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    Update On The Dogs + What I’m Loving // October 2017

    Oakley + Scout aka The Dogs

    If you read my blog last week, you saw that we rescued two dogs. If you receive my emails, you may have missed the update saying that we found their owners. Needless to say, our house was heavy with sorrow. Our neighbors came. Everyone was reunited. They went on their way. That was it.

    We tried consoling ourselves with Mexican food, but enchiladas and queso could only take us so far. We took an extremely early bedtime of 9pm for us and chocked the night up to being over. The next morning though, I received a phone call that would change things once again.

    Oakley and Scout’s original owner called with an offer that at first left me with my jaw agape. Scout and Oakley were ours if we wanted them. I hung up, called Rick and played a long waiting game as I wondered what the final verdict would be. Long story short, the original owners are in a fresh, new stage of life and feel like we can offer these two a better and more stable home at this point.

    I guess that’s all to say, we’re once again dog parents. It all feels right again.

    What I’m Loving

    STUNNED at the whirlwind October has been! Our anniversary and one of my favorite holidays always makes for a fantastic but crazily paced month. We’ve barely even fit watching Gremlins and Hocus Pocus in. Season 2 of Stranger Things has even taken a back burner!

    LAUGHING out loud at this episode on The Happy Hour Podcast with Jamie Ivey. If you know me, I don’t say, “lol,” lightly because it takes quite a bit to make me actually laugh – let alone out loud! Sharon Hodde Miller totally brought that for me along with a simple but powerful reminder of who I am in Christ and how to freely live out who he made me be.

    TRYING to recover after a weekend of Questival which I absolutely loved! Questival is a huge adventure scavenger hunt style challenge which I blogged about over the weekend here because it was one of the challenges. Think of the whole thing as a real life game of Quelf on steroids. I’m already planning my next Questival adventure with my team, because we loved it so much. Next time, I’ll be sure to get plenty of rest before it begins though!

    REELING from this episode about identity on the JourneyWoman Podcast with Hunter Beless: episode 18 | The Theology of Identity with Matt Lantz. Here’s a small nugget of truth that made me want to pull over and take notes on the side of the road: “Identity is received, believed, and then lived out. In that order. If you’ve built an identity around anything, whether that’s your job, your spouse, your popularity, your grades, your accomplishment, or any of that stuff. If you’ve built an identity, you haven’t built an identity. You’ve built an idol.” – Matt Lantz.

    PLAYING Molkky in the backyard, because it’s absolutely beautiful weather around here. Hello to all things Fall – pumpkin spice, scarves, fleece and that glowing, golden sunset that Fall does so well. Plus, it gets us outside as a family!

    DRINKING wines and eating cheeses at our wine tasting at Clear Creek Vineyard, courtesy of our bed and breakfast. We finally found a red wine that I actually enjoy! If you ever have the chance to meet Barbara, the owner of the Clipper House Inn in Kemah, please do so. She is incredibly kind, sweet and made sure our anniversary stay in Kemah was absolutely spectacular. We both absolutely loved our weekend there.

    DROWNING in Ellie Holcomb’s beautiful lyrics on her Red Sea Road cd. I am totally feeling late to this party as her cd came out last January, but oh my goodness, it’s deep, dreamy and comforting. If you ask Oakley and Scout, that’s what we’ve been listening to around here. It all started with hearing some old episodes of Ellie being interviewed about her heart behind the songs on the cd. I absolutely adore when I get to know the why behind the words of music. The heartache, tragedy and praise she went through that this cd is a direct result of, is inspiring. You can listen to her interview with The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey podcast here or on Annie Downs’ That Sounds Fun podcast here.

    FEASTING on Shauna Niequist’s words in Bittersweet. She is one of my favorite authors as her diction and word juxtaposition is always on point. I also believe she reaches down to the depths to put things into words that not only allows one to understand themselves deeper but those around them as well. I can’t wait to binge read yet another one of her other books!

    LOVING my new girls, Oakley + Scout. We’re definitely being stretched as we adjust and grow together, but we’re a family now. I love that so much. It’s a great new adventure for Rick’s and my second year of marriage!

    What I’m Loving + Favorite Photos // July, August + September 2017

    Oh my goodness. For a monthly review of all things that I’m loving and a chance to show off some more personal photo projects than my clients, it’s been a long wait! I missed July, because it felt too soon after June. The last weekend of August is when Hurricane Harvey hit southern Texas completely decimating entire cities and leaving lasting tragedy in its wake. Posting anything that week, especially the things I’m loving, just seemed wrong.

    As we’ve begun to recover and life has gone on, I think it’s time to let you in on a ton of things that I’m loving. The last few months have been so much fun. If you’ve been around my page for a bit, you know that I absolutely love sharing about the things that I am currently loving. Enough with talking about it, let’s jump in!

    What I’m Loving

    BINGING Hart of Dixie for all the good, quintessential small town feels and the quirkiest of characters. Meanwhile, I’m savoring The Great British Baking Show on Netflix with only a few shows at a time. It’s the absolute loveliest of competitions and has inspired me to start baking again.

    PONDERING on Carlos Whittaker’s Kill The Spider book. Full disclosure, I’m part of his launch team, so I got a free ebook download of it to read. I devoured it. Before finishing, I’d already preordered one copy for myself. I just went back and preordered another copy for a friend, so I can force her to read it and discuss it with me. Also because I really am looking forward to doing the video course and the workbook. Y’all, I am actively planning on rereading this already. I cannot express enough how much this book is a game-changer in spiritual warfare and actively living as a Christian instead of just brushing sin away like it’s now dealt with. I’ve started compiling a list of quotes that I love, but really, how does one compile one of the most comprehensive daily prayers that I’ve ever read into a list of quotes. It’s pages long, absolutely breathtakingly beautiful and a necessity in a starting place of my own prayer life. Seriously, I have all the love for this book and can’t wait to see the impact it has after its release on October 3. It’s my number 1 suggestion from my 2017 Fall Book list.

    RICK’S RECOMMENDING his new audiobook series he’s been binge-listening to. One Second After is the first of a three part series that has us and some family friends re-evaluating what we’d do in the event of having to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.

    LISTENING to so many podcasts these days. Rick and I have officially fallen in love with the Popcast with Knox and Jamie. Their “Urban Dictionary” series and “No’s of _____” are absolutely captivatingly hilarious. The “No’s of Birthdays” had me laughing so hard in the car that I was crying. The other podcast I’ve fallen absolutely in love with (along with so many others!) is the For The Love Podcast with Jen Hatmaker. I am absolutely loving how she’s bringing both unknown and everyday people onto her podcast instead of big name people that everyone knows. Don’t get me wrong, she had Brene Brown and Shauna Niequist on, and those were absolutely fabulous. I love hearing and learning from the everyday people she has on as they discuss friendships and moxie. I can’t wait to see the next topical series she does. My favorite ones right now are these: Luvvie Ajayi – Authenticity in a Branded World, Real Girlfriends Stories from The Tribe (Have tissues ready!) and Anna LeBaron + Ruth Wariner – Unyielding Courage.

    READING a book about slowing down, taking in life and making the every day things seem less stressful. I’m only a few chapters in, and I absolutely love Emily Ley’s writing style in Grace Not Perfection: Embracing Simplicity, Celebrating Joy. We just signed on our new house right before Harvey, and I can’t wait to move in and implement some of Emily’s suggestions into our own home. (No worries. Our new home was unaffected by Harvey.)

    STOPPING to scroll through 5 instagram accounts (Yes, FIVE!) that I absolutely adore as they’re each drawing me closer to Jesus in a different way. @beckykiser of @sacredholidays is super encouraging, and it’s been a true delight to watch as she gears up for writing her first book. She writes the kind of long, good, thought-provoking #instadiaries that I love. The other four accounts are makers who infuse Jesus into their works. @dearmushka is a jewelry company that I have fallen in love with due to its simplicity and calling to memorize and remember scripture. I love her #instadevos. @lindsay_letters is an incredible calligrapher that I’ve followed for years. It’s been so fun to watch her as she opens up more about her life instead of just her business on her account. I’m just fascinated with who she is as a person and love that she’s funny in her own way and not scared to share her quirkiness with the world. Sisters @nataliemetlewis and @valmariepaper have stolen my heart with their adorable twin-ness and deep desire to not only dive into scripture themselves, but to draw those around them to do the same. Clearly, I’m really loving instagram these days.

    CRAVING the Shinoda at Japaneiro’s and the Teriyaki Pizza at Local Table. I’m a huge fan of local restaurants. What are some of your favorites?

    Y’all. 3 months is just wayyyy too long. There’s so many things I’ve been loving and itching to share with y’all. Can’t wait to share again next month! Until then, what are you loving!?

    Favorite July, August + September Photos

    What I’m Loving + Favorite Photos // June 2017

    Hey everyone! I’m so thankful and excited by the overwhelmingly positive response I received last week on the official launch of Ashley Karlen Photography. Starting a photography business has been a dream of mine since college. I’m super excited to see what’s ahead. On to today’s fun stuff!

    If you’ve been around my page for a bit, you know that I absolutely love sharing about the things that I am currently loving. I’ve done this every couple of months since I started blogging again. You can read those here and here. While I still love sharing about the things I am loving, I wanted to spice things up. Every month from now on, I’ll be sharing things I love, am exploring, am curious about and many other things. The fun thing is I’ll also be sharing some of my favorite photos I took during that month. Are you ready!? I am!

    What I’m Loving

    DISCOVERING the library and the depth of it has been amazing. I absolutely love books and can’t stray away from a good book sale to save my life. This has really cut down on those books that I really want to read but don’t really need to buy. Plus, I’ve found that I absolutely love listening to fiction like this or this on audiobook. I love highlighting and taking notes so I’d much rather hold a non-fiction book in my hand.

    ENJOYING time on our back porch sitting in our camping chairs, relaxing and sometimes even building a fire. Yes, we live in Houston. Yes, it’s hot outside. Even with the heat, we’ve started a fire in our fire pit and spent an evening discussing life around the fire and roasted some s’mores.

    ADORING the lifestyle and community ideas from The Turquoise Table. Rick and I are already dreaming of our next home and how we can implement the ideas in this book to get to know our new neighbors and start building a community there. It’s made me start dreaming of fun little things to take out to my future table like this pitcher or these plastic cups. I just absolutely love the colors of those cups.

    PRETENDING I’m at the spa with this luxurious face mask. It smells so ridiculously wonderful in the morning.

    RICK’S RECOMMENDING the sous vide cooker. Rick has seriously recommended this immersion cooker to multiple people in the same day. I will say that this gadget is pretty nifty. It’s a great meal prep tool that you can set and leave which I’m always a fan of. The absolute best brisket I may have ever had in my entire life was cooked in this just a few days ago. (See below for the brisket picture.)

    PLANNING lots of vacation days in the next couple of months. Who has any fun ideas for San Antonio, Waco or Costa Rica? Later this fall, we’ll be looking for a great little bed and breakfast either around the Houston area or not too far away for a little couple’s getaway. Post all your must sees and great spots in the comments.

    GRATEFUL for the friends and family who have constantly encouraged me, stuck by my side and helped launch me into this new season of life.

    Favorite June Photos

     

    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!

    What I’m Loving // March 2017

    I’ve started 2 different blog posts for today and just nothing seems right. I don’t know if it’s just the day or what, but things aren’t flowing like they should. I love top ten lists, which I’m sure you’ve noticed if you’ve been journeying with me. I’m not sure since I’ve been back to blogging that I’ve really allowed y’all to see a peek in to who I am yet. Today, I’d like to share 10 things that I’m loving right now.

    1. If there’s one thing I’m loving currently, it’s the The Happy Hour Podcast by Jamie Ivey. I’m a bit obsessed. Like, I’m binge listening level obsessed. I love stories and I love how Jamie is inspiring me to stay connected in my faith, especially during this weird season of mine. Her guests are courageous, God-loving, fascinating women and I’m loving devouring their stories and getting to know them. Maybe, one day, Jamie will interview me. A girl can dream!
    2. Looking for Lovely by Annie Downs is a book that I’d recommend for sure. I finished this book in late January. It’s so worth the buy! I’ll be reviewing it in an upcoming post. It’s actually one of the ones that I started today and just decided I wanted to sit with the book and ponder a bit longer.
    3. The Pokemon Go App for Iphone is my current go to phone game. It’s reminding me to walk which is always good. Collecting Pokemon is fun too.
    4. Rick and I are both a bit obsessed with Skipbo. We’ve been playing almost nightly. I went on a 10+ Skipbo run there for awhile but he’s made a comeback. We actually spent most of our weekend relaxing with a NCIS marathon while playing this card game. Sometimes, it’s the simple things y’all.
    5. Want to Be a Writer? Start Writing. I absolutely love these encouraging words from Becky Kiser on writing. It’s interesting. Everywhere I seem to look lately, I hear more and more about this concept. It’s so simple, yet somehow has the power to paralyze us.
    6. If you’re looking for a good date night dinner spot in Houston, you should check out Dumar’s. I’d say get the Couples Plate. There’s a ton of food but it’s ridiculously delicious and so fun to try the huge variety that comes on it. I’m currently hooked on their chicken shawarma.
    7. In lieu of writing, I got to get together with some out of town friends tonight. We had a wonderful evening discussing life, drinking coffee and playing Harry Potter Clue. I think it’s been almost two full years since we four have been in the same place. My heart longs for a day when we could do something like tonight in person once a month or even more. God’s brought some amazing girls into my life, I just hope one day he’ll have us all in the same place too.
    8. I just started The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh over the weekend. I’m floored with the beautiful use of language within the pages of that book. I almost couldn’t even stop reading for date night because it had captured me so deeply. It’s been quite a while since that happened and I’m so excited to see what happens as I continue reading.
    9. I’m savoring alone time. This seems so weird to say, especially as a newlywed. Rick, don’t be upset if/when you see this. There’s just something that I’ve loved lately about carrying our fold up chairs into our backyard with a cup of ice cold water and reading. I cannot get enough of it. I don’t know if it’s the sun on my skin, the opportunity to get lost in a good story or just as much silence as suburbia has to offer. Unfortunately, I think winter is coming back so it may be a while before this is a consistent thing in my life. In the meantime, I’ll be snatching up the bits of time that I have to bask in the sun while I can though.
    10. This last thing I am loving is so silly. It’s not silly because of what it is, but how it came into my possession. I went shopping with my mom. We noticed this Columbia polka dot vest on a rack and she made me try it on. It fit perfectly and it was on sale. Plus, it is one of the most comfortable things I’ve worn in a long time. She bought it for me because I refused to get it for myself. With the constant changing of seasons and it’s ability to be ridiculously comfortable, it’s practically made itself into my every day uniform. I don’t even have a single complaint about that. I just can’t move on to another piece of clothing. It’s the perfect thing to grab in the mornings and I give no apologies for that.

    Alright y’all, thanks for sticking with me today and hopefully gaining some insight as to who I am, especially if we’re not IRL friends yet. I’ll be back with some serious insights soon. Love you and hope y’all are having a wonderful Spring Break! Don’t forget to get some self-care in!

    Ashley

    12 Cheap Non-Cheesy Date Night Ideas

    So far, 2018 has been a bit weird over here for us. We’re struggling to find a rhythm that isn’t driving us into the ground. We’re both crashed on the couch right now and our dogs are on their 3rd or 4th nap of the day. It’s hard to believe that Valentine’s Day is a little over a week away. I have no idea what we’ll be doing. As we’re striving for a rhythm of of intentionality, rest and Sabbath and still being able to be true to our commitments and who Jesus has called us to be, date nights haven’t been top of the list on my mind.

    With the hustle and bustle, date nights seem to get lost in the mix under nights out with family and friends, grocery store trips and differing work schedules. Every now and then, I hit up the internet for some date ideas. It’s such a struggle though. The good date ideas are expensive. Most of the date night ideas are cheesy or just not simple to pull off for tired adults at the end of the week. Since we don’t have the money to throw down on expensive date nights every week, I’ve gathered a few of my favorite ones together here to help you jump start your ideas. We love easy date nights that can be pulled off no matter what schedule you’re having to work with. Here’s some cheap, non-cheesy date ideas we love!

    At Home Date Night Ideas

    Wine + Cheese Night at Home
    This sounds like it’d be crazy elaborate and expensive. It’s totally up to you on how crazy you’d want to get, so you could splurge for expensive wine and all artesian cheeses, but you don’t have to. We usually buy table wine and then get a few of the blocks of cheese in the main cheese section, a pre-made cracker kit – they’re cheaper at our local store and a perfect amount for just us two. Every now and then we may throw in an artesian cheese or two to just try different flavors and keep it interesting. You can also pair deli meats like salami and fruits like grapes or apples to make it more of a meal.

    Cook Something Together
    We don’t do this one super often, because Rick is 100% the chef in this house, while I am the baker. We do love checking out recipes and trying new ones. If it ends up being a keeper, Rick usually puts his chef spins on it later. If you’re looking for some fun new ones, try perusing through the food boards on my Pinterest to get you started. We have a few Favorite Recipes we just started.

    S’mores Night
    This is a relatively simple idea for a dessert date night. We have done it in our fire pit, our fireplace, and even with the burners on our stove. Mix it up! Get some fruit, some different chocolates and even some flavored marshmallows. If you haven’t tried a Reese’s on a s’more, I highly recommend getting a King-sized on your next s’more making night. It’s one of my favorite upgrades to the classic s’mores treat.

    Anywhere Date Night Ideas

    Couples Resources
    A few weeks ago, I talked about how I was trying to start my 2018 off well. Part of that included Rick and I sitting down and really talking through this Dream Guide together. We went out for dinner at a cute little local Vietnamese place and filled it out separately before discussing it. I loved hearing all our dreams and expectations for this year. There’s a ton of other resources that get you talking including this book we loved going through while dating and throughout our engagement, as well as various conversation starter cards like these.

    Read a Book Together
    This is one that we’ve been doing since last summer. It’s super easy. We take turns reading to each other. We’ll sit out in our back yard, read and discuss. We’ve also found that this is a great one to make a road trip seem more like a date. Some of our favorites that we’ve read and talked about together are: A Fierce Love and The Turquoise Table. We’re currently reading The Road Back to You.

    Coffee or Milk Tea + A Bookstore
    This is a pretty cheap date night for us, provided we don’t get sucked into buying books. It’s super simple too. We’ll eat something at home to save money and then go get to-go coffees or milk teas before wandering around a bookstore. Our cost is typically under $10 and our favorite book store to frequent on these dates is Half-Price Books. We have different interests and typically read different genres, so it’s interesting to see what the other picks up and what conversations spring forward as we walk around and peruse.

    Same Page
    This isn’t exactly the most romantic of ideas, so I’d skip it if you’re celebrating something big. This is a time when we literally sync our calendars. It’s definitely not the sexiest of date nights. I love it though, because we use it to intentionally discuss what’s coming up and how we can walk alongside our people in the next coming weeks or months. This mini date night helps us to not feel like we’re ships-passing-in-the-night, and it also helps us to not overcommit or over-schedule ourselves.

    Game Nights
    Did you know I absolutely love board games? Just kidding! If you’ve been around here, you know that I frequently talk about how much I love board games on the my What I’m Loving posts. It’s a simple low-tech way to connect in a competitive manner. Our current favorites that can all be played with just 2 people are Settlers of Catan, Skip-Bo, Bold, and Ticket to Ride, especially with the 1910 Expansion Pack. We’re also digging this lawn game and can’t wait for it to warm up so that we can play again. You can also play games at a tea house or a cafe like we do with our Coffee or Milk Tea + A Bookstore dates.

    Out of the House Date Night Ideas

    Target
    Yes, really! This is ironically one of my favorite date nights. It gets us completely out of our routine of dinner dates. We get to walk through and dream together. We peruse the dollar section, read funny greeting cards to each other, walk the aisles dreaming about the ‘somedays’ of home renovation and children, and of course get lost in the kids toy section, because Legos are so much cooler today than when we were kids. It’s a quirky date night, and it allows us to pick up a few things at the end if you need something at home.

    Hiking
    We have a beltway by our house that we love to go hike with our dogs. This is one of those that is so doable, especially depending on your time. It takes roughly 30 minutes to walk our beltway. That gives us 30 minutes to talk, listen to and discuss a podcast together, and generally catch up. It’s a break for us from ‘city life’ and we get to tire out our dogs at the same time. Real trails or simply a walk around a local park is super fun too.

    Local High School + College Events
    We recently went to a high school choir concert where a lot of favorite songs from our middle school and high school years were showcased. The students were really good, plus we enjoyed living the past a little through the music. Tickets to these events are pretty cheap, and it goes towards helping fund arts education for the schools. As art and music lovers, we love being able to support that. Check out local football games in the fall for a throwback Friday night lights feel. Also, there’s some good high school musicals, especially depending on where you live. Houston’s got some great ones!

    Mural Hopping
    This is best for a day date, but we’ve loved it. We had the best time doing this as part of our Austin vacation last year. It is super adaptable in any area that has a bunch of local artists that have painted murals. You drive around, discover new places and get to see some incredible artwork along the way. Don’t forget to take a selfie at every stop!

    What do you have planned for your next date night?

    Lent + 7 Resources to Draw You Closer to Jesus

     

    It’s so crazy how time seems to fly the older you get. One day, you feel like you have WEEKS until the next “big thing”. Fast forward for what feels like 10 seconds and it’s a few big events later. We just celebrated another round of birthdays in my family yesterday. Wednesday kicks off Valentine’s Day and Lent. That’s a crazy juxtaposition of holidays isn’t it?

    I already talked about Valentine’s Day last week, so let’s a take a look at Lent! For the past week or so, I feel like I’ve taken a deep dive into Lent looking at the origins of how this came to be a thing, what it is culturally now, and what it really is for those who are practicing it. I didn’t grow up in a church that I feel like placed a huge emphasis on Lent. I didn’t even know what is was until high school! At that point, I just thought it was something you did, but I had no idea what the deeper, heart of the meaning behind it was. Since then, I’ve learned a lot.

    What Lent Is

    Lent is a season in the church calendar that lasts from Ash Wednesday until Easter. It’s roughly 7 weeks long. During this time, Christians choose to abstain from something to refocus themselves on God and/or to more deeply understand the sacrifice that Jesus suffered on the cross. Sometimes, a person chooses a spiritual discipline to be added on in that season instead of giving something up for Lent. Neither option is better than the other. The entire season is meant to draw you into a more intimate relational experience with our Creator. It is to remind you that Jesus is better.

    What’s the purpose of giving something up? It’s in that act of self-denial that we can begin to identify with what a sacrifice it was for Jesus to die for our sins. For us, it may just look like an uneaten cookie, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s us saying that we can deny ourselves something good for something better – Jesus.

    Maybe you aren’t feeling that something is a distraction to you that’s hindering your relationship with God. That’s awesome! It’s also the reason some people end up adding a spiritual discipline on instead. They’d be using the 7 weeks to draw closer to God in a way that they normally wouldn’t – by keeping a journal, memorizing scripture, praying while driving instead of listening to music, etc.

    What Lent Isn’t

    It’s not a holiness competition. It’s not a time to rub it into someone’s face that you’ll be reading the entire Bible every 2 days and fasting anything but liquid for the full time. It’s a time to withdraw from the things that get in the way of us following Jesus daily. There’s so many distractions that insert themselves like a wall into our lives between us and God – social media, Netflix, spiritual laziness, sometimes even relationships. Other times, it may even be doing yet another thing at the church in His name rather than resting in Him. I know I’ve been guilty of that more than once!

    Here’s the thing, y’all. The church loves us some Lent. Why? It’s so fun to boast and say that we’ve been fasting sugar for 3 days and already lost 5 pounds. We love love love sounding holy. Honestly, I’d love to give up sugar and have those kind of results! It’s not about that at all. If you’re giving up actively sinning, something you don’t even participate in or something with the wrong motive at heart, it’s better to just not do it. Lent is not the Christian Diet Plan. It’s a dedicated season and invitation to pursue Jesus harder than ever before.

    Do I have to do Lent? It’s still feeling a little weird to me. Of course not! Some years, I don’t participate. That’s completely okay. Lent starts tomorrow and although, I’m doing a Lent study, I’m on the fence at what this season will look like. At the end of the day, it’s a season meant to draw you closer to Jesus in a way that you may not be during the other weeks of the year. That doesn’t mean that you have to do it. If you’re chugging along and don’t feel you need to step aside and for the next 7 weeks focus on giving something up or adding something on, don’t. This is your relationship with God. Do what’s best for it.

    Resources I LOVE For Lent (+ Really Any Time!)

    Sacred Holidays
    I absolutely love the Sacred Holidays Team and what they put out. The motto they have of Less Chaos, More Jesus just draws me in. I typically follow along on their instagram @sacredholidays with what is going on. This year, they’re studying the book of John in their He Is Alive study, but they’ve studied a ton of different things over the past few years. They focus specifically on holiday times – Advent and Lent to change the focus of our culture from consumerism and our busyness to resting in Jesus. They do have options for printed studies, but offer digital downloads as well. Part of the proceeds from each study, provides studies for women in prison.

    Annie Downs Podcast Episodes on Lent

    When I first started thinking about Lent, it was thanks in part to this podcast and Annie’s Rhythms series. Since then, I’ve listened to both of her podcasts with the She Reads Truth team which you can hear here and here several times each. They delve deeply into all the topics surrounding Lent and the beauty of what this season can be in your life. I think whether you’re doing Lent or not, they’re worth a listen to gain a better foundational understanding of this church season.

    Exodus with She Reads Truth (+ Men Read Truth + Kids Read Truth)

    If you listen to either of the That Sounds Fun podcasts above, you’ll probably get excited about what they’re doing. I know I did which is why I decided to join them doing Exodus this year. I’m pretty excited, because even though they do have printed options with their studies, you can receive them via email or just read online too. I like the ease of that honestly. I’m also really intrigued by going back into Exodus during this season. I feel like I’ve always focused on the gospels during Lent, and I’m excited about switching up my reading. Join with me to do the 2018 Lent Study, and let me know in the comments that we’ll be studying together!

    Journaling

    Journaling is something that I wish I was better at. I love having the record of things, but the act of writing it out for me gets hard. I love the idea of setting aside Lent to journal your prayers in full and write out the things you’re thankful for. There’s so many different kinds of journals to choose from. I am loving this one, because you can bet that I’m thanking God for coffee pretty much every day. This one is also so stinking cute! The company that makes the journals like the striped watercolor one to the left also make journals that are specific to bullet journaling. I think that could be a unique way to write down our prayers and goals and dedicate them to the Lord.

    Hearing the Word Read Aloud

    Do you have the Bible app? You’re practically halfway there to this one already. The Youversion Bible App has an option that you can have it read aloud to you. This is a game changer. I read the entire book of Hebrews last week while getting ready to leave my house. That’s insane. It reads until you tell it to stop, but it’s a great way to read and get an overall feel for a book that you’re studying more deeply. It’s also a great way to read on the go. (They even have a kids version of the app that’s super fun!)

    The Read Scripture App

    This is another Bible Reading App. Why? You’ve got the Bible app. Why do we need yet another one? This one is so cool! I love how it weaves scripture in with the Bible Project videos. It doesn’t have the plans, different translations, or audio that the other one does, but I love the fact that all of that isn’t there. It’s a simpler way to read, track your reading and engage with God’s words from your device. It does have it split into thematics so that you can delve into a book or delve into a topic like Holiness or Heaven and Earth.

    Christ-Centered Commentaries

    I put the John commentary here just in case the Sacred Holidays study piqued your interest. I’m currently using the Galatians one though, and I love it. This commentary points directly to Jesus and shows you where he is. That may be super easy in John, because it’s evident that Jesus is there. It gets a lot trickier in the Old Testament to see him as clearly, which is one reason I love them. They also go super in depth but are still pretty brief, which makes them way less intimidating than some commentaries! (They do have one on Exodus if you want to jump on the She Reads Truth study with me!)

    Happy Lent + Happy Drawing Closer to Jesus!