Tuesday, December 31, 2013

a year.

Conveniently, my birthday, my marriage anniversary, and the New Year all fall within the same week, so the season is ripe for reflection.

A year, a year, an entire year.  It flew, it dragged; I can scarcely believe I was once that woman, yet it all feels as though it only just happened, life marching steadily forward without giving me a moment to pause and remember and catch my breath.

2013 began and ends with joy, but it was marked by grief.  I have often relied on the word deconstruction to describe my year, because it felt as though every part of who I was was taken apart, examined, sifted through.  I moved farther from the fundamentalist evangelical perspective I once held; my addictions to busyness and success were broken; my ways of relating to people changed significantly, not least of which was re-prioritizing relationships and hopping off the busy social circuit; I quit my job and started therapy and oh yeah, I got married.

That's a lot of change.  For a while, I needed to hide, withdraw, slow down, disconnect.  So I did, for a summer, spending most days in my pajamas and foam rolling my tired legs and studying for a developmental psych course and reading as many books as I could.  That's mostly all.

With the autumn came a slow awakening, a gradual facing of my own pain, sadness, and fear.  Outside of school, life has no syllabus or fixed format.  I have been learning to bear my own pain at feeling afraid without those clear boundaries to guide my actions and choices.  I have also been learning to ask, what do I want?  I am not on auto-pilot in life anymore--I'm learning to live with intention.  It's so easy to be swept up in the mainstream, with its assumptions and pressures to fit in, but in bringing much of my life to a dramatic halt, I feel able to make more careful choices about how to spend my money, my time, and my energies.

I don't want to be swept up in the automatic assumptions of middle-class life in America; instead, I want to ask, consider, and pray about what I want, what I'm called to.  I practice with little decisions: do I really like this music?  Do I like this clothing?  This film?  What do I want to eat for breakfast?  Do I really need to spend money on that?  Why do I feel I need this?  It feels wonderful and terrifying, and I believe there is more space for the Kingdom of God in my life than there was before.

I am learning to look with new eyes at where Jesus has been mercifully at work in my life, not allowing me to take the easy way out, but inviting me, with tenderness and patience, to break old ways of behaving and being in order to become a new creation: more honest, more vulnerable, more humble.  I like who I am becoming, but it can be easy to overlook all the good change in order to focus on all the negatives of this season.

I am learning to show kindness to myself after realizing the great deal of shame and embarrassment I have felt over my story this year--why can't I get it together?  I felt as though I was disappointing loved ones, not living up to expectations of what I would do with my degree and GPA and music and writing.  What a gift it has been to admit my own embarrassment and hear loved ones declare, You are not a disappointment.  We see how hard you are working to be well.  We want you to thrive.

Thank you.  Your love and grace teach me how to show the same kindness to my own self--to say, Sarah, you have been brave this year.  You are not lazy.  You are courageous and doing good, hard work.  You have not been on an extended vacation.  You've been changing and transforming in spite of the great cost and toll it has taken.

In my wedding vows, I quoted Colossians, where Paul says the strength given by God "endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful he has for us."  Amen.  Amen.  I have endured what I thought, at times, was unendurable, and I am re-discovering joy--compassion from loved ones I feared I had disappointed, presence from a God I feared had abandoned me, life from the self I feared had withdrawn too deeply to emerge again.

Here's to another year.

#25 birthday dinner.


  1. I am glad I know you and have you as a friend. Thank you for all the hard work you do for you.