Saturday, July 9, 2016

The End of an Era

(The year we moved to Redding - 2003)

You call me out upon the waters; 
the great unknown where feet may fail.  
And there I find You in the mystery, in oceans deep, my faith will stand.

I never thought I’d write this.  I’d never thought I’d be so willing to do so.

Moving to Redding over 13 years ago was one of the most fruitful acts of obedience we could have ever taken.  Never in a million years could we have imagined what would have happened here.

Did I mention Brokenness.

More. Of. God.

Experiencing the unimaginable depths of God and community made it so I never wanted to leave. 


One thing NOT on this list is comfortable.  Don’t get me wrong; we have experienced the Holy Spirit’s comfort to our very core.  But being comfortable is a place we haven't spent much time in. 

Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders; 
Let me walk upon the waters, wherever You would call me. 
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander; 
and my faith will be made stronger in the Presence of my Savior.

God has been faithful to answer the prayers of these lyrics before we even prayed them.  Now that we have prayed them, watched Him answer them, we still pray them.  Why?  Because Jesus is good. Period.

So what am I willing to say that I swore I never would?  It’s time to go.  Like He told Abram (before he was Abraham), Go… leave all that you know, your families, friends, community, (my paraphrasing) to a land in which I will show you.  He’s accomplished in us and through us what He wanted to while in this place, and now it’s time to go.

Your grace abounds in deepest waters.  
Your sovereign hand will be my guide.  
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me, 
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now.

Our faithful, loving Father has made this extremely clear, which He knew my heart needed.  He has been walking me through this for the last 2 years, slowly uprooting my heartstrings that are so firmly planted here.  It has been a very difficult season of transition – still being in the place in which I’ve been uprooted from, with dangling roots, just waiting to be transplanted to new ground.  Yet, this is just another opportunity to trust – that we are not forgotten, that He has a plan, and that we are smack-dab in the middle of it.  

For most of these 2 years we haven't known where He was leading us.  Only that He was.  But now we know.  In less than a month we will be moving to Colorado Springs as Matt has just begun a new position with a company that could not fit him more perfectly.  With that this will also be my last post on this blog as I, too, will be starting something new.

So just as an act of obedience brought us to Redding, we choose obedience again in leaving it.  That first one released God’s power to change our lives forever.  This next one will release His power to forever change future generations (so we’ve been told, and fully believe).

Ya know… with God's sense of humor I should’ve seen this coming.  With Matt’s middle name, Abraham, and my name, Sarah… I should’ve known that we would be called to “go” more than once, and that our greatest impact for the Kingdom would be to be known by our trust in God; that we believe Him no matter what.  And maybe nothing more.  And maybe that’s enough.

Jesus, you are my God.

I will call upon Your name.
Keep my eyes above the waves.
My soul will rest in Your embrace.

I am Yours, and You are mine.

(The year we say goodbye to Redding - 2016)

*Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) Lyrics by: Hillsong United

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My Dear Friend...

The last few days have been extremely difficult.  How do you put into words, feelings so deep there seem to be none that exist?  There is a wrestling of deep pain and deep joy that are intertwined within me.  This is putting my brain in to a state of confusion and deep longing to at least try and understand what just happened.  But is that even possible?  Can human sense be made out of what seems to be a huge injustice?  One of the most beautiful souls I've ever known wakes up one day with cancer and is gone within three months...  A woman whose whole life was to love others, lead people through healing, and bring heaven to earth wherever she went...  A sister and friend who cared deeply, loved passionately, and dreamed bigger dreams for others to encounter the healing power of Christ...  Gone, in the blink of an eye. Ummm, what?!

My mind screams that this is not ok! NOT OK!!!

And I know it's ok to be angry because I miss her SO MUCH!

But I'm not here to answer the questions of suffering in this world.  I know what I believe because of my own journey, and that is something of a heart knowledge to attain, not a head knowledge.  If you would like to journey into such matters, let me share what has helped me:

"The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord is the beginning (the chief and choice part) of Wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight and understanding." Proverbs 9:10 AMP.

In fact, there's a great sermon on it by Mark:

Like I said, though, I'm not trying to tackle heavy theological questions today.  I don't even have the energy for that.  Right now, all I can do is choose what I will focus on while letting go of what was.  I think it's a great temptation to focus on everything that's been taken.  I've already been to four memorial services this year, with a fifth now coming, accompanied by more devastating news of a loved one in my life.  The temptation is great with so much loss.

But the quote that plays again and again in my head is from the movie based on CS Lewis' Narnia book, Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  King Caspian has spent all of his time, energy, and resources chasing after what had been taken from him (especially his father).  When he reaches the shores of Aslan's country and given the choice to enter in and see his father again, he has an epiphany that is most applicable.

"I've spent too long wanting what was taken from me and not what was given.  I was given a kingdom... people... I promise to be a better king."

Our dearest friend and sister, Rebecca, going home, especially in the time and manner she did, feels wrong.  But that cannot be my focus, our focus.  Instead, she brought heaven to earth and each of us were given a piece of that.

What piece of heaven did she give you?  Faith?  Joy?  Courage?  Courage to trust?  Wisdom?  Patience?  Comfort?  Rest?  Love?  Peace?  Compassion?  Strength?  Hope?  All of the above?

Whatever we've been given from her, that is what we need to focus on, steward, multiply, and then give away.  Expand heaven on earth from what piece of it she has given to you and me!  I think I can say with confidence that this is exactly what she would want.

My dear friend,

Thank you!  Thank you for your love and your friendship.  Thank you for sharing your hopes and dreams with me, and gladly listening to mine.  Thank you for the deep conversations and the great laughs.  Thank you for your encouragement.  Thank you for being a constant bright light of Jesus in this dark and broken world.  I miss you terribly!!  In this pain, though, I thank you for leading me to a deeper understanding, at the core of my being, of the power of resurrection life!

Until we meet again...

                                                   Brett and Emily Photographers

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Finding Beauty and Rest in the Waiting

Have you ever had to wait for something?  Of course you have.  Ever find yourself impatient while waiting - especially if it has to do with big life changes?  We are usually so eager to get to the new thing that we miss out on the huge portion of our lives that are found in the in-between… in between the events, seasons, or places.

I have to say that learning to trust the Lord in the waiting is something I have had much opportunity to practice (as I’m sure you have as well), and I’m finally beginning to see the beauty in this precious, just-as-important-as-the-event time.  As I was praying for a friend last night, someone also in this waiting period, the Holy Spirit gave me a clear picture as to the importance and beauty of this time, especially if we are unclear as to what exactly the next event, season, or place is:

It’s as if we are sitting down at a table with Jesus working on a puzzle.  He has all the pieces, and He gives them to us to put together.  He doesn’t put the puzzle together, we do. We have no idea what the picture is either, as it will be a picture of what He has next for us.  If you’ve ever tried working on a puzzle when you don’t know what the picture is, it is practically impossible.  So here we are, putting a puzzle together with Jesus, and don’t know what the end result will be.  Sometimes He will give us a few pieces at once, and sometimes He will wait a while in between the pieces (His timing of a complete puzzle is perfect, right?).  But how do we find ourselves while waiting for the next piece?  We are usually so taken and focused on trying to figure out what this picture is going to be that we are horribly missing out on two other things.  1. We are missing out on the uniqueness of each individual puzzle piece.  Yes, by itself it is not a complete picture, but there aren’t two pieces alike, and each hold a very important place to the whole.  2. We are missing (what is the most important part) actually enjoying the presence of Jesus at the table, OUR table.  HE IS SITTING AT OUR TABLE, YOUR TABLE, MY TABLE!  The act of actually putting the puzzle together somehow no longer seems to be the most important part.  When we have a puzzle piece in our hand, we are focused not on the Giver of the piece, but on where it goes in the puzzle.  If He chooses to wait to give us another piece, it’s because He wants us to just gaze in to His eyes and BE WITH HIM.  

Unfortunately, we are usually sitting there, very anxious, with our hands out begging Him for the next piece because we are SO desperate to know what’s next – to know what further purpose we will have – to find more validation by what we do.  But the puzzle is not the primary point, or even the secondary point.  The primary point of even sitting there working on this puzzle is to BUILD RELATIONSHIP with Jesus.  He is our Savior and our Friend… to just BE with Him, gazing in to the flames of His eyes, seeing His love burn for us, will give us all the validation we need.  The secondary purpose is to build trust, in which we find peace.  And that peace is SO much better than the piece we are usually asking for.  The next piece does not bring us peace… trusting the Lover of our soul is what does; knowing His intentions for us are perfect; believing that He gives us the next piece, the perfect next piece, exactly when we need it.

The fruit of the primary and secondary points of this is what actually makes the task of putting this puzzle together possible.   Like I said before, putting a puzzle together when you don’t even know what the picture is makes it almost impossible.  But, when our focus is on our Savior’s eyes, instead of His hands, we are overwhelmed with His beauty, and holiness, and glory, and love, and we find ourselves able to trust Him.  We then also find our true purpose.  Because we find our true purpose while staring at Him and not the puzzle, we then have understanding for the next piece to the puzzle He gives us.  We see it’s uniqueness, and we see how it fits in the puzzle, even though we don’t yet know the end result. 

With this, the process of putting this puzzle together becomes the necessary growth, character development, and trust building exercise that we need once the puzzle is complete and we finally see what the full picture is.  Had we seen what was next for us before we were ready… well, you can imagine your reaction.  Mine would have been something like fear, inadequacy, fear of failing, etc.  But He is SO good.  He is truly the Lover of our souls.  Not only does He hold the next puzzle piece for me and for you, but He’s also holding our hearts.   

That beauty, HIS beauty, will leave you breathless. 

That is His rest.  It’s in the waiting.

Will you enter in?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Journey of Trust Continues...

Lately I've been reflecting on where we were this time last year.  I was still recovering from surgery, Matt was still feeling his excruciating back pain, with the inability to breathe because his lymph nodes were pressing against his wind pipe. We still didn't know the cause at that point and there was a high probability of it being cancer.  There was so much uncertainty to our future... with the biggest question wondering if Matt was even going to be in it.

We are no longer in that type of survival mode... having to trust Jesus with our very physical lives, and I am extremely grateful for that! Yet, what is interesting to me is how last year prepared us for the type of "survival mode" we find ourselves in this year.  Last year was by far the most difficult of our lives, so why does this one seem harder?

Our previous season came down to one thing: life or death.  That may seem extreme, but if you have experienced that kind of pain before, you know that you think of nothing else.  Plus add in the actual threat of a deadly disease, and well, it actually becomes life or death.  This kind of foundational level of human existence being questioned exposes and cultivates where our hope and reliability actually come from.  For us there was no question.  We relied on the Truth; the Word; the living and breathing Word, Jesus.  If not that, then what?  Ourselves? Ha!  We tried that... it only brought chaos, anger, frustration, anxiety, sadness, and hopelessness.  No thanks!  Our attempt at trying to have some kind of control over a situation that was out of our hands only validated our helplessness.  So instead of focusing on our helplessness we chose to focus on One who is Master over all.

But to take it a step further, although we desperately wanted answers and our situation to change, that was not what we sought.  I think that when we seek His hand, what He can give us, or what He can change, more than simply seeking Him, our hearts might still be in that place of needing to control.  This just leads us to create expectations of God, which if are not met, leads to all those feelings mentioned above, adding to it blaming God because of now feeling abandoned by Him.

Not to say that we shouldn't ask Him for things.  He longs for us to pour out our hearts and desires to Him, but we just need to be aware of our motivation behind the asking.

So this leads me to now.  We are no longer in a life and death, black and white situation.  We have moved deeper in to matters of the heart, and let's face it, that is MESSY!  What I found astonishing is how this seems harder... it is harder to trust because there is so much more complexity to the situation.  Life and death, black and white, this or that, all provide only two options.  Now we are faced with the vast expansion of our unknown future, the uprootedness of our present, and the memories of our past.  TOO MANY OPTIONS! There is so much more chaos to this current circumstance that requires a deeper level of trust -- which I don't know would have been possible for me had I not trusted Him with my very life, and the life of my husband's, last year.  Because we anchored ourselves in Him through our physical pain, we are able to anchor ourselves in Him when our entire life seems unknown.

There are only two things really that can fully numb us in order to run from physical pain, mind altering substances or death.  Choosing reliance on God is a simpler choice (not easy, but simple).  There are so many more options to run from heart pain, especially when you feel completely uprooted in the present.  There are so many more possibilities for us to try and take control.  The temptation is greater than ever.

But, of course, He never ceases to amaze me.  He knew I needed to learn that kind of dependence on Him in order to continue in that same dependence when it no longer is a life and death situation.  It's easier to rely on Him when you have nothing else.  Now the illusion appears that we have more options to escape our situation... to escape this feeling of panic of our unknown future with a disconnected present, especially when it reminds us of our past.  But we must hold fast to Him... put our heads down and stay anchored in Him no matter what.  He has proven Himself faithful EVERY SINGLE TIME... I am positive that will be the one thing that doesn't change... HE is the ONE thing that never changes.

"So God has given us both His promise and His oath.  These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie.  Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can take new courage, for we can hold on to His promise with confidence. This confidence is like a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.  It leads us through the curtain of heaven into God's inner sanctuary."  Hebrews 6: 18-19 NLT

Saturday, June 14, 2014

In the Midst of Suffering

Suffering can either close you up or take you deeper in to healing and freedom.  Suffering is just another set of stormy waves as you're walking out upon the waters.  But we must remember that these waves and this ocean bow at His holy name.

Calm waters don't require trust.  They might be calm when we first step out, but then we get the hang of it and almost feel like we can do it in our own strength.

As you get farther from the boat, and as the storms begin, then you must trust more and deeper.  Running back to the boat is putting your trust in fear.  Otherwise, there's nowhere else to go except straight to Jesus.  Yet the closer we get to Him the more free we become.  We get further away from the safety of our boat (which will eventually fail) and closer to the safety of His presence which NEVER fails.  The more we see and trust that the safety of His presence never fails, we give more and more of ourself to Him in full surrender.  It is then we become fully alive.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Plant Life

Change is not easy.  Leaving the familiar for the unknown is scary, and turns out kind of painful -- even when it's good change.  It seems similar to when a plant is uprooted in order to be transplanted.  A plant grows in a pot, establishes it's roots, gains some strength, weathers a few storms, and with the right amount of care, will reach it's capacity within the pot.  There comes a point when the roots reach the bottom and can no longer grow - even if it keeps receiving food, water, and sunshine.  If the plant is to grow bigger and bear more fruit, then it must be transplanted to a new place, whether a bigger pot or the ground, so it's roots can go deeper, spread further, and get even stronger.

The plant knows that the actual source of nourishment does not come from the pot or soil itself.  Food, water, and sunshine are all outside sources that the gardener has to ensure makes it to the plant and soil.  The pot determines the capacity, with it's purpose to keep it all together, hold it all in securely, and not let anything out.  With the plant growing too big, however, the security of the pot now becomes a limitation.  The soil is the substance that supports the plant and holds the nutrients within the pot, and wants nothing more than for the plant to grow and grow.  But with the plant reaching it's full potential in the pot, the soil knows it can now only maintain the plant without aiding in growth.

But the transplanting process, although good, shocks the plant because it's being taken out of the soil it's been so familiar with, and well, became comfortable in.  And not to say that the storms it weathered were easy... not by any means.  But the plant became familiar with how to endure the storms within it's familiar soil... the soil that has held the nourishment for health.

The plant knows it must be uprooted for a new place... but... but... transition...

When the plant is uprooted all of it goes away for a bit... the security of the pot, the warmth of the soil.  What will happen now?  Where will I be replanted? A bigger pot?  The ground? How big is the capacity of where I will go?  Where is the soil that will support me?  Hold me up?  Hold the nutrients that I need for growth?  What will the soil be like?  Will it be hard for my roots to make their home in it?  What if a storm comes before I am replanted?  How long until I am replanted?    

How will I grow in the meantime - with my roots exposed?

Wait.  I didn't uproot myself.  I'm not transplanting myself.  I am not the Gardener... the Master Gardener.  He has a plan, and I am right in the middle of it.  This is His garden.  A Beautiful garden.

My roots are weary in this exposure.  BUT I am in the Gardener's hands.  I will rest.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Feeling Like a Failure?

The last few weeks have been rough.  This morning, I finally processed out some deep thoughts in my time with Jesus.  I've come to believe that what I go through, and what the Lord teaches me, is not just for myself.  So I hope this is an encouragement to you as it was to me.

What is being worked out of me right now?  All that I'm feeling is that I am an utter failure.  I contribute this to having too much on my plate -- family, work, and school.  This leaves no margin, which means I'm not doing any of these things well.  But is that really it?  Did I actually feel competent in these things before, or is something deeper being exposed?  Do I feel like a failure (at least to some degree not good enough) in all three of these areas?  And perhaps putting them all together is just too much for me to handle emotionally?  I can feel myself having somewhat of a wall up -- perhaps pride -- a defensive wall, really.  I hate the way it feels and want to go back to my free self.  Or was I ever free from this?  Has this always been there?  Is this a deeper healing - the "take me where my trust is without borders" type deal?  (maybe I should stop singing that song!)  Even in my pain and suffering last year, I feel like I had more freedom than I do now.  Perhaps it's because all I had to do was just trust.  I didn't actually have to DO anything.  None of my abilities were on display to be judged.  No one could judge my competency.  Everyone praised my ability to trust God through such terrible circumstances.  But that almost seemed easier, especially compared to this. Those were things NOT in my control, so it made it easier to let go.  It is much harder to let go when it IS within my control.  I mean they are MY abilities - the outcomes are a reflection of ME and not solely God.  The pressure of last year was on God.  Now I feel it on me.  I don't want it though.  I need this pressure off of me... and ASAP.  Lord, I don't know how to remove this pressure.  I don't know how to give it to You.  Please show me, or just take it.


I need to see myself as God sees me.

I always learn so much from the birds.  They fly around, doing their work, yet also singing such beautiful songs in the morning and the evening.  I'm sure there are days when they don't win the girl bird, build the perfect nest, or catch enough food for their babies.  Yet they still sing in good cheer... in the beginning of their day AND at the end of it.  And God continues to delight in them no matter what.  So how much more so does He delight in me, even when I'm not good enough?  He's supposed to be strong in my weakness, but the catch is that I have to let Him.  So will I?  The enemy would tell me, and I would tell myself, that I'm lowering the bar of excellence.  But I don't think that's the case. I think it's a shift in my focus - away from myself and onto God.  Yes, I want my actions to reflect Him, but more importantly I want my heart to reflect His.  If my heart is reflecting His, then this will affect how I feel, how I see myself, and how I see others.  It will also change how I respond to others - without walls - in true freedom.  SUCCESS.  If I have this then it won't matter when I fail or am incompetent.  It won't change how God sees me! And even if people are disappointed I will be able to handle that without putting a wall up.  Freedom.