Friday, March 28, 2014

Rachel Phifer: Why We're All Special

Everyone's Story welcomes Rachel Phifer as its guest this week. When I first met Rachel at an ACFW conference I was awed at her sereneness considering the excited atmosphere. This week she shares with us a continued sense of peace when she poses the question of whether each one of us are special and why. I've read her piece several times and always finish it with a warmth of acceptance, which I believe we all crave. I'd like to know what you think after reading Rachel's words. Rachel is offering a BookGiveaway of her novel THE LANGUAGE OF SPARROWS, which you can check out an excerpt from below. Rachel and I look forward to hearing from you.



Book Giveaway:
Rachel is offering one copy of THE LANGUAGE OF SPARROWS to one randomly chosen commenter. The winner will be announced here on Friday, April 4th, between 5-6 PM EST. For convenience, please leave your contact information within your comment. Thanks!




Excerpt from THE LANGUAGE OF SPARROWS:


THE LANGUAGE OF SPARROWS by Rachel Phifer

April knew she’d find her daughter close to home. That’s why she didn’t search the streets of Houston when the school called this time. And as expected, she found Sierra sitting in the apartment courtyard with her back against the willow tree. Oblivious to the cars speeding by and the crowded apartments surrounding her, she wrote in a notebook with utter concentration.

It wasn’t until Sierra noticed her blocking the light that she glanced up. They looked at each other for what seemed like a long minute before Sierra spoke. “I couldn’t stay there, Mom.”

As she lifted her face to the sun, it took on a quality that didn’t belong on a fifteen-year-old. April lowered herself to Sierra’s level, taking a moment to balance on her pumps. “You couldn’t stay in school because …?”

Sierra sent her a pleading look.

“Sierra,” April insisted.

“It’s not like my old school. There aren’t any windows in most of my classrooms. It’s so dark.”

There it was—the best explanation her daughter could offer for skipping school. Again. Sierra, with her knowledge of languages. But she never could seem to find the words she needed most.

As they talked, Sierra’s hand kept moving across the notebook in her lap. Writing by touch and not by sight, she guided the pen right and then left, then down. Every now and then she’d stop to hem a section of her strange script in black boxes.

“Baby, you’ve got to talk to me eventually.”

“I am talking to you.” But Sierra looked into the distance, tracking the movements of a cat, a blur of white that leaped from balcony to balcony. And her pen still moved.

April tried not to hate the symbols on Sierra’s page—Hebrew, Greek, an occasional column of hieroglyphs. Pages of archaic languages were absorbing more and more of her time. The girl had filled reams of paper with ancient words since they’d moved.

April sighed. Only on the news did people disappear in an instant. One minute a girl was walking to her bus stop. The next she was gone. Cable stations broadcast the missing child’s photo nationwide. Crews searched the woods. Everyone mourned when a child disappeared in a flash.

Not so the slow disappearances. No one called a press conference when Sierra’s grades began plummeting, when she dropped each of her friends one by one or refused to make new friends when they moved to Houston. The alarms on the school doors didn’t go off when she left in the middle of the day. The policeman at the front entrance didn’t even notice her leaving.

Only a computerized phone call alerted April to Sierra’s skipping classes at all.

There was no need to make threats or offer encouraging words. April had tried them all since they moved here last January. And Sierra was smart enough to understand the risks of skipping school—the danger of the streets where they lived, the potential failure to graduate, trouble with the police.

Instead of the old standbys, April looked through Sierra’s letters until she found a familiar one—a hieroglyph in the shape of an eye. “I see you, baby.”

That caught Sierra’s attention. She looked directly at April and blinked.

The school might not notice Sierra’s disappearing act. Maybe friends were nonexistent. Sometimes it seemed that God Himself had found someone more newsworthy to save. But it was impossible to disappear with a witness.

April underlined the hieroglyph with her index finger. “You are not invisible. I would have seen you walking past me if I’d been at the school. I see you, Sierra. Okay?”





When God Calls Us By Name by Rachel Phifer

Sometimes it’s dramatic. It comes in a blinding flash of light, and God asks you to give up everything you’ve known. Sell your possessions. Go to China. Know that He is God. And know nothing else. Your life looks like it belongs in the Book of Acts.

Truth be told, we don’t see enough of that. My life certainly has never looked like it belonged among Peter and Paul’s stories, and it’s probably due to my own lack of faith.

And yet, so often, when God calls your name, it’s a quiet whisper. He delivers a simple reminder that He knit you together. He made you for a purpose. It may be a quiet purpose, but it fits you like a glove.

Recently I had the opportunity to take a tour of a research lab where DNA gets modified. There were little petri dishes with microscopic cells floating in them. With the injection of a single new gene, healthy cells became cancerous or cancer cells became healthy.

The lab manager showed us a DNA construct with the letters identifying it. Since we were all non-scientists, she explained it in simple terms. “My name is Samar. My name tells who I am. But suppose, we change a letter of my name. Suppose I take out the “r” and replace it with a “t.” Samat does not have the same identity as Samar. Samat behaves differently than Samar.”

Courtesy Google Images
And I couldn’t help but think of the special name God has given us in the Book of Life. Perhaps it will even look similar to the name we already knew – encoded in it might be the same talents, the same appearance, more or less the same personality, the same history. But when we turn to Him for our identity, He alters our DNA by a smidge or by a yard, and we find there’s a brimming-over of life, which we didn’t have before. We are redeemed to be everything He created us to be.

Last week I picked up writing after weeks of not being able to get to it. And I hate to say it. It sounds too lofty. But with each word I typed, each phrase I edited, I felt God’s whisper. This is who you are. This is how I made you. Why have you stayed away? I have something for you to do here. I can meet you here.

What is it for you that brings God’s whisper –I breathed this joy into you when I breathed life into you?

Maybe it’s something ordinary such as cooking dinner for your family or crunching numbers. Or maybe it’s something identity-shaking such as going, full-time, to take the good news to the street people of Albania.

What good thing did God give you to do to build up His kingdom? God made each saint unique in their saintliness, after all. He gave each one of us our own story. So our call may involve a lot of self-sacrifice. It may be all joy. But you’ll know it’s you He’s calling because whether God comes to you with a mighty trumpet blast or by tiptoeing quietly into your life, He’s called you by name.

Rachel's Ah-hahs To Tweet:
Everyone’s Story: Visit with Rachel Phifer, author of LANGUAGE OF SPARROWS. #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

Author Rachel Phifer: How do you know when God is calling you? (Tweet This)

Rachel Phifer challenges you: Do you think you’re special? (Tweet This)

Author's Bio:
As the daughter of missionaries, Rachel Phifer grew up in Malawi, South Africa and Kenya, and managed to attend eleven schools by the time she graduated from high school. Books, empty notebooks and cool pens were her most reliable friends as she moved from one place to another. She holds a B.A. in English and psychology, and lives in Houston with her family.

Places to connect with Rachel:


48 comments:

  1. Another inspirational interview and another book I would love to read. Thanks again for the opportunity for another give-away.

    Ann Ellison
    abilene_nana@yahoo.com

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    1. Thanks, Ann. I'm so glad you enjoyed the blog. Best of luck!

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  2. Ann, my friend, I'm going to have to start calling you Awesome Ann for always looking forward to another edition of Everyone's Story. You're a blessing to me. And I'm sure Rachel will enjoy seeing that her novel appeals to you.

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  3. This sounds like a great book. I sometimes have a hard time remembering that God made us all special.Thank you for the chance to win a copy.
    susanmsj at msn dot com

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    1. Susan, thanks for your visit this spring evening (I'm so excited about the warmer temps that I had to include that in!). My problem is that I know I'm different from others, but must remember that God created me this way for a reason… and that He knows what He's doing and loves me, just like He loves us all.

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    2. Hi, Susan. Thanks for stopping by. Elaine, I'm with you. I could never fit in, no matter how hard I tried. It's nice to know that whether we feel like we're "misfits" or whether we easily fit in with the pack, God designed us, and is calling our name.

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  4. How fun to see this up. I just wrote Rachael's most recent review on Amazon. I really enjoyed the book on kindle. I would love to have a print copy to share with others. Such an interesting way the lasting impact of a timeless truth was revealed. Looking for more great reads from Rachael. I can see where a missionary kid would write with this style. I raised 4 of my own .

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    1. A fond hello, again, Barbara. Rachel, yes--Barbara is a recently retired missionary (and recent blog guest here). Thanks for sharing your sweet words, Barbara. Do check back either later this evening or over the weekend for Rachel's reply.

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    2. Hi, Barbara. Thanks so much for the review; it was lovely.

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  5. I always enjoy Rachel's insights and I LOVED her book (you don't have to enter me in the drawing, but I'll be tweeting this!). Can't wait for your next book, Rachel! Keep up that writing!

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    1. Heather, thanks for visiting. Love your enthusiasm! And thanks for those Tweets.

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    2. Thanks, Heather! I can always count on you.

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  6. I so often recommend Rachel's wrings to friends, and I'm guilty sometimes of printing them and passing them out in our ladies' Bible study. Just hate for anyone to miss them. Her words never fail to speak to me. I read her book when it was "raw", again on kindle, and now I have the actual book. Love it.

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    1. Welcome to Everyone's Story, Joyce. Rachel is blessed to have you as a fan and friend.

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    2. Thanks, Joyce! Your encouragement has meant the world to me. Maybe God is calling you to be an encourager :)

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  7. This sounds like a deep story. I haven't heard GOD tell me to do a specific thing like some people talking in their head. Maybe it is something I think is just an idea of mine. I have always knew I wanted to be a wife and a mother. Now, I am also a grandmother and a great grandmother. I love the family GOD has given me and have tried to be good at it. Also to be a good daughter and friend. I have had been asked to substitute for my Sunday School when she was gone and didn't except. I felt wasn't something I could do. I have wondered if that might have been something GOD wanted me to do. I have always taught my children about Jesus, and now they are always christians. But, wish I was better at telling others. I do know that is something expects of all of us. I would love to win this book. Thanks.
    Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com

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    1. Maxie--so glad of your visit. You know what I hear God whispering to you in what you just described? Maxie, I'm giving you a lot of love… raise your family… point their faces to Me… My love is all and everything you need.

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    2. Hi, Maxie. Thanks for reading. You know, I haven't often heard an actual voice. Sometimes, you just know it's right. Motherhood is so important, and it sounds like you've done it well and honored God with it. It sounds as if God called your name when He gave you children.

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  8. Rachel, in addition to enjoying your post, I would like to tell you that everyone who spells Phifer the way you do is related. That was my mom's maiden name. I wish you would email me at caroline@carolineclemmons.com if you have genealogical information. I have a great deal I'll share with you if you are interested.

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    1. Hi, Caroline. I've emailed you.

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    1. Cynthia, it's so nice to see you once again. I'm glad you enjoyed Rachel's uplifting message.

      Savor spring!

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  10. Rachel,
    A wonderful and thought provoking blog. The Language Of Sparrows sounds wonderful. I had to smile as I've played around with my first name, from Diana to Dana. :) Incredible how one later can be so important, so much like our each decision in life.
    Your question: What good thing did God give you to do to build up His kingdom?
    I 'feel' His presence when I help others through many venues, including my charity work with Habitat For Humanity. I'm a firm believer that each of us can make a positive difference in others lives if we choose to.
    Each day I find a quote that I need to hear and post it on my Facebook page. Interestingly, today's quote is: Quote of the day: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill
    Take care and I wish you every blessings!
    Sincerely,
    Diana

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    1. Diana, as always, I appreciate your visit. I once played around with my name as well, trying out Laine (as in Lainy) when I was in my young 20s. Never stuck. And now I'm glad… it's taken a while to "get" why God has made me who I am. And Rachel's thoughts here add to it.

      You're a beautiful woman, and I admire all that you do for others. Thanks for sharing that Churchill quote.

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    2. Thanks for stopping by, Diana. It's so good to hear of the different ways we hear His voice. May God bless the work you do.

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  11. *Hugs* Elaine. I'm blessed by your friendship.

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  12. Oh I've already read this book and think is FANTASTIC. Highly recommend. Love everything written by this AWARD-WINNING-AUTHOR.

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    1. A fond hello, Christine. When your comment first arrived in my inbox, before I opened it (with just Christine headlining it) I knew it was from you :) And so glad it was. Thanks for your visit.

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    2. Waving, Christine. Thanks for the plug!

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  13. I would love to win this book. donco49@gmail.com

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    1. Nonna, thanks for visiting Rachel and me today. You're definitely in the drawing. Do come back later on for Rachel's reply.

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    2. Thanks, Nonna. I hope you get to enjoy the story.

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  14. I see what you mean Elaine about the post lifting you up. It was extremely refreshing!
    My favorite scripture verse in the Bible is in Isaiah 43: "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name. You are Mine."

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    1. Pat, thanks for brightening my world with your visit!

      It's funny/sad how we humans try, with all our energy, to gather approval from others… sometimes starting decades-old family feuds or even international war. Yet, it floods my heart with warmth and makes me cry happy tears that God created me the way He wanted to and you the way He wanted to and that we a truly special in His eyes. We are blessed to having a loving God that knows us by our name.

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    2. Hi, Patricia. What a lovely verse; I can see why it's your favorite. I'm so glad you found something refreshing in my entry.

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  15. Lovely to meet you, Rachel. I too, loved 'The Language of Sparrows' when I read it on holiday last year. I love your thoughts about writing (or whatever else) being encoded in our DNA, and about listening for God's still, quiet whisper.

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    1. Paula, welcome back. I love when you visit. I'm glad Rachel's words spoke to you.

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    2. Hi, Paula. Thanks for stopping by. I'm so glad you liked The Language of Sparrows. Take care.

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  16. Awesome post! You didn't quote Eph 2:10, but you pretty much summed it up: "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
    This was a well-timed post; I was just thinking this morning about how I sometimes feel like my life is useless to God, but I know that's not true so I just have to have faith that He knows what He's doing. And then I read your encouraging post! Thank-you. :) I also really liked the excerpt from your book.

    jessicaeveringhamwriting@gmail.com

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    1. Jessica, nice to see you here on Everyone's Story! God always has excellent timing, despite our doubts, leading us to those who will uplift us and give us hope, which I'm glad Rachel's words have done for you.

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    2. Hi, Jessica. It's always nice to hear my words have encouraged someone. And a perfect verse. Thanks for sharing.

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  17. O wow I would love love love to read this book !! Thanks for the offer !! Blessings,Dana

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    1. Dana, welcome to Everyone's Story. You're in the drawing for Rachel's book. Hopefully, you will read this and comment once more with your email address. Thanks!

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    2. Hi, Dana.

      Thanks for your enthusiasm. I hope you get the chance to read the book soon. All the best, Rachel.

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  18. This wraps up another week on Everyone's Story, and although I'm excited to launch my next amazing guest, I want to thank this week's pretty awesome guest, Rachel Phifer. Rachel, thanks so much for taking the time to be my guest. As indicated by quite a few comments to you, you're truly a beloved author. I have prayed that you will continue to be blessed and be a blessing to many by sharing the stories God has placed in your heart.

    Thanks too for your Book Giveaway of THE LANGUAGE OF SPARROWS. And the winner of Rachel's novel is…

    Caroline. Congratulations, Caroline! Both Rachel and I will be in touch with you via direct emails.

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  19. Elaine, thank you so much for hosting me. It was a great experience.

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    1. You're very welcome, Rachel. Blessings to you.

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