I Am the Girl Next Door

Most of my life I have felt pretty ordinary. Mostly for superficial reasons. I used to feel like my name was boring, and if you braid my hair I look like a shoo in for Anne of Green Gables. I’ve never been crazy about makeup and my curly hair often becomes so frizzy that I resemble Miss Frizzle from The Magic School Bus. Aside from all of that though, this feeling has filtered through my life on a deeper level. I’m a pastors wife, and the women I look up to in ministry and life in general are bold, trendy and look like they are ready for their book deal. I’m just the girl next door, plain and simple.

A few years ago I was going through a phase of deep insecurity. My husband and I had just moved and were about to plant a church. I’ve always been low maintenance, but I decided for the first time in my life I was going to be polished, I was going to be fashionable, I was going to be THAT woman! Everyday I straightened my hair, or brushed out my curls and put my hair into a neat and tidy bun. I wore jewelry, lots of jewelry, and makeup almost everyday. I Iooked GOOD, yet even the polished new me still felt unsatisfied and insecure. I didn’t know who I was!

My worth and identity were caught up in my appearance and what people thought of me. I wanted so badly to be admired, emulated, envied even. I’m ashamed to admit it, but it’s true. Thankfully, I had a powerful moment where God spoke to me reminding me of who I am and why I am. See I AM the girl next door. I’m a bit of a hot mess, I’m basic, but I am approachable. Those women that I admired are doing great things, thats true, but sometimes women like me can’t relate to them, in fact I’m often intimidated by them. On the other hand, I’ve only ever intimidated the big kids trying to butt in line at the school fair. I’m unassuming and approachable. Thats who God has made me to be. I can’t serve Him, all the while trying to be someone else. Honestly, at the root of it, I wasn’t even trying to serve Him in trying to be someone else. I was serving myself and my ego. I got side tracked. 

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the dangers of the mold. See in ministry and life in general, I believe we’ve created a mold of sorts. There is this underlying concept that every person must look a certain way, speak a certain way, and act a certain way to serve God. It appears there is this unspoken mold, and I was trying so desperately to fit into it, but I can’t and more importantly, I shouldn’t. God didn’t make me to fit in someone else’s mold. He made some people that way, and they’re having great success living out their God given purpose, but life is not one size fits all, and the only person we should be emulating is Christ.

God made me ordinary, but there is beauty in my ordinary. There is beauty in the fact that though I fall short and am insecure, God has given me the opportunity to encourage others. There is beauty in the way God made you! The lie from the enemy is that we are JUST ordinary, because God’s plan for us is unique, and the mistake is trying to be someone else instead of who God created us to be. 

So here I am basic, plain, ordinary. I’m not the model wife, mom, leader, and I’m definitely not an influencer, but I am me. I know I am fulfilling my purpose, and I feel confident in that knowing that God is using me in extraordinary ways, just as ordinary as I am.

It’s ok if your the girl next door too. God can shine brightly through you, all you have to do is embrace it, and let God do His thing. Who knows what doors God is waiting to open for a girl like you.

Photo Credit: Lindsay Berringer Photography

When It’s All Too Heavy

Lately  I’ve been thinking a lot about life and how overwhelming it can be for so many of us. How heavy life can feel with work, family, sickness, and sometimes even tragedy . Right now, my life is just a little crazy, but there have been seasons when I was in way over my head and just plain drained.

When my kids were very little I was living in a season of exhaustion. I remember feeling tapped out, like I had nothing more to give. Josh and I didn’t have the extra cash for any kind of a trip away, so there seemed to be little chance of a break. It felt hopeless, like I was doomed to a perpetual lack sleep and running on empty. In my desperation, I used to fantasize about being hospitalized for something minor like dehydration, just so I could have a good nights rest, and binge watch Netflix in peace. Crazy? Maybe, but it was my reality. I was burnt out with life!

Around that time when I was worn out and having a hard time coping, we were given the opportunity to go on a retreat in Quebec City at the luxurious Chateau Frontenac hotel. It was all expenses paid, no kids, and just what we needed. I remember at the end of it ugly crying into a mic in front of three hundred people about how much it meant to me. It was such a blessing, and was the rest I needed as a weary mom. A much needed refresh button when life felt too heavy.

Fast forward to today, life is pretty good. It’s hectic at times, but it’s slowed down a bit, and I’m finally getting some sleep. Would I love a vacation, sure, but I can manage okay without one. Over the past couple of weeks though, I’ve spoken to people who have a lot on their plates, and as I thought about them I was reminded of this verse in Matthew 11:28,  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” It made me think of that retreat. Or a couple of months ago when money was tight and I was working crazy hours tutoring English online. One day I logged on but my internet was faulty, so I had no choice but to rest and be encouraged by a good friend. It made me think about shortly after, when we didn’t know how we were going to pay our bills and someone gave us an extremely generous cheque, so we were finally able to breathe without the pressure of finances on our shoulders. 

That day when my internet went glitchy I was able to get together with my friend Lisa. It’s not often that we can get together and have a good chat, but I was so stressed and panicked, I couldn’t enjoy it. “I NEED to work!” I exclaimed, “I’ve got bills to pay!”. She looked at me as the tears fell down my cheeks and said, “Maybe this is God’s way of making you take a break, so you can rest and spend time with Him”. I never thought of the technical issues as a gift, I was too busy worrying, and yet it was just what I needed. A free day where I had no choice but to rest and to listen to God. Maybe thats your rest too. Maybe it’s not obvious, it could be a blessing in disguise, but when we go to God he refreshes us in unexpected ways. He knows exactly what we need, when we need it, and when we surrender to Him He provides. He takes the weight off our shoulders, even if it’s just for a few hours, and sometimes He even lightens our load.

I don’t know what your life looks like right now, but I do know what rest in Jesus looks like. It may not be a free retreat to a glitzy hotel or a generous cheque, it could as simple as peace, wisdom, and the support of friends and family. Whatever season you’re in, whether one of balance and simplicity or one of chaos, I encourage you to seek after God, and pay attention to what He’s doing. You might be surprised with the rest your given, and how it not only refreshes your body, but your soul. 

Even as I finish writing this I’m feeling tired and a little weary. I stayed up too late (yet again) milking every second of peace and quiet to watch tv. Just as I finally surrendered to my heavy eyes and snuggled into my pillow my daughter woke up crying in her bed, so up I went, to tuck her in and wipe her tears. Now it’s nearly midnight and I know I will trudge through the next day tired, but I will press on because I know tomorrow holds it’s own little blessing. Tomorrow I get together with Lisa for a mom’s night out and tacos. It’s only a little rest, but I’m gonna eat my fill and soak it all in!

Self Control for the Cranky Mom

This past Sunday was church AND our family photo shoot. Now maybe for you that would be fine, but for me it was a recipe for disaster. See we’ve got four kids and are church planters. That means every Sunday is crazy! Get up, get everyone somewhat presentable, try and maintain peace in the chaos, get out the door, set up, do church, manage a small child’s tantrum and/or tears, and finally tear everything down. Every Sunday it’s pretty much the same, and we handle it pretty well, but throw in family picture day, and for me, it was a lot!

I knew I would be a little stressed, but when I got up that morning I woke up cranky, and it was all downhill from there.

For starters I was awoken from my sweet slumber by my son losing his mind and yelling, “Mom! Mom! MOM!!!!”, all for me to get him his cereal. Ugh! Not the way I wanted to start my day. What followed was a series of whiny moments from my kids and and a general defiance to anything that required cooperation.

I would like to say that I was calm and composed, but you know by now that would be a lie. I was just plain cranky! My poor husband had to listen to me rant and freak out while I tried to wrangle our kids and get us ready for the day. Thankfully he was patient, kind, and self controlled, all things that I lacked.

I remember singing songs about the fruit of spirit as a kid. In Galatians 5:23 it says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” I gotta say, sometimes I find it to be really challenging to have self control as a mom. See sometimes motherhood is great, the kids are listening, they’re getting along, and things are just peachy! Then there are those other days. The ones where it feels like your working a bad customer service job. Seriously! It’s tough and sometimes I can feel like I’m on the cusp of losing my sanity!

So what I’m wondering is, how do you as a mom or just a human being have self control? I’d be a hypocrite if I said I have it figured out. When it comes to self control (as with many things) I fall into the “work in progress” category. I see my freak outs and ongoing issues with patience and all that, I even have some ideas on how to deal with it, but I really have to lean on Jesus and others to hold me accountable and help me out.

That morning as I was prepping things ready for church, I felt Gods gentle whisper, “They’re just pictures Sarah. They’re just pictures”. It was kinda ironic really. Here I am writing week after week about accepting yourself and living in reality, and I was literally going nuts over everyone looking perfect for this staged shoot. Yikes!

I’m so grateful though for grace, and a God who loves me enough to gently remind me of what’s important and adjust my perspective. Throw in a little wisdom from my husband and it helped me to process everything that was going on and try not to lose my poop.

I can’t say it was an instant fix for my mood and snappy self, but it did help. Sometimes I just need a little perspective to get out of my head. Maybe you do too. When all else fails, I recommend an extended trip to the bathroom to calm down. Bonus points if you can be stealth and disappear unnoticed.

At the end of the day, I was able to settle down and mostly roll with the punches. The pictures turned out great, and all was well with the world. Hopefully these photos will stand as a reminder to myself to calm down, because everything’s gonna be okay, even when its all seems a little too crazy!

Photo Credit: Lindsay Berringer Photography

Kiss the Joneses Goodbye

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … I am insecure. It’s true, I am and insecurity is an ugly thing. Our culture breeds it, this feeling that we’re missing something. We need to have what other people have, we need to be who other people are. The more I think about it, it feels like so much of our lives is one big ad. One big marketing scheme. I struggle with it, daily. This feeling of never being enough, of always needing more. 

It’s a slippery slope. The more I try to keep up with cultural expectations and trends, the more I try to keep up with the Joneses, the more I lose myself. I am not the Joneses and deep down I don’t really want to be, but I want to be loved and accepted and for some reason my insecurity tells me that requires more of the Joneses and less of me. Truthfully, I’m not really good at the whole Joneses thing. I have four kids so that’s supposedly in my favour for the whole #supermom thing, but my house is almost always in chaos, I have no idea how to apply makeup, and I’m in serious need of dry shampoo.

I’ve noticed that the more I feel the need to keep up, the more I hide, tired of the charade. I put up walls, keeping people at bay for fear of ultimately being rejected. 

Today I sit here and wonder just how many of you feel it too? The pressure of it all. How many people are tired of the facade? If you know me you know I love social media, almost too much, but surely I’m not the only mama that’s tired of trying to filter life to fit in pretty square pictures. Surely I’m not the only woman who only takes a selfie on the rare day I have makeup on. I’m certain I’m not the only one who pushes the clutter out of the way to take that perfect photo. I know I’m not the only person who has looked for my self worth in likes and flattering selfie comments. 

Though I’ve always struggled with insecurity and wanting to fit in, I really have tried to be me. In high school I felt so much pressure to wear makeup, that I didn’t wear a drop of it for most of grade eleven, as a protest of sorts. Nowadays I try to be that girl, the one who despite her own struggles stands in defiance of culture and does her own thing, but I find it hard.

So I guess I’m writing this as a call to action. I’m almost sad to do it. I love all the perfect pretty pictures and the dream of the “Joneses”, but somehow I think for most of us, our pictures do not reflect our reality, and its not good to live a lie, even if it’s just in public. 

What would our real lives look like? Would people still double tap our messy rooms, mom bun selfies, and morning (or afternoon) snaps of our kids with bedhead? I’m not sure, but those are the pictures that would give me joy. Those snapshots of real life would encourage me that I’m not alone and help me to accept me for me.

I have always said that we could all look like movie stars if we had stylists and makeup artists and I used to wonder how fabulous I would look if I had the help of a pro. A few years ago I found out. A local makeup artist was looking for people who would have their makeup done for her look book. I jumped at the opportunity. This was my moment, I was going to look like a star! In preparation, I planned a whole night around it. I would get my makeup done, and then do dinner with friends, it would be perfect!

That day I sat in her chair as she did me up. I had full foundation, false eyelashes, the works. At the end of the session, I was eager to see the finished product, but as she turned the mirror towards me, I wasn’t so sure of what I saw. Sure, I looked beautiful. My face was flawless and my eyes popped, but I wasn’t so sure I liked it. That night at dinner, instead of feeling confident I felt insecure, like I was wearing a mask or pretending to be someone else. See all the makeup and pro techniques made me look gorgeous, but I didn’t look like me, in fact I looked like a completely different person.

Somedays I feel plain and unattractive. I’m simple, often makeup free, and I have hair that tends to go frizzy and makes me look like Miss Frizzle from The Magic School Bus, yet when I think of how I looked and felt that day, I’d take simple me any day. 

The Bible says in Psalm 139:14, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” If that’s true, why do we spend so much time picking ourselves apart? Why do we as women try so hard to look like everyone else? When will we accept ourselves just as God made us?

All of this leads me to a thought I had the other day, what if we normalized reality? What would life be like, if we could be ourselves, if we didn’t feel the need to change so much to be accepted. In last weeks blog, I wrote that I was hidden, but I think part of being seen is choosing to live in reality. Choosing to live out who we truly are, instead of trying to be someone else. I’m not saying we should all boycott our beauty routines or do an Insta story exposing our dish laden kitchens, I just think we have to shift our culture to one that allows us to be who we are.

Are you a bit of a hot mess in life right now? Great! Me too! Welcome to the club! We’re not living in a magazine, so our lives don’t need to look like one.

So here’s the challenge, I dare you to be you! No more playing pretend. Be a breath of fresh air at the bus stop, work, and on Instagram. Kiss the “Joneses” goodbye once and for all! Accept yourself just as God made you, and give yourself grace for all the messy parts of life. Our culture likes polish and shine, but for most of us that’s rare, not our everyday and I for one not only want to live in reality, I want to see it!