. . .Her name is Rachel McRae. She is far more awesome and amazing than I'm sure she has ever even briefly considered. This is not because she has low self-esteem or anything like that. It is simply because she spends far more time considering others than she does herself. Whatever is the opposite of self-absorbed, this is the definition of Rachel McRae.
I'm guessing she may not even recall everything I will mention here, and I'm certain she doesn't realize how much she has affected me over the years. But she is indeed one of the most precious, adorable, funny, giving, fabulous people I have ever known.
I recall the first time I met her a loooooooong time ago. She was working in a LifeWay store in Knoxville, TN. I was working in the LifeWay corporate office in Nashville, TN. A group from corporate was out on store visits, and we stopped in her store. It was one of the oldest, and (pardon me) ugliest buildings in our entire chain, and yet Rachel (who had every reason to complain and be frustrated by her store's desperate need for a facelift or relocation) somehow along with the rest of the team in her store had it looking absolutely fantastic. No complaints. They just got the job done. I remember the corporate team getting back into the vehicle and having stunned conversation about what that store's staff had been able to accomplish with the less than mediocre building they inhabited at the time. (Fortunately it has since been relocated.)
That was my first impression of Rachel. Needless to say, it was excellent. But it was just the beginning. She was eventually promoted to the corporate office (I mean, DUH--if she could make THAT store THAT good, what could she do for the REST of the chain, RIGHT?!?) After she moved to Nashville, I had much more opportunity to get to know her better, and this is what I learned. Rachel is excellent at her job. Excellent. One of the hardest workers I know. But even more important and more impressive than that--Rachel truly loves people well. She listens. She learns. She remembers. She gives. She encourages. She KNOWS people, because she CHOOSES to, and then she LOVES them in the way she knows they enjoy receiving love. It is something she has been good at since the moment I met her, and she has mastered it over the years.
My recent reminder of all of this came in the form of a book she sent me in the mail. Seems so simple, but this is what makes it profound (at least to me)-- Rachel and I had a conversation YEARS ago about the book Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. I shared with her how much I enjoyed the book and what a beautiful and significant impact it had on my life. Since then, she has remembered that. So when Francine Rivers wrote her most recent book just a few months before I resigned my position at LifeWay, Rachel happily shared it with me. (It was FABULOUS, btw--Her Mother's Hope. I highly recommend it.) Unfortunately, Francine decided that the story needed to be long enough for 2 books, so the second book would not be published until after I resigned and moved away. BUT guess what-- My awesome friend Rachel sent me a copy. She suuuuuuuuure didn't have to do that. But she's awesome, so she wanted to. This is just one of many reasons she is so amazing to me. Not because she sent me a book. Because she remembered why I would love the book so much.
NASHVILLE peeps--if you agree with me and you can reach Rachel, please give her a GIANT hug for me! If you don't agree with me about her, there is something wrong with you. It's probably serious. Get some help.
Love you, Rachel!!! And THANK YOU!