Today, Rachel speaks to us about overcoming bitterness, learning from dark moments and some awesome books to add to your list (including her advent devotional!).
Tell us a bit about how you grew up and your childhood: I grew up in a Sabbath-keeping family with two brothers and two married parents who worked as lay-ministers for the church. When I was five, my Granny moved in with us, and she was a nanny and a roommate. She lived with my family until 2018 when she passed away. I had a non-traditional upbringing, but also pretty normal. I attended public school, went to church services on Saturday mornings, youth group meetings on Wednesday nights, sleepovers with friends, birthday parties, etc. I got the best grades without a lot of trying. The truth is I had a lot of childhood trauma that I never even realized until I was well into adulthood. So when my parents gave me a lot of freedom as a teenager, I didn’t make the best decisions. I experimented with alcohol and began an unhealthy pattern of disordered eating as a pre-teen. Then I became swept up into an abusive intimate-partner relationship before I was sixteen. I later married this abusive partner just out of high school.
Inspiring biblical passage of the moment: I have been studying the Psalms that Jesus quoted from the cross. Psalm 22 and Psalm 31 are Psalms of distress and trust. They are filled with raw, human emotions of pain and surrender. These human emotions are some I believe Jesus related to as He hung on the cross. I think they must have been significant to Him in His darkest hour, and now they’re significant to me as well.
Spiritual growth focus at the moment: I’m trying to grow in prayer as a lifestyle. Instead of stopping and asking God for guidance through prayer, I’d like to live a life of prayer. By studying, meditating on, and memorizing scripture, I hope to just be closer to God in general–and feel Him closer to me. I’ve recently reread my copy of Transforming Your Thought Life by Sarah Geringer and am now using her new one Transforming Your Thought Life for Teens in my youth group. The first step to living a life of prayer is to turn our thought life around.
Profession: Professional writer, freelance writer, editor, proofreader. I’m also a mom and a homeschooler (which is a full time job!).
If you wrote a memoir, what would the title be? Did I Do That? Confessions of a Recovering Goody-Two-Shoes
When did you first encounter God and how did you encounter Him? I thought I encountered God as a young person, but I realize now that growing up in the church is much different than having a revelation with God. The first time I truly encountered God, I think was the first time I truly needed Him. The first time I was truly mad at Him. It was when my first marriage fell apart, and I was forced to look at all my beliefs about God and make sense of them. The experience of my divorce and coming to terms with the fact my marriage was toxic, unhealthy, and most-likely not God-ordained didn’t mesh with my belief that marriage is forever and divorce is wrong. God walked me through this dark period and through the tenuous relationship we formed then, He was able to walk me through even more turbulent times just a couple years later.
How would you describe Jesus? Jesus is like me, and I’m like Him. It took me a long time to realize and accept that Jesus was like me on earth. Like our parents, we only tend to think of them as our parents–forgetting they were children. They learned to walk, learned about God, learned to be parents. Jesus is our Creator, but He also chose to live this life. It’s a beautiful and amazing thing to think about. At a time when many young Jewish boys grew up hoping and praying they were the Messiah, Jesus learned that He was. He was raised up by parents, like me. He grew up learning scriptures, like me. He had dark times, like me. He turned to God as well. Jesus is amazing.
How has your relationship with Him changed you? I’m a loving person because of Jesus. I have hope and joy because of Jesus. It’s something that I don’t get from outward things. It’s something that lives inside me.
What has been the darkest time in your life, and how did you see God in it? The darkest time in my life was when I experienced a deep betrayal from a friend. Because my heart was broken and the world tells us that some betrayals are “unforgivable” I felt my anger was justified and my refusal to forgive was warranted. In truth, my bitterness grew everyday and I eventually became a very angry, hateful person. As women’s ministries leader in my church, I began to act differently, openly showing bitterness and rudeness toward the person who wronged me. When these changes made their way into my home and my children saw me change before their eyes, I knew it was time to fix my heart. I immediately sought the counsel of a wise Christian mentor I’d known years before. She directed me to a book called The Peacemaker by Ken Sande, and I’ve never looked back. God took the biggest, darkest burden of my life off my shoulders. He not only helped me forgive the “unforgivable”, but completely restored the relationship that had ruptured because of that betrayal. GOD IS GOOD, and He has been there for me ALL THE TIME.
What has helped you grow spiritually in this season? Right now and for many years, I have been leaning into Christian fellowship in a different way than how I grew up. Growing up I felt my church was very small. There were no Sabbath-keepers, and we drove many miles to attend a Sabbath-keeping church. I was a Christian, but felt myself set apart from other denominations. As an adult in recent years I’ve made connections with Christians of all denominations. I’ve learned to my happy surprise that the family of God is very large. God’s church is filled with all types of believers, and I can learn from many of them. This journey began when I joined a MOPS group in 2015 and then a local homeschool co-op shortly thereafter. Now I learn from all types of God’s people and love making friends of everyone.
Just read/currently reading (and what has it taught you?): I just read Transforming Your Thought Life for Teens by Sarah Geringer. It has been a great reminder of how much anxiety I experienced as a teen and how many of these intrusive and negative thoughts I brought with me into adulthood. I would have benefited greatly from this book as a young woman. I’ve also just started reading God is Closer Than You Think by John Ortberg and Experiential Storytelling: (Re)Discovering Narrative to Communicate God’s Message) by Mark Miller. My favorite Bible is the Bibliotheca Bible, which removes each chapter and verse number and every heading from the Bible to make it more of a “reader’s experience”. Right now, I’m reading the first in the collection The Five Books of the Minor Prophets.
Top three essentials: Support system (family/friends), message, audience. That’s the broad “life” answer. Day-to-day I need hugs, coffee, and cats.
How did God speak to you recently? Recently, during an extremely stressful moment God reminded me that He cares more than I care about my sons, about myself, about the world and its future—He cares more.
“He cares more.”
Hobby: Writing poetry, hiking with my husband and three kiddos, martial arts.
Top three practical tips for staying spiritually strong: Read the Bible; Study the Bible; Pray the Bible.
Favorite person in scripture? Jesus. I think He had to have the most faith and the most belief of anyone.
What do you want people to learn about God when they look at you? In a world riddled with upset and unhappiness, I want people to see true happiness is possible. God is where it comes from, truly.
How do you engage with your community? Which community? I write for the broad audience. I work for online Christian magazines, print publications, and blogs. I write professionally for Christian organizations. I hope I’m a witness on all social media channels. I serve as a volunteer and teacher for my local homeschool co-op. I am a regular speaker in my local church. I wish I could engage more.
Favorite holiday? Christmas! My family celebrates it with the tree and the stockings, the presents, the family, and the Bible. I love Christmas and the gospel message of Christmas so much I published an advent devotional last year: The Promised: Unwrapping Christmas Blessings in 25 Daily Readings.
A goal you have? Publish two books in 2022.
A special tradition you and your family engage in or keep: We love to travel, and when we do we buy keychains at attractions instead of Christmas ornaments. Our Christmas tree every year is covered in keychains from our favorite places. Also, a simple one is going out to eat at a nice restaurant every time we belt-up in Taekwondo.
Question you will ask when you get to heaven? I kind of feel like I’ll have no questions. The more I think about it, the more I’m sure my questions will be answered just by Jesus’ coming and the restoration of our bodies.
Thing you want to raise awareness about: My husband has PTSD, and I have PMDD. We both struggle with anxiety and depression cyclically. I guess, among the Christian community, I’d like to raise awareness to the fact that prayer doesn’t cure mental health disorders. These brain disorders are a result of a sinful planet and should not be shamed anymore than cancer. Medication is sometimes necessary and therapy is not bad! In fact, mental health treatments of all kinds are going to be necessary until Christ returns.
What does your morning routine consist of? My alarm goes off at 6 am and I sleep until 7. I get up and make coffee for myself and my husband, then we sit in bed and watch an episode of whatever we’re currently watching (we just finished MAID on Netflix). At 8 am I get up and dressed and make breakfast. We homeschool, so our mornings are later and more relaxed than other families.
What is on your nightstand? A bunch of books: Communication Handbook (AdventSource), Bible Praying for Parents (Keith Ferrin, Judy Fetzer), The Animal Dialogues (Craig Childs), Bibliotheca, The Complete Book of Running for Women (Claire Kowalchik), a journal; a steampunk lamp my husband made; stuffed animals my son brings me; a charging station with my phone and watch; colored pencil bag; 3 jewelry boxes; water bottle; lotion; medicine; and Pathfinder stuff from a recent trip.
Define Christianity in a sentence: One beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. I think it’s a quote from DL Moody. I’ve always loved it.
For more Rachel:
Her two Instagram accounts: @rachelashworthwrites for poetry and @momminginmo for family, fitness, and homeschooling.
Until next time, keep witnessing!