Sara’s Story

Book Club

On Saturday night at our Nashville (in)RL meet-up, I had the honor of introducing Sara’s Story to a group of 50 women.

Today, it is my honor to introduce it to you.

But before you watch it, let me tell you a little about Sara.

Sara was by far the most incredible woman I have ever known because of her passion for the Lord and commitment to community.

Before the effects of her debilitating disease prevented her from even leaving her condo, Sara was a magazine writer, a memory keeper and a singer. She loved spending time with her family and friends. Her life was normal, busy, full.

Over time, as the disease took over, Sara’s life slowed down. But even though her circumstances limited her physically, she continued to passionately create community.

Her blog, Gitzen Girl, became her outlet for connecting with the “outside,” and her words inspired thousands from around the world.

I got to know Sara first through my blog comments, then through email, then the phone and Skype. And by the grace of God, we spent a few glorious hours together in person in August 2011.

Sara became like a sister to me.

She was a kindred spirit who understood me when I couldn’t clearly express myself.

She was the kind of friend everyone longs to have.

She was *soul* beautiful.

She understood that community was about relationship.

Sara went to heaven on September 24, 2011. (If you haven’t done so in the past, read these moving words shared by her friend Shannon at her wake.) Though her time here on earth was shorter than I (selfishly) would have liked, her impact was immeasurable.

So it seemed perfect that, as the DaySpring (in)courage team brainstormed what (in)RL would look like, and the stories that would be shared, Sara’s name immediately came up. (Thank you DaySpring!)

Today, please find 30 minutes to sit and watch this movie of women sharing about Sara, and her demonstration of community done right.

You will be glad that you did.

Be sure to also check of the “Choose Joy” printables inspired by Sara, as well as other (in)RL resources here.


  • Maria @ A Blooming Spirit

    This was such a moving film to me. I started following Sara’s blog towards the end of her life but she really touched my life in a way she will never know. Here is a small glimpse of what she brought to my life because I cannot explain it all in here:

  • Crystal

    This was so beautiful! What an amazing legacy of pure, unending Faith, and a wonderful example to all women, about how much impact we have on the lives around us. I wish I could have known Sara. I can’t wait to meet her in heaven.

  • Jen

    Just watched this *again*… And Adam literally handed me his t-shirt so I could mop myself up. Maybe after the 4th, 5th, 367th time I might make it through without sobbing.

    I cannot express how precious she was… Is. Or how desperately she is missed. But Shannon and you, Jess, and everyone else have managed to do her such beautiful honour… And I am forever grateful to you all for that.

    • Jessica Turner

      Precious is the perfect word…

  • Mel

    Sara was such a beautiful example of joy…she continues to inspire me every day to soak up the beauty and blessings that God has given. I miss her…and even though I never had the privilege to meet her, I still think of her as a sister, a friend, and someone who will always have a place in my heart. God was so good to give us precious Sara…what an imprint she has left on all of us.

  • Patty

    I loved reading Gitzen. I miss Sara’s words very much. She (in) couraged everyone. What a blessing to have found the blog’s I have found.

  • Deborah

    I followed Sara’s blog and then because of what was going on in my own life, I wasn’t reading much of anyone’s blogs. When I finally came back into the the blog world, it was toward the end of her life. She always inspired. Like Maria, I’ll link a post where I shared the impact she made in my life. I want to be like her and chase down community even when it doesn’t come to me. Her attitude is now a permanent reminder of what I can choose to do, react, believe, share with others. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Casey

    I followed her blog for a while before her death and was always blessed by her words. She was clearly a blessing for everyone around her and God must have smiled down on that. You all did a beautiful job with the montage of thoughts about her.

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  • Shannon

    Well said, Jess. Many thanks to (in)courage for making this available to share. She was a gift.

    • Jessica Turner

      Thanks, friend. I dreamed of her all night long…

  • Amie

    Mandy, Ellyn, Candy and I all watched the video together. It was beautifully done, and the interviews were amazing. I’m so glad this was put together to share her with everyone. Oh, how I miss her.

    Thank you, Jess.

  • Sandy Sandmeyer

    I have an appointment on 5/17/2012 to get Sara’s Choose Joy tattoo’d on the inside of my right forearm. I am so excited! I got to “know” her online shortly before she died. Sara chose joy through her horrible diagnosis of ankylosing spondylosis. My girlfriend, Phyllis, did not and lived a miserable final six months of her life with the same disease. I’ll be thinking about both beautiful women as I get inked to remind myself that I need to choose joy through all things.

  • HopefulLeigh

    I’m so, so thankful you all shared this here. I was disappointed to miss out on (in)RL due to bridesmaid duties out of state (I mean, happy to be in my friend’s wedding but sad to miss out on the gathering) and then more disappointed when I read there was going to be a Sara video. What a lovely tribute to the profound effect she had on our lives!

  • Lisa

    What an incredible woman and uplifting story. I did not know her, but because of this video, I have been deeply touched. Thank you for sharing.

  • Mallory

    Sweet Sara…I didn’t know you like some, but oh, I miss you so much.

    I’ve lived my entire life with health issues, nothing like Sara’s, but enough that led to 19 surgeries and a lot of losing out on what being a kid/teenager is supposed to be for most people. I spent a lot of years angry with God because of it, angry that He wouldn’t “fix me”, angry that the kids at school were so mean about it, angry that I just couldn’t get the break that I was so desperate for.

    And then I met Sara.

    Because of Sara, I learned how to be grateful for my story. I learned how to recognize the blessings in my everyday life that I used to miss out on because of the anger and hurt. I learned that bad things happen to good people, but that doesn’t change how much God loves me. I learned that God gave me my story for a reason, and it was my job to take what I was given and show others just how much love God has for each of us. I learned that there is always a reason for you to be happy, you just have to be willing to find it. I learned to look at my health problems in a new way. I found the strength to push through the tough times, a strength I felt like I was losing until I met her. I learned how to trust in God’s purpose for my life, even if He never showed it to me outright.

    Because of Sara, I found the grace that God can give if you open your heart and rely on Him.

    Because of Sara, and how God worked through Sara, I found a new passion to use my life to bless others, to have an impact, to spread the beauty of God’s unending mercy and love, to show what beauty God has brought from the ashes of my life and tell people what He can do with theirs.

    This woman changed the world through a computer. That’s God-given talent if I’ve ever seen it.

    And people say online relationships aren’t real…Jess is right. Sara proved them all wrong. I am so blessed to have been given the gifts and lessons she gave me through the simple act of writing blog posts. So, so blessed.

  • Angie Lawless

    What a truly remarkable video that you have made of Sara, Thank you for putting that together and sharing, it is so amazing the positive impact that Sara had on so many people, I am very thankful that you did this and are keeping her shining spirit alive, she was an Angel on Earth and now she is is Home to be a heavenly Angel, she is a shining example of what kind of person that I strive to be!! Thank you for sharing her love for the world with us! God Bless you:o)

  • connie

    What a blessing it is for me that Dayspring made it possible for me to view… Sara was a beautiful soul that has touched so many lives….. If only we all could see life as she saw it… we are more lucky than we realize….

  • Mandy

    God, I miss her.

  • Jeri Taira

    So thankful for this. It speaks to me to let God continue to cultivate His heart for people in and through me.

  • Shellie (baylormum)

    No words. Just praise to God who brought her through this computer & shared her joy with all of us. And I won’t be able to hear that song without thinking of Sara. #choosejoy always.

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  • Barbie

    I am so grateful the Lord led me to Sara’s blog through (in)Courage. She made a mark on my heart that will always be there. Today, when I think of what it truly means to “Choose Joy”, I think of Sara. She not only wrote about it. She lived it. She was such an example of strength. The JOY of the Lord certainly was her strength. She will be forever missed, but she has left behind a legacy of joy seekers — to know Him as she knows Him!

  • Beth Williams

    Found Sara near the end of her life. She is soo precious to us and the Lord. I cried very hard when she died.

    I know you all who really really knew her will miss her dearly. She will have a huge impact on people~especially me. I’ve been going through a struggle at work. The “evil one” has attacked me daily with “stupid, dumb, not good enough”~

    Through Sara I’m going to try to Choose Joy and Live again like a Christian should! Thanks for sharing this video! It means sooo much to soo many people!

  • Brittany

    Thank you so much for sharing Sara’s story.

    This really hits home to me – I, myself, am dealing with a disease that makes life very difficult. Even the little things – and I think that’s what hurts the most. It’s such a struggle to “choose joy” in the midst of circumstances sometimes, but Sara inspires me to “choose joy” regardless of the daily struggles of life.

  • Laura Pedersen

    Words cannot even express the gratitude that Sara’s family is feeling right now. We are so very proud and humbled. Please know how much you are loved and appreciated. Thanks so very much for being a very special and important part of Sara’s life. It was her on-line community that helped her choose joy and keep her strong. Love and blessings to you all!


  • Carol H.

    Like others have said, Sara had a profound effect on my life.
    Thank you for making this video “public.”

  • Dana

    I miss her. In the quietest darkest moments, she knew just what to say… And it was like she was talking just to me. What an incredible, beautiful, powerful legacy. So missed…. So loved…

  • Celita

    I miss Sara… I miss her fresh grace-words. I miss her care that reached through the monitor making even me feel that I was an important part of her life, even though I was not always able to be in touch or share her days. I miss her speaking encouragement into my days, even when she did not realize it. I am isolated in my relationships with the busy people of my life by distance and different ways of life… but that never stopped God using Sara to reach my heart. Her love was evident… Her passion was clear… Her surrender was inspirational. Her faith driving ME to want more, to live intentionally, to CHOOSE JOY even when it hurts. There is an achy place in that place that misses her in my heart. Though I never met Sara or even was in touch all that often, she is counted as a dear sister and friend. If you find the picture in her things of a girl that knows how to cross one eye and keep the other looking straight ahead… in the most silly of way… that is me. I sent it to her to make her laugh. I hope it did, and often. If not… I look forward to spending eternity making up for lost time. :-)

    thank you for sharing. it hurts, but it is a blessing to remember and relive… To give thanks for God’s blessing of Sara in my life, in our lives. You know… Gratitude changes things… Sara obviously knew alot about that. I am trying to daily remember that. It helps that I have found another blog that almost feels to have picked up where Sara left off (for me)… if in a very different way… if you care to check it out… it has continued to bless me and encourage me to make thanksgiving and choosing joy a daily habit… And… I cannot wait to go back and read and reread Sara’s old posts again. That is the blessing of the written (or typed) word. She may not be with us, but… her message lives on. :-) God is good, so good!! What a gift for sure!
    Blessings to you, my sisters. May God soothe and comfort and heal your missing places and restore your losses as He did to Job in Job 42… May He “bless you… keep you… make His face shine upon you… be gracious to you… and give you peace” in Jesus’ name…

  • Caroline

    What a remarkable film and story. I had the priviledge to know Sara for such a short time through the blog, but like so many have said here, she made a huge impact – and still does. Thank you for the reminder and for putting together this most wonderful of tribute. May we all choose joy and help to remind each other of the things that we have learnt from Sara. God Bless. Caroline

  • Susan

    I admit, I put off watching this because I knew I would cry . .I miss Sara, I read her blog for about three years, and always found such encouragement. She truly was Spirit filled. She encouraged me to seek joy through the most heartbreaking time of my life. It was easy to love Sara – even through the computer screen. I loved this tribute . . .but I also loved what Dawn shared . .that we do become friends through the online blogs, book studies, they do build a community of faith. Some days, when I am struggling with, well just life in general, I can visit a blog of a sister in Christ, one whom I will never meet face to face, but we connect heart to heart, and I leave feeling uplifted, receive some guidance, shared a prayer request, prayed for the blog writer, and yes feel (in) couraged! All of you, who write blogs, are such a blessing, to share your gifts of words, photography, knowledge, faith, your lives . . .just know I thank God for all of you. Sara showed us all how much this community of faith means, how deeply we love . ..God blessed us through Sara’s life . . .I pray we continue the blessing, and that we love each other “holy”.

  • Deborah H. Bateman

    Thank you so much for sharing this touching story. I didn’t know Sara, but I am sitting here with tears in my eyes. What an inspiration she was and I can tell from your stories how much she touched your lives. But, she must have also felt very fortunate to have all of you as her friends and to be part of her life. My prayer is that God would help me to love people the way she loved them and they would know how much I love them. Sometimes in life we build up walls that don’t let others in because we are afraid of getting hurt. I pray we can tear down those walls and show people the love of God that is in our hearts. May God bless each one of you with a special portion of His love and comfort. Blessings, Deborah H. Bateman-Author

  • Karen

    I am new to the incourage site and to blogging… and I never had an opportunity to read Sara’s blogs but I was so touched by the video. Thanks to all of you that loved and invested in her by making it possible for people like me to hear her story. I have a brother that was in a tragic car accident back in 2009 and is now paralyzed from the neck down. He has been such an inspiration to me and has served many times to give me perspective as Sara did for many of you. Learning how to value people the way God values them is a worthy goal. Lord, please help us….

    P.S. I love the incourage community and have been so blessed by everyone’s writing…Thank You…

  • Patricia/nyc

    A beautiful, moving tribute for a beautiful lady who definitely blessed the world!
    I didn’t know Sara, but had to privilege of communicating with her via the Bloom book club when the selection was Ann Voskamp’s “1000 Gifts”. She led the blogfrog discussions & ALWAYS responded to my comments with such wonderful insight & kindness; that’s when I made sure to read her blog & realized how special she was. She definitely made the world a better place.

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  • elaine

    i’m so sad that i’m only finding this today
    i live so close to where sara lived
    i’m in my bed most all days
    i need joy
    i need community

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  • http://sara'sblogstory Beverly v thomas

    from reading the story of marys she’s awesome

  • http://sara'sblogstory Beverly v thomas

    after reading thd story it really have touch my heart god bless her

  • http://sara'sblogstory Beverly v thomas

    reading sara story and watching the video she reall have touch my heart

  • Bernadette Cox

    I just saw this for the first time and Sara was a very blessed and Faithfilled woman.