The Inconvenience of True Religion

Ever have a nagging thought that lurks in the corners of your mind, and Just. Won’t. Go. Away?

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)

It’s a familiar passage, and one of my favorites. When Pastor Roger preached on it last Sunday, the following conversation happened.

Pastor Roger: (paraphrased) Orphans and widows represent those who are most vulnerable and needy in our society. It’s evident that they are very important to God. Proverbs lists dire consequences for those who oppress the orphans.

Me: (in my head) Well, at least I don’t oppress them. Maybe I don’t help them too much either, but I’m just neutral.”

Nagging Thought: Who makes your clothes?

Me: Who, me? What clothes? Huh?

Nagging Thought: Who makes them?!

Me: I haven’t ever really thought about it much.

Nagging Thought: But you’ve heard things…you’ve heard of child slavery, sweatshops, and forced labor, and you’ve also heard that that’s the reason companies can afford to make clothes so cheap.

Me: Ok…Yes. I have heard rumors of such things. But what does this have to do with me?

Nagging Thought: You love cute cheap clothes. Are your cheap clothes made on the backs of those most vulnerable in society today?

Me: I don’t think I want to know.

Nagging Thought: Are you participating in the exploitation of women and children by mindlessly buying cute cheap clothes?

Me: Everyone else buys cheap clothes! Besides, I don’t have a ton of clothes. And it’s important to be frugal. And how could I even know if my clothes were made by slaves? I’m done talking about this.

Nagging Thought: Ok, but I’m not going to go away.

And it didn’t.

According to this article, clothes not made in the US, Canada, or European countries have a strong chance of being made through slave labor. And this informative page says “Serious concerns are often raised about exploitative working conditions in the factories that make cheap clothes for the high street. Child workers, alongside exploited adults, can be subjected to violence and abuse such as forced overtime, as well as cramped and unhygienic surroundings, bad food, and very poor pay. The low cost of clothes on the high street means that less and less money goes to the people who actually make them.”

 Behind the Barcode from Free2Work on Vimeo.

Am I participating in the exploitation of children when I shop at stores that oppress them? Because Biblically, that’s a big deal. 

I think we will be held accountable for what we do with what we know. And honestly, that makes me scared to research the issue, because I like me some cheap clothes! And more than anything, I don’t like to be inconvenienced. I don’t think any of us do. So it’s easier not knowing. But laziness and complacency don’t really sound like true religion, do they?

And there’s also the nagging doubt that what I do doesn’t make any bit of difference, since I’m only one person. But I read this quote the other day that sums it up well,

“If God is really at the center of things and God’s good future is the most certain reality, then the truly realistic course of action is to buck the dominant consequentialist ethic of our age- which says that we should act only if our action will most likely bring about good consequences- and simply, because we are people who embody the virtue of hope, do the right thing…Our vocation is not contingent on results or the state of the planet. Our calling simply depends on our identity as God’s response-able human image-bearers.”

I need to do more research, but if the answer is what I think it is, it could mean the way I shop will be forever changed.

Have you ever been afraid of knowing too much, and being faced with a choice? Because that’s where I’m at, folks.

Waxing Poetic Wednesday: To Autumn

To Autumn

by John Keats
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
   Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
   And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
      To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
   With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
      For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
   Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
   Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
   Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
      Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
   Steady thy laden head across a brook;
   Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
      Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
   Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
   And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
   Among the river sallows, borne aloft
      Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
   Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
   The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
      And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
Source: via Wendy on Pinterest

Every Wednesday, I indulge my English Lit minor by sharing an inspirational poem. Share your favorite poem, it could end up on a future Waxing Poetic Wednesday!

In other news, I’ve been reading voraciously and learning a ton, so much in fact that it’s hard to know where to start when sharing it with you. Hence, I’ve been a little absent on the blog lately. That will soon change, I promise, and it will be well worth it when you see what I’ve been cooking up! 

Moving: Hate it or Love it?

Newsflash: I really, really hate moving. In the last four years, I’ve moved four times: into the dorms, into an apartment, across the country to our first apartment in Arizona, then to a rental house, and now, back to an apartment at the end of September, an apartment that we haven’t found yet.

Whenever we look at an apartment and my first thought is “No way,” Brian loves it. And whenever I think, “This is the one!” Brian hates it. There’s been one exception, a beautiful apartment that was designed to be a condo, right across the street from Brian’s job. We’ve looked at 8-12 apartments in person already, and we have a list of five or six more for this weekend, but this one apartment stands far above the rest in beauty, square footage, location, and value. Unfortunately, they don’t have any openings for the end of September…yet. We found out yesterday that they have four renters who’s terms are up, but they fully expect them to renew their leases.

You know it’s bad when you’ve already started arranging your furniture and decorating the apartment inside your head. Sigh.

My mom helping decorate our old apartment. See the finished room here.

So to keep me from succumbing to discouragement, I’m trying to dwell on the positives of moving, and not the negatives.

Here’s the cons that fill me with the most dread:

1. Trying to find an apartment in the city we want, at a price we can afford. Since the last time we lived in an apartment, the prices have skyrocketed. We rented a large two bedroom, two bathroom apartment with a fireplace for the same price that tiny one bedrooms are going for now. Yikes.

2. Packing. I hate trying to keep it all organized and cushioned, and I’m just not good at fitting things into boxes. I’ve never been good at puzzles!

3. Saying good-bye to Kopek. Yesterday, Kopek started his usual whining dance for attention while I was at my desk, so I set down what I was doing and sat on the floor. He curled up on my lap with a look of profound happiness. His owners are going to come get him while Brian and I are in Florida for his sister’s wedding in a couple weeks. I tried to swallow the lump in my throat. “You’re going to love California,” I told him. I pictured him riding in the moving van, head out the window.  Then running along the beach, playing frisbee and jumping in the waves. My tears dripped down onto his black velvet ears while he went to sleep on my lap.

That’s by far the biggest con for me.

On the pro side:

1. Less to clean! We’ll be going from a three bedroom, two bathroom house to a one bedroom, one bathroom house. I’m SO excited to only have one bathroom to clean!!!

2. The opportunity to purge. Call me crazy (Brian does) but I love to get rid of stuff. We were looking through a cupboard yesterday, and found some things that I we moved to this house over a year ago, and never touched once since unpacking. And some stuff we haven’t used since we got married over two years ago. Now’s the time to mercilessly cut out the unnecessary clutter and “stuff.”

We had to purge Brian’s tee-shirts before we moved last time.  

3. White walls. Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE this house. It’s beautiful. It’s just not us…we wouldn’t pick the elegant, rich, dark color scheme in the main rooms. That’s why the rooms we did paint are yellow and sky blue. I’m usually not a fan of plain white walls, but I’m looking forward to living in light and bright rooms!

4. A new place to decorate. I do love decorating, and while we have been able to add our own style to this house, because the landlords left all their furniture, curtains, and wall decor, just like with the colors, it’s not really us. So I’m excited to hone my personal style some more and bring life to a new place.

5. Saving money. We’d like to buy a house someday, and that’s a big part of the reason we’re moving. God knew exactly when Brian was going to get laid off, and he prompted us to save up for a house downpayment so that we had enough to live off of for several months while Brian looked for work. Because He’s in control, we know that He will provide us with an apartment that will enable us to save money again.

How do you feel about moving? Hate it, or love it? 

Waxing Poetic Wednesday: Back to School

It’s that time of year! For the first time in a very long time, I won’t be going back to school. I’m not sure how I feel about that. But for all of you who are, or have children who are, here’s todays Waxing Poetic poem:

Back to School

by Aileen Fischer
When the summer smells like apples
and shadows feel cool
and falling leaves make dapples
of color on the pool
and wind is in the maples
and sweaters are the rule
and hazy days spell lazy ways,
it’s hard to go to school.
But, I go!

For more adorable pictures of the back to school party above, go here. 

Every Wednesday, I indulge my English Lit minor by sharing an inspirational poem. Share your favorite poem in the comments, it could end up on a future Waxing Poetic Wednesday!

Five Fall Fashion Trends, Yay or Nay?

I picked up a couple magazines in the airport for some light reading, and caught up on the fall fashion forecast while I was traveling back and forth to Iowa. Here’s some of the “in” looks we can expect to be seeing as September approaches, along with my rating (and yes, I’m aware that it should be “yea” and nay; the pun is intentional!).

Yay: Reverse French Manicure

Photos take by me of InStyle Magazine August 2012

I don’t know why this has never occurred to anyone before! Basically, switch out the colors of a typical French manicure with a dark base color and a metallic tip color. Another variation I’ve seen online is to paint a light colored half-moon shape at the base of the nail, instead of the tip.

I vote “yay” on this trend, because it’s a great way to incorporate another trend for fall: metallics, in an easy, fun way.

Nay: Wine-stained Lips

Photo taken by me of InStyle Mag, August 2012

Ok, folks. Apparently, fashion bloggers everywhere think this is AMAZING, but it’s one trend I’m definitely going to pass on. The “wine-stained lip” look is achieved by putting on a rich, dark lipstick and then blotting it off in the middle, achieving that oh so classy, I-just-ate-and-need-to-reapply-lipstick look. Except you don’t reapply lipstick.

The good thing about it is, that if your lipstick does wear off after dinner, you don’t have to bother reapplying because you’re right on trend! Last week I actually saw ladies at my farmer’s market sporting this look, whether intentionally or not, I’m not sure.

Another positive for this look: it’s perfect if you want to be a vampire for halloween.

Yay: Colbalt

Photo taken by me of RealSimple September 2012

I love any hue of blue, so I’m happy to see that cobalt is an “in” color this fall. Jewel tones are not only flattering colors for pale skinned people like me, but they’re also elegant and warm, perfect for fall.

Yay/Nay: Burgundy and Oxblood

Photo:, who got it from
I learned a new color term to add to my vocabulary, just like last year I added “camel.” This year’s term to know is “oxblood,” formerly known as burgundy. 
I haven’t made my mind up about this color yet. The last time I remember wearing this color was when I had a burgundy velvet jacket and culottes, somewhere between the ages of five and seven. I’m going to wait until it’s in stores and try it on, before I make a verdict. 

Yay: Equestrian

Photo taken by me of RealSimple

Equestrian is right up my alley: riding boots, plaid, structured, classic lines…what’s not to love?! RealSimple says that designers are inspired by the English Countryside, perhaps a natural result of the attention all things British are garnering because of the Diamond Jubilee and Olympics. For more British inspiration, visit my British wonderfullness in pictures post.

I can’t wait to dust off my English riding boots I bought last winter at Target, and my burgundy leather cross-body bag from PB&J Boutique. I’m always a fan of mixing up what you already have to make trends affordable. If you’d like more ideas for affordable fall style, most of my tips from that post are still completely applicable.

What’s your vote on these trends? Yay or nay?

Waxing Poetic Wednesday: Harvest


by Mary Naylor

August, with its clouds of scented blooms, August, with its great stacks of giant clouds,
August, with corn plants standing like rows of soldiers,
August, with watermelons, full and heavy, dozing in the sun,

August, remember swimming in the lake?
August, remember baby Alice daintily eating berries from the vine?
August, remember Richie playing with the goat?
August, remember Donald practicing on his new saxophone?

August, and its lightening laced sky,
August, and newlyweds Pat and Chet decorating their first home,
August, and Billy the Brave, Billy the Fearless, on his two wheel bike,
August, and shimmering memories hanging like drops of dew,

August, the bountiful, August the full,
August, Mama hot, but smiling, over a platter of succulent roast chicken,
August, Daddy mixing her a frosty mint julep,
August, blessed harvest of memories,

To buy the print above, “August Sound,” go here.
Every Wednesday, I indulge my English Lit minor by sharing an inspirational poem. Share your favorite poem in the comments, it could end up on a future Waxing Poetic Wednesday!

My Home Away From Home

It’s strange how two places can feel like home at the same time. Going to Iowa and spending time with my family, the church I grew up in, and long-time friends felt like coming home. But so does arriving in Arizona, being with Brian again, and going to church with my church family. 
Sometimes when visiting my hometown, I find myself feeling overwhelmed by how small it is, how narrow the streets are, and to an extent, how small-minded the people living there can be… not really caring or understanding that there’s a much bigger world outside of their town. But this trip was different. This time, I truly appreciated the small-town Midwestern atmosphere, being able to drive slowly everywhere, and be anywhere in 15 minutes. So here’s a few snapshots of my non-wedding related time in Iowa.
My brother is now thirteen and as tall as I am. This is just crazy. 
This is Charlie, the sweetest, laziest, dog ever. 

My brothers love playing basketball. 

My parents have a garden in their backyard, 

And bird nests in the grapevines.

My sister and MIL collaborated to throw a birthday party for me! I was so surprised to see both sets of my grandparents there, and I had a great time catching up with them. 
I was supposed to wear that hat. I explained that I’m a blogger with a reputation to uphold, and when that didn’t work, I put it on for one picture. 
My sister Elissa drew this adorable pin the tail on the burro for the party! The sign next to the donkey says “This way to Grand Canyon.”

Everyone got in on pin the tail on the donkey!

Twenty-two cupcakes and candles!

And because I know you’re dying to see me in that hat….

There you go. 
I got to go to Okoboji and enjoy a nutty bar and the summer theater. 

My in-laws:

Arnold’s Park, a nostalgic amusement park on the lake. 
Watching the sunset over the water. 

That lovely shot makes the perfect conclusion to this post! Thanks for reading, and happy Monday!

Tutorial: Altering a Bridesmaid Dress By Yourself

I know from personal experience that bridesmaid dresses can be a big headache for the bride … like when they don’t fit and a new dress must be procured right before the wedding. So since this was already bridesmaid dress #2, I was determined to make it work. Especially since the store that sells this dress isn’t located in the state of Arizona, and by the time my friend had purchased one for me in Iowa, changed the belt from blue to yellow, and mailed it to me, the season for them was past, and they weren’t in stores anywhere.

In the end, I ended up shortening the straps by an inch each, and taking it in an inch on each side. Here’s how I did it step by step, in case you have a dress in your closet in need of shrinkage:

Read More

Thrifting, Iowa Style

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen sneak peaks of my thrift store finds while I’ve been in Iowa. Here’s the full story.  While I’m in my home town in Iowa for my best friend’s wedding, I wanted to do a little thrift store shopping. My mother-in-law, some friends from church, and I visited two thrift stores in our area, and WOW. I can’t believe all the cool stuff I found, and the low prices!
I took pictures of all the awesome stuff that I would love to buy, but knew I couldn’t fit in my suitcase. 
I saw this beauty right when I walked through the door, for all of $2. 

This green leather pouf was going for $7.

These would be perfect for my painted mugs, especially at 25 cents each!

Check this out! It’s a bowl and nut crackers! There was no price on it. I put it in my bag to ask about at the front. 

How cute are these canisters?

A little spray paint, and this mirror would be fabulous, especially for $3.

This is a big Van Gogh style painting, for a couple bucks.

This set of four midcentury modern-ish chairs were in great condition.

This like-new hair curler set was $2.

I thought about buying this skirt, since I liked the pattern and it had an elastic waist. It was several sizes too big though, and I decided against taking on another sewing project.

I love this vintage suitcase.

I happen to know insect jewelry is big right now, and this bumble bee necklace is right on trend.

A beautiful coffee table…

And another one….plus I love the lamp!

This rocking chair was going for $25.

This beautiful chair was only $10.

These matching mirrors were $25 each.

This jacket was under $5.

In the end, my mother-in-law bought me the jacket and another tunic top for my birthday.

I bought a black pencil skirt, some mustard yellow velvet ribbon for 50 cents, and the nut cracker set.

It was only $1!!!

I’m linking up today at Simple Design, check out the other thrift store finds there and get inspired to check out your neighborhood shops! 

Waxing Poetic Wednesday: Shakespeare

In honor of my best friend’s wedding, I’m sharing the best love poem ever:

Sonnet 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
     If this be error and upon me proved,
     I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

– William Shakespeare

Every Wednesday, I indulge my English Lit minor by sharing an inspirational poem. Share your favorite poem, it could end up on a future Waxing Poetic Wednesday.