January 15, 2018

I’m thinking a lot about trajectories these days.  It’s been a while since I’ve written b/c I’ve been on a certain trajectory.  By all accounts, it has been a good one.  Great job, husband, baby boy, and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever to boot.  But there’s been an aching in the past little while; the kind of longing that comes from someplace else.  While everyone was saying how glamorous and great and successful it has all been, something started to gnaw away at it not being my truth.  That, of course, excludes the husband and baby part – they feel very true and right.  But the city, the job, the company, the community.  It has started to feel separate from me.

So it took some time to muster the courage to ask myself the really hard questions.  “Is this still the thing I should be doing?” And I’m not as sure what the answer is as I am sure of what the question points to.  I have an incredible fear of leaving this trajectory.  It’s a good one, I can make assumptions about where it goes and what a life on it would look like.  If i shifted gears and moved on to a new trajectory, would it be ‘less’ than this one? I am afraid.


We had a swing set at the house where I grew up.  I guess it could be better described as a play complex b/c in addition to swings, it had a slide, some monkey bars, and swings.  That was high brow back then; nobody had the mini-amusement parks that kids get now-a-days.

But it was great and it was enough.

I loved those things and remember loving them.  I’d twist, turn, flip. I mean, I had to have had the abs of a body builder!  Days and weeks I spent on those things, having all the thrills I could stand…and never having to let go.

That’s the thing about monkey bars – they’re designed so that you can safely move to the next one without ever having to let go of the last.  And that’s great, I mean, every kid should learn the thrill of swinging and flipped within a structure safe enough to learn.

But at some point, if we’re ever going to live fully alive and free, we’ve got to start learning the trapeze.  They call them artists, which I always found amusing.  Shouldn’t they be called crazies? You willingly let go of a sure thing that will absolutely take you safely back to solid ground (or solid pedestal) in order to propel yourself through the air in hopes that someone else or something else will land in your hands at exactly the right moment.

is that not crazy?

is that not life? or at least, a life well-lived?

Maybe life can be lived on the monkey bars, but that’s not one I want to live.  I have seen some cool monkey bar performances, but I’ve never been captivated by one.  In the same way, I’ve seen risk-less lives that are well-lived and worthy of respect, but I’ve never stood up and cheered one.  So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it takes to succeed at the art of trapeze.

– you’ve got to learn to let go and focus on finding the next bar.  i.e. learn the art of recognizing seasons and grieving them

– you’ve got to learn wisdom. I can’t think of another place where quickly being able to understand how cause and effect are connected is more important.  In a nano-second, you have to analyze a million inputs – it takes time to study possibilities and capabilities.

– you’ve got to be disciplined.  Nobody who hasn’t trained on the ground can fly.  And trapeze artists certainly don’t swing all day.  They capture our hearts and attention at their best moments – but if we were to see their workouts, their practices, their bad days – would we be fascinated? But we all know that’s what makes them great.

– you’ve got to learn trust.  There’s either someone swinging you a bar or someone attached to the bar with hands extended looking to grab yours.  nobody can trapeze on their own, so you have to choose a partner well and trust them every single time.

– you’ve got to learn faith.  I sort of wonder what trapeze artists think mid-air.  Sure, there is a net, but I doubt they are thinking about the net, about whether or not it will be there if they fall.  I imagine they’d never be able to climb the ladder, let alone let go of the bar, and definitely not flip and fly if they hadn’t absolutely determined they are going to be safe no matter what.  The net gives them permission to simple play in the air – to see what their bodies can do in concert with another without fear. I think Jesus is that kind of net (but that’s an entirely different conversation).

If you get the basics down, is life not then as boundless as your imagination?  You can flip and twist and turn to your heart’s desire? You can try to go higher, just to see what it’s like? What acrobatics can you accomplish?  It’s fun. It’s play. It’s freedom.

I want to live a spectacular life.  I want people to be inspired by it; to witness it and feel the wonder of art intersecting reality before their eyes…I want to be great at the trapeze.  I want to fly

it’s been less than 24 hours since my beloved blackberry suffered some corrupt fatal file error and had to be sent off for a warranty exchange.  The folks at the phone store were great and gave me a loaner phone to use in the few days until the new one comes.  It’s not a blackberry.

as such, this represents the first time in probably 6 years that i haven’t had a blackberry within 10 feet of me.  i’m grateful i can still call and text those that are lucky enough to be in my SIM card (or perhaps that i’m lucky enough to have there) but no email, no internet, no note pad, none of the things i depend on it for.

email alone is a hurdle.  Three email addresses are routed to my phone, all of which represent completely different work streams.  Professional, personal, and school.  Negotiating between them almost requires a blackberry b/c more often than not it allows me to quickly mitigate issues or simply call the person who needs something.

so when i woke up this morning, with the little phone that’s just a phone in my bed (yes, i sleep w/ my phone. don’t judge me) I rolled over and instinctively grabbed it to check and deal with what the blackberry santa had brought while i slept, then of course, check twitter, check facebook, check some news I keep track of, oh, read that verse of the day…but nothing.  my simple little phone just had a text or two that were honestly not anything I even had to reply to.

for a second I thought “shouldn’t i feel disconnected?” before I realized I really didn’t.  I felt free.  And I’m not sure why, but I’m asking why b/c I like how this feels.

the 5%

May 14, 2010

I resigned on Tuesday.  My job was one of those soulless corporate gigs – investment banking to be exact.  I never once said growing up that I wanted to buy and sell banks for a living, but I fell into it after college – and the money was good – so onward I went.  Disingenous things have a funny way of wearing you down, as was the case with my work.  Little by little, I lost pieces of myself.  That is until Tuesday, when I finally mustered the courage to draw the line and walk away.

Life has shifted in an entirely new direction – away from what I’d planned it to be or thought it had to be – and it feels very good.

As most would, after the closest circle of family and friends were told, I posted the news on my Facebook.  I’m not sure I expected a response at all and if I did, I’m not sure what I expected people to say.  Within an hour, I was overwhelmed.  From people who I’ve loved & lost, to ones who simply sat next to me in class, to my closest advisors, to my random-see-at-parties friends; they spoke.  They offered words of encouragement, affirmation, support, enthusiasm.  They shared their stories of similar decisions, subseqent challenges, and enduring freedom.  They filled my heart and shaped my soul.

45 people commented, which I thought was staggering.  It is.  That’s forty-five people standing with me.  It wasn’t just the posts, it was the emails, tweets, texts, calls, BBMs…it seemed any way people could communicate they did.

When I considered the 45 comments on my facebook status, it occurred to me that meant 95% of my friend said nothing.  I know there are lots of people on facebook who don’t check or don’t comments – but that’s not what struck me.  The 5% taught me something

Asking connects us.  Asking for friends.  Asking for support.  Asking for advice.  Asking for a help.  I didn’t think I was asking for anything that day – but maybe I was.  And those people knew.  They knew the question beneath the statement was “will you still love me?” “Will you still love me if I am not smart, rich, powerful, funny, or talented?”  “If I change who you know me to be will you still love me?”  “If my decision leads to a big mess, will you stand by me?”  Maybe I needed the people in my life to step up and be there for me in a way I couldn’t be for myself.  I am not sure what I was asking that day, but I’m grateful for those that saw the more than “resigned…” and responded.

Asking connect us.

Perhaps you’ve asked before.  Perhaps you’ve found yourself at a place in life where you need to hear and feel love from the people in your world.  And maybe they said no.  Maybe they said your depression is just a phase and your loneliness will pass.  Maybe they offered empty words that were more polite than penetrating.

Keep asking.  My full heart and facebook experience taught me to keep asking.  Ask 20 people – 1 will hear you.  One will help you.  One will celebrate with you.  One will grab your hand and not let go until you realize your life has value and that you are here on purpose and for one.  You matter and maybe only 5% of the people can enter the moment where you doubt that the most – but 5% will.  So keep asking, keep talking, keep looking – you will find life, love, and freedom.

Before I left for China I spent an evening hanging out with one of my oldest friends and her ex-boyfriend.  It was the first time I had interacted with them since they had broken up and frankly, I was shocked.

Nothing had changed.

In fact, I’d say he was more attentive, caring, considerate, and in-tune to her than he was when they were dating.

Fast forward a few weeks.  We chatted the other day and I asked what the deal was.  She replied, “it’s the same as it was.  He’s my BFF with commitment issues and still treats me like a princess.  I don’t get it.”

I think I do.

You see, when we discussed their relationship before I went to China, she made the comment “I stopped sleeping with him, and I won’t.  He can’t have his cake and eat it too.”

Well, what if the sex isn’t the cake?

Women have long-held this notion to hold out sex because a man will, upon withholding, respond like a well-trained circus animal and furnish a ring.  “Why buy the cow…” our mothers’ fable warns us – so we hold back the proverbial milk.

But that’s a version of men that I won’t reduce myself to loving.

Sure men enjoy sex; but they also enjoy companionship & friendship with a woman, emotional intimacy where forever is covenantal, a home where they feel safe to shed their armor from the day’s battle and be loved by a lady who astutely chose him as ‘the one’.  They enjoy encouragement from us mysterious female types; something about them feeds off our respect.  Their strengths couple and compliment with ours – and it feels right and good.  And if they can get all of that without a tux and an open bar – why would they risk the vulnerability of asking for a commitment and seeing one through?

We’ve reduced the cake to sex.  We tell ourselves that’s all a man wants.  Don’t get me wrong, men like sex and it’s important – but to say that attraction & intimacy have nothing to do with what goes on outside the bedroom is a lie we’ve been told.

So by withholding sex and wondering why the circus isn’t performing says a lot about what we think of men; but, it also says a lot more about who we believe we are and what we believe we are worth.

It made me sad for my friend and sad for all the times I’ve done the same thing.  I practically invented using sex as a way to manipulate guys; but I don’t now.  Do I have a boyfriend, no.  But, do I waste my time an energy on someone unworthy of it, that’s happily a “no” as well.  I’ve come to realize that my passion, ambition, intellect, humor, loyalty, friendship, encouragement, & love are what make me worth engaging.  That’s the stuff that should be withheld from the men who won’t give me the respect of a commitment.

I am the cake.

As far as the East…

April 24, 2010

“I thought if I could touch this place or feel it, the brokenness inside me might start healing. Out here it’s like I’m someone else.  I thought that maybe I could find myself…”

Shanghai was always the city on this 4 continent world-tour MBA that I’ve been looking forward to the most.  And now I’m packing up to leave.  It feels a little strange.

China holds an almost nuanced connection to my past.  Twice that I can remember, but maybe three times when I was little my grandfather travelled here.  I’m sure he went to Beijing too and maybe Hong Kong – but details aren’t too concerning when you’re a kid.  I just knew he went to China and came back with gifts.  I knew he went alone and I knew it was far away.

My grandfather was larger than life.  6 foot something – broad shoulders – and a hug that swalled you whole.  I was 3 months shy of my 13th birthday when he died; which is probably why I remember him being so big.  I was little.  Life was uncomplicated.  My world was small & controlled.  Predictable.

He was an explorer, a thinker, a hard worker.  He made money – lots of it.  He was Omaha stock – midwestern to the core.  After jumping in a shallow lake and breaking his leg, the insurance money paid for a year of college.  Becuase of that, he got a white collar job in insurance and later when on to run the company – Prudential to be exact. He never went back to school but made sure we would.  Of his six grandchildren, two hold PhDs, two have Bachelor’s and when I finish my MBA, it’ll even out the count with two holding master’s as well.

I’m the youngest of the cousins…and when I was born I think it changed him a little.  My mother always told him I was full of personality – life.  She told me he’d ask how that could be known when I was so little – but before I was even a  year old he said he saw it.  This kid is special.  This kid has “it” whatever “it” is…

true or  not, he was only man I ever remember making me feel special.  I’d follow him around the garden. We picked dollar weeds.  Life, he told me, was like dollar weeds.  You can’t just address a problem at the surface, but you have to follow it to the root – and pluck it out from there…and watch, he’d say – pulling out a line of those things that seemed to go on forever – there are always other things connected to the root.  But just keep digging and your garden will be healthy.

We talked a lot actually.  As the reality of his cancer and death began to take its toll on my mom life and parents marriage, I started to industriously take on the stress of myself.  Where would I go to school, what would I do, who would I marry?  I was young and burdened by a future decades away.  He saw it.  He saw my little personality and psyche being shaped.  He pulled me into his office once.  Cherrywood walls, a huge desk, and more books than a library – I loved that office – and he sat on his couch with me and said “I’m so sorry.”  Sorry for what? I wondered.  This guy had given me a great life.  A name.  Status.  Roots.  Identity.  He told me I was here on purpose and for one.  He lit up when I walked into a room.  He made everything feel safe.  His presence alone silenced almost all my fears.  But he was sorry.

“Options” he said…”I’ve given you too many options.  When I was young I had one option – did I want to eat or not to eat? So I got a job and I worked hard.  And I ate. Then I married your grandmother and had your mom and aunts.  And they had to eat.  So I knew my options.” He’d made peace with his choices but the evidence of the struggle was still there – who had he become?  who had he wanted to be?  what trade-offs did he make to get there?

China always represented that.  It represented him.  Life.  There’s a person you could be but a person you also must be.  You’ve been given much so live up to it.  And you have dreams and desires but they wait until you’ve done all the “right” things that by virtue of this last name you’ve been given you must do.

No wonder I’ve been slow to take on a new last name…or allow one choice to define so many others.  Rob Bell said “one yes means a thousand nos” so I’m careful with my yes.  Ironically, the weight of the tension between dreams and responsiblities has all but crushed me in the past few months leading up to this trip.

So here I am, in China with my MBA program at one of the world’s most prestigious schools – no doubt because of the sum of my choices and the options he gave me.  How could I not look for him here – feel him here – wonder what he’d say or think.  Am I still special?  Did I make you proud? Would you still love me if you knew me now?  Would the safe small world that fell into chaos and shattered overnight when you died have taken its toll on me the way it did if you had just lived longer? Did you tell me everything I needed to know?  Am I going to be OK?

I walked through this city the other day, looked and listening and wrestling with those questions.  he is here somehow; and I needed him.

I came here looking for something, answers, insight, I don’t now what exactly – and now I’m packing up to leave.  I’m not sure I can explain them now, but I have things I didn’t have when I came – I have answers I couldn’t have gotten without being here, feeling this place.  A broken part of my soul healed a little.  I shorted the distance between who I am and who I have in my heart to long to become…

So I’m grateful for China and grandfather.

accidental hiatus

April 5, 2010

the first month just happened.  It was mid-december and my heart got broken.

I mean, I saw it coming.  I practically set it up under a hammer…

A year before the writing was on the wall.  Actually, I wrote it.  I said it couldn’t work. I told him. We knew.

But I couldn’t bear the thought of being alone. I was so afraid of the silence in my  own head that I kept the noise very loud…I went from him to another and when the other didn’t work out, I came right back.  There were, for sure, a few mixed in for sport and pleasure and boredom, but that’s like an in-bound pass in basketball – all just part of the game.

The pattern has repeated itself like that a thousand times since that fateful first day when a boy’s lips first touched mine.  I was 12.  He bought me a ice cream after – and invited me back to his house.  When i said no he ignored me.

I figure out pretty quick how this worked.  If I wanted attention and an accessory; I knew how to get it.

rotate in some old ones, add in a few new.

guy after guy after guy after guy.

whatever it takes to not be solo

committed? who cares.

kind? doesn’t matter.

considerate? whatever.

I have what you want and you have what I need.  This, as Rob Bell says, is really about that.

So on that fateful December night, as I sat on a concrete slab of a brand new house being built, my heart was broken.  But not because of the guy, I’d gotten over him a year before.  My way wasn’t working out. And that is an earth-shattering rock bottom when you find it.

Isaiah 30 presents, at these moments, a proverbial fork.  It explains it clearly and for the first time, I was willing to do it.

The first month was easy.  I don’t know why.  I think I was just so tired that it was nice. It felt a bit like sitting on the bench for a breather.

The second month was a bit of a surprise. By this point it was mid-january and I like to fast from something at the beginning of the year.  This year it felt like I needed to just stop making it happen.  Pursuing boys, finding them, rotating them in and out of my life for only as long as it feels good and is fun.

stop using them.

It felt like it needed to be intentional.  Just back off.  Take a sabbatical.  And do it on purpose.

Which took me past Valentine’s day…two months, not even a kiss.

In my 18 year very storied kissing career, I can’t remember ever having gone longer than 3 1/2 weeks without at least kissing a guy.

And that hiatus was because I had mono.

So two months has become almost 4.  Even I am amazed.  Driving in the car on a date with an old friend on Saturday, he was asking pretty pointed questions.  This is definitely not the Sarah he’s known…and I don’t blame him for being so dumbfounded and inquisitive.  I was one of the legends.

How are you ok with this? Are you still functioning?

Because I let the stuff catch up to me.

I let it sink in.

I let it hurt.

and it hurrrrrrrrrrt…

but after that almost incalculable quake settled; I started relating to guys differently.

I started seeing them in a different way.  They were no longer little sources of booty I could exploit to serve a need – they were friends, sons, protectors, warriors, comedians, academics.  They brought good things out in me and sometimes bad.  They were interesting to observe purely, without plotting how I could manipulate.  I watch how well they love and how kind they are to their mothers and sisters and friends.  It is a view I’ve never known in a world I’ve never seen.

The desire to be married and a great wife didn’t and hasn’t gone away – it just looks a lot different.  I don’t wonder how I can make it happen.  Because it will.  Men are smart – they know.  Mine will know when it’s time and when it’s time he’ll know what to say and do what he needs to do.

I don’t think it satisfied my friend’s questions.  He continued.

How long are you on this accidental hiatus?  I don’t know.  Six months sounds good I think – which puts me in June.

Really? He said curiously with a hint of shock.  And finally uttered the question I think everyone has been wondering…


Because, I said, I really like who I am becoming.


April 4, 2010

Easter has always been my favorite day of the year.

What’s not to love?  The combination of cute new dresses, candy, flowers, a great meal, and the coming of summer is perfect for any little girl! Especially me.  I was smitten from the beginning…

And while I’ve continued to celebrate it through college and my twenties sometimes only out of ritual, the day itself has always had a special pull with my heart.

They call me a “futurist” – which is to say I spend a lot of time thinking forward.  So of course, Easter, with heaps of hope is my kind of day.

Hope.  It’s always where I’ve left off on Easter. Thinking, believing that because God came, died, and rose to new life was a great source of hope.

But there’s a difference between believing and becoming.  John’s gospel says it perfectly…”to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…”

I have believed for along time…that people can die and be raised to new life.  That people who submit to God’s wisdom and ways, who live in relationship with Him and allow that love to take root are changed.  Not just exhibit new behavioral patterns, I mean, they are changed.  They are alive in a new way.

They get resurrected.

I have always believed that, but between last easter and this one, I started exercising my right to become. I stopped hoping in the resurrection and started living the reality of it.

All my life I think God was trying to be clear about His intention to build my life, to become a person on the other side of the resurrection; but I had my own agenda. I spent too long being angry because I felt entitled.  I thought God was withholding his best from me because things just weren’t working out the way I wanted.

Turns out that His best is the cross, it’s dying to somethings that are killing me; then being raised.

Dying and being raised to new life.  God does it every day.

And He’s done it with me.

Happy Easter.

Last night something occurred to me about Holy Thursday.  Essentially, it marks the “last supper” and while I wasn’t there and am not Jewish, I’ve always had a bit of a difficult time relating to it.

Luke’s account has this line, “And [Jesus] took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.'”

That’s usually where I get stuck in mass or church.  It just seems like an odd moment – and while I believe in its truth and the power of the communion ritual, I guess I’ve never really connected to it on all that personal of a level.  But last night it finally occurred to me:

before it was a sacrament, it was just supper.

it was a passover meal, so yeah, it was a special day – but it was basically the equivalent of our 4th of July barbeque.  One part ritual (hmmm, burgers) and another part celebration.  It was just friends coming together like friends do.

So when Jesus says do this in remembrance of me, maybe he’s talking about the people as much as he’s talking about the bread.

Friends in a room has an electric feel to it.  There’s life, laughter, connections being made or deepened.  Even if there’s gossip and petty stuff – it’s still us, relating to each other.  In any room, at an meal, there are people having a very human experience.  And of course, that’s exactly where the God of scriptures would want to be.

So as followers of Jesus who are propelled into that room two-thousand years later on days like Holy Thursday, maybe Jesus is saying here I am, take me!  Go and take a million experiences with His Spirit – with the divine; the instances where things are so so true and good you can’t help but know it was totally from God – and break them – try to understand their truth and power.  And eat.  Feed off of the way they make you a better version of yourself, more alive, more free.

And remember.

As often as you get together, eat together, hang out together, be together – remember me.  Remember how the way I loved you changed you and then you’ll be in a place where you can give it all away.  You can set the stage for Easter, for someone else to find that same kind of life.  And that stuff happens at a party – because before it was “holy” it was just a Thursday.  It was just a party.

little by little

April 1, 2010

A few months ago I found myself on the banks of the Jordan River.

I’d gone too long believing the best lie the devil tells – that God is withholding His best from me.  I lived under the assumption that my needs & desires didn’t matter enough for God to meet them and even if they did, I didn’t have the thing it took to become the person God was telling me I could become.

After all, I looked at my life and I knew the disconnect.  I saw the space between the reality of my life and one God put in my heart to long to live.

there are two sides to the Jordan and one the one is desert – on the other the promised land.  And I was on the wrong side.

It was time to cross.

The Jordan isn’t a big river.  It isn’t the Red Sea.  You can cross it yourself and I think that is the point – at least that was the point for me – God wasn’t going to part the sea, I had to make the choice.  I  had to get my feet wet in a declaration that it was finally time to move from the desert to the promised land.

Life wasn’t working out; the old saying “keep doing what you’ve always done and you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten” had proved true.  And I wanted something new.  I wanted to change the stakes of the game.

And I knew that meant obedience.

So I started actually doing what I knew was true.  I took a hiatus from dating.  I signed up for FPU.  I started doing an hour of cardio every day.  I threw out junk food and junk TV and junk friendship.  As Don Miller would say, I started writing a better story – one where I make it across, I end up in the promised land – in a place where there’s peace that passes understanding and where I live free and alive on the other side of a resurrection.  I started believing that maybe God would keep His word if I just humbled myself and stopped trying to make it all happen my way in my time.

and one thing hit me like a ton of bricks….

In describing that crossing, both Exodus 23:30 and Deuteronomy 7:22 describe how God will defeat the enemies little by little.

Little by little.

the space between the reality of my life and the one God put in my heart to long to live is bridged – little by little.

So I go to the gym one second after another 3,600 times in a row every day.  I save pennies.  I have one more salad than I do soda.  I go another day – sometimes another hour without exchanging skin for attention from some boy.

Little by little.

hours have become pounds and muscles.  Pennies have become dollars.  Meals have become energy. Days have becomes months.

Little by little.

I’m not sure I do have what it takes to fight the big battles.  But I know I can fight the little ones.  The one right now, in this moment.  Not all the time but most of the time.

And I’m learning. I’m changing.  I’m being changed.  I’m moving into a promised land.  I’m falling more in love with God and His grace and sovereignty.  I’m becoming a version of myself I long to become.

little by little.