Life in the Unexpected

As a seventeen-year-old soprano, I thought I had reached the pinnacle of success on the Sunday I walked into Duke Chapel with the All-State Choir to sing. Duke University has a United Methodist seminary and having been raised as a United Methodist preacher’s daughter, I was so honored and humbled to be singing in that gorgeous, holy cathedral.

I lined up in front of the chancel with the rest of the choir and sang Psalm 23 (among other songs whose names I no longer remember) and then, because we were seated in the choir lofts, when they served communion, they served us before they served the congregation. The conductor was served first and then, as the first seat soprano, I was served second. As the conductor stepped away so that I could be served, I thought I heard him whisper to me, but what he said didn’t make any sense.

Watch out!

Watch out? For what? I knelt in front of the minister and received my bread and then dipped it into the cup and ate it. And suddenly, I knew what the conductor meant.

It was wine!

Now for those of you who weren’t raised in the United Methodist Church, it might be normal to be served wine at communion. But for us, though we called it wine, it was really just Welch’s grape juice that we were being served. And so this was startling to me and very unexpected. And in Duke Chapel? I was speechless.

Life rarely gives us what we expect. Think about it. How many of us graduate from high school and expect to end up unemployed and living with our parents again at age 30? Who gets married expecting to go through a painful divorce? Who looks into the face of their newborn child and expects a future of drug abuse and trouble with the law?

My life is extremely different than what I expected. There are so many things I expected to have by age thirty-two that I just don’t have. For a while, I pitied and pined for what I didn’t have, but then some of my friends gently suggested that since I didn’t have what I expected, maybe I should ask God what He expected.

That was when I stopped working a dead-end, minimum-wage job and got a Bachelor’s Degree from Methodist College.

And once I graduated, God began sending me on the mission field. First, as a translator, then as an eye-team leader, then as a pharmacy tech, and then, building teams.

Then, when I believed I was going to be stuck in the city, paying exorbitant rent in shoddy apartments forever, God made a way for me to buy a brand new, never-been-lived in house in the country. And I pay less now to buy than I did to rent in the city. (That’s a God thing, y’all!)

God keeps surprising me and all of His surprises aren’t pleasant. The last week of July, while I was at the Echo Conference in Dallas with Marni and Katdish, I was checking Facebook between sessions and learned that my friend Kristi’s daughter, Cheyenne, had died of rhabdomyosarcoma. This is one of those things that’s unbearably hard to understand. Thousands of people around the world were praying for Chey’s healing, but then God chose to heal her in a way that was so painful to us. And yet, as we all mourn, I watch Chey’s mom smiling through her tears, knowing not only that her baby no longer hurts, but that God has used her life powerfully.

That day in 1995 in Duke Chapel, when I expected to taste sweet juice, instead I got sour wine. I took into myself the body and the blood of Christ. It didn’t taste good going down, but it was life to me. Each day as I face unexpected, unpleasant challenges, I’m faced with the same decision. Will I swallow the sour things, knowing that there’s life in them?

Today, I choose to embrace the unexpected.

About Sarah Salter


  1. Great perspective Sarah. I have a 35 year old daughter who is still single and obviously would not have chosen that nor thought it would be her. But I have watched her come to grips with it and embrace God’s plan and desire for her life. Will she stay single? How am I to know? But will Tami accept God’s plan? I see it happening daily. I love her and love seeing how she is becoming the woman God can and does use. Life is not always what we planned or would like but I try to remember Jesus’ own words: “I have come that you might have life and have it to the full.” Blessings to you today Sarah.

  2. My wife was 32 when we started dating and 34 when we got married… I was a lil younger. 🙂

    Embracing the unexpected…
    I struggle with that concept. I do try to accept whatever comes my way in light of the Hope I have in Christ…but I still struggle with it.

  3. Why did that stupid Beyonce song “All the Single Ladies” suddenly start playing in my head??


    Life is very often not what we expect. Yesterday, sitting around the counseling table (a.k.a. my grandma’s kitchen table) my aunt said, “You know, God never promised us life would always be hunky dory…but we sure do expect it to be.” Abundant life and ‘the sweet life’ is not the same thing at all, is it? I’m starting to think, God, let my life be FULL, let me be willing to take the bad and the good, because I would rather feel DEEPLY the painful and the joyful than not feel at all.

  4. Sarah Salter says:

    Bill and Dusty, you guys make me smile! Seriously, I’m grinning like a fool at the computer screen right now because you guys just make me smile so much. Thanks for coming by and sharing your stories. 🙂

    Dacia, I LOVE how you put that! “God, let my life be FULL, let me be willing to take the bad and the good, because I would rather feel DEEPLY the painful and the joyful than not feel at all.” Girl, I lived so many years “in the numb.” I didn’t live. I simply subsisted. I couldn’t get angry or scream or even cry. And now that I cry over every little thing, I thank God for that! And I’m making up for lost time. With my laughter, too. I love you, Sister! Hope you get good news SOON! 🙂

  5. Love this post :~)

    Be grateful for hat you have, sort your needs & wants
    Do your best at everything you do.
    Tomorrow is a brand new start.

  6. Sarah Salter says:

    Kali, thank you for visiting! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and that you tweeted to tell me. You blessed me double today! 🙂

  7. Great post Sarah! I have been complaining lately about things not happening the way I planned, I think I need to focus more on figuring out what God plans on happening. 🙂

  8. Sarah Salter says:

    Melissa, thank you! And we all complain sometimes. My friend, Rick, used to spend a lot of time telling me to “get off the pity pot.” He also pointed out to me hundreds of tiny instances in my life that all add up to the big, beautiful fact that GOD LOVES ME. And I’m SO glad of that! Because of that love, it’s much easier to do it HIS way.

  9. Amen. I kind of see it that either we can embrace the unexpected because God’s ways and thoughts are higher or I can get disappointed a whole lot. I don’t like disappointment! Not enough joy there. 🙂

    Thanks Sarah. Great post.

  10. Surprise by God is a good thing! It’s amazing to see what He does with His own when we yield to those surprises. Thanks for sharing, you always encourage me!

  11. Sarah, great post. As I read it a phrase kept coming to my head: “use an umbrella” (just kidding, inside joke, ya’ll).. no, really – I wish I could take credit for it, but I am pretty sure I saw it on twitter. The phrase is: “Sometimes, the way out is through.” I saw that phrase at a time when I needed to hear it, but it often comes back to me. We are blessed so much by God carrying us through a tough situation, perhaps more blessed than if we were rescued from the situation.

  12. Sarah Salter says:

    Jason, that’s a great thought and a healthy way to look at it! Thanks!

    Jay, I agree that His surprises are way better than anything I have up MY sleeve! 🙂

    Herb, my Mama often says, “This too shall pass.” Maybe I’ve got to live through something that I never expected to have to. But as long as Jesus is my guide and my goal, the trial or the valley won’t last forever. Thank you, thank you, my brother!

  13. I’m there with you .. Somehow in your writing. How you weren’t nervous .. 🙂 I’ll never get. Anyway, holding onto The Promiser… Instead of the promise. The promise is the very catalyst that causes.. Even drives us into the arms of our Father. You know.. The whole deal with Abraham, Hannah, And more. At the same time.. What shines brightest? Fairest? Oh our Bridegroom.. His shining heart. And God so loved….” May we reflect that heart as we embrace His mind for us… Revamping, rewriting, renaming, reclaiming our lives as sassy women that Fear God and know intimately the authority to shape a joyful life approved of by our dearest Husband.

  14. Sarah Salter says:

    Amy, “reclaiming our lives as sassy women that Fear God and know intimately the authority to shape a joyful life approved of my our dearest husband.” I LOVE IT! (Especially the “sassy women” part… You know I’m all over that!) I love you, girl! Miss you, too!

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