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.

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.

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.

 

 

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.

Selah

Selah.

It’s a word that is rarely used. It’s thought to mean pause-a break.

This has been on my mind recently because sometimes I hate the fact that my brain hits a wall and can’t function without rest. I want to do everything and I feel bad for having to need rest a lot-and I mean a lot.

Selah.

Kristen Kill in Finding Selah says, “When we practice peace, it is always about embracing the rest God provides. He always goes first.

Into waters, into suffering, into new lands, into great joy, into glory, and into rest—there is nothing He gives without giving thoroughly

of Himself.”

The thing about that is we often think rest comes after we do the things-after we finish, THEN we can rest. But what I’m learning is

that rest comes first. Lauren Daigle, one of my favorite people, said in an interview that we need to function out of a place of rest.

First, we rest-completely-then we complete the To Do list. We’ll be more efficient as we complete the list because we are running on

a full tank so to speak.

That’s changed how I look at Selah. It’s a pause that refreshes me to do all that I need to do. So maybe I need to rest more than a

typical 24 year old, but when I look at it as needed to better prepare me for what’s next-to better prepare me to do ministry in my

corner of the world-it’s less daunting. It becomes less of a chore because I want to love my girls well. I want to love the littles at

school well. To do that, I need to rest well.

Find Selah in the midst of chaos.

Sometimes, Selah looks like reading and writing.

Sometimes, it looks like forgoing my diet at eating custard with my family.

Sometimes, Selah takes on the persona of drinking coffee and dreaming wild dreams with soul friends.

Sometimes, Selah is simply just breathing and living with attentiveness-inhaling and exhaling as the leaves fall and snow

blanketed the world.

Selah.

Pause.

Selah.

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.

King of the World

We sang the song “King of the World” in church today. It really hit me.

As life has been getting better, I’m going to be honest and admit that I sometimes forget God.

I mean that not in a “I forget You exist” way, but a “I’ll put You in a box” way.

As I get better, I find that I tend to forget all God has done and proceed to put Him in a box of what I want to see happen. I proceed to tell God what I want him to do.

“I want to go to that place, date that person, or do that life-changing thing.” I proceed to shrink Him down and put Him into a small box.

When I dare to do that, God proceeds to find ways to break out of that box I put Him in. He says, “You might want to go to that place, BUT I, the One who set it all in motion, have you right here, right now. MCS is your mission field right now”.

I pause.

As I heal, I need to remember, Jesus speaks and the storms quiet.

Jesus breathes life out of dust.

Jesus is the King of the World.

I need to remember to hold my plans, my aspirations, and my dreams losely. I’m not who I was a couple months ago, and I won’t be who I am now in a couple months. I am always changing at what seems like a breakneck pace and a turtle pace at the same time.

I’m learning to be patient with who I am and where I am right now. It’s not primarily about the destination, but it’s about the journey.

It’s about falling more in love with the King of the World.

It’s about the quiet mornings when He speaks through the sunrises.

It’s about the way He provides rest on the busy days.

It’s about dear friends who push you to seek refuge in Him.

It’s about the people who speak life into you on the days when your soul is empty.

It’s about sharing your story of the wilderness, and the sweetness of our Father.

You will eventually get where you are going, but the destination might not look like what you planned it looking like.

God is the King of the World, and He is present in the wilderness as you journey forward.

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.