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

What I See

The Last of October

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Happy Halloween! I’ve seen some good costumes this year so far, but I have laughed the hardest at my eight-month-old niece’s little old lady costume. Props to my brother and sister-in-law on pulling off such a spectacular first Halloween. They are rocking this parenthood thing!

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Alex and I dusted off our hillbilly “costumes” for a costume party at church.

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Anyway, the end of another month has me reflecting on some of my favorite October moments…

• I spent a weekend in Phoenix with five of my best friends from college and Casie’s baby, Addy, as well as the other littles who have come along. The Lord has been so kind to sustain our friendships. Five years ago, we couldn’t see all that’s happened since college coming. Now, with husbands and careers and [for some] babies, it’s awesome to see God’s gracious hand in getting us to where we are as 27-year-olds. Lord willing, we still have a whole lot of life to live together.

• Alex and I started going to a track Tuesday evenings to do speed work with a local running group. This has been a big brave step for me, as I’ve been terrified of running with other people and especially pushing my pace limits with them. It has been so good for me mentally and physically. When Coach Andy tells me to run 800 meter repeats at 3:40 pace, I just file in with the people in my group and get it done. It’s not quite that simple I guess, but then again it kind of is.

• I ran in the Houston Half Marathon Sunday, and even though the weather was very unfallish – humid and 70ish degrees – I felt good and enjoyed it so much! I shaved a mere 2 seconds off my PR with a time of 1:48:11. I’ll take it!

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What do you want to remember from this month?

“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

What I See

Favorite Things Friday

Who doesn’t love a solid recommendation? And on a Friday? “Favorite Things Friday” is an established thing according to the Internet. Here are three things I’m loving lately that are either free or cheap. I feel like it’s unfair to hold them back any longer. They’re that good. I hope you love them too.

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The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey: Go subscribe to this podcast TODAY. Whether you’re a mom, a single girl, married without kids, whatever, this podcast will encourage you to no end! Each week, host Jamie Ivey invites a guest to chat during a “happy hour” style conversation. She . The guests are entrepreneurs, writers, speakers, artists, wives and moms. They are normal women who are living out their dreams, saying yes to God, and seeing where it takes them. Two of my favorite episodes so far are #90 with Lauren Chandler and #98 with Katherine Wolf, but really I have enjoyed each one. The content is true to real life and at the same time opens my eyes to new businesses, issues and books. Jamie is funny and kind and just so real. I listen to a couple each week while running and is always a bright spot in my week.

 

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Cucumber slices with lime and salt: Yes, for real. I partly love this simple snack because my friend Lindsay served it when I was at her house one grand summer day. Wash, peel and slice a cucumber. Arrange slices on a plate, sprinkle with sea salt and then squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lime over the top. So refreshing!

 

 

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Starbucks 2016 Fall Blend “Hearty with Spice Notes” K-cups: My sweet stepmom sent me a fall package in the mail chock full of fall goodies, including these k-cups. The taste is bold, smooth and harvesty. A sip from your favorite mug will make you go, “Ahh, fall.”

xoxo,
Sar

What I See

Home Sweet Hot Springs and Two Must-Stops

So here we are. It’s October 20th, and fall is in the air! Just kidding. It’s been in the 90s this week. THE NINETIES. But pumpkin recipes and cozy autumn decor surround us all. I look forward to the day (soon please?) when the weather matches our fall interests, but for now, I’m okay with forging ahead with the fall things anyway.

Speaking of fall things, Alex and I have a fall tradition of making a super quick weekend trip to Arkansas each year for one thing or another. Some years it’s for a wedding. Last year we got together with Alex’s family for some Magic Screams at Magic Springs. This past weekend, Alex and I road tripped for Alex’s 10 year high school reunion. Alex and I attended the same high school, so I got to see some familiar faces too. I’m not sure if there’s any way around the awkward of suddenly being in a room with people you mostly haven’t seen or talked to in 10 years, but that didn’t stop everyone from having a great time.

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In between family visits, Alex and I had a lunchtime hour to spare, so we did the best possible thing: We stopped into McClard’s Bar-B-Q for lunch. If you ever, EVER find yourself in Hot Springs, Arkansas, you must go here.

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Alex and I shared the Whole Spread, which may look like more than two small people could devour, but it wasn’t, especially after going yeeeeears without it. This amazing pile-style (“layered” might be a less country way to say it) dish starts with a base of two tamales and is topped with beans, chopped beef, onions, Fritos and grated cheddar cheese. It’s one of those dishes that if I had discovered later in life, the “healthy Sarah” might pass it up, but it was so a part of my childhood that I can see it only as normal and right.

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I have one more rec for you, as if McClard’s isn’t enough of a reason to stop whatever you’re doing and get on the road to Hot Springs. Alex and I also stopped by Mug Shots Express for the first time. This coffee shop is a drive-through shack. Quaint, no? Their menu signatures include the Arkansas Honey Latte and Blackberry Sage Mocha. I had a Pumpkin Pie Latte, because fall. It’s made with real pumpkin, not the syrup. So good!
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After a very full 34 hours, we were on the road again. While it made me sad not to be able to stay longer and fit in visits with friends (sorry friends), we just can’t do it all . . . this is something I’m beginning to learn.

Arkansas, you have my heart.

xoxo,
Sar