Identity & Rest

The last few weeks, the Lord has been highlighting to me individuals who are weighed down. In particular, I have watched as other mothers are completely frazzled and overwhelmed. I have been praying for these moms in my life because no one wants to live each day feeling like they are not enough. I am writing part of my personal journey with some of this:

Every time I sit down to write, I realize that so much has happened since the last time. I want to give a detailed update to all of you however, God has been filling my mind and my heart with so much. I have to tell you about it. Let me begin with the little girl. As a child, I was one of those, spinning, twirling, singing, daydreaming, hugging strangers kind of kids. My parents were constantly warning me to be more careful and stop to think before I acted. Frankly, being more practical and logical didn’t even compute for me. It just wasn’t the way I processed life. Over time, I would adopt some of these principles. When I was in middle school, I was raped and I completely blamed myself. I trusted the wrong person and fell in love with him because I wasn’t “using my brain” and then got raped. This was one of those turning points in my life that I became a bit more “rational”. For years I had been told that I was “too emotional” and “rebellious” but I didn’t necessarily feel that was true. I DID want to please authority but my brain didn’t work like theirs. I didn’t understand how to dis-trust people. Also, those “emotions” helped guide me as a musician. The same people who said I was too emotional, also sat with tear-filled eyes every time I would perform. At the same time, I also played sports. My Dad was my coach and it was really my avenue to connect with him (and try to impress him). For years, I was the kid who was talking while the coach was explaining the plays to the team. This is very frustrating to the coach (sorry Dad). After the rape, even my commitment to sports changed. I needed to step it up in every area of my life because the rape was just proof that everyone had been right about me, my whole life. I needed to get my head out of the clouds and focus. The summer between my 8th grade and freshmen year, merely months after a rape and statements to police, I left for basketball camp. After what I thought was a moment of clarity, I decided to dedicate as much of that summer to physical training and music practice as possible. Hours each day were spend practicing my free-throws, dribbling drills and playing my flute. 2 hours here, 3 hours there and it adds up to eight hours of work quickly. The end of the summer I had neck surgery where I was expected to stay in the hospital for a week to recover, was home in two days and taking walks around the neighborhood to get back in shape before school began. Each day that went by, I felt like I was showing those around me that I had shed the skin of that silly little, over-trusting, impulsive girl to become the controlled artist I was supposed to be. What used to be the expression of my heart became one more cog in the machine of my life. The first year of high school, I even spoke at my school chapel (a school assembly for Christian schools) about how I had sinned and lost my virginity the year before (since I considered the rape my fault). I was on my way to being a Super-Christian. It wasn’t simply the rape that caused this change in me though, it was everything I had been told about myself for so long. Teachers, friends, loved ones; they all told me that I needed to grow up a bit. It makes be think of Matthew 18:3-11 ” Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whole the stumbling block comes! If you hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell. See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven. For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.”
There is so much to pull out of these scriptures but I want to bring just one concept: be like children in your trust and faith in the Lord, don’t hinder those who are like children and Jesus came to save THAT which was lost. Later in the chapter Jesus explains how to help a “little one” that is sinning so I am not saying to ignore sin. I was to address the idea that a child processes differently than an adult and don’t reject believers who process their life with the faith of a child. For me, it was very simple: love God, believe what He says, love other people without bounds. Well, that isn’t super practical. Jesus says things like “love me more than you love your kids”, “you will be hated by all because of My name”, “forgive seventy times seven times”, “whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it”… Everything in our nature says to take a step back and process all of this with our practical mind, make sense of it through our own understanding and experience, and then do enough to please God without going overboard. This way of thinking seeped into my mind like black sludge and re-wired how I interpreted everything, even God’s Word. God would never ask me to do something that wasn’t what my parents and teachers wanted. College was a no-brainer, or actually an “all-brainer, no-ask-God-er”. Who doesn’t try to go to college after High School? I went to a local community college as a music major. This only stiffened the boundaries on any remnant of musical creativity. I became good friends with the theater crew and went to open mic nights at the local coffee shop in order to be around creative people. It was like being a groupie for all of my artistic friends. I worked during the summers to pay for a car and college until I couldn’t do it anymore. It had felt for years like I was living in someone else’s skin and so I ran away from all of it. This is when real rebellion began in my life. For the first time I wanted to show everyone just how much I didn’t care about them or God or anything. I was gone for about 4 months before giving my life to Jesus and coming back. I couldn’t be rebellious either. Eventually, I joined the Army after a broken engagement, sold all of my musical instruments, and just lived the routine for years. Wake up, PT, work, go home, sleep. There was a simplicity to that life that did give me some peace. I supposed I could have lived the rest of my life that way as many people do. Still there was a seed of something different. A desire to create. Towards the end of my enlistment, I was able to use some of my musical abilities but never in a truly creative way. At this point, I was convinced that I was just a singer and would never really create anything unique. Most of you know the story from here, I got married, popped out five kids in less than three years, got really fat and then lost the weight, Jeremy heard the call for missions I had heard at 7 years old, we have been pursuing that call while still running a household, and here we are. Something happened though almost two years ago, God began to place leadership in my life that reframed my understanding of my identity in Christ. We had just moved from Maine where we lived “in the middle of nowhere” by Marylanders standards (we had to drive at least 30 minutes to get to the closest Walmart). I had been told by most of the Christians in that area (not all) what it meant to submit to my husband and frankly it was really unhealthy and unbiblical. My husband was very supportive of me just being myself. When we married, I was so wrapped up in how I looked to everyone else, it would cause me to feel physically ill. So, when I died my hair half-blonde/half-purple and got a few tattoos he told me I was cute. I could see him enjoy my self-exploration. This may sound crazy but he even let me punch him in the face once. I had been bullied my whole life and had NEVER punched anyone so he let me. I decided that I didn’t want to punch anyone again, I’d rather pray and hug. We knew we were moving back to Maryland and I didn’t know what church would accept my crazy hair so I died it back to red and got a more practical “mom haircut”. Jeremy then admitted he liked my hair a natural color more, “but you are beautiful either way babe”. A few months went by after moving to Maryland, we had found our church home in Frederick and I decided to shave the side of my head ’cause why not? I sang in the choir so awkwardly on Sunday mornings. I would try to dress in clothes that would cover my tattoos and sweat like crazy! Our pastor’s wife was generous to go on coffee-dates with me during this season where I could ask her a million questions about what it is like to be in ministry, how to stand in your individuality and also submit to your husband, and how is it even possible to do this whole “ministry” thing? She was so wonderful. She and her husband had been pastoring for over forty years and still completely trusted the Lord while loving people and raising a family. Most of the leadership I had encountered had become jaded or detached at this point in their ministry. Anyway, at the end of one of our coffee-dates, she was dropping me off at my car in the church parking lot and I began to confess my insecurities to her. “Who would want a missionary’s wife, a pastor’s wife, a teacher’s wife with tattoos and a half-shaved head? I just don’t fit the description.” She just looked at me and said “Sarah, you just be yourself and God will use you the way you are.” What a life-changing, life-giving moment! This was the beginning of a self-exploration that has changed the way I do everything. My pastor’s wife didn’t reject me, she embraced me and gave me room to see how God use me for His Kingdom just the way He created me. Like having a corset loosened for the first time in years, I could breathe. All of the sudden, scripture came to life before my eyes. I had room to relate to the artisans who created the first tabernacle in the wilderness and it made sense why I felt like I was in battle while I worshiped. There was more change to come in my home, my marriage, and my mothering. There was a constant pressure in my old-mind to keep up with the other moms, particularly the homeschool parents. We were homeschooling and I would watch the other parents show up to co-op with their organized bins-on-wheels, cup of Starbucks in hand, and big smile. Their kids knew their facts and always had great presentations. I tried to do homeschool they way they recommended (they were really kind to give me good advice) but none of it worked. I looked up ideas on Pinterest and laminated a daily schedule. It wasn’t the right fit for our family. Artists don’t function well in strict schedule and so we didn’t either. Everyday I woke up wondering what was wrong with me until I realized that if I couldn’t do everything else in my life like the people around me, I certainly couldn’t mother like them either. I had to remind myself everyday that I am different and so this will look different. There were many conversations with the five kiddos explaining that our family is going to do things different than everyone else and that is a good thing. Even the little things were brought into this change. For example, I would see little girls at events who’s hair and outfit were immaculate. Then, I would look at my mismatched, fluffy-haired daughters and notice the dirt under their nails and tell myself “these people must think I don’t bathe them.” I had to realize that my girls like being mismatched and fluffy-haired plus, they love to play in the dirt, even if we are about to go into someones’ memorial service. My kids will touch your face and look for your belly-button even if they have never seen you before in their life. This is mostly because I am that way (except for the belly-button part and that is ONLY because I am an adult and that would just creep people out). I have learned to embrace our weird-o-ness and realize God made us this way ON PURPOSE, FOR HIS PURPOSES. John the Baptist looked like a complete nutter but He drew people into repentance for the sake of the coming Savior. As I shifted gears, processing our life through a different lens, the one I once had as a child; I needed to shed one more burden. Striving. Some folks strive for a large bank account or a promotion or to see their children succeed. I, however wanted to reach a level of maturity and faith that would relieve my need to always feel inadequate. This was about an internal destination I desired rather than a social-status achievement. Everyday I would wake up and make a list of all of the things that needed to be done. They would look something like this:
Tuesday – do laundry, homeschool, sort through blankets, clean bathroom, ask God about Emilia’s attitude and how to help her, make payment plan to get out of debt, pray over spiritual growth that needs to happen before missions: my fears, how to hear God better…
These lists were never-ending. There was no way I would ever reach the goals I had set for myself because they were simply unrealistic. Let me clarify – The Bible is clear on the fact that God wants us to mature in our relationships with Him but, the way I was pursuing this growth was not Biblical. I would wake up everyday and run through my list and try to get done as much as I could. It was almost this idea that I needed to get as much “done” as possible because Jesus might come back and then I’d have unfinished business. I am laughing to myself as I write this. Where is the trusting and relying on the Lord here? Where is the resting in Him? Matthew 11:25-30 “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and You will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and My burden is light.” This portion of scripture would annoy me along with Jeremiah 40:31. The scripture in Jeremiah was always read in church like this: “They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired they will walk and not become weary.” I would hear it and think “what the hell? Who does this stuff and isn’t tired and weary?” It didn’t occur to me to look at the beginning of the verse: “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength;”. The ones who’s posture is waiting for the coming Lord will be able to do this. The concept got me to thinking about striving verses resting; heavy versus light; strength verses weariness. The calling to parent is too weighty for any of us to bear. One of my closest mom-friends said the other day “I am just so tired of constantly disciplining, I want a break from having to correct them all of the time”. I could completely relate to that feeling. The weight of our kids’ future can crush us. “If I don’t correct them, my kid will grow up to be a felon” verses “I just want to enjoy my children sometimes”. I am a Christian, this yoke should be light right? I went back to the Lord and petitioned Him how to be His child and their parent at the same time. What He revealed to me was the number of times I hear “mommy” in one day. Then He revealed how few times I say “Daddy” in a day. My yoke will be heavy if I forget to be His child first before being their parent. I want to take this a bit deeper into my biggest challenge: our call to be missionaries. This call is so far beyond me. I know I have shared this before but, I just want for a moment to take you into my mind (scary, I know). A few years back we applied to go to Mozambique and were not accepted. Our children were… Gosh, they were 4, 3, 2, 1 and 1 years old then and I was really quite relieved to NOT go. I didn’t share that with everyone but my mind was all-over-the-place! I kept imagining scenarios where my 1 year olds started playing in a sewage river, my 2 year old had malaria, my 3 year old was playing with a poisonous snake and my 4 year old was having a metal breakdown. I could not get over my fear of what would happen to our children. The moment I would think about our call to Tanzania, I would need to process every possible scenario and complete every list, RIGHT NOW to go. There was no waiting for the Lord in my life. There wasn’t a real sense that God had us in the palm of His hand and His Will would be done. There was no REST. Even as recently as this past winter, I wanted to do everything in very neat and “safe” steps despite my heart’s cry for the nation of Tanzania. We could do a few years at a YWAM base in the US because I want to be as prepared as possible before we go into the land of people we don’t know, a language we can’t speak, and mosquitos we can’t control. Finally, the Lord brought me to a place of trust in Him that is difficult to explain. My friend Kristin said it well, “it is standing in the tension” between where we are and where we are called. The Lord gave me this image and it is interestingly quite “Biblical”. I longed for years as a young woman to meet my “match” and be married. I didn’t see the marriage ceremony as significant until I met my husband, Jeremy. He spoke of a future wife as a “jewel in my crown when I meet Jesus” and that started to change my perspective on the wedding ceremony. Well, Jeremy proposed and I was overwhelmed that someone I loved so deeply would want to give themselves to me for the rest of their life. We picked out the dress and a simple bouquet of flowers. The moment I was walking down the aisle to him, I had a realization that I was walking towards my future. He was the representation of our future family, our future calling. Wherever he would go, I would go too. I was nervous, excited, hopeful, serious and joyful at the same time. Those few minutes were the best moments of my life until now. As I pondered the idea of “living in the tension” and having rest, that moment; adorned in white, walking towards my future; the Lord spoke to my heart. Our family is walking down the aisle to our future with our Groom. It isn’t a heavy burden, instead it is a joyful, surprising, sobering gift to be chosen by Him for this. He released me into His rest in even this season. Even now, I think “I can’t believe He picked me”. I can live in the place of not worrying for tomorrow (Matt 6) but doing what He has for me each day, in the way He designed me to do it.
I want to encourage you to be who God created you to be, not what anyone else thinks you SHOULD be. Life isn’t designed to be a hamster-wheel. Life isn’t made to be a series of to-do lists. Let some of the balls drop and figure how God designed YOU to walk with Him through this. There is rest in Him.
Revelation 2:2-4 “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you. That you have left your first love.”

** We have posted an update on the family as well as documents that explain more details about our call, our plan, and our finances on our new Family Updates Page! **

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