Archives for December 2015

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

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

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

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

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

But.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s different.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

2016 journals

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

God and I created this vision for 2016…

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

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

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

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

To be brave.

To go be love.

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

Wishing you a very Happy New Year!

A few other posts about journaling…

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

The Year after Divorce {As Viewed Through My Journals}

Sanctuary {A Place of Refuge and Safety}

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

Fitting.

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

A sanctuary is a place of refuge or safety.

Sanctuary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary

Pure and holy, tried and true.

With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living

Sanctuary for you.

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

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

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

 

Side note…

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

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

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

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

Much Love,

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

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

and then I turned 40 part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I know…

My life is an organized mess – at best.

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

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

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

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

I can’t keep living reactive.  In turmoil.

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

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

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

and then I turned 40

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some things I prayed for…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I could go on and on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come and see for yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

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