The music is loud. I can barely hear myself when I lean in, and say:
The clean cut, preppy guy in front of me hesitates. His eyebrows raise slightly, and he waits for me to perhaps, laugh, or tell him it’s a joke.
“I’m not kidding…” I continue, “I know Susan from Bible Study.”
I’ve gotten used to this type of reaction.
In this particular case, a random guy, out at a bar, and I have realized we have a possible shared connection. He works at Lenovo, as does my friend Susan. He inevitably asks me how I know Susan (turns out he doesn’t), and I know I have to be honest with him.
I only replied with, “Bible study,” but I complete the dialogue in my head.
“Bible study…. Please don’t hate me for being a Christian. Please don’t judge me for having a relationship with God. Please don’t put me in a box.”
Because as soon as I admit to my faith, I can almost immediately see the person’s perception about me shift.
The words – “God”, “Bible Study”, “Faith”, “Prayer”, make people uncomfortable. You’re immediately put in a small, cramped box with the most extreme examples of religious people. Often, the same characteristics they have, and actions they take, are suddenly characteristics you must have, and actions you must take.
I know this, because I used to put people in that box.
I was so afraid of having faith. I thought being a Christian, or having any belief, would turn me into one of those extreme examples. I would become someone that judges others for poor choices. I would become someone that had to preach to others, and to try to save them.
I was scared that friends would cringe, or roll their eyes, if I posted psalms on Facebook, talked about prayer, and went to church. I wouldn’t be allowed to make mistakes. I had to be perfect, if I was a Christian.
It made me afraid, and ashamed.
I’m probably as prepared as I can be to write this post. By far, it’s the one I’m most nervous to write. But as I lay here in my bed, laptop propped up, listening to one of my friend Sarah’s favorite songs - Future Days, by Pearl Jam, I feel comforted.
“Back when I was feeling broken,
I focused on a prayer
You came deep as any ocean
Did something out there hear…”
Because my faith, my walk with God, is the most important part of my life. It’s been the most difficult path to take. It’s something I fail, and succeed at, every single day. And I don’t have to be ashamed of it.
I look, and listen, for direction in every moment. Little whispers, about the choices I’m making. I’m tested and broken. I’m challenged and rewarded. I’m always trying to be better, to get better. I struggle, then I flourish. It’s so worth it.
It’s something I’m proud of now… and that’s because of a girl I met seven years ago.
The first person to really show me what a life with faith, and a strong relationship with God looked like, was Sarah Thiebaud. When she moved in with me in 2007, in an oversized loft on Temple University’s campus, I had no idea how her friendship was going to set my faith in motion.
I wouldn’t realize it for many years to come.
“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
Sarah cites this as one of her favorite bible verses, Hebrews 11:6.
Sarah is a Christian. She reads the Bible. She prays. She believes in miracles. Her faith, and her integrity, shines through her… and she doesn’t seem to pay attention to what anyone else thinks about it.
Back in college, her actions clearly dictated how her faith was the biggest part of her life. She actively sought joy. She didn’t participate in gossip. She didn’t speak unkind words. She filled her evenings with inspiring activities.
We listened to jazz. We took personality quizzes. She texted me one day to meet her at the student center for a surprise – and we got massages. We watched thought provoking films. We took an acting class together. We even made a short film together.
We left inspirational messages scribbled on post-its, and stuck them to the mirror in our shared bathroom.
I remember that at least once a week, she spent a day alone.
“I need to have a day just with myself,” she’d say. “Without anyone influencing my thoughts.”
Sarah and I at Temple.
It’s taken me seven years to get where Sarah was then.
Sarah lives in Pittsburgh now, and her life is still infused with magic, clarity, and love.
“The people who live here are unbelievably innovative and kind,” Sarah says of Pittsburgh.
When I decided to talk to Sarah for the piece, I specifically wanted to ask her about staying spiritually fit. I wanted to pinpoint where she finds the most strength, in hopes to inspire others. I want other people to learn all of the valuable lessons I learned from her.
What I found, was a look into Sarah’s soul. I pulled the biggest parts of Sarah’s life – the things that make her tick, and reinforce her faith.
Yoga, as well as running, spending time in prayer, and connecting with others, are Sarah’s keys to a fulfilled life. She’s actually a yoga instructor now, having completed a 200 hour power yoga teacher training in Costa Rica last year.
Courtesy of Sarah Thiebaud
“I love the spiritual and physical rejuvenation I experience while practicing vinyasa flow yoga and flying in arm balances,” Sarah says of yoga.
“I also have a passion for dancing and journeying to a new city or body of water,” Sarah says. “I am inspired by exploring unknown territory, or engaging in an exhilarating physical activity such outdoor rock climbing or surfing.”
“I love paddle boarding and have practiced yoga on a paddle board in an ocean (Hawaii), a bay (North Carolina), a lake (Cheat Lake, West Virginia), and the Monongahela River (Pittsburgh). ”
Living Out Joy
“Wherever I am, I will find joy in a great many ways – traveling somewhere new, running outdoors, going on adventures with others, etc.”
Courtesy of Sarah Thiebaud
“Don’t over think – live out your joy – have faith,” Sarah advises. ”Start anywhere!”
Physical & Emotional Wellness
Courtesy of Sarah Thiebaud
“I plan to own my own wellness center,” says Sarah. ”I will offer clients personal training, nutrition counseling, power yoga and wellness retreats/yoga teacher training. I will lead outdoor fitness classes and teach yoga on paddle boards.”
“I am grateful for God given intuition and enlightenment, which inspires me daily. I’m most grateful for grace. And surprises.”
Courtesy of Sarah Thiebaud’s Facebook
“My mission is to trust that I am living life to the fullest and giving thanks for unexpected blessings.”
Her Faith – and sharing it.
When I ask Sarah what the most important thing in her life is, her reply isn’t a surprise.
“Being in relationship with God. Loving others and believing in the power of prayer. Taking initiative. Following my heart. ”
Courtesy of Sarah Thiebaud’s FB
“Beyond my career, I will volunteer as a traveling missionary, sharing my faith in God and writing stories about my experiences.”
Sarah’s journey has inspired me so deeply. She taught me to open my heart, and to share my beliefs, motivations, and love with others. She taught me to chase joy, and to live my life romantically with intention.
She saved me.