Faith

Steve's Light, No Fireworks

It was a day just like today. The air was thick with humidity, the sun shinning brightly. Families and friends were making their preparations for picnics, and cookouts, and trips to the beach.

It was summer 2012. I had just graduated from Hampton University and was back home in Maryland. It was the perfect weather to go swimming with friends before the fireworks that evening. I was on my way to do just that when I found myself in traffic heading south on Route 50. I pulled out my phone and went to Twitter, because that’s what you did when no cars were moving on the highway. I probably should have left sooner to beat the holiday traffic.

I saw on Twitter that Steve was in the hospital and he wasn’t doing well. I texted my friend whose tweet I had read to see what exactly was going on. Without a second thought as to the plans I had made for the day, once the cars started moving, I got off on the next exit to turn around and head north towards Baltimore.

The first time I met Steve he walked into our high school youth group lugging an oxygen tank. He had inherited a lung disease from his father. I didn’t know then the impact his light and life would have on mine, the impact we would have on each other’s lives.

I reached the hospital as fast as I could. Wearing shorts and my bathing suit, I was thankful that I always kept a spare hoodie in my trunk. When I entered the waiting room, I found a seat among Steve’s family, friends, and church family. We did a lot of sitting that day, and waiting, and praying. Although the air conditioning caused my bare legs to shiver, there was nowhere else I would have rather been.

After a while, Steve’s brother Jordan took me in to see him. Steve had been placed on life support because his lungs just couldn’t breathe for him anymore. He looked… different, not the animated person I knew, but he was still Steve. Jordan spoke to him on behalf of both of us and although unresponsive, we knew that he could hear Jordan’s voice. I couldn’t say a word. Why hadn’t I come here to see Steve earlier?

When Steve came to our youth group, he came as another one of our leaders. Over time the oxygen tank stopped tagging along and he was healthier than ever. Eventually he became a youth pastor and he was one of the best. Steve made the Word of God come alive to a bunch of high schoolers and showed us how Scripture applied to our everyday lives. He showed us how you could be intelligent, athletic, kind, funny, generous, young and a Christian. That the idea of Christians being boring didn’t exist. Jesus wasn’t boring (see the Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). We could still love Jesus with all our heart, soul, and mind, and be cool without compromising our character. That being a Christian, a follower of Christ, was all about our relationship with Jesus the Son of God and not about religious activity. He lived his life as an example of true freedom in Christ.

To me, Steve wasn’t just my youth leader, but also a mentor, a friend, and a big brother. He supported me in the sports I played, told me to stay away from silly boys, tried to pick out my prom date, and taught me about the Word of God. My friends and I spent time with his family, we ate together, we played ball together, we prayed together, and had dance parties at youth conventions. He could preach his heart out, sharing about the love of the Father for all people and then have you laughing later that day. It was truly a gift and everyone loved him.

I knew Whitney was the one for him right away and I was thankful that I was able to fly home from college to attend their wedding in the spring of 2009. I was even happier when I found out they were expecting a baby boy a year or two later.

Steve was on fire for God and he loved him some Lakers. I had and have never known anyone like him. I am so grateful that I was able to meet Steve, learn from him, watch him get married, and begin a beautiful life with his family. I’m thankful that I was able to see him that summer day in the hospital.

There were no cookouts for me, no pool or memories at the beach, and no fireworks. It was a day of praying, and waiting, and hoping, and loving.

Steve died the next day. I had never cried so hard in my life. Up until that point, I had never really experienced the death of a loved one who I was in close proximity with, who I had done life with on a daily basis.

A week later I was honored to speak at his funeral on behalf of all the youth whose lives he touched. For all those who saw the light in His life and surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ. For all the youth who saw how you can still be cool and a Christian. You can pray, and read the Bible, and love people and Jesus, and still have fun. How being set apart isn’t a burden, it’s an honor. I was delighted to share stories of our times together, words that I couldn’t say in the hospital the week before.

I still think about Steve often and the impact he had on my life. After he died, I realized that I couldn’t live my life the same way. I couldn’t say I was a Christian, yet live my life outside of daily relationship with Jesus. There was no more time for that. College showed me that my light wasn’t as bright as I thought it was. Steve’s life, and death, showed me that it’s better to walk in the light than to run in darkness.

By the end of August, I started reading the study Bible I received as a graduation gift from my other spiritual big brother, Jonathan. I began in Genesis and read the entire Word for the first time in my life. I read of Gods grace, and love, and knew it deeper than I ever had before.

Everything changed after that summer and I’m grateful for the light in Steve’s life that helped point me back to the cross. Unlike fireworks that brighten up the night sky for a brief moment in time, Steve’s light will last through eternity.

There isn’t a doubt in my mind that every moment of that day for me was orchestrated by the Holy Spirit - for me to be in traffic, to see the tweet, to send the text, to turn around, to get to the hospital, and see Steve alive on this earth one last time. Even the fact that I was in Maryland that summer and not in Arizona working for my cousin like I had originally planned, was all God.

It took me a while to understand that God has a plan for everything, even death. He knows our beginning, and our end, and He loves us.

The scripture I reflected on and attributed to Steve’s life was what Paul wrote in Philippians 1:20-21:

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Steve was 30 years old when he died, the same age Jesus was when His ministry began. July 5, 2012 wasn’t the end of Steve’s ministry, but simply the beginning of another chapter. You see, people who knew Steve came from all over the country to attend his funeral. Some of them met Jesus through the drawing of the Holy Spirit, experiencing His mercy, His peace, His love for the first time ever. Others were awakened to the truth of The Gospel because of the trail of light that Steve left behind him. Some of them now pastors, teachers, missionaries, mentors. His legacy of truth, surrender, and faith will continue to live on through his wife and sons, and their generations. It will live on through the lives he touched, the young people he inspired, and through me.

Grace & Peace,

Raine


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We love you Steve, Whitney, Quincy, Kevin, Mrs. Barbara, Georgia & Jordan

Swimming + Writing + Praying

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I went to the beach last Saturday. All by myself. With no plan other than to read one of my books for March and journal whatever came to mind.

I used to love going to the beach. I used to love being near the ocean. I used to love swimming and allowing myself to be swept away by each wave.

I would say that I still have those same feelings, except this was my first time even going to the beach since I moved to this peninsula (Florida) in January 2018. Why has it taken me so long?

One summer while in undergrad I participated in a research internship at The University of Miami Graduate School. I was at the beach and swimming every weekend during the 10-week program. No matter who else in the internship came with me each weekend, I was there. The sea at South Beach was like a magnet. I remember the sand was a light beige color and the water warm and clear. You could walk a far distance from the shore and still not hit the dip in the ocean that takes you deeper. I loved every moment of my time there.

It makes me wonder where my enjoyment of certain aspects from my childhood all went. Things like swimming and going to the beach; playing basketball well after the sun went to sleep; getting lost in writing stories and having them come to life through illustration.

This week I reread pieces of writing from a journal I had when I was 11. I wrote down the five things I wanted to be when I grew up:

1. A basketball player

2. A writer

3. A fashion designer

4. A chef

5. A basketball coach

The only thing on that list that I’m still passionate about is writing. I’m interested in cooking, a little bit. Like a little tiny bit.

Back then I was constantly in the water, outside playing, inside creating and now I go to the beach and just sit there.

What I have realized is that I long to get back to that childhood wonder I had in regard to the things in life that I do still enjoy as well as in my relationship with Jesus Christ.

On my way to the beach I stopped at Target and picked out two composition notebooks. One is covered in reddish-orange sunflowers and the other is a scenic view of the Everglades. I became excited thinking about using the type of notebooks I used while I was in school, doodling in the margins and writing poems whenever the words came to mind. I wanted to see if using this classic medium would make an impact on what and how much I write. The composition notebooks now have spirals attached to them which makes them even more wonderful.

I also picked up two boxes of the original Barnum’s Animals Crackers, a box of Swedish Fish and a Sprite. Beach essentials of course.

What I’ve noticed over the past week is not only have I been writing more than I have been recently, but I’ve been consistently writing every day. I even feel more creative. I don’t think it’s the journals themselves, but that childhood desire coming back alive within me. My writing has consisted mostly of journaling reflections on my life and journey of faith, as well as coming up with different ideas for blog posts and short stories.

My two main goals for this year are to develop a consistent life of prayer and writing, two essential foundational pieces of my life that I’ve never really had before.

Yes, I pray and I write, but not consistently. Not yet anyways. But I’m on my way, as it’s a desire of mine to constantly grow in my faith, grow as a writer and as me, Raine.

In both prayer and writing - relationship with Jesus and words - I feel like I’m going back to the beginning. Back to when the Holy Spirit first met me alone in my room, in between the lines of my journals and then introduced me to Jesus at the age of 13 and I started praying through words to my heavenly Father.

The best thing about journaling is that I’m writing directly to the heart of God. And when I create stories and poems, He’s sitting right there with me.

For me, prayer and writing have always been connected.

How Am I Currently Developing a Consistent Life of Prayer & Writing?

One way I’m doing this is by staying off of social media for a while. I don’t know how long yet, but for some time. I need the space to clear my mind from seeing what everyone else is doing and focus on what I’m doing. So far it has been such a breath of fresh air.

I am also reading more - the Bible and other books. In order to know Jesus, I have to come to His Word daily and in order to become a better writer I have to read what other people are writing. Reading is about learning and growing.

And of course, learning to talk to Jesus throughout my day and journal, both every day.

So, this is where I am currently in my journey of faith. It’s a long process - building or rebuilding a relationship with Jesus and writing - so I’m learning to slow down. It’s not about how much or how fast I can produce, but really about building a foundation for the life I want.

I look forward to writing and sharing more as I go. I am also trying to figure out the next time I’ll be going to the beach. Going back to something I love has clearly made a huge impact on me and I do miss the ocean. I’m excited to discover more.

Next time though, I won’t be alone. A couple people have already told me that they want to come too.

I will definitely be swimming.

Grace & Peace,

Raine


Journal Reflection

What is something from your childhood that you enjoyed, that you haven’t done in a while? I encourage you to write about it, how it made you feel, why you stopped doing it. And then, go do it.

S P R I N G || Come Away With Me

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Winter has gone on far too long. Spring is on its way and I hear Him calling to me, “come away with Me…”

 “The Shulamite

 Listen! I hear my lover’s voice.

I know it’s him coming to me—

leaping with joy over mountains,

skipping in love over the hills that separate us,

to come to me.

Let me describe him:

he is graceful as a gazelle,

swift as a wild stag.

Now he comes closer,

even to the places where I hide.

He gazes into my soul,

peering through the portal

as he blossoms within my heart.

The one I love calls to me:

The Bridegroom-King

 Arise, my dearest. Hurry, my darling.

Come away with me!

I have come as you have asked

to draw you to my heart and lead you out.

For now is the time, my beautiful one.

The season has changed,

the bondage of your barren winter has ended,

and the season of hiding is over and gone.

The rains have soaked the earth

and left it bright with blossoming flowers.

The season for singing and pruning the vines has arrived.

I hear the cooing of doves in our land,

filling the air with songs to awaken you and guide you forth.

Can you not discern this new day of destiny

breaking forth around you?

The early signs of my purposes and plans

are bursting forth.

The budding vines of new life

are now blooming everywhere.

The fragrance of their flowers whispers,

‘There is change in the air.’

Arise, my love, my beautiful companion,

and run with me to the higher place.

For now is the time to arise and come away with me.

For you are my dove, hidden in the split-open rock.

It was I who took you and hid you up high

in the secret stairway of the sky.

Let me see your radiant face and hear your sweet voice.

How beautiful your eyes of worship

and lovely your voice in prayer.

You must catch the troubling foxes,

those sly little foxes that hinder our relationship.

For they raid our budding vineyard of love

to ruin what I’ve planted within you.

Will you catch them and remove them for me?

We will do it together.”

-Song of Songs 2:10-15 The Passion Translation

 

Is anybody else ready for Spring?

Time to go catch those little foxes.

Grace & Peace,

Raine


Around the beginning of each season I hope to share with you my reflections of the previous one, what I’m looking forward to in the current/next season & what my intentions are. Be sure to look out for this section in early Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter!


LOOKING BACK

Too many cloudy days.


LOOKING AHEAD

I wanna feel the sun on my skin.


MY INTENTIONS FOR SPRING

Begin taking long walks with The Father through His Word

Begin having regular conversations with Jesus over breakfast, while I’m working and throughout my days

Be still and be present to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit

Get outside, even for a few minutes, everyday

Write and read and read and write

Explore my new home here in Florida and learn to appreciate it for everything that it has to offer

Less social media, less tv, less distractions, less clutter, less procrastination and more abiding

I wanna eat more fruit

I wanna dance

What are your intentions for this new season?

Our Journey Deeper

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Today is January 6th, 2019, the first Sunday of the New Year and I am currently in a coffee shop, sitting next to my best friend (& husband) John.

Feeling blessed.

Tomorrow marks the 1-year anniversary of the Sunday we packed up both of our cars with all our belongings and made the 14-hour trip from Maryland to Florida to embark on a new chapter in our lives. Towards the end of 2017, we knew the Lord was calling us to a new season of training, equipping and preparation and the place where we were to receive all of that and more was Deeper Fellowship Church in Orlando.

It has been 1 year since we took a leap of faith in God, trusting Him to provide each and every one of our needs as we decided to follow Him to a new state, a new church, new friends and community, new levels of faith and growth and eventually new jobs. And He has done exactly what He promised.

To be honest though, 2018 was one of the most challenging years of my life. When I look back on the year (only 6 days out) I see a lot of tears from dealing with different emotions about different things. I see lots of grasping for air as I struggled with stress, anxiety and panic attacks. I see me missing having our own space as John and I were blessed to stay with my parents for the year while we got settled here in Florida. I see lots of indecision and fear as I started Write Light twice – once in March and once in August, both times deleted and pushed off. Even this post has been a struggle to actually sit down and write, as I had hoped to begin on the 1st.

But here I am, on the other side of this past year, and looking back at it all there are other things I see too.

I see John gaining a new passion for photography, being blessed with great mentors and a new camera and really thriving in this gifting. I see the people God has placed in our lives, church friends who have now become family and we have all grown in the past year through new jobs, new entrepreneurial endeavors, new marriages, new babies, new commitments to what God has for us in this season. I see the shepherds of the church God sent us to truly walking out a Spirit-led life, hosting the presence of the living God and cultivating an environment where we are experiencing true revival. I see my parents faithfully serving God in their retirement, loving on people the way the Bible commands. I see me building relationship with my dad who I hadn’t known for 27 years of my life and my whole family on his side. I see John and I moving from some-time, to part-time to full-time positions allowing us to move into our own apartment and start building towards our future. I see me cooking more and getting outside for walks, and jogs and swims, even in the Florida heat. I see the precious times spent with friends and family in California, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and Texas. I see the people in my life encouraging me to keep writing, to be brave.

I see God drawing me closer to Him throughout it all, calling me, inviting me to come closer to Him, to sit at His feet. I see Him drawing me to new levels of faith, and trust, and belief and freedom. I see Him, in the good and the bad of 2018. I see the Lord high and lifted up, seated on the throne of my life.

I see His joy, His grace, His mercy, His favor, His provision, His protection, His peace, His comfort, His healing, His power, His wonder, His humor, His tenderheartedness, His strength, His love, His light surrounding me, filling me, and drawing me deeper.

2018 was a year of transition. It was a year of revealing the hidden things in my heart and my life so that I could surrender them to the Lord and allow Him to do His deep work within me, because 2019 is here and there are great things in store for me.

For you.

I couldn’t stay where I was, moving through life still holding onto the same routines, past hurts, negative thought patterns, excuses, strongholds, sins, beliefs and more that were holding me back from intimacy with my Father.

I still have a lot to work through, to write out and process, but I’m thankful for this journey of faith. I’m thankful for the growth. I’m thankful for the New Year because now I see clearly that everything that 2018 brought – the good and the bad – was all to make me stronger, braver, wiser and to draw me right into the arms of my loving Father.

And He desires to draw you closer too.

I don’t know what your 2018 looked like, but what I do know is that this year you can decide that no matter what you see you will continually seek the Lord with all your heart and draw closer to Him every day, because He is calling you deeper.

Can you hear Him?

“Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.” – Psalm 42:7-8 ESV


Grace & Peace,

Raine


Write Light is a faith-inspired blog about my journey of faith in Jesus Christ. My purpose is that I would bravely walk out my faith in God & write about the light of His Son Jesus. So that you would know by His Holy Spirit & believe in your heart that He exists, that He loves you with an everlasting love, that He created you to be brave & to be light. My hope is that this space & these words encourage you in your own journey of faith & inspires you to be brave enough to love others deeply as you allow your light to shine through the creative gifts that God has called you to.