All posts by Sarah

a new year

A new year often means a fresh start. And it is. But for some, and for me this year, it is a reminder of another year that has passed. Another year spent waiting, looking… wondering.

Not that there weren’t many blessings and joys alongside the waiting. If it weren’t for them, perhaps I would’ve fainted.

I have been sustained in this place, but I am most certainly still waiting.

Waiting for what?

I wish I could say.

Almost four years ago, I was utterly betrayed by people I trusted. By people who claimed to love God even as they were throwing me out, hurling vicious and false accusations and turning a blind eye to the three years of full-time labor I had poured out. Labor that I was never paid for. Labor that I was promised compensation for.

Any one of those things would have been hard – but all of them?

And like Joseph, I have been waiting.

I have good days. And I have bad days.  And I’ve learned to cling, desperately, to God. Knowing that the actions of people – even if they call themselves Christians – often do not reflect His heart and who he is.

Betrayal is a symptom of a fallen world. And so I wait. Wait for vindication that only God can bring…

I’ve read the end of the book… He wins:-)

drinking and vulnerability

beer_10Hannah Graham is missing.

She’s a student at UVA. Went to a party. Got drunk. Got grabbed by someone and she’s been missing ever since. My heart hurts for her family. She didn’t deserve that. No one deserves to have something horrible happen to them…

But…

But…

I cannot hear about a tragedy like this without also running through the scenarios of “How Do I Avoid This Happening To Me Or Someone I Love”.

I think it’s a normal reaction…which is why I’ve been thinking a lot about drinking.

I lived 18 years of my life without Jesus. Which means I did drink and I have been drunk and I have made many poor decisions as a result of those things. The drinking I did when I was a teen was not because I loved alcohol. It was because I had an emotional hole inside of me that drinking and being foolish made me forget for a little while. I am so thankful that there were no such things as cell phone cameras or social media to instantly capture my stupidity and let it live forever on the Internet. (thankyouJesus)

I don’t drink now, at all. And this is not because I have some theological post to stand on. I don’t like alcohol. And I don’t like “losing my filter”. That “filter” keeps me from saying and doing things that are unwise, unhealthy and/or unkind. I speak too freely, and if you remember a little scripture about how no one can tame the tongue…

“When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.  Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” (James 3:4-5)

Seriously. The tongue is what is loosened when you drink. But that tongue loosening also brings with it this “muddy head” where you lose your power of decision making. This can mean everything from sleeping with someone to taking your clothes off to getting in a car to drinking too much to being kidnapped and killed.

Drinking puts woman at risk. Physically and emotionally.

Obviously, with Hannah’s case – we are looking at one extreme end of what could happen. But there are a thousand other things that can go wrong when you are impaired.

The Internet is full of a thousand forgotten stories and many have one thing in common – the girl was drunk.

There’s this one: a girl is raped and photos of the rape spread online. the guys thought it was funny to take advantage of the drunk girl.

And this one: a girl almost freezes to death because she passed out outside after her “friends” dropped her off at home.

And this one: a girl was assaulted by multiple boys and was documented on social media.

And for every one of the reports online, there are dozens that go unreported. Girls who wake up the next morning and can’t remember what they did or who they did it with. Countless girls who won’t talk about what happened to them until many years later at a therapy session because they are struggling with their relationships.

This is not emotionally healthy behavior. Let me repeat that. This is not emotionally healthy behavior.

Sorry to go all “Matt Walsh” on you, but I have a few opinions on the party line that our kids are (horribly and deceptively) told.

1 – “Kids Will Party” – Deal with it.

Yes they will. I am not in denial about that. But I don’t think that the kids who get blitzed at parties as regular recreation are the kind that have any kind of stellar future ahead of them anyway. CERTAIN kids will party. But those are not the role models we should be offering. There was a huge disconnect between the “partiers” and “non-partiers” at my college – and I contend, everywhere.

I came to college planing to party and was found by Jesus instead. And suddenly, my colleges goals changed. Partying lost it’s appeal. I didn’t quit because I felt like Jesus told me not to do it. I quit because I was finally whole – and didn’t crave it. I had purpose. I was fulfilled. And I believed there was something better for me.

And I’d say those things are the common denominator that separated the partiers from the non-partiers.

2 – Drink safely/Have a buddy

This is pretty much the “kids will drink anyway so as long as they do it safely…” idea. Which is pretty much hogwash, if you ask me. Have you ever tried to talk a drunk person into being reasonable and not doing something stupid? It’s kind of like trying to convince your cat to do the dishes. The mere idea that girls can safely get blitzed is flat out wrong. If you’re blitzed, your brain isn’t working correctly. It’s why we don’t allow people to drink and drive. If you’re blitzed, then you are at the mercy of the people around you. Many of which you don’t know. And having one sober person in your group is like putting one person in charge of herding cats. Basically a fruitless effort. A sober person usually cannot convince a drunk person of anything meaningful.

Getting blitzed puts you at risk. You can try to mitigate the risk, but you will not remove it, because your thoughts, emotions and brain function are completely compromised. And yes, it’s unfortunate that girls are at an increased risk. We can complain about it, but it won’t change that fact.

3 – Drinking is fun!!

I was mostly a fun drunk. I made people laugh. I got the attention I craved. I laughed a lot because everything was hilarious. For a few hours. Alcohol is a drug that makes you forget the reality of your life for a little bit. That’s why people are such heavy users of alcohol.

But the ones laughing the loudest in public, are usually also the ones who cry the longest in private.

Because no matter how many times you get drunk, it only “works” for a little while.

4 – Drinking is normal

I think this is the biggest lie of all. I had a blast in college – without getting blitzed. Just because drinking happens doesn’t make it normal and good and healthy. I could say that about a lot of things in culture today. Plenty of people smoke, do drugs, make money through prostitution (do you even realize how many girls get sucked into this world??), rob convenience stores, cheat …All of these things happen regularly in the culture. The kind of drinking that happens in college happens no where else. And the people that never grow out of that lifestyle, never emotionally mature and are essentially “stuck”. Drinking is only normal if the “partiers” are the only people who you choose to hang out with. You become like those you spend your time with. When I stopped hanging out with the partiers, I quickly got a whole new perspective. A perspective that was full of hope and purpose. One where I had a life ahead of me that I was willing to protect.

5 – Partying is a symptom of a deep emotional need.

When people engage in behaviors that are detrimental or destructive, they can usually all be linked back to a void they are trying to fill inside of them (This is Psych 101 people). This is a simplified statement, but it’s true. People who regularly party and get so drunk that they cannot function are not emotionally healthy people. Raise your standard of role models. Find people who you truly look up to and aspire to be like. If you do that, I doubt you’ll find any of those role models at a local frat party.

And here’s a confession – when I drank heavily, I was at a place in my life where I didn’t really care if I lived or died because I had nothing to live for. It’s different than feeling suicidal. It’s this difficult emotional place where you throw caution to the wind and do incredibly stupid or risky things because you don’t care. Does that fit everyone who gets blitzed? Of course not! But I bet you’ve seen girls just like that… Those are the girls I’m talking to. It’s those girls who I want to convince that there is a better way.

The answer, I believe, is not found in educating girls on how to drink safely or have sex safely.

It’s in educating girls about these facts:

You are deeply loved by God.

You are inherently valuable.

You have a purpose to fulfill in this life.

God wants to heal you and fix all of your broken places. But you have to let Him.

If you get this – deep in your heart – you won’t want to drink. Period. Not like that. You’ll have a higher purpose in everything you do. You’ll want to protect your heart, your mind, and your body because you know your own value and worth.

my two cents

~sarah~

Pray with me for Hannah’s family – and for the tireless workers who continue to search to bring her home. #notonemoregirl

AT&T – Liars and Scammers. Today’s PSA!

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Awww… it’s a family with a cute baby being lied to!

Sigh. As a writer, I often deal with things by writing. (Weird, right?) So here goes. I have a great deal of bitterness towards AT&T and since I have gotten nowhere with them, I turn my attention to warning customers away from them.

Thinking about switching? Don’t! Thinking about renewing your contract? Don’t!

AT&T family share plan is a scam. Pure and simple. And I have the outrageous bill to prove it.

Unless you’re independently wealthy. I am not. Which means I have a budget – I have to feed and clothe children, put gas in my car and it’s difficult to make ends meet.

So when AT&T started airing commercials saying that I could reduce my bill, I perked up. Could it be true?

I called them. Twice. I talked with someone inside an AT&T store. And I did an online chat with another rep. Four different AT&T sales people. They all assured me of the same thing.

All 4: Yes, you’re bill will be $175 under the new plan. $100 for the plan and $15 per phone. (That’s what they advertise on TV>>>still!!)

Me: I have four phone upgrades due on my plan. Will I be able to buy those outright and not be charged extra?

All 4: It’s $175.

Me: So I can still buy my phones, agree to a two year contract and not pay anymore on the monthly bill?

All 4: It’s $175.

Me: Are you sure? Because I can’t afford to pay for the “next” upgrade plan for each phone, I’d rather pay more outright to buy them.

All 4: That’s fine. It’s $175.

Me: Are you sure? Should I upgrade the phones first or switch plans?

All 4: It doesn’t matter. Switch your plan to reduce your bill now, your upgrades will still be there.

Me: Are you sure?

All 4: (Frustrated at my skepticism). YES!!! Do you want me to switch your plan?

(Fast forward a month later)

My bill comes and it is $275. Not $175. I call. I see on the bill that they are charging me $40 per phone. After hours and talking to supervisors, they tell me – “That $175 price is only for the phones already on your plan. Not if you upgrade. If you change phones then they are $40 each.”

It didn’t matter how many times I told them that I asked those questions and I was assured over and over that would not happen. Over and over I was told that it was “my mistake” and that I “misunderstood”.

So AT&T flat out lies to me and I’m the stupid one??

Here’s what they don’t tell you: 

1 – The $15 rate is only for those phones on their “next” plan. That plan costs you an average of $25 per phone. Volia $40. You will pay $40 per phone. Either they penalize you for owning your phone (and charge you $40) OR you are on their plan and you still get charged $40.

2 – The only way that cute family can pay what the commercials promise is if they never upgrade their phones. The phone you have when you switch is the only one that will be $15.

3 – AT&T can say whatever they want to you and you have no recourse. Because it will be your fault for not understanding. You will be treated like an idiot.

For a family like ours, that comes out of our grocery budget. The gas for our cars. I asked a thousand questions because I knew what our budget was. And now I’m trapped. Trapped for two years paying AT&T more than $2,400 more than they promised.

Where’s the truth in advertising? Nonexistent.

And when I call and complain, I am treated like I’m an idiot. No AT&T – I knew there was a catch and four salespeople all avoided telling me the truth. That is a conspiracy.

Did I mention that I’ve been an AT&T customer for more than 15 years?? 15 years! I know they have an archive of that chat somewhere. I regret not getting the names and positions of everyone I talked to. I regret not getting what I was verbally told in writing. I regret trusting that surely 4 different people aren’t lying to me! I regret not saving that chat.

And I know I’m not the only one – it’s happened to many.

So be warned! Be careful! Don’t fall in the scam pit with me!

~sarah~

 

 

 

 

new beginnings

photo copyIsolation, whether it’s chosen or thrust upon you, can have a deep effect on our hearts.

Isolation can be positive. My disappearance was not one that I desired. It happened. It appeared. And like when you find yourself bobbing in an endless ocean, you must simply hang on and wait for rescue.

I don’t know for sure if rescue has come. But I find myself in that place of waking a little. Blinking at the harsh lights of reality and wondering where I might fit into it all right now.

I’m not sure I do.

Fit in, that is.

Because if there is one thing isolation can do, it can cause you to slacken inside and be re-molded.

I know the Potter so I was not afraid.

But it wasn’t without pain. Or loss. Or sorrow.

Deaths, even if they are internal, are like that.

So I stretch my wings, a little at a time, and begin to write again. To find my way. To tell you that it is possible to come out the other side. Changed. Broken. Different. Whole.

All words I can apply.

It’s ironic how I feel inside, because outside the weather is changing. The colder winds are blowing and nature is battening down the hatches for a long winter. And here I am waking up.

I am not sure how much of my story I should share, but I will tell you this much. There is a story to my absence.

A story to the journey.

I have not arrived anywhere at all and yet . . . maybe arrivals take a different form than we expect sometimes.

so hello again.

~sarah~

hibernation

sometimes God calls us away.

sometimes He hides us in a place where we are alone with Him. Nothing to distract us from the sole purpose of seeking, knocking, asking.

these places can be dry and dusty.

but they are essential.

not fun.

not something you long for.

but critical to some unseen purpose that is beyond our comprehension.

to those in the wilderness, I wave at you.

you are not alone.

 

just b r e a t h e

It’s been quite a hiatus. My apologies. Sometimes I just don’t have anything to say.

Valleys can be like that. Where you are just focused in walking and living and breathing.

But I found a fabulous book that is helping me have peace in the valley. It’s causing me to dig deep and allow God to strengthen me to wait on Him alone. (Andrew Murray – Waiting on God – 99 cents on the Kindle – Go. Read. Now.)

The more we tuck in with God and allow His Word to teach us and guide us, the more I realize how absolutely frantic we humans can be! We want to DO something NOW. We have  no idea what it is to “wait on God” or what that even looks like. But oh,how essential, how absolutely vital it is to wait on Him because if you believe the Scriptures are true (I do!) then “without Him, we can do nothing”. (see John 15:5).

So while these last few months have been challenging and difficult in so many ways, I am grateful. Grateful that it’s driven me deeper. I joked with someone recently that God has pruned me back to the point that I am just a little nub. It’s not really funny. Pruning can be painful. And some of it really has been. But I do know the One who holds the pruning shears. And I am learning to trust Him more and more and more…

So read this book with me. I’m halfway through but I will be reading it again and again. Chewing on the deep truths that are contained there. And keeping my heart focused on Who He Is. Not on what swirls around me.

Andrew Murray – Waiting on God.

I’ll wait.

~Sarah~

 

You’re a firework!

My Facebook feed this morning was full of pictures of fireworks.

I used to take pictures of fireworks too. There’s something about colors and sparks in the sky that makes us want to try and capture what we see. But I slowly began to realize that the images I grabbed – even the good ones – just didn’t work for me. They were static…lifeless…lacking a true reflection of what I had seen with my own two eyes.

Fireworks are meant to be experienced by being there – not by looking at pictures of them later. Even watching on TV is just not the same. It’s still a dim reflection of standing there, gaze fixed on the sky, smelling the smoke, hearing the bangs and watching the colors drift to the ground. Being there. In the moment. Just watching.

God is like that, too. Talking about God, listening to a sermon, hearing a story about how He works – none of it compares with being fully in His presence, beholding Him. When we still everything in our hearts and sit with Him. Where we stop trying to capture and take something from the experience and just enjoy His presence. It came at a pretty high cost after all.

You can faithfully perform all the duties of being a Christian and still miss out on experiencing God.

“He is as willing to be a living, bright, glorious Reality to us….Let us endeavor to learn the blessed secret of abiding ever in the secret of His Presence and of being hidden in His Pavilion.” (Secret of Guidance F.B. Meyer)

Many people know the Scripture – “Lo, I am with you always” and it is true. He is always with us if we’ve surrendered to Him. But our human eyes and ears and hearts can be dull and slow when it comes to recognizing God’s presence, His wisdom and His guidance. We cannot expect to rush in, send a hurried greeting to God, and then have everything we need dropped in our laps so that we can hurry away again. No. We don’t need things FROM Him. We need Him. We need Him desperately. 

So set aside the things of this world so you can fix your eyes on the beyond, on Christ. Don’t demand that He respond on your time schedule. Give up your checklist and hand over your heart. Be patient. Be persistent. Don’t give up and walk away and say “It’s not working.” Believe me, your obedience and faith in doing it will be changing you inwardly. Seek Him and don’t give up. He will answer You. Maybe not in the way you are expecting, but He will answer.

Start today. Start now. And don’t let a day go by where you do not sit with Him. He is the source of all.

Oh Lord, let your people be blessed anew with Your Presence. Help them to hear and see with new eyes and open their hearts to receive You afresh today. Your banner over us is love. Help us to know this. Amen

I’m a dance mom!

A few years back, we spent a year in the world of competitive cheerleading when my littlest girl was 6. She was too young to try out for stage plays and the kid was simply born to perform. That combined with her size and athletic skill, well, cheerleading was a good fit.

We had no idea what we were getting into. It was a whole new world. And on top of that my daughter’s tiny size meant that she was a flyer. Little kids lifting my kid high above their heads was enough to make me hold my breath and deal with fear in brand new ways. All. Year. Long.

We did one year in cheerleading and then she switched over to stage performance. A lot less scary and a lot less expensive so I had no complaints!

Then this past year they got the opportunity to join a dance team. Once again, I had no idea what I was really getting into. Except this time, I had Dance Moms! Gave me kind of a peek into the world. A crazy, scary peek, but a peek nonetheless. Full confession? I’m totally addicted to the show. I could do without some of the high drama, language and smack talk – but the dancing!!! I love watching the dancing.

Being involved in musical theater for so long, all my kids have had the opportunity to dance. But being able to take classes has been limited because of their other activities and sports. So we took a dive in. The water has been pretty shallow this year. Only 2 competitions. But since this weekend is our first one, well, it’s all I can think about.

Interesting facts:

I had to sew.

There are sequins all over my house.

I am pretty sure I am overpacking.

I can’t wait to see my kids on stage. It never gets old watching them use their gifts and talents for the Lord.

Because at the end of the day, I just want them to do their best – for the audience of One. It’s kind of cool that I get a front row seat. I find it a privilege that I get to help these beautiful children grow and learn and become – for Him.

And I am grateful.

 

when’s the last time you did something crazy? or “why I entered the Nicholl”

Back in the beginning of 2012 the Lord told me that my word for this year was “courage.”

That is great and all, but the need for courage usually necessitates “scary things to be courageous about”. I’m already neck deep into that and most of it, well, I can’t talk about – yet. At some point I might be able to share what the last 8 weeks has been like. I feel like I’ve been stretched like taffy – it’s all good – but wow. So unexpected.

Kind of like God. He takes my breath away sometimes. And He’s taken my breath away over and over.

But when we glimpse just how big and amazing and awesome God is, we can start to believe for the crazy things. We stop getting tripped up by the impossible and instead just jump into the water and see what might happen. Even when the odds are stacked against us. God has been challenging me to pray bigger prayers. Crazy big prayers. And it’s been great. And exciting. But crazy big prayers are only one part of it. Sometimes we have to take a crazy step out of the boat, too.

So today I did something that – in my book – is just kind of crazy. I entered a screenwriting contest. Not just any screenwriting contest – The. Big. One. The granddaddy of them all. The Nicholl. You see, even though I’ve been writing screenplays for the past 8 years, I haven’t really had the opportunity to do anything with them. Screenplays are different than novels. I know what to do with them. Screenplays – well, they require far more money than I have to produce them. So I write and write and they are pretty little files on my computer.

The screenplay I just finished has been circling my heart for three long years. I love the story. And now I have a complete script. But what to do with it? I’ve been asking the Lord about whether or not to enter it somewhere (mostly because I don’t really have any other good ideas about what to do with it), but didn’t really hear anything. This morning as I sat out on my deck with the Lord, I began to look at all that God has already done. And I realized that my hesitancy was simply because I was afraid. It felt silly and ridiculous to even consider such a thing. I was afraid to fail. But fear is a very poor barometer to help decide what we should and shouldn’t do.

What exactly did I have to lose? Well, my fear.

Sometimes you just have to do something you’re afraid to do simply so you won’t be afraid anymore.

Yes, it’s a bit crazy. It is likely that more than 7,000 screenplays will be entered. That’s a crazy amount. But I still entered. I tried. And at the end of the day, I can be content with that.

Is there something crazy YOU should be doing?