An overdue announcement  

Posted by Rachel

So, the way overdue announcement is that I'm engaged, but I assume any of you reading this probably already know that. And actually, at this point, Nick and I have been engaged almost 3 full months, and we only have three more to go before our wedding on March 26, 2011! BUT, I meant to post the story of how Nick actually proposed on the blog here and I kept forgetting. Well, actually, clearly I forgot to post a lot of things on here since my last post was about the SUMMER. Oops.

So, without further ado, here is our engagement story:

Nick had gone home for a couple of weeks in September, and so on Monday evening, September 27, I was supposed to be joining him for a Wolverton family vacation in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We were scheduled to have a day together on Tuesday before joining up with the fam that evening in the U.P., though I didn't know the "mystery"plans for the day. After hours of delayed flights on Monday evening, I finally got into Flint, MI at 2am (almost had to be delayed until the next day, which would have caused Nick GREAT problems) EARLY Tuesday morning. By 8:45am though, Nick and I were on the road to our “mystery” date that he had planned to celebrate our one year anniversary (just a little bit late). By the time I finally knew where we were going, we were buying our tickets to the Mackinac Island ferry in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We rode the 1:30pm ferry to the island and since there are no motor vehicles on the island, we promptly rented a tandem bike to ride together to explore.

After one full 8 mile loop of the island, we bought some fudge and then headed back to this certain spot that Nick really wanted to re-visit. It was some large rocks all along the shoreline of the lake in a spot that also had some beach area. Out of his rather full backpack (which I had questioned him about multiple times all day), he pulled a blanket, and spread it out on one of the flat rocks.

Once we got situated, he pulled out a present he said he had made me for our one year anniversary. I untied the ribbon from the box to find three separate pieces inside – labeled Part 1, 2, and 3.

Part 1 was for the past. It was a mostly empty mason jar of mustard seeds and in the attached note he spoke of how he had placed a mustard seed in it for every day that we had been dating (377). He also had written out two scriptures (Matt 13:31-32, Matt 17:20) about the concept of faith as big as a mustard seed.

Part 2 was for the present. It was a small hand towel. In the attached note, he spoke of sacrifice and service and the parallel of how a husband should love his wife as Christ loved the church. He then shared John 13:4-5, 14-17 and wrote that he wanted to love and serve me daily. He then pulled a bowl out of his backpack, filled it with water from the lake, added some hot water from a thermos he’d brought along, and washed my feet while talking about servanthood and how he wants to love me in that way daily.

Part 3 (a) was for the future, and the note was tied around a full jar of mustard seeds. His note talked about 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 and how love was all we needed. Then he said that since he hadn’t put the mustard seed in the jar yet for that day, he’d like us to do that together. Before we could pack everything up, he said that there was still a 3b section, and proceeded to fish in the mustard seed jar until he pulled on a little tab of paper that was tied to my RING. Then he got on one knee (kinda… we were on a rock and I was sitting) and asked me to marry him. Duh, I said yes! Then he sealed it with a kiss, which was monumental since that was the first time he had ever kissed me. Then we went to dinner at the Woods, a cute little Bavarian style wilderness lodge that had really yummy food. After dinner, we took a horse drawn carriage back to the ferry dock to catch the last ferry off the island.

When we got back to the car, I thought all surprises were over until I found in my seat a huge pile of letters from all of our closest friends and family. Because so much of Nick and I’s budding friendship had been through emails, we began to jokingly refer to each other as pen pals, so he thought letters were suited well to our relationship, and asked a lot of people to send letters to us so we could read them together. Perfect ending to a perfect day.

Even better was the fact that we then went on to spend about 4 uninteruppted days in the U.P. with NO cell phone service and barely any internet. Made it hard to fill people in on the big news, but kinda nice to be forced off the radar. That week, one of my "assignments" was to write this story down (this version and a longer version, which I've spared you from) so we would have it to keep for years to come. And to share with lovely people like you.

So that's that. We are in the thick of wedding plans, though currently, there is a bit of a lull which is nice for the holidays. I am loving it. We are getting married on March 26 in Titusville, Florida. From there, who knows... =)


Summer has arrived!  

Posted by Rachel in , , , , , ,

This weekend was filled with Robin Hood, throwing a bridal shower for Kimberly (roomie picture to the left), two birthday parties - one for Mom/Dad and one for Jaclyn, church, introducing Ni and Zhenkai to pancakes and a few other things thrown in (a couple of good workouts, sleep, cleaning, etc). And I know that THIS weekend is over, but when a friend asked me what I did LAST weekend, her response was, "That sounds like the ultimate summer weekend!" I hadn't really thought about it, but it's kinda true!

What do you think? Here's the run-down of last weekend:

Clearwater Beach condo with 12 girlfriends Friday evening and all day Saturday (I mean, we can take out the part where I got super dehydrated and kinda blacked out and ran into a table...)
Outdoor concert/festival Saturday evening with the girls featuring Lonestar and Martina McBride in St. Pete right on the water

2 hour road trip home with lots of sing along music, Jaclyn, and Brandi Michelle

Sunday evening was the book-end, spent grilling up a FANTASTIC meal with Nick, David and Laura

And by a fantastic meal, I mean a FANTASTIC meal.
Goat cheese turkey burgers with an apricot glaze from my new favorite blog find, Iowa Girl Eats
Grilled sweet potatoes with lime and cilantro
Grilled corn on the cob with garlic butter, lime and cheese
And, for dessert, grilled fruit with nutella and marscapone topping

What a summer weekend! What about yours? Are you enjoying the summer weather?


Memorial Day weekend in Texas  

Posted by Rachel

After just seeing the MAXI ladies for a weekend at Lake Oconee in early April (picture to the left - oops, never blogged about that), I got to visit Texas for Memorial Day weekend and see a couple of them again! I wanted to take Nick and introduce him not only to the great friends I have in Longview, but also to the great state that I love so much. The weekend was full of tours of LeTourneau, cruising Longview, cuddling with Emily, back scratches with Lolly, playing games, eating at my favorite restaurants, enjoying the backroads of Texas, LAUGHTER, spending time on the lake, and more. Clearly, it was a GREAT weekend.

We started out by spending some time with Crystal and Kenny around Dallas. We went to Central Market (YUM! Free samples!) and Half Price Books. I've decided that Florida should get those stores.

Emily and Lauren got there to pick us up and we joined Benny, Andy, and Tim at Campania Pizza, which was delicious. Topped it off with a *free* cupcake from Dimples - yum yum. Plus, who doesn't love free?? What was not so pleasant was the 2 hour drive back to Longview that became a 3.5 hour drive because of a wreck, and caused us to get home at 2:30am.

Saturday morning was not the time for slowing down though, so by 8:45, Nick and I were at Chad and Sherene's to spend time with that sweet sweet family that I love so much. Then we went STRAIGHT to cook out with Brenda, Robert, Ryan and Samantha. I love the back woods of Texas, and Robert lives a BIT out of town. Good to reunite with my bookstore family, too.

We might have been exhausted, but then we went to spend time with Em, Ben, Lolly and Kyle (and Boo stopped by too) for the rest of the afternoon/evening. Longview Bingo Hall was probably a bit annoyed by how loud we were, but we had a great time laughing at the things that go on at the Bingo Hall on Saturday night. Oh the fun to be had in Longview...endless possibilities.

Sunday morning, we headed to Macedonia Baptist for my first visit since graduating college, I think! It was good to walk in and still feel at home and as if I know so many people still there. Then, lunch at Papacita's (of course) before heading out to Caddo Lake for kayaking/canoeing and grilling out with Lolly, Em, Ben, Chase, Jason, Natalie and Jamin. So relaxing and beautiful outside. We took it easy that evening, playing games at the apartment.

Benny cooked breakfast on Monday morning, and then we just hung around until time to meet with Lolly and her parents for lunch at Bodacious before heading to Dallas to catch our flight.

It was sooo good to see everyone again, athough it is always a little hard to leave them all behind everytime I have to fly back to Florida. I know that was a season of life, and I'm totally happy in my current season too, but sometimes I just wish the two could coincide more often. I guess I just have to learn to enjoy what times that I do get to make the two intersect, and Memorial Day weekend was a perfect little getaway.

Until next time, Longview!


Filipino cooking  

Posted by Rachel

I made time to do some ethnic cooking this weekend, and was NOT disappointed. My lovely roommate, Kimberly, got me a pressure cooker for my birthday in March. I have used it to make some delicious parmesan risotto a few weeks back, and decided to bust it out again Sunday afternoon to cook lunch for Nick, Bekah, Nick and I. I chose to cook up some Chicken Adobo, a Filipino dish that is also popular in Spain, Latin America and other Asian Pacific places. Accompanied by simple jasmine rice and broccoli, this dish was delish! We all cleaned our plates.

Here's the recipe:

8 or 9 chicken thighs (I used skinless bone-in thighs, simply because I couldn’t find any without the bone, but we de-boned them before cooking. I would HIGHLY recommend boneless thighs if you can find them, but I wouldn’t substitute chicken breasts because the dark meat of the thighs works with the dish much better)
2 cups water
2 cups low sodium soy sauce (WOW, you MUST use the low sodium or you might experience salt overload)
1 large onion (cut into rings)
8 garlic cloves (chopped up)
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons cooking sherry
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon olive oil

In pressure cooker, combine water, soy sauce, onion, garlic, bay leaves, sherry wine, black pepper and molasses. Place cooker over medium high heat with lid off so the liquid can start to heat up.

In a separate pan, heat olive oil over medium to medium high heat. Brown the chicken thighs on both sides. Once browned, add directly to the liquid in the pressure cooker. Stir a bit to get the chicken thighs down into the liquid.

Place lid on pressure cooker and bring heat up to high. Once the pressure cooker valve starts whistling and rocking around, drop the heat to medium high and set the timer for 25 minutes.

Use this time to cook some jasmine rice. Make as much as you like and simply follow the directions on the bag. When the rice is done, remove it from the burner so the bottom doesn't burn and get hard.

Once the 25 minutes are up, remove the pressure cooker from the heat and run cold water over it to release the pressure and open the cooker. Remove the bay leaves. Serve chicken and sauce over jasmine rice.



Mother's Day, a little late  

Posted by Rachel in , , , , , ,

Mother's Day was a little bit ago, I know. BUT, I am consistent in being an inconsistent blogger. That's just how it is, I suppose.

Anyways, I decided to cook my mom lunch for mother's day, and must say that the recipes turned out to be a GREAT mix together.

I tried a new chicken dish, which I also did for a wedding shower I helped host Saturday night of this past weekend, though it was slightly adjusted for the wedding shower. Basically, I took this recipe and adjusted it a bit. Instead of goat cheese, I used cream cheese - partially because I couldn't find the goat cheese at the grocery store where I was and I refused to go to another, but also because in planning to use the recipe again to feed 25+ people at a shower, I thought a trial run with the *cheaper* cream cheese wouldn't be a bad idea. Also, for the shower, I used basil pesto because I didn't have the sun dried tomato pesto on Saturday. And it turned out fine, though the red color of the sun dried tomato looked a little better than the bright green basil pesto in the chicken. =)

So next, I made these sweet potatoes. YUM with the maple syrup. Perfect addition to the chicken. I found that they didn't need a whole lot of half/half or milk, but did add a VERY small amount of milk at the end.

To add some green to the plate - didn't your mom teach you that? - I made this asparagus recipe, and wow, it was one of my favorite ways I've eaten asparagus. I'd be interested to see what it would taste like steamed first, then skillet-ed in a LOT LESS oil/butter to be a little healthier. But it was definitely tasty just following the recipe.

For dessert (the most important part, of course), I made a flourless chocolate cake, which happened to be from my Healthy Cooking magazine. So it's healthy(er) and that makes me happy.

So, if you were trying to think of a plan for a slightly "nicer" dinner, this is a good one, and it isn't too very difficult. Including making a dessert and cooking time for everything, it was about 2 hours from the time that I started to when we were sitting down on to eat. And for the record - I think mom liked it. =)

Here's the recipe for the chicken typed out, since I adapted that recipe just a little:
Baked Chicken Stuffed with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto, Basil, and CREAM Cheese
(6 servings)

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2 cup 100% whole wheat pastry flour
3 eggs, beaten well
2/3 cup 100% whole wheat bread crumbs
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
6 oz. cream cheese (I used the 1/3 less fat kind)
6 oz. Sun-dried tomato pesto
1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped (I didn't worry about chopping this extremely fine, and didn't really measure it - I just bought one package and used all of it)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Trim all visible fat and tendons from chicken breasts. Put chicken breasts, one at a time, inside a heavy plastic plastic freezer bag and pound with meat mallet or other heavy object until 1/4 inch thick.

Put pesto, cream cheese, and chopped basil in food processor and buzz a few times until mixture is combined but not completely blended. Spread 1/6 of pesto/basil/cheese mixture on each chicken breast. Roll up chicken, starting with smallest end, tucking in loose pieces and securing with two toothpicks. (Note: this part was pretty messy for me, as the mixture kept oozing out the sides. I adjusted how I was doing it as I went along, putting a little less on the chicken, or trying to keep it in the middle of the meat, but it was still messy enough.)

Put flour, beaten egg, and bread crumbs combined with parmesan cheese into three separate flat dishes. Roll each chicken breast, first in flour, then in egg, then in bread crumb/parmesan mixture. (Another note: this doesn't "roll" quite as easy as it sounds necessarily, but the crunchy addition of the chicken baked with the parm/bread mixture is worth it. Sometimes I put fresh whole wheat bread in my food processor and make my own fine bread crumbs and that works great.)

Spray glass casserole dish with nonstick spray and arrange chicken so pieces are not touching. Bake at 350 F for about 50-60 minutes, or until chicken is slightly browned and firm, but not hard to the touch. I recommend you start checking it after 40 minutes, and remove from oven as soon as the chicken feels firm and is slightly browned.



Red beans and rice... caribbean style  

Posted by Rachel in

I was really craving red beans and rice the other day... odd.

So I decided to make a bunch to have for lunches this week (I am cheap and rarely eat lunches out). I found a recipe for Caribbean red beans and brown rice on the Mayo Clinic's recipe list. I actually find their recipes to be pretty good, and they are always healthier, which I love, so I was excited they had just what I was looking for.

This is the real deal recipe, using dried beans soaked overnight, not the canned stuff. Sometimes I cheat on that step, but not this time around, and I like the outcome! They did suggest using various varieties of brown rice for a more "dirty rice" feel, but I didn't do follow that little instruction.

My only hesitation on the recipe is the addition of the allspice and cloves. They are a little overpowering in flavor, so in the future, I would not include as much of them - possibly cutting the measurements from a 1/2 tsp to an 1/8 tsp of each.

Other than that - super tasty - if you like red beans and rice. Enjoy!

Caribbean Red Beans and Brown Rice (Mayo clinic)


    1 1/2 cups dried small red or kidney beans, picked over and rinsed, soaked overnight, and drained
    6 1/2 cups water
    3 bay leaves
    1 1/4 cups assorted brown rices, rinsed and drained
    3 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
    1 1/4 teaspoons salt
    1 yellow onion, chopped
    1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
    1 celery stalk, chopped
    4 cloves garlic, minced
    1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
    1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
    1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1 cup vegetable stock or broth
    1 tomato, cored and diced
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
    1 teaspoon hot-pepper sauce
    3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (fresh coriander)


In a large saucepan over high heat, combine the beans, 4 cups of the water and the bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover partially and simmer until the beans are tender, 60 to 70 minutes. Drain and discard the bay leaves.

While the beans are cooking, combine the rices, 1 tablespoon of the oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and the remaining 2 1/2 cups water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.

In a large saucepan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and celery; saute until the vegetables are softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until softened, about 1 minute. Add the allspice, cloves, cayenne, the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and the black pepper. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in the cooked beans, the vegetable stock, tomato, thyme and hot-pepper sauce. Cook until the vegetable mixture is heated through, 6 to 8 minutes. Divide the rice among warmed individual bowls. Top each serving with beans and sprinkle with the cilantro.


A new direction  

Posted by Rachel

I have realized I am really horrible about blogging about my normal, everyday life. Perhaps this is because I don't feel that I have anything to report, or really, it is probably much more likely that the things that I do have to report are on a more personal nature, and I'm not sure the whole blogosphere (I think I have always wanted to use that word in a sentence) needs to know.

Either way, I have decided that the one thing I can blog about and enjoy immensely, is cooking and baking. So, the format of the blog may change slightly to mostly report of the food I've been cooking, the sweet treats I've been baking, then the recipes (good and bad) that I can then report on. I have so many friends who request this sort of information from my constantly, so I've decided to give in. Also, a while back, Nick and I decided to cook ethnically (trying new and exciting recipes) as much as possible, so those recipes may show up here as well, and since we've done this about three times since that decision, I may have some catching up to do.

For now though... dinner last night. Mark came over since he recently moved to Oviedo, so we had a little Italian themed dinner party.

Main dish: Italian meatloaf in the crock pot (recipe here). I followed the comments on the recipe and crumpled up foil under the meatloaf to let the fat cook off and not saturate the meat. The only problem was that the meat turned out a little dry. Nothing that couldn't be fixed with some extra spaghetti sauce, but still... not the best ever. BUT, I figure it was a whole lot healthier, so I'm ok with that.

Side dish 1: Risotto (recipe here)! I had yet to use my new pressure cooker, so I decided to find a recipe so that I could remedy that. Granted, the pressure cooker is a little, um, scary as it bangs around and shoots steam out for 10 minutes straight, but the final product was delish.

Side dish 2: Broccoli. Simple - steamed in my little electronic steamer.

And then of course, the classic Italian dessert of tiramisu, which I actually had never made before. Again, a HIT of a recipe - one I'll keep to use again, though I will say that my egg whites almost didn't set up right. I think the 160 degrees in the sauce pan is pretty important, so next time, I might opt towards using my candy thermometer, which I didn't do this time. So, not the simplest recipe, but definitely delish. And pretty light on the coffee flavor actually. Nick who doesn't like coffee (what a weirdo!) even liked it. Bekah on the other hand? Not so much. I got the recipe from, and it was a subscriber only recipe, so I'll post it below. (Sidenote: it was delish AND a low fat recipe.)

Sensational Tiramisu


  • 1 package (8 ounces) reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups reduced-fat whipped topping, divided
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 packages (3 ounces each) ladyfingers, split
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking cocoa


  • In a small bowl, beat cream cheese and confectioners' sugar until smooth. Fold in 1 cup whipped topping; set aside.
  • Combine 1/2 cup sugar, egg whites and water in a small heavy saucepan over low heat. With a hand mixer, beat on low speed for 1 minute. Continue beating on low over low heat until mixture reaches 160°, about 8-10 minutes. Pour into a large bowl. Beat on high until stiff peaks form, about 7 minutes. Fold into cream cheese mixture.
  • Arrange half of ladyfingers in an ungreased 11-in. x 7-in. dish. Combine the boiling water, coffee liqueur, coffee granules and remaining sugar; brush half of mixture over ladyfingers. Top with half of cream cheese mixture. Repeat layers. Spread remaining whipped topping over the top; sprinkle with cocoa. Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. Yield: 12 servings.
So, that was dinner last night. Yum! And it was really great to spend some time with Mark and others as well. Welcome to the area, Mark!


Birthday week  

Posted by Rachel

I decided to celebrate my birthday for a whole week this year. Well I guess I didn't really "decide" so much as it just happened.

Starting on Sunday the 7th in Laguna Beach, CA, I got to hang out with my cousins Sean and Tyson, as well as Erin, Megan, Jess and Matt. We played beach volleyball and then ate dinner at Mosun Sushi, the best sushi place ever. Then in celebration of Matt and I's birthdays (on the same day), we went to BJs for a pizookie platter. Yum!

Fast forward to my actual birthday on Wednesday the 10th... I went on a walk with the roommates to start the day and they said they were going to cook me breakfast after that. Well when we got done with our walk and came home, Dustin and Nick were sitting on the couch and breakfast was in the oven. Surprise!

Next up...the flowers that showed up on my desk when I was away for a minute, and then Lauren and Erin Welch surprising me by dropping by my desk with a present, including yummy baked goodness... Both made my birthday fin and exciting. And lunch out with Bek!

That evening, Bekah, Ryan, Nick and I headed to Eustis for family dinner in honor of my birthday and our cousin Zac's too.

Friday night was birthday date night at Seasons 52, another lovely surprise, followed by a drop in at Cara's surprise party.

Saturday, I spent the morning/early afternoon at Animal Kingdom w/ friends and then went home to get ready for the play that my roommates and I were going to with Jaclyn that night. At the last minute, Jaclyn needed a ride b/c her car broke down, so we went to pick her up only to find 25 of my closest friends hiding in her living room waiting to yell surprise. There was never a play and Jaclyn's car was just fine, I just have a great boyfriend and friends that planned a fun surprise "breakfast for dinner" party for me that make me feel so loved and appreciated.

And that isn't all! Sunday I flew to Dallas and got to spend time with Emily, Lauren, Ben, Andy and Jamin in the afternoon followed by another sushi birthday dinner with Tim, Crystal, Jess, Lauren and Emily - complete with fun presents from the Maxi and all!

I am one blessed girl. What a great week!

- Posted using BlogPress on my phone


Posted by Rachel

My birthday was on Wednesday. I’m now officially a quarter of a century… I know, a baby to most of you. In titling this post, I realized I disagree with how we talk about birthdays. At this point, I have actually already lived 25 years. When I turned ONE, I had been alive for one year, so in turning 25, I have already been alive for 25 years. Whatever, that isn’t how we seem to talk about things, so I guess this is a reflection of my “24th year.” At breakfast the morning of my birthday, my roommate Jillian asked me about the highlights of my 24th year, and though it was kind of a tough question, I enjoyed the reflection, so I thought I’d fill you in.

My favorite moments of my 24th year…

  • Ben and Emily’s wedding in Texas – March 2009
  • Dallas with the Orlando roommates to visit Crystal and Tim – May 2009 (good trip…lots of “learning about me” involved)
  • Chicago trip for Steve’s graduation – May 2009
  • Lauren visiting me in Orlando! – May 2009
  • The year of the broken septic tank in North Carolina – July 2009
  • Cake decorating classes – Spring/Summer 2009
  • West coast trip with Dustin for work – July 2009
  • Beach with my family (PLUS significant emotional processing for me at this time…) – August 2009
  • Starting a new job! Wow…this was a learning process and still is! – August 24, 2009
  • Andrew and Tiffany’s wedding w/ the fam in Philadelphia – August 2009
  • Started taking guitar lessons – something I’d been wanting to do for a while – September 2009
  • Gator football season opening game with the roommates, Bekah and Ryan. Think I laughed my butt off that day – September 5, 2009
  • September 8
  • September 10
  • To quote HSM, “The start of something new…” First date – September 15
  • Though sad for my old House Church to be ending, starting a new small group has been GREAT too – September 2009
  • Bekah and I visiting Charis and Pete in San Fran! I love new cities! – October 2009
  • Muse/U2 concert – October 2009
  • Moody Radio campaign at work…lots of work and HUGE success (including trips to Panama, Peru and Spokane) – October-November 2009
  • Thanksgiving at the Tidwells… though a really emotionally tough week, still a marking point in my 24th year and I do love Thanksgiving holidays so much – November 2009
  • HALF MARATHON! – December 2009
  • Urbana – good work stuff and personal stuff – December 2009
  • Visiting Kanoe in Tucson – January 2010
  • California – March 2010

Now the funny thing is that Jillian actually asked me for the top three highlights. Clearly I am not (and never have been) good at picking highlights or favorites, though if you know me, I will ALWAYS ask you to do that. So, I’ll do my best to narrow it down to five highlights (in no particular order) – how’s that, Jill?? And I will tell you why each thing made the top five list.

Chicago, May 2009 – This made the list because of the fact that I spent time with most of my closest friends from college in a GREAT city, with GREAT weather while we were there. It was fun and more adventurous than things we had done together before.

I’m entitling this one “Learning new skills” and cake decorating and guitar lessons fall in this category.

Starting a new job, August 2009. I wasn’t too sure about the idea when it was first brought to my attention… I thought – Why apply for a new job within the same organization? What’s the point? Well, I felt like it was something I should do, so I pursued the option, got the job, and have grown quite a bit as a result and while having some really great experiences.

First date with Nick on September 15. Though his presence in my life has turned “normal” upside-down, which hasn’t always been fun and easy to accept… it has been totally worth it and this day marked a huge change (for the good) in

Half marathon, December 2009. This makes the list because I like each year of my life to be marked by a fitness goal. In my 23rd year, I completed my first sprint triathlon, so in my 24th, I did my first half-marathon. This year? Working towards another (LONGER) triathlon.


Urbana recap  

Posted by Rachel

From December 26 through January 1, I was in St. Louis (actually, I flew in the night of the 25th – it was weird to travel on Christmas day!) for the Urbana conference. Urbana is a student missions conference hosted every three years by Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, and Wycliffe had a large (and AWESOME) booth in the global expo center, as well as a few seminars that were hosted by various members of our team.

It was a good week… for a lot of reasons, and many of those were personal in nature. Prior to going, I wasn’t sure what to expect since it was work, yet also an opportunity to attend a great conference. But once I arrived, I very clearly felt the Lord telling me that it wasn’t about “expecting” anything or worrying about any specific outcomes. Rather, I very clearly felt God just tell me to focus on Him, which, go figure, turned out to be a really great thing.

My main job for the week was to work our booth during certain shifts, as well being available to stop to talk, answer questions, etc. for anyone I may run into that saw my Wycliffe shirt. I also did “help out” (more “attended”) at the Communications Arts in Global Missions seminar that our fearless leader Ruth put together and led.

So, since I was basically just supposed to be engaging with students and talking to people, I thought I’d spend a minute reflecting back on some of my more memorable conversations and experiences.

  • Talking to Jono at our booth. Instead of typing out a new version of this story, you can read about my encounter here on the Wycliffe USA blog.
  • The girl at Starbucks. I believe her name was Marissa, but one can’t be toooo sure about that. Anyways, I was waiting to meet Jillian (my Orlando roomie and I meeting for coffee in St. Louis might have been the most time we’d spent together in weeks!), reading or something, and the girl next to me noticed my shirt and proceeded to ask me if I worked for Wycliffe. Turns out this girl is an artist – interested in graphic design and other forms of art as well. She had TONS of questions for me about how marketing, art and design can be used in missions, and was so excited that I was able to answer many of those questions from firsthand experience. So Marissa (?) and I talked for close to 30 minutes, and I was overjoyed to see her face light up as she learned about how marketing and ministry can go hand in hand. It was a really sweet moment to be able to pray together before she had to go.
  • The line for dinner the first night was RIDICULOUSLY long. So, as my cousins (Charissa and Pete) and I were making our way through line, I again had someone notice my shirt and stop me to talk. This girl's boyfriend pointed my shirt out to her, saying, “Hey, look, she’s with Wycliffe!” Apparently allll day long people kept pointing her to our booth, but she had yet to make it over for a visit. The reason for all those referrals? She is PASSIONATE about linguistics and languages. What a gift to have – and a perfect fit for Wycliffe! So, again, as a result of simply wearing my shirt and walking around, I was able to have a very significant conversation with someone who was extremely interested in our work – in a place I was not expecting that to happen. I mean, Ruth told us if we wore our shirts, we needed to consider ourselves “ON” but I just didn’t know how true that would be!
  • Not everyone that came to the booth was a future Wycliffe-ite. Some of them were simply meant to be Bibleless People Prayer Project (BPPP) partners, and one of my favorite conversations at the booth was with someone just like that – a kid named Adam. Adam is passionate about the ideas of urban ministry in LA and has plans to move there soon. He has a plan that he feels the Lord has called him to, and I was able to rejoice in that with him, even though it isn’t “with Wycliffe”…we just want him to be where God wants him! So, he and I still had a great conversation about prayer, and before he left, he joined our BPPP list and was really jazzed about the idea. Just in the other times during the week that I was at the booth (not counting times I wasn’t there), I saw Adam bring at least 4 or 5 other friends back to the booth to get them signed up to pray for a people group as well.
  • After the communications arts seminar, which happened to be on the last day of the conference in the very last seminar time slot of the day, I had a girl tell me that she felt like God had spoken so clearly through my colleagues who shared. She expressed that for the first time in her life, she was able to clearly see how God could and WOULD use her gifts in graphic design to further His global mission. She had never had someone explain that possibility before, and had been trying to figure out where she could be used by God. Man, do I get excited when people that are passionate about art and marketing finally see the connection between those passions and God’s heart. LOVE IT. Do I believe that you HAVE to be working for a ministry or mission of some kind do be using marketing or design or the arts for His glory? Absolutely not. But, I do want to be sure people realize that God can use ANY of our passions and gifts for missions or ministry IF that is where we feel called.
  • One girl named Katherine came by the booth repeatedly and the phrase she kept saying that stuck with me was “It always comes back to Wycliffe for me. It’s always been Wycliffe.” She still doesn’t know where she’s supposed to go or what she is supposed to do after college, but I do believe that if she continues to flesh out the idea of “It always being Wycliffe,” I may not have seen the last of her.

After graduating college and realizing that it is not exactly the purely euphoric experience that it is cracked up to be, I have become pretty passionate about helping students process through what God may be calling them to in life after college, while being honest about the difficulties that come with that process. It isn’t always easy, but our God is always faithful to provide.

Just today, I wrote a few cards to students that visited our booth to let them know they were being prayed for, and the verse that came to mind to share was one that meant a lot to me during my senior year of college, Colossians 1:9-10: “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…”

Still applicable today.


PS - Visit to see photos!