Everything is Important.”

— Walter Tirey Jr.

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

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Breaking the Silence 

 

Do you ever struggle with feeling like you just can’t get it together? Your routine. Your negative thought life. Your dietary habits. Your commitment to better self care. Your striving for meaningful connection. Whatever your “it” is. 

Listen. I get it. Both my hands are raised.  

And the feeling honestly makes me want to nap daily with my two year old, wear my pajamas until noon, and overindulge in salt, sugar, and a marathon that starts and ends on my couch. That’s what shaming and condemning thoughts do. They drive you deeper into a sinking quicksand. 

Life should come with this caution label: Anytime you are stepping out boldly in any area of your life, you can bank on this one thing showing up. By stepping out boldly, I don’t mean solving global scale problems. I mean taking the reigns of your life and striving for better. Not settling for complacency in the areas you feel the urge for needed change. 

What is this one thing you can bank on? It’s a sneaky little thing called discouragement. It creeps up suddenly, starts with a thought, often masks itself as our own voice, and seems so true in the moment. 

You can bank on being called into the ring for a fight, only to step in and find that your opponent is actually yourself. 

I wish more people would talk about it honestly. 

I wish more people would open up and be transparent about the fights we face in this life. Because truth is, we all do. We all wrestle with universal struggles. Universal questions. We all wrestle with discouragement at times. 

And yet most of us walk around pretending like we have it all together on our own little island where life is a tropical paradise. The water is always clear. The sun is always shining and the temperature? Perfect.  

I wish more pastors would talk about wrestling with self doubt and feeling like they don’t measure up to the call. How sometimes they preach a sermon and feel like they bombed it. I wish they would talk about how even they wrestle with the crippling darkness of depression and seasons of feeling utterly abandoned by God. 

I wish more writers would talk about how many times they hit delete, completely trash what they just wrote, run into a wall of writers block, or doubt the ability of their words to have an impact and want to walk away from it all. Did I mention that when I went to publish this blog, it was erased from my desktop? Awesome

I wish more public speakers would talk about the insecurity of being before people, and how they often feel like they are going to throw up or collapse before walking on stage. Or walk off of stage afterward feeling like they rambled and possibly just presented as incompetent or unqualified. 

I wish in our small groups, coffee dates, and lives on social media, we could let go of this enormous pressure to present the best parts of ourself and instead, embrace transparency. I’m not suggesting we throw wisdom out the window and hang all of our dirty laundry out to dry. No one wants to see all of that.  

But you know what else no one wants to see? Your perfectly manicured life. Even if they don’t know it.

Speaking of the ills of the world, Mother Teresa stated it is because we have “forgotten that we belong to each other.” 

You, my friend, are not meant to be an island.  

You aren’t meant to suffer in the silence of feeling like you are the only one on your little land mass of population one. Our silence is what makes us feel alone, even when we are surrounded by people. 

It feels like loss to admit that we don’t have it all together. That we are fumbling our way through and trying to figure it out. But it isn’t a loss at all. It is so much gain.  

The fight against discouragement is won by our realization that we aren’t meant to go through this life alone. Through confession, our lies lose their power and volume when we break our silence and admit the truth of how we are really feeling. It is then that we realize we are not so alone. 

Take heart. Take one small, yet massive brave step today. We belong to each other.

The Way Back to Kansas 

 

Once upon a time, I found myself in a foreign land far from home. I didn’t know the language. I didn’t know what the social norms were. And there was zero part of me that wanted to learn. 

Sometimes, life will carry you to unfamiliar territories of grief and new, unwanted realities. The saddest, heaviest part is that first waking moment of the morning. When you awake from your slumber to a heavy heart and the bitter taste of your unwanted circumstances. It’s that crushing realization that it wasn’t just a bad dream. It was an event that really did happen and now you’re left to learn how to carry it somehow. 

When that tornado ripped through my life and carried me far from my own Kansas, I used to imagine those ruby red slippers Dorothy wore. I could see her in the memory of my little girl heart that must have watched the film a hundred times. I could see her clicking her heels and repeating, “there’s no place like home.” I wished it were that easy. That somehow clicking my heels would wake me from my own bad dream. That I would awake and be back in Kansas and with the people that make my world feel like home. 

Maybe you’re still in your own Kansas. What I know about Kansas (or at least the part I’ve been to) is that it’s flatter than a pancake. Sometimes life can feel that way. Flat and monotonous. I am all for switching routines up. Driving a different route home. Venturing to surrounding areas I haven’t been to. But let’s be honest. We all have routines and daily practices that sometimes feel monotonous. Same wake up time. Take the dog out. Make the coffee. Shout for the fifteenth time for my teenage son to wake up. Shout again, and this time with a threat attached. My husband and I eat takeout from the same pizza place every Tuesday evening. And we get the same exact thing every time. Sometimes I feel embarrassed when I call our order in. I imagine the girl answering the phone times our call every Tuesday evening and announces that the Davis’s are calling again

But let me tell you something. I love this routine and sometimes monotonous life. It’s all of these ordinary moments that make a beautiful life. And I promise you that if yours is ever interrupted or stripped away, you will agree. It’s so easy to take the routine for granted and it's the thing we miss the most when it’s gone. 

Maybe you find yourself in the aftermath of a tornado that has leveled your life and left you feeling far from your own Kansas. 

Maybe your life has been disrupted. 
Maybe your heart has been broken. 
Maybe the divorce was the last thing you wanted. 
Maybe the death was the last thing you expected or feel equipped to survive. 
Maybe the future looks like a million scattered and unknown pieces that will never be whole again. 

Take heart. Don’t you dare give up

Recent news has been that the ruby red slippers Dorothy wore in Wizard of Oz were stolen from a museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota thirteen years ago and have finally been recovered by the FBI. Yes of course, my first thought was wondering why the FBI was involved in such matters, all things of our current world considered. 

But here’s another thought: 

You will be found too. That lost, scattered, and broken part of you will be returned home. Somewhere on the yellow brick road of your journey, you will gain knowledge, heart, and courage like you’ve never had before. Not in some Pollyanna “everything happens for a reason” way of thinking. I don’t buy that. It brings no lasting comfort to a broken heart. We live in a fallen world. But our pain isn’t all loss and it isn’t wasted. 

Once I learned that, I embraced the journey through my foreign land. I learned the language of the other inhabitants. I learned their social norms and their names. I learned that they also did not want to be in this place of shattered dreams. I was not as alone as I thought. 

You will eventually find your way back to Kansas. Back to home, and comfort and wholeness. I promise you will. It may look different than it once did and you may look different too. And that’s okay. There is no place like the home you will find within your own heart. A place of knowing who you are deep down. Strong and resilient.

Day Seven 

 

I started a new practice recently of listing my daily goals at the start of each day. I am a creature of habit by nature, so adopting a new practice of gathering my gold striped notebook every morning to scribe out my my to do list for the day was an easy habit. Some of the goals are simple things like drink more water. Get some sunshine. Exercise (why do I always have to remind myself of this one? Sigh.) Some of the goals are time sensitive to do’s that have a deadline. Like this blog for example. I have found that if I am not intentional enough to right down my plan for the day, more often than not, I will get distracted with busyness (hello mom life) and my to do’s will get sidelined. I am also a wee bit of a type A personality. I’m driven by checklists, organization, and accomplishment. I recently learned that type A has a correlation with coronary disease. Awesome.  

So on my agenda for the next two days is this: a big bag of nothing and an empty to do list. Is that because I don’t have things that need done? Never. The thought makes me laugh.  

It’s because I desperately feel the need for rest and recharge in all of my cells, the same way the body signals for water when it’s thirsty. My body is crying out please, for the love of all that is good Sarah…let. me. rest. Stop vacuuming already. Stop constantly filling in your agenda with the next thing. Stop with the incessant need to do something productive. I’m really terrible at the whole rest thing. 

I passed a young gentleman recently who was mid conversation with the person in front of him and I couldn’t help but overhear. He was talking about his plans over the next couple of days when I heard him say, “I haven’t really relaxed in three months.” 

I wish I could insert that emoji on my iPhone with the really big and bugged out eyes right here. Because that was my facial expression when I heard him. Three months?? That’s like twenty five percent of your year that you have not rested or relaxed! Say What?? 

But then. Like a mirror held to my face, I heard it. That small inner voice that I so often ignore. It stood up and waved it’s hand obnoxiously in the air with a small cough gesturing for my attention. Excuse me…over here. You do the same thing

I wish I could argue with that, but it’s so true.  

I have this friend who is the most bubbly, bouncing ball of joy that you will ever meet. Her happy spirit is infectious. I cannot imagine her in my mind without her ear to ear smile and it makes me smile just thinking about it. 

She has a job that she absolutely loves and is passionate about, caring for a range of creatures at a zoo in Tennessee (there is something to this….loving the work you do. That’s a whole other blog). She has this balance to the whole rest vs work thing that I envy. She is good at both. I want to be like her when I grow up. 

I think that far too often we have the whole thing backwards. We think that our ability to accomplish, produce and fulfill purpose in our lives is found in the quantity of what we do. So we slip into this unhealthy, out of balance habit of cramming as many hours into our day as possible. Our quality of life is measured by updating our status on Facebook. We drink coffee and energy drinks to keep ourselves going, staying up too late and waking early. We work more so we can afford to do more. While our souls are untended and scattered, like an overgrown garden in desperate need of tending.  

We do the same to our kids. We think that our good parenting is measured by their activities, by over cramming their schedules, never allowing them to be bored to the point of having to explore creativity or who they are. The result? We all become exhausted. Burned out. Short fused. We live for vacations instead of the day to day life that we are in. And when we don’t over cram? We describe ourselves as lazy. Where did we learn this? At what point in our lives did a day spent in sweat pants and a rhythm of relaxation and grace get communicated to us as being lazy? It’s insanity

Listen. I am all about hard work. Overly so. A life where you never leave your couch and sweat pants is also majorly out of balance. As Zig Ziglar is well known for saying, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” 

 

 

There were seven days in the evolving of creation. Whether this is literal or figurative to illustrate a point, I don’t know. I wasn’t there physically. But it says there were seven days in which God created all that we would need to sustain life. Do you know which of the days he named as holy (exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness)? The seventh day. The other days were good, but this was the day He blessed. The day when all of the work was completed.  

It would be easy to read that and interpret it only as we are to rest once our work is complete. I would not totally disagree. But. The point of the word “completion” is that the universe is no longer in the process of being created. It’s a finished work. Our rest is found in that

Let’s stop getting it backwards. Rest is holy. Rest is a good thing. Rest is essential to giving the world and those we love the best version of ourselves that we can. You can’t pour from an empty cup my friend.  

This is your invitation to enter into rest. Not only physical rest, but rest from trying to prove your worth. You are already enough.

The One Magnificent You 

 

This may seem like a pep talk, but let’s call it more of a truth talk. People have described me before as a motivational writer. Truth be told, I don’t really care for the label. I’m more interested in truth that takes root in your soul than a pep rally to only motivate you momentarily. I’m passionate about bringing truth to the lies that rob people of the abundant life they are meant to live. A life of being loved, accepted and enough. So if my writing motivates people closer to truth, then I guess I will happily wear the label. 

I had a conversation once with one of my teenage sons about an upcoming event at his school. I was asking him about going, secretly planning in my mind all the fun mom things I would get to do in preparation for it. He quickly deflated my daydream with his abrupt response that he had no plan of going because he didn’t have anyone to go with.  

But you haven’t even asked anyone yet,” I countered. Now I know that as his Mom I am tipping the scale on the biased side, but if you ask me, who wouldn’t want to go with him? I couldn’t even imagine. 

But he could. In fact, that question was all that he could imagine, that no one on the planet would want to go with him. My Momma heart winced that he could believe this about himself. 

We do this as adults too, don’t we? We rob ourselves by believing the thoughts that enter our minds. 

One time I saw someone that I know and love at an outdoor public event. We were estranged and our relationship was broken at the time through a series of events that felt outside of my control. I saw her through the thick crowd of strangers. As our eyes made contact, we both looked quickly the other direction.  

The band, Twenty One Pilots, has a lyric in one of their songs that says this: 

Sometimes quiet is violent.”  

Indeed. I wanted to approach her and mend the brokenness, but I didn’t. I remained silent. In my mind, I believed the lie that my approaching her was the last thing she wanted. I couldn’t handle the possible rejection I might have faced. My silence causing violent pain to her and deeper fracture to the relationship. 

Sometimes we have to speak truth to ourselves. Sometimes it means writing that truth on a hundred post it notes stuck to random places in our home, car and workplace. Sometimes we have to set a reminder on our phone. A pop up alert throughout our day of the truth we need to remember. Sometimes it means looking at a friend or someone we trust and telling them to tell us the truth we need to hear. 

Our worth is not based on the approval of others. It’s safe to risk rejection. It’s safe to risk failure. Often times, it’s not as much of a risk as we think. 

I heard an interview once with Mike Tyson, one of the most vulnerable and honest people I’ve ever heard interviewed. He is well known for some of the not so name worthy things of his past. I’m not here to judge. I wasn’t there. I don’t know the whole truth. I only know what the media writes and I know how I feel about the media. What he is also known for is being the youngest heavyweight champion of all time at the age of twenty. This young kid from the projects who grew up with an absent father and a mother who passed away when he was sixteen. This kid who often got in fights with other kids who teased him about his lisp, his first fight being with a kid who harmed a pigeon he loved and took care of. This young kid who was arrested thirty eight times by the age of thirteen for petty crimes and most unlikely to succeed at anything.  

Do you know where his boxing ability was discovered? By a counselor inside of the boys home he was placed in after the death of his mom. So how did this kid from the streets of New York make it to being named heavyweight champion of the world?  

Because one person saw what no one else saw and believed in him.  

Mike talked in his interview about how his trainer, Cus D’Amato, convinced him that out of five billion people on the planet, there wasn’t a single one that could beat him in the ring. He entered every fight with that mindset. 

Maybe you don’t have a Cus in your life. Maybe you don’t know how to be your own Cus, and believe better or truth talk to yourself.  

I’ve got something even better for you. 

There may be roughly seven billion people on the planet now, but there is only one you. Only one magnificent you. When God created you, he looked at all that he made in you and said “it is very good.” A stamp of approval. A finished work. Perfected. Complete. Enough. 

How about trying a little truth talk to yourself? It may take time, but eventually, you just might start to believe it.

The Outsiders 

 

I heard this story once from one of the kindest humans I know. He told me about his experience in junior high and being raised by a single mother who was struggling to make ends meet. His shoes were so busted up that the soles used to flap when he would walk. Teenage years can be brutal and he told me how his classmates used to make fun of him. So he decided at that moment (and after a million other preceding moments) that he would do whatever he had to do to get what he needed. Even if it meant criminal activity, violence and destruction. Then he said this…. 

“All of my life I have felt like an outsider.” 

I heard another story once from another one of the kindest people I have ever met. She told me about the time her daughter was sent to prison and for the years of her incarceration, people only asked her about her daughter. Her own identity seeming to fade into oblivion. Good intentions by others, but failure to see the extraordinary gem of the human right in front of them. Failure to see her brokenness and suffering. Failure to see that she also was serving time, sentenced to loss and grief, and stepping into a parental role for her grandchildren that she never anticipated having to fill. 

My heart bleeds for both of them. For the rejection they felt in their experiences. For how those moments made them feel insignificant and unworthy. 

But you know who I feel the most sorry for?  

For all of those people who missed out on the gift of them. Those people were holding blue diamonds and didn’t even realize it. Do you know how much a blue diamond is worth?  

3.9 million per carat

 For a gem small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. For a gem that the average person wouldn’t even recognize as any more significant than any other gem.  

Yes, teenage years can be brutal. Sometimes “kids can be so mean,” as you often hear said. Their impulsivity and unbridled behavior causes them to say things without considering the consequences. But truth is, sometimes adults can be mean too. Sometimes as adults, we treat others with preferential treatment. We are often not champions and advocates for the underdog. We are champions for the shiniest. For what glitters the most. For who looks best on stage. For who is the most well spoken. For the most seemingly qualified.  

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of King David. Chosen by God since the beginning of time to be king over Israel. But you know who didn’t recognize David’s potential to be king? His own father. Mega ouch. 

When asked to present all his sons to see which one might possibly be chosen, he didn’t even bother to call David in from the field where he was tending sheep. He didn’t know that David’s willingness to live with the smell of the sheep out in the fields was preparing him to eventually lead and care for people. 

Maybe you have felt like the outsider before.  
Like you don’t fit in anywhere.  
Like the kid on the wrong side of the tracks.  
Awkward in social circles.  
A misfit or black sheep in your family.  
Overlooked in your workplace.  
Maybe even at your church.  
Like you wouldn’t even belong in a field with smelly sheep. 

My husband has this saying whenever he feels passionate about something. He will say, “that makes me want to jump out the window.” He doesn’t mean in some self harm way. He means that what he just heard was so epic and touched him so deeply that he could jump out of a window, through a thousand shards of broken glass and not be phased by it. 

And what I’m about to tell you next makes me feel the same. Like I could jump straight out of a window. 

That guy I told you about in the beginning, the one with the flapping soles, the one who has always felt like an outsider? He has a resilience and a tenacity in his soul like nothing I have ever seen before. He doesn’t need a stamp of approval from others to step out and pursue crazy dreams. He listens to God and follows what feels true to his heart. And when it comes to other people, he treats people with so much inclusion that they immediately feel like they belong. Like there is a seat at that awkward junior high lunch table for them despite their story, their present or their past. He notices people, whether its the homeless guy on the bench or the business man in his three piece suit sitting in the coffee shop. More than likely, he never would’ve had that ability if he didn’t first know what it felt like to be on the outside. 

That woman I told you about in the beginning, the one overlooked and forgotten? She never forgets others. She searches for countless ways to make people feel remembered. She will show up with a book she heard you mention wanting to read or that item you forgot to purchase at the store. She doesn’t even realize the endless ways she serves people with the art of noticing. What a gift. People long to be noticed. 

Consider this for a moment.…maybe you aren’t supposed to fit in. Maybe there is something different about you. And all of that trying to conform to fit into who you think you should be masks the very part of you that God marked to stand out.  

Use your understanding of feeling on the outside for radical inclusion. Pay attention and notice that you are far from alone in feeling that way. There are people everywhere who feel left out and uninvited. 

Photo cred: Mortal Flesh

Stones of Remembrance 

 

Last night I picked a handful of black eyed Susan’s from our house that has yet to sell. A home that contains years of memories I will forever hold in my heart. The house belonged to my grandparents and my husband and I bought it as a renovation project. It was healing to my grief to be able to restore it. A for sale sign has occupied the front yard for ten months now and counting. Our dreams and moving forward on temporary hold until the house sells. It’s a season that feels long and never ending and has tested our patience to the limit.  

My other set of grandparents used to have a long driveway paved with small and loose stones. I can still see myself as a young child crouched low in that driveway. The sun warming my skin as I would comb patiently through the stones sifting for the ones I was looking for. They were small and light blue stones that looked like crystals. They were hidden beauties amongst the plain and ordinary ones. I would collect them like rare treasures found. 

I have traveled a long way through life since then. So much beauty. So much heartache. So much mixture of the two that sometimes the heartache is the easier one to remember. Like a default setting in my brain has that I don’t know how to restore to its proper setting. That’s how trauma works. It doesn’t time stamp a memory the way normal memories get coded. Your brain recognizes it as recurrent, instead of being able to differentiate that it was something that happened once and is over in the present here and now.  

Even in the absence of a traumatic experience, sometimes our default setting as humans is to forget the good. 

Sometimes as an adult, I still find myself collecting stones. But it’s no longer in childlike wonder and admiration of their beauty. It is no longer with palms open and to the sky as I hold them loosely. They are clinched tight in my fists and ready to throw as my heart rages. 

Not all the time. Only in the really difficult moments. The moments when I have more questions then I have answers. When life feels as though it’s closing in from all sides and I feel trapped under the avalanche of it all.  

There’s this part in the Bible where God tells the people to gather 12 stones from a riverbed as a remembrance. As a reminder that the thing that stood between them and where they were trying to go was removed before their very sight. As a reminder that the thing that threatened to drown them should they try to cross it, did not drown them. They made it safely to other side. 

You see, God knew that they would need to be reminded. He knew that you and I would need to be reminded. He knows our limitations and how prone we are to only see the circumstances in front of us and to forget where we’ve been. 

It’s important not to forget the battles we’ve fought and have survived. To trace the scars of the moments we thought would kill us, but didn’t. The long sleepless nights with tear soaked pillows that we didn’t think we would make it through, but morning came nonetheless. 

The danger of forgetting is that it makes us weak. We lose heart in the dark times. We get angry and embittered and start to tell ourself things that are untrue. We rage against God and close loops and insert narratives into the gaps that are still being written. In doing so, we make the journey harder and longer than it has to be. We forfeit our peace and our hope. 

If I could talk to that little girl version of myself crouched low in that driveway, I would tell her this….. 

You are going to go through some really hard stuff in life. Collect the stones and whatever you do, don’t forget.  

Don’t just collect the lovely and smooth stones. Collect the jagged and rough edged ones too. You will need to be reminded of them all.

Unopened Gifts 

 

We spent this past weekend with new friends that are in the process of relocating to Ohio. The weekend was filled with authentic conversation, exposed hearts, a late night visit to the local ice cream hot spot, and a day visit to our favorite local coffee shop. The last night of our visit, we sat on the grass at a park and talked about where we’ve been and where we’re headed and how God has been traceable through it all. We ended the night with a late night pizza delivery, sleepy children and root beer floats. 

Good friendship is a sweetness something like your favorite dessert. Actually, it’s so much more than that. It’s like finding home again after being gone from it longer than you expected. To feel known and loved is beautiful and the best gift we can receive. 

During one of our conversations, our friend told us about a time in his life when he was attending a church that told him what a gift he was to the members there. Yet, during the entire time of his attending there, he was never once used in the areas of his giftedness. He was a gift that sat unopened. 

The statement was not lost on me. 

When it comes to receiving gifts, I am like a five year old the night before Christmas. My anticipation gets the best of me. I beg and act ridiculous and so I guess it’s a good thing my husband waits until Christmas Eve to buy me anything. I am the same with giving gifts. I will beg you to open your gift before it’s time. 

Christmas aside, I wonder how many times in my life there has been a gift sitting in front of me that sat unopened. In plain site, but invisible because of my lack of recognition. Maybe I miss it because it doesn’t look the way I thought it would or because of my preconceived ideas about the way things should be, only to be proven wrong more often than not. The thought makes me incredibly sad. 

Diana was a gift that I almost missed once. I met her as we sat side by side, handcuffed at wrist and ankle to each other on a long bus ride. I was being transported away from the grounds of a female prison in a remote part of Ohio that was far from my hometown. I had waited three years for that moment and I wasn’t in the mood to talk. I wanted to look out the window and be lost in my thoughts and take in the view of life on the outside world. The bikes scattered in yards. The hanging baskets of flowers on porches. The Target sign and parking lot. She asked me so many random questions on that ride that I started to wonder if she was doing some type of personality assessment on me. 

As events would play out and much to my surprise, we ended up as room mates. She was the total opposite of my introverted self. She was loud, earthy, and free in a way I had never known. And her beliefs were drastically different than the ones I held so close and white knuckled in fear. 

In spite of all of the things that made us different and unlikely friends, she became one of my closest friends and one of the people that has loved me the most well in my life. 

“You break me and mend me at the same time,” she said to me once. That’s what being loved does. It breaks our walls and the hardened parts of our hearts and it mends them back together at the same time. Mended and left better than we were when it found us. 

I almost missed the gift of her. She didn’t look like the friendship I was looking for because the truth is, we are often looking for something similar to ourselves. But she was exactly what I needed. 

Sometimes pain is a gift that I leave unopened because I would much rather be comfortable. I don't want to be lonely or in need. I'd rather not confront myself. Not confront my fears. Not confront my vulnerabilities. But leaning into the discomfort always leads to an enlarging of myself and my heart. It burns away the parts that are keeping me small. 

I wonder how many other gifts I leave unopened because they don’t look like a gift. At least not in the way I thought they would. 

I am in a season of learning to say yes more. Even when I am not sure how it will turn out. And what I’m finding is that every yes is a gift just waiting for me to unwrap it. Beautiful gifts that I cannot imagine having missed. 

Don’t miss the gifts in your path. Open your eyes and your heart wider. Lay aside the things that cloud your vision, like former experiences, expectations, and thinking that you always know what you need. You might be missing a gift that is right in front of you.

Seasons Of Wandering 

 

Raise your hand if you’ve been through a season of feeling stuck in some area of your life. 

If we were together in a room full of people right now, you would look around and see every hand raised. And for the ones that aren’t raised, it’s quite possibly because they are stuck and don’t even know it. But other people can see it. Kind of like when you have food stuck in your teeth and people are too nice to say anything. As a side note, please don’t ever be that nice to me. I want to know. Sometimes the kind thing is to say the hard thing. 

Sometimes it feels like less work to allow things to remain the same. It’s the easier, less overwhelming choice. Because the known and familiar, even when terrible, can feel safer than forging into the unknown. 

So we keep avoiding. The someday syndrome. We sweep it under the rug. We develop selective amnesia and pretend the issue doesn’t exist. Maybe it will absolve or fix itself. 

Or we medicate. We love distraction. We try to numb ourselves with one more trip to Target, one more coffee or an endless scroll on the timeline. We all have our go to

All at the cost of other vitally important things, like our emotional health, our relationships, and living our best life. 

And deep down, who doesn’t want all of those things? I don’t know anyone. Even when it seems otherwise. Sometimes our behavior betrays our deepest desires. 

Sometimes stuck looks like a bad relationship that you don’t know how to fix. Or a series of poor relationship choices, of settling for way less than you deserve. Sometimes it looks like a job you loathe, but stay at too long. Sometimes it looks like knowing the good you ought to do, but not doing it. Sometimes it’s avoiding the difficult conversation because of how you perceive in your mind it will go. Sometimes it’s poor self care. Sometimes it’s fear of chasing your dream.  

Sometimes….often times, stuck feels like not even knowing what you need. You just know something needs to change before you break. 

The good news? The first step out of the dark is to admit you’re in it. The first step in getting unstuck is to first realize, I think I might be stuck here

What I have learned in my own seasons of growth and stretching is that it can be painful. But it’s a good kind of pain. The healing and necessary kind. It feels like a snail’s pace of progress at times. Like you will never get to where you want to be. It’s hard to tune out the critical and condemning voices we hear in our own mind.  

I was outside with my daughter a few days ago walking the perimeter of the play area at the park. Her hand in mine, around and around we walked slowly at her pace in one giant circle. She was perfectly content walking in that circle and I was patient because she was enjoying it. 

That’s how seasons of being stuck can feel, like you’re on a hamster wheel and just spinning without going anywhere. I thought back to myself about prior stuck seasons in my life. How God was patient with me in my wandering. In the moments I’ve wished before that I could erase. I thought about areas where I’ve grown, areas where I still need to grow and how far I’ve come. 

And as I walked that circle with my daughter, I looked back on the old me in a new way. Not with judgment or condemnation. But with compassion. With gentleness and grace. My only wish in that moment was that I had been kinder to myself back then. 

Listen closely. You will never get to where you want to be unless you change the way you see yourself.  Unless you learn to be kind to yourself in your thoughts. 

You are where you find yourself today for a reason. And no one, not even you, the one who has lived your own story, has full comprehension of such complex matters. No need to receive the judgment others may make about you. The judgment seat is not theirs to sit on. No need to judge yourself either. It will only hold you back and keep you stuck longer than necessary. 

I hope you will value yourself enough to figure it out. To take the next small step. 

To get silent with yourself and ask the tough questions. 
To pick up the phone.  
Send the text. 
Make the counseling appointment. 
Fill out the application. 
Visit the church. 
End that relationship. 
Go to bed an hour earlier. 
Take a break from screen time. 
Tell someone else the brilliant idea you have. 

Take that one itty bitty step towards getting unstuck. The road can be a long one but begins with one courageous step. 

You have what it takes and you are so worth it.

With Candles and Everything 

 

I called her to the front of room. She sat in the seat next to me, a mixture of anxiety and excitement suppressed behind her grin. Tomorrow is a big day. And she is a big deal. She’s just still learning to believe it. 

She is due to be released from prison tomorrow, into the unknowns and the new beginnings that lie ahead in her story. 

I tell her how proud of her I am and remind her of how far she has come. Because sometimes those things are difficult to see in yourself and people always need to be celebrated. 

I tell her about the time my uncle walked into his house and realized my aunt made a birthday cake for him. 

He looked at her and asked, “with candles and everything?” 

Because sometimes we all need to be reminded that we are worth celebrating. 

So I remind her. 

You are worth candles and everything. And don’t you ever forget it.”

So I’m telling you too as you read this.  

You are worth the cake and the candles. You are worth celebrating. You are a big deal. 

Don’t forget it. Don’t ever let anyone else tell you different.

What We Have Forgotten 

 

“ ‘Cause you’re a sky, you’re a sky full of stars 
Such a heavenly view 
You’re such a heavenly view ” 
-Coldplay 

 

I sat in a room of seventy some women recently. Our largest growing group to date in a weekly music therapy program we do within the Ohio prison system. I watched her raise her hand, volunteering to read a poem about her sobriety and the road that led her to addiction. The backstory and the why’s. She adjusted her shirt and walked to the front of the room with her head hung low, the doubt swirling in her mind that what she had written was worth reading aloud. She read her poem and handed the microphone back to me in a hurried attempt to escape the front of the room and walk back to her seat. She almost made it until Patrick stopped her.  

He called her back to the front of the room, looked her in the eye her and said, “we are glad you are still here.” Not here in the sense of prison. But here in this life. Still breathing. Still among the living. Still having moments and opportunities to live this one and only precious life.  

Then it happened. It wasn’t a planned moment, but I am finding those are often the best ones. 

He had everyone in the room who has ever struggled with addiction stand to their feet, about ninety percent of which stood up. On the count of three, he had them all give themselves a round of applause. A celebratory moment that the thing that should have killed them didn’t. I’m convinced you could hear the roar of applause and cheering from a mile away. 

And then I saw it and I nearly came undone. The girl who read the poem stood there with huge tears welling in her eyes.   

In that moment she felt worth something. I wondered if maybe for the first time in her life. Worth a round of applause. Worth being celebrated. Worth still being here. She awoke to the truth that has always been there, waiting to be discovered. That she is worthy of love. And although the lies may creep back in and compete with the truth, for this moment, truth won. 

I have learned this about working with people who are marginalized. In case you are wondering who the marginalized are, Webster defines them as this: 

“to relegate (cast out) to an unimportant or powerless position within a society or group.” 

The unimportant. At least by society’s measure. Those without a voice, because no one finds them worthy enough to listen. The rejected. The exiled. The dismissed.

The very polar opposite of being accepted. 

For nearly every person who is incarcerated, involved in gang affiliation or struggling with addiction, there are three common root emotions at the core of their being. 
  
Shame. Worthlessness. The feeling of being unlovable.  

A deep sense of failure of the whole self. 

I don’t think you have to have some dramatic story to relate to the marginalized. I, too, have felt shame. I have faced rejection. I have felt unworthy of being heard. Overlooked. Excluded.  

There is power in learning to see yourself in someone else’s story. Because we aren’t meant to do this whole life thing alone. We have more in common than the things that make us different. Our needs are universal. They transcend language, geography and experience. Deep down, we are all asking the same questions. We all need a seat at the table. A sense of being worthy enough to belong. 

People don’t need to be reminded of their wrongness. Or how much of a sinner they are (as if some are worse than others). Or how many ways in which they’ve failed. Our sense of shame goes all the way back to the garden. We are all more than well aware of the ways in which we have been wrong. Overly aware. 

It’s what we’ve forgotten that we need to be reminded of. Reminded of the inherent good in us. Not good in the sense of behavior or choices. But good because the image of the Divine is in all of us and nothing can erase it. Not our choices. Not a poor self image. Not the things that make us different. Not our questions or doubts. 

Reaching the marginalized starts with reminding them of who they are, not of who they are not. Of helping them transform the way they see themselves, because a healthy view of self changes the choices we make and the way we interact with the world. 

It starts with reminding yourself of the truth about who you are. You are a sky full of stars. Do you know that? You are worth a standing ovation. You are wholly acceptable and worth celebrating.

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  • 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.