Monday, August 25, 2014

Why I Started Covering My Head

Although I have been attending church my entire life, I can't remember hearing a single sermon that taught on 1 Corinthians 11:1-16. A pastor or speaker may have skimmed over the passage occasionally, but it certainly isn't a subject that is frequently discussed. What am I talking about?

Head coverings.

In spite of the absence of teachings, I always knew how most women felt about the issue of head coverings. On the rare occasion that the subject was broached, no matter how briefly, Paul's instruction to the Corinthian women was almost always disregarded as irrelevant for today. It was seen as a cultural practice that today's Christian women were not bound to, and if an argument was made against that perspective, then a few words were said about being "free in Christ," and no longer "slaves to the law," at which point the subject would be firmly closed. A few people believed that a woman's hair was enough of a covering, since it is called "a covering" in verse 15.

It probably won't surprise you to learn that even as a child, the idea of covering my head in some way appealed to me. One reason may have been because I am a "doer." I love doing "what's right," and being obedient to rules. I liked being told what to do and how to do it because it gave me a clear sense of direction, and I knew exactly what was expected of me. A similar reason could be that I have always struggled with legalism. Though I knew there was nothing I could do to earn my salvation, that it was a free gift from God, that knowledge didn't stop me from feeling like I had to repay a debt (which would be impossible, anyway). This is still something I struggle with today. Whatever the reasons were, I was attracted to this display of submission and wished that I could cover my head. Fear prevented me from doing this, however; fear that my parents wouldn't allow it out of embarrassment, fear that family members and friends would ridicule me, and fear that other people would shun me because I was weird.

When I hit the teen years, I gave very frequent and serious thought to covering my head (and becoming a nun, and adopting a mennonite lifestyle, but that's irrelevant to my story). It seemed like such a sacred and beautiful practice, and whenever I would see a woman wearing a head covering, I was struck by how clearly the glory of Christ shone through her countenance. I wanted people to look at me and see Jesus the way I saw Him in those women. They had such a distinct grace and purity about them, and I wanted to be like that. Unfortunately, the same fears that held me back in middle school held me back in high school as well.

Fast forward to now. My husband and I had discussed head coverings many times since our marriage (to the point that I was sure he was sick of hearing about it), and he graciously listened to me talk about my growing desire to cover my head. His opinion on the matter was different from mine, and although he understood my heart, he wasn't comfortable with the idea of me wearing a traditional head covering. After giving the matter some thought, we decided that it would be appropriate for me to keep my hair long. I had noticed the growing trend in women cutting their hair short, so I suggested that I keep mine long as an outward sign of submission to him and to God. We agreed that my long hair would serve as an adequate covering, and though we both had many unanswered questions, we left it alone for a while.

A few months later, a friend from my previous church married and soon began covering her head. She blogged about her reasons, and documented her progress. Pictures of her different head coverings, and statuses about her experience wearing them appeared often on her Facebook page. All the while, I was watching, reading, and thinking. We even had several conversations about head coverings, and she added me to a group for head covering Christian women. The interest I've had in head coverings over the course of my life sparked inside of me again. Though I had studied the subject for myself many times in the past, I began searching for more answers. Then one day, a few weeks ago, I came across a website called The Head Covering Movement. It turned out to be exactly what I needed, and it answered all of the questions I had. At first, I was hesitant to bring up the subject again with my husband, but an opportunity presented itself one evening, and he was willing to hear what I had discovered. I walked him through the website's dissection of the head covering Scripture, and read aloud several of the articles that answered our questions. From what we learned on the site, it seemed very plain and clear that covering my head was a biblical command, and that my hair did not qualify as a covering in the context of that passage. We talked for over an hour, and made the decision that it was necessary for me to cover my head in some way. The tricky part would be to find a head covering that I felt gave me adequate coverage, yet also made my husband feel comfortable. Anything that looked foreign, elderly, amish, or outdated would not be an option. After searching high and low for a few days, looking at everything from scarves to hats, we both agreed that I would use wide headbands. I found a website that sold a wide variety of head coverings, including wide headbands, and ordered two in different styles. They arrived in the mail last week, and not only do I like them; I plan to order many more when I am able!

This is my 19 week pregnancy photo, in which
I am wearing one of the headbands I purchased.

Now that my long-winded story is finished, here are some of my personal reasons for choosing to cover my head in church:

Why I Started Covering My Head
  1. It paints a clear picture of God's created order, and brings glory to Him. As the passage in 1 Corinthians 11 states, God is the head of Christ, Christ is the head of man, and man is the head of woman. There's a biblical hierarchy - not of importance or purpose, but of authority. When I cover my head, I become a physical representation of this truth, and I am displaying my joyful acceptance of God's created order. It's a small, yet significant way I can bring honor and glory to the Lord.
  2. It brings honor to my husband. Submission is not a popular subject in our feministic culture, and when I cover my head during church, I am showing the rest of the world that I have decided to submit to my husband's authority. 
  3. It's taught in Scripture. I won't get into a debate about biblical interpretation, so if you would like to see what I believe the Bible says about this topic and why, The Head Covering Movement website has a great resource that allows you to study for yourself, and a list of articles that address the common questions (with their answers) that typically arise. Those articles answered all the questions we still had about the subject in general, and the meaning of several verses that were hard to understand.
  4. It makes me aware of my sin. Another thing that I didn't expect was that wearing a head covering would make me so very aware of my sin nature, and even sins that I had not repented of. In ways I can't explain or understand, the headband was a constant reminder that I was covering my hair, which reminded me of why I felt led to cover in the first place, which in turn made me look more closely at my own heart. It's not like the headband is magical or anything, but because I'm always aware of it when I have it on, it's as if it focuses my heart and mind on the church service and the Lord.
  5. It makes me aware of opportunities to love others like Christ. Because I'm always aware of the headband (and what it represents for me), Jesus Christ is at the forefront of my mind. I've found that the more I think about Him, the more I recognize opportunities to show love to others. Whether it's a smile, or compliment, or small-talk about a person's day, little things make a huge difference, and I notice those moments much more since I started covering.
  6. I feel more beautiful, and more myself. This was the most unexpected revelation I had over the last few weeks. When I covered my hair for church, I felt more feminine, graceful, modest, and beautiful than I ever had before (and I've never had issues with my image or self-esteem). You would think that the opposite would be true; that wearing a head covering would make you feel less-attractive, or like your personality was being stifled. I found that who I am deep down seemed more obvious (at least to me) than it was prior to using a covering. I felt like my true self could be seen by the world for the first time. Whether this is reality, or something I've imagined, I don't know. But there's something freeing about feeling like you aren't wearing a mask around other people anymore.
You've probably noticed that I only talk about covering my head in church. At this time, that is all I feel led to do based on my study of 1 Corinthians 11. Whether or not I will start covering my head full-time at some point in the future is not decided right now. It wouldn't surprise me if I did, because I enjoy it so much. For now, however, I am only covering while in a church service. 

- What are your thoughts on head coverings? 
- (Men) What do you think of women who cover their hair?
- (Women) If the command to cover was not a cultural thing, would you cover? Why or why not?
- Do you have any questions for me about my decision to cover? If so, ask away!

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Secret Blessing of Unsolicited Advice

One of the things I was - and still am - looking forward to the most about this pregnancy is getting advice from friends, family members, and strangers about how to parent my unborn child. You may think that was meant to be a sarcastic sentence, but I assure you that it wasn't. I really do enjoy getting advice from the other people about anything and everything. When I got engaged, I assumed I would be flooded with unsolicited advice about how to be a good wife. Surprisingly, not that many people spoke up. As soon as I saw that the pregnancy test said positive, I was positive that this time around, advice would come pouring in. You know what? It hasn't come yet. In a few weeks, I'll be half-way through this pregnancy, and very few people have offered me advice that I haven't asked for. Some of you are probably thinking, "Lucky you!" However, I don't agree.

When did we become so arrogant, by the way? When did it become acceptable for us to condescendingly reject anyone who feels the need to give us advice about our lives? I'm sorry ladies, but whether I have no children or TEN children, I would be a fool to think that I had it all figured out and didn't need any outside perspective. The Proverbs have plenty to say about this subject:

"Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but one who hates correction is stupid." -Proverbs 12:1

"A fool's way is right in his own eyes, but whoever listens to counsel is wise." -Proverbs 12:15

"Plans fail when there is no counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." -Proverbs 15:22

"Listen to counsel and receive instruction so that you may be wise in later life." -Proverbs 19:20

Furthermore, are we Christian ladies so far along on the road of sanctification that we now scorn anything that remotely resembles Titus 2?

"Older men are to be self-controlled, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance. In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to much wine. [They are] to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and children,  to be sensible, pure, good homemakers, and submissive to their husbands, so that God's message will not be slandered." -Titus 2:2-5

I hate to blow the roof off of the dome of isolation and self-righteousness that some of us have so carefully constructed for ourselves, but being in each other's business is not only okay; it's biblical. (see 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15). Does this mean anyone has the right to step in and make decisions about what is best for me or my family? Are other people obligated to know every intimate detail about my love life with my husband? Is it perfectly acceptable for people - strangers or otherwise - to openly comment about any aspect of my life whenever they want to and say whatever they want to say? No, no, and no. That's not what this is about at all. 

There's no way I can be the kind of wife or mother I want to be without any input or suggestions from anyone else whatsoever. I know myself, and I know what I am. I am a sinner, saved by Jesus, who is just trying to live a life that honors His great sacrifice. Maybe you have it all figured out, but I certainly don't, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Yes, I do have my own opinions about what it means to be a good wife and mother, or the best way to discipline a child, or whether stomach-sleeping or back-sleeping is better for babies. If I'm passionate about it, you can be certain I've researched it to death. 

I still want your advice, though.

Because no matter how much I've read about vaccines, ways to make a husband feel respected, or the benefits of keeping and maintaining houseplants, there's at least one perspective I haven't considered: yours. I would be remiss in my role as a wife and mother not to at least hear what you have to say. Together, my husband and I will make the final decisions on the options we're faced with and do what we think is best, but we're honored that you think so highly of us as to share your thoughts and beliefs on a subject with the intent to be helpful. To all the family and friends, and yes, even strangers, know that I welcome your advice. This doesn't mean, however, that I am desperate for you to come up and tell me - without hearing my perspective on a matter - that I'm a bad wife or mother for doing (or failing to do) x, y, or z, or that my baby should or shouldn't wear this style of onesie or hair accessory. But if you have a genuine concern or wisdom you would like to share with me, I would love to hear it!

To all the fellow pregnant ladies or women with children, please don't be so quick to dismiss or be angered by the advice of others. Do you know why most people offer advice out of the blue like that? They're most likely afraid, on some level. If they truly think they're opinion or method is right one, then they are afraid of what will happen if you make the "wrong" choice. If they have some kind of personal relationship with you, then it's safe to assume they have your best interests at heart. Even if they don't know you, they may regret their own choices and hope to spare you the same disappointment. God moves in mysterious ways. Years from now, you may look back and realize that the Lord was trying to show you a better way to do something. As we get on with the rest of the day, let's carefully consider the warning of Proverbs 16:

"Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall." -Proverbs 16:18

How do you feel about receiving unsolicited advice from others? What marriage or parenting advice would you like to share with me?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Letter to Self

Dear Self,

You've spent my entire life making trouble for me. From the moment I entered this world, you were trumpeting your propaganda about how I was the center of the universe, that the purpose of everyone's lives was to serve me, and that my ultimate goal should be doing whatever was necessary to secure my own comfort and happiness. You told me that if I didn't want to do something, I didn't have to. I have rights. I'm entitled. It was never my fault, but always someone else's. You said that if it felt right, I should do it. "Go ahead," you said, "eat that food. So what if it isn't 'healthy' or 'nourishing' to your body? It tastes good, and that's all that matters. It won't hurt just this once." Remember when I used to stay up until the wee hours of the morning and sleep until lunchtime? You're the one who said it was fine. And every time I pushed my responsibilities to the side and chose laziness? That was your doing, too. Every apathetic thought, every moment I chose lesser things over precious time with the Lord, and every second I spent watching television instead of "looking well to the ways of my household," I can trace directly back to you. Do you want to know something? I'm sick of you, and from this day forward, I will do whatever I can to get rid of you.

God has a lot to say about you, and He's been reminding me of His words lately:
"For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin..." -Romans 6:5-6
"Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable." -1 Corinthians 9:25
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." -Galatians 5:22-23
"But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth." -Ephesians 4:20-24
"Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him- a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all." -Colossians 3:9-11
"For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing." -James 3:16
"Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love." -2 Peter 1:5-7
I'm on to you. I know your games, and I'm tired of playing them. I acknowledge your existence in my life, and I call you what you are: false, deceptive, evil, rude, murderous, unloving, arrogant, selfish. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ was too great for me to heed you any longer. Because of Him, I am no longer your slave. I am under your control no more. Yes, there will probably be times when you try and sneak your way back into my life. But keep your suitcase handy, because I can promise you it will be a very short stay. You are dead to me, and I to you. Goodbye, my old companion. May we never meet again.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

That Moment When Everything Changes

On May 7th, 2014, we found out we are expecting!
Have you ever had one of those moments? That moment when you come face-to-face with fears you didn't know you had? I had a moment today. Right now, inside of me, God is growing a baby. As I type this, there is a tiny soul in there that is brand-new. Quicker than I can imagine, I'll be experiencing labor pains for the first time, and then finally (hopefully) holding this little miracle in my arms. It's almost overwhelming to think about, and I couldn't be more excited about welcoming this little Sara-Garrett hybrid into our lives. Yet today I realized something that startled me to the point of taking my breath away: Everything is about to change.

With all my heart, I believe the changes that are going to take place are good. But I now realize that we will have to press pause on some of life's current treasures when this baby arrives. Right now, Garrett can text, call, or walk in the door, and I drop whatever I am doing to give him my full attention (not because he expects it, but because I love him that much). We can work on house projects at any hour of the day without having to plan around naps or feedings (except ours). We can snuggle in front of the TV at the end of the day and watch our favorite shows together. We can go on walks together whenever we want. We can go to dinner at whatever restaurant suits us, on whatever day is most convenient for us. I can have Garrett all to myself when he's home, and our quality time is uninterrupted. It won't be like this - at least not all the time - when there are three of us in the house.

I think these changes are one reason why so many couples wait for years and years to have children. A routine gets established, they get comfortable with each other and with their life together, and the thought of anything (no matter how wonderful) interfering with their current level of happiness is unpleasant to them. And before you ask, yes; there is a part of me that wants to hold on to the way things are right now. However, when I think about all that will change, I can't stop with the things I don't want to change. That's what the enemy wants, and it leads to fear. Rather, I can - and should - focus on all of the good changes that are in store for us!

After my five seconds of panic were over, I realized there were far more things that Garrett and I will be gaining. Yes, I can give my husband all of my attention right now. But when this little one busts onto the scene, Garrett will be greeted by not one, but TWO people who are excited to see him. As our child grows, we will both get to enjoy watching him or her run outside when "Daddy" gets home to jump into his arms and give him a hug. I can answer his texts and calls right away now, but soon he'll get pictures and videos of the baby making faces, smiling, and laughing that will brighten even his stormiest day. He'll hear the babbling and cooing in the background of our phone calls, and yes, probably lots of crying and screaming as well (from the baby and possibly me). We can work on house projects whenever right now, but this baby will ensure that we keep our priorities in check. People matter more than houses. Time with family will always be more important than time spent on a project (whether mine or Garrett's). While we can snuggle, just the two of us, in front of the TV now, we'll have a little munchkin with us soon who will laugh at things we didn't know were supposed to be funny (but suddenly will be to us). We may not always be able to go on walks whenever we want, but they will become mandatory to burn off our child's energy before bedtime, and we'll all be healthier for it. We can go to dinner at nice restaurants if we want to now, but soon we'll get to the experience the joy (albeit, a challenging one) of teaching our child how to behave in public. I won't get Garrett all to myself as much as I would like, but it will make what time we do get together even more special and sacred.

Though I believe parenting will be the greatest challenge Garrett and I have ever faced together, I also believe it will be the most wonderful thing we'll ever experience as a couple. Sure, there will be days when the baby rips off their diaper and flings dark matter all over the place. But there will also be days when they can't contain their wonder or excitement over seeing a bug, plant, or rock for the first time. There will be scrapes, maybe even broken bones (though I hope that doesn't happen), but there will also be lots of hugs and kisses, laughter, late night talks about how there aren't any monsters in the shadows of their room, tickle fights, and a million other precious moments that - when it comes down to it - I know we would never trade anything for. There will be moments when it seems like our child is an absolute angel, and then probably many more moments when they act like the spawn of Satan.

This is the stuff of life.

Think about it: God goes through all of these things with us every second of every day, and embarking on this journey together will give my sweet husband and I a greater understanding of His glorious and unimaginable love. We may be too big to throw nasty diapers around, but we still throw our nasty words around. We struggle greatly with selfishness every day, but I sense that God is about to prune that ugly branch in our lives with the addition of this precious one. I'm certain that the moment everything changes will be a happy one, and the changes will be for the better. What God specifically has in store for us, I don't know yet; but in the words of Peter Pan: "To live would be an awfully big adventure." And in the words of Bilbo Baggins, "I think I'm quite ready for another adventure."

Friday, May 2, 2014

When It's One Thing After Another

Do you ever have a week where you feel like bad or frustrating things happen one right after the other? That has been the last month for me. Before I sound melodramatic, a lot of great things have happened as well. Yet there have been many difficulties, it seems, in comparison to previous months. This week, another frustration was added to the list, and I was discouraged. Inside I wasn't doubting God, but I couldn't help but say to Him, What do You have planned in all of this? I know there's a purpose, but I'm feeling a little lost.

When things go from bad to worse, it's easy to think that God is far away; that He hasn't noticed things are tough for you; that He's left you to fend for yourself. But that's a lie straight from the enemy, and God is more involved in the details of your life than you could ever imagine. I feel like I quote this all the time (which isn't a bad thing), but the truth is so powerful:

"We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: 
those who are called according to His purpose." -Romans 8:28

For those of us that know Christ, we can rest in this reality. God is working all things - right now - together for our good: the pleasant, the sorrowful, the ugly, the annoying, the disappointing, and the hard. That's one of the many things I love about Jesus. He was tested in every way that we are tested (Hebrews 4:15), so He understands how we feel when we face difficulties. We are victorious in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:37). So if you're having a rough day, week, month, or year, hang in there! God isn't finished, and I'm certain we'll both be able to look back on this difficult period of our lives and clearly see how His hand was moving in the grand plan.

"Be strong and courageous; don't be terrified or afraid...For it is the 
Lord your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you." 
-Deuteronomy 31:6

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sara's Thoughts - 04/17/2014

Katie, Me, and Jessica (my other best friend) at my bridal shower.
It has been almost a week since one of my best friends moved in with Jesus. My emotions, which were - when the accident took place - intense and unpredictable, have settled down significantly. My heart is quiet and thoughtful, and my mind is frequently occupied with the many pleasant childhood memories I have of Katie. Occasionally I will get a flash of my most recent (and painful) memories and I lose my breath for a few seconds, but then I remember where Katie is and Who she is with and the peace returns.

So this is what it's like to lose someone you love deeply.

It's not what I expected. When things were still uncertain with Katie, different scenarios ran through my mind. My brain has always tried to "plan" for multiple possibilities with the various situations I've faced, and this time was no different. I knew that God could choose to give her the ultimate healing by bringing her home to be with Him, and I thought I knew how I would respond if He did. Surely it would be the response most people have: intense pain, fear, anger (mostly at God), a need to blame someone or something, a lack of control, and feeling overwhelmed by it all. Yet that isn't at all what I experienced. Yes, there was intense pain and I felt helpless to change the situation. But there was also peace, and hope, and rejoicing.

What amazes me most is the way God is using this whole thing. Even before Katie breathed her last on this earth, I saw Him moving in the midst of our troubles. It's as if the black sky of that whole week suddenly exploded with His powerful light, and people who rarely - if ever - thought about Jesus are now having to take a good, hard look at their lives and decide how they are going to respond to Him. It's what Katie would have wanted, and it's what she lived for. If she could have known what would happen to her, and see that Christ would be so greatly glorified, she would have willingly died for that purpose. I can't see all the things that will happen as a result of this situation, but I know God is going to change lives - including mine. I already feel like a completely different person from who I was two weeks ago.

Strangely enough, I don't feel like I lost someone. It doesn't feel like Katie has died as much as it feels like she has come alive, as if she is living and breathing for the first time.`

"For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known." -1 Corinthians 13:12

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Where Joy And Sorrow Meet

I just lost my best friend.

Yesterday was a day of waiting, because by that point it seemed certain that her journey was coming to an end. The sun set, I climbed in bed, and somehow I knew that when I woke the next morning, my sweet friend and sister in Christ would be with the Lord. This week has been filled with grief, countless tears, and deep pain for me and so many others who knew and loved Katie, so I felt certain that today would be the hardest day of my life. In a sense, I suppose, it is. Yet while I have cried and the pain and grief are still strong, I felt something else that I have never experienced before: The joy of the Lord.

As the day progressed my joy grew, until the only thing I could do was turn on some music and celebrate. You see, Katie Klinect was utterly and hopelessly in love with Jesus Christ, and I can't help but be so excited and happy that she's finally seeing Him face-to-face! Her wait is over, and she's with the Lover of her soul. After all of my mourning and grieving and praying, feeling drained and empty, I now feel so full. God is so good, and His mercies are evident in this time. How can I do anything but rejoice and praise the Lord for bringing her home at last? When I think about how deliriously happy she is right now, I can't help but smile.

For the first time in my life, I understand what it Scripture means when it says, "the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10). And what a joy it is! Only the love and grace of Jesus can create a lasting joy and peace in your soul. I can't get enough of what I'm experiencing in Him! I know that Katie had that same joy, and she was not afraid of wherever the Lord would take her.

God has blessed me with so many wonderful memories of Katie. She was a beacon of hope to me through many ups and downs that I faced, and I am glad our separation is only temporary. She lived her life to the fullest and for the glory of God every single day.

"Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning." -Psalm 30:5

Joy truly did take me by surprise this morning, and there aren't words to describe the lasting peace that comes with knowing Jesus Christ. Is yours a life marked by peace? By joy? Only in the Lord is there a calm in the midst of storms. Only with Jesus Christ is there a peace that passes all understanding. Only in Him can you find joy through hard times. Look around a bit if you want to, but I can promise you won't find it.

Katie, I love you so much. You've been such an amazing friend to me, and have been my [not-so] "secret sister" since we were little girls. Get that party started, and pick some awesome music please (like you could do anything else)! I'll see you again before you know it!

Me with my beautiful Indian princess. I love you, Katie!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Sara's Thoughts - 04/11/2014

Life is hard right now. Exactly a week ago, my dear friend Katie was in a horrible bicycling accident that hurt her badly and left her unconscious. They rushed her into surgery, and that night, her brother called to tell me that she was not going to live through the night. I hung up the phone, and thought, She's going to die. My best friend is going to die. I wept that night, and every day since as Katie made progress, and then experienced more setbacks. A week ago, the doctors had no hope. Then she lived through the night and there was a little hope. It even reached a point where they were sure she was going to live and recover. They started to wean her off of the medicine that keeps her in a coma, and her ICP and blood pressure went back up. They put her back on the medicine, but are now saying that it did further damage to her brain, and the movements she had until this point that gave evidence of brain activity are slowly coming to a stop. It's not looking good for my beautiful friend. God could still work a miracle (and I'm hoping and praying that He does), but He could also take her home.

Until now, I haven't experienced anything too horrible in life. You hear stories like Katie's on the news every day, but I never thought something like this would hit so close to home. In spite of all that has happened, and all the tears shed so far, I have peace. I'm not worried about Katie, or what is going to happen. From the moment I got that phone call on Friday night, I've felt an unusual calm in the midst of the pain. How is that possible? How can I not be freaking out when my friend has been at death's door for a week, and may still die?

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." -Philippians 4:6-7

God is in control of this situation. And Katie loves Jesus Christ more than anyone or anything in this whole world. Whether she stays or goes, I am comforted because I know I will see her again. The Lord has brought her through many challenges and difficulties throughout her life, and if He ends her suffering, then I am thankful for every moment I've had the privilege of sharing with Katie. God has always been amazing in her, and if going ahead of us into eternity means that more people will come to know Christ as their Savior, then I know it's what Katie would want. 

If you are hurting, know that God loves you so dearly. You are so priceless to Him, and He died for you so that you could know Him and experience His peace. We can't understand why He allows difficult things to happen in our lives, but we can know that He uses them for good (Romans 8:28). None of your tears are wasted. None of your suffering is meaningless. When you hurt, He hurts with you. Let Him be your Comforter, and take refuge in the shadow of His wings. Experience His peace which passes all understanding, and look to the future without fear. 

Posted below is a video of Katie giving her testimony. You may not know her, but by the end, you'll be able to see how special she is. I love you always, Katie.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Sit At His Feet

For as long as I can remember, I have longed to know God and be like Jesus. When I failed to meet His standards (and I always did eventually), I would feel so frustrated. My failures even pushed me to the point of doubting my salvation, because I thought that "real Christians" always felt passionate about God and were diligent with their prayer time and Bible study. Yet I don't always feel passion for the Lord, and it's a daily struggle for me to spend time in the Word and in prayer. The enemy jumped at the chance to make me feel insecure in my salvation, and there were many nights when I laid in bed and worried about whether I really knew the Lord. If I did, why couldn't I be disciplined in my time with Him? Why didn't I feel "fired up" for Jesus all the time? Why didn't I hear Him speaking to me? Maybe wasn't saved.

One day, I talked to Garrett about how I was feeling. What if I was like those that Jesus describes in Matthew 7:21, saying "Lord, Lord" but not really knowing Him? What if I thought I was a sheep, but I was really a goat (Matthew 25:31-46)? My husband was quiet for a moment, and then he said something so profound (which I will paraphrase): Jesus Christ saves us by grace through faith. Our faith is the acceptance of that grace which He bestowed on us when He took our sin on the cross. If we believe that He can save us, then we must keep trusting that He did save us. What I was feeling wasn't the conviction of the Holy Spirit over my lost state, but fear that Jesus hadn't really saved me. 

"For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment." 
-2 Timothy 1:7

When I stop and really think about it for any length of time, I know I have a relationship with Jesus Christ. He is my first love, the love of my life, my everything. I want to know Him and be like Him. And I have heard from Him many times (just not audibly). I think sometimes, when you get saved at an early age like I did, you have a hard time discerning your spiritual state because there isn't much of a life "before Christ" to contrast it with. God has been showing me lately that since surrendered my heart to Him, I have been trying to be Jesus in my own life. Not merely that I have tried to be like Jesus, but that I have been attempting to do in my own power what only He can do. The problem is not that I have been trying to save myself (because only Jesus can save), but rather that I have been trying to sanctify myself. Instead of letting go and letting God make me into the image of His Son, I just "try harder" to be like Christ. In my own power, that's impossible.

So if I really am a follower of Christ, why is it that I keep struggling to do what is right? Why can't I just spend time in the Word and pray like I'm supposed to already? Why can't I feel super close to God all of the time? Well, one reason is that I want to do it because I'm supposed to. There's no joyful desire in my heart to do it "as unto the Lord" because I can't will myself to desire the things of God. I can't even make myself want God! It's God who enables me to want what He wants, love what He loves, hate what He hates, and feel close to Him. Until I let him have control of my heart and life, I'm not going to want to do any of the things that Christians should want to do. In Romans 7, we see that Paul struggled with this as well:

"For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate...For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but it is the sin that lives in me. So I discover this principle: when I want to do good, evil is with me. For in my inner self I joyfully agree with God's law. But I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh, to the law of sin." -Romans 7:15, 18-24

Another reason that I keep struggling, I think, is simply because I'm a sinner. I've been saved by the grace of God through Christ's death on the cross, but there is still sin in me. My flesh (which desires what is evil) wars with my spirit (which now desires what is holy), and until I'm living in eternity with Jesus, I will continue to struggle. Sanctification doesn't fully happen in this life, but we do get started on the journey after we give our hearts to the Lord. In the meantime, I will continue to struggle with sin.

I think the remedy for my problem is this: Look to Christ. I focus far too much on how godly I want to be, and how I want my Christian life to look, and I forget the most important thing. Jesus Christ loves me, died for me, saved me, and is sanctifying me! The Creator of all things wants a personal relationship with me! Instead of worrying about whether something is crossed off of my Christian check list, I need to sit back at the feet of Jesus and just be with Him. When I really take the time to know the Lord, He'll place the right desires inside of me. Yes, there will come a point when I have to be disciplined (real relationships require effort from both people, after all), but the focus won't be on my failures anymore. The focus will be on the beauty and majesty of God Himself.

"While they were traveling, [Jesus] entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lord's feet and was listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, 'Lord, don't You care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand.' The Lord answered her, 'Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.'" -Luke 10:38-42

"I have asked one thing from the Lord; it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the Lord and seeking [Him] in His temple." -Psalm 27:4

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Weathering The Storm

My heart ached yesterday. 

I had just learned that someone I knew was going through a difficult time. This wasn't just your standard "woke-up-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-bed-and-I-need-chocolate" kind of time, but the "terrified-because-life-is-the-hardest-it-has-ever-been-and-I-feel-like-dying" kind of time. It seems like every week I hear another story of a person or family experiencing hardship, and while I can't truly understand what each of them are going through, I hurt deeply with them. The worst part is that as much as I want to make things better for them, I am powerless to change their situation.

In those moments when darkness seems to surround us and terror seems to choke us, it's easy to think that life will always be like this, that things will never get better, and that what we feel now is what we're always going to feel.

Frustrated. Forsaken. Desperate. Fearful. Hurt. Beaten. Betrayed. Weary. Guilty. Angry. Helpless.


We can't imagine that there's any happiness, peace, restoration, or blessing in store for our future and we wonder how things could possibly change or get better. But isn't that what the enemy wants? For us to feel less and less hope until we're clinging to what's left of our faith as if we're hanging by a thread? For us to despair of our lives and shout into the darkness, "Where are you, God?"

Where are you, God?

For the last few weeks, I've been memorizing a verse of Scripture. At first, I wasn't sure why the Lord brought this verse to my attention, but maybe it's not for me. Not yet. Maybe today, it's for you.

"Be strong and courageous; don't be terrified or afraid...For it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you." -Deuteronomy 31:6

Where is God? Right here with you. He understands like nobody else can. He feels your pain, and suffers with you. Every new day is proof that this isn't the end. He's on the move, and He's working all things together for your good. The storms that rage in the sky don't make the sun or stars go away. They make it hard for us to see for a while, but we can be certain that the storms will clear and we'll see the light again. Stay strong, friend; not in your strength, but in the strength of Jesus Christ. Don't lose hope. Don't give up. If your faith is hanging by a thread, then you keep clinging to the end of that thread.

This is not the end. The light is on it's way.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What's Up With Prayer?

"Now this is the confidence we have before Him: whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for." -1 John 5:14-15 (HCSB)

Today I started reading Praying for Your Husband from Head to Toe by Sharon Jaynes. "Prayer" was the one word I picked to focus on this year, so when the opportunity arose to read this book, I couldn't pass it up. I've only read the first section of part one, but already I am encouraged by the book. It's also made me aware of my own ignorance about prayer. I've always felt that prayer was the most valuable and most neglected resource that we have as Christians, even though I don't yet understand why. 

As I read through the pages of this new book, I couldn't help wondering what prayer actually is, and why it's so important. I used to teach Sunday school to a group of 6th grade girls, and I know I taught at least one lesson on prayer. We sat around the table together, and I remember feeling inadequate to teach that lesson because I struggled so much to comprehend it myself. I don't remember much about what was said, but I do remember saying something about how prayer was having a conversation with God. That's true, at least in a sense, but now I'm second-guessing myself. Yes, prayer is a conversation with God. But I can't help but think that "conversation" is not the best word for that. After all, we don't pray to our husbands or the people around us. We only ever pray to God, though we converse with all kinds of people. Surely then, prayer must be so much deeper than that. I can't help but think that prayer is more than just thanking God and asking Him for things.

The Word of God has so much to tell us about prayer. Jesus taught us a pattern in which to pray, Paul gave us things to pray about, and John said that God hears our prayers and will give us whatever we ask for in His name, according to His will. Scripture clearly illustrates how wonderful and essential prayer is. Prayer changes things. But with all that is said about prayer in the Bible, why does prayer seem so foreign and complicated to me? Why do I sit down to talk to God sometimes and struggle to find words? And if it's so crucial for me as a Christian, why is it so easy not to pray at all, or deceive myself into thinking I can get by just fine without it? These are questions I don't have answers for right now, but I am searching.

Something else I wonder is why does prayer work? I know it does. Scripture records countless instances of prayers being answered (sometimes before the prayer is finished), and my own experience has shown me the power of prayer. What's actually taking place when I pray, and why does something happen as a result? I don't always get the answer I'm hoping for, but I always get an answer. Thinking about this made me look back at the many prayers God has answered, and I had a thought. My most memorable and powerful experiences with prayer came not when I got something that I wanted, but when my heart leaned in to God. There were moments that I had no control over my circumstances, and when I let go and trusted God to move in His timing and His way, I experienced His power and love like never before. 

What if prayer has more to do with my heart than my words? What if sometimes the answer to my prayer isn't that my situation changes, but that I do? There's something about coming before God and acknowledging that He's the one in charge and reminding myself of how desperately I need Him every nanosecond of every day. So many times, I hear stories of wives praying for the salvation of their lost husbands and God answering their prayers. I think I tend to assume the wife's prayer is what God used to change her husband's heart. What if God used the wife's prayer to change her own heart, and the husband witnessed the love of Christ in her as a result? What if the wife's act of leaning into God was the vehicle by which God drew the husband to Him? Is prayer more about God doing something in us and to us than about doing something for us? 

Words seem to fall short as I try and express my deep and gnawing hunger to better understand prayer. I know this post is a disorganized mess, but sometimes I just have to write what I'm thinking as I think it. How can something be both simple and complicated? The glories of God truly are unfathomable and magnificent. As I walk through life hoping to find answers to these and many other questions, I hope you'll walk with me and share what you learn along the way!

What Do You Think?
  • What is prayer for, and why is it important?
  • What does your prayer time look like?
  • Do you have any thoughts or questions about prayer? Please share them below!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

23 Important Things My Parents Taught Me

Can I just say that my parents are amazing? It really is true, and thinking about it makes my heart hurt because I'm painfully aware of how often I forget that fact. God, in His goodness, hand-picked two flawed, sinful human beings to bring me into existence and raise me, and there isn't a single person I would choose to replace either of them as my parents. It struck me recently that I've spent too many years focusing on their flaws instead of their virtues, and I want to fix that right now. When I sat down at my computer a little while ago, I realized that they really were and still are GREAT parents. Perfect? Nope. But nobody is (especially, as I'm quickly finding out, not me). Though there are probably things they would choose to do differently if they had a do-over, I want to stand up and testify that they did a lot of things right. It didn't take very long for me to remember some of the great lessons they've taught me that helped shape me into the person I am today, and even now are shaping me into who I will be tomorrow. So thanks, Dad and Mom, for being such awesome parents, and for training me up in the way I should go. Here are 23 important things that my parents taught me (conveniently, one for every year I've been alive):

23. A Different Opinion Isn't A Personal Attack
As a teenager, I would get into arguments with my friends about everything from politics, to theology, to video games. It wasn't a friendly debate, either; I would get really fired up when they had an opinion that was different from mine. It turns out I was very arrogant, and I was certain that everything I believed about everything was correct and everyone else was wrong. Which, of course, was ridiculous. I remember Mom sitting down with me and explaining that it's okay if someone thinks differently than I do, whether they're wrong or I am (or we both are). I don't have to take someone's differing opinion as a personal attack, because it simply isn't one. And even if they were attacking me, it says more about them than it does about me! So now, if I'm discussing beliefs with other people, I sit back and try to learn something. Because there's a good chance that I've gotten it wrong somewhere, and getting other people's perspectives about things will help me to realize it.

"The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice." -Proverbs 12:15 (ESV)

22. The Right Thing Is Often the Hardest Thing
When I was a child, I somehow had this idea that making the right choices in life would be easy. I learned very quickly that was not the case. In fact, almost every time I've chosen to do the right thing, it's been really difficult. One thing I didn't count on was the solitariness that comes with taking a stand. Aside from my family, I really didn't know anyone else who was making the difficult choices that I was making at the time. Without their support and encouragement, I know I would have faltered. Doing the right thing has almost always proven to be hard for me, but it's always been worth it.

 "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." -John 16:33 (ESV)

21. Treat Others the Way You Want to Be Treated
Many people have marveled over the close relationship my brother and I share with one another,
and I can attribute it almost directly to this simple saying. When we were younger, I would tease my brother about things or argue with him over whose turn it was to play the N64. My mom would take me to the side, look me in the eyes, and say, "Sara, are you showing love with your behavior? Would you want him to treat you that way?" Of course the answer was always no, and as I got older, it really began to grieve my heart when I would be selfish or hurt my brother's feelings. When I really took the time to consider how it would make me feel if our positions were reversed, I no longer enjoyed teasing or arguing. His feelings began to matter more than my desires. This principle expanded beyond the childish arguments and selfish attitude as I grew older, and I can still hear my mom's voice today in various situations asking me if I would want to be treated the way I am (or the way I'm considering) treating someone else. 

"Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." -Matthew 7:12 (NKJV)

20. Honesty Is The Best Policy
When I would do something wrong, my parents would always tell me that if I was honest with them, then I wouldn't get in trouble. This didn't always stop me from trying to cover up the truth with a lie anyway, but it taught me the importance honesty. As an adult, I've found that being honest is essential to building and maintaining healthy relationships. Honesty should be loving, of course, and sometimes the truth hurts; but it's better to be hurt by the truth than destroyed by a lie. Being honest builds bridges by which to move forward, while lying sets painful traps for you to fall into later.

"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, 
that is, Christ." -Ephesians 4:15 (NIV)

19. Anything Worth Having Is Worth Waiting (and Working) For
Growing up in a culture that demands instant gratification, this concept was a challenging one to grasp. But now I can speak from experience and say that delayed gratification makes me appreciate things more, and enjoy things more when I work for them rather than being handed everything I want. The most precious gifts I have, I spent years of my life waiting or working for, and I wouldn't trade those years of toil for anything.

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, 
if we do not give up." -Galatians 6:9 (ESV)

18. Laughter Really Is The Best Medicine
When I look back over my childhood and the beginning of adulthood, laughter is one of the first things that comes to mind. My family - both immediate and extended - really knows how to make people laugh! Whether my dad was putting balloons under his shirt and popping them against his skin, or my mom was getting tickled at nothing (seriously, nothing) to the point of crying and snorting, both of them excelled at laughing and making me and my brother laugh. There have been too many times to count when we would all get sucked into a laugh attack, and those were some of my happiest moments. The saying is absolutely true, and if you don't believe me, go and watch this video.

"He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with a shout of joy." -Job 8:21 (HCSB)

17. Respect Those In Authority (Even If You Don't Agree With Them)
Mom was always so good about this. If Dad did something I didn't agree with, she made sure that I still showed him respect. If a pastor, teacher, congressman, or president made choices that were contrary to God's Word, we were always encouraged to speak respectfully to or about that person, even if we didn't like what they were doing. We are all made in the image of God, and God Himself appoints our leaders. If those are the only reasons to respect someone, they are still good enough reasons. 

"Submit to every human institution because of the Lord, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority, or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For it is God's will that you, by doing good, silence the ignorance of foolish people." 
-1 Peter 2:13-15 (HCSB)

16. Save More Than You Spend
It sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how few people actually follow this advice. "Our" money is not really ours, but the Lord's, so we need to make sure that we're using it wisely. When I was younger, my dad worked for himself, and therefore didn't know when or from where his next paycheck would be coming. We had to be careful not to live beyond our means. Growing up in that kind of environment taught me the importance of saving.

"You may say to yourself, 'My power and my own ability have gained this wealth for me,' but remember that the Lord your God gives you the power to gain wealth, in order to confirm His covenant He swore to your fathers, as it is today." -Deuteronomy 8:17-18 (HCSB)

15. Take Charge of Your Education
We were homeschooled, and I loved it. But whether my mom gave me tons of school work, or a little, I'm the one who had to do it. She couldn't make me learn it or remember it, enjoy the work, or go beyond what was expected of me. That was up to me. I can't sit back wait for someone to teach me a new skill or help me out with something challenging; I have to initiate it myself. My parents' decision to educate us at home helped me to be more independent and creative with my education. Thanks to their guidance and encouragement, I'm very much an autodidact. If I want to learn about something, I go and find out about it for myself. 

"Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them." -Proverbs 4:5 (NIV)

14. Don't Play the Comparison Game
The grass isn't always greener on the other side, and my grass would be greener if I watered it regularly. Everybody has their own idea of what is beautiful, so trying to live up to one standard of beauty when we were all created uniquely by God is a losing battle. God never messes up. He gave each of us our own shapes, hair colors, expressions, feelings, and finger prints. Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves because we aren't like so-and-so, we should rejoice in the truth that God doesn't make trash. Everything He creates is a masterpiece that is very good, including you and me.

"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth." -Psalm 139:13-15 (ESV)

Comparing what we have to what someone else has is a losing battle too. I shouldn't desire the possessions or lifestyles of others, because if I had those things, I might find out that they weren't worth the sacrifices that it took to obtain them. Stuff doesn't last, and it doesn't make us happy. Boyfriends, husbands, and children don't make us happy. Sure, they can add to our happiness, but if we believe temporal things are the source of happiness, then all we will find is disappointment and disillusionment. True happiness, joy, and fulfillment come from Christ alone. Anything else is a counterfeit. 

"Do not store up riches for yourselves here on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and robbers break in and steal. Instead, store up riches for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and robbers cannot break in and steal." -Matthew 6:19-20 (GNT)

13. Bottling Up Emotions Won't Make the Problems Go Away
As I child, I preferred holding in my frustrations rather than risk hurting someone's feelings (or if I'm honest, exposing my own feelings) by talking about them. What I didn't understand at the time is that not dealing with something doesn't "keep the peace," and it fails to resolve the issue. If left alone, those emotions continued to build up inside of me until I couldn't hold them anymore. When they did finally come out, they always caused more pain than if I had talked about them in the first place. Now that I'm an adult, I try and work through any problems as quickly as possible. There's a right and wrong way, time, and place to do that of course, but whatever issues I have are resolved instead of continuing to grow larger by being held inside. Most if not all of the things I've struggled with as a grown woman would not have existed in my adult life if I had learned to communicate my feelings well as a young woman.

"Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, For anger rests in the bosom of fools." 
-Ecclesiastes 7:9 (NKJV)

12. Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover
I've found that the outward appearance rarely depicts the inner person accurately. Some of the dorkiest, weirdest, and most unusually dressed men and women that I've met have turned out to be the most amazing and inspiring people. Don't let crazy clothes, tattoos, creepy piercings, or brightly colored hair keep you from reaching out and getting to know someone. They could be the best friend you've ever had! In the same way, the quiet, seemingly-normal, modestly dressed person can be the goofiest, most interesting person you've ever met. 

To turn it around, be sure give other people a chance to know you if you are the person that is being judged based on your outward appearance. Let people in. If your outward style doesn't quite match up with who you are inside (and even if it does), don't be surprised if others get the wrong idea about who you really are. Give someone a chance by sharing your thoughts and interests with them and asking about theirs. And remember that just because it looks like a person is judging you, it doesn't mean they really are (who is judging who now?).

"But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." -1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

11. You Can't Control Other People, But You Can Control You
I can't tell you how many times I've heard my mom say this, whether it was to me, my brother, or to herself. Unless I decide to live under a rock or in a fantasy land, then I will run into other people who are just as sinful as I am. Only God knows how they're going to act or what they will say, and whether it's kind or cruel. I have no control over them, but I do have control over myself and how I respond to they say or do. Some people are just jerks, but fortunately I can choose not to be a jerk as well. I'm not going to be responsible before God for how someone else chose to behave, but I will be responsible for how I chose to behave.

"A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls." -Proverbs 25:28 (ESV)

10. Live For Today, While Planning For Tomorrow
Life is short, and none of us are promised tomorrow. We may very well be here tomorrow, though, and that requires some preparation. We need to eat every day, so we buy food, and we work to have money to buy that food with. My parents taught me that today is special and should be lived out to the fullest, but also that it's important to prepare for the future God may choose to give to us. Preparing for the future doesn't mean I shouldn't trust God for all things, but it does mean I need to put effort into today so that there is provision for tomorrow. It's possible to focus too much on potential tomorrows and not enough on the beauty of today. And it's also possible to focus too much on today while neglecting the needs of tomorrow.

"Complete your outdoor work, and prepare your field; afterwards, build your house." 
-Proverbs 24:27 (HCSB)

9. It's Better to Give Than To Receive
God blessed us countless times when I was growing up, meeting both our big needs and our trivial wants. I can honestly say that, although we weren't millionaires, we never lacked anything we needed. Sometimes God would put us in a position to be able to bless others, either financially or materially. Watching the joy that Mom and Dad had when they would give to others deeply affected me, and I quickly grew to love giving. It's always nice when I get a present, but it doesn't come close to the pleasure that I get when I am able to give to someone else. So many people cling tightly to their possessions for fear of losing them, but they don't realize that the happiness their "stuff" gives them falls utterly short of the happiness they would experience if they let go and gave to others.

"One person gives freely, yet gains more; another withholds what is right, only to become poor."
 -Proverbs 11:24 (HCSB)

8. Do Everything With Excellence
Both of my parents taught us this, and my dad really went above and beyond with living out this principle at work. Whether it was something big or small, easy or challenging, he would always give 100%. That didn't mean he did things perfectly, but it meant he did them well. Mom and Dad didn't expect us to be perfect, but they did expect us to do all things in excellence. Half-heartedness just wouldn't cut it. They taught us that both success and failure could be handled excellently. Even today, I'll be folding clothes or cleaning the house, and the word "excellence" comes to mind, reminding me to give my best effort in all that I do. Most of the time, nobody notices the extra effort. But God always notices, and it honors Him when we work hard in life for His glory.

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 
-1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV)

7. You'll Be Held Accountable Later, So Be Accountable Now
Accountability isn't a pleasant concept for a lot of people. They don't like to think that they will have to answer to someone for their thoughts, words, and actions. Regardless of whether or not I want to be held accountable, I'm going to have to stand before God one day with my entire life laid bare. That's the purpose of being held accountable now. When I started seeing the man I eventually married, my parents would sit down with me after we had gone somewhere and ask me about our evening. They would ask if I conducted myself properly, and if I honored God with my behavior. They would also ask if I had kept my commitment to save my first kiss and my body for marriage. The knowledge that I would have to look them in the eye and answer their questions after a date prevented me from falling into sin and compromising various commitments I had made to God and my future husband.

As a Christian, I've been called to a higher standard of living. When I ask someone to hold me accountable (or they choose to without a request), it's for my benefit. Accountability helps me to stay on track in my relationship with the Lord. It reminds me of my goals, and of the direction I am moving in. Without accountability in my life, it becomes significantly easier for me to fall away from the heart of God. In spite of what you might think, being accountable to someone doesn't mean they are constantly checking up on you to make sure you haven't slipped up (and scolding you if you have). It means that someone who cares about you is helping you stay focused on the choices that are going to strengthen your relationship with Christ and encourage your growth in Him. Accountability helps us to stay alert in the spiritual battle we are all a part of.

"Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another." -Proverbs 27:17 (ESV)

6. Give God His 10%
My parents always amazed me, because whether they experienced financial blessing or hardship, they would still tithe and God would provide whatever was lacking. Giving God His 10% was always the highest priority that my parents had in the area of finances, and He never let us go hungry. Does God need our money? Nope. But when we're obedient to God in the area of our finances, we put ourselves in a position to receive His blessings. He urges us to test Him in the matter of tithing to see if He won't provide for our every need, and bless us beyond our imagination.

"Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this," Says the Lord of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it." -Malachi 3:10 (NKJV)

5. Be Faithful in the Little Things
Growing up, we were always taught the importance of being faithful in the little things. God uses the little things to prepare us for the big things. If we aren't faithful with the trivial, we won't be faithful with the significant. If we prove to be faithful in the little things, then God will trust us with bigger things. Mom and Dad encouraged me to be faithful with things like studying Scripture, cleaning house, and cooking meals. Now that I'm grown and responsible for my own household, I find that accomplishing those things is much easier than they would have been if I had neglected them as a child.

 "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much." -Luke 16:10 (NIV)

4. Life Is Precious
This was the very first lesson my mom ever taught me, and I wasn't even born yet. Mom got pregnant with me when she was 17 and still in high school. People all around her were telling her to have an abortion, but she felt that God wanted her to do the hard thing and keep me. Miraculously, the Lord brought my parents together again (they broke off their relationship at the beginning of the pregnancy), and they married a few weeks after I was born. Mom gave me a chance at life when everything seemed uncertain and when she could have taken the easy way out. God has done such an incredible work in all of our lives since then, and I couldn't be more thankful that He gave my mom strength to do the right thing.

"For Your faithful love for me is great, and You deliver my life from the depths of Sheol." 
-Psalm 83:13 (HCSB)

3. Your Life Has a Purpose
Not once did I ever feel like my life was meaningless when I was a child. My parents always told me that God had created me for a reason, and that He had a plan for my life. They said I was important, and that I mattered. The fact is, we're all created in the image of God, and He cares about us. Jesus died for all of our sins - past, present, and future - and if our lives had no purpose, what would be the point of His sacrifice? He formed you Himself. He breathed life into you at conception, and had all your days and hairs of your head numbered before you were a thought in your mother's mind! Even if everyone else is telling you otherwise, know that God has given your precious life a purpose. You are important to Him, and He literally thinks you're to die for!

"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." -Psalm 139:13-16 (ESV)

2. You Are Valuable to God
It seems like so many people believe their worth lies in what they do, who they're with, how they look, or what position they hold in life. They believe that if they fail in one of those areas, then somehow they lose their value. My parents taught me that my value doesn't lie in the external or the material. My value, and yours, lies in Christ. We are valuable to Him, so much so that He sacrificed Himself - defeating death and sin - to redeem us from slavery and eternal punishment! He gave up everything for us, with all of our ugliness, our shortcomings, our sins, and our flaws. We are worth so much to Him. Don't be fooled into thinking your value lies in something else. Christ paid a costly price for you, and you are His treasure and prize!

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny ? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." -Matthew 10:29-31 (NIV)

1. Jesus Is Worth Trusting
This, above everything else my parents taught me, is the most important thing I could have learned. Whenever we faced trials, separately or as a family, Jesus was there every time. And when I would forget that, my mom and dad would remind me. They would encourage me to keep trusting Him, because He was in control and He had a plan. Through all my struggles, my doubts, my hurts, my longings, my fears, and my sins, Jesus has always proven worthy of my trust. He's never forsaken me or my family, and not once have I ever regretted putting my trust in Him. He hasn't always worked out things the way I expected or wanted Him to, but His way has always been the best way. Jesus is worth trusting. But don't take my word for it. Take His!

 "Those who know Your name trust in You because You have not abandoned those who seek You, Lord." -Psalm 9:10 (HCSB)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I Am A Lazy Christian

I am a lazy Christian.
     Look closely, and you'll see:
I long to better know the Lord
     But with little work from me.
My Bible sits neglected
     On the nightstand by my bed.
And when I could be praying,
     I choose to watch TV instead.

I am a lazy Christian,
     And I love my comfort-zone.
I could be out sharing God's great love,
     But I'd rather be left alone.
I'm fine with giving offerings
     And money to the church.
But don't ask me to give my time
    'Cause that costs more than it's worth.

I am a lazy Christian.
    I'm friendly on Sunday;
But when Monday rolls around,
    You'd better not get in my way.
Don't take too long in line,
     And don't interfere with my pleasure.
Don't cut me off while on the road,
     Or you'll get an obscene gesture.

I am a lazy Christian,
     And I know to watch my mouth.
But if I hear some juicy news,
     Words just make their way out.
I gossip about both friend and foe
     When they are not around.
It doesn't matter that to Christ,
     It's not a pleasing sound.

I am a lazy Christian.
     I say that I hate sin.
Yet every time I'm tempted,
     I choose the wrong thing once again.
I know that it's not what God wants,
     And my guilt grows inside.
But instead of being obedient,
     I choose to rationalize.

I am a lazy Christian
     Who wants God's love to satisfy,
But He won't be enough for me
     While human love is still close by.
I ask Him to write my love story,
     But won't surrender Him the pen.
So instead of giving Him my heart,
     I let someone else break it again.

I am a lazy Christian,
    And of my laziness, I tire.
Instead of being lukewarm,
    I want God to light a fire.
Help me, Lord, not to be lazy.
    Rather, let me live for You.
And give me strength for which to do
    All that You've called me to.

I'm done being a lazy Christian,
     Your plans are much greater than mine.
Help me trust in what You're doing,
      And help me for You, Lord, to shine.
Let me live my life for Your glory,
      And surrender every day.
I don't want to write my story,
      Write it for me, Lord, I pray.

Let others see Your Son in me,
      I want to lead the lost to You.
And through me, Lord, reveal Your love
      In all I say and do.
For when my life is over
      And I walk into eternity,
I want to hear you say, "Well done, my child."
     And see You smile at me.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Sara's Thoughts - 1/07/2014

We're seven days into 2014, and I have a feeling that this is going to be a great year. 2013 was full of soul-searching for me, and I made a lot of discoveries about the state of my heart. It turns out there's a whole lot of sin in there (big shocker, I know). Seriously, the amount of ugliness residing there was overwhelming. There's a lot of anger and bitterness over things that shouldn't matter anymore, that I had supposedly "moved on" from. Also pride, self-righteousness, false humility, laziness, and fear.


Yesterday was a big turning point for me as I decided I no longer wanted those things to have a hold on me. I sat down and wrote out everything that was bothering me inside as it came to mind, and how I felt about it. Tears streamed down my face as I examined each sin I was guilty of. As I begin to put each of these issues to rest (hopefully for good this time), I'm reminded of something that the Apostle Paul wrote:
"Not that I have already reached [the goal] or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus." -Philippians 3:12-14
As long as I am dwelling on the past, I cannot move forward into the future that God has in store for me. Life is too short to live in the past. I want to live in the now, pressing on toward whatever my future holds.

Rather than making resolutions at the end of December (as I often have before), I decided to pick one word to focus on this year. After lots of thought, I chose "prayer" to be my word. Prayer is and always has been sort of an enigma to me. Though I struggle to understand and practice real intercessory prayer, I truly believe that it's the single most powerful and effective tool that a Christian could have in their spiritual arsenal. God's Word has a lot to say about prayer, and Jesus Himself taught us how we should pray with the assumption that we would be praying. I talk to the Lord every day, and at various times throughout the day, but I feel like I'm missing out on a real and intimate prayer life. I want more. I want to move closer to the heart of God and have confidence in my relationship with Jesus Christ.

Getting rid of filth in my life, learning about prayer, pressing on to what is ahead...yep, it's going to be a great year!

What Do You Think?
  • When's the last time you did some soul-searching, and what did you find?
  • Did you make any resolutions, or choose one word to focus on this year?