There’s More to Love than the Fall

I got married young, like really young, and because of this I had a lot of opinions come my way when I was engaged. People would say, “You’re too young … it won’t work … you’ll change too much!” The thing was, I didn’t really agree with the way they viewed marriage. I still don’t.

Really at the root of it, I don’t agree with the way the world views love.

Love is and has always been a hot button word. People are obsessed with the idea. They search for the euphoria that is “falling in love”. I think the problem when it comes to love is that it is viewed simply as an emotion. Love is an emotion, but it’s so much more than that, it’s also a choice. It’s a decision to love them when they have swept you off your feet, AND when they disappoint you, or drive you crazy. That’s why I can’t buy in to the traditional view of love. Falling in love is amazing, but there is so much more to love than “the fall”.

See my friends were right about one thing. I would change, I have changed, so has my husband Joshua. Some of our changes have been great, but others have been pretty difficult to navigate.

We have both matured and that’s great, but I’m pretty sure the old pre-kids me was more fun than the mom of four I am today. Not only that, but our lives have changed. We’re busier and we have far more responsibilities than when we first met. Four kids, church, multiple jobs, studying for courses, and the never ending housework. It takes a lot to keep us connected these days. It’s hard!

I feel like marriage has its seasons. In some seasons of life I have felt so in love (emotionally) with my husband. I have felt so impressed and amazed with him that I was giddy. Times like this love feels easy. Everything he does is cute, and I can’t help but be thankful for how blessed I am. Other seasons haven’t been so rosy. When life has gotten the best of us, and all the stress and disappointments of life have stolen our joy, I have chosen to love him through anger, frustration, and pain. Sometimes I can go through this cycle of emotions in twenty four hours. Swooning, infuriated, giddy, hurt, but I choose to love him anyway, no matter what emotion I’m feeling or how much he changes.

See Josh and I HAVE changed, and we WILL continue to change until our dying day, but we are choosing to love each other and show love in the good seasons and bad, for better or worse. We are choosing to be vulnerable with each other and trust each other with our love.

That’s the other thing about love, it’s risky because it can’t be controlled. You can’t force someone to choose to love you, and thats scary, but there is beauty in the surrender required. When you trust someone with your love and invest it, you have the chance to build a relationship that is powerful and strong.

Marriage isn’t about avoiding change, or staying on an emotional high. It’s about navigating all of the changes and the highs and lows together. After all, if I waited until we would no longer change, that day would never come.

The other problem with that mentality is that change is bad. Many changes are positive, and even the negative ones encourage growth. Some of our toughest changes have pushed us out of complacency. In those seasons we have had no choice but to confront our issues head on and put in the work, and guess what, we’re better for it!

What my friends couldn’t understand about marriage and love, is that it’s about more than today. Real love holds weight, because it’s bigger than our circumstances, moods, and mistakes.

Is it risky? Sure!

Is it hard? You bet!

But the reward is a relationship that holds up through the storms of life and a best friend to stand by your side through it all. Marriage is tough, thats true, and sure it’s unpredictable, but it’s a beautiful place to build a relationship that is safe and lasts a lifetime.

Over the years we have changed a lot, and that hasn’t always been easy, but this crazy life of ours has been beautiful, and I’m so glad I took my chances and chose to love.

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?

Overated Adulting

As a child I was so eager to grow up. Adults had it made in my eyes. They could watch MTV, eat a whole pack of raw cookie dough, stay up late, and buy whatever they wanted. It was obviously totally awesome. Or so I thought, but here I am “adulting” as they say, and it’s tough. If I had to choose one word to describe life as an adult, it would probably be overwhelming. Now I realize that sounds pretty intense, and its not all bad, I can eat a whole pack of cookie dough without getting in trouble with my mom, but I tried it once, and I didn’t feel so good. Seriously though, life can be overwhelming. There’s always something, to stress over.

Four kids, one husband, two jobs, volunteer work at church, bills, dishes, and oh so much laundry, always with the laundry *sigh*. Somedays its all a little much, and when it’s all a little much, I usually do one of two things. One, I panic and two, I procrastinate. It’s a skill really. I can procrastinate like the best, and my panic and worry fuels it, because I put off doing things so I can worry about not getting it all done instead. Crazy, I know! In the midst of all the craziness I seem to forget about God. I don’t forget that He’s here, just that He’s at work in my life. I try and take control of my chaotic life, instead of handing it to God. 

One example of this is with money. Recently we have been following the Dave Ramsey (aka money guru) method. This means budgeting, saving for everything, and side hustles (thus my second job). Its been great for us, and I’m so proud of the hard work we have been doing. We have been working hard and its been paying off, but instead of celebrating this victory and thanking God for how He has provided, I’ve spent countless hours panicking over how we will pay for the next thing. Dental bills, clothes, Christmas, next summers expenses even. This fear is so irrational. Josh and I have had seasons of our life where we have had loaves and fishes type moments, and way more money has been in our bank account than should have been. Right now though, life feels overwhelming. My to do list seems huge, our bills seem too high, our schedule is insane, and I’m exhausted. 

Life is hard, but I’m grateful that as I sat here panicking God reminded me that He is here, and He’s got it covered. It says in Matthew 6:25-27, 

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

My constant panic and planning doesn’t achieve anything, in fact it cripples me and slows me down. In verse 31 to 34 it goes on to say, 

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Isn’t that the truth! Each day has its own struggles to deal with, and yet here I am worrying about next year! God has always provided for me, He has done miraculous things in my life, and yet I seem to forget so quickly, so as I was sitting and spiralling in my thoughts God reminded me of what I needed to do with one simple word, SURRENDER. It’s a tough one for me. I’m not a productive control freak, but I am a control freak. I so desperately want to have all my ducks in a row, I want to know that everything is going to be ok. As an adult there are many things to worry about, so much pressure, but thankfully  I am not on my own. When I seek after God, when I trust Him, He will provide. Not just money (I’m not preaching the prosperity gospel here), but strength, encouragement, guidance, wisdom,  and energy for the daily grind. God is faithful, and He loves me, and I’m learning to surrender control to Him. It’s scary at times I’ll admit. Surrender takes trust, even when life seems to be a out of control, but I know I can’t do this adulting thing on my own, and I’m glad that today I was reminded I don’t have to. Now, if you have any ideas for my laundry, I’m taking suggestions, cause were drowning in it over here.

Grace in Progress

This past week I was preparing to run kids church, and I was mulling over ideas for Thanksgiving when an illustration came to mind. Picture life as a pair of glasses. Glasses that are shiny and new, but eventually get dirty and scratched. Before you know it, it’s hard to see. That’s what life is like. Life gets tough, and sometimes bitterness becomes our lens, but when we choose to be thankful to God through the pain, our vision becomes clearer, and we begin to see. Our perspective becomes positive because we choose to focus on the good.

As I was going to bed I was thinking about my lens. With some people, my glasses are filthy. I’ve been hurt, and I find it hard to forgive. I would say I’ve tried, but the truth is I really haven’t. If I had, I wouldn’t filter through my pain. If I had, I wouldn’t choose bitterness instead of hope and joy. As I rested my head on my pillow, God said, “That’s you.” I’m Sarah with the dirty glasses. Sarah who refuses to be thankful and see the good, because bitterness and anger is familiar. The scratches and the dirt on my glasses are easy to see through. Or so it seems.

God wants me – He wants us, to let go. To choose to be thankful in the little things and have hope. He wants us to give over our dirty lenses and let God wipe them clean. It’s not easy, that dirt feels safe to me, a cautionary tale to keep certain people at bay. “They haven’t changed”, I say, “They never will.” I convince myself that my filter is necessary, that it protects me, but if I believe in a God who loves me despite my dirt and sees the best in me in my worst of times, I must be willing to let God clear my vision for others. I must surrender my pain in return for joy, and I think He’s trying to tell me that as I do, I’ll have so much more to be thankful for.

I can’t do this in my own strength, grace doesn’t always feel natural to me, but as I surrender myself to God, He will show me how to love unconditionally. His grace will help me see the good in people and have compassion for them on their darkest days. Through Him I can overcome my pain and choose to love. That means the people who have hurt me and haven’t even noticed. It means extending grace to those who haven’t apologized or don’t feel the need to.

As comfortable as I have become in my bitterness, I want to surrender my pain to Christ. I don’t like who I am when I filter through my pain. I am cold and distant. I am closed off to progress and growth, because I am stuck clinging to the dirt in the past. What a horrible way to live. I know that God has called me to more, and if you can relate He wants so much more for you too. A life of unconditional love and hope for change. A new lens and a joyful outlook on life. I know it will take time for me, but as the Bible says in Luke, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, so I’ve got some work to do. I’m so glad that I serve a God who calls me to a higher standard, not just for the sake of it, but because it’s whats best for me. He knows my bitterness is like a weed that comes in and chokes out love and peace, and He loves me enough to call me out of that. So, here I am surrendering myself, and asking for a new lens, strength to see past my pain, and grace to extend when it hurts.

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.