Before and After: Re-decorating My Apartment

When I said re-decorate, I thought we could maybe hang a few more pictures. I had the living room at a happier, more matching place than it had been in for a while. But, deep down I knew I didn’t like it. The colors in our couches are navy, green, gold, and a purple-ish burgundy. Deep in my soul, I craved serene and calming colors, like blue.

When my mom and sister visited, they didn’t stop at hanging a few pictures. They overhauled the living room, dining room, and the bedrooms. And, they re-decorated my living room with blue and white! 

Way Before
This is how I had my fireplace decorated originally, after we first moved in. 
Then I got this trike at Goodwill, the blue pot from Anthropologie, and the stems from the Dollar store.
This is one side of the fireplace. Both of those picture frames were empty for a long, long time.

This is the fireplace decorated for Christmas.
Mom used the wooden letters I bought at Goodwill, and a picture collage I hadn’t found a place for and replaced the butterfly. 
Then we took down the Valentine’s Day banner, the things in the corners, and got rid of the old bottle I was using for my green twigs. Then we took down the Christmas lights and replaced the twigs. We moved some flowers from the guest room to the trike, and got some plate stands. This is how it looked after we were done: 
The light-up orchid branches make up the Christmas lights!
Every time I took at it, it makes me so happy! I love those branches, and the vase. The branches came from a decor store just down the street, and the vase came from Pier 1. 
This was before we took down the Christmas lights, so pretend they aren’t there. 
I’d like to add some greenery to the corners, something like these topiaries from Simply Designing.
Simply Designing
This is our coffee table. The glass decanter is from Pier 1, the red beads inside are from the dollar store, the marble bust is a Christmas present from my parents, and the rose was a Valentine’s Day present from Brian. I used a recycled bottle for a vase. The candle and candle holder are both from the dollar store.
These blue and white balls came from Pier 1 and were $3 each. The tray was a wedding present, and the pebbles were leftover from wedding decorations. I picked out the reed diffuser for Mom and Evi because they needed something to reach $30 at Pier 1 so they could use a $10 off coupon. I picked it because it was blue and on clearance for $3 and mom decided it looked good on my coffee table. The scent is Bombay Blue, and it fits so well!
This is one of the desks we got off Craig’s List. I eventually moved that picture closer to the one from my in-laws, like the picture of the couch below shows. 
Guess where we found this blue toile slipcover? Goodwill! 
We also got a pillow there for $1 and slid it underneath to make the seat more comfortable. 
This is an old picture actually, because I moved the picture thats on top of the black bookshelf to the guest room, and put the simplicity cement saying there instead. And I had finally put pictures in the frames. 
This is how it looked after we moved some things from the fireplace over and added a little greenery. Much better!
Here’s our couch, with matching purple lamps. Above the couch is our Wedding/Graduation present from my in-laws, a beautiful painting of a couple by the ISU campanile, and then two wedding photos. 

This was perfect, because the butterfly got to stay in the living room. It looks nice with the couch too. 
The blue jay painting was painted by Brian’s great-grandmother.

This painting is of an amusement park in Iowa, Arnold’s Park. It’s by the same artist as the campanile painting that was in the living room, P. Buckley Moss. 
Adding three things to this wall has a lot more impact and looks more put together than one lone picture. 

Now both pictures by the same artist are together! And, the big campanile picture fills the wall better. The green mat looks nice with our bedspread and curtains too.

Great-gram’s painting is above the dresser now, as is the brown clock I got at Goodwill. And yes, there are two clocks, because the brown one matches, but it runs half and hour behind no matter what. This still needs some work, but it’s getting there. 
I think mom and Evi did a fantastic job. We actually didn’t buy a lot of new stuff, just the things from Pier 1. Mostly we decorated with what I already had. If you’d like to do the same, I wrote a post with 12 ways to decorate with what you already have!
Have you ever majorly re-decorated? Have you ever asked for help with decorating? How did that turn out?

New Blog Design!


At last it’s up! I can’t tell you how excited I am! There’s still work to be done, like making a new grab button, and making a new facebook page image. But, I did it all by myself and it didn’t cost me anything!

Here’s how:
I started with a free header from The Cutest Blog on the Block. The chair and roses were already on it.
The pink frame is a freebie from Shabby Blogs. I Photoshopped a different fabric to fill it and added my text.
The brown paper in the background is a free French postcard from The Graphics Fairy.
For the notebook paper, I scanned a sheet of notebook paper, cropped it, and photoshopped it in.

At one time, I had a typewriter in there too, and more papers behind the frame. I like the more simplistic look better, but it took me hours and hours of fiddling before I came to that conclusion.

Hug a Designer
Creating my own blog design has helped me appreciate all that blog designers go through. Custom designs can seem expensive, but they really are a lot of work to put together, so if you have a custom design, tell your designer thank you today and send them a virtual hug.

I’m very grateful to Melanie of Elegant Custom Blogs for my previous design, and now I understand a little of all she went through to make it. If you liked the old design, don’t worry, it might be back for fall!

About the Subtitle
Ever since I got serious about blogging last summer, I have struggled to come up with a tag line, a pitch, a subtitle type phrase for this blog. I write about a such wide variety of things. This blog has changed from being a place for me to keep a record of events and keep up with my family, to a place to meet new friends, learn, grow, encourage, and reach out to make a difference. But I still write about my goings-ons and share craft projects and the occasional recipe.

For awhile I came up with “Encouraging and challenging women to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives.” It’s a good purpose, but I didn’t feel like it fit with everything I posted, and it was really long, and hard to fit on the header.

This tag line came to me as I was reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I wish I could quote to you the exact moment when I it came to me, but I’m letting my sister borrow the book right now so I don’t have it handy. However, Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul by John and Staci Eldredge discusses at length why beauty matters. Beauty speaks to us about who God is. Beauty says all will be well and gives our souls rest. Beauty invites, captures, and draws the viewer in. God has given us a desire for beauty, because He is beautiful. Beauty comforts and beauty inspires.

But in a life filled with difficult, hard, painful, and ugly things, we have to find beauty. We have to look for it intentionally. Where? In everyday. In the midst of the stress, the pain, the loneliness, the joys, and the blessings.

That’s what counting the gifts is about. The craft projects or decorating inspiration is all about creating beauty in your home.

“Every experience of beauty points to [eternity].” 

-Hans Urs Von  Balthasar, via  Captivating

So, what do you think of the new look? What do you think of the subtitle? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

What We Need To Hear

 After peeling off another too-small shirt I’d squeezed myself partly into, a familiar wave of thoughts crossed my mind: You’re fat. And ugly. Nerdy with a side of Geek. 

When I was shopping with my mom and sister last weekend, it seemed that store after store had run out of normal people sizes. I could find fours, twos, and zeros aplenty. And a size I hadn’t seen before: double zeros. Extra-extra small. Who could ever wear that size?! Well, my sister could. That’s who. 
I felt too embarrassed to leave the dressing room. I compared myself and found myself lacking. If only I had smaller upper arms. If only I had smaller boobs. Then….

Then what? I’d be beautiful? Loved? Accepted?
I know better than that. But sometimes I forget. 
As I sat on the bed that evening, looking through the pictures from the week, another wave of self-depreciating thoughts washed over me. I decided to be brutally honest. 
“Babe,” I snuggled up to Brian. “I’ve felt really, really, ugly and unattractive all day. I just need to know that you still love me and you think I’m beautiful.” 
Brian is good at making me feel loved. His reassurances helped. Then the next day, I read a post from Without Adornment, “Self, You are Beautiful,” and I realized, “I’m not alone.” Her post led me to Jill’s I Am Beautiful Project. I love how God brings you just what you need at just the right time! 
“Contrary to what the world claims, Beauty does not diminish with time; Beauty deepens and increases…true beauty comes from a depth of soul that can only be attained through living many years well.” –Stasi Eldrege from Captivating

“The Lord delights in those who fear Him, 
Who put their hope in His unfailing love.” 
-Psalm 147:11
I need to be reminded. Often. 
And so do you.

Since I have no finished craft projects to show you as the result of my spring break, I wanted to show you the results of the shopping that my mom, sister, and I did instead. It wasn’t easy to take any of the pictures in this post. For one, because I don’t have a tripod or someone to take the picture for me, and two, I couldn’t get very good lighting on most of them. But aside from the mechanics, I had a hard time not being critical of how I looked. I had to be reminded of God’s opinion of me. I had to silence those if only and not enough voices.


Note: The items I bought are in bold, the rest are things I already had.

Outfit #1.

Brown sweater from Anthropologie
Black tee from Vanity
Teal scarf from Walmart
Skinny stretch jeans from Target
You can see what I mean about having troubles with the lighting. But I wanted to include that picture because it shows the scarf better than any of the others. 
It’s a very long, soft, and comfy sweater. Perfect for cozy, rainy days, like the one we had last Monday.
My mom actually bought this for me. It was on sale for $20!
Outfit #2
Gray shirt from Loft
Navy blue tank from Old Navy
Jeans same as above
Shoes from Payless Shoes Store

 I love this shirt. It’s very light and flowing, and gray is one of my favorite colors. It too was on sale, and I think it was worth the $30 I spent on it. It will also look good with pink, and I wore it earlier this week with a bright yellow tank. So there’s a few outfits with it I can make, just by switching the tank.

Outfit #3

Pink and Gray top from Francesca’s Collections
Gray tank from Old Navy
Rose bracelet from Claires
Same jeans and shoes

Pink has really grown on me lately! Especially pink with gray. This shirt is so soft and silky, and it has a nice swing to it. I’m having trouble coming up with other outfits, unfortunately. I bought this before reading about coming up with three outfits you can wear with it before buying it. 
Outfit #4

Pink flyaway sweater from Francesca’s Collections
Gray shirt from Loft
And the same jeans again

 This sweater was on sale for $11! It’s become one of my all-time favorite things to wear. It’s kinda interesting, because it is super long in the front!

See what I mean? But in the back it’s a normal length. So I often tie the front, and that keeps it from getting caught on things. 
Outfit #5

Retro dress from Goodwill
Belt, I don’t remember
Along with all the fancy shops we went to, I took mom and Evi to my Goodwill, and I found this dress. No else seemed to think it was as awesome as I did. I mean, look at the color! It’s gorgeous! And it pretty much fits me! Compared to my other project dress, this one’s not bad. 

You all had great suggestions for my other dress. Once I get my sewing machine figured out, I will let you know how it goes. What do you suggest for this dress? I’m thinking making it shorter. I do love the sleeves, but I might have to make them shorter.
Over and over, I have to tell God the same thing I said to Brian, “I just need to know that you still love me and you think I’m beautiful.” 

What about you? What helps you silence those voices?
Special announcement: I’m in the final stages of tweaking my new blog design! I hope to have it up and running within the next few days, so maybe next time you’re here, things will look a little different! 
Also, because of the wonderful comments and questions I’ve received after Wednesday’s post, I’ve got a few more fashion posts in the works for us fashionably challenged people. Let me know if you have any specific questions you’d like answered, and I’ll work them in!
Smart and Trendy Moms

8 Fashion Tips I Learned This Week

Maybe it’s because spring is in the air. Maybe it’s because we got our tax refund back, or because I cleaned out my closet. It could be because my mom suggested I make an appointment with a style and wardrobe consultant. 

Whatever the reason, I’ve been drawn to blog posts, articles, and live chats about fashion this week, and I’ve learned A LOT. It all started with an email from The Frugal Living Community on Blog Frog, announcing their Twitter party and a live chat. For those of you who are not social media moguls, Twitter parties are when we all tweet back and forth discussing questions from the host of the party, and every tweet contains a hashtag (#) with the subject of the party. A live chat on Blog Frog works just like MSN instant messenger. Both are fun, and they give out fabulous prizes. In fact, I won the grand prize of this crossover bag!

PB and J Boutique, $49.99

I think they picked me because I said this bag is a great improvement on the fanny pack. Or because I mentioned I only own two purses, one for spring and summer, and one for fall and winter.

At both of these virtual parties, we discussed current trends, how we were incorporating them (or not), and shared tips and ideas on how we made fashion frugal.

Now, I’m not the most up to speed fashionwise. Some of these may be old news to you, but I have a feeling I’m not the only fashionably challenged out there! So without further ado, here’s what I learned last week:

1. Flared Jeans Are Back (but skinnies are still in)

Some of you may be cheering, but when I found this out, I was crestfallen. I just embraced the skinny jean trend. Here in AZ, and from what I’ve seen of California, everyone wears skinny jeans, regardless of size or shape. So I finally decided to try on a pair, and loved them! And now I find out I’m just a little behind. The experts and designers agree, 70’s flared high waisted jeans are already on the market. The good news is that flares flatter everyone, and skinny jeans aren’t going anywhere…yet.

2. The 70’s Have Returned (in a 2011 sort of way)
I had an inkling that this was happening, and now it’s been confirmed. Good news for you if you liked them the first time around, and still have some wide legged pants and floppy hats hanging around.


3. You Can Mix Brown and Black
And brown and grey, as it turns out. Check out this post from Already Pretty on how to mix neutrals.

4. Pink is Hot
Honeysuckle pink, actually. It’s been named “Color of the Year” by Pantone, replacing the turquoise of last year. It’s a bright pink, “Courageous. Confident. Vital. A brave new color, for a brave new world. Let the bold spirit of Honeysuckle infuse you, lift you and carry you through the year. It’s a color for every day with nothing “everyday” about it,” they say. 


5. Wedges and Chunky Jewelry Are In
Unfortunate for me, because I don’t really like either. I have a strong aversion to heels, although I’ve been told wedges are much easier to walk in.

Forever 21. I actually don’t mind this pair so much!

I don’t know if a ring like this is very practical for me, but it is pretty.

Forever 21 $4.80

6. Always Buy What Fits Now, Not What You Hope Will Fit Later
I’m all for being optimistic, but when shopping, that’s dangerous. If you don’t want to be potentially wasting your time and money, buy what fits you now. After all, if you do loose those extra pounds, many times you can get it taken in.

7. Envision Three Outfits With it Before Buying It
This little tip will revolutionalize the way I shop, helping me make the most of my purchases and stay away from impulsive and repeat buys. I don’t know about you, but I tend to buy items I like, and get home to discover I don’t have anything to wear with it. Then I have to buy more so that I can wear the first item. If I stopped to assess what I already have, I can build off of it instead of around a new piece. I learned this from an article on Already Pretty about Shopping Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them. There’s several more good tips in that article too.


8. We All Learn By Imitating 
I learned this from one of my textbooks actually. Aristotle says:

“Imitation is natural to man from childhood…he is the most imitative creature in the world, and learns at first by imitation. And it is also natural for all to delight in works of imitation.”


 When you think about it, we learn to speak by imitating what we hear, we learned to write by tracing letters. Fashion, at it’s core, is imitation. That’s why the same styles are cycled and re-cycled over and over.

Fashion sense isn’t something you’re born with, it’s something learned – through imitation.

This brings hope and a challenge. Hope in that I, and you too,  can dress in an attractive and confident manner even if it’s not natural to us. Challenge, because we have to choose who to imitate.

As believers, we need to take every thought captive, so that we don’t fall prey to the world’s lies that we have to look a certain way, or we’ll be unloved. We must remember that the world values outward appearances only, but God looks on the heart, where true beauty lies.

What’s your philosophy on fashion? What have you learned about fashion lately? Do you have any tips to share with us?

works for me wednesday at we are that family

Family and Fun in the Sun

My younger sister had never before flown in an airplane, and the last time my mom flew was when I was a few weeks old, neither had ever been to Arizona, so having them come visit us during my spring break was a big deal!

Originally I had wanted to go to the Grand Canyon, but after a brutal last few weeks of classes, I scratched that in favor of relaxing days where we could work together on the projects I’ve been wanting to do. On my list: working on my three partial scrapbooks, learning to use my sewing machine, and making over that navy blue project dress. Last minute, I remembered that my sister had wanted to help me decorate my apartment, so even though I thought I had it pretty well decorated now, I figured we could re-arrange a few pictures. We could go shopping, and if it was warm enough, work on our tans.

Nothing ever goes like I plan! We ended up shopping a lot more than I though we would, and once mom and my sister started re-decorating, they couldn’t stop! My scanner wouldn’t work, and I needed to scan my pictures before scrapping them. I discovered the sewing machine was missing the thread spool, and then the bobbin got stuck in the machine. That was that. I did get some good vitamin D by the pool side, I finished a book, and mom and Evi helped me plant some herbs and vegetables!

It was fun to see Arizona as if for the first time again. Mom and Evi excitedly pointed out the cacti and palm trees while we were driving out of the airport. I assured them that we’d see many more!

Tuesday night after we picked them up, we took them to California Pizza Kitchen, drove around downtown a little, and got them settled in back at the apartment.

Wednesday morning, they started moving things around in the living room, and we took a break to swim and lay out by the pool for about an hour. Our pool had been under maintenance for weeks, but it was fixed Tuesday morning. Perfect timing, and one of God’s gifts!

After lunch we went shopping. Mom and Evi wanted to stop and take pictures in the parking lot with the palm trees.

We went to one of my favorite stores, Anthropologie, and we visited several stores I’d never been to before.

Z Gallerie

That evening, we went to Walmart and got some potting soil, cilantro, tomato, lavender, chives, basil and a watering can. We shopped at another of my favorite stores: Pier 1 Imports.

Brian and I thought this gigantic fork was hilarious
We bought a few things there…

Thursday morning we planted the herbs and tomato in the pots that Brian got for free from work several months ago.

I can’t wait to use my own fresh basil!

After we found out the issues with the scanner and sewing machine, and we decided to go to Goodwill. All the purple tags were $1! Later, when I show you the outfits I got last week and the before and after decorating pictures, I’ll show you some things we got there.

That evening, we drove up to Canyon Lake and had a picnic by the water.

It was almost as good as going to the Grand Canyon. 
Brian was making that face on purpose 🙂

On Friday, we spent some more time by the pool, and did some more shopping. A lot more shopping. My feet were killing me by the end of the week! We made it to all the stores in our nearby shopping center. I found a few that I’ll definitely visit again soon.

We had dinner with our friends and had a tour of their ranch. Their kids LOVED Evi! One of them remarked “You sound just like Mrs. C when you talk!” Which is true, our voices and our laughs do sound very similar!

Saturday morning we were up bright and early to take them to the airport.

We were up with the birds

They made it home to Iowa safe and sound, and a good time was had by all!

I’m not mentally prepared to start school again today. Break was way too short! Sigh. So to prolong the memories, I’ll be sharing some of the outfits I bought and the before and after decorating pictures later. Stay tuned! Happy Monday!

12 Ways to Decorate For Spring Using What You Already Have

Spring is in the air, and I don’t know about you, but something about the fresh air, sunshine, flowers bursting into bloom, grass poking through the earth, makes me want to refresh my wardrobe and home too. But there’s no need to run around to Hobby Lobby and Pier 1 Imports. Because I’m a fan of simplicity and living within your means, I gathered ideas for using things you probably already have in your home. It just takes a little creativity and a new perspective!

1. Group objects with the same bright colors.   
Like this picture illustrates, placing objects with the same color together creates a display that packs a lot of punch. There’s strength in numbers: the pieces each get more attention when they’re together as opposed to sprinkled around. 
Pick a bright, cheery color, like the yellow above. Some others that would be good for spring would be white, greens, shades of blue, or pastels. I’ve grouped blue and white plates, vases, candles, and flowers together in my living room. 
2. Put your fruit to use as decor.
Don’t the bright orange, yellow, and greens look fresh and cheery in the picture above? Why hide away your bright spring colors in the kitchen? Put your fruit in glass apothecary jars like these 
Chateau Tall Covered Botanical Jars Set by Two’s Company®, or arrange them in a pretty bowl and put them where they’ll be seen.

3. Use plates and pillows in new places.
I had pretty blue and white dishes wrapped in paper hidden away in the pantry, and empty walls and bare shelves. Putting the plates to use was an easy fix!
Plate easels are just a few dollars at Walmart, or just lean your plates up against the back of a shelf or wall. Place a plate on your coffee table and arrange candles of different heights on it, or hang them on the wall as shown in the picture. If you have a long stretch of bare wall, here’s a good solution: 3 Tier Ionic Plate Rack by Spectrum. Only one plate is on it in this picture, but it holds three. 

3 Tier Ionic Plate Rack by Spectrum
Gather throw pillows from beds and chairs throughout the house, and mix it up. The pillow you’ve had on your bed might add a pop of color to the living room, or the pillows on the couch might look great on your bed. Mix and match!
4. Lift and lighten your curtains.
It’s an old trick to make your ceilings seem taller: hang your curtains higher. Just moving your curtain rods up a few inches could change the way your room feels, making it seem bigger and more open. 
Also, try taking off your valance and leaving just the panels. This little change looks more simple and lets in more light, especially if you have sheers, like in the picture above. 
5. Make new curtains without spending a dime.
No need to buy fabric! The curtains in the picture above were made from sheets! Maybe in your spring cleaning you found that you have more sets of sheets than you can use on the beds. Some of them might look great on the windows.
You don’t have to get as fancy as the picture above, where they combined sheets and added trim. You could keep it simple with solids or florals, just sliding the sheet onto the rod, or cut and sew two together to make wide stripes, and embellish with some trim. 
6. Move your mirror. 
These mirrors leaning against the wall make the room double in size, and reflect light from the windows to make it brighter inside. If you have mirrors already, consider hanging them in a new place where they can better reflect light, or set them on the floor against the wall. Experiment to find a new look. 
If you have long mirrors, try hanging them over your bed for a new headboard! 

The Linea Mirror in Java Brown 42 x 84 by tag furnishings group™ is very similar to the one in the picture above: 
Linea Mirror in Java Brown 42 x 84 by tag furnishings group™
7. Use glass containers for displays and centerpieces. 
Don’t have one of these?
Jars, bottles, cake stands and upside down bowls make inexpensive cloches. Try this versatile jar from
Hermetic Glass Jar - 37.75 ounce Fido by Bormioli Rocco

Group a display of sprigs of leaves, plants, birds nests, feathers, or easter eggs on a shelf or use as center pieces. Or, display fruit as mentioned in #2.
8. Add splashes of color with scarves.
Take inspiration from your closet for adding color to a room. A scarf draped over a chair or sofa makes an inexpensive throw. Lay it over a table for a new table runner. Or, drape it over your headboard to add some interest.
In the picture for #3, (plates and pillows) it looks like a blue scarf was draped over their round coffee table.
9. Move your furniture.
This hutch looks like something you’d find in a dining room or kitchen, and the chair looks like patio furniture. Walk through your house and patio and look at your furniture with a fresh perspective. Where are you lacking storage or seating? What could be re-purposed to provide it? Where else would it work?
Here’s a similar chair to the one in the picture. Where in your house could this one go, besides outside?
San Marco Bistro Chair with Cushion

10. Use your accessories as decor.
In addition to scarves, you can use your jewelry to decorate. Frame spring colors in shadow boxes, or picture frames without the glass, and hang in your bedroom. Not only will the colors and textures provide works of art for your walls, but seeing the color combinations together will make accessorizing your spring outfits easier!
Here’s some more attractive ways to display your jewelry as decor: 
Twigsy Jewelry Wall Hook in Black
Nesa Wall Jewelry Organizer in Nickel

11. Give lamps a makeover.
Recover your lampshades with cheery fabric or scrapbooking paper. If you use sheets for new curtains as mentioned in #5, use the pillowcases to recover your lampshades so they match. 
Look for Springy patterns, like Flutter Specialty Paper Pack – 8×8, on clearance now for $2.99.
For cheap fabric, look through that bag of clothes you cleaned out of your closet. Before you take them to Goodwill, are there any patterns or colors that would make a good lampshade?
12. Frame Fabrics for easy and inexpensive works of art. 
In the picture above, vintage handkerchiefs were framed and grouped together for a headboard. 
Here’s another way of doing it for a more modern look: fabric was stretched over canvases and stapled to the back. You could use fabrics with the same colors but different patterns, or the same exact fabric and different shapes to create different looks. 
As mentioned in #11, look through those old clothes you were going to donate or throw out, and see if any colors or patterns would look good as decor. 
Many of the ideas I gathered from Better Homes and Gardens, and their images inspired some of the others. All the interior decor pictures are from Better Homes and Gardens unless otherwise stated. 
Let’s hear from you! 

What are your ideas for inexpensive decorating? How are you sprucing up for spring? Let us know in the comments! 

4 Reasons to Observe Lent, Even if You’re Not Catholic

“Are you Catholic?”

I remember asking one of my college friends who’d just told me they were fasting for Lent. That’s when I found out that several denominations practice Lent, including Lutherans, Methodists, Anglicans, Presbyterians, and growing numbers of Baptists and Mennonites. However, I’ve been asked that question, “Are you Catholic?” So it’s time for a history lesson. You might wonder, Why now? Lent has already started. You’re right, it has. But my philosophy is that some is better than nothing. So if you decide Lent is for you, I don’t think it’s too late to start.

What is “Lent”?

Lent in the Christian tradition, is the period of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday to Easter. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer — through prayer, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial — for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

I found that definition on Wikipedia, so it has to be true (ha!). But honestly, I think it is pretty spot on. But why the word “Lent?” What does that mean?

It actually means “Spring.” It comes from Lenz in German and Lente in Dutch. The German word has the root word for long, because the days begin to lengthen in the spring.

photo © 2007 Per Ola Wiberg | more info (via: Wylio)

Who started Lent?
Lent’s roots go back to Leviticus. God gave the Israelites holidays to remember their history, not unlike thw way Americans celebrate the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. One of these holidays was a day of repentance from sin known as Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement. In Leviticus 23:27 Moses tells the Israelites to “deny yourselves.” This phrase contains the Hebrew word anah, which means “to afflict one’s throat,” or fasting from food and possibly water. This was a day that the Israelites made themselves miserable as they confessed and repented from their sins, engaging their body with their spirit.

This practice continued in the early church. The converted Jews, released from the Law, no longer had to observe the Jewish Day of Atonement, or any of the other feast or fast days. So the early believers created their own calendar of fasts and feasts, which is still visible in the liturgical calendars used today. Forty days has special significance because Jesus fasted for forty days in the wilderness. Socrates of Constantinople ( not the Greek philosopher but a Greek Christian Historian) mentioned the practice of Lent in his writings, which cover the years 305-439 A.D.

Why Observe Lent?
1. To repent from sin.
Throughout the Old and New Testament, fasting is associated with grief and repentance. Moses, the Israelite nation, David, the apostles, all fasted. As Scot McKnight says in his book, Fasting: The Ancient Practices,

“If our shame over our sin arises in the heart of our very being or finds itself lodged in the core of our conscience – and most of us know just how penetrating this experience is – and if the body and heart are one, depriving ourselves of food and denying ourselves simple pleasures manifest themselves naturally.”

There is something to be said for repenting with your whole body, not just your words. Fasting makes it real. It’s not about punishing ourselves, because we are forgiven and covered by grace, but it is about truly being sorry, being grieved, for our sins.

2. To realize our depravity and dependence.
Fasting is hard for me. I forget and I fail….often. It’s tempting to just give up on fasting entirely. But I’m realizing that even when I fail, I’m still learning. I’m learning how weak I am, how depraved. How tempted by the world I am. How incapable in my own willpower I am, how much I desperately need God. I’m learning humility when I have to come before God and confess that I forgot… again.

All this is good for me. It is killing the self-righteousness and pride that are some of my biggest struggles. It’s also attacking my notion of control over my life and I-can-do-it-myself attitude.

While I’m sure each of our learning experiences is different, I hope you’re encouraged not to quit when failing. Chalk it up to part of the overall learning experience, thank God for grace, and jump back in.

photo © 2005 Mark Probst | more info (via: Wylio)

3. To remember Christ’s sacrifice.
This has to be intentional. It’s so easy for me to let fasting become about me. I think about how I feel, why I’m doing it, I compare my fast to others, and I forget the real why: the practice of giving up molds us into become more Christlike by reminding us of all that Jesus gave up for us.

Ann Voskamp puts it this way: “[Lent is] like going with Jesus into the wilderness for forty days, that we might come face to face with our enemy. Our sacrificing that we might become more like Christ in His sacrifice.”

4. To prepare to celebrate victory.
Lent prepares us for Easter. The sacrifice prepares us for the celebration. We celebrate the end of our sacrifice at the same time we celebrate the reuniting of Jesus with His heavenly glory, and we celebrate new life. 

Resurrection by Mike_tn

Ann Voskamp quotes the “The Spirituality of the Cross”:

Without food, we would starve to death. We have to eat to fuel our physical life; otherwise we grow weak and waste away. The only food that can sustain our bodies comes from the death of other living things… There can be no life, even on the physical level, apart from the sacrifice of other life.

What is true for physical life is true for spiritual life — we can only live if there has been a sacrifice.” 

If you’d like to read Ann’s post that I’ve been quoting, it’s called “Why Do Lent? Why A Failing Lent Actually Succeeds.”

Did you learn anything about Lent? Have you ever celebrated it before? What was your experience?

What do a police helicopter, a rock concert, baseball and marmalade have in common?

They were all part of my weekend! And, I count them all as gifts from God.

175. Safety. Thursday night Brian and I went to a park and played some catch, then came home and had dinner on our patio. We sat out there, just enjoying the evening, and I commented on all of the airplanes going by. “No, there’s a helicopter circling our apartment….and it has a search light, Brian informed me. That made me a little….nervous. Brian wanted to stand on the front porch to see the helicopter from there, and I didn’t want to be left alone in the apartment, so I went with him.

As we were watching the helicopter overhead, a police car pulled up in front of our building. They had a search light too that they were shining around our building. I gasped as two police men with German shepherds rounded the corner and went past us. I really wanted to go inside, so I made Brian come in and look in all the closets and behind all the doors, and then I shut all the windows and blinds. Brian stayed outside on the front porch; he said he was watching for a dark scary guy to go running past, and then he’d call the police. I think he’s been watching too many crime shows lately!

I searched for news online, and discovered there had been an armed robbery not too far from us. The helicopter continued circling overhead for some time, but eventually moved on. I don’t know if they found who they were looking for. I’m just glad we were safe!

176. The Rock and Worship Roadshow. For $10, we got into the US Airways Center to see several top notch Christian rock and worship bands: Anthem, The Afters, Thousand Foot Crutch, Lecrae, Matt Maher, Jars of Clay, and Mercy Me. We had a blast! It was so much fun to sing and worship with thousands and thousands of other believers.

Brian got really excited when we saw Lecrae’s van

We were especially excited to see Lecrae. We’ve been fans of his music for a long time and he was the main reason Brian wanted to go to the concert. Neither of us enjoys rap usually, but Lecrae is something else. His hard hitting, truth filled lyrics make all the difference.

He ran and jumped and hit the cymbals. I caught it at just the right moment.

I was excited to see the Afters since “Light up the Sky” is one of my favorite songs. I was really glad they played it!

Light up the Sky 
The Afters

I love Jars of Clay too, and knew most of the songs they played.

During one of the songs, he walked around in the audience
He moved around a lot, so it was really hard to take pictures!

Matt Maher’s songs are always on the radio, and we enjoyed worshiping with him.

Matt Maher

Thousand Foot Crutch is not my style… they’re a little scary. They were sooooo loud too, I had to keep my fingers in my ears because it was just painful! I did enjoy taking pictures of the guitarist though.

He had dreadlocks past his waist, which he flipped around while playing
That blur is his hair

Mercy Me was amazing! They were my first favorite Christian band. They played for an hour, and it was awesome!

Here Bart is talking about the song “Beautiful” that he wrote for his daughters
Of course, they sang “I Can Only Imagine”

177. An answer to prayer. I don’t know if it had to do with the video shown at the concert and Mercy Me talking about how Compassion International has changed their lives, but Brian has agreed to sponsor a child. I’ve wanted to do this for several months, but Brian wasn’t willing to before, so this is a very exciting answer to prayer!

Compassion is very wise with their finances: 82% of Compassion’s funds go straight to their child development programs, which include education, food, medical care, clothing, and Biblical teaching. Their administration and fundraising costs are minimal, and as a result, they have been routinely given the highest ratings for a charity organization.

178. Spring Training Baseball Games. Brian and I both love baseball. I’ve never understood why some people think it’s boring! As a late birthday present, we went to the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds game. The weather was perfect. It was such a beautiful day and a good game, even though the Cubs lost.

179. The smells of popcorn, cotton candy, and lemonade.

180. Life in a plant I thought was dead.

181. Warm toast with orange marmalade.

182. No school over Spring Break!

183. Two days before my family comes to get ready for them.

184. Mercy Me’s new CD, which I bought at the concert for a mere $5.

The Generous Mr. Lovewell, MercyMe

185. Two more semesters of college. I registered for fall classes, so I guess I’m going to school online again.

186. Spring flowers.

187. Many prayers offered up all over the world for Japan.

Please take time to pray for Japan and the other places affected by the earthquakes and tsunamis, maybe right now as you read this sentence?

What gifts are you grateful for today?