Are We Out of the Woods?

“Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we in the clear yet?

-T. Swift

Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

This one simple word made me a target in the woods and wilderness of my life. Why? How? When fear is planted in our hearts and takes root, it grows and flourishes, and what started out as a fear in one area of your life rapidly spreads like wildfire into every other fragment.

While I’ve never lived in the woods, I have lived in my own concrete jungle. There was a season of my life here in Los Angeles where I felt trapped…stuck in the woods…caught in unfamiliar territory that left me feeling painfully vulnerable. While I attempted to protect myself according to the world’s standards, no boyfriend, apartment, acting job, or amount of money could save me.

In one particularly desolate season “in the woods”, I found true hopelessness because I realized what had left me stranded in the first place:

I did not believe I was loved.
I did not feel worthy of love.
I did not know if I would ever truly be loved.

I had been pushing God away for a very long time…because if I wasn’t worthy of love from those around me, I certainly wasn’t going to be loved by the creator of the universe. But like I said, I was desperate. At this point “in the woods”, I was at the end of my rope. I decided to heat up some mac and cheese for one, sit alone in my studio apartment, and crack open my dusty bible.

“The perfect love casts out all fear.” -1 John 4:18

While I now found these words comforting, at the time, I remember thinking that God must really have a sense of humor. I decided to combat his humor by humoring Him. Blame it on my stubbornness, but that night, I decided to google and research everything I could find about God’s love.

My hardened heart was quickly softened as I realized that it wasn’t God’s fault that I didn’t feel loved…it was my fault for pushing it away…rejecting it…not accepting a gift that was readily available to me. I was so ready to get out of the woods…to get out of my isolation…to get out of the dangerous, destructive, unhealthy situations I was living in. However, I didn’t have the ability to be bold and make huge life changes until I believed I was loved by Him.

“Courage comes from a heart that is convinced it is loved.” -Beth Moore

Today, I really wanted to share the inspiring message that one of my sweet friends sent me. Mariah Fields, a 17 year old gal in the group called Delight that I am a mentor for, so eloquently and honestly shared about how she felt when she was “stuck in the woods” of her life, and how she found peace:

“For many years I believed that once I got past a certain struggle or season, then I’d finally reach that point of joy I so longed for. I believed I just had to keep going and that eventually my life would be perfect (as perfect as is possible in a broken world). I couldn’t have been more wrong. Sometimes there are seasons that are dark and crippling, and sometimes there are seasons that are life-giving and rejuvenating. But there are all those in betweens time too when nothing is extreme, nothing is exciting or depressing — those seasons can cause as much emotion as the others, just subtly. I had such a hard time reconciling the fickleness of my heart AND my surroundings.

Why did Jesus give me the heartbreak and the time of mending? Why did Jesus give me quiet times and then times when I couldn’t keep up? Why all the inconsistency? I felt like a puppet that was being emotionally worn down by all the “your life is finally at peace” false-alarms. Peace never stayed. But, when I finally started listening to Jesus instead of myself I found that the consistency lay within Him. The common thread that was woven throughout each and every one of those seasons – the crippling, the joy-filled, and the boring – was love. Agape love. The love that breaths life no MATTER the situational components. Whether it was the depression I went through or my best friend coming into my life, each moment he was forming me and rebuilding my heart. So, does the inconstancy end? No, I don’t believe it does. But, my soul no longer feels played with, my heart is not being raw and vulnerable in an unhealthy way. Instead, I have truly found peace in the truth of Jesus’ faithfulness. I know that the dark, the beautiful, and the uneventful all have a place. They’re Jesus’ way of bringing your heart closer to His. They’re grace, and inexplicably perfect love.”

Whether you are in the woods and in the dark spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally, there is hope because there is love. This love does not make everything easier, take away all of our pain, or promise us perfection. Instead, our humbleness acknowledging our great need for this love as survival is what brings beauty, hope, and light to our wilderness.

Love fought my fear. Love’s flames were stronger than the flames of fear. Love was louder than fear. Love brought me out of the woods.

What’s Your Cave?

Our culture tends to center around how we can get what we want and become “happy.” What they don’t prepare you for, though, is what to do when you get everything you thought you wanted, yet still feel completely empty. Almost six years ago, I had just moved out to Los Angeles to “live the dream”, and to be honest with you, I really was. I was getting auditions…booking acting jobs…liked my apartment…was making money…went to parties…found myself intertwined with the “in crowd” (whatever that even means).

Any possible way the world told me I could find value in myself, I pursued. Not only pursued, but I succeeded. But the strangest thing happened…I still didn’t feel valued even when I lived my life in exact accordance with what others promised would fulfill me. My life still seemed meaningless.

I believe that in life, everyone will experience their cave…their darkest place…most isolated moments. While the atmosphere of our caves will be unique, the heart of the cave is the same. The time frame in which we reside in our caves will differ as well…some for a few days, some for a few years. I lived in my cave for about three years until fully leaving it behind. My cave was…

A tiny studio apartment complete with…
Unhealthy relationships…
Daddy issues…
Negative thoughts…
More mistakes and failures than I could count…
(and oh so much more)

There was one night in my cave that I remember truly feeling particularly hopeless. Also, the entire time I had been in my cave, I was attempting to push God as far away as possible. I knew He existed…I believed in Him…I just didn’t want Him anywhere near me or my life. However, on this one particularly hopeless night at 1:30 AM, I tried calling a few different friends, but no one was answering. It took me hitting rock bottom in my isolation to finally cry out to God…to pray…to ask Him to enter into my suffering with me. Not really knowing how exactly to begin this dialogue, I recall just saying something along the lines of…

“You know how deeply I am hurting. I don’t even see an end in sight. I can’t do this alone anymore. Please. Help. Please…”

Through reading Psalm 142, David’s prayer in his cave was pretty similar to mine…

“I cry out loudly to God,
 loudly I plead with God for mercy.
I spill out all my complaints before him,

and spell out my troubles in detail:
“As I sink in despair, my spirit ebbing away,
you know how I’m feeling,
Know the danger I’m in,
the traps hidden in my path.
Look right, look left—
there’s not a soul who cares what happens,
I’m up against it, with no exit—
 bereft, left alone.
I cry out, God, call out:

‘You’re my last chance, my only hope for life!’
Oh listen, please listen;
 I’ve never been this low.”

I must clarify…life with God is not easier. It hasn’t solved all of my problems. It isn’t always warm and fuzzy. I was having a conversation the other night with a good friend of mine, Jessika Fuhrmaneck, who has been on an 8-year journey of restoration from the adult entertainment industry. She was talking to me about the amount of money she was making when she used to dance in the clubs…and how before she laid down her life and began walking with God, she had a nicer car, a nicer home, more money, and ultimately more “value” according to the world’s standards. I shared with Jessika what I shared with you at the beginning of this article…that while I was deeply entrenched in my cave, I had “everything I wanted”…I was living “the dream.” So what was missing? Beauty. Weight. Truth. Hope. Transcendence.

My husband wrote an article today, and this quote really resonated with me…

“Jesus, didn’t come and live a comfortable life, pain, discomfort, and worry free. He lived a life of hurt, and pain, struggle and ultimately sacrifice. Jesus didn’t model for us an easy life, but a beautiful one.”

Life with God didn’t take away my suffering…but just as I mentioned before, God met me in my suffering. In Hebrew, the word glory is referring to heaviness. Glory is a beauty that has weight…and God’s glory is just that. He brings hope…but not just superficial, temporary hope. It is the heavy beauty that makes hope real.

In Psalm 63, David is in the desert, feeling an acute thirst, physically. But he finds that the spiritual thirst is the deep desire that truly needs to be met. David looks back on the moments where he had it all, as I mentioned in my own life. He reigned as king…had great success…yet his soul longed for something more, a purpose that only the glory of God could provide.

What comforted David most deeply wasn’t a god who took away all of his suffering. It was that the God he met in that cave was a god of glory and holiness. I had to learn that prayer wasn’t a transaction, but a relationship. That in prayer, we need to see a God of absolute glory (which brings heavy, deep beauty), because that is what outweighs our problems. His absolute beauty diminishes all others. Absolute love conquers all. 

God met David in a cave. He met me in mine. He can meet you in the depths of your soul, no matter how dark. Wherever your cave may be, God not only sees you, but is willing and ready to join you right there, exactly where you are. What’s your cave?


Do More Than Your Day Job.


“You can’t do a good job if your job is all you do.”

-Katie Thurmes, co-founder of Artifact Uprising

A couple weeks ago, my husband was out of town, my work for the day was complete, I was sitting in my throne (AKA my favorite, comfy, big blue chair)…and I found myself feeling guilty for wanting to relax. Just as this strange feeling of “necessary” restlessness came over me, I read the following verse:

“So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people to do in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them.”
-Ecclesiastes 8:15

Especially being an introvert, I have found that I am far more valuable to those around me when I have had quiet time to myself and invest in my own personal joy. I used to find myself filling every minute of the day with good, productive things, but not restful, soul-filling moments. I would be working, blogging, mentoring, studying…which are all great, but I would become overwhelmed due to the lack of pure bliss…unadulterated, agenda-free bliss.

It’s okay to wake up and have coffee in bed…
Let yourself daydream…
Do something you used to love as a child…
It is valuable to hear Pandora playing the beautiful tunes of my solo piano station…
There is joy found in hobbies, just for fun…
Give yourself permission to rest.

Today, remember that:
-It is biblical to enjoy life and have fun.
-Having fun and making time for YOU is crucial to having a healthy, balanced life.
-It is not selfish to do things that make you happy, when combined with serving and loving those around you.
-Investing in your own personal happiness will enable you to love others better.

Ride a bike.
Find meaning.
Do more than your day job.

The Secrets Music Tells


“Music expresses that which cannot be said, on which it is impossible to be silent.”

-Victor Hugo

The rich and robust sound made when the bow first touched the strings of the cello this morning filled Redeemer church. Interesting, how a sound coming from one single person, one single instrument, actually silenced the pews filled with many busy, chatty people from the city. This music brought immense warmth to my soul, so much so that I almost felt my numbed New York City finger tips come back to life in the presence of it’s fire.

Growing up, my dad owned his own piano store, so I was raised with a great appreciation for instrumental music. The beauty is that it ignites the imagination. Hearing someone play cello, piano, or even Spanish guitar leads me to believe they are sharing a tiny part of a secret with me. My imagination begins to unravel their story with each lingering note.

I love beautiful art that doesn’t exploit and give it all away…the kind of art that leaves it up to us to come to a conclusion…leaves us pondering, dreaming, thinking, and desiring. The wonder found in instrumental music is that we are able to get creative…imagine…close our eyes…evoke our own emotion…feel deeply…daydream. The notes of the instruments are pieces of the puzzle, little secrets, and the lack of lyrics leave us to finish the puzzle in our minds.

Music is personal and universal. A language we all speak, yet touches us so individually. In our fast paced, instant gratification, technology-filled culture, I believe that we have lost the art of enjoying music. Have we forgotten what it feels like to be in awe of the sound? To allow a cellist to sweep us off our feet or a pianist to paint a picture.

Below is a beautiful piece that I love dearly. Give it a listen sometime today. Close your eyes. Allow your mind to daydream, wonder, and become awestruck. Afterward, consider journaling your thoughts, visions, and what came to your mind or heart upon listening. Enjoy the secrets music tells.

The Halloween Card

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{The photo above is from Halloween when I was 4 or 5 years old. I was Pocahontas, my brother was Rocky (which explains the amazing black eye). I tried to copy him and do a peace sign, but I guess I only managed to get one finger up.}

It’s interesting how the smallest moments can have such an incredible impact on our lives. If you know me, you know I love holidays, love traditions, and love making memories with the people I hold dear. I talk a lot about the importance of tradition in my life…but there are so many people and events who have made my traditions what they are. I am also a bit of a hoarder when it comes to cards (I have kept every card a family member has ever given me). Since one of my main love languages is words of affirmation, there is something deeply valuable to me about handwritten words from someone who loves me.

I have MANY Halloween memories. Trick or treating, feeling so cool wandering around with my big brother, my mom making me amazing home made costumes, and eating so much chocolate that I would go into sugar shock. But one thing that not many people know is that Halloween always makes me think of my biological father.

It’s a bit strange, because I don’t really have memories of spending or celebrating any Halloweens with him. The reason this holiday makes me think of him is because of a Halloween card he gave me when I was in elementary school. I was a little girl, and was easily amused (who am I kidding-not much has changed). I thought the slightest technology was AMAZING. This was back before greeting cards were really hi-tech. He sent me a Halloween card, and when I opened it, it played a spooky song. This ridiculous song brought me so much joy. I remember opening and shutting it over and over again. Sometimes I would even keep it next to my bed and listen to the song, because that was the closest thing I had to him. The awesome, scary ghost song wasn’t the best part of that card, though. It’s what was written inside…

“Happy Halloween, Rachael! Daddy loves you SO much.”

To this day, I still have that card. I finally wore out the music, after playing it for years and years, thinking of him each and every time. Little things like songs and cards have always been important to me. I often wonder if he knows that. If he knows that the role he played in my life, no matter how small, had a life-altering, deepening, meaningful impact on my heart. 

Years of my life were spent in confusion, frustration, anger, and hurt…wondering if I wasn’t enough, if he really loved me, why he wasn’t able to be present. But I find peace and sincere gratitude for things like that Halloween card. That card was a symbol of his love for me…it was a gesture…it was his effort…and I deeply appreciate it.

Radical//Reckless//Rugged//Relentless Love.

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“I realized we had created a Jesus who’s safe for the whole family. But if we were honest, we’d ask, how is a homeless dude who was murdered on a cross for saying he was God safe for the whole family? Not to mention that Paul told us if we choose to follow his example as a follower of Jesus, we will be treated the way that he was. We’ve lost the real Jesus—or at least exchanged him for a newer, safer, sanitized, ineffectual one. We’ve created a Christian subculture that comes with its own set of customs, rules, rituals, paradigms, and products that are nowhere near the rugged, revolutionary faith of biblical Christianity. In our subculture Jesus would have never been crucified—he’s too nice. When I was trying to earn Jesus by being good, I missed the real Jesus who wants us to love him and serve him not for what he gives, but for who he is-dangerous, unpredictable, radical, and amazing.”
-Jefferson Bethke, Jesus>Religion

When I first began my journey of seeking and trying to have a relationship with Jesus, I always hit the same roadblock: I’m not good enough. Attempting to wrap my mind around how someone as broken as me could be close to the son of God? No…that just didn’t add up for me. As funny as it sounds, I felt like if Jesus got to know me, he would be horrified. So, I did what many people do. I avoided the word Jesus all together.

Later on, I jumped onto the cultural Christian train at whatever church I would find myself attending, and I would grasp onto the idea of “safe Jesus.” There are many songs out now that make Jesus sound warm and fuzzy, like the best boyfriend ever. Sure, this was a lot more comforting than my idea of angry, scary, horrified Jesus. But while the idea of a safe and predictable Jesus may bring peace to some people, it actually started to really bother me after a while. It wasn’t authentic…it didn’t make sense. The more I studied scripture and strove to know the true character of who Jesus really was, the more I learned that this while this guy was loving, he was not the sheltered, quiet, teddy bear type.

You know that level of friendship where you know someone still isn’t really going to be honest, open, or tell you how it really is? Well, that is not how Jesus operates. Jesus wasn’t afraid to say some insanely radical things, like:

Deny yourself and follow me… (Luke 9:23)
Serve others above yourself… (Matthew 20:26-28)
If you gain the world, you forfeit life… (Mark 8:34-38)
Sell what you own, give to those in need… (Mark 10:21)
Blessed are the persecuted… (Luke 6:22)
Be anxious for nothing… (Matthew 6:25)
Fear God… (Matthew 10:28)
The exalted will be humbled… (Matthew 23:12)

His grace and love is crazy…irrational…beyond our understanding. It is radical. He wasn’t out to make the safe choices. My true relationship with Jesus was shaped and formed through my realization that nothing I could say or do would scare him off. I’m recklessly human sometimes, and “safe Jesus” wouldn’t know how to handle that. The good news is that the real Jesus can. The real Jesus isn’t afraid to hurt my feelings or challenge me, which is crucial of any authentic, long-term relationship.

I love the real Jesus, because I don’t think he could love me any other way. I am able to accept his love and grace because I understand how truly radical it is. Best of all, the real Jesus is adventurous…and stepping into relationship with him meant stepping into the greatest adventure I could embark on…letting go of fear and gaining a faith that transformed my life radically. True love and friendship challenges, stretches, and brings us into our greater selves. The relentless love of Jesus is just that, and I am extremely grateful for who he really is.

Style-On-A-Budget: Ready for fall fashion!


Fall is by far my favorite season of the year. Los Angeles doesn’t exactly get true fall weather, but it doesn’t mean we can’t get in the autumn spirit with our wardrobe! Today, I am going to help you prep your fall fashion with some must-haves for this coming season. Everyone needs:

-Oversized sweaters
-Red jackets
-Faux leather skirts
-True blue skinny jeans
-Big purses
-Ankle boots
-Gold jewelry

Steal my style in the photos above:
-Sweater: Forever 21
-Skinny Jeans: Levi’s
-Moccasins: (My awesome husband got them for me for my birthday this year!)
-Gold Necklace: My Mimi’s tomahawk
Brown beaded ones are acai berry seeds, the pink one is from Hope with Friends (50% goes to anti sex trafficking organizations), and the turquoise “hope” bracelet is from Cotton On (all proceeds go to charity).

What are some of your favorite fall looks? I hope you are ready for this new season, because the fashion world (and myself) definitely are. It’s time for pumpkin spice lattes and lovely, comfy sweaters. :)

Rachael Lee Clarkson

The Constant in a World of Variables.


I’ll never forget what it felt like to experience true, painful, confusing, gut-wrenching heartbreak for the first time in my life.

My parents got divorced when I was a baby, re-married, and then divorced again when I was just a couple years
old. Speaking from my own experience, I don’t believe that a child can truly wrap their head around the
concept of divorce. All you know is that one day, your entire family was together, and the next, your world
has been forever changed.

After my parents got divorced for the second time, we worked out an agreement to do visitation with my
biological father every other weekend. This arrangement didn’t seem strange to me as a kid, because we had already been living in dysfunction. The “abnormal” became normal for us.

Their divorce didn’t change the way I viewed my father, and I know that my lack of information helped. As a small, wide-eyed child, I raced into my father’s apartment with excitement to see what would be my temporary-sometimes-every other weekend-home. Brown cardboard boxes filled the floors, and it didn’t phase me one bit. I loved this man, and felt safe with him, and perhaps my love for him was just naïve…but as I look back on those memories, I do believe that I developed an unconditional love for him at a very young age.

As he and my brother would unpack boxes, I would hop inside them (as my contribution—I was always trying to entertain my family). To this day, I can remember the song that was playing as we spent that first evening in the apartment. I rocked back in forth in a cardboard box while singing “We Will Rock You!” by Queen.

Finally, the unpacking was finished, and my biological father made his signature dish that I always craved: pasta and corn. It may sound simple, but I swear, there was nothing tastier to me in the world than pasta and corn with plenty of butter and salt on top. As my father tucked me into our new bunk-bed that night, I looked up at him and said:

You are so handsome-like a prince. I want to marry you someday.”

A grin came across his face, and he explained to me that while I could not marry him, he was honored that I wanted to marry someone like him someday. They say that a girl’s first love is her father. What I didn’t always know was that a girl’s first heartbreak could also be her father.

We were all designed to love and be loved. And we were made to believe that our fathers were safe. In a science experiment, much like life, you have your variables. These variables are factors that can be changed. (My parents would be so proud that this creative minded girl paid attention just a little bit in school). But you also have your constant. It is ingrained in us to think that our fathers will be the constant, not the changing variable.

My reason for opening up and sharing this story with you today is for you to understand that there is a constant. God’s love transformed my life. He took a broken girl with daddy issues who felt abandoned and made me feel at home. God became my constant in the messy, broken, variable-filled science experiment of my life.

When I first began my true relationship with God, it was uncomfortable for me to view Him as a father figure. But the closer I grew to His love and character, it wasn’t something I had to force…He chose me. I don’t know what your relationship with your father looks like, but I want you to know that your heavenly Father sees you as loved, valued, beautiful, amazing, marvelous. You are His favorite…His best. I don’t know what obstacles or variables you have going on right now in your life, but I encourage you to rest in the one thing that is constant…God’s unfailing love.

3 Key Steps to Unshakable Confidence!

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Happy Monday, friends! Today I am SO excited to share the first episode of “Girls Interrupted” with you! Insecurities start as these tiny, little seeds that take root in our hearts and minds…but they grow into these identity issues and huge lies that change the way we view our own self worth.

My co-host, Ashlee, and I are being vulnerable and transparent with you in our first episode, as we share some of our biggest insecurities with you. We are also offering some advice as to how we can overcome these self-esteem obstacles and step into true confidence. Take a look at the video below, and leave a comment letting us know what topics you would like for us to cover next! :)

The Sexy Picture Scandal: Where is the love?


I’m sure many of you know that some naked photos of celebrity women have been leaked. Living in Hollywood and feeling called love the women here, this has been very close to my heart this week. I have read countless statuses about how it’s “their fault” because they “shouldn’t have taken the photo in the first place.” For starters, where is our grace? Our compassion? Our humanity? Our love?

If someone’s bank account was hacked, would you tell them you should just never do online banking? Never buy anything online again? No.

How would you feel if someone hacked and read some of your most intimate emails? Personal business?

Even if the argument is that taking the photos in the first place is a mistake, have you ever made a mistake? How would you feel if your most private moment, or biggest mistake, or worst day, happened to go completely viral and public for the world to see? These words of hate and destruction being pointed at these women makes me wonder…what would Jesus do? Actually, I know:

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
-John 8:7

Reading these hateful statuses about how it’s their fault, they deserved it, or calling these women stupid is so insensitive and completely heartless. The breaking, obvious news is this, friends: There is NO excuse. NO girl deserves it. My Jesus died for what we all “deserve.” So I’m pretty sure that we don’t have room to condemn these women–it is not our job, and it is not going to help.

It doesn’t matter WHY these women took the photos. NO ONE, I repeat, NO ONE, deserves to have their private life exploited. NO ONE deserves this kind of violation or humiliation.

Disagreeing with someone’s lifestyle or choices is not an excuse to hate or condemn them.

I am absolutely ashamed of the statuses declaring that somehow this violation can be justified. It can’t. If we really cared about the hearts of these women and this issue, we would not extend such mean spirited attitudes and cutting words. It is through loving these women that their lives will be transformed, not through making fun of them, calling them names, or condemning them.

Ephesians 4:14-16 explains that how mature Christians will be able to speak truth, but always in love. We are essentially bullying celebrities rather than seeing them as real women with real issues. Let’s stop the bully mentality and become mature women of God, using our love to reach their hearts.

None us are perfect. And my point is simply that none of us would love for our poor decisions to be public and viral. Us being hateful toward these women won’t do anything to build God’s kingdom or positively impact our culture or their lives. It is through speaking truth with love, compassion, grace, and knowing that none of us are flawless either.

Let’s remember that these celebrities are people. WOMEN. Real women. Just like you and I. Let’s show them some compassion. Let’s have sympathy.

Let’s show these women some extravagant love…the kind of love that God has for us.

Rachael Lee Clarkson