how many hugs?

September 27, 2009

Bob is brilliant, intimidatingly so.  Janet is magnetic; her essence spills a disarming peace.  They love God.  They adore each other.  They look at and fall into the other like no two people I’ve ever seen.

Janet is Bob’s 3rd wife.  He left 2 marriages and 5 children in the wake of a version of himself that I never knew.  Bob is Janet’s 2nd husband.  She is dutiful, responsible, and sharp – the hard-working type you’d expect out of an eldest child raised on a farm.  For Bob, where caustic wit once was, there is now overwhelming compassion.  For Janet, obligation has been replaced by a freedom to love and give herself away.

To me, they represent trophies of grace, and were I only able to stand at a distance and watch, I could glean wisdom for a lifetime.

For some reason, they allow me access.  I have no idea why, which is a little unsettling.  I’m a master at manipulating people into loving me – but it’s never worked with them.  In the oddest of ways, at the oddest of times, they will generously open their life to me – and 10 times out of 10, I did nothing to earn it or make it happen.  It feels weird to be loved just because

I think that is grace.  And grace is disconcerting, as it should be.

They live in Wyoming.  Today they were in Florida.

I hugged Janet.  She doesn’t hug actually, she embraces.  Her tiny arms and slight frame somehow take you in.  She holds on longer than she has to.  I think she prays over people when they are in her fold.

It’s been a hard season for me.  She knows it.  I know it.  While I’d normally rely on her for advice and comfort, this time she’s rightly allowed me to weather the storm alone, with God.  Like all good mothers; she knows that this is where a lot of growing up happens – and it has.  It’s undoubtedly been rough. But in her embrace, I feel the nurture, the safety, and the warmth of a heart cheering me on, ready to bandage the wounds – so I can head back into a decisive battle.

I hugged Bob.  He laughs.  He always laughs at me.  I’m not really sure why he always laughs at me, but I guess I’m funny.  He says what he always says, “Saaaaaarah” then stands quietly, hands on hips, staring at me.  He made his name and fortune in litigation – he knows the ropes.  He knows by doing this I will tell him exponentially more about what’s on my mind than were he to ask a straight question.  And I do.  And he laughs.

With Bob, when your almost not paying attention (usually in between the laughing) he will say the most incredible things that come straight from a father’s heart.  You know by his words that he has been listening, watching, taking note, and making sense of what the real issue is.  Like many before, his words today were the boundaries I needed.  I am as capable and intelligent as I have always been; and I will find a way through this.  I don’t think he knows how many lies have been silenced because of conversations like this with him.

I would have loved to sit over blueberry pancakes on their patio and listen and talk. I would have loved to tell the full stories of how God is growing me up and showing up in ways I never knew possible.  But on this day, the busyness of our schedules and commitments gave us only a few moments – so in half-sentences and hugs – we celebrated the God in whose story we live and trust.

As I was leaving, I said good-bye and stole another hug from Janet, then from Bob, then from Janet again, and another from Bob.  Clamped safely around Bob’s ribcage, he chuckled and said, “How many hugs are we going to have?”  “As many as I need” I quipped with a grin.

Then I let go.  I told them I love them.  I got in my car and drove away.

Their hugs give me what every great embrace, what every great relationship should – an arrow pointing the way to Christ.  After weeks of trying to pray, trying to talk to God and with God about what the hurt and fear and magnificence of this season was doing to my heart – I got in my car and prayed.  Suddenly, I knew what to ask and thank God for.

Somehow the way I am held and loved by them makes the heart of my heavenly Father so much clearer and my need for Him, and Him alone, so plain.

so how many hugs?

As many as I need  – to see, feel, know, and seek the only one that matters.


piecign it togehter

September 23, 2009

During an impossibly normal series of conversations, I happened on to the fact that I’m dyslexic. I’m 30, a college graduate (from a top 30 school), a successful executive, and I just found out I’m dyslexic. Far from life changing, this news is a bit of a relief.

Before starting grad school this fall, I put forward an honest confession to a set of borrowed parents about how stupid I really felt most of the time in school. I had deep, deep fears that I might not be able to cut it at such a prestigious new university (Duke!).

Dyslexia, at that point, had not even entered my mind as a possibility.

Stereotyped by most as a number or letter reversal disorder (which is part of it), dyslexia is really a sequencing problem – and since most of our letters and numbers are sequenced, reading and math present huge challenges. History is sequenced. Accounting is sequenced. Time is sequenced. So the confusion that stems from this beast is pervasive in a person’s life.

The most common set of symptoms or manifestations is called the 37 signs of dyslexia (Google away).

I strongly exhibit 26 of them.

I’ve had a couple days to digest this new bit of information, because really that is all it is. Dyslexia is considered by many to be a gift. Dyslexic kids, confused and unable to ascertain information, who have even the smallest measure of gumption, develop extraordinary compensatory measures to cope. These range from relational skills, high verbal ability, negotiation prowess, imagination, strategic thinking, story telling, and more.

I am no exception.

What really strikes me, as I piece together the nature of the disorder and my life experiences, is how staggering the effect of it is.

There are SO many events and circumstances I can easily point to, knowing my action(s) or reaction(s), can be traced back to the dyslexia. Those events and circumstances ultimately shaped some really good, powerful things in me.

And that means there are things that can massively shape our personality, our history, and our capacity – yet we may not even know they exist.

So what else do I not know? And do I even need to know it? This thing, having a name is such a relief, but it changes nothing in terms of my capacity.

Why does having a name make something such a relief?

Do we fight insecurity with fact?

Can we silence demons with a definition?

What is so freeing about knowing that I am inherently broken?

a driving kind of beautiful…

September 19, 2009

My dad and I were driving one day. Well, he was driving; I was 7. Maybe 8. Down Roosevelt Blvd we went, past Yerkes Park; I’d seen it 10,000 times.

Seemingly out of nowhere – breaking the discomfort of the silence – he said “you’re beautiful.”


I had never thought or worried about being beautiful. I don’t think I even realized people were judged on things like that.  Who knows why it stuck.

All I knew was that now, this thing called beautiful was important and whatever it was, it apparently made me remarkable.  This intangible quality was the grounds upon which I was worth engaging.

He had never said how easily I mastered any sport I tried.  He never spoke of how my abstract mind was a unique gift that gave me a special kind of intelligence and wit.  He never brought up that I was funny or made known how I could light up a room.  He never broke the silence by saying I had an uncanny ability to make people feel welcomed and included.

No, I’d learn all of those things later, in relationships with friends, boyfriends, pseudo-fathers, and pastors.  It would be all of those men who noticed, revealed, protected, and encouraged those things in me.

But on that day, the distance was bridged with ‘beautiful’ – and then the silence set in again.

Fast-forward 20 years.

That scene flashed across my mind today as my dad sat in the passenger seat of my quintessential white BMW.  A short strapless linen dress, designer of course,  hung delicately on my thin frame.  My perfectly straight short blonde hair outlined painted eyes, white, straight teeth and flawless skin.

We chatted awkwardly.  He doesn’t know me.  He never did.  He never wanted to.  He asks about work. He asks about school. I graciously answer.  Conversations are as they have always been – more a polite dialog than an endearing exchange.

But today, I was driving because he is now blind…

I wonder what he sees.


September 18, 2009

January 16th, 2006 I ran 6 miles.  It was my last tempo run before my first knee surgery on January 26th 2006.

The 1st surgery didn’t go so well and landed me in the Vail, CO clinic of world-renowned knee surgeon Dr. Richard Steadman a year later for my 2nd surgery.

For all of the physical pain, swelling, bruising, crutches, physical therapy, braces, machines, injections, trips to Vail, and more – nothing compared to the psychological toll that it took on me to no longer be able to run.

Running was my catharsis.  There was not a stress or problem that a 6-mile run could not solve.  I ran and ran and ran…

and then, i had to stop running

The past 3.75 years has been the most awesome experience in personal transformation – but for all the prayers that got answered – there was always the *slight* part of me that wanted to feel the freedom of running again.

Steadie (my nickname for Dr. Steadman) and I had a constant back and forth since the 1st day i saw him.  I’d say, “so can i run now?” and he’d smile his big Texas smile that lit up his bright blue eyes (he’s 73, don’t get the wrong idea) and laugh.

When i first saw him and could barely walk “So can i run now?”  laughs.

When i woke up in the recovery room from surgery, “So can i run now?” laughs.

you get the point.

In June, when I got almost entirely cleared for physical activity…well, you see where this is going.  But instead of laughs this time he said very seriously “your leg is misaligned, if you want to be here again in 10 years, maybe 5 years, then go ahead, run all you want”

I love a man who doesn’t say no.  But I heard what he was saying and hung up my Brooks on that part of my heart.

My friend Lauren called me this week to see if i wanted to go surfing with her.  I borrowed a board, having surfed a few times in the past, and met her out on Sunday.

I’ve gone three times this week.

The feeling is unexplainable – it’s freedom, it’s energy, it’s nature, it’s community, it’s as warm and inviting as the sun itself…and i’m hooked

love, lust, & econ

September 14, 2009

Econ has long been one of my favorite subjects.  I am still not entirely sure why I didn’t pursue a major in it, but the relational quality of people, money, markets, and policy is fascinating.

In the reading material for my Global Markets & Institutions class, I am reminded that perhaps the most fundamental tenant of economics is rationality.  Feel free to wiki Rational Choice Theory if you are terribly interested – but in all, know that modeling for economic forecasting is based on ‘rational’ human behavior.  That is, the idea that someone will act after having reasoned a given benefit outweighs a given cost.

In the current recession, it is said that the impredictability of the markets is because they are acting irrationally.

Well of course they are.  We are human.

Humans are made to love.

Love acts irrationally.  Anyone who has been in love can tell you that. The cost/benefit arrangement just cannot be predicted as love, by definition, can bring a person to death for the benefit of another. 

but what about lust?

equally as irrational, I contend this idea of lust is what has thrown off our markets and more importantly our ability to forecast where the train ends.

Lust is a thought or action derived from a lie that promises to deliver something it fundamentally cannot.  There is an element of satisfaction to it, however, the satisfaction is always only temporary.  What that means is that the moment we have acquired the “thing” on which we pinned our hopes, we need more of it – or more of something else to satisfy that space. 

So we go into debt.

We work jobs we hate to afford things we do not want to impress people we do not like.

We risk things we would ordinarily consider non-negotiable in hopes that the need will be met and that the next ‘thing’ will satisfy.

I don’t think we can solve the economic problem until we identify the lust problem.  And I don’t think we are going to even understand the lust problem until we start talking about love.  Because real love satisfies.  Real love heals us.  Real love moves us from the point of constant need to a type of overflow where we just can’t help but give it away. 

And love has a name: Jesus.

And love lives in me: Sarah.

I’m studying economics in a whole new way.


September 11, 2009

ever get an email that knocks the wind out of you?

i should have seen it coming.  i knew it was the case.

but to see it written. 

Oh and yes I did avoid your last email just so you know.  I’m not nor have I been in the mood to address everything you wrote about.

Know that I do care about you, I’m not looking for a relationship with anyone right now, I’m not in a relationship with anyone right now.  But I do care about you and you’re a great friend and that’s as far as it will go.

it hurts because I took the risk and it didn’t pay off.  I feel stupid. it hurts because it feeds a fear that i’m too complicated and that complication disqualifies me somehow from love.  it hurts because it makes me feel like i’m not worth it enough to surpass fear and distance and whatever.  it hurts because it says i’m not worth loving. 

i want to be angry but i cant.  he never promised me anything else.  his words never promised anything else. 

why did i let my body ignore those words?

why does the prospect of love make people so irrational?

i feel like i just got the wind knocked out of me. maybe that’s a good thing.  The greek work “pnuema” means “wind” and it’s the same word the writers of the New Testament use for the Holy Spirit.

to be honest, i don’t know where to go from here.  i don’t know how to recover from a guy who opts out of intimacy in a 5 line email, who didn’t think enough of me to call, fly out; who couldn’t man up enough to hear the hurt in my voice. I don’t know what that means about me. 

yeah, i feel like i just got the wind knocked out me.  like a kid on a soccer field, gasping for an ounce of oxygen. labored breathing. terror on their face, wondering what is happening to them and asking someone, anyone to do something to make it stop.  

So Holy Spirit – be the wind that now fills that space.  Inform the conversations in my heart and head in these next moments, minutes, hours, days.  Let Your love, Your grace, Your peace, Your embrace be woven in to the framework of my heart as it comes to its own conclusions as to what this means for me, about me, about him. You said in You all things are made new.  I need new.  I need to be marked with You, as You, somehow, in this, because of this. I pray for him too.  his heart.  his fears.  his future.  be with him too. 

Holy Spirit, come like a mighty rushing wind.

stop pretending

September 11, 2009

i don’t know why i’ve been trying to be something i’m not.  Since school started i’ve been trying to change into this uber-smart business executive.  And i’m not that. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I love business, i love strategy, i love hard work.  But more than that, i love people.  I bring something to the equation of a leadership team that isn’t reflected in financial accounting (or my vain attempts to master it).  

I make people feel included.  I make people feel like they have something to contribute.  I can draw the best out of people, every time.  I can define the values of an organization and the people who comprise that organization better than anyone else I know. 

So why am i trying – rather – why am i beating myself up and spending all of my energy trying to perfect something i don’t even want to do!?!

the MBA experience – especially at such an exceptional school is designed to and should change me.  Education, in itself, is a dialectic where students, teachers, and the material interact in a way that changes everything…

but i was looking for the wrong change

while i will perhaps become more learned in the tenants of business (accounting, statistical modeling, etc) the most powerful change that can happen is within the realm(s) of my strengths and unique contributions.

how can i better interact with people? how can i make more people feel welcome and included? how can i make people feel like they have a unique gift to give to the world and our community? how can i love and serve people in a way that frees them?

THAT is what i want to sharpen.  And yes, I want to learn a lot and work very hard along the way – but when i ask ‘for what’? the answer better always be so that i can be accomplished/credible enough to make it into circles of people who need my personality – my “it” factor – my love and beauty and grace.

Christ IN me is an expression of those things – and while it comes, certainly w/ intellect and ability – i know what i was made for. 

i know the thing(s) that when i do it/them, they don’t feel like work. 

i want this experience to make those great.

i’m dying

September 11, 2009

the yellow sticky note feature on my blackberry is my equivalent of scratch paper and a journal. 

if i’m stuck in traffic, waiting on someone, or doing anything w/ a few spare minutes, chances are i’m typing thoughts, impressions, quotes, etc away on my delightful technological companion. 

occasionally, i’ll even go back and read them.  today, i sort of wish i hadn’t – i was reminded:

i asked for this

it’s no secret that i’ve had a really difficult time since landing back in florida after my London residency and start of my Duke MBA.  I made the final break in a significant relationship – i returned to a stressful job that managed to multiple exponentially in my absence – the city i grew up in finally gave me peace that it’s time to leave – my dad was permanently moved into assisted living, a facility i only look at and think “he will die there, possibly alone” – and of course school.  They don’t let up just because we are not all together in a foreign country.

the onslaught of emotions & environment – all seemingly having massive financial implications has left me working harder than ever, exhausted, afraid, and somewhat numb. 

i’m living something less than life.

maybe you can say, i feel like i’m dying. bucking under the weight of the stress and pressure.

i’m good at “outs”.  I have been said to possess one of the most strategic minds in business & culture.  But this time, I’ve got nothing.  I don’t see a way out.

I’m dying.

And that’s exactly what i asked for.  At some point, in a few free moments, i scribbled on my blackberry how i wanted this season (Duke, my MBA) to transform me.  I told God, in that note, however hard it was, that i was OK with it.  I told Him to keep going no matter how much it hurt me.  I wanted, i NEEDED Him to act on my behalf – to create in me something that isn’t there now, to resurrect me.

I should have known…God doesn’t mind death.  He doesn’t shutter at pain.  He conquered it. 

so here I am.  dying.  and grateful to a God who hears, answers, and resurrects.

maybe i be, on the other side, a magnificent example of heaven storming earth via Christ in us. the hope of glory.

work it out princess

September 6, 2009

“it’s time to exercise your faith…we choose to believe He can do what He says He can do – and to believe He is who He says He is, not just in the bible and other people’s lives, but in our (your) everyday, every situation life.”

I said it all two days ago when i said “Let’s just call this the worst effing week ever.”  Posted via facebook status, I got a surprisingly high number of comments “me too” and “i’m sorry”. 

Maybe I brought it up for feedback, encouragement, morale support – who knows.  What I do know is the quote above was the first and lasting thing in my mind.

Everyone has bad days. Bad weeks. Hell, bad years.  But sometimes when I complain I wonder if anyone else realizes how hypocritical and or stupid i’m being? I profess to know a God who says all things hold together in Him.  I actively worship a God, in relationship, who admittantly takes me through a process of transformation.  He makes no qualms about putting me in danger, discomfort, and disarray for the purposes of ending/killing certain tendancies/instincts in me – so that I can have greater life, freedom, and experience love and genuine relationship.

And I complain. I wonder why things aren’t be orchestrated according to my every whim and desire.

In a very real sense He is acting according to my desire.  I asked Him to have His way – I choose to submit to this process.  I still get that choice every day.

He would never violate it because in doing it would violate me.  Choice makes us most human. And God is very pro-human.  It would be a lesser form of love – and God is very pro-love.

So as I’ve been thinking and praying about last week.  How horrible it is to “re-enter” a boring life, mediocre city, awful job, struggling relationships, and sub-par physical fitness after an incredible two weeks of new and exciting changes – I have considered only one thing. 

It’s time to work it out.  It’s time, as the wisdom of that spiritual mother in the quote above suggests, to step up – to work out my belief that God can actually do what He says He can do -and that He is doing it, and will continue to do it in my actual life. I’ve considered a theoretical God too long.  I know how I think He will act.

But now  I want to believe it. So i can see it. So i can experience it. So my life can be new, different,


Rob Bell penned perhaps one of the most brilliant commentaries on sexuality and spirituality. The book “Sex God” changed everything for me in terms of how I understand my attitudes, actions, and reactions to sex and guys.

his first chapter outlines the notion “this” is always about “that” – a powerful, convicting reality for all of us who have been puzzled by “why am i doing this?”

this week, for me, was no exception.

There has been a “this” – a thing that so excruciatingly defined my thoughts and my mood – a thing that had to be done b/c the way i was acting and reacting to someone i love was destroying him and me. it was making both of us less human.

for all intents and purposes, we put all of our cards on the table – i said i loved him. i do. he said he doesn’t want to hurt me. he doesn’t. i trust his kindness. but he also doesn’t want a relationship, he doesn’t want to make it work.

when i pull away, he tells me i’m gorgeous, funny, intelligent – and i come right back. when he pulls away, i give a little more of my body – and he is attentive again.

it’s a viscous cycle.

i ended it yesterday. honestly and in totality – i told him the pattern. we agreed. i prayed for the piece of my heart that got joined to him would come back.

they did.

this morning, i found myself checking flights to see him. did the magic prayer not work? were the soul ties not broken?

they had to be – b/c when he played his card to get me back it didn’t have the draw it once did.

so why? why was the only thing i wanted or could think to do fly to him and snuggle on the couch in his arms?

because “this” is always about “that”

i wish i could go into the “that”. I wish i could make sense of it right now, but all i can do is say that i know exactly what it is. i know it has to be dealt with or i’ll keeping trying to expunge it in the arms of men who don’t deserve to hold my heart.

this “that” though – seems insurmountable. and i’m scared.