Near to the Brokenhearted

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“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.”
-C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

My heart is heavier than ever today as I write this message to you all. After years of a deep friendship and relationship, and just a little over a year of marriage, Nathan and I are no longer together. I realize that this may come as a shock to many of you who are not in our day-to-day lives. This is extremely devastating, disappointing, and while this is not an easy thing for me to share, I am doing it out of protection for both of us. I will not be sharing details, or answering any questions, as those are not necessary. I am, however, updating you all simply because I know that people will begin wondering what’s going on.

Since I met Nathan years ago, he has been a wonderful man of God who I was blessed to have as a best friend. Doing life together taught me a lot about myself, and while we are both very young, immature, and imperfect, we have also helped each other learn and grow. Watching this relationship come to a close has had it’s excruciating moments. Through the years, we shared memories, traditions, thoughts, ideals, and dreams. He knows my demons and darkest moments, and I know his. He knows the brand and shade of makeup that I use. I know what he eats on his cheat days. This is a significant loss. Years and years were spent investing time and energy into this relationship, and this is the most difficult and painful thing I have ever experienced.

Regardless of where we have ended up, I only want to see this man flourish and grow with a beautiful life. I love him dearly and wish him the very best…a healthy, happy life, and I know that he wishes me the same.

I am not asking for opinions, just prayer. It is a devastating thing to have a relationship end. It is a mourning, growing, and refining process during this huge transition in our lives.

I am so grateful for my incredible friends and family who have offered such an abundant amount of grace, love, and support during the toughest season of my life. Keep Nathan and I both in your prayers, and I ask that you extend grace and respect our privacy during this time. I don’t know what to make of all this. I don’t know what the future holds. But I do know that God is in the midst. He is still good.

There’s a quote I read recently by Priscillia Shirer that said, “God will redeem your pain and replace it with purpose.” That is my greatest hope, for Nathan and for myself. There is so much pain, it is overwhelming. But God is still sovereign, even through what I do not understand and don’t know how to process perfectly. Thank you for your prayers.

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” -Psalm 34:18

The Journey of Trust & Wonder //

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“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
-Jeremiah 29:11

Alright everyone, I have a confession to make. I am extremely directionally challenged. No…really…I mean it. If I’m driving, you can spin me around in a circle, put me back on the exact same path, and I will find a way to get lost somehow. Due to this little problem of mine, I have learned to trust heavily on plans and control. Clearly I was born in a great generation for this, with Siri to guide my every move.

Another confession: I used to be a HUGE control freak. Major. Big. About everything. I lived in fear and didn’t trust in anything I couldn’t make happen myself. This flaw is isolating and causes you to miss out on a lot in life. Over the past couple of years, unexpected circumstances have forced me to stop being so type-A…to learn to loosen my grip on the steering wheel a bit.

Earlier today, I was following one of my favorite people to the beach. If I’m being completely honest with you, I wouldn’t have been able to get their on my own without a GPS. If I had lost eye-shot of the sweet truck in front of me, I would have been thoroughly lost. This expanded something deep in my soul and brought a smile to my face as I was driving. It was a sweet release, a relieving joy, to realize that I didn’t have to do all of the thinking. I didn’t need to worry and control. I could fully trust that this person I love dearly was leading me to the healing waters where I needed to rest. It wasn’t necessary for my mind to know every step of the way for me to end up in the right place.

Donald Miller quotes,

“I need for there to be something bigger than me. I need someone to put awe inside me; I need to come second to someone who has everything figured out.”

This is my gratitude for God. For humans. For this life that is so much greater than my fears, and so far out of my control. The road ahead of me is not one that I fully understand. I am learning to trust this journey, and it is exceedingly more beautiful through the eyes of trust and wonder. Often times when I don’t know where I am going, it is leading me to the perfect place. Where I belong. Healing. Peace. Home.

Are You With Me?

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I climbed out of a window for you//
Recklessly onto the rooftop//
Laughing at myself//
Feeling my feet press against the weak materials//
I read your word//
I believed it//
Are you with me?

They said, “be yourself”//
So I’ve let go of all other labels//
I lost my name//
Feeling it press against my being//
I created for you//
I destroyed for you//
Are you with me?

They said to “lose myself” for you//
So I became wild for you//
Are you with me?

Breathe and be Wild//

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“The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” -John 33:4

Overwhelmed after a very long day, my weary body sat curled up, aching restlessly in my little red Aveo in the parking lot of Rite Aid where I let it all out. I found myself deep in exhaustion from the season of life I am in. Heart hurting, head pounding, tears flowing, spirit drained. A stranger tapped on my window asking me if I was okay. I shook my head, NO, and let out a pitifully honest, “not really.”The funny thing about going through difficult times is that it forces authenticity and intimacy in the strangest of ways. It makes the control freaks wild.

This stranger told me it would all be okay, and told me to breath. You see, friends, while this is not what I wanted to hear, it was the truth. This is the lesson God has been teaching me for the past year. Any “10 year plan” I had was shattered…my expectations and entitlements burned and melted into something far more beautiful than meaningless ideas rooted in fear. Through the fire, I have been given breath and life. I have found genuine faith. When 4 different people all tell you to “breathe” in the same hour, they might just be onto something. A sweet friend of mine texted me saying:

“You don’t need to have 15 different back-up plans figured out. Just do this day.”

This may seem simple, but it is hugely significant. It is so terribly accurate. So often we take control out of fear. The fear of making the wrong choice…being out of control…being out of God’s will. But just as the verse says, His breath gives me life. It gives me the ability to breathe.

For the past few months, I haven’t seen the big picture, but I have seen each day as it has been given. I have loosened the reigns, and in doing so, every need has been met. It hasn’t been easy, don’t get me wrong. But this reminder is everything: we do not have to get it all together under our control. I don’t need to do damage control for the tragedies that haven’t occurred. I only need to be still, to breathe, and to live this day to the fullest.

My pure exhaustion caused a forced 15 minute power nap to come over me a while ago, and in that time, I dreamed I was a wildflower in a large, open field…swaying, yet grounded…reaching, yet rooted…being moved by the wind’s direction (breath) and knowing that while it was far from control, it had safe and purposeful guidance.

Even on my most challenging days (perhaps especially on these days), I am still able to express. To create. To make art. To process. To breathe.

It’s okay that I’m out of control. It’s okay to be wild. As long as I remember to breathe and remember who gave me this breath.

Accidentally Miraculous

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“I don’t believe we are accidents in the world, and I don’t believe we were supposed to be actors either. I think we are supposed to be ourselves and we were meant as a miracle.”
-Donald Miller, Scary Close

Miracle: a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about accidents and miracles…the extraordinary and shocking, as well as the small and seemingly insignificant moments in life. They are all necessary, I think. Each memory plays it’s part in making us who we are. Whether we see moments as an accident and flaw in the plan or a miracle comes down to choice, sometimes. It’s all about perspective. There is a quote by Albert Einstein that I have framed…it has gone with me to every apartment I’ve ever lived in through my adult life.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

There have been moments in my life where pain has felt crippling, where the little foxes (Song of Solomon 2:15) creep in and the lies in my head feel violent. Years ago, I was in a toxic relationship with a guy who made me question the truth about myself. I’ll never forget his words:

“So, based on what happened with your biological dad, you’re really just an accident. You weren’t supposed to be here. I mean, you probably weren’t really wanted.”

I lived some of my life believing that I was an accident. Feeling worthless. And making decisions based on this false identity I cloaked myself in. What I was really doing was cheapening the woman God created. Because there really are two ways to look at it. Based on what’s happened in my 24 years of life, I could focus on the flaws, failures, health issues, and hurtful moments. Instead, I now see my life as a miracle. There have been numerous times in my life that I can’t believe I lived through. Even before I was born, doctors told my mother that they didn’t think I was going to make it. My being here is no accident. Yours is not an accident, either. It is significant, purposeful, beautiful, and miraculous.

Learning to be myself and be okay with that woman has been life changing. Surrounding myself with people who love me, the real me, flaws and all, has transformed my life. Also, I have realized that the more I tried to become someone I simply am not, I was more accident prone. I found myself getting hurt and hurting others, because I was not true to the person God designed me to be. I now feel no need to explain and validate my life to you…to anyone. This in itself is a miracle. The friendships I have are a miracle. The fact that I can trust and feel and love so deeply is a miracle. The fact that I am alive today is a miracle.

I don’t know your story. I don’t know what you’ve been through. But I do know that you matter…that you are significant. You are not an accident. Live today like the miracle you are.

I did not choose the life I have been entrusted to. Perhaps that makes it an accident on some level. An accidental miracle.

“When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.”
-Helen Keller

{Photo credit: Emily Magers photography}

Balanced Perspective

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For as long as I can remember, I have loved taking pictures and capturing moments. Much like writing, it never gets old. It just feels like something I need to do…I can feel it in my chest, this burning desire to express myself by freezing time (through words or photos) and sharing these memories with the world. These are also two of the only things in my life I have been able to get completely caught up in…that I can spend all day getting lost in…so much that I even forget to take breaks to eat. I think this means I must love it? (Though, I love food as well, and need to learn how to be a better snack packer!)

As I write this, I am up in the air flying to Seattle for one of my best friend’s weddings. Over caffeinated from 3 cups of airline coffee, I thought I would share this small realization I had about photography.

While photographing a fashion shoot the other day, it dawned on me that during this difficult season of life, I was allowing this form of art to be my therapy. I found a new healthy way of processing, digesting, and refocusing. As a writer, this is often my way of expressing what I’m going through and opening up about parts of my journey. However, as an introverted writer, this can be dangerous and crippling. Writing can keep me in my head…causing me to internalize too much…to ponder alone…to live in a silence that is so loud it feels violent at times. Writing is my favorite thing in the world, but can cause me to focus on myself far more than I need to.

At the photo shoot last Saturday, the tables turned. I traded my usual silence for a vibrant playlist I made (Twenty One Pilots, Hillsong, Jack’s Mannequin, MC Yogi, Panic at the Disco, Bon Jovi, The Script, Iron and Wine, and more). I swapped my hours of sitting surrounded by white walls for a full day of running around…directing poses, sifting through mountains of color, makeup, lace, sequins, and tutus, and capturing various moments. Instead of internalizing and focusing in, the lens was focusing outward on others…noticing the beauty all around me…filling me with deep gratitude and greater perspective.

Writing is my love. But photography is this beautiful, therapeutic, much needed balance. I felt healthier. I was exhausted at the end of the day, not just from my own mental world, but from pouring into others…using my body, mind, heart, and soul. This allowed me to feel refreshed enough to type these words to you. It filled me up so I can pour out to others once again.

Life is beautiful, friends. And today I am so grateful for art…for expression…for the many forms that can take on in order for us to find sanity in our lives that becomes fuel for our journey.

{Styled by: TanCandy Vintage
Modeled by: Rachel & Tanya}

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The Root

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“It’s true our lives can pass small and unnoticed by the masses, and we are no less dignified for having lived quietly. In fact, I’ve come to believe there’s something noble about doing little with your life save offering love to a person who is offering it back.”Donald Miller, Scary Close

Recently, I have been talking a lot about being a “recovering people pleaser and perfectionist.” For most of my life, I felt I needed to do something incredible according to the world’s standards. The deeply rooted belief aching inside of my heart was that I needed to find a way to validate who I was, to earn the love and respect of those I cared about. Through years of feeling misunderstood, and quite frankly just exhausted from the striving, I have decided to be one thing: me. The me that God designed. A huge part of this included coming to the realization that what I’m passionate about, what sets my soul on fire, may not only be just misunderstood by some, but they actually may view it as simple and insignificant.

In Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddell says:

“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”

Sometimes, the control freak part of my personality wants to know exactly what my “plan” in life is…each detail…all of the specifics. That is not something that I have. What I do know is that my heart is fueled by creating and sharing messages. Writing is where I feel God’s pleasure, where I feel a sense of belonging. This can manifest in many ways, though. Acting, writing, social media, speaking, mentoring, taking photos and capturing moments. These are just some of the branches of the true purpose, and though it scares me sometimes, the true purpose is quite simple. The root is loving others. It’s all about love.

Even as a writer, I am lost for words when it comes to attempting to describe my experience as a leader at the Delight & Be retreat a couple weeks ago. The theme was actually, “Rooted and Grounded in Love.” Having the honor to spend a few days just loving these girls, listening to their stories, praying with them, speaking to them, sharing my authentic story. Loving others–that’s the life I want most. And I believe it may actually be the only “specific” that God has for me.

“Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it.” -Romans 12:9

While this message is an incredible simple and basic one, I can promise you it is not insignificant. Whatever you’re doing, whatever your life looks like, however the branches of your art may manifest, let love be the root.

“Applause is a quick fix. And love is an acquired taste.” -Donald Miller, Scary Close

{Photo credit: Kelly Lemon, Janelle Putrich, and Jessica Lauren.}

Unveiled.

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{This picture is from my elementary school, perhaps when the people pleasing really began. I mean, the uniform plaid jumper was definitely not my choice.}

“That night, I went to bed wondering if my personality was largely a reactionary construct, a mechanism I used to gain respect from the world. In other words, what if my act wasn’t who I was at all?”
-Donald Miller, Scary Close

Throughout my entire life, I’ve worn many different masks. As an actor and writer, I have always felt this innate responsibility to the world to perform…like I somehow owe it to you to have it all together…to only share the best messages…to have my best face on for you to see at all times. I fear burdening others with the mess and humanity that lies beneath the smiles and good manners.

Inside my brain, I will forever hear my 3rd grade math teacher, Ms. Krudsinger (not making that up), telling me to be on my best behavior. To be “good.” To be smart. Mistakes were not allowed. Questions not welcomed. My knee-high socks with British flags and blue nail polish baffled those who set the uniforms in place. I preferred journaling, writing songs, and humming in class over doing multiplication tables. Had I not followed the rules in her classroom, I would be sent outside to sit alone at the old, dirty, forest green picnic table, just waiting to give my butt splinters and for the army of ants to come carry my animal crackers away. Is that how I have lived my adult life? Afraid of being banished and unaccepted? Terrified of the splinters, ant bites, and discomfort that sometimes come with speaking up and being yourself? So I perform. I stay on my best behavior. And while I may be splinter-free, there is a deeper pain.

As Donald Miller so eloquently says, “The same thing that makes me a great writer also makes me terrible at relationships.” I’ve always been great at keeping people at a distance while simultaneously producing a false sense of intimacy. I want to make others happy…and certainly that wouldn’t be possible if they really knew me. This is where I get to try on different masks. These labels of false identity, they are all just different masks I wear to keep myself from having to expose the real me. We can get so caught up in one word, one tiny part of our lives, that we aren’t fully accepting the whole “us.”

Christian.
Actor.
Writer.
Model.
Daughter.
Sister.
Friend.
Single.
Girlfriend.
Fiancée.
Wife.

Letting people beyond the level of your Instagram and Facebook presence can be terrifying. What will they see? What will they know? And the ultimate question and root issue that stares me in the face as I shake in my boots {moccasins}…

“Will they still love me?”

It all comes back to the desire for love. Honest, unadulterated, unconditional love. Trusting others with knowing who we are is scary…it’s scary close. Because the truth is, everyone won’t understand. Everyone won’t love. Everyone won’t accept. We can’t please everyone. {I know this is simple, but for people pleasers, this is bigger than a few splinters to the butt.}

A few months ago at a retreat in Washington, I sobbed on the floor in the midst of many ladies {I REALLY don’t cry in front of people}. I felt naked. I was exposed. I couldn’t keep the facade up any longer. The incredible part of this was that these people still chose to do life with me…even when they knew I wasn’t perfect…even when they saw my pain…even when I was open about my flaws…even as I had snot coming out of my nose and puffy, red, tear-filled eyes, white flakes of Kleenex stuck to my cheeks.

Today, I am flying into Washington for another retreat where I am still on this journey. I would be lying if I said I had it all figured out…that I was ready to be 100% crazy, messy, weird me with everyone. It is scary. It is scary close, as Donald Miller calls it. But in just 5 months, I have watched this facade slowly chip away into something far more beautiful. It’s better because it’s real. Sometimes the story we are telling the world isn’t half as endearing as the one that lives inside us. I have relationships now with people who know the real me…and the insane part is, they love that strange, wild girl.

So, what if I stopped performing?
What if I dropped the perfectionist act?
What if I ended this second nature need to entertain and please others?
Would I still be loved?

Donald Miller says it best,

“I think this all ties in with the entertainer gene. Human love isn’t conditional. No REAL love is conditional. And if love is conditional, it’s just some sort of manipulation masquerading as love.”

Becoming unveiled, losing the facades, it’s insanely uncomfortable. It’s vulnerable. But true, authentic love and relationships are more important to me than having it all together. And those will only come from being true and authentic myself.

The fear of being alone, hurt, misunderstood, or getting a few splinters along the way should not stop us from being who we were made to be. I am willing to run the risk of being hurt occasionally if it means abundant life…unconditional love…being known…being unveiled.

God, I’m tired.

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“God, I’m tired.”, were the only words my weary soul could muster the other night as I sat up in bed, wide awake, yet thoroughly exhausted. It took me a while to even have the energy to begin talking to God. My body was sick, feeling incredibly weak…I was having car troubles…I had a meeting that didn’t go very well. Emotionally//mentally//physically//spiritually…I was drained. I felt empty. Alone.

I started thinking about how Jesus must have felt on the cross. At one point, he said, “I commit my life into your hands.” As I read this, to be real with you, I felt a bit baffled. My tiny mind can’t possibly comprehend the kind of pain, agony, and loneliness Jesus must have been feeling. And yet, he remained faithful.

Those words that Jesus spoke were actually a prayer that Jewish mothers used to pray with and for their children. As he was dying, he was really saying that he was going to sleep. That he would find peace and rest. He was going to wake up into something new. As the sleeve of my sweater wiped a few tears (and let’s be real, a gross runny nose as well), I was in awe. Out loud, I said to Him, “Wow. All of this from a commitment.” Peace. Rest. Renewal. New life. Redemption. Awakening. All from one significant commitment.

Can I be honest with you for a moment, friends? I’m not here to tell you that when you commit your life into God’s hands, everything will become easier. That you won’t be sick, that your car won’t break down, that all of your relationships will be a breeze. But there is weight and glory in this kind of commitment. The peace doesn’t come from me continuing to fight him every step of the way, or from me continuing down my habitual ways. The faith that comes from the commitment. When I feel myself making second nature choices for the wrong reasons, decisions with fear-based intent, or living out of reaction rather than living in the freedom Jesus has so openly offered, I have to stop and remind myself that there is a bigger plan for my life. If my life is in His hands, and He is not a father of fear and destruction, I need to simply allow myself to rest, to trust, to truly test the strength of the faith I have inside of me.

Can I share one more candid, honest thought from my tired brain with you? Well, it’s my blog, so I’m going to do it. Sometimes, I really do feel alone. I don’t doubt God’s existence. But I do sometimes wrestle with wondering if He truly cares for me…for my silly worries…for my hurting heart…for my frail body…for my broken car…for the areas of my life that are in deep need of restoration. When I doubt these truths, when I wonder, when I feel far from Him (truth be told, feel He is far from me), I can’t rely on my own feelings or knowledge. I read the verses below…sometimes out loud…sometimes in disbelief…sometimes with tears and mascara stained cheeks. But I read these words because in the depths of my weary, human, natural spirit, His Holy Spirit fills me with supernatural peace. I try to read it till it becomes true to me. But we are being real, right? Sometimes in the midst of a war zone, we just won’t feel this truth. That’s where faith comes in. That’s what committing our lives into His hands really means. It’s resting in this truth regardless of circumstance, feelings, or my own stubborn ways. Regardless of where you’re at today or what you believe in, I encourage you to read the Psalms below as an inspiration for your journey. Thank you for listening to mine.

“You’re my cave to hide in,
my cliff to climb.
Be my safe leader,
be my true mountain guide.
Free me from hidden traps;
I want to hide in you.
I’ve put my life in your hands.
You won’t drop me,
you’ll never let me down.”

-Psalm 31:3-5

Confessions of a Prodigal Son {Giveaway!}

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Today is a very special day…three years in the making! It is officially the release date of the film, “Confessions of a Prodigal Son”! You can now find COAPS at Walmart, on Amazon, and more. I can’t even begin to tell you how proud I am of Nathan Clarkson, who wrote, produced, and stars in this beautiful movie. I had the honor of playing his leading lady on the screen, and it has been such a fun journey.

Aside from my support and belief in the talented man who wrote the film, the story was extremely close to my heart. There have been many times in my own life that I have felt a bit like a prodigal. Moving out to Hollywood at 17, I was pursuing my dreams, but also escaping from many things in my life. At times, I felt so inadequate and imperfect that I truly tried with all of my might to hide from God…to runaway…to be “free.” This false sense of identity and freedom only bred deeply rooted insecurities, loneliness, and immense pain…some of which leaving some scars that I believed would be permanent.

This film is a must-see for our generation. It is a movie that demands we ask ourselves the crucial question: what story is your life telling? Everyone needs the message that no matter who you are, what you’ve done, or where you’ve been, it’s never too late to come back home. You are never too far gone. You are never beyond the point of being loved and having great purpose. Our stories can be redeemed and our scars can be erased.

Because we are SO excited about this release, and because the COAPS team believes in every identity girl, we are giving away a “Confessions of a Prodigal Son” pack, which includes a DVD as well as the music inspired by CD, which has artists: Ellie Holcomb, JJ Heller, Ben Rector, Andrew Peterson, Newsong, and even Nathan and I!

To enter the giveaway, simply complete the following 3 steps:
1. “Like” the COAPS Facebook page:
https://m.facebook.com/ConfessionsOfAProdigalSon
2. Share the link to this article on your own personal Facebook page to spread the word about the film.
3. On Instagram, share one of the photos from this article, and remember to tag @coapsmovie AND @identitygirls!

We will be selecting a winner on March 31st! Good luck, and spread the word about the film to your friends!

XO,
Rachael Lee

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