The Proposal of Christ

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I have attended church for the entire length of my conscious memory.

Goodness! I even earned a Christian Worship minor while in college.

The rituals and routines of Christianity are as familiar to me as my own reflection.

Yet, I had been missing something excruciatingly important until last Sunday.

When you are so involved in the culture of church, it is so easy to accept certain traditions at face value without truly understanding their significance. To treat the magical as the mundane. To mistake the ritual for the relationship.

Have you ever stopped to ponder what the practice of communion is symbolizing? The commitment of the cup? Is it simply a pantomime of Jesus’ final meal with His disciples – a way to remember the sacrifice that was made on our behalf?

I confess to you that was the extent of how I viewed it.

But I was barely scratching the surface of the grace God was extending to me through that tiny cup and wafer.

I wasn’t hearing His proposal.

Yes. that final night in the upper room, Jesus was making a proposal to His disciples – and all believers that would come after them.

There is a treasure trove of symbolism in the Last Supper that is lost to our modern culture – with tragic consequences. For us to truly grasp the wonder of what Christ was (and is!) presenting to us, we need to dive into ancient Jewish history.

Whereas marriage proposals are sometimes viewed as casual agreements in our society, they were securely binding in Jesus’ day. In fact, if one wanted to call off the engagement, a divorce was needed! The betrothal was set in motion with a meeting of the fathers. There, they would negotiate the price the father-of-the-groom would pay for the honor of bringing the woman into his family. Once they had reached an agreement for the “bride price”, the groom-to-be would approach the young lady with his proposal – and a cup of wine.

Here is where the lady had a choice.

If she didn’t want to enter into an engagement with him, she would simply refrain from drinking.

But if she did want to commit herself to him for life, she would drink from the cup until it was dry.

The excited groom would then present his fiancée with a precious gift as a token of his love. Afterwards, his duty was to return to his father’s house and prepare a room for her and their new life together. The young lady was assured he would return when the construction was complete; whereupon, the groom would joyfully take her home. Nobody but the father-of-the-groom was allowed to know the specific date. 

During this waiting period, the bride would devote herself to getting ready. She would initiate and maintain beauty rituals, continue to learn the skills of homemaking, and most importantly, go to bed every night with her belongings ready to go. When she needed to move about outside, she wore a veil that told others she was “spoken for”.

It was very common for the groom to return for his bride at night. He would bring a gathering of friends and family, and wake his love with a shout and the blowing of a shofar. The radiant bride would then be lovingly escorted to her new home.

Do you get it?

Can you see it?

The Church is known as the Bride of Christ – and communion is the proposal.

If we only take communion out of remembrance and gratefulness for Jesus’ sacrifice, we are missing the depth of the relationship Christ is extending to us.

He is asking to marry us. 

Our God of royalty and majesty, power and authority is also a God of romance and mystery, tenderness and sensitivity.

The bride price is His death.

We say “yes” to His proposal by sharing in the cup – but the choice is ours.

The gift He leaves us is the Holy Spirit.

He is preparing our eternal home as we speak.

And one day, he will return to claim His bride.

Don’t miss it. Don’t treat the commitment of the cup casually. 

Get ready. Live in joyful anticipation of your groom returning for you! Live in such a way that when others see you, they know you are spoken for.

And the next time you drink of the cup, let me be the first to congratulate you!

Love,

Sarah

 

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Moon of Honey pt. I

IMG_4357 2I do NOT like to fly. There was a time in my life where I actually enjoyed the feeling of leaving the ground during take off…but that has been many years ago. 🙂

BUT – I am glad I popped that Xanax (and had my husband there to distract me), because the past few days have been amazing!

Please enjoy a few pictures and highlights. 🙂

Monday, October 30th:

We departed in the evening on Allegiant airlines to Punta Gorda. I was a bit leery about flying this airline (I had no previous experience with them), but…the price was right. 🙂 Thankfully, the service was too! We were both pleasantly pleased with the flight, and found the atmosphere at Punta Gorda to be very warm and welcoming. Plus…I think it helped that we were flying in with a gaggle of “snow birds” from up north. 😉 When the attendant from Alamo Rental Cars found out we were on our honeymoon, she upgraded us to a Hyundai Santa Fe for free. Colby and I have loved driving this car (the back-up camera has been muy bueno).

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Tuesday, October 31st:

IF YOU COULD ONLY PICK ONE VACATION DESTINATION FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, MAKE IT SANIBEL/CAPTIVA ISLAND. Seriously. You won’t regret it.

Promise. 🙂

We hadn’t exactly planned in advance what we were going to do today. In fact, apart from our Disney World tickets, we hadn’t exactly made any other plans. (Quite frankly, the decision to “undecision” has made this the best honeymoon ever.) We’ve been wingin’ each and every day that we’ve been here. No expectations. No preconceived ideas. And it has made the blessings of each day that much sweeter.

But I digress…Where was I? Oh yes…SANIBEL!!

The best $6 you will ever spend.

After paying the toll to drive across the bridge, we were met with a veritable paradise.

(Another cool fact about Sanibel – you can purchase a parking pass for the hours you plan to stay visiting beaches and that parking pass carries over to each beach you visit. No need to purchase additional tickets! After our nightmare parking experiences in Chicago, this was a breath of fresh air!)

If you enjoy quiet, pristine, natural beaches, this is the place for you! Allow me to illustrate with a few pictures. 🙂

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Jellyfish! Stepped out of the way just in time!

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This guy has a knack for photography.

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Ahhh…..

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My shell collector 🙂

Wednesday, November 1st:

Today, we conquered the Land of the Mouse. 🙂

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This was Colby Wade’s first visit to Disney World, and my first in over a decade. The Magic Kingdom is still just as magical as I remember.

We were given free “Happily Ever After” pins to wear as honeymooners. Those pins brought us lots of warm “congrats”, and even a few freebie surprises. Like cheesecake. And valet parking. And a $20.00 resort fee waived. God blessed us abundantly through those tiny metal circles. 🙂

During a presentation of Beauty and the Beast, Colby was chosen from the audience to play a “knight in shining armor”. Perfect type-casting there, if I do say so myself. 😉 That stinker got to meet my favorite Disney princess after it!!!! But…he did give me the bookmark Belle gave him. The lucky duck. 😉

A little bit of “LeFou’s Brew”, a perfect souvenir for a “Beauty and the Beast” nerd, and – of course –  a visit with a classic princess followed soon after. I’d say the Disney princesses had an eye for my prince.  😉

P.S. I almost forgot!! We had a fantastic meal at the Raglan Road Irish Pub in Disney Springs. Not only was the food incredible and authentic, but we were treated to live Irish music and dancing…from ACTUAL Irish dudes, as Colby would say. 🙂 You MUST make this restaurant a priority if you are ever in the area!

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Thursday, November 2nd:

When we left Disney last night, the fall/Halloween decorations were in full bloom. When we showed up to Disney Hollywood Studios this morning, CHRISTMAS was in the air! Yes, Christmas!!!! The decorating fairies had shown up over night and sprinkled a little bit of pixie dust over everything. Christmas trees, twinkling lights and ornaments, and classic Christmas tunes greeted us upon arriving. (What a perfect time to visit Disney!! We got to see the best of both seasons!! And we didn’t even plan it that way!). 🙂

Hollywood Studios was such a delight! It took us back to an era where movie magic was a bit more classy, and a lot less….trashy. :/ I felt like Jimmy Stewart was walking the sidewalks with me. Amazing….

Colby was like a child at Christmas with all the Star Wars exhibits and shows. And quite, frankly, I experienced a bit of the Star Wars hype myself. I confess…I’m actually excited to get more into the series with him. 🙂 I mean…look at these AWESOME necklaces we gave each other!!

We rounded out the evening with a scrumptious meal at Mama Melrose’s Italian Kitchen They knew ahead of time that I try to eat gluten free, and treated me to some warm, sweet rolls that I could eat when we arrived! Our waitress also brought us out a free cheesecake to share. Yum! We then hastened across the park for the showing of “Fantasmic” – an overwhelming water/firework/light show. Let’s just say, Colby and I were about in tears by the end of it. It was so…nostalgic. Well done, Walt; well done. 🙂

Friday, November 3rd: 

Before heading back to Fort Myers, we made another stop at Disney Springs. What a CUTE shopping center. Parking is free! 🙂 We couldn’t actually afford anything beyond the food, but it was fun to window shop. Colby chose “Morimoto Asia” for lunch, and it was SO GOOD. The owner is a Japanese chef you might recognize from the Iron Chef. The atmosphere and service was trendy and friendly. Colby got his eel and tuna sushi, and I got my (safe) vegetable roll with crunchy tempura on top. 🙂 I could easily have eaten a dozen of them….

We were intrigued by these “shakes” from Planet Hollywood, but decided we cared for our bodies way too much to indulge in such…delicacies. I wanted to bring one home for Papa Dan though….;)

IMG_4458-1One of the coolest experiences of the day was getting a chance to participate in a “Master Build” at the Lego Store. They were celebrating their 20th anniversary at Disney Springs, and were creating a Darth Vader and Yoda to commemorate the occasion. We chose to work on the Vader…of course. He will be displayed in the store when he is all finished. HOW COOL IS THAT!!! 🙂

Now, it’s just about time to curl up with some Chic-fil-a, and call it an evening. We’ll see what the next few days hold for the Stouts! 🙂

Thanks for reading!

~Sarah (and Colby)

Becoming Stout

I have a confession to make…

Growing up, I never actually dreamed about my wedding day. I didn’t make lists of the songs I would play, cut out pictures of the gown I would wear, design the perfect color scheme and flower arrangements, etc… It just wasn’t something I gravitated towards.

The idea of marriage, however, occupied my mind quite often.

I would often picture myself as a wife – and a completely “traditional” one at that! 🙂

I would mentally make lists of the recipes I would cook, how I would arrange and decorate our home, the things we would do together as a family, etc….

I was even looking forward to the day when I could wash and fold my husband’s laundry. Please don’t laugh – it’s completely true! 🙂 I find that act of humbling service to be an intimate privilege, and I cannot wait until my laundry basket is filled with Colby’s dirty socks and wrinkly t-shirts.

I don’t know why I never actually fantasized about my wedding day. Perhaps – if I’m being completely honest – I was a bit jaded by how I saw so many weddings end up.

Broken promises. Lack of commitment. Dried up romance. The pursuit of love put off.

I hungered for more than the sparkly gowns and the glistening flowers that would shine for a day, and then be only a memory the next.

I wanted to see a living love that endured beyond the glitz and the glamor.

I think we all do.

But something has changed within me in the past couple weeks.

I am actually excited for the “big day” itself!

For someone who could never mentally dwell for long on her own wedding day, I am finding myself quite fixated on October 28th lately.

It is the first day of Fall Break for me – and my final weekend as “Miss Haerr”. The weather is absolutely gorgeous. A perfect October morning. A cool breeze is blowing through my open window, and the sun is gently warming my bare feet. I am an October girl through-and-through. I am so glad this is the month in which we will be married and celebrate our anniversary for years to come.

This month has been emotionally brutal for both Colby and I. We have been confronted with relational dilemmas, financial challenges, and health conundrums on all sides.

But today I am choosing to place all these concerns and unanswered questions aside and focus on the joy that is to come.

Colby Wade, you and I are getting married.

In 9 days, I will walk down the aisle of the church in which we met and continue to worship together and pledge myself to you – no matter what lies ahead.

I am excited to wrap myself in (many) layers of ivory tulle and satin and veil myself in lace. I cannot wait to see what my final bouquet will look like and what its weight will feel like in my hands. And I’m bursting at the seams to see the expression that will be on your face as I make my way to you.

Not because I am enamored with the “fancy trappings” of the ceremony itself, but because they are a symbol of how precious our love is…

But the reality that thrills my heart the most, is that when you and I are finally standing at that altar face-to-face, Jesus will be right there with us. Ready to take our vows and our oaths and knit us together. Making his own vows to us that if we remain in Him, His love will remain in our marriage and protect it from any schemes the world or the Enemy (or even our own selfish tendencies) may have against it.

Baby – that makes me excited.

Bring on the dirty clothes! 🙂

~SarahWedding

Pharisees & Politics

HopeFriends,

Be forewarned.

This post could get messy.

Part of me is way too timid to even touch this subject with a 39 1/2 foot pole, and another part of me is having a hard time not saying anything.

Please know that these words have been percolating inside me for a long time.

And please know I by no means believe I have this topic “figured out” or have the “ultimate word from God” on the issue.

These are simply the thoughts of a 26 year old woman who is wrestling with how to love Christ better – and the people He created.

So here goes……

*deep breath*

My dear, dear friends – it has to stop.

I am so weary of the political idolatry.

The name calling.

The slander.

The mocking.

The taunting.

The words of outright hate I read in social media posts by Christians.

My brothers and sisters, I am not talking about the articles or statements the world makes.

I’m talking about us.

The Body of Christ.

Because we should know better.

What are we doing?

Have we forgotten what is to be the “hallmark” of a Christian? Have we deafened our ears and hardened our hearts to the words of our Savior?

“Love each other deeply and fully. Remember the ways that I have loved you, and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways. Everyone will know you as My followers if you demonstrate your love to others.” (John 13:34-35)

The church in America is dying, folks. It is. We can’t bury our heads in the sand and pretend that it isn’t.

And we can’t point fingers either.

It isn’t because of what Barack Obama did while in office. It isn’t because of the policies the “left” wants to implement. And…dare I say it…Donald Trump isn’t the person that is going to resurrect it.

It’s because of us.

“If My people, who are known by My name, will humbly pray, follow my commandments, and abandon any actions or thoughts that might lead to further sinning, then I shall hear their prayers from heaven, forgive their sins, and save their land from disaster.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Beloved, we must take full responsibility. We must.

Why do we expect those whose hearts have never been awakened or changed by Christ to have the same values we do? Why do we ruthlessly criticize the actions and opinions of others who have never even claimed to have a Christian worldview?

As it tragically does, history repeats itself. We are committing the sins of our forefathers. Seeking our salvation from politics. Panting for the overthrow of Rome and her laws, while forgetting the Kingdom of God is not of this world.

When Christ was on this earth, who did He save his harshest reprimands for?

Was it Caesar? The leaders of the Roman government?

No.

He unleashed them on the Pharisees and the people who followed them. The leaders of the faith.

If He walked among us today, would he have words of admonition for Barack Obama? For Donald Trump?

Or would He be rebuking His church? 

Friends, have we ever stopped to ponder that the “craziness” we are experiencing in our world today is, in fact, a natural judgement of God’s? That the world’s blindness and lack of moral clarity that seem to frustrate us to no end is actually allowed by God?

“Since they had no mind to recognize God, He turned them loose to follow the unseemly designs of their depraved minds.” (Romans 1:28a)

It doesn’t stop there, however. That isn’t our excuse to stand back, shrug our shoulders,  and (quite literally) let the world go to Hell.

No – like the Word always does, it cuts right to our hearts.

“There are no excuses for any of us. If your eyes shift their focus from yourselves to others – to judge how they are doing – you have already condemned yourselves.” (Romans 2:1)

We must stop. We must examine ourselves. We must repent. We must cling to Christ.

Fellow believers, we have a tremendous responsibility ahead of us. We were born at this time in history “for such a time as this.” The world is so hungry for something different. They know the allures of this world don’t bring true satisfaction. And, I would wager, they even know the bevy of alternative lifestyles being opened up to them by our lawmakers and society are actually false promises of “freedom.”

So, what are we going to do with the remainder of our decades here on earth?

Are we going to use the gift of language to spew more bitterness and decisiveness? Are we going to put up barriers against anybody who may believe differently than we do, and sever all hope of winning them to the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ?

Instead of fighting against our neighbors, can we instead fight against the “powers of this age” that hold them captive? Not through arguing over politics and policies, but through relentless prayer, sacrificial living, and investing in relationships?

Friends, can we not just die to the world, but is it possible to also die for it?

Love & Peace,

~Sarah

 

Letter Openers & Grasshopper Mummies

Grasshopper

Letter openers are the best.

When moving into an apartment of one’s own, you remember to pack and purchase “the necessities”, but items of convenience are often overlooked.

Like letter openers.

After weeks of having to clumsily tear into my mail with bare hands, my fiancé, Colby, sensed my frustration and managed to rediscover a tiny metal letter opener from his childhood days for my use.

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Eek!! Yes!! Finally!! Here was a tool I could use to free my poor letters from their envelopes with straight, clean incisions.

And let me tell you – my type A (and slightly OCD) personality found that quite relieving.

Then, Colby shared something with me about this mini-treasure.

When he was a boy, this had been used not on letters, but on…bugs.

Yes. Bugs.

When a (rather unfortunate) grasshopper – or other “villain” of the insect world –  would dare to threaten the “peace”, this was his trusty sword he would brandish to restore order.

He would then take the slain grasshoppers and give them a “proper burial” – well, I suppose I should say “proper mummification“.

Yes – my dear, sweet Colby Wade would complete the task he had started by removing the insides of the grasshopper, wrapping it in strips of tissue, and setting the poor shell in a safe place to “mummify.”

Boys.

When he first told me this story, I actually found it kinda cute.

But then, I couldn’t seem to get it out of my head.

As a girl, I wanted that letter opener to make my work neater, more clean cut and precise.

As a boy, Colby wanted it to slay insects and prepare them for mummification.

Believe it or not, I think there is a beautiful principle at work here – and a precious insight into the minds of a girl and a boy.

Having just embarked on my fourth year of classroom teaching, I get a front row seat to see these dynamics play out time and time again.

Boys are squirmy. Boys are restless. Boys like action. And escapades. And anything BUT sitting still.

And frankly, boys like mud, bugs, and guts.

And that is okay.

In fact, that is more than “okay”.

It is beautiful and necessary.

Yes – necessary. Not just to who they are as growing men, but to who girls are as growing women.

Disclaimer alert: I’m not saying every boy – or girl, for that matter – is made from a cookie cutter image. I’m not saying “real” men shouldn’t enjoy writing & reading or refrain from crying during movies. I’m not saying “real” woman shouldn’t enjoy getting muddy outside or building things with their hands.

No. What I am saying is that boys and girls are created to see the world in unique ways.

And each gender needs the other’s perspective, strengths, and weaknesses.

I need Colby to save me from my own straight-laced “to-do” list at times and completely exhaust me in a tickling attack.

I need him to speak words of calming reason into my emotional storms.

And yes – I even need him to leave the toilet seat up and his trash on the table sometimes, because even those very minor irritations are teaching me how to let go of my own “pet peeves” and serve selflessly.

That doesn’t mean boys shouldn’t learn to be respectful to their teachers, or lack self-control and motivation towards work and academic pursuits. But it does mean that while I might personally crave order, quiet, and structure, there just might be a boy in my classroom who is hungry for a little ruckus, a little adventure, and a little spontaneity in his day.

What if we surprised them every once in a while?

Instead of saying (for the umpteenth time), “Sit still with your eyes forward and your mouth silent”, we really rocked their world?

What if, from time to time, we said, “We’re going to go outside and I want you to holler, wrestle, and get dirty”?

Let them see insect slayers instead of letter openers.

Peace & Love,

~Sarah