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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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. 
 

There Is a Time to Heal 

 

I heard a wounded heart open its mouth and speak the other day in passing. A statement said with fear in the disguise of confidence. 

"You can't trust anyone." It said. 

For a moment I expected to turn and see someone who looked like a villain you might see in a movie scene where the character is sinister with ice blue eyes and an evil scheme in mind. But that wasn't the case at all. She was polished and petite and pretty.  

What a terrible way to live, I thought to myself. But I know that I too have built my own walls before. An expert bricklayer. Brick upon brick. Row by row.  A well-guarded fortress keeping others out and myself in.  

That's what happens when the heart doesn't fully heal. When there has been some infraction against it, a betrayal or a loss. It guards and protects from the thing that might be its undoing if it were to happen again. It opens the door when fear knocks, invites it in and makes it a bed. Stay awhile, won't you? Because if you do, you might protect me. 

It seems like wisdom, but it isn't wisdom at all. It's bitterness. Heavy and isolating and coloring everything you see with a dull shade of gray. 

You see, sometimes we think we've healed from that thing that hurt us so. From that unspeakable thing that happened when you were little. From that friend who decided never to have time anymore. From that person who promised to love you and then chose to love someone else. From that parent who told you-you would never amount to anything.  

I know you think you've healed by now. And you have. At least enough to survive it at the time. And now so much time has passed, and surely there must be an expiration date on wounds, isn't there? 

But the bandaid starts to lift because it can only hold for so long. And wounds in the heart eventually begin to raise too, rising closer and closer to the surface until they eventually seep out onto everyone around us.  

Drip.  

Drip.  

Drip.  

Spreading far and wide into our relationships and our perspective and the words we speak. 

You can only run so far from the truth. Eventually, anemia catches up to a hemorrhage. It robs your health and your strength and your ability to live. 

"You can't trust anyone." 

Oh but you can. 

And the time for healing has come. 

And if you allow it, The Great Physician will come. Because He knows what you need even when you don't. 

So be still now. Don't try to escape the process. It will only hurt worse if you do. It will only prolong the pain of healing. 

That cut you feel is the most perfect precision from a skilled surgeon to whom none other compares. Sometimes bones have to be reset to heal correctly. Sometimes old wounds have to be revisited in order to scar. 

I know it feels easier to allow things to remain the same. I know it does. 

But there is a time for your broken heart to be mended. There is a better way to live. 

 

Here's the truth that sometimes the wounded heart can't see. You can trust others. You can believe the best. Not everyone is going to hurt you the way one person did. The sky isn't going to fall. It does not always rain in Seattle. 

I pray that you will be healed. You deserve it. The people who love you deserve it. I pray that you will love others with your whole heart and not consider what it may cost you. Will you get hurt sometimes? Yes. A solid yes. But, love anyway. It's worth it. 

I'm so glad God didn't wait until I proved myself entirely trustworthy to love me. 

What area of your heart do you need healing in? Maybe for you, it's not trust, but insecurity, lack of self-worth, low expectations for good, or fear? Be brave and dig deep.

You Are Fully Known 

London, I'm coming for you.

 

Sometimes I feel like a human dichotomy. A division into two opposing categories of myself. 

Which might be why I struggle with personality tests. My answers are generally found somewhere in the middle.  

Either and neither.  

Torn between two versions of this person I know to be myself. 

Paul understood the struggle when he said, "For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." Romans 7:15

And I read it and sigh with understanding. Me too Paul. 

Who is this person looking back at me in the mirror? 

One part a homebody and settled in the city I grew up in, where I know the shortcuts and the best restaurants and the street my best friend grew up on. Another part that longs to see every inch of this vast world. Every small town with slow rhythms and room to breathe and fiction novel sounding names. To see every densely populated city with creative energy and street musicians and marks of progression.  

One part of me confident with good posture and shoulders back. A woman who has lived through some difficult stuff. Another part insecure, picking at my nails and staying silent when I want to speak up, like that thirteen-year-old version of myself walking into that school cafeteria again. Yikes.  

One part fearless and motivated by risk and leaps of faith. Another part afraid of most everything that could fail or threatens to hurt.  

An introvert who loves to speak publicly. 

A lover of music who also craves silence. 

A lover of people with an oversized need for personal space.  

One part of me that is overly health conscious. Another part that routinely gives into lattes and an insatiable craving for chocolate. Does the fact that it's dark chocolate count for anything? 

We are complex beings. Multi-layered and faceted. And brilliant when held in the right light. I don't know why we would expect anything less. We are made in the image of a complex God. 

A God that we cannot understand, but yet knows us fully.  

A God who speaks galaxies into existence and creates daffodils and the softness of a newborn's skin. Who created the wind that brushes against my skin and a smile that can be seen in a person's eyes and drew a line in the sand for the ocean not to cross. 

We are fully known. All parts laid bare. And deep down, it's what we all crave and yet fear that once we are, we will not be fully loved. Like maybe some parts of us are acceptable and other parts, not so much. Like those parts we've deemed as unacceptable might also make us unlovable.  

I watched an exchange recently between my husband and a man who has spent most of his life in prison. His present reality is one of homelessness and the struggling road to recovery from drug addiction. They stood on the sidewalk in the cold night air as cars drove by, their headlights shedding moments of light into the darkness.  His head hung low in shame from a recent relapse after weeks of sobriety and the brief taste of a better life. I heard my husband tell him to look up. To look him in the eye. He told him that he was not ashamed of him. And then he said something that was worth its weight in gold. The kind of thing you write about. The sort of thing that puts a lump in your own throat. Wrecking and transformative if allowed to sink in and settle into the heart.

 

 

"Even if you walk down the street and choose to stick a needle in your arm again, God will not love you any less." 

Hence the lump in the throat. Even if. At my best and at my worst. Any good that I am capable of aside. Any bad that I am capable of uncovered and even still, loved. Deeply and wholly and unwavering. 

"For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." 1 Corinth 13:12 

I know it's counter-cultural to everything you've ever heard, been taught, or believed to be true in this works based society we inhabit. But what I'm learning is that I don't have to strive to be loved. And when I posture my heart in the light of that perfect love, it naturally bends my heart towards what is right.

The Beauty of a New Normal 

 

 

Scars on the chest. A permanent reminder of near death, an unexpected surgery and a new regimen of medications. A future calendar marked with frequent doctor visits. 

A house that echoes with silence and too much space. Emptied of the voices that used to fill it. Emptied of the vows and promises of forever that were made. Still filled with memories that are too painful to revisit. 

Waking up after a choice you now regret. Wishing you could go back to sleep and it would have been a bad dream. But it's a reality now. A reality you can't fix or make better. 

New normals.  

Sometimes wanted. Like when your children grow up and leave home. A parent wants their child to mature and grow into adulthood and find their place in the world. That is healthy. Healthy with a side of bitter too. Part of your heartaches and wants to slow the hand of time, to hear their feet hit the floor and see them every morning with their hair disheveled. But time marches on and what do you do now with all your time? 

Sometimes, new normals are so unwanted.  

I found myself in a new and unwanted reality some years ago. It was a season of tragedy and enormous grief. The kind where you have to will your heart to live. During this season, a friend said to me "you will adjust to a new normal." I clung desperately to that truth. You mean to tell me, this too will someday become normal? How could that be? 

I didn't want to adjust to it. I didn't want my new reality. It was not the life I had envisioned for myself. It was not the story I wanted to tell and retell and eventually learn how to live out of. Not. at. all. 

"Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." John 12:24 

I could have held onto the life I once knew. I could have spent my life looking in the rearview mirror. Looking back and pining for the beautiful normalcy of the past. When life was relatively calm and routine, and this complete upheaval wasn't part of the storyline. I could have done that.  

And it still would have died in the grasp of my white-knuckled fists. That part of my life was over and gone. Learning to embrace my new normal is the only place where life would actually be found. 

So I let it fall. Apart and to the ground. And the Fall of my life came just as the season comes, and life seemed to be ebbing away, taking every color and beautiful thing with it. The forecast now a blanket of gray. Winter settled in and made a home, and I let it have its way. The life I knew before seemed to be buried and frozen beneath the ground, with no visible promise of new life to come. 

My new normal. A heavy normal. 

"But if it dies, it produces many seeds."  

My willingness to let it die is what made room for the new life to come eventually. I can still hear his voice today in my mind. "Sarah, you will adjust to a new normal." And I wish someone had told me "and it will be a beautiful one." 

Because that's really what we fear most when life is disrupted. When we're face to face with a situation, we don't know how to navigate. What we fear most is our inability to handle it. And we also fear that the new normal will always be a place of pain and void of a hope-filled future. 

Not so. The seeds produced can be beautiful, if we allow the brokenness to enter and be fully felt and fully broken. 

Maybe you're in a season of adjusting to a new normal. Hear my voice as someone who has walked through it. Brokenness leads to wholeness. A crushed and buried seed produces abundance. New normals can be beautiful normals if we are willing to make space for them.

When There's No Room in the Inn 

#homeforchristmas

 

I heard my husband pacing back and forth in the hallway while mumbling faintly under his breath. Something about shampoo and trying to get a shower. The dilemma? A multitude of sharpie labeled boxes containing all of our daily necessities. And it was anyone's guess which box labeled "bathroom" the shampoo might have been in.  All of our energy sources were depleted by this point. Too fatigued to peel one more strip of tape off a box for a search party.  

It was laugh or cry when a small giggle escaped from where I watched the scene unfold from the bedroom. There is a combination of mere exhaustion, aggravation, and stress that comes with the upheaval of your life that moving brings. Even if it's just across town.  

The day before, I packed our entire home from sun up to sun down. I have become familiar with the echo of a place as the contents that once filled it get placed into boxes. As the once adorned walls stand bare. The shelves cleared off. The closets cleaned out. Dust balls exposed. The house emptied of life and rhythms and stories. 

It was our fourth move in a year. I had become accustomed to the resettling into new spaces. Never allowing myself to get too comfortable anywhere. Some of my stuff always in boxes and kept in storage. Knowing as I drank my coffee on the couch of each living room that I would not be customizing it as my own. You don't go through the effort of painting and hanging pictures unless you are planning to stay, and eleven years had passed since I had lived anywhere I knew wasn't temporary. Eleven years. The thought of it is sobering and melancholy, leaving me with an ache to settle in and stay a while. A long while. 

Maybe that's why this one particular part of Jesus' birth and Mary's story is etched in my heart this season. The part where it says this: 

"There was no room in the Inn." 

I cannot imagine this moment for Mary. The discomfort and exhaustion of a ninety-mile journey to Bethlehem in the last uncomfortable months of pregnancy. I have not forgotten the low back pain. Or feeling like my pelvic bone was going to break in half. I haven't forgotten the anxiety of knowing I was responsible for this amazing life I was being handed and wanting to do it exceptionally well. 

And Mary's was not a situation of ordinary circumstances, as if ordinary isn't hard enough. Mary knew well the gravity of Who she was giving birth to. Well…I think she knew as much as anyone is capable of recognizing and comprehending something so complex. Now her moment of labor had arrived, and there was no room in the Inn?  

Maybe it's part of my story. Perhaps it's part of yours too. 

Maybe for you, it looks different than no vacancy and having to possibly give birth on the side of the road. 

Maybe it looks more like my situation. One of moving to a new zip code, change of address forms, new neighbors….again. Living in temporary spaces and longing to feel settled. 

There's no room in the Inn. 

Maybe it looks like feeling like you don't belong no matter where you are. Or feeling alone even in a room full of people. 

There's no room in the Inn. 

Maybe it looks like things not turning out the way you had hoped. Maybe there was a divorce. A death. A fractured relationship. An estranged child. A broken heart. Some unforeseen event in your life that you never wanted. 

There's no room in the Inn.  

What now? 

Take heart. Mary's story is your story. It's mine too. 

Boulder, CO 

Jesus could have been born anywhere. It could have happened any other way, but it didn't. This climactic part of the story of Mary's labor and no safe place to rest and settle ended and yet began in a stable. The most undesirable of places.  

A reminder to us all that God isn't just found in palaces and with people who are labeled as important by society's measure. He isn't only present when events are unfolding seamlessly and the way you hoped. He's present in the chaos and when everything seems like it's completely falling apart. He's in ordinary places and with those left on the side of the road. 

Our rescuer was born in a stable. Our rescuer is present with us in the low places of our lives. That's the message for you and me this Christmas and New Year. 

"...and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us)." 

There is room for you in the Inn.  

  

Reference: Luke 2:7; Matthew 1:23

The Crushing Process 

I tried out for drill team once in junior high. My self-worth rested in the hands of that panel of judges as they watched a bunch of seventh and eighth-grade girls file into the gym one by one to perform our dance routines. Sixty tormenting seconds of shaking knees and forced smiles from my introverted self while trying not to forget the moves I had rehearsed a hundred times by then.  

There was this dreaded part at the end that I remember vividly in which we were required to do the splits. I was no Gumby, and this was more like a bad episode of Star Search. Before the tryouts, I attempted to loosen the muscles in my legs by generously applying Icy Hot muscle cream. Great idea, right? Word of advice. Don't do it. What I was really trying to do was bypass the difficult work that should have taken place in the preceding weeks of conditioning my body to do what I was asking it to do. And since I didn't do that, I forced myself into the splits while feeling like a blow torch was being applied to my legs. 

So the end of the story goes as one might imagine that it would. I did not make the team (boooo....I'm still recovering), and I hurt myself on top of it. Junior high is brutal. 

Years later and well into my adult years, I still prefer to avoid the stretching process. I want a lot of things. I pray that God will help me see people and love them the way that He does (it's tough isn't it?). And He has answered that prayer, but this girl still has a long way to go. I pray to be reduced to love. In my responses, my actions and in my heart. Those hidden places. It's easier to control my outward behavior than to change the posture of my heart, and God cares a lot about both. I pray to be more like Jesus. Wise and gentle and always about the work of the Father. Not so caught up in the stuff of this life.  

But I don't like the conditioning process that shapes me into those things I long to be.  

I find myself whining and doubting God the moment my comfort comes into question, like my children in the backseat on a road trip. "How much longer?" They don't realize that the repetitive asking does not expedite the length of the ride. Put some earbuds in. Take a nap. Look out the window and enjoy the view. We will get there when we get there, and when we do, you'll be glad you endured. 

I used to jog on a regular basis. Not because I loved it. At all. It was physically hard. The muscles in my legs would often fight against me and scream for me to stop. In cold weather, my lungs would burn. I often wanted to quit halfway through the set distance and walk instead. But I felt great afterward. After I had pushed through and self-talked myself through the run and made it to the goal I had set for myself. I had more energy, mental clarity, and less anxiety. 

In the same way, hard circumstances in life condition us. They make us stronger and softer in the spaces that need to be strengthened and softened. They make us more pliable and more solid. Ready for the sprint and prepared for the marathon. They are beautiful gifts to our character if we allow them to be. If we allow ourselves to be crushed the way olives and grapes are pressed to make olive oil and wine. 

We are made new in the process. 

There are many circumstances I have walked through in my life that didn't feel good at that time. Things that I prayed would be removed quickly. But on the other side of those unwanted events, I realize there was an inner work taking place in me that was necessary and good for me in spite of my perceiving it as bad.  

What area of your life are you being stretched in right now? If it were to be removed or resolved today, what long-term gift could you be forfeiting? 

On Flying and Not Being Ruled by Fear 

photo credit: Patrick Davis

Row 38, seat B. That was my assigned spot on the flight of my worst nightmares. My husband will tell you that I am being dramatic. Maybe. Maybe not. It was a windy day, a turbulent flight and call me crazy, but my idea of fun does not include bouncing around in an airplane when that far from the ground. As a side note, I would prefer the pilot not come over the intercom with any updates either. Good or bad, I don't want to know. Any dinging sound followed by the sound of his voice puts me on the edge of my seat. We're thirty-thousand feet in the air, and I can take my seatbelt off now? Great. I feel so unrelieved. 

It almost sounds like I hate to fly, but that's not true. I love traveling. I love airports. I love the speed of taking off and seeing the aerial view. It's just that I only enjoy it when it feels safe and under control.  

At one point during the flight, my husband looked at me and asked how it felt not to have any control over the pilot. To not be able to nudge and direct the driver the way I do my spouse when he's behind the wheel. 

Terrible, I thought. 

But here's the reality. Flying is good for me. 

I like feeling a sense of control, and when it feels removed, it puts to test everything I claim to believe. 

I sat at a table the night before attempting to talk one of my son's away from nosediving over a cliff of fear about this very flight. I looked at him and told him about a time in my life when I was struggling with high anxiety and fear. Frequent trips to my primary care doctor. Frequent trips to the ER. A misdiagnosis of asthma, when in fact I was being ruled by anxiety.  

I looked at him in that dimly lit space of that authentic little Italian restaurant. 

"Don't let fear rule your life. It will stop you from doing the things you want to do in life." 

And I could only speak that truth from a place that I have lived through and learned from. 

 

We live much of our lives under this subconscious illusion of safety. Not that all things are outside of our control, hence the reason there are certain daily practices I have that help me feel safe. 

Locking my door. 
Wearing my seatbelt. 
Trying to eat healthy and organic. 
Having my cell phone on me in case of an emergency. 

But what I have learned in my moments of feeling like my safety is compromised or when feeling a loss of control are crucial parts of my emotional and spiritual development. 

You see, the pilot knew there was turbulence ahead. He knew how to steward the plane accordingly, and he was not phased by it. In fact, he came over the intercom (yes…I winced) and announced that there was a bit of turbulence and that he would get us to our destination safe and sound.  

I like those words. I want predictable outcomes. I love feeling a sense of control over my life and my fate. 

And in the moments that don't feel safe and sound, my heart is in the process of being recalibrated to know that my safety is in God alone. He is my shelter. No matter my location or my circumstance. Whether I am in the statistically "safe" part of town or the part labeled dangerous. Whether I am facing health or dreading the phone call from the doctor. Whether I am thirty-thousand feet in the air encountering turbulence or feet planted firmly on the ground.  

"He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." Psalm 91:2 

The future is unknown to me, but it is not unknown to God. Although I don't like being taken out of my comfort zone, it is good for me. It stretches me and causes me to assess if I am living my life in self-awareness or God awareness. 

It leads me back to a place of peace.

When You Find Yourself Dreading the Holidays 

 

We all know that holidays are not a welcomed and celebratory time for everyone and for many different reasons. 

I hear people speak with dreadful anticipation of family gatherings and let's be honest, we are not the Cleavers. Most of us are more like the Griswold's on National Lampoons. A little quirky and a lot of dysfunction. 

So the question is, how do we deal with tough relational dynamics and not dread the season? 

We live in an "unfollow" generation. Social media makes it easy to unfollow or unfriend that person whose posting or behavior we feel annoyed by with one click. 

We don't even have to respond to texts anymore. We now have a "like" option for texting (been guilty myself...but seriously?) 

Sometimes unfollow, and unfriend IS the healthy option for toxic relationships. It's for sure the easier option to not have to see something someone is posting that gets your emotions in a jumble. Sometimes healthy distance from toxic people (even family) is the healthy thing. It's for sure the easier option to avoid people and circumstances that feel difficult and more than we can handle. 

But just because something is easier doesn't always mean it's what is best. 

Maybe the tougher, more mature option is to ask ourselves the nitty, gritty why question. To check the gauge on our own heart. 

Why does what they are posting get to me the way it does?  

Why does that person in my family irritate me that way? 

Why give someone that much power over my life? 

Truth is, anything you are not mastering is master over you. 

Maybe we aren't meant just to avoid the tough people in our lives. Maybe...just maybe, there is something internal that needs to be examined on our end. 

Ouch. I don't like it either. 

As Bob Goff says, "Love difficult people. You are one of them." Thanks, Bob. So true.

On Old Hymns and Being the Good Girl 

 

I hear the Savior say, 
"Thy strength indeed is small; 
Child of weakness, watch and pray, 
Find in Me thine all in all." 
Jesus paid it all, 
All to Him I owe; 
Sin had left a crimson stain, 
He washed it white as snow. 

I remember hearing this hymn as a child. Standing amongst a chorus of voices in that small church with the red pews, singing along to words which at that point in my life, didn't entirely hold the weight of their meaning.  

I found my solace in being the good girl. If the teacher said, "stay seated and quiet," I didn't move. I sat with hands folded in my lap against my corduroy overalls. Still enough to not even make my seat creak, even if the teacher left the room. I crossed the street at crosswalks only. Obedient to the law. Reverent of authority, bordering the point of fear. Not perfect, but not a rule breaker by any means. 

Until curiosity climbed from the passenger seat to the driver's side. Giving way to the temptation that now dominated the fear and need for approval. I found that even the good girl has a rebellious heart. Prone to wander into the dark, despite being warned about dangers that might meet me there. Prone to wander just because I can. 

I was well into my adulthood before I realized there was a lie nestled in the core of my heart. God loved me based on my performance. When I behaved. Never disagreed. Didn't break the rules. Went to church. Prayed enough. All of the things on my exhausting and self-created checklist. At some point, the lie knocked on the door asking to be believed, and I flung the door wide open and gave it a room.  

"God, search my heart," I prayed. Like that spotlight search bar on my computer. Search my heart for what is stored in there that I am unaware of. Downloaded and forgotten about, but now affecting every aspect of my life drenched in shame. 

I saw it one day in my mind at a women's retreat. Like a time travel glimpse into the past. I saw the little girl version of myself standing before my father. I saw the tears in his eyes. The face marked with sadness, which as an adult I understand with time and clarity. But as a little girl, I misinterpreted as otherwise. There must have been something wrong with me. Sarah causes pain. 

So I strived to be a good girl. And this exhausting effort seemed to work for a while. I could at least try and mostly succeed at being on my best behavior.  

  

And then one night, it all changed. On one warm September night that I never saw coming. Suddenly I found myself sitting in a detainment room with my hands folded in the lap of my beige cotton jumpsuit, the uniform color in the county of my confinement. Sentenced to the Ohio Department of Corrections, a foreign term I would become fluent in. 

And now what, God? No more of the good girl. She has exited left of center stage. Show over. Curtains on that act. A disastrous ending. She couldn't keep your rules anyway. 

The old hymn of her youth plays out quietly in the memory of her heart, where lies and truth collide. 

 

I hear the Savior say, 
"Thy strength indeed is small; 
Child of weakness, watch and pray, 
Find in Me thine all in all." 
Jesus paid it all, 
All to Him I owe; 
Sin had left a crimson stain, 
He washed it white as snow. 

 Find in me thine all in all. Not in yourself. Not in your list of rules and self-determined goodness. 

Jesus paid it all. So that you don't have to. So that you can live a free and abundant life knowing that nothing can separate you from His love. Literally nothing

What lies do you believe in your own life today? I pray that God will search your heart and bask those lies in His light of truth. You don't have to work at being loved. You are meant to rest in it. You are loved as you are. Right here. Right now.

 

The Practice of Confession 

 

I almost threw a sandwich at Panera recently. When the plate clashed loudly against the table, it was a clue too late of my emotional fragility and inability to juggle all that was currently happening in my life. What I call a drip drip drip kind of season. Like Chinese water torture. Slow, irritating, cold drips of water onto the face. Drip. Drip. Drop. Tsunami. Of mounting emotions that make their way unbridled and to the surface. It was my fault, the sandwich part anyway. I didn't know it came with onions and my teenage son's smug reaction to this realization was the final drip. "You will eat that sandwich," I growled in a tone that I'm sure sounded like something straight out of Poltergeist. Yes, to the lady sitting in front of us who turned around at the commotion. The pastor's wife is losing her crap right now in the middle of Panera. Sigh

Some seasons of life feel like juggling footballs, awkward and cumbersome and too many in the air at once. Like if one more thing gets added into the mix of what we are handling, it will be the thing that breaks us.  

And what is too common and utterly unhelpful during that time is to act like we aren't drowning. Like the water isn't too deep and like our legs aren't exhausted from the treading and like we don't have a painful cramp in our side. 

I have this tendency to carry a hundred bags at once. Hello to any parents out there. Luggage. Everywhere we go. All the time. My unhealthy inclination when someone offers to help is to smile and politely decline. "Nope. It's all good over here. I got this." Nevermind that I'm carrying ten plastic grocery bags on one finger that is about to break. 

There is a great deal of pressure when you are in positions of leadership to have it all together. I'll write a book about this one day. I'm not just referring to leadership in the church realm. If you have a single person in your life who looks to you for guidance, then you are a leader in some capacity. Like it or not. There is pressure to remain calm, cool and collected at all times. To have the right response at all times. The correct posture of the heart. And while I am all about balance and responding as Jesus would, there isn't a single human being on the planet who has it together one-hundred-percent of the time. Not even that person that might be coming to your mind right now. I promise they don't. 

Part of healthy emotional hygiene is the practice of confession. In admitting, "this feels like more than I can handle right now." Or, "I don't know how to navigate this." Or, "I feel irate. Overwhelmed. Discouraged. Numb," or whatever emotion begs to rise to the surface for air. 

Just the confession alone lets just enough steam out that the emotion feels more manageable and not so overwhelming. 

When I went through a season of counseling, I was surprised at how therapeutic the process of speaking what I was feeling out loud was. My counselor would sit across from me and listen, trained to ask the right questions. Trained to help unravel the web of tangled emotions lying beneath the surface. 

This is my confession to you. To the one reading this. I am in a season of juggling. Not the normal multitasking, mom and life stuff. That's every season. I'm talking about juggling transitions. New locations, new responsibilities, and new doors opening. All good things, but even good things are difficult at times. Longing to feel settled and a sense of home. Juggling relationship dynamics that are complicated and filled with drama at times. And truth be told, sometimes I feel like I have no idea how to navigate that. Sometimes I mess up and don't handle it the way I should.  

So if you see me having a meltdown in Panera, may I ask something of you? Don't judge me. Extend some grace. Pray for me. Ask me how I'm really doing. Beneath the external appearance of what you can see. Ask me to a coffee date (it will always win me over). 

And do the same for others. Do the same for yourself and your own heart. It will do a world of good.

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  • 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.