Day 3: To the woman with cheese sauce on her chin…

To the woman with cheese sauce on her chin…
As I sit in the booth chatting with a friend, I see you place your tray at the table next to ours and pass our table on your way to the drink machine. Your skirt and high heels say you’ve just come from work.
I continue conversing, paying little mind to those around me. Until … I glance over my friend’s right shoulder and catch sight of your face. White cheese sauce dribbled on your chin. A glob and three droplets.
And there’s no one to tell you. You’re sitting alone, eating alone.
I briefly consider letting you know. The restaurant is packed, and I have a feeling you’d be embarrassed. But you never make eye contact. Never look my way.
I finish my meal just as you finish. And it’s still there. You clean your table, visit the trash can, refill your drink, and walk out the door. Sigh.
I am sorry you have no one to say, “there’s cheese on your chin.” This might seem silly, but it made me sad, wondering if you eat alone day after day. And for all who are lonely. Loneliness isn’t a pleasant place.
Perhaps you choose to eat alone. I don’t know. But I do know God said “see her, Sarah. Really see her.” And perhaps that’s the greatest gift I/we can give another human today: See her, really see her. I pray we always see those in need, say a prayer, invite them in. That’s what I see Jesus doing … noticing and welcoming the stranger. The lonely. Over and over.
———————–
Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9
Day 3 of 31

Day 2: To the girl in the blue dress…

To the girl in the blue dress…
I passed by rather quickly, but not before I noticed you standing outside the funeral home in my small hometown. You gripped your purse and paper as if that were all you had.  Your puffy, red-rimmed eyes evidenced your love for the one to whom you were saying goodbye. People stood all around you, but you looked alone.
I didn’t stop – that may have been weird – but I’ve thought of you often. I know what it’s like to stand on that very sidewalk with one of my favorite people absent from the body inside. No words. No hugs. No reassurance. None of it can make this moment “better.”
But, I would say to you…you are still here. Whatever you miss most about the person laying inside, live that out. Love that in others. Spread that. Don’t let the one you love just go away. Keep her alive in you. Love as she loved. Give as she gave. Remember the best of her and keep doing that. And I’ll pray you feel peace and purpose in the days to come.
“That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. “You’ve heard me tell you, ‘I’m going away, and I’m coming back.’ John 14: 27-28
Day 2 of 31

Day 1: To the reader…

To the one who reads these words…
One of my greatest joys in life is writing.  The screen and me. And Jesus.  He always seems to be sitting on my shoulder, giving me words and checking my heart. I consider it an honor and privilege that you’d pause in the busyness of your life and read the words God penned through the keys on my little purple-cased Mac. And each time you comment or message, I read it carefully and lift your words back to Him. I don’t take lightly the minutes of your day devoted to these words. Your sacrifice of time is a burden felt deeply by me and carried lovingly by Him  – because he knows how very much I love to write and how very much I love Him and you, the reader.
Day 1 of 31
In the world of writing, there’s a challenge each October to write for 31 days. I’ve started many times and finished never. I get derailed a few days in and my perfectionist tendencies won’t allow me to continue once I miss a day. So, starting this crazy busy October with a pledge to write for 31 days is completely ludicrous in my world. But God. He said, “give them what I’ve given you; drop the need to do it perfectly.”
And a podcast conversation between Annie Downs and my friend Lisa Whittle sealed the deal for me a few days ago when Annie said, “I don’t ever want to be unkind to the version of myself that was doing the best she could.”
That girl who has dropped the 31-day writing ball every time? She was doing the best she could. That girl who beats herself up with each mistake and each misstep? Oh, she’s still hanging out here, waiting to rear her ugly head. But she’s also doing the best she can. You, dear reader? I believe you’re doing the best you can, too. And I pray you’re not unkind to the old you or now you. Life is hard.
So, friend, my heart for the next 31 days is to carry the words He’s given me to you – flaws, insecurities, brokenness, and all. And if I miss a day, (ahem! highly likely!), I ask for your grace. You may have even read some of these words before. If so, it’s because God said…share them again.
May the words He gives remind you that we are all more alike than we are different. We are all fellow travelers struggling through this life. Not one better. Not one less than. I look forward to our time together during October.

Rejoice in Our Suffering {What? How?}

I see and hear this idea in church circles. I’ve heard it from friends and stages.

It’s so simple they say…it’s right here in Romans: …we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. (5:3-4)

rejoice

I’ve seen this: Perseverance producing endurance and endurance producing character. We observe it in the lives of others often. We gain strength in suffering. {It’s a song even: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…yes, you’re welcome. You might hum this all day!}

Here’s my hang up: Rejoice in our sufferings.

I’ve never been able to say this to another human. Oh, you’re getting a divorce?  Rejoice! Cancer is back? Rejoice! You lost your job? Rejoice! You live without clean water or access to food? Rejoice!

No way.

Truly, how does one rejoice in sufferings?

I have assumed the super Christians know how. I’ve even heard them give this advice. Or, appear to live this way.

But, as so many around me grieve deeply for divorce and diagnosis, I look at the words rejoice in suffering and think…Lord, that could not mean “to feel or show that you are very happy” (dictionary definition). That just doesn’t sound like you.

So, I google “define rejoice in Greek.” {The New Testament, which is where I am reading in Romans, was first written in Greek} So, my hope is that rejoice meant something else in Bible times. That God doesn’t really expect us to go around “showing that we are happy” when life seems so very difficult.

(Patience needed here – it sounds a bit mumbo jumbo;)

Rejoice in Greek is xairo from the root xar-, meaning favorably disposed, leaning towards. It’s from the same original word or root as xaris meaning grace. Specifically, to delight in God’s grace. Literally, to experience God’s grace and be glad for His grace. And xairo, which means glad for grace, also comes from the same word as rejoice and grace. **

Doesn’t this make more sense? God doesn’t expect us to walk around faking happy. He isn’t asking for our response to “how are you?” to be “oh, just rejoicing over here even though I am devastated.” Perhaps He’s saying…

Follower, in the face of suffering – rejoice! Lean towards grace. Be glad for my grace. Delight in my grace.

During this season of suffering, I pray you experience His grace and you’re glad for it. Lean in to His grace. For when you do, suffering produces endurance. Endurance produces character. And character produces hope. And we can all use more hope.

How are you “rejoicing” today?

**Thanks to Bible Hub for this information. Disclaimer: I am not a Greek scholar; I simply love words and etymology (word origins).

Divorce {I Am Just Sad/Mad Today}

I see the all-too-familiar message pop up on Facebook messenger. At first, I don’t look, but I can see the preview on my home screen: “I know it’s been awhile since we talked. I hope you are well. I see you and your kids on Facebook and have a favor to ask of you. I have a friend that has just divorced her husband…”

It’s right above…”Hey there Sarah!  I have a lady that I met with a few weeks ago…she has just filed for divorce and needs some support.”

I don’t open the previewed message because I’m at the pool, and I can’t open these messages in public.  Each time I read one, my heart aches and my spirit screams NO NO NO.  And while I am honored to be asked and trusted with another’s heart…I never dreamed of one day being the gal who was known for walking people through divorce. NO ONE wants to be that girl.

Yet, this who I am and where I am.  One who knows the moment when you realize…we aren’t going to make it this time. And my 10,000 prayers to God about saving this marriage evidently fell in the “nope” category. I can’t even begin to describe the level of rejection. The devastation. And it doesn’t matter whose “fault” it is – because after a few years you realize that the fault might not be evenly distributed but you both are culpable – the realization that the commitment to God and one another is being terminated in a sterile courtroom is gut wrenching.

The roles, the labels, the identities – all of it seems erased with one pound of the gavel and two scribbled signatures.

Yesterday at 10:00 am I muster the courage to open the latest plea on behalf of a well-loved friend.

And I begin to pray. For her. For me. For the friend. For my role – if any. God, how can I take what you’ve taught me and love this woman well? And if I can’t for reasons I can’t see, then nudge my no.

Through a series of events, I end up calling a friend who is also a pastor. As we talk, he says….in the past two weeks, I’ve had seven calls about infidelity and/or divorce.

SEVEN.  IN TWO WEEKS.  IN THE CHURCH.

As the pastor-friend and I talk, another friend texts, have you seen Lysa’s blog? This is an odd text. So, I open the link and glance down to read a few lines of an all-too-familiar story…

Infidelity. Divorce.

I want to scream. And cry.  Even as I type these words, tears bounce on my keyboard. I am SO MAD!

How can this happen to Lysa? I KNOW she loves Jesus. I’ve been in her presence many times. How can this happen to the sweet lady at Panera who teared up as she told me how she fears being buried all alone? How can this happen to the amazing momma and grandma who wanted so badly to be married? How can this happen to a humble and gentle spirited friend who is the most faithful woman I know?

How can this happen to me? How can this happen to you?

I don’t have any answers to how or why (except Satan). We can make a list of your transgressions and mine. We can make a list of our spouse’s sins too. We can trace childhoods gone wrong, addictions taking hold, and decisions made poorly.

All day long we can call ourselves victims (and some most certainly are).

All of these things are important. All of them help us to understand, heal, and move on.

And I am in favor of more marriage courses and retreats. I don’t want to see one more couple severed. One more family sharing weekends and every other Thursday.

divorce

But at the end of the day…Jesus.

For those who are still married, I’ve been to marriage courses and counseling. I forgave and God restored (for a season). And after collecting tons of marriage data and how-to (all good info), I know one thing: more Jesus wins every time. I know that sounds so very easy coming from my lips and so very hard for your heart, hands, and feet. I get it. Oh, how I know. But, please. Please. Please. Seek Him together. Jesus is the  “happy” in your ever after. And while there are no guarantees, you can never go wrong with more of Him.

For those who are divorced, I know you feel lost in the church. It’s awkward, huh? My pastor friend said yesterday…sometimes weekly church attendance becomes more painful than helpful. Do you know about that? Find a church that loves you well and loves others well – even if the divorcees are the elephant in the room (not a ‘true’ single, but not married). And when the pastor starts talking marriage, don’t leave or recoil, pray. You don’t want another human sitting in your shoes, right?

Crumbling marriages have existed since antiquity. I know this is NOTHING NEW under the sun. But it feels new. It feels like it’s everywhere.

And I wish I had a good word for you. A solution. A call to action. Anything. I can’t tell you how much I want to organize a march or a nonprofit or whatever to stop this madness – a place where you and I can be mutually encouraged by one another’s faith (Romans 1:12)  And who knows…I might:)

But for today, I can offer you, Jesus. In the midst of this heartbreaking news. In the midst of the division of property and custody. In the midst of the loneliness and heartache. In the uncertainty and the suffering. In the rebuilding and the reliving…

He will never leave you nor forsake you – even if it feels like He has. Trust Him. He hasn’t. (Deuteronomy 31: 6-8; Hebrews 13:5)

Circumstances change with the wind, but Jesus was, and is, and is to come. (Revelation 1:8)

Trust Him. Send me the Facebook message. We can and will walk this out together, friend, for HE IS FAITHFUL. You are not “too much” or “too much drama.” You are hurting and flailing. Together, we will cast our cares on Him every moment of every day because we know: He loves us.

 

A Grace Place {Welcome Weariness, Worry, Wavering, and Wonder}

I’ve been absent from this space for a few months.

I could give you reason after reason…I’m busy; I’m redefining my purpose; I’m redesigning this space; the experts tell me I need a niche, and I don’t have one; I don’t want to add to the noise that is “the Internet.” So many (all true) reasons.

But, when I dig deeper, I know these aren’t the REAL reasons.

The truth is…

Words won’t come.

In the past, I’ve been in Walmart, and the idea for a post comes from nowhere, pouring through my fingers as quickly as they’ll move.

Or at the park. Or at school. Or driving in the car. The Spirit said write, and I wrote.

So, I wonder why the words disappeared. Why I don’t feel His nudges. It’s like losing a piece of my person when I am not writing.

Have you ever felt that? You know God is “out there,” but He doesn’t feel personal to you? Perhaps you’ve just found Jesus, and you’re looking around at other followers thinking…Am I supposed to feel that? Be like that? Or maybe you’re like me. You’ve followed him for years, known His presence. And now you feel he’s distant, quiet.

It’s scary, huh? We know he will never leave us or forsake us. We know we are loved.

Right?

But, the doubt creeps in. We look at our lives and begin to think…I am not good enough. Why would He use a sinner like me to share His heart? He’s gone quiet because I am not who He thinks I should be. On bended knee, we ask Him if this is true.  Have the words gone because I am no longer worthy of them? And if I’m not, why? What is “the thing” that’s keeping us distant, Lord?

Or perhaps I’ve gotten too caught up in all the rules and regulations of writing. When you’re in writing groups and when you’re taking writing courses, the weight of the world rests on your words (or so it seems). Platforms and word counts and book ideas swirl from the writer/blogging Facebook groups as I look on thinking…I just want to write words that encourage the hearts of those who visit my space. I just want to take the gift of writing and serve others with words and prayers.

I am not looking for a “grand” platform, but a grace place.  A space on the web that accepts and welcomes readers and conversations. A safe place to share and pray. A place where there’s no outsider; no one too sinful (aren’t we all?) or too “far gone.” A URL filled with grace and truth.  A place where doubt is welcome and acceptance apparent.

GRACE PLACE

As Paul said when writing to the church in Rome:

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. (ESV)

For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord. When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. (NLT)

I so want to be there to deliver God’s gift in person and watch you grow stronger right before my eyes! But don’t think I’m not expecting to get something out of this, too! You have as much to give me as I do to you. (MSG)

That’s how I feel. I may never know you in person, but I want to love and serve you well, reader, friend. And I want to learn from you too!

And if you’re not a Jesus follower, I hope you’ll stick around and read. We have much to learn from you too.

I welcome your weariness, worry, wavering, and wonder.

And I pray that the words are back. I’ve missed them.

 

To the Single Mom {Today and Everyday}

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.

 

Lent 2017 {Preparing for Easter}

I’ve missed writing.

But, life in the new year began on a dead run  – and stayed that way.

Now, it’s time to slow down…

And although I don’t need a reason or excuse to hop off the busy bandwagon and into a slow, small space, I have one: Lent.

lent 2017

While my church doesn’t formally observe this season, I still do. And you can too. (Beginning tomorrow!)

It’s a time to take away; to fast. To humbly, quietly, and intentionally look toward the cross. To recenter and refocus. To sit in the stillness and ponder his promises.

It’s beautiful – like a long, deep breath then a restful, slow exhale.

So, for the next 40 days, I have chosen a “fast,” a book, an app, and an Audible book. Here’s a few resources if you’re interested in observing this season.

My book: Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey of Refinement by Kris Camealy Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 7.33.19 PM

What if for Lent this year, you gave up something other than chocolate or TV.? What if the thing God wants us to give up costs more than what we think we can bear? Writing as a friend and encourager, Kris offers hope and encouragement for the journey of moving from broken in sin (Holey) to learning to surrender (Wholly) to claiming the gift of grace through Christ (Holy).

My app: You are Mine: A Lenten Study of Isaiah by She Reads Truth (I paid $2.99 for the app, but you can also receive free emails.)

It is impossible to overstate our need for a Savior. During this Lent study, we will read the book of Isaiah, the Old Testament prophet who, more than any other, describes the coming of Christ in great detail. During the final week of Lent, we will read passages from the Gospels that correspond to the events of Holy Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 7.40.14 PMWeek, the final days of Christ’s journey to the cross. Isaiah’s message of repentance and restoration illustrates the salvation we so desperately need, and the Holy Week scriptures turn our eyes to the salvation already given us in the completed work of Christ. Join us as we observe Lent together.

My Audible book (for the car and mornings): From the Grave by A.W. Tozer

From the Grave, a 40-day Lent devotional, reflects on this critical spiritual dynamic. It features A. W. Tozer’s best insights on faith, repentance, suffering, and redemption. Gleaned from transcribed sermons, editorials, and published books, each moving reflection has been carefully selected for the season of Lent. It addresses themes like: Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. Mortification of the flesh. Self-denial and cross-bearing. New life in Christ. Christian obedience and resurrection hope. Each day features a brief portion of Scripture for Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 7.39.27 PMmeditation followed by a reflection from Tozer. Together the entries take you on a journey from the garden to the grave to light of day—the “pain-wracked path” to life.

Some other options I love…

Preparing for Easter by C.S. Lewis

Preparing for Easter is a concise, handy companion for the faithful of all Christian traditions and the curious to help them deepen their knowledge and consideration of this holy season—a time of reflection as we consider Jesus’s sacrifice and his joyous rise from the dead. Carefully curated, each selection in Preparing for Easter draws on a major theme in Lewis’s writings on the Christian life, as well as others that consider why we can have confident faith in what Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 7.46.09 PMhappened on the cross.

A Way Other Than Our Own: Devotions for Lent by Walter Brueggemann

Lent recalls times of wilderness and wandering, from newly freed Hebrew slaves in exile to Jesus temptation in the desert. God has always called people out of their safe, walled cities into uncomfortable places, revealing paths they would never have chosen. Despite our culture of self-indulgence, we too are called to walk an alternative path one of humility, justice, and peace. Walter Brueggemann s thought-provoking reflections for the season of Lent invite us to consider the challenging, beautiful life that comes with walking the way of grace.

Eastertide: Prayers for Lent Through Easter from the Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle

“A wise rabbi once told me that it is not how many prayers we don’t say that matters to God, but rather how many we do. That is important to all of us, but especially for beginners. If this is your first attempt to return to this most ancient of Christian practices, it is wise to remember that you are entering into a discipline and, like all disciplines, this one sits hard Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 7.43.53 PMand heavy upon one at times. There are hours you will miss and/or some that you can’t even begin to figure out how to observe. That is all right, for either the joy will carry you into greater joy and transmute the discipline into privilege, or you will find yourself simply the wiser and the richer for such experience as you have had. As the rabbi said, that is what matters ultimately.” In her acclaimed trilogy, The Divine Hours, Phyllis Tickle introduced modern Christians to the time-honored practice of “praying the hours.” In this exquisite new volume, she provides a vibrant program of prayer dedicated to the anticipation of Christ’s resurrection.

I hope you’ll set aside the next 40 days to praise and ponder; wander and wonder; live and love; share and sacrifice; fast and forgive.  And I’d love to know how you’re choosing to observe Lent! Please share in the comments.

I plan to share some quotes and verses throughout my Lenten journey on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. If you have a great quote or verse, please share it. I’d love to pass it on too!

Leaving a Legacy {Remembering My Dad}

January 10.

The day I said goodbye to my dad for the last time, holding his hand, whispering “it’s ok, Dad, go on home.”

The day my Hannah will link arms with her team and dance during halftime of the #9 West Virginia University  vs. #1 Baylor basketball game. And as I spend this day remembering dad and traveling with Hannah, I am reminded that legacy – that which comes after us and from us –  isn’t about money. Or awards. Or grand scale, world-changing words.

Legacy is about how you live each day in your home, at your workplace, in your corner of the world.

Legacy is about the moments.

My Dad’s legacy…a legacy of moments.

My dad with his sisters and mom

My dad with his sisters and mom

My mom and dad

My mom and dad

My dad in 1956

My dad in 1956

Screen shot 2011-09-18 at 10.54.09 PM

Miss Mountaineer and Mountaineer Parents of the Year

Screen shot 2012-01-09 at 11.12.05 PMCamping, swimming, twirling. Disciplining, loving, providing. Stitching us up. Taking others in. Day in. Day out. And now that he’s gone? His two daughters have two daughters and a son. None are famous or non profit founders. No gold medals. No accolades or awards to wow the masses.

But one is performing this evening in a place dad loved – for his favorite team.  I can see him sitting in the stands, popcorn and Pepsi in hand, watching his legacy, his granddaughter. I can see him cheering on the Mountaineers (while yelling at the referees!)

While he won’t be there, three parts of his legacy will be. And wherever we go, we are his daughters, his grandchildren.  We want to represent dad well…isn’t that the best way to honor his memory? To carry on his name? By living and loving well?

Out of love for Dad, for Poppy, we want to be people who love, who give. Just like him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And being those who love doesn’t happen in front of audiences. It rarely happens in the big or on Facebook. Love happens in the small. In the living rooms. On car rides. Beside hospital beds. In classroom and in cubicles.

So, today, friends, in honor of my Daddy – and our Father in Heaven-  I pray you love those who live under your roof and serve alongside you each day – even the unlovable ones. I pray you care for the widow and the orphan. I pray you cheer on your daughters and converse with your sons. I pray you desire to leave a REAL legacy of love…a legacy of moments.

And if you’re mourning alongside me today, I pray you see how your life carries your lost loved ones on…carry them well.

————————————————————-

As I wrote this post, I hummed this song. It’s my anthem; my prayer today. To be a child of mercy and grace who blessed your name unapologetically...Just want to hear, well done, good and faithful one.

Legacy by Nicole Nordemon

I don’t mind if you’ve got something nice to say about me

And I enjoy an accolade like the rest

And you can take my picture and hang it in a gallery

Of all the Who’s Who’s and So-and-So’s

That used to be the best at such-and-such

It wouldn’t matter much

I won’t lie, it feels all right to see your name in lights

We all need an “atta-boy” or “atta-girl”

But in the end I’d like to hang my hat on more besides

The temporary trappings of this world

I want to leave a legacy

How will they remember me?

Did I choose to love?

Did I point to You enough

To make a mark on things

I want to leave an offering

A child of mercy and grace

Who blessed Your name unapologetically

And leave that kind of legacy

I don’t have to look too far or too long a while

To make a lengthy list of all that I enjoy

It’s an accumulating trinket and a treasure pile

Where moth and rust, thieves and such

Will soon enough destroy…

Not well-traveled, not well-read

Not well-to-do or well-bred

Just want to hear instead

Well done, good and faithful one

Live Given {2017 One Word} {A Giveaway!}

When the new year approaches, most of us can’t help ourselves: we reflect on what has been and look forward to what might be. Me included. I love setting up my planner and writing in a new journal. 

But, this year’s been different. Little did I know, God began moving me toward the new year in August…

I am driving as my friend checks her email…

“I’ve not been reading Ann Voskamp’s blog lately, but listen to the one I just opened,” she says.

The summer I turned 40 — I felt a whole new kind of broken. Turns out what can happen when you’re halfway through your life, you wonder if you’ve found a truly meaningful way through your life?

What can happen is you would give nearly everything for more time just to get more right, less wrong. You can change — change into someone who’s begun embracing a love so large it broke her heart all over again in a thousand aching places, a woman who surprises you by longing to meet the world’s suffering with her own, because she knows that wounds can heal wounds.  

You can find out your heart is exploding and love and suffering are kin in ways we may not want to admit.

Honestly, what happened is — I didn’t quite know the way to put all these broken pieces back into place. And maybe that was the point?

Maybe — maybe instead of trying to put all the broken pieces of your life together again — maybe there’s deeper peace in reaching out to give those broken pieces away?

That’s what I had done. Instead of trying to put the pieces of my brokenness back together again, I began to give the pieces of my broken heart away though I didn’t know how, and I didn’t often want to even—didn’t even know what it truly meant. And I got it all wrong—in countless ways.

As I sat in the summer of age 40, these were my questions too. I’d like more time to get less wrong and more right. I mourn the relationships left in shambles. And in the midst of this, I find myself feeling just Ann described: completely broken for this world, longing to meet the world’s suffering with my own.

I wouldn’t read Ann’s book until October, but these words lingered…the question she asks became the one I ask:

What do you do with this one broken heart? This one broken life?

Because I did NOT want another program, diet plan, or Bible study. Not another self-help, how-to-get-better book. Instead of feeling anxious about what to do or follow next, I wanted peace…Jesus.

It sounds so simple. If I were reading this, I might say, “Oh goodness, the Jesus card.” {Eye roll.}

But, what God began in my heart with an August blog post, He continued in so many ways. A retreat in August when God spoke Isaiah 58 to me. When He showed me that silence and Sabbath are gifts. A prayer time in Honduras when a missionary humbly shared the futility of striving and list making and worrying. Want more Jesus, she said. Just follow after Him; He takes care of the rest.

And then the book from the blog post arrives on my doorstep in early October: The Broken Way. Page after page – highlighted, underlined, noted, and cross referenced with His word. A message resonating so deeply in my heart that I can barely speak of it…

For God so loves that He gave…Is there any word more power than giving? Thanksgiving. Forgiving. Care-giving. Life-giving. Everything that matters in living comes down to giving. (p. 67)

Our loves are formed by our daily habits. Our loves are formed by our daily liturgies. We are made into what we make habits…The self is ultimately never really sacrificed in giving, but our real self is ultimately found. In the sacrificial giving of ourselves, we give ourselves back our real selves, the self we were made to be – blessed to bless, given to givenness, loved to love…

Jesus said, ‘Whoever loses their life for me will find it.”

Jesus risked himself on me. How can I not risk my life on you? You may not love me back. You may humble me, humiliate me, reject me, shatter my heart, and drive the shards into my soul – but this is not the part that matters…What matters most is not if our love makes other people change, but that in loving, we change. What matters is that in the sacrificing to love someone, we become more like Someone…

I am what I love and I will love like Jesus, because of Jesus, through the strength of Jesus. I will love when I’m not loved back. I will love when I’m hurt and disappointed and betrayed and inconvenienced and rejected. I simply will love, no expectations, no conditions, no demands. Love is not always agreement with someone, but it always sacrifice for someone…

Love defies logic and keeps on loving when it makes no sense because that is that love does.

Giving away the heart – heals the heart. (pgs. 118-120)

As I read these words, chapter after chapter, one phrase becomes God’s answer to every prayer I pray: Live Given.

Losing weight, saving money, reconciling relationships, extending forgiveness, embracing silence and Sabbath, serving His people…the answer to each prayer? Live Given.

Give away the extra food and money saved. Give away gifts and money each month for His glory. Give away your comfort; be inconvenienced; placed others before self; give away time on self for time with Me. Give away your abilities and talents and time to serve others.

Live a life given away for Me.

So, I wrote my kiddos a Christmas poem and a letter. From Haiti to Honduras to Cambodia to Syria; to our church and community; to one another –  it’s our year to Live Given.

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And when I doubt and think, “what do I have to give? As a single mom with a tight budget and busy schedule, what can I “afford” to give away? How will this work?”

God sends a reminder through my pastor’s wife through one verse: The Lord is my shepherd; I lack nothing. Psalm 23:1

Sarah, you lack nothing. In me, you already have the abundance necessary to live given.

So, I want to begin 2017 with giving! Thanks to Blog About, I have a copy of The Broken Way and The Broken Way Bible study and DVD to give away! You can enter by commenting on this blog, commenting on the Facebook post, or sharing this post on Facebook. I’d love to hear your “theme” or “one word” for 2017!

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Happy New Year!


Thanks to Stephanie Alton from Blog About and Tara Brown from Givingtons for coordinating the purchase of 144 The Broken Way books for missionaries living and serving in Honduras. Without you, we would have never been able to deliver those books in time.