Greetings friends. Sorry I have been absent of late. Lots of things happening around the Neagle house that I will catch you up on later. We have been busy, busy, busy. This weekend Michael and I both spent time at different church retreats. Michael was a part of the First Presbyterian Church Men’s Retreat in Glorietta, New Mexico (I was sooo jealous, love Santa Fe!) He led worship for the event, but was also just blessed to hang out and get to know some the men from our new church family (I told you guys we were Presbyterians now, right?) He got home this afternoon and E and I were soooo happy to see Daddy after a few days apart.
I wonderfully got to be a part of the More Women’s Retreat this weekend. My wonderful sister, Samantha, was able to keep Ephraim for me during the evenings so that I could attend the night time sessions of the conference. The retreat started Friday night and ended Saturday night so I actually only missed one session. Since Michael was out of town I was not able to spend the night (the retreat was in Amarillo at a local hotel) or really hang out much after, but it was still such a blessing. I didn’t think I was going to be able to go for lack of babysitter and finances. As the weekend was drawing near I just felt so bummed to be missing out and made a simple request of the Lord, “If you want me to be there, work it out so that I can go.” By that afternoon he did. Babysitter, check! Scholarship money, check! So I knew that something good must be in store!
The speaker for the event was Jenn Johnson from Bethel Church in Redding, CA. If you do not know of Jenn I cannot encourage you enough to check her out. She and her husband, Bryan, are the worship pastors at Bethel where her father in law, Bill Johnson (AMAZING), is the senior pastor. I had never seen Jenn before and only heard her and her husbands CD a few times. She was at another church in Amarillo this past fall and although I did not attend the event I heard incredible things about her. I have to admit though that going into this I had some doubts. I just wasn’t sure what the experience was going to be like …would I enjoy it, would it be “worth” the time away from home, etc.
She opened up the evening with worship which was so wonderful and sweet. She has a great voice and her song choices were just spot on for what my heart needed. Then she began the evenings talk explaining that when the retreat organizers contacted her last fall about speaking she immediately knew she should come because of the theme of the event “Seasons of Life”. Turns out she was/is in the process of writing a book called “Seasons” about that very thing. It didn’t seem like she had a specific “message” (read: 5 point sermon) to share with us. It was more like she was just speaking from her heart and in the moment. She is an incredibly gifted communicator and also very beautiful. She is also hilarious. At 27, she is mom to three kiddos, married and in full time ministry. On top of that she has written books and recorded CD’s so you could say that any doubt the older set might have had about receiving from someone younger was quickly put to rest.
I can’t remember exactly what she began speaking about. She tells lots of stories and is very animated but it did not take long for her to get right to the heart of the matter. She told us to get out pen and paper and be ready to write down a few questions because we were going to have homework. Okay … What she said next is that we were called to have an action plan for our life and that it begins by answering a few key questions:
#1. Who am I?
#2. What do I love?
I was floored right there in that moment and left completely broken. For perhaps the first time in more than a year or two she encapsulated the biggest thing I have been struggling with … I have completely lost sight of who I am. I am utterly at a loss for words. This is something that my husband has been delicately trying to broach the subject of for a while. In vain attempts to be subtle and sensitive at the same time he has hinted at what I have known deep down for quite some time: I am floundering. I have lost my way and have had no clue and really no motivation to find my way back.
I could psychoanalyze the situation pretty easily and surmise that for so long the quest was to get pregnant and once I was the focus was on the pregnancy and eventual child. Child is born and new mommyhood takes you over (literally) and before you know it a year has gone by and you wonder where it went and how you spent it. I think that is correct in part, but not completely. I am moved to go a little bit deeper, but as Jenn said this weekend, it really doesn’t matter. The why or the how I got here is irrelevant at this point. The objective is to move forward. So that is what I am going to do.
I have only just begun to ask God these two questions and I can’t say that I have heard a lot back yet. I am trying to decipher his voice from my own and really lay down the idols of self that have been erected in my mind. I also can see now that he has been moving me or preparing me for this over the past few weeks. About 3 weeks ago I was cleaning out some stuff in our attic an unearthed a box of treasures from the past. One of these was a home made “yearbook” from my freshmen year in highschool. (Those suckers were expensive and we were broke so I made my own for people to write in) As I read threw the pages and pages of things people had written about me I found myself quite perplexed. The girl they were writing about was pretty unrecognizable to me. I couldn’t conjur her up if I tried. It made me so sad for I have no idea what happened over the years. It reminded me somewhat of when people experience some sort of trauma and completely forget or “block out” a part of their life. Weird, I know. Then I found a scrapbook containing tons and tons of photos from college. Party Time pictures from fraternity parties and date party events. Pictures from Tech football games and Carol of the Lights, Young Life camp and Kanakuk as a counselor. The pages of this book contained the smiling faces of people who had become a surrogate family to me while I was in college. I loved them and thought that with at least a few, if not many, I would remain close friends. It didn’t happen. Somehow between graduation, moving to Amarillo, working full-time, getting engaged and married and embarking on a new life, I let the old one slip away …for better or worse.
I think this probably happens to a lot of people. Maybe it is the norm and not the exception. I don’t know, I can’t speak for anyone else. What I know for me is that it sets a dangerous trap for me to fall prey to in that I can drift very easily into isolation. And I think that is where I have been for a long, long time. You know the saying “Jack of all trades, master of none?” I think what I could say about me is “Known of by many, really known by few (if any).” What really scares me about this is that I have no idea how I got here. It is like I woke up one day and changed places with someone who was extroverted socially and introverted emotionally and intimately. Who wants a friend like that? OUCH.
The second question seemed a little vague at first. She said not to over think it, keep it simple. And not to say stuff like “Serving Jesus” or “Ministering to the Body” We all love that, or should anyway. Be real and personal. She surveyed the crowd. People said things like “Books” and “Skiing down a mountain” “Being a mommy”. I said, “A damn good cup of coffee” (outloud) and “Red wine” (quietly). I do love both of those. What else though? I used to love to run. Loved it. Then I hurt my back and yada yada … I love music. I love to drive on a cool night with the sunroof open and listen to great songs that tell great stories. I also love pop music. I love it to be fun, especially when I am working out. I love the mountains and the beach, but the mountains more. Old Rachael loved a great pair of worn out mens Levi’s that cost her like $5 at some thrift store. Recent Rachael loves expensive denim. Why can’t I just be both. Old Rachael could go anywhere alone. Not because she was a loner but because she wasn’t afraid. She wasn’t afraid. And it just hit me. Fear is what changed it all.
Somehow I opened a door to fear in my life that has eaten away at the very core of who I am. At times it has stolen my joy, my peace, my health (mentally, physically and emotionally), my sleep, my confidence. I have been robbed blind and I think I just realized it.
Something else Jenn said confirmed my answer to the following question she asked. She said
“Fear can hold you prisoner, but HOPE can set you free!”
That will preach, I don’t care who you are!
So knowing all that, here were Jenn’s next questions:
#3 Jesus, what is my most effective gift in my life in this season? (I felt like He said hope)
#4 Jesus, who in this season of my life, should I be friends with/parter with?
#5 Who am I supposed to be affective to in this season? To give to? To equip?
Can you hear the crickets y’all?
So here is where I am. I am praying and asking and waiting and I am not moving until I get an answer. I do not want to go one step forward in this life on my own. I want to take the steps that He is leading me in and follow the path of his making. I don’t want to flounder any more. One thing Jenn said that really hit home was “There is no pause button for your life and your role in building His kingdom. Get over it.”
I have been living in pause land too long. So here I go. Tomorrow is my new beginning and I am really excited and really ready to set what is next for me. For my marriage. For my family. And for my giftings.
I’ll keep you posted as I know more. And hey, if you knew me then/know me now do me a favor and send me your thoughts on this stuff, specifically about changes good and bad you have seen in me. I could use some direction.