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7Jan/141

My Ugly “I’m going to lose it!” Moments

This little spunkster just passed out. At 4:48 pm.

Oh, it's been one of those days. The kind where I'm sure Nolan is testing me all the live long day and I'm failing. I'm sure there is a better mother out there for him.

My adventurer can now climb in and out his crib, so although he's not ready to drop his nap, he's decided he is. It's a choice that results in an ultra sunny disposition in the afternoon, I can assure you. He's also figured out how to knock down the gate keeping him in his room, so enforcing quiet time is out.

I was pretty sure I was about to lose it, so I called my husband to tell him so.

Waves of you can't call him, he's going to think you're doing a bad job. He's going to worry about leaving you home with him whirled around my mind. But I called. Just like I should have. Talking to Tim was just what I needed to breathe in and breathe out, go about the rest of the day with a better perspective, and be the better mother I thought might be inside me somewhere.

I have a hard time being vulnerable. That inner dialogue is kind of normal for me. Although it doesn't keep me from doing what I need or what to as  much as it used to, I can't remember the last time I called a friend with an SOS call like that. I have some good friends, people I could trust with my insecurities (I'm failing as a mother. I'm screwing this whole thing up) and gently correct me if I need it.

I've been writing up some highlights from 2013 (which I'm not sure will actually get published- you may have seen how irregularly I tend to post) and then some ideas on making memories this year. And I do. I want to make memories and be intentional and not take my time with anyone for granted.

I think another goal for the year will be connecting. Giving people a chance carry my burdens- and that is hard for me to write, let alone do, but carrying burdens is what people who love each other do. My relationships aren't at all one-sided with me doing all the giving; I need to be doing more carrying, too- for family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers. I just think that practicing some vulnerability, especially during my ugly I'm going to lose it! moments will set me up for deeper connections.

I think that's what people who are trying to follow Jesus do- we get broken and poured out for other people. We carry heavy stuff for each other. I think that's where true community comes from.

9Dec/112

Christmas Spirit: Reader Recommendations

On the first day of this month, I asked, "What kinds of things really get you into the Christmas spirit?"

The answers I received left me feeling encouraged, excited, and generally optimistic that I can live out this holiday season without a chip on my shoulder.

In case you didn't get to check out the comments section, here are some of those answers:

Brittany said, "This year I hope to enjoy whatever I happen to be doing at the moment instead of stressing about watching every Christmas movie and seeing every Christmas light display."

Steph said, "This year, my family decided to take all the money we would spend on each other and send a gift through World Vision. It’s amazing how doing something for someone else can really put you in the Christmas spirit!"

Kristen G. said, "As a lover of Christmas, I could give you an entire list that puts me in the spirit. I’ll settle for just a little one though – watching The Santa Claus with Tim Allen. By far, one of my favorite holiday movies and it’s on ABC tonight to kick off their 25 days of Christmas."

Jaimie said, "This year, my children have decided {on their own} to forgo one present each and instead of receiving something, they’re giving something. the money we would have used to purchase a present for each of them will now go to buying a family in Africa {or some other country}some chickens, a goat, or even some clean water. i think the kids have the Christmas spirit even if i’m lagging behind a little… and they are certainly dragging me out of my ho-hum blahs."

Eating as a Path to Yoga said, "I think for me the Christmas spirit comes from giving to others in need & awaiting the Birth of Christ through Advent study & celebration."

Some great stuff, right?

What would you add?

Also, be sure to check back on Monday. I'm hosting a giveaway that I'm really excited about. Hint: it has to do with one of my favorite companies!

3Dec/112

Getting Christmas Spirit: Idea #2

Oh, my. Reading all of the things that put you in the Christmas spirit really left me feeling encouraged and hopeful. Thank you for sharing! I'm loving this exchange of ideas. Does anyone mind if I use some of your ideas in a future post?

Idea #2: Get to Know the Guest of Honor

I really like to celebrate.

I mean, really. I'm not so good at the gifts thing, but celebration? I can do that. I'll bake a cake or throw a party, write a card, a tribute, plan a few events...

Birthdays are one of my favorite kind of celebrations. At some point during my childhood, I requested a birthday cake for Jesus. While a cake may have been baked a different year, the Christmas I am remembering came without birthday cake.  It's understandable, really. With so much to prepare for during the holiday season, a cake is not something that is usually at the top of the list.

I wasn't terribly upset, but as young as I was, even then I thought that a morning covered in wrapping paper, anxious waiting for the next gift, and piles of gifts for me seemed a strange way to celebrate someone else's birthday.

Not that I didn't like gifts. I did...and I do.

But when I want to celebrate someone, I usually try to nail down what that person likes, doesn't like, what he or she might want to do, what triggers that "I feel special" button, who should be invited to the party.

I try to wrap my mind around who that person is...even if I think I already know.

I can't say I'm always successful, but I do try.

I'm thinking you do, too.

When it comes to Jesus' "birthday," I think it's important that you and I at least try to wrap our minds around who he was.

I'm convinced that Jesus could really stand to get some new PR representatives... and that if we really tried to get to know him (and really tried to ignore all kinds of misguided Christian labels), we just might like him.

When I try to get to know him, what I see is that he was all for the underdogs. They were his friends, his dining buddies, the people he hung out with. Not in a "this is going to look great on my resume" or "everyone is going to think I'm really great" kind of way. To me, Jesus didn't seem particularly concerned with what people thought of his choices; he just lived them without apology.

Sometimes I think that more people would be interested in Jesus if it wasn't for "Christians." I count myself as one, but I have a hard time using that term. "Christian" is such a tough word these days; it seems more like a political and marketing term, more than anything else. I believe that Jesus is who he said he was- is there a better term for that?

I'm not suggesting that those who believe Jesus try to change any one's minds.

I'm suggesting that we change ourselves.

I am suggesting that, if we really want to celebrate, we live in such a way that we are much better representatives of who Jesus was and is.

I'm suggesting that, like Jesus, we make friends with and meet the needs of underdogs.

11Nov/104

Thankful for…Cashews!

Last Friday, I was served a fresh, local, and organic meal in the home of my favorite foodies, Kevin and Stacey. Afterward, we watched the documentary Food Matters (stopping midway for a raw fruit pizza topped with pomegranate, kiwi berries, figs, and homemade whipped topping), and I tried to soak up as much information as I could. One of the things I learned is that eating two handfuls of cashews is a natural, no-side-effects way to treat the body with the same benefits of Prozac. Because I tend to carry a dark cloud around with me during the colder, greyer months (and I haven't exactly been a ray of sunshine lately, either), I decided to start right away with what I had on hand. Yum.

So, maybe it's the cashews talking, but guess what? Today is a new day, there is never going to be another one like it, and I'm going to enjoy it.

When I am asked about a particular situation that I'm not crazy about at the moment, I'm going to get creative with my answers. Of course, there is a place for airing grievances, but too much complaining deepens discontent in the speaker and breeds it in the listener. Even if the words are said in a sweet voice- which I sometimes do and sometimes I'm just a grouch. And for all the talk, the effort, and the thought about loving people, I think I've been pushing them down with my words. With all that complaining.

And that's where I need to get my head on straight. The complaining...and also my focus on the people around me. Of course, they're important, yes, but...I call Jesus my king. I believe that he sees everything- my efforts, my hurts, my intentions, my shortcomings, my heart. I believe he wants to restore all of me- and all of everything- into wholeness, perfection, and beauty. If I call Jesus my king, then my overarching purpose is to serve him. 

When I remember that, I'm relieved. Because if my purpose is to serve Jesus, then how much does it matter whether I get to see the fruits of my labor, whether I am commended by my boss or my peers? How much does it matter if someone else gets the credit for what I do, if all the situations in my life are as I want them, or if someone else thinks I'm doing enough? All those worries don't add up to much. There is something for me to do on earth that lasts forever.

When I remember that, I don't want to complain. I want to work better and harder.  I want to hug people and help them up. I want to smile and point out the beautiful.

Servants, do what you're told by your earthly masters. And don't just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you'll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you're serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn't cover up bad work. -Colossians 3:22-25

22Oct/103

An Unexpected After Taste

After going through an entire bag of quinoa flour, I can tell you one thing: I am not a fan. As far as flours go, it boasts a pretty impressive nutritional profile, but there is an after taste. I suspected as much in my Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins, but agave nectar, maple syrup, and chocolate chips did a good enough job of hiding it. And although I have read that quinoa can be used to completely replace all- purpose flour, listen to me- don't do it. It won't work like you (might) think it will.

Those tortillas? While they're certainly healthy for you, they ended up as thick, dense, doughy (which sounds good to me, but wait for it), sour cream-y tasting pancakes. The dough was sticky, and while I could have added some whole wheat flour to help the tortilla process along, I wanted to know if a wheat-free version would work.

This one didn't.

However, that didn't stop me from trying to eat them anyway. I tried them with my latest favorite concoction (greek yogurt, pumpkin puree, and real maple syrup)...Nope. I threw my tortilla pancake away after 2 bites. (I knew it was gross after the first taste, but I was hoping that enough pumpkin dip would help me out.) Later on, I tried heating some up, and smearing them with peanut butter. The heat pretty much hid the aftertaste, and I was left with an acceptable vehicle for one of my favorite spreads.

I am not giving up on homemade tortillas. Or that recipe (I know it works; I've tasted homemade tortillas made by Kristen herself!). Just one particular variety of flour.And those tortilla pancakes, although not satisfying for my taste buds, led to something a whole lot more satisfying than delicious and healthy food. (I know! Can you believe I just wrote that?!) My original tortilla-related post led my dear friend, Kristen, to Raw Motherhood (the author of which is another adored Kristen in my life) where she read this:

"...maybe it doesn’t have to be a battle. instead, maybe this struggle can be an opportunity to worship my Creator. a choice i can make many, many times throughout the day. over and over. 'i choose you,' i can say. when i’m tired or frustrated or haven’t seen an adult face for 8 hours. maybe i can let my Father into the deepest parts of my being that are longing to be filled.  and while i fill this deep void with worship of God, i can fill my stomach with food that i enjoy."

And then she- the Kristen doing the reading of the Kristen doing the writing- said to me (and I'm passing this on to you with permission), "Lately I've been hard on myself for not allowing the Lord to fill my void.  As if that were a one-time occurrence.  As a fellow slow learner, I hadn't considered that this may be a choice I have to make over and over again.  Instead, I thought that the Lord should fulfill me and that was that.  No, silly Kristen.  You'll feel empty again.  That nagging void will reappear.  And at first this was disheartening.  But then?  I thought about how it means I get to experience the filling part over and over again.  How I can choose to rejoice in a Creator that lovingly responds to me without limit.  As many times a day, hour, moment I need Him.  I think I'll work on saying, "I choose You" this week."

And lots inside of me clicked. I'm a slow learner, without a doubt. I'd read that excerpt from Raw Motherhood before. I'd commented on it. But sometimes when I say something, it's because I know it in my head. Sometimes it takes my heart much longer to digest.

I've been struggling quite a bit lately. There is more to the story, of course, but part of it is that I so easily forget to allow myself to be filled. Allow. I don't do it myself, but the filling is there, waiting to happen, when I stop looking for distraction, when I sit and listen, when I plug into the resources that are just waiting for me. Sometimes the filling looks different every day, but if I am going to live, thrive, and give myself away in this world, I have to continue getting filled up. If I neglect the filling, I will wither (in my heart and my mind) until I feel barely alive. I know this to be true. But if I don't? I am full of life. And THAT is the me that I like to have around.

1Sep/103

A Little Simple

I get really tripped up on life. I don't understand it. The whole thing about whether my life really matters, what good I'm doing, if my efforts amount to anything, and what exactly I am supposed to be doing confuses and often frustrates me. 

Sometimes I ask why God puts people on earth to live and die. Sometimes I hear "to glorify him." That sounds good, but quite honestly, maybe I'm just a simple girl, but that kind of talk doesn't translate into Sarah language. 

Today, I just kind of followed my line of thinking about what I believe to be true about purpose and life and effort. I believe in God the Father and in Jesus, and I believe that God offers a fullness of life. I really want that kind of life and I make a lot of my decisions based on that desire. Ok. But what do I mean by "I believe in Jesus?" (These are the kinds of questions I was asking myself and then answering back to...myself.) What does that mean in Sarah language?

It means that Jesus is my king.

Hello, lightbulb. 

If I call Jesus my king, then it is my job to serve him. It is my purpose. Purpose doesn't come solely from headaches at work, or evenings with my youth group girls, or outings with my nieces. 

I am here to serve my king.

That sounds simple, right?

Sometimes this girl needs a little simple.

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4Aug/109

Hands in the Air

It's getting close to my bed time, but I'd like to disclose a few thoughts. Mostly about food, me, life, and Jesus. Which is nothing new,really, but I feel like surrendering.  I feel like just holding out my hands and saying, "I give up. " In a good way.

I feel like giving up all the striving I've been doing. Giving up on striving has to be a daily thing for me, because pushing on boulders and worrying so much about living life to the fullest so much that I'm not really living has become natural to me. But I haven't given up for days, maybe weeks, and I'm feeling it.

I've read and heard sweet, soft-hearted women pleading with other women (sometimes including me) to please stop striving. Stop pushing, stop stressing. Which was kind and thoughtful, but not something I thought I could really do.

I am a high-stress person. I like to be busy to the point of breakdown. I like to pack  days  full of visits and projects and meetings. I like to. Recently, I haven't been quite as busy as I like to be, and I've been feeling a little crazier than normal. I haven't been feeling useful or purposeful. I haven't felt rested; instead, I've felt restless.

I've been following a personalized eating plan on myfoodpyramid.gov for a few days. It's a great plan; it's very balanced, which is great, because I really want balance. But tonight...unfulfilled wishes and self-imposed eating plans, rules, expectations, stresses sat on my nerves. I wanted to buck them off, so I ate. I ate quite bit.

Right now, my belly is full, and I'm throwing up my hands to say I really want to be done with all of the self-imposed garbage I've been living in. I've been worrying about the number on the scale, labeling my days as well-spent or not based on feelings, focusing quite a bit on food, and trying to live up to my own book of rules.

Right now, my arms are spread and I'm thinking I might be catching a glimpse of what it means to give up striving. I want to be a woman who holds her arms open to life, to possibilities, to beauty, love, hope, and to who the God who made her to be...and then lets all of what does not matter and what cannot be controlled fall away.

I want to be a woman who savors every drop of life because it is a gift that should not go unopened. I want to be a woman who listens and acts according  to what the God of the universe calls important, instead of my own self-written priorities. I want to be a woman who can rest because of trust, and because of the fact that, despite previous beliefs, it is not my job to save the  entire world. Sometimes I act like it is.

What I need to do more of is listen. Make the best choices I know how to in any given moment. Love without expectation. Let go. And keep those arms open.

29Jun/107

Tuesday Afternoon Confessions

 1.This is how my best mornings begin.2. I have heard (and read) that some people think that Jesus and Bible are crutches that people who say they believe in them use to lean on. I'm not quite sure if that is a negative thing, but I find no offense in such an assumption.

3. I really like my coffee. See that Bible up there? Reading it brings me peace and clarity. But that coffee? To be quite honest, it just might be on my list of top 5 favorite objects.I just love to sip a good cup of coffee while writing, reading, or catching up with a friend. My only real motivation in limiting my consumption has been that I might become pregnant. I haven't become pregnant which has melted my resolve to limit my caffeine consumption recently.

4. I'm not really cut out to be a small group leader. To steal a quote from a member of my church family, I'm "just a beggar showing other beggars where to find food." I'm a mess.I'm moody, I often fail to think before I speak, I lose focus, and mostly see the world through my own eyes. But I love my girls. I want to see them thrive. And to quit because I feel inadequate seems a little foolish .My girls are just too important.5. When my husband and I go somewhere together in public, we often split ways. At church, I am usually sitting without him while he helps lead the music. Afterwards, I spend my time hugging, laughing with, and being honest with my church family. I don't really keep track of Tim, unless it is time to go home. At youth group, we sometimes tease each other, but I spend most of my time with the girls, and he spends most of his time with the boys. We usually split ways at family gatherings, too. We don't enjoy the same forms of exercise. We don't have the same taste in food or books.

But the truth? I really, really love him. Nobody captures my heart or knows my heart like my husband. Tim and I often split ways because we are a team, and I treasure that. We always, always come back together. And I treasure that even more.6.I don't feel the way I thought I would about not being pregnant yet. Sometimes I am disappointed and sometimes I feel like there is something wrong with me. But after I sort through that, I often realize that there is much good to be had in not being a mama yet. I've learned lots through the fact that some of my plans have not worked out, and Tim and I have some other ideas. Maybe God does, too.

6Jun/103

Oxygen

Several weeks ago, maybe more, Heather mentioned that she used to eat sweet potatoes for dessert. Well, I am a big fan of sweet potatoes, as well as a big fan of dessert, so I kept the idea in mind.

Last night seemed like a perfect evening for a sweet potato dessert. So I washed, poked, and nuked a sweet potato (on high for 3 minutes). I let it cool to the point that I could eat it without scorching my mouth, then drizzled on a little real maple syrup and natural peanut butter (the kind that contains only peanuts.) The result? Delicious.

I liked it so much that I ate it again for breakfast, this time in oatmeal form. Into the pot went a cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 1/3 cup of oats, a sweet potato that I'd precooked in the microwave, ground flaxseed, and unsweetened shredded coconut. I let it cool in one of my favorite bowls, then drizzled maple syrup and peanut butter on top.I scraped the bowl clean. (This is the actual bowl I ate my oatmeal from. I did not wash it before photographing it.)

This whole morning was delicious. I woke up early, but I had also gone to bed early. I cleaned the kitchen, did laundry, and settled down at the kitchen table with a fabulous cup of coffee and a copy of The Message:Remix. I left my cell phone and computer upstairs. I've tied myself to technology so much lately that I was beginning to annoy myself.I read through the first few chapters of Galatians. Out loud, slowly, and with expression- my favorite way to read. I read that the life of a person who believes in Jesus and wants to follow him is not supposed to be about trying, straining, checking things off, or following rules.  It's not about being good enough or making things happen individually. If I choose to follow Jesus, my life is supposed to be about letting God breathe and move through me so that I become who I was created to be. It's about listening and living according to God's agenda, not my own. Not making things happen as I think they should happen.

I think a little more oxygen just flooded into my lungs. Because I have been straining, trying to make life happen as I think it should, pushing, and pulling. And it's not working.Of course it's not working. If I thought I could do it all on my own in the beginning, I would never have called Jesus my Savior. But I needed him- to show me how to live, to show me how to love. To teach me about grace and truth and purpose.

I still need him. So I'm going to let go a little bit. I'm going to listen a little bit more. I'm going to trust and walk one itty-bitty step at a time. Even if I'm not quite sure where I'm going, even if I'm not quite sure I like where I'm going. Because the God who made me wants to teach me about (what's important in) life.

4Jun/101

Generous

Most of my jewelry has either been given to me or purchased from Target. This is a true story.

But one piece, this piecewas purchased. By me and for me. At some place other than Target.

That necklace? It's mostly an old Roman coin. It's worth less than a penny. But it's invaluable to me because of the story it carries. It's the story of a woman whose name I do not even know.

It's the story of a woman who gave away her last two coins, worth less than a penny. She gave away all she had,even though doing so most likely meant going hungry and an uncertain future. So this guy, this Jesus, said that she gave away more than anyone else that day. She knew sacrifice, she knew generosity.

I don't know generosity like that. That necklace? It's made of a coin similar to the one she gave away that day. I wear it because one day, I want to grow up to be like her.

I want to be like that poor, humble woman. The one who no one would have looked twice at, if Jesus had not called attention to her great sacrifice. She knew what was important. She knew generosity.

She had a beautiful heart.

When I'm not wearing that necklace, it sits on my dresser, unadorned, unannounced. Right next to my hot pink hair band.  That's how the story of a beautiful heart is. It sits right in the middle of ordinary, often unnoticed.But it changes everything. Whether we notice it or not.  

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