Dear 21 year old self, (part 1)

21 year old meI love you. You’re fun. You love the Lord, and you have so much of life ahead of you. And all of that is good. I have some things to tell you which are really important. I thought you might listen to me because I’m you, only older.

The first thing that I need to tell you is one of the most important: learn to BE and not DO. I know we share the feeling of the brevity of life on this earth, but the answer is NOT to fill it with as many things as you can.

Trust me. This will just make you tired.

I know you think you will look back on your life and wish you had DONE more, but this is not the case. And after spending these years running at full capacity, I can say with 100% certainty it is not fulfilling or God-honoring to try to do so much. There is another way to leave your mark on this world.

If you look at Exodus 3, you can see that God calls himself the “I AM” that “I AM”. God IS, first and foremost. He is “existing one”, Yaweh, in later passages. But here, He calls himself “Ehyeh” the “I AM”. He could have called himself “I DO”, which would have been “Asah.” But instead, He introduces himself to Moses as “I AM.” This is a key point. The One who created Moses and the world–the One who had accomplished more than we humans could ever have imagined, called Himself “I AM.”

Already I can see that as I look back on my life, the things I have done are not as important as HOW I did them. Accomplishments and personal history are starting to blur together in the yarn of years, marked mostly on a calendar. Those projects that seemed so important to complete? I can’t even remember what they were. But I DO remember BEING agitated while I was busy with activity. I remember sometimes BEING snappy to those I love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 lists all these great things we could DO. And then it says if we “have not love,” we have profited or gained nothing. There it is. Again. That idea of BE vs. DO. Scripture spells it out quite clearly: DOING without BEING is a losing situation.

If the pressure is to BE and not DO foremost in your mind, then when push comes to shove, chose BE. Have too much to do? BE lovely first, then DO if you can. Dresser needs to be repainted? Dishes need washing? Kids need help with homework? BE God’s child while you DO that.

So, 21 year old self, I’m no telling you to go be lazy. I’m just saying don’t try so hard. Instead, focus on your motives and the way you are going about your life. I’ve got more to tell you, too, so stay tuned…

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Photo Friday #4… sort of…

devotional pictureHere’s where I may be crossing a line, friends. And if I am, well, sorry. But my photo Friday is the cover of a devotional magazine, which has one of mine in it! To top it off, this is my first paid-for-print. I feel funny writing about this, but I wanted you to know that I have taken a baby step in the world of publishing. Hopefully, it is not an isolated event… And thanks to all of you who support me–and my writing. Feel the love, and celebrate along with me!

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Writing spot

I slipped away to work on another edit of my novel, as I sometimes do on Saturday mornings. When I first started my novel, I had a special writing “spot” I went to regularly (a cozy Panera Bread in Richmond, VA). And in my new city, I have not had a writing “spot”–to be honest, it has been hard to find time to write or edit! But this morning, I went back to my favorite chain bistro (a la new city) to get a lot done.

And, of course, I distracted myself with writing something else. A poem. About writing. You may not care, but writers like me will (hopefully) get it. And then I went back to work.

Writing SpotClose up computer
by Sara Marie Allen

When I’m stuck or tired
Or it’s been a long time,
I hunker down
In my writing spot.
Where the energy
Of food,
Of noise,
Of relationships,
Of coming and going
Infuses me,
A booster for
My isolated soul.
And then I reach out
To those who
Only breathe
On the page,
On my screen,
In my mind.
And they live and laugh and love.

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Photo Friday #3 WWW.

IMG_3093“WWW” usually stands for world wide web, but in Acts 1:8, it stands for “World Wide Witness”: “…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The crowd that watched Jesus go up to heaven were told to be HIS witnesses, to tell people what Jesus had done. And many-a-preacher has broken this down as local (Judea), regional (Samaria), and global. Most of us think, I’m not cut out to be a missionary. Fine. But we are ALL supposed to articulate our faith to others. 1 Peter 3:15 says “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Some way, some how, we need to be a witness either locally, regionally, or globally. I know it’s hard sometimes, but maybe pick one of those, and give it a try? WWW.

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Photo Friday #2 Right Path


“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Proverbs 16:9… Sometimes we think we are walking on the right path, only figure out God wants us to take a quick turn or a detour. In my experience, it is always easier to take His route for me…

Has God ever given you what you thought was a detour? Were you ever going a certain direction and wonder if you were still walking where He wanted you to go? Leave your story in the “comment”–we’d love to be encouraged by you!

May each of us continually submit to HIS path for our lives.

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Photo Friday #1 Reflection Perfection

Reflection PerfectionI call this photo “Reflection Perfection” because at first glance, it is hard to tell which is the alligator, and which is the reflection. And in some ways, it is hard to see WHAT exactly this is because the two images appear as one.

On PHOTO FRIDAYS, I’m taking my favorite stock shots I’ve taken and pairing them with a Scripture verse… And today’s is Genesis 1:27 “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” My question to all of us today is: how are we reflecting God’s image in our lives? Is it ‘reflection perfection’ or is His image so marred in us that no one can see Him in us?

More to come on PHOTO FRIDAYS!

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Behold, the Furnace of Oholiab!

Oholiab Dr CollinsThis past week, Dr. Collins, my biblical studies professor and a mentor in faith, died. I trekked through Egypt, Jordan, and Israel with him, tracing the steps of the saints who had gone before us. In the Sinai, (then) 65-year-old Dr. Collins hopped up the mountain crags with the energy of a school boy to view a newly discovered inscription: “Behold, the furnace of Oholiab!”, written in a script that was a cross between hieroglyphics and Hebrew letters. At that point, I had not heard of Oholiab, one of the artisans mentioned in Exodus. But Dr. Collin’s excitement and love of biblical archeology stuck with me. The ground at the foot of this mountain also showed evidence of metal smelting. Here was proof that said “Oholiab was here.”

Oholiab's FurnaceThis fall, I was searching the Scriptures to learn more about worship and the arts, and I encountered Oholiab again. Exodus 35 says: “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel… 31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— 32 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 33 to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts. 34 And he has given both him and Oholiab… the ability to teach others. 35 He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers.”

Four cool things about this passage:
#1. God gives the artists their SKILL. How awesome is that? As a musician and a writer, HE is the source of my abilities. Therefore, I cannot take pride in MY skill, because HE gave it.
#2. God wants His artists to use their ability for His Kingdom. Back then, it was to make the Israelite’s house of worship, the Tabernacle. And now, the artist’s skill should be used for the Church, for HIS honor and glory.
#3. God wants artists to TEACH their skill. We need to be instructing the next generation or those who want to learn. Sometimes, it may look more like mentoring.
#4. Oholiab and Bezalel didn’t work alone. Neither should we. We should surround ourselves with fellow God-following artists in our field to encourage each other, not compete with one another.

So, Dr. Collins, your life and legacy of serving the LORD are as lasting as Oholiab’s. Your work and passion for God will live on, testifying “Dr. Collins was here!” in the hearts and minds of those you impacted–and this blog page as a digital mountain inscription.

Please leave your own “inscription” about Dr. Collin’s impact on your life as a comment. How has he influenced your life and your walk with God? If you did not know Dr. Collins, perhaps there was someone else who has made a lasting impact on your life you’d like to share?

For Dr. Collin’s Obituary click:

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Funny, Shallow, Non-Christmas Thought…

I know it’s Christmas time, but I wrote something about our move that I want to share (the photo is of the back of our moving truck in August):

My MarblesOur Moving Truck Mess
by Sara Marie Allen

I think I lost my marbles.
I may never get them back.
I can’t think where I put them
Like my brain’s under attack.
The last time that I saw them,
They were scattered on the floor.
And I thought I picked them up…
But I’m not sure anymore.
If you find my marbles,
Would you kindly let me know?
Because without my marbles,
My brain works really slow.

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Photography, Writing, and Fixing my life

There are two ways I currently use my creativity: photography and writing. Both of them enrich my life, and maybe even enrich others’ lives when I share them. But one of them breaks my heart sometimes, and the other gives “do-over”s for mess ups…

Photography is thrilling… when the light is right and I’ve figured out the correct settings on my camera (trying NOT to use “auto”),
when the moment is there–a blue heron eating a tadpole, my kids jumping off a dock, a Hunger Games archery contest. Then the light is gone, and so is the moment. And despite that little screen on the back of my camera, I still don’t know if I got it perfect. When I load the photos onto my TV screen, sometimes my heart breaks. Yes, breaks. Because I missed it. Horribly. Maybe it was out of focus, ever-so-slightly. Or that Snowy Egret white is too bright. Or my shutter speed was wrong and that jump off the dock is a little blurred. No photo shop program can fix it. And I never get a do-over. Those moments are gone.

Writing is different. As I’m writing, I can mull it over, try it out, mess around with it until I get it right. Sometimes, the words I’ve been longing to type enter my brain in the middle of the night or on my 20th draft. And unless my computer crashes, or all the scraps of paper blow away in the wind, I have another chance to fix it and get it right.

Life is a combination of these. There are moments that are gone forever. Words that we can’t take back, or words that we should have said and didn’t. Relationships that can never be fixed because the person is gone from this life. Kids grow up, Christmases pass away, and life marches on. We really only get one shot… But there is another aspect to life. There are ways we can grow and develop, spiritually, emotionally, physically, to become more like  the people we really want to be.

And the truth of it is–no matter if we have lost those moments forever or completely wrecked our lives–if we never became the person we wanted to be–there is forgiveness in Christ. Because ALL of us make mistakes–and no matter how hard we try, we’ll never make ourselves “good” enough to “get into heaven”–God sent Jesus to earth as His gift to us, to live the perfect life, to die a death He didn’t deserve… The Bible says “the penalty for sin is death”. But since Jesus didn’t sin, He couldn’t stay dead. And it changed everything. The curse of sin is broken. The Bible also says “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” The other half of the first quote is “but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” I’m so thankful our lives are more than photography mistakes and rewrites.

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Time Ticks Away

I’m baaaack! After a hiatus from blog-world and a 1000 mile move, I have new fodder for the mind and heart. This started as a long essay in my mind on the passage of time, of our lives screaming by at record pace–all because of an obnoxious clock that ticks loudly on the wall. But the poet in me trimmed it to a mere 34 words.Tick, Tick

by Sara Marie Allen

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick,
clock on wall
yells that time passes
fast as heart beats.
Tick, tick, tick, tick,
anxiety rises with
seconds gone forever.
Tick, tick, tick,
in God’s Hands.
Tick, tick.

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