Relentless Faith

Having Relentless faith as a woman today

When Natasha asked me if I would share my story, it was a hard yes for me.  But before I said yes, I got on my knees beside my bed, that is where I have my heart to hearts with Jesus and I told Him that I wanted to do this, but only if it would make a difference and point the glory to Him.

For the past year I have been praying for God to give me a theme for my writing and speaking.  I was asked if I would be willing to speak at the EEFC’s youth retreat again, as I had last year. I said yes.  Our leadership team came up with the theme Relentless faith.

After coming home from the youth retreat I felt God give me my themes that I am to speak and write about: Relentless faith, Servant leadership and daily authenticity.

I felt very strongly that I was to continue my theme of Relentless faith for story now.

The more I grow in my faith, the louder my voice is for Jesus, and the more I am in His word, the more the enemy comes at me.  So I asked Jesus, if I can use my voice for His good, then I will say yes and speak for You.  It is also in this place of growth and speaking for Jesus, that I realise more than ever, that we cannot go it alone.  I need my crowd of witnesses around me as Heb 12:1 says, “There, since we are surrounded by such a large crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress.  And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.”  This is where I ask my girlfriends for prayer.  And a big shout out to my tribe who love and support me. These ladies support have been praying for me as I prepare to share this story.

What is faith?

Hebrews 11:1 “What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen.  It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.”

What is Relentless faith?

Relentless faith is declaring, out loud, Jesus, I’M GOING TO PRAISE YOU IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STORM.

Relentless Faith is NOT QUITTING EVEN WHEN NOTHING MAKES SENSE.

Relentless faith is saying GOD, YOU ARE GOOD, EVEN WHEN I AM FALLING APART WITH GRIEF AND DESPAIR, YOUR GOODNESS DOES NOT DEPEND ON MY CIRCUMSTANCES…that is FAITH.

I haven’t always had faith like this.  I am not sure what I was expecting when I prayed for faith, I think I was expecting a neat box, maybe even with a bow to fall into my lap from heaven and I’d open it up and look inside and say “oh look it’s the faith I prayed for, Thanks God.”  Ha, I laugh at how naïve I was.

7.5 years ago I was reading through the book of Job.  Day by day I’d read from Job at my pace at my kitchen table, while my two girls napped.  You guys, I was moved by the life and faith of Job.  Something shifted in me. The Holy spirit was stirring my heart.  I could feel it. I didn’t want to just have this mediocre faith.  I wanted BIG faith, I wanted faith that could endure every horrible thing and still say “God you’re good!” I wanted faith like JOB.

That fateful day, after finishing the book of Job, I prayed at my kitchen table that God would give me faith like Job. That prayer was deep and sincere, because I was wanting more than what I was living.

I was about 20 weeks pregnant with our third baby.  I had recently had my 3rd ultrasound, and it took forever. The technician was the same one I’d had for my other 2 ultrasounds.  He kept telling me he couldn’t  get a good picture.  I thought nothing of it…Until the very next day.

Matt and I were hosting a brand new life group the next day.  I was quite excited.  Matt and I had gone through the training to be leaders and were anticipating meeting new couples. A few hours before this new group meets for the first time in our home, I got a phone call from my Doctor. Sophie, our middle daughter had just woken up from her nap and I was changing her.

“ You are not likely to have a healthy baby.” She says “ There was a lot wrong with the ultrasound.  From what we can see, your baby will most likely have cystic fibrosis, CMV or the best case scenario, Down’s syndrome.  You will need more testing.  I am so sorry.”  She told me not to google those things as that would not be helpful. We hung up.

I was stunned.

What?

How?

No, not me.

Not my baby.

And you guys, I heard this voice inside of me, saying, “Have faith like Job.”

In that moment, I knew that I would have to trust on this one.  I had two choices: be bitter and angry and upset.  Or let go of what I was not in control of and trust that God was the same God that Job leaned on.

Trusting God made me feel so vulnerable.  If I was angry I could take it out on someone, which is a very common and destructive response. I was given a statistic about how many marriages break up over this kind of stress.  Oh the things people will tell you while you are struggling.  But I realized that my husband had no more control over the situation or the ability to change it, so I would need to do this with him and alongside him. 

The testing began soon after.

My husband and I arrive to our first fetal assessment at St. Boniface.  They would be weekly from now on.  Before we even get our first fetal assessment done, the Specialist comes in and asks us if we want an abortion.  Matt and I are stunned.

NO, we do not.

They do the fetal assessment ultrasound and tell us everything that is wrong.  Baby’s bowel is the wrong colour, it is showing up very bright which is bad.  Her heart didn’t look quite right.  She was missing a vessel in her umbilical cord. And they pointed it all out to us so we could see what they were talking about.

Next was the blood tests that both Matt and I had to get done to rule out genetic diseases and various viruses we could be carrying. Then we went home and would return the next week for results and another assessment.

My heart was heavy.  As a nurse I had seen and cared for sick and deformed babies on a few occasions.  I have sat with mothers as they question me why this happened?  Why their child has to suffer?  And I gave what small and insufficient comfort I could, watching so helplessly as these women’s babies and children needed highly specialized medical intervention simply to continue breathing.  I was not ignorant to what the possibilities in front of me were.  I was more informed then most what I may face for the rest of my child’s potential life.  And it hurt me.  What every mother dreams of is a beautiful healthy and whole baby.

To add to this stressful news was the fact that I already struggled with my own health during my pregnancies.  One local DR who I highly respect and work with told me my own immune system suppressed itself so that the baby could grow. This meant I was susceptible to every infection. It started with my first pregnancy and showed up as hives.  I went to the ER two times thinking I was having an allergic reaction.  My second pregnancy was worse, and I was on Benadryl for several weeks to contain the hives.  I went into my 3rd pregnancy the healthiest and most fit I have ever been.  My expectations were so high for a healthy and great pregnancy.  But after I got the news of the ultrasound, around 3 months the immune suppression showed up with a vengeance landing me in the ER with pneumonia and the doctors thinking that I may also have asthma.  The hives showed up not much later, the worst they have ever been.  They covered my body from head to toe, to inside my mouth and the soles of my feet.  I felt tormented and utterly out of control.

Faith like Job, Sarah.

The testing continued.  Matt and I went back a week later.  Same Specialist.  Do you want an abortion? Was the first thing she said to us.  Not hello, not how was your week.  My jaw dropped yet again, “NO I do not.”  She proceeded to tell us that we were going to have to run more tests, the previous tests came back inconclusive.  So off Matt and I went to the lab.  More questions, more blood taken, more statistics given to us about percentages and probabilities.  Then off for the fetal assessment.  Not much had changed.  Baby remained the same.  We were booked in for the next week, and back to Steinbach we went, solemn and unsure of the future.

Faith like Job. I cried out to God in frustration.  How can you expect me to be strong enough for this?  I know what it takes to care for a sick baby.  My own health was suffering and I was always fighting infections.  I had no help and I had a toddler and a baby.  My life felt like a hellish nightmare that I couldn’t make better.  I remember Summer, who was almost 3 years old at the time, looking outside our back door longingly at the park behind our house and saying “outside, outside.” I would look at her and apologize and say, “I’m so sorry mommy is too sick and too tired to take you outside today.” And every day for that matter.  My baby Sophie lay in her crib so much longer then she should have because I was so physically sick and exhausted to take her out and play with her.  The Benadryl that I needed to control the hives worsened the exhaustion to the point I could hardly keep my eyes open at times. Week after week the darkness got darker and life became harder and harder.

People started praying.  I thank my mother and my mother-in-law  and our lifegroup who reached out to the women around them to start praying for us and our hard situation. We found out later that the amount of people praying for us spread far and wide, bigger then we knew at the time.

I remember one particular conversation with my older sister Jolene. She was reassuring that God was with me in all this mess.  I told her that I knew that, but it did not make the storm any less real, dark or hard.  I was in the midst of the storm and saw no way out, all I could do was cling to my God in faith and hope that He would, indeed see me though.  But I still cried myself to sleep every night, because the health struggles were real and not knowing if my child would live or be whole ate me up alive.

Several weeks into our fetal assessments and testing, the doctors were truly stumped. Every result came back inconclusive. We were told this has never happened before and that they were going to send our next round of testing to the highest level at Health Science Center to their genetic specialists to see if they could determine what was going on. We were told by the St. Boniface fetal assessment specialist to come back next week for our weekly appointment and hopefully there would be results.  We also told our specialist to stop offering us abortions.  We told her we were keeping this child no matter what.  She looked at us a bit surprised at our decision but said OK. She did not offer us another abortion.

My health struggles continued, I had constant chest infections, eye infections, ear and bladder infections. My stomach was always so very upset and my autoimmune response was always active.  I laugh now at how I looked like a spotted cheetah from the hives but at the time I simply refused to go out looking like that, not that I had the energy anyways.

Faith like Job.

Our next fetal assessment Matt and I witnessed a miracle.  Matt had just accepted a job in Steinbach, which he says he had been resisting but felt that he had to take especially if our child was to be so ill and incomplete.  He felt strongly that God had told him to take the job, he said yes just before we walked into our fetal assessment for the ultrasound.  The same technician that we had week after week greeted us and proceeded to show us everything that was missing or incomplete.  We saw our daughter’s umbilical cord which was not pumping blood through one vessel.  She showed up the one vessel and we watched the screen with her.  She says, “I don’t understand.” And we see with our own eyes as our daughters second vessel starts pumping blood and literally shows up before our own eyes on the screen.  We looked at her and we said, “We know how this happened, we have a village praying for us.”  She smiled so genuinely at us and said, “I have seen this happen to people of faith.”  She leaves the room and comes back with the Doctor, the same specialist that kept offering the abortions to us.  She is speechless.  She tells us that she cannot explain this.  She states that it is clearly documented on our chart, which she is holding and shows us, that this vessel was not functional and now it is.  We tell her the same thing we thing we told the technician, we have a village of people praying for us.” Matt and I tear up having just witnessed the goodness of God.  The doctor doesn’t know what to say to us.  I found out years later that she was an atheist and I hope that some part of our story still speaks to her today.

Matt and I drove home to Steinbach in awe.  We just witnessed that miracle together.  I would not say our faith was united or strong.  That moment bonded us and it was beautiful.  We were to come back next week as usual.

Something stirred my heart. I had to let go.  Whatever control I wanted or felt I had, I needed to surrender.  Through tears and a raw heart, I surrendered to God. 

God, you are good no matter what I get.  You are good if my baby is whole or is incomplete, you…are….good!  Tears ran down my face as I let go and choose to accept the unknown.  When Matt came home that night, I told him the same thing.  I was choosing to believe the goodness of God, no matter what we got.  There would be no more testing, no more statistics, no more weekly fetal assessments.  We would surrender it all to God.  He sided with me and agreed.  I still had my regular prenatal appointments with my Doctor in Steinbach but no more weekly trips to Winnipeg.

I’d like to say that it was all great from there.  And in a lot of ways a massive mental and emotional stress was lifted. But my health continued to struggle.  I was very isolated. I did not have many friends, and I had no family that could help me.  At about 39 weeks pregnant, I went downstairs to a room we never used. It had a bunkbed.  I curled up on that bottom bunk utterly exhausted.  I closed my eyes and had the thought that if I died right here in this moment, the suffering would be over.  Baby and I would meet Jesus and I would not have to struggle anymore.  Death seemed be so peaceful.  Peace, what a beautiful thought after months of suffering physically and emotionally. 

I did not want to die.  It was in that moment I realized I needed help.  I went upstairs and told Matt to take me to the ER or to take the children and let me sleep.  I could not physically go on like this.  I slept for 3 days straight, I got up only to use the washroom and to grab a quick bite of food and back to sleep I went.

One week later our miracle was born.  Emma Brynn Neufeld entered the world perfect, whole and complete.

Faith like Job.

I look back on that entire ordeal, and with conviction I believe God answered my prayer that fateful day when I asked to have Faith like Job.  The faith I expected in the form of a neat box and a bow falling into my lap never came.  Those seven months were the darkest and hardest months of my life, but it was where my faith was truly born.  So many times I could have turned my back on God, but I didn’t. And God saw me through that storm and forged a faith so big in me that I stand here today to share it with you. I saw miracles happen and others around us saw them too.  Our miracle turns 7 next month.  She is my living and breathing reminder of God’s goodness and my journey in faith.

John Maxwell talks about asking God for a word to take with you for the year.  So I decided that I would ask God for a word.  It was the end of December 2019.  So one afternoon, I prayed to God and asked Him to give me a word.  I got the word “CHALLENGE” and I was like “Are you sure God? Like this word? People get the word inspire, courage, change.   Can we try this again?”  I closed my eyes and tried to listen longer in hopes to receive a more inspiring word.  I asked God again for a word, and He said “I already gave it to you, challenge.”

So I will use it boldly.

I challenge you to live out your faith big and bold and loud this year.

I challenge you to step out in faith where God is leading you.

I challenge you to speak up in your work place, where you gather with friends and to be the voice proclaiming Jesus.

I challenge you to not hold back when your feel that nudge urging you to do that next right thing.

I challenge you to be different this year.

Dare to say, I’m no longer going to be passive.  I will bow my head at work and thank Jesus for my lunch.

I will refuse to gossip about my co-worker or friend or neighbor or ex.

I will quit swearing when I am angry.  I will get help for my addiction.  I will no longer let that hurt from my past eat me alive.  I will get help.

Ladies, the light we can shine when we challenge ourselves and step out in faith and simply live out God’s love without shame or fear or sin holding us back has the power to change the world around us.  I challenge you to be relentless in your pursuit of Jesus.  Do not allow the world to get in your way.  And when life is dark and messy and unclear and so painful, DECLARE “I’m going to praise you in the storm.  I’m going to raise a hallelujah.”

That is faith.

Love, Sarah

Faith

The farther I journey into my faith, the more I recognize my own sinfulness. Perhaps it comes from a deeper self-awareness and more intentional pursuit of growth and change. It increases my thankfulness for God’s grace to me. In this space of my imperfection, God meets me with open arms and love. He does not tolerate my sin, but He loves me regardless of it and wants me to continue to pursue a relationship with Him. Oh what a beautiful thing! To be loved so fully, so completely.

I have always struggled with my worth. I am a middle child and have always been fiercely independent. I have never had any fears until I became a mother. I reflect on my personality traits and sometimes I laugh at the mixed bag that I received. I am fearless, confident, outgoing and yet struggle with identity and my worth. Maybe that’s what keeps me humble. I know that God is good and that He has a plan for my life. So I will embrace all of me, the parts that I love and the parts that I do not understand.

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a group of teenagers about having relentless faith. I shared some of my own stories about how I lost my faith for a season. It was me walking away from God and choosing to let go of my morals. In a place of guilt and hurt and desperation I went back to God on my knees and asked forgiveness for the all the awful and hurtful decisions I had been making. In that moment I experienced God and His grace so profoundly. I walked away from Him, He never walked away from me. Yet when I came back with a battered and bruised soul, God accepted me with open arms and forgave me. It was a physical weight lifted off of me. It was a sensation I could physically feel. I experienced God and it was beautiful. That moment changed my life. So when people ask me how I know God is real, I tell them that I know because in my faith, I have experienced Him, heard Him speak and felt His presence. I encourage them to ask Him to make Himself real to them. Pray for an opportunity to experience God. But also read the Bible and pray consistently. Your faith needs an anchor to keep you from drifting. That anchor is found in the truth of the Bible.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 The message

Another aspect of Faith is we do not only have faith when life makes sense, but faith is the essence of what gets us through all of the hard and messy and ugly and unknown that life throws at us. Seven years ago I prayed to have faith life Job. If you have not read the book of Job in the Bible, do it! I read it and was so moved by his uncompromising and profound faith in God even when Job’s entire life was falling apart, he lost everything even his health, yet he trusted God and would not compromise even in the face of death. I wanted to have that kind of faith! The very next day, I received a phone call from my doctor that the child I was carrying would not likely be healthy or fully formed. The child I carried might even have deformities that would make life not sustainable. I heard a whisper in my heart so loud it was as if someone was standing behind me saying, “Have faith like Job.” My faith was tested like none other for the next 6 months. I did not see the finish line, my life felt like one massive storm where there was no sunshine just relentless testing of my faith. So many nights I cried from the uncertainty and listened to praise and worship music. I needed constant reminders of God’s goodness so I would keep on having faith. I remember one night something broke in me. I decided that no matter what, that God was good. If my child was whole or incomplete, God was good and I will trust His goodness and finally let go. Tears streamed down my face, but in that moment of surrender to the unknown, my faith grew. God was teaching me to have faith like Job.

Bethel Music says it so well in their song Raise a Hallelujah. “I’m going to sing in the middle of the storm. Louder and louder, you’re going to hear my praises roar. Up from the ashes hope will arise. Death is defeated, the King is alive!” It’s a decision. You must choose to praise God in the storm. And that is faith!

My daughter was born perfect and whole and she is my daily reminder of my faith in God. She is my miracle and I love sharing my story of Emma. You will never regret choosing faith in God. I challenge you to look at your life. Where is your faith?

Love, Sarah.

A hard week

A good friend and I went out for coffee recently one evening to talk about life. And by coffee I mean she had tea and I had vodka and orange juice at a delightful local bistro which does serve coffee.  We have known each other for over ten years, so talking about the real stuff comes out easily with her.  She asked me how I was doing.  With many other people I would have said good or even great, and chose to focus on the genuine good in my life.

But the truth was I was not doing good or great.  It had been a very hard and very teary week. I am usually an upbeat person who tries hard to see the good in every day and encourage those around me.  But lately I have been struggling.  I have been struggling with the overwhelming emotions attached to parenting some challenging and difficult personalities in our children and the overwhelming emotions attached to my ongoing back pain.  Those two combined with the dark, cold of winter had me in a low place.

I am a caregiver by nature.  I love to encourage, build up and bless those who come into my life; even those around me I may not even know but can see are struggling.  It is not work for me, it is genuinely second nature.  I make an intention to invite others in to my life because no one deserves to walk this journey alone.  Maybe it is a calling, or maybe it is simply how I am wired.  I give my time and energy because I see the value of investing into others.

As I looked at my friend and swirled the ice in my drink, I knew I needed to be on the other end of it all right now.  I needed someone to ask me how I was doing.  I needed someone to love on me and build me up and pray for me. I needed to let my weakness show (and I hate showing weakness) and I needed to be vulnerable.  Nothing would be gained to keep the wall up, so I chose vulnerability.

It has been really hard I said, and it all just flowed from there.  By the end I had tears running down my face and my friend nodding in understanding across from me with compassion in her eyes. We both agreed that living out this Christian thing is seriously hard! We agreed that we would not change it, and our faith in God was solid, but that did not make it easier. Choosing to take the high road day after day is not for the faint of heart. It is much easier to quit and take the path if least resistance. In the low place I was in, quitting was looking more appealing. Quitting looks different for all of us. But you know what quitting looks like for you.

At the end of our much longer then planned coffee date, my friend and I ended it off by bowing our heads across from each other in the bistro and genuinely lifting each other up to God in prayer. We prayed for all the hard things we were feeling, the hardships of mothering, of being a wife in this culture, and personal struggles. We prayed for God to bless the other and see them through the hardships.

I gave my friend a huge hug. I was so blessed by her simply being her and her genuine care for how I was doing. On my drive home, I felt lighter. I am so happy I chose to be vulnerable and show my weaknesses. I am so happy I chose to let my stubborn guard down and let my friend in and let her care for me. I left there stronger and encouraged. I am very blessed for my sister in Christ. I encourage you to let others in to your story. To let genuine people who really care walk alongside you.

Being vulnerable has taught me so much over the last several years. It does not always come easy to me, but I value it. I need reminders like last week to show me the good in vulnerability. That trying to do life alone is tough, and letting others see my weakness is a constant choice. But without it, I build a wall that no one can get through and that is the loneliest place to live.

The greatness of being a mother

There have been many titles I have been given over the years. But none mean more to me than Mother. Mother is the crown on my head. It is my most sacred duty. It is my purpose when I wake up in the morning. It is my charge throughout the day, and as I kiss sleepy heads and soft cheeks at nighttime I am once again reminded that it is a sacred honor to be entrusted with small, innocent human beings.

Recently, I was praying and reading my Bible. I was asking God for direction for my life. The words I heard were simple and profound, “Be a mother. Be the best mother you can be.”

So often I get caught up.

Caught up with career development and what courses I can take to better myself.

Caught up with myself. I want a certain lifestyle that it is centered around my wants and desires and it can be so selfish.

Caught up with people and pleasing others.

Caught up that old and too familiar line of “too busy”.

Caught up with over commitment. Saying yes to everything and everyone else all the while saying no to my family.

Caught up with social media. If I am not careful, hours are wasted on nothing! Nothing! Nothing except mindless scrolling and searching, time that I will never get back.

Be a mother. Be the best mother you can be. It really is so simple. But it takes intention and effort to say enough to those things which take from my family and do not bless my family. It takes intention and effort to say yes to my little people and show up (even if I do not always want to).

I am a goal setter. I think that may be a byproduct of being a writer and loving to write. I am making it my personal goal for 2020 to spend my time and energy investing into my children. I want to go the extra mile to show up for them, to cheer them on, to help them grow and to be there when they need to make tough decisions. Someday, I want them to look back and see how much I loved them by how much I showed up and cheered them on in life. When they are teenagers and adults, I want them to hear my voice in their heads, telling them they are loved, beautiful, incredible and special. I want to watch my baby ducks grow and learn to fly. And when they fall, I want to be there to help them realize that they are strong and that they can get back up again and again.

No mother decides one day to be mediocre; no one makes it their personal goal to live half hearted or to show up some of the time. No, we make those decisions unintentionally when we do not declare it out loud about the kind of mothers we want to be. So I challenge you, write it down and say it out loud everyday. Declare that you will not be mediocre, declare that you will be spectacular as a mother. Declare that you will show up and inspire your children! Declare your love for them, for they need to hear it repeatedly in words and actions. And do not stop there. Affirm them. Affirm your children. Declare over them that they are strong, worthy, loved and brave. Build them up so when they are knocked down, they hear your voice telling them that they can get back up again because they know their worth.

Our words hold so much power. They literally can change the course of our children’s lives. But here is the catch, you have to say them out loud You cannot just think them. You may think your children know how you feel about them, but they don’t. They need to be told and retold about how incredible they are if they will truly believe it. Good intentions do not help our children, not at all.

So put your phone down, maybe even put it away and turn your volume off and just show up for them. Tell them 3 positive things everyday. Build them up, build up their worth. And watch their face as you tell them how you believe in them. It is truly a humbling experience to watch little faces light up with realization that they are worthy, and special. I am not talking compliments, I am speaking about core and foundational truths that build into their belief about who they are.

They will take your voice and carry it with them into the world, so make your words worth it.

Our beautiful daughters.

What if I can't?

Have you ever had that goal that you dreamed of and worked hard towards?

Have you ever had a goal that made you feel alive when you were pursuing it?

Have you ever had that belief that you could accomplish anything if you set your mind to it and worked relentlessly on it?

I have.

But today I look at my dream with hurt and loss of hope. Feelings of despair have crossed my once vibrant and joyful mindset. And now I am asking myself a very different question.

Now I am asking myself, what if I can’t?

The loss of a dream can be a very painful experience. You build hopes and wishes; feelings become attached to your dream. Am I OK with letting go of my dream? Does that make me a failure?

I like certainty and absolutes. They are solid. There is no faith needed. You can rest on the foundation that certainty and absolutes provide. It is more comfortable to rest here then to pursue the unknown. I think that is why we get comfortable. So when my dream is surrounded by the clouds of doubt, I want to sit down and wallow in my feelings rather than pursue and forge forward into unknown territory.

I love fitness. I have since I was a young teenager. When I am active, I am most alive. My soul lights up. My heart is vibrant. It is truly my joyful place. Gym was always my favorite class as a girl. As young at 13, I would get up before my whole family was awake, I would go outside and run. It was my time and my space that was all my own. I have always loved to be active. I would play every sport I was allowed and join every team. Twelve years ago, I was injured at work. In unsafe working conditions, I injured my back and my life has forever been altered. Most days I am in pain. I live with low grade pain, it has become a part of my life. Some days are much worse than others, and some days are great but not a day goes by where I am not affected by it.

I have always believed that if you try hard enough, you can accomplish anything. But as I sit here and write I am no longer sure of that. My belief is being challenged. I thought if I worked hard enough, I could overcome this back injury and be strong again. I fully and truly believed that I could overcome it. But weeks, months, years of exercise, stretching, yoga, massage, chiropractors, acupuncture, doctors, tests, meds and countless exercise regimes, I am at a cross road. I am losing faith that I can overcome this. I think for the first time ever, I need to be OK to walk away from my dream. That I need to allow myself space and freedom to let go; and to embrace my weakness; and I hate weakness. I hate weakness in myself. So to allow myself to embrace my own weakness shatters my own foundation.

Maybe its time to build a new foundation.

I don’t have the answers. Maybe that is also something that I need to accept. This is new territory for me. There is an absolute that I know for sure. It’s the fact that God is good. In my weakness and failure, He is still good. In my weakness, He is still strong and faithful. When the pain is really bad, my God is still really good. And I will praise God in both the good days and the hardest days.

Hebrews 6:19 “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” As life changes, and situations arise that are out of my control, I know who anchors my soul. And that foundational truth never changes.

Grace

I write about what makes me uncomfortable.  I write about what challenges me as a woman, a wife, a Christian, a neighbor, and a friend.  I like to include it all. There are far too many voices out in this world, that smooth over how hard life really is at times.  I have always felt that when I speak on my challenges and struggles, others feel permission to say, “me too, and I have been struggling too.” 

Push down the walls.  They are not helping you.  They do keep you hidden, they may hide your hurt and your struggles, but they also hide your beauty and your heart.  And often, they prevent healing.

It is scary being brave and it is vulnerable to speak on your weaknesses.  But who would I be if I just kept it all in?  God has given me a voice, and I choose to use my voice for Him.

I am no saint.  Let me say that loud and clear.  I am a woman who chooses to follow Jesus, and I am grateful every day that He loves me knowing all my weaknesses and struggles and temptations, and that He has grace for me every time I mess up. There was once a time in my life where I thought I would achieve this place in adulthood, where temptation and weakness no longer bother me.  I have since realized that humans will always have weakness, and that is why we need Jesus and his grace.

I yell.  And I hate that I yell when I am frustrated and angry.  Sometimes it is more of a very loud voice and sometimes it is full blown yelling.  I have been working on my anger since I was in my young twenties.  Now almost in mid-thirties, I have realized that this may be an area in my life that I will always have to work on and work to control.  This is where I cling to the verse, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”-2 Corinthians 12:9.  I believe this is the point!  If I could master all my weaknesses on my own, I would not need God in my life. But I do need God, and I need Him daily.

“The fact that God’s power is displayed in our weaknesses should give us courage and hope.  As we recognize our limitations, we will depend more on God for our effectiveness rather than our own energy, effort or talent.  Our limitations not only help develop Christian character but also deepen our worship, because in admitting our weaknesses, we affirm God’s strength.”1

I will continue to strive to be the woman God wants me to be.  I try daily to read my Bible.  Sometimes it is a few verses and sometimes it is a few chapters.  Some days I am deeply inspired, and some days I simply show up because I have chosen that my relationship with God is worth it, whether or not I feel like it in that moment.

When I mess up, I will continue to seek God’s grace and forgiveness.  And if that means apologizing to the people in my life be it family, friends, coworkers or customer service workers then I will.  I want my community to see that humility is as important as strength.  Recognizing when I have made a mistake, and humbling myself and choosing to go and apologize and ask forgiveness. 

To me, this is strength. It is way easier to be proud and ignore. It takes integrity and strength to admit when you have messed up, made a mistake, and hurt someone.

References:

1- NLT application study Bible, pg. 1849, 1996.

Ten years a mother!

Ten years ago I became a mother for the first time.

Ten years ago life as I knew it turned upside down and inside out and then flipped a few more times when we welcomed our first daughter home from the hospital.  I was thrust into a new role.  Nothing was the same. Life took on a new shape. 

My identity changed.  I was a nurse on a surgical and obstetrical unit. I was finally settling into my career.  I had told myself that I would continue on in my education and career.  I would settle into my permanent position on my unit.  And I was happy and content with my decision.

Three days later, my period was late and with great shock, my pregnancy test showed a positive result.  I remember the moment.  I went white and all the colour drained out of me, then it all rose back up and I became flushed and hot.  My husband and I hadn’t quite been married for 4 months yet.  He was still finishing his university degree and we had grand plans to travel the world starting with the trip to Europe we were planning.

My husband saw my face, I was about to burst into tears, nothing about this was planned.  I was shocked.  I had not planned on becoming a mother.   Dreaming of children and motherhood had not ever crossed my mind.  I had recently recovered from a two year eating disorder and was finally enjoying a happy, normal life.  And I loved my life.  I loved my job and cooking for my husband and having a home to take care of.  I was so happy, this was not a part of the plan.  Matt took me in his arms and told me everything was going to be Ok.  He hugged and held me and I cried. 

I cried because I was shocked and caught off guard.  I cried because I did not know anything about children and I did not feel ready for this. I cried because this meant no Europe trip.  I cried because I was so happy with my life the way it was, and I did not want change.  I had not seen this coming.

By the next evening, my mind and heart started to change.  I was going to be a mother.  I remember my husband and I looking at each other and this new excitement bubbling up and we were smiling at each other. 

Matt was going to be a father.

I was going to be a mother.

From that moment on, life and plans took a whole new direction; and it was good.

We welcomed our daughter Summer home in October 2009.  Matt cried when he saw Summer for the first time, and my heart swelled with so much love and appreciation for my husband and our new little family.

That moment was almost ten years ago today.  Today my daughter nervously and excitedly took the bus to middle school, starting a new adventure both for her and for me and for her younger sisters.

I could never have foreseen how much motherhood would change me, and change me for the better.  Sitting here and reflecting on my past ten years is almost overwhelming and yet beautiful.  The largest theme is how I went from living for myself to living for my family.  Every day is about getting them up and dressed and fed; making sure they are clean and have clean clothes.  Making sure their needs are being met, physically, emotionally and spiritually; instilling love and morals and values into their hearts and lives.  From cleaning up after them, to teaching them to clean up after themselves, teaching them to cook and bake, teaching them to love others around them as Jesus calls us to love others.  The moment I found out I was pregnant I was called to the awe-inspiring yet relentless journey of motherhood.

I once read a quote from an unknown source, “Echoes of your voice will be heard through all eternity.”  This quote has always stayed with me.  The words I speak over my children, they will one day speak to their children and to their children and to those children.  Your words have power.  Today is my first time in ten years that I will not have children at home with me.  My oldest entered middle school, my middle daughter entered grade three and my baby entered grade one. 

Knowing my words have power in my daughters’ lives, I spoke prayers of blessing over each of them separately last night and this morning.  Before my Lord and Saviour, I surrendered each of my daughters into His capable hands for this school year.  I prayed blessings of courage and love, and acceptance and kindness and safety over them.  I affirmed each of my daughters that they are loved by God and loved by their father and me.  I affirmed that they are beautiful on the inside and on the outside, that they are strong and that no matter where they go, God goes with them.  I affirmed that no matter how much they are afraid, God will be beside them and they can pray to him for strength and courage.

As mothers, we can speak love and courage and kindness into our children.  As a believer, I will speak God’s blessing and promises over my children.

What anchors you?

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“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hebrews 6:19

What anchors you?

One thing is certain, we need an anchor.

Life is so uncertain.  One moment life is figured out and definite; the next moment you are stumbling in the dark.

What is your anchor?

I have lived my life without an anchor.  Well I should back up a bit.  I have been raised knowing God as my Lord and Saviour.  My faith was sure.  I knew who I was and where I was going.  I had an anchor in my life, The Anchor.

But then rough waters came.  I was in college and I no longer wanted an anchor.  I wanted freedom.  Freedom from rules, freedom from the restrictions my anchor gave me.  I hated being tied down.  I had been raised knowing the security of my Anchor.  But I did not want to be the good girl anymore.  I wanted to be the fun girl.  I wanted to live life on my own terms. No more rules.  No more restrictions.

I look back with such clarity on this moment.  I made a decision.  This was not a slow fade away from my faith.  This was an “I am done with my faith” moment.   I cut the rope that attached me to my anchor, the anchor being Christ.

I told God I was done.  If this was Christian living, I wanted no part of it.  I was sitting in my office when I made the decision.  But in my mind, I envision myself on a boat that is anchored.  And I take a knife and I cut the rope and I leave the anchor behind.  I immediately start to drift away, and I smile because I think I am free.

In that moment, I picture the face of Jesus.  He is sad.  But He lets me go; because Jesus never forces us to love Him or choose Him.  It is our choice.  He desires a relationship with us, but we have to choose that.

Cutting free of my anchor was the worst decision I ever made.  I drifted out to deep sea and faced the roughest waters. My life spiraled downward.  I made such poor decisions.  And before I knew it, I felt like I was drowning; drowning in regret and shame and lies. My journey which had started so hopeful was now dark and lonely and hopelessly lost.  My addiction to bulimia led me to lie to everyone I knew and hide from the ones I trusted and loved because I lived in shame.   I coped with my loneliness by partying.  But when the music faded and the party was over, I was still alone and lost, drifting in open waters.

Photo by Kira Schwarz on Pexels.com

I finally saw my life for what it was.  I saw where my decision had led me.  I was not freeIt was a lie.  I was addicted to a life I hated and I needed help.  I needed my Anchor.

On my knees, alone I asked Jesus to help me. 

It was the first time I had prayed in over a year and a half.

I experienced God’s grace and forgiveness in a way I had never before.  I did not deserve it.  I chose to leave.  I chose to do life my own way.  I chose the decisions that made me happy, instead of what I knew to be right and wrong.  And even with all of that, God forgave me.  The feeling was like nothing I had ever experienced before.  My life was burdened with so much regret.  When I asked God to forgive me, with a heart that was in anguish, I felt the heavy weight of so much regret and shame lift and I was free.

Freedom was not leaving the anchor.  Freedom was choosing the Anchor.

So my deep love and respect for anchors continues.  It is my reminder that Christ is my Anchor.  He anchors my life, my marriage, my parenting.  He anchors my decisions.  When I start to drift, my anchor stops me and I do not drift out to open waters, but I remain firmly attached to the God who loves me deeply and strongly.

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What 33 taught me

As I turn a year older today, I am taking a moment to reflect on this past year. When I stop and really look back, I can see the challenges and the growth.

What 33 taught me:

You have to choose the life you want.

That doesn’t mean we get to choose all the circumstances life throws at us, but we do get to choose our actions and our thoughts. We get to choose what we spend our time and energy on. We get the choice to make our life better or worse by the actions we choose.

We get the choice to forgive and forget and move on.

We get the choice to wake up and show up.

One thing my job is continuously reminding me is that time is precious. Our days are precious. We take them for granted. Every day that we get is a gift.

Our thoughts take our energy and time. Make sure your thoughts are worth it; and if they aren’t, you have the power to change them.

My girls asked me recently what my motto was. I thought about it, and one that came to mind, one I write about often is:

“If it’s worth it, it’s not easy.”

Change is hard, growth is hard, overcoming addictions and bad habits are hard, working on relationships can be very hard, even pursing good, positive change can be hard when our default is to take the path of least resistance. The good and the great things do not come easy.

33 has been a year of personal growth and learning. I thank God for it, I thank Him for seeing me through it and I look forward to seeing what 34 has in store for me. Here’s to many more strong cups of coffee and days well spent!

Love, Sarah

Real

As I sit here and write, I think about lifestyle blogs, and fitness blogs. Catchy and trendy, sometimes I think about writing about those topics. Heck I even think about cooking blogs. That one tempts me less, even though I can endlessly watch those videos where they are quickly pouring ingredients in a bowl and voila! A fabulous meal or delectable dessert. How many people ACTUALLY make the recipes they watch?

I think about these blogs, and I know writing about them would be simpler, way less vulnerable. Today’s hot outfit or the perfect chest and triceps workout is for sure easier to talk about than ones personal failures as a woman and mother.

But this is not the narrative I have chosen. I have done this with intention. The most moving and life challenging pieces I have read, are not trendy, but rather they are raw and real. They do not inspire me to want to travel to an up and coming destination. They have inspired me to be a better human. They have reminded me that weakness is real; that I will fail and yet I will succeed. I will fall but I do not have to stay down. That’s it’s Ok to not be Ok every second of the day. They have given me permission to put the walls down and work on being seen for who I am and as I am.

This is why I write about authenticity. And Faith. There is enough fake in our world. No one needs to be told 5 ways to a perfect body (direct internal transition is “5 more ways that I will never measure up”). We need to be told 5 ways I am enough. We need to be reminded that we are not perfect, that we do not need to have it all together, that perfectly edited social media pictures do not show real life! That it is ok to take a breath and cry. Heck ugly cry! It feels so much better when we let our guard down and be who we were meant to be.

Real.

Authentic.

Unedited.

Cheers to the women who have gone before me and given me permission to be real. I have gladly taken the torch and will pass it on.