Nails Didn’t Keep Him There {Love Did}

This morning I read all three accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion:  Luke 23: 44-49, Mark 15: 33-39, and John 19: 28-30.

Heartbreaking.

I imagine Mary as she stood and watched.  I imagine the centurion who becomes a believer mentioned in the accounts of Luke and Mark.  I imagine the wicked men gambling for Jesus’ clothing.  The crowd.  The criminals on His left and right.  Mary Magdalene.

It’s a scene I can hardly take in.

But, I can’t imagine Jesus.  My mind is just too limited.  The pain.  The knowledge that he could save himself if he so chose, but instead took my sin and your sin and died.  It’s overwhelming and unfathomable.

I was later unpacking some books and found my Jesus Storybook Bible. I paused, deciding to read this account too. Because the truth is…I couldn’t get all the nuances and questions out of mind. Each account is a bit different, and I kept wondering exactly how the day unfolded.  Exactly what the jeerers and the sneerers said…exactly what Mary thought and said…exactly how Jesus endured.

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They nailed Jesus to the cross.

“Father, forgive them,” Jesus gasped.  ”They don’t understand what they’re doing.”

“You say you’ve come to rescue us!” people shouted. “But you can’t even rescue yourself!”

But they were wrong. Jesus could have rescued himself. A legion of angels would have flown to his side – if he’d called.

“If you were really the Son of God, you could just climb down off that cross!” they said.

And of course they were right. Jesus could have just climbed down.  Actually, he could have just said the word and made it all stop.  Like when he healed that little girl.  And stilled the storm.  And fed 5,000 people.

But Jesus stayed.

You see, they didn’t understand.  It wasn’t nails that kept Jesus there.  It was love.  

from the Jesus Storybook Bible

That line…It wasn’t nails that kept Jesus there.  It was love.

That was it for me.  That cleared my heart and mind.  I suddenly stopped wondering and pondering each nuance of the story  - I stopped with all the whys and hows…my heart settled. Peace.

Because at the heart of it all – in the face of all the questions  -  It was love.

Love walked him down the Via Dolorosa to Calvary.  Love kept him on the cross.

Love for me – for you.

And that, friends, is more than enough.

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Sunday is coming…

Love,

Thank You, Kara Tippetts {Walking Each Other Home}

If you’ve not been following the story of Kara Tippetts, you’ve missed a gift.  A mom, a wife, a Jesus follower who went home to be with her Creator on March 22 after a courageous and graceful battle with cancer.  I read post after post as Kara made hard decisions and said long goodbyes. I’d check daily for her updates, particularly after she entered hospice in December.

from Mundane Faithfulness

from Mundane Faithfulness

I grew to love so many things about Kara through her words.  Her authenticity – if a day was hard, if she were mad, or if she’d had a great day – you’d know it.  Her thankfulness in the midst of suffering – what an example of who we are and can be in Christ. Her grace and gentleness – a quiet spirit that leaned into Jesus like I’ve never witnessed leaning.

And while I never met Kara in person – or spoke a single word to her – I feel as if I journeyed alongside her some.  I am sure many of her thousands of readers feel that way.  When she died, two friends texted me immediately as they knew she had touched me deeply in the year or so I followed her.  I teared up as I told her story to my mom who hadn’t heard of her. I tear up now as I write these words.

Kara had a peace that passes all understanding.  Her words flowed from a deep knowing of and relationship with God that I am yet to have or even understand.  I would read a blog post or Facebook status and think…she knows something I do not.  Her words flow from a place that is deeper  - a place that taught me much and increased my faith over and over.  The Jesus Kara and I follow is  real –  of that I am sure.

On March 25 her family posted a letter to her readers upon her death.  I’ve read it more times than is probably healthy;)  There is so much goodness contained in the letter’s lines, and I pray you’ll take time to read it even if you’ve never heard of Kara.

It’s more than beautiful and courageous…it’s every kind of love and grace.

And while I have read and pondered all of her words, the following paragraph hit my heart the hardest:

Our time together has been a highlight of my life. You have prayed me through so many difficult circumstances. So many days you were the grace that showed up. Our family has known such peace as a result of your faithful praying for our family. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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I know that Kara penned these words to thousands of readers whom she had never met.  But, as I read these words, a quote I saw a few months came to mind:  We are all just walking each other home.

That’s true, huh?

This earth is our home – this  life our place to love God and others, giving Him all glory until He calls us to our eternal home.

And doesn’t this apply to you, friend?  These words to Kara’s readers?  You may not know a single soul that doesn’t live within one mile of your home. You may not have 1,000 readers – or even one.  But when you look at your friends and family – those with whom you interact and do life each and every day – aren’t you all just walking one another home for better or for worse?

Your children whose hand you hold, your mom whose arms you feel safest in, your care group with whom you study God’s word, your co-workers who see you each day, your husband…your roommate…your church family…your best friends…

Aren’t you all just walking one another home?  Shouldn’t we all be loving one another and growing closer to and more like Jesus every, single day together as we look forward to our time when His Kingdom comes?

This thought caused me to consider…..who is walking me home?  And when I come to the end of my days – today or in 40 years – who will I  look upon and say…”our time together has been a highlight of my life.”  Who is and will pray me through many difficult circumstances? Whom will I look at and say… YOU were the grace that showed up. Who prays faithfully for me and my children?

So many people both near and far (ahem, Honduras and Cambodia:)  - all of which I can say…

Our time together has been the highlight of my life. You have prayed me through so many difficult circumstances.  So many days you were the grace that showed up.  My little family has  known such peace as a result of your faithful prayers for us. Thank you.  

I pray today that your heart has at least a few people to whom you can say these precious words penned by precious soul.  I pray we all shed our agendas, expectations, and notions – and walk one another home with love and grace.

Have a great weekend!

Much love…

Volunteer or Victim? {Changing Our Perspective}

It’s a quiet morning as I read, sip coffee, and jot notes in my journal. when my eyes move over these eight words:

Jesus is not a victim, but a volunteer.  (Ellie Holcomb, She Reads Truth, Lent)

volunteer not victim

It’s a sentence tucked in among a few others, and the author is speaking of that moment in Mark when Judas kisses Jesus’ cheek, betraying him. When a crowd “armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders” (Mark 14: 43) come for him. Our Savior.

And Jesus’ response?  “But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Then everyone deserted him and fled. (Mark 14: 49-50)

Betrayed.

We knew all about Judas long before that crowd with clubs arrived.   Jesus know too.  He knew he’d be betrayed; he knew it would be Judas.

But I didn’t know who my betrayer would be.  I bet you didn’t either.  Sadly, betrayal happens all the time.  And just as I am headed down this “I was betrayed” path, that small voice in my heart whispered…

Jesus is not a victim, but a volunteer.  

He knew the Scriptures and said they “must be fulfilled” and went willingly.

And I am struggling with this. He was a victim of that club-carrying crowd. I am reading these words and saying…what are you doing? Do you not know who HE IS?  

It’s hard isn’t it?  (Please tell me that you see hard here…knowing he must fulfill Scripture for you and me to be forgiven of our sins…but not wanting the innocent to perish.)

He volunteered.  For you.  For me.  He willingly went to the cross.

And, dang it, I know the truth God is revealing to me as I read these verses in Mark over and over and as I stare at Ellie’s words in the devotional…

Jesus is not a victim, but a volunteer.

And, Sarah, yes, you’ve been betrayed (haven’t we all?), but do not live like a victim.  Live as a volunteer, freely offering your life to Him.  And, no, I am in no way comparing myself or my pitily pain to Jesus. Shew. NO.  I am saying that I get one shot at this life that he DIED FOR. ONE SHOT.  And I can not and will not live as a victim.

A victim of betrayal.  A victim of divorce.  A victim of my socio economic class (which is hardly an issue compared to the rest of the world).  A victim of lies and gossip.  A victim of rejection.  A victim of death (because I get mad when I want my dad to be there and he is not).  A victim of….you fill in the blank, friend.  We could go and on about all that has befallen us.

And most of it does not seem fair.  It’s hard stuff. Death, lying, gossip, illness, and on.

We can choose to live as victims.  Or we can choose to be volunteers.

Volunteers to live out his plan for us, for He wastes nothing. Living with a willing heart, giving ourselves for His Kingdom. He gave His LIFE in a horrific way on a cross – seems the very least I could do is give my life in any way I can for His glory while living on His land.

I want my heart’s posture to be…

Here I am, Lord, send me.

I volunteer.

I volunteer to live as you desire, not as I desire.  For your Kingdom. As a response to your sacrifice for me.

Lord, show each of us what it looks like to move from victim to volunteer.  Not to belittle or underestimate any story being lived out, Lord, as life is hard and can be so cruel.  But, help us to see you in the battle.  Help us to see the story you’re writing.  Help us to follow your example of complete surrender, volunteering all we have and all we do to serve and follow you.

Hannah is 15!

I am sitting on the couch and catch sight of a picture on the side table.  It’s of my kiddos, Hannah and Owen.  And suddenly I just keep thinking…15, 15…Hannah is 15.

I remember her first birthday so clearly.  After our guests left, I was on my back in our living room floor, and Hannah was leaning over cupping my face with her hands saying ma, ma, ma, ma.  We played in the floor with new toys until she drifted off to sleep on lap.

It was such a good day.

I had no idea on that day what life would look like for her – for me – 14 years later.  And while in many ways it is not the story I would have written for her, it is the story God is writing.  And we are thankful.

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My little one  has become a beautifully poised young lady who is kind and loving.  She searches for Jesus in ways I never have – always wondering, always questioning, always seeking.  She wants to understand and help others as they question and seek.

Our theological conversations are frequent, and her faith strong, having already weathered church hurt and divorce in her young life.  She knows what it is like to lose, to not have what others have, to sacrifice for your family, and to step up and help even when tired – or even when life seems unfair.

She also knows the joys of being loved, accepted, and provided for.

She lives in a first-world tension that both amazes and teaches me.  She’s always weighing “do I need this? with “could this money be spent on someone who has less?”

Her 15th birthday consisted of a nice lunch after church with some friends who have loved us well, and a family celebration with cake and pizza in the afternoon.  Nothing too extravagant…just like Hannah.

I’ve written about Hannah every March 22 for a few years, but I will never run out of things to say as I watch her grow.  I can see God molding and making her into His servant, one who hungers and thirsts for Him – for understanding  - while learning to extend grace to others.

I am thankful for who she is, for the ways in which she fits in – or doesn’t – for the ways in which she chooses individuality.

Lord, thank you for the gift of Hannah – for the ways we’ve laughed, learned, and loved in even the most difficult days.  May she keep her eyes on You.  May she keep asking the hard questions and pondering the difficult answers.  May we never stop discussing and exploring the hard truths in your Word, and may she always remember that her purpose on this earth is to bring glory to you.  May any trial or joy she faces pull her closer to You.  Thank you, Her Momma 

PS…yes, she’s studying for the learner’s permit…to be continued;)

To the One Who is Single {I Am Sorry}

This came up in my Time Hop this morning, and I edited a bit to reflect my heart’s growth over the past year.  But, my heart feels it’s still relevant to each of us.  

To the one who is single:  never married, divorced, or widowed…

I am sorry.

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I am sorry for the first night you spent alone.  The first night after your husband took his final breath.  The first night without a roommate. The first night after you or your husband moved out.

I am truly sorry.

He took his final breath.  You arrived at home {perhaps} to a house full of people, but eventually, it was bedtime. You entered a dark room – no one in the bed next to you.  You could and can hear the silence. You run fans, read books, watch TV – sleep never comes, and if it does, it’s fitful.  You can smell him.  Sometimes you awaken and think…is he still here?  For all the times you still miss him – even if you’ve “moved” on…

I am sorry.

You did what the world told you to do.  High school diploma, college degree, gainful employment.  Finally, you can rent or buy your own place!  You’ve arrived!  Your first home or apartment is so cute.  Then, night falls, friends go home, and silence reigns.  What you wouldn’t give for the return of even the most nerve-wracking roommate.

Weeks pass.  Years pass.

The next logical step {culturally} is marriage, but you’ve found no one – no one’s found you.  “Not good enough, not pretty enough, just not enough” floats in and out of your head daily.  You always thought you’d be a wife – a mom – or something – but you weren’t “chosen.”

Lonely. People surround you, but often you sit at home and wonder…is this all there is?

I am sorry culture communicates that the natural progression for you should have been marriage and children, leaving you feeling as if anything less or different is “wrong” or “failure.” Shame on us.

And I am sorry. 

After years on the mission field, you’re burnt out…spent and hurting.  You’ve experienced more loss at age 36 than most of us have experienced in a lifetime.  You’ve sacrificed much on behalf the Kingdom.  You’ve loved and given and sacrificed more than most can fathom.  Deciding to move “home” – back to the States – is heartbreaking and gut-wrenching.  And here you are.  Back in a place where you no longer feel at “home” missing those who have been a daily part of life for years.

I am sorry for every night you have felt alone, staring at the ceiling, missing the little people who captured your heart.  I am sorry for each bump in the night that carries you back to gunshots and lost babies.

And to the one {like me} who has spent years married.  Always having a companion – for better and for worse – {mostly} feeling protected.  As you lie down night after night alone – sometimes with kiddos giggling or crying in the next room – and sometimes completely alone – I am sorry.  You never planned to be a single or a single mom.

Your feelings of betrayal and loss are indescribable.  Even though you’ve been hurt, you still miss what once was.  And if you’ve done the hurting?  The cheating and the walking out?  Life still hurts because you had no idea how far sin could and would take you.

Sinner or sinned against – loneliness resulted. And I am sorry for the nights you spend alone – unable to sleep, wondering how life ended up this way.  How this could have become your story.  How the wedding planning and aisle walking became gavel-pounding finality.

Single girl, widow, returning missionary, divorced one…I understand your pain as best anyone can possibly understand another’s hurt.

And for each time you felt abandoned, alone, helpless, and lost…I am sorry.

I am sorry for the times I hurried past you in the grocery store or church pew and didn’t even smile – much less say hello. For the times I didn’t understand you and didn’t seek to.  For the times I listened with my ears but not with my heart.  For the times I was so wrapped up in me, failing to extend love and comfort and words to you.  For the times I thought of you and felt prompted to check in and didn’t…

I am sorry.

I pray for Him to comfort you as only He can.

Because we all know Jesus can and will fill this loneliness.  That only He is {ultimately} enough.  But, I understand that you might not want to hear that right now, but I’ve discovered over the past year since I originally wrote this that’s it’s true.

You may need time to be mad – to feel alone – to kick and to scream.  And sob.  To feel the weight of your past.

And, that’s ok…really, it is.  A new day – a new hope is coming – I promise.  My life in March 2014 to today is SO different.  I’ve not remarried or hit the lottery – my circumstances are still my circumstances.  Really, not much “outward” has changed. But inwardly?  He is an amazing God who is still working on me to make me what I ought to be:) (Yep, that’s a children’s song!)

He is sovereign.  He knows us and loves us.  (1 John 3:1)

We are NEVER alone. (Hebrews 13:5)

He sees YOU and ME.

And if you’re married – happily or otherwise, I know you still experience loneliness.  I know what hard work marriage is {and NO ONE is cheering you on louder than me}.  I know some days you feel invisible even in the midst of your husband and/or children.  I know you, too, wonder…is this it?  Why do I feel alone?  This isn’t what I thought it would be.  Why are some days so hard?

Or, maybe you don’t – you live in wedded bliss.

Whatever way – happily married…struggling married…single…widowed…divorced…

You are NEVER alone.  And, no, this isn’t it.  We are not home yet.  I pray you continue loving and persevering and praying and surrendering.

May we all walk alongside one another, loving and extending grace regardless of labels.

Let’s all cling to a God who is working all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:28)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

What’s Your Purpose? {The Fire to Follow}

What’s my purpose? 

Purpose is defined as the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists. Our reason is our Savior. Our purpose on this earth is to make Him known to all people, giving all glory to Him.

So the question becomes…if my ONLY reason for being here – for living on this earth – is to make Him known and glorify Him, how does God want me to do that? What’s His call for me?  Based on my relationship with Him, my prayers, my gifts, His word, and Godly counsel, how can my life loudly proclaim He is Lord?

Because this life with Jesus is a daily (sometimes minute-ly) life.  And our lives can be and often are consumed by families, jobs, housework, cooking, cleaning, friends, church activities, and more.  And in the midst of those tasks and those commitments, how does one continually loudly proclaim Jesus as Savior? How does one glorify Him during the morning rush, the afternoon lulls, and the evening demands?

How does He stay and front and center?  How do we keep seeing the wonder?  How do we savor moments and note the joy?

It’s hard.

And many of us are feeling a call away from the busy.  A call to the quiet.  A need for time to sit and be still.  And while we steal away those moments often, there’s a feeling deep inside that the glorifying of God in the daily – the honoring Him while doing my job at school or the hospital – the listing of thankfulness while switching the laundry – the fixing of dinner with a smile…

It’s not enough.

Not that God has a score card, and he’s waiting for you to measure up. We know that’s not true.  Not that our salvation depends on these works.  You’re not “less than” if you’re not volunteering in multiple ministries and taking five mission trips each summer.

But, do you feel that? That itching deep down? That longing? That thing inside saying…there’s more, Sarah (you name here).  There’s more than getting up, cooking breakfast, curling your hair, applying makeup, and choosing an outfit.  More than scurrying out the door and weaving through traffic to make the 7:45 bell. More than your morning quiet time, Bible study, and journaling – more than teaching.  More than running your kiddos to dance and baseball. More than longing for the Friday bell signaling the weekend.  More than stolen moments with each kiddo and friends.

Just something.

And when  you feel that tug, you go to work.  You read a new book, volunteer in a new ministry, take a gifts test, ask your friend…

How do you see me?  What are my gifts?  How do you think God could use me?  What ministry do you see me involved with?  I know my purpose is to make Him famous and glorify him, to love Him and to love others. But, that’s so GENERAL – what does that look like in MY life?

I’ve been in and out of this season.  I’ve gone from church executive board member to no church at all – all the while still loving Jesus with all my heart.  I’ve been the matriarch of a picture perfect family.  The wife of a handsome husband.  The popular school teacher and church volunteer extraordinaire.  I’ve been the best friend, Bible study leader, mission trip taker, Emmaus table leader, conference attender, blog writer, and small group participant.

Over and over.  I have been these things.  Done these things.  All GOOD things.  Looking on at my life, many have seen Jesus.  And for that I am humbled and grateful.  That the King of Kings took my broken mess and shown his glory. It’s humbling in ways I can never articulate.  Even when  my motives were wrong and I couldn’t see His hand. Even when my heart and home were breaking and I found it necessary to keep smiling and leading, He was working.

But.

The itch.  The longing.

There’s more than THIS.  I know he wants more for me – not in a “live your best life” kind of way, but in a freedom kind of way.

Then, what? I’ve tried to for 39 years to salve the itch – to fill the longing.  And I’ve enlisted His help, praying and asking and seeking. Following.

But still.

So, I ask Him.  A motive free, at the end of myself and my gifts ask:  Lord, what now?

I don’t surrender control very easily.  Yes, I know He’s actually in control anyway.  I know he wins in the end.  Yes, I am very well versed on all of that, but when the rubber meets the road, giving my will to His is scary as I sense that what he has for me will be hard.  Outside of my comfort zone.  New.  With lots of sacrifice.

And, no, I am not expecting a “move to Africa” call or a “start that teen girls Bible study” call. I am expecting based on what I read in His Word …a call to follow Him.

While I’ve followed him since July 11, 1989, I know this is different following. This is more.  This is much more an inward following (that I suspect will manifest itself as an outward following someday.)  This is a surrender of epic proportions (well, epic to this control freak;)

This is deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me – every, single day.

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That itch?  That longing?  It can only be filled with Him – but you knew that, right?  Heard that before, huh?

I thought so too. Until my heart – with right motive and much love – ask Him earnestly…what do you require of me, Lord?  What is the THING I need to DO to fill this itch, this longing? Lose weight?  Less stuff?  More church?  Summer in Honduras? Expand the blog? Start the ministry?  WHAT???

And I hear…deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.  That’s it.

I am a do-er so these types of things frustrate the fire out of me – but I know….I have to surrender. And follow.

What does that look like?  How does one surrender?  How does one follow?  All good questions. Ones I have asked and will continue to ask, but for now, I found my start in two places.  A Lent devotional called Follow and a book called I Want God.

More on the following and wanting to come…

“Fading Quickly” {How Sharing Our Stories Changes Us All}

“Fading quickly.”

from Kara's blog:  Mundane Faithfulness

from Kara’s blog: Mundane Faithfulness

The words of Kara Tippetts, the writer of Mundane Faithfulness, a blog I’ve been following for a few months.  After years of battling cancer, hospice has arrived and Kara is in her last days of life.

I won’t lie…each day I hold my breath as I check her blog or status update.  I know it’s coming.  I know one day she won’t be writing anymore.  I don’t know her, but I have cried many tears alongside her and her friends.

She reminds me of why I blog.  Why we share our stories.  Why some of us feel this urgency to share how God is at work in the not-so-good moments and the beautiful ones.  Why?  Because when we see Him at work in the lives of others – especially in the midst of suffering – our faith grows – our love for Him strengthens.

The last few days I’ve been preparing to teach at a retreat this Saturday, and I’ve prepared a few messages, gathered a few Scriptures, and written page after page wrestling with the topic I’ve been given.  And today, with the words “fading quickly,” I knew…

I am trying to dress up a message that is quite simple.  I am trying to sound a little smarter than I am, use a little more Scripture than I need to, quote more resources than anyone cares about.  I always fight my pride when writing and speaking as I know lots of fancy words ( I am an English teacher; it’s our thing.)  And I know how to compose a five-point message. Use the fancy words and format and references?  No, Sarah.  The  message doesn’t need extra adornments. It’s most beautiful when simply stated…

Enjoy the moment.

When I read this on Kara’s status…saw her tired eyes and her smiling lips…I was reminded where that itch – that longing – deep inside my heart comes from.  It’s an urgency I feel every single day planted by my heavenly Father.  An urgency that time is slipping away.  My kids are growing.  My life (based on expectancy) is half over – or could be almost over – I have no idea.  I can’t wait until tomorrow or next week or when I am all “fixed up” to love others and serve Him well.

Today is the day.

Now is the time.

And while that may be a trite statement that you’ve heard 100 times, I mean it from a deep, deep place.  That we can’t keep waiting to answer His call.  We can’t keep waiting to talk to our kids or spend time with our loved ones.  We can’t keep waiting to fix the broken relationship or pray the prayers.

Our days are numbered.  Time is passing.

Others need to know He loves them completely and unconditionally.  So many who are lonely  need a friend.  Women need a place to feel accepted – a place where we can say anything or be anyone and still be loved.   A place to process and feel loved.

These words do not express the fervor of my heart in the least.  There’s an unrest within my soul (literally) screaming – stop waiting – do something!

And that something does not have to be well-planned and momentous to the world.  It just might be momentous to one – encouragement to your child or the cashier.  A quick smile or a simple hug .

I know you know this, but today, as I read “fading quickly,” I was jarred.  We are ALL fading – some quickly, some slowly. None of us knows what tomorrow holds.  So when you dwell on the petty or worry about that which is irrelevant to the kingdom – what you eat or what you will wear – when you look upon another image bearer of Christ with contempt or judgment.  When you exclude some or place  yourself higher….

I ask us all to remember…

Fading.

Is that – is this – how you want to spend your fading days?  Complaining? Worrying? Honking?

Eye rolling?  Competing?  Envious?  Arguing?  Wondering?  One-upping? Working?

Playing it safe?  Making excuses?  Wasting time?  Scrolling Facebook?

(Talking to self here, too.)

I don’t know what the small (or large) changes will look like for you or me.  But Kara’s story serves as my reminder that this life is indeed fleeting, and I do not want to miss one moment.

Kara, her husband, and her children…we are all better because you shared your journey of suffering with honesty and grace.  You have forever changed so many of us.  Thank you.  And, we pray.

Ugh, Monday {Can We Consider It New? Joy? Or Overwhelmed?}

I opened my planner this morning to find a blank week.

Blank.

Not that I have a week free of all to-do’s and obligations. I was (ironically) too busy yesterday to sit down, look at the coming week, and fill in the rehearsals, practices, lessons, meetings, and to-do’s.

I had just opened my journal and written…We moved over the weekend.  And while I’m glad and thankful, I sit here completely overwhelmed.  The house needs organized – the old one needs cleaned. I need to grade and plan…and Lord…

Then nothing.

Distracted,  I stopped writing in my journal and reached for my planner in hopes of …well, planning.  How in the world I will get this done?  How I will juggle and balance this week while milling through boxes (do you know me?  disorganization makes me very un-Jesus like), running errands and kiddos, planning, grading…just ick. I know, what a whiner – and I felt like one.

A plan, I thought.

Planner opened and pen poised, I stare down at this page…

calendar or March

and all I can write is this:  I am glad to turn a page – for a fresh week.

I hear:  My mercies are new every morning, child.  (Lamentations 3:23)

And I add:  Your mercies are new every week (or minute or hour) too.

And I know:  No matter how hard I (in all my strength that never works) try, this week shall pass.  This season will pass.  And someday, I will pass.

That’s reality, right?

You and me – no matter how full our calendars are or how organized our home is…we will pass.  And if God chooses my passing to be THIS day, then the boxes will go unpacked and the planner unfilled – and I doubt anyone will care about boxes and plans. Perspective, huh?

So, as a new week begins – one full of both knowns and unknowns.  One full of wonder and work – organization and obligation – may we remember…

He has so much more for us than lists and errands.  (Talking to myself here.)

People are more important than plans – or to-do’s- or clean houses. (Self, are you getting this?)

While this is a message I’ve shared more than once, and one you’ve read more than once, I am thankful for the reminder this morning from a loving God that this is the day He has made, so let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)

Let us consider it pure joy – not “feel” it pure joy. But an obedient act of consideration – a choice I make  for JOY today.  (James 1:2)

Let us give it to Him -whatever “it” is – whatever we have to offer…

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you:  Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around-life – and place it before God as an offering.  Embracing what God does for  you is the best thing you can do for him.  Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.  Instead, fix your attention on God.  You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it…Romans 12:1-2 from The Message (thanks to my She Reads Truth app:)

So let’s have a week – or a day (maybe minute by minute)  - in which we take this ordinary life – the dropping off and the picking up.  The cleaning and the cooking,  The messy and the mundane.  The awesome and the awful.  The to-dos and the ta-das and place them at His feet. As an offering – you’re offering. And allow Him to speak in to ALL of it.

It’s a new week and a new month –  and a new season is just around the corner!   May we take a deep breath today and thank the One who makes ALL things new.  (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Happy Monday!  (I think ;)

What Moving Is Teaching Me {I Bet You Know About This!}

It’s been a mere ten days since we decided to move.  Or, since God decided to move us.  And in that time, I’ve learned quite a bit.  Or, perhaps, I have been reminded of what I already knew.

Moving teaching me

One:

Good, good people live in this world.  I have some friends who could have very easily said, “Really, Sarah?  We just moved you a year ago. Remember our tireless hours of painting and cleaning and loading and carrying? We don’t exactly want to repeat that again so soon.  For Heaven’s sake.  Settle down.”

Instead?  They said, “Let us know the dates and details.  Can I come help you pack? I’ll collect boxes.”  And they have dropped off boxes and saved boxes and offered to run my kiddos.  One even offered to come from Columbus to help!  Selfless people who serve others well – they exist – and I am honored to call them friends.

Two:

My mood equals everyone’s mood (in this house).  Yesterday I got frustrated with changing activity schedules.  One minute I am committed to 4:00 then the next minute it’s 3:00. Hannah needs to be somewhere at 1:00 – oh, nevermind.  That’s not happening. Oh, yes, it’s happening, but Hannah is not going now.  CRAZY!

Guess what?  My rising frustration equaled rising frustration in everyone.  Owen went into “good boy servant” mode, trying to make everyone happy while a bewildered Hannah looked on like….how in the world can I fix this, Mom?  I don’t control all these people.  And she’s right. She doesn’t.  Just like she doesn’t control the weather or the packing pace or the myriad interruptions in our day.

So, if I want a happy, smooth move?  I have to make it so.  My kids (and your kids) get their cues and moods from me and you.  If you feel overwhelmed, so do they.  If you’re ok?  So are they.  Trust me on this. Even if the stress is simmering below the surface, THEY KNOW!  It’s so weird.

Three:

God provides. The boxes through two friends. (Thanks, Jenny and Kristen!)

The manpower through friends – and offers galore.

Snow days for packing.

A word about these snow days.  I was gone last weekend from Friday after school until Sunday at 11:00 pm because Hannah had a dance competition out of town.  Mix this with midterm grades being due on Monday and a new lesson plan rubric.  Yes, feeling a wee bit overwhelmed – to say the very least.  Then, boom.  Four snow days.  We’ve laughed and purged and packed (and stressed – more on that later).  Speaking of purging…

Four:

We have way too much stuff.  Seriously.

I just moved a year ago.  At that time, I gave away and sold so much stuff.  Then, this fall, I had a yard sale – sold more and hauled the rest to a thrift store.  AND STILL…

I am amazed at the stuff pouring from my kids’ rooms (all the rooms)!  (They’ve used their snow days very productively;) Our “give away” boxes are growing faster than our “take to new house” boxes.  Admittedly, some of it is hard to let go of.  Owen still looks wistfully at his tub of webkins – collected for a long time back in the day.  But, really? We don’t need or use or love stuffed animals…so buh bye!  Speaking of needing or loving…

Five:

We are only keeping what we need /use or love.  And this is HARD.  It might not seem like a big deal, but when I look at something before it goes into the box, I think long and hard…Do I love this?  Love to look at it?  Love to have it in my home?  Or, do I use this regularly?  As in, have I held this item in the past six months?  If it’s a no…then it goes.  I am not always completely honest with myself. I’ve noticed myself holding on to some wacky things.  Baby steps!  (FYI:  I got this “filter” for purging from Tsh Oxenreider’s book Notes from a Blue Bike.)

Six:

You just have to live in the mess (deep breaths, deep breaths). And my house is a mess  (understatement!)  Today my friend said to me, “Sarah, you are going to to have let some of this go sometimes.  I know it’s a season of moving, but life still goes on.”  Amen.  I want to pack now, clean now, and be done now. That doesn’t really work for a single momma.  My kids still have activities.  We still need to eat.  When the snow subsides, we have school.  So some days…I am going to have to shove the boxes aside and sit down for a family viewing of American Idol or a conversation about ISIS.  Momma first, mover later.

Seven:

You can make time for anything (that matters). I am moving during Lent.  God is funny, huh? He has me moving during the time when I push the pause button – the time when I slow down and give up in order to make more space for intentional prayer.  For growing in Him.  I love this season of Lent. Soooo….when shall I make time in a schedule that was just  bumped to crazy busy?  God’s told me not to give up, but give in, and He will show me.  I am trusting.

So, that’s what I am learning so far, but I have a feeling this is just the tip of the iceberg (pun intended for all those under wind chill watch:).  And I share with you because no matter what is happening in your life right now…

Good, good people live in this world.  Find a few.  Make friends.  Have hope!

My mood/your mood sets the tone for your family. Overwhelmed or joyful – you get to choose.

God provides.  In mysterious ways.  And rarely in our timing or our way, but trust Him.  He’s got you. He’s got this.

You might have way too much stuff, and it might be interfering in ways you can’t imagine.  All the time you spend shuffling and organizing and cleaning could be spent with your family or pursuing a dream.  Declutter your space, and you might be surprised how much it declutters your heart. Keep the stuff you use and love.  The rest?  It’s just noise.  Buh, bye!

Sometimes you just have to live in the mess – literally and figuratively.  But, life doesn’t have to stop or suck just because there’s mess in your sink or in your heart.  You can still laugh and share and love.

Make time for what’s important – to you and to those you love.  Lent is important to me because remembering my Savior’s road to the cross and his sacrifice for me is essential to my being. He is THE reason that I exist.  The reason I can live and love.  So somehow He will help me slow down as life speeds up.

What has God taught you lately as you go about life?  I’d love to hear how He’s at work.

50 Shades of Grey {Is Not Gray}

Tomorrow’s the day.

The movie thousands have been waiting for:  50 Shades of Grey.

I can’t log on to Facebook without seeing “I can’t wait to see this movie!” My almost 15-year-old daughter told me yesterday that many of her friends (aged 14-16) are planning to see this movie with friends or boyfriends on Valentine’s Day.

Huh?

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Ladies, please help me to understand why you would want your teen girl to watch this movie.  Please tell me why you want to see this movie.  Before you bristle and leave this post…will you please stop and think with me a moment?

I originally posted most of the following on June 26, 2012, after reading the book.  Two and a half years later, I feel the same way – perhaps even more so because my daughter is dating.  Because she’s no longer a carefree 12-year-old, but a teen girl facing the challenges teen girls face. And, I am no longer married.  I am single woman who must guard her children and her heart as she navigates singleness again.

My friends and I  like to talk about gray areas, black areas, and white areas.  We like to say “that’s a black and white issue” or “that’s a gray area.”

When it comes to 50 Shades of Grey,  there is no shortage of discussion on the black, white, and gray of it.  Many authors, bloggers, and interviewers are chiming in – for good reason.

This book is a New York Times Bestseller and about to become a blockbuster movie. But, this is not a gray area – it’s very black and white.

I read book one.  Ok, “read” might be an overstatement.  I read the first five chapters then began swiping my iPhone screen in search of a plot (or anything redeeming).  I did at least scan every single page.  As a writing teacher, I could share about its lack of literary merit all day long, but the poor writing and lack of plot aren’t harmful to my soul.

The language and imagery are harmful.  The images flashing across the screen would be too.

50 Shades of Grey is referred to as “mommy porn” for a reason.  The book’s description and movie’s portrayal of sex and relationship are  not at all what God intended.  What God created to be beautiful, this book makes very ugly.

I regret reading it.  But, regret can’t wipe away those words from my eyes or those images from my brain.

Ugh!

Before you purchase this book or a movie ticket, I hope you pray.  I hope you search your heart and ask…Why do I want to see this? Is this good and right for me?

For me, it boils down to Proverbs 4: 20-27:  My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left;keep your foot from evil.

I want to guard my heart, giving careful thought to my path, keeping my foot from evil.  I am so easily swayed in some areas that I must look straight ahead with my gazed fixed directly on Him and the cross if I am to avoid drifting.

So, I hope you’ll guard your heart from this book and movie – and others like it. It’s best to dwell on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy… Philippians 4:8…although I know it’s hard and only possible with strength from Him.

Let me clarify one thing:  I am FOR you.  I don’t desire to make a point.  I’d like to make a difference.

I am not “holier than thou.”  Heavens.  I have logs in my eye that need removed before I can ever speak on many issues.  My heart is simply to share as one who has read the book and knows the content.  To tell those who have not read this book and want to see the movie:  Please do your homework before going.  To tell those who have read the book and feel guilty (like me) – or go to see the movie and feel guilty:  There’s grace and forgiveness.

And, please, don’t take my word for it.  Pray.  Read the stuff all over the internet.

Honestly, I simply could not – in good conscience – let tomorrow’s release day pass without speaking up.  It hurts my heart to think of all the young gals who will see it and think that is how a man should treat her.  It hurts my heart to think of all the young men who will see it and think that is how they should treat a gal.

(And, please don’t say…it’s just entertainment; no one really patterns behavior after a movie.  Yes, they do – sadly.)

I want better for my daughter.  I want better for this next generation.  I want better for you.  I want better for me.

If you have an opinion about 50 Shades of Grey, would you share it in the comments?  I think conversing – even if online – about this topic in a respectful, open manner can help us and our daughters.