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    Sunanda // Graduation Session

    sunanda 2017 college graduation senior portrait photography session // ashley karlen photography

    Meet my friend, Sunanda! It’s hard to pinpoint my earliest memory of my friendship with Sunanda. I’m pretty certain that it revolved around 6th grade and the lunch table. Oh, those days of junior high! Days that will either forge a friendship or destroy it. Luckily, ours was a friendship that was created and strengthened during that time.

    Sunanda is one of the sweetest people I know. She’s proven time and time again to be a faithful friend, always up for a bowl of pasta or a zumba session. An encourager during both the joyous and the hard life moments. A incredibly hard worker that doesn’t back down, even in the face of challenges. She’s someone you want in your court.

    I absolutely adored doing this graduation session with Sunanda. Being able to capture her laughter was a delight. Seriously, I love it when she gets the giggles. I’m so glad I was able to get her to giggle during our time together. There’s nothing better as a photographer than feeling like you’ve been able to accurately capture who someone is. I also absolutely love the photo where she is stoically looking out to her future (or the distance at least). I love the fierceness of it. It’s such an awesome array of who this sweet friend is.

    Thank you dear friend for allowing me to photograph this moment in your life. Also, a special thanks to your mom who graciously drove us, carried stuff for us, and encouraged us during the entire shoot. Her words hit upon my heart in such a wonderful way causing this to possibly be one of my favorite shoots ever.

    sunanda 2017 college graduation senior portrait photography session // ashley karlen photography

    sunanda 2017 college graduation senior portrait photography session // ashley karlen photography

    sunanda 2017 college graduation senior portrait photography session // ashley karlen photography

    sunanda 2017 college graduation senior portrait photography session // ashley karlen photography

    sunanda 2017 college graduation senior portrait photography session // ashley karlen photography

    sunanda 2017 college graduation senior portrait photography session // ashley karlen photography

    sunanda 2017 college graduation senior portrait photography session // ashley karlen photography

    sunanda 2017 college graduation senior portrait photography session // ashley karlen photography

    sunanda 2017 college graduation senior portrait photography session // ashley karlen photography

    sunanda 2017 college graduation senior portrait photography session // ashley karlen photography

    Sunanda, I’m so proud of you. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you!

    To Sunanda and the rest of the 2017 graduates, well done and congratulations!

     

     

    What I’m Loving // May 2017 Edition

    I I’ve decided that I deeply love the What I’m Loving blog posts. I love the fact that it provides a snapshot into the season, of the everyday life. Here’s a little snapshot of life lately through things that I am absolutely loving over here.

    I absolutely adore Gilmore Girls. I use to watch reruns throughout the week when I was in high school. I’d sit and do a few math problems before getting lost in the world of Stars Hollow. When they brought their new movie style shows to Netflix last fall I binged all of it again to be ready. You can imagine my excitement when I opened a present from my friend at Christmas and discovered Lauren Graham’s autobiography, Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls. Over the past several weeks, I’ve binge read the book soaking up all the words in this fast talking novel that has made me fall even deeper in love with the Gilmore Girls (and Lauren Graham herself). If you’re a Gilmore Girl lover, a Parenthood lover, or just really enjoy behind the scenes of Hollywood life, you’ll love it.

    Over the past several months, I’ve fallen in love with Jamie Ivey. Her word and her encouragement shine through her podcast, The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey. Jamie sits down with women and discovers what’s going on in their worlds. It’s like mini-memoirs in a way, which I absolutely love. She recently sat down with Tsh Oxenreider to discuss her book, At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe. It’s such a fun podcast to listen to right before summer as it has infused me with crazy wanderlust. The return of the sunshine hasn’t really hurt that desire to wander either.

    Christine Caine’s words are echoing in my mind from her book, Undaunted. This is a must read if you’re struggling with your purpose and calling. She said something to the effect that God uses the available and willing but we don’t always allow ourselves to be willing or available. Cut to the heart. You can read more about my thoughts on her words and how they hit my heart here.

    It’s a little hard to separate a few of the things I love: my rec chair that’s set up in the backyard, a good book, and Hubert’s Lemonade. I have this set up for a lot of afternoons. I have had to recently share my spot with a pesky spider and I think his whole family. It’s cool though. He doesn’t talk while I’m reading which is something I look for in a reading buddy. It’s super relaxing and doesn’t require the set up that my hammock does even though I love it.

    A few weeks ago I shared my Hanna + Nick Maternity session to Facebook. I shared it because a friend of mine challenged me to do so. I wasn’t sharing anything on social media regarding this new journey of mine back into blogging and photography. To be honest, I wasn’t sure about it. After stopping for three years and slowly getting back into it over the past few months, I was scared. I don’t feel as if I measure up to where I wish I was at this point. Sharing it not only made me brave but allowed for people to see it and react. The reaction has warmed my heart and given me strength to continue. I just wanted to end today and say thank you for that. Thank you for your belief in me, your encouragement and for reading all the way to the end. Love y’all!

    Undaunted + How God Used These Words In My Life

    I’ve given myself a huge undertaking. With my desires for diving back into a life of reading, I’ve given myself 29 books to read this year. When I set out to make my 2017 Reading List, I didn’t venture to add so many books. It just happened. The sheer number of it, kind of scares me as it begs that I won’t be able to finish. In fact, to date, I’ve only read three of those in their entirety.

    When I saw that Christine Caine was starting a book club for those reading Undaunted: Daring to do what God calls you to do, I figured I’d sign up. It was on my list anyway. Y’all, this book wasn’t on my list. The author isn’t even on there with a different book that I planned to read this year. This has to be God’s timing. The words I have read this past week and over the weekend have cut deep into places that I know He spoke directly into using Christine’s words.

    The words ‘rallying cry’ are evident and were placed on my heart as a summation of her words. With every chapter, Christine pleas for our generation to step up and step outside of ourselves. For us to know who we are in Him and to throw our fears aside to follow Him. To live undaunted.

    Her Stories

    Australia has long been a fascinating place for me and more recently, Greece has captured my interest. It’s funny that Christine Caine, a Grecian girl who is from Sydney, Australia would write words that would land in my hands and even more so into my heart. She’s filled with wit, draws from personal moments from getting lost in a rainforest to the very moments God placed A21 on her heart in the most unlikely of places.

    Christine’s tales suck you in as she shows you how God’s hand has been evident in her life. Her gentle yet fierce words beckon the reader to look at where God has been evident in their own life and where their relationship with Him is currently. She speaks of the fears, disappointments, and unknowns she has grappled with and yet overcome. Her ability to overcome with God at her side invites and imagines for us to have the same in our lives.

    Undaunted. That’s a word that escapes me. It’s a word that I’m not sure if I’ve ever had roll off my tongue. I know what the feeling of being daunted is – full of fear, unknowns looming in the future, a general yucky atmosphere up ahead. What about undaunted though? Undaunted is a word brimming with courage, an unstoppable force as it faces challenges head on with the confidence and faith that God will help you overcome them.

    That’s the way I’d like to live. What about you? So often though, it’s a life we’re wishing for rather than the confidence we are living in.

    Her Use of Scripture

    Christine laces her words with scripture in a beautiful, captivating way that makes you want to read more, to read deeper. It’s a way that is uniquely her own. I read a lot of Christian Living books. While I absolutely adore this genre, sometimes I feel that God’s words are standalone next to the author’s own. They flow in and out, yet keep their words separate as they relate them back to the scriptures. As a fellow writer, it’s hard to not admire Christine’s gift for writing. Her use of bringing the scripture so vividly in front of her readers not just in a way to reference but in a way that it dances on the page in front of you and leaps into your heart. It’s like reading it for the very first time even if it’s the millionth.

    Words I Needed + Maybe You Do Too

    Rick and I decided to spend some time in our hammocks this weekend. We spent hours relaxing, reading and just resting in two different parks over the weekend. The most surprising this to me was God choosing that time to meet with me. I’m not sure if you’ve ever had intentional time with God in a hammock, but I’m now convinced there may be no other way. In a world where distractions are constant and loud, there’s something about a hammock that seems to block them all out.

    Christine Caine’s words are so God breathed, I want you to read them for yourself. These are words that hit my heart in the best of ways over this weekend:

    “If you allow those labels to loom larger in your heart and mind than the promises of God, they can fool you into missing God’s truth about who you are, into not pursuing the purpose God has had in mind for you from the beginning of time… You need to return to the truth of God’s Word that will last forever, not meditate on circumstances that will change and fade.”

     

    “If we allow other people to tell us what we are and are not qualified to do, we will limit what God wants to do with us.”

     

    “When you let fear run your life, you close yourself off from anything that might hurt or cost or make you uncomfortable – including opportunities to serve God and claim his promises.”

     

    “When Jesus asks, Do you love me? he is also saying: Then keep your eyes on me. Keep believing in what I have created you to do. Turn over to me your fear, and hold fast to faith in me. Replace that fear – fear that I did not give you – with the love, power, and sound mind that I have given you. Know that my presence is your antidote to fear.”

    Words for the Weary

    Lately in our home, we’ve been discussing work versus play. Mental health and self-care are frequent topics. This weekend our hammock time served to be a complete separation for us. After so much talk between us over the past week, I thought it was interesting that Christine discussed it. In the midst of a book calling us to live undaunted in our faith for ourselves and to reach others, she devotes time and words to slowing down, recharging and rest.

    We can get worn down by the needs in this world, and wearied by them, God knows. We need sleep, rest, restoration, recuperation. That’s why God gives us the end of a day, and he doesn’t begrudge us our rest. He doesn’t want us to come to the end of ourselves and be defeated and enslaved in a spiritual Auschwitz, tormented, thinking it is the work we do that sets us free, so that we have to get back up on the treadmill and do more, be more. No, he doesn’t want us to burn the candle at both ends so that we end up lethargic, fatigue, burned up, and burnt out. To do that is to walk into the lie that was wrought in iron over the arched entrance of Auschwitz – to be held captive by the idea that work sets us free. This is not what God meant when he said in Isaiah 1:12: “Why this frenzy of sacrifices?” (MSG).

     

    Working ourselves into a frenzy of tormenting others by working them to death is not freedom. It is enslavement. But we are not slaves; we are free. And we have been freed for a purpose: to share what we’ve been given. The Bible tells us, “he has shown you, oh man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8 NKVJ). 

    It’s easy to work, work, work. Even now, in a season where I have slowed and am working on different projects than traditional ‘work’, I find myself working a lot. I research, I stay current, I do housework. (Although, I just realized that I started laundry several hours ago and now have wet clothes in the washer. Oops!) It’s tough to pause and separate from what we’re doing but it’s so very necessary.

    The Story That Stuck Out The Most

    I tend to overwork. In fact, the other night I literally had a dream where I was working to prove my worth to work. I fell in love with the story that Christine breaks down for us in It’s Not Business – It’s Personal.  She reframes a story from Luke – the man on the side of the road and the good Samaritan.

    Nowhere in Jesus’ story does it say that the priest or the Levite were bad people. But they were busy people, religious people. They were so consumed with keeping their schedules, appointments, and commitments that they ended up walking past someone they should have helped. The man lying on the side of the road was an interruption to their ministry, rather than the object of it. 

    These are words that having been in ministry, just kind of shakes me up. It begs me to wonder what could have happened if, “x program had happened”, if “x told her idea”, if “x really embraced God’s leading instead of brushing it off”, if “x truly cared and went out of their way”. The what-ifs don’t have to be what-ifs. So much of that is buried in busyness, personal agendas and fear.

    If you’re reading this, I pray that you don’t allow the interruptions to throw you off. I hope you choose to submit and embrace them. I know that I will be more consciously on the lookout for those God-given interruptions in my life. Moments where He has plans and a purpose greater than myself.

    Worth it?

    Oh my goodness, yes! Even though this wasn’t on my Reading List, I am so glad I worship a God that intervenes in the smallest of ways for my good. I know He set this book club in my path this past week. I needed to read these very words this weekend. This is a book that I would definitely recommend. In fact, I’m passing it off later this week to one of my best friends.

    I’d strongly urge you to read this, especially if you’re struggling with disappointments, past labels, knowing who you are in Christ and who you could be. Even if you’re not struggling with those very things, I recommend you read it. You can find Christine Caine’s Undaunted here. Order it today, her words are so worth it. You will not be disappointed. Especially, if God is leading you to hear these words!

    Nick + Hanna // Maternity Session

    I’m not sure when I first met Hanna. It seems like I just turned around one day and there she was, right by my side. We’ve weathered some great times and some terrible storms together. I’ll never forget the joy of moving into our very first place on our own – the college dorms at Texas A&M University. She was the best of roommates. She’s one of the sweetest, most caring, thoughtful, driven and beautiful people I’ve ever known. I am so thankful that we became friends in high school and that years later, we’re enjoying new seasons of life that our little high school selves could never have imagined.

    Three years ago, I had the privilege of watching this girl marry the love of her life, our high school classmate, Nick. Hanna was the second of my closest friends to be married. The night was perfect with her family’s Ukranian traditions sprinkled throughout the wedding ceremony and reception. They are wonderful friends to both celebrate and to celebrate with. It’s been a joy these past several years to watch them love and support each other.

    The birth of their marriage was a new beginning for them and just a tiny step in leading us to today – Hanna’s pregnancy. I can’t imagine a better set of parents for a little boy. Andrew is extra lucky with the jackpot of getting to call these two Mommy and Daddy. Andrew’s been with us for a little while now, even though I’m just now posting these maternity photos. Hanna is definitely a natural and is glowing in her new role as a mother. Baby Andrew is adorable as can be.

    A Prayer for this New Family

    God, I pray for baby Andrew to grow into a courageous, daring man of God after your own heart. I pray that as he grows and life changes with him, that he will be grounded in you. Lord, I pray that when seas are calm, he will know he is by your side and on the days and seasons where the seas are more tumultuous, I pray that he will know that you are protecting him in your loving arms. I pray for these new parents, Nick and Hanna, that they will look to you and your word for guidance as they parent baby Andrew, and that their family and friends will surround them all of their days. I pray that you use Nick and Hanna to show Andrew what it looks like to live a life that glorifies you. Lord, protect these sweet friends of mine as they weather this new season together with all its unknowns. Show them you in the midst of everything. Amen. 

    I absolutely love this shot. It tells me that Hanna is not only ready for motherhood but ready to conquer the world. I love the fierce determination in her eyes.

    Go forth and conquer mommyhood, my friend!

    Ashley

    60 Mother’s Day Gifts That Moms of All Ages Will Absolutely Love

    I’ve always loved scrolling through Pinterest and seeing the many gift lists people create. Perusing them is so fun for me as it introduces me to new products and ideas. I finally made the jump into making my own 2017 Mother’s Day Gift Guide. (Don’t worry mom, your gift isn’t on here!)  I absolutely loved making this guide so it definitely won’t be the last one I make.

    A Quick Word to Moms

    Thank you. Those are two words that aren’t said enough by kids no matter how old they are. I know I fail daily to give my own mom the gratitude she deserves. Instead, we kids drive you crazy and are often thankless. Yet, you still love us. Here’s a much needed message from us kids everywhere to all the moms out there: We love you and are thankful for you. 

    The Mother’s Day 2017 Gift Guide

    There’s a ton of stuff on this list that I absolutely love, have a friend that loves or I can see a friend who’s about to be a mom fall in love with. If you don’t find quite what you’re looking for in one of the items below, may I suggest sending your mom on a vacation with other grown ups instead? I’m sure every mom would love to get in line for that gift!

    1. Handmade Wood Mother’s Day Card
    2. Kendra Scott Signature Dani Drop Earrings in Mother of Pearl
    3. Harney & Sons Caffeinated Hot Cinnamon Sunset Black Tea with Orange and Cloves Tin
    4. Bath & Body Works White Barn 3-Wick Candle in Endless Weekend (I am personally OBSESSED with this scent!)
    5. Sam Edelman Melanie Handbag
    6. Mama Bear Glass Coffee Mug
    7. Birch Floral Notebooks by Rifle Paper Co. (Fun Fact: The light blue pattern was used as part of our wedding inspiration.)
    8. Ocean Salt Face and Body Scrub by LUSH
    9. Fire HD 8 Tablet with Alexa and 16 GB
    10. Daelman’s Stroopwafels Variety Pack of 3 – Caramel, Maple and Honey
    11. At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe by Tsh Oxenreider (I really want to abandon my 2017 Reading List to read this right this second!)
    12. S’well Insulated Double Walled 17 oz. Stainless Steel Water Bottle in Bikini Pink
    13. Mom Life: A Snarky Adult Coloring Book
    14. KitchenAid 1.25 Liter Electric Kettle in Pistachio (We have this and it’s AMAZING.)
    15. Dogeared We Are Family Heart Pendant Necklace
    16. Lodge Pre-Seasoned 13.5″ Cast Iron Skillet
    17. LeSportsac Classic 3 Zip Pouch
    18. Canon EOS Rebel T6 Digital SLR Camera
    19. Natural Sliced Blue Agate Coasters – Set of 4
    20. What I Love About Mom Fill In The Blank Journal
    21. Vera Bradley Printed Preppy Poly Zip Top Tote
    22. Old Shanghai Women’s Kimono Robe Short in a Watercolor Floral Pattern
    23. Naked 2 Eyeshadow Palette by Urban Decay
    24. Belkin MIXIT Lightning USB Leather Tassel Charger for iphone/ipod/ipad
    25. Together: A Mommy + Me Coloring Book (I love that this is something for a kid and a mama to do together!)
    26. Fossil Q Wander Stainless Steel Touchscreen Smartwatch (One of my friends has this and absolutely loves it.)
    27. Mommee Coffee – 12 oz. Whole Bean Organic Fair Trade Coffee with Full Caffeine and Low Acid
    28. Grace, Not Perfection: Embracing Simplicity, Celebrating Joy by Emily Ley
    29. Vivere Double Hammock with Space-Saving Steel Stand in Paraiso
    30. LifeProof FRE Waterproof Phone Case for 6s Plus in Banzai (I have this phone case and it really is waterproof!)
    31. Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion For Dry Skin
    32. Gilmore Girls Mother Daughter Thing Coffee Mug
    33. Gold Heart Magnetic Notepad
    34. LE3NO Womens Lightweight Sleeveless Military Anorak Vest
    35. You’ve Got This Black and Gold Insulated Travel Tumbler by SLT
    36. La Cie PetiteKey 16GB USB Flash Drive
    37. bittersweet by Maria Shireen Hair Tie Bracelet
    38. Converse Unisex Chuck Taylor All Star Ox Low Top Sneakers in Mint Green
    39. NIX Advance – 8 inch Hi-Res Digital Photo Frame with Motion Sensor (Be sure to preload it with family photos!)
    40. Bath & Body Works 3 Wick Sugared Lemon Zest Candle
    41. Q&A a Day for Moms: 5-Year Journal
    42. Burt’s Bees 100% Natural Moisturizing Tinted Lip Balm in Red Dahlia
    43. Creative Co-Op White Stoneware Ring Dish with Eiffel Tower & Gold Detail
    44. Kate Spade New York Women’s Brigis Cat-Eye Sunglasses
    45. Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are Devotional by Shauna Niequist (New mom approved!)
    46. Kiehls Rare Earth Pore Cleansing Masque
    47. simplehuman 80z. Sensor Pump with Soap Sample in Brushed Nickel (We got one as a present and have them everywhere now. We love it!)
    48. One Dozen Wild Rainbow Roses
    49. Primitives by Kathy Bless the Food Before Us Kitchen Tea Towel
    50. Anova Culinary Bluetooth Sous Vide Precision Cooker (My husband who is the family cook is slightly obsessed with this.)
    51. Day Designer for Blue Sky 2017-2018 Academic Year Weekly & Monthly Planner, Twin-Wire Bound, 8″ x 10″, Navy Stripe Hardcover
    52. Kate Spade New York Women’s Dahlia Thermal Mug
    53. 12×8 Vintage Felt Changeable Letter Board
    54. URPOWER Essential Oil Diffuser and Cool Mist Humidifier
    55. T4U 4.25 Inch Ceramic Japanese Style Clay Planter
    56. Lindt Lindor Irresistibly Smooth Citrus White Chocolate Truffles (These are amazing. Rick and I are both obsessed.)
    57. Wireless Bluetooth Sport Stereo Headphones
    58. Essie Wild Nudes from their 2017 Nail Polish Collection 
    59. Spiralizer 5 Blade Vegetable Slicer (We got the KitchenAid Spiralizer Attachment and it has made me not hate veggies!)
    60. The Lucky Few: Finding God’s Best in the Most Unlikely Places by Heather Avis (A book on down syndrome parenting!)

    Happy Shopping + Moms, what’s on your radar to get for Mother’s Day?
    Ashley

    Houston Mac + Cheese Festival 2017: Was It Worth It?

    Did you see the Houston Mac and Cheese Festival event floating around Facebook back in January? I checked interested because who wouldn’t love taste testing a ton of macaroni and cheese? Spoiler: No one! I didn’t think anything about it and certainly wasn’t thinking that I’d end up going to the event itself. Luckily for my taste buds, my brother-in-law saw the event and suggested it as his birthday present from Rick and myself. Spoiler: This may be one of the best birthday presents ever.

    Here’s my pretty bad view from one of the edges of Silver Street. (Sorry, iphone pictures are hard. Also, a huge crowd formed right in front of here watching some dancers extremely soon after taking this.)

    There were a ton of vendors set up from around Houston all toting their best mac + cheese for us to taste. I was a little curious how we were going to carry mac + cheese but we got a special plate that held several tasting cups and a beverage along with several drink tickets along with a token to use to vote on our favorite. We got there when the festival first started and I am so glad we did. We had a bit to sprint around between vendor booths before the place filled. When it filled, it was so hard to walk around but a bunch of people came and left within an hour and it lightened up. Unfortunately, by the time it lightened up some vendors were out of mac + cheese and the orange goodpops for one of the signature cocktails were gone.

    Here’s the VIP section. it had all the comfy seating and places to put down food and drinks. The general admission had a couple of benches on the opposite end but nowhere near the amount of comfy inside seating shown here. There’s also a private bar in the back.

    Springing for the VIP Tickets – Yay or Nay?

    For us, it was a matter of money with the general admission tickets close to $50, there was no question for us which we would purchase. From what I saw of those who got the VIP tickets, other than access to the VIP section they got a tote bag with some goodies in it. We left right after they announced the overall Mac + Cheese Winner. I’m not sure if they had too many tote bags or what, but we walked away with 4 tote bags filled with goodies when we left even though we didn’t buy the correct tickets. For me, there wasn’t enough of a reason to shell out the extra $20-30 bucks. I’d definitely say nay to VIP and stick with the general admission tickets. The point is to eat all the mac + cheese anyway, right?

    Here’s my tasting plate at one point with several mac + cheese options. Unfortunately, none of these were particularly my favorites. There’s a mac + cheese eggroll, chipotle chicken mac + cheese, lobster mac + cheese, brisket mac + cheese and I’m not sure what the other one is.

    Was the Mac + Cheese Good?

    This question seems like it should be obvious. Duh, mac and cheese is almost always amazing. I didn’t get to taste all the mac + cheese options available because I got full. Of the ones I did taste, I was a little disappointed. A lot of the vendors seemed to throw a thick piece of bacon on top or crumbly bacon bits and that was it. Very few mac + cheeses seemed to go over the top which was most notably, the Oxtail Mac + Cheese from Houston This Is It’s Soul Food restaurant which was the #1 place winner. There was also a Spicy Crawfish Mac + Cheese from Hughies Tavern that Rick and D devoured and loved. For the most part, the mac + cheeses were good but not the phenomenal kind of good that I think I really expected going into the event. I also really liked a truffle one and a mac + cheese ball covered with a spicy marinara sauce.

    The #2 winner, Swift + Company, had the absolute best mac + cheese in my opinion. It’s called the Mac + Cheese Texas Tango and is a pulled pork mac + cheese with a mango tomatillo slaw. I was so in love with this weirdly somewhat sweet creation that I went back for 3 portions. Not only was it delicious, it was one of the more creative concoctions. I’ll definitely be trying to recreate this mac + cheese beauty at home.

    Was it Worth It Then?

    I believe that the 2017 Houston Mac + Cheese Festival was definitely worth a one time go. We did thoroughly enjoy our experience. For the admission price though, I doubt we’ll be going back in the future when it comes back next year. If we had a group of family or friends that wanted to go next year, I’d be down to go with them. I do think that it would make for an amazing date idea or birthday present experience.

    Enjoy some of your favorite mac + cheese soon! Also, feel free to check out my Mac + Cheese pinterest board for creative recipes.

    Ashley

    It’s Days Before Easter, Is It Too Late To Start Lent?

    My family didn’t grow up doing Lent. In fact, other than my parents and grandparents talking about fish for Friday meals, I don’t recall really hearing anything about it. One Sunday afternoon at youth group changed that. Someone mentioned that they were going to give up chocolate or soda. A few minutes later, the circled rounded to me I participated in my very first Lent. I think I gave up sweets.

    Over the years, my relationship with Lent and giving things up has been an on and off again thing. This year, I didn’t give Lent a second glance. When Lent was starting, I happened to be starting a very different kind of in depth study and didn’t feel I could give the time to both. I said a cold hard, “see you later, Lent” as I left it in the rearview mirror. As time has grown closer and closer to Easter though, my heart is changing. I’ve set aside the other study for a reprieve amongst the intenseness of it. Within this break, I’ve started to feel weird that I’m not as focused on Lent as my instagram feed is. Weird that I’m a Christian who is “failing” because I didn’t give Lent my all.

    Lent isn’t about pretty instagram sayings on little square backgrounds or the eloquent words some of my friends string together under photos though. Lent isn’t about giving up chocolate and then sneaking a piece on Sundays because that day doesn’t count. It isn’t something you can “fail”. It’s about Jesus. All the moments leading up to the ultimate sacrifice that He gave for us as he died for our sins on the cross. It’s about intentionally connecting with Jesus whether it’s for the entire season or for a few days. Isn’t having that relationship with Him what this is all about anyway?

    It’s days before Easter. Can I really start Lent now?

    Why not start now? It may feel weird. I don’t believe God thinks it’s weird. I think he just wants to connect with us regardless if we start on the right day or not. We can’t go back in time and start Lent weeks ago. At least I can’t, my DeLorean is currently in the shop. Just kidding, I don’t really have a DeLorean time machine. What we can do is start digging into the Easter story and the moments leading up to it. We can delve into the moments before Good Friday and give it more time than just an Easter Sunday church service. We can intentionally sit and spend time with Jesus starting today.

    This morning, I got up and did my normal routine which includes reading the daily quote on a quote-a-day calendar that I was given years ago. This is today’s quote:“Ours is a God of Mondays, of new beginnings, of starting again, of seasons and weekends and tomorrows. He begins the day with love and ends it with faithful. And then again tomorrow.” – Emily Freeman, Chatting at the Sky. It reiterated that it was okay for me to start whenever because each day is a new beginning, even with Lent.

    What Lent Study Can I really do before Easter? Will I even get anything out of it?

    I just started a Lent study a few nights ago on a YouVersion study. It’s called The Final Lessons: A Holy Week Plan and is by Becky Kiser of Sacred Holidays. I am loving it so far. It’s short, simple, sweet but has a huge depth to it. What stood out to me last night when we were studying John 12:12-13 is something that I always overlook. It’s the word hosanna. It’s been a word that ever since Sunday School was kind of a throwaway word as I read over it and around it but never truly read it. Becky’s words caused me to pause and really look at this so often overlooked word.

    “Hosanna was a form of praise, but it also was a word used to talk about salvation, help or rescue—to ask for it or proclaim that it is here.” – Becky Kiser. Hosanna isn’t a word that has particularly significant meaning to me by itself since it’s always alluded me. With those words attached to it though, especially rescue, it changes things. Rescue is a word that I can really understand there.

    Let’s take a look at John 12:12-13: “The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!

    I’ve always read that with the connotation of Hosanna being something along the lines of “awesome” but that’s just a part of it. Putting the word rescue in its place changes so much. In my mind, it seems more active now. We know why we’re shouting Hosanna. We know that Jesus is here to rescue us. The combination of awesome and rescue intermingles praise with desperation. Something, that is so felt in my heart as I am desperate to be saved from the sins I struggle with and so thankful for how He has rescued me and continues to rescue me. 

    Y’all, I’m 2 days in and loving it. I highly recommend you go and download it. Don’t let Easter pass you by without even stopping to glance at it. With Easter baskets, Sunday best, nice lunches and Easter egg hunts, it can be so easy to forget about the true meaning. That there’s something more to Lent. Don’t let that be you. Yes, you can start Lent today. It’s not too late. You don’t even have to call it Lent. Call it connecting intentionally with Jesus. Call it a quiet time. It doesn’t matter what you name it, just let that time be His and don’t let Easter Sunday be the end to you connecting with Jesus. It’s not just a Lent thing. It’s a life thing.

    Happy Easter!
    Ashley