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

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

Alexandra Kuykendall

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

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

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

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

God is good.

God has a good plan for me.

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

BUT GOD!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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.

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.

You-Yes, You-Are Known, Seen and Loved.

You-yes, you-are known, seen and loved.

I was thinking about this simple fact this weekend.

Known.

Verb. Meaning “have developed a relationship with (someone) through meeting and spending time with them; be familiar or friendly with.

Seen.

Verb. Meaning “be or become aware of something from observation or from a written or other visual source.”

Loved.

Verb. Meaning “like or enjoy very much”.

You, regardless of what you have done or who you are, are known to the very depths of your soul and loved by the Creator of the Universe.

I think about the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. He didn’t listen to his father, squandered all his money, and severely grieved his father’s soul, but his father knew all that he’d done and STILL welcomed him back with open arms.

God does that with us. He pulls us into His arms and welcomes us home-even after we have tremendously grieved Him.

In the same way, God knows, sees, and loves us, we need to know, see, and love others. I listened to Angie Smith at IF gathering this weekend. She compared faith to solitaire. In Solitaire, you have to start with an ace. What’s the ace of our faith?

Love.

It has to be love. That’s the foundation. Everything else is based on that. If you throw down a five or seven, it won’t work and no one will listen. If you start with the ace though, everything else falls into place. It can be still be challenging at times, but you’ll keep building on the ace. It’s the same way with faith. Love comes first.

Can you honestly say you love everyone regardless of political views, sexual preferences, and religious views?

Love comes first.

You won’t argue anyone into heaven, but if you start with love, and see them, I mean really see them flaws and all, you give them a glimpse of how the Heavenly Father loves them unconditionally.

Throw the ace.

You won’t regret it.

9 Things I Desire for 2019

A new year brings a new beginning and a fresh start. As this New Year begins, I am starting to think

about what I want for this New Year. What do I want this year to be about?  As I prayed about what I want

for this year, two words came to mind: content and anchor. These words have played a part in my journey

during this past year, and I believe they have a role to play in the year coming up.

For the first time in probably forever I desire to put down roots temporarily and be content in my corner of

the world. I desire to anchor myself to family and friends as well as anchor myself to God. I made a list of

things that desire for the year ahead as I incorporate these words into my life. I am not talking about New

Year’s Resolutions. We tend to think that we will not complete our resolutions. They are normally just stated

to help us feel good about our plans for the New Year. The idea behind what I want out of this year is growth

and adventure. I want these items to contribute to how I interact with others and God.

  • Cross at least one item off of my bucket list.

Life is meant for good friends and great adventures. The adventures of this new year comes from

taking chances, stepping out of my comfort zone. In the spirit of continuing to be brave, I desire to

take new adventures and check things off of my bucket list. Sometimes you have to allow yourself

to pursue the things that you want, even if it just to say you did. I checked things off this year like

visiting a new country, but there’s more I desire to check off.

  • Make new friends and deepen friendships.

2018 overflowed with new friendships, and I want 2019 to expand those relationships and make

new friends throughout my adventures.  Charles Swindoll writes, “I cannot even imagine where I

would be today were it not for that handful of friends who have given me a heart full of joy. Let’s face

it, friends make life a lot more fun”.  I do not know where I would be without the amazing friends I have

and the ones I made this year. There is a moment when you meet someone and something clicks. You

become friends, and they impact your life in ways you never thought of. This year I strive to be more

vulnerable with the friends in my life. Inviting the people I love into my heart and life.

  • Embrace the life of freedom-this life of more-that I have been given.

As a child of God, I have been given freedom. I am no longer a slave to fear, perfection, and insecurity.

I can embrace life with an attitude of freedom because Christ had given me life. Freedom from fear

and insecurity is something that I have been wrestling with over the past year. This year, I am choosing

to live in that freedom and embrace the Creator of the Universe.

  • Learn to make each moment, good or bad, count-and be content where I am.

The thing about living a brave and free life is that I want to make every moment count. I do not want to

look back on this year and regret the passed moments and missed opportunities. I desire to look back

on my year and say, “Wow. What a year!” because of the relationships I made and the moments that I

allowed myself to live, I mean, truly live. I want to live life to the fullest, as I take step out of my shadow

and be brave with my decisions. I’ve allowed myself to anchor myself to here and now. The small

moments matter. The smiles. The breezes. The quiet. These little moments like holding hands, reading

a book for fun, the reassurance that I am heading on the right path.  These moments are not flashy

moments, but rather they creep up into your life.

  • Be intentional with the people in my life.

As I deepen my relationships, I want to reach out to the people around me. As I am intentional with my

conversations, I can invest in people’s lives. At the end of the day, accomplishments are amazing, and

material possessions are nice, but relationships are the only things that we can take with us to Heaven.

People matter.

  • Spend more time discovering who God is.

This new year is a new opportunity to spend time discovering the Creator of the Universe and me. My

relationship with God is the most important relationship in my life. I desire to spend more time intentionally

getting to know God and allowing him to love me. To love the places in my heart where my deepest

insecurities and hopes lie.  Beth Moore writes, “May God remind us daily—no matter what kind of

obstacles we face—that we are loved and empowered by the One who brought the universe into

existence with the mere sound of His voice. Nothing is impossible for Him”. As I get to know God

and delve into His word, He continues to love and empower me. He pushes me out of my comfort

zone into places that I never thought about, but that are so incredibly better than I could have planned.

  • Figure out what makes me tick, what I feel passionate about and delve further into it.

As I bravely and vulnerably surrender my time to Lord, He begins to show me glimpses of the woman

he created me to be. I bravely try new things, develop new habits as I discover new interests. As I

celebrate my twenties, I desire to use my time this year to discover new passions and bravely

explore the place these passions interact with my life. Whether it is volunteering at a free clinic,

helping with an afterschool program, or raising money for a cause halfway across the world, I desire

for this year to be a defining year of me interacting with the lesser known passions and desires in my heart.

I desire to continue to figure out this new Sara and who God is shaping me to be.

  • Cry unashamedly.

Crying signifies vulnerability, and I hate being vulnerable, truly vulnerable. This year, as I bravely become more

vulnerable with the people around me, I give myself the freedom to cry. Not emotionally crying all the time, but

to cry when I need to cry without being ashamed of tears. Sometimes, being strong means not holding back the

tears but letting them fall.

  • Worry less about what people think.

I have a tendency to be reserved and cautious because I am afraid of what others think of me. I

selfishly think that they care about every little thing I do. The reality is that as I live in freedom I

shake off the perceptions of other and the expectations I place on myself. The only expectations

that matter are God’s. I am pretty, smart, awkward, quirky, organized, vivacious, entertaining,

outspoken, and introverted. I am fiercely loyal to my friends. I have an obsession with colored pens

and planners. I love reading. I am learning to accept myself exactly as God created me quirks and

all.

2018 was a year to remember, but here’s to more adventures with God in 2019 as I investigate my

corner of the world.