Monthly Archives: April 2012

Learning How to Love

I’m going to be honest and vulnerable with you today and tell you something that’s been on my mind a lot. So, here’s the thing, I’ve been having a hard time being single lately. For all you twenty-something ladies out there, I’m sure you have felt this pit of loneliness at some point in your life. No? Just me. Great.

So I call this place I’m in a pit because that’s exactly how it feels – a deep hole of emptiness that I have somehow dug for myself and I can’t seem to crawl out of it. It’s just me, the hole and the dirt and let me tell you, it’s pretty lonely and gross down here. I don’t recommend making a home out of this.

In an effort to make my journey back into the world, I decided to start a 30-day challenge for myself. Each day for 30-days I would do an in-depth study of 1 Corinthians 13’s characteristics of love. Day 1: Love is Patient. Day 2: Love is Kind. Day 12: Love never loses faith. And so on and so forth.

It’s been an incredible journey and I recommend it for anyone, in whatever season you may be in. Each day has brought with it its own set of challenges and joys. For example on Day 3: Love does not envy, I happened to only hang out with friends in relationships that day, followed by a night of listening to all three of my roommates giggling with their beaus. Some days have been harder than others, like, Day 10: Love is not glad in injustice, but rejoices when the truth wins out. But with every day of this challenge – easy or not so easy – I’ve seen that the Lord is clearly present in each circumstance.

Today’s verse, day 14, is: Love perseveres.

I looked up the meaning of “perseveres” and it says “to maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty, obstacles or discouragement; continue steadfastly.”

What stuck out in this definition is the line “continue steadfastly” because it makes me think of the verse “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.” I pointed this out to my friend Courtney today and she told me that whenever she sees the line “steadfast love” in the Bible, she circles it. She said that it came up so often she stopped keeping count a long time ago.

A song that has been playing on repeat on my iPod and in my mind since the 30-day challenge began is, “How He Loves.” I’ve been particularly focused on the line, “I am a tree” because that’s how I feel – swaying back and forth against the wind, ready to break. But today, in my study of perseverance, I heard the line that God has been whispering to me all this time: “He is jealous for me.”

The reason why I have been doing this 30-day challenge has been in hopes of wanting to be pursued by a Godly man and hoping that I find him in the process. But I’ve got it all wrong. Here I am chasing after Future Husband when the ultimate definition of Love has been chasing after my heart. This study isn’t supposed to be, “How to make Sarah the perfect girlfriend/future wife.” No, it is about learning what love really means and how to love well, whether it’s your friends, your husband or your God.

All the qualities of love that I have been hoping someone feels about me have already been fulfilled and have been with me all this time. He loves me. He is patient in waiting for me to come around. He is kind even when I’m irritable. He does not keep record of my wrongs. I belong to Him and when my heart pursues and desires the things of this world, He is jealous. Not because He is selfish, but because His love will never hurt me, it will fulfill me and most importantly, it is enough.

Let me rephrase this a little: He is jealous for YOU. And because HIS steadfast love for US never ceases, so should OUR steadfast love for HIM. It should persevere. And then keep going, and going, and going.

I’m not saying that I have it all figured out yet. In fact, I’m still single at the end of this challenge, but I’m okay with that because I’m still learning how to love. Good thing I have the perfect teacher.

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The Wonder Years

I just came back from visiting some friends from my home state. Part of the visit included a trip down memory lane to my old high school. I know after graduation a lot of my fellow classmates have returned from time to time to visit old teachers and check out the old stomping grounds, I was not one of those students. To be honest, I never really loved high school and haven’t had any desire to relive the old days. So this visit was nine-years in the making and I had no idea what to expect.

Walking onto our newly renovated campus, I wondered if any insecurities would resurface. I may have mentioned this before, but I was extremely shy in high school. I think I could even say, deathly shy. Insecurities can be reflected by a number of different ways: arrogance, sluttiness, sarcasm, rudeness, being quiet, being loud, etc. Mine was more of the I-want-everyone-to-like-me-but-I’m-afraid-of-speaking-in-public-spaces. So as I made away around old classrooms and lockers, I thought, last time I was here, I was a completely different person.

As I watched the current high school students make their way to their buses, make sarcastic jabs at each other and for some, just make-out, I couldn’t help but be thankful that I wasn’t still a teenager. One particular girl stuck out to me as she ran from the high school sobbing. I don’t know what caused her to be so sad, but I wanted to stop her and promise her that nine years from now, it won’t be a big deal at all. Which made me think about all the things I didn’t know that I know now, things I wished for then that I don’t anymore and so on and so forth. Even though I’m a different person now, I still remember that Sarah. I remember how discouraged and depressed she was and how it just seemed to get worse with every storm.

So, I decided to list five things that my high school self would never have thought would be possible in my lifetime. Things that I desperately hoped and prayed for but never imagined possible. And to continue on the idea of hope for the future, I’ve also listed five things that I currently think will never happen in nine years. Sometimes we consume our lives with so much worry that we overlook how incredibly faithful God is. He restores and He redeems. God can do anything.

“God can do anything you know, far more than you could ever guess or request or imagine in your wildest dreams. He does it not by pushing you around, but by working in your life, deeply and gently within you.” Ephesians 3:20

Things High School Sarah Would Never Believe About Twenty Something Sarah:

1. You are going to be extremely outgoing
Yes, Sarah, it’s true. People are actually going to complain that you talk too much. Don’t cry, it’s not going to be scary at all. In fact, you don’t cry very often anymore. Come to think of it, you may be dead inside. Okay, just kidding about that part. But seriously, you’re outgoing and independent and it’s completely liberating.

2. You don’t wish to be popular
I know that you just want to fit in and be part of the “cool” group right now, but trust me, you won’t care about that stuff in your twenty’s. Sometimes I worry you’re trying to be a little too weird just to make a point on being different. That’s great and all, but maybe tone it down on the Asian jokes. (Sometimes people don’t think it’s very funny.) Really, you don’t talk to many people you went to high school with. And the ones that are in your life, will surprise you. I won’t give you names, but as it turns out, they will be some of the greatest friendships of your life.

3. You get a pretty cool job
Music, events, talking – it’s all a significant part of your twentys. Trust me, you’ll have to experience it for yourself to believe it.

4. You’ll have great (girl) friends
I know you’re scared you won’t ever have a best friend. Rest assured, you will have several deeply impactful friendships. You have such a strong community of Godly girls that challenge you, encourage you, travel with you, laugh with you (and at you), and etc. etc. You have some pretty incredible guy friends as well. I’m telling you, totally worth the wait.

5. You’re going to be okay
Can you believe it? You survived high school and college and breakups (yes, you had a boyfriend) and moving and quitting and all the highs and lows of life. You seem like you’re doing pretty well – confident, funny (I mean let’s be honest, you’re hilarious) and optimistic. Believe this: The best is yet to come.

Things Twenty Something Sarah Can’t Imagine About Thirty Something Sarah:

1. You’ll meet FH and he’s AH-mazing
2. You’ll be more adventurous
3. You’ll move out of Nashville
4. You’ll write a book
5. You’ll do something significant with your life to impact teenagers

I encourage you to do the same lists for yourself. Then maybe nine years from now, we can sit down at a coffee shop and go through our lists and say out loud, “When I wrote these things, I was a completely different person.” And it’s not a bad thing, because I’m pretty sure it’ll be the happiest we’ve ever been.

Believe this: The best truly is, yet to come.

There’s Two Sides to Every Story

When my friend Emarie was younger, she ran away from home after a heated argument with her parents. But instead of actually running away, she climbed up to the roof of her house and watched her family drive away looking for her, still fuming over the unfairness she had just received.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells us about three consecutive stories on being lost – a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son. He paints the story of a shepherd who leaves his flock of 99 sheep to find that single lost lamb, the woman who tore apart her entire house for a single lost coin (probably the equivalent of a penny) and the father who celebrated at the return of his son who ran away from home.

It’s a beautiful thought to anyone who has ever felt invisible. Have you ever thought, “They’ll miss me when I’m gone?” As humans, we often convince ourselves that no one cares, no one truly cares and we feel so easily dispensable that maybe people would finally miss us when we’re gone or worse, not miss us at all. That’s what I love about this passage. It’s a reminder that even though we live in a world of disposable somethings, we have a God that cares about every single small molecule of a being. We are never forgotten or invisible in His eyes.

Sometimes we become so consumed in the hurt of being invisible. We convince ourselves that no one cares and we get this attitude of “you just don’t understand” that keeps us from enjoying our lives. But, there is always a different point of view of the situation. And it’s so easy to forget there’s another side to the story.

It’s interesting what a little perspective can do for us.

Each of these parables that Jesus tells us is from the perspective of the person who lost something or someone. We don’t know what the little lamb was thinking or the coin or the son for that matter. We just know that they are gone and the person who loves them most will turn the world upside down to be with them again.

Imagine what Emarie saw when she sat on the roof. She didn’t see her parent’s friends driving up to the house with party hats and casserole dishes celebrating the fact that their daughter was finally out of their hair. She didn’t see her siblings fighting over who gets her room or her dolls or her clothes. No. What she saw was a family who piled up into their blue seven-passenger van ready to scour the hills for a missing lamb, turn the town inside out for a missing coin, ready to embrace their runaway daughter.

Like I said, it’s interesting what a little perspective can do for us.

Sometimes when we’re hurt and searching for comfort, we need to change our perspective. Instead of sulking or running away, what we need to do is climb out onto our roof and see the world the way our Father in heaven sees it. I hear His view is breathtaking.

The Trouble with Time

Timing is everything.

Time heals all wounds.

It’s just a matter of time.

Time is such an interesting concept, both fleeting and dragging all at the same time. We complain that the clock inches slowly on a long day and pout when it rushes past us as we reflect on the “good times.” As humans we crave and loathe the concept of time. It brings us hope and deprives us of joy all in one fell swoop.

There is a joke about the weather that I hear stapled to various cities. “Don’t like the weather in ________? Just wait five minutes.” A bit of an exaggeration, but it’s an idea that we often try to apply to our daily lives when things are dragging or more painful then we hoped. Don’t like your life? Just wait five minutes. If only it was that easy.

I find a lot of comfort in Ecclesiastes’ chapter on time so perfectly summed together in the subject line: “A Time for Everything.” Written by King Solomon, son of King David and his mistress Bathsheba, near the end of his life, Ecclesiastes stands as a book of reflection from the wise king. (To refresh your memory, King Solomon is noted in history as an extremely wise king; incredible wisdom bestowed and blessed by God).

The older you get the more acutely aware you are of time. Whether it’s that you’re getting older or that your precious time is fleeting, there is a sense of urgency that there is just not enough time in your day. I think that’s what I find so beautiful about Ecclesiastes 3. Every life has various seasons. Each is a beautiful, precious season that we should savor – even if that season is, in fact, particularly painful.

I’ve been thinking a lot about past hurts; hurts from old friends and family members that remind you that no one (and I mean, no one) is perfect. I remember in these moments, or seasons, that I was in, I was so sure that there was no end to this storm and that this particular time would last forever. But let me assure, it really doesn’t. In fact, your heart does stop hurting. Actions stop getting replayed over and over again in your head. And one day (it really does come), you wake up, and whatever has been on your mind isn’t the first thing that you think of anymore. Time isn’t just inevitable, it is powerful. It truly does heal all wounds. Author Joan Didion brilliantly put it as this: “You forget too soon the things you thought you would never forget. You forget the lies and the betrayals alike. Forget what you whispered and what you screamed. Forget who you were.”

Here’s the truth about the season you’re in: one day it will end. It’s inevitable. Whether you are loving the weather or fighting to keep that hypothetical umbrella intact, this season will pass. This realization may bring you comfort or dread or maybe a little of both. But here’s the important thing to remember: We aren’t called to live hoping for each new season to come; looking forward to warmer weather or breaking out the layers. No. We are called to live in the season we are in. Each moment. Every second. Embracing it for all it’s worth and soaking up every lesson that comes from it. And I promise you this. By doing so, not only will it lead you to a life of no regrets, but it will strengthen your relationship with God because you are trusting in the fact that He does have your very best interest at heart.

There’s another popular phrase people use when referring to time: “There’s no better time than today.” Believe that and live that. Put on your raincoat or soak up the sun. Whatever time it is for you, live it fully and thankfully. You can’t go wrong with that.

Easter Sunday

I remember being very angry on Easter Sunday a few years ago. The guy I was dating at the time had a family tradition during Easter where all the kids would gather at their parent’s house and everyone would eat Easter brunch together. Steak. Mashed potatoes. Biscuits. The whole delicious shebang. The problem was, however, that brunch had a strict call time of 10:00 AM and church didn’t end until 10:30. We requested that the meal be pushed back an hour so that we could attend church and brunch, respectively. The request was, apparently, appalling.

I’m going to be honest. I didn’t handle it very well. I refuse to skip Easter service for a stupid brunch, I vowed. And the more I thought about it, the more I fumed about it. The whole reason there is even a brunch to “celebrate” is because of Jesus. That is the whole point of Easter! People can be so infuriating…

Earlier this week, I was asked what my most memorable Easter was and this was the memory that I conjured up. Out of all the sermons, services and communions, this was the one that had stood out to me the most. And that really bothered me.

There is something about pain and anger that’s just so dang difficult for us to let go of even when we know there is no point to it anymore. We carry these burdens with us day after day until years have past and our hearts are heavy. Instead of focusing on the message, the hope of Easter, I let the voices of my flesh get to me. And like a bitter fool, I carried it with me each year, never letting it go.

We all have memories that are hard to release from our mind. We let it eat us up like a monster and it takes root in our soul. When I am asked about memories for specific holidays, I don’t want the first stories that come to mind to be filled with anger, frustration and hurt. I want them to be funny and full of love, grace and joy.

And that’s the beauty of the “Easter story.” It began as a story that was filled with anger, frustration, hurt, and all of those negative things. People were left with questions. People felt lost. Vengeance was, I’m sure, on the thoughts of many of Jesus’ followers. But then, the rules changed. When Jesus resurrected, when He conquered the grave, He changed the game. And the story is immediately reversed into one full of love, grace and joy.

“Come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Such a beautiful, simple invitation He gives us. Life is inevitably full of brokenness and mess-ups. We are probably holding a memory or will soon have one, that conjures up frustration and helplessness. But because Jesus gave us the ultimate end game, we don’t have to let it end here, in the hurt. We can redeem it, just the way He redeemed us, by laying our burdens down.

When I look back on that Easter, I remember feeling justified in my anger. I was a warrior, armed and ready to fight for Jesus’ honor. But I wish I had a taken a different approach that day.

I wish I had been less stubborn and more graceful.

I wish I had been less angry and more understanding.

I wish I had been more of Jesus and less of me.

Because that Sunday, I forgot the true meaning behind Easter Sunday.

That’s the beauty of Jesus calling the weary to Him. It encompasses all of us. Me. You. Them. We are all weary. Even the ones that go to church on Easter Sunday.

Are you afraid of the dark?

There’s a reason why we grow up scared of the dark. It’s because we have no concept of what lies before us. For all we know, we could be inches away from walking into a wall, or into a hole in the ground, or someone could be there waiting for us to take one more step and then…BAM! I don’t know what happens after the BAM, but I don’t want to know. That is why I always turn on the lights before I enter a room.

This is why the unknown is difficult for me to grasp. I like to be able to assess my surroundings before I step into it. If a room is dark, I’m going to fumble for the light switch before I even attempt to take a first step.

Have you ever tried finding your way across the room when it’s dark? I have. I know if someone was watching me with night vision goggles, they would probably burst out laughing. I bend my entire body forward with both hands waving around in a circular motion as I tentatively take one step at a time, as if at any moment, I could step on a landmine. I know I look ridiculous, you don’t have to remind me.

Like I said, this is why the unknown is difficult for me to grasp. Whether it’s being worried about loving my job or if I’ll ever meet my future husband, the unknown is vast and dark and there are no light switches around and all of that terrifies me. That’s how I have been feeling lately. The uncertainty of everything has consumed my brain. I’m constantly tracing steps and different routes for my life because I have no idea what the big “plan” is for me.

But, in the midst of my anxiety, I’ve started to see that God calls us into these dark, unknown, scary rooms. Not because He wants to jump out and scare us but because He is calling us to be a light. He says that even the light from the smallest of candles has the power to light up a dark room. Which is pretty cool if you think about it.

I know I’ll always be scared of the unknown. It’s in my nature to worry and stop and then worry some more. But I’ve decided that I want to be a light. I want to be a light that helps equip other lights. Remember how I said I always turn on the lights before I even enter a room? That’s the kind of light I want to be. And if I can help them to not be so afraid of the dark, maybe I can conquer my own set of fears as well. Then before you know it, our eyes will adjust to our surroundings, and we’ll see that there is really nothing to be afraid of after all.