UPDATE!!! WWOOF

It’s hard to know where to begin when people ask what I’ve been doing for the last month or so. I’ve summited mountains, learned about ancient Native American cultures and explored parts of the country I’d never seen before. But what’s been most amazing about living on a farm in Colorado is the simplicity that marks my life. I wake up when the sun shines through the windows of the bus I live in, and go to work with the land I live on. I pull weeds out of the ground, use tools to manipulate the soil, and harvest crops on my hands and knees, picking out bugs and wilted leaves. Feeling dirt and living things and getting deep into what our earth is made of has often made me think of our ancestors who first started growing food for their families and communities. Time was about how much light was left in the day and any able-bodied person was competent enough to help out with some instruction. Likewise, I’ve never felt so grateful for my hands and feet, which get me farther here than my college degree. Even as an artist, I’m more amazed at the work of my hands on the farm than on a canvas—how planting a row of seeds with my thumb one inch in the soil produces lettuce is a miracle I feel bewildered and humbled to witness. And my feet have taken me places not even four-wheel drive could—on top of my school bus for stargazing, through Chicken Creek to clean off, down the skinny pathways between beds of squash and peppers. My body is such a vehicle of utility and recreation here that I have begun to slowly forget about my physical appearance and whether I look good. I just feel beautiful because I am happy and I am a part of the beauty here. Most of my clothes have dirt on them, I mostly pee outside and my 20 degree sleeping bag is my prized possession for cold nights in the bus. Sometimes I look up and see the mountains surrounding us and a cool breeze kisses my face, and I cannot help but smile because I am so happy with so little.

I recently moved into the school bus my host farmer renovated into a small trailer-like lodging. For the past three weeks or so I’ve been living in a VW van with a bed and a mini fridge in the back. Something I love about this area is the creativity and self-sufficiency with which people live their lives. I have always felt a little weird for my creative inclinations that some people might call “eccentric”. When I was in middle school I used a pile of old kitchen appliances destined for Goodwill to make art for my friends. In high school, I turned my closet wall into a message board full of my friends’ pictures and inside jokes. And in college I attempted brewing Kombucha, reupholstering an old loveseat with skirts, and making a tapestry out of old earrings and cool sticks I kept. I kind of always felt like the weird artsy kid for all of my projects. But here I see evidence of the same craziness in this renovated school bus, the makeshift greenhouse beds, and the pile of found objects we call a “resource pile.” It’s so inspiring to see people like me follow through with their crazy ideas. Since coming here I’ve foraged for clay and made a few coil pots and bowls, and today I just made a shadow box out of an old desk drawer that I found in the “resource pile.” I really feel like part of the reason God has me out here is to embrace who I am in all of my strange, creative, silliness, even if I feel like I’m the only one doing whatever it is.

I have met so many people who inspire me to live boldly and not be burdened by the opinions of others or what is considered normal. My life doesn’t need to be a series of strategic career decisions or a march towards a specific goal. I am grateful just to have a roof over my head, food in my stomach, and people to sit by a fire with. ❤

 

Highlights of my trip thus far

  • Went to Telluride Bluegrass Festival by myself without knowing any of the bands and met some awesome people while I was hula-hooping who worked at a ski resort in town and let me stay with them instead of driving home early. On the Gondola ride back we were looking at the stars going down from the mountain sitting with five strangers and one had a ukulele. He started playing a Grateful Dead song and all of a sudden our entire Gondola broke out into song.
  • Hiking to the top of Helmet Peak and Madden Peak in the La Platas, I thought I was going to pass out but made it!!
  • Meeting Dave Holiday, an old and seasoned wilderness therapist dressed in florals, at a coffee shop in the middle of Grand Staircase, who told me stories form the field and encouraged me to adventure.
  • I went to the opening of the Mancos Brewery, danced to some salsa and met this girl who ended up inviting me to her bridal shower the next day! She was a sweetheart. The bridal shower was a little awkward because we played a lot of games about her life and I had just met her so I didn’t know any of the answers. HA
  • Read up on how to harvest/forage clay and made of small candle-holder for my hosts out of clay from the creek in their backyard.
  • Obviously became friends with the baristas in town to the point where they knew my order
  • Learned SO much about different plants, weeds and how farming actually works.

 

…lots more! I will update J

 

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It’s taken me an exorbitant amount of over thinking and overanalyzing situations to come to the conclusion that I don’t know why things happen.  I may as well be a chicken with my head cut off running around, attempting to control things. It’s probably funny for God to watch me try to not only understand His ways, but undermine them, twist them to my own ends, ignore them, and then when I’ve created a huge mess, find comfort in what He already laid out for me. Silly human Sarah.

I’m always trying to control things, but when I’m in control I’m awful. There is great freedom in letting go of control and learning to trust. I think this is what my life will be about, getting acquainted with my place in this world, not as God but as a creation. The reality is, I don’t have control over everything. Planning my career path isn’t going to guarantee me security. Starting a family won’t guarantee me fulfillment. Living somewhere beautiful won’t guarantee me peace. The only thing I can rely on is that God loves me, wants what is best for me, and does what’s best for me and even when I cannot see it. My favorite passage of the Bible, Matthew 6:25, speaks on this:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lillies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendorwas dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

So I pray for the ability to fold linens at work, focus on the feeling of the cloth on my fingers, on the everyday moments that are the summation and reality of my life, to make time less of a stranger. I want know what it is to soak up my minutes and hours and not wish them away for some fantasy. God is teaching me how to have a grateful heart, for small things… like how great my bed feels after working a double, or the feeling of water when you’re thirsty, the budding trees along my street. It is easy to see evidence of God’s love for us when you are looking. I pray for the transformation of my heart, so I could see the world with the eyes of a child who’s father gives them exactly what they need.

Breaking up the online routine

Never did I think I would make a Buzzfeed-style “listicle” on this personal blog, but sometimes they are just plain practical. And in general, lists are great. My friend Felicia and I were talking the other day about how we’ll write some fun things on our To do lists, like “doodle mindlessly” or “eat chocolate,” next to all the stuff we have to do. Sometimes I even write things I’ve already done so I can just cross it off.

This list gives a bunch of alternatives to your patterns of Internet and social media consumption. Lately I’ve tried to break my habit of automatically typing “faceboo…” into the Internet search bar when I open my computer. So many wasted hours I spend clicking on things that I don’t truly care about and will probably forget. Being more intentional about my time online, I’ve honestly started appreciating how cool of a tool the Internet is. The experience is different when you’re not mindlessly consuming the news feed. Here’s some ideas for others who want to maximize their enjoyment of this wonderful technology.

  1. Watch some live performances of your favorite artists

Like the news feed, sometimes I consume music in the background of my life so much that I don’t really appreciate it like I used to. I don’t listen carefully, I almost don’t listen at all. I’m thinking about other things. I’m working on things. When I was high school, I was a committed a full-fledged music nerd, and I remember laying on my bed for hours after school just listening to a new album and focusing on the way it sounded, what it was saying, how it made me feel. I don’t exactly have the time or emotional stamina for that anymore, but lately I’ve been listening to some of my favorite artists’ acoustic live sessions before bed. It’s also cool to watch them play and be reminded that this all came from some human’s brain. I’ve had some profound moments of relaxation while listening to songs that sound just a little different live, but are so familiar. Candles and tea recommended obviously.  Also can we talk about how Cat Stevens looks in this performance? He’s so into it. #celebritycrush…just kidding, kind of.

2. Find some good blogs you actually want to read

As a journalism major in college, people always talked about reading blogs and starting blogs and knowing which blogs were “big.” I never really got into it. I had my weird Tumblrs that no one knew about and I journaled, but I didn’t have the discipline or honestly the desire to have my own “brand.” I still don’t really, haha, this is sort of where I dump my thoughts. Now that I’m not trying to read blogs because I feel like I need to, I’ve found some great ones that speak to my interests. I started getting into blogs and video blogs when I was briefly vegan in early 2016 (3 months! RIP). I love to cook and there are some really fun personalities who get creative about vegan cooking. I still watch and read vegan blogs.

In this stage of my life I’m doing a lot of dreaming and planning for things that may or may not ever happen. It’s lead me to some interesting place on the Internet, that’s for sure. I read this blog, The Morning Fresh, a few weeks ago. This girl is literally so brave, and really innovative in the way she lives her life. She is a travel writer who gets sponsored by outdoor gear companies. With the money she tricked out this awesome yellow van and lived in it for a year while she road-tripped around the country. She has some great stories, guides for pretty much any state you want to visit, and practical advice on sleeping in a Wal Mart parking lot. Plus, she’s a climber, so she has a lot of helpful posts on the subject. Google some of the more niche things you are into, you might find a whole community of bloggers writing about it.

morninfresh

3. Write a long email to a friend or family member

Emails are probably going to become the new snail mail in another decade. I have a lot of nostalgia for weird email addresses. I have like ten, probably. Including honeymuffin1315 and glittercritter12 I think. Anyway, I think it’s really fun to write emails that aren’t work-related. Nobody in my generation really does that regularly anymore. It’s like a little present waiting in someone’s Inbox, and you can even include memes.

LM

4. Look up how to do something and actually do it in that moment.

I saw this really cool light fixture at a restaurant called Open Society in Indianapolis last week, and it looked rustic in a way that made think I could possibly make it if I wanted one. So I went on a Pinterest rampage and of course, there was a DIY article about a light fixture almost identical to the one I saw. I confess I didn’t go out to Lowes and start making it. But I wish I did… 🙂 We can learn a new trade or skill in so much less time than we used to be able to, it’s crazy.

lightfix

5. Research what’s going on in your town and make plans to check it out.

I’m not really a downtown local so I don’t know much about Indianapolis as a city. I was in a suburban bubble of Indianapolis and didn’t venture out except for when my family spontaneously moved out of the country twice. Ha. Anyway, one way I familiarized myself with the area was going online, searching music venues or coffee shops. I looked at a lot of event calendar on websites of bars, etc. Most cities have a “visit” website, or you can always check out your local news website.

 

Living without fear

In my psychology class, we are learning that fear is a function of the fight or flight response activated in your sympathetic nervous system. The amygdala, a pea-sized part of your brain responsible for emotion, memory and survival instincts, picks up on threats and stimulates the physiological response of stress. Neurotransmitters send chemical messages to the body from the brain and vice versa, and these interactions are happening while we think and feel. Some neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin are known to excite feelings of euphoria or shield pain, others are responsible for stimulation of the stress response, and they all work in an odd dance, interacting together to form what you perceive as how you feel. This is very useful when we are in danger. But when you are in the middle of a statistics test and you can feel your heartbeat getting faster and faster, the four page test feels like it’s a ticking time bomb.

We all have our own fears. For most people it seems their fears are buried somewhere deep inside themselves. They are stoic, and if they are afraid, they don’t admit it to themselves. They may have had a few significantly scary life experiences, but are generally resilient. I often compare myself to this ideal. Especially on days where it feels like a small breeze would blow me over. A psychiatrist would say my neurotransmitters fire too fast or too slow. My amygdala is a little overactive, maybe a little confused because of my past experiences about what exactly is life-threatening.

I was reading the next chapter of our Psychology book for class today and it coincidentally touched on the concept of nature vs. nurture. Nature vs nurture is the theory that while genetic information plays a part in our observable behavior, life experiences can influence and actually change our brains, resulting in a change in our observable behavior. This theory is mostly used to describe how we develop as we grow to be adults, but it inspired me in a spiritual way.

I have been dealt a hand by God. My genes are my genes for a reason. I have also had life experiences for a reason, and I continue to have them for a reason. God has made it so that I am not a victim of “nature” and my “nurture,” but He has given me the tools to overcome the mountains in front of me, put there specifically for me.The mountain looks huge when I am looking up, standing at the bottom, and there are parts in the middle where I can only look forward. But the journey to the top is how He teaches us how to let go of our fears trust Him more.

A strange thing happened to me when I moved to Indianapolis. I started becoming irrationally afraid of driving. I would experience panic attacks on the highway and have to pull over because I was shaking. It was terrifying and I hated myself for it at times. I didn’t understand why God had put this mountain in my life, why I had to be cursed with this fear, and I prayed for Him to heal me from this fear. Slowly but surely, I have been climbing upward. There were rest stops. And I probably fell back some. But last Thursday, I drove to help a friend on the other side of Indianapolis with no hesitation. Then, I went to class downtown. Then I drove up to Muncie to visit a friend. Progress.

As I rolled the window down, the wind wooshed in my ears and blowed my hair back, and I felt the sweet newness that comes with letting go. I listened to some of my favorite songs (particularly THIS), and I realized a little more about who I really am. I am not a woman that cowers in the face of her fears. There may be mountains ahead of me, but God has set me up for a life beautifully characterized by struggle, hope and redemption.

Nelson Mandela said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” I am inspired by how God worked in my fears and I know He is the one who helps me conquer them. I know that honoring God would be to live a life without fear, trusting Him with reckless abandon and following my heart, and I pray He give me courage to do so. God does better than let us live complacent, safe lives. He challenges us to trust Him courageously, and builds us up as warriors of love and peace.

God has been so faithful to me this past month. I am blown away by His goodness and His wisdom, knowing better than me what I need and what is best.

“The Lord is my shepherd” is one of those ubiquitous verses that people are used to hearing, but may not be used to conceptualizing. But as I walk in faith I have continually come back to this life-changing passage that I used to glance over.

In Psalm 23, David writes “The Lord is my shepherd,” and goes onto describe the relationship he has with God through extended metaphor.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
 Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

Let’s talk about “I lack nothing.”Every time I read it, this verse challenges me. It humbles me and forces me to look at things from a perspective of gratitude instead of despair. In biblical times, shepherds slept with their sheep to keep them safe from predators. They carried a rod to guide the sheep and a staff (or hook) to bring a wandering sheep back to them. And I see God continually acting in this way to me—guiding me, providing for me, protecting me, restoring my soul.

I’m not a naturally patient woman. I want things to be the way I think they should be, and I often try to control or manipulate my circumstances until they reflect what I perceive as an ideal situation. But reality intervenes, and my attempts to control everything proves ineffective. This is usually when I remember I’m NOT the one in control.

For example, I have this weird intimidation and anxiety about driving on the Interstate. Being inside of a hunk of metal hurling forward at 60 miles per hour messes with my mind. I will sometimes imagine the cars next to me crashing into me and feel panic shake me to the core. And yet, my classes this semester are in downtown Indianapolis, a bunch of my friends live down there, and I simply have to use the Interstate to get places in this city. It is not ideal. I found myself wishing that everything I needed was 5 or 10 minutes away like in Bloomington. And sometimes I would take the long way to get places to avoid using the Interstate.

Later in the gospels, the shepherd metaphor is given more dimension when Jesus tells us in John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me–just as the Father knows me and I know the Father–and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. –John 10:27

God has an interesting way of forcing us to acknowledge darkness and choose His light. Most of the time for me, this involves trusting him above all else. Believing that He goes before me, that He guides me and is keeping me safe. That He is the good shepherd. When I focus on this truth I am able to let go of my fears and live in a mindset of faith and trust, knowing that when I “walk through the darkest valley” God is with me.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Phillipians 4:6). With this verse in mind I have been stepping out in faith and trusting God to provide.

  • I have been praying diligently and genuinely about the growth of my trust in Him, and this past week I have been able to drive on the Interstate multiple times with Him in mind, even when it was dark and rainy.
  • I have been praying for financial blessings in this season of scraping by, and choosing to have faith that my opportunities would pan out. In the past three days I have been contacted by two employers and been gifted with nannying and substitute teaching side jobs.
  • I have been praying about my relationship with my brother, for us to be closer despite the distance in our homes. This holiday season God has provided opportunities for us to have fun and have genuine conversations about our lives.
  • I have been praying for growth in my community here in Indianapolis, to make new friends and find an awesome home church. Last Sunday I fell in love with Trader’s Point Christian Church. Then I went to a small group for women on Tuesday and felt a connection with many of the people there. I’ve also met a lot of new people by rock-climbing, and reconnecting with friends from camp.

To me, this is evidence of miracles. Most of the time I didn’t sit idly by while these blessings fell into my lap, although some of them certainly did. But my heart trusted God with each step. He is so good.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

(end of Psalm 23).

**If you ever experience anxiety

 

Faith is a funny thing. Like a garden, faith is something that grows. The seeds must be planted at the right time, in the right place, and be fed the right about of sunlight and rain to grow. There will be hard seasons. There will budding and blooming plants. Some plants will wilt into the soil and become the bed of something new.

I used to envision faith as more of a transplant. Jesus came into your life, took out your old heart and gave you a new one. Sometimes I still expect God to fix everything in my life, on the schedule I want, at that exact moment. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I’m so often asking Jesus for peace and to dispel the fear in my heart.

There have been moments where He has. Car rides where I focus deeply on scripture to keep from having a panic attack. Moments his spirit falls on me and my entire body’s tension melts. Nights I have meditated on His love and truly unwound from despair. But anxiety is a huge struggle for me in life. A mountain of trust I can’t seem to stop circling.

Reading the Bible, it is clear that Jesus performed miracles for people who had faith in Him. A sick and ostracized woman reached out to touch him, and He healed her, saying “your faith has healed you.” By faith, Peter was able to walk on water out to Jesus up until he doubted, and sank. In John, Jesus asks a paralyzed man, “Do you want to be healed?” before healing him.

Jesus often asks questions instead of giving answers. In this scripture, his question “Do you want to be healed?” gets at our unwillingness to accept truth. Obviously the man wanted to be healed. As much as I have prayed that he heal me from anxiety, this scripture prompts me to analyze why I can’t seem to trust God. There are so many scriptures promising that God is our refuge, our stronghold, the one who leads us to rest. And yet, there is still doubt living inside of me. Doubt creeps into my life like a parasite and steals joy from moments that should be enjoyed in abundance. Faith, on the other hand, has always beared fruit in my life.

I have seen miracles come from my own faith. Early in my faith my parents lived in England and I prayed about being closer with them. Now I live with them and we are all enjoying it, something I wouldn’t have thought would have happened in the past. God deconstructed my pride and softened my heart, healing my relationship with my parents.When I met God a couple years ago I was feeling very alone, and I prayed for community. In the next year, I lived in a cabin in the woods full of preteen girls for 3 months, was part of a 12 person co-op house, and made lifelong friends at my college ministry. God healed my loneliness and gave me joy again by blessing me with community, and in turn, his love. I believe He performs miracles when we have faith.

Deuteronomy 30:19 says”This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”Choosing life is choosing to have faith. Choosing to think “I will learn how to trust,” instead of “I will never have peace.” Watering my garden with grace instead of giving up to weeds. Realizing that God is most pleased in us when we believe how redemptive and transformative He can be to us.

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”2 Peter 3:9

Today I was walking around Bloomington, the town I’ve called home for more than four years, thinking about how much I’m going to miss it. I walked by cafes I spent countless hours studying in, drinking countless cups of coffee. I made my way through my favorite, wooded part of the campus where I earned my journalism degree. I stopped by the house I lived in my last year of college and made food in the same, familiar kitchen with familiar friends.

I never really wanted to leave Bloomington. I’ve been known to concoct crazy plans–I applied to the Peace Corps in the Caribbean, I almost became a certified teacher through Teach For America, and for a time I considered living a vagabond existence on different organic farms throughout the country. I think a part of me always knew those plans wouldn’t take. I’m a writer, and as a lover of stories, I can’t help trying to constantly write the story of my life. The problem is, I write myself wrong.

I would go crazy in the middle of an island with no reliable access to water and a two mile-walk to the next human being. I’m too emotional to be a teacher. I tried it in Bloomington and ended up crying a lot because my kids were obviously going through hard times at home and I felt powerless. As for the farming idea: honestly, vagabond existences stress me out. It is a nice idea, and it would be an awesome story to write. But I love getting know to one place slowly and thoroughly, the way I got to know Bloomington.

Tonight, on a whim, I went to a Christmas sing-along at the Buskirk-Chumley, a theatre on the town square. Families, college students and Bloomington musicians gathered to spread Christmas cheer and support the homeless shelter in town. I saw at least ten people I knew. One woman was an instructor in the salsa dancing classes I attended this fall. Another was the mother of one of the preschoolers I used to teach. I recognized a guy on stage as the barista at the local Barnes and Noble, where I’m kind of a “regular.” To top it off, the event supported Interfaith Winter Shelter, a shelter I wrote a feature series on for the school newspaper when I was an editor. As the theatre roared with our voices and kids danced in front of the stage, I felt so much love for the town I have come to call home.

These are the kinds of stories God writes. His characters are not uniform and archetypical, they are complex and built with intention. He weaves their lives together masterfully, creating meaningful relationships in unexpected ways. Community is a concept he drew up to mirror his love. In short, he has me beat as far as authors go.

Even though I’m nostalgic about leaving Bloomington, I know that God is leading me to my parents’ house Indianapolis. He is challenging me to let go of the scapegoat I’ve made of exciting plot-lines and let him decide what happens next. God wants to write my story, and he wants to write about the areas of my life I tend to neglect. The ones that might not be as flashy and cool. He wants to write about responsibility and self-care. He wants to write about what I look like as a good friend and a good daughter. And I trust that this next chapter will end similar to the last–with me, amazed at what He can do with my life when I let him.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.