Confessions of a Car Line Bully

FeaturedConfessions of a Car Line Bully

(Spoiler Alert: it’s me)

Anyone—parent, guardian or otherwise—who has experienced the rite of passage known as school “Car Line,” understands full well the challenges that can arise.

It’s basically parental purgatory—a holding tank that traps you and about a hundred other parents for an eternal hour before the students are released and you’re finally set free to reclaim what remains of your day. I’m one of the lucky ones, however, because of the shopping center that sits directly across the street from my child’s school—giving me the freedom to shop, grab a latte or use the restroom while I wait.

Except on this day. This was the day I got called a bully.

In order to enter the car line, you have to drive around the back of the school that runs alongside several open fields and a playground. A few hundred students were having a field day, and so in an effort to keep the students safe, teachers had set up a blockade of chairs right in the middle of the drive to keep cars from passing through. I was the first in line and stopped my car about 20 yards out from where the teachers were sitting.

The problem, however, was that I had parked my car right as the road starts to curve, so any cars that immediately came up behind me could not fully see or understand why I had stopped and that there were teachers blocking the way.

“What are they doing?” I muttered out loud as the first car passed me. Sure enough, as soon as they passed and realized they could go no further, they quickly pulled back over and parked a few yards in front of me.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I grumbled as the second car passed me, repeating the same mistake as the first.

By the third car, I actually turned to face the driver as she passed me by, silently mouthing the words, “Where are you going?” and throwing my hands up in the air in total exasperation.

That was it. There was no more room in front of me.

And then she came. A large, expensive-looking SUV moved out of line and started to creep up beside me.

I had reached my tipping point. I quickly opened my car door and turned to face her with my hands extended out, yelling, “STOP!” In my mind, I was channeling a safety patrol or traffic cop. In reality, I probably looked like a deranged lady with wild hair who needed to be escorted back to the psych ward.

She threw her hands up and stopped.

I got back in my car and we all waited awkwardly for another ten minutes until the teachers and students finally went back inside and we were free to move forward to the official starting point of the car line.

I started chuckling as we began moving because no one behind me was letting the SUV lady back into the line. It was almost like we were standing together in solidarity against the line skipper wannabes. The rule breakers. The impatient ones. I was feeling proud of myself. Dare I say, even a bit self-righteous.

And that’s when she walked up to me as I sat in my car.

“I just want you to know that I didn’t really appreciate how I was treated. I would never hurt anyone or any children.” She continued, “My child goes here. I would never run anyone over. I just had surgery today and had an emergency. But no one was letting me through.”

I sat there stunned…and now mortified.

Words started to roll out of my mouth in my defense. “I put my hands out to stop you because the road was blocked and they weren’t letting anyone through.”

And then she dropped a bomb.

“Frankly, the way I was being treated…I felt bullied.”

“I’m so sorry,” I replied back. “I’m so, so sorry.” I was choking on my words and my eyes started welling up with tears.

“Thank you,” she said and walked away.

I didn’t have time to fully process or explain to her what I was feeling in that moment, but the last thing I would want anyone to feel as a result of my actions is bullied. I know what that feels like. And it’s awful.

I can’t tell you fully why I decided to jump out of my car and signal her to stop. It could have been fueled by rogue hormones and adrenaline flooding through my middle-aged body. It could have been my pride and not wanting yet another car to bypass me. It could have been simply to communicate the reality that there was a blockade and to quote Monty Python… “None shall pass.”

But what it should have been was this: I should have sought to understand and not make assumptions. I should have sought to show kindness first, not judgment. I should have stopped to first ask questions instead of jumping to conclusions.

Kindness should always be the first order of business. But when it isn’t, and we make mistakes, an apology can go a long way. I wish I could have talked to her more…because whatever version she saw of me that day is not a full representation of who I am day to day. But I am grateful that I was able to apologize. Because that is the truth of who I am. I’m a reconciler who genuinely cares for others.

We are humans and we will err. But we can also make things right…and hopefully move forward…in a car line or whatever line you may find yourself in.

My advice? Keep the peace, keep being kind, and please…keep your hands, arms and feet inside your vehicle at all times. It’s just safer for everyone.

Yours truly,

A one-time car line bully now reformed

It’s Not As Bad As You Think

It’s Not As Bad As You Think

“Don’t you want to feel better?” I asked my daughter.

She nodded her head.

“This will help…please take it,” I pleaded.

I held up the medicine cup filled with a cherry-flavored pain reliever (every child’s favorite, right?) and my daughter burst into tears. If eyes could speak, hers were telling me, “That’s a hard pass, Mom.”

My words and encouragement didn’t matter. The logic and explanation of how the medicine would help her heal and take the pain away didn’t matter. All she could see was five milliliters of “yuck” in my hand.

I could feel the frustration rising within me. I have the answer to what she needs, but she won’t let me help her.

“Ok, ok…fine,” I resigned. “Let’s just lay down and rest instead.”

She laid down. I laid down next to her. And after a few minutes of stroking her hair and whispering a quiet prayer over her, she fell asleep.

Now before you go and issue me the “good parent” award, let me be very clear. I felt like anything but a good parent. When I could see that gentle encouragement was getting us nowhere, I did a hard pivot into “boot-camp Mom” mode and began to yell like a drill sergeant. As I did that, a ticker tape of curse words was looping through my head nonstop and it took every ounce of my self-control not to mutter them out loud.

I was feeling overwhelmed. Desperate. Angry. Sad. Defeated. More tears ensued…hers and mine. In retrospect, boot-camp Mom is probably never a good idea.

This, of course, all took place before gentle Mom took back the reins and told everyone to lie down and rest. In the aftermath of that battle…as I lay in the dark next to my sleeping daughter…a question entered my mind:

“I wonder if this is how God feels about me sometimes?”

I come to Him hurting and He offers a solution. I tearfully refuse. Maybe there’s another way I think, because right now all I can see is the “yuck.”

But instead of getting frustrated or angry, He softly pivots. He meets us where we are.

“Ok,” He tells me. “Let’s just lay down and rest instead.”

He stays by my side, strokes my hair, and prays over me. He is patient. He is kind. He keeps on loving me—even when I don’t understand or I’m too emotionally overwhelmed to see the value of what He’s offering.

Two hours later, my daughter woke up…but this time, she was ready. She took a tiny sip of the medicine and her eyes opened wide.

“This tastes like pancake syrup with sugar crystals in it!” she said with a grin.

The “yuck” that she had feared now tasted like the best breakfast of her life.

Friend, that’s my prayer for us today—that whenever God offers us an answer or a remedy for our circumstances or situation, that we’re brave enough to trust the Giver. Not ready? That’s ok, too. He’ll wait for us.

Because in my humble experience, when we are finally ready to accept His help, we’ll come to realize that what we feared was “yuck” wasn’t nearly as bad as what we thought it would be.

In fact, it just might be the best tasting breakfast of our lives.

Don’t Panic…Trust The Process

Don’t Panic…Trust The Process

“Babe, I am so proud of you. I am so proud of you. Like so, so proud.”

These were the words I kept repeating ad nauseam to my husband who had just successfully changed the battery in our van.

“What? Why?” he asked with a confused grin. 

I’m pretty sure he’d agree that changing a car battery is not exactly rocket science—and certainly not something that warranted the amount of accolades I was heaping onto him. Until I explained why.

My husband and I have two very different responses when something goes amiss. I hit the panic button. He calmly dons his metaphorical white coat and, much like the scientific method, begins to observe, measure, experiment, and test until an explanation is found.

So when the car refused to start that morning, my first response was to get it towed ASAP to the mechanic and leave it in their expensive, yet trusty hands. My husband however began the process of first consulting the car manual and charging the battery. When the car still refused to start, he removed the battery and took it to an auto store to have it tested to confirm its “kaput-ness.”

When they gave him a thumbs up that it was indeed dead, he contacted our mechanic who had replaced said battery only four months prior and that was still under warranty, received the replacement free of charge, and then re-installed it on his own, turning down their gracious offer to charge us labor to install the free battery.

Eh, voila. Problem solved.

“I’m proud of you,” I answered back, “because you didn’t make the last resort your first resort.”

As the words left my mouth it felt like a truth bomb had just exploded in our kitchen.

What I meant by that was that unlike my typical modus operandi, he didn’t just throw his hands up and head straight for the bat phone. He didn’t throw a “Hail Mary” pass or pull the goalie off the net. Instead of jumping to extreme or final measures to solve a problem, he chose instead to exercise patience over panic and trust the process….beginning with step one.

So many times I find myself wanting to skip the “process” and just get to the end results. As a little girl, I wanted to sit down at a piano and play like Beethoven but skip all the musical theory it would take to get me there.

As a parent, I want to rush my sick kids to the doctor to get the meds I think they need instead of exhausting all of my resources and knowledge first.

In my relationships as a spouse, sibling and a daughter, I want to quickly get to the “I’m sorry” part of the conversation and hug it out so we don’t have to linger too long in the uncomfortable parts of the conversation that require us to wrestle with our hurt and misunderstandings.

I’m the Queen of quick fixes.

But what I’m quickly realizing is that when you go straight for the shortcut, you lose something in the process. You miss out on an opportunity to grow. You don’t allow for mistakes to be made and lessons to be learned. You bypass the journey that strengthens, builds confidence, and brings healing.  

Friends, let’s not make the last resort our first resort.

Let’s trust the process, take it step by step, and put in the work that needs to be done…so that at the end of the day (or whatever trial you are facing), we are becoming better, wiser, and more mature versions of ourselves—versions that we can truly be proud of.

The Difference Between Ordinary and Extraordinary…Is You

The Difference Between Ordinary and Extraordinary…Is You

I wish I could say that this particular day was filled with extraordinary accomplishments, however it felt anything but.

I vaguely remember preparing school lunches, doing laundry, running kids to their extracurricular activities, figuring out what to eat for dinner, making sure my youngest has taken day six of his antibiotics (which in mom life feels like day 300 if said child is not fond of taking said medicine), cleaning up the kitchen for the nth time, and then mentally gearing up to do it all over again the next day.

It was the most ordinary of ordinary days.

Until I requested my “ordinarily” sweet and compliant preschool-aged son to do his homework. It was then that I was met with inordinate amounts of whining, vitriol, and absolute resistance.

I remember thinking, “Is this it? Is this what my life has come to? Spending what little reserve energy I have left to convince a preschooler to complete his cut-and-paste alphabet letters and coloring sheet?”

Now granted, there were some bigger life lessons at play here regarding attitude, responsibility and life balance…but in that moment I could only see the glue stick for the trees and was desperate to be doing anything but having the conversation I was having. Thankfully, my husband graciously intervened as I waved a giant white flag and headed dutifully to car line to pick up my daughter from school.

More ordinary. And that’s where God met me.

I had been reading a book called Prayer in the Night by Tish Harrison Warren, and as I sat in car line feeling a bit weary and undone, the author took a moment to highlight something about Jesus’ work here on earth that often gets overlooked: his ordinary work as a carpenter.

She writes, “Jesus was a tradesman…. God became flesh and built some furniture. During all those decades that he spent building things, he wasn’t preaching, healing, or clearing out temples. He wasn’t starting a movement or raising the dead. The light came into the darkness and did ordinary work.”

In that moment, I felt seen. Seen by a God who understands what ordinary is. Who spent time doing ordinary things. And who walks with us…in the ordinary.

What’s more though, is that what often feels ordinary is in fact purposeful, necessary, and redemptive. Warren goes on to write, “All of Jesus’ work brought redemption. Not just the work that awed the crowds—the feeding of the multitude, the Sermon on the Mount, the raising of Jairus’s daughter, but also his quiet craft.”

The same hands that whittled wood also brought healing, provisions, and eventually salvation to mankind.

In that quiet moment in car line, God redeemed my ordinary day. I wasn’t just being an ordinary mom. I wasn’t just cooking another meal or doling out medicine. I was bringing healing to my sick child. I was providing nourishment for my family. I was offering instruction and encouragement to my son.

I was doing ordinary things with extraordinary purpose.

And friend, I hope you know that you are too. Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. Don’t underestimate your value. Miracles happen in the mundane. Richness can be found in the routine. Purpose is discovered in the predictable.

And in the most ordinary of moments on the most ordinary of days, you…were created to be extraordinary.

Who Are You When No One Is Watching?

Who Are You When No One Is Watching?

I pulled into the parking lot of one of my favorite parks to walk at and, immediately, disappointment set in.

There were no spaces available. Honestly, that’s not saying much because it feels like the world’s smallest parking lot with a maximum of 18 spaces. And on this particular day, not only was it completely full, but about 10 additional cars had also parked on the grass—right next to the large sign that says: “Do not park on the grass.”

When it comes to rules, I’m pretty black and white. If it says go, I go. If it says don’t, I don’t. And you know what? I seem to be even better at making sure that everyone else knows and follows the rules too. So imagine my surprise when the first question that popped into my head was, “Should I do it too? Should I follow everyone else’s lead and park in the grass too?”

My rule-following voice immediately chimed in. “You know, Sarah…today’s probably the day that you’ll do that and then return from your walk to find a friendly little parking ticket on your windshield.”

“Highly unlikely,” I answered back. “I mean what’s the big deal? It’s graaaaaaasssss. No one really cares.”

Rule-voice: “Someone cared enough to post a sign about it, so it must matter to someone.”

Friends, I’m almost starting to laugh at the absurdity of this debate going on in my head because it’s a PARKING LOT. A seemingly minor, insignificant decision. And this wasn’t the first debate of the day either. Just an hour earlier, I was defending myself to my husband for refusing to signal a turn with my blinker while driving.

“There’s no one around to see it,” I told him. “Who am I signaling to?”

“That’s not the point,” he replied. “The rules are, you signal when turning. Period.”

For the record, my husband is not necessarily a staunch rule-follower and enforcer, but he knows that I am and his point was to illuminate a rather unsettling truth about myself: It seems that I tend to follow the rules that suit me and ignore the ones that don’t.

And to add to my transgressions, I often exhibit a whole other level of hypocrisy by holding others accountable for their non-law-abiding behaviors while I blissfully blow past them going 60 in a 45—so to speak.

So here I am…in a parking lot…weighing the consequences of my “to park or not to park in the grass” decision while also facing the reality that I’m not the squeaky-clean rule follower that I thought I was…when a third voice entered the mix.

He was gentle, kind, and compassionate as always.

“Sarah, it’s not so much about the rules here as it is about your character. Who you are when no one is watching is just as important—if not more—than when others are watching.”

Point. Set. Match. Jesus.

You see, back in Jesus’ day, he dealt with this all the time. The religious leaders were so focused on the dos and don’ts of the law that they missed the heart of the matter—even when it was staring them right in the face. They were more focused on appearances and doing the right things when others were watching—giving lip service when it suited them to do so. But their hearts were in the wrong place.

It’s always been and always will be a matter of the heart.

So I decided right then and there to do the “right” thing because it was the right thing. Not because someone was watching. Not because I feared a ticket. Not because the “No Parking on the Grass” sign didn’t particularly suit me and my needs.

I want who I am in the little moments to line up with who I am in the big moments, because I believe that if we take time to cultivate our character in the small things, we’ll be ready to face the big things.

But wait, friends, there’s more. After patiently waiting in my car for maybe five minutes, my decision was rewarded. A fellow walker was leaving and a legit parking space was mine for the taking. And just in case you were wondering, I also rectified that other rule I often struggle with and put my turn signal on…with only God and me to see it.

Start small friends…and we’ll win big—whether we have an audience or not.

The Worst Advice You Could Give…Is This

The Worst Advice You Could Give…Is This

It’s happened to me countless times.

I find myself in a situation or circumstances that feel overwhelming. I’m struggling. I’m emotional. I’m not OK. Maybe it’s a health crisis. Maybe it’s a parenting dilemma. Maybe it’s marital challenges.

And then, someone comes along offering this gem of advice: “Well, you know…just remember that somebody’s always got it worse than you.”

Ok. Um, yes, that is true. There is almost always and forever will be, someone who is likely facing a more daunting situation than I. And sometimes, having that perspective can help you to refocus on your situation, find a silver lining, and continue moving forward.

But frankly, I don’t think it’s good advice. Dare I say, it’s the worst advice one could give because while they may be sharing truth with you, what they’re also doing is invalidating your unique experience. What it translates to me is:

“Hey, get a grip. Your situation is not that bad.”

“Stop thinking about yourself and just be grateful it’s not worse.”

“Buck up and put your big girl panties (or big boy britches) on.”

Ironically, I often find myself giving this well meaning but poorly delivered advice to…well…myself. I start to feel guilty or ashamed for feeling the way I do. Damaging self-talk ensues. “You shouldn’t be crying about this, Sarah. That’s silly. Pull it together.” And because I start to believe it’s true for me, it then quite subtly starts to bleed into my conversations with my husband, my children, and my friends.

It’s advice that masks itself as being helpful, when really, it’s a judgment call that suggests we short-circuit our emotional response and the healing we need to receive.

It’s like telling a child not to cry when they lose a toy or scrape their knee. Our job is not to compare their situation to someone else’s, but to validate their pain and emotions, while offering comfort, encouragement, and compassion. Their emotional response is just that—it’s theirs. No one else’s.

One of my best friends who earned her Masters of Fine Arts in Acting, used to tell me about an exercise they would do in one of her classes. Whenever the student shared something, the teacher would lean forward with hands extended outward in a “v” shape, and with a very serious and intentional voice respond with, “That’s valid. That’s valid.”

We would often laugh at the ridiculousness of that response at times because it seemed so over-the-top. Yet the teacher’s response never changed—whether you shared something deeply personal and vulnerable or whether you said your favorite color was red. It was always simply, “That’s valid.”

Friends, that’s what we need. Whatever our struggle or situation, we need to know that we’re affirmed in our feelings.

It’s exactly what Jesus did for sisters, Mary and Martha, when their brother Lazarus died. When Jesus arrived on the scene four days later, He didn’t fault them for their grief. He didn’t diminish the loss or make them feel bad for expressing their emotions. And He certainly didn’t say, “Hey look, gals…my death is going to be way worse. At least he went peacefully.”

No, Jesus wept. He encouraged. He offered them hope—not a comparison trap.

That’s my prayer for you today, friend. That you would know that wherever you find yourself in this moment…you are not alone. Your feelings and emotions are valid. Your struggle is valid. You are seen. And you are loved.

But wait, there’s more. If I could add one final piece of advice to the pile here, it would be this: It’s not a race.

I don’t believe God sits there with a celestial timer hanging over our heads, yelling at us to, “Hurry up! You’ve only got a few minutes left to figure this out!”

He’s patient with us. He’s compassionate. He’s understanding.

Whether it takes you five minutes, five days or five years, it’s your journey. We’re all going to finish this marathon of a life one day, so set a pace for yourself that allows you to fully process your emotions and heal.

And as you do that, just know that there are plenty of folks cheering you on and encouraging you to keep going. You’ve got this, friend.

Is Age Really Just A Number?

Is Age Really Just A Number?

It’s the age-old question—pun intended. Is age really just a number? If we’re going with the literal interpretation of said question…then yes.

If we’re going with the “it’s just a state of mind,” then let me be the first or perhaps one millionth person to offer this humble piece of advice: I call bull hockey.

In one sense, yes…I’m totally with all you lovebirds who want to validate the age difference between you and your soul mate by shouting this from the rooftops or better yet, your Romeo and Juliet balconies. I’m also very much in favor of those who say it as a way of looking beyond your abilities or disabilities. You are choosing to not be defined by what that number says you can or cannot do. Bravo.

Lately, however, I’ve been confronted with the very physical reality that my newly minted 45-year-old body doesn’t always agree with my 25-year-old state of mind. Things don’t quite move with the same fluidity that they used to. Some extra TLC and Ibuprofen are now a necessary part of my post-workout regimen—or more often than not, my “congrats, you made it to the end of the day” regimen. Shedding a few extra pounds requires more effort than just skipping a meal. And as much as I have always proclaimed to be a “night owl,” staying up late now demands multiple days of recovery, coffee on tap, and concealer for the dark-circled eyes that glare back at me in the mirror.

I remember my mom telling me how embarrassed she would get when walking up a flight of stairs because of her knees creaking and cracking. So she did what any sane person would do—she amped up the volume and conversed as loudly as she could with others, hoping to drown out the sound of her two bony offenders. Friends, I’m all but shouting now as I summit the top of any staircase.

I share all of this because I’ve just completed another circle around the sun—and state of the knees and all—I’ve come to the conclusion that notwithstanding the physical realities that come with aging…age is not just a number. Age is more than a number.

In many ways our age can feel like a standardized test (aka the dreaded SAT)…the universal guide by which we’re to assess someone’s general intelligence and aptitude for success. There are definitive age mile markers along the way at 18, 21, 45, and 62—ranging from the right to vote to the right to collect social security. And then there are the unspoken ones. Those more “loosely defined” ages in life that society and culture says are most appropriate for getting married, starting a family, or hitting your stride in your career.

But what if you’re like me and you don’t “just” fit into the mold? Truth is, I excelled in the classroom…but sit me down to a 3-hour standardized test and I turned out sub-par results at best. That test, however, did not define my abilities or aptitude for success in the least.

Age has never been “just” a number for me. And for as much as I love to play by the rules, I seem to have lived a lot of my life outside of them. I didn’t find my soul mate until my late 30s. I started my family at an “advanced maternal age” (doctor’s words, not mine). And now in my mid 40s, I’m just beginning to hit my stride in terms of truly walking out my purpose and passions in life.

We are more than our age, friend.

I think of Sarah, wife of Abraham in the Old Testament, who more truly defined advanced maternal age by having her first child at age 90.

Or Grandma Moses, who began painting at age 77, achieving incredible success as an American folk artist.

Or Amanda Gorman, who at age 22, became the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history.

In all of these instances and more, age was not the defining or limiting factor in their success or fulfillment of their dreams. These individuals were so much more than their age. And you are too.

Let’s not just be 20 or 30 or 50 or 70 years old. Let’s be more than what others or our age deem us “capable” of. Let’s do the unexpected. Let’s step out in faith. Let’s chase after our dreams no matter how “advanced” they may be. And let’s make every birthday candle we blow out a beautiful reminder that we’re not done yet.

Because there’s still more.

What Do Your Dreams and German Shepherds Have In Common?

What Do Your Dreams and German Shepherds Have In Common?

I’ve recently started walking again with two goals in mind. One, get healthier. And two, relive my “glory days” by fitting into a pair of jeans that haven’t seen the light of day in quite some time.

One of these goals is far more realistic than the other, but hey, we’ve all got dreams. The important thing is to realize that our dreams don’t just materialize on a wish and a prayer. They take time, focus, and discipline. They—as I’ve recently come to witness—require German Shepherd-like intensity. Allow me to explain.

One of my favorite places to take a morning walk is at a local park. The paved loop there is just shy of a mile, with a huge open field in the center and a babbling brook hugging the pathway’s exterior. It is peaceful, serene, and inspiring—all the things I need to help me stay the course in my quest for health and non-spandex jean wearing.

On a few occasions while walking there, I’ve had the opportunity to witness something truly amazing: a German Shepherd doing obedience training with his owner. They arrive to the park walking side by side, the dog off leash.

I’m slightly nervous because of the unpredictability of what could happen with an unrestrained dog. I mean, all it takes is a rogue squirrel or me appearing as a threat and we’re all toast.

But not this dog. He walks confidently and calmly in step with his owner. A few moments later, the owner, with leash coiled in hand, points to the field and the dog follows. He points again, and the dog sits, his eyes focused on his owner. Watching. Waiting.

The owner begins to walk away from the dog, only turning his head for an occasional look back about every 20 feet or so. When he reaches to what seems like nearly a football field of distance between him and the pup, he finally stops and turns to face the dog.

It’s the longest staring contest I’ve ever seen. Neither dog nor owner is even flinching. And then, the owner gives the long-awaited sign. He raises his arm straight up into the air and deftly flicks his hand up. The German Shepherd launches into a full-blown sprint toward his owner and once he reaches him, circles him a few times before quietly sitting by his side.

I’ve seen some pretty amazing obedience training before, but this just blows my mind—and mainly for one big reason. Not a single audible exchange happens between the pair the entire time. And I mean entire. From the moment they exited their car it was as if they had taken a monastic vow of silence of the Canine Order. There were no vocal commands or affirmations. No barking. No nothing. Just two simple hand gestures and loads of unspoken trust.

I can only imagine all the things that have to work together to pull off a performance like that. Hours and hours of practice to learn the commands and refine their communication. And the focus. Had that dog taken his eyes off his owner as he walked away he could have easily lost sight of him. And had he lost sight of him, he would not have seen the hand signal. His ability to focus and maintain that intensity was paramount to his success.

So what does all this have to do with my dreams? Because I believe that in life, we are the German Shepherd and that owner represents our dreams. And I’m not just referring to my jean-goal-wearing dreams. I’m talking big dreams. Life purpose. The things we want to look back on at the end of our lives and smile about because we accomplished them.

It’s so easy to get distracted and lose focus. Especially when our dreams seem so far in the distance. We get disappointed and lose hope. It’s too far out of reach. But that’s when the payoff usually happens. The hours we’ve poured into it—pursuing knowledge and refining our skills—all hinge on us being able to stay the course and not miss that all important hand signal.

That moment when preparation and opportunity meet, and we get the green light to go for it.

But here’s the kicker. It’s a hand signal. Not a message blasting through a PA system or an alarm ringing obnoxiously in our ears. It’s quiet, it’s subtle, and it’s nearly imperceptible except to the one who remains focused on it. Watching. Waiting.

Wherever you’re at, friend, don’t give up. Your sprint is coming. That gap between you and your long-awaited dream will close. And your victory lap will happen if you stay focused on the callings and purposes for your life. And when it does…my…my…my…what a beautiful thing it will be to watch.

Feeling Stuck? Stop Feeding The Dead Things In Your Life

Feeling Stuck? Stop Feeding The Dead Things In Your Life

Don’t worry, friends. This is not a foray into the world of the “Walking Dead.” As much as my husband tells me the character development in this show is incredible, I just cannot get past the rotting flesh, zombie apocalypse stuff. Sorry, it’s just creepy.

What I do want to talk about is a recent revelation I had while tending to my indoor plants. For the record, I’m no horticulturalist. I’m just a girl trying her best to keep her plants alive. For the longest time—back in my rookie gardening days— if I saw a leaf or branch starting to turn yellow and die I would just leave it alone. I figured it was harmless, right?

Not quite.

What I discovered was that even though the branch may be dying or is already dead, the plant will still continue to send nutrients to that branch as long as it remains attached to the plant. So not only is it needlessly feeding something that can no longer benefit from the nutrients, it is also simultaneously robbing the healthy parts of the plant from the nutrients it needs to grow.

The dead branches are literally sucking the life out of the plant. If ever there was a zombie apocalypse for plants, it’s this—as well as a botanical truth that was about to rock my world.

Here I was, blissfully watering and pruning the dead leaves off one of my plants, when a voice in my head silenced every other thought with one simple question:

“Sarah, what dead things in your life are you still feeding?”

Holy mulch, Batman. The Master Gardener had just called me out.

“What in your life,” He continued, “are you pouring your time, energy, and effort into that is not only a dead end, but is also taking away from the areas of your life that should be growing?”

You see friend, I can often get stuck and become stagnant from prioritizing non-essentials over essentials. Instead of nurturing areas of my life that truly matter and could benefit from my time and attention, I end up spending that time in other areas that ultimately end up draining me.

I watch television shows and then complain that I don’t have time to write. I proclaim that I want to be healthier and then choose to eat ice cream instead of going for a walk. I miss opportunities to connect with friends and family because I’m too distracted by dirty toilets and a pile of laundry.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with a clean house and clean clothes. Dessert is a wonderful treat. Movies and shows are wonderfully entertaining.

But if I’m stuck and not growing…if what should be feeding my emotional, physical and spiritual self is instead going toward something that is stealing from it, then it needs to be pruned.

Jesus himself used this analogy when speaking to his disciples about their relationship with him. “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more” (John 15:1-2).

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to waste my time being unfruitful. It’s time to cut off the dead things and feed the parts of me that are alive and growing. It’s time to sow more into my purpose and calling and not into the excuses that keep me bogged down, unmotivated, and distracted.

It’s time to take down some metaphorical zombies and bury them for good. Are you in?

Gratitude Vs. Anxiety: Winning The Battle Over Your Mind

Gratitude Vs. Anxiety: Winning The Battle Over Your Mind

I’m just going to put this out there. If there’s an opportunity to panic, stress or overreact, I’m your person. Spill your milk or set the house on fire…it’s all the same to me in terms of my emotional response.

In fact, I’m a proactive panicker. If I even THINK something remotely bad could happen, I preemptively react. In the battle of gratitude vs. anxiety, you could place a solid bet that anxiety would win every time in my world. Knowing this then, you can likely imagine my response when an alarm of epic proportion occurred at my house.

I had just sat down in the calm, cozy, quietness of my home to start penning some thoughts onto my laptop when I noticed that the WIFI wasn’t connected. In fact, our home network wasn’t even showing up on my computer. “Maybe it just needs a restart,” I thought.


I walked over to our security panel to check the settings. Not only was the WIFI down, but it was also telling me that everything was disconnected. No power, no heat, nothing. I flicked on a light switch just to confirm. Nothing.

I was puzzled, but still fine. Cue the emergency in 5…4…3…2…1.

All fourteen of our house alarms go off in a blaze of glory. And I mean all of them. Flood, fire, security, probably the carbon monoxide too—the entire house was reacting like a cuckoo clock on steroids. My phone dings with the following text message: “WARNING! Fire has been detected at your home…”

Oooook. So you know, at this point, I should be firing (pun intended) on all four of my anxiety cylinders. Yet strangely, I’m not. Even as the security company calls me through the emergency telecom system to verify my wellbeing, I calmly shout back to her over the ear-piercing alarms, “Yeah, um…I think so?”

I surveyed each room, sniffing for smoke and searching for foul play. There was none. As it turns out, it ended up being a false alarm—likely triggered by a blown transformer that took out an entire grid or two of our city.

About ten or so minutes later, the alarms subsided, the power returned, and I began to process why only half of an anxiety cylinder went off. Sure, I was feeling some stress and sensory overload from the sheer volume of the alarms, but I was also keenly aware of how my thoughts had begun to shift toward gratitude in the midst of it all.

“Wow, that’s good to know that in a real emergency, all the alarms work. And bonus, someone was alerted and called to check on me,” I thought. “And you know what? Even if our house burned, I’d be ok. My family would be ok. We would get through it. I’m so thankful for emergency responders.”

Gratitude in the midst of anxiety-producing circumstances is so not normal for me. But I was winning the battle of the mind—and here’s the reason why.

For the three days leading up to this epic non-emergency, I had been doing some intensive Google research on the relationship between anxiety and gratitude, and as it turns out, both the Apostle Paul and neuroscience have a lot to say about it. From his prison cell in Rome around A.D. 61, the Apostle Paul writes a letter to the church at Philippi, encouraging them on how to remain positive, hopeful, and full of joy.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4:6-7, NLT).

Don’t be anxious. Be grateful.

Paul was on to something. Not only was he the lyrical predecessor to Bobby McFerrin’s Grammy award-winning song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” in 1988, but turns out he was a neuroscience pioneer as well.

Lots of research and studies have been emerging recently on the connection between anxiety and gratitude. As it turns out, it is physiologically impossible for the brain to respond to anxiety and gratitude at the same time. They cannot coexist. Our minds cannot focus on both positive and negative information at the same time.

When we experience gratitude, our brain releases neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin—the “feel good” emotions. Anxiety on the other hand, triggers neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine to be released—aka the stress hormone.

And here’s the real kicker. Author Alex Korb of the ‘Grateful Brain,’ notes that our brain is conditioned to function in a repeated way. That means those of us who are constantly worrying are subconsciously re-wiring our brain to only process negative information. If we make a conscious decision to practice gratitude however, we can train our brains to focus on positive emotions and thoughts, which in turn reduces our anxiety and worries.

Let’s be clear, though. Choosing gratitude does not mean you’re ignoring the reality of your situation or circumstances. But it does put you in the driver’s seat. You can control how you respond. I love how author Tanya Peterson puts it: “You don’t have to ignore reality; instead, you choose what part of reality you take in…. Cultivate the perspective you want to have, even when you’re anxious. It’s a powerful way to disrupt anxious thoughts, worries, fears, and obsessions. The more you respond by finding things for which to be grateful, the more you’ll strengthen positive responses in your brain.”

Friends, we can do this. We can literally rewire our brain to be more positive. We can win the battle over anxiety by not giving it a place or space in our mind. We can find victory through our gratitude.

Trust me, I know. I’ve walked through some anxiety-ridden landmines in my life. Unbearable grief from losing a loved one. My husband’s cancer diagnosis. Loneliness and insecurity. But, I’ve also known the peace that comes from focusing on the good. From choosing faith over fear and gratitude over anxiety. And if this proactive panicker by nature can do it, well then, there’s hope—and joy—in store for us all.

**For more science behind anxiety and gratitude, check out these helpful articles:
The Neuroscience of Gratitude and How it Affects Anxiety & Grief by Madhuleena Chowdhury
Gratitude and Anxiety: To Be Less Anxious, Be More Grateful by Tanya Peterson