Blogs…

Falling off the wagon…

…what do you do when the struggle is real?

So, the first of the year started out pretty well for me. Boy, was I motivated! I’m going to get this done and that done… I’m going to eat healthy, work out, sleep plenty… I’m going to save money… I’m going to blog every week… Yadah, yadah, yadah….

Well, as with nearly every “New Year’s Resolution,” after a while the novelty and motivation can wear off. Before you know it, those well intentioned goals are simply dreams that faded with the sunrise over the night sky. Only a couple weeks into the year and I had lost that energetic motivation. I guess you could say, I fell off the proverbial wagon.

My well-meaning intentions remained, but I was having trouble finding inspiration. Between standing on my feet at work all day and this relentless struggle with a lack of sleep at night, I was just plain exhausted in the evening. All the goals I taped to my bedroom wall as reminders of what I’m aiming at seemed like too much effort and almost like only a measuring rod for my failure.

To be honest, I can’t say that I’ve found new motivation… I’ve wanted to remain faithful to my audience and to grow more in this thing called, “blogging…”

With each day and week, I’m still trying to keep at it. Perseverance is a quality I’ve always been told to put into action. And so, I thought I’d ask you, the reader, where do you find your inspiration? What motivates you to keep at it when the struggle is real?

pc: Sarah Coffey, Romania

Keep on dancing…!

…embrace each new year as an opportunity to live to the fullest…

“Ruby?”*

“Did you say, ‘Ruby’? Why, that’s me!”

Turning in response to my cry was an elderly lady, feet propped up in the stirrups of her wheelchair. Each curl of her graying hair was so volumatic one would have thought it was actually artificial. Wheeling her back to the exam room, I could tell I was in for a treat… this was no one ordinary.

Carefully, I pivoted her chair into the room, backing it up so that she sat in line with our usual exam chair. All set to begin, I positioned myself behind the computer screen to begin taking notes of the reason for today’s visit…

But Ruby was lost in her own conversation, going on and on about how good she felt…

“You know, it wasn’t until I really got sick that I even stopped dating. I never once thought about my age or worried about it… This little nurse that’s been helping me, she turned forty just a few weeks ago. I thought she was going to have a nervous breakdown! She was so distraught about turning forty, but she didn’t look it at all! I even met her little old mother; she didn’t look her age either. I don’t think her mother even gave age a second thought. In fact, I think this little nurse picked up all this worry about getting old from her friends. Well, I’ve never been concerned about my age. I’ve dated and danced all the way through life… That’s what you gotta keep doing: keep on dancing. Ah, that’s what I miss most… If I wasn’t in this chair, that’s what I’d still be doing… dancing.”

I scarcely could bring myself to move the conversation along. Her words struck me… therein was a lesson that I needed to learn, a good word I needed to ponder…

Keep on dancing.

Suddenly it occurred to me the irony of the phrase… The theme of my high school graduation had been “I hope you dance.” (LeAnn Womack’s song of that title had come out that same year, so it was fitting for our class.)

At over ninety years of age, Ruby had found the secret to remaining youthful. In fact, I never would have guessed her age… Her vivacious spirit would have put her at least thirty years younger in my mind!

We live in a day when people are in desperate search of the secret to youthfulness. People invest their hard-earned-cash in creams, diets, athletic regimes, surgeries, all in the vain hope of keeping up that 20-something look. Meanwhile, their minds grow old… their spirits grow dull and lifeless…

Ruby’s quip was exactly what I needed to hear and what I think many of us need to hear. For me, I’ve just entered the latter half of my thirties. I’ve been dreading the idea of reaching forty without a spouse, children, or career to show for… But Ruby’s lesson inspired me to consider her words as profound wisdom… Stop fixating on length of years, instead fixate on the quality of your years.

Age is not to be feared, dreaded or escaped. As much as I urge you to take this to heart, I write it as reminder to myself. We ought to receive, accept, and embrace each new year, considering it an opportunity to grow, discover, and keep on dancing.

*Not her real name.

*pc: Sarah Coffey, Swaziland, Africa

Like a couple of rabbits in the garden…

…to have room for the new means to be rid of the old…

…screeeeaach… I forced the door to my clothes closet open… I was in search… Now where is that stuff… I was sure I brought it along…

Digging through all my paraphernalia, accoutrements, various doodads, I could feel myself sinking, being buried alive in my closet. It hit me… thoughts turned from my search to this impediment… Despite all my efforts to down-size earlier in the year, these possessions were once again growing, multiplying like a couple of rabbits left alone for a spell in a garden… No sign of the carrots, just countless figures of fluffy white fur canvasing the vegetable patch…

Beginning to feel a bit claustrophobic, I began making snap decisions… No, I haven’t worn that in the last year… No, I haven’t even cracked that book in all the years I’ve kept it… Quickly a pile began to form of articles to purge.

In the midst of this sorting, a realization hit me…

The only way to have room for the new is to be rid of the old.

Such a simple thought, yet pivotal.

For so many years I’ve held on to things for “the future.” As if this “future” would be full of destitution or poverty, a lack of necessities or no remembrance of days gone by…

Yet, in so doing, not only has it limited my floor space, it has limited my mind, trapped me in yesterday… There was no room for new things.

Like a breath of fresh air or a weight lifted from my shoulders, my mind seemed to open. To get rid of the old is to make room for the new… To make room for the new is to give myself permission to do new things… It means, new things WILL happen… new, GOOD things are coming… But I can’t grab a hold of them with my arms still full of yesterday’s heap!

I suppose I had felt that I somehow needed permission to move forward, permission to move on from the past… To let go of the past was somehow to deny or discount it…

But I was beginning to see how to let go of the past was in essence a way of assuring future goodness. To make room for the new was to see that new things would actually come! To be looking forward to those mysterious, as of now, not-known things – good things – that would be coming in the future… But how could I grab a hold of them if I didn’t move on from the past?

And then I was reminded of God’s word…

“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’

– Revelation 21:5

So, as I enter this New Year, I am eager to make room for new things… The past is full of trials and triumphs, of which the present time and the future will not discount. It was what it was, but now it is time for something new. And so, my heart will carry the following sentiment through 2018…

“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” – Psalm 40:3

Time marches on…

…live your time…

Though we’ll turn our clocks back this weekend as Daylight Savings Time ends, no doubt we’ll all still ponder the necessity of the practice. Accepting the changing of our clocks is one thing, but each of us must come to terms with the passage of time in our own lives.

With each rising of the sun, we are reminded that yesterday is gone. As we enter the new day, it may be tempting to mourn the day that has passed. Time knows no favoritism, but is equally cruel to us all. Age comes as surely as rain falls from the sky.

Now stay with me here; I’m not intending to take this lackluster thought and lead us down a dark road…

Growing up, I often sat listening to stories of my grandma’s growing up years. Walking miles to school, helping her dad on the farm, learning in one-room school houses, attending community picnics… It all sounded so simple, fun, and romantic to my little mind! When she’d finish, I’d exclaim how I wished I’d been born during that time to experience those things. But in her wisdom, she’d always reminded me, “Sarah, we all live our time.

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That little statement never really made sense to me.

We all live our time…

What does that really mean?

As time has passed, I have begun to understand…

Each of us was created for a specific purpose and a specific time. It is all our own; no one else’s. No two people on the planet – even identical twins – are exactly the same. God orchestrated it, science has proven it.

King David was well aware of this…

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” – Psalm 139:16

His son, King Solomon, took it a step further…

“There is a time for everything; a season for every activity under heaven.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

As Queen Esther contemplated whether or not to get involved in the plight of her fellow Jews, her cousin Mordecai reminded her, “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” – Esther 4:14

It’s easy to mourn days gone by and wonder our purpose for today. But there is a plan, though sometimes unbeknownst to us. Know this…

“God has made everything beautiful in its time.” – Ecclesiastes 3:11

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So, if you are wondering, waiting, working to find purpose, meaning, a plan in your life, know that there is one. You were not simply the creation of little nuclei coming together thanks to your parents. You were created for a reason. If you’re not quite sure what the reason is, know that first and foremost it was to know your Creator. After all, He formed your inner workings and caused you to be here. Seek after Him and find meaning for your life…

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.” – Jeremiah 29:13-14

pc: Latvian Sunset, Sarah Coffey; from Grandma’s album, unknown; Me in Swaziland, dani izac

Risking Grace.

…risk grace to reap generously…

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously… And God is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work… Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” – 2 Corinthians 9:6, 8, 10-11

Okay, so, I’m not naturally a “risk-taker.” Perceived “risks” that I’ve taken have all been calculated. If I was going to step out on a limb, I was going to be sure the limb was large enough to hold my weight and the tree was firmly rooted in the ground. I’ve not been one to reach out for a broken branch on a dying tree, clinging to life on the side of a cliff. Danger has been my nemesis.

While on a hike through the woods recently, a new thought began to form in my mind regarding risk…

Life is about risk.

Hmm… Risk.

Chatting with friends along the way, we began to share our yet-to-be life dreams and goals. Even as I shared mine, this thought occurred to me… perhaps the reason some of these dreams are still unfulfilled is because I’ve failed to risk stepping out on a limb to see them become a reality…

Whoa.

Could that be it? That I’m actually my own worst enemy? That if I was to risk more, I would actually gain more?

I’ve longed to own my own house, but never felt financially able to do so despite a sterling credit score. To own a house means to risk being able to make payments or repairs.

I’ve longed for marriage, but have shied away from male friendships. To marry means to risk being vulnerable or enduring heartbreak.

I’ve considered going back to school, but am not keen on taking out a loan. To increase one’s credentials costs money and time.

You see, I’ve seen my problems as bigger than my God… I’ve seen the risk as larger than the reward… My focus has been on the cost, rather than on the payoff…. on the risk, rather than the resulting joy.

Have I forgotten the God whom I serve?

After telling Mary, Jesus’ mother, the good news that her once-barren relative Elizabeth was pregnant in her old age, the angel Gabriel reminded her, “For nothing is impossible with God.” – Luke 1:37

Nothing is impossible with God.

God has given us grace along the way so that we would give life our best shot… He affords us grace to risk making mistakes… Grace so our risk would result in great victory… Grace to reap generously for His kingdom… Grace to give it a go… But if we never risk, how can we live in that grace? Could living a “safe” life be to reap sparingly…? And besides, isn’t He our Redeemer? The one who can redeem all things…?

As Job reminds us, I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth.” – Job 19:25

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So, as I continue on this path of faith, seeking out God’s vision for my life, I’m realizing that perhaps it’s time to “risk” more… To sow sparingly, is to reap sparingly. To sow generously, is to reap generously. Where have I been stingy with my resources? Where has my faith been meager? Yet, where does my heart desire to see growth, fruit, abundance? I should carefully consider how and where I may need to risk more in order to experience more… Where is God calling you to risk more?

pc: Sarah Coffey, Utah

Run your race…

…run the race marked out for you…

A melody pierced the darkness, tickling my ears… the alarm on my phone was notifying me that morning had come… Though the sun hadn’t received the memo, I’d have to rise-and-shine anyway.

Quick as I could, I donned my Brooks gear and set out for the island… Antelope Island. It would be my first 5k race in years, and I was excited to participate!

As I drove up to the marina, runners were already trying to stave off the morning chill with a brisk jog. With every step, their breath hung in the air, white as the clouds.

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What seemed like an eternity later, it was our turn to race. Stopping at the park’s stone cold bathrooms more times than I’d like to admit, I was replete… not an ounce remained within me.

“3, 2, 1… Go!”

We were off!

The first hundred yards were uphill. Adrenaline raced through my blood… my legs were like jelly, but seemed to be running on autopilot. As I quickened my pace, I began to pass people on the uphill climb. Before I knew it, there were only 3 people ahead of me.

I could tell I was running too fast, but I couldn’t seem to slow myself down… Towards the mile mark, I reminded myself of my task… Sarah, run your OWN race. Yes, that was it… Focus. Run your OWN race.

Rather than compare myself to where I was in the pack, who was ahead of me, who was behind me, I needed to stay focused on my race… my breathing… my stride… my pace…

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And, life is like this, too…

More than I’d like to admit, I’ve compared my life to other people’s lives, at times coveting and craving their path through life.

But comparison is a killer. It will kill our joy, our motivation, our value. Comparison dismisses our own uniqueness… our personality, our upbringing, our one-of-a-kind figure, our lineage…

“We are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”*

God meant for it to be this way. For you to be, YOU. He prepared in advance the path our life would take… the hills, the valleys, the scenery… Custom made for you.

 

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Rounding the halfway marker, I focused on my breathing… with each swing of my arms, my lungs breathed out. I focused on my steps… each step firmly planted on the blacktop. I focused on my goal… to get up that last hill… around that last bend… down the final stretch…

Finish line in view, I gave it all I had left…

“And here she is finishing with a time of 27 minutes…”

I’d done it. I’d run my race. And it felt good.

“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”**

We each have our own race. We will finish in our own time. We will run at our own pace. And this is to God’s credit. He loves us too much to give us all the same journey. So, run your race and don’t look back.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”***

 

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*Ephesians 2:10

**Hebrews 12:1

***1 Corinthians 9:24

pc: Sarah Coffey, Antelope Island, Utah

Unfettered…

…live unfettered and let God achieve the unachieveable…

…he soars into the yard, wings extended… quickly closing them up under his breast as he touches down on the green grass… looking for the proverbial worm to fill his belly at breakfast… at a moments notice, his white and black striped pinions open high and he’s off over the fence… searching another lawn for the juicy grub…

Around here black magpies fill the air, the yards, the parking lots… Their coloring is striking… black and white… a shimmer of teal reflecting from the black feathers… I’m always drawn to them…

In watching them, it got me thinking… what would it be like to be completely unfettered? Free to roam, fly where you choose, unfettered by the cares of this world?

To many, I seem like a “free spirit,” and in many ways, I suppose I am… But for a very long time, I have stressed about many things… money, relationships, career, purpose, ministry… being enough… So many goals… seemingly unachieveable in my own eyes and perhaps even the eyes of the world… especially based on my track-record and current status… How can they come to be?? And, even if I was to give up stressing about figuring them out, how would that get me any closer to achieving them? To let them go… wouldn’t that mean giving up on them?

Yet, as I sit here, considering life… it occurred to me… stressing out and trying to “figure” it all out hasn’t really gotten me much closer… it’s just gotten me more stressed, bitter, tightly wound… and that is not living…

Isn’t our God bigger than that? Isn’t He bigger than our puny attempt to try to figure things out? Bigger than our failures? Bigger than the dead ends we think we find ourselves in?

And, just maybe by living more carefree, giving up trying to figure things out, that would actually get us closer to seeing them come to fruition…! I’d be free from worry, burdens, cares… and so, perhaps I would be more myself, a relaxed self, a beautifully unfettered self…!

Luckily, there is some solid advice from God’s Word… He seems to know us so well…!

“…look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”*

“For nothing is impossible with God.”**

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”***

 

*Matthew 6:26-27

**Luke 1:37

***Hebrews 13:8

pc: The Internet – The National Audubon Society (I couldn’t sneak up on them fast enough for a nice photo.)

…when it’s beyond reason, believe…

…keep on believing…

Several years ago, my mom gave me this little decorative sign… Outlined letters spelled the word BELIEVE and below was engraved the following phrase…

Believe when it’s beyond reason to believe.

At first, I’ll admit, I didn’t really appreciate it… It was nice sentiment, but it almost sounded too pithy for me to think it a serious philosophy to adopt. However, in recent months I’ve been more convicted that this is actually the key to the Christian life…

There are times that God moves in unmistakable and undeniable ways in our lives. We cannot help but give credit to God, boasting of His presence in our lives…

And then, there are other times we go through life as if in the dark… it seems like we’ve entered a great silence… Our prayers soar up to the heavens, only seemingly to float back down to us with question marks attached… Where are you, God?

I’m at a place in life right now where I feel both simultaneously… On the one hand, I can see God moving in my heart and life… On the other hand, my own impatience gets the best of me as it seems God isn’t answering or He’s moving WAY too slowly…

During a recent church service, the pastor made reference to the life of Kurt Cobain, the composer and lead singer of the band Nirvana. He lived a life of inner turmoil, never really able to find peace… He ended his life before he was thirty years old, thinking the world would be better off without him. At his funeral, his band mates recalled one picture that Kurt carried around in his billfold simply because he thought it was the only “good” photo of himself. In the background was a sign reading, “Believe in Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” Rather ironic… The man searching for hope, peace, joy, purpose had the answer behind him all the time… But I suppose his heart was clouded by his own shortcomings and disappointments to even consider that somehow God or Jesus could have been the answer.

At times, I’ve felt like this… how do you keep from getting disillusioned? How do you keep yourself from going down the path of disenchantment? And then I realized…

Believe when it is beyond reason to believe…

“We live by faith, not by sight.”*

*2 Corinthians 5:7

pc: Sarah Coffey, Macedonia

To be a wife…

…waiting in active preparation…

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”*

Recently, one of my single girlfriends came over to share lunch and watch an episode of the series This is Us. In the middle of the episode, something sparked us to reflect on our own love lives… or, rather, lack thereof… We shared our experiences, our heart’s desires, our annoyances, and our frustration in waiting… and waiting… and waiting

After we finished and my friend left, I began to reflect on our conversation… It got me thinking what would it look like to be a wife? Not, what does it look like day in day out… But rather, what would I look like as a wife…? what kind of wife would I be? What are the traits that I would hope to possess? And it occurred to me, I’m not there yet…

I’ve been blessed to know many godly women who have been great examples to me of what it looks like to be a good wife, and a good mother… It’s taken them couragepersistenceperseverancetoleranceforgivenessselfsacrificeallowanceacceptance… determination am I that kind of person?

To be a wife is so much more than being a lover, an assistant, or a support…

It means being an encourager being an ego booster being a confronter

It means being willing to put in the hard work to work through differences, disagreements, and misunderstandings… without running away…

It means being vulnerable and real

It means being willing to put aside the desire to be found correct, and instead seek to be one

And, I venture, it means many more things I have yet to understand or even know…

Proverbs 31 has always been the passage that the Church has always looked to as the best example of a wife… To be honest, at times that Proverbs 31 lady seems so perfect that it seems impossible to try to be like her… even though the desire remains strong to try to keep her pace…! Like the perfect “soccer mom” of the 90’s

Well, as I sit here in my cozy bedroom-for-one enjoying an evening of peace and quiet, I’m humbled to recognize the ways in which I have to grow even as I recognize these things and even strive for them, I must also accept the truth that I’ll never be perfect… never

So, as I seek to “grow up” in maturity – to be tolerant, gracious, flexible, dependable, stable, encouraging – I also seek to rest in authenticity, being real about who I am and where I’m at…

And so, I guess I am content to wait but wait with purpose wait in active preparation seeking to grow, deal with my insecurities, my anxieties, my issues… so that when I meet my man, I can be all the more ready to grow in oneness with him…

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”**

*Proverbs 13:12

**Ecclesiastes 4:12

pc: Sarah Coffey, Cesis, Latvia 2016

…a half…

…Jesus is enough…

one-hundred-eighty-four days… twenty-six weeks… six months… half a year… half a year… half

I’ve been in Utah now for half a year… It hardly seems possible… And yet, there’s the calendar proving the point…!

These six months have passed by like Mario Andretti rounding the track at the Indy 500, pulling out a win… blink and you’ve missed him…!

…to my chagrin, it no longer feels like I just recently moved here… the dust is settling… roots are growing… so many reasons to be hopeful, excited, thankful…!

Now in a new state… a new house… new roommates… new church… new perspective… a new job… new friends… new adventures…

But one of the most surprising, exciting, yet, scary things has been the self-discovery learning more about who I am… who God has made me to be… and, even how I’m broken… yes, broken, to my own dismay…

It’s been said that no matter where you go, you always take yourself with you… [Ain’t that the truth?!] There have been many times that I’ve wanted to leave myself behind, so to speak… To be someone else… Someone “cool”… someone that’s got it together… someone successful, in the eyes of the world…

Alas, I’m still just me… Sarah… with all my bundles of nerves, idiosyncrasies, “just so” tendencies… But you know what?… God continues to teach me, I’m enough… But more importantly, He’s enough!

“…I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness…”*

Yes, love He has loved me in those who have loved me here… reached out in kindness to listen to my stories… invited me to dinner… included me in the group… cared about what concerns me…

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me… no one can snatch them out of my hand.”**

Yes, secure… so often I’ve doubted my security in Jesus, but He’s promised that no one can take from what is His… after all, He said, “I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.”***

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”+

Yes, sufficient in moments when I’ve struggled, He has been right there… in the silence, the stillness, the uncertainty and confusion…

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to HIM be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”++

Yes, immeasurably more than we imagine… so many new beginnings and new surprises… the future always held such an anxious grip on me, that I didn’t want to enter… and yet, Jesus reminds me He is the Author of new things…

And so, as I look back over the last six months, I smile with a tear in my eye at all His provisions… His faithfulness… despite my weakness… despite my denial of His goodness… despite my fears of things imagined… and so, He will also bring me through the next six months and beyond…!

*Jeremiah 3:13

**John 10:27-28

***John 10:17-18

+2 Corinthians 12:9

++Ephesians 3:20-21

pc: Sarah Coffey, Utah 2017