Sarah Evangeline on collaboration, healthy habits, and regaining her true identity
Interview by Ilana Reimer
Q. What was creativity like growing up for you?
A. I struggled a lot in school. I wasn’t good at math, I wasn’t good at science. I also wasn’t good at gym and keeping up with sports. Going to church growing up, I was always told, You’ve got to live out your gifts and talents for God. But I didn’t think I had any.
As an adult, I now know I was using my creativity and imagination [as a child]. We had a forest in our backyard and I would just run and pretend I was riding on a unicorn and I was the princess saving the world. I grew up with brothers. So, they were always like the soldiers and everything, and we would act out stories. My mom bought us a camera and we would act out stories on camera. Later on, in elementary school in high school, I actually thought, if I was creative and stepped out and tried something different than the status quo, I was being selfish.
Q. Why do you think you thought that creativity was selfish?
A. Now that I’ve studied psychology and counselling, and I’ve gone through therapy myself, I see it was manipulation from my childhood trauma and wounds that kind of moulded me with that view. Now as an adult I know God loves me and I belong to Him before I do anything for Him.
I had to uncover some limiting beliefs and really get honest about the way I viewed God. I took a theology course and that really uncovered a lot of those things and helped me see God in a completely different view, and it was very refreshing and renewing.
Q. When did you start writing and exploring it more seriously?
A. I started writing after high school. I started doing a lot of traveling, and I saw God’s creativity all over the world, whether it was in a city or climbing a mountain. So much was coming into my head as I was out exploring every day, and I channelled into writing.
It unlocked something in me where I was getting in touch with parts about myself that I didn’t know were there. It was very healing. As I was journaling, I also began thinking, How can I help other people with my story?
Q. That’s a brave choice to go so quickly from internal processing to using your story to help others. Was that prompted you to start thinking of your story as something that could help other people?
A. I think a huge step was learning to open up to people and be honest. For most of my life, I tried to prove to others that I was okay. In a lot of other people’s eyes, it looked like I was always moving forward, moving ahead, being successful.
Looking back in my life, I have no regrets and I’m very thankful for all the different opportunities, but I was very stuck because there were things I wasn’t honest with myself about. Then I found a few safe people I could open up to. There were a few people who said, Your story matters; it can make a difference in someone else’s life.
Q. What themes do you tend to focus on in your writing?
A. At the beginning, I wanted to inspire people that they can have the life God wants them to have, they don’t have to hide behind shame or fear. They can step forward in faith and trust. But then I realized, Okay, there needs to be a “how to.” When I read a book, I want to know how to apply the principles I’m learning to my life so I can actually make the change.
Part of me would love to just write a novel, but that’s not where I’m gifted. I focus more on [action steps] for how to make transformational changes in your life. And I really hope that it guides people to the Lord.
I think a lot of my writing is about learning how to live in God’s love instead of chasing after it. In the culture we live in, we’re very busy, we’re very stressed. I think I’m not the only one who has fallen for the lie that we have to do something before we belong to God, when really we belong to Him because we’re His children.
Q. What projects have you been working on in the past year, and what’s on the horizon?
A. My dream since I was seven years old was to be a counsellor, because with all the struggles I went through as a child, I had a counsellor who believed in me. Now I have my master’s in counselling and I’ve started up my own life coaching business. It’s been hard, it’s been stressful, but I believe it’s what I’m meant to do.
Then a good friend I grew up with [Rebecca Reimer]—she’s been in radio and she owns her own magazine—we started a podcast called The State of Potentiality, and it’s all about helping people navigate life for what it is, not what we expect it to be.
And the latest project is called Humans of Hamilton, inspired by Humans of New York. I think we tend to want to talk over someone or share our advice, but there is such a beautiful aspect of sitting back and just listening to someone else’s story, whether they’re going through a struggle or they’ve overcome something. So, my friend Bugg [Davis] and I are recording people’s stories just to engage in our community and build a connection in Hamilton.
I don’t think we’re meant to do our creativity alone. When we share our dreams and our creativity with other people, it becomes a chain reaction. We don’t have to have a clear roadmap because God walks before us. Especially if we’re following our creativity and our dreams, I think it’s praise and it’s an act of worship. What I’m learning is that even through the struggles and setbacks it’s all worth it.
Q. When you’re in the middle of a project, what are some things that nourish your creativity?
Definitely journaling; taking the time to be mindful of God’s presence. I know that when I take time to do that every day, it flows into everything else. I think the biggest thing for me right now—especially with Covid, when I’m homebound for a long period of time—is getting out in nature. God refreshes my mind and gives me new ways to see Him. There’s so much of God in nature because He created it and it teaches us lessons. So, I try to get out for a hike once a week if not more because it really nourishes my soul.
Q. What’s some advice you’d give to Christians who might be doubting their creative abilities or are just unsure about how to find their giftings?
A. It’s so important not to do this alone. It’s very easy to believe, I’m not creative, I’m not enough. Even if you know that God loves you and you know that He’s given you a purpose, it takes time to believe it for yourself. We need to have at least that one person who believes in us until we believe it for ourselves.
If you’re doubting your creative abilities, I’d encourage you to slow down and make time for yourself—whether it’s getting into a healthy routine, eating healthier, or having a good bedtime. And make time to feel God’s presence. We need to seek God out and pray continuously.
But at the same time, you don’t have to be one hundred per cent ready because you won’t ever be one hundred per cent ready. It’s also just stepping out, even if you’re uncomfortable, even if you have doubts. You step out anyway because God is there and He will lead you to the next step. When we’re intentional about that daily process and we’re faithful with that, nothing is wasted. God will use it to shape and form what our creativity is and what it will be.
When we have one creative idea and we step out in it, it leads to more and more. It’s a never-ending journey. And when I view life like that, it takes the pressure off. It allows me to enjoy life more. You know, the Lord gave us this life. Yes, it’s messy, but it’s also so beautiful.
Find out more about Sarah Evangeline’s work at sarahevangeline.org.
This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.