Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I will not cry. I will not cry. I will not cry. 

Those words have been my mantra tonight, at least for the past few hours. I've been on the verge of tears and/or in tears tonight. 

Today, I moved back to Gettysburg, one of my favorite places in the world. I should be happy and joyful and excited to be back. 

[I see you over there, "Should Statements," trying to distort my cognitive functioning...]

Tonight I am sad and anxious and lonely and in pain. Tonight I am an emotional mess. Tonight I am crying because my emotions are real and valid and important simply because I feel them (Thanks, Laura Jensen, for reminding me!). 

And I was thinking about these feelings in the shower and trying to get to the root of why I'm feeling this way already, after not even being here for 24 hours and I realized: it's because I'm not unpacked yet. 

I don't mean not literally unpacked, although I am not that kind of unpacked either, but settled here. I'm not in a routine. I don't officially have a treatment team here yet. I'm not sure what my life here looks like. 

I don't know what I look like here. 

Yes, I've been here before but it's completely different. I'm different. 

I guess it's similar to when you move and you're trying to fit all your old stuff into your new house (or apartment or dorm room). Trying to fit the old and the new together and figure out what it all looks like and how to make it work. 

I guess it's a little like that. 

Because right now I don't know what sort-of-recovered-and-still-in-recovery-Sarah looks like at Gettysburg because I've never been in this position here before. I suppose that maybe after my assessment tomorrow, maybe once more friends get here, maybe when classes start, I'll feel more settled and okay and unpacked. Who knows? 

Right now, I know I am having emotions that I don't like. I know I'm having emotions that I shouldn't be having right now. I know I don't think I can handle being back if I can't handle tonight. 

All of this is okay and valid and real because I am feeling it; so I am going to let myself feel it--all of it--every bit of pain and fear and anxiety and loneliness and sadness, every bit that thinks I can't handle this. 

And it's going to get better (and easier), right? 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

In Times of Tragedy

There are nights when I stare at my computer screen trying to come up with some compilation of words to sum up what had happened that day, nights when I wish I could string letters together into profound thoughts to make things just a little better. Last night was one of those nights. 

There's a lot in life I just don't understand and that I probably will never understand. Tragedy is near the top of that list, and lately, my community has been forced to deal with too much of it, but yesterday, it directly hit my band family. 

A 2014 graduate of my high school and a member of my high school band tragically fell 100 feet to his death while hiking with his girlfriend. He was killed instantly. 

There are no words for this kind of accident. 

This kind of loss seems unreal. This kind of loss shakes everyone to the core. This kind of loss brings unfathomable pain. 

I only knew Zach for two years in high school, but he was a good kid--kind, polite, humorous, ambitious, smart, and talented. He was an important part of our band family and all of us, no matter how close we were to him, are mourning his loss. 

Last night, I watched from the stands as my marching band paid tribute to Zach by wearing high socks on the field. 

Last night, I held candles and friends as family, friends, and classmates gathered together around the flagpole at my high school for a vigil in remembrance of Zach. 

Last night, I prayed with my community for healing and comfort in this time of brokenness. 

And last night, I repeatedly asked myself "Why?"

Sometimes there are no answers for our questions. Sometimes there are no words to be said. Sometimes all we can do is remember the lives touched, the laughs shared, the memories made.

And sometimes it is simply enough to be with one another. 

Friends, you are not alone in your grief. A community of people stands beside you, mourning for the loss of one of our own. We all have heavy hearts and carry this burden with you.

You are not alone.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sunday Sermons: Recalculating

Lately I've had a love/hate relationship with church. It seems every Sunday, I sit through the sermon and I leave feeling like I was smacked in the face with some important life truth. This Sunday was no exception, however, I also left questioning my plans to return to college in the fall. Pastor Jeff is doing an excellent job of challenging me in my faith. 

Today's sermon was based on Numbers 22:21-35: 
22 But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat it to get it back on the road.
24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it. So he beat the donkey again.
26 Then the angel of the Lord moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. 28 Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”
29 Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.”
30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”
“No,” he said.
31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.
32 The angel of the Lord asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.”
34 Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.”
35 The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials. 

Pastor Jeff began his sermon by talking about the conspiracy Mapquest, GoogleMaps, YahooMaps, and all other directional websites have to get him lost. (Personally, I just think it's a user error...) Then he spoke about how now, he has a GPS, but sometimes, he still gets lost and when he does, it passive-aggressively complains about the fact it has to recalculate. 

His question was: Is the exasperated recalculating voice our own when we have to shift direction in order to find where we need to go?

We all have goals for our lives--dreams we want to achieve educationally, professionally, personally--and even though we know the directions, we sometimes miss a step or turn or a new situation may arise, be it a health problem, a family problem, or just a door being shut. And in these moments, we find we need to recalculate and this may come with anger, frustration, sadness, annoyance and other emotions. 

In Numbers, Balaam has a special relationship with God. He's going to meed the king of Moab, but God is not super thrilled by that idea, so He sends an angel with a sword to stand in Balaam's path and for some reason only allows Balaam's donkey to see it. The donkey, seeing the danger, diverts the course in order to save Balaam from percieved danger three times, and Balaam, frustrated because he has to recalculate, hits his donkey each time for not staying on course. 

After the third time, the donkey says to Balaam, "WHY DO YOU KEEP DOING HITTING ME?! IT HURTS!" And the donkey and Balaam then argue, until God allows Balaam to see the angel, who explains why the donkey kept averting the course. 

Balaam, now realizing he maybe should not be going to see the kind of Moab, wisely decides he should go home rather than risk his life, but the angel encourages him to go on to meet with Balak, but only if he does what God says. 

Pastor Jeff then began to talk about the journey of faith and how it involves discernment. There are moments when life recalculates us, and in those moments, we need to ask, is God leading us or are we deciding where we go? We need to discern the difference between our voice and God's. We need to be actively figuring our which is which, following the one and leaving the other.

Especially when life seems to recalculate us. We need to turn to God and ask, "Now what?"

This process of discernment means paying attention to the divine messengers God places in our paths--our friends, teachers, mentors, maybe even our donkeys. Who is God asking us to pay attention to? What are the voices saying? Is God asking us to recalculate our plans for our lives or to go ahead with His blessing?

God is always speaking to us in the moments when life recalculates us, not passive aggressively, with exasperation, anger, frustration, or annoyance, but with a voice of love, challenge, and grace.

Ten months ago, my life recalculated me. It sent me home from my dream college to deal with my health and mental illnesses. It took me down a road I never thought I would be on at this point in my life. I still find myself exasperated and saddened I missed out on a semester and a half of college.  

In 22 days, I am planning on moving back to Gettysburg for what should be my junior year of school. And for the past four months or so, I have been having doubts about returning. Others in my life have also been having similar doubts, to which I've put on a brave front, but the truth is... I'm filled with so much anxiety and fear about returning that I'm not sure it's the right decision. If it was the right decision, I'd feel 100% confident in it, wouldn't I? 

And this morning, I was challenged to ask myself another question: Is God leading me or am I the one deciding where I go? 

I honestly don't know. If I look at the could-be messengers God has placed in my path, I am hearing mixed opinions. I'm listening to the voices but I don't know what they're saying to me. 

How do I know who God is speaking through? How do I know if God is telling me to go ahead with the journey I'm on or if He is asking me to recalculate my plans? What if I don't have enough faith to discern any of this? What if I misunderstand God's voice and make the wrong decision? 

I don't know.