Tag Archive: travel

Conference PIE

“This is a new phase in my life in ministry,” I thought as I noticed the VP of Cru’s US Leadership Development walk by while chuckling at us.  I was in the middle of leading a feedback session with one of the City Directors for Here’s Life Inner City, affirming what I’d seen in his character, competency and capacity over the last six months of coaching his Action Learning Team, and offering ideas for further growth, development and stretch opportunities.

But what made this chuckle-worthy over other feedback sessions I’ve been part of was that I had PIE strapped to my chest and falling asleep in the Ergo carrier and I was wearing a dress and heels.

It’s been a busy month in family and ministry, stretching me when it comes to planning, preparation and walking in step with the Holy Spirit.

Seminar on Walking with God for a Lifetime

Last week I spoke twice at “Unmasked,” the south western PA/Jersey Cru student fall retreat, once in a seminar to equip students to walk with God for a lifetime and then later that day during their Women’s Night.  It was a tremendous time, the students were really receptive to God’s words on Hebrews 12:1-3 and fixing our eyes on Jesus, and the staff women pulled off one of the best overall programs I’ve been part of for a women’s night in 15+ years of campus ministry.  It was fantastic, gut-level honest, honoring to Jesus, and overflowing with mercy and grace.  It exemplified the kind of open, caring, passionate community that I long to be part of on a regular basis.

The next day I met Mike and Phoebe at the Newark airport where we flew to Orlando for the third module of SLI4 (Senior Leadership Initiative, Cycle 4), a 2-year intensive leadership development program designed by Cru to help senior ministry leaders from Cru’s ministries across the country (like The Military Ministry, Here’s Life Inner City, The Campus Ministry, Cru High School, Athletes in Action, The JESUS Film Project, and The Office of the President, among others) increase their capacity and competency while growing in Christ-like character.  I was a participant in SLI1, and Mike and I have helped lead aspects of SLI3 and SLI4.

Developing current leaders and helping people stretch to reach their potential is vital in the life of any organization.  According to a recent Fast Company article:

U.S. companies spent an estimated $67 billion on training in 2011. Some have been more creative about it than others. P&G CEO Bob McDonald, for instance, says he invites 150 leaders each year to a training center like West Point or the Center for Creative Leadership. General Electric spends about $1 billion annually on training through its corporate university in Crotonville, N.Y. PepsiCo enrolls its high-potential leaders in a program that includes a week at Wharton Business School and an immersion experience in an emerging market. General Mills has described one of its leadership courses as “a combination of mindfulness meditation, yoga and dialogue.”

Cru’s intentional leadership development program for senior employees is one of the places where I (Sarah) feel like I’ve been able to make my best contribution to the Kingdom of God so far.  We haven’t spent $35million like Starbucks recently did to create a passionate experience to turn their employees into Starbucks evangelists, but our 2-year long program which meets every six months for a week of training, challenge, stretch experiences and spiritual input also includes bi-weekly one-on-one coaching with business leaders who are friends of the ministry.

Whether in her stroller, sitting on the floor or a new friend’s lap, or enjoying a nap in the Ergo, PIE attended a good bit of Cru’s Leadership Conference.  When she became more vocal, Mike and I took turns going for walks or finding a dark conference room where she could settle down for a snooze.

As I embrace my new role as PIE’s Mom, there are still opportunities to contribute to the mission and ministry I love so much.  Naturally I can’t dive into everything; a good bit of flexibility is required, especially as her needs change and as (we pray…) God adds to our family.

I’m motivated to help people take their next step in their faith journey to live out their God-given calling.  Sometimes that means taking a back-scenes approach by caring for PIE and our NYC apartment enabling Mike to offer his best and minister without distraction.  At other times it means taking a more visible role to reach out to people.  Finding that balance at each of PIE’s developmental stages is the goal, and my heart wants to be grateful for each day as I live out what God has for me… Even if it invites more chuckling.


NOTE: To prepare for the trip I read a ton of parenting blogs and asked lots of moms for tips on traveling with a baby.  One of the best tips: pack blue painters tape.

It serves some very practical uses like taping the hotel room curtains closed so sun light doesn’t stream into the room, securing toys to the seat-back in front of you on the plane to entertain your young one, taping shopping bags or light blankets to the car windows as a sun shield so the Sunshine State doesn’t blind your baby in the car, covering the sides of the pack-and-play or crib with towels to create a dark, cozy place for Baby to sleep, and it also becomes a great toy when rolled into big balls.


Home.  A sweet word.  A word which conjures up images, emotions, smells, feels, sounds. It’s word which engages your senses and your memories.  For many people, the word evokes a positive emotional reaction.

For me, “home,” is a place of safety, connection, and contentment.  And I’m finally home.  Fully home.  No more temporary or short-term living.  No more using someone else’s furniture (even if it is really nice furniture!).  I’m home.

Two weeks ago we corralled our belongings from Brooklyn, my mom’s basement, and a dear friend’s garage and after Hurricane Irene, we dropped everything off in our new two-bedroom apartment in West Harlem.  The reunions with my linens, art work, furnishings, books, dishes, cookbooks, made me happy.  Even if it sounds silly, I’ll still say it.  There is no place like home.

I flew to Orlando for about 24 hours and when I returned, Mike had finished the unpacking.  I walked into the apartment and didn’t see a single box.  Instead, I saw my mixer on the counter top, I saw my familiar rug on the floor, Mike’s sofa along the wall, the pillows Mike’s mom helped me sew (and by “help” I mean, she sewed.  What a gifted seamstress!).  I saw the chest of drawers which Mike and I picked out together.  It was the first piece of furniture we bought together. These little touches of Mike and touches of me are what, together, make “us” and make our apartment feel like home.  Combined with the new chair we bought, and the art work we had in Brooklyn, our current apartment feels like us through the 3.5 years we’ve been married.

Yes, it feels like home.  And yes, it’s good to be home.

Scattered Thoughts

I awoke with a start this morning at 6am, and before my alarm.  The sunlight was already streaming in through the white sheers which cover the two windows (yes, that’s right, two windows in our NYC sublet!) on either side of the bed (and yes, the bedroom is large enough for space on either side of the queen-sized bed!).

We leave tomorrow for an international trip and the to-dos and packing lists are piling up.  Two of those boxes needing to be checked: confirming the length of our hotel stay and confirming our transportation from the international airport to our hotel.

Hours later I finally sent off the emails to take care of those two important details.  I haven’t written my lists down, so they are inefficiently stored in my head.  My stress level over this trip is rising, for packing for a trip when the majority of your belongings are in storage hundreds of miles away is a bit challenging.  While I love our sublet, the life of a subletter is transient, transitory, temporary.  I’m longing for a home and to have access to all of my possessions.

But then I think of Jesus saying how he had no place to lay his head.  I think about what it means to follow Jesus and being willing to give up some expected “comforts.”

Don’t get me wrong, my life is comparatively cushy.  Though we raise our own funds to pay for ministry and personal expenses (well, to pay for EVERYTHING), we live in America, and Americans are far wealthier than most of the people in our world.  I have a roof over my head.  I have a home with working plumbing and electricity.  I pay our bills each month.  We have all kinds of technology. We eat regularly. We lack nothing, really.  And did I mention that I’m getting ready for an international trip?

Sure, I long for the convenience of having all of my shoes under one roof.  And I wish I had access to my favorite books which are stacked in boxes in a friend’s garage.  But I am warm at night, and when I step into the wind during the day, I can clutch my jacket tighter around me. I pass people on the street who are not nearly as blessed materially as I am.  It is humbling.

Somehow I’ve come to assume that convenience and comfort are part of a collection of “rights” that I have as an American and as a Christian.  Where did I get this idea?  Though America may expect more, better, bigger for less money, effort and time, I don’t see that aggressive, demanding, insisting tone in Jesus.  To which “rights” did Jesus cling? Which hardships did He revile?

In my daily Bible reading and blog community, the lead bloggers commented on the differences between Saul and David during Saul’s kingship: how we can choose the way of Saul, short-circuiting God, impatiently demanding our way, forgetting God’s instructions and ways, or we can choose the way of David, patiently waiting for what God has promised, honoring the boundaries He put in our lives, and turning to God when frustrated, disappointed or confused.

It’s not profound, but as I readjust my attitude again to “temporary” living in a sublet, I realize I have a choice.  I can get frustrated and rant and demand the order and organization that I crave.  Or I can thank Jesus.  Thank Him for this reminder that my home awaits me in Heaven; that I was made for a different world; that I have a choice to say “no” to the petulant child within who wants her way right away, and can relax in the here and now; that I can lean on Him and not on my own understanding, knowing that He will provide for my daily bread and my next steps.  Just as He always has.  And always will.

My trials feel taxing to me, though small in reality.  But they provide an opportunity to turn to Jesus as I deal with the less-than-ideal in life.


…to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done.

Yes.  I’m procrastinating.  But I’m procrastinating from doing what I really want to do rather than from something distasteful.  I’m avoiding something that gives me energy and joy and makes me feel alive.

So why do I procrastinate?  One reason, perhaps, is tied to where I find my value.  Though I seldom admit it out loud, my actions often convey what I really believe:  my value is based on other people’s perception of how well I perform.  “If people think I did a good job, then I must be ok.”  “If other people think I’m a winner, then I really must be a winner.” Those phrases run through my mind.

I’m preparing to speak at a women’s retreat for Redeemer Hoboken Church on 5-7 November.  I’m really excited about the topic.  Whenever I talk about it, I get animated, talking with my hands.  I can feel the heat in my face as I radiate excitement.  There’s potential for this retreat to be really powerful.

So here I sit in front of my computer, with all kinds of ideas and thoughts swirling around in my head.  I’ve studied the Bible.  I’ve done a lot of research.  I’ve taken notes.  I’ve even started the rough drafts.  Yet I’m still resistant when it comes to refining these drafts.

This yearning for the approval of others is a big thorn in my side.  As a recovering (or not-so-recovering?) perfectionist, I can see how I often push things off until the last minute.  I mean, if my retreat talks are terrible, or I completely bomb, or no one at the retreat likes me, I can rationalize that pain away by saying “its simply because I didn’t have enough time to thoroughly develop my thoughts.  They would’ve loved it (or loved me) if I had more time to prepare.”

And so I’ve wasted hours of valuable preparation time by updating my ipod, stalking friends on facebook, writing this blog entry, making lists of things that need to get done around the house, then checking off some of those items on that list.  I’ve even watched a lot of TV, which is saying something because we just canceled cable and we only get NBC now.  Do I care about Sunday Night Football?  I didn’t until the other day when I could have been praying and writing!  There are very few urgent items in my life right now.  The fact that I have preparation time in my schedule is a gift that I’m squandering.

And here’s the kicker:  the retreat isn’t about ME.  I want these women to take their next right step to enjoy a healthy, vibrant, honest relationship with God!

But that’s the rub: I need that statement to soak into my heart.  Perhaps my next right step with God is to be honest with Him about my fears and insecurities.  It might be time to confess that I love the approval of others and believe what people say about me.  I use the word “confess” because God has clearly told me that He loves me, and that He’d rather die than live without me, so how can I toss that aside so quickly with a whiny “yeah, but…” regarding the opinions of others?  No one loves me as wholly as Jesus does.  He knows each bitter or blessed word before it is on my tongue. He perceives  my thoughts from a far. And loves me anyway!

If I totally “bomb” next weekend, does that mean I’m worthless, or a terrible person, or that I have nothing to contribute to the world?  Does that disqualify me from being involved in the lives of other people?  No.  And no.  And yes, I have “bombed” before.  I can think of a few speaking engagements that fell completely flat.  I’ve experienced both success and failure.  If I step out of my black and white view of the world, I’ll see that there were other times when speaking engagements were just ok.

So it is not about me.  It’s about God, and what He wants me to believe about HIM through this preparation time and then through the days at the retreat.  And when we are at the retreat, it is all about each woman there and what God wants each of them to believe about HIM because our thoughts, actions, behaviors and words flow out of what we believe about God, ourselves and the world around us.

Time to talk with God about what I believe.


I think I’m falling in love with Minneapolis.  Until God tells us something different, we are still moving to the City that Never Sleeps, but Minneapolis is a delightful surprise. Perhaps its the sunshine and the refreshing temperatures combined with the colorful autumn falling leaves that has me so enchanted.

Here are a few of my recent observations about the third most progressive city in the country:

  • It’s a friendly city.  People wave and say hello and smile at you as they walk by you.
  • There are lots of dogs in Minneapolis. Which leads me to believe that people love dogs here.  Every time I look out the window or go for a walk, I see people walking their well-trained dogs.
  • The lakes are gorgeous with well maintained walking paths.  Our first morning we took a nearly 3 mile walk around Lake Nokomis.  And yes, we smiled, waved and greeted all the other people as they greeted us!
  • People seem to really love the outdoors. We are not the only people out when we take morning or evening walks.  We’ve walked around one of the 10,000 lakes and walked to Minnehaha Falls.  We’ve seen older people, moms with jogger strollers, young people, families, individuals all out walking in this gorgeous weather in this gorgeous scenery.  Some people are totally decked out in sporty, all-weather gear, while others wear simple street clothes.  Seems like people just want to be outside.  And from what I hear, they like to be outside when it’s cold and snowy, too!  I guess you just need to dress appropriately.
  • Target seems to be a big part of this City. Target’s corporate headquarters are here in Minneapolis and every neighborhood seems to have a Target store.  I haven’t yet noticed a Wal*Mart around here!
  • There seems to be a strong “food” movement here. Lots of the restaurants we’ve walked or driven by advertise sustainable food or locally grown, organic  food.

Raising additional financial support to move to New York City has us traveling all over the USA, and this stop in Minneapolis has been a delight.  We’ve reconnected with old friends, met new people, and introduced the other to significant people from our lives before we married each other.  We’re in our fourth city of this 12 day trip.  Though Mike lived here in Minneapolis for two years and many of his friends and former colleagues live in the area, I also have friends here, so it’s been fun to make the introductions and hear people’s stories of growing faith and enduring friendships.

Big Truck

As Mike and I traveled from Delaware to Ohio, we spent Friday night with Mark and Cathy.  They surprised us by giving us a FlipVideo (thank you!), so I shot random footage during our drive the next day.  Here’s my first little video, capturing a sight I’ve never seen before:

I didn’t know they could make trucks THIS long… I thought the “double” trailer was trouble, but the “triple”?

I shot this with my FlipVideo Mino (thanks Mark & Cathy!) on a highway in either PA or OH on Saturday 14 August 2010.