Give A Little

This afternoon, as my husband and I drove home with leftovers after filling our stomachs with a delicious lunch at Moe’s, we came upon an underpass downtown where a community of people without homes are typically waiting with outstretched bags or cans. On most occasions, I avoid eye contact with them as I drive home from work, somehow in my mind, judging (even if it’s unconscious) and thinking to myself, “oh, they probably aren’t sober and they just want my money so they can indulge in something other than food.” My confession to this horrible attitude has a purpose. As we passed a particular man, somewhere in his mid forties to early fifties, something in me wanted desperately to give him our leftover beans and chips that were given to us as a gift by the restaurant manager. I asked Ty to pull over and proceeded to roll down the window. (BE ADVISED LADIES: I wouldn’t have done this had my husband not been with me!) Immediately the man rushed over to us. I must be honest and say that I expected him to snatch the food without saying anything and just walk away. Instead he responded with one of the most grateful facial expressions I’ve seen in a long time…the face of someone who really WAS in need. Not ONLY did he do that, but he thanked us, and THEN to my astonishment he said, with the concerned look of a father in his eyes, “Y’all be careful getting back on the road now.” I was amazed. For so long, I have carelessly, selfishly, ignorantly, treated people I see on the side of the road, asking for money as though they are simply an annoying accessory that is distracting me form my daily activities, and not as the REAL, caring, feeling, hungry, possibly worried about their own children, HUMAN BEINGS that they are. I was crushed at the realization of how cold my heart has become. This man didn’t want drug or alcohol money. He was hungry. He was THANKFUL for even a small bit of something to eat, while I complain when I don’t have enough money to buy that new pair of shoes I want, even though I have 50 other ones in the closet. I wanted to share this in hopes that it would help anyone else who may need a “wake up call” just as I did. There is a world of people who are legitimately in NEED out there. While not every encounter with a homeless individual will look like this, there are still so many who are just stuck in a rut, victims of a very bad situation, and just need HELP out. I want to reach out with the hands of Jesus.

Are You Ready For This? A 30 Day Challenge To Learn To Love Yourself Like Your Creator Does

“Are you ready for this?” This has been the question I have repeatedly asked myself each time I prepare my eyes and heart to stand in front of a scale. As we all know, our society has seemingly accepted the lie that “most women, struggle with self esteem malfunctions revolving around body weight (more than men do) and they probably always will”. I am not excluding men by any means, as I know they do struggle with this as well. However, the number of women fighting this daily battle is overwhelmingly larger. My purpose for writing this is to address that taboo topic that no one really likes to talk a whole lot about, which is still a heavy burden that consumes the thoughts, intentions, plans, and daily actions of so many women. It dictates, so often, our every move. I would like to be candid for a moment and share a story of how I believe I have begun to receive healing. Although I must be honest, first. Just moments ago, I stood in front of the scale on the floor of my bathroom. Judging by the anxiety I felt and the nervous ache in my inner core, I may as well have been stepping up onto a platform with a noose waiting for my neck. I took a deep breath and asked myself, “are you ready for this?” It’s not as if I have gain any weight. It’s clear that it is a stronghold and direct attack ordered by the enemy to push me back into believing the lies, that several years ago, drove me to a suicidal practice that would have taken what was left of my broken spirit, and in time, my life. Thank The Lord for the people in my life who loved me enough to FORCE me into therapy.  You may be asking yourself how on earth thos is a story of healing when it sounds so despairing. If I may be very honest, tonight I came to a vivid realization that I am, in fact, quite uncomfortable with my own body. Although I have overcome these practiced manifestations of my fears of weight gain, I still suffer from the anxiety. Despite my husband’s respectful and encouraging compliments directed toward me about body, I feel almost embarrassed during our times of intimacy. There is a certain vulnerability that comes with exposing oneself and it takes immense confidence to agree with someone’s compliments when you can’t seem to muster the strength to look at your own vulnerable figure in a mirror without cringing. Tonight, as I stood before the scale, eyes dilated, shoulders tight, heart pounding, I came to a painful epiphany: I have idolized beauty…rather my own false ideas of it. What I have grown up believing to be beauty has been an intricate, crafty, revenue increasing, lie, cleverly used by the enemy to influence the ideas of modern americans (I say americans specifically because I don’t know enough of other cultures to speak intelligently) and to convince each woman that they need just one more tube of lipstick, just one more bottle of diet pills, just one more “meal plan” to follow, and all the while it’s just one more lie to believe: that we are not beautiful alone with our desires to enjoy the foods we like (in moderation) and to be able to live and love life as it is. I want to petition every woman who shares my struggle to take this challenge with me: There was a time that I trashed my scale. I am not asking you to do this (as I will not be because my husband uses it). I would like to challenge you to take it upon yourself, with the strength from The Lord, to embark upon a journey with me…a 30 day challenge! It has only 3 simple rules and they are as follows:

1. NO MORE WEIGHT! Let go of that burden. Stop being a slave to your scale. I challenge you, with me, not to step on the scale for 30 days…it’s only a month! YOU CAN DO IT! Don’t let your fluctuating and inconsistent body weight define who you are.

2. Look into the mirror at least ONCE a day and quote this portion of Psalm 139:14: “I will praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” It will do wonders for your wounded soul. I promise.

3. Stop agreeing with lies. When you look into the mirror after getting dressed, and that thought enters your mind…You know which one I am referring to…the one that tells you how fat and ugly you look in those pants…tell it to SHOVE IT. Don’t listen. Don’t agree. For crying out loud, if your feel bloated and miserable, just drink a few glasses of water. Trust me, a few trips to the restroom can do wonders for that water weight.

Remember, the One who made you loves you more than you know and He wants you to feel the same way. Don’t hate on his creation. Embrace it. If being overweight is a health issue for you, recognize it and make steps toward a healthier lifestyle, but don’t go to the extreme out of hatred for yourself. And if you’re like me and have simply been trying to keep your head above the water, fighting to defeat lies and striving not to see false images of yourself for years, just STOP comparing yourself. You will NEVER look like the girl in the movie or the magazine because that’s not even what she really looks like. God created the human figure to be different and dynamic for a reason. I hope this has inspired at least one or two people (if even that many read this). I just want you to know that there IS freedom. I have experienced it in an exponential way and I am STILL experiencing it. You are beautiful. How do I know? Because God made you.

One In A Million

Today, a man came through my line and when I asked him what his plans were for the weekend, he began to mention his anxiety about family coming into town and how much of a hassle it would be. All I could think about was how many $100 bills I’d give to be within driving distance of my mom’s hugs and my grandmother’s kisses.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt more alone in my life than I have within these first several months of my marriage. (Allow me to throw this disclaimer in): This is NOT going to be an inspirational post. Please, if you happen to be one of the few to stumble upon this, do not expect to feel “uplifted” or “encouraged”. I am writing, at this present time, out of a deep place of pain and unsatisfied longing for fellowship, friendship, a sense of belonging, a sense of feeling nurtured, and just a sense of feeling wanted. I am not seeking pity of any kind. This is simply, often times, my only source of expression in times of intense emotion. Of course I know I am wanted by my husband. However, since the very first day that we stepped foot onto American soil after our honeymoon in Mexico, it has been struggle to spend any quality time together. The time we had over the summer was often occupied with necessary conversations revolving around finances, plans for jobs, and school…which has now become the primary influence and activity in both of our lives. This first week has been a taste of what the entire semester (and likely next semester) will involve…3 nights a week, going to sleep as if I lived alone, rushing back and forth between school and class, and sucking up whatever human interaction I can with fellow students, as I (as hard as it is to admit) have no friends in this city. I can not think of a single person who would call upon me simply because they enjoy my company. I have never felt more ostracized and alone in my entire life. I am thankful to know The Lord as my Savior, and to be confident in His love for me. I know, however, that I was also created to exist in community, and I feel little bits of me dying each day that I spend more seconds wishing that I had some sort of “family” to attach myself to here. When asked how my day was today at work, all I could honestly say in response was, “I’m just taking it day by day,” with a smile. It’s the little things…a glass of wine, a good verse in The Word, a smile from a stranger, or sharing a laugh with a class mate on the walk home from class. All I can do is “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12.

Seasons

As my time in Georgia draws to an end, I feel almost as though all the time away exists only in an alternate universe. It’s as though I never left…as though everything is set back in time, in a way. However, it’s still so fresh and new. Today as my mother recollected upon the old and commonly used adage, “home is where the heart is”, I felt quite literally torn. My heart is, of course, with my husband, completely. It is still, however, in many ways connected to the place where I grew up…the place where my memories were first sewn…where my stories to my future grandchildren originated. Most importantly, though, my heart is still with my family. Thus, my heart is literally “torn”. I feel still so connected with my past, yet so excited to move forward. I think that I have also found myself to have a uniquely special relationship with my mother. Up until my marriage to my husband, she was always my one, true best friend. I, unlike many others my age, felt comfortable being just as honest with my mom about things as I did with girl friends who were my age. Because of that, I have always felt especially bonded to my mom. Being so far separated from her and for so long, has been extremely difficult for me…not to mention the fact that I have very few friends in the current season of my life. Though it is a struggle to live in a city that is, in comparison to the place I grew up, quite dilapidated and dirty, I know that I am there for a reason and that The Lord does not lead His sheep anywhere without intent. I am genuinely excited about school starting, and as I say “goodbye” to my family tomorrow, once again, I will rest in the hope of knowing that, even though it is for the first time in my life an unknown date, I WILL see them again and although I feel often times like I am missing out on their lives or that they are missing out on mine, there is grace for every season as a child of Christ. I have an everlasting Father who will NEVER leave my side, and no matter how lonely I may feel in this season, He is there, guiding me, holding me, blessing me, and most importantly, loving me. 

Home sweet…

What makes a place feel like home? Is it the familiar sound of a distant train whistle from your childhood home town? Is it the friends you make and the corners of coffee shops where you waste away your hours? Is it the buildings or your new job? How about that ice cream shop on the corner of the square that “hits the spot” almost as well as the double scoop that you had every Sunday afternoon with your parents at the Dairy Queen just down the road? Having pulled up my shallow roots several times within the last 2 years, and relocated to different cities, states, streets, and door steps, I have found that this is one of the most elusive answers I’ve ever searched for and still have yet to find. Allow me to be quite forward and honest for a moment…my greatest struggle over the past year has been a resounding and constant tone that seems to supersede all others: it is that of the aching loneliness that weighs so heavy upon my heart. In fact, this term may even allow itself to be intermingled with that of “homesick”. Thus having found the word to express my weary soul’s burden, I am faced with yet another realization. Having called so many places “home” and having used this term so loosely over the past several years, I must ask myself the painful question…which one of these front door am I actually “sick” for? Is it a small green town house just outside of Kansas City? Or how about a quaint neighborhood with a green blanketed front yard? Maybe it’s the Bolivar days, spent beneath the twinkling lights of a front porch summer. Perhaps it was just a few short days spent in the most beautiful of places I’ve yet to travel: the front porch looking out to a green landscape of neverending mountains, kissed with castles and lying blissfully beneath the Scottish sky. No, not those. Could it be that the place I spent most of my life so ready to escape from, is the one place I want to spend time more than ever? Oh how time plays her gambit of irony. I am convinced that “home” is more than just a feeling that hits you like a random rain drop on a sunny day. It comes out of the blue, yes, but not without sensible explanation. How many times have you heard the phrase, “I love this place. It just feels like home.” Why? Maybe it is JUST a feeling, then…but so much more-it’s a love that’s shared and a commitment that’s maintained…Plans and laughter…it’s driving to a destination and realizing that for the first time, you didn’t have to think about getting there. It’s nights spent under the stars with no bed time. With all of my travels and return address addendums, I have come to the conclusion that “home” can be brother to one other word, and that word is, “memories.” The good AND the bad combined. So, as I “give it time” here in Denton, Texas, I’ll remember that it’s a process and that no treasure of quality comes without waiting. So, as I wait, here’s to the memories made, the ones in the making, and those that wait for me.

“Not For A Moment, Did You Forsake Me”

I would like to commence by clarifying that this testimony is in no way intended to provoke a response of focus on myself or anything I have achieved. After receiving some very disheartening news about a mutual acquaintance and acclaimed follower or Christ who had recently fallen in to a serious sin, due to deception by the enemy, I was feeling overwhelmingly discouraged at the thought of the lack of influence Christians are having in the world today as it relates to effectively and genuinely “practicing what they preach.” My heart was burdened with the heaviness of realizing how the lost watch the news and look around them each day to witness “followers of Christ” blatantly living in sin without regard for God’s judgments or how His word says He feels about sin. Instead of living a life of repentance and acknowledgment of weakness, laziness and compromise have slowly slithered into what so many “followers of Christ” claim to be a faith based on an understanding of “God’s grace and mercy” which neglects the corresponding truth of His judgments and The Fear of The Lord, which prefaces wisdom.

Just as I was beginning to feel more hopeless than ever, I received a message on facebook from a former peer in a class that I attended my second year of university. I was stunned and moved to tears as I read about how I had impacted this young woman’s life because of “the light of Christ” that she saw shining from me. She explained her personal journey to find Jesus and how she recalled the fact that she noticed something different about me that she, “just couldn’t put her finger on.” She had felt encouraged in her present faith by remembering my evident love for The Lord in the past when she was not following Him.

Now…for the mind-blowing twist

As I read on and felt the joy and gratitude for The Lord welling up more in my heart each second, I stopped to think for a moment and my jaw dropped. It was then that I realized that this was a class I was taking at a time in my life that was literally in the midst of what is still the darkest season of my life. I was a slave to illegal substances, a text book alcoholic, caught in a multitude of sins, living in deception, and submitting to lies from the enemy that were causing me to slowly kill my physical body. I began to tremble beneath the weight of the reality that The Holy Spirit was laying upon my heart…GOD NEVER FORSOOK ME. He was there. Even in my sin. I had given my life to Him once and had been baptized by His Holy Spirit’s fire and He chased me down. It confirmed what I had always felt to be true…that even in my darkest hour, He never left me. His power is far greater than my sin. In His mercy, knowing this young woman’s life would be impacted, He allowed for His light to outshine my sin and from within me, sprung His wellspring of life-choking out the lies and darkness. Child of God, never underestimate the power of The One who created you!

This Little Light of Mine…

I’ve had the privilege of meeting several really awesome folks here thus far at WellHOP. It sounds as though they genuinely desire help here. I’m so thankful that The Lord has led me to Denton, where there just so happens to be a small house of prayer within walking distance of my home. I can hardly wait to become more involved. It’s so precious to encounter what The Lord is doing in this small, what used to serve as a theater auditorium. God is clearly so zealous for the worship of His people day and night. This being the 4th house of prayer I’ve been involved with, I’m learning more and more that The Lord really is raising up intercessors. It’s not just a spiritual sounding sentence we say. There are ones who have a real understanding of His heart and who desire what He desires. There is something so precious about these small, sparsely staffed, houses of prayer. These old, often dilapidated, buildings, full of young people in their teens and even twenties and thirties, standing on a stage with the strings of a guitar or the keys of a piano beneath their fingertips…or the young man just a few rows up, hands raised, head bowed, and time given to the only worthy One. Here, there is no room or cause for performance. There are not the thousands of viewers or sea of lifted hands, or even the starstruck fans of God-given earthly talent. There is no motivation awarded by the praise of man. There exists a different air-a humility cultivated in long hours on a stage before a plethora of empty chairs. There really is only One before whom worship rises. In those moments, the true motive of the heart is laid bare. The ones who continue to stand, minister, and burn before an altar, devoid of human adulation or even financial security, in my opinion, show forth an even brighter flame, thus digging an even deeper well of intimacy. Pure, passionate worship out of a position of true humility. It cannot be forced. It must be learned. When it is, the beauty experienced simply can not be matched.

Reflections on Ecclesiastes 1

“For in much wisdom is much grief,
And he who increases knowledge
increases sorrow.”

Why? This verse seems to juxtapose the underlying theme of Proverbs…or does it? Worldly wisdom vs. Godly wisdom: What signifies a difference in the two? From my understanding, it seems that, as in many other cases (or in the whole of any Christian’s relationship with The Lord), it rotates around the posture of the heart. Verse 17 illustrates and even relates the setting of one’s heart to simply grow in wisdom, to attempting to take hold of the wind. Conversely, in Proverbs, it condones and even urges the attainment of knowledge.

*SIDE NOTE: Upon visiting Thesaurus.com (yes, I may be referred to as what some may deem a “nerd”), my eyes went directly to the Quote of The Day, which just so happened to be, “Knowledge is indivisible. When people grow wise in one direction, they are sure to make it easier for themselves to grow wise in other directions as well. On the other hand, when they split up knowledge, concentrate on their own field, and scorn and ignore other fields, they grow less wise-even in their own field.” -Isaac Asimov (well-known fiction and fantasy author, circa 1960).

BRILLIANT! I feel that as an avid seeker of wisdom and of knowledge, it is my duty to also search out and to discover where the line is to be drawn between a pure and righteous devotion and love of learning that is inspired by my love for the One by whom it originated, and the abuse of wisdom that idolizes knowledge and stands upon a foundation built of arrogance and pride-or the reliance upon oneself to achieve a status of greatness. I also desire to have an open mind and in concordance with Asimov’s quote, to maintain a teachable spirit, and in every season, no matter my concentration of study, to be desirous of the obtaining of knowledge in other fields of study.

Essentially, my question as it stands, is this: How do I love knowledge and wisdom apart from exalting it? What is the best way to remain humble in the gaining of knowledge and to experience the creator of it whilst doing so?

Transition

I believe, or so my multiple experiences have thus shown me, that leaving the embrace of a loved one with the knowledge that it will be an extended amount of time before that embrace is felt again, is one of the most difficult turmoils a human heart must ever suffer. It can be likened to losing the balloon you received as a child to a gust of wind and an unnoticed loosening in the grip of the fingers. So suddenly does it depart and so swiftly does it gain its distance from you, that no breath, tear, or even reach of the hand will suffice to soften the sting of the loss. Warm tears splash upon cotton clothing, leaving small, darker speckles upon the once dry surfaces. It’s all one can do to muster the courage to simply utter those inevitable words, “good bye”, without losing the composure that is, in the moment, so coveted. Lips quiver and eyes grow brighter with the increasing saturation. All the while, the grasp of the hands grows tighter in the miserable anticipation of the approaching and overwhelming feeling of emptiness. One story instantly becomes two separate narratives that are no longer following the same plot line. Experiences are no longer shared, but instead orated. The feeling of unity once taken for granted, becomes a rare jewel that is often painstakingly sought after.

 But wait, a glimpse of hope begins to reveal itself. As it shines brighter, behind it can be captured the joy which illuminates the darkness. There is One who knows of these feelings even more than the ones for whom He longs. Although The Lord has placed within every follower of His heart, His Holy Spirit, there is still the reality that our physical separation from Him in a broken world that is infected by sin, was not His original intention. I imagine the moment that Jesus ascended into Heaven… He was saying “good bye” to His closest and dearest friends for the last time until they would see Him again after their souls were separated from their earthly bodies. Certainly, being God, He was confident in the truth that His prayer to His Father for them to be with Him forever (John 17) would be answered. However, could it be possible that He may have felt some pain, being also fully man, in being physically separated from them for a time? I have to speculate that there is a high probability that He did. There are obviously a multitude of things that I won’t fully comprehend while being physically separated from The Lord. However among the many truths in His Word, is the reality that He knows my heart and that He longs for me to search His out. Just knowing that I am able to know His heart by praying and communicating with Him on a regular basis, is enough to ignite a hunger to grow nearer. I am reminded of the line in a children’s book that my mom used to read to me before sending me off to dreamland:

Brush, brush, brush away the fear

Do not fear. I am here.

                                      God is near.” (Kathy Long, God is Near)

Thank You That You Love Me

As I wondered whether I would ever know what it felt like to be committed to, coming to the realization that a relationship in and of itself is not necessarily a commitment, I began to sense the familiar fears creeping in again.
“Am I worthy of loving?”
“Will anyone ever CHOOSE to commit to me?”
“Will I ever be able to receive love from another without having to fight the fear of being neglected?”

Our culture tells us that in marriage, it’s “different” because there is the legal commitment. But all westernized romanticism laid aside, is it really different? Does a legal document really make that much of a difference when it comes down to the individual positions of two hearts? The truth is, loving another human being is still a choice we make. In our own fallen states of being, we have nothing within ourselves that renders us capable of truly, selflessly, or unconditionally loving another. That is achieved only through true knowledge of God’s affections for us. While love is a decision, it is also not a theorem of which one should continually have to convince them self.

I caught myself in the act of agreeing with the same old lies that I had listened to so many times in the past: “What if the more anyone ever becomes acquainted with me, the more they will realize that they can’t handle loving me?” Directly after this fear entered, I heard another voice, intimate and tender. “Sarah, you can count on Me. I chose you first and I will continue to choose to love you. The more you know me, the more you’ll understand how much I want to love you.”

John 15
Thank you, Father, for Your promise to never leave me. Thank you for loving me. Image