Just be still.
~ Fireflies ignite twinkle to the moonlit summer sky;
~ Toasted marshmallows stickily splotching sun-kissed lips by the crackle of vibrant flames;
~ Dark, robust coffee trickling into the pot as the comforting fumes infiltrate the air;
Just be still.
~ An eclectic room with a sea of voices unified in harmony, singing to our only God and Savior;
~ Gray-peppered couple hobbling on cobblestone, gleam in their eyes, wrinkled fingers enlaced and joined until death do them part;
~ Flesh colors like paint tones on a palette, each tinted uniquely by our creative God;
Just be still.
~ Giggles of children as scooped, coned ice cream brushes melted flavors onto tanned hands;
~ Teetering male penguins presenting a pebble to the one mate they choose, and even when separated by the miles of iceberg obstacles they stay true to that one gal penguin they gave the pebble to, their life mate, and a beautiful example of faithfulness and enduring love to us all;
~ Stepping from the stale suffocation of indoors to the luscious liberation of the outdoors;
Just be still.
~ Fresh tears trickle, springing real emotions to life;
~ God’s mural of blossomed flowers in the foreground of a sherbet-toned sunset each day, signifying the joy that waits the morning;
~ A mingling blend of grass and mud squishing between my toes;
Just be still.
~ The soft fur of an animal brushing my fingertips;
~ A plethora of God’s unique creatures to enjoy as a daily blessing, a smile sketches on my face and laughter penetrates the silent day;
~ Crunching ground as my feet pound rhythm from a run on top;
Just be still.
~ The rippling water underneath my kayak, the birds whistle their “hello”;
~ Hair whipping in the wind, windows down, back-roads bend and curve their way;
~ The peaceful morning, sitting on a rocker on the porch of a cabin, the mountains slowly wake-up as I breathe in the beauty;
Just be still.
When the storm rages in my heart, when all seems unknown and a blur of painful confusion, I hear the gentle words of my sweet Lord whispering to my heart, “Just be still. Wait. Take it all in. Just be still. I got this in my hands.”
My tight grip releases its death hold on my worries, taking flight like a balloon floating into the eternal distance, and popping out of sight. My shaky small hand wraps around the Heavenly hand extended, that has been patiently waiting yet again, and He swiftly scoops me up in His fatherly, loving embrace as He so often does. He whispers to my weary heart, “Just be still, Sarah. Just be still.”
A tear escapes through the gate, then another, followed by an army of droplets marching down my exhausted face. My head gently nods like a little child who just needs her Daddy’s touch. I sigh and respond, “Okay God, okay Daddy, help me to be still.” I whisper and repeat to myself, over and over again, “Just be still…Just be still…”
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him…” ~ Psalm 37:7
Lyrics from “Still” by Tim McGraw:
“There’s a place I like to go
Where I can hear the cotton grow
When that train whistles blow
A dozen miles down the road
All I really have to do
Is just be still
When this road gets crazy and tries to break me
And I’ve had all I can stand
I can close my eyes no matter where I am
And just be still.
There’s a place I need to go
Where the stained glass windows glow
Every part of me is known
Thank God I can go there
Thank God I can go there still.”
I write this to you even before you are born. Many of these lessons will be for years down the road, and may even be shared with baby girl cousins (if God should ever give Aunt Sarah a daughter, that is ;)). But these are lessons I have learned through living and loving. I love you dear girl, as you grow in your Mommy’s womb! And I cannot wait to meet you. :)
Aunt Sarah :)
1.) You are beautiful.
Annika, you are beautiful. Magazines, Hollywood and social media will bombard you with crazy, cookie-cutter images of what the world portrays as a “beautiful girl”. Since when did we become walking gingerbread people, all the same height, width, color, curves and donning the same fashionable flair? What a dull, flavorless world that would be, void of all of God’s ceaseless creativity, and rich taste of diversity. God sketched and colored in every part of you the way He, the perfect Creator, envisioned. And girrlllll you look goooood :)
Also, your inner beauty is truly what sparkles, and that is far more important than outer beauty. When those plastic, walking, high-maintenance Barbie girls hit 50 and require $50,000+ to fix what they deem important—their wrinkled hands, their darkened circles under the eyes, their sunspots from the fake-baking, their drooping arm muscles (and we know that sure won’t be the only part of their body drooping)—their “happiness” will fade and their personality perceived as flat. But, sweet girl, even when you’re old, a bit wrinkly and gray, you will captivate hearts with the untainted beauty within, seeping through your skin. Your beauty will never fade, and hearts will always be touched by your radiance as you enter a room.
“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” ~ Psalm 31:30
2.) Your identity is found in Christ.
Your identity is found in Christ. Period. If your eyes veer from focus on our Savior—anxiety, fear, stress, disappointment, remorse, regret—are sure to result. But, darling gal, when you see Christ as your identity and your Rock, no matter what unexpected waves (or monsoons) tumble you to shore, or deep heartache caused, you still can smile and find joy in the truth that the Lord loves you and cherishes you as His daughter, and nothing can or will change His unconditional love for you.
“Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” ~ Galatians 6:17
“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to my mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.’” ~ Lamentations 3:19-24 (Aunt Laura wrote this passage to me on a sticky note back in high school when I was going through a tough time and it always stuck with me :)).
3.) Guard your heart.
“Boys are bad news”. I used to whisper this cynical sentiment to the beautiful baby girl I was a nanny for a summer moons ago. She would giggle and cackle as I repeated it again and again. If the poor girl grows up a love cynic and has no clue why, I may be to blame. ;) But, pretty love, boys are indeed bad news (before I hear an uproar from your Daddy and all the rest o’ the male race let me explain). Boys are bad news, BUT, MEN are fabulous news. Men are a God-given gift, in fact. Baby girl, you will have crushes and surely date boys, and may even experience young, puppy love. However, if you’re like me, put off having a boyfriend as long as possible and just enjoy your high school years being friends with bundles of people; your Aunt Sarah did not have a boyfriend in high school (nor college actually) and though she experienced sorrow when the boy she had a crush on moved on, or her affection was unrequited, because I never dated them my heart was protected so much more securely in comparison. The scars were fewer, or less severe. My high school and college years provided swell time for growth and learning who I truly am and what makes me tick, what my passions are, what I live for, what motivates me, what I love. When I started working a full time job, I was very secure then in who I was. If you do choose to date young, remember to make sure he is your best friend and not just the hot boy who batted his eyes at you. Make sure it is the boy who you love to laugh with, who will respect you, care for you, and a gentleman who will protect your heart in that stage of life.
With your first heartbreak you will feel as if the floor holding you set ablaze and when you try to escape the flames, you feel there is no way out of the searing pain as the smoke saps your air. And this feeling sucks. But, Aunt Sarah speaks from experience when she says that the pain will dull, heal and fade. That pain will often be a blessing in disguise as it will only make you stronger. If your foundation is on Christ, you will realize He has amazing, inexplicable plans for you. And He always has your back. Whether He will bring the same bloke (boy) back into your life at the right time when you both are ready, or whether he was just the wrong boy, God DOES have a plan for you!
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” ~ 1 Peter 1:6-7
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord…” ~ Jeremiah 29:11
As you begin years and years down the road entertaining your heart to the thought of finding that “special someone”, that is truly when you want to ensure that you are only opening your heart to a MAN of God, and not a “boy”. A boy will not protect you, will not cherish you, will not hold you gently, will not lead you spiritually, will not challenge your faith, will not hold your heart with the greatest delicacy. A man knows how to do all those things, and more; a man will do such with grace, strength and beauty. Sadly there are many boys out there who have failed to grow up; they masquerade as men simply because they shave. But my dear, they are just boys who shave. They have not gotten their “man card” yet; a razor does not qualify.
A man, however, will love you, honor you, respect you, encourage you, and hold you gently as the beloved, precious, daughter of God. A man will recognize you as the one-of-a-kind creation you are from our Creator, and will pursue you at all cost. A man will put your needs above his own, just as you will put his needs above your own. Love is sacrificial, but the greatest blessing from God. A man will recognize there are many beautiful women in the world, but that he does not want to “shop” or “look” any further. The right man will choose you to be his wife, and commit. He will place you as his standard of beauty. All other women will fall short of that beauty in his eyes, because he will love you as the gem God has entrusted to him to take care of for the rest of his days. A man will treasure you as his sister (in Christ), his lover and his friend. And in return, you will be a loving, caring, sweet, generous, compassionate, incredible, selfless, passionate, lovely wife to him as well.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” ~ Proverbs 4:23
“Do not arouse or awaken loveuntil it so desires.” ~ Song of Songs 2:7
4.) Never settle for second best.
A missionary friend of mine once said in a sermon, “Never settle for second best”. These words have lingered in my heart ever since I was 13 years old. This goes for all aspects of life—your schoolwork, your extracurricular activities, your friends, your showing love to others, your education, your career, your future mate, your family, etc. Always strive to be the best you can be for the Lord, and never settle for second best in your life. God will surely bless you!
“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” ~ Psalm 34:8
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” ~ Colossians 3:23
5. ) Let your God-given talents and passions dictate your future.
Don’t allow others’ expectations of you to dictate who you are and what you will become. There is only one of you that has ever existed and who ever will exist. If you strive to please others, surely there will always be at least one person you fail to please. Living with this attitude of perfection will make you miserable and hopeless. But if you allow your special, God-given, Annika talents and passions that God has instilled in you to drive your life, you will find genuine, pure joy walking in His will. Pursue your dreams and never let fear hold you back. Fear leads to mediocrity. You will fail at some point (I had to learn that lesson the hard way). But with failure comes great gain, as it strengthens character. Do not let fear prevent you for reaching for the stars, because girl you will sparkle!
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” ~ Psalm 139:13-14
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” ~ 1 Timothy 4:12
6.) Live life as a beautiful adventure.
I have stories upon stories of all my wacky, fun-filled adventures through the years (and they still keep rolling!). Never take yourself too seriously. Loosen the reigns; throw your head back in a ripple of joyous laughter; play in the mud; dance in the rain; embark on a road trip with your gal pals; lay down underneath a summer, star-sprinkled sky; paint pottery; travel the world; eat a snow slushie; chase glittering fireflies; build a sandcastle; salsa dance in the moonlight; bake a delectable dessert; sing as loud as you can as you scrub-a-dub-dub in the tub; play bingo with elderly; jump-rope with kiddos—the world is a canvas with creative opportunities beckoning to shed their color to the scene. Life is a beautiful adventure; live every day in this mindset.
"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.” ~ Isaiah 40:31
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” ~ Philippians 4:4
“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.” ~ Psalm 13:5
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
It’s rather disheartening when you encounter a “wise” person (AKA someone a bit past what some may call their “prime” ;)) who says “It’s just another day. I don’t want to tell you how old I am and I do NOT celebrate my birthday.” It drains my spirit like someone just poured out my entire cup of morning coffee brew (which we all know would be a Sarah nightmare). With today being my birthday, I contemplated why I personally will choose to ALWAYS celebrate my birthday, and why you should too.
1. It’s Not Just Another Day:
OK…technically speaking, yes, it is just another day. However, dare to ponder the day you came to life (you were there, just in case you do not remember). In Spanish, the phrase for giving birth is “dar la luz” which literally means, “to give light”. I may be biased to the Spanish language…well, extremely biased :)…but how beautiful is that sentiment. The day you were born was the day your eyes first perceived the light of the world. The day you were conceived in that little comfy, snug womb of your Mama, was the day your life began. BUT, the day you “charged through the shoot” (I am trying to keep it G-rated here ;)) was the day you came into the light of the world. A miracle happened. You were born. Your birthday, whether birthday number one or 101, serves as a special reminder of God’s artistic hand forming every part of that person who stares back at you in the mirror. God chose to specially design you (Psalm 139), and your birthday reminds oneself that there has never been and will never be another one of you (Heaven knows there could not be more than one of me or it would be disastrous. ;))
2. Magical Memories:
Tip-toeing down the stairs, I peaked around the closed door to peer into the kitchen. My eyes darted to above the kitchen sink where the weathered oak cabinets stood proud and tall as a testament to historical value of an abode oozing of vintage character. There it is! The birthday poster. Tradition in the Cope family home for birthdays was coveted by visiting friends through the years. My Papa Bear would stay up late the night before after all other heads in the household lay heavy on their pillows, and he would decorate THE birthday poster. My Papa would ponder all the major life events, hobbies and accomplishments of the daughter whose birthday was being celebrated, and put his Leonardo Da Vinci creativity to midnight work (OK, not quite Da Vinci, but endearing drawings to look at nonetheless ;)). He crafted a ginormous poster with drawings representing those significant life events throughout the year, and in the center of the poster it would read in large Crayola-fabricated letters: HAPPY # BIRTHDAY, SARAH! These posters continued well into our high school years, and always stirred in me a feeling of special value on my birthday. The very first thought as my eyes sprung to life on my birthday was: “I wonder what my poster looks like this year!”
Additionally, my Marm would spend a majority of her day cooking a scrumptious display of food according to the birthday gal’s desire. Salivating like my beloved goldendoodle Chido, I would sit down and dig into the display of food art, laughing and chattering with the family.
Surprise parties from friends, family and unique birthday adventures all pose as pieces in the birthday celebration mosaic of memories forever residing in my heart.
Fond memories such as these will never cease to ignite the sparkle in my green eyes with the uttered word: “birthday”.
3. Dynamite Days Ahead:
Lastly, with each birthday celebrated I know fresh memories, new traditions and never-ending adventures dangle ahead of me. Today is a day worth celebrating. In eager anticipation, I also ponder how swell it will be to utilize my crazy creativity, which I can never cage because it would make me wholly miserable, to create the most special memories for the birthdays of my future-husband, and for my future-kiddos, to out-pour love on them, and demonstrate how very unique and special they are to me, and how their life is a sweet miracle to the world.
"Celebrate good times, come on!"
I may no longer be 20, but I can tell you in spirit I feel not a day past 20. If you are feeling glum about your next birthday, or about getting older, or maybe an aching bone, a broken tooth, or the fear of tomorrow, remember that attitude is a choice. Why not choose to celebrate life, to celebrate the memories, to celebrate the today, and to celebrate the tomorrow? Oh happy day! :)
“Come in and know me better man…”
I’m a Christmas movie junkie. During the Christmas season plans are ashamedly sometimes dodged if what is being displayed on the Hallmark Christmas channel that night is one that I have yet to see (no offense to you if you were one dodged because the Christmas movie grabbed my time ;)) …or mayhaps one I just want to see for the umpteenth time because it makes me all giddy and tingly inside. The predictable but yet heart-warming factor of the Hallmark Christmas movies is that you can guarantee you will end the movie with a smile, a sigh and a fuzzy, warm feeling of love…because 99% of the time they finalize with the ultimate happy, cliché ending (after all, isn’t that how life always works? ;)). You certainly get the characteristic splash of “holly and jolly” to your Christmas cheer.
Additionally, the Christmas classics conjure up in me that captivating, enchanting feel of Christmases past when I would cozy up with the family and pup, Christmas tree sparkling in the dimmed light, sipping hot cocoa with sprinkled mini ‘shmellows melting amidst the liquid chocolate, anxious to watch A Charlie Brown’s Christmas, or Frosty the Snowman, or White Christmas, or Miracle on 34th Street, and a plethora of other Christmas classics. Christmas is that time of year where you have the sensation of hope and comfort yet again that our Savior was born.
This past month I have felt like I’m viewing my life through the glasses of the traditional, lessons-to-be-learned, A Christmas Carol. I have visited life with the “ghost of Christmas past”, “present” and “future”. Before you enlist me into the funny farm, I assure you I was not truly visited by these three “ghosts”. However, I have felt like life has said “Come in and know me better man” (without the fluffy, big, orange hair of my preferred muppets’ version of the tale ;)) as I have visited my past, present and future.
I have reminisced “Christmas past” and reflected on the events and circumstances that have molded and grown who I am today as Sarah. With every event re-visited, I saw the “Christmas future” as I ponder on what my future would be like if the outcomes had been different than what they truly were in my past. If life would have spun in a different direction or I had chosen a different path at various crossroads, I have witnessed a glimpse of how different life would look. And though my past has been scattered with a plethora of failures and mistakes, I also realize how God has had my back with each year past. Times where I prayed urgently for a specific door to be open but God shut it, now looking back, has always resulted in me entering a different, forever better, door.
Furthermore, I see my present with “the ghost of Christmas present”. Thinking deeply about my current life and decisions, like a spectator of my own life, I see that each choice I make will appear on stage with the “ghost of Christmas future”. For example, if I eat an omelet today, tomorrow I will…just kidding. But in all seriousness, frequently opportunities or decisions of the present, I neglect to give weight to how they will linger into and camp in my Christmas future. It is an intimidating, but enlightening thought.
Ten years ago, looking back with my “ghost of Christmas past”, I received medical news that was devastating. Truly that news shaped every “Christmas future” that followed it in some way. I felt the heavy heart with this serious burden almost daily; a matter I wrestled with God because it was difficult news to bear at age 15. That situation dropped me to my knees on many occasions through the years, tears unleashed from my eyes, as I asked Him, “Why?” But it is also that news that shaped my faith in big, impressionable ways and brought me to a place of contentment and palms-up surrender to God. I reached that mountaintop of “Alright God, if these are the cards I have been dealt and if this can be utilized for Your glory, let it be. Just give me the strength to live it out with grace.”
Just this past Friday my “ghost of Christmas future” totally changed and revoked what I had heard 10 years ago. The rope attaching the burden to me was slashed by God, and I am free from its grip. God poured out His blessings beyond my fathom. It’s not a situation I currently would like to disclose on this post, because it isn’t the time nor place for it. But as I gander back, I see that I would not have near as much compassion, care or perspective for people without those ten years of trial, because I lived those ten years dealing with what I thought was a “done deal”. Some of my greatest passions in life were as a result of that news ten years ago. I can now come alongside and say to others “Sweetheart, I’ve been there and have felt what you are feeling.” In a swoop of a minute’s time, without expectancy, God granted me a “yes” to a ten-year long prayer of mine for a miracle.
So with all these Sarah ramblings that run through my fingertips, I challenge you to visit with “the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future”. The only time you currently have the power to change is the present, so focus on that. For example relationships…
There are married individuals who wear the “Unhappy” sign across their forehead, and sometimes even boldly profess it with their lips. I’ve also heard the unsettling words of, “I would not be married to him/her if I could do it all over again.” For those who are married I say, “I am no expert but…whether you like it or not, you are in this for the long haul. You’re in it for the rest of the race.” Marriage is not for you, it is for sanctification (there’s a big word for the day). Marriage is for you to grow in selflessness, love, to become more pure, more holy and exemplify and grow deeper in reflecting the characteristics of God. Thus, I suggest because you are in it for the long haul, instead of existing in utter misery, revisit the past with the “ghost of Christmas past” and relive the memories of how and why you first fell in love with your spouse. Remember those characteristics and values that wooed you and made you desire to do life with him or her in the first place. Relive the energy, the childlike feelings that sprung in your heart like the magic of a shooting star, making you feel like you were a little kid again whenever she or he walked into the room. Court your spouse again, be creative, make them fall in love with you again; if you did it once, you can do it again!
If you are engaged, my advice is to visit with the “ghost of Christmas present”. My very wise friend gave me advice a couple years ago, which I continue to tuck away in my memory bank for the right time of life; she told me when I am engaged someday to write down all the traits and reasons you love your fiancé, and keep that list somewhere, so that when you’re struggling, or had a fight, or feeling “blah” about your marriage, you will be reminded of what makes him or her so special, why you love them and what makes you blessed to be married to such a gem of a person.
And if you are currently in a dating relationship, spend time with the “ghost of Christmas present”. Is your relationship growing or is it stagnant? Does it have purpose or does it lack direction? Does it have passion or is it just a feeling of security? Is it one of blessing or is it more a curse? Does it give you drive and energy for tackling life or does it hold you back? Does it bear fruit or is it fruitless? Does it bring out the best traits in you or does it magnify the worst in you? Is it great or just good? If you visit with the “ghost of Christmas future” and envision yourself married to that person, 30 years down the road how will that marriage look? If it is a stagnant relationship already, what shall happen when you get completely comfortable with that relationship and are no longer just stagnant but know drifting backward? Will it have any life left? Is it lifeless now? If your responses to these questions are all the more negative or passé responses, my question to you is one of difficulty but truth: “Why are you still with that person?” Life is short, there is truly no time to waste. I believe entirely that God has a relationship of life, energy, passion, growth, fruit, excitement and beauty in store for you, if you would only follow His timing and direction toward the right person for you. You are only dating, not married. Now is the time to make sure you don’t look back with “the ghost of Christmas past” with complete regret that you chose that person to marry.
And if you are a single lady or fella, it is a cruel, brutal world out there. Believe you me, there have been countless instances where I would like to take my mini-size hand, forming my fingers into true spit-fire fashioned fist, and “take care of business”, leaving a shiny, pretty black and blue eye to a fella on the behalf of one of my dear gal pals who have been hurt on account of yet another heartless jerk. But my challenge to myself and you is to forever remember God protects us and has our backs—whether you are already a friend with the person now and it just is not the right time or circumstance of life to be with him/her yet, or if you have not met them yet, our Daddy in Heaven is working it out for you. Sometimes God just takes us down the back roads and we have to persevere and grow, and after hitting a bunch of potholes we will with grateful praise reach the freeway of being with the one He has intended.
And to life in general—your job, your family, your friends—pursue what lasts. Pursue what endures the times. Pursue Christ, loving others, caring for those around you each and every day, giving your heart to His work, living out your passions with vision and direction. I assure you, your cup will runneth over.
Each day is a special day. Lately I have been lighting a lovely scented candle in my room as I prepare for the day. A candle signifies a special occasion or holy occasion. Each day is a special day because God created it. Each day is a holy day because it is set apart for God. So light a candle and realize today is your day to cease. Visit with your ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. Whether you are 5 or 115 (and have appeared on the Smucker’s label 3 times by now announced with such commentary as “Betty turned 115 today. She likes to knit, take long walks around her neighborhood and eat apple pie” ;)) you are alive and therefore there is time to change your “ghost of Christmas future” for the better. “Come in and know me better man.”
Yeah, that’s not normal.
From blue-faced Smurf baby scream to an unmentionable current “spry” age, I have all throughout my life seen the glance, or even better, verbally spoken affirmation, that which everyone wants to be the receiver of…”Yeah, you’re not normal.” Apparently in school I was deceived when reassured there is no classification of “normal” and “abnormal”, because I have been readily called out again and again as “not normal”. But you know, that’s quite swell with me. Life would be a yawn and bore-fest for an adventurous, tackle-the-whole-world gal like myself if I dreadfully tumbled into the bottomless pot of “normal”s in the heavily sprinkled population. I would rather be a member of the colorful funfetti sprinkles than the one-colored, one-dimension powdered sugar on top of the cake. However, I still wonder if there truly is a “normal” and “not normal”…I think not. But, in case there exists such a distinction, I figured I should probably write a series of blogs on behalf of the few “not normal” ones of the world…because, hey, I suppose the world would like a little added spice into the pot of normal.
Here is the first…
First Tale: Coge el Coco
It was a brisk, antiquified (apparently us “not normal”s also make up our own words and have our own dictionary) day in that picturesque city of Salamanca, Spain. The party life of the Spanish town was still pre-party snoozing because if I learned anything in Spain, I learned they only commence their fun festivities at my granny bedtime of 1am. I however had a craving for a snack, and so did my dear American friend Valerie.
Thus, we embarked for the grocery story, which looked more like a famous historical building because from gas station to cathedral, everything oozed beautiful character and looked like it could welcome the king. Valerie selected some chocolatey goodness as we were far from the Sweetest Place on Earth and our blood stream was quickly loosing the chocolate-colored veins that usually pumped through our streams. Yes, we came close to needing an IV. I, however, feasted my eyes on a specific item yoddling my name….a coco…or coconut as you may say in English. What better Friday night midnight snack than a fresh coconut? Yes, I live life on the wild side. So I knocked on the coconuts testing them out, pretending I knew what beating on a ripe coconut should sound like. If we’re being wholly honest here, how many of us truly know what a ripe coconut or cantaloupe or watermelon sounds like compared to that of an unripe? But yet we all gracefully pull our fingers into the formation of a fist in true pro-fruit shopper art form, and tap out a tune to demonstrate to the world, “Yes, I know how to pick my fruit”…until we take it home and it tastes as flavorless as water.
Arriving back to our host Mom’s Spanish flat, we sneaked down the hallway because Heaven forbid a nosy Spanish Señora to stumble into the hallway with us bearing evidence of purchased late night snacks. In her opinion that would signify one thing and one thing only “I need to feed them more.” And truly, my stomach already had stretched from frog to cow appetite, reaching a whole new level due to the incredible feast prepared at every meal.
Pre-girl night of coconuts, chocolate and chick flick I Skyped my beautiful parents back at home. Bubbling over in excitement, I eagerly proclaimed, “I bought a coconut for snack!” To which my Papa, the forever-wise one, flatly states, “How are you going to get it open?”
“Well what do you mean?” I retort. “A knife, of course!”
A chuckle ripples into a cackle from my parents. “Sarah, you need a hammer!”
Pop. The balloon of excitement deflates in a matter of a split-second. But, never allowing one to kill my dreams with one swipe, I decided I would find a way, another balloon of hope inflating.
I recruited Valerie (poor thing had to put up with my antics this entire trip) and we re-snuck back out the house, this time onto the street out in front of the flat. Nearing midnight, I take the coconut and toss it against the pavement. No break. Her and I stifle a giggle and I try again. No break. I proceed to beat the coconut against the pavement wondering why in the world this fruit is so stubborn against me. CRACK. Alas. Mission accomplished…coconut split open. We scurry back inside to the kitchen to finish off the opening of the luscious fruit. Feeling a bit like Eve eating forbidden fruit in sanctuary of a Spanish Señora, I eagerly lift the coconut to my desiring lips for its first taste to satisfy the deep craving within. I let out a silent yelp. YUCK. I start hacking up mouthful of coconut into the trashcan.
I quickly realize my knocking truly was all done in vain. The coconut was rotten. My midnight rendezvous on the streets of Spain to partake of my “fresh” snack…ruined. Beads of sweat wasted on a shamed, rotten coconut.
“Yeah, that’s not normal…”
Fear. “The only thing to fear is fear itself.” ~ FDR
It can paralyze us. It can eat away like gnats on our soul. It can ball and chain us to a buoy and drag us under, plummeting us into its engulfing deep, abandoning us lifeless.
We fear change. We fear failure. We fear a wrong decision. We fear new adventures. We fear the risk. We fear love. We fear the best. We fear the unknown. We fear hurting others. We fear the future. We fear death. Fear is a steroid which feeds to the growth of inhibiting, detrimental, negative feelings and worries, and resulting in us miserably not living life to its utmost full.
The fact is I was a slave to fear. I feared failure…then I failed. And then I failed again. And again. And…you get the picture ;). However, I realized the result was not weakened character but instead a stronger character developed in me as a result to my failures. “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~ 2 Corinth 12:10 In Him, I am made strong.
I feared risk. I took risks and sometimes fell flat on the macadam (literally ;)) ~ but in the process I have gained scars reminding me of gained wisdom, lessons learned, God’s grace and God’s healing of our past. On the other hand, other taken risks have often sparkled like shooting stars marking the entire night sky, igniting a brighter life in me.
I feared love. What if I would get bruised or broken in the process? Well, folks, it happens. I often thought it would result in an inability to love again, but in exactly the opposite way past wounds have only taught me to love more passionately, more vibrantly, more deeply, more creatively. If you don’t use a muscle it atrophies. Love is like a muscle ~ you must use it and feed it to allow it to become as great as the Incredible Hulk. Additionally, I feared hurting others in loving them. Regrettably I have hurt friends or family I love as a result of nasty sin in me. But I also know God always has my back and their backs, and He always picks us up, pours out fresh blessings on us and provides us with a brighter tomorrow.
I feared change. I often settled for comfortability out of fear of what would ensue with change. However, I forever remember the words of a dear and wise missionary friend of mine, “Whatever you do, never ever settle for second best in life.” Keeping his words tucked in my heart has taught me so much about life. “Good” is solely that…”good.” “Good” is middle of the pack. But God calls us not to live just “good” lives or have “good” relationships; God took the time to perfectly design an artistic blueprint and specifically sketch a “Me” and a “You”, and to breathe to life each and every one of us in His unique way. He gives us His best everyday, and He has the best in store for us ~ if only we trust Him as our parachute when we take a faith skydive. If you scan a crayon box, what colors pop to your befalling eyes? It’s not the gray crayon that attracts attention, but instead the sunshine yellow, the creamsicle orange, the Hawaii water blue, the fiery red or the candy heart pink. God wants our lives to be infused fully of color, or else He would have created the world in all grays. Why should we ourselves settle for just “ok” or “good” when God, the Creator Himself, has a life of “amazing” and “great” and “splashingly colorful” awaiting us right at our fingertips? All we have to do is outstretch our palms and accept His gift of vibrant joy and best for our lives.
I feared the future and the unknown. I must confess, this is still a struggle that I go to boxing match with, but I know its all about trust and faith. I know enchanting days lie ahead. :)
Fear is crippling…I have fallen victim many times to its imprisoning power in my life. But “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” ~ John 14:31 and “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” ~ 1 John 4:18.
Do not fear!
2014: Live with no regret, reach for the best, seek fresh beginnings and bask in hope and love, for the best days are yet to come. :)
I was randomly inspired to write these song lyrics several months ago and just rediscovered them on my computer…here they be! :)
Teardrops drip like wet paint
Drafting its own Goya representing within,
Pain trickling through thick skin,
Pallet’s dark colors smeared on white -
Another tainted life.
Where’s the Artist’s strokes of grace?
Agony of desperation, I feel no place
Stained and changed by eerie reality;
Are we truly just a living tragedy?
Flashback to His tears of red -
A nail, a last breath…it was said.
A douse of black, a bitter brown
A pitiful reflection this body may seem,
Scraping producing but screams.
The mezcla of colors combine in process –
Beautiful artifact found.
Where’s the Artist’s strokes of grace?
Agony of desperation, I feel no place
Stained and changed by eerie reality;
Are we truly just a living tragedy?
Flashback to His tears of red,
A nail, a last breath…it was said.
I am your canvas, I am your work
Every breath, every stroke,
At the command of Your talented hand.
A temptation of an internal processor like myself would be to not share this but instead solely allow it to settle within…but as it is part of God’s testimony and work in me, I hope by sharing it that anyone else experiencing these sort of feelings this Christmas can also see the hope and love, and be encouraged by the faithfulness of our precious Lord…
This Christmas season for me is different than any Christmas before. Usually my thoughts of Christmas more so linger on the celebration and cheer of the sweet miracle of Christ’s birth. It’s a beautiful season to return to the journey and awe of His birth, no doubt. But this Christmas my thoughts continuously contemplate and fixate on the reason why He came, and the painful days that our Savior would encounter in His years to come…
On that bitter cold night, a war raged in the spiritual realm. God thundered, “ENOUGH!” In the form of God as flesh, the Son Jesus climbed down from His throne to collide with and confront the human catastrophe, and to clean up the mess Satan was conjuring up on God’s created earth.
What other King leaves His throne? The baby born in a dumpy stable outside an over-flowing Bethlehem inn would be the same One to willingly take the deadly weight of all sin onto Himself on the cross, conquering death itself as a perfect sacrifice. The baby born to a “nobody,” an ordinary, virgin, young teenage girl would experience an ugly mosaic of emotions as a result of others’ sin—feelings of betrayal, rejection, accusation, cheated, lied to, back-stabbed, unjustly treated, used, chewed up and spit out, forgotten and unloved. The fact is, our perfect, sweet Savior had to go through all these human emotions during His walk on earth, and taking with Him the world’s sin in His final breath, so that He could mediate effectively on our behalf…
This Christmas season I’m experiencing many of those previously listed emotions—a pale reflection of the magnitude to which our Messiah experienced them, of course. Even so, plaguing my heart are resulting pangs from being severely wronged. In the agony of hurt, however, I hear my Mediator’s passionate love beckoning to God, “Father, have mercy on her…I’ve been there. I’ve felt that. Rejection? Betrayal? Being cheated? Being lied to? Being sold out, burned and thrown away by the one closest to us, the one who we love so deeply? It’s bitter, it’s brutally painful, it’s an unrelenting heartache. Rescue her, Father. Hold her. Extend Your hand of grace and let her know she is Your daughter and is Your created one. Let her know YOU will never abandon her for YOU are forever faithful. Let her know she is deeply loved by the King.”
My gaze shifts to the cross and what does the sinless Son of God the Father say while dangling from the tree? As He’s being spat on and treated like the worst sort of wretched criminal, He utters, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus Christ looks at me and does not see the stains of my gross, deadly sins but instead looks at me and sees the white ink engraved: “FORGIVEN”. If the One who stepped in to block the deserved and just punishment aimed at me, a guilty sinner, sees only pure white running through my veins, certainly I, a forgiven sinner, can forgive the human wrongs done to me.
He wipes the salty tears dripping from my raw skin, touching the freshly seared emotional scars within, to continue molding out the bumps and bruises to form a more pure, a more beautiful, a more godly daughter of His…
A daughter of the Extraordinary King
In the terminal of life I sink down in my seat and prop up my feet to observe and bask in God’s eclectic, never-dulling creativity. Bodies of all statures, colors, molds and historic tales funnel together to wait in a single unit - their shared interest solely their destination.
There’s the businessman with his tightened pinstriped tie and MacBook pro who clicks alternately with sipping his Starbucks’ Americano and frequent interruptions from his IPhone. Like the rhythm of a snare drum he alternates on beat between slide of finger on IPhone, sip, whoosh of text message, click on keyboard, slide of finger on IPhone, sip, whoosh of text message, click on keyboard, repeat. It’s just another day of his habitual routine.
There sits cuddled in each other’s arms the honeymooners who could not care less whose eyes might befall on them. Out deep at sea in love, their gaze, ripple of laughter and entwined fingers emanate rich passion and the beautiful unity of two who have become one flesh. They understand the pure truth of “two are better than one.” This signifies their first destination of a lifetime of adventures.
A middle-aged man with his elderly mother sit waiting, both chortling and reminiscing of the “good ol’ days” as they prepare to move her south where she can hibernate underneath the welcoming tingle of warm sunshine illuminating dulled winter skin.
There’s the young woman isolated in the far corner of the terminal, shadowed lines etched high on her cheekbones telling of her misery of sleepless nights and fresh ink on the divorce papers. Her mind flickers yet again to the image of her once husband with his new girlfriend and her heart silently sobs of its merciless anguish of a broken life. “Husband” and “husband’s girlfriend” should never dared be uttered in the same sentence.
An aged couple of peppered hair signifying wisdom of the years makes entertaining commentary as they people watch all those who pass by. He dons his khaki pants, cornflower blue shirt with a collar and a tan fedora, while she fashions in white linen pants, a lime cotton shirt and flowered silk scarf dangling around her neck. They are a sure sign of style and pizzazz, and the fresh colors of a life of retirement.
A college field hockey team gossips nervously at a pace not even a well-trained auctioneer could keep step with. The tournament, the upcoming weekend, the new couple on campus – the topics spring to the sky at the consistent pace of a clay pigeon shooter.
A kaleidoscope of tales who have the stamp on their ticket signifying one commonality: their destination.
The different terminals resonate symbolism of different destinations. It’s fascinating how such events can bring to light fresh realization of life, love and other mysteries.
Just another gal in the waiting room
Hello World ~
I wrote this a lil while back in response to a vision God gave me and have been meaning to share…here goes…
"White-washed, pure background
And there He dangles with a prickly crown
The rugged, criminal’s cross of shame,
For the Creator, not one’s imagined picture of fame.
Jesus, the Son, agonized by unbearable pressure of every sin—
Dripping blood, victim of brutality, Lamb of God with tethered skin.
This time the envisioned Savior not surrounded by contemptuous crowds,
But as an onlooker I see solely a girl kneeling at the cross, head bowed.
Dark brown curls dangling to frame her face,
In comparison to others she may not appear to be a disgrace—
Though adventurous, a dare devil oozing spunk,
A lover of God, “good girl” by nature, her history lacking what others label “junk”.
But as this girl Sarah humbly looks to the Savior suspended above,
Her breath halts, eyes glisten at a new look upon this act of inexplicable love;
For in each nail drove into Christ, an etched word,
Clearly engraved, not a bit blurred.
One nail reads Sarah, one Lynn and the other Cope…
In her vanished all self-saving hope—
For every thought or act of pride, greed, lust, anger, and selfish plea,
Was another nail in Christ’s flesh on the tree.
A horrid genuine understanding these sins make her no purer than the prostitute,
And if no other person existed, her sin seals His death as still absolute.
Fresh tears pool in her olive-colored eyes, running downstream her face,
A life of a Pharisee, what a disgrace.
The Lord mouths the words “I love you” and her body shakes in sobs not borrowed,
Oh, the ache of Godly sorrow.
The response to this painfully beautiful scene,
Is to repent and ask to be washed clean.
With every committed sin I wonder if Christ experiences the sting again,
Let me never neglect to fix my eyes on the one who died for all men.
The Savior came down from His throne as perfect sacrifice,
So a sinner, that’s me, has the choice for eternal life.”
A Sinner Set Free