She Blazed a Trail {And We Should Too}

I wonder how she heard the news.

You are an equal in the eyes of the law.

She was educated at an academy  – the best a girl could hope for.  She didn’t work – what woman did? And she fell in love with Henry, a fighter for freedom.  On their honeymoon, she and Henry travelled to an antislavery convention in London.  And she made a new friend, Lucretia.

Her life changed because of Henry and Lucretia. She no longer thought afternoon tea was the highlight of the day.  The oppressed needed a voice.  She gave birth seven times, but grew restless with being at home.  She wanted to be a voice for those who had no voice in a time when that was anything but popular or cool.

So, she and Lucretia joined forces and organized a convention for women –  a place for them to gather and discuss rights and oppression. And while Lucretia – and her new friend, Susan – had many issues on their mind, one issue was particularly dear to her heart:  voting.

She thought women should be allowed to vote.

Meanwhile, the war raged as North fought South; a war often dividing reformers.

But, she and her friends refused to give up, holding meeting after meeting. Writing resolution after resolution – amendment after amendment.  Forming group after group. Persevering in the face of opposition and criticism from every side.

she blazed a trail

And then…1869. She and her friends, Lucretia and Susan, founded the National Woman Suffrage Association.  Eventually, this group would secure the 19th Amendment  to the Constitution of the United States of America.  

Women could vote.

I don’t agree with everything Elizabeth did.  She disliked organized religion as she struggled to reconcile equality with the church’s mandates and oppression.

But, still. Today, I can vote.

Because women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton came before me.

And someday, I pray women and girls say….I can __________ because of the amazing women who came before me back in 2016.  The women who loved Jesus in a way that we had never known or seen.  The women who opened arms to us when everyone else looked at us with disdain.

I pray that’s who we are, friends. Woman who fight for other women. For girls. For the oppressed and marginalized and lonely.  Women who champion, applaud, and cheerlead other women.

What we do matters. Our voting. Our mothering. Our teaching. Our loving. Our serving. Our sharing. All of it. May we live everyday knowing this day matters.

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On Election Day in 1920, millions of American women exercised their right to vote for the first time. It took activists and reformers nearly 100 years to win that right, and the campaign was not easy…But on August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was finally ratified, enfranchising all American women and declaring for the first time that they, like men, deserve all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. (history.com)

And today, we voted too!

(My kiddos think they’re hilarious as you can tell;)

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For the Single Mom {on Mom’s Day}

I see you. I see you cooking and cleaning.  Carpooling and crafting.  You’re wiping tears and cleaning knees. The need never seems to end.  A break isn’t coming.

And it’s not like you need a break – exactly. You love your kiddos. You’d spend every waking minute with them if you could. They’re great kids.

But, sometimes, it’s nice to have help. It’s nice for someone to acknowledge that you’re doing this alone. Sure, friends help. Maybe they even go with Dad once a week or every other weekend. And maybe there is no dad at all { I really am sorry.}

to the single mom

Still, the burden of providing and parenting rests squarely on your shoulders.  They come to you with all the questions...can I date? Does this dress look nice? Is my hair ugly? Am I overweight? Can I run track?

They come to you with the tears. I wasn’t chosen this time, Mom. I didn’t make the cut. She was making fun of me today. Why are there starving kids in the world? Where is God in this?  

They come to you for homework help. For car rides. For decision making. For affirmation. For confirmation. For love. For understanding. For all of it.

Sometimes you want to say…I don’t know, little one. I don’t know what’s best. Decisions are best made in tandem when two different people can bring strengths and weaknesses to create one solid team.

Could you text dad every time? Maybe. But it’s not really feasible. You can’t ask your friend or mom every time either. You’re the one. You’re the one who answers the questions, wipes the tears, encourages the hearts, helps with the homework.

And that’s ok – you “took them to raise.” But, sometimes, you’d just like for someone to say…I see you. I see you getting up early, working hard, sacrificing much. I see how exhausting this life can be. I know you love them deeply, but this work is hard.  I believe you want the very best for them.  I understand that this was not the plan. 

Today, friend, I want to tell you: I see you.  I feel you in my heart.

This single mom road is challenging. But, it’s ever so rewarding.

And, best of all, it teaches you that you are not alone. In the earliest of mornings when the silent house creaks and bedroom fan whirls. He is there. During the late nights when you toss and turn and the weight of “I am responsible for them” hits. He is there.

He is with you. He is with them. He is a God of redemption and love. This may not have been his plan, but He is in control.  You are not a statistic or a failure. There is no label that fits you except daughter of the King.

I pray today that you walk in that, friend.

I had no plans to write today. Most of what I feel about Mom’s Day is in this post. But, God said…there’s a single mom out there, Sarah. And she needs encouragement. So, to the one for whom God nudged me…Happy Mother’s Day. You are seen and you are loved.

Your work matters.  Your children matter. YOU matter.

Your kids will never forget this season. They may not know or understand right now, but someday, they’ll know: My mom was a superstar! My mom is a daughter of the Most High God, and I am honored to call her Mine.

When We Don’t Know the Story {Food Pantries and Job Loss}

I’m waiting in line.  She doesn’t understand his heckling.  She is paying with food stamps, and the guy behind her has seen her panhandling at a busy intersection. I’ve seen her too.  She’s not buying anything “healthy,” but neither am I.  

“Oh, you make the big money over by the bridge,” he says.

“Not really,” she says. “We get by.”

“Get a job!” he replies – ever so sarcastically.

I can’t hear what she’s saying, but her head is bowed. I observe her a bit longer and wonder if she’s mentally ill.  Her lack of understanding and inability to engage with simple activities suggests she might be.

I know some of her money goes to alcohol.  An addiction no different than me buying chips when I am overweight.

The struggle in my heart and the judgement from the line is tangible.  There’s so much anger directed at her.  I want to ask them…do you really want her life? Begging on a corner? No family to speak of? No home?

And I know what they’ll say – something about their  -my – taxpayer dollars supporting her habits.  I get it. I really do. But, when I look at the angry mob behind the downtrodden woman, I can’t muster any vehemence.  I am just sad.

Because I think of a blog I read yesterday. It lurks in my head all day – all evening – this morning. The post centers on how we assume things about others – often wrongly.  I have a friend who calls it writing stories.

We write a story in our head about what we see.  We think we know because we’ve gathered “evidence” by observing. When in reality, we don’t know. At all.

When We Don't Know the

This line sticks with me: “There isn’t anyone you can’t love once you’ve heard their story.”

I wonder what her story is…

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She comes to ask my class for help with a fundraising project.  One day, a few hours, raising money for about 15 local food pantries.  I look at my students.  I doubt any of them have visited a food pantry. It’s so far away from their experience.

She tells of a call she received recently.  A man requesting food for his family.  She asks his address so she can connect him with the closest food pantry; he gives an address in a nice neighborhood. Confused, she asks more questions. He has a good job. His wife has a degree and a better job.  They have two young children.

The American dream by anyone’s standard.  Nice home in a nice neighborhood. Degrees, jobs, kids.

But, his wife lost her job, and (long story) there is an issue with her unemployment benefits. They’ve eaten all the food in their home. Now, they’re behind on their mortgage and car payment and in a place where buying food isn’t possible.

The man chokes up as he asks for help. He doesn’t know the correct term for food stamps (it’s called SNAP in my state).  He’s donated at food pantries, but never used one.  One life change – a job loss – has taken them from American dream to food pantry.

And that could me – or you – too.  One “secure” job – lost.

The agency connects him to the nearest food pantry. His voice cracks as he asks if his kids must go with him. They do not. He’s relieved. He didn’t want them there.

And as I listen to this story, tears fill my eyes. I think of my friends – friends who bought gifts for my children on that first Christmas after my separation.  Who used miles to send me to Honduras. Who moved me twice. Who unpacked my kitchen and cleaned. Really, they’ve served me in too many ways to list. {And I am beyond grateful.}

But, one job loss. And before you say it, they followed the Dave Ramsey plan. No debt! Savings of three months salary. They did it RIGHT. But when no new job comes and months pass…the house must be sold. The cars too. Life changes dramatically. And it’s hard.  It’s their home  – their neighborhood. So much bigger than just “stuff.” It’s the life they built.

Without family and friends, they might need a food pantry someday too.

None of us are that far removed from need. Truly.

I share with my students how important this fundraiser is – how necessary the food pantries are – how they really aren’t immune to sudden changes in their parents jobs or this country’s economy.

After all….“There isn’t anyone you can’t love once you’ve heard their story.”

Why am I telling you this? I am not completely sure.  God began moving the words from my heart to the page, and I let Him.

All I do know is that…the next time someone with a Michael Kors purse is paying with food stamps, instead of allowing the anger to permeate your person, consider that perhaps she had wealth at one time, and because of job loss, she’s fallen on hard times.

Better yet, learn her story. Do for one what you wish you could do for many (Andy Stanley said that first:)

And, yes. I know this is a bigger, multifaceted issue than I present here. I watch the debates. I vote. I read newspapers online. But in this moment, I am removing all that to love one. To hear one.

Because, friends. Standing back in anger – complaining on Facebook – saying mean things to the person  – none of that looks like the Jesus of the Bible.

He walked up to the woman at the well. He called Zacchaeus down from the tree. He had dinner with the tax collectors.

Why?

Love. No one will know we are Christ followers by our love unless we love.

“There isn’t anyone you can’t love once you’ve heard their story.”

Witnessing Contentment {From the Shuttle Driver}

I watch her hoist the suitcases into the back of the van. She’s a small women, shorter than me. She speaks of her grandson, so I’m guessing she’s in her early 50s.
We take our seats on the 4 am shuttle, and she takes the wheel.
My friend’s sitting in the front with her as she weaves in and out, taking us from hotel to airport.
He asks a variety of questions. Do you always drive the shuttle?  Always come to work this early?   
I don’t have to be at work until 4, but I get here about 2:45. I want time to review the shuttle list and plan because I’m in charge of the breakfast too. And I don’t want my breakfast to fail. 
She gets to work an hour early to make sure we get to the airport on time and that we get fed before we fly.
It’s important to her, serving others.
The conversation continues as she explains why she pulls this double duty…
We are like a family around here. We have job assignments, but we all pitch in and help where we can.  They need me to drive shuttle, so I do. The lady in laundry needs help sometimes too. I’ll go down and help her. Whatever it takes, she says.
I’m not sure why I’m so stunned and impressed at the same time. Maybe it’s because bookstores shelves are packed with “find your purpose” and “live your dreams” books. Quit that day job and reach for the stars. YOLO! (You only live once:).
Being a hotel shuttle driver and breakfast lady doesn’t quite seem to fit with the book club idea of living our dreams.
Yet.
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Here she is. Loving life. Living in joy. Serving others. Putting others before herself – no one goes to work at 2:45 am without self sacrifice. She doesn’t fit the mold pitched to us from publishers and motivational speakers. She’s found joy right where she is. She’s looked around at her circumstances and asked, how can I make the best of this life?  How can I do this with excellence? 
She goes on to say she’s taken her grandson to Disney once, knowing that’s where we are headed. So much to do and see, she says.
You can stand in one place at Disney and look around.  You can see so much from just one spot, she says with excitement as if remembering the moment she took it all in.
And I’m guessing that’s her secret. The joy she exudes. The selfless service to others. She looks around and takes it all in. She doesn’t miss anything. She looks upon the things I might miss. Appreciating them.
Thankfulness. And I’m betting she knows Jesus. Those are her secrets to joy.
We arrive at the airport. Only about 10 minutes has passed. She hopes we have fun!  It’s so sincere. And off she goes back to breakfast. Because she doesn’t want it to fail.
And I head toward my gate thankful for this lady and her early morning reminders of the gospel. Place others before self (Philippians 2:3). Work together (Hebrews 10). Live grateful for all he’s given (1 Thessalonians 5:8).
She’s not aware of her impact. We rarely are. Perhaps that’s why it’s so important to live a lovely story every moment that you can. You never know who’s riding on your shuttle. And how much they need reminded that hopes and dreams are good. But, we live in the right here and right now. And to keep striving and wishing and waiting on the next season causes us to miss the right now.
I don’t what to miss the “right now” as I work toward the “yet to come.”  So I’ll think of her and her contentment often, remembering that God has a plan and purpose for each seasons of our lives. And we should never take the moments for granted.

Connecting Perseverance to Beauty {Looking for Lovely}

I am a quitter.  Those who know me might not believe this because I have never given them any reason to believe I quit.

Because if I promise YOU that I will organize the event or complete the project or write the letter, I will.  But, if I promise ME? It rarely happens.

Wheels begin to squeak, and I begin to grab oil cans, making sure everyone else and everything else is taken care of. And that’s not all bad. But, in the midst, I lose my promises to self and my goals every single time.

Sure there’s some self sabotage and bad habits fighting for attention too.

Still…I am a quitter. I give up easily.  I won’t fight for what I want or need. My self talk says it’s selfish, and my inner lack of perseverance believes the lie and quits. Underlying it all is a feeling of “I’m not worth it; I am fine just like I am.”

And I’ve never tried to “fix” this about  me. It’s been a prayer a time or two. But, I have never seen it as an issue – this quitting on self.  Until I read this book…

looking for lovely

 

Looking for Lovely by Annie Downs.**  

I certainly haven’t mastered perseverance. I’m just naturally a quitter, not a finisher…Instead of being brave and facing the hard moments, I run.

I loved God. I just hated me…Maybe it wasn’t that I wanted to be skinny or beautiful; maybe I just wanted to be free…When things feel too painful or seems too hard, I escape. {ie I quit}

Instead of feeling any of the suffering, instead of pressing through the pain and taking it to God, trusting that He heard me, I escaped to anywhere that would feed me, and I stuffed my emotions down by covering them in layers of food.

Every act of obedience is an act of courage. Every hard yes, every difficult no, every moment of moving and shaking takes bravery… you have to be brave to believe you are made on purpose – to go after your passions and walk in who you were made to be. 

I decided if I was going to survive this (the healing process), it had to be worth it. It had to have some sort of worthy redemption. It had to be beautiful…to stay in the process, to let it work itself out, to not give up. It was going to take a lot of looking for lovely…the beautiful things, though few and far between, were the knots on the rope that helped me keep climbing.

There is a correlation, I’m finding, between beauty and perseverance…It’s not just the things everyone sees, but it is what YOU see, what sticks out to you, the unique moments God give you to collect up and hold and draw strength from.

I needed to find beautiful if I was going to hang in there…I just don’t want to quit anymore.  

These are just a few of my many highlighted and triple underlined passages in Looking for Lovely.

If you have suffered or are suffering. If you can’t find the joy in the journey. If you quit and see no reason or motivation to persevere. If you can’t count it all joy when you face various trials (James 1:2), then this book is for you.  

Annie connects the lovely to perseverance, showing us where she finds joy: sunrises, nail polish, a farmer’s market, her people and more. And before you dismiss these as “shallow” – as I almost did – I encourage you to read the book and see how they’re anything but “first world” and “shallow” – how these might not be YOUR ways of finding lovely, but simply a place to begin looking for lovely.

I find lovely in stickers.  Yes, I am 40, but I still gain motivation from stickers on my planner. I decorate my bible memory verse cards with them too. I also gain joy from watching my children banter in the supermarket or at home. There’s something so lovely about these two beings that God gave me growing and learning and loving. Spring flowers or fresh water.  I am learning to look for lovely.

It’s not a shallow lovely or pointless lovely either. It’s the process taught by those who have scientifically and psychologically studied habit for years.  As  Charles Duhigg writes in The Power of Habit: Habits can’t be eliminated, only replaced. Habits have a pattern, cue, and reward.  Those cues currently cause me to quit or eat.  However, slowly but surely I am replacing the reward by looking for lovely.

God was doing a big work. I knew it, I just had to keep showing up, even when it hurt or felt hard or wasn’t AT ALL what I wanted to do. 

I just keep showing up.  I just keep persevering. And, friend, you can too. Step by step. Day by day. Follow the path.

It’s not that my life is all that different; it’s just that I  see it differently. 

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***A perk of blogging is being invited to a launch team. It’s a group of bloggers who receive a copy of a book before it’s released. In exchange you share about the book’s release and review it on Amazon. I’ve so enjoyed being part of Annie’s launch team. God has used it to give me the direction for which I had been praying.  If you’d like to read Looking for Lovely, you can buy it here.   

 

Happy 16th Birthday, Hannah!

I sit her down on the babysitter’s floor. This is our last trip to Fran’s and my last day of work.  Tomorrow, I’ll no longer work at the university or hold the title “public relations specialist.”  Tomorrow, I will have one title only: Hannah’s mom.

She’s my little one.

I listen as Matt Lauer speculates about the crashing planes and falling towers. He says it may be an act of terror.  I keep one eye on the TV as I pour more Cheerios onto Hannah’s highchair tray.  I suddenly feel less equipped to be her mom – scared to raise her in a time of terror.  I lift her out of the chair and hold her tightly.

I pray bravery over her. And she’s brave. 

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She’s not quite two.  She brings me the magnetic schoolhouse filled with colorful letters.  We sit on the floor, legs crossed, as she hands me each letter one by one, naming them as she goes.  I begin teaching her numbers.  We read and create stories. We fill our days learning and playing.

She’s smart and works so hard.

Nervously she hops up in the leather, high-backed chair.  She takes in every machine and person in the room.  Wearing her Big Sister shirt, she meets her baby brother for the first time.  Her smile swallows her face. She can hardly contain herself as her Daddy steadies baby Owen on her lap. He’d spend the next year on that lap, being petted and talked to.

She’s the absolute BEST big sister.

She’s wearing purple pajamas and her cheeks are rosy. Her blonde curls fall across her shoulders. She squeals in delight, tip toeing down the hall, knowing the Easter Bunny arrived in the night. She’s just turned three.

She’s a delight – and always thankful.

We sing Happy Birthday quietly.  She lays on the couch, looking longingly at her butterfly cake.  I am not sure of the year, but she holds her ear tightly and smiles ever so slightly.  Birthdays and earaches seem to go hand in hand for her, but she still smiles. Always smiling.

She’s tough.

We visit her classroom and meet her teacher, Mrs. Lauderman.  She smiles, taking it all in. She’s found heaven.  The next day I walk her to the door, helping her put her backpack and lunchbox in her designated cubby. A kiss on the cheek and “I love you, Mom!” Is met with “Have a great first day, Hannah Banana!  I love you!”  Without a backward glance she hurries into her room.  I walk to the van in tears. I am equal parts proud of her bravery and confidence and sad that she’s so ready for this next season of life.

She’s a learner who keeps an open mind and welcomes new experiences. 

I can’t remember the word.  It’s a simple word. One she knows well.  She takes a deep breath and begins to spell…my heart drops.  She’s out.  It’s 3rd or 4th grade, and she’s beyond disappointed. We get in the car, and she tells me… Mom, I know how to spell it. I really do as tears fall from her eyes.  I turn and comfort her, and then we make the five year rule.  Will anyone remember who won this spelling bee in five years? No.  Then, we let it go. (That’s still our rule.)

She gives grace to herself and others.

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She dances across the stage to the drum’s beat while the strong voice belts out a song we call “Don’t Lose Your Indian.” Contemporary movements mixed with tumbling.  I wonder how a girl so young can confidently perform a solo in front of such a large audience.  I want her to do well, but her “place” today is irrelevant.  This is my girl.  A dancer, doing what she loves.

She’s dedicated, persevering through pain and long hours of practice.  

The scrunched nose and furrowed brow tell me she’s concentrating with every fiber of her being.  Her fingers move along the strings as the bow slides back and forth.  She loves fiddle tunes – just like her great-grandaddy.

She loves music.

Her eyes are wide and chin quivering as she promises to take care of Owen. Her Poppy is dying, and she knows she must stay behind while Mom and Dad go to be with him. I can barely look her in the eye. She’s young but must shoulder the weight of losing one of her most favorite people. She learns in this moment to hold back tears and take care of others.

She’s still a caretaker.

She presses her face to the window, watching as the plane lands in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. She has almost 50 hats in her suitcase for those who have cancer. She plans to teach crochet to teen moms and build a house.  But, she soon forgets her “to-do” list as she embraces the country and her people.  She will return.

She desires to go into all the world, loving and serving others.

She hands me a gift for Mother’s Day. By now, we’ve weathered divorce together. The bracelet is beautiful, but my eyes focus on the hand-drawn heart with the words “we’ve got this.”  Her belief in me is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given.

She loves well.

She rounds the corner smiling, carrying her books.  I look up from my computer and see a high school sophomore.  Time stands still.  I look down and back up at her.  I can hardly believe that in just a few days she will be 16…

The little girl fishing at the campground, dancing on the stage, making faces at her Aunt Dawnna, holding onto her brother, sharing words of faith and confidence, grieving the loss of a Poppy and a marriage, learning at school, going into all the world, and loving others to a fault…God has grown that little girl into a young lady who is beautiful inside and out.

And, today, we celebrate the gift of Hannah.

Happy 16th hannah

Happy 16th Birthday, Gracie. You make me better, and I am so proud to be your momma. My prayer is that you always hold tight to faith and family, knowing how very much He – and we – love you.

Keep dreaming,

Mom

To the Single, Divorced, or Widowed {He is STILL at Work}

I wrote this on March 18, 2014.  And I love that my Facebook memories reminded me of it today. Some days I don’t feel like I have “healed” or am healing.  Some days I feel guilt for the part I played.  I don’t feel strong or adequate. But, reading this post – my own words from two years ago – evidences God’s faithfulness to and love for me.

It shows me how he’s worked and given me a “new” normal. How He’s changed my heart, my theology, my priorities, and more.  I remember the night written of here; I couldn’t stay alone. And now I travel alone, stay alone, walk forward alone because of Him – and a deep knowing that He is there.  The Sarah of now is a shadow of the Sarah written of near the end of this post, but only because of His redemptive work in my life – work that I had to walk into and through in faith; work He orchestrated, motivated, and empowered.  (And, friend, if you read this in 2014 and feel you’ve not “progressed” or “healed” or maybe even “regressed,” will you make time for a heart to heart with God or a trusted friend?)

Last night I spoke with a friend who is here – in this blog – in my 2014.  She’s not sure how to function or find a new normal. She’s not sure she can or ever will.  But, I know there’s a hope and a future – a comeback- for her.  That’s the God we serve – even if we can’t see or hear it in this moment.

So, this repost is for her – and for all of you who weren’t single, divorced, or widowed in 2014. For all of you who thought this would never apply to you. I pray you realize it applies to all of us as we walk one another home, for we all know a single, widowed, or divorced. May be we embrace her today…

to the single divorced or widowed

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

I am sorry.

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

 

I am truly sorry.

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

I am sorry.

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

Weeks pass.  Years pass.

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

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

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

And I am sorry. 

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

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

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

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

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

Single girl, widow, returning missionary, divorced one…I never understood your pain until today.

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

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

I am sorry.

I wept for you this morning as I wept for myself. I prayed for Him to comfort you as only He can.

Because we all know Jesus can and will fill this loneliness.  That only He is {ultimately} enough.  But, I understand that you might not want to hear that right now. {I don’t either.} For now, you need time to be mad – to feel alone – to kick and to scream.  And sob.  To feel the weight of your past.

And, that’s ok…really, it is.

But, sweet sister, I pray that someday soon both of us can look to the future.  I pray someday we wake up and realize…our lives are not over.  Perhaps they’re just beginning.

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

We are NEVER alone. (Hebrews 13:5)

He sees YOU and ME.  {I know this in my head; still praying for it to resume in my heart.}

And just so you know… I didn’t make it last night; I had a friend stay.  As the sun set, bedtime neared, kiddos slept, and the house creaked, I caved.   I stared at blank ceilings asking the same questions over and over.  I’ve never lived alone and couldn’t stomach the thought of that new season beginning last night.

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

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

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

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

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

God has a plan. I can’t see it  – maybe you can’t either, but I will always believe in and cling to a God who is working all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:28)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

When You Don’t Make the Team {And Start Placing Blame}

His phone vibrates as he places groceries on the belt.  Oh my. It’s from Sam. I don’t know if I should look.

Look! I encourage him.  

I’m nervous.  

Oh, I am sure it’s fine.  

He face drops as he scans the list messaged by his friend. Number by number he searches for 37 – his tryout number – and it’s not there.  

When You Don't Make the

He continues placing items on the belt, one by one, focusing on the yogurt and taco seasoning.  I tell him I’m sorry as I load bags. I can’t look at him.  My heart is so sad. Neither of my kids knows what it’s like to NOT make the team. We’ve always been on the list. I am not sure how to parent this.

I spring into action, texting friends, trying to find options.  Maybe there’s another team.  Maybe it’s a mistake.  I am a fixer, and I so badly want to fix this for him.  But, after a flurry of messages, the fact remains:  No baseball this year.  

I complain to my mom and friend about the way of athletics in this day and age. Exclusivity.  If you don’t play year round or have the money for training or take your kids to the fields everyday to practice, then you don’t stand a chance.  Plus, my kiddos go to one of the biggest schools in the state; he’d have made it at a smaller school. Blah. blah. I know it’s partially true, but I am really just a momma who is hurting for her son.  

We drive home in (mostly) silence.  I am fighting tears. I have no idea why this makes me so so sad. I tell myself, Lord have mercy, Sarah. It’s ONE sport for one year.  Owen lives a life that kids in other countries would LOVE to live.  This frees him to focus on tennis and guitar.  What in the world is wrong with you?  

I admit to myself and God that I feel it’s my fault.  Owen didn’t make the team because he was so well-adjusted in another town, but I moved after the divorce. He doesn’t have the advantage of living with his dad and going to the park to hit balls. (Which is not his dad’s fault necessarily; it’s the fault/consequence of decision, space, and time.) Why don’t I keep up with all things baseball? Why didn’t I have him in the right leagues at the right time? Why am I not friends with all these parents who get together and help their kids on weekends?  


Dang it. None of this is Owen’s fault.  It’s my fault.  My decisions, my parenting. My lack of interest in baseball.  I should have advocated, taught, sought, tried, and whatever-ed.

And some of this is true.  Owen will forever be affected by the decisions – good and bad – his parents made and make. It’s unavoidable.  

But, it’s not all true. And I can’t fix all things. In fact, I shouldn’t fix all things.

God reminded me that He works all things together for the good of those that love Him. That those words and this verse aren’t just platitudes we get in a text when times are hard, but a promise from the Creator of the Universe.  That I have to trust Him with Owen, with Owen’s future. He is the great Redeemer. Owen isn’t destined to a horrible life because he didn’t make the team.  Or because his parents are divorced. The Redeemer has a plan and purpose for Owen’s life that goes way beyond the decision of a middle school baseball coach and an insecure momma.

God doesn’t need me to fix it. He needs me to love Owen through it.  So many great stories in the Bible are about going THROUGH, not around or over or under. Through the Red Sea. Through the desert.  Through the cross.  Through the sacrifice. Through the storm.  Through the flood.  Through the whale’s belly.  Through the years of slavery.

And in the midst of all the “throughs,” HE is there.  Sovereign and loving.  

This morning I remind both kiddos that while they are not chosen for some things, we serve a God who is greater than baseball or dance.  We have to trust that God knows best even when we don’t understand what He’s up to.  


This life we get to live is a privilege to be stewarded well for His glory, not our own.  So many around the world do not live as we live – and while that doesn’t make it hurt any less when we aren’t chosen, it does keep our lives in perspective.  We do not live in the here and now only: we live and love for a purpose greater than ourselves.

I don’t know what you weren’t chosen for, friend.  I don’t know how you’ve felt cut down or cut out.  It hurts, huh?  Whether you’re 13 or 40, you want to be on the team.  But, I pray you know that you are chosen by the Creator. You were formed and purposed by Him, fearfully and wonderfully made. And maybe it doesn’t feel like it right now, but I promise you: He has a plan and purpose.  His timing is always perfect.  We trust in Him, knowing that he sees the entire tapestry while we only see our thread.

A side note:  God is faithful.  I get a text from a friend this morning: Your Owen is my mind this morning.  Praying for boys is a special privilege.  I don’t hear from her everyday – not even most days.  But, God knew my little guy needed some prayers. He knew my friend, His servant, listens and follows well, so she’d pray the minute He laid Owen on her heart.  Thank you, Lord, for caring about the smallest details.  When this world has much bigger problems than middle school baseball, we thank you for caring about the small.

Should We Be SELF Confident? {What Even is Confidence?}

I can see my young self so clearly…walking to the board with my new pink and blue glasses.  It is third grade, and Miss Melton is teaching us to multiply.  No one else knows the answer. But, me? I know it. I (almost) march to the board, proudly writing the correct answer, basking in Miss Melton’s accolades.

Suddenly, I know…I can do the work IF I want to.  I am capable.

So, I begin trying a bit harder in school.  And like a duck to water, I become a learner.  (In fact, my Strengths Finder lists my greatest strength as”Learner.”) Something about learning and knowing generates a new self-confidence in third-grade Sarah. She’s chubby.  She’s teased about it.  She recently did a forward roll in gym class and ripped her hunter green corduroy pants straight up the crack and had to wear her jacket tied around her waist for the rest of the day. But, still…she’s smart.

And I carry “smart” through middle school, high school, and college.  I am not the prettiest;  I am not the skinniest.  I am not the anything-est. BUT.  In most cases, I am one of the smartest. I set my sights on valedictorian and do not give up until I cross the graduation stage.  I set my sights on top scholar at the School of Journalism at WVU, and by golly – DONE.

From this, confidence grows, branching and blooming in all endeavors. I take on problems with books and (later) Google.  Jesus. Faith. Marriage. Childbirth. Child rearing. Weight loss.  I read all about it.   I am sure of myself. Give me a task, and I know I can do it – or at least learn to.

Parts of that girl remain in me.  Thankfully, she’s lost her need to be the brightest bulb in the room and the arrogance that accompanied it.

In some areas of life I am still what culture would define as confident. In other areas? Not so much.  Learning is now my hobby, not my measuring stick.  I love it just as much, but the pull and motive are much different.

self confident

How did I lose this “confidence”? What even is confidence? Where does confidence come from? I ponder these ideas as I study Hebrews because it keeps coming up. The author is writing to a group of “newer” Jewish converts.  The audience is well-versed in all things Jewish, temple, and Old Testament, but the idea of a Messiah named Jesus is new to them. They grapple with relying on the old when there’s a new way. So, the writer of  Hebrews keeps reminding them…Jesus is better and above the rituals, the angels, Moses, Abraham, etc.

The author mentions having this confidence in at least six verses…

Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear, what can man do to me?”

See? They – we – need to hold fast to this confidence – the confidence with which we originally answered Jesus when he called us to him. That confidence we felt when he placed a call on our life to follow him no matter the cost.  A confidence that spurs us toward his throne of grace and has great reward. A confidence in what we do not see, saying boldly and surely: I will not fear.

Wow. What a word.  It seems our relationship with Jesus hinges here, huh?

It’s important for the audience – for us  – to place full confidence in Jesus and nothing else.  Not brains or beauty. Not wealth or wisdom.  Not others or offices.  Nothing but Jesus.

Nothing but…a certainty and assurance of one’s relationship with God, a sense of boldness that is dependent on a realization of one’s acceptance by God, and a conviction that one’s destiny is secure in God. (from biblestudytools.com)

Sister, what if we lived fully confident of our Jesus? Assured of our relationship with him with a sense of BOLDNESS that can only come from knowing deep, deep down that we are accepted and loved by Him.  With conviction that our futures are secure in Him.

What would THAT look like? To live with God-confidence, not self-confidence?

I can’t imagine.  I am so conditioned to place my confidence in myself and in books and learning that I often struggle to let go and let God. To say….I can NOT do this, Lord.  You’ll have to do it through me.  And even more than that, Lord? I confidently believe you can and will.  

It’s new for me this kind of confidence.  But I pray for you and for me that we get it.  That we listen to the author of Hebrews and hold fast to our confidence in Him.

Confidently and with Love,

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…

appetite ambition approval (1)

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.