pictures, spiderwebs of grain, selfish, hog every pixel where the curls, smiles, giggles should be. finger on the trashcan button and it no longer exists. erased.
cars, piles of metal, crunched. a fresh driver scared, forgot rain and speed don’t like to play together. the report hidden behind saleman’s back. totaled.
strawberries, squished and browned. moms like kids to eat them firm and ripe. knife to the kind of bad spots, garbage disposal blades to the really bad spots. molded.
hearts, souls old and wrinkled. new wrinkles cover old wrinkles, new scars blanket old scars. victim yesterday and the day before and the year before that, culprit today. broken.
but, salvaged is beautiful, beautiful is the salvaged. the old is made new, the new is shed of the old. broken restored, beaten mended, ugly redeemed. salvaged.
did we forget, beauty is not the opposite of ugly. It was ugly. It is ugly. but, this time, the Beholder chooses to see it as beautiful.
Some days, when I’m taking up space on a leather chair with my mac laptop and 4 dollar cup of sugar glancing out the window at the slab of metal reading 12th street, my heart is especially aware that it’s not functioning at 100 percent.
The doctors feel my pulse, 67 beats they say, just perfect.
But I know it’s not.
Doctors aren’t always right you know.
Maybe when it comes to colds and flus and allergies but not when we’re talking about a torn heart.
No professional, ultrasound, or fancy machine notices that. How could they? Sometimes I even overlook it.
But not today.
Today I am fully aware- my heart is split.
And not split in the sense that half of it wants one thing and the other half wants something else, or split in the way when someone carelessly rips it out from behind your rip cage and clumsily stomps on the fragile muscle tissue.
No, my heart tells a different story. All the pieces are in tact.
It’s more like the heart hiding underneath my physical flesh is really only a mere shadow of my real heart.
Somewhere in a place I’ve never seen except in my dreams, my heart doesn’t just exist. But it is fully alive, fully beating, fully pumping energetic streams of blood to the rest of my limbs.
But the piece here can’t quite beat regularly. Maybe 10 beats are in perfect rhythm but then that 11th one takes a little bit longer.
In that moment-that slight pause between coursing blood through my veins and being utterly still, my heart cries out.
Cries for its true home.
Cries for a place where it belongs.
Cries for a time when it can naturally bring life to my lethargic bones without feeling like it’s forced to keep me alive. When it can beat out of passion and excitement and a thirst for life instead of out of obligation.
This heart here has found a physical niche tucked perfectly between my backbone and ribs, but a home is not a place right?
When we say home is where the heart is we don’t mean home is literally between our backbones and ribs. We mean home is where the souls of our hearts, the DNA of our hearts, the heart of our hearts is, overflowing with life and love.
I think I know why my heart is split.
I know the place where my heart home and physical heart collide.
And it’s not here.
Right now they reside in two separate places.
The echo here at this coffee shop and the original, ringing voice somewhere overseas living alongside people of another culture, loving them, learn from them and telling those who have never even heard the name of Jesus that their Daddy wants to bring them into His loving arms.
THIS is where my heart wants to fly.
I’m stuck in the in-between. I
know for now God has me here.
His children are here, too. He wants me to love the least of these in Nebraska, love Him wherever I’m at.
But, His children are also there, too. His hurting, poor, broken, lost, crippled, leper-infected sons and daughters are there.
And, if we don’t go how can we preach? And if we don’t preach how can they hear? And if they don’t hear how can they believe? And if they don’t believe how can God say to them “you were once not my people, but now you are my people”
God is reaching these people.
I want to join Him.
I trust in Abba’s timing.
I trust that He will not leave my heart half-way beating.
I trust that he will lead me out of this wilderness.
I trust that someday I will go to the ends of earth and tell people who are so different from me yet so the same, “The kingdom is near! Jesus is near!”
For now I trust.
And remember that while I’m here on this earth my heart will always feel this way. Will always be split.
The true inner core of my heart singing and dancing and hugging Abba in His home where His heart belongs and the outer skin, like snakeskin, doing its job under my chest.
I think the reason my heart yearns to plant itself in another country amongst another group of people so badly is not because this home is the most comfortable, or safe, or fun.
But because this home is closest to my Father’s heart (and His heart is also in loving families, in fighting sex-trafficking, in homeless shelters in Lincoln, in crunching numbers at an office).
For me, my heart especially teems with love for Abba when I am telling someone of a different culture about His love.
My heart overflows with passion and hunger and thirst for my Daddy when I see how lovely and beautiful He is to capture the hearts of ALL nations.
My heart courses with life when I see someone worshipping Jesus in another language, or dance, or piece of their culture.
We are all pilgrims travelling through this land until our hearts connect with our true home in heaven.
We eagerly anticipate eternity with our sweet Papa.
But, while on this earth, I yearn to be as close to Jesus’ heart as I can.
And for me, this place is not sitting heavy on top of beige tiles drinking a Cinnamon Dulce Latte, but washing the feet of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, being Jesus to those who have never seen Him before.
P.S.- I realize that God may choose to plant me right where I’m at for the rest of my time here on earth. And if He did, I wouldn’t feel like I was missing out, because I know He is with me wherever I am and He alone is my treasure. But, I also think that God has given me a desire to go because He wants to bring me to another country. His heart is just as much for nominal Christians in Nebraska as it is for Muslims in Southeast Asia. Either way, I trust in God’s sovereignty and will be fully satisfied because He is what satisfies my soul, not missions.
So this might come out as a bunch of rambled up, disjointed, incoherent words thrown together but, hey, at least they’re coming out. I’ve realized lately that writing (even if it’s not polished or very articulate) is not only a way for me to process things God reveals to me but also stirs my affections for Him more. If something stirs up my affections for sweet Jesus then I want to surround myself with it. Do it all the time, sort a thing. Because Jesus is worth my affections and my love. All of it, all the time.
Today, I was in a “funk” as I like to call it. I tend to just pile up all my days full of moodiness, unexplainable sadness, loneliness, basically any emotion that’s not happiness and dump them into the same category of a “funk”. I know that I have every reason to be joyful. And, really, every single day, in the depths of my heart I am joyful because my source of joy is unchanging, ever-present and nothing can separate me from Him. But, still, that doesn’t mean I’m always happy.
So, anyway, back to my little “funk” today. For some reason, for the past few days I’ve had an overwhelming yearning to grab my camera and take pictures. Of course, when the sun peeked it’s head out today and showered some love on all the students at UNL, I couldn’t resist the urge to run to my room before I went to the coffeehouse to study and grab my precious little canon baby. As I was flowing down the sidewalk toward downtown, I realized my steps were a bit lighter than before. I gripped my camera strap and proudly beamed to myself, feeling a little more secure, a little bit more like myself. I thought, you know what, I don’t even care if I take pictures today, it just feels nice to have my camera close to my body for the first time in weeks. I feel like the definition of who Sarah Stirling is holds a little more meaning now. The weight of the familiar camera, the strap heavy against my shoulder seems to connect all my body parts closer than before so I resemble more of a person. And not just any person, but me. WHAT?!?! I almost stopped in my tracks as these thoughts came colliding, crashing, swirling in. If I had been nodding my head in agreement with them before, now I would have been shaking my head ferociously. Sarah, this is your problem!! No wonder you’re in a funk, girl! You’re doing it again, you’re basing who you are, finding your comfort in the things that you DO. Ugh. It’s so funny (quick pause for picture time!)
because I seriously think all of my life’s problems (okay not always problems, sometimes just silly things that upset me) revolve around about 2 things…usually my pride, or my struggle with identity (and granted, all of it really stems from my selfishness, my natural tendency to put myself at the center instead of God) When I think I’ve “fixed” the problem, when I’ve brought it to Jesus and we’ve worked it out and He starts chipping more of those sins away, aha! they slowly creep in again. And it usually takes me awhile to recognize what’s wrong. I’m going going going but then, because if I’m not constantly rooted in Jesus, making a conscious decision to choose Him every day, then the real me, all my earthly desires, selfish motives, and lack of assurance of who I am in Christ, starts to dominate. It’s ugly. And it produces this weird funk.
SO, as the day has gone on and I’ve been able to venture on up to the top of the parking garage, take a quick trip in my car, and sit in the exact center of the granny rug in my room (3 of my favorite places to think I’ve decided) I’ve processed through some of what I’m feeling and what God is showing me through my somber mood lately.
I’ve been fixated a lot recently on the idea of being unique. I am constantly trying to uniqueify (not a word but in this case, to bring uniqueness to oneself) myself by dressing a certain way, developing certain skills such as photography, trying to come up with genious, brilliant ideas and express them to the people around me. I’ve been dwelling on what my major will be, what my passions in life are, what gifts I possess. But, to justify all these things, instead of just thinking about them in terms of myself, I’ve sweetly sugar-coated them with a layer of….I want to use this uniqueness to glorify God. Psssh. What does this even mean?! Oftentimes, when I think of bringing glory to God I think of lots of people noticing, I think of world-renowned prizes for my pictures or tons of popularity because the more people know and recognize my talents, the more glory God will have right? Eehhhh… maybe not. Jesus commands my love. Not my uniqueness. I need to re-evauate my conception of bringing glory to God. If He tells me to love Him with all my heart, souI, and mind as the first commandment, and also tells me to seek His Kingdom and righteous above anything else, I don’t think my gaining a bunch of fans for myself, will satisfy His heart’s longings. I think we need to glorify God in our hearts before we can glorify Him in the world. Glorifying Him in the world comes from first glorifying Him in our hearts. Instead of focusing on producing fruit or loving other people (glorifying Him in the world) we need to first seek intimacy with Him and ask Him to show us how to love Him more (glorifying Him in our heart). I looked up the definition of glory and this one caught my eye: adoration, praise, and thanksgiving offered in worship. God made me the way He made me not so I can show off my talents to people under the guise that I’m doing it for God’s glory, but so that in the deepest depths of my heart I can worship and adore and stand in awe and revel in and seek and cherish and treasure and delight and love Him. Everything I do- whether it be photography, writing, or even telling people about Jesus, should be to bring more praise, more glory to my Savior. To whisper directly from my heart to His, Jesus, I love you so much that I find joy in doing things with the sole purpose of worshipping and praising You. That is my single aim in life, Jesus. Simply to seek Your face. To seek intimacy with You. To love You all the days of my life.
With this being said, we should still totally rejoice in our uniqueness. But not in a way that turns into basking in self gratification and our own glorification. A couple weeks ago a few other friends and I were praying for an unreached people group. One woman that I really look up to prayed such a beautiful prayer. She just poured her heart out to God. During her heart-to-heart with Jesus, one thing in particular really struck me- she praised Jesus for making this unreached people group in a way so that they can uniquely bring praise to Him. She thanked Him that their language, their culture, their everything was made so that they can praise Jesus like no other people in the world can. He designed each of our hearts to love Him in an absolutely unique way. A way that no one else can replicate. Or replace.
One last thing (I know this is getting super long) I read this the other day and it struck me as beautiful. Each of us has the potential of being a vast reservoir from which God could receive eternal pleasure. Wow, to think, our hearts are a vast reservoir from which God receives eternal pleasure. I have never thought of it in that way. Sometimes, it’s easy to think my love doesn’t mean anything to Jesus. But Jesus really does want our love. Desperately. Of course, he doesn’t need it, but why would we ever doubt the fact or be upset with the fact that He desires love. It doesn’t make Him selfish or self-seeking. Not at all! He is completely and utterly worthy of all the love in the world. And, it’s totally for our sake too, because loving Jesus is what brings our hearts the only true satisfaction and fulfillment. As C.S. Lewis said, Jesus doesn’t want anything from us, He just wants us. Meaning, He wants Sarah Marlene Stirling. He wants you. Whatever talents, whatever quirks, whatever characteristics, whatever gifts I have should only be used as a means to love Him. To present myself to Him, a sacrifice that boldly and passionately screams, I give up everything to you Jesus. I will do anything for you. I will obey whatever you ask of me. I will love You (love as a verb) because I am IN love with You (captivated and wooed to You because of the unconditional love you pour out on me). Because I am madly deeply utterly in love with you.
Like many of you, my heart just breaks for those children and adults killed in Connecticut. I love that people are coming together to pray for the families, offer hope to the families, and love the families. I pray that God would draw people to Himself and ultimately be glorified in this awful, tragic, heart-breaking event. The only thing that burdens my heart even more is knowing how many children die every day without being noticed. No one to mourn their death. No one to miss them. No one to weep for the injustice. I do not want to take away at all from the precious children and adults whose lives were cruelly taken from them on Friday, but I also want people’s hearts to break as much as they have for this, for all the children across the world who die from starvation, abuse, neglect, sex-trafficking, and war. I want my heart, our hearts, to break the way Jesus’ heart breaks. I have been wanting to start writing more because to write is to process, express, and dig deep into buried emotions I sometimes don’t even know exist. So, I thought to myself, why not write about how my heart is feeling for all the kids who die without love or hope? This little poem is definitely amateur and far from anything profound and could be edited a bunch; but, nevertheless, I wrote and I wrote from a very real place in my heart.
The President quotes Scripture,
He reads about hope, the unseen things
there are so many that die without hope
does he have that hope?
my dad murmurs,
he can’t even stand to watch the President speak
my mom, somber, tells us again-
she woke up last night, heart breaking for those kids,
the President still speaks
my dad still watches
my eyes lock on the screen
but my heart flies to another place
my heart runs frantically through the streets,
in the brothels,
into broken homes,
it hovers over the shaking girl
My 98.6 degrees is surely warmer
than the snowflakes attacking her thin jacket,
vying for a spot on her eyelashes
a place of rest,
a place of stillness
Why won’t they share?
My heart races into the brothel
64 times my heart pumps
pumping blood, pumping blood, pumping blood
with each beat it wills the fifteen year old
to know, to see, to understand
what the enemy has turned her into,
is not her real identity
she is free
washed by His blood, washed by His blood, washed by His blod
My heart breaks through the door
On thirteenth and Alexander
House number 111
It struggles to pry the one’s off the house
Because one sounds like won
The kids, huddled in the corner,
A black eye, a sliced heart in need of stitches and love,
Need to know
Jesus has won, Jesus has won, Jesus has won
In the morning, somber, I’ll tell my parents
I woke up last night, heart breaking,
Couldn’t sleep for these kids
President, tell the world about them
News channels, bring their stories to the light,
People around the world, pray without ceasing for them too
My heart yearns to find all these children,
Huddled in classrooms,
In street corners,
The president still talks about hope
My dad still watches
My eyes lock on the screen
But my heart flies to another place
A place of truth
Jesus is the hope
We still watch in hope
Jesus locks his eyes on mine
And reminds me,
His heart has already flown to all those places,
The places of the hiding children
His heart has already broken
His heart has already found,
His heart has already loved
Still keeps loving