Giving thanks..even when it’s hard

Honestly, these past few days, finding a gift in the moment has been difficult. So difficult, that some days I didn’t count. As I sat with a friend who found out life-altering news, I cried out in my heart “Now, father? What gift is there right here?”  And then I remembered Paul saying that we present our requests and anxieties to God with thanksgiving. 

I will be the first to admit that I would rather wallow in pity, bitterness, and frustration then give thanks for the hard moments in life. But if I’m not giving thanks, where will I find joy? In myself? When things go according to “my plan?” I’ve discovered that giving thanks when I don’t want to is simply a way of teaching my heart to satisfy itself in the gospel. That’s really all it is…it realigns my focus and my thoughts away from myself and onto the cross.

So here are a few snapshots of this week:

#100 The Garden 

Safe Haven has a community garden that the kids help maintain and then they get to eat the produce or bring it back to their families! it is such a blessing, and the kids all love watering it.

#104 Fresh Cucumbers from said garden

Yes…that is writing on my hand. Made a list of stuff I needed…still forgot two things on the list. Love it.

#109. Thunderstorms 

It rained (and hailed) so hard here, and it totally cooled everything down. Such an awesome reminder of God’s power.

#112. Community 

We needed some extra help this week, and a local church totally stepped up and filled the need. Their help has been wonderful!

#115. Trying new things. 

I had sushi for the first time the other day! It was…gross. But I still tried it, which is a really big step for me. Side note: I also had traditional Portuguese food last night. Totally delicious.

#120. Powerlessness

God is teaching me so much about how even when I think I am safe, competent, and capable (my mindset my entire life before I came to Newark) – I’m really not because He is the one working in me. And when I don’t think I am safe, competent, or capable, it’s perfect because I have to totally rely on Him. I’m learning to live in this land of total powerlessness…and it’s radically freeing.

#123. Music

Remember gift #98? Well, now it is available for your listening pleasure on Gumroad. Enjoy! Link:

#128. Cheesin’ it. 

I’ll leave you with this picture of my spunky friend Tatamia..I hope her smile warms your heart like it does mine!

Thanks for reading, friend!


“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6


the gift of a week.

#42. Air Conditioning.

God has provided not one – but THREE – air conditioners for our apartment. Insert shouts of hallelujah and dances of praise here.

#45. dealing with emotions. 

Adjusting to life here as been a bit of an emotional roller coaster, but I am thankful for time to sit down and process everything.

#48. New Friends 

I have really enjoyed getting to know the people here who are working with Safe Haven and from other local churches!

#50. Words of encouragement 

#51. The 4 little blonde children currently staying with us tonight…so much laughter and joy. 

#54. Being intimately known by the creator of the universe.

Psalm 139:3 “You are intimately acquainted with all my ways” has never been more real to me. I am continually surprised (although I shouldn’t be) by how well God knows my desires, fears, longings, and worries…even all the ones I do not bring to him. It’s almost like he is laying a path out in front of me saying “walk here…I know you. I made you. This is where I want you. Trust me.” It’s getting a little ridiculous.

#56. Worshipping at Redeemer PCA – and being extremely convicted by the Word of God. 

Speaking of being intimately known…the sermon today at church basically hit the nail on the head. Here are a few gems of conviction from Matthew 10:26-39, about not living in fear.

“Contentious environments produce more courageous disciples, where as comfortable environments produce more complacent disciples.”

“Yesterday’s faith isn’t enough to fight today’s fear – we have to believe the Gospel moment by moment”

“The fear of man leaves us running away from opportunity, but the fear of the Lord is a strong tower”

– – – –

Prayer Requests: This week we start our afternoon summer program. Pray for the k-5th graders that will be there – that the Lord would use this time to make them into faithful followers of Christ. Pray for me, as I teach bible during the week – that God would give me energy and wisdom…and that He would be glorified!

These gifts are full of Grace

I have time for a more detailed post today, so you guys are in for a real treat 😉

#19. Diversity 

I walked through down town Newark yesterday, and was in awe of how diverse the culture here is. There are people from varying races, ethnicities, and social class’. It’s interesting to observe but also gives me a little glimpse of heaven…and a desire to pray even  harder for this city to be redeemed!

#22. Good Coffee, Good Planning

Part of my responsibilities here this summer is to teach the bible time for kids camp they have in the afternoons. I’m teaching on the parables, and I was able to sit in this awesome coffee shop and work on my lesson plans yesterday. I haven’t really studied the parables in-depth on my own before, and it’s been really cool. I love how every story points to the good news of the gospel and gives us a picture of God’s character. So cool!

#28. Fans!

These fans are literally a blessing from the Lord. We don’t have AC, so it gets pretty hot. I’ve been just camping out here at the end of my days!

#35. Scripture that meets me right where I’m at. 

I discovered Isaiah 58:10 yesterday morning, and it was so sweet to my heart.

“If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desires of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness, and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your desires in scorched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”

#40. seeking hard to find the gift in the moment, even when it’s hard. 

Last night there was quite the commotion outside my apartment. People were fighting and yelling and making all kinds of noises until the early hours of the morning. I lay in bed wide awake, wondering how do I take joy and find a gift here? Now?  I began praying for the men who were yelling at each other outside…that their threats made out of anger intended for malice would only be empty threats. That the Lord would soften their hearts to His grace and love for them. That they wouldn’t do anything rash in their anger. That God would protect and watch over their wives and children, and stir within these men desires to be faithful husbands, fathers, and most importantly – followers of Christ. In that moment, something Ann Voskamp said in her book really sank in… “You cannot count gifts when you are living in fear and you cannot live in fear while you are counting gifts.”  (paraphrased) It is a battle to choose to redeem and find joy in every moment, even the most inglorious and obnoxious ones. But I’m so glad that the Lord is faithful, and I’m learning to trust him day by day!

Gift #1

#1. Not being ready.

For most of my life, my cliche answer to the question “are you ready?” has always been “I was born ready.”

Today, the answer is “absolutely not.”

The ever confident, competent, and capable 19-year-old me is about to embark on a journey to which I have absolutely no idea what to expect. I am not prepared, in any capacity, for what I will experience and what God will call me to do. And that is scary.

But I count this moment of “unreadiness” as a gift. I give thanks here and now because tonight, these next 5 weeks, I am leaning hard on Christ like I never have before. Learning to trust God in the darkness of the unknown is hard and hurts a little in my heart that so craves comfort and control. But I give thanks in this moment because I know he is molding and shaping me here and now.

And I pray that as time goes on, if I do happen to get “more ready,” it wouldn’t be because I have grown more confident in myself, but instead because I have grown more confident in Christ.

Counting Gifts

I leave for Newark in 4 days. I am excited for the adventure, anxious for the unknown, and rejoicing in the way God has provided so far.

Throughout my time in Newark, I plan to maintain this blog by counting gifts. This idea was inspired by Ann Voskamp‘s book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You AreMy heart was inspired by this book to learn to live in the moment. She says that we can learn to give thanks in every moment, as Jesus did, and in return we enjoy the fullness of life and joy. I’m so excited about learning to see the joy and beauty in the mundane, unpleasant, and challenging. I know that through this process of giving thanks in every circumstance, God will show me more of who He is and how He is working.

I am counting gifts because I want to see God in whole new ways, but I’m also counting gifts because of the gospel. Ann Voskamp says in her book: “when I realize that it is not God who is in my debt, but I who am in His great debt, then doesn’t all become a gift?” Christ took my punishment and gave me His righteousness…every breath I take is a sweet gift from His gracious hand. Hopefully through this process of giving thanks, His grace will transform me and sustain me as I see Him in whole new ways.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:9

…so it begins!

This is the place I will be cataloging my journey this summer. Feel free to have a look around. If you’d like more information about what I will be doing, check out the about section. If you would like to support me in any way, go here

Hopefully this will be a place where you all can learn along with me and see God’s glory in new and fresh ways. Thanks for giving me this opportunity! 

For his Glory,

– Sarah