Thursday, September 20, 2012

Two for Two ( my students rock my socks off)

I am sitting on my sofa like a proud mama. Even though I am often proud of the people in my life, I am sitting here today with a huge amount of pride (the good kind) for my middle school students. 

Last spring, I was on Twitter perusing though the many people I follow, when I came across one of my fellow youth director's tweets; it was about an event his church was having. This event was an outreach for new students. You see those students who already frequented the youth program were to choose a friend to spend the night, compete in some challenges, and then bring them to church the next morning. 

Brilliant! I thought. In fact, I was like, "shoot Sara, how come you didn't think of this??!" So I immediately decided that we would do this same sort of event, first thing in the fall. And... that is exactly what we did! 

I prayed about it, thought at length about it, talked it up, shouted it out, emailed it, tweeted it, and had it grace my Facebook only 100 or so times. (Ok maybe not quite that many) And last Saturday and Sunday, Grace Middle School Ministries had its very first Two for Two event! That is, Two friends, for Two days, trying to sweep a (the) competition! It was incredible...let me tell you why. 

It was not only a huge amount of fun for our students and their friends, getting to do some crazy and awesome challenges, but for their parents as well - as they took photographs and got to watch it all take place. And even though the fun almost trumped and took the 'win', what our students did, as a part of the bigger picture, was the real win. 

One mom told me that her daughter, as she was trying to decide which friend to she would participate with, really thought through the decision. You see, the rules were that you needed to compete with someone who did not regularly attend our Sunday morning program, SYNC. Well, this 8th grader choose a friend, who not only did not attend our church, but didn't have a church of her own, to call home. She could have easily picked her best friend, or someone she was a little closer with, who already, and regularly attended another church. 

Another mom told me that her son had chosen a friend that also did not have a church to call home - not only that, but he hadn't ever really been to church. This young man came, and not only had a great time, but is interested in getting to know what church is all about. And what cannot go without mentioning is, that this mom, has agreed to pick him up ANYTIME he wants to come to church, in the future. 

Here is the thing my friends. We talk all the time about evangelism, "Hey kids, parents, people... go tell others about Jesus," "share the scriptures," "tell them about the Gospel," and while this is hugely important, it can be really intimidating. I in fact, even as a youth director, find it really hard to "evangelize" outside of my normal christian bubble (which then might not even be considered as evangelism). But what our students did, how they shared their faith, was so simple... AND incredible. 

Our students invited their peers to enter into their life, to come and walk alongside them. And even if it was just for an 18 hour time period, they planted a seed in the life of a friend, that could one day grow into to something amazing. I think a lot of students (and older folks too), hear the word evangelism and either have no clue what it means, or they think of that crazy street preacher hitting people on the head with a Bible. Or perhaps, it is this thing that Christians are supposed to do, but it is too scary, intimidating, or abstract of an idea. 

But working in a church, and hearing the passion that our Outreach Pastor has when he talks about this very thing, I think our students hit it right on the head (and not with their Bibles). They extended an invitation (with intention) to someone in their circle of influence, to come inside their life, and see what it's about and with no pressure or expectation. 

What an example they have made, and how high a bar they have set. I think if we could just see past that guy preaching on the corner, and those vague ideas about sharing the Gospel, we might actually have the courage to do exactly what our students did last weekend. And that is, in the most simple of forms, just inviting someone you know, that needs our incredible Jesus, to enter your world. Letting them see how you live, how you love, what you value, and how you treat others. This too is evangelism, and perhaps, in my opinion, one of the very best ways to go about it. 

Ahhhhhhh. I love learning things from my students. Go middle schoolers - you rock my socks off! 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Will You Save Me a Seat?

I beeped my car, grabbed the rolls, and headed to the front door. I felt a wave of anxiety as I approached the house, I even felt a bit awkward and out of my element. I heard the sound of the dog barking, and took a deep breath as the door opened. 

It was about five months earlier, when I was in the deep of planning for our incredible summer missions project, that I was sitting in my office amongst papers and in the slue of an already 12 hour work day, that I had a life and ministry changing revelation.  

It occurred to me that in the hustle and bustle of the last couple of months, that I had not been spending very much time with students, and spending much more time in my office. I even began to cry a little, because often times, and I am not sure about you other YP's out there, but I get overwhelmed by my office time and by the end of the day I am so spent, that doing the thing that I love the most (hanging with students) doesn't get to happen. Youth Ministry is not a 9-5 kind of job, if you are in this field you know that. But for many of us, if we do not monitor our time in ministry, it begins to rule our lives, and the rest of 'us' begins to suffer. Balance is a weighted word, and not just for Ministry professionals, but for many professionals out there. 

That day I sat there in my mind playing back the past three years (that is how long I have been at my current church). And in those three years, the majority of my time has (and please do not gasp) has not been spent with students, it has been spent in my office. Now of course, this does not include events, outings, or retreats - but I spend (and this is just brutal honesty here) very little time building relationships/discipling students. But let me just just say, here and now, it has not been because I have not desired to. I, like most, even my co-worker in the office next to me doing HS Min, feel the constant pressure to be all and do all - planning over the top events, doing administrative work, making sure that our main program is in top shape, preparing lessons, equipping leaders, emailing parents, AND finding the time to do the most IMPORTANT part of our job, walking with students (and see that all of it happens, and happens with excellence). 

So, I had to ask myself a question? What is more important, the Gnome Scavenger Hunt or Discipling Students? And the answer is, both. What a hard place to be, I thought. For the most part, and like many youth ministries out there, we are short staffed, and a staff run program all in one. We need to have events, we need to have a great program, and we need disciple students. But that day in my office, I felt at a loss - because if I devote myself to one, another suffers, if I spread myself over all, they all suffer.  But at the end of the day, I had to ask myself, why are you in youth ministry Sara? And even though there are many things that my job require, that I can do, and do well, they are not the reason I wanted to, and felt called to be in ministry. 

The reason I wanted to be in ministry, with this age-group of students, is because I want them to know who Jesus is. I wanted to be able to walk alongside them during these three years in middle school, which we all know is a crazy time, and help them to build and shape their faith. How does this happen? Well it happens with the lesson on Sunday, it happens with the help of small group leaders, it happens when students feel at home during events, and in many other big and small ways. But here is the kicker, it also happens (in a HUGE way) when we get to step right into their lives (outside of church). I have seen this example, and the impact it has on a student, when their leader steps into THEIR lives - is monumental.  

I no longer want to just see and hear about this impact, or hear stories of winning touchdowns, or family game nights - I want to be a part of them. I want to truly be in the lives of our students. I want to know them personally, I want to be involved in their lives, outside of Sunday.  I want to get to know them right where they are, at home, at their games, at their activities etc. I believe that part of knowing a student, is also knowing their family. We are in this together, and the things that help to shape a student's faith, that help them to know Jesus, well they begin, at home. 

So this year, we are doing something different. This year we doing something that will feel and does completely foreign to me, and to our families. This year I am going relying more heavily on my volunteers to become significant voices in the lives of students. This year we are having fewer events, and the ones we are having, are being done with an even more specific purpose and position. This year I am going to get to know my people, my students and their families. This year I am hoping to see winning touchdowns, bench time, the sound of choral voices, your messy living room, your teens bulletin board, and your dog Fluffy. 

This year, I need parents to share the sports schedules, the dance schedules, the performance times. I need families to invite me to dinner, to the picnic on Saturday, or to Sunday Lunch. This year, I want, I NEED my sweet families to invite me into their lives. I want them to know me, and likewise, I want to know them.  We are in this journey, at least for three years (hopefully more), together. I am praying they will let me. 


As the door opened I was greeted with the warmest of welcomes. I walked in and began my first dinner, in three years of ministry, with a wonderful family.  We had pork chops for dinner, my first cherry pie for dessert, and a game of cards to top off the evening. The food was fantastic, the conversation was funny and delightful, but most of all, the time I got to spend with the Kikers, was something I won't forget. I saw them as a family, unique and special. I got to see them love each other and experience them love on me. They got to hear all about my just beginning adventure with seminary and my hopes and love of this wonderful MS Min. I got to not just know their MS son better, but also, their elementary daughter. I heard about their family traditions, their favorite things, and just got to know a side of them I never would have, at an event or on a Sunday morning. 

I can plan events with my eyes closed, I am great with details, I can even write a Sunday morning lesson - these are things I KNOW. But getting to KNOW a family, even though it was out of my element, was one of the best things in ministry, I have ever known. 

I am thankful and so grateful for my first family dinner. I left knowing that even though we are changing up things a bit, this is exactly how it is supposed to be. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Faith, Sports, and the Hearts of Our Children

Before I begin this post I want to say that I am not a parent, as in I do not have my own flesh and blood children that I have to make decisions, HARD decisions for every day. I have not had the personal experience myself, both growing up, nor as an adult as to what this blog entails. But what I do have is a group of high school and middle school students that I see each Sunday (often times more than that) that I care deeply for. And this blog is not just for them, it is because of them, and for their parents.

Sports. I did not grow up in Houston, or in Texas for that matter, and the role that sports played in my 40,000-person town, was NOTHING like it is now or here. I have a hard time distinguishing whether the current role sports plays in the lives of children is a product of the time or place or both. Regardless, growing up - the role sports played in my life, the lives of those around me, etc. - was nothing like it is now.

Let me first say that I think sports are great. Seriously. I know after reading this post you might think I am one of those people who would become a parent that would keep their kid on the sofa watching TV all day, but I am not.

Over the past three years in youth ministry I have seen and heard some crazy things. But recently, I heard something that ABSOLUTELY blew my mind, heart, and soul out of the water. A student, a kindhearted, funny, joyful student, who was an outstanding, all star (multi-sport) player, was held back a grade (in middle school) so that they could be the bigger, stronger, better player on the team, the next year; getting the opportunity to play another year of middle school sports, and ultimately getting another year of high school sports. 

I have known this amazing student for just over a year; however, seeing them only a few times throughout our first meeting, and this past one. Last year, after spending a week with this precious kiddo, I placed them in that 'wow, that is one amazing student' category and hoped they would become a full time part of our youth ministry. Well, time passed by, and I just only recently had the chance to catch up with this student.  This student was completely different. Not just your regular middle school changes in stature or behavior, but it was like someone had come in and switched that wonderful light in them, that I saw almost a year ago, off - and they were now misbehaving, acting out, looking saddened, and crying for attention.

I had no idea what was going on until I was told about how this student had been pulled out of their school, away from friends, away from teammates, away from the familiar, and held back, put in the same grade, at a new school, with new people, and lots of change. A lifestyle that was comfortable and familiar, perfect as it was, was then filled with a different sport each day, no time with best friends, or even dinner around the table.

I cannot even imagine.

This one instance placed a great fear inside my heart for students (both now and going forward). However, I have been privy to many of other the conflicts that arise between church time, family time, and sports time. If we just took a look at church and Sunday attendance alone, we would see that Sunday is no longer the last remaining sacred day of the week - meaning, even if every other day of the week was taken up by sports, school, extracurricular activities... Sunday, for the longest time, seemed to remain free and sacred, for family and church time. But this is just no longer the case.

Students can hardly even be free for a weeklong, in town, missions experience without having to leave at some point for something else (usually sports related). AND what makes me the most sad about that situation - is if given the choice, without pressure, or a predisposition that they would be missing out on something greater, more important, every student that I encountered during a recent missions experience, did NOT want to leave.

Hang in here with me for just a second longer....

Kids are so overwhelmed with the pressure to be in sports (by their parents, by their peers, by their coaches, by themselves) that if they miss the opportunity to be in sports, it's as if they are an oddball, left out of the crowd. It doesn't matter that a family might have to make the choice between keeping a summer lake house that has been in the family for years, or have two of their daughters play club volleyball at the price tag of $4000 per year, per kid. That price is for ONE, just one club sport. That doesn't even include all of the extras you encounter for that year (travel, new uniforms, competitions...etc.). Now take that and multiply it by 2 other sport, per kid (because one is not usually all they play), and now you are up to per kid, more than some college tuition.

I might be the only person in all of Houston who thinks this is absolutely absurd, but I think it is ABSOLUTELY ABSURD.

And here is the deal my friends (whom I love, and whose children play all kinds of sports) we put so much time and effort into our children's schedules, filling them with basketball, football, ballet, acting, violin lessons, cheer leading, etc., because we do not want our kids to be overweight, lazy, or unsuccessful. And then we also tell our children that having faith is important, and we take them to church 1.2 Sundays a month - where as a family (maybe) we connect with a community of faith (filled with others who we maybe see 1/7 Sundays, because their schedule is just as crazy as ours). Then sometimes, we even send our kids on retreats or mission trips. So then at the end of the day, our children are supposed to be well mannered, upstanding, trophy winners, who will all play division one sports, be a team player, go to college, earn a degree, and most importantly, love Jesus with all that they are.

Did you know?

1 out of every 16,000 students will play professional sports. Only 2 out of every 100 students will play ANY COLLEGE SPORTS at all.


Only 4 out of 10 students will have an active growing faith beyond high school.


At the end of the day we put more emphasis on our children's schedules than their hearts. We get so caught up in the whirlwind of being busy that we cannot see that there is something so much more important at stake. Parents, you tell me all the time how much you want your children to know and love Jesus. And I believe that you do. But I also believe that in order for that to happen we are ALL going to have to start asking some serious questions.

At the end of the day what is going to make or break your child's heart and soul? Is it sports? Is it faith? It is no longer, nor has it ever been enough to just drop your student off at church and expect that they will gain a growing faith in CHRIST (who ultimately is the most important factor in the eternity of your child). For the majority, we cannot expect that if what we want (our child to know and have a growing faith in Jesus) that it will happen because of club volleyball or one more year in pre-college sports. It has to be so much more than that. (Another blog for sure)

Tough thoughts for all of us significant voices...parents, coaches, and youth leaders alike.

In HIS love,

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Devastatingly Beautiful

This past Sunday I had the privilege of teaching my Middle Schoolers about Jesus - and you might already be thinking "You're a Youth Pastor, don't you talk about Him all the time?" Well, to answer your question, yes, but this past week and the next 6 are a bit different. We are diving much deeper into the life, death, and resurrection of Christ - which by the way I am completely excited about and have not ever had quite the opportunity.  Any way- one of the questions I asked my students this week was...

"What is the Gospel?"

One student said "the story of Jesus" and other said "those four books at the beginning of the New Testament" - both answers are correct but I went on to say that I had put some thought into it and here is what I came up with:

"The Gospel is the message of God's unyielding love for an undeserving people."

An unyielding, unrelenting, unconditional, blind kind of love for an undeserving, judgmental, proud, life of harlotry... kind of people.

What a crazy idea. What a crazy kind of love.

Yesterday I sat at Starbucks, enjoying my afternoon sabbatical where I was working through THIS week's lesson, my application to The Bible Seminary... mixed in with emails, Facebook, and returning calls. 

It was a nice day, so I decided to forgo my usual indoor table and move outside. I quickly discovered that like the spot located directly outside of baggage claim at the airport, Starbucks too was a place where people liked to enjoy a good smoke. Of course I was immediately put off and wanted to go inside, but it was just far too cold as usual, and the day was far to nice as 'un'usual.  So, at the little silver table I would stay.

Over the course of 30 minutes I probably tweeted half a dozen times about my funny surroundings: Older Gentlemen in the corvette taking photos of people, the girl with the extra small booty shorts, the large number of smokers, and last but not least, "tank top guy (who was also smoking) with the hairy chest - giving me the 'eye'!"

I found myself thinking about hairy-tank-top-guy and thinking less and less of him as the moments past by - and more and more of myself. I was like "Why does this guy keep giving me the if I would ever be interested..." "He is smoking for crying out loud, and that tank top??! You cannot be serious."

So after several people had come and gone from his table - (shorts girl, the main barista, and another gal) -I  found myself on a call with my good friend. I was talking on my earbuds and at one point Mon was talking for you know about 45 seconds - so it seemed as if I was no longer on the call. Well at that moment, hairy-tank-top-guy says to me, "Are you still on your call? If so, can I speak with you when you are finished?" And I responded with a 'polite' nod.

So after I lingered for a few moments longer on my call I hesitantly hit the end button - and followed that by, "hello, there."

"Hello." he said.
"I do not want you to think I am some creeper or anything, and I know it is completely random and  here we are at Starbucks - but I have just been really needing to tell you that I think that you are devastatingly beautiful."

"Huh?" I said.

"Well I have just been sitting here and I kept hoping all those people would just leave me alone because I just knew I had to tell you - and I know this might seem forward, and I see you're packing up to leave, but I would love to give you my phone number."

"Uhh (and let me just point out that THIS sort of thing NEVER happens to me) ... pause. You know, thank you. Honestly, that is a lovely compliment, one of the best ever - but I am really not in a position to take your number, I'm sorry. But what I do what to tell you is that this is all so ironic for me, because of your compliment... I mean - and this is random I know, but I actually gave up make-up for Lent."

"No way! That is so awesome. So you are a Christian? Me too!"

I go on to tell him that I am a Youth Pastor at Grace and how much I love my job...

He then tells me all about his church, and his experience with CHURCH overall - and how it's been really hard for him, because he feels like Christians and Churches are so judgmental. How his tattoos his past always define him, even though he has been completely renewed and redeemed in the Lord... "Like a drowning man I was saved,"- he commented.   He said the church he goes to, "The Waters Church" in Katy is all about non-perfect people, serving a perfect God. How he plays in the band, and how living for the Lord is the best and biggest part of his life.

Deep breath.

I sat, my heart feeling like it was going to be overwhelmed with embarrassment and shame. I had been less than 5 feet away from him for the last 2 hours, filled with judgment, pride, and anything but grace.

The book of Matthew, the first book of the Gospel, among Mark, Luke and John, tell the stories of a Man who came to love the unloved, the undeserving. The Gospel tells story after story about how Jesus spent time with people who were tatted-up, hairy-chested, and tank-top wearing. People with pasts, people with mistakes, people who no one else ever sees, or if they are seen, they are treated much like the Leper - as unclean and unworthy of their time.

Sounds pretty familiar.

Thank goodness for the Gospel, and thank goodness for this Matthew- whose life has been made new in Jesus. It is so easy to dismiss people, to be judgmental, to overlook and be self-absorbed. Can you imagine if Jesus was like that?

I am completely humbled by the fierce and unyielding love - especially because it was for those that were, ARE always overlooked.

This interaction between Matthew and myself is all to common in my 'churchy' world. In that moment I was no better than those people that Jesus warned and taught against. Far too often we are all like that. Thankfully we have a God who is better than we are, better than I am for sure, and we also have the story of a Man who helped us see fully this love.

So, what is the Gospel?

It is the devastatingly beautiful story of a man named Matthew who in the end ended up teaching me far more about that unyielding love, than I was ever was prepared to offer to him. Intention or not, (perhaps that plan should be only known to God) Matthew is the Gospel and helped me to understand it far more clearly than I ever have before.

Who do you not see? Who do you overlook? Would your church accept people like Matthew? I sure am asking myself the same questions.

*note - to be called devastatingly beautiful, without my make-up by a stranger, was crazy - and even though he meant it as a normal gal liking dude - I do feel like Jesus is so at work IN EVERYTHING about my life right now, and this was NO accident by any stretch.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Unfinished and Face to Face with the Fridge Again.

"Hit me baby one more....."
"What doesn't kill you makes you..."
"My heart's a..."
"And Iiiii, will always loooove ...."
"Don't stop..."

So I am on day five of my no make-up for Lent quest (with the flu no less) and today I am feeling as what I can best describe as - like an unfinished lyric. I did have the day off so I wasn't really forced to leave the house, or do my hair, or put on something cute - but still when looking at myself in the mirror, I find myself feeling... unfinished.

This idea of being 'finished' is something that resonates deeply within me. Why you might ask? Well, because I would say in general I am a 'put together' person (even when things are falling apart). I also am the kind of person who has to has to have resolution at work, in conflict, with change, at the end of a long day. Things must always be resolved, finished. I will also say on the flip side of that I have found myself for a large portion of my adult life being much more of a starter and not a finisher - it is always a catch 22.

But this idea of being unfinished and feeling the discomfort that comes along with it, well I think it is rooted far deeper than just not finishing a project or needing to resolve a conflict. I think it is rooted deeply in our need to feel complete, and doing whatever it takes in our lives to make ourselves 'whole'.

We fill and fill our lives with all kinds of stuff; maybe it is food, or technology, new shoes, or that fancy car or that new two story condo - we fill and replace one thing with another... the this is no longer new so I now need a that, to stay current, to look good, to hold my status, to feel apart of, to whatever... Fill, buy, change, rearrange - all to satisfy our need to be complete, to be whole. And when we are faced to go without- we then find ourselves...... looking in the mirror thinking, "Ok, well I guess that is just going to have to do...unfinished."

But why, why the need to be "complete"? And when did we get the idea that we could EVER be the one, or that some THING could be the one to fill that need, to make us complete, whole, finished?

I have just started the book, A 1000 Gifts - and loving it so far, but the author said something quite novel about our need to have control, to fill our lives with whatever WE want, whenever WE want it. She is talking about the ever famous Garden, where our lives would be changed forever -all because we need to 'be in control' of our completeness, our knowledge.  She says, "We are hungry. We eat. We are filled...and emptied."

This is poetic to the point that it grips tightly to my heart. This is exactly the problem. We are always thirsting for more, what will be next, what will fill our lives. So then we see something and grab it and nom nom nom on it like it is going to be the end all to our hunger. And for a short while it is - like a great meal at the China Buffet - we are filled to the brim. But no matter the fill from that carb-loaded, short lived food baby - we find ourselves standing face to face with the fridge once again, and it's only a few short hours later.

I think this perfectly illustrates what we do to ourselves by trying to fill our lives with things that we believe will make us 'mo betta, mo complete, mo mo of everything'.

So what does this have to do with feeling like an unfinished song lyric? Well, for me make-up has been a long sense of security and a huge defining thing when I consider who I am, how people see me, and how I fill myself with a sense of worth. At the end (of this) the day I sit here in my blue chair thinking - sweet mother of mascara how I miss thee. I am/have already gone through my normal Lenten notions and thoughts of 'replacing' ...such as: I MUST be tan before I go on my girls trip at the end of March, and panicking over not being able to find my newly purchased acne cream (for my one pimple)...

So here I stand, face to face with the fridge thinking, "man I am starving!"

But - and here is the catch (and a painful one at that) I know, I KNOW with full certainty that no amount of mascara can fill or satisfy my soul - no matter the compliments it earns me, or how finished it makes me feel at the end of my morning routine.  Because ultimately, even though if for a short time it has done its job to satisfy my feelings of completeness -  it will never, nor can it ever REPLACE His job. Nothing will ever satisfy our hunger like knowing we are only, and always made complete in One thing, and One thing only.


And every time we put our wholeness, our sense of being finished or complete in anything but Him - we will always go through the cycle of being hungry, being fed, being filled... and ultimately emptied again.

So, for day 5 I am learning to lean on HIS completeness - praying that even with every breath of unfinished that I feel - that I can continue to hold tight to His promise that has already been finished just for me. And as my friend Marcy reminded me today, "You are beautifully and wonderfully made" and that is not because of the mascara I do OR DON'T wear, it is because of the love of my Savior.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lent: "I have to do what?!"

Lent. Formerly know to me as the 40 days my mom gives up sweets - well except those 'peanut butter things from the DQ'... No but seriously. It occurred to me that I never REALLY thought about what it meant to participate the ritual sacrificing of something for Lent - and even better yet, the reasoning behind it.

My precious Mimi gives up chocolate every year, so when I was a teen I thought I should do the same. When I was in college I would give up soda, and in more recent years I have 'given-up' things like Starbucks, Fast Food, etc. Sometimes I would succeed and sometimes, most times I would end up quitting half way through. Anyway, so naturally as I awoke this Lenten morning I thought to myself, "Sara- it is Ash Wednesday - the beginning of Lent, what the heck are we going to try to give up this year?" This thought was followed by, "eh- I think nothing, I will just grab that drink from Starby's in a fit of desperation and lack of discipline in about 3 weeks anyway... so, good morning it's Wednesday!"

But and despite all my efforts to forget that it was this Ashy day God just kept tapping my shoulder - not saying anything specific, BUT specific in cause... tap... tap... tap... Lent.. Lent ... Lent. I even went as far as to ask Eric to talk about this important day in our Middle School Chapel service this morning because I just did not want to think about it - didn't know enough about it... just did not want to Lent it up.  Well, just as soon as I asked him to speak, on said topic, I went back into my office and there it was in my email - an article on the purpose, position, and the portion you gain from participating in the 40 days Lent.

Over the course of the afternoon I began to think about this Lenten quest, the times I have failed it before, and what, if anything I would sacrifice for 40 days. You see the thing is even when I have given something up in the past it always seems to be replaced by something else... So no soda, that's ok you can have iced tea. No Starbucks, well there is that Sonic right around the corner. No chocolate, well shoot how about one of those 'peanut butter things from the DQ'. 

The 40 days of Lent are meant to be a time of true sacrifice. Like the article I read today said, it should push you to the limits of your faith, strengthening your faith muscles, so that when you become desperate the one thing thing that you cling to is God. In my previous Lent participation's, I was doing a lot of REPLACING and not a lot of RELYING on God. I had it all wrong.

Now that I understood this I knew that whatever I was to sacrifice had to actually be a sacrifice for me. This is hard. I live in a world of not needing things, of being able to eat out when I want, going on vacations every once in a while, having a Starbucks Gold card, the unlimited AT&T data plan - I truly want for nothing. I feel completely satisfied and have not ever lived a life of sacrifice. And while I feel utterly overwhelmed by the amount of blessings and provisions I have had in my life it makes it hard to understand true sacrifice.

So then I asked myself, "what is something in your life that you could give up, that could not be replaced by something else, that would cause you to feel desperation for God in a way like never before, what do you place security in, what do you value, what is something that might define you...?"

And - like a hot flash in the midst of winter, and with already complete anxiety over just typing the words now, it came to me.

You have to give up wearing your make-up.

I have to do what?

You have to go without that Cover Girl Lash Blast mascara that earns you compliments for your eyes.
You have to not dust that sparkle blush across your cheeks.
You have to not line the bottom and tops of your lids with the charcoal pen.
You have to not cover that HUGE pimple you have on your chin today.

You will have to look at yourself in the mirror for the next 40 days and know that you are God's beloved inside and out, and not hold on the fear that is in your heart and that covers your face each morning.

You will have to call out to HIM when you feel insecure about your body, because we all know it is not just about the blush on your cheeks that satisfies your hunger to look and feel good.

You have to give up wearing your make-up and trust in the love that comes from your Father, believing that how HE sees you will always be enough.

There will be more in the days to come - but for now, and for the next 40 days (which by the way include a good friends wedding, a reunion weekend in Phoenix with some of my best girl friends, and 5 teaching times in Sunday SYNC) I will be WITHOUT MAKE-UP.

You should know, in the same breath I am feeling completely terrified and at peace.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hello, My Name Is: Long-Winded

So recently, and by recently I mean the past four days I have been really thinking about myself and this life that I get the privilege to live.  I have been looking in life's 'closet' so to speak and am starting to sort through all the many things that it holds.  I have also been reading a ton of Christian articles/blogs, speaking to my mentors/friends, and taking time to be with the Lord in complete stillness. 

This post is really going to be nothing other than a brief compilation of a few simple things: words of wisdom (not from me), facts that I discovered this week, and finally a list of things that I love (being it was Valentines day this week AND they are just things I need to celebrate more often). 

Are you a closet filler like me? For the past ten years, probably more, I have been putting EVERYTHING and anything into my life closet - the good, bad, ugly, painful, & joys of life. There have been a few instances over the course of these ten years that in BIG ways stuff has come spilling out, but mostly overall - the closet has just gotten more full.  

So - discovery number one: Sara has not really cried in 5 years - the flood gates opened and I have cried a river. Crying is healthy - it is so good for your soul, and more than anything and if nothing else, I can see this now. 

Discovery two: you are not perfect Sara, you are not always put together, and sometimes you just need to give it up, get it out, and surrender. Word. 

God is so good - He just shows up and punches in you the throat in the best way. This week He has come through music, my reading both of the Bible AND the thoughts of some talented writers, AND through the words of love and wisdom from friends. 

Wisdom(TRUTH) number one: "Sara, I am thanking God right now, looking up to Him and giving my thanks. I am thankful that He has given you this incredible gift of discernment- sharpening  your heart and soul. AND YOU HAVE TO HONOR THAT, even though I know how painful and lonely it might feel and be. But Sara HE LOVES YOU enough to put those thoughts within you... He must be up to something good, something big. So be still, and wait." 

Thought: If in fact the above is true - do I have what I need within me to honor God and the discernment He has given me? I pray with sweet surrender and with all that I am, that I do.

Wisdom number two: "Name those bottles in your closet." Every single day. Start working through that closet, because if you do not - it could be catastrophic - even though you would probably 'handle' it anyway.  

Wisdom number three: "Quick - if there was one thing you could change about your life RIGHT now, what would it be?" - (yeah I couldn't answer, cause I am an over-analyzer) BUT towards the end of the moment I know I need to be asking myself this question AT least once a day, if not more, and then RUN with passion towards making it happen - even if that only means one small step at a time. 

When the days are long, when I feel stuck in a rut, when I feel alone, or weary hearted I am going to remember that I love life - and these things make it possible:
-Music from the 90's
-My 'Soul Time' play list 
-The Song "Your Love Never Fails"
-Starbucks & Sonic
-time with much wiser Christian woman (who take time to pour into my life)
-Baking (and) Baking OUR way to Orange
-Monday night Old Testament One
-Wednesday Lunch 
-Starbucks (the place, not the drink)
-Going to the movies
-Working out & actually staying on track with Weight Watchers (which I fail at a LOT)
-Family and Friends 
-Thinking of new ways to be excellent for our Middle School Students & Leaders
-Leggings and Dresses
-Long drives with the music up
-My Grandparents and the love and constant generosity
-A good nights rest
-The joy giving away my food brings to my heart
-And MOSTLY the never ending LOVE of my Jesus 

... I could go on and If as I think of more, I might. For now, this is one LONG post mainly about not very much. 

Love you all!