Middlemarch

Hey listen, I am never one to brag about how great I am (I am exactly the kind to brag about how great I am), but I read a book that has 80 chapters.  This is no small thing since the first book that I actually read for real was Harry Potter.  Books prior to that were skimmed for book report purposes.  So this 80 chapter monster is titled, “Middlemarch.”  The best way to describe this book is that it is a study of provincial life.  That is just a fancy way to say a study of ordinary life.  This topic of an ordinary life has surfaced for me because God is teaching me that in this ordinary life of mine is where the miraculous is happening.  As I stopped telling God to give me a super sexy famous christian life, He started showing me that the “Middlemarch” is where the cool Jesus freaks are.

So what do I mean by Middlemarch?  It has taken me two years to flesh that out.  I could write 10,000 words on all the appointments with Dana (my counselor), books, podcasts, and time in the bible that got me thinking this way.  (Just a few, “The Glorious in the Mundane Podcast, by Christy Nockles, specifically Season 1,  Unseen by Sara Hagerty, the Book of Ruth, and the Book of Galatians.)  Dana was actually the one who pointed me to Middlemarch.  She said, “What you are doing is your Middlemarch,” and told me about the book.  So essentially for me it is letting go of this idea that in order to matter to God I have to be out there effecting His kingdom in some super visual miraculous way.  It is letting go of making sure people see me doing God’s work.  It is letting go of getting praise from other people for what I am doing.  It is learning that God sees me.  God’s only design for me is that I will glorify Him with my life.  It is stopping myself from doing all the things for God, and making myself yield to God and what He puts before me even if I don’t really want it.  It is 1 million choices everyday that honor God, and 1 million denials of my flesh everyday.  Everyday. Everyday.  That is my Middlemarch, my study of ordinary life, that is actually extraordinary.

Here is whats start to surface in this Middlemarch of mine.  I see God working in my life and fruit of the Spirit starting to surface.  I see that in situations where the norm is for me to get angry, stressed and yell, I don’t.  I see the norm shift to peace and love.  I see a husband who never really wanted a lot of responsibility, choose to step into a roll that requires a lot of responsibility.  I see that husband learn to rely on God and trust Him, where before he would try to escape.  I see a young woman who has made choices that don’t honor God, start to make choices that do honor God.  I see a young woman who was afraid to make those choices start to have moments of the greatest bravery I may have ever seen in my life.  I see a young man afraid to make friends, trust God and put himself out there and join a Dungeons and Dragon group. (You may think this has other complications but lets just stick to the making friends part of this.)  I see a High School freshman make tough choices to be able to walk out her faith in High School even though it means that she might not be doing all the things the popular kids are doing.  The more I learn of God the more I think these are the things that He will high 5 us for.

This Middlemarch life flies in the face of everything my flesh says.  My flesh says, “God is only impressed with people who are really out there suffering for the Lord.”  My flesh says, “God is only in the super flashy miracles.”  My flesh says, “What are you going to have to show for your life if all you do is laundry and cook dinner and raise some kids and stay married.”  But God, He says in His word that the day in and day out honoring of Him is where it’s at.  In the life of the disciples I see this, just following Jesus day in and day out.  Allowing Him to teach them, encouraging each other, messing up, and being restored.  I see this in the churches that Paul writes to after Christ’s death.  The heart stopping, in your face miracles had ceased.  Paul was encouraging them to live the life that honors God day in and day out.  How many moms went to the temple to hear the reading of Paul’s letter; having just cleaned up after a meal, told kids to get their sandals on because they were going to the temple come hell or high water, shooed the goats back out to the pasture; and then were encouraged by the words of Paul to keep on living for Christ no matter what, and to be transformed!  So many woman whose day in and day out life actually made a huge impact on the kingdom, because they were just doing the Middlemarch.  This is a life changing shift in thinking for me, a miracle as it were.  I am so thankful to the Lord for freeing me up to see and giving me a front row seat to watch the miracles happening in my Middlemarch.

I specifically told you not to have the baby while I was at my family reunion.

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I mean come on!!!  Look at that smile!

People just don’t listen when I tell them things.  The night we landed, got settled and went to bed in Michigan I got the call letting me know that sweet Laycie was being induced due to preeclampsia and baby Kohen was on the way, eventhough the last thing I said to her before we went to the airport was, “Do not have that baby while I am gone!” Can I tell what it does to a total control freak to know all of this is going on outside my reach?  Did I check to see if there were any flights home asap? YES!  Did I weigh how mad my family would be if I was a no-show? YES! In the end I couldn’t leave and baby Kohen came into the world without my being there, shocking I know.

Before I tell you how perfect Kohen is, let me give you some highlights from my trip to Michigan.  I got to see my dean from bible school.  I pray you have someone like her in your life.  We spent a fast and furious 18 hours together.  We talked about what had gone on in the last year.  We talked about what we learned about the Lord in the last year.  We talked about the future and what we hoped for.  Sometimes God knits people together because He knows they need each other and I felt that so keenly during my time with Lisa.  As my kids say, “I want to be Lisa Hatton when I grow up, I just love her!”  No truer statement has ever been said.  I love you to pieces.  Thank you for being you and allowing me to me with you.  And yes, I’d love a cup of coffee with you.  We also got to run over to Ethnos 360 BI to see our old stomping ground.  It was so fun to say a quick hello to some of our professors, deans and some dear friends.

From there the kids and I went up to Grand Rapids where we got to celebrate my Grandpa’s 85th SURPRISE birthday with the entire Berridge side of the family, save for one cousin who is stationed in England.  That is sad because he is my grandparents favorite grandchild.  But they made do with the rest of us.  Listen, we are not mad, we have all made peace with the fact that Mark is the favorite.  We are all fine.  Really we are.  We had a great time at the party.  My dad and Aunt Teri sang tunes that were my grandpa’s favorite.  My dad, my mom, aunt Teri and our friend Doug are now known as the “Reunion Band.”  I love to see my dad sing. You can just see that he loves it.  It was really cool to see. Plus they sang “You are my Sunshine,”  which is the song my grandma always sang to me, and her and I sat and sang it together.  You have no idea how glad I was to surprise them with our visit because I am pretty sure she wrote me off since we didn’t visit this summer.  I could not tell her that we were coming to surprise them obviously, so I had to live through 5 months of comments like, “Well I hope I live long enough to see those kids of yours again someday.”  Ouch, Yes you will Grandma, and we took you to Olga’s for lunch so now we are all square.

The day after the Birthday party we had “Berridge Day.”  What is that you may ask?  Well is was a day that included The Kid Olympics, bowling, and a Wine Tasting Contest.  It was so much fun unless you talked during the Kid Olympics game explanation, then you got on the wrong side of Aunt Teri.  As I watched Aunt Teri carry out the Kid Olympics I was warmed in my heart because I thought, “Oh, I am just like her.  I come from a powerful long line of managing organizer Type A personalities.  We will keep this family together.”  The fact that we have pictures at all from the party or Berridge day is all down to Aunt Teri’s planning.  Hats off to you Aunt Teri, you had to do a lot of wrangling but the weekend was a success.  The best part was getting to taste wine and talk to my cousins, many of whom I have not seen in years, and holding all the babies.  Everyone had a baby but me because mine was being born in Texas.

Oh, baby Kohen.  I don’t even have the words.  What a blessing he has been to us.  Laycie has blown us away with how she has handled motherhood.  I have to say, no part of this has been what I would call “easy” for her.  She has had to navigate lots of drama, disappointment, scary things like your baby being in the NICU, leaving the hospital without your baby, going back to the hospital to bond with your baby, and through it all she just keeps going forward.  He’s almost a week old and they are finally settled in here at the house together and we could not be more excited for them to land here.  And let’s be honest, God knew what He was doing keeping me 1700 miles away.  I would have been a total wreck with worry about Laycie and the baby if I was here and having to live through all of that in real-time.  It was bad enough having to call Ashley 47 times an hour asking, “What is happening now?”  The first picture is Ashley and Jesse bringing the carseat up to the hospital…..guess who is absent from that picture? (me) The second is Ashley holding Kohen’s hand in the NICU sent to me with caption….”He said I am already his favorite.”  NOPE!

Baby Kohen has all the Griffith’s at his beck and call.  He squeaks we all say, “AWWW!”  He cries and we all rush to his side.  Sydney has begged me to stay home from school so she can soak him up.  Brock is mildly amused by him, but honestly a little scared of how tiny he is.  Jesse is talking in baby voices and cooing all the time.  He looks for reasons to “work from home.” And me?  Oh, I’m fine.  I am totally cool, totally nonplussed.  I can take him or leave him.  And if you believe that I have some ocean front property in Arizona I will sell you.  There is no end to my joy of having this baby here.  Yeah, I have returned no phone calls,  I have something like 300 emails to get to, I don’t care.  Right now he is sitting right next to me because he kept his mama up all night and we thought she should go nap and leave us alone.  So thankful to have a baby in this house again.  As baby’s go, this one is PERFECT!

 

 

We were fine until I had to move my stuff….

The big news around here is that the Griffith’s have a new roommate.  Meet Laycie.

She reached out to my friend Ashley’s ministry, Selah Creek, because she needed a place to stay.  Ashley send out the call for help.  In a way that only God does things, after I saw Ashley’s post about it, the thought of Laycie moving in here would not leave me or Jesse alone.  One day Jesse just said, “Sarah, I think she needs to move in here.” I agreed.  To be honest the part that really took a hold of my heart is that Laycie is going to have a baby.  I love the thought of having a baby in the house again because if you know me at all you know how I love babies!  Sydney and Brock also love babies so when we told them that Laycie might move in, they were so excited.

We arranged to all meet so we could see if this would work.  I mean I can’t imagine someone not being in love with how I run my house or how I cook or how I do life, but stranger things have happened.  (Just for context think of the term “bossy pants”)  I was also worried that I would meet Laycie and it would all be wrong.  Let us not forget that I lived in a building for two years with a bunch of 20 year olds.  I knew what I was potentially getting myself into, and all the bad stuff that sometimes accompanies 20 year olds.

But then we met her.  Oh my gosh, not to be weird but I fell in love with her.  Standing before me was this bright young woman who just wanted to do right by her sweet baby.  She was willing to do what we asked her to do and gushed over how excited she was that the baby would have his own space.  I was just so blown away at how she faced what was before her, moving in with complete strangers, with a positve outlook.  She was open and honest when we asked questions.  Her confidence is impressive and you get the feeling that no matter what comes her way she is going to work it out.  She has a smile that is infectious.  You just want to love on her.  Plus she is bringing a baby into the world that will live at my house.  I can think of no one I like more right now.  To quote Jesse, “We were unsure of saying yes to having her move in until we met her, then it was a no brainer.  She is supposed to be here with us.”

The kids are doing great with it too.  You can see Sydney look at Laycie with that sweet look of awe.  Like she realizes, “Oh girl, you have gone before me into the halls of high school, share your knowledge of how to survive.”  And Syd and I have a thing for babies, so that won her over.  Other than the fact that Laycie does not share Brock’s affinity for Cinnamon Toaster Strudel, he is totally cool with her too.  Laycie brought Cinnamon Roll Dessert Pizza home a few days ago there by cementing their devotion to her because their mother would never get that for them.

Allow me to back up a bit, to before she moved in.  We were all so excited and everyone was helping to make preparations.  I got right to work.  This is where I can let my Type A, organized, label making, energized self free to run.  And I was fine, really I was.  I sorted and moved and cleaned out the stuff the was in the two rooms we were giving to Laycie.  I was even fine when the army of helpers came to move furniture from one place to another.  However, when it was all said and done and I walked into my bedroom–which was the place I decided to store all the stuff I moved out of the two bedrooms–I nearly fainted.  There was so much crap to orgainzed and get rid of and move to new locations.  I’m not sure if I have made it clear on this blog that I LIKE A CLEAN AND ORGAINZED HOUSE.  So it was all fun and games until I actually had to make room for Laycie and the baby to move in.

I see God at work here.  I hope you do too.  It is so easy to say YES when God puts something on my heart.  It makes so much sense to say YES and make people happy and feel like I am doing something good.  The learning comes when my YES actually costs me something and I have to make room for my YES.  When I actually have to say no to myself so I can follow through on my YES, I see just exactly how my flesh does not want to have any restrictions or denials.  I am so keenly aware of the struggle Paul talks about in Romans.  He says, (I’ll paraphrase), “I want to do what is right but as soon as I want do right, my flesh talks me out of it.”  I can feel that.  I am so glad to report that I fought that battle and won.  My room is back to normal and all it took was some “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” to keep me laughing through it all.

And another thing, as my grandpa would say, I have learned about making room for people that God brings you to love.  You have to make room physically, but also mentally and spiritually.  Just like God made room for us to be his adopted children sharing Christ’s inheiratance,  I have to make room to love His people.  So this ties into the “Oh hell no,”  post from last week.  I have had to say no to things so I can make room to love Laycie.  I had to clear out my junk so she had space to make herself at home here and I had to clear out time so I can be here for her if she needs me.  And I may have already made her promise that I get some baby time.  If I had said yes to all the things that come my way I would not have time for my family let alone a new person living with us.

No doubt that more blog post will come out of our new adventure.  I can’t wait to hold the baby.  I love watching Laycie set up his room.  Gosh, as a mama it takes you right back to when you were going to be a mom for the first time.   I remember not feeling ready to have the baby until the nursery was set up.  We would covet your prayers for our new journey.  No doubt we will get on each others nerves, and have to wade through conflict (my favorite! said me never!).

Even with all that, these lyrics come to mind:

And through it all, through it all, My eyes are on You, And through it all, through it all, It is well, And through it all, through it all, My eyes are on You, And it is well with me.
He started this journey, and made it all happen and He will walk us through this.  It is well.

Oh Hell No!

ohhellnocrossstitch

My best friend Kelly, made this for me.  It is sitting right by my kitchen sink so I will see it all the time.  I love it so much because the contrast between the pretty cross stitch and the saying is hilarious to me.  I am sorry if you think that Hell is cuss word but if you have been around me for any length of time you know that I have an affinity to pepper my speech with questionable words.  The fact of the matter is that my best friend made this for me because she knows that I am about to enter the ring for the fight of my life, again, and this is my catch phrase.

Friends, summer is all but over and the school year is about to begin.  The driving, the scheduling, the making of lunches, the signing of papers, the pep talks, the exhortations to look for the Lord even in the halls of high school.  The late night: “Hey mom, I need a (fill in the blank) for school tomorrow or the world will end, and Hey mom where is my (fill in the blank) I can’t leave without it!” The: “I need to go here and do this thing or my life as I know it will end!”  All of this is all about to commence.  Those are just the requests from my off spring, don’t even get me started on the things from the school, and PTA, and boosters.  This is the fight of my life y’all.

There is this voice inside of me that only knows one word….MORE.  It is the voice that says:

DO more

BE more

GET more

HAVE more

BE SEEN more

BE more POPULAR

GET YOUR KIDS IN more THINGS

MAKE YOUR KIDS more

STRIVE more

 

Or my other favorite voice….You are not enough!  It is the voice that says:

If you don’t do this you are not enough.

If you don’t have that you are not enough.

If you aren’t part of that you are not enough.

If you don’t say yes to that you are not enough.

 

The “more” voice and the “you are not enough” voice bully me all the time.  They try to talk me into being busy and hurried.  They try to talk me into feeling like I am not enough and that I am not doing enough.  They key into Facebook and whisper to me, “Look at them, they are doing all the things so much better and MORE perfect than you are.” They convince me that I am not doing all that I can for my family and for my friends.  They say, “You are worthless unless you are in all the things, at all the things, and doing all the things.”  They say if my life looks different from someone else’s that I am in the wrong, and I need to change.  They say that if I am not moving, I am lazy.  They say if I am not perfect, I am not loved and adored.  And guess what, those voices are LIARS and to them I say:

OH HELL NO!!!!

I have spent too much of my life imprisoned to these voices.  My flesh and satan would love to see me trapped there, but I AM FREE!!  It is the fight of my life to STAY FREE!!  So I must have this phrase at the ready.  I have to be brave and use my phrase when those voices start to bully me.  I have to stay in step with Jesus because that is where freedom resides.

So I see someone’s post on Facebook exclaiming that their kid is killing it at life because they made this team, or that club or whatever.  The more voice goes off, “Crap!  You better haul Sydney out of bed and get her signed up for (fill in the blank) because if you don’t she will end up being just a regular doctor and not a super powered doctor lawyer evangelizing missionary to orphaned children living in an unreached people group in a region of the world she discovered because Sydney should also be an explorer searching for unreached people.   Or the not enough voice goes off, “You the worst mother ever, Brock has done nothing but watch YouTube video’s about ants and Fortnight all summer, you have not challenged him in any STEM activities, or memorized bible verses, or taught him Spanish.”  And God help me if I see a post on Facebook about a weightloss story or some new way to fight wrinkles, that could put me in the bed for days!  I use to end up trapped in feeling like I needed to do more or that I am not enough.  That thought process lived out ended in me screaming at the kids to do more or be more and them feeling like they weren’t enough, and the cycle would start all over again in my kids.  In those feelings of not enough, depression sets in, and then hopelessness and then I would be lost.  NOT ANYMORE!

Now I say, OH HELL NO when those voices pop up.  I am free to congratulate other people on their successful lives without putting my life down.  I am able to see what makes my kids come alive and focus on that.  I am able to proclaim that we are enough just as we are not because of what we do but because we are loved by God.  And with God as my coach I am able to break the cycle of needing to do more and not feeling like I am enough.  With God’s Word I can focus on what is important to HIM and not what is important to the world.  What is important to God will always bring freedom, not feelings of needing to do more.  It is the fight of my life to stay free from those voices that want to tell me to do MORE or that I am NOT ENOUGH, but freedom is worth the fight!!  So I say, OH HELL NO!

 

Fame! I wann live forever!

Do you remember the song “Fame?”  The lyrics go like this…..

I feel it comin’ together
People will see me and cry, fame
I’m gonna make it to heaven
Light up the sky like a flame, fame
I’m gonna live forever
Baby, remember my name
Remember, remember, remember, remember
Remember, remember, remember, remember
Irene Cara spoke to baby Sarah’s heart in the 80’s.  Fame and the also popular theme song to Flashdance, “What a feeling!” were theme songs to my life.  Title tracks, that lead me to create plays, performances and sing for anyone that would sit still long enough to watch me.  Being in front of a crowd was the best thing in the world to baby Sarah.  I wanted to light up the sky like a flame!
To change gears a bit, did you ever have God teach you something that you did not want to admit to people because it made you look really foolish and bad? No, just me?  It does not help that one of my spiritual gifts is messing up so bad that it cannot be ignored or swept under the rug.  What can I say, I am larger than life, I wanna light up the sky like a flame!  Also it is embarrassing to admit but I seem to be the last to know about my screw ups.  Like, every one saw it coming but me.  It’s just a shot in the dark here but maybe that is because I am too busy worrying about people remembering my name?  So join me on this tale of woe, as I explain to you what God taught me about fame.
God is smart.  He knew that He had to get me interested in church enough to keep me coming back so eventually I would hear the gospel and be saved.  I am super glad He woo’s each of us in the exact perfect way to get our attention.  Mine was seeing the worship team at church for the first time.  I never knew God was ok with bands, this was a revelation!  My friend Autumn invited me to church and was on the worship team.  I remember distinctly baby Sarah standing up and shouting inside me, “Fame!  I wanna live forever!”  when I saw the microphones, instruments and band members.  A thought was born in my mind, “I wonder if they would let me sing?”  I wasn’t even a believer yet!  But that thought took hold.  I did keep going to church and did eventually get saved a month later.  It saved my life, literally.
I did join the worship team.  Baby Christian Sarah was on fire for the Lord.  I wanted to be in everything to do with God.  I wanted more and more of Him.  Baby Christian Sarah and Baby Fame Sarah joined hands and skipped all the way to the first worship set I got to lead.  It was the best thing in the world.  I found something that really gave me life in a time when things were falling apart. (See blog post on marriage)  However, something started to happen inside of me.  Baby Christian Sarah loved singing praises to the Lord no matter what.  Baby Fame Sarah wanted more of the spotlight for herself, and the war between the new Sarah and the old Sarah was started.
If I have duped you into believing I am a perfect christian please read no further because you opinion of me will be dashed.  The point of this blog is to be a real Christian trying to follow Christ and to record what He is doing in my life. This lesson changed the trajectory of my life, so this was a big thing for me.
Here’s what started to happen.  I would lead worship, and when the set was over I expected people to say did a great job.  If they didn’t I was wounded.  The schedule would come out and I would be angry that I was only leading once a month.  How could people remember my name if they only saw me once a month?  I would be jealous of other female singers if I thought they were better than me.  I would be angry with the worship pastor for not letting me lead a song.  I would ask my husband if he could hear me to be sure that my microphone was turned up enough.  I would move heaven and earth and put my family aside to say yes to a worship gig.  Basically, I had to be up there, I had to be heard, I had to have the spotlight.
Here is where the conflict happens.  Do you see that list above.  It can be broken down to  these simple fruits of the flesh:

Galatians 5: 19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

I have underlined for you the ones that I was fostering while I was trying to lead worship.  Time after time I would stand up to lead God’s people in praises to Him and all the while I would be sowing fruit of the flesh.  For sure God still used my worship because He is so big that He can use this wretch to reach other people no matter where my heart is.  The struggle became bigger and bigger the more I learned what the fruit of the Spirit are. (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) I was convicted by the Spirit that I was sowing to my own flesh.  I could see that I was causing dissention on the team.  I could see that I was hurting our worship pastor (who happens also to be my best friends husband, there by hurting that relationship too.)  I didn’t know what to do or how to stop, and I had been leading worship for so long I felt like I could not tell people that I was struggling in these ways.

I even went to a convention with Beth Moore and Christy Nockles and submitted a question because no body knew me there.  I asked Christy, “If you struggle with not being put on the schedule, not leading songs, and submitting to the worship leader should you still lead worship or should you step down?”  There were 900 questions submitted and out of all of them she pick MINE!  FAME!  I’m gonna live forever!  Just kidding!  But seriously she did pick mine so don’t ever tell me God is not pursing me and trying to teach me.  Her answer was amazing.  She said, “We have all struggled with being the background singer.  I have been in places where I did not lead songs and was just the background vocals.  The problem comes with the motive. If you are leading worship to lead God’s people into God’s presence, you are fine.  If you are leading them to lead them into your presence then you will continue to struggle.  If you can’t get your flesh under control it would be healthier to step back for a bit.”  My heart sank when I heard those words.  I think somewhere inside I knew that was what was coming but I was stuck in the “I lead worship, that is who I am,” mentality.  What would happen to me if i didn’t lead worship.  Who would see baby Sarah performing????? Oh right!  You would God.

I wish my tale ended with me coming home from that conference and stepping down to allow time for spiritual growth.  But no, alas my gifting includes screwing up so big that everyone knows about it.  We are coming up on a year since my, uh, “breakdown?”  (See “I can’t get around writing about this blog post.”)  I tried to lead worship a few more months after the conference.  I buckled down and demanded my mind and heart to produce fruit of the Spirit.  The problem with that is I can’t produce that fruit.  I can only produce the other fruit of the flesh.  I needed time to work with God and to be transformed, but I was scared to death to let go of worship because it felt like who I was.  But in a small moment of bravery, I was able to muster the trust in my Good Good Father required to take the leap necessary to step down.  If I am being totally honest the conversation with my worship leader was more of a “you can’t fire me I quit” kind of moment but who is keeping score?  Certainly not me, that is not a fruit of the Spirit.

And so there I was, not a worship leader anymore.  The good news is I had so much emotional stuff to deal with at that time I didn’t notice not having it on my schedule.  Until I showed up and church and was not on stage.  It was humbling.  It was hard.  It was humiliating.  I dreaded the, “how come you are not leading worship?” conversations.  Mercifully, God arranged for me to have to have an ovary out at the same time so that was an easy answer.  He is kind that way. (HaHa) And so the journey began of me not leading worship.

I feel like after a tale like that I should switch fonts so you know how much God has changed my heart.  I don’t feel up to the task to adequately explain the sifting that has occurred.  Let me say it this way:  stepping down from worship is the best thing I ever did.  Here’s why…..

I learned that what baby Sarah needed to know is that she is seen by the Almighty God and that being seen by Him fills up that need to be famous.  That my “non-lighting up the sky life” is the exact plan he has for me right now.  And that is right where I need to be.

I learned that when you are involved in something and you cause dissension, you stifle the growth of that ministry.   It has been humbling but also the greatest gift to see the worship team at my church grow into a healthy vibrant team full of all different talents and voices and styles.  I literally gush over them I love them so much.  I went from a worship leader to the biggest groupie, only because of God leading me.  For sure I still struggle with not being “on the team.”  It feels like I got left behind sometimes, but that is just to old self wondering if I am being left out.  I am trying not to believe that lie.  It’s a process.

I also learned that if you are involved in something and it causes dissension in your home, you have to let that go because God is more interested in your home being unified than any ministry opportunity you might have.

I learned that relationships are more important than any worship gig or ministry.  I am thankful for God’s reconciliation of the relationships I almost lost because of my pursuit of FAME.  These are the people I do life with, I laugh with and I cry with. They are more important to me than everyone remembering my name.

I learned that I could write a blog, as it were.  When I cleared out the mental space to sit with the Lord and let Him guide me instead of pursing FAME, I was directed to start writing stuff down.  First, for myself, then for my family and friends and then for this blog.  Who knew I could write something worth reading?  Certainly not me, but I can say it is the most fun and creative part of my day right now.   I had to take that leap of faith first, I had to trust Him.  Do I struggle with the thought that “maybe I will become famous because of this blog!”  No, of course not ever, that thought never enters my mind…and everyone laughed and laughed.  Of course it does!  I have to constantly fight against the lie that I have to be famous, and remind myself that I have one job and that is to make JESUS FAMOUS.

I learned that God is going to keep putting up in front of people and ask me to serve Him and not them.  Meaning just stepping down from worship does not fix the sin nature inside of me.  He keeps bringing me opportunities where baby Sarah could easily dust off her dress up clothes, make a stage and demand a captive audience.  I still harbor plans to run off and try out for the VOICE.  That need to be seen by people rears its ugly head, but each time I confess it, He reminds me that He sees me and that is what matters.  He has a job for me to do, it is making HIM FAMOUS, not me.

These lessons seem so obvious when I write them down.  Like, duh, of course you wanted to be famous and saw the worship team as your ticket to fame and stardom.  When you are in it though, and when you are afraid to let go because you are scared of what is next, well, there is where you meet with Jesus.  He says to your heart,  “Let go, I am enough, I will get you through it.”  On this side of the sifting I am sad that it took me so long to trust Him, only because I am so free now.  I spent so much time in bondage to fear.  So fellow sojourner, whoever you are, read this and be convinced to take that leap of faith so that the fruit you produce is of the Spirit and brings you freedom!

Sydney, You are the coolest 14 year old I know.

Dear Sydney,

How are you 14 years old today?  It really is shocking at how fast time goes by us.  I can still remember the way it felt when you fell asleep on my shoulder when you were a baby.  I can remember vividly the fist time you ate a chicken taco, and the joy that washed over your face when you realized there was something beyond baby food.  I remember how you walked into pre-school like you owned the place, threw a passing glance over your shoulder at me and started to play.  I also remember the deepest, fiercest love bubble out of my heart when I saw your face for the first time.

For sure you have had to ride a roller coaster in your short time hear on earth.  I often wish I could have shielded you from the pain you felt when me and daddy split up, or from all the times you had to witness me having a crazy panic attack.  But then I see how real the Lord is to you and I am reminded that for all the pain you felt you also got to feel the restoration.  You got to see God restore me and daddy’s relationship right before your eyes.  You have also gotten to witness a very imperfect mom try to do life in a way that honors God, and not in a way that causes everyone to run and hide from her.  And those miracles that happened right within our walls Sydney? Those are special from God just for you.  And that is why He is so real to you.  If you had to feel some pain to get there, I am ok with that.  (And by ok, I mean not ok, wishing I could wash you memory of all the boneheaded things I have done, and changing your memories to include a mother that was perfect, but remember I’m still a work in process.)

I absolutely love that you have been saying all week, “I can’t wait to read my birthday blog post.”  Do you have any idea how happy that makes me?  I love that our family culture now includes this blog.  So, your birthday post is going to be about how cool you are.  You know when I tell you that you are the coolest person I know and you say, “No, I’m not, I am not cool at all…”  Well I am about to prove you wrong today.  The following is a list I have compiled over the last month of things that make you the coolest person I know.  And listen, I have been the coolest person I know for quite sometime so the fact that you unseated me is quit a feat, and makes you super cool.  Ready?

  1.  You are cool because you fight for Daddy and I to go on a date night.  I love that when you sense me and daddy getting annoyed with each other you stop everything and tell us to go out together.  You are gift to us, because I don’t know any kids that fight for their parents marriage like you do.  You are fierce.
  2. You are cool because you listen to 70’s rock.  I loved the look on your guitar teachers face when you told him that is what you wanted to learn to play.  You are the real deal in a world of fake music, and cheap hooks.
  3. You are cool because you learned the Hamilton sound track in 30 days.  A person that loves 70’s rock and the Hamilton sound track is so cool!
  4. You are cool because when you love something you are all in.  There is no “on the fence” with you.  That is legit because God will use that to His advantage.
  5. You are cool because your Birkenstock, t-shirt, short’s game is on point, on fleek, 2 legit to quit.  In a world of exposed butts, you choose to keep yours under wraps.  Thats good because no dude worth having wants his girl walking around with her butt hanging out of her shorts.
  6. You are cool because you know where your worth comes from.  You know it is not your cup size or pants size, it is because you were created by the God Himself, special for this day and age.
  7. You are cool because you will do what it takes to share your faith with your friends.
  8. You are cool because you love animals.
  9. You are cool because you already know you are going to parlay your love of animals in to a job.
  10. You are cool because you already know how you are going to use your job as a vet to help people.
  11. You are cool because in a world of Texas Tech Grads, you boldly declare that you are going to vet school at A&M.  (I will never wear maroon, no matter how cool you are.)
  12. You are a cool friend.  I will never forget the day you got in the car after tennis tryouts and said, “It went fine, but I didn’t get a chance to show off my skills because I wanted to help my friend who has never played tennis do well.”  I was all, “WTHECK? This is your chance to make the team, why would you do that?”  Then God pointed out to me that you were acting more Godly in that moment than I was.  Thanks for that lesson in how to be a cool friend.
  13. You are cool because you love Chick fil a.  You are totally devoted and loyal.  I hope you work there so you can support your habit of eating there all three meals a day.
  14. You are the coolest student I know.  The way you don’t love the school aspect of school but you buckle down and get your stuff done resulting in straight A’s is the coolest.  You have a fierce endurance that the Lord will use because guess what?  Life is about doing things you don’t really want to do.

14 year old girl, we are so lucky to call you ours.  You are my favorite part of the day.  I love to watch you and see you grow.  I happen to think you are absolutely perfect just the way you are.  As you enter your high school years the world will encourage you to conform and live for the low lying fruit.  Don’t go there girl.  You have so much more to offer.  And as our friend Christy Nockles says:

Hey there beautiful one, you there shining with glory

Would you let your heart hear, if I sang about you

Did you know that every fairy tale you love

They have borrowed your story

Of a maiden so lovely, and a hero so true

 

It’s just that this world is hollow

And it wants to swallow

Any memory of who you really are

Always remember to never forget

When you look in the mirror, the answer is yes

Yes you are pure as gold, yes you are beautiful

So always remember to never forget

Today we gave you your birthday present and I will never get tired of watching this video…….

 

And also this one of you telling your BFF that she is going with us to Hamilton….

 

 

Sydney you are the coolest person I know.  I just love you to pieces.  I love that you are excited to go to see Hamilton but even more excited that Lexi gets to go with us.  You have such a sweet and kind heart.  I hope when life kicks you around you come back to this list and remember how cool you are.  I am your biggest fan!

Love, mom. (and dad helped too.)

Fruit of the flesh or Fruit of the Spirit?

Right now in my life I am preparing to teach the last day of the Galatians bible study we did this summer at my church.  I had no idea at the beginning of this study how much I would end up loving the book of Galatians.  With all things that have to do with God, He put in front of me the exact truth I need at the exact time in my life that I could learn from it.  I love that about Him.  He is such a BOSS!

The book of Galatians is the most concise explanation of how the Old Testament relates to us, the Church.  I love how in the book of Galatians Paul tells us we are children of Abraham, who believed God and was counted righteous.  So by showing us that OUR righteousness comes ALSO by faith, because we are children of Abraham.  Paul shows that God did not call us children of Moses on purpose to prove that salvation comes by faith and not works.  It just flipping blows my mind how God systematically shows us that.  Do you know why He has to show us that?  Because we want to work for our salvation instead of accepting the free gift of salvation from Jesus.  Why do we want to work for it?  Because then we don’t have to admit that we are hopeless sinners in need of that free gift–but that is a blog post for another time.

Anyway, Galatians proves that salvation is a free gift from God and that making ourselves look religious or holy will NOT MAKE US RIGHT WITH GOD.  You must believe in the free gift of salvation from Jesus to be right with God.  Without that you are simply looking the part on the outside but the inside is still a dirty unrighteous mess.  When we accept this free gift of salvation and stop working for it we are FREED up to love God the way He intended us to.  Then as we develop this relationship with God we are FILLED up so that we can love others they way He wants us to.  Once Paul proves that salvation comes by faith alone, he moves into what in the world we do after that.

In Galatians chapter 5 he talks about fruit of the flesh and fruit of the Spirit.  Check it out in the Message Version of the bible, it really makes it come alive:

Galatians 19-23a  It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.

 This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

I mean, what in the world.  When I read the fruits of the flesh I was knocked to my knees because “stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; a brutal temper; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival,” could be used to describe me on my Wikipedia page.  Or it will be what the narrator says about me on a true crime show where there was no survivors because I finally lost it.  Or it will be something that Kelly, Cheryl or Ashley will say when they are interviewed about me for a 20/20 story about that girl who thought she was Lara Croft Tomb Raider, but finally ended up on a clock tower screaming about how “Lara Croft doesn’t do dishes or laundry!!!!”  I just feel like that list might actually characterize my day-to-day life.  And that scares me because that means I am living by my flesh.

But God also includes the list of the Fruit of the Spirit in this section too.  Anybody read that and throw up your hands and say, “We I’m toast!”  Or maybe you are like me and when I read that list the first time, as a new Christian, I was like, “Oh, ok I got this!  I can do these things!”  That is the, uh, WRONG ANSWER!  “I’m toast,” is more appropriate because it shows that you know you are not capable of manufacturing these kinds of fruit.  I am capable of manufacturing this kind of fruit for exactly as long as no one pisses me off.  (I’m looking at you guy at the harbor who yelled at me cuz you thought I was going to run you over.  Do you know how lucky you are that Jesus saved me?  You better thank Him because He is the only reason I did not get out of my car and throat punch you and then run you over for real!  Anyway, moving on….)  And here is the greatest news in all the land, besides that Jesus paid for my sin, I DON’T HAVE TO MANUFACTURE THIS FRUIT!!!

Do you see there where it says, “But what happens when we live God’s way?  He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard….”  “When we live God’s way,” means that we are living in that freedom that comes from the free gift of salvation.  We are not working for Him, to impress Him or to get into heaven.  We are simply learning about who He is from His word, talking to Him in prayer and experiencing this world through His eyes.  When we live that way HE MAKES THE FRUIT APPEAR!

The section we are doing this week in Galatians is Chapter 6 is a beautiful challenge to sow into the Spirit instead of the flesh.  I want to write more about that next time.  I am making a concerted effort to keep these posts around 1000 words because I know my friends and family have other things to do besides read 8000 words from me.  And let me just say too, if you read these, THANK YOU!!  I am tickled to death that you are reading things that I write.  It is the highlight of my day to hear that you connected with something I wrote or that I made you laugh.  Thank you for encouraging me to write more, I have a lot of words, but none that will cover how precious your kind words are to me.   I pray that my words point you to Jesus.