At the end of my life, I’ll have all these snapshots of memories in my mind. Sunsets in Maui, Yellowstone National Park, driving a 1972 Lincoln in 2021 and smiling the whole time, raising our kids, and millions of other moments that have made up my life as a whole.
Sometimes I get stuck and I forget these amazing memories though. I forget the privilege of living, and the privileged life I live to be a inhabitant of earth.
Getting stuck is interesting because it happens to all of us. It’s so easy to do, and yet so difficult to get out of that stuck place of despair.
It seems nearly impossible at the time; when we run into hardships and trials. Life can be cruel, unfair, and sometimes we make our own hardships along the way. I know I have. I’ve messed up royally at times and I’ve wondered if I could ever figure things out. Somehow I always have figured it out, but it hasn’t come easy, that’s for sure.
There’s no secret formula that I’ve found or a recipe to satisfaction. I still struggle sometimes as I’m pretty sure we all do. I wish for brighter days or for different problems than the ones I have. The truth is, I don’t want any problems. Which happens to be a problem in and of itself, but that’s another story for another day.
The interesting thing is that when I stop to look around in the hardest moments, if I really look hard, I can’t see my way out. But if I stop, breathe, and take in the present, it all becomes clearer somehow.
Getting off the ride that life has taken me on has been the best adventure ever. Jason and I recently decided to stop striving for anything and to truly start living.
Yes, we still need to make a living and pay the bills. Yes, we have challenges and stresses, but we have chosen to no longer allow those to rule our lives.
It’s been such a welcome change as we wake up to the natural alarm clocks of our bodies, rather than an irritating chime of a clock. We work during the day, and shut it off at night time, spending time cooking, with our family, and doing the normal routines of life, like watering flowers, reading books, and maybe a load of laundry or two.
We’re planning vacations and outings together, deciding where we want to go and being intentional about fulfilling both our needs and wants when we do have adventures planned.
We’ve spent countless hours talking, praying, and reading together in the last year. As we’ve committed, we are both growing into different people than we used to be. It’s pretty amazing actually.
Neither one of us has ever been good about rest. Now, we both rest when we need it. I’ve never been one to be idle, I thought busy was what you were supposed to do. But I’ve learned that’s far from the truth.
There have been times recently that I’ve stared out the car window for hours at the scenery when we’re on trips, making more of those snapshot memories in my mind so that I can soak up every moment of living while I have the chance.
Enjoying the creative outlets of photography, writing, and immersing myself in everything I do have been life altering. I just don’t care about many things that I used to unless it involves myself, my loved ones, or trusted friends and fully being present in my life. Everything else can go, and I could care less.
For the rest of my life I’ll be here, working on this because it’s a process. But I’m here for it, and all along the way I’ll be taking in those Maui sunsets and building a life and a bank of more of those memories that is soul fulfilling.
By Leslie Anderson, Salem Oregon – Andersons of West Hills
It may not seem like a big deal on the surface, but I’ve been dreaming for the past few weeks. I’ve always had life goals and aspirations and dreams, and I’ve worked hard to achieve them. But this is different.
I’ve been actually dreaming when I sleep.
I haven’t done that in years upon years – maybe never. Truly, I have rarely dreamed in my lifetime. I always thought it was odd, but I never knew why. I didn’t realize I actually wasn’t sleeping restfully. I always felt fatigues, even after what I thought was a good night’s sleep. Now I understand the difference.
It feels good to wake up feeling energy and excitement for the day ahead. I’ve been sleeping restfully and I actually shut off my alarm for good last week. I’m allowing myself to wake up when my body says it’s time. What a gift that is!!
I’m still the same old me, but fundamentally different these days. It feels like I’ve stepped into who I’m supposed to be, and I’m finally free.
Funny, because so many times in life we look toward certainty or predictability as the keys to peace. We try to keep things settled, smooth, and avoid problems.
But honestly, I’m learning that fully letting go of the expectation of external security leads to internal peace.
My life is much less certain than it ever has been, but I’m so much more content.
Taking hold of opportunities as they present themselves in my life and just following those as I see fit has been so freeing.
Focusing on each day, working faithfully, loving fully, and setting boundaries have all been a part of the mix.
Those boundaries of allowing in the things I choose to, shutting out things I don’t want to allow has given me a quiet sense of confidence and power that I always had, but lacked in life application.
My self worth is no longer wrapped up in what I do for myself or others. I am secure in who I am in God’s eyes and I don’t care what anyone thinks of me. It’s amazing to have that assurance.
I have plenty of problems, faults, flaws, and failures under my belt. But the thing is, none of that matters. All that matters is that I wake up and lean into the life I have been given. I do have some amazing things about me too, and that doesn’t even matter. It’s enough just to be me, whatever the case.
There is no formula for this path I’m on, and for the first time ever, I’m okay with that.
For now, I’m embracing myself, my family, and having fun. I’m not seeking approval or working myself to death. I’m not picking up other people’s problems or responsibilities – I have enough of my own, and that is allowing me the space to be just who I am.
I’ve learned that I am capable of so much more than I ever thought possible.
So, with that, I’m living well during the day and sleeping peacefully at night. I’m excited to see what a few more months of restful sleep can do for my physical health too. I’ve got many years to catch up on, and that starts now.
I believe this outcome is possible for anyone. I truly believe that our best lives are there, and taking care of some of the underlying business that keeps us from that best life is really important. It’s more important than I ever knew.
What is it that is keeping you from fully embracing who you are? Deep down you know. Let it go. It’s worth it.
I wish I had learned it much earlier, but I’m learning now. That’s all that matters.
Well, here we go! Just put the finishing touches on my first classic car purchase. I love everything about this photo, it’s not a bad office view and not a bad way of life.
I’m relaxed, happy, and spending my days just how I want to.
If you want to follow along the journey, you can find me on Bring a Trailer (bringatrailer.com) and my username is MRSDENWERKS. Jason’s is DENWERKS so you can see all his offerings past and present. Or visit our website at Denwerks.com
What an amazing couple of months it has been! I officially kicked off Andersons of West Hills in February 2021, the 5th to be exact, although I’d been thinking about taking the plunge for a few months prior.
I had been exploring writing, consulting, and how to use my skills for quite some time. It was definitely time to take the leap. I’ve been a small business owner with Jason for 18 years now with Denwerks. This means I had experience to draw from and it helped to take the edge off such an important decision.
I am so grateful I made that choice and I’ve not looked back. I quit my job, woke up the next day, turned on my computer, and I’ve been working hard every day.
Things Are Looking Up!
In the beginning, I thought I’d buckle down, and hit the streets every day. I thought I’d be building my business and settling in for the hard, arduous, and tedious work that takes. As it turns out, I’m finding that there are so many opportunities to stop and enjoy the process. I’m loving how this new life is coming together. It’s not arduous at all and I wake up happy and ready to roll with the day.
In the last year, I have finally embraced the side of me that is free-spirited. Or rather, I’ve accepted that I’m way more free-spirited than I ever thought I was. That’s really manifesting into an amazing future, although things are never certain, I wouldn’t change where I am today for a life that is more predictable. That much I can guarantee.
Here’s some updates on projects I’m working on and ways for you to follow along or work with me too!
No Reserve Podcast
As I started networking and making the necessary connections, I found that our classic car business was a nice way for Jason and I to work together on some projects. We also wanted to have some fun, and also build both of our businesses.
Jason, in his role as the Denwerks, Inc. owner, sells all of our cars in No Reserve auctions, so we are risky that way – it never gets less scary by the way no matter how many times you see a car roll on the auction block.
The idea of our podcast is for us to be able to discuss our life, marriage, businesses, and how we plan to live our lives in No Reserve in every way going forward. We’ve learned so much about that recently and it changed us for good. We are kicking off our shoes more often and just rolling with life. That’s what you can hear about on the podcast, as well as business tips and our approach to our marriage.
We are far from perfect and we’ve screwed things up to the breaking point sometimes, but we have also learned a lot and we want to be open about that. Who knows, it just might help someone else.
We know we are not alone in our struggles, and we want others to know they aren’t alone either.
Here’s a link if you want to give it a listen!
In addition, I’m networking with some local groups and taking on a couple of HR and consulting clients. It’s been so fun to share with others my knowledge and to support business owners that are passionate about changing the world. There are amazing stories of hope and inspiration, and I’ve gotten to know several people in my travels already. It’s fun work, and I’m finding that I enjoy taking on the work I want to and not getting bogged down in projects that simply don’t interest me.
If that doesn’t work, it’s fine with me, I’m doing life my way, and I’m here to tell you that you should be doing it your way too. Be done with substituting your judgment for others. That has been extremely freeing for me.
If you are interested in business and HR consultation, get in touch. I’d love to talk.
Grabbing opportunities when they present themselves is so important. You’ve got to if you want to be a business owner. If we work together, it’s going to require you to get uncomfortable and take some risks. I’ll walk beside you, but it might be a little uncomfortable at first.
We’ve had some great things happening in our family too.
Shortly after starting the podcast, as in the day after, Jason got an unexpected message from a long-lost son of his. It has truly been an awe-inspiring journey as he’s met Chuck. Take a listen to the podcast for the whole story. It’s a long one, but an amazing one.
If you’ve ever lost hope in something, you need to hear what has happened to Jason and our family through this story.
In addition, Chuck and his girlfriend are getting ready to have a baby, so we are going to be grandparents!! That’s right, I’ll be a grandma at the ripe old age of 47 and I can’t wait.
Also, Chuck is a car guy. It seriously has to be genetic. We found by happy accident that his car and my car match. White, red brakes and super duper fast is the trend, just in case you were wondering. We had fun doing a photoshoot with him when he visited a few weeks ago.
Jason and I also went to Woodburn Dragstrip a few weeks ago to settle the score about who was faster, his Ford Raptor, or my Porsche Macan S? Results are in, I kicked his butt twice! It was a really fun day, and both Jason and I enjoyed some trash talking and tearing it up at the racetrack. I think we’ll be back in the future.
My super-secret dream career is as a race car driver, so this was a great way to get out there and GO! I hit 102 MPH, which isn’t crazy fast, but hey, it worked for me. So far I’ve had the Porsche up to 116 MPH in other places (ahem, top-secret locations) and I’m so curious how fast this thing can actually go. I’ll keep you posted.
We are also preparing a car for the Gambler 500 this summer. It’s going to be so fun!! Two days of off-road driving, picking up trash on public land, and driving our sweet sweet sweet 1989 Ford Country Squire. It’s nothing but a kick-ass time and we can’t wait.
It’s on our anniversary weekend, but don’t worry, we are going to Hawaii a couple of weeks later so we’ll have a nice relaxing, high class vacation after that.
Also, I’ve been joining Jason more in Denwerks adventures, and I’ve bought a few cars of my own to sell. I am so excited about this! It happened by total accident as I was cruising the ads for a car for our son to learn to drive in (the Porsche and Raptor are not appropriate, ha ha). I found this 1972 Lincoln Mark IV, bought it, and it’s going to be my first No Reserve auction on Bring a Trailer. I’m scared to death, but I can’t wait!!
And then I bought a truck….which is awesome, or will be awesome after that camper and step sides come off. This will be auction #2 on BaT.
Just so you know, I did ultimately buy a car for Mason, a 1998 Ford Taurus, so I think the buying spree is done, at least for now!!
Yes, You Can Have It All, and It Doesn’t Have to Make Sense to Anyone But You
I am so excited about the future and living each day in anticipation of what comes my way. I have learned that having it all is really about doing life authentically and in an open way. We can fall victim to putting ourselves in a framework of how we think we should be, and I’ve done it for most of my life – big mistake, huge mistake. I am so happy to be out of that box and enjoying my life every single day now, and I could care less what anyone thinks about it.
I could tell you all the hard things that have happened too over the journey, and they absolutely have. But they aren’t barriers for me, they are simply mileposts along the way, just like the good stuff. Call me and let’s have coffee if you need to know how I got to this place. I’ll share with anyone that can benefit from my screw-ups.
The best advice I have for you? Stop substituting others’ opinions for yours, live the life you truly want to, and most of all…please, please listen to this: stay away from poison oak!! I have a very healthy fear of it now, I’ve been plagued with it all spring so far. It’s the worst!
So that’s the update, stay in touch, and let’s keep kicking ass.
I met Michelle Layer Rahal through April Cranford, who I interviewed a short time ago for the blog. April told me a little bit about Michelle and I was intrigued by her story about how she came to write her book, Straining Forward.
When Michelle and I spoke on the phone she described how she was inspired to write the book. She heard Minh Phuong Towner speak at a local church and after hearing her speak, Michelle found herself called to this project. Michelle says it wasn’t even ‘her’ that was speaking the words of commitment, it was God’s calling to her. She still can’t explain it, but she did follow in obedience, and that obedience is impacting many people in positive ways.
The process of writing would take years of commitment because of the depth of the story itself, and also the healing process that took place for both women.
I left my conversation with Michelle challenged in my own faith, and inspired by the care and attention she gave to sharing such a personal account in a respectful and honoring way. Michelle has come alongside Minh and it took years to get the manuscript written, and neither one ever gave up on the project, even while facing some of the most difficult trials that life can bring. Her perseverance definitely came through, and also a deep love and commitment that she has for God and for others.
Read on for my interview with her, and you’ll have the opportunity to connect with her via her links below.
If that isn’t enough….
Michelle has graciously offered a FREE download of the first chapter of the audiobook version of Straining Forward. Download here!
Interview with Michelle Layer Rahal
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I was born on a small farm in upstate New York, near Niagara Falls. I’ve lived in four states, and now call Virginia “home.” I tend to live life by following open doors rather than intentionally pursuing anything in particular. This has led to a string of positions and opportunities I might otherwise have missed. I’ve worked as a radio news journalist, an elementary school teacher, a published educational consultant, a worship leader, the assistant director of assessment for a large school district, a family and youth ministry director, and a published author.
Though I hold an undergraduate degree in Theater Arts and a graduate degree in Education, most of my professional experiences have involved a lot of writing and big mugs of coffee. I enjoy reading, cooking, and making music with my husband. Greg and I met in the worship band at our church and have been married for 17 years. No kids. No pets. No boat. No second house. But we are surrounded by a great family, great friends, and lots of laughter.
And here’s a little extra information …
I was born and raised on a small farm in upstate New York, near Niagara Falls. I tend to live life by following open doors rather than pursuing anything in particular. I’ve now been married to Greg for 17 years. We met in the worship band of our church 25 years ago, when I was married to someone else. Greg told me he loved me before we had our first date, which was after my divorce. Church and music linked us together. No kids. No pets. No boat. No second house.
Who are the most important people in your life, and why?
My husband is the #1 person in my life. Genesis 2:24 says, “…a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Since we are ‘one flesh’, putting Greg first is also the best thing I can do for myself! We are the closest of friends, and there is no one I’d rather do life with. He makes me laugh every day!
My siblings and their families register at #2. Greg and I are blessed by extended family who provide us with a sense of belonging and grounding. We have incredible siblings, in-laws, nieces, nephews, and grand nephews. They are a fun crew to hang out with, and they ALL get along! In today’s world, I think that’s very rare.
Friends, logging in at #3, are the finest gift of my life. My husband has always been surrounded by dozens of friends. Not me. I was kind of a loner until I married Greg who demonstrated what true friendship looked like. Now I have a ton of TRUE girlfriends—and a best friend, Denise. She holds me accountable; and since my husband introduced Denise to her husband, I assume we will be best friends for a very long time!
What are your favorite ways to spend a day?
Because I love to travel, my favorite kind of day would be seeing the sights in a foreign country, taking in a show, and eating in a great restaurant with a lovely bottle of red wine. COVID has truly put a damper on that! But a perfect day at home involves reading and writing or cooking and having friends over to eat—with a lovely bottle of red wine. Every day is bathed in God sightings; life wouldn’t seem right if they weren’t!
How would you describe yourself to people who don’t know you?
(This sounds like a job-interview question!) I am passionate, loyal, hard-working, detail oriented, resourceful, and utterly dependent on God. I’m an alpha, but I don’t normally seek leadership roles. They seem to find me.
How did you get into writing? How long have you been doing it? What are some challenges you’ve faced along the way? What are some amazing things that have happened along the way?
I think I’ve always been a writer. My third-grade teacher told me I was a writer, and I believed her.
My first professional writing job was writing copy for a news radio station in Dallas, TX. That eventually led to reporting and anchoring. Writing for a 24-hour news radio station teaches you to write fast and succinctly. It was good work, but it didn’t speak to my heart.
I went back to school to become a teacher, and that involved writing a lot of lesson plans and weekly newsletters. This led to a job with one of the first online education companies in the country. After a couple years, an education contractor hired me to help write the text for state and national studies. A highlight was visiting reservations and interviewing American Indians—students, teachers, and principals—for the first National Indian Education Study (2006).
My experience with writing using educational data led to a job with Arlington Public Schools as their Assistant Director of Testing, and I also wrote articles for Educational Research Services (ERS). Working with data taught me to be thorough, thoughtful, and above reproach. Once again, it was good work, but it didn’t speak to my heart.
In 2012, a Vietnamese refugee spoke at my church. Her story rocked my world. Though I had witnessed extreme poverty on American Indian reservations and in Haiti where I did educational mission work, I had never come face-to-face with someone who had risked everything to escape a communist regime. I walked up to Minh after service and said, “I want to write your story.” (Those were God’s words, not mine.) Writing “Straining Forward” turned into a 6-year project and taught me more than I ever wanted to know about communism, abuse, refugees, orphans, and the meaning of James 1:27.
What are the three most important things that you want people to know about you?
God is my favorite subject, and I blog about him on my website. I prefer silence over small talk. I prefer to work alone, but I appreciate the company and will ask for help if needed.
Name one life lesson that you didn’t want to have to learn, but you are grateful you did, and why.
Though I would have preferred to describe myself as a passionate and natural leader, I came to realize in my 50s, that people who didn’t know me viewed me as intense and controlling. I suffered a stroke in 2014 that set me back for about a year. During that time, I was forced to slow down, depend on others, and let go of perfection. I thank God for my stroke, for what it revealed to me about myself, for making me vulnerable, and for providing a way for me to enjoy life more fully. God is good!
What creative project(s) are you working on that you are really excited about?
I am currently working on a second book about the various and creative voices God uses to speak into our daily lives. I am also preparing for the audiobook launch of Straining Forward for late April. Both are quite exciting to me!
What messages will people take away when they interact with you, and how can it help them?
God is good, real, present, active, and speaking to them. There are no coincidences in life. God has a plan; we can either let Him lead and enjoy the grand excursion, or we can forge our own path and experience a mediocre trip.
What are you grateful for?
EVERYTHING!! My husband, family, and friends. My home, church, and yard. I’m grateful for the “stuff” God allows me to possess: a car, a dishwasher, cell phone, computer, a walk-in closet, killer shoes (I have a shoe closet!), and more clothes than I actually need. I’m grateful for the gift of sight, sound, taste, and smell, as well as the ability to run. I’m grateful to live in America, for the right to vote, and the ability to worship freely. I’m thankful for music, art, and beauty in a dark and chaotic world. And I am grateful for life’s trials (divorce, miscarriage, stroke) that have refined me and drawn me closer to God.
Michelle Layer Rahal is the award-wining author of “Straining Forward”. She is a former radio news reporter, published educator, and youth ministry director. After graduating from Hofstra University, she obtained a Master of Education degree from the University of New York at Buffalo. She lives in Virginia with her husband and blogs about providence and perseverance at www.KeepStrainingForward.com.
Here are Michelle’s links so you can follow and support her!