Why I Quit Writing..

Why I Quit Writing..

“You absolutely cannot quit writing!” she bossed. “It’s your gift,” she demanded.

A smile spread across my face, “I have no intention on giving up on writing!”

The last blog I posted was 5 months ago. That breaks all the blogging rules. If you do not post once a week for six months straight, you cannot even apply to be on most blogging forums. Consistent writing produces consistent traffic, which produces consistent ratings, which they say produces successful bloggers.

This August will be my SEVEN YEAR blogging anniversary. I was 28 when I started blogging. My kids were 6, 4, 3 and 18 months. We were living in King George, Virginia. Mark was working for the DOD via the Navy, and I was homeschooling and keeping all the small people alive and well (Actually, mostly alive. Well, is subjective.)

I started blogging for sanity. I needed one thing, just one thing to call my own. One thing that allowed me to use adult words and tap back into who I was before gold fish, apple juice, diaper changes and Fresh Beat Band became the melody of my day.

In addition to my sanity, this was also the forum where I began to process my mama’s terminal illness,  her eventual death and my grief journey.

When I glance back at my early posts, I see a young woman who functioned primarily in black and whites, legalism and formulas. I had one million opinions and genuinely thought people needed to know them. I had so much fire in my belly and desperately wanted everyone else to feel the same fire at the same level. That sweet young woman makes me tired. I also see a young mom who was crazy about her husband and her kids, all while feeling a little crazy in the head. Somethings never change. 🙂 As the months and years pass, as my stories about my kids shifted from the funny things they did and said, to the heart-wrenching prayers we prayed out of desperation over their little aching souls, I see a young woman grow into a woman. As the months and years pass, the black and white fades more to gray. My legalism begins to melt, because I see myself more clearly. I see my brokenness and utter dependence on Christ alone through grace alone. Time and pain shattered all my formulas, because oh my goodness there is no secret equation for living. A + B never equals C in the kingdom of God, because He wants our hearts not the sum total our human arithmetic.

This white space here on the blog built me. It really did. I’ll never regret the choice to write. Never. My brother once told me, “Writers, write. That’s how I know you’re a real writer!” Those words gave me life.

Right now, in the sweet orbit of my world, my writing is morphing into something different. To begin with, school is getting all my writing power and energy. 10,000 words a week can make even a lover of words hate words. I don’t always get to write about the things that inspire me, but for the most part I do, and I am grateful. Second of all, those tiny babies who first appeared on this blog are no longer babies. They are these wonderfully, independent creatures who deserve to be able to write their own stories without my narrative tainting them. Their friends, teachers, coaches, and peers are all over social media, which is totally fun. But because I adore my kids, respect them and deeply desire to protect the best parts of them, everything I say about them now they get to approve or VETO. We live in a tiny town with big eyes, and I will storm the gates of hell to uphold their integrity. Here’s the ironic thing, my kids are providing the BEST writing material they have ever provided. The stories I could tell you would go viral in 2 seconds, and I say that with all humility. But man, my kids are more hilarious, more witty, more charming, more beautiful, more kind, more bold, more fiery, more humble, more tender, more authentic and raw than I will ever be. GAH! Maybe someday when they are grown they will give me permission to walk back through these glory days and share the chapters that I have only written on my heart. Until then, they are all tucked away and sealed for me to feast on for a lifetime. Third, and maybe most importantly, I’ve decided that I do in fact have something legitimate to say, but I don’t have to say it any more. As a young wife, mother and writer the haters often wrote the, “JUST YOU WAIT” monologue. “Just you wait til marriage gets hard. Just you wait til you have 2 kids, 3 kids a boy kid. Just you wait til they turn 2, 6, 10… Just you wait til you have a TEENAGER (insert all the horror looks–For the record, I adore my teenager and these are best years!!) Just you wait til you don’t like your spouse any more. Just you wait til something really hard happens in your life. Just you wait til someone really criticizes your work.. JUST YOU WAIT……” I’ve waited, lived, persevered and sometimes crawled through the “just you waits”.  And you know what? I’m still fighting and breathing. #BOOM! But standing on this side of a lot of the “just you waits” I have realized, I do in fact have something to say, but I don’t have to say it any more. *Deep sigh of relief.* I have nothing to prove any more. I don’t have to convince anyone of anything. Whether it’s wifehood related, motherhood related, theologically related, politically (OH GAG) related, culturally related, etc…etc.. It’s not my job to persuade. It’s not my job to convince. It’s not my job to save a blooming soul. How arrogant to think I could ever be more persuasive, more compelling, and more savior-esk than the Triune God, Himself. Oh young Sara, you were so dear.

Today more than ever, I believe in the power of words; written words, spoken words, broken words, expletive words, painful words, compassionate words and REAL WORDS. Don’t hear what I am not saying, I think if you are writing, KEEP WRITING. I think if you are preaching, KEEP PREACHING. I think if you are teaching, KEEP TEACHING. I think if you are singing, KEEP SINGING. But for me personally, I don’t have to do those things anymore the way I used to. I get to use adult words all day long in school, and all night long with Mark and the kids as we ping-pong hard, real-life topics around our dinner table. I get to process daily life with individual people in a really intimate setting that is deeply satisfying. I get to breathe and process my own junk in the silent presence of the Almighty God, while He faithfully refines and renews.  What more could I want?

This post is not goodbye. It it just a pause. A halftime of sorts. A mid-life crisis melt-down… (Just kidding) Do not fear, I write a little something everyday in all the other social media venues, because writing is like breathing to me.

This blog space is so dear to me. I found myself on the white spaces here. I found myself in my words; my beat-up, broke-spelling, grammatically-atrocious, words. But oh my stars, I wouldn’t trade this for the world.

Thank you for reading. You have no idea what you’ve done for me!

~Sara

Alzheimer’s Awareness Month: Chapter 14

Alzheimer’s Awareness Month: Chapter 14

Chapter 14
Love Changes Things: March 30, 2012

’Cause you got me, and baby, I got you. Babe, I got you, babe.
—Sonny Bono

Come close and lean in hard. Just peek around the corner of this curtain, and you can glimpse thirty-nine years of marriage—a marriage not merely spent sticking it out, but rather, sticking together.

This weekend is not just an ordinary weekend in the lives of my mom and dad. This Saturday, March 30, they will celebrate thirty-nine years of marriage. My dad knew this weeks ago, when he originally planned to drive the bus for a youth-group trip to Branson, Missouri. Since days and dates aren’t really a big deal for Mom right now, he thought they would celebrate either before or after he left.

But love changes things.

If you could pull back the curtain of my parents’ thirty-nine years of marriage, you would see laughter—lots of laughter. You would see a home filled and bustling with constant company and warmth. You would see pictures of friends, collected over a lifetime, hanging on the refrigerator. You would see sticky notes and to-do lists all over the house, reminding Mom and Dad of meetings and errands. You would see their bedroom set up as a haven for rest and intimacy. And their king-size bed neatly made with love—noticeable love.

I imagine Mom and Dad never dreamed in their thirty-ninth year, their story would be written this way, with Dad gently lifting Mom’s broken body onto a plastic stool to bathe her with his farm-boy hands and his preacher-man heart. In this story, Mom hears his solid, confident voice reading her Bible study to her because she can no longer read. He chops Mama’s food into bite-sized pieces and places a bib around her neck. He weaves her through crowds in her wheelchair, after he places Mama’s hands in her lap so the wheels don’t tear up her timeworn hands. And every night as the sun sets, he tenderly pulls cozy blankets over the frail and weary reflection of his bride, his beloved wife.

How can anyone’s heart survive such heart-wrenching darkness, you ask?

Because love changes things.

After ten and a half years of marriage, I thought I had a pretty firm grasp on love. But now, as I watch how my daddy loves my mama through the horrible, awful of Alzheimer’s disease, I fear I have much to learn.

I cannot read my dad’s mind, but I know he ended up wanting to be with my mom on their anniversary because love changes things. Dad chose Mom. He has been choosing Mom for well over thirty-nine years.

My mom will no sooner remember this act than she will remember the numbers of the multiplication chart. But he will always know. I will always know. You will always know. The love of this man is neither deterred nor diminished by the ugliness of Alzheimer’s.

Dad and Mom,
“Happy Anniversary” seems so inadequate!
Thank you for loving each other, not giving up on each other, holding each other close on sweet days and on sour days. Thank you for pouring love onto each other, day after day, year after year. Thank you for laying down your lives for each other and for constantly pursuing Jesus and each other. Thanks for saturating each other in grace and forgiveness so love would have a place to grow.
I am the wife I am because I was unbelievably blessed through witnessing your marriage, your love for each other, and your utter dependence on Jesus to see you through.
Thank you for allowing love to change you.

Why Do I Feel So Empty?

Why Do I Feel So Empty?

“It is easier to suffer than it is to feel empty.”

This quote by Beth Moore has haunted me for days.

Our souls, when made to feel empty, will act like a vacuum, sucking up anything and everything to fill the void. In our brokenness, we will repeatedly choose pain, even self-inflicting pain, if it means we do not have to sit in emptiness. This is where one can begin to unpack the complexities of addiction, and understand what creates an atmosphere ripe for bondage and slavery.

Someone does not climb out of bed as a young child and consciously decided they will spend the rest of their life enslaved to drugs, work, food, pornography, approval, sex, material things, status and power. As, as toxic, poisonous, and all-consuming as addictions can be, they are mere symptoms of a darkness much deeper.

Where addiction reigns, emptiness abounds.

In my day-to-day life, I feel like one of the greatest struggles I, myself face, and one of the greatest struggles I watch others face, is loneliness, emptiness, and worthlessness.

And it will come as no surprise to anyone that these struggles are absolutely rampant in churches and in Jesus followers.

In Galatians 5, we read that it is FOR FREEDOM that we have been SET FREE. I don’t know about y’all, but I see a whole mess of a world handcuffed and in captivity. We sing about freedom, we preach about freedom, we write about freedom, but how many people actually are tasting freedom? The type of freedom no man could EVER grant another. The type of freedom no constitution could ever withhold.

Sweet Mama Beth goes on to talk about the biggest challenge slaves who are set free will face. Slaves who are set free will struggle with learning how to live as if they are actually free. Unfortunately, our own nation’s history can testify to the mountainous climb free slaves had to face.

Here’s the deal friends, when our ransom was paid for on the cross, when our Jesus paid it all….WE WERE SET FREE!

When we call on the name of Jesus, immediately our chains are gone and God transfers to US, you and I, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. But here is the rub, here is where the break-down happens, here is where Satan insists on twisting and perverting the truth; WE DON’T KNOW HOW TO LIVE FREELY. We so identify with the enslavement our souls trusted for so long; we are so trained to our default; we are so comfortable with the way it has always been, that we consciously or subconsciously continue to live in captivity. Isaiah 30:12 says, “they have put their trust in oppression!” The very thing that zaps our bones of freedom and life, is they very thing we end up trusting. And when we continue to trust our oppression, we continue to be empty…empty even unto death.

Like Taylor Swift, I am so breaking up with emptiness, and we are never-ever getting back together.

I am so sad and heart-broken that our churches, our communities, our homes are just full of empty, hurting people who are constantly in despair.

1 Peter 1:17 says, “knowing you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your empty way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”

Redemption isn’t just about saving us from our sin and eternal destruction. Jesus redeemed us from an empty life. God gave His only Son, not only to pave a way  for us to spend eternity in the presence of the Almighty, but He redeemed us so that He might fill our emptiness in the HERE AND NOW! On THIS side of glory.

Notice also, where the emptiness came from in 1 Peter. The forefathers.

Let’s just stop here and resolve to do this differently. Can we promise ourselves to NOT be “forefathers” who pass down emptiness to the next generation? Can we offer that amazing gift to our children? I want my children to witness in me a fight to diminish emptiness and restore life. Not only in my home but in our churches? Can we rise up and say, we refuse to sit in the pews of churches where emptiness is the spiritual inheritance? We have to stop eating the stale diet of emptiness and feast on freedom and life.

Jesus tenderly spoke to hot-mess of a crowd, the Pharisees; the spiritual giants of the time. Men who were content to fill their emptiness with rules, laws and formulas.

“The thief (Satan) comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I came so that they may have life and have it abundantly!”

If he hasn’t yet, he will try and steal, kill and destroy your life also.

“I came.” Really this statement in an of itself, reminds us of the amazing-ness of the incarnation.

“I came so that they may have life and have it abundantly!”

Y’all. We can’t ever get back together with emptiness. Because as we attempt to fill our emptiness with anything but Jesus, we are destroying our marriages, our families, our homes, our schools, our churches and our communities. Emptiness is flat out robbing us of an abundant, overflowing, joyous kind of life.

Don’t be confused, our lack of emptiness does not mean life will be easy, or that it will feel good, or that it will be pain-free, stress-free, or sorrow-free. Our lack of emptiness means we get to do this thing called life less inhabited by us and MORE inhabited by Jesus. Our lack of emptiness means we get to die, so that Jesus can more freely live within us.

And that’s the only thing worth living for.

Here is to destroying emptiness and learning how to live freely!

Empty_2

“Oh, Shit!’ Repost From August 13th, 2012

“Oh, Shit!’ Repost From August 13th, 2012

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, rather by the number of hilarious and “make you feel good” visits you take to the nursing home” ~Sara Littlejohn

I am a firm believer in the power of a well placed expletive.

Pretty sure that trickled down from my Mama.

Growing up I could count on ONE hand the number of times my mom used an expletive. It was never out of anger, frustration, or directed at another human being. It was ALWAYS very well placed and very purposeful.

We talked about one such incident in this post.

My mom never tried being anyone except herself, which in her line of business (pastor’s wife) can be extremely challenging. She was not concerned with who the congregation, elders, presbytery, WIC committee, or other first wives from first family churches,  thought she should be. She was just her bold, straightforward, “don’t beat around the bush”, truth teller, self. I have met very few pastor’s wives that embody the rich security my mom found in simply being a child of God. I think this allowed her to minister in a real, deep, authentic place.

I’ll never forget the first time mom cursed in front of a small portion of my friends. I asked her what we were having for dinner and she replied, “shit on a shingle!” My friends about fell out of their chairs, and they never again looked at my mother the same (in a good way).

All of this to say, first thing this morning I loaded the kids up to go visit Mama-Mama. I just woke up and HAD to see her. Mainly, because I wanted to touch her, kiss her, and hold her hand for a bit. This was the second time I had taken the kids, and they were just thrilled to be with her after spending three long weeks of being forced NOT to see her.

Almost every resident lit up when we walked down the hallway to mom’s room. Sweet faces, wearing blessings of a life time in their wrinkles, waved and smiled at my little clan. When we first approached mom’s room her door was closed, after a little *knock, knock* the CNA opened the door and out wheeled mama ready for the day. As the “hi grammy, hi mama, hi grammy, hi grammy, hi grammy” were being said, mom hollered out in a very loud voice, “OH SHIT!” Not the “I am so mad you are here,” or the “get out of my face” or the ” I forgot something”, but rather the “OH SHIT! I am so, so, so glad to see you!” Katie and I giggled out loud, the other three went about their business offering hugs and kisses having no reason to know that word is “negative”.

On the heels of her exclamation she shouted in a broken way, “aren’t…these… the most b-b-b-beau-TI-FUL grand….grand….grand cats you’ve ever seen?”

And there in that moment, we soaked up the small, but rather large pronouncement, that Grammy knew (if even for a split second) that her grand-cats had arrived, and it caused her to feel something real, deep, and authentic. So real in fact that Valerie Sue Fry Hall spoke up from the depths of her very familiar being and shouted, “OH SHIT!”

If that is not a moment to measure your life by, I might as well throw in the towel and head for glory.

I don’t tell you this story to defame my mother or dishonor the amazing, spiritual legacy she leaves behind. I tell you this because these past few weeks have been far from easy and normal. We will probably measure the rest of our days around these events. More than anything I am so glad that even the “shitty” moments are bringing us unexplainable joy!

~Sara

A Giant Secret Revealed

A Giant Secret Revealed

*deep breath*
I feel like I’m on an awkward first date, and it is hard to find comfortable words to express myself.

The printer told me he was tired this morning. I patted his plastic, exterior belly and nodded, “me too!”

Nearly 5 1/2 years ago, I started this blog with the intention of keeping everyone updated regarding our family’s journey with Alzheimer’s. 
Three years ago this month, 6 weeks after Mama died, I determined in my heart, someday, I was going to take all of my writings about her and publish a book. And then….LIFE!  
Thankfully, I did the only thing I knew to do at the time; I kept writing. I am so glad I did, because let’s all be honest here, my writing didn’t peak (shall we say) until after Mama died. I giggled as I reviewed the beginning entries from 2010. God love you guys for reading. Just bless it.
In past 5 1/2 years, I’ve written over 70 posts regarding my sweet Mama and our dance Alzheimer’s and its after-math.
41,726 words to be exact. 
41,726 words that built me. 
41,726 words that healed me. 
41,726 words that broke me. 
41,726 words that owned me. 
41,726 words that kept me from sleep. 
41,726 words that gave me peace. 
41,726 words that gave me life. 
41,726 words that offer me the ability to cross a bridge of time and memories back to her.
41,726 words that taught me how to write, REALLY write.
41,726 words that refused to let me hide, mask or pretend.
41,726 words that were so bossy and relentlessly plagued my soul to pen day and night.
41,726 words that wrote a story. My story. Our story. Mama’s story.
It is with sweaty palms, a sick pit in my stomach, and a flicker of hope in my eyes, I introduce you to my very first manuscript, “Living In The Storm”…. Mama’s Story.
5 1/2 years in the making, a life time of memories.
I wanted you to be the first to know because you’ve been so kind, faithful, encouraging, and supportive since the birth of this blog… and now this book. You, yes YOU, helped me write this book because you kept coming back for more. You kept sending me kind messages, quiet squeezes in passing, and gentle prodding with your words, “keep writing!” 
And so I did. I kept writing when it was painful, scandalous, edgy, and flat out fun and joyous.
You helped me write this book. THANK YOU!
“Now what?” you ask.
Well, we have determined to self-publish this first manuscript with CreateSpace via Amazon. The time frame we are working towards is a book release the first of April, 2016! 
11 weeks. I just threw up in my mouth.
Because of this deadline, the blog will be sorely neglected. But that’s ok, I know yall will be gracious, because BIG changes are coming to the blog too! She’s getting a FULL make-over. WOOT! WOOT!
“What can you do? Righ now? This second?” you ask. Aw, I’m twitter-pated you asked. 
1. Keep a close eye on my facebook page, Sara Littlejohn for all the up-to-date breaking news. Like the page if you haven’t. Share the page. Invite everyone you know to join and like. 
Follow me on twitter @saraslittlejohn. 
Follow me on instagram @saralj4
2. Share this blog post EVERYWHERE! We are trying to create an environment of anticipation and excitement, we want EVERYONE to join.
3. Last and for real, (no christian mac-n-cheesy meant), PRAY. 
Pray for future readers. People walking through the journey of Alzheimer’s, and all their broken places. Pray the book would give them hope and healing.
Pray for my sweet family as they walk me through this very, “new to us all” experience.
Pray my heart would be protected from the lies regarding my art; my soul. Lies of inadequacy, unworthiness and insecurity. “No one cares about your words, Sara,” plagues me in the dark of night. 
This week, I read on the very wise twitter, a quote I love,
“We write to taste life twice!”
 I wrote this book so I could talk to Mama again. So I could see her face flash though my brain as my fingers sped across the key-board. I wrote this book so I could hear laugh again. I wrote this book so I could be close to her again. I wrote this book so I could taste the sweet, sweet, fragrance of Mama once again. I wrote this so I could hold tightly to memories and write them all over my heart one.more.time. I wrote this for her, because she would have wanted me to! 
I miss her.
~Sara
Living In The Storm, Alzheimer's
3 Things Every Adult Child Needs Their Parent To Say To Them

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parents of Grown Children,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Sara

Alzheimer's, 3 Things Every Adult Child Needs Their Parent To Say To Them
(Photo Cred: Capture Photography and the brilliant, Jessica Flynn)
Why God Isn’t Fixing This

Why God Isn’t Fixing This

Why God Isn't Fixing This

(Photo Cred: New York Daily News)

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

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

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

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

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

“We are slaves whom are held hostage in a foreign land. God isn’t fixing this.”

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

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

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

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

And endless more.

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

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

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

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

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

HE HAS ALREADY FIXED IT!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Daughters, Don’t Dress Modestly For Men

Dear Daughters, Don’t Dress Modestly For Men

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

body image. parenting, eating disorders
Our second girl baby? Ok, ok, more pink than I could possibly imagine was floating through our washing machine. And a countless number of Mark’s white undershirts turned pink along the way. Maybe, just maybe, this one was going to win the “raging bull” award. Here’s my raging bull (notice the all pink 😉

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

UH……..

We should have just painted the entire house pink. It was a done deal. 
In June of 2007, we had 3 girls, 3 and under. My innards began to cringe. These 3 babies were going to grow out of being babies, and I was the one that was going to teach them the dance of womanhood. They were going to take their cues from me. Bless it.
  
Before Katie could speak, I determined in my heart that clothes were not going to be the battle I bellowed from my motherhood mountain top. My mom and I went ROUNDS regarding clothing. As an adult, I can easily unpack my mom’s fierce determination when it came to clothing. In hindsight, I understand why it was so important to her. This knowledge enabled me to make solid decisions on behalf of my girls and their growing wardrobes. 
We have basically one rule when it comes to clothing; it cannot be “unappropriate”. Lucy coined the term, “unappropriate” when she was little watching some scantily clad NFL cheerleader on TV. The term just stuck.
In August, I wrote an article for Shattered Magazine called, Dear Anna Duggar, Josh’s Ashly Madison Affair Is Not Your Fault. My motivation behind that article is my same motivation behind today’s article; FREEDOM!

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

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

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

SO.MUCH.CONFUSION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can I propose something completely revolutionary here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you imagine the implications?

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

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

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

*tears roll*

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

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

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

Gosh, she was SO right!

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

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

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

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

Today, let’s begin anew!
~Sara

  

   
Dear Mamas With Small Children

Dear Mamas With Small Children

Dear Mamas With Small Children,

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

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

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

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

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

“Sweet Friend,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ok, so maybe you do. But I didn’t.

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

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

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

other translations:
He gently leads the nursing ewes.

He gently leads those that are with young.

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

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

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

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

~Sara

motherhood, raising children

3 Things No One Told Me About Losing My Mom

3 Things No One Told Me About Losing My Mom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My mom went out with songs of joy.

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

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

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

Mama, grief, loss