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Friday, November 30, 2012

Diaper Only Kind of Day

Our little family just can't seem to get over a little cold.
It's kind of frustrating, but it's also been good for us.
We are pausing, stopping, taking a moment to breathe.  And maybe to cough.

It's a messy bun, no-makeup, let-your-baby-not-wear-pants kind of day.

Happy Friday to you.  Here's to hoping you get some down time this weekend (sans coughing).

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lessons from a Futon

I've been sofa-shopping with my Mom a lot lately.  She's pretty excited, as well she should be.
For years and years and years, my parents have owned a futon.  They have repaired, recovered, and given lots of TLC to this one futon.  It's seen graduations, weddings, pets coming and going, and giggles and sobs.

My mom leaning up against the futon, watching Liam standing.  

As we're walking through large warehouses filled with furniture stuffed so close my stroller struggles to squeeze through, I wonder why she hasn't bought a new one years ago.

The impending holidays tend to ask the same question.  This season can push, prod, poke at your stuff, at your house, at your life.  Promises of new stuff, of life-changing resolutions, of greener grass on the other side implore us to take a critical look at our here-and-now.

What can often be forgotten at this time of year is the beauty of dwelling.
The word DWELL means:
to live or continue in a given condition or state.
...To keep a futon for fifteen years because it suffices and because other things take precedence.
...To be incredibly overwhelmed with thankfulness for the moment of screaming children, of dirty dishes paired with grungy floors, of soft, grimy hands wanting to just hold yours, of late night hugs when the house is finally quiet.
...To not look at that family or that woman with frustrated comparisons, and to not allow our hearts to get cluttered with the unhappy "if only."
...To be fully content right in the house you've been given, right in the stages your children are at, right in this moment God's placed you in.

I choose to dwell today, not because I don't have hope for tomorrow, but because I have infinite trust in the tender, loving plans of a Father who knows this moment, who created this process, and who cares about the journey, not just the destination.
And don't be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God's place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hugs On Demand

Liam is going to be TEN MONTHS old in December.
Sometimes, I glance over at him, and I see a little boy instead of a baby.
It's bittersweet, this mommy thing.

Things I'm loving about Liam right where he's at:

Hugs on demand.

Hugs not on demand.
A super cute new smile that involves squinting his whole face from top to bottom.
His awkward attempts at sign language and my awkward attempts at understanding them.
His preference for Billy and me over anyone else.
The way he bounces in my arms when we watch Billy drive up toward our house.
His new-found love of all of his books and the way he hugs them close to his face.
How he's just chubby enough to not yet own a neck.

Sweet, sweet trusting baby blues and that little mouth and those perfectly dirty chubby hands that reach for me...
What a precious, exhausting, overwhelming, glorious gift I've been given.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Creative Writing Class

I had a creative writing class in 7th grade.
I made friends with the girl who sat behind me.  We'll call her P.

P was different than me in almost every aspect.
She had gorgeous dark skin and the brown eyes that I so coveted.
She was a year older than me and way too wise in the ways of this world.
She'd been taken advantage of in more ways than I can recount on this blog.  Her self worth was in the red.  The people that should've cherished her ignored her, and they didn't care that this little girl was living a woman's life.
For some reason, P and I bonded.  Well, she bonded.  I had very little to share in comparison to her stories, so I just listened, absorbed, nodded as if I'd heard it all before.
I was only twelve years old.  A little more fascinated by the world she lived in than I should have been, I was eager to hear her stories.  I loved stories, and her world was so far from mine that it almost didn't seem real.

Suddenly, mid-year, she didn't come to class for a few weeks.  I had the sweetest teacher who deeply cared for us.  She and I had a special bond formed over a common love of writing, so she was gracious when I asked where P was, but she could only tell me that she was sick, and that she would be back.

P returned with scars everywhere, even on her neck.  I wanted to ask, but I didn't.  She eventually shared, little by little, that she'd had some crazy fight with her step-dad and that it involved broken glass.  And she had tried to hurt herself.

She didn't share as much with me from that point on.  Before the class was over, she did give me a picture of herself with a short note on the back.  I remember it because I was embarrassed my mom would be mad when she saw it (she wasn't, of course).  It said, "Sarah, thanks for being a bad a** friend."

Again, I was twelve.  I was caught up in my own little world.  I should've thought to invite her over to my house, to give her a chance to be loved on by my parents.  I just didn't.

I don't even know if she remembers me, but I remember so much about her.
I remember how her eyes were empty and framed by too much eyeliner under naturally long lashes.
I remember that she laughed sometimes and that it made her look young like me.
I remember how my heart truly broke for the very first time for my friend.

I still ache for her.
I hurt for her emptiness, her loneliness.

P was a small seed in my formative little heart.  She cracked it open to hurting for others, taught me to dwell beyond my small, small world.

I don't have anything to give you from this story, except for maybe a little part of my heart laid bare.
This is why I prayed to marry somebody in full time ministry.  This is why I want to write.  This is why I believe in MOPS or small groups or coffee dates or middle-of-the-night phone calls.

It's not just people that Jesus died for - it's persons.  Individuals.
Jesus did die for the whole world.  He died for all of Texas.  He died for the whole middle school I attended.
I knew that, but getting to know P taught me that Jesus died for her.  My heart didn't hurt for my school, it broke for this one girl.  Just one little teenager huddled in the back of a trailer classroom with huge brown eyes and a very real broken heart.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

On Baking Bread.

I was just on the phone with my mom, talking about baking bread.
I was telling her about how I'm getting ready to attempt making some whole wheat honey bread for tomorrow, and she was talking about how she often makes sourdough.  So we discussed the different processes of the bread-making (I know, don't you wish you were us?).
We talked about how sourdough bread sometimes takes longer to rise than whole wheat bread. 
We brought up the fact that though the process is similar, it's also different.  
Some breads take more kneading, or less rising time, or a different kind of flour.  Some breads are more dense while others are lighter, fluffier.

Just minutes later, I'm sitting here confessing to Jesus my frustration with the my never-ending battle against comparison.  And I'm pouring my heart out to Him about a sweet friend of mine and the tough stuff she's been handed, wondering why it's so hard for her right now and so different for others.

Immediately, I think about the bread.  
I hear my mom's matter-of-fact-ness, "Some breads bake quicker than others."
And I remember telling her why I must use one type of flour to balance out another so that the bread turns out just right.

I don't understand why certain things are the way they are. 
But I know that the end product will be beautiful if we allow the process to take place.

I don't know why some people experience more or less moments of tightness or infertility or loneliness or exhaustion or whatever your something is.

The process is different for every. single. loaf.

And if we get caught up in looking at our process versus her process or our time in the heat or the darkness or the kneading versus hers, we'll get nothing but confusion and dissatisfaction.

Because it's more than likely the Baker is doing something different with you than He is with me.  And we're both going to be delicious and beautiful when we're finished; we'll both offer a sweet aroma if we just submit to the timing and the ingredients we're given.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I want to claim that I'm thankful for the moments of knuckling and kneading, of darkness and instability, of heat and change.  I mouth it, and then I voice it, and along the way, my soul cries it out to her Maker: thank you.  I thank Him for this process.  And I thank Him for her process, and your process, and for the glorious, wonderful work He is doing in you and for what you will become.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Cosmic Void

So, I've been trying to write myself here onto this blog.
It's been hard.

How to you share your story when it's not finished yet?
Will it ever feel finished enough to share?

At what point will I feel full enough of experience, of wisdom?

I don't really know.  I just throw these questions out into the "cosmic void" (name that quote and I'll give you a hug).

When will I stop saying that my "dream" is to write?

When will I feel comfortable in "writer" skin, not just "dreamer" skin?

How does a simple missionary-turned-preacher's daughter and worship-pastor's wife make a change?

How do you spend tears and prayers and hopes on a dream and not have the first inkling of how to step into it?

There are no answers, I know.  It's just where I'm at, where I've always been.

Recently: a photo post!

We went to the pumpkin patch.  And we found a huge red chair.

Some lovely, lovely friends were the best kind of company!
(Chelsie blogs!)

Spending time with my boys in the middle of fall... it's perfection.

Also, I got to photograph my brother and his beautiful fiance, Jackie.

Ah, sweet love.

I'll get back to my story soon.  I just couldn't resist sharing the latest fun!

Monday, November 12, 2012

An apology to all of my pre-Billy BFFs. Also, an explanation.

I found a note the other day from when I was eleven.
I tucked it away in some journal (an unfinished one) and promised to take it out when I found what I was looking for:
(My Most Sacred Wish: To have a very best friend to talk to and lean on when my days are sad.  Someone who won't let me down.  A Christian, and who lives close by.  I will pray and take this out when answered.)

Rereading it, my heart pounds a little harder and I feel that old familiar longing sitting, waiting, so so heavily on my chest.

All I wanted, all I asked for, was just one person.  Just one that would be mine.  Someone to be always for me.  One person that would pick me over and before any. other. person.  I was oh-so-willing to be this for somebody else, but I wanted it in return, too.

It sounds simple, but when you are a little more than awkward growing up because you carry your feelings and your dreams as if they're weighted in gold and then get mortally wounded when you share those heart-nuggets and the recipient doesn't treasure and cherish and love it like you do, you can feel pretty lonely.  (Please don't kill me for that run-on).

I remember one painful, gut-wrenchingly lonely day with my broken heart sitting on the kitchen table and my mom trying her best to sew it back up.

I remember begging her for an answer.  I wanted to know just why what I seemed to need from a friend was just so much more than what others required.  I had never asked to be this way.

Finally, with a smile in her eyes, she leaned back in her chair, looked at me in her straightforward manner, and she declared, "Sarah what you are looking for is a husband."
This is the part where I apologize to the pressure I may have put on my middle school and high school friends to be that ONE friend.  I may have missed out on some fun, lighthearted times wallowing in my loneliness.  Sorry, ya'll.

She was right, but I was only sixteen.  Thankfully, my parents also taught me how to rely on God for my everything, and He carried me through those painful, alone and having-everyone-but-no-one-to-call moments and years.  HE was my best friend, and still is.  He is for me, even when I feel alone in my current season...
Believe me, even though I have a true BFF in that sweet husband of mine, I still have those moments.  
I still need Jesus first and more than I need any friend of this world.

But, because He is good (so good), He gave me Billy as a salve to the wounds for all of those times of feeling so. by. myself.
I now have a person, and he is for me.  I know that it may not be normal need, and I know some women find that amazing friendship in other women, but for some reason, it was different for me.  There was a Billy-sized hole in that eleven-year-old heart of mine, and God knew all about it.  He put it there just so that He could prove Himself.

This is not a post that says being married is better than being single.
It's a post about how God provides for our deep-seeded, individual, God-crafted needs.  

It's about how He can bring relief to the parts of our heart and our pasts that are dry and cracked and weary (even if they reach all the way back to awkward eleven).

It's about how sometimes He withholds, and sometimes He gives.  He comforts us in the brokenness, and He celebrates with us when we recognize His gifts.

Because the gifts He gives... they're the uncontrollable goofy-grin kind of good.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Unfinished Business

In middle school, I joined the track team.
(If you know me personally, you may laugh.  ...Ok, that's enough.)

I wasn't popular, and there was a boy I liked and talked to next to never.  Or never.  He was on the track team.  It's not a very complicated story.
The first day, we had to run for practice (I was shocked and terrified).  This was torture, and I twisted my ankle.  The. first. day.
To this day, I can't remember if I actually physically twisted my ankle or if I "oh my goodness this is the worst thing ever" twisted my ankle.
This injury allowed me to go to one track meet and wear a very cute sweatshirt.  I was on the injured list.
And then it was over.  My track career... finished before it ever began.

Really though, it goes deeper than middle school track...

I have always loved journaling.  Wanting to be a writer since my seventh-grade creative writing class (which I will be writing about at some point), I've maintained an insatiable love of the blank page and the unmarked notebook.

I have a high stack of journals that are just half full.
They all start with such hopeful intentions of getting to that last page.
Years and years of the unfinished piled up in the spare bedroom closet.

Until this last year, I'm not sure I've ever finished out a journal to the last page.
This may seem silly, but it's always bothered me.  For years, I've carried a slight niggling dissatisfaction with the fact.  I even marked in one journal how far I'd gotten.

It was a little over half-way full.
Incidentally, this page was the last one I wrote on.  I think maybe I was 15.

I don't know if it's the love of pursuing something brand new or the fear of sticking it out that made me like this.  I think it was a little bit of both.

Mostly, though, my issue was probably (definitely) fear.
Many of these notebooks are riddled with unfulfilled promises to myself to be better, to be more committed.  Some have first paragraphs of stories I'd started with very high hopes.

Even now, typing this, I want to erase all that I've written here, throw away the pictures.
Frustration with myself at being this way, with having a difficult time telling you about it... All of it sits in my bones and I have to wage war to continue.  Slicing joint and marrow.  Pushing onward.

For an aspiring writer, you'd think I would've spent years staying up late, pouring my soul and sweat out over pages and pages with bruised, inked fingers to show for it (Oh, Jo March, how I envied you).
You'd think.

In Kevin Leman's book about Birth Order, he has a list of questions perfectionists should ask themselves.  One of them perfectly diagnoses my issue with finishes:
Do you tend to put things off because you feel you're not quite ready to do the job right?
 To which I can answer a resounding YES.

I guess that's why I'm starting here.
I don't want to put it off, telling you my story.  But you must know that it might be difficult for me to wrench it out.  My tendency is to hold my cards very close to the chest.

Here's my first card laid out on the green felt for you to see:
I can be so driven by fear that I don't take the risks I should take.
Also, perfectionism is not a strength (thanks again, Kevin Leman).

And now you have a little piece of my history and of my heart.  Please hold it carefully.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Hi, I'm Sarah, and this is my blog.

I am easily and often distracted by attempting to find an identity for this blog.
For example, I've had my browser window open for two days trying to think of what to write, which direction to go.
This happens way too often, and I'm well aware.

So, tonight, I sat on my couch and let tears press themselves out of my closed lids, and I prayed.
I prayed because my heart is that Jesus would show up here in these words, on this blog.
I want to write for and to you, whomever you may be, and I want you to find rest and healing and maybe laughter and maybe a tear.

But I get stuck in the mud up to my rearview mirrors (if you're from the South, you know that's bad).
I can't move forward or backward or even open the door because I'm so unsure of what this blog should be.

Tonight, my fretful little heart was pouring out my concern to the God of the Universe.
And you know what He said?  
Your blog identity should flow directly from your identity.
He could've added duh, but He knows I'm not too great with sarcasm, so it felt more like a hug.

So I thought about it, and I realized that I'm not always as honest as I could be.
And I thought I'd introduce myself a little better than I've done before.

How, you ask?
I'm going to tell you some stuff and some stories about myself, starting pretty far back.
Aren't you excited?!?

I'm doing this because really, it's not my story.
It's His.  His fingerprints are everywhere, His weaving hopefully apparent.

It's about to get for real.
I'm going to get some dirt underneath my fingernails and unearth some of how I got to right here:

The other day, I was reading Ann Voskamp's blog (and crying... Does this happen a lot, you ask?  Possibly...).  I copied and pasted this onto a sticky note on my MacBook, because I needed to remember:
So tell me your story, not your sermons, tell me your thrashing, and not just your theology. Tell me about your questions – and not just your quest.
We start in the morning.