The Dreaded Day That Saved My Life

It was Valentine’s Day, 1994.  I was 11 years old and in 6th grade.
I was rocking the coolest Joe Boxer heart boxer shorts over my tights.  My red t-shirt had just enough feminine flair without being overly girl. My hair was perfect, and my dear mother had even let me wear just a little bit of make-up that morning.

It was going to be the perfect day.

1st period passed, and I laughed and joked with my friends and life was feeling as grand as I could have hoped. I had received a few Valentine’s and given a few, and I just knew that the best was yet to come.

2nd period came, and it was my favorite class, Reading, with my favorite teacher Mrs. White.  We discussed and read aloud some of the book we had been reading as a class, and then she left about 10 extra minutes at the end of class for us to just eat candy and giggle and converse with each other on this special day.

The bell rang, and I grabbed by bag to move along for a quick stop at my locker before math class.  Mrs. White ran out into the hall after me and quickly pulled me into the teacher’s bathroom with her.

“Sara dear, I think you are having a little accident honey.  There was blood all over your chair after you got up from class.”

Mortified I ran straight to the mirror and sure enough my once cute boxer’s were totally stained red. 

“Is this your first time, sweetheart? Did you not know?” she kindly asked.

“No, it happened about 3 weeks ago, but I didn’t know it wasn’t supposed to be this long,” I responded, my eyes not daring to look at her in the face.

“Let’s wait till the bell rings and the kids go back into their classes, and I will take you down to the nurse.”

God bless Mrs. White.  What a dear she was to me.

She quickly got me to the nurse’s room. The nurse asked me all of 3 questions before she had my mom on the phone to come pick me up from school.

Once, of course, my mom heard the whole story (as I had been leaving significant details out of the situation for weeks in a feeble attempt to show my maturity), she quickly whisked me straight to the doctor’s office.

What ensued were lots of discussions between the doctor, the nurse, and my mom of blood transfusions, anemia, hospital stays, medicine, and a whole bunch of really uncomfortable questions for me.

It was a whirlwind that left me almost bedridden at home for the next 2 weeks and the knowledge that one of the worst days of my short 11 years of life was actually that day that literally saved my life.

Both literally and figuratively.


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In my school district, 6th grade meant the merging of 5 different elementary schools into one big middle school.  To say I was petrified at the start of the school year would be an enormous understatement.   I had established a great group of friends in elementary school, and I was just certain that it was all going to be ruined come middle school.

And in many ways it actually was, but not for the reasons I had foreseen.

By some inexplicable measure, I quickly became one of the popular girls in school.  I was hanging out with the “cool” girls in my grade and also being noticed by some of the girls and boys from 7th and 8th grade.  I am sure there was a reason for all of this, but 23 years later I couldn’t tell you what it was.

But I was living it up. 

The problem with this, though, was I was also becoming one of those mean girls.  I had totally abandoned my old friends from elementary school.  I was more than unbearable at home.   And while I was able to maintain good grades, I also started pushing the limits at school.  I am ashamed to say that this included a note to a boy I was trying to impress that included a reference to one of my teachers as Mrs. Fatb****.  This letter was intercepted by another one of my teachers, and well you can imagine the rest of that story.

It was not a high point in my history to say the least, but I was so consumed with my newfound “fame” that I didn’t realize the person I was becoming.

That all changed that fateful Valentine’s Day. 

Even as I lay on the couch at home, the rumors of what had happened to me at school came flooding to my house.   Some were saying I was pregnant.  Some were saying I had been pregnant before but lost the baby that day at school.

Now remember, I was 11 years old! 11! I was still a baby who had yet to even have a real first kiss.  But the rumor mill spun at rapid pace with all kinds of hurtful and painful stories about what had happened to me.
Let’s just say I went back to school with my head hanging and a whole new understanding of how quickly one can rise and fall.

On top of all of this, I was taking large quantities of medicine to try and sort things back out inside of my body, and one of the unfortunate side-affects of all this medicine was massive weight gain.

Throughout the next 2 and half years, just exactly the duration of middle school, I went from wearing a size 12 in girl’s clothing to a size 14 in women’s clothing.  I gained probably close to 40 or 50 lbs., although I was never brave enough to actually get on a scale and see.  This happened all while playing year round sports and eating a fairly well balanced diet.

I remember the shame I felt going into American Eagle with my grandma the week before starting high school. She was going to buy me a new outfit for my first day of school. The girl working there was a year older than me.  She was petite, adorable, and one of the most popular girls in school. She took my size 14 skirt and hung it in the dressing room for me to try on.  It was cute and fit me well, so my grandma did buy it for me with a cute little top. 

But I went home and cried in the bathroom about the size in the back of the skirt, and in anger, took scissors to almost every tag on the clothes hanging in my closet.

Even then, I felt that the only thing relevant about me was the size of my pants.

Thankfully, though, all hope wasn’t lost.  I had friends that stuck by me and supported me.  They saw me for who I was and didn’t care so much about the rumors or the shame.

And as I already mentioned above, in a way those years, that dreaded day, all of the rumors and teasing and shame, all of those things built in me character.  I learned compassion and kindness.  I fell in love with the theater and the voice it gave me.  I began to see people for who they really were and not just judge them for what I saw on the outside.  I listened more. 

And even more important than all of those things, this painful season of life is what showed me my need for Jesus Christ.  I could finally see my sin and need of a Savior.

I can say without a hint of doubt or pause that I am who I am today and living the life I am living today because of that awful and very painful experience.  


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So what’s the point of all of this you might be wondering?  Why am I sharing all of these intimate details on the World Wide Web?

Well, I am sharing because I think it matters. 

As I have already written about on several occasions here on my blog, I still struggle with feeling like the most relevant and important thing about me is the size of my pants.  I haven’t stopped being the chubby girl since 1994, and even now at the age of 34, I still sometimes think that you would like me better or my life would be easier if my pant size was smaller. 

Yep I still sometimes think that.

I decide what I am going to wear based on whether or not it makes me look too chubby. 

Deep down I want people to see me as a person that is kind and compassionate and generous and just and passionate and courageous.  Actually, I don’t want people to just see me like that; I want to BE that kind of person.

And yet…

I like it best when you tell me I am pretty or look skinny that day.

Why is that?  Why do we do this to ourselves?  Why do we care?

And I have been asking myself these questions over and over again because it is happening now with my daughter.

My beautiful, smart, spunky, sassy, kind, independent, generous 7-year-old daughter is hearing that she is chubby.  She is being told that her stomach is too large and her cheeks too round.

Now before my parents completely freak out, I will add that this is somewhat normal here in this cultural.  Here you say exactly what you think about a person no matter if it is “politically correct” or not.  If you ask someone if they like your new haircut, they will actually answer the truth…not just what they think you want to hear. If you are fat, they tell you are fat. If you are bad a something, they will tell you that you are bad.  If your eyes are slanted, they call you “chino” or “china.” If your skin is darker, you are “negro” or “negra.” If you are light skinned, you are “canche.” If you are curly headed, you are “colocho.” And if you are chubby, you are “gordo” or “gorda.”

So this is somewhat normal, and I don’t think in any way malign.  But it is still painful for me.

For the first 4 years of my daughter’s life she was the smallest, little petite thing.  She always wore 2 sizes smaller than the other kids her age.  And secretly I was praising God that she wasn’t going to fight the weight thing like I have had to fight it. 

And then she turned 5 and that started to change.  She wasn’t obese or even overweight but just filling out and rounding out.

But now I am faced with having to decide if I am going to continue to allow myself to believe that the most important thing about me is my pants size and in turn send the message to my daughter that it also is the most important thing about her, or I can decide to bury this thing once and for all.

Even though I was young, I tasted the sweet wine of affection and praise and even to a certain point, fame…fame on a small scale at least.  I knew what it meant to be applauded and cheered and liked for nothing more than the way I looked.

But in that same year, I tasted what it meant to be ridiculed and shamed and made to feel less than, also because of the way that I looked.

We are sending our daughters and our sons messages every single day.  We are sending them messages in how we talk to them.  They receive messages in how we respond to each other.  They are picking up messages even in how we describe and talk about movie stars and singers and famous athletes.   With our words, our critiques, our praises, and our affirmations we are telling them over and over again what really matters.

Kids are much smarter than adults in that they don’t just listen to the things we say when we are trying to talk to them about important stuff.  They actually watch what we are doing when we put our guards down.  They decide what is true and right and good through how they see us live our lives…not just the things we say when we think they are listening.

So what message will it be?  Will it be a message that says you only matter when you are beautiful and thin and smart and popular?

Or will it be a message that says you matter because you were first made in the image of God, and He loves you and chose you and delights in you?

Will they see us pursuing a life of wealth and beauty and popularity? Or will they see us with our actions living a life that pursues justice and compassion and love and generosity?

23 years ago, I learned that one of those things fades and shifts as fast as the weather changes, but the other has the power to endure and produce wide and great tides of influence and strength and courage. 

So today I choose the latter. I choose to tell my daughter not just with my words but also with my actions that I matter because of who I am and to WHOM I belong, and so does she.  There are so many things in this life that are just going to happen to us without any control of our own.  There are so many aspects about us physically that are just going to be true no matter how much we try to work and change it.  But these are not the things that are truly relevant about us.  These are not the things that matter. 

But will I be brave enough to embrace this truth?  Or will I sulk in the shadows and continue to believe the lies?



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Valentine's Day Doesn't Count

I am thankful for you. I am so incredibly thankful for you.

This is our 10th Valentine’s Day as husband and wife. 

10. 

If it weren’t for the extra pounds I am sporting and the few extra grey hairs you are rocking, I wouldn’t believe it could be true.

But here we are. 




You have never loved Valentine’s Day.  You have always said that it is just another day of the year and real love should be shown all the other 364 days of the year, not just the one that everyone says is supposed to be about love. 

That used to irritate me.  It caused many tears on many Valentine’s Day’s.  I felt jibbed. I wanted flowers and chocolates and romantic getaways.  I wanted love notes and poems and gifts.   I wanted so much more those days.  I wanted you to somehow prove you loved me by showering me with affection and attention on Valentine’s Day.

But today as I sat across from you at our impromptu breakfast, and I watched you answer your phone and take notes in your little black notepad…as I watched you do the things you do everyday, I was so overwhelmed with gratefulness for you and for our marriage. 

And I wasn’t grateful because ours is exceptional or easy or romantic or extraordinary.  I was grateful because it is messy and hard and rich and lovely and good.   

I was grateful because I was sitting across the table from you.

I can still remember the day I knew that I loved you.  We were just babies.  I was only 21.  You were only 24.  We had gone for a “run.”  (Quotations have to be used because I am certain I have never actually “run” in my whole life…even calling it jogging would be a stretch.)


Anyway, we had gone for that “run” and of course within 15 minutes, I was whining about being tired.  We stopped.  The sun was just starting to really shine, and you said we should sit and finish watching it come up over the mountain. 

We sat on the edge of a cow pasture.  You asked me if we could pray.

You started praying and stopped mid-sentence.  You looked up…peered right into my eyes and said; “I think I would like to hold your hand while we pray if that’s okay.” 

Tenderly, you took my hand and laced your fingers in between mine, and you started praying once again.



I didn’t know then that someday you really would be mine.  I didn’t know that someday we would be sitting across the table on a Tuesday, the kids at school, work still to be done, but you just choosing to take a few minutes to spoil me on the so-called day of love.

 I didn’t know then what I do now. 

But I knew that I loved you.  I knew that if God gave us a chance I could love you for all the days of my life forever and always.

This marriage thing is really hard.  I haven’t always been the most understanding and supportive wife.  We have both chosen to be selfish at times.  We have gone to bed angry and woken up even angrier.  We have said things that we later regretted.  We haven’t always gotten it right all the time. 

But I wouldn’t change this life we have built together for anything.



Thank you for choosing me.  Not just today but every day.  Thank you for pushing me and believing in me and supporting me.  Thank you for loving me.

Thank you for showing me that a marriage worth having is always going to be much more than a romantic Valentine’s Day.   Thank you for building a life with me that is made up of much more than flowers and chocolate and extravagant gifts.

Thank you for choosing to still hold my hand all these years later. 


You are my most cherished Valentine, but more than that, you are my most beloved one, my husband.




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Make Room at the Table

“Make some room at the table.”

I have heard that expression many times throughout my 34 years of life.  Growing up we tended to always have a neighbor or friend that ate dinner with us.  My parents were extremely disciplined in making sure that the 4 of us always ate dinner at home and that it was 9 times out of 10 something homemade.  They both worked full time so this dinnertime was sacred.  Nevertheless, while they never waivered in making sure my sister and I were both present, they always left the door open for anyone else to join us, which was very often the case.

“Scoot over.  Move your chair.  Make some room at the table.”

Thankfully, this is something that Hubs and I have tried to practice too since being married.  We want friends, neighbors, family, and even strangers alike to feel welcome in our home and for there always to be extra room at the table.  Most often that “table” is the kitchen island, and we are all smashed together like sardines around it, while our very large dining room table sits empty, but we are together, we are all making room for one another around it.

I remember about a year ago, though, we had been invited to have dinner with a couple that I didn’t know so well.  They had known my husband for quite some time and had reconnected with him recently and as a result invited us over for dinner.  On the way, Hubs shared a little bit of their story and that they had, to a certain extent, been ostracized because of some decisions/mistakes (depends on who you ask) they had made in the past. 

We had a lovely dinner and time in their home, but as we drove away from their house that night, I said to my husband, “Promise me that everyone will always be welcome at our table.  Let’s right now make the commitment that no matter the circumstances or past that we will always make room at our table.”

My husband didn’t think twice before saying, “Yes. I absolutely agree.”

And that’s how it began.  This new commitment meant that we also had to mend some bridges.  We along the way had maybe shut some doors on some relationships because of disagreements or just not seeing eye to eye on lifestyles.  But, we started reaching out and starting making room at the table. 

Because we believed deep in our hearts that no matter the circumstances there is always room at the table.  We don’t have to always agree.  We don’t always have to have perfect relationships.  But, we must always make room at our table. 


I am guessing by this time everyone living in the United States at least has read or heard about the huge Women’s March that took place on Saturday.  Truthfully, I didn’t know a whole lot about it until my Facebook feed filled up with commentary regarding it.  I have a very diverse friend’s group on Facebook, so that meant that I had everything from “This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. I am embarrassed to be associated with these women!” to “Rock on!  Girl power!  Feeling proud to stand with such brave and mighty women!” to “What the heck is this Women’s March.  I have no idea what they are even marching for.”

However, as time has continued to go on, I feel like the hostility towards the 2 sides has only gotten worse.  On my Facebook feed at least, it has looked quite ugly at times.  I wanted to write a post about why I think each side has some valid points, but after some pretty ugly interactions on Facebook towards the end of last year, I decided that I am not going to engage in conversations on social media that are meant for tables, front porches, or coffee dates.  Most issues are complex and when they involve real life people with deep feelings or convictions one way or another, they are even more difficult.  So, for those that are looking for me to make a declaration one way or another, it isn’t going to happen…or it isn’t going to happen on here anyway. Invite me to your table or front porch, and that is a whole other story.

What I felt convicted to do here today, though, was just to ask…to plead actually with both sides to stop, take a deep breath, and try and see things from a little bit of a different perspective.  I feel as if we are at a time and place in history where we feel pressure to “pick a side” or “join a team.” We are pro-woman or pro-life.  We are democrat or we are republican.  We are against Trump or we are with Trump.   We are with “Black Lives Matter” or we are with “Blue Lives Matter.” 

And the list goes on.  The lines have been drawn, and we are feeling the pressure to pick a side.

I want to propose a different way. 

Make more room at the table. 

Because at the table, I believe that it is possible to care less about a side and more about the person actually sitting at the table with us, even when that means we don’t agree.  I believe that at the table we can find more of a middle ground instead of two distinct sides.  We can break bread and look each other in the eye instead of reading words behind a computer screen.

I remember when I started working in Guatemala and started really becoming exposed to the realities of what life in this country looked like for most people, I was not only brokenhearted but on some level, I think I was even disgusted by it.  Abuse was so prevalent and most especially sexual abuse.  It was not uncommon to hear of mothers selling their daughters to men for sex or father’s picking one of their daughters to be “his.” I heard of mother’s knowingly staying with men that were consistently molesting and abusing their daughters or even sons.  The stories were relentless and horrendous.  I judged these mothers so harshly.  I felt like they didn’t deserve to be mothers. 

But over time, I have come to see that the issue isn’t as black and white as I wanted to believe it was.  More times than not, these mothers are women that grew up being sexually abused themselves.  Many times they are uneducated and would be living on the streets if it weren’t for the abuser in which they are living with.  Often they are struggling with addiction because they were either exposed to or forced to participate in doing drugs or drinking at an age that they should have still been playing with dolls.  

Bottom line is I came to realize that I was judging something I had never known.  I can absolutely take a stance against sexual abuse.  I can absolutely fight against it, and I should be fighting against it!  But that doesn’t mean that I have to take a hard line against these mothers too.  I can be for the mother and also for the child.  And, in fact, I believe I SHOULD be for the mother and the child.  Because whose to say if I hadn’t grown up in a home that was filled with love and always made me feel safe, that I too wouldn’t have been involved in many of these same situations?  Whose to say that I would be parenting well my children right now if I had grown up being sexually abused daily by people who were meant to protect me and was being forced to consume things that are not good for adults let alone young children?

I want to caution us all from making hard lines against every issue or agenda or topic that has its turn in the spotlight.  Because behind every one of these issues or agendas or topics are real life people.  People that have different experiences than us.  People that have walked different paths than us.  People that have been exposed to different things than us.  People who might not be just like us.

I am not asking you to change your position.  There are many issues out there that no matter how many conversations I have, my position isn’t going to change.  But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room at my table for someone that doesn’t think just like me or believe just like me.  In fact, I would propose that more often than not, my table SHOULD include those that aren’t just like me. 

Last week, God led me to these verses again, and to be honest, they have almost haunted me since reading them.  I read them originally in the English Standard Version, but there is something so poetic about the version found in The Message that I felt for emphasis here, I wanted to use that version today.  Obviously this is not the most accurate translation, but I think there is beauty to be found in this paraphrased version as well. 

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
“I don’t think, friends, that I need to deal with the question of when all this is going to happen. You know as well as I that the day of the Master’s coming can’t be posted on our calendars. He won’t call ahead and make an appointment any more than a burglar would. About the time everybody’s walking around complacently, congratulating each other—“We’ve sure got it made! Now we can take it easy!”—suddenly everything will fall apart. It’s going to come as suddenly and inescapably as birth pangs to a pregnant woman.
But friends, you’re not in the dark, so how could you be taken off guard by any of this? You’re sons of Light, daughters of Day. We live under wide open skies and know where we stand. So let’s not sleepwalk through life like those others. Let’s keep our eyes open and be smart. People sleep at night and get drunk at night. But not us! Since we’re creatures of Day, let’s act like it. Walk out into the daylight sober, dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation.
God didn’t set us up for an angry rejection but for salvation by our Master, Jesus Christ. He died for us, a death that triggered life. Whether we’re awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we’re alive with him! So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.”


Friends, if we belong to Christ, we are called to be light.  And just as the first thing I do when one my children awakes during the night and calls out for me is to bring light to them, to show them they are safe and secure, we are called to bring that kind of light into the darkness.  We are called to BE that light in the darkness.  The day of the Lord is coming.  It is coming.  Let’s not be so consumed with agendas and issues that we forget that He is coming, and we don’t want to see anyone left behind. 

Start making room at your tables.  Start building bridges instead of walls.  Start listening and stop talking.  We absolutely must maintain a posture of obedience before the Lord.  We must choose holiness and righteousness. I am not asking you to accept sin or to become willy-nilly with your beliefs and convictions.  I am just saying that we should not be afraid of the dark.  We are the light.  Our light shines the brightest in darkness.  But if we are too afraid to even go into the darkness, then our light will never really be seen. 


Make room at your table.  The day of the Lord is near. 

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Some bits and bobbits about this blog...

This blog is mostly just ramblings by yours truly. I talk about my ups and downs being a wife, mother, and missionary in Guatemala. I have a tendency to get off on "soapboxes" as those who love me say but it is my desire that this blog can be a place of encouragement in each of your pilgrimages with Christ. At any moment if this blog becomes more about me than about Christ, than it will be done and over...so please help me stay accountable. To God be all the Glory, Honor, and Power!

Books I am currently reading...

  • Eight Twenty Eight
  • Interrupted
  • The Connected Child
  • This Momentary Marriage
  • Unbroken

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