The Blessing of Abraham {An Advent Series of Hope}  0

 

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“God told Abram, “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land I will show you.
I’ll make you a great nation and bless you… All the families of the Earth will be blessed through you.”

Genesis 12:1-3

The creek that runs through Crazy Woman Canyon winds down from the mountain and into the town of Buffalo, Wyoming.  We made our way deep into the canyon, following the Clear Creek the entire way.  The road is narrow, forced to follow the path of the rushing water along the way.  But there are several pull offs, because it’s inevitable…. you can’t simply drive through the canyon.  At some point, you must get out and explore.    We crossed the rushing water, Peter leading us through the water, testing out the rocks first before he’d let us step on them. It was so loud that we had to shout in order to hear one another.  Even in the middle of summer, it was icy cold and the kids plunged their feet in,  their teeth chattering.

 

When we returned to town later, we went to the park, where Clear Creek ran right through the middle. It was the same creek, but everything about it was different than in the canyon.  We were able to let the kids explore on their own, slipping through the rocks.  We sat on the shore while they played, the gentle sound of running water relaxing us.

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Wendell Berry writes,

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

And so God called Abraham to leave all that he knew.  He stripped away the familiar— his home, his country, his family— and called him to a life of utter dependence and obedience.  And Abraham took the risk and said yes.  He dared to give up the calm waters for the white waters.  The unknown obstacles must have been enormous.  The fear must have been overwhelming.  But he did it anyway.  At 75 years of age, he took his wife, his nephew, his livestock and his family, stepping into the unknown.

 

D.L. Moody, an American evangelist and publisher, wrote, “Faith is the gift of God.  So is the air, but you have to breath it; so is bread, but you have to eat it; so is water, but you have to drink it.”

 

God has given you the gift of this Advent.  He has promised to bless you.  But you must open your eyes to the blessing.  You must dare to live with your heart and hands open to receive, even when your heart has been broken into pieces.  We hear the whispers to huddle in, to protect ourselves and live closed.  The grief is too much.  The anger is too real.  The stronghold is too big.  But it isn’t true.  Jesus came to heal, to bring peace.  His life is a gift to you.  You can let go of it all, because He has come.

 

The rocks in the stream— the obstacles in your life—might threaten to overtake you, but they are also the very thing that allows your soul to sing.

 

And the amazing thing about our heartache is that when we allow Jesus to heal us and bless us, we suddenly open our eyes to the hurt in the world.  And we realize that we ourselves can be the blessing to others.

 

God blessed Abraham and in turn, Abraham was a blessing to others.  He does the same for you.  It’s the strangest thing, but to the tip of my toes I know it to be true.  When you allow God to use your heartache, you will bless others. Sit with a piece of paper and test it out yourself— how have others blessed you?  A kind word, a note, a gift?  Pass it on to someone else, even when your heart is heavy.  When we live as blessed people, we can freely give blessings to others.

 

 

 

{Hello, Friend.}
There are hard seasons in life.   But even in the midst of sorrow, you can hold tightly to the hope of Christ.  Want to know more? My free eBook tells the story of how I grappled with loss and grace in the days, months and years after burying a child.  You can find it on iBooks or Google Books.

 

Looking for a Little Extra Hope?  2

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I have a disco ball.  Truly, it’s Kate’s, but I insist that she leave it in the dining room.  When the air starts to get cooler in the fall, and the earth tilts just a little differently, I put the disco ball on the table and the room is awash in small dots of light.  It doesn’t work in the summer, just in the winter months.  Small bits of light to remind me that there is always beauty to be found when I search for it.

 

It’s the first week of December, the month of frenzied excitement and craziness.  I crack open the bin of decorations and the Christmas smells leak out.  It’s the smell of nostalgia. It’s the joy and the sorrow, the hope and the grief, all at once.

 

There’s a tension to this season, isn’t there?  There’s glitter and excitement and happiness spilling over.  But often, there is deep sorrow.  There’s disappointment in the space between what we thought would be and what really is.  Our lists keep getting longer and the weariness doesn’t fade.

 

Every year the tension of December surprises me.  But there is one thing that holds me steady— the story of a baby and the generations of people who made up His family tree.  We get out our Jesse Tree with our funny  homemade ornaments and we  listen to the stories again.  We remember again with David’s words in Psalm 119: 30, “The unfolding of your words gives light”.

 

Because here’s what I need to know every Christmas— I need to remember that life is messy and far from perfect.  I need to know that Jesus knows my sorrow and He cares for me.  I need to know that He hears the cries of my heart when I hang up the empty stocking and put a tiny Christmas tree next to a grave.  I want to know I’m not alone.

 

As we begin the season of Advent, this time of waiting for the birth of Jesus, I’ve written something for you.  Join me over the next few weeks as we discover together the hope held out for us, using people who were in the family tree of Jesus.  People like Abraham, who held on to the promise that God would bless him, even in the midst of unanswered promises.  People like Jonah who discovered that God comes to us in our storms.  People like Mary, who saw that even our emptiness can be used by God.

 

I don’t know where you are this holiday season, but if you are in a place of darkness and sorrow, I want to whisper words of hope to your weary soul.  Though you may feel it, you are not alone.  My heart is with you.  I’ve been there.  But even more importantly, Jesus is with you.  He is near to the brokenhearted and those who are crushed in spirit.

 

So come back here over the next few weeks as we unwrap gifts of those who have bravely gone before us.

 

And if you are hurting this season?  I would love to know so I can pray for you.  Leave a note in the comments or write me an email. We may not be sitting on my couch having a real conversation, but I’m thankful for the ways we can reach out to one another.

 

 

{Hello, Friend.}
There are hard seasons in life.   But even in the midst of sorrow, you can hold tightly to the hope of Christ.  Want to know more? My free eBook tells the story of how I grappled with loss and grace in the days, months and years after burying a child.  You can find it on iBooks or Google Books.

 

Letting Go {Taking my Son to Haiti}  2

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The first few nights after William was born five weeks early, I slept in a room just off the NICU.  They told us we could stay there until someone with a more serious case came along, since Will needed help that was non-life threatening.  His early birth meant that he needed a little kickstart to his lungs, but he was otherwise healthy.

 

After a few nights, a more critical case was admitted, and Peter and I opted to get a hotel room just a few miles away.  I remember crying hard that night, feeling the distance of just a few miles.  I knew he was getting the care he needed, but he just seemed so far from me.  My sweet baby had always been with me.  I had carried him in my womb for many months, my very body cradling him.  Yet within hours of his birth, I had been forced to let him go, the unknowns looming like a deep, dark cloud.

 

Those first few days watching him in the NICU, God whispered gentle words to my new-mama heart.  I could try as hard as I could to hold him close, but the essence of being a Mom is letting go.  We love and we nurture, we hold them near in our hearts… but ultimately we are preparing them for their own adulthood. The dependence they have on us wanes as life goes on and –though it breaks our hearts– we must have courage to let our children grow up.

 

I didn’t fully grasp that until he slipped from my body, until the reality came fast and hard in the form of an ambulance ride, our beds miles apart.

 

A few weeks ago I took William to Haiti.  And if I were to lean in and tell you the full truth, it scared me to take him.  Exposing him to poverty at such an intense level was overwhelming to me and I didn’t know what to expect.

 

But again, God whispered gentle words to my Mama-heart. He reminded me of the cost to raising brave kids, of the sacrifice to expose them to things I wouldn’t have chosen.  He reminded me of those first early days when I had to let go and how firmly Jesus had held us.

 

We had an incredible week together in Haiti.  Beyond what I could have asked or imagined.  And Will fit in so easily.  There were dozens of kids hanging off of him at all hours of the day.  “Where is my friend, Williams?” they would ask.  With a soccer ball in his hand and a grin on his face, he would win them over, especially when he let them touch his hair.

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Having him with me was one of the biggest gifts I’ve received since I’ve become a Mom.  We had some hard talks about some hard things.  We laughed a lot and appreciated one another in new ways. It was so good.

 

On the last day, we were waiting for the plane to come and pick us up.  It was a small plane, just a six-seater, and since there were eight in our group, we had to take two planes. With a shiver, I asked if Will and I could be split up.  Just in case.  And when that plane took off, with him in it and me still on the ground below, I fought tears harder than I had all week.  All of a sudden I was that brand new mom again, leaving him behind in the NICU. Unsure and wavering.

 

Because letting go is always hard.

 

It’s trusting God over and over … and over….  again. It’s choosing the hard over the convenient, the holy over the safe.  It’s admitting when I mess up and apologizing when I get it wrong.  It’s listening when he talks, guiding him to make his own conclusions instead of jumping in.   It’s learning to surrender what I want and instead letting God work through him in ways I never would have imagined.

 

Sometimes letting go is slow and unnoticed, little moments at random times.  But sometimes it leaves us breathless and aching, like watching an airplane take off while still on the ground.  There’s so much that could happen, so many unknowns, and it’s hard to trust God with the heart of our kids, even when we know the depth of love He has for them.

 

My plane landed just 10 minutes after his plane and as I stepped into the airport, Will had the biggest grin on his face.  “Mom! The pilot let me fly the plane!”  He was absolutely giddy.

 

What if I had said no?  To Haiti, to the hard, to the heartache, to the plane?  What if I would have let fear ruin his chances to discover the lavish gifts God gives us?  What if I hadn’t trusted God in a million different ways between those NICU days and today?

 

Because a twelve year old flying a plane for a few minutes over the glorious mountains of Haiti?  It’s a wild dream.  And I’m learning that wild dreams only happen when we have the courage to live with our hearts and hands open.

 

The fight to let go is never easy. I’ve gotten it drastically wrong more times than I’ll ever get it right.  But slowly, Jesus is showing me that if I trust Him with my children, He can do so much more in their lives.  He redeems my need for control and lets me learn again.

 

Sometimes the letting go is slow and small, other times it’s loud and wild.  But always it’s worth it.

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May you, today, have the courage to live with your hands open to the adventures of life.  May you trust God with what He has given you— saying yes, even as you fight fear.  And may you recognize the big and small ways of letting go, with the courage to proclaim that God is good.

 

P.S. Want to know more about the ministry we serve with in Haiti?  It’s called Waves of Mercy.  I would love if you would support them by giving directly through their website -OR- check out Haiti Hoops Boutique, an Etsy store by my friend Neile. One hundred percent of her profits go to Waves of Mercy.

 

Well, hello!
I’m so very glad you’re here.  I hope you’ll stick around so we can get to know one another a little more.  Go here if you’d like to receive posts from me via email. I have a few printable verses I’d love to send you to encourage your heart.   –Sarah

When Seasons Change  0

 

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Today I was mesmerized as I looked out the window, watching the leaves falling off the trees, the sunlight filtering through the barren branches….  And my thoughts wandered back a few weeks, to the brand new “Church on the Hill” in Port-de-Paix, Haiti.  On Sunday nights, each American is asked to come on the stage and share something with the people.  Anything.  It’s a wide open platform and there are a million things to choose.  It’s hard to know what to say and what will be relevant because I tend to think I don’t really have anything of significance to tell a group of people who have lived such adversity.

 

I started picking up red, yellow, and orange leaves in our yard a few weeks before we left and I carefully pressed them in a few old books.  I do that almost every fall, out of habit probably, because the beauty of the leaves always feels fresh to me.  Each year as the green turns to all different colors I am amazed.  The changing of seasons always seems so significant.

 

Obviously, the seasons in Haiti look a lot different than those in Michigan… and I decided it would be fun to take the leaves to my friends so they could see them.

 

I tied the leaves on a string and I carefully slid them into my journal, hoping they wouldn’t crumble before Sunday night.  I held them as the service began and I watched the joy on the people’s faces as they worshipped and prayed.

 

So desperate for God to move in their lives.
So dependent on Him for the most basic of needs.
And yet so hopeful, so confident in Him.
I don’t know all of their stories, but I studied their faces.  I realize it’s easy for me to pencil in details that I’m not fully aware of, that the time I spend with them is so brief, but each time God uses them to teach me something so profound.

 

I walked up on stage, smoothed my page of words, and took a deep breath.  I held up my leaves and explained the changing of seasons, and I told them I wished they could experience the beauty of the changing leaves in Michigan, except that they would freeze in about half a second.  They nodded and agreed with me.

 

Though the seasons in Haiti may be different than the seasons in Michigan, there are still seasons.  And in our lives, there are seasons.

 

Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastics 3 that there are times for every season.  Seasons of sorrow, seasons of joy.  There are times of birth and times of death, times of planting and times of harvesting.  There are times we laugh and times we cry.

 

Seasons.

 

I looked at their sweet faces and said, “I don’t know what you are facing right now.  It may be a good season, or it may be a hard season.  But no matter what, God is always God.  And He is always good.  He is not surprised by our hard times or our questions.  When we are brokenhearted, He is near to us.  In every season, He is with us.”

 

But here’s the thing.  I had watched them worship just moments before.  I had watched them praying and lifting their hands to Jesus.  And I saw them living out those words before I said them, believing that God would take care of them no matter the season.

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And as the wind blows through the trees today and I watch the leaves swirl and fall, I wonder if we believe that message ourselves.  We, who insulate ourselves in our warm houses and firm beliefs and full bellies.

 

As things spiral out of control around us, do we have the courage to believe that in every season, He is with us?  That He is near us?

 

You see, after Solomon wrote about all the different seasons in life, he wrote one of my very favorite verses.  In Ecclesiastics 3:11, he wrote, “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time.  He planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”

 

There is beauty in every season, if we only have the courage to look for it.  There is hope in every season, though we may have to search a little harder to find it.  And there is longing in every season, because we were made for eternity.  It’s planted in our hearts.  As God’s people, in every town, city, and country around the world, we must dare to trust Him with our lives.

 

“When things are hard and you are discouraged,” I told them, as I held up the string of leaves, “I want you to picture these beautiful leaves.  I want you to remember that God is with you in the good and the bad.  Trust in Him to guide you, to be your refuge, and to always praise Him.”

 

I slipped the leaves to Pastor Handson after the service.  “You can have these,” I said, thinking of the millions more falling, ready for me to rake when I returned home.  He grinned wide and thanked me.  A few days later, my friend Ricardo said to me, “You left the leaves at church. Do you want me to get them for you?”

 

“I did that on purpose.” I answered him.  I wanted my Haitian friends to remember.

 

And I want YOU to remember.

 

Those words weren’t only for Mr. Daniel, Lovely, Sonel and everyone else packed in the Church on the Hill.  Those words are for you today, my friend.  Look at the leaves and dare to trust Jesus.  There is always a season… and in every season there is beauty because there is Jesus.  His presence in our lives does not change. He alone can hand us hope and peace.  And in your very soul, He has planted eternity.  Trust Him to do the work from the beginning of time to the end of time.

 

You can rest in Him.

 

 

Well, hello!
I’m so very glad you’re here.  I hope you’ll stick around so we can get to know one another a little more.  Go here if you’d like to receive posts from me via email. I have a few printable verses I’d love to send you to encourage your heart.   –Sarah

A Mom & Son Trip: Our Next Daring Adventure  6

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On Friday, I will board a plane to Haiti.  I have been meticulously going over details for weeks and as we wrap up preparations, I want to make sure I record what’s going on in my heart.  This will be my fourth trip in 3 years… the first I attended a funeral, the second a wedding.  Our third trip was in the middle of a presidential election (that never resolved) and this time may be the most devastating in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.

 

But there’s another detail that makes this trip different.  This time I’ll have my son William by my side.  And because I am a Mom, this makes me so emotional.  About six months ago, as Peter and I were praying about this trip, we sensed that God was prompting us to ask Will to go.  He has been asking for years to travel to another country, so when we presented it to him and he said yes with wide eyes, it was an answer to both of our dreams.

 

If you were to peek into my heart and my brain, you would see my swirling thoughts and emotions.  Most of my thoughts are just details: food.  lesson plans. passports. underwear.

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But there are a few other thoughts when I wake up in the middle of the night:

 

I’m crazy excited. I cannot wait to take Will to the place that has my heart. I can’t wait to see him walk those roads and love those kids.  As a mom, more than anything I want to guard against the sense of entitlement that comes with being an American.  I want my kids to grow up with a heartbeat for the poor and powerless, to have their hearts break for the things that break the heart of God.  I want them to experience the phonemenon that having less does not mean less joy.  To have this opportunity to go with him to Haiti is unbelievable.

 

But I’m also apprehensive, and doing my best to be brave.   My default is to protect my kids, so exposing Will to such deep poverty makes me anxious.  We’ve done some intentional things to develop compassion in our kids, but we still become so sanitized.  On our living room mantle is a big framed print that says, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” (Helen Keller).  In my heart of hearts, it’s what I want our kids to live out, but I would be lying if I said it was easy for me.  When I get apprehensive about the “what ifs”, I imagine the end.  What do we as parents desire for William?  We want him to choose the daring adventure, every time.  That means that I must be brave.

 

I’m praying big. We are on the precipice of some amazing years with Will. These are the years he’ll begin to form who he will be in adulthood.  So I’m praying that this trip will be formative to him.  God has a way of speaking so clearly when so many of our familiar scenes are erased.  I’m praying this will bring our close relationship even closer.  I’m so overwhelmed with the gift of being able to serve alongside him.

 

At the same time, I’m keeping my expectations low. I’ll just tell you right now I’m so bad at this.  I’m the queen of daydreaming something grand and then when it falls flat, I get so disappointed.  I know that this trip could have huge implications on Will’s life.  I’m confident that he will thrive and we will have an amazing week.  But I also know there are going to be some hard moments.   As his mind processes so many new things, I’m going to be tempted to tell him how to process.  But I can’t.  I’ve had some wise people warn me that this trip may not immediately affect him and to not be disappointed with that.  The implications will work themselves out in time.

 

I’m doing my best to step back.  When the hurricane hit the country of Haiti just a few days ago, I started to have doubts.  But God gently reminded me that our surprises are no surprises to Him.  He does the work He needs to do, no matter what.  So I’m relying on Him.  I don’t know what kind of devastation we’ll face when we get there.  I don’t pretend to think we’re going to go and fix anything.  My prayer is that I’ll step back and see how God is working.  I simply want to be an encouragement to those who are there doing the hard work day after day after day.

 

I’m packing a lot of food.  Seriously.  We bring mostly our own food, which usually is not a big deal.  But anticipating what a 12 year old boy will need for a week makes me dizzy.  He is hungry all. the. time.

 

I’m asking you to pray.  I know you will, without me even asking.  It’s why I value you all so much.  I will do my best to post to Instagram next week.  I’ll share the stories I can, while allowing Will to share his stories also.  damaska_family_2015-341-of-475 It’s going to be incredible.

 

P.S. We will be in Port-de-Paix, Haiti, which is in the northwestern part of the country.  While the hurricane did very much hit that region, it was not hit as badly as the southwestern portions.  I am quite confident that it is safe and good to continue with our trip.  Peter and the girls will remain in Michigan, keeping the home fires burning.

 

 

Well, hello!
I’m so very glad you’re here.  I hope you’ll stick around so we can get to know one another a little more.  Go here if you’d like to receive posts from me via email. I have a few printable verses I’d love to send you to encourage your heart.   –Sarah

The Pain of Living in the In-Between  8

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It’s inevitable and I know better than to fight it.  As the end of September draws near, the anniversary of when our daughter Annie died, my thoughts turn toward those last weeks and days when she was with us.  I try my hardest to remember and also forget, if that even makes sense.  It’s almost been seven years since I last smelled her sweet breath or captured her smile.  The hurt isn’t as sharp anymore, but it certainly doesn’t disappear or diminish.  Even so, I’m thankful.  Thankful that I could love her, that I have memories, that Jesus has used her life to change mine.

 

A few days ago, we sat the kids down and gently told them a man in our church died. Except we knew how deeply they would feel this one.  Little did we realize the depth of sorrow we would feel as we bury a string of people who have loved our kids like their own.  Tomorrow Peter will bury Grandpa Sam just a few feet from our Annie.

 

I was reminded something I had written just two weeks after Annie died.   It seemed like the right thing to re-post as we approach a painful anniversary of our own daughter and as fresh tears fall for a man who has meant so much to us.

 

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We spend a lot of time at the Cemetery.

 

It’s right across the street, actually.  I can look out of my front window and see it.  I love it and hate it all at the same time.

 

The day after we got home from the hospital, we walked over the the Cemetery to see Grandpa Sam.  Grandpa Sam is a surrogate Grandparent to the kids.  He’s the one that brought a pony over for William to ride on his first birthday and who dutifully feeds my children chocolate donuts on Sunday mornings while I’m in Worship Practice.  He’s also in charge of the Cemetery.

 

And so we walked over to see him the day after Annie died.  William wanted to ride his bike over, so he did.  And then we cried because we didn’t want to talk to Grandpa Sam about where to bury our daughter.   He didn’t want to talk to us about it either.

 

In the end, we received a beautiful gift.  You see, in 1954, Grandpa Sam and Grandma Donna buried a sweet baby of their own.  Her name was Jane Ann.  And right beside little Jane was an empty plot.  That’s where our Annie Jane is now.

 

There’s already grass growing at her grave.  It’s so green.  I guess I take note of the green-ness since everything else around us is turning brown.  I hate that the grass is growing there– a reminder that time is marching on without our Sweet Girl.  But the green grass also reminds me the God has not abandoned me.  There is new growth on top of death.

 

The price we have paid is oh, so high.

 

I have to admit that as I hear of lives being changed, of ways that Annie’s story is impacting lives, I have a hard time being glad.  I mean, I’m thankful and grateful.  But couldn’t there have been a different way?  Sometimes I find myself asking God why He couldn’t accomplish His purpose by doing a miracle instead.

 

But God will redeem it.  Someday I will know the full story.  It’s the waiting between now and then that is so hard.

 

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
 1 Corinthians 13:12
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Well, hello!
I’m so very glad you’re here.  I hope you’ll stick around so we can get to know one another a little more.  Go here if you’d like to receive posts from me via email. I have a few printable verses I’d love to send you to encourage your heart.   –Sarah

The Discipline of Slowing  0

 

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The very last week of our six week sabbatical we dropped off the camper then drove to a small lake cottage.

 

For over 5,000 miles we had driven 55-60 miles per hour, hauling our little camper. We crossed rivers and mountains, two lane back roads and six lane highways through big cities.  We got used to the cars whizzing past us.  We had heard too many horror stories of trying to drive fast with a trailer.  So we took our time, sometimes with sighs because even the short days of driving seemed to drag on longer than we’d anticipated.

 

But a funny thing happened. When we began to go the real speed limit after weeks of traffic flying past us, we were shocked.  We hadn’t realized just how slow we were going and the ACTUAL speed limit seemed out of control.

 

Of course, you know where I’m going with all this. Because it’s September and chances are your calendar looks just like mine.  It’s filled with good things— practices and dinners with friends, meetings for good causes and school functions.

 

As I rushed to get dinner on the table tonight, in between one thing for one kid and another thing for another, I couldn’t help but go back to those lonely Kansas roads.  The ones with no cars and almost no towns and wind that would not quit blowing.  I thought about the early mornings, when Peter and I would take our coffee outside and sit with our Bibles, talking and dreaming while the kids slept hard, way past their normal time.

 

I thought about the bike rides in Wyoming, through the pasture where the cows lazily watched us dodge cow patties as they chewed their grass.  I remembered the night we sat at a Lake Superior beach for hours, waiting to watch the sunset, the kids playing in the sand with a fast food cup and a football, happy and content.

 

We’ve been home just over three weeks and I’m finding this transition time like a tug of war.  Our summer was amazing, but it was for a time.  A sabbatical can’t last forever.  And yet I want to hold on to the slowness, to the savoring.

 

We came home to full speed ahead, plus a little more.  And I know this about myself— when I’m moving at a crazy speed, I find it harder to be intentional and purposeful.  Words spill out of my mouth and feelings get hurt. My lists give birth to new lists until there’s a List Pile, which happens to hide the Very Important Paper that doesn’t get sent to school until it’s too late.

 

It seems we’re living in an in-betweeness, processing a sweet season as a family and a trip that helped us really step back and look at our lives.  On the other hand, we’re also starting school and jumping back into our everyday life. Our rhythm right now seems to be off as we try to reconcile the two seasons.
Can I whisper something to you?   I refuse to live in the fast lane.  The squares on my calendar may be full to overflowing, but I’m fighting for the things that really matter.  I’m going to get it wrong more than I’ll get it right.  But I won’t give up trying.
I’ll slow the car down, look in the rearview mirror and pretend there’s a camper back there. Want to join me?

 

Well, hello!
I’m so very glad you’re here.  I hope you’ll stick around so we can get to know one another a little more.  Go here if you’d like to receive posts from me via email. I have a few printable verses I’d love to send you to encourage your heart.   –Sarah

#damaskasontheroad: H O M E  1

 

IMG_8978I know, I know.

 

If you only follow me on this blog, you may be thinking we fell off the face of the Earth somewhere between Kansas and Colorado.

 

Don’t worry.  We didn’t.  And we’re home now. The car may be dusty and road weary, but he made it.

 

Here’s the thing: About the third week into this trip, my words seemed to just dry up. It was so strange. I had nothing.  The only way I can describe it is that at that point our whole family just seemed to take a big exhale and we grabbed onto it for as long as we could. We realized just how stretched thin we were, just how much we needed to realign and we went for it.

 

And it was so good.

 

We’ve been home for a little over two weeks.  We’ve been rooting through all the things we forgot we had and enjoying all the extra room of our house (I don’t have to duck when I take a shower! We all fit around the table!)  But also? It’s like we’re trying to find our family rhythm all over again.

 

School started this week and with it comes the rush to gather supplies and find shoes and get dinner on the table before 8:00.

 

It’s nothing new– it just takes a bit to adjust.  And it turns out that it takes every single one of my brain cells to parent my children, even during the hours they’re away from me!

 

So I promise to keep up with the travel posts until they’re done, but it may take me awhile.

 

While I’m busy catching up at home, here are five fun things I don’t want to forget about our trip:

 

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One of the things I miss most?  Doing laundry in an hour.  Fill all the washing machines, come back and fill all the dryers.  And done.  Why does it take me so much longer at home?

 

 

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If you have a few minutes while you’re driving, here’s a good podcast on suffering and hope with Katharine Wolf (Jamie Ivey keeps me company while I run and do dishes and make dinner.  Love the Happy Hour!).  We enjoyed Revisionist History, too (Malcolm Gladwell is always interesting) and we’re probably the last people on the planet to start listening to This American Life.

 

 

 

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This is how I ride in the car.  Always.  I can’t seem to ever reserve space for my feet. Where would I put all my bags?!

 

 

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I brought plenty of books to read (and got them almost all finished!) but I also read a few almost-released ones that were amazing.  If you haven’t checked out Edie Wadsworth’s All the Pretty Things or Shannan Martin’s Falling Free, I give them both five stars!  Edie’s book speaks of growing up in a broken, alcoholic family, with poverty and violence.  Her style is amazing and it’s easily the best book I’ve read this year.  Falling Free is a book that was written by the sister of a friend, about places that are familiar to me.  It’s a journey of a family realizing that we’re meant for more than building a life of dreams.  Both books reminded me of the healing work of Jesus and the way He leads us to places we never dreamed.

 

 

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We packed pretty light (we even had an empty cupboard!), but even still there were several things we never touched in the camper.  There were also lots of things we didn’t necessarily have room for that we brought.  Like this ice cream.  A friend gifted me with two blessed pints and I allowed myself just a few bites a day and made it last the entire six weeks.  Sometimes if Peter was good, I’d share, but it was a sacrifice.

 

We continue to shake our head at how amazing our summer was. We still shake our heads that we were able to pull this thing off.  But we did it and we had a blast!  As I process all the ways God was faithful to us, I just get so excited.

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#damaskasontheroad: Western Kansas & Colorado  2

I certainly felt that by this point in the trip, we’d be tired of living in a camper, longing for our own beds and a little space to spread out.  But it turns out we are camping people!  Who knew!? We often laugh at our little baby camper next to the monster motorhomes driven by people my Great-grandpa’s age (If my son cannot ride in the front seat until he’s 14, surely there should be a law against 103 year olds basically driving houses down the road?!)

 

We’ve had our share of little mishaps, but we’ve powered through each one like the experts we are (not).  We backed into a pole and bent our bumper a bit (just a flesh wound).  We also sliced our water hose, causing waves of water to gush through the camper (there was a bit of yelling, but we mostly held it together). Once in a while, when our old suburban we’ve lovingly named Grandpa has had enough, he’ll just refuse to turn on.  But Peter baby-talks him and sprays some concoction in the keyhole, and eventually Grandpa decides to cooperate.  Praying and laughing have gotten us through it all.

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After a day of insane wind (note the leaning bikes) on a two lane highway through nowhere Kansas (we seriously cheered whenever we saw a car or a house), we pulled into a little valley, ready to be out of the car, wondering if we would ever see human life again.  We spent the evening climbing rocks and shaking our heads that after hundreds of miles of flat fields, there was this.

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We pulled out the next day and drove to Colorado Springs.  Everything changed so rapidly– suddenly there were mountains and red rocks and people everywhere.  It was like a big playground and we really loved it.

 

We climbed Pike’s Peak… on a train.  It was only 37* at the top! The lack of oxygen was a little unnerving, but it was nothing a dozen doughnuts couldn’t fix.  My headache was mostly caused by an 11 year old boy who didn’t have the fear of heights I believed he should have.

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Then we explored the Garden of the gods.

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Our kids really got into their groove in Colorado.  Traveling and being gone had caused some anxiety, but it completely disappeared on this leg of the trip.  It may have been because basically everyone in the state is high. With marijuana being legal, it just seems to float in the air.  I’m kidding. Sort of.

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We took a morning to visit Compassion International, and we even got to see Sean who led our trip to Ecuador a few years ago.  The statue of Jesus was such a sweet part of their lobby, intentionally made so that kids would crawl into His lap.  Somehow it just seemed weird to yell, “Stay off Jesus!” and “Be careful.  Don’t fall off of Jesus and get hurt!”, so I held my tongue.  We also visited Whit’s End (if your kids are into Adventures in Odyssey, you’ll know what I’m talking about) and drank root beer floats.  The kids were disappointed that the elevator to the Imagination Station only took them to the bookstore and not to 500 B.C.

 

We are so thankful for this time away.  Slowly we feel the weight peel away as God leads us. It’s hard to know what exactly to expect from a Sabbatical, especially one filled with busy kids and many miles of driving.  But as we travel we feel God’s favor on us so heavily and we do not take it lightly.  He has been so good to us and He has been so faithful.

 

Up next: Peter’s hometown of Buffalo, Wyoming

(For some reason, it seems that my pictures may be loading upside down.  I’m so sorry.  Please be assured, they were all taken right side up.)

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How to Develop Compassion in Your Kids  1

 

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Somewhere in unknown Kansas, we stopped to stock up on groceries and have a quick lunch in the camper.  It was while we were eating our sandwiches that Peter saw a man in the parking lot, sitting against a light pole.

 

We were unloading our groceries almost an hour later when Peter noticed the man was still there in the same spot.  Without a word, he disappeared and returned with the man, asking him if he needed some food.  The kids and I scurried around, tossing out chips and apples and granola bars.  We made him a sandwich and gave him some water.

 

We listened to his story of riding his bike from Georgia to Wyoming and how he was now headed back south.  Along the way, his original bike had fallen to pieces. I noticed he wasn’t wearing shoes.

 

We don’t always have the eyes to see people for who they are when our lives are too caught up in our own plans.  We miss it so easily because we’re  being too efficient or we’re too scared.  Our minds are occupied with the task at hand and the ten tasks we must scurry to finish. But Jesus used a barefooted man in a Wal-Mart parking lot to teach us that being compassionate is a sweetest of gifts. We just had to slow down enough to see it.

 

I watched the kids listen to his stories and I was so thankful for a husband who saw a need and responded.  I was reminded of what I’ve said before: It has to be in us before it will be in our kids.  The best teaching moments come to us when we don’t have a chance to prepare— they’re our everyday acts of obedience.

 

We, as parents, must take the time to cultivate compassion in our own lives so it will leak into the lives of our kids.  Not because there’s an obligation, but because we are called to genuinely care about others.

 

A few days after we met Paul in the Kansas parking lot, one of my kids took some money and bought something extravagant for the little boy we sponsor in Haiti.  I wish I could tell you the whole story, but it isn’t my story to tell.  So you just have to take my word for it— our kids may look like they don’t care about others.  They may seem like they’re self-absorbed, but as we model Christ’s love, they will develop compassion.
There are countless deep needs all around us.  May we, as parents, have the eyes to see them.  May we have the wisdom to extend compassion… and may our hearts leak into our kids’, even on the days we feel like we’re losing the battle.

 

May we have the courage to help others, simply because every person on the planet has value in God’s eyes.

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