Wednesday, January 27, 2016

ask the right questions

Parenthood most often starts with a wee little babe whose only ability to communicate is through noise, either the lack of it or the very real presence of it.  This defenseless little being is either quiet and cooing or crying, with little time in between.  (un)Rest assured it will not be in a peaceful, tears of silence and emotion rolling down the cheeks way, but rather in a loud and demanding I will only get louder until I'm helped way. And so begins the dance of lovingly doing what you can to make sure the balance scales dip much more deeply towards the quiet coo. 

Years will go by and the dance that often brings your blood pressure rising will subside though the ring in your ears will not.  Tears are still a constant, over things you completely understand and more things you can not for the life of you figure out.  However, words have been learned and minds have come alive to the world around them and now the questions start.  Everything in sight has hundreds of questions that can be asked about it.  Don't believe me?  Ask anyone who has been around a child for any length of time.  Color, shape, reason for being, what it does, why is it there, where did it come from, can I jump on it, can I throw it, can you move it, can I eat it, is it alive, is it dead, what does that mean...and so on and so on until either this little inquisitor has moved on to the next item or you have somehow managed to attract their attention elsewhere long enough to get a drink because your mouth is so parched from the neverending explanations.

I love the questions.  I really do.  Watching anyone become awake to their surroundings and long to understand them in a fuller way is a beautiful thing because you can't learn unless you ask and it takes a certain type of courage to ask about something you do not understand.  There's a good chance those feelings are a direct line from the teacher in me and if so praise God for it.  But, with the divine trinity being the exception, there's usually a downside for every good thing and questions are no different.  The minds that want to know why in a cheery inquisitive way share space with the why that eventually comes out not so cheery with its headstrong, disgusted, and usually whiny undertones. After so many of these but whys expressed in a nasally voice you'll hear coming out of your own mouth, after suppressing the two word phrase you'd love to say, the four words you swore you'd never say, "Because I said so!" 

Equally as frustrating is when their one small need could be fixed if they had just asked for help instead of sitting still ignoring the situation, unsure of when to speak or taking care of the problem on their own resulting in a much bigger mess that needs to be cleaned up later.  UGH!

My mind has still been thinking about words and the ways we should use them to be helpful both for ourselves and others.  There have been many lessons recently among the blonde boys I get to hang around with questions as the topic.  Most specifically how to use your words to form questions to get something you want or need instead of staring at me blank faced complaining or shoving something in my face with a demand.  Holding a cup an inch from my nose saying "Get me milk" will get you nowhere but "Mama will you please fix me some milk" will most definitely be rewarded with the item you seek.  Likewise a disgusted look along with the words "My book is gone" will you get you an I'm sorry on a good day and something quite different on a bad one, but "Have you seen my book" will grant you a far more favorable response.  Delivery is everything and the heart behind it as well.

I'm not much different than my boys when it comes to complaints and questions nor are most other adults.  It's easy to have teachable moments with kids both with everyday demands and heart shepherding issues because I am keenly listening to their words as they come out. The one I need to listen to more often is myself.  It's very easy to slip into the habit of complaining about your surroundings and circumstances, filling your needs with people and things that do absolutely nothing to fulfill, or even getting hurt from the actions and words of others because you aren't asking the questions you need to be asking, the questions that will bring answers that help directed to the One who is the source of it all.

My days start in prayer.  Well, most of my days start in prayer.  In complete quiet and conversation with Him I feel at peace and filled with the fruit that only comes from abiding, thankful for my first moments being His.  Then my day starts and I better hope I've been fueled enough because as I go about my way I forget to come back to the source I so desperately need to draw from.  And in effect I begin to do the very things I have been teaching my children not to do.  I smile, I talk, I produce, I accomplish, I demand, I complain, I get hurt, I buck up and try again, I whine, I escape.  I seldom stop.  I seldom ask.  My words are not questions fueled by a desire to heal my soul or to grow in righteousness.

In a quick search on asking questions I found this quote by Shannon Adler, Most misunderstandings in the world could be avoided if people would simply take the time to ask, "What else could this mean." 

I am well aware what a change that one simple act would make in my relationships here on Earth, but how different would my days be if in every moment, every joy, every struggle instead of complaining or coasting through, I lifted my eyes to my gracious Creator and asked "What else could this mean, what else are you trying to show me through this?"  We are promised that He is at work.  In the height of persecution towards him in John 5:17 Jesus said "My father is working until now, and I myself am working" beginning that "good work that will be carried to completion in us (Phil. 1:6)"

We crave quick fixes, we search for instant relief from our troubles, we long to escape, internally for some and externally for others.  We covet lives that appear easy which coincidentally means lessons are never really learned but plenty of bandaids are unwrapped in an attempt to cover up the gaping holes.  I pray that I will stop and that you will stop, and ask.  That we will use our words to form those questions that will shape our lives and shape our hearts and shape our actions that will bring us closer to God and that will make His glory known to those around us as they see the effect it has on our lives.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


British accents, a beautiful countryside, powerful music, an independent female character, and a soft but strong man who inevitably sweeps her off her feet.  There seems to be a trend in the films that hold their place in my top ten.  Pride and Prejudice is affectionately known as my crafting movie that always seems to be on when creative juices are flowing.  I watch Sense and Sensibility every time I feel under the weather.  It's mix of heartache and happy endings never fails to give me a boost.  About Time, though not a period movie, has made me ponder how I desire to live my life more than any movie I've ever seen and even the Sound of Music, my always number one, while set in Austria had leads that did not try to hide the Brit behind their voices.  

Better than being swept along in these fictional places is having friends who love escaping there with you.  Last night I was introduced by a friend who shares an affinity for all things England to another countryside that didn't have the royal overtones of say P&P or another little obsession of mine that comes on PBS every Sunday evening.  There was no quick wit and fast speak like so many of Jane Austen's books that have come alive on screen.  Far From the Madding Crowd, based on Thomas Hardy's novel, contained all the consistent characteristics that immediately capture my heart and added in was a character so patient and steadfast that still this morning I can't help but focus on that trait alone.  Much like the gift you open that although doesn't bring immediate cries of joy and excitement is so constantly used that it, unlike the shiny you also received, becomes valued and appreciated treasure.

God uses the world around us to speak to our hearts.  Through His word obviously, through the people He has placed in our lives, and very often for me through works of art.  If the heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1) and if since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made,  so that people are without excuse (Romans 1:20) surely it is not an odd leap to see Him and hear Him through the venues inspired by creation itself.  Plus once a ponderer always a ponderer and what better way to get lost in thoughts than through a world that is not your own.  I am more than a little amused that my version of escape is very often God's version of getting me exactly where He wants me.  Stop and think about that one in your own life for a second and I will a guarantee it ends with a "huh? well played sir." and fist bump to the heavens.

While on a path of waiting, whether you know exactly what you are waiting for or are just moving forward until whatever end goal is revealed it can be quite tempting to take matters into your own hands in various ways.  

One of the most tempting things to do, because many of us see waiting as an inefficient use of our time, is to run, not away but forward, because if you ask my three boys it obviously gets you anywhere faster.  However also if you ask my three boys it very often results in tripping over an obstacle you didn't quite see because of the full out sprint you were in therefore leading you to being sprawled out on the grass crying in pain over whatever you just injured.  I might have experience with this one as well.

Another strategy is to try and take your own short cut, to assume that formerly mentioned inefficient use of time could be resolved if instead of waiting you forged another path on your own assuming that will get you to the same destination.  This one can be tricky to learn from because if you are blessed with the ingrained map skills of my husband it seems to achieve the desired goal although I daresay that short cut was brimming with self doubt, confusion, and panic while weaving in and out of streets unknown.  On the other side, if you have the extreme lack of directional skills that I possess, the short cut method inevitably just gets you stuck somewhere you weren't planning to go and the only way out is to backtrack or call for help.  

The last, somewhat confusing misstep in a season of waiting is to do the actual thing, to wait.  I know that sounds contrary, but all too often our "waiting' consists of sitting crisscross applesauce on the road to the next thing twiddling our thumbs assuming that when the opportune time comes we can just stand back up again and go merrily about our way.  I love that Oswald Chambers said "...we are to rest in the Lord, not to rust."  I can't help but think of the tin man frozen on the side of the road.  No, it takes a good bit of oil to get back on our feet after being so closed up.

Every scripture holds a promise, every scripture brings Hope.  When it says Therefore my brother be steadfast and immovable always abounding in work for the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain (1 Cor 15:58) then what I'm doing, if for Him, is never a waste of my time no matter how painstakingly, frustratingly slow going it feels.  

You see, when it comes down to it, the problem is not whether or not God is directing my path or that Christ made the way or that the Spirit is next to me on the road.  That is and always will be true.  The problem is whether or not I am faithfully following and patiently waiting as I go for what will come next and what will continue after.  Am I being steadfast?

I love that at the end of the movie, patience won out, steadfastness was rewarded and spoiler alert, it also will for you, and for me, as we follow God's will in our lives.  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised (Hebrews 10:36)  Christ's work is done and that promise has already been fulfilled, now let Him show you how He will carry it to completion in your life as you wait and walk steadfastly with Him.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


"We live and breathe words..." ~Cassandra Clare

How true is this statement.  Words are very much the life and breath of our days.  They portray our feelings, share our concerns, teach our children, effect our hearts, overwhelm our motherhood, cheer our teams, bring tears at times and smiles at others...I could go on and on.  They, no matter what walk of life, fill our minds to overflowing daily.  Whether those words are read, spoken, thought, signed or even dreamed, our lives are teeming with words to hear, see, and process.

I have a love/hate relationship with words.

Fortunately, love is usually first.  Words are quite often my favorite thing.  I am, in fact, so fond of them that I spend a fair amount of time the end of a year and the beginning of the next searching and praying for a single word to inspire the new year's focus.  One word to rule them all you might say. 

I relish receiving and giving words whether it be quick texts of encouragement, exasperations or random thoughts only the person they are directed to would understand, the sharing of a funny, often embarrassing, story or a long, drawn out, lazy conversation with a friend.
I also have a special fondness for reading words in books.  Words that take me to places I've never been, remind me of places I love, and capture my thoughts and expand my heart with sentences I would never quite be able to construct on my own.

If you were to weigh both sides, love would most likely win out but the negative feelings words can bring would be peering over my shoulder waiting for the chance to butt in. Lined up right next to all the things I love about the beauty of words are all the things I hate about the power they can wield.  Because for every phrase of encouragement is a comment spoken in rash frustration.  For every soul lifting chat with a friend is a criticism taken the wrong way or sadly taken with the hurt that it was meant to carry.  

I live constantly on both sides of the coin, as one who lifts up and lets down, as one who gets lifted and is both unintentionally and intentionally pushed.  I'll bet everyone else does as well.

Already today I have had multiple experiences with the flip side of the love/hate and here we are not yet in the mid afternoon.  This morning brought need to remind one son  that the tone of his words carry more weight than the words themselves when speaking to his brother.  Another scenario required a mini lesson on how to use words to ask for something specific instead of complaining about something else.  I apologized to my oldest for not truly listening to his words before responding with some of my own and in the same respect was brought to tears (which I admit doesn't take much) by a woman who didn't understand my situation before giving what could have been a heartbreakingly definitive statement.

What amazing peace it would bring to have the second half of that relationship disappear.  What amazing peace would come from love being the only feeling, even in those not so positive moments, and the slash with hate right behind it would never enter a scenario.  Before assuming that is a pipe dream wish, I believe it's much more possible than is realized.  Glancing back at these few examples and the thousands upon thousands of others stacked up in my long term memory files, I see something missing in almost every one, letting the most important Words rule my heart and mind first.  First and foremost in my life, in my listening and in my speaking should be the Words God has spoken for us and to us.  As His child I am asked to Rejoice in Him alone, Hope in Him alone, Trust in Him alone and Be satisfied in Him alone.  If I'm abiding with Him than the words I speak will be ones that lift and not harm.  If I'm abiding with Him than the words others speak will, no matter their intention, be used for good because the Holy Spirit protecting my heart will help me see the Truth among them.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits (Proverbs 18:21)  I want the seeds that I sow, the fruit that I eat, the fruit that I serve to others to be sweet, healthy and nourishing but I know all to well that unless my tongue, my words, in whatever form they come out, aren't spoken from a heart fully centered in Christ then 'clanging symbols and noisy gongs' won't have nothing on the rotten fruit I'm trying to pass over as a generous offering.  Years ago  while I was in high school a missionary close to my heart had cards of various quotes he liked to hand out.  From that day until the day I left college to begin my 'real life' on my bulletin board on a card of neon yellow were bold black letters that prayed "LORD LET MY WORDS BE SWEET AND TENDER, FOR TOMORROW I MAY HAVE TO EAT THEM."

I don't think this thought journey is complete quite yet.  Instead of clarity that has now wrapped everything up in a pretty bow,  the clear picture has now caused my brain to begin to reel with the lessons I need to learn and the ways my heart needs to change.  Since words are still a vital part of my every day, as they are yours, pondering will need to be done, prayers will desperately be extended, and Hope will be clung to as I journey to fill and be filled with words that bring True Life and True Breath.

Pray for me.  I'll be praying for you.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

what i'm up to

Four weeks ago I shared words from this used to be super private place on the interwebs.  This happened without explanation or prefacing.  Not that anyone else cares I'm sure, but in my head it feels as if I jumped into a conversation that I might not have totally been invited to or placed myself on a committee with not the least bit of experience for whatever things committees actually do.  Very kin to the feeling of staring out the window at the crazy neighbor whose outside in her bathrobe chasing something with a stick and your first response is "what is she up to out there"followed closely by "bless her heart".  This is an attempt, at least for myself, to avoid the crazy neighbor, bless your heart head shakes and explain what I'm up to.

First things first, however, I feel as if I need to formally introduce myself because without a brief glimpse into the past the future very often makes no sense.  I'm Sarah Ann May.  Formally Sarah Ann Keel.  I was born in south Florida and moved to South Alabama at the mature age of six weeks old.  I grew up in a small town where my accent was founded though thankfully in my twenties I learned how the long i sound is supposed to be pronounced.  I went to college at Auburn University and majored in Elementary Education.  Sophomore year, a month after officially breaking it off with my not so nice to me high school boyfriend, I met the one whom my soul loves at an RUF bonfire whilst trying to get my crush to notice me.  Said crush happened to be one of our groomsmen at our wedding on June 5 of 2004.

I worked as a second grade teacher with people I loved for three years then began my journey as a mom after having our first son in 2007.  For the past nine years I've been at home with our three boys doing all the things stay at home moms do which I assure you does not include lying on the couch eating chocolate but does in fact include passing out on the couch from pure exhaustion after stressing eating lots of chocolate.  I began blogging our family's goings on when my oldest was 14 months old and continue to do so because I'm a huge fan of documenting life and memories.  A little over two years ago, God shook my life to the core with a very difficult situation.  Much like the story of the Tower of Babylon I just reread this morning, in a way, and in His infinite mercy, God did in fact spread me, or at least my emotions, across what felt like my entire world in order to draw me closer to Him.  From that experience I began this blog, An Inner Disposition, in order to write my heart, thoughts, feelings, struggles, and redemptions, in a more private way.  Though I left out plenty of I'm an idiot and less than amazing moments because time and space is short, this is me in a nutshell, pecan or almond preferred, and brings us to the present.

As per usual, one small thing happened which led to another thing and another until all of a sudden there was a purpose forming that I never would have thought of on my own, or at least never would have thought myself brave enough to try.  My pastor's wife gifted me with a very large and very blank notebook and it's individual purpose will hold the daily plans of my life and the brainstorms of how to get from point A to my future point B.  However first some type of a point B has to be thought of so in the beginning pages I wrote my dreams, the desires of my heart (psalm 37:4).

*create a home atmosphere that is loving, comfortable, and visually appealing.
*use/open our home to friends, family, the church and others as a ministry of community and encouragement and of course fun.
*council, mentor, or just meet with others, helping them to see Hope in the midst of everything.
*open a store that will provide a gathering place for friends, support others by selling their goods, tithing to local ministries, hosting local groups and housing a counseling/discipleship ministry (this one is far in the future I would imagine)
*WRITE!  Letters, emails, texts, articles, blog posts that are encouraging, transparent, and full of Truth and Hope.

Four weeks ago, after much Holy Spirit prodding and numerous encouraging words from my husband and a few friends, I committed my Wednesday mornings to the last one on the list for a bigger than me purpose and placed myself in the public eye, if of course you can count 100 or less people as the public.  I did not major in English.  I have no idea how you use a semi colon and I often add too many or leave out too many commas.  Praise Jesus for my husband's strict French public school education so that he can sweep in and fix all my grammatical errors.  However on the pro side I have a redeemed heart, I have stories of how my life would be a wreck without the saving grace through Christ, and I have a God who I am 99% sure came up with this plan and placed the desire in my heart.  

There is a learning curve for sure.   I am very much so in the early stages of experimenting with words and summoning up the courage to actually share them.  Be assured, the anxiety that comes with pressing the posting button is immense and probably deserves an entire post of its own.  You are my guinea pigs.  My sounding board.  My patient, please love me anyway, eyes and ears and mouths of compliment and criticism.  If you have a desire to follow this hopefully non train wreck of a journey there are buttons on the side of the blog where you can receive an email when there's a new post or you can add it to your feedly list on your phone amongst all your cute decorating blogs that you have saved.

I completely understand however if you have no desire to follow because there are many others sharing their hearts in beautiful ways or if you know that you, like all of us, have hundreds of things going on and will never remember to read anything. For you I pray for this, that you will pause life for a moment or two and think of that one thing God may have been asking you to step out in faith and try or even step out in faith and stop knowing that you are loved unconditionally and that, if you are His, can not, no matter the circumstance, be shaken.  Then share that dream or goal with another. Speak your heart into the light and see what He shows you.

So there you go, bless your heart head shakes or not, this is my goal and one of the ways I am saying yes, excitedly and hesitantly and often doubtingly, to God in my life.  I'd love to hear what is happening in yours!
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