sarah anne writes

the ministry of sleep deprivation

CommunitySarah Anne HayesComment

I'm not particularly good at sleeping.

It's somewhat of a running joke amongst our friend group, to be honest. Once I get to bed, I can easily sleep past noon, but the process of actually getting there is far less consistent. As a night owl, regardless of how big my afternoon slump is, my brain turns back on in the evenings and it's quite common for me to be up past midnight reading, journaling, or doing any number of other activities.

Before my roommate Holly and I moved in together, she joked that neither of us would ever get any sleep. A fellow night owl and one of my best friends, those past-midnight evenings were often filled with conversations with her, over text or Facebook or phone, sometimes in person. Some nights they were ridiculous enough to induce tears of laughter and other nights they were of a serious enough nature that if tears were present, they were also accompanied by hugs and a shoulder for those tears to fall on.

Holly's prediction has come true on many nights since we moved in together. There's been more than one occasion where one of us has walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water or into the basement to put something away and that simple action has turned into a question which turns into a conversation which often turns into hours sitting on the couch or at the table, processing the many parts of life both wonderful and hard. 

And more often than not, we look up at the clock and know it will be a struggle when our alarms go off in the morning.

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Life is full of seasons. Everyone knows this. We use the metaphors of springs and summers and autumns and winters to talk about life when things are wonderful and new and good things are growing or when it feels like everything is crumbling to dust around us.

The events of our lives ebb and flow and the things we see and learn and experience mimic the changes in the seasons. This is something I believe the Lord does intentionally — to remind us that everything on this earth is temporary, the happy and the sad. It helps us savor the good and wonderful moments in our lives, knowing they won't be around forever. And it gives us hope when things are painful and there seems to be no end in sight, for winter will always turn into spring.

I've been in what you might call an extended season of singleness for, well, most of my life.

I'm officially into the latter half of my third decade of life, and, of those 27 years, I've spent a grand total of about nine months attached to another person in some sort of romantic fashion.

Like most things in life, my contentment with my singleness, or lack thereof, has ebbed and flowed, and I would be lying to you if I didn't say I would be quite pleased to be engaged and married in the near future. But the more prominent feeling I've had toward my singleness as of late is contentment — a peace and genuine trust that the Lord knows exactly what He's doing in this season of my life, just as He's known in every season that's come before, and whether He brings my spouse into my life two weeks or five years from now, this season is and will continue to be good. 

Certainly, there are days when I still struggle with my singleness, especially since I never thought I'd be single for this long, but most of the time these days? Well, I actually kind of love it.

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On a recent Monday night, I got together with my mentor. We ate frozen yogurt and talked about all sorts of things happening in her life and mine, one of which is my singleness. I told her that, while I would love to be married soon, I really love the season I currently find myself in because it gives me opportunities for ministry I simply wouldn't have if I went home to my husband every night.

Perhaps one of the most common things single people in the Church are told is their singleness is an opportunity to serve in ways they would be otherwise unable to once married or married with children. It's easy to scoff at that suggestion and think that's easy for someone who's married to say, because they don't have to wrestle with the heartache and pain that often comes along with this supposedly blessed season of singleness and service.

But more and more lately, I'm realizing just how true that statement is.

When my roommates and I moved into our new house a few months back, we talked about what we wanted the house to be and we all agreed we wanted it to be a place of ministry to our community. We wanted our home to be one that was open and welcoming to all the members of our community and friend group, where movie nights and game nights and dinners and laughter and joy and sorrow could all happen. We want to fill the home with memories overflowing with life and love and laughter for however long we live together in it.

There are nights when I don't get enough sleep for silly reasons like getting caught up in a Netflix binge session or (far more often) getting sucked into an excellent book I just have to finish that night. And on some pragmatic level, I know I really should get more sleep than I do, but sometimes it's worth it to only get four or five hours of sleep if it means being a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, the voice of wisdom, or all of the above.

Yes, there are nights I've stayed up until 2:00 a.m. finishing a book and I've sorely regretted it the next morning, but in recent months, the most common reason I've stayed up particularly late is when someone I care about has needed me or I've needed them.

There have been nights sitting around the table with my roommates where I've had to verbally process the joyful and exciting and stressful and sometimes frightening things happening in my life, where I've sobbed and needed to receive comfort and encouragement and words of wisdom and love from the people in my life who know and love me best.

There have been other nights where I've been on the giving end of that equation. Where I've listened to my roommates and friends process the stressful and frightening and joyful and exciting things happening in their own lives, where I've literally been a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear or the voice of encouragement and wisdom.

And on one of those late nights where I sat on the couch with my roommate well past midnight with tears running down both of our faces, I realized something — there is a ministry of sleep deprivation.

I will not always be in a season where I can stay up until 2:00 a.m. with my friends and roommates to help them process life and be the only one to reap the consequences of a stupid early alarm clock. One day I will hopefully have a husband and children and when I am in that season, it will be much harder to drop everything and run to my friend's side when she needs me. We may have to settle for tears shed or joy bursting over the phone and virtual hugs instead of real ones when little ones are sleeping or my husband needs me by his side.

But in this season right now, where I've been blessed (because I am truly learning it is a blessing) with singleness? I can drop everything and rush to my friend's side with ice cream or hugs or words of wisdom or a listening ear or all of the above. I have the freedom to be present in the lives of those I love in ways that just aren't possible when you have a spouse and children and I am so grateful.

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Friend, if you're sitting here today reading this and feeling like singleness is more of a curse than a blessing, that it's a gift you wish had an easier return policy, I encourage you to look around. Ask the Lord to open your eyes to the ways He's uniquely gifted you to minister in this season not in spite of your singleness but rather because of it. Notice those pockets of time and those talents and passions you have that can be used to build up the Kingdom in ways that will be more limited when you have the wonderful but constraining commitments of marriage and family.

1 Corinthians 7 states plainly that a married person is a divided person. Once joined to another human being in covenantal marriage, your time is not your own. And though your time is never truly your own, for it is always the Lord's first and foremost, there is more freedom in your time as a single person than there is as a married person. So take advantage of it.

Invite your friends over for impromptu dinners and game nights. Take that spontaneous trip to the beach with some of your favorite people. Answer the phone when your friend calls late at night and open your door or show up at theirs with ice cream in hand and hugs at the ready. Go to the midnight premiere of the movie and spend your Saturday wandering through the farmer's market and cooking up food with those you love. Have dance parties and go to amusement parks and play ridiculous games. Lose a little (or a lot of) sleep and make as many memories as you possibly can. Invest every square inch of that great love you can give to a spouse and family one day into the community of people the Lord has gifted you with in this season.

I still deeply desire to be a wife and mother some day soon, and if my husband walked through the doors of my church on Sunday, I certainly wouldn't complain. But this season the Lord has me in right now, this season filled with love and laughter and joy and tears and heartache and far less sleep than is probably healthy? It is my most favorite season yet.

a love letter to the woman who feels like she's too much

RelationshipsSarah Anne HayesComment

I have never been a quiet person. I threw dramatic temper tantrums at a young age, I performed in my first play at the age of seven, and I've always had a flair for the dramatic. I talk fast and I talk loud. When I get excited about something, I get excited about that something.

And there have been so many moments throughout my life where I've felt like I'm too much, in every sense of the word. Too loud, too fast, too short, too fat, the list could go on and on. Every time I was told to be quiet, to slow down, someone commented on my weight, or on my height, it only reinforced the belief that I was inherently too much — for people, for jobs, for relationships, for life.

You might be sitting here, reading these words, thinking the same thoughts I've thought time and time again over the years. You've been called too much too many times in your life. You've been called too much by friends, by family, by boyfriends, by colleagues, and by teachers.

So hear this: I know you. I see you. I am one of you.

I know that you go through so many days watching your sweet, demure, gentle friends finding incredible guys and you wonder. You wonder if you're too much. You wonder if you have too much passion, too much fire, too much personality and pizzazz and spunk and spark. You wonder if you're destined to end up alone because your 'too much' of everything is never anything but intimidating to the men in your life.

Hear me when I say that I have been there. I've cried silent and not-so-silent tears numerous times as a man has told me, in one form or another, that I am too much. I've read books and watched movies and observed people and often wished more than anything that I could be one of those quiet, unassuming women who floats in and out of a room and catches people off guard with the way she so delicately lives her life.

The fact of the matter is, I'm not that kind of person. And you might not be either. If you are, that's wonderful. That's how God created you and you should fully embrace all the beauty and loveliness that comes from that kind of personality.

But if that's not you, if you're like me — a woman with opinions and volume and sass — embrace all the beauty and loveliness that comes from that kind of personality. Because, my dear, if there's one thing I could impress upon you today it's this: you are never too much.

That passion and pizzazz and spunk and sass? The world needs it. That joy that bubbles out of you when you're talking about something you love? The world needs it. The passion you feel for causes and movements that are important to your heart? The world needs it. The sass you sprinkle into daily interactions because it makes life a little more interesting? The world needs it.

There will always be a need for people who are quiet and calm and steady. Without them, the world would be in utter chaos most of the time. My parents are people like that. My baby sister is like that. And you know what they do? They help bring quiet and calm and steadiness to the world. And I am so, so grateful that they do. But you know what would happen if everyone in the world was quiet and calm and steady? Everything in the world would be quiet and calm and steady.

I don't know about you, but that sounds like a pretty boring world to me.

The world needs people who feel a little bit all over the place sometimes. It's what makes life interesting. It's what makes life an adventure. Yes, we absolutely need those quiet, calm, steady people to bring us back down to earth sometimes, but people like you add some color and pop and sizzle to the world.

Without knowing you personally, this is what I know about you: you are made in the image of God and just as He has quiet, calm, steady sides to Himself, He also has loud, boisterous, sizzling sides to Himself and no one side of Him is any better or worse than the other.

It can be difficult when it feels like the world and often the Church is telling you to be something you know you can never be. It can make you feel like there's something inherently wrong with you, like God messed up somehow and you're not as valuable or as loved as your quiet, calmer peers.

Hear this now: God never messes up.

He made you the way you are for a reason. Yes, there are elements of your personality that the enemy can twist and distort and use to hurt others in your life. But that's the case with every single human being on this planet, not just you. The world needs every bit of the woman God created you to be and that woman is someone with pop and sizzle and spunk and pizzazz.

Please don't ever feel like you have to change who you are to be accepted or loved. Don't ever feel like you aren't as valuable as your friends who are quiet and calm. People like you are what makes life interesting and adventurous and memorable.

I'm a feisty, little spitfire with a lot of opinions who loves a good debate. And there are people who only ever see that side of me and assume that's just who I am.

But this little spitfire is also a woman who is passionate about the things in her life. That means when I love, I love fiercely and deeply. I am loyal almost to a fault and will fight for the people I love. I feel a lot and cry a lot and sometimes it seems like I'm just a hot mess of emotions. I will squeal and freak out and gush over the things that make my heart sing. And none of that is ever too much. It's just who I am.

Whatever it is about yourself, whatever your "too much" is that you want to change — don't. Please.

I promise you, the Lord made you that way for a reason. He put every bit of spunk and sass into your personality that was necessary to create the woman He intends you to be. The enemy will try to twist it into something it was never meant to be, either by making you think you need to downplay it or using it as an excuse to bulldoze people. Don't let him.

You were created in the image of God, meticulously stitched together in your mother's womb to reflect Him in a way that only you can. And I'm willing to bet that the part of your life and personality that feels like it's 'too much' is a part of that unique reflection.

So please, whenever you feel like you're too much, do whatever you can to remember that you are not and then go out and add some more pop and spice and sizzle to this beautiful world.

why I want an instagram worthy life

CelebrationSarah Anne HayesComment

These days, we talk a lot about social media.

There's entire dialogues surrounding what is and what isn't acceptable to post on social media and at the same time, there's a certain authenticity that is often lacking from those perfectly curated Instagram and Pinterest feeds we consume day after day.

It's easy to fall into the trap of comparison, wondering why your life is so mundane and boring because of what you see friends and colleagues posting online.

A few years ago, I wrote a piece called Your Life is Not An Instagram Feed. It was a reminder to myself, and others, that because social media is so often curated, it isn't a fair comparison tool. Because when you compare yourself to someone else based on what you see online, you're comparing your entire life to their highlight reel. And that never ends well for anybody.

Recently, my thought process has shifted a bit. 

I saw someone post about how your life doesn't have to be "Instagram worthy" to be a good life, and striving to make your life "Instagram worthy" (or "Pinterest worthy") is only ever going to lead to frustration and a never ending cycle of comparison, shame, and self-doubt.

Aiming for an "Instagram worthy" life is this generation's version of keeping up with the Jones'. It's all about the appearance, and not about what's actually happening on the inside.

As I read this, I had an interesting thought... I want an Instagram worthy life.

When you hear the words Instagram or Pinterest "worthy," what's the first thing that comes to mind?

Most likely it's a gorgeous feed filled with beautiful, high-quality images that are inspirational, motivating, and lovely. They're gorgeous women in perfectly styled outfits. A margarita while hanging out on a beach with white sand and beautiful sunshine. It's perfectly styled brunch photos and home vignettes worthy of Better Homes & Gardens magazine. It's adorable laughing children splashing into pools and picturesque mugs of hot chocolate on a snowy night. 

All of those things are wonderful things. They're good and lovely and something to be celebrated. And I'm as guilty as the next person of thinking that my life isn't worth being shared on social media.

But here's the thing: I don't want an "Instagram worthy" life because I want a life that is always full of rainbows and daisies. I want an "Instagram worthy" life because I want a life I'm so completely in love with, I can't help but want to share and celebrate it. A life filled with authenticity and delight and grace and the goodness of the Lord. A life where I can always see Him moving and working and giving me grace upon grace that every moment becomes something worth sharing.

We've somehow bought the lie that we're only supposed to share the good things on social media -- the happy moments, the celebration, the beauty, the delight, the adventures. But the hard moments -- the ones where we're struggling and hurting and wondering what on earth God is doing up there -- those ones shouldn't be talked about. We should hush them up and hide them away so no one ever suspects our weaknesses and struggles.

But the problem is, when we don't post about our struggles and our frustrations, it's easy to put up this facade that everything is just fine and dandy when, in fact, it's not.

Now, there are certainly moments that you don't need to share online. Oversharing is definitely a thing and there are parts of your life and parts of your story that don't need to be posted on the internet for the whole wide world to see and read. There are elements of your story and relationships that are best kept tucked safely away, cherished between no one but you and the loves in your life.

There are certain parts of my story and certain elements of my life I don't talk about online. Not because I'm ashamed, not because I'm afraid, but simply because they're parts of my story that don't need a global audience. I talk about them with friends and family, in the context of community and relationships, because that's where it's understood best.

But when it comes to the whole of my life -- the combination of the good and the bad and the lovely and the hard -- I want it to intentionally be filled with so many things I love and can't help but want to share with the world. Beyond that, I want to choose to find joy and delight in the world I find around me. I want to count my gifts and notice the fingerprints of my Savior everywhere I go.

In Galatians, Paul talks about the fruits of the Spirit and the second one he mentions -- following love -- is joy and I've been reminded constantly that one of the primary marks of the Christian life is a life of joy. 

I want an Instagram worthy life because I want a life marked by joy -- a life filled to overflowing with grace and delight and good things. Beyond the joy and delight that circumstances can bring, I want to choose to find joy and delight in the world I find around me. I want to count my gifts and notice the fingerprints of my Savior everywhere I go.

There will still be hard moments. There will still be difficult conversations. There will still be times where I'm ugly crying on my bedroom floor, staring up at the ceiling and begging God to tell me why. 

But in the midst of those hard and scary and confusing moments, there will always be grace. And because there will always be grace, there will always be joy. And a life filled with joy, one that sees the fingertips of God moving in every space and place sounds pretty Instagram worthy to me.