Sunday, July 31, 2011

Five Minutes.

Today, it isn't Friday. I'm aware. But, I'm going to do my five minute writings anyways. Lisa Jo explains it the best way I've ever heard...

"If you read here on a regular basis then you probably love words as much as we do.

Love them in all their shades of emotion and deep range of story.

But perhaps you also suffer from overcritical-alitis when it comes to your own writing?

May I propose a cure?

On Fridays, a few of us have fallen into the habit of taking five minutes to just write and not worry if it’s just right or not.

Five minutes to remember that we are creatures sculpted by The WORD and made for The WORD and beloved by The WORD.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. John 1:1-3.

So on Fridays, we take the dare to become Word Artists. To throw editing and proof reading and critically raised eyebrows out the window. We finger paint with our words – in pink and blue and dark purple. In glitter glue and bright green.

Just five minutes. No more. No less.

Come play word art with us, why don’t you. It’s easy."


Todays topic: Still.

GO.

I'm addicted to photography.

As I thumb through the prints, I can feel the tangibility of the memories filling me up again. I can almost hear the sounds, smell the scents, and feel the warm hugs that are captured within these 4x6 frames. An entire summer is reduced down to fading memories... a stack of photographs in my hands. Oh, and what they do mean to me. Those pictures are memories captured forever. Within those frames, nothing will change. Things will always be the way I remember them; the way I believed them to be. Forever frozen, these stills hold inside jokes and the smell of new perfume. They hold smiles and tears, frustration and bliss. Even though you can no longer hear the voices, see the people, or feel the experience... it's still a part of you. It's right there, tangible, ready to be held and called back to the forefront of your mind. Bit by bit, you can slowly piece back together the stories. All the glory of life, stilled in a 4x6.

STOP.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Music Mondays.

Yeah, I'm obsessed. The Script=♥

TOMS!

I officially (finally!) own a pair of TOMS shoes! Actually, I now own two pairs (: I've wanted them for a long time, but never was close to a place that sold them. As far as shoes go, you really can't get a much better deal. They are super comfortable, not way overly priced, look nice and stylish, and in buying a pair you are supporting an awesome cause! TOMS does a "One for One" deal where, for every pair of shoes you buy, they give a pair to a child in need. In many developing countries, kids go barefoot which leaves them at risk for some pretty dangerous infections that can enter the body through the soles of the foot. TOMS is out there focusing on making a difference rather than a profit, which is something don't see that much anymore. So, if it isn't obvious, I am a HUGE (hugey-huge!) TOMS fan. Here's a video showing you their "One for One" mission in action!





My TOMS! ♥
You can check the company out right here!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Five Minute Friday

Deep breath... we're here. It's Friday. The weekend at our fingertips, another long stretch behind us. And how I have missed my five-minute Friday's! So, here goes nothing...

Today's topic: Full.

GO.

As I slide in between the cool layers of my sheets, I gently open the top drawer of my bedside table. I reach in and my fingers land on the familiar, worn pages of my old journal. Inside those pages are some of the 'pocket moments' I've been collecting over these past few years. (You know that feeling you get when you find something in the pocket of your pants when you put them on? Maybe it's money, or a lost item of some sort? Pocket moments are moments where you get that feeling. They are the moments that make you feel happy, loved, accepted, etc. that you want to keep in my 'pocket' for later. They remind you that life IS good, and that it will get better if things are difficult at the moment.) I read over some of the laughs, the memories, the conversations, the encouraging words... and again I feel full. Those little moments... moments I wouldn't ordinarily remember if I hadn't captured them in that colored ink... each of them serves as a reminder. They remind me that life is beautiful- far too beautiful to even imagine. Slowly but surely, they fill me up again. They remind me that I'm never alone, and that God really has blessed me with amazing people in my life. They remind me that I am loved... and sometimes, that's the most filling thing in the world.

STOP.

Enjoy your weekend (:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

07.21.11


This is for the one who has
found her way, and the one
who is still searching.

For the one who counts her
blessings, and who is a
blessing to others.

This is for the dreamer, and
the dancer, and the music
maker.

For the ones brave enough to
jump, and the ones still
standing on the edge.

This is for the one who takes
the path, and for the one who
creates her own.

For the one who fights,
believes, creates, and
inspires.

This is for you. ♥

*Not my work. Copyright to this bracelet I saw and fell in love with. (:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Music Mondays... on Tuesday.

So, I forgot about Music Monday this week. BUT, never fear! Because I am doing it anyways. This time on Tuesday though! To make up for the tardiness, I'll do two songs(: These songs were memorable moments on our WV trip. The first one, Amarillo Sky, was a song that came up on the iPod in the van one day. It was my class with the 5th and 6th grade class that day... so Me, Rae, Amanda, Garner, Michael, Vance, Ryan, Jesse, and Maddi were all in the van with Sammy and MK. This song came up and we all sang it at the top of our lungs. It still makes me smile to think about it. And it's another one of those memories I love. The second song, the Dirt Road Anthem became one of the anthems of the trip in its entirety. Almost all the roads up there are dirt, of course, and I must have heard it at least a thousand times while we were riding. By the end of the week, everyone knew it, and loved it. I know you're probably tired of WV stories, but I can't promise I won't talk about it again! A huge part of my heart will always be there! ♥



Sunday, July 17, 2011

Our God is Greater: WVA 2011♥ Pt. 2!

Hey sweet friends. I promised you a part two to my WVA story, and here goes nothing!

Some of you may know that recently, I have been in the process of working my way through a really dark season in my life, and the consequences that follow beyond that season. I know that each of us faces these seasons... these stormy, difficult parts of life... but yet, it seems so easy for that ugly, creeping loneliness to completely envelop us during those moments. I really do hate that word... lonely... It's so stark, barren, and empty sounding. I think it is the place in my life where I am most vulnerable... when I'm lonely. When I feel like I don't fit, or that no one cares, or that no one understands... is anyone else that way? It's as though this desperation forms inside of the empty space carved out by loneliness. This desperation where the aching in my heart for any form of human connection is almost too much for me to bear. That's where Satan creeps in. For me, He is much like a shadow. He crawls around in the places we rarely pay any attention to, whispering deception straight into our ears.

No one cares for you, girl. Why would they?

Their kindness must be fake. You know good and well that no one likes you.

Look at that face, that skin, that body. Why would anyone want to love something that looks like that?

You're not worth anyone's effort, so stop trying.

Look at what you've done. Imagine if people knew! No one would ever forgive you.

See, no one even remembers you. You've been forgotten.

Have you heard those before? These are all things I really struggle with. For me, the last one is one of the most difficult for me to swallow. I have a pretty intense fear of being forgotten. But anyways. These are a few of the things that I had really been battling lately. On Sunday night in WVA, we do a commissioning service before VBS starts on Monday. It's a time where all the youth are sitting on the pews and the leaders come around and pray over and with us. It's a really special time where you have a lot of uninterrupted time to just pray and dig deep into your heart to prepare yourself for the coming week. Going up this year, I still had a lot of baggage attached to my heart. If I'm being completely honest, I really didn't want to go at all. I had tons to do at home, and my summer was crazy enough. Why on earth would I want to spend another week away from home after I'd just gotten back from a cruise? But something in my heart absolutely would not let me remain at home. So, suitcase re-packed, to WVA I went, and Sunday night I found out a lot of the reason why.

At the beginning of the service, I was just kind of sitting there, head bowed and eyes closed. It kind of hit me then how heavy my heart was, making it feel as though any prayer I sent up was only being weighed down, not even having the energy to make it through the ceiling. Then the first person came around and prayed over me. I don't really remember what was said by them, but I remember that all of the sudden it was as though this huge wave ran straight over me. One small whisper in the center of my heart...

I love you.

...and all of the sudden I couldn't breathe. Oh, those words. Those three simple little words coming from the sweetest voice I've ever known and it was as though a title wave had washed over me. It wasn't until then that I realized how hard I was still running... how much I was still trying to hide... how much my heart was still hurting. But then and there I poured out everything I had on that altar before me. I told Him everything, from what I'd done to how I'd hurt. I told Him of how lonely I had been. But the funny thing was, with each adult leader that stood over me during that service- each prayer that was said for me, each word of affirmation that was whispered into my ear- I was slowly but surely being filled again. Now, my heart was beginning to turn back again. I begged God to allow me to still be his vessel, even though I was still working on getting back to where I needed to be. I prayed that He would prepare me for the sweet lives that were to walk through the door the next morning. And, as always, He was faithful. The lies that had filled me for so long began to break loose that night as truths began replacing them.

I care for you, sweet girl. Why would you think I don't?

Their kindness is sincere. You know good and well that so many love you.

Look at that face, that skin, that body. Why wouldn't anyone want to love something that looks like that? I created you precisely as you are, after all.

You're worth the effort, so keep trying, and keep your standards equal to mine.

Look at what you've done. Imagine if people knew! Look at all the good I've been able to do through you that no one will ever know about, some not even you will know!

See, I remember you. I'll never leave you or forsake you. You're my daughter, precious one.

But even then, I wasn't quite finished. God still had a lot of work yet to do in me. Not long after... maybe by Wednesday?... I had picked up some of my baggage right back off the altar. Why you ask? I have no idea. I guess I thought I could handle things better on my own. (I can't, in case you were wondering!) So come Thursday night, it all seemed to be a little much. I felt like I wasn't where I was supposed to be, and that I was letting God down. Maybe He had a work to do through me, but I was blocking Him with my selfish ways, or that my heart was too full of garbage for any love to seep in, much less flow out of me. So that night, I got on my knees. Not literally... literally I was outside on the stone steps of the church... but I prayed. I prayed hard and long like I hadn't done in a long time. For the first time it felt as though what I was saying wasn't just bouncing off the stars. I could feel Him listening, His attention devoted to little old me. I had been living with a lot of shame. I had done some things, said some things, and lived in a way that I knew was not me, and was not pleasing to Him. For so long I felt as though I had let God down; I felt un-useable. And then, in that small voice He loves to use, He reminded me that I was never the one holding Him up. How sweet that feels. That night it hit me what true forgiveness really was. It's a willingness to see the person as who they are, in spite of whatever they have done. Have you ever experienced that kind of forgiveness? It's available to you, too, if you haven't. I promise, it's the best feeling in the world. As I thought back over the week and the sweet faces of kids who couldn't wait to give hugs and tell stories and memorize truths... I realized that God had used me. In spite of my human-ness, He used me anyway. He loved me anyway. He blessed me anyway. I've never felt so honored, or humbled. I've never loved feeling so small and so cared for as much as I did that night.

That week has changed me, and God definitely knew I would need it. He knew my heart and He knew exactly what I needed. Through the week, the youth class learned the song 'Our God', and it has quickly become one of the 'theme songs' of our trip. I'll leave you with some of the lyrics, as they really sum it up for me!

Water you turned into wine
Opened the eyes of the blind
There's no one like you, none like you
Into the darkness you shine
Out of the ashes we rise
There's no one like you, none like you

Our God is Greater
Our God is Stronger
God you are Higher than any other
Our God is Healer
Awesome in Power
Our God
Our God ♥

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Our God is Greater: WVA 2011! ♥

Alright, you guys. There's no way around it... this post is going to be super long. But there's just so much that I HAVE to tell you about the absolutely amazing week I was blessed enough to spend in WVA last week! It would be unfair of me not to tell you! For those of you who know me, you know how huge of a part of my heart is captivated by this trip and all involved with it, from the kids to our entire mission team. This year marks my third year going, and I have to say that it was probably my favorite yet! Here's some pictures to try and capture in a small way the awesomeness of this week! (sidenote: I did decide to split this into two posts after I got started, so PLEASE come back for the rest of my post! I had a huge Godstop moment this week that has truly transformed me and has put me into a place where I feel like I'm actually doing/being where and who I'm supposed to be!)


And so we begin our week with the kickoff! It was a lot of fun with lots of games like Chuck-a-Duck, a fishing game, softball throwing game, etc. We also had face painting, which is where I helped out with! This picture is of me painting sweet Lexi Gregory's face with a smiley face! On my face is a gorgeous flower painted by Rae Ann!

This is a fabulous picture of two of my most favorite people ever, Sammy Ballard and Sue Hunt! Sammy is the co-director of the trip and Sue is one of our fabulous cooks. Sue is such an encourager and has become one of the most influential people I know. I love her! And Sammy has become almost like a second father to me! I love the way God shows through everything he does!

KEN! The gov-nah! Haha. Ken is awesome, and he is our other cook with his wife! Ken is one of the most amazing people I've ever gotten to know! He's bright and funny and a little sarcastic at times, but he is an awesome addition to our team!

This is Emily. Ha, she's another story that would take FAR too long to tell. But, I did paint that butterfly. That's what I call talent. Haha, well, at least I tried right!?

This is Shyanna! She is absolutely one of my favorite children ever. We both shared a first year together at VBS. She's one of the sweetest, most wonderful children I've ever gotten to know. I loved spending another year with her!

This is Alexis and Taylor! The first day we are in town, we go out visiting and looking for houses with kids to invite to VBS! These two were out riding a lawn mower with their uncle. They were staying with him and their grandmother for the week. We invited them to come and they told us that they were supposed to go back home on Tuesday, but were happy to come to church on Sunday, and then VBS on Monday. By Tuesday, they had begged their Mom into letting they stay for the rest of the week because they loved it so much! They were so sweet!

Rae Ann got to come with us for the first time this year and she fell in love with Arnoldsburg the same way that I did. Also in this picture is sweet Lexi and Shyanna. I love them all SO much!

Sammy B! Picture is, of course, courtesy of Lexi herself!

Lexi and her friend Tysa! They were super sweet all week long and they are two of the smartest girls I have ever met! They were fabulous at remembering all of the things they were learning!

This is Nickolodius! He's one of the coolest kids out there, and his name matches his coolness! Seriously, you should get to know this kid. He is the bomb.com!

Water day! The rec team did an awesome job all week long, but water day was definitely a favorite! We got to soak kids with sponges and they had tons of fun getting wet! I'll admit that even the teachers had an awesome time in water day!

...let me explain, aiight? So, each day we had a 'secret signal' in our class and one day we decided to oink like pigs as part of it (the signal involved making a pig nose). Since it was a secret, no one else could figure it out! And Sammy decided to draw a pig on my legs. It was hilarious.

This is one of my favorite parts... the music time! I'll admit that the music got SUPERDUPERANNOYING by the end of the week, because Sammy woke us up with it every. single. day. And by waking us up, I mean he blared it REALLY REALLY loudly at six in the morning and wouldn't turn it off no matter what until everyone was up. Did I mention that he did this EVERY morning? But then, every day when these kids came in and the same SUPERDUPERANNOYING music started up, I would look out and see this look of pure joy and worship in their faces and my heart would just melt. The way Jesus shined out through them was absolutely amazing, and something I will hold in my heart forever and always!

Our first and second grade class. They were awesome all week! This is them doing one of our 'secret signals'. It's a secret, so you can't know what it means of course. But just know that they were the BEST class EVER!

Rec time! One of the super fun games where everyone got involved and had a blast!

Lexi and Austin! Two of the kids who absolutely stole my heart from day one. I miss them already!

Our class of fabulous, wonderful, spunky, hilarious, on fire for God kids!

Our class learned six truths this week! We learned:

1. I am God's most special creation.
2. I can praise God.
3. God cares for me.
4. I can have a relationship with God.
5. God has a plan for me.
6. I can be like Jesus.

Shyanna, my babygirl. I know you'll probably never read this, but I want you to know that I absolutely love you and that you are one of my most favorite people in the whole world. God has huge things planned out for you, just wait and see. As you continue your journey through this world, keep letting Jesus be the center of what you do. I love you, and I hope to see you soon♥

Sweet JJ! He is one of four that stayed with our mission team all week long. Their mom moved away a couple years ago, so they wouldn't be able to come if they didn't stay the week. He, Izzy, Jess, and Erica are four of the most special children you'll ever meet. It's true that throughout the course of the week there are several times when you want to remove any given child's head and only replace it when they are ready to leave, but all in all, knowing that you're impacting them is all that truly matters!

Brodie! He's practically my big brother. He cracks me up and I love watching him interact with the kids through rec! He's got an awesome fire for God!

Baptisms is always a super moving time of the week. The last thing we do on Thursday is have an invitation service where kids can come up and talk to counselors about decisions made for Christ. This year we had seven decide to be baptized! There were several who made decisions to accept Christ (but wanted to be baptized later) and many more who made rededication choices. It was awesome! This is Bradley, Shyanna's older brother. Seeing the life in his eyes was totally amazing!

Sweet Maia who also made a first time decision!

A new creation! Such a beautiful thing!

BRADY SUMMERVILLE! He's been in my class every year and I was SO honored that God chose to work through me as I had the amazing opportunity to lead this sweet boy to Christ! The light in his eyes and the smile on his face was absolutely priceless and I've never been more proud of him! Knowing that he actually understood what he was doing and that Christ will be in his life forever is absolutely astounding!

Such a sweet girl, I love her!

Something else awesome was that during the invitation service, we had two kids from our very own missions team to make decisions, one to accept Christ (Terry-pictured above) and one to make a choice for rededication (Maddie-pictured below). It was cool to see God working through everyone there. The kids and the team!!!


Our awesome, amazing, wonderful, fabulous team! These people are for sure one of my most favorite hello's and one of the very very hardest goodbye's. They are my family and I love each of them with all of my heart. If any of you read this from my Mebane or Arnoldsburg family, please know that I love you with all of my heart and that I will be seeing you soon! ♥

Sweet Kenya, one of the most wonderful girls ever. She quickly became a light in our class and I loved her passion so much! I love her tons and I can't wait to see her again!

So, there's some of the basics of our trip! It was one of the best times I've ever had and most definitely is where my heart will always be. I loved it so much. If you aren't involved in anything that allows you to pour out your life into another life, I highly encourage you too. We go on this trip every year to share Jesus with these kids, but every year each of us leaves feeling equally blessed!

So, what are you doing that warms your heart and brings you joy this summer?

Love,
Sarah

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cruising!

So, one of the major highlights of this summer was definitely our cruise of the caribbean! I got to go with one of my very best and dearest friends, Chelsea, and her mom and aunt. It was Chelsea's graduation present and we had a total blast! I am so blessed to have such amazing friends like I do! We had many laughs and good times and made tons of memories! Here are a few pictures to try and capture the fun!


The top of our gorgeous ship, the Carnival Legend!

Dinner on the first night! The food was spectacular every single night we were there! We had late seating, so we ate at 8:15.

We went on a Jeep tour of Cozumel, Mexico and had a blast! One of the stops was at a major tequilla factory and we got to learn all about how they grow the fruits (they take 10 years!) and ferment them to become the tequilla. It was really interesting!

I'm in love with Mexico! We had a running joke because Tammy kept commenting on how blue the water was (14 shades of blue!) and we had a count going after a while. We got up to six, and that's just on the jeep!

This is one of our towel sculptures. We determined he was a thug and his name was T*Money. We had to pose with him, of course (:

This is our cave-tubing instructor in Belieze! We got to hike up through the secondary jungle of Belieze with Charlie here. He knew SO much about everything! We got to eat the stem of this plant that tasted like a sour apple and we also ate a TERMITE! (It tasted like wood, haha) And also he found Allspice growing in the jungle that we got to smell! Once we reached the top of this river and we got to tube down through the caves! We had lights attached to our helmets (mine went out before we even got started, of course! so I had a flashlight in my hands!). The caves were massive and beautiful! It was a really awesome experience!

HUGE crocs in Honduras!

Mahogany Beach, Roatan in Honduras! It was a blast and SO beautiful. The water was so clear and clean! We used this day to just relax and enjoy the beautiful beach itself!

Bes frands, fo eva. She's my sister and I love her with all of my heart!

Love. Pure love. ♥ It blows my mind to think that God imagined all of this beauty, and then created it out of nothing! What an amazing, awesome God we serve!

This is Hell! Haha. No, really, though. There's a town called Hell in the Grand Caymans that we got to go to! So now we can say we've been to Hell and back. I sent a postcard home from Hell as well. It was actually kinda freaky with all the rocks, and it was rather hot! (:

Baby turtle! We went to a turtle farm in Grand Cayman and we got to hold the turtles. There were tons and some really massive ones. This one wasn't even quite a year yet. He was so cute!

Chelsea Marie! This is our last stop in the Grand Caymans! We went out on a boat to this huge sandbar that is located right in front of the continental shelf and we got to get out and swim with the stingrays! It was a really cool experience. The guides knew each and every one of them and we got to kiss one! A kiss from a stingray is worth 7 years of good luck, so I kissed it several times! I'm good for a while (:

Our awesome waiters! They entertained us every single night and were super sweet and fun! We danced and sang and had a blast with them!

The Legend Show crew! They were super nice and put on an excellent performance each time we saw them! They had great dancers, both male and female, which is what I of course paid attention to! And the show band isn't in this picture, but they were awesome too!!

Our little elephant towel guy! He was so cute! (:

So there you go, as brief as I can be and still cover almost everything. It was a blast of a trip and I want to go back one day for sure! If you have any questions or want to know any more, don't hesitate to leave a comment! Love you guys!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tuesday... Tired!

Hello my sweet friends! It has been much, much too long, I am well aware! But life has been absolutely crazy these past few weeks! After the cruise (yes, I still have pictures that I fully intend on putting in a post to show you as soon as I have 10 back-to-back uninterrupted minutes, which is scarce for me right now!) I was home for four days and then headed back out to West Virginia for 8 days! We do an annual mission trip up there every single year (there will be a picture-post of this too, I pinky promise) and it is always absolutely amazing. This year was one of the best years I think we've ever had up there, and I have been changed forever by being blessed enough to experience it. Awesome, amazing, wonderful, fantastic, fabulous stuff!! Then yesterday and today I have a band camp from 8:30 to 6. So, time is in short supply. But, I want you to know that I have not forgotten you and that I love you very, very much! Now tell me about your summer!

Love,
Sarah