Becoming Free From the Approval of Others

Don’t you love those seasons in your life when you have ample opportunity to realize a number of areas your character needs MAJOR help?

Everyone told me planning a wedding is stressful, everyone tells me marriage is hard, but there’s something else I’m experiencing and it’s really giving me a run for my money.

Over the last several months, I feel as though every insecurity I have ever battled has leapt to the surface and been magnified times about a thousand. I’m writing about it in the hopes you’ll be able to relate or even better, be encouraged.

One of the most defining lines I have ever read was in Donald Miller’s Scary Close.

“I used to think I was an honest, authentic person so I would rehearse honest and authentic lines before coming out from behind the curtain.”

I’ve always considered myself to be a genuine person, but at this time of parties and transition and a new home and a new family and conflicts to be worked out with my own family, I have seen a side of myself that thrives on performance and the approval of man, at the expense of my own peace.

Just the other day, I wept as I considered that some people in my life may not like some of the choices Lucas and I are planning to make as a married couple. I was torn apart thinking I may have disappointed them, and wondered if our relationship could survive their disapproval.

And then there’s all the people who are helping us with the wedding. Rather than feel absolutely elated for the support, my first instinct has been guilt. Guilt for people exerting effort, hoping desperately I’m worth the trouble.

These are really pathetic things, but they have been at the forefront as of late.

Another example: our home. I don’t live in yet, but I’m so excited to. It’s been challenging to be hospitable while not living there, and even more challenging to remember that people will have grace for our state of transition. Our home is not a performance, and people aren’t bringing score cards, although my psycho mind is convinced they are.

This weekend, in the midst of joy and merriment and festivities I had not one but two meltdowns of sorts because of what other people think.

Now tell me, is this any way to live.

No, it isn’t.

So, if you are reading this and you know you are in bondage to the opinions of others and feel as though you have to perform for people to love you, realize you are deceived.

I have been trying to figure out a way to change my mindset so I don’t keep coming back to this place, and last night God brought me the scripture in Romans 12, and I hope it encourages you. We can’t change our mindset until we we renew our mind.

The battlefield is in our mind, and until we are completely transformed by the power of Jesus, we will continue to be in a performative cycle. We can pretend for a few weeks that we have made victories and that we really don’t care what other people think and that we are OK in our own skin, but eventually something will cut a little too deep and we will go back to our old patterns.

So beginning today I’m going to be asking the Lord as many times as I need during the day for him to renew my mind. I need his thoughts in my soul, not my own thoughts. I need his way of doing things, rather than my own.

I’m 33 days out from marriage and I know I will have plenty of opportunities in the coming months and years to practice this, but today begins a new chapter. I choose to not be enslaved to the opinions of others and I realize I am deeply loved regardless of how I perform.

“Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes. God has given me grace to speak a warning about pride. I would ask each of you to be emptied of self-promotion and not create a false image of your importance. Instead, honestly assess your worth by using your God-given faith as the standard of measurement, and then you will see your true value with an appropriate self-esteem. In the human body there are many parts and organs, each with a unique function. And so it is in the body of Christ. For though we are many, we’ve all been mingled into one body in Christ. This means that we are all vitally joined to one another, with each contributing to the others.”

Romans 12:2-5

Where Do Women Belong in the Church?..and other questions to ponder

Where Do Women Belong in the Church?..and other questions to ponder

All over social media, all I see is Beth Moore and John MacArthur.

John MacArthur is a jerk, Beth Moore is out of the will of the Lord.

Women should go home.

Women should preach.

As a woman, I have long wondered where indeed I belong.

I have learned much from women speakers, but feel there is something off about a woman pastoring a church by herself. I have read and reread the scriptures, hoping for some lightbulb moment where I say, “oh THAT’S what Paul meant.”

I have not had this moment.

There is nothing new under the sun. This issue has been tossed around for centuries, ever since the days when Jesus came and turned all our paradigms upside down. We have embraced women and excluded them. We have given them voices and we have silenced them.

But no one solution has been found.

I want to share the one revelation I have on this issue, and that is that perhaps this whole argument is a straw man. Our entire theology of women in ministry is based around a Sunday morning church with a pastor in a congregation with a stage and a pulpit.

We have no concept of women in ministry outside of a typical western church service.

So I ask you this: what did Paul call ministry, and what came to his mind when he exhorted the “church.”

I have a hunch we can’t find a solid answer to the question we are asking because we don’t have a right view of church.

The early church met in homes, where it is clear that the head of the household is the husband. The concept of a pastor standing on a stage preaching to a congregation is not in the Bible. It’s something we invented all on our own.

So when you say women shouldn’t be pastors, are you saying women don’t have a pastoral gift? Because those are two totally different things. I know plenty of women who are walking closely with Jesus who have an immense pastoral gifting but they aren’t preaching any sermons.

I know plenty of women who are teachers, but they aren’t teaching Sunday school anywhere.

Try for a moment to unlearn your church theology. Imagine that a church meeting is in a home, where the father of the house presides. His wife is closely beside him, his co heir, and they lead in their own God given capacities.

There is no struggle over who’s going to preach, who’s going to give announcements, and if there are any men within earshot. It’s a family, operating as a family, and a husband operating as a husband, and a wife as a wife.

Imagine that elders aren’t guys in suits, but rather fathers and husbands who are compelled to lead and guide their friends and family in their walks of faith.

Imagine women weren’t so concerned with having or not having a title because they were busy loving and leading the people in front of them.

Maybe as we unravel our preconceived notions of what church is, we will instead seek to find what family is, and how Christ is best reflected in our relationships.

Food for thought.

Recommended reading.

finding church by Wayne Jacobson

Pagan Christianity: Frank Viola and George Barna

Learning to let people go, and other confessions of an enneagram 2

Learning to let people go, and other confessions of an enneagram 2

Do remember Darla from Finding Nemo? Darla, who held the bag with the fish so excitedly she ruined the good thing she had going? 

Yeah, that’s how I feel I am with relationships. I make a friend, and then I never ever ever want to lose them. I will hold them with a death grip and try without fail to get them back into my life until there are no signs of life left, if it appears the friendship is waning. 

I do the same thing when I’m hosting an event. Is everyone having a good time? How’s the mood? Does it need a joke? More snacks? IS EVERYONE HAVING A GOOD TIME??? They probably were until I forced the issue. 

I text a friend. They seem distant. I send 18 more texts, asking if they’re okay. Have I done something? Why the distance? Let’s be best friends forever right now!

And with my man. The slightest look of consternation crosses his face and I fall into a puddle. Please don’t leave me. Are you mad ? How can I make this better? And he wasn’t even upset. 

Gosh, even writing this is embarrassing. I think it’s safe to say I’m an enneagram 2, but even deeper than that, I have some real relational insecurities that have become abundantly apparent since I began to prepare for marriage. 

I saw a flash of my future the other day and it terrified me. Me, as a mother, forcing my kids into some moment they don’t want to be part of. You WILL ENJOY THIS, I scream, terrified my own children don’t even want to be with me. 

For someone who says she’s good with relationships, I sure don’t sound like it. This season is teaching me to Let. It. Go. 

People move away and move on with their lives, it doesn’t mean they left ME and they are abandoning the relationship. 

Some people aren’t texters. That’s okay. 

Sometimes I’ll annoy people. It doesn’t mean they want to discontinue their connection with me. 

Sometimes I’ll host people in my own home and they may not have a good time and it doesn’t mean it’s my fault. 

I’m writing this all down in the hopes that there’s someone else out there whose brain operates the same way, or maybe I’m just crazy, in which case, move along. 

Here’s the thing. The harder I hold onto something or someone, the less I can actually enjoy it. The more I’m afraid people will leave me, the more ill expect them to, and the more they will. 

It’s extremely frustrating, because I feel as though a lot of my actions have an opposite response to my desire. I bend over backward to make something convenient for a friend, or try not to be a burden. Then I worry so much that I’m being a burden that I begin to actually burden them with my constant need for reassurance. Is everything ok? Am I bothering you??? 

So what’s the lesson? The mandate, the call, the encouragement? 

It’s for me, and maybe for you , to take a big step back. To find my worth in the only one who will never leave me or forsake me or move away from me or stop being friends with me. He will always encourage, always support, always be there when I need him. As much as I love Lucas, my family, and my friends, they make terrible saviors. 

The only one whose arms are strong enough to hold me without ever getting tired are the arms of Jesus Christ. He’s not my buddy or my political mascot or someone who I use to get my point across. 

I think we are forgetting the reason Jesus came. 

He came to save us. To rescue us from ourselves and the devastation of our actions. We don’t need another Jesus movement, another church service or an article on self care or even a soulmate or a best friend. The only one who can fill that hole is Jesus, and I can guarantee you can search your whole life and you’ll never find it anywhere but in him. 

And I should know this. I’ve been walking with the Lord for many years now. But sometimes I forget. And sometimes you may forget too. So I wrote this all down for you. Be encouraged. You are loved. You are bought with a great price. So be at peace and rest, and free yourself from the approval of men. They will always let you down. Jesus, though, he’s got you and he’s got me. 

Farmhouse Stories: what I learned last weekend

Farmhouse Stories: what I learned last weekend

When I find I keep running into a particular circumstance and my attitude is a major point of difficulty, I realize that God must be trying to teach me something.

Lucas and I are in the process of fixing up our farmhouse for when we get married in December. Last weekend we embarked on our painting adventure, and took our bedroom from yellow to green!

Now, I have never painted anything before.

I didn’t even like finger painting as a child. So this was a completely new project for me, but I thought hey, how hard can it be. Go to the store, buy some paint, slap it on the walls, call it a day.

I was wrong.

Apparently there are a multitude of steps involved in a decent painting job, and about 90% of it is preparation. I would rather see a finished product quickly and I’m sad to say, I would prefer to take a shortcut to get there.

I fussed all weekend as Lucas told me how we would have to take these necessary steps to ensure the final job would look good.

After many hours of mostly him doing the work and me somewhat helping (taking lots of breaks) we finally finished and it looks amazing!

As happy as I was with the result, I was less enthused by my attitude. I was brought face-to-face with my selfish and shortsighted attitude. I want results and I want them now. I don’t want to have to go through tedious middle parts and spend time doing things that aren’t any fun. (I have a lot of enneagram 7 in me).

Maybe you can relate. Maybe you’re having to go through something you wish would just suddenly be over. Maybe your job involves a lot of busy work that doesn’t seem to have any end goal. Or maybe you’re just going through a season where you’re not getting what you want when you want it. I’m no poster child for the right attitude to have, but I know the kind of attitude that God would like me to have. I think he would prefer that I be patient in the process, that I be OK with doing things that aren’t fun, and that I trust people who have more experience than I do when it comes to making the right call. I think he would like me to expand my vision so I can see a future beyond today’s gratification, and I think he would like me to trust him more and trust the people he’s placed in my life more, so that even when I can’t see how it’s all going to work out, I know that he’s working every detail out.

It’s amazing the things you learn when you’re remodeling a house.

My New Career

My New Career

In December of this year, I will begin a new career. This career will have lifetime benefits, great pay, and long hours. This career will be being a wife. I feel like a lot has changed over the past fifty years. Most of our mothers and most all my friends grew up with moms who were devoted to the home and family. Cookbooks detailed ways you could please your man with a home cooked meal and books talked of keeping a clean and peaceful home. Somewhere along the way, with the sexual revolution, we decided this was not enough.

I have studied extensively the works of Betty Friedan and the movement to convince women there was a great big world outside the confines of the home. Soon, women were abandoning with fervor their responsibilities to their families and homes. Now, it is much more common to work, rather than to stay home and keep home.

I hear many reasons for this, and many of them are valid, but I find it humorous that in an age of female empowerment, we exalt a woman for pursuing a career, but turn our noses at homemakers, assuming they must not have aspirations or else they would flee far from their homes.

I propose that you can live freely as a homemaker while also pursuing your own dreams and passions. As I prepare to move into a home lovingly cared for my fiancé’s grandmother for fifty plus years, I am in awe. She was a homemaker for nearly their entire marriage. She devoted herself to hosting, cooking, cleaning, encouraging, ministering, sewing, gardening, and a host of other details. It seems she was anything but lazy or bored.

Lucas and I have talked extensively, and we are going to make the sacrifices necessary by living more simply, so I will have the distinct honor and high privilege of creating a home for us, managing our schedule, cooking healthy meals, caring for and homeschooling our children, and serving him. He in turn will work hard for us. It’s a partnership.

I will also be focusing on my writing and teaching Spanish and translating, which are my absolute passions.

Something in me is stirring though. I feel a strong calling to live counter culturally, to prioritize differently, and to invest my greatest energies in something eternal. I’m an incredibly active person and I’m looking forward to having time to minister to younger women and host people in our home and prepare really good food. 🙂

If you are young and looking to be married, I encourage you not to feel sheepish if “all you want to be is a wife and mom.” As you seek the Lord, you will find that you can pursue your dreams and have the bandwidth to love your people. I feel it is very important to remember that before we are anything, we are daughters of God, and no identity we adopt will fulfill us like that role.

So this is where I am and where we are headed. I’ll keep you posted. Seek the Lord about what he wants for your family, rather than assuming. He may have a different plan.

My disclaimer is to say I love, honor and respect women who do all sorts things, working in a variety of positions. We are all called to different paths, and this is the path I feel I am called to. As a side note, I believe as followers of Jesus, we are all called to live counter culturally, in ways that may not necessarily be comfortable. I recognize single moms, moms who have bread winning careers, families who need extra income, etc.

If you feel condemned reading this, that didn’t come from me. Let’s celebrate where God has placed each one of us in his perfect timing.

Don’t Worry About Tomorrow

Don’t Worry About Tomorrow

I thought a five month engagement was practically a century, but as they all said, time flies. Wedding bands, hotel rooms, flowers, desserts, and tablecloths consume my mind these days. I am so not a details person, but planning a sizable event sort of requires that, so here we are. My goal in this process has been to focus more on the marriage than the wedding. After all, I’m not marrying my wedding day, I’m marrying Lucas.

The temptation is strong though, to put on this grand production, to please everyone, to do it on a budget, and to have a great time. I don’t believe it’s possible for all of those things to coexist. In the midst of all of that, I’m moving twice in the next three months, training a new employee to take over my position at work, trying to launch a new season of my writing career, and attempting to go on a few dates in between.

While I become so easily mired in minutia (where will we set up food at the reception??? and, will it actually happen or will it all fall apart? how will bridesmaids dresses coordinate?? ) Lucas is calm, steady, moored. He is ever peaceful, ever patient and exceedingly kind as I recount hypothetical disasters daily. He amazes me and confounds me.

I’m also realizing how frightfully unprepared I am for marriage. I don’t know how to be a good wife, how to trust, how to meld my life with someone else’s. I’m concerned about failing before I’ve even begun.

The other night I woke up in a panic at 2 am worrying about buffet tables at the reception, which devolved into an hour and a half of wondering about my bachelorette party, our honeymoon, our home, and a million other things. As I literally prayed the Lord my soul to keep, I felt the Lord speak very clearly to my groggy panic.

It was as though He was saying, “Of course you don’t have the grace to be a wife yet, Sarah. You aren’t married yet. I give you what you need for each day, and you’re not there yet. Go back to sleep.”

It makes sense, you know. I think Jesus meant it when he said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow. Each day brings enough trouble of its own.”

God gives us what we need for today’s challenges and joy’s, not tomorrow’s, not for when I get married, not for when I have kids or you have kids, or when you finish the house you’re building, or when your job changes, but today. He doesn’t give you a future supply, because Lord knows we wouldn’t manage it well.

He gives you and he gives me, grace for today.

I’m going to make a point to wake up and thank God for today. He is our portion, our daily bread, and more than enough to sustain us.

That’s all I’ve got for today, friends.

Making a New Home and Preparing to be a Wife: The Journey thus Far

Making a New Home and Preparing to be a Wife: The Journey thus Far

On December 7th, 2019,  I will begin the greatest adventure of my life to date: becoming Lucas’s wife. This has been the desire of my heart since I was a little girl playing house in my backyard, sweeping my playhouse porch, making meals of sticks and twigs, and dressing my baby dolls.  For many years, I wondered if it would actually come to pass. Would anyone ever see me as a fit partner for life, as lovely, as capable. The answer was yes, after much doubt. To further confirm that Lucas was the one for me, he presented me with another priceless gift besides his love: a beautiful hundred year old farmhouse. His grandparents purchased the home in the 1940s and built it up for decades, creating a sprawling home with eight bedrooms and a bocoodle of character. 

I knew from the beginning that Lucas loved the home and wanted to raise his family there, so as we pulled into the driveway the day we started dating, I took it all in and asked myself if I could see myself living there. A hazy imagination of a life there took root, but it definitely didn’t feel like home. 

How exactly does one feel at home somewhere? I lived in the same home for twenty four years, so I never really had to learn to make another home, home. I then moved to my garage apartment, knowing it was temporary, so I never really expected  it to feel like my forever home.  But this, this is different. Not only am I moving to the farmhouse, but it is full of 60 years of furniture, of memories, of pictures, of life lived by people I never met. My new home is full of beautiful things I get to use, but I did not pick out. How do I learn to feel at home somewhere where everywhere I turn there are things I am unfamiliar with, but they are now mine? 

I have always dreamed of making a home, and this is truly a dream come true, but it’s a hard dream. It’s a dream that will require years of work and perseverance. It’s a dream that allows me to inhabit a place full of life and heritage, but it’s not a fresh start.  How do you feel at home? We are starting by picking out paint colors for our bedroom and bathroom, and by dreaming of the home we wish to cultivate.  I don’t quite know how to leave and cleave. How to remember that I always was a Taylor, but will soon be a Shearer.

How do I process that I am starting a new and wonderful family, but it will be different than I pictured and that’s okay. How do I find home in an unfamiliar place and find myself as I lose many of the things that made me myself?  No one told me this about getting married. But that’s okay. I know I am only at the very cusp of this grand adventure, but writing about it helps me figure out what I am feeling. 

I guess what I am trying to say is this: it’s okay to be really excited to start a new life, and also kind of sad to leave your old one. It’s okay to be thrilled to have a beautiful home, and also reticent to call it yours, because you feel like a kid playing house in your mother’s parlor, serving tea on trays that aren’t yours and that you didn’t buy. It’s okay to be overjoyed to become Mrs. Shearer and also kind of bewildered to be leaving Taylor. It’s okay to be in the middle.  So if you are in the middle of excitement and also a little sadness, it’s okay. I’m with you.