Sunday, January 1, 2017

I Thought I Knew What God was Doing

2016 was a challenging year... Let's recap.

I began the year as a high school junior in a fairly new relationship with J (my first relationship, mind you). I was convinced that I was going to marry this boy. I was content with my life and over the moon at how well J treated me.

As March and April rolled around, my body started to ache in ways it hadn't before. I consistently had stomach pain, my migraines were at an all-time high, and I was hit with crippling fatigue. Being a private school student with a devoted work ethic, I HATE missing school, but I ended up going half days to manage my health and my studies. I was in and out of the doctor, but we never could pinpoint what was causing me to feel so shut down. I scheduled an appointment with one neurologist and got on the waiting list for a different neurologist. Went ahead and had an MRI (clear, btw) and waited to see more doctors. All the while, J stayed by me, helping where he could.

May came and I saw one neurologist -- long story short, didn't return back to that one. Suffered through the end of school... Looking back, I had a fantastic group of friends and people that loved me enough to invite me to things that distracted me from the health issues.

In June, I cut out caffeine from my diet. Withdrawal was rough, but the migraines eased up a smidge. I also stopped taking any kind of over-the-counter pain killer (they didn't do much anyway). J was still there.

July came and I finally got to see the neurologist that everyone recommended. She ran a slew of tests on me to try and find the root of the problems, rather than just treat the symptoms. Turns out, I have 7 food allergies, am deficient in various vitamins, and I have a high gluten intolerance. Massive diet change meant massive body change. The first couple of weeks were rough and I even ended up in the ER with what we thought was early appendicitis, but it ended up just being my stomach in shock from the diet changes. Understandable.

As my body slowed down, though, I mentally slowed down. I truly believe that God sent me my sicknesses to cause me to slow down emotionally and evaluate what I was doing in my friendships and relationships. Psalm 46:10 was my battle-cry from April-July. "Be still and know that I am God." I remember in late April/early May feeling uneasy about my relationship with J. As I brought my concerns to God, he showed me that my concerns were legitimate, but I made the sinful decision to push these red flags under the rug. I didn't want to admit that I was wrong.

When my health started to show signs of improving late summer, I began to seriously pay attention to what the Holy Spirit was showing me about my relationship with J. He told me to watch our conversations. I realized that we didn't have many serious conversations... I didn't feel like I could open up to him about things. It was awkward and weird. When we did have a conversation that was more serious minded, it was always centered around the topic of marriage. God showed me that this was not okay, but I, again, didn't want to admit it.

One Friday in August, I was meeting a friend at Starbucks, and we started talking about J. Out of habit, I said, "Yeah, I think I'm going to marry him." My friend, who I consider to be very in touch with the Spirit and attentive to His leadings, immediately said, "Sarah, that's not something you should be dwelling on." He continued to speak to me about how I was putting J on a pedestal, making him an idol in my life, rather than focusing on He who actually deserves that position. The words my friend spoke to me that rainy Friday afternoon were the exact words that the Holy Spirit had impressed on me (totally went to the bathroom and cried in the middle of Starbucks. Casual.).

The following Tuesday, I shared this with J and broke up with him. I had such a sense of peace about it that it felt so right that it almost seemed wrong... if that makes any sense at all... Divine Peace is a funny thing like that.

At this time, God put the words "Trust" and "Go" on my heart. He told me to trust that He was going to take care of every worry I had and to go where He would lead. Our theme verse at school became a very important verse in my life... "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9.

After this, Jesus began to put each friendship I had on display and question just how important it was to me. It was a moment of fear and nervousness, but he reminded me to trust and go and to be strong and courageous, for He is with me. I metaphorically threw my friendships in the air and let him carry the chaff away.

The Lord blessed me with new friends and renewed relationships that I could invest myself in, and I am still learning how to serve Him through these friendships.

In late October, I met a guy, C, and we began to get to know each other to see if there could be a relationship... We began dating in mid-November, and dated up until Christmas. C was my best friend. He was an amazing guy that God sent to teach me more about myself than I ever thought there was to learn. C knew a lot about life and about not being afraid to be who you are, but there was one thing that we never really lined up on. C and I stood for different things when it came to our faith. C claimed Christianity, but he was honest enough to admit that it simply wasn't something that he saw as important in his life as I did. While I strive to make my decisions based on my faith, he doesn't. God used another incredibly Godly friend of mine to speak assurance to me that this was not my future husband. It was a continued moment of "trust and go and do not be afraid", and I've never felt closer to Christ than I do at the end of 2016. The day after this relationship came to an end, my pastor preached about how it's not always easy to live for Christ, but it is always worth it. I am so grateful that He has purpose in everything.

I thought I knew what God had in store for my year, but as soon as I felt comfortable, He shook my world. I wouldn't want it any other way. I saw something on Twitter that said, "No mater what has happened in your past, you're not disqualified. Jesus isn't shocked by your past. He loves you just as you are." (@judwilhite) Oh, how grateful I am for this truth!!! I am so incredibly glad that when Jesus looks at me He is not caught off guard that I screwed up again, but He has it already written into His plan for my life. What a mighty God we serve.

I want to close this out with some lyrics and verses and quotes that have been on my heart recently. I hope these serve as encouragement for you in 2017.

Michael W. Smith --> "Sovereign Over Us"
"Even what the enemy means for evil You turn it for our good and for Your glory. Even in the valley You are faithful. You're working for our good and for Your glory. Your plans are still to prosper. You have not forgotten us. You're with us in the fire and the flood. You're faithful forever; You're perfect in love. You are sovereign over us."

@lukelezon "messy hand make beautiful pottery. as God molds and shapes you, it may look messy, but there is beauty in it. there is purpose."

2 Timothy 1:8-9 "Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began..."

J. S. Park "I just think that sometimes we dress up Jesus as a doe-eyed haloed white American surfer holding dry-cleaned sheep and he said things like 'I love you no matter what' all the time. And while it's absolutely true that he loves us no matter what, the love of Jesus was absolutely ferocious, life-changing, and heart-rending. Anyone who met Jesus would never, ever be the same. There's no neutral reaction to him, or else we haven't met him."

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Isaiah 43:2 "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you."

I love you all. He loves you all. Stay Salty and stay Light. Matthew 5:13-16.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Dear Rising High School Junior...

Dear Rising High School Junior,

This has been a crazy, amazing, packed, stressful, wonderful year. From the friendships, to the grades, you are in for a loop.

Because of the craziness of this past year [and my heart for mentorship], here are some things you should remember going into your junior year. Some of these are from me, and some are from my friends. While we have all had different experiences, these pieces of advice can help anyone.

"Don't slack off on ___________"
Junior year has a lot of new and exciting things... It is incredibly easy to slack off on the big projects... Remember that it's better to be ahead than behind.

"Keep up on homework; procrastination is one of the most harmful things that can happen..."
While the big projects need attention, the little stuff does too. Those little homework grades and surprise notebook checks add up fast and can seriously affect your grades.

"... and don't be afraid to talk to teachers if you don't understand what they're teaching"
Forming relationships with your teachers can be incredibly beneficial in the long run. Teachers don't become teachers for the money or the fame. They do it for you, the student. They care about you, so don't hesitate to go to them if you start struggling.

“Don’t wish your junior year away by thinking ‘Oh, I can’t wait to be a senior’. Your junior year can be memorable; don’t overlook the good times now”
I think this one speaks for itself.
“Enjoy every day because it goes by REALLY fast.”
Do you believe us yet?
"Get those college visits done ASAP so that you can be ahead for next year"
I advise doing this on your breaks (spring, fall, etc.) so that you do not fall too far behind in your classes, but make sure the college you are visiting is not on break as well... You want to get the best feel of student life.
“Remember that your best is all you can do. If you always try your hardest, no one can fault you for slacking off. While being the best is awesome, don’t compare yourself and your grades to other students, especially with ACT scores"
For me, Junior year was the busiest year yet. I had a lot of friendship changes, I added a job, the academics got harder, and there was a boy (go figure). Do your best and know your limits. There is only so much you can do. Comparison can wreck your morale... Albert Einstein once said, "Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life thinking it is stupid." You were created uniquely. You are not a clone of your classmate. You will each learn differently and score differently.
“It will all be gone before you know it. Don’t waste your time on things that don’t matter. Instead spend it on building relationships that will last”
What that girl was saying behind your back, how quickly that guy snapchatted you back, etc. will not necessarily matter at the end of the year. How you treated others and how you dealt with the conflict that arose means a lot. Remember "attitude is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it" (Swindoll). Philippians 4:8 is WONDERFUL when it comes to junior year drama... "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
“Don’t put so much pressure on yourself (especially academically) that you miss out on the social aspect of your high school experience. Those friendships are just as important as your grades”
To reiterate what I've already said....
Spend time with classmates outside school as a group… your class is your support group” 
Junior year FLIES BY. You'll blink and you're voting for senior class officers and applying for colleges. Soon you are going to part ways with most (if not all) of the friends you've grown up with. Love on your classmates, and cherish each moment with them.
“Junior year is kindof like the Thursday of VBS week. You know like when it’s past halfway but not quite over yet, and everyone’s kindof worn out and not as energetic as they were at the beginning of the week. Remind yourself that you’ve made it this far, and that the end is in sight!”
You've done great, but it's not over. CHERISH it.
Congratulations! You've finished two years of high school!
Now go ROCK the last two!
Your Rising High School Seniors

Saturday, March 26, 2016

When I Look at the Cross...

When I look at the cross... I see all shame taken away.
I no longer have to be ashamed of who I was. He doesn't see those sins anymore.
I also have no reason to feel ashamed of who I am now. If Christ could hang on a tree, vulnerable and uncomfortable, to save me, I can stand for him, regardless of the world around me.

When I look at the cross... I see selflessness.
Christ selflessly hung there, enduring my punishment. He didn't complain. He didn't argue with the governing officials. He asked The Father for another way, but he was still willing. He understood that The Father had a perfect plan. He withstood the pain, emotional and physical, for me.

When I look at the cross... I see inclusion.
Christ's arms are big enough to hold all different kinds of people. The beauty of the cross is that it covers the old, young, black, white, athletes, dancers, stutterers, addicts, convicts, pastors, disciples, disabled. Christ says, "Come just as you are; I did this for you."

Overall, When I look at the cross... I see unconditional love.
Radical. Unchanging. Unwavering. Selfless. Shameless. Inclusive. LOVE COVERS ALL.

Now, when I look at the cross on my necklace, I see so much more than just a symbol. I see a reminder that Christ can carry any burden that I have. Christ says, "Bring it to me, and leave it at my feet."

What do you see when you look at the cross?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

DNOW 2015 Reflections

"The Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes, and say, 'O God, forgive me,' or 'Help me.'" -Billy Graham 

To say that God revealed Himself to me this week is an understatement. I have been encouraged to stand bold in my faith, and that's one of the most vulnerable feelings I have felt in a really long time. 

I learned about distractions. 
We live in a distracted world, yet Christ still tells us to take time for him and reflect on his power [Ps. 46:10]. 
I learned that Christ wants us to strip off EVERYTHING that wears me down, everything stopping me from getting to him. 
I learned that I have made some good things bad. Some things are not necessarily evil until you make them your god. I have turned some of my friends and schoolwork into a god, forgetting to MAKE TIME for Christ. 

I learned to truly listen to God. 
I was encouraged by Psalm 119:20 which tells us "My soul is consumed with longing for your word at all times." 
I was reminded that there is a difference between hearing and listening. One of my group leaders described hearing as "a water-repellent sheet where the word rolls right off" and listening as "a sponge soaking in every water droplet it had room for". 
I have learned, in the words of Lilly Moscovitz [Princess Diaries], that sometimes I need to "shut up and listen". We are fast moving people, but there is ALWAYS time to stop and listen. 
I learned to evaluate the things I spend the most time on. Instead of watching movies for hours, why not worship or pray or read Scripture for hours? 
I learned that I must have the Holy Spirit to understand deep things in Scripture [1 Cor. 2:14].
I learned to stop and smell the roses... or admire the stars... or listen to the birds sing out... to admire the creation proclaiming the name of the Creator Himself [Ps. 19]. 

I learned to hate sin. 
I learned that when we follow through sin, we are like the oxen willingly walking to their death [Proverbs 7:22-23]. We willingly get trapped in sin, leading to spiritual death. 
I was reminded that sin is REBELLION. 
I learned that sin breaks relationships. It broke the relationship between Adam and Eve in Eden. It broke the relationship between God and man in Eden as well. 
I was shown the harsh truth that if i sin simply three times every day, I may sin well over 70,000 times in my lifetime... an extremely large number of offences would not be overlooked by any judge would it??
I saw how sin is like the bait luring in the fish. The fish sees the treat, but does not see the hook underneath which is leading to its death [Proverbs 14:12]. 
I learned that I can either choose to be a slave to sin or a servant for God. 
I learned that my attitude toward sin matters. I MUST stand firm in my faith. 

I learned to evaluate my friendships. 
I learned that all of my friends could be classified into two groups: lamp posts or lamp shades. They are either shining a bright light that must be seen or they are disclosing the light that needs to be shared. 
I was encouraged to build my friends up and not let them tear me down. 
I was encouraged to purge my life of people who are acting away from Christ. 
I was reminded that I will become like the people I hang around, so I should choose wisely [Prov. 13:20; 1 Cor. 15:33]. 
I was reminded that good friends don't take days off of being your friend. They stand by you. They encourage you. They hold you accountable to the commitment you made to Christ. 

I learned to be PROUD of Christ. 
2 Timothy 1:8 "So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord." 
I was reminded to tell the WORLD about our hero. 
I was encouraged to praise God how He tells me to praise Him. That may be jumping up and down. That may be on my knees. That may be with both hands in the air. That may be screaming for his glory. 

I was encouraged to be involved in discipleship. 
I was encouraged to love my friends and family, but love them less than I love Christ. 
I was encouraged to place and keep Christ in the 1st chair of priority in my life. Besides, that's the only place he fits in anyway, right? 
I was encouraged to carry my cross to Jesus. 
I was reminded to be OBSESSED with obedience in Christ. 
I was taught that the goal of discipleship is transformation.  
I was shown that my relationship with Christ will have no worth unless something is given as payment.
I was reminded that CHRIST should be the only one calling the shots in my life. 
"Your life is a blank check in which God gets to finish filling out." David Platt 

I was reminded that... I am precious to God, so there is no point in me acting useless. 


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Are you Happy?

Are you happy?

No, I mean REALLY, TRULY happy?

Sadly, this is something that I feel God has laid on my heart a great deal lately. I feel like we look for happiness in all the wrong places.

Some people turn to other people. Some people turn to themselves and this perfect image they have worked so hard to create. Some people turn to possessions. You get the picture.

See my issue is that when I look around myself, I feel like while some people may be right with God and completely basking in His glory, they tend to generally keep it to themselves. Maybe they don't keep it to themselves. Maybe they show their happiness, but they don't necessarily mention that it's from God.

Others may not be happy at all, but they try to cover it up by wearing a mask. A mask they have created and painted with this perfect image, whether it be financial, political, even spiritual.

I'm not saying that we cannot find pleasure in these things. I'm saying our happiness and joy should not be based off of these things.

See here's the deal. We cannot base our happiness off of the people around us. If we can't base our happiness off of the people around us, then we cannot base our disappointments off of them either. We can only find TRUE happiness in the One who CREATED happiness. And if we can only find happiness in him, then we can only find our disappointment in him too, and, guess what, in case you haven't figured out, HE NEVER DISAPPOINTS.

So, if I'm making any sense at all, you'll understand kindof what I'm getting at. We have no reason to be disappointed with our lives. We need to be completely focused on God that our Joy is so overflowing and completely evident to everyone around. We need to let our Joy lead others directly to the One who is Joy.

It's for this reason I want to live completely consumed with Christ. I want to be constantly searching for his peace and happiness.

I hope you do too.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
 He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
 indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
 The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
 the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
 The Lord will keep you from all harm
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore."
Psalm 121

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Most Influential Speech I've Ever Heard

So tonight some of my best friends graduated from high school. 
I began the night curious about which part of the ceremony I was going to lose it on. Surprisingly, I ended up not "losing it". 

One of my favorite parts of tonight was the commencement speech. Not only was the speaker a funny guy, but his message left a distinct [hmm... how do I say this...] mark in my thoughts. 

He was talking to the seniors specifically, but I felt his message take meaning for me as well. He was speaking on our images as Christians individuals and how we can leave a lasting impression on those around us. 

As he was speaking, he mentioned President Barack Obama. He began to talk about how even though he had not given specifics, our own personal thoughts and judgments about our president were already filling our minds. And he was right. 

He continued by turning this message toward the seniors and their supporters around them. He brought up the fact that if we call ourselves Christians, we automatically are making a statement for Christ. While we are not always showing the spirit of Christ that we should, we are still being watched by those around us. The speaker also mentioned how when people hear our names, they're going to be making their own conclusions and judgments. 

And that, my friends, is where I REALLY started listening. And thinking. And evaluating my own life. 

I got to thinking... if I could hear my peers' thoughts when I came into their mind, would I like what I heard? 

I don't want to be known as the girl who "smiled, but never said anything to me," or "ignored me," or "hurt me when she said ______," or "never really liked me."

Instead, I want to be remembered as the one who "truly lived out Christ's commands," or "changed my life by sharing the Gospel," or "always brightened my day with her smile and warm hugs," or "the kind of person I want to be." 

It's really hard to explain exactly what I was thinking tonight, but I can assure you that it meant more to me than most graduations normally do. 


Saturday, August 17, 2013

You Did it Again

Ya did it again, God.
You amazed me again.
Never ceases to amaze me how you answer my prayers.
All of us girls have had it in our lives. We cannot hide from it. No matter what we try to do. What is it, you may ask? Drama. Girl Drama, specifically.
I can safely say that I hate it. I hate girl drama. I hate the broken friendships. I hate the negativity. I hate the cattiness. I hate it.
A year ago I had a best friend. We had every school class together. We spent most of our life together. Road trips. Dances. Late nights. That was us. We were those girls. After a turn of events and my recommitment to Christ, all craziness broke out.
The friendship crumbled. It buckled. We were done. Couldn't be around each other before something negative came out of our mouths. It was not all her fault. It was not all my fault. It was a 2-way street. I didn't see that I wasn't focusing on the one thing that mattered: my relationship with God.
Summer came. Regret fell on my heart. I was upset that I had wasted my year away by focusing on the negative. Over the summer, I reached out to God and really fully depended on him. I was His. No doubt in my mind. I worked through my heart, focusing on it piece by piece. When I got to the piece with all the past girl drama painted on it, it was tough, but I was able to forgive her. Forgive the meanness and recognize what I did and how it was wrong, yet I couldn't bring myself to tell her.
Well. Tonight was the back to school dance at school. Fun night. I was having a great time.
Then those words that confuse all of your thoughts: "Hey. Can we talk?" Oh boy. "Yeah! Sure!"
Long story short. all is resolved. I love how when I turn something over to God, He tells me it will be fine and he takes care of it. I love how I have my friend back. I love how my mind is at ease.
I hope this encourages you. I hope that if you've had girl drama or any drama that you will turn to God and hand it all over to Him.
I PROMISE he will handle it! He's just amazing like that.
Thanks, God. You did it again. <3