Would-Be Beach Adventurer

Standing on water is more difficult than it sounds. And it is significantly more difficult that the fit teenager at the beach made it look, gracefully moving over waves on a stand-up paddle board.

Naturally, I thought to myself, “I should try that.”

And why wouldn’t I think that? I believe the beach is a magical place where, with no prior training, I can do things like jog along the surf, swim for hours at a time, and of course… engage in stand-up paddle boarding.

I forced my husband to go first because I quickly realized I probably was not going to be able to pull myself up onto the board with the upper arm strength of a kitten, more less stand up and glide anywhere. And oh, it was wondrously funny, him falling into the water. I nearly drowned from laughing.

But my heartless giggles ended when it soon became my turn. The rising waves helped compensate for my aversion to bicep curls, hoisting me onto the board. I crawled and scraped my full body on the board and eventually into a kneeling position.

Determined to stand up, I proceeded into a shaky, bent-knees, "downward dog-esque" formation and waited. In one sweeping motion, I rose, my pathetic core wobbling uncontrollably, lifted the paddle over my head not in a power move but a desperate attempt for balance, shrieked, and fell off. Ah… paddle boarding.

It went on like this for a while with a few momentary successes before I resigned myself to paddling while kneeling, which was peaceful. But then I was picking up speed and distance.

Suddenly, more nerve-wracking than my frail attempts to stand was the realization I was paddling into open ocean. No one is in front of me. I turn to the beach and it feels far away. Billy stayed back, knowing one false move and a board would come flying at his head.

Now I’m in the water, probably having fallen off, when I see a lone fin surface above the water.

Naturally… I panic. I start flailing toward the beach, dragging the board, sending Billy desperate eye messages. Thankfully, he actually understands me in this moment, and moves quickly towards me.

When he’s near, I breathlessly explain. Soon he also sees it and immediately hops on top of the board.

“Sarah, get up here.” I can’t because I’m laughing. Yes, giggling tends to be my fear response. “I’m serious.”

With zero grace, I eventually succeed. We paddle like mad persons.

We then realize others are silent and calm, gazing towards the fin. “It’s a dolphin!” a teenager on a surfboard assures us. Now Billy wants to move closer. I, having already lost three years of my life, counter, “Um... we don’t even know him.”

Soon we return to our chairs in the sand. Beach adventure? Check. Maybe next time I should try something simpler… like floating on a raft… in the surf.

Prayers for the Transient: Part II

In 7 Prayers of the Transient: Part I, I recalled some of the areas of my life that I try to evaluate when I’ve relocated or simply find myself feeling unsettled in the balance of my current life.

Bizarrely, when I revisited the list today to complete the post, I realized I have six left. Hmmm…. I wrote on three last time… and that does not equal seven. Well, clearly, math is not something I feel is necessary in a post-college life!

So I’m making an executive decision to change the title to simply “Prayers of the Transient,” and I’ll cover three more today. Think of it as 7 Prayers + 2 Bonuses!


I took me a while to realize that my soul dries up a little bit when I do not create space to live creatively. Mediums have varied over the years, but I realize I need something that allows me freedom to breathe refreshing creativity.

Dancing used to be big for me, and my first year out of college, I found a Christian dance studio that offered hip hop classes for adults. Yep. I signed up. I loved it. Dancing brings me such joy, but don’t tell my Alma Mater… they might revoke my degree!

These days I’m more likely to groove inside my house playing Dance Dance Revolution alone, but I still get the thrill of loud music and dancing. I also have found a creative outlet writing and recording songs with Billy, which we have spent a lot of time doing over the years. I’ve been through painting phases, and Pinterest has helped me get back into the handicraft/DIY/art project world.

It’s so easy for me to put these activities on the back burner… especially as I am a working mom. However, I have realized that I tap into a secret vault of fullness in my soul when I incorporate creativity regularly.  Thus… this blog. 

Friends with Jokes

I was spoiled in high school. I hung out with some really hilarious people. On a nearly daily basis, I spent most of the lunch period laughing to the point that the lunch itself ended up a rushed, secondary activity five minutes before we had to be back in class.

Those memories remind me how important laughter is in my current relationships.

Especially living in the context of urban ministry and social justice, life can be serious. But I have recognized that multiple days without raucous laughter causes me to become a quieter, less authentic version of myself. I read a really great article on this topic at BorderLinks, an educational organization at the US-Mexico border. 

I am grateful for those funny, witty, ridiculous people in my life. And when I enter a new place or find myself feeling out of place, I pray for them and seek them out.

Personal and Community Spirituality

I didn’t write this list in a hierarchical order… so don’t feel concerned that DDR is more important to me than reading the Bible. But I will say I experience God in both… albeit differently.

Still, when life feels out of balance, I often realize that I have… generally by accident… deprioritized my relationship with Christ. Time alone with God has fallen by the wayside and breathless prayers as I run from one activity to the other is the extent of our communication.

I also know spirituality is lacking if lived out only alone. Moving to a new location requires me to search for a church and some sort of small group (or however they are called these days… Jon Acuff wrote a funny post on small groups). But I need accountability, corporate prayer and worship, and the support of living life with others.

There you have it. Prayers four through six. I will finish this series in the next couple of weeks with the final three (this time I’m sure of it!) topics in our Prayers for the Transient.

Guest Post at Undocumented.tv

Undocumented.tv is one of my favorite websites, addressing immigration from a uniquely evangelical perspective. I am grateful for the opportunity to share this story of our visit to the US/Mexico border in a guest post today. It is an adapted version of this post I wrote a couple years ago.

When I opened the nondescript, government envelope containing my husband Billy’s green card, I felt a deep mixture of exhausted relief and wild celebration.

No more hyper worrying about getting pulled over. No more awkward conversations with acquaintances who ask too many questions. No more silent, but ever-present thoughts of “What if he gets deported? What will our life in Guatemala be like?”

Nope. After a fifteen minute interview, stacks of papers, and thousands of dollars, the US Government had decided our love was true and not, in fact, an immigration scam. They sent the wedding present of a lifetime in the form a plastic card of freedom. Read more over at Undocumented.tv.

How I Met My Husband

Was it love at first sight when I met Billy?

I don’t know. 

I don’t really remember meeting him. 

I am therefore going to assume that this means no.

What I do remember is standing in the back of church on the day my housemates’ daughter was being dedicated. A couple of months prior, I had to move from my apartment after my roommate and our landlord had a miscommunication that resulted in an eviction notice taped to the door.

Our landlord was already the king of notes on the door. Nearly every night after work, I pulled into the driveway, bumped into his garage door so that my car wouldn’t jut out over the sidewalk, and walked up the staircase to find a post-in note slapped to the screen. Please stop running into the garage door. Please don’t hang towels on the banister. Please turn off porch light.

Ultimately, it was the porch light that would be our demise.

Even though I explained to him that we were two single girls living in downtown Los Angeles and coming home after dark, he insisted that we leave the light off. Actually, he didn’t insist at all. He nodded like what I was saying made perfect sense… and then he started coming into our apartment while we were out during the day to turn it off himself.

One of these days, my roommate was scared senseless when she heard the front door open while she was in the shower. What transpired next is vague, but basically involved her telling him that entering without permission was not appropriate and that it’s okay to flush toilet paper in the United States. That’s another story. But the point is that was bizarre and that it resulted in 30 days to find a new place to live.

Thankfully, when I shared my sad, sad story with a couple at my church, they offered me temporary sanctuary in their upstairs apartment. This arrangement was more than welcome since I was 2,000 miles from home, had been in LA for six months, would struggle to pay market rate for an apartment in this city, and was therefore searching for a place to lay my head.

They are a terrific family, and I enjoyed sharing life with them, including the dedication of their daughter. And it was this fine Sunday when I found myself standing in the back of the church, trying to think through a blessing to write on a notecard. 

Then, a guy I had seen visiting at the church a couple times came walking over to me. He began talking, and I just remember thinking, “Now I really can’t think of anything to write.” Hmmm… too practical? Perhaps. I also was thinking, “Who is this person? And why is he talking to me?” 

So I did what I thought was normal. I said, “Hi. I don’t believe we’ve met.”

His response? “Yes, Sarah, we have.”

Oh dear. 

A Life with Subtitles. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.