God Used a Break-Up For My Good

As you've most likely read, I have 'almost' dated three guys in the past two years.  None of them worked out, for various reasons.  After the third dude fell through, I embraced my singleness whole-heartedly.  And was determined that the next guy I got to know/started dating was the one I was going to marry.  I was tired of this whole Find Your Future Spouse game.  I was going to diligently pray and seek God's direction with this future guy.  And just have a better overall experience with him.

At the beginning of this year, on January 30, I met a guy and instantly felt a connection.  We both did.  And over the next couple of months, our title quickly changed from 'friendship' to a 'dating relationship'.  It was fast.  No doubt about that.  But we both were at peace with moving forward.  We had prayed about it, our closest friends all supported us, we had same goals and visions for our lives.  So far, there were green lights on our path.
I was happy.  Here was a guy who loved the LORD, who I thought was extremely attractive, we both had a love - and felt called to - music ministry, his family loved me, our friends loved us together (even strangers loved us and thought we were a beautiful couple)...  Things seemed to be in our favor.

To quote a fellow blogger who wrote a very similar post:
"Before I began dating my now ex-boyfriend, I did what I said I would and prayed about it.  A lot.  I prayed what I imagined were typical dating prayers, ones that consisted of me asking doors to either be opened or closed with this man, for us to be on the same page about dating or not, etc.  And every time, it seemed, another door would be opened and another feeling confirmed.  I definitely held onto the idea that if God was leading me into this relationship, it was going to be the relationship.  I mean, He knew my heart, right?...He knew I had worked hard to know myself and know God and know what it means to be in a healthy couple.  If I was so keenly trying to follow His guidance, He would reward me for that.  Wouldn't He?"

This is exactly how I felt.

Sure, I knew that I may not be ready for marriage quite yet.  And sure, I knew that not all relationships worked out.  And sure, this all happened so fast and unplanned.  But God was in control and it was all gonna turn out all right. And besides, my boyfriend 'knew in his heart' that God wanted us to get married, that I was the woman he'd been waiting for, and we were meant to be together forever.

But seven and a half months later, I found myself calling things off with my boyfriend.  Putting my foot down and finally saying 'No' to things about him that I was not willing to put up with in a life-long commitment.  Finally realizing that the certain issues he had in his life and I had in my life were complications that, if we ended up getting married, were just the stage for failure in the future.  I didn't want that.  I didn't want that for myself or for him.

What happened?  Where did it go wrong?  Why had it ended if I was so sure, so at peace, so positive that God had led me into it?  Or was it some sort of trick?  A test?  Did I fail?

Was it all a waste?

The time, the emotions, the driving, the money, the letters, the phone calls, the gifts, the words, the pictures, the songs, the promises...  Was it all for nothing if it brought me to this sort of ending?

How could something I feel was so right for me, end up being so wrong?

This was a question I asked myself for the first week after our break-up. And it's a question that God has so gently and graciously answered.

It was right for me, though.  It was part of His perfect plan for me.
To care so deeply for this guy?  To feel myself falling in love with him, only for that affection to be cut off?  To walk away from a guy who was so sure that we would get married someday?
Because I believe in a sovereign God who loves me more than I can imagine, I trust that yes, this whole relationship - from beginning to end - was exactly what was right for me.

Because of this situation, I have learned much.  Maybe one day I'll be able to write about it in more detail, but for right now, I want to be sure I clarify three things:

1)  I feel like there's some unspoken law that if two Christian people are dating with the intention of getting married, but it ends in a break-up, they weren't truly following the LORD's leading and should never have dated in the first place.  While this can be - and is - true in some cases (though extremely rare), I believe with all my heart that God does purposely lead us into temporary seasons of life.  Just like a job, a living situation, or a friendship.  I worked as the reporter for a local newspaper for 6 months then got let go.  Why?  Because the company wanted to downsize and needed reporters with 4-year journalism degrees.  Was it a mistake that I had gotten the job in the first place?  Was I not following God's leading in accepting that position?  No.  It was the perfect job for me, in the perfect time, in the perfect place in my life.  And when God wanted me to get a different job (another dream job #baristalife), He allowed the reporter job door to close and moved me to the next season of life, the next step, the next chapter.  The same goes for relationships.  He teaches us individual things through each one.  I was in this relationship for as long as I felt God leading me into it.  And then, over the course of a couple weeks, diligently prayed that He would make it clear to me whether or not I should continue in it.  And He said no.

2)  I learned so much through this relationship.  Lessons I needed to learn and only could have learned by going through this.  And you know how people always say that 'one day you'll look back and understand'?  Well that is so true.  I can testify to that in many different life circumstances.  This is no exception.  I look back and see how I would've done things differently.  I look back and see where I went wrong.  I look back and understand the things about myself that I needed to realize.  And I am so thankful for all that I have learned.

3)  I hate the term 'break-up'.  It makes me think of a stick that someone breaks in half.  It's horrible to think of a relationship being broken like that.  Both parties would feel hurt, used, and incomplete.  And sadly, this is how many of the people I know have felt after breaking up with their boyfriend or girlfriend.  I want to clarify that I don't necessarily consider this a 'break-up' (even though that's the most used and easiest phrase to refer to it as).  It was more of a 'calling off of a relationship'.  It was something that needed to happen for both our sakes.  I have only cried once - the first day - not for myself, but for him.  Because I know him, I care for him, and I knew that he was experiencing much pain.  It was the right thing to do, though.  I know that with my whole heart.  We both understand that God has better things in store for us.  We weren't right for each other.  Even though we wanted to believe that we were.  We wanted to make things work.  We tried.  We really did.  But the last couple of months were the hardest for us.  There was endless conflict, arguments, feelings being hurt, asking for forgiveness...and then it happening all over again.  It was a continual cycle that I didn't see ending any time soon because the root of the problems were all issues that we had - and still have to - deal with personally.  In our own hearts.  Between us and God.  They were aspects that couldn't be changed through just being worked on or loved through.  And unfortunately, these were traits that neither of us could have known would be such horrible issues before going into the relationship.  We are both great people.  He is someone whom I will never regret meeting, never regret caring for, and never regret investing in.  And I know he thinks the same of me.


I would like to end this article with proclaiming that my God is faithful.  He is good.  He loves me so incredibly much and I have felt His presence so genuinely close in these last few weeks.  I have asked His forgiveness in the failures and shortcomings that I am guilty of in this relationship, and I have also thanked Him so so much for protecting me as much as He did - and continues to.  He knows the desires of my heart.  And in due season, He will bless me because I have trusted in Him.  What a beautiful thought.


This is the chorus to a song I recently wrote:

"Through it all
Faithful You remain
Through the good times and bad
Still I see Your hand
You've brought me this far
I trust in Your plan
Never let me wander
Never let me fear
You will see me through till the end."


And so began a sabbatical

Two weeks ago, as I was driving back from meeting with my accountability partner and my pastor, the radio was playing a local Christian music station.  I never listen to Christian music (on the radio) but I remembered that I had been browsing local channels, and I guess it had landed on this particular one.  Chris and Conrad's version of 'Lead Me To the Cross' was playing at the time, and it's one of those modern worship songs that I didn't mind too much so I was singing along.  And I made it my prayer.  

'Lead me to the cross where Your love poured out.  Bring me to my knees, LORD.  I lay me down.  Rid me of myself, I belong to You...'

Suddenly, I sensed the LORD asking me:

'What makes you happy?'

Well, of course I promptly started listing things in life that make me happy.

'Where do you go for self-identity?'

I hesitated. I SHOULD go to Him for this...but instead, I started listing several people and places that I go to for fulfillment and meaning.

'What if I asked you to give all of those to Me?'

......Now wait a second.  For how long?  What would this entail?  Can I really do this?

I determined that if I thought on it for too long, it obviously was too hard for me to decide what was more important  - these earthly mortal things or my relationship with the immortal God.

After saying 'yes' to His request, and deciding on a sabbatical (a time of rest and refocus), I went to Ross to find a journal. I wanted to keep an account of my time refocusing on my Jesus.

I was gonna be picky about it though. 

I was like 'Okay, God, if You want me to do this, let my journal be the ultimate confirmation. Let it be everything I want.'
My requirements?  Spiral bound, daily planner with areas large enough to make notes, and a Scripture verse on the front.  I found this one... 

And, also, I am kind of OCD about starting things, making plans, etc. I either have to start at the beginning of a week or month. And how many daily planners that you know start in the middle of the year? For example, September. Well this journal did.

It gets better, though.

After purchasing this new journal, I drove home, got ready for bed and checked my phone only to see that a friend (who I hadn't talked to in months) had texted me.  
'Hey what's new?' he asked.
'Not a whole lot.  The biggest news is that I am going to embark on a sabbatical.  I know the LORD is calling me to one.'
'Oh did you get that idea from Matt Chandler?'
Well, uh, no, I hadn't, but...I love Matt Chandler.  AND I had literally finished reading one of his books ('To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain') just a couple days prior.
'Matt Chandler took a sabbatical?  For how long?'
'Two months.'
Immediately I thought back to how my pastor had encouraged that I take a rest from certain social medias and had suggested a two-month time.  Well it didn't take me long to figure out that two months seemed to be what the LORD was calling me to do.

So on September 14, I began my sabbatical.  I am taking a rest from social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat) and secular music.  I am using the time that I had spent before on these earthly distractions to refocus on the LORD and my relationship with Him.  The last few months have been ridiculously distracting (I will be writing about why soon.  Pray for me as I try to find words to explain, though)...and I have wandered farther from Him than I ever thought I would.  It hurts me to say that.  But it's true.  God has missed me.  I have felt that so strongly.  And I have missed Him.  This space between us just isn't right.  And I am so thankful that He is willing to work on our relationship as much as more than I do.  

He is so faithful.


I have never done a sabbatical before so I'm learning a bunch of new things about 'how to'.  I know that each one is personal and each one has personal standards depending on the person needing to take this time of rest and refocus.  But I'd love to hear if any of you have taken/are taking one and what some of your ideas are for working on your relationship with the LORD free from distractions.  Comment below!


'I'm more than you dreamed
More than you understand
Your days and your times
Were destined for our dance
I catch all your tears
Burn your name on My heart
Be still and trust My plan
I'm more than you think I am.'
- song by Danny Gokey


Bible Color Coding | My Method

I posted a picture on Instagram recently that showed my color code chart while doing my daily devotions.  Since then, I've had a few inquirers asking about HOW I color code my Bible, if there's a specific method I use, what pens work best, etc.

I decided to write a post about it on my blog that would answer all the questions at one time.  Before I begin this though, I just want to clarify one thing.
Everyone is different.  Everyone studies the Bible differently.  And everyone will have a different color coding system.  My structure is my own.  All I hope to achieve in this post is showing you HOW I do it and hoping that this helps you in forming your own plan and system.

It's not about how you mark your Bible, though.  Remember that.  It's about how you allow the Bible to mark you.


[Suggested] Supplies:

  • a Bible
  • Pens
  • Highlighters
  • Post-it notes
  • 3x5" cards
  • a blank notebook
  • whatever else you want to add to it to make this method YOUR OWN;)


Why do you write in and mark your Bible?
For a few reasons.  Mainly these:
- It forces me to slow down and focus on specific passages.
- It makes studying His Word fun and interesting.
- It makes it easier for me to find specific verses when just flipping through looking for a certain one.
- Marking and journaling my Bible during my devotional time has truly helped and encouraged me.
Besides, I love colors and color coding my favorite book is beautiful:)

What Bible do you use?
Well my brother bought me R.C. Spiral's recently released ESV Reformed Study Bible for my birthday.  So that's the one I use this specific color code in.  My everyday, nightstand favorite is an NASB and I actually have a different color code for that one.  Similar, but not exactly the same.

**Some people are really nervous about marking brand new Bibles.  If this is the case with you, don't be afraid to just go buy on at a used bookstore and start color coding in there.  Just until you get the hang of it, you know?**

What is the best brand of pen that you'd suggest?
For color coding, I use Fashion Gel tip pens.  They are my absolute favorite.  They show clearly, the colors are vibrant and deep, and the ink dries quickly.
I would suggest getting Papermate pens for taking notes in your journal.

What colors do you use and what do each of them signify?
I wrote up a color code chart and drew little squares of color, then next to each square, I wrote what that specific color would signify in my Bible highlighting.  MAKE IT YOUR OWN!!

How does your method work?
I read.  I write what I learn.  I highlight according to my color code.  Pretty simple.
As far as deciding WHAT to read in my day to day devotions, in the above photo, you can see a Good Morning Girls Bible chart.  I just printed that from here and it's super fun to check off each chapter and see how much I've read.  I heartily suggest it.

What are some pros and cons that you've found while using your specific method?
I have made a couple mistakes when highlighting certain verses.  I should've marked it pink, but accidentally marked it red.  Or wanted to mark a specific passage with blue and yellow, but accidentally did green and yellow.  It happens, though!  Don't beat yourself up about it.

Why do you journal?
- It helps me retain what I learn and be able to look back and see what I felt the LORD was teaching me.
- It helps me to dig deeper and deeper into His Word.
- It's a form of worship to God through writing out specific Scriptures, observations, how it applies to me, prayers, etc.
- It encourages me to put the passion in my heart into a form of art on paper through praise, confession, repentance, and surrender.
- It's so awesome to look back and see how much I've grown, what I've improved in, and what God has taught me over the years.


Suggested articles and websites:
Gypsy Mama
Women Living Well
Radically Christian


I Will | A Letter To My Future Husband

Dear future husband,

I won't tell you every single second of every single day how much I love you.  I wish I could.  I wish I could promise you that.  But unfortunately, words only hold so much meaning, I won't always feel like loving you (cuz love is a choice, remember?), and I could tell you a million times and you still won't understand just how much I freaking love you.

But I can show you.

And here's how I will show you.

I may not always say 'I love you' but my actions will - through cooking your favorite meal, to giving you a massage when you get back from work, in writing little love notes and leaving them around the house for you to see.

I will make the bed everyday, I'll make you breakfast as early as I can, I'll get things for you when you're too tired to move, I'll nurse you when you're sick, and still kiss you even when you're contagious.

I will always try to remember to ask how your day was, and I promise that I will always listen to you recount the events at work.

I will never climb a mountain and shout about our love from its heights, but I will write down our stories, memories we've made, and I will promise to read those to you when you're old and grey and aren't too good at remembering details.

I'll always look at you and smile and still tell you that you're the handsomest, sexiest man alive, even when your hair isn't black anymore, your face is wrinkled from laughing at me so much, and your eyesight may not be superb either.

There probably won't be any famous movies or novels about our love story, but I'll always remember the moment we met, the way our eyes spoke to each other, and the way our hearts called out saying 'Oh there you are.  I've been looking for you...'

I will always love to hold your hand in the car.  I will never tire of you showing me affection in public.  Or calling me when you're with your friends, and bragging about how I'm your girl.  I will always love telling anyone who will listen about how blessed I am to have you and call you mine.

I will always try to take interest in the things that you love and that are important to you.

I promise to never walk away from you.  I promise to always apologize when I am wrong (even if it takes me a while to realize that I really was in the wrong).

I'll always be happy in the mornings because I get to wake up next to you.

I can't promise that I'll always say the words 'I love you', but when you look in my eyes, you will see that the love I have for you is something that three little words could never fully convey.


10 Tips For Guys [About Girls]

1)  Learn about her, study her, try to understand her
Newsflash: although you never fully will

2) Pursue her
This means toughing it out, guys.  Of course I'm not saying to stay with her when she emotionally and verbally abuses you.  But pursue her.  Once she agrees to be your girlfriend it doesn't mean she's yours, end of story.  She's THE girl you need to dedicate and commit to.  Pursue her.  If you got her flowers and chocolates before you were dating (to see if she'd even notice you), get her flowers and chocolates WHILE dating.  Nothing should stop.  In fact, it should increase.

3) If a girl pushes you away at one of the first signs of affection you show her, be patient.  
It's a girl's natural defense to be suspicious of kindness because of how we've been treated by some guys, and we know that most guys want more than just a friendship.
I know it's not fair.  I know it's not your fault.  I know you aren't like those other guys.  But a good man can prove this by helping her heal and learn to trust again.  Again: be patient.  I promise it will pay off.

4)  Give her space.  
If you don't, she will ask for it.  And when she does, it doesn't mean she doesn't like you anymore, doesn't want you anymore.  She simply wants space.  Give it to her.  It's extremely important in a relationship.  Why?  Because sometimes it's when you're without the person you love that you realize just how much you love them.  And also, you're not ALWAYS going to get along.  And when this is the case, it means you need to retract a little and study from a distance.
If she's being short (or shorter than usual) in texts, ask her ONCE if she's upset with you.  If she says no, ask if there's anything you can do.  If she says no, LEAVE HER ALONE.  That's all you can do.  If she expects more, it's on her.  SHE needs to communicate.

5)  We know when you are or aren't paying attention to us.  
If she asks, 'are you listening?', it's because she thinks you aren't.  Stop whatever you're doing and pay attention.  Oh and when you're on the phone with us, we know whether you're whispering to someone else or on your computer or watching a movie.  Even if you're pretending you aren't.

6) She has a lot of guy friends...so what?
But wait, she chose you.  And if you don't trust her, you shouldn't be with her.  A healthy relationship requires trust between the two individuals.  She could talk to as many guys as she wants (guys are human, right? just like you.....) but you can trust that she loves you and only you.  End of story.

7)  If she suddenly stops talking to you...
It's probably because you said or did something that made her realize you want more than a relationship.  I had a random Instagram follower message me on Facebook one time.  He was full of compliments for me and then asked 'Do you want to be friends?'  I'm sorry...WHAT?   Who asks that?  Kids in second grade.  He kept nagging me, asking me if/when we could hang out, what kind of flowers I liked, etc.  Just no.  Chill.  

8)  She doesn't need you.
She is her own person.  She has her own life.  She doesn't need you.  If she chooses to be with you, it's because that's a decision she made on her own.  She looked at her life, loved it, and decided that she wants you to be a part of it.  She doesn't need you to complete or fulfill her.  She's complete on her own.  And she knows it.

9) If you're not feeling it, end it.
Seriously, I can't stress this enough.  If you're with a girl but you're just not sure about moving further in your relationship, call it off NOW.  The sooner, the better.  It'll hurt her, but it'll hurt less now than later.  Save her MORE heartache by saying goodbye sooner.

10)  If she likes you, you'll know.
She's the one who'll try for you.  She'll go the extra mile.  She'll be patient.  She'll put in an effort.  You pursue her, she encourages you to keep pursuing her.  She won't ask you to be more than you can be, but she will have high standards and challenge you to be a better version of YOU.  But even then, she'll love you just for who you are.

Guys, just know that the right girl will love you with a love that doesn't ask to be returned, but she trusts that you love her the same.  Her love will not demand, will not beg, will not be jealous, will rejoice in the truth.  Date the girl who wants you with a passion.  Date the girl who does not need you but wants to love you the way only she can.  And it'll be the kind of love that, I promise, is well worth waiting for.


Everyday Blessings // 37

>> being blessed with a new job (am I a northwest hipster yet?  Writer + barista;)
>> tips
>> 3-hour coffee date with a friend
>> new leggings
>> hosting giveaways (seriously. keep an eye on my Instagram: @itsjustraquel )
>> plaid flannel [men's] shirts
>> new jeans
>> shopping spree with two girl friends
>> impromptu frozen yogurt evening with the family
>> bull-riding rodeo
>> being welcomed at a new church
>> mane 'n tail shampoo (yes, I use this for my hair. best ever.)
>> attending a wedding of a former coworker and getting all dressed up
>> beach trips
>> saving up money for Peru
>> bouquets of flowers and Trader Joe's chocolate from my sweet guy
>> possible road trip around the U.S. plans...
>> just living
>> this shirt:


True Love Is Not Blind

True love is not blind.  It can see most clearly, for to truly love is to see and know and be aware of a person’s flaws - however great or small - and still choose to love them.

True love is indescribable.    

But if I could try painting pictures of it, it'd be something like this...

True love is not only loyal, it's respectful.

True love is thinking of more ways to love them and not even minding if the love is reciprocated or not. 

True love is compromising on things that you never thought you would.

True love is being happy when they are happy simply because their smile brings you more joy than being happy yourself.

True love is a sense of peace that you get at just the thought of them.

True love is asking yourself 'Do I really love this person?' in the middle of a fight with them...and saying 'Yes' every time.

True love is not about making the person a better human being, but challenging them to be a better version of themselves.

True love is being the utmost vulnerable because you know you will still be accepted unconditionally.

True love is when he is all sweaty and smelly from working hard but you love to hug and kiss him anyway.

True love is when she broke out really bad, is on her period, and acting very grumpy, but you think she's still the most gorgeous human being ever.  And you drive to the store at midnight just to get her some chocolate and flowers.

True love is sticking by that person's side even when it gets hard - and it always will.

True love is walking beside them during difficult times in their life.  And being willing to carry them during the most painful times in their life.

True love is not being ashamed to talk about your newfound person all the time, to anyone who will listen.

True love is remembering the details - rather big or small.  It's about remembering the location of the first date, what she was wearing, how his hair was styled, what she ate, what he drank, the first time you called him 'babe', the first time you kissed her.

True love can seem invisible some days.  Especially those days when you're at odds with your significant other.  They continue doing things that annoy you to no end.  They don't seem to change.  They don't seem to care.  But true love is trusting...and knowing that what they've told you is true.  They love you too.

True love isn't about being monumental.  Words don't mean much when it comes to love.  But love can be summed up pretty well in just being content in the pure assurance of knowing that they are yours.


“I don’t think love is blind.  True love is probably the most clear-eyed state of being there is.  Maybe you’re right.  Maybe with true love, you see and you love anyway…”
- Marisa de los Santos, Love Walked In