Friday, December 4, 2015

Numinous Nigeria: When Jesus Hands You Glittery Surprises

 


For those who know me you know that I recently went to Jos Nigeria with Back2Back Ministries!
You also know that part of my heart has always belonged to Africa which is why I am thrilled to announce...
I am in the process of getting ready to MOVE TO NIGERIA next year!

The word Numinous is defined as "Having a strong religious or spiritual quality: Indicating the presence of a divinity." This word sums up my entire experience in Nigeria with Back2Back Nigeria! For some experiences there are no words...this is one of those but the blog that follows is my attempt.


 
  
I have never known such peace as I have in this journey. It has not been easy, but it has been so incredibly, undeniably Jesus. From a Nigerian Fairy Tale I ran across called "The Rough Face Girl" to finding a dog named "Sparkle" each moment of this trip had little moments where I knew Jesus was calling me here.

Some of my favorite time was spent reading and being read to by the children there. When I am there I will get to assist in education which is a major part of both my gifting and my heart

To continue following my journey, keep checking your e-mail for blog updates! If you haven't signed up and would like to just let me know!
I will post another blog soon that has more information  and stories but I just wanted to invite you to follow along with this journey!

I love you all!
Sarah


Monday, October 19, 2015

The Day I Mattered: A Post for the Heartbroken

"Sarah, what do I do about this guy? Sarah, why am I so anxious all the time? Sarah, I never feel pretty enough, Sarah, he broke up with me..."
Looking into the eyes of the freshman girls around me while they poured their hearts out, I was instantly transported to that time in my life...the days I have always wanted to forget and the words I never could...
Around the same age as these girls I had this guy, this guy that I knew wasn't right for me, but I so didn't care, because he was so cute and I was so frumpy and lonely and I didn't care that he was manipulative and hurtful as long as he was mine, no matter how slippery my grip was. Until the day he said the words I have never forgotten, "I can't be seen in public with you...I don't want people to know I'm with you because I am ashamed of you. You really aren't pretty enough to be with me." BAM. Bomb detonated. And the shattered pieces of my heart didn't matter anymore because I was just numb. So when he asked for pictures I sent them because I wasn't worth a lot anyway, and he when he ignored me I thought I deserved it, and when he flirted with other girls I knew it was because I wasn't enough, and I never would be.
As they asked me their questions I remembered like it was yesterday the mistakes I made and the heart that felt like it would never heal.
And I felt the Lord whisper, "All things work together for good...tell them, Sarah. Tell them the truth. Tell them who I am."
So I told them. I told them my story. I told them things I had no intention of telling them. And the whole time I felt tears burn the back of my eyes because I knew their value and for the first time I came face to face with the days I should have known mine. 
And then I told them what Jesus knew the whole time.
Jesus and only Jesus should define our value. His love is greater than any picture you send, any sin you commit, any moment in time where your heart freezes with the thought that you are not enough, that you don't matter, and that your life is determined by your mistakes. I told them that Jesus loves them always, no matter what, because they are His.
And I felt Him say, "Do you know that? Do you live like that?" In realizing how much their hearts matter I realized mine does too.
And in that moment I felt a long frozen part of my heart begin to thaw, and I told them...
This, this is who my Jesus is, so patient...even when I am still discovering who I am.
And all those days, and all those words, and all of the numb suddenly mattered because in telling them my story I am confident Jesus knows the end of theirs the same way He knows the end of mine, and even the heartbreak matters. We overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony, if I had never been broken I would never have known the glorious redemption of Jesus putting me back together.
And that? That's what matters about me. I am His. Nothing else matters.
 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Little Miracles: Nigeria Here I Come


Every once in awhile I have no words, What follows is my pathetic attempt to convey the little miracles that have happened in my life, the story Jesus has been weaving together, even when I can't see the ending.

5 years ago I had given up on dreaming. It was scary, heartbreaking, and not worth living for. My only hope consisted in the plea that I wouldn't live long.

6 months spent at Mercy Ministries changed all of that. They re introduced me to the Jesus I never truly knew, showed me what it meant to walk in truth instead of lies, and were His hands and feet in saving my life,

4 years ago I went to Mozambique Africa and my entire world flipped on its axis. The only way I know how to explain it is to say I fell in love. While trying to explain to my mom what made Africa so special to me all I could say was, "When I go to Africa, it's like part of me is home."

3 months ago I went to Haiti with Back2Back Ministries to see if I could possibly partner with them. While there, Jason, the in state director of both Haiti and Nigeria asked me if I would ever be interested in going to Nigeria. Without hesitation I said "Absolutely."

Coming home my sister in law told me, "I think you're leaving for Nigeria sooner than you think." I am thrilled to announce she was right. I am going to Nigeria November 10-21, and in prayer about if it is something I want to do long tern upon graduation with my M.A. in English.

I don't know what happens after graduation but I do know when I look back on my life I am so humbled and repentant that I ever thought Jesus didn't care about my life or my dreams. I know that dreaming is scary and not very safe, but I also know He wants me to dream because He is my Father, and He loves His daughters.

And He has made my life a series of little miracles.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Question, the Crutch and the Cross

From visiting my Aunt Mary to sitting on the bus for people with disabilities to getting what I believe to be my second stress fracture in the opposite foot this time, a question has been slapping me in the face, a question I have spent my entire life avoiding...if God is good...then why?

Why do people who love Him lose their minds? Why do I wake up sore every day? Why do parents lose their children? Why?

Over the years I have had many reasons to ask that question, and in my search I have heard many different responses,

"We live in a fallen world. TRUE. Still not comforting.  We have an enemy. TRUE. Yet brings my soul no peace." "People need God as a crutch, even if down deep they know He is not real." FALSE.

People do need God. But to accuse Him of being a crutch for the weak is to overlook what true strength is, and to accuse those of us who love Him of using Him as a crutch is to overlook something key:

I use a walker, which serves a similar function as a crutch so go with me for a minute to the question no one wants to ask.

Walkers/Crutches follow the lead of the person.
Walkers are convenient.

I am about to say something that may get me in trouble. Every once in a while (in a blue moon as they say in Texas), I wish I didn't believe He existed. Because then, there is no reason why, there is no One to question and I am in control.

But as far as I have run, as often as I have plugged my ears, as many times as I have held broken women while they wept over losses that didn't make sense, every. single. time. I know one thing...He is real, and He loves, and He is often drastically inconvenient.

If He is a crutch, He is the most inconvenient crutch ever.

I follow His lead, He doesn't follow mine. And sometimes, He takes me places I never want to go.
I never wanted to have a disability. I never wanted to struggle with depression, and dwell in the possibility of suicide, I never wanted to watch someone I love slowly lose their memory.

But here's what I know:
No answer to the why question is going to make pain okay, only heaven will do that.
The only thing that matters in the midst of pain is the Who.
And the only way to find that Who, and know
Is to remember Calvary and trust the cross.

God is not the author of evil, which begs the question, is He passive?
But I can tell you from experience, He is absolutely not.
Depression has led me to know what true joy feels like.
Disabilities have led me to the reality that I need Jesus, and I need people.
And, only in wanting to end my life did I understand what a gift it is to breathe.

If He came down today and gave me all of the reasons I have CP, it wouldn't matter because really the why doesn't matter, the who matters.

And I know Him.
And He comforts my heart.
And He may not be safe, but He's good. (Thanks again C.S. Lewis)

When I think about why, I know the Who,
and Calvary speaks for itself.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Finding Myself: The Box I was Never Meant For and the Women I Love

This post is a reflection of several different conversations I've had over the past several months with several different people. My older brother told me a few months ago, "Sarah, you're great at speaking life over other people, but you're pretty awful at speaking it over yourself." Then as I spoke to my mom last night I said the words I had been thinking for years "Why can't I be like them?" The women whose houses are spotless, who go home to their husbands and cook dinner and have full time jobs and houses and kids who absolutely adore them. What is wrong with me?

I don't put God in a box. But I absolutely put myself in one. My life looks absolutely nothing like I thought it would at 26. For starters, I am in Abilene. And as crazy as this sounds the little girl I used to be thought I would wake up one day and my feet would be straight. My hair would magically curl and putting on make up would be second nature.

Instead, my feet are more crooked than ever, my hair is a constant source of frustration for me and if I ever put lip gloss on its been a good day. This sounds like a litany of complaints but it's actually led to an epiphany. I like who I am when I embrace who He has made me to be. In the midst of getting braces for my feet, I asked myself what makes me feel the most confident? When have I looked in the mirror and been at peace with what I saw? Two things occurred to me:
1. When I embrace all of the physical realities of what I can't do and choose to enjoy short hair and crazy colors and glitter eyeshadow because I know no other person who wants to try and pull off the awkward combination of leather, glitter, and tattoos that I adore.
2. When I stop comparing myself to other women.

I am absolutely crazy about the women in my life. My sister in law is the most beautiful woman I know, she's the best mom, the sweetest encourager of my heart, and the most detail oriented person I know. And I am lucky if I don't have books all over my house randomly open to parts I meant to underline. But, when I realize I am not going to be like her because I am not meant to be, it means I can love every part of who she is, and learn from her without feeling like her successes are a mirror of my "failures."

My sister is a really great listener, she has a gentle and quiet spirit and I never feel judged when I am around her. I have a loud mouth and speak way more than I should. She's taught me the value of two ears and one mouth.

My other "sister" Jules is a quiet strong one. She doesn't need to flaunt her strength but everyone around her is blessed by her quiet presence. When she speaks, people listen because she has valuable things to say.

My mama is the best woman I know hands down. She is strong and courageous and loves Jesus. She fights for what's right and NEVER gives up on her children even when a more sane person would run.

My friends Katie, Chelsea, Mandy, Sarah and Taryn are some of the most incredible wives I know, and I am confident they are showing me how to do that even as I walk in my season of singleness.

My friends Bales and Rebecca Roberts and in the same season as I am, and we are learning from each other that we are enough. We are exactly where we are supposed to be doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing.

And I realize comparison means that love, real, true, no matter what, love, is not possible when comparison comes into play. Because Christ made us all to learn from each other, not to envy each other.
Each woman I know needs this reminder.
You are enough.
You are needed.
You are significant.

Embrace that, and get the h*ll out of that box. You were meant for more.

You were meant to change the world.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

And She Lived Happily Ever After

I have been in a crazy difficult season, under attack in all ways. From stress fractures to heartbreak my soul has echoed with one cry, "Why do I trust You?" That's a question I have been scared to ask because it has been reminiscent of the little girl I used to be who firmly believed that God was actively opposed to her happiness.

Today my bedroom walls echoed with verbal abuse I unleashed on the Lord. "You promised...You promise, and here I sit limping and angry and sore and tired, and alone." I've made a lot of mistakes lately that were very much part of my past. I keep hearing this verse echo in my soul, “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her."

And I realize, it's not Him that I don't trust, it's me. I am weak. I want to settle for second best. And He keeps telling me I'm worth more..." But my heart tells me I may as well just settle for mediocre.
An opportunity I feel I am supposed to pursue has opened up in Nigeria, and everything in me feels like it is another dream that's going to fall through. The way most little girls dreamed of their wedding I dreamed of getting on a plane, or pirate ship and going overseas to reach the poor and wounded of the nations.
Part of me wishes I could want the normal "happily ever after," the normal story, but I know that the only reason I want that is so I can feel like I fit in.... but if I choose to fit in, I will always wonder what might have been.
Believing in a different happily ever after has been a mourning process. Laying down my desire to fit in, letting go of a community of people I no longer fit in with in order to pursue other community, choosing to trust Jesus when nothing in me wants to, the season I am in has truly been a wilderness. And the thing about the wilderness? It's lonely. But venting to Jesus today about how lonely I am I am reminded that He too often withdrew to a lonely place.
Experience has taught me not to believe in happily ever after. As I vented about all of this to my brother from another mother he said, "Sarah, you're not who you used to be." Here's what I will say, I may not be who I used to be, but I can't do this alone anymore. I can't be strong all of the time. As I told the Lord all of this I keep feeling guilty, but Jesus didn't make me to be strong all the time. And as I talked to Joel, I realized he has become one of my "lines of defense." Jesus gave me time with Joel and Ashley today so that I wouldn't have to be "the strong one," all the time, so that the wilderness would be a place I withdraw too, not a place I dwell in.
I have no true answers about my future, and my heart is still broken, but this I know : Jesus heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds, and someday I will live happily ever after.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

From Glory to Glory: When God Calls You Out (My Sister In Law Can Preach)

I have been in the strangest period of transition I have ever experienced in my whole life. And in this period I have realized something about myself, I am a "past dweller." When we moved to Abilene I missed Lubbock, when I went to college I missed high school, and when I have to meet new people there is this part of me that shuts down because I know eventually things will change and our relationship will change along with it.

I miss people the most. Old friends, people that move away, even friends that still live in Abilene but switch seasons while I stay put.

Because of my "past dwelling" I am really bad about being worried about the future, and moving ahead when I know God has told me to. Next week, I leave for Hati, and due to many prayers and random moments that I know were from the Lord, there is a significant chance I will be moving there long term when I graduate,

As I sat on my sister-in-laws couch and told her how nervous I was (a rare occurrence for me when it comes to traveling), I realized the root of it was my "past dwelling," when we talked about Hati I was already thinking about all of the things and people I would leave behind here.

She said something that I tried to cling to this weekend when many of my friends celebrated other transitions, transitions for other people, transitions I want but have yet to experience. And in the midst of this struggle, I forgot to celebrate my own transition. But Sarah reminded me, "You are in a period of transition, and that can be a fearful thing, but try not to let it be. Instead remember, God only transitions us from glory to glory, and if this period has been so glorious, imagine how incredible the next period of your life will be.

So, when I board the plane to Hati next week, I am going to try and do so all in. I am going to celebrate that after years of prayer, tears, and songs of praise God has finally called me out. One thing I am confident of, if it is not Hati, it will be another adventure, and I choose to enjoy the glory of this season, while anticipating the glory of the next one.

Thanks again precious sister-in-law.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Fallen Doesn't Mean Ugly: Choosing Glitter in Ashes

Confession - this is one of my more girly posts so if you don't want to read it I understand.

I have been in a time of transition "from glory to glory" as my sister in law reminded me. And in the midst of walkers, falls, scars, bruises and braces, I felt the enemy begin to whisper, "This is the most imprisoned you have ever been. Why trust the Lord if this is what He does to the ones He loves? How can you even look in the mirror?

My life has felt pretty full of ashes lately, and choosing life has gotten more and more exhausting. Praying for Jesus to show me how to fight, I felt Him say "Remember all the things that matter, Remember all of the ways I use CP. Remember how much I love you. Remember my gifts in the midst of this struggle.

And as I thought about how we live in a fallen world, the Holy Spirit said, "Just because it's fallen doesn't mean it's not beautiful."

Walkers and bruises and braces and tears can be a part of beauty. You just have to choose the glitter.

Then I decided it was time to take action, and make a choice. So I called my precious friend McKenna and asked if she could help me take some photos, so I would have some physical reminders of this spiritual fight I'm in. Explaining what I was dealing with, she took these photos, and I have never felt more encouraged.

The enemy wanted a fight, and now he has one. I choose life. I choose glitter. I choose peace. Because a glittering life is what Jesus died for me to have, even in the dark. And isn't that beautiful?

Saturday, June 6, 2015

I Got it From My Mama (And Daddy)


This week I did something I have never done before. I went to camp as a counselor for 8th grade girls. It was the most incredible, most difficult, most anointed time I have experienced in my life outside of the 6 months I spent at Mercy.
Before I left, I had the honor of my sweet homeschooler asking me to be her "camp mama." I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt it was something I was supposed to do. And I was terrified.

 I don't know how well you know my mama, but she's incredible. She speaks the truth in love, she is STRONG, and our relationship is the best it has EVER been. And my daddy is fantastic, loving, gentle, firm...

 But, I was a tough kid, with hard memories, heartbreak, and trust issues.
And this girl is my favorite, but she does too. And I didn't know if I could be a mama, even for a week.
Boarding the bus I was queasy, jittery, prayerful and concerned. And I had NO idea what the week ahead would hold.

This week I held her while she cried, I rode a swing that was CRAZY high off the ground (even though I didn't want to at first)  I gave medicine and hugs and listened when she talked. And occasionally, I disciplined. Each time I did one of these things I saw her heart... and mine just broke. Because I remembered another little girl who wanted hugs but didn't know how to give them, wanted love but didn't know how to receive it, and wanted stability but didn't trust it.

And in each of these situations, I kept thinking about the Jesus I saw in my parents. I kept praying about how they raised me, and in those prayers I knew what to do. It was both simple and insanely complicated. "Never give up. Keep loving the ugly parts." And let me tell you, as a kid, I had some hideous parts. But my parents would always hold me even when I was stiff, love me even when I faced consequences for my actions, and sometimes we would cry together because neither of us knew what to do
So that's what I did. I loved her even when my heart was breaking, held her when I didn't know what else to do, and we cried together because sometimes life just isn't fair. My nieces awakened the "mama" dream in me, but my homeschooler? She showed me what it is to love those kids who need it most, and who trust their experiences which tell them they are not worthy of love  more than they trust Jesus...those kids like me.

And I have never been more thankful for my parents. I guess I wanted to write this post for all the parents who feel like their kids will never see the other side. Those kids who push you away with one hand, and hug you with the other, who tell you they hate you and then cry themselves to sleep because they hate themselves more, those kids who have such tender and incredible hearts when they finally start to share them, those kids who tell you they love you, and it is that very love that causes such traumatizing fear because human love isn't perfect.

For those parents, from one who was (sometimes still is) a tough child, thank you. Thank you for loving the ugly, for never giving up, and for mirroring Jesus the best you know how. Someday your kids will be thankful, someday they will hold you close to their hearts and regret having ever pushed you away. Someday they will tell you they love you and you will have no doubt they mean it. Someday, you will cry together tears of joy not of sadness, but until that day comes, let me be the one to say, thank you, for loving the ugly ones. Someday the story will be beautiful.

And as I became "mama" this week so many people thanked me for doing so well with my loved beyond knowledge homeschooler, all I could think is I got this parenting heart from my mama and daddy. And the love inside it? That's straight from Jesus. Because He always loves ugly. I have never been more thankful for my mama, and more honored and excited to be one, even if it was only for camp.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

All Things Through Christ: When Reality and Dreams Collide

I just got off the phone with my mama. All I could say was "I'm sad." She encouraged me to turn on worship music and figure out what was going on. As I have considered, and poured my heart out, I realized, sad is the wrong word. I am more overwhelmed. My reality and my dreams have collided. My life verse is Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." And lately, He has been asking me to do some things that I keep thinking I absolutely can't.
Years of surgeries, years of fear, years of lies spoken, years of acting out in dysfunctional behavior because I felt worthless have all taught me to guard myself, to do it alone, to not want.
When Jesus wooed my heart, He asked me to dream, to love, to hope, to surrender.
And lately it's like I can't.
Because down deep where it matters, the wounded little girl I was whispers. "Everything is a fight. You're not worth a lot, none of your dreams are meant to come true."
About 6 months ago I didn't get a job I desperately wanted. Weeping in the car because it was yet another dream I regretted dreaming, my mama asked me a question. "Sarah, there has to be something else, something you want to do with your life, what is it?
Through tears I whispered, "I want to move overseas and teach ESL." We mourned the seeming impossibility of that dream and I continued working on my Masters.
Fast forward 6 months. My daddy ran into someone who is over one of the orphanages we support at Beltway and she asked if he knew any ESL teachers When he told her that I was certified she remembered meeting me and because she has a son with Cerebral Palsy she totally understood what that was like. She encouraged daddy to talk to me about visiting their Hati site to see if that was something I would want to do long term. I instantly said yes and about a month later all of the details were finalized. I leave for Hati in a month to visit for a week and see if it's something I want to do when I graduate  in December. Disclaimer: I may go and decide I have no desire to be that far away from my family, but the fact that I even have the opportunity to consider it leaves me on the verge of tears.
As awed as I am at God's faithfulness, fear has began to creep in. Not about my ESL dream, about this other dream. Because as faithful as He has been in this season, there is another dream I have been dreaming that scares me more than any other dream I have ever dreamed. And I am mad at Him because He keeps asking me to surrender it, and trust Him. And I'm scared.
With all that I am I want a family. I want to be a mom. I want to be a wife. I want to say vows. I want to not have to be strong all the time.
And I don't want to want these things.

Because I am scared. As faithful as He has been with the ESL thing my heart still feels broken in so many ways because of the insanely bumpy road it took to get here. And I keep thinking, I can't dream like this again. It hurts too much.
But here's the deal, in so many little ways, when I'm paying attention, He tells me I can. I can trust Him with this part of my heart too,
Ways like Berkley calling me "Mama" because she wants to pretend like she's my darling.
Like Ellie saying "Up I hold you." And getting her out of her crib.
Like the way they want to help me put on my brace, and ride my walker, and the way after I babysat for a few hours the other day B said "Aunt Sarah, you did such a wonderful job today, you did so many new things all by yourself."
Like the way for the first time ever I feel like I am actually capable of falling in love, which I swore for a decade was impossible.
But I keep telling Jesus, "I can't. I can't live this alive, I can't."
And he whispers "This is what I made you for."
And he uses Geoffrey saying "You can absolutely be a mom, I don't know why you would ever doubt that." And Joel saying "You are the strongest woman I have ever met."
And Sarah, precious Sarah, taking me in her home every day to show me how to be a Christ like wife and mom.
And I think sometimes I get overwhelmed because for the first time ever I am realizing what it means to truly live.
Wholeheartedly, completely, vulnerable.
And as crazy emotional as I am I keep remembering who I used to be
And I feel Jesus whisper, "We have got this. You can do it."
It's an overwhelming feeling when the God of the Universe loves you enough to give you your dreams and whisper that He's proud of you.
So even when it's hard and I am sore and sad and overwhelmed and broken
My heart rests in the sweet promise
Of all things.
Even dreaming.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Truth About Regret, Fear, and the Prayer I Wish I Never Prayed


I have been putting off writing this post for weeks because it makes me vulnerable, it shows my real, it is something I feel like other people need to know too. I know this because of the major fear I have in writing it. I always know I need to write something if I am scared to write it because it is usually the enemy telling me what I have to say isn't worth it, or is too honest...or that I am not worth it. But in my pursuit to overcome, this is a part of my testimony I feel like people need to know.

When I first began to write I made the Lord a promise that if He would allow me to write (with a pen like all my friends) everything I ever wrote would be an attempt to bring Him glory. This post is a result of that promise.

Freshman year one of my leaders urged us to think about what we wanted in a marriage, and for a future. I told her that I didn't want marriage - and at that stage I didn't even know if I wanted to live (though I didn't tell her that). She told me to think about one thing I was sure I wanted, and pray for that...being the writer and reader I am, I only knew one thing beyond doubt, I wanted my life to be a story.  I wanted crazy plot twists, I wanted character depth, I wanted to have no idea what was coming next. I wanted a story. And if I was going to marry someone, and have a long life I wanted it to be something I never saw coming.

And man has He delivered. I never have any idea what in the world is happening in my life, and I know it's because I asked Him to make my life a story. Sometimes, that's a prayer I wish I didn't pray. Especially lately. If I am being totally honest, this is the most confusing, painful, incredible, alive season I have ever experienced.

I am bold in a lot of things, my clothes, my mouth, my tattoos, all point to a brave girl. But honestly? I spend a lot of my time terrified. I have to walk carefully so that I don't regret who I was. I was rebellious, angry, hurtful, and so so guarded. And I hurt a lot of people because I was drowning in my own pain.

This past year I made a conscious choice, the choice to live with my heart awake. And in so doing, I experienced a level of grace and brokenness I didn't even know was possible. Love, real, true, forever kind of love is a risk. And, sometimes, when you jump, you get hurt. And, I have definitely gotten hurt.

I have wanted to wrap my nieces in bubble wrap so they never get hurt, to take back saying those words, because they make you vulnerable. But here's what I have realized love only hurts because I have chosen to live alive. I have chosen to risk.
And sometimes, the shut off little girl I used to be whispers, "you were so much safer by yourself, so much safer not caring."

And she's right. But being safe, is not living, it's existing.

And I lose everything I stand for if I don't risk love.

When I was praying about all of this I felt the Lord whisper, "I know you hurt, but do you remember when you felt absolutely nothing? When you numbed yourself so completely nothing and no one else mattered? This time you hurt because you're alive, and Sarah, life is the destiny I have for you, full life, with all of its emotions.

So in spite of the tears and pain of this season, I choose to love others, wholly, completely, with all that I am. Because I am alive, and this season is still life - and life abundant. I write all of this to say, when regret sneaks in, I will remember who I used to be, so that I can remember that love is a risk worth taking.

And Jesus came that I can have life, and have it, to the full. I have a choice, and today, I choose life.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Day(s) I Stopped Dreaming


The day(s) I stopped waiting.

They came on so slowly I didn’t even notice.

I woke up sore, and expected to spend this day sore, and the next day and the next day and the next,

Like a CD skipping (or Pandora losing Wifi),

My life felt convicted.

I don’t say condemned because I didn’t feel that way.

I was comfortable in the sore, comfortable in the pain, comfortable in C.P. because it was me.

I stopped waiting.

On the soreness to stop, on God to give me my dreams.

I knew there was more, but I didn’t want to face it.

Hear me, there is a level of acceptance that is wisdom. God has taught me a lot through C.P.

How to never give up, to celebrate the small things, how to find glitter in unlikely places, how to love people who are different.

The problem arises when acceptance transitions to apathy, and an active belief that God may not care as much as He thinks He does.

But today, today, something happened. Someone told me God wanted to heal me.

This was not just any someone. This was,

My dear, sweet, crazy stubborn, loved beyond knowledge Zoe Grace.

Every. Time. I am around her it’s like looking in a mirror.

And she said them. The words.

The words I have such a complex relationship with,

“God wants to heal you.”

I knew a problem had arisen when all I could feel was frustrated anger.

Her faith was so unquestioning, and to be honest

I stopped caring if God healed me a long time ago,

But as a result of not caring I started to believe some lies.

“All of God’s gifts are hard. He has gifts for you but they stop at good, not perfect.”

“Prepare yourself because you will have small dreams come true, but don’t dream big.”

Here’s a big one, “If God doesn’t care about the C.P. part of your life, He sure won’t take care of the rest of it.”

So, like an anesthetic, I numbed myself to hard, to desire, because if I didn’t want, it didn’t hurt. So I became a pessimist, (realist), because if I expected the worst, nothing was out of my control.

Sin.

But I didn’t fall into it on purpose.

And I realized when precious Zoe said those words, the words,

 And I knew God was calling to life a dead part of me.

And dead parts seem safe. Because they don’t feel

But being alive? That’s a risk.

But as I talked to Father God about it,

I realized it’s a risk I have to take.

Because whether He heals me or not doesn’t really matter.

What matters is that I know His Heart in the midst of it.

He has good gifts for me. With C.P. Without C.P.

Healed or sick.

So if I dream of healing and He doesn’t give it,

He still has good gifts. Ceasing to dream was never His will.

The only one disqualifying myself from that is me.

And Zoe reminded me, God gives good gifts.

Today, I choose to accept them.

Thanks for the glitter sweet girl(even I’m having a hard time).

I can’t tell people to choose life if I’m unwilling to choose it myself.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

And The Walls Came Tumbling Down


“And the Walls came tumbling down…”

 

I have had this song stuck in my head this evening. Retelling the story of the Battle of Jericho, and this is the last line….

 

Every time I heard this story as a kid I always identified with the Israelites, feeling hot and sweaty and angry….trusting God, questioning God, worshipping God, mad at God, all on a continuous loop.

As I have grown older, I have realized something…I am more like Jericho.

This city had so many beautiful things inside the Israelites couldn’t believe it. They didn’t feel worthy to possess all that was inside, and they ran away from the enemies that were lurking within the walls, enemies that felt too big to face.

I used to be scared to look in the mirror because of the scarred, scared angry little girl looking back at me.

The enemy of my own experience, my falls, not being able to tie my shoes, play a sport, go anywhere without people staring, all these emotions with no idea what to do with them…every single thing was a battle. Every time I looked in the mirror all I could think was…

I am going to lose. I don’t want to fight a battle I can’t win.

Going to Mercy I began to fight the battle, and a lot of battles were won.

But not the walls.

I still had walls.

I won’t be dependent on anyone else. I won’t love anyone else. I will share only X part of my heart. I will keep myself safe…safe within these walls…Of mistrust, anxiety, fear…because I can control my pain if I keep people out of all my mess.

Re hearing this story as an adult getting ready to teach it to my precious 8th grade girls, something occurred to me. The Israelites won this battle, and brought the walls down with two steps.

Trusting God and making noise.

Noise is in my life everywhere, every day, all the time. Noise telling me Poor thing. It’s not fair. Why?

And I began to feel the Lord making noise in my heart. The noise of my nieces laughing, their quiet I love you’s and gentle kisses.

The noise of my brother (sometimes yelling) to SPEAK LIFE OVER YOURSELF)

The noise of my sister in law telling me “You were meant to be a mom.”

The noise of my mom and I talking about the past and extending grace.

The noise of my daddy laughing and my little brother walking me to the door after a night of games.

The noise of African children and refugees.

And the noise made me dream….

And with those dreams

The

Walls

Came

Tumbling

Down

 

And I gave into fear.

I can’t want a family. I can’t want marriage. I can’t want the nations…what about CP? What about my independence? How on earth will I care for children? I am not the “wife” type. I hate cooking and cleaning exhausts me. And going to the nations…Lord have you seen my feet? But most of all…

The noise of being scared.

I spent the first half of my life not dreaming. And it was safe. But you know what? It wasn’t God’s will. Betsie Ten Boom said “There are no places that are safer than other places The only safe place is the center of God’s will.

I am in a crazy season. I’m emotional all the time. I love people with all I am. My nieces are basically my whole world. And my dreams? They terrify me.

But I am slowly learning to make noise,

Saying I love you.

Telling stories to my nieces

And my testimony to hurting women.

Crying (Yes, I cry now).

Laughing.

Speaking life.

Being real

Being vulnerable.

And slowly slowly

My walls have tumbled down

And the view is pretty great from here

Even though I have some rebuilding to do.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Why Yes, I Went Pink: My Rose Colored Glasses

I did something today....something brave and bold, something I love...I dyed my hair pink. For a lot of people changing their hair doesn't mean a whole lot. For me, I usually change my hair because I have a part of myself I want to express, or because I have always felt feelings could be mirrored in colors.
According to color psychology (yes that's real), the color pink " represents compassion, nurturing and love. It relates to unconditional love and understanding, and the giving and receiving of nurturing. " My oldest niece has a book she loves called I Like Myself Because I'm Me. I don't know that I have ever felt that way.
The Bible says Love others as you love yourself. If you don't love yourself then the way you love others will be tainted with struggle and pain.
I have found myself in a new season, a season of tears, growth, frustration and an undying peace. As I thought about it I realized part of the reason I struggle with loving myself is that I am not myself. I have been so scared to be who I really am because I always felt like I had something to prove. And you know what? I don't. Jesus loves me, my family loves me, my friends love me, and finally, finally, I love myself.
I love being bold. I love pulling things off other people are scared to try. But most of all, I love that Jesus loves me. He knows I will ALWAYS want to change my hair, I will always love the idea of having lots of tattoos and piercings even if I can't have any more. He knows that as much as I run from anyone with nurturing and compassion, that is exactly what I need.  He knows me, and He loves all of me.
So, I went pink because there is no hiding pink hair. I went pink because I will no longer run from love and nurturing. 
When my loving older brother said "Oh! Goodness why on earth did you go pink?" I lovingly reminded him of his words to me "When it comes to your hair, you don't care if anyone else likes it, you will pull it off if you like it."
So, in all honesty, this pink wasn't about anyone but me. Me finally expressing who Jesus made me to be. Bold, loving, courageous, steadfast, creative...free.
Me feeling like enough in my dependence, my tears, my broken, Me discovering my inner glitter. Because honestly, I had forgotten what inner glitter feels like.
The fact that BerkleyLove's eyes got huge and she said "Aunt Sarah I LOVE your hair it is my favorite color," was just a lovely bonus.
So here's to life in all of its pink hued glory. It just hit me that my soul sister prayed I would have "rose colored glasses," I suppose pink hair is one way to do that :)
Here's to the life I have chosen, Jesus has been good enough to give me lots of glitter! Thank you all for loving me through this journey

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Freedom: Being Thankful for My Brother and Sister in Law and a Declaration of Dependence

 I have struggled to write this blog because I don't even know if I have the words. Nevertheless, this part of my story deserves to be chronicled.
If this journey has taught me anything it's that freedom has levels. And every time I think Jesus couldn't possibly make me feel any more free, He proves me wrong. Sometimes Jesus sets us free from prisons we don't even know we are in. I have always wanted to live without regrets but until this month I would have said that it wasn't possible.
It's been a crazy rough road. I never even thought I would live this long because my soul was exhausted, and my heart was scarred. Even after Mercy, I lived in self-protection because I was always scared at any moment these memories might be snatched from me.
During my Mercy journey, outside of my parents my brother was my biggest supporter. After Mercy, I asked him if he thought all this change was temporary, he said "Don't take this the wrong way but something happened to you, you're not the same person."
The past 5 years I have clung to those words. Stepping on campus, on the bus, back into church, every time I take a chance and am scared to be vulnerable I remember I am not  the same person.
That reality was fully revealed to me when yesterday morning I woke up and thought "I am independent enough."
Never in all my 26 years did I feel like that were true. And, so much of this realization came from my conversations with my brother and sister in law over the past year.
I always thought independence meant being alone. loving people but not letting them love me back because that might mean I needed them.
Geoffrey told me this independence was selfish because Jesus gave us gifts to share, and if we are not sharing we are sinning. I had never thought of my desire for independence as a sin.
Geoffrey and Sarah have shown me that independence can look different. It can look like having your own time, but knowing sometimes you need time with other people.
Independence can look like love that is unconditional, truthful, consistent and grace-filled.
Independence looks like love without regrets. Because love means I want to help you, not that I have to. 
The main difference in me is that I  have nothing to prove. Not to my family, not to my friends, not to Jesus, not to myself. I. Am. Enough. I am not perfect, but I am enough to be loved, and there is such peace in knowing that.
I still have a long way to go but for the first time I feel like I can be free from complete, isolated, independence. This, my declaration of dependence, on Jesus, on family, and friends, has never felt so wonderfully worth the risk. I will never regret loving, wholly, completely, dependently, because I am independent enough.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Life is Like Cleaning Out Your Closet-You Never Know What You're Gonna' Get


Pardon the Forrest Gump reference, Sometimes I wish I could turn off my brain but I can't...thus today's post.

As I cleaned out my closet today I came across all sorts of things. Bows I forgot I had, pants that no longer fit and random papers with notes I had long ago forgotten writing. I hate cleaning. I hate throwing things away, I hate how messy my normally clean room looks when I am attempting to organize what I actually need and what is I really need this...whatever it is crap.

As I sent my mom a picture of the chaos that my room had become, I couldn't help but become reflective. Getting rid of jeans that were two sizes too big made me remember when I had to buy them big just to be able to button them on my own.  Re hanging my glitter tops made me realize just how much I have always loved things that sparkle.

And I couldn't help but think life is a lot like cleaning out your closet. There are some parts of it you wish you could forget. Some ripped and tattered things you wish weren't in there. And there are some you wish you could hold onto forever. That skirt may not fit anymore but I sure felt comfortable in it once. And that jacket I'm supposed to wear makes me super uncomfortable but I probably need to give it a chance. In order to make room for new clothes you have to get rid of old ones.

Life is like that. In order to get whatever God has for me I have to let go of whatever I'm holding to, even if it is something I absolutely love that isn't what He has for me.

I had all these dreams. I was going to move to New York, or Africa, or Kalamazoo,,,anywhere but here. I was going to be independent....completely. Just me, a subway station and a random Russian novelist, and it was going to be great. It became my go to daydream.

As I cleaned out my closet today I cried. Because I don't daydream anymore. Not because I don't want too, but because I don't know what to dream of, I don't know what I want life to look like. And as I cried, I felt the Lord whisper, "Finally! Finally you are completely you. Vulnerable and strong and happy and hurting all at once. Finally you are living, not just existing. And finally, finally you can stop dreaming your self-protective, self-destructive, dreams and ask Me for dreams.

And it hit me, only a handful of times in this entire awakening process have I asked Him. really truly asked Him what I'm supposed to dream of. Because I'm scared. I'm scared He will call me to stay when I want to go, or go when I want to stay. I'm scared He will ask me to engage instead of isolate and share myself instead of mask myself. I'm scared, Because I finally see my life is not mine. I gave it to Him. 

And He dreams bigger than I ever could. I know it.  And right now, let's just be real, I am a hot mess.
But as I thought about it I realized, I have a choice.

I trust Him, or I don't. I took my vows to Him seriously, or I didn't.
So today, I choose Him. I choose His dreams over mine. I choose life and blessings even if it means laying down everything I ever thought I wanted.
And tomorrow I will choose Him all over again.

And there will be tears and anger and questions and "What am I thinking?" moments. But there will also be "This is everything I never knew I always wanted" moments.
Life gets messy before it gets beautiful.
So here's to making a mess

Friday, February 13, 2015

This is What You Fought For: Awakening

In two months it will be 5 years since I graduated from Mercy Ministries. I will never forget the heartbroken girl I was. Using my hat to cover my tear filled eyes, my ripped jeans a reflection of my ravaged soul. I was there because all I could think was "I just want this to be over. I just want to stop hurting. I just want my life to be finished" I felt like I couldn't breathe. But Jesus wouldn't let me give up.  I was there for 6 months.
6 months that would forever change my life.


This month has been one of the most difficult I have ever experienced. As I cried the other day, mourning all of the unexpected moments, the surrender of staying in Abilene for an extra year, the closing of a chapter in my life I wasn't ready to end, the constant soreness and emotional exhaustion of CP I begged the Lord to come bring comfort and I heard Him whisper one thing...

This is what you fought for. 

I broke down on my sister in law and some sweet friends the other night because I didn't feel independent enough, and because I had no idea what it was to be this emotionally vulnerable.
I feel like I spent the first half of my life sleepwalking because I was scared. Scared to feel, scared to want, flat plain out scared.  My sister in law asked me "What is it you want from life?"
I realized I never thought I would live this long so I didn't know. The wounded little girl in me thinks independence on an island somewhere completely alone sounds pretty great.

The woman in me knows God is calling me to something deeper...greater...scarier. I am not the little girl I was, and even though I knew it would bring change, I wasn't ready for what choosing life would mean.

It means that independence isn't always a good thing.
It means I care deeper, I love more, I mourn differently.
It means my family matters, It means as my sister in law reminded me "You are definitely a daddy's girl." It means I finally know just how much my mama loves me, and it breaks my heart that it took me this long to understand.
It means I would lay down my life for my nieces without thinking.
It means when other girls hurt, I hurt with them.
It means I remember what it is to cry so hard and for so long you can't breathe....only so that when other people cry like that I can tell them about the glorious gift of Life.
It means for the first time ever I am asking myself (and Jesus) what I really want to do with my life because as a friend pointed out to me, perhaps the whole independence thing isn't what I actually want, and perhaps if I am honest I'll figure that out.

It means I am...awake,

Being awake is scary. My heart is intensely vulnerable because for the first time ever I am not shielding it, I am letting Jesus protect it instead.
So even though I have been crazy sad in some ways lately I can't help but remember, this is what I fought for.
And I wouldn't do anything differently.
Here's to being awake,

Isn't life lovely?


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

All of the "What If's?" Learning to See the Unexpected as a Blessing


Lately satan has been torturing me.

All of my life I have played a dangerous game, a game that is so tempting, yet so terrible at the same time. It's like eating that last piece of chocolate pie when you know you are full, it tastes so good, but then you pay for it with some Pepcid AD afterwards...it's the "What if?" game.

"What if I didn't have CP? What if I didn't go to HSU for undergrad and Masters? What if I had never let depression get the best of me so that when I was 19 I had the same worries as a "normal" teenager? What if I had never pushed my parents away Freshman year of college? What if I had never wanted to end my life?
What if? What if? What if? The dangerous thing about this game is that I will never know. I will never know what might have happened. There are no winners at the "What If" game. All it does is make me sad, worried, angry and regretful.

I will tell you what I do know. Jesus has no "What if's?" When I ask Jesus "What if?" I am rejecting those moments that He planned for.
CP led me to celebrate the small things, to be vulnerable, and to know that only Jesus is the answer. Physical Therapy led me to some of my favorite people. Awkward falls led to some really sweet friendships, and of course CP led me to precious, unforgettable Carmina, my "foot twin."

HSU led me to professors who point me to Christ, acknowledge that they don't have all the answers, and are some of the wisest people I know. HSU led me to my soul sister who travelled to Africa and back with me because of a "random" table on campus, and a motorized scooter that I decided I wasn't afraid to use to get around.

Depression led me to Mercy, and some of the strongest women I have the privilege to call sisters. Depression threw me into the arms of Jesus. And it was only after I fought the battle for my life and won that I knew what a gift Jesus had given me when He breathed into me the breath of life.

Not being a "normal" teenager led me to realize that so many teens are hurting and don't know who to go to because their worries are so beyond junior high and high school. It led me to the 8th Grade girls I lead now, all of whom are "different," and all of whom I love with all my heart.

Pushing my parents away Freshman year at HSU led me to treasure our relationship now, and to know that nothing and no one are beyond redemption. I am safe in my parents love because like the prodigal they ran to embrace me as soon as they saw me on the road home.

All of the lies the enemy whispers only make me fight harder for truth. And now? Now I will never settle for just okay.

My life now is different than I ever thought it would be. For starters, I am alive and loving it. I used to think my whole life would be a sad and anxious lost battle to the end. I live independently (which both my parents and I are thankful for... they can't welcome me home if I never left). I am still in Abilene and though it's not what I planned, I am learning to be okay with it. I want to get married (which once would have been more nightmare than dream). I babysit all by myself, and am learning what being a mom and wife will look like with CP thanks to my precious brother and sister in law who are more than willing to let me "practice" on their girls.

I still have some "What If's?" But I guess the point of this blog is to remind myself that Jesus really does have plan A for me. He doesn't look at me and think, "What if?" He looks at me and says "Here you go Sarah, let me rain down some glitter for you. We sure have fun even though sometimes it's dark." And since I'm pretty confident He knew I was gong to write this blog...Hey Jesus? Thanks for that.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Thank You to Those Who Have Let Me Be Vulnerable. Thanks for Helping Me Glitter

"I will give you the treasures of darkness hidden in secret places so that you may know that I am the Lord your God who has summoned you by name. Isaiah 45:3

This Christmas break has been hard. It brought a lot of unexpected dark lots of questions, a few tears, and some silence. I have a shower chair (like I am 60), I have to shop with a walker or chair and still can't change sheets..) All of these moments break a part of my heart. I have shared my Mercy journey 3 times (the number of completion) over the break with women in the midst of a search for strength and truth. The ironic thing is I have never felt less like I am strong enough to share my story, to point these women to my Jesus, because the truth is, I often feel like I have nothing left to give. I feel like I am an impostor. telling them truth while lies still scream in my soul.

"You are useless. You are ugly. You are not smart enough. Your dreams are so far out of your league it's laughable." These lies play a repeat chorus every day. And some days I make the right choices, and some days I curl up on myself and let them play havoc in my mind.

The point is, it's dark lately. Life doesn't change. I have cuts on my knees, I took some chances that backfired but down deep where it matters, I know something I didn't know before. Jesus loves me. The glorious thing about how dark it has been the past month is that I have been given some "treasures" because of the darkness.

I have learned that just because Jesus is quiet, it doesn't mean He's far away. I have realized that trust is a choice, and when Jesus chose me, He chose me forever, and I intend to choose Him forever too.
I have learned that Jesus is my safe place, and letting go of things you never thought you would have to, could just bring you the destiny you never knew you were headed toward.

I have learned that CP really, truly doesn't define me. When my nieces look at me, they only see "Aunt Sarah" who they want to crawl all over, read with, and play "Mama" for as many hours as I have.  I have learned that my family really, truly, forever, loves me. And for the first time ever, I feel safe loving them back. (B thinks my walker is pretty cool, and EK sure doesn't mind sitting in my lap when we go to the zoo.)

Testimonies only have power if in the midst of telling them, people are willing to be vulnerable. So, here is my vulnerability.
I still have "This isn't fair" moments. I still cry, question, and get angry. Even so, I choose Jesus. I choose the treasures I have found in the dark. Instead of isolating like I would have in my past, I choose to be honest. I choose to surround myself with people who will love me in all my mess. I choose my family. I choose to go forward instead of back. I choose to believe I am worth it. I choose to believe for healing in all areas, even when I feel sick and wounded.
I choose Life. I choose Jesus. He is the only choice I know I will never regret.
No matter what,
When you choose life in the dark,
it glitters.