My Savior and My God

This week at my church’s Bible Study for women, I was asked to share what God has been doing in my life. As I wrote out what I planned to share, it struck me that I should share this on my blog as well!

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God has been teaching me the same things over and over because apparently I’m a very slow learner. Two of the things I want to focus on are contentment in Him and finding my value in Him.

As I’ve said before, in 2010 my family and I moved to Conway, Arkansas from our small town in Missouri where we had lived for nine years. In this move and before we came to our home church in November, God saved me and then taught me to be content in my family.

I made friends with a girl just a year older than me in early 2011. We were totally fangirls- Star Trek, Star Wars, Artemis Fowl, Lord of the Rings, Narnia– and our own worlds of course. We played Real Life Games (“pretend”) with our characters and wrote together several times. However, in 2013 she began to suffer from intense anxiety attacks and depressive episodes. For several months we essentially communicated solely by letters.

However, in 2013 she began to suffer from intense anxiety attacks and depressive episodes. For several months we essentially communicated solely by letters.

As I struggled with the difficult and often confusing questions she asked me, I learned obedience. I knew my answers weren’t always what she wanted to hear and sometimes I didn’t say things well. I really couldn’t see her very much as I was sometimes a trigger for her attacks because I reminded her of the games and her difficulties with putting those down was part of what led to her problems.

As I prayed for her and for myself and walked through that time, I also learned to be content with God’s outcome. I expected that if I did everything the right way and said what God told me to say, that we would still stay as close as we were before. That wasn’t the case and while we are still friends, we only see each other and communicate twice a year when we put together a piano recital for our students. I learned that obedience does not necessarily mean we get the outcome we anticipate.

In 2015 I lost more friends. The family that we did house church with was called to serve with a ministry in Texas. Looking for a church again was a daunting task, as I’ve blogged about before. Going to church in a city forty-five minutes from where we live has been difficult in several different ways and I have struggled with bitterness, anger, loneliness, anxiety, and complaining.

God has been teaching me that just because someone does something differently does not mean it’s wrong- in some things there is more than one way to do something. He’s taught me that no one is perfect, that His plans are perfect, and that He puts us where we need to be.

God is good. Through all of these and more circumstances, God has forcefully re-aligned my focus to Him. He has reminded me that He loves me, that I am safe with Him, that I am not alone. He reminds me that I can be fully and completely content in Him.
Another lesson God has been teaching me is that my value comes from Christ and I should be focused on pleasing Him, not man.

I am nineteen years old and I graduated high school last year. I’ve never been on a date or had someone tell me a guy was interested in me- nothing. I wanted to be married or at least close right out of high school and obviously that hasn’t happened. I want a husband, family, and home to care for and when people ask me what I want to do… that’s what I tell them.

Lately, as I have struggled with being content in this time of my life, I have started down the path of wondering what’s wrong with me that no one is interested in me. I have looked at women and girls I know who have what I want- trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong. I self-examine and try to figure out why I’m left out and what is wrong with me. I see flaws aplenty in my physical appearance and am reminded by others and my own mind about things that are wrong or annoying in my personality and temperament.

But my worth is in Christ. Yes, I need to be examining myself to see where my life, actions, words, are not lining up with Scripture. My worth is in what Christ did when he sacrificed himself for me and rose from the dead. God loves me because of the blood of His Son. He is the One I should be working to please. God comes with a whole book on how to love Him- guys don’t.

Because of what Christ did, I can know that I am loved by God. He is the reason I am who I am. He’s the reason I can love, the reason I live, the reason I keep going. He is pleased with me because of Christ. He is my peace. My friend. My God.

He is and always will be more than enough, and these life trials, as well as ones I haven’t mentioned, have only served to make me see that more clearly.

An Open Letter to Sydney

Dear Sydney,

You’re awesome. Seriously.

You’ve got this great sense of style- everything from Pusheen to scarves to The Flash. It’s eclectic and it’s you. Even though you’re still figuring things out, you doing it the right way. You’re looking to find your style, not trying to simply copy everyone else.

You listen. On Sunday, you let me say things I hadn’t said to another person. Even when we got lost, you kept me as calm as you could and then you did something awesome:

You talked to me about how you felt. You reciprocated. And I can’t explain how much it means to me when you are willing to open up and talk to me.
Being your age is hard, especially the places we are right now. But you’ve always got your family. All the girls at volleyball like you- I know they do. Because you’re funny, you’re caring, and people love being around you.
You’ve got this great ability to make everyone feel good just by being around you. You build people up and are genuinely concerned about their emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. And that’s special, Sydney.
I know that we argue a lot. I know I push you too far sometimes. I want to ask your forgiveness for that.

Because you are the best sister for me in your own way. You’re one of my best friends, one of like two people who I can always talk to. Thank you for that.

Sydney, you are not a failure. You are enough- more than enough- for all of us. I’m going to go all Veggie-Tales on you, but it’s true: God made you special and He loves you very much. We all love you very much. You are enough because you’re you.

So keep exploring. Keep trying things and working towards the person God wants you to be. Don’t freak out if you make mistakes- you know I make tons of those and look! I’m still alive!

Don’t give up. Don’t let yourself believe the lies that you aren’t good enough, that people don’t like you, or that you never do anything right.

Because those are lies. They are false and they are wrong and you have to remind yourself of that.

I love you so much. So much. I don’t tell you enough or show it enough, but I do. I’d do anything for you, sis, and I hope you know that.

Love ya, bubsie!

 

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Speeding

I love driving.
Seriously.
I got a car roughly two months ago and I’ve already put over a thousand miles on it. I do every errand I can just so I can drive around town.
I love going fast- love driving on the interstate. No, I don’t speed. I go the speed limit.
That’s where I’ve run into problems.
See, not everyone drives the speed limit.
Some people don’t know there is a speed limit.
And if I’m not doing eighty, they don’t like me.

As I was driving into Little Rock this morning for a meeting and cars were passing me every which way, I realized something.
Driving really is a lot like life.
A lot like life.
There are dozens of areas where this is true, but I want to focus on one today: peer pressure.

When I’m driving, and not one, but three of the people behind me whiz past me at ninety miles an hour for no apparent reason (I do the speed limit, remember?), I find myself, well, wondering.

I glance at my speedometer.
Is my cruise control off?
Am I slowing down?
Did I take my foot off the gas?
Should I speed up so I don’t bother everyone else by driving ‘slow’?

The answer to all these question?
No. no. no. and no.
So when I’m with a certain group of people, and I’m outside the group once again, unsure as to how to engage in conversation, trying to make sure my face looks happy and inviting, when I’m wondering if my makeup is good enough, if my clothes are just the right combination of “fit in” and “stand out”, I find myself, well, wondering.

Should I try different shorts?
Should I straighten my hair instead of curling it?
What are they talking about?
I don’t know…
How do I take all the effort of making friends and conversation onto myself?
What did I do wrong this time?

The answers to these questions are a little more complicated, but it all really comes down to one thing:
Am I doing as I’ve been told, either by the law or by God?
If the answer is ‘yes’? Then I don’t have to worry.
I shouldn’t feel pressured, shouldn’t start panicking, and I shouldn’t start doubting the instructions God has given me.
Because I’m driving in the right lane for me. I’m going the right speed for me.

So sometimes I don’t wear makeup. Sometimes I wear my baggy shorts and tee-shirt, just to remind myself that I do not have to conform. God loves me just as much in a tee-shirt as a button-down. My friends don’t care if I put on makeup. They want to see me.

I keep doing what I’m doing. I keep walking along the path God has laid out for me. Sometimes I still panic, sometimes I still cry, sometimes I still try to change. But He always brings me back. He always reminds me, gently pulling me back to where I need to be.

And if you are His child, He’ll do the same thing for you, too

On the Eve of the Eve of My Graduation

When did you get excited about your high school graduation?

Was it during your freshman year?

During your senior prom?

When you were accepted into a college?

When you got a scholarship?

When you finished your last paper?

Or was it really, really late?

Like, six days before graduation late.

Because that’s when it was for me.

I have dreaded graduation for… well, a really long time. Maybe I started dreading it when I realized My Someone wasn’t going to come (yet…) and I wouldn’t be at the alter six months after I got my diploma. Maybe it happened when I realized I was going to have to enter the workforce again. Or when I remembered that people don’t really get their dreams jobs.

Or maybe it was when I realized: I. Am. Not. Ready.

I’m not ready to work outside the home. I’m not ready to own a car. I’m not ready… Maybe I just want everything to just slow down.

Have you heard Nichole Norderman’s song Slow Down? It’s really good. I’m using it in the slideshow for graduation. It’s beautiful and my mom says people will probably cry. Well, I agree with her, because I kinda cry when I hear when I hear it too.

Although, when I listen to it, I change the words.

Slow down
Can’t I stay here a minute more
I don’t want to walk through the door
Because it’s all too fast
Let’s make it last a little while
You pointed to the sky but I don’t wanna fly
But do you think we can somehow
Slow down

I’m trusting God with my future. I’ve asked Him for the right job at the right time. I’ve asked Him for peace. I’ve asked Him to help me trust Him. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that He will answer my prayers. I don’t know what kind of job I’ll be getting, but I know that it will be the job God wants for me.

I’m graduating on Saturday. Yes, this Saturday. The one after tomorrow. Yeah.

And… well, I’m excited. I’m excited about Saturday.

But Sunday? And Monday? And the Monday after that? And the Monday six months from now?

That’s what I’m scared of.

But I don’t have to be. I shouldn’t be. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:38-39).

I will “Trust in the LORD with all my heart. And lean not on my own understanding; in all my ways I will acknowledge Him, and He shall direct my paths. (Provers 3:5-6).

I will “…put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, I may be able to stand my ground, and after I have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around my waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with my feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all of this, I will take up the shield of faith, with which I can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. I will take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Eph. 6:13-17)
“Fear not, for I [The LORD] have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Is. 43:1-3)

Why? Because “…God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2nd Tim. 1:7)

So I will tell those panicking, squabbling, yelling, sobbing voices in my head to be silent. I will take every thought captive and give them to God.
Because being afraid is exhausting.

And I’m tired of being tired.

I’m done.

I’m done allowing my sinful heart to lie to me. I’m done not trusting God. I’m done saying that His promises are not good enough.

I. Am. Done.

Because “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end, He will stand on the earth.” (Job 19:25)

I’m graduating on Saturday. And after that?

All I know for sure is that God has it in his hand, along with the futures of EVERYONE ELSE.

And that’s more than good enough for me.

-Sarah

The Best Brother (Sorry everyone else, Philip wins hands down)

I am the oldest of four children, and today is my “little” brother’s birthday. Philip is sixteen today, but as I told him this morning, I think I’ve been telling people he’s sixteen for the last four months because he never really looked fifteen. Well, maybe he did, but that would have been two years ago.

Philip is at the top of my “Opinions that Matter to Me” list and has held that position probably his entire life.

He’s the model of a dedicated student, having carried a harder school load for the last two years than I ever have, and still makes better grades than I did.

And, thankfully, he’s not just smart.

My brother is the funniest person I’ve ever met and probably ever will meet. We can have a perfectly serious conversation peppered with inside jokes and misunderstood words and just plain “Philip” stuff that keeps the mood light.

He is one of the most knowledgeable people under the age of twenty-six that I know when it comes to the Lord and the Bible.

Philip and I created worlds when we were younger, building spy organizations, goat farms, bad-guy bases, and more out of LEGOs. Our Bonicles fought villains, had kids, went to kholi tournaments, and always ended up saying things that entered into our daily speech.

We had a deal when it came to playing together: we could have a long battle if my characters could have a wedding. This satisfied both of us, and Philip, as my girl’s dad, got a lot of practice interviewing prospective husbands.

For the last three years or so, Philip has been into photography. Most of the photos of my family that you see on this blog were taken by him. His nature photography will leave you breathless and I’m still trying to figure out how to get it out to more people.

Adults love him, little kids can’t get enough of him (I’m totally not kidding), teens think he’s a senior in high school, and I just get to stand there all smug and say, “Oh yeah, that’s my brother.”

I reference him all the time in conversation. I go to him when I need a question answered. He listens (eventually). He reads. He answers.

He is the best brother anyone could EVER ask for. His sisters know that, and so do his friends.

Philip is my go-to-guy for those puzzles that distract from the story of the Nancy Drew Games we always play together.

He kills bugs.

He opens things.

His closest friends are two boys who live five hours away. They’ve been best friends since they were probably four or five and see each other every summer.

I love watching them see each other again because it’s always the same, year after year.

Caleb will come in first. Philip will smile shyly, a little worried that maybe they’ve changed and they won’t be as close anymore. And then Zachary comes in, sees my brother, and says

“PHILIP!”

At that point, Philip is caught up in a bear hug and before we can blink all three of them are crammed into Philip’s tiny room and we can hear the laughter all over the house.

So happy birthday, Philip. No one can ever replace you and I wouldn’t want them to. I love you, Little-Brother-Who-Isn’t-So-Little.

 

Love,

Your Short Sis.

 

What Does It Take To Make You Feel Beautiful?

Well? What is it for you?

Makeup?

Trendy clothes?

The perfect selfie?

I never really cared about my appearance until I was about thirteen. I had just started crushing on guys and wondering why I didn’t look like most of the other girls I saw. So I started blow-drying my hair, trying to pick out clothes that matched, earrings that weren’t just “fun”, and generally asked my mom if I looked okay every time I went to church or another place.

Each Monday I had Model United Nations class. It was my only out-of-the-house activity, and I spent ages getting just the right outfit that would hopefully allow me to be on the same level as another girl. I wore weird things, cute things, ugly things, and stuff that generally kept me looking like a twelve-year-old playing dress up for the next four and a half years.  I got comments like this:

Are you waiting for a flood? Your jeanss are too short.

Or this:

Really? You look so much younger than the age you just told me!

I was uncomfortable when I wore nice clothes because they didn’t always fit right  (I ignored that in the store and then wore the outfit once, never to be touched again because it was so uncomfortable.) or because I’d ignored my mom’s advice and picked a not-so-great outfit.

When I was fourteen, my mom let me start wearing clear mascara and darker lip glosses. When I was sixteen, I was allowed to wear blush, eye makeup, etc. We went to Belk and got the Clinique lady to do my makeup so I could see what I would look like. This was the result:

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I hated it. I thought I looked like a monster or something. My skin was even whiter than normal, my lips were fat, my eyes made me look terrifying, and I hated myself.

I hated the fact that I looked terrible while all my friends and peers looked gorgeous, and I hated the fact that my face wouldn’t do what everyone else’s would. But mostly, I hated the fact that I didn’t like looking like everyone else.

Some of you, like one of my friends, may be saying, “you look beautiful!” Thank you. If you didn’t, don’t feel bad. You won’t hurt my feelings.

Here’s the bottom line:

I was trying to find myself. In this time period of 2014 to 2016, I’ve been trying to find my views, my purpose, and my style. I’ve been trying to be so many things, looking for what God wants me to be.

When we began attending a traditional church last year, after coming out of a wonderful house church where I and my brother were the only teens, I started wearing makeup more regularly. I wore eyeshadow, blush, a skin-tone-evening-cream, lipstick, and, last summer, eyeliner.

And guess what?

I still didn’t measure up.

I’d get to church on a Wednesday night and see that the girls in sweatshirts and athletic shorts still looked prettier than I did in my jeans, boots, and nice shirt. Their makeup had a flawless look to it- they talked to the guys.

And I still thought I looked ugly when I wore all that makeup. I hated the feeling of all that creme on my face- of all the stuff on my eyes.

It’s taken me eight months to figure out why.

Last Friday, I attended a Father-Daughter Banquet with my dad. Our church hosts one for girls in the 7th through 12th grades. The senior girls get to give tributes to their dads. That was my whole reason for going.

I don’t own any formal dresses, but a family in our church lent me one. My mom was at a basketball game while I was getting ready, so I didn’t have her to ask questions as I second-guessed every decision I made.

This was a big event, so I knew I needed to do a great job on my makeup. I put on the skin-tone-evener, bronzer,  blush, dark eyeshadow, two types of mascara, and eyeliner.

Looking into the mirror, I smiled to get the full effect.

Once again, I looked like a clown. My blush was obvious, my eyeliner was uneven and too dark, and my skin felt awful.

Furious, I scrubbed everything off.  Why wasn’t it working? I had taken my time. I’d been careful. I’d watched tutorials and spend a good bit of money to get high-quality makeup.

I had obeyed all the rules, checked off all the boxes, but I was not rewarded like I thought I should have been.

This is a mistake I make in all areas of life: if you obey all the rules, you get a reward. If you don’t obey the rules, yet get punished. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t always work like that. It’s a legalistic way of looking at things.

I took a deep breath and tried not to cry. Again. There had to be another way to do this. Something I was missing. I thought back over the last several months and weeks, praying for clarity. What was I missing? What was my makeup supposed to be?

My brother has no qualms about mentioning his views on makeup. he thinks it looks ugly. He hates it when I wear a lot of eyeliner or a lot of lipstick. It’s taken me some time to get used to this because he’s finally been good enough to say that this is his personal opinion.

I’d fought his comments for a long time. It’s my face. I think I look nice. What does he know? But he knows a lot, in my mind. His opinion means the world to me.

So I thought about what Philip said I thought about my reactions to myself when I put on the trendy amount of makeup. And I realized something.

I don’t like how I look in all this makeup- not because I look bad (I often get  compliments when I wear it)- but becuse I don’t look like me

I know what I look like. I know what kind of clothes I like and don’t like.

And now, I know what kind of face I like.

Mine.  I like MY face. I like the way GOD made me. I like me.

Not the sinful me, not the sarcastic, cruel, me- the pure, washed-white-as-snow, cleansed-by-the-blood-of-Jesus me.

I like the me that Jesus sees. 

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In this picture, from that Friday Night Father-Daughter Banquet, I’m wearing a bit of color-correction stuff on my nose, some lipstick, and mascara.

Most of the girls at church had on a lot more makeup than I did. And they looked beautiful.

But you know what? So did I.

Because I looked like me. And even if my nose is fat and always red and my eyes are always slanted down and my teeth aren’t blindingly white, that’s okay. Because that’s me. I’m not perfect because no one is.

And I don’t need makeup to make me beautiful. I don’t need a filter.

What makes me beautiful is my smile. It’s the Holy spirit inside me. It’s God.

So I dare you.

Let a smile be the only makeup you wear this Wednesday to church. Don’t think that you need to cover up. Don’t be so insecure or prideful s to think that all anyone sees is your acne or your thin eyebrows.

Don’t worry. Smile. Let the Light of Life shine through your face.

I dare you.

-Sarah

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I’m Alive! Nine Things My Family Unintentionally Taught Me

Hello loyal readers! Yes, it is I, Sarah. I’m alive (not exactly well, as I’m recovering from poison ivy and battling with the steroid that seems to help my rash and devastate everything else) and back after exactly two months of silence. My apologies are numerous but not extremely guilty. I haven’t had much to say in the last two months. Senior year has actually been one of the smallest drains on my time. However, eight piano students, the activities and functions that come with traditional church, and the fact that there are six people in my family- all of these things have taken their toll on my time.

But now I’m here. There are at least three posts that I want to write in the next month (it is Novel-Writing Month, after all, even though I won’t exactly be writing a novel) but none of them are really coming to me right now. So instead, in honor of fall and the fact that for me, fall brings up every memory I’ve ever had, the rest of this post will be an ode to my family and all that they’ve taught me over my seventeen years of life.

 Number of Things My Parents, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and Great-Grandparents Have Taught Me 

  1. When the sign says, “Work Zone- Do Not Enter” you can keep driving. It’ll make for a great story once you get where you’re going.

I only travelled to Alabama with my maternal grandmother one time, but that one time taught me more than I could possibly have imagined. We were driving along and my grandmother took the exit she always did. Did she see the sign? Surely. Did I see the it? Yes. But hey, I was ten years old and believed that my grandmother knew everything. Surely it was okay to drive down the road. Well, it was okay for about fifteen minutes, at which point the road ended and the workers started giving us weird looks. My grandmother was confused, so I timidly made mention of the sign.

She hadn’t seen it.

As we turned around she laughed till she cried, and it was a running joke from that time on to remind my Mimaw to watch out for “road closed” signs.

2. Dressing that can be cut into squares simply is not dressing at all.

This is actually a gem from my great-grandmother, Mim, whose words of wisdom still reign supreme in her daughters’ minds after all these years. The Cracker Barrel restaurant probably rued the day that they served Nona Mae Holcomb such horrible dressing.

3. Moses (or, God) is always watching.

At a family gathering many years ago, there sat a ceramic statue of Moses holding the Ten Commandments. It was on a side-table or something, innocently observing the conversation taking place. At one point the conversation turned, as conversations tend to do, to someone who was disliked by various people present. It was only a few minutes into this conversation that my dad quietly picked up the Moses figurine and held it piously before him. It served as a gentle and fun reminder that we should always watch what we say, because the Lord is always listening.

4. Baking isn’t really an exact science

At least not for Mimaw. Most of the recipes that I have from her have notes that go something like, “to taste” or, “until it looks right”. Sometimes we can’t recreate a recipe to perfection simply because we don’t know what “right” looks like. But it’s okay, we don’t mind. It just reminds us of all the times she cooked for us, or our family, or any number of people. One of my life goals is to be able to cook like my grandmothers and aunts.

5. Grandpas know everything

This is an indisputable fact that I will argue to my grave.  My Paw-Paw has taught me so much on so many subjects that I can’t even begin to list them all. But just for fun, here are a few: how to take a girl on a date (this is for my brother, obviously), how to fix the various ailments of a car, how to make a long-distance relationship work (get in good with the mother), how to make boiled ocra, how to make a hummingbird cake, the use for red winnies, and, of course, how to drive (I learned this skill at age eleven at the city fairgrounds).

6. “Maroon” is a really good insult

Mostly because by the time someone figures out that you just called them a moron, you’re already gone.

7. Keep your siblings close

I will never, for as long as I live, forget the time that my Mimi pulled me onto her lap after I’d been horribly despicable to one of my younger sisters. She had tears in her eyes as she held me close. I’d never seen her cry before and in seconds my eyes were also filled with tears. “Sarah,” she said softly, “I want you to promise me something.” I couldn’t do anything but nod. “Be good to your sisters and your brother. You’re lucky to have them and they’re lucky to have you. And… once they’re gone you may never get them back.” This is a piece of wisdom that I have carried with me ever since, and plan to pass along to my kids just as soon as they understand English.

8. You’re never too old to have an adventure

Every time my grandparents get back home from a trip to Alabama, or yet another tour of the Blue Ridge Parkway, they always have stories. Sometimes it’s something they saw, something they did or didn’t do, or just the good time they had talking together. One of my distant cousins (she’s over seventy) still owns thirty-two acres and keeps and feeds her own cows.

9. Stories are family

I never get tired of hearing stories about my family. Everything I learn gives me new insight into the people I love most. From the people I never got to meet, the ones I can’t see anymore, or even the ones who tell me to go to bed each night, I love hearing stories about each one. Even the ones I’ve heard a thousand times get new life blown into them when a different family member tells them. Stories are family, and families have stories.

Until I was fourteen years old, my family vacations were literal famly vacations. We went to Alabama twice a year- once for the 4th of July and my sister’s birthday and once at Thanksgiving for the family gathering and the Iron Bowl. When I turned fourteen, my grandparents moved to Arkansas to be near us and that was the end of our Alabama vacations.

My biggest reason for “walking” and participating in a real graduation ceremony is to be able to see my family. I know exactly two other students who will be graduating with me. I haven’t taken any AP classes of CLEP’d out of any college courses. I’m not walking because of meI’m walking because when it’s all over and I’ve thrown my cap and come down off the stage, there will be hugs and kisses and voices that I haven’t heard in ages waiting for me. That’s why I’m walking. To see my family.

Beyond Me

I’ve been so scared. So very, very scared for the last couple months.

As most of you who know me are aware, I’m graduating in May. As you also know, I will not be attending college.

I’ve been afraid. I’ve been afraid- no, terrified- of graduating. Instead of a whole new life, an open door, my life feels like a dead end. I feel like my whole existence as I know it is going to end. Like all my relationships will change. Like I’ll be even more alienated from my peers. Like I’ll be alone.

But just now, as I sat in my family’s living room listening to TobyMac’s new album, This is Not a Test, God told me something.

I was listening to the song, Beyond Me, which I’ve heard before. I knew all the words and it wasn’t really one of my favorite songs by Toby. Until now. Now, I think this whole album just might become the soundtrack to my Senior Year, if not my life.

The first part of that song goes like this:

Call it a reason to retreat/ I got some dreams that are bigger than me/ I might be outmatched, outsized, the underdog in the fight of my life/ is it so crazy to believe// That you gave me the stars put them out of my reach/ Call me to waters a little too deep/ Oh I’ve never been so aware of my need/ You keep on making me see/ It’s way beyond me

It was hearing this song, right after having a week of absolute panic and almost hysteria, that I finally heard the lyrics.

God is the One who called me to the life I’m living. I went to Him for a decision about college and He told me His will for me. He’s the One who has ordained every single aspect of my life. My school subjects, my friends, my church, my passions, my dislikes, my family, everything.

God is the One who called me to these choices. The fear I feel has mostly been because I’ve been thinking that somehow I’m at fault. That I’ve made a wrong choice and so that’s why it looks my life is jumping off the deep end on June 1st, 2016.

If He’s the One who gave me my instructions, He’s the One who gave me the trials that are accompanying my obedience. This, the things that tear at my thoughts and emotions, this is my cross right now. The looks I get when people hear that I just want a husband to love and support and make a home for, those looks and the pain they bring don’t mean that I’m doing something wrong. They are my deep waters. They are my giants.

Because David didn’t kill Goliath.

God did.

God didn’t give me my instructions and then send me off on my way, saying, “Okay, have fun!”. No. That is a lie from Satan that I have believed for too long. God is walking with me, guiding me every second of every day. Through every look, every time someone says, “oh really”, every time I have to respond, “I don’t know”. He’s standing beside me. He is holding my hand, just like my human Daddy did this afternoon as I shook and cried out on our deck because I was so overwhelmed with fear. God holds me just like my human daddy does.

I’d forgotten that God doesn’t send us into battle alone. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, but He also commands the angels.

One of my favorite names of God is “Jehovah Nissi”. It means “The Lord Our Banner”. God is the banner I’m waving as I march through my senior year. I’m waving Him as I march through questions. I’m waving Him as I march into what is, for me, a Huge Blank Page. As I march into what feels like Oblivion.

We’re told, in Romans 14, to put  on the armor of light. I put on that armor the day I was saved. The light given off by that armor isn’t dimmer than it used to be. I just can’t see it when I’m staring at the ground in fear and trepidation. I need to look to the Son. Because when I turn my eyes on Jesus, the things of earth- the questions, both mine and others’; the fears; the uncertainty, all of that grows dim, simply because it doesn’t matter.

What my future holds is way Beyond Me.

But it’s never been Beyond His Hand.

-Sarah