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.

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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.

There’s Always Room for One More

There’s always room for one more.

This was a saying I heard all the time growing up. In Nigeria, there was always room for one more in the car and our lives.

In Haiti, I encountered this thought  process again as we fit as many people as we could into transportation to get from place to place. Personal space wasn’t really a thing, to be honest.

Now we kind of laugh at this because in our culture,  personal space is a big deal and time is a commodity that can be spent. But, in thinking about it, it really speaks to a deeper, beautiful thing.

There’s always room for one more.

No one is excluded. Everyone is welcome.

I think Jesus thought that way. No one was excluded from His friendship. No one unworthy of His time and energy.

This mentality is one I want to cultivate in my heart. There’s always room for one more-in my heart and life.

I think western society has cultivate this image of scarcity. It’s weird to say because we have so much excess, but we have cultivated-unconsciously-this idea that we don’t have time and space. This idea that we have to plan for exactly how many people are coming so we don’t run out. This idea that if someone is better at something or prettier, than we are less. The idea that there’s not enough of anything to go around.

I want to cultivate the mentality for more in myself.

Just because someone has something that I don’t doesn’t mean there is not enough of that thing to go around, or that God is withholding some blessing from my life, it just means it’s not my time to acquire that thing.

I want to embrace this idea that there is always room for people in our hearts. Some people camp out in your heart for a while, and some just stopped by on their way to somewhere else, but that doesn’t mean we should stopped making room for others.

There’s is always room for one more. There’s room around the table for you so pull up a chair and sit for awhile. Richness is found in relationship whether the people are in our life for awhile or just for a season.

There’s always room for one more.

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.

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.

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.