Loving your Neighbors and Other Expressions of God’s Goodness.

“It is a gift to have a body that holds our soul here on earth, with a heart that beats and air that moves through our lungs. It’s a gift to be able to come to God with our prayers. It’s a gift to do the things that give us joy. It’s a gift to have opportunities to love our neighbors. We live an incarnational life on purpose. God designed it that way. By our very design we have limitations. We can fight them or accept them.”

Alexandra Kuykendall

I was just thinking the other day about God’s goodness.

Tonight, I was blown away by God’s goodness. Honestly, if you asked me a year ago, if I would be living Mansfield by my choice, dating the love of my life and working at a hospital in direct patient care, I would have laughed in your face.

I did laugh in my brothers face when he mentioned something about me returning to the hospital setting. I honestly figured that was long gone as well as the hopes that anyone would be able to love me and my broken (albeit slowly put back together brain and “Sara”). But God in his goodness put me back together piece by piece and placed someone in my life that could handle my put together self with grace.

I don’t know what the future holds for me, but right now, I can honestly say that God is good. A year and a half ago, I struggled with believing-truly believing-that statement.

God is good.

God has a good plan for me.

I couldn’t see it. Sometimes, I honestly wondered why He saved me.

BUT GOD!

He has burst out of every box that I tried to put Him in. 

I have been so blessed by the unit and people in the hospital God has placed me with.

The man in my life who graciously deals with my schedule and loves my healing brain.

My small group girls and leaders God has put in my life to mold me more like himself.

The sunsets and sunrises where God shows His glory after a long day or long night.

So here I am overwhelmed by the goodness of God and realizing that God is not asking me to change the world. He is simply asking me to love my neighbor-the people He has chosen to put in my sphere of influence. Here I’ll be, simply loving my corner of the world. 

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Behold Our God

Behold Our God.

 

To be honest, we sang this song this morning.

I was undone. 

I pictured God-the Creator of the Universe-seated on His throne in all its grandeur, but still caring about my small, minuscule dream to return to hospital nursing.

I pictured how blown away and astonished the disciples were to see Jesus standing in front of them after 3 days before they had seen him broken and beaten, hanging on the cross.

Overwhelmed, I sang “You will reign forever (Let Your glory fill the earth)” 

I was overwhelmed by God in that oftentimes, I show up to the throne room with a list of requests and petitions.

 

“God, can you……”

“If you love me, you’ll….”

“God, please,….”

 

I forget to simply just let Him be God. I was overwhelmed this morning-to the point of tears-realizing that even though the past couple weeks were hard, God had in grand ways answered all the prayers of my soul-even the ones I dared not utter out loud.

He opened (and continues to open) doors for me to go back to hospital nursing.

He brought someone into my life to calm my anxious soul and who pursues me with such grace and patience. This special person encourages my seemingly crazy thoughts and pursuits as I strive to figure out this new Sara that he loves.

He showed me my corner of the world and made me realize that Mansfield needs Him just as much as the places I’d dreamed of. He didn’t take them off the table, but rather He changed my heart and eyes to see Him in the seemingly mundane.

This is the God that I worship. 

This God who is seated grandly on His throne in heaven, but still cares about the seemingly minuscule desires of my heart.

This God-who is Creator of the Universe-deserves to simply be beheld in all His glory.

Behold our God seated on His throne

Come, let us adore Him

Behold our King! Nothing can compare

Come, let us adore Him!

 

This is something I was reminded to make time for. Time to just bask in the awesomeness of God. Time to sit at His feet and worship Him for all the things He has done and will do.

If you need me, I’ll be over here overwhelmed by the goodness of God. I’ll be over here beholding my God who as done over and beyond what I prayed and wished for.

You, love, are Enough.

Hey! You matter!

Right here and right now. 

You are enough.

You are a child of God and that makes you enough.

Not your GPA. Not your size. Not your abilities. Not that guy or that girl.

You are enough.

Social media has its benefits as well as its drawbacks. It feeds into this comparison trap we as humans fall into.

 I’m not as tiny as her. I’m not as muscular as him. My relationship isn’t as perfect as theirs. I can’t sing as well as her. She has my dream job. Her house is clean. She has perfect well-behaved kids. 

The thing about comparison is that you are comparing tomatoes and potatoes. Your story is yours and yours alone. No one else has the exact same experiences as you.

Think about science experiments. There are variables that affect the outcome of these experiments. If you change the variable, you change the course of the experiment. It’s the same way with life. There are so many variables that change the story-siblings, family, childhood home/country, DNA. Add to that the simple fact that people only post the good moments-the sweet moments, the well-behaved moments-not the messy, disgruntled, I-still-choose-you-even-through-we-don’t-agree-on-this moments. 

You, my dear, are enough just the way you are-simply because Christ says so.

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:27

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” –Psalm 139:13-16

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” – 1 Peter 2:9

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10

God has something for you that only you can do-not that girl you follow on Instagram who seems to have her life together-only you. I say “seems” because 9 times out 10 that is simply just the good moments she is posting. You aren’t seeing the whole picture but she is probably just as lost in life as you are. People probably think by looking at my social media that I have my life together (even though I try to be as honest and vulnerable as I can), but I definitely don’t. I may have a smidgen of my life together at any one point but it changes daily. The moral of the story is that God has a purpose for the experience you have and the place you are placed, even the people that He puts into your life.  

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I’ll get off my soapbox, but before I leave, imagine us having coffee together. I’m sitting across the table for you, a steaming cup of liquid goodness in my hands. I look you straight in the eyes and utter these words:

“You, love, are enough. Regardless of where you have been, what you’ve done, or even who you are. You are enough and loved. You are loved more than you could ever know by the Creator of the universe. He died for you.”

Remember that as you approach this week.

You are enough. You are loved.

Prayers, Praises, and Pleas

Prayer. What does that mean?

The dictionary defines prayer as “a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship”.

Often times, prayer is just a conversation with the Creator of the universe who humbles Himself to talk to you.

Have you ever thought about that? 

It’s really and truly remarkable that this powerful and wonderful Creator wants to have a relationship with you and with me.

Often times when I am in the pits of despair I don’t have the words to pray. Right after the accident, I couldn’t pray out loud because I was so grateful to God for saving me. I would start crying before I uttered the first words. I wasn’t ever able to collect my thoughts together, but I knew that Jesus knew.

HE KNEW.

He knew how hard it was to relearn everything. He knew how grateful I was for life, but how disappointed I felt about life not turning out my way.

He knew the depression, the joy, the relief, the anger and the vast array of emotions that floated through my head.

Even when things are going well, sometimes I can’t collect my thoughts. When things started moving fast towards this job at OhioHealth, my brain was spinning with all God was doing. While I didn’t have the words to put to my thoughts, Jesus knew.

He knew how overwhelmed I was about this chance. He knew the disbelief I felt because I had taken acute care off the table in my mind. He knew the paralyzing fear I felt about possibly failing.

HE KNEW.

How often do we not pray because the request seems too vast, too impossible, or too mundane? I’ve learned in the past 3 years to make room for prayer even if I don’t have words. The simple act of praising and spending time in the presence of the One who comforts me is enough. Albeit, if I have words, then I present them to God. If I don’t, I simply know that He knows and that comforts me.

Here I am, challenging you to join me in making room for the Creator of the universe in my mundane life. Let me encourage you that He knows your hurt, your heartbreak, your fears, your joys, and your excitements.

4 Things to Learn in Waiting.

Seasons. Blooming. Waiting. Growing.

These are words that have been pressing on my soul in these past months. 

 

“Your fear of the unknown has spoken so many things over you, but it has never spoken anything true. It has only led you into places that only lead to deeper fears, so how could it ever be a voice that you can trust? I hope that you can beyond to trust something greater, beyond your fears. I hope you can trust that Love is greater than any fear, no matter how hard it has been to see how Love is present here. Your fear of the unknown may continue to speak loudly, but may you always remember, it holds no truth, and it surely does not define you. Love speaks louder. Love always speaks louder.”

-Morgan Harper Nichols

 

I read this today, and it spoke to the very depths of my soul. I’m entering a new season with this fellowship, and it’s bringing all my insecurities and fears to the surface.

The past couple of months have been a season of waiting-waiting for God to move in certain areas. In this season-this waiting, striving, and thriving season, here are a few things that I’ve learned.

 

  • Jesus is enough. Jesus is enough to meet all your needs if you let Him. This is something I had to learn the hard way. After a pretty stressful day of thing after thing not working out, I was looking to my boyfriend and friends to fill that need when I should have been looking to Jesus. It’s not fair to them to expect them to meet those needs when they can’t meet it in totality. It just leaves me feeling let down and upset because it seems like they don’t care but in reality, they just don’t have the energy to meet my emotional needs. Jesus does. “God won’t let you down; He won’t leave you. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t worry.” Deu.31:8MSG
  • Waiting doesn’t mean you are stagnant. Waiting on God to move in a certain area means that you may not be moving in that area, but what about the other areas? In my case, I was waiting for God to move in the job front, I eventually figured out that I had more time to put roots into people and my anchor down into this place that was quickly becoming home. I started being more intentional with the people God had placed into my sphere of influence.
  • Rest is a needed skill. Making time for rest is a needed habit to cultivate into your life. If one can learn to instill this habit into their life now, then later when life picks up speed, it would be easier to maintain because the habit has already been established. It only takes two weeks for an ongoing decision to become a habit. 
  • Invest in your growth. This is a perfect time to read that book you have always been wanting to read or pick that hobby you’ve been dying to learn. This is a carved out and designated time to invest in yourself and growth.

 

So if you need me in the next couple of days, I’ll be relishing this time I have and learning to trust God in the midst of this unknown season.

Follow Me.

Recently, I was studying Mark 1.  In this section, Jesus is calling the fishermen to be his disciples. Mark 1:17 states, “ Then Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” It struck me because God’s simple command is to follow him, right here, right now. I think we make it complicated in our romanticizing of missions and “going”. We figure if you receive “the call”, you have to be going somewhere exotic to tell people about Jesus. That aspect of the call is honest more exciting, but what about the community you are placed in? The people in your scope of influence? Don’t they need Jesus also? Why are they seemingly sidelined in the hopes of the more extraordinary option of going to say Africa and “saving” people?

I’m guilty of this-oh so guilty.

Growing up, my life was missions so I glorified it in my own mind. I wouldn’t have ever said that I glorified the nomadic lifestyle of living and loving people different than me in a different culture, but I think the fact that I choose nursing because it was the quickest way to get me out of America speaks for itself. I thought God could use me better in Africa or South America. In saying that, don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that overseas missions isn’t important. I’m saying be careful about glorifying overseas missions in your own heart and loving on littles in a different country when you would overlook them if they were in your own city. I’m saying the people in Mansfield are hurting and need Jesus just as much as the people in Abuja, Nigeria.

I really had to wrestle with that because, after my accident, I really believed God took overseas missions off the table. I was mad at God because it wasn’t like my plans were wrong-they were glorifying God. I shook my fists at God, thinking and shouting, “Why? My goal was to make your name known.”  Last year, I had the opportunity to go to Ukraine and this past spring, I went to the Dominican Republic. Those were neat opportunities, but through them, I realized that I’m content right here, right now. God was changing my heart to follow Him not a dream of overseas missions. I don’t know when it happened, but God was changing my heart to see that the people here need to know the love of Jesus-that they are more loved than they would ever know-just as much if not more than the littles in Africa.

Maybe cross-cultural missions long-term is still in my future someday-I truly hope it is deep down-but right now, I truly am okay here. I never thought I would hear myself say that, but in the depths of my soul, I truly am content being here-right here-and loving the people God brings into my life. The occasional trip to the Dominican or wherever God leads is food for my soul, but this is my corner of the world right now.    God is doing big things in little Mansfield, Ohio and He’s simply asking me to “Follow Him.” So if you need me, I’ll be here, in my corner of the world, simply loving people as Jesus would.

Right Here, Right Now

I’m just going to be 100% honest. I just got okay-deep in my soul-with being back in Mansfield.

In the first months after my accident, I fought God on several things and being back in Mansfield was one of them. I didn’t have a choice in moving back. My family and friends literally packed up my apartment and moved my stuff into my parent’s house while I was in the hospital. Granted, it was a special case in that I really couldn’t have taken care of myself. I couldn’t even walk by myself.

Nevertheless, I was mad at God.

I struggled to be content right here, right now, wishing I was anywhere but here. Last fall, I started this journey of being content recognizing that this is my corner of the world. I read Shannan Martin’s The Ministry of Ordinary Places last fall. This caught my eye. She writes, “God got busy shrinking the world as I knew it down to a pinhole, one solitary shaft of light. ‘The souls exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness,’ wrote Mary Oliver. Rather than feeling stuck in a problem-sodden world, I would never be able to fix, God was caring for my soul by pointing me towards my corner of it and asking me to believe it was enough”. That’s when I started to realize that instead of being upset at God for bringing me back, I needed to accept that he brought me back for a reason. He was asking me if this right here, right now would be enough. That challenged me. Was it enough? Could it be enough? If I were to stay in America, in Mansfield, Ohio, for the rest of my life, would that be enough? Would listening, loving, and pointing my small group girls toward God be enough? It’s not as extraordinary as helping starving orphans in Mexico or loving on kids in Africa. Would sacrificing sleep to love on a girl who may not know what that looks like be enough? I say I’m content and at peace with staying here-right here-indefinitely, but would that be enough?

It’s been a journey in getting to this place, and God has used several people to instill that into my head. I think the biggest one is the student God bought to MCS and my life. God put me right here, right now to let that sweet little boy not feel alone in that he isn’t the only one who has a traumatic brain injury. I am still blown away by God and how He orchestrated my being at the school at the exact time he started coming to the school. This solidified this idea that I’m right here, right now for a reason. So I don’t know what your story is: whether you aren’t working in the field you went to college for, or you may be in a different place than you thought you’d be, financially or physically. What I have learned in the past two years, I want to pass on to you:

 

  • You may not like where you are in life, but there are no coincidences with God. The situation may not be caused by God, but God can use that situation in others lives.
  • He brings people into your life and even takes them out for a reason.