His Amazing Grace

I opened my eyes to the sun rise through my blinds and blinked. 8:00am. On my own. Without an alarm. I rolled over to feel my sweet puppy Watson breathing beside me, his breaths steady against me. I smiled and thought about what i’m doing the next few days. I looked around my room, my walls bare, boxes stacked up next to my bed, my pictures put away…

I’m moving to Fort Worth, Texas this week.

I sometimes lay awake at night and wonder if I really am doing this, then wake up in the morning and realize that I am and it’s okay. I’ve said goodbye to countless friends and watched them leave with tears in their eyes and have wondered… where are my tears? I feel emotionless sometimes.

I’ve sat across from friends who want my story of why i’m moving and why I chose this particular seminary… and I think many are waiting on an extraordinary story. One with signs and wonders and huge miracles…  with a clear conviction and direction. I’ve sat across from people who are shocked, because i’ve not mentioned it before, and others who know it’s right.

But instead I sit across from person after person and just explain that I feel peace. That this is something that’s has been on my heart for a couple of years or so and I’ve been too afraid to do it. Because what if…what if I don’t fit in? What if I stick out like a sore thumb? What if they realize that i’m really not seminary material and instead i’m messy and rude and loud and sometimes even obnoxious? What if I get there and accidentally curse in class? What if they see my wicked heart and realize… I don’t belong? 

But all those what if’s don’t matter anymore, because The Lord is my Shepherd and He has guided me to Knoxville and away from Knoxville. He has lead me through dark valleys. The what if’s don’t matter anymore because the applications for seminary asked me all the questions that I was afraid they would and I answered so brutally honestly that..when I got my acceptance letter, I was shocked.

I’ve been silent about it because He’s been stirring something deep within me that feels too personal and too holy to talk about. He’s been shaping and changing and molding me in ways I didn’t realize I needed. He’s transformed me and continues to do so.

Moving away isn’t a big spiritual struggle like I imagined it would be. I thought attending to seminary would be a gigantic emotionally spiritual experience, but it’s just the next step that He’s lead me to and I feel peace.

Whether this is right or wrong, i’m unsure. But I know He will lead me into green pastures and lead me by still waters and I know He’s restored my soul. His rod and His staff they comfort me even in the presence of evil, because I know His discipline will help me stick by Him.

He is my comfort. My peace. And I don’t have an amazing story, I have His Amazing Grace and for me, today, that’s more than enough.

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The Year of the Vegetable Oil

I held the phone to my ear with my brother on the line, my hearing aid whistling as he asked, “So Sara, how ya doing with the reading?”

This is a common question from my brother. For the last year or so, he and I have been tag-teaming on reading the Bible through, though not necessarily reading together in the same place,we’ve held each other accountable through texts and conversations such as these.

“It’s been alright,” I paused, “I’m in Numbers. I guess i’m slowing down a little since last year.”

His concern was evident, “yeah I noticed. Why do you think that is?”

I sighed. “I don’t know. I was so alive and excited about the Word, but since Ciera’s death, I’ve just had a lot of doubts. I doubt His promises. I doubt His word. I doubt my understanding of it… I doubt so much.I know these are rookie doubts and they’re stupid since I intellectually know His promises all ring true no matter what.” I continued, “I don’t know if I subconsciously thought if I sought the Lord and prayed and pleaded and begged and obeyed, that she would be healed. I don’t know if that was subconscious or not, but…”

I sat there and expressed my deepest doubts. The things I’m struggling with most. I’ve had a million people tell me that she’s healed and in a better place. That just alienates me more. I’ve had people tell me that all things work for the good of those who love Him and in response i’ve wanted to punch them in the face and tell them “this is for your good”. I know the answers. I know the sermons. I know it backwards and forwards and still doubts plague me. I pick up His word and the temptation to just not be interested is there. I struggle through prayers but sometimes all I can get out is “Are You there? Do You hear me?” My prayers haven’t changed all that much since October 26, 2015.

You think the months would make it better and that time would heal wounds, but it’s like my brother said in our conversation, “Sara, it will take years. You and C had a Jonathan/David friendship. I bet David missed Jonathan until he went to the grave. You won’t ever get over it…” His words washed over me like water. Cleansing. Acknowledging. I won’t ever get over it. I breathed in relief.

He spoke truth over me and like songs they rang right through me to my soul, “You did seek Him in hoping she would be healed. I watched you and it’s been incredible. There’s nothing wrong with that, because we all do it. We are all human. We all seek God and hope that things will happen- we seek Him and want things from Him… It’s our nature.” Thankful to hear that the most private part of me- the fact that I begged God for her healing and He didn’t give it in the way I wanted. The temptation for me to quit was out in the open and acknowledged by another human who gave me grace encouraged me to give me grace too.

Tonight he reminded me to keep pressing on. I heard the urgency in his voice, “Sara, you have to keep reading the bible and praying because that’s what will get you through shit like this. Remember Hebrews 11? Remember Abraham? He went through all of that moving from place to place to receive God’s promise and died not having received it, but he still kept pressing on…”

I remembered… By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance,obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.  For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God…All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth… (Hebrews 11:8-10;13). 

His voice brought me back to the present, “they didn’t receive it in their lifetime, but God’s promises still rang true then, and they still ring true now. If C was here, she’d be by your side rooting for your faith, for you to hold on. Just like you guys used to do when you ran races! I bet she’s up there right now telling you how great it is up there and for you to hold on to His promises. They’re still true!”

“You know, Sara, this is going to sound stupid, but stick with me.” He continued, “I was watching Marcela (his wife) bake something the other day. She got a cup of vegetable oil and poured that in a bowl. Now by itself we wouldn’t drink vegetable oil for breakfast and call that good, but we put it in stuff when we bake.”
I laughed as he gave an illustration of telling someone he drank veggie oil for breakfast.

“Then she put a little bit of flour in it- Flour by itself is nasty, right?! Tasteless!” I giggled, knowing where he was going with this. “Then she put eggs in it- which aren’t too bad cooked- and raw– well…. Anyways, then she added chocolate chips and those are pretty good I can have some chocolate chips. She put it all together and put it in the oven and when she took it out it was delicious.”

I rolled my eyes and said “yeah”… Then he took an unexpected turn.

“Well, Sara. Some years are vegetable oil years. Right now, you are in the year of vegetable oil and it’s pretty terrible. Other years are flour years- and then you got some days that are like chocolate chips and those are pretty good. But in the end, God mixes all those years together and throws you in a pan and lights your ass on fire and.. well.. You end up with a masterpiece. You just gotta trust Him. It’s going to be okay. Remember Abraham. Remember the Greats- the ones who Trusted Him even when they never received their promises- not while they were alive. Remember.”

I leaned back and thought about Deuteronomy. I thought about the day that the Lord set before His people a choice and I could feel Him setting before me the same choice- “Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster.” (Deut 30:15). I feel a strong pull to death and destruction. And I feel a small tug to life and prosperity. I know the small tug is Truth. I know the small whisper is His. I know His voice. I know Him.

And I choose it. I will. I have to. He’s mine and I am His and with all my heart I choose life. I choose Him. I choose His promises even if I don’t see them- ever.

You have a choice too- You have life and death- prosperity and destruction. You have years of chocolate chips and veggie oil. Whether you’re in the best or the worst year- or whether you’re on fire… choose Him. Hold onto Him. Don’t let go. Don’t give up. He’s there.

 

If you made it to the end of this really long post- congrats. I miss you guys and have been struggling to put my thoughts into words- I hope to get back into blogging soon. I miss doing the weekly blogs. They are fun, but my soul needed the break. Hope you enjoyed! 

52 Weeks of Adventure: Week 4 Love Rocks

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Bentley, Ciera’s doggie.

I found myself on the drive to Maryville last Monday. Maryville, TN is a quaint little town of approximately 27,000 people, a suburb of Knoxville (source). Maryville is where I first came to settle in Tennessee at age 18, choosing the town for the small, liberal arts college that resides there on the hill. Maryville, Tennessee is one of my favorite places on earth and has a special place in my heart. Not only does it have a homey feeling to it and is easy to navigate, it has some of my favorite places which includes Vienna Coffeehouse and a crossfit gym with friendly people. It’s where I learned and struggled to be an adult and where I flew from my parents nest. It’s where I made friends that have lasted a lifetime and learned that some friendships don’t always last. I learned to run in that little town and learned each running trail and knew each distance like the back of my hand. Regardless if I wanted to run 2 miles or 7 miles, I knew exactly where to go. No GPS needed. Maryville is the source of so much joy, heartache, tears, and redemption for me. Maryville is also where Ciera lived with her parents. It is the place where Ciera and I found an anchor in our friendship and the place I prayed for her to come back to. Maryville has intense and deep-rooted significance for me.

DSCN0396For those of you who may not know, Ciera is my best friend who passed away October 26, 2015. If you want to read about the legacy she left when she passed, click here. 

I finally pulled up to Ciera’s parents, Mr. Mike and Mrs. Sherri’s house later on Monday night than I had planned. I hopped out the car and rushed to the front door, eager to begin our adventure. Excitement radiated through me as Mrs Sherri and Bentley, the overexcited young boxer, answered the door. They had all been kind enough to not only let me be a part of this activity we were doing, but also invite me to their house and cook dinner for me. Mr Mike and Mrs Sherri have the most beautiful hearts I’ve ever met. They open their doors and open their hands and open their hearts and say “thank you” even when you’re the one imposing. They invite you to intimate activities such as making Love Rocks for Ciera in her memory… which is what we planned to do that night. Mr Mike and Mrs Sherri have kept Ciera’s memory and legacy alive through their openhanded generosity to me and others. Every time I get a taste of their kindness, I think of her and when I get a moment to dwell on it, it overwhelms me.

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Mr Mike made the most delicious Salmon.

For those of you who don’t know what Love Rocks are, I really want to encourage you to go read their story and find them on Facebook.  Love Rocks is a foundation and a community of people created by one mama and daddy in Oregon who lost their two daughters named Anna and Abby in an unthinkable tragedy. The two girls were playing in front of their house in some leaves one fall morning and a motor vehicle did not see them and hit them on October 20, 2013. In honor of their Creator and the lives of their sweet girls, they chose to spread love and joy by creating Love Rocks in April of 2014. They began by cutting fabric in the shapes of hearts and using Mod Podge to glue them on rocks- creating love rocks. Love Rocks aren’t meant to be kept, but meant to be shared just as love and joy are. They have been left at doctor’s offices, hospitals, on hiking trails, near the Eiffel Tower.. and so many more places. You can read more about them on the website.

DSCN0392After learning about these, Mrs Sherri and Mr Mike decided to make some Love Rocks- in honor and memory of Ciera, so we can leave them in different places wherever  we go so that whoever needs love and joy will find the Love Rocks and get that courage they need…

The adventure this week wasn’t that I spent time in Maryville. The adventure was that Mrs Sherri and Mr Mike opened their home and hearts up to me and allowed me to be a part of something so special that I will forever cherish in my heart. We made several Love Rocks in Ciera’s honor and maybe one day i’ll get the courage and strength it takes open my hand in thankfulness and let them go…

Thank you Mr. Mike and Mrs. Sherri for this past Monday. Thank you for letting me take pictures and share this with others…Thank you for continuing to… be like C and leave a legacy!

All photographs belong to me and were taken with my L820 Nikon coolpix camera. I didn’t receive any compensation for advertisement for this post. This is just what my adventure was this week. Please feel free to make your own adventures and share them with me. Also, feel free to make your own love rocks- if you do i’d love to hear about it.

 

 

52 Weeks of Adventure: Week 3~ Snowmageddon

By the title, I’m sure you all know what I’m referring to, correct? This past week, I was spoiled with adventure and it was a lot of fun. On Monday we got off for MLK day. Tuesday I went to work. Wednesday we had a snow day and technically I could have taken off, but I chose to work from home and.. have a little fun with Watson in the afternoon during a break.

Watson and I decided to go gliding and sliding through the snow and we met our neighbor and her dog, Tiki (Short for Tikvah which can mean Hope in Hebrew). Tiki and Watson ran around for a little bit, but Tiki got pretty cold since he’s a puppy Boxer.

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Watson is wearing his bright blue coat.. he doesn’t always understand social skills

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No matter how much he tries to sit, he won’t get Tiki’s treats! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Watson with his wild spirit! This is one of my favorites

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Watson and Tiki had their fill of playing, which surprisingly didn’t last too long, Watson and I decided to walk around and take some pictures. We took pictures on my Nikon COOLPIX L820 camera that I received for Christmas a couple of years ago. I have recently pulled it out, bought a bunch of batteries and have been using it for my blog along with other things. I’m not a photographer by any means, but…. that’s part of the adventure isn’t it?

Once we settled down at home after our walk, Watson and I watched the news and realized the true snowmageddon was coming and the whole town was shutting down for Friday and Saturday. I cancelled my plans for the weekend and tried to make adventurous plans for the two of us.

By the end of the weekend, we didn’t have but a couple of flurries- We had nothing compared to the northeast! Me and Watson stayed home all day saturday, read books, watched movies, and drank tea. It was so, so lovely… and definitely our kind of adventure.

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Where is your life taking you this week? What adventures do you see in the mundane? What makes you smile and laugh and throw your head back and think “this is forever”? 

That’s adventure. Maybe it’s snow, or thankful journals, or friends. Maybe it’s wine and dine and cheese. Maybe the adventure is in the book you read last week or the church you visited. Maybe it’s a deeply spiritual experience or maybe it’s from wrestling with the Spirit.  Wherever your adventure lies, i’d love to read it. If you have a blog or want to start one, please join me in the adventure by writing them down and posting the link in the comments!

To learn more about the reason behind my 52 weeks of adventure series, click here.

Let Something Happen To Me

Last night I spent time organizing all of my important papers. Since I moved into my most recent apartment in September, important papers have been piled instead of filed. So it was time to organize and reassess what to keep and what to throw.DSCN0379

I came across a letter a dear friend, Christi, wrote to me several years ago. It’s undated, but I would date it back to 2010- maybe even 2011. A lot of significant things happened during that time in my walk with Him. In the letter she shared with me a prayer that she read earlier that week. The author is unknown but I want to share it with you all today.

 

Oh God,
Let something happen to me,
Something more than interesting
Or entertaining
Or thoughtful. 

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let something essential happen to me,
Something awesome,
Something real,
Speak to my condition, Lord,
and change me inside somewhere
Where it matters,
a change that will burn and tremble and heal
and explode me into tears.
Or laughter.
or love that throbs or screams
or keeps a terrible cleansing silence
and dares the dangerous deeds.
Let something happen in me
Which is my real self, O God.

52 Weeks of Adventures: Week 1

Hi Everyone!

I am starting a series that I hope to do every week for 52 weeks (one year). This is an adventure series inspired by Lily, as I’ve watched her for the past 52 weeks take adventures and record them in her blog! She was inspired by  a fellow blogger named Brenda who had taken her own 52 weeks of adventures too!

In turn, I hope to inspire you to look at life a little differently along with me! My goal in this is much the same as both of them- to make the mundane adventurous and see the fun in everyday life. My biggest goal in this is remaining Thankful for the everyday that He gives and remaining faithful toward one goal. I may not get all 52 weeks in, but since my word of the year is Faithful, I am going to try- even if I fail His grace covers me. Faithful and Grace go hand in hand, but that’s a discussion for another day!

So without further ado, i will start…. with Week 1!

Week 1: 

Week One’s Adventure goes back to November 2014. In November 2014 I read the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Ann, a farmer’s wife, who has lived a really hard life when her sister died at a very young age, crafted a book about thankfulness. Eucharist. Her words flow like poetry as she explains, page after page, line after line, that Eucharist – thankfulness- happens in the mundane and in the simplicities and especially in the hardships of life. And that’s what makes life fully lived: thankfulness to Him who gives gifts for us to unwrap. Journals

She beautifully demonstrates her point by describing the Lord’s Supper. The night Jesus was arrested and beaten, He sat around with His friends, including His betrayer. He took bread in His hands, He gave thanks, and broke it. He gave thanks. He Thanked God for His body being broken hours before His body was broken. He took the wine and gave thanks by blessing it and drank it. He gave thanks before His blood was poured, for His blood being poured. In the hard. With the sweat and the prayers and the tears that came later. Can we, too?  In our hard? Can we see His gifts? Can we give thanks even through sweat and tears and blood? Through loss?

IMG_4510Ann started to count her gifts one by one, and through the numbering and the counting, her perspective on life gradually shifted as she saw every moment as a gift… and her world went from stressed and hard and frustrating to… thankful in and through the stressed and the hard. Through the book she dares each one of us to “Live fully right where you are” by numbering gifts He gives, we unwrap, and express thanks for.

I started noticing, numbering, opening, unwrapping, and giving thanks for gifts He gives on November 3, 2014. This week on January 8, 2016, I reached 1,000 gifts. The adventure in this week is not that I made an achievement by counting 1,000 gifts, that I became more thankful, or opened 1,000 gifts to give thanks for. No.

The adventure in this life is that He’s given me 1,000 gifts and in that, there’s 1,000 more to open, no matter my circumstance. In each gift there’s grace. In each grace, there’s thankfulness. And each thankful moment is every moment. Grace after grace. Gift after gift. One thankful heart after each thankful moment. 

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What an adventure. I can’t get over it. I can’t fathom.

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Some gifts He’s given are simple and light and adventurous:

  • Golden hue of Fall leaves in the sunrise
  • Erratic fingers across the keyboard
  • Yarn sliding through my fingers
  • A roommate that makes me laugh
  • A kitchen clean
  • The dew on summer grass
  • Dancing in the kitchen…
  • Frisky puppy playing with new toys
  • Smiling eyes
  • The bursts of blueberries in my mouth
  • The laughter of students learning
  • Challah made with small smooth hands
  • Wet puppy kisses.

Sometimes His gifts are in and through painIMG_4516

  • For heartbreak
  • Friends who “Store treasures in Heaven”
  • Repentance for my wicked heart
  • Loneliness that lets me lean on Him
  • Peace in my restlessness
  • Admitting my lack of faith
  • Broken and pleading prayers
  • A faint smile through pain-soaked tears
  • Saying goodbye to a friend
  • The art of letting go and open hands
  • He sympathizes in our time of weakness

There are so many gifts… countless.

Will you use the adventure of life to see them? Will you be thankful with me? Even if it’s something silly like wet puppy kisses, wild hair in the mornings, or red berries on green bushes… Eucharisteo and thankfulness is an adventure because a thankful heart is what He wants and commands (1 Thess 5:18). IMG_4519

I Dream So Many Dreams…

Two weeks ago I stood speaking in front of a college Deaf Education class i’d been invited, welcoming questions from student after student. This isn’t the first time i’ve done this. I heard many of the same questions as I’d had before…

How did you pick up sign language so quickly?
Do you feel more comfortable in the Deaf or hearing world?
How much do you hear?
What hearing aid do you wear? And why?
Do you feel like your mainstream education helped or hurt your future?
What would you do if you could do it again? 

I smiled, with my answers ready. They were drawn from my experience, my opinions, and my life, they didn’t require much thought. But the next question caught me off guard.

So, What is your dream? 

“My dream? Like… For my future?” The class laughed at my question and quieted to hear my answer. I was so stunned by the question, I started to feel the silence rather than hear it. The crimson that rarely came started in my neck worked its way up to my ears and into my smile. I looked around.

“I don’t have one.” I said while humorously changing the topic evoking laughs from my audience.

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This exchange has been on my mind since. I’ve not been able to stop thinking about it. It plays in my mind and I think of all the things I could have said. But more than that, it brings me back to another quite equally haunting memory that I have of sitting in my former counselor’s office approximately 3 years ago and being asked to draw my future out on the dry erase board behind me.

I drew a stick person- me. And a school, graduation, then a job… and house.

Sara, he said, What about the people in your life? What about a spouse and children? 

“I don’t see that in my future, I don’t dream for that,” I replied.

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But none of that is true. None of it. And Yet, both exchanges haunt me. I’ve come to realize that speaking my dreams out loud- allowing myself to dream- scares me. Scares me so much so that I go to tell people that I have no dreams and I want no family, but today with this blogpost I wish to take those answers back. I’m taking them back. No. I’m not letting fear steal my future. I’m not letting Satan steal my dreams. What if the dreams I have are God’s dream? Better yet… what if, by speaking my dreams out loud (or writing them), God enables the people in my life to help them take shape and give them life?

Deuteronomy 30: 19 states that He has set before the Israelites death and life, blessings and curses and it is up to them to decide to choose life. Through speaking my dreams- my hopes- I think that is, in essence, speaking life rather than death over my future. And do I want life. I choose it.

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So what is my dream? What are my dreams? I don’t just have one- and they’re scary to voice because… I feel like they conflict with each other. What if none of them come to be and what if all of them come to be?  Both prospects are equally terrifying… and today that’s okay.

My dreams…

I want to attend seminary and spend too much money learning how to share the gospel. I want to make friends and enemies and pray for all of them. I want to hurt and wonder how i’ll make it the next year and then get to next year and be amazed at His glory. I want to learn and counsel women to be more godly, and counsel women who want nothing to do with God. I want to make friends and live life with them and step into their spaces and see who they are. I want to be there when they have children and get married and get cancer. I want to be there and show up in the most crucial times.

I want to meet someone and love him. Really love him. I want to love him enough to suffer with him for the rest of my life and let myself be held and protected by him. I want the anger and frustration of him not doing what I want him to do and the tears when he expresses his frustration of what i’m not doing with me! I want the excitement when I know he’s coming home. I want to roll my eyes at stupid jokes and get annoyed when he wants to watch sports. I want to pull out the scriptures with him and blush when he reads what we know as Proverbs 31 to me… Eshet Chayil- The woman of Valor! I want to give him high fives… even though sometimes they will land on his face (I’m just kidding…) I want to be silly and play hooky from work and eat pancakes in bed and giggle. I want to spend hours laboring in the kitchen for Shabbat dinners with candles on the table. I want to see tears in his eyes when I give him gifts and love when I give forgiveness. I want us to be angry and passionate. I want to slam doors and open hearts and be a mess and then be put back together in Him- the ultimate Him (Yeshua). I want it all.

I want to bear his children and give them his name. I want to pray for each child as it grows in me and be angry that he didn’t bring chocolate home. I want to feel his frustration and work it out with words and love. My dream is to be kind to him, because love is kind. I want to sing psalms by his bedside… and jokingly curse him in labor with laugher that bubbles up. I want a quiver full of arrows. I want the dirty house and the messy windows. I want the small fingerprints and the sleepless nights, the kind of sleepless night when something so little poops so much you both wonder how it’s possible- and then laugh together. I want the angry tears when he tells me I need to do more and be more and the love when I realize he’s right. I want to see his children grow and learn and fall and be clumsy. I want to pull back a head full of tiny curls and wonder what I was thinking when I wanted children and then laugh. I want the smiles and the frustration. The tears and the laughter. I want family.

I want to move across the country and live on a farm. I want to own sheep. Because they’re cute and because i know nothing about them- and i’m silly. I want to milk cows in the morning and feed them in the afternoon  and wonder why my trees are dying in the backyard. I want sore hands and a warm heart and a tired body. I want Watson to be a farm dog. For at least a little while. I want to smile as I wake up before the sun and smile when I go to bed long after it’s sunk. I want to stay up too late writing poetry and get up too early to cook. I want to be tired and refreshed. Work hard and relax. I want to own a house. A house that I can invite guests to and serve as a haven for young mothers with no husbands. I want to be plan B when plan A doesn’t work and plan C is abortion. I want to cook breakfast for young mothers and give them advice on how to raise children- even though I don’t know what i’m doing with my own. I want to clasp their hands in mine and wipe their tears and then go in the other room and ask the Lord what He was thinking when He asked me to do this… because i’m so inadequate.

My dream is to spend time in the middle east and hand out clothes to those who don’t have clothes and wrap women in Hijab who are lacking and wanting. I want to see the hands of refugees and wipe their faces. I want to wash feet and clothes down by the river. I want to respect and love and serve. I want to hurt. I want to be comfortable and uncomfortable and so comfortable that it makes me uncomfortable. I want to share Jesus with everyone who will listen and love those who spit in my face- like Amy Carmichael. I want to do more than hand out bibles, I want to BE Him and live Him. I want to cook meals and clean houses. I want to teach children- deaf children. Learn new sign languages. Learn new things.

I want to cry for want of home and smile for want of home. I want to be dirty, but have no shower. And be clean and give my shower. And finally go Home.

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Some of these things many never come true. Some of these things may turn into someone else’s dream. All of these things are unrealistic and romanticized and ridiculously realistic all at the same time. I cannot do all of these things, but I can dream them. I can dream them and when someone asks me what my dreams are I can choose one dream and divulge. All of these dreams are mine, but not all of these dreams are God’s. The most common phrase in my list of dreams is “I want”… My hope and prayer is that these “wants” become fewer and fewer and His Want becomes more and more…

John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease” 

 

A Tribute: Beauty, Thankfulness, and Open hands

For those of you who have been following my blog and have followed my friend Ciera’s journey through my blog… this is a painful post to write.

This is Ciera and me after our first 8k in November!

This is Ciera and me after our first 8k together, Thanksgiving Day 2013.

If you are curious about Ciera’s journey, you can read about our friendship… here, here, here, here, here, here, here.. and many,  many more posts…

On October 26, 2015 at 6:02 pm, Ciera went Home to be with the Lord.

The mere sentence steals my breath and makes my heart squeeze. I’ve only written it, or said it out loud a handful of times. It’s too painful. Ciera won her battle with cancer. She won an amazing life in the arms of Jesus…

And that knowledge doesn’t stop my breath from catching every time I think of her. Or when people ask me how I am. Sometimes I am just able to stare at them with wide eyes. I don’t know how I am today.

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From outside of myself looking in, I think this is interesting because I normally express my feelings outwards to everyone, but this feels too close and too sacred to share at times. Sometimes I think that grief is holy. Other times, I feel too fragile. It feels too fresh. She feels too young… But I know He has allotted all of our days before our first breath and no one is too young to fly into His arms… If you want to read about how I’m feeling right now, Jill Buteyn describes it perfectly in this blog.  She says what I cannot say.

Ciera’s family asked that I would speak her funeral. For days and nights…for  hours I wrestled and prayed that He would speak for me and that those that attend would see Jesus. My prayer was that God would be glorified so much so that people who did not know Him would come to know Him. Not because of my words or because of her life, but because of His presence. Several have asked me to share what they called “my tribute” on facebook, but I felt my blog was a more appropriate place for my speech.

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My speech is below:

Some of you may think i’m up here to talk about the friendship I had with Ciera, but I’m not. I’m here to tell you about what God has taught me through our friendship, so you might know Him through her death, like I came to know Him more through her life. 

Ciera’s beauty is too much to encapsulate. I’ve struggled for words, because to tell you she was beautiful isn’t enough. Her beauty radiated. Not just through her attitude and smile, but through her spirit.

Her spirit of beauty taught me so much. I hope you are paying attention so you can learn too. She taught me that beauty starts in the heart and almost always starts with the words “thank you”. Ciera said “Thank you” different than any person i’ve met. How she treated me said “thank you”, her smile said “thank you”. When she had no strength to visit, she found ways to say “thank you”.  It astounds me. She taught me that the character of God starts with thankfulness. That’s something i’ll never forget.

Ciera taught me what it means to love and laugh and embrace adventure. Whether that means we were snowboarding on the side of a mountain with a terrified me yelling at her to leave me- or we were bravely walking into a new small group at church. Her sense of courage and adventure taught me that it’s okay to love and laugh and see life lightly. She taught me to enjoy my time here and quit taking things so seriously.

Watching Ciera talk to and bond with children is another kind of beauty she possessed that always left me jealous. The way Ciera could talk to any kid and get them to open up about their adventures made me see the true spirit of care in her. She was never afraid to step into their space and expand it. She would make best friends out of strangers wherever we went- the beach, the hospital, the coffee house.

Ciera’s spirit of beauty taught me how to see people- really see them. See into them and step into their lives and do life with them, because i’ve learned if you’re not making a point to do life with people, you aren’t truly living.

Ciera taught me the art of openhanded living. To always keep my hands open regardless of who’s around and how much I want them to stay. Because I can’t give and receive with closed tight fists! Open handedness led me to Ciera and allowed us to receive such a beautiful friendship. Open handedness allowed us to give and receive what God offered us through our friendship. Open handedness allowed me to let the Lord work in us and through us.

So because of Ciera’s beauty and friendship, I am changed. I’ll never be the same again. Her relationship with Christ and the strength she got from Him is a testimony to me. The way she’s lived out her many “thank you’s” and the way she chose to see people and do life with them has changed me.

I hope her beauty changes you too. I hope you walk out of here giving glory to God that you will never the be same because of the way she lived.

Ciera, I will forever miss you and love you. Every time I say “thank you”, you flash through my mind. My prayer is God gets HIs glory through your life. Go run on streets of gold, my friend. I love you.

Photo on 5-4-13 at 10.27 PM #2

Jamaican Deaf Village: Our Retaining Wall

I wrote this blog on Monday for a church blog/update. I thought I would share it here as well!  

“You will indeed go out with joy and be peacefully guided; the mountains and the hills will break into singing before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12.

I read that our first morning here as I sat on the bench under a tree, looking out to the trees and hills that suround us here in Jamaican Deaf Village.

I’m unsure if I can even find adequate words to express our second day here. It feels like we just got here and simultaneously like we’ve been here forever. We had so much fun and God is doing what He does… changing hearts and lives, even in the midst of our cement pouring, sweat soaking, wall painting, joy giving labor. Even in the midst our jokes about poop (poop is a very popular topic among this group) and our laughter as each person in the group explores a world where language is expressed from the heart to the hands instead of from the mouth and received to the eyes rather     than the ears.

Today was really special with the majority of our morning spent with the children at a local Children’s home. We arrived early this morning and poured out of the van, so excited to see children. I could sense some fit right in with children while others, like me, walked around feeling a little lost. There’s something powerful about being out of your comfort zone, since it always gives The Lord room to do His work. Before I knew it, an entire morning had passed and four small children had fallen asleep in my arms one by one. I didn’t want to leave. The children were so beautiful and looked up at us with eyes peeled wide and arms up high, “hold me”. They screamed it with their body language. They expressed “play with me”, and “be with me” and “I need your touch” even when they didn’t know what they were expressing.We played, we laughed, we swang on the swings and songs were sung. All together with each other, as little hands laid deep in ours we shared smiles with each other.

The children’s home got four new babies today. Four. Can you even imagine? I cannot. I cannot imagine the day where four new babies show up on my doorstep. I cannot imagine. There are no words.

I was sitting on the couch with a sweet babe on my lap bottle feeding when someone tapped my shoulder inform me it was time to leave. It’s time to leave? Already? Do we have to? I looked down at deep brown eyes and small hands clenched tight. We each passed sweet souls to another and gathered ourselves up in the van to head back to JDV for lunch.

Once we arrived in time for lunch, we ate a deliciously massive meal, changed into work clothes and got to work outside. We spent time building the retaining wall along the cement lot. We worked together as a team, not just as a team of people who came to Jamaica from America, but as a team of His people- Jamaicans with Americans. Americans with Jamaicans. Together as a team we sweated, we laughed, we mixed cement, poured it, painted walls, made inside jokes, helped build a strong, strong wall. Retaining wall, a wall of protection. Like He is for each of us. Our wall of protection. Psalm 16:6 “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; Indeed I have a beautiful inheritance.” I’m so thankful for His protection, even if it takes work to let me decrease and Him increase- Much like the building of this wall. I feel smaller as the wall grows larger. Today I got to see people shine. Other people on the team and Im learning, or trying to learn to take a step back and watch what others do and how He is using them.

I am so thankful for today and the people. I’m so thankful for the work. I’m so thankful to be here.

Thankful Thursdays Guest Post: When Losing Is Gaining

Hi Everyone!

I wrote over at my friend Lily’s Blog today about thankfulness! Lily has been doing a series of guests posts about Thankfulness the past few weeks and I was both delighted and honored that she asked me to write about my experience being thankful. We mysteriously mutually agreed that my journey through deafness/hearing loss was something that I would bring up in my thankful post- which made my heart quite happy. You can read it Here. Lily and I went to high school together, but were never friends until this past year when we reconnected through facebook and blogging!

I really admire Lily and am so thankful and honored to be her friend! I enjoy her writing, her skills, and her compassion toward people- especially me! She is one of those few people that I can have open, honest conversations about the hard topics with and she hears my side without judgement and then gives her input. That’s an admirable quality and I love it!

Hop over to Lily’s Blog today to read the post..

Such Small Hands

Today’s guest post comes from my friend, Sara. Sara and I went to high school together, but we didn’t really become friends until this past year when we reconnected through Facebook and blogging. I am constantly inspired by Sara’s outlook on her life, by the way she clings to faith in difficult times, and by her willingness and desire to do whatever God asks of her. She has such a beautiful, tender heart. I got chills reading this piece which brought me into her experience of living with a “disability” and reminded me of the God who is in the business of redeeming our brokenness.

When Losing Is Gaining

I remember.

I remember the day I woke up and felt like my only hearing ear was stuffed with paper, or cotton, or wax. I remember the dizziness I felt as I tried to get out of bed that morning, unaware…

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