Everyday Disciples: Sarah's Story

This post is part of an on-going Everyday Disciple series. We're celebrating here what it looks like to follow Christ faithfully in the day-to-day. I am thankful to share the stories of gracious friends and readers, and I have sought to preserve and honor their voice in the post below. I invite you to join me as we listen to their experience as an "everyday disciple."


Sarah is one of my oldest and dearest friends. Our friendship started in our days together in our high school’s field marching band, and it’s matured and stretched with time and distance. We’ve had our fair share of heart-to-heart phone calls while folding laundry. And ice cream. Lots of ice cream. 

Sarah is passionate about her job in education, and it's my delight to share her thoughts with you.

* * *

I am the Director of Early Education at Manhattan Christian Academy in New York City.  I oversee the Early Ed department (programming, supervising teachers, etc.) within our preschool – 8th grade private Christian school.

My school is in a neighborhood of low socioeconomic status, with many immigrant families who are either unable to engage or unaware of the ways to advocate for their children. Some families do not know about our school, and many that do know about us assume they could never afford a private Christian education. But the school is very mission-minded; we strive to provide a godly, quality, affordable education for all families. As our school continues to grow, I see God’s mission being fulfilled, one family at a time, as He works to restores brokenness and flood dark places with His light.

Prior to this job, I worked as a teacher for a public school. I thought I would be a classroom teacher for years until I retired, but God obviously had something else in mind for me. When I transitioned to this school and this job, I wasn’t quite sure why God was leading me here, but I was certain He was doing just that. 

Now, two years in, I realize I have a more far-reaching influence as an administrator than I ever had as a teacher. I very much feel I’m still growing into my role, but it has truly been a blessing. 

In my previous job, I was the only Christian in my school, and unfortunately instead of “shining my light,” I allowed myself to be overcome by the world in my words and actions. I followed the example of those around me instead of seeking to emulate Christ to my non-believing coworkers. 

Now, being in a Christian environment has pushed me to immerse myself in God’s Word (since I’m teaching it to children) and to monitor my words and actions from a gospel lens (since I have true accountability and community). 

I will never forget the first time I met with a teacher and ended the meeting in prayer. I had seen my principal do this, and it was such a freeing (yet foreign) experience to welcome God into our professional life! Every time I pray with a teacher, or a parent, or a student, I am reminded of this great blessing.

IMG_6229.jpg
IMG_6217.jpg

The most unique challenge for me has been finding the balance between grace and professionalism. I’d say they’re on opposing ends of a spectrum but aren’t entirely mutually exclusive. Take, for example, when a teacher doesn’t turn in her lesson plans on time. I have a choice to make: should I show professionalism or grace exclusively? Or a compromise of the two? 

Professionalism would say to the teacher, “You have failed to upload your lesson plans according to the agreed-upon guidelines in pg. 8 of the staff handbook. Tomorrow we will hire a substitute teacher for your class while you work in the computer lab on your next three weeks of plans. The cost of the substitute will be deducted from your next paycheck.” 

Grace, on the other hand, would respond by first asking why the lesson plans weren’t submitted, and then weighing the validity of the response (Did the teacher forget? Has she just procrastinated? Was there a family emergency?). 

Often, I find myself striking a compromise between professionalism and grace—maybe telling the teacher her excuse is valid but to just please give advanced notice next time this happens, or telling the teacher enough is enough and the next time it happens she’ll pay for her own sub. Though this is a minor example of decision-making in my position, I’ve found that decisions in “gray” situations are what make my job most challenging but, in the end, most rewarding. I love fruitful (and sometimes difficult) conversations with teachers as I coach and encourage them in their calling as educators.

A special part of my job entails teaching a Bible lesson every morning to the 60+ children in the program, and through that experience, I’m challenged to look at familiar Bible stories through a critical, Gospel-centered lens. As I prepare and teach each Bible story to the children, I first have to understand it for myself—and not just who did what in the story, but really what each story says about the character of God and our need for a Savior. 

This has pushed me to learn so much and grow spiritually. Often when I’m teaching (even something like the birth of Jesus, a story I’ve heard my entire life), I get goosebumps as the power of the story and the truth of the message comes through. It's a challenging and beautiful thing to be in a position where my spiritual wellness has a direct impact on young children and their understanding of God. This holds me accountable daily in my pursuit of the Lord. 


If you would like to be a part of this project, I would love to hear your story. Contact me for more information.

Friday Morning Coffee #49: The Image of God

Good morning, friends. 

I'm writing to you from the place I've spent most of this week - the couch. I caught the plague that was being passed around by my family over the holidays, and it's forced me to slow down and take some time to rest. 

In between my naps, administrations of cough syrup, and episodes of "The Crown," I've been doing some reading. I'm reading Graham Greene's novel The Power and the Glory for the first time. And oh, am I enjoying it. 

A beautiful passage I read yesterday has been on my mind. A priest is on the run from authorities who want him killed, and a desperately ill peasant joins him with intentions to betray him. Knowing this, the priest still takes some compassion on the man. 

At the centre of his own faith there always stood the convincing mystery - that we were made in God's image - God was the parent, but He was also the policeman, the criminal, the priest, the maniac, and the judge....He would sit in the confessional and hear the complicated dirty ingenuities which God's image had thought out: and God's image shook now, up and down on the mule's back, with the yellow teeth sticking out over the lower lip...He said: "Do you feel better now? Not so cold, eh? Or so hot?" and pressed his hand with a kind of driven tenderness upon the shoulders of God's image.

It's a transformative realization - that all of humanity bears the image of God. The people we pass on the street, the cashier at the grocery store, the politicians on the television. The homeless man holding a cardboard sign, the boss you cannot stand. The best and most despicable person you can imagine - all image bearers. What a strange grace. What a profound dignity.

It changes the way we see people, when we can see this fundamental stamp of God's handiwork, when we can see beyond their sin or their success, their poverty or their wealth, their politics, their skin...and see a human being, the creation of God, the bearer of His image. 

On Quirky Faith

I've always loved those I-know-someone-who-knows-someone-who-you-should-know connections. And I've found them to be especially powerful in the writing world. It's a gift to get connected to other people who share the call to be a steward of the written word. 

Mindy and I met through one of those circuitous connections, and it's been a delight to get to know her a bit through her blog, Quirky Faith, over the last several months. I'm over there today, sharing about insecurities, my desire to be seen, and the realization that began to set my heart free.

Head on over to Quirky Faith to read...

Everyday Disciples: Sandi's Story

This post is part of an on-going Everyday Disciple series. We're celebrating here what it looks like to follow Christ faithfully in the day-to-day. I am thankful to share the stories of gracious friends and readers, and I have sought to preserve and honor their voice in the post below. I invite you to join me as we listen to their experience as an "everyday disciple."


The first time I met Sandi, we made a blanket fort together in her then-boyfriend-now-husband’s childhood home. He is one of Scott’s dearest friends from high school, and that was just the first of our seemingly annual home-for-Christmas gatherings. Over the years, we’ve gotten to know each other better visit-by-visit, as we talk and laugh at the guys’ antics. The time that crew all spends together is always so precious. This year, it included an adventure to D.C. and some pretty amazing burgers. 

I have so much respect for Sandi’s heart and the compassion she pours into her work, and I’m glad to let you in on a piece of it today. 

* * *

All throughout high school, I thought I wanted to be a nurse. After I graduated, I went on a three-month mission’s trip/internship in South Africa. On that trip, I met two social workers. They educated me on what a social worker was, and I quickly aligned with the thought of seeking social justice for people who were oppressed, marginalized and were the “least of these” in our world. 

I emailed my mom and asked her to call the college I was supposed to attend and tell them I was changing my major. I now have an undergrad in social work and am about to enter my last semester of graduate school for my masters in social work. 

Sandi work.jpg

I work as the Family Services Coordinator at a Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) in Dayton, OH. My main role is forensically interviewing children (ages 3-18) who are possible victims of severe physical abuse or sexual abuse. Our center also sees youth who are at risk for human trafficking or have been identified as being trafficked. We work with law enforcement, the FBI and Homeland Security, as well as child protective agencies and the prosecutor’s office, to seek justice for victims. 

Every day, I see a lot of brokenness. Physical and sexual abuse are such broken parts of this world, but every day, I also get to see a small part of restoration. This does not always happen that particular day, but the little glimmers of hope that a child is now safe and protected remind me God is in the process of restoring brokenness. He cares about those who are lowly and oppressed. He cares about those who have been beaten, and He especially cares for children.  

My faith has inspired me to advocate and stand beside those who have been told they are not good enough or they aren’t welcome at the table. God’s love is for all people, no matter who they are, their situation, or their background. I think when we invite those who think they are uninvited, it opens a world of doors for sharing the gospel with people. While I do not get to do this explicitly in my job, I can show grace, love, and hope to people who think they do not deserve those things, and I am inspired to do that because He does that exact thing for me every day. Whether it’s other staff, or the kids and families we serve, I want them to know they are loved (and deserving of love) no matter their story.  

Some days, I get home and I cannot imagine talking to another person or having another conversation with someone. I need people in my community who understand that when I say I cannot do something, it is probably because my day was filled with a lot of trauma, and I am trying to recover from hearing about it. I need people who can join me for yoga and wine and are okay if I don’t talk at all.  

The other thing I need from my Christian community? Prayer. This is such a bible-school answer, but it is so true. I can be prideful in my work, and I need to be humbled. I cannot do what I do without the support of the Holy Spirit giving me the emotional and physical energy to do this work. Knowing that people are praying for me is encouraging.  

As I think about fellow believers who know what I do, I often hear the response “How do you do it?” or “That is so sad, I can’t imagine.” But as I look around our neighborhood and our city, it’s hard for me to grasp how they “can’t imagine”—how they don’t see the suffering and hurt right under their noses. I don’t want people to say they can’t imagine this, because it is happening…everywhere. 

I wish I could tell them—Go and meet your neighbors, learn about them, love them, and be there for them when they need someone. Know their struggles and support them. Get outside your bubble, and go love people, with honest intentions of loving them, whether they come to Jesus or not. Just love them, and let Him do the work in their hearts. God is using each of us to help restore the brokenness in this world, not just those who are doing it as their jobs. 


If you would like to be a part of this project, I would love to hear your story. Contact me for more information.

Friday Morning Coffee #48: Pondering and Treasuring

Hello friends. Happy Friday! 

We're back from our holiday adventures, and I'm back from an end-of-the-year blogging break. It's good to be settling into a routine again. 

As things go, that routine was immediately interrupted by a blizzard. Though I may not love the long winters here, I do love the snow. I sat and watched as it fell yesterday in swirling torrents. It looked like the inside of a snow globe in the hands of a three year old. 

I've been thinking this last week about a little verse at the end of the Christmas story in Luke. Working from the highlight reel Luke lays out for us, we know that over the last year of her life, Mary has been visited by an angel and declared to be blessed and favored by God. She has miraculously conceived a child and been nearly divorced by her prospective husband. She has been forced to take a long and dangerous journey and to give birth in a strange town. She has seen ruffian shepherds kneel down beside her son's makeshift cradle. And Luke tells us that she "treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). 

I can imagine her sitting there, watching Jesus as he slept, watching his tiny chest rise and fall with each breath, wondering at who He was, at what He'd become. I can imagine her replaying each event, each conversation, sealing them into her memory. It's such a human moment - pondering and treasuring life's events. 

I've been thinking of this as we begin this new year. Our year marks are a bit arbitrary - it's not as if a great rift occurred between the moment I sat on the couch as my family counted down and the moment when we shouted "Happy New Year." I'm the same person. My life continues in a seamless progression. But these years do serve as markers, and they offer benchmarks to divide the time. Or really, they offer us a bench - a bench to take a seat, and look back over the vista of what's occurred over the last 365 days. It's a bench that invites us to stop and reflect - to ponder and treasure. 

I've been doing some pondering and treasuring. And I'll be doing some good reflecting. I want to solidify my memories and to learn from what I've experienced. If you haven't taken the time to do this yet, I'd encourage you to. And if you'd like to share, I'd love to hear your reflections as you begin a new year.

Here's to 2018, my friends.