Yes, love is important


This week marks our second wedding anniversary. I’m not going to offer a long reflection since we have places to be (who wouldn’t want to celebrate your anniversary by running a five-mile race and watching Wonder Woman?), but one thing I did want to say for the occasion: love is important.

I know I’m getting no prize for such a well-worn idea. But guys, the importance of love can’t be stressed enough.

When I met Stephen, what stood out to me above all things was the way he cared about people, and the way that we loved me.

The way he wanted to know me for who I was and appreciated what he did know about me.

The way he loved (and loves) my introspective, independent self who gets fascinated by ideas and can write about them for hours.

The way he adored all those tendencies and quirks that made me me, and still encourages me to celebrate them and grow in them.

Except for my parents’ golden piece of advice I grew up with (find someone who loves you as much as Dad loves Mom), most of the advice I heard when it came to relationships was about compatibility. Find someone who shares the same thoughts and values as you, create this checklist with all your non-negotiables, etc. Perhaps there’s a place for a little bit of that, but no amount of compatibility can replace choosing to see and love someone for who they really are.

When Stephen and I met, I don’t know that we would have described ourselves as “compatible.” We had different views on things, different backgrounds, different opinions. But you know what? That was okay. And the truth we discovered is that no amount of shared beliefs can replace genuine love for one another. No number of checklists will prepare you for discovering how amazing, unique, and nuanced your partner is. No amount of living civilly with one another will replace going out of your way to see the best in each other and treat each other with ample love and respect.

No matter how compatible you hope to be with someone else, you’re guaranteed areas where you’ll differ. There will be things you disagree on, even bigger things. No matter how perfectly your partner fills all the ideals you were hoping for, there will be areas where they disappoint you.

Those things are inevitable. But love? Love isn’t inevitable. You have the choice to cultivate it, to commit to it. And you have the choice not to. At the end of the day, you’ll either decide that going out of your way to love is important or you won’t.

I don’t believe in a love that’s some whimsical, random force, coming and going without warning. If we’re commanded to love, which I believe we are, then it must be something we have some control over. It’s something we can practice. It’s something we can cultivate.

And so, I’m going to close off this little reflection with a thought: if you value someone in your life (not just a romantic partner), then go out of your way to love them this week. If there are things you admire about them, then tell them. If you haven’t been acting or speaking with utmost kindness and respect to someone around you, then apologize and change that. If there’s something you can do to make someone’s day, then do it.

Because love is important. So let’s reflect that.


On Leaving the Group



Let that word hang in the air for a moment, the concept filling your mind: who you are, just you, with nobody else to define or validate you.

What does it spark?

For most of us, alone evokes an emotional response. For some it is peaceful, for some refreshing. But for many, this concept is less than positive at best, and downright fear-inducing at worst.

Every year around this time I grow nostalgic. Summer was when I began by journey of studying abroad in Scotland. You’ll find a lot about that on this blog, and if my pen continues to wander back to this subject it is only because of how much that time meant to me, then and now. I won’t forget the feeling of settling into the never-quite-comfortable chair at the Chippewa Valley airport, my family on the other side of the glass, and being overcome with one feeling: this was it. I was alone, truly, facing three months in a new continent with nobody that I knew and (at the beginning) only my thoughts to accompany me.

It was an intriguing moment, certainly not anything I had experienced before. Part of me felt compelled to seize my phone or laptop and gather some sense of all the people who were not beside me. Part of me knew not to do that but to soak in the moment for what it was. And yet another part of my mind began to replay echoes of concerns I had gathered from people before my journey:

It’s such a long time.

You won’t know anybody there.

What if you have no community?

What if there aren’t people you can trust?

What if you change?

You see, for the preceding few years I had belonged to a tight-knit group where people didn’t really do things on their own. Not the big things, anyway. Most people didn’t just pick up and leave the country unless it was to experience an international branch of the same organization; people didn’t just move after college to a city far away because they found a good job there, at least not to a city where there weren’t already friends, family, or a sister church. People didn’t just start a lifestyle that looked notably different than the rest of the other group members. And so when it came time for me to jet off for the summer by myself, the well-wishes I received before my journey were laced with a thread of fear: because acting alone was something to be feared.

It’s been three years since my alone-journey, and I came out unscathed. But I came out changed (though I guess for some that’s almost worse). It was the single most invigorating and growing time I had had in my life, and was the only time when I had serious opportunity to consider who I really was. Who was Rae? Outside of her hometown, community, family, group of friends, college…as an individual, who was she really?


I had a great conversation with a friend where he shared a concept that greatly intrigued me: your greatest strength is usually also your greatest weakness. For example, the one who is passionate will encourage many and hurt many, the one who is kind will love greatly and be taken advantage of, etc. The key is to recognize your tendencies and handle them with wisdom. I’ve seen this strength-weakness pairing to be true not only in myself, on the individual level, but also on the broader scale of humanity. My personal theory (currently—personal theories are subject to change) is that the need to belong and experience love is both humanity’s greatest gift and greatest problem. At its best, this need forms the basis for friendships, marriages, communities, etc. Conversely, the need to belong and be loved is also at the root of terrorism, gang activity, cults, prejudice of all kinds, political polarization…I could go on.

The need for love and belonging is obviously crucial to the human experience. No matter how vulnerable it makes you feel to admit it, it is not something you can just shrug off as not applying to you. The need for love is indispensable to what it means to be human.

And people will do anything to get it.

When I really asked myself who I was, that need to belong was there. Having social connections is not the enemy; living without them would be vastly unhealthy. But elevating them to the status of ultimately defining who you are is also unhealthy, yet it is far too easy to do. The human need for a group of “people like me” is so deep-rooted that it changes who you perceive as being “like me.” Filling the need for love by throwing yourself into a prewritten lifestyle or ideology in order to surround yourself with people that think and speak and live exactly like you do is not the way to find belonging. Because once you get yourself into that kind of dynamic, getting out is harder than it seems.

In that kind of dynamic, your thoughts begin to change as they go through a filter of what your community thinks is right and what your community doesn’t agree with.

In that kind of dynamic, awakening to a desire to do something different with your life is extremely hard, as changing what makes you similar to those of your tribe can mean losing that tribe.

In that kind of dynamic, people feeling or acting “hurt” when you think and live differently than they have is expected manipulation.

In that kind of dynamic, vowing unconditional loyalty to a group means sacrificing your own unique personality, perspective, thoughts and dreams on the altar of the group.

And absolutely none of it is worth it. Because none of it is real love.


I came to realize a lot of this while I was in Scotland, mostly due to my own experiences but also supplemented by a social psychology course I took (specifically it was on the psychology of terrorism and war – if you want a sample of the research and theories I would check out this dissertation, if not for the whole article then for chapter four’s discussion of basic social psychology theories). What I saw in my times of traveling alone, meeting new friends at school, researching questions I had, exploring in a new continent, was not the echoes of fear I heard while waiting in that airport. It was the affirmation that who I was as an individual, unique person was good, and that contrary to the previous three years, I did not need the involvement in that tight-knit group to be happy and connected. In fact, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, I was thriving.

I was thriving because I had the freedom to grow as Rae, a one-of-a-kind creation, not an individual manifestation of a type.

I was thriving because I was surrounded by people who loved and accepted me for who I was, and saw my thoughts, opinions, and goals not as things to be amended but things to be celebrated.

I was thriving because no other human was trying to recreate me in their own image.

I was thriving because the need for belonging can really only be filled when you feel the fear of showing your true self and do it anyway.

Even though I had made some of my dearest friends and memories through that group, I knew I could be a lot truer to myself without it. And so, I drastically cut back my involvement when I came back to the U.S. And eventually I left.

I don’t regret the time and experiences I had before going to Scotland. Being spared the involvement would’ve meant being spared learning fathoms about myself and never encountering the training ground for the fight for freedom I want to engage my life in. But I am glad that my involvement was for a time and not a permanent lifestyle, and that hewn in the wild, independent, freedom-seeking land of Scotland was my own awakening to the liberation that so many hearts have yet to experience. I am glad I made my choice.


You also have a choice in how you will choose to live. How you will choose to belong.

You have the choice to assimilate to what your group expects of you, and you have the choice not to.

You have the choice to build a future that matches what your friends are doing, and you have the choice not to.

You have the choice to make changes to your present to live the future you envision.

If you’re afraid of making changes, afraid of what others around you will think of you, then feel that fear. It’s normal.

But don’t let it stop you.

I’m not saying that things will work out perfectly—you run the risk of being scrutinized, rejected. That’s the cost you will have to weigh. The further you venture into the wilderness of discovery, the fewer people you may find beside you.* This is not a call to shove people away or be unkind, or assume people aren’t interested in your new journey and hide it. But know that even in your most heartfelt seeking of the right path for you, you can’t force or inspire everyone to come along with you.

That’s okay. And you will survive.

But through it all you may discover, as I did, that there are people who will love you for you. Who you can feel you really belong with, without having to change or disguise who you are. Who you can really bond with, even if they would have never fit into your former “in-group.” Who give you the freedom to be yourself, and thereby, the freedom to grow. Perhaps you don’t know them yet. Perhaps you do. But to feel really loved and known, not for who people think you are but for who you really are, you have to be that real you first. You have to take the chance.


I miss a lot of things about my time abroad. Such an experience can’t be replicated, and the sadness of that specific journey’s finality still aches at times. But in a sense the journey I began in that vinyl chair hasn’t ended, because it was the start of a change in me that I am still living today.

I am happy to be in the place I am now, and more importantly, to be the person I am now.

Long live Scotland, the brave.

All my heart,


*Credit to David Hayward, The Liberation of Sophia


Have you ever left a group that was difficult to leave? What did you learn from the process? Have you found a new group that’s a better fit for you?


spark of hope


every now and then and you’ll find yourself in the dark

whether it’s a flicker or a long-term night

and you’ll wonder

how moments ago you tended the sea’s beacon

and today you’re fumbling for a switch

and you’ll think

that you ought to try to keep lighting the sea

even when your fuel is gone

and you’ll hide it and pretend

that it’s all okay

because if it weren’t for you

the sea would sink into inky black

but harsh and true

you’re not the only one with kerosene

or a spark

and someone else can ignite the way

and it’s a hard lesson sometimes

that to best help you need to accept it too

and worse yet

that light won’t always come

from the source you expected

by the hands you expected

at the time you expected

but darling it’s still light

despite the size

despite the carrier

despite the timing

and if you ignore the candle to wait for the lamp

it may not come

for some things start small

but the faintest flicker is enough

to glimpse the foot of the stairs

leading up to the beacon

and you’ll find your way

through the smallest of sparks

if you take the time to notice

and when you reach the top

because i know you will

and light the sea once more

and remember the tiny candle at the bottom

of the long staircase

the ships many miles away

you’ve been trying your life to reach

will no longer seem

quite so far off


inspired by a trip to Split Rock Lighthouse, MN.


Hey readers!
Please take the time to read this amazing piece of writing by my husband, Stephen. Living deliberately and authentically is a mission we set out on while backpacking Europe a year and a half ago, and I hope these words will inspire and encourage you in your own life journey. ❤

Not With Haste


Yes, I mean you, and I want you to just think about you. It’s an uncomfortable topic, I know. We aren’t supposed to think about ourselves. There are so many other people and other problems in the world to think about. Wouldn’t it be selfish to focus on the topic of: you?


Let me back up a bit. I was sitting on a picnic table by the boat docks of Grand Marais, taking a break from volunteer painting at a folk craft school. It was sunny, and warm for a Lake Superior April day, and very beautiful. I could see why some young people come up here for a summer or even 10 months at a time as interns, for the chance to live and work with so many amazing people and ancient crafts. Interesting life choice.

And then it hit me: Why are the lives of many…

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Dear Artists: The world needs you


Dear Artist,

To have a creative soul is to be a boundary between two worlds. It is to glimpse the radiance of eternity, the food of inspiration, and bring it back to heal this existence.

It is a baffling life.

I am an artist. Some element in the fabric of my being constantly searches and hopes for glimpses of the world of inspiration and wonder. It pulls me to beauty and mystery with a never-ending tug, and through the medium of writing I try to put what I discover there into words that might make sense to someone else. Being an artist looks like different things to different people, but to me it is more than the production of work; it is a way of thinking that is driven by the need for inspiration and creation.

It is being unable to peel myself from the frosty ground when a million stars and galaxies shine above me.

It is hearing a piece of music so complex and evocative I forget about existing in the present world and must be a part of something else.

It is becoming so encapsulated in a fantasy story that it shakes the core of who I am with an inspiration, joy, and yearning more powerful than anything else I’ve felt.

It is trying to gather all of these sights, sounds, and feelings into words, music, or art that will touch our world with a dash of the wild, colorful mind.

As an artist, it is not that inspiration and creativity are small pieces of your life; they are your life. You crave them like water. It is in a life of artistry that you are the most alive. The most you.

I have been lucky to find a home where I can thrive as an artist. My community is not only surrounded by natural beauty but full of people who encourage and inspire the creative life. It is a real joy, but if you are an artist, you know that feeling at home in your creative self can be hard.

You know that to much of the world, your creative passion and connection with beauty is considered frivolous, even vain. You get asked about your hobbies and then your “real” job, as if where you make the most money is where you most exist.

You see people dividing the world into thinkers and feelers, as if everyone has either a knack for reason and rationality or connectivity and nurturing. And while you want to be both intelligent and caring, you’re more likely to be found in your favorite spot of the house writing, composing, painting than studying logic or handing out hugs. The way you process the world is more a third category, which is to say, without a category.

You know that some people question imagination, even artistry. Perhaps you’re like me and have been exposed to religious groups that see nonreligious music, works of writing, or art as a waste of time. Sometimes such a fear of the material exists that it can be hard to admit feeling more spiritually connected in an art museum than in a church with stark walls and bland music. But for the creative soul, beauty is not a distractor. Beauty is a healer.

And the world needs it.

The world needs you.

You see, when you’re feeling doubtful, or out of place in an information-filled, academic world, know that the creative works you spend your time on are worth it.

It’s worth it to bring beauty into a world torn apart by ugliness.

It’s worth it to write that song or that poem that will bring someone comfort in a hard time.

It’s worth it to know that your real job as an artist is a job of healing.

There’s a reason we have art therapy and music therapy: works of creativity change lives.

So we the writers, the composers, the musicians, the designers, the actors, the potters, the painters, the dancers, the photographers, the poets, the filmmakers, the sculptors, the gardeners, the craftsmen…let’s light up this world with all we’ve got. Let’s fill it with beauty, with enchantment, with wonder.

Artist, your life has an amazing purpose. And you are who you are with the talents you have to fulfill that purpose.




The Golden Way: A poem

“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”

The Golden Way



Come and walk with me, I said

I’ll show you a new road

A path of clear and glittering thread

To take you where you’ll go

The Golden Way it’s called, and I’m sure you’ll love it too

On it you can walk your life

So come and join the



This path is one the many take

And its ways are proven true

With safety, caution signs and maps

There is no better view

These airbags are for breathing

This seatbelt for the dance

So come and join us straightaway

Without a backward



On the Golden Way you never ask

You just walk and don’t look down

We mapped it out before your time

No need to look around

The road this way is smooth and bright

Wide and straight on through

No need to watch the steps you take

Just the ones ahead of



No more winding trails of wood

Too dark and grim to bear

You can’t see past the thick of trees

What if you never get there?

Or trip while stepping on a rock

Or fall and scrape your knee

Too many risks that you could take

What’s life without



That’s why the Golden Way is here

To save you from that stress

If you walk the path that many take

It’s bound to be the best

So enjoy the road of silver and place your feet on gold

And never think again about the former dreams you’ve



There’s just one risk upon this path,

I’ll tell you it in full

That leaving it will bring all hell

And wreck your very soul

I’ve seen people who have left

They’ve gone and scraped their knees

They say the woods are prettier

But they’re blinded by them, please

For who would want to venture out

And make their own new path?

If they’re smart they’ll stay right where they are

And never again



This path is one the many take

And its ways are proven true

That if you whittle yourself down enough

There’s nothing left of you

Who wants to stand out from the crowd

A target for our knives

Or follow dreams you once possessed

Away from prying



Yes, the Golden Way is cold

The metal makes it frigid

But in time your feet will numb

And you’ll be glad that it existed

For cold feet cannot bear

The twists and turns of life

The forest is our greatest fear

With all its unknown strife

So walk this path a while, and soon enough you’ll stay

It becomes your only option when you know no other



R. Poynter

December 2016

No More Comparisons: Choosing You Over Perfection

Dear Reader,

This last year has been rough for me in many ways. A lot of long-term aches have bubbled up and festered in sickening ways. Nothing that you let fester can do you any good. But I’m going to talk about one particular infection that I believe to be a top killer of growth and happiness: making comparisons.

Not going to lie, this has been really bad for me lately. To give you a story as an example, here’s something that resurfaced in my life this last week. I had a talk with my husband about a strange fact about myself that I hadn’t really admitted before:

I have a fear of sleepovers.

If that made you laugh a little, that’s fine. The sentence makes me smile, too. It sounds weird, but after doing some googling I learned that this is a pretty common fear. While I may not have been able to realize or articulate it before, ever since I was a child the mention of a sleepover would suddenly cause sweaty palms, a tight chest, a knot in my stomach, and, occasionally, nausea.

I remember being six or seven and sitting on our swingset outside, anticipating going to my friend’s house to sleep over that night. The longer I sat the more ill I felt, until eventually I was certain that I had suddenly caught the flu.

I remember being so excited about finally going to summer camp, until the day finally came and I became so anxious that I threw up.

I remember the feeling of relief that friends would want to come over to my house so I wouldn’t have to go to theirs.

In and of itself, this anxiety isn’t the worst. It’s limited to specific events, usually subsides greatly once I’m at a friend’s house (and realize it’s not actually that bad), and disappears completely once said event is over. But it wasn’t ever the fear alone that was the real problem; it was the nasty thoughts that came along with it.

Why can’t you just let loose like those other girls?

Why do you have to be so childish when none of your friends are?

When will you just grow up and learn to cope with this? Everyone else has.

Your anxiety will be such a drag when everyone else is having fun.

Seriously, do everyone else a favor and don’t even go.

You suck.

And they festered.

As I got older I learned to enjoy sleepovers more, but usually only with close, trusted friends or family. For all other slumber parties, I became skilled at coming up with other plans and conflicts and reasons I couldn’t go. But even as I stopped caring about missing out on a party, my nasty thoughts remained the same.

Why can’t you just have fun like your other friends?

Seriously, you’re 23. Why should this still be a thing when it is for no one else?

Nobody really wants you there anyway. You won’t contribute to the fun like other people will.

I bet people wish I could just be normal like all our other friends.

You still suck.

While these kinds of thoughts come and go like lightning, dwelling on them can seriously be one of the worst things that you can do for yourself. I know it is for me. These thoughts that have long accompanied my anxiety have outlasted any fear I ever felt, and still affect how I see myself today.

We all have things about ourselves that we don’t particularly like. We look at the seeming success of people around us and berate ourselves for falling short of that. Especially in the world of social media, where we put our most beautiful, successful, and insightful selves forward, it can be so easy to look through a page of fabulous photos, stories, and thoughts and then look back at yourself and think What am I doing wrong?

Why can’t I get as good of a time as that runner?

Why can’t I look as good as that friend?

Why don’t I have as brilliant of thoughts like that person always shares?

Why don’t I have a fairy-tale story like that couple?

Why is my life just not as good as it was in the past?

You guys, these comparisons are worthless and are stopping you from growing as the one-of-a-kind character that you are.

Like me, these thoughts and feelings might go back years. But they don’t have to continue for years to come. Our thoughts affect our reality. But what we perceive as real can be quite different from what is actually real.

First off, all those friends you so admire probably aren’t as fabulous as you make them out to be. Sure, our lives are full of truly wonderful people, but nobody’s life is perfect, and everyone has battles to fight that you aren’t seeing. Wishing to be like someone else isn’t ridding you of your flaws; it’s only wishing you had different ones. We need to be careful to not idealize the real, complex people in our lives and assume that always being in their shoes would be better.

Second, you have a unique story and direction that your life is headed in. Your shortcomings are part of that, but so are your strengths and talents. Ignoring them and wishing you were on a different journey is only stunting your progress. Focus on where you are now to cultivate the things that are going right for you and tend to the things that aren’t.

Thirdly, to be happy, it’s more important to be you than it is to be perfect. Imperfections aren’t the enemy. But dwelling on them and refusing to accept these parts of yourself is. We can thrive as we are without having to pretend to be someone else or hiding the less flattering aspects of our personalities. It’s when we learn to accept that we are unique, and lovable in our uniqueness, that we will find contentment.

St. Paul wrote that those who engage in “comparing themselves among themselves are not wise” (2 Cor. 10:12). I write this post so that we may grow in eradicating these thoughts of comparison that hold us back.

Likewise, I hope that we as people can learn to be more comfortable with ourselves and sharing not just the airbrushed, edited versions of us but the truth of who we really are. In fact, being open with sharing your imperfections can be one of the best ways of learning to cope with them, and learning to accept our friends for who they are. I write about less-than-happy things like anxiety and bad thoughts because I don’t want to be just another blogger who looks like she has it all together. I want my writing to speak honesty, to show that I’m someone who’s learning and growing through these things just like anyone else.

Reader, whatever it is you’re struggling with, whatever there is about yourself that you wish would change, I pray you won’t let it hold you back. Don’t fall into the trap of wishing yourself away. Instead, I hope you continue confidently on your unique journey while I continue on mine.

Peace always,


Early March Thoughts

Hey everyone,

Here’s a little window into the random things I’ve been thinking about lately, accompanied by pieces of art from our local gallery that rocks my world whenever I need a place to drink tea and get lost in art.


First, I thought I’d start off by mentioning that my lovely and thoughtful husband has joined the WordPress world! Stephen’s new blog is Not With Haste, and I’d definitely recommend checking it out.

His first post was about his word for the year, remember. Both Stephen and I have a deep-rooted desire to live life intentionally; to pursue a full, truthful living far beyond merely existing. I’ve been encouraged a lot this week by the joint work of our words, see and remember, and how together they grow the kind of deep living we ache for. If we don’t remember the gifts and beauty of the past they can’t leave a lasting mark on our present. And if we don’t look closely and see the richness of the present, we will be left with nothing to remember. But if we both see what’s around us and remember what’s gone before, we awaken to fathoms of life, love, and grace waiting to be harvested.


March has had an unstable start. The weather jumps from inviting to biting every other day, while life indoors has been just as variable. We’ve had surprise visits, friends’ happy news, and long-awaited answers to prayer right alongside learning and chewing on some hard and sad things. Life moves along with its many colors, sometimes blending together in confusing, interesting, yet nonetheless beautiful patterns. It all comes rolled together, and part of living is feeling it all.


Working at a school has been at once challenging and refreshing. The views and take on life that kids have is so inspiring. Man, do they have insight! I don’t think kids can learn from adults half as much as adults can learn from kids sometimes. The students in my class express such hope and belief unmuddied by adult realism and social expectations. It’s a shame most of us lose that, but it’s incredibly hopeful to see it alive and thriving in these young lights.


One of my friends expressed a strong desire to throw his phone in the lake. I can relate. Our ability to stay in touch with people far away can be nice, but the distraction from the near and present too greatly affects our thinking and engagement in the life right outside our door.


Lent is underway, and I’m not really sure what that means to me yet except I’m looking forward to this time of reflection, reconciliation, and spiritual refreshment.



“You know you are gigantic as the things that you adore.”