Friday, July 25, 2014

Moving Forward


"But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
- Philippians 3:13-14

I saw the strangest thing on the highway the other night and I can't get it out of my head.

I was driving southbound and headed northbound was a man walking in the small breakdown lane. There's a guardrail with a tall fence on one side and speeding traffic a foot away on the other side of him. What makes it strange was he was walking backwards. Facing the traffic and walking backwards.

I didn't see a broken down car anywhere. The next exit wasn't that far from the direction he was travelling from. He simply was getting from Point A to Point B via the highway.

Why was he walking backwards? I can only imagine he was afraid he was going to get hit and wanted to keep a look out on the passing vehicles.

It's the second time this week Philippians 3:13-14 popped into my head.

During the worship at church this week, all of a sudden a realization washed over me. It was quick and fleeting but for a brief moment I held the ideals of this scripture in my heart. For a moment I finally understood. In a flash I saw what it finally meant to forget the things in the past and focus on what lies ahead.

It was an understanding of eternal glory. It was realizing that this life is hard. Really hard. But the next life isn't. I get to spend eternity in my Saviors home. So I need to focus on that. I need to remember that I am here to serve others and to leave the lasting impression He intends for me to leave. Whether that is with one person or many, I'm not sure. But this is what we are all called to do as believers and in this quick moment I saw how glorious that was. In this moment I sensed peace in knowing that this too shall pass.

I realize this might sound morbid or depressing to some. To focus on the next life. But I've had only brief moments of pure happiness in this life. It's all been fleeting and right now in the season that I'm in, I just need to know there's something better than this place. There's something better than fights with friends, wars between countries, little boys with cancer and plane crashes. I realize I can only press on through if I am looking ahead.

When I first saw the man walking on the highway I thought to myself, I don't blame him, I would have done the same thing. I'd rather see it coming. I'd rather brace myself for the impact and have a chance to pray at the last second for a way to jump out of the way of the inevitable.

I've been this man. I've been looking back, staring in the past, waiting for the moment that comes right at me and completely takes me out. I've been bracing myself for the ultimate blow. I've been waiting for the word, or lack thereof, that says it's over.

But the more I thought about it, the more I don't want to see it coming. If I was going to get hit by a Mack Truck on the highway, I'd rather not know. If I was going to die driving home from work tonight, I'd rather not know. I can't find out today how many years of my life are left. Because no matter if it's 1 or 50 both would leave me frantically looking at the calendar counting down the days. The minutes in between now and then would be compromised with fear. The fear would steal what's left of my time on this earth. That's not life.

So if my past is going to steamroll me, I don't want to see it coming. It's why pages and people were blocked online. Not because I'm looking for it, but because I'm so deathly afraid of what I'll see. I don't know where this fear came from. Perhaps it's because, like this man on the highway, I'm between a rock and a hard place. There's no where for me to go and I'm staring at my biggest fear head first, holding my breath and bracing for the final blow. 

But if you face God, if you face forward to the river with your enemy closing in behind you, and you trust, He will part the seas for you. He will give safe passage. If the Israelites were too busy staring at the enemy coming from behind to attack they would have missed that the Red Sea had been parted for them. They could escape. If they missed that, they miss the mercy of God, His saving grace. They would miss life and years of miracles to come. They would miss firsthand the power of their God.

I don't want to miss that.

So I press on. I don't want to count the calendar days between now and the unknown. Not for good things or bad. I don't want to lose sight of the moments that are here now. The places that God is opening up for me. The way in the desert. The streams in the wasteland. I don't want to miss what He's doing because I'm fearing for what might not come to be. Fear is Satan. I can't let him win. No way. No how.

And the Lord said to Moses, "Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward." - Exodus 14:15

Sometimes the only way to get from Point A to Point B is a narrow path. Sometimes it looks like we won't make it out alive. But just when we are ready to lose this life to the next one He parts the seas and shows us another way. Just as the Lord told Moses. Tell the children to go forward. Stop walking backwards at oncoming traffic and trust that He's going to protect us. Trust that He has another way that we cannot see. If we do that, we gain life. We gain God's mercy and His saving grace. We gain a lifetime of miracles.

Love,
S

Photo Credit: Journey of the Heart, I found this page searching for a photo, the poetry that went with this seems to coincide so perfectly with this post, so head over and check it out.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Jeff

A reflection of love & appreciation.
Jeff Rosinski
8/9/80-7/16/10


"A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things."
-Matthew 12:35

I don't have any pictures with Jeff. No special handwritten notes or words of advice. I don't have stories of a friendship that grew stronger over the trials of this life. Despite the lack of these things I do have memories that will last a lifetime.

Before I knew Jesus, I knew Jeff. As I hear of Jesus’ love and compassion towards others I can’t help but think I once knew a man just like this. Jeff was compassionate and kind. He cared about matters of the heart. I am even willing to go as far as to say that he could see past the fa├žade of a happy face. He asked questions that went below the surface of 'How are you?' and genuinely wanted to hear the answer. He listened and he cared. The image of Christ reflected in his life through and through.

That being said, I wish I had a funny or a sweet video to capture truly just how wonderful he was. So that you could see how a person that you meet for just a short time could have such an impact on your life. My words fall so significantly short. I'm at a loss of how to portray this guy who made such a difference in my life just by knowing him. There is not a day I don't think about Jeff, there's not a day I don't think about or pray for his family. They encompassed so much of what the bible tells us to be. Sweet loving people, so welcoming, and so accepting.

Jeff’s family welcomed me into their home, their heart and their church. I always carried self-reservations that I wish I didn't. I felt like I stood out as a foreigner, never really fitting into this church that I loved so much. But they didn’t see me like I saw myself, they saw me like Jesus does.

I may never get to hug his family again or tell them how strong I think they are. To tell them I am amazed how they continued to live for Jeff's honor and God's glory. How incredible their inspiration was in a season of hurt. I may not get to say thank you for the years of support and encouragement. But I can live with these things in my heart. I can keep the memories of a man we could all benefit from knowing. A person who was perfected in his goodness through his loving family.

Jesus gave us three commandments. Love God above all. Love your neighbor as yourself. Share the gospel to the ends of the earth. There is no doubt that Jeff accomplished these commandments and more. It is my privilege to attempt to do the same having known a man and a family who could be these things as my living example. These commands aren't just words written in the greatest book ever that no one can ever achieve. These are real life actions lived by one of the most sincere family's I have ever met.

I will never forget the moment we found out. That sleepless, confusing night. The desire for answers, the prayers that maybe we misunderstood. I will never forget the emptiness I felt in the days after. If someone as good as Jeff could be taken from us then why was (am) I here? I still struggle. Surely he was much more of a man of God than I am. Why would God bring home one of his great disciples and leave lost souls like me. My heart will never stop breaking for the significant loss. The family he left behind. I can only come as far as to guess that he was brought home because he understood the gospel. If I were to have been removed from this world at that point I can't say that I would have been saved.

Recently, I've been poking through a book 'If God is Good' by Randy Alcorn. In here he quotes a letter from a family who had gone through a huge loss. "We are part of the body of Christ and it is through this body that he ministers to us in our darkest days."

I cannot deny the trueness of this statement. As a church I had never felt closer. Never felt more of a need to be there then in those days and months that followed. I believe as the body of Christ, God ministered to each soul individually in that little town church.

I remember Jeff's dad, Pastor Bob, saying in a subsequent service that he no longer wanted to be here, in his selfishness he wanted to be with Jeff and Jesus. But he knew he needed to be here now.

I can't help but think of Paul's letter to the Philippians.

"'I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith." - Philippians 1:23-25

Perhaps Pastor Bob's words resonated with me at the time because I understood that feeling of wanting to end the pain. To be in a better place. I had lived through my own personal pain, suffering and loss. I managed that. I could put reasons behind those times. But this was different. I didn't have an answer or an excuse to fall back on. Yet today, I still hear his words and I know it was for a greater purpose. That's what I learned. That's how the Rosinski's live. That there is still purpose. That it's more necessary to be here right now.

There's so much to learn and understand from this suffering. But I don't want to lose sight of how good of a friend Jeff was. Encouraging, loving, welcoming, kind-hearted, sympathetic, out-reaching, gracious. I didn't have the opportunity to know him long enough to experience all his traits first hand. But it was always easy to see in the way he interacted with his family and friends that he encompassed this and more.

We could benefit from being more like Jeff. We could all serve to be better than we already think we are.

I pray that Jeff's children will hear an abundance of stories of how amazing their dad was. One of my favorite memories was the day we went out for dinner and ice cream. Jeff had asked me how I was doing. The standard answer is 'good'. But he asked again, wanting to know more than just the standard sugar coated answer. He didn't want to hear that. He wanted to hear what was happening deeper in the emotions that so many people don't want to look at. While talking to me he still continued to play with his son. They were dunking gummy worms in a cup of ice water. Such a simple memory but I can't forget it. The way he could carry on a heartfelt conversation while never letting his son play alone, it was remarkable. I knew in that instant this was a special moment I always would want to remember.

There's so many words and feelings I want to explain. But it's really simple. It's about appreciating life and appreciating others despite the bad days and seasons of struggle. It's about removing bitterness and jealousy and putting on acceptance and kindness. It's meeting a friend for coffee when all you want to do is go home and put sweatpants on. It's extending grace to others because we are so thankful when they do it for us. It's for being better than our natural self. It's intentionally making an effort. It's not a normal way of life. For most it won't come natural.

But our goodness can inspire others to be better. And if this is just a cycle of being better than ourselves then maybe we are not as lost of a generation as we claim to be. Maybe there is hope that one person can change many for the better.

"Shalom is the act of life lifting up and becoming an act of worship and celebration, a sacrament, an offering... It’s living with purpose and sacrifice and intention, willing to be held to the highest, narrowest possible standard of goodness, and in the same breath, finding goodness where most people see nothing but dirt." - Shauna Niequist, 'Cold Tangerines'. 

Can we do that? Can we seek the ultimate peace while living a purposeful life full of intentions. Can we expect people to put us on a pedestal of goodness and know we will come through for them? Not because of our own strength but because of the power of the Holy Spirit in us? I pray that we will seek Jeff's real passion for life and love. That we could strive to live life to the fullest. With no room for cream. That one person could change the hearts of everyone they meet.

Jeff is one of a few people I've lost in this past decade. He by far made the most impact in a short amount of time. A huge part of why I don't like to say goodbye without telling someone I love them, wishing them well or letting them know they'll be in my thoughts. It's part of why it's hard to accept broken hearts. It’s why I don’t like to fight or to stay mad. It’s why I fervently seek the goodness in this world.

Be this person that makes a difference in someone else's life.

Because Jeff reflected the light of Jesus, he had a light that cannot be forgotten or diminished over time. So even though he is not with us anymore we can still recognize him in the light which reflects in those he left behind. He is in a kind word or gesture. A smiling face or a shared quiet moment with a friend. He's in the holding of a door for a stranger.

In a lot of ways, I have no right to even write this. But I pray that what is on my heart can make a difference in somebody’s world. I beg you to let this inspire you to be a better person, to love more, to seek to do good for others. I hope it also encourages you to let others know that they make a difference in your life.

Realize that our time here on this earth is precious and short lived. But it doesn't have to be in vain. Let's be the good we want to see in the world. Let's be more like Jeff on our pursuit to be more like Christ. Let's thank God for our friends who are already so much better than we are and let's make sure they know how much we care about them.

"Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand."
- Philippians 4:5


Love,
S

Image Credit: Pinterest


Monday, July 7, 2014

#100HappyDays & More


This morning I deactivated my Facebook again and deleted my twitter app. It's just too hard. It's not worth it. Does anyone even really care? I was ready to stop blogging. Just fall off the grid again. Maybe after all this time I still wasn't ready. Maybe I pushed myself too fast.

Yet something happened throughout the day today.

I kept digging in. Kept searching for God. Kept looking for affirmation that things will be okay.

And you know what?

I didn't really get an answer.

Why?

I believe it's because I already know. I already know that He holds my life in His hands. That He has chosen me to be His beloved. I truly believe His promises. Call me crazy, because sometimes I feel that way, but I just believe.

It's as simple as that.

In fact, it's harder for me to not believe than it is to believe.

Perhaps that's been part of my struggle. The fine line between belief and unbelief. Because I can't deny the changes I have felt. They may not be apparent to the outside world but I know that it's happening.

Let me give an example or two.

If you knew me in real life [not that these interwebs aren't real...but ya know], you might know that I have a terrible social anxiety. Even going to places with people I know often causes me to get worked up, sick to my stomach and end up in tears. So speaking to people I don't know rarely happens.

Saturday night I went out with a friend to Newport, RI. It's was a gorgeous perfect night for it. A woman ended up coming over and we ended up chatting for a little while. This doesn't seem like a big deal, but it's HUGE. I tend to be the girl who listens in a group of unknown people, not the one who speaks up. Yet, I didn't even think about it, it just happened.

Last night, I needed to go to the beach. Something I just had been needing to do.

The beach was extremely windy, which made it sort of brutal. But I didn't mind too much. I put down my towel, sat down and just took it all in. The greatness. The goodness. I reminded myself of the Psalms which I've been spending some time in.
"How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand - When I awake, I am still with you." -Psalm 139:17-18
God always has us in His thoughts. We may not always be thinking of Him, but He is always thinking of us. Even when I'm doing nothing. Even when I'm sleeping, I can awake and know I'm still on God's mind. Not that He thought of me again, no, he never stopped, "I am still with you." 

I had a gentlemen come up to me and offer me his chair so I didn't have to sit on the ground getting pelted by sand. I politely declined and wondered if there was more meaning to this. I wasn't sure. I thought maybe because I have felt so alone that it was God's way of saying He sees me even when I am alone. Even if the people I expect to respond and help, don't, He can send strangers to remind me that I am seen.

On my way out I waved and thanked him again, at which point he began talking to me. So I went over and we chatted about surfing and yoga and the beach and work and Hawaii. Really, a bit of everything. What was so odd is my openness to talk to this complete stranger, a man furthermore.

These open conversations may be simple and silly to some. Even ordinary. But for me I recognize this as a huge success in where I've come from. I think this is part of Him giving me a new heart and working to make me into the person He intends me to be. I do enjoy being social and most times once I have arrived at my destination and given it about a half hour, I find that it's not as scary as I anticipated.

I still have a long way to go, but I know He's working on me. I've said yes to meeting up with new friends lately. Friends who are Christians. It's something special. To know I can open up and share my heart and these ladies will pray for me and check in on me when we haven't chatted in a while, it's just nice. But I know getting over that uneasiness was part of the reason I was able to speak to total strangers this weekend.

So you're probably wondering why, if I have realized this, would I be willing to turn it all off socially again? (If you knew me before this blog, I had about 4 months before I could even look at the internet).

I have some really ugly things happening in my family. Things I don't feel quite ready to share with most people yet. But it's caused me to become really sad.

I've had such faith and belief that God would come through for me and instead it feels like He's taking more and more people away. This is my third time this year that I feel someone I love was taken away in some cruel way that changes our dynamics. It's absolutely heartbreaking. Since I'm still working on being okay with the very first take away, it's hard to now be dealing with another one.

I reached out to the one person who I believe knows me better than anyone else. The person I have trusted with my heart, my fears, my hopes, everything. In return I received a note that we can be blessed and not necessarily be happy.

It kind of stung. A lot. I was angry. Sad. Hurt. Rejected.

I have tried so hard to be happy. I have tried to focus on the positive and to make sure that I left Sarcastic Sheri in the past. She was really starting to become super negative. (I do let her make an occasional appearance once in a while though, she was really witty).

My new goal was Sheri Sincerity. This was my "word" of 2014. Sincerity. To appreciate life and others and to show it. Because at the core of my being, I really am these things. The years of hurt had caused this awful scar tissue to form around my heart that apparently wasn't letting the good out anymore. I'm sure it was also keeping the good from coming in.

So for someone to suggest that I was not realizing I was blessed really bothered me. I KNOW I am blessed. I am so grateful for the things I do have. God took away major parts of my family and gave me an additional family. I don't deserve that. I didn't do anything to earn it. But that's not how God's blessings work. We can't work to receive our blessings. He blesses us because He loves us and that's it. This is not a works based faith.

My natural instinct was to run and hide and wait until I was ready to face the world again. Wouldn't Satan love that? If I just stopped blogging, tweeting, instagraming my faith and my desire for truth.

You can't see God's glory if I deactivate all my accounts and spend the next 3 months in hiding. I'm sure eventually you would see it. But why delay til then what is happening now? I know I can be an emotional rollercoaster. I didn't say following this blog was going to be peaches and lemonade. I promised to be honest and open.

Something that has really been on my mind is the #100HappyDays project. 

Tonight, I decided, maybe I'm not showing outright the things I am thankful for. I mean, I feel like I am, but maybe not enough. Because God is a blessing machine. I have heard incredible stories of how this project has helped people gain a new perspective on happiness, so what does it hurt?

I have to be real, I am incredibly afraid that I might not have something to post. It's part of the reason it's been on my mind and not on my Instagram. I am nervous that I'll miss a day. But I will never know until I challenge myself. Maybe you will join with me?

As a completely unrelated sidenote, the developer for this project, his parents live in Latvia. Since my mother's family is from Latvia and my great grandmother only spoke Latvian, I am extra encouraged and excited to add to this happiness phenomenon. That might sell a whole .005% of you! Shout out to my friends in Latvia! 

I will be posting to Instagram - so please follow me there! I hope to share some of the special moments here on my blog as well. If you are participating on Instagram or Twitter share your username below in the comments and I'll follow you back! Let's encourage each other!

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." - Psalm 51:10

Love,
S

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Arise, Shine

Arise, shine;
For your light has come!
And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.
For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
And deep darkness the people;
But the Lord will arise over you,
And His glory will be seen upon you.
The Gentiles shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.
-Isaiah 60:1-3


I received this message a few days ago and it really encouraged me. The first two lines especially caught my attention but the scripture that follows really ties it all together. 

One of my favorite shows to watch with my mom was Xena: Warrior Princess. We especially loved Gabrielle who was her witty and sarcastic sidekick. I still remember a quote from this show that gave us the giggles and that we would repeat on many occasions.

"I'll rise but I refuse to shine."

Haven't we all had days like this? Where it seems the world is way too perky, too awake and too ready to take on the day when we haven't even had our first sip of coffee yet?

So naturally, this verse caught my attention. I've noticed a lot of sparkle hanging around lately. It's been in devotionals and shining on my walls in the morning as the sun is sneaking in the pesky gap between my blinds and my window. At first I thought it was such an odd statement to be in my bible and to be catching my eye with this commandment to sparkle. 

Yet, it fits so perfectly where I am in my life right now. Completely trusting God. Not making another move until He opens my door for me. Not frantically crying to Him that it 'feels' like my life has fallen apart and it's yet to put itself back together. I am in a season of waiting and I know that I need to embrace it because this time with God alone is precious. 

I wanted to share with you the pep talk I gave myself when I came across this verse. I truly believe writing down God's words and just a few quick thoughts open up a world of deeper meanings and understanding. This totally opened itself up to one of my favorite moments so far.

arise and shine
get up and brush the dust off.
like a diamond hidden in the dirt, dust it off and watch it shine.
dust off the hurt, pain, negativity.

brush off the people who say it can't be done, it's impossible, it won't happen.
brush off the fear, the unknown, the past failures.

arise. stand up tall.
be confident in the lord.
be sure of his plans for you.
claim his promises and refuse to believe that ANYTHING could stop his sovereign will.

you are chosen. you are here for a reason.

sparkle, shine...

So, while I will keep our Gabrielle comment as something to give me the giggles when I need it on my grumpy 'we can't talk about this until I have coffee first' mornings, I am going to instead focus on shining. For my light has come. It is here, He is here. He is the light. He is the way and He makes beauty from ashes. Diamonds from rock.

For me, personally, I don't believe arise means I need to get up and go. It simply means, get up. Pick my head up, dust off my hurt feelings, and shine instead. Be the best version of myself that I can be while I am standing right where I am at. I don't have to move from where I am at, I don't have to receive another blessing ever again, and I can still get up and be the light that let's others see that this life is beautiful. No matter what the situation is. No matter how it feels. No matter if I still hurt. Arise and shine.






Plus, what girl doesn't love a little sparkle and shine?

Love,
S

PS - As a sidenote to think about, in the above pictures I took, the dark purple ball and the light pink one on the side are actually exactly the same color. (Dark purple). When I took the photos I didn't remember having two different colors so I had to double check my glass bowl! Amazing what a little bit of God's light can do for us.