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I Judged You Before I Knew You

When this story was submitted it was like Alex was sharing my heart. The value of others, taking the time to truly hear their stories, and noticing what Jesus is saying to us through our stories and those of others is exactly what Alex's story is all about. It is also the heartbeat of Sacred Stories. It is my hope that her story will encourage and inspire all of us to consider our initial reactions to others and to listen for the voice of God in our everyday moments. It's an honor to share this story today.

I was trying to find a parking space at Starbucks when I first saw her. She seemed young, with brightly-colored hair and green eyes. This made her cane and stooped shoulders seem out of place. At the bottom of the cane, she had a tennis ball instead of a rubber stopper, reminding me of the walkers of old men in the nursing homes I used to visit.

It took me a while to find a parking space. As I pulled my parking brake and climbed out of the car, I was surprised to see that she had just now reached the patio in front of the coffee shop. She was moving so slowly. That’s when I heard my own thoughts...

Slow down. You don’t want to interact with her.

I slowed my pace, hoping she would not see me.

She might ask you for money. She might have a disability. She might have trouble communicating. You don’t want to be caught in that position.

Even as my face flushed with embarrassment at my thoughts, I was reminded of the woman who had once asked me for money at the same Starbucks. I had later found out that she was part of a scam that had circulated around town, soliciting cash using a fake story. I always felt uncomfortable in those situations and I did not want it to happen again.

Avoid. My thoughts told me.

I looked up as I approached the door and saw that she was gone. I almost let out a sigh of relief. But then the door opened: it was her.

Her bright hair and her cane greeted me first. She was holding the door so I could grab the door handle before she got in line.

I could tell that my eyes were widening.

“I like your shirt,” she commented, looking me in the eyes. No hesitation, no stuttering.

I tried to get out a “thank you,” but I don’t know if I actually said anything. I do remember smiling, but maybe that was because of the shock.

I turned left to pick up my coffee that I had ordered online. She turned right to get in line. I didn’t see her again.

I’m sure my face was beet red, and I was embarrassed beyond belief. How could I think those things about someone I did not know? How could I assume that this kind lady had the same ulterior motives as the scam artist?

I have always heard that Christians are not supposed to judge, but are supposed to discern. Discernment is using God’s truth and wisdom to determine what and who are right. Judgement, however, is usually one of these two problems: (1) condemning someone’s sin when we also commit the same sin and do not repent of it, or (2) evaluating someone’s character without first knowing them.

In my place of fear or nervousness about who this woman could be, I assumed the worst about her. I judged her without knowing her. Today, I think about how our interaction could have been different if I had been kind and if I had taken a chance to have a conversation with her or buy her coffee.

The beautiful thing is that God did not shun me at first sight. He did not walk away from me when I made a bad first impression. In fact, it was while I still lay in my sin like the prodigal son in the pigsty that God called my name and welcomed me home. Instead of judging the bright-haired ladies in our lives, let us see them like God sees us…for who we could be.

Alex writes about marriage, money, and faith at Grace Upon Grace Today. She lives just north of Atlanta, Georgia and teaches high school English to students from around the world. You can find her enjoying mint chocolate chip ice cream, chai lattes, or dinner with her husband.

6 Keys To Becoming A Safe Person

Here at Sacred Stories, it is desired that our little corner of the web be a gathering place for connection and for refuge. Here, it is my hope that all those who share or stop by are encouraged, seen and safe.

This space is something we all long for. It's something that can be hard to find and when you find it, can be awkward or difficult to navigate due to the simple infrequency of our exposure to it. But this kind of knowing is sacred. To be known is what we all long for and to be truly seen is our heart's desire.

Sometimes, the first step towards this knowing-ness is becoming that safe space for someone else. I think this is something most of us truly desire but we sometimes don't know how to execute. We all want to be great friends and supportive to those around us. But really living that out means that sometimes people might share hard, messy things with us. It means being comfortable with visible emotion or extended silence. It means acknowledging your limitations and leaning into questions. It means willingly and consciously break your own heart as you hold both the story of someone else and the story teller. Being a safe person is part of loving well. And loving well is flat out dangerous.

This task can be hard. No, it is hard. You can take the easy route and only send the quick text or write the sterile note or and keep our hands clean (please note: these are good things. Please write people notes and send those kind messages. They just aren't all there is.). Or, we can move out of our comfort zones and into the life of someone else, giving them space, safety, and freedom to tell their story. To be chosen as the steward of the story of another person is a sacred thing and it's a responsibility that can't be taken lightly. It must be handled with boldness and gentleness, humility and confidence. It's not easy. But it's a beautiful gift.

So, how do we do this?

Why Celebration Is Critical for Christians

Often when we gather to reflect on each of our stories, the hard and difficult parts rise to the surface as we courageously connect with one another. These moments and pieces of our story are vital and important and never wasted in Jesus' hands. However, in the midst of our difficulty, joy is available. Sacred Stories is about gathering to cultivate honest, intimate community by sharing our unique stories-both the good and the bad. Today's story is all about the good :)

Recently, my husband and I sat down to identify some "core values" for our family. After a crazy year, we decided it was time to refocus and determine where we were headed as a couple and where we wanted our family to end up. One of the core values that rose to the surface was Celebration. I think this value popped up for a number of reasons:

 1. We will use just about any excuse to eat just about any variation of cake. Brownie cake, ice cream cake, carrot cake, birthday cake, cookie cake, cheesecake- ALL APPROVED.
 2. As the "firsts" of marriage have worn off, there have been less overtly exciting things or occasions to celebrate and we miss it
3. We inherently know that gratitude is critical to joy and celebration is an expression of gratitude
4. I missed my calling as an event planner (seriously. dream job.) and will embrace every party planning opportunity.

For the sake of helpfulness, we will focus this story on number 3 ;).

4 Truths About Dreams That Don't Come True

Our dreams are some of the most personal things in our lives. We hold them close to our hearts and only share them with our dearest, most trusted friends. Sometimes, though, our dreams seem impossible or they just plain don't come true. Alli is a dreamer who had had incredible dreams come true and who has some still waiting to come to fruition. Her words do an incredible job pointing us back to Jesus, the one who gives true meaning and purpose to each of our dreams. It's an honor to have Alli share her words in this space. 

What My First Missions Trip Taught Me About Humility

God is in the business of growing people and making us into the people he created us to be. The entirety of our lives will be spent growing and learning as Jesus in moves in our lives. We also have the opportunity to learn from the experiences of others and the work God is doing in their unique story. Ro is sharing a time that God was working on her and the lessons He taught her are invaluable in my own life. It's an honor to have Ro share her story.

I had just returned from my very first mission trip. It was a summer camp in an urban city where we were all there sharing the gospel through various activities, bible studies, and in our daily actions. It was my first one and I know that throughout the two weeks that I was there, God really worked through that camp and even through me.

Entering into this camp, I really prayed and asked for God to prepare me, but to also humble me, change me, and transform me while I was there. I am not perfect, so I knew that there were parts of me that still needed to be disciplined by the Lord and areas of my life where I desperately needed transforming.

Whilst praying for these things, I also walked into this camp with previous experiences in my mind and a little too much confidence in my ability to reach students. At the time, I had experience working with 7-12th graders as an educator and a paraprofessional. I had successfully planned and presented a mini-unit on the Harlem Renaissance that culminated in a project that related to Twitter, which the students loved. With that said, I figured that because I've worked with 7-12 graders before, that teaching God's word to them would be a piece of cake.

Maaaaaaaannn, did God prove me wrong and teach me otherwise.

Four Dreams That Have Changed My Life

The heart of Sacred Stories is to help others experience a "Me too!" moment as the learn that they aren't alone in their experiences, to point them to their hope in the Greatest Story Ever Told and to help those who can't understand, understand a little bit better. Jessica's story gave me a "me too!" moment and pointed me right back to Jesus. If you have ever experienced infant or pregnancy loss or know someone who has, this is a life-changer. It's an honor to have Jessica share her story. 

Are you a dreamer?

Dreaming means many things to many people. Some view dreaming as a childish pastime, removed from reality. Some people associate dreaming with adventure and passionate pursuits. Others shy away from the word because of disappointments and letdowns they have encountered. I have felt all of these things. Dreaming is a loaded word. 

Here's the thing. God created you to dream. Not only does He care about your dreams and desires (because He put them there) but He wants to partner with you and dream along side you. 

What is a dream?
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "It was a high counsel that I once heard given to a young person, 'Always do what you are afraid to do.'"

Facing Fear and Taking Flight: Learning to Overcome Helicopter Parenting

So many of us can identify with the burden of fear. It impacts each of us in different ways and has a direct influence on various areas of our life. Bethany has learned to face fear head on both literally and figuratively. As a flight nurse and a mom, Bethany has turned to Jesus to overcome fear and is sharing her story of freedom with us. It's an honor to have her share her story. 

Psalm 23 is a particular favorite for me. One of my earliest memories of this passage was in 4th grade and I was officially old enough to go to summer camp… overnight summer camp (super big deal to my 9-year old self)! Our church offered a $100 scholarship to all the kids who were able to memorize a certain number of verses and then recite them by memory. My mom picked Psalm 23 for us to learn.
To this day I remember spending hours in that springtime at a local park working slowly on hiding these words in our hearts. We’d pick up a boy who went to our Wednesday night classes as well (Earl was his name- super weird that I remember that since I’m terrible with names!), and spend a few hours playing and memorizing. We did this for a number of weeks. I remember these sessions like they were yesterday and I’ll never forget the sense of pride and accomplishment when I stood up and recited this chapter. What a day it was! At the time, I felt like the passage was at least 100 verses long- you know, one verse for every dollar earned? It would only be years later that I went back and noticed it is actually only six verses in length. Ha!