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! 

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.

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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.

Things As They Are

Back in December (and still) I wanted to learn more about Missionaries and missionary work. So I ordered a book authored by the amazing Amy Carmichael. I’m going to be honest and say that I just really wanted to read a book from someone who had my family name. It had to be great. Especially when she was a missionary in India for 55 years without a furlough… She had to be a hardcore Carmichael (like most of us, of course). Plus, my aunt, uncle, and cousin are currently missionaries in India.

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This book is titled Things As They Are. She wrote it along with some other women who spent 2 years with her in India on her missionary journey. They all decided after 2 years of sharing the gospel in India that Amy should author a book and write down Things as they are in India as a missionary- because many a time Missionary work is made to be full of romance and wanderlust. She wanted people to see what she sees and people to know what He has put on her heart. With all that said, I cannot read a chapter out of this book without weeping, so I haven’t gotten past chapter 8. This book has made me sleepless. I toss and turn. Her writing echoes through each night and in my heart each day it makes me ask questions. What am I doing? Am I calloused? What has He called me to? I question continuously. Amy’s points so far are all on target. Her writing moves me. Her visions stir my heart. Her heart for others breaks me. Her perseverance when she’s spit on and thrown out of town after town astounds me. Seven chapters in and I come more and more undone.

For this reason, I’m going to just type an excerpt from chapter 6, about a vision Amy describes. I’ve read it close to 4 or 5 times now and it guts me every time. It takes my breath away. Her writing is italicized.

…I lay awake and looked; and I saw, as it seemed, this: 

That I stood on a grassy sward, and at my feet a precipice broke sheer down into infinite space. I looked, but saw no bottom; only cloud shapes, black and furiously coiled, and great shadow-shrouded hallows, and untamable depths. Back I drew, dizzy at the depth. 

Then I saw forms of people moving single file along the grass. They were making for the edge. There was one woman with a baby in her arms and another child holding inter her dress. She was on the very verge. Then I saw that she was blind. She lifted her foot for the next step… it rod air. She was over, and the children over with her. Oh, the cry as they went over! 

Then I saw more streams of people flowing from all quarters. All were blind, stone blind; all made straight for the precipice edge. There were shrieks as they suddenly knew themselves falling, and a tossing up of helpless arms, catching, clutching at empty air. But some went over quietly and fell without a sound. 

Then I wondered, with a wonder that was simply agony, why no one stopped them at the edge. I could not. I was glued to the ground, and I could not call; though I strained and tried, only a whisper would come. 

Then I saw that along the edge were sentries set at intervals. But the intervals were far too great; there were wide, unguarded gaps between. And over these gaps the people fell in their blindness, quite unwarned; and the green grass seemed blood-red to me, and the gulf yawned like the mouth of hell. 

Then I saw, like a little picture of peace, a group of people under some trees, with their backs turned towards the gulf. They were making daisy chains. Sometimes when a piercing shriek cut the quiet air and reached them it disturbed them, and they thought it rather a vulgar noise. And if one of their number started up and wanted to go and do something to help, then all the others would pull that one down. “Why should you get so excited about it? You must wait for a definite call to go! you haven’t finished your daisy chains yet. It would be really selfish,” they said, “to leave us to finish the work alone.”

There was another group. It was made up of people whose great desire was to get more sentries out; but they found that very few wanted to go, and sometimes there were no sentries set for miles and miles of the edge. 

Once a girl stood alone in her place, waving the people back, but her mother and other relations called, and reminded her that her furlough was due; she must not break the rules. And being tired and needing a change, she had to go and rest for awhile; but no one was sent to guard her gap, and over and over the people fell, like a waterfall of souls. 

Once a child caught at a tuft of grass that grew at the very brink of the gulf; it clung convulsively; and it called- but nobody seemed to hear. Then the roots of the grass gave way, and with a cry the child went over, its two little hands still holding tight to the torn-off bunch of grass. And the girl who longed to be back in her gap thought she heard the little one cry, and she sprang up and wanted to go; at which they reproved her, reminding her that no one is necessary anywhere; the gap would be well taken care of, they knew. And then they sang a hymn. 

Then through the hymn came another sound like the pain of a million broken hearts wrung out in one full drop, one sob. And a horror of great darkness was upon me, for I knew what it was- the Cry of the Blood….

Why does it matter, after all? It has gone on for years; it will go on for years. Why make such a fuss about it? 

God forgive us! God arouse us! Shame us out of our callousness! Shame us out of our sin!

Update: Ciera

I know it’s been a long time since i’ve written. A lot has happened. There’s a lot that i’m going to share, but I will hold back for today and just share a prayer request, because the prayers are working. 

I’d like to request prayer for my friend Ciera. For those of you who are new to following my blog, she has battled cancer for a long, long time now. She has relapsed twice. After the most recent relapse, she went to Washington State for a trial and then back to St Jude for her second Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT). Her mother is her donor this time. Last bone marrow transplant, her brother was the donor but their matches were too close and her body reacted the same way when the cancer came back.

Since the BMT, Ciera has retained fluid that put stress on her lungs, her heart, and caused her kidneys to fill with toxicity. This also produced confusion.

Yesterday, Ciera’s kidneys started shutting down so they went into surgery, inserted a cath and have started Dialysis. Her condition has improved since and she is coming out of some of her confusion! Praise the Lord!!

Please be praying for her. She has fought so hard, with everything she has. Pray that the Lord strengthen her and give her courage. Pray her mom receives comfort. Pray for complete healing. Pray for peace.

By His stripes, She is Healed. 

Below are pictures of Ciera, Me and memories… As you look through each picture, pray for her, her mom Sherri, Her dad Mike, and her brother Austin.

 

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A picture of Ciera and I before she went back for the most recent BMT!

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Ciera gearing up for the fight after she found out she relapsed the first time.

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Mom and i drove down to see Ciera while she was in isolation… waiting for her cold to dissipate!

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

This is Ciera and me after our first 8k in November 2012 (i think)!


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Ciera and I and Matt after snow boarding… and me crawling down the mountain!

 

 

The Call of God On My Life

I went to church yesterday and heard a sermon about the Call of God on our lives. That’s not unusual for me, but what is unusual is I lay awake last night for hours, not being able to sleep, thinking about this sermon. Here were the main points I got from it, after listening to it again today. Italicized are my notes.

The call of God is From God (Jeremiah 1:4-9)

It flows and begins with God- He reveals Himself- then reveals His Will.

I only know His will for my Life as a byproduct of Knowing God.

Eternal Life is to Know God (John 17:3)

You have value because the God of Creation knows you before you were born and created- His knowledge is supernatural (psalm 119).

His calling on you is based on the Grace of God- Not on your performance- My value is based on the fact that God knew me before He made me and set me apart and is committed to seeing His call fulfilled in my life. Not for acceptance and performance- we work because God Called us. 

Our calling is to know Him first, and make His Name known in the world. 1 Peter 2:9

God has called us to proclaim His excellences to a dark, dark world. 

His call is: Eternal, meaningful, purposeful, and…Personal
It’s to proclaim the name of Christ. 

Progressive Call- the only time when you arrive is when you get to heaven. 

He calls me to himself, by himself and for himself. We cannot compartmentalize His call. If you believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord, you will be saved. Lord implies Master over everything. It’s an inclusive call. 

Because God’s called me, I need to live different. It impacts unity with others in the spirit… We grow spiritually (individually and corporately), grow in newness,  in Ephesians 4. The first relationship he applies it to is marriage….

“walk worthy of your calling” 

Happy is not part of God’s Call: Holy Is. Consecration.

Highest Calling we can have is the Call of God.

The Call of God always demands a response.  

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So I know I have answered His call in one way: I have accepted His salvation and Lordship over my life. I have tried very hard to NOT compartmentalize my life and keep parts away from Him. I have tried to completely surrender.

But beyond that, what’s my response? I accept His Lordship and then just sit in church and enjoy speeches every week? I accept His Lordship and then volunteer every now and then? I accept His Lordship and lead worship as He’s called me to?

According to the sermon, according to the word, the Call of God is progressive. Progressive. To me, that means the call of God doesn’t just require a one-time response of accepting His call to salvation and surrender and Lordship, but it also requires us to respond continually.

How am I continually responding? What am I doing? Am I living my life as He would want me or am I stagnant because He’s called me to do something and i’ve refused to respond? What response is He demanding from me? What am I doing with my time? My money? My energy? What am I doing?

I ask myself this often. Most often I ask myself the question in my car or when I’m cleaning and honestly the question is often mingled with tears. What am I even doing? What difference am I making? Am I where He wants me to be or am I here because i’m comfortable? Am I here because i’m afraid? Am I here because of my unbelief? Am I here because I don’t trust Him enough to not let me slip back into my old habits? Am I here because I don’t trust His transforming Glory? 

And I ask. Question after question. Day after day. Tear after tear falls. And I wrestle. I wrestle with how I can bring Him glory in my home. I wrestle with how I can bring Him glory in my job. I wrestle with how am I passing His word onto another generation? I wrestle with how am I loving? Who am I loving? What am I doing? I wrestle with the line between thinking I could work better with a partner and seeing singleness as an OPPORTUNITY. I wrestle and wrestle.

It takes great faith for me to believe that God has a calling on my life. I wrestled last night, mainly because I did not believe His word and I did not believe the sermon. I had to fight my inner flesh that wants to roll my eyes, walk away from that sermon and shirk responsibility given to by the Almighty God who made me in His image. I have to consistently fight inward lies I have believed for so long: that I cannot leave a legacy, that I am not special or different from anyone else and the Lord has not called me to do any great work for His purpose.

But shirking that responsibility, believing those inward lies, that’s the first step to foolishly spreading damnation over my entire life and wasting a life formed by His hands, because the Call of God is not even about me.

The call of God is not about me! My life is not about me! My life is about Him! His call begins with Him, ends with Him, and flows to, from, and through him. It begins with His death and ends with his resurrection! The Call of God is about God!

And if I could just get my head up long enough to gaze on His beauty and His purpose and His plan… then I could see that. I could see what His call is about.

His call on my life is about Jesus. Jesus is my call. Jesus. Yeshua.

If others knew that the call of God was a call to come and die. A call to die, then rise…. A call to the One who made them…. It would change so much.

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I Am An Overcomer: fear, anxiety, and stress.

I am fiercely independent. Anyone who knows me will tell you this. I enjoy my independence and I hold it close to me. I’ve learned to enjoy being alone, attend the cinema alone, buy myself dinner, travel alone. I enjoy these things. I relish my independence. It feels strong and stable and enjoyable.

However, my independence is very fragile and fleeting. Unlike people my age, I am so very aware at my fragile independence and it scares me. I feel as though my independence is intertwined with the simplest things, like the weather. The weather, the seasons, my food, my mood.

I’ve realized my fragility all week and it’s beaten me down. I realized it Sunday morning as I opened my eyes and the world spun above me and I felt it. I felt my independence escaping as I sat up in bed and tried to steady my still dizzying world. My balance eventually returned to normal, but I know the imbalance, the dizziness, the spinning will be back. It does come back because this is the nature of Meniere’s Disease.

Meniere’s disease is characterized by Vertigo Attacks, Hearing loss (hearing fluctuation), feeling of fullness in affected ear (fluid retention in the inner ear), loss of balance, nausea, vomiting, sweating all induced by vertigo, thank Healthline for that official information. Though this symptom is not in any list that i’ve found, i’m adding fatigue. I don’t know why it’s not listed, because frankly, vertigo is exhausting. The fear of vertigo is exhausting. Meniere’s disease is managed by exercise and a low sodium diet, since sodium can cause fluid retention in the inner ear for people with Meniere’s Disease. Meniere’s disease can be aggravated by caffeinated beverages, sodium, MSG, stress, and tobacco.

The hearing fluctuation, hearing loss, feeling of fullness in my only hearing ear, nausea, vomiting, and sweating don’t bother me as much as the vertigo bothers me. It terrifies me. It keeps me up at night when I know i’ve experienced it recently. It prevents me from walking, talking, driving, reading, opening my eyes to make eye contact with people. It prevents me from being me. Bouts of stress, sleepless nights, fluid retention caused by changing seasons and diet can all affect me. It has become a really horrible cycle some weeks- especially this week- Stress and sleepless nights and vertigo. I wake up in the middle of the night sometimes to check to see if I am balanced. I sometimes will get up in the night in a panic and run into things trying to test my balance in the dark (because i’m an idiot) and go to the bathroom. Meniere’s Disease haunts me.

So Sunday morning when I woke up feeling dizzy, I got up and sat on the floor for a while. Tears filling my eyes and pouring down my face as the familiar thoughts flooded my mind, is this going to go away? will I be able to drive to work tomorrow? If I drive to church, can I make it home? What if this doesn’t go away? What should I eat today? Should I eat today at all? 

Meniere’s disease fuels my fear of food. I become afraid to eat. Afraid that maybe that fish has too much salt in it, since I bought it frozen… or maybe the peanut butter with apples is a bad idea because of the salt. I become a nibbler. I nibble on bananas and oranges and fruits. Afraid that anything else that has salt in it will make me retain fluid, increase the fluids in my inner ear, send my body over the edge, and I’ll never come back from it.

Fear. 

My life feels characterized by fear. 

I’m tired of it. I’m so tired of it that it exhausts me.

I’m not only afraid of food. My fears are endless, my friends. I can write pages of them. I am afraid of everything. I’m afraid of failure in my job. I’m afraid to disagree with friends and family. I’m afraid to say no. I’m afraid of rejection. I am afraid.

I’m always afraid and Meniere’s disease is only a portion of it, but my most recent fear battle. It is in the moments of dizziness before I panic that fear grips my heart. It’s the moment I turn in my assignments for work that the cold hands of fear finds its way to my soul, because… What if my work report doesn’t measure up? It’s the seconds before I see my trainer come into the gym and I think I hope I exercise well today. I hope I can perform. I hope my body cooperates. I hope I don’t get dizzy. I can… I can.. I think I can. It’s the moment I say “yes” to a friend that I know I’m giving up my body’s need to rest that day, because what if I lose their friendship?

I think.

I doubt.

I cry.

And I fear.

So today, I’m tired of fear. I woke up this morning afraid that my achilles tendon was too tight. Afraid that I am not going to be able to do the triathlon that I’ve worked so hard to train for. I got to the gym today afraid that I was not going to be able to exercise my fullest potential. Honestly, I didn’t because of my negative self-talk and my tired body and soul. I got to work today and dizziness hit me again. I gripped the edge of my desk in fear as tears slid down my face and the familiar fearful words come back again What if this doesn’t go away?   (it did go away) What if I can’t live on my own anymore? What if I can’t keep my job.. i’m at work! What if… what if… what if.. 

I’m tired of my what ifs. I’m tired of my fear. I’m tired of my self-doubt. I’m tired of my fear of failure.

We all fear. We all fail. We all doubt ourselves, but some people overcome because they decide to.

And today, I want to overcome. I will overcome. I am overcoming. (an action verb…. overcoming)

I am an overcomer, because I have decided. 

Change and Priorities: an evaluation of my heart

It’s that time again. It always happens around this time of year, like Last Year. I’m not sure what it is but something in me just says Sara, it’s time to deactivate Facebook for a few weeks. And I resist and whine and think “What am I gonna do without Facebook?”

Well, I’m going to exercise, eat right, read books, knit, do work, organize, clean… All without Facebook. And if someone wants to be my friend and invite me to do something… they can text or email me. What a revolutionary idea, right?  I think so too.

This deep pondering started in me this week when I noticed some things about my heart and my priorities. Instead of grieving over People who whisper the name of Jesus as they prepare to lose their heads, I’m caught up in what color that dress is, and Llamas running amok. I’m distracted. I’m lazy. I flounder. I waste time scrolling through meaningless pages of Facebook, of people’s lives, wanting to be like them, wanting what they have, coveting.  I watch as they get married, go on dates, have fun, intoxicate themselves with the fun of life and I am consumed. Consumed.

The wickedness revealed in my own heart was something I came face to face with yesterday at the gym. It was very emotional. The gym of all places. I met my trainer there, whom I only meet once a week or once every two weeks, due to my budget. As we started out on the treadmill I felt exhausted. I felt so tired, my legs were giving way, I didn’t have the strength or vitality to run 2 easy miles. TWO. That’s it. When we went on to lunges and then to pushups, she stood me up and looked in my face.

What are you doing, Sara? What did you eat today? How much have you slept? You need to take care of yourself. You can DO THIS. I’ve seen you do more. You CAN. 

As I watched her lips move in front of me and digested her words, tears slipped down my face. I came face to face with the reality that it’s not just my BODY that i’m not taking care of, it’s my SOUL. Once I realized that, the grief hit deep. I started thinking about what my focus was. Why I felt so aimless- not just in the gym with my training for the triathlon, but I felt aimless at work in front of the computer, every morning in front of my bible, on my knees in prayer. Aimless in prayer.

Kelsi, my trainer, kept on… she may have said other words but here’s what I heard: Your head and heart are not in this. It looks like it’s a job to you. You used to LOVE exercising and taking care of yourself. Where’s your joy?

Where IS my joy? This does feel like a job! Eating feels like a job. Cooking feels like job. Crying out on my knees before the Lord of hosts feels like a job. Offensive to the Lord of all lords!  If my heart isn’t in it, what am I doing? How am I worshiping him? And if I’m NOT worshiping Him, who and what am I worshiping? How am I taking time out to love on Him? Serve Him? Rest in Him? What am I doing?

Her concern was for my health, but it really went so much deeper than that for me.

So i’m taking a break from Facebook to… get right again. To memorize scripture, to pray, to exercise and learn to love it again. To have FUN in Him! I can be and do so much more than I am doing and being right now. I can be better- I need to take care of myself and bask in Him before I can do anything else. I can gain energy back spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally.

I can gain different priorities. I can prioritize my life to think about those 21 whisperers of Jesus, to pray and intercede on behalf of those across the world being struck down for faith in a Living God as I live for God. I cannot do this if I’m not taking care of myself. If i’m too tired to. I must change something.

I must change today.

With Him I am Able.

I stood at the front of the church after service packing up the computer and answering the all too familiar question again…
“So now that you’re graduated with your master’s degree… What are you going to do?”

I graduated at the beginning of May. May 8, to be precise. I graduated without a job lined up even though i’ve been applying since December. December. I thought that surely I would have had a couple of offers by now! Surely I won’t be graduating with nothing!

But I did. I am. I’m here. I started applying to retail jobs last week. Just in case. You know? I had nightmares about this happening 6 months ago and turns out, it’s not the worse thing in the world. I’m alive and my needs are met and my parents are patient. And so am I. For the most part. Sort. of.

“So I guess the question is, out of all the options you have, what do you really want to do?” her voice brought me out of my thoughts.

What do I want to do? I stared down at the computer I was putting away. Trying to keep a poker face. I looked up at her earnestly. “This. I want to do this! If I could worship for the rest of my life just like this. I would.”

I interpret/sign the music at church every now and then. I love it. I feel alive. I know WHO He is… and I know who I am and I know what He did for me while I’m singing to him. It’s all clear up there. I want that clarity. I want that worship. all the time. Every moment. Worship.  Worship.

Worship.

Driving home that night I kept thinking about that word and went back to each time I had truly worshiped. My mind floated back to various situations, circumstances, songs, moments, days, weeks, months and years… And I landed on a very vivid memory. One that I would dare say was probably the most worshipful time of my entire life.

And music wasn’t involved. Signing wasn’t involved. No one was really involved in that particular moment but me. Me and Him. That’s it.

It was the most painful part of my life and the part full of the most worship. The most memorable worship.

It was close to three years ago now… maybe 2.5…I had not been following the Lord. I had been doing my own things. I hadn’t even bothered going to church. I didn’t even know if I believed the Bible and if I didn’t believe the Bible why would I want to follow it? So I didn’t. I did my own thing completely. And I was in secret. Avoiding people. Avoiding things. Avoiding church. Avoiding God. Not sleeping. Not being alone. Not being still or quiet. Constantly going. Constantly studying to show myself that even without God I could make good grades. I could still succeed. I still believed in Him. I just didn’t know if I believed in Him the same way that I did before when everything was so much more simple, because I believed that at that time, my way was right. It felt right. How could it have been wrong? I trusted my feelings, i trusted my mentors, my friends, myself. I looked into other religions for another way to worship where I could accept myself and accept a god.

I only found myself. I was my religion.

My church family at the time found out. They pulled me aside. Several times. Not just once, but several times over several months. With each time they pulled me aside, the more in my way I became. The more miserable I became. The less I slept. The less I ate. Or maybe the more I ate, I don’t know anymore.

And then it happened. I went to meet one of the “church people”, as I called them, for coffee to explain myself and a recent facebook post I had posted that had offended them all. I thought “If she has the balls to ask me to go to coffee and wants an explanation instead of judging me, then she deserves that explanation” So I went. 

And they all were there. Not just her but all them church people. And they sat me down in love. With Love. With tears. With grief. They shared their heart with me. They wanted to see how I was doing. They cared about me. They want whats best for me. They pray for me. If I decided to come back to Jesus they would be there. The entire time.

And I sat there with tears spilling down my face angry. Pissed off angry. Not just angry but… infuriated. Seething. How COULD they? How could they surprise me? My self righteousness built up walls of defense around my heart. My pride. Mine. My thoughts. My actions. Mine. Mine My. I. I…. I.

Then one said “If you come back to church. If you come back to Jesus… we will sit with you. We will grieve with you. We will cry with you. Walk you through it. You are our sister, our daughter, our friend. We love you. You are not alone. You don’t have to do it alone.”

And I cracked. I wanted to hear that. I wanted her hug. I wanted that support. I wanted out.

I said “thank you.” still angry. And I got it my car and drove off.

As I drove back to where I was staying, I cracked more. So deep to the core that I heard a sound come out of me that i’d never heard before. And I cried. I wailed. I screamed “WHY? WHY GOD? WHY? I DON’T UNDERSTAND. I DON’T UNDERSTAND. I DON’T UNDERSTAND… I don’t Want to understand…” But I understood. And in that moment. Between those tears. Between the snot. Between the loss and the hurt. Between those moments of wailing. Between the screams. In my hoarse whispering voice, I knew what I had to do and I surrendered. I surrendered and there I was.

In worship.

The most painful, raw, excruciating, pure worship of my life.

Surrender.

Worship.

Surrender.

Sacrifice.

Worship. 

Brokenness. 

Those words… are not that different from each other.

 

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. Psalm 51:17. 

 

So that’s worship.

What do I want to do for the rest of my life, you ask?

Surrender my will to His. Continually come back to a place of broken repentance. continually wail out the name of “Jesus”. Continue humbling myself and my will. Continue to deny my emotions, because emotions LIE! Continue to move forward to Him and look back and remember what He’s done for me. He forgives me. He forgave me. He’s forgiven. He loves me… he died for me just to know me.

He surrendered His will so I could have the strength to surrender mine.

 

That’s what I want to do forever.

Surrender.

If that means I stay in Knoxville, I will.
If that means I move. I will.
Work retail. I will.

Work a job I don’t want. ill try… hehe.

I want to stand at the alter with my empty hands lifted to Him in all painful, joyful, beautiful and broken times of life and say
“oh Lord, I will”.

 

Help me do that, because I cannot alone… that’s why He died… so that I can with Him. With Him I can… WIth Him I am able.

With Him.

 

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