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.

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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.

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.

Reflections and “me too”

This week has been a tough one, but one full of reflecting on my life.

God is good.

Life is messy.

This detour was not in my plan. The longer this detour is going on, the harder it is to cling to that fact that God is good.

A year ago, I wouldn’t have thought I would be here. I figured my life as I knew it was over. I embraced the label of disability. By God’s grace, I’ve made it this far, but it’s not without hard work.

The past 15 months have been hard, but the next year will be even harder. It’s going to be hard and exhausting work to get back to floor nursing, but it’s not impossible (as of now).

This week God reminded me that my story is valuable and needed.

My story is my story, but it’s also God’s story. God is the master storyteller.

Morgan Harper Nichols says it best in her song, “The Storyteller”:

The mountain where I climbed

The Valley where I fell

You were there all along

That’s the story I’ll tell

You brought the pieces together

Made me this storyteller

Now I know it is well, it is well

That’s the story I’ll tell

I shouldn’t be ashamed of my story or think that God can’t redeem or use it. When I believe that, I am greatly underestimating the grandness of His power.

I’ve been thinking about the power of “me too”. There’s something about being vulnerable and admitting “me too”. We don’t say it because we’re afraid that people will think less of us-that we destroy that perfect image in their head. The thing about being vulnerable is that there is a line to not cross. We shouldn’t air our dirty laundry under the guise of vulnerability, but also we shouldn’t be ashamed of what happened to us or what we have done if we have repented of our sins.

My story is valuable because God can use it to bring himself glory. My story points to God as my healer and hope. If I choose share about what God has done and is doing, God might use it in someone else’s life.

I just have to be faithful and say “me too”.

Vulnerability.

Vulnerability. Community.

These words are used so often in resident life at Christian colleges that they begin to lose their meaning. We say things like “build community”, “be vulnerable and open”, and “facilitate community”.

Do we really know what we are asking for when we say these buzz words?

Vulnerability and community are incredible and beautiful aspects of belonging to a group of people. I have been blessed to be a part of a group that consistently reminds me of the value of these qualities. I’m not afraid to tell them if I’m having a bad day or I’m struggling keeping my thoughts positive.

“Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”
― Brené Brown

As humans, we believe that showing people our true selves—our hurts, our desires, our passions, our insecurities—reflects that we are weak. In modern society, sharing our emotions is weak, and weakness of any sort is unacceptable. We try so hard to hide the messiness of our lives behind a thin-lipped smile or stifled laugh. We play pretend.

The reality is that vulnerability requires bravery. We are not weak when we share this part of ourselves with others. The part we hide behind our façade of “I’m OK. I’m tired. I’m busy”. These are safe answers when we do not desire to share our heart with other people. They are barriers that we need to put up because we cannot share our deepest desires and darkest secrets with every random person with whom we come into contact with.

Choosing to be vulnerable is risky and scary, but so much more rewarding than I could ever imagine. It opens the door for significant conversations about real life—the triumphs, the trials, the hurts. The very definition of the word vulnerable means “capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, open to assault, or difficult to depend”. When we become vulnerable with other people, we are choosing to enter into this place where we open up our hearts and lives to the point where we can get hurt. This place of unknown emotions where we share our souls with other individuals. I have been challenged this semester to be real, genuine and vulnerable with the people God has placed in my life.

My default setting is to simply assume that everyone could disappear because I have moved so many times. As a result, it is hard to be vulnerable and open with people because the more I open up, the greater the possibility of hurt.

The reality is that I can avoid getting hurt by putting up barriers, but what would I miss out on?

Deep conversations about God at 3 am.

Watching God reveal strengths in my life that others point out to me through my weakness.

Accepting that I am broken so that people can see God as he works in my life.

Sharing songs that speak to my heart with a dear friend.

Sharing my story with people who truly listen.

Reflecting God’s vision of community as we forgive and love each other in our brokenness.

As I challenge myself to be audacious, I decided to choose vulnerability.

To share my heart’s story with my closest friends. To speak the truth in love. To reveal pieces of myself in layers. To not hide behind the masks I put up to protect my heart.

The more I hide behind our masks, the more hurt I become because I feel truly alone in this big, challenging world. Sometimes, all it takes is realizing that someone else struggles with the same vices or doubts. We all have wounds. We all have hurts that cause us pain. There lies that deep-seeded loneliness that emerges in the midst of every success, the feeling of worthlessness that hides behind every accomplishment, and the meaninglessness that sneaks up on the good days which causes us to seek validation in human company, not God.

When you choose to be vulnerable, you allow people to enter into the story of God’s redemption in your life.

We do not feel so alone.

The Christian walk is not one that we can do by ourselves. We need to be surrounded by people who encourage us in our journey, who move us closer to God, and challenge us to keep trusting in God’s timing.

Vulnerability is a choice that is make every day as I choose to take off my mask and simply be a broken person loving broken people.

18 Things I Desire for 2018

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: Fearless and Expectation. 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. I made a list of things that I 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 being 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

Make new friends and deepen friendships.

2017 overflowed with new friendships, and I want 2018 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.

Be brave and expectant.

This appears general, but this word brave has been a theme for this year, and I want to continue to strive to step out in faith, being brave in the life God has given me. Brave (adj.) is defined as ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage. This is who I want to be. I want to be a brave and audacious woman who embraces life regardless of any fear. This does not mean I will never fear hard situations or trials, but I will approach the situation with courage and grace.This is a year of recovery and new things. I’m expecting that God will do great things this next year.

Embrace the life of freedom 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.

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 past 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.

Be intentional with the people in my life.

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.

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 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.

Do one random act of kindness each month.

Kindness puts a smile on others faces. It is as simple as that.

Complain less.

Complaining is being ungrateful for what God has given me, as well as it can drive people away. It can taint the personality. I do not want to be known for complaining about things that I cannot do anything about.

Step out of my comfort zone.

This is one of the biggest things that I want to focus on changing about my life. I find that some of the most rewarding moments of my life happen when I step over that line into areas where I am unsure. I have to rely totally on God, and guess what? He always comes through with a life-changing experiences as I learn more about myself and my abilities with God by my side. We walk hand in hand as he guides me through life.

Continue to dream big.

This new year is a big year, I have dreams about travelling, and the perfect job. The idea is that these dreams are held loosely, but I still need to dream. I still need to allow myself to dream of the impossible, because my God is big enough to do anything. I should not put him in a box as I try to tell him the path I should go on.

Embrace and enjoy the little things of life

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. You can miss the significance of the moments, if you are not paying attention.

Accept myself.

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.

Read 25 books.

This is my goal for this year-to fill my head with knowledge of the world around me. Books allow me to escape to a different place and time. They fill my head with information about life and the pursuit of happiness.

Learn a new recipe a week

I started loving to cook when I lived by myself, out of necessity. Now, I desire to develop that skill.