It's Not all Joy

I used to wonder what it would feel like, the death of a loved one. 
The only death that had tainted my world was of great-grandparents, the elderly, dying in the most natural way, old age. There is pain and sadness there too, but it seems natural and fitting. It is the way of things. I couldn't really relate to what others experience when tragedy strikes, catching them off guard. Preying on the young and innocent, the strong and able, snatching lives without warning.
Now I know, and I wish I didn't. 
The season of life that I'm in right now seems to revolve around life, especially new life. Friends are announcing their pregnancies, or counting down the days to their due dates. Newborns are welcomed into the world, dotted on by aunts and sort-of-aunts, and toddlers run wild. Hardly a week goes by where I'm not reminded that 'Carson needs a playmate' by well meaning friends or complete strangers.
This season is full of joy, surely. But it's not all joy.  
I've grieved the loss of life, too. With friends who's dreams of arms full of baby were crushed when the bleeding started, and friends who buried their newborn, never getting the chance to hear him coo or cry. I watched as dirt was thrown onto the coffin of my closest childhood friend, and now, today, tears streak my face again, salty, as I grieve the news that my cousin, Cheryl, and her precious newborn son, died during childbirth. 
What should be an occasion of celebration and joy, has now become a living nightmare for her husband and their little year-and-a-half-old toddler son.
Tonight, again, I know all too well what death feels like. It's suffocating and numbing and heart-wrenching. But there is grace-sufficient woven in, and I'm praying that grace will fill our midst.
I have so many unanswered questions, and to be truthful, I want to scream 'What the heck were You thinking?' But I know that in times like these I can't trust my heart - with the ups and downs and unsteady beat. So instead, I cling to what I know is True: 
That He is good. That He is merciful. That He is loving. That He is sovereign.
And I cling to the many sweet memories I have of our friendship. Her life was short, but it was full. And, for it, I'm so thankful.
I miss you, Cheryl.
I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul. Psalm 31:7


Don't Label Me

Don't Label Me | Sarahesh.com
During the long winter months I participated in a bible study with a group of ladies from my church. We used the Unglued DVD series by Lysa TerKeurst. The studies tag line defines it well: Unglued - Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotion.
The book on Amazon has 4.8 out of a possible 5 star rating. And rightfully so; it is so, so good. After each study I felt like I came home with new thoughts and ideas to process and work through.
To wrap up the study, we hosted a brunch and had a guest speaker come and share with us about how the same study, Unglued, has changed her life. She shared about the labels that a lot of us wear, of not being enough, or of being too much, the feelings of worthlessness, and the harsh judgement's we make against our bodies, personalities, et cetera. So often we begin to define ourselves by those labels instead of seeing ourselves how God sees us as loved, redeemed, and priceless. By God's grace those labels can be removed and we can walk in the freedom of being His and being known as His. But sometimes, even after the label has been taken away, a sticky residue still remains.
I can think of a few labels that I wore when I was younger, some of those I'm still trying to peel away, the biggest of those has to do with my weight.
My growth spurt came earlier than most, and by the time I was 11 or 12 I was at my current height. At the time, I was taller than my older brother, and a few pounds heavier too. During that season, it seemed like everyone I knew was commenting on it, either as an observation or joke, and those who I didn't know always guessed me as the older child. I tried hard to act like it didn't matter, but with every remark I heard, I was more and more determined. I would be smaller, no matter what.
I started to pour over fitness magazine, learning every tip and trick I could, and began taking my salad without oil or dressing. I never allowed myself to take seconds of anything, and I began running, even on those days when I biked 5 miles to work and back again.
I did lose a few pounds, yes. But I can honestly say that I felt no better about myself. It didn't matter how much I lost, it still seemed like I was always too much.
This stage of my life was fairly short-lived, thankfully. I still cared about how I looked, but eventually it turned into a desire to be strong and able, and not so much about the size of my waist or comparing myself to others.
My relationship with a scale, however, has never been mended. I refuse to own one, and have absolutely no desire to set foot on one. During my pregnancy, I did borrow my mom's so that I could keep my midwife updated at each visit, but as soon as Carson was born, it went right back to her.
Over the winter, I've been working out regularly and eating well. My stomach is flatter than it was before I became pregnant, and I felt good in a pair of skinny jeans.
Is that what possessed me to step on to a scale? Did I truthfully think that the number no longer mattered? Perhaps I was hoping for the satisfaction of it being lower, showing that all of my hard work had, indeed, paid off.
Whatever the reason, I foolishly weighed myself. And those numbers staring back at me, they weren't singing praises for all of my effort and discipline. They were screaming. Suddenly the flatness of my stomach and the way a pair of good jeans fit no longer matter. All I saw and all I heard was too much. My first instinct was to lessen the amount of food I consumed, increase the time I spend working out each day, and do everything in my power to get back to a three digit number I deem okay. It wore on me for hours afterward, and I still think about it, two weeks later.
But because I heard about the labels we give ourselves, the harsh judgement's, not enough's, and too much's, just hours before I stepped on the scale, I knew in my heart what I was facing - it was the sticky residue, the ugly bits that never came off, even after I thought I found freedom.
Obviously I'm not an over-comer yet, there are still bits and pieces that need to be removed of that label I wore for so long. Some day I hope to be at the place where I no longer feel the stickiness or see the mark residue left behind. But here is the thing - I know where to go when I am feeling the ugliness flood back, when the lies of being too much well within my being, I run to the One who made me, and loves me, not for who I could be, but for who I am.
I'm sharing this, as raw and awkward and vulnerable as it is, because I want you to know too, that you are beautiful as you are. And those labels that you are wearing--whatever they may be--they don't define you. You are so much more than that. If you ask, and truly believe, I think that God will reveal to you just how He sees you.
There could never be a more beautiful you!


Seneca7, Recap

Seneca7 Recap | sarahesh.com
The day was perfect - Temps reached up into the 60's and the sun shone down, warming our skin. A gentle breeze tousled our hair, but didn't add much resistance while we were running. I've run this race for the past three years, and this was most definitely the nicest day so far.
The start time for our team was a 9 am. The race begins in waves, with new teams starting every thirty minutes from 7 am - 9:30 am. Before hand, we had to give an estimated pace for our team, so that we could be assigned to a wave. As the morning progressed the waves got faster and faster.  
Each team includes seven members, and each member run three legs over the course of the day. The first runner will run legs 1, 8, and 15; the second will run legs 2, 9, and 16; and so forth. This year I was runner #7, so I ran legs 7, 14, and the final, 21, for a total of 10.9 miles. (My goal is to someday have finishers medals for all seven places. So far I have 1, 2, and now 7.)
Just before our wave was called to the start line, as a team we gathered together to pray. Years prior we ran for fun and for a bit of friendly competition with each other, trying to ran faster and faster with each leg, out-doing the person before us. While we did have fun this year and we gave it our best, the race wasn't so much about the competition as it was a race for Ev, and part of the healing process for us - all close friends or siblings of Ev. So as we huddled in a group, we remembered Ev, and we thanked God for his life, and we asked that our hearts would be touched throughout the day with reminders of faithfulness and goodness and mercy and strength.
 With the countdown at zero and the cowbells clanging, we were off! Runner 1 racing on foot, and the rest of us in the SUV on our way to the next checkpoint to meet him and switch runners. 
There is a slap bracelet we use throughout the day, and at each checkpoint the current runner passes it on to the next runner, who then takes off on foot, running the course, while the remaining team members crowd into the SUV and drive - cheering and screaming, as we pass our team member - to the next checkpoint, where we wait for our runner to come in and do the same thing all over again, just with different members.
The relay takes most of the day. But, surprisingly, it goes by so very fast. 
As the final runner (me, this year) comes in to the park, nearing the finish line, the rest of the team members join him/her and together we cross, sweaty and grinning large, because we've just conquered all 77.7 miles of Lake Seneca in a day.
We high-five each other, huddle for one good picture, and fill ourselves on the chili and cornbread and cookies and fruit juices all provided by local establishments, just for us. 
This year we came in 17th place out of 223 teams! It's such an honor to run year after year with these people, my childhood friends, but even more than that, it's such an honor to do life with them. We've been through a lot together, especially in the past 6.5 months. I am so thankful for all of my friends, but this year I have been especially thankful for the friends I grew up with - the ones who share a lot of the same memories of Ev. 
This team makes me so proud!


Tomorrow, for Ev

Tomorrow, For Ev | sarahesh.com
"Therefore, since we are surrounded with such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."  -Hebrews 12:1
For several months I've been training for this day--tomorrow.
Tomorrow I will lace up my sneakers, and I will set off, praying for strength and swiftness of feet. 
This isn't just another race. We are running for Ev.
Ev's race is over. He ran swift, and he ran well. To us, his friends and family, the race came to an end all too soon. We were left with an emptiness. We miss his presences, we miss the joy and laughter he brought to our lives. There isn't a day that goes by without us thinking about him, and wishing that circumstances would be different, that he would still be with us in person, not just in memories. He got the better end of the deal, certainly. He is well and whole, and because of that, we are thankful. But that doesn't dull the pain. 
Each day of training brought with it emotion. 
Some runs brought tears, others laughter. And I am learning that there is healing  in both--to allow yourself to cry when you feel like crying and to laugh when you feel like laughing.
Ev's life was full and beautiful. At twenty-one years of age, he experienced more life than what some people, who pass on of old age, find in their entire being. 
His legacy is strong in my memory, and tomorrow I want to seize the race, just as he seized this life--with passion and vigor. Enjoying it. Loving it. Embracing the moment.
Tomorrow as I run, he will be forefront in my mind. As will his family and friends, those of us left behind, rejoicing for his gain, and aching for his presence. If you would, join me in prayer--pray for strength and endurance for our team, that we could run well the race marked out for us. But even more than that, pray for Ev's family and friends, those of us longing for heaven. Those of us desiring, more than anything, that, like Ev, we would live this life fully, loving others, and serving God with all our might. His life and legacy pushes us all to be more, to walk in our calling.
Ev, I will be crossing the finish line tomorrow, ending the relay for our team. We are running for you, and each day we are closer to the day when we can join you. We will see you again... but not yet ... not yet. 
Yes, to some this is just another race, but to me it is so much more.


Maybe I am a Foodie

Maybe I am a Foodie | sarahesh.com
For several weeks I've been wanting to blog about this, but before I wrote a post, I had to make sure this wasn't some passing phase, because - I think I might be turning into a foodie. 
Yes, me, the girl who doesn't really enjoy cooking, and who dreads 5:30 pm, because so often at that time I still don't know what we are having for dinner.
It all began when Herm and I decided we wanted to start eating a bit healthier during race training. It wasn't that we ate poorly before, but there is certainly always room for improvement and we wanted to put effort into it to see if it would help with "free speed". (Being able to run faster without training a lot harder.)
I researched a few recommended diets for runners, and liked what I saw from the Paleo lifestyle. The ingredients were things I almost always have on hand. The changes weren't very drastic ... so I started trying recipes I found on Pinterest. Our favorite dishes were almost always from the blog, Against all Grain.
I had a gift card to Barnes & Noble, and for the first time in my life, I purchased a cookbook! Meals Made Simple, by, of course, Danielle, from Against all Grain.
What I didn't know until I had the book in hand is that it includes eight weeks worth of meal plans and a shopping list that covers all of the groceries you will need for each week, which makes dinner prep a breeze. Since the arrival of the book five weeks ago I haven't dreaded the 5 o'clock hour more than a time or two!
I thought it would be fun to cook my way through the book, sort of Julie and Julia style, for one of my 24 before 25 goals. However, at the rate I am going, that'll be accomplished before my twenty-forth birthday. There hasn't been a recipe we didn't care for so far. And the sweet potatoes... oh my goodness, we can't get enough of them. I've made them at least six times. Leftovers (if there are leftovers) are served with an egg or two for breakfast. I will share the recipe in another post soon, I promise.
This is a book that I would recommend highly - especially if, like me, you want to eat healthy, flavorful meals, but you don't want to spend hours per day preparing them.



Carson-isms | sarahesh.com
Children, in my opinion, are the best comedians out there. Their humor is honest and innocent, untainted by the crude jokes and innuendos that so strongly influence our culture.
There are a few bloggers I follow who regularly post about the funny things their children say or do. Some of the stories literally have me crying from laughter, they are so hilarious.  But even before blogs existed, my mom was documenting these moments to pass on to me and my siblings ... Like the time my dad scolded me for being naughty by using my full name. Without hesitation, I retorted, "My name is not Sarah LeAnn Weaver, Daddy LeAnn Weaver." And when I found out that I was going to be a big sister, that there was a baby in my mom's belly, I was quick to let everyone know there were cookies in mine.
I am so thankful my mom made an effort to record those moments, and I want to do the same for my children. While Carson isn't speaking yet, (at least not in a language I comprehend) he does come up with things that have Herm and I both laughing until our sides ache. He is a child full of mischief and humor, and I know that there will be many moments I will want to remember.
So, this starts a new blog series about the darndest things kids say, and for now, I'll call it "Carson-isms".

The other day I was working in the kitchen, preparing supper. Herm had just arrived home from work and Carson was trailing him through the house, copying his every move. As Herm walked through the kitchen, heading for the dining room table, he gave me a little 'love slap' on the butt. Without missing a beat, Carson reached up, slapped my butt, and continued on his way to the table too, just like daddy.
A few days later, we were enjoying a slow evening at home, and decided to watch a movie. Herm had gotten up from his usual spot on our reclining sofa to adjust a few settings or grab the remotes. Carson quickly scooted off of my lap and sat in Herm's spot, feet propped up, just like Herm's, but not even close to reaching the reclining footrest, snickering, because he knew his daddy would probably sit on him or at the least tickle him until he moved.
I am also realizing how often I must yell at Rambo, our dog. You see, he is almost 4 years old, but he still acts just like a puppy -- jumping up on me, chewing through shoes or toys left on the deck unattended, 'watering' my basil plant and other herbs, and digging in my flower beds. I've realized that the tone I use with him is harsh and raised, because now, whenever Carson is talking to Rambo, he, too, uses the same strong tone, yelling "Bambo!" even when Rambo is being mellow and well-behaved.
What stories of childish 'isms' do you have to share?  Comment below!


My Favorite Day (and a giveaway!)

My Favorite Day | sarahesh.com
One of my favorite memories from last summer happened on a gorgeous Monday morning in June.
The night before, my sisters-in-law, who were visiting for the weekend, told me that I was suppose to go out for a couple of hours the next morning and do whatever I pleased. While I was gone, they would babysit Carson and clean my house.
I was shocked and delighted, and wasn't even sure how to spend this rare free time - It had been six months since I truly had time to myself, where there was nothing else on the agenda.
While shopping certainly isn't something I consider a lot of fun, the thought of going into a dressing room without a little baby was appealing - and besides, my postpartum wardrobe needed some help. So I spent my free time in and out of dressing rooms until I couldn't stand it any longer (think minutes, not hours), then I grabbed coffee and a pastry at Starbucks with money that was sent along for me, found a table in the middle of the hubbub of college students studying and mid-morning runners refueling and old-timers reminiscing their teenage years, and started writing things of thankfulness in a blank new journal.
I came back, refreshed, to a clean house and folded laundry, and to a happy baby who was contentedly watching his Aunt Su wash our truck.
When I think back over the summer that lovely day always comes to mind.
I'm telling you this story to explain the giveaway. Today, April 6, marks one year since I started this blog. Today's post is also number 50! It might not seem remarkable to you, but considering my history with blogging, it is a big deal to me. To celebrate the occasion, I am giving away a few things that might help you have a day sort of like that Monday I had. While I can't necessarily come babysit your children, clean your house, fold your laundry, and wash your truck, I will give you a gift card for coffee and pastry or two, a journal for writing things of thankfulness, some Fair Trade dark chocolate that I just can't get enough of, and some nail polish to ready your toes for sandal season!
To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment below telling me how you would spend the morning if you had several hours of uninterrupted time alone. This giveaway will be opened for one week, and the winner will be announced on Tuesday, April 14.
My Favorite Day | sarahesh.com

We have our winner. Jenn Horning, your name was the one selected from the drawing! Congratulations! 
Thank you to everyone who participated - It's so fun to read all of your comments on how to spend free time, and it's pretty obvious that coffee is what fuels us. ;) 



Thankful | Sarahesh.com
I am on a quest to find one thousand things that I am thankful for, one thousand ordinary things that make this life so wonderful. You can read more about my journey to thankfulness here.
494. Clean sheets, fresh smelling and crisp
495. Friends who bring us a delicious meal and amazing fellowship for no reason in particular
496. A couple consecutive days of childish contentment
497. Running in the rain
498. Bullet-proof coffee
499. Finding joy in what I used to dread
500. Media-free Monday nights
501. "This soup is really good!" (Coming from a man who earlier had declared I ruined soup for him because I made it so often.)
502. My little Rembrandt wall-artist
503. Love notes + ginger
504. Smoked cheese and sun dried tomatoes
What are you thankful for?