Sunday, June 29, 2014

Go West Young Man

I am happy to report that for seven straight days all has been well on the home front, car front, and computer front. Not only was life wonderfully quiet last week, but it was also full of Lavish (with a capital "L") gifts.  Everywhere I turned, people were doing gracious, caring things on my behalf. 

I've told you already about the friends who spent hours helping me clean my apartment last Sunday. That was just the beginning of my week of gifts. A couple of days later, my neighbor, L, gave me her piano. For free.

Playing the piano is a source of great comfort and joy for me. It is a cathartic and creative outlet that I've missed the last several years. Now that I have very own piano, I've been dancing frequent mental jigs — to the tune of Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer," naturally.

Upon receiving the piano, I realized we had a problem, Houston: it was going to be tricky to move it from L's house to my house. I had two days before I'd fly to Portland, and I didn't know if that was enough time to find and schedule movers. Because the last two months' mishaps have used up all my troubleshooting powers, I pushed the dilemma aside. Maybe the piano would just up and move itself?

Hours later, I met a woman who is moving into the house across the street from me. She'd heard from L that I needed my piano moved, so upon meeting me she said, "I have a piano mover coming Saturday to move my piano into my new house; I'll have him move L's piano to your house, too." 

Jackpot! I could get uuuuused to this easy living.

The next day I dropped by the house of my favorite pair of brothers (well, besides my pair of brothers, of course). I love these guys. I'd camp in their backyard every night if I could. Instead, I visit on Thursdays after I tutor and we sit around and try to plumb the depths of the world's mysteries. We also eat. I am known for eating entire bags of chips, by myself, during our conversations. And so you can imagine my delight when John, the oldest of the brothers, said, "Sarah, I got your favorite chips at Trader Joe's in case you were hungry. They're on the top shelf."

And then I ate half a bag of chips and he, his brother and I tried to figure out the telos of both romantic and non-romantic kissing. Which, it turns out, is a mystery that can't be solved in the time it takes to eat half a bag of chips.

The next day my friend Doug fixed my vacuum cleaner. On Sunday, when he'd come to help me clean my studio, he'd discovered that the belt was broken. So he went online, bought a new belt for me, and then, after the belts arrived, he fixed my 'cume. And just like that, I was cleaning up dirt and lint like nobody's business.

And finally, on Friday evening, my friends Kevy, Greg and I drove into the sunset up the coast in Kevy's convertible.

Kevy and I

We blasted Michael W. Smith's "Go West Young Man," and the wind gave me dreadlocks, and I gulped gallons of balmy sea breeze.

Looking at the ocean

Sweet heavens: there is very little on earth that beats cruising up the Pacific Coast Highway at sunset in a convertible.

When my dreadlocks were Bob Marley status, we stopped for dinner at a yummy restaurant. "I'm buying you dinner, Sarah," Kevy said. "I want you to feel special after the difficulties of the last few months."

And oh man, do I feel special. My community has been pressing in from all directions and I've felt wrapped up in a big ol' hug all week. I like being in the middle of this hug.

And today, I'm in Washington with my family on vacation.

The drive from the airport to my folks' house is stunning. Just look at that expansive sky!

Can this hug get any warmer, this week any better? Why, I believe my little brother is about to get out of bed and join me for tea before church, so yes, yes it can.

Happy Sunday, my friends!


© by scj

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

This just in: a mid-week update

This just in: rainbow carrots are the best vegetable of life.

Notice the purple carrots with the yellow centers!

I cooked up the bag of carrots in a bit of butter and then devoured the entire pan within a few hours. Now, all I want to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner is rainbow carrots. They're so sweet and flavorful. Thank goodness Trader Joe's still has 'em. The cashier told me they're seasonal, so if you want to try them, now is the time!

Also, a few friends helped me wipe down every surface of my studio's main living area and I am happy to report that my studio is [hopefully] free of the post-renovation dust containing lead.

I am so thankful for these friends who gave up hours and hours of their weekend to help me clean. Their support makes my soul feel loads lighter.

And finally, the horizons in this area are especially smoggy this month which makes the air especially thick, which is especially yucky. The good news is, the weather has been especially glorious, especially for hiking. I especially love a sunshine-y hike like the one a friend and I enjoyed yesterday.

There ain't nothin' like a good sweat in the sunshine, folks.

Happy Wednesday, my friends!


© by scj

Monday, June 23, 2014

Berries and Cream Ice Cream: Dairy and Refined Sugar-free Recipe

The older I grow, the better I get at coming up with excuses to indulge in fatty foods. French fries are covered in salt which I need to raise my very low blood pressure. Hamburgers are full of iron which I need to improve my energy levels. Bacon, well, bacon releases endorphins which I need to feel happier.

You name it, I can think of a health-improving reason to eat it. But this berries and cream ice cream doesn't need my sophisticated excuses. It speaks for itself, and it's saying,

"I'm full of anti-oxidants, healthy fat, and honey (which fights infections and treats allergies, studies suggest) Eat me! Eat me! Eat me!"

You won't regret it, guys and gals, especially you who have dairy allergies like I do. This easy-to-make ice cream is about to make your summer a lot healthier and tastier.

Here's what you'll need to make it:

  • 1 16-oz bag of frozen berries (I used mixed berries for the ice cream in the photo)
  • 3/4 of a can of full fat coconut cream —Trader Joe's coconut cream is my favorite*
  • 1/4 c. honey
*Before making the ice cream, I put the can of coconut cream in the fridge overnight so it solidifies

Step 1: Stick the honey and coconut cream in a blender or food processor and pulse until they are blended. If you like really sweet ice cream, then add 1-2 more tablespoons of honey.

Step 2: Add the bag of frozen berries to the cream and honey mixture, and blend until smooth.

Step 3: Scoop up a heaping serving of the finished ice cream and enjoy! The ice cream will have the consistency of soft serve at this point, which is my favorite way to eat it. If you want it to be firmer, then pop it in the freezer for a few hours before serving.

Bon appetite!


© by scj

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Rainbow Carrots

I sure am getting tired of this whole gratitude thing. I've never been great at it, really. Often, when my ideal little world begins to wobble and crack, I cry and worry and then curl up in the fetal position. Because: Anxiety Girl. And then, when the crying has subsided, I realize I should probably speak some true, good and beautiful things into my soul, starting with listing all of the good gifts in my life which point to God's goodness, and ending with thanking God for his plentiful grace. Gratitude is often the P.S. to a long-winded and ungrateful rant.

The things is, mishaps keep on rolling in, and I am tired. And practicing gratitude requires perseverance. And I am tired. But the apostle Paul once said that we should rejoice in suffering because suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope cannot disappoint us. It was hope that buoyed the faith of the "Faith Hall of Fame-ers" in Hebrews 11 when they were tired, discouraged, and doubtful of God's work in their lives. So practicing gratitude with endurance when life continues to discourage and disappoint won't only transform the way I experience the moment, but will also reap eternal rewards. It's worth pushing through the tired.

This week my new computer crashed again. I'd just gotten a new hard drive installed two weeks ago after losing a wealth of important documents, so I shouldn't have had another hard drive crash. More information lost. Oh dear. You'd think I'd learn my lesson after the first hard drive crash and back up my data daily. And then, I discovered that the paint in my studio has lead in it which means the post-renovation dust coating much of my apartment could be pure poison. And I suppose these problems would seem little more than inconvenient if they were isolated, but they're not: they're just the straw on top of a huge load of hay on top of a tired camel who is desperately afraid of battling more sickness, lead-caused or otherwise. But Paul reminds us there are still nuggets of joy to be had in the midst of all this "tired"...

So I've been asking God to help me practice gratitude in spite of my weary and apathetic heart. When I walked into Trader Joe's last night to get some food for dinner I begged God, "Please give me a good gift in here. I am discouraged and feel like I need a little something to perk up my spirits." Minutes later I was at the check out stand and the cashier asked, "Have you seen our rainbow carrots?"

Rainbow carrots? Could it be?! Had my childhood fantasies about rainbow produce become real in my normal, everyday life?

The cashier had another worker grab me a bag of carrots, and to my delight there were yellow, purple, and orange carrots in the bundle. "The purple carrots are yellow inside," the cashier said. "And they're delicious. Sweeter than regular carrots."

The best part of about Snickers, Reeses, Almond Joy and most other candy bars is they are not what they seem. They have silky milk chocolate on the outside, and have chewy, nutty, surprises on the inside. Who knew there were comparable carrots?

These carrots — delightful on the outside — are not what they seem. They're even more delightful than they seem.
Ron Swanson

And wonderfully, these carrots brought me much delight. The rather bushy mustache on the man in the car next to me at the stoplight also brought me great delight. As did the fact that the computer repair guy at the Apple Store looked remarkably like Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec. As does the smell of bacon that is currently wafting from the neighbors house and onto my deck. As does the tree to my left that is the playground for dozens of tiny, hopping birds.

So I guess the take-away from this week is that I need to tell God when I'm really tired and then ask him for good, faith-growing gifts, the presence of mind to notice the gifts, and the stamina to thank him for the gifts. I think this must be a prayer that brings him great pleasure. And you never know how he'll answer. But it'll likely be with something really cool.

Like rainbow carrots.

© by scj

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Surfin' Spies

I have discovered a sure-fire antidote to the poison of anxiety and stress: play, and lots of it.

Play helps me to live in the present rather than dwelling on the past, worrying about the future, or living in the land of "If Only" ("If only this day were over"; "If only my body were more toned"; "If only I had more money"). The present is full of gifts I miss when I'm not living fully in the moment. But when I notice and engage the gifts of the present, I begin to see how much goodness and grace God put in the world, my body, and soul. These reminders of God's goodness and grace buoy my trust in him. And it's trust in God that ultimately quiets my anxious heart.

(You can read a short article I wrote about play as a spiritual discipline here).

So last weekend, after several weeks of stress-inducing mishaps, I played like it was going out of style. Like really: my friends and I got after it. Thank goodness for friends who instigate play on the reg.

Sometimes we are so excited to see each other that we greet each other with erratic jumping and cheering, as we are in this picture

More enthusiastic greetings 

A group of my closest friends and I started the weekend with a bang: we barbecued, chatted about life, and then, when the moon was full, we danced like it was 2003.

Dancing in the dark in the living room (photo taken from outside, through the window)

Dancing is the spice of life. Well, that and bacon. Dancing while eating bacon might just launch me into a state of unparalleled euphoria. We should all get together and try it sometime.

I love how much my friends love each other. And I love them:

Also, I'd forgotten how much fun dogpiles are. Everyone should try to have a dogpile at least once a year. I'd show you a picture of our especially large dogpile this weekend, but dogpiles tend to showcase lots of bums, jean-clad though they may be. And we can't have pictures of bums floating around on here, now can we? You can head over to the Pioneer Woman for that:  ;)

After our living room dance party, I headed to a friend's house for a slumber party. Oh the delights of slumbering in a new place with good friends. And then, after a hearty breakfast with my girls, we met up with some other folks and headed to the beach for a friend's birthday.

It was a glorious day. Blue skies, warm sun, gentle breeze. It was the perfect day to learn how to surf.

Heading to the beach!

Enough surf boards to go around

And so learn to surf is exactly what I did.

For ten years I've wanted to learn to surf. But in college my track scholarship precluded surfing, in grad school I was too busy for weekend relaxin', and the last four years I've been too sick to learn. But last weekend, I finally did it. And you guys, surfing is one of life's true delights.

My friend Laura was my teacher. She is my adventurous, sporty friend and I love playing with her.

Laura and I

It turns out surfing is a great sport for former hurdlers since both sports require a lot of balance. I was surprised at how readily my body took to surfing. The hardest part was paddling through the bigger waves. It was tiring. And the cramping! Oh the cramping! I should probably do some strength training before my next surf trip....

And the bruises, oh the bruises! I've been finding them all over my body since my surfing debut. I didn't have any bad falls or collisions with my board so I can only figure that the bruising is from smacking against the board whilst paddling through big waves. There is so much bruising on my body, and there was so little violence in the water, that I'm beginning to wonder if I have an iron deficiency. Hey, any excuse to eat lots of steak, Jack.

Oh the bruises!

Eventually our beach day came to an end, and we made plans to grab dinner. Except wait: we discovered one of our friends, C, was going on a first date that evening with a guy she'd met online. All of my single friends know the agony of an online-facilitated first date, so we decided to help C out a bit.

"We'll come spy on you," we said. "If you need to end the date early, we'll be your moral support. And if you're into this guy, then we'll make sure he knows how awesome you are."

One friend chimed in, "Yeah, I'll walk up to you both mid-date and say, 'Wow, I couldn't help but notice what amazing you chemistry you two have. You're such a cute couple!'"

Another male friend said, "And then I'll come up and ask you out on a date when your date is walking back from the bathroom so he knows how desirable you are."

"Guys," C said amiably, "You're welcome to spy on us. This will be fun."

So we showed up at the designated restaurant that evening and sat ourselves where we could watch the date unfold.

Here is the moral support crew:

We have several photos of us with C and her date in the background. We also have several photos of us gals in the bathroom with C. When we girls noticed her heading for the ladies room, we flew out of our seats and met her for a mid-date debrief. And then we coached her through ending the date, which wasn't floating her romantic boat.

You guys, I love spying on friends who are on dates with folks they met online. I love being secretive. I love wearing all black (well, that was unintentional). I love analyzing the body language of the date participants and trying to figure out what they're talking about. I love covert bathroom powwows. This stuff is my jam, yo.

C discovered she loved having us there for moral support, too. So my friends and I decided to create a "moral support crew" sign up sheet that ensures each of us has a team of friends in the restaurant when we are on a first date.

Isn't that a great idea?

You should totally try it, all of you who still have to go on agonizing first date after agonizing first date. It will probably revolutionize your experience.

And there you have it: a weekend of play. Boy was it good for my soul.

I hope your weekend (and your Wednesday) was full of play, too!

Haaaaapy middle-of-the-week!


© by scj

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A heart like His

A letter to my dad, to honor him this Father's Day:

Dear Dad,

I vividly remember my first 400-meter hurdle race at the collegiate level.  I remember the bright stadium lights, the spongy red track, and the surge of adrenaline and nausea I'd come to expect before every race.  But most of all I remember that you weren't there, because, for the first time in my life, I was racing 1,000 miles away from home.

I'd never raced without you in the crowd.

Somehow, in the midst of pastoring a growing church, teaching at the seminary, and pursuing a doctorate, you were at every single one of my pre-college track meets, starting with the all-city meet when I was in 5th grade.

Dad calling someone with the results from one of my high school meets

You made sure I had gatorade and snacks before the meet, and then watched me warm-up from the sidelines.  When it came time for my race you positioned yourself on the home stretch where you knew I would hurt the most.  I'd round that final curve with vomit rising, breathing labored, muscles screaming in pain, and ears utterly deaf to the shouting stadium-crowd.  All I heard was you, cheering:


There was never a race when I didn't hear those words urging me through pain and drowning out hundreds of other voices.

Now that my track days are over and I'm learning what it is to battle loss and discouragement in this life-race toward an eternal prize, I find myself remembering your voice shouting my name.

You've helped me understand the fierce and tender love of God the Father as I run toward my heaven-home, Dad.

Sometimes it's hard for me to believe that the God who sculpted the mountains and breathed the stars in the sky even knows my name, much less calls it.  It's hard to believe he's the God-who-sticks close—that he'll provide for my needs and wants to be intimately involved with my life.

But when I remember the way you bought me the expensive sets of track shoes I needed each year; or the way you'd make me a big lunch before track meets and give me a much-needed pep talk; or the way you'd take time off work, drive hours and hours, and book hotels for my out-of-town meets, my little heart gulps big from the glimpses you've given me of Father God's heart.  If he is infinitely more good than you, how much more must he love me?

Dad hugging me after a race

My senior year of high school I had lofty ambitions for the state track meet.  Month after month you watched me pour myself into training for my senior season.  You watched me work and worry, and work some more.

And then one day a reporter called the house to interview you about my season and you told him something I'll never forget:

"We delight in Sarah, whether she runs fast or not."

If there is one thing about God that I find hard to believe it's that he delights in me, just the way I am.

But for 29 years you have delighted in me, Dad, slowly teaching me that when God calls himself Father he means he takes joy and pleasure in me, and in being my Papa.

You taught me this when you'd scoop my little girl self into your arms and spin and bounce me back to my bedroom at bedtime;

When you laughed deep and pleased at my girlish attempts to crack jokes;

And when, after a long day at work, you'd wrestle with us kids on the living room floor and tickle us till we were breathless from laughter.

Dad and I in SoCal, checking out colleges my senior year of high school

As I grew older I saw the way your delight in me impelled you to protect and care for me.

You showed me my value when you warned my first boyfriend that if he ever did anything disrespectful to me he'd have you to face.  My heart still surges with gratitude when I remember that.

You showed me I can rest in your care when you outfitted my kitchen with new appliances two years ago because I was too sick to do it myself, and then bought me flowers for my beloved patio when you visited last year.  I smile with satisfaction every time I water them.

At the beach

My fingertips could tap-tap away at these keys for hours and hours, remembering the ways you've taught me the love of the Father, Dad.

 One of my favorite pictures: after college graduation

I know, though, that the greatest gratitude I can express for you is not strings of symbols on a blank page: what you yearn for most is that I would live a life devoted to God, the greatest and truest Father.

When I left home for college nine years ago you gave me a necklace with a delicate gold heart pendant.  You also wrote an accompanying letter expressing your love for me and your hope that I would always say yes to Jesus.  You closed the letter with a postscript:

"I hope you always entrust the human version of the enclosed gift to our Father in heaven.  'Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life' (Proverbs 4:23)."

I wear that heart necklace often, and when I do I try to center my heart on the Father in heaven whose love, amazingly, eclipses yours.

And when this life-race wearies and daunts me, I imagine Him cheering me on through doubt and despair toward victory over pain: his voice the only one I can hear amidst the din of other voices.

Thank you for teaching me to listen for His voice and trust His heart, Dad.

I love you.

Happy Father's Day,

Your Sarah Christine

© by scj

Friday, June 13, 2014

Another list: because lists make me believe I'm organized

1. I've been laughing fit to kill all week. Which is funny because I literally did not see a single soul, with the exception of the tow truck driver, from Friday afternoon to Wednesday evening due to sickness and car problems. I'm used to laughing the most when people are around.

For some reason, though, I've been lying in bed, my shoulders shaking from deep belly laughs. I can't help it. Laughter has been hovering just under my adam's apple since Monday. I'm loving this, although I can't figure out why I'm suddenly so giddy. The only thing I can figure is that someone has been praying for me this week and asking God to give me the gift of laughter.

Isn't that a lovely prayer? We should all stop and pray for that gift for someone we know right now.

2. The other day I walked past this feather and felt a surge of delight:

Just think of all the things I could do with that feather! I could use it as a quill and make accompanying ink from berries. I could craft Pocahontas earrings. I could stick it in my hat and call it macaroni. Little kid Sarah was delighted with the possibilities.

But then adult Sarah stepped in and shouted, "DON'T TOUCH THAT FEATHER! The germs, Sarah; just think of all the microscopic germs that are coating that thing and waiting to infect you and change your life forever."

So I walked away without touching the feather.

Adult Sarah can be such a killjoy sometimes.

3. The best way to quiet adult Sarah and encourage little kid Sarah is to play. I am so thankful for a body that's allowing me to be physically playful these days. In particular, frisbee has become one of the joys of my life.

All the running and jumping: it makes me feel like an NBA superstar. You should try it sometime.

4. I recently discovered the best gluten-free pasta of life. This is the brand, in case you're interested.

Also, the guy holding this pasta is a good-looking, hard-working Christian guy who runs a restaurant and is covered in tattoos. Tattoos make me weak at the knees. Well, tattoo sleeves do anyway. Lone tattoos aren't my fave.

My aunt wanted to set me up with said guy, but he's moving to Arizona soon, so it's a no-go. But hey, I enjoyed admiring his tattoos while he showcased these noodles at least. ;) I wasn't stealth enough to get a photo of the guy holding the noodles, so you can just admire his thumbnail.

5. I've raided the drugstore and now I'm ready for summer, kids.

Wanna come play with me? Also, Laffy Taffy question of the day: what has a bottom on its top?

Answer: your legs!

Happy weekend, friendlies!


© by scj

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A list: (and hi, I missed you!)

It's been a full couple of weeks here in the land of year-round avocados — a fullness that has made it hard to blog. So now I gots lots tah tell ya. I've organized the contents of the last few weeks into a list, because if there's one thing that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, it's a nice, compact list.

1. Two weeks ago I moved out of my place and into my aunt and uncle's house so my ceiling could be reinforced. I loved my time with my family, and their house was a lovely place to finish my grading.

I graded in their backyard.

I graded at the park down the street:
I love grading under a big ol' tree

I graded at the nearby beach:

And finally, I finished:


2. My ceiling is fixed. Well, that's the word on the street anyway. I can't actually see any of the reinforcements which makes me a little nervous, especially since I was told I would be able to see them.... Only time will tell if it is indeed strong enough to hold the car above me.

3. My computer is fixed, and although I'm delighted to have it back so I can blog regularly again, I'm sad to say I lost four months of data as a result of the hard drive crash. *enter deep and mournful groan.*

4. My car broke down a few days ago. Again. This is becoming a monthly thing, and still, we can't figure out WHY because, although my car didn't start for days, it started immediately and without hiccup as soon as the tow truck driver dropped it off at the mechanic's. You may recall that this is exactly what happened when my car broke down last month... So now, one more tow later, we're back to where we started. Hehe. See what I did there?

5. Also, someone backed into my car about a week ago and left a nice-sized dent. I am laughing as I write this. Seeing it in writing suddenly makes it so funny.

6. After finally conquering the sore throat that would not be conquered, I caught another bug. So I've been lying in bed this week drinking buckets of water and dreaming of tea parties in blossom trees.

7. It's been a banner month, kids.

8. If it weren't for my wonderful stay with my aunt and uncle two weeks ago, I'd likely be in the fetal position as a result of all these mishaps. My aunt and uncle are so generous and hospitable and I love being with them. They also live in a beautiful area that refreshes my soul and body.

The beach that is down the street from my aunt and uncle's house

I love walking in my aunt and uncle's neighborhood. There's so much stunning flora

9. While at my aunt and uncle's I discovered a brand of chocolate ice cream that doesn't interfere with any of my allergy-dictated dietary restrictions. Prior to discovering this icy treat, it'd been four years since I'd had chocolate ice cream, and I'd forgotten what heaven tasted like. I'd also forgotten how to eat chocolate ice cream. Remember when you were a kid and you couldn't eat chocolate ice cream without getting it all over your face? At some point, years and years ago, you had to learn to how to eat chocolate ice cream without getting it all over your face.

It turns out you can un-learn that skill after four years of not eating chocolate ice cream. Re-learning this skill is my new summer goal. . .

10. Now that my car is working, my ceiling is [hopefully] fixed, my computer is up and running, my body is feeling better, and I've discovered Sarah-friendly chocolate ice cream, it finally feels like summer. Woo hoooooo!

What ever shall we do with all these sunny days stretching ahead of us?!

Happy Wednesday, friends!


Chocolate ice cream photo credit:

© by scj