Simply Sather

65 in 365 | reading challenge

I really like books.

I have since I can remember; books and their stories have been longtime companions to me.

When I think of “fun” I think of books. Not just reading them, but the experience of them. Holding them, the smells (old and new) and turning the pages. There’s just something about it that is special and enjoyable for me.

I’m not against digital readers but you just can’t beat a “brick and mortar” book.

Most people are surprised when they learn that I am introverted.

I really am y’all.

Though I can and often do connect well with others and am able to comfortably and successfully navigate most social situations, my preference is for the quiet. For moments where I have time and stillness to manage the swirling thoughts in my mind (there are so many).

It is fun for me to go to libraries and bookstores and when there is a rare rainy day in Texas and I don’t have work to do, you better believe I’m curled up under a cozy blanket with a cup of Guatemalan coffee resting and reading.

Being a book lover has been a long time part of my makeup. I suspect my parents allowed me to stay up late with a flashlight under my blanket because it was the wildest I got at that time of my life. I just h-a-d to finish the book.

“Just one more page” often turned into “just one more chapter”.

I especially enjoyed when I could predict what would come next, what the characters might say and how a book might end.

Reading for enjoyment took a hit when I studied English in college. Reading all kinds of books and then overanalyzing what the writer meant was daunting (even for an extensive thinker and processor like myself). The Old English class (think Chaucer) and Tolkien class tried to kill me and to this day, I still struggle to read, understand and enjoy poetry. (An aside, Mister took me to the Browning library at Baylor University in Waco, Texas and my interest in poetry was peaked.) And Shakespeare was surprisingly enjoyable but I haven’t read him for fun since my college course so many moons ago. I plan to circle back to Will again sometime soon though.

After all of the college reading (for my English degree, then later for my Education degree/license and all of the development manuals and coaching and training books) I could not really say what I enjoyed reading anymore.

And I think it turned my compass upside down a little bit.

So, to mix it up, I began participating in reading challenges when I joined the blogging community a few years ago; they have been good and not-so-good for me.

If I’m not careful, I can complicate even something like my reading  enjoyment with competition and comparison.

There were deadlines and rankings and swaps and I got into that and lost sight of my enjoyment of the books and experience itself. After a year of participating in reading challenges, I started to recognize the drain and knew I needed to shift my focus back to the simplicity of just reading books.

I quit trying to navigate Goodreads – (just so disappointed that it’s not a more attractive, easy-to-use site) and attempting to keep up with friends’ recommendations and what others thought I should read and stuck with a couple of smaller reading communities.

One was the one through my sorority (Kappa Alpha Theta) called Reading Women. One book a month and then the discussion was done virtually through a private Facebook chat. And another through the local library.

I eventually ended up walking away from both for many reasons – lack of diversity in authors, the style and leadership of the club at the library, leaving Facebook all together – and went back and dabbled in online challenges.

Ones that offer simplicity and have kept the reading about reading.

While on the hunt for the “just right” book club for me, I kept reading and found that I would constantly need to check my motivation for sharing what I read or reading what others are reading. It’s just so very important that I keep asking myself why I’m reading something.

It can’t be because I heard that someone else could and had read 100 plus books in a year or to be a part of a reading community just to say I’m a part of something.

Reading totally relaxes me. Unless I’m reading a great mystery or about injustices or any well-written book – because they make me feel and empathize and cheer and think; I think that’s what I like most.

So I prayed about why I wanted to read so many books and it led me to 65 books in 365 days. A number that challenges me but doesn’t stress me out.

I was able to crank out a lot while recovering from surgery last fall and have a plan for how many I need to tackle each month to reach the goal by October 31st (I started my 365 days on November 1, 2017.)

I want to watch less television, do less binge watching on Netflix and Hulu and even less scrolling on my phone because all of these would be a major help in me reaching this goal. As well, really resting and relaxing on the days I enjoy my Sabbath (which happen to be Fridays), allows me to sit and rest and read.

And dream. And consider and imagine the places and people these authors are introducing me to.

I ensure there is variety, and am open to reading all kinds of things. (Especially when people buy books for me – gift cards are the best though – and when they lend me books with specific parts or things they think I might enjoy or resonate with from the book.)

Books about faith.

Books about women overcoming.

Historical Fiction.

Paris.

Books in a series.

Books about personal growth and development.

Now, I’m in a different book club at our local library (far more laid back and with folks who actually talk about the books) and have the list of books my sorority sisters are reading and am open to recommendations that will push me out of my comfort zone too!

If you’re thinking you’re up for a challenge, here are some that I have tried before (but am not doing now) that you might enjoy:

Christian Reading Challenge

PopSugar Entertainment Challenge

GoodReads

___

Yes, yes.

I know books are not everyone’s favorite but I can argue why I think they should be – especially for the busy and overwhelmed.

But if you are a bookworm like me and you think there is just something I h-a-v-e to read, please share your recommendations in the comments below and take a quick hop over to what I’ve read so far over here.

Simply Sather

becoming a sather | our courtship

I almost missed out on him. At least, it feels like I almost passed him by because Mister and I matched on Match.com when I was least expecting it. You can read about it over here.

After talking on the phone and texting for almost two days straight, we met for our very first date at Coal Vines in Southlake. He was coming all the way from Dallas and I wanted to get there early to get a good table and (keeping it real) I wanted to be able to see him when he walked in the door.

And it was a good thing I did y’all, because he was so nervous. With flowers and a dessert, he almost stumbled and tripped coming in the door.

It frightened me.

He was overly zealous it seemed, perhaps too excited.

What on earth did that mean?

After all the chuckleheads (that’s what I called the misfits) I was ready to call the date a “no go” and chalk it up to another date to put behind me.

But I gave him a chance. And dinner turned out to be a warm-up.

We continued our conversations from earlier in the week and I found myself surprisingly open and vulnerable and real with him. We laughed, we listened, we ate, we used manners (everyone does not) and the night flew by.

I wasn’t sure I’d see him again so soon but when he walked me to my car, I wrapped my arms around him and gave him a hug and then surprised both of us by giving him a quick peck on the lips.

I tell you that because if I don’t share this while telling about our courtship – HE WILL.

We agreed to meet the very next morning for breakfast at Le Madeline’s in Grapevine (again he came all the way from Dallas) and it was a fantastic experience.

Hindsight is 20-20, but I have to tell you; looking back on that second date, I can now tell that it was that we did something so normal and talked about such normal things that made me see a potential future with this man. The way he spoke about his family, the way he listened when I answered the questions he asked, even especially the way he was far more relaxed than the evening before.

Sitting there eating a lovely breakfast, at a French themed restaurant (J’adoré France!) at a table for two, in front of the fireplace, sipping coffee, I was intrigued.

Another date ended, he walked me to my car and I hugged him again. And when he put me in my car he leaned in a gave me a quick kiss on my lips. And there were butterflies.

A third date the very next night – back on my side of town – at Cowtown Sushi was when I knew this man was going to play a significant role in my dating experience.

If you’re freaking out about the kissing, let me tell you – it took me by surprise too. It wasn’t my modus operandi to kiss anyone on the first date, but it was so natural and felt so familiar to me that I simply took the leap and pecked him on his lips. It’s not for every date you go on – it certainly wasn’t for me – but on these dates with this man, it was sweet, nice and special.

On that date, he looked at me with all seriousness and confidence – where was the man from two evenings before – and told me that he was not dating to make friends; that he was not dating simply to date. He sat still and without hesitation or reservation and told me that he was petitioning God about the woman that would become his wife and that he was talking to God about me.

And it surprised me – not his declaration – but my response.

I wasn’t upset or put off by it.

It was comforting.

A man that knows what he wants and puts it on the table.

That maturity and assuredness is attractive. Very attractive.

I don’t remember what I said in response, but I remember allowing myself to be open and give him some room to walk it out.

With the distance between us, we attempted to see one another three times a week and agreed to prioritize daily conversation. And in nearly 9 months of being a couple, we have not missed a single day.

You read that correctly.

We’ve only been a couple for about 9 months are going to be wed in 11 days. We count our courtship as beginning on the eve of our very first date even though we didn’t verbalize our desire to be official until a bunch of days after it happened.

I had so many hang-ups about how all of this stuff is supposed to go down.

How you’re supposed to see someone sick or travel with them and especially see them angry. You’re supposed to date them for a year and so many other rules and expectations that we put on ourselves and others when trying to get to know one another.

And I’d say we did a lot of those things, but not in the order most would agree with and definitely with a different focus.

From the beginning, we asked ourselves if we could see ourselves marrying the other person. If we could see living the way God calls husbands and wives to love and respect the other. If we could refrain from sex or physical activity as He calls us to for His glory. If we could talk about anything and everything.

These are among some of the most important questions to ask yourself and the person you’re attempting to build a life with.

I asked almost every question you could think of – multiple times and in many ways – to see if he was trustworthy or like the other men I’d dated or found myself interested in. And he answered them all. Well.

He called when he said he would.

He texted first every morning with words of encouragement and prayers over me and my son.

He initiated dates and plans and tailored them to things I enjoyed.

He shared his life with me – his work, his children, his love for God.

After two months I went public and put our photo on social media.

After six weeks, I told him that I loved him over a game of Scrabble.

After three months, I asked about pre-marital counseling at church.

He began attending church weekly with me at this time.

After five months of dating, we participated in a pre-marital counseling session.

After six months of dating, we were engaged.

Two and a half weeks into our dating, I had an emergency blood transfusion and six months after we began dating, I had major surgery and he was bedside, attentive and loving throughout both.

He moved to my city six months (farther from his work) after we met and rented the apartment we will live in after we’re married with us in mind. He signed the lease before we were engaged.

There have been so  many milestones during our courtship:

  • meeting one another’s children + parents
  • praying together
  • him joining our church
  • talking about finances
  • sharing our dating histories
  • fancy dates
  • regular dates
  • travel
  • Scrabble competitions
  • copious amounts of coffee
  • running errands together (some of my favorite time with him)
  • meeting one another’s friends

So.

Many.

Experiences.

There’s been so much; even not-so-great experiences.

My courtship with Mister is has not been not perfect. We’ve disagreed, hurt one another and have had to apologize and ask for forgiveness. We’ve misunderstood the other and sometimes we even caused the other concern and stirred up fear.

But we’ve also loved deeply, laughed a lot and learned to sit in silence and be still with one another. It’s been about getting to enjoy and appreciate being our real selves with the other person.

I’ve never experienced a love connection like this one. In past relationships, I thought I had to fix or help the other person be the man they had the potential to come. That I needed to water down my quirky and tone down my feelings. It seemed necessary for me to hustle and strive to put effort into improving the relationship and experience for the both of us. What I was essentially doing was dragging some man along on a ride he really didn’t want to be on; at least not with me.

Because let.me.tell.you ladies…

When a man is into you, he will do things you only see in movies or read in books – the very things you poo-pood as being fake and contrived. And it will melt your heart. But you’ve got to be present and authentic in the experience, let go and really receive his attention; to really embrace his preference for you.

Y’all, I have loved this experience. And have grown to love the woman that I now recognize as the other partner in this relationship.

Building this love connection with Mister has been a blessing.

I laugh with God weekly. It’s amazing to think that I didn’t know this man before 2017 began and in 2018 I will begin to know him in the most intimate ways.

I’m truly grateful.

And excited.

I know it’s not about getting through perfectly. We won’t be able to.

It’s not about what it looks like to those around you or even what you think it’s should look like. Or be like.

It’s about allowing yourself to be pursued by a man that is leading you towards God.

It’s learning about you and how to love you so that you flourish and grow.

Being courted is about listening to your hurts and being a partner with God in His perfect healing of your past hurts and negative thoughts.

It’s not about what you think you want.

It’s about submitting yourself to God’s best for you. Trusting Him and watching Him show you what true, real – spoil you silly – authentic, life giving, godly love looks like.

Consider yourselves warned ladies.

That man you couldn’t “see yourself with” before will suddenly become someone you can’t spend too much time alone with because you’re tempted to kiss longer and lust in your heart and head towards him. You will have hot flashes when you catch him staring at you without makeup and he tells you’re beautiful. You will better understand how and why other men were not the right ones for you and the life you’re meant to live.

There will be a new clarity.

A new perspective.

It’s real ladies.

Our courtship has been a gift.

One that has reaped many benefits and blessings.

There were many times where I tried to make this relationship like ones I’ve experienced in the past. Where I attempted to take the reins and try to control the way things were going. It wasn’t that I wanted the experiences of the past, but I did want to navigate the familiar.

It just seemed easier to do the old than let myself be free in the new.

I had to trust and pray to trust and fight to trust what was foreign because what I could see was sometimes so unbelievable.

It was like all my sin, mistakes, past was all that I deserved.

That enjoying the preference of a godly man who is attracted to me for who I am and how I love and care for him was not something I could allow myself to receive. 

But God.

He’s been so faithful and Mister has been too.

That combination has helped me let down my guard faster than I would ever have anticipated. And because I trusted, I was able to really enjoy far more of the relationship and building and investing in us and our love connection than I would ever have imagined. 

Only God knows what’s in store for our relationship. But I am eager and excited to continue building on the foundation that we have prayed for and worked at strengthening for His glory.

I intentionally refrained from sharing photos from our engagement as I did not want it to seem as though that was the most important reason for our courtship or that it was the bulk of our focus. We talked about marriage consistently, but it did not consume our conversations. We were focused on getting to know one another and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable so that we could be known by the other person. I’ll share that part of the story in this space eventually, but it will likely be in the context of something else, something bigger.

And I thank God for the hope of that.

Simply Sather

becoming a sather | dating with purpose

In less than a few weeks, I’ll become Mrs. Regina Sather.

I’m a little baffled.

Last year this time, I was dabbling in online dating and not very hopeful about the fruit of it.

I tried Tinder for 1 month (never meeting anyone), Zoosk for 5 months, Christian Mingle for a minute and Match.Com for 3 months.

This was after I said I’d NEVER do such a thing.

Be careful with your “nevers”.

After about two months of dipping my toe in and out of the experience and having a few dates, a trusted woman from church shared a book with me.

It still makes me laugh how it came to be.

After having a married brother ask me about my dating life in front of his wife in December 2016, heeding the Spirit and asking another woman in the church if she was a ‘matchmaker’ and then having my son tell me he thought it was time – I was ready to give it 100%.

I read the book – How to Get a Date Worth Keeping: Be Dating in Six Months or Your Money Back by Dr. Henry Cloud – and got to work dating with intention.

I will not credit the book entirely with my being ready to be married at the start of February, but I will say that it helps you set your intention, look more closely at your purpose for dating and – the part I think most folks don’t really want to do – look more closely and honestly at yourself.

The book asks you to grow, move outside your comfort zone and bring some folks along on the journey with you.

And I did that. I read the book and put into action the steps I could as best as I could and within a few months of starting the book (early February) and doing the work and asking God’s direction and guidance, I met the man who would be eventually become my husband (in late April of the same year).

While I was taking Dr. Cloud’s advice, I was also watching short vignettes from RedefinedTV while curling my hair or putting on makeup in the mornings, and talking with a few trusted friends about my fears and concerns and especially my hopes and dreams (to be married to a godly man). I was reflecting on what I’d hoped the man would be like and bring out in me. And even spending time praying specific prayers for whoever he was and calling him “Mister”.

It would sound like this, “Lord, I pray that Mister is facing a day at a job that he enjoys and that he is talking to You about Your will for him.”

Or, “Lord, I pray that you would help me to recognize Mister when You match us with one another.”

It wasn’t my main focus, but I was talking with God about him a lot and even in the midst of some really busy transitions at work, my son preparing to graduate from high school and my health not being the best, I made dating and personal growth a priority.

In order to do that, I would encourage you to be…

Less focused on the outcome and the wish list.

More focused on God and what He’s whispering to your soul.

Less focused on the outward appearances and what others think.

More focused on praying and then really listening to what God shares with you about your singleness.

Less focused on the painful, strange, cooky people you may meet.

More focused on gratitude that you’re one step closer to the one set aside for you.

You’ll want to quit. It’s not easy.

You’ll want to throw yourself into work, easier relationships or another book.

You may start (or continue) speaking negative, hurtful, untrue things to yourself.

Persevere.

Trust.

Say “yes”.

Know your goals.

Be real about your hopes.

Be honest about your areas of growth (or weaknesses, sin traps).

And try to have fun.

Have a way to end conversations and relationships that draw you away from God or that are just not enjoyable for you/steal your joy.

Be intentional.

Be real.

Be you.

Before I share about how Mister and I grew to know and love one another, let me share this.

I almost missed out on him.

I almost passed him by.

Mister and I matched on Match.com when I was not expecting it.

Match.com was not the most intuitive platform for me. It often seemed their “calculations” were shifty and though the potential candidates were higher quality than the other online platforms (they seemed like people I’d really talk to or have things in common with and like real actual people) I could not figure out how the matching actually worked.

By the time the last week in April rolled around, I was rebounding from a huge transition at work (we moved into our new church home) and we hosted 8 Easter services in that new home a few weeks later. I was exhausted and my underlying health issue was screaming at me.

I had been on a few dates with a few other men and the latest one (who I’d met from a different app) had moved me toward being jaded.

Even though I had a “dating team” (from Henry Cloud’s book) and was often writing in my journal and was talking and walking with the Lord, I wanted to quit.

Men were either not faithful to the Lord (I had one man tell me he thought Jesus was a ‘fairy tale’ – the last time we saw one another/spoke) and another tell me he only wanted to date and see me (only to learn he was back on the dating site a few days later) – I was over it.

The whole online dating scenario had left me feeling like I was submitting myself for rejection repeatedly to unworthy, hurtful candidates.

And then the last week of April flipped on the calendar and I found myself talking to not one but t-w-o men.

(That’s how it can work y’all…)

One man was desperately trying to convince me to behave like the other women he’d interacted with and discarded – he admitted to not even believing that the system he’d used to meet me (Zoosk) and begin talking with me over the phone – didn’t even work. He was telling me – quite adamantly – that he thought my expectations of meeting someone decent (what he admitted not to be) and caring (which he’d ratted himself out not to be) was unrealistic and was sure that I would be disappointed.

Here’s the rub ladies…

I kept talking to him.

And we made a date for later that week Friday evening.

Yep. Read that again.

Even as I sat shaking my head at this man when he said words out loud through the phone and I knew he was not a man I could or would change, I tried to “help” him. I helped him to try to figure out when he was technically divorced (not even a few weeks before he matched with me). I tried to help him see why women were believing that good men were out there even though he enjoyed arguing (and proving his point) that they were few and far between.

Then I had a revelation.

Two days after talking to this man on the phone, I matched with Mister.

Jaded and doubtful, I was not initially excited about us being matched.

I was focused on all he was NOT. And it was all the superficial.

Mister reached out to me within the app.

He asked questions that demonstrated he’d actually read my profile.

He asked for my telephone number.

He called and spoke with me and was engaging and clever.

He asked if he could call me again and he did when he said he would.

And my heart was moved but I was still talking to the other guy.

(Try to suspend that judgment because…)

God was teaching me something.

I had chosen men and relationships with men based upon a weakness they had that I thought I was supposed to compliment, fix or repair. It had always been my thought that I could not be with a man who was well adjusted, God fearing, stable, successful, kind and healthy.

My self-worth and wounds had dictated my choices and sadly – many of the results.

I spent that last week in April of 2017 talking to both men. And God showed me clear as day – your choices matter – and whispered these things to me:

You choose based upon what you can see Regina, not what I can see. And you get hurt and hurt others because it’s not been my best for you. I’m giving you two very different choices. What you’ve “always” leaned in toward – brokenness, illness, the worldly and what I’ve heard you praying for in your soul since you began walking with me almost 20 years ago.

I wasn’t thrilled that Mister and I had matched initially (he knows this). He didn’t seem like “my type” or someone I would be attracted to. And yet, everything in my spirit knew that the other guy would be a disappointment; unable to be the kind of godly leader I’d been holding out hope for.

So, I sat back.

Sat still.

And listened to the very quiet words of God.

Choose my heart for you. Even though you’ve never experienced this before. Trust me.

And I did.

I remembered why I’d started the dating team, Dr. Cloud’s book and the growth I’d personally wanted God to do in me and knew this was a part of it.

I canceled the date with the “not right” guy and asked Mister if he’d meet me that night instead. And I told him why my evening had suddenly opened up. (Transparency and vulnerability from the beginning).

We met a few days after our first conversation on the phone for our first in person date and I knew things were different. It was special.

Dating with purpose got me to that special date.

Dating not-right guys got me to that special date.

Consulting God daily got me to that special date.

Remembering why I was dating this way got me to that special date.

Real talk (from them to me and vice versa) with trusted friends got me to that special date.

The next post will be about how that first, very special date turned into courtship.