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?

Rose Coloured Glasses

The other day as the kids were winding down before bed, one of them (who shall remain nameless) got angry and started melting down. I did everything I could to try and diffuse the situation, but in the end I had no choice but to put them to bed early. When we got upstairs they were distraught and still cranky, which any parent knows, does not make for an easy bedtime.

I laid down next to them and started to calm them down. After they settled I began to share all of the words that described them. Not the words that described them in that moment, but all the words that declared who they are, and who they are becoming. “You are kind, funny, smart”, I whispered. “You are compassionate, patient …”. As I continued to speak these words, God reminded me that this is what He does with us. When we are feeling the weight of our actions and emotions, when we are feeling frustrated, ashamed, and unworthy He says, “Sarah, she’s my kid. She’s amazing! She’s so sweet, and selfless. She is patient and wise.”

Even on my darkest days, my God, my Father whispers these words over me. He sees every part of me, and yet He defines me by my good parts. Some days He speaks words over me that don’t even describe me yet, but He knows that deep down they are there, so He tells me who I am. He sees me like a proud parent with rose coloured glasses. A parent who loves unconditionally and sees so much hope for a bright future. We all know that parent, the one whose endlessly bragging about their kid, even when it doesn’t make sense. That’s Him! He’s our number one fan, our advocate.

Parenting has been my most challenging adventure yet, but it has also been such a blessing. Over the years as a young mom, God has taught me so much about His character, grace and His unconditional love. I’m so grateful for these moments when He reveals Himself to me and I pray that each day I can hear His words over me. I hope that I can hear the voice of my proud Father louder than my own insecurity and shame and grow into who He tells me I am. I’m pretty certain that if you’ll listen, you’ll hear His words for you too.

Inadequacy in the Box

Inadequate. A word that has hung heavily over my head for most of my life. A word that has kept me away from my potential. See my whole life I have felt inadequate for just about everything. Afraid of trying, because trying risks failure. Every job I consider, every new venture, parenthood, serving, and leading at church… inadequate. 

This very blog, almost didn’t happen because, as you can guess, I felt inadequate. In fact I’ve mulled over all the reasons not too. What if it’s all to depressing? What if I run out of things to say? What if no one wants to listen? What if I let them see the real me, and it’s all just too much? Risk is scary, and so I often compromise my dreams and settle for comfort.

In comfort, I wonder how much I’ve missed out on. Sometimes I even stop dreaming, because the dreams are to big for a person like me. Inadequate. Unqualified. Afraid. These feelings and fears are so real to me, constantly in the back of my head. The little voice that says, “Don’t do it, you’ll just fail, why bother.” Those words echo through my mind, but if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that those words are from the enemy, and the enemy is a liar!

God has a plan for me. He has a plan for each of us, but the enemy wants to keep us in a box. On the outside this box looks like a box of comfort and safety, but it’s deceiving, because the box is a cage––the box is fear. When I wallow in my fear, God likes to remind me of my favourite passage in the Bible. In Jeremiah 1:5,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, 
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Jeremiah knew exactly what I feel. He too felt inadequate and unqualified, but he trusted in God despite his fears of falling short, and God used him. God has called me, and you, to so much more than our boxes. He has called us to a full life of serving him– to a purpose and a plan. He has big things in store for all of us, and because of Him we are qualified. He gives us the words to say and the courage to speak, but only when we lean on Him. 

I find that sometimes when I believe the lies of the enemy, I keep God at bay, because I know He’s calling me to more, challenging me to obey Him and see what happens, but I just can’t bring myself to listen. I put my faith in my fear, instead of God.

Today, I’m taking a step out of my box with this blog. I am choosing to let God use me and speak through me. Trusting that he will give me the words. Here I will share with boldness, and trust that God will use my pain and struggles, joys and triumphs for His glory. It’s scary and daunting, but I know that God has strengthened me, and I’m excited. If you understand what it feels like to feel inadequate, I hope you’ll join me on this journey in trusting God, as we step out of the box.