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

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!

Just as I Am

I am Hidden.

When I was in grade eight, I had a tough year in school, I was bullied, I was rejected, I was alone.

The next year someone I loved and trusted said to me, “I can kinda understand, you were pretty annoying that year”. I am scarred by those words. I have never forgotten.

Since then those words have served as a warning for me. They’ve propelled an inner lie, “Keep people at bay Sarah. They can’t handle too much of you. They’ll get tired and turn their backs on you eventually. It’s best not to get too close”.

Connection was risky. Distance was safe. The result though was loneliness.

I say “was” as if it’s a struggle from my past, but in truth it’s still very real to this day. I don’t trust people. I don’t trust them to love me as I am, and I don’t trust them to stay the course as I let them see me in my good and bad. The odd thing is that I think my best parts have also been the parts I worry about the most. See I’m bubbly and a fast talker, not only that, but I like to talk, like a LOT. People don’t always like someone whose chatty and bubbly at 7 am, especially when its natural and not a result of coffee.

It’s my default to quickly assume I’m too much for people, and I’m sure there are times when I am. Though sometimes I can’t help but wonder how much of the distance I feel with people is created by me. Maybe it’s not them rejecting me, but me hiding behind my walls. Me trying to protect myself from being hurt.

My husband sometimes says, “Don’t say no for people”. Now he’s never really applied it to this context, but as I mull over this connection issue of mine, I can’t help but think it fits perfectly. DON’T SAY NO FOR PEOPLE! Don’t say no for people when you meet them and don’t say no when you wonder whether or not to let them in. Risk discomfort and rejection in favour of genuine and quality friendships.

This blog is a step in the right direction for me. I am sharing my heart on these pages, and yet, it’s still from a distance. I can still see the struggle for me in my daily life. Friends that have stood the test of time, and yet barely know me. Cryptic conversations where I am longing to share my heart, but holding back so much because I just can’t bring myself to say the words.

Will they accept me? Will they love me? The real me, whoever that is, just as I am?

I know the one who loves me. His name is Jesus. He sees all of me. He understands me, better than I understand myself. He has held me in my darkest moments. When I struggle, He gently whispers to me and calls me to more. This is one of those moments.

The other day I was lounging in my jammies past noon daydreaming about this blog. I was lost in thought dreaming about what it might look like down the line. Maybe I’d find community with my readers and other bloggers like me, and who knows, maybe I’d get to go to a big fancy writing conference one day. My excitement was quickly overtaken with insecurity. I couldn’t get it out of my head that I don’t belong. See I am not polished like all those Instagram ready moms and bloggers. I can’t curl my hair into those beachy waves or apply anything but mascara, and I’m more a hot mess than the DIY mom. More than that though, I’m afraid to let people in.

Right now at this very moment I am very aware of just how hidden I am, and how much of a struggle that is for me. In fact my life is a tug and pull of wanting to be truly known and wanting to flee from any real connection.

I’m afraid of letting myself be known just as I am, but I cannot live this way anymore. I’m tired of being lonely and afraid, so I am choosing to drop my walls and connect. Not just on these pages, but in life.

True connection doesn’t happen over night. It takes time and investment, but I’ve got to accept myself first. Learn to love me just as I am, just as God made me, and live in that. Then maybe I’ll start with something simple like coffee with a friend and real, honest conversation. It won’t be easy, I might get hurt, but it’s a risk I’m taking.

Will you?