Choosing Love Despite Response

Choosing Love Despite Response 

image

It’s more commonly said these days that “love is a choice“. And rightfully so. Love is definitely a choice we make. Daily. Love is an action. And actions require intentionality. Thus, love is a choice we get to make. Whether in giving or receiving, loving well requires us to choose. To choose love. Always. When it’s exciting and when it’s terrifying. When it’s undoubtably a “yes” and when it’s a painful “no”. When it feels good and when it’s cold raw reality.

Love is intentional. Love is kind. Love is fierce. It doesn’t hold the need to be right. It’s doesn’t thrive on having the last word. Love doesn’t compromise. Love speaks up for others; but not against. Love is pursuing. Love is patient. Love takes the initiative. Love chooses peace. Love knows how to rest. Love doesn’t give up, let go, or quit. Love has a powerful yes, and no. Love is committed. Love shows respect. Love is rooted in honor. Love sees beyond the visible. Love doesn’t operate from a place of fear. Love isn’t always comfortable. Love is safe. Love manages it’s time well. Love values excellence. Love is visionary. Love respects boundaries. Love is generous. Love is soft spoken, yet loud. Love doesn’t “one-up” others. Love doesn’t look down on itself. Love is steady. Love is loyal. Love creates a home.

One of the most powerful things about love is CHOICE. Love is a choice. In every situation in life, I get to choose love. In every relationship I have, I get to choose love. In every conflict, I get to choose love. In every victory, I get to choose love. In tragedy, in failure, in moments of extreme pain and uncertainty, I get to choose love. I get to choose to be a woman who loves well. I get to choose love–to respond in love, with love, and as love.

As a woman who is committed to being intentional about living a life of loving well…. I get to CHOOSE to love people regardless of whether or not they will love me in return. (If you don’t get anything else I have said in this article, please hear this one statement.) It sounds a bit painful and honestly, sometimes it’s IS. Never the less, It’s actually the privilege of love.

The privilege of love is that we get to choose love itself. Really choosing love is choosing to love with no agenda. Love doesn’t allow strings to be attached. Love is not contingent upon response. Love isn’t determined by the lack of rejection. Love doesn’t require agreement or approval. The measure of expressed love doesn’t rely on the one it’s being given to.

Is it nice to be loved in return? Is it nice receiving an equal or even greater reciprocation? Is it nice when your love and expression of love is rightfully celebrated? Absolutely! Loving is beautiful. Being loved is beautiful! I can’t imagine us arguing the fact that being loved in return, especially in extravagance, is a sweet gift we were all made to experience on a regular basis.

Even still, there are times where reciprocation isn’t guaranteed. When the response you’re looking forward to isn’t ensured. There’s a chance they won’t appreciate your love or even want it. In these moments, choosing love can be painful. It’s often exhausting. It’s even more often overlooked. Most people around you won’t get to see this choice of yours. It’s a choice made in secret and relationship with God. He’s our model and demonstrator for how effective choosing love can be to those around us. It’s a matter of the heart. It’s not necessarily in the words that we speak or the actions we make. He’s where we learn to choose love.

Relationships, of any kind, are one of the hardest areas in life when it comes to intentionally choosing love. It’s also the most powerful. It’s easy to like, love, and pursue someone when you know they feel the same way. When you know they love and value you..just as much, if not more, than you value them. Knowing this seemingly removes the risk of rejection, misunderstanding, abandonment, and pain. “If I knew they felt the same way then I’d make a move. I’d be more intentional. I would be more vulnerable. I would allow myself to be seen. I’d be willing to give more of myself.” Or, “If I knew they’d say ‘yes’.. If only I knew how they felt. If I could just know what they want. If I knew I couldn’t fail..” The list goes on.

This is a “safe-zone” that many powerful people often hide in.  Where the odds of being rejected are severely limited due to the lack of risk. It’s also the place where we hand over our power to the outcome and results while we stand by powerlessly waiting in the land of “IF”.

But wait. Love doesn’t withhold itself. Love doesn’t hide. Does it? If love truly doesn’t limit itself based upon the response of others than this type of attitude towards love is hindering us severely. This is fear masked as “wisdom”. This isn’t an example of “choosing love”, but one of submitting to fear. Being dangerously surrendered to fear.

And that, my love, is scary! We are not called to be people who hide in the face of fear, determining every move of love based on the response or approval of others. No, no, no. We get to choose love! Every moment. Every day.

We get to be the ones who say, “regardless of how you treat me, respond, answer, approve, etc., I am choosing to be a woman/man of love. And it’s in my nature to extend love. Whether you choose to love me or not, I choose to love you. Just because you exist. It’s actually the privilege of my life to be someone who loves well. And I choose to spend this privilege on you. You’re worth my love. Even if you don’t love me like I hoped you would or expected you to–I get to choose to love you. Unrestrained. Extravagantly. Without limits.”

I choose love.

So if we believe that love truly is a choice then the question is, “are we willing to pay the price of what seems like a sacrifice: loving people so radically that our love is not limited by their acceptance or reciprocation”? Is being someone who loves well enough of a reward for us? Is the fruit of loving well enough to draw us into a lifestyle of being ones who choose love? Will we be conscience of love–consciences of choice? In every situation or season of life, will we be the ones who choose to love with the deepest, purest, and truest kind of love? It’s risky. It’s sacrificial. It’s extravagant. It’s powerful. It’s unconditional. It is LOVE.

“If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me.”
—W.H. Auden, “The More Loving One”

What Would It Look Like For You to Be You?

image

I have been fascinated by questions lately! God has been speaking to me a ton by just asking me questions throughout my day. What I love about God is how strategic He is. He is so intentional. He knows what He’s doing. He always knows what to say. He knows what questions to ask. He always has the best advice to offer. You have to admit – He is good. So, with that being said. I have a question for you. This is one I’ve been going back and forth with between the Lord and I.

 

Ponder this:
What would it look like for you to be YOU?

I made a big move back in September. I moved to Redding, CA – a new city I now call home. It’s been quite the adventure. I moved here to attend ministry school. I really had no clue what this all would look like. For the first time in my life, I actually was looking forward to not knowing what was going to happen.

I’m the girl who loves to plan. I love to have my whole life beautifully organized. (Doesn’t that sound amazing?!) This time though… I had no clue. All I knew was that God was about to take me on a journey. This journey would be centered around my heart and His. What I knew was that He and I would be drawing up the blue print map for how I would choose to love, live, and lead in life.

That’s all I knew and I was excited for the adventure we were about to embark on. Let’s just say this journey has been exactly what He showed me. It’s been all about the heart. So far, it’s been heart surgery. And it has been amazing!

I’ve learned more in the last few months since I’ve moved here than I know my heart and mind can comprehend right now. The greatest revelation I have had during this season of heart surgery (and am having) is that Gods ONLY expectation of me, while I’m on this earth, is to be fully me. That is all. Gods only expectation of you is for you to be fully you and to fully bring yourself to the table in every area of life.

I am as much fulfilling my calling and “destiny” when I am fully being ME as I am when I am doing what is required, needed, and expected of me.

If I can figure out who He’s created me to be and do that well then I’ve succeeded in life. My greatest purpose on earth is to be who He has called, created, desired, and longed for me to be. Nothing more and nothing less. All the dreams in my heart and the passions I believe He has placed in me can only flow out of this place. These dreams can only thrive in the garden of me being me.

If I’m not ME, which is who He created, I am nothing. Because who He created me to be is in Him and could never thrive apart from Him. Me being fully me looks like daily becoming and loving who God has made me to be. It looks like me committing to my process and promising to enjoy it. Just BE. Me being me is rooted in Christ and from that flows the life of worship I know my heart was fashioned for.

This is the resting place of vulnerability and identity. It’s the dwelling place where dreams and reality form a sweet union. Where opportunity seeks you. Where favor knocks on your door. Where you ditch the fear of man. Where you rid yourself from all unnecessary expectations. Where you break down gross standards that are not rooted in the heart of the Father. All striving ceases. All self-promotion finally reveals itself as pointless. There’s freedom. There’s breathing room. There’s clarity. There’s excitement. You finally begin to see the YOU inside of who you thought you had to be this whole time.

It’s a vulnerable place – allowing God to fully expose the beauty of YOU. It’s the exposure of all the greatness, power, influence, passion, joy, fierceness, resilience, and loyalty that’s inside of you. It’s scary! It’s exciting. This vulnerable place requires you to give God permission to expose you to yourself and have His way. It’s scary because once you know who He created you to be, there’s no turning back. You can’t un-see the greatness He’s now exposing in you. It’s complicated and yet, fairly simple. It’s a journey of becoming you. It’s a journey of allowing God to be God and giving Him what He wanted, what He gave His Son for… YOU.

I find it so funny the way God chooses to speak to us sometimes. He’s been asking me questions when He could obviously just tell me how it is. That is the beauty of Gods nature – He wants to know you not dictate you. I find it funny because this whole question asking thing of His is pure genius. How do you get to know someone and vise-versa? You ask questions! You ask them open-ended questions hoping to see more of who they are and what makes them tick.

So what would it look like for you to be you? To cease striving to live up to the gross expectation of who you assume others want, need, or expect you to be. What would it look like if the only expectation you lived up to was the one that your Dad has of you being the beautiful you He created before the earth was ever formed?

Something inside my heart says that’s all He wants for you and I. Seeing as though, we are all He wants. This is the resting place of vulnerability and identity and being firmly rooted in the heart of the Father. God wants you. Not the person you think or feel you need to be in order to achieve the most, look the best, fail the least, etc. He just wants you.

You are more than enough. You are exactly who He wanted. God longed for you and couldn’t wait any longer to have you. So, He made you! And now, all He wants is for you to be you and enjoy all He has in store for you. Be yourself. After all, you are created in His likeness. Thus, you are amazing!

If you haven’t answered the question yet, I dare you to.
What would it look like for you to be fully you? I pray a grace over you to be able to fully rest in who God is and who He’s empowered and created you to be. May your heart and soul come alive like never before as you learn to love yourself the way God loves YOU.

Two Thousand and Sixteen

→2016←

Another year. Another chapter of life closed and going down in my book. I wish I could accurately put into words what 2015 has meant to me – what it’s been for my heart. It hasn’t been easy, but oh how it’s been worth every moment.

The last year has been one filled with a lot of change, challenges, opportunity, stretching, growth, and dreams I would have never imagined coming to pass. It’s been a sea of emotions that has washed me up on the most unexpected shore at this point in my life. The best part: there’s no place I’d rather be.

I feel like a completely different person. I feel more like me than I have ever been. At times I don’t recognize myself in the most beautiful way possible. I even look more and more like ME every day.

I started 2015 off by flying to one of my favorite nations, HAITI, and lead my very first missions team on a 10 day trip to Carrefour. Taking people to other nations and creating opportunities for others to be apart of what God is doing in the nations is a huge passion and dream in my heart. I would have never expected to be able to begin doing this at only 19. God pays attention to your dreaming heart, be sure of that.

imageimage

I turned the big awaited “21”. That alone felt like a major shift in my life. I’ve never felt much when it has come to age and getting older. Another year, another birthday. Yet, this one was different. I had a feeling that this 21st year would be one of defining moments for me and between the Lord and I. It’s been completely and overwhelmingly accurate so far.

I returned to another one of my favorite nations over the summer, the Dominican Republic, and spent a month interning for my favorite missionaries. I was finally able to see my beautiful Dominican god-children after five long years! It was beginning to feel like I’d never see them again. Kids grow ridiculously fast, so you could see why me not being there in five years was a problem. They may be out growing me, but they will never outgrow my abundance of kisses for them. Never.

I moved to a brand new city at the end of the summer. A place I’ll be calling home, until the Lord says otherwise. Here, I began my first year of ministry school! Another dream that I hadn’t expected to come to pass so soon. I’ve grown more in the last few months of school than I ever could have imagined. My first year at BSSM is reaching that half way point. I would start over and go back to day one of school just so I could re-experience all that God has done so far. It’s been a beautiful roller coaster.

One thing I’ve always admired about the Lord is how He outdoes Himself EVERY time. I knew it would be good, but I didn’t imagine it to be this good. Absolutely incredible and not at all easy. Isn’t that the story for most great things in life?

This year has been one for the books. It’s stretched me beyond what I thought I was capable of. It’s left me stronger than I thought I was. It’s carried around with it a mirror, causing me to see who I really am. Not only see, but love. This year has awakened some of the many dreams in me. I’ve always been a dreamer. Lately, I’ve kicked it up a few notches. This has caused me to realize that even my craziest and wildest dreams aren’t accurately sized in proportion to how good my God is. It was clearly time to step it up.

One of my favorite things about God is how extravagantly faithful He is. My definition of Gods goodness and faithfulness is expanding, yet again… This has caused me to reexamine how I dream and how I prioritize pursing my dreams. There have been countless moments this past year where I have seen how sweetly and how closely the Lord has paid attention to the desires of my heart.

He has completely and utterly out done Himself.

He is constant. He is good. He is faithful. He is trustworthy. He is extravagant. He is powerful. He is strong. He is unchanging. He is full of surprises. He is aware. He is fierce. He is proud. He is true. He is kind.

2015 has been a year of countless opportunities for me to know God deeper. This is the one thing in life that I want more than anything….I want to KNOW God.

The last day of my twentieth year, or: the beginning of the rest of my life.

tumblr_mniiii0fYa1rpe0jco1_500

“The beginning of the rest of my life.” Okay…that may seem a bit dramatic but that is exactly how I have felt this past year. Today is my last day as a twenty year old. It’s just a little bit crazy, if you ask me! I remember my third birthday so vividly. And, yes, of course it was Barney-themed! What a silly question… Haha It was a Barney-themed third birthday party right along with my Barney pajamas and my Barney bedding. Don’t judge. Let’s be real.

This last year has been an interesting one, to say the least. It has been a year of growth and dreaming like I’ve yet to experience before. As I’m sure many of you have noticed by now, with exponential growth comes that lovely feeling of being “stretched”. Sometimes this feeling can be difficult to explain but it’s definitely recognizable when it’s “upon” you. It’s also beyond what you often think you can handle. Key word: think. Thankfully that saying, “God wont give you more than you can handle” has been proven to be accurate in my life. I seem to find myself in situations and opportunities which seem so much bigger than me, or at least bigger than who I currently am. It’s truly a great place to be for many reasons. This place of stretching causes you to search deeper still and find out who God says you really are. Being stretched also stirs up the dreamer within. Who God has called you to be will always trump who and where you “feel” you are at the present moment.

Although much of it seems small to me when taking in the grand scheme of my future and the size of my dreams, what this last year has taught me has been monumental. (It’s funny to think that what is monumental now we will one day look back on as “just the beginning”.) My twentieth year has taught me many things, many valuable lessons that have strengthened my character and increased my ability to dream bigger. I’ve learned endurance from a whole new perspective, and yet believe there to be much of it still out there just waiting to be discovered.

I’ve discovered the beauty in not just “sticking it out” or “surviving” but faithfully committing to seeing my previous engagements through till the end. And doing so even when those around me or others involved don’t choose to. This isn’t because I’m afraid to admit my mistakes or risk looking as though I failed, but because I know God spoke to me and that, “though none go with me, still I will follow”. There is beauty and grace in the process of genuine follow-through. Leave behind any survival-mode mentalities and learn to thrive in the process of every opportunity and circumstance – no matter what path others around you choose. You finishing well, even if “alone”, is key.

Here’s another one for ya: leading by example is truly the best way to lead! So simple, right? By doing just that you not only tell others which way to go but you’re able to take their hand and guide them along the way. Leading by example is as if to lead by partnership. Along with this simple principle being highlighted this past year, I’ve had this strong desire for the topic of leadership in my life. This ones a bit hard to explain. Simply put, I’m LOVING more and more…all things leadership! I always have but especially this last year. (Maybe even two.) It’s as though it’s running through my veins. Haha All these years of having others speak into my life about leadership, being a leader of leaders, etc., and now it’s brewing stronger than ever. I LOVE it.

I’ve learned to overcome with love and honor. These two are more than powerful enough to equip you for success in every situation in life. Also, that being a woman of integrity is far more valuable than simply “being heard” or getting my point across – even if I am right. Did you know, you having the right heart and doing things with excellence and a source of love is, at the end of the day, enough?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t speak up for yourself or that you should keep quite like a good little door mat. Not at all! Say what you feel you need to say and do so with respect and honor and from a source of love. Yet fighting for the last word, defending yourself until you feel heard, beating others with your excuses and truths, building cases, etc. rarely help…even when you really are right. Don’t worry. It’s going to be okay! Those who truly know you should know your heart as well. If your heart is pure then your genuine and sincere motives of love will shine through the darkest of situations….regardless of what’s said against you. Trust in who He says you are and the reputable character He’s given you.

God has taught me a whole new respect for simply “BEing there” in life. I was in Haiti this last January and one day while I was with my team in the surrounding community I became overwhelmed by a specific need that required attention. I was planning it all out in my mind. I was thinking all about the possible completion process and how my team and I could “totally get this done and cared for”. God softly told me to “sit down”, to my surprise. I was already sitting though. Next, He asked me to “just BE there”. He reminded me to not miss out on the moment I was in with those around me and simply BE present – be all there. Those things can wait another minute and are no where near a priority compared to the ones in front of us. Since then I’ve heard some beautiful messages by one of my favorite preachers Kris Vallotton where he shares about how the Lord has been speaking to him about simply, “BEING PRESENT”. This is key for successful loving and leading.

This last year has stretched and challenged me. It’s also shown me a lot about myself that I’m proud to be able to see, especially this early on in life. I’m so thankful for a full year of countless opportunities and blessings! Many of which I would have never guessed to come to pass already. I’m also thankful for the challenges that have caused me to dig deeper, rely on God, and grow as a woman, a daughter, and a leader. Although I may not know exactly what it all will look like, I DO know that God has things in store for this 21st year of mine that I’ve only dreamed of and prayed for. This next year looks like it too is going to be a stretching year and I’m more than ready. After this year of growth, lessons, favor, opportunities, and so on, it’s just simply the beginning. There is much more to learn and many more people to love-on in the world.

These few things I’ve shared are a tiny snippet of what I feel I’ve learned this 20th year of mine. I’m coming out on the other side with the sweetest perspective of victory and a thankful heart for all God has done in such a short period of time. These phrases have echoed in my heart, “you’re stronger than you think you are” and “I’ve given you everything you need”. God is so faithful. His faithfulness in every season is the theme song of my life.

It’s “the beginning of the rest of my life” and I’m stoked! I say that with pure joy and reverence for this beautiful life God has orchestrated for me. I love being able to look to the future and feel like I could explode with excitement knowing that all I’ve experienced of His goodness thus far is truly just the beginning. I’ve genuinely loved the first 20 years of my life and I look forward to the many more to come as I continue to pursue my King and follow the dreams He’s put in my heart.

Thank You, Jesus!

21, I’m coming for you…

Meet Danni {Faces of Nations Series}

Faces of Nations

Faces of Nations is my new “ongoing” blog series. To know more about this series and the heart behind it all you can read that here: Introducing Faces to Nations. I’m excited to share with you this new series where I will be introducing you to important people around the world!

silvana-di-franco

This article of my “Faces of Nations” blog series is definitely my favorite. I’m excited to introduce you to someone who has utterly changed my life and heart. I adore this boy with everything inside of me. While I write this, I am currently preparing for a three week internship and missions trip back to the Dominican Republic where I will be able to see this sweet boys faces again! I can’t wait!

 

 

 

 dr7

Meet DANNI 

In the summer of 2010 I was doing a missions internship in the Dominican Republic. During my first day visiting the orphanage we were working with (Pan De Vida Orphanage and Feeding Center), Rick and Carrie (the missionaries) were introducing myself and some other new interns to the kids. They were filling them in on how long each of us were going to be staying, etc. I was standing beside one of the posts around the covered patio area with one child already on my hip. I could feel someone else to my left. Behind the post I was standing in front of was one of the most beautiful children I have ever seen in my life.

I peeked around to look at him. He was half hidden behind the post listening intently to Rick introducing us. The minute we locked eyes God showed me what I had asked for. God was showing me my WHY. I was there for him. I didn’t even know his name yet. One thing I did know was that he was the main reason why God brought me to this country. I knew I was going to spend the next four weeks discovering the depth of this why.

He giggled and went back to hiding behind the post. We peeked at each other a few more times. Eventually, I knelt down to say hello and ask him what his name was. His name is Danni. He then read my name from my name tag and finished it off with the biggest grin. I stood up and within seconds he had reached out to grab my hand. Which was the perfect confirmation to what the Lord had just shown me. I didn’t have to work it up and try to force a relationship. We both chose each other right from the start. After all, love is a choice. 

All this was for him.

From that moment on we spent as much time as possible together. All my favorite memories of my time in the DR revolve around him being in each one.

dr5

 

One day he and I were walking hand-in-hand through the property at the orphanage. While we were walking through some trees we came across one of the little boys from the area named Esmerlin. He was sitting on the ground against a tree by himself. He looked a little “out of it”. I watched him for a few seconds from a distance, wanting to automatically scoop him up. Danni gently nudged me and pointed to him. I looked back at Danni and he just smiles and winks at me.

We sure communicated well even though we couldn’t speak each others languages. Danni stayed there as I walked over to Esmerlin. I asked him if he was okay, the best I could in Spanish. lol He could hardly talk. He just looked at me. I sat down and scooped him up. After holding him for a bit, I see Danni smiling and walking towards us. He sits down next to us and just waits. We noticed Esmerlin would reach up and clutch his head quite often. We walked him to the house and later discovered he had a concussion from the previous evening when his mom has beaten him. 

I’m so thankful for this sweet compassionate boy who notices when his friend isn’t his usual self, who notices when someone is hurting. Not only does he notice but he’s willing to sacrifice time with me so I can be there to comfort his friend. He just waits patiently by knowing I love him and no one could take his place. 

 dr4

 

Next to meeting Danni, my absolute favorite memory with him is this one I’m about to share with you! 

Towards the end of my first week in the DR I had talked with the missionaries about what it looks like to sponsor a child. We talked a lot about Danni and what an amazing boy he is. When you sponsor a child you commit to pray for them, love them, help financially support them to provide health care and education, you send them letters and gifts, etc. Your sponsored child refers to you as Madrina (god mother) and Padrina (god father). I had decided to sponsor him and I was trying to think of a special way to tell him and officially ask him if I could be his Madrina. I wanted to make is special.

So one afternoon, myself and two other interns, Tiffany and Delroy, were painting the inside of a two story playhouse that a missions team had just built for the girls at the orphanage. We were all sitting in the top story painting away. Danni was sitting on the top of the ladder leading up to the second story. He sat there giggling away and watch us, just wanting to BE with us. With my back towards the three of them as I painted the window sill, I overhear Danni whisper to Tiffany and ask: “Tiffanyyyy, Sarah es mi Madrina?”. She was shocked and started laughing. 

There I am in the corner, facing the opposite direction, painting the window sill and I over hear this exchange of words. No joke. Tears start streaming down my face. Not because he ruined his own surprise but because he perfected it! After wiping a way tears I turn around to look at him and we lock eyes. He puts his face in his hands and starts to bust up laughing. He realizes I know exactly what he just said. lol 

I would love to have this moment caught on video but in my heart is just as great of a record. Meeting this boy has been a highlight in my life. I look forward to loving him forever. I know without a doubt God asked me to go to the Dominican Republic back in 2010 so he and I could meet. Now, He’s taking me back again this June. I can’t wait to see my baby boy again and make new memories. 

This is what missions is all about. Missions is about loving well, cultivating community, it’s about gathering family, and demonstrating the Kingdom.  Thank you for joining me on this journey of exploring the different beautiful faces in the nations. I look forward to sharing with you all in the next article. 

Blessings!

Laid Down Mothers

THERE IS NO GREATER LOVE THAN TO LAY DOWN ONE’S LIFE FOR ONE’S FRIEND || JOHN 15:13

HEADER2

I’m excited to introduce you all to a brand new blog that has launched! “Laid Down Mothers” is a blog started by an amazing mother who is full of wisdom, loves Jesus, works in the business world, has raised three incredible children, and is a great writer. She is also my Momma. That’s right. My beautiful mom who is also a beautiful writer just started a blog over this past Mother’s Day weekend. Her very first article is incredible – you can read it here. I’m so proud of her. I, along with others, have been encouraging her to share more of her writings and I’m so glad she is! She has a lot of beautiful things to share form her heart.

I encourage you all to head over to her blog, Laid Down Mothers, and subscribe/follow to receive all articles and updates. I know you will be encouraged and inspired to love well and be the best you you can be. This blog isn’t just for women or mothers – it’s for every one who enjoys real life, wisdom, and encouragement.

See you over there!

xoxo Sarah

Ask of Me and I Will Give You Nations

Ask of Me and I Will Give You Nations

nationstshirt6

As many of you know, I am heading back to the Dominican Republic on a 3 week missions trip this June! I can’t wait to be back on my favorite island Hispaniola serving with some amazing people. So far, thanks to Jesus and generous supporters, I have raise about half of my total goal!

I have recently partnered with Fund The Nations. They provide incredible services to those looking to fundraiser for missions, adoptions, nonprofits, etc. Fund The Nations has helped designed this shirt with me and I will be selling these custom shirts to raise the rest of the funds for my 3 week mission to the DR.

Inside the globe reads: “Ask of Me and I will give you the nations – Psalms 2:8”

The script which outlines the globe reads: “Nations are my inheritance”

nationstshirt3

If you would like to order a shirt, just let me know! You can support missions work all while shopping for clothes.

All you have to do is…. Head on over to gracecohandmade.etsy.com to purchase your shirt!

That’s all.

This is for a limited time only. I will be placing my first order for printing on May 15th. If you’d like to purchase shirts please do so as soon as possible, between now and May 14th. Shirts must be prepaid. Your order/shirt(s) will not be printed unless payment has been received. I will reply to your order with all the info for payments and shipping, etc.

nationstshirt2

 Thank you for supporting me! ‪#‎sarahgracegoestotheDR‬

Are You Ready? {Guest Article}

Are You Ready?

by guest author Michelle Walsh

cfc194ce96c01c00a38d0d4941d1b629
As I stood in the hotel room, looking at my dad and getting ready to leave, I heard the Holy Spirit say ” He won’t be with you much longer”. My heart began to beat faster and tears began to well up in my eyes. The countenance on my face must have changed as well. My dad laughingly said ” Don’t look so sad I’m not dying today”. I smiled at him and then cried and without saying a word I hugged him hard and kissed him telling him how much I love him. If he only knew what I was thinking. God knew though. My heavenly Father knew how much I loved my dad. He knew what a hard season I would be walking through ahead and He was beginning to prepare my heart for the separation that would take place. When, I had no idea.
Over then next two years I intentionally called my dad more frequently just to hear his voice. I cherished every talk and every ounce of love we shared. My dad lived in another state so seeing him was not as much of an option as calling. My grown children even spent time getting to know their Grandpa hearing his testimonies and stories of all he had seen and lived through as a Spirit-filled believer. It was a precious time and I was so thankful God had let me in on what was transpiring so that I could prepare myself and my family and so that I wouldn’t miss or regret anything. We also planned a trip to see him but what we did not know is it would be our last Christmas together. My mom helped us surprise him and we showed up at their front door. He thought is was a solicitor knocking and the look on his face was priceless.
Only 3 months later my dad ended up in the hospital. My mom had called to say we needed to come. Our Tuesday night small group was gathered in my living room worshiping the Lord as we usually did before our study time started. I was praying and worshiping before God and suddenly I was frozen. I felt a warm electric presence press in near me. I knew it was the Lord or an Angel or some heavenly presence. In my spirit I began to hear the Holy Spirit speak to me. More preparing. Words to prepare me for what was about to happen. “Michelle all you need to do is lean back on Me”. Suddenly I was taken into a vision. I was in a raft going down rapids of water. I felt someone behind me and hands pull me backwards into this presence. “Just look up. As we go through this it’s going to get rough. It’s going to be bumpy. Just lean on Me and look up. Look and see. When you lean back on Me your eyes naturally shift your view upward. Don’t focus on the rapids around you just look up. The beauty is in the view above. I am going to do many beautiful things during this time and when you look up you’ll see them and they will bring you great joy. Remember to lean on Me and take in the view”. I came out of the vision feeling so loved by God. He was preparing me for the process of my dads passing and preparing me for the events that would take place during those next few weeks. Isn’t He so wonderful? Isn’t God such a good Father?
tumblr_mlrj2nUDUC1qzghgbo1_500
I could write another article on all the beauty that we experienced during this difficult time of my dads passing but I just want you to know how Gods mercy and love prepared me. God loves us so much and He already knows everything that we will go through. Whether a death of a loved one, a job change, a move, an illness, a divorce, a marriage, a new birth, He knows! He doesn’t miss a thing!  And He prepares us. God prepares us so that we don’t miss Him through the process. He really desires for us to see His goodness in everything. I would venture to say that if you reflect back on situations and circumstances you’ve lived through you either already know how God prepared you too or you may see the signs once you look back.
A few definitions of prepare:
1. The action or process of making something ready for use or service or of getting ready for some occasion, test, or duty.
2. Something that is prepared such as a substance made ready for use; preparation of food to eat or medication to use.
3. To be established, be stable, be secure, fixed or securely determined.
4. To arrange or order, to direct towards. To set up or to erect.
Throughout the Bible God was always telling His people to prepare. God is a very strategic God. He has every detail of our lives planned out. God likes order and results. In the old Testament God asked the people to daily prepare their animal offerings. God would warn others to prepare to move out of one country and into another land often without a reason. When God came onto the scene in the book of Job He told Job to “prepare yourself like a man” as He got ready to answer Job regarding the trials he had battled through. God is gracious and patient. After all He created us. He knows our soft spots. He knows our hearts. He knows exactly what we can handle or what we can’t and what is precious to us. He even knows what we hate and what makes us angry. God knows how strong we really are and how powerful we can be even when we feel like quitting and crying our eyes out. It is His great, great love for us, His beloved children, that causes Him to come to us. To whisper to our spirits. To give us vision. To give us dreams. Anyway He can He will pursue us and speak to us. We need to simply listen and believe especially during the times when it makes no sense.
tumblr_minmriZRyi1s6pt6vo1_500
Are you noticing now how God has prepared you in the past? Are you realizing how He is currently preparing you for your future? As I come upon the 4th anniversary of my dad’s passing into Heaven’s gates I not only see how God prepared me for that but how He has continued to prepare me year after year in situation after situation. What is God asking you to prepare for? Have you asked Him? I encourage you to ask. Sit, ask and wait. The answer may surprise you and it may be a confirmation of what you’ve already heard in your spirit. Whatever is it He is asking or showing you know that God loves you and it is His delight to show you all that He has prepared for you. Be strong, do what God says and trust Him. Lean back and look up. It’s a beautiful view!

Next Stop on the Globe: the Dominican Republic 2015

Next Stop on the GLOBE ||  San Cristobal, Dominican Republic

DR Missions  – Summer 2015

#sarahgracegoestotheDR

il_570xN.603910129_c8b2

I am currently preparing to embark on a journey to one of my favorite Caribbean islands – Hispaniola! This June I will be serving alongside of some of my favorite missionaries in the city of San Cristobal, DR near the nations capital, Santo Domingo. The island of Hispaniola is home to two nations that are very dear to my heart: the Dominican Republic and Haiti. As many of you know, God has opened up doors for me to serve in both of these nations. I recently returned from my second trip to Haiti where I had the privilege of leading my first missions team to Carrefour.

My very first experience with missions, in any capacity, was interning in the DR when I was 16 years old. In the summer of 2010 I lived and served in the DR for four weeks with a beautiful group of people whose main agenda was to love and serve – no matter the cost and no matter what that looked like. God completely turned my world upside down in the most extravagant way and I’ve never been the same. During that month while living in the Dominican Republic God birthed inside of me a passion for the nations and for souls. I have loved missions ever since. I couldn’t be more grateful for the door the Lord opened for me there, all that we experienced, the family that was cultivated, and the seeds that were planted in my heart. Thanks to that experience I’ve now also been able to serve two consecutive years in Haiti. In Haiti God has, once again, brought me to an incredible group of people who have taken me in as family and have shown me what it truly looks like to serve and love the Father. I’m excited to return to Haiti again in the future and to continue to serve the mission of Heaven there.

Now that I’m back from Haiti, God and I have been dreaming about where to go next. What always comes to mind is this beautiful island that is home to many people who I love and two of my favorite nations. So here I am… Planning my next adventure in missions with the Lord.

I am going back to the Dominican republic after five long years! I’m excited to see my friends and family in the DR again. I’m especially ecstatic to see my three BEAUTIFUL god-children: Danni, Leonidas, and Danielle who are the sweetest and most caring children I’ve met. I am eager and ready to rejoin my friends and missionaries there, to serve that nation and simply demonstrate the heart of the Father through love. I will be going to serve alongside of the missionaries there as we partner with local churches and pastors, ministering in refugee camps, and spend time at one of my favorite places on the earth: the Pan De Vida Orphanage and Feeding Center!

The Pan De Vida (Bread of Life) Orphanage is run by a local pastor and his family and is home to a group of young girls. Daily the Feeding Center provides a safe and loving Christian environment, love, attention and care, hot meals and so much more to an average of 100 children from the surrounding community.

I could go on for hours and hours with stories and testimonies about all I experienced in the DR back in 2010, telling you of all the beautiful people I met and love. If you’re interested in knowing more please let me know or feel free to follow my blog (you can subscribe over here on the right side) and search for past articles from my previous missions trips to the DR and Haiti.

I’ve been overwhelmed by all the support I’ve seen pour in the past few missions trips I’ve been on and am constantly blown away by Gods faithfulness to provide when He calls. If you’re interested in partnering with me through prayer, finances, supplies, donations, etc., you can do so by visiting youcaring.com/sarahgracemissions or contacting me personally. I’m thankful for a believing community of friends and family who are standing with me!

Blessings,
Sarah

Surley you shall call upon nations you do not, and nations who do not know you shall run to you, because the Lord your God, and the Holy One of Israel, for He has glorified you. || Isaiah 55:5

Meet Schneider & Lavinski {Faces of Nations Series}

FON

Faces of Nations is my new “ongoing” blog series. To know more about this series and the heart behind it all you can read that here: Introducing Faces to Nations. I’m excited to share with you this new series where I will be introducing you to important people around the world!

silvana-di-franco

Faces of Nations

Meet Schneider and Lavinski

Just before heading back to Carrefour this last January I posted a photo of two adorable little boys on my Facebook. I found this photo on the Facebook page of the orphanage I get to visit and stay with when I go to Haiti. I had never seen or met these boys in the photo. I assumed they were either children from the community or two new boys who had joined the orphanage. I posted the photo (below) and wrote a blurb about my excitement in returning to Haiti. I didn’t think much about it. For whatever reason I hadn’t even entertained the thought that I might actually see or meet these two boys.
 
1441166_312098055646563_4549432251121515270_n
 
Upon arriving to Carrefour and getting settled into our room at Good Shepherd Orphanage we found our way down to where the children were playing. It was a blast to reconnect with all the beautiful familiar faces I had met in 2013. Instantly I was greeted by two of the cutest little boys I had ever seen, Schneider and Lavinski. These boys made a home in my arms just minutes after meeting me and I was completely okay with that.
 
We sat at the bottom of the staircase that first afternoon, watching the other kids play a game with some of the ladies on my team. Schneider and Lavinski took turns being held by me. Neither of them wanted to grasp the concept that I can hold both of them at the same time. Lol One of them would sit next to me while the other was sitting in my lap and the minute he would shift or stand the other would swoop in and take his place in my arms. It’s definitely not the worst kind of conflict to have if you ask me.
 
I quickly grew in love with these boys. Lavinski is Schneider’s older brother. They have been at Good Shepherd for just a short period of time up to this point.  These two boys have one of the sweetest sibling bonds I have ever seen or experienced. The way they love each other is astounding, especially for a 7 and 8 year old. They’re hardly ever apart. Although they are “typical” little boys and brothers there is something uniquely special about the bond God has cultivated in them.
 
myboys
 
One minute they’re both sitting with me all curled up in my arms, laughing, smiling, joking with each other, kissing me on the cheek and telling me they love me. Then the next moment they’re arm wrestling each other (or me) and punching each other in the arm while laughing. The perfect picture of the relationship my brother Jared and I always had growing up. One minute my brother and I would be arguing and an hour later we’re apologizing and watching our favorite movie. This is the beauty of genuine family! One minute Schneider and Lavinski are fighting over who should be picked up and held by me and the next they are holding hands and skipping off to go play soccer with the other boys. It’s the funniest and sweetest thing you’ll ever see. They love and interact with each other as if they’ve been friends and brothers for a lifetime. I imagine this is a result of being the only one each other has truly been able to depend on.
 
It wasn’t until our second or third day there that it dawned on my why these two boys look so familiar. In case you haven’t already caught my drift, these are the two boys form the photo I posted! Schneider is pictured on the left and Lavinski is on the right.  I couldn’t believe it! When it finally dawned on my I was so excited. Something so simple totally blew me away. God is so funny like that. I’m convinced that the moment I posted the above photo of the boys God was probably laughing in Heaven saying: “Wait till she meets them! She is going to love them so so much! If only she knew.” Hahaha
 
A few days into our stay at Good Shepherd the ladies on my team and I were sitting down with Sister Mona who has worked with the GSO for many many years now. She was telling us some of the children’s stories and bragging about how they’re all geniuses. She began to tell us about the young brothers who she had seen me make a quick connection with. My boys! My beautiful Schnerider and Lavinski!
 
At just five years old Lavinski had witnessed his father kill himself, leaving their family to fend for themselves. The boys’ mother was very physically abusive. Sister Mona said she beat them often. Schneider and Lavinski would roam the streets to keep busy and look for or steal things that would be worth reselling for money. At the time the brothers arrived to GSO Schneider told Mona he had stole 30+ phones. While searching for things to make enough money to eat the boys would often go through a local garbage dump. One day while scavenging through the garbage dump Schneider saw a pig eating a baby. Yes, you read that right.
 
Eventually their mother gave up and decided she could no longer afford to care for them nor did she really have a desire to. She chose to leave them at her mothers house to be looked after and provided for. Normally, being adopted and cared for by your grandma wouldn’t be so bad. Unfortunately for Schneider and Lavinski their grandmother was very elderly as well as completely blind. She has enough to worry about trying to take care of herself. Although she wanted to she could not care for her two very young grandsons.  Eventually she was forced to give the kids away to the government for them to find a suitable living situation. As sad as that is, the government was able to bring them to GSO where they have finally found a safe home and a loving and godly family!
 

Lets back up though.
 
 
First of all, no one should ever have to witness someone else killing them self. Especially a five year old! To make matters extremely worse it was his own father. Lavinski was forced to see his father make this horrific choice…his father who is supposed to be there for him, teach him how to throw a ball and play soccer (like all true Haitians). His father was supposed to be the one who exemplifies how a man lives and loves. I can’t imagine the heartache involved when having to witness the one person who should always be there for you make the decision to leave you behind and alone in such a horrific manner.
 
Then after all of that to have a mother who abuses you and your little brother. When she finally decided to give you up…she leaves you at the doorstep of your grandmothers home who isn’t able to care for you in the slightest. The thought of anyone experiencing that much rejection in just the first few years of your life is incomprehensible. On top of all that they’re forced to roam the streets begging and stealing to make sure each other doesn’t starve. Remember, neither of the boys were even old enough to start the first grade while this was all going on.
 
Not that any of this is bearable.. But knowing that Schneider has seen a pig consume an infant right before his eyes is completely devastating. That’s something you wouldn’t even see in a horror movie – even as joke! I have images in my head that from past scary movies I’ve seen that, although they don’t haunt me, I would love to have erased. I would love the chance to rewind and make the choice to not see those ridiculous movies. Unfortunately I can’t. I wish I could do the same for Schneider and Lavinski. The twisted things we’ve all seen in movies pale in comparison to what some have seen in real life.
 
Hearing these things wrecked me. My heart and head were spinning. In one sense I was heartbroken and in another I was completely proud and humbled. These two boys have been through more in their few years of life than most adults I know. What I’ve shared with you above, I’m sure, is but a portion of their stories. I’m proud of my two beautiful boys for many reasons. One, I grew in love (a better term rather than “falling”) with Schneider and Lavinski from the moment I met them and experienced their love. The way they give and receive love at their young age is incredible. I’m proud of them that they’ve not allowed their past circumstances to dictate how they will live and love. I’m proud knowing that through all that these two have been through they have stuck together. Two boys who have been wildly abandoned by the majority of their blood family have held on to hope and loved each other through the most difficult of times.
 
I knew I loved them from the moment I met them. I could easily bring them home with me and adopt these two in a heartbeat if I were able to. And I’m sure you can imagine how much that increased after hearing their story. My heart was heavy listening to their story and having a million thoughts racing through my head. I wish I could have been there. I wish I could have been the one to step in and rescue them from that place called “home”. I wish I could make up for all the hurt, lose, and pain they’ve experienced. I wish I could adopt them as my own and show them what a home really looks like.
 
While feeling all these things running through my heart and mind Jesus spoke softly to me and showed ME what a home and family really look like. These two boys are more of a family than most have ever seen or experienced themselves. If anyone knows what family looks like it’s them. What a beautiful thing it is when two brothers stick closer than brothers! These two (as well as GSO as a whole and everyone I’ve met there) have taught me so much about what family and genuine community looks like. Saying “yes” to family and saying “yes” to community is being ALL in. No matter what it looks like, how long it takes, and how messy it might get – you’re THERE. Unfortunately not everyone choose this way of living. But the beauty that dwells in those who have made the choice is ever present and shines through the thickets darkness.
 
I will forever be grateful for getting the opportunity to meet, know, and love these two boys. I can’t wait to go back and hold them for hours on end, never wanting to let them go. Until then I will think of all the beautiful defining moments we experienced together. The one moments that others may not see as profound or monumental but they’re the ones that made my entire stay. I love all the times that Schneider would see me from a far and come running with the swiftest force just about knocking me over with his hugs, or all the times he would climb into my arms and kiss me on the cheek and say “I love you”. This is what missions is all about – that moment when Lavinski was lying in my lap while watching a soccer match and decided to look up at me and giggle while saying “manman” which is Haitian Creole for Mom or momma.. This is why I GO. Love.
 
Haiti38Haiti39
 
I love praying for people. I love the church services. I love getting to speak into peoples lives. I love the miracles. I love the testimonies. All these things are beautiful and so fun! But there’s something about just BEING with people, hearing their stories, and learning what love looks like. Jesus didn’t organize meetings, He ate meals. He listened and He loved. The meetings are important but not if relationship gets overlooked in the process. It’s the moments where you get to love someone agenda-free and regardless of their past or present circumstances where the Father is beautifully revealed.
 
Schneider Lavinski
 
So this is Schneider and Lavinski. Two of the many beautiful faces of Haiti and two of the loves of my life!
 
 Faces of Nations,Sarah Grace