Fighting for Joy

I have a really bad memory, truly. I remember being at church during my sophomore year of college after a year and half long hiatus. It was a time when I was meeting new people and learning to stand firm in this new identity as a true Jesus-following human. This girl came up to me and immediately asked if I was in fact, myself. I quickly said yes and got that horrible feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you know someone remembers you and you have no idea who they are.

She introduced herself as Kira and shared with me that she thinks I played soccer with her on a team in elementary school. After racking my brain, I found a sliver of a memory and realized that she was my long lost friend Kira from the fifth grade! Kira is now one of my greatest allies and she seriously has a memory like an elephant (is that the right metaphor?) She remembers the most specific and obscure memories and rehashes them often, as I look on, completely dumbfounded. I love Kira for this.

So I have this terrible memory. I don’t remember a lot, it’s pretty insane. Especially when I’m put on the spot, I have a really hard time thinking of memories that apply to different things.  The paranoid side of my brain says that maybe I’m hiding some deep-seeded issue, like I don’t store memories for fear that rehashing them will cause me pain because I secretly think I am in some way lacking in my current life.  Like I said, paranoid.  It is funny though, how I’ve retained a lot of bad memories and I have to dig to bring up the really good ones.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about a memory that I have retained and it’s so trivial! I have this vivid memory of lying in my bed; I was probably a freshman in high school in that phase of life where self-awareness hits like a ton of bricks. I remember earlier that week I had caught wind of a party where lots of girls were going to be, lots of popular girls, lots of boys that I liked, and it was a party with all of the people that I was kind-of-almost-sort of friends with. It’s that group in high school you’re never really sure you’re a part of, I probably could have been if I wasn’t so insecure and fearful, but I held back so as to not annoy or overwhelm (thanks middle child syndrome).

It was a weekend night I remember, and I was just lying in my bed crying and looking out the window and thinking about how much fun everyone was having without me. I hadn’t been formally invited and I was too afraid to take the plunge and just show up, even though it was unlikely anyone would really care. As I lay there, I though to myself – this is exhausting. I’m miserable. I think I was probably one of the most self-aware high school freshmen ever, but I knew in that moment what this comparison game was costing me. It was stealing my joy.

So I had this ‘come to Jesus’ moment alone in my bed, crying, and I made a vow to myself, which I remember clear as day. I made a promise that I was going to choose joy. It’s so cliché and I really do hate hackneyed phrases, but that became my mantra: choose joy.

Years later, I’m finding myself back in that place where I’m having to ‘choose joy’. On those days when I’m driving alone in my car and my eyes feel heavy and I don’t want to do anything and my pride keeps me from reaching out, I begin my mantra but now it’s just simply ‘joy’. I say it to myself over and over.

For years, I think I tried to find joy in people and I tried to convince myself out of feeling sadness. Why would I feel sad when my family is wonderful? Why would I feel lonely when I have an incredible community looking to me for direction? Why would I feel hopeless when I have made so much progress in just a few short years?

Depression can’t answer those questions in a productive way; they bounce off like rubber. Joy needs to be sourced from something deeper and more sustainable. It needs to come from a fountain that doesn’t run out and where we don’t need to fear rejection, somewhere abundant and alive.

Back in high school, and for so many years after, I tried to trick my way in to having joy. I tried to fill up my life with friends and stuff and hobbies to manipulate my way out of feeling sad and lonely. It hasn’t been until recently that I’ve been able to see just how useless that effort really is and how much closer joy is than I ever thought.

This new source of joy is emerging and it’s so simple, yet profound. It’s this realization that I am likable and worthy and enough, not because of what I’ve accomplished or who I am but because of who I let Jesus be for me.  I let him be my savior. I’m not saying that depression can be solved with a mantra and the awareness of salvation; I think it can be deeper, chemical even and meds are very helpful. I’ve seen meds save the lives of people I love deeply.

All I’m saying is this: the source of my joy has shifted and it’s helping. It’s getting easier to pull myself out of the droopy eyes, no motivation, suffocating, hopeless dark places that I find myself in.

Today I went for a run and my goal was to run seven miles. I got turned around at 3.2 miles out, due to a closed bridge. This is the literal worst because it means I have to backtrack in order to hit my goal on the way back to my car. I had to turn around to cover more distance three different times and audibly groaned each time. That’s what it feels like to battle these dark pitfalls.

I have to let out an audible groan and go deep inside my soul to dig out that feeling I know is there: I am likable, I am enough, I am good.  Jesus saved me, he set me free.

It is for freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1



Five Minute Meetings

A few weeks ago, I was pulled in to a five-minute meeting.  An e-mail popped up on my computer and the subject line read ‘Can I see you for five minutes?’ – no body.  I’ve learned by now that five minute meetings mean a bomb is about to be dropped.

I remember when I first started working here; I was so intimidated by everything and everyone that I just kept quiet. I chained myself to my desk because honestly, moving about gave me anxiety.

After over two years, the scum of insecurity has all but disappeared and I’ve gained credibility and respect. I’ve gained a lot with other people, but more so with myself. I’ve shaken off so much of the quivering that used to consume me. It still rears its head every so often but I have more good days than bad now. I can speak up, I have opinions, I can lead, I’m still a people pleaser at heart but I’m learning to make the tough choices between what is right and what is popular.

I got a promotion, then another and finally gained a coveted title.  Things felt stable for the first time in months, I was comfortable, I felt valued and trusted, excited even for things to come in my new position.

Then I was pulled in to a five-minute meeting.

It was an offer for a different position, a structural demotion, honestly. A job that would guarantee that life, as I knew it would surely get more complicated.

I like sparkly and new and my gut said go for it… it’s, well, gutsy!

Thus, I was thrust back in to conflict mode. Honestly, if you want to make me crazy just present me with two excellent choices that would guarantee drastically different results. I will dissolve almost instantaneously in to a ball of anxiety and self-absorption.

Two good choices is my worst-case scenario.

But a decision had to be made and quickly I made it, because that’s what I do, I rush important decisions.

I took it.

And my life changed in that moment, I chose to walk down a path that looked so different than the one I was on before. This is where my calling will be tested, because I can’t navigate this path coasting on ability. No, this is where I will have to depend on God.

This path might be lonelier; it sure feels like that so far. It feels like I’m giving up a lot. But it also feels like God is teaching me something, like he is getting ready to speak but he needs to get me alone first.  More on that at a different time.

I may have been crazy to leave something so good and so fitting for something nearly impossible, but life is much too short to waste your time with the safe decisions. God can and will teach me in this season just like he has faithfully done in others.  God still is actively at work in my life.

The path might be rockier and more exhausting, and it might feel like I’m hiking alone sometimes but I am going to keep fixing my eyes on Jesus.

The loneliness feels like a heavy burden to bear, almost too heavy to keep moving forward but God is there and he is still speaking. I am trudging and confused, tired, swirling, but I am still standing.

For now, all I can hope for is that I can catch a much-needed respite from these five-minute meetings.


The Paradox

“Rejoice in hope. Be patient in tribulation. Be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12

The book of Romans was written to be an example of the comprehensive theology of Paul. That’s why I love Romans, you get a little bit of everything. When I don’t know where to start, I go to Romans. When I need a shareable or highly applicable verse, I know I can rely on Romans to deliver.

So I wasn’t surprised when reading today that I stumbled across Romans 12:12, one of the many gems. It struck me. At first, I just thought to myself: that’s a Facebook status verse right there.  Reading it again, I thought to myself: yeah, I’m pretty good at that.

I rejoice in the hope I have in Christ. I’m patient in times of trouble. I pray everyday. Yeah, I’ve got this. Facebook post justified.

But then I thought a little more…

What would the fruit of this verse be in my life and what would happen in me if I was truly obedient to this command? Mediating on that thought, this is what came to me:




If I were truly rejoicing in hope, I would have freedom from the things of this world. They wouldn’t define me.

If I were patient in tribulation, I’d have peace about my circumstances.

If I were constant in prayer, I’d certainly have peace and freedom but I’d also have a better understanding of what I’ve been through and why I had to go through it.

Let’s be real here.

There are days when I know in my heart that I am free from this world, but is that a common feeling? Not so much, at least not lately. I’m still burdened by the same things and even though I’m feeling lighter, there are still gremlins looming in the shadows. Emotional dependence on others, insecurities about my body, and a crippling fear of failure to name a few – I am still a slave to my flesh much of the time.

Peace. I’ll just laugh at that one.   You know when you’re watching a movie you’ve seen before and you know how it’s going to end?  It’s really painful to watch every time, but you almost think maybe it will end differently? Like in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for example, when Cedric dies. Every time I read it I want it to end differently, but it never does. Cedric dies every time and I want a different outcome! He didn’t have to die, did he? It just seems so unnecessary. Sorry, Harry Potter super fan over here, I can’t help myself… What I’m trying to say is that we’ve all found ourselves in situations where we want a different outcome. We play things over in our heads hoping for a different ending, but it never comes. You wake up and your wallet is still missing, your car is still wrecked, and you’re still really, really angry. I don’t have perfect peace, not even close.

And lastly, understanding, but specifically understanding that comes as a result of being constant in prayer. I don’t know about constant, but I have been praying a lot lately. It is a battle. I really have to fight for the motivation to take a moment and to get quiet before the Lord. It’s hard, especially in this day and age where there are so many distractions. But that’s no excuse. How do we expect to understand anything if we’re not talking to God? I’d be lying if I said I haven’t fallen short here as well.

I’m not a perfect embodiment of this verse and I confess my shortcomings openly, but I would be conveying false humility if I stopped there. I’ve been doing some work lately, some really hard work, and the fruit is starting to emerge in my life.

I’ve been obedient to God’s call in my life to do my best to follow Him, fix my eyes on Him, and to not turn away. I’ve been fighting distraction like it’s my job. I’ve finally been listening to the still, small voice saying come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).

See, Jesus says something different than the gremlins in my head. Jesus says I’m worth it. Jesus says that I actually can be an embodiment of Romans 12:12… but only with Him.  My flesh says don’t be free, stay chained to your burdens, you can’t overcome them! It says that I can’t have peace. It says that I’ll never understand.   And you know what? That is the truth. I can’t do this. It’s too much. What the world offers me is too painful and it will crush me.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” 1 John 3:1

I embody Romans 12:12 because I belong to Jesus. I know his love and that has wrecked me for the better. 1 John 3:1 says that when you know the love of God, you are not only called a Son of God, but you are a Son of God. It also calls our attention to the paradoxical nature of the teachings of Jesus.   God’s love is paradoxical and he calls us to live the same way. God calls us to live lives that don’t make sense to the non-believer.

The rest of this passage in Romans says more of the same:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceable with all.” Romans 12:14-18

I can’t embody this, but God can through me. I’m not doing it perfectly, but I am working hard to try to do it better. I’m not going to cheat you with just a story of how I’ve failed in living out these verses. I will boast in the work that God is doing in my heart. It’s painful and exhausting, but like Luke 18:27 says: What is impossible with man is possible with God.

The beauty in all of this and what I’ve really been starting to grasp is that when I walk in obedience, I’m forced in to a trusting relationship with God. When I’m in a trusting relationship with God, I can superfluously embody this passage in Romans.

With God, I can live the paradox, living by my own flesh will only get me more bondage.


Drop the mic & go find Sarah.

Hannah, your words are my fight song. Thank you.

hannah brencher.

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“What were you like at 20?”

Her text came through this morning in the middle of my writing hours.

I had to pause. Walk away from the computer. Find a space on the floor where, if you sit in just the right spot, the sunlight will flood through the window and cover your knees like a soft, thin blanket.

I honestly haven’t given much thought to who I was at 20 years old. That was seven years ago. I was a junior in college.

I responded to her text with a bunch of scenarios:

When I was 20, I had my first internship with the city’s newspaper. I wore high heels and strut around the campus center like I was really important— an absolute boss.

When I was 20, I was enamored with a boy who would read me Walt Whitman poetry at 2am and then take me for walks…

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Hello, my friend.  I don’t know how you ended up here, reading this, but I pray it’s because of the same reason that I’m writing.  With that, I invite you a little deeper:

My name is Rachel, and I love Jesus.  I’m 25 years old, currently employed at Flatirons Community Church serving as one of the Associate Directors of the Young Adults Ministry.

I lived most of my life thinking that I was in control until I was a sophomore in college.  It was then that Jesus came [back] in to my life, and showed me that I’ve been running in the wrong direction.  I was pulled in to this crazy race called ‘chasing after Jesus’, a race you can’t win and you can’t ever finish.

I love the metaphor that is painted in the verses of Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV):

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 

I believe God is real.  I have to fight for that belief every single day, I doubt often.  I’m far from perfect, and I will probably never be any version of perfection that I think I need to achieve.  I compare myself to people and I can be domineering.  I’m rarely content and I’m always hungry for more than what I have.  When I get what I want, it’s never good enough.  My insecurities can be crippling, and my need to be the best separates me from God in ways that I can’t always articulate.  I isolate myself from people because of my fear of being hurt or loved and then disconnected, and I am afraid that I am a very self-absorbed human.  This is my thorn, this is my sin, this is my burden.

Because Jesus is everything, we are free to be nothing.  We are asked to do one thing: Love Him.  There is so much freedom and security in that.  I can rest in knowing that my love for God is enough.  I am learning that I am worthy.  I’m learning how to throw off the ‘sin that entangles.’

What would life look like if we really started to run this race, together?

I believe that there is infinite power in the simple belief that God is real.  I believe that women are strong and have the ability to lead in ways they never thought possible.  I believe that wisdom comes from the Lord and everyone has an abundance of it.  I believe that God looks at you, and me, and sees potential in all of us. In every life stage, every difficult circumstance, and every heartbreak God is there and He is going to use you in your dedication and obedience to Him.

So, let us run the race marked out for us – with perseverance.  Let us encourage each other, challenge each other, but above all let us run after God as an outpouring of our adoration for Him.

I’m writing for me, I’m going to share what God has been doing my life and process is a raw and real way – I hope you can relate to the insane things I’m surely going to construct.  I have so much to learn, and my hope is that these words don’t fall on deaf ears.