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sarahtornaroberts

On this tired season

March 14, 2014 by No Comments

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He’s been busy lately. Up so early that when he leans over our bed to kiss me goodbye, I can’t even squint my eyes open as my lips find his and I murmur something about “love” and “good day”. He’s off saving the world from one computer/techie/network catastrophe after another and then he’s high tailing it to help a gaggle of high schoolers find their voices, literally. It’s Spring Musical time, and nobody but nobody can help an awkward 15 year old discover she has pipes like my Brandon.

He missed bedtime tonight and as I made the rounds with a glass of water for a “last sip” before lights out, my second born balked when I gave a sip to his little brother before him. “Daddy always does me second,” he accused. “I’m sorry, honey. I didn’t know. Here, have a sip.” He’ll be home soon, weary and happy, probably with a vanilla chai or a chocolate milkshake in hand for his wife who held down the fort all day. He’ll survey the leftover sloppy joes from dinner and grab a plate, and he won’t heat it up.

I’m already in bed, tucked in with all my bedfellows, my kindle, laptop, Bible, cell phone, and Book of Common Prayer. He’ll hunker down beside me and flip on Veronica Mars and we’ll bop our heads in time as “A long time ago, we used to be friends…” pours out of the TV and we let ourselves get suckered into I’ll pass out in an hour or two and he’ll stay up too late.

And then, tomorrow will come.

This isn’t how I like to do life. I don’t like to stumble through our days together, barely finding each other in the midst of it all. Most of the time we live a slow, wide open life. We like our chaos to be the kind that comes from four little boys slamming the backdoor as they run in and out, from noisy and completely stressful dinner hours, from doing our very best to slick back their hair and tuck in their shirts  well enough that it stays that way tip we actually get to church and people can see that we did attempt to make them presentable. Of course, the unexpected events of life fill up our margin, the asthma attacks and the family member going through a valley of pain, the sudden behavior issues and the hard questions. Yes, our life is full enough without these slammed days of too much activity.

But that’s the way of it when you’re in a tired season.  A tired season is hard, it strips you to the simplest version of yourself, the most needy part. But, you know, I’d do this one again. Even with it’s less than awesome moments, even with the never ending sickness that has invaded our house this year. I’d do it because it’s from this tired place that we’re teaching our sons that what Daddy is spending his time on temporarily is worthy and good and honorable; that a family rallies for those kinds of pursuits. Pouring myself out for the sake of a new way to speak love to my husband, doing all the things so he can go and be… it’s worth this tired season.

Being tired in this season, it’s my offering to this man who walks through the door with grateful eyes and a chocolate milkshake. Because I love him.

And tomorrow, it’s Saturday and this man who is pulling 16 hour days will pry himself from between our sheets as little boys begin their insistent cries for breakfast, he’ll brew me coffee and stir in the creamer. He’ll stand at the stove with his bed-head and sleepy stance, and he’ll fry me an egg. He’ll shush little boys as they drive him crazy all morning. I’ll sleep and doze and sip and eat.

I’ll rest.

Because I’m tired.

And because he loves me too.

On not knowing that I know what I know

March 11, 2014 by 4 Comments

“Why would a loving God, knowing we were going to sin, create us?”

I hated that question. My dad threw it at me nearly every other weekend in those early years after he and my mom split. I sat on the pastel floral couch his girlfriend had picked out, my scrawny 7th grade legs pulled into my body and my eyes squinting right into his.

Tested. I’m being tested.

 

“Because it was worth it to Him. He knew some of us would choose Him. He wouldn’t be a loving God if He never gave us free will.”

Shaking his head, he’d lean in with his elbows resting on his knobby knees, his hands clasped.

“So, He’s selfish. He created us because He wanted us, even though He knew some people would spend eternity in torment? That’s not love.”

And my skin would begin to crawl. Because this was the point that I knew my answers would piss him off.  Faith . His Sovereignty. His right to do as He chooses.

 

Basically, I have no idea why He created us. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. Please, just stop. This God, the One you’re attacking, He’s all I’ve got. If He’s wrong… I won’t make it. If He’s not in control, I’m done. If He doesn’t love me, then I really am as alone as I feel. Please, please, please….

But he didn’t stop. He didn’t stop because He was angry at God, at my mom, at the church. He didn’t stop because he genuinely wanted me to think through this stuff, to give an answer I’d thought through, not just regurgitated. He didn’t stop because I think He was afraid, of everything. He didn’t stop because it had been a long time since we’d had proper boundaries in our relationship, in any of our relationships really.

Monday evening would find me, back home sprawled on my bed, my mom’s copy of Evidence That Demands a Verdict with its yellowed pages open in front of me while I scribbled notes furiously. An hour or so later, I’d close the book, folding over the top corner of the page I left off on, and I went to sleep once again sure of God’s place in the universe. Specifically, in my universe.

For so many years, God was a list of arguments, a debate. His sovereignty was a sure foundation, and any question I couldn’t answer, I probably didn’t have a right to ask anyway. I can’t tell you how safe that made me think I was.

It’s been a whole lot of years since those days, a lot of pain and a lot of healing have ebbed and flowed through my life, my faith, my relationships.  A whole lot of life has punctured holes in that neat and tidy coping mechanism of mine.

And it feels backwards to go from being so addicted to certainty, from knowing that I know what I know…. to this quiet place. I’ve landed here, in the mystery, and it turns out, the mystery is a place of peacemaking. It’s a spot of  more grace for everyone, because we’re all just a little scared, I think. We’re all doing what we can to live out our circumstances, our relationships, our fears.

It’s a place where every prayer isn’t nails embedded in what I really, really, really hope is true, it’s just me casting out a line and hoping for a bite. It’s sheer joy when I feel the tug on the other end. It’s a new pair of eyes that sees possibility everywhere. Grace here, another chance there, a flash of faith right over there. It’s a road I never imagined I’d walk down, and one that in my worst moments, I’m terrified will be the undoing of my soul. But in my best moments, the ones where I can tell the truth about the path of my life, the fear, the anger, the hope; those are the moments that I am so grateful to be right here, with uncertainty floating all around. The lack of pressure is exhilarating. 

“… for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”

Psalm 9:10b

I read that verse just two days ago. And the tug at the other end of the line made my heart leap. I’ve never stopped seeking. Not in my days of proof-texting His every move, not in these days of ambiguity. I’m constantly looking, searching… seeking. My questions are allowing me for the first time to let God reveal Himself to me, in His way, through His spirit, and yes, even through His Word. He hasn’t left me, He’s never forsaken me. And the truth is, that’s what I’m trying to learn and believe, that He’s with me. That He wants to be with me. That He made this heart that keeps trying to find Him, keeps trying to find myself, and that He’s not mad at me for listening to it.

“Why would a loving God, knowing we were going to sin, create us?”

I don’t know.

As I breathe out those three lovely words, I feel His shoulder brush mine. And I smile freedom’s smile.

On Lent: A slow walk

March 5, 2014 by 2 Comments

A psalm for this stretched out and worn heart of mine, it’s the simple path  of repentance my feet ache to walk.

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The truth is, the Bible is too much for me, and it has been for so long. For years I held it over my own head and used it to crush myself, to squeeze myself into a shape that I imagined would be more appealing to God, to my family, and to my church. I couldn’t read the words without the pit in my stomach pushing its way into my throat until I felt sick. I stopped reading it a long time ago.

It doesn’t take long to build a case against it. So many questions about how it came to be, whose is the “correct” version, how anything we humans touch can be perfect. So many moments where folks use it to stuff down, wipe out those Christ came to save. It’s been too much, I’ve been backing away little by little.

I began to hate that Still Small Voice, began to wonder what it was for, so kneaded into my emotions and reactionary spirit. It wasn’t to be trusted, not when it argued against one man’s interpretation of The Word. God couldn’t move in me, wouldn’t move in me. Not with my tears and my flashes of anger, not with my exuberant joy and all-in heart. Measure it, test it, The Word has found you wanting.

A psalm. It’s my way into reconciliation. Can you be reconciled to a Holy Book? Because despite my distance, despite my questions, despite my disgust for those who have weaponized it… it draws me. It’s not the guilt of my 7th grade self promising to “spend more time in The Word”, it’s not even the fear that I’m doing this whole life wrong. No, it’s that Still Small voice promising that there’s something to be found between those pages. It’s the deep suspicion that there’s a piece of God Himself in the words and the stories, the real, live, wild God. It’s a certain peace of the psalmist.

A psalm to start the day.

A psalm to end it.

It’s my gentle road of repentance, my slow path of reconciliation. My walk toward the Glory of Resurrection. 

I’m carving out a slice of silence to read these words out loud, and for 40 days, I’m drawing a curtain on the words of others. I’m giving up the many blogs I read and love for this season. I need fewer voices on this road, removing a habit that finds me grappling with comparison and scarcity. I need the words of the psalmist, his cries to God. I need to hear God’s response. I need to live the heart of the struggle, the desperation for strength, peace, mercy, purpose, joy.  And for that to happen, I need to quiet my brain, soften my spirit.

It’s Ash Wednesday, it’s the day that marks the start of Lent. And for me, it’s the start of an open heart.

Linking up with Elizabeth Esther for a Gentle Lent. Read other great posts here.

On Leaving Las Vegas

February 28, 2014 by 3 Comments

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A few months ago, Brandon sent me an e-mail to let me know he had some upcoming travel/conferences/fancy pants career man type trips. I’m always glad when he gets to take these little trips because it’s one of the few times a year he gets a break. Yes, he’s working, but this man loves to work. And then he gets to go back to a hotel room and doesn’t have to deal with getting our four crazies through bath time or settled into their beds at night. He can eat what he wants, watch what he wants, etc. I’m glad for him.

However.

You should know that every single time he goes on a business trip, one of us has ended up in the ER. One year, we got stomach flu, our dishwasher broke, the washing machine broke, the car was doing weird things, and I sliced open my hand at 11 PM and had to go get stitched up. So, yeah. I’m a little jumpy about his business trips. Still, I try to be courageous and pray for mercy.

When I received his e-mail, I noticed that the first of his trips for a 2 1/2 day jaunt to Vegas, and flights, hotel, food, etc. were covered by the conference. So I invited myself. From where we live, the flight to Vegas is only just over an hour, and it’s just about the cheapest flight you can take. We lined up someone to stay with our boys, and I began planning my little retreat from life. Since he’d be in conference sessions all day, I’d have to most of two days to myself to do as I pleased. I planned to settle in with my laptop and my my ridiculous number of notebooks and crank out some serious writing. I couldn’t wait.

But then I got sick. Yes, again. This time it was a stomach thing. I thought I was mostly over it, so I got on my flight certain I’d feel better after a peaceful night’s sleep in a luxurious hotel. That is not what happened. I got worse. Much worse. Instead of writing, I spent a whole day sick and sleeping. And taking baths in the fantastic hotel bathtub.

I did my best to be grateful. I told myself over and over again that this was a level of rest I never could have attained at home, that it was desperately needed and God was making sure I got it. I forced myself to release my expectations  and just accept what was, to remember that I am not good at self-care, and that I was being forced into it now. It was a gift. 

My little pep talk worked pretty well and I truly rested for the first time in years. But I have to admit, as our little propeller plane taxied on the runway and we waved goodbye to Vegas, I felt the let-down of unmet expectations. I began to wonder,

Are You taking writing from me? I can’t seem to get any traction here, are you telling me no?

As a mom, I hear a lot about seasons in our life. How we can’t have it all at the same time. About putting some dreams on hold while we raise our babes. I both fully agree with the truth of these thoughts, and rebel at what they do to the creative spirits of so many women. Myself included. For years I thought I was selfish for wanting to write while my kids are young. I kept telling myself that the time would come. Meanwhile I was drowning. And so I began. And I’m so much more myself than I ever have been. And go figure, I’m a much better mom for it.

But in the struggle to do this thing that is so fulfilling well, I find doubt creeping back in. It seems like each time I experience a little success, something happens. Like I get crazy sick for 5 weeks. Or I get the stomach flu while I’m on a supposed writer’s retreat. And so, I began to wonder if I’m just fighting too hard for something I’m not supposed to have.

The nose of the plane tipped upward and I leaned my head back against the seat, squeezing my eyes shut. I hate take-offs.  Out of nowhere came a brand new thought.

Maybe He’s stripping it all away, the effort, the try harder, the fight to squeeze writing into my life, leaving me so empty  that if I must write, I write from that place, a place of depleted helplessness. A place where I cannot even find the energy to make my all too familiar apologies for who I am and what I think. A place where I just do this thing and trust that I am enough now, that who I am and what I think will just have to do. 

I opened my eyes and blew out so that my shoulders relaxed and my hands unclenched around  Brandon’s. As Vegas grew very small outside my little window, I realized I am so tired of fighting. My whole life, I’ve been fighting for something. To find faith, to stand up for what’s right, to be God’s favorite, to make myself palatable for everyone I love so much, to have the right marriage, to save my babies from harm and bullies and disadvantage, to be a writer.

And the thing about fighting is that when you fight for or against every single thing that comes across your path, you find yourself unable to fight for anything anymore. You lay down defeated, and you begin to believe the lies because they’re the most believable thing at the moment. The ones that say you don’t count, that God sees everyone but you, that you aren’t useful enough to be granted favor, that you’re invisible and on your own.

And the thing about being too tired to fight is that somehow Someone else begins to fight for you. And you start to hear the truth, that maybe you’re so important that He’s taken all this time to get you to a place you can’t be ashamed of.

I came to Las Vegas expecting it to create space in my life, and then to fill up that space with a completed book proposal or several fantastic essays. I expected that I’d work like I almost never get a chance to work, that I’d hustle, really hunker down, fight through the work and arrive on the other side with a sense of victory. Instead, I unwrapped a different sort of gift, not in arriving and getting to work, but in leaving and giving up the fight.  In changing my hyper vigilance to a prayer of just enough.

On Feeling Crazy and Doing Something About It

February 21, 2014 by 3 Comments

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When I was a little girl, I used to lie in bed and imagine that while I was at school, kidnappers had snuck into the attic and cut out a trap door above my bed. They’d then attached invisible strings to the four corners of my fitted sheet and while I slept, they would hoist me through the ceiling and wisk me away from my family forever.

This is the post in which I admit that I struggle with anxiety.

For so many years, it was just a funny idiosyncrasy. Oh Sarah, what an overactive imagination you have. I won’t tell you about the time I woke up late on a Saturday morning to a very quiet house, crept downstairs to find not a soul about, but instead a stack of pancakes on the kitchen counter. It was obvious to me that “bad guys” had snuck in and killed my entire family, made poisoned pancakes, and were just waiting for me to ingest them. I ran back upstairs and crawled back in bed until my family finally stirred an hour later. That story was a family joke for years. In fact, it still is.

Paranoid.

I’ve heard that term a time or two in my life.

Ridiculous.

I’ve heard that one too.

And, the thing is, I agree. I know that my mind flies to the most unlikely worst case scenario every time. I know that my worry doesn’t even make sense most of the time. But, in my head, once my mind goes there, I can’t un-go there. I can’t retrace my steps. Because the second I do, I begin the even crazier self-talk.

“It could happen. You are no more special than anyone and bad, horrible, terrible things happen all the time. Do not suppose you are exempt.”

And I guess I’m trying to protect myself, trying to Be Prepared, just in case something horrible happens. Or, if something less horrible than what my mind has constructed happens, then maybe it won’t seem so bad.

Yes, I’m tired.

And you would think that as exhausting as constantly keeping a beat on every single situation, person,  and relationship in my life is, that I’d at least be able to sleep well. But each night, 2 AM greets me and we hang out for a few hours. And every bad and terrible scenario presents itself, like a variety show on the stage of my over-anxious mind.

When I was a girl, I’d whisper, “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You,” over and over, like a chant, willing myself to internalize this faith.  But what I’ve come to realize is that I was lying when I whispered those words against the scratchy sheets that covered the rock hard mattress in my little room at my dad’s house. What I’ve come to know is that dishonesty before the God of the universe is laughable.

And so, here is my heavenward confession:

I don’t really trust You. I don’t know if I ever have. I’ve been trying to be so responsible and good and on top of everything that You couldn’t possibly justify letting anything catastrophic happen in my life. I know now that I can’t count on myself, but I also can’t quite bring myself to trust You either. 

Today, I picked up the phone. I called a new therapist. My old one was fine for what I needed at the time, but I think I need some bigger guns this time, now that I’m being a little more honest.

I’m telling you this, not so you’ll know how completely unstable I apparently am, but because I am trying to STOP thinking that I am the only broken person on the planet. I’m trying to quit the belief that every issue I have is unique and extra twisted. Maybe you’re awake every night too. Maybe you think you’re so sinful and your anxiety is all your fault. Maybe Shame has become the name you most identify with. Maybe you need someone to tell you to pick up the phone. Maybe you just need to know that someone out there is a little crazier than you, and I’m happy to be that person for you right now.

My husband (who came from a very happy, 2 parent home, has hardly failed at anything ever, is smart, and likable, and talented) says that everyone is broken. I’m trying to believe that. And I’m trying to find a way to live with it.

I’m tired of living at the edge of another catastrophe with every breath I take. There has to be a better way. I invite you to join me as I find it.