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Last night for my birthday, my friends took me to ‘Ohana, a Hawaiian themed restaurant at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. This place has amazing reviews, and I’ve always wanted to go.

It did not disappoint.

The food is served family style, and it’s all you can eat–so basically like an endless buffet, but you don’t have to leave your seat to refill your plate.

The delicious food kept coming, so naturally we all just kept eating and eating and eating.

Then we realized, “Oh my goodness, there is still dessert!” We threw in the towel on the chicken wings and pork dumplings and beef and shrimp skewers.

There was no room for that Bread Pudding a la mode with Banana Caramel sauce, but we didn’t care. We made room and then asked for a little more.

Then it hit us. The inevitable aftermath of eating way too much food. We were in a food-coma, and I think they had to roll us out of the restaurant.

“Why did we eat so much? Because it was soooo good, but now I’m so full.”

Now mind you, we don’t regret anything. That food was delicious. But it was a special occasion–our bodies (and our wallets) could not handle a night like this as a regular occurrence.

I praise God that he decided to make food enjoyable–but he didn’t decide to make food infinitely enjoyable. You cannot consistently overindulge yourself with food (or pretty much any other earthly pleasures God’s given us) without harmful side effects.

And yet, God did make our hearts with a infinite longing to be filled and satisfied. Personally, I’ve looked for that satisfaction in food or friends or my job or money…the list could go on.

Our hearts constantly want more.

But trying to satisfy our longing with food or money or our job or how many friends we have will never give fulfillment–in fact, it will leave us feeling more empty.

You know what God does give us that is infinitely and inexhaustibly enjoyable? HIMSELF.

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8, ESV)

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence if fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11, ESV)

I’ve personally been camping out in Ephesians lately, Paul’s prayer in chapter 3 is simply beautiful:

“That according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly that all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:16-21, ESV, emphasis mine)

Guys, this is a big deal. The God of the universe created our hearts with an infinite longing, and only he can fulfill it–and he wants to!

What?!

This is something that I’m still trying to wrap my mind around, and I don’t know that I ever will. He is so good! And when I stop getting distracted by silly things and come to him to satisfy my hungry soul–He fills me.

And not a lamenting man-I-regret-eating-this-much kind of full; but a this is amazing and I’m completely satisfied but at the same time want more kind of full.

So my challenge to you (and myself) today and tomorrow and the next day is to stop spending so much time trying to fill yourself with the internet or Netflix or your job.

Open your Bible* and read it because that’s where you’ll find God. Ask God to strengthen your desire to know him. And you’ll find the more you spend time with him, the more you’ll be satisfied and at the same time want more–and he always delivers.

*The Bible is a big book, and it intimidates me. When I’m intimidated or overwhelmed, my initial response is to want to curl up in my bed and not do anything. This may not be the case with you, but if it is, I encourage you to start by just picking one book and then read. Maybe the Gospel of John or one of Paul’s letters like Ephesians or Colossians. Ask God to give you a love for his Word. And I pray that you find the more your read it, the more you’ll want to read it.

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He Knows My Name

Sometimes God uses the most seemingly insignificant things to remind me of His great love for me—at work last week an encounter I had with a little pirate probably about 6 years old was one of those times.

Just in case you don’t spend 5 days a week in Adventureland at the Magic Kingdom, here a couple of things you should know to be able to follow along with my story:

  1. Captain Jack Sparrow does not do meet and greets—so you can’t just wait in line for a chance to meet him.
  2. He does do a Pirate Tutorial several times each day to instruct eager young and young at heart individuals in the art of the pirate trade. This is the only time you can really see the Captain. He chooses a few children each show to teach how to sword fight. At the end of each show and in addition to the lucky few who just learned how to sword fight, he invites several people on stage to take an oath and join his crew.
  3. My day job is being a pirate.

Now that the boring stuff is out of the way, back to the story—last week I was walking around Caribbean Plaza when a little boy approached me and asked if I liked pirates. I said “Of course! I am a pirate, so…”

“Well I met Captain Jack Sparrow today!”

“You did?! The Captain doesn’t get out much on account of that king’s ransom on his head…”

“Well I joined his crew and he taught me how to sword fight and HE KNOWS MY NAME! HE KNOWS MY NAME!”

I spent about 10 minutes talking pirates with Jeffrey and his dad. The whole experience was magical because of Jeffrey’s pure joy at having met Captain Jack Sparrow and joining his crew; but several other children also got the chance to join the crew at the end of the Pirate Tutorial—when only a few like Jeffrey were invited up for the Jack Sparrow to teach them how to sword fight.

So what truly made Jeffrey’s eyes light up was that Captain Jack saw him and chose him and now knew his name. That’s what he kept telling everyone, “Captain Jack knows me. He knows my name!”

I wish I could do a better job of painting with words how excited Jeffrey was that Captain Jack knew his name, but hopefully you get the picture. The root of his joy wasn’t knowing or seeing Jack Sparrow—many people saw the Captain that day; the root of his joy sprouted from being seen and being known.

After Jeffrey and his dad went on their way, I was replaying our meeting in my head and God brought to my mind Jesus’ words from John 10:

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all of his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. (John 10:1-5, ESV, emphasis mine)

Then later in the chapter Jesus continues:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:10-16, ESV, emphasis mine)

Through Jeffrey, God reminded me that I have much more cause for rejoicing and celebration. God knows my name! HE KNOWS MY NAME!

I am fully known by God and STILL fully loved by him because of Christ’s redeeming work on the cross.

And as if it couldn’t get any better, he invites me to know him better through his Word. The Creator and Sustainer of the universe invites me into an abundant life of knowing him—not just knowing things about him, but truly knowing him. As Jesus prayed in the garden before he was lead away to be crucified—“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3, ESV)

Sometimes (ok…a lot more than sometimes) I get distracted, but God is gracious and patient and gently reminds me, “Sarah, you’re mine. I know you. Come know me better.”

This is amazing. This is the root of my joy—God sees me and chose me and calls me by name and wants me to know him and enjoy him. This is cause for rejoicing!

“…but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20b, ESV)

Birthdays are Better at Disney!

A couple of weeks ago I turned 26 (crazy!) and celebrated at my favorite place– Walt Disney World!

Playing at the Magic Kingdom all day was, well, magical. I loved meeting Mickey and Donald and Goofy and Mary Poppins and Belle (you’d think I was turning 6). I rode some of my favorite rides and finally made it on the big screen at The Laugh Floor.

We ended the day at Beaches & Cream eating lots of yummy ice cream–a whole kitchen sink full!

I don't know why it took me so long...

I don’t know why it took me so long…

Had to stop by and say hi to the boss!

Had to stop by and say hi to the boss!

Starbucks is more magical at Disney!

Starbucks is more magical at Disney!

Sometimes your friends can get you yummy treats for your birthday.

Sometimes your friends can get you yummy treats for your birthday.

A birthday isn't complete without visiting your favorite princess.

A birthday isn’t complete without visiting your favorite princess.

It took like 10 people, and we still didn't quite finish it all. So much goodness.

It took like 10 people, and we still didn’t quite finish it all. So much goodness.

But all the friends who celebrated with me was the most magical part of the day.

Since I moved to Florida a little over a year ago, God has been teaching me so much about the importance of community. I’m an introvert, so in large groups of people, I generally observe and don’t often draw attention to myself. It’s hard for me to open up to people and go beyond the superficial in my relationships.

I guess I’m afraid of rejection or that I’m not worthy or good enough compared to all the other amazing people in the group.

The first fear is a real possibility, but if someone can’t accept you for who you are, then you’re probably better off without them. (Words of wisdom from my parents.)

The second fear is just a lie. God creates everyone with unique gifts and abilities that are valuable to the community. Comparing ourselves with others just causes trouble.

And yet even though I know the truth, I’ve been battling both of those fears a lot lately. Seriously, when I created my birthday event on Facebook, I was super afraid no one would come.

But God has been faithful, and he used my birthday as a beautiful reminder that I’m not alone here. He has given me wonderful friends who truly care about me.

I believe that on our own, it’s next to impossible to live out the lives in Christ that God has called us to live. We need community to encourage us, to keep us accountable, to help us grow and to love us. But we also can’t have true community unless we are willing to be vulnerable and let ourselves be truly known.

So while birthdays are better at Disney World, they are the best when you’re surrounded by friends and family who love you! Thanks to everyone who made my birthday so special!