The Bible

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

Catching My Breath

Photo by @iamjohnbrandon

Photo by @iamjohnbrandon

It’s finally Saturday.

The kind of Saturday I’ve been longing for since this new year began.

I’ve already done some Saturday type things, like waking up early to read my Word before the day really began. I went to breakfast with a friend from church and for lunch I ate fruit with my leftover chocolate cake from The Cheesecake Factory. I’m currently wearing Saturday type clothing: sweatpants, an old Nike shirt and a blue sweater. It’s quiet in our new apartment and the sun’s light is shining through the six large windows that make our tiny space feel bigger than it actually is.

I love it.

I love this place that we are in. This place that The Lord has brought us to. This place where I can inhale His grace and be refreshed by His Spirit.

I love that today, on this beautiful Saturday in sunny Florida, I can finally catch my breath again.

The last few weeks have been quite the whirlwind, but they have also been some of the most life changing moments of my life.

First there was Christmas, where I spent time with siblings and family from my dad’s side whom I had never met before. It was pretty much the best Christmas ever.

Then, John and I packed up all our belongings (again) from my parents’ home about an hour outside of Orlando and moved into our new apartment here in The City Beautiful.

After that, as well as settling into our new home, John and I both started new full-time positions in organizations we were already working in. For me that included a week in New York for my on-boarding and then immediately transitioning from a 20-hour per week workload to a full 40 hours. I work from home, which is a huge blessing that I hope to never take for granted, but each of those hours at home working are definitely accounted for. I haven’t worked full-time in almost two years, so this has positively been another adjustment. I was also doing some contracting work that took up time in the mornings and evenings before and after work.

Along with what I’ve already mentioned, this past month I spent a lot more of my personal time reading and writing. Not writing for the blog every Sunday like I had hoped, but nonetheless, creating. These activities have been my form of rest and self-care as January was off to an energetic start. As well as being a wife, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, going to church, attending events like a wedding and birthday dinner, etc. Oh, and being sick for the entire week that I was in New York. You know, the life things.

The life thing that has changed my life however, was a week of prayer and fasting (3 days). Between Sunday, January 20th and Sunday, January 27th my church, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, participated in a total fast (water and juice only) and gathered for prayer for an hour at 6am for three days straight. It was my first time ever completing a total fast. It was also my first time ever going to church for prayer three mornings in a row. My experience that week was absolutely amazing. It’s still a challenge trying to find the words to describe it all.  

We also prayed that Wednesday and Sunday evening, outside of our normal Friday night young adult service (which consisted of more praying) and our two Sunday services called Rivers. We were at the church a lot, but that week changed my life forever and I look forward to finally getting the right words down on the screen to share in an upcoming post. Stay tuned…

So, after all that took place towards the end of December and throughout the entire month of January, today, on this beautiful Saturday afternoon, I get to sit beside my husband, write, reflect and breathe in life from my Creator. 

I expect that the rest of the year will be filled with more running after the things of God, more abiding in Him, more prayer and fasting, more gathering, more writing and reading, more work, more traveling, more adulting things, more life. I want to be ready to hit the ground running, knowing that The Lord will always provide a time of rest and refreshing if we simply take a moment to slow down and breathe Him in.

“For the Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” – Job 33:4 NLT

How are you spending your weekend?

Grace & Peace,

Raine


Around the beginning of each month I hope to share with you what I’m reading & listening to, as well as some of the bloggers I follow. Each month will highlight different books, podcasts & bloggers. Be sure to look out for this section!


READING

In the Bible… The Books of Genesis & Acts

Educated by Tara Westover

Fierce Hope: Why the Only Truth Worth Living For is Greater Than the Empty Promises of Our Chaotic World by Savanna Hartman

JANUARY RECAP: The Biblical Books John & Romans, It’s Happening by William McDowell, The Well by Stephanie Landsem & Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott



SPOTLIGHT

The Narrow Way by Keisha Ford

I was introduced to Keisha online via a woman whose daughters I used to babysit when I was in high school! She was like, “hey, you are both great writers and I think you should connect.” She didn’t say it exactly in those words, but you get the gist. That introduction lead to a two-hour phone conversation about writing, blogging and faith. Keisha’s blog is always real and always encouraging. She is also a self-published author! Follow Keisha on Instagram.

Cloistered Away by Bethany Douglass

I’ve been reading Bethany’s writing for a couple years now. She writes a lot about homeschooling, life at home, the seasons and more. What I enjoy the most is her reflection and encouragement for our creative lives. She speaks of rhythm and routine, our souls and rest, letting go and making space in our daily lives to be creative. I always look forward to her posts, even the ones that don’t necessarily apply to my current season (like homeschooling). I save them for later anyways. Follow Bethany on Instagram.

What are you reading/listening to this month?

A B I D E

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For the past few years I have chosen one word to guide my year. Rather than setting goals that never wind up getting accomplished, this practice has truly made a difference in the way I go about being intentional throughout the year.

In 2015 I graduated with my Master’s degree in Social Work, began working at my first job out of college in Baltimore City, purchased a new car for the first time in my life and learned more about God’s GRACE.

In 2016 I embraced the JOY of the Lord and married my best friend.

In 2017 I went on a mission trip to Iceland, self-published my first book of poetry, was let go from my first job out of college and waited on the Lord to lead me in a new direction as I discovered His WONDER.

In 2018 I did my best to become BRAVE as John and I moved our entire life from Maryland to Florida, formed relationships with new people, met my dad for the first time, started opening up about some of the things I am going through, went to my first counseling session and really began digging into my past and emotions that triggered shame, stress, anxiety and fear.

In 2019 I carry with me grace, joy, wonder and bravery as I long to ABIDE in the Lord.

For me abiding in the Lord means pursuing a deeper, more intimate relationship with my Father every day of my life. I desire to sit at the feet of Jesus, reading His Word, pursuing His presence through prayer and worship and resting in His love for me. I desire to become deeply rooted in my faith in Jesus Christ and my identity as a daughter of the King.

I just want to be with Him, more than I ever have before. And He wants to be with us too.

He wants to be with you.

““I love each of you with the same love that the Father loves me. You must continually let my love nourish your hearts [abide in my love]. If you keep my commands, you will live in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands, for I continually live nourished and empowered by his love. My purpose for telling you these things is so that the joy that I experience will fill your hearts with overflowing gladness! So this is my command: Love each other deeply, as much as I have loved you. For the greatest love of all is a love that sacrifices all. And this great love is demonstrated when a person sacrifices his life for his friends”” (See John 15:1-17 TPT). — John 15:9-13

What’s your one word for the year, or goals if you have them?

Grace & Peace,

Raine


Around the beginning of each month I hope to share with you what I’m reading & listening to, as well as some of the bloggers I follow. Each month will highlight different books, podcasts & bloggers. Be sure to look out for this section!


READING

In the Bible… The Books of John & Romans

The Well by Stephanie Landsem

I’ve read this book twice now and it gets me every time. I’ve committed to reading it once a year and this month I have a friend reading it with me. It’s definitely one of my favorite books ever in life, so you should check it out too and let me know what you think!

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

This year I want to be more intentional about learning about the craft of writing. I’ve been writing in different forms for most of my life but have never really taken the time – outside of school – to really sharpen this gift that I enjoy. I want to become a better writer and other than actually writing, that starts with learning. I’ve heard great reviews about Anne Lamott’s books, so this will be my starting point.

Do you have any suggestions for books on writing I could read?


LISTENING

Deeper Fellowship Church Podcast

The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman

Chasing Creative by Ashley Brooks & Abbigail Kriebs


SPOTLIGHT

Savanna Hartman

Savanna and I met at our church recently and instantly connected through our love of God, writing and reading. I found her blog online one day and fell in love with the words she shared that came directly from her heart. Savanna’s writing is pure, full of emotion, vulnerable and heart-changing. You can sense the presence of God in her words as she pours out her life before Him through what she presents her readers. Please check out her blog because it is truly some of the best writing I have ever read, and I don’t say that lightly. Follow Savanna on Instagram.

A Wholehearted Life by Lindsay Crandall

I remember reading words on a blog one day that led me to Lindsay Crandall’s website. I read some of her writing and wanted to read more. So, I did. There’s something about the way that she writes that draws you into the imperfections of life and positively encourages you in your own life, especially when it comes to writing. She is one of my favorite bloggers, one whose writing I look forward to reading every time. Follow Lindsay on Instagram.

What are you reading/listening to this month?