Saturday, December 31, 2016

My 16 Favorite Photos from 2016




Something is going wrong with my blog layout and I can't quite figure it out, so please bear with me as I continue fiddling with it. (If anyone out there is display/HTML savvy, I would love some advice!)

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Hey y'all! You may have noticed some extreme silence in this little corner of the internet lately. I've been settling into life in Connecticut and everything that goes along with it and decided that I should try to get a comfortable hold on the new job, new home, new life, etc. and all of my energies have been geared toward that. I'm not going to pretend like I have this brilliant new life balance where all is mastered and I can easily add on more tasks, but I have been feeling a desire to write again and so here I am back on the blog - for today at least.

No guarantees for how long. I'm simply going to listen to how I am feeling and post based on that.

As 2016 comes to a close I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite photos from the year. I did a similar post last year and absolutely loved going through my pictures and strolling down memory lane. Not going to lie, it is challenging choosing only 16, but the limit keeps me from oversharing. I mean, just because I love every photo from my trip to Tahoe doesn't mean you want to see 30 pictures of basically the same view...


This year I noticed that the majority of the photos I chose were those with loved ones. I wasn't focused on which looked the most professional(ish) or which necessarily were the most unique. Instead, I found myself drawn to memories of special moments spent with those people who bring joy and grace into my life.

2016 was a bit of a rollercoaster with its fair share of ups and downs, but all of the beautiful people God has placed in my life sure made for an incredible year.

Happy New Year, friends. Sending loads of love and prayers for you and yours as we begin 2017.

Peace,
Sarah

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

September Goals


Hello September!

Today marks the official beginning of our school year and I am SO excited! Growing up I was always that nerdy kid who loved the first day of school. For me learning has always been a ton of fun! Plus, new school years meant new, crisp, clean school supplies.

...I'm a nerd. I know it. I've accepted it. I embrace it.

Anywhoo, this school year has me particularly excited because it's my first as an educator rather than a student. I can't wait to see what my kids learn and what I learn from them. It's going to be a good year :)

An ending of August means a new set of monthly goals and aspirations. But before I talk about what I hope to accomplish this month, let's have a look at last month's goals, shall we?

August Goals Recap:

1. Complete the Chaplet a Day Challenge via The Living Person Got to learn some knew chaplets and keep in touch with friends as accountability partners. Excited to try out TLP's next challenge!

2. Find an apartment Done and LOVE it! I still have things to bring from home this weekend, but my new little home is coming together quite nicely.

3. Move in to said apartment and have at least one space settled in. Ok, so it's the bathroom, but it's organized, put together and squeaky clean :)

#crushedit

I think this might be the first month where I accomplished everything on my list. Mind you, it was a shorter list than normal, but hey, I check them all off! I just hope September's goals go just as well.


This month I hope to:

1. Settle into another room - My apartment isn't huge, but I still have a lot of settling in to do. Hopefully by the end of September I'll have it feeling even more cozy.

2. Start a savings account - Hooray for no longer being a student. Time to be fiscally responsible.

3. Go out to eat with a friend - Living in a brand new city is rough. Hopefully this goal will push me out of my introverted comfort zone and force me to meet new people and make friends.

4. Write an outfit post - It's been ages and I actually have a dress code for work which is inspiring me to dress nicely and get creative with my wardrobe.

5. Set the February Trip for work - Part of my job involves service trips with students and it turns out our February break trip isn't scheduled yet. That's exciting because I can try something new, but also scary because typically these trips are scheduled a year in advance. I'm praying that it comes together beautifully.

What about you, friend? Any fun hopes for September?

Peace,
Sarah

**Linking up with BraveloveblogStaygoldautumn and Mysocalledchaos

Sunday, August 28, 2016

5 Weekly Graces Vol. 26


Slowly but surely I am settling in to life here on the East Coast. It is definitely different than California, but it has been good so far. As I reflect on this past week (though I may be meshing two into one - it's been a lot of transition/processing haha) I am overcome by the beautiful experiences of grace and hospitality that have been extended in this new, remarkable place.


This week I am thankful for:

1. Small Worlds

On my first day of work I met a colleague whose daughter went to undergrad at my school. I asked her name - partly to be polite and partly because the school is small enough that I could have known her - and it turns out I knew exactly who she was! Between my being sick most of freshman year/ studying abroad fall of sophomore year and her transferring halfway through sophomore year, we only overlapped for about a semester, but our paths definitely crossed. She kindly reached out to me on Facebook when her dad mentioned it and we met up for coffee. The world is too small, y'all. Yay for a friend in the area!

2. Great Colleagues

I cannot even begin to say what a warm, welcoming, super-willing-to-help environment the school I am working at is. The number of faculty who have reached out and offered to help me in any way that they can is humbling and so heartwarming - #blessed doesn't even begin to cover it.

3. Early Dismissals

The majority of out school is not air conditioned and like much of the States, we've been having incredibly hot weather. Friday's forecast was a scorcher and it was the last day of summer before the students arrive, so we were told at about 9am that offices were closing at noon and we had the rest of the day off! A huge perk especially after learning that my job doesn't fall under the typical snow days category... womp womp

4. Retreats

Another indication that I am in the right work environment: the school year began with a faculty retreat devoted to reflecting on our mission as educators and how it meets the needs of our students and the world.

5. Neighborly Neighbors

And for my final moment of grace this week, a big shout out to a fun night of Kan Jam, Cornhole and homemade beef stew courtesy of the super nice couple that lives below me. People in Connecticut are so nice! I can't get over it!

How was your week? Any fun end-of-summer plans?

Peace,
Sarah

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Mini Life Update


Hello friends! So sorry for the radio silence lately, but boy have I been busy.


Last week I packed up and officially moved to Connecticut for my new job. My apartment wasn't ready until a few days beyond my first day of work so I spent a few days in limbo at a hotel, but Thursday I signed my lease and began settling into my first apartment! I don't have a lot of furniture yet (it's making its way slowly but surely) but that's made deep cleaning and organizing what I do have easier.

I'm also waiting patiently for wifi which won't be installed until Wednesday - womp womp. Oh well. It gave me a big push to find a local coffee shop in my new neighborhood to get some work done. Caffeine has been acquired and I'm only about a 10 minute walk from home. Score!

Work has been incredible. Everyone is so kind and passionate about their work. It's only been a week, but I can already tell that it is going to be a great community and environment to work in. We've had orientation a few days this week and will finish it off next Wednesday with a day long retreat.

Other than the new job and apartment, life has been pretty low key which is just the way I like it. A lot is happening this year and I am so excited to see how it all pans out.

Here's to new beginnings and new adventures!

Peace,
Sarah

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

5 Weekly Graces Vol. 25


Only a short time home this summer means filling my days with fun and friends which means it was hard to choose just 5 moments of joy this week - the best kind of dilemma if you ask me. I'm soaking in this precious time off and trying to do just about as much as possible before the big move this weekend.


1. Road Trip
My plan for moving to Connecticut included staying with a friend of a friend for a week or so while I searched for housing. Unfortunately, they didn't have the space for me until a few weeks after I already had to be in town for work so I had to make new arangements quickly. Luckily, I have amazing friends who are willing to road trip last minute with me in search of housing. So last Wednesday I took my first trip to CT and looked at a bunch of apartments on Thursday. I loved having time to spend with my friend and time to see my new home and workplace. It is stunning. I can't wait!!

2. Apartment Found!
Our last minute trip was an amazing success. I found an apartment I am absolutely in love with that is within my budget and only 10 minutes from work! I will definitely have to post some photos to share with y'all as the move-in process begins.

3. Fish Fry
My best friend and roommate from college, who also took the road trip with me, is moving from Erie, PA to Florida this week and her family hosted a fish fry to send her off and celebrate her dad's birthday. It was lovely and I was able to car pool with another friend from college who I hadn't seen in a while and catch up. Good friends, delicious food, perfect weather - what else could be better?

4. Dinner Date
Tacos, brownies, long conversations and a good friend from high school - another great visit with an amazing woman. She's the best.

5. Concert
Last, but not least, my cousin has been playing local country music shows for a few years and Saturday he played with one of his friends at a local winery in Ohio. I went with my family and had a ball. It's great to see his passion for music and the joy our family feels seeing him on stage.

That just about sums it up for me. How were your weeks? Any moments that have you just beaming with joy?

Peace,
Sarah

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

2016 Summer Reads


As I mentioned in my "Oh Hey There"-sorry-I've-been-MIA-post, I have read a decent amount this summer. Not a ton as I am still easing my way back into an understanding of "reading for fun" or what I used to call "normal" before graduate school, but a good amount. Gosh I missed just picking up a book for pleasure and getting lost into the words... I digress.

Anyways, I thought that I would share which books I've picked up in the last month or so and see what you all are reading.



(--In the order that they were read--)

1.) Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got a Life by Kelsey Miller - Great read. As someone who has struggled with disordered eating for years, I resonated a lot with the author and what she had to share. I also very much enjoyed her writing style. Miller writes over at Refinery 29 and I have read and loved many an article by her, especially this one about her experience of barre classes.

2.) Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling - I'm mildly obsessed with Mindy Kaling so I pretty much knew I'd love her second book as much as her first. It did not disappoint. She's a hoot.

3.) Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer - I was looking for a good book on tape for my 36+ hour road trip home and a friend highly recommended this one. It was touching and lovely and sad and beautiful and funny - pretty much all of the feels. Also found out that they made the book into a movie and am considering renting it. Any reviews? I'm worried I'll be pretty disappointed after loving the book so much.

4.) Yes Please by Amy Poehler - Another audio-book for the road trip. Loved hearing it in Poehler's voice. It was a nice light choice when the other option got too intense. She shares many words of wisdom along side many hilarious jokes. This book also helped me push past the first season of Parks and Rec which I'd tried watching multiple times. The other seasons are so much better and I finally understand the hype. Thanks, Amy.

5.) Is It Evil Not To Be Sure by Lena Dunham - As you might have picked up, I have a thing for autobiographies by female comedians. However, I wasn't a huge fan of this one. It was nice and short, so I thought it would be a good beach read but it wasn't really my style. It's excerpts from Dunham's college journal - sort of pre-twitter as she notes - but I thought there would be more of a story line and did not anticipate the majority to be about her sex life. I will say that the fact that all of the proceeds from the book go towards programs encouraging girls to write made me glad I purchased it. Not my cup of tea, but hey, not every book is.

6.) Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany - As a huge Harry Potter nerd, um I mean fan, it was no question that I would get this book the day it was released and read. it. all. #noregrets It's wonderful. A lot faster paced than the other books because of the script style, but that means those of us who obsessed over Harry Potter as tweens and teens don't have to take off multiple days of work to read it all.


I've also begun Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (so far, so good) and Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It is waiting in the wings.

Have you picked up anything good this summer? I'm always on the lookout for new reads and keep a list in my journal that I love to add to! Suggestions are warmly welcomed!

Peace,
Sarah


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

August Goals


And so continues the catch-up phase of my break from blogging. There isn't much point in recapping my May goals (though I would like to note that I rocked them) so let's just jump right in to the goals I'm setting for this beautiful month of transitions.


1. Complete the Chaplet a Day Challenge via The Living Person - If you're interested to learn more, check out TLP's website (here)! I've already agreed to be an accountability buddy for a number of friends and would love to add you to the list if you're interested!

2. Find an apartment - Pretty self explanatory. My original CT housing plans fell through so it's go-go-go time over here!

3. Move in to said apartment and have at least one space settled in - I anticipate that between new places, work, etc I won't have my new home completely settled into by the end of August, so I will settle with having at least one space clean, organized, and homey.

I am just so excited to begin this new adventure in Connecticut! I know it will be a challenging transition in many ways, but I have no doubt that it will be even more grace-filled and rewarding.

Here's to a new month and new adventures.

What are you plans for August?

Peace,
Sarah

**Linking up with Stay Gold Autumn

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Oh Hey There


Hello dear friends! It has been far too long since I've written here, but sometimes life just gets busy, ya know? There were definitely a few times where I thought I should/could post something, but overall having a bit of a break was good for me in a season of transitions. I have definitely missed writing, sharing and talking with y'all though, and it feels good to be back :)


What all has happened since I last posted in May?

So much. Lots of change. Lots of movement. Lots of good.

I graduated with my Master of Divinity
road tripped from California back to Ohio
got a big kid job which has me so incredibly excited it's ridiculous
and will be moving to Connecticut for said job in the next couple weeks.

On less professional notes:
I've watched the entire series of Parks and Rec (#summerbinge #noregrets #treatyoself)
read 5 new books (will share more later)
found a new love of Pure Barre
learned to make soy candles
started a bullet journal
guest posted here and here
began a new quilt and some other sewing projects

Oh, and I turned 26.

I know I'm probably forgetting something else (mildly) exciting to share, but I think this list is a pretty good summary.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful last weekend in July and gets to spend some extra time with loved ones!

Peace,
Sarah


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Product Review: MAKE Beauty Lipstick and Eyeshadow


One of my favorite parts of the blogging community is learning about new products and companies and being encouraged to give them a try. I'm still pretty uneducated about the fancier sides of makeup - contouring, highlighting, and all of that jazz - but two products I am familiar with (and also pretty picky with) are lipstick and eyeshadow.

So, when MAKE Beauty graciously presented an opportunity to be apart of the #MakeYourself beauty campaign, I was happy to try out two of their products.

First up is the Silk Cream Lipstick in Taffy


Pro: Color and Texture

I think it was about a year ago that I began to wear lipstick somewhat regularly and in that year I have become a bit of an addict. My younger, supper stylish sister is partially to blame. I do have some bolder statement colors that I use on special occasions or when I'm feeling particularly sassy, but I tend to stay on a more neutral side of colors. The taffy is a nice, neutral pink. What I love about this particular shade is that you can definitely tell that you are wearing a pink lip, but it's not overbearing and looks very professional.

The color goes on smooth and has a nice, matte finish and feeling which I prefer to gloss lipsticks. 

Con: Doesn't Last Long

While I found that the color went on smoothly, I noticed that after a short time of wearing it my lips were not solidly covered and needed a reapplication. Maybe I needed to use another product on top to ensure longer lasting coverage?



Pro: Smooth, Lasting Coverage

While the lipstick wasn't a huge success for me, I love the MAKE Matte Finish Eyeshadow. The color was so smooth and easy to apply. I also found that where many of my shadow fade or rub away by the end of the day, this eyeshadow stayed on, felt good and looked great. 

Con: Alabaster is a very light color

This particular color is much lighter than what usually use. Because of that I did have to mix in some of my normal shadows for different shading, but the product worked well with others :)

Overall, I was very impressed by MAKE Beauty products. The two I tried are well-made and felt terrific on my eyes and lips. I would recommend the eye shadow over the lipstick simply because I think the price of the lipstick is far too high for something that needs constant reapplication.

Another draw to MAKE Beauty for me is that they never test their products on animals. I've mentioned a desire to be a more intentional consumer on the blog before and that definitely applies to beauty products and how they are made.

Have any of you ever tried MAKE Beauty? Any tips for ensuring that lipstick lasts longer?

Peace,
Sarah

**A big thanks to MAKE Beauty for sponsoring this post. While products were supplied in exchange for a review, all opinions are entirely my own.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

5 Weekly Graces Vol. 24


Another week has come and gone and honestly, I am just trying to soak in as much time here at school as I can manage. It's amazing to see how much one place can impact you in such a short period of time. It's only been three years and I can clearly see the difference between myself when I began my degree and myself now, just over a week away from being finished. But yes, I am ready to be done and to move on to whatever this next stage in life will be...


1) I passed comps!

3 years of studying apparently paid off because I passed my oral comprehensive exams last week and will officially be graduating on May 21. I feel so much lighter, but still don't quite know that I believe it has happened. I bet it will sink in by graduation weekend though - hopefully haha

2) Massage #earnedit

To celebrate passing comps, I treated myself to a massage in an attempt to work out some of the tension I have been carrying from comps stress. I used a Groupon and a coupon they sent me via email a few months ago so it ended up costing me $3 for the hour. Yay for thriftyness.

3) Wine Tasting

A group of classmates and I headed up to Sonoma County on Friday for some wine tasting. I had never gone to Sonoma and was thrilled for the opportunity to check it out before leaving. It was a ton of fun and such a treat to get out of the city into a slower pace - much more my style - plus, it's wine.

4) Student Dinner

My job's main role is to bring out leadership skills in our students as they prepare to take a group of classmates on immersion trips both domestic and abroad. To thank our hard-working student leader, our team decided to take the group out to dinner. It was nothing fancy, just a nice evening to gather together for the last time and share some memories and gratitude. My favorite part of my job is working with these students. They are all absolutely incredible and I cannot wait to see how they change the world.

5) Mile-a-Day

I mentioned it in my May Goals post, but I am participating in a challenge to walk/run/move for at least one mile each day in May. Today was the 10th day and so far it is going great. I love being outdoors and this challenge gives me an excuse to step away from final projects and get in some cardio. It's not too late, you cans still join in and finish up the month strong!

How was your week? Any moments of great joy? I'd love to hear about it!

Peace,
Sarah

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

5 Weekly Graces Vol. 23


Happy Tuesday, friends! I hope that your week is off to a beautiful start! Mondays are my day off, so yesterday was a nice combination of relaxing and productive - though it could have been more of the latter haha

I think I might finally be getting back into the rhythm of regular blogging and I'm pretty jazzed about it. I've missed writing down thoughts and ideas and sharing with you all.

Per usual, the beginning of the week means the 5 Weekly Graces post where I round up five moments from last week where I noticed some good in my life. As you will see, last week was lovely :)


1. Walks with Friends

On Saturday my roommate and I took a walk to the Berkeley Rose Garden which is blooming and gorgeous right now. I wish I had a photo to share but we left our phones at home. I then took her to a hidden waterfall nearby that is one of my favorite places in town. It's tucked away behind the local park and hard to find, but so worth the walk. One of my roommates my first year at school showed me it's location and I suppose I have now passed it on down to the next crop of students.

2. Delicious Food

Monday was my night to cook for the community and I ended up trying a recipe from Pinterest for Mexican Chicken Quinoa Casserole. It was amazing! I always get a little nervous trying out recipes for the first time if I'm sharing the finished product. This super simple recipe did not disappoint and left us with leftovers for a few days after.

3. Catholic Underground

A group of friends from the retreat I helped with a few weekends ago came up to Berkeley on Friday for an event put on by the local diocese. The title sounds a little sketch, no? Basically, the event was praise and adoration followed by music from an independent Catholic artist, Kevin Heider. I had never heard of him before, but really enjoyed his music and ended up purchasing an album. His song The Waiting is beautiful. Oh, and if the world wasn't small enough, he is from Ohio and knows my roommate from college's husband. Crazy.

4. Community Happy Hour

My school has 3 buildings of student housing and the building managers hosted a "happy hour" on Friday for all of us to get together and mingle. It was super low key and just a lot of fun to see so many friends in one place this close to graduation. I'm truly going to miss the beautiful community here.

5. Camino Reunion

On Saturday night one of the professors who walked the Camino Ignaciano with me this summer hosted a reunion for the group. I had seen some of them here and there, but we had not all gotten together since last semester. Three cheers for good friendship, good conversation and good food.

What about you? What moments from last week have left your heart filled with joy?

Peace,
Sarah

Monday, May 2, 2016

April Budget


Normally I have my monthly budget post ready and waiting for Fran's link-up, but this month I'm a few days late. That's ok though, I still have lots of fun things added to my wardrobe this month and I'm excited to share them with y'all!

The majority of my additions are from an Instagram give-away that I won near the end of March, so I'll save those gifted items for the end of the post.

As far as purchases, I stuck to some basics using credit card reward points I had saved up. I've been in the market for a pair of lighter washed jeans and found a pair at Old Navy that I love as well as a classic, striped top that I have been wearing non stop. I also ended up buying another white cami from the Gap Factory because I love and wear the one I purchased a few months ago so much.

Birkenstocks were the big splurge for me this month (probably year). My feet have been bothering me in the non-supportive sandals I normally wear so I finally caved and invested in some quality summer footwear. As soon as I tried them on in the store my feet basically let out a sigh of relief. It's amazing the difference that a good pair of shoes can make. (I just wish they weren't 10x more then I'm used to spending on shoes...)

** Used a $25 rewards coupon which made the total $6.56 for the two**

** Used a $5 rewards coupon which made the total $1.09**

4. Mayari Birkenstock Sandals in Mocca - Nordstrom Rack - $94.95 ($103 and change w/ tax)

Total: $111.09 including tax

Not horrible, but still more than I typically spend per month. To be fair though, I've worn each of these items countless times in the last month and will continue to do so.


As I mentioned earlier, I was the lucky winner of an Instagram Give Away hosted by JennaRoseColoredGlasses. My prize was a "Spring Break" package filled with amazing goodies from Cotton On. Everything was absolutely adorable and super comfortable too - I've basically been living in the tee-shirt dresses.

To be honest, I had never even heard of this retailer prior to the contest but after getting the items and receiving such amazing service when sizing was wrong, I can't get enough! Most of the items I won are already out of stock, which makes sense because from what I have seen they are constantly updating items! (I also have a green headband (seen here) and white version of the grey tee (top left), but couldn't find their images online.)

Did you add any fun pieces to your wardrobe last month?

Peace,
Sarah

**Linking up with Fran over at FranishtheBlog

Sunday, May 1, 2016

May Goals


Holy moly, it's May already! The end of the school year is so close which is great in just about every way except for those final papers and projects just waiting to be finished...


I have a feeling this month will be just as full as the last, so I'm going to be realistic and do another round of short, but sweet goals. This way I can give myself some space to breathe as I prepare for whatever comes after graduation - Apparently I am finally learning the value of self-care. Who would have thought? ;)

Here are 5 things I hope to accomplish in May:

1) Pass comps - Last month we had our two days of written exams and this month we will defend what we wrote. My oral exam is on May 4th. Prayers are very much appreciated!

2) Write at least 5 posts and stay engaged with others - April's business really threw me off track with blogging, but hopefully I can get back into a groove this month.

3) Pack up and move - Where to? We shall see...

4) Complete the Mile-a-Day Challenge - My friends over at The Living Person have shared a challenge to run or walk at least one mile each day for the month of May. So far so good, but it is only the first haha. If you're interested, you can still sign up here. It's not too late and I'd be happy to be your accountability partner! Just let me know!

5) Write Letters - I hope to write letters or some sort of goodbye/thank you to some of the people who have been such an important part of my time at school. I would love to see them done before graduation, but even if I get them in the mail by the end of the month I'll consider this goal complete.

It's a short list, but still challenging and also quite exciting! I can't wait to see how it goes!

---

For those interested, here is a recap of last month's goals:

April Goal Recap

1)
 Make it through written comps
Done! Made it through and feeling great! Now I just have to make it through my oral exam this week...

2) 8 Blog Posts and continued engagement
Fail. Epic fail. As you can see, I posted a whopping 2 times last month. I blame comps.

3) Go to daily mass at least 5 times 
I know I completed this goal, but can't remember the exact days the masses were which makes me feel like I should be more intentional about it next time and not include Tuesday school liturgies since I always go to those...

I actually did a lot better then I anticipated. It helps that I knew April was going to be a tough month from the get-go.

---

Did you set any goals this month? I'd love to hear about them!

Peace,
Sarah

Linking up with #MonthlyGold, My New Lines, MorningMotivatedMom, BreakfastatLillys and My So-Called Chaos

Monday, April 25, 2016

5 Weekly Graces Vol. 22


So comprehensive exams might have pushed me into hiding for the past few weeks...

I had originally hoped to at least keep up with the weekly grace posts, but clearly that did not happen. A huge thanks for all of you patience, love and support! It's good to have some space to begin writing again and I even have a few posts that were queued up but I never put finishing touches on, so there should be some more posts on the way!

Because I have skipped the past few weeks, this edition of 5 Weekly Graces is probably going to cover more than just last week. #sorrynotsorry

Also, I'm pretty sure all of these moments will have something to do with comps... it was kind of a big deal haha


1) Comps!

On Thursday and Friday I took the written portion of my comprehensive exams for graduation - basically the Bar for MDiv students. The exam lasted 6 hours and I wrote 17 pages trying to encapsulate all of the knowledge I've gained over the past 3 years of study. It was terrifying and hard and everything you would think it would be, but it was also very blessed and exciting in some ways. On day one I was so anxious that I was breaking out into hives and even cried a little beforehand, but once I sat down and looked at the questions in front of me an sense of patience and calm took over - I knew the material. I could answer the questions. Do I think I passed with distinction? No, probably not. But I do think that I passed and I have until May 4th to research my answers and come to the oral exam (yup, there's more) prepared to correct or add to anything I wrote.

2) Caritas

 Rather than keeping the weekend before comps free for studying, I chose to help facilitate a small group on Caritas (the young adult retreat I attended in November). A bold decision, I know. After much prayer and reflection I realized that if I didn't already know the material by that point there wasn't much I could do. So, instead of spending the weekend in the library, I spent it in prayer and reflection with some amazing people and found that much of my prayer led to a calming of anxieties and also just a beautiful quiet, which was just what I needed.

3) Surrounded by Love

The night before comps and the morning of I was flooded with so many texts, emails, Facebook messages, etc from friends wishing me luck and offering their prayers. A few people at school asked me how I was feeling just before entering into the exam and my answer was simple - I felt loved. What a beautiful grace to be filled with a sense of peace during such an anxious time.

4) Visitors

I'm hoping that my confidence in passing comps is true because in addition to my mom, grandma and little sister coming to graduation, my best friend from college booked a flight to visit too! I love having worlds collide and cannot wait to share this place I have come to call home with all of them! (Now I just have to make sure to finish all of my coursework in a timely manner as well...)

5) Roommate Date

To celebrate the end of written comps, one of my roommates and I spent Saturday evening checking some items off of my Bay Area bucket-list and my 101 in 1001. We began with mass and went for a walk around Lake Merritt in Oakland with one of our other roommates. The weather was perfect and the lake was beautiful. For dinner we went to a delicious Ethiopian restaurant and ended the evening at home with some salted-caramel gelato. It was a good night.

I'm still so filled with joy and love from the past few weeks. I'm in constant awe of the kindness and support shared by others and cannot begin to articulate how grateful I am for having such beautiful people in my life.

Where have you found the good this week?

Peace,
Sarah

Friday, April 1, 2016

April Goals


Good golly, where did March go?! I cannot believe that it is already April! My blog will turn 1 this month which is super exciting, but I also have comprehensive exams which is not the most exciting thing...

Last month's goals were hit and miss. I would say that I accomplished at least part of all of them which is pretty good. To be fair, I am also being pretty lenient with myself - ok, very lenient.


This month I am going to keep the goals short and sweet simply because I am going to be SWAMPED with comps prep and interviews along with everything else. Here are three things I hope to accomplish in April:

1) Make it through written comps - thoughts and prayers on April 21 and 22 would be great!
2) 8 Blog Posts and continued engagement - still so thankful for this beautiful community!
3) Go to daily mass at least 5 times - because a little extra intentional time with God never hurts.

Again, not too many set for this month, but I really want to keep them manageable and protect myself from getting too overwhelmed in this crazy, busy month.

How about you? Do you have any goals in mind for April? I'd love to hear!

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For those interested, here are the outcomes for my March's Goals:

Better Blogging:

Build Content - Post 10 times this month including one new recipe.
Technically I did not post a recipe, but I did attempt a new one and take photos during the prep for a post. It just ended up being an epic fail... womp womp.

Build Community - Read and comment on a minimum of 3 posts per day.
I was definitely way more engaged in building community this month. I did slack a little during my immersion trip, but given the extenuating circumstances, I think I can count this one as more or less complete too.

Create Art - Practice/Try new photo skills (Pinterest is a great tool!)
I definitely worked more with photography this month, particularly in editing skills. It's been a lot of fun and I am loving the learning.

Better Learning:
Manage Time - Get back in the habit of having readings done a day or so early - it's a nice cushion.
Fail. Life happens, ya know?

Manage Studies - Engage more in comprehensive exam preparations - at least 10 flashcards per week.
I spent a good amount of time studying this month. Some flashcards, but more case study practice than anything.

Look to the Future - Turn in 5 more job applications.
3/5 'aint bad, right?

Better Me:
Be Hospitable - Host a dinner party.
Done! I had the women from my cohort over for a beautiful party at the beginning of the month and had an amazing time.

Be Strong - Start running again after stitches are removed.
Check! I have been running a few times a week since the stitches are gone and boy does it feel good!

Embrace the Good - Set aside an extra hour of prayer each week devoted to gratitude.
I'm going to leave this undone just because I know I could be more intentional about this. I did spend time praying in thanksgiving, but not regularly.

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And that's it. Hope everyone has a beautiful Friday and first day of April!

Peace,
Sarah

**Linking up with my so-called chaos, #monthylygold

Thursday, March 31, 2016

March Budget


My goal for Lent this year was to focus on being in solidarity with the poor and marginalized in our world and one of the few ways I did so was by being more intentional about my spending. My aim was to refrain from purchasing any clothing, jewelry, shoes, etc unless I knew the product was ethically traded. While I know that not all of my future purchases will be Fair Trade, after these 40 days, I am definitely more committed to intentionality and awareness when it comes to my shopping patterns and how they affect the world.

The only thing that I purchased prior to Easter this past Sunday was this gorgeous pair of beaded earrings that I picked up while on immersion with students in Los Angeles. I bought them from a market stand where the owner travels down to Puebla, Mexico to bring beautiful, handcrafted products back to Boyle Heights to share with buyers. If you're ever in the neighborhood, head over to Mariachi Plaza and check out her stand and some other awesome venders! (I also bought a beautiful mug from her, but that didn't really apply to my budget posts :P )


Post Easter, I did pop in to Anthropologie while waiting for an appointment and pick up my new favorite tunic. I bought it in blush, but also really love the light blue (still available) and according to the reviews there is a black version which I might have to track down. It's incredibly soft and super comfortable. I would say it runs a little large. The small fit well, but I decided to go with a medium for extra length and the ability to pair it with leggings.


Earrings: $6
Total: $38

I also finally got my Maps by A. Jaffe necklace in the mail after the original had been lost/ never delivered! I won it back in December from Jessica's lovely giveaway and have been anxiously awaiting it's arrival. I've been wearing it non-stop since.

 (Side note: A. Jaffe was so helpful and supportive in solving the problem and getting the necklace to me asap. Couldn't have asked for more consideration or professionalism.)


Coming from a small, country town with very few roads, I decided to zoom my map out and place the diamond in a spot that not only covers where I grew up, but also Cleveland which also holds a piece of my heart.

And that's all for my March Budget. Short and sweet :)

 How did yours go? Any great finds? I'd love to hear!

Peace,
Sarah

***linking up with Fran over at Franish The Blog

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter


To those who celebrate, wishing you a very blessed Easter! May all of your days be filled with joy, laughter and lots of love.

Christ is risen, hallelujah!



Peace,
Sarah

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Product Review: Royal Rose Hydrating Serum



When I was presented with the opportunity to review the Valentia Royal Rose Hydrating Serum, I honestly wasn't sure what to expect. I've used moisturizers and eye creams, but have never tried a hydrating serum and honestly was not even sure what that meant.

Basically, this is a product that is meant to increase moisture in your skin while calming it at the same time. It is made to moisturize, nourish dry skin, smooth skin and also boost radiance.

I've only been using the hydrating serum for about a week now and I honestly notice a significant difference in the softness of my face - and my skin is soft to begin with! I want to say there is an increase in smoothness as well, but think I need to continue use before stating that with confidence.

I do think I would like it more if they had a non-scented version. The rose smells lovely, but I prefer typically face products without scents.

Overall, I am very satisfied with the Valentia Royal Rose Hydrating Serum and would definitely recommend it if you're looking for a great, all natural product to help restore and cleanse your skin.

Have any of you used any of Valentia's other products? I'm considering getting True Glow Eye Cream their after having such a great experience with the hydrating serum.

How do you take care of your skin?

Peace,
Sarah

**A big thanks to Valentia for sponsoring this post. While products were supplied in exchange for a review, all opinions are entirely my own.



Tuesday, March 22, 2016

5 Weekly Graces Vol. 21

I'm going to keep this short and sweet because I am currently on an immersion with students for the week and have limited internet access and only my phone to use it.


1. My mom

No particular reason. We had a lovely phone call this past week and I've been noticing a deep sense of gratitude for my mom coming about a lot in prayer lately. She's pretty rad. 

2. Roommates

I had to share some difficult news with my roommates and was honestly quite nervous to do so. Long story short, what I shared was very well received and I'm incredibly grateful for that. 

3. Immersion Time!


             

I'm currently in East LA spending the week with 11 college students as they immerse themselves into the beautiful community of Boyle Heights. We are only on day 2 and I'm already so incredibly touched by the depth and compassion that they are showing in reflection and discussion. It's going to be a good week. 

4. Flowers


            

There have been so many beautiful blooms all over California this month and they're even more vibrant and present now as we really get into spring. There are just so many different types and colors and scents. I love it.
5. Pan Dulce

No explanation needed. 

I hope you are all have incredible starts to your week. For those who are Christian, I hope you have an incredibly prayerful Holy Week. 

Peace,
Sarah

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

5 Weekly Graces Vol. 20


Not gonna lie friends, I am stressed to the max currently and just holding my breath hoping things calm down and I can relax. We shall see.

But despite all of the anxiety (and the fact that I am 3/4 days late posting this) I still wanted to share some grace found in last week - especially because turning my focus to the positive in my life usually helps calm me down.



1 - Support of Friends

Last week I found out that my contact who was responsible for creating the agenda for my students' immersion trip this coming week did not have much on the schedule which meant I had about a week and a half to pull together nearly an entire week's worth of organizations to work with and things to do. Lucky for me, many of my friends and coworkers have various connections and were so incredibly supportive and helpful in helping me put something together. My boss was beyond understanding and assured me he knew this was not due to a lack of proactivity on my part. Everything is set and ready to go now, but boy was that a stressful experience. I would not have been able to pull through without so many wonderful, giving, loving people by my side supporting me. I have been truly blessed with some amazing people in my life.

2 - Tai Food

I found out about the glitch in scheduling when I arrived home from work on Tuesday, so on Wednesday I was in the office until after 10pm with a day of meetings and researching sites, etc. One of my coworkers was also working fairly late and treated me to pad tai (my favorite) because she knew how much work I had going on. It was so kind and such a nice treat. Also, delicious.

3 - Preaching

One of my requirements for graduation is to take a lay-led liturgy course. The course has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone because not only did the professor get me to cantor (aka sing solo in public which I haven't done since I was 8) but I also had to preach for our Reconciliation Service, something I had never done before (you can read my reflection here). Right after the service I had class, so I rushed out, but the next day I had so many professors and students express gratitude for my reflection. I even had friends who didn't go say how people were commenting on it and one friend said that I inspired him with something to use for a service he was preparing. Now mind you, I go to a school full of ministers and they would support me even if I had been awful, but it was just so touching to have so many kind words shared.


4 - Retreat

Saturday afternoon all of the MDiv students who will graduate in may had a short retreat to look back at our time at school. I have to admit that I was not super excited to go. It's not that I didn't want to be with these friends, I just had(have) SO much to do and thought I could have used that time for different preparations. All-in-all, it was a beautiful time and I am very grateful to have shared it with those students I have been walking through this grad school journey with. They're pretty amazing and I can't wait to see what they accomplish in the future.

5 - Karaoke

And finally, on Saturday we had another karaoke party at my house. Lots of singing. Lots of laughs. Lots of fun.

Thanks for reading and understanding about my lateness in posting this, friends. I hope all of your weeks are going amazingly and that you are able to continuously point out joy.

Peace,
Sarah


Friday, March 11, 2016

Reflections on Reconciliation


I had the privilege of offering a reflection during our Reconciliation Service yesterday and thought I would share it with you all. For a little context, this service was prepared as part of a Lay Presiding course in which we learn how to prepare, plan and facilitate different types of liturgies ranging from Evening Prayer, Taize Prayer, and Liturgy of the Word. The readings we chose to use for this particular service were 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 and Luke 7:36-50.
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When I told my mom that I would be preaching at a reconciliation service she laughed and told me a story of how when she and her cousin Michelle were younger, they loved going to confession. In fact, they loved it so much that they would make up sins just so that they could go again!

Apparently I did not inherit that confession-loving gene, because I am often the complete opposite of my mother in this story. I tend to avoid going to confession like it’s the plague. The idea of reviewing the number of times I have sinned and reciting them to someone is not exactly the most appealing thing to me and causes way more anxiety than it probably should – especially when I usually know all too well those places in my life where I have failed.

I know when I could have been a better friend, a better daughter, a better roommate, colleague, Christian, you name it. And that awareness, that lovely Catholic guilt, often becomes the focal point of my confession when I do go.


But what if the focus was shifted?

What if rather than placing all of the concentration on listing failures, a greater attention was paid to the abounding love and forgiveness shown by God in this beautiful sacrament of Reconciliation? Even just using the word “reconciliation” rather than “confession” completely shifts the tone. In the sacrament we are not just reciting our faults and waiting for our penance. We are doing more than just confessing, we are reconciling. We are looking to restore right relationship with the Divine, to continue striving to know God better and to love the world as God loves.


Today in the Gospel we hear Jesus say “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love.” Because this woman - unnamed and labeled only by the fact that she, like all of us, is a sinner - because she has shown
 great love, she is forgiven. It did not matter that she had “sins which were many” or even what those sins were. 

She
 loved. 


She loved and she actively sought to serve God – to get as close to the Beloved as she possibly could. And it is because of that outpouring of courageous love that Jesus said to her, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”


“In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.” 
 This is the ministry of reconciliation. It is not intended to be a counting of trespasses, a recitation of sins and a sentencing of penance. Reconciliation is an outpouring of grace in which we recognize the infinite love of God and allow that love to take hold of our hearts as we go out into the world as “ambassadors for Christ”.

So this evening, as you prepare to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation, rather than focusing primarily on failures, perhaps pray for openness and receptivity to the endless love of God and a deeper understanding of how we are called not only to recognize that brilliant love, but to share it with our world.
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How are you called to bring the infinite love and goodness of God with the world?

Peace,
Sarah

**Linking up with BlessedisShe and #BISLent

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

#28 Go to Disneyland




I have lived in California for the past 3 years and still hadn't been to Disneyland. To be fair, it's about a 6 hour car ride so I haven't exactly had countless opportunity to go. So, when you are in Anaheim for a conference and your hotel is literally right behind Disneyland, you have to visit. Right?!

After a lot of back and forth of whether or not to go, I finally decided last minute that the conference would be a great opportunity to cross Disneyland off of my 101 in 1001. RE Congress is literally next door to the parks and I probably won't be in California after graduation, so I knew I had to go at least once. Ticket prices are a little ridiculous, but the conference ran a special for those registered and there was a half-day option which also helped cut the cost.


Y'all, it was so. much. fun. At about 4:30/5pm I met up with a friend who had been at the park with family all day and another friend caught up with us around 7. Even with only half a day, I was able to try all of the rides I was told were "must-sees", watched an adorable comedy about Tangled, and even got to meet Mickey!


Fun Fact: If it's your birthday or you are visiting the park for the first time, stop at City Hall and you can get a free button! Did I proudly wear my "first visit" badge the whole time? You know it! We even had strangers come up and give us a set of fast-passes because it was my friend's birthday and my first visit! So kind!

My 5 favorite rides were:

Hyperspace Mountain
Indiana Jones Adventure
Pirates of the Caribbean
Star Tours
Peter Pan's Flight


Obviously there was so much more that I could have seen had there been more time, but I could not be happier with the time I had and the beautiful friends I was with.

Have you ever been to Disneyland? What's your favorite part?

Peace,
Sarah


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

5 Weekly Graces Vol. 19


As the month of March begins, I am flooded by lists of projects, papers, applications and things that need to be done. I'm in the home stretch of my degree and pushing with all of my might to cross that finish line so that I can finally be out in the real world working and doing what I love - not that I don't love school and learning.

Amidst the list of 1,000 things that need to be done, there were so many moments of pure joy this last week that my heart is still beaming.


1) Life-Size Hungry Hungry Hippos

You read that correctly friends. For our student leader meeting last week we hosted an hour of friendly competition between the winter and spring coordinators. For our final game we played a life-size version of Hungry Hungry Hippos that used a long board, bucket, and lots of play pen balls. I wish I had photos to share, but I was too busy dying of laughter. Friends in ministry, this game is a must! Let me know if you want more information.

2) I Got A Raise!

After babysitting on Saturday the mom asked if I was still charging the same price as I have been the past 2-3 years. I said yes, she said I should be making more, and tada! It was a rather hilarious interaction that ended very much in my favor. Super grateful for such generosity.

3) Dinner Party

On Friday I hosted my first dinner party for the four other women in my graduate cohort. Because we are earning our MDiv degrees, the party was appropriately coined as the "MDiva Dinner".  It was a blast! We had a great meal and just sat around the table drinking wine and chatting for hours after we were done eating. I am so thankful to have had these beautiful examples of amazing women accompanying me on my graduate school journey.


4) Game Night

Saturday night I was invited to play board games at a friend's apartment. One of the games we played was straight out of the 80s and basically Pictionary but with sculpting instead of drawing (sort of like one of the Cranium parts). And while I have no artistic bone in my body, I learned that I am pretty good at getting Playdough to resemble what I need it to.

5) Journaling

While I did not get nearly enough work done this weekend as I should have, I did take some time to just quietly journal, doodle, and pray. Time well spent if you ask me ;)


How did you spend your time last week? What moments stood out to you in gratitude?

Peace,
Sarah

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

March Goals


Towards the end of February, I attended a blogging workshop in San Francisco. In preparation for the workshop we were asked to bring a list of goals we had for our sites. As I brainstormed about what I hoped to get from the weekend and what I hoped for my blog, I felt a sense of accomplishment even in just naming my desires. I had my list and I was ready to cross the heck out of it!

The excitement and joy that I found in simply writing down my objectives pushed me to begin setting monthly goals for myself and I decided to share them with you all here! And lucky for me, there are lots of other bloggers who've already set examples of how fun and creative these posts can be.

I see this new series as a way to not only share my goals with you, but to hold myself accountable to complete them, and to cross them off - aka the best part!


Here are my goals for the month of March:

Better Blogging:
Build Content - Post 10 times this month including one new recipe.
Build Community - Read and comment on a minimum of 3 posts per day.
Create Art - Practice/Try new photo skills (Pinterest is a great tool!)

Better Learning:
Manage Time - Get back in the habit of having readings done a day or so early - it's a nice cushion.
Manage Studies - Engage more in comprehensive exam preparations - at least 10 flashcards per week.
Look to the Future - Turn in 5 more job applications.

Better Me:
Be Hospitable - Host a dinner party.
Be Strong - Start running again after stitches are removed.
Embrace the Good - Set aside an extra hour of prayer each week devoted to gratitude.

Have you set any goals for yourself this month? I'd love to hear about them!

Peace,
Sarah



**Linking with The Monthly Goals, #MonthlyGold, #CleartheList, The Road to A Better Me, Grit and Grace

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

5 Weekly Graces Vol. 18


Last week was the first week since I began the 5 Weekly Graces series that I did not post. It wasn't that I didn't find good moments, but I was SWAMPED with work and school and other commitments. 

For reference, I began the week getting stitches on Monday which alone was exhausting, but then I had 2 long meetings and it was my night to cook - Tuesday felt nauseated all day and had a hard time getting anything done - Wednesday I had class and work -Thursday had 2 significant class presentations - and Friday I had 2 papers and was leading a group study session that needed prepped. I was also leaving Friday afternoon to drive down to LA with a friend for a conference.

 Oh, and on the way his car broke down about 3 hours from where we needed to be so what should have been a 6 hour trip turned into a 14 hour trip ending when I made it to the hotel at 5:12am. 

It was quite the week, let me tell you. 

But even through all of that mayhem, there were still so many moments of grace. For example, the car broke down as we were exiting to grab dinner so we weren't stranded on the side of the road. I was also able to finish an assignment while we waited, so the car trouble forced me to be productive. And because of a change of schedule for the ride home I made two new friends, was able to pick my roommate up at the airport, and made it to community dinner which was not supposed to happen. 

All-in-all, there was beauty in the chaos and to answer T-Swift's question: yes. We are out of the woods.

Below are 5 more beautiful moments found amidst the confusion last week.


Blessed Is She

On Tuesday, I was scrolling through Facebook and saw that one of my favorite devotional groups/blogs/websites, Blessed Is She, shared my recent post on Lent via their page! I was shocked when I saw and just so deeply humbled. Seeing the link definitely helped improve my spirits last week :)

Understanding Friends

Sometimes I have way more on my plate then I can handle. You're all shocked, I know. I have been intentionally trying to listen more to my heart and body to know my limits and when I just have too much going on. On Thursday I recognized that the only way I would have everything done before leaving for LA would be to pull an all-nighter - y'all, I am way too old for that now. So rather than stress myself out and exhaust myself even more, I carefully discerned what needed to be postponed and reached out to the friends affected by it. They were so graceful and understanding that I was nearly in tears - though that could have been the exhaustion. I seriously can't express enough how much their genuine understanding eased my anxiety. People are good.

RE Congress

This weekend was the annual Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, CA. It's basically a giant gathering of Catholics who come to learn more about their faith, ministerial practices, etc. There are tons of talks to go to by a lot of different speakers on a variety of topics. Some of the big name speakers this year included James Martin, Greg Boyle, Bishop Barron, and Sr. Helen Prejean. This was my second year at Congress and it was just as fun (and crowded) as I remember - even if I didn't get to spend much time there.

Disneyland!

Once I was done working at RE Congress on Saturday I met up with friends for my first trip to Disneyland! (I even got a "first visit" button to celebrate the occasion!) Even though it was only half a day at the park, we were able to ride tons of rides, see some great shows and even meet Mickey! And the newly added Star Wars parts were amazing! I guess you could say it was a magical time ;)

Nap

After a very full week and weekend with minimal sleep, yesterday I was able to take an afternoon nap and boy was is amazing. Napping is good for the soul my friends.

Where did you find good last week?

Peace,
Sarah


** linking up with Stay Gold Autumn, and Love the Here and Now
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