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

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

Blank.

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

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

Then nothing.

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

A plan, I thought.

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

calendar or March

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

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

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

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

That’s reality, right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Monday!  (I think ;)

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

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

Moving teaching me

One:

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

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

Two:

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

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

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

Three:

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

The manpower through friends – and offers galore.

Snow days for packing.

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

Four:

We have way too much stuff.  Seriously.

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

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

Five:

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

Six:

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

Seven:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

50 Shades of Grey {Is Not Gray}

Tomorrow’s the day.

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

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

Huh?

IMG_7534

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ugh!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’re Moving {I Know: Crazy!}

We’re moving.  Again.

 image

I knew those words would become reality again – someday.  But just not this day.

I’ve lived in EIGHT houses,  including my current duplex.  And the thought of moving – again – makes me want to cry.

Ok, I cried. And cried some more.

I cried for my kiddos who won’t look back at their childhood and say, “I loved the house I grew up in.”  I’ll mention a house now (the Sherwood house, the Victoria house), and they look at me with confusion.  It’s too much to keep track of.

I cried for all the places I’ve settled – only to detest because of certain events.

But, I’ve never settled in at this current house.  It doesn’t feel like home.  It might seem simple, but I hate that Owen can’t go and out play. Yeah, we might be spoiled -and I don’t ask for much – but this place has never felt like our home.

Maybe it’s the vibes I moved in with.  Maybe it’s the healing and tears that took place there as the first place we’ve lived after divorce.  I am unsure, but I’ve known:  when the year lease is up, I need to start looking. No timetable.  Just looking.

A few weeks ago I noticed a “for rent” sign on a house. I called. Too much. Then, I saw another – too much work.  My dreams were big and my budget small.  And I do not want to buy a home because I can’t keep it up.  I like having a landlord.

Then, on Saturday, my friend picked up a Bulletin Board – it’s a local listing of all things for rent or sale in my area.  You want a new tractor, free kitten, or antique stove? House? Car?  This little paper is for you.

We took advantage of the sunny day, driving to and fro, looking at the houses in the rental section.  Ugh. Discouraging.

And then…we pulled up to one – that I loved.  It was the little white backporch that made my heart swoon.  We called.

Yes, you can come look, but we have other people already – bummer. How could that be?  I just knew: this is my house!

The owner said she planned to meet each prospective tenant and decide who she wanted.  Alrighty then.  I dressed up and drove to the appointment at 3:30 on Sunday.

I loved the house.  I loved the owners.  It all made me smile.

A huge family room for us to play in.  A creek and some woods.  A flat driveway for Owen’s hoop and a safe neighborhood for biking.  A large kitchen since I’ve become quite the cook (no, really, I am giving it whirl!).

I left with a good feeling and the promise of a decision sometime during the week.

That night and all the next day- I found myself literally praying without ceasing. Lord, it’s really up to you.  Sure, I want to move there.  But, if this isn’t it – I know you have better.  On the same day, I read about Esther’s “patient obedience” and surrendered my plans to Him.  Not just  an “oh, I surrender” but a “I truly want what you want, Lord.”

If there’s one thing I know: He holds me and the future.

His plan is always better than mine.  And he does want good for me - His definition of good.  So, I trust Him.

The landlords called.  Those chose us!  They needed to meet immediately to get the deposit and sign the lease, or they’d offer it to another family.

Woah. Huh? I called my sister.  I called my mom. I weighed options and prayed prayers and cried more tears.

I had to give a month’s notice on my lease. Oh, except the date was February 9 and my lease ends March 9.  Yep, I had one month if I cancelled my lease that moment.  Crazy!

But what about extra moving expenses?  My tax money went  in my account soon thereafter.

But what about packing and moving?  I have no idea, but I have had four people offer to help in the past 24 hours.  And when I messaged my friend in Columbus and my friend in Cambodia and told them the news, their response?  ANSWERED PRAYER – both had been praying for this on my behalf without me even knowing!

See?

God will work it out. (However He sees fit, which is most likely not how I would do it:)

Because he’s been at work in my life over the past four weeks in ways I never imagined.

I know I’ve been a bit silent here.  When you are a single mom with two busy kiddos, writing isn’t high on the priority list.  But, I want you to know that I’ve missed you a bunch.  God answered prayers for Owen in a mighty way; I am going to She Speaks (a gift from a sweet mentor and friend); I am learning how to truly surrender…there has been so much!

And I think He’s been watching and waiting for my surrender – for such a time as this.

And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? Esther 4:14

As I’ve read about Esther over the past week or so, I am learning that God has this thing called my life. Yes, you’d think I already knew that, huh?  But, sometimes we need to see Him and allow Him to remind us that He’s in this with us.  Just as Esther could have never dreamed of the life God orchestrated for her, I can not grasp this life he’s given me – good and bad.  This life that he continues to mold and mend for His glory alone.

Are you gazing on the life you’re living and thinking…this is not how I would have planned it?  I never asked for this.  I wanted this and He gave me that. Are there days you want to kick and scream at God in frustration?  Or days you want to run into His arms with thankfulness?

It’s a tough life. But, sister, please know:  He is there.  He loves you. He will never leave you.  And He knows where you are and what is at stake – for such a time as this.

Will you pray for us as we gather boxes and move over the next three weeks? It’s going to be a bit stressful, but I know:  He’s got this.

Remembering My Dad {7 Years}

I noticed it while looking for a sweatshirt yesterday.  It was on the bottom of the stack, folded neatly.  Subconsciously, I knew it was there.  I’ve kept it, but not worn it, for years.

Edison sweatshirt

Seven years to be exact.

The sweatshirt I wore as I raced down I-77 and ran to ICU, wanting to see my dad alive one last time, knowing he had few minutes left on this earth.

It was the sweatshirt I had on when I leaned over him, telling it was ok to go on home.  We’d be there soon enough.

It was the sweatshirt I had on when he took his last breath – a small sigh as he left his earthly body.

It was the sweatshirt I had on when my good friend, Chad, came to get him – and the one I had on as I rode silently to my mom’s house – minus my dad.

This sweatshirt…serving as a memory. And even when the past is wrought with hard and heartache, memories are good.  I’ve come to learn that.

I have other memories of him in my house.  A peaceful picture of him – hands folded, eyes closed – taken the last time he camped, which he LOVED.  It hangs with our family pictures.

hallway pics

 

The picture and poem I purchased from the funeral home sits framed in my hallway.

pic of dad and poem

I look at these three things and smile.  Dad’s been gone for seven years today– seems like seven minutes most days.  (And if you’ve lost someone, I bet you can relate.)

I love telling stories of him and how he tried his darndest to parent me – a strong-willed, bossy, independent, know-it-all child who challenged him and my momma at every turn.

I love hearing stories of him – the way he took in relatives, treated the kids on his bus (just one of his jobs), and loved others – in such a simple, unsuspecting way.

I’d love for him to meet his new granddaughter, Chloe.  He’d love her and her unique personality.  Her giggles and smiles.

I’ve written about my dad on his birthday and this, his death day, for years.  And today I don’t have much to add.  I remember the story the same way; I remember my dad the same way.   A good dad who loved and cared for us well.  (I am still a Daddy’s girl!)

So I will keep it simple.

We love and miss you, Dad (and Poppy).  Every single day.

We remember you everyday, but especially today.  This will always be your day in our hearts.

Oh, the One Word for 2015 {What a Process}

The One Word.

I’m guessing you’ve seen something on Facebook or Instagram about choosing one word for the year instead of making a laundry list of resolutions that you (probably) won’t keep.

I love this idea because I am a resolution maker and breaker –planning big and failing quickly.  But, this year?  No energy for all that.  I need to lose weight.  I need to keep better track of my nickels and dimes.  I need to declutter (physically and emotionally).

Sound familiar?  Me and most of country have similar thoughts about 2015.

I believe in goals. I believe in writing down intentions.  For sure.  But, making new rules and resolutions feels like pressure.  And while I often do well under pressure, I cave under pressure when it has to do with self – ugh.

So.  The One Word – great solution.  I’ve chosen one in the past.  Hope 2013 and Abide 2014.  Easy peasy – choose a word.

Except.

ME choosing a word seemed a bit pointless.  I really wanted God to choose it.  It’s my 40th year of life; I do NOT want to find myself on January 1, 2016, 40 years old, and making the same old “resolutions” again.  And, OBVIOUSLY, I am powerless to break any of these cycles left to my own devices – as my life and weight reflect.

Me choosing?  Not so successful. So…

In November I began begging God…help me find my one word.  This year starts a brand new life in so many ways.  The first year I am single.  New home, new job.  About to turn 4-0 for heaven’s sake!

I made a list of words.  I answered all the “reflective” questions on various blogs.  I sat in on an awesome Fuze call with The Storytellers …”Finding Your One Word.”  I answered all the call’s prompts.  I made lists in my notes app on my phone.  I took pics of signs and verses and plaques…could my one word be on one of these?  I processed with my friend, Krysten, who said – maybe you don’t have to pick a DANG one word if you don’t want to {LOVE her}. Amen!

I ran words past my best friend.  I think she’s probably tired of hearing all my one word blah, blah, blah, but we processed through quite a few words.

January 1 came and went.  I love lots of words…brave, thrive, release, simple, quiet, shine, be, rooted, dwell, breathe, fearless, alive, renew…

Aren’t these GOOD?

I want to be brave and thrive.  I have so much to release – trust me on THAT.  I want to BE this year – a simple, quiet, rooted in Him life.  I often just need to stop and breathe…seemed like a great word for my year.  I have lots of fears that hold me back and keep me fat, so “fearless” seemed perfect – maybe.  I want to renew and shine and dwell.  Really, I do.

See?  This is WHY I don’t make resolutions!  (Or, fail at the ones I make.) I do not know how to stop – and breathe and dwell and rest and simplify.  I love a good plan!  I love creating a concept or a program or a….well, plan.

Anyway.

I read this in a note from She Reads Truth and it resonated:  This year, instead of resolving to finally get it right, let’s resolve to walk with Him as He makes it right.  Instead of determining to get better, let’s determine to get closer to Him through His Word.  Instead of making a list of all that we will do on our own, let’s notice all that He is already doing and let’s JOIN Him in that. 

So freeing.

I heard this from Ann Voskamp and it resonated:  I can’t meet the needs of other people unless I release my grasp on the things I think I need.

So true.

I researched each “potential” word in Scripture – just to be sure nothing in His Word resonated deeply – it didn’t.

I said to God – about 100 times:  I just want this year – this new time in life  – to be DIFFERENT.  Please?  Then, I dared to ask…don’t you want this to be different too, God?  You want me to steward my health and money and time better, right?  Those things are Biblical, right?

And…nothing.  No feeling of YES!  Or THIS IS IT!

Sighed.  Kept praying.

Every day of January, the word wasn’t far from my thoughts.  I got emails from my Women of Purpose sisters sharing their words and why they chose them.  I love what God is doing in their hearts.  Courage, revelation, be…so good!

My daughter, Hannah, chose peace as her word and her reasoning is beautiful.

I read blog after blog proclaiming one words.  Still nothing.  I didn’t feel moved in the least toward ONE word.

Then, while reading Common Prayer

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you: wherever He may send you; may he guide you through the wilderness: protect you through the storm; may he bring you home rejoicing: at the wonders he has shown you; may be bring you home rejoicing: once again into our door.

I’ve read this on other days without much thought.  But this day, I write in the margin:  Show me wonder today, Lord. 

I close the book and turn toward the sink…and a song I love and have heard many times comes to mind…May we never lose our wonder.

 

May we never lose our wonder
May we never lose our wonder
Wide eyed and mystified
May we be just like a child
Staring at the beauty of our King

Fill us with wonder
May we never lose our wonder
May we never lose our wonder
Wide eyed and mystified
May we be just like a child
Staring at the beauty of our King

 

Cause you are beautiful in all your ways
King of Kings
You are beautiful in all your ways
Cause you are beautiful in all your ways
Just close your eyes
Just close your eyes, you’ll see him
You are beautiful in all your ways
Open the eyes of our heart to see you God

May we never lose our wonder
May we never lose our wonder
Wide eyed and mystified
May we be just like a child
Staring at the beauty of our King

Cause you are beautiful in all your ways
Oh you are, yes you are
You are beautiful in all your ways
We give our lives to sing
Cause you are beautiful in all your ways
You fascinate me
You fascinate us
You fascinate us, with you are
You fascinate us
You fascinate us with your love
You are beautiful
You are glorious
You are beautiful
Yes you are
You are beautiful
You are glorious
You are beautiful

You are beautiful in all your ways
May we never lose our wonder  (lyrics from Bethel Music)

And as crazy as it sounds, I know.  That’s my WORD!

WONDER.

wonder with wood

 

Wait, what? Wonder?

That is not on any of my lists. What does that even mean or look like?

And I almost feel God chuckling…truly.  I know what He’s saying…Sarah, you didn’t choose this word – I did.  You asked me to choose, and I answered.

My response?  So, what do I do now? 

Recognize wonder today. 

So….that’s it?  I mean, you don’t need me to…ya know… make a “wonder” plan? Or, read a book on wonder? 

You’ve lost your wonder, Sarah.  Life has taken “wide eyed and mystified.”  You’ve forgotten childlike faith, staring at the beauty of your King.  I used to facinate you.  Return to that. 

I know it’s true.  Sadly.

And in the next few hours?  He kept confirms my word over and over…

The wonder of a little boy sleeping in my bed after he got up early to talk about the day with me.

The wonder of a verse on Instagram just a few moments later:  Be truly glad there is wonderful joy ahead. 1 Peter 1:6

wonder necklace

 

The wonder of snowflakes flying outside my window –each so different and unique.

And if you’re smiling and saying…how wonder-ful!  I was too!  In fact, I had a few thankful tears falling.  And then…

I read this: bitterness, anger, and resentment have no place in a heart as beautiful as yours.  Lysa Terkeurst

lysa quote

 

And I know immediately, deeply, surely…bits and pieces of these things are still in there.  In my heart.  And wonder can and will bid them farewell.

Who can dwell in bitterness – who can resent another – who can be angry – while looking for wonder?  While living in wonder, waking up each morning looking for the day’s wonder?  While learning from, serving, and walking alongside a King who is glorious, beautiful, and fascinating?

I hope none of us.

Wide eyed and mystified, may we be just like a child, staring at the beauty of our King.  May we never lose our wonder.  (And if you have, friend, know he can restore every, single drop of it.)

What’s your one word for 2015?  I’d love for you to share in the comments. Yay for 2015!

I’d also LOVE to hear where you’ve seen wonder today:)

 

Goodbye, Friend {You Changed Me; Made Me Brave}

As the new year began in 2012, my faith had stagnated.  Halfway through my first year of homeschooling, and I wasn’t sure I’d made the right choice.  I KNEW – KNEW I had been following His voice.  I knew life had to change radically.  Our family could not sustain the schedule and expectations.

I prayed.

I was tired of the American Dream.  Tired of following culture’s lead.  Just tired.

So, I Googled some version of those frustrations; I can’t really remember the words or the desires – exactly – but my sovereign God led me to a blog by Marla Taviano.  I started reading.

Marla was struggling too. Suddenly, I’d found a different kind of blogger.  No mommy blogger perfection to compete with or even emulate…I’d found authentic. I didn’t know her, but I loved her.

The first post I read:  January 24, 2012 – The Story We Never Told  

I learned quickly that her husband, Gabe, had been sick. Money was tight.  And Cambodia her heart.

I followed along; it felt like each post became a conversation with her – my new friend, Marla – whom I’d never met.  I didn’t even comment on her blog.  Just my heart friend.  {I know, it’s a bit stalkerish!}

Then, this post in February:  Read Along Details Coming Soon! 

I clicked over to Amazon.  Bought the book, and thought…no way. I can NOT do that.

But, why not?  Stagnate faith.  Feeling God calling me to different.  Resisting at every turn because I like food and stuff and my sweet little American Dream life too much.

So, I read along and wrote along.  (My first post can be found here.)   And life slowly began to change; my heart began to change.  The way I talked to and taught my kids began to change. Priorities were upended. For example:  Hannah was about to turn 12.  She’d been reading Katie Davis’ book and had decided on her own to forego gifts and ask birthday partiers to give $12 to Amazima (Katie’s ministry) instead.

Our hearts were changing.  And…

A day or so after Hannah’s birthday, we get this in the mail…

Marla photo

 

From the Tavianos.  Who I know are struggling financially.  And, I’ve only talked to Marla a few times through her blog comments, yet she cares enough about my heart, about Hannah’s heart, about efforts in Uganda – to give.  A simple gesture.  (You can read about that gift here:  Unexpected Gifts in the Mail )

This was also the moment (return address!) I realized she lived in Columbus, Ohio – so close to me!

God birthed a friendship of sorts.  I read Marla’s blog and commented.  She read and commented on mine.  We became Facebook friends.  I wanted to share 30 stories on my blog in November 2012, and Marla helped me find 30 people, introducing me to her friends (who have now become my friends).  She also shared her own story.

We were online friends.

Then, something weird happened…

I landed at the Columbus International Airport after a trip to Honduras.  I “checked in” on Facebook, and Marla commented something like…we should have coffee while you’re in Columbus sometime.

Huh?  Meet someone I met on the Internet in person?  That sounded like a Dateline NBC waiting to happen.

A few more times she offered to open her home or meet at the nearest coffee shop …and then finally, my friend, Jen, and I found ourselves in Columbus with an offer to have dinner with Marla and her family  – at her house.

I asked my reluctant friend…will you go with me?  You know, just in case she’s an ax murderer?  I mean, I am almost positive she’s not. But, this is weird.  I am about to show up at her house – a stranger! (Did my parents teach me nothing about stranger danger?)

My friend (very reluctantly) agreed to go with me.  And as they say:  the rest is history.

We ate pizza and chatted for hours.  Marla talked of Cambodia; we spoke of Honduras.  Conversation laced with Jesus.  Who He is and all he’d done and was/is doing.  I left feeling closer to Jesus than I ever had.

Marla and me

 

And I wanted {want} to be like her.  Like Marla.  I wanted Jesus to pour from my being.  To be a natural part of my decision-making and conversations.

We followed that first meeting on May 13, 2013 with many more.  Each time I found myself in Columbus, I met her for breakfast or found time for coffee. I watched and learned as her family sold their home and moved to the Abbey Lane apartment complex, answering God’s call to be His hands and feet.  {In fact, I celebrated my 39th birthday in her apartment with a mix of her neighbors.}

my bday at Marlas

 

We processed life at Abbey Lane as they minister to other cultures and faiths (make NO mistake – her neighbors are not a religious label or a people group “to be reached for Jesus.”  They are beautiful, loving NEIGHBORS – people – moms, dads, sisters, and brothers whom she loves deeply.)    And through Abbey Lane, I learned much about my world and myself.  My fears.  My opinions. My suppositions about others. My ideas about the gospel and how to share it.  My ideas of “church” and how we are to be like Jesus.  My role as “Christian.” Truly, this chapter in Marla’s life completely transformed mine.

She supported and loved me through divorce.  Our girls became friends.  We saw Divergent together and closed down a Steak and Shake one night.  I attended her church three times {you’re a beautiful representation of the church, Sanctuary Columbus!).  She spoke at Women of Purpose – a local conference I help organize.  We sat in On the Border for four hours one afternoon sharing our hopes, dreams, and fears. She came to watch Hannah dance and cheered her on as if she were about to win a Tony Award.  We processed freedom and giving to the poor via email.  We dangled our feet in a hot tub, discussing Jesus and Cambodia with people we’d never met.  We debated unschooling and homeschooling and education on more than one occasion.  We danced around the Columbus Zoo during Wild Lights to win a Jack Hanna DVD.  I watched and prayed as she walked alongside a sweet family whose baby boy was fighting cancer.  I laughed (and cried) at her going away party.

at marla's

Han w taviano girlsat starbucks w Marla

Conversation after conversation about how to love Jesus and others better.  To make this world a better place.  To do kingdom work for His glory.  To love well.  To follow His will (and what that even means). I am almost sure we have processed and questioned every aspect of faith, justice, and love.

She prayed for me. I prayed for her.

And I could go on and on.  Because there is no end to the beauty of Marla or the Jesus shining in and through her or our friendship or the sovereign God who brought us together. I wish I could share all she’s taught me.

And I will miss her.  So much.

Tomorrow, Marla and her family fly to Cambodia at 8:30 am.

marla and fam

 

The Cambodia I read about in that long ago post when I first happened upon Marla’s blog.  The Cambodia that she and her family have raised money for every single day for years.  The Cambodia that was and is never far from Marla’s heart or lips.

The Cambodia on the other side of the world.  The Cambodia God has called her to.

And I could NOT be prouder to call her friend.

Dear Marla, it has been (and will be) an honor and privilege to call you friend.  To stand by and witness God’s work in and through you. Knowing you has strengthened my faith and made me brave.  Knowing you has shown me a different kind of kingdom, a different way to live, and a different kind of joy and peace.

Knowing you has shown me a different Jesus.  Thank you for following Him and loving Him- and me – no matter what.  You’ll forever hold a special place in my heart – no “other side of the planet” can change that!

Gabe, Livi, Ava, and Nina – we love you. So much! The leap you’re making evidences authentic faith in a loving God.  We look forward to hugging your necks again in the near future.  In the meantime, we text and PRAY.

kids at goodbyeowen and gabe at goodbye

 

If you’d like to follow and/or support the Tavianos, you can find them on Facebook and /or subscribe to their website.

Much love, Taviano friends.  #Cambodiaorbust

2014 Was…Just ALOT {A Poem Too!}

I tried to write a 2014 reflection using prompts from The Art of Simple Life, and I could barely remember the year, especially details.

2014 just passed. Quickly.

The highlights? Owen is in middle school.  Hannah in high school.  Both in NEW schools.  We moved into a much smaller home (unexpected blessing!).  I got a new job.  Our family experienced divorce.  We lost our church family.  My niece, Chloe, was born (after 15 years of trying).

It was just A LOT for a year.

So, in the midst of these “big” events, I can’t remember the smaller things.  The important things that comprised the fabric of our days.  I mostly went through the motions.

And that makes me sad.  I want to remember the days and hours, not just the events that pummel – or create smiles.  And it’s my 40th year of life – yep, I’ll be 40 in December 2015.

This year needs to be different.  It just does.

I began praying on December 1 for how God can make that happen – because he knows I can’t.

On December 6, I began “hand’ journaling again.  I have typed my journal for quite a few years.  But, this year, I got a cute journal and began writing by hand again. I love it.

And for Christmas, I gave my kiddos two gifts:  a scavenger hunt that lead to a poem and a gift, describing how this year will shift.  And a gratitude journal with a note.

Han and owen with gifts

Friends, as we close 2014 and look forward to a new year, I hope you’ll join me in praying for more moments and less monumental (events).  For lazy days reading and for deep discussions with your children.  For time spent serving and loving others.  For mornings (or evenings) with your Creator.  For quiet.  For being.

For simply being.

{Here’s the poem I wrote my kiddos.  It was found at the end of their scavenger hunt along with a travel journal/smashbook and a book called 1,000 Places to Visit Before You Die.}

travel poem

Han and O reading poem2014 – The Year of Adventure

 

Christmas gifts piled high under the tree,

Owen peering under, bent on his knee.

 

Hannah shaking boxes, inspecting ribbons and bows

Mom shaking her head…let’s see how this goes!

 

Gift after gift they unwrap with a smile,

Feeling as if mom went the extra mile.

 

Hours of shopping stacked up on the floor,

Boxes and paper and gifts galore.

 

Lots of stuff to wear and explore

While we all wonder…shouldn’t Christmas mean more?

 

More than games and books and shirts and shoes,

More than a long list of family to-dos.

 

When we look back to this day in December,

What will make it special?  What will we remember?

 

Our Advent time leading to this day? For sure!

Our reading and questions and Jesus so pure.

 

Our Jesse tree.  Our stockings.  The twinkling light.

We do not doubt, our season has been bright!

 

But what about the rest of the days in the year?

How do we keep this spirit and hold ALL days dear?

 

Perhaps we say no to more and more stuff?

Realizing it passes like the air – in a puff!

 

Maybe this year is about so much more

Than what we collect – what comes through our door.

 

What do you say to more adventure? More travel – a trip!

Doesn’t this idea make you want to jump and skip?

 

The years are passing, your mom is getting older

I don’t want to miss the moments -let’s be bolder!

 

Who needs to collect and hoard so much fluff?  

Let’s make memories instead of collecting more stuff.

 

Let’s travel and experience this world God made.

Let’s explore new places and sip lemonade:)

 

This year could be fun – want to give it a try?  

Just open this gift and you’ll find out why.

 

I hope this idea puts a smile on your face…

Flip through the pages and locate a place.

 

We will travel and memory make as oft as we can;

I can’t hardly wait to begin making a plan.

 

We will venture through city and country and town

What a joy it will be to explore all around.

 

Laughing and loving and making the most of our lives

As we go across country on many long drives.

 

Sure, this past year was an unplanned detour;

But, we only live once, that much is for sure!

 

So, let’s go! Let’s have fun and make memories so grand

While always remembering for what we stand.

 

Kindness and thankfulness and our Father above

The Giver of everything, especially our love.

 

I love you both with all of my heart!

I can’t wait for this brand new year to start.

 

As we laugh and love and make memories together

What else on this earth could possibly be better?

 

Merry Memory Making!

Love Always, Mom

Our Favorite Christmas Gift

Over the last few days, I have given and received some great gifts!  I now own a Lisa Leonard necklace with my kiddos names and Amazon gifts cards (times three – so excited!) But, my favorite gift I gave to my children.  It wasn’t expensive.  I didn’t have to shop for days to find it.

Here’s the letter I gave my kiddos yesterday…

emmanuel letter and packet

To My Little Ones…

By this time, you’ve unwrapped lots of gifts.  Owen got his Perplexus and new games to play.    Hannah has new clothes for school and books to read. Owen no longer has to wear too-short shirts to basketball, and Hannah will sleep deeper as she hugs her new Olaf!

I hope you like each gift!  There is lots of fun to come, huh?  

But, while you sit in the midst of wrapping paper, twinkling lights, new clothes, and board games, I never want you to forget that many others are not sitting among presents in a warm home with laughter all around, eating three meals a day plus snacks.

I can’t tell you why things are as they are.  Why we live in this place at this time.  Why some have and some don’t.  I have no answers to such hard questions. But in the midst of trusting God and His sovereignty, I know we are to be thankful, and we are not to neglect sharing what we have, being generous to others.  

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13: 16

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him. Proverbs 14: 31

Little ones, if there’s just ONE gift I could give you this year – if I could share one prayer over your life – it would this verse from O, Holy Night…

Truly He taught us to love one another;

His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;

And in His name all oppression shall cease.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,

Let all within us praise His holy name.

Love one another.  First and foremost, this is my hope for you that you would genuinely love each other and others.

His law is love.  Remember what we learned about the Ten Commandments? Each of them points to God’s LOVE for us.

His gospel is peace.  His gospel:  God sent his son, Jesus, to die on a cross for OUR sins. The One who took our wrongs upon his own self has also brought us peace – in our hearts and souls.

The slave is our brother. We are all brothers and sisters trying to live in this world.  No one is better than you – or lower than you.  Equal.  

The cease of oppression becomes our prayer as we pray for our world.

And because of His love, His death for us, His love for all people…we praise His holy name.  Never stop giving thanks and praising Jesus for who He is and what He has done (and will do) for us, remembering that if He never ever does one more thing for us – His death for us is MORE than ENOUGH.

And I don’t want to remember this verse from O, Holy Night just at Christmas. I want us to live “God with us” every day….

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. (which means God with us). Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23

When I went to Nashville to see Ann Voskamp, I chose a child for us to sponsor.  I asked for a Honduran child, but they didn’t have one.  So, I glanced down at the Central American children on the table…and who did I see?  

Nehemias Emmanuel Jimenez Alfaro

Emmanuel – God with us.

See what God did there?  A sovereign pairing.  As we provide for Emmanuel each month, as we write him letters and learn about his life and his village, we will be reminded of…God with us.  

This, little ones, is my favorite gift to you: The gift of giving.  Of giving each month to Emmanuel – the little guy in Mexico and your Everlasting Father in Heaven.  

I love you very much!

Merry Christmas,  Mom

han and owen w Emmanuel

May you be mindful of “God you us” each remaining day of your 2014 and each day of your 2015.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

First Family Photos {For Those Experiencing Firsts This Season}

It might seem small to some, but to us it was huge.

Family pictures.

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A friend posted on Facebook that her friend, a photographer, would be in town for the weekend and had openings to take family photos.  And something in my heart said…you should ask.  My best friend said…you should do this.

I did…and through a series of God events, someone gifted my family with a photo shoot.  (Thanks whoever you are!)

It was hard.  I am not sure exactly why; it just felt weird having pictures made with three people.  (We made it four by putting my niece, Chloe, in a few!)

Firsts are always hard, friends.

The first family photos after divorce.  The first Christmas after her death.  The first birthday without him.  The first ….{insert your first here}.

But in His strength, I pushed through, resisting the urge to hide under my covers.  I smiled. I laughed.  I held in tears.  My heart filled with pride as I watched Sarah Beth (aka amazing photographer) take pictures of my children, but I also hurt for them.  I couldn’t be more thankful for my new version of family, but an ache of “this isn’t how it should be” will (I think) be ever-present.

If you’re about to experience a first, God knows.  He understands.  He will be there.  And most of all…He loves you.  He wants to hear all about it – your laments and your thankfulness.

Always remember Paul’s words in his second letter to the Corinthians:

9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Praying for your firsts!

And thankful for these pictures…

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