What I See

5 Great Books to Read Now

When I spent a year in Australia, Casie and I became BFFs with the local library and soooooaked up reading time. On my last day there, I expressed my thanks to the front desk for the refuge they provided to a bookless foreigner like me – and all for free! But once I moved to Texas and began working full time, reading books other than the Bible or articles for the sake of proofing became much less of a priority. Between 2012 and 2015, leisurely reading became almost non-existent for me.

So at the beginning of 2016, I resolved to read two books a month, which sounded like a totally realistic goal, right? 24. I could do that.

I read 13 books last year. I’m glad I read those 13 books. It meant I spent less time scrolling Instagram (when will I understand that Instagram is actually not very fulfilling?) and more time getting lost in the words others wrote to be shared and loved.

But this year, I want to read more. So here’s to carrying over that 2016 goal to 2017. Do you want to read more this year too? Here are 5 recent reads that I absolutely loved:

1. Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon • Ed Caesar
This is about long distance running, elite marathoners, and the possibility of someone someday breaking two hours in the marathon. This book is well researched and a good, easy read. And, it provides a great backdrop for the SUB2 project Nike is now working on with 3 elite runners. (The current marathon WR is 2:02:57.)

2. Bird by Bird • Anne Lamott
“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.”

I adore this book filled with practical tips and wisdom on writing. Now, Lamott sprinkles in some language that I wouldn’t use and theology that I don’t agree with, but that doesn’t stop me from loving the gift she gives me a the reader of her insight on the craft of writing.
3. Hinds’ Feet on High Places • Hannah Hurnard
In this allegory of the Christian faith, the loving Shepherd invites crippled, trembling Much Afraid on a journey to the High Places, where she is promised swift hinds’ feet and restoration. He helps her through the journey as she overcomes fears and the temptation to quit. I first read this in college, and the reminder for me both times of reading was this: The Christian’s journey is not easy. Life is hard, but God is faithful. He will never leave us or forsake us.

4. Hope Heals • Katherine and Jay Wolf
Have a box of tissues near for this one. At the age of 26, Katherine had a massive stroke, changing the trajectory of her, her husband and her baby boy’s lives drastically. The thread that weaves through this memoir of sorts is hope – an overwhelming, anchoring hope in Christ in the midst of what truly seems like one of the most tragic circumstance imaginable. I am grateful Katherine and Jay were brave enough to share their very hard story. It made me – and three months later still makes me – stop and remember Jesus truly is the one who brings hope and healing to our broken souls.

5. The Kite Runner • Khalid Hosseini
This novel captured my attention from the start. It features themes of guilt and redemption and explores the relationship between and father and son with lots of twists in the plot. I didn’t want to put it down.

What’s on your to-read list?
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

What I See

Favorite Things Friday

Christmas is nine days away. Whew! Are you feeling the magic of the season yet? I had a harrowing few minutes the other day looking down my list of gifts to buy, but I’m okay now. Thank goodness for online shopping.

On this Favorite Things Friday, here are three of my Christmastime favorites this year:

JJ Heller’s Unto Us: I want to hug JJ a million times for creating this beautiful album. I first started listing to her music in college and have never gotten over her beautifully thoughtful lyrics and pure, graceful voice.

Jamie Ivy’s 2016 Holiday Gift Guide: I adore The Happy Hour podcast, and Jamie’s Holiday Gift Guide was such a fun episode. She shared 13 companies whose products are not your run of the mill Old Navy mittens or Amazon books. Some of the promo codes have expired by now, but there is still time to order gifts from these places before Christmas. I bought from Dear Mushka and can’t wait to give my gift!

Trader Joe’s Mistletoe: There’s not a whole lot to say about this except Trader Joe’s. Real mistletoe. $1.99.

Enjoy this season!

xoxo,

Sar

What I See

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Here we are: Thanksgiving 2016! I’m counting my blessings today and hope you get a chance to as well. Here are 16 things I’m grateful for:

1. My family – their support and love and how wonderful it is to spend time with them.

2. My husband who knows me best and loves me so well.

3. This season of life.

4. Friends far and near.

5. Running and the meaningful outlet it is to me.

6. A reliable car that took us to Arkansas last night.

7. Our church home and brothers and sisters there.

8. Good health.

9. An apartment I feel safe in and for a short commute.

10. A warm bed and the ability to fall asleep fast.

11. A piping hot cup of coffee.

12. My job and all that I get to learn there.

13. The sunshine.

14. Laughter – especially that of my friends’ babies and our 2-year-olds class at church.

15. Rich experiences from childhood, college and Australia that have shaped me and the memories that still bring me joy.

16. God, who has made a way for me through Jesus Christ to experience life to the fullest here on earth and forevermore with Him.

What are you grateful for? 

Here are some of my favorite quotes on gratitude to give you inspiration.

“Thanksgiving is a time of quiet reflection . . . An annual reminder that God has, again, been ever so faithful. The solid and simple things of life are brought into clear focus.” – Charles Swindoll

“Gratitude. More aware of what you have than what you don’t. Recognizing the treasure in the simple – a child’s hug, fertile soil, a golden sunset. Relishing the comfort of the common – a warm bed, a hot meal, a clean shirt.” – Max Lucado

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1.17

“Gratitude for the seemingly insignificant is a seed – this plants the giant miracle.” – Ann Voskamp

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5.18

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What I See

Favorite Things Friday

We made it through the week! I hope you thrived.

I had some hard moments this week and had to remind myself – and have friends remind me – of God’s sovereignty and generosity. There are so many blessings to count. My plan is to dwell on those blessings this next week and coming up with a big ole gratitude list for Thanksgiving. Want to join?

In the meantime, here are three of my faves, all perfect for fall:

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Emergen-C: B vitamins, electrolytes, antioxidants . . . What else do we need? Like many of my favorite things, my mom introduced me to Emergen-C. While it’s not the tastiest (think fizzy and tart), some flavors are better than others. My favorites are Tropical and Cranberry-Pomegranate. It’s the best after a run or if with the first symptoms of a cold. Get a free sample here.

Gardenia Tea Body Serum:  This little bottle is like the final answer to getting soft skin. It has a sweet floral scent that’s not too perfumey. Put it on after a shower, and you’ll go “ahhh” because your skin will be glowing and incredibly soft.

Seasonal Napkins: Owls are one of my favorite emblems of fall because my friend Liz and I bonded over finding so many cute owl things like pillows and salt and pepper shakers my junior year of college. HomeGoods has a slew of cute napkins for all occasions. Give as a gift or use at your very own dinner table.

Have the happiest weekend!
xoxo,
Sarah

“Praise the Lord! Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Who can list the glorious miracles of the Lord? Who can ever praise him enough?” Psalm 106.1-2

 

What I Make

Pre-Turkey Bowl of Yum

Thanksgiving is in just one week . . . yippee! The holidays have become a really special getaway time for me. The longer I live apart from family, the greater of a gift it is to spend one unhurried, long weekend with them. The extra delicious food is a major perk. And the road trip with my bff Al isn’t a bad deal either. He’s a fun guy. Case in point:

Alex with all the clue weapons at our church's life-size clue Really Big Game Night
Professor Plum with all the Clue weapons at our church’s “Really Big Game Night.”

If you’re holding back on calories this week in preparation for the your grandma’s turkey and dressing and pumpkin pie next week, you need to know about this perfect, light yet filling salad. People, it is AMAZING. I’ve been eating it for lunch the last couple of days and love that it’s easy peasy to make and filling. It’s not diet food. It’s whole food with lots of flavor.

Even if you’re not a “salad person,” I’m confident you’ll be sold on this one after one forkful of tart pomegranate arils (love that term), creamy goat cheese, toasty pecans, and butternut squash. If not, just think of it as doing your body a clean eating favor and have it anyway.

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Pomegranates were 59 cents at Aldi last week! Amazing.

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The Perfect Pre-Holiday Salad
Recipe adapted from cookingclassy.com
Yield: About 6 Servings

Salad:
2/3 cup copped pecans, toasted
3/4 cup pomegranate arils
3 oz goat cheese, crumbled
1 butternut squash, cooked and diced
9 oz baby spinach

Dressing:
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp EVOO
1 1/2 tsp honey
1 tsp dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all salad ingredients in a large bowl. Place all dressing ingredients in a small mason jar, put on lid, and shake to combine. Toss salad with dressing and serve.

xoxo,
Sar

 

What I See

Favorite Things Friday

I don’t know about you, but between the election and work and life, it’s been a big week. And we made it through! Thank you to our veterans on this Veterans Day. Thank you for helping hold us together as you served our country. I am so grateful to live in this nation.

Now on to this week’s favorite things! Here are four things I’m loving lately:

In the midst of this week’s social media jibber jabber, I really enjoyed reading Anne Voskamp’s post “win or lose, the way forward through this messy brokenness.” What a beautiful job she did at describing how, in the aftermath of the election and also as generally broken people, we can “be the gift to each other.”

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Roasted Dandelion Root: This product  may sound hippie, but just go with it. I’ve been trying to drink more tea lately. It’s calming and better in the afternoon or evening than a cup of coffee. This caffeine-free herbal tea is so interesting in the loveliest way. Its list of ingredients is literally just “organic dandelion root,” and it tastes good on its own – no honey needed. My sweet mom gave me this, but it is available at most grocery stores.

“Balance” Necklace: Remember when gold jewelry was all that in the 90s and then silver became the trend? Gold is back it seems, and I’m loving it. This necklace came in my Fall Causebox, and I adore its simplicity and versatility. Dogeared’s jewelry is handcrafted in the USA, and as a certified B corporation, it is ethically made – an even better reason to love it.

Botanical Notebook Collection: Oh my, how cute are these notebooks? I have been savoring this three-pack of notebooks since landing them at our friends’ Christmas party last year. The decadent, foil-stamped covers are feminine and floral. Don’t you love writing in pretty spaces?

xoxo,

Sar

What I See

Favorite Things Friday

Happy Fri-yay! I’m thinking about my favorite things again. These three things have stood the test of at least a few months’ time in my life, and I can honestly say I love them.

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Garmin Forerunner 25 Running Watch: My sweet husband gave me this for my birthday after I started eying his a little too closely (his isn’t pink though). A year ago I would have said I had no desire for a fancy GPS watch and may have even looked down on you for having one, because I was convinced the information it provided was superfluous and that it overestimated the distance. Please forgive me, because I understand now. This watch has motivated me to run faster and longer. It tracks pace and distance on runs and counts steps and calories burned throughout the day. And it is accurate!

Run Fast, Eat Slow by Shalane Flanagan & Elyse Kopecky: Olympic marathoner Shalane Flanagan and her former college roommate and chef Elyse Kopecky have done something generous for the world by publishing this cookbook. The whole mindset behind the book is to nourish your body – any body, not just a runner’s – with unprocessed, whole foods. Every recipe I’ve tried so far – Energizing Chai, Banana Chews, Superhero Muffins, Broccoli Chèvre Soup, Chicken and Rice Soup, Charred Cauliflower and Pecan Butter Chocolate Truffles with Sea Salt – were really, truly delish and uncomplicated. I’m talking Alex-approved delish. It’s fun to have a cookbook I can open and know that whatever I decide to try is both nutritious and tasty. I bought it for Kindle because they had a $3.99 special, but now it is still just $9.99 on Amazon.

Tom’s Long Lasting Deodorant: I’ll keep the explanation on this short, lest I bore you. Deodorant is a must, especially in hot and humid Houston where we’re staring summer in the face for a solid six months. As in it currently still feels like summer. With no artificial fragrance, preservatives or aluminum and “odor-fighting hops to provide 24-hour odor protection,” Toms has convinced me that deodorant is one of those things worth putting a few extra cents toward. I’m not really sure what odor fighting hops are, but I decided I like them.

Enjoy your weekend! xoxo, Sar