Saturday, November 26, 2016

Gratitude

Normally a post like this would come at the end of a year, but in light of Thanksgiving week, I have been doing a lot of reflecting on this year and the things I am thankful for. While there are far too many blessings and trials to cover in a post, I am going to focus on the "BIG" ones, which happen to begin with the letter R, so I'm going to roll with it. :) 

Relationships

This year seemed to be marked by many new relationships. I'm not just talking the dating kind, although those are certainly included. There were relationships in Florida, many in Kentucky, and now new ones beginning here at home in Baltimore. Coming back from a year away in Florida and Kentucky, I had to evaluate a lot of my relationships. By the grace of God, I grew abundantly in my spiritual journey the past 12 months, and I came home realizing that if I was going to continue growing, continue pursuing God wholeheartedly, I was going to have to find friends on the same journey. Not to say I had to dump old friends, but I definitely needed to figure out which friendships required the most time and effort for mutual growth, encouragement, and seeking God. It was hard, coming home and feeling like I was starting over, but God, as usual, has proved himself faithful and I have already begun building the foundation of friendship with some amazing, godly brothers and sisters who strengthen and encourage my walk with God by their example and fellowship. 

Redemption 

Okay, so this one spans farther than just 2016, it really began in October of 2014, but 2 years later I see the fruit of some intense healing, ultimately leading to the redemption of my life. Redemption is the saving from bondage, evil, or sin. And despite my best efforts to portray a godly lifestyle, I was living a double life so that no one would know the trenches I was really in. In February of 2014, I had my virginity stolen by a man through rape (another "R" I can honestly say I am thankful for!). I hid in guilt and shame for months following. I was angry at God, angry at myself, for allowing this to happen. All my years of saving myself for my husband seemed to be in vain in the blink of an eye. The enemy used my shame and guilt from the rape to draw me away my God, and into a lifestyle of promiscuity. Here I was spending my weekends sleeping with men outside of marriage, and still looking like I had it all together by continually attending church and being involved. I think I also knew that the best way to avoid looking like I was falling apart, was to make sure my life looked similar. If I was still going to church and hanging with godly people, no one would know what I was doing with my life, no one would have reason to believe I wasn't the Sarah they always knew. At the same time, I hated my sin and thought that if I kept myself in church and surrounded by godly friends, that maybe God could convict me and bring me to repentance, because I felt so hopeless and so beyond turning back. This secret life fed my guilt and shame and was a miserable life to live. I was drowning in my own ocean of self-condemnation, but couldn't even see the shore of redemption. God in his mercy REDEEMED me. While the repentance and forgiveness and deliverance from shame and guilt came in a single night, the journey to healing was a long journey, and if I am honest with myself, I am probably still on that road. It took a year of intentionally laying aside romantic relationships to pursue my first love Jesus Christ, it took moving to Florida and living under the mentorship and accountability of a dear friend, professional Christian counseling, a summer in Kentucky with CLOSE Christian community, and ultimately the continual love and grace of Jesus to bring me where I am today. In the two years since that October night of deliverance, I have never experienced shame or guilt. While I remember clearly what shame and guilt feels like, having lived under the weight of it for so long, I don't know what it feels like now. Even when I have stumbled, even when I haven't resisted evil, even when I want to taste the sin God delivered me from, it can never compare with the ultimate redemption and restoration God has bestowed on me. I am finishing up a 6-week study on Hosea, and God is revealing so much to me about his love, the love that proved so irresistible I can't fathom living without it. I don't know that I ever truly understood redemption and love until I was raped, lived in promiscuity, and then was delivered and healed by God. Because of ALL that, I have a love for others that I didn't have before. I was judgmental, a Pharisee really, but now I have this love I can't explain. I don't love perfectly, but I think God has given me to this heart for others that isn't accompanied with judgment, but truly just wants to see their lives transformed by God's love the way mine was. 

Rest

I think I've finally learned to rest, and I am so thankful for that! I was the girl who found so much of my identity in how much I worked, served, and just did. I was a slave to myself, constantly running on empty. Until I finally learned to rest. I am mostly talking literal rest, by saying no to things that would fill my schedule to the brim, but also resting in Christ as my Savior. I worry a lot less, instead resting in the promises of God. Even in the 3 months that I've been home, I have already had to walk through a job change and relationship trials, and through it all, even when tempted to worry, I found that God's promises were in the forefront of my mind, combating the lies the enemy was seeking to get me to believe. 

Like I said, there are so many things I could reflect on. A blog post could never contain the goodness of God in my life, but these are the 3 things that I continually find myself rejoicing in, continually giving thanks to God for his goodness in these areas, the things I have found have transformed my life and my relationships the most. 

Thank you Jesus, for relationships, redemption, and rest. You are truly the God of all good things! Thank you for allowing me to be wounded to show yourself as my ultimate healer, for using my pain and my sin to bring me to a deeper understanding of you-- your character and your love. Amen. 


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Scripture Memory (Resources)

Confession: I have the memory of an 90 year old.

Unless it's a short kids song I've sung a million times or one verse of a worship song I've song my entire life, I just can't remember. People on those dancing and singing shows amaze me, not always because of their talent (though impressive) but more just because I don't understand how someone can memorize an entire song.

That's just not me.

So imagine how tough memorizing the Word of God is for me. It certainly isn't because I don't see it as important. It's not like I can memorize everything except the Bible. I just can't remember any songs or passages or phone numbers or things of that nature.

If you find yourself able to relate to any of this just a little, here are two online FREE resources that have helped me memorize not just stand-alone verses, but passages of scripture. The continual reviews are what I need. I will likely have to review and review for a year before I can confidently say these verses are committed to memory, and thankfully both websites have the ongoing memorization/review aspect.


These two helpful websites are:

Scripture Typer

and

MemVerse

Hope these may help motivate you to start the wonderful discipline of scripture memory.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Freedom in "No"

Well, it's been entirely too long since I've written a general blog, not related to life in Florida or Kentucky. This summer, one of the round table discussions I had in my internship was about boundaries-- the importance of priorities, saying no, and making time for yourself. One of the suggestions was to have extended periods of time alone, to schedule "me time" on the calendar as you would any other commitment. I decided to plan for monthly personal retreats. I plan to take time to go somewhere quiet (thanks Air BNB for making this possible on a budget), away from the fast-pace Baltimore life, not working, not being around people, but simply enjoying time by myself, reading, praying, evaluating the previous month, and setting goals for the upcoming month. I divided my goals into 5 sections: Spiritual, Relational, Personal, Physical, and Community. 

For October, one of my goals was to blog 3 times. So here I  am. I've gone back and forth with what I want to post, but some of the topics I want to write about are weighty. I want to pray on them and choose my words wisely, but I also want to meet my 3-blog goal. That said, I'm going to keep this first one simple, and write about the freedom I've found in settling down, setting boundaries, and saying no. 

Prior to moving to Florida last August, a typical week looked something like this 
Monday- Nanny 730-530, Clean house 6-8, Gym 8:30-10
Tuesday- Nanny 730-530, Small Group
Wednesday- Nanny 730-530, Youth Group 6-8, Gym 8:30-930
Thursday- Nanny 730-530, Clean house 6-8, Gym 8:30-10
Friday- Nanny 730-530, Hang with friends or babysit
Saturday- Tutor 10-11:30, 12-1, some kind of evening commitment
Sunday- Church 

I was dog sitting, cleaning houses, babysitting, helping or attending church events, and generally just running myself into the ground day after day. Since college, I had never worked less than a 50/60 hour week, and I always had something on the calendar. If I had a free gap, I tried to fill it. Or I would be excited to have a free moment, but the minute someone asked me to do something during that time, I filled it. I was barely able to get myself out of  bed in the mornings, and snoozed my alarm to the last minute before rushing to get to work to on time. I made little to no time for myself, and even less time for Jesus aside from my "service" to Him.

 I knew it wasn't a healthy lifestyle, but I kept going because I was finding my identity in busyness. 

When people would express their awe of how busy I was, how I managed my commitments, how I "did it all", it starved my insecurity, gave me fulfillment. I found my value in being able to please people by saying yes, it made me feel worthwhile to be someone's hero by helping them out. But it was really exhausting me, and the exhaustion robbed me of the joy I should have in serving.  When I moved to Florida, I was excited to settle down a bit, to stop filling my calendar, to have some free time. I knew not knowing anyone would force that, and it certainly did. But within a few months I was building my calendar back up. Bible studies, small groups, dates, outings, LOTS of babysitting, etc. I was again trapped in the addiction of busyness that I had moved 1000 miles away from in hopes of escaping. 

That's because my busyness was a heart issue. 

While I filled my calendar with things I genuinely enjoyed doing, I filled it so much that I couldn't genuinely enjoy those things anymore. I felt I had to say yes to every opportunity. I didn't want to miss out on anything fun, and I definitely didn't want to disappoint anyone by telling them no. I was in bondage to people pleasing and admiration, and it came at the expense of my own well-being physically and spiritually. 

I now look at busyness differently. I work a reasonable 45-50 hours a week, but I am being more wise in what I say yes to outside of work. I still struggle saying no to things unless I have a valid reason not to, and I'm trying to learn that sometimes a night of down time and rest is reason enough to say no. It's not being selfish, it's choosing wisely in order to be more effective in the things God has called me to say yes to. I can be a better nanny, a better friend, a better roommate, etc when I am not stretching myself so thing that I have nothing left to give myself. Better to give 25% of myself to 4 important things God calls me to than 10% to 10 things I chose myself. When I was busy all the time, I wondered how I would be a good wife and mom if all I ever did was fill our calendar. I knew I needed to learn NOW, as a single, how to prioritize commitments, or I would drag my family into the same exhausting lifestyle. 

Now, my alarm goes off at 6am to start my day with Jesus (admittedly, this usually becomes 6:30). This quiet, un-rushed time has been the best way to start my day. I notice that when I skip this time for sleep, I tend to be more tired and more irritable than if I force myself to get up and be refreshed by time with God. This has been the most important YES in my life, and saying yes to Jesus daily gives me the freedom to say NO to lesser things, because in Him I find my worth, and I don't need to find it in my calendar. My aim is to please Him above all else, and when I have His peace, saying no is easier, because the burden of people pleasing and the idol of busyness is no longer upon me.

Praise be to God. 






Sunday, January 11, 2015

Work is a Gift

I wanted to share something that's been on my heart.

All I ever seem to hear about work is negative. We live for the weekends, Hump day is now "a thing" and we've deemedx Sunday as the "pre-Monday." Meme's circulate Facebook that negatively view work, co-workers, and bosses.

I read something lately that really struck me. For some reason I never really considered the fact that work was not a result of the fall. It isn't a punishment for sin. It was designed by God to be a wonderful thing and even if sin never entered the world, WORK WOULD STILL BE HERE.

So let's start viewing work as the gift that it is.
Let's stop living for the weekend, and start appreciating our jobs.
Every day we are at work we have the opportunity to show Christ and be loving encouragers to those we encounter. But if we are allowing the agony of our jobs to rob us of joy, our light is diminished. People won't see us as any different from the next person.

I am not going to pretend it's easy. I have been blessed by the fact that I have loved all my jobs--for at least most of the time I worked them-- and currently have the best job ever. But, there have been times I have REALLY, really struggled to be thankful for a job. Some days it took everything in me to drag myself out of bed and go to work.I would count down the hours until the end of the day, and go home and dread the next day. Thankfully that was a short season, but I DO know it's a real struggle for some people and I don't want to minimize that.

Reminding myself that work is a gift and praying for an eternal perspective has helped me grow in this area . I want to encourage you to try to view your work differently. View it as the gift it is, not as the curse that it isn't. Since you spend a significant part of your waking life at work, you'll enjoy life a whole lot more if you don't dread going to your job every day.

Be encouraged. We're all in this together. And if you are like me and truly enjoy your job, make sure you thank God for providing a job that not only pays the bills, but that you get to actually LOVE what you do. Don't take that for granted.

Last thing to remember. God worked for 6 days and then rested. Rest is certainly a way to help us be more effective at our jobs, which in turn could help us enjoy them a little more too. If you fill your off time up too much, you'll never feel rested and refreshed. It's tempting to want to spend our days off doing too much, but make sure you set time aside to rest when you can.

That is all friends. Have a great weekend!

Monday, October 07, 2013

Shine Beautifully

Local friends may have noticed the gorgeous sky this evening. After a rainy day, the sky was dark, but with the most beautifully lit sky in one section.

I was driving home, and all that was ahead of me was the dark depressing gray sky. I was focusing on it because that's the direction I was traveling. But to the left was a section of sky that screamed "hallejuah, what a Savior!" And as I looked at it, I finally got it.

I finally got what it means when God calls us to be a light. He wants us to be so beautiful that people are drawn to us. Even when previously all they looked at was the dark gloominess in their life, the seemingly endless depression. We aren't called to be this harsh light that shines in people eyes and annoys or condemns them.

We are to be a beautiful light that brings hope. Hope for brighter days. Hope for everlasting life. Hope for forgiveness of sins... Hope because we belong to the God of Hope and we are equipped with truth to share this freeing truth with them.

Shine beautifully for Christ, like that sliver of an orange and pink sunset on a stormy day.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

What God taught me from buying a chair

Well it's been a long time since I've posted. In fact, quite a lot has happened. I began my first relationship with a great guy, but within a few months realized that I couldn't see myself marrying him, so I ended it. The other big event was moving out on my own for the first time.

I have a nice big bedroom (pics to follow when it's done being decorated) but my only place to sit is my bed. We have a nice common area with furniture, but I would love a reading chair, TV watching chair, or just someplace for me and guests to sit besides my bed. I've been on the hunt for a chair for the past 3 weeks or so. I had it in my head what I wanted the chair to look like and be like, but anything remotely similar was way out of my budget.

I looked at an iJoy massage chair, but it looked like it belonged in a gaming room, and it sat really low to the ground. Plus, it was about a hundred more than I wanted to spend, but the benefit of a massage almost made me want to splurge. Then I went to this consignment place, and found a chair I liked. It was classy and white (not preferred, but it would work). It was comfortable, but the owners weren't able to bring it down to my price range. In the end, I decided to buy a Papasan chair on Craigslist for 30 dollars until I found something I loved.

I was awaiting an email for an address from the woman selling the chair, but I never heard, and I was already in the area trying to kill time while I waited. One of the places I decided to "pop into" to kill time was Just Cabinets. They had some really nice chairs marked down, but they weren't quite my style. Then I saw a chair in the distance, and was sure it would be way out of my budget, because every chair that was exactly what I was looking for so far had been. I sat in it, and it was more comfortable than I imagined. It was exactly what I imagined relaxing in each night. Then I looked at the price tag. It was on clearance, for about 60% off the original, and it was in my budget . I was so excited about everything except the color. It was a really dark brown, and I was hoping for a tan color, but I knew I could deal with it or slipcover it. I also saw it in green, but that definitely wouldn't go. The employee came up to me, and I told him I loved the chair. He said, "it is comfortable, and we have it in three colors. That color, this green one, and..." he began walking towards the back of the store... "this mocha one." I turned the corner and saw the same chair in the color I hoped for. It was the last one, he told me.

I know it's just a chair, but in that moment I wanted to cry, because God was whispering something deep into my heart. He was reminding me how much he loves me and cares for even the seemingly little things in my life. And as he whispered his love into the depths of my heart, he told me that this chair was a symbol of a greater plan for my life, that he doesn't want me to settle, or compromise, or find a man to "hold me over" until I find a better one. He wants me to wait patiently and keep having hope that there is a man out there with everything that I have dreamed of and know I need in a godly husband, and when he comes along, I shouldn't doubt that he's going to be "too good to be true." He reminded me that I am going to have to be patient, and I may have to face some more letdowns along the way, but that when I am not expecting it, a man will come into my life that I won't have to compromise or settle for, because he will be exactly what God has been saving for me...


Friday, September 14, 2012

Too Much to Carry

I had to go to Wal-Mart last night for some things. Just a few things were on my list, so I neglected to take a cart because I didn't want to be one of THOSE people who gets a cart for two things.

As I was walking around, I was picking up things here and there. What started out as a pair of earrings, a small strainer, screen wipes, and stickers, quickly turned into a gallon of water, 5-pack tissue boxes, a few bowls, and some other things. I just needed to grab one more thing. I reached for it, and dropped a load in the process. I fell to my knees and began organizing my load a little better. If I just had a better way to carry it, I would be fine. But my arms were sore, and I was realizing that I should have just gotten a cart.

Since I too often neglect the Word of God, He typically reveals my weaknesses and speaks to me through situations and analogies to encourage me and remind me of my need for him. Even Wal-Mart shopping trips. In that moment, those tissue boxes were disappointments, the gallon of water was work, the bowls were family responsibilities, the stickers were my weariness in church hunting. By themselves, none were unbearable... but together, I couldn't carry them. And for far too long long I've insisted that I'm strong enough to carry everything in life alone, I don't need a cart. I've got this. I don't need God. That's what I was saying through my actions. And I thought that maybe I just wasn't carrying my load the right way, maybe I just needed to organize the load and get my priorities straight, and then I could carry it all on my own.

But that's not what it was. It was too big of a load to carry alone. I didn't intend to pick up so many burdens, but I did. And I couldn't carry them. I needed help, but I just didn't have it.

Thankfully, that's not the case with these burdens in life that are too much to bear alone. God is willing to carry my burdens, I just needed to reach a point where I was humble enough to admit I can't do it on my own. I'm not there yet, but I want to be. I don't want to be weak, but that's what I need in order to be strong in Christ. Lord, humble me, that I may give my burdens to you to carry for me, as I find peace and comfort in the road you've laid before me to journey upon.