Cling to the Rock

I have been following the coronavirus since it was beginning in China. I had wondered if it would come here, and if so would it be a concern. For the last month I’ve been the crazy lady saying that the “sky is falling” and yet here we are and it all feels so surreal.

My kids are home for the next couple of weeks (at least), church is cancelled, we’re social distancing, and the economy is falling apart at the seams. It’s hard not to be afraid, especially for a “worst case scenario” worrier like me. It feels as though our world is crumbling beneath us and it’s terrifying, but today I am reminded to cling to the Rock.

Two weeks ago I taught the kids at church the Bible parable about the wise and foolish man. It was a lighthearted lesson with LEGO figurines and houses, sand, a rock, water and lots of giggles as the kids watched me tell it. But as I was food prepping, God reminded me of how relevant it is today. To this very situation.

If you’ve never heard this parable here it is,

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27 

So basically, Jesus was teaching us that we need to build our foundation on God. Now how does this apply to today you may ask? We need to remember that! When the ground is shaking and we are afraid, we need to remember we are built on the Rock that is God and we need to cling to Him. We need to build and strengthen our relationship with Christ, so it can weather this season, just as we would build and reinforce our homes to weather any storm. And if by chance you haven’t built your foundation on the Rock, there’s no greater time than the present!

Will that give us immunity? Nope! I’m not one of those Christians who are going to preach about how God saves the faithful. Don’t get me wrong. We are saved, our souls are redeemed, but we are not immune to disease and death. God has not promised us immortality, so therefore we are not exempt from this. Good Christians have and will be infected. Faith filled believers have been and will continue to die, but what we as Christians have is hope! Hope in a God who loves us enough to hold our hand and guide us through the unknown. Hope because though there is so much uncertainty and all of this social distancing, with Christ, we are not alone, no matter how stormy life gets.

We don’t know what lies ahead. How many will be infected? What fate awaits us all, but we do know God is present and He is faithful. So when it feels like the ground beneath you is crumbling, remember to cling to the Rock, because when you do you can weather any storm.

Jesus Please Hold My Hand in the Dark

We’ve been going through a bit of a tough season lately. A season where we don’t know what’s next and it feels like we’re walking through the dark grasping for a hand to guide us. In this season everything feels fragile and I fear it may all fall apart.

God is here with us in this season, I know it. He is guiding us through. I see His work in the all the little things that are carrying us. A cheque from a friend that arrives at just the right time, the support and encouragement of another, and that day when my online job went glitchy and I had no choice but to finally rest.

I’m scared though, because sometimes I don’t feel God’s hand guiding me and as someone who is security minded, I don’t like walking through life in the dark. I want … scratch that, I need to know what’s next. I need to feel secure and stable.

Instead I find myself asking “why”. Why us? Why are we standing here and it feels like the ground is crumbling beneath us? Is it me? Do I lack faith? That last question is rhetorical. I already know the answer. I do lack faith, BUT I also know God isn’t punishing me for it. Sometimes I have faith that is baffling in bleak circumstances, but this thing called security, it’s my kryptonite.

It’s crazy really, because I often fondly talk about years ago when we were in transition between jobs and had more money in our bank account than made sense. It was literally loaves and fishes, and yet here I am panicking, a complete and utter wreck.

I’ve always believed that we need to trust God no matter what, but that can be hard to do when you know bad things happen to Christians too.

How do I have faith, when so much is at stake. And is God really faithful in every circumstance? The truth is yes. God is faithful in the dark. God is faithful when I can’t feel His hand. He is always there. I can’t say I have constant peace in this season. It comes in waves, and then fear creeps back in, but thankfully I can say that He does provide.

I’ve been here before. I’ve walked through the dark when I couldn’t see. I felt alone, abandoned even, but in the end I’m glad to say I saw He was with me. He works in ways I do not understand, and many times it seems to not make sense, but He guides me through it. Now on the days when it doesn’t make any sense I will cling to Matthew 6:26-27 where Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

If God takes care of the birds, then surely we can trust Him to takes care of us! So even though I’m afraid and my legs feel shaky, I will step forward trusting He’s there to guide me, even when I can’t see His hand.

Dear Friend,

I wrote this months ago in a tough season. I am happy to report that so much has changed and God has taken care of us in big ways. I decided to share this to encourage others who need hope in a difficult time. If that’s you, don’t lose faith! God is with you and even though you can’t see it, there is light around the corner.

Awe and Wonder

Today I will wake up to awe and wonder. To squeals of joy as my son opens the car track he’s been hinting at for months. There will be a lot of “WHOA!”, and “I always wanted a _______”, and “Thank you!!!”. I have spent the last couple of months carefully selecting special gifts in anticipation of this moment, and I will soak it all in.

I love these special Christmas mornings, but I confess I often get lost in all the giving and receiving. The morning exchange is only a small fraction of the awe and wonder of Christmas. There is so much more!

This year I’ve been trying to refocus. Trying to take time and really meditate on the true meaning of Christmas. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” I know that’s not your typical Christmas verse, but in my opinion it sums up the basics of the true meaning of Christmas. As I read it, a new perspective stood out. He GAVE His one and only son, not only did He give Him, He lived as one of us. THIS IS A BIG DEAL!

Have you ever been going through a tough time and felt like nobody understood you? Friends would try and offer their support, but you knew they didn’t understand. How could they? They’ve never been through what your going through! Not Jesus! He gets it!

Lost a loved one? So did Jesus. Scared? Terrified? Jesus has been there. Being bullied? Jesus knows exactly what that’s like. I could go on and on, but you get the point.

Jesus gets you! He understands, because God loves you so much that He sent His one and only son to be born in a manger on that special day that would change history.

Christmas is about so much more than our gift giving on Christmas morning. It’s about celebrating the birth of God’s son. A man who lived as one of us, and loves us. A man who understands us and has compassion for us. A man whose life represents hope for each one of us.

So today I’m filled with awe and wonder, because He lives!

Life Takes a Village

People say it takes a village to raise a child, but our society doesn’t seem to work that way. Don’t get me wrong, we support each other in little ways, but there also seems to be another side. Over my nearly nine years of parenting I’ve noticed a lot of comparison and competition. Under the surface though I see something else entirely. Beneath it all I hear, “I don’t have a village, so neither should you”.

I’ve heard it disguised in conversations more times than I can count, and it makes me sad. I know that I often want and need a village. Maybe you didn’t have one, or maybe at this moment you’re all on your own, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our very best to be a village for each other now.

In Luke 6:31 Jesus says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (NIV). When I think of this verse I think of a village. I know I could really use one. See a village isn’t just for the child, it’s for the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of each of us. So maybe it should be, “Life takes a village”. It takes a community of support and care. It takes people reaching out to each other to encourage them and walk with them through their darkest days.

The enemy wants us to live for ourselves, and try to do life alone. He lies to us and says, “Life is a competition. Show no weakness. You can do it on your own. Better yet, show them you can do it even better!” I’ve fallen for it before. Trying to paint a picture of the mom of four who makes it look easy. I’ve tried to earn my status in life by powering through, because that’s how it’s done. Truth be told though, on the inside I was drowning. I was trying to prove I could do it on my own, but really I was dying for a helping hand, and yet I felt so ashamed for it.

As I’ve listened to these conversations around me, touting independence and strength, I can’t help but wonder how many people are just playing the game too? How many are like me? Playing a role, and yet wishing someone would see through the act? Somehow over the years independence has become the definition of strength. Like the holy grail of life achievements is proving you can do it by yourself. Sometimes though, I can’t help but wonder if true strength is in admitting you are weak and you can’t do it on your own. Maybe strength is actually found in seeking community, for wisdom, encouragement, and support for when it’s too difficult to stand on your own two feet.

If you were treated how you wanted to be treated would you have a village? What would it look like?

I’d like to build a village. Not just to raise my kids, but to raise me up in hard times. I’d like to build a village where I can do the same for my people. I’d like to build a village where we don’t have to pretend like we know what we’re doing or we have it under control. Beyond that I’d like to go further, because talk is easy, I want to build a village where we go the extra step, to give each other just what we’ve needed to get through those tough days or weeks or years.

I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that’s what Jesus had in mind all along. The problem is the enemy tells us we can’t do it. We’ve got too much of our own to add in the needs of other people. He tells us that this world is everyone for themselves, but I’m tired of living that way.

So let’s drop the lone wolf act; leaving our comparison, competitions, and pride in independence behind. We can build a village, and together we can raise each other up!

Self Control for the Cranky Mom

This past Sunday was church AND our family photo shoot. Now maybe for you that would be fine, but for me it was a recipe for disaster. See we’ve got four kids and are church planters. That means every Sunday is crazy! Get up, get everyone somewhat presentable, try and maintain peace in the chaos, get out the door, set up, do church, manage a small child’s tantrum and/or tears, and finally tear everything down. Every Sunday it’s pretty much the same, and we handle it pretty well, but throw in family picture day, and for me, it was a lot!

I knew I would be a little stressed, but when I got up that morning I woke up cranky, and it was all downhill from there.

For starters I was awoken from my sweet slumber by my son losing his mind and yelling, “Mom! Mom! MOM!!!!”, all for me to get him his cereal. Ugh! Not the way I wanted to start my day. What followed was a series of whiny moments from my kids and and a general defiance to anything that required cooperation.

I would like to say that I was calm and composed, but you know by now that would be a lie. I was just plain cranky! My poor husband had to listen to me rant and freak out while I tried to wrangle our kids and get us ready for the day. Thankfully he was patient, kind, and self controlled, all things that I lacked.

I remember singing songs about the fruit of spirit as a kid. In Galatians 5:23 it says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” I gotta say, sometimes I find it to be really challenging to have self control as a mom. See sometimes motherhood is great, the kids are listening, they’re getting along, and things are just peachy! Then there are those other days. The ones where it feels like your working a bad customer service job. Seriously! It’s tough and sometimes I can feel like I’m on the cusp of losing my sanity!

So what I’m wondering is, how do you as a mom or just a human being have self control? I’d be a hypocrite if I said I have it figured out. When it comes to self control (as with many things) I fall into the “work in progress” category. I see my freak outs and ongoing issues with patience and all that, I even have some ideas on how to deal with it, but I really have to lean on Jesus and others to hold me accountable and help me out.

That morning as I was prepping things ready for church, I felt Gods gentle whisper, “They’re just pictures Sarah. They’re just pictures”. It was kinda ironic really. Here I am writing week after week about accepting yourself and living in reality, and I was literally going nuts over everyone looking perfect for this staged shoot. Yikes!

I’m so grateful though for grace, and a God who loves me enough to gently remind me of what’s important and adjust my perspective. Throw in a little wisdom from my husband and it helped me to process everything that was going on and try not to lose my poop.

I can’t say it was an instant fix for my mood and snappy self, but it did help. Sometimes I just need a little perspective to get out of my head. Maybe you do too. When all else fails, I recommend an extended trip to the bathroom to calm down. Bonus points if you can be stealth and disappear unnoticed.

At the end of the day, I was able to settle down and mostly roll with the punches. The pictures turned out great, and all was well with the world. Hopefully these photos will stand as a reminder to myself to calm down, because everything’s gonna be okay, even when its all seems a little too crazy!

Photo Credit: Lindsay Berringer Photography

Just as I Am

I am Hidden.

When I was in grade eight, I had a tough year in school, I was bullied, I was rejected, I was alone.

The next year someone I loved and trusted said to me, “I can kinda understand, you were pretty annoying that year”. I am scarred by those words. I have never forgotten.

Since then those words have served as a warning for me. They’ve propelled an inner lie, “Keep people at bay Sarah. They can’t handle too much of you. They’ll get tired and turn their backs on you eventually. It’s best not to get too close”.

Connection was risky. Distance was safe. The result though was loneliness.

I say “was” as if it’s a struggle from my past, but in truth it’s still very real to this day. I don’t trust people. I don’t trust them to love me as I am, and I don’t trust them to stay the course as I let them see me in my good and bad. The odd thing is that I think my best parts have also been the parts I worry about the most. See I’m bubbly and a fast talker, not only that, but I like to talk, like a LOT. People don’t always like someone whose chatty and bubbly at 7 am, especially when its natural and not a result of coffee.

It’s my default to quickly assume I’m too much for people, and I’m sure there are times when I am. Though sometimes I can’t help but wonder how much of the distance I feel with people is created by me. Maybe it’s not them rejecting me, but me hiding behind my walls. Me trying to protect myself from being hurt.

My husband sometimes says, “Don’t say no for people”. Now he’s never really applied it to this context, but as I mull over this connection issue of mine, I can’t help but think it fits perfectly. DON’T SAY NO FOR PEOPLE! Don’t say no for people when you meet them and don’t say no when you wonder whether or not to let them in. Risk discomfort and rejection in favour of genuine and quality friendships.

This blog is a step in the right direction for me. I am sharing my heart on these pages, and yet, it’s still from a distance. I can still see the struggle for me in my daily life. Friends that have stood the test of time, and yet barely know me. Cryptic conversations where I am longing to share my heart, but holding back so much because I just can’t bring myself to say the words.

Will they accept me? Will they love me? The real me, whoever that is, just as I am?

I know the one who loves me. His name is Jesus. He sees all of me. He understands me, better than I understand myself. He has held me in my darkest moments. When I struggle, He gently whispers to me and calls me to more. This is one of those moments.

The other day I was lounging in my jammies past noon daydreaming about this blog. I was lost in thought dreaming about what it might look like down the line. Maybe I’d find community with my readers and other bloggers like me, and who knows, maybe I’d get to go to a big fancy writing conference one day. My excitement was quickly overtaken with insecurity. I couldn’t get it out of my head that I don’t belong. See I am not polished like all those Instagram ready moms and bloggers. I can’t curl my hair into those beachy waves or apply anything but mascara, and I’m more a hot mess than the DIY mom. More than that though, I’m afraid to let people in.

Right now at this very moment I am very aware of just how hidden I am, and how much of a struggle that is for me. In fact my life is a tug and pull of wanting to be truly known and wanting to flee from any real connection.

I’m afraid of letting myself be known just as I am, but I cannot live this way anymore. I’m tired of being lonely and afraid, so I am choosing to drop my walls and connect. Not just on these pages, but in life.

True connection doesn’t happen over night. It takes time and investment, but I’ve got to accept myself first. Learn to love me just as I am, just as God made me, and live in that. Then maybe I’ll start with something simple like coffee with a friend and real, honest conversation. It won’t be easy, I might get hurt, but it’s a risk I’m taking.

Will you?

Overated Adulting

As a child I was so eager to grow up. Adults had it made in my eyes. They could watch MTV, eat a whole pack of raw cookie dough, stay up late, and buy whatever they wanted. It was obviously totally awesome. Or so I thought, but here I am “adulting” as they say, and it’s tough. If I had to choose one word to describe life as an adult, it would probably be overwhelming. Now I realize that sounds pretty intense, and its not all bad, I can eat a whole pack of cookie dough without getting in trouble with my mom, but I tried it once, and I didn’t feel so good. Seriously though, life can be overwhelming. There’s always something, to stress over.

Four kids, one husband, two jobs, volunteer work at church, bills, dishes, and oh so much laundry, always with the laundry *sigh*. Somedays its all a little much, and when it’s all a little much, I usually do one of two things. One, I panic and two, I procrastinate. It’s a skill really. I can procrastinate like the best, and my panic and worry fuels it, because I put off doing things so I can worry about not getting it all done instead. Crazy, I know! In the midst of all the craziness I seem to forget about God. I don’t forget that He’s here, just that He’s at work in my life. I try and take control of my chaotic life, instead of handing it to God. 

One example of this is with money. Recently we have been following the Dave Ramsey (aka money guru) method. This means budgeting, saving for everything, and side hustles (thus my second job). Its been great for us, and I’m so proud of the hard work we have been doing. We have been working hard and its been paying off, but instead of celebrating this victory and thanking God for how He has provided, I’ve spent countless hours panicking over how we will pay for the next thing. Dental bills, clothes, Christmas, next summers expenses even. This fear is so irrational. Josh and I have had seasons of our life where we have had loaves and fishes type moments, and way more money has been in our bank account than should have been. Right now though, life feels overwhelming. My to do list seems huge, our bills seem too high, our schedule is insane, and I’m exhausted. 

Life is hard, but I’m grateful that as I sat here panicking God reminded me that He is here, and He’s got it covered. It says in Matthew 6:25-27, 

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

My constant panic and planning doesn’t achieve anything, in fact it cripples me and slows me down. In verse 31 to 34 it goes on to say, 

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Isn’t that the truth! Each day has its own struggles to deal with, and yet here I am worrying about next year! God has always provided for me, He has done miraculous things in my life, and yet I seem to forget so quickly, so as I was sitting and spiralling in my thoughts God reminded me of what I needed to do with one simple word, SURRENDER. It’s a tough one for me. I’m not a productive control freak, but I am a control freak. I so desperately want to have all my ducks in a row, I want to know that everything is going to be ok. As an adult there are many things to worry about, so much pressure, but thankfully  I am not on my own. When I seek after God, when I trust Him, He will provide. Not just money (I’m not preaching the prosperity gospel here), but strength, encouragement, guidance, wisdom,  and energy for the daily grind. God is faithful, and He loves me, and I’m learning to surrender control to Him. It’s scary at times I’ll admit. Surrender takes trust, even when life seems to be a out of control, but I know I can’t do this adulting thing on my own, and I’m glad that today I was reminded I don’t have to. Now, if you have any ideas for my laundry, I’m taking suggestions, cause were drowning in it over here.

Grace in Progress

This past week I was preparing to run kids church, and I was mulling over ideas for Thanksgiving when an illustration came to mind. Picture life as a pair of glasses. Glasses that are shiny and new, but eventually get dirty and scratched. Before you know it, it’s hard to see. That’s what life is like. Life gets tough, and sometimes bitterness becomes our lens, but when we choose to be thankful to God through the pain, our vision becomes clearer, and we begin to see. Our perspective becomes positive because we choose to focus on the good.

As I was going to bed I was thinking about my lens. With some people, my glasses are filthy. I’ve been hurt, and I find it hard to forgive. I would say I’ve tried, but the truth is I really haven’t. If I had, I wouldn’t filter through my pain. If I had, I wouldn’t choose bitterness instead of hope and joy. As I rested my head on my pillow, God said, “That’s you.” I’m Sarah with the dirty glasses. Sarah who refuses to be thankful and see the good, because bitterness and anger is familiar. The scratches and the dirt on my glasses are easy to see through. Or so it seems.

God wants me – He wants us, to let go. To choose to be thankful in the little things and have hope. He wants us to give over our dirty lenses and let God wipe them clean. It’s not easy, that dirt feels safe to me, a cautionary tale to keep certain people at bay. “They haven’t changed”, I say, “They never will.” I convince myself that my filter is necessary, that it protects me, but if I believe in a God who loves me despite my dirt and sees the best in me in my worst of times, I must be willing to let God clear my vision for others. I must surrender my pain in return for joy, and I think He’s trying to tell me that as I do, I’ll have so much more to be thankful for.

I can’t do this in my own strength, grace doesn’t always feel natural to me, but as I surrender myself to God, He will show me how to love unconditionally. His grace will help me see the good in people and have compassion for them on their darkest days. Through Him I can overcome my pain and choose to love. That means the people who have hurt me and haven’t even noticed. It means extending grace to those who haven’t apologized or don’t feel the need to.

As comfortable as I have become in my bitterness, I want to surrender my pain to Christ. I don’t like who I am when I filter through my pain. I am cold and distant. I am closed off to progress and growth, because I am stuck clinging to the dirt in the past. What a horrible way to live. I know that God has called me to more, and if you can relate He wants so much more for you too. A life of unconditional love and hope for change. A new lens and a joyful outlook on life. I know it will take time for me, but as the Bible says in Luke, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, so I’ve got some work to do. I’m so glad that I serve a God who calls me to a higher standard, not just for the sake of it, but because it’s whats best for me. He knows my bitterness is like a weed that comes in and chokes out love and peace, and He loves me enough to call me out of that. So, here I am surrendering myself, and asking for a new lens, strength to see past my pain, and grace to extend when it hurts.

Rose Coloured Glasses

The other day as the kids were winding down before bed, one of them (who shall remain nameless) got angry and started melting down. I did everything I could to try and diffuse the situation, but in the end I had no choice but to put them to bed early. When we got upstairs they were distraught and still cranky, which any parent knows, does not make for an easy bedtime.

I laid down next to them and started to calm them down. After they settled I began to share all of the words that described them. Not the words that described them in that moment, but all the words that declared who they are, and who they are becoming. “You are kind, funny, smart”, I whispered. “You are compassionate, patient …”. As I continued to speak these words, God reminded me that this is what He does with us. When we are feeling the weight of our actions and emotions, when we are feeling frustrated, ashamed, and unworthy He says, “Sarah, she’s my kid. She’s amazing! She’s so sweet, and selfless. She is patient and wise.”

Even on my darkest days, my God, my Father whispers these words over me. He sees every part of me, and yet He defines me by my good parts. Some days He speaks words over me that don’t even describe me yet, but He knows that deep down they are there, so He tells me who I am. He sees me like a proud parent with rose coloured glasses. A parent who loves unconditionally and sees so much hope for a bright future. We all know that parent, the one whose endlessly bragging about their kid, even when it doesn’t make sense. That’s Him! He’s our number one fan, our advocate.

Parenting has been my most challenging adventure yet, but it has also been such a blessing. Over the years as a young mom, God has taught me so much about His character, grace and His unconditional love. I’m so grateful for these moments when He reveals Himself to me and I pray that each day I can hear His words over me. I hope that I can hear the voice of my proud Father louder than my own insecurity and shame and grow into who He tells me I am. I’m pretty certain that if you’ll listen, you’ll hear His words for you too.