Archives for December 2013

2014: Abiding {And the Epic Failure of 2013}

I bet you’ve heard this a thousand times:

For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord…

I have a few friends – ok, me included – that get cranky when we see this verse (Jeremiah 29:11) on cups and shirts and Facebook statuses.  My usual response is…quit taking that verse out of context.  (Icky and self-righteous, huh?)

But those few words penned thousands of years ago by the prophet Jeremiah are the ones I cling to this year.

I am living in the temporary.  I’ve been living out of suitcases, but so blessed by the friend who allows me (and usually my kiddos) to share her space. It was my choice to leave my home because sometimes we just know deep in our guts what’s best for our own hearts.

And I don’t do well with no plan – with temporary.  I can be flexible, but not knowing (literally) what the next week holds has been beyond difficult for this control freak.

I have laid it at Jesus’ feet again and again.  Some days, it’s a 20-minute lament in anger and some days it’s simply a mild…help.  Other days, it’s a great big THANK YOU for your provision and faithfulness to Him.

Because life seems so fragile right now, I was reluctant to choose a word of the year for my blog.  And, if I am even more honest, my reluctance came from a place of deep hurt, anger at God, and feeling like 2013’s word (HOPE) was an epic failure.

At the end of 2011, I chose a picture to focus on throughout the next year- one that held deep meaning. But, I grew to hate that picture by the end of January 2012 when life fell apart. But, I was determined – beyond determined – to press in to God, begging Him to see my family and me through 2012.

And, He did.

It was hard and took TONS of work, but He carried us.

I began 2013 with the word HOPE – more hopeful than ever that the problems of the past had been laid to rest and life was beginning anew in many ways.

I still have hope.  In fact, my hope grew exponentially in 2013 as I remembered almost daily that my hope is not in this earth but in eternity.  Still, I must confess…the bulk of my “hope” plans for 2013 had high expectations for God attached.  My heart had some very specific requests of God, and I confidently believed he would answer each one as I “hoped.”

He didn’t.

Not even close.

I read the devotional initially – gave up by March when life began to slide.

My friend, Elaine, and I completed the Bible study I mentioned in last year’s post, and it sustained my faith in more ways than I can even articulate.

I prayed.  But, I quit writing my prayers because it seemed NONE were being answered.  (Notice, I used the word “seemed” – we never know what God is doing.)

BUT, my EPIC failures did not come in my time with God…devotional, Bible study, or prayer…they came in the next two areas of last year’s post:  family/marriage and health.

As most of you know, my marriage didn’t work out.  I could kick and scream at God all day long for the ways in which I feel He didn’t “show up” for a marriage that I felt God called me to forever.

Yet, it failed.

The issue from early 2012 reared again in 2013, and exhausted, we both decided it would never work.

We did the work – I will NEVER doubt that.  And, yes, I am fully aware that it is NOT about our work alone, but HIS work.  Still…for reasons I can’t seem to fathom this early, there’s not “hope” for our marriage.

Hope.  The truckload of it I placed in my marriage…gone. 

Which leads directly to last year’s hope for my health.  Epic. Failure.  Here.

Early on, Steve discovered he hated exercising outside.  He chose an elliptical.  I am NOT good at exercising alone, so my efforts were sporadic at best.  So, you can’t really do a half marathon by training on an elliptical – or by training sporadically.

And, as things began to fall apart, I gave up. Plain and simple.  I am an emotional eater, who quit being intentional.  Who stopped being wise knowing what I know about myself.

As a result, instead of losing weight in 2013, I gained about 50 pounds.

Oh, what a difference just 365 days can make.

So, here I am.  Tomorrow is 2014.  I should be MUCH less hopeful for this upcoming year than any other.

But God.

He’s not changed.

He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  (Hebrews 13:8)

His steadfast love is unfailing, unchanging.  And that’s the exact premise that I began writing this blog years ago:  Psalm 36:5…

Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.

So, this year…He knows the plans He has for me, and I am choosing to ABIDE in His unfailing love…in Him as He abides in me.

abide

My plans for 2014 aren’t big like last year…simple abiding.

Of course, I plan to eat healthy and exercise. It’s key to my emotional, physical, and spiritual wellbeing.  And, I’ll share with you how that’s going.

I am starting the Abide study with Jen Wilkin, which is a close study of 1, 2, and 3 John.  I am also joining my friend, Elisa Pulliam, for Focus 52.  And, on January 3, I’ll begin Story 101 with a group of 25 ladies led by Elora Nicole.

Most of all, I am refusing to see these past two years as epic failures, for there have been MANY  – way too many to count – wonderful things about these years.  And, instead of looking at 2014 with discouragement and fear, I am choosing to abide and wait expectantly on what God has for me and my kiddos….including…

After 15 years of infertility, my sister will give birth to my new niece or nephew in June.  (I am beyond excited!)  Me and the kiddos are also going to Disney World (for the first time!) in April to watch Hannah perform at the Dance Worlds in Epcot.  Best of all, Hannah has decided to start her own ministry to help those in Honduras (can’t WAIT to share that!).

And, in between, I’ll abide as I wait eagerly to see the plans God has for me and those I love.

I can’t think of any better way to close 2013 or this post than to share with you the prayer I read this morning from Everyday Prayers (which is FREE today on Kindle). Scotty Smith’s words accurately articulate how my heart feels today:

Heavenly Father, as I sit quietly before you on the eve of a new year, I’ve got a case of sad and glad going on inside of me.  Both of these themes are at work in my heart as I reflect on this past year.  It’s a good tension, one for which the gospel is more than sufficient…Thank you for your steadfast love and fresh mercies that came every single day this past year (and will come this year), when I was aware of them and when I wasn’t.  You remained faithful to everything you’ve promised in Jesus…But, Father, it’s because of your love for me in Jesus that I can also own my sadness. 

This past year I also joined the nations in saying, “So where is your God?” You usually heard this complaint from me when you busy doing what please YOU, and now what pleases ME.  Many times I trusted my voiceless, sightless, senseless, powerless idols more than I trusted you.  I grieve my foolishness…

Prepare me for twelve new months of groaning and growing in grace.  Bring much glory to yourself as the gospel does its work in my life and through my life.  I pray in Jesus’ faithful name.  Amen.

I pray this for you too, friend.  May He prepare your heart for twelve new months of groaning and growing in grace as you abide in Him.

Happy New Year!

Helping Others {BEST Christmas Gift Idea!}

The people that you meet each day…

You never know whom you might meet and how God has orchestrated the meeting.

I’ve come to see God’s sovereign hand at work in the people who come into my life.  Some of my very best friends I barely knew – or didn’t know – a year ago.

And, while I am thankful for many of the connections God has made and is making in my life, I am particularly grateful for my connection to the sweet founders of Mi Esperanza, a ministry in Honduras that educates women.

The folks at Mi Esperanza serve as the hands and feet of Jesus to break the cycle of poverty for women and their families by offering beauty school, sewing, and computer classes to women for free.

It’s truly inspiring…and hopeful.

I connected with Janet and Lori, the ladies who founded this ministry, through a mutual friend.  I’ve been blessed to spend time with them and get to know their hearts…

For Jesus.  For Honduras.  For women and families.

They are women who truly love Jesus and others, desiring to give hope in a place where it can be scarce.

Out of Janet and Lori’s desire to recognize the accomplishments of Mi Esperanza’s students and further share their stories, they asked my friend, Jen, to create a 2014 Mi Esperanza calendar.  It compiles the success stories of the students, teachers, and staff while also explaining each of the educational programs for Honduran women.

ME Calendar cover

I’ve been honored to work alongside my friend, Jen, helping her to write the success stories and proofread/edit the text.

The calendar is now finished!  And, I’d love for you to support Mi Esperanza’s efforts to break the cycle of poverty through education – and give a great Christmas gift at the same time.  How awesome to spread Jesus’ love, educate women, and give a gift  – with ONE purchase.  

ME brown pic w little girl     ME Donation page brown uniforms

The calendar is just $10; all proceeds go directly back into educating women. If you’d like one, and you live near me, let me know.  I can get one to you.  If you don’t live me near me, you can purchase one from Mi Esperanza’s website using this link.  ME Bicycle page and story

You can also “like” Mi Esperanza’s Facebook page and/or visit their website to read more about their ministry.

Thanks!

My New Label {I Had to Check the “Divorced” Box Today}

Filling in blanks and checking boxes.

I’ve mindlessly completed form after form in my almost 38 years of life.

The who, what, when, and where of our lives is asked often – from the doctor to the DMV, we share our info easily and regularly.

Me too.  Until today.

Married.  Single.  Widowed.  Divorced.

Family status form (Marital Status form)

That was the list right after name, address, and date and birth.

A sob caught in my throat as I reluctantly checked “divorced.”

Divorced.

What an ugly word.  One I thought would NEVER describe me.  Heavens no.  I deemed myself the poster child (poster wife) for forgiveness and reconciliation – recentering on Jesus and doing all I could to keep it all together.

Counseling, quitting, leaving, defriending, moving – WHATEVER it took to keep this ship sailing – I would do – I did.  NO WAY would I allow my family to sink.  I would not be labelled “divorced”; I would not allow my children to come from “divorced” parents.

Honestly, my attitude bordered (ok, probably flooded over the border) on self- righteous.  By golly, we had made our marriage work; you could too.

And I heard myself say more than one time…what’s wrong with these people? Divorcing?  Do they know what the Bible says about marriage and divorce?  In my heart often thinking…if Jesus was their center, if they’d just ______(fill in the blank), then they could keep it together too.

And these same sentiments have been thrown my way recently.  From people just like me.  Those who have had trouble and “made it work” (or think they made it work when it was only by the grace of God) – who don’t really take time to know the story or listen because they have it all figured out based on their life experiences.  And every time one talks to me, I listen.  I do.  But, I am sad for them; sad me for me  – for all the times I thought I knew, but I had no clue.

I simply didn’t know the story.  Those precious ladies who hurt me with their attitudes and callous words?  They simply don’t know the story.  They need just as much grace as I needed…need.

The form continued…anniversary. Spouse.

I simply could not leave the “anniversary” blank empty, so I shared that I’d been married on August 1, 1998, but am in the process of divorce.  Then, I further felt compelled to “qualify” my sharing of this information by saying that my address would be changing soon, so I would need to change that as soon as I could.

What is it in us that feels we need to explain?  Qualify?

For me,  I HATE feeling left out – or even the perception of being left out.  And I HATE it when I think others are left out – or feeling left out.  To me, being exclusive screams “we’re better” and thus “you’re not good enough.”

So…I didn’t want to NOT have an anniversary or a spouse.  Seems almost everyone else filling out this same form has both.

Ugh.  Who knew a form could cut so deep.  (Actually, if I were a better listener, I’d have know about this potential hurt already because my single friends have tried to help me understand the alienation they feel because they’re not wives and mothers.)

Still… I know the form creators.  They are sweet women who love Jesus a whole bunch.  They designed the form to help ladies get to know one another and live out Titus better.

They never knew checking “divorced” would make me cringe and feel the weight of my new label.

Sigh.

But in the midst of form filling and label accepting, I feel a whisper in my heart from my Creator…grace, Sarah.  Grace for you and for those who don’t know.

Grace for the one who has no idea what life looks like beyond another’s front door.

Simply grace.

Grace allows my heart to continue loving and living.  It keeps my sensitive, defensive self from becoming bitter and hard.  It reminds me that God loves EACH of us equally.  That we are ALL wanted and welcome in His kingdom.  The happily married wife and mom is no more loved by the Creator than the one who sits in a mess – a mess of her own making or a mess of another’s making.

I don’t like this season of my life.  It stinks most of the time.  But, He is teaching me what his Word REALLY means in reality instead of in theory…my life is no longer about what I know.

It’s about how I live what I know.

It’s about what it truly means to remain joyful in the midst of suffering.

Dear brothers and sisters,when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1: 2-4

It’s about laying my worries and burdens at His feet…

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.1 Peter 5:7

It’s about experiencing the love of a Savior  – a love that never fails – a love that picks me up again and again…and being deeply thankful for that love.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!

His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.

His faithful love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords.

His faithful love endures forever.

Psalm 136:  1-3

I feel like I’ve written this a thousand times –and I’ll probably write it a thousand more – but give grace.  Ask God to make you aware of places in you that need filled with grace and love.  We have no idea what tomorrow holds.  We are all one decision – by us or by another – away from a completely different reality.  From a life that looks nothing like the one we wanted – or thought we wanted.

Regardless of where you sit, give grace.