My name is Sara. What is yours?

There are a myriad of things I could be doing right now (and probably should be doing) but I wanted to take advantage of the quiet, the sunshine, and the delicious cup of coffee to clear my head and make sense of all that has been happening in our lives these last few months.   I have felt so much like Mary lately.  In Luke 2, right after Jesus was born and the shepherds had come to visit, it says in verse 19, “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”    I have been doing lots of treasuring and pondering, but today I wanted to do a little sorting.

These last few months have been some of the hardest spiritually that I have ever experienced.  Everything in my circumstances has challenged my faith.  I have felt numerous eyes look upon my family and me and even if they haven’t said it with their mouths, inside they were definitely saying, “These cats are crazy!”  I even told one of my dear friends here one day, I feel like I am walking that fine line between “living radically for the Lord” and just being flat crazy.  I have questioned the Lord.  I have even been angry with Him at times.  But, I have also praised Him and sent up many, many prayers and songs of thanksgiving.  But, the battle has been fierce.  It has been strong.  I wanted to run.  I wanted to hide.  I wanted to just wake up and for everything to be in its rightful place and for all to be well.  

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I am not at all trying to make my circumstances and experiences bigger or worse than what they are.  My point is just that spiritually speaking, I have struggled.  I have battled.  I have doubted instead of trusted.  I have fretted instead of praying.  I have chosen anger and feeling sorry for myself instead of being thankful.  

But, last week I felt like the clouds lifted a bit.  It was like the fog was clearing away and the sun was beginning to peak through.  What was once nothing but confusion started to have meaning.

Saturday night I was up late talking with someone very dear to me here in Guatemala.  We have chatted quite a bit lately actually, but on Saturday she told me she had something that she had wanted to share with me for a while but hadn’t had the opportunity.  I figured it was something related to another big life event that was happening with her, so I was just kind of focused on that.  But, this is what she says to me instead…

                “I just wanted to tell you that I don’t think it is an accident that your name is Sara.”

In my mind, I am thinking, “Well of course it isn’t an accident, my mom always wanted to name her firstborn daughter Sara, so not so much an accident.”  But, I remained quiet.  She continued. 

                “I mean I know it wasn’t an accident but I just think that the Lord really wanted your name to be Sara.  I think He wanted you to be named Sara after Abraham’s wife Sara.”

I can be a little dense sometimes, so I am totally not following where she is going with this.  I am trying to be encouraged as she seemed to feel an urgency to tell me this and for me to understand, but I just really wasn’t following.

                “I think God wanted you to be named Sara because you are going to have many children.”

Stop right there.  This girl ain’t having a bunch of children.  I can barely keep up with the three I have.  I admire all those mamas with their full houses, but I am just not seeing it happening here.  Unless of course we really want to do crazy…cause I can show you crazy. 

                “I don’t mean that you are physically going to have a lot of children.  I think you are going to be like Sara in that you are going to be the mother of many generations.  God is going to use you to be a mother to so many that will never have a mother of their own”

Silence.  I couldn’t speak.  Tears are starting to fill up my eyes.

                “He really is already doing it.  But, I just don’t think you have any idea what is still to come.  God gave you the name Sara because you are going to be a mother to more children, teenagers, and even young adults than you can even imagine. I really think you just need to get ready.  God is going to use you like that.  I am sure of it.  That is why your name is Sara.”

Okay cue the waterworks.  

It was just too much.  For the last six months, I have fought and fretted and stressed and cried and gotten angry.  I have questioned the Lord.  I have asked Him, “Why did you pick us?  Why do we have to do this?  Isn’t there someone else?”   And, then in one short conversation, it all became clear.  

I moved to Guatemala with the desire to serve and love the motherless, the fatherless, the abandoned, and the sick.  This was my vision. It was my calling. It was why I was here.  But, for some reason, it is like I always saw my role here as just another one of many who had dedicated their lives to the same thing.  I didn’t really understand that God wanted to use me…Sara…for something unique.  

Please hear me.  I am not trying to put myself up on some pedestal.  I am no more unique or special than the next girl.  But, for some reason I saw my work here in Guatemala with the same way that I always viewed my very name…ordinary.  Sara was an ordinary name.  Ask any of the other “Sara’s” from my generation and I bet they will tell you the same.  We were one of many.  In elementary school instead of being called by only our first name, we got the “special privilege” of being called by our first name and first initial of our last name.  Whoopee.  

Ordinary.  That is honestly the way I have always viewed my name, myself, my ministry, and pretty much everything about me.  So the fact that this dear friend of mine used my very name…the very essence of why I always felt ordinary to tell me how God was going to use me here in Guatemala…well let’s just say it rocked my world.  

No, I am no more important than the servant next to me.  God is using her in a mighty way too.  But, it is unique.  It is one of kind.  How He is using me isn’t the same as how He is using her.  My God is extraordinary, and in His eyes so am I.  He wants to do much, much more in my life than just “ordinary.” 

Guess what, friend?  You aren’t ordinary either.  Maybe you are a stay at home mama.  Guess what, Mama?  You aren’t ordinary.  God sees you!  He values what you are doing, and in His book, you are a Rockstar Mama!  Maybe you are sitting at a desk, inside a small cubicle, in an office building filled with hundreds of others also sitting at desks, inside of small cubicles.  You aren’t just one of many.  You are one of kind!  You are unique!   You are unmatched.  There is not one like you.   

This isn’t about making much of ourselves.  This is about making much of our God who doesn’t make ordinary.  His specialty is extraordinary, one of a kind, exceptional.  So stop looking at what you do, whatever it is you do, as ordinary.  It isn’t ordinary.  God is doing a work in you that doesn’t look anything like the work He is doing in the one next to you.  

This I know to be true.  Since the moment my friend shared these words with me, I have been living my life differently.  I think since I thought I was ordinary and my work here was ordinary, I didn’t feel much urgency.  If I didn’t do it, oh well, I am sure someone else would come along and do it.  But, now I see that God wants to use me, SARA, in a way that is new and fresh and completely and utterly different than any other Sara on this planet.   I am not just one of many.  I am one completely loved and cherished by the only ONE that matters.  He sees me.  He knows me.  I am His.  And, I am not ordinary.

“Oh Lord, you have searched me and known me!  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.  You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, Oh Lord, you know it altogether.  You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me….For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well”

Psalm 139:1-5,13-14


a legacy...

It has been one week.

One week.

One week since my family lost someone who has meant so much to us.  She was the matriarch of the family.  She was a mama, a grandmama, a great-grandmama, a great-great grandmama, and she was a dear friend and sister in Christ to many.

To me, though, she was my Grandma Johnnie.  My sweet but sometimes sassy, strong but also sensitive, loving but very truthful, 95 year old great-grandma.  She was my friend.  She was my teacher.  She was my cheerleader.  And, I miss her so dearly.

The thing about the one week mark is everyone has now offered their condolences.  They have all given their hugs and words of encouragement, but they have moved on.  Which really is fine.  It wasn't their grandmother.

But for me and for my family, the pain is still fresh.  It hurts maybe even more than it did a week ago when she went to be with our Father forever.  Because even though we know that she is rejoicing with the Lord and that she is pain free and that she is happier and more free and more ALIVE than she ever was here on earth, the truth still remains that she isn't here with us...and we wish she was.  Maybe more than any other time in my whole life, I just wish I could sit next to her and share all that is burdening my heart.  I would cry of course (much like I am doing right now).  She would tell me to toughen up.  She would tell me I am too sensitive and that I let my emotions get the best of me when I need to be focusing on truth.

But then in the way only she could do, she would speak truth over me and into me.  She would remind me what the Lord's Word says.  She would tell me stories of how she has seen God show Himself faithful to her and to our family over many years.  She would encourage me to keep strong and keep focused.  She would remind me of all I have to be thankful for.  She would tell me that she is praying for me every single day. And, I would know that this is true.  I would know that it is all true, but I would leave her warm living room, encouraged, strengthened, and ready to face all of this stuff head on.

She isn't here, though.  She is gone to be with the Father.  She is free.  And that makes my heart so full of joy....knowing that she is not dead but alive.

Yet, today, my heart still aches.  The ache is strong. The grief is even stronger.

Throughout this week, though, a song has been playing over and over again in my head.  It is a song that I haven't heard in quite a few years but its words were fresh in my heart this week.    It is the song "Legacy" by Nichole Nordeman.  It is a great song and I recommend you taking the time to listen to if you don't know it all ready.  But the chorus is what has just been playing over and over again in my head this week.  It goes like this...

I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough
To make a mark on things?
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace who
blessed your name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy

There is something that I know to be so true about my Grandma Johnnie.  She is leaving a great legacy.  Her legacy is going to live on well past her 95 years and probably even past the five generations that were privileged to know her.  She was that kind of a woman.  My sweet husband even said the other day that she was the kind of woman who's story of faith could have been in the Bible. 

Today, though, on the week anniversary of her departure to be with the Lord, I want to take the time to record just some of the ways I want to see her legacy live on in me and in my family.

Her Legacy of Strength

My sweet, little, old great-grandma really was the strongest woman I have ever known.  I could probably count on one hand the amount of times I had ever even seen her cry.  Maybe she was so strong because she had to be from the start.  She was born only 2 lbs.  The doctors told her mama that there was no chance, and yet she out lived almost every one of her siblings. 
Maybe her strength came from all that she lived through.  She lived through the Great Depression and both World Wars.  She was a single, working mom when she was  at an age when most girls are still in college.  She then buried her beloved second husband long before she even really had a chance to "grow old" with him.  She had seen countless other family members go home to be with the Lord way too young. 
But, I am certain that really her strength came from the Lord.  Her gaze was always fixed above.
"For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." -2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Her Legacy of Joy

My Grandma Johnnie was a truly joyful person.  It was rare to see her sad or discouraged.  She always saw the "bright side" of things.  She didn't let little trivial things steal her joy.  For this reason, it was always so fun being around her.  Even if she was having a hard day physically, she was animated.  She was ready to listen and ready to talk.  She would tell her stories and chuckle at the funny parts again.  She loved being around the little kids.  Even though towards the end of her life, it was hard for her to have the stamina to keep up with everyone, so loved to just sit in a seat and watch all the littles play with one another.  She loved the laughter and the fun and the excitement.  She wasn't about to miss out on anything just because she couldn't physically partake in it!
I tend to be a "half-empty" kind of gal.  I don't mean to be pessimistic, but I do have a tendency to be that way if I am not careful.  I want to learn from her legacy to really not "sweat the small stuff" and just rejoice in the moment.

Her Legacy of Cooking/Hospitality

Grandma Johnnie may have spent the last part of her life in the mid-west, but she was a southern girl at heart.  She knew her way around the kitchen better than any Master Chef I have ever met.  Any person stepping foot through her door better be prepared to eat or drink something because there was no way she was letting you leave on an empty stomach.
Sure there are a lot of great cooks out there.  But, there was something different about her food.  Sure she knew her seasonings and none of her food ever needed a little more salt or pepper.  It was always spot on.  But, it was more than that.  Her food really was laced with so much love.  Really and truly, every person that tried her food would finish by saying, "That was the best....I have ever had!"  She was that good.  I mean she did even tell us about Elvis Presley coming into her family's restaurant back before he got crazy famous.
She went out of her way, even up into her last months of life, to cook great food for those she loved.  It brought her such joy, and I want to continue that legacy through my cooking too.  I want family, friends, and strangers alike to walk into my home expecting nothing but leaving with a tummy full of a food and a heart full of blessing.

Her Legacy of Prayer

She was a prayer warrior.  When she told you she would pray for you, she meant it.  So many times people say, "Oh I will pray for that." or "Oh I will be sure to pray for you."  But, then they go home and they forget.  Sure they may have had great intentions, but the truth is they get busy and they don't end up praying as they promised.  Not Grandma Johnnie.
She was a woman who was praying all day, every day.  I once told her that sometimes it was hard for me to get back to sleep after I would have to wake up with one of the kids during the night.  She told me in no uncertain terms that I shouldn't lament the lack of sleep but should instead use that time to pray.  She reminded me that that there was nothing like the quite of the night to lift up the ones I love and the sick and the hurting.  I am certain that she spent many a night laying awake in her bed, crying out to the Father on behalf of so many.
It gave me such comfort in my ministry and in my life as a missionary so far away from home, knowing that my grandma was praying for me and interceding on my behalf.

Her Legacy of Acceptance

Please don't try to be anything other than yourself in her presence because if you do, she will call you out on it.  Grandma Johnnie didn't have the patience for people pretending to be something they weren't.  She wanted you to be yourself, and she accepted you just as you were too.  Sure she may tell you all the reasons why you are making a big mistake or are doing something wrong, but she didn't try to change you.  She loved you right where you were today.
This is something that I find lacking in many Christians today.  We are so quick to judge and find fault, but we are slow to love and embrace.  My Grandma didn't accept sin.  She didn't pretend something was okay if it wasn't.  But, at the same time, she didn't try to change you.  She instead chose to love you and embrace you. In this way, especially, I saw so much of Jesus in her. 

Her Legacy of Faith

I am certain that Johnnie is dancing and singing and just so, so happy and joyful in the presence of her Lord.  She waited 95 years for it.  Jesus wasn't just some guy that she prayed a prayer one day and invited into her heart.  He was her Lord.  He was her Savior.  He was her friend.  He was her Counselor.  He was her Husband.  He was her Teacher.  He was her Joy. He was her Everything.  She loved Jesus with all of her heart.  She believed all of His Word to be true, and it was her bread and water always. 
Grandma Johnnie loved us.  Oh how she loved us.  But, she loved Jesus more.  And in that way, she loved us better.

I know God was so pleased with her. He blessed that once 2 lb little baby with 95 years and with 2 beautiful daughters, 10 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren, and 16 great-great children. I am certain that God praised her and said those beautiful words we all long to hear someday, "Well done my good and faithful servant."

I pray that her legacy will live on in me.  May I learn from her example.  May I walk in her shoes.  I am certain they are still far to big for my feet, but I sure will try.

My heart grieves for the loss of this mighty, mighty woman.  But, I know that I am one of the most privileged girls in the world for having known and loved her as I did.  



MIghty to Save

Have you heard the song Mighty to Save by Hillsongs United?

It is one of my kids' favorites and one of mine too.  Yesterday when I woke up, my sweet hubby and son were in the kitchen cooking breakfast for us and listening to that song. 

Sweet little baby boy needed to eat too, so while I was feeding him, I was quietly singing along.  As I was singing, I started thinking about all the people that I know in my life right now that have major things happening...sickness, cancer, tumors, family deaths, job losses, house foreclosures, serious debt, etc.  The list really goes on and on...

I started singing "Savior, He can move the mountains.  My God is mighty to save.  He is mighty to save. Forever, Author of salvation.  He rose and conquered the grave, Jesus conquered the grave." 
I was singing it over all these friends and acquaintances.  I was singing this song as a song of victory of their lives.  I really believed these words too.  My God is Mighty To Save.  He can move mountains.  I have seen Him do it many times. I have seen His miracles.  I know He can bring these families the miracles they long for and so desperately need.

However, something else occurred to be as I was singing and praying.  Often times, we don't believe He can move the small mountains.  Or maybe it isn't that we don't believe He can but maybe that we don't think He will...or that maybe He doesn't even care.  I have seen more believers destroyed by so called "small things" then I have by big, life-altering things.  We get desperate. We think that we are going to be swallowed whole by all the little stuff.  We start spending less and less time with the Lord and yet more and more time laying awake at night in our beds. 

Many times it isn't even big is the seemingly insignificant stuff.  We feel overwhelmed by all that is on our plate.  The piles are all so high...laundry, dishes, homework, responsibilities with the family and kids.   We hate our job.  Our marriages are falling apart.  We feel like we are "wasting" our lives away in an endless search for meaning.  We can't get rid of that last 15 lbs.  We can't seem to connect anymore with our best friends.  Our once angel of children suddenly are out of control and completely disobedient. It is all just too much.  And then we start to ask, "Where is my God who is so mighty to save now?"

We lose hope.  We lose joy.  When the situation is literally life and death, we cling to Him so tightly because we know that without Him we cannot even catch our next breath.  But, when the situation isn't quite so life and death, we still start to suffocate.  Because we don't know where to turn to catch our breath.  All we can see is everything around us closing in...sucking out all joy and life and promise with it. 

Do you remember the next lines of that song, though?

"So take me as you find me,
All my fears and failures,
Fill my life again.

give my life to follow
Everything I believe in.
So I surrender.
I surrender."

Our God is still the same God...the same One who is Mighty to Save us.  One of the enemies greatest tools in his war against us is to make us believe that God no longer cares.  That our problems are too small.  We think about all the people suffering from real problems and we start to believe that lie. 

Do you all remember the story from Joshua 3 and 4?  If you don't, you should look it up and read it.  It is when the Israelites cross the Jordan river.  After they cross the river, Joshua asks twelve men, one from each tribe, to gather one stone each to place next to that river.  And then in 4:21, he says,
"...'When your children ask their fathers in times to come, 'What do these stones mean?' then you shall let your children know, Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.  For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is MIGHTY, that you may fear the Lord your God forever."

Don't think for a minute that God doesn't care about the small stuff.  He does care.  If He has the hair on your head counted, how could He not care about the very details of your life and family.  But we must set up stones of memorial.  Every time we win a small or big battle...every time we see God's MIGHTY hand on our lives in one way or another, we must set up a stone.  We can't forget.  The enemy wants us to forget.  But, we can't let him.  So whatever those "stones" are for you...journal writings, thankful lists, beads on a bracelet...whatever they are set them us a reminder that your God..our God is MIGHTY to save. 


10 years

 It has been 10 years…

10 years since I first stepped onto the sweet soil called Guatemala

10 years since I first lay on eyes on the children of CB

10 years since this place and these children started running through my blood

10 years since God radically changed me and imprinted the names and faces of these sweet children forever on my heart

10 years since I realized that all I had dreamed was only a shadow of what God had in store for me

10 years…

I just can’t believe it.  Where did the time go?  I have now officially loved this place, this land, these people, and this ministry for a third of my life.  They are now so much a part of me that I can’t really remember my life without them. Sometimes I lie in my bed at night and wonder how it happened.  Why did God chose me?  I wasn’t really a likely candidate.   I am not necessarily “missionary” material.  Why me?  He easily could have chosen someone else…someone better suited for the job.  Why me?

I am a homebody. I hate change.  New experiences practically make me break out into hives.  Fear has been my almost constant companion for 30 years.  I am not great in large groups.  I like my space and privacy.  I love my family and never wanted to even live more than a mile away from them.  I like routine. I struggle with being flexible. Worry and I go way back.  I am a hypochondriac.  Bugs, rodents, and any other creepy crawlers make me shiver.

I could keep going, but I am guessing you get the drift.  Basically if you looked up the definition of “missionary” in the dictionary, you most certainly wouldn’t find my name.  I don’t fit that mold.  And yet somehow in spite of all those things God called me.  He chose me.  He brought me.  He took me out of my little idealistic world and home in a suburb in middle America, and He landed me right here in Guatemala.  It doesn’t make sense.  

But I am so thankful He did.  

Today I read this little gem and it made me smile…

“When the call of God sears a hole through your self-protectiveness, you go wherever He leads whether or not you feel like you fit.” –Beth Moore in the bible study James

That is exactly how I feel about living here in Guatemala.  Yet here I am.  Here I am.  And oh how thankful I am for it. 
 Do I miss my family?  Of course I do!  Do I miss my life and independence?  Most certainly.  Do I still mourn the dreams I dreamed so long as a child?  More often that I would like to admit.  Do I still feel incredibly uncertain and unfit for my life here?  Absolutely.

But here I am.  

So today I challenge you to give your dreams to God…your hopes, your expectations, your weaknesses, your doubts.  Surrender it all to Him.  Because truly our dreams are just a shadow of the reality of what He can do in our lives.  You may feel like you are completely unfit for anything besides what you are doing right now.  But, I bet you are wrong.  I bet there is much more He can and will do if you would let Him.

I have ten years of proof to show you.


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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 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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