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A Great Big Christmas in Heaven Thank You!!!!

Good Day Blogging Friends!

It has occurred to me that there is a much deeper story to my attachment to the event in Traverse City this weekend than some of you may know and perhaps it would be a great idea to share that with you.

First off, on Monday’s blog I told you that my dress was hanging near the shower with the hot water running hoping it would take the wrinkles out.  Well, my gown is now at the dry cleaners.  It didn’t work.  Lol!  I tried.  Someone may or may not have had to have a very cold shower that day because all the hot water was gone.  Just sayin’!

There is so much that goes on behind the scenes when you do a big event.  Almost everything in my life for the past three weeks has pointed toward Saturday, January 23rd!  What I’ve eaten!  How much I’ve exercised!  My vocal prep . . . and . . . most importantly . . . my spiritual prep!

Tomorrow my three best girl friends are coming over to do full outfit run-throughs!  We have to make sure shoes, jewelry, and undergarments are all perfect!  And, I don’t have much time to change between songs . . . so Marni and I will be practicing that, as well! 

So, my event this Saturday is in Traverse City, Michigan.  That happens to be where both Chad and I grew up.  We are both graduates of Traverse City AND Chad was a graduate of NMC, Northern Michigan College, where the event will be held Saturday night. 

I actually remember when they built the museum and auditorium where I will be performing.  Chad and I fell in love in Traverse City and the town and area hold many, MANY memories for me.  I actually stayed away from Traverse for many years after Chad passed away – too many memories, too difficult.

The woman who asked me to take part in this event has been a friend for years!!!!  She was actually a long, long-time friend of the Schieber family.  She is a retired City of Traverse City police officer and was the chaplain of the department up there for many years prior to her retirement. 

The day of Chad’s funeral, his casket was draped with a flag.  This dear woman . . . and friend . . . and chaplain . . . folded the flag off his casket and handed it to me during the ceremony at the cemetery.   I will NEVER forget that moment.  It is etched in my mind.  She holds a very dear place in my heart and it is an honor to team up with her to benefit girls who have no voice!

When she approached me about doing this event, she knew that she knew that she knew that she wanted me to sing Christmas in Heaven and that we would end the evening with my Patriotic Medley. 

The Patriotic Medley will be used as a tribute to police everywhere and as a thank you to them for the service they provide day in and day out – often without thanks or notice.  Without them, Citizens Against Sex Trafficking could not rescue girls who have no voice.  My dear friend shared with me this morning that there are 800,000 police officers in active service around the country today.  Five of them have received bad press.  The other 799,995 of them somehow have gotten a bad name because of those five.  We want to remember that we are all safer because of the many WONDERFUL men and women around our nation that serve us well every day!  May we honor each of you this weekend through the Patriotic Medley!

And now on to Christmas in Heaven!  My friends, this song has been such a gift!  I shared a bit on Monday’s blog about how the gift of recording it gave my kids and me hope at a time we needed it so desperately.  What I couldn’t fathom at the time was how it would grow to give so many others hope, as well.

I want to publicly thank all of you who have listened, watched, or purchased this precious song!  When we released Christmas in Heaven back in 2008, someone put it on YouTube with postcard pictures behind the music.  We watched in awe as the views grew and grew to over 250,000 views!  We soon realized that we needed to make a video of our own that represented what the song was to me, to my babies, and to us as a family and community!

It just so happened that my dear sister, Krystn Madrine, had always dreamed of being in video production and she presented the idea of her recording a video.  She had never made such a thing, but was certain she could do it!  She was visiting Midland from Pennsylvania for the holidays back in 2011 and kind of on a whim, we decided to give it a go!

It JUST SO HAPPENED (thank you Jesus) that it was snowing the two days that we recorded!  Guess what?????  Those were the only two days it snowed that entire winter!  No joke!  Again, I say . . . thank You, Jesus!!!!

It also just so happened that I was hospitalized the day after we finished recording with a very rare disorder deep in my neck and was subsequently put on two months of bedrest.  God sure knew what He was doing when He prompted us to make the video when we did!

Krystn worked diligently on that video for most of the next year and had it ready to roll for Christmas 2012.  It just so happened that Scotty McCreary was releasing his version of Christmas in Heaven that year and we were told by his record company that we had to wait to release our video.  We were devastated!  Krystn had worked so hard.  Producing a music video is super difficult and she had overcome HOURS of making my mouth line up with the music (ha!) and had produced a top notch video!  Now, we were told we couldn’t show it off to the world!

Then, tragedy struck.  On December 14, 2012, twenty children and six adults were shot at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.   In the days to follow, a local radio station used the Sarah Schieber version of Christmas in Heaven as a mash-up with President Barrack Obama’s voice reading the names of the victims throughout my song.  I was humbled.  I was honored.  I begged God to let this song minister to those in Connecticut.

We were then instructed to please, please release our video. 

This past Christmas we surpassed 200,000 views of Christmas in Heaven on YouTube.  Today we sit at almost 213,000 views and hundreds of comments from grieving people who find hope in this song!

Thank you to my sweet and talented sister for making such an incredible video when she really didn’t know what she was doing!  Sis!  You are amazing and I am so proud of you and so thankful to call you my sis!  Today she is working on her final semester in graphic design and photo and video school and she looks back and wonders how she did it!  (It’s because she’s amazing . . . that’s how!)

Thank you to Paul Marino and Jeremy Johnson for allowing me to record their precious song.  Thank you for writing a song that ministers so deeply to those who are grieving!

And finally, another thank you to all of you who have listened, watched, given it as gifts, and used it to minister to those in your own circles of this world!  It is an honor to team up with you in ministry! 

Well, this is my last blog before the big event this weekend!  Hopefully I’ll have lots of pictures and lots to tell next Monday morning!  Until then . . . God bless you all!

The Lifter of My Head

Good Morning Everybody!

Well, as I type this my evening gown for this weekend’s big event in Traverse City is hanging in my bathroom with the shower running . . . hoping all the wrinkles will disappear without me having to take it to the dry cleaner!

There is MUCH to do this week!  Tomorrow I get my hair colored so it is fresh and fabulous!  I will be doing full run-through’s of all my outfit changes.  There is a LOT of coordination to make sure that all the undergarments, shoe choices, and dress changes go off without a hitch!  Oh!  Speaking of shoe choices, I better paint my toenails!  Let’s be honest – winter in Michigan – not exactly ‘toenail season!’ 

But, bigger than all of the detail prep, the most important part is the vocal and spiritual prep.  This week I will be very intent on good sleep, great nutrition, and lots of careful vocal prep.  Beyond that, the MOST important thing anytime I step onto a stage is that I am spiritually ready to deliver the message God has for me.

This week I will be reminding folks of God’s sweet provision and encouragement to my kids and me through the song Christmas in Heaven.  You see, Christmas in Heaven was so much more than just a ‘hit song’ to me.  It came along at a time when I doubted Jeremiah 29:11 – that God had good plans for my kids and me.  Chad’s death, and my widowhood and becoming a single mama to three babies who had mounds of questions about WHY their daddy died and WHO made this happen . . . Jesus or Satan . . . left me truly doubting that God had any good plans for us!!!!  HOW, my friends?  HOW could these be good plans!  I hated my new life and longed for what was now gone! 

Then along came this precious song!  Within two weeks of releasing it the song flew to number 15 on the national Christian radio charts and number thirty on Billboard!  BILLBOARD, my friends!  That Christmas we shipped out thousands of CD’s from our little ol’ dining room table in little ol’ Midland, Michigan!  It was a very tangible way for my kids and me to see that even though these weren’t the plans WE had, it didn’t mean God wouldn’t redeem our suffering and have great and wonderful plans ahead for us.  In a sweet and loving way, God lifted our heads.  He reached down, took our chins in His hands, and pointed our eyes back to Him!  We needed that so badly!

C.A.S.T., the organization that is putting on the event in Traverse City this weekend, longs to be the physical representation of God lifting our eyes back to Him to a dark and horrible world.  You see, Citizens Against Sex Trafficking is the hands of Jesus stretched out to a world absolutely wrought in sin and sadness.  They are actively working to show sweet and desperate women that God has good plans for them . . . plans to give them a hope and a future.  That’s what C.A.S.T. is all about!  They are literally lifting the chins of young women trapped in a horrible world!

What an honor to partner with them to provide a refuge and hope to those in need . . . truly so desperately in need!

Please pray for all of us this week!

A Big Event!!!!!

Happy New Year to all my blog friends! 

I am so excited to tell you about a fabulous event that I get to be a part of in a week and a half.  On January 23rd I will be singing with the Bay Area Big Band in Traverse City, MI!  Like . . . a real big band!  I am doing three traditional big band numbers the most exciting of which is ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’!  That is a dream come true!

I also get to put a couture evening gown on and sing Christmas in Heaven AND . . . I have the honor of ending the entire show with my Patriotic Medley accompanied by a full police color guard.

To all of you girly girls out there . . . you will be thrilled to know that I will be having hair and makeup done, and . . . wait for it . . . I have three outfit changes!  Remember I said I will be wearing a couture gown????  You are never going to guess what I paid for it!!!!  This is such a God thing!  I found a gown that was originally over $700 for $56!!!!  Can you believe that????  SUCH a God thing!  Thank you, Lord!

All of this is in effort to raise funds for an incredible cause – an organization called CAST – Citizens Against Sex Trafficking.  This is an organization that is in the process of building a safe house for girls that they rescue out of sex trafficking.  Did you know that Michigan is ranked SECOND in the U.S. in terms of having the most sex trafficking?  So often, these girls are right under our noses – they are being controlled and trafficked in our own towns and neighborhoods and we have NO idea!  CAST is raising awareness among law enforcement and teaching regular folks like you and me how to recognize it and report it!  The goal is not to punish these precious girls, who so often have been forced into trafficking, but to rescue, rehabilitate, and restore them!!!!

If you live in the Traverse City area – please consider coming out for this exciting event!  You can get tickets at https://mynorthtickets.com/events/winter-solstice-gala.  If you are too far away – stay tuned for many pictures and updates about this wonderful event!

As I wrap this up this week, I want to encourage you in something the Lord is working on in me.  Perhaps it is something you could use a reminder about.  I want to remind you today to ‘die to self.’  Sometimes I let myself think that the way I treat others is dependent upon how they treat me.  The truth is, my friends, that is the farthest thing from the truth.  The reality, in Christ, is that I am to treat others as Christ would treat them NO MATTER WHAT!  I am called to remove myself from the equation and to love and respect and be kind absolutely no matter what.

Think about a person or persons in your life that might be a constant struggle.  Maybe a coworker that likes to get under your skin, or a family member who likes to argue just for the sake of being heard, or a spouse that has wronged you. 

Now think about the Lord: 

Isaiah 2:12 & 17:

“The Lord Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted.  The arrogance of man will be brought low and human pride humbled; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.”

You see, friends, the Lord has your back!  He’s got this.  That takes you and me right out of the equation!

Ephesians 4:32:

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Wow . . . If we think about the enormity of all that God has forgiven us for, individually, how can we NOT forgive others and be kind?

And . . . my favorite passage in all of Scripture . . .

Philippians 2:5-8:

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:  Who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; instead, He made Himself nothing by taking on the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!”

That one leaves me speechless!

Today, my friends . . . in your relationships with others . . . have the same mindset as our sweet Lord Jesus . . . die to self!

 

New Music Video

Good Morning Everyone!

I want to invite you all to view my new music video!  Over the next two months we will be releasing three new music videos in preparation for our busiest season around here . . . Christmas! 

I am very busy right now, working to add a whole new section to my website that will be a 'grief resource' section.  Some of you will remember when I was posting my journals from the year after Chad passed away.  After Abbi got meningitis I got so far behind that I stopped posting them, as the idea was to give my readers a 'real-time' feel of the grieving process.  Anyhow – I have been working to get them all typed up and am going to turn part of my site into a resource center for any and all who are grieving. 

So!  It is a very busy fall!  Please stay tuned – as there should be a lot going on around here in the next couple months. 

Oh!  Not to mention the fact that I have a wedding to prepare for, a house to pack up AND a house to prepare to move into!  Busy busy!  But oh!  So good!

Blessings all!  Here is the link to my music video!  I pray it stirs deep in your spirit!

 

A Mother’s Day Challenge

Greetings friends!  I just finished up a wonderful weekend of ministry in Oklahoma City.  Well, I was actually in Moore, OK . . . the site of last May’s deadly tornado.  It was an honor to minister to the people I have prayed for so often!  It was also an honor to minister to the widows and widowers of their area!  Such wonderful people!  Thank you to Dr. and Marsha Harvey!  Without the two of you none of it would have been possible! 

I made many new friends and can’t wait to go back!!!!!

Today, I am burdened to issue a challenge!  It is actually with fear and trepidation that I come to you – fear of sounding like I’m looking for a pity party and trepidation that you may think I’m bragging.  I am doing neither . . . simply trying to give you food for thought and initiate action! 

This Mother’s Day I wonder if you would consider adopting a single mom – or maybe I should say – her children?  Have you ever thought about the fact that single moms buy their own presents?  Have you ever wondered WHO takes her children Mother’s Day, birthday, Christmas shopping? 

For years now, I have been a single parent who has had to buy all my own presents.  This really is NOT a pity party . . . it is my hope that I can enlighten some who have never been challenged to think this way.  But definitely, this is not a pity party.

Surely I digress. 

Anyhow – One of the toughest parts of being a single parent, particularly a widow (because there simply is NO other parent to even think about or help with things like this), is that when holidays roll around you are caught in a conundrum.  The selfless thing to do would be to say that you don’t need any presents.  But, there-in lies the problem . . .

In my marriage – Chad always took care of making sure I had gifts.  He took the kids shopping, he purchased the gifts, and he made sure our kids were taught to think about others.  That is all part of the process of gift giving.  Since he’s been gone, the easiest thing to do would have been to simply say that ‘Mama doesn’t need a present.’ 

But then, what about teaching these precious children the importance of honoring their mama . . . or daddy . . . whichever it may be?  What about teaching them to think outside of themselves?  

This is where the conundrum lies! 

Now a bit of perspective into a widow’s heart (and I suspect ANY single parent’s heart) ~ the reality of holidays alone is that they just drive the pain deeper.  It is a reminder of loss.  Of broken dreams.  Of what isn’t.  I often say that in one of the toughest parts of grief is that you are robbed of ever again having a holiday that is pure joy.  No, holidays and special events are forever seasoned with pain.  Think about it . . . Abbi is about to have senior prom and graduation.  While we won’t dwell on it, someone will be person missing and no matter how hard you try to ignore it . . . the pain . . . the gaping hole . . . will be there.  For a single mom, going without and pretending you really didn’t want anything often seems less selfish. 

Now!  What would happen if we each considered the single parents we know . . . and adopted one???  What a blessing we could be!

Last year, just before Mother’s Day, a friend of mine lost her husband.  As I prayed about how to minister to them, it occurred to me.  I took those sweet boys who had just lost their daddy, Mother’s Day shopping.  They had NO idea what their mom liked . . . her favorite colors, favorite candy, etc.  Nope.  Their dad had always done that and they had simply tagged along.  So, we talked about ways they could watch their mama now . . . how to pay attention to the things she likes and her ‘favorites.’  By the time Christmas rolled around when I took them shopping again . . . they both had been paying attention and were SO excited to pick out the things they thought she would like.  It blessed them to bless her.  And boy-oh-boy did it bless me!

Both times my friend offered to pay.  I refused.  It’s no fun to buy your own presents!!!!! 

So, do YOU know a single parent?  Someone you can bless? 

I can already hear someone saying, ‘some single moms have put themselves in that position.’  Maybe.  But what would Jesus do?  I tell my kids all the time that God calls me to love . . . not judge.  He can handle the judging all by Himself!  Besides, if God blessed based on worthiness . . .  we would all be going to Hell. 

So how about if we take a lesson from our sweet Lord?  How about if we offer grace and mercy and bless a Mama this week JUST BECAUSE WE CAN!!!!!!  I know that in the end – YOU may be the one who receives the greatest gift! 

The highlight of MY Mother’s Day this year?  This Thursday I will spend a couple hours with two fabulous boys and together we will bless their wonderful Mama who deserves SO much love!  I can’t wait!!!!!

The Gift of Together

Some of you may remember that I have a favorite word. 

                                Together

I love the word together!  I believe that so MANY people who get to experience together take it for granted.  In fact, I suspect many even begin to resent together.

Not me.  I had it.  I lost it.  I love it!

But in that together there is a new twist . . . it is the concept of need.

We are in the middle of a bit of a crisis at my house.  Last Friday my baby girl, Abbi, came home from school about 10:30 in the morning and flew into my house bawling.  Her chest hurt.  She felt like she couldn’t breathe and like something was sitting on her chest.  I called her cardiologist, loaded her in my car, and took off for the ER. 

On my way I called Bryan to tell him . . . I knew he had meetings throughout the day and when he asked if I wanted him to come I told him, “No, Babe, you take care of what you need to.  I’ve done this alone for a long time . . . I don’t need you.  Take care of all your meetings and come up when you can.” 

Thirty minutes later, in he walked.  He had cleared his calendar and was there to be with us.  He was there to be . . . together.

He spent the entire weekend tag teaming it with me.  He stayed with my boys at night, made sure they got where they needed to during the day and made sure they were fed . . . and then spent the rest of the time up here at the hospital with Abbi and me.  He’d bring me dinner, sit with her so I could go home and get a shower, and just be.  By Sunday Abbi was really going downhill and on Sunday night we had reached true crisis mode. 

I do need to add that B had been out of town all week on business.  He got home late Thursday night and we had gotten to snuggle on my couch with my mom sitting there with us.  We had looked forward to a wonderful dinner out and movie on Friday night.  We couldn’t wait to just have some time together.  We had had a stressful situation happen right before he left on business and we hadn’t had time to really clean all that up – it wasn’t conflict but it was something we really needed time to talk through and pray about. 

Anyhow . . . we now were just trying to keep our head above water with Ab and the boys and there was certainly no time to chat.  We did manage to sit at the end of the hall on the Observation unit Saturday night and chat a bit while he watched me eat and Marni sat with Abbi in her room.  That was nice.

We figured that, for sure, Ab would turn a corner on Sunday and maybe Sunday night I could break free for a bit of a MUCH needed break from the hospital and a nice snuggle with my boyfriend.  Then, Abs crashed . . . her pain got so out of hand that her oxygen dropped, she was put on oxygen and hooked back up to all the heart monitors that had been removed earlier in the day.  We sat here watching Ab in agony and without answers as to why her head hurt so bad and B snuggled me in and said, “Babe, we can’t leave her . . . I’ll go get you some dinner and we’ll just stay with her.” 

What I haven’t mentioned is that we knew B was to be out of town on business again Monday night through Tuesday afternoon . . . home for a bit Tuesday, then gone Wed. through next Monday.  We knew Abbi was top priority and that was number one.  Time together would once again have to wait. 

Something happened that night.  As we stood and watched her in agony, when the doctor finally came in B asked a question.  He had posed it to me and I told him to just go ahead and he could ask. 

It is a different and fine line . . . this thing called ‘step-parenting.’  No, we are not married and no, he is not their stepdad . . . yet!  I don’t believe in ‘casual’ dating which means that if I am dating this man it is with intention.  And yes!  I do intend to marry him.  That means that we are beginning to walk this line of him building trust with my kids and me beginning to give him a ‘bit’ of authority.  If you read books about this . . . well . . . maybe that is a blog for a different day.  Surely I digress.

Anyhow – there we were and B asked a question.  Just one.  But I stood back and took a breath . . . because someone else, just for a moment, carried the load WITH me.  Or maybe FOR me.  Just one question shouldered the load long enough for me to take a breath.  It was nice.

Monday came and went, B left town, we made it through the day alright and I hoped Tuesday we would turn a corner and begin talk towards heading home.  Not.  Tuesday about noon Abbi took a huge nosedive and we wound up in the most stressful of crisis situations yet.  B had called in the midst of it to tell me he was on his way from Grand Rapids.  He had a job waiting for him when he got back to town that needed prompt attention.  As things went downhill, I called him and asked if he could come straight to the hospital when he got in town.  Of course, he was here as quickly as he could get here and stayed until he and I could meet with the doctor and some decisions could be made.  Did you catch that?  “He and I!”  Wow.  There it is . . . together.

Very late that night, when things were settled down a ton and my dear sister-in-law was settled in for the night with Abbi, we did get a very short bit of time together before we both had to get some sleep and he had to leave the next morning for six days.

As I headed back to the hospital the next day, knowing he was gone . . . there was this strange feeling.  I’m not sure that even today I can really explain it.  I guess it was a knowing that the one who has chosen to walk along side me was out of commission for a while and I didn’t like that. 

I also didn’t like that I didn’t like that. 

Remember what I told him when we were on our way to the hospital?  I didn’t need him.  I’ve done this alone for a long time and I’m ok on my own.

Hmm.  But now I was alone again and I didn’t like that.

I told B when we knew that his travel schedule with work was picking up that one thing I needed him to understand about me is that I have ‘missed’ a man I love for six years now and that ‘missing’ is a little different for me than for most.  I don’t care for it!  AT ALL!

But what I was feeling now was different than just missing.  What I was noticing was that I had had the pleasure of walking ‘together’ with someone . . . someone who actually came alongside and TOOK some of the load . . . when the load was very heavy on this mama . . . and I liked that.  And now he was gone and it was back to being all me . . . and I didn’t like that.

Late that night when B and I got to Facetime we had a nice discussion about it.  Within me there is a bit of a struggle.  I don’t want to need anyone.  In fact, I think I have positioned myself in the last couple of years to NOT need anyone. 

Oh sure, I have a wonderful support system.  Wonderful!  I have needed them a LOT.  And, they are always here for me.  But I have also stopped calling on them as much.  I have become much stronger over the years as a widow.  I have learned how to stand on my own two feet.  The things that would have sent me to my bed weeping a few short years ago do not any longer. 

Ha!  There are days I want to weep – but I don’t have time!  And, I’ve wept so much that I just don’t want to anymore!  I’m so tired of crying.  So I chose not to! 

I guess part of what I am wrestling with is that maybe it feels week to me . . . to need someone.  It also feels vulnerable.  If I need him it might hurt more if I lose him. 

I needed Chad.  It hurt SOOOOOOO much to lose him.  Do I really want to go back to that place with B?

So he and I chatted about it.  I guess in the end the question I am left with is . . . if I really want to make a life with him . . . and eventually become one with him . . . then our lives will intertwine is such a lovely way that yes, I think I must need him. 

Not in a needy, I-can’t-do-it-on-my-own, kind of way.  Maybe that will be different than before.  I am SO much stronger of a woman than I was before.  I’ve had to become that.  (That also could pose an issue as I work to submit . . . so I will need to be mindful of that.) 

Maybe it is more that I need him because I want him kind of way.  Maybe I need him because I realize the gift of sharing life.  The gift of together. 

I love him.  I miss him so much right now.  I hate missing!  RRGH!  I have missed a man so much of my life! 

But I also love together with him!  It is my favorite.  In together we can shoulder this journey with four shoulders instead of two.  I guess whether I call that need, or just a gift . . . the loveliness of sharing love . . . is a wonderful thing!

The Place Where Dreams Live

There is this place

A secret place

For me, it is a scary place . . .

It is the place where dreams live!

 

Early on in our relationship, Bryan asked me what my dreams are.  It was an innocent question, really.  What he didn’t realize was that he was peering into a very deep part of my soul.  A part I wasn’t ready to peer into myself.  A part that terrifies me.

I actually couldn’t answer him.  I tried.  But, what I realized was that I had shut the door to that part of me . . .

I used to have dreams.  I dreamed of living a blessed life with Chad.  Of serving God with him.  I had seen couples like that . . . couples who had grown in the Lord together and whom one look at them revealed the sweetness of the Lord.  That was my dream.  I dreamed of raising a family together (there’s that lovely word . . . together). 

I have often said that “All the hopes and dreams of a young woman’s heart died along with Chad that day.”  That is true because I took so seriously my calling as a wife.  Wife was the greatest calling of my life.  Wife and Mama. 

I know that some of you may think Singer is the biggest calling.  “Sarah, that is where God has called you.”  Yeah, but not greater than Wife and Mama.  As a young mama I used to sing a song written by a dear friend of mine, Paula Stitt.  It was called, “Mama is a Minister.”  It was all about the fact that as a Mama my ministry was before me all day as I would feed, tend to, and minister to my babies. 

It literally took me most of our marriage to trust that it would last.  My dad had left me . .  . left my mom, when I was 11.  It was super hard for me to trust that Chad wouldn’t leave.  I grew to trust him.  I also had heard throughout my years that if you sinned God wouldn’t bless you.  Well, Chad and I were pregnant before we got married . . . hello sin!  I stepped into a marriage just certain that we were doomed because we had sinned.

After years of sitting under wonderful teaching at Christian Celebration Center in Midland, MI, I realized that God’s blessings are based on His grace and mercy and on the state of my heart . . . NOT on my perfection.  I finally accepted that God could and would and wanted to bless Chad and me. 

It finally seemed as if we were living in that blessing and together, we had so many dreams.  Dreams of serving Him together.  Dreams of our future life.  Dreams for our children. Dreams, dreams, dreams.

Then.  October 7th

The hopes and dreams of a 33-year-old’s heart died with him that day.

I even tried again.

I had come to a place of realizing that the life I loved was over and then along came this guy.  He loved me.  He loved God.  Places inside of me that I thought might never smile again . . . smiled.  So I dreamed.  I dreamed of making a new life.  I dreamed of finding a new normal with a new man and a creating a new family. 

Then the abuse started.  Fourteen months of hell later and we were rescued.  I came back to Midland with my tail between my legs.  So humiliated.  So ashamed.

I guess it was then that I thought it best to stop dreaming.  I felt like I had been kicked while I was down.  I trusted enough to dream again after Chad died . . . only to wind up flat on my face in heartache again.  AGAIN!

Besides . . . who can dream when you have to be practical?  Maybe practical is less hurtful . . . less daring.  I am the mom and the dad and I just needed a plan.  A plan to provide for us.  A plan so that when the kids are grown and gone I wouldn’t be staring at four walls with nothing to do.  A plan is way less daring than a dream – because I could be in control of that.  Get my degree . . . find a job . . . be practical.  Yep!  That was the way to go.

I even found contentment in the alone.  Alone is a tough word when you are so used to ‘together.’  Those of you who knew us know that we were always together.  I didn’t know how to be just me.  But I did it.  Me and God . . . we did it!  I found contentment in walking through life as just me.  Besides, maybe that isn’t as daring.  If I never open my heart up again, I won’t get hurt.  Again . . . there is a bit more control there. 

Then along comes this guy.  I kinda like him.  Actually, I really like him.  Yes, I even love him.  I made a list years ago, not long after Chad died.  I thought the list was impossible . . . I guess it wasn’t.  He is everything on the list.

Innocently, he asked a question.  “Babe, what are your dreams?”

It really did take me by surprise.  My dreams?  MY dreams?  Gosh!  I’ve been so busy teaching my kids to dream and figuring out their lives and surviving my own life.  Who has had time to dream? 

Oh sure . . . I dream of a day without cancer for Mary Helen.  I dream of a day without migraines for Micah.  I dream of Noah being a man just like his daddy and Abbi having the family she dreams of.  Those are easy dreams. 

But me?  What are my dreams?  Oh no, handsome!  You don’t understand!  We don’t go there. 

I think I must have looked at him out of the corner of my eye.  “Sarah . . . I want you to dream!  If you didn’t have to worry about ALL that stuff . . . what would you dream of?”

Oh dear!  That unlocks a door!  I’ve done all of that.  I’ve allowed myself to dream before!  I even dared to try again.  I am so tired of my heart breaking!  I am so tired of weeping . . . and weeping again. 

Do I dare?  Do I dare dream the biggest dream that lives in my heart?

That means I have to trust.  I know what you are thinking . . . trust Bryan.  No.  This has nothing to do with trusting a man.

To dream, my friend, means that I have to trust God. 

Oh!  I trust Him.  I trust Him to catch me if I fall.  I trust that if it all falls apart again and I wind up heartbroken again that He will hold me, sustain me, and restore me.  Been there.  Done that.  I guess ultimately that is the best trust to have. 

But what I long for is to trust God . . . with my dreams.  With the deep down parts of who I am that I have hidden from myself and from Him.  What I long for is to trust God with my fears, my hopes, my longings . . . with my happy! 

 What I long for is to trust God to let me soar!  Arms wide open.  Completely abandoned!

A long, happy life with a man who loves and adores me?  Could that be?  Could that actually happen in my life?  LONG term?  My dad left.  Chad died.  Jim abused. . . Could I actually just have the life I see so many others live? 

I guess I won’t know if I don’t try.

I want to dare!  I want to trust God with that part of my heart!

I am choosing to trust God with my heart, and in doing so, with my dreams.  I am choosing to dream.  It is frightening, friends. 

So, come along with me!  I guess you could say I am walking out a new faith journey.  Not one of trusting in the bad.  I’m good at that.  No.  Today I am learning to trust in the good! 

I am learning to trust God with the piece of my heart that I thought might just stay dark . . . forever.  Today, I offer God ALL of my heart.  The parts that plan, the practical parts, the terrified parts, and yes, even the dreaming parts. 

Come along with me, friends.  I am going to dream.  Maybe you should too . . .

Jeremiah 31:17

                “There is hope in your future.”

So Close . . . yet, So Far!

Have you ever run a marathon?  I have.  Two.  As most of you know, the second one didn’t end up too well for me.

My first marathon was in Detroit in 2006.  Oh my, was it hard!  It was thirty degrees with winds over forty miles/hour.  I remember getting to mile 13 and watching all the half marathoners rejoice.  I really remember thinking that they were the smart ones!  I had another 13 to go!  Do you have ANY idea how depressing that is?

So, in mind I would get to a mile marker (which aren’t really marked but you have studied the course and have an idea in your mind . . .) and I would think, “Ten down, sixteen to go!”  Now, on a normal day running ten miles is quite an accomplishment – but in a marathon . . . it is just discouraging because SO much lies ahead of you. 

For me, the turning point of hope came at about mile 18 to 20 . . . at that point you KNOW you have logged more miles than are yet to come . . . and you literally just will your feet to keep moving.  For me, personally, it was much more a battle of my mind than my body.  You MUST overcome.  You must will yourself to keep moving . . . keep running . . . keep marching toward the finish line. 

At no point in this process can you SEE the finish . . . but you trust it is there.  You keep holding on to the fact that you will cross it . . . and rejoice . . . at some point!

Have you ever heard of ‘bonking?’  Funny word, huh?  Bonking is when you are mid-run and your body absolutely shuts down.  Many distance runners experience it.  You can train and train . . . but sometimes your body has a mind of its own. 

Most runners bonk between miles 18 and 26.  I have one friend who was a mile from the finish line and had to be rescued by an ambulance.  Miles 18 to 26 . . . Hmmmm . . . you are close enough to know the finish is coming . . . yet . . . still SO far!  You have already run more miles than some people EVER run in a lifetime . . . but you still have a good 3, 6, or 8 miles to go.  Keeping your mind engaged at that point is so very difficult.  You think you can do it but your body is so tired and the finish looks SO very far away!

My friends!  Today we are at that point with our journey with cancer.  Many of you know of my sweet Mary Juengel.  Her mama, Marni, is my best friend in the whole wide world and for the past two-plus years we have been navigating the horrible world of chemo, radiation, and cancer. 

Today, this precious baby and her family need our prayers.  PLEASE . . . will you pray?  Mar is so close to being done – but right now the finish line looks so very far away. 

She is weary.  She is tired.  She is scared.  Her body hurts so SO badly from the chemo it was inundated with this past Monday . . . that two more miles look like an entire marathon lies before her. 

My friends . . . will you please cover this baby girl with your prayers.  With pain, comes fear.  Fear of cancer’s vicious return.  Fear of another round with a beast too overwhelming to even consider. 

This past Monday was Mary’s VERY last intrathecal chemo – that means that they put the chemo right into her spine.  It was our last on a VERY long road that started in October of 2011.  She has had . . . well, I have lost count there were so many . . . at LEAST 30 of these terrible procedures!  Monday was the last!  You would think we could rejoice . . . but the enemy is prowling around like a roaring lion seeking to destroy this baby girl’s hope!

Her body is in pain.  Deep, horrible, frightening pain.  Will you please pray?  Please pray for healing.  Please pray protection over every system and function in her little body from the horrible side effects of the chemo.  Please pray that she will have peace and that fear will be FAR from her mind.  Please pray that even though her little body is inundated with HIGH amounts of steroids right now, that her emotions will stay steady.  Please pray for her mama, her daddy, and her siblings.  Sometimes you are too weary to pray . . . so let’s pray for them!

My friends . . . we are in the home stretch . . . but the finish line is still MILES away!  We cannot bonk!  It isn’t an option!  Please . . . PLEASE pray this baby girl through! 

Defining Moments

In the brief days that I was remarried and living out on the farm, I had six kids.  Three mine and three his.  The youngest of them all was just three.  I would load them all in my car and head off to school in the mornings and we would pray on our way.  I remember praying day after day that we would glorify God throughout the day.  Then it hit me . . . a three-year-old has NO idea what ‘glorify God’ means.  Ha!  I wondered if even the fourteen-year-old really got it.  So it set me to thinking . . . how could I put it that they could all understand? 

What I came up with was to pray . . . “Father, may the way we live our lives today make You look good.”  A kid-friendly definition.  It challenges me daily.  Sometimes I wonder if we get so accustomed to the ‘words’ of our faith . . . those we throw around daily . . . ‘trust,’ ‘faith,’ ‘grace,’ ‘glorify,’ . . . .that we stop considering what they really mean?

The other night my little guy, Micah, was really struggling.  He has had a migraine now for four months!  Straight!  We have modified his diet, modified his school day, began new meds . . . you name it we are trying it.  So we were chatting and I began to tell him that we need to keep trusting.  And then it hit me – a 13 year-old doesn’t have a clue what ‘trust’ means. 

Some of the best advice I received after Chad died was when Noah seemed to be completely melting down about six months after his daddy died.  A school administrator pulled me aside and said, “Sarah, I respect the way you are walking this out in your faith.  But, I want you to remember that the concepts of faith are very abstract . . . adults even struggle to walk out their ‘faith’ and ‘trust’ when tragedy strikes.  Your kids need solid, concrete coping tools.”  She then pointed me in the direction of a counselor who, yes – was a Christian, but who specialized in grief and was able to give my kids solid coping skills apart from all the words of our faith that we so freely toss around to each other when tough times hit.  You know . . . trust, faith, rest, peace, etc . . .

So, here I am . . . praying with my little guy that God will help him trust . . . and it hit me.  What is trust?  What is it in a way that will make sense to Micah?  And so I prayed . . . “Father, may Micah have peace . . . knowing that You have all of this in Your hands . . . knowing that You will take care of him.” 

That is what ‘trust’ really is, isn’t it?  Trust is knowing that we can have peace because we believe and we know that God is big enough to handle our lives and all of the situations of them. 

Today . . . my prayer for you, my friend . . . is that you will know God’s peace.  Not because the word of God promises it in Philippians 4:6-7 . . . but because you believe deep within you that God can handle your life!  May that define each moment of your today! 

When I am afraid, I will trust in You.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.  What can mortal man do to me?

  • Psalm 56:3-4

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

  • Philippians 4:6-7

Welcome 2014!!!!

Welcome back to normal life, everyone!  Well, sort-of . . . we thought today would be back to normal, but if you live almost anywhere in the mid-west your kids may still be home from school today, as mine are.  I LOVE snow . . . and in Midland, MI we are having LOTS of it!  I know I am in the minority – but I am loving it!

I bet some of you have wondered where in the world I went!  After our big concert push last spring, I seriously did drop off the face of my ministry.  It was a time of re-grouping and working to follow the next step of God’s calling in my life – my master’s degree. 

After MUCH prayer and seeking the Lord as to my future as leader of my family, I really felt the call to be a hospital chaplain.  As I researched how to accomplish that calling – I found that the best way to position myself to fulfill that role in any capacity was to get my Masters of Divinity – or MDiv.  So, my summer was spent researching and trying to figure out how in the world to do that.  I began work at Moody Theological Seminary this fall and absolutely loved it!  I took 7 credit hours and holy moly – was it hard!  Please keep in mind – I have a bachelor’s degree AND I am an author and lyricist – I’m a ‘word’ person.  I CANNOT tell you how many words I looked up in the dictionary this fall.  Words that I had NEVER seen!  Oh my! 

I spent HOURS at the library and hours at home.  In fact – I rarely saw family or friends.  The level of learning was very high and challenging.  I did finish with all A’s . . . but wow!  By mid-December Abbi looked at me and almost cried.  She missed me and said that ALL I did was study and write papers.  True!

Many of my friends who have sent children off to college suggested that maybe I should take this next semester off, as it is Abbi’s final semester of high school and then she is off to college.  I would have had to take even more credits than my first semester – plus, Abbi is doing several ‘official’ college visits, swimming at Nationals in Florida in March, and graduating . . . all of which will take my time . . .

The other thing I haven’t told you is that the MDiv is a 96 hour program!  That is almost triple what an MBA (Masters of Business) is.  TRIPLE!  So, after completing my first semester and with light of all that is taking place next semester I have decided to step back and re-evaluate.  I am researching other program options and other degrees that might allow me to minister in the same way but that might not require such a big commitment.  I am a single mama and do not want to totally miss these precious years with my kids.

There is another bend in the road right now too.  There is a wonderful blessing brewing in my life in the form of a very sweet, kind, and wonderful man.  His name is Bryan and we are truly enjoying getting to know one another.  My privacy has become very important to me over the years.  The more you are in the public eye, the less privacy you have and in my book – the more precious it becomes.  So, though I will be very careful what I share, you will hear more about him, and us, in the future.  As I learn to trust God with this part of my heart, I realize that this is still a part of my grief journey and I do believe this part of the journey will minister.  But for now, just let me say that I am so grateful to God for this gift which totally caught me off guard and has put a smile in my heart in a place I thought might never smile again! 

So, these next few months will be ones of just sitting back and seeking the Lord.  I love that place in my life.  I just need His direction and His guidance.  I guess it is a ‘wait and see’ time in my life. 

How about you?  Sometimes the ‘wait and see’ times are tough?  Sometimes it takes a whole lot of trust to just sit back for a while.  I am realizing, these days, that I have areas of my life where trust is really tough.  I will share about that soon. 

In the meantime – please know that no matter where you are at as you enter this New Year – there is nowhere as peaceful or lovely as snuggled right in the arms of our sweet Lord.  Nuzzle yourself right there and together, my friends, we will learn to walk out our trust . . . or lack of! 

I have spent a lot of time in prayer and worship lately.  The Scripture that keeps resounding in my head is Ephesians 3:20.  I am claiming it as my verse for 2014.  I believe that there is a huge part of this verse that stretches me.  This is where my trust lacks . . . so I am going to claim it and work hard to trust it . . .

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us . . . .

Do you trust God to do immeasurably more than what you ask or imagine?  I’m working on it.  Maybe we can work on it together!  Blessings my friends.  See you soon – I promise!

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