Keep running through the pain…

…the pain is only temporary, so keep on going…

“But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship…” – 2 Timothy 4:5a

Usually my runs are pretty uneventful… I might run by some barking dogs, kids riding bikes, or people cleaning up their yards… And most of the time, I feel pretty good throughout the course of my run.

One time recently, about halfway through my run, my stomach began to act up… As it jostled around with each stride, I began to feel sick. A rare occurrence for me, I began to think through what I’d eaten that day that could have contributed to this feeling… coffee, cereal, leftover rice and stir fry, too much sugar…? Nothing too unusual jumped out.

Despite the fact that my tummy was unhappy with me, my arms and legs were all too raring to go. They could have gone all day if not for my complaining tummy.

I was inclined to stop, but as sometimes happens, I expected the pain to go away. I needed to keep running, to run until the pain subsided, until I came to the end…

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I’ve increasingly found the same to be true in life. Now, I know this is not exactly an earth-shattering concept… But I sometimes have to remind myself of this fact…

So many things are thrown into our way as we run through life… unexpected, painful things… a bittersweet divorce, the loss of a child, illness and injury, painful loneliness, overwhelming anxiety… it’s difficult to keep on running… to find the motivation to stay the course…

Though this has been a blessed season for me, it’s also been one of the most difficult… On many occasions, I’ve felt in deep despair… it’s been almost a daily battle to keep running this race called “life” as regrets, “what ifs,” and anxiety about the future have landed in my path…

But just as that run taught me, I must run through the pain… WE must run through the pain…

At the beginning of track season as a kid, each run brought on the pain of side aches as I’d been out of practice for a season. Eventually, as I kept coming to practice, day after day, and as I kept training for race day, the side aches eventually went away. Before I knew it, I could run with ease and eventually I even got faster!

In life, we must also run through the pain… Eventually the pain will subside as you get stronger… Show the pain it cannot have you… It will not consume you… You will outrun its grip on you. Before you know it, either the pain will cease to exist, or you’ll find yourself at your intended destination. No matter how long the pain lasts, we must remember it won’t be forever… There are days filled with joy and delight ahead of you… Don’t give up before you can experience them… After the storm comes the rainbow; beauty comes from the ashes; rain makes things grow… Keep on running, my friend… You’re not alone; I’m running there right along with you…

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” – 2 Timothy 4:7

“…[stand] firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings…” – 2 Peter 5:9

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pc: Sarah Coffey, Zambia, Victoria Falls, Zambezi River

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

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.)

Beautifully broken, beautifully bold…

…help me share God’s story of all He’s doing…

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

So, I’m writing a book… you read that right, a book…! The above heading may be the title, but nothing, not even the exact contents, are yet set in stone… But, it’ll be about what I experienced and learned while on the World Race in 2016. It came about kind of by surprise…

Through the World Race, I discovered my love for blogging… As part of the program, we were required to blog… I soon found myself writing nearly every week about my experiences with my team and with the local culture, or things God was teaching me through people or situations…

Once I touched down on American soil, I knew I’d need another outlet to continue developing my writing skills. That’s what led me here, to WordPress… Within days, I had created my own blog and began searching for tips on how to be a better writer.

In the process, I came across a writers guide from Westbow Press, a sister company of Zondervan and Thomas Nelson. After downloading it, I soon received a call from them wanting to know my writing goals. Before I knew it, we were working together on a book! (It’s common for people to use an assisted self-publishing company like Westbow. So, that’s what I’m doing!)

I’ve been working with them since June and they’ve given me a generous deal. I’m raising $2640 USD which will cover the cost of editing, copywriting, registering, and ultimately publishing my manuscript. Once the process is complete, it will be available wherever books are sold!

Would you like to help me tell my story…?

Or rather, God’s story of all that He’s doing in the world… to highlight Christianlife across the globe… to share the beauty of living in deep, confrontational, raw community… to share how God can transform a little life, like mine, showing all that He can do if we simply say, “yes, send me…”

Our eyes will open, our hearts be touched, our will challenged, our lives transformed

Help me encourage others to take courage to step out of their comfort zone into the unknown, risking being uncomfortable, becoming aware of their brokenness…

Discovering that it’s Jesus who makes us strong when we are weak…

Will you consider joining me on this journey??

(Below is a link to my fundraising page.)

https://www.youcaring.com/sarahcoffey-951200

Even as I venture out on this new expedition, I’ll still be here, blogging along… but, I look forward to sharing my progress with you, every step of the way!

*2 Corinthians 12:9

pc: Sarah Coffey, WR Launch 2016, Thailand

Worth the climb…

…don’t give up, the climb is worth the view…

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Before departing Macedonia, I’d agreed to go on a hike with one of my teammates. It was planned for the morning of our departure. At first, I was glad to have one last opportunity to see the city from the hilltop. But as preparations were being made to leave, my mind raced, thinking of all the packing, cleaning, and goodbyes yet to be done. I could feel the stress welling up in me… it felt so consuming… how could I drop everything and make time for a morning hike with so much left to do? But, still wanting to see the view and having given my word, I met my teammate at our appointed time.

Walking through the park, up the hill where the trail began, my mind kept recounting last minute details… Did I remember to pack all my toiletries? Will I need to go to the market for any snacks? Are my phone and laptop chargers packed?

Meanwhile, my friend led the way along the narrow, steep, canopied path. It was a beautiful day…! The sun barely peaking over the hillside, birds singing, hardly anyone on the trail… Too nice for me to be grumbling…! Again and again, I prayed that I could be present in this moment… Again and again, I could hear my heart grumbling, this hike better be worth it… the view better be spectacular…!

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Rounding the bend at the crest of the hill, I was in awe… The view of the city below was truly magnificent! And there was a little wooden bench beside the path, perfect for a mini-rest to enjoy the view. In that moment, I was overcome… humbled… overcome by the breathtaking view… humbled because I’d spent a good portion of the trail grumbling to God…

Sitting on the bench, my friend and I reflected on our month of ministry… For me, it had been a difficult month… There were dark things my soul had wrestled with… It was only by God’s grace and His steady Hand that I had made it to this moment… Tears began to fall down my cheeks as I felt overwhelmed by His faithfulness… I began to pray with my friend, thanking and praising God… apologizing for my wayward, stubborn heart…

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Looking out over the valley, the climb was well worth leaving my “important” tasks behind… I had been given a broader view… my frenzied self was re-grounded, calmed by God’s presence and love…

I’ve been discovering that life is a lot like that hike… There are so many tasks that compete for our attention and devotion… Family, friends, work, church responsibilities… It’s difficult to get away to find the calm… In our dog-eat-dog world, it’s tough to see the value in it…

Not to mention, the hike of life seems difficult enough… the incline is steep, we cannot ascertain what the next bend will bring, whether it’ll be shaded or find a rattlesnake in our path… We want ease…

As a kid, I thought following Jesus would be easy… Do what He wants, abide by His rules, and He’ll reward you with blessings and provide safety for you, protection to be unworried by the happenings of this world…

But, that’s not so… Following Jesus isn’t easy… Keeping the faith, walking with Him has been one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my life… As life has thrown me some unexpected curveballs, even my deepest held, most dear beliefs have been challenged…

But I know the hike is worth it…

And so, to you, friend, don’t give up…! Jesus has promised not only that the climb will be difficult, but that it will be well worth it… He knows our troubles… In fact, He promised that we’d see our fair share…

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”*

So, just as we’ve experienced the trouble He promised, how much more can we count on the rest of His promises??

“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”**

And so, if you find yourself sore from the climb, doubting whether it is worth it, remind yourself that it is… Take time to be alone with Jesus… Let Him renew your spirit and revive your soul…

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”***

And find others with whom you can hike… You are not alone!

“Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”****

“So, do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.”*****

*John 16:33

**John 14:2-3

***Isaiah 40:30-31

**** Peter 5:8-9

*****Hebrews 10:35

pc: Sarah Coffey, (except the one I’m in is by Darek Hollis), Bitola, Macedonia 2016

Everything for our enjoyment…

…in the busyness of life, let’s not forget that creation was made for our enjoyment…

…I sat in the airport, charging my phone before boarding the flight… though my body remained still, my mind paced… I’ve always enjoyed flying, but as of late, my mind has wandered into the territory of worst-case scenarios… I hope we don’t crash… is the pilot experienced? Will there be a lot of turbulence? Has everyone been thoroughly screened?? One disaster after another spun through my consciousness…

As soon as we took off, all my worries faded as I gazed in awe at the beauty below… lakes, rivers, forests…. The glimmer of the setting sun, kissing the still waters of the Puget Sound… pockets of lakes and ponds in differing shades of blue… some a rich, deep blue… others a hazy, grey blue… So much beauty!

Soaring higher and higher above the Cascades, more water… but this time covered in a glassy, glossy white… ice and snow blanketed the deep, pristine wells…

In that moment, I was calmed, reminded of God’s goodness…

“…put your hope in God, who richly provides us everything for our enjoyment…”*

God… richly provides us everything for our enjoyment… For our enjoyment!

In the mess of my private thoughts at the airport, I had become overly obsessed with worry about what could happen… All the while, God wanted me to see the beauty of what He created for ME! For me to enjoy!

Have you ever stopped to ponder that?? That all of creation was created out of love for us and for our enjoyment?? Too rarely do I take time to enjoy life… enjoy what God has given me… enjoy those God’s placed in my life… enjoy the fullness of life… this beautiful creation, of which we are the crown… it is all a gift to us

So, the next time worry creeps into your mind, your to-do list runs off the page, or notifications keep buzzing your cell phone, consider that “life is more than food, and the body more than clothes…”**

*1 Timothy 6:17

**Matthew 6:25c

pc: Sarah Coffey, SeaTac, WA

April showers bring May flowers…

…don’t worry, just look at the flowers…

Most recently, we’ve been having a lot of rain… I’ve heard that it’s pretty common, pretty much everywhere, to get a lot of rain in the springtime… Though of course I’d hoped that by coming to Utah, I’d see much less of it than I did in Washington…

Yesterday, I was introduced to one of the local pastors as being from Washington… He was like, “So you must be used to all this rain we’ve been having lately, huh??” It was kinda funny… Whenever I mention Seattle, jokes and thoughts of rain always follow…

After one of the torrential rain storms, I noticed our beautiful tulips… They continued to stand tall in the planters lining our front steps despite such a strong downpour… The only evidence of the storm were beads of rain drops settled on their petals. It was simply beautiful! So, quick as I could, I got my phone and took some pics to capture their beauty…

At this, I was reminded of Jesus’ words regarding worry, using flowers as an example…

 

“…See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”*

 

He is right… Flowers are simply beautiful! And yet, their beauty was endowed on them by their creator. Nothing they could do would make them more beautiful… I mean, think about it…

Flowers are stuck in the ground, in one spot… They don’t get to choose to relocate to another plot of sod if the sun gets too hot or they’re near an aphid nest…

Flowers literally DO nothing… They just sit there, looking pretty…! They soak up all the sunrays that beam down on them and all the rain that falls from the clouds…

Flowers are vulnerable to all kinds of things… Strong gusts of wind… An early or late snowfall… Flooding… An ant infestation… And yet, perennials return year after year after year…

During this new “risk” of following God’s leading to Utah, I’ve had my share of doubts and uncertainties… Yet, God has taken this perceived risk and only blessed it… Over the last 3 weeks besides getting connected to the local community, I’ve had several job offers… Yesterday, I had several that I had to give an answer on… In usual Sarah fashion, I wavered, agonized, waffled between one option and another… Today it all came together… God provided the opportunity to work for a great company, in an exciting position, with great benefits… Only a week prior, I’d thought I’d bombed the interview and lost the chance for this exact position! God is so good…!

And so, when you think of what worries you, consider the flowers in your garden… And if you don’t have a garden, this even applies to dandelions… I mean, even though their weeds, they still have a pretty yellow shade, right?! If that is how God will clothe the flowers, and weeds, will He not much more clothe you? So, don’t worry, friend… God’s got beautiful plans for you, if you just release yourself from the stress of worrying about it…

*Matthew 6:28b-30

pc: Sarah Coffey