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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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.

The Two Waiting Room of Life 

 

Tomorrow I will close the shutters for the last time. In a kitchen where my grandma used to can vegetables and cook for the families of her four daughters that she loved. I will empty the room where I laid many nights snuggled between the two of them, begging my grandpa for one more scary story that he liked to tell while listening to cars passing on the main road driving to destinations unknown. I will look into the same mirror where my four- year -old self- attempted to brush my hair, while grandpa caught a picture in that bathroom with the dated butterfly wallpaper. But this time, I will steal a glance of myself for the last time. 

The last glance in a house with walls that hold decades of stories, as all homes do. 

I thought by now I would be ready. The house sat on the market for a dragged out year that felt like ten. Close to selling several times, only to fall through. A roller coaster of hope and disappointment. Of moving forward just to step back. A weary mix of unknowns and confusion about the direction we were heading that left us stunned and scratching our heads in perplexity. But as I sat there around the table to close on the house, my heart did not show up for the anticipated day the I thought it would. I felt weepy and strangely torn. Like I could stop time and protect the treasures of my heart if I didn’t sign on that line. The weather outside seemed to agree, with its gray skies and fits of scattered and cold rain. 

We spend most of our lives in two waiting rooms. The waiting room of waiting. Feeling ready to move forward, but circumstances aren’t lining up just yet. So we wait, often impatiently and marked with grumbling and blaming God for holding out on us. 

For the right spouse to marry. 
For the labor to start. 
For the test results to come back. 
For the house to sell. 
For the phone to ring. 
For God to move in situations, we can do nothing about. Except for wait. 

But we often spend an equal amount of time in the waiting room of lingering. Of holding onto seasons, we are meant to move on from. Like there is an unopened invitation laying on the table inviting us into our future. But we walk by it, convinced that what we’ve already experienced and have known is better than anything that could be ahead. Our curiosity dominated by complicated emotions. 

Our hearts are not always good at the letting go part. 

And sometimes the waiting that we feel sentenced to in that silent waiting room is because of our lingering. Because of what needs to change in us. 

In the book of Exodus, there is a well- known story of an Israelite community that found freedom from years of slavery in Egypt. Oppressive slavery of working their fingers to the bone for rulers in palaces, while their own families suffered in living conditions not fit for anyone.  

I can tell you a thing or two about final release dates from places you don’t want to be. About being under someone else’s authority and rule. About oppression and being robbed of dignity and humanity. So I can easily imagine the joy and freedom they felt at their release from Egypt. That place marked with tears and suffering. Freedom longed for and finally realized. So now they enter into the happy future they wanted and waited for, right? Wrong. They ended up wandering like nomads on a forty year journey to the place God had promised them was ahead.  

Delivered from their waiting room, only to enter the lingering room. Because the waiting isn’t just about what is being prepared for us. It’s about what is being prepared in us. 

Sometimes you will find yourself on the other side of difficult circumstances only to find that they are still very much inside of you. And you aren’t near as ready for what is ahead as you think you are. 

Since this whole waiting deal is a guarantee for all of us, the question begs to be asked:  

How do we learn to wait well? 

There is a verse in Ecclesiastes 3 that echoes in my mind: 

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” 

There is a time. God is not linear in time the way that we understand time. It makes my head hurt to think about it honestly. A reflection of my own limited comprehension. 

We wait well by focusing our energy on becoming the person we want to be when we get to our longed-for place, and by surrendering the demand to know when we will arrive.  

By focusing on becoming the spouse that we long for. 
On being the parent our children deserve. 
On becoming the person who learns to trust, even in the face of bad news. 
On becoming the person who learns to walk in peace during prolonged waiting. 
On being the person who learns that when the phone doesn’t ring, one day you may be grateful it didn’t. 
On becoming the person who knows that God is sovereign (unrestricted, boundless, unlimited) and you and I? Newsflash: We are not. 

There is a time. It may be today. It may be tomorrow. It may be a year from now or longer. Let's not hinder ourselves on our journey by not waiting well. Let's not hinder ourselves by holding too tightly to what we’ve left behind.  

Look ahead and not over your shoulder. Open that invitation. Have enough faith to believe that what lies ahead is just as good or better than what’s left behind. 
 

Hello There Alice 

#wonderland

 

Life is unfair. Have you ever found yourself thinking that? Just know that I’m over here on this end with my hand raised. I’ve murmured it to myself. I’ve said it to my children as they plead against some deserved punishment by arguing that “it isn’t fair.” It’s the easy and exhausted parental way out of the conversation….life is not fair. 

But it’s a harsh reality to wrestle and make peace with. Why do some children get tucked into bed in a two million dollar mansion and others sleep in the back of a car? If they are lucky enough to have a car. I met two little girls this week that the latter was their reality. Two beautiful little girls, whose parents love them just as much as any good parent loves their children. Whose parents work just as hard to provide for them as any other parent does. But life happened as life often does. A long distance move seeking a better life. Mixed with unexpected events, delays, and an overdrawn bank account. Life has a way of making what you think is certain collide with what can’t be easily reconciled. 

The journey of walking through a difficult season in our lives exposes every faulty thing we build our happiness upon. When the ground begins to shake a little, and life as you know it becomes blurred and the future uncertain, the first thing to go is your peace. Followed by your sense of security, comfort, and contentment. 

My husband and I are currently walking through a season of chaos. How many balls can a person juggle at one time? We are setting a new record. My heart hasn’t fully been able to process it all yet. 

But the reality is that even on my worst day, someone else might look at my life and long for it in exchange of their own reality. 

We live in a FOMO culture. Fear of missing out. Millions of dollars are spent on marketing campaigns to suggest more stuff that we need. That nagging suggestion that you’re missing something you don’t currently have. Social media breeds this as well. We post the best versions of our lives. The filtered version. No one ever posts a picture of the report card that shows a child failing in school. Or the final notice from the utility company that electric is about to be shut off, hashtag final notice. It doesn’t happen because those aren’t circumstances anyone would want for their life. 

In this wrestle with thinking life is unfair, of fearing we are missing out, we must be so careful. 

It’s an elusive chase that does not end well. It will make you feel like Alice in Wonderland chasing that white rabbit. But beware. It’s a trap in which there is no wonderland to be discovered. That rabbit hole does not lead to an adventure at all. 

It leads to lack of gratitude. Bitterness. Envy. Misery. And here’s the ugliest truth that is painful to swallow: 

It leads to wishing away this life right in front of me that deep down….I love with my whole heart. The laughter of my children. The sloppy noises my dog makes when he is consuming food (it’s really, really disgusting you guys). The little daily messes and heaps of laundry. The bills that pile up. The prayers that have yet to be answered. The family member I am borrowing worry over. The house that just sold and the upcoming move to a location we have yet to find. This beautiful life. 

  

If I jump into the rabbit hole of thinking that I’ve missed the path somehow, then that means I also miss all the beautiful events and faces on this path that I find myself on. 

Even if there are parts of it I’d rather bypass. 

We are each given a path to walk. Sometimes it’s a path we’ve chosen and sometimes it’s a path that life seems to have chosen for us. 

Either way, it’s ours to walk. No one else’s. Yes, life is unfair sometimes. Yes, there are things on this side of eternity that there are no easy, black and white answers for. But no one’s life is without pain, struggle, or asking the hard questions we all wrestle with. No one. Even if someone else’s life seems easier or more privileged. 

There is no happiness to be found in comparing our path to someone else’s. Contentment is giving yourself whole heartedly to this path you are on. That is your best life.

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

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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.