Friday, December 31, 2010

2010, What a year it has been.

2010. Can you believe it's over? In so many ways it feels like we were just now putting away our noisemakers, hats, and funny glasses that read '2010! Happy New Year!' But that was a full year ago. It's so hard to believe sometimes. Almost like we blink, and there it goes. But then I think back to events that have taken place and it seems nearly impossible that they have occurred within the last 12 months, and not several years ago. Time can be funny that way. It can go by in an instant... one blink.... but then again it can stretch and stretch, going on forever.

2010, a year of struggles.
From the unemployment rate continuing to grow, to the earthquake in Haiti; the political crisis in Thailand, to the debt crisis in Europe; the oil spill in the gulf, to the flooding in Pakistan. This year hit many very hard, and has changed our world forever. Many lives were lost, or permanently changed, but none ever forgotten. Through every struggle, every battle our world has had to fight... we've come out stronger as a species, stronger as people. We can do this.

2010, a year of advancement.
From medical breakthroughs that would blow your mind, to the iPad, it's insane the things we've come out with. New cures, new treatments, and new testing. Stem-cell research and the genome project have reached far into new heights, and more and more lives are saved each day. The iPhone4 and the iPad were both released, things that we never even imagined could exist a few years ago. Google Chrome has become a part of our vocabulary. Smart cars are no longer a rare sight going down the road. Just think, what else are we capable of?!

2010, a year of goodbyes.
We said goodbye to many, many people through natural disasters. We lost loved ones in wars and even close to home, as in the case of Zahra Baker, the sweet little girl who was discovered merely weeks ago. We said goodbye to many iconic faces, like Gary Colman, JD Salinger, John McCallum, Alexander McQueen, Jim Bibby, Peter Graves, Lech Kazcynski, and Dennis Hopper. We may have said goodbye for now, but the memories will last a lifetime.

2010, a year of milestones.
This year, our President declared an end to Iraq combat, and promised to bring our troops home, and the elections have declared a turnover in the house. Elections all over the world have changed how things will be done, and have changed the future of many countries forever. Spain is now the holder of the World Cup, and the Giants won the World Series. The entire world held their breath as 33 Chilean miners were pulled to safety after being trapped for three whole months.

2010, a year of experiences.
It's been a year of new things. I got my first car, made many new friends, got my drivers license, went to my first prom, managed my first Relay for Life team, got my first job, and so much more. I got to experience trying and failing, but also trying and succeeding. I got to direct the band for the first time, and I got to know tons of new people through being the Drum Major. I got to spend time with my family and friends. I was blessed to be able to go to Caswell for the first time, and return to Arnoldsburg, WVA with one of the best youth groups ever. I became a glee addict. I saw the sun rise and set 365 different times, each day bringing with it new opportunity. I learned to be thankful for what I have, and to never forget to smile. There were tears, and hurts, and fears, and times I really didn't know if I'd make it... but, here I stand! The color purple and the word hope became even more dear to my heart and life. I'm in a new place with God, and I'm loving watching as he moves through my life. I got to dance in an amazing recital, and it was bittersweet to say goodbye to many of my friends as they moved on to college and a new chapter in their lives. I've seen more snow than I'd ever care to see again, even though it was quite amazing to experience my first White Christmas! I learned a lot about myself, and even more about others. I learned a lot about trust. I'm not the same person sitting here now that I was on December 31, 2009, but I wouldn't change a thing about who I've become, and who I am becoming. I'm a blessed work in progress!

2011, a year of opportunity.
In just a few hours, we'll stand together with friends and family and count our way into a brand new year. It's one of those moments that we've come to expect, yet each year it seems to hold the same amount of excitement. A new year. What will we do with it? Will we invent something new, cure a disease, or fall in love? Will we welcome someone new into the world, or sadly see someone part from it? We never really know, do we? But that's what makes it so exciting. This year has the potential to be the best year yet. It's all up to us... it's all in our hands. And in accordance with it being a New Year, of course I've made several resolutions. Don't you want to hear them? Okay, I'll tell you!
1. To take a picture a day.
2. To write a thank you note a day (inspired by this article... it's awesome)
3. To remain healthy. Not to lose weight, or gain muscle, because I often get frustrated with those goals, but simply to remain healthy.
4. To spend time in my Bible every single day.
5. To be the best person that I could be, and to do my best in all I commit to.

There's more, of course, but I won't bore you with that. So here it is. Goodbye, 2010. We will surely miss you, but are so very glad that you came. You've given us memories that will last a lifetime, things that have changed not only us, but our world, forever. And as we usher in a new year; a year full of new hopes, dreams, aspirations, goals, and more... let us remember to be thankful for what we have. To smile, and hug, whenever possible. And always, always remember this: that life is about stringing together the little things, letting those add up and count for more than the bad stuff. To remember all the small things, for one day, you might look back and realize... those were the big things.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Perfect Christmas

I read this about a year ago and I just thought it was a precious story, so I wanted to share. Merry Christmas!

The Perfect Christmas

“MOM! DAD! WAKE UP! SANTA’S BEEN HERE! SANTA’S BEEN HERE!” This is what I wake up to on my Christmas morning. Still listening to the chorus of voices singing to the beat of small feet running down the stairs, I roll over to look at the clock. It’s 6:00am, but I definitely don’t mind.

“Merry Christmas,” My husband whispers as I roll back over to face him, “are you ready to see what Santa has left us this year?” I couldn’t have asked for anything better than this. We lay there for a few more moments just staring at each other and listening to the joy that is overflowing from our living room.

“MOM! DAD! ARE YOU COMING?! YOU HAVE TO SEE WHAT SANTA BROUGHT!” We hear our cue, and quietly get up. I slip into my bathrobe and follow my husband down the hall. When I turn the corner into the living room, I pause, trying to take it all in: the full stockings, pile of presents, and the warm colors coming off of the tree reflected in the excited looks of my children’s eyes. It’s hard to believe that it was just five years ago that we had our very first family Christmas with only one baby. Now, look where we are. There’s my oldest son, a strawberry-blonde five year old running around like crazy trying to look at everything at once. And then there’s my middle child, my sweet three year old girl, following right after him, her ringlets flying everywhere. Finally, there’s my husband sitting in the old rocking chair playing with our youngest, a one year old girl. He’s such a good Daddy to all of them, and I can’t wait to give him my surprise Christmas present for the year.

“Mom look! Santa filled up our stockings and everything!” That statement, so excitedly made by my son, pulls me out of my memories and back into our living room.

“Well, lets see what all he’s brought this year!” I respond, and then it begins. Aaron is put in charge of handing out the gifts this year, since he is the oldest and has been learning his letters in Kindergarten.

“M…O…M… Mom, this one is for you, and it’s from Santa!” His excitement is definitely contagious, and makes me smile as he brings me the box wrapped in gold paper.

“What do you think it is?” I ask him while shaking the box. I gently tear the paper and find a beautiful sweater set that I had been looking at for months, but was over my budget. “Why, Santa knew exactly what I wanted! He has such good taste!”

The next gift is for Grace, the three year old attached to my side on the floor. Excitedly, she tears open the paper. Laying there in a box is a gorgeous baby doll, complete with blinking eyes and a red and green Christmas dress, almost like the dress that Grace owns herself. I watch her face as she removes the paper and her eyes light up as she takes it all in. Her squeals of delight beat any sort of present I could have received.

The ritual continues, each gift another piece of joy. My husband helps our baby girl Bailey open all of her presents, setting his to the side. She is so happy with the simplest of things, and it makes me thankful for everything around me. Their smiles, so full of joy, make everything around me seem absolutely perfect.

Finally the pile begins to dwindle, and we have all almost finished opening our gifts. There is one left for me, one for Aaron, one for Grace, and one for my loving husband, Jacob. Aaron gets a train set, just like he always wanted. Grace gets a beautiful golden locket to wear around her neck.

Now there’s just two more presents left, one for me and one for my wonderful husband. He tells me to go first and I tear the paper to find a small wooden box. When I open it, a beautiful song plays. It’s a music box he made himself, and it’s playing my favorite song of all time, the song we danced to at our wedding. I lean over and give him a kiss, the only way I can remotely think to thank him. And then I feel it again, the small butterfly flutter in my stomach, affirming my final gift for my husband. As I pull away from our kiss, I smile at him and remind him that he has one more gift to open. I watch his face as he removes the paper to reveal just a small note in a box. He pulls it out and reads out loud what I have written to him. The note says, “Dear Jacob, your gift isn’t quite ready yet, but I promise you’ll love it. It should be delivered in approximately nine months. Merry Christmas, Daddy! All My Love, Emily.” He stares at the note for another moment before grasping my meaning.

“Really?!” he asks, so many levels of excitement shining on his face, “You really mean it?!” and he leans over to kiss me one more time. There really is such a thing as a perfect Christmas.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Becky Kelley - Where's the Line to See Jesus?

Holy Wow. This video made me tear up. It's SO beautiful, and SO true! We all need a little dose of this little boy sometimes. Lovelovelovelove!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Herman Cater.

I want to tell you guys about someone. His name was Herman Cater.

Although I spent almost my entire life around Herman in one way or another, I don't really know much about his life growing up or anything. But there are so many things I do remember about him, from his strong, determined will to his sweet little smile, he was such a wonderful, joy-filled person. Herman was one of my Dad's best friends for forever. Herman loved Radios, all of them, and nothing thrilled his soul more than to be able to fix up an old radio. He's the one that sort of got my Dad into doing radios. He was so smart! He could take one look at any radio and not only know exactly what was wrong with it, but how to fix it as well! I never quite picked up that talent, but my dad did, and he absolutely loved it. Ever since I can remember up until a couple years back, my Saturday mornings were filled with two things: taking the trash, and going to Herman's shop. He and my Dad could talk for hours on end about this radio part or that brand name or who knows what! Sometimes, if I knew they would be there for a while, I'd go on adventures through the shop, just to see what all I could find that he'd brought in. There were some bicycles, pottery, metal parts... the list goes on! One time I found this sweet little sandcastle that he let me keep. I still have it in my room to this day. It's one of the best things I've ever gotten. Whenever we'd go, Herman always made a big deal about us coming. He'd always greet us with a 'Well, Hey there!' and a big old hug. He'd remark on the fact that we'd grown and he'd make a fuss over how well we were doing in school. I loved hearing him talk. It always was a challenge to try and talk back though, because he was quite hard of hearing. Herman fought in WWII (He was actually at Iwo Jima, and has a map that he took from a Japanese soldier there) and because of several things that had happened there, he had great hearing loss. But that never stopped him, no way! He was tougher than that. He always carried himself with dignity and poise, no matter how much he had aged. He had enough love in his heart to cover an entire continent, and he used every opportunity to spread that whenever possible. He loved God, and he loved his family. These last few years have been hard on them, because he had to be put in a home for his dementia. His wife, Nadine, never left his side, and he had wonderful support from all of his children and grandchildren. Herman passed away earlier this evening, and he will be so greatly missed. He was like a second grandfather to me, and I love him so very much. His memory and wisdom have definitely been passed on and will continue to live in all that were blessed enough to know him. We love you, Herman, and I pray you are enjoying your time with the angels. I'm sure they have plenty of radios for you! ♥

Love, Sarah

Thursday, December 9, 2010

O Holy Night!

I absolutely love Christmas music. Pretty much any and all Christmas music, with very few exceptions. Although I have many that I love, there are a few songs that just stick out in my head. But even of those, I do believe that O Holy Night is my favorite of all time. I mean, really look at these lyrics (I try to do this as much as possible: Read the lyrics as though there was no background music. It gives you a chance to really delve into the meaning). In this song, the image it paints is so very strong and beautiful. It makes me tear up sometimes just to think, in one night all of heaven watched as it's most treasured possession made an entrance into the world He would one day save. But did He do so with trumpets blaring, in some royal castle, with a large crowd of nobles gathered to witness the greatness? No. He was born in a stable with stinky gross animals, a few shepherds, a few Magi, a carpenter, and a young girl. All for this weary, worn out world who He knew couldn't survive without Him. He broke all stereotypes and set captives free. O Holy Night!

O Holy Night

O holy night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night
Of our dear Savior's birth

Long lay the world
In sin and error pining
Til He appeared
And the soul felt its worth

A thrill of hope
The weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks
A new and glorious morn

Fall on your knees
Oh, hear the angel voices
Oh, night divine, oh, night when Christ was born
Oh, night divine, oh, night, oh, night divine

Truly He taught us
To love one another
His law is love
And His gospel is peace

Chains shall He break
For the slave is our brother
And in His name
All oppression shall cease

Sweet hymns of joy
In grateful chorus raise we
Let all within us
Praise His holy name

Fall on your knees
Don't you hear the angel voices?
Oh, night divine

Oh, Christ is the Lord
Let's praise His name forever
His power and glory evermore proclaim
Oh, night divine, oh, night when Christ was born
Oh, night divine

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

December 8, 2010

I was looking back through my recent posts, and there weren't any pictures, so I thought I'd use one on this post! Do you like it? I love taking pictures of water, for some reason. The way they just look like little crystals suspended in the air never ceases to fascinate me!

Tonight marks a lot of things for me... kind of like a new page. Not exactly a new chapter for me, but a new page for sure. A different place in the same season of life. Make sense? But tonight, several things hit me:

1. Why am I so stressed? It only makes me upset, and frown more. It's almost Christmas. You only get those once a year. Make the best of it, regardless of your current situation. And for goodness sakes, Smile!

2. God does WAY AMAZING things when we let Him. He uses His word, and people around you to send you a message that you have needed to hear. He'll do things that only you would recognize as being from Him. He does things very specific to each and every person.

3. It hit me again tonight how very blessed I am. God has given me some wonderful people to help get me through everything. He's given me fabulous friends, and people that understand exactly where I'm coming from, people to be on my side, even when I'm wrong, and people to make a big deal out of things that are a big deal to me. He's given me people who give fabulous hugs, and can braid my hair, and like oreo's and peanut butter, or will sit outside of Rita's with me for hours on end and let me vent. People to go 'leaf rolling', or laugh until we cry over absolutely nothing other than the fact that we're exhausted, or give me advice, or tell me that I have something in my teeth or on my face. People that share my passion for music or dance, people that I can totally goof off with and just be silly, and people that will speak wisdom into my life. He's given me all sorts of people, and He uses each and every one in a very special way. And I am so thankful for each and every person in my life!

4. If I'm in a bad mood, I should listen to jazz, or Christmas music. Or even better, Jazz Christmas music. It never ceases to put me into a much better mood. Unlike Calculus. Which I should never ever do. Ever. (:

5. You are in charge of your day. You have one day, and you can either be happy or sad in it. It's your choice! So choose joy!

Well, there's more, of course! (: But for now, that's a good list. I hope I haven't convinced you guys that I'm crazy yet!


Monday, December 6, 2010

December 6, 2010

Can I just tell you something? Actually, a lot of somethings are going through my mind at the moment. But I just want to tell you one:

There is nothing in the entire world like leaving a burden at the foot of the cross. That is, if you really leave it there, instead of leaving it there for .25 seconds and then picking it right back up again, which is what many of us do. Which is what I've done for 5 years now. But when you really pray, and honestly give up all control of the situation... there's no feeling in the world that beats that. When you can walk away from the altar and say 'God, I've left it there. It's up to you for the taking and molding to please you.' You just feel so light, and so free. It feels so amazing. I'd been fighting and wrestling with this one issue for way too long, and I'd attempted to leave it in God's hands for a long time. But every time I would give it up with one hand, I'd pick it right back up with the other and keep trying to do things my way. Even lately. But now, it has just gotten too heavy for me anymore. It's emotionally exhausting to carry anything around, especially for an extended period of time. So yesterday, God and I had a long talk, tears and everything, and I'm through holding on to something I have no control over. So yes, finally... "I'm giving you my heart, and all that is within. I lay it all down for the sake of you, my King. I'm giving you my dreams, I'm laying down my rights. I'm giving up my pride for the promise of new life. And I surrender all to you."♥

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Trans-Siberian Orchestra♥

Thursday night I was lucky enough to get to go with my family to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra live in Charlotte, and let me just tell you... It. Was. Amazing. I really recommend that everyone go see them at least once, especially their Christmas show! The second half of the show was fantastic; they did many different songs and medleys from their new CD's and performances coming up. But my favorite part was the first half of the show. The first part is a Christmas Story about a man who is broken and lonely, his daughter has run away, and he spending his Christmas Eve in an old bar. While he's there, this old man is telling Him a story about an angel who comes down from heaven to check on the world and see what has happened since the birth of God's son, and they weave both stories together beautifully! It is SO good. One of my favorite songs they sang that night was called Old City Bar, and I really want you to read the lyrics. They are so good, I teared up! If you haven't listened to TSO, go do so right this very second, because that is absolutely unacceptable! I hope I get to go see them again super soon!

Old City Bar

In an old city bar
That is never too far
From the places that gather
The dreams that have been
In the safety of night
With its old neon light
It beckons to strangers
And they always come in

And the snow it was falling
The neon was calling
The music was low
And the night
Christmas Eve
And here was the danger
That even with strangers
Inside of this night
It's easier to believe

Then the door opened wide
And a child came inside
That no one in the bar
Had seen there before
And he asked did we know
That outside in the snow
That someone was lost
Standing outside our door

Then the bartender gazed
Through the smoke and the haze
Through the window and ice
To a corner streetlight
Where standing alone
By a broken pay phone
Was a girl the child said
Could no longer get home

And the snow it was falling
The neon was calling
The bartender turned
And said, not that I care
But how would you know this?
The child said I've noticed
If one could be home
They'd be already there

Then the bartender came out from behind the bar
And in all of his life he was never that far
And he did something else that he thought no one saw
When he took all the cash from the register drawer

Then he followed the child to the girl cross the street
And we watched from the bar as they started to speak
Then he called for a cab and he said J.F.K.
Put the girl in the cab and the cab drove away
And we saw in his hand
That the cash was all gone
From the light that she had wished upon

If you want to arrange it
This world you can change it
If we could somehow make this
Christmas thing last
By helping a neighbor
Or even a stranger
And to know who needs help
You need only just ask

Then he looked for the child
But the child wasn't there
Just the wind and the snow
Waltzing dreams through the air

So he walked back inside
Somehow different I think
For the rest of the night
No one paid for a drink

And the cynics will say
That some neighborhood kid
Wandered in on some bums
In the world where they hid
But they weren't there
So they couldn't see
By an old neon star
On that night, Christmas Eve

When the snow it was falling
The neon was calling
And in case you should wonder
In case you should care
Why we on our own
Never went home
On that night of all nights
We were already there

Then all at once inside that night
He saw it all so clear
The answer that He sought so long
Had always been so near
It's every gift that someone gives
Expecting nothing back
It's every kindness that we do
Each simple little act

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Godstops and Pauls.

Pre-post warning: It's going to be random and sporadic and jumbled up. It's just been a randomlysporadicallyjumbledup kinda day(:

I have been very blessed with several amazing 'Paul'* figures in my life, and today I was blessed enough to get to see and speak to three of them. Now, if it wasn't obvious that God was trying to get my attention then, it will become so in a few minutes. But, I tend to need a bright flashing red sign to be able to see anything apparently, so he had to remind me several different times until I finally got the picture.

First of all, we had an extended homeroom today. HUGE BLESSING. Short Calculus period=an already much improved mood. But during that extended homeroom we had an assembly for Juniors and Seniors. And when I walk into the gym, guess who I see?! None other than Mrs. Pat. Now, Mrs. Pat is one of the people that I know that I can talk to about absolutely anything, and no matter what she will be completely honest with me. Whether I want to hear it or not, if it needs to be said, I know I can count on her to say it. She is one of those people that just being around her makes you feel better. Anyways, we were talking after the assembly and we got to talking about Godstops. I had kindof let the phrase go for the past few weeks, and I wasn't looking for them as much. Just her sweet story was like a reminder. That little whisper in my ear... 'Sarah, I'm still here and I still move. Just look, you'll see'. My response? 'Okay, God. But I haven't seen you lately. You just haven't shown up like you used to, and I've really needed someone lately. But, if you say you're still moving, I'll start looking.' Really doubtful, really selfish, I know.

Then tonight I went to eat with another fabulous Paul in my life, Kara. It's by chance that we met, but I really think it's more like divine appointment. God knew I needed someone, and I couldn't have asked Him to send someone better as an example for me to walk by. She just has this glow that even when she just walks into a room you know God is in her heart. And she has such a sweet spirit and a caring heart. And we really have a lot in common, like our love for God, music, and kids, and we were both diagnosed with thyroid cancer when we were young. It's really cool to me to be able to talk to someone who completely understands where I'm coming from when I say something, and to not have to explain it every time Thyrogen or T4 come up in conversation. Anyway, we were talking about anything and everything and we talked about how God has been moving in completely different ways in both of our lives than He ever has in the past and how where our walks are now is such a different place than it was even a year ago. Again that little 'Sarah, I'm still here, and I'm still working. See, you aren't alone here. I've given you someone who gets you completely.' I literally could have cried. It's such a beautiful thing to be able to do something as simple as go and eat with a friend and share your hearts. I think that's what God intended when he created relationships.

And finally, I arrived at Orange practice to a lovely gift bag with my name on it. Do you even know what was in this gift bag? The best, most wonderful holiday treat ever invented: HAYSTACKS! Well, they aren't technically only a holiday treat, but that's when I get them. And they're the most fabulous when the best Haystack-maker in the world makes them... Susan Kanipe! I'm so very blessed to know her. She's definitely a second mother to me, and God just radiates in and through every single thing she does. We got to talk for a few minutes on the phone when I called to thank her, and I don't even remember what we were talking about, but for the third time there it was 'Sarah, I've given you these people to love you. Accept that, embrace that. They're just a teeny-tiny display of how much I love you, and will always love you. You're never alone.'

I have had several more Godstops in the past couple of days, and with each one I realize again just how special our God is. He knows the little things that I need, and He does very specific things just to remind us that He's still there. He is moving, and living, and loving like crazy. And He will never, ever leave us alone. Just take a second and look around you; you are so blessed. God truly is an all-powerful, full of surprises, amazing God!

*(Paul definition...Everyone in life should have two kinds of relationships always present, a Paul and a Timothy. A 'Timothy' is someone that you are pouring your life into, and teaching and shepherding. A 'Paul' is someone who is doing all of those for you... kind of like a big-brother(or sister!)-mentor-friend kind of thing.)