9/9/19

Becoming What You Behold





Are you still finding time to write? 

I've been asked this question multiple times in recent months. I guess if quick Instagram captions count, then yes, I am still writing. But I don't think they really count--not when I've hoped and dreamed that one day I'd be able to build a career by stringing words together. Not when I thought maybe blogging regularly would lead to a book contract or some freelance work.   

... 

One Sunday morning a few months before my 26th birthday, I was out walking. It was the first time that week that all was quiet, and without distractions of laundry and dishes and unfinished work, without the demands of my kids, I was finally able to think. I got a bit reflective, likely because of my upcoming birthday, the turn of a new year.

I was mentally organizing my life, which is rather like sorting through a jumbled sock drawer--missing pairs, holes in the heels, material stretched past the breaking point, and the ones reached for again and again because they fit well. In all of that sorting, I was deciding what I really liked in life, the things that seem to fill my soul, and what I should maybe put an end to, even if only for a season. It was in that, that I began to cast vision for my blog again, working a plan in my head for content and structure, figuring out how I could prioritize it. 

And while I was pregnant in the figurative sense, growing and nurturing new ideas for this blog that I loved so much, what I didn't yet know was that I was also physically pregnant, my body growing and stretching to nurture new life.

Perhaps needless to say, that physical pregnancy made me hit pause on any writing dreams. My third pregnancy was hard. It left my body aching and drained, my mind a complete lack of creative mush. And once the pregnancy was over, I discovered my third newborn was also hard. Colicky and often inconsolable, it took all that I had to keep him comfortable, to get him to sleep. 

At some point during all of this, I was talking to a friend who also asked the question, are you still finding time to write? When I told her that those days where I use to regularly make time to write seemed like vague memory, she said something that stuck with me. She said perhaps what I was currently living out what I would later write. That this season, where it seemed like nothing was accomplished because I was being stretched thin by the demands of my family, the routine mundane that I felt I couldn't escape, was perhaps going to be the seed in which a career would grow, that maybe my call right now was to simply be faithful. 

I've drawn myself back to her words again and again. Because my dreams are still there, but they seem impossible.

Simply be faithful.

We are beyond the tireless evenings of constant crying, thank you Jesus! And right before my eyes, my baby is becoming a toddler. But I still feel like I am in the weeds, trying to find a path as we delve into the unexpected world of homeschooling, figuring out what that will look like for our family. Consequently writing is still very much on hold.

Simply be faithful.


...

This summer I had the privilege to be part of another book launch for Ruth Chou Simons, the author my one of my favorites, Gracelaced. I've been working my way through her new book Beholding and Becoming: the art of everyday worship for the second time.  Her words are filled with both truth and grace and she always points back to God's faithfulness in every situation. This week I was listening to a podcast interview and was struck by Ruth's story, which was very similar to what my friend said is perhaps happening in my life. Ruth kept reiterating be faithful, in the mundane, in the ordinary -- you become what you behold, so set your sights on worshiping Christ in the everyday, and that will impact the trajectory of your life. If you haven't already discovered her work, I highly, highly recommend you check out her new book. It is worth buying a copy all your own!

And if like me, you've got dreams that feel darn near impossible that times, perhaps you too need to simply plant a seed and faithfully tend the soil. To quote lines from both of those book I mentioned, You Don't Have to be Blooming to be Growing, and You Become What you Behold.

Don't lose hope.

xo,
Sarah

8/6/19

This One is for Lincoln



There is a little boy, close in age to my Carson, whose story tugs at my heart. He was diagnosed with brain cancer the same month my childhood friends lost their mom to it. I have been following his journey with more empathy and compassion than I would have, had the pain and heartache caused by cancer not been so fresh on my mind.

He is a fighter; he needs a miracle.

About a week and a half ago his family received hard news, things aren't looking so good.

Their focus now: to make him as comfortable as possible and make as many memories with him as possible, while still praying, pleading, for a miracle. (Follow his story here.)

My heartaches, I cannot fathom what his parents, Kaitlyn and Matt, are going through.

This month I decided to donate the commissions I make through my Beautycounter business to the Schrock family to use wherever and however they need it. It only seemed fitting, as Lincoln--though he didn't realize it--played a part in my decision to switch to safer products when it came to skincare and beauty and cleaning and laundry for my own family. It was his story, in part, that led me to join Beautycounter.

If you have been considering placing an order, could this be your month? If you've ordered in the past and want to eventually replenish your supply, could this be your month?

Every little bit counts -- six days into the month and I have been completely astounded at the orders rolling it. Let's keep that momentum going!

To make the deal even sweeter, Beautycounter's Friend's + Family event is happening now, August 6 -12. Purchase now to receive 15% off your entire order! (Some exclusions apply.) If you need suggestions on where to begin, I would love to help you out.

Perhaps Beautycounter isn't your thing? You can still get involved by donating to their GoFundMe page.

Thank you for helping me raise money to send to this dear family. I truly am grateful.

This one is for you, Lincoln. <3

5/31/19

A May Post in Nearly June






Less than two hours away from failing my New Years goal, I am.

One blog post a month. How is it so dang hard?

Where did May go? I know I sound old, but time really does fly. It was a full month, but I think I say that about every month. Weather in New York is FINALLY feeling like summer. Mother's everywhere are rejoicing. Warmer weather is a miracle worker; at last bored kids needn't pick on their sisters and can instead be outside picking on their dogs.

I planted garden this week. I don't love it, growing vegetable to can or freeze, there are so many other things I'd rather do. I recently listened to a podcast though that has me rethinking my stance. I've been intrigued with learning about the microbiome and gut health, and apparently the bacteria in our soil plays a huge role in that.

Along that note, I've been learning and sharing about safer beauty over on this Instagram page. It's crazy to me that while the European Union has over 1,400 chemicals they've banned from personal skincare and beauty products, and Canada has over 600, the USA only banned 30. There are ingredients in the products we use daily that disrupt hormones, are linked to cancer, are allergens, and known toxins, yet because of faulty regulations that haven't really been updated since the 1930's, the FDA has little say in what is allowed to be marketed to the public as "safe". I would love to see that changed, which is one of the reasons I use and promote Beautycounter.

(I am planning to some day post about my favorite cleaner, safer products. But if you'd like a good list now, In Honor of Design has an excellent list.)

This month, over on my Beautycounter Instagram page I hosted a movement challenge to encourage women to get out and exercise more. My personal goal was to do an intense workout four times per week, and get five runs in. Alone. Without kids.
I almost accomplished that goal. I have less than one hour and a half to get that final run done. But who runs at midnight? The achiever in me wants to hop on the treadmill and do it, but the weary mom in me says that maybe accomplishing the blog post is enough. You can't win them all.

I asked my friend Shelby, who is a personal trainer at a local gym, to put together a four week workout plan for me to do through the month of May. My goal was strength training and muscle building. Holy cow, was it good. I was able to do the workouts at home, and they were customized to the weights and equipment I have (which isn't much). I don't know if I lost or gained pounds; I don't own a scale and probably never will, but I am pretty sure I lost some inches. I didn't measure myself before starting, but my shorts and jeans are all fitting looser, and the baby pooch that I was about to chalk up as something that was here to stay, said good-bye. I am planning to keep on going with that workout plan, even though it causes me to drip in so much sweat I could be watering house plants with it. If you'd like to learn more about the workout plans she offers, connect with Shelby here. It's worth it!

I didn't run today, nor did I workout. I tried, but a needy child woke shortly after I did, and I decided maybe she needed snuggles more than I needed to cross off goals. But I gave my house a good cleaning, like washing finger prints from walls sort of cleaning. (Please don't look too closely, they've reappeared again. Thanks offspring!) And I met a friend and together we went for a walk. That should count for something, right?

Then night we went to a local brewery for pizza and live music. Hello summertime. I love you.

Okay... This feels like a half-hearted attempt at keeping a goal alive, but I am going to call it good enough. I'm exhausted and midnight is coming.

Goodnight May.

4/11/19

What Should I Write About, Post No. 1

I reached out on Instagram last week, asking for blog post ideas. I've been out of this writing space for so long, and felt like I needed a few prompts to help get me started again. The response was amazing, I got multiple suggestions that make me really excited to work my way through the list.


Today, the first post in a series of posts I am going to title, What Should I Write About, is all about finding contentment in the house that you have











When this suggestion came in, I knew I wanted to tackle it. Not because I have this all figured out, but because lately I've been struggling to find contentment in my house... how timely.

For those you might not know, my husband bought the house we live in before we met. He was from Pennsylvania, and while the house he bought is in the same area of New York that I grew up in, I was living in Jamaica at the time. 

As the story goes, the weekend he had closing on the house was the same weekend I moved back to the States. We had a lot of mutual friends, including a couple whose wedding we were both invited to. Herm came to New York that weekend not only to close on this house, but also attend their wedding. We ended up sitting across from each other during the reception, and even though I was only nineteen and had sworn off trying a relationship again until I was at least twenty-five, I left that night with a knowing that he was going to be my husband. Sure enough, thirteen months later we were married.

Back to the house that he had bought -- It was a complete dump. The family who lived here before had not cared for things well. The entire place wreaked of smoked, and it was easy to see how they had their living room furniture set up due to cigarette burns in the carpet, a convenient ashtray when lounging on a recliner. No one had lived in the house for months, but they generously left meat in the fridge, which was set at a temperature warm enough to allow slow fermentation. Can you imagine the smell?

Thankfully Herm had a lot of help from his family, and before we really got to know each other well, the house had be thoroughly cleaned and everything painted. 

It was still very much a 'man-cave' before we got married. After our wedding, I began making it more homey. I repainted a lot of those house to colors that were more neutral, and together we worked on projects like remodeling the bathroom, painting the kitchen cabinets and counters, eventually, replacing the awful carpet with wood floors, updating hand-me-down furniture with fun Craigslist finds, and building the deck of Herm's dreams (in this case, the cobbler's family actually owns shoes).

Our house is cozy and welcoming. But sometimes I have a hard time remembering that.

It is small, and our family keeps growing. The cabinets and walls that looked so fine four years ago with their temporary improvements of paint and creative love have aged, a patina of finger prints and knicks and wear. It is easy to look around and see the imperfections, to look around and compare what I have with what everyone on Instagram has, it is easy to before I know it find myself discontent.

I don't have answers on how to always be content. That is not what this post is. But, I do have a few things I personally do to find contentment when I struggle with feeling lack in my home.

1. Look through old photos to see what our home looked like, and what it has evolved into.

It happened, a slow morphing process of time and creativity and resources, gradually forming into what it is now. In all honesty, I am so grateful we weren't able to do everything all at once before getting married. My personal style has morphed and changed with time. Looking through old photos I can see the love that was put into each and every step of the way. Our house isn't complete, and as long as we are living here, I don't think it ever will be. Isn't that beautiful?

(Want to see pictures from the early days? Click here.)

2. Learn to see beauty in imperfections.

Myquillyn Smith, from the blog The Nester, and author of the books, The Nesting Place and Cozy Minimalist Home, has a quote I love: It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful. Finger prints, dinged drywall, paint chipping away from my counter top... it doesn't have to be perfect. It still is beautiful.

3. Allow change to happen.

I don't think contentment means that you can never improve on things. I always have a running list of things I'd like to change, implement or improve. I love putting thought and creativity into making our house not only functional, but also beautiful. However, it is important to be grateful for the process and to work within your means. Allow change to happen, but remember, it often happens slowly, and that's okay.

4. Be grateful.

When I am not feeling contentment, it is often because I don't feel gratitude for what I do have, or because I feel entitled to more. It helps me to make a list of the things I am grateful for when I feel discontentment creep in. 

5. Shop My Home First

And finally, when I feel discontentment creep in and linger around, I like to shop my own home first, before heading to the store. Often, freshening things up and rearranging a bit can make a space feel new and exciting without feeding the discontentment bug new things. And, if I am going to spend a little on something new, fresh-cut flowers, even though they wilt and fade, are a wonderful option for adding cheer.


Now it's your turn: Tell me how you work at feeling contentment in the house that you have.


4/9/19

The Friends + Family Event

There is some exciting stuff happening with Beautycounter this week, so if that interests you, keep reading!

Their rare Friends + Family event is going on April 9 - April 15, with almost everything marked at 15% off (some things, link product bundles, are excluded). I've heard that this event has only happened three times in six years.

In addition to their sale, I am hosting my launch social, and anyone who orders through the link I am going to share will be entered in to a drawing for some free Beautycounter product credit!

Are you curious? Shop this link, or reach out to me and I'd be glad to help you get started.

Have a wonderful day!



3/29/19

In the Nick of Time





 


A New Years goal: Write one blog post per month.

Easy-peasy.

Yet, three months in, and I've nearly failed. That's about right, right? I think statistics say most people begin to fizzle out, completely abandoning their goals altogether by the end of March. 

I've tried multiple times--late at night, during nap time, immediately after breakfast and before the first hangry call for a snack twenty-three minutes later--but thoughts are jumbled and words don't flow.

A want-to-be writer. An amateur, that's what I am. 

So, instead of getting a well-thought through post, which is what I really was hoping would happen with these monthly posts, I'm delivering a hodge-podge of thoughts and happenings, simply because I want to keep this goal of mine alive. 


CURRENTLY


I am reading: Where the Crawdads Sing and The Kitchen House.


My friend Kayla is the world's best resource for good fiction. Whenever I need something new to read but am not sure where to begin, she is the person I'll turn to. I borrowed both of these books from her, and in less than two weeks I had read them through. 

I use to think fiction was a waste of time. How naive and narrow that view. I still read a ton of memoirs, of self-help and motivational, of business books. But when I want to spark creativity, it's to fiction that I turn. I don't think I would be able to pick a favorite, I loved them both for different reasons. I loved the writing style of Where the Crawdads Sing, and The Kitchen House, it's one of those books that nearly moved me to tears.

Also, not a book but a blog I enjoy: Life in the Shoe

Her most recent post, Writing People Off, made me chuckle. I am guilty of this too. In my home-school days it was Bill Gothard. He lost me when, in one of his recorded seminars I had to sit through, he said that certain rhythms of music are inherently evil, that all rock music, even if it was Christian worship music, carries demonic messages.

It happened again a few years later, when I was told by a male peer that because I was a Mennonite girl wearing a head-covering I should NEVER work at a restaurant that serves alcohol, as it would go against what people would assume my stance on drinking is, but that he, because there was no outward indication of his faith or church denomination, certainly would be free to do so.

Dorcas, author behind that blog is witty and honest. I like that. 


I am loving: Flawless in Five

This is a customizable makeup set from Beautycounter, a company whose mission is to create high-preforming, safer alternatives to makeup and skincare products. I've been using their products for almost nine months, slowly adding to my collection, a piece here, a piece there.

The beginning of March I decided to join the company as a consultant. My goal is to switch out all of our household and skincare products to things that are low or non toxic. Beautycounter has been the perfect place to start.

I created an Instagram account, SarahEshWellness, to share more about Beautycounter and other safer brands that I've been using and loving. Follow along if you'd like!

I am dreaming: Of warmer weather.

Winter never bugged me. Not until I became a stay-at-home mom. Now though, every February, I start to feel it, those mid-winter blues. It is then that I feel like I need a drastic life change; a new haircut; a home-makeover; and begin contemplating tattoo designs. (I kid. Sort of.)

Nothing too drastic happened this February. And now we are nearly through March. It's just around the corner, this warmer weather... I keep reminding myself of this. 


I am thinking about: Ricotta cheese on toast.

It takes toast, whether sweet or savory, up a notch or two. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and I am not beneath eating it any time of day. This toast, it makes waking up worth it. (Said by an early bird who LOVES waking up. Take it for what it is worth.)

I am listening to: Relatable with Allie Stuckey

I've never been that interested in politics, with its scandals and lies and deceit and slander. But after New York recently changed its laws on abortion, and is so dramatic about vaccinations, I've begun to pay more attention. This podcast is, well, Relatable. :)


I am watching: Nothing lately.

In theory, I wish I would be watching something. But I have the hardest time sitting through anything. B-O-R-I-N-G, I know.


And it's a wrap: The month of March now has a blog post all it's own. See ya sometime in April!
 


2/22/19

On Growing Faith






Hey, would you mind calling my phone? I can't find it. 

Herm had just returned from running a few errands in town and visiting a job site, Carson and Brooklyn in tow. I find his number in my favorites list--the only one listed there, because he is essentially the only one I call--and hit dial. The phone rings once, promptly going to voicemail.

Either the phone is turned off, or someone has found it and would like to keep it off.

Losing a phone is an awful feeling. I lost mine once in Chicago, a few years back. I set it down on a park bench as I stooped to fix Carson's shoe. We walked nearly two miles before I discovered my mistake. Herm called my phone multiple times as we back-tracked the Magnificent Mile, praying we would find it, but knowing we surely wouldn't. In a city of nearly three million, what are the odds a brand new iPhone would still be nestled on the park bench? It was maybe the fourth or seventh or eleven call, I don't remember exactly, when someone answered. Hello?

You have my wife's phone, Herm told the stranger. 

I saw it on a park bench, and was going to just leave it there, but then I realized that someone will be looking for this phone. I couldn't access the contacts because of the lock, but I knew someone would call. I'm in town to see The Grateful Dead. 

The kind stranger gave us his location. After a few more miles of walking, as we neared the area, a grungy man and his girlfriend, both dressed in black, his tee shirt boasting their love of The Grateful Dead, came over. This has got to be yours, he said, pointing at the phone, its screen displayed a photo of Herm, Carson and I.

I tried to press a crisp $20 bill into his hand, it wasn't nearly enough to show my gratitude. He wouldn't take the cash. Pay it forward, he told me.

Two weeks later, I was driving to the mall when I noticed what looked like a phone, laying on the road. I couldn't keep going, pretending I didn't see. I pulled off to the side, and ran back to the intersection. Sure enough, the screen was locked and badly broken. But still, it worked! I tucked the phone into my pocket, knowing this was my chance to pay it forward. A few hours later, after I got the rich privilege of reading a very colorful, one-sided conversation, the owner of the phone called. I answered, and though I wanted to tell him that maybe it would be better not picking up the phone, with its mounting drama, we agreed that I would take it to the service desk of Target. He could pick it up there.

If I were to lose my phone, I am not sure how I would get through folding laundry and washing floors. Podcasts help lessen the repetitiveness of house-work. I would survive however, and life would go on. But for Herm, his phone is a tool he uses for work. Being without one isn't an option.

He made a few phone calls to the businesses he had been to, then went back to physically retrace his steps.

Meanwhile I gathered Carson and Brooklyn, explaining that we were going to pray that Herm would find his phone.

Mom, but will Jesus actually help? asked Carson, my inquisitive child. Lately he's been asking me a lot of questions on matters of faith. How a five year old make me feel so inadequate and uneducated, I don't know. But his questions often stump me.

Well, I stuttered for a reply, if He feels like it, I suppose....

Oh ye of little faith.

Was that the Spirit I heard whisper in my ear? Okay then, I retort back, I will change my answer under one condition: You don't turn me into a liar!

Yes Carson, Jesus will make sure that your dad finds his phone. I wanted to cross my fingers behind my back, like I did when I was seven and didn't want my conscious seared for telling a little white lie. But, like a grown-up with faith the size of a mustard seed, I left them uncrossed, hands in front of me.

An hour later Herm returned.

Did you find your phone? I ask.

He begins to tell me the story, of how he stopped at every business he had visited earlier. No one had seen it. He goes back to the job site, its not there. In a last ditch-effort, he begins to shovel snow around the spot where he had parked his truck to unload some supplies. He threw each shovel full of snow up into the air, figuring that if the phone had dropped into the snow, he would notice it flying through the air. (And break it, I want to smartly state. But silence is a virtue, right?)
He threw one last shovel-full of snow into the blue sky, and began to walk away when he realize that he had heard something had hit the ground. What was that sound? There, buried back in the snow after a joy-ride on a shovel, a glint of silver caught his eye. His phone, dead from the cold, and not broken from the jostling, was found.

You better tell you kids, I laugh. They prayed over this phone.

It built my faith, if not theirs. And now, every night since, Carson has something he needs prayer for: a scraped elbow, a runny nose, a broken toe-nail.

Raising kids is building my faith. Yes, I can confidently state, Jesus will answer our prayers.
No fingers crossed.