One Year Later

This summer has been really, really sweet.  And it would be easy to write about what my family has been up to, but somehow, it’s harder to write about how I think and feel…it requires reflection and honesty and time.

But it’s good for me to make that space and time for myself to reflect, so that’s what the next few posts are going to be about—how I am, and what I’ve been thinking about and feeling lately.

Riley turned one a few weeks ago, which means it’s been one year since my “mom of two” journey began.  Man, what a humbling year.  The fatigue.  The constant feelings of inadequacy. The never-ending needs.  Laying myself down, over and over again.  Getting up morning after morning and praying for strength I knew I didn’t possess.  Messing up.  Getting it right. Messing up again.  Taking help.  Thanking God for help.  Wishing I didn’t need help. Enjoying the gift of my girls.  Resenting the burden of my caring for my girls.  Loving one moment.  Wishing the next moment would end.  I never felt one emotion for long.

As we approached Riley’s birthday, I started to realize that even though I had spent an entire year feeling inadequate and over my head, everyone was still alive and doing well one year later.  I had made it.  And that somehow, despite how hard it was, I was better than I was a year ago.  This year showed me many places where I am weak and need to grow—but along the way, I did grow, and that is something to celebrate.

photo-79So did the birthday girl! Isn’t she beautiful?!

I’m not the same person I was a year ago.  I am definitely more run down, which is a negative (I’ll talk about that in my next post).  But I’m also more focused, more intentional with my time and friendships, less concerned with outcomes and more patient with process, and less affected by worry and anxiety.  One year later, I’m more at peace with myself and my calling, even if I struggle with the implementation of that calling sometimes when the toddler moments strike and the baby needs me and the dog is barking and a client is calling wanting to talk for the eleventh time about the timeline of a grant proposal I turned in last week.

I have dreams of doing “big,” cool things for God’s kingdom someday—writing a book, doing some speaking, sharing some wisdom.  But I have to get wisdom first, and I feel challenged and encouraged that what I am doing every day in this stage of my life is the way to develop that.

I’m not a natural mom to two babies this close together.  It’s not easy for me, and the multitasking and casualness it requires is not the best fit for my personality.

But I’ve hung in there anyway because I want to be refined.  I want to do the hard work.  I want to dig in every single day with all that I have and serve and love those around me, even when it’s not natural.  I want to pursue wisdom and learn how the Lord wants me to live, and 99% of my days, I feel like I am actually doing that.  If I never get to do those “bigger” things, I’ll still be glad with how I spent my time and energy—on the biggest things there are—and I will still have lived a “big” life that I can be proud of.

I am more concerned with developing right character than a big calling.  And this year offered lots of opportunities to build character.

My exercise instructor said recently as the class struggled through an exercise, “if you’re shaking, that means you’re working.  If you’re shaking, you’re changing.”  I love this thought—that just because something is HARD doesn’t mean I’m doing it wrong, or that it isn’t getting me somewhere.  How naturally hard or easy something is isn’t really important.  What’s important is how I respond to the challenge: whether I keep trying and grow, or take the easy way out and stay the same.

Each August on our anniversary, David and I reflect on and write down our highlights of the year in a special journal.  This year, we wrote: WE SURVIVED.

222014-2015: no one in this photo is dead.  That sums it up.

We’re definitely not the same people that we were a year ago, and I am grateful for the growth.  But I am personally ready to move beyond subsistence.  Maybe 🙂

More in my next post!

A Prayer, A Protest

I’ve written before about how I didn’t think about race for a lot of my life—a luxury I didn’t understand at the time.  Having two children with visually obvious black heritage has taught me something different.

I was very aware of the racial differences between myself and my daughters at first, but over time, my day-to-day acknowledgment and awareness have abated because I am just so busy taking care of their daily needs.  I don’t have a lot of conversations related to my children’s heritage anymore, and I have learned to walk away from unsolicited comments or insensitive conversations with my hypothetical fingers in my ears.

Recent events remind me that I need to pay attention.  For my children’s safety.   

I have never hated because of race.  But some people do.

I have never moved into a neighborhood and wondered, “is someone peering out the window with hatred in their heart because of what we look like?” But it happens every day to people who look just like my daughters.

I look at mixed-race families and smile—to me, they look like the family of God.  But to some people, my family is an abomination.

IMG_2812

My innocence to these facts might feel more comfortable, but it’s also ignorant to the reality of what some of our country actually looks like, thinks like, acts like.  This is a country where people who look like me literally wave flags of prejudice—and care more about our right to do so than the sense of oppression it makes our brothers and sisters feel.  I don’t understand the hatred.  I don’t have to live in fear of it, either (and I don’t plan to).  But I have to be aware of it.

Oh, how I want more for our children.

When pondering what happened in Charleston, all I could think of was the interconnectedness Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. talks about in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail (which is fantastic reading):

“Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. 

…There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being ‘disturbers of the peace’ and ‘outside agitators.’ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were ‘a colony of heaven,’ called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be ‘astronomically intimidated.’ By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

…Was not Jesus an extremist for love: ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.’ Was not Amos an extremist for justice: ‘Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.’ Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: ‘I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.’ Was not Martin Luther an extremist: ‘Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.’ And John Bunyan: ‘I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.’ And Abraham Lincoln: ‘This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.’ And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .’

So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be.

Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

Lord, raise us up to be creative extremists in our churches, families, and communities.  Help us transform this stupid, messed up, full-of-potential world into a place that reflects Your love for all of us.

More Grace

We have had some REALLY good days lately.  The girls are in such a sweet spot.  We’re mobile, they’re getting along, we’re on a schedule (and they can deal with reasonable changes to the schedule,) I’m keeping up with work, I’m being active most days of the week, and our house isn’t a total disaster.

To get here, I’ve had to let some things go.

No part of our dinner last night was homemade (unless you want to count my impressive culinary techniques of “boiling water for pasta,” “microwaving vegetables,” and “opening a jar of pasta sauce” as home cooking). Clean laundry might sit in a hamper for a week.  This morning’s Target haul is still sitting in bags, unpacked, while I write this blog post.  I ate Zoe’s sandwich leftovers for lunch.  I haven’t sat down for a formal Bible study time since Sunday. Zoe excitedly shouted “Clifford!!!” at Barnes and Noble story time yesterday, and I think the other moms thought that she recognized him from the books—but it’s definitely from the show. I blow my coffee budget by one coffee a week every week.

But this is life right now.  And I’m writing this while I finish my cup of coffee, before I grade papers, before I put away the Target haul and wash the bottles and clean up from the morning—writing while my heart remembers the scene right before naptime:

I was dancing with my girls—both of them—to “Your Grace Is Enough.”

We probably listened to the song ten times.  Each time the song ended, Zoe would just keep dancing like the groove machine she is, saying “more grace! More grace!”, fully expecting that I would play the song again.

Zoe gets it. 

I spent so much of my life being afraid of failure.  I didn’t make the jump rope team in third grade, and literally never tried out for a sports team again.  In junior high, I was on a recreational swim team but I wouldn’t go to meets because the thought of trying my hardest and losing stressed me out too much.  I went through struggles in high school and college and hid them way too long.  And in 2006, I met the Lord in a place of desperate need and said I guess grace will have to do, because I have no options left.

I was the most reluctant grace recipient ever.  Like I GUESS I’ll take it, but man, I WISH I could have earned it.  If only You had given me more time before hitting rock bottom, I might have created my own grace and not needed You for it! 

I’m so thankful that God grows us over time and not all at once, because 2006 Sarah would have been majorly freaked out by 2014 Sarah with her sometimes stay at home mom, sometimes consultant, sometimes professor, sometimes hands-on and sometimes Clifford-on, “letting some things go to focus on what matters most” instead of “trying to be good at all the things” self.

In the past, I didn’t always apply myself fully because I didn’t want to try my hardest and not be pleased with the results.  I thought “grace” was an excuse for not trying.

Now I know that grace is the reason I CAN try.

Grace gives me the freedom to try my hardest and give my all, knowing that any results are up to God anyway and that failure or success don’t define me.

Grace gives me the freedom to stop trying in areas that don’t matter to me, and to focus on where God has called me, trusting that He will make all things work together for my good and that the responsibility of making life work is off of me.  Grace is letting go of my need for perfection and letting something better and more lasting define me and guide me.

Grace is dancing through life, living as the me that I was created to be, saying “more grace!”, fully expecting that more grace will come.

Because it will.

Open Spaces

Where have you been lately? someone asked me the other day.

Good question!

Here’s a recap of the last few weeks: we left our house due to some fairly extensive rodent issues, moved in with some friends from church down the street, moved again to a condo owned by some very generous (and vacationing) church members, hosted David’s parents for a few days at our borrowed condo, had David’s installation and ordination service at church (this is a big deal – go David!!!) and then Zoe and I boarded a plane for Minnesota where we are teen-sitting for my siblings.

I also started doing some contract grant writing, and David and I began looking at rental homes in case our house is not salvageable.

Oh, and I’ve gotten five (seriously, five) part time job offers in the last month.

I’m not a change-resistant person.  I truly get excited about change and growth.  But when change or the need to consider making changes is forced on me instead of being something I decide to seek out, it’s never the most comfortable feeling.

That’s why I haven’t been writing lately (apart from the mask story—I mean, that NEEDED to be told.) 

I’ve been working through the changes in my mind and heart, trying to sort out what God is up to and what He is calling me to.

It’s not my time to be here spouting wisdom about anything.  It’s my time to be as quiet as possible, to silence the anxiety that says I need to figure everything out and to listen to the God who actually HAS figured it out.  It’s my time to stop talking and instead to ask, seek, find.

Fortunately, I’ve been in Minnesota where the night life (and…life in general…) is not super bumpin’.  I’m taking advantage of it—soaking up the wisdom of good teaching, good books, time in worship, conversations and prayer with my best friend, and prayerful walks with Zoe through the trails and meadows here.  I’m singing “My Lighthouse” as we walk and “Open Up The Heavens” as I drive.  I feel God working in me as I surrender this time to Him and though I don’t quite understand yet what He’s doing, it’s enough to feel His presence with me and trust that He will sort it all out.

IMG_3418

My best friend has been part of a church plant for about a year, and I got to go with her to the church on Sunday.

I was thrilled to get to see where so much of her energy and passion have gone and to feel our friendship deepen as I experienced a huge part of her heart.  It was also personally refreshing to worship there—to feel that immediate connection with people who love God as fervently as I do, but to hear and see the Gospel a bit differently than how I see it most Sundays.  It was a reminder of how precious this gift of communion with God is and how I haven’t gotten close to plumbing His depths.  In my daily life, I may experience God in certain ways, but there is always more of Him to explore and new ways to experience Him.

The same can be said for my life.  It may have been going a certain way and I may picture it continuing that way, but there is always room for God to do something NEW, something different than what I pictured.  And I continue to want to step out of the way to allow Him to work.

John Calvin wrote, “the only haven of safety is to have no other will, no other wisdom, than to follow the Lord wherever he leads. Let this, then, be the first step: to abandon ourselves, and devote the whole energy of our minds to the service of God.”  

That’s my prayer…that I stop worrying about where I am and start saying “use me where I am or take me somewhere different.  I don’t care which! It’s up to you, God, and I trust you to lead.”

Coming soon, if I can articulate it: what God is doing in my heart in regards to parenting these days.