Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Spread the Joy and not the Fear

The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster for me...

I am filled with JOY over the response we are receiving from individuals whose lives have been positively impacted after reading Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts. It is truly a humbling experience to continue Sara's legacy of teaching people how joy can be found through faith and trust in our heavenly Father's promises.

Even though I am filled with Joy, I find myself at times with tears that don't seem to want to stop. Continuing Sara's legacy is such a humbling experience and includes the ability to also live her life Goals. The life goal that has been going through my mind lately is to "Spread the Joy and not the fear." I pray that God's message of Joy through Sara's story will continue to bless others and bring them joy in a world filled with so much fear.

Before Sara began her journey to heaven, she placed her hand on my shoulder and said, "When you need me, close your eyes and feel my hand on your shoulder. I will be with you." I have been closing my eyes and praying to feel her hand gently on my shoulder...and yet I don't feel her like I want to. The struggle of my head knowing that she is with me and my heart so desperately wanting to feel her, to talk to her, to celebrate with her.

Today, I not only felt her hand on my shoulder, I heard her whisper words of encouragement. You see, today Sara sent an Angel of encouragement to me...

I received a note of encouragement with some precious choose joy graphics and a picture of me and my angel friend, Rachel Lundy. It's as if she new exactly what I needed.

I learned from my sweet sister, Sara to always act on those whispers that come into your mind and heart, because they are the whispers of the Holy Spirit talking to us. Thank you, Rachel, for listening to those whispers...you blessed me with exactly what I needed, when I needed it!

Do you follow through with the whispers you hear? I encourage you to...I promise you will make a difference for someone!



Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Friendship...A gift of Love

I was blessed to receive "The Gift of Friendship" from Dawn Camp in the mail this past week. With the book was a beautiful note letting me know that Dawn was blessed to call Sara friend. It is humbling to hear from so many people who were blessed by Sara and I want each of you to know what a true blessing you were to her as well.

Sara was a true friend to others. She blessed others by being fully present with them and making their needs and desires her priority. Sara wholly cared for people.

Her friends included people she had known since childhood, as well as people she had never personally met. Below is an excerpt from the book, Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts, talking about how God blessed her with the right friends at the right time...

I never cease to be amazed how, in every stage of my life, God has opened my heart to so many friendships. I love that I have friends who make me laugh until I cry. I love that some of my friends are so shy, until they get comfortable, and then they shock the life out of me with things they say or do. I love that some friends are intellectual and planners. I love that other friends go totally on emotion and spontaneity abounds. I have friends who are so much like me I think we may be the same person, and I have friends who are so opposite of me they keep me looking at life from different angles. I love that God knew I needed all of it and placed me right where I needed to be to find each and every one of them.

Here's a cool thing about my life... at every stage I have met great friends, the kind that are life-long, even-when-you-haven't-talked-in-a-year kind of friends where things are natural and you always wish the best for each other. I am crazy blessed with a lot of those kind of friends.

But I also have a number of people in my life who are soul mate kind of friends. These are the people that I can maybe remember the first time I met them, but have no idea how we got from saying hello to knowing each other backward and forward because getting to that point usually took only one conversation.

Each of these friends are such an essential part of my day-to-day life. They are the ones who so effortlessly let me live vicariously through them and their families, making my life feel absolutely whole and complete. I've not only been welcomed into their families but their extended families as well. I get to be a part of their kids' lives, but more importantly they don't mind that I love their kids like my own. They put up with the crazy dog and come hang out at my place with me anyway, and the ones who live far away keep in touch like we live just down the block. 

I am blessed, people.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Ultimate Love -- Surrender

Mark 14:36 says: "Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."

I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the phrase "wholehearted surrender," lately...

So many of us get overwhelmed when there are so many priorities and responsibilities facing us each day. Some of those responsibilities are even more overwhelming when the decisions we make affect others as well.  Our minds can start spiraling out of control when we allow these thoughts to take over instead of surrendering to the one who does have knows all, can see all and controls all. 

I think many of us surrender some aspects of our lives, but that is the problem. We give Him some control. As Sara explains in the following post, what God ultimately wants from us is wholehearted surrender! 

By now you’ve probably realized you have a distinct choice to make: just let life happen, which is tantamount to serving God your leftovers, or actively run toward Christ.”          ~ Francis Chan

Yep, Chan pretty much had me from the first sentence of this chapter. A few sentences later, he had me nodding my head at this:

Do you understand that it’s impossible to please God in any way other than wholehearted surrender?

It was a perfect way to hook us into a chapter that, in my opinion, gives us an excellent guidebook to being God’s servant … a lesson in living with the intentional view that our lives really aren’t about us at all. This is a lesson I learned not by choice, but by circumstances that have gradually led me to a place where I can’t imagine wanting anything other than the opportunity to serve Him.

When I was in my early college years, I was one of the most active, social people you could meet. I was working two jobs, tutoring some athletes in English, was involved in my church by leading music, lecturing, doing liturgy planning and leading retreats. I worked out every morning and usually had something social going on with friends nearly every night.

Oh, and I managed to study a little, too. [That sentence was for my parents, to put their minds at ease. :) ]

I was a good kid, didn’t get into trouble, did my best to be there for others and loved God. I was serving Him in many capacities in and out of the church, but in truth I was serving Him as *I* saw fit. I talked to Him and celebrated Him, but I never really slowed down long enough to listen. To find out what He needed from me, rather than what I was wanting to give Him.

And then I lost everything.

Over the course of the past 15 years, I have lost almost every gift I had to give. I have a disease that gradually took away my physical choices to the point where I am today: in constant physical pain, often sick, walking with a walker and completely home bound. Not only am I confined to my home, I can’t even open a window and have had to install a system to purify the air in my home so I can breathe. I’m basically the “Girl in the Condo” version of the “Boy in the Bubble.” :)

God had blessed me with so many gifts and talents, I couldn’t imagine there was a point to me being like this. I couldn’t believe there would be a way for me to still serve Him, or anyone else, while isolated and stripped of almost everything that made me, “me.”

But like Chan pointed out on page 114, people in the Bible who wholeheartedly followed God “were far from perfect, yet they had faith in a God who was able to come through in seemingly dire situations.” I always believed I had that faith… but mine was a faith of conditions. I had faith He would take care of me, but I assumed that meant I would be cared for with good health. I had faith that I would prosper, and assumed that meant my career would follow a good path. I had faith that He wanted the best for me, and assumed that meant my life would unfold in a way I envisioned.

But as the years progressed and I lost more and more of what I thought defined me, as I found myself in the hospital, unemployed and on disability, I realized that being a servant meant all or nothing. A line was drawn in the sand and I had to choose my fear, or I had to choose to completely trust Him. It had to be an all or nothing choice because one cannot exist if the other is true.

I chose to trust, and I’ve never looked back. I can be tired, I can be frustrated by my circumstances and exhausted from the pain, but I am never fearful of what is to come because I know that He is in control. 

I have faith that He will take care of me, and He has given me fortitude and peace in my heart as I face the challenges my body inflicts on me. I have faith that I will prosper, and I have been blessed with plentiful friends who walk this journey with me. I have faith that He wants the best for me, and He shows me that daily by using my life in ways that serve others… being there in small ways I would never have been able to if my life had unfolded the way I envisioned… and also by letting others serve me. That’s something I resisted my entire life, but now see that sometimes others need to feel the blessing of helping someone else, and I have to surrender my stubborn pride and be the helped.

Chan spoke on page 122 about the man who, when under financial strain, tithed more instead of less… and then was rewarded in his faithfulness. What I’ve come to realize in wholehearted surrender is that we are sometimes rewarded in ways we can overlook. We assume if we tithe more, our wealth will be blessed in the form of money. But it could be that our wealth is blessed in the form of security in our relationships, or in the form of peace in our hearts with the knowledge we have done right for right’s sake.

What I’ve come to learn, and what Chan expresses, is that to trust Him we must surrender everything… sometimes without knowing where we are going. “God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.”

I can only tell you of my experience, but my life is filled with not knowing. I don’t know from one moment to the next how much pain I will be in, if I’ll be able to breathe or walk. I don’t know if I’ll have a migraine or be unable to type with my fingers. I never know where I am going, and I have never felt less in control in my entire life. And it is true freedom. I trust that He has it under control, and my job is to be open enough to walk where He leads… to not be distracted and miss the opportunity to be a servant to Him through the circumstances in my life.

Even Jesus came to Earth taking the nature of a servant, which begs the question: If Jesus was a servant, if he lost everything to come to Earth in the form of a baby who had nothing more than love to give, why would I assume to deserve more?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Sara's Story -- All about Love

As I have walked this journey of publishing Sara's story and now walk the path of spreading her spirit led discipleship, I am overwhelmed by the stories we receive about how people are being blessed by reading Sara's story. The outpouring of love and support has been amazing. God has put many angels on this path to help spread His love through Sara's story.

One example of the angels I have met are two ladies, a mother and daughter, Jenni and Joanie. They have a strong love for God and trust His plan. This trust led them to start up JB Square Media. Their mission is to provide people with positive messages...messages of love.

JB Square media produced the above video for us to use in the promotion of Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts. These wonderful women are using their talents for God's good. Thank you, Joanie and Jenni!

Below is a post that Sara wrote giving us her perspective on the talents God blesses us with...

I have had so many conversations about heaven and our spirits and what I believe in the past month and a half. Very few of them have been instigated by me. Most of them are discussions with friends who are trying so hard to figure out why the things in our lives happen, and they want to know what I think about it all. They want to know if I’ve had any revelations about life and death and Dad.

The truth is, I haven’t.

The truth is, I believe what I’ve always believed... and I’m living life after Dad’s death the same way I did before. I just keep trying to do the next right thing, while stepping forward in faith and trust.
I know, it’s not a sexy answer. But it is the truth.

Shortly after Dad died, I was having one of those conversations with Katie, my best friend from high school. Katie and I grew up in each other’s homes, and my dad loved her like another daughter. Despite “Katie” being her full given name, Dad liked to lengthen it to Katherine or Kathleen... just to be a stinker and get a rise out of her. And I think he especially enjoyed her because she was as ornery as he was. She laughed at his jokes even if they weren’t funny, and threw as many back at him as she could think up.

But he’d give her hugs and tell her he loved her as easily as he’d poke fun at her, and that’s why losing him broke her heart as well as mine. She lost her second dad. And when we were talking she said that she didn’t understand why Dad had to be the one to go. She kept trying to understand why God needed him in heaven more than we needed him here.

I realized how many people had said the same thing to me over the previous weeks... that he was such a good man, but that God must have needed him more. And I have to tell you, I just don’t believe that’s true.

God is God. He can do all, see all, be all.

God doesn’t need us for anything.


I think the truth is that we all need Dad here more than God needs anything. But because God is God, He knows the big picture that we don’t. And if it was Dad’s time to be with Him in heaven, then it was for Dad’s sake, or for us to learn something by his absence, or to spread the lesson of his legacy.

I think it was just something God foresaw in a greater plan that He sees and we don’t.

That’s why we have faith. We are simply called to trust that He knows better than we do. Whether we like it or not.

For me, it’s a lesson I learned as I got sicker and lost so many abilities. I remember thinking that it made absolutely no sense to me that God would give me so many talents and gifts, and then not let me have the opportunity to keep using them. So many things I loved to do were slowly being stripped away, and because I had used them for His glory I couldn’t understand how being without them could be the right thing.

He gave me a voice to sing His praises, and I used it to lead worship at church, sing at wedding celebrations and to bring peace to those at funerals. I spoke at and led retreats, I was social and did good deeds for others when I was out and about in the world. I lived life happy, dancing and laughing and trying to bring joy to people.

I couldn’t understand why he gave me the gifts if they were just going to be taken away.

But then I learned that I had the gifts when He needed me to use them. I didn’t squander and waste my talents, and they brought Him glory when they were supposed to. And I realized that if my talents were gone, if they were taken from me, then it was because I wasn’t supposed to have them anymore.

I trusted that He saw the bigger picture, and I stepped forward in faith by living the life that was in front of me. I stepped forward, knowing that whatever He wanted from me now, He would make sure I had the gifts to use in the moment. My gifts back then served God’s purpose, and if they were gone, so was that purpose.

I believe the same is true for Dad. He took the gifts God gave him at any given time in his life and he used them. He didn’t squander and waste his talents, and he brought God glory when he was supposed to. And if Dad is gone, if he was taken from us, it’s because He’s not supposed to be here anymore.

Trust me when I tell you that I would rather lose all my abilities and freedoms a million times over than to lose Dad. He was a gift in all of our lives, and we cherished him. But we have to keep stepping forward in faith, trusting that God sees the big picture and knowing He will give us what we need to get through any given moment.

Searching for answers beyond that is just me trying to do God’s job... and I trust that He has that covered without me.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Community is Love

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some have the habit of doing, but encourage one another -- and all the more as you see the day approaching." Hebrews 10:24-25

I have always thought of community as those who I am physically with. Typically that includes church, work, family and friends. As I have walked this journey of continuing this Choose Joy ministry that Sara began, my community has expanded to include each of you...this online community that loved Sara and that she loved right back. 

Below is a post from Sara on finding love in community.

"learning that home bound doesn't limit
your life, just your location."

That's a section of my bio, and it's been taunting me a bit lately.

Of course, the way I meant it is still true. I still mean, through this blog and the internet and the phone and the mail, I get to touch people's lives and they flood mine with beauty and grace. You all have made sure my location doesn't matter when it comes to community.

I am so grateful for that.

It's not the home bound part that feels like it's limiting my life these days, it's life itself.

A few months ago, my nurse suggested we have physical therapy start coming to the house again for a short period of time. I had to stop doing any sort of therapy when Cushing's hit, and my abilities have changed fairly drastically since then. I thought it would be a great idea to have someone come in and refresh me on what I should be doing.

They key here is that I thought I'd still be able to do it. Do something. Do anything.

I can do nothing.

I joke about it a lot, but my physical therapist went from talking about exercises to saying that my goal should be getting out of bed periodically and walking to the kitchen and back.

I was ready for stretches and lifts and maybe some stretchy bands. Turns out, I can barely move my ankles without them swelling. Forget about the rest of me.

I was in shock. Everything he talked about I would respond with, "Oh, I can do that…" and then I would try, and I couldn't move. I have fused and been made limited in ways I never dreamed. I thought I could move my neck, until he held my shoulders still and I realized I had been moving my whole body.

It's all about our perspective. Mine was skewed until someone came along, put their hands on my shoulders and said, "Wait. Look. Realize."

Physical therapy no longer comes to the house because there is nothing for them to do. The little ways I can still move, I do repeatedly to make sure I don't lose it… but if I move too much I enflame the joints and am worse off.

It's a balancing act.

A perspective-shifting balancing act.

I had the same "wake up" moment when Nicole and the girls came last weekend. I knew I would be in bed most of the time, but I thought I would at least get up and sit on the couch a little or sit at the table during a meal here and there. I thought I would still be a participant in their visit.

Until they came on Saturday, and after I sat at the table with them for all of 15 minutes I was barely able to make it back to the bedroom without passing out. By the time they left for the hotel that night I was shaking and vomiting from trying to be "active" earlier.

It broke my heart. It broke my spirit. It was in that moment I came face-to-face with something I knew to be true but was trying so hard to make false. I had moved from feeling like a sick person to feeling like an invalid.

And I hate it.

I stayed in bed the rest of their stay, only getting up to use the bathroom. I got up once to go through some of the stuff Nicole was throwing out of cupboards and I was so weak I could barely sit on my walker, George.

Admittedly, I am fighting an infection… but fighting infections has become my norm more than a random event. When I am here alone, I do nothing but stay in bed, rest, do little bits on the computer here and there and try my best to exist with a good attitude. I can get by on my own, get to the kitchen and back, bathroom and back. I am safe and capable.

But that is it.

Throw some people and activity in there, and I can't accomplish even that. Activity for me is now defined as sitting up in bed and talking and being animated.

Talking now requires a nap.

I have no stamina.

It's like a dagger to my heart every time I have to make these realizations. Every time I see myself physically slipping to another level. The invalid level.

But I have to look at it, otherwise I constantly set my sights on things higher than I can achieve, and I end in failure. I have to recognize my limitations so I don't end up making myself worse because I'm trying to make my life into something it isn't.

It's a balancing act.

Just like my physical therapist put his hands on my shoulders to give me perspective, God is putting His hands on my shoulders and telling me to live the life He's given me, not the life I'm trying to wish into existence.

My perspective has to come from a still space in this bed. It has to come after long rests and acceptance of where I am. If there is a purpose for me on this earth, and there must be because I am still here, then I need to keep my eyes open to the here and now and find it where I am.

I am feeling like an invalid these days. And I hate it. But I know He sees more in me than my location. He will not let my life be in–valid.

Wherever you are in your life, take a moment to let His hands rest on your shoulders. Don't let life get so busy with your own ideas and vision that you miss His perspective for you. Because I promise He has one.

Just for you.

You can find more of Sara's perspective on community in her book, Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts. Keep spreading the love through your community, my friends!

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Month of Love

Hello Friends! This is Sara's sister Laura.

Tomorrow is February 1st. The beginning of a month that we will begin preparing for lent. A month of celebrating those we love and a month focused on the wellness of our heart.

John 3:16 says:
"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."

As a Christian, the church Holidays have always held a special place in my heart, but after losing dad and Sara, those Holidays have become even more meaningful. As we begin the month of February...a month of love, I am thinking about how grateful I am that God loved us so much that He gave us His only Son! Because of this sacrifice, dad and Sara... all our loved ones, will have eternal life! Without this ultimate love, we would not be meeting the people we love in Heaven.

As I read and re-read Sara's book, Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts, I also am reminded of her wish of making sure we Savor our moments. Sara told us... 

"I want you to STOP. I want you to FEEL and SMELL and ACKNOWLEDGE the gifts that God puts out in front of you every single day when He makes the sun rise from it's slumber and beat down on your skin. I want you to look up in the dark of night and see and feel the magnitude of the heavens and the stars and the full moon. I want you to be fully awake to the blessings in your life and not miss a moment. Take them in and savor them in your senses as if you might lose them tomorrow. Savor your life and blessings. And thank our God for the gift of it all. That is the best gift...To know that my life taught you something about your own."

Yes, Sara...you taught us much, but one thing you taught us most of all, is to savor our moments. You never know when those moments will be gone.

So, as we begin this month of love, I want to express my gratitude to all of you who loved our sweet Sara and continue to love my family so well. For joining us in this ministry of Choosing Joy...

May God bless you always and in all ways...