we foster & ignite connection with purpose

It is my humble and wholehearted hope that you will discover more of your story as you read mine.

This is an intimate tale of
courage,
a circuitous journey,
belonging,
deepening trust, and
saying yes.

 

For much of my life, stories of women and their families around the world, particularly those who are vulnerable and without freedom, have quickened my heart.

Stories like those of the Badi – a caste community in Nepal. For generations, Badi girls have had but one opportunity for work: enforced prostitution – sexual slavery. Until now.

Thanks to the efforts of impassioned community activists in Nepal and many of you in our kula, a growing number of Badi in this generation know freedom for the first time in many, many years. Freedom from sexual trafficking and slavery. Freedom to be educated, to have dreams and hope for the future.

I am eager to collaborate with these friends to write their extraordinary story because I believe the world needs to hear it and they are ready to voice it.

I stand fueled for this amazing work by my love for God, my own belovedness, and the community of support from my sisters and brothers near and far.

This is my place. This is my call.

This is my – OUR! – story.

{An unconventional – but essential – story pause.
Friends, this story uses the word God in parts,
a word that is vital to me as my relationship with God is central
to my understanding of myself and my world.
Indeed, I cannot fully share this story without this piece.
I deeply hope that you feel free to use words
that resonate with your present journey –
whether “Allah”, “the universe,” “spirit,” “angels,” “Shiva”…

And, please share with me how this story impacts you.
How has your relationship with the sacred and divine
impacted your small and big decisions… your everyday life energy and essence?
I honor and celebrate the JOY of journeying wholeheartedly together,
celebrating differences and finding places of connection in surprising places.}

 

As a kid, I plastered my room with world maps and pictures of women and their families, work, and villages from around the world.

At my core, my roots deeply interweave with those of these amazing sisters. For much of my life, my journey has been a treasure hunt of discovery around and response to these words:

Look deep within yourself and recognize what brings life and grace into your heart. It is this that can be shared with those around you.

"Look deep within yourself + recognize what brings life + grace into your heart. It is this that can be shared with those around you."

Yes! What brings life and grace into my heart is to be with women and their communities around the world:

sipping chai in their homes,
eating their food,
dancing their dances,
singing their songs,
learning their words,
wearing their clothes…, and on and on.
Being with: cultivating friendship, collaborating, and celebrating together.

To share these sisters’ stories in a way that ignites ever-deepening understanding, connection, and love within my community, makes my heart sing. I have journals full of dreams, curiosities, and prayers. I’ve sounded the call, inviting people to learn, grow, give and join.

Last October, my lifelong passion found its feet with the chance to partner on a book project about a powerful, transformative shift occurring in the Nepali Badi. Here was my chance to dig deep with work already underway to allow women to rewrite their story from one of exploitation and slavery to one marked by freedom and empowerment. Perhaps by sharing their stories, we might be able to inspire a new community of women – regardless of their place on the globe.

 

It was an exciting prospect. But one accompanied by intimidating challenges.

I feared it would adversely impact my family and stretch the limits of my capacity. For months, I prayed, wrote, and talked with trusted advisors, sharing my soul’s quandaries. Supported by the breathtaking presence of both God and my community, I was able to recognize how my crippling insecurities threatened my own ability to step into the freedom of my calling.

Shame and fear have at times silenced and shackled me.

They have filled my thought-life with these messages:

My family will fall apart if I take on the epic scope of this project.
My kids will feel abandoned and be wounded by fear when I return to Nepal to work on the book. They’ll feel diminished, believing that I don’t love them and that I care more for these sisters and brothers than for them.
Who do I think I am to write this book? I could let down my Nepali sisters and be an embarrassment to myself because I am no good. I’ll be exposed as a fraud and failure.

Truth be told, toxic thoughts like these have often taken root and fueled my identity and choices with their fear-based directives.

But, no. Not this time.

I am passionately and intimately accompanied by my community and God. I am beckoned to speak, and empowered by love and grace to break out of these narrow-minded ways of thinking and living. Ah, yes. Good news is here. I am beloved.

Bistari, slowly, I have been practicing living out this new narrative and becoming more free. I believe and trust there is a one-of-a-kind purpose for my life that is exceedingly beyond what I could think to ask for or imagine, and that God permeates all things. This is the source of every last bit of goodness in my life – the vision and energy for living in both easy and difficult days. Indeed, the gift that I am extravagantly loved brings joy, freedom, courage, and a focus that fuels my heartbeat to love my brothers and sisters around the world.

 

Armed with this truth, I decided it was time to say yes.

With a few butterflies and great eagerness, I headed to Nepal in May 2016, to spend some time among these dear friends, and to deepen my understanding of the collaboration into which I was invited.

The journey remains one of the great highlights of my life.

We sang and danced our way in the blazing heat on an epic road trip to far west Nepal, traveling to villages by car, scooter, motorcycle, ferry, and foot. I joined birthday parties, graduation festivities, peacemaking missions, where we danced, feasted, cried, sang, and prayed. Over and over, I heard my Badi sisters share that they are ready to voice their stories for the world to hear:

It’s time – I do not want to be silent anymore.
I’m no longer ashamed.
I dream of educating and empowering my sisters and brothers in Nepal – and around the world – by sharing my story.

My heart was bursting with love for these friends, excited, a little fearful, yet honored to share their stories with the world. On my transatlantic flight home, I sensed the Nepali words, bistari, bistari – “slowly, slowly” – whispering in my soul.

So, I waited. I embraced the summer season with my family, keeping my heart open and ear to the ground for clues about my next steps.

The image of a closed door with the word, “Nepal” written on it emerged throughout the course of the next few months. I felt both impatience and relief, but ultimately a deep sense of bistari, slowly – not yet.

 

I relaxed and let go of the burden of making a decision and thinking about the choice in terms of right or wrong.

I became more deeply rooted in these promises, which in my God experience and language I articulate in this way:

God is with me always,
He will guide me along the best pathway for my life,
God is the path and life itself, and
every detail in my life of love for God is worked into something good.

I began – bistari, slowly – to fix my gaze less on the where or how of life and more upon the One with whom I’m traveling.

"This summer's PILGRIMAGE: fixing my gaze less on the where or how + more upon the One with whom I'm traveling."

 

Several weeks ago, I had a remarkable experience.

Sitting outside, I held my steaming cup of coffee, and watched the sky redden with the rising of the sun. Not writing, reading, thinking – just being. I sensed these words, Sarah, let’s talk. I knew from the grace, love, and joy I felt, that it was God’s voice. The sun’s rays warmed my face, I smiled and considered, Hmmmmm…what shall we talk about? In the next breath, I heard another nudge, Let’s talk about Nepal. I responded, Wow, OK, let’s do this! And for a while, I poured out my heart: my longings, dreams, places of joyful anticipation, along with my insecurities and worries.

I listened, waited.

By the end of this time, although I didn’t have “an answer,” I had sketched a new picture in my journal. The Nepal door was no longer shut, but now stood wide open and light flooded toward me from the other side. A few days later, I read these words: God had opened the door; all I had to do was walk through it.

"God had opened the door; all I had to do was walk through it."

 

In the days since, I’ve felt increasingly nudged to cross the threshold of the doorway.

I am filled with anticipation and wonder as I take steps each day of preparation: exploring upcoming trainings focused on writing and publishing, planning my next trip to Nepal, and beginning to scaffold, in an ever-deepening partnership with my team in Nepal, the framework for the book. My yes to their invitation to write the book is now in their capable hands, as they consider what makes sense around matters of timing and process for the next chapter of this journey.

From the moment I met these Badi sisters, I have seen the ways in which their stories hold extraordinary threads of connection with people all around the world.

I have witnessed the ways in which their very presence and words bring light, hope, and joy to others in their own country and around the globe. Today they are strong, fierce, and committed warriors of love. Their days of silence are over, and the world is about to hear a new chorus of powerful voices.

I am honored and overjoyed to be a part of life with them and am ready to follow the Great Author, put pen to paper, and write the words my Nepali sisters speak.

 

I have no doubt that I – we – will not be the same after hearing their story.

Arm in arm we walk, dance, laugh, and sing our way, across the threshold and through the door, down the path, all-the-while illuminated and fueled by love and grace. Our eyes are on the One who is with us, each and every step, breath by breath. We are beloved.

 

Do you hear it?
No? Then, I will whisper it.
You are loved.
Like, crazily, over-the-top-ly, fully.
NOW.
Loved. Celebrated. Cherished. Delighted in.
You are Loved. BE{loved}.
Take it in.
Inhale it.
Let it take root. Flourish.
The courtroom
– judgments and words of
“too much/not enough” …
“good/bad” …
“beautiful/ugly” –
It’s adjourned.
Over. Now. And forever.
Imagine the possibilities!
Oh, baby, the places you’ll go!
You are free to be you.
Come!
Take your place at the table in this feast of life!
You.
BE{long}.
Here.
THIS is our kula.

 

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