Thursday, December 13, 2018

Shades of Gray


I'm so tired of the polarization of society. I'm so tired of hearing people labeled as saints or Satan. Seriously! Can't we see that life exists in shades of gray? People are not all good or all bad! We are all created in the image of God, and all of our hearts are deceitful (Jer 17:9).

If I channel my Brene Brown and reflect on her book Braving the Wilderness, I'd say that the root issue of this polarization of society is fear. It's easier to pigeonhole people and label them than it is to accept that people are fallible, that they might disagree with us, that we might disagree with them. It is easier to see people as stagnant than as capable of growth, because then we might have to grow. 

Truth always exists, and there is a place for confronting lies and telling things like they are. But seriously, can we not let some things go?  I'm not saying we all have to agree. I just wish we could all get along and have some grace and appreciation of one another and our differences. I wish we could be authentic and genuine with one another without fear of recoil or backlash or getting sued for goodness' sake!

As a former black-and-whiter, I still have strong beliefs and preferences, especially when it comes to my faith in Jesus for salvation. But I don't want a Bible-basher, a polarizer, a labeler, a pigeon-holer. Rather, I want to see people as the intricately wonderfully created people they are, people capable of good and evil, people capable of growth and change and redemption. 

I know who I am. I know Whose I am. I don't need to be afraid. Because of that, I'm making an effort to see people in shades of gray,and the world in shades of color, for much of the beauty of life lies there.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Little Things

Acts of service and words of affirmation are my love languages. Or at least that's what the test said. But I've also realized that there are a lot of little things that matter to me, make me feel loved, and bring me joy. Some are about people doing things for me, and some are just about enjoying life. In no particular order of importance, here are a few of those:

Like handwritten notes















And apples


And unloaded dishwashers.

Like candles















And dark cocoa powder















And sturdy spoons















And sunshine.















Like coupon cutting 

And warm cups of tea















And soft blankets.

Like shining stars in the black night sky















And flashes of insight

And hugs from friends.















God is good. Life is good.

If I just appreciate the little things. When I appreciate the little things.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Good Enough

Coming home has been healing in a lot of ways. And the Spirit, by His grace, has revealed a lot of areas that I didn't even recognize needed healing. My mom the other day pointed out that it seems like the "real me" is coming out again, and I would have to agree.

It's been a long road for me to get here, one that I haven't ever shared all at once, and one I don't even know if I ever could. But I'll share that part of that road has been an obsessive focus on pleasing others. I never felt like I was good enough, and therefore I was always striving to perform, to achieve, to perfect. And it was exhausting. I didn't always even want to be better than others, I just wanted to be better. And specifically, I wanted to please my parents and prove to them that I was worthy of their love. Because I thought I wasn't.

I didn't realize the cost of my perfection until I graduated with my bachelor's degree, in three years, Summa Cum Laude (a GPA related honor). And my Dad said, "You sacrificed all that for this?" I thought my parents knew my GPA. I guess I assumed they'd been tracking it. I thought they cared. And guess what? My dad didn't know or care. My dad was more concerned with my physical and mental health, which was tenuous at best.


That moment was a wake up call. I'd thought all my life that I needed to impress my parents. And now that I had, I found out that what I'd done didn't really matter. And the longer I've been back at home, the more I've realized that the stringent expectations I had for myself growing up weren't my parent's expectations. They were mine. I was the one always trying to prove things. I was the one believing I wasn't good enough, that I wasn't loved. Guess what? I was loved all along.

So I'm starting to relax the expectations I have for myself. I'm starting to accept and acknowledge the love my parents have for me. I've stopped trying to be good enough and just started trying, by the Spirit's power, to do good, to see that life is good. It's been freeing.

Friends, do you believe that you are good enough? That God loves you just the way you are? Because He does. And Jesus gave His life to set you free. May you run towards that freedom today.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Many Boots of Sarah

I've been trying to appreciate the seasons more, even if their changes are a little bit hard for me. One of the ways I've been doing that is via boots. 

Wait, boots? You might ask.

Yes, boots. My job is such that I wear tennis shoes almost every day. But I like boots and have quite a collection of them. And as it gets colder, boots are more appropriate footwear. So I set out on a mission to wear a new pair of boots every Sunday. And I took pictures to document.

Leather cowboy boots


Tall boots (Similar to these, but without the heel)




Pirate boots (Similar to these, but in pleather, not leather, and much lower quality)


Leather boots*


Fuzzy boots*


Suede cowboy boots*


Heeled boots*

Eskimo boots (Similar to these, but with external fur, and bought for me almost 10 years ago)

*These boots weren't all mine. The asterisked ones are my mom's.

Maybe this was a silly project, but you know what? It helped. It gave me something to look forward to. It inspired me to mix up my wardrobe a little bit since I didn't want to wear the same outfit twice for pictures. I actually got excited about the cold the last Sunday, because it made it comfortable to wear my last pair of boots, which were very warm. It's the little things sometimes, and I enjoyed this little (or big?) project.

And no, I don't need more pairs of boots. I've obviously got enough....

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Ugly.


I generally try to present my best self on social media. I prefer pictures where my hair looks at least half done, makeup covers my blemishes, and I'm smiling. But that's not real life, friends. Some days, plenty of days, I barely comb my hair, have a face covered in acne, and am still wearing PJs or workout clothes by midday. I wouldn't say those things make me ugly, though. What makes me ugly is my heart.

People often think I'm a "nice girl" or a "goody two shoe" because I'm a rule follower. But guess what? My heart can be evil and wicked. I envy. I wish harm to people. I gripe. I moan. I discourage. I don't pray. I grasp for control. I worry. I curse. People don't always know all this, because these things generally happen inside me, but these sins are ugly. And often I act ugly. I have a short temper. I get easily irritated. I speak unkindly. I'm pessimistic. I'm not  or good company.

Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (New International Version) That is certainly true of my heart without Jesus. It is only because of Jesus and the redeeming work of the Holy Spirit that there is anything good in me. It is only because of being in Christ that I am metamorphosing into a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). 

I do want to be beautiful. Let's be honest, I want to be beautiful on the outside, but I recognize that is only superficial. What the Spirit within me desires is that I cultivate inner beauty, because that is what lasts. And so in a spiritual sense, I also want to be beautiful, to have a "gentle and quiet spirit" instead of worry and envy and discontent, to be brave and "not give way to fear" (1 Pet 3:4, 6). Because as I do these things, the ugliness of my heart fades, allowing the beauty of the Spirit to shine. And that is true beauty, a kind of beauty that lasts!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Calm



I went to a presentation of Handel's Messiah this weekend. Handel's Messiah has special importance to our family because it's based on Scripture and part of my mom's family Christmas tradition. The performance is special to Arizona because it only comes to our community college in Arizona every few years. I first attended on a random trip home, and I've been back several times since then.

Sometimes, I'm impressed by the presentation of the oratorio. Sometimes, I like the tympani or the horns or the strings. Sometimes the vocalists are amazing, and sometimes not so. Sometimes it's the glitz and glam that strikes me. Sometimes it's the size of the choice. But this weekend, what struck me was the calm.

The calm. It's very rare that I ever sit down for two hours straight and just relax. To be honest, it was a little hard for me to relax in the beginning. I had the program in my lap and was tracking the songs, and it seemed to be taking forever. I had the impulse to grab my phone out of my pocket and take pictures at several points, but I didn't want to be that person disrupting the dark by using a lit device. My jaw kept getting tight and I had to purposefully unclench it. But then at some point, I just let it all go, and I got relaxed, and calm, and sleepy.

Shauna Niequist writes in her devotional Savor about seasons of tiredness, when we get in such a habit of being productive, that we lose our ability to slow down. We consume all the time, and never stop. I think that has been me lately. But the Messiah forced me to slow down, to watch, to wait, to enjoy.

The experience of slowing down took time this weekend. Enjoying the Messiah took effort. But it was worth it. Getting calm is a practice, it seems, and one I probably need to practice more often.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Amazing


Someone told me recently that I'm pretty amazing. It was a nice compliment and one I really appreciated. But I had to caveat my reply by saying it's taken me a long time to get here.

I would never wish my struggles or pain or trauma or life experiences on anyone. I should also say that I haven't experienced a lot of the pains of life that others I know have. But my experiences are my experiences and I don't believe in comparing. God allowed me to my trials and took me through them, and I am SO thankful, but they still hurt.

Those who know me well know I've struggled with perfectionism and self hatred and self destruction. Those who have walked with me for a time know how hard it's been for me to focus on pleasing God instead of pleasing others. Those who've been in my life have watched me as I've fought to be honest with myself and others about what's really going on. They've seen me scream and cry and withdraw and fight. They've seen me struggle and stumble and grow.

I am where I am because of a ton of God's marvelous grace that I didn't deserve. I'm here because God saw fit to preserve my life even when I didn't see a purpose for it. I'm here because a lot of people fought for me by going to their knees. I'm here because of a lot of people who loved me when I was very unlovable.

Yes, I've had to put in some work of my own in this life, too. I've had to be accountable and go to therapy and practice self-discipline and confront sin and ask for help. But all I've done and the person I am really aren't what I'd call amazing. God's the amazing one and He gets ALL the glory!