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. 

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.

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.

 

 

25

25.

A quarter of a century.

How am I going to be that old? Sometimes, I still feel like that awkward 12-year-old changing cultures and continents. But, I’ve become comfortable in who I am and who God made me to be-quirks and all.

Here are 25 things I’ve learned in almost 25 years in this big world.

 

  • Be yourself. Those who care, don’t matter and those who matter, don’t care.

 

This took me YEARS to figure out, but it’s so true. Just simply be yourself.

 

  • My heart has space for multiple countries.

 

Every time I travel somewhere new, I fall in love. My soul falls in love with undiscovered places so fast. Each place is no better or worse than the last, but they all have a unique story and journey.

 

  • Sometimes, you need to simply need to put yourself first and rediscover God in the wilderness.

 

This may seem like common sense but awfully hard to put into practice. I was in a relationship and it ended. I blamed him, but I have since realized, I didn’t have the energy to heal myself and support him. Also, I shouldn’t have expected someone else to like me if I didn’t really even like myself. After it ended, my dad (the wisest man I know) encouraged me to take a break from dating and put my energy into myself.

BEST DECISION EVER.

I labeled last year, “The Year of Me and Jesus”. I choose to put my energy into becoming the most whole “Sara” I could be and figuring who “Sara” even was. This year, I’m better able to be a good (definitely not perfect) girlfriend.

 

  • No matter how bad it gets, you can rest in the simple fact that you have a Father who loves you more than you can ever know.
  • Nothing is ever so bad that a well-timed dance party can’t bring a smile to your face.
  • God can take the seemingly endless tragedy and turn it into a tool to bring him glory. He uses the whole of the story.

 

I really should stop being surprised by God how He uses our messes if we let Him.

 

  • There is no such thing as coincidence, only God.
  • You’ll regret more of the things you didn’t do than the things you did.

 

Moral of the story, if there is even a question, be brave (don’t let fear hold you back) and do that thing you are scared of.

 

  • Do not plan your life out according to a time table. You never know when life will throw a curve ball at you.

 

Make a plan, but hold it loosely because you never know what could happen.

 

  • Every person-those put in your life and taken out of it-has a purpose.
  • Comparison is the thief of joy.
  • Make each moment matter-be present-cause you never know how many you have left.
  • People matter.
  • Talk to random people in social settings. This will make you well-rounded, and chances are good you’ll make a new friend, too.
  • It’s better to put your energy into a few things than to spread yourself too thin trying to do everything.
  • It’s okay-healthy even-to say “no”.

 

A well placed “no” is just as important as a “yes”. You aren’t superwomen and you can’t do everything.

 

  • Your life isn’t defined by your vocation.

 

Your job may be your calling, or it may not be. Either way, what you do doesn’t define who you are.

 

  • Self-care isn’t selfish.

It may-scratch that-it will look different in every season. Nevertheless, you need to take time for yourself.

  • Life is more about the journey as opposed to the destination.
  • Who you were at 20 doesn’t define who you are at 25. Your mentality changes as you explore more of life.
  • NEVER stop learning.
  • Self-awareness is underrated and undervalued as a skill.
  • Some people will bring out the worst in you. Some the best. And others, the most. Hold on tightly to the ones who bring out the most because they are special.
  • You become who you surround yourself with.
  • Just because you don’t talk every day, it doesn’t mean you’re not important to them.

 

You are going to have friends that are in different stages. Carve out time for them, but don’t get upset if you go days without talking. The best friends can go days without talking and pick up exactly where they left off.

Anchors and Roots

This idea of roots has been a topic of thought for years. Growing up, the idea of putting down roots was appealing. I was jealous of my friends who had lived in the same house, the same city, and with the same people.

The idea of staying in the same place was comforting (in theory).

The idea of staying vs. going has been a constant thought in my head. I argue with God over the logical nature of putting in roots, desiring to be a wanderer, not a stationary figure.

God challenges me back.

What is so wrong with staying put for the time being? What is wrong with putting down roots and allowing people to know you? Truly know the Sara I created you to be.

This is my corner of the world right here, right now

Recently, I wrestled with the idea of putting down roots here, because it seemed scary. I then discovered the idea of anchors.

Sailors use anchors to keep them in one location for the time being and then when they’re done, they pull up anchor and move on.

That’s a lot less scary than the idea of roots. I choose “anchor” as my word for the year. So far, I’m thriving is putting my anchor down here.

  • I’m loving my small group girls and enjoying watching them grow into the women God created them to be.
  • The little humans at school fill my happiness bucket with their soft smiles and energetic hugs.
  • The Starbucks Barista knows my name and my typical order.  

A friend and I were talking the other day about roots, and we realized that we put roots into people rather than places. I realized that was true in my life. After my accident, I had no problem remembering people, but places where a little fuzzy or not there at all. I was thinking about that.

What if I put roots into people and anchors into places?

That’s an interesting thought. You leave places, but people are just a phone call away. These a few people like my family that whenever they call, I drop everything and pick up the phone and I know they would do the same.

So here I am, figuring out how to put my anchor down in Mansfield. Here I am. Figuring how to put roots into my family, my boyfriend and my close friends. Here’s me, living my best life right here, right now and seeing  God move in big and small ways.

A Heart for the Nations

I leave part of my heart in every country I’ve been. The Dominican Republic is no exception. Here are some things I learned about myself and God.

  • I need to remember to breathe.

This month has been full of good surprises, but my head has been spinning by all God’s been doing. The first part of the week was well spent in just sitting with God-simply sitting in the awesomeness of God’s movement. It was refreshing to revel in His glory rather then cower in fear. This season, I’ve learned a lot about rest but sometimes, I forget to actually practice it. This trip was like a breath of fresh air.

  • God is really good about pushing me out of my comfort zone, but also showing me that I am loved more than I could ever know.

One day towards the end of the trip I ended up stitching a goat’s ear. I had learned about sutures, but I had never done them in real life. Plus, my right hand doesn’t work as well. So when I was asked, I said yes but I was scared silly. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I accomplished it. That night was church, and God knew my soul needed baby cuddles. I ended up holding a child who fell asleep on me and at that moment, the world felt right.

  • Everyone has different gifts-you need to push yourself, but be willing to use your gifts for His glory.

We were doing several different projects this week, and I struggled with not being physically able to do all the manual labor that we did, but I had to realize my nurse skills and ability to remain calm under pressure came in handy time and time again. So I may not have concrete mixing abilities, but God gave me a quick mind and calm spirit. I just have to be open to letting God use my gifts instead of wishing I was someone else.

  • God always shows up-especially when you don’t expect Him to.

There were many times that God showed up whether it was impromptu relationship and life talks or a cool breeze on a particularly warm day.

God ALWAYS shows up. You just have eyes to see Him.

  • Sunsets on some dreams and sunrises on others is an aspect of God that I love.

It was in the Dominican 4 years ago that I first began to dream about studying genetic diseases as well as hemolytic diseases in underdeveloped countries. Dreams like researching hemolytic disorders and their testing to make them more accurate and accessible. This week that dream resurfaced, and I got a glimpse of what that could look like down the road. I don’t know how or if God will orchestrate it, but I’m starting to get excited about the possibility of this new adventure with Jesus whatever it will look like.

  • We don’t need to see the whole staircase to take a step.

It is definitely scary to take a step when we can’t see the whole road, but I think we’d be even more scared if we saw the outcome thinking we are insufficient and unprepared. It’s more about the journey and becoming more like Christ than the immediate destination.

Step Off The Ledge

So.

I’ve been challenged this week on taking risks. I tend to play it safe when it comes to certain things. I tend to stay inside my comfort zone-willing everything to stay the same.

God is not about letting everything stay the same.

Following God means taking risks. If you don’t take risks, you’ll never understand and experience  the presence, power, and peace of God.

Sure, if you take the risk, it very well could end badly, but it might end up being SO much more than you expected. You don’t know if you never tried.

I had a boy in swim lessons this week say, “I’m terrible.” He proceeded to pout and cross his arms. “I quit.”

I looked him square in the eyes and said, “The only true way to fail is to not try or quit.”

Oftentimes, we are like that boy. We pout and won’t take the risk because it’s scary stepping of that ledge into the unknown. We like our comfy lives, just the way it is.

Sometimes, God upends our comfy lives. When we get a semblance of order in our lives, we cling to it, like a little clings to a safety blanket. We fear chaos again.

I know I did.

Life has been pretty good lately.

Too good. Or so I think.

I keep waiting for the other foot to drop. At the same time, I find myself clinging to what I do have afraid that it will get ripped from me again.

I’ve fallen in love with the littles at school.

I’ve found my corner of the world-right now. I’m content.

I was challenged this week to keep taking risks strategically. Keep pushing my limits for God because He has shown me again and again that He does more.

He continually bursts-like fireworks-out of every box I try to put Him in. Even this year, He did more than I ever expected-allowing me to go to Ukraine and fall in love with the littles at school. I returned to driving. I crossed oceans by myself and added two new countries to my passport. I grew closer to Him as He sought my heart. I returned to swimming.

Like my Mom reminded me tonight, it’s like God’s provision and goodness is like a rope tied around our waist. The other end is tied around a tree, but the only way we feel the tension on the rope is if we step off the edge.

It’s the same with God. The only way we are going to see-like really see God’s goodness-is if we step out into the unknown and step off the ledge.

That’s my prayer for the last month and a half of 2018 and the beginning of 2019.

Let go of whatever is holding you back and step of the ledge with me.  

2 years and Counting

730 days.

17520 hours.

1051200 minutes.

That’s how long it has been since my life changed. Well, it’s coming up in about a month. It’s a

time that I really could have done without, but I remember it because of God.

I’m alive primarily because of God.

These two years have been challenging and hard-often times seemingly impossible-but God has

held my hand through the fire.

Here are a few things that kinda summarize the past two years.

  • There are a few people that climb in the hole and hold you when it’s not their battle to
  • fight. Never let those people go.

These people are my people. My family have been through every high and low with me. There have

been some friends that have seen me at my worst and still chose to crawl into the hole with me. They

didn’t try to help me up right off the bat, but they sat with me for a while. Then, they started to help me

up and out of the hole. One of the reasons, I’m where I am today is because of the few people that never

gave up on me.

  • God can redeem and repurposed dreams that you thought were lost.

There are some dreams or experiences that got cut short-like working with my best friend-but God has

taken those dreams that I had as a little and grown girl and shaped them into his will. I love little humans

and now I get to love on them both in my job and free time. I wouldn’t change anything because these

littles have wormed their way into my heart. My dreams right now look a lot different now because some

doors have close, but also because my dreams have changed.

  • God isn’t afraid of emotion.

For a long time, I felt conflicted. I felt like I couldn’t have doubts about God’s goodness. At the same time,

I didn’t believe God was good or had a good plan for me. I needed to face that emotion-that doubt-and

give it room to breathe so to speak. When I gave myself permission to have those questions and sit with

them, I discovered the ways God has been good to me throughout-giving me people to come alongside

me, getting a job etc. That’s when the most emotional healing happened, because I gave myself

permission to have those doubts. In the end, I fell in love with the person I’m becoming shaped by

my experiences.

  • God is love. He oozes it, and it encompasses everything He does.

Love. That’s a had emotion to pin down. Often recently, I’ve heard the argument that if God is love,

why do bad things happen. I was thinking, if God is love then why was 2017 so awful. I don’t know the

answer but this is what I’ve figured out. (This is my opinion based on scripture and my experience so I

would take it with a grain of salt.) God doesn’t cause bad things-hard things-but He walks right beside

us-loving us fiercely through it. I mean, look at Joseph’s life. God didn’t cause him to be sold to the

Egyptians-sin nature caused that, but he orchestrated it to be used in the saving of Egypt and Israel.

  • Everyone gets overwhelmed looking at the big picture, so smaller goals are needed.

I think if I realized two years ago that I will never be done with my TBI journey-that I will never not have

a traumatic brain injury-I think I would have fallen into a deeper longer depression. I needed to set my

mind on the simple fact that the most recovery will be done in the first two years. I focused all my energy

on getting better in the first two years. As the two year mark fastly approaches, I’m better able to mentally

wrap my head around the fact that I’ll always deal with this and be recovering.