. I still don’t know if it was over-rationalization, fear or if I was just a bad daughter in the moment.

He walked away with wicked raspberries and a concussion that made him sound very much like Dori the fish, but was otherwise fine.

7. I’m more country than most people in Nashville.

There are a few buzz words that get tossed around down here: Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, pickup truck, fishin’, beer, honky tonk, cutoff jeans, cowboy boots, redneck, yeehaw, the list goes on. However, I’ve found that most of these individuals have no idea what I mean when I talk about mudding, a 154 muley, or 10′ bonfires. (By the way, anything less than 5 feet tall is a campfire. Not a bonfire.)

8. People drive big trucks for absolutely no reason.

I just don’t really get this one.

9. It’s very unlikely that I’ll marry Dierks Bentley or Josh Turner.

This one had me pretty upset for a while. I suppose they’re both a bit old for me anyway and very much unavailable. Still, I had hoped.

10. I belong here (at the moment).

Nashville is an amazing city. There’s incredible talent around every corner, good old southern hospitality, and the food… the food.

All around, this is the change and challenge I needed. Whether it’s a forever city or a for now city, Nashvegas is perfect in the moment.


Blunt and Obnoxious

I’ve found myself giving uninvited advice again. A freshman at Lipscomb was talking about what to do with her life. She doesn’t feel she fits in the college student mold, she has some ideas about what she might want to do at some point in the future, but for the most part, doesn’t have the financial capacity to do them now. She wants definitive direction and assurance. Cute, right?

I can remember being in the same place. I knew I didn’t “belong” in Athens half way through my freshman year. I was there for five more. I always knew I was capable of “more” than what I was doing in school. Now, I’m working for one of the top ad agencies in Nashville, on salary, full benefits, and a crazy fun atmosphere. I’m still not satisfied. I want to do more.

I think we place too much value on satisfaction. To be completely satisfied is to be complacent, eventually apathetic. We limit ourselves with this idea of a “calling” or with responsibility, believing we have to commit to stability to be happy. What if we re-focused our “calling” on a mindset or lifestyle rather than an occupation? Not too long ago I wrote that I need to do something that makes others happy and makes myself happy. I want to inspire people, to ignite them in helping them discover their passion and ability. What if that’s my vocation? My calling? What if I get to choose my job, my home, my life roles and in whatever I choose, I fulfill my calling in simply building into the people and situations around me in awesome ways?

Well shit. I’ve been wasting so much time! I’m always trying to be what I’m expected to be, but true greatness isn’t a label you can earn from the world, it’s a choice.

20131025-083018.jpg Each day at about 2 o’clock I make a list of the key things I want to accomplish in life. Each day at 2 o’clock, I choose to be great. Sometimes it’s a list of big things, set in the future. Other days, it’s a list of how to keep my mouth shut when everything within me is urging me to tell that coworker to grow a pair and confront the problem so we can move on. Items on the list may vary drastically, but they are all key elements of my deliberate choice to be great. Not in the future, but now, immediately and continuously. I will accomplish great things in the future, I will be great in the present.

So I proceeded to dump all of this revolutionary wisdom on this poor freshman who just wanted to know what to be when she grows up. She nodded her head and thanked me for the advice. I hope she didn’t understand me, not fully. I hope she understood just enough to take a risk, do something outside of the cycle she’s in. But, I hope that the risk she takes leads to greater risk and greater adventure. I hope that she experiences relationships and failures and successes that challenge her ideas and perspective.

I’m a blunt and often obnoxious person. But I believe in people. I want so much for them to believe in themselves, to discover the joy in knowing that they do in fact hold significance, to be free from fear’s limitations. I want them to choose to be great.