PRESENT

I’ve participated in the OneWord movement for a couple years. The idea is to prayerfully find a word that is to be the focus of the next twelve months. 

My word for 2020 is PRESENT.

Present (adj) means: now existing or in progress, being in view or at hand and existing in something mentioned or under consideration.

My hope for this year is that I learn to be present right where I am. Over the last 3 years, I’ve learned how to be brave, how to live in expectation, and finally how to put my anchor down exactly where I am. In the past 3 ½ years post-college, God has gone over and beyond my wildest dreams. He has burst and continued to burst out of the box I place him in. 

This year, I want to be present in my life-my work, my small group of girls, my family. 

This year, I want to future elaborate on the idea of putting my anchor down and become present-smell the roses so to speak.

 

  • Celebrate the little joys.

 

Stop and smell the roses. Life is not all about the stuff you can accomplish and how much you can do. You miss a lot if you simply live life for the fast pace. You miss out on the sunrises and sunsets, the smiles of kids’ faces, and the smell of the ground before it rains. Life is more than the business of life. It’s about the moments between. 

 

  • Listen more graciously.

 

Listen to just listen, not simply listen to respond. Sometimes, people just simply need someone to listen to them. They don’t need someone to fix it, but to acknowledge that it’s hard. They just need to know that they are seen and loved.

 

  • Listen to my body.

 

It sounds weird to acknowledge that sometimes I sleep for 14 hours. One way I can be present in my life is to listen to my body so I can be the best me. I can’t be truly present if my brain isn’t clear. If I need to sleep for 14 hours so be it. If I crave chocolate, then I’ll eat it. The best thing for my brain and body is to balance rest and exercise.

 

  • Develop and savor little rituals.

 

Being present in the moment includes developing little rituals like waking up early to have coffee and spend one on one time with Jesus. These rituals help ground one to a place and people who you include in those rituals. 

 

  • Put down my phone.

 

I want to be remembered for more than just my presence on social media. I want to be remembered for my smiles and hugs and my encouraging words. I want to be remembered for my presence in my life and my dear friends’ lives.

Here’s to living and learning how to be present in my life and others.

 

 

 

 

 

12.17.2016

3 years.

This season is emotional. As the anniversary of my almost death-my life change-comes close I’m just a mess of emotions.

Let me just be honest.

Today was great but I was an emotional mess this afternoon-it was irrational.

BUT GOD.

ABBA-my favorite name for God-knew that I needed cocooned in His arms. He knew that I needed my small group of girls hugs. He knew that I needed Him.

I’ve learned a lot throughout my life, but here are just a few nuggets that, as the 17th roles around, feels a little more applicable.

 

  • God is “ABBA”.

 

The reason why I love this name of God so much is that I love the picture it brings to my mind. A picture of God standing with open arms as I run towards Him. He catches me and picks me up while twirling me around and around. I love that picture. A picture of a God that rules the world yet cares about the littlest thing that is bothering me. 

 

  • People can hurt you, but just because they can, all of them won’t.

 

This one is a lesson I’m still processing through. Throughout my life, letting people in has always been a struggle. I mean letting people into my core-the core of who Sara is. I have layers like an onion, and I learned the lesson of transparency without vulnerability. Let me explain that. I learned how to peel back enough that people were convinced that I was transparent but there was no real risk of me getting hurt. I worked through that and finally made progress and let a few people in. Then the accident happened, and I’m back at square one. I lost myself and figured that I was “too much” for someone to love. A person simultaneously proved that I was worth investing in and crushed my idea that I would ever find love. Then, enter God. God brought a certain person into my life as a friend and I was skittish. I liked him but I figured he would leave. I didn’t want to let him in, because I was afraid of the mess I would be if he did leave. We were friends and then he wormed his way into my heart. He was there. He stayed and who knows what the future holds, but he has taught me that it is possible to open your heart again. I love him for that simple fact and who he is. In opening your heart, there’s always the risk of hurt, but just because they can, doesn’t mean they will.

 

  • Nothing-no person-is a coincidence.

 

I don’t believe anything is a coincidence. I don’t believe that I was hired at MCS of a whim. I believe that I was there for a specific reason. I don’t believe God brought people in and took people out of my life for a reason. Each person I’ve interacted with over the years has shaped me into who I am today for better or for worse. 

 

  • My story is about more than just me.

 

My story while it directly impacts my day to day life, is not simply about me.  This life is about more than my happiness. It’s about God’s redemption of ALL humanity. If God uses me and my story to fulfill his purposes, then all the trauma will be worth it.

 

  • God is not afraid of emotions.

 

If I have learned anything in the past three years, I’ve learned that it’s okay to not be okay for a while, but I can’t stay there. I can’t pitch my tent in the mire and live there. I can visit there. There have been times that I pop right out of the hole, and there have been times where I have needed my brother or parents to give me a swift kick to the bottom (metaphorically) to propel me out of the hole. Love isn’t simply codling but love is telling someone the truth with grace. Two years ago, I hit rock bottom. Life didn’t look anything like I thought it would, and I dug myself a house down in the mire and was planning on staying there indefinitely. 

BUT GOD. 

God in his grace-oh sweet grace-didn’t let me camp there. He put people in my life to give me that swift kick in the butt that I needed, Oh it was hard. There were lots of tears as I lamented what was and could have been. I wrestled with insecurity, I made molehills into mountains, and I surrendered into God’s will. I’m not perfect at this in any means. I still am not quite there yet, but at least I’m not still where I was.

I don’t know what your story is-who has hurt you, what trauma has happened to you-but I do know that there is an ‘abba’ who loves you more than you could ever know. Here’s to believing that God has got this.

4 Things to Learn in Waiting.

Seasons. Blooming. Waiting. Growing.

These are words that have been pressing on my soul in these past months. 

 

“Your fear of the unknown has spoken so many things over you, but it has never spoken anything true. It has only led you into places that only lead to deeper fears, so how could it ever be a voice that you can trust? I hope that you can beyond to trust something greater, beyond your fears. I hope you can trust that Love is greater than any fear, no matter how hard it has been to see how Love is present here. Your fear of the unknown may continue to speak loudly, but may you always remember, it holds no truth, and it surely does not define you. Love speaks louder. Love always speaks louder.”

-Morgan Harper Nichols

 

I read this today, and it spoke to the very depths of my soul. I’m entering a new season with this fellowship, and it’s bringing all my insecurities and fears to the surface.

The past couple of months have been a season of waiting-waiting for God to move in certain areas. In this season-this waiting, striving, and thriving season, here are a few things that I’ve learned.

 

  • Jesus is enough. Jesus is enough to meet all your needs if you let Him. This is something I had to learn the hard way. After a pretty stressful day of thing after thing not working out, I was looking to my boyfriend and friends to fill that need when I should have been looking to Jesus. It’s not fair to them to expect them to meet those needs when they can’t meet it in totality. It just leaves me feeling let down and upset because it seems like they don’t care but in reality, they just don’t have the energy to meet my emotional needs. Jesus does. “God won’t let you down; He won’t leave you. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t worry.” Deu.31:8MSG
  • Waiting doesn’t mean you are stagnant. Waiting on God to move in a certain area means that you may not be moving in that area, but what about the other areas? In my case, I was waiting for God to move in the job front, I eventually figured out that I had more time to put roots into people and my anchor down into this place that was quickly becoming home. I started being more intentional with the people God had placed into my sphere of influence.
  • Rest is a needed skill. Making time for rest is a needed habit to cultivate into your life. If one can learn to instill this habit into their life now, then later when life picks up speed, it would be easier to maintain because the habit has already been established. It only takes two weeks for an ongoing decision to become a habit. 
  • Invest in your growth. This is a perfect time to read that book you have always been wanting to read or pick that hobby you’ve been dying to learn. This is a carved out and designated time to invest in yourself and growth.

 

So if you need me in the next couple of days, I’ll be relishing this time I have and learning to trust God in the midst of this unknown season.

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.

 

 

Your Will, Your Way

“You have come so far. You have learned to let go of what was not good for you. You have learned to step out of the boundaries of your worries, believing that in time, it all would be woven together beautifully. It has not been an easy road, but it has opened your eyes to all of the possibilities of what this life could be, even in your uncertainty.”
-MHN

Graduating from college, I had a plan for my life. A typical conversation between God and I consisted of me telling Him what I wanted His will to be for my life ranging from who I wanted to date and potentially marry to where I wanted Him to call me. It was His will, my way. That didn’t quite work out for me. 29 months ago, my world was turned upside down. My life plan completely changed…

Shortly after my accident, I was thankful God saved my life, but I couldn’t see how this life could possibly be good. I fought with God on how this life could possibly be His will. Those were some dark days, but GOD, in His mercy, used the messiness of my story in Ukraine. Then, looking back, I could see how He has redeemed my story for His glory.

More recently, I was amazed again by how God loves each and every one of us. (I really should stop being amazed by how God uses the worst time if my life for his glory.) One of the students at the school received a brain injury when he was little. I was giving him his medication, and I just offhandedly mentioned that I take the same medication that he does. I received a message for his mom saying that she thinks he finally realized that he’s not alone.

I was blown away by God.

God didn’t cause my accident, but He loved that boy enough to place me at the school to help him not feel alone. When I look back on the last 29 months, I can see a lot of those “coincidences” or “God moments”.

Given the multitude of “God moments” recently, I have realized that my story isn’t over.  I was ecstatic about anchoring myself to Mansfield, my family, my boyfriend, and my friends.

Then, the Dominican Republic happened.

I felt, more than once, confirmation of the fact that missions are in my life plan in some capacity. I mean, I got to stitch up a goat. Besides the fact that I got to stitch up a goat, which is a first for me, I used my right hand. My right hand is the hand I still have trouble with, but it was further confirmation that my story is far from over. My nurse life is far from over.

As I’m processing this, I don’t know that God would have moved so swiftly in getting me an opportunity for a medical/surgical fellowship at OhioHealth here if he intended me to move to the DR. Also, God is a good father, so he wouldn’t have given me confirmation of my dream of overseas missions if He didn’t intend that to be part of my story.

So here I am, learning to hold my plans loosely and trusting that the One who holds my heart has plans to honor the dreams He has instilled in my heart. Here I am, learning to anchor myself to the people that mean a lot to me right here. Here’s to me, striving and thriving, as I learn to live life with God in the drivers seat-His Will, His Way.

Pressing On

Sometimes, the faith journey can feel like a sprint, while other times, it can feel like a marathon. Regardless of what it feels like, the necessity of pressing on stays the same.

The idea of pressing on has been somewhat of a theme in this season.

If I had given up on getting back to kinda who I was, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Pressing on has been challenging-oh so hard-at times, but all the tears and tantrums have been worth it to see how far I’ve come.

Don’t think that this is just me wanting recognition or a pat on the back, but the example is meant to show you the value of pressing on.

I’m not a runner but that’s another example that will resonate with people.

How does one run a marathon?

You have to persevere-keep going-when your muscles hurt. You can’t give up the moment things get tough.

The same is true with faith. It’s easy to trust God when things are going well. Life is all butterflies and roses. But what about when your plans get derailed. You get an unexpected call from the doctor, or you lose your job. Life seems to be more thorns and wilderness. God seems so far away but in reality, we’re the ones who have moved, not Him.

Will you keep trusting God even when it doesn’t look like anything is happening?

Paul is a great example of that. Life was good, and it was horrible-he was beaten and imprisoned. It ebbed and flowed between being good and bad, but throughout he remained close to God. He was honest about where he was, but he never truly blamed God for his suffering. He writes in Philippians 3: 12-15;

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.”

That shocks me because he had every reason to be upset at God. True, God didn’t ever cause suffering, but the suffering was because of God. But he never blamed God. In fact, he counts it kinda an honor-he rejoiced in it.

“Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”

Colossians 1:24

Because I was curious about what the word perseverance and phase press on actually meant, I looked them up.

Perseverance (n.)

persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

Press on/ahead (phrasal verb with press)

to start or continue doing something in a determined way, often despite problems

Both words/phrases hint to continuing despite problems and hardships. It’s the idea that problems will happen, but we need to be determined in continuing despite.

So here’s a couple tips to help you press on when you feel like giving up on Jesus:

 

  • Recall past persevering accomplishments.

 

Remember the times when your perseverance paid off. Allow those memories to motivate you when times get tough.

 

  • Celebrate victories (even small ones).

 

When you are in the midst of troubles or hard times, it’s easy to get discouraged. Celebrate victories. Even small one’s matter. I remember when I walked down the stairs for the first time in a long time without holding onto a handrail. It was a small thing, but I threw my arms up in a victory stance. Luckily, I was in a stairwell with no one in it, or people would have given me weird looks. Celebrate the moments where you get into the Word or listen to godly podcasts. They might seem like a small thing, but sometimes you just need a win.

 

  • Take a step-just one.

 

Sometimes,  the big picture is so intimidating that you are frozen in place. In order to move, you need to just focus on taking on step at a time-on breathe at a time.

  • Just keep going (even if it’s only in your mind).

 

Sometimes, half the battle is in your hard. My brother always says “Those who say they can and those who say they can’t are both right”. Half of the battle is what you tell yourself. If you tell yourself you can’t do this or to give up, then you won’t get there. But if you tell yourself that you’ll eventually get there even though it’s hard, then you’ll get there eventually.

A Year Full of Expectation

I chose expectation as my word for this year. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I chose this word.

Man, was I unprepared for what God had in store for me this year!

Here are a few things that I learned from this year full of expectation:

  • God doesn’t like to stay in the boxes we tend to put Him in.

This has been a lesson I seem to learn time and time again. I try to put God in a box of what I think He can accomplish or how I think He’ll heal me. Time and time again this year, I put God in a box, and time and time again, He burst out of the box doing more than I ever imagined. I sent out letters for Ukraine and within week…WEEKS…I was fully funded due to generous people. I didn’t expect to fall in love but I did. Ukraine wormed its way into my heart within minutes of touching ground. I finally got content with being in my corner of the world, and God put hospital nursing back on the table. Through an unintentional interview, it was like God was saying “Your story is not over yet.”

  • Bravery and expectation go hand in hand.

Living with expectation takes a lot of bravery. I mean, if you expect God to move, you have to say the next brave “yes”. You can’t expect to sit on your butt and wait-just wait-for God to do something. Living with expectation means listening to God and saying the next brave “yes” that falls in front of you. It means making plans, but holding them loosely as you expect God to move in them.

  • Rest is not selfish. It enables you to be your best self later in the week.

Rest. Self-care. In some circles, these words make people cringe. Honestly, 2 years ago, they would have made me cringe. It wasn’t until I was literally forced to slow down that I realized how necessary it is. My energy is like an opaque coin jar. I keep taking change out of it not realizing I’m close to the bottom until I hit a wall, get a TBI headache and I’m put out of commission for 24 hours. I hate it. I hate that I can’t do everything. I hate that I seemed to need more rest than an average 24 year old. I realized something this year. If I plan time into my schedule for rest, it doesn’t feel unproductive or a waste of time. Over time, my mentality changed because I didn’t view it as selfish rather I viewed it as necessary for me to be my best self. I couldn’t help the littles feel better if I was at the end of my rope.

  • My story isn’t over yet. Your story isn’t over yet.

I don’t know where you are or where your story has taken you. You may be reading this and you are on a mountaintop. God has never felt closer, and life is perfect. I’m happy for you. Cling to that feeling. Soak it in, and capture it to remember in the hard times. On the other hand, you may be reading this thinking “What has she got that I haven’t? Why is life so hard right now? Why is God so far away? Is God even good?” Don’t…and I mean don’t be ashamed of those questions. They are real. I’ve been there. All I can say is try and remember the mountaintop experiences. It may not seem like it but that God is the same God in the valley. This is why reading the Psalms is good-oh so good. David lamented about where He was but he always said “remember when…” You may feel like your story is over. I’ve felt that way many of times in the past two years, but GOD. He has redeemed what I thought was lost, and put my mind and my heart back together. 3 years ago, I begrudgingly settled for Akron, OH when I really wanted the ends of the earth, 2 years ago, I had no choice in moving back to Mansfield, OH. Today, I am realizing that God is up to something at MCS and in Mansfield. I am honored to be a witness to what God is up to.

This has been quite a journey, and I’m not there-wherever there is-yet. Thanks for walking this journey with me. This has been a year full of expectation. I started out the year hopeful, but depressingly realistic of where I was. I end the year overwhelmed with how God has blown those seemingly realistic thoughts of who I would be out of the water.