To 2016. Let’s do this.

Happy New Year, friends. I rolled into this new year feeling really grateful for you. You who keep coming back here, not just as consumers but as people who give back. Many times in the last couple of years you’ve been the reason I choose to keep writing. You’ve sent heart-felt messages, written letters & shared this space with your friends — all places of encouragement that have been Jesus in you, to me, nudging me onward.

Some of you are long-time friends of mine. Most of you I’ve never met. Many of you live in cities, states & nations I’ve never been to. You share your broken stories with me, be it here in the comments of a post or in a message that you go great lengths to send my way, and I count it as one of my most precious treasures to carry you deeply in my heart. I hope 2016 has found you full of the kind of hope that makes you feel brand new. I love you so. Truly.

I took a brief writing hiatus this last month — being with family, enjoying time off with my man after an absolutely insane season of ministry, and more than anything, being present to really soak in the sweetness of celebrating the advent of Christ. It was a really special Christmas.

We got nearly two feet of snow the week leading up to Christmas, and I did a lot of sitting in wonder at the fact that something so silent could come so powerfully in the night — covering everything in white, making everything look brand new.

It felt like a prophetic statement over this new year. Every broken thing covered in white. Glistening hope. Powerful yet gentle, silent healing, coming in the dark of night to wake us with a Christmas morning kind of hope renewed.

There’s something really beautiful about creation clothed in white. It’s something I’ve never really known before, and it’s ministering to me daily as I attempt to warm my southern bones in this “for real” Utah winter.

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Seriously… I live in Narnia.

I did some maintenance on my broken heart this last month or so. I reconciled some disappointment. I broke off some bitterness and resentment that had grown in the soil of my soul like a weed that seemed to always want to choke my husband. (Marriage is so easy.)

I looked fear in the face and told her she had to move out so we could move on. I repented for partnering with comparison and envy, for being quicker to look to others for my validation instead of looking at Jesus, for coveting others’ race instead of running my own.

I asked God to break off the pride that had grown in self-protection and the independence that had grown in unbelief. Honestly, friends, I looked up at the end of a year that had literally put me through the wringer, and I realized I had done my best but at the end of the day, I just needed to be washed in white.

At the end of it all, I just needed Emmanuel. God with me. I needed to look back and see all the places He was with me all along. I needed to look forward with a certainty that He’d never leave me or forsake me, just like He promised.

I can’t wait to share all of these things with you in greater detail in the days to come. I’ll be back on Monday with the traditional Monday post, and we’ll keep rolling just like usual. I’ve got some big dreams for this space that I feel like God has put on my heart for this year.

But today, I just wanted to say thanks. Thanks for sticking it out through my toughest year yet. Thanks for letting me be broken before you. Thanks for bringing your own broken pieces to this hot mess of a party. I think we’re all better for it. And I think we’ll all be surprised at how much wholeness we experience in 2016.

Here’s to new hope, dear friends. Let’s totally nail this year. Together.

I’m sure it’ll be messy — it always is. But I just know there’s redemption for the brokenness. I just know there’s a hope that’s January white, and a newness of life that will spring forth when it all melts away later on.

Here’s to discovering whatever it will look like.

Cheers. Fist bump. Let’s do this thing.

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Our cute little dead-end street, all covered in snow. 🙂

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Are you tired?

SCRIPTURE:

Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

STORY:

Have you ever watched an Iron Man Triathlon on TV? I remember watching them as a kid and being somewhat disturbed watching people reach the finish line, as they’re peeing (among other things) all over themselves, having completely lost control of all bodily functions.

This is the only analogy I can come up with lately on how I feel emotionally. I’m exhausted and I have no control. I’ve had the weirdest meltdowns lately, triggered by the most ridiculous things. I was beginning to ask myself, “is there something clinically wrong with me?”

I was talking to a friend of mine recently, telling her I feel totally crazy, and she said, “Sara. You are at the end of the most intense emotional year of your life. You are at the finish line of an emotional iron man. It makes sense that you feel out of control. It’s OK to give yourself some grace and rest.”

Oh. Give myself some grace. Why hadn’t I thought of that before?

I think sometimes, especially as leaders, we just plow through our lives in the name of “church” or “leadership” or “mission” without allowing ourselves to heal when we’ve been hurt. I was a college athlete, and I was a classic case of “playing too soon after an injury.” It’s how I tore my hip flexor — a chronic inability to fully rest.

As I’m looking back on this year, I’m realizing that I was pretty severely injured in May, and I spent a little bit of time rehabbing my broken and bruised self, but there are places in me that have not fully healed — and now in some ways, they’re worse than they were before.

I’m carving out time to stop and grieve. I’m asking God hard questions that I need Him to help me resolve in my heart. I’m getting some counseling and I’m re-opening some wounds that need to be cleaned out and properly sewn back together.

I’m doing all these things in step with my marriage and my ministry and the rest of my life & relationships — learning the unforced rhythms of grace.

Walking when He tells me to walk. Letting Him throw me over His shoulder & carry me when I can’t. Crying when I need to cry. Screaming and shaking my fists and asking Him hard questions when I feel like it’s all so unfair, because He can handle it.

Learning that being in pain and wrestling with big questions in my heart does not disqualify me from leadership. It draws me nearer to the heart of the only One who can resolve my questions and heal my broken heart.

So when we’re stumbling through the last leg of the race, peeing all over ourselves, falling every few steps — we lean in. We let Him show us the way. We climb into His arms and let Him carry us when we need to. His burden is light. His way is perfect. He hasn’t left us. He never will.

SONG:

“Cecie’s Lullaby”
Steffany Gretzinger
The Undoing

Listen:
YouTube  |  iTunes

Playlist from previous weeks:
Spotify  |  Apple Music

Making Room for Christmas

I can’t think of very many things I love more than Christmas time. I love the wonder and the cheer and the twinkle lights & evergreen. I love the family time and the sweets in excess and the exchanging of gifts. I love the story of the birth of Jesus. I love that it’s the beginning of the fulfillment of every promise God made and prophecy spoken in scripture.

I love the hope it always brings. I love that from Thanksgiving to December 25, we wait in hopeful expectation of Christmas day. I love that it reminds me every year of how wonderful it must have been to witness the magic of that night… the coming of our long awaited Savior. Our Rescuer. Our Prince of Wholeness. Here to mend all things broken and pay our every debt for all of eternity.

Last weekend, just like we always do right after Thanksgiving, Noland and I went to pick out our Christmas tree. In the spirit of building new family traditions in Utah, we went to the cutest Christmas tree farm right at the foot of the mountains. They played Christmas music and served us hot chocolate as we walked around in the snow in search for the perfect tree.

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We picked out a 9-footer and they strapped it to the top of Noland’s Scion XB that we lovingly refer to as “the toaster.” It was kind of hilarious. Since my ever-so-careful husband wouldn’t drive over 45 mph on the interstate on our way home that afternoon, I had a lot of time to think.

I laughed to myself at how hilarious we must have looked in that moment, with our very Griswold-esque tree hanging over every edge of our tiny car. I thought about how, for now our fourth married holiday season, we have had to completely rearrange our itty bitty living space to make room for a Christmas tree every year.

This year, rearranging looked like moving our dining room table for the next month to the back room that pretty much just acts as a storage space. It didn’t matter to me, though. We hardly sit at it anyway. I wanted my big tree in my front window, right next to the chair I sit in every morning by the fire with my coffee in hand.

With this vision in my mind, I went ahead and rearranged the furniture the night before, so the room would be ready for our tree when we got home the next day. We pulled the monster of a tree inside, just the two of us, and we died laughing at how we *might* have overestimated how much space we were working with in this room.

The top of the tree touched the ceiling and the bottom was first of all way too wide, and second, hanging way too low. We realized the ole’ tree farm didn’t quite do the trimming that Home Depot had on our trees of Christmas past. We pulled the tree back out to the front yard, sort of  chuckling at the hilarity of the situation — although I could tell Noland was a bit irritated, seeing as how I’d been the one to fight for the taller tree back at the tree farm.

Praise the Lord for neighbors who have all the things. Our neighbor, Gabe, let us borrow his chain saw to trim our beloved tree down to living room size (another Griswold moment).

Noland trimmed the tree and immediately shed every feeling of frustration due to the surge of manliness he was feeling with a chain saw in his hands. Don’t worry, though. He had his skinny jeans on for the whole thing. Look good, do good — right?

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So, back in the house we go with our trimmed tree. And, 10 minutes later, back out we go. Rookie mistake: didn’t trim enough of the bottom branches off, so she was still hanging a little low. I had to lovingly explain to Noland that the gifts were supposed to be able to fit under the tree — and right now, we weren’t even fitting an envelope under there.

Sweet man that he is, he trimmed a little more. Alas, third time’s a charm. The tree came inside and stayed inside after round two of trimming. Of course, then I had to go around with scissors to give her a little liposuction. Another half hour or so later, we were finally ready to decorate.

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We laughed about how most normal people who live in 1200 square feet probably just get one of those really skinny fake trees that can fit in any corner. I’m a bit of a purist, though, and I need the experience of picking out a real tree, and smelling that fresh evergreen scent every time you walk into the house. Oh, it’s one of my most favorite things!

We’ve been laughing at how, since Friday when we got our tree, every friend of ours who’s walked into our house has said, “Wow! That’s a big tree.” And has followed with something along the lines of, “Wait… where did the table go?”

And you know what? I love that we make room. I love that we rearrange things and make sacrifices to make space in our home for Christmas. I love that it reminds me to make space in my heart for Christmas.

It reminds me to do away with the things that aren’t necessary, and to quiet my heart and my spirit in remembrance of Him. To draw near and take in that old, old story that I love so much. To remember that when He came, it meant our wait was over. God wrapped in flesh, Immanuel,  was with us. Forever.

Here’s to making room in our homes and our hearts for Him this season. I can’t really think of anything better.