1. for reals: what living on the road has taught me about contentment

    I’ve been living on the road since October 2014, traveling across the U.S. (and to four countries) to speak at events related to themes from The Invisible Girls. 

    When people ask me questions like, “Where do you live?” or “Where’s home for you?”  I pause because I don’t have an answer.  I live everywhere.  I live nowhere.  I don’t know.

    I own a town home in Portland, Oregon, which has been rented out to tenants for the past two years now.  I had an apartment in California but I gave it up in October when the lease was up because I knew God was calling me to make traveling/speaking my vocation for now.  And now it’s just me and a large wheeled duffel bag with 9 months’ worth of clothes, my laptop, my passport, and a few books.

    When people hear about my transient life, I often get ooohs and ahhhs and aren’t you lucky‘s. And I acknowledge how blessed I am to be on this adventure right now.

    I also realize that the transience and the frequent speaking engagements come with their own complications.   As a for instance…

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  2. almost there

    Hi, friends! Thanks SO much to everyone who has contributed towards my Togo trip.  In three weeks, you all have helped me raise 80% of the funds I needed.  So far, I have $4,000 and I need $5,000 to cover all of my expenses.

    I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to serving the people of Togo and telling you more about their stories.

    Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 7.13.53 AM

    If you haven’t contributed yet but are willing to donate, I’d really appreciate it.  Just click here and search for “Thebarge, Sarah.”

    Even a few dollars go a long way.

    Thank you for all of your encouragement and support.



  3. why I don’t care if togo is ‘safe’

    When I tell people I’m going to spend three months working at a hospital in Togo, the first two questions people ask are 1) Where’s Togo?  and 2) Is it safe?

    I tell them Togo is a country in west Africa, close to the Ivory Coast.

    As to whether it’s safe…..

    That’s not a question I’ve asked.  Because no matter the answer, I’d go anyway.

    Don’t get me wrong — I’m not going to be purposefully unsafe.  I’m living in a walled hospital compound and I’m going to take anti-malaria pills every day and I got my meningitis vaccine and I’m not planning to go to neighboring Nigeria and scope out Boko Haram by myself.

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  4. my togo registry

    When people get married or have a baby, there’s usually a shower.  The bride-and-groom or parents-to-be register for what they want/need, and then friends and family shower them with gifts as a tangible way of participating in their lives and celebrating with them.

    Well, I’m not married and don’t have kids, so I’ve never created a bridal or baby registry before (and the odds of creating one in the near future seem quite slim!)

    I found out this month that I’ve been approved to work at a hospital in Togo, Africa with Samaritan’s Purse for three months (from July to October.)  I’m volunteering, so I’m not getting paid (monetarily, anyway) for the work I do, and I have to pay all my expenses to travel there and to live there for 3 months.

    The trip costs about $5000, which includes plane tickets, room and board, visa application, traveler’s insurance, vaccines, etc.

    Last week I started thinking.  What if I created a registry for Togo where people can purchase something off the registry as a way of participating in this experience with me, celebrating this opportunity — and, most importantly, working together to alleviate suffering for people in Togo?

    SO. Here’s the deal.  I created this Togo Registry.  If you’re willing, it would mean so much to me if you’d participate!!!

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  5. esther v. vashti (a story about comparison)

    Yesterday I wrote about how comparison, criticism and control can make us miserable and keep us stuck.  This morning I decided to write a little more about comparison (which often leads to criticism), because it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot.

    Whenever I speak at women’s retreats, I usually have a phone meeting with the organizers beforehand and ask them what the biggest issue is that the women in their church face.

    An answer that comes up repeatedly is this:  women in their church tend to segregate based on roles and demographics, and sometimes they even judge each other based on their choices.  And because of those issues, it’s difficult to create unity.

    There are the homeschooling moms and the moms who send their kids to public school.  There are single women and married women.  Women who have careers and women who stay at home.  Those who get take-out every night and those who cook dinner from scratch.  And the list of differences goes on and on and on.

    When I hear about these schisms, my mind goes to the story of Esther and Vashti.

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  6. what keeps us stuck

    For the past few weeks I’ve been spending at least an hour a day praying and meditating, trying to understand more about God and about myself.  One of the things I’ve realized is that I have patterns of thinking and behaving that keep me stuck and, if I let them take over, make me really miserable.

    Here are some things that I think can weigh us down.  In the comments section, let me know if you’ve struggled with these (or other issues), and how you’ve grown or changed.

    1) Competition

    So here’s the deal.  The Invisible Girls launched in April 2013.  There are other authors who published that year who have already launched their next book.  And I have a second book contract, but in spite of my best attempts, I haven’t been able to complete the manuscript.  The story’s just not ready yet.

    I need more time to think and reflect and meditate, and more time to just live my life.  I mean, maybe the reason I haven’t finished writing the story is because it hasn’t happened yet.  I’m heading to Togo, Africa, for 3 months, and maybe the story happens there.  Who knows.

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  7. baltimore is about more than a city in maryland

    This week, all eyes are on Baltimore.

    There are reports on police officers’ indifference about Freddie Gray, neglecting to buckle his seatbelt while he was in custody, and refusing to get him medical attention in a timely manner. There are reports of similar mistreatment stemming back decades.

    There are reports of angry rioters smashing glass and setting property on fire, as if to fill the void of police officers’ indifference with a violent rage that cannot be ignored.

    As we watch the news this week, it’s easy to assign blame to either or both sides, and it’s safe, from the comfort of our living room recliners, to prescribe solutions.

    We advocate for police to act with fairness and restraint.

    We advocate for protesters to swallow their anger and practice peaceful non-violence.

    We advocate for the dueling sides to come to the table and use dialogue to open helpful, healing lines of communication.

    But if we leave it at that, if we see this only as a black-versus-white, privileged-versus-poor, powerful-versus-powerless problem, we’ll miss the point.

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  8. guess what? i’m going to africa!

    I’m going to Togo, Africa!

    Here’s a little context for you…I have wanted to serve in international medical missions for as long as I can remember, all the way back to when I was in elementary school and our church had missionaries come on Sunday nights and give slideshow presentations about the work they were doing overseas.

    I got my physician assistant degree hoping to join the ranks of medical missionaries and use medicine as a practical tool for showing compassion…I also studied journalism so I could write more about suffering overseas and how we could help to alleviate it.  A year after I finished PA school, and was half-way through my masters in journalism, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, which sent me on a whole new path.

    For a long time, I didn’t qualify to go overseas with a missions agency because I was undergoing cancer treatments.  But in the meantime, instead of sending me to Africa, God sent a little piece of Africa to me, in the form of five little Somali sisters and their mom (a story I wrote about in The Invisible Girls.)

    This week I found out that instead of Africa coming to me, this time I get to go to Africa!  I’ve been approved to work in the Urgent Care/Emergency Room at a new hospital in Togo, Africa that just opened in March.

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  9. 9 years

    Nine years ago today, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 27.  I went through a mastectomy, two recurrences, four more surgeries, eight rounds of chemo, 30 days of radiation, a month-long hospitalization for pneumonia and sepsis, a year of Herceptin infusions, three years of Zometa infusions, and then started ten years of Zoladex injections and Arimidex.

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  10. thoughts on my book’s second birthday

    My book, The Invisible Girls, turned 2 this month!  I woke up this morning thinking that, just like parents on their child’s 2-year-old birthday, this month is a chance for me to sift through two years of memories, remembering everything I’ve learned, all the ways I’ve changed, and how incredibly naive I was in the beginning!!!

    My book launched on Tuesday, April 16, 2013.

    My publisher had arranged a national radio tour, so at 4 a.m. I sat in the front office at my church waiting to go on the air.  (I was up at 4 a.m. because there were radio stations on the east coast that wanted to do a live interview during morning drive time, and I was at the office because you have to use a landline to do radio interviews.)

    I was too tired to make a pot of coffee, so instead, I opened a Starbucks DoubleShot can and poured it over ice.

    As I waited for the radio producer to call me, I sat there in the dead pre-dawn silence, thinking.

    The Boston Marathon bombing had happened just two days before, and some of the radio stations I was talking to were in Boston.

    I felt nervous, excited…and inadequate.

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