For Better. For Worse. For Reals

I’ve been living on the road since October 2014, traveling across the U.S. (and to four countries) to speak at events related to themes from The Invisible Girls.

When people ask me questions like, “Where do you live?” or “Where’s home for you?” I pause because I don’t have an answer. I live everywhere. I live nowhere. I don’t know.

I own a townhome in Portland, Oregon, which has been rented out to tenants for the past two years now. I had an apartment in California but I gave it up in October when the lease was up because I knew God was calling me to make traveling and speaking my vocation for now. And now it’s just me and a large wheeled duffel bag with 9 months’ worth of clothes, my laptop, my passport, and a few books.

When people hear about my transient life, I often get ooohs and ahhhs and aren’t you lucky’s. And I acknowledge how blessed I am to be on this adventure right now.

I also realize that the transience and the frequent speaking engagements come with their own complications. As a for instance…

Last month I picked up a rental car that smelled like cat pee and cigarette smoke. And I couldn’t take it back because if I took the time to do that, I’d be late to the event. So I had to suck it up. Three hours in a car that smelled like an incontinent, chain-smoking cat had driven it last.

Last week I was at an event in North Carolina to speak at a few events at a school here. The first morning, I was sitting in my rental car (that, thank the Lord, does not smell at all), and my contacts felt dry. So I pulled some eye drops out of my bag and instilled them in my eyes, and as I blinked, one of my contacts fell out and I couldn’t find it. My glasses were in my hotel room, which was a 15 minute drive from the event.  I didn’t have time for a 30 minute round-trip drive before the event started.

Jesus, I prayed as I was sitting in the front seat of my car using the rear-view mirror to inspect my eyes, Please help me find my contact lens so I don’t stand on stage for 45 minutes squinting with one eye shut like a patchless pirate.

I looked again, and found the lens on the sleeve of my shirt.

I had an amazing time speaking at the event, talking to a group of middle school students about the Good Samaritan and the life of compassion that God calls us to. And then as they were leaving the assembly, one of the boys tripped and fell and broke his arm. So I set it and splinted him and sent him to the E.R. and then, a few minutes later, started teaching back-to-back composition classes.

Does this happen to Rachel Held Evans when she speaks at events? I wondered.

Tomorrow I have to get up at 3 a.m. to catch my flight, which is a pretty regular occurrence. I’ve changed time zones more times than I can count. I’ve been up for long stretches (my longest to date is 46 hours.)

There are lots of other stories that I will write more about later. I think the point is that no matter what life we have, it comes with its plusses and minuses. It comes with its excitement and its obligations. And it’s so easy to lose sight of the fact that everyone’s life is like that.

It’s easy for single women to glamorize marriage, and for married women to glamorize the single life.

It’s easy for childless women to glamorize the lives of moms, and for moms to long for a clean, well-decorated, silent studio apartment with a large ceramic bath tub.

It’s easy for people who aren’t in full-time ministry to glamorize the lives of those who are — and for those who are in full-time ministry to spend every birthday wish wishing they could, for one Sunday, sit anonymously in the pews.

It’s easy for people who have stable home lives to glamorize those who travel, and for those who travel to glamorize (and in my case, sometimes intensely envy) people who stay at home and get to retrieve their clothes out of a dresser instead of a suitcase, get to eat all their meals at the same dining room table, get to go to the same gym a few times a week, get to go to the same church every Sunday….

What I’m realizing is that all of us, no matter our situation, we have lives that are beautiful and complicated and blessed and hard. And it’s easier to glamorize the life we don’t have than to appreciate the life we do have.

And the win is to learn and practice contentment. To accept the hard parts and live into the good parts. To realize that there’s no such thing as a perfect life — for us or for anyone else.  To walk with each other through the ups and downs of our lives, accepting life for what it is.

For better.

For worse.

For reals.

Sarah Thebarge has a Master’s degree in Medical Science from Yale and was earning a Master’s in Journalism at Columbia University in 2010 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 27. After nearly dying, she sold everything and moved to Portland, Oregon, to start over. While still undergoing cancer treatments, Sarah developed a relationship with a single Somali mom and her five daughters, who taught her how to love and be loved again.

The details of Sarah and the Somali girls’ story of survival, recovery and redemption are recorded in her memoir: The Invisible Girls. All of the proceeds from the book are going into a college fund for the Somali girls. Sarah has written for The Huffington Post and Christianity Today. Her book was chosen as the First Year Experience book for incoming freshman at Mississippi State University, where she delivered the convocation in August 2014. She is also spokesperson for Vanity Fair Lingerie’s Women Who Do campaign and Compassion International.

Bring her to speak to your group or at your church event: Book Sarah Thebarge

By |June 29th, 2015|Invisible Girls|1 Comment

Wild and Precious

I’m writing this post at 35,000 feet on a flight from Phoenix to Los Angeles.  I just saw the Grand Canyon for the first time in my life! As I’m flying back, I’m thinking about bucket lists.  And death. And what it means to be alive.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer nine years ago.

I had two recurrences, five surgeries, eight rounds of chemo, 30 days of radiation, one year of Herceptin infusions, three years of Zometa infusions, five years of Tamoxifen and Zoladex, and now I’m halfway through another five years of Arimidex and Lupron.

I have doctors appointments every three months. There’s a blood test my oncologist can check to monitor my cancer.  If the marker spikes, it means my cancer’s back and I need to start chemo again.

I did some research and found that checking the marker doesn’t improve your chance of survival.  It just lets you know sooner that your cancer’s back and you might die.

“Why would I want to know my cancer’s back sooner if it doesn’t improve my survival?” I asked my oncologist

“The only reason you’d want to know is if you’d live differently if you knew you were dying,” he said.  “Like — if you’d want to quit your job and have time to parachute out of an airplane or fly around the world or spend more time with loved ones.”

“Let’s cancel the blood test,” I said.

“Are you sure?” he asked me.

I nodded.  “I already live like I’m dying.”

And it’s true.

When you read my memoir The Invisible Girls, you’ll learn that when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was seriously dating a man named Ian.  Shortly after my mastectomy, he picked me up from my apartment one evening to take me out to dinner.

He suggested several restaurants that we’d enjoyed in the past.  And I became irrationally angry.  “Why would we want to go there?” I demanded.  “We’ve BEEN THERE BEFORE.”

After facing my mortality at 27 years old, I became acutely aware of how short and how precious life is.  And I didn’t want to retrace any of my steps.  I wanted to blaze new trails — even if it meant doing something seemingly insignificant, like dining at a new restaurant.

It’s been nine years since my cancer diagnosis, but I still feel the same sense of urgency.

The world is a big, beautiful place. There are so many things to see and to do.  I’m not going to live forever. So let’s start exploring now.

Lots of people talk about their bucket lists.  It’s a list of things to do before you die, but for most people, it becomes a list of things to do as you are dying. 

What if we rethought the idea of bucket lists?  What if, instead of filling up a bucket with experiences and memories and then kicking that bucket over shortly afterwards as you’re dying….what if we fill up buckets to carry with us as we’re living?

What if we look at live as an adventure?

What if we see the world as a land of endless possibilities and experiences?

What if we celebrate life by slowing down and noticing that we are, in fact, alive?

What if we create space in our lives to do the things we’ve “always wanted to do?”

What if we stop procrastinating and look for opportunities, even this week, to experience the world in a unique way?

What if we stopped thinking about what we want to do before we die, and started thinking about what we  would enjoy doing while we are pain- , disease-, and deadline- free?

What if we already lived like we were dying?

In the words of Mary Oliver,


“Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?”

Sarah Thebarge has a Master’s degree in Medical Science from Yale and was earning a Master’s in Journalism at Columbia University in 2010 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 27. After nearly dying, she sold everything and moved to Portland, Oregon, to start over. While still undergoing cancer treatments, Sarah developed a relationship with a single Somali mom and her five daughters, who taught her how to love and be loved again.

The details of Sarah and the Somali girls’ story of survival, recovery and redemption are recorded in her memoir: The Invisible Girls. All of the proceeds from the book are going into a college fund for the Somali girls. Sarah has written for The Huffington Post and Christianity Today. Her book was chosen as the First Year Experience book for incoming freshman at Mississippi State University, where she delivered the convocation in August 2014. She is also spokesperson for Vanity Fair Lingerie’s Women Who Do campaign and Compassion International.

Bring her to speak to your group or at your church event: Book Sarah Thebarge

By |June 22nd, 2015|Invisible Girls|0 Comments

The Invisible Girls

by Sarah Thebarge

I was riding on a crowded train during rush hour in 2010 when a little Somali girl, who couldn’t find a seat on the train, climbed into my lap and fell asleep.

While I was holding her, I started talking to her mom, who told me in broken English that they were refugees from Somalia. Her husband had left the family shortly after they arrived in the U.S., and now she was stranded here, raising five children by herself, without any income or language skills or job training.

Then the woman leaned her head against the window as tears welled up in her eyes. “It’s too much,” she said, shaking her head. “It’s too much.”

I sat there silently, holding the sleeping child while her exhausted, overwhelmed mother cried. And as the minutes dragged on, I grew more and more uncomfortable.

I didn’t have a clue how to help a refugee family. I didn’t have any strong opinions about how to fix the problems with our immigration system. And, if I was really honest, I avoided most people who talked about “social justice” and “immigration reform” because the terms felt overused and overwrought. They seemed to require a significant amount of information and energy, and I didn’t have either of those things.

Shortly before I met the Somali family, I had been diagnosed with breast cancer at age 27. After nearly dying of it, I had bought a one-way ticket from the East Coast to Portland, Oregon, landing in the new city with nothing but a suitcase of clothes and a broken heart.

Even now, as I held the sleeping Somali girl in my lap, I was still undergoing cancer treatments. I had no mental or emotional capacity to rescue a refugee family — most days I felt like I needed to be rescued myself.

“God, you dropped this Somali family into the wrong person’s lap,” I thought as the train traveled down the tracks.

And then I felt an overwhelming peace, almost as if God had whispered in my ear: Just do for this family what I’ve done for you.

God had pursued me — chased me across the country, in fact — and encountered me in my loneliest moment. So I asked the Somali woman for her address and went to check on the family a few days later.

God had loved me when my bald head and mastectomy scars made me feel unlovable. So I began to spend more time with the Somali girls, loving them when their stained clothes and broken English made them feel unlovable.

God had shown me that He was Immanuel, the God who dwelled with me — not instantly changed or fixed me, but dwelled. So I began spending most evenings at the girls’ apartment, sitting with them in their dark, cold apartment because their mom was worried they’d run out of money for food if she spent too much money on utilities.

The more I loved the family, the more I began to see that the reason I used to dislike phrases like social justice and immigration reform was because it made the problems seem like massive, institutionalized, politicized systems. And I don’t have the interest, let alone the ability, to overhaul a system.

But when I dug through the rubble of the system, what I found underneath were people who were just like me. Girls who were scared and scarred and broken. Unlovables who wanted to be loved. Invisibles who wanted to be seen.

I ended up writing a memoir about the adventures I had with the Somali girls as I helped them navigate life in America for the first time. It’s called The Invisible Girls and all the royalties from the book are going into a college fund for the five Somali sisters featured in the story.

As I’ve been on this adventure with the girls (and with God), I’ve discovered that there’s a lot I can’t do in this world. But I can love God, and I can love my neighbor the way God loves me.

And maybe that’s enough.

Sarah Thebarge has a Master’s degree in Medical Science from Yale and was earning a Master’s in Journalism at Columbia University in 2010 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 27. After nearly dying, she sold everything and moved to Portland, Oregon, to start over. While still undergoing cancer treatments, Sarah developed a relationship with a single Somali mom and her five daughters, who taught her how to love and be loved again.

The details of Sarah and the Somali girls’ story of survival, recovery and redemption are recorded in her memoir: The Invisible Girls. All of the proceeds from the book are going into a college fund for the Somali girls. Sarah has written for The Huffington Post and Christianity Today. Her book was chosen as the First Year Experience book for incoming freshman at Mississippi State University, where she delivered the convocation in August 2014. She is also spokesperson for Vanity Fair Lingerie’s Women Who Do campaign and Compassion International.

Bring her to speak to your group or at your church event: Book Sarah Thebarge

By |June 12th, 2015|Invisible Girls|1 Comment

The Suffering and Audacity of Raw Faith

by Kasey Van Norman

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. (Hebrews 11:32-37 ESV)

Many things in life can be so very different than the way they seem.

For me, depression seemed like an excuse for weak women…until I was depressed. For me, adultery seemed like something only a perverted harlot would sink low enough to engage in…until I was the perverted harlot. For me, cancer seemed so far away, if ever…until it was here and now. For me, faith seemed like a happy place to eat ice cream and never gain weight…until faith sent a sledge-hammer of suffering into my gut.

For the men and women listed in this passage above, things must have surely turned out differently than expected. When children of God are permitted to suffer, be rejected, and mistreated; to go destitute and afflicted, I believe, God is giving a gift to our world.

I believe He is spreading his love and grace to the world through those who suffer inside the unshakable faith that the Lord himself is better than life. I believe it is this raw faith that strips our heart of pretense and allows us to dance naked—laid bare—before our Creator.

Once upon a time my aim was to live simply; to survive the brutal blows this world hands out with a smile. My goal was once to live floating in my wade-pool of contentment; to go to church, have a loving husband, healthy children, a white picket fence, and a maybe a small dog, and above all, to never venture far outside of my religious box of experience in my small town underneath my small Southern-Baptist, sweet-tea steeple.

Once upon a time, I would have never written that last sentence for fear of what others might think. Once upon a time I would have never looked under the covers…never asked questions that actually stop people in their tracks…never do anything but shake my head yes and no like a small, female, soldier with no voice; doing whatever a ‘faceless committee’ deemed necessary for me to do and the ‘majority’ affirmed.

But God wanted me to look. He invited me to dig. He beckoned me to run naked through the streets of religion and scream, “Oh yeah! Well, take this!”

He wanted me to see faith as He sees—truly, deeply, unhinged and often unspoken of.

Prior to cancer I didn’t know what it was like to really be faithful…not the faithful like these people in this Hebrews verse.

My faith wasn’t naked and bare before God and others…it was clothed in hypocrisy-phony and small and timid.

I didn’t need God when I was happy.  I didn’t God when we made a good living and the bills got paid on time each month.  I didn’t need God when I delivered 2 healthy children with no problems.  I didn’t need God when my husband came home every night still wanting me.  I didn’t need God at church—I was happy there.

I believe that I am different now; more audacious now; more laid bare than ever before, for one reason– my faith is different.

Our trials, suffering, pain, and hardships prove to us a God of faithfulness despite our faith. If we turn toward God in our tough times, these seasons can work for us, not against us.  They have the potential to create in us hearts that are truly satisfied in absolute surrender, instead of hearts that are clothed in doubt, fear, worry, anger, anxiety, envy, and bitterness.

Hearts that are faithful are hearts that sprint naked in surrender before the Lord.

Hearts that are truly changed and point toward God’s glory are not hearts that cower in the face of opinion and tradition, but hearts that leap for joy over the grit God has developed through trial in their life.  These hearts are laid bare before God, welcoming whatever it is that will make us more like Jesus-if pain must be felt, so be it.  If our pride or reputation must be ruined-so be it. If we never understand the ‘why’-so be it.  If we never hear the, “I’m sorry-“so be it.

In my life I have come to one grace-grand conclusion…

Naked hearts are faithful hearts.

Kasey is a cancer survivor, a licensed professional counselor who has earned degrees in psychology, public speaking, counseling, and biblical studies. In 2014, Kasey was named ‘most inspiring woman of the year’ by Houston, TX and Buffalo, NY radio affiliates. She and her husband of 13 years, Justin, live in Bryan, Texas with their two children. She is the President of True Mission – a not for profit residential safe-home for minor girls rescued out of human trafficking within the US. She is also co-founder of Raven’s Way, Inc. – a not for profit online community of women who are learning to know and speak their life-story together (launching August 2015).

Kasey’s 2014 book and Bible Study: Raw Faith: What Happens When God Picks a Fight, (Full Study Series Here) has been hailed as one of the most daring and vulnerable ‘cancer narratives,’ to hit Christian literature. You can find out more about her on her website: KaseyVanNorman.org or follow her on Twitter @KaseyVanNorman.

By |May 29th, 2015|Raw Faith|0 Comments

A Bleeding Heart of Faith

by Kasey Van Norman

When we think about faith, we often reach for actions and behaviors—things we can quantify. We create a mental checklist: Have we been going to church? Have we cut back on the drinking? Have we been giving money to the church? Have we been doing our devotions?

We forget that authentic faith—the kind of faith that touches the heart of God—is not rooted in the external. It’s all about what’s happening on the inside.

People with real faith have hearts of good, rich soil. People with real faith surrender to the truth that there is absolutely nothing they can do to please God or maintain right standing before him. People with real faith understand that as they hear and receive the Word of God, the Spirit takes over and changes their hearts. As their hearts change, so do their behaviors. Then what you see on the outside is only a sincere reflection of what is happening on the inside.

I once thought that satisfaction would come from some external experience. But my greatest moments of victory, my most blissful seasons of peace, my consuming feelings of joy and contentment have never come from a big paycheck, a glass of wine, a beach vacation, a sexual experience, a relationship, or a blazing moment of success. Nor have they come from attending church, being a “good girl,” or serving in ministry.

For me, the greatest thrill of my life has always come from the breaking and changing of my heart to look more like Christ.

Perhaps the most victorious moment in my life to date was the true realization that God works in the gut-wrenching valleys of our life. Just as He brought the Israelites in to the wilderness to show them his mercy through manna; so He brings you and I into journeys of wandering through the wilderness to show Himself greater. True joy and overwhelming satisfaction is found there—in the process. In fact, the process is the point of our life all along. For me, I sensed no greater feeling of protection, security, and identity than the moments of heaving and sweating my guts out into a trash can from the previous days chemotherapy treatment; when my heart had no one or nothing else to lean against but the love of Jesus Christ.

Undying faith is found only there—in the broken, bleeding, surrendered places of our hearts. Great faith can only be experienced in a place of absolute dependence on Jesus.

The same can be true for you, no matter your history with faith. Maybe you’ve been a skeptic your whole life; maybe you have danced on the borderlands between doubt and faith for years; maybe you’ve been looked the part of a faithful Christian but haven’t truly jumped in with both feet. Wherever you find yourself, it’s not too late to embrace true faith.

Kasey is a cancer survivor, a licensed professional counselor who has earned degrees in psychology, public speaking, counseling, and biblical studies. In 2014, Kasey was named ‘most inspiring woman of the year’ by Houston, TX and Buffalo, NY radio affiliates. She and her husband of 13 years, Justin, live in Bryan, Texas with their two children. She is the President of True Mission – a not for profit residential safe-home for minor girls rescued out of human trafficking within the US. She is also co-founder of Raven’s Way, Inc. – a not for profit online community of women who are learning to know and speak their life-story together (launching August 2015).

Kasey’s 2014 book and Bible Study: Raw Faith: What Happens When God Picks a Fight, (Full Study Series Here) has been hailed as one of the most daring and vulnerable ‘cancer narratives,’ to hit Christian literature. You can find out more about her on her website: KaseyVanNorman.org or follow her on Twitter @KaseyVanNorman.

By |May 15th, 2015|Raw Faith|0 Comments

When People Pleasing was my Spiritual Gift

by Kasey Van Norman

For most of my life I have struggled with pleasing. So much so that I would have reckoned “people-pleasing” was a for real spiritual gift from the Bible. And if a real thing, then I had been “gifted” with an overdose of the “pleasing” ability and talent.

It started as early as I can think back. In fact there are very few moments I can remember prior to the age of 30 that I lived free of what others thought of or were thinking of me. From the way I acted at the grocery store to the car I drove, how I dressed, what technology I used, where I spent my free time, the house I owned, and even down to the lunch I ate–all of it was controlled by what another person thought of me. I was so enslaved to receiving the approval of others that I would actually spin the events of my life (stretch the truth, so to speak), because the real story seemed to lack enough interest and flavor to intrigue anyone long enough to listen.

At the age of 18 I went to church camp. While there, a well-meaning counselor diagnosed me as being a people-pleaser. She was right. But in the same diagnosis she offered me a dose of very bad medicine.

First, the counselor spoke this verse over me:

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10).

Then, she told me that I needed to stop focusing on how to get the approval of man and start focusing on how to get the approval of God. She sent me on my way with a new Bible-reading plan, a challenge to pray and journal every morning for 1 hour, and a list of service-oriented activities that I should be involved in through my local church.

I was thrilled. This was a language that I understood and spoke well.

I could follow the rules and a “to-do” list like a boss. And so, I did exactly what she said to do. I pumped up my obedience level even more-so and upon returning home, I went hard after the approval of God.

In the years that followed something happened that I did not expect.

Instead of feeling more free, I gradually felt more enslaved. Five years into pleasing God, I fell in love with and married a man because his reputation seemed good for my image. Six years into pleasing God, I went back to my old, comfy idols of self-harm, depression, and the abuse of prescription medications. Seven years into pleasing God I committed adultery. Eight to ten years into pleasing God I lied to my closest friends and family about who I really was. And twelve years into pleasing God I attempted to take my life via overdose.

At the bottom of all my seeking and all of your seeking is one, singular fear. It is the fear that drives us so often into the most dumb and dysfunctional places of our life. If you don’t realize that you personally struggle each day with this fear than you have suppressed this fear so deeply that your heart has become numb to it, and you are simply living a mediocre, auto-pilot existence as a slave. The most liberated people are those people who are deeply familiar with this fear and their great desire to pick it up and play with it each and every day.

The fear of being unknown is at the bottom of all our doubt, depression, disorder, and desperation. This fear alone cripples our culture.

It starts with the fear of not being known by other people. We spend so much time here because the approval of another human being is theoretically possible. It is possible for people to approve of us. And so, once we taste it, we become addicts. The approval of man becomes our cocaine.

But despite the “high” we may feel in the moment of acceptance, here are the facts:

•Human approval is shallow. No human can know the deep places of our heart. If they did, would they still want to know us?
•Human approval is shifty. Some people will like us and some people will not.
•Human approval is skewed. Your friends will overlook many of your failures that need to be addressed. And your enemies will overlook many of the good things we do that leaves us to address them by working harder for their acknowledgement.

But there is a slavery deeper than seeking the approval of man. And that is seeking the approval of God.

While living to gain the approval of man is possible, gaining the approval of God is impossible.

“For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” (Romans 7)

When we are drowning the answer is not to kick harder, but to grab onto the only life-vest available–Jesus. And the best response is here in Romans 7: “WRETCHED MAN THAT I AM!”

I shout–YES! I AM FREE!!! There is no amount of working or earning or seeking left to do. There is no amount of being good or moral, not enough time reading the Bible or praying, no amount of journal-writing or acts of service or ministry or legacy-leaving left for us who are in Christ Jesus!

And THIS sets us free to live and love without receiving anything in return.

Our helplessness before God is the space for true faith and freedom to be ignited in our life and for our pleasing of man and God to die.

What foolish slaves we are when we attempt to be something…anything, in the place of grace. We offer nothing to a holy, self-sustaining, sovereign Creator. And it is the being satisfied in this place that busts open our chains and liberates us to live.

Know your stuff > We fear not being known every day.

Believe the truth > The approval of man isn’t worth it. The approval of God is impossible to earn.

Live in Freedom > Through Jesus Christ you have been approved. God is pleased in you because of Jesus. It is finished.

Let Grace Change Your Heart > I don’t have to do anything. I get to serve God and love others.

It is finished, my love.

Kasey is a cancer survivor, a licensed professional counselor who has earned degrees in psychology, public speaking, counseling, and biblical studies. In 2014, Kasey was named ‘most inspiring woman of the year’ by Houston, TX and Buffalo, NY radio affiliates. She and her husband of 13 years, Justin, live in Bryan, Texas with their two children. She is the President of True Mission – a not for profit residential safe-home for minor girls rescued out of human trafficking within the US. She is also co-founder of Raven’s Way, Inc. – a not for profit online community of women who are learning to know and speak their life-story together (launching August 2015).

Kasey’s 2014 book and Bible study, Raw Faith—What Happens When God Picks a Fight, has been hailed as one of the most daring and vulnerable ‘cancer narratives,’ to hit Christian literature. You can find out more about her on her website: KaseyVanNorman.org or follow her on Twitter @KaseyVanNorman.

By |May 1st, 2015|Raw Faith|0 Comments

How Much Is Enough? Sustaining Contentment

by Josh Lawson

 

Over the past couple of blog posts we have gone on a journey to discover the lost secret of contentment. In our day and age it truly is a virtue that is rarely sought and even more rarely found. But I believe that contentment is the key to finding true purpose and peace in our financial lives. No amount of possessions or power can ever give you the clarity of heart and mind that contentment can.

Isaiah says it this way in chapter 26 verse 3, “You (God) will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”

Perfect. Peace. Just imagine what that must feel like!

And that “perfect peace” is only found as we fix our minds on Christ alone and trust Him to be our satisfaction in life. In Him alone can we find our contentment.

Prone To Wander
But we all wander. The old hymn says it perfectly, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.” We all have this tendency to wander from that perfect peace and contentment that we find in Christ alone. We tend to chase shiny things and believe the lie that the “fruit of the tree” will eventually satisfy us.

How Do We Sustain Contentment?
So, how can we not just learn the secret of contentment, but how can we SUSTAIN our contentment for the long haul?
We must learn to guard our hearts. Solomon says to his son in chapter 4 of Proverbs, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Solomon has many things to his son, but he says that most important thing he can do is to guard his heart. Other translations say to “watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” In order to sustain a contented heart, we must diligently preserve the purity of our heart.

What this means practically is that we must acknowledge and fight the day to day temptations that will cause us to grow in discontentment.

Let me explain with an example. Several years ago my wife, Jenny, and I were perfectly happy with our house. It was a quaint little place, but it was perfect for our little family. However, within a matter of months, several of our friends began buying or building new homes. We celebrated with them and were happy for their new homes, but it awakened something inside of us. Now we weren’t happy with our house. Now we suddenly NEEDED a new house! We started looking at real estate websites and “window shopping online” for our dream house. We were desperate for our own place to call our own!

But what changed?

Absolutely nothing except suddenly it awakened a need inside of us because we saw what others had. The Bible calls this envy. A quick definition of envy is “a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.” The Bible also calls this one of the seven deadly sins! We can sugar coat it as drive and a “blessing of God,” but at its core it is sin and it is after our hearts.

Guard Your Heart
Day in and day out, we are constantly barraged with opportunities to allow envy to fester in our hearts. We look at other people’s dream homes, dream lives, dream spouses, dream kids on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We salivate over their snapshots of a perfect life and grow disgruntled with our messy, less-than-perfect, behind-the-scenes life full of dirty dishes and piles of laundry.

Guard Your Heart.

Our inboxes are full of emails promising satisfaction in a vacation or new shoes or perfect piece of furniture. Stores scream to come and spend your money on this or that to give yourself a moment of peace and fulfillment.
Guard Your Heart.

Our televisions are full of commercials that scream for our attention and affection. They promise a perfect body, beach-front house, and a beautiful girlfriend all from drinking a specific beer!

Guard Your Heart.

The Fight of Your Life
Contentment is one of the hardest things that you will ever have to learn in your life. And it is even harder to fight for once you have found it. But the key is to fight. Don’t pitty-patter around with envy. Its path promises to satisfy you, but only leads to death.

James says it this way, “But every person is tempted when he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (lust, passions).Then the evil desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully matured, brings forth death. Do not be misled, my beloved brethren.”

It is most definitely a fight for your life. But the promise of God is that He will not just give us enough to survive, but He will satisfy the deepest places of our hearts. And when we are satisfied in Him alone, that is the greatest place of peace and purpose our lives will ever have.

About the Author
Josh Lawson serves as the director of Community Restoration (formerly Financial Restoration Ministry) at Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas. He is passionate about seeing families set free from the burden of debt and financial stress, so that they are free to walk in the freedom that Christ has for them.

While serving at Antioch Community Church, Josh and his wife Jenny have developed the REALIGN curriculum. During that time the total amount of debt that has been paid off by both class attendees and those receiving financial coaching has been well over $3 Million dollars.

By |April 14th, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

What Can Satisfy Us? The Secrets to Contentment

by Josh Lawson

We had been dreaming of doing this renovation for years. It took us months and months to save up the money, and we had finally reached the point where we could pay for it in cash. The contractors came in and did an amazing job and the finished product was immaculate. During this process, my wife and I promised one another that if we could do just this one renovation we would never ask for another thing. This would be the project to end all projects.

But just one week after the project was finished, we sat in our living room and started to board the “Complain Train.” Have you ever been on it too? It goes a little something like this, “This is wrong… yeah and this…. Oh and this… Yeah and this!”

“All aboard the Complain Train! Final destination, misery and despair!”

We had this incredible product that we had always dreamed of, but we were still not satisfied. We still wanted a little bit more.

But haven’t we all been there? We thought those shoes would be the shoes to end all shoes, but 30 minutes after we bought them we were just as miserable as before. Or we thought that as soon as we said “I Do” at the altar, all of our hopes and dreams of feeling loved and accepted would be satisfied. Then the honeymoon happened. Or we think that if we can get a raise then we will finally be able to stop being stressed out by money. But it never happens.

We are never fully satisfied by the things that we think should satisfy us.

What Can Satisfy Us?
Deep in the heart of each of us we are all hungry. We have been constructed with a very legitimate need to be satisfied. But in the brokenness of our world, we believe we can fill that need with stuff. However, God in His kindness (and “smartness”) has created each of us to never fully be satisfied by the things of this world, but instead by Him alone.

The first secret of learning contentment is to realize that our satisfaction is never found in our provision, a place, or a person, but in Jesus alone.

When we are satisfied in Him alone, then everything else has its right place and can be enjoyed.
Let me explain. If I believe that God has given me my wife to be my place to find happiness, I will be constantly demanding her to make me happy. And when we aren’t happy in our marriage, then it must not be God and it must be her fault, so I will toss her out and move on to the next thing to make me happy. However, if I believe that God alone is my place of satisfaction, then I can love and adore my wife without any expectation that she meet a need that only God can. And when good times come, I am content. When bad times come, I am content. Because my contentment is not dependent upon my circumstances or how my wife acts, but on the consistency of the person of Jesus.

The Second Secret to Learning Contentment

The second secret of learning contentment is to be thankful for the provision that God has given you.

Only days before we boarded the “Complain Train,” we were in awe of how beautiful our house was. But as we noticed every little thing that was wrong, it caused us to grow more and more discontent.

The next morning I was reading in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 where it says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” In that moment, I felt God speak to my heart and say, “Joshua, I want you to be thankful.”

I responded with a bland and robotic, “Yes sir. Thank you.”

Then He spoke again, “No, I want you to actively thank me.”

So I got up from my chair and told Jenny that I thought God wanted us to thank Him for the things in our house that He had given us. She obliged and we began to go room to room and thank God for all the little things we had been given. We sarcastically started with the toaster, “God, thank you for this shiny toaster that we have been given. It creates great toast.”

But as we continued throughout the house, our snarky smiles began to subside and tears welled up in our eyes. By the end of that time, we were weeping on the ground thanking God for His goodness and provision in our lives, and begging for forgiveness for being spoiled brats constantly demanding more but forgetting our past blessings.
We recognized in that moment that we have a good Father God who has always provided for us, but our lack of thankfulness was leading us to forget His goodness and His provision and leading us into deep discontentment.

Thanklessness + Forgetfulness = Discontentment
Thankfulness + Deeper Awareness = Deeper Contentment

Foundations of Contentment

The first two keys to learning the secret of contentment are to:
1) Know that God is our only place of satisfaction
2) Choose to be thankful for the things that God has provided.

As we learn these two keys, it will allow us to enjoy the provision of God with greater freedom and peace.

The Final Key

The third key is the most significant of all in sustaining a contented heart and we will discuss this in our next post!
See you then!

About the Author
Josh Lawson serves as the director of Community Restoration (formerly Financial Restoration Ministry) at Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas. He is passionate about seeing families set free from the burden of debt and financial stress, so that they are free to walk in the freedom that Christ has for them.

While serving at Antioch Community Church, Josh and his wife Jenny have developed the REALIGN curriculum. During that time the total amount of debt that has been paid off by both class attendees and those receiving financial coaching has been well over $3 Million dollars.

Follow Josh on Twitter: @joshvlawson

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By |April 7th, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

How Much Is Enough?

by Josh Lawson

In the early 1900’s there lived a man by the name of John D. Rockefeller. He was the first baron of the oil industry, and he is believed to be the wealthiest person in the history of the world. At one point during his lifetime, his net worth totaled more than $350 billion (in adjusted dollars). Just to put that into context, Bill Gates is the wealthiest person in the world currently and his net worth is a measly $75 billion. You could combine the net worth of Bill Gates and the next five wealthiest people in the world and John D. would still be wealthier than all of them! This guy had wealth beyond our wildest dreams.

But during his life someone asked him a question that we have probably all wondered ourselves, “How much is enough?” His response might shock you. Even though he was the wealthiest man in modern history and had all the money anyone could hope for, he replied, “Just a little bit more.”

John D. Rockefeller was not the first person to feel this desire for “a little bit more” and he is surely not the last. This “little bit more” is called discontentment and it creeps into each of our hearts whether we have a billion dollars or a one dollar bill.

Discontentment is a lethal concoction of Greed plus Envy. Erich Fromm says that “greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.” At our core, we are all on a search for satisfaction. But, we have been sold a bill of goods that says if we keep following the bread crumb path of consumption, we will eventually find satisfaction.

Nothing can be further from the truth.

Satisfaction can be had, but let me tell you a secret: it will never be found in things, people, events, or stages of life. It won’t be found in that perfect job, perfect spouse or perfect kid (but please tell me if you ever find any of these!).

Satisfaction (also known as contentment) will be the hardest thing you have ever learned – that’s why Paul called it a secret. But it is also closer than you might imagine.

Do you want to learn how to be truly satisfied?
Do you want to get off of the rat wheel of trying to find your satisfaction in stuff?

Then please join us over these next few blog entries as we seek to find the secret of contentment and try to answer the question, “how much is enough?”


 

About the Author

Josh Lawson serves as the director of Community Restoration (formerly Financial Restoration Ministry) at Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas. He is passionate about seeing families set free from the burden of debt and financial stress, so that they are free to walk in the freedom that Christ has for them.

While serving at Antioch Community Church, Josh and his wife Jenny have developed the REALIGN curriculum. During that time the total amount of debt that has been paid off by both class attendees and those receiving financial coaching has been well over $3 Million dollars.

Follow Josh on Twitter: @joshvlawson

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By |March 31st, 2015|Josh Lawson|0 Comments

Margaret Feinberg – Fight Back with Joy – New Tour!

Slide1

Information sheets - Fight Back 2015 (4)

Contact us for more information! info@gotothehub.com

By |November 12th, 2014|Uncategorized|0 Comments