Everything is Important.”

— Walter Tirey Jr.

"I write because there are some stories
it would be a crime not to tell."

Sign Up Now For "Thursday Thoughts"

A powerful and inspiring weekly blog post directly
to your email, simplified for your convenience.

 Must be 500-1000 words in length.

Must be 500-1000 words in length.

Music and All the Things She Loves 

For Amber

 

My eyes caught a glimpse of her in the doorway and it took my heart a moment to register her presence in that place. Kind of like that moment when someone you’ve waited a long time to see finally walks down the terminal of the airport balancing the heaviness of their carry-on bag and a sweater, their face revealing the exhaustion of a long journey and a cramped flight. You don’t care what baggage they've brought with them. You are just so glad at the sight of them.  

The last time I saw her was in the free world. The one where she was not a ward of the state. The one where she wore a white hoodie instead of a blue button-up shirt made of polyester. Where we sat at the coffee house and talked about her dreams for the future over lattes and sandwiches.  

But she wasn’t free even then. A car accident and a prescription that turned into a habit led her into a vicious cycle of relapses, each failure driving her deeper into shame and self-loathing. Each time confirming the lie her past told her, that she was unworthy of love. That she would possibly never amount to anything more than addiction and the shallow places it had taken her.  
  
I tried to help in every way I knew how, talking her away from the ledge more times than I could count. Praying with her and for her. Rising before the sun to drive with her to rehab facilities she would later check out of. And then I realized that she had to want it for herself more than I wanted it for her. That my wanting it for her would never be enough. That even God would not override her will. So I did the difficult thing and tied my own hands, releasing her to the path of her own choosing. 

And I assure you that when she went down that path, she did not go alone. She took God's whole heart and a piece of mine too. The part that you give away when you walk with someone through tears and the hardest of times. When you see the best and choose to believe for more in spite of statistics and against all the odds. When you are street smart but are careful not to become jaded. 

I thought about her many times since that last time I saw her.  

So when my eyes fell on her in the doorway of that chapel, when she signed up for the program my husband and I lead inside the prison she was now confined in, her presence was a startling and welcomed sight. A flight bringing someone back home after they’ve been gone a long time. 

She sank next to me in the chair to my left and silence hung in the air for a moment before I broke it. 

“I am so glad you’re still here, in this life,” I told her, both of us with tears clouding our vision. 

Even if in the confines of a state prison. At least she had another chance at a life fully lived. At sobriety and being the mom she never had and running marathons and music and all the things she loves most. 

She was a welcomed sight to this heart very prone to compassion fatigue and burnout. An unwanted side effect of walking with people in the trenches of healing and through layers of pain and unwanted behavior. A good reason why rest and self-care and seeking the Father to realign my fickle heart is necessary and a critical part of continuing on this walk. 

  

I promise you that no one wakes up one day and decides "I think I'm going to ruin my life." At least not consciously. I know sometimes it seems the contrary. I know the race is long and the temptation is to give up. I know that sometimes the healthy boundary is to walk away. To tie your own hands. To release into the unknown what you never had control over anyway. 

But if and when a person returns, may our heart be one that embraces like the Father. May it get weepy and joyful and tearful at the sight of their return. "I'm so glad you're still here, in this life." In my life. I believe in you, even if it's the second, third, or fifteenth time.  

As long as there is breath, there is hope for change. And hope is a force to be reckoned with.

On Slow Walks and Being Out of Place 

 

I walked everywhere I went during my incarceration experience. Even after rolling off my top bunk and fracturing my ankle in the middle of the night, my walk becoming a limp for the longest time. We looked like a colony of ants wearing shades of blue on that compound of two-thousand women. And not a pretty shade of blue either. Not like cobalt or ocean or turquoise. Although, perhaps no shade would’ve been pretty in the fashion of a state uniform. I even walked to the infirmary once during a snowstorm for a pap smear. Miserable, and yet still a first world problem, but I retrieve that now from my memory bank when I am tempted to complain about cold temperatures. Or pap smears.  

My body acclimated during that time and I learned to adapt to being outdoors often in all of Ohio’s unpredictable weather. In the sweltering heat warnings of summer, I would long for air conditioning and relief, realizing how much I had taken for granted. In the crispness of Fall, I would dream about scented candles and my favorite sweaters and carved pumpkins for the porch and home. And once during Spring, when the sun began to show itself again and hope returned, I was on one of those everyday walks when I noticed something amongst a heaping pile of rubble.  

It was inside of a fenced demolition site. A former building that used to house women, now condemned and torn to the ground. A pile of rocks and debris and memories of what used to be, symbolic in the way of my own life and the lives of the women inside those razor-wired fences. 

It stood there between the rocks, and I couldn’t help but do a double take. The way one does when you spot something on your everyday route. Like a new billboard or a new park bench that wasn’t there before. I couldn’t help but linger for a moment, even though I wasn’t supposed to linger “out of place.” Ironic, because this wasn’t home and I always felt out of place. It was a dainty little thing, budding and pushing its way up into the light and into life. A small white flower with a yellow center growing right there in the middle of all that had been demolished. I am not a gardener so I couldn’t tell you what lovely type it was. Maybe it was even one of those weeds that grow wild and pretty. But regardless, I couldn’t help but do a double take and admire its beauty. 

I could go in many different directions with what I want to say next. I could tell you that there is so much good that is still present even in the most challenging seasons of life, and that would be true. 

I could tell you that endless beauty can come out of the most devastating and heartbreaking things you will go through in life, and that too would be true.  

I could repeat the saying “bloom where you are planted,” because you should. I knew a girl there who taught herself Spanish and French while incarcerated. Fluently. You should bloom. 

But this is what seems most pressing at this moment. It’s a Mexican proverb I heard once, and it goes like this: 

“They tried to bury us. But they didn’t realize we were seeds.” 

That’s why I couldn’t take my eyes off that little wispy flower blooming right there in the middle of all that rubble. Because I felt that I had been buried in my own life. Like the Sarah I used to know was gone, along with any hope for the future. 

 

Little seedling, there are things you will go through in life that will try to bury you. Sometimes just because life happens and life is hard. And sometimes, because of the mess you have made. One shovel full of dirt at a time, until eventually, it will seem and feel like it is over. Curtain call. Bad ending. Like nothing could come out of this wasteland of a situation. Like all hope for the future is lost. But I urge you to slow your walk and look again.  

Remember that just because you feel buried doesn’t mean it’s over for you. If you have breath and a pulse, it is not. You, my dear, are a seed. Keep pressing on. Learn a new language. Dare to believe that God has good things ahead for you. Don’t you dare not bloom.

The Real Version of You 

 

I received a text from a friend the other night. “Thinking of you. Hope your day went well.”  

I sighed deeply at the memory of the day. At the way my feet waded through it like sandbags were tied to them. Each movement was feeling heavier than usual. The truth was that life felt incredibly hard at that moment. The kind of hard that feels like a dark night of the soul, lingering after the rise of the sun. When there are more questions than there are answers. Where there is no clearly marked direction of which path to take or what is next. No easy solutions. No quick relief. No exit plan. Leaving room for the wandering of the imagination into dark crevices with cobwebs and worst case scenarios. 

When I was a little girl, I used to have a red vintage suitcase that I loved. When I was upset (probably because I wasn’t getting my way), I would drag out my suitcase and pretend to pack as if I were going to leave home. My destination plan was actually to nowhere, other than to wallow in my feelings that felt much larger than my small self.  

And sometimes that little girl resurfaces. Sometimes her tendency is to run back to the closet and drag out the small red suitcase that is no longer there and avoid that which feels overwhelming. Parenthood. Finances. Leadership. Relationships. Responsibility. Life

 

  1980's vintage 

Like the coffee mug that says “I can’t even.” Or the t-shirt that says “I can’t adult today.” 

I could easily rock both on some days and yet, don’t own either. Raise your hand if you've been there before. If there were full disclosure and we were all together, you'd see a room full of hands in the air.  

So I responded to my friend's text by vomiting the truth all over her. 

The truth came out much like watching my husband heave into the bathtub earlier that morning. Yes…the bathtub, unfortunately, because sometimes that’s as far as you make it after an all-night venture with suspected food poisoning. I stood behind him reminding myself that I was once a nurse, although that version of me didn’t handle such scenarios well either. I. Can. Do. This. I straightened my spine, held my breath and offered a cold rag, a soft tone, and a brave face.  

And that’s what my friend also did. After I apologized for vomiting on her and told her that I know she didn’t want “all that" at nine p.m. on a Tuesday night when she has her own life stuff she’s dealing with.  

Because the lie we believe is that people only want the best version of us, when in fact, they want and even dare say “need” both versions. The one that has struggled with some stuff and can impart wisdom and strength and the one who is desperately in need of it.  

We answer that we are doing “good” or “fine” or “okay” because we think the person asking couldn’t possibly want the messy version of us. The unfine version. The person who doesn't have it all figured out. The person who doesn't have a good day every day.   

We fear to be too much when our too much is actually the thing that makes us relatable to others. It's how the world you interact with connects to you. It's how our children learn to manage conflict and what gives them permission not to be perfect. It's what makes us a safe space for our friends to struggle and not hide behind a mask. It's what gives you the mark of being human, not superhuman, not exempt from the hard stuff we all face.  

Be brave enough to admit it. You aren't meant to carry it alone. Someone out there needs the real version of you, not who you long to be or think you need to be. 

 

A Question Worth Asking 

 

I published my first blog in November of 2016. I remember the anxious feeling of letting my heart speak through my words and hitting that green button on the screen that would launch my words into the world of potential readers and social media. I heard someone say once that when you put something on the internet, there is no getting it back. Even if deleted, it’s out there forever traceable by someone somewhere who knows how to access it. Great, I thought. No pressure. But also a good bit of wisdom in being mindful of what to disclose. I had to overcome the fear of not knowing who would possibly be reading my content and had to release the care of how I might be perceived by others. Yikes. I assure you that it’s an ongoing process and some words get typed and then deleted. 

Vulnerability is a scary thing, but it does get easier over time and with practice. We like to present the best version of ourselves. Which is why our vacations and achievements and our post-salon visits fill our news feed. Not our worst day. Not the bed head and mismatched pajamas or the notice of an in-school suspension or the pet urine on the carpet. We present the socially acceptable version of ourselves that makes us look as though we at least half have it together. Whatever that means. 

We fear being rejected. And rightfully so. Some of us have experienced conditional love through parental fractures and people who should have stayed but left and by broken marriages with vows that should have said: "I love you until." Some of us have been ghosted in friendships or conditionally loved and rejected by a church, the one place that should be a haven of safety and enough grace and room for error. 

I was recently confronted with a new level of vulnerability through a video of my story. I wish I could tell you that I braved it courageously and without fear of public opinion. Not the case, and also not something you would know without me disclosing it to you. When I first saw the video, I cringed. I couldn’t even finish watching it. I was overly critical of myself. Like hearing yourself on voicemail and thinking, is that really how I sound? Nasally and pre-puberty. Come on. You know you’ve thought that about yourself before. I critiqued my hair. Why in the world would I wear it like that when I knew I was being filmed? But it was raining, and the messy bun seemed like the best option at the time. Why did I wear that outfit? Why did I say this or not say that? I could go on. 

I am sad to say I wrestled with it for several days before reaching out to two friends that I knew would speak truth to me because you know, one is just never really enough. (insert eye rolling) 

Their response was a unison of encouragement that I needed. “I’m honestly just not seeing what you’re seeing. I think it’s great. You should put it out there.” 

Also followed by a hard truth: “and you should take this time to pray and ask yourself and ask God why it matters so much what other people think.” 

Oh. Ouch. Why does it matter so much what other people think? 

 

Here is what I’ve learned after pressing through and being confronted with my own fears and insecurity.  Somewhere deeper than heart level is a core belief that maybe I am not worthy. Not accepted. Not unconditionally loved. Not enough. That perhaps someone else’s opinion determines these things.  

I have been loved well by many throughout my life and in my present life. And yet I have found that it’s not something that human love can settle in this heart of mine. 

Only God can settle that. I have also found that I am not alone in my struggle. That most people wrestle with the concept of being unconditionally loved by the Father. But the more I lean into that truth and lay all my brokenness before Him, allowing myself to be loved even still, the more I am able to face vulnerability. The more I am able to present myself authentically and not cover the areas I struggle with. The more I am able to be more human and more relatable and dare I say even more likable because other people can see themselves in my story. 

As I once heard a writing mentor say, “once you make peace with your story, it no longer matters what other people think.” Aha. Yes indeed. 

What is it that keeps you from being honest with where you are on your journey? It’s an important question for reflection. It’s worth learning the answer to. 
 

 

There Is Something I Need to Tell You 

 

I have a great poker face. And no, not learned through playing poker. I would lose my hand for sure. I don't know when I developed the ability, a gift from God, as a friend of mine labeled it. Maybe. Or maybe a side effect of incarceration and working with those in the prison system (where you hear it all and see it all and just when you think you can’t be shocked anymore, surprise again). I also worked for years as a nurse and in the field of social work, where tough conversations often take place. Where the most intimate thing you could disclose to a person often gets revealed. You learn over time not to let your face and your feelings communicate. 

So when she made her way sheepishly to the front of the room to talk to me and prefaced the conversation with “There is something I need to tell you,” my posture shifted just slightly with a silent reminder to prepare myself. She was about to disclose her “worst thing.” That moment from her past that she can’t leave there. The one she relives and replays like lyrics you’re sick of hearing, but can’t get out of your head. The part that causes her shoulders to slump and her eyes to hold sorrow that is visible even when she smiles. 

She needed to say it out loud and let it hang in the air between us. I could see the hint of fear in her eyes, and if the room had been a little more silent, I would have heard the racing beat of her heart. She thought she needed to tell me her worst thing. 

And the realization of what she really needed made my own eyes well with tears. It was the question behind the question. Not really about that terrible moment from her past. Deeper rooted. Carried from her childhood. Longing to be answered. 

Do you accept me? Am I still worthy of love? 

We live in a society of selective mercy. We subconsciously decide in our minds who is worthy of compassion and who is just a tad too far beyond it. And it’s a dangerous thing to decide something that is not ours to judge. 

I began to pray years ago that God would help me love people the way that He does and to break my heart for the things that break His. I will never perfect it in this lifetime. Not even close. There are times I wrestle with forgiveness. There are times I experience compassion fatigue. There are times I want to return evil for evil. Or to spew some venomous response when one is doled out to me or someone else. 

But I answered her question anyway. I responded from a place deep within that has already made up my mind that I don’t get a vote. A place that has firmly decided that it’s not my determination to make. There is no debating. No wondering. No dialing up a friend to consult. No tallying the wrongs to see if someone has crossed the line too far. 

It’s a place that God has answered in my own heart. When I fell too far from grace, or so I thought. When I had run too far from home, too far from warnings that I ignored, too far from the advice of my parents. I used to dislike the story of the prodigal son until I became the prodigal. Until I squandered the blessings I had been given and made a terrible mess of things. 

 

You see, that’s the thing I’ve learned. People often judge others with the same measure they use on themselves. Harshly and with little mercy. They perceive God’s posture towards them as one that is ashamed of their mistakes or their very existence, with His arms folded and His back turned. And nothing could be further from the truth. He is more like that parent that paces the floor waiting for the phone to ring. He leaves the porch light on and the door unlocked. He never ever even thinks of giving up on your return to the realization that you are loved and worthy and nothing could change that. Like the time I saw a photo of my son on social media and I could see his seeking of affirmation. The longing for everything he already is. Deeply loved and worthy.  And there is nothing he could do, or say, or think that will ever make me love him any less. 

So I looked her square in the eye and answered the question she was really asking. 

"There is nothing you could ever tell me that would make me love you any less." 

And contrary to what society thinks or what we've been taught to believe, that is how God feels about us all. Even that person who seems the least deserving of mercy.

A Letter To Yourself 

When we think about love (as one often does on a day like today when your social media feed is blown up with reminders), our mind usually goes directly to Eros love, the romantic type. Our mind equates that love is communicated with lavish gifts and dreamy proposals and bouquets of flowers. Movies like Sleepless in Seattle or The Notebook or the one-liner from Jerry McGuire that we all know, “you had me at hello.” 

And all of those things are great expressions of love and I would be lying if I told you that I don’t love gifts. This girl definitely does. But I have also learned through the great teacher of time and heartbreak and healing that true love is the kind that returns you to yourself. 

What do I mean by that? 

We do an exercise with the inmates in our music therapy program where we instruct them to write a letter to their younger self. In other words, if you could sit down with that six-year-old version of yourself with the bangs your sister cut and the missing tooth and eyes still full of optimism and hope, what would you say? 

 

What we often find in the responses is a love letter written to self. Gentle words are written from a place of compassion and remembering. A reminder of how beautiful and strong and capable you really are and always were, before life and the competing noise of the world told you otherwise. How often the things that happened to you were not your fault, and even if they were the result of your own choosing, the acknowledgment that you are human and what matters most is that you learn and try again. 

We live in a world full of people living from a well of their experiences. And it’s a mix of clear and murky water. A mix of some who were fortunate to have been loved well and to have felt emotional security and a large pool of those who were not. Of those who were dropped and bruised and cut and who operate out of those experiences.  

As the famous rapper Phora says in one of his lyrics: “I ain’t never had nobody love me. That’s probably why I don’t know how to love you.” 

Real love is the type that God operates from. A well of Agape love, unconditional and to which there is no ceiling, no bottom, no limit. Without prerequisite. Not a kind that says “I love you if…” or “I love you until…” but “I love you because I love you because I love you. And there is nothing you could do to make me stop.” 

I’ve sought love in the wrong places before. In relationships. In materialism. In my appearance. In my performance. In the opinion of others. All of those were dead-end places that only took me further away from my true self and into the shallowness of who I allowed them to tell me to be. 

Healthy love returns you to yourself. Back to that place of wholeness. Back from the places of lies and shame that you’ve wandered to and believed. Back to the realization that there is nothing you can do in this life that will make you any more or any less worthy of love.

I Wish I Had Known 

 

The first time I drank coffee, I was sitting in the recreational room of a correctional facility surrounded by double razor wire in the middle of cornfields as far as the eye could see. A city called Marysville. “Aunt Mary’s house,” we called it when talking to my three-year-old at the time. The big house with tall gates and the room with vending machines and the play area where you get to see mommy. I am not sure how you explain prison to a child that young, but it was the only way I knew how to at the time and in times of trauma and grief, you just do the best you can. I couldn’t have said any of that five years ago. Too painful. Like a rocky edged cliff that if I dare glance over, I might slip into all-consuming grief. There will be more about this in my book to come, but for now, we’re talking about coffee. 

“Big Baby” was the friend that kindly introduced me to coffee for the first time. I don’t know why they called her that. Everyone in this new environment seemed to have a name other than their actual name. Maybe it was part of inner city life. Maybe it was because your birth name is replaced by a number once you are sentenced. Maybe because she had supermodel height and was the youngest in her family. I didn’t think much of it at the time, and so I never asked her. I also never called her by that name. I called her by her birth name, and maybe that’s why we were instant friends despite all of our differences. She rode out of the county jail and into the prison the same day that I did. The windows were frosted and fogged in that sardine packed van of women shackled to each other at wrist and feet, our arms interlocked like an awkward marital procession. We couldn’t see where we were going or where we were carried from. Perhaps that was a blessing at the time. 

“Taste this,” she said. So I tilted that chilled cup of butterscotch colored liquid back and gave it a whirl. It was loads of French vanilla creamer with way too much sugar and a bit of instant coffee. But my naive taste buds didn’t know the difference, and so it tasted good at the time. From that day forward, I was a coffee drinker. My love of coffee has evolved a lot since that day. French press preferred. Light roast. A hint of sugar. A small amount of almond milk. Perfection

When I think back to that day with Big Baby, and my first go-round with coffee, I wish I had known this: 

I wish I had known there would come a day when I would be able to talk about my story and not feel like I wanted to die from the pain. 
I wish I had known that the place of my suffering, that compound of nearly two-thousand women, would completely transform my heart and my life. 
I wish I had known that some of the greatest lessons I’d ever learn would be learned through their stories and eventually told through my voice. 
I wish I had known that Big Baby was making my journey easier. Evidence of God’s kindness toward me through friendship. Proof that I was never really alone. 
I wish I had known there wasn’t a single thing I could do to make God love me more, or like me any less. 
I wish I had known that just a few years down the road, my life would contain more beauty than my heart could hold. A marriage that would heal me. A daughter that would remind me that God answers with hope. A ministry birthed from tragedy. A coffee shop we would open that employs people that others view as disqualified. 
I wish I had known….
 

My husband told our son’s something the other day, and maybe you need to hear it too. 

“Every time that you walk into this coffee shop, I want you to remember that anything is possible.” 

Anything

I prayed so many half-hearted prayers back then. I wanted to believe and God in His infinite compassion knew that. He knew the issues in my heart that stood in the way. He knew my grief and shame. But He saw my willingness to at least dare to ask. 

“Here are the pieces. Please rebuild this broken life.” 

And it was all the invitation He needed.

The Little Things That Feel Unseen 

 

I cleaned the bathroom of the entrance building at Dayton Correctional for three years. And it was a position of honor. At that time I was a ward of the state after a tragic drinking and driving fatality that landed me incarcerated for six years and brought worlds of sorrow. It was an honor to have access and proximity to the outside world. To be entrusted with a freedom beyond the tight restrictions of the control center. Four steel doors that only open one at a time and only at the command of an officer behind a glass enclosure reinforced with bars.  

I did it joyfully and like it was the most important job on the compound because I knew it was entrusted to me and that entrustment was deeply healing to my shame. I also knew that it was only a temporary stop on my journey. I knew that my scrubbing those toilets well was as important to God as the position of the Warden and all his officials. I knew that as I watched people being released to the embrace of their children and families that my current reality was not the way it would always be. I would watch with a lump in my throat and a prayer in my heart for their safety and for their lives to be rebuilt beyond those gates. And those prayers went out with each of them, rippling far beyond what I will ever know on this side of things. 

If you follow my spouse and me on social media, then you know that this past week, we released a video about a dream birthed in our hearts. Soon, we will open a Coffee Shop in our community to employ those that others deem unemployable because of their past. That vision has been cast wide and broad, with dreams already stirring of what the shop can look like beyond serving coffee and the possibility of eventually opening Coffee Shops in multiple locations. The video has been viewed more times than we ever imagined, shared more than we could have hoped for, and the outpouring of support and encouragement has been more than we can honestly keep up with. We are saturated with gratitude.  

 

Isn't this logo THE best?! 

This past Tuesday we showed the video to the men and women in the two local prisons where we do a weekly Music Therapy program. At the end of our time there, I watched my husband push a cart loaded with sound gear in the bitter cold up a long maze to exit the prison. The same maze I shoveled more times than I care to remember in the middle of the night when I was summoned to do so. It also was part of my job while there.  

When he got to the top, he looked at me and said “this is why that video has so many views. It has nothing to do with the video footage or what we said. It’s because of this.” 

He didn’t have to explain. I knew what he meant. It’s fifteen years of doing the work with little support or recognition. It’s fifteen years of driving hours in the car. It’s going even when you really didn’t have the gas or the money to refill. No matter the weather. No matter what is going on in your personal life. No matter if you feel like going or if you don’t. Even when others didn’t see the value the way you did. It’s the fact that even if others never saw the value, you would still continue to show up. 

God cares immensely about the little things because God cares most about the heart. And we are only able to do the little things consistently when our heart is in the right posture. He cares about the things no one else sees you doing. He cares when you return your cart instead of letting it hit another car. He cares about that piece of trash you pick up, so someone else doesn’t have to, and so it doesn’t harm the environment we have been entrusted to care for. He cares about being kind to people who can do nothing for you in return. He cares about how you treat your waitress and how you treat the girl ringing up your groceries who appears to have no social skills. 

The big things don't matter at all if we don't regard the little ones as mattering greatly. Know that God sees you.  

He sees you in the middle of your moments that feel unseen. He sees you wiping snotty noses with tenderness. He sees the heaps of laundry you fold as you pray breath prayers. He sees you when you can barely pay your bills and still give where you can. In all of those little things you do that feel insignificant and as though they have no glory, but they are done in love. 

They aren't little things at all. Everything is important.

Between Where We Are and Where We Are Headed 

"Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” 
— Mary Olive
r⁣ 

I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur. Full disclosure? I couldn't even spell it correctly the first time I typed that out. If I were in a spelling bee or if my life depended on it, maybe. But not here. Not in this space. Not in this mundane and ordinary moment. I have always been the creative type. Doodling on college ruled notebooks while caught up in my own dreamy ideas and simultaneously listening to my teachers. A creative type with the need to be doing something with my hands. So I am the one most surprised by the fact that in the months ahead, my husband and I will unveil a new business venture that is a dream once conceived in our hearts, and now about to be birthed in our reality. The ability to dream and imagine creates room for what we once didn't see as possible. It's an exciting time needless to say. 

There is lots of prep work taking place. Budget planning and maximizing purchases made with numbers we have to work with. Listening to podcasts from experts in the field. Researching and visiting other businesses in the area. Taking mental notes of things we like and what we will do differently. The fun part of designing the space. Moving pictures from here because they look better over there and should we add a fig tree in that corner? We definitely should. Lots of green everywhere. 

I love these moments of planning and brainstorming ideas and doing the legwork to bring to fruition this dream of ours. But. There is also the middle and the mundane. There is still the waking up on a Wednesday morning in Ohio to a sky covered with gray and pouring rain. It was warm enough today to melt the snow, so there's that. There is still the going to work at my current job (the job before my dream job) where the elderly patients will ask how the baby is doing even though she is almost three (sidenote: time does fly and I'll forever be pregnant in their mind even though we've celebrated two birthdays and are halfway to our third. The pregnancy felt equally long. I get it.) There is still for my husband the process of coaching clients through choosing paint colors and taking over the wallpaper removal they thought they could handle themselves. There is still laundry (heaps and heaps) and pet care and cars that break down and all of the magnificent mundane on the way to this dream of ours. 

So how do we live out this quote, Mary Oliver? How do we find the magnificent in the mundane? 

There is a story in Genesis 28 about a guy named Jacob who is on a journey. On this journey, he comes to a point where the sun has gone down and I imagine by this point, he was probably exhausted from traveling by foot. With no memory foam pillow on which to lay his head, he uses a stone to rest on. I don't know about you, but I've been exhausted enough to do this before. Exhausted to the point where it was more painful to keep my eyes open than to lay down on a concrete slab and give way to sleep. I've seen people curled up in hard plastic seats in airport terminals with delayed flights. In the holding cells of county jails where you are detained for hours and sometimes, days. In waiting rooms of sterile hospitals. Hard places. The place between where you are and where you long to be. The in-between place of where you've left and the place you are headed to. And it's in this very place that God appears to him in a dream and when Jacob awakens, he says this: 

"Surely the Lord was in this place, and I was not aware of it." 

Surely. Is it possible that finding the magnificent in the mundane is linked directly to our awareness that God is in our midst? Even if you feel unaware and can't trace His presence or the reason for the delay. 

Even when the road feels long and winding and you feel as though you've made a few wrong turns along the way. Even though the kids are on repeat in the backseat asking if we are there yet. Even though the everyday tasks of normal life feel like drudgery. Even though what you are currently seeing in your reality doesn't at all look like the dream God placed in your heart. 

Take heart. Be still. Breathe deep. God is closer than you think. The One who gave you the dream will bring it to pass and not a moment too soon or too late. 

I look at my daughter as she is nestled in bed asleep, her hands tucked under her cheek in a picturesque moment. There is nowhere else in the world I'd rather be, I think to myself. I look at my son as he comes down the stairs with his pants pulled too high and a silly hat that looks like Paddington bear as he tries to make us laugh. And it works. I wake up still feeling sleepy and open my blinds in the morning to allow daylight to enter the house on this still gray sky in Ohio. I don't want to miss it. Any of it. 

I don't want to miss what is right in front of me while looking and longing for what is ahead. So I'll pay attention. I'll hold these dreams of mine loosely for the sake of holding firmly to where I actually am. 

In order to fully live life, you have to pay attention. And when you really pay attention with all of your heart and your senses, you'll be astonished. There is so much magnificent in the mundane.

An Invitation to the Table 

 

There is a slang term often used about being "woke." Maybe you've seen it behind a hashtag on social media. The term is way older than hashtags and can be traced back to the 1930s. Or at least that's what google search is telling me. It's an implication that a person is enlightened to something that the rest of us are not. Urban dictionary gives one example of its usage as this: 

"While you are obsessing with the Kardashians, there are millions of homeless in the world. STAY WOKE." It means being awake to discrimination, prejudices and other social injustices. 

As I write this, I hear this children's song replaying in my head: 

Are you sleeping?  
Are you sleeping? 
Brother John,  
Brother John? 
Morning bells are ringing.  
Morning bells are ringing. 
Ding, dong, ding.  
Ding, dong, ding. 

So now it's in your head too, and I'm sorry, but not sorry because there is a point to all of this. 

Sometimes in our everyday waking and breathing lives, we have been lulled to sleep. We are sleepwalkers in the light of day. The Walking Dead with a pulse. We punch the time clock. We stroll through the fluorescent lighting of Target. We choose the messy bun and the stretchy pants again. We fill our virtual grocery carts via click list. Lulled by our routines and monotony and whatever is most comfortable and most convenient.  

Hit snooze (repeat x10). Brush teeth. Fill the tea kettle with hot water and turn the stove on. Add 3 scoops of Starbucks blonde to the French press. Take the dog out. Tomorrow, I will do it again. If I am so fortunate. I am like one of those self-driving cars. As a side note, is anyone else terrified by that thought? Yea….me too.  

We are often on autopilot. Like predictive text. Like listening to a person you know better than you know yourself and knowing ahead of time what they are going to say because you could finish the sentence. Yes, they are going to tell that one story again

There is science behind it with 95% of our brain activity being beyond our conscious awareness. But there is a danger to it on the level of spiritual and emotional well being. 

There is a low level of complacency we easily slip into where we just accept whatever we are facing as our lot in life. It's a tactic of the enemy. Carefully devised and methodical. Strategic in the fact that it is so subtle, it goes unnoticed. It isn't cryptic. In fact, the more I think about it, it's rather obvious. The plan is this: lull them to sleep and convince them that there isn't more.  

His plan for our lives is threefold: Steal. Kill. Destroy. To steal our joy, vitality, energy, peace, and trust. To kill our dreams and the hope that the change we long for will come to pass. To destroy our relationships and our future, because if he can get us to a place of complacency, we remain stuck. We are asleep. We are anything but "woke." 

Think about it. If he can get you to accept whatever it is that you're facing as just being "the way things are," then that's also the way you are going to view circumstances in other people's lives.  

This apathy I feel is never going to lift. 
I am too broken to ever be whole. 
This addiction will always have control over me. 
My family will always struggle financially. 
This relationship will never be mended. 

Like I tell my thirteen-year-old when he is fighting to get up in the morning, and I've been to his room five times already, my urging escalating to a threat…." just sit up on the side of the bed." Rub the sleep from your eyes. Take a drink of cold water. Whatever you do, WAKE UP. 

My dog gets scolded when he searches for food that has been dropped under the table during meals by my two-year-old (usually it's her anyway). It's not that he's hungry. Don't feel sorry for him. And I don't expect him not to want something other than the dry and bland kibbles he is dished out twice a day. It's the noises he makes during his search party that get him scolded. This snorting and slurping sound that grates my nerves like nothing else. You just have to hear it for yourself to understand. My husband looked at his four-month-old white and furry cuteness and named him "Pig," a self-fulfilling prophesy for his bulldog self. Here's the point: Don't be like Pig. Don't search for scraps beneath the table. You are invited to an abundant feast with all of your favorite foods. 

"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows." Psalm 23:5 

from my fav children's book: The Crown on Your Head 

Whatever you do, don't buy into the lie. Don't drink the Kool-aid. Don't settle for this. Whatever your this is. Don't allow yourself to be lulled to sleep. There is so much more for your one and only life than this low-level lot that you have accepted. Let's abort this mission. Let's accept the invitation we have been given to the table of abundant life. 
 

Add message
  • Margie David

    Margie David Hamilton, Oh

    Sarah keep writing. I went to junior high or high school with you, not sure which one. I've read the first page and can't stop. Your writing speaks to my soul and I'd almost swear we were walking through some if the same wasteland. Thank you so much for writing and sharing

    Sarah keep writing. I went to junior high or high school with you, not sure which one.

    I've read the first page and can't stop. Your writing speaks to my soul and I'd almost swear we were walking through some if the same wasteland.

    Thank you so much for writing and sharing

  • Sally Lyons

    Sally Lyons Liberty Township, Ohio

    Sarah, what beautiful writing. I just was reading this and it all just touched me in just such a way! I can’t even explain it but truly enjoyed all of it!! Thank you for sharing and please continue with your beautiful and thoughtful writing! It made my night 😀. Thank you again.

    Sarah, what beautiful writing. I just was reading this and it all just touched me in just such a way! I can’t even explain it but truly enjoyed all of it!! Thank you for sharing and please continue with your beautiful and thoughtful writing! It made my night 😀. Thank you again.

  • becki hernandez

    becki hernandez las vegas

    I never cry. I cried. So beautiful. Keep writing.

    I never cry. I cried. So beautiful. Keep writing.