Monday, March 17, 2014

A Coffee Drinking Israelite


"Remember how the Lord your God  led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know  what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord."-Deuteronomy 8:2-3.


As I recall the story of Gods deliverance of the Israelites, I am also reminded of a broken, humbled, and anxious little me who was sitting in a coffee shop in South Dakota on her laptop, hungry to hear Gods voice and find some truth and purpose in the place that my Heavenly Father felt fit to have me in. I found so much in common with the Israelites; walking, walking and still walking to the "land flowing with milk and honey", except that I determined that unlike the Israelites who knew that there was indeed a God descripted promised land at the end of their journey, I had no idea what my "promised land" looked like.

I did know that because I was Gods child, that whatever His promised land for me was would be good. I also knew that all I had to do was the "next right thing", even if there were more days of the week that I had no idea what that actually was, except for getting out of bed and driving to work. The promise that God had given to confused little me was solid: "You do not have to carry this weight alone Sarah." A promise that I had heard many, many times.

Childhood dreams changed and eventually vanished. Plans for use of my talents, education and passions morphed in ways that I never expected. People hurt me in places that I wasn't sure would heal, but Gods promise to deliver me from my own personal Egypt remained in tact.

Now here I am, sitting in the very first home that I will ever share with my soon-to-be husband, being prompted to reminisce on Gods faithfulness and deliverance as I face the burden of not enough money coming in for what is going out. Discouragement of getting behind and not having enough being replaced with the fact that God IS enough. He has brought me this far and brought me to my husband. He has provided housing, food, transportation and two jobs. He is GOOD and I am a humbled human in need of His grace.

Take another step my friend. Even though the journey is sometimes painful and the destination is unclear, cling to the fact that you BELONG to the One who is already there.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Vulnerable


Our world doesn't like the word "vulnerable". To be vulnerable with an individual or a large group of people is considered to be a risk not worth taking, though on the flip side modern culture "finding yourself" trends make it appealing and necessary to be vulnerable with yourself , placing a great emphasis on deep, soul searching "self discovery".  I have affectionately labeled my generation the "self help" generation, due to the fact that I feel that we late 80's and 90's babies grew up in a world of "do it yourself" counseling in the form of books, T.V., radio shows and Internet blogs. Despite this information, being truly vulnerable in life is one of the hardest things to do. Why is this?

To be vulnerable is to be exposed. A young virgin girl is truly vulnerable on her wedding night, as she has never been naked in this manner in front of anyone before. Vulnerability is nakedness of self; a veil lifted to expose truth of substance and shed light on the good, the bad and the ugly. Some of us have gone our whole lives doing whatever we possibly can to not be vulnerable with anyone, thus creating an exterior of a "put together" image that doesn't ever blink with tears. There have been many wounded souls that have been vulnerable in a marriage or a committed relationship, only to find that the unveiling pushed their loved one away instead of drawing them closer.

I have always been an expressive person. (Shocker, I know. ) Ever since I was a little girl I have been able to articulate my thoughts and feelings with very little fear of what someone would think. However, as I prepare for marriage to the love of my life, I have found myself experiencing a new level of vulnerability with God. A place that I have not found myself in before and feelings that I've never experienced thus far.

With all vulnerability there is an element of trust. Trusting that the person that you are vulnerable with will not judge you, leave you or become cold to you. You trust that on some level they will understand and things won't change. When it comes to our relationship with Jesus Christ, we can always count on Him never leaving nor forsaking us in our vulnerability with Him, even when it means being angry at Him and questioning His existence! There will be those times where we will push away from God, refusing to bear our soul to the very one who made and knows the depth of our soul. But the truth is, there is nothing that God wants more than for us to be truly vulnerable with Him; to share every facet of our lives and to trust Him with our whole hearts.

The more I fall in love with Jeremy and the more I spend time in prayer about our upcoming marriage and all of the life changes that are in the near future, I have found myself struggling with this fear of losing Jeremy to an illness or accident. I have been thinking about those women who were engaged or newly married, and then the lives of their husbands were snuffed out in the blink of an eye. I can't fathom that kind of pain, but lately I've been trying to figure out where this fear is actually coming from.

I am learning on a very real level that the closer I become to Jeremy and the more vulnerable I am with him, the more it prompts me to draw closer to my heavenly Father. My love for Jeremy is something that I've never, ever experienced before. It is deep and powerful, and has quickly become a part of my existence in the way my sight has become imperative to my ability to function. Such a gift from the Lord needs to be cherished, nurtured and honored, but also not held too tightly, as Jeremy is not mine, but belongs to the Lord. It reminds me of how my mother's heart would ache when she would see one of us children going through something that she couldn't change. She realized that we don't belong to her, we belong to Christ. We are in His hands, and she is simply the instrument used by God on this earth.

What a gift. What a beautiful design. To be surrendered to Christ as a person is one thing, but to surrender your loved ones to Him is entirely another. As I prepare to have a husband and children, I am keenly aware that this lesson of deep love and vulnerability to Christ will take many shapes and forms. As scary as it is to entrust my loves to Christ, He calls us to so that we will further trust Him and allow Him to enable us to go deeper.

May God enable you to be vulnerable to Him in a way that will take you places you've never been before. May you never settle for a man or woman who doesn't prompt you to love Christ deeper and trust Him with your whole heart. May the deep love you feel and the healthy fear of loss point you to the One who holds you in the palm of His hand, which is located under the shadow of His wing.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Trusting My Dreams to God


I miss them.

I miss the walkers, the pants with a high waist, the white Keds shoes and hearing their "old people advice" on a variety of life topics. The perfume that is too strong because their sense of smell is "not what it used to be" and the penciled on eyebrows because there just isn't much hair left to form real ones.

I miss the classic tunes of their day that would be sung over and over and over again in an effort to bring the past in to make the present comfortable and familiar for them. Seeing the tears trickle down the faces of the Veteran men when "God Bless America" would be sung and/or played. And dare I say it....but I miss calling Bingo. What I would give to say "B 10, under the letter B, number 10" again.

I miss the days where we would decorate sugar cookies for a holiday while we listened to music or talked about something like canning or how they used to bake cookies for church all the time.

Oh how I miss it.

But God knows that. He knows how much I miss investing in the lives of the elderly on a daily basis, planning their activities, encouraging their skills and encouraging their family members. He knows my heart for these people, because He knows me.  He created every facet of who I am, so of course He knows how much I yearn to love on these people.

The other day while I was eating my morning cereal, I saw a morning T.V. show host interview a woman who wrote a book about "reimagining" her life. The premise was that you could do and be whatever you want to be. To add to the authenticity of this concept they showed clips of people who did just that. One man worked with computers his whole life, and then decided to open up a pizza parlor. He "reimagined" himself, and "you can too".

Now, I'm all for the empowerment of doing something new and being positive that you can do and be whatever you set your mind to, but I couldn't get past one glaring flaw in this concept, and that is the word "You".

I am so grateful that as a Christian I get to experience a deep peace that comes with the truth that it is not about me. I get the privilege of finding my identity in my Savior which translates into a deep trust that He will use my strengths, talents and passion for His purposes and in His way. How exhausting it must be to constantly be working on "you", when in all actuality there is One who knows you better than you know yourself and will be able to accomplish much, much more because of this truth.

Right now I'm working with greeting cards. I am doing inventory, ringing up items at the cash register and color coordinating envelopes. I absolutely beam whenever I get to help an elderly man or woman find a card for their grandchild, and I love it even more when they want to visit and tell me about their lives. God is using me here, and He has not forgotten my dreams.

I dream of being able to write and motivationally speak for a living, working in my little home office while my babies take a nap. I dream of being able to have hours to volunteer in a memory care at a nursing home, leading them in hymns and old songs that will make them feel at ease and at home. I dream of traveling to places around the world, taking in new cultures and breathing in different air.

Psalm 37:4 says "Delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." What I have come to understand is that the key to this verse is asking God to transform your desires into His desires for you.

Trust Him with your dreams sweet friend.  May you be reminded and know that the very One who made you is the very one who holds those dreams in a careful manner. May you have the strength and the flexibility to watch Him change things up a bit and give you something beautiful and brand new from His capable and creative hands.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Purpose in the Fumble


 "Do the next right thing."  Easier said then done, that is for sure. I know that getting up out of bed in a timely manner, going to work, eating and drinking to stay alive are "norms" that are certainly the "next right thing"; taking each day as it comes, with every ticking hour of the clock. But what about the gnawing feeling in the depths of my heart; that little invisible urgency that is telling me that there is something more, something undiscovered or currently not seen with the naked eye. In the New Testament Paul urges us to be "content in all circumstances"(Phil. 4:11-13). As Christians we are called to trust in the least thing shown; we are called to trust that if we seek Gods will for our lives, that is simply enough.

My humanity fumbles and wrestles with this concept.

As I find myself splitting my time between a retail job and a care taking position that looks to be quite temporary, I also find myself looking toward my future as a married woman and all the changes that that will bring. I lay my desires and needs on the altar of my Jesus, knowing that He knows me better than I know myself; believing that there is purpose and even beauty in this fumble.

Tonight at work I was simply doing the "next right thing", which just happened to be standing on my two feet despite severe exhaustion from the pre-Christmas shopping madness. A classy woman came in and bought a few boxes of Christmas cards, then hung around afterwards to ask me if this was my full time job. "No," I replied. "I am here part time and then I am a part time care taker, but much of this could change in the near future." She wrote down her name and phone number, and casually stated that she is always looking for people for her small business. I told her that I've been praying about the next step in my life, and that I would get back to her as soon as I could.

It was then that I was reminded how little control I have. I have no idea what awaits me when I call that phone number, but then again I had no idea that when my current boss and his wife went through my check out lane at Target that just a few weeks later I would be selling meaningful cards and gifts to connect people to other people.

I just simply don't know, and isn't that the point?

By not knowing, doesn't that give us the ability to trust God more deeply? When we throw up our hands in confusion, frustration or even anger, should that not be a relief that your ways are certainly not the best ways, and that He has a plan for your life much more incredible than what you could ever dream for yourself? You can let go. You can breathe. You can stop fighting for an answer that simply isn't to be at that point, or maybe ever.

There is purpose in the fumble. As we fumble, God gives us grace in our humanity. He designed us, so He is fully aware of our shortcomings. May we become so aware of this truth, so that we can remember that we can't do it all, nor are we supposed to.

If you are fumbling, may the grace of Jesus enable you to see the purpose and the beauty that is truly present in the not knowing.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Hope


In the midst of a crazy, understaffed shift at work yesterday, I had a woman come to my register with four boxes of Christmas cards. At buy one, get one for half price this was a great deal that I had been constantly ringing up for guests at the store. By the time I was ringing up this particular purchase, one word literally jumped off the box of cards:

Hope.

At that particular moment I desperately needed that reminder. There is hope that I do not have to be subjected to myself. That in my humanity and sinful error I have hope that there is something beyond me and my limitations; something so much more powerful than our government, the feelings we feel when we don't measure up to an ideal, alcoholism, drug use, food and retail therapy.

Hope.

Hope for a crooked and depraved world of selfishness, greed, anger and belittling. Hope for a world of infertile couples, teenage mothers, and orphaned babies. For the sick, the dying, the sad, the "shoved in the corner" and left to be forgotten. 

All the ornaments, Santa Clause cookies, "Night Before Christmas" books, child Christmas traditions, hot department store sales and Bing Crosby Christmas music are plentiful....but is hope?

Why is it that hope is buried underneath these things, these things and so much more? We live for moments that give us hope and joy during this season, but as children of Christ, that moment felt is never ending.

Our baby Jesus hope...the Prince of Peace, King of Kings, Emmanuel. Our hope wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a feeding trough in a barn, because there was no room for hope in the world.

This Christmas season, may God enable you to make room for Him, make room for hope! This world, whether it realizes it or not, needs hope bearers shining like lights in pure darkness. 

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."-Romans 15:13


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Engaging Truths about Engagement


As I have been more engrossed in "wedding world" post my November engagement, I have noticed a shocking trend with engaged couples. Somewhere in the history of our world began the norm and the expectation for the engagement ring to be elaborate, expensive and "top of the line". In correlation with this trend, the price, size and appearance of the diamond instantly became connected to the "type" of man that that woman was engaged to, whether or not it put him in severe debt and/or took away from funds needed to start a life together.

I can't  think of a single woman who doesn't/wouldn't appreciate a beautiful, expensive engagement ring. It is in our blood to desire beauty, and desiring beauty is by no means wrong. However, I find that the amount of money and/or the size of the diamond is not anywhere in correlation with the proven love and commitment of the relationship.

Many, many years ago it was not uncommon for a young bride of 20 to have a simple gold band for an engagement ring. Over the years when times became less hard and more money was made and saved, there would be a "graduation" to a larger diamond and ring setting; perhaps for a 10 year anniversary. I remember the stories that past nursing home residents of mine would tell me. How their dress was just a simple frock that their mother made, because the war made it difficult to find special fabric. That for their honeymoon they went just two or three hours away and rented a hotel room by a pretty lake for just a few nights. Their wedding reception consisted of a two tiered white cake, coffee and ham sandwiches in the church basement. There were no white twinkle lights, satin table cloths, a D.J., elaborate bouquets and wedding registries.

As I wait in anticipation to become Mrs. Bolden, I am reminded of how this, my relationship with this man...this is only the beginning. I do not feel worthy to have a sparkly, 1/2 carat diamond ring, as our love and commitment to each other is young and small. It has yet to endure the tests and trials of married life. I do not want to ever give way to the cultural lie that states that I as a loved woman "deserves" to have such a piece of jewelry.

I don't "deserve" anything. That's right. I don't deserve a thing.

All that has been given to me is due to the graciousness and the goodness of God. All that I am....every good and struggling part of me, that is due to God as well. It is in this simplicity that I find truth. Simplicity found in the chaos of a world of Pinterest, Elle Magazine, and subtle messages delivered in various ways telling me what I need and what I deserve. Maybe it is the current reality that neither myself or my fiancĂ©e have any actual money that has helped influence this view point, but for that I am very grateful.

I have found that my lack of resources is directly connected with my ability to see the truth behind why I feel I need or deserve certain things. Marriage is not only a God given gift, but it is an opportunity. God didn't have to bless me with such an amazing man and the opportunity to be His partner and best friend for life; He chose to do this.

I am smiling as I look at my beautiful engagement ring on my left ring finger. It was a gift from Jeremy's granny; a ring that was given to her by a boyfriend of hers that loved the Lord with all his heart, and also loved granny with everything that he was. Granny met this man after her first husband died and planned to marry him, until he passed away unexpectedly.

Granny graciously gave us her engagement ring; she chose to give us her engagement ring. A lost love now viewed as a gain when she witnesses the love between her grandson and myself. Had I been in a Jewelry store I would have never, ever chosen the color ( yellow gold) or the setting of that ring. However, it is the most beautiful, meaningful gift I will probably ever own because of the love behind it. The simple, modest marquee solitaire diamond is exactly enough.

My engagement ring is a representation of my life in Christ. I can plan, dream and actively work towards a specific goal or vision for my life, but when I surrender my life and future marriage to Christ it is more beautiful, inspiring and meaningful in ways that I never could have pictured myself.  " In his heart a man plans his course but the Lord determines his steps."-Proverbs 16:9

Friday, September 20, 2013

Salt, Light, Prison




 Prison. I can't even fathom being confined to a life behind bars. It's a world that exists and is very, very real for many people. Thousands of adults who used to be children that were abandoned and abused by their parents find themselves in this world, wondering where things went wrong as they find themselves under a federal sentence that they themselves are responsible for.

About a week ago I was flipping through the latest "Netflix" additions and came across the Netflix original TV series "Orange is the New Black". I will confess, I didn't read a whole lot about the show but just watched it based on advertisement on TV. When I first started watching it, I was shocked. I felt like I shouldn't even be watching it because it was so crude, so horrific, so evil; and yet, I became hooked.

The first question I asked myself was "Sarah, why do you even care about this?", but something kept attracting me to the the plot line, the characters, the world of female prison inmates, and it didn't take me long to figure out why.

Every single person on this planet deals with hardship at one point or another. Sometimes we feel that we are in our own prisons of an addiction, debt, depression, etc.  It is so easy to get wrapped up in our own worlds of pain and struggle. But there are completely different worlds out there. Worlds that we can't even comprehend; worlds that would make us vomit, faint, and potentially leave us crippled and scarred in ways that could never be healed.

I just finished reading a book called "Dangerous Surrender" by Kay Warren, the wife of author and pastor Rick Warren who wrote " The Purpose Driven Life". In her book she chronicled the call that God placed on her life to minister to people affected by the AIDS virus. She wrote her experience with words so descriptive, so vivid, of the pain and the depravity of AIDS victims in Africa. She wrote about how important it is that we be disturbed as Christians; that we allow our comfortable worlds to be shattered with the horrific reality of others.

Entering into the world of the female prison inmates has disturbed my world. It has given me an even deeper understanding that any existence apart from Christ is a prison. That any of us, I don't care WHO you are, has the potential to become vulnerable to commit heinous and unthinkable acts. That when deprived of Christ, of hope, nourishment and touch we are truly hopeless.

The powerful element in "Orange is the New Black" is the back ground stories of the inmates before they got to prison. Daughters of drug dealers, sexually abused children, homeless, sold to pimps; young girls who knew nothing other than pain and horror; a pain and horror that became their existence. Everyone has a story. What you see is not always what is actually there.

Be disturbed. May this post serve as a reminder of how important it is to get out of our comfort zones in the way that the Lord desires us to do. May you be reminded that the darkness of prison is the same as the darkness within our own hearts, but because of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ we live in radiant light of freedom in Christ. Our chains are gone and we've been set free, but so many are not free; so many are bound by the hand and feet to chains of their past and their present. We are not just called to be salt and light to people who are sick, hungry or in another country. I believe that God has called us to bring hope to those in chains, whether physically or literally. How will you do this?