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.

Surrendering Graciously

Surrendering graciously.

That’s an oxymoron in my life. Often when God asks me to surrender things, I give it up kicking and screaming. I try to take it back

soon after I give it up.

In this season, I’ve had to surrender some things like my five year plan. I mean, it got thrown far out the window.

My word for this year was expectation. Within that word, I couldn’t really expect God to move while still holding on to my plans.

I tried though.

Oh I tried.

This year started out with me struggling to understand why certain things happened and what the purpose was of moving forward if

it wasn’t going get me to where I wanted to be. I held onto some dreams like a drowning person would clutch a lifeboat. It wasn’t

until I gave myself permission to ask the questions-Is God good? Does he have good plans in store for me?-that I really started to let

go of things. It was kinda a forced surrender because it needed to happen and life was picking up speed.

I let go of my ambitions to return to floor nursing.

I let go of my ambitions to live overseas long-term.

And many more ambitions.

I surrendered them knowing they might not happen. I’m learning it’s hard to let go of things graciously but that’s what I’m striving to do.

Albeit, it kind of helped that so many ambitions were ripped from my hands, so I had few options but to let go.

It’s taken 10 months, but I’m finally at the place where I’m not forcing things to happen.

I’m kind of just willing to listen, hands open, to what God has for me next.

A verse that has been ruminating in my mind the last couple of months is Ps. 25:1 which says, “In you, Lord my God, I put my trust.” This

verse just captures the sense of what David was going through. I’m sure he was tempted to fight against God multiple times, but

instead of being antagonist towards God, he says matter-of-factly “In you, I put my trust.”

I’m striving to do that.

I don’t know what your story is, or what is that thing that you can’t seem to quite let go.

Let go.

Simply unwrap your fingers from it.

I don’t know your story, but I know how sweetly God has redeemed and repurposed the dreams and ambitions I let go.

Just tonight one of my girls said, “if it wasn’t for your accident, you wouldn’t be here.”

I was taken aback by her wisdom. She was right. If my life had gone on with my terms-my 5 year plan-I wouldn’t be right here, right now.

I would be missing out on a lot.

I like this version of my life. I like this version of me. I’m going to keep striving to surrender my dreams and ambitions to God graciously.

He truly has a good plan in store for me. It may not look anything like the 5 year plan I had but I think it’s better.

So here I am, striving to surrender graciously in my corner of the world that God has placed me in.

Ordinary Places

Ordinary.

That word just makes me flinch. I’ve tried my whole 24 years not to be ordinary, boring, and unexciting.

Don’t lie and tell me you haven’t kinda always combined ordinary with boring.

I just finished reading Shannan Martin’s new book, The Ministry of Ordinary Places. I started reading it because I simply love Shannon Martin and her heart, but I was also curious. In my mind, ministry and ordinary don’t go hand in hand.

Then I started it.

From the introduction, she had me hooked:

“I always thought being called by God was a rare and special thing that happened to only a slim percentage of unlucky people….”

She writes, “Whenever (“the call”) popped up, I kindly reminded God that I’m not that kind of woman. I’m indoorsy, with a sensitive gag

reflex and a mortal phobia of outhouses. I’m not the best choice for a day trip to a state park, much less a mission field”.

I sympathize with her, but I feel the opposite way. I feel the call to go, but circumstances have kept me from going to the mission field

long-term. I am much more comfortable on the mission field than I am in suburban America.

This idea of ordinary places mattering and staying vs going is not a new dilemma in my life. I feel like it’s a constant battle to be content.

Recently, I found peace in being right here (Mansfield), right now. Shannan Martin just drove the feeling home into my heart with these words:

“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 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?

I just got back from a JH retreat. I’m a small group leader for 6th grade girls.

It was exhausting and life-giving all rolled into one. They have SO much energy! It’s like most middle schoolers are the energizer bunny with no

off switch. I drank A LOT of coffee that weekend, but I had that in the back of my head.

If you were to stay, right here, in Mansfield, for the rest of your life, would that be enough? Would listening, loving, and pointing these girls toward

Me be enough? It’s not as extraordinary as helping starving orphans in Mexico or loving on kids in Africa.

Would this-sacrificing sleep to love on a girl who may not know what that looks like-be enough?

Would simply giving a hug and smiling to a girl who may not have had a great day be enough?

Would complimenting a smile or anything she does well to a girl who never feels like she’s good enough be enough?

These thoughts were going through my head this weekend.

I say I’m content and at peace with staying here-right here-indefinitely, but would that be enough?

I really struggled with that, but then I held a girl and she was holding back tears. I looked in her sweet face and I got a glimpse of the fact that

she had the weight of the world on her shoulders. She was hugging me like I was her lifeline.

That broke me.

I remember what it was like to be in middle school, everything is so confusing-so hard.

Hugging her tightly, wishing I could carry part of her burden, I realized I’m starting to believe this is enough.

This life of “ordinary” is enough.

“In a world that pushes us toward bigger, better, more costly and refined, seeing the humble as radiant is an act of holy resistance.

Jesus dealt in seeds and sails. He spoke through dust and sermonized in spit. Set against a backdrop of faithlessness, lawlessness,

and low-grade despair, he brought faith and healing through the overlooked, unspectacular elements of everyday life. He’s right here, in

every dull, dusty corner, and even more in every one of us bumbling, regular, milk-mustached kids trying to masquerade as big shots. This is

why we need him near, and why it matters that we stick together”.

When I read that the second time (yes I read the book twice in two days), it stuck with me.

This is my corner of the world.

MCS. These girls. My bible study. Mansfield.

This is my corner of the world.

These are my people.

My heart is still in Ukraine and scattered all over this world, but this is my corner of the world right now.

Holding that girl in my arms, and just sitting on the sidewalk with her, I started to believe that this is enough.

So if you need me, I’ll be circled around a bonfire loving people in my corner of the world.

4 More Things My TBI Has Taught Me

It’s been almost 22 months since my accident. I think when I hit the two year mark I’ll stop counting but right now, it’s still pretty relevant in my life. I’m not to the maximum recovery mark yet. Here’s just a few things that I’ve learned about myself and God though this hard-oh so hard-but holy season.

  • It’s okay to not be okay.

The longer this season goes on, the less I believe this until I’m hit upside the head with reality of this. It’s been 22 months, for Pete’s sake. I should be okay, but there are times, I’m still not okay.  I started It’s Okay Not to Be Okay by Sheila Walsh. She hits me upside the head with this fact when she says, “The scars tell God’s love story. Some of our scars show on the surface, but some are hidden deep inside, wounds from things that were done to us, or from choices we’ve made and secrets we’ve kept. The love of God invites us to bring our scars into the light. We don’t have to hide anymore. It really is okay not to be okay.” Regardless of whether I feel like I should be okay, it’s okay to still have bad days-to still have days where it takes everything I have to breathe and remain standing.

  • I”M NOT CRAZY. I’m not alone.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m the only one in the world that has gone through this because my brain works so much differently than the rest of my family. I can say or do something and everyone looks at me with a puzzled expression. It is so hard to let people into my brain, and I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. At times like this, the tendency is to isolate myself, but that further feeds my anxiety and depression. I’ll found a support group of people who have suffered a TBI. They offer suggestions of things I haven’t tried yet and remind me that I’m never alone.

  • Life looks totally different now, but that’s okay.

They say comparison is the thief of joy and they are correct. I definitely don’t have an area of my life that even closely resembles“put-together”. It’s hard not to feel jealous or sad because it seems like everyone else my age has at least one area of their life going for them. I’m challenged to take a deep breath whenever I’m tempted to feel that way and remember that 22 months ago, I almost died. Yes, my life looks totally different because things that were important then are not important now. It’s okay to still be searching for that spark and not have life figured out. I’m breathing. It’s a good day.

  • It’s okay to need A LOT of rest. And I mean A LOT.

Sometimes, I forget that I have a TBI and I try to do everything, then my body knocks me on the ground with a headache that won’t quit. In those times, I find that I sleep for hours and hours. When I wake up, my first instinct is to be upset at myself for the hours “wasted”, but then I realize that my body needed that. I remember then of the need to pace myself and my energy so I don’t hit that wall again. The key is to REST. A lot. Like crazy amounts. Like newborn baby or cat amounts.