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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Through the Wasteland 

 

There is a quote by John Hope Bryant that says this: “The most dangerous person in the world, is a person with no hope.” 

Because they have nothing to lose. And feeling like you have nothing to lose leads to behavior that can become reckless, self sabotaging, and destructive to the world around you.   

I’ve lived through moments when the good life I once knew felt decimated into oblivion. When all oxygen felt sucked out of the room. When grief made my heart and limbs feel like they were on a cross country journey trekking through knee deep sand. 

In those moments, your circumstances can look and feel like a wasteland. I once heard someone describe it as the “ground zero” of your life. Like ground zero of the World Trade Center in New York. A place once thriving with life, replaced by a heap of rubble and ashes.  

What are the wastelands of your life? What are those places that look beyond hope? 

I had a miscarriage once at thirteen weeks. I remember the bleeding in the weeks that followed, a symbol that the heartbeat that once beat beneath my own had stopped. A constant and painful reminder of my empty womb and aching heart. A due date that is now an anniversary. A wasteland.  

I hear wasteland stories often. It’s a reminder that we all have painful experiences that we have to learn to navigate through on our journey around the sun. I have never met a single person who is exempt and find myself often surprised at what people learn to carry, even that person you think has never been through a hard thing in their life. 

I’ve been following the journey of a three year old little girl fighting for her life. From thriving health to an unexpected arrival of heart failure. An unforeseen bend in the road that has left her family blind sided and forging their way through a new and unwanted normal. Their current reality is now around the clock sights and sounds common to hospitals. Monitors and normal vs abnormal ranges, waiting for daily rounds by the doctors. Waiting for glimpses of hope. Waiting for their sweet girl to wake from her sedated slumber. Waiting for her healing to come, physically and in the part where a deep sadness has settled. A sadness from the trauma of it all, from being three and not understanding that what’s being done is for her good, and not understanding what became of the happy life she used to know. A life of playing with baby dolls and running carefree with her siblings.  

I am completely immersed in their story. Heart deep. Checking compulsively every few hours for updates on Rowen. Waiting along side of them for her to smile again. Waiting in this wasteland for some sign of hope. 

I don’t ever want to be a person who sings songs to a heavy and broken heart. There’s a proverb that describes that as removing someone’s garment on a cold day. Ouch. I don’t ever want to a person who minimizes the gravity of hell on earth that people have to walk through. If there is any prayer that I have, it is “God, please don’t let me be that.” I want to be the person who laments with people. Who sits down with them in their suffering and waits it out. Waits for relief. Waits for morning. Waits until the tears have slowed or stopped. Waits and wades through the wasteland.  

I only know that in my own life, that place that I looked at and said, “this is a wasteland,” has become a place thriving with beautiful life. The beautiful made even more so somehow by the depth of the sorrow. I will never fully understand the complexity of it all on this side of eternity, and I have made peace with that. 

And that’s where hope is found. In looking ahead and daring to believe that in your wasteland, life will return. Your ability to smile will return. It will. I promise it will. “A new normal,” a tragedy survivor once promised me. 

It doesn’t minimize the tragedy, loss, or sorrow of our experiences. Hope is our lifeline. It is how we survive the wasteland, by clinging to it, even if it’s only by a thread.  

”A wasteland. Unlivable. Not even a dog could live here…But the time is coming when you’re going to hear laughter and celebration..” 
Jeremiah 33:10-11 Msg translation 

photo cred for ground zero: Boston.com 

The Good Father 

 

My Lyft driver must have guessed me as a country girl (about 50/50 I’d say). I grew up in the best of both worlds, the city and the cornfields. All I know is he asked me what genre of music I wanted to hear and when my fatigue spoke and told him to choose, we drove home listening to songs about trucks and drowning our memories.  

I love most genres by the way. Including country music, but the sad kind of songs in smaller doses. 

This has little to do with what I’m going to write about this week, other than to say that we often assume things about people based on what we see externally. 

Which isn’t completely a bad thing and is actually innate and protective. We make judgements based on what our eyes see, what our senses feel, and what our brain interprets that our response should be. Not always a bad thing. I would never tell someone to ignore their intuition or gut feeling. 

But we also have a gross tendency to make assumptions that aren’t always correct and can create a lot of misery if we aren’t careful. I’ve had to eat a humongous slice of humble pie more than once in my life. Too many times to count actually. 

We tend to assume that others don’t struggle with the very things that we do. So we suppress. We hide. We categorize people, leaving us all the more isolated and lonely than we are meant to be.  

I had a conversation with an eighty-six year old that caught me off guard recently. We were talking about his life, parenting, death, the afterlife. You know….all the things. He is severely hard of hearing, so I had to shout loud enough that it felt like the whole city could hear. We were quite the sight, sitting there shouting about doubt and faith. 

Maybe I was the one who needed to hear our exchange of words most of all. 

Just because you reach a certain age doesn’t mean you outgrow the wrestling that is common to the human experience. 

Just because you survived one trauma doesn’t mean there won’t be days in the future you won’t know how to navigate through. 

Just because you pastor a church, lead a small group, have read the whole bible, or don’t appear to have questions doesn’t mean you won’t face discouragement, weariness, or that you are protected from the three letter word most of act like we don’t long for the answer to. 

Why? 

I wrote a few weeks ago about a story in the Bible of two sisters who sent for Jesus because their brother was gravely ill. And when Jesus delayed coming to their aid, they faced heartbreak, grief, disappointment, and I imagine a whole litany of questions and other emotions. 

When Jesus arrived and saw them wrecked with sobbing and grief, the text says this: 

“He wept.” 

There is a lot of speculation as to why. That He was grieved that these people He loved were in so much pain. 

That He was troubled at their disbelief. 

I think both are very possible. But this is what I believe to be true in my heart. This is what I believe to be true on the other side of my own trauma, heartbreak, and my own seasons of wrestling, questions, and doubts. 

I think He wept because they felt abandoned by God. I think He wept because they doubted his good intentions toward them. 

I think about my own children. Those four precious gems I gave birth to that I would literally give my life for. And to think they would ever question that I only have good intentions toward them is the most heartbreaking thing I can imagine. And I am far from the perfect parent. 

I don’t think God is surprised by our questions at all. We were created in His image and He is the embodiment of imagination, creativity, and wonder. We are meant to use our brains and to analyze, critique, and question things. Do not feel bogged down in shame over that. 

It’s what we do with our questions that matters. Let them drive you to Him, not away from Him. 

Questions invite answers, but we don’t always get the answer we want. Sometimes we get the thing that we need more than the answer: trust.  

Trust that God’s heart and intentions toward us are only capable of good. Even when our situation doesn’t seem good. It’s the one thing we can trust. We may not be able to trust that life will always be good. Life will be a blended harmony of beautiful highs and painful lows. But we can trust that His heart towards us is always good. 

And when questions arise like a three year old on repeat, we can rest and know that it’s okay to not have the answers. 

  

The World is Waiting 

I had the honor and privilege of two coffee dates this week with two phenomenal women who have overcome a lifetime of shattering pain. We sat there on the porch of a local coffee shop as the cars drove by and the temperature began to cool, encapsulated in our own moment of time travel, stories, and survival. I sat there thinking, you should write a book. The world needs to hear this story. 

You have a story. We all do. A beginning. That date on the calendar of our birth and arrival into a waiting world, followed by a timeline of details that shape us and scar us along the way. Events that bump, bruise, and sometimes fracture us. No one gets to bypass pain and suffering. Hard as we may try to escape it, it’s woven into the DNA of humanity. Our brokenness has left us hurting each other since the beginning of time. 

There is so much more to each of us than what we see on the surface. The facebook version of our lives. There are complexities and layers. That guy ahead of you in line at the grocery might have just walked through a season of loss in which he thought for sure the pain would kill him. It’s very possible that he’s feeling much more fragile than he looks. 

That mother that you pass every day dropping off her daughter at school? She might be struggling with deep insecurity and unworthiness set in motion by an absentee father and a mother that sought her own worth in men. 

That coworker that you think has it all together (whatever that means), might be masking a deep shame triggered by something that wasn’t her fault, now buried beneath perfectionism and over achievement. 

We’re all walking around carrying unread books, the stories of our lives that the world needs to hear. 

I have a set of Russian dolls on my bookshelf that my daughter loves to play with. I watch her as she opens each one and looks over at me with a grin of delight at the discovery of the smaller dolls within. Again and again, until she is holding the smallest one in the palm of her hand. 

But unless someone takes that doll apart, it sits on the shelf unopened, as if there is nothing more to be discovered within. 

There is so much more to be discovered within each of us. There was a reason my grandma loved dolls so much. I think about this as I look at the picture of her at the age of two, orphaned and being raised by her older sister. I see the story in her eyes, just begging to be told.  

Your story is begging to be told. Don’t believe the lie that it's insignificant. Or that it’s not dramatic enough or as important as someone else’s story. Or that it’s too much. Shame the lie that has been shaming you. Tell that thing

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay…” I hear the verse replaying in my mind. We are that jar of clay. You and I. Moldable, breakable, containers of greatness. Containers of the God of hope. Containers of stories of how we’ve survived and overcome. 

Don’t let your story go untold. There is a waiting world. 

Reference: 2 Corinthians 4:7

In the Waiting 

 

I whispered his name because I couldn’t find any other words. The name I chose for him all those years ago on that cold winter morning of his birth. The name I’ve whispered in moments of tender affection. The name that I’ve been guilty of raising my voice at in exhausted frustration. A name that holds years of sweet memories my heart treasures. 

But there I found myself that morning standing in my bathroom, sleep deprived and with tears, snot, and a heart that was bleeding. There is nothing that will wound your heart like when one of your children are hurting. Especially when it’s a hurt that you can’t fix. Gone are the days of a bandaid and a kiss to make the tears stop. It will make your heart feel fragile and amnesic of all the other difficult things you’ve survived in your life. 

So I just whispered his name and offered it up to heaven in helpless surrender. And with his name was an unspoken plea of my heart. See him… please. Don’t forget this child of mine.  

There’s this story in John, chapter eleven, that I see myself in. There is power and strength that comes from learning to see yourself in a story. 

It opens with a man who is very sick and his sisters have sent word to Jesus that, “the one you love so very much is sick.” And yet, Jesus unapologetically arrives on the scene four days too late. Four days in the wake of grief, disappointment, and silence feels eternal. Ninety six hours of waiting. Five thousand and seven hundred and sixty minutes of a slow ticking clock. Eternal

Like the smell of antiseptic and lack of color in a hospital waiting room. 
Like the silence of the car ride when following a hearse. 
Like the chill of winter in your bones when the ground and everything living is now frozen and dead. 

It’s agonizing and can’t end soon enough. 

When you’ve sent for help from the only One who can help, and that help finally arrives, you run out of the house like one of the sisters did to see what’s about to go down, right? Nope. Not always. 

Then the text says this, “Mary remained in the house.” 

And that is the part of the story where I see myself. Sitting there in the house with my doubts, confusion, and anger. And so many questions. 

Had her faith collapsed? Four days have passed. This situation is way beyond hope. 

Did she feel unseen and alone in her pain? I called for you four days ago and you dragged your feet in getting here? Do I matter that little to you? 

Was she raging with bitterness in her heart? Where were you when I needed you? How could you let this happen if you love us? 

When I was little and before I knew heartbreak and shame, I used to play in the creek on my grandparent’s  property. It was my spot. Calm and safe. I loved that little creek bed and the shade of the tall trees, the coolness of the water, and rearranging the rocks to make a crossing path. And He saw me there and knew my name. 

When I grew older and gave myself away too young and sought love in the wrong places, He saw me then too and He knew my name. 

When I found myself standing in the ashes of my own wreckage with tragedy and a story I never wanted, He saw me there. He saw me standing in the aftermath with my broken heart and my fists clenched. And He called my name. He asked for me

You see, it’s the next part of the story that I love the most. People often quote other parts of it and overlook this one. Mary’s sister comes back into the house and whispers in her ear, “Jesus is here and He is asking for you.” 

He’s here. For you as you read this. Wherever you find yourself today. In the house with your disbelief and bitterness. In the mess you’ve made. In that situation in which you feel helpless and hopeless. In the bathroom with you and your brokenness and the prayers you can’t utter. 

He’s here and He’s asking for you

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 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.

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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.