Thursday, December 10, 2015

3 Things Every Adult Child Needs Their Parent To Say To Them

It was a sunny, April day in 2007. I was 7 months pregnant with our third daughter, Lucy. Katie was 3, Julia was 18 months. Mom and Dad called me on speaker phone to confirm what we had been suspecting for years. The diagnosis was in fact, early on-set Alzheimer's.

This crazy-amazing, crazy-painful thing happens when you become a parent. And I suspect it happens not just for those who become parents, but simply anyone who passes into the chamber of adulthood. (The two happened for my simultaneously. I gave birth to Katie at the wee age of 21. God bless her.) Through the lens of adulthood, through the lens of parenthood, we are able to more clearly see the stories of our very own parents. Therefore, a seemingly crystal-clear view of our own childhood. Crazy-amazing. Crazy-painful.

Just as I was beginning to get my feet under me as a mama, I desperately needed to walk back THROUGH my childhood, not AROUND my childhood with my mom. I had so many things to ask her, to apologize for (mainly for stealing all her sane brain cells) and honestly, I needed to express to her some wounds I had been carrying for far too long. And at the end of the day, I wanted to sit at her wise feet and ask, "How did you do it?!"

Alzheimer's does not always smile a friendly smile on rehashing the tricky road of hurt. Alzheimer's steals the ability to navigate such bumpy waters and emerge healed. Bottom line, any of the complicated matters my heart needed to discuss with my mom, would only hurt her with an everlasting, earthly hurt.  On this side of glory, she would never be able to emotionally heal and process from ANY critique or questioning. The disease held her mind in captivity.

And so as an individual soul, whatever frustrations I had, whatever cracks I needed her balm to heal, I had to find that peace and forgiveness by never uttering a word to her, but by transforming those wounds into energy to serve her and love her well until her very.last.breath.

As a daughter who now stands on this side of losing a parent, from a place of much humility and tender thought, I have some advice for parents with grown children, and for grown children with parents.

Parents of Grown Children,

We need you say 3 things to us before you die. And we might need you to say them to us more than once.

I am 12 years in to this parenting gig, and I am overwhelmed at the number of times I have ALREADY wounded my children's hearts. It is VERY sobering to realize that the decisions I am making on their behalf, decisions I have ALREADY made on their behalf, will live on in them forever.

Parents, say you are sorry.
Grown Children, forgive your parents before they ask for it.

It is healthy and good to walk through our childhood. It is good to name the things our parents did well and pass them on to the next generation. It is also healing to name the things that they got wrong, process it deeply and purely; grow from it, heal from it, but you MUST NOT camp there.

My mom spent a lot of her final days and years apologizing, but the painful kind of apologizing. The kind of apologizing you wanted to plug your ears and wish away. It was awful to hear her apologize for things she had no control of, "I'm sorry I fell. I'm sorry I forgot. I'm sorry I spilled. I'm sorry I misspoke. I'm sorry I wet myself. I'm sorry I'm confused. I'm sorry I'm such an inconvenience." My heart would break each time. And with each apology, as a family, we attempted to meet them with, "It's ok, Mama. It's ok. You don't have to apologize. It's ok!"

Grown children, regardless of the pain inflicted, forgive your parents. FORGIVE.YOUR.PARENTS. They are broken vessels living every day with a bit of sovereign grace to see them through. I do not know your pain, nor do I pretend to understand it, but I know the forever mark they will leave on your mind and in your heart. And when they are gone, telling them they are forgiven is no longer an option.

Parents, tell your children that you are proud of them!
Grown Children, be willing to admit in your heart of hearts, how desperately you need to hear these words.

She smoothed the table cloth over and over again. She was nervous and was trying to busy herself with a task. I was cleaning up lunch, and because her ability to move was limited she could only watch me. I cannot imagine how that broke her. The Mama, the matriarch, the one who spent her life busying herself in the kitchen, could only sit helplessly and watch. She apologized, "I'm sorry I can't help! Let me do the dishes. Find me the broom and I'll sweep", she rocked forward trying to sweep crumbs into her soft palm. "It's ok Mama, you have cleaned up more meals than my brain can imagine. Just sit there and talk to me." She sniffed back tears. "You're such a great mom, Sara Suzanne!" she whispered, barely audible to my ears. My throat clogged with ugly tears, "I learned from best," I choked out.

You cannot imagine the life-gift written on my heart when Mama would compliment me. For every crappy mom day I have, her words of encouragement remain and pull me through.

Parents, tell your children you love them!
Children, take every opportunity to do the same.

She said it constantly. Coming and going, calling and hanging up, sitting, sleeping, eating, walking. A brief pause, turn of her head and gentle, "I love you!"

The disease made it urgent.
The disease made it more beautiful every time she said it.
The disease made the words stick and linger.
The disease made it flow more often and more importantly.

Alzheimer's took her brain, but never her love.

Her hands were the softest I had ever held. Her chest rose and fell rapidly. Death was approaching and our time with her was ending. I nestled my nose along her frail and cold cheek and wrote on her heart the very thought that I wanted her to take into eternity, "I will love you for always!"

Isn't it time for you to lay your weapons down?
Isn't it time to apologize for hurt you've caused?
Isn't it time to forgive?
Isn't it time to say something kind, something life-giving?
Isn't it time to receive such life?
Isn't it time to say, 'I love you?"

It is. I just know it is!
Now go...you might not have tomorrow!

~Sara

Alzheimer's, 3 Things Every Adult Child Needs Their Parent To Say To Them

(Photo Cred: Capture Photography and the brilliant, Jessica Flynn)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Why God Isn't Fixing This

Why God Isn't Fixing This

(Photo Cred: New York Daily News)

When these are the headlines you wake up to, your heart cannot help but hurt. Sweet friends, if we don't believe that there is purpose in our pain, our sentiment would mimic the conclusion of the Daily News.

Throughout our entire history, we are a people plagued with the exact same indictment, "God isn't fixing this!"

My heart, your heart, constantly infiltrated with the struggle to believe. In our own stories of broken places and battle scarred wounds, we cry out;

"God isn't fixing this marriage.
God isn't fixing this infertility.
God isn't fixing this betrayal.
God isn't fixing this relationship.
God isn't fixing this injustice.
God isn't fixing these lies.
God isn't fixing this abuse.
God isn't fixing this disease.
God isn't fixing the weight of this financial burden.
God isn't fixing this road littered with destruction.
God isn't fixing this church.
God isn't fixing that child, that spouse, that parent, that friend.
God isn't fixing this community.
God isn't fixing this school.
God isn't fixing this putrid heart.
God isn't fixing this work place.
God isn't fixing this ministry.
God isn't fixing this home.
God isn't fixing this family.
God isn't fixing this story."

We aren't alone. Throughout history, many went before us thinking similar thoughts.

"We are slaves whom are held hostage in a foreign land. God isn't fixing this."

"Surely, the Red Sea will end our Exodus, and we will end up in captivity again. God isn't fixing this."

"How are we ever going to make it without the delicious food the Egyptians served? God isn't fixing this."

The spies who went to survey the promised land, "There are giants every where. God isn't fixing this."

Joshua's people who marched around Jericho, "How will we ever conquer this fortified city? God isn't fixing this."

And endless more.

You know what the problem is, dear fellow friend in need of some fixing? US. You and I. Believing our God is a genie in a bottle who must be rubbed the right way with eloquent prayers, liturgy and religion. You and I forgetting, since the beginning of time, His only goal has been to fix our hearts, not our world. His goal is so much more profound, so much more life-changing, life-giving than just the waving of a wand of healing over an ill mother with Alzheimer's.

He wants our hearts. Not our lukewarm gratitude for momentary relief from our pain.

He wants our hearts.
Not our passive platitudes on Sundays.
Not our eeny-meeny-miny-moes on Monday.
Not our ten percent tithe on Tuesday.
Not our waffling works on Wednesday.
Not our thoughtless thanksgiving on Thursday.  
Not our fake forgiveness on Friday.
Not our slimy sanctification scams on Saturday.

He wants our blooming hearts. And He won't stop until He has it.

And you want to know something else? Lean is close so I can cup your chin.

HE HAS ALREADY FIXED IT!

In ways we never expected.
In wonders we cannot comprehend.
In words that live forever.
In works that set us forever free.
In bearing all the wrath and the wrong upon His shoulders.
HE FIXED IT!

He fixed it from the beginning of time, because He could not be without us.
He fixed it by slipping on humanity and leaving His throne so we would never walk alone.
He fixed it by living the life we could never live and crediting it to our account.
He fixed it by loving the least of these, the worst of these, the poorest of these.
He fixed it by feeding us everlasting life, and washing us with the blood of the lamb.
He fixed it by setting us forever free, by His death on an old, rugged tree.

Our eyes cannot often see what He is doing. Our eyes are often deceived. But we do not hope in vain. We do not struggle in vain. Our hearts do not bleed in vain. He is our Emmanuel. God WITH US. Not aloof pacing the floors of heaven; angry, disappointed and out of touch. He is WITH US, in this very moment. In this very muck. Refining our hearts to be more like His. The promise of this life was never ease and glamour. The promise was GOD WITH US. Never alone.

It's often easier for the nay-sayers to stand on the outside, pointing fingers and blaming a God they know nothing of, than it is to call on His name and sit in the mess with Him. It hurts too bad to struggle with Him, to ask Him the hard questions. Such love is too risky for our finite minds. Such security requires too much patience for our instant gratification souls.

Oh readers, He is worth it. Every pain, every struggle, every tear. He is faithful, kind, tender and true.

IT IS FINISHED, loves.
IT IS FIXED!
IT IS FIXED!
IT IS FIXED!

He is everything to me! The fixer of all wrongs. He is making it all new. Just you wait!
~Sara


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Dear Daughters, Don't Dress Modestly For Men

Our first girl baby? "Oh gravy!" I thought. I hated pink, anything shaped as a heart, glitter, bling and princesses. How in the world was I going to raise a girl? I soothed my fears, "Maybe, she'll be a tom-boy!" 12 years later; here's my tom-boy...

body image. parenting, eating disorders

Our second girl baby? Ok, ok, more pink than I could possibly imagine was floating through our washing machine. And a countless number of Mark's white undershirts turned pink along the way. Maybe, just maybe, this one was going to win the "raging bull" award. Here's my raging bull (notice the all pink ;)





Our third girl baby?  God works in mysterious ways. Maybe this third girl would be the least girly-girl in our possession..... 

UH........



We should have just painted the entire house pink. It was a done deal. 

In June of 2007, we had 3 girls, 3 and under. My innards began to cringe. These 3 babies were going to grow out of being babies, and I was the one that was going to teach them the dance of womanhood. They were going to take their cues from me. Bless it.
  
Before Katie could speak, I determined in my heart that clothes were not going to be the battle I bellowed from my motherhood mountain top. My mom and I went ROUNDS regarding clothing. As an adult, I can easily unpack my mom's fierce determination when it came to clothing. In hindsight, I understand why it was so important to her. This knowledge enabled me to make solid decisions on behalf of my girls and their growing wardrobes. 

We have basically one rule when it comes to clothing; it cannot be "unappropriate". Lucy coined the term, "unappropriate" when she was little watching some scantily clad NFL cheerleader on TV. The term just stuck.

In August, I wrote an article for Shattered Magazine called, Dear Anna Duggar, Josh's Ashly Madison Affair Is Not Your Fault. My motivation behind that article is my same motivation behind today's article; FREEDOM!

We are sending SUCH confusing signals to our precious young woman, and I cannot help but want to intervene. I am a woman, and I am in the process of raising 3 more women.

On one side of the coin our young woman are bombarded in youth chapels, purity ring talks and youth group sermons with the message, "Girls, you need to dress modestly so that you do not stumble your brothers in Christ."

And seriously, within 1.2 seconds of saying "I do" at the altar, women are hearing in the adult services, Sunday Schools and from the pulpit, "women if your husband has sexual struggles, it's your fault for being such a prude!"

SO.MUCH.CONFUSION.

Men, lean in close, penning a woman's sexual story is not some chapter book that first gets opened the night of your honeymoon. There are many, many chapters before you even entered the scene, sir.

It is paralyzingly complicated to tell a girl her whole life not to have sex before marriage, dress more discreetly... even more discreetly than THAT. And then VOILA, when the fairy god-mother shakes her wicked wand, women are to become tigrous in the bedroom so our husbands don't stray.

Both turns of the coin lay the entire blame of men's struggle on the shoulders of women. Both before AND after marriage.

Men, can you possibly see how painful it is to carry this monologue our whole lives?
How YOUR sexual struggle is routinely laid at OUR doorstep?

In the words of my favorite Jen Hatmaker, this is  "horsecrappery!"

Now, please do not hear what I am NOT saying.

Do I think it is important for a woman to be a part of a healthy, sexual relationship with her husband? Yes! Yes! Yes! But for the reasons I outlined in my article with Shattered.

Do I think it is important for women to dress modestly? Yes, but not because of all the reasons you've been told your whole life.

When the men in your life are being honest with you about their struggle, they will tell you that a mannequin fully clothed can be added to the visual rolodex of their "struggle". Welcome to reality.

That is why as women, we have to be motivated to dress modestly by something completely independent of men and their struggle.

Can I propose something completely revolutionary here?

How about we encourage our girls to dress modestly FOR THEMSELVES??
I know, your brain just BLEW UP!

Imagine this. From the time our girls entered this world, their bodies were treated and respected as holy ground. Divine, unique and exquisite pieces of art. What if we so taught them to be in love with their own skin and their own shape, that they literally OWNED IT! They so adored the masterpiece God made with their bodies, the only logical option left in their mind was to protect it and guard it to the death.

What if we never ONCE described or identified our young women by their body shapes: skinny, fat, over weight, ugly, beautiful, big-boned, tiny, large, pear, hour glass, having gained weight, having lost weight, small chested, big chested, no chested, and the putrid list goes on and on.

What if from BIRTH we described them and identified them by naming their GIFTS?!

"This is Katie, she is the kindest soul you'll ever meet!"
"This is Julia, she is the most creative soul you'll ever meet!"
"This is Lucy, she is the most life-giving soul you'll ever meet!"

What if we could re-write the internal narrative of insecurity with a narrative of overflowing pride and confidence in whom our God designed our daughters to be?

Can you imagine the implications?

Long before our daughter's bodies are stumbling blocks to the pimpled-nosed, pubescent boy; we MUST FIRST reach deeper into THEIR stories and paint on THEIR canvases with pride, confidence, stability, tenderness towards themselves, knowledge and education of their bodies, GRACE so much grace for the changing seasons she'll forever be walking through.

The National Eating Disorders Association  records that by elementary age (6-12) girls are already expressing dissatisfaction in their weight and body figure.  A concern that will lead them to the join the 20 million women in the US that have an eating disorder or anxiety disorder.

Most women I know hate their bodies, or at least something about their bodies.
Truth? There are things I hate about my own body.

*tears roll*

Isn't it time we do better for the next generation? Our daughters, our future daughter in-laws, our nieces, our students, our neighbors, our granddaughters and most importantly OURSELVES?!!!

Maybe, just maybe could we stand up and fight against the objectification of women every.where.we. look? In our churches, communities, schools, tv shows, news casts, sporting events, newspapers, movies, and magazines.

Sweet Val would walk into any grocery store or gas station and systemically begin to flip magazines over, "Nobody needs these images in their head," she would smile and say. I used to think she was talking about boys and men not needing those images. Today, I realize she meant herself, my sister and me.

Gosh, she was SO right!

I'm so over it.
I'm so done with the glamorization of the Honey Boo-Boo's in our world.
I want to fight with everything in me to NOT pass down this generational sin of insecurity and self-hatred to my daughters.

I want something so much sweeter, so much kinder, so much more bearable for them to carry.

I want to give them the gift of life. The gift of REALLY loving their bodies.

Today, I'm writing a new story for myself.
Today, I'm writing a new story for my girls.
Today, you should begin a new story for yourself.
Today, you should begin a new story for all the young girls and women in your life.

Today, let's begin anew!
~Sara






  

   

Monday, November 9, 2015

Dear Mamas With Small Children

Dear Mamas With Small Children,

If I could, I'd steal you away and make you come sit on my porch for an entire day of rest. It's getting a little chilly here in Mississippi, so I'd wrap you in fuzzy blankets and serve you something steamy and warm.

First, let me get all my *not so little* children out the door for school. Wait! Julia forgot her glasses, I'll be right back. Just sit here in the silence and listen to the leaves rush to their winter homes below. Those bells chiming in the  background? That's French Camp Baptist saying hello through the brisk, morning air. It's delightful, isn't it? Hum that familiar tune while you wait for me to return, "Nothing but the blood of Jesus!"

I'm back. Glasses delivered. Let me grab my French pressed coffee and we will sit.

I have something urgent to tell you.
Something that could possibly change the course of your day, your month, even your life.

I inch my front porch seat closer and closer to yours.  Now our knees are touching through our fuzzy blankets. I take my little Val Hall-hands and encapsulate them around yours. I squeeze a comforting squeeze and begin to speak over you:

"Sweet Friend,

I see you struggling. Carrying an insane amount of pressure, expectation and weariness on your shoulders. Your eyes are void of life and energy. You haven't slept well in weeks, months, possibly years. Your soul is aching, so unbelievably dry and cracked like a scorched desert. You can only dream that you'll feel alive again some day. Your heart lays in bondage to the sewage of comparison and mom-guilt. You've convinced yourself you're getting it all wrong, and have completely screwed up this mystery called motherhood. You've let lies etch "FAILURE" all over this season.

I've been there. Oh, I have been there.

With a 5 year old, 3 year old, 1 year old and a new born. We moved away from everything we knew, everyone we knew. We were 1,000 miles away from Mark's parents, and 1200 miles away from my parents. A new job, a new town, a new state, a new home, a new community, a new baby, a new church, and an entirely new season of motherhood; mother of 4, 5 and under.

So many days, I was just surviving the ebb and flow of, "Mom. Mama. Mommy. Mom. Mama. Mommy!"

I knew at the conclusion of everyday I needed more of Jesus. Kids have this way of wicking out every good and patient feeling in you, and leaving you raw with wickedness.

My behavior-modification guilt stirred; "You should be getting up before the children to have a quiet time with God." "You should be staying up late after they go to bed to have a quiet time with God." "You aren't praying enough." "You aren't making the kids memorize enough scripture." "Do they even know what justification is?!" "Go Sunday School more!"  "Work with them Mon-Sat on sitting still in the sanctuary!-- They're so disruptive during the service!"  "You are failing them spiritually, Sara!"

Oh the sticky web of guilt I wove. But can I tell you something?
Jesus set me free from that putrid line of thinking!

I tried to set my alarm to get up early. I failed.
I tried to stay up past 8:15pm. I failed.
I played more bible verse cds in the car. Until I lost my sanity, and turned Justin Bieber back on.
We worked on sitting still in church, until we joined the Oasis and the very base line of Sunday mornings was the low hum of small voices chatting and moving about. FREEDOM!

OHMYSTARS raising small babies is EXHAUSTING! I just wanted to sleep. And you know what?! Jesus was ok with that. For years, I would place everyone in their rooms for nap time and I would feel the Holy Spirit invite me to my own spiritual nap time. I'd crawl up into my bed and visualize that I was crawling into the lap of my God. I would cry, "HELP ME! Know my heart!" and He would whisper, "Rest! I'll fill you up, I will help you and I know your heart, sweet daughter!"

Please don't convolute what I'm saying. I'm all about some alone time with Jesus! In His word, quietly in prayer and worship. But there is SO.MUCH.FREEDOM within those walls. Freedom we rarely extend to mamas with small children. I remember MANY Beth Moore studies in my kitchen, answering questions with a baby on my hip and one hanging on my ankle. I remember saying many prayers in motion. Many pleas for assistance not scheduled into "quiet times."

Seriously, who has a "sweet hour of prayer" with 4 kids under 5?!

Ok, so maybe you do. But I didn't.

And God was NOT disappointed in me. He wasn't freaked out because I didn't wake up with the sun like the Psalmists. I drooled on my pillow until a little person insisted I get up. I'd pray to Him in the dead of night, while the house was utterly still and I nursed a new born baby.  I knew of His kindness to me all throughout the trenches. He routinely revealed Himself to me as the God who meets us where we are.  And where I was, was in the muck of raising tiny human beings to be somewhat functional. And there is NO muck like child rearing muck.

I knew this from my head down deep into my toes. It sustained me during really dark seasons.
This last year, a friend of mine showed me a verse that actually, totally and completely supports what I knew ALL ALONG!

Isaiah 40:11
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs into his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
HE GENTLY LEADS THOSE THAT HAVE YOUNG!

other translations:
He gently leads the nursing ewes.
He gently leads those that are with young.

Are you catching this?
Do you see how the Lord deals with the mamas of the young?
Do you see it?
Can you receive it?
Can you believe it?

Mamas of Small Children,
He deals with you GENTLY! He knows your portion. He acknowledges the weight you're carrying. He sees with tender eyes your exhaustion. He knows you're depleted and worn. And you know what? He deals with you GENTLY! Maybe that's how you should begin to deal with yourself also; GENTLY!

Maybe that gentleness will give way to rest. And that rest will bring you a flash of hope, and that flash of hope will rain an ounce of life onto your desert heart. Because we all need some rain, don't we?"

I can see you need a refill.
Those tears streaming down your face? Let them roll.
You're safe here on my front porch.
I'll go grab us some Kleenex and a refill.
I'll be right back....

~Sara

motherhood, raising children

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

3 Things No One Told Me About Losing My Mom

The cold, crisp fall air whirled around my body as I plunged deeper and deeper into the still, quiet woods. The bright blue sky made the oranges, reds and dirty browns pop.

Her voice filled the hallways of my heart, "Look around, Sara! Look around, Sara!" she would demand. "Don't miss the changes in the trees!" as her bubbly eyes glanced to and fro, pointing out her favorite ones as we drove down familiar roads.

We've circled back around to a season I have always loved the best. But nearly 3 years ago,  the bold colors, the glorious pumpkin smells, the crunching leaves, the warm fires and the changing trees were tainted with the bitter suffering of her death.

Yesterday, I couldn't even catch my breath as I placed my hands on my knees, bent over in the middle of the trail on the verge of throwing up. Only the deer and the squirrels beared witness to the sobs as they bubbled up from my gut and overflowed to the red Mississippi mud. "WHY?!" I half screamed, half wailed. "Why, did no one tell me?!"

In the last year, I've had many friends lose their Mamas. And while no two experiences are the same, there is enough sameness to have a shared experience. If I had the resources, I would drop everything and run to these people's sides. There is something out of this world comforting about looking into another person's eyes and knowing, "You've been here. You understand!" Your souls are knit together under unwanted circumstances, and you sit in it together.

1. No one tells you, your birthday will eternally connect you to your mom. No one tells you on your birthday, you will ache for her more than any other day of the year. No one celebrates you on your birthday, quite like your mom.

This year, I had a complete temper-tantrum on my birthday. I woke up to children who were screaming at each other and NONE of whom remembered it was my birthday. NONE. My sweet daddy, (who was washing a butt-load of dishes in the sink) salvaged the moment (and ultimately helped Mark salvage the day); he hugged me around the waist, kissed my check and placed a hot cup of coffee in my hands, "Happy Birthday, sweetie!" #limpoutloud

2. No one told me I would lose my way.

I remember feeling lost for months after Mama died. Almost like sleep walking in a fog. I remember thinking, "I don't know which way to go!" Even though I was a grown adult, married woman, and mother of 4; I felt like I was living without a map. As one of her daughters, I followed closely behind her. She taught me to BE a woman. Her very life was the sign post of daily living. Her life beckoned me, "Go this way. Turn here, graciously. Speak these words, gently. Stand here, firmly. Love them, tenderly. Fight for them, fiercely."

It was like the trail she had blazed before me for 31 years, died with her. And as one her daughters, I felt like the torch of her life of valor, was suddenly laying at my feet and I panicked, "I can't do this. I can't carry on her legacy. I can't bear the weight of being up to bat so soon. I have 3 sets of beautiful baby girl eyes staring at me, who do I stare at? Who do I take my cues from?".........

-Who will I ask when I don't remember all the ingredients in a recipe?
-Who will I call when I am ready to sell my children on Ebay?
-Who will tell me I am not failing as a Mom, and I made the right choice even though it hurts like hell?
-Who will be the nucleus of family gatherings, holidays and celebrations?
-Who will speak truth over my heart like only a Mama can?

Long days, dark nights, buckets of tears, mysterious emotions blind-siding me from no where, and 3 years worth of new memories made without her presence.

3. No one told me, "although you are weeping, the Lord will help you to keep sowing."

This song has been on repeat all week. GO! Go listen to it and come back.

The longer I live the more I realize we are all weeping as we sow. ALL OF US! It is the tears of daily living that water our stories until the Lord restores them.

My mom sowed a lot of seeds, weeping. Weeping over her own broken places or other's broken places. She wept as she suffered her own losses, or as she walked along with others as they suffered.

But just like Psalm 126 declares, "all those who sow weeping will go out with songs of joy!"

My mom went out with songs of joy.

When her spoiled body and mind could respond to nothing, her soul responded to song... Songs of joy! After 67 years of earthly weeping, on November 21st, 2012, her clothes of this world were stripped away and He rejoiced over HER with SHOUTS of joy. He dressed her in bridal gowns and saw her scars. He traced them with His very fingers and looked into the intimate chambers of her soul and spoke, "Sweet child of Valor, look up and behold the seeds you sowed while weeping. They are the witnesses to your sowing, far deeper than your eye can fathom. Well done, good and faithful servant!'

In my weeping, He is sowing, and I WILL go out with songs of JOY!
~Sara

Me and mom on the day I can home from the hospital.

Mama, grief, loss










Wednesday, October 14, 2015

#LimpOutLoud: The Mission

So ok.... maybe we've tapped into something here. Your overwhelming support of last week's article has me completely humbled and ecstatic. Today, I am breathing with NEW hope.

While I was trying to convey to each of you, "You aren't alone" YOU in-turn shouted right back at me, "You aren't alone! We want to #limpoutloud TOO!"

Click after click, comment after comment, view after view, share after share, the collective online "AMEN" you guys screamed was heard, and I wanted to cry.

I've been chewing, praying, chewing, praying and praying some more, "Ok God, what's next?! Now what?! I've told everyone about #limpoutloud. They're excited. WAY more excited than I could have possibly dreamed. They want to #limpoutloud. They're craving it too. Where do I go with this?!"

I have started small, with 3 ways we are going to #limpoutloud!

Buckle in.
Here we go.

#1. Limp Thru It, Not Around It

Very few people are willing to sit in the uncomfortable places and recognize the wounds we each individually bear. Step one in #limpoutloud is discovering what has caused us to limp. For so long, so many have walked around their own personal stories, instead of THRU THEM. Those "forgotten" memories you attempted to bury have to be dug up and processed.

-All those years of sexual shame; trace that back to its origin. How did you first learn about sex? Who told you? A trusted parent or dirty, rotten playground friend? Did that older snake take advantage of you and start exploring parts of your body that were not his/her to touch? The awakening of your sexually being has a DIRECT correlation to your current, internal/external relationship with sex.

-He was a sloppy drunk who abused with his fist and his words. But for some reason you could not shake how much you thought you loved him. You blamed yourself and tried hard to NOT irritate him. You have moments of rage against God for giving you a daddy who was worthless and absent.

-The one adult figure who bullied you to no end. A person who was suppose to be safe, only to dismember your soul day after day. Criticism, anger, relentless expectations; you were never good enough and they told you repeatedly.

-The shocking grief of a sibling's death; the horror of no tomorrow.

-The church that refused you, the people who ignored you, the congregation that said, "We only serve the healthy, move along!"

-The terminal diagnosis that meant watching her die twice. Both times before your very own eyes.

-The lifechanging memory of blood pouring out of your body into the toilet. The blood sustaining the very heart beat of your child; gone without warning.

-The mundane tasks of daily living, have you dead on the inside and pacing without hope. You imagine what life would be like if you didn't exist anymore. You believe the atrocious lie, "this world would be better off without me!"

-He told you he didn't love you anymore and didn't want to be married to you. He packed his bags and went and found respite in another woman's bed. You are ashamed and hate yourself. The very reflection of your eyes in a mirror makes you cringe. You can't even get out of bed.

The abuse, the addiction, the pain, the neglect, the shame, the guilt, the horror, the betrayal, the anger, the sorrow, the grief, the intimidation, the false hope, the false teaching, the lies, the empty promises, the secrets you are carrying around are holding you captive.

You can hide it, buy it, bury it, burn it, turn it, spin it, ignore it, forget it, and dress it up with a bible verse. You can call it contemporary, traditional, self-realization, independence or rebellion. You can legalize it, promote it, publish it, record it, and make look it eloquent, holy and honorable. You can rename it, rebrand it, repackage it, and recommit it a million times, but I know better now.

WE ARE ALL LIMPING!

Let me share a secret. In walking thru your story, treading on places in your heart that are numb, dead and have been on lock down for decades, might uncover paralyzing pain and agony. FIND A COUNSELOR. Not just any counselor. Choose wisely. The only thing worse than no counsel, is bad counsel. Don't walk alone. Surround yourself with even ONE friend who will hear you. I know you're scared. I know it sounds awful. I know you're thinking, "living through it was hell enough, doing it again seems impossible!" Please, please don't trust in your oppression any longer!

Now lean in close and write this on your heart. One of the single greatest lines my Mama ever spoke over me was, "You can go there, but you CANNOT camp there!" Walk thru your story, but KEEP WALKING! Do not set up tents of bitterness and regret. KEEP WALKING. Do not get stuck in the the 'what-ifs' and 'if-onlys'. KEEP WALKING. I promise, when you get to the other side of your story, having walked thru it with eyes wide open, you will be able to #limpoutloud and have endless passion and grace for other limpers.

In my small 34 years of limping, I recognize the most harsh, unforgiving, legalistic, self-righteous and abrasive people are those who have not walked back thru their story. They have little compassion and patience for the limper. The have no tolerance for on-going failure and struggle. They do not tread gently, but often destroy and burn bridges every where they go. My heart breaks every time I come upon a pilgrim who has been beat up by one of these life-stealing thieves. Lord, have mercy!

#2 Limp With Those Closest To You

Sweet friends, if you cannot limp with those you are living with and doing life with, YOU AREN'T LIVING!! You are faking it, and I call your bluff. We must be willing to show our messy to those closest to us. Laying down our pride and limping along side of our spouse, our children, our coworkers, our church family, our life groups, our small groups, our siblings, our parents, our students, our neighbors and our community. Be ok with starting conversations with, "I'm really struggling today, I need your support!" Don't be afraid to HONESTLY *INSERT GASP* answer the question, "How are you doing?!" And if you dare ask the question, "how are you doing?" soften your heart to hear the REAL answer. Not just some faux, southern living antidote in response, "I'm fine, bless your heart for asking!"

Do not try and #limpoutloud if you aren't limping with those around you!

#3 #LIMPOUTLOUD

Now here is the exciting part! When we begin to #limpoutloud we provide a safe place for others to do the same. We create an environment stable enough for healing to wash over stories and redemption is born. When we own our limping we can better invite a desperate world and declare, "I'm limping, your limping, LET'S LIMP TOGETHER!!"

Practically speaking, that means we are going to blow up social media with #limpoutloud stories. Instagram, twitter, facebook, snapchat, etc...etc... I want to see, hear and watch the #limpoutloud concept EXPLODE!! If you have a long story, email me at mslittlejohn@gmail.com and I'm going to start publishing blogs with YOUR #limpoutloud stories.

We want lives, hearts and history to be reclaimed, because a small few souls refused to hide their limping any more. We want people to be set free, found and forgiven! We want to say with our limping lives, "God is MORE than able!" We want our limping lives to testify to the glorious God we serve. We want our limping lives to serve as an example of the beauty our Savior makes out of limping ashes. And in our limping; when we are made low, our only hope is that Jesus Christ is made known.

There is an entire generation of people, desperately craving companionship with of league of limpers. You are welcome here dear, dear, limper.

#limpoutloud,
~Sara

p.s. If you shared last week's article, PLEASE share this follow up one. We don't want to leave people hanging :)



Thursday, October 8, 2015

Dear 10 Year Old Boy Sitting In The Pew, All Alone In Your Sexual Shame

Daddy and I had sipped through gallons of piping, hot coffee straight from the French Press.  He has always had this impeccable way of coming along side of me, hearing me, cheering me and joining me where I am. For as long as I can remember, Dad has always carved out a safe place for me to come and process everything in this life.

He shook his head slowly, "Sis, I'm so sorry for the mess my generation has passed on to your generation, and unfortunately, now down to my grand kids." 

We had covered every topic; relationships, politics, marriage, Islam, parenting, Pope Francis, serving, missions, recollections of the 1970's, the feminist movement, mental health, spiritual health, emotional health and of course how much missed Mama. 

Inevitably, we circled back around to where dad and I have spent hours upon hours of treading through meaty conversation; the Church, and mighty war between living faith and the tired traditions of dead faith. 

I got all riled up as my voice began to escalate and my hands started flying through the air, whilst my charismatic soul pounded. "My generation dad, is desperate to follow limping leaders. To follow leaders who pass the microphone, to follow someone who says from the pulpit, "I'm limping, your limping, can we limp together?! THIS (as my arms were flailing in all directions around the double-wide) CAN NOT BE ALL THERE IS!

My deep passionate parts are something Dad is 34 years familiar with. After all, he was the first man in my life who chose not to kill off all my passion, but for the safety of my future husband and everyone else in my path, he tried to channel it. Mark thanks you, Dad. 

Hands flying, hearts pounding, dreams overflowing like a fountain from my lips, dad gently lowered his head and quietly said, "Kid, you have to remember, my generation does not know how to limp out loud. We weren't allowed."

Those words slowly began to fall all over my heart as I stared at the wall.

How many people are sitting in churches today who are not allowed to limp out loud?
How many people are drenched in suffocating pain, who do not know HOW to limp out loud?
How many people are isolated, alone and walking through paralyzing darkness who have never once considered that others are limping too? 
Who have never once heard anyone else admit to limping? 
Who have never been given permission to limp? 

What if we limped out loud?
What if we taught people to limp out loud?
What if we provided a safe enough space for people to limp out loud without the fear of condemnation and judgement?
What if we determined, RIGHT NOW, in our own homes and our circles of influence, we weren't going to hide our limping any more, but we were going to LIMP OUT LOUD!

Revelation 12, gives us the blue print to triumphing over the devil and the land he tries to claim in our hearts, minds, and lives, "by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony"

THE WORD OF OUR TESTIMONY!

Not the, "I came to know Jesus at 6 years old in Sunday School class, and now I'm good, good, gooder!" testimony.

But the, "oh.my.stars. I am so unbelievably broken and undone. Let me show you my messy" testimony.

How many lives would be changed if leaders, pastors, deacons, elders, Sunday School teachers, mentors, principals, teachers, moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, friends, family, YOU AND ME, all lower our posture and begin to whisper truth over each other?

Dear 10 Year Old Boy Sitting In The Pew, All Alone In Your Sexual Shame;
You aren't alone in your struggle with sexual temptation! You aren't alone in your addiction to pornography. You aren't alone trapped in the shame of your mind. There are men AND women all around you who are limping, struggling, and depending on the daily bread of grace to see them through. Let us testify to the ways God will shore you up and help you through. Let us create a safe spot for you to come and confess and find forgiveness and healing and encouragement to fight another day.  Let us limp with you.

Dear 18 Year Old Girl Who Wants To Kill Herself,
You aren't alone in your self hate and self harm. Many women have gone before you and learned to see themselves as Jesus sees them; pure, undefiled and lovely. Let us slow down enough and come to your side. Let us help you uncover your beauty. Let us offer you hope. Let us limp with you.

Dear Marriage That Is Falling Apart,
You aren't alone. So many couples are hiding their dysfunction in the name of "sticking it out". So much severe silence in our marriages, because no one will admit to their own personal marital limping. When couples are allowed to limp out loud, you will see so many people who can and WILL testify to the miraculous work God has done on their behalf.  In the meantime, stifling silence is crushing marriages at their very core. Let us limp with you.

Dear 8 Year Old Little Girl Who Is Being Abused And Tells No One,
You aren't alone. We want to fight for you! We want to rescue you. Along side of Jesus, we want redeem this horror in your life. I know your tiny heart can't believe that all these strong women around you were once the victims of abuse, but they were. Let us limp with you.

Dear Parents Who Feel Like Failures,
You aren't alone. You carry unbelievable guilt for the decisions you made on behalf of your children. You feel at fault for all the bad decisions your children are currently making. You are disappointed in the story you have written on their heart. You are embarrassed, tired and overwhelmed with the task at hand. Let us limp with you.

Dear 35 Year Old Soul, Depressed And Riddled With Anxiety,
You aren't alone. The internal monologue you can't shake, can be quieted when others surround you and share their own depression and anxiety. We want to help strip the lies that are plaguing your mind and show you freedom from your bondage. Let us limp with you.

Dear 70 Year Old Grief Stricken Life,
You aren't alone. You feel like you have no purpose. You feel like you've already lived your best days. You are lonely, sad and weighed down with life-long regret. Let us limp with you.

As long as Satan can keep us silent and isolated, 
As long as Satan can convince us we are all alone in our limping; he wins. 
He will steal another heart, he will crush another marriage, he will attempt to destroy another soul. He will chew us up and spit us out everyday, all day long. He is constantly seeking to devour us. 

WE MUST, by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony, begin to LIMP OUT LOUD! 

Oh, it's scary as hell to think of the vulnerability and rawness required to limp out loud. Satan holds us there in fear. Some of us he holds there in captivity for an entire lifetime. But by the blood of the Lamb, He has redeemed us from the pit of despair and we have ALL the power and authority to LIMP OUT LOUD!

I have an idea. 
It's a small idea. 
One idea that might only see fruition in my small corner of the world. 
But it's an idea, nonetheless. 
I want to limp out loud. 
I believe in my gut, that a wave of sweet, redemptive change will come when we can give ourselves and others permission to limp out loud.

Who wants in? 
Who wants to limp out loud? 
Who KNOWS deep into their toes, THIS (as my arms flail all over my office) stale diet cannot be all there is to this life?!

In the next few days, I'll be flushing out this small idea here on the blog. Come back. It's getting all kinds of wild.

From one limper to the next!
Here's to a mighty change: #limpoutloud
~Sara

P.S. Don't forget to read Part 2 here!!! 



Thursday, September 24, 2015

3 Secrets For Powerful Parenting

She sat in her regular afternoon homework spot, right across the island from me. I chopped onions for supper while she chewed on her favorite snack; cheddar cheese. Her eyes bounced from floor to ceiling, ceiling back to the floor. "Sweet girl, do you have a question for me?" I inquired. Her tender brown eyes peered up at mine and she sheepishly asked, "Mama, what's rape?" My heart sunk. The hands on the calendar have not even turned double digits for her. She asked this question with masked boldness and waited patiently as I formed the words on my tongue to answer her.

I laid down my knife, rinsed my potent onion hands and slowly drew near to her side. I lowered my posture so she and I could see eye to eye. With tears streaming down my face, I began to explain in an age appropriate way the horror of rape.

No one shares these kinds of stories at baby showers. Very few parenting books are willing to stray from mind-numbing topics like breast-feeding, bottle feeding, home safety devices and vaccinations.

In our short 12 years of parenting, it has become paralyzingly, obvious that our job is SO.MUCH.MORE than any book could describe.

Here are 3 secrets we have returned to over and over again as we try to raise these babies, entirely leaning on grace upon grace.

1. Find them, and be intentional!
Each of our children is a gift desperately waiting to be opened by us! No faux substitution will satisfy. The base line of ALL of our stories is the desire to know and be known. One of our child's deepest needs is to be known by Mom and Dad. Much of our knowing has been rooted in our watching. Hours upon hours of taking mental notes on how our children respond/react in different situations and settings. These are the quiet clues to the tilt of your child's heart. Be a good detective, Sherlock!

2. Enjoy them: you're raising them to leave!
I realize I have had more natural thinking space, being space, breathing space and functioning space in the last 7 weeks than some of you have had in a lifetime. I'm pretty sure my capacity to enjoy my kids has increased because of this new found bumper. But even before all four kids went into brick and mortar, even when I had 4 kids 5 and under clawing at my ankles morning, noon and night; I fought HARD to enjoy my kids. Is it easy? NO WAY! I threatened to sell a child on ebay just last week. Is it a butt-load of meticulous work ironing out and directing our children down the road of becoming enjoyable humans? Um. Yes. It is a decision EVERYDAY to enjoy our kids, the stage they are in, and the season they are walking through. It is a decision EVERYDAY to choose enjoyment over annoyment. And believe you me, many, many days I have chosen annoyment over enjoyment. Thank goodness for forgiveness.

3. Hear them, and respond!
After wading through the minefield of rape, her sensitive heart gasped within her and she whispered, "that is one of the most awful things I've ever learned of!"

I didn't want to leave her mind clutched in the gear of fear. And so, I began to recount stories of so many men and women who are now standing on the other side of rape. Who, with all of their heart, testify that God redeems broken things; even rape.

Was this one of my favorite parenting moments? No, not exactly. But I wouldn't trade it for ANYTHING!

I tell this story today, with a fierce determination to call all parents to find your kids where they are, to enjoy them, because friends we might not have tomorrow, and to listen and respond to them. These are the precious moments building our homes as a museum of memories.

Now get out of here and go squeeze those babies!

Here's to finding them, enjoying them and hearing them!
~Sara


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Page From My Heart: I Know What I'm Going To Do With My Life

Oh...heeeeyyyyyyy, all my precious readers.

Sweet, sweet, blogspot has not seen the likes of my writing fingers for FAR.TOO.LONG!

Forgive me.

Remember that time I put all four my kids in school and I thought I was going to have all this lavishly-scandalous free time to journal my world to you everyday? We were going to sip hot coffee for once in our lives and just share the dirty, dirt-dirt, eat Bon-Bon's and catch up on 12 years of "Young and the Restless?!" (Don't even act like you don't watch it...)

Yeah.
Well.

That's a mirage, and all the old women lied to me.
There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

The work, cleaning, laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, administration requirements, bills, and business DOES NOT END, just because your house is void of peanut butter and jelly hands from 7-3. It's simply a mental trick looming in the balance.

Now I realize, all of my mamas in the trenches, all my of homeschooling-heroes, all of my rock star divas working full time, are spitting bananas at the screen, because I KNOW your soul would give gold to have the house empty from 7-3. I hear you! I remember! Here is the 1800 number to your local school district. CALL THEM! It's life changing. (It's a joke, *insert laugh*)

But really, the only thing that is different now is I get to pluck my eye brows in the bathroom instead of locked inside my mini-van, with the urchins hanging on the door handles because they can't be without me for 5 blessed minutes. Oh.my.stars. No one would leave me alone that day, remember?

So now when my grown up children come back asking why their father and I scarred them by throwing them all in brick and mortar, I will tell them, "so I could pluck my eyebrows in peace. Deal.With.It!"

On a less sarcastic note, the last 6 weeks have been INSANELY good, stretching and different! A big dose of different. We are learning the new rhythm of our days and nights. Don't bother contacting me between 3-9, I'm in the triage unit of school debrief x4: HW/Softball/Cheerleading/Piano/Reading Clubs/Flag Football, oh and LIFE.

And during the day, thankfully, I am learning to dance with silence again and was glad to balance out the silence with a busy month of writing for Shattered Magazine.

In the few pockets of silence I have come upon, I've been talking with Jesus a lot about what is next for me. Mark and I decided back in the summer that I would not take on anything that I wasn't already committed to this semester. We really wanted to be careful not to fill all the silent moments out of panic or despair, but allow me the opportunity to sit here for a bit and trace out what life was really going to look like and how to BEST fill my available hours. The key word there is BEST.

We have explored plausible options like returning to school for a MFT degree, completing a certification with CCEF in biblical counseling or finally publishing my manuscript. And we've explored implausible options like becoming a political speech writer, because folks, WORDS MATTER. Opening a restaurant or a Kroger with the Skidmores, because we're tired of driving so far when we need REAL food and REAL drink. And my all time favorite option is... figuring out a way to get to hang out with my hubby all day long and solve all the world's problems. I mean.... how great would THAT be?!        

I have literally laid in my bed, closed my eyes and told the Lord when I opened my eyes, if He would be so kind to have written on the wall what He would like me to do next, I would be TOTALLY #allin. He and I giggled together.

I learned long ago to not rush the timing of God's plans in our stories. He is good, ALWAYS GOOD. And His ways are meticulous and divine, SO DIVINE. So I've waited with baited breath, trying to remain faithful in the areas I KNOW He has for me RIGHT NOW; being a tender wife, an intentional Mama, a supportive daughter, a visible sister, a constant friend and a writer of words. Those roles alone are a daily gift from God and they are enough.

Yesterday, I had one of those rare, quiet moments, asking the Lord once again what He had for me. I was sitting in my green, comfy chair with cold coffee and creamer, wearing holy yoga pants, hair in a bun, night glasses on and my bible and notes spread every where across the floor. And the Lord stirred my heart. He brought my attention to a passage I hadn't ever spent much time studying, but was packed full with specific truth for my heart.

Isaiah 1:5b & 6

The whole head is sick and the whole heart faint;
From the sole of the foot even to the head,
there is no soundness in it,
but bruises and sores, and raw wounds;
they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil.

This passage is describing the heart state of the Israelites and their estrangement from God.

I read and reread these words. I researched. I cross-referenced. I googled. I read endless commentaries. I let the words fall off my lips over and over again. I paced the doublewide speaking them out loud, and then whispering them like they were a secret, and then it hit me all at once.

THIS, THIS is what I want to do for the rest of my life!

If you haven't noticed yet, there is MUCH, MUCH pain in our world. If you haven't noticed yet, there is MUCH, MUCH sickness of mind and of heart in our VERY homes and neighborhoods. If you haven't noticed yet, there are so many, many people walking around with bruises, sores and raw wounds. Many covering them, masking them, running from them, hiding from them, denying them, numbing them, medicating them, and forgetting them. SO MANY souls unable to decipher, acknowledge or communicate the hurt oozing inside of them. It's paralyzing sometimes to see the sicknesses plaguing the human heart.

But this is when I started crying. This is when it all began to make sense.

Do you see the solution?
Do you see the kryptonite to this disaster?

Look closely in the final sentence.

PRESSING OUT.....
BINDING UP.....
SOFTENING.....

YALL! This is what I want to do for the rest of my life with EVERY.SINGLE.PERSON I encounter.

I want to PRESS OUT their bruises-their sores-their wounds, NOT to inflict more pain, but to relieve it. To release the venom of lies pulsing through their bodies. I want to shed light on shame, and show freedom in the darkness. I MEAN.....COME ON, who doesn't need this?!

I want to be a conduit to BINDING UP the broken places in people's stories. Pointing them to the Healer, Redeemer, and True Physician.

And listen to this part, I cannot think of a more beautiful illustration of what the people of God are to be about RIGHT NOW. But THIS, this is it.....
SOFTENING the gashes of this world with the oil of a Risen Savior.

THAT IS FREAKING DELICIOUS!!! YES! YES! YES!

Can you tell I'm losing my junk over here?

I am not so naive to believe I have even an OUNCE in me to carry out this mission. NOT.ONE. But HE that is IN ME is greater than he that is in the world. I have FULL access to all that my God was, is and WILL BE. NOTHING. NO THING can separate from the Him and His unlimited power.

God didn't write His will for me on the walls of my bedroom, He wrote it on the walls of my heart! And even now as the tears stream down my face, I stand in awe.

~Sara



Thursday, August 20, 2015

The August Algorithm: Surviving School When The Honeymoon Is Over

*Clause*
Sweet educators of the world, this post is not at ALL an indictment on you. We ADORE YOU! We appreciate you more than you'll ever know. We think you should be the best paid employees in the state/in the nation/in the world. This post is about my painfully, wretched brokenness in the midst of raising four babies. Please hear my heart.
*Clause Over*

We've been tardy, lost parts of our recess for disobedience (RIGHTFULLY SO), unintentionally overlooked assignments, failed a test, forgot to sign homework folders, cried over spilled milk, lost our ice cream money, accidentally had our tennis shoes thrown away, AND we've already had 3 fake sickness pleas.

We started school TWO WEEKS ago.

The honeymoon of the new school year is over. I felt it come up and out yesterday morning, while I had a sloth of a child laying next to the front door, (just minutes before it was time to leave) refusing to put shoes on because, I quote, "the person who invented shoes is the dumbest person in the world. Why can't I go barefoot forever?! Most of the people in this world do not own a pair of shoes. Why are you so mean and make me wear shoes?!" There is not enough coffee in the world to cover up this melt down. Of course my response was angelic and full of the spirit, "you have exactly two minutes to stand up, put some shoes on, find a new attitude and walk out that door like you love this day and everything about it. Including, but not limited to, the brand new shoes I JUST bought you with the deepest love from my heart! Otherwise, I'm locking you in a box til you're 16!"

Said child found shoes.

It really does puzzle me that this transition back into a reality we have known for YEARS, still has us all undone and verklempt. Very little has changed; wake up, get dressed (YES! With the clothes you laid out last night), brush your nasty-asty teeth (cause, EW!) come eat the hot breakfast your mother slaved over because she had mom guilt with all the organic-smoothie and short order breakfast recipes she saw floating around social media yesterday, put socks and shoes on, grab back-pack (lovingly packed by yours truly) and leave. But everyday so far, it's like we just stepped into a Nancy Drew Mystery and everyone needs prompting for the next step.

If you love me, don't visit me in the morning.

Yesterday, at approximately 3:30, I poured myself a glass of red wine (no snarky comments, older brothers!) because the after school shenanigans were about to commence. They make the morning routine laughable.

OH
MY
STARS

Why are we unraveling?! We have 166 more days of this routine to go. Where have I gone wrong?  I cried myself to sleep, burdened with the thoughts I KNOW every mother carries, "I'm screwing it all up! All they will remember about me is my anger and rage about completing their homework. All they will remember about me is that I am mean because I made them wear shoes. I'm scarring them forever. Dear God, give them childhood amnesia!!"

#undone

The weight. The pressures. The schedules. The work. The must-dos and the must-haves, almost crushed me last night. As the tears burned my eyes, I felt the spirit whisper, "GRACE! What you are missing is grace. Give them grace, Sara! Give YOURSELF grace, Sara!"

Aw. Grace.

A gift I've been unwrapping for a life time.  Each time I open it, I am undone with gratitude.

I've decided August should be national month of grace! Don't we all need a second helping of grace this month? Moms? Dads? Teachers? Principals? Wide eyed- freaked out, students? Professors?  Bus drivers? Superintendents? Coaches?......Really, EVERYONE! How would today be different if we all just stepped back, took a deep breath, re-evaluated the unnecessary and impossible standards we've set for ourselves and everyone else, and divvy out an extra helping of scandalous grace.

I need something scandalous to balance out the insane.
I need something unrelenting to balance out the massive list of rules and regulations.
I need something impenetrable to balance out the pressure.
I need something solid to balance out self. MYSELF.

Grace and grace alone, will carry me today, and all my days.
Grace and grace alone, will help lower my posture on bended knee, to the eye level of said child; (struggling not against the flesh and blood of shoe soles, but against her own soul) and tie that shoe one more time.
Grace and grace alone, will walk me through the valley of the shadow of homework death, and I will fear no spelling word list, cause You are with me.
Grace and grace alone, will allow me the freedom to dance in the murky, mornings of muck; coffee in hand OF COURSE!
Grace and grace alone, will tuck me in at night, wipe the wounded tears aside, and give me strength to do it all again....tomorrow.

Friends, give them grace! Give yourself grace! Grab that monster size ladle, and pour delicious grace all over one another. I promise, it makes a monster size difference.

Here's to grace!
~Sara


school




Friday, August 7, 2015

Maybe We Were Meant To Limp: How To Address Brokenness

I'll never forget the day I dropped her. Her walking had slowed and each step had become significantly more difficult. Her brain was sending out so many mixed signals to her body, but her spirit refused to give up and be confined to a wheel chair.

It was my day to care for Mama. We had been watching some Hallmark movies and crying over hot dogs and soda. She needed to use the restroom. A very complicated and tedious process. She had a gait belt and needed 100% assistance along the way. We would stand directly behind her, (so close her neck could feel our breath), hold tight to the gait belt around her hips, and steer her down the long hall, around the bedroom door and into the bathroom. We had finished using the bathroom and were back in the living room, two feet away from her couch. However, when her eyes saw her couch, her brain sent the signal to the rest of her body to sit. And she sat. I was trying to keep her standing, "Mama, don't sit yet, we aren't there yet. Just a couple more steps. You've got this." As she continued to sit into the seat of thin air, she panicked, "Oh, I'm sorry. I'm sorry!" she said, so flustered and disappointed with herself. "It's ok Mama, it's ok Mama" I whispered into her ear, as I eased her down to the ground. Once we were both safely to the ground, there was nothing left to do but make her as comfortable as possible. I grabbed a pillow, propped up her head and snuggled close until Daddy could come home and help me lift her from the ground. We laid on the floor together laughing about the predicament we found ourselves in. I knew she was embarrassed and confused, because every couple of minutes she would look over at me with this mischievous look in her eyes and say, "Why are we laying on the floor?!" I would circle back through my answer and we'd laugh all over again.

Here, this incredibly strong woman, who carried me in her very womb, bore me, raised me, led me, fed me, bathed me, taught me, protected me, guided me, held me, shielded me, and disciplined me, now lay completely helpless on the floor.

Life.Altering.
Heart.Shattering.

The older I get, the more intentional I am to surround myself and my family with people who invite us into their naked-Noah messiness. People who pull back the curtains and robes of every day moments, and allow us to gently tread in broken places without the mocking laughter of the sons. Let me tell you why. Lean in close friend. Closer.  Let me tell you something. After 28 years of following my Jesus, sojourning through this world that is NOT my home, carrying heavy and impossible burdens along side of my fellow brothers and sister; I've reached the most freeing and life giving conclusion in my dance with the Divine. Sweet Jesus lover, maybe just maybe, we were meant to limp. All of us. Each and every one of us.

Hear me.

I have heard the stories, read the books, loved the souls, listened to the sermons, lived the sacraments, and wrote the words to know a thousand times over; WE ARE ALL LIMPING!!

You can hide it, buy it, bury it, burn it, turn it, spin it, ignore it, forget it, and dress it up with a bible verse. You can call it contemporary, traditional, self-realization, independence or rebellion. You can legalize it, promote it, publish it, record it, and make look it eloquent, holy and honorable. You can rename it, rebrand it, repackage it, and recommit it a million times, but I know better now. WE ARE ALL LIMPING!

And excuse me for a moment, but I cannot think of a more appropriate posture for this side of glory. I cannot think of a more welcoming realization than, "I'm limping, you're limping, can we limp together?!" This could be the motto of my entire marriage. We can better love, minister and mold disciples when we can first admit we are limping.

I can disarm any heated situation with my spouse and my children when I lead with, "Can I show you my messy?!" "Can I show you where I went wrong?!" "Can I show you how my brokenness has contributed to your pain?!"  When we are willing to own our junk, name the wounds that make us limp, (and consequently have made others limp) God does the most incredible miracle!

I've watched Him, season after season, story after story, day after day, sickness after sickness, fall after fall, failure after failure.... He takes the willing limper and He makes her leap! He takes the most wounded, broken, and battle weary soul and lifts her up to leaping. Most of the time, the leaping does not always look like what the world tells you it looks like; financial freedom, complete healing, prosperity, happiness, redeemed marriage, reconciled child, comfortable living, endless resources, full churches, job promotions, and the elimination of suffering and struggle altogether. No, no, the leaping that Jesus offers comes in the most mysterious way.

All those hours, all those steps, all those trips to the bathroom with Mama limping by my side, forced me to walk slow enough to find her. In those years of shuffling, I exchanged more meaty conversation with my mom than ever before. My love for her deepened. My respect and admiration grew as her body broke. God chose to not heal my limping Mama on THIS side of glory, but He did allow her limping to lead us to a rich well of relationship.  

Fellow limpers, I believe our Savior desires to use our limping to draw us to the everlasting well of relationship with Him. He desires to use our limping to slow us down in order that we might FIND HIM, KNOW HIM, SEE HIM, and DEPEND ON HIM like never before.

We are all limping.
All of us.
The more we expose our brokenness, the more willing we are to lead with a limp, the clearer we will be able to see His body broken for us, and the promise of an eternity of leaping.

Here's to you dear limper!
~Sara

limping

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The 2 Most Powerful Truths After 12 Years of Being A Stay-At-Home Mom

*clause*

When I write from my heart about being a stay-at-home mom, part of my boldness withers because I in no way want to diminish the other fierce roles women are choosing/have chosen. I DO NOT want this post to be about stay-at-home moms vs. working moms. For real? There is already a long enough buffet of differences for us to feast on. Please hear my heart, I'm not starting a food fight. Today, I'm tracing back through my own journey trying to offer hope, hilarity, and human experience.

*clause over*   

We were so stinking cute; 17 and 19. We had been an official couple for all of one hot week. We were sun-baked, self-focused love birds. All I wanted was him, in every holy and fleshly way. AHEM. But I needed him to know this one thing. Being assertive was a weakness of mine at the time (16 years later,  I think he wishes I was a little less assertive :) None-the-more, we arrived at a moment where I owned 'assertive soul'. 

"I want to be a stay-at-home mom. I will live in a card board box if that's what it takes. But I want to raise my own kids!"

It was bold. It was risky. It was a non-negotiable in my mind. As much as I wanted him, if he had put up any type of fight, I would have walked away. Passionate has never been a weakness. ;) He didn't fight, he didn't hesitate, he said, "ok!" 

At the time, neither of us knew what we had just signed up for.

Fast forward 12 years. There is a series worth of book material I could spew about the 12 year journey of "swimming across the ocean without a life preserver" (thanks, Ames :) One week from today, I will officially step down from a role I have intimately known for 12 years, 24/7, 365 days a year. No one pours their bone marrow into a career for 12 years, and simply walks away unscathed. One week from today, I will drop off all FOUR of my babies into the care of another human soul. I will walk away from each of them and walk back into our quiet, still, and empty home for the first time ever. And as sure as the sun will rise, I will grieve.  

Here are the two most powerful truths I've learned the last 12 years.

1. There is nothing sexy about being a stay at home mom. 

Nothing. Absolutely nothing, sexy about this role. It is the hardest, longest, least accolade producing job on the planet. The mundane repetition required, HAS to kill brain cells. There is no lunch break, vacation, sick leave or mental health days. There is no income, 401k plan, health insurance, over time, Christmas office parties, or monetary bonuses. There is no yearly review, raise or promotion. The majority of this job is spent in the sleepless, thankless, over-worked trenches. Knee deep in poop, crumbs, toys, tears, whines, Barney, diapers, and wet gold fish. Most days, your sucked on, climbed on, spit on, peed on, bite, hit, and hated. You have no company car, no reimbursement plan for work attire, and no plush conferences in Vegas on someone else's dime. The work never ends. There is no closing time. There are no weekends for a stay-at-home mom. Your job performance is based on a trip to Walmart, while of course, your child screams the entire trip and mean people give you ugly looks. 

#FAIL

It should not at all surprise us then, that many SAHMs are depressed. VERY DEPRESSED. When we elevate the position of SAHM without very clear warnings, we end up with isolated, lonely women who are vulnerable to believing lies and then acting on them. Once upon a time, SAHMs had this beautiful protection called community. Moms, grandmas, sisters, mother in laws, sister in laws, cousins, aunts and friends all lived in community. The saying, "it takes a village" is a sweet reminder of how it used to be. They all lived in a village together where the weight of raising human souls was shared. Today, we do a HORRIBLE job supporting the family unit in a community type setting, but the pressure to be 'fruitful and multiply' remains as oppressive as ever. So many of these mamas are drowning without a prayer, without a friend, without a safe place to share their struggles openly and honestly. I want to hug every young mama I know and whisper in her ear, "Get help. Ask for help. Hire help (even if it means going in debt...Tell Dave Ramsey to jump in a lake...) Go back to work if you need too. Admit your broken and tired places and oh btw.... GET HELP!!"

We had just welcomed Julia into the family. Katie was 26 months, Mark was in his first year of engineering school taking 18 hours, and we had just moved into a new town with few friends. I was tired, SO TIRED, far from family, isolated, lonely, and TIRED...SO TIRED. Zero kiddos to one, was a major transition. One child to two, almost killed me.  My sweet husband, who was intently watching and helping as best he could, made an executive decision to hire a babysitter once a week so I could have a four hour break. It saved my sanity, my life, our marriage. Thank you, love!

Being a mom is so hard! ALL TYPES OF MOMS! We must lean into these women, pull them out from themselves, help them, engage them, encourage them. Rescue them in their weariness, redeem them from the mundane, offer them space and a place to recharge. We can do better! 

2. I am NOT a victim, I chose to be a SAHM.  

I chose this. I still CHOOSE this. The last 12 years, I re-upped, I re-signed, and extended my maternal contract. No one forced my hand. I willingly walked back into the throes of this position, hour after hour, day after day, month after month, year after year. And now the chapter is over, and I can hardly catch my breath. I have no pay check stub to prove my worth. I have no degree to solidify my education. I have no marketable skill competitive enough to out pace my peers. These four kids are my ONLY resume item. I put ALL of my eggs in one basket. 

And...
And...
And...

I don't have a SINGLE regret. NOT ONE!

For the last 12 years, I intentionally chose to be the full-time museum curator of my children's hearts. It has been the hardest thing I have EVER done. It has required GREAT sacrifice and struggle in EVERY department. I have sweat, celebrated, bleed, laughed, cried, complained, rejoiced, enjoyed, hated and quit every other day.

But oh friends, there is zero regret in penning this story hand in hand with my children. Zero regret in molding, folding, and holding their every days, their little moments and great big moments, their success and failures, their firsts and lasts, their good days and sour days... I was there, and I am so glad I was!

These four:











My masterpiece.
My final project. 
My thesis. 
My dissertation. 
My manuscript. 
My magnum opus.

My life. I chose life. I choose life.

And know what?! I'd do it all again, if it meant I got to do it with them! 

Here's to you Mama!
~Sara

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

3 Reasons I Stopped Homeschooling

I finished my last year of "full load" homeschooling, during the thick fog of my mother's illness and death. I had a 4th grader, 1st grader and Kindergartner. It is by the grace of God, the girls were able to be retain and advance academically. The gorgeous gift of homeschooling, is the freedom to do school from the bed, the park, the nursing home, the pool or the museum. The sweet schedule of homeschooling, allowed us to persevere during this really difficult time in our home, and still actually learn something together.

By the time we entered the final stretch of stale, slow, sanctifying January; I knew deep down into my toes, it was time for traditional school.

While I continued to keep Anderson at home for preschool and Kindergarten, I was ready to relinquish the girl's schooling. I knew this was necessary because of these 3 reasons. Before anyone loses their 'happy' with me, rest assure I know these are the 3 reasons WE chose traditional school. There are a myriad of reasons to stop homeschooling, this is just our story! There are also a myriad of reasons TO homeschool, and believe you me, I am a fierce defendant of the homeschool option! It is NEVER off the table for us.

1. Grief:
Because of the intense grief churning in my gut, lots of places in me were exposed. Namely my inability, at the time, to continue to homeschool while I grieved. Grief requires a margin of space unlike any other emotion. There was no space for my grief while I was homeschooling AND still raising babies. Giving up homeschooling stung BADLY. My pride took a major hit. I ultimately loved teaching my kids. It was SO fun to discover new and exciting concepts together. It was incredibly satisfying to watch them learn under my care. But bearing the entire weight of overseeing someone's academic life, (in ADDITION to overseeing every other area of their life) can be stifling, incredibly demanding and destructive if not managed correctly.

2. Damaged Hearts:
Homeschooling was causing an unhealthy rift in my relationship with our kids. When we started the homeschool journey, I envisioned homeschooling allowing us to build a tighter relationship with one another, and it DEFINITELY did for a season. But the entire list of our reasons to homeschool, became null and void when I began to feel their hearts pull away from mine because of school. I was unwilling to sacrifice my relationship with my kids, all under the banner of maintaining "control" of their schooling. Our relationship is forever, school is only for a season.

3. My kids needed sandpaper.
There comes a time in everyone's life, when one must learn to listen to another voice of authority outside of one's parents. There comes a time in everyone's life, when one must learn to learn under another method outside of their parent's method. Our kids needed another voice speaking into their lives with responsibility AND authority.

School is SO MUCH bigger and broader than just reading, writing and arithmetic. The sandpaper of other voices, including the voices of their peers, has been the greatest launching pad for our kids wild growth with other humans. Mark and I desire for our kids to be academically strong, but our GREATEST desire is for them to be able to navigate all kinds of relationships successfully. Relationships with teachers, peers, older students, younger students, difficult relationships, encouraging relationships, strained relationships, awkward relationships, blossoming relationships, painful relationships, and unknown relationships. Traditional school has offered us all of these fundamental situations AND MORE! Each encounter has allowed us to gently guide our kids through the terrain TOGETHER, while they are still under the safe space of our home.

I thought I was homeschooling for all the right reasons, until I stopped homeschooling and the grossness floated to the top. Much of my motivation for homeschooling was founded in fear, control and pride. All very bad reasons to homeschool.

Raising kids, is learning to constantly balance and define our motivations and intentions, against our own junk.  IT IS SO HARD!

Please do not hear what I am NOT saying, I know so many amazing people who have struck a beautiful balance in the homeschool world. I respect them and support them with all there is in me! My sister, who is my best friend, is one of them. And I in NO WAY, want my readers to use my words as weapons against one another. NOT OK. But rather, I know some Mama out there needs permission to walk away, guilt-free, from the homeschool world. You are not failure dear friend, if you need to let go, walk away and make a change. You are not less than or unworthy. You are a woman of valor, who is seeking what is best for your child and your home. I applaud you. I support you. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!    

Happy Traditional Schooling!
~Sara
homeschooling


Thursday, July 2, 2015

How A Mother of 4 Spends Her Summer

Oh, heeeeeyyyyyy!

Long time no typ-Y. Or typ-IE. Or typ-EY.

Recently, some one inquired after my seemingly silent presence on the blog for the last month.
"Are the culture wars too overwhelming for you?" "Are you formulating your response?" "Are you about to make a big announcement?"

I giggled inside.

Actually...... my children are at home. Every writing cell in my brain has been dead on the bottom of the fish tank since the summer bell rang and the monkeys came home. Every sane thought has washed out to sea. Question fatigue, in a Pac-Man like manner, has eaten all the neurons in my brain. Every day our need for Jesus and August grows exponentially.

It's so crazy, for ten years we spent every day, all day together. But when the great need for natural space and healthy margins were an absolute, we all learned to function with a larger bumper in our lives. So.....when you throw us all back together for endless days and weeks, we begin to rub each other raw. We are beyond nap times, early bed times and quiet times. But in exchange, I get to sleep in every morning, I have the option to go for a walk or run an errand BY MYSELF, and we can hang out late into the evening at a friends house with no remorse of people missing their bed time. All in all, it's a pretty sweet exchange. But it's been A LOT of togetherness. I'm the mom that always cries on the first day of school, and the first day of the second semester. I honestly enjoy having my kids at home, I really do! But I also enjoy the natural and healthy space we gain when school starts.

We've had a good mixture of busy and bored this summer. Just how I like it. My kids work endlessly during the school year, so I love for them to actually get to unwind and be still for so long, they bottom out in boredom.

One of the BEST things we have done this summer, is grow our very FIRST garden. After 12 years of motherhood, I felt like I finally had the mental and physical energy to oversee another living creature besides my own four, small children. So Mama with wee ones, NO GUILT because you have no garden plot outside in your back yard. NO GUILT, because you can hardly see straight just keeping up with feeding your mini-me around the clock. NO GUILT, over stuffing your face with french fries and chicken nuggets... I've SO been there, and I am harvesting vegetables especially with you in mind. Your time will come and you too can join the garden club. :)

Any who!
I wanted a small garden with 6 items. Because Mark and I are garden virgins, I wanted something small and manageable.... Ok, ok, controllable. Enter Mark. 22 items later, we have an out of control jungle. But oh my, we are having a complete BLAST!



(Isn't that gardener sexy in that straw hat? And his little helper is just too much! :)

The garden has been sweet therapy for the soul. Pruning, pulling, tending, nourishing, and picking. All good processes as you process. And we've had some stuff to process, yeah?! When I'm in the garden smelling dirt, pulling harmful weeds, killing squash bugs, standing in awe over the fact we actually produced a crop, eating tomatoes from the vine, and dancing in delight over the cutest watermelon baby you've ever beheld; God is so near to the weary places threatening to consume.
And we all have weary places, yeah?! There is no doubt in my mind now why God placed Adam and Eve in a garden, and birthed His intimate relationship with them amongst the zucchinis and lilies. It comes full circle for me, when I contemplate the hallowed garden ground He bleed upon when He honored His father and drank the cup of suffering, and then again when He crushes death and His resurrected body take its first steps onto the soil of a garden. God has a long history of dwelling in garden spaces.

At each sign of precious garden life, we've celebrated. I mean, for real. When the first seed sprouted and pushed up through the earth, we jumped with joy. And I have a fierce fight in me, when I see the tiniest squash bug trying to destroy my handi-work. I'm all, "DEATH! DEATH TO YOU, SQUASH BUG!" Then I dance again when the enemy is overcome with dish soap and water. VICTORY for the gardener. Y'all, I'm dancing over onion seeds and pepper plants. I cannot imagine how my Savior dances over me; a soul. A soul made, copy and paste, of His soul. He keeps a tender and watchful eye on me at all times. He dances when I bare up under the weight of this dry and parched land, and He rejoices, as He and He alone, infuses me with the power to overcome the bondage of sin and death.

We serve a great, attentive and kind gardener. He knows His crops, and He knows the enemy of His seed. He remains faithful, tried and true. He knows His land and has promised to tend to His crop until the fruition of His plan has blossomed. His way is not thwarted by storms or droughts. He is not overwhelmed by bugs and floods. He gently paces His perfectly planted rows and speaks joy and wonder over them. He calls to them to grow up from under the darkness of the dirt. He calls them to LIFE. Real, unashamed LIFE!

I'm more in love with my Gardener today, than ever before!

Happy Gardening!
~Sara