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What (Our) Reality Looks Like

Every month I participate in a wonderful blog circle called What ___ Looks Like. I have been doing this for a couple of years now even though I took a bit of a hiatus. The purpose of this circle is to blog every month as we see it.We purposefully fill in the blank with whatever lifestyle inspired subject strikes our fancy.  I generally post this on my photography blog but I recently managed to break that so I am sharing that post here in lieu of there this month. Please be sure to head my AMAZING friend Summer Murdock of Summer Murdock Photography Here to see her post this month! You can find that HERE.

Like a good part of the country, we have gotten quite a bit of snow this past month or two. On top of that the temps have been brutal and we have spent a good chunk of that indoors waiting it out and trying to put off the cabin fever by staying entertained. With five children I admit that we have our share of insanity. We experience just about every extreme under the sun emotionally and otherwise. I wouldn’t trade the chaos for perfection though. I find the chaos has become our normal.  I feel exceedingly blessed to have this kind of love around me. It seeps in every pore and crack and seems to burst from every seam. My very soul is beautifully stained with the love I have for each person in our family. Watching our children become more and more independent as they grow and change. Watching them practice empathy and understanding and compassion for others and knowing they have such depth and strength in the face of a sometimes cruel world moves me to no end. Watching them come to love Jesus as I do one day at a time on their very own makes me realize that the big things matter most and the little things like the frustration and trials parenthood… motherhood bring are only temporary.

Our reality is in the details. Our reality is the day to day victories and sometimes failures. But most of all my reality is overlooking some of the mess, the mischief, and grasping the beauty and blessings each day brings.

There are days we hold more weight than we think we can bear.Or we find ways to uplift one another, not because it is easy but because it is right. And we love each other the more for it.We giggle and laugh and get our sillies out.Or we make silly faces to help others remember to smile.We reminisce about warmer days and get excited for all the adventures that await.We grin and bear it while mom insists on taking a million irrational photos that make no sense.We forget to make our bed.Some days things just don’t go our way.But we wave away our sorrows and continue right on anyway.Someday’s we use all the hot water while we practice getting the perfect mermaid hair.Or we enjoy a good book.Some nights we hang out while everyone else sleeps and catch up on our cuddles.Sometimes we read our homework out loud so our mom and dad can be sure that we are doing it right. Then we read it again because we are proud of ourselves for getting it right the first time.Some days we just don’t stop talking.Some days are a complete blur.Sometimes when I tell you to clean your room I get this face and am convinced you think I am speaking a different language.A lot of times mom is right there but forgets to be in the frame. Daddy is helping me with that.Sometimes we come home from school and eat all the food in the house.And sometimes the mess accumulates and threatens to swallow the floor. I feel like I spend the day walking behind everyone and picking up. I write it off as good exercise. Cardio is good for the heart right?Some days demand more privacy than others.And then there are those messes again.Some days we channel Spiderman.Some days are all about imagination.Other days we just want to sleep and the pesky light won’t stop shining in our eyes.Everyday there are snuggles and kisses.And lots of days daddy blows mommy away with what an amazing man he is.Some days we all watch silly videos in bed.And no one in this house escapes the love.

February 11, 2014 - 12:50 am

tabitha - fabulous. fabulous. fabulous.

February 11, 2014 - 12:50 am

Amanda Monday - Oh my goodness these are too cute!!! Thank you for sharing and Ezra on the chair AHH so cute! And he’s smiling like everyone else on the bed watching the movie, so awesome!!

February 11, 2014 - 12:59 am

ginette - Love reigns supreme. And that is the essence of a life well lived!

February 11, 2014 - 1:36 am

Lizzy Reiber - I love you guys so much. Your captions made me smile, love.

February 11, 2014 - 1:50 am

deanna mccasland - I love the way you document life and your words. Your family is so lucky to have you. What a beautiful gift <3

February 11, 2014 - 1:54 am

becky - Love love love!!

February 11, 2014 - 2:41 am

Summer - Your reality is beautiful Sarah! And you are inspiring me to make sure I get everyone together in the frame more often…i find that SO hard with my four…but you are doing it well and you have five! I can do it right? Love these..

February 11, 2014 - 2:56 am

Kara May - You have an amazing way of telling a story through your images. These are amazing Sarah! Love your posts!

February 11, 2014 - 3:06 am

Kelsey - Such a lovely month. That daddy photo with all of his smiling babes is adorable.

February 11, 2014 - 3:52 am

amy grace - “a soul stained in love”. with light leaking out…you have such a special family. and you maintain such an effusive joy and freshness that i have no doubt turns that chaos into something so much more. the silly videos in bed…you are just plain kidding me. i love you ALL. xo

February 11, 2014 - 4:05 am

jamie - gorgeous images and family!!!

February 11, 2014 - 4:39 am

andrea - so lovely to get so many glimpses of ALL of you. your imperfection looks pretty perfect to me.

February 11, 2014 - 4:58 am

nicole - Your overflowing love for your family is absolutely uplifting. Reading your words help me remember to slow down a bit and enjoy things more.
Thanks.

February 11, 2014 - 5:07 am

Megg Lasswell - simply beautiful!

February 11, 2014 - 5:32 am

Séverine - Wow! So inspiring! I just want to have a day of and take hundred pics of my family!

February 11, 2014 - 8:16 am

Jo - LOVE. I wish my house looked so beautiful messy 😉 You have a beautiful way of capturing your life & family! Thank you for inspiring so many xx

February 11, 2014 - 2:45 pm

José - So precious. Thank you for sharing…

February 11, 2014 - 4:03 pm

Heather Carollo - Your creativity and way with words is a blessing…thank you. I always enjoy reading your posts and following your work. Your family is gorgeous!

February 11, 2014 - 8:58 pm

Katy tuttle - My oh my. Your gifts are so many and your love so radiant… You are a bright spot. Xo

February 13, 2014 - 6:20 pm

Amy Schuff - you make reality look beautiful, which when you have love in your life, it should be 🙂

February 14, 2014 - 2:07 am

el - What a great little peep into your days. Just beautiful. These are so great, and I can’t WAIT to see more, and get to know you a little better!

February 14, 2014 - 2:35 am

Wendy VonSosen - Your outlook on the chaos of life with lots of littles is perfect. Bask in this season because if flies too fast and it will never be the same. Document it in all of its craziness as you do so well. I am smitten with that sweet baby of yours and love watching him grow through my computer monitor. So glad we get to collaborate on this project together from afar. xo

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Motherhood is not a brand.

Sometimes reality comes tearing through the brain fog and hits me right between the eyes. There are days when I am taking a moment to check into Facebook, (which serves an important purpose for my family since most of our loved ones live hundreds of miles away), and as I am scrolling down my news feed I can’t help but feel that slight pang of something hit me right in the gut. The thing is… I don’t know quite what that something is. I am not a jealous or envious person by nature. I am honestly not one of competitive spirit. I genuinely love to love on others and connect with many. Optimism just seems to be in my genetic make up and every thread of my being. That something however just grates now and then. I believe it may manifest itself as something likened to guilt. It does make me question myself now and again. Am I doing enough? Do I need to do things like Jane or Sally, ( Don’t ask where those names came from I don’t even think I have a Jane or Sally on my friend’s list lol!) to be a better mother?

Being exposed to the internet, but especially to social media websites such as Facebook, we  constantly “see” so many different types of parents. We see so many images and portrayals of motherhood. Some are like our own ideals and convictions, most however are not. What works for one family, one child will certainly not work for another. Happy is subjective. The concept is completely relevant to the person whose soul it resides in. As if Facebook isn’t confusing enough, there are countless self help books, a slew of articles on being the “right” kind of parent (shared over and over) and your friendly neighborhood know-it-all that seems to juggle everything with poise and still have their fill of advice on every subject from school functions, to vaccinations to even playground etiquette. Is your head spinning yet?

Being a mother of five you would think I might have it all together, or maybe even the complete opposite of all together too. I actually get asked often how I manage it all. The truth is I don’t. I am guilty of making promises that I haven’t kept, losing my temper, sending my kids out of the house with a shirt on inside out or the shoes on the wrong feet. My hair isn’t always done (and I don’t just mean undyed, untrimmed and unstyled. I mean UNBRUSHED complete with budding dreadlocks.) and there is usually some unknown substance smeared at any given place on my person.  As a matter of fact there are days when the baby hasn’t stopped nursing since I woke up and I have to look down and double check to be sure I put my boob away. Yes, that is my reality lol!

But Thank God for that because…

Motherhood is Not a Brand.

Despite all preconceived notions you don’t choose it, it chooses you. It doesn’t just select the rich or most well off financially and you don’t have to have it all together to join this nonexclusive club. It isn’t delegated to only the older…or younger. It often is messy and a bit scary and very much overwhelming.  We don’t have a patch sewn on our clothing declaring our allegiance. We don’t walk around shouting at the top of our lungs the beliefs we carry in our heart of hearts (most the time anyway, refer back to my beginning post about Facebook.) What we do show is the love on our face, no matter how weary or exhausted we are. Our commonality is the true and unconditional love we bear like a coat of armor. We wield and brandish the same swords despite the very different battles we face. Some of us have small children, newborns and babes and toddlers. Some are entering newer phases as our children become young adults or a bit of this and the latter. Some of us have children who have long graduated and have children and babes of their own. Yet we still are all part of this same crazy club because…

Motherhood is Not a Brand, it is a Journey.

We all have a different walk and we take different paths. We embrace different cultures. Our commonality is… we all love our children.

Despite what I see on Facebook I often take a step back to pat myself on my back and count my blessings. I do this as a favor to not only myself but my children. How I parent them is going to trickle down to possibly how they parent their own little ones. I pray that my own shortcomings prove as a healthy serving of Grace and humility and they see that is all in love. I believe they will though because in the midst of our daily turmoil I never forget to show unconditional affection. I never forget to remind my children that they matter. That I am human. That perfection doesn’t exist and that is a wonderful thing.

It also reminds me to take a moment and possibly share something kind and encouraging on a random status on Facebook to a mom that may or may not need it. It is nice to uplift others despite the fact that I do or don’t do things or see things the same way as they do. I always try my best to be completely selfless and share with them that someone out there in this big wide world aside from the tiny people in their lives and the ones that know them most, appreciates them and sees the good they are doing.

We are after all commanded to love our neighbor. That is something I personally take seriously and practice even when it is hardest. I think us Moms need that same Grace the very most, especially from one another.

I thought I would share this today in case anyone out there may be having one of those days where they forgot to count their blessings and may be forgetting to remind themselves just how special they are in the life of a child somewhere. To remind those that you don’t have to be like Jane or Sally to matter. To remind those to spread a little love or Grace of their own. It means way more than you may realize and only takes a mere moment.

I’m so glad that God cut me from my own special cloth and that despite my shortcomings my children will grow with me as their Mama. The same goes for you too.

1 Samuel 16:7

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

nd an image from yesterday from my Project 365:

39/365 Slow It Down

Tonight as we were getting ready for church, and we were as usual running a bit late, I noticed you were very quiet. Quiet is something that isn’t always good in a house full of children, especially when one of them happens to be four. Then I heard Daddy say fairly loudly to go see me….”Now.” I knew that you must have gotten into something. You walked in my room with your head down, shoulders slouched and my heart sunk. I know we were late. I know that you weren’t dressed yet. I know that you were covered head to toe with marker, but that was a teachable moment for me. Slow down. Enjoy this. So I kissed your cheeks, adorned in (non) washable marker and we had a giggle as I gently washed away the mess. Not before I took an image though. An image that will forever remind me that imperfection is just as beautiful. That these moments never last. That you are four… and I will miss four so much someday. We made it to church on time, but barely and it was so worth being late. You teach me so much more than I teach you.

February 9, 2014 - 11:49 pm

becky - Oh Sarah, this is so beautiful! Thank you for your time in sharing this, its truly a blessing.

March 12, 2014 - 3:37 am

Kaela - Sarah, I just love your heart. You are a beautiful storyteller with photography and words.

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Faith and Responsibility

Firstly, I should say this is not a project.

I had considered that as a possibility, and then I realized God does not intend for me to merely take on another project. He expects more. This is a lifestyle. I am being convicted and held accountable, and can I just say… Thank the heavens for that.

I have drafted this first blog post in my head for a while now. Before I had any idea which direction I needed to go in, or what road I needed to walk down this all began to come together. First it happened in the quiet moments after the time I spent within my Bible readings. Then it started as I prayed. I shamefully admit I may have tried to shrug it off because frankly, I was afraid. I was afraid to put myself out there in this capacity. This is my personal walk I am still a “Baby” Christian in many ways.

God had other plans.

I have written bits and pieces of this in the shower (where I seem to do my best thinking,) in the wee hours of the morning when even our smallest babe is fast asleep and I can’t shut my mind off. I have composed this word by word, paragraph by paragraph, endlessly over and over and it’s only picked up steam.

Then God spoke to my heart. “Be Still,” he says.

And God is Good. So I take a leap of faith. I hold my breath and dive head first in these murky waters.

So he is now guiding my hands as I compose this first post. He is lighting the way and giving me the strength at this very moment to tell myself and everyone else that may stumble upon this….

God is NOT a dirty word.

I didn’t grow up in a church. I actually only remember being IN a church once and that was for my Mother’s wedding when I was close to ten years old. I found Jesus when I met my husband at the tender age of sixteen. He asked me to go along one fine Sunday, and being the love struck teenager I was of course I consented, while inside there was quite a bit of turbulence and more than a bit of fear. I remember sitting in the Pew and watching those around me with their arms outstretched and tears streaming down their face and wondering frankly, what gave. I felt insignificant. I felt like an outsider. I reluctantly went back, and then back again and God began to speak to my heart. I remember the Pastor’s wife walking around during church service, randomly praying for the members of the church and me silently begging in my head for her to come over to me.  I fell hard. I became a believer.

But my walk hasn’t been perfect.

Over the years I have fallen in and out of church. I struggle daily. I question myself, my faith and everything in between. There are days when I just don’t know how we are going to get it all together in time for the next wave of bills or all the grown up responsibilities that grind on us all,  and I pull those burdens down around my neck and fasten them like a cloak of sorrows. In those moments I barely remember to breath… and then I remember. God is with me. God loves me. I only need faith as big as a mustard seed. He’s got this. He has me.

Let me tell you though… When the calling to share these feelings, and to not only document them but to open myself wide for the world to see my insecurities and my short comings as a mother, as a wife and as Christian… well. That is a big responsibility.  That is a lot of pressure.

Even still when Jesus comes a knocking you answer.

So I did. I am. I am answering. I am hoping to grow in all areas of my life as a person, and to hopefully even reach maybe a scared soul that struggles with Faith as I do. To show that I am one of many faces of Christianity. We all truly are. We all represent the REAL body of Christ. The imperfect, the broken, the sometimes less than faithful. In our brokenness, God loves us. He loves us as we are. He loves you as you are.  Day by day I get just a little bit stronger. I am not just unfastening that cape.. I am shredding it, thread by thread.

So here I am laying it all out. Mostly because God told me to, and I don’t care how crazy that sounds. I don’t care because God is not a dirty word. He is in fact real and living in me. I am also here to say that not all Christians are as the media portrays. We are just people in different walks trying to support our families, find happiness, keep faith and love and be loved in our full capacities, but most of all we are trying our best to Glorify God. He has a different purpose for us all and I intend to live up to it the best I can.  Whether you have accepted Jesus only a moment ago, or you have been a lifelong follower of Christ he loves you and always has.

I will get into my own testimony and how God has moved in me and helped our family in another post, but an introduction was needed. This blog will be a place to celebrate the love I have for God, my family and to be completely honest and hold myself accountable.

I am here to share my love for God and the people he has put in my life.

I am here because I am real, and I am willing to sacrifice my comfort for the love of the Lord, to not only glorify his name but to bring not just me but hopefully YOU closer to God.

I hope you will stick around.

Philemon 1:6- NIV

I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.

 

February 6, 2014 - 7:52 pm

Brigette - Sarah, one of the reasons I love you (and I think everyone loves you) is because you are so real. I look forward to seeing more of this new journey you’re on. <3

February 6, 2014 - 8:08 pm

Rachel - Oh sweet Sarah I love this ❤️ I can relate in so many ways and I admire your honesty, your heart and your obedience. I so look forward to following this.

February 6, 2014 - 8:34 pm

Kim Cunningham - My respect for you just grew a lot! I’ve always admired you, but now I feel privileged to call you sister in Christ! You have a beautiful spirit, and family! Look forward to hearing more.

February 6, 2014 - 8:35 pm

Debbie Ludwin - Thank you Marissa. You gave me peace and hope today.

February 6, 2014 - 8:36 pm

Misty - Big hugs to you! I will walk this journey with you! Grew up in church, walked away on and off, knowing God loved me , now just the last few years trying to walk life out as God intended me too. Raise my babies to know God, even I know I fail daily , be the wife Gods called me to be and figure out where he wAnts me to go and who I really in Him.

February 6, 2014 - 8:39 pm

Jeanna Ludwig - So excited to follow you on your journey and I know that this will be an encouraging journey for me also as well as many others. Kudos to you for stepping out <3

February 6, 2014 - 9:22 pm

Stephanie Beaty - Beautiful sentiments from a beautiful soul — honoring a beautiful God. Thank you for writing…

February 6, 2014 - 10:41 pm

Holly - I love love love this! I love your heart and your honesty. I love your faith and your vulnerability. I love you!

February 6, 2014 - 10:44 pm

Holly - and I’m jealous of your cute website! You can design mine if you want! 😉

February 6, 2014 - 11:04 pm

Lizzy Reiber - Honey, I’m in tears and I’m proud to call you friend. I’m thankful that people are going to be blessed by this new endeavor of yours and my heart is beyond full! Love love love you and your heart for people. Psalm 72:19!

February 7, 2014 - 3:53 am

Kelsey - Beautiful! I love your passion! We are so loved!

February 7, 2014 - 1:28 pm

Brandie - Oh Sarah, I love this!!! So much of what you said spoke to me. We all have times were we feel we fall short when it comes to our faith. Thanks for the reminder that he loves us in our brownness and that just a mustard seed is enough. ((Hugs))

February 7, 2014 - 9:25 pm

Lynn - I am where you have been and are. I feel so empty and I know why. I turned my head to the side knowing that god is there when I need him to be. How unfaithful I am. I am looking forward to your writings as I find hope that I am not alone in my path back home.

February 7, 2014 - 10:10 pm

Amy Nabors - Your words are so refreshing. I have admired your photography for quite a while now and am excited to follow along on your journey here now as well.

February 8, 2014 - 12:20 am

Dawn Shiree - Beautiful. Brave. And most definitely inspiring. I am sure that I speak for many sisters in Christ when I say that you have our full support and we’ll most definitely be following your journey here.

As one who has been seeking God’s will for my creative passions I have considered how very vulnerable a calling such as this would make me feel… for now I am being still and waiting on the Lord and He is lovingly giving me time to grow in grace, but when the calling comes I pray I could and would be so bold to share as faithfully as you’ve done here. This is beautiful … write on, sister. xx

February 8, 2014 - 12:36 am

Louise Zabriskie - So beautifully expressed Sarah! I love that you are doing this. I know our Heavenly Father has a plan for us and and he knows and loves each and every one of us, his children. I know our Savior, Jesus Christ, atoned for our sins and can succor us through our trials and sorrows with his perfect love and understanding. Thank you for sharing your faith.

hugs,
Louise (elle_zee)

p.s. Fabulously designed site!

February 8, 2014 - 7:05 am

Tavia - You have written your story so beautifully. Gives me inspiration & hope. I always wonder how does he find us when we weren’t raised in church. But indeed he finds us, he found me too.

February 8, 2014 - 4:22 pm

Esther - I needed to read this yesterday as my heart was so heavy. So very uplifting and for me, to know there are photographers out there whom I admire their work professionally, but also who I can respect their thoughts on life, motherhood and faith is just such a bonus! Can’t wait to keep reading and seeing God work in your life and in a way..my own :).

February 10, 2014 - 6:59 pm

Stori - I read this post on Saturday, the 8th, and it stayed with me. It is so refreshing/relieving to read such bold words come out to speak about God (especially from another photographer). I hope it’s okay to share this….

Although I accepted Christ when I was 12, I never truly walked with God. I have struggled since 2009, when I decided to get off the fence and follow Him whole heartedly. The struggle has come from my husband (raised catholic)who has had an issue with my new lifestyle (trying to find time to read the bible in the morning,listening to non secular music, partying done with types of changes)This began with me having our 2 children and became more and more real in my life once my cousin/best friend came down to visit me in 2009 and impressed upon me the blessings I was missing by not walking fully with Him. Since then, I have been praying a lot and asking if photography was His will for my life. This too, I have battled and fought for with my husband because I basically started this “business” without discussing it with him. Before any judgment befalls my husband, let me just say, he is an awesome husband and an amazing father who works incredibly hard to keep his family healthy, strong and happy. That said, he was reluctant to support my obsession/passion with photography well because let’s face it, it’s an expensive vocation to get into. Longer story short(sorry), I heard God tell me put it down, the photography that is. Let me just say that once I confirmed what I heard, I grieved for 3 days…a heaviness came over me. I believe He wants me to wait. And it is hard to wait. I am in the middle of this waiting right now but I am also faithful that He knows better than me of what lies ahead. I am inlove with Him more and more each day. I would love to hear about everyones walk with God. Thank you Sarah for opening up and sharing your beautiful walk with us.

February 14, 2014 - 4:23 am

Amy Schuff - AND you love Jesus?? You’re pretty much one of the coolest women around 🙂

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