Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Seven Days of Grace

There is this thing that happens to many stay at home mothers. Although we love our children with every ounce of our hearts, many of us still seek an outlet to either utilize our intellect or stimulate our minds. There is this moment in many of us where we all of a sudden realize that just because we are mothers does not mean our dreams die. My biggest dream has always been to be a mother. I talked about becoming a mother since I was probably Ella's age.

And my children still are my greatest desire (besides God and my husband). They are the future. After all, raising warriors for Jesus is no easy task. I take this role of mother very seriously. I know I am caring for God's greatest treasures.

However, my dreams, desires, and interests did not go away when I added the title of mother to my resume. My name is still Sarah...I'm not just mom. For awhile, God sprung this interest and passion for photography into my life right after Ella was born. It has been an amazing creative outlet for me and something that has brought joy to my life. I am so thankful to Him for showing me this interest. It was never anything I intentionally pursued. It just happened. I do not currently have any intentions of marketing myself and growing a large business at this time. But, nevertheless, it has been a blessing for us financially.

I have other dreams too. It is no secret that I adore Paris. I may talk about it more than anyone else I know. I may be slightly obsessed. So, it should not be any shock that I have this dream of studying at Le Cordon Bleu. And although they have a campus in Atlanta, for some reason that just isn't as appealing as learning to cook in the City of Light. This dream is on hold for at least the next 25 years (it's just a tad expensive...and a tad far away).  I have no desire to open a restaurant or bakery...only to learn the French way of cooking. This is why I currently have 5 cookbooks full of the most decadent recipes from my favorite city. I figure if I can't go to Paris, well I will just have to bring Paris to me. My family has been VERY well fed the past few months. I may not look like Giada DeLaurentis, but I'm pretty sure I can cook almost as good as her now. Cooking has become my passion and outlet during this season of life where I spend so much time at home. And again, I am so grateful for God showing me things that can bring me joy in my day to day life that can start to sometimes feel a  little mundane and lonely.

Our dreams are why so many mothers blog. It is why so many have discovered a passion for writing. It is a creative outlet for us to share.

I never started a blog because I considered myself a writer. I do not have an English degree and I certainly have less than perfect grammar. I overuse commas and ellipses. Heck, I'm not even sure I know the proper way to use an ellipses! I don't proof read my posts. I rarely even use the spell check function.

I am not a writer. But, recently, I feel led to write. And I don't necessarily mean about the crazy stuff Ella says. But, to write about things in my spiritual life. Which is terrifying because I do NOT feel qualified and I do not have a degree in theology. When people talk about Calvinism and Arminism, I usually start to get indigestion and run the other direction. I usually see two sides of the coin on that one. I plead the fifth so to speak.

But, I love talking with people about theology. I love talking about our struggles with faith. It's a hard world to even bring up the subject of faith in. People basically think you have shot a dagger in their eye if you even mention the name Jesus. Why? Why are we so scared? Why are we scared to talk about our doubts?

Yesterday, in a moment with God, I found myself picking up my laptop and writing the name to a new blog title: Seven Days of Grace.

I don't even know where that came from. My fingers typed it, blogger accepted it and now it is part of the web. I wrote 4 posts very quickly. But, I didn't post them.

Because I'm not a writer.
But for some reason, I want to write. Am I having a mommy mid-life crisis?

I am not a writer. I am not an expert theologian. I don't know all the answers. But, I know a lot about grace. I receive grace every day. It pours over me hourly.

And if you are going to write, you should write about what you know.

So here I am. Maybe if you check back later, you will see a new blog, with a new title, although the same voice that you find here. You can find me over at:

That's only if I ever decide to push the publish button...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tea and crumpets anyone?

You know how parents always joke that you don't need to buy toys for your kids; just give them an empty box. There is definitely a lot of truth to the statement.

When they aren't pulling up the air vents and throwing cheerios or my crystal goblets down the vent, they can also frequently be found playing here:

Yes, that would be my tea cart. I don't know what it is about this little cart, but they are drawn to it daily. And it looks really cute...but, I have a few things I am little possessive of and this is one of them. So, I happened to see this online the other day and had to add it to my wish list:

Isn't that cute? Ella would love this for her daily tea parties. I did not buy it, but I think it could be a fun toy for all and possibly keep them away from my own tea cart.

Of course, then we might need the little silver tea set that goes with it too.

And by "we", I of course mean me. :) What can I say, I still have little girl dreams as well.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Ella's moving to London

Whew! Those last few posts were kind of heavy, huh? You never know what you are going to get over here. Today, I decided to lighten the mood and tell yet another funny Ella story.

So, in case you didn't know, my husband is a Transportation Engineer and works for the city. He loves mass transit...which is ironic considering we live in the United States where we pretty much rely on our cars (not much mass transit here). Specifically, he loves high speed rail which explains a little more our love for Europe. Let me paint a more vivid picture of this passion for you: when we lived in Florida, he designed and built a model train and tracks that went through our garden. Now, that train goes around the ceiling in yet another track he designed that is in the children's play room. And while some may say this takes geek to a new level, I think it's pretty awesome...but, I like nerds ;) We both loath how dependent we have to be on cars where we live.

Anyway, so Andrew was the project manager for some new bus stop revamps in the city (as well as pedestrian cross walks and a place for people to store bikes at the stops, etc.). The other day, they had a ribbon cutting ceremony with press and some other VIP from Atlanta. Andrew thought it would be fun for Ella and me to come watch. Afterwards, they were going to take two buses and tour around the city to look at all the improvements. So, this would be Ella's first adventure on a bus.

I thought that she would be ecstatic when I told her, but instead she said, "But, I don't like buses. I just like cars." All I could think to say was "please do not say that in front of your father!"

As we were driving to city hall, I start hearing Ella talk about school buses. I then start to realize she thinks we are going to ride on a school bus with other children. Once again, I had to burst her bubble that it was not that kind of bus. 

So, we went and of course Ella just thought it was fabulous! (The press/cameras were right behind us during the ceremony and I was just praying Ella didn't have a meltdown or start picking her nose or something.) She especially loved that you could pull a cord to tell the bus driver to stop (and yes, she did do it once...oops!).

Ella and her daddy on her very first bus ride

 Well, you know how children are. They will go on and on about something for weeks after they experience something new and fun. She is all about buses right now. So, the other day, she had Jacob's Red Double Decker Bus (like the ones you see in London) filled top and bottom levels with princess figurines. The princesses take lots of rides to City Hall in her little world.

When I told her they had buses like that in London, she got it in her head that that is where she wants to live. I also told her that her pen pal, also named Ella, lived in the UK and not too far from London. So, I proceeded to show her pictures of Ella's house where she was playing in the snow and had built a snowman...and Snow+double decker buses=perfection in her world. The snow sealed the deal for her.

I'm pretty sure the girl will be asking to study abroad the first chance she gets.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Amazing Grace: Part Seven

I started to write the ending to this series the other day. I stopped when I wrote the title number: Seven. When I started writing this, I had no plan. I had no pre-written notes or agenda. I just wrote. I sort of gasped and became very overwhelmed with the little details God has his hands making this final chapter end with the number seven.

And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
Genesis 2:2 (KJV)

The number seven is used throughout scripture. It symbolizes completion or perfection. It took seven short stories to tell how I finally grasped the realness of God in my life. Seven stories about the God of law that I had tried so hard to finally find my perfection by running into the arms of the God of grace.

I still think about that day in my car. I think all people who try really hard to please God will eventually get really burned out. That day in the car I was trying to please God by listening to "His music" know, because good Christian girls don't listen to secular music (And yes, I listened to secular music, but I was always trying really hard not too. I thought it hurt God). I remember feeling really tired and thinking "Christian music is just so sad and depressing. I need something upbeat today." So I switched the radio station to some sort of Top 40's. I really don't remember what came on. Probably some Black Eyed Peas "Boom Boom Pow" or something (I kind of LOVE that song). Anyway, here I am be-bopping in my car to some Black Eyed Pea's (we'll just stick with that song for illustrative purposes) and I start to feel it...guilt. Guilt that I wanted some dance music and not wanting to praise Jesus through music. And I sort of flipped out (don't worry, Ella wasn't in the car with me).

This is when I told God to leave me alone. This was the moment I told Him I was no longer going to try and please Him (He was probably thinking...FINALLY!! We are getting somewhere now!!). I told Him I was done with Him.

I am telling you in that instant I felt the most alone I have ever felt in my entire life. I wept. I was scared. Did this mean I was agnostic now? Had I just committed the unpardonable sin?

That night at the dinner table, Ella asked me to say the prayer (thanking Him for our food). We bowed our heads...

and silence.

I literally could.not.pray. I looked at Ella and said "sweetie, you just pray tonight." But, she argued "no, mommy, I want you to pray."

I opened my mouth...but, only silence came out.

At this point Andrew is angry at me and quietly saying "what is wrong with you, Sarah? She's asking you to pray."

Again, I open my mouth and I literally could not pray. I almost started to hyperventilate. I don't even remember what happened in terms of who prayed. I just knew at that moment that because I told the Holy Spirit to leave me alone...He did (it would not be until later that I realized you have to have the Holy Spirit indwelling in you in order to pray to God). I literally with all my heart, soul, and mind believe that God was not allowing me to pray because I had, indeed, told Him to leave me alone in the car that day. My hands trembled in fear the rest of the evening. I had experienced something supernatural. You could say, I was actually unable to experience God that night.

I called my girlfriend Rene that night...lucky her got to answer the phone to this sobbing mess. I didn't tell her what I had "done" or about what happened that night at dinner. But, I told her how extremely lonely I was.  I told her I wasn't even sure what I believed anymore.

Not one time did she show judgement. She listened. She empathized. She confessed that there had been moments where she questioned too. That blew my mind because I knew how much she loved Jesus. So, if she had had doubts, I knew that I was not so far gone that God couldn't work a miracle in me if He really did love me. She continued to listen. She extended grace and compassion and mercy.

She was Jesus to me that night. I continued talking about how lonely I I thought maybe I just needed more girlfriends or to get out more. And she listened some more and we strategized a plan for me to feel more connected with friends and just the world. (By the way, motherhood can be very isolating. I'm going to write about this one day and tell you things that can help if you are interested). But, then she said this:

"Sarah, do you hear all the lies *satan is telling you? You are not alone. And even if you get out more, you know the only person who can fill that emptiness is Jesus. You know that, right? I mean, I don't mean to sound Sunday School on you, but if you don't have God, you will feel alone." She had so much tenderness in her voice. "Stop listening to satan's lies. You know the truth."

I laid on the sofa after that conversation and just said over and over again:

"God I want you. I WANT to want you. But, I don't feel like you love me. I don't feel good enough. But, everyone says that you do love us. Make this lie that I believe go away. It is a lie. I am not alone. I am not alone. satan go away!"

Ok, so have I freaked you out yet? It sounds very I was trying to get rid of a poltergiest or something. It wasn't like that. I laid quietly for two hours saying that over and over again until I fell asleep.

I woke up the next morning knowing that I had the Holy Spirit dwelling in me. I knew because I was able to pray. I spent that morning thanking God, but not sure where I was supposed to go from here. How were things going to be different this time? I opened my nightstand and pulled out my journal that my cousin's wife had given me right before I gave birth to Ella. I wanted to go back and read details of my life to see if I could see what it was that was keeping me from experiencing joy in knowing Jesus. Did something happen that made me feel unloved? I opened the front cover to a message she wrote for me with the following verse (thank you Loria!):

"I praise you because I am wonderfully and fearfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full and well."
Psalm 139: 14

And that was it. He said it right there in scripture. He said I was wonderfully made. I knew He was not disappointed with me. He loved me...He said I was wonderful!!! Psalm 139 ends with "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting."

I knew if God loved me and that I was wonderfully made, then He had to have some great purpose for me. I knew if He made me, I was not a mistake...which meant I was not a disappointment to God. He adored me. He cherished me. I was His Beloved. How can this be, Lord? I am so full of sin? 

But, upon further reading in scripture I read this that morning: 
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

Wait. So it's basically saying God sent Jesus, not because we were good enough (because He says we are sinners), but because He LOVES us????
This is grace my dear friends. And I embraced it that morning. And I realized I didn't have to do ANYTHING anymore. 

From that morning on, I saw God differently. He wasn't shaking his head in disappointment. I had joy...and it has only gotten more powerful since that day.

No longer do I feel like spending time with God is part of my to-do list. I desire Him...because I deeply love Him. And I am still a sinner...and He knows that...and He loves me. And we are in a real relationship. If God loves me, then His plan has to be good for me. So, I awake each morning BEGGING Him to just dwell in me and use me for whatever purpose He has for me. The riches of His love never leave me feeling alone...quite the opposite. When I am alone with Him...I feel complete. I feel at home. 

And He has blown my mind the past few months. I can honestly say I am no longer bound by legalism. I am no longer bound because I have a new best friend. That friend's name is Grace...And He also goes by the name of Jesus. 

We are His beloved. It is the most beautiful love story ever written. And we are part of it. 

*I use satan's name in lowercase because his name is not even worthy of being capatilized.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Amazing Grace: Part 6

I don't know why people keep coming here to read these words. This is part of the reason I go so long between posts. The blogging world can be a strange one. There are people who do it for money. There are others who have a definite theme in their writing. Me? Sometimes when I feel overwhelmed that others are reading my words, and I am feeling unworthy, I have to remind myself that I am truly only writing for an audience of one. This is my love story. A love story between my savior and me. Thank you for continuing to support me and encouraging me to write.

Experiencing brokenness is painful. However, I never would have been satisfied with my Christian walk without it. There is this lie that Christians love to tell others who are suffering: "God will not give you more than you can handle." I used to believe this lie. I used to tell this lie to people. I did not know it was a lie and perhaps calling it a lie is a little harsh. So what is the truth, you say?

God does indeed give strength. But, more accurately, He IS your strength. He can and will indeed bring you to a place where you cannot rely on your own abilities anymore. This is brokenness. The moment you realize you have been self sufficient. It is the moment we give up all hope in self.

I read something recently that talked about brokenness in this way:

"We sometimes try to live FOR Him when He wants to live THROUGH us.
To ask God to help us live for Him is to request some divine blessing of our effort to 'do what He wants us to do.'
But that isn't what God desires. He isn't interested in what we can do for Him.
Christ is interested in living His life through us."
Grace Walk By, Steve McVey

When I first started having complications with my pregnancy with the twins was the moment I started experiencing brokenness. It was not a magical, one night experience. It was a process. It was a slow death in a sense.

I know I make this sound so awful. I do not want to instill fear. No, no...this is a message of hope. A hope that through something awful, God used it for His glory. It is a BEAUTIFUL story, albeit painful. 

But, I would do it all over again. 

About two weeks after the twins were born, I was met at the door by one of the Nurse Pracitioners. And I knew it wasn't good news. (Somehow, I always remained very stoic in front of others. Whenever someone medical would talk to me about the twins while they were in the NICU, it was almost like I turned my "nurse" hat on and listened like I was getting report for my shift. It was very odd...I think it was my way of coping). This was the day we thought Jacob was getting septic. This was one of several times where I felt my strength dying and God carrying me through.

I was not allowed to hold him. So, I stuck my hand in the isolette and held his little hand. I laid my head on the top of the isolette and cried out to God. 

"God, I can't do this. You are going to have to do this for me because I can't.
I am helpless. I don't want to be angry with you, God. Please don't let me fall from your embrace. My flesh is angry, but my heart is desperate for you. No matter what happens, do not leave me. 
No matter how much I may push you away because of my anger, please don't stop loving me.
Carry me through this. If this is your will, then you must supply the strength and carry me. 
I am weak. I can do nothing else."

The picture above is of that moment. You can understand now why it is my "button" for my blog and why I changed the name "To Him Belong" (and also from hearing Ella sing the lyrics to Jesus loves me one day in the car in the midst of all this). I realized that God loved this babies more than me. That seemed impossible, but I know this to be true because I know how much He loves me. Gosh, and if He loves a screwed up adult this much, can you imagine how much He adored those tiny little babies?

Another defining moment in my process of being broken was when Audrey got so sick after we brought her home (you can read about that by clicking here). It was yet another moment where I wasn't sure things were going to turn out the way I wanted. Another moment, where I had no strength left. 

I bargained with God. This is a common theme with anyone facing the death of a loved one. We bargain promising God things we think He wants to get what we want. I promised to give God my everything if He would just heal my Audrey.

God did indeed heal our Audrey. And sadly, this was not the end of my brokenness. Remember, I made promises to God. I would NEVER be able to repay Him for healing our Audrey. But, I wanted to. At this point in my journey of embracing grace, I completely forgot about grace and went back to trying so, so hard to show God how thankful I was. I don't think I ever worried He would take her away if I didn't "fulfill my promises", but I didn't want to "fail". I wanted so desperately to please Him. He had given us so much. He was indeed my strength in that time of my life (and all my life...I just never gave Him credit). 

I went back to church. I prayed more. I spent more time reading my Bible. I tried so hard to show Him I loved Him. But, I felt so unfulfilled...which made me believe God was displeased with me. Which, in turn, made me shout out one October afternoon this:

"God, I am DONE with you. Leave me alone. Nothing I do will ever be good enough for you. I've done my best and it still isn't doing anything. So let me just live my life."

And because God gives us free will, He did indeed step back. I don't believe you can lose your salvation, but I do believe that God will take a step back when you tell Him too. I believe this because I experienced a loneliness that I think the unsaved must feel. I felt a separation from God. He did indeed leave me alone...and alone is what I felt.

(To be continued...and you don't want to miss the last part of this. I'm going to tell you something supernatural that happened to me. I will bare my soul and many will think it sounds crazy. But, it was very, very real. And I will then tell you how I came to have JOY in Jesus and His grace...and not just simply being a believer living in mediocrity.)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Amazing Grace: Part 5

Good grief, how many more of these "Jesus freak, Bible thumpin" posts are you going to write, Sarah?

I don't know. Until I'm done. Whenever that is. Or whenever I can finally make my point that having faith and believing isn't always easy for everyone. It's not just something I believe because my parents brought me up that way. I have questioned a lot. I have even had moments where I wasn't sure I believed at all...that it all just seemed too fairy-tale. I have had moments where I've said "You know, I really want to believe, because it all seems really, really nice." Let me just go ahead and tell you that if you want God, He will meet you there. You don't need to clean up your house to invite God in. It took me up until 6 months ago to really start to find joy in Christ... to have assurance of my salvation... to believe that grace really is enough. So you are wanting me to just jump to the catch and tell you what happened a few months ago? You're going to have to stick along on this ride a little longer. Because you see, it is only now that I can look back and see that Jesus was there the whole time. But I was too busy living a life of mediocrity. I desperately wanted to have a strong relationship with Christ...but in order to do become that...I had to become weak.

I have been a little blown away by e-mails from people saying they too have struggled. I'm talking about people who I would have thought "had it all together and never doubted." I am so humbled. I would be humbled if you would continue to share with me. It is so encouraging to my soul. I wish more people were honest about their relationship with God.

During my ten weeks on complete bed rest with the twins, you would have thought that I would have read at least a few dozen novels, knit a sweater, and caught up on all the latest videos. I did very little of that...and that baby blanket I was knitting still only has 6 rows done. I spent so much time literally in a trance just praying.

You can go back and read a few of my posts from the summer of 2010, so I won't relive all the details. I went back and read some to refresh my memory and it gave me heart palpitations. One thing that touched me was going back and reading all the comments that you all left for me during that time. It was beautiful and touching and I am still so very, very thankful for each and every one.

People always want to know "how did you go through that? I can't imagine!" Or they'll say "there is no way I could have..." Let me tell you something. You are right. YOU cannot do it. It is only something that the Holy Spirit can lead you through. I did nothing during those ten weeks. His spirit led me the entire way. And you want to hear something beautiful? The same spirit that lives in me is the same spirit in you. I am no different than you. This was ten times worse than going through infertility. I'm not talking about bed rest...I'm talking about watching my children fight to live.

I learned a lot about grace that summer and proceeding autumn. So many people came together to help us during our time of need...yet, not expecting anything back in return. And honestly, there wasn't anything I could do. I was confined to a hospital bed. I have never felt love like that. Friends who would come help me shave my legs, rub my back, wash my hair, paint my nails...the list goes on and on...they were disciples of Jesus. They served and expected nothing in return. It was a true lesson in love and grace. It is BEAUTIFUL to see a body of believers come together and support a person in need. I have never been on the receiving end of such a gift. This is what I saw: People of all cultures, all races, all different socio-economic status come together as a body of Christ. At the foot of the cross, we are indeed all the same. You could almost say, I had a glimpse of heaven. I saw my brothers and sisters in Christ come together to help their sister in need. Many were technically strangers to me who came to my help. (Let me tell will indeed experience complete brokenness when you allow someone else to shave your legs!)

I spent almost 11 weeks surrounded by and in the grip of grace. I watched my two, teeny tiny little babes enter the who was not breathing. I saw the hands and fingers that pressed on her tiny chest bringing her back to life. And although there were about 11-12 people in the room, it was truly just me and God. It was almost as if the Holy Spirit took over me those few minutes because I remember feeling very full of love and peace, even though my flesh was trembling with fear.

The room was bustling, but all I heard was "You are not alone. You are not alone. You are not alone."

In moments of terror, we generally reach out to God whether we believe in Him or not. Some will say "Oh my God! Help me!!" My plea in that moment was "Jesus, I have done my best. What more do you want from me????"

An hour or so later, I saw these two tiny babes covered in wires in a dark incubator. I remember the nurse practitioner telling me "the first week is the honeymoon period. Just be prepared that things won't necessarily stay this way."

I knew that night that I had a choice. I could live in fear or I could live in grace. Surrendering your will to God's is not a magical one time thing. It was something something I would struggle with for many months to come as I would become more and more aware of the fears I held onto.

"But God! If I say I accept YOUR will for me, I am afraid you will let my babies die. I am afraid your will test me in a way I don't like. What if I don't want the same thing as you???"

This was the fear that would cripple me for a long time. This is the fear that had indeed held me captive for 30 years. Because I still didn't understand just how much He loved me. (And, oh looking back and reading my old words in print, I sit and weep...because I was BLIND and now I see...I see just how much He loved and adored me...he cherished me even though I pushed Him away)

(To be continued)