The truth is

The truth is, we all know this is wrong.

The truth is, evil exists.

The truth is, history repeats itself. Economists, historians, and philosophers predicted this type of environment with this type of leader cycling back to the present.

The truth is, for Christians (like me), we know that evil has already been conquered in the end – BUT, it doesn’t mean we are bystanders.

The truth is, there is a difference between being peacekeepers and peacemakers.

The truth is, we are called by Christ to seek justice by loving the marginalized.

The truth is, we are also called to love our neighbor, which, in this case is who we would call the enemy.

The truth is, I don’t know how to do that. Which is why we must pray to ask how. But we know how to take care of the marginalized. We don’t need to pray about that.

The truth is, I catch myself being prejudiced in tiny moments, and I am trying to erase that instinct. I don’t know where it came from, I was not brought up that way.

The truth is, it’s in those small moments that things will change.

The truth is, I should have pushed back at the woman during the neighborhood picnic when she said she likes this neighborhood because it’s not as ‘ethnic’ and therefore there is less crime.

The truth is, I should have (somehow, ethically) pushed back at my greatest-generation, white, rural farmer hospice patient when he said it’s too bad more ‘blacks’ didn’t follow the way of Nat King Cole and instead ‘got into all the drugs’ and could have done better for themselves.

The truth is, we ALL can do better, and it takes effort.

The truth is, if we (as Christians) didn’t see this coming, we have not been paying attention to the world around us.

The truth is, there will ALWAYS be situations like this. We should expect them and be prepared.

The truth is, we need to look at our priorities when it comes to where we live, what schools our kids go to, what events we choose to invest in, what businesses we buy from, and who we interact with.

The truth is, we could all use some time outside of our comfort zones.

The truth is, I wrote this post to myself.

Music, drugs, and rock n’ roll

c70f72d2f5ec952d0cc995fce1d4536cYou know that feeling when you hear a song and it instantly becomes your new favorite? When you can’t get enough, you put it on repeat, and you find yourself hearing it everywhere? I searched for a long time for a word or phrase that encompassed that feeling. Or more specifically, the feeling when the song finally loses its emotional spark and becomes ordinary again, subtly whisked away into the endless sea of playlists. Well, I found that phrase several years ago, in a play that I wrote some music for. The play was a series of poems, and in one poem, the speaker “wore out the magic” of a Spanish dance. I was struck.

A few years later, I was listening to a very complicated and interesting lecture in one of my music therapy graduate courses. Basically, my professor was discussing how music motivates parts of the brain at the cellular level. He said, “Dopamine gives cells their seeking behavior,” which makes sense. We all know music causes our bodies to release dopamine and endorphins through the chemical reactions that occur in the brain.

I thought back to my idea – wearing out the magic. I asked my professor about this idea and how it related to the discussion – the release of dopamine. What happens when you no longer feel that rush? And also, what is happening when you introduce novelty (like a new song)? He responded with a fascinating answer. He said the only thing he could compare it to was drugs. The more you indulge in a song, the more of a “fix” you need to feel that renewed high. Novelty can bring that. And time. Have you ever noticed how excited you get when you hear a song you used to love (see top) but haven’t heard it in a long time. There’s your fix.

After processing all of this information, it seemed pretty clear to me why so many famous musicians turn to drugs. They write (or are the voice of) a hit song, perform to thousands of fans – they must being riding quite a high. And then it all comes down. Night after night. That’s a lot of up and down, which can create a very unstable feeling, especially if the person is still maturing or insecure. So what else can give them that high? What’s a quick….fix?

I don’t have a solution to this problem, but perhaps a rather unique insight because of my work as a music therapist, and it’s this: Musicians might use drugs to provide that high – to match the benefits they get from their music. I use music to provide the benefits of drugs without using drugs.

Troubled musicians use drugs in place of music. I help the troubled by using music in place of drugs.

My patients are in hospice. They take a lot of medications, mostly for pain and anxiety. Personally, I don’t believe music therapy can completely take the place of drugs, but I believe music therapy can allow for a smaller dosage and lessened frequency of drugs.

Music is supposed to make you feel better, it was designed that way. So are drugs. But the difference between music and drugs is that music has (very little to) no harmful side effects. And that’s what I love about music therapy. It is a positive, enriching way to lift someone from a dark place without any* threat of harm. As a music therapist, it’s my job to pick the right drug (song) in the right dosage (volume, tempo, complexity) to reach the proper outcome (smile, memory, relaxation). I trust the music. I just hope the magic never wears out.

*It doesn’t escape me that some music can bring back painful memories and events, but for the most part, I think people would agree that music is painless.

The biggest thing I learned last year

Last year was a whopper. I get tired thinking about it.

Last year’s winter was so awful it was laughable. The company I work for went through what I now call “the dark days.” I officially began what is going to be the most important relationship of my life. My family went through a period of medical scares. I learned how to run. My community in Iowa began to grow, slowly but surely. I crocheted a lot. I got engaged. Lots of babies were born (not mine). And I spent my first holiday season with two different families – my own, and the one I will be married into.

The biggest thing I learned last year was the meaning of the word hard. Or to be more exact, I learned that hard doesn’t always mean “complicated” or “technically difficult.” It just means hard.

Here are some things that are complicated or technically difficult: learning a new crochet stitch; playing Bb major on guitar; trying a new hairstyle you found on Pinterest; singing a song to a patient that you’re unfamiliar with while observing their reaction along with those of other people in the room, while simultaneously coming up with what you’re going to say next and what direction you’re going to take the session.

Here are some things that are just hard. Getting off your butt to go run. Motivating yourself to make dinner when you live alone. Leaving your lovable, engaging family 2 hours away to return to an empty apartment. People not giving you a chance because of their misconceptions about music therapy. EVERYTHING about being in a long distance relationship (or more specifically: having only talking, and having to talk at the end of the day when we’re both tired, not being able to hug each other, missing out on shared experiences, saying goodbye at the end of a trip together.)

I learned this truth one day when I was thinking about how everyone says marriage is hard. After talking to a lot of people about marriage and listening to all they had to say, I realized this: marriage isn’t complicated or technically difficult. Well, it can be complicated, and I suppose things like coordinating schedules would make it technically difficult. But “marriage is hard” refers to the day-in and day-out. The mindless tasks, monotonous decisions of everyday life. I’ve read about decision fatigue – about how each little daily thing all of a sudden becomes a decision because you’re trying to figure out how to live with another person.

Simple things can be hard. That’s what I learned. So the question is, am I willing to do the hard work? What does that lead to? Easier? No.


Max: A Tribute

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 3.45.55 PMMax is my car. A 2005 Mazda 6, to be exact. Dark gray, although I swear it looks green. This week I will make my last car payment and Maxie will be mine!! This post is dedicated to him.

I bought Max from Carmax in Springfield, VA, and while you may guess I named him after where I bought him, Max is actually named after a person – my piano teacher in college, Maxim Mogilevsky. That’s really his name. I named my car after my piano teacher Max because “he gets me where I need to go.” Max was an awesome piano teacher and was great in leading my piano performance life during undergrad.

In 5 years, I’ve lived under 4 roofs in 3 states. When I bought Max, I was working full-time in an office and teaching piano lessons part-time. In fact, the reason I bought Max was because it was getting more expensive to rent Zipcars for my lessons than make a car payment. In the time I’ve had Max, I quit those two jobs, moved out of DC to Winchester for grad school, spent 2 1/2 years there, moved to Ohio for my internship, and then moved to Iowa for my job.

When I bought Max, he had 29,000 miles on him. Now he has 117,000. That is mainly due to my job (and internship) that has me driving 300-500 miles a week. Also, Max drove me over the mountains several times from Virginia to Ohio and back – 500 miles one way. And then of course the 12 hour trek to Iowa.

Max (and I) lived without air conditioning for the first 3 1/2 years I had him. Not because it was actually broken, but because the electrical in the console was loose and the button to turn on the A/C was broken. No joke. I lost count of how many know-it-all wannabe mechanics told me it was the air conditioning itself, but I knew it was the button.

The air conditioning-less years included 3 summers of driving in DC rush hour traffic to my piano lessons, many times in 90+ degrees with who knows how much humidity. I finally broke down and paid for a new console two summers ago and ohmygoodnesshowdidIlastsolongwithoutit??? 

Max also got me through the most ridiculously awful winter of my life last year right when I first moved to Iowa. Lots of white knuckling it and prayers of thanks when I finally got home.

Max has seen lots of DC traffic, lots of farm vehicles, one ditch, and only a couple cops 🙂 This may sound corny, but my real connection happened with Max the summer before I started grad school. I had just quit my jobs and was preparing for school. I had zero money and I ran away to Ohio to live off my family for a couple months, financially and emotionally. It was a really hard transition, but I had one constant – my car. Everything was changing but I still had Maxie. Familiar, reliable, unchanging.

Now? Max is my office, my lunch room, my haven. I spend more waking hours in my car than anywhere else at this moment. So, thanks Max! You mean more to me than you know! Here’s to another 5-10-15 years!?

Your (almost!) owner, Sarah

Our Engagement Story

On September 30, 2014, the love of my life asked me to marry him. Here’s the story!


A bit of backstory: Bobby and I met in 2011 through church and became acquaintances and Facebook friends. After a series of events, each of them followed by me moving far away it seemed, Bobby decided to start pursuing me. After a few months of texting and a few visits to see each other, we decided it wasn’t going to work. But it didn’t take more than 24 hours to realize that, while long distance would be really hard, we couldn’t be satisfied with just staying friends. We became an official couple on January 27, 2014. I had recently moved to Iowa for a new job and he was (is) still in Maryland. We have visited each other twice since becoming a couple. He flew here once and I flew there once. After a lot of discussion (and nagging on my part), Bobby planned a trip to drive out here for a few days in late September.

Okay, now for the engagement story. Bobby arrived at my apartment on a Monday night. He had driven all day that day and most of the day before. His pit stop on the way to see me was at my brother’s house. What I didn’t know was he also made a pit stop to my father’s house to ask permission to marry me.

The first night of a reunited long distance couple is always wonderful. We just hung out, talked, cuddled, all the normal couple stuff we don’t ever get to do. Bobby was exhausted so we weren’t up late. The next morning I reluctantly got ready for work and kissed him good-bye.

When I came home for lunch, Bobby was stressing out about his drive home. He said that’s why he wasn’t hungry. This stood out to me because Bobby will always eat. He also mentioned that he was going to Wal-Mart that afternoon to get his snacks for the drive home. I remember thinking how odd it was that he was so focused on this, especially considering he had just gotten here and wasn’t leaving until Friday.

I went back to work thinking about all these things and started wondering if he was going to propose. I even thought of texting him at the end of the day just to let him know I was coming home so I could give him a warning in case he was planning something. About an hour later I got a text from Bobby saying, “Hey can you do me a favor and let me know when you’re on your way home?”

That’s when the butterflies started.

I nervously finished my work and texted Bobby as promised. I pulled into my apartment complex and looked up at my apartment but didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. I got my mail and walked up the steps, lugging my purse, work bag, and a grocery bag with dirty dishes from work. I put my key in the knob and opened the door.

The first thing I saw was a row of candles lit on my dining room table. The lights were off and there was soft music playing. Oh my gosh I was right! As I was processing what was happening, I gingerly and quietly unloaded all my bags and mail, took off my work badge, took off my shoes, and started walking towards the living room. I immediately saw my coffee table had candles on it that spelled “WILL YOU” and I think it was at that moment I put my hands up to my face (it’s so cliche but it was totally involuntary!) I peaked around the corner…

IMG_2265And there was Bobby, on his knee, holding out the ring. There was no speech, he simply asked, “Will you marry me?” I think my eyes were as big as saucers. I just looked at him and the ring for a few seconds and then said, “Yes!” in a tone as if saying, “of course!” He stood up and put the ring on my finger (we were both shaking) and then we hugged so tight! And kissed. A few times… And then we prayed.

We had already had the marriage discussion, so the mood was more giddy and exciting than take-your-breath-away shock and awe. The moment had finally come. And Bobby did it his own way, which I loved. It was so him.

The ring is a sapphire set in white gold. It’s exactly what I wanted!

Ever since then it’s been a whirlwind of talking to family, keeping up with social media, planning the wedding, and continuing to grow in our relationship together. Bobby had to leave that Friday to go back to the real world Maryland, but we did get to spend some really great quality time together while he was here.

Just goes to show – long distance is really hard, but it’s doable. If we can do it, anybody can do it!

I love you so much Bobby! You are my moon and my love forever!




Finding Faith in the Seasons of Mundanity


I’m reading in Genesis right now, smack dab in the middle of the story of Joseph. What a crazy life. Born a favorite, naively arrogant to his brothers, betrayed and sold, escalated to the highest serving position in every single circumstance he found himself in, ran Egypt, and eventually forgave his brothers and reunited with his father.

Pretty exciting events in there. But what struck me was the amount of time Joseph spent in each season. It’s not absolutely clear in the Bible, but let’s assume Joseph was 17 when his brothers sold him to the Ishmaelites. He was 30 years old when he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream. 13 years in between. Think about 13 years ago for you. I was a freshman in college. 9/11 happened. Think of all that’s happened to you since then.

We know Joseph was in prison for 2 years, so we can assume he served Potiphar for 11 years. How in the world did Joseph get through those long stretches of time?

Everyone has a plan for their life. What was Joseph’s? Did he try to figure out a way to escape Potiphar and get back to Canaan in the early years and then finally succumb to his lot and accept being a servant? Did he try to find the positive aspects of the situation and serve joyfully? Did he ever get to the point of despair while in prison? How did he keep his faith in God through those times?

It’s easy to praise God in the really exciting happy moments – the birth of a child, the marriage of two people, the achievement of a degree or passing a test, reaching a long, sought after goal. And it’s easy to cling to God in the dark moments – the death of a loved one, loss of a relationship, job, or identity. But what about the other 99% of life? The day after day after day after day after day? Sometimes I feel like I’m trudging.

My answer is I don’t know. Or maybe it’s one of those things that is simple and hard at the same time. The truth is, it’s not glamorous. It’s getting up 15 minutes early to read a passage of scripture you don’t understand half the time. It’s trying to keep your thoughts from distraction during silent prayer. It’s saying, “Oh Lord” every morning when you get in your car to go to work. It’s extending grace and forgiveness time and time again to those around you – and yourself. It’s serving at your church every other week, making dessert for this or that event, tucking in your kids every night with “Jesus Loves Me.”

Strong faith comes from incremental decisions. Disciplined effort. Non Instagram-worthy moments. Obviously, there are amazing times of clarity or insight, and of course it’s all worth it. There is an end goal. Reading scripture in the morning will set your priorities for the day and detox your soul. Prayer will keep the world in perspective and God in control. You just may not see it everyday.

Whether you are exactly where you want to be in life, or feel like you’ll never get there, continue to seek God in the mundanity, wherever you are. After all, loving you is never mundane to God.

Grace and Forgiveness

When the person behind you is riding your tail.
Grace and forgiveness.

When someone dismisses your heartfelt compliment.
Grace and forgiveness.

When you find yourself being hypocritical.
Grace and forgiveness.

When someone cuts you off when you’re talking.
Grace and forgiveness.

When you’re accidentally left out.
Grace and forgiveness.

When you’re intentionally left out.
Grace and forgiveness.

When someone spoils a movie you haven’t seen.
Grace and forgiveness.

When someone ate the last cookie and you didn’t get one.

Grace and forgiveness.


When you smile but don’t get one back.
Grace and forgiveness.

When you work hard and someone else gets the credit.
Grace and forgiveness.

As you start your day.

As your live your day.

As you end your day.


And forgiveness.

Colossians 3:13 – Bear with each other {grace} and and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Freedom Run

I know I’ve plastered stuff all over social media about finishing my Couch to 5K program, but I’m not ashamed to write a post about it! It was SO HARD and I am proud of myself for completing it. I kept myself accountable by choosing to link the app to my Twitter account. I tried to have fun with those tweets… (keep reading after the pics)

Picture 1Picture 2Picture 3Picture 4It did not escape me that I finished the workout plan on the 4th of July. I was thinking about how lucky I am to have this freedom. Meaning – I acknowledge the fact that I:

  1. Have a good paying 40 hour a week job, backed by labor laws, in which I can have a day off
  2. Can run outside alone on safe, well-paved road without the fear of being kidnapped, killed, or harassed (except for a few harmless catcalls)
  3. Have the independence of a single woman to do as I please and not have to live under governmental or cultural male dominance
  4. Can afford really nice workout clothes, socks, and shoes and ways to pull back my hair
  5. Can afford sunglasses, nice headphones, an iPhone with ways to charge it and plenty of music to download to accompany my run
  6. Have unlimited access to CLEAN WATER
  7. Have unlimited access to hospitals, doctors, therapists, trainers, medicine, and medical supplies, if needed
  8. Can afford food to replenish my calories

That’s a lot to be thankful for. While I was struggling to run for 30 minutes straight, other women my age are working in hard labor, or are being trafficked for sex, or are living in poverty with children to feed.

It’s convicting. I need to do more to help those who are less fortunate. That is Jesus’ whole ministry. Let’s come together and do great things for God’s kingdom. It’s okay to focus on doing good things for yourself, like running to stay in shape. But if that’s all we focus on, then we’re keeping ourselves from doing greater things for the Kingdom.

Let’s go.

{Thank You}


We made it through June! We did it!

In the beginning I wrote that June was going to be a hard month for me, personally and professionally. And I was right. That is the reason for my writing devotions for a month. I didn’t want to (fully) medicate myself on Netflix and shopping and other things that simply suppress the difficult emotions. This medication happened a little bit, but I found that the devotions kept me focused on something more worthwhile, and most importantly, focused on God.

Thanks for going on this journey with me! You can always go back and read your favorites…(I know Bobby’s were your favorites).

Time now to take a break. Enjoy the summer!



Devotions for June, Entry 30 {love never fails}

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8


In the kids musical I mentioned in an earlier post, “Agapeopolis,” in which a boy travels to find love and fill his suitcases with it, he discovers love isn’t a tangible thing, it’s who you are. The last song in the show is called “Love Never Gives Up.” I almost like that translation better, because not failing is a really high standard.

This is a hefty list of attributes to live up to. It’s just as daunting as the Proverbs 31 woman or the fruit of the Spirit. And to end it with a ‘never’ after a bunch of ‘always’s makes it even more overwhelming. It’s impossible to never fail. It’s a little less impossible to never give up.

There are several areas in life where we all would never give up. Parenting. Keeping relationships going with our friends, parents, siblings, coworkers. Working hard at our jobs. Not giving up is an expectation of human existence. The difference between the two phrases is perspective. They’re both right – but one perspective is the reassurance of love’s power and the other is the promise of love’s persistence.

When we love others, we will undoubtedly fail. We don’t have the gift of being perfect like God (sorry to break it to you). But despite our failures, we can be persistent in our love. The good news is that God’s perfect love carries our imperfect love.

The attributes of love don’t just appear. You can’t think about them too hard or they won’t come about naturally. Just like with the fruit of the Spirit, you don’t try to accumulate those qualities on your own – you tap into the Spirit and they organically grow within you. Same with the characteristics of love. You just worry about the love part, and God will bring these qualities through you. You won’t even notice!

Love never fails. Love never gives up.

p.s. Yes, the song from Agapeopolis is stuck in my head right now.