Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Birthday Post: What's In A Name?

My four-year old asked me this morning, "Mom, are you thirty or one hundred today?"

"Somewhere in there", I told him, patted him on the head, looked in the mirror, and yanked out another grey hair.

THEY ARE TAKING OVER. So, yes. I am losing the war. But, I ain't going down without a FIGHT and a good hairdresser with a stack of trashy magazines and a tub of color me happy.

I always feel this strange mix of emotions on my birthday - about getting older, about days gone by that will never be again, about the life God has given me. Maybe birthdays are really supposed to be for kids and balloons and birthday parties, but truthfully? I LOVE my birthday. I LOVE a reason to celebrate. I LOVE that my husband has a GOOD reason to take off of work and take me to lunch and shopping all day... like he did today. <---- #lovelanguage

I love that he bought me high top polka dot Converse.

And, I LOVE cake.

I love that God has given me another day, another year to live here on earth.

Can I tell you a birthday story?

My mother miscarried a baby before she got pregnant with me.

When she and I talk about it, which we do from time to time - usually on my birthday or when I've had a baby, a certain sadness comes over her followed by a thankful smile, "But, if God had given me that baby, I wouldn't have you."

It always makes me cry. I lost a baby, too.

When I was born, she and my Dad named me Sarah Grace.

When I first asked her, "Why did you name me Sarah?", she responded, "That was your father's choice. He was very adamant about it." A biblical name that he loved. So very Dad to choose Sarah.

But, why "Grace"?

Grace was born from uncertainty. Grace came after loss. Grace was God's gift after sorrow. God loving through and after pain. Grace was God's triumph over hurt.

You see, when my mother lost the baby she was carrying before I came to be, her doctor looked at her and said, "Sharon, you can't have more children."

"Can't?", she asked. "Or shouldn't?"

Her doctor looked at her with stern concern: "Shouldn't."

Here I am. Celebrating another birthday with polka dot high top Converse, five children of my own, and a Chipotle burrito bowl.

A "Shouldn't" that was. A "Shouldn't" that is.

Sarah Grace.

My father's girl. Sarah. And, God's unexpected gift to my mother. Grace. A "Shouldn't" baby who helped heal and stitch new love where loss had left empty arms and hearts.

Today, my heart's song is grace. One of my closest friends once told me, "Sar, you crave grace like chocolate chip cookies."

Don't all of us? God's unmerited favor. God lavishing on us what we don't deserve. Despite all of our screw-ups and selfishness and hurt and pain and loss.

YES, I crave it. I want to bathe in it. And, I desperately want to be grace to others. Extending it - even when it isn't deserved because it's been given to me ten-thousand fold - and I don't deserve it.

God saved me. He saved a "Shouldn't" baby and knit me together in my mother's womb and gave me a perfectly imperfect body. My body bears scars - the outside and the inside. Outside scars that tell even strangers that suffering is part of life. And, heart wounds that tell those closest to me that God never promised easy. To any of us.

But, God has never been short on grace in my life. He has always showered me with it - over and over in every season. Through every trial.

And, here I am. So thankful that He's given me another year.

Here to tell whoever will listen that while my body and my heart bear the wounds of suffering, Jesus died for me in the biggest grace-display in history. He died to give me life - new life as a baby in my mother's arms, and a new life and new heart that gets to spend eternity with Him.

He gave this to you, too.

You may know me as Sarah - wife to Jason, mother of those five disheveled whippersnappers, writer of stories, taker of TOO MANY pictures, and the one laughing too loud at the most inappropriate times.

But, if you know me as no one else, I want you to know me as Sarah Grace - the "Shouldn't" God brought to be, the daughter of Larry and Sharon - God's gift of grace after loss.

Sarah. Who craves grace like chocolate chip cookies and whose great privilege is to live out loud a life of thankfulness, obedience, and joy to the One who brought me to life, saved me, and loves me as His own.

Just a simple girl that God loves and Jesus saved and whose name is written in the great book of Life.

A "Shouldn't" who, by God's grace, is -

...and who wants you to know, today on my birthday and every day in between, that Jesus loves you, He died for you, and His amazing grace is for you, too.

Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Greater than all my sin;
How shall my tongue describe it,
Where shall its praise begin?
Taking away my burden,
Setting my spirit free;
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The One Thing I Want My Children To Know When They Leave Home

I was watching my kids play together today.

I have so many hopes and dreams for them.

I want them to know love and I want them to succeed.
I want them to be kind and gracious and I want them to love others well.
I want them to be parents someday and know the joy of children and I want them to be givers - of their money, of their time, and of their talents.

Some may come to be. Others may not.

After all, those are my dreams for them. Not theirs.

We get to spend just the first quarter of our children's lives with them. Teaching them and helping them and then they'll spend the rest of their lives away from us. Living their stories and fulfilling their dreams and that one quarter will, so I've been told, be gone in a flash if we so much as blink.

So what do I want my children to know? What do I want them to carry away from their days with me?

Is it how to dress properly?
It is how to behave when we go to someone's house for dinner?
Is it the importance of good grades?
Is it to keep their rooms clean?

It matters what they wear and it matters how they act at dinner and how they talk to their parents and teachers and that they know how to pick up after themselves.

I want them to be respectful of others and hold jobs and thrive in society.

But, do you know what really matters to me?

Their hearts.

I am often tempted to squeeze their little souls into a mold of What Makes Me Look Good and What Makes My Life Easy Now and to base my mothering on all of the external praises that sound like, "What well-behaved and well-dressed and well-mannered children you have." That feels good...for a moment. It feels even better when I get to retell it later to anyone who will listen.

But, that kind of mothering always sends me (and them) on a hamster wheel - striving for some fictitious idea of behavioral perfection that neither I nor they could ever achieve.

But, here's what I've learned. Here's what I KNOW:

I am not trying to raise perfect children. I am trying to raise adults who run to God.

You see, they are little and it is so easy to focus on the now - when spilled Cheerios and temper tantrums and the disapproving looks of strangers are what seem most important.

But, ultimately, they will grow up. They won't be spilling Cheerios or throwing temper tantrums or pulling the batteries off of the rungs in the Target checkout line. (Hopefully. Though I've seen grown adults throw checkout line temper tantrums for the ages...)

So what is the one thing I want my children to know when they leave home?

I want my children to know they can run to God.

I want them to know that God cares about EVERY. SINGLE. THING. going on in their hearts. That He cares deeply about their hurts and successes and hopes and broken dreams and broken hearts and that they can RUN TO HIM with all of that and know that His arms are open wide.

Always. Always open.

They desperately need to see this modeled in me, in my husband, in our everyday life, now and while they're little, as we struggle and forgive and love and mess up. If we're not teaching them to run to God, then manners and politeness and grades and what they wore to church simply do not matter if they walk out the door of our home and don't know that God will carry them through any trial. That He will celebrate every victory.

That He feels their every loss and heartache and will be there for them - just like He was when they were little. Just like He was for Mom and Dad and just like He will be for the friends they meet who don't know Him and if God chooses, for their children, too.

These children, our gifts straight from Heaven, are growing into adults who will lead unique lives and face different struggles and hardships and circumstances that are as different as they are. And they get but one childhood with us and we can focus on all the wrong things, or we can help imprint the truth of who God is on their hearts and they can carry that with them - for every day of their entire lives.

So what is the one thing I want my children to know when they leave home?

That today as children and tomorrow as adults - in every trial, every success, every failure, every heartache, every hurt...

Wherever life takes them.

They can run to the loving arms of God.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Our Family {Easter 2015}

Can I just tell you how unspeakably grateful I am for these six people?

How much joy they bring to my heart...

How fun and unique and different each one is from the other...

How each face is a precious and sweet reminder to me of God's grace to me...

And, how on Easter, every year, I feel an utter sense of awe that God would give His only son, Jesus, to save and rescue them. When I can't imagine for even one moment giving up one of my children to save anyone else.

God has been so good to me to let me love them.

Happy (belated) Easter, friends.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

When You're Just Not Good Enough

Finishing ANYTHING has never been easy for me.

I'm easily distracted, I fly by the seat of my pants, I'm a professional procrastinator, I'll get to it sometime is my life-long motto. Oh, and I LOVE naps.

If it weren't for grace, I'd say I'm a quitter.

But, Sarah. You have five children. Nope. I've been this way since I was a little girl.

I have this distinct childhood memory of my sister and I staring at the disaster that was our bedroom after being told we had to clean it up or we'd get no supper. We both flopped on our side-by-side twin beds and plotted for an hour (or hours - who was counting? We weren't.) about how we might go about it.

We wrote out our plan on little wooden chalkboards. Erased it. Then wrote a new plan when we realized Plan A would mean we'd have to get up and actually do something.

Then we were so worn out from all the planning that we sat down on the floor amidst the mess and created a lavish Barbie wedding with a roll of toilet paper.

I'm sure hours passed before either of us ever gave a thought to the fact that all the planning, the chalkboard lists, and the really, really good intentions would mean the eminent banishment to our bedroom for the rest of our lives.

Sometimes I think I was just never taught. I didn't have organized parents. I didn't grow up in an organized house. When my mother said, "Clean under your bed", I threw everything in the closet. When she said, "Clean out your closet" - (worst scenario EVER for a kid who was told last week to clean under the bed), I shoved everything under the bed.

I'm thirty {ahem} years-old now. But, wow - I am still that eight year-old shoving messes from one place to another. When I clean out my closet - now, as a grown-up, a mother of FIVE children - I put everything in my bedroom. If I need to clean my bedroom, everything goes back in the closet.

Mess shuffler? Does that sound right?

Sometimes I feel like I'm a prisoner of what I can't be, don't know how to be, wasn't taught to be. You may see me as Sarah - she sings, she cooks, she blogs, she mothers.

But listen: It's easy to share successes. Take pic, edit, filter, post. Repeat. Repeat, again.

But, I am full of doubt about who I am - every day. I'm scared and overwhelmed by all that I'm not. I look around and see what is unfinished and all that is unworthy and unwelcome in this Pinterest world we live in. I see the secret closets and the drawers full of yesterday, yestermonth, yesteryear. A mess of stuff I shuffle around in my head - things I want to do, to be, to actually complete.

And, the mess that sits upstairs in my bedroom AND in my closet is so catastrophic that even if the spirit of transparency hit me like never before in my life, there is no way in tarnation I would let you see a photo of it.

But, more than ANY of that, I know the secret places in my heart. The places that are dirtier, messier, and more unlovely than any bedroom, any closet, any drawer.

But, can I tell you why my soul is not discouraged? Deep down - in the places that define me?

Because when God looks at me, He doesn't see all that I am not. God sees who He is making me.

Because while He is making me new, He has enough grace for me. For ALL OF THIS.

When I feel like a quitter who just. can't. get. it. together, I cling to this grace-filled message of hope that God gave to us because He knew we would need it - and I preach it to myself:

And I am sure of this, that he who began
a good work in you will bring it to completion
at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6

YES. I'm easily distracted.
I fly by the seat of my pants.
I'm a professional procrastinator.
I'll get to it sometime is my life-long motto.
And, YES, I love naps.

But, I have THIS promise:

God is not a quitter. He carried His own cross up a hill and died for me in the most glorious finish in history. My life is His work. He doesn't give up.

He isn't giving up on me. He isn't giving up on you.

I may not be organized. My bedroom might be messy. And, the drawers and closets and secret places in my heart that I don't want anyone to see scream out "You are not good enough, Sar."

But, I have God's promise - that He began something marvelous in me when He made me His, and until I fly through the ribbon at the end of my life and finish this race, I will cling to the grace and promise of knowing that I am His project, His plan, His girl.

And, He's not finished with me yet.

So, today. THIS promise:

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:19

Grace for secret closets.
Grace for messy hearts.
Grace for naps.
Grace for little girls with chalkboard plans.
Grace for their little boys with sticky fingers and muddy shoes.


While He's doing His great work in me.

While He's doing His great work in you.