Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New chapter

I have started a new blog...check it out, if you like! Love you all.

<3 Sarah

Friday, February 5, 2010

Scattered thoughts (I should be packing)

Heading to the airport in just a few hours...I can hardly believe it! It's been 6 months to the day that I've been outside the US...Lived on three continents, visited 8 countries, and now, it's back to Northern Illinois. 

It really is so bitter-sweet.  There are so many people in the States that I love and can't wait to see. I'm literally giddy to think about all the reunions to come. At the same time, I'm an expat at heart, and it won't be long before the restlessness sets in again, I'm sure. 

Most difficult of all, of course, is leaving my Dad. There are so many reasons it's so hard to part from him...His mother and brother are still in critical condition, and I wish I could stay here just to support and care for him through it all...

Thanks to all of you who have expressed concern and prayed for my family, by the way. It has been so encouraging.


What have I learned in the past six months? Have I changed? I pray to God that I have, by his grace. 

If I were to name one theme, one over-arching lesson He's taught me since I left the US on August 6...well, I have to name two. The first is that He. Is. Everything. We will never, ever adore him the way He deserves, but it is our great joy to spend every day trying. And he is very, very near. He speaks, and he is pursuing and desiring every one of our hearts. 

The second lesson I've learned is rooted in a selfish prayer I began to pray more than a year ago. John 10:10 was one of the Scriptures I'd pray daily--asking God to help me come to know the "abundant, full life" that Jesus promised. Who wouldn't want full, true life? And Jesus offered it--so I asked Him to help me receive it! 

He did. The funny thing is, I didn't realize what I was asking for--I had failed to make the connection between John 10:10 and Luke 9:24, where Jesus admonishes, "whoever clings to his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."! 

Jesus calls us to forsake ourselves--as Paul wrote, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me." Ah, I don't have the time or mental capital right now to describe--and if I did, words could never capture--the power of this truth, of the beauty and totality with which it has eclipsed my former reality. Shamefully self-centered and full of fear, waning with every hour, I was--but with infinite gentleness He has taught me to reach outside my own skin, to love a little more like Christ, to grasp the fact that I have been given everything and now belong to something Greater.  

A few paltry years we have been giving, and 'the world' would have us spend them in panic, in striving, in accumulating for ourselves--but true life, I've found. Released from the bondage of selfishness, we are free to love, to laugh, to give without worry. Gradually, I have begun to un-learn the mantras and mindsets we have learned to rationalize and even celebrate our cult of Self. I'm not there yet, but I have found the truth I sought and I won't let it go. 

Bottom line: finding joy, peace, and purpose is simple. I just have to get over myself and adore the Only Worthy One. 

Time to address that half-empty suitcase. Another 8,000 miles...Here we go! 

Grace and Peace to you all!! 

With love, 


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Long time no post. I've been meaning to update this lately, but the days have slipped by quickly. 

The last three weeks have been spent in quiet routine, here at my Dad's. Up at 6:30 to make breakfast and coffee, housework, reading, study, and cooking during the day, and trying my best to be a companion and a comfort to my Dad when he returns from work around 7 or 8. 

Things have been deteriorating, of late. This morning, before my Dad had finished shaving, we received a frantic call from my Uncle Ahmed's wife, informing us that Ahmed's health had taken a serious turn for the worse and they were taking him to the hospital. He has lymphoma, and, when I saw him last week, was unable to sit up. Right after this news, we received word from the ICU where my grandmother has been staying--she was not doing well, either. At Dad's order, I pulled on my black abaya, grabbed my head scarf and followed him out the door, headed for her. 

We could hear the screams before we got to the ICU. I didn't expect to be as shaken as I was, but her grotesque and painful situation was heartbreaking to see. I don't know what hurt more--to see her, tied to the bed to prevent her struggling, screaming through her oxygen mask, or my father, helpless for once in his life, his tired red eyes rimmed with tears. 

My Uncle Mohammed brought me back home a few hours later. It's been about 5 hours since I left, as my dad headed for his office for a few hours and distractedly promised to "keep me posted." I don't know how my grandmother is doing. I don't know how my uncle is doing. I feel a good cry coming. 

I spent the first hour back home listening to Death Cab for Cutie and reading Ecclesiates. Some avoid that book like the plague, claiming it is "depressing"--but I found it to be a refuge. Because sometimes it is right to simply see things for how they are and to speak plain, un-tempered truth. In our lives, many of our questions will go unanswered. Much of our pain will be endured without any tangible comfort. Much of what we treasure will fade into meaninglessness. 

And I believe the only solution, the only hope, to be found on those days is to be reminded of God's Big-ness. As I read the ancient words of Solomon, I felt as if I was being gently rocked, tiny in Everlasting Arms, my doubts being strained away as I felt my existence shrink to its proper proportion in the view of such a Great One. So much meaninglessness. yes. But I know the Meaning Himself. And there is the eye of the storm. The center. The constant. He Is. I will fade, too. But He Is.  

"I perceived that, whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people would revere him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been." Ecclesiastes 3:14-15

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Update from Jeddah

Long time no post, friends! (If there is anyone still reading this...) 

The last two weeks have been full. I said goodbye to my mom and siblings, and now it's just me and my Dad here in Jeddah...As I shared in a note on Facebook, I've decided to stay an extra month here with my Dad. Things are really rough for him lately...His mom was in the hospital all last week, and even now, he's on the phone with her and her various physicians at least a dozen times a day. 

He was already sufficiently exhausted and drained this evening, the usual result after a day of stressing over his mom and his busy job. Then the phone rang...again. It was his oldest brother, Ahmed, 'crying like a baby'--He has cancer again. Not only that, but he needs my dad to foot the medical bills, again. After the tense phone conversation ended, I spent the next hour listening as my dad mumbled dejectedly about how much "we will hate 2010" and what life will be when his mother and brother are dead. 

It's all heartbreaking, but I'm so, so thankful I could be here. I was outside hanging up laundry later, and I saw my Dad through the open window, staring into space. I couldn't bear to think of him going through this alone. I only pray God is able to use me to love and comfort my Dad in a real way while I'm here... 

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Other than these family crises, I've been absolutely blessed to spend lots of time with one of my best, oldest friends, Julianna. It's been so wonderful to talk heart-to-heart, to stay up late swooning over Hugh Jackman (maybe), to play grown-up dress-up and laugh hysterically over completely un-funny things. JS, I love ya. 

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Finally, I want to urge you all to follow the crisis in Haiti. The devastation is so vast, the need is so great. I hope all of you are heartbroken as you hear reports of the suffering--and that this compassion moves you to action. There are so many ways to help the efforts; I am compiling a list of organizations you can join with to help those in need. It's on Facebook, click here to visit the page: 

***I also want to publicly denounce and apologize for the appalling comments made my Pat Robertson regarding the Haitian crisis. As a follow of Christ, I am horrified that such a calloused and misguided sentiment was allowed to be expressed under the auspices of "Christianity".  If you haven't heard of his atrocious claims that Haiti is being "cursed" for making a "pact with the devil", you can read about it here: 

We are called to love, to heal, to rescue...I pray you are all seeking to do what you can for the beautiful people of Haiti.****

Love you all...I leave you with this verse. : ) 

"If anyone has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how can the love of God be in him? Children, let us love not in word and talk but in deed and truth." 1 John 3:17-18

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Greetings from Jerusalem! :)

Only have a few minutes to post a quick update.

The first few days of our trip have been amazing--floating in the Dead Sea, visiting Byzantine churches spread with ancient mosaics, eating falafel at least twice a day, and--my personal favorite so far--visiting Mt. Nebo, the moutaintop where Moses saw the Promise Land, and then died.

I can't describe the incredible feeling of standing up there, the sweeping valleys below covered in wispy fog and the glittering Dead Sea to my left. Directly below was barren, grey, a desert--but from the peak you could clearly sea the lush, green, precious Promise Land. Jerusalem, Jericho, the Jordan River--there it lay.

What must Moses have felt? An old man, having been through so much--the struggles, the anguish, the ecstasy he'd experienced--the intimacy with our God. The breeze spilled over my body as I trembled a little at the thought of YHWH, of the Almighty of Exodus--that is my God, and I can trust him and know him as Moses did. Tears filled my eyes as I thought of the sensation of seeing this land for the first time--after 40 years of waiting, of taking God at his Word--at last it was visible, tangible.

Am I willing to wait that long, to trust that much? My God is still faithful.

Went through two hours of hassel at the Israeli border because my of my father's last name--apparently we share a surname with some prominent guerillas. Oops.

Dipped my feet in the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee...Tonight I am sleeping on the Mount of Olives, tomorrow I will spend the day in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. This has already been a very emotional week for me...God is so near, and so good. I can't wait to share more. But for now...I just wanted to say...

Merry Christmas!

Immanuel--God is with us.

His law is love, and his gospel is peace.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A New Adventure Begins

Spent the last 5 days here in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia with my father--mainly doing housework, helping him with hospital runs/taking care of my grandmother, and devouring every book in sight. (Fitzgerald, Woolf, Amy Tan, oh my!) 

I'm heading out in just a few hours for Amman, Jordan...from there, I'll meet up with the rest of my family (YAY!!) and we'll spend two weeks visiting Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, Ramallah, Petra, Wadi Rum...and the like. I'm so excited!! 

Don't know how much I'll be able to update/answer emails/etc. But isn't that the beauty of vacation? No one will really miss me, though--and that's okay. I hope you all enjoy your Christmas and New Year immensely!! Breathe in the blessing--the air is thick with grace. Bless one another, and give away what you wish you had. Joy, joy, joy--You are so loved. 

Friday, December 18, 2009

---November 11, 2009---

Lord, you astound me. I've had so much truth spoken into my life this past week--You are preparing to do something new, and I'm amazed and humbled and so, so thankful....Let it be done as you will. 

"For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." Rom 11:29

---November 14, 2009---

I can't believe the countless ways you provide every single intimate, you are. I can feel your breath on my neck as you count the hairs on my head. 

"And from Jesus' fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." John 1:16

---November 17, 2009---

Just read Revelation 21-22. I'm in tears at the majesty. Come, Lord Jesus!  

---November 20, 2009---

I was going to go do some work at the school this afternoon, but Abba kept me back. He wants me all to himself--fine with me! Let's talk, Lord...

---November 24, 2009---

Words cannot describe the beauty of this deeply he speaks, how intimately and extravagantly he knows and nurtures me...All the things he's taught and shown me...

---November 26, 2009---

I feel a little guilty--I don't write as much as I should about my physical/material adventures and experiences here--every time I pick up this pen, all that floods out is prayer and praise! 

---November 28, 2009---

"For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that overcomes the world--our faith." 1 John 5:3-4 
Lord, I know I must begin each new day by begging on my wn I plead for your Spirit anew, that you might strengthen and establish me in truth and love, that I may obey. I desire to love and honor you with my ALL, and you will not despise this will come. 

---December 1, 2009---

"This is my body, which is broken for you..." Luke 22:19

Oh, heart has become so calloused to the cross. How is it possible for me to be so indifferent to the unspeakable scandal of Golgotha? Cut me t o the heart, Baba--I am so misaligned. 

---December 3, 2009---

So many memories made here, Lord--such wonderful evenings spent with my girls. I've been adopted to yet another family--I'm going over for couscous this afternoon to make everything official....haha. 

---December 4, 2009---

"Glory in his holy name; 
Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! 
Seek the Lord and his strength; 
seek his presence continually!" Psalm 105:3-4 

---December 5, 2009---

"Do not be wise in your own eyes." Proverbs 3:7 

---December 7, 2009---

"The grace you had yesterday will not be sufficient for today...pray now...keep on drawing on the grace of God." Oswald Chambers. 

It's true, me to maintain an open stream of grace between you and I...I'm sick again and so worn out...Let me finish strong, in your strength...Breathe in me, I feel so weak. 

But most of all, I thank you for these moments, that I learn to rely on you! 

---December 10, 2009---

...I don't know what to write, Lord. These pages couldn't hold the praises that you're due...this pen does not have the power to record all the ways you've loved and taught me here. These months have been an absolute gift...grace upon grace....If I've been able to serve, to bless others, I am humbled...but somehow I feel only like a spoiled princess, here, in your hand. 

Eyes can't see the way you hold me
Or how I'm hidden in your heart. 
Minds don't know all you have told me. 
Or how I ache for where you are...

It's invisible to the world. 
Incredible to the angels...
Not since Eden have they seen this sight, 
Everlasting life...

You are 
All over, 
You are 
You are 
This is life, 
This is life...