Monday, December 24, 2012

christmas letter

Well, friends, we’re finally doing a Christmas letter.  And while we are not going to grace your mailboxes with a paper card with pictures of us and our beloved dog, you can rest assured that a tree will be saved.  We’re going green over here- check us out on Facebook!

Where to begin?  The last few years have been absolute insanity.  We made the big move from Minneapolis to Indianapolis in 2009.  I spent two years as a pastoral resident at Second Presbyterian Church, and Ben received his Masters in Public and Environmental Affairs from Indiana University (60 miles each way, about 5 days week!).  We loved Indy and all the people from church and school who made it feel like home.  Plus, Butler made it a pretty exciting time to be a Hoo-Hoo-Hoosier!

In the Spring of 2011 we were faced with the big decision of where to go next.  It was truly daunting, but we were geographically open.  After interviewing and meeting with the people at Ladue Chapel Presbyterian Church in St. Louis (the Midwest!!) we felt like that was where God wanted us.  I was called to Ladue Chapel, and, after a few months of networking, Ben landed, first, a short term job at the Regional Chamber and Growth Association where he wrote a project called “Greenprint St. Louis”, and next, a position at Lockheed Martin in energy efficiency (if he was writing this letter, he MIGHT be able to explain what that means!). 

Ben and I are, miraculously, doing what we went to school for (!), and doing what we love.  Needless to say, we are very grateful.

The other big piece of news here is that we bought a house this spring.  It’s over one hundred years old in a historic neighborhood in University City.  We are minutes from Washington University, Forest Park, The Delmar Loop, the Central West End, and so much more.  Ben has been doing project after project, and I have been hitting up estate sales.  It’s fun. 

Life is pretty good these days, but if we had one thing to complain about it would be that we do miss family and friends.  We are constantly aware that the experiences we’re getting by living in different places are invaluable, but we miss getting together with people on the weekend, or seeing family without planning travel.  We miss y’all!

Despite all the change, transition, and distance, we have found a home here.  God is good.  We have dental insurance.  What more could you ask for? 

Our prayer always is and continues to be that God’s grace and peace will find you.  And, may you find joy in 2013!

With love,

Sarah (and Ben!)

Monday, December 3, 2012

listen, friends.

Advent is here, and it’s great- my favorite season in the church year. 
Last night we had our annual Watcher’s Eve event, which includes a casual worship service in the afternoon, bell-ringing, dinner, and a “Hanging of the Greens.”  It’s such a wonderful way to usher in Advent.  Watcher’s Eve, though, is loud and chaotic- it’s a family event and should be that way!  Kids are crafting and adults are chatting, and much merriment is made. 

I had a new member come up to me toward the end and tell me that she never really knew about Advent, before.  She has been Baptist her whole life until recently, and they didn’t observe Advent in her church.  She commented at how much she appreciated this event, to kick-off the in-between time of Advent, when we watch, and wait, and listen, anticipating the birth of Jesus.  She marveled at the tradition of it, and the significance it brought to her heart. 

Needless to say, I was elated.  Someone got it.  Someone NEW got it.  There IS joy and wonder in this season of hope.  Job well done, Sarah (ahem, I mean Holy Spirit).

I read an article in the New York Times recently about listening.  It’s a lost art, apparently, though I don’t think I needed the newspaper to tell me.  Listening makes up a large part of what I do, but I don’t think that’s true for a lot of professions (it doesn’t earn you the big bucks).  Nevertheless, it reminded me of Advent and what we’re supposed to be doing in this season, and other liturgical times of year (like Lent, Easter, Pentecost, etc.).  They’re helpful reminders to practice things that aren’t quite natural to us, in order to remind ourselves of what’s important- in this case it’s that Jesus came, and promises to come again.

At the end of the article the author writes this: “‘You never listen’ is not just the complaint of a problematic relationship, it has also become an epidemic in a world that is exchanging convenience for content, speed for meaning. The richness of life doesn’t lie in the loudness and the beat, but in the timbres and the variations that you can discern if you simply pay attention.”

It seems simple, but it’s true.  As a culture we’re not good listeners.  In Stephen Ministry we talk about how, when you’re actively trying to listen to someone, if you catch yourself thinking of a personal story that relates, you’ve already stopped listening.  Think about how often that happens.  Maybe the more interesting point isn’t that we can’t listen, but that we think too much about ourselves?

Anyway, this time of year always clues me into a different rhythm.  Through watching and waiting and listening, I’m reminded that it’s not all about me.  Like the author said, if you listen, you come to new realizations.  If you pay attention you give up the speed of life for something that could be much more meaningful. 

In John 18 Jesus says, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”  It’s almost as if Jesus is saying (to Pilate, and to us) that you can’t just stop and listen here and there, at random.  To belong to truth you must practice it. 

Advent is a good reminder that to belong to the truth, to really hear Jesus, we must listen for his voice- wherever we are.  His words are a call, a commandment, and a prophecy.  He must have known where we would be some 2000 years later, deafened by the sounds of our divided attention during the craziness of this season.

So, I’d say this: start practicing this Advent.  Begin listening, even in the noisiest of places.  If you do, at some point, you’ll hear the truth, which is in Christ.  And, you’ll find yourself in the most beautiful of places- awake to the wonder and awe and anticipation of Advent.  Maybe it’ll even stick with you- MAYBE you’ll make it your New Year’s resolution (though, disclaimer: that is not a liturgical season). 

If it happens, make sure you tell me about it.  ’Cause dang, I think news like that could get me through this whole year. 

I’ll be waiting, and listening.  Amen.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


I recently watched this documentary.  You can see the trailer here, the entire thing if you get netflix.

In this documentary called Happy, researchers make a case that you can, in fact, measure happiness much like you can diagnose depression.  The movie follows people from around the world and touches on a few main factors for "happiness".

Being that I'm in a job where I run into people all the time who are experiencing the happiest of happy days- like weddings- or, the saddest of sad days- like funerals- I was interested in what this filmmaker had to say.

The most fascinating things about the findings were probably the simplest, too.  Happy people practice what this researcher calls "flow".  Flow is usually exercise or something you do where you get in the grove and derive energy and satisfaction that is felt deeply.  It can probably be compared to a runner's high, or the peace one feels after practicing yoga.  I think it's also possible to achieve it from making art or writing- if that's what you love.  The movie makers spoke with a surfer, who had basically lived a very simple life in order to be able to surf everyday.  He loved it, and felt totally fulfilled.

Another thing the documentary described was proximity to family and/or close friends.  Those who had people around them who they trusted, and loved, were ultimately more happy.  I'm sorry to say that I live far away from family, and it does get to me sometimes- probably when I don't even realize it.  However, I think the researchers also described the importance of deep and meaningful relationships, which I believe I get to have in my job.  One woman, in particular, a Danish woman, who was recently divorced, moved herself and her children into a community living situation.  She described it as the best thing she had ever done- to live and commune, cook and share with a closely-knit network of people.

One more thing the movie said.  Happy people tend to love what they do, but they don't do it too much.    Hah.  I think this is probably the thing Americans get after the most- people in the United States confuse vocation with money and success, and it does not make them happy.  The documentary "confirmed" that this was the case, as well.  And, apparently, it's true in Japan, too.  They even have a word for it over there- karoushi- and it alludes to the idea of working so much for something you think you want, and it ultimately leads to death.  Yikes.

I suppose I knew most of this stuff already.  But, it was neat to see it from a worldwide perspective. People living in what we would consider to be absolute poverty, loving their lives more than I probably do on a daily basis.  But, it wasn't just this idea that material wealth does not bring happiness.  The movie focused on relationships- real, lasting, honest, authentic relationships.  And, I wonder if this is where I (or, the church?) can step into this world of UNhappiness.

On Sundays, all I have to do is look around at the children playing freely in classrooms, singing songs and being loved on by their teachers.  Children understand that at church relationships exists without boundaries- between them and everyone they encounter, young and old.  They get that, at church, they are free to be themselves, that it doesn't matter how big their house is, or how cool their backpack is.  At church, they know it doesn't matter what their parents do for a living- in fact, they enjoy sitting next to them in worship, and being around them during coffee hour.  Children also get to see happiness that is created by real things, filled with grace and truth- baptisms of babies, singing that is not performance-oriented, hugs between friends in the hallway, money being freely shared for mission.  And, our children sense the Spirit, they pick up on it, I know they do!  They pay attention and believe.

All this to say, I'm not sure the church is a place where happiness springs forth.  In fact, I've always been taught that happiness really isn't the goal- if there is a "goal" in this life, to speak of.  What we find in the community of faith, in the body of Christ, is joy.  We do joy around here.  Joy isn't happiness, friends.  Joy can be experienced in good times and in bad.  Joy comes from finding the peace of Christ that passes all understanding in the midst real of life- it's about noticing and sensing and feeling God's presence with you in gratitude, in thanksgiving, in sorrow, in fear, in anxiety, in... whatever.  Joy is deep, profound trust that God does not let us go, wherever we are, whatever we are doing.  And joy is knowing that there is a future for us- all of us.

Colossians 1:11-12

"We pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul - not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us."

Sunday, October 7, 2012

takin' care of me.

Fall is definitely here with chillier temperatures in the 50s!  You can smell the crispness in the air, leaves burning in piles, and chili bubbling in crockpots.  You can see the leaves changing (at least, they are just starting to here in St. Louis!), and the sunsets look just a bit more vibrant.  It’s a great time of year to get outside, pick a pumpkin or apple, bake a pie, and go shopping for a few fall essentials!  You know you want to…

I had a pretty busy week, last week.  I had an expected wedding rehearsal and wedding on Friday/Saturday, with a training dinner to host on Friday night.  But, I also had an unexpected funeral to plan for on Friday.  It was made more difficult because I didn’t know the man, though he was a prominent person in St. Louis- just a little more pressure, but that’s okay.  Those things on top of usual craziness made me ready to usher in Fall in smalls ways when I could find time for them. 

Little ways I’m finding “me” time:

I’ve decided to buy an inordinate number of pumpkin candles, because they are calming and make my office and home smell delightful.  I also invested in a fall plant to hang outside until I bring it in for the winter.  The florist assured me it would live.  She doesn’t know me, though, nor my history with plants.  Here’s hoping it lives because it’s got a beautiful leaf that’s green-striped on the top, and purple on the bottom!

I also decided to make my version of beef bourguignon this weekend.  It’s actually Ina Garten’s recipe, but I leave out the Cognac- tastes fine without it.  It’s way less complex than Julia Child’s recipe, and tastes divine!  Total crowd pleaser, but not diet food.  Here’s the link to the recipe:

I managed to clean my house, however it was in a bit of a manic panic, because I didn’t want to spend too much time cleaning this weekend… you can’t rationalize with crazy.  And, I also woke up early to squeeze in a run on Saturday morning around Lake Creve Coeur.  Probably the most beautiful morning run I’ve had in a while, and I didn’t even drink any water beforehand- I felt great though, and give credit to the non-fat latte I drank beforehand, instead!  The bagel afterward didn’t taste too bad, either.

Then, to top it all off, Saturday evening, we did have a fire in the backyard.  First one of the season.  It crackled and warmed us up, which was nice since I’ve become cheap in my old age and have refused to turn on the heat. 

All in all, it was an intense, yet wonderful few days around casa Hande/Brouwer.  And I think it’s because I decided to make it that way.  Earlier last week I was starting to let the fact that my day off had been overtaken by responsibilities consume me and make me angry.  I don’t like when I start to feel a taste of bitterness in my mouth about work, but it happens, sometimes.  At some point, though, this week, I realized I did have some little moments to enjoy ushering in the fall season.  And so, I took advantage of them.  I ran, cooked, bought plants and candles, and it reminded me of something really important.

Sometimes the line between what I do, and who I am can get really blurred.  I am a pastor, but being one doesn’t define me, nor does it (gasp!) totally satisfy me.  Yes, I get to share sacred moments with people, and share their most profound joys and pains (wonderful gifts!), but ultimately, it’s not who I am.  And I think most of us- not just pastors, but everybody- can get so wrapped up in what we do that we allow it to define us, our time, and our gifts… maybe we even allow what we do to limit our enjoyment of life, and of God, himself (herself). 

So, what did I do this weekend?  I practiced little moments of Sabbath.  Buying a candle can remind you of the light of Christ, cooking a meal can feed your stomach and your soul, and running can definitely give you time alone with your Creator. 

What’s more, though, is that I realized something.  I may BE a pastor.  But, I AM a child of God.  And this child of God needed some time to herself this weekend to be reminded of it.  Even though my job is such a privilege, and a true vocation in every sense of the word, it is, simply, what I do.  Who I am, though, is something much better.  I am known, loved, created, called on, restored, cleansed, comforted, and made whole by God.  I am a child of God, and, I’ll tell you what- you’re one too.  Don’t forget it, and don’t forget to make time to remember it (does that make sense?). 

Take to heart, these words from Isaiah 43:
“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

Remember to make time for yourself, you little children of God.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

september is a little goofy, i mean, Goosey.

Hi people.  It's good to be back after a week.  
Let me introduce you to the Wild Goose.

Did you know that, in Celtic Christianity (early Christianity in what is now Ireland and Great Britain), the Wild Goose was a symbol for the Holy Spirit?  Fascinating, I know.  Bear with me...

As boring as this may initially sound, let me tell you: I have a revelation in store for you; it might rock your world.  And it all popped into my head this week- in the midst of crazy, chaos-filled, September, back-to-school frustration!

The Celtic Christians (we think) considered the wild goose to be a symbol of the Holy Spirit, which is interesting (yes it is!) to us, because we often associate the Spirit with a dove, or something equally as peaceful.  But, the Celts were on to something with the use of this bird, because in days like these it's difficult to think the Spirit is anywhere to be found.  

Let me explain...

We've been going bonkers at church trying to get programming off the ground.  We plan things and either a bunch of people show up (wonderful!) or hardly anyone (major bummer!).  We're having a hard time knowing if we're asking too much of people, or not expecting enough.  We are also considering the fact that we might be offering too much, which is quite possible.  

In any case, as a staff, and as individuals who are trying to transition from summer to fall, and everything that goes with it, we've been feeling a little spiritually depleted.

The image of the Wild Goose brought to mind the geese that I see on a regular basis.  They're usually in some disgusting little batch of sewage water on the side of the road near a strip mall.  Their natural habitat used to be there, but now it's been overtaken by the busyness of consumerism and capitalism that surrounds it.  Just like the church, peoples' lives are so consumed by choices, and the ability to do other things, that the church has been pushed out of its natural habitat.  We're in the world, but not of it.  And, it's a weird and anxiety-ridden feeling, at times.  

But, none of the craziness is going to go away.  So, I thought: time to reframe.  Could it be that this chaotic time of year is, in fact, the work of the Wild Goosey Spirit?  Is the Spirit trying to tell us something new, push us around a bit, honk loudly at us, and tire us out as we attempt to fly in perfect formation for the upcoming program year?  Maybe it's okay to be in the muck on the side of the road because it teaches us something.

I'm learning that in order to find joy in this life, we have to embrace a Spirit like the Wild Goose. One that is unpredictable, loud, annoying, squawking, dirty, and lacks a place in the world.  I have to accept this kind of Spirit because, like the Wild Geese, we must fly together and help each other when we're tired in order to get to a better destination for the months ahead.  We must be open to re-formation, to let a new goose take the lead, to trust that the wind will carry us, that our wings will not fail us, and that we've done this a whole bunch of times before.  And, we have to become comfortable with the uncomfortable- our natural habitat is no longer.  The church is being being forced out.  And yet, seekers are still coming, if fewer in number.  And there is still a stirring among us to move- maybe we just have to fly up?

The Spirit is pushing me.  It's challenging me to be open to newness and change.  It's telling me to stop worrying about details and numbers, and focus on people who need a good word.  It's asking me to stop being upset at the little things, and to start enjoying this frenetic gift of a life.

Embrace the Wild, Goosey Spirit, friends.  It might be trying to tell you something.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

how God feels, today.

As soon as I woke up this morning I saw it- the posts about 9/11 were starting to pour into peoples' status updates.  I don't mind this.  In fact, I think it's good to remember that day.  All of us remember where we were that day, what happened, and how we felt when we saw those planes fly into the World Trade Center buildings.

It has been 11 years, now, and those images are still fresh in our minds.  

I want to suggest, though, something that I haven't seen in too many facebook posts, at least not yet, and not among my non-clergy friends.  It's a reality I think about often, but rarely suggest to others for fear of sounding pious or rude.  But, I figure on a day like today it's appropriate, and so I'll put it out there.  

On a day like today, when we remember those who died as victims, those firefighters and police officers who worked tirelessly for days in the rubble, and those who served in the war(s) following, should we remember, as well, how God felt on that day? how God has felt everyday since? how God, herself, remembers today?

This isn't a political question, or even a theological one, really.  It's just a table-turning kind of question. There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that I am grateful to live in a country where many freedoms I enjoy everyday are protected.  But, I guess, that's not really the point of this post.

When inconceivable violence and evil occur in the world; when hatred evolves to such a level as terrorism; when extremist attack is followed by war; how does it make God feel?  And, is it important to reflect and pray upon this very question?  Would it make a difference if, in addition to remembering all the things we remember on this day, we also remember the way God felt as he saw his people- all his people- die such a horrible, tragic death? the way God felt when he saw what we could do to each other? 

My guess is that there are varying opinions out there on who God's people are, and I really don't want to get into that, here.  But, what I will say is this: I don't think God pays too much attention to human-made borders.  I don't think God separates his children by country, or by the governments that run them.  And, for that reason, I believe on 9/11/01, and in the days after, God wept for all humanity.  God knew what would happen in the days to come, and the pain that God felt, that God took onto his very self, was the pain of every human being in the entire world.  

"The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.  And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart." Genesis 6:5-6

God grieves.  And, we should remember that.

But, I'm guessing that there have been glimpses of hope that God has seen, as well.  And, we should remember that, too.  For God does promise a world of the future, where days like 9/11 will be a distant memory for us, and for him, as well.  These words from Isaiah 2 have been a promise for centuries- let's live into them and into the Kingdom of God, for God's sake and our own.

"There's a day coming when the mountain of God's House Will be The Mountain - solid, towering over all mountains. All nations will river toward it, people from all over set out for it.  They'll say, "Come, let's climb God's Mountain, go to the House of the God of Jacob. He'll show us the way he works so we can live the way we're made." Zion's the source of the revelation. God's Message comes from Jerusalem.  He'll settle things fairly between nations. He'll make things right between many peoples. They'll turn their swords into shovels, their spears into hoes. No more will nation fight nation; they won't play war anymore.  Come, family of Jacob, let's live in the light of God." Isaiah 2 (The Message)

I'll leave you with a video someone posted on Facebook this morning.  I love Cantus, anyways, but this hymn in particular is perfect for today.  It's called The Finlandia Hymn by Jean Sibelius.  It's beautiful.  Here are the lyrics:  
This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine;
this is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine:
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine;
but other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine:
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
                                                a song of peace for their land and for mine.

Peace, friends.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

it's the little things.


I had a meeting last night with some folks at church who do the work that is usually thankless, goes unnoticed, can (I’m sure) feel monotonous, at times.  They’re just doing their part to make the world a better place, and they’re doing it with humility.  These people don’t ask for fanfare or recognition, but I try to pump them up once in awhile.  And maybe that’s because I, too, need to remind myself that the task of caring for people is ongoing, and while it is rewarding much of the time, there’s never a “job well done” kind of feeling.  Frankly, I think this is the reason so many people get burned out at church- we’re not good at thinking about the small things we do as having any kind of significance in the world, and that is entirely not true.

So, I read them these words from 1 John 3:
“This is how we've come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves.  If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God's love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.  My dear children, let's not just talk about love; let's practice real love.”

Often times, I think, we get caught up with the word about Jesus “laying his life down for us” or “sacrificed his very life for us”.  And, while I think it’s important to reflect on the magnitude of what God has done there, it’s difficult for us to relate to.  Does God want us to give our lives too?  Is that what that means?  Or, maybe God doesn’t want us to die, but do we have to spend every waking hour trying to be better, do more, etc.?  The answer, clearly, is no.  But, what does God expect when he says that we should live sacrificially? 

Loving one anther, or laying down our lives for one another should 1) not be intimidating, and 2) we shouldn’t think too hard about it.  The love that we know about from Jesus doesn’t have to stay rooted in the past as some unattainable ideal.  We know what Jesus has done, and his act propels us do what we can- to love, and give the world hope that God is still among us.  In other words, if you have any inkling that your life has somehow been transformed by the love of Christ, then you have new life- life abundant.  And you can lay down that life for anyone or everyone you meet- whether it’s through a note or a phone call, a smile to someone on the street, or lending a helping hand when it’s needed.

I loved this quote from a professor I’ve read before.  He says, “To give one's life in this way, in imitation of Jesus' own love, is more than simply a result of believing; it is the concrete shape that belief takes in the world, and the presence of such giving is a sign that God's love is present and active.  If we don’t continue to act, even in the smallest ways, the love of God in Christ is not made known to the world.”

So, friends, keep doing what you’re doing.  Actions speak louder than words (not always true- heck, you’re reading words, now!).  Acting like Jesus, or “laying down your life” isn’t so bad.  Yes, sacrifice implies giving something up, or losing a little bit of yourself for the sake of another, but it can be on a small scale most of the time.  It's these little acts that add up, these tiny ways in which we lay down our life that make all the difference.  In fact, with God’s help, it’s transforming the world, bit by bit.

“My dear children, let's not just talk about love; let's practice real love.”

Sunday, September 2, 2012

i shouldn't be left alone.

I have been all alone since Friday morning.  Well, I mean, I've interacted with human beings, but my husband left me (!) from Friday to Monday night (okay, just for the weekend, but still?!).  For an extreme extrovert this is a long time to be alone.  So, I've been getting projects done... half done- I'm also a little disorganized so I "project hop" from one thing to the next (Mom, if you are reading this, you know I get this from you!).  I've run, spent quality time with my dog, done a little cleaning and shopping, cooked, napped, and rested a bit.  I guess it's been alright to spend some time alone, but I'll be honest and say I can't handle much more of this!!

I AM grateful for Labor Day Weekend, however.  

Timber is doing a really good job, lately, of staying on the porch while I do projects.  This was in the midst of cleaning out my car, which, I'll be frank, NEEDED IT.  I got that turquoise tin tub in the background there at an estate sale on Friday that was amazing.

Timber waits for scraps in the kitchen... no success.

I love my house, I love my kitchen, I love exposed brick in my house/kitchen.  And check out the little system for opening the window above the back door.  Ugh, I would've hated to live in this house a hundred years ago in the summertime, when opening that window would have been necessary.

I made butternut squash soup.  No recipe, really, but I boiled hunks of squash, poured out most of the water, added chicken boullion and italian spice, salt and pepper, and then I used my hand blender to blend it with a little sour cream at the end.  Also good with some parm on top.

Also, I'm coloring.  With markers.

And, for a final confession, I mix funfetti cake mix with sugar free vanilla creamer.  It's a delicious little dessert.  But, it's also why I shouldn't be left alone!

Have a great Labor Day, tomorrow! 

Friday, August 31, 2012

dog days of summer.

 The dog days of summer are here...

I've been finding myself anxious for the Fall- both excited and nervous.  I'm excited for the weather to change, for Fall colors, crisp air, and, let's face it, the option of wearing pants!  It's too hot for pants right now.  I'm also excited for everyone to come back to church in full force.  It'll be fun to see choirs, kids, Sunday school, mid-week programming all back in action!  But, I'm nervous, too.  From September to June, it is just plain busy.  Evening meetings are a source of dread for me, though I'm fine once I get there.  I know I can get it all done, and I trust that it will be fruitful for me and for the people I work with, but man, the post-Labor Day rush is looming over my head.

I took both of these pictures in the last week.  A reminder to enjoy these last few slow days.  The thick, humidity-filled heat actually helps you slow down, sometimes.

This week got me to thinking about time- either wishing it away, or not wanting the next day to come.  I'm experiencing both right now, and while it might be an inevitable feeling, I may need to be better about enjoying each day as it comes- cliche, but true.

I also started considering what God might think about my concept of time.  I don't know that God feels bad for me with my ramped up schedule, but there's something to be said about interpreting our busy-ness.  Do we see our vocations, our busy lives, our responsibilities as a gift? as a call?  Or, are they simply days filled with work until a sabbath day when we can relax and "really" do what we want?

Don't get me wrong, sabbath is important- it's good to do nothing, to worship, etc.  Everyone needs a day off.

But, more often than not, we're always thinking ahead, planning for the next thing, organizing our lives with calendars, alarms on our phone, bulletin boards and elaborate file systems (okay, I don't file).  And because none of this is going away any time soon, maybe I need to reframe.

This text from John surprised me in a way I wasn't expecting.  It's sort of a scary passage, actually, because Jesus had to be careful for fear of being killed.  In it he talks about time, though time for Jesus was based on one thing- when he was going to die, and what he could do between the present, and that future day, to tell people about God.  This part from John 7 reads:

His brothers said, "Why don't you leave here and go up to the Feast so your disciples can get a good look at the works you do?  No one who intends to be publicly known does everything behind the scenes. If you're serious about what you are doing, come out in the open and show the world."  His brothers were pushing him like this because they didn't believe in him either.  Jesus came back at them, "Don't crowd me. This isn't my time. It's your time - it's always your time; you have nothing to lose." 

The disciples were pressuring Jesus, trying to get him to do things to convince them, and others, that he was the Son of God.  They even threatened him a bit by telling him that no one who wants to get things done does it in secret!  But, Jesus told them, look, it's not my time to be the center of attention, it's your time and you have nothing to lose.

I think I need to remember not to put so much pressure on myself to be ready, or on Jesus to show up.  The church year will begin whether I get everything done in time, or not.  And Summer will turn into Fall whether I want it to, or not.  And, Jesus will be present throughout it all whether I trust him to, or not.  It's always time for me to love what I do, to enjoy the people around me, to see emails and meetings and busyness as a gift, because if I do it that way, then I have nothing to lose.    

I'm sure there's going to be crazy days ahead, as there were for the disciples, and Jesus, too.  But, if I think about the precious short time they got to spend together, and think about my own life that way, I gain a whole new perspective.

The words below are from Psalm 90, in the paraphrase of The Message.  I'll use them as my prayer for the next few weeks, and maybe you will, too:

We live for seventy years or so (with luck we might make it to eighty), And what do we have to show for it? Trouble. Toil and trouble and a marker in the graveyard.  Who can make sense of such rage, such anger against the very ones who fear you?  Oh! Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well!  Come back, God - how long do we have to wait? - and treat your servants with kindness for a change.  Surprise us with love at daybreak; then we'll skip and dance all the day long.  Make up for the bad times with some good times; we've seen enough evil to last a lifetime.  Let your servants see what you're best at - the ways you rule and bless your children.  And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us, confirming the work that we do. Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

dutch delft wedding.

A little bit of a wedding recap for your enjoyment...

I am so happy to share some photos of my sister's wedding from August 11.  It was such a GORGEOUS day in Holland, MI.  We spent the first half of the day picking up the back of Lizzy's dress, like this.

See those balloons going up the railings to the Chapel doors?  I LOVE THEM.  They were huge, and such a fun thing to see bopping around in the wind.

Brook Collier was the photographer- out of Grand Rapids, MI.  She was so relaxed and nice to work with, and even put up with our idea to drive all the way down to the beach after the ceremony!

Love those balloons!!

This is the inside of the newly redone Western Seminary Chapel, and that's my cousin- the Rev. Kate Kooyman, who is the chaplain at Hope College (right next door to Western Seminary).  She officiated the wedding and did such a fabulous job.

Great photo of my mom with two nephews, Joe and Greg DeYoung.  They've gotten taller over the years, and did a beautiful job of ushering at the wedding.

Such a happy couple!

I didn't get any pictures of me with my own husband, nor did I get any of the reception venue.  Hopefully those are still to come from the photographer, Brooke (I'm sure they are!).  

The Scripture I had the privilege to read at my sister's wedding was from Ruth, Chapter 1.  It reads: 

Again they cried openly. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye; but Ruth embraced her and held on.  Naomi said, "Look, your sister-in-law is going back home to live with her own people and gods; go with her."  But Ruth said, "Don't force me to leave you; don't make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I'll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I'll die, and that's where I'll be buried, so help me God—not even death itself is going to come between us!" (The Message paraphrase).

My cousin, Kate, did such a good job of talking about covenant, about God's Hesed.  Here is part of what she wrote: "There’s a word for God’s covenant faithfulness in Hebrew. HESED. Hesed is crazy loyalty. It’s love that costs something. It’s faithfulness that makes no sense. HESED is how the God of Israel loves his people. Over and over, in spite of our failings, this God comes back to the covenant he made and renews it, strengthens it, makes good on it. There is no shadow of turning in HESED. Great is God’s HESED."

I've done a lot of weddings myself, recently, and I am totally in agreement with what Kate was talking about.  The covenant we make in marriage, the promises and vows we say to each other, are really a reflection of the covenant God has made with us, as his people.  Marriage is a beautiful, wonderful, awesome, yet tricky thing, at times.  But, God's love and promises are perfect, never-ending, and constantly being made known to us.  We see it in Ruth, and we see it in Jesus- not even death can come between us and the love of God.  

Depending on what you believe, marriage can have a greater significance on the relationship ladder, but in reality, we are constantly working on all of our relationships- whether it's our spouse we see everyday, or our best friend who lives hundreds of miles away.  It's helpful, at least for me, to remember that my relationship with God will never go away, never be threatened, renegotiated, or lost.  Because of Him, we know how to love others.  

Love you, Lizzy and Daniel!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

laugh with me.

Well, I decided to try my hand at blogging again!

I've tried a few times before with no luck.  The blog world is so big now that I figured no one would care about what I have to say.

But, really, there's so much negative politics, a lot of bad theology, and many bloggers that perpetuate consumerism masked as "design", that I thought "certainly I can contribute something worthwhile to the wider world."

And so, there you have it, folks, my rationale for blogging a blog that will be lifestyle meets practical theology meets art/design (hopefully).

I also think it'll be good to discipline myself to write.  Especially because writing for pleasure isn't something I do very often, and that is sad!  It's such a gift to be able to create in this way.  And if people read it, that's just icing on the cake.

For now, though, I'll leave you with a bit about my blog name.  "So Sarah Laughed" comes from the book of Genesis, chapters 18 and 21.  I won't go into the whole story- many of you know it- but I simply love these verses and try to remember them as often as I can.

Sarah and Abraham were so surprised by God's gift of a son later in life, and so filled with joy, that they named him Isaac, which in Hebrew means "He will laugh" or "God laughs".  In any case, these verses remind me that there is so much surprise, not only in life, but in our vocations, as well.  Life is filled with the unknown and unexpected; just when we think we're done with one transition, we're faced with the next.  And if we're not careful (I'm preaching to myself here, too) we can forget to find joy where there only seems to be newness, strangeness, lostness, etc.

This blog is, I suppose, an effort on my part to practice gratitude, to laugh, to think, to pray, to theologize, to be prophetic (or, at least, work on it), to articulate grace, to seek beauty, to be joyful, to make an offering, and to try and laugh at myself (not a lack of situations to laugh at myself about).

So, bear with me, friends.  I'm about to embark on this vulnerable blogging journey.