The God of Love.

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“He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us, so,

And we are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If his grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about the way…

He loves us.

-How He Loves Us, David Crowder Band

Lately, I have been reflecting on God’s love for me. Growing up, I knew God…I believed that He existed, but I only knew pieces and parts of Him, much like an acquaintance you’d see once or twice a year.

I knew the God of the law…the creator of the universe…the father of Jesus. I suppose I even knew that God was powerful, but I didn’t understand all of the ways He used His great strength.

I didn’t know the God of love…the God of mercy…the God of grace…the God of forgiveness. As I have come to know this loving God, this God who pours out compassion for me no matter how many times I stray or fail, I am amazed and humbled.

“God didn’t lose his temper and do away with us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.”
-Ephesians 2:4-5

For most of my life, I was afraid to get too close to God because I didn’t want Him to see all of my flaws (I know, He is God, He sees them anyway). I felt like I would be so overwhelmed with guilt, shame, judgement, condemnation, if I were to enter into relationship with a God who expected me to be perfect. And who was I kidding-I was already far from perfection.

But when I realized that God knew my imperfections, met me right where I was, and loved me still, I was brought to my knees. The best way I can express myself is through the line in the song above that says:

“I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way He loves us.”

I want you to know today that no matter what you’ve done, where you’ve been, or how far you’ve strayed, you are never unloved by God. That doesn’t mean that we don’t need to change and grow into mature women and make different choices sometimes, but His grace is sufficient in our times of failure.

The God of love is always present with you. His heart breaks for your sadness. He rejoices with your joys. Never forget in the midst of life that God loves you…all the time…everyday…every minute. It is life changing to realize that God loves us.

{Photo credit: Emily Magers Photography}

4 Step Natural Makeup {For $20!}

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Summer is the perfect time to show off your natural beauty! My everyday beauty regime is perfect, because it is quick, easy, affordable, and GOOD for my skin.

The most important thing about our skin is taking great care of it. I used to think that piling on tons of makeup was the key to looking flawless, but I learned that when I treat my skin well, I can go minimal with makeup (which looks better, feels better, and is much more cost effective).

Today, I’m sharing my tips for affordable, natural makeup that allows you to leave the house in under 10 minutes!

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That’s all you need, ladies! The great thing about exfoliating and using SPF/BB cream is that your skin will continue to correct and become even healthier with your consistency. Love the skin you’re in, and have a happy, beautiful summer.

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{Photo credit: Emily Magers}

5 Simple Gifts {To Be Thankful For}

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{Photo credit: Maureen Price}

Last week, my friend Maureen, who is a fabulous photographer, came over to use my husband and I as models for a project she is working on. She snapped that candid photo above while I was checking my email and petting my sweet chihuahua, Abby.

My heart was filled with joy when she sent me this photo, and it quickly became one of my favorites. Photography is amazing, because it can capture so much. A photo can freeze a moment in time, although many of these are posed, planned moments (such as school pictures or wedding photos). The reason I love this particular picture so much is because Maureen captured a candid, real, authentic, unplanned moment in time…my real life.

Recently, my husband and I were talking about how our generation and culture complain so often…we are so discontent…always seeking and wanting more. A picture really is worth a thousand words. As I looked at this simple, candid photograph, I was overwhelmed by the blessings in my life…the gifts right within the walls of my humble abode.

Today, I am going to share just 5 of the simple gifts I am thankful for in my life that were captured in the photo:

1. Home.
While our first place as a married couple is tiny, it is cozy…charming…warm…and it is truly home. We are so blessed to have a lovely, safe place to come home to everyday. A place where we work, eat, laugh, host, and worship.

2. Marriage.
While my husband didn’t make it into this picture, my wedding bouquet did. At 23 years old, I am lucky to have married the most incredible, godly, talented, handsome man. I never take Nathan for granted, or all that he does for me. He loves me so well.

3. Beautiful Creation.
We have big windows with a view of the mountains, where I can see the tree in our courtyard, watch flowers bloom, and feel the warmth of the sun. My heart and soul are filled with joy, as everyday I can look out my window and see God’s creation.

4. My Chihuahua.
Five years ago when I moved to LA, I adopted Abby the chihuahua, and she is truly a gift from God. She isn’t helpful, doesn’t know any cool tricks, and she doesn’t really serve a purpose other than to love me and make me laugh. I am so thankful for this tiny gift that I get to nurture.

5. Technology.
It is easy for our generation to overlook and take for granted the incredible opportunities we have now because of technology. With my iPhone, iPad, and laptop, I can work from anywhere and stay in touch with family across the country. It is truly a blessing.

Take a photo today of your “normal life” and what you’re thankful for, post it on instagram, and use the hashtag #5SimpleGifts. Be sure to tag me at @rachaelleeclarkson so I can see your blessings!

Xo,
Rachael

Weekend Lemon Blueberry Cake

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I’m sharing one of my favorite baking recipes on Identity Girls today, so I thought it would only be fair to share it here on my personal blog as well! Lemon cake is my favorite flavor…fresh, sweet, and delicious. I absolutely love baking, and came across a recipe I loved in Kinfolk for “Weekend Lemon Cake.”

Since July is national blueberry month (yes, us bakers celebrate such things), I decided to put my own spin on the Kinfolk recipe and change it up with a few of my favorite additions. I changed the recipe a lot, but that tends to happen with creative types in the kitchen! Keep this recipe handy and give it a try this weekend. It’s perfect to take to a potluck, dinner party, brunch, or to simply snack on yourself!

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Weekend Lemon Blueberry Cake {With Vanilla/Lemon Glaze}

Ingredients:

For the cake…
8 large egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup light sour cream
1 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons coconut oil (you can also use unsalted butter)
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

For the glaze…
2 cups confectioners sugar
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons vanilla

Directions:

For the cake…
1. Preheat oven to 320 degrees.
2. Lightly grease a 9×5 baking pan.
3. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, sour cream, 1 cup of blueberries, and lemon zest until combined.
4. Sift the cake flour and baking powder, then stir into the other mixture.
5. Pour batter into your baking pan, and bake for 20 minutes.
6. Decrease oven temperature to 280 degrees, and continue baking until cake tester inserted comes out clean, about 20-30 minutes longer.
7. Let your cake cool completely, about 30 minutes.

For the glaze…
1. In a medium sauce pan, whisk your confectioners sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla on low heat until combined and melted.
2. Quickly pour your glaze over the cake (it will harden very fast).
3. Place the rest of your fresh blueberries, 1/2 cup, on top of the glaze.

I hope you enjoy this delicious cake, and have a wonderful national blueberry month!

Does Your Life Have Meaning?

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“Smoke, nothing but smoke.
There’s nothing to anything—it’s all smoke.
What’s there to show for a lifetime of work,
a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone?
One generation goes its way, the next one arrives,
but nothing changes—it’s business as usual for old
planet earth.
The sun comes up and the sun goes down,
then does it again, and again—the same old round.
The wind blows south, the wind blows north.
Around and around and around it blows,
blowing this way, then that—the whirling, erratic wind.
All the rivers flow into the sea,
but the sea never fills up.
The rivers keep flowing to the same old place,
and then start all over and do it again.
Everything’s boring, utterly boring—
no one can find any meaning in it.”

-Ecclesiastes 1:2-10

I remember the first time I read those verses many years ago. Honestly, it seemed pretty depressing and hopeless to me. No meaning in anything?

However, at 23 years old, I think I am just beginning to understand. My husband and I were talking yesterday about how interesting it is when God changes your heart. At 17 years old, I moved out here to LA 5 years ago to be an actress. I put all of my hope, joy, and identity in that one word…actress.

But I have quickly learned that if you place your identity in fleeting things in life such as fame, money, or titles that sound validating, life becomes very meaningless very fast. I still have the same desires on my heart…acting and writing…but they are fueled by something much bigger. My passion is not to be a rich and famous actor/blogger/author. It is simply to be a person who shares stories…to be a messenger of hope.

The moment I took my controlling, selfish hands off of my life and said, “Here I am, God. I’m yours. Use me.“, I was prepared to live a life with eternal meaning. I needed to be able to say, “Take all the world, just give me Jesus.”

I remember a few years ago, sitting on the floor of my apartment, crying out to God, and I told him that as much as I loved acting, He could take it away from me forever if I could just have Him.

Since then, God has opened many doors, blessed me beyond measure, and changed my heart for the better. I am still acting, but God knows it’s for Him…it’s for the stories…it’s for the messages I can share and the young women I can reach. It’s not for me, it’s for His kingdom. That’s all that has real meaning.

Aside from careers, I have realized we must find joy in the small things. Our culture is never content…always wanting more, bigger, better. Lately, I have found myself so content with so little…with the simple, beautiful joys that each day is filled with…

Finding the ability to surprise myself, and learn new things…
Seeking beauty…
Learning to laugh more…
Not worrying about the little things…
Seeing God’s hand in so many circumstances…
Having coffee with friends…

Does your life have meaning? Yes. Absolutely. But take a moment today and ask yourself: who am I investing in? What mission am I putting my time and energy into?

Be kingdom-minded. Open your eyes to the needs of others. Choose joy. Seek beauty in the small gifts. Find meaning.

4 Ingredient {Healthy} Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Cookies

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This recipe has truly become one of my favorite treats to bake for any occasion. Why? It is healthy, easy, affordable, and the best part…delicious. Even if you don’t consider yourself a baker, this simple recipe will make you feel like Betty Crocker.

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4 Ingredient Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Cookies

Ingredients:
-1 cup of nonfat plain Greek yogurt
-1 cup of dark chocolate chunks {you can use chocolate chips, but I prefer the chunks}
-1 box of organic, gluten free fudge cake mix {or you can use any healthy fudge cake mix of your choice}, or you can also use 3 cups of cacao powder
-Sea salt to sprinkle

Directions:
-Preheat your oven to 350.
-Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
-In a bowl, mix your cake mix/cacao powder with your Greek yogurt. It will seem very powdery, but just keep mixing. If it seems WAY too dry, you can add 1 tbsp more of yogurt, but if you add too much, the cookies won’t set.
-Slowly mix in your chocolate chunks.
-Place tablespoons of your dough on the parchment paper, leaving an inch or so apart.
-Lightly press down each cookie, as they won’t spread much.
-Sprinkle a touch of sea salt on each cookie.
-Bake for 8-10 minutes. Your cookies WILL feel soft. Don’t over bake. Pull them out after 10 minutes and let them cool and set.

These cookies taste like an amazing, chewy, decadent, brownie/cookie combo. The best part is, they’re not bad for you!

-Gluten free
-40 calories per cookie
-Delicious

Enjoy! :)

I’m Hosting a Writing Workshop!

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Friends, I am SO excited to host a writing workshop in a month! I have had numerous people express how they have a desire to write, but sometimes don’t know where to start. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and lost in the midst of the details and technology.

On Saturday, August 9th, from 10:00 AM-1:00 PM, the workshop will be an incredible way for you to jump-start your career as a writer.

It will be an intensive day filled with information and hands-on opportunities, such as:
-How to start writing daily
-How to start a successful blog/how to write a blog that people won’t be able to stop reading
-How to reach your target audience
-Utilizing social media
-How to take better blog photos
-Correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling for your writing
-Summarizing your testimony
-How to self publish a book
-How to make an e-book that sells well
-How to write a compelling pitch for your book/project
-The secrets to a perfect book cover

***The workshop will also include snacks, water, and LOTS of take-home resources!

During the workshop, there will also be break-away writing exercises, opportunities to share your writing, and more.
Before July 20th, you can register for the workshop at the special price of $20. After July 20th, the regular registration fee will be $25. Grab your ticket to this workshop at the special price by clicking the “buy now” button below.

Buy Now

 

Not in Los Angeles? Not able to make it to the workshop? Don’t worry-you don’t have to miss out. For $9.99, you can register for the online PDF version of the workshop, which will include all of the resources, important info, and even a video from the workshop! Your PDF will be emailed to you on the day of the actual workshop, which is August 9th.

Why not just send it now? This workshop is a true class, and I want even my online registrants to feel like they were really involved! I will be sending resources, videos, and helpful tips from the actual day of the workshop, August 9th, that I couldn’t send you today. Also, for my in-person and online registrants, you will be able to have email correspondance with me for one week after the workshop so that I can help answer any questions you may have. That being said, my schedule allows, and makes it much easier, if I start all registrants on the same day. You can register for the online workshop by clicking the “buy now” button below.

Buy Now

 

Make sure to register and get the special price, and I am really looking forward to seeing you there along with other talented writers!

Why Me?

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I’ve read the story in Exodus about Moses and the burning bush many times throughout my life. However, for some reason this morning, Exodus 3:5 about standing on holy ground stood out to me.

It wasn’t the actual ground that was literally holy. The holy ground was rendered sacred because of the presence of God, who is the very essence of holiness.

I love that how even Moses, standing on this holy ground in the presence of God, when he is given a task from The Lord, his response is:

Why me?” (Exodus 3:11)

God’s response to this question is so simple…

I’ll be with you.

Where has God placed you today? What tasks of great faith are you being challenged to take on? Even in the presence of our Holy God, Moses wondered “why me.” I often wonder why God would use me…why would He have me write or reach out to young women. I often feel so unable, flawed, imperfect, and I unequipped to do anything for His kingdom.

But then I remember…God didn’t call me to perfection. He didn’t ask me to be a genius who has all the answers. He simply walks with each of us and says…

“I’ll be with you.”

Today, instead of asking “why me”, ask God, “How will you use me?”

We don’t have to know what the journey will look like. That’s what faith is all about. We simply need to have a heart to be God’s girl and be willing to be used by Him.

Red, White, and Blue Chia Seed Pudding

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Happy 4th of July, friends! I hope you have a fantastic day no matter how you are celebrating. Before I head off to my festivities {picnic with the husband, American food, movie, and fireworks}, I am going to share a super easy, healthy recipe with you that is perfect for any occasion!

Chia seed pudding is tasty, easy, and good for you. It has fiber, protein, and is gluten free & vegan. This pudding makes a great quick breakfast, midday snack, or dessert treat.

Enjoy this recipe, and have a wonderful 4th of July!

Homemade Chia Seed Pudding

Ingredients:
-1 cup vanilla-flavored unsweetened almond milk
-1/4 cup chia seeds
-2 tablespoons honey
-1/2 cup strawberries, blueberries, and/or raspberries {or your fruit/topping of choice}

Directions:
-Pour your almond milk into a mason jar, or a container with a lid.

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-Add your chia seeds & honey and stir very well.
-Place the jar/container in the fridge overnight {or for at least 5 hours}.
-When you are ready to serve, stir the mixture one more time.
-Pour your pudding into two bowls.

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-Top with fruit.
-Eat & enjoy!

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You can also top your pudding with jam, slivered almonds, coconut flakes, and more! Get creative and enjoy preparing fun, tasty, healthy food.

Happy 4th!

Xo,
Rachael

5 Tips For Having the Tough Conversations with Friends.

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“If you love learning, you love the discipline that goes with it—
how shortsighted to refuse correction!”

-Proverbs 12:

In our generation, we often go with a “whatever works for you”…”do what you feel like doing”…”whatever you feel is best” kind of mentality. In the midst of becoming very reliant on our ever changing feelings, I sometimes wonder if we have become too sensitive to receive truth.

Let me preface this by saying I do not believe in putting each other down. I believe in building each other up, encouraging one another, and loving those around us, and that includes our words. However, if you truly love someone, would you let them make a horrible, destructive decision that could ultimately hurt them?

Often times, we are afraid to speak truth because:
-We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
-We don’t know how they will react and respond.
-We don’t want to lose this person as a friend.

While the concerns above are completely valid and should be taken into consideration, God has equipped us to share truth and love one another. Loving the people in our lives sometimes means having the difficult conversations that others might not be willing to have.

The times in my life that I have grown the most have been when I was challenged the most. There have been a few times when someone close to me had to say things about my behavior and actions that were hard for me to hear and accept, but it ultimately pushed me to become a better woman.

Do you have a friend who is making destructive choices? Living an unhealthy lifestyle that could negatively impact their future? Today, I am going to share a few tips that have helped me when it comes to having a difficult conversation with a loved one.

1. Pray about it first.
Always pray and seek God’s wisdom prior to having a tough conversation.

2. Is it in scripture?
I don’t often offer my own personal opinions to friends and family when it comes to their behavior or lifestyle. Why? Because that would be subjective truth. We want to use objective truth, which is best found in God’s word.

3. Talk to a mentor.
It always helps to get the wisdom and insight of a mentor prior to having these kinds of conversations. Find someone you trust, and get their input.

4. Check your own heart.
What are your motives? Are they pure?
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” -Matthew 7:3
When you bring up something about someone else, if it is not coming from a place of deep love and great concern, it should not be mentioned. The point of this conversation is not to condemn, judge, hurt, or put down.

5. Remain positive.
It can be overwhelming and difficult to hear that someone you love is worried about you and your behavior. Keep it constructive and kind. Remember to also point out the things about this person that you love, the things they are doing right, and how you can’t wait to see them flourish. It should not be a defeating and hopeless conversation.

It’s never easy to have these conversations with the people we love, but it is necessary. Iron sharpens iron. It is important to be open to discussion and ready to learn, grow, and be challenged. Make sure that you are also someone who is easy to approach, talk to, and receive constructive criticism.

Leave a comment below and give me your feedback about if these tips were helpful to you! Good luck!