Pressing On

Sometimes, the faith journey can feel like a sprint, while other times, it can feel like a marathon. Regardless of what it feels like, the necessity of pressing on stays the same.

The idea of pressing on has been somewhat of a theme in this season.

If I had given up on getting back to kinda who I was, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Pressing on has been challenging-oh so hard-at times, but all the tears and tantrums have been worth it to see how far I’ve come.

Don’t think that this is just me wanting recognition or a pat on the back, but the example is meant to show you the value of pressing on.

I’m not a runner but that’s another example that will resonate with people.

How does one run a marathon?

You have to persevere-keep going-when your muscles hurt. You can’t give up the moment things get tough.

The same is true with faith. It’s easy to trust God when things are going well. Life is all butterflies and roses. But what about when your plans get derailed. You get an unexpected call from the doctor, or you lose your job. Life seems to be more thorns and wilderness. God seems so far away but in reality, we’re the ones who have moved, not Him.

Will you keep trusting God even when it doesn’t look like anything is happening?

Paul is a great example of that. Life was good, and it was horrible-he was beaten and imprisoned. It ebbed and flowed between being good and bad, but throughout he remained close to God. He was honest about where he was, but he never truly blamed God for his suffering. He writes in Philippians 3: 12-15;

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.”

That shocks me because he had every reason to be upset at God. True, God didn’t ever cause suffering, but the suffering was because of God. But he never blamed God. In fact, he counts it kinda an honor-he rejoiced in it.

“Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”

Colossians 1:24

Because I was curious about what the word perseverance and phase press on actually meant, I looked them up.

Perseverance (n.)

persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

Press on/ahead (phrasal verb with press)

to start or continue doing something in a determined way, often despite problems

Both words/phrases hint to continuing despite problems and hardships. It’s the idea that problems will happen, but we need to be determined in continuing despite.

So here’s a couple tips to help you press on when you feel like giving up on Jesus:

 

  • Recall past persevering accomplishments.

 

Remember the times when your perseverance paid off. Allow those memories to motivate you when times get tough.

 

  • Celebrate victories (even small ones).

 

When you are in the midst of troubles or hard times, it’s easy to get discouraged. Celebrate victories. Even small one’s matter. I remember when I walked down the stairs for the first time in a long time without holding onto a handrail. It was a small thing, but I threw my arms up in a victory stance. Luckily, I was in a stairwell with no one in it, or people would have given me weird looks. Celebrate the moments where you get into the Word or listen to godly podcasts. They might seem like a small thing, but sometimes you just need a win.

 

  • Take a step-just one.

 

Sometimes,  the big picture is so intimidating that you are frozen in place. In order to move, you need to just focus on taking on step at a time-on breathe at a time.

  • Just keep going (even if it’s only in your mind).

 

Sometimes, half the battle is in your hard. My brother always says “Those who say they can and those who say they can’t are both right”. Half of the battle is what you tell yourself. If you tell yourself you can’t do this or to give up, then you won’t get there. But if you tell yourself that you’ll eventually get there even though it’s hard, then you’ll get there eventually.

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You-Yes, You-Are Known, Seen and Loved.

You-yes, you-are known, seen and loved.

I was thinking about this simple fact this weekend.

Known.

Verb. Meaning “have developed a relationship with (someone) through meeting and spending time with them; be familiar or friendly with.

Seen.

Verb. Meaning “be or become aware of something from observation or from a written or other visual source.”

Loved.

Verb. Meaning “like or enjoy very much”.

You, regardless of what you have done or who you are, are known to the very depths of your soul and loved by the Creator of the Universe.

I think about the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. He didn’t listen to his father, squandered all his money, and severely grieved his father’s soul, but his father knew all that he’d done and STILL welcomed him back with open arms.

God does that with us. He pulls us into His arms and welcomes us home-even after we have tremendously grieved Him.

In the same way, God knows, sees, and loves us, we need to know, see, and love others. I listened to Angie Smith at IF gathering this weekend. She compared faith to solitaire. In Solitaire, you have to start with an ace. What’s the ace of our faith?

Love.

It has to be love. That’s the foundation. Everything else is based on that. If you throw down a five or seven, it won’t work and no one will listen. If you start with the ace though, everything else falls into place. It can be still be challenging at times, but you’ll keep building on the ace. It’s the same way with faith. Love comes first.

Can you honestly say you love everyone regardless of political views, sexual preferences, and religious views?

Love comes first.

You won’t argue anyone into heaven, but if you start with love, and see them, I mean really see them flaws and all, you give them a glimpse of how the Heavenly Father loves them unconditionally.

Throw the ace.

You won’t regret it.

Anchored to Hope

Anchor.

That’s my word for this year.

Anchor.

Recently, I was challenged that I’m exactly where God wants me and that He has put people in my life that are meant to be there. When I think of “anchor”, I think of a ship’s anchor. The thing about that is

the anchor locks the ship down temporarily. It stabilizes it for the time being so the sailors can do what

they need to. When it’s done in that part of the ocean, it pulls up anchor and sets sail again.

That’s a lot less scary than the idea of putting down roots and God asking me me to uproot in a couple

months or even years. As I’ve begun to think about the practicality of anchoring to hope, here are a few

things I’ve learned.

  • Be open to the unexpected

Sometimes, the sweetest things come in the most unexpected packages. Things that I never expected

could be exactly my what I need in the moment. I’m learning to keep the door open to possibilities-both the

unexpected and expected.

  • Self-care is not selfish, but it anchors you.

Slowing down could be the exact thing I might need to help you remain present. It’s hard to slow the mind

down but sometimes I just need to breathe in and out. Breathing in and out anchors the soul and reminds

me that I’m exactly where I need to be. I need to take care of myself in order to take care of others. I could

get frustrated because I seem to need more rest than the average 24 year old, or I could use this time to

grow mentally and spiritually.

  • Here is where I need to be right now.

Two years ago, I wanted to be anywhere but here. Honestly, I wanted to be halfway across the world, but

I settled for Akron. Through a series of events, God brought me back to Mansfield against my will. I fought

against it for awhile, but recently, I realized that this actually is when I’m meant to be. This place-the littles

at school, my bible study and my small group girls-have a piece of my heart.

So here we are – almost a month into 2019 – and I’m figuring out how to be present and anchored in my

corner of the world. Here’s to anchoring myself to God and hoping/believing that God is moving.

ABBA-Good Good Father

Father.

When people hear that word, they have different emotions. Some people smile a soft smile remembering,

long walks and being carried on shoulders at amusement parks. Others grimace remembering the fights

and the fear.

We sang “Good Good Father” at church the other day and I really listened to the words.

Regardless of your view of that word, God desires to blow the top off the box of who we think He is. I

mean, the lyrics say, “I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night”.

We hear stories of who God is, but we’ll have to find out who He is for ourselves.

His quiet voice in the dead of night.

His breeze when you are dying of heat.

These things seem like coincidences but they may be God kisses.

I knew God loved me before my accident. I knew He was a good father, but through different things that

have happened recently, I’ve understood it in a different way.

The moments when I’m at the end of my rope, something happens to give me a little extra energy to

finish whatever I started.

A gentle breeze.

A touching note.

A baby cuddle.

An encouraging text message.

A soft smile.

I could go on.

No matter the hard times or the good times, Jesus-ABBA- is waiting with arms wide open to welcome

us into His arms.

Let Him encircle you in His arms-you don’t have to face this world by yourself.

Anchor

Anchor: a reliable or principal support

: something that serves to hold an object firmly.

This is my primary word for 2019, but I couldn’t narrow it down to just one.

The other word that goes hand in hand with “anchor” is “content”. The two words

together fit what I desire for this next year. Recently, I was challenged that I’m exactly

where God wants me and that He has put people in my life that are meant to be there.

When I think of “anchor”, I think of a ship’s anchor. The thing about that is the anchor locks

the ship down temporarily. It stabilizes it for the time being so the sailors can do what they need to.

When it’s done in that part of the ocean, it pulls up anchor and sets sail again.

This is how I view this year. It’s not a coincidence that I’m back in Mansfield. I don’t know how long

I will be anchored here, but I’m (for the first time) excited to put down roots in the corner of th world

God has placed me in. It warms my soul that the barista at the local coffee shop knows my name.

That I can see the littles outside of school and they get excited that they saw me. Here’s a few practical

things to help me stay anchored and content in my corner of the world.

  • Be present-truly present-right where I am.

If I’m at school, I’ll be all at school-my mind won’t be focused on what’s next. This exact moment in

time will come around again, so I need to give my all to the littles and teachers. If I’m with my small

group, I need to be all with them. Wherever I am, I need to be all there so I can put down roots

effectively. Multi-tasking is nice, but sometimes people want/need your full attention. I never want

anybody to feel less of a priority because they don’t have my full attention.

  • Uncertainty is alright.

I want to have everything figured out now. I want to know everything that could possibly go wrong

and have a backup plan in case it does. I rarely take chances because I don’t know the ending. If I

desire to put down roots and anchor myself here for the time being, I have to embrace the

uncertainty-of a job, of dating, of figuring out this season. I have some control over those things, but

nothing will ever be without uncertainty. I need to stop living in fear of uncertainty, and learn to see the

possibilities laid out in front of me. Just learn to take it one day at a time.

  • Take opportunities as they come.

When I was viewing everything as temporary, I turned down a lot of opportunities because I didn’t

want to commit to something when I only planned on staying here temporarily. Now that I’m working

and looking to put down roots, the opportunities are not as scary. I’m figuring out more of my place

in the world.

  • Be intentional with the people God has placed in my circle of influence.

Part of being anchored and putting down roots is the people alongside you. God has called me to this

place and put people in my life. I desire as I learn to be content to be intentional with those walking to my

left or right. Even those walking the journey behind me have a story to tell, they just need someone to listen.

Honestly, I’m thinking of my small group girls. I saw one at church today. Her face brightened up with a huge

smile when she saw me. God placed me as a leader in her life. I’m not able to be a faithful leader in her life

and the lives of the other girls without the strength of God.

9 Things I Desire for 2019

A new year brings a new beginning and a fresh start. As this New Year begins, I am starting to think

about what I want for this New Year. What do I want this year to be about?  As I prayed about what I want

for this year, two words came to mind: content and anchor. These words have played a part in my journey

during this past year, and I believe they have a role to play in the year coming up.

For the first time in probably forever I desire to put down roots temporarily and be content in my corner of

the world. I desire to anchor myself to family and friends as well as anchor myself to God. I made a list of

things that desire for the year ahead as I incorporate these words into my life. I am not talking about New

Year’s Resolutions. We tend to think that we will not complete our resolutions. They are normally just stated

to help us feel good about our plans for the New Year. The idea behind what I want out of this year is growth

and adventure. I want these items to contribute to how I interact with others and God.

  • Cross at least one item off of my bucket list.

Life is meant for good friends and great adventures. The adventures of this new year comes from

taking chances, stepping out of my comfort zone. In the spirit of continuing to be brave, I desire to

take new adventures and check things off of my bucket list. Sometimes you have to allow yourself

to pursue the things that you want, even if it just to say you did. I checked things off this year like

visiting a new country, but there’s more I desire to check off.

  • Make new friends and deepen friendships.

2018 overflowed with new friendships, and I want 2019 to expand those relationships and make

new friends throughout my adventures.  Charles Swindoll writes, “I cannot even imagine where I

would be today were it not for that handful of friends who have given me a heart full of joy. Let’s face

it, friends make life a lot more fun”.  I do not know where I would be without the amazing friends I have

and the ones I made this year. There is a moment when you meet someone and something clicks. You

become friends, and they impact your life in ways you never thought of. This year I strive to be more

vulnerable with the friends in my life. Inviting the people I love into my heart and life.

  • Embrace the life of freedom-this life of more-that I have been given.

As a child of God, I have been given freedom. I am no longer a slave to fear, perfection, and insecurity.

I can embrace life with an attitude of freedom because Christ had given me life. Freedom from fear

and insecurity is something that I have been wrestling with over the past year. This year, I am choosing

to live in that freedom and embrace the Creator of the Universe.

  • Learn to make each moment, good or bad, count-and be content where I am.

The thing about living a brave and free life is that I want to make every moment count. I do not want to

look back on this year and regret the passed moments and missed opportunities. I desire to look back

on my year and say, “Wow. What a year!” because of the relationships I made and the moments that I

allowed myself to live, I mean, truly live. I want to live life to the fullest, as I take step out of my shadow

and be brave with my decisions. I’ve allowed myself to anchor myself to here and now. The small

moments matter. The smiles. The breezes. The quiet. These little moments like holding hands, reading

a book for fun, the reassurance that I am heading on the right path.  These moments are not flashy

moments, but rather they creep up into your life.

  • Be intentional with the people in my life.

As I deepen my relationships, I want to reach out to the people around me. As I am intentional with my

conversations, I can invest in people’s lives. At the end of the day, accomplishments are amazing, and

material possessions are nice, but relationships are the only things that we can take with us to Heaven.

People matter.

  • Spend more time discovering who God is.

This new year is a new opportunity to spend time discovering the Creator of the Universe and me. My

relationship with God is the most important relationship in my life. I desire to spend more time intentionally

getting to know God and allowing him to love me. To love the places in my heart where my deepest

insecurities and hopes lie.  Beth Moore writes, “May God remind us daily—no matter what kind of

obstacles we face—that we are loved and empowered by the One who brought the universe into

existence with the mere sound of His voice. Nothing is impossible for Him”. As I get to know God

and delve into His word, He continues to love and empower me. He pushes me out of my comfort

zone into places that I never thought about, but that are so incredibly better than I could have planned.

  • Figure out what makes me tick, what I feel passionate about and delve further into it.

As I bravely and vulnerably surrender my time to Lord, He begins to show me glimpses of the woman

he created me to be. I bravely try new things, develop new habits as I discover new interests. As I

celebrate my twenties, I desire to use my time this year to discover new passions and bravely

explore the place these passions interact with my life. Whether it is volunteering at a free clinic,

helping with an afterschool program, or raising money for a cause halfway across the world, I desire

for this year to be a defining year of me interacting with the lesser known passions and desires in my heart.

I desire to continue to figure out this new Sara and who God is shaping me to be.

  • Cry unashamedly.

Crying signifies vulnerability, and I hate being vulnerable, truly vulnerable. This year, as I bravely become more

vulnerable with the people around me, I give myself the freedom to cry. Not emotionally crying all the time, but

to cry when I need to cry without being ashamed of tears. Sometimes, being strong means not holding back the

tears but letting them fall.

  • Worry less about what people think.

I have a tendency to be reserved and cautious because I am afraid of what others think of me. I

selfishly think that they care about every little thing I do. The reality is that as I live in freedom I

shake off the perceptions of other and the expectations I place on myself. The only expectations

that matter are God’s. I am pretty, smart, awkward, quirky, organized, vivacious, entertaining,

outspoken, and introverted. I am fiercely loyal to my friends. I have an obsession with colored pens

and planners. I love reading. I am learning to accept myself exactly as God created me quirks and

all.

2018 was a year to remember, but here’s to more adventures with God in 2019 as I investigate my

corner of the world.

A Year Full of Expectation

I chose expectation as my word for this year. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I chose this word.

Man, was I unprepared for what God had in store for me this year!

Here are a few things that I learned from this year full of expectation:

  • God doesn’t like to stay in the boxes we tend to put Him in.

This has been a lesson I seem to learn time and time again. I try to put God in a box of what I think He can accomplish or how I think He’ll heal me. Time and time again this year, I put God in a box, and time and time again, He burst out of the box doing more than I ever imagined. I sent out letters for Ukraine and within week…WEEKS…I was fully funded due to generous people. I didn’t expect to fall in love but I did. Ukraine wormed its way into my heart within minutes of touching ground. I finally got content with being in my corner of the world, and God put hospital nursing back on the table. Through an unintentional interview, it was like God was saying “Your story is not over yet.”

  • Bravery and expectation go hand in hand.

Living with expectation takes a lot of bravery. I mean, if you expect God to move, you have to say the next brave “yes”. You can’t expect to sit on your butt and wait-just wait-for God to do something. Living with expectation means listening to God and saying the next brave “yes” that falls in front of you. It means making plans, but holding them loosely as you expect God to move in them.

  • Rest is not selfish. It enables you to be your best self later in the week.

Rest. Self-care. In some circles, these words make people cringe. Honestly, 2 years ago, they would have made me cringe. It wasn’t until I was literally forced to slow down that I realized how necessary it is. My energy is like an opaque coin jar. I keep taking change out of it not realizing I’m close to the bottom until I hit a wall, get a TBI headache and I’m put out of commission for 24 hours. I hate it. I hate that I can’t do everything. I hate that I seemed to need more rest than an average 24 year old. I realized something this year. If I plan time into my schedule for rest, it doesn’t feel unproductive or a waste of time. Over time, my mentality changed because I didn’t view it as selfish rather I viewed it as necessary for me to be my best self. I couldn’t help the littles feel better if I was at the end of my rope.

  • My story isn’t over yet. Your story isn’t over yet.

I don’t know where you are or where your story has taken you. You may be reading this and you are on a mountaintop. God has never felt closer, and life is perfect. I’m happy for you. Cling to that feeling. Soak it in, and capture it to remember in the hard times. On the other hand, you may be reading this thinking “What has she got that I haven’t? Why is life so hard right now? Why is God so far away? Is God even good?” Don’t…and I mean don’t be ashamed of those questions. They are real. I’ve been there. All I can say is try and remember the mountaintop experiences. It may not seem like it but that God is the same God in the valley. This is why reading the Psalms is good-oh so good. David lamented about where He was but he always said “remember when…” You may feel like your story is over. I’ve felt that way many of times in the past two years, but GOD. He has redeemed what I thought was lost, and put my mind and my heart back together. 3 years ago, I begrudgingly settled for Akron, OH when I really wanted the ends of the earth, 2 years ago, I had no choice in moving back to Mansfield, OH. Today, I am realizing that God is up to something at MCS and in Mansfield. I am honored to be a witness to what God is up to.

This has been quite a journey, and I’m not there-wherever there is-yet. Thanks for walking this journey with me. This has been a year full of expectation. I started out the year hopeful, but depressingly realistic of where I was. I end the year overwhelmed with how God has blown those seemingly realistic thoughts of who I would be out of the water.