Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Band of Brothers

A post on the 3 young men the Lord has placed in my life as brother; and the 3 very different ways He did so.

On Friday my younger brother (I am forbidden from calling him my “little” brother) will get on a plane for the very first time, and I will experience heart palpitations and pace back and forth until he’s in New York safe and sound. I will have him call me the second he lands, and yes I have called US Airways and arranged for someone to escort him from gate to gate on each flight. I can’t help it, my entire life I’ve felt the need to protect Samuel; ever since I held this mammoth 10lb 8 ounce baby that took up almost the entirety of my 4 year old self, since that moment he’s always been my Buddy. Maybe I just knew that’s what sisters were supposed to do for their younger siblings; my older sister had always protected me so there was no hesitation that this was what I was to do as well. Yet, I was never the cool older sister; I was the constant nagging voice; "Sam do your homework, Sam tie your shoes, Sam don’t talk with your mouth open, Sam don’t say aint. "(He hates that one.) I don’t know if he ever saw through the layers and realized that I was hard on him because I loved him, and I don’t know if he ever will. I can only hope the times when Sam and I would play basketball or throw a football at the park spoke louder to him than all the motherly requests I gave him. There were times when I would physically put myself between him and whatever struggle the world had given to us to take, and then there came a time when our relationship would be altered and I would literally be asked to guard over him. I remember my prayers so vividly from that time in my life; I asked the Lord to remember His promises to His children and to not forget Samuel. I would do whatever my Father asked of me, it didn’t matter. And as it is with our Heavenly Father; He did not leave, He did not forsake. God transformed my heart and placed inside of it a love for someone greater than my own life, God changed my dreams filled with successes and changing the world, to dreaming of a place of refuge for my baby brother and having his world forever changed. God then put people in my life to walk that road with me; I never walked alone, and I can never pour out enough gratitude to the people that came alongside me and helped me to bear my burden of grace. On Saturday, Sam the Man; a good bit over 6 feet these days, will turn 20 years old, and my prayer for him is this. "Dear Father I thank you for what you have done in his life, and how you have displayed your grace. I praise you for the people who genuinely care for him and are invested in his future. I pray for his future, that he would be given a drive and discipline to succeed at whatever You call him to do. I pray that you would utilize his intellect and love for reading and sports. Just as Hannah in the Bible, I give Samuel up to you. I surrender my worry and my anxiety and my fears for Him to you and will trust that you will continue to move mountains for your son. Amen."

Up in Pennsylvania there is a young man that I knew long before the Lord would graft him in to my heart as brother. I remember when Nevin and Robin Gorki decided I was finally old enough to babysit their children, I was so excited, they were such good kids at church and I was drawn to their parents and looked up to them in their walk of faith. Jared, their youngest, was always such a great kid. He said please when he asked for more macaroni and cheese, was always a joy to draw treasure maps with and play hide and seek, karaoke, and HORSE on long hot summer days. As I grew older, Robin and I got closer; to this day I still curl up on the stool over the kitchen island and pour out my heart to her. So, when my home no longer became my home, it was the Gorkis who opened up their doors to me. I already had a fierce love for their family and now by Gods grace I was a part of it. I’ll never forget when Kylie, their oldest, introduced me to some of her friends as her older sister and I can't tell you how much it means to me to see a photo of me on the wall. Jared and I have a sweet relationship, see we play checkers and I let him win every time......actually, truth is I’m terrible at checkers and no matter how much I practice or how many trick plays I memorize off my I-phone; it’s Jared who wins. Hands down. He even HELPS me and I lose. Whenever I call him he always asks me if I'm ready to come home and lose. I try to leave a letter on the table every time I leave home, I sign it; “All my love, forever and always” and that’s true, I will always love all of them with all my heart; Kylie will always be my sister, Jared will always be my brother. It’s hard to believe that the little boy I watched run up and down the tiny soccer fields is now a tall, kind hearted freshman in high school, and my prayer for him is this. "Dear Father, thank you for the incredible gift  of family you have given me with my Gorki’s, thank you that I have a sweet brother in Jared. I pray that you would bless him these next four years of high school and cultivate his heart for others into the leader of men I know he will be. I pray that you would give opportunity for him to share your love and gospel and he would continue to grow in wisdom and stature. Amen"

When I was 17, I had a paternity test that ruled out Option Number One of who my father could be. It’s results left me with the information that Option Number Two was indeed my biological father. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to find him or not, the story I had been given was that he hadn’t wanted anything to do with me. I questioned why I would want to track that person down and ask them to want me again. I decided I would at least find as much information on him as I could, and like every other high school senior with a question at hand; I turned to Google. I googled his name and a phone number and address came up; I wrote it down on a piece of paper, there in my hands was the X on a treasure map of a lifetime of searching. I didn’t call it for the longest time, to be perfectly honest I was scared a little girl would answer the phone and tell her daddy that there was strange girl on the phone for him.  Yet sometime when the season turned colder and I was at my mothers house by myself, I called the number. I asked for him using his full name, thinking the middle name would indicate I had definitely found the right one. “This is” he said. I asked if he remembered my mother, calling her by the name he would have known her as. His voice slowed, it was full of questions. Finally, very calmly I stated; “ I’m your daughter” The first thing he said to me was; “ You have a brother”. "Yes, yes I do" I said, "his name is Samuel." He then went on to explain that no, he had a son, so I had yet another brother and his name was Leland and was 10 years younger than I was. Since that phone call I have spent time with Leland twice, it’s hard because he lives out West and I live down here in Dixie. Leland is a sweet boy who at 14 is already heads taller than me. He asks grown up questions and seems like a very serious, mature boy. He is my little Leelee and my prayer for him is this. Dear Father, thank you for giving me the courage to pursue a truth that scared me which ended up giving me another little brother to love. I hope that I can be a good example for him and that we can grow up the rest of our lives together even though we are far apart. I pray that you would reveal your truths to him and that you would walk beside him. Bless him Father and remind him that he is never alone. Amen"

I am a very lucky big sister, to have been given three boys who look up to me, whose bonds with me are so very different; our DNA is nothing alike, we share only parts of each others features, yet I love them all with an unconditional compassion and they each bless me with their unique hearts. What a beautiful reminder that though each of us in this world are so very different; we should love one another just the same. The man sitting across from you on the subway or in the next cubicle is your brother. The woman who just lost her husband or is checking out your groceries, she’s your sister. Your fellow man is someone you should love and protect, cherish and encourage. Our Father said to love one another as He has loved us, and has He not welcomed us in to his family, adopted through the precious blood of His Son making us all brothers and sisters in Christ. His prayer for us is this: "I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Que Sera Sera

My dear friend Annelie lives out in Oregon, today she called and told me about this crazy ”cliff jumping at night under the light of a full moon”; it sounded all together amazing and terrifying. I imagined what it would be like to throw myself off in to darkness, seeing nothing beneath me but the black of night and looking out over the expanse of mountain peaks outlined by moonbeams. It caused me to think about the pieces of light and truth God has been sending out for me, like lamps unto my feet in this sometimes-dark path.

Within all my anxiety, He whispers: TRUST.

Within all my doubts, He whispers: I PROMISE.

Within all my unanswered desires, He whispers: WAIT.

I’ve never been very good at waiting; as a little girl I would stay up reading a book until the sky had turned royal blue and the morning chorus of birds had started it’s melody outside my window; I hadn’t been able to wait until the next evening to finish the story; I wanted to know the ending NOW! I never savored Christmas stockings like my sister either; she would take each item out, that my mother had gleaned over the past year so painstakingly, one by one and praise and thank my mother for her forethought and fortitude. Not me, I poured that sucker out on to the floor, examined the treasures, deemed what I thought was necessary and tore in to the juicy traditional Christmas orange that was always in the toe of the stocking. I’m also a horribly impatient driver, people who know me well have seen the flares of my road rage and know that I will drive in the wrong direction and take the long way round if only to avoid waiting in traffic. So the Lord must find it deliciously ironic that he led my mother to bestow upon me the name that she has; three of my names are biblical women who the Lord called, to wait.  Yet my name is so much more than ironic, it is deep rooted in the sovereignty of God just like every other portion of this beautiful life I have been served. I have always been aware of the meanings of my names and have tried to live up to the woman it proclaims me to be, but until recently I have overlooked how I could be taught and served by the stories of my namesakes.

Sarah-I was named after Sarah in the Old Testament, Abraham’s barren wife. My mother was very adamant that I instruct people that I was Sarah “ with an H” as opposed to Sara.  She explained the meaning behind how God changed Sarai to Sarah, and how to her, the H signified the breath of God. In Hebrew times someone’s named being changed was also symbolic of a covenant; you see God changed her name when He promised she would bear a son and Abraham would become the Father of Gods chosen people. I find a lot of hope in Sarah; you see she laughed at the Lords promise that she would bear a child, I mean, wouldn't you if you were around 90 years old?! But God responded: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” So even though she had laughed and doubted, even though she grew impatient and took things in to her own hands and created an “Ishmael” the Bible tells us that God was gracious to her and fulfilled His promise and she had a son, on occasion of which she said: “ God has brought me laughter”. What sweet joy to be had in the fulfilled promises of God.

Elizabeth- Elizabeth means “ consecrated to God”. I am humbled that one of my names would possess such a meaning; to be chosen, to be set apart. Only by Gods grace can I sing praises to my King, only because He has chosen me, adopted me in to His family. My Elizabeth comes from the New Testament.  She and her husband Zacharias were righteous followers of God, but Luke tells us that they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren. Yet in her old age God gave her a baby who would be known as John the Baptist, the voice in the wilderness, proclaiming the Messiah. Elizabeth waited her whole life to feel a life inside of her, the bible says that Zacharias prayer “had been heard”. Upon seeing Mary, who at that point was pregnant with Jesus, the baby inside Elizabeth leapt for joy and Elizabeth identifies Mary as the mother of her Lord.  Elizabeth not only waited for a baby, she waited for the Messiah and God gave her both.

Ruth- The name Ruth was originally intended to be my first name and I was supposed to live out my days known as Ruth Adele Stonier, named after my mother’s dearest cousin and mentor Ruth Adele Link. I wasn’t too young to still posses memories of this Ruth, always sitting with a blanket over her legs; her hands were as soft as butter, with large protruding veins and she only had one eye. I would often stare at the empty socket on her face but would soon be distracted by how she still dressed herself like a proper lady and had a different lapel broach for every occasion. I can see why my mother upon deciding she preferred her daughter to be named Sarah Elizabeth, would not want to risk hurting the feelings of such a remarkable woman and would squeeze on to my birth certificate: Sarah Elizabeth Ruth Adele Stonier. The name Ruth means friend, and is synonymous with mercy and compassion. I treasure the name Ruth because she is in my top five of favorite biblical women. If you haven’t before I urge you to read the book of Ruth in the Old Testament; Ruth, gave up her people and culture after her husband dies to follow the One True God of her mother-in-laws people. She chose to trust and follow God, she waited at the feet of Boaz and she was ushered in to the lineage of Jesus Christ. To me Ruth emulates humility, joy and grace; on Ruth and her circumstances the commentator Matthew Henry writes: “God wisely orders what seem to us small events; and those that appear altogether uncertain, still are directed to serve his own glory, and the good of his people.”

Adele Now, unless there’s an Adele hidden somewhere in the Book Of Chronicles in the many verses of “whom begat who” that I skip over; Adele is not a biblical name. In fact I can only think of two Adele's; Jane Eyre's charge in the classic Charlotte Bronte novel and the incredible singer performing next month in Atlantic City. There are no deep stories of faith for me to derive inspiration from but I can’t very well withhold it from a blog post structured around my name! However the name Adele is worth noting because it also holds a beautiful meaning; noble.  To me, noble has never represented wealth or aristocracy, noble was that rare quality that peered out from the woods like a flash of a cardinals wing in the snow. Noble was something I searched for, like a woman staring out in to the harbor waiting with the wisest discretion for her ship to come in, instead of rolling in the deep.

My names without Stonier, spell out SERA, it wasn’t planned that way but when I was little I recognized my initials in the prefix to another word found in Scripture; Seraphim. The Seraphim's were angels, and I was reading in the book of Isaiah when I was struck by the connection, more powerfully so did I see that the seraphim were singing; “ Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord, GOD Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory”


And so, this impatient. anxious. imperfect. heart belongs to a girl whose very name reminds her to wait upon the Lord and to praise His name. On Sunday, we had a wonderful sermon from Psalm 27. Our pastor Bill Kittrell did an incredible job at breaking apart the words of David and reminding us that as we wait upon the Lord, we would see His goodness in the land of the living. We’re all in different seasons of our lives; some are waiting for that proposal and ring, while others have yet to find someone at all. Some are waiting for their child to go through chemotherapy treatments, while others are waiting and hoping and praying for a child to bare. Some are waiting for grades to come through, or a promotion conference call to be had. Some are waiting for prayers to be answered, and some still have to wait to see why the prayer was answered the way it was. Yet, our God gives us so many examples of His faithfulness that we can draw near to Him and not fear that his love may be conditional, not expect to be let down or cast aside. He will not reject or forsake us. While we wait, let us wait in joy. While we trust, let us trust in thankfulness. While we remain confident in His promises, let our lives be known as a song that is filled with proclaiming the holiness and glory of our God.

In Him,
The Arc of Triumph in Paris, France

Friday, August 19, 2011


One of the fondest memories I have of my mother is when she would gather the four of us around a large globe of the world; the bright spherical kind generally found in middle school classrooms. Together we would spin it faster and faster until one of us pointed out our finger, jammed it down with emphasis and excitement and stop it on some faraway land. We would then pray for the country in which we had found ourselves; we would pray for the orphans, the widows, the hungry and the needy. My mother was never entirely sure where our next meal was coming from but she made sure we knew there were less fortunate than we, and that we should wear our knees out praying for them. When I was 11 I’ll never forget the missionaries coming to church; the globe now stretched out flat, a map of the world staring back at me as I sat by myself in the back row of blue cushioned pews. The missionaries were talking about whatever we would do unto the least of these…we would do unto Jesus. I remember my zealous, too tall, and dangerously skinny self, wanting to jump out of my seat and save the world, but my reasonable, older than years self, thinking; Sarah, you are the least of these. You get by through the benevolence of others. You are more often than not a charity project yourself. How on earth could you help? It was then that I started searching for ways to impact people; be it through smiling at my elderly customers as I delivered their newspapers, or insisting on taking my friends lunch-trays up to the trashline or passing out cold cups of water in the sweltering heat.

Jesus taught me that it isn't money or power that changes the world; it is His love.

At 15 I experienced my first missions trip; working in a whitewashed stone orphanage in Montego Bay, Jamaica. The Mennonite women who had given up their families to run this haphazard collection of joyful faces worked tirelessly in the unforgiving sun, not taking a thought to abandon their long dresses and covered hair. I admired them as much as I admired the stark contrast between my own porcelain skin against the midnight skin of the tiny children I held and sang to. The last day I remember staring out the window of the bus as we pulled away, but from the glare of the sun it was my own reflection that stared back at me. I followed the tear that ran down my cheek as I prayed the inhabitants inside that little orphanage would hear the call of Jesus saying; “Let the little children come to me.” I go often as a little child to my Father, even as a 24 year old woman I cling to the promise that He is a father to the fatherless and that in His presence I can whisper, Abba. I must continually trust that He will guide my steps with His holy wisdom in ways so much more beautiful than an earthly father could have. It was His hands that guided me to Johnson Bible College, though for years I stubbornly refuted His request. Speech was definitely in my top five favorite classes at Johnson, not only was Professor Ketchen a gem of a teacher but I excelled in speech, and anticipated the delivering of my crafted words in Winston Churchill style. But the most powerful speech from that year was one not my own. Kristin Rickels had spent her summer in Kenya; slide after slide, picture after picture flashed brightly behind her as she spoke, and as she told her stories, I cried. Not the unattractive boohooing, but those singular quiet tears that slip down your face when you’re grieving from a deeper place inside you. I couldn’t help but notice that in a single second the photo had captured all of their depravity and all of their joy.  Ever since then I have felt called to go on missions trips to Africa and India, in fact on my To- Do List, number 10 stated very clearly: "Go on Missions Trip to Africa or India." I wanted with all my heart to work in an aids clinic in Africa, and a school in India; both places that very dear women from Johnson Bible College have already carried a bright light. Yet every endeavor I pursued only led to a closed door, missed opportunities and unanswered yearnings. However, in early 2012 I will be able to cross number 10 off the list, but only because I’ve changed it to say, “Go on an overseas missions trip” and I hope my fellow bucket-listers will grant me that liberty. Right now the door is wide open to serve the people of Cambodia. Never in my dreams (obviously) did I desire to go to the Far East, never did I expect to be communicating with missionaries in Phnom Penh, and picking up a travel book filled with foreign concepts and glossy pictures of waterfalls and elephants. God has this habit of changing the desires of my heart to match His plans. Yet in His defense, isn’t this exactly what I pray for?

Here’s the game plan; meet my friend Genevieve! Gen has been one of my best friends since high school, she’s funny, she’s Irish, and has a super cute niece named Lily. Gen has worked in Cambodia and will be living in Cambodia for possibly the next two years. She works with a company that promotes clean water and sanitation, while at the same time providing economic infrastructure to Cambodian locals. She’s my in to the country, and my more than likely place to stay! Which is another cool part to the adventure. Gen is staying in the dorms of a local college and in exchange is teaching English to Cambodian women. So part 1 of my mission is to join her in the incredible experience of sharing the words I love so much with women whose culture and language I know absolutely nothing about! If that wasn’t challenging enough, the main part of my mission is full of its own heartbreaking challenges. Right now the goal for me is to work in a village outside the capital. It is a village known as “The Pedophile Capital of the World”. There, 99 percent of the children are at risk of being sold into sex slavery. How devastating that our world could be so advanced and full of such beauty and in the same heartbeat, the same click of time so depraved and filled with such a horrifying sin. The purpose of this blog post is to ask for your prayers and hundreds of them! Prayer that the doors would continue to be opened, that my time and purpose would be solidified, that the funds would be made available to go, for the relationships that will be built with the Cambodian college students, prayers that I may have many opportunities to share the Gospel and bring them the Living Water, pray for Genevieve as she spends much more time than I will over there away from family, prayer that I would be given the tools and the knowledge on how I could ever possibly make an impact for these kids, prayers for those children, for a hedge of protection around them and their futures. Charles Spurgeon once said “ We don’t pray for the important things, prayer IS the important thing” I thank you in advance for your prayers as I head towards crossing this off my bucket list. Of all my frail, little dreams this one certainly holds a special weight, its more than something to accomplish, it is something that is part of the very core of who I am and the woman God has called me to be.
Here I am Lord, send me.

"He is no fool who gives up what he can not keep, to gain that, which he will never lose" -Jim Elliot.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

So, What's Next?

Over the weekend of my very favorite holiday July 4th, I walked within the beautiful dreams of people I love. Kelsey Pack with buttons all down her back married Tripp Purks, who, in a dashing slate gray vowed to cherish her forever, against the gorgeous expanse of a wheat field and the boughs of a weeping willow tree. The very next day, my sweet little sister by adopted love Kylie Gorki turned 16! Together our teeth turned green and blue from Funfetti cupcakes and I did a happy dance when I got the “ passed my permit“ text from her. Then, love swelled in my heart as I held my precious niece Eva, born on June 29th to my amazing big sister Cassia Maguire and her “perfectly made for her” husband, Mike.  It was a medley of the biggest moments that will ever happen in a woman’s life, all happening around me, all to other people. Brilliant displays of Gods love and plans for them exploding into the night skies precisely like the very fireworks I watch every summer, and I was just as mesmerized and happy to watch those moments happen for them. I’ve already passed through the sweetness of a 16th, and have yet to cross in to the world of wedding bells and babies. I’m standing on this fabulous middle ground; independently sojourning, in a life dependent on God.

Since I was 18 I have prayed that the Lord would either grant the desires of my heart, or He would change them. Change them He has, and Christ has shown me that His will is perfect and that within His will is where I am safest, and most at peace.  He designed me with a purpose, and I must allow His purposes to be my pursuit, not my own. Out of the desires of my heart come my hopes and dreams and I collect a few of those on lists.  It has been so fulfilling, crossing things off of my current list and of course blogging what I can of the experiences. I was thrilled to cross off “Compete in Miss Tennessee” this June. My personal goal outside of being Miss Tennessee and then Miss America was to be in the Tennessee Top Ten, and I completed my Miss Tennessee journey in the Top Ten.  Eleanor Roosevelt once said that the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams; and it was an incredible, beautiful, feeling to see one of my dreams come to fruition after four years of persevering towards that exact outcome. Ever since the closure of that dream I have been asked by so many people what all my future plans are. “So, what’s next?” is now the question of the hour, and I stopped counting how many times those precise words have been posed to me. So, what’s next?

The beautiful and terrifying answer to that question is…….I have no idea.

At ten years old I would practice my Oscar acceptance speech in the mirror, convinced I would be the Audrey Hepburn of my generation. At 15, as I would sing The National Anthem at my high school sporting events, knees knocking and heart pounding, I was sure that one day the lights of the soccer field would transform in to the lights of Superbowl 41. At 18, the dreams were a little bit more realistic.…ok, maybe they were still grandiose; see I was certain I would graduate from SAE, a film school in Australia and I would go on to master the arts of screenwriting, directing and cinematography. I had already penned my cover letters to Walden Media and Focus Features and yes, that Oscar acceptance speech still lingered in the back of my mind (though it now possessed more copious and elaborate vocabulary).  I was 18 when I wrote my first bucket list, though I have no idea now what it said. I know though, what it didn’t say, it did not say things to the effect of:  move below the Mason Dixon line, take Greek and Hebrew classes, graduate from Bible College, travel across the country to summer camps presenting the Gospel, get a job in the healthcare industry and walk the northern beaches of Denmark. Yet, that is precisely what happened in my life, and that is exactly what the Lord intended to happen so I would be the woman I am right now, living in the moments I am right now. He gave me the love of words and oratory so that I would find myself motivating a gymnasium full of middle school kids instead of the stage of The Kodak Theater. He gave me a love of singing not for the Superbowl Stadium but for the joy of singing Amazing Grace to my niece, or just the simple outpouring of my heart in worship every morning.  And worship I shall, even though I have no idea what’s next in my career, my education, my life, and my walk of faith. I guess I’ll start with that little “List of Things To Do before I turn 26”.  I plan on designing and sowing my own dress, seeing the Red Hot Chili Peppers in concert, making a pumpkin pie from the actual pumpkin, volunteering at East TN Children’s Hospital, memorizing Ephesians, planting a tree for Earth Day and a bunch of other fun things that I won’t disclose in order to keep you coming back to read about them! The little ones are easy though, I just have to plan them and then circle the date on the calendar with a hot pink sharpie. The more daunting ones include: Publish a novel and a children’s book series, go on an overseas missions trip, travel to Australia and New Zealand, swim with sea turtles and watch the sunrise spill over the Grand Canyon. It’s the big dreams that are harder to hold onto, more difficult to persevere towards. The larger the glass ball, the more delicate it is to carry, one misstep and it shatters. Yet are they missteps? When dreams aren’t realized and they fade into the mist and remain just ink marks on a worn piece of paper, when hopes are deferred to a locked box beneath your bed, have you failed? I know this to be true: Man makes his plans, but the Lord determines his steps.  I think to never try something is to fail, to have plans foiled and give up is to fail, but when something doesn’t come to fruition simply because it wasn’t Gods will for you it is only because He has something better, something even more beautiful, because He knows you more intimately than you know yourself. From where I stand right now, in this fabulous middle ground, I look behind me to the rocks I have traversed over and the sovereignty and grace of the Lord, and I look ahead to the stunning expanse of possibilities and the abundant life my Father has promised me. I know there will be joy and there will be pain, but the King of my mountains will also be the Lord of my valleys and whatever is in front of me, "I’ll choose to sing Hallelujah". Of this I am certain, I will seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and whatever He decides to add unto me; well, that, that is exactly what’s next.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

  For someone such as myself who has an infatuation with words and would rather read the dictionary than the news, it has been a daunting task to find the words for my Miss Tennessee experience and even harder still to capture the magnitude of my gratitude for the support shown to me on this journey. I know that my thanks will be a feeble offering for the many ways in which I was loved and treasured and encouraged. Strangely enough, though my mother was not in the audience, I am drawn to speak of her as I try to capture this beautiful experience and the Lords amazing grace. I always approach writing anything involving my mother with extreme trepidation. To hold her story in my hands is to cup a beautiful butterfly with a shattered wing. I feel it is my duty to protect her, yet at the same time, in order to share my own story, I expose her. I remember in vivid colors every shard of glass that’s a piece of the stained glass window of my past. One in particular stands out to me tonight; it’s the cold dark piece I tend to push away, to the farthest corner of the mosaic. It was just the second or third time that my mothers illnesses would manifest in the public eye rather than within the barrier walls of our home. I was far removed from her, yet I felt so incredibly attached to the situation. My logical self fought frantically with my imagination to find a balance of facts. My mother, for her actions, had been tased, arrested, and again placed in the psychiatric ward; and though my mind simply imagined the terror, my precious older sister had seen it and felt it to her core. As we spoke on the phone the numbness that passed between us was unmistakable. In this rush of fury, our entire childhoods were falling in to place, we now understood the broken and unbalanced waltz we had danced, yet at the same time tried to grasp at explanations for the dance we were now seated before. I tossed and turned in my bed that night, every tick of the clock was another breath I couldn’t breathe. I kept imagining my mom as a child scared and alone. For some reason I couldn’t help but worry that she wouldn’t have anything to read. I was fearful that someone might hurt her. Finally, I burst out of the dorms and ran until I had dispensed every ounce of anxious energy within me, collapsing like a limp rag doll in a back parking lot. I remember the ice cold cement beneath me, and the wet autumn air around me, I remember the moon stirring, and resting her beams upon my silhouette. I cried, I sobbed for what felt like hours, I let all the aching of my heart reach before the Throne, and begged for my Father to hear me.

 My Father heard.

I think right now I’m most aware of one of the darkest moments of my life because I just walked through one of the brightest. We can’t treasure fully the beauty of the light, unless we’ve stepped in to it from the shadows. This past week I competed for the title of Miss Tennessee, I was able to experience the fruition of a dream, the completion of a goal, and the answer to a hope. Throughout the week I was showered with constant encouragement from the Lord. He used so many people to bless and uplift me.  From note cards and facebook messages, to thoughtful gifts, to survival kits and stunning bouquets of flowers. I was daily overwhelmed by the unconditional support and love from friends, family, strangers and the Miss Tennessee Community. Not only that, but how gracious of the Lord for me to walk away with more accolades than I could ever have imagined or asked for. On Thursday afternoon I was named a Tennessee Miracle Maker, on Friday night I was one of the preliminary swimsuit winners. On Saturday morning, those amazing girls, my beautiful fellow contestants bestowed upon me the incredible honor of being their Miss Congeniality. Then on Saturday, I placed in the Top Ten! God answered a prayer for just the experience and the chance, and then blessed me tenfold. At the very start of the final night they cut to the top 15. When there were 14 girls at the forefront of the stage and my name had not been called, I was unaffected. I had been so deeply touched by everyone around me, that from where I stood I already felt like Miss America.  In my heart I prayed; “ Lord, I am completely at peace if I don’t advance any further, You have already given me so much and I am so grateful.” Then, reminiscent to winning the second to last pageant in my final season of eligibility…..My name, was the last name called in the top 15!

Then I was in the top 12.
What an honor.

Then I was in the top 10.
What a gift.

Though I realize I am not the strongest singer, I know the Lord has given me something to say. For my talent, I sang a song entitled Gold. When I first heard the lyrics to this song, I choked up and couldn’t imagine singing anything else on the Miss Tennessee stage. “You have to live the life you’re given”, it says  “just hold on, and stare in to the skies and burn against the cold. For any moment, you might find the gold.” That is a legacy worth leaving behind, to admonish our future generations to burn with passion and dreams and dedication, against all odds and adversities, to leave their lights burning against the night sky and to stand at the ready for the fruits of their labors. The song goes on to say “There were nights, the moon above me stirred and let my life take hold, here in my own two hands, I once held the gold.” The gold, which my hands have held, and the power by which my life has taken hold is the steadfast, tried and true promises of God. The gold that my hands still reach for is not found within the earthly treasures of this world. It is the pure solid streets of gold that make their way through heaven to the feet of my Redeemer. I felt completely at peace and at ease on that stage, not because I felt entitled, or was convinced I deserved to be there, but because when I stepped out on to that stage I was laying a crown before my King, and hoped to be a living testament to the faithfulness of our God. Even through a beauty pageant His provision was felt in my heart, and without ever whispering the sweetest name I know, it was my earnest prayer that His Gospel would be heard.

With many thanks,
Miss Walking Tall

Blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering, Blessed be Your name.
Blessed be Your name, in the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow, blessed be Your name.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Within the Eye of the Storm. Inside the Center of the Sun.

  It started with the leaves, leaves that did not belong to any of the trees around me, leaves that longed to rest on the forest floor but were being pushed towards me at an alarming rate by a strong whistling wind. Then came the birds, birds flying with such quickness in the opposite direction of where I was heading I could hardly imagine the rate their hearts were beating within their fragile chests. I was driving from Pennsylvania to Tennessee and was somewhere in southern Virginia, I’d gotten multiple calls and texts earlier in the day asking if I was safe in the weather. With 90 degree air pouring through my windows and gorgeous sunshine all around me I was perplexed, to say the least, at their concern. Now, as I drove closer and closer into the ink black wall in front of me I understood. Before I hit the rain the expanse of the storm was evident, and sheets of purple lighting illuminated the sky from one mountain ridge to the other. Then, the rain slammed into my car, it came down with such force I couldn’t see anything in front of me. The speedometer sank from 70 to 5 mph, I chewed my bottom lip, and my index finger nervously rubbed the nail bed of my thumb as I strained to see. My wipers were powerless and every so often a thick bolt of lightning would attack the earth and light it up for miles, it was then I could see my comrades in this storm, inching along as slowly as I. The thunder was hideous, it wrapped around me like the groans of some unearthly beast and brought with it crackling, untamed displays of lightning. This went on for what felt like hours but I rightly have no idea how much time passed as I was berated unceasingly by the wind and rain. Then, to my right, the sky began to change in the way blood is soaked into a wet rag. It was a sky so red I thought the whole earth must be on fire. The rain dissipated as if the heat of this fire consumed it, the reds and orange hues went on for miles and poured over every possible piece of land. However, to my left, the storm drove its army on, and I could see the trees bending to its will. So there I was, this finite and very frail witness standing in between the collision of two worlds of nature. I gasped as lightning streaked across the horizon of the sky from the right to the left over and over again, as if it was being propelled from the very center of the sun itself. I didn’t imagine this display could become any more beautiful when on the left, in the very center of the storm, yawning up from the downtrodden, crippled earth, came the largest and brightest rainbow I have ever seen.  Lightning bolts continued to pierce the earth all around the rainbow, and yet it shone. The proclamation of faithfulness steady, the coat of arms for the King of Kings waving triumphant amidst the battle.

Tumultuous weather has been the theme as of late; it seems like when we catch our breath from the first wave another even stronger still, breaks down upon us.  Not just the heavy storms and hail damage in my little piece of Tennessee, but the devastation in Alabama, the flooding of The Mississippi, most recently the tragedy in Joplin MO and even as I write this, a massive storm system races across Oklahoma. When we see these natural disasters, when our very beings thunder with questions as the news reports of the death tolls and devastation, I am reminded of one who slept soundly as a storm raged about him. In the Gospel of Mark, the disciples have to wake Jesus up from a sound sleep in the midst of a submerging boat. “Do you not care that we are perishing?!” they cried and yet “He stood and rebuked the wind and said to the sea; peace, be still. And the wind ceased and there was a great calm” Many times, especially now, we probably are side by side with the disciples, asking whether or not He cares that we are perishing or questioning why He doesn’t command the elements to cease. The very simple truth is that He does care and He holds us all within His hands.  Through the prophet Isaiah He tells us “ When you pass through waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” We may be too finite and frail to understand His ways, but know this…even the wind and waves obey Him. Even in the midst of the elements, He is eternal. Not just in the tangible, physical world either but in the storms that devastate our souls. When a mother loses her son to a war he did not start, when a young woman becomes paralyzed in an accident not her fault, when tornadoes rip through our towns stealing everything we hold dear. In the moments that cripple us to our knees in despair, when we curl up against the cold cement and cry out into the blackest of nights to be held, we can rise up from the downtrodden and crippled pieces of this life and hold on to the promises and peace of God. Jesus said, “ Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let it be afraid”. When we are within the storms, we are still in the center of the Son. He knows the hairs on our heads, He cares when even a sparrow falls from the sky, He is a good and loving Father and He offers hope when all other lights go out. Just as I watched the sun cast it’s rainbow into the storm, so does the Son of Man cast His sovereignty, provision and faithfulness into the darkness; the coat of arms for the King of Kings waving triumphant amidst the battle.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Lime Water, The Limelight and the Love of My Mothers....

 I always order lime with my water. I’m sure that I am not a favorite patron of wait staff across this great city, I have to be “that girl”…I can’t just be easy and get lemons like the rest of the table. That however, is precisely how I prefer to drink my water; I find it unique, glamorous, and altogether more refreshing. It’s part of who I am, it’s on the great list of quirks, oddities and particulars that make up Sarah Belle, or if you’re my mother: Sarah Elizabeth Ruth Adele Stonier. Yeah, had to be “that girl” with 5 names too…. There’s other things on the list that compile the portrait of who I am; I love socks fresh out of the dryer, I enjoy breathing in the scent of old books, I could eat avocadoes for days, I hate salads because I personally feel they are too cumbersome to be eaten gracefully, I am notorious for forgetting to RSVP, I over think just about everything, and so on and so forth. Each of us has those lists and it’s what makes us such a brilliant tapestry of creation that could only have been designed and woven together. With our lists, come our stories, and with our stories come our pasts, and the years that have already slipped between the slender turn of the hourglass. The compilation of those years is different for everyone, yet none are without a purpose, and each story is written and given to who was intended to bear it. In college I was able to share my story over and over again to groups of young people, I was thankful to see God work in their hearts and continue to draw beauty from ashes. But it was always easy to bare your soul to a group of strangers you would never see again, I would cast the seeds from my satchel and bid the field farewell. However, being in the business that I am today ( ie: “public figure” Miss Walking Tall)  it was only a matter of time before God moved to shine a spotlight though I had already left the stage. My dear friend and pageant sister Miss Nashville, Chelsea Jensen felt called to use my testimony for the subject matter in her journalism project. We both agreed that the purpose behind this joint venture was to glorify Jesus Christ and how the hand of God had moved within my life. She did a wonderful job, and I look forward to her career and how she will one day take the ranks of our personal favorites; Diane Sawyer and Anderson Cooper! But, the moment she posted the link my heart began to race and I quickly realized how large the fear of man was in my heart. These were not strangers whose faces I would never know listening, these were people who were an every day part of my life, people I worked with, laughed with and worshipped with. Not only that but people who might see it knew my mom, was it my place to share the details of her story though there is hardly a way to unclasp hers from my own?

I’ve never liked the limelight…I know that’s a strange statement from a girl who thrives on performance, the theater, beauty pageants and singing in front of large audiences but it’s so entirely different. On stage I can’t see peoples faces, there’s variants of shadows and I’m looking into the lights, the applause is more like leaves rustling in the wind and the stage is more a place of solitude for me than it is of celebratory status. Off the stage, it’s intimate, it’s raw, it’s real life.  And if you know me well or spent any amount of time with me you’ve observed that I’m quiet and reserved and get an uncomfortable feeling when Chad Ridner calls on me to talk at Care Group. (Which is precisely why he does it…) It took me 4 years to muster up the courage to even write this blog!  I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m painfully shy, but I am definitely not an effervescent, sparkling, outspoken lass either. So you realize why my nerves kicked in when the off stage, intimate details of my life became public domain. Yet scripture says, be anxious of nothing, let the peace of God guard my heart. Then people started responding, and reposting, and rejoicing not in my strength, but in Gods! The very reason why I’d agreed to do it in the first place! The reason is this, ultimately the spotlight is not shining on me, I am merely holding it and shining it back on to the Father. My Abba. His faithfulness is more assured than the sunrise, His friendship is more intimate than a brothers, His freedom is the greatest peace you could ever know.
To those of you who have seen it, or who will watch the video link below. I’d like to speak more in depth on my mother, especially because today is Mothers Day, and she deserves to be honored, because at the end of the day, she’s still my mom. I forgave her, I love her with all my heart. She never told me I couldn’t be anything I dreamed to be, and always told me she was my biggest fan.  The abuse I speak of was not premeditated, but moments of rage and weakness from an exhausted woman battling the trials of her own story and the effects of a then undiagnosed illness outside her control. I won’t dilute the facts of my childhood, I won’t trivialize the pain of watching the horrors of a mental illness but it has no power over me. It is only by Gods grace that I’ve been given the clarity to see that, the desire to pray for her, and the strength to forgive her. Happy Mothers Day Mom, I love you!
In the title of this blog it states “the love of my mothers”, and that’s precisely because I’m lucky enough to have two. When I had nowhere to go, Robin Gorki opened up her heart and home to me, the entire Gorki family has adopted me as one of their own. My childhood photo hangs in their house, where before it would have laid in a box or found its way to the trash, I have a bedroom in their home, I have a seat at their table. Their love for me has only more beautifully displayed the adoptive love of my Heavenly Father. In Robin, He’s given me someone to call home to about boys, about work, about friends, about my greatest fears and my biggest hopes. Happy Mothers Day Mom, I love you!

And Happy Mothers Day to all the moms out there, not just the many women in my life who bless my heart and invest in my soul but every single woman out there who tirelessly loves their children, and day in and day out give of themselves for their families. Enjoy today; the breakfasts made for you in bed, the goofy cards, the delicately wrapped boxes. Enjoy today; the blessings of your family, the Sunday afternoon brunch, enjoy being treasured, and while you’re at it, go ahead, order your water with lime.


"This is my anthem, this is my song
The theme of the stories I've heard for so long
God has been faithful, He will be again
His loving compassion, it knows no end"

Friday, May 6, 2011


For the first time, this year April 15th represented something more than finding myself logging on to TurboTax with a wrinkled W-4 form and a caramel apple spice in hand…it was also the deadline for Ad Pages in The Miss Tennessee program book.  I still sometimes can’t believe I’ve been given such an opportunity, that one day I’ll sit with my niece, or my daughters and granddaughters and watch Miss America and tell them; that was something I was a part of!  Preparing for Miss Tennessee is a lot more details and things to focus on than you would expect, just another piece of proof that beauty queens are more than just hairspray, lip-gloss and butt glue. Yes, I said it…butt glue. From time to time this can be the perception of those of us who wear a crown, and television shows like Toddlers and Tiaras do nothing but enhance a vapid and shallow perception of beauty pageants and beauty queens.  However, to kneel down with a group of children and explain to them what it means to be a servant to others, to have a sweet red headed little girl stare up at you, cross legged with her head in her hands, absorbing every detail of what its like to pursue your dreams….well that is a foundational element of why we do, what we do. In 5 very short weeks I will find myself in Jackson, Tennessee. I will wave and smile and sign autographs, I will interview for the job of being Miss Tennessee, I will compete in evening gown, talent and swimwear. I will give a final on stage answer hoping to capture the hearts of those determining who will win the crown that final night. But to reference a comment by my pageant sister and more importantly my sister in Christ; God has already determined that woman. He knows exactly who it will be and why He has called them to complete that journey.  This does not mean I’ll shrug my shoulders and concede to an unknown destiny. It means I will walk onto that stage knowing I have given every shred of endurance, every last bit of effort. To quote a favorite of mine, Winston Churchill, I will offer all of my blood, sweat, toil and tears. I will leave that week knowing I put all of myself out there without reserves, retreats or regrets.  If I am first place, and the Miss Tennessee crown placed on my head, to God be the glory and may my life be a proclamation of His sovereign grace. In turn, if I am ranked 36 out of 36, if the only purpose for my time there was to shine as brightly as I could for  Jesus Christ and leave others touched by His Gospel than that is why I won, and that is why I went. Too often I find myself anxious over the to do lists, over bills to pay and taxes to file, I fret about work out schedules and breathing exercises’ and wether my song sounds perfect, yet I must always remember that this life, is but a whisper in the great song of eternity.  It is temporary and my prayer would be that I would never lose sight of things eternal and never stop listening to the great melody written by our Master Composer.

With taxes filed and tiara in tow,
Sarah Stonier
Miss Walking Tall

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What did I surrender?

    In beauty pageants the winner is given a crown and awarded a title. In the pageant world when scandal surfaces surrounding said title holder they must surrender their crown, turn in the sash, and tearfully apologize to whatever past mistake had marred their moments of glory. It’s a phrase that carries with it regret and shame; it’s an unfortunate reality that tarnishes only slightly the positive arena of pageants. So, it’s understandable to receive a few raised eyebrows at the title of this blog; A Surrendered Crown, I can wholeheartedly assure that I did not have to give up any position of privilege due to some element of a sordid past, in fact I started this blog before I ever became a beauty queen, and there in lies the question, what did I surrender, and what crown am I talking about?

When I was a little girl one of the different career paths my mother chose to venture down was that of a radio announcer. She worked longs days at a Christian station in a neighboring town while my big sister and I fended for ourselves in the summer streets, chasing giants with sugar sticks for swords, and eating Swedish fish till our sides hurt. More often than not my mom would bring home old eight track tapes as the station was switching over to more modern forms of communication, these cast offs from the past era of technology became one of the greatest treasures of my childhood. On these old tapes were sermons, and all throughout my formative years I fell asleep beneath the teaching of Dr. David Jeremiah, Ravi Zacharias, Chuck Swindoll, Charles Stanley, Chuck Colson, Max Lucado and many more. So, despite being a little girl and then a young woman with no father to speak of for he knew hardly of her existence, I was blessed with numerous examples of godly men and biblical teaching, albeit through the words they spoke and of no tangible presence. Their tinny voices that came out over the speakers of the long dusty boombox became the deep resonating voices of the father I never had, and what ultimately was my Heavenly Father speaking out into my world and forever changing my heart and altering my world views. Even as a child, the foundation that was laid for me was the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I can pull from probably more than one of those sermons the references to crowns in the Bible.

2 Timothy 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

James 1:12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

1 Thee. 2:19-20 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?

These are the crowns I am talking about, and for me to lay down these crowns at the feet of my Lord and live a life worthy to be given back to the King of Kings is what I am surrendering!! For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Anything I have been given in this world is a gift from God and I strive to give all the glory and honor back to him. When I started my venture within pageants and focusing on the accomplishment of earning this EARTHLY crown I always stated that my time as a titleholder would again be something that I would give back to Jesus, that every action and deed would be in complete surrender to Him. It wouldn’t be shortly thereafter that certain responsibilities would request me to cease putting time and effort into pageants and into another role God had planned for me. I never thought that outside of giving back a fulfilled dream to God, He might also call me to give up pursuing that dream. Yet, as it always is within His will, His plans are more beautiful than our own. This is sometimes a harder truth to accept than one wants, it usually means the dream job we wanted wasn’t what we were meant to do, it may mean that the guy we would give up anything for isn’t who was intended for our hearts affections, it means that the hopes we have will be deferred and not come to fruition. It means disappointment, but Praise God, it will never mean despair, for we serve a good and giving Heavenly Father who knows what’s best for His children. We simply have to wait until we’re on the mountaintops to understand the valleys.

 As it is, you have a couple years to try and become Miss America and so I was able to pick back up with competing in Gods timing and enjoy it all the more.  I competed in multiple preliminaries, always with a willing sidekick or a gaggle of dear friends cheering me on.  The dream still wasn’t happening, I know I had a couple worried "mom calls" with Robin….ok more than a couple…and while she wanted it for me because she knew it was important to me, she was concerned for my heart. Was it in the right place? Did I know I was good enough without a crown? Did I need this for fulfillment? I assured her that no I  didn’t need this accomplishment to be fulfilled, I knew who I was in Christ and was confident in the eternal crown I would one day receive in heaven. Though I was not a beauty queen, my voice was just as valid. A journal entry from before I was a titleholder below encapsulates perfectly that sentiment and also the message of this blog:

“Though I have yet to win a title and have a glittery crown of opportunity pinned upon my head, it truly doesn’t hold any weight on my joy or how I view myself in the mirror because I know that there is a heavenly crown that will never fade or tarnish waiting to be given to me by the King of Kings. No greater joy will I have than to lay that crown before my Lord.”  

Then, in the second to last pageant of the season, in my final year of eligibility I won The Miss Walking Tall Scholarship Pageant and became a contender for the title of Miss Tennessee. I know all my high school teachers are shaking their heads, laughing to themselves, saying, Yeah…leave it to Sarah to do things last minute.  But, here I am and last minute or not I am so thrilled and thankful for this opportunity. So yes, I have a crown, a crown with four points, points that stand for Success, Scholarship, Style and Service. It is a crown within the Miss America system, and one that I am very proud and honored to wear. It is a crown I never intend to “surrender” as I will uphold this crown and represent this system with the utmost character and integrity. However it is a crown that I have surrendered, in that the heart of its bearer is completely ready to walk this journey as an act of worship.

In Christ Alone,

Sarah Stonier
Miss Walking Tall

“ The twenty–four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created." Revelation 4:10-11

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Queens Speech

  If "diction is done with the tip of the tongue and the teeth", then a flawless film is found in The Kings Speech. Within the powerful historical story of Prince Albert and his ascent to the throne of England as King George; all cast members, but especially the quintessentially talented Colin Firth, give us impeccable acting performances. An outstanding soundtrack carries us through a delicious blend of set design and cinematography so perfect it’s as if you are standing in the halls of The British Museum staring intently at a portrait and then you yourself bleed in to the paint on the canvas till you’re there and can feel the story happening around you. My favorite scene in the movie is when Geoffery Rush’s character impudently sits upon the throne of England in his attempt to push Prince Albert to his rightful authority, probing relentlessly he questions the importance of the throne, he asks why Albert should be King; the tension escalates until the crowned prince with all his struggles and disabilities fading into the background of his mind, pulls such tenacity, resolve and pride that he shouts in a thunderous announcement; Because I have a VOICE.
 I’m sure those buried beneath the cold stones of Westminster Abbey fluttered awake momentarily, with just enough time to utter a soft; “Welcome”
King George was exactly right, he had a voice, and he went on to give numerous wartime addresses that provided comfort to his people and confidence in his power. Though generations have passed since he wrote his legacy, the message is still the same; we have a voice. In a generation and society where many voices speak so loudly about what we should think, feel, act and be it is important that all generations young and old listen to the still small voice within and speak with defining clarity the truth about who we are and who God has called us to be.

This past weekend I was crowned Miss Walking Tall, a prelim within the Miss America Organization. The history of my title is something I am very proud to be a part of, if you are familiar with the movies Walking Tall, either from the 1970’s or The Rocks version in 2004, these are based on the life of a sheriff in McNairy County, a man who measured 6’6” but whose integrity, ethics and desire for justice placed him taller than the measure of most men.  The gentlemen who checked me in to my hotel proudly informed me “ We’re all Bufords around here”, the woman who cooked my biscuits and gravy that morning clicked her name tag with a wrinkled hand where above NAOMI was engraved; WALKING TALL. I carry the legacy of a man and the ideology of a community, I hold the name of their hero and I couldn’t be more proud and honored to do so. I will be competing in Miss Tennessee this upcoming June with Miss America being the ultimate goal of this journey. I will be a spokeswoman and raise awareness and funds for The Children’s Miracle Network and I will promote my personal platform of Epidermolysis Bullosa Awareness.  I am grateful to those who have supported me in this journey, and thankful for the opportunities in front of me. First and foremost I praise my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, for this blessing and for how he has sovereignly worked in my life.
 Just like King George, my voice and the validity of every word I speak existed before a crown was ever placed on my head and am grateful now for the larger audience before me who will hear what I have been given to say.

So, here is yet another dream I can cross off this years To Do List; Compete in Miss Tennessee! That brings with it many more To Do Lists to create and complete in and of itself, but that’s part of the journey and I anticipate drawing all the marrow I possibly can from this experience; speaking like a queen, giving all the glory to God, and in every moment, walking tall.

In Christ,

To learn more and donate to EpidermolysisBullosaAwareness:

To learn more and donate to The Childrens Miracle Network:

To read the full story of Sherriff Buford Pusser:

Saturday, January 1, 2011

This year I will...

1. Start a blog:

As a very private person the very thought of detailing the inner workings of my life in a public forum sounds just about appealing as watery cranberry sauce from a can or dying alone with 30 cats.  You know that really uncomfortable feeling you get when you wake up from a dream in which you found yourself unclothed in front of a mass amount of close friends and loved ones…..such was the feeling I would get every time I would finally convince myself to start the blog. The only thing I can attribute to this change of heart and the brave step out on to this metaphorical diving board is the grace of God. No, really.  I am constantly amazed by the inner workings of Gods sovereignty in my life and am daily blessed by His amazing grace that I deemed it necessary to let others read the story He is writing for me.
When I was 20 I wrote out my “ List of things to do before I turn 26”, and since then “start a blog” has found itself erased and rewritten, deleted and retyped many times. So to commence my batch of “ This year I wills” off of my pre-26 To Do List I am starting with the blog.
In the year we all just bowed good night and bid adieu, I shot guns on my 23rd birthday, stood by my sisters side at her wedding and carved my very first jack-o-lantern. I went to my favorite presidents home Mount Vernon, and invested in a fabulous fire-pit that now stands guard over my tiny backyard. There were also two journeys I took, the first was Thing To Do # 26 “meet my aunts, uncles and cousins”, it would be for the very first time and would take me back to the city where I was knit together in my mothers womb. Though this dream is now crossed off the list and completed, our relationships have only just begun. We never knew each other existed until I was 18 years old and through cards and emails a cherished relationship started between my Aunt Trina and myself. Five years later I flew to Reno, Nevada to meet her and her two children, my cousins. I stepped off the plane and no less than 20 people were waiting at the airport to surprise me and welcome me in to the family. My uncle and his family had driven in from Sacramento; another aunt flew in from Salt Lake with her daughter and so on and so forth. Being out West is romantic in and of itself, but finding out the story of your heritage, seeing pictures of who your grandparents were and looking in to the eyes of complete strangers and seeing yourself, all beneath the silhouettes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains is a love story only my Heavenly Father could compose.  As I was gazing at the mountains jutted against their skyline all I could do was praise my perfect Heavenly Father for His gift to me, He answered so many questions I’d never even thought to ask and enveloped my heart with His pure and holy love. I rejoice that my aunts, uncles and cousins and another little brother to love, are a part of the Lords beautiful story, and undeniable, unshakable pieces of my heart. How wonderful that Reno, a place that once symbolized heartache would one day become a place I would long to return. On that trip I went to the oldest city in the West, I stood in front of Alcatraz and walked the Golden Gate Bridge. I finally came and dipped my toes in the clear glass water of Lake Tahoe and understood why my mother had told me my entire life “Sarah, it’s where angels go to wash their feet.” This trip I would describe with a Latin word; Renovatio. It means rebirth or renewal, and while the only time I was born again was when Jesus Christ saved my heart, I do feel that meeting my family for the first time in my life, learning about where I came from and forming bonds that will now last the rest of my lifetime was a birth of something new. A blossom opening up from the roots now freshly made aware were always there.
It was through an idea sparked while sunbathing at Tahoe that I crossed “Thing to Do #12”, off the list; Go To Europe. Now, when I was writing the list, in my head I was intending Greece, Italy or even backpacking through the entirety of what is the EU. However, due to our Danish heritage my fantastic cousin Sari, now a junior at American University, had chosen to study abroad with DIS, Danish International Studies. So with the housing accommodations provided for, it was merely a passport, a plane ticket and a camera purchase away and I found myself stepping on to the metro in Copenhagen, Denmark.  While my cousin and I biked through what is the Bicycle Capital of the World, I couldn’t help but laugh to myself, joy bursting from what was a dreamer living inside the fulfillment of a dream, eyes opening from a hazy fog and seeing possibility become reality, hands that had always been reaching for a what could be, grasp and posses what is and was.
While there I climbed to the very top of the tallest outdoor bell tower, I fell in love with Danish hot dogs, I sipped smoothies in the most amazing cafes I had ever seen, and experienced “hygge”, a word meaning fellowship and warmth that is much a part of the Danish culture as modern architecture and fashion sensibility. I explored the grounds of Kronberg Castle and took a ferry to Sweden, where I swear their hot chocolate is pure sweet cocoa buttery goodness. I left Denmark briefly and went to Paris.  I stood in front of the Louvre, the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower. I stood enchanted by the French countryside that yawned out from the Palace of Versailles and I beamed in delight as I found my initials; SERAS, as one of the names carved on to L’Arc de Triumphe. While many people were certain I would fall head over heels in love with Paris and never return to East Tennessee it was Danmark that drew me in and wrapped its arms around me entreating me to stay.  To have shared this adventure with my Tanta ( or Aunt ) Trina and Sari was the very sweet icing on an incredibly decadent cake or quite fittingly, it was better than a rhubarb Danish.

After having traveled to so many places, it is fitting that I have closed the book of 2010 and opened the binding of 2011 here at home. For years, the concept of home was elusive, like the magical unicorn you search for in the forest or the dragon underneath your bed.  Yet now in my adult life God has poured out on my life many doors I open and an abundance of thresholds I cross over and feel, perfectly at home… in Knoxville, Tennessee, in Reno and Sacramento, in Lyngby, Denmark.  And here, in this small town of Danville, Pennsylvania, here there are there are no monuments, no museums or metro stations, but there are four walls and a door that house within them a love so parallel to the adoptive love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that only He could have blessed me with such a gift.
While I am a planner to the core and the master of all list makers, I have learned that some of the best things experienced never find themselves on a to-do list or part of a pre-calculated plan and equation, they just happen and you don’t fully realize their magnitude until you’re on the other side of their wake. For instance, in 2010 I went on a jet ski for the very first time, I was given the incredible honor and title of Miss Congeniality, I proudly watched my younger brother Samuel graduate high school and I delicately held an ultrasound picture that showed the tiny life of my unborn niece or nephew.Outstanding moments I will treasure, and never saw coming. So now, with 55 or so things left to do on The List and a brief two years and a couple months in change to complete them all, I look forward to the victories, the failures, the accomplishments and disappointments.  I anticipate crossing dreams off of my folded and creased list of treasures as much as I do being surprised by unplanned adventures and impromptu moments of joy. Most of all I am so thankful that I am not of this world, and that should all of it pass away without a single dream or wish coming to fruition my hope would still be unshaken and my hands still raised heavenwards, because my soul finds rest, in Christ Alone.

Sarah Belle