Category Archives: transformation

Change…It is a Coming…

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If this past year and current set of realities have taught me anything, it is that there is one absolute common denominator among all people. It does not matter age, political lean, religious affiliation, skin color, primary language or educational background – every single person at some point in their life encounters a change that they 100% without question…hate. The change could be something relatively minor where you got a wild thought to try a new hairstyle – and within minutes found yourself willing the hairs to grow back at warp speed. It could be a change that you thought about long and hard – a new job, taking a relationship to the next level, deciding to get pregnant, or buying that new car you’ve always wanted. Each of those ‘good’ changes, but all with new responsibilities, expectations, hardships and cost. Changes like these are seemingly ‘in your control’ – and still they can be difficult and hard. Then there are the changes that blindside you. The ones that sneak up from behind – you had no clue they were coming. The kinds of changes that not only knock the wind out of your lungs but leave you numb and seemingly broken as you lay blasted on the ground. The changes that you have no control over – that rush in, overwhelm and leave lasting, lingering, seemingly awful affects. A pandemic, for example, that sweeps the world and altars every facet of life that you know. An election that goes far beyond 2 candidates and unleashes an anger, distrust, and belittlement of others – on all sides – that leaves your head pounding, your heart aching and your mind spinning – that ends relationships among families and friends and divides far more than it ever hoped to reconcile. Racial tensions unlike anything you had seen – with brokenness, exhaustion and anger from those who have never known anything but the like, ignorance and arrogance from those who will never hope to understand, and a lostness and ache from those caught up in the middle. Or perhaps death…of a loved one…taken far too early, for no apparent reason, wreaking havoc and forever changing the fabric of the people left behind. Changes. I hate them.

When my husband, Chris, and I got married, we were ridiculously young and relatively stupid. We were a young 20 years old respectively and had not one clue in this world what we were doing, but glory did we love each other. As a wedding gift, my mother decided to give me the hope chest you see pictured here. If I’m being honest, I found the gift kind of odd and a little irritating for a few reasons. One, the idea of a hope chest was to help a girl plan and prepare for her eventual wedding day. It was supposed to store up ideas, hopes and dreams for all the things a girl would want for her special day and start to her new married life. Its entire make up and design was to prepare you for a major change in your life. There is no other piece of furniture that symbolizes ‘change’ more to me than this particular piece. (I wasn’t a fan.) A second reason I found this piece odd and aggravating was that it was given to me the weekend OF my wedding – like less than 24 hours prior to the event. So I never actually used it for it’s ‘intended’ purpose and therefore I found it to be a super goofy gift. (I was 20 and kind of a goober – what can I say?) And then third, I just wasn’t particularly a fan of the decor painted on the front. Nevertheless, I placed a few random knick-knacks inside, sat it in my living room, and just kind of ignored it. 4 houses, 4 kids, and 24+ years later and the dumb thing still sits here – tucked away in a random corner.

It had been fine to sit in its little random spot because the area where it sat didn’t really have any purpose (seemed fitting for this piece, no?), until recently. At the start of this year, my sweet Christopher sat down with me to encourage me to finally begin to run after a dream I have had for decades. He shared with me that maybe it was time that I really began to take seriously my love for writing. Along with this encouragement came the suggestion that we finally give purpose to some space in our bedroom, and turn it into a place for me to sit and write. I ran straight into this endeavor with full gusto, and low-and-behold met up with my old friends ‘insecurities’ and ‘procrastination’ and suddenly writing needed to take a backseat until I could make the space ‘just so’. Makes sense, does it not? (We won’t mention the fact that this writing endeavor would mean a huge life change for me; my fear of said change; and how that ties into this blog on every conceivable level. No…we’ll just keep that to ourselves.). Wouldn’t you know that within moments, I was suddenly completely and totally fixated on this dumb cedar chest. My initial instinct was that this stupid thing needed to leave. I sat on the floor, and slowly began to think through where I would redistribute it’s contents so that I could finally rid myself of this wooden box. I was almost elated as I processed where and how I would get rid of it. When the random thought occurred to me – ‘you could always just paint it’. You ever have a moment where you not only begin to audibly talk to yourself, but actually get a bit snarky and seemingly start to argue…with yourself? (Welcome to a day in the life of Sarah.) I went round and round for a bit as I came to grips with both the idea of not getting rid of the chest and changing it to match my decor and my needs. How, in 24 years, had this thought never occurred to me before? A quick Google search and trip to Walmart – I found myself with the supplies I needed to transform this chest from something I really never liked, into something sweet, inviting and lovely.

After one coat of the chalk paint, it had certainly covered the chest, the cedar wood and the out dated design, but as you can see it was streaky, and still a bit unfinished looking. To truly transform the piece – it took three coats of paint and one of wax to give it a new, fresh, and beautiful new look. Suddenly, this “afterthought” of an item had suddenly become a centerpiece to this new space that I am creating. Just that simply. I love how it is turning out and yet the entire time I worked on it, I grumbled as I processed all the many ways I dislike change.

Change, is hard. It requires…something. It requires you to let go of something…or pick something up. It requires you to lose (or possibly gain) something or someone into or out of your life. It means extra work (I love the way the chest turned out – but it took days to transform it) . It means facing insecurities and conquering fears. It means trusting when you don’t want to. It means walking blind. It means pain. It means disappointment. It means being totally and completely out of control. And again, if I am honest, it has been this frame of mind that I have allowed to circle my head these last 40 plus years of life. I have often quipped that change ‘good or bad is still change and therefore hard.’ I don’t think I’ve ever equated change as anything but negative. I don’t know if you caught it, but even in the positive changes I mentioned at the front of this piece – I quickly followed with the hardships those things would still bring with them. Can you relate to the kind of thinking? For the last several weeks I have sat overwhelmed that this seems to be a season of countless changes – both small and massive – some deeply personal – some much more of a global nature. It has been almost suffocating and like a bad mantra I have just continually chanted, ‘I hate change. Change is stupid. I. Hate. Change.’ Despite my grumbling the Lord reminded me that as far as He is concerned…

“…I the Lord do not change.” (Malachi 3:3); that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:15). He reminded me that even if I wanted to ignore or bypass those truths – that didn’t negate the fact that “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8). Beautiful reminders that while change is the prominent and consistent qualifier for being human – it was not a descriptor that defines Him – and yet He is the author of change. Scripture is extraordinarily clear that all of mankind has sinned, has fallen, is broken, and lost. If we stop to think of our true depravity – it is beyond suffocating. We are born with a sin nature. We are brought into this world – apart from the Lord with a bent for the things of this world and our fleshly desires. He is equally clear that if we don’t depart from these things then that means a life…an eternity…separated from Him. With that realization in mind – suddenly my hatred for change suddenly becomes desperation to acquire it.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17 He says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” For those in the bleacher seats…to become a new creation, to have the old things in us pass away…constitutes change. He is painfully aware of our brokenness and promises the possibility of change…“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19). Change that comes from the Lord comes in ways that don’t make sense and seem impossible…and yet…promises something new. To receive something new is a gift – always – and we know from James 1:17 that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Remember the gift may bring change, but the One giving it never changes. This world is a mess. It is NOT our home. It is a momentary breezeway on our route to our eternal destination. It is ever changing – it always has been, it always will be. The changes the Lord wants for us are not the changes of this world. The changes He wants for us are ones that bring us to a more intimate posture with Him.”Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed but the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

Yes, changes – more times than not – are hard, difficult and truly things that will conjure all kinds of hatred toward them. But much like my old cedar chest…the one that had no real purpose, that had spent years cast aside, that was perceived as ugly and useless – a transformation toward purpose, beauty and new life are possible…and needed. To live as His – to do more than call yourself His but actually live it – is going to require change. It is going to require work, and the giving up of something (being right, being heard, being superior, being secure as a few). Remember…“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Don’t allow the weight of the things beyond your control to overwhelm and shut you down. Be willing to let Him move and change you – to a closer relationship with Him and a much need voice of hope to a world desperate for Him. Desperate for change. When you sense the Lord bringing you to a place of change – find joy that He is refining you, pursuing you and running after you. For those changes are put there to help you “…put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the lioness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24). Hated or not, ready or not, change is inevitable; either the world will change you…or He will. He is waiting to refine, strengthen, and love you – there is such hope in those changes, is there not? Change..it is a coming, are you ready?

An Unlikely View…a Different Review

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untitledAs I sit here this evening – I am overwhelmed with words and emotion and yet unsure how to express either. Days ago, I walked into a movie theater to view a movie I had been excited about since I had first heard it was in the works. Beauty and the Beast. I was 15 years old when the animated version came out. I remember watching it with my sister when she was home on break from college. I remember at the time feeling so moved by such a beautiful movie. The story hit me personally somehow; the music moved me; the characters impacted me. I remember even then thinking – how can this beautifully crafted cartoon have such an affect on me? So to say that I was both excited and nervous about the live action version is a bit understated. Excited to revisit a favorite in a new way and yet nervous because what if they totally destroyed the story I loved so much (it is after all Hollywood, where that is pretty par for the course).

Weeks before the movie was to be released – the world suddenly seemed turned on it’s side – as various reports about additional elements in the movie began to spin. I listened and observed an anger rise up in many; I heard the actual cries of ‘kill the beast’ at the hint of an ugliness that may be present in the film. Based on little information – I saw decisions made, lines drawn, and judgments locked in. I began to research sources that I trusted, and their reviews didn’t seem to align with the many angry voices I kept hearing. So four days ago, with girlfriends in tow, I went to see this newest version of my all time favorite animated movie. It was overwhelming. The cinematography, the music, the costumes, the littlest details, the story. It was far more beautiful than I was prepared for. The story so true to the original and the additional elements that were laced in – so perfectly placed and rich. For as much as I was swept away and entrenched into this poor provincial town – I did view certain moments and characters through the lens of the reviews I had heard before walking into the theater. Did I notice anything? Was there an agenda? Was there a moment? Those things couldn’t help but cross through my mind – as I watched from the perspective of ‘mama’, ‘minister’ and even just ‘friend’ for I knew I would be questioned from each of these vantage points. As I processed, I was so very moved by the character in question; watching a transformation of heart and conscience change him – I felt so proud. Then watching a hopeless ‘beast’ understand where his choices had lead him and yet he was able to hope again and an absolute jerk of a character, who swayed the masses and yet never learned a thing…I cannot say enough.

IMG_3599I knew that I wanted to take my two oldest children – my 12 year old – who is wired just like his mama with a deep heart and an overall love for theater and musicals; and my 9 year old, who has struggled thus far in life in often living out the role of Gaston more times than not. As we made our way to the theater, I had a little heart-to-heart with the kids. I asked them to do me a favor as they watched the movie tonight…I asked them to watch it with God in mind. I challenged them both to see if they could find any ‘God moments’ in the film. The opening monologue that spoke of there being no good in the beast – immediately had my 12 year old leaning over – saying ‘right there…that’s a God moment. Without God – there is no good in any of us’. The movie carried on and it soon got to the scene where the beast saves Belle from the wolves. My 9 year old leaned over and asked ‘why would he do that mama? why would he save her?’ – My simple answer in the moment was ‘because he is not evil’ – Her response ‘It’s God in us that would cause us to make decisions like that, isn’t it?’ Needless to say, I laid a challenge down to my kids and they both quickly affirmed they were up for that challenge. I soon began to look at the movie through this lens as well. Can I tell you how even more remarkably beautiful this movie became with God in mind?

free in christAs we walked out of the theater – my oldest was choked up. ‘Mom…the scene where the beast changes back to a man. That’s what happens when we give our hearts to Christ. The bad choices we made, the ugliness that may have been all over us – is cleared away. We are made new in Him.’ My Lacie chimed in ‘Mama, he had no hope. He thought he would be a beast forever – but with love he found that hope. That’s God, right? If God is love, we can find our hope in him, right?’ Back to my oldest…’The character of Gaston was a lot like Satan. Satan often makes himself look ‘beautiful’ but there is no good in him. There was no good in Gaston – none – and yet everyone (except a few) were swayed by his appearance. What a scary realization that so many can be so easily swayed by the enemy.’ The conversation continued the entire way home.

This movie¬†was not created to be a catalyst for the gospel. It was not designed with an agenda to lead people to the cross or challenge them in their walk with the Lord…and yet that is exactly what our family took away. Was there sin in the movie – yes. There was a hateful man that treated women and men like the dirt beneath his feet, who lied, who abused, who lifted himself above everyone else. There was the inclusion of magic, of prejudice, the belittling of women, the hint of homosexuality, the abuse of the elderly, the worship of idols to name just a few. Not a one of these sins greater than the next; not a one less ungodly than the the other. None of them so blatant – all just a piece of the tapestry of the film. As a mama, I had a choice. I could have pointed out all of these things to my children before going into the theater.I could have painted a picture of hating all of these things and they would have watched the movie through that lens – absolutely. Instead, I asked them to view with God in mind. They did observe those same things, these sinful moments, but with the perspective of God in mind they viewed them with a broken heart, from a place of understanding our need for Jesus in this world. My little girl hopeful that she too would come to a place where she trusted the hope that is in Jesus – that she doesn’t have to be a ‘beast ‘ forever. My oldest challenged in his faith, strengthened in his walk. Their mama moved beyond what she can adequately express.

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The lessons I gleaned with God in mind tonight…are too many to elaborate on in an already long message. However, in one of the new songs written for this version of Beauty and the Beast – the words read ‘Love is beauty, love is pure. Love pays no mind to desolation. It flows like a river through the soul. Protects, proceeds, and perseveres and makes us whole.’ How can we not see God in those words?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.¬†Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8

I will simply say … when we look for evil, we will find it – every time. It won’t be hard to find and we won’t even have to look too deep…if humans are a part…sin will be present. When we look for God – He can and will be found. Every time. Put that lens of ‘looking for Him’ on – it is amazing what He will allow you to see.