Appetite, Approval, and Ambition {Can You Relate?}

Today begins Lent.

Because Lent identifies with Jesus’ 40 days of testing in the wilderness, I decided to revisit those passages this morning: Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13.

Do you realize Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness being tested by the devil?

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. Luke 4:1-2

40 days of testing.  Not just the three tests we read about in the Bible, but 40 days and nights of NO FOOD (wow) and constant temptation. What must that have been like?  All we know is that when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. Luke 4:13

So, sister, there is NOT ONE temptation that Jesus has not endured or does not understand.  And this passage ends with an inevitability: Satan will return at an opportune time. As if 40 days was not enough, he will be back.  And when he comes back, chances are high that the temptation you face will fall into one of three areas:  Appetite, ambition, or approval.

I learned of the 3 A’s of temptation yesterday as I read Sarah Bessey’s Why Lent Matters to Me.  She linked a resource that included this…

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He was tempted at three different levels: Appetite, Approval and Ambition. Although we have come two thousand years since Christ, our temptations remain the same.  

This stuck with me.

In verse 3, Satan says, If you’re the Son of God, command the stones to become bread.

I thought of my own temptations…appetite is no brainer. I have struggled with my weight for many, many, many years.  That’s a daily, hourly temptation for me.  And our appetites aren’t just about food.  They can be about money or people – just about anything we desire more than God.

And Jesus says, Man shall not live by break alone. (verse 4)  And that’s that. Our source of life is not of this world; it’s Jesus alone.

Then, Satan promises Jesus the kingdoms of the world – glory – if Jesus will worship him.  (5, 6)

Ambition? Have you seen the self-help section at Barnes and Noble? Have you glanced at the New York Times Bestseller list lately? Live your best life, be the best you – that’s the theme of 95% of books.  All having to do with our ambition to be more and get more.  Achieve. To avoid what Brene Brown calls FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out.  We join Facebook groups, check Twitter, and scroll Instagram in fear that we will miss out on what all the other __________{whatever group we identify with} are doing.  Our culture tells us we need to want and have it all.  Again. Satan knows it.  He knows it’s part of our DNA.

But, Jesus says You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve. (8)  Not man.  Not culture’s idea of greatness.  Not the FOMO.  Jesus. {A relief!}

Finally, Satan tells Jesus…if you are the Son of God, throw yourself off the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem (where all worshippers can see) and the angels will save you {my paraphrase}. Satan even QUOTES SCRIPTURE, reminding Jesus of the promise “he will command the angels concerning you, to guard you.” (Psalm 91:11)  This is about approval – Jesus proving to the world at the temple that he’s the Son of God, gaining their approval.

Approval?  Don’t we all struggle here? We all want others’ approval – even if you say  I don’t care what anyone else thinks, you do.  Sure, you can come to a place where the opinions of others do not guide or shape your decisions, but deep down, we want approval.  Affirmation.  Satan knows that about us. We are made in the image of Christ, and what might tempt him, definitely tempts us.

{I read a great post about these three A’s here. So worth the time.}

Friends, as we sit here looking at the 40 days ahead, I pray we consider Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. I pray we ask him to reveal our appetites, our need for approval, our ambitious motives.  I pray we move through the next 40 days in a new way, intentionally focusing on Jesus and laying down ourselves for His glory.

If you’d like to join me and a few friends on a journey through Hebrews over the next 40 days, you can read more here. Here’s the first verse:

Lent Feb 10 (1)

 

Over the next 40 days, I’ll share a verse a day on my Facebook,  Twitter , and Instagram (@sarahfarish).

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You can these verses – and about 35 others – each day.  I pray your time reading, writing, and meditating on one verse a day helps you to know him more.  Because as we know Him more, we can’t help but love him more.

How are you observing Lent? Are you fasting? I’d love for you to share in the comments, so I can pray for your wilderness.

Giant on the Inside {That’s You, Friend}

I sit in the the room against the wall.  The teacher calls out the moves and counts. I am clueless, but my girl is not. She knows what each French phrase means. This has been her life for years. He calls the steps – the room listens and executes. Like clockwork.

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The teacher, Joe, commands the stage as he walks back and forth, mic in hand, directing the class…jump, turn, plié.  The music stops and starts as groups change and the dancers begin again. And again. Each time expected to be better.

Lyrics…make believe people can fly. Dancers…leap into the air.  Storytellers – that’s what they are.

The music stops. Joe asks for attention. He wants them to understand the song. The words. We can’t feel what we don’t understand (truth, huh?). Do not get caught up in the steps. Feel and dance the lyrics – the music.

I’d been scrolling Facebook, but Joe has my attention. His body language and voice change. And I know…he believes what he’s saying. He believes in my daughter and the over 200 others. He truly loves dance, feels it’s art, and wants others to embrace it as expression, storytelling.

That’s conviction speaking.

Portray the music in the movement he tells them.  Motions? Steps? They’re no fun to watch. Those who feel the music and portray it in movement? That’s a joy to watch, and they make me feel it too.

Joe begins the story told through lyrics…there’s a giant in all of us. We let the presence or words of others dictate who we are.  We let our inner voices take over, making us hard on ourselves.  Don’t allow that; be a giant – confident in who you are and where you are. Not where your neighbor is, but where YOU ARE.  Be a dreamer – a giant.

giant on the inside

He goes on, but I lose him as I look across the room. I wonder at the story of each teen.  As a women I often struggle with comparing and poor inner dialogue.  I am betting these girls struggle with the I am not good enough –less than – inferior.  And Joe knows it. He’s not just teaching dance.

He tells the story of “Giants” by Matt Nathanson – their song. I am captivated by his speech – or sermon – because it’s filled with Jesus whether he knows it or not. I don’t get all he says, so I Google the song…

I don’t want to see the wires in the circus anymore
I wanna dream and make believe people can fly
I don’t need to be reminded what it takes to kill the fun
I got a head full of sharp knives

Don’t look up at the wires. Don’t look down at them. Confidently walk across, chin up. Dream – outrageous people-can-fly dreams. Don’t be so hard on yourself. See you as God sees you. Don’t take those sharp, harsh thoughts that others and culture have laid down in your brain and live out of them. Be who He says you are.

The world don’t speak for us. They lack the confidence
Yeah, we’re only hearts and bones and blood.
But we are giant. Giants

Friend, do not allow the world and this culture to speak for you or tell you who you are. Let Jesus tell you. Define you. Call you. You don’t need self-confidence; you need God-confidence – confidence in who HE IS and who he fearfully and wonderfully made you to be. You’re heart. Bones. Blood – his creation, made in his image for His purpose. And when the Spirit breathes life into you? You’re heart, blood, and bones that can change the world.

You are a GIANT. Not because you’re awesome, but because HE IS. And you’re not a giant who towers over others. No, that’s not his way. You’re a giant who stands tall on His behalf, walking where others won’t or can’t.

You know,
Everybody’s scared of things that they don’t understand
And all the living they don’t do.

Isn’t this so true? We have the fear of missing out – the fear of not being enough – the fear of all the living we DO NOT do. We fear refugees and poverty. We fear political systems that “seem” unfair. We fear other races and other belief systems. The unknown. Presidential elections.  The future.  All the things we don’t fully understand.

We’re more than what scares us
We’re final and fearless
We’ll dance where the ice gets thin

What scares you? What do you fear? You’re more than that, friend. HE IS MORE! He says fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)  Live brave. Be wise, but stand up tall and dance on thin ice. Walk in your call – even when it seems scary. Maybe even crazy. It’s never too big for God. He doesn’t call the qualified; he qualifies the called.

Be a giant. Allow God to make you a giant for him. Find the giant inside that Jesus is calling you to be. Stand tall, pull up your chin, look the world in the eye. And begin.

As I ponder this odd song, God reminds me of the woman at the well. She comes to the well when she knows no other women will be there. She doen’t want to interact because of her shame. Her living situation. She feels less than, inferior. She listens to the culture. But, Jesus offers her himself – living water. A new life. He calls out the giant he made her to be. To leave her jar at the well and run back to tell the village of Him. To be brave because of Him – of what he’s done. Hopeless? Shameful? No more. She runs to tell of him.

She’s such a giant! No longer running away, but running toward.

Friends, the same Jesus who approached the outcast woman at the well wants to walk with you. He wants to pull your chin up, look you in the eye, and say….you are not what they say you are. And if you are, I offer you new life. He wants to say, remove the replay of past voices; hear my voice only.

He’s offering to make you a giant for him. Instead of carrying a small jug, he’s offering an entire well that never runs dry.

I look back at the dance floor. My eyes are drawn to those who feel and dance the story. Joe’s “sermon” has changed many of them.

And aren’t those the people we are most drawn to? The ones who feel the music – live the words, His Word? Those whose lives aren’t a series of motions, but a symphony of the Spirit, living through them.

I want my Hannah to be that. I want to be that. A living and breathing Giant for Jesus. Telling his story – and living ours well. Keeping our eyes fixed on Him, the author and perfector of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2)

Thank you, Joe, for teaching this dance mom. I don’t think you set out to preach, but I wanted to yell Amen.

And, girls? Live like there’s a giant inside – because there is – and his name is Jesus.

(Just a side note…Jesus is teaching me to LISTEN everywhere I go. A dance teacher. A “secular” song. I’d never have listened a few years ago. What could they offer me? (pride, arrogance, dumb). Jesus can and will teach us anywhere because he’s everywhere. Where are you seeing him today?)

Lent {A Journey Through Hebrews}

As I pray about how to approach Lent this year, God is slow to answer.  The Lent devotional options glow in my inbox; they are so beautiful.  Pages filled with Scriptures, commentary, and artwork.  I want all of them, but God never lets my heart settle on one.  I have a book of poetry to read for Lent, but I also want to be in the Word because I know the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:13

Because I am currently studying Hebrews alongside Jen Wilkin via podcast, I realize God is leading me to take a page from her book – literally – and focus on God’s Word minus commentary. I rarely do this. As I read God’s word, I continually look up word origins and commentary – and there’s nothing wrong with that. I just feel God saying…read my words.  They’re alive and active. I want to speak to you through them.

So, me, God, Hebrews, a pencil, and five of my friends.  That’s my call to Lent this year.

Here’s the daily process if you’d like to join us!

  1. Read the verse.
  2. Write the verse.
  3. Meditate on the verse.
  4. Read the verse again.
  5. Pray.

As you read and write the verse, notice what words stick out to you.  Notice who God is and who He says you are.  Insert your name into the verse while reading it.  Listen to the still small voice of the Spirit as you read, write, meditate, and pray. Write as little or as much as you feel compelled to record. Somedays you might think…nothing in that verse struck me. I don’t think I heard from God today.  No worries!  Any time spent in God’s word is time well spent as you get to know Him better, as you renew your mind, and as you store up treasures in your heart that He can and will bring to mind when you most need to remember it.     

Here’s a graphic you can save to your phone or print as a reminder. 

Lent 2016

We each have a folder with this graphic, directions, and the verses.  We also have a cute composition book to match for writing verses and recording how God is speaking. 

Our lent notebooks

 

We hope you’ll join us!  You can read the verse each day on my Facebook (like and choose “get notifications”) and (most days) download a cute graphic of the verse!

We’ll begin February 10 – Ash Wednesday.  If you’re not sure about Lent – what it is, what’s expected, why we observe it – you can find a brief, thorough description here.  We will read one (or two) verse per day, except on Sundays. You can rest or choose to read entire chapters of Hebrews to fully grasp the context of the verses.  

Please join our prayer for this season…

Lord,

We give the next 47 days to you. Help us not to conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Then we will be able to test and approve what Your will is–Your good, pleasing and perfect will. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear as we meet with You each day to read and meditate on your Word.  Have us to hear exactly what each of us most needs. Give us new understanding and transformed minds and hearts.  May we bear fruit on this earth for Your kingdom and Your glory.  We honor your 40 days of testing in the wilderness by walking through a wilderness of our own – a wilderness in which we look to you for every need instead of our usual comforts – a time in which reading your word becomes part of the fabric of our day. And we thank you – inadequately – for your death on the cross for our sins.  May we never take this season lightly, keeping our eyes focused on you, your death, and resurrection.  When March 27 comes, may we have a deeper and more abiding love for You.  

Amen.

Life-Changing Words {I’ve Heard and Said}

Rip, cut, paste, repeat.  

We talk as we create collages that “define” us.  We laugh at one gal’s baby head cut out – she likes babies – as another searches page after page for some reference to her favorite TV show.   Our differences become apparent.  One girl clips makeup ads while another chooses lasagna.  One passes me a picture of rings; they think I need diamonds.

“Giving this world more guns is like pouring gasoline on a fire.”

“I love Pope Francis. He doesn’t act like he’s better than anyone else. He acts like he’s equal.”

“Anyone want this page?  The word school is neat… Anyone love school?” (Moans and groans)

“You know you’ll work the rest of your life, right?”

“Yes, and I would rather do that than come to school. I plan to be a truck driver…I’d like to be a translator; they make lots of money.”

Looking for Alaska is my favorite; I hope they make a movie of it.”

“I’d rather open at [the restaurant] than come here everyday…I am not smart enough for all this.”

I pause.  She does not believe in herself.  I know her.  I know she could go to college; she’s intelligent enough.  I know she’s capable of more than the job she plans to keep after graduation.  But, she doesn’t know.

Hope is absent.  Expectations are low. Life is hard.  No one can blame her.

I continue to listen, cut, and paste. I hear myself lamenting my lack of creativity and artistic ability. Their conversation bounces from topic to topic.

And I suddenly remember…

I am in elementary school.   I draw a large face complete with blond hair and eyelashes. I take pride in the detailed eyes and full lips.  Perhaps I will be chosen for gifted art!  I proudly show my face to…someone.  That part is fuzzy.  And that someone tells me I am not cut out for art.  I feel my chubby cheeks smush into a smile.  Of course the face is bad!  I am no artist! I don’t even like art.

I never draw again. That one person says I am not an artist, and I believe them.  I avoid art classes throughout school.

effect of words

Then, I am a freshman at Poca High School.  Pam Absten is my teacher.  I compose a compare and contrast essay of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables.  I note Hawthorne’s voice.  His style.  Ms. Absten asks me to stay after class. Sarah, you are a great writer and thinker. Keep writing.  

I grab those words as if they’re the gospel.

I write almost everyday for the rest of my life.  Why? Because I am a writer. Who said so? Pam Absten when I was 14, and that is enough for me.  I believe.

But, I do not remember the face and the criticism until I try my hand at art again.  Until I hear my student say she’s not smart…

“Yes, you are smart.  Someone along the way told you were not, but you are.  Trust me.”

“Ok, ok, I am smart, but I don’t care.”

“Yes, you do care….”

I am not sure my words can undo the words so deeply rooted within her.  But, I hope so.

Then I wonder…what words have flown from my lips, forever planted in a heart.  I know I have shut down dreams and limited abilities with my words. Sigh.  My students. My children.  My friends. My family. I have hurt with words.

And I truly aware of the effect more than ever.  Trajectories change when we think we can’t do something. Or think we can.

Today, friends, I am begging you to consider your words.  I am not asking you to lie.  I am asking you to consider that ALL things are subjective.  Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

In the words of my student who created this pasted poem…

Every day scared of 

War, disasters, time, money, and human.

Intensifying

Fear of beautiful life

We need change, rich or poor

Let’s change the world together.

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What’s something you fear trying – or trying again -because someone once said you weren’t good at it or good enough for it?

Try it.  You get to define “good.”  Let’s change the world together.  

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24

 

The Dance {My Dad, Anne Frank, and Legacy}

They take the stage hand in hand.  A deep breath.  We hear the voice of Anne Frank.  Smiling, turning, and leaping, their faces look joyous and bright. Hopeful as they move across the floor.  The audience hears frantic yelling, “Anne, Anne!” Suddenly, they’re no longer wearing maroon, double-breasted coats, but gray, drab dresses. Their hopeful look replaced by sadness and heartbreak.

How to they do that? They can’t possibly understand Anne Frank’s plight, a Jewish girl hiding from German soldiers. One boy is 10. Another girl 14. And another girl 18 with ages between.  All born and raised in America.

So, how?

Because we all know joy, hope, sadness, and loss.

They don’t know Anne, but they know about divorce and mean girls.  They know about failure and success.  One has relatives living across the world that she’s not seen in two years thanks to war and prejudice.  Another struggles with her identity, who she is and how best to cope with hard. One is brave. One feels less than.One is always smiling.  Many are confident.  A few of them know the pain caused by parents – intentionally and unintentionally.

Something about their current story connects them to a Jewish girl hiding in an attic, hearing German soldiers come for her family, but escaping every time…until one time the soldiers find her hiding place.  She dies in the face of evil, but her diary remains for us to read. A gift, so we place a name and face on an event over which history teachers labor and test.

They dance it beautifully, earning award and award.

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And as I cheer (very loudly), I am struck by what these dancers have truly won. They know perseverance. Teamwork. Commitment.  Criticism. Praise.  They know about working through injuries and anger to accomplish something greater than themselves.  Something they can’t do on their own.

I watch my little one hold the Grand Champion banner.  A smile engulfing her face….while I know what today is.

Eight years ago on this day I was grocery shopping at Walmart with that same little girl when my phone rings, and I hear my mom tell me that weaning dad from the ventilator did not work.  His blood is septic.  She’s unplugging his machines.

Three hours later, I am by his side.  He’s holding on.  I tell him it’s ok to go.  And a little after midnight on the 9th – technically the 10th – of January, he leaves this world with one final gasp.

God awakens me a little after 12 last night.  I glance at the clock without even needing to.  I know by now that when God wakes me, sleep will return when I pay attention. I silently listen to the room’s hum and begin to review the day…compare my January 9th’s.

How different.

the dance

Our days don’t always look like victory. Some days look like death.  And vice versa.  These days we live are a mix of helplessness and hope.

I miss my dad today – most days.  But, I don’t live in the missing, the pain, the grieving.  I can’t and I won’t.  Not because I didn’t or don’t love my dad, but because I love my children and I want to honor my dad’s legacy.  His grandchildren can carry it well and honor it too if I love them and champion them.

Over the years pain and suffering have taught me that at some point – and that point is very different for every single person – I have to move forward. Sitting on the couch lamenting my dad’s death, or any other pain written in my story, is productive and healing for a season.

But, then I allow God to continue my choreography. To move me back into His song.

And it’s because of his grace and mercy that I sat in a hospital room eight years ago and then a dance auditorium yesterday. That I can understand the full weight of the dance – hope to helpless and back again – and again.

I think of the dance. The one on stage. The one of Anne Frank. The dance of my dad.  My dance each day.  And I do not want to miss one step.  I want to be faithful to tell my story – and my dad’s –  like Anne and her diary. I want to allow HIM to guide each and every step – forward and backward, side to side.

I want to twirl in the open field, light-hearted and happy.  I want fall to my knees with one last exhale when he calls me home. I don’t want to dance in fear and nervousness, but with confidence and abandon, knowing He is in the midst of every step.

I want my dance to outlive me – just like Anne and my dad.  

Dance well today, friends.  Inhale, exhale and take the stage. Be brave.  Turn and leap.  Fall on your knees.  Cry out.  And always:  follow HIS lead.  It matters. For you and for them.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness. Psalm 30:11

A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance. Ecclesiastes 3:4

A Simple Pursuit {A Simple Life}

I wake up without an alarm, slip on my clothes, and splash in the creek. Overturn rocks and uncover hidden creatures.  Bask in the sunshine as I ride my bike across the bumpy gravel.  Walk to the tunnel or jump off the porch. Rest by opening a book, writing a story, or creating a play – with my Barbie’s as the actresses.

There’s nothing too complicated about life.  I am free to be me.

a simple life

Middle school comes, and I realize playing outside and reading aren’t everyone’s passion. Bummer. Girls have long hair and wear makeup. Clothes aren’t just for wearing; they’re for being fashionable. I hear of diets and hair color.  My teeth require braces. My hair a perm.  Grades are important – making C’s is frowned upon.

Simple living becomes complicated.  Achievement, beauty, and belonging are expected. By whom? I am not sure.  I just intuitively know that straight A’s, nice clothes, and popularity are important.

I am not so free to be me.  Wait, who am I?  Am I a reading, rock-collecting, Dukes of Hazard-watching, creek-wading tomboy? Or this new girl. Friend-making, popularity-seeking, grade-producing, diet conscious overachiever?

I go with the latter.  It seems best.

And it continues to seem best.  Somewhere in the preteen years I lose simple. Nothing is ever simple again.

So, 40 comes, and I fondly remember that chubby girl with short locks who splashed through the dirty water without a care in the world.  A know-it-all who had to be right and loved to be the boss. Confidence and stubbornness oozed from her pores. She loves to perform and tell jokes.  She thinks she’s a hoot.

Where did she go?

She went the way of culture.  She wanted to fit in and succeed.  So, she did.

And now? Now, she wants to find simple again.  While she can’t escape responsibilities  – her life is a lot of adulting – she can find simple…in her heart.

I have discovered a busy life can also be simple.  So can a life with goals. Simpleness isn’t always a state of doing – or not doing.  It’s more a state of being.

Stripping away all the barriers and bull to live in the moment.  A heart that notes the rhythms of each day, never missing a chance to see the divine or sacred in the ordinary.

So, while I have goals – and I am looking forward to learning, changing, and growing this year – I am most thankful for the ways I’ve learned to stop complicating life and move toward simple.

A simple meal.  A simple reading of God’s word. A simple task.  A simple word of encouragement or prayer. A simple invite. A simple change in daily routine or habits.  A simple hug or hello.  A simple smile.

These comprise a simple life that’s not complicated with popularity and producing. With drama and doing.  With being the best or like the rest.  And while these things may be born of the simple life, they are not the essence of it. They’re not the goal – Jesus is.  And that makes all the difference in the world.

(NOTE:  The music from this year’s Passion Conference was amazing; however, this song captured my heart most – A Simple Pursuit by Melodie Malone )

 

The ONE Big Thing I Learned This Year {Journal Your Year}

It’s New Year’s Eve!  And I bet you’re taking a few moments to reflect on 2015…

Did you learn? Suffer? Achieve? Succeed? Accomplish? Hold steady? Digress?  Good year? Bad year?

As I took a moment to reflect – with no intention of writing about it (God is funny that way) – I realize that my takeaway from 2015 is quite simple: You can’t expect, experience, or create a “new you” until you know the old (child) and current you.

I look back at my new year’s posts from year’s past.  And I shake my head. That girl wasn’t fake or lying.  She was dreaming big and desiring so many worthy things. She loved God and wanted to please him – and others.  She wanted to love her family well and do well in life.  It wasn’t all crap. I was doing the best I could and choose to believe others are doing the best they can too.

But.

That girl didn’t really know herself.  Or why she did 80% of what she did.

She knew how others perceived her.  She knew the expectations of others. And so she lived. Fulfilling the opinions and expectations – unknowingly. Making her own choices and not knowing why.

She’d start a diet every January 1.  But why? Because she was (and is) overweight and overweight people lose weight and set diet resolutions.

She’d set a goal to spend less and give more! But why? Why would anyone spend less and give more? Because Christians do that. It’s Biblical.  And better, wise, smart.  

She’s read the entire Bible in a year!  But why? Because she’s a Christian, and she needs to know what’s in there  – and she loves to read anyway.

She’d be a better mom and friend!  But why? Because good women are good moms!  And she loves her kids, and she loves people! She needs friends. She’s supposed to live in community.

She’d be a better person all the way around, extending more grace and showing more mercy – forgiving and loving.  But, why? Because Jesus said so! She wants to be a good person and live a good life and love everyone.

I am not making fun.  In fact, it makes me a sad. I had – have – a well-intentioned heart. I DO love Jesus.  I DO want to do the RIGHT things; I just defined RIGHT using popular opinion and not the Bible or my own convictions. I’d follow the expectations of others and their thougths about what being a Christian should look like.

So, this year, I have a vision board.  It’s in two places: on my Trello app and on the wall above my desk. I am making resolutions, setting goals.  But.

It’s different.

Because I finally know WHY.  And I am making no goal without a clearly defined WHY.

Why will I lose weight this year?  Why will I “become a better me”?  Why will my finances improve? Why will I be a better mom?  Why will this year be different?

Because at the ripe old age of 40, I know who I am – the good, the bad, and the ugly.  And I am fine with her.  As Brene Brown says, you can’t live wholehearted until you are whole.  While I won’t be “whole” this side of heaven, I live in a new wholeness.  You might find it a bit “new agey,” but I find it Biblical…growing into the one HE made me to be, not feeling as if I need to meet the expectations of family or culture or compare myself to anyone else.

And before you think – how selfish!  It’s not, friends.  I am all for more Him, less me, but we learn so much about him as we practice caring for his creation – you and me.  Learning about who he made me to be and caring for her has caused me to lean into and love him and others more and more.

The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31

If I love my neighbor as myself, my neighbor would despise me. Not one of my neighbors wants to be treated flippantly – as an afterthought – as not worth it.  As if no one has time for her.

And it all began by looking up and saying…Lord, show me. Help me.  Carry me. I am out of plans and options.

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I gave him the year, journaling to him most days. It wasn’t rigid (because I give up when rigid is involved.)  I would write a prayer, thanking, lamenting, or questioning him – or all three! Nothing was off limits. I’d write when I saw his hand and write extra when I couldn’t see him.  Some pages are tear stained, others have stickers and stapled in notes. Some pages are mostly my writing; some pages are the taped in words of others, a program from Owen’s choir concert, or a clipping of Hannah’s name in the yearbook.
2015 journals

 

My journals were (and are) a place to process, to grow closer to Him, and to discover me. I already have my 2016 journals…

 

2016 journals

Speaking of 2016, what’s the hope this year? I realize resolutions aren’t cool anymore.  I think I’ve read 10 blog posts from well-known authors on why you shouldn’t blah, blah, blah this year.  But, I think we all can benefit from well-defined and written goals.

God and I created this vision for 2016…

To want Him most.  Lisa Whittle’s book I Want God changed my life. I’ve read it many times. I thought I’d lead a read along on my blog in the new year  -and I still might – but God hasn’t green lighted that yet. So in the meantime, I encourage you to read it.

To become a healthier me. I know who the girl inside is. I’d like her to be evident on the outside. God has called me to some new places and new people in 2016.  I am excited to travel, speak, and meet. But, I want them to get the best version of the me that God created. I want to fit comfortably in the seat when I fly. I want to be all Jesus and no Sarah – and I am a LOT Sarah when I am self conscious. And so much more. So, here’s to healthy.

To live small. My new friend, Ali, and I are choosing small this year. More about that to come someday.

To stay curious. Curious about the Bible and Jesus. Curious about who I am and why I react as I do. Curious about this life I’ve been gifted and this world in which I trod. Curious about the land and the people.  (I learned about curiosity from Brene Brown’s Rising Strong.)

To be brave.

To go be love.

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The new year seems so shiny and bright. And I can’t wait!  

Wishing you a very Happy New Year!

A few other posts about journaling…

And Then I Turned 40 {Part 1, Journaling a Year}

The Year after Divorce {As Viewed Through My Journals}

Sanctuary {A Place of Refuge and Safety}

The journey begins in a church called Sanctuary Columbus.  I don’t “participate” in the service.  Instead, I sit and soak.  My response to the service becomes the first entry in my journals for December 6, 2014 (my 39th birthday) to December 6, 2015 (my 40th).

Fitting.

As the year comes to a close, I slowly realize what my heart most needed during these 12 months – what God wanted most for me –  was (and is) sanctuary.

A sanctuary is a place of refuge or safety.

Sanctuary

The word comes from Old French sanctuaire, from Latin sanctuarium, from sanctus ‘holy.’ In the early sense, sanctuary is ‘a church or other sacred place where a fugitive was immune, by the law of the medieval church, from arrest.’

That’s what December 7, 2014 at Sanctuary Columbus is for me:  a place of refuge or safety.  A place I feel immune from the questions and stares….from the speculation and gossip. In this place, I am simply a friend of Marla’s, coming to worship with her before she moves to Cambodia.

I see it clearly in hindsight.  That day in a church called Sanctuary Columbus, he begins teaching me about quiet.  About stillness. About communing with and abiding in Him.  About “being” instead of “doing.”  About being an observer of life instead of an active participant.

A huge lesson for one who has spent her entire life moving at the rate of very busy.

That day, I exhaled.  And every day thereafter, I breathed deep and exhaled once again, writing prayers and praises to and for Him in my journal. Somedays I forgot, telling myself “I am too busy” – never true.

My soul needed rest.  Refuge. Safety. Time with the holy.

And He led me to it – even when I had no idea where I was going. I certainly wasn’t seeking refuge or rest.  I was seeking quite the opposite – it was my 40th year of life, and I had many plans and dreams about 2015 being the best year ever.

And so did God. He wanted that for me too.

But, his “best year ever” looked much different than mine.  His best year looked like me journaling my year, finding sanctuary in Him. Abiding and healing.  Not, doing and daring.

I look back at my failures this year and see His hand – how he said no and not yet – so I could find margin and rest. I’d dream big and plan big…and somehow…the dreams and plans would sputter and stop.  It was odd – or actually God;)

As I write, I keep thinking of a song from my youth….

Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary

Pure and holy, tried and true.

With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living

Sanctuary for you.

That’s what he’s been doing.  And that will always be my prayer: that He prepare me to be a sanctuary every single day of my life.  Pure. Holy.  Tried and true.  And I’ll be ever-so grateful to Him, as I live as a sanctuary for Him – a safe place, a refuge, made holy because of His sacrifice on the cross.

I am thankful for a God who knows me better than I know myself.  And one who knows you better than yourself.  A God who gave me a one-year timeout. A God who provided sanctuary for Mary, Joseph, and his son, Jesus on a cold night so long ago in Bethlehem – and a God who provides it for me and you today.

I pray in 2016 you find sanctuary in Him.  A safe place of refuge and rest. Your own manger to rest from the weary world.  If you’ve been a “fugitive” from Him, please know he will open the door and allow you into the sanctuary of His arms once again or for the first time – all you have to do is step forward and knock.

 

Side note…

This weekend might be the busiest of the holiday season!  Perhaps you have gifts to buy and parties to attend.  I hope you take a moment and find sanctuary. Take refuge in Him – be still and know that He is God. Thank Him for this season and for all that He’s given and taken away this year.  If you need some help centering, remembering, and embracing, here’s a few resources you might find helpful.

When You’re Hoping for Things to Change for the Better by Ann Voskamp  – This post – or any post on Ann’s site  – will move you toward thankfulness, joy, and peace – and sanctuary in Him. 

Tears in Class by Marilyn Yocum  – Marilyn teaches English to refugees living Louisville, Kentucky. Her writing gives voice and understanding to their hearts, hopes, and dreams as they seek sanctuary in the United States.  While you may not understand all of the issues surrounding the refugee crisis, I encourage you to begin with Marilyn’s short posts about the ladies who tear up while learning the word “mother.”

Through Mary’s Eyes by Jennifer Schmidt – Perhaps the best way to settle in and remember this Christmas is to read the story of a sanctuary called a manger through Mary’s eyes.  May you take time to be like Mary: But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19.

Much Love,

And Then I Turned 40 {Part 2, Words of Wisdom}

{This is Part 2. If you missed yesterday’s post, read it here.}

and then I turned 40 part 2

What else have I learned? I don’t have words to express it, but the following words from others reflect my heart – what I know to be true and who I know I am.  I hope you benefit from their wisdom.  

From Jen Hatmaker, For the Love, On Turning 40: You get a decent handle on who you are, what you are good at, what you love, what you value, and how you want to live. These questions used to keep me up at night.  Young one, if you worry endlessly about purposes and trajectory, identity and worth, forty brings security you can’t imagine.  I know what I am good at now and how to do it.  I’m not apologetic and aw-shucks and uncertain about running my race.  I no longer tiptoe through my own life, doubting my gifts and my place, too scared to go for it, seize it, pray for it, dream it. When you’re forty, you no longer wait for permission to live…I lost much time in jealousy, judgment, and imitation.  I just couldn’t find my own song…{now} I am free to be me…

These words cause me to exhale with thankfulness, as if I’ve been holding my breath for 40 years.   For so long I doubted my gifts, waiting on others to give me permission to live and dream.  Now, it’s just me and God – as it should have been all along.  Friend, if I could give you one piece of advice, I’d simply tell you to stop looking around and look up.

That thing you know you can do and do well?  Do it.  God planted it there for a reason- a purpose.  Run your race.  Don’t apologize for who you are.  Don’t grasp on to someone else’s theology just to be “in the crowd.”  Pray, learn, explore, ask, and grow in Him. Find your own song and sing, sister.

From my friend, Marilyn:  One year is not the same as another, not unless we insist it be. A sadness that was once all-consuming is now fleeting. Give it another year and it will be a distance speck, there but not dominating.  

I am sure you’ve heard time heals all wounds.  It probably does.  But, how much time? Months? Years? Decades? I can’t give you a timetable for healing, but Marilyn is right: one year is not the same as another.  A new year is coming and pain that kept me on the couch and stuck is fleeting.  Thank you, Lord.

From my friend, Abby, about Advent:  Because I need it, this waiting, this grieving, this longing. Because the only way to not let the darkness over take you is to sit with it. Listen to it. I need the silence because the shouting I have tried isn’t working. I need to grieve so that I can make room for the joy.  I need to light the candle in the darkness, so I can see for myself how much real hope can really fill up a room if I let it.

I can hear myself saying it…I don’t like to be alone!  I like to stay busy…I am an extrovert…I thrive on people.  All true. And, I’d never really been alone.  I grew up with my family, went to college, got married, and had babies.  Not much alone time in any of that.  But, divorce brought a quiet house, no one around, alone time.  I despised it until I gave into it.  As Abby says, I sat in the darkness – my own darkness.  I listened. My life had been “shouting” for many years, and I hadn’t even known it – known what I was missing.  Then, I lit the candle.  I truly let Him in.

From best-selling author, Brene Brown (My words, her idea): I will look at each person and believe that he or she is doing the BEST they can – all things considered.  Am I sure they are?  No.  But can I and should I live believing that everyone with whom I come into contact – the waitress who messes up my order, the students who doesn’t “understand” the directions I’ve given 20 times, my ex-husband, those who tossed me out when I failed, those who criticize – all of them.  I will look them in the eye and believe: They did the best they could.  They’re doing the best they can.

THIS has changed my life. Grudges and bitterness gone. Self-righteousness – gone.  THIS idea levels the playing field as not one of us is doing  better than another.  We are ALL doing our best.

From my perpetual calendar, December 6 (my birthday): You don’t have to be hope for the whole world.  But you can bring Hope to your world.  You are alive so that you can live.  You are loved so that you can love. You are seen so that you can see.  What are you waiting for? Emily Freeman

Friend, what are you waiting for? YOU CAN BRING HOPE RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE.  In your home, office, neighborhood.  He is Hope.  He is the ONLY hope.  Bring Him.

From my Momma on my 40th birthday:  You were created to make somebody else’s life better.  Somebody needs what you have  -your smile, you love, your words, and your encouragement.

My Momma truly believes this about me – and about most people.  And this exactly how I see her  – her smile, her love, her words, and her encouragement – someone needs her to make life better. It’s true of you, too, friend.  You’re needed.

From Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies, December 6: It is humbling, but it is important to remember that it is only ever the sin inside us that hooks us to the sin outside of us.  So what we need most is not a change of location or relationship, but a fundamental rescue of heart, and that is exactly what God’s grace in the person of the Holy Spirit provided for us.

Sister, it begins with heart change. Work only He can do. You can create a big plan and lead a big movement.  But, without a change of heart, that too will pass.

From Scotty Smith, Everyday Prayers, December 6: We invest so much of our lives looking for favor – wanting to be wanted, longing to be celebrated, and seeking to be acceptable…And what a freeing paradox, Father: the more we come alive to the riches of the gospel, the less we obsess about our own lives.  We don’t end up thinking more of ourselves or less of ourselves.

From Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, December 6: When I have transacted business with God on His covenant and have let go entirely, there is no sense of merit, no human ingredient, in it at all, but a complete overwhelming sense of being brought into union with God, and the whole thing is transfigured with peace and joy.

From my best friend, Jen, on my birthday: I pray God does far beyond anything you could ask or imagine between now and this same day a year from now when we celebrate the gift of you all over again.

And that’s my prayer for you, friend.  That God does far beyond what you ask – or even know to ask for – in 2016.  And that we link arms in the coming year  to COME and SEE all that He has, all that He has done, and all that He will do.   I promise…you’ll stand in awe. 

I’d love to hear what he’s been teaching you…that ONE thing you hold tightly – the one thing that carries you (regardless of age:)

And Then I Turned 40 {Part 1, Journaling a Year}

I sit with pen in hand.  I listen.  I wait.

And I know…

My life is an organized mess – at best.

My marriage officially ends in November 2013.  The court makes it so in May 2014.  It’s now December 2014, and I am all over the map – literally.  Overwhelmed. Running from place to place. Reading a piece of this book and that book.  Starting this diet one week and another diet the next week. Singing I surrender all, then micromanaging everyone and everything around me.

Grabbing, grasping at everything and everyone.  All slithers through my fingers.  I can’t find peace.

You catch me one moment –  I am loving and sweet. The next? Sad, angry, and (most likely) blaming you. It’s miserable. I am miserable, not on the surface, but deep deep down….

This is not who I am or how I want to live. I know it.

I can’t keep living reactive.  In turmoil.

As all Type A personalities do, I make a plan. And another plan. I research and resource.

I also know that I’ll never finish any of it. Dream big. Fall hard.  No follow through.  And that’s part of the problem.

So, I make TWO decisions on my 39th birthday.

and then I turned 40

ONE:  I will journal my 40th year of life.

TWO: I will step away from life. I will work and keep commitments.  I will continue to serve with Women of Purpose.  I will love and support my children. I will hold what I have steady, but I will not pursue anything more in any arena of life.  I will stay home unless going is a MUST.

I buy a journal that says “Let Your Soul Shine,” and I begin.  One word, one day at a time.  On the bottom of page 2, I write: A journal to healing.  {This would be one of six journals I’d complete last year.}

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I had no idea how prophetic those words would be.  God knew though.

I turned 40 on Sunday.  The year is done.  And is the healing complete?

I don’t think we are healed this side of heaven, but I can tell you…all the research on writing and healing? It’s true.  Why? Because He heals and changes us as we commune with Him. And my journals became THAT: Communion with my Creator.

I can share with you so many prayers He answered, hearts He changed, healing He gifted. Until I began rereading each page of this year’s journals, I had NO idea how tangible and active he’d been in my life. How He’d shown himself over and over.  I am incredibly humbled and in awe as I read the words from my heart to His…and how he lovingly honored each word in HIS way – rarely in mine.

Some things I prayed for…

On December 7, 2014 I joined Sanctuary Columbus for church.  From my journal…Jesus is missing from the season.  How can I find Him? I loved this service.  Gabe’s mom praying over Him, the prayer team around the room, people standing and going to pray. I was all so beautiful.  Owen loved that too.  I spent the service in tears.  I just felt I could trust Pastor Rich to lead me.  I loved the benediction to go and find Jesus – in your neighbor, in your Bible, and in your work.

As I reread, I see my heart longing for a church family again.  I don’t ask God specifically for that.  I never pray that prayer.  But, he hears and sees the longing.  I need to trust the leader.  I need someone who examples the benediction that day: Go find Jesus  – in your neighbor, in your Bible, and in your work.

God gives me The Warehouse in August 2015.  Nine months of writing. Nine months of not really asking, but Him knowing.  I find it funny that God would allow nine months to pass. My return to church was so much like pregnancy and birth that I could probably write a book:)

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December 12, 2014…my finances.  (This would be a theme on several days.)

I never ask God for second job.  I pray for provision, yes, but not employment.  I can’t tell you how, but God always made my finances work.  And just one week ago, God opened a door wider than wide. A door I could never have orchestrated. In fact, if I told you how I happened by this opened door, you’d never believe me.  Only He can get credit.  No, my situation isn’t perfect because if it were, I’d stop leaning into Him and He knows that about me.

December 15, 2014 I listen to Ann Voskamp in Nashville. I lose my appetite for Jesus because I am full already.  My needs are met.  So where and why is there room for Jesus? If I come to the table, and I’ve already eaten, then I am not hungry…I need an appetite for you, Lord.  How do I create it?

I didn’t create it.  He did. I suddenly have this crazy appetite for the scripture.  Oh, I’ve been a Bible nerd in the past. But, I’d always read books written by humans about Jesus. This new desire was to know him above all else through His word and not man.

I could go on and on.

Yes, I held all things steady, not adding and not subtracting.  No sudden decisions.  But, God.  He pursued on my behalf.  He went before me and opened doors that I didn’t even know to ask for Him to open.  And while I “stayed mostly off the world’s radar,” which was my goal (and an extrovert’s nightmare), He grew me and stretched me.

And allowed me opportunities that I’d begged Him for in previous years.  Surrender is funny that way.

I gave Him a year, and He gave me Himself.

So, here I sit.  Age 40. (That’s crazy to me!)

And I wonder…what’s next, Lord.  And He says,  Come see, Sarah.

Isn’t that beautiful?  As I ask him…ok, Lord. That “whole journaling the year” thing really worked out!  I love looking back and seeing how you’ve changed me and worked in and through others to show me that you love me.  Now what?

I feel like I am in the huddle during the big game, confident that God and I are about to score the winning touchdown.  We’ve been through so much together during the game. We’ve learned and loved…this is our moment!! I am just waiting for Him to call in THE play!

And instead of giving me THE thing or THE play, he simply invites me to COME SEE.

I feel like the woman at the well who has discovered living water for the first time, running back to my village – the one in which I’ve previously felt shame – and instead of shame, I am shouting: COME SEE!

Back in the village she told the people, “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?” And they went out to see for themselves. John 4:29-30 MSG

Come and see for yourself.

Come and see what a broken life looks like when the vessel decides to drink living water.

I also resonate with Luke 2 – a famliar passage.  The angels appear to the shepherds, telling to go see what God has done – go meet Jesus.

15-18 As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

19-20 Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!

That’s how I feel after this year. Seeing is believing.  And I’ve seen Him.  I want to tell everyone I meet how awesome He is. And some other things?  I want to hold dear, deep within, pondering like Mary.  Because, friend, it’s turned out exactly the way I’d been told:  He is in control.  He is sovereign.  He writes the story. He loves you.  He cares for you.  He is your provision and your King.

What else have I learned? Only books can detail it all, but these words reflect my heart – what I know to be true and who I know I am …(come back tomorrow!)