Monday, November 24, 2014

A Thankful Heart Always Wins

A Thankful Heart Always Wins

Every week I head to the grocery store with my list in tow on my phone.

I think, "I hope that I haven't forgotten anything and that I remembered to add everything to my list."

I glance at the shelves seeking the things that I need and trying to get some extra ideas for something new to try. 

One by one things start to go in the cart. Then I get to the check out line. 

One by one things come out and are placed onto the conveyor belt. The conveyor belt is full and I glance up to see the woman in front of me who walks out with ease with a bag in each hand. 

One by one the items are placed in bags and loaded back into the cart. I push the cart through the snowy mush barely able to get it from point A to point B. Pushing grocery carts outdoors in Minnesota can feel like an Olympic sport. 

One by one the bags are placed into the back of the van. I have a moment to catch my breath. I think of how my husband probably thinks I'm enjoying the alone time. Just as the van is warming up I pull into the driveway.

One by one I carry the grocery bags from the driveway into the house. The wind blows, the cold is undeniable and I step carefully so that I don't end up on the ground with the many gallons of milk in tow.

Thankful for grocery shopping

This past week I was bringing bags into the house after my normal grocery run and I thought to myself, I despise grocery shopping. 

Despise it.

food for our family

And then like a flash of lightening it hit me. I'm complaining about grocery shopping. About having a vehicle to drive to the store, the ability to get everything I need at one place, money to pay for it all, two functioning arms to carry it all into the house and a working refrigerator to hold it.

Ugh, this heart. The words that come out of my mouth. The complaining that so easily flows out of my mouth. It came crashing to the surface.

I began thinking of the mommas who don't have enough food to feed their family. 

The orphans starving to death in Africa. (The other day my three year old said, "mom, I am STAAARVING!" I said, "no you aren't." He said, "Oh, what does that mean?")

The woman who walks miles and miles to shop at various markets to pick and choose the few items that she carries back home.

And just like that, I whispered, "God, thank you for food."

And one by one I started thanking Him for the milk and the bread and the bananas. (The bananas that I can't seem to buy enough of before my crew devours them.)

God, thank you.

It is so evident how ungrateful my heart can be. Yet I am slowly learning, a thankful heart always wins.

What do you find yourself saying thank you for during this season?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Five Things I've Learned About Blogging

This week marks two years that An Inviting Home has been in existence. 

What a fun two years it has been! Today I thought I would share a little behind the scenes look at what that looks like and what I've learned these last two years.


Five things I've learned about blogging

Five Things I've Learned About Blogging

1. You Need PASSION: From the very beginning I had always heard other bloggers say, "you have to blog because you love it and would do it for free." I completely agree with that statement especially since one of my core values is authenticity. I am most drawn to blogs where people are writing about things that they are passionate about. And you can just tell...you know that whether someone paid them or not they would talk about that topic. That is why it is so important to me to share about things that I actually am passionate about and that I believe can be helpful and encouraging to others.

I've done some research as to ways that I could monetize the blog. I would say that the possibilities are endless. I see the potential for turning this blog into a full-time business but it came down to...I don't want to. I've done some sponsored posts, but I've also turned down other offers because they weren't things we would actually use. I don't want to be sponsored by home-furniture brands or be given decorating products for free...because I want to inspire you to decorate your home on a realistic budget, just like I do mine. (Now if someone wants to sponsor a surprise room make-over for a single mom, newly adopted child, etc...please let me know and I would LOVE to collaborate with you on it!) :-)

things i've learned about blogging

2. You Need TIME: There are so many behind the scenes tasks connected with blogging. Creating post ideas, taking photos, editing photos, writing, researching, formatting, answering emails, etc. I would estimate that I spend about 10-15 hours a week keeping this blog up and running. Time is going to cost you something. It was easy for me to blog for free at the beginning because I was also doing another dream job for free...being a stay at home mom. (I'm not saying that bloggers should write for free, I'm just saying that is where I had always been at.) However, slowly those little ones have grown and started school and only one little one remains at home. Soon it wouldn't be a matter of whether or not I was ok with blogging for free as much as was I ok with giving up a salary that I could be earning by going back to work when the kids are in school. 

blogging part-time

In the end it came down to, I don't want to have forty hours a week to dream up the perfect organization projects for our home. I want any other mom reading an organization post to feel like, "hey, I could do that in between all of the other stuff I'm doing." By limiting the hours that I spend on the blog it helps keep my mission more in line with wanting to encourage others with small changes rather than overwhelm readers with more ideas and more inspiration.

Given all of those reasons...joining an ad network was a great fit for me. It helps to cover a small portion of the hours that I put into blogging. Everything is set up automatically, BlogHer runs a few ads on the blog and I get paid each month based on how many page views the blog receives. (As a reader of many blogs, one of the things that I appreciate is that they are absolutely free for us to read and enjoy.) By running the ads they don't interfere with my content and it doesn't take me away from the part of blogging that I love most...the writing and creating part.



3. You Need CONSISTENCY: 368 posts so far! Yikes! That seems like so much, but it has happened one post at a time. At first it was 3-4 posts a week. When you break it down like that it's not quite so overwhelming to think about. So it's easier to think in terms of writing 3 posts per week (think Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) than to think "I want to write a few posts whenever I think of something" or "I have to write 368 posts in 2 years!" Early on I committed to a schedule and that's the only way I have been able to stay consistent. The schedule has changed over time, but I still stick to a schedule of posts. We all need deadlines to get things done. Currently I've found a better balance at doing 2-3 posts a week. Let's talk about balance in a minute...



4. You Need SUPPORT: In my case it is a husband who edits my posts. It's really his blog, especially all the ones about decorating and painting (just kidding!) :-) But I couldn't write what I write or do what I do without having someone to bounce ideas off of and to help along the way. I have friends who encourage, support, comment, ask questions, sometimes help with projects, or brainstorm ideas with me, etc. No blog is a one man (or woman) show...or at least it shouldn't be. Connect with other bloggers too! No one understands you better than people who are doing the same thing as you.

5. You Need BALANCE: Like everything else in life you need balance. For me, I enjoy blogging part-time so that I am able to incorporate other things that I love into the mix as well. On a personal level I'm always trying (fighting with all my might!) to find ways to prioritize the most important things to me...like growing in my walk with God, my marriage, our kids, our friends, community and church. Those things are what fuel all of my passions. If I don't rein myself in I could always be coming up with new blog posts, ideas, and collaborations and fill my schedule to the point where I don't have time for other things. Instead I try to balance the things that are most important to me and let everything else flow out of that. Because blogging for me is only a part-time thing, there are a few other things that flow out of that to support our family and help me to continue to pursue encouraging and empowering others:

Traveling and speaking. I shared a few months ago my passion for seeing people face to face and encouraging them, sharing our testimony and talking about topics that the Lord has laid on my heart, like contentment or how inadequate I feel as a mom most days. It is like my whole being wants to explode. I'm not a "professional speaker" but I do have a burning passion in my heart to share what God has done in our lives. Sam and I have talked and we are stepping out on this. You'll notice a speaking tab at the top of the blog. I'm still (fighting!) finding balance in all of this so I'm trying to be careful right up front to not commit to too many things. I also don't charge a certain fee because I don't want it to hinder whether or not I could come to your area. The only thing I ask is that traveling expenses be covered plus whatever amount is doable for your group to cover the time it takes me to prepare and share.

I sell essential oils. Hi, my name is Sarah and I am a doTERRA wellness advocate. Please don't hate me if you use Young Living oils...my sister-in-law (whom I love!) uses Young Living...can we still be friends?!? :-) I simply first learned about essential oils through a dear friend who uses doTERRA oils and the rest is history. A lot of us are using oils and are excited to share about them...yet try not to lather up all of our friends with peppermint any time someone mentions having a head ache. ;-)  I'm focusing most of my time spent on this off of the blog. The hard work put into this has never been more rewarding...it has been awesome seeing people empowered with their health. I'm still planning on sharing about two times a month on the blog various ways that we are enjoying using essential oils in our home. My hope is that it will be a benefit to anyone using essential oils. I'll just ad this disclaimer though...if you have a friend who has been sharing about essential oils with you then please, please, PLEASE talk to them about how to enroll and get wholesale prices. (You can even tell them that I told you too.) And if this whole essential oil thing is new to you, feel free to email me to learn more.

Phew, that was a lot! It has been two years though...I guess you learn a lot about who you are, what is most important to you and how to feed your growing children in two years! :-)

Any tips you have learned about blogging that you want to share?

Monday, November 17, 2014

"Are You That Blogger???"

Two years ago on November 17th, 2012, I hit publish for the very first time. 

Wow, time flies. 

I hardly knew anything about "blogging," just enough to type out some words and upload a few pictures.


I had one goal; sharing our adoption story with others to bring hope into their situations.  

Well, make that two goals, I also wanted to stay sane through my thirties. Hence all of the posts on parenting, organization and bringing beauty into the home that we eat, live and breath in.

This mom job, BEST job I've ever had. 

This mom job, TOUGHEST job I've ever had

Things were SO good but I needed to process life and I found that the best way to do that for me was through blogging.

So I took to writing a little each week sharing about the mundane, basic household chores, my heart for adoption, my insecurities as a mom...and a few people started reading. Then a few more people started reading. 


I felt the need to become "more professional" at blogging. I researched how to do all the right things. However in the end, it just wasn't me. "Me" was simply sharing my heart. "Me" was spending more time with my family and keeping all of the challenges we face real. Like how to decorate on a budget. I realized that I needed to throw off any pressure or expectations (from myself) to be anything that just wasn't me.

I've tried to be frank about most things, yet behind this screen sit five little faces that are going to grow up and read this blog some day. I want this blog to be a treasure for them. Not because it contains a few cute pictures of them during their childhood but because it tells the story of a woman who became a wife and then a mom all while pursuing learning & reaching out to others along the way.

Parenting...is hard.

Being a wife...is hard.

Laundry...is hard.

Life...is so good!

Over the last several years I've discovered that my core values are authenticity, integrity, generosity, & compassion. Through the way God has created me I long to encourage others who are in the thick of it, who have lost hope, or who maybe just need to be reminded to go grab that cup of coffee that they have re-heated four times and is still sitting in the microwave. 

Most days I'm that last one!

When more readers started coming to the blog it occurred to me that I've mentioned that I live in Minneapolis. I wondered if one day I would be out in public and someone would "recognize me"...would it feel like being a superstar? Then I would return to reality, remember that there aren't that many people reading the blog, and then continue on my way shopping at Target in yoga pants with no make-up on. 

Then it happened.

I was coming home late one night from an essential oils class with my friend Ginna and I asked her if we could stop in Target real quick. Why? I'll tell you in a minute.

As I was checking out, the woman behind me said, "Are you that blogger?!?" 

I was certain that she must have me confused with someone else (this isn't actually happening, right?!?)

And then she mentioned the local blog meet-up and how she had wished that she could have been there. That is when I realized she really did read An Inviting Home. We chatted for a minute, her name was Nicole. She was so sweet, I wanted to invite her over for coffee and hear all about her life. She mentioned something that meant the world to me, like how the blog makes her want to be a better friend. At some point she also said that her life isn't nearly as glamorous as mine. I wasn't sure how to answer that so I just shook my head and smiled.

It was only after I started walking out to the parking lot that I realized I should have shown her my receipt. This "glamorous" mom forgot to buy more pull-ups. :-)


Through that experience I realized just how fun it was to meet Nicole, another mom working hard to get the most out of this one life that we have each been given. And in that moment that Nicole encouraged me, I knew that giving back and encouraging others through this blog is exactly what I want to keep doing. 

The last two years have been great.

I have really loved all of the connections, whether in person, email, comments, Facebook...the various opportunities to get to know people and hear their heart as well as the opportunities to share hope and encouragement through our story and the smaller stories and steps along the way. 

I look forward to what this next year has in store! On Wednesday I'm going to share a small behind the scenes look at being a blogger and on Friday I'm hoping to have a fun surprise to encourage you with. Thanks for reading along!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Are Kids Welcome Here?

We haven't ventured down to the basement very much on the blog. There is a reason, let me explain. This level contains our family room, laundry room, and storage space. Last year I shared some before pictures of one section of the family room and how we transformed it into an inviting space for kids


Since then that one particular section of the basement has become our guest space

Today I thought we could look at another section of the family room. I've never really shared it on the blog up until this point because it has never been finished in my mind. 

I knew this corner of the family room had potential to be darling. What used to be random closets under a stairwell was turned into a little play house. You've seen those cute kid spaces on the internet, right? I've been dreaming of having my own...I mean, my kids having their own. For the past two years I've wanted to put shingles on the outside of the play house...and then I was going to show it to you.  



Instead I tried flower stickers.


You can see how well those held up.

The window use to have a cute tension rod and curtain in it. It doubled as a window/puppet show, cool right?!? Yeah, then I replaced the rod three times before deciding that it wasn't meant to be because the kids kept grabbing it as a sword and breaking it every time...I finally gave up.

The wall had to be cut into to secure the railing better because apparently no railing is safe with five children present.


I guess I've dreamed of making this play house adorable only to realize that adorable kid spaces don't always go hand in hand when kids are present. The house does however, make me want to be four feet tall again. The light adds some charm that the kids haven't been able to destroy. There is even a switch on the inside of the play house to turn the light off and on. 


So why haven't I shingled it yet? 

Why haven't I shared about this play house on the blog yet?

Maybe my kids weren't as excited about the play house as I had first anticipated. Maybe it felt odd to create a great play space to wow you on blogland and then pretend that my kids loved it just as much as I did. Either way I've never gotten around to putting the shingles up.

Would I ever? 

And then I realized why the answer is, yes.

It is because of this...


It was called the "grandchild suite."

My dad built it. He is brilliant. He took a crawl space in my brothers' old room and remodeled it into the grandchild suite. You had to be less than four feet tall to fully enjoy it and it was filled with toys from our childhood. 

And it sat empty

Until one day there was a grandchild to play in it.


We prayed for this wee one and God answered our prayers. 

There was also another reason why this space seemed so special. It communicated one important thing: Children are welcome here.


My parents were always opening up their home to others and if you were a child you knew exactly where to go in their house to have a good time. 

Maybe I've been a little disappointed that my kids are getting bigger and someday they will "outgrow" the playhouse...maybe even before I get to finish the outside with shingles! Our toy selection has also been getting smaller these days because we've found it much easier to not have quite so many toys out in the basement. 

But I always want our house to say "children are welcome here." I scooted the toy shelf inside of the play house to see what it might look like some day when the sum amount of our toys are stored in there. It has some baby toys, some toddler toys, some big kids toys.  


Whether this play house is present or not, I hope that there is always a place in our home for children that says, "you are welcome here." 


Next on my to-do list, shingling the play house...

What are some things that you have seen that say kids are welcome here?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Why Essential Oils Aren't Magic

OK, so some people seem to LOVE essential oils. What are they, magic?!?

We finally gave them a try and had a stellar experience with them. Sam used them for his allergies, I used them for my headaches...done and DONE! 

So we sat prepared with oils in hand (actually they sit on a cute cake pedestal on our kitchen counter) and we waited to get sick. There are oils that you can use daily to boost your immune system but most days I can barely remember my children's names let alone remember to apply some oils on my body when I'm feeling healthy. I'm starting to remember more now...I digress. (I've always wanted to use "I digress" in a blog post.)...I digress.

At some point I got a bad sore throat, which for me, usually leads to a full blown cold. I gargled some essential oils in a little bit of water (morning and night for a day and a half) and the painful sore throat vanished...with no cold. 

"These oils ARE like MAGIC," I thought to myself.

Then months passed and I got another sore throat. 

On a Thursday. 

Over the next day and a half I gargled some essential oils and water (just like before) but by Friday a cold had set in. I was a bit disappointed feeling like the oils had failed me. Yet I wanted to feel better so I started to take the congestion buster.

congestion buster doterra essential oils

I placed 2 drops each of lemon, oregano, peppermint and melaleuca into an empty veggie capsule and took one in the morning and one at night. 

Four days later my cold was gone and I was back to feeling like my normal self again. 

I have to admit, even after kicking that cold I felt like my "magical" essential oils had failed me. But that is when I learned a valuable lesson. Essential oils aren't magic but they are a great tool. A tool that helped me overcome a cold. Once I was on the mend it occurred to me that normally if I didn't take anything my cold usually lasted for weeks and I would just suffer through it not wanting to "take" anything. In some cases I would give in and purchase a decongestant that over time would clear things up.

Essential oils aren't magic but they ARE a powerful, natural, and effective tool to use in our health.

I have a special promotion and free oil for all new wholesale members that enroll by Nov. 15th, 2014. You can email me at aninvitinghome@gmail.com for more details. 

DisclaimerEssential oils are not meant to treat, cure or prevent disease. This information represents how I, a doTERRA wellness advocate, use essential oils in our home to benefit our family's health.

(photo credit Sarah Hardie Photography)

Monday, November 10, 2014

How to Make A Wedding Enjoyable for All Ages

It was late afternoon on a beautiful October day. The weather was gorgeous and the surroundings were breathtaking. All of the guests arrived at a plantation just outside of Richmond, Virginia. There was excitement as friends and family came from far and near places and there were two special people at the center of it all. 


This was the day that my little (big!) brother, David, was about to marry the girl that he has cherished (and had a crush on) for over 10 years. They have quite the love story of pursuit, waiting, earnestly praying, being miles apart and caring for those in need in countries a far. All in God's timing they were each growing and maturing. My brother had even prayed, "God, if I could date Hannah then I know I could believe you for ANYTHING." Years later...this happened.

Not only were they dating but...

She said, yes!


His caption on facebook said, "A decade in the making..." It was no surprise that over 500 people "liked" this picture! These two were made for each other and are two of the kindest, most loving people that I've ever met. 


I have to say, I kept walking around the wedding soaking up all of the little details. You could tell that Hannah had put so much thought into this day and there were so many elements that I absolutely loved. The tables were delicate, colorful and filled with elegance.


Hannah has six siblings and lots of nieces and nephews. Growing up they always had a "kids table" at her parents house. I absolutely loved how they created a kids table in the center of the tent! The little kids who were in high chairs stayed with their parents but the older ones all gathered at these tables and had a grand ol' time.


There were kid friendly centerpieces...


and my absolute favorite part were these custom coloring sheets. How cute is that?!?


The landscaping was straight out of a movie with an open field, willow trees swaying in the breeze and water glistening in the distance.


My parents made some of my grandma's famous caramel popcorn. It was placed in cute paper cones and served while friends mingled on the lawn. There were lots of other delicious hors d'oeuvres served as well. 


The seating chart was so creative with paint placed on window panes that guests names were then written on. The window was propped up on an old ladder. The back of the ladder was decorated with decor that blended with the theme beautifully.


My brother, Jonathan made these custom bean bag boards for the big day.


The kids had a blast running in the field and playing the games. Shoes were taken off and by the end of the night I was using the light from my cell phone to walk the field and find the missing shoes of a certain three year old. I almost left them figuring that little man would be outgrowing them soon and I feared my efforts might be in vain with how big the field was, but then I found them...right by the bean bag toss. 


It was a wedding of elegance and beauty and was filled with thoughtful details and decor that captured the essence of this couple. A stunning bride and groom.  


This wedding will certainly be remembered by all of the guests that attended. 


Have you been to memorable weddings? What is something unique that was done that stood out to you?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Washi Tape Project - Nailed It!

It happened. 

Last year I discovered washi tape and instantly thought of a million little ways to use it. (Washi tape is basically like a pretty version of masking tape.) It has been helpful for things like labeling dishes left behind after potluck, doing fun projects with the kids, creating whimsical decorations, or even storing directly in a clear container to easily add some colorful decor to the piano. 

Beauty & function...it makes my heart happy.


When I started thinking up ideas for the girl's bedroom I thought about using washi tape to decorate their bunk bed. A few years ago someone graciously gave us a metal bunk bed...it was a huge blessing. It came in primary colors of red, blue and yellow so we spray painted it white to make it blend in better in the girl's bedroom. 


Now, years later the spray paint has started to scrape off in places. I thought about spray painting it again...for about three seconds that is. Then I remembered how hard it had been to spray paint the first time. 

That is when I thought about trying to use washi tape to decorate/cover up the previous color coming through.


I decided to start with one section at the end of the bed and see what happened. I was fully planning on covering the whole thing with washi tape.


I grabbed a few colors and patterns of washi tape that I thought would work well together.


Then I began rolling, rubbing and repeating.


I started to realize just how long it was going to take me to wrap their whole bed. The girls came in and out of the room and were squealing in delight. Their excitement motivated me to keep going.

Although I did take some breaks in between. Over the course of about two days I got one end of the bed covered. However, it wasn't exactly how I had pictured it turning out.

using washi tape nailed it

I discovered a few things...or shall we say, I learned a few lessons in the process.

1) Covering the whole bed with this method would take hours and hours...and hours!
2) Covering the whole bed with this method would add up and become really expensive. (The picture above includes about $20 worth of washi tape and was only about 1/5th of the bed.)
3) Even if the girls are really excited about it and PROMISE that they won't peel it off...think again!

a washi tape bunk bed project

Honestly I was somewhat relieved. It didn't turn out at all like I had imagined and I was torn about the whole thing. Seeing it peeled off in chucks encouraged me to simply move on with plan B. 


Plan B = Remove the washi tape and ignore the various colors coming through. We can just call that a distressed look, right? :-)


Back to the drawing board...as they like to say!

Have you discovered the wonderful world of washi tape? What is your favorite way to use it?

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