Archives for August 2015

When THAT Phone Call Comes {What Do You Do Next?}

The phone rings.  The caller ID makes me smile, and I answer with a loud, “Hello!”  Drawn out for humor…like “HELLLLLOOOOOO!” (This caller knows me well and expects nothing less than the loud, rambunctious, funny gal she knows me to be!)

The voice on the other end is someone I love more than life itself, but her voice is off.  She asks me a series of questions that fill me with dread:  Where are you?  Are you alone?  Where are you headed?

I interrupt…what is it?  I know it’s something bad.  She’s stalling.

I hate to tell you this when you’re in the car (I wasn’t driving).  I just don’t want you to hear it somewhere else.

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Time stands still.  This news is about to forever alter the lives of a family I love.  (I beg you to stand in the gap for them today even though you do not know them or their story.)

Do you know these phone calls?  Have you had one?

Perhaps it forever changed your life…

My mom in 2008:  They were trying to take Dad off the ventilator.  It’s not going to work; His blood is infected and he’s septic.  I’ve decided to unplug him; should I wait on you?

My sister in October 2013:  I’m pregnant.

My doctor in 2010:  You have a pituitary tumor.

From a friend: My husband’s cheating on me. 

Through the grapevine:  He’s cheating/ she lied/ they fired her/ she dropped out of school/ blah, blah, blah.

I could go on.  But, three rings, ten seconds, and BOOM!  Life is never ever the same.

It’s what happens next that matters most.  (I’ve learned this the hard way.)

After the BOOM, what do you do?

Text 10 people? Gloat in their downfall?  Repeat the news to everyone around?  Post your opinion or your tribulation on Facebook?  Tweet it? (Sadly, I am guilty of some of these.)

Friends, if there’s ONE time I pray you’ll stop and pause, it’s THIS time.  

If someone has just died, pray. Can you ask for prayer later on Facebook? Sure, if you have the family’s permission.  If someone is pregnant, pray.  Can you help them spread the news via text and gather others to pray? Of course, with their permission.  If someone has made a HUGE mistake and is about to suffer the consequences, PRAY.  If God leads you to ask for prayer on Facebook, do so if you have his/her permission.  Or say something vague like…please pray for my friends.  Life is hard.  If God leads you to discuss this with your pastor because you’re struggling with the news and its implications, do so.

But, please…pray and check your motive before you post or pass any information.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

Remember…

These are HUMANS.  Who make/made human mistakes.  And God is teaching me that we are all just ONE decision from making a mistake that could cause a BOOM phone call.

A split second decision…

To change lanes – when there’s a car already there.

To text the co-worker back and encourage him/her to communicate with you – while you’re married.

To have sex when you know you should not.

To take the money.

To punch the guy.

To share another’s secrets.

To cheat, to lie.

ALL OF US.  One decision away.

If you’re a Jesus follower, I ask you to remember who you are when you hear BOOM news.  You believe in a God that is forgiving. One who is just.  One who loves each and every one of us – all the sinners – equally.  Are their consequences for actions? Of course.  Should you be mad?  Feel betrayed?  Feel let down?  Probably so.

But this God we serve is in the redemption business.  He makes all things new.  His grace is sufficient for you and for me.  His strength is made perfect in our weakness.  (All straight from His Word.)

And when the hurting refuse to engage the loud mouths? The crucifiers?

Stand with them.  Refuse to join the crowd shouting, “Crucify, crucify.” Instead, pray.

Notice that Jesus didn’t defend himself to the Pharisees – or anyone.  The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still.

And to the family I love so very much, I think no different of you.  I don’t pretend to understand, but I don’t need to.  KNOW you are LOVED.  Know I am taking you to his feet each and every day in prayer.  Know there’s forgiveness for repentant hearts.  Be still…and KNOW that He is God.

Owen and Victoria {An Unexpected Gift}

Her name is Victoria.  She’s a 20-something gal that works at our local Walmart.  Owen met her as he searched for a school binder.

(He’d seen a classmate with the perfect binder – he’s a very organized guy – and decided this particular binder was the one to make his system happen.)

He goes with a friend to the office supply store then to Walmart, searching aisle after aisle with no luck.  As a last resort, he describes the binder to a Walmart associated named Victoria.

She knows EXACTLY which binder he’s hunting.

No binders like the one he’s describing on the shelf, so Victoria begins opening boxes of stock, looking high and low for Owen’s must-have, back-to-school tool.   To say Victoria is helpful is a huge understatement.  She’s going way above and beyond to help my kiddo.

But nothing.

Finally, she asks Owen: Do you like blue?  Of course!  He was hoping for a blue one!

She kindly says…I bought this binder in blue a few weeks ago, and I’ve not used it yet.  You can have it.  I work tomorrow from 8-4.  Stop by anytime, and I’ll have it for you.

Victoria won’t take no for an answer. She insists.  Owen should have the binder.

Owen is overjoyed.  The perfect binder! {Actually, I can’t express how much this binder-giving means to Owen. He tells everyone the story and lights up more each time.}

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He comes home telling and retelling the story of Victoria and the binder.  I suggest he pray for her each time he begins the school day and sees the binder.  My friend, who is heading to Walmart the next day to get the binder, suggests he write a thank you note for her to take.

Owen writes…

Hi, thank you so much for the binder.  I already have a previous binder but it is very torn up. (Stinken kids threw it around the classroom.) I would also like to thank  you for going out of your way just to try and find me the specific binder I wanted.  You really didn’t have to give me this binder but I really do mean it when I say thank you for the binder.  Here is $15 for the binder and your troubles just to try and find that specific binder. Once again, thank you SOOOO much  for this binder and I will treat it well. Sincerely, Owen Farish

He draws himself holding the binder and adds Thank You’s on the cover and back.

I look at the card.  Thankful for Victoria and the lessons about selflessness, kindness, and generosity she taught Owen…and me.

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I don’t know Victoria. But something about her exchange with Owen reminded me of a story found in both Luke and Mark.

Just then he [Jesus] looked up and saw the rich people dropping offerings in the collection plate. Then he saw a poor widow put in two pennies. He said, “The plain truth is that this widow has given by far the largest offering today. All these others made offerings that they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all!” Luke 21: 1-4

The widow and Victoria…

Are unnoticeable.  (I rarely notice the people working in a store and the rich at the temple paid the widow no mind.)

Gave what they had to give.  (Time, effort, kindness, a binder.)

Gave more than the rich in Jesus’ eyes. (Both were all in, offering what they had to give.)

Gave sacrificially. ( I don’t know how much spare change Victoria may or may not have…but I feel deeply that she gave sacrificially.  That $15 is much to her and that she had plans for the binder.  The two coins is most likely all the widow had.)

Gave freely without hope or expectation of gain. (What’s in it for Victoria? Nothing.  She didn’t expect payment or a note. I pray we all stop asking the question, What’s in it for me? Me included.)

Victoria’s outward actions revealed a generous and kind heart.

I wonder what my actions reveal…at Walmart, in my home, in my classroom, at a restaurant.  Am I making Jesus attractive to others? How do my actions evidence a heart that calls itself generous and loving?

I want to be more like Jesus…like Victoria.  A woman quietly and kindly loving others where she’s been planted.  Giving and serving as best she knows how.  A woman whose name means victory, one who embodies the highest level of beauty.

May our daily lives show we are His.  May serving Him and loving others become who we are. And they will know we are Jesus followers by our love.

Much love,

She Washed My Feet {Literally}

We’d been working all day.  Various projects occurring in various locations.  So, when I realize the evening holds a worship night, I am less than enthusiastic.  (I know.  On a mission trip…there for Jesus…and not wanting to participate in a worship night. Just being honest.)

We eat dinner and enter the room.  Worship stations.

(For those unfamiliar with worship or prayer stations, there are “stations” around the room with prompts designed to help you still and reflect.  Some stations cause you to give praise while others might lead you to repentance. It’s time to quiet yourself and sit at His feet.)

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I am thinking...I have nothing left, Lord.  I’ve been wrestling with you since I arrived in this country.  I am not sure what you could possibly want to hear from me.  Geez.

(And that’s what I get for thinking it’s all about me.)

Eric and Andrew lead us in worship.  Beautiful words.  I close my eyes, thankful for the quiet, the words, the melodies.  My heart rests as each song reminds me of how great He is.  (I am so forgetful most days.)

Our host, Jaclyn, explains each station as the music continues.

What “baggage” did we bring that we’d like to leave in Honduras? How have we seen beauty in (or rise from) ashes this week? Do we know who we are in Christ?  Have we told Jesus how much we love him? Wash a friend’s feet to show love, thankfulness, and humility for his/her service to you and others this week.

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It’s a ton of self-reflection.  And, I am not sure I want to.  Because once I open this floodgate, acknowledging my struggles and asking God what He really thinks, I fear what I might find in my heart.  What He might reveal.  A hot shower or early bedtime seem preferable.

But, my daughter is sitting beside me.  And while I tell her she does not have to stay (she is very tired and unsure of the whole “worship station” thing), I know exiting is not a good example.  Tired or not.

So, I submit to the process.  I surrender my walls, which God promptly tumbles.

Time passes.  I process my baggage (shew, it’s a LOT); God clearly speaks as I ask Him about the beauty that can rise from ashes (if you know my story, you can imagine how pivotal THIS moment was for me); I read each verse about who I am in Christ.  I begin my love note to Jesus.

While writing, I feel a tap on my shoulder.  She speaks words I will NEVER EVER EVER forget…

Mom, when you are done, I would like to wash your feet.  

The child I labored for 27 hours to have.  The child I rocked to sleep…taught the alphabet…bandaged knees – and her heart. The child I watch dance through life…the one who serves me and whom I serve.

My child – now a young woman – wants to wash my feet.  Beyond humbling.

We walk to the foot washing station.  I remove my shoes and sit in awe as she pours warm water, kneels before me, and washes my feet.  I wish I could tell you what I prayed or what my heart felt, but I can’t.  It was like that verse from Romans: The Spirit intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words.  

We switch places.  I wash her feet – TRULY an honor.  One of the greatest moments of my life.  And then we pray together.  We pray about all that has been, all that is, and all that we hope will be. We claim His promises for the people we love.  We pray for this day forward – that we walk worthy of our calling as Christ followers.  (Ephesians)

And little does Hannah know that God has just answered a 15 year prayer:  Lord, may Hannah and Owen’s faith be theirs, not mine.  May they own their relationship with you – not because I forced them to attend church or groups – not because I forced my beliefs upon them – but because I have loved them well and you’ve drawn them to you.

As we leave the room God’s sovereignty overwhelms me. The threads he’s pulled, snipped, and tied to weave the tapestry of this moment- this 10 minutes in our lives – possible . Shew.  I wish I could share with you how I traced these moments in awe of God, but it would take pages of words.  But here’s a glimpse…these are the people who made Hannah’s trip possible (and we thank each one from the depths of our beings):

Sue Adams, Rusty and Stephanie Arthur, Diana Bailey, Leah Barbarito, Nicole Barton, Terri Biley, Nick and Samantha Bradley, Janet Brewster, Lakyn Campbell, Angel Carpenter, Pam Childers, Lori Cottrill, Misha Dailey, Kathy Dye, Wendi Farmer, Laura Gardner, Candice Grose, Linda Grubbs, Kristen Johnson, Brian and Heather King, Veronica King-Cunningham, Corinna Lilly, Lisa Matthews, Tim and Kyle McCartney, Danny and Carolyn Mullins, Vince Nedeff, Christy Owen,  Andrew and Emily Prather, Ryan and Brittanie Rimmey, Valerie Roberts,  Randy and Jane Shamblin, Shirley (no last name – gave to Han at a conference where I spoke), the Taviano Family, Jean Todd, Al and Ashley Wanosky, Joe Webb, Jen Wright, Wally and Marilyn Yocum, Chad and Angie Yoho. (I pray I forgot no one.)

Friends, you have to know something INCREDIBLE about this list of people!  If I had missed ANY season of my life…from my days at Poca United Methodist Church to my current season of life…there’s someone on this list I would never have  met.  If I’d made one decision differently – from the place Hannah dances to where I attended church, someone would be missing.

I KNOW!

There’s someone from childhood, from high school, from college, from family, from different churches, from ministry teams, from conferences and retreats, from Hannah’s time as a dancer and Southern Belle/my time as her mom.  Some are closer to my sister or my mom.  One I student taught under.  I even met one family on the Internet when I became a writer.

Think of this…

If I  look back and regret ONE season of life – try to change even ONE thing – one of these people disappears from my story, from Hannah’s story.  One of them no longer plays a part in the foot washing.  

It’s overwhelming to serve a sovereign God, huh?  A God I often do not understand. One I question and squabble with.  One I love more than anything.  Because in each of these seasons (EVERY SINGLE ONE) I wondered…

Why me?  Why Hannah?  Why now? Why not now?  

And the answer?

Because someday your 15-year-old daughter will want to go to Honduras with you (who knew when I felt called there in 2007!). Because someday your little girl will tap you on the shoulder and want to wash your feet.

Because My plan is always better and greater…and today I let you glimpse a little slice of heaven.

Because…

There’s more yet to come.  More life to live and more trials to traverse. More smiles to scatter and more tears to tumble.

And still… He is the great I am.  The Alpha and Omega.  The beginning and the end.  The one who is and who was and who is to come. (Revelation 1:8)  And I trust knowing that He is sovereign and He is good.  All the time. For me  and for you, friend.

12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked,“Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them. John 13: 12-17

Let’s trust in His sovereignty – even when we don’t see or understand.  And let’s wash feet today.  None is greater than any other. Let’s be examples to follow – full of grace, love, and humility toward all mankind.

Much love,

Reina and Her Umbrella {An Unexpected Encounter with Jesus}

Driving “home” today, my friend and I notice the sun setting over the mountains.  We are in (literally) the middle of nowhere Honduras on a road that could be mistaken for a path – at best.  When the road forks, she chooses the “wrong” way purposefully in hopes of photographing the beautiful mountains.

Nothing prepares me for what I see next.

Smoke.  Trash.  A dump.

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And a family.

We decide to turn around because (honestly) we are alone and not quite sure what to expect. As we turn, I look closely at the family and realize…it’s our family.  It’s the family we’ve spent almost two days with as we built their widowed mother a home.

It’s Ritzy – the little gal Hannah has hugged and fed and played with. It’s Maria.  And her sons.  And Reina.  Hannah has been to their home.  We’ve loved them – worshipped with them – served alongside them – shared a meal with them.

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We suddenly understand: It is not the “wrong” – but His way.

We pull up to the dump. They see us and come RUNNING.  Smiles. Jumping. Waving.  So excited!

We get out of the truck – met with hugs and holas and buenos dias.

My friend has sawdust on her pants; Ritzy bends down and begins to clean her pants (no, the irony is not lost on either of us that she’s in a dump and worried about the dirt on our pants).

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My friend begins to ask the mom, Maria, about the dump and how they make a living there. My Spanish is iffy at best, so I begin to share snacks and hugs and high fives with Ritzy and Reina.  They know I have a phone with a camera, so they motion for me to take their picture and let them see it.  (They LOVE looking at pictures of themselves and their family.)

I get my phone out and give it to Ritzy so she can scroll through the images.  Then, Reina asks me to take her photo with her  “sombrilla”- her umbrella.  I frame her in my phone screen and suck in tears and a sob.

Reina with her umbrella.  With the smoke from burning trash.  With trash at her feet.  With the beautiful mountain view.  It’s overwhelming.

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I take sweet Reina’s picture, and she wants to see it. Muy bonita! (Very pretty!) I tell her. She smiles, and I see contentment and joy that I may never understand.

My friend prays over them.  We hug each of them tightly and head toward the truck…

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And I know…Jesus turned us the “wrong” way.  He used His creation – His splendor – to draw us toward His people.  He wanted us to know this family more deeply.  To step outside our comfort zone and walk into their lives more fully.

He wanted us to see their smiles and pride as they showed us their “territory” – the part of the dump they’ve claimed as their own.  He wanted to tell  me…

Sarah, I do NOT live in a box.  Your ideas about what it takes to be joyful and content are NOT my ideas.  Your ideas about the “good life” are yours alone influenced by culture.  Your ideas about “good’ and “bad” aren’t necessarily mine either.  

Because here’s the truth, friends.  I wanted to pick all of them up, drive them out of that dump, find them a new home, and try to make to their lives better.  But, as I drove…I considered my definition of “better” – they were smiling and laughing and working.  They were together as a family.

Do I wish they didn’t have to live and work in a dump? Yes.  Are my ideas and my way of life better than theirs?  No.

They know joy that I do not know.  And they thank Jesus for each and every gift, depending on Him in ways I have never ever had to.  I am in awe of all I learned from them.

Thank you, Lord, for showing me yourself today.  In the most unexpected way.  In the least expected place.  May I never forget Reina – or her sweet umbrella posing proudly in the dump. And may I never forget, Lord, that You discern my and Reina’s going out and our lying down; You see Reina and me when we sit and when we rise; You are behind and before us, hemming us in; the darkness is as light to you – whether in a Honduran dump or in a house in West Virginia.  (Psalm 139)

Beyond grateful,