Category Archives: real life & faith

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!

imgres

 

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~

 

 

 

 

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

Story Drunk

For the past week, I’ve been bingeing – on a story, that is. It’s a story that has been rolling around in my head for three long years! Yes, for three years I’ve been thinking about these characters, this story, this town, to the point that they are so real I feel like I’ve been there, met them and fallen in love.

The other day I was writing and looked up and realized that I had to go pick up the kids from school. Yanking myself from the story was strange and disorienting and the only way to describe it was that I felt “story drunk”.

Maybe some of you know what I mean.

But the story I am writing is one I know I was meant to tell. It’s my passion project. And I finally feel ready to write it. While I have over 100 pages of the novel completed, I have put everything in reverse and instead – I am writing the screenplay of this story.

Which as all writers know, is even crazier than simply writing the novel. (Selling a novel is easy compared to producing a movie!)

But I can’t help it. This is the project I am supposed to be working on so I am out in my field, planting and sowing and watering. Sometimes you just have to obey God. Even if you don’t understand why. Even if you don’t know what it’s all going to look like.

Even if it seems crazy.

So before I go get lost again in this beautiful story, I thought I’d pop in and say hello – and see what crazy thing God is having YOU do these days:-)

~Sarah~

on a migraine watch

a migraine watch is not a fun thing to be doing but it’s necessary for those of us who suffer with those beasts. People who have “headaches” really don’t understand the difference between a bad headache and a migraine – and they are very different. I get both, so I know.

I got my first migraine at 16 years old while I was working at a little bagel shop at the beach. I didn’t know what was happening. I couldn’t see correctly and had this strange light passing through my vision field, making it impossible to see the register. At first, nothing hurt, just this strange thing in my vision. But within an hour I was slumped over in pain. The Lutheran pastor who regularly got bagel and coffee at the shop walked me back to the boarding house where I lived and I slept…till the next day.

When I met Jesus in college, people began to pray for me to be healed. I appreciated every prayer. I still pray to be healed.

But I have had Christians accuse me that my migraines are my fault – not enough faith, my own sin, a sign of spiritual immaturity, or that my great-great grandfather did something that opened a door to satan.

Yeah.

I’ve pretty much heard it all.

And I’ve heard it all when it comes to advice. For some reason, well-meaning people will tell me things or suggest things that they think I don’t already know. I do whatever I can to keep them from happening, but that doesn’t mean I’m always successful. I can’t drink aspartame at all (which includes pretty much every diet cola). When I get a migraine, the first thing I do is look over the last few days to see if anything has changed. Sometimes nothing has. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to why I got one. But as a migraine-sufferer, I at least try to figure it out.

I had a run-in with the Sobe drinks last fall. I grabbed one at a convenience store one day and scanned the list of ingredients. No aspartame. But a bunch of  other ingredients I didn’t recognize. It was a yummy drink and found a case at the wholesale club and was thrilled to find something new to drink. Then the first migraine hit. A few days later another…then another. the only change had been those sobe drinks so I stopped drinking them and the migraines disappeared. No more Sobe for me.

On Saturday afternoon, I drank something new and yesterday afternoon, I got a migraine while driving home (terrible time to get one btw). So because I introduced something new to my diet, I have to wonder if it’s the cause. There was a lot of glare on the road and since that can also trigger migraines, I don’t know what’s to blame — yet.

The only way to know for sure is to drink another one. And see what happens. That is SUCH a scary thing to do. Drink or eat the possible trigger to learn whether or not it’s a trigger — by setting myself up for a migraine. That’s what I call a migraine watch. But it’s the only way to know…

I figured there were a bunch of you who know exactly what I’m talking about…so I thought I’d share:-)

whatever is lovely

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Philippians 4:8

I love this scripture and I often refer to it when I discover my mind has wandered into territory unbecoming to a Christian. (Usually occurs when driving and someone fails to use a turn signal…but I digress…)

But while we are supposed to focus on the pure and lovely, the Bible contains some hard things at times. Things that we sometimes like to gloss over. Like every parent who picks out Noah’s Ark for their kid’s bedroom. All the pretty animals and the fatherly Noah on top of the wood ark in pretty pastel colors. I’ve never seen a bedroom that contains the other part of that story – you know, the part where God wiped out all mankind in the flood waters. Nope – there are never pictures of all the drowning people. We have a tremendous capacity to ignore what we don’t like. Or don’t understand. But this can give us a false view of God. God is love – but He is also holy. God is merciful – but He is also just. We can’t accept the love and the mercy without accepting the holiness and the justice.

This has all sorts of ramifications. As a writer, I’ve encountered this when it comes to language. Five of my novels are published by a Christian publisher. Even though there was no bad language, I still had one word in one of the manuscripts that was removed and changed – and I didn’t know till the book was published. And I’m not even going to tell you the word because I am sure there will be people who hate that word AND use that word in equal numbers and it’s not worth debating about.

And I like pointing you to people who have said it better than I could anyway:-)

I was directed to this article by Steven James – and I like how he shares his thoughts about the Bible and words. The Bible is a truly amazing book – a book that tells us about God and invites us to interact with Him as the living Word. But the Bible is raw. Gritty. Honest.

Anyhow – I encourage you to read the article yourself and see what you think.

~Sarah~

super-secret project

I’m working on a super-secret project right now!

I really have no reason for keeping the super-secret project (hereafter referred to as the SSP) super-secret. Except that I feel like I’m supposed to. It’s like a cake in the oven. If you pull it out too soon (LOOK! I’m baking a cake!!) then it will fall flat because it wasn’t ready to come out of the oven. And even if you stick it back in it won’t bake properly. I seriously can’t wait to announce it (at some unknown point in the future).

Okay, I’ll quit talking about things I can’t talk about and instead talk about…

Your super-secret project.

Yep. The last few weeks have made it glaringly real to me that God is at work in unseen ways. I mean, I know that. I’m just hyper-aware that He’s only sharing bits and pieces of info about what He’s up to. We are His super-secret project. He is at work in the quiet places to mold us and shape us and prepare us for . . . well . . . we may not really know what He is preparing us for. But He does. He knows what the super-secret project (YOU!)  is supposed to become. What you are supposed to do.

It’s something great. And it’s something designed specifically for you.

But some people jump out of the oven before they’re fully-baked. (totally just made myself laugh because I could write several blog posts about half-baked….never mind…I’ll be good…)

I have been in a strange and bizarre season of my life with God for 15 months now. I remember the day it started. And it hasn’t let up. But as hard as it’s been – I’ve learned a lot. But apparently I’m not done with bizarre season cause I’m still in it.

Maybe you’re in a hard season so I’ll share with you two of things I have been praying for and reminding myself of every day:

1 – Lord, keep me here in this place with You until you take out of me what must be taken out and put into me what must be put into me.

In other words – as hard a season might be – there is a purpose for it. If you pop out too soon, you’ll just end up having to go through something else to learn the thing you must learn. I’d rather just stay put until God says that it’s finished.

2 – Lord, help me to learn what I must learn.

We have to be open to learning. We have to be willing and able to step back from something stupid or painful or hurtful and focus on God and find out what He wants us to learn from it. And when we keep our focus on Him, it’s easier to walk in love and forgiveness. To keep His Word. To learn His ways.

You are a super-secret project-in-progress. Be excited about that, but be focused on learning all you can about God through His Word and spending time with Him in prayer and fellowship. Because that’s where all the really great stuff happens anyway.

~Sarah~