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What I Learn

Friendship Born in Houston: Celebrating Moriah


It’s been so fun sharing some of my friends with you these past couple of months! As I reflect on my season in Houston and transition into a new city, I am more grateful than ever for good friendships and for how God has brought such awesome ladies into my life.

As a wrap to this little series, I want to share Moriah with you. Moriah and I met through church in 2012 and were roommates the six months before Alex and I married. She is the reason I volunteered in the middle school ministry, as she nudged me about it one too many times until I gave in and roped Alex in too. 😉

Moriah is a friend of strong convictions, and I love that about her. Her convictions aren’t just faith related, though her beliefs are unshakable. She also feels strongly about the goodness of cats, Houston, Bruce Springsteen, and more. She values quality time and has taught me to do the same. She loves people so well. She answers the hard questions thrown out by middle school girls with wisdom and truth every time. It does my soul good to be around her, and while I’m sad to no longer live in the same city, I know there are reunions in our future. Below is a little more about this super fun friend. Her recent reads are now on my what to read next list!

Occupation: HR Coordinator at Francesca’s

Years in Houston: 27 years in greater Houston area!

Favorite Thing About Living in Houston: The food, shopping, breweries, and my family!

Biggest Houston Pet Peeve: Traffic.

Recent Reads: Hamilton and Seeking Allah Finding Jesus. Next up is Between Heaven & the Real World.

How She Recharges: Reading on Saturday mornings.

3 Things She’s Loving: Succulents, my new book light, and cats.

What I Learn

Friendships Born in Houston: Celebrating Heather

I took a little hiatus on sharing some of my beloved Houston friends, but it’s just not fair to keep Heather from you any longer.

Heather and her husband, Michael, are the two most selflessly hospitable people I know. They don’t just host people in their home occasionally or halfheartedly; they host friends multiple times a week, spending their time after work cooking or Saturday mornings making coffee for their super fun IHOC – International House of Coffee. Think brunch + as many different kinds of coffee as your caffeine meter can handle + hanging out with old friends and new. That’s my kind of event. Their home is a safe place. It’s a place where people get to choose their own mug to sip from and where conversation flows effortlessly.

Michael and Heather host a community group each week, and Alex and I were blessed to be part of it for 3 years. On weeks when we couldn’t make it, Heather would still text me during prayer time asking how she could pray for me that week. In fact, she still does that now, and I am grateful.

In short, Heather makes Houston better. She has made my life better by inviting me to open up my real self in conversation and prayer in her living room, even though she knew I was just passing through. And she has taught me much about the beauty of hospitality. Meet Heather!

Occupation: Geosciences Analyst Coordinator for a petroleum consulting firm (it’s Houston – gotta love oil & gas!)

Has lived in Houston: All my life except while in the promised land of Aggieland 😉

Favorite thing about living in Houston: I think Houston is a great place to live! We have a strong economy, the conveniences of a big city, access to culture, diversity in the population, and fantastic restaurants. OH – but you asked for a favorite…oops. If I can just pick one, it has to be the restaurants.

Biggest Houston pet peeve: Honestly, I struggle with the fact that a lot of people don’t stay. I’m finding that a lot of people are “just passing through.” A lot of my favorite people have left or are leaving… a side benefit is that my husband and I have a lot of places we can travel and visit friends! Sar’s note: Tears. But Heather and Michael now have a place to stay in east Texas!

What Heather is reading lately: Weeeeelllll, I don’t actually have much time to read, so I listen to audiobooks while I’m driving or walking. I’m working through another “Bible in a Year” plan, I just finished a listen through the Harry Potter series again, and I’m listening to The Reason for God by Tim Keller. I have started Tess of the D’Urbervilles, and I’m looking for another good fiction… any suggestions? 🙂

How she recharges: I love to travel! It is my favorite hobby, but it isn’t always practical. On a regular day, I recharge by having a cup of coffee in the lawn chairs with my husband or by spending some quality time with good friends playing a board game. On my commute this morning, I spent the time praying for a few of my friends instead of listening to a book, and that was pretty refreshing, too.

3 things she’s loving: God opened my eyes to the fact these recent months are a really sweet time and I should enjoy them as much as I can. I’m thankful to have realized that during the sweet days and not after they’d already passed. 🙂 We have two couples who are good friends of ours leaving in the next two months, so I’m loving opportunities to spend time with them. I’m also loving my workouts, and I’m loving spending a little extra time with my husband.

What I Learn

Friendships Born in Houston: Celebrating Mandy

Oh my goodness. I move in 6 days. The “lasts” are coming and going quick – last Saturday group long run, last Sunday at church, last Monday at work. I’m all sentimental.

I first met Mandy at Bethel circa 2015 and immediately was drawn to her down to earth nature. She’s cool and athletic and from Arizona and things I am not, but somehow, she makes me feel comfy in my own skin. Mandy is authentic and kind. Her words are persuasive and always encouraging those around her. I love that she is dedicated to teaching and discipling teenage girls, and most of all, that she is so clearly devoted to Jesus. Alex and I were so privileged to attend Mandy and Earnie’s wedding in February, and it’s clear that those two are the best for each other. They have humor and joy and wit and all the things that make up super fun couple friends.

My heart is filled with gratitude for this girl and her friendship! Now go on and read what Mandy thinks about Houston (couldn’t agree more with her Houston pet peeve) and add her recent reads to your list!

Occupation: Electrical Engineer

Years in Houston: 3

Favorite thing about living in Houston: The food! I love that you can go eat the best of any kind of ethnic food. My current favorites are Indian, Thai, and Chinese.

Biggest Houston pet peeve: Big surprise, the traffic and road system. It is like a constant fight to even drive down the street to the grocery store.

Reading lately: I am in the middle of reading Alexander Hamilton (the book not the play) and I just ordered a book about Christian productivity by Tim Challies.

How she recharges: I embrace the extrovert title, so with people and out doing things. After sitting in front of a computer all day, I love getting off work and going home to work out with my husband or going to meet a group of friends.

3 things she’s loving:
1. My husband Earnie (we got married 3 months ago; I think I’m required to include him on this list) and living the married life.
2. My new too-expensive road bike, its been a fun new way to explore the city
3. The warmer weather and all the outdoor opportunities it brings!

 

What I Learn

Friendships Born in Houston: Celebrating Ashley

As moving day inches closer, I’ve been thinking more and more about the friends God has placed in my life since moving to Houston. I asked some of them a few fun questions, partly because I want the world to know more about how awesome they are and partly because I just want to commemorate their friendship.

Ashley and I met November 11, 2012, and our friendship has become one of my life’s greatest treasures. She recently moved to Illinois, and I miss her deeply, but we are in no danger of losing touch.

This girl is strong, honest, and just so so beautiful inside and out. Her heart for the nations and for refugees is infectious. I wish you all had the chance to know her like I do. She came all the way to Arkansas for my wedding just 6 months after we met. I got to hold both of her boys on their birthdays in the hospital. And for three and a half years, Starbucks meant Ashley. We shared many joys and pains and prayers at Starbucks on Fridays at 7:30 am (usually I was several minutes late and she gave me grace every single time). Now, we share them on the phone.

You’ll see in Ashley’s answers how she builds me up, and that is so her. Ashley is constantly encouraging me. What a gift from God she is! I am so grateful for her life and for the hard, wonderful work she is doing as a mom to two of the cutest boys on the planet. Without further ado, meet Ashley!

Occupation: ESL (English as a second language) instructor

Favorite thing about living in Houston: The diversity!! I love how you can meet people from early every country in the world! I also love how the diversity translates to food and the restaurant scene! I am such a fan of all the ethnic food choices: Lebanese, Indian, Turkish, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Bosnian and the list could go on! I felt like I could travel the world with my palate!

Biggest Houston pet peeve: Well as a northern girl raised in Illinois, I’d have to say the heat. The summers are so brutal. I was not a fan of twice a day showers and having to stay inside most of my summers. I was however a fan of sunny warm Januarys. So it was a trade off I guess!

Currently reading: Right now I’m reading a book I just happened to pick up at the library called Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. So far so good! I also just finished reading She Reads Truth by Amanda Bible Williams and Raechel Myers. I cannot stop recommending it enough. I love how those girls shared their stories of struggle but led me right back to the source of all comfort- Jesus and his Word. Such an encouraging read!

How she recharges: Hmm I would say travel or a trip to the beach but with 2 little boys 2 and under and a recent move back to Illinois, I won’t be recharging like that for a long while. So as a substitute, I love coffee!! Lots and lots of coffee! I also enjoy a short distance run/walk nothing compared to my amazing friend Sarah here, but just a little bit of exercise helps me feel better about life!

3 things she’s loving:
1) Podcasts!! Last fall I discovered podcasts thanks to Sarah Bearden and now I just love them! My favorite by far is the Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey. I also am enjoying the Liturgists podcast, Java with Juli and The Sorta Awesome Show.
2) Coconut Oil! I’m loving it for all things cooking but most especially in my coffee! Throw a tablespoon of coconut oil and a fresh hot cup of coffee in the blender add a drop of honey and a dash of cinnamon and I’m in heaven.
3) The CBS TV show Life in Pieces. I was looking for a random comedy to watch on Netflix and came across this show. It is absolutely hilarious. It follows a family with three adult children and their own families. They all have their own drama and bring their own crazy to the table but all in all they are one big loving family. It’s a fun feel good way to wrap up some stressful days.

What I Learn

A New Texas Adventure


It’s graduation weekend for Alex(!!) and our last month in Houston. In just a couple of weeks, we’ll load up the U-Haul. After some time in Arkansas, we plan to make our new home in Tyler, Texas, where Alex recently accepted a job.

While Alex and I are really excited about this next chapter, leaving Houston will be hard. It’s been 56 months since I moved my carload of belongings into my Aunt Tammy’s house. I was 23 years old and about to begin my first “real” job. Since then, I became a wife, an editor, and I hope, a better friend and more faithful and passionate follower of Jesus.

Houston is where I became an adult. It’s where I realized that a 9 to 5 job can pay the bills but can’t fill my soul. It’s where I really learned that deep community can be built across a little wobbly table at Starbucks every Friday morning and in the Maresh’s living room on Thursday nights. I experienced that.

So when I think of what I’ll miss, it comes down not my apartment or stores or restaurants or traffic (duh) but people. God has graciously provided many sweet friendships here. He has placed along my path beautiful, wise, gracious women as mentors. He has put a deep love and affection in my heart for a 2 year olds and middle schoolers.

Thank you for all who have helped patch together our Houston quilt of memories and experiences during these years. They have been pivotal to my life and to our first four years of marriage.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be spotlighting several beloved Houston friends who have brightened my life with their friendship. These ladies are stellar, I’m so grateful to know them, and I will miss them deeply. I can’t wait for you to meet them! Stay tuned.

xoxo,

Sar

What I Learn

Come to the Table

I feel like I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning {GASP} on Easter. I hesitate saying this out loud for fear of being classified as ungrateful. The truth is I’ve been ungrateful at times today too.

Easter is a day I yearn to be with family, so maybe missing them today has something to do with it. Last year, I went to Arkansas and met my precious new niece Landry, who wore a sparkly pink Easter onesie and lace socks and made my heart leap with joy and love.

Today, I gathered in the park with sweet friends from church who also don’t have family in Houston and enjoyed a fabulous meal and Easter egg hunt even though there were no kids. It was a reminder of the rich gifts of community God has provided Alex and me in this city that has become home for us over the last five years. It was truly a lovely afternoon, so no complaints there. No, I am just broken.

From the bouts of deep frustration that have spilled out from my heart into my actions even today – on Easter – when I feel like I should be immune to things like anger and shame and have it all together, I need rescuing. We need a rescuer.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here.

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.

We have a Rescuer, One who is not surprised by our failures, and His promises are always true. He conquered sin and death! Through Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, there is hope. This hope is greater than our doubts. This hope overcomes fears. This hope restores the tired, broken parts of our souls. Everything we are looking for is found in Jesus Christ. It’s really true, and I’m remembering that now.

On the other side of the empty tomb is a table where the King sits. Come to the table. Come that He might give you life. Happy Easter, dear ones.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you . . .

What I Learn

My Whole30 Experience

One night in January 2016, I was talking on the phone with my dad and stepmom and learned they were in the middle of doing the Whole30, which I had never heard of at the time. I learned that the basic rules were to go 30 days eating meat, seafood, eggs, fruits and veggies, natural fats AND NOTHING ELSE. I was extremely impressed that they made it through 30 days without grains, dairy and sugar.

Why Whole30?

I am NOT a dieter. I don’t need to lose weight. I believe in eating healthy and generally enjoy it, mostly because I feel better mentally and physically that way. Nine times out of 10, I will choose a bed of spinach topped with grilled shrimp, goat cheese, walnuts and asparagus over a cheeseburger and fries. (After a marathon is a different story.)

However, I also have a sweet tooth. I was in the habit of consistently saying yes to a treat just because I could – a handful of dark chocolate chips after dinner, a big piece of cake at a wedding, ice cream at community group. And I’m not saying these treats are bad or wrong when balanced with a nourishing breakfast, lunch and dinner. But for me, it was not good to feel like I “needed” a sweet after dinner every night. I also totally saw myself finding comfort in food – especially sweets. Enter the Whole30.

The Whole30 is a challenge to give up certain foods for 30 days that could be negatively impacting you – a health “reset” of sorts – that is also aimed at changing the way you think about food. It is not a diet. Everything you eat is real food. And it is legit.


 

What I Learned and Loved

When January 2017 rolled around, Dad and Dana told me they had hopped on board the Whole30 again. I decided to buy The Whole30 Book to figure out if what seemed like a crazy challenge last year might be the way to kick my sweets habit. And after completing Day 30 on Monday, I think it did that and a whole lot more. Here are 5 things I loved about the Whole30:

1. Saying no made me feel stronger. I forwent things like a Margarita and chips and salsa on National Margarita Day and pizza and several pieces of celebratory cake, but I saw that sugar habit – what the Whole30 calls “feeding your Sugar Dragon” – diminish. And it was empowering!

2. I became much more intentional about what I ate. Never before did I know how many items have often added sugar in them (sausage!) and therefore are Whole30 no-nos. During those 30 days, I thought more about what I put in my mouth than ever before. Planning all 3 meals each day and scouring labels at the grocery store was totally enlightening.

3. I learned I don’t need grains. As a runner, I thought whole grains were necessary. I was afraid that I wouldn’t get enough carbs during the Whole30. But potatoes and squash were my good friend, and I even ran a personal best in the 10K on Day 28.

4. My body image improved. There is definitely a connection between what I eat and how I feel about my body. So, 30 days of putting only good whole foods into my body made me feel really good about it. And while I wasn’t trying to lose weight, a flatter tummy was a welcome benefit.

5. I learned I can drink black coffee! One cool morning on the way to church, I took a sip of my hot, black coffee and actually thought, “This is soooo good.” That’s something my milk and honey loving self would not have said before the Whole 30.

Ultimately, the Whole30 is not hard. As Whole30 founder Melissa Hartwig says, “Quitting heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard.” But for us latte lovers, it seems kinda hard. Can I get an amen??

If you’re interested in reading more about the Whole30, I’d love to lend you my book or send you some of the recipes I used during the 30 days. Would I do it again? Yep. Let’s see if I can get Alex on board . . .

xoxo,
Sar

What I Learn

Circle Time and Freedom Through Forgiveness

Remember circle time as a kid when you were invited to the big carpet to listen to a story?

I remember 1st grade circle time most poignantly. As a six-year-old, one of my favorite times of the day was when my teacher, Mrs. Harter, would call our class over to the carpet as she found her place in her rocking chair next to the easel that held up the book of the day. Once we were gathered at her feet, eyes wide and ready, she would begin the story.

Once, Mrs. Harter even allowed me to even conduct circle time:

Best Day Ever.

Last weekend was a very special one to me, as 60 or so women from my church and I gathered around as our speaker, Laura Seifert, pointed to Jesus and The Story. It felt like the best kind of circle time. After each session, we’d break out into small groups to discuss.

Laura talked about the process of forgiveness and helped us work through “The List” of people who have hurt us either directly or we’ve perceived that they’ve hurt us, often including ourselves and God. We talked through canceling the debt and clearing The List. I walked in thinking I had no list, but when Laura sent us out on our own for 30 minutes to talk with God about who might be on our list, I found I totally had one. Who was I kidding?

God impacted me deeply through this simple weekend away through Laura and circle time. In fact, it took 2 days of me being away from work and dishes and bills and decisions to remember that nothing is sweeter than intimacy with the Lord. I loved getting to be honest with Him about my hopes and fears and maybe even stuff I’d been holding against Him. Of course we can be honest at home too, but I’d started to forget that.

No one can breathe fresh life into dry bones except God. He is the One who can uproot the nasty, growing root of bitterness toward another person. He is Healer. And He is the One who forgives.

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6.12 – part of the Lord’s Prayer

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4.32

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3.13

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36.26

xoxo,
Sar

What I Learn

My Journey Through 26.2

“We are 27,000 people all reaching for the same goal. This is incredible!!”

“This doesn’t actually seem that fun anymore. What happened to those thousands of die-hard spectators at the start?”

“I feel awesome! Unstoppable! Thank you Lord! This is incredible!”

“My left knee hurts. Bad. It feels like my body is deteriorating. Why am I doing this to myself again??”

“Just a 5K left. Just. A. 5K. I love 5Ks!”

“I’m gonna make it. Don’t stop. Actually don’t even slow down, or it will just take longer to finish and that’s just dumb.”

“Splashing my way through the puddles isn’t how I pictured this last mile, but BY GOLLY THERE’S THE FINISH LINE!”

These are just a smattering of thoughts that trickled through my brain during the 2017 Chevron Houston Marathon. What a day. My goal was to break four hours after running 4:01 in 2015, and I did it – 3:58:40.

A marathon is something you can train for of course, but when race day arrives, you aren’t guaranteed success. I had trained consistently since early September, building up my mileage and long runs, but on the morning of January 15th, I just didn’t know what would happen. So, I started and tried to take it the best way I knew how – one step at a time.

With so many people cheering and with fresh legs, it was easy to start, but even as early as mile 3, I began to doubt that I was up for this long journey. In that moment, I had the option of whether to be discouraged and anxious or to push aside that doubt and instead keep running. I tried to do the latter and actually enjoyed the next few miles.

At mile 11, one of the 4 hour pacers started talking about how humid it was – something that was already on all of our minds – and how bad she felt. It made me anxious. She kept running ahead and then walking for a few seconds to catch a break (which makes her a pretty bad pacer but girl had to do what she had to do). I shut out thoughts of “If pacer girl can’t do this, how am I supposed to??” and instead just. kept. running. My race mantra became, “He alone is my rock. I will not be shaken,” from Psalm 62.2.

When I ran through the half marathon point, I was feeling good but knew I wanted to run a negative split the second half. Before long, I was getting close to the place I knew my mom and stepdad would be spectating. I was fueling faithfully every 4 or so miles but began to feel  a stiffness in my legs. Between miles 19 and 20, I spotted my mom’s smiling face. She handed me a banana, bottle of water and a Gu, and I felt like I’d been given new life just by seeing them. Pure bliss!

Soon after mile 20, aka “the wall,” I approached one of the members of my track group who was walking – and hurting. He ran beside me for a couple of minutes and we talked about how hard it was getting but how close we were to the finish. Each of the three times I’ve run this marathon, this point along Memorial Park in the race is always the most dismal mentally and physically, as many people stop to stretch cramped hamstrings or are limping along. I knew I had to keep going. “I will NOT be shaken.”

At mile 25, I heard my name and turned to see my former neighbors and good friends, which was so unexpected and encouraging. At that point I knew I’d really actually finish. And after being humid and overcast all morning, it started raining, then pouring, and it was an almost comical (but not really) splish splash to the finish line. Before I knew it, I was guzzling a water and being rewarded with a lovely medal.

A couple of takeaways:
– There are a lot of opportunities to be brave or wimpy during a marathon. And brave doesn’t always mean to push through no matter the pain. It means to pay attention to your body and do what you believe is best.

– Feed the brain. One thing I think helped me run a better race than my last marathon was fueling earlier and more often – every 4 miles or so. It not only helped me physically have more energy, but it prevented my mind from feeling fuzzy and out of it.

– Volunteers rock. God bless those race volunteers, who hand out water and gatorade and spend all morning watching sweaty people and sweeping cups off the ground when they could be in bed eating pastries and drinking coffee. They are heroes and deserve a million thank-yous.

What’s next? For now, I’m happy to be running consistently still but less miles. I hope to get back into speed work next week. Alex and I plan to run a 10K in March and also do something I’ve never done before at a race – volunteer.

We can do more than our minds would have us believe. Go get your goals!

xoxo, Sar

Meeting runners Adam and Kara Goucher at the race expo: A dream come true!

What I Learn

New Year, New Hope


Here we are in the first week of a brand new year. You may be relieved that the holidays are behind us, or maybe you’re feeling down about the passing of that sacred season.

Alex and I spent the long Christmas weekend in Arkansas between parents’ homes being spoiled with presents and delicious home cooked meals and blessed time with loved ones. This was our fifth Christmas to make the drive back from Arkansas to Houston, and it’s always a bit sad leaving precious family.



Now, it’s back to work and responsibilities and eating healthy again and soon it will be spring and May is always an especially busy month and . . . Whew. Where do we land?

How about hope?

hope (hōp) n. 1 a feeling that what is wanted will happen; desire accompanied by expectation  2 the object of this  3 a person or thing on which one may base some hope

With a new year comes new hope. Whatever hurts marked 2016, 2017 is a brand new page in your book. Whatever expectations were crushed during your 2016, new hope springs out of the year 2017. While there is nothing magical about the turn of a new year, there is no better time to make some goals and get excited about the next 12 months of life.

What are you hoping for this year? God cares about our hopes, dreams, desires, and even our fears. He cares about you and me as is so incredibly evident in the person and saving work of Jesus.

I’ve had some fears spring up this week. And God has very strongly nudged me to take not just the holy, happy thoughts to Him but my fears to Him as well. He already knows them, yes. But there’s something hopeful and definitely relational about willingly sharing it all with Him.

In the dictionary definitions above, I just love number 3. Jesus Christ is our hope! He is the one who brings hope and healing to our broken souls. I don’t want to live 2017 as though anyone or anything else can do that. Here’s to a new year of hope!

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
Hebrews 6.19