Hannah Goes to Honduras

In 2013 Hannah went to Honduras for the first time.  She’d taught herself to crochet via YouTube, and she had made hats for Honduran children going through chemo.  On that trip she also taught a group of young moms how to crochet, so they could make items to sell and support their children.  Since then, those moms have expanded their skills and sales, and Hannah’s heart for Honduras and her people has grown.  Each time I plan a trip or board a plane, she says, “I want to go, Mom.”

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And I say…”Why, Hannah?”

And she says, “To teach more girls to crochet so they can escape poverty by selling what they make.  To give people hope.  To love on people.  To build houses.  To give little girls the dresses we’ve sewn.”

As I talk with Hannah about her decision to take a mission trip (not just go along with her mom), I am struck by how deeply she feels.  How much she wants to go into the all the world and share Jesus in the ways he’s gifted her to share.  How sure she is that God is calling her to love and serve others.  How much she realizes her own life is a gift as she has been given much.

“I taught some girls to crochet two years ago.  I just taught them the basics, which was only enough to make a hat and a washcloth.  In the two years since, they have made hats for their children, purses to sell, and more.  They’ve helped to sustain themselves as well as their children with the things they’ve crocheted.  They even sent me a purse they made. I’m very proud of them, and I hope to teach more girls and women to crochet.”

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Hannah hopes to travel with a team (and me) to Yamaranguila, Honduras this summer and teach mothers in a rural area, who have come to the hospital early in anticipation of their babies’ arrivals, how to crochet.  She will also be part of other team activities, including the distribution of dresses that Hannah has been sewing with a group of ladies at City Souls Ministries.

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Hannah needs to raise about $2000 for her trip, which will include airfare, lodging, supplies (yarn, etc), food, etc.  Any amount – small or large – will help.

If you’d be willing to contribute, you can find Hannah’s Go Fund Me page here:  http://www.gofundme.com/hannahinhonduras

I can promise you that she will steward each penny well.

We Are Sisters {What Does Love Require of Us?}

Caring isn’t a Christian’s sideline hobby. Caring is a Christian’s complete career. We don’t just care about people — caring about people is our job — the job every single one of us get up to do every single day. That’s it. Caring is our job, our point, our purpose.We’re here to care like a boss. Ann Voskamp

I’ve missed the last few Ann Voskamp posts. In a busy day, blog reading is the first thing in my routine to go. But after seeing this post shared on Facebook by ladies I respect, I made time to read.

I read and reread.

How horrific.

I am begging you to take a moment and read it.  Please. You need to know.  (This is me pleading you to take five  minutes and read this – please.)

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I once prayed…Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours.  He answered.  He continues to answer. And if I am honest there have been times I’ve tried to take that prayer back.  I’ve looked around in Honduras or in my own classroom and said…I don’t want to know anymore. I don’t want to care.

Just today a woman who once cooked for me in Honduras lost her one-month old to pneumonia.

Two students recently told me of their foster care experiences – one is now happily adopted. Another just existing because it’s the best she’s been offered. (When she looks around at her peers, she feels less than – like she was dealt an unequal hand.)

And now these words from Ann that describe something I can’t even fathom.  Near the end, the “God forbid” sections get to me.  Tears come.  And this….

When we are on Sinjar Mountain,” Sozan motions to these mothers, these women, sitting on the floor of the shipping container — like you can truck humanity around like meat — “and ISIS is fighting and shooting and killing all around us — there is no water. No water anywhere — for any of our children. There is no food. Six of the children with us — six of my nieces and nephews” — she holds up her fingers — “six of them, they die. No water, no food.”

Does she know that after every meal at home, I water all our houseplants with the leftover water in the pitcher? That our dog gets whatever we don’t finish off our plates? Does she know that our churches are fundraising for building expansions and plusher chairs while their children are dying?

I had a bad day yesterday. Just a day of feeling overwhelmed and weary mixed with sadness.  So much just felt impossible yesterday.  And then I read these words.

Both my kids woke up happy and healthy this morning.  Chose from 20 outfits. Ate good breakfasts. Packed a big lunch.  No choosing which one to put in the getaway car.  No watching them die and covering them with rocks because I can’t dig into the mountain for proper burial.  No wondering how they will eat or drink today. (I mean, can you EVEN imagine??)

I wasted three gallons of water washing my favorite travel coffee mug because I’d left it in my car.  Wasted pizza sits on the table.  I threw out old food from the fridge in anticipation of trash day – you know, that day when the trash man comes and takes away all the things I’ve wasted.  Sigh.

And, friend, this is NOT me feeling shame or guilt about what I’ve been given.  Not at all.

BUT…

It begins to end when the world lives what we actually are: We are sisters. We are a sisterhood. We belong to each other. We belong to the women who can’t read, we belong to the women who have been stripped of every hope, who are being sold in slave markets, whose daughters are coming back to them with ripped apart virginity. ISIS doesn’t own these women — they belong to us. They belong to the sisterhood of the world. When we live like we all belong to each other, we answer much of the longing in the world. 

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I read Hebrews 11:1-40 this morning; it just happens to be Faithfulness day at She Reads Truth.  I read of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah who IN FAITH gave their best to God. I read my friend Marilyn’s blog on frontiers and fear.  And wrote this prayer in my journal…

Lord, what am I sacrificing BY FAITH to bring my best?  

It’s so hard to look heavenward and say “send me” – however that looks.

I wonder…”What do I do with this, Lord?” Then, I fear His answers. (Have you ever been scared He will actually answer or give you the desire of your heart?) If I truly ask Him and surrender, then what might love require of me?

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What does it look like for me to stand “with each other and for each other and about each other”? Here, there, and everywhere?

A mentor and good friend (whom I admire greatly) texted me and asked my thoughts on Ann’s post…she shared that the “enormity of the horror immobilizes me.”

Do you feel that way?  Immobilized?  Scared to ask what love requires of you?  Me too and me too.

But, can we begin a conversation?  Can you share what you think?  How you feel God is leading you?

I pray it’s time we begin to speak of the real issues and horrors in this world – and that those things which break His heart, breaks ours.

Stop Apologizing {Especially You, Single Mom}

I’d found a patch of shade and settled in to watch my little guy, Owen, play baseball.

After about three innings, my phone alerts me to a text from my daughter, Hannah.  She’s at a fundraiser with her dance team and wants to know what time I can come get her.  She’s feeling dehydrated and nauseous.  She’s been in the sun  - 90 degrees – since about 10 am, and it’s 12:30.

I text a few moms who are with her (because it really does take a village), and they’ve given her water and a break. I text Hannah and remind her to drink plenty.  I also remind her that I’ve arranged with another mom to drop her at home after the fundraiser.  I will follow closely thereafter with Owen.

Then, a miracle.

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For the first time since my divorce, I did not apologize for myself.  For not being able to come right then and get her (not that she expected that anyway.)

As I sat and watched the next few plays, I experienced an almost audible conversation with God – yes, at the ball field.  Suddenly, I no longer felt the need to apologize again and again to the child I felt was/is being slighted.

Because that’s what I do.

If I am somewhere and can’t pick up Owen or meet a need I think needs met, I apologize profusely to the child – even though I know he or she does not expect it.  In fact, I wonder if they think, “Mom is crazy.”

Yet, in that moment at the ball field I felt no urge to apologize, and I realized (thanks to some divine intervention) that the apology comes from a place deep within in me, whispering failure.  As if, I owe  my children an apology for not coming to the game because I am at the other child’s recital – and what I am apologizing for really isn’t the missed event.  That’s a bit trivial.

What I am apologizing for is my failed marriage.  My inability to juggle all the balls perfectly.  I am apologizing to them for being stuck with a mom like me – one who isn’t perfect, doesn’t have it all together, can’t provide everything she wants them have, and can’t be at every single thing they do. One who splits the laundry and household chores with them because she can’t keep up with it all alone.

Because at some point I decided moms should do it all for their kids.  It’s a mom’s job to do her child’s laundry and mow his/her lawn. In fact, making the child help seems wrong.  After all, they’re MINE, and I want to do everything for them.

While I love my children more than anything and I did “take them to raise” – this thinking is faulty at best (and clearly a product of culture and not faith).  God – through his word and a friend  - has been working on me about this, but I was oblivious until I sat in my camping chair at the ball field and realized…

I have nothing for which to apologize.

I have apologized to them for my part in their broken home.  I have and will apologize when it’s genuinely needed – like when my frustration reaches an all-time high, and they become the target.

But, in general, I do not need to apologize over and over for the “what has been.”

And if I keep it up, we may never know “what will be.”

Because we will keep living in the reminder and the ick of the past.

Because all that apologizing…that self talk that occurs around the apologizing…it’s not good or useful.

Moms, our children have it better than 90% of the world. For what do you/we truly need to apologize? Should we have honest conversations? Yes!  Can we help them navigate the hard things in life?  Of course.

We also can and should help them understand that we don’t love them less, but it’s the sister or brother’s turn for our time or attention. Or it’s time for “mom only” time.

But don’t be sorry. Either verbally or in your heart.

You can be sorry for the divorce or the death. That their family is broken or different. But you can not live that way. And you can not keep bringing it up and apologizing.

Instead. Huddle up. Go team!  Be a family – however that looks to you in your situation. Teach your kiddos to give and take. Be thankful. Speak life and thankfulness for the grass that needs mowed and all the clothing that needs washed. Be thankful that they made the team or teams so it presents a dilemma as to how to split time. (Some kids would love to have a spot on the team!)

It takes just a tiny turn of perspective to change attitudes and outlooks. From “this is broken and stressful” to “look at us go!”

You don’t have to juggle it all on your own. You get to because you have a home and food and laundry and healthy kiddos.

Best of all…you do not juggle alone.  God is with you – your refuge and your strength (Psalm 46).

And He is for you.  (Romans 8)

That day I was able to get Hannah at the fundraiser’s end, and Owen’s dad dropped him at our house.  And then…we had the best day!  We celebrated Mother’s Day a day early with a laughter-filled lunch and this sweet gift ….

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Hand in Hand.  Heartfelt.  Blessings.

We got this.  

A fitting reminder after my conversation with God that morning – that we got this.  We are all in this together.  It’s not just you, Mom, taking on the weight of the world. It’s all of us – together – mowing, laundering, cleaning, giving, taking, and loving.

And, friends, we are all in this together – truly.  Even if you’re not single – we’re all in this together – living, laughing, and learning as we walk one another home. Don’t forget that.  You do not have to do it all or be it all – you weren’t made for that.  You were made to be you and do what He called you to according to his purposes. Nothing more, nothing less.  (So swallow your pride and ask for help – or allow someone to help.)

Sister, allow Him to lift the weight.  Walk in freedom today, knowing you’ve got this – we’ve got this – because he has us.

Much Love,

The Year After Divorce {As Viewed Through My Journals}

One year ago today.

I walked into a courtroom, and in the span of about 11 minutes, a judge declared my marriage legally over. I remember details about the courtroom and the proceedings.  I remember purchasing a ring to replace my wedding band.  (The ring is an old spoon bent and repurposed into a ring – fitting.)  I remember having lunch with a friend.

The year has dulled my memories of that day.

The year has also revealed and healed.  Chastised and shamed.

It’s been one of new beginnings, new routines, new friends, and new beliefs.

And it’s been hard.  Just plain hard.

In retrospect, I spent at least the first six months wallowing in self-pity and shame.  I think I hid it well from the world, but I never hid it from Jesus.  From May to December, Jesus and I talked hours and hours.  I read his Word, questioned it, wondered where my promises were, and told Him that I thought He forgot me. Forgot my marriage.

I remember saying to Him…you’re FOR marriage, so how did this happen?  I loved, I forgave, I this and I that. So.  Where were YOU?

My soul knew he was there, but my head and heart felt abandoned by Him.  Yet, instead of walking away, I searched his word day in and day out for answers.  For understanding.

In December, I celebrated my 39th birthday and decided to switch my processing from Google docs to paper to document my 40th year of life.  I bought a journal that said “Let Your Soul Shine” determined to do just that:  Shine again….because I’d lived in the dark since May with the judge’s gavel echoing “failure” in my heart.

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The first notes in that journal are from Sanctuary Church in Columbus. The topic? Worship fully.  Worship begins with seeking Jesus. Worshiping Him for WHO he is, not what you can get from Him. Seek and serve Him.  Worship without service is selfish. Serve to worship and glorify Him  - and bless others.  

And I decided to begin there:  worshiping Him for WHO he is regardless of my circumstance or how unfair I thought Him and my life to be.

Then a friend took me to Nashville to see Ann Voskamp for my birthday.  I have several pages of notes from that evening, but this is highlighted and I remember it clearly:  I can’t meet the needs of other people unless I release my grasp on the things I think I need.

I later listed what I thought I needed.  Shew.  It was long and eye-opening.  The list began to reveal a thread of selfishness in my heart that I had labelled “survival.”

On December 12th I sat down and had a long conversation with my children about our lives and our time since May…further revealing how much I’d gone into myself. Our conversation revealed that I’d focused on me, dwelling on how I’d been hurt, how I had failed my kids and my God, and how I was rapidly gaining weight.

From the outside, you could easily see a girl who was struggling with divorce and depression.  On the inside, I saw myself as a girl just trying to make it.  Day by day. Doing MY best, but not His best.

As I continued flipping through my journals, I began to notice these threads of selfishness and pity. Threads I didn’t see until I looked at my writing as a whole. I also noticed  tangible evidence of Jesus moving in me.

His first step…my word for 2015:  Wonder.  He simply asked me to step outside myself and begin to see the wonder in this world. I’d been hiding,  looking inward and sulking for so long that I was missing life.  I didn’t see wonder.  I saw failure and unfairness.

But I now see how God redirected my head and heart, reminding me that his followers deny self, take up their crosses, and follow Him – no questions asked.  He reminded me to renew my mind.

So I did.

I have pages on notes on my study of Esther, reminding me that God places us and purposes us for such a time as this.  She reminded me of the freedom found in trusting a sovereign God.  She couldn’t see the end, but she risked her life anyway to save her people – those she loved. I couldn’t’ see the end or the plan either, but could I have been placed and purposed for such a time as this?  I had to believe yes.

I reread an email from a friend stapled in my journal.  She shared how God awakened her at 3:30 am and gave her words for me.  She shared a passage from Ecclesiastes and wrote beautifully of how God plucks and places; molds and mends.

Over and over I wrote…”he must increase; I must decrease” – spiritually and physically. As I look back,  I notice that my notes on the negative are still there, but slowly they’re infiltrated with wonder – with good.

For Lent, I wrote of giving in to God instead of giving up anything.  At the time, I was just tired.  It was almost a selfish move.  It was like...I can NOT do this anymore, Lord.  I am not cut out for this.  Lots of “woe is me” and “life is hard” pity parties that I could NOT get past.  So, when faced with Lent, I said, “Here you go, Lord.  Take it all.  I can’t carry it anyway.”

And even though my heart was icky and motives less than stellar, He moved. He took the yoke and began giving me peace.  (Awww, surrender.  You stink, but I get you.)

February 23 ended my Let Your Soul Shine journal.  I look back over it and smile.  God amuses me sometimes.  He took a soul that lived in a dark place and He illuminated it as only He can.  Day by day, sending a spark, kindling a flame. Again,  I didn’t notice this until I reread the journal.  But as I looked back,  I could see and feel His work.

I began journal two:  Enjoy the Ride.

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The first page is an email from a friend.  Dated February 23, she writes Psalm 33: 20-23 like this:  Praying that as Sarah waits in hope for the Lord, he will be her help and her shield.  In Him, Sarah’s heart will rejoice; she is trusting His holy name.  May your unfailing love rest upon Sarah, O Lord, even as Sarah puts her hope in you!

This friend lives across the country.  I spent four days with her at a retreat, and that is the extent of our “in person” relationship.  But, God.  He can use anyone at anytime.  He used her and is still using her to send life-giving words and encouragement.

And so, Enjoy the Ride  was the beginning of God using words from others to speak in and move me.  A book called I Want God.  My friends.  Blog posts.  Emailed Scripture from an acquaintance that would shock me every time. Enjoy the Ride is thick with printed and stapled prayers and posts.  (Thanks to each of you!)

It’s like God  moved to step two. Let your soul shine again, Sarah.  Now, enjoy the ride as I teach and love you.  As I teach you to love again.

The following pages are filled with words of surrender, correction, clarification, and love from me to Him and Him to me.  I still love these words from my study time during Lent:

We come to Christ with empty buckets – whether we admit it or not. So let’s not bring our self-improvements and call them sacrifices.  Let’s not use our efforts as currency to buy the free grace we’ve been given.  Let’s simply come to the cross of Christ – again, today. Let’s come empty. He will fill us.

I wrote often in journal two of what God is teaching me in the surrender of Lent.  The pages of the journal say “the journey not the arrival matters” and I am learning this is so.  All I wanted was to “move on” and “be healed” and “not care.”  And all God wanted and wants is for me… To return to Him and live as His vessel, content with His timing.  To stop trying to improve myself and call it sacrifice.  To stop using my efforts as currency to buy grace that He gave freely.

A few pages later I discovered this prayer from She Reads Truth:

May I be willing to trade a whisper of my name for a shout of His.

May I stop trying to be the bigger person and start seeking the All Sufficient.

May I replace my performance with His presence.

His message to me was and is so clear.  So cohesive.  So consistent. I am only aware of this, however, in the rereading and reviewing:  I was beginning to want God more than anything.  As it should be.

In fact, at the beginning of March I shared a passage from the book I Want God on Instagram, and Lisa (the author) responded:  Here’s the thing: until we become sickened by what our comfort has cost us we will not hate it enough to let it go.  

She asked me to list what comfort has cost me (not for the faint of heart).

She said, Just keep going.  Victory is found in the long obedience.  This kind of hard is not as hard as living without overcoming because that carries no eventual benefit.

And those words stirred deep within me.  The long obedience.  I needed to keep going – keep riding – following Him – no matter how long this journey takes, I began to realize just how worth it it is.  I also began to realize that I might be worth it too.

I learned that we can’t crucify ourselves.  Crucifixion of self must be done to us. I realized I was trying in my own power again.  So I kept writing…The long obedience.  Replace performance with His presence.

I began to see His faithfulness on every page of my journal – in every moment of my life.

The pages filled with prayers of repentance.  Notes from others.  Scripture. What I was learning about myself  - what God was revealing.

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Still…I had been (mostly) ignorant of God’s work.  I hate to admit that:  I was faithful to meet with God each day, but never stopped to make sense of it all.

Then, March 21. The big day. I read this from Ellie Holcomb:  Jesus is not a victim, but a volunteer.

And there it was. I felt Jesus almost audibly say…

You might be a victim, Sarah, but living that way is miserable.  You need to make the turn from victim to volunteer.  

So true.  I look at the last year and notice how much I lived as a victim.  How much time I spent sulking and complaining.  How often I secretly thought “poor me.”  In many ways the last year was a perpetual pity party, and the guest of honor was a gal I hardly knew. Gone was the outgoing gal who loved people and church. Gone was the laughter and smiles and humor.  Yes, I could flip that switch when necessary, but my daily life did not reflect a shining soul.

Who am I, Lord? Who is this girl you’ve refined in your fire?  You’ve plucked and placed; molded and mended. Now what?

A new peace settled that day.  More burdens released.  More truth revealed.  More understanding gained.

Jesus used his word again and again to show me who he was and is.  How he works.  How he loves.

I loved rereading the one point at which I got stuck on the story of the woman at the well.  I read it again and again. Through it, He reminded me  he is interested in my heart, for when he transformed the Samaritan woman, her circumstances did not change.  She ran back and told her village of Jesus and his living water.  Of how he knew what she had done – her sin – and how he’d offered her hope. Notice…she was changed.  For sure.  But, her circumstances did not change. She most likely still had a man to whom she was not married at home.  She still had five husbands.

But.  Now she had Jesus, living water. And that was more than enough.  She was different now as a result of a changed heart, not changed circumstances.  Lesson noted and learned, Lord.  

I made notes of being asked to speak at women’s retreat and how much I struggled with the decision – page after page.  I acknowledged the mess of my heart, and tried to say I am too busy etc.  The hostess was persistent, flexible.  She offered to reschedule the retreat based on my availability.  I can’t tell her no; I just felt I should do it – messy heart and all.

She sends me my topic: What is My Worth? Seeing Myself Through the Eyes of God

You want to laugh, right?  I did.

Because now my second journal’s words shifted as I began spending my quiet time preparing for a talk about my worth in Him.  About how He sees me. And, as it turns out, that’s exactly where God wanted to steer me next. (Who’s surprised, right?:)

I had acknowledged my darkness, my lack of belief, my hopelessness.  I had repented of my victim mentality.  I acknowledged that heart change – internal change – was most needed when all I seemed to want was external change.  I had focused on Him and His character.  Now, he was turning the table to me.

God began countering my internal dialogue with …

1 Peter 2:9 – We are chosen; his beloved possessions.

Isaiah 43:1 – I have called  you by name, you are mine.

And Enjoy the Ride ends.  I am not kidding.  I came to the end of journal two yesterday.  Oh, God, you are good – and a little funny.

Which brings us to today.

I turn to May 7 on my perpetual calendar and it says: You had to sacrifice.  This is the season for upheaval, and God’s plans weren’t your plans, but you obeyed and trekked on and it is well.  God loves you so much, you conquering women, you.  You victorious daughter.  You princess.  You warrior.  You’re reminded that sometimes sacrifices are right – necessary.  But Jesus whispers sweet nothings. He calls you by your real name. Redeemed. Sanctified. Good.  You shake off the lies and dress to the nines in truth and love and know that you are enough.   Arianne Segerman

Indeed.  It is well.  He loves me. Redeemed.  Warrior.  Princess. Conquering. Victorious.  I am clothed in truth and love; I am enough.

I already had my next journal – a Christmas gift from my best friend.  Its title?  Adventure Awaits. The first page says…not all who wander are lost.

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So God begins another chapter today.  Another journal – another journey. Reminding me that I wandered, but I was not lost.  That he never left me.  He did not forsake me. He allowed me to grieve, kick, and scream all the while working.  Slowly but surely.  Even when I was oblivious, angry, and distant.

Such a good and faithful God, huh?  Shew.  I am simply overwhelmed by his grace and patience. ( I’d have kicked my whiny butt to the curb.)

You might be wondering…why share all of this? And my answer comes from a She Reads Truth study:  This is what it means to be witnesses of Jesus: to share with others what we’ve seen Him do.

Friends, as I reflect on the last year, He is tangible. I can’t say that I knew he was there working and weaving in the moment.  In fact, I thought more than once that he didn’t care and he’d forgotten me.  But, when I look at my journals, I am overwhelmed and humbled at how present he was.  Daily working in my heart and world, drawing me to Him.   (And I left out so much!)

When you seek Him, you will find Him – I promise.  You have to lose your life to gain it.  (Matthew 16: 25 and Luke 17: 33).  And you  can’t “love others as you love yourself” if you do not love yourself. (Matthew 22:39 and Mark 12:31)

I’m finally learning to spot the wonder.  Finally understanding why he gave me that word.  Because if I am looking for and acknowledging the wonder – of Him and of His creation – then I am not dwelling in the lost or the what if’s.  I am not throwing pity parties and sobbing into my pillow.

I am a wandering wonderer;)

Reveling in the story He is writing for me and my kiddos. In the life he died for – the life he’s freely given. And the depth of thankfulness that results is unstoppable.  Unbeatable. Unfathomable.

I can’t wait to see what He does in the year to come!

I’d Still Have Said I Do {Looking Back to Look Forward}

I read this again this morning.  Tomorrow is all I have been thinking about for over a week.  I’ve written pages upon pages about the fears I expressed in this post and the reality of my first year divorced.  It didn’t look like I thought it would.  Some better, some worse.  But, this I know…the girl who wrote this a year ago still believes it:  I’d still have said I do.  But, this girl has grown and learned, kicking and screaming through it all.  I’m working on the “it’s been one year post” – and it’s not very pretty – but I am so thankful for each day and for a Savior who never leaves nor forsakes.

And it all began here…

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{From May 6, 2014}

The beginning and ending could not be more different.

In 1998 I walked through the doors of Poca United Methodist Church on my Daddy’s arm.  Excited.  Nervous.  Smiling from ear to ear. As I walked the aisle, familiar faces greeted each glance. Friends and family filling each pew.

My dress wasn’t expensive, but I loved it.  My fiancé, family, and friends  - all stood at the front, waiting, smiling. Flowers and tulle adorned the pews.

It was a dream day.

Did issues exist behind the smiles? Yes.  Red flags?  A few.  But, I felt God joining us together. Any obstacle we faced, we would face as one.

I have wondered often…if the next 15 years had flashed before me prior to the wedding, what would I have done?  Would I have walked away or said I do?

Walking away would have saved me much pain.  Right, divorced friend? Hurting friend?  Widowed friend?  Lonely friend? If we’d have known then what we know now, we could have avoided it all.

No marriage…no pain.

No commitment to love…no pain.

Right?  Wherever you sit today, if given the chance, would you have skipped the hard?  The humbling?  The heartache?  If my life had flashed before my eyes…

I’d have said I do anyway.

And I’d have changed my decisions and my actions and my reactions. I’d have uttered one (or 20)  less critical word(s) and worried less.  I’d have lived less hum drum and more happy day.

Would it have worked?  I have no idea.  Still…

I’d have said I do.

Because amidst the pain, I’d have spotted the joy.  The joy of having two beautiful children. The joy of loving. The joy of knowing Biblical marriage and redemption – even if it didn’t last.

That day, August 1, 1998, a picture-perfect Saturday was the beginning.

And, tomorrow, May 7, 2014, a non-descript Wednesday will be the ending.

I won’t walk into the courtroom on my Daddy’s arm. He’s gone now. There will be no smiling friends or family (although my momma has asked me 100 times if I need her to attend).  Only a judge will be waiting at the aisle’s end.

Questions will be asked and answers given. And in a matter of minutes – as quick as we said I do - we will say I don’t.  For better or for worse? No. In sickness and in health?  For richer or for poorer?  No and no.  All that we vowed to one another and to our Creator…gone.

Just gone.

We won’t walk out arm and arm. I’ll leave alone – him with his lawyer.  Separate cars.  Separate houses

And I am scared.  Scared to live alone and raise kids alone. Scared that I can’t keep all the balls in the air. Even knowing the verses about fear – that I have not been given a spirit of fear but one of power and love (2 Timothy 1:7).  I know it…I recite it…I believe it.

But still.

Tomorrow (about 8:45 am) I ask you to pray. For both of us.  Regardless of who did what, it’s just sad.  The hope we had on that day in 1998 is gone, and lost hope is always sad.

Have you lost hope?  Do you look back, wishing for a do over? Would you have said I don’t instead of I do to marriage, to friendship, to a job, to loving, to payments, to God’s call, to  _________?  

Really? It’s ok to say yes or no.

But…

Don’t overlook the joy.

I’ve lost all hope for my marriage, but I’ve not lost all hope.  While I am sad today, I am still hoping. Hoping in Him for a new life – a life that He uses for His glory.

While that life seems far away – for me and maybe for you.  While we may feel sad and stuck. Let’s hope.  Let’s keep looking up and moving forward…it’s hard, but He’s near.

I Wish You Knew… {Sharing A Piece of Our Worlds}

I have often listened to people speak or others’ conversations and thought…if they only knew.

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If they only knew how hard baby showers are for the infertile.   If they only knew nontraditional families often feel labelled and less than.   If they only knew that most teachers love their jobs and your child and have no desire to “fail” them. If they only knew that the way a child acts in public is devastating to his momma as she tries and tries at home.

I’ve listened to discussions on Baltimore and Ferguson and wondered how we could possibly know or chime in when we’ve never met those people, never visited their city (in most cases), and never spent the night in their homes.

I often feel so many of us operate out of ignorance – unintentionally.  We simply do not know how another feels, what it’s like behind closed doors, or where that person has been.  And in the “not knowing” we often assume or get frustrated – or gossip – about the missing information.

However, when Colorado teacher Kyle Schwartz felt like there was something she just didn’t know about her students, she decided to ask.**  Kyle asked her third graders to tell her something they’d like her to know about them and shared the responses on Twitter using the hashtag #IWishMyTeacherKnew.

The responses ranged from heartbreaking to uplifting.

One child simply wished  the teacher knew that she didn’t have pencils at home for homework.

After seeing Kyle’s story, I asked my classes to tell me something they wished I knew about them.  They, in turn, asked me what they should know about me.  It was the single most eye-opening activity I’ve ever done.  And, no, it probably met no standard, nor will the time we spent discussing improve their standardized test scores, but it made us all human.

It made us all realize that many around us do not have it as easy as we might think. That the teacher is human too.  That dialogue produces progress.  And so much more.

I then asked my students to create their own hashtags.

#IWishMyParentsKnew #IWishTheWorldKnew  #IWishMyClassmatesKnew  #IWishMyCoachKnew #IWishDepressionKnew

Simple, 140 character tweets that gave me a priceless glimpse into their worlds – into their hearts and homes.

It’s nearly impossible to get frustrated with a perpetually tardy gal when you know she walks her autistic younger brother into his school each morning and gets him situated before coming to school.  It’s nearly impossible to give a zero for an untyped story when a boy has no access to a computer or the internet – or food some days.  It’s nearly impossible for the mean girl to get a rise out of me when I know the depth of her hurt and why she’s hurting others.

When the face with the student number and attendance record gets connected to a story and to a family, suddenly, you aren’t there just to teach them writing or reporting: You’re there to be a human.  To listen and love in the ways you can. (I shared -and am still sharing- my students’ tweets anonymously.  I hope you’ll take time to visit Twitter (hyperlink here) and hear their hearts.)

And in the midst of sharing those tweets, Lisa Whittle created #IWishMyKidsKnew and asked me to respond.

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It was harder than I thought, admitting what I wish others knew.  That deep fear or insecurity that rests in my soul, affecting how I think and feel about the world around me.

Those few things that rest in my heart – those things that if I could just share, I might be understood better.  (Because, truly, that’s what we all want, huh?  To be understood.)

What do you wish others knew?  Or, what do you wish your depression knew?  or your past?  or your future?  your friends? your spouse? your world?

 {And the responses don’t always have to be heart breaking or soul revealing; they can simply be, “How much I look forward to our time together.” #IWishMyFriendsKnew

I hope you’ll share your own desire and hashtag in the comments. I’d love to read what you wish _____________ knew.

Thanks for sharing!

**Note:   I learned of Kyle and her project via ABC News.

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)

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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;)