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.

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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.

Embracing This Life of More

These past months have been quite something. All my energy has been spent on simply surviving-putting one foot in front of the other.

A year ago, all my energy was focused on myself and my healing. I resigned myself to this life of second best. Let me explain that. I had my life planned out before my accident and then all of that seemed to have been taken away. I was striving to accept my life as it was then but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was less. I still had hopes and dreams but I couldn’t grasp them. I didn’t know if it was even possible to grab them without having them slip through my fingers. Recently, I had the opportunity to go to Ukraine. I was simply excited to travel not knowing that the country itself would stamp itself on my heart.

Ukraine.

This summer has been one of the most life-changing ones in my short life so far. This summer was hard, but oh so holy. First, I started to get back into hospital nursing, then I went to Ukraine. I was nervous and didn’t know how my brain would react. I was pushed beyond my limits but God was sweet in that. In it, God was showing me I could have a life that I had dreamt of-a life of more. Here are just a few things God is teaching me as I embrace this life of more-more love, more freedom, and simply more God.

  1. Contentment doesn’t equal complacency. This has been something I’ve been wrestling with lately. I want more out of life but it’s hard to explain because people assume I’m not content with my life. In my wrestling, I’ve come to the decision that it’s okay to have plans and dreams but to hold those dreams lightly. I’ve come to the mindset that I’ll be okay if cross cultural missions is in my future. And I’ll be okay if it’s not.
  2. God can still use me. I was terrified standing in front of people and sharing my story but it’s not about me. It’s about God. I think I knew He could use me, but I didn’t quite see how. Sharing my story and about the God I love made seeing that possible. I shared. My speech didn’t have to be perfect, but He used my story to bring Himself glory.
  3. It’s easier to embrace the new me when I attach pleasant emotions to the new me. I’m pretty sure I went through every emotion this summer from heartbreak to joy to terror to happiness to anger to surprise. I’m pretty sure I can encapsulate this whole summer using the word “surprise “. I didn’t know what to expect but God blew my expectations out of the water. I’m definitely not the same Sara who left the States. My soul is lighter and I’m learning the sweetness of trusting God. In the past year, I wrestled with accepting the new Sara because I didn’t know (believe really) that God could use me as broken as I was. God though put people in my life to show me that He could still use me, my thoughts are still needed, and He loves me-the new me-more than I could ever know. Because I’m bravely accepting the new me doesn’t mean the door is shut to everything that I used to love but I’m looking forward not behind now.

As I’m chasing after and embracing this life of more I realize this starts with an attitude of expectation. What’s done is done. Here I am, sitting at the feet of Jesus, patiently waiting with expectation of this life of more that He desires to give me-more love, more freedom-simply more life.

Barely Brave

I finished 100 Days to Brave. I don’t feel any more Brave but I’m now armed with the tools and a road map to be brave.

Being brave is not an immediate change. You don’t flip a switch and now you’re brave. It doesn’t work like that (I wish it did), but rather it’s a process. If you continue to take the next brave, right step, you’ll be braver tomorrow than you were today.

As I finished reading the book, here are some of the tools in my toolbox to help me be brave.

  • Prepare for change. Hebrews 13:8 states, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”. Whatever change is coming-because inevitably it will-Jesus never changes. We can be brave in the fact that even if our circumstances change drastically, Jesus is constant. That said, you need to prepare for the inevitable change by spending time in God’s Word, talking to the unchanging One, and keeping your eyes on Him.
  • Be brave in the waiting season. Waiting is hard. Be brave enough to be patient-not just outwardly, but inwardly.
  • Be brave to know when it’s better to hold on or let go. Sometimes, it would be easier to let go. Don’t let go because it hurts or because it is hard. Hold on. It takes bravery to hold onto something when it’s definitely easier to let go. On the flip side, be brave enough to let go. You can’t grab on to next thing if you’re still holding on to the last thing. Let go of that dream. Let go of that relationship. Annie compares it to monkey bars. Let go even if you don’t see the next monkey bar. She writes, “I have seen, over and over again, that simply letting go is a powerful catalyst God will use to move me toward the next best thing”.
  • Life is hard. Mike Foster, the founder of People of the Second Chance, said, “Life is messy, hard, and weird. We don’t need to be surprised anymore”.
  • Brave people don’t let failure define them. Failure is inevitable. When you fall down, get up, brush the dirt off, learn what you did wrong, and move on.
  • Embrace divine detours. God sees the whole story while we only see a snapshot. Be brave in trusting that He is good, He loves you, and He has a good plan-even if it looks nothing like your plan.
  • Brave people persevere. “Brave people realize that we rejoice in our sufferings because it leads to perseverance and perseverance produces character and ultimately, it us to the hope we have in Jesus.” Brave people don’t give up on hope because they know it is worth fighting for.
  • Brave people take care of their bodies. Jesus has a purpose for your body-with all its imperfections and sickness. He wants to use you, as you are, to bring glory to Himself. He doesn’t make mistakes. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, so respect it. Exercise. Eat well.
  • Play. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Have fun. Take pictures with the statues at the zoo. Dismiss the lie that your career will fall apart if you spend some time having fun. Blow bubbles. There is something therapeutic about carving out time in your schedule to be carefree for a moment. God made laughter. Enjoy it.
  • Brave people carve out time for a sabbath and rest. They realize that there are time that you need to stop and rest. It takes courage to unplug, and walk away from your calling for a bit, believing God will still provide.
  • Be generous-with your words, money, time, and wisdom. Nothing you were given is yours. You may think you have nothing to offer anyone, but that’s a lie. It might be a meager offering, but I guarantee that someone needs exactly what you have to offer.
  • Let’s all be brave. Bravery and courage affects people the same way being near a confetti popper will make your life different and better and more amazing. It’s kind of like a domino effect. Making brave choices in your life is going to change the world. At the very least, it will change your world.

So let’s all grab our tool boxes and road maps. Let’s continue on this adventure of brave. Let’s all be brave.

The Very Worst Missionary

I just finished this book by Jamie Wright.

10/10 would recommend reading with a grain of salt.

She has some good points, but there is some shaky theology. She also uses some language so if Christians using language makes you mad just read the highlights and not the book.

Here are the things I pulled from the book( these are my opinion so if you disagree or agree take time and research it for yourself. I would recommend that you don’t just blindly follow me because I could be wrong.)

  1. Missionaries are normal people. Missionaries are not “more spiritual” because they decide to give up American (or their comfortable) culture for one that is different. They have similar struggles as the average American but we get shocked when we hear about their struggles.
  2. Our calling is not what we do as much as it is who we are while we do it. I used to be convinced that God would “call” me to suburban America because that was the environment I was least comfortable in. Now, I have realized it’s not where you are but who you are that matter. You can be a missionary anywhere and anytime. Some people are “called” to go overseas but Jesus simply said “Love your neighbor”. “I’m pretty sure he meant, like, my actual neighbor—the person or people nearest me at any given moment. At home. At work. On the subway. In the supermarket. Y’know, neighbors.”
  3. The only way to know how to truly love your neighbor is to truly know your neighbor. I’ve heard stories of short term missionaries going into a community and building a church or doing something and leaving and then the nationals tear down and rebuild it according to what’s common in that culture. If we go into missions with a savior mentality than we lose something crucial—relationships. Relationships are hard and time consuming. There is no physical measurement suggested for relationships. They don’t have the same measurements that say building a church does. You can say you built a church and built relationships, but you can only visually see one. You can’t see the hours spent talking over coffee and just simply being present. You can’t measure the depth of a relationship as a grande or venti. But the content of the time together matters.

I’ll Carry the Fork and Other Phrases

If you want to know what goes on in my head or in the heads of people that experience any sort of brain injury, then read this book!

Kara Swanson puts, in a light-hearted way, the struggles that encompass a brain injury. Brain injuries are like snowflakes-no two are exactly the same-but there are similarities in the things we struggle with. Here are just some things that apply to most people, but especially to brain injuries.

  • It’s hard but necessary to rely on others. It’s extremely humbling to wait for others to come and help you do simple things that you used to be able to do independently. It’s hard to admit you need help in an area, but it’s necessary for you and for others.
  • You choose when you’re recovered. Recovery is not synonymous with absence of symptoms. It’s when you mentally choose to move forward regardless of your symptoms or handicaps. “We are the only ones who can choose when we are recovered and it is only then that we are no longer waiting for our old lives to return on handsome white horses, ready to rescue us from this ridiculous nightmare.” We accept the new, emerging version of ourselves and choose to move forward.
  • Post-it notes are your friends. If have a tendency to forget things, write them on post its and stick them around. They come in so many different colors so you can make your car or room look like a rainbow. I like yellow sticky notes because they bring the sunshine inside.
  • Attitude is everything. Those who say they can’t and those who say they can are both right. If you don’t believe you can do something, then you won’t try. If you do try, then you will only give enough effort to say you tried. But, if you believe you will do it, you will put all your energy into trying to succeed. In my case, my stubbornness paid off or according to my parents, there was a use for my stubbornness.
  • Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive those people that have the audacity to succeed-to be well. Forgive the people that don’t have to deal with the weights you have been handed because they didn’t choose the cards they were handed. Forgive those people that are doing what you want to be doing. Forgive the injury for changing your life. “Regardless of how you have been wronged or hurt, choosing not to forgive this injury for doing what it does is entirely your decision. It is exhausting, frustrating and unsustainable to try and fight the natural forward current of life. It makes you smile less. It makes you a sour puss, really. At the end of life, it’s routinely one of the top regrets people have, holding on to the ugly grudges of disappointment and of hurt.” Forgive them and let go, because it only holds you back.
  • Thank the people that jumped in the hole with you. It applies to any situation you can’t control, but I’m going to talk specifically about brain injuries. I didn’t choose to fall into this hole called brain injury. My family and friends did have a choice. They could choose to leave-to not have their life shaken up. They chose to stay-to jump in the hole after me, knowing that their life would never be the same. For that, I’m eternally grateful to the people the have walked this journey with me and those who will walk with me in the future.
  • Nothing has the power to damage you, unless you let it. “Brain injury does not deteriorate as if a cancer. It does not kill us over the years. Not unless we invite it to and feed it that power.” Granted, it stops life as we know it, but we can choose to let it stop us from living. This applies to almost everything that happens to us. It changes our lives, but unless we give it the power to damage us, it doesn’t stop us from moving forward.
  • We need to fill up the holes in our lives before they fill up by themselves-because they will. Fill the holes with positive people and positive things-things that lift you up on a bad day. Put kindness into that hole-kindness to yourself and others. Be kind to yourself because you’re trying as hard as you can. Furthermore, “Identify at least one true person who remembers the best of you before your injury so you never forget that you have, time and time again, devised sound strategies which returned successful outcomes to you. Find another who understands how it feels to be brain injured now. And finally, maybe most importantly, find one shining star who will challenge you to dare big and who steadfastly believes in the person you aim to be. Let them help you fill that hole. Fill it up. Hand over hand, fill it back up.” My friends, the Fab Five, have been that for me. They have walked through this journey with me. They remind me of all I’ve accomplished and am still accomplishing. I also have a dear soul friend who pushes me to dare big, reminds me of my dreams, and pushes me closer to Jesus. I’m very thankful for her and the fact that she only knows the new me. She doesn’t have anything to compare; I’m just me, and she loves me.

100 Days To Brave

“Courage is doing things even when you’re scared”. -Annie F. Downs

This summer is going to be hard and scary but oh so holy as I try to return to hospital nursing, speak in front of people and tackle two new countries. I don’t know what God has planned, but I do know it will be amazing as I strive to be brave in expectation. I just have to take it one step at a time.

I decided to go on this journey of 100 days to brave. I am 14 days into it, and I’ve already learned so much about myself.

  1. My bravery inspires others. “Because when we are brave enough to share the God stories in our lives, it changes the people around us. It changes us to share them.” It’s therapeutic for me to process what God’s doing in my life as so much is happening right now, so I end up posting about it. Then I find out from other people it’s been encouraging to them also. It’s like a ripple effect. Bravery and perseverance in one person’s life inspires it in another person’s and on and on. Seeing other people be brave inspires bravery in others.
  2. I’m braver than I know. I look back on the things people point out that they view as me being brave, and I pause. Those were moments that I didn’t consider myself brave at all. I was just surviving, but to others looking in, I was doing the next right thing, saying the next brave yes. To others, I was brave even if I didn’t feel brave. It’s been hard, frustrating, painful, tearful, and lonely, but God has shown me when I look back, how he has orchestrated my brave decisions into a story that he is continually unfolding as I say the next brave yes.
  3. We need to call out the brave in each other. I think there is something special about putting brave decisions on display. Seeing brave acts inspires bravery in yourself and others. It may just be a post it note that reminds you of a time that you made a challenging decision, or a word that reminds you of a situation where you were brave. Maybe you share your story, and it reminds someone else of their story. They realize they were braver than they even knew. I think we need to celebrate the brave in each other because we can tack a pleasant emotion to a sometimes hard and scary thing. When you see brave, say so.
  4. I need to speak truth over myself. I’ve been notorious for speaking bad about myself. I’ve told myself “I’m not pretty enough.” “I’m not good enough.” “My mistakes define me—I mess up.” Those are lies…the God of the Universe, the One who is breathing life into my lungs, is full of love for me. When I choose to believe that and live into that, my insecurities are quieter, and my worries are lighter because I know and believe how God feels about me. It’s sometimes a daily choice—a moment by moment choice—to choose to believe what God says about me. I am loved. I am brave. Speak kindly to yourself because you’re doing the best you can.
  5. I need to love what I love and not be ashamed. When I first moved back to the States, I was about two years behind everyone else in what they liked. I had just discovered American girl dolls, but my peers had been through that phase and were onto makeup and boys. I always felt like I needed to do the “cool” thing rather than do the thing I loved. I needed everyone else’s approval because without it, I was this uncool weird kid from Africa who didn’t know anything about anything. It’s been a journey. I think, looking back, over the years, I wrestled heavily with this area. At times, I still wrestle with having the confidence to be the person I want to be or love the things I want to love. Annie F. Downs reminds us that bravery is giving yourself permission to do the thing you want to do or like whatever you want to like regardless if anyone else does. You are accepted by God—He’s the only one other than yourself that whose approval matters. I hope you learn to accept yourself as I am learning and striving to accept myself.