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waiting on the tide

I stood at the edge of the Atlantic ocean this weekend, sandy toes and pink shoulders – the whole works. Beach combing, looking for sea glass and shiny shells and I noticed that just beyond the shore, where the waves were breaking and rushing over the sand, there was rock. Solid and long – all down the beach, people were gingerly picking their way through the shallows, so they wouldn’t stub toes on the shore rocks. Thinking how nice it would be to scavenger the rocks and little pools for treasures (and not risk skinned knees), I whispered aloud, Man, I wish the tide would hurry up and go out.

what moves me - on waiting and enduring || sarah sandel

Yeahhhhhhh….if there was ever a more futile prayer, I am not sure what it is.

The gift of the sea, of course, is that the metaphors and lessons are just right at your fingertips and yet this one caught me by surprise. The sheer cliché of it all – wishing the tide could move faster. It seemed a perfect analogy for how many things I cannot control right now: the ocean, for example.
The gravitational pull of the moon. The rotation of the earth. Centrifugal forces.
If I will find any shimmery shells in the tide pool.

When –or if– we will ever have another child.

what moves me - on waiting and enduring || sarah sandel

So much is out of my control – so much is out of your control.

And there is, in some seasons, not much else to do but bear up under it and endure.

You cannot make this season go faster, you cannot speed up your emotional process, and none of us can un-do what the God of heaven is doing. And what futility to try.

One of our pastors recently quipped, “You are not omni-competent!” And we laughed, knowing that in our hearts, we are far less likely to assume we are all-knowing or all-powerful; we are very likely to act as though we can do it all. That by our powerful intellects or deductive reasoning or by sheer force of WILL, we can effect a change of circumstance. And with very few exceptions, that’s about as effective as hoping the tide will turn a little more quickly, simply because you really want it to.

God is not moving or speaking the ways I have previously experienced Him and He is offering no insight into this silence. I have decided the greatest value is going to be found in hoping, believing, and enduring. Others have believed God to be silent and, finding this to be insufficient for them, have moved along from the faith. Others have cried out to the Lord and endured the silence until, being so shaped by their belief, they begin to walk into newer and richer intimacy. Others are still just waiting. And enduring. And believing.

This is what I’m going to do. I can fuss and splash in the water, but the tide will move in its own time and by forces I am not remotely qualified to explain, much less direct. If He remains silent, who can condemn?[1] It is good to sit silently, to bear the yoke, to endure.[2] The Lord will not reject forever, of this I am certain. [3]

Compassion is coming, like the tide. And I am waiting it out, to see what treasures there are when it ebbs.

on waiting and enduring || sarah sandel







on mother’s day

sarah sandel | on mother

I have celebrated Mother’s Day since the day I made my mom one, way back in the 80s. Although, I suppose my active participation is suspect until the age of likely four, where I imagine my dad coaxed me into scribbles and handmade cards. And I have celebrated the day as a mother for approximately six years now. The first 3 of which I had basically no proof of my motherhood.

I read so many good things about celebrating women on mother’s day, not just biological mothers, and so I am adding my voice to the mix.

I’ve lost four babies to miscarriage and we adopted our daughter at birth, just after Mother’s Day and my thirtieth birthday. I celebrated hopefully that year, because we were waiting on baby, but in years prior it had not always been the case. I celebrated empty-handed and with an empty womb and I felt as though I didn’t belong. I know I’m not the only one. So for all the “misfits” this Mother’s Day, this one’s for you.

To the woman who thinks if she sees one more “we’re pregnant” announcement she might lose her mind, because every month she gets a “no” – you are loved.

To the woman whose child(ren) is/are not in her arms right now, because they left earth too soon – you are not forgotten.

To the woman whose mother was not what a mother should be and this day brings grief – you are precious and you are beloved.

To the single mother, who feels like she is just parenting by the seat of her pants – you can do this – you are valuable.

To the motherless woman or mother – you are doing a hard work and though there is sadness, you are not alone.

To the mothers whose children are estranged – you did not fail – there is yet hope.

To the woman who isn’t a mother, whether she longs to be or not – the work of mothering is still yours, as you pour your life out for others.

To the woman who cannot even name why this day is hard – you are seen.

To the waiting adoptive moms – yes, this day is just as much for you. Rejoice. Take courage.

To the women who chose to place their children for adoption – to my own daughter’s birth mother…you are brave. You are a gift. Your sacrifice has meant great rejoicing for so many families, but we know your loss was great. Thank you for choosing life.

* * *

sarah sandel | on mother

Sara Hagerty recently said it beautifully: “We so often look away from another’s bleeding — what do I say? how do I respond? — as evidence of how our eyes dart away from Him in our lack. We subtly believe His hands are tied against their pain that is unfamiliar to us and our own pain, which is very near. We see Him like a version of ourselves: dumbfounded in the sight of loss. But His hands aren’t tied.  And He doesn’t turn, He leans in to the broken.”

This Mother’s Day – rejoice with and for the mothers in your world. Let the know that they are amazing and worth celebrating! But don’t be afraid to look for the woman who might not be celebrating, to remind her that she is nonetheless precious and valuable. Let her that it’s okay to skip out on the festivities. Send her a note anyway.

Speak life to all of these women this Mother’s Day.



rejoice & take courage

This week I picked up a new book – Roots & Sky, by Christie Purifoy. It is like a deep breath in this seemingly never-ending winter.

In the last few weeks, I have confronted the idea that part of the struggle of winter is that it feels as though it’s not even winter – it feels like…nothing. Just. Ordinary. No movement, no “story”, no deep valleys or high mountains. As Purifoy wrote, “whispers I once gathered in the wilderness” are silent as I wait on the Lord.

It feels like I am learning things all over again – I am learning who Jesus is, what He says about the Father, what the Father says about the Spirit. The Godhead Trinity – the holy mystery – how to interact with them. What do I even know? It all seems mysterious and far-off. And yet, inexplicably, not far-off.

+ + +

About four months ago, I quit having a quiet time.

Don’t freak out, you guys.

I quit having a quiet time for several reasons. I am not certain I will explain them all, because I am not writing this post to get feedback from those who find the most nourishment in daily reading of the Scriptures or another particular practice. But I was finding that the daily and weekly disciplines I had relied on for so long to nourish my spirit in the Lord were drying up – at the hand of God, these disciplines of Bible reading, study, prayer, silence…suddenly they ceased to be the grace they had been for so many years.

This was/is frustrating. I want to be able to pursue solitude and meditation and my precious soul retreats and have them yield the emotional and spiritual results I desire. But the fullness of the measure of Christ is mine, even when (especially when?) He causes the things that once worked for me to fail. Perhaps I trusted the form more than the Grace Giver. And since He will have no other gods before Him, He shut down those forms, those gods of silence and solitude.

It seems very much like I am on a journey to find the new grace – not because His grace is ever absent, but I need Spirit eyes to see…I need more practice, in the silence and in the winter, at believing He will finish everything He began in me. (Philippians 1:6)

Making my home in Him in the ordinary, in the waiting, in the longing and silence…this is my new theme.

“Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” [Isaiah 43:19]


roots & sky and silence: on taking courage when things seem ordinary

Sometimes, Christianity seems so strange.

As my getting-too-close-to four-years-old asks questions about Bible stories and inquires after bedtime prayers, “Does everyone have sin in their heart?”, I sometimes freak out a little and want to shout, OMG, I don’t even know! I don’t know! What are we doing?! Who is God?

Parenting makes me wonder about a lot of things: the ability of a human body to keep going under exhaustion, the incredibly capacity of a tiny person to make significant messes, how those tiny stickers ended up in my pants, where did all the plastic cups go…how do we explain “adoption” to our daughter in such a way that she feels certain of our love and in a way that honors her birth story…how do we navigate preschool playdate drama when our only child puts a friend in a “gentle headlock” for touching her piggy bank…how do we show her the truest love, that surpasses race and political preferences and disagrees graciously and stands firm on the principles we are dedicating our lives to…how do we teach her about God, about this huge and holy thing that requires a level of faith that sometimes I am not sure I possess?

For the record, I don’t think about these things in passing, then just shrug my shoulders and get back to acting like a good little Christian.

I think about these things every day and I whisper prayers and pleas that I am doing something right. I pray to the God I have decided does, in fact, exist and is, in fact, interested in the doings of the people He created in His own image. I am not desperate for something to make me feel better about my existence or choices. Forgive me, but…heavens, Christianity is certainly the last religion I would pick if I wanted to simply “feel better” here in my earth suit.

All this sacrificial love and going lower and denying oneself is not appealing to the soul who wants to just feel good. It’s all death and resurrection and the heart that is looking for a religion that “works” finds no rest in dying to self.

I think about these things and risk the oversimplification that if God does not exist, as He has declared through the prophets of old and through the historical person of Jesus, the Messiah, then I am truly no worse off for having believed Him and lived according to the principles in the Scriptures. And if He does exist as Who He says He is – then nothing, nothing but nothing will commend me to Him apart from the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. I am willing to take this risk.

+ + +

My soul needs a lot of coaching these days.

            Why downcast, o my soul? Hope in the Lord!

But my heart is steadfast. My heart is steadfast.

I am rejoicing (Philippians 4:4). I am taking courage (John 16:33) and confidence from the Overcomer – the One who brings life from death every. single. time.

I am waiting for His hand to break through the dim quiet of this season and to spring forth new life – in my soul, in my marriage, in my family. I am trusting Him to be the enough that He always is.

+ + +


Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls,

Yet I will exult in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
And makes me walk on my high places.

-Habakkuk 3:17-19


family update

family update: reality |

I’m beginning this with a huge sigh and bit of quiet. Because if I’m honest, that picture above is possibly-maybe a more accurate reflection of life some days than the cutesy family pic I will be sharing later. #reality

Over a month ago we made a big to-do about our adoption plans and hopes. We launched a website, a YouCaring fundraising site, and posted our girlie’s “Big Sister” photos all over the internet. We were ready to brand and market our family’s growth plan like nobody’s business.

So this post is not the post I thought I’d be writing here at the end of the year. You see, nothing appears* to be moving forward.

In fact, I can say with no small degree of frustration and embarrassment that our “adoption campaign” was flung out into the public eye rather haphazardly and in a whirl of emotions and was a knee-jerk reaction to a frustrating roadblock we were facing. When the project we were relying on fell through, I felt wild and desperate to just get on with it. If God indicated we were free to pursue adoption again, then let’s just do the damn thing. (Sorry for saying damn. But I mean….)

Many of you know the first story. How two years and three failed pregnancies and four lost babies tired my heart out and then a miraculous phone call resulted in our adoption – our daughter – our fantastic and spunky little girl. I love this story and I talk about it a lot. I don’t talk as much about the second story: how in the last two years we’ve had one birth mom drop us and 4-5 calls to adopt from foster care that just didn’t suit and how, most recently, after some changes with which we were not comfortable, we parted ways with the agency that had accepted our domestic adoption application over the summer.

I don’t know, you guys. I cried and stomped and then went and spent our home study money on new bookshelves and don’t judge me about that, they look great and were easier to put together than a crib or something so whatever. At least bookshelves come with an instruction manual, which is more than I can say for a new baby. (Yes, I know. #bitterjokes)

* * *

When God says, “Yes” – I want Him to mean “immediately”.

I don’t want to wait and wonder and have this Giant Big Thing of Adopting hovering in my brain and heart and taking up energy & space if we’re not “doing it”. I don’t want to move at His pace or on His timeline.

I am doing that thing we all do and all don’t want to do: making demands and shaking my fist and telling God what the best course of action would be. Because I am so smart. Oh, God…forgive me…

* * *

This year of being still and small has crushed me. I believe God is deepening my wells – creating in me a greater capacity to absorb life and to absorb hurt and pain – to absorb suffering with and for others. I suppose God is always doing this in all of us who belong to Him, but this year a mentor gave me new words for this sanctifying process and I find a soothing mantra in them…deeper wells…deeper wells…deeper wells.

I want the deeper wells to result in less grumbling. More hope.

*I wrote “appears to be” moving forward and it struck me that my problem is, of course, with the appearance that God is not answering in our lives the call we believe He initiated. But as He carves out these deeper wells and increases my absorption levels, I cannot – must not! – trust appearances. If I had chosen to put my trust in appearances on March 26, 2012, I would never have been open to the call that came on April 4 – the call that launched our family into a whirlwind adoption and resulted in one amazing little daughter.

So today, on December 1, 2015 – I am not trusting in appearances.

I am re-learning ‘hope’ and I am choosing to trust in the author of family Himself. John Piper once said, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.” I can surely identify more than three things God is doing in my life in these days – three good, righteous, sanctifying, holy, precious, beloved things. These are mere foretastes of the glory He is working. I don’t know how He will work it out or what He will do on our behalf. But He is always working.

We want a baby and we hope for a baby and we have no idea how or when or if God will do that for our family. But we are not trusting in the appearance of “no adoption” and “no money” and “no way for this to happen”. The Psalmist reminds me that some trust in chariots and horses – the ways and means of getting from one place to another. I have no chariot or horse, so I will boast in the name of the Lord my God and wait on His loving hands to work good for our family.

family update: reality |


December 2, 2015 - 11:28 pm

ashley - LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post! We have been waiting for almost 3 years now and it feels like FOREVER. So, so many days I want to stomp my feet, shake my fists, and throw myself on the floor and scream because God is not moving fast enough in the direction I think he should. I just want our family to be complete. I don’t want to wait anymore…I don’t want our kids to wait anymore. I am so tired of wondering who they are and what they will be like. I just want to start the hard parts of getting to know them and learn a new language and try to comfort them in their losses and learn the ways they like affection and the ways that they don’t. I still don’t understand how you can miss people you have never met and don’t even know, but I do. Every hour of everyday. Thanks for writing this. It at least make me not feel so alone in my craziness…

December 2, 2015 - 1:16 am

Donna - Love your post. Real life, Transparent! Vulnerable and yet Trusting in the One who knows All.. Love this woman and her family…

December 1, 2015 - 8:35 pm

Peggy Donoho - Damn! There I said it too. It stinks, BUT, That last picture is the best definition of family in spite of disappointment.

December 1, 2015 - 7:40 pm

Candi Shelton - Thank you for sharing. I’m so glad you said damn. And that you bought shelves. And then reminded me of some truths that I am quick to forget. ❤️

praying the Psalms: psalm 63

31 Days of Praying the Psalms |

Psalm 63

There is no one else but You – my God, the One and Only. I’ve sought after others – namely myself – miserable attempts to control or quirk things into some kind of submission. My little self-god at work.

But no…

There is no hope there.
No life in self-direction, self-absorption, self-consciousness. My body and heart waste away when staring in that mirror, when pulling on those strings.

Because I’m more thirsty and more hungry and the bread of life isn’t rising in my own hands.

So yes, it seem to be some dry and weary land here, but I have hope.

I have hope – to cling to and rest on and beg for and set my eyes on – because I’ve seen You at work! I’ve seen You in the sanctuary and beheld Your power and glory. Because Your love is better than life, my lips will praise You!

That’s right – Your love is better than my very life! I can die every day, little deaths to self, because Your lovingkindness is so sustaining, so refreshing, so enough.

If I get to live on in this body another single day, I will lift up my hands to praise You. My very soul – that seat of emotions that are just all over the place – will be satisfied and saturated with the real and expansive comfort of the King. So go ahead, soul, feel it out – my King’s life is mine and I have the mind of Christ! He’s been my help always and without fail…I can hide safely in the One who knows me best and whose heart is for me.

I can rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

When I’m standing at the burning edge of dawn, wondering if the night is over and if the flowers will bloom any time soon, I find that my truest self is singing for joy –great joy!– because the King delivers me. He upholds me and I cling to Him in the night watches.

“The darkness is a small and passing thing.”
Small. And passing.

And I am filled with hope.