Takeaway Tuesdays: Romans 8:38-39

As a gal who knows and loves Jesus, I am acutely aware of the grace I’ve received. However, I am far from perfect, and my shortcomings present themselves- sometimes glaringly, sometimes subtly. I need God’s truth, through His word, to remind me that NOTHING can separate me from the love of Jesus Christ. I am His. End of story. This month’s Takeaway Tuesday, Romans 8:38-39, declares this truth.

Romans83839

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My Top 5 Tips to Paying Off Debt

Friends, I’ve got to be honest. I love school, perhaps a little too much. There’s just something about putting my nose in a book, writing an essay, or taking exams. Ya’ll, if I could be a professional student, I would do just that!

Unfortunately, school costs bucks. Lots and lots of bucks. I graduated from nursing school in 2013, with around $92,000 in school loan debt. Yes, cry big tears with me, please. That number was so daunting when I first started working as a school nurse.

I know what you are thinking- “You’re a nurse, Sarah. Nurses make great money.” However, friends, I’m going to let you in on a secret. Non-hospital nurses do not make as much money as hospital nurses. Despite this reality, I set out determined to defeat the debt beast.

God confirmed through a few awesome people in my life that this debt beast had to go. I’m not entirely sure what freedom from debt will bring for me, but if God says go for it, ya just do.

I’ve come up with a list to share with you, in case you are wondering where to begin.

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  1. Start with your smallest loan and pay it off. I had about 20 different lines of credit when I started paying back loans, and knew I’d eventually want to snowball my money, but I needed to see something tangible in the beginning. My smallest loan was $600, so my first paycheck went to paying off this loan. It felt so good!
  2. Set a reasonable budget to pay off your debt. Make sure you allow yourself room in your budget for your bills and other expenses, such as gas. It’s no good to pay off loan debt but have no extra money around when needed (and consequently rack up credit card debt). See step 3.
  3. Keep a “rainy day” fund in your banking account. I keep about $1,000 as my “rainy day” fund in my banking account. That said, I myself have allotted double my monthly payments for loans each month. Thanks Mum & Pops for allowing me to trade chores and dog sitting for free room & board.
  4. Snowball your debt beast. This means that after I paid off my smallest loan, I starting attacking my highest interest loans. One of my private loans had an interest rate of 7.5%. That’s just nuts. I slayed that loan first, and allowed that monthly payment roll into the next highest interest loan payment. Soon enough, that extra $25 a month turns into $150 extra a month toward your payments.
  5. Make sure to have fun along the way. Debt beast slaying is a journey friends. For me, this means a good handful of years to pay off my loan debt. I cannot reasonably function without some fun every once in a while. This means I use my yearly tax refund to help with travel expenses. If you enjoy a daily latte, by all means, get yourself a cup of joe. I personally got bitten by the travel bug long, long ago, and need to explore somewhere outside of Oregon every year. I scrimp and save, and use my tax refund to help me get there. By allowing yourself some fun along the way, your attitude toward paying off the debt beast will be positive, instead of miserable. I promise.

Here’s to you, friends, paying off your debt beasts. May your journey be delightfully swift, and may you never lose sight of the end goal- FREEDOM FROM DEBT!

Takeaway Tuesdays: Proverbs 16:3

There’s a lot of “newness” going on in my nuclear family’s lives, specifically in the work department. All the men in my family (Pops, Luke, and Jordan) are all starting new job ventures within the month. I am thinking and praying this verse over them all as they remember that ultimately, our job on Earth is to build God’s Kingdom. We are His, and our plans are always in His hands.

Proverbs 163

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Takeaway Tuesdays: Psalm 34:8

I don’t know about you, but summertime in Oregon means LOTS of fresh produce. I love picking fruit from the plentiful trees, plucking vegetables from their vine. It is a time of celebration: from seedling, to mature fruit. Summer reminds me to slow down, enjoy God’s goodness, and praise him! I’ve created a print to remind us to do just this.

Psalm 348

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Takeaway Tuesday: Exodus 33:18

I just listened to Annie Down’s podcast That Sounds Fun. The specific episode I finished had guest John Mark Comer, who is a Portland pastor/author. I so enjoyed this episode and loved how he shared about millennials (given I am one of those peeps), the post-modern church, Portland, and the like. One of my big takeaways from the podcast was the prayer John Mark suggests the listeners pray, coming straight from Exodus 33:18. In this passage, Moses is asking God to show him his glory- meaning, reveal who God is in totality. I love that. I want to know ALL of God, and hope that this verse is your prayer too.

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Dreams From the Threshing Floor, Part 2

To write this specific blog post, I am taking a risk. A vulnerable risk. I only ask that you read my words with care and tenderness, and keep in mind I am still living these words on a daily basis.

Last summer, I wrote on Anchored Voices a blog post titled “Dreams From the Threshing Floor“. To summarize the post, I wrote about my heart journey in the first two-thirds of the year. How God wants us to come to Him with all of our anxieties, fears, hopes and dreams. We can meet Him there on the threshing floor, be stripped of any inhibitions, and allow ourselves to be fully revealed to Him. It is in this place that He takes all that we bring and begins to sift through the chaff of lies, fears, and anything not of Him. He listens, and then lets them fall to the wayside. What is left after the intense sifting is the wheat of truth and hope.

I wrote about this sifting of my heart desires and thoughts, but I chose not to delve into specifics. It was too raw, too fresh. It stung. But lately, I have been pressing into God’s goodness, and learning what it looks like to seek after Him when the “ifs” haven’t come. It’s time to come clean, and bare a little of my soul. I share after much prayer, tears, and asking God, “Really, that? Are You sure?”

So, here I go.

A lot of what God worked on in my life last year had to do with my being single. Three years ago, I wrote about being single. About its joys. About the struggles. And perhaps this is when and where the lies began to seep into my heart.

As I relied upon God, and asked Him (sometimes, if I’m honest, begged Him) to help me believe that His ways are better than mine, I soon thereafter encountered a few glimpses of potential relationships. I bounced back and forth between hesitation and a just-go-for-it attitude. However, none of these relationships panned out. I was left feeling rejected, and my fear of being alone amplified. In these moments, I do believe God protected my heart, and allowed me to bounce back, so to say, quickly. Or so I thought.

This brings me to last summer. In some ways, it felt like God purposefully separated me from my daily routine of work, friends, and family. Being that I am a school nurse, I have the summer off. I can use this time to do virtually anything, and last summer I took a couple science classes. In the morning I’d head to class, in the afternoon, I’d head to the gym. Other than these two activities, I spent a lot of time at home, on my back deck. As I sat out in one of the patio chairs, I began to listen, and pray. God spoke wisdom to me through two friends- both who challenged me to listen to God during this time.

As I listened, here is what God confirmed: I had been harboring some deep-rooted lies about myself for several years. I had not given them up to Him with sweet surrender, but instead had hidden them away, deep within my heart. threshingfloorpart2pic1Lies specifically that stated: I am not worthy of a relationship, that I am broken, that I am not a valuable member of the church because I am single. These ugly untruths revealed themselves one by one. I couldn’t believe my own heart. Hadn’t I been preaching to myself all these years, confident in my singleness and God’s purpose in my singleness?

Flabbergasted, I came to God over and over again. I would cry out, Pour over your truth on me, God! Let my heart be filled with your words. He would direct me to purposeful passages in His word.

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” 1 Corinthians 14:33.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31.

God reminded me of my life verse, 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” The verses following my life verse then say, ” Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” 

It was evident that the devil had been prowling around my heart and head like a roaring lion, seeking to devour my thoughts. It was in these moments of crying out to God that I read His word with fervor. I wanted to shout! NO! I will not believe any longer that I am unworthy of love. I looked at Ephesians 6:11 with fresh eyes, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”

I resolved last summer, and have continued, to battle untruths with God’s truths. He says I am loved. He is my refuge. He discerns my thoughts. I cannot hide from God. He looks at me with loving eyes, and knows me intimately. There is no point in tucking away the ugly any more, because He already knows it. He can handle my myriad of thoughts and emotions. He knows that I have moments of watching my friends interact with their husbands and children and that ever-so-slightly my heart physically aches. He knows when I wonder, “Am I forgotten? When is it my time?”

I am finding freedom in surrendering my thoughts fully and completely to God. I am able to share my heart with other single women, and I can articulate to my married friends more readily.

My summer on the threshing floor with God has deepened my trust in Him. I ask Him to show up, and He does. Every time. Maybe not how I think He will, but in His own sweet way. I realize these desires are good, and I have no shame in wanting a godly husband or children. threshingfloorpart2pic2But more importantly, I have learned that God is better than my desires. I am a work in progress, and God is doing a good work in me. What could be sweeter?

2016: My Year of Yes

 

sleek-foil-pinkAt the beginning of the year, my dear friend Chara challenged a group of our gal pals to pray over a word for the year. I prayed, and God put on my heart “YES.” What the heck, God? That word freaked me out just a little. What was He going to ask of me this year, 2016? I’m going to bullet point what I’ve learned this year because everyone loves a good list, right?

  • Yes to doing hard things. One of my best friends Jenn asked me to join the gym with her in February. I had been a weekly runner, but the gym- I could live without it. Slowly, but surely, I eased my way back into routine. Fast forward 10 months later, and I now use the gym 4 days a week and run outside on Saturdays. I’ve rediscovered my love for cycling and yoga, and my body has thanked me for the exercise. I’m healthier, I have tons more energy, my skin is clearer. I have an addiction to group classes and I’m so glad I joined. I have put in a LOT of sweat equity, and at times, it has been hard. I don’t always want to go, but by blocking out time and putting it into my schedule, I said YES to sweating it out and my body loves it all. I truly want to honor the body that God has given me, not only physically, but in all aspects of my life including mental health, and spiritual health as well.
  • Yes to coming before God and being REALLY honest. This summer, I felt like God quieted my life, and made me pray through some things I had suppressed for quite some time. I wrote a blog post about the threshing floor over on Anchored Voices. I did not hide from God, and I allowed myself to come to Him repeatedly with all of my emotions and desires, and I questioned Him. I can’t remember the last time I really questioned God, and it was scary. But God is so good and faithful, and He showed up every time, proving His love for me. See Psalm 57.
  • Yes to studying God’s word and praying more. I love the She Reads Truth app, and again read through the Bible in one year. I spend roughly 12 minutes or so at night, before bed, reading through Scripture. Studying Truth has been the single most fulfilling part of my year. God has so much to teach me, to reveal to me through His word. I am looking forward to studying the Bible more next year as well. I also cannot emphasize enough the impact prayer has upon my life. It is my lifeblood and connection to God.
  • Yes to strengthening the gifts God gave me. I write monthly for Anchored Voices, and I delight in the challenge it brings every time. God requires me to listen and pray over each blog entry, and I love working on my gifting of edification and encouragement. I have been given time and the ability to use these gifts, and know that God is ultimately glorified through them. I am also trying to be more cognizant of the people placed in my life who need encouragement and edification. I listen to God’s promptings and try to share with others words of wisdom, a gentle rebuke, or hope.

2016 has been memorable for me. In August, after a summer of God working on my heart something fierce, I read Shauna Niequist’s book Present Over Perfect. My year of YES had felt fairly confusing up until this point, and then clarity came. She wrote so poignantly.

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This was the instance when God and I had an aha moment. These words have carried me through the remainder of the year.ig-yoyGod wants me to say YES to possibility, and to jump in anyway. To be bold, and fearless in the pursuit of glorifying Him. To be okay with messy, and scary, if it means following Him. To allow myself to be seen in the ugly times with transparency, so that those around me can lift me up in prayer, and in turn, to being there for those around me when they need it most.

2016 has been my year of YES, and I now understand why.

I am looking forward to 2017, and praying over my next year’s word. Will you join me in establishing a word for your upcoming year?

I’ll Put the Kettle On

One of my favorite parts about growing up in a British-American household has been the art of drinking tea.

I call it an art because there are several steps to enjoying a good cup of tea: boiling the water, “warming the teapot”- this consists of taking a little of the piping hot water and swirling it inside of the teapot and then leaving that water in the teapot before adding your tea and the rest of the boiling water, making sure everyone’s tea is to their liking (milk, no sugar, thanks), allowing the tea to steep for just the right amount of time (approximately 4-5 minutes, depending upon the strength you desire), and finally, sipping on that steaming cup of tea.

The art of drinking tea happens in my family’s household every day, when we get home from work, typically between 4 and 6 PM. Although the process of drinking tea only takes a few minutes, it is during this time that I have found the most enjoyment. It sets my family up for conversation, particularly about the highs and lows of our day.

When watching British television shows or movies, or when visiting with relatives in UK, this practice takes place the instant you are invited into someone’s house. You may be complete strangers, but by golly, you will be offered a hot drink. My Mum and I always joke when we hear someone offered a hot drink. Television shows are particularly good at depicting this illustration. Someone is invited into a house. Their world is crumbling apart. And the first thing that is said by the host or hostess is, “I’ll put on the kettle for a cup of tea.” I find this comical, and yet, maybe British culture is onto something.

Periodically throughout Scripture, verses speak about people gathering together to eat and drink. There is something beautiful in the breaking of bread together, or having a drink together. It is in these moments that life is shared more intimately.

Do you know of a friend or family member who is going through a stressful time in their life?  

Perhaps offering refuge to a loved one really ought not to be complicated.  

What if all a hurting person needed was a cup of tea, or coffee, and a space to be invited into? Allowing someone into your home to take refuge, to find peace from a personal crisis, can be simple.

Refuge, as I think God intended it to be, looks like this:

Come into my home, no matter how many dirty dishes there are in the sink, or toys on the floor. I’ll serve you something to drink or eat. We can chat, or not. You can feel safe in this moment to share what’s on your mind. I can pray for you. You can be who God created you to be and I will not try to change you. I will allow God to do the changing, if necessary.

Will you try this for me? The next time someone you care for texts you not knowing what to do, invite them over. Put on the kettle. Let them take refuge, and just see how God shows up in that moment of sipping on your tea together.

Original blog posted 01/17/16

2016: My Year of …

The other day, my wise, dear friend Chara challenged a group of women I share life with to participate in a #oneword365 activity. She said, “Think and pray over one word you feel like God is leading you toward for 2016.” Activities like these always seem to scare me a little. Last year, God laid on my heart the word LEAD. It was fun to see how God used me in varying leadership roles. As 2015 wrapped up, I spent the week prior to New Years praying. I really tried to avoid this word, but it kept coming up again and again. So here it is …

Why God led me to this word, I have yet to discover. But that’s my word. YES! I am truly curious to know why, and I intend on spending the next 365 days (this year is a leap year) finding out.

Original blog post dated 01/01/16