Because He Lives

All morning, I’ve had the words to that wonderful hymn stuck in my head. “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future. And life is worth the living, just because He lives!”

Today, and every other day, it fills me with great peace and joy to know that I serve a Savior who lives. Easter isn’t about candy or frilly dresses or a big white bunny – it’s about remembering what Christ accomplished for us on the cross and about celebrating the eternal life He granted us in His resurrection. It is finished, He lives, and if we trust in Him we are granted life everlasting! Hallelujah, what a promise! How great to serve a God who lives!

“God sent His son, they called Him Jesus
He came to love, heal, and forgive.
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, All fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives.

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives.
But greater still the calm assurance,
This child can face uncertain days because He lives.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, All fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives.

And then one day I’ll cross the river,
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain.
And then as death gives way to victory,
I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He lives.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, All fear is gone!
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives!”

-Bill and Gloria Gaither

All photos from our Easter sunrise service. It was so nice and warm! 🙂


A Humorous Poke at Myself

Just thinking today about how weird and old-fashioned I am and decided to make a list. I call it:

“You Know You’re Old Fashioned When…”

I don’t really know if I qualify as old-fashioned when compared to the homey old timers of bygone generations, but I certainly feel it in light of my current generation. When I was at the DMV the other day, the lady behind the counter was going off at me about “No cell phones, pagers, blackberries, video games, or any electronic devises inside the testing area. If one goes off you are immediately disqualified. That’s right. I said disqualified.” I remember thinking Um, I don’t have any of those things. A mixture of very strict parenting and an overly sentimental fondness of the past has morphed me into an untechnologically savvy mutant of this generation. Oh well. 🙂

Anyway, here’s my list:

You Know You’re Old Fashioned When…

  • You don’t know how to send a text and you’re not even sure if your mom’s cell phone (which you use) has a texting ability on it
  • Your ballroom dancing instructor casually mentions “Fred and Ginger” and you find yourself offended at the boy who has the nerve to ask “Fred who?”
  • You dream of marrying Cary Grant and think that his horn-rimmed glasses are the epitome of manliness. Justin Bieber’s baseball caps are not.
  • You freak out at the possibility of taking cooking shortcuts and would rather navigate your own culinary minefield than use a frozen pie shell
  • The idea of someone reading a book on a computer screen rather than snuggled up in an armchair makes you want to cry
  • The news of Elizabeth Taylor’s death also makes you want to cry (When Michael Jackson died you wondered “Who? The pasty guy with the kid hanging off the balcony?”)
  • You frequently use words like “incandescent” and “golly” and “swell”
  • Beaver Cleaver was your first crush
  • Most of your favorite dresses probably belonged to someone’s grandma. You just picked them up at a vintage store.
  • Your relatives give you old people magazines (Reminisce!) for Christmas and they end up being your favorite gift. You still rip them open every month.
  • You’re so bad at playing on a Wii that the kids you babysit would rather sit around at watch you fail to pass level one for half an hour than play themselves

Yes, I am beyond hopeless. Sometimes I really wish I was an old person, so I can reminisce about the good old days of yore when television was in black and white and a coke cost a quarter. For some reason, I can’t really see myself seventy years from now sitting at a counter and saying, “When I was a girl, we sat at home and played video games! And the Wii! Ah, those were the days!” Sorry. Not me. 🙂


New Photos

Well, my new Nikon D3100 (gasp!) has proven itself more than worth the money I dropped on it. Already in the last few weeks, I have taken too many photos to keep track! Since so many of you have expressed your interest in seeing what I’ve been photographing lately, here are some photos I’ve taken in the past two weeks. Just my sisters, my cousins, and some old friends. I love photographing people–everyone is different and everyone is beautiful! I’m always excited to think about who I can photograph next and what new techniques I can try. Enjoy!




Spring Fever

I noticed when I was running yesterday that the earth smelled like Bounty sheets. Isn’t that strange? That I equate nature as smelling like something unnatural, instead of the other way around. Weird.

Anyway, I started itching with spring fever recently! I felt the extreme urge to do something, so yesterday, without thinking it out too much I decided to take my learner’s permit test at our local DMV! I am now allowed to legally drive! (Steer clear of VA highways–remember, this is the girl who took thirteen years to learn how to ride a bike)

When we were leaving the DMV I grinned at Daddy and said casually, “So. I guess this means I can drive us home if you want.” He got this panicked look in his eye and we decided to take things slowly. It will be nice to be able to drive though. I think that we teenagers equate driving with freedom. Even if I’m still not allowed to go wherever I want, and my mom still freaks out at me going down my own aisle at Walmart without a cell phone, hey! At least I can drive! And doesn’t that just make up for the rest? 🙂

One thing I had not realized about the DMV, though, was how scary the employees would be. On the one day that I should have been feeling more like an adult than any other, I ended up squirming like a scared little kid. At one point during standing in line, I zoned out (fantasizing about cruisin’ down the highway, of course!) only to have the DMV lady snap her fingers at me and bark “Hello! Paperwork!” I jumped, my heart racing overtime. At least the test was on a computer, instead of oral. I couldn’t do much thinking around her.

There was one sort of nice lady at the DMV, though. She asked me how old I was and I replied, “Um, fifteen and a half?” After welcoming me to the “real world” and telling me that I needed to know answers for sure instead of guessing, she asked me “So, when you get out of here, what kind of car ya gonna buy?’

With a straight face, I answered, “Oh, you know. A 1956 Chevy Bel Air.” 🙂

Someday, I tell you. Someday.


My Cheesy Music Essay

I entered a lot of music competitions this year. It was the first year I’ve really been good enough to take competing seriously, and let me tell you this: It was scary. Scary and intimidating. There were kids there so good, they blew my mind. Out of all the contests I entered, I didn’t win anything except for one. And that one was a writing contest. (Go figure, huh?)

I’m not really that good at essay writing, but when I saw this contest online I thought that writing about music sounded like fun, so I decided to give it a whirl. The essay had to be entitled: “Music: An Instrument of Universal Expression”.

Anyway, I thought I’d post the essay I wrote that won so that  everyone in my family could see it. I wrote it a while back, so my editing skills really kicked in today when looking over it. But this is the way I submitted it, so I had to force myself not to make any changes. Here it is, for your reading pleasure:

Music: An Instrument of Universal Expression

“I once watched an old Vladimir Horowitz video that will stick by me forever. It is from April of 1986, during the Cold War. Horowitz fled Russia in the 1920’s, living comfortably in the West. He never returned to his home country until the end of his life—when he finally agreed to give a performance in Moscow, in 1986. For the encore of that performance, Horowitz returned and played “Träumerei,” a simple piece by Schumann. It is this video that I had the pleasure of seeing, and that has been permanently ingrained in my mind.

The song is about childhood dreaming—reminisces of a time bygone. The video showcases the facial expressions of several Russian audience members. Young or old, the crowd is clearly touched. It is apparent in that room that, no matter what the past held, the piece that is being played is free of all pain. The music is beautiful and binding, building a bridge across time and memories, transporting the listener to that one lovely memory.

It is because of this intense emotion that the particular video is so powerful. Because even I, sitting at my computer, experience the same feeling of oneness emanating from that piano as those Russians. I am unconscious of any boundary lines, foreign governments, or misunderstandings. I only feel compassion, beauty, and a tinge of bittersweet memories.

This is the power of music: the power to transport… the power to bind… the power to express what our hearts are feeling, even when our words fail us. Music is one of the few blessed gifts on this earth that man can use to communicate without words or gestures. Everyone, deep inside, has experienced something that leads them to understand the message behind the notes. It’s more than just intervals or polyphony or time measure: Music speaks to the soul.

The joy we feel deep inside when we hear something beautiful touches our hearts and subtly changes it. Whether that sound is a chirping jaybird or a Beethoven sonata, we remember it because it speaks to us—to exactly what we are feeling and thinking. And suddenly music is intimate, something we can hide inside or share with the world, because it belongs to us. It doesn’t matter who wrote the song, who played it, or who heard it last: music transcends ownership, belonging to whomever it touches.

The style of music has changed over the centuries, but the purpose of music has remained the same. To delight; to touch; to confuse; to make whole again… Music still expresses what we feel as human beings. And in listening to music we still enjoy this culmination of our feeling. As long as we embrace this ability of music, all who hear it will be bound—Russians and Americans, Germans and Japanese, and all the nations that make up this world. It is an instrument of universal expression that can never be taken from us.”

Well, I hope you have a great day! If you want to view the Youtube video I mentioned, you can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qq7ncjhSqtk


On Self-Perception and My New Glasses

Growing up, I never had any false impressions of beauty on my behalf. I never thought I was ugly or anything, but I remember telling my mom once, “I’m not ugly and I’m not beautiful. I’m just plain. I’m just me.”

I’ve always been a little too tall and a too pudgy and my hair has always had a mind of its own. I went through my biggest “awkward” stage in my preteens when my hair began its gradual metamorphasis from straight to curly. My mid-tone brown hair had been thin and straight as a board for as long as I could remember. But when I reached the ripe old age of ten it sporadically decided that it wanted to be curly…someday. At the time it was content to settle half-way between straight and curly, resulting in long, uneven kinks. We tried to cover it up with expert haircutting, but my hair still looked like it had been stuck in a humid thunderstorm. Frizzy, kinky, and brown.

And then there were the glasses. I recieved my first pair of glasses in first grade. Pudgy, tall, and with a terrible sense of fashion taste, I guess they were all I lacked to get that highly-sought after dork look. It worked, because for the next seven years I writhed at the sight of my reflection in the mirror. I longed for that magical day when I would be… a teenager. Tall and thin and beautiful, with luscious hair that didn’t look just brown and sparkling eyes, unobscured by wire-rimmed glasses. That would be the day.

At the end of eighth grade, my mom finally decided to let me get contacts. Even though it took me a painful hour and a half to get them in the first day, I soon realized that contacts were the porthole to a whole new world of self confidence. I no longer saw myself as geeky and awkward. Clothes started looking better on. My bad hair days improved. I made friends, and felt more confident talking to people. People started to like me, and no one could remember that glasses-wearing-dork. Kids I’d known for years told me they couldn’t remember what I looked like with glasses–or even knew that I’d ever worn them.

For the first time in my life, I felt happy with me. With my looks and my personality. Granted, I never woke up blissfully thinking “Wow. I’m a raving beauty.” But I felt confident enough to get my picture taken and not worry when talking with kids my age.

That was, until a few weeks ago. When I went into the optometrist and discovered I had a small rip on one of my eyes. It was nothing serious, perfectly capable of healing itself in a couple days. There was only one thing I had to do: Stop wearing contacts for five days.

To me, this was absolutely devastating. No contacts? Wear my old, dorky brown glasses around my friends, and at my big race, and to ballroom dancing? Butterflies dancing in my stomach, I pulled out my old glasses and donned them for the weekend, inwardly cringing at the reactions I was sure to get.

But, much to my surprise (relief?), nothing happened. One person asked me if I usually wore glasses. One girl said they complimented my face. And only one old friend smiled and said he forgot what I looked like with them. Everyone treated me the same. No one stared. Not a single negative remark was made.

And that was when I realized: I am the same person with glasses as I am without them. I am still Rachel Coker. I still write, I still play piano, I still make people laugh. And I will always still be a bit of a geek. And you know what? My friends and family love me that way.

When I returned to the eyedoctor I was still a little bit relieved to hear I could wear my contacts again. And I did. But I also ordered a new pair of glasses to wear every now and then. They arrived just a few days ago, and I showed them off to my somewhat shocked family. Because the new glasses I had bought were pretty much the dorkiest ones in the store. They were from the men’s section, with thick tortishell rims and a 1940’s-could-have-belonged-to-your-grandpa shape. And you know what? I love them. They are totally and completely me in every way. Retro, quirky, and just a little bit eyebrow-raising.

I wore my new glasses to church on Sunday. And in the evening, when I took my sisters to this gorgeous golden field to take pictures as the sun set, I let Hannah snap a few of me. I came home and uploaded them on the computer, silently appraising myself. But instead of the normal thoughts running through my head–my hair looks funny, what a weird face, I should have moved my arm–all I could think was These photos look really nice. I look nice with those glasses.

So, yeah. The geek thing is growing on me. I have finally realized that I can be a geek and be myself and have the confidence not to care what people think. Because I love who I am!


Boogie Wonderland

I just got back from a way-too-fun weekend at our extended family’s house where we celebrated my grandfather’s 70th birthday with a surprise birthday party! It was–shockingly–a groovin’ 70’s theme. We had disco balls, lava lamps, and a DJ spinning records on the dance floor. So many people dressed way up with afros and bell-bottoms. And the look on my grandpa’s face when he walked in made all the hard work we put into planning totally and completely worth it. We danced the night away like we were in Funkytown circa 1979! 😉


Hannah and our cousin Maggie--they were the ones who kept all of us on our feet all night 🙂

Me and Hannah--It felt totally neccessary to wear a full length, vintage rainbow dress to a 70's party 🙂

Disco balls everywhere...

The dance floor was outlined with glowing pink neon lights

Don't believe her... my cousin Rena could not spin records to save her life

Grandpa leading the classic train line

Groovin' 😉

Peace out!

Some of the best outfits of the night--The men got even more into it than the women!

For the party, I went all out and made a six layer rainbow cake! I was so relieved to cut into it and see that it looked like this... I was so worried it would be a flop! Believe it or not, it tasted great too!

There were, I kid you not, about a dozen photos on my camera like this when I got home. Can you tell I was proud of this cake, lol?

Neither of my parents drink, but I love the look of wine glasses. Especially with a glowing lava lamp in the background!

The whole clan--can you believe my grandpa has two daughters and five granddaughters? No boys! Lucky guy, huh?

One last funny photo. Can you tell what a great time we had? We're all such hams! 🙂

This Too Shall Pass

“This too shall pass.”

When our pastor first strode onto the podium Sunday morning, laid out his Bible and announced these words to the congregation, I wasn’t quite sure what to think. Ookayyy…. I quickly glanced at my Bible. What does that have to do with the passage again?

“This too shall pass,” he repeated, softer this time. He went on to read our passage for the day, John 16:16-22. In it, Jesus tenderly warns his disciples that in a little while they will no longer see Him, and yet again in a little while they will see them. Understandably, the disciples were more than a little confused, and Jesus, with the same patience and love, reminded them that “You have grief now, but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.”

This is one of Christ’s promises to us. It is a promise that we will have grief and we will experience pain and suffering, but we that we will also have hope and joy in Him.

It’s been said before that there are only two situations one can be in: You’re either going through a trial or you’re about to. And it’s true. Part of what it means to be a Christian is to struggle sometimes, and feel discouraged or abused. But Christ can take that pain and grief and turn it into joy, for His sake. God is so great and so wonderful that He can take even the sad things in life and turn them into the greatest source of comfort and joy for His children.

Christ’s plan for us is not for pain and grief. He knows that we will suffer and He knows that in this life there may be trials greater than we think we can bear, but He has given us security and joy in His death and resurrection. There is no obstacle too great, no burden to heavy, that we cannot place it on Him and find our greatest joy in knowing that He is in control. Of everything! We can rejoice despite our sorrows because He knows! Because He is in control. And because He loves us, despite of ourselves, and chooses to be with us anyway.

But that phrase, “This too shall pass”, has a flip meaning to it as well. It means that happiness shall pass also. Your life may be incandescently wonderful and beautiful right now, but it will pass. Whatever brings you happiness today, you may find worthless once this life is over. All of the little things that tickle us and make us smile, even if they are wonderful things, won’t last forever. The pattering of little baby feet will lead to the slamming of teenager’s doors, paychecks will lead to broken boats, and vacation photos will eventually turn yellow and get tossed away. But our relationship with Christ—our happiness in Him—that will never pass. That will only grow stronger as we move through this world, and reward us with happiness forever in our life beyond it.

I think that this one simple phrase has echoed so much with me because I realize how much my life right now will change. I’m fifteen, I’m healthy, and I’m happy. But that will pass. Eventually I’ll grow old, rickety, and grumpy at someone who’s forcing me to take my meds. 😉 But, by the grace of God, my love for Christ will remain, and I will find my happiness in Him, no matter what my physical situation may be.


P.S. On a brighter note, for those of you who I haven’t gushed to yet, I finally got my new camera yesterday! I took a few photos of my sister and her friend yesterday, when I was trying to figure out all of the little details. I intend to use this camera expertly someday! 🙂 Anyway, here are a few of my favorites. Tell me what you think!