6 Easy Looks for Thanksgiving Weekend

Here’s my case for Thanksgiving being the best holiday: it’s centered on two wonderful things – family and delicious food. But most importantly, it is devoid of the pressure to buy someone a gift! I know your family has issues (so does mine) and I know someone will probably burn something (it happens), but overall, time spent telling stories and sharing childhood memories over a piece of homemade pie is about the best way to spend an afternoon.

Just for fun, I thought I’d share six easy, comfortable looks for your Thanksgiving weekend plans. I’ve broken it down to three scenarios – Thanksgiving lunch (day look), Thanksgiving dinner (evening look), and Black Friday look (day after Thanksgiving…and whatever you choose to do on that day!)

So let’s get going. Here are two looks that achieve the trifecta of ease, comfort, and style. The key here is to layer (because you never know how high Grandma has that heater blazing this year) and use different textures and tones. As a bonus, the sneakers will allow for that mid-afternoon stroll around the neighborhood for fresh air.

similar beige running shoe/similar cream knit sweater/men’s slim fit chambray button down/dream pants by Everlane/ similar denim work shirt/similar cropped cargo pants w/ belt

My next couple of looks are perfect for an evening Thanksgiving dinner, whether that will happen at home or out on the town. While they are each blazer-forward looks, one is a bit dressier and the other is relaxed and fun. I’m really loving the 90’s influenced midi-skirt/blazer/cowgirl boots combo right now!

wine velvet blazer similar here and here/simple black sleeveless dress/similar ankle strap heels/similar oversized blazer here and here/cream tank top/floral midi skirt/Tecova cowgirl booties

And finally, choose your day-after-Thanksgiving fighter: on the left, we have the chic shopper meets Sporty Spice look (she is ready to beat the crowds for an early coffee and Black Friday sales!) and on the right, we have 70’s Horsegirl (she is ready to sleep in, grab a late brunch, and then go for a stroll around the park with her bestie *swoon*). Who are you gonna be this year??

same blazer as above/similar lavendar high-neck tank here and here/similar track pants here/cream sneakers/Universal Thread quilted jacket/Madewell skinny jeans/similar faux suede boots with heel and without

I hope this gives you an idea or two for getting dressed this Thanksgiving. Easy dressing…while you chow down on that turkey and…dressing…okay, I’m done. Hope it’s a good one! 🦃

The Virtues of Frankenstein

As many of you know, I’ve embarked on a journey of fiction (not a fictional journey, I hope!) over the last few years. I like to think that I’m reclaiming my childhood love of reading for the pure fun of it and because I need/crave the creative spark that nonfiction was not giving, and various other (mostly valid) reasons. But I know myself too well (and some of you know me even better) to accept that a fa-la-la reason like fun was enough to take on the ~classics~ of fiction. No, there was something deeper driving this here train.

Get to the point, Sara: I’m reading fiction again, really good, rich, beautiful (and old) fiction; I’m also watching a lot of old movies (and one contemporary series.) Hang with me and I’ll share my recommendations below.

But because I am who I am, I can’t just read and watch and enjoy, nooooo, I must go introspective and analyze why (always the question, why) I am drawing from the well of the old and the beautiful. It probably has something to do with my age, and the desire to preserve the worthy art that has gone before me, and also how shallow and fast and ugly our twenty-first-century culture has become in contrast. There is a personal motivator here: I believe that we are shaped (for good or ill) by the culture/art we consume, and I want to be shaped by virtuous things to honor and reflect the beauty of God (and His good world).

One helpful guide in this pursuit has been Karen Swallow Prior’s, On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books. She advocates for reading quality literature because it allows us to have a kind of simulated experience of exercising our moral judgment, therefore shaping our character, which eventually predisposes us toward virtue. Or, as she succinctly puts it, “Reading literature, more than informing us, forms us” (Brazos Press, pg 22). The experience itself then matters; how deeply we are engaged and moved by a story, how well it is written, the cadence and word choice and character development and description of setting, all contribute toward a lasting effect on our hearts and minds. Not just content, but form. Beauty matters.

I’ve tried reading airport paperbacks. Literally, I’ve been the person stuck in some god-forsaken airport with hours to kill and nothing to read (I’ve since learned my lesson) and bought one of those “best seller” beach reads, only to regret it 1 1/2 chapters in. I’ll admit to checking out more than one novel from the library at a time and not finishing anything I brought home. Of the novels I’ve tried: I’ve donated many neglected, half-read paperbacks to Goodwill, passed a few on to a more suited reader, and thrown a couple straight in the trash. [A Rule of My House…if it reads like trash, it becomes trash.] What do all of these have in common? They were all written (badly, blandly, and boring) in the last 20 years. Sigh.

When your era lets you down, what’s a girl to do? She goes back in time, baby.

Specifically to 1816, with Mary Shelley’s penning the Gothic novel Frankenstein (or, The Modern Prometheus). Widely recognized as the first real piece of science fiction, Mary wrote the novel over a storied summer hanging out in Geneva, Switzerland with her lover Percy B. Shelley and Lord Byron. Mary came from a rocky upbringing by two socially and politically radical parents, had recently left her first husband, and subsequently faced the unthinkable agony of losing her first child (by Percy). She would go on to endure much suffering in her young life, but this summer found her nursing her second baby, traveling with famous (if not debauched) poets, and the unsuspecting birth of her most memorable and epic tale. As you probably know, Frankenstein is the doctor and the Creature is the tragic bearer of a burden he did not ask for…but I won’t get into that now. Later, perhaps.

I bring up Frankenstein because it is an apt example of what I am trying to unpack here. The cultural icon of the stiff, angry, not-so-jolly green giant that struggles to string four words together is miles away from the story itself; we are so far removed from the original source as a culture that we refer to the monster by the troubled doctor’s name. And we are no better for it. The image of a mad scientist vengefully piecing together parts to make a “man” rings fiction only to those who haven’t read the book, or to those who haven’t read the news lately. The image may still send electrifying shivers down our spines, but apart from the moving prose—which flows from Mary’s mother compassion and finds kinship with those who suffer—it is a cheap thrill. Likewise, when we divorce the contemporary (and sick) fascination to recreate humanity by our medical elites from the original source and design (and, ultimately, the Author-Creator) we end up with empty materialism, driven by satanic impulses of unchecked power. As the Creature pleads for redemption at the hands of the doctor, he laments (with more than a touch of tragic irony),

“You accuse me of murder, and yet you would, with a satisfied conscience, destroy your own creature. Oh, praise the eternal justice of man!”

My hope is for a holy dissatisfaction with these second and third-rate imitations. Why should we be satiated with something so shallow, and so far removed from the original masterwork? Why settle for Boris Karloff when we can dive deep into the creative mind of a Romantic icon? And why exchange the truly original, beautiful, and objectively good design of man for something almost, well, monstrous?

As promised, here are some recent things I’ve truly enjoyed (as in, I felt in no way cheated, but actually quite inspired):

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Andrew Klavan’s The Truth and Beauty
and When Christmas Comes
Karen Swallow Prior’s On Reading Well
Leo Tolstoy’s Resurrection
Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World
BBC’s All Creatures Great and Small
Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Dial M for Murder

Thank you for taking a few moments to think this through with me. If you’d like to continue the conversation, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Shoot me a message and let’s talk.

Until next time,

p.s. And yes, we have welcomed a new little pup into our home this week. Welcome Juniper/Junie/June Carter, the dog!

What is Christian Vocation?

When my son was about 3 years old, he had a game he liked to play, one he called “worker.” Without warning, he would switch into an imaginary mode and start addressing me as “worker,” cheerfully asking questions like, “Hello worker! What are you working on today?” There was usually some kind of costume involved (always with a hat, of course.)

The Christian Worker

When he first started playing this game, I hesitated for a moment, wondering if his dad and I were warping his impressionable ideas about work-life balance by (seemingly) working all the time. I worried that our work-from-home lifestyle (even before quarantine requirements kicked in) influenced him to think about mom and dad as one-dimensional “workers”…as people who only work.

But as we played the game off and on over a few weeks it became a fun little challenge for me to frame my role as “worker” in different lights for him to ponder. Some days I was the grocery-shopping and menu-planning “worker,” while other days I was the kind of “worker” who wrote words on a screen and held virtual meetings. In the simplicity of the game, it got me thinking about vocation and our call as Christian “workers.”

What is the Doctrine of Vocation?

One thing the Reformers got really right was their doctrine on vocation, based on Paul’s affirmation in 1 Cor. 7:17. But the idea is broader than just what we do for “work” (our careers or job); to pursue faithfulness in our vocations as believers means that, above all else, we trust the providence of God in our lives. In an essay on why and how the Reformers developed these revolutionary ideas, Dr. Veith explains the three main pillars of vocation–the household, the church, and the state.

He says,

“Vocation has to do with God’s providence, how He governs and cares for His creation by working through human beings. Vocation shows Christians how to live out their faith, not just in the workplace but in their families, churches, and cultures. Vocation is where faith bears fruit in acts of love, and so it grows out of the Gospel. And vocation is where Christians struggle with trials and temptations, becoming a means of sanctification.”

Heeding Paul’s guidance, when we are considering our vocation, we must begin in the home. The home, or “household,” is the place of our most intimate relationships as husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, children, roommates/close friends, and (sometimes) extended family, like grandparents. The home, therefore, holds the relationships in our lives with the most responsibility, but also the most potential for growth and good fruit. Similarly, we each have roles within the church, and, to a lesser degree, in the state (through our private employment or daily work, or in the service of the military or government).

Vocation as Everyday Worship

It is here, in the grit of our everyday life, where we can faithfully live out our vocation to trust God’s providence as it is made known through the people, locations, and activities that He allows. In other words, our jobs/roles might change according to all manner of circumstances, but we are always called to trust the Lord with our whole selves–body, mind, and soul (via our time, resources, influence…you get the idea). We surrender our work life in the same way that we surrender our marriages and child-rearing and dreams/ambitions; in gratitude, we give all back to Him, our Heavenly Father who gives good gifts to His children. This is our “spiritual act of worship,” and the way we live out our vocation as saints.

Just this morning, as I was reading my son a kitschy little book called “Daddies” about the different jobs that fathers do (you know, This Daddy is a baker! This Daddy is a policeman! etc.), he stopped the story and commented, “And mommies do work, too!”  I smiled and agreed. Yes, we are all called to work for the glory of God, whatever that may look like. We all have the opportunity to fulfill our vocations with hearts that trust the providence of God and are forever saying to Him, “Thank you.” To be a Christian “worker” is simply to trust the Lord and look to Him for guidance in every moment of our busy day. In all things, to Him be the glory.

Slaying Ice Giants (and other Christian pursuits)

I’m riding in the back of an Uber through lower Manhattan. The Sunday morning sun is blazing already and its light touches everything – tops of cars zipping by, people moving along the grid as one unit, buildings reaching for the sky like fingers. Every surface shimmers white hot. 

While the world warms, the questions of my mind are stuck in place, immovable, frozen with fear. They are questions like, how did this THING become a giant in my life? why has Anxiety loomed over the recent days and weeks, like one of those ice statues guarding the White Witch’s castle? Because I can see it for what it is, even if I am powerless against it. 

And then, like the warm light of the sun coming through the car window, the voice of the Lord comes to my heart: You of little faith, why are you so afraid?

All it takes is a question, from the One who is Light (and in Him there is no darkness at all). The root is electrified for what it is and I can see all the way down. I can see it clearly; anxiety over my circumstance is merely a symptom of the deeper thing, the chilly grip of Fear clutching my heart. It is here, at the root, that Jesus’ question illuminates the truth —I am afraid because I lack faith, the kind of faith that will slay the ominous, lying tongue of an Ice Giant. 

The author of Hebrews writes,

“Therefore faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see…and without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Heb. 11:1, 6

The paradox (and blunt simplicity) of this scripture makes me smile; faith is like, so easy, right? All you have to do is be sure as rain (or sure as shootin’?) that what you hope is true IS actually the truth and be sure (or certain!) that God exists because otherwise, you cannot please Him. 

Yes. Yes, that’s it! Faith is not something I can figure out because that exercise lives only in the mind, and the Ice Giants LOVE to hang out there. Faith must be more like something experienced, or received, like a dream that comes to you with all of its vivid detail only now the dream is Reality. Faith is holy yearning, part invitation, part revelation.

It is the longing of mortal Abraham “for a better country-a heavenly one” and the response of eternal God, “therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (v. 16). God rewards those who earnestly seek Him because He gives the yearning, and He satisfies it with Himself. He is the beginning and the end of all things!

I hate to say it now, at the end of this nice letter, but I must remind you—our circumstances might not change. We may still have to face fear, in whatever form it comes, especially if the true light of God shines from our lives in increasing measure (and therefore, threatens the darkness surrounding us). It’s just how things are for now. We are yet caught in the fray. 

But here is what I want to leave you with: 

  1. Our circumstances are temporary. All of this is temporary and we begin to overcome once we realize and accept this truth (see v. 36-38).
  2. Faith isn’t something I can conjure up (Just Say No to witchcraft) but must be desired, earnestly asked for, and received in humility. 
  3. Fear might be tailing us, but once true faith is received -that sweet and terrifying revelation of Christ as the deepest reality- this kind of faith will destroy fear every time. Both now, in our everyday experience, and eternally. Glory to God! 

Ultimately, while we contend in our temporal cities of metal and stone, we can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our brother Abraham, always looking toward the horizon: “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (v.10). I can almost see it, can you? 

6 books about work and vocation

I read a lot of books. To my dear husband’s credit, he puts up with stacks of books sitting around our house that I’m currently reading, have aspirations to read, or have already read and can’t part ways with just yet. But at least I’m not quite to the point where the late fashion photographer, Peter Lindbergh, was when he said (God rest his soul),

I have a very big apartment in Paris but you can’t really move around there anymore; piles of books everywhere. I don’t want any more books. I have too many books; sometimes I have to buy another copy of a book that I know I have somewhere in my house or office because I can’t find it.

A Paris apartment stuffed with books?? Be still, my nerdy heart!

If you’re like me, you probably read a variety of things (classical fiction, biography, theology, and leadership- or tech-oriented nonfiction are my choices of late). Among other topics, I like to read about work and vocation. Not necessarily about business strategy or practices (although I will click on an article link re: those topics), but what I really LOVE to read about is the bigger journey one may take toward the work/career/vocation of our unique giftings.

Social psychologists say that the average Westerner will spend a third of their life at work (approx 90k hours). And that doesn’t even count the work of domestic life or creative pursuits! Work matters, and the ideas we have about the meaning of work matters, too.

Today I’m sharing six books that I’ve read recently about work and why you might want to check them out (…of the library, which will make you a better person than my Amazon-addicted self).

Six Books About Work

The Proximity Principle by Ken Coleman

This is a handbook for anyone thinking about major career change. If you are not happy in your current job or vocation and need a step-by-step plan to help you make the change, Ken’s book is a strategic roadmap and pocket cheerleader all in one! It’s probably best suited for someone looking to get into media-related work, but the principles can apply across many industries.

My favorite part about The Proximity Principle is the way he organized the book: The People (you need to know), The Places (you need to be), and The Practices (you should implement) for success.

48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller

48 Days is a modern classic about work. Dan has been writing about work for a long time; he teaches us why we should care deeply about our work and coaches us on the practical steps to finding work that matters.

My favorite part of 48 Days to the Work You Love is Dan’s Christian worldview on calling and vocation –he understands that work is a part of what it means to worship God and his writing has a pastoral tone without being preachy.

Solo: How to Work Alone (and Not Lose Your Mind) by Rebecca Seal

On a different note, Solo was written by British journalist (and not a Christian, from what I can tell) Rebecca Seal, of The Guardian and Financial Times. Published in 2020, this was one of the first books dedicated to those of us who work-from-home (or, #WFH) or work in solo occupations (ie; freelance writer, artist or creator, programmer/coder). Rebecca grapples honestly with many topics related to remote work; some of the topics (like chapter 4, “What is Meaningful Work?”) deserve an entire book devoted to unpacking the answer. She is both curious and practical and I found myself wanting to have a cup of tea to debate some of our differing views.

My favorite part of Solo was Rebecca’s exploration of the Western/post-Enlightenment history of our ideas about work. While she rejects Christian morality as it relates to work (she’s no fan of Calvin! ha), the reader senses her desire to find meaning in her vocation, which I found ultimately hopeful.

Everything Will Be Okay: Life Lessons for Young Women (From a Former Young Woman) by Dana Perino

This is part career-oriented autobiography, part girlfriend-advice sharing time, and 100% your (nonfiction) beach read for this year. Dana is a political commentator and author, and best known for being the White House Press Secretary during George W. Bush’s administration. This book is a product of her “Minute Mentoring” program, where she mentors young women as they rise to leadership positions in their careers. The tone is very “big sorority sister” but it didn’t put me off; instead, I found Dana’s generosity encouraging.

My favorite part of Everything Will Be Okay was that it challenged me to think about ways to pass on my own hard-earned wisdom to those younger than me. I also loved how specific Dana’s recommendations were (especially for things like podcasts and fashion choices) because I think it’ll be interesting/funny to look back in 20 years at how cultural artifacts like that change.

Answering the Call in the Spirit: Pentecostal Reflections on a Theology of Vocation, Work and Life by Terry L. Cross, Ph.D.

Look, y’all already knew that I have a taste for variety in my book choices, okay? Yes, this one is a theological work on…work. Dr. Cross is one of my favorite theologians because he writes with clarity, humility, and a lightness of spirit (he is a serious thinker but he doesn’t take himself too seriously). He guides the reader to help us think about calling and vocation from a Spirit-filled perspective without being too heady or hard to follow. I find myself reaching for this book often and referencing it in my own writing.

My favorite part of Answering the Call in the Spirit is that it is the kind of theology that we -all of us- can relate to. Everyone works in some capacity and everyone asks questions about the meaning of our work, and this slim volume goes a long way to address the spiritual and yet, everyday, nature of our working life.

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Timothy Keller and Katherine Leary Alsdorf

I’ll be honest, I haven’t finished this one yet. Keller is a well-known pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian (NYC) and a popular author; Alsdorf is the founder and director of the church’s Faith and Work initiative. Together they tackle the topic of work from a philosophical and Biblical point of view, citing sources like Dorothy Sayers, Lester DeKoster, Mark Knoll, Andy Crouch, Martin Luther, Tolkein, and even Nietzsche. I can’t give you my favorite part yet, but at about a third of the way in, I already appreciate the author’s clear reasoning (which Keller is known for) on the topic of Christian vocational calling.

You’ve made it to the end of the post! Cheers to you, friend. Now I want to know…what are you reading lately? Have any good work-related book recommendations?

Summer Style for Work

In my humble opinion, summer is the most challenging season to dress for work especially if you (1.) work in a professional setting and (2.) live in a warm climate like I do. The humidity and high temps of the South are unforgiving and I, along with many of my friends, have to get a little creative with our summer style for work. What about you? Do you live in Austin and work in finance? Work in government in our nation’s swampy capitol? You’re probably feeling this too…

Yes, it is miserably hot some days and yes, we have a bit more physical maintenance to deal with (at least in the hair removal department, but I’ll leave it at that)…but we still want to look and feel good when we go to work. Also travel is picking up for most organizations, so there’s another scenario where we need to feel put together and not look like a sloppy mess.

For the good of the order, I’ve culled a few summer looks for work that will hopefully get your gears going. Sometimes all we need is a little inspiration, right?

Continue reading “Summer Style for Work”

Spiderman, Lamentations, and the Steadfast Love of God

My youngest son came to me this morning, asking as he does every morning, to fasten the velcro closures on the back of his Spiderman costume (he wears this thing like it’s his job). Only this time, he looked me in the eye and asked, “Are you tired of doing this? “

What a funny question for a four-year-old to ask! I was surprised that he had the emotional capacity to shift perspectives in that moment and question how I felt about doing this thing that I do almost every day. And, of course, I answered (sincerely), “No! I love doing this.”

Because it’s true. I love that he loves this costume and wants to wear it every day. I love that his imagination switches on as soon as he’s suited up. I love his patience as I fasten all three little fuzzy circles together.

I love him; therefore, when he comes to me in need, I want to meet him there every time.

Is it obvious where I am going with this? I can’t help but hear the echo of my own questioning heart in my son’s question.

God, are you tired of me coming to you?  Are you annoyed at my inexhaustible need for you? Are you done healing my broken places?  Bored with hearing the same old prayers and petitions?

Continue reading “Spiderman, Lamentations, and the Steadfast Love of God”

Christ’s Kingdom in the Psalms

In his slim commentary, Reflections on the Psalms, C.S. Lewis characterizes King David’s passionate worship in Psalm 27 with words like “gusto,” “rowdiness,” and a particular “Hebraic delight” expressed (for example) in verse 4,

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.

Here is David coming to the very center of his desire, to what he longs for above all else…all while his enemies are pressing in on him and the refrain of war echos in his ear. It is in this terrifying moment that David writes of his eagerness to cross the threshold and enter into the courts of Yahweh. For David the Israelite, to experience God was to be in the Temple, on God’s holy and divinely-established ground. 

But glancing back at Ps. 27:4 (above), we might naturally ask questions like, Who is this Lord? And why does David get so excited in his worship?

Continue reading “Christ’s Kingdom in the Psalms”

Terrifying Russian Literature, a Style Challenge, and New Year’s Resolutions

The book sat on a side table in my bedroom, the one over by the corner fireplace, for six months.

The oil portrait of its central character stared at me from the cover with those stoic, challenging eyes (like only Russians can), seemingly asking the question again, “Are you ready now? Is today the day?”

And then, a couple of days before Christmas, I was able to answer, “Yes, today is the day.” Finally, after months of looking the other way, I picked up Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and began reading.

those eyes…

Why had I resisted this book for so long? I bought it after reading (and hearing) multiple recommendations from trusted literary sources, but it just plain intimidated me. I wanted to read it, but I was scared that I wouldn’t “get it.” I was afraid that Tolstoy would make me feel stupid.  

Continue reading “Terrifying Russian Literature, a Style Challenge, and New Year’s Resolutions”