A History of Lent & Why It Still Matters

Yesterday was Mardi Gras, for those of you that are not in the know.  Fat Tuesday.  Which means today is Ash Wednesday.  For some, this is a given.  But I grew up in a world where the liturgical calendar did not play into church life.  I still go to a church like that.  But that doesn’t mean that I don’t see the point in some of these traditions.

Maybe you were like me, the first time my college friends walked around with ash on their foreheads.  What is Lent?  Why should I care?

By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian May [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian May [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A Brief History of Lent

Lent, or Lenten, actually simply means “spring” in the original Anglo-Saxon from which the term began.  It is also one of the oldest traditions in the Church.  It began shortly after the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., the same council that established that Jesus was, indeed, co-equal with God.  This council also separated out the holiday of Easter and also established the first concept of a 40 day fast prior to Easter.  Though not many details exist as to the purpose of the fast, or whether it was meant for everyone, soon the entire Church was observing the fast as a part of their annual calendar.

There was also an absence of any guidelines.  This meant Eastern Christians only observed it on weekdays whereas the Western Christians observed on Saturdays but also had one week less of Lent.  Soon, Lent was moved from starting on a Sunday to a Wednesday, hence the observance of Ash Wednesday.  After the 7th century, Gregory the Great, a leading authority in the church, moved it and also began marking the foreheads of repentant Christians with the ash cross as a sign of their repentance.

By the Providence Lithograph Company [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By the Providence Lithograph Company [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

So What?

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  Matthew 4:1-2 NIV

Have you ever been hungry?  Days-without-food-ravenous hungry?  Where your stomach feels like a sinking pit of disgruntled pain.  Spiritually, I think we have all been there.  So desperate for something to fill us that we don’t really care what it is.  And so, we gladly take whatever can stop the emptiness, even if it doesn’t satisfy.  And yet, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into just such a circumstance to be tested.  To show that the Son of God could indeed be the perfect and spotless Lamb.  That He could fulfill His mission on earth.  And it made Him hungry, empty.

I am so guilty of satisfying the hunger with whatever junk is lying around.  Trash and garbage pile up until my own soul reeks.  But, Jesus didn’t do this.  He filled His hunger with the word, and the word, a flashing sword, cut the enemy down to size.

We still need Lent in the church today.  This is about so much more than what you eat or don’t, what you do, what services you attend.  Look past all of that and it comes down to repentance.  Cleansing.  Sweeping clean all the junk that has accumulated in the corners of our souls until it looks like a hoarder lives there.

Forty days of preparation.  Of tilling the hardened soil of our hearts and planting His word over and over and over until it takes root.  Maybe this is why Lent actually means Spring.  Because it is meant to be a time when we can see His word start to bud.  See the dead come to life.

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.  Isaiah 44: 3-4 NIV


I don’t mean a religious, going-through-the-motions act to attempt to please God.  If that’s all it is, go on and gorge yourself.  I mean a real, deep uncovering of the hidden places.  A laying bare and uncovering the dark so that we can shine as bright as the One we were meant to reflect.  A dirty mirror casts no light.

So, join me.  Join me in this time of preparation and repentance.  I am not necessarily giving up something and grasping onto the One thing I need.  Time with Jesus, deep, personal, and real.  Are you ready?

Get Your Garden On

Garden?  What?  If you are like me and have looked out the window today, you are probably wondering, as the snow flurries drift down, why I am talking about gardening.  It seems like a colossal waste of time.  Most people are still in some form of hibernation mode.

But, if you want to really get the most out of what you grow, you have to start early.  Really early.  Before the ground has thawed and there is even a hint of green, most farmers are already planning crops, starting seeds, and prepping their beds.  By the time they can transplant outside, their plants are much, much closer to producing food.  And this equals more food with the time they do have to grow.


The first thing that has to happen before anything else is planning.  It is a really good idea to know how much space you have to work with, what plants grow well where you live, and even the kind of soil you are going to be working in.  So, let’s get started.


There are some fantastic websites out there designed to help you plan.  One of my favorites is Smart Gardener, mainly because they have a great free basic membership that gives you a lot of options.  And if you want to get some of the add-ons, most are less than $3.  Definitely not going to empty your wallet.

This website will ask for how many people you are trying to feed and what hardiness zone you live in.  Once you get this information in, it will walk you through creating a garden plan that lets it know the size garden you are working with.  There are options for planters, pots, or in-ground beds.  Finally, you pick your plants and record when you planted them.  From there, the website does all the work.  You’ll be told when to transplant outdoors and when you should be able to harvest.  You can even get reminders to water, prune, or mulch your plants.  To me, it is the epitome of working smarter, not harder.

Of course, you can always go with plan old pencil and paper.  Some grid paper would be helpful for planning.  It will just require a lot of leg work on your part.  If you are interested in this method, leave me a comment and I’ll be sure and write a separate post for that.

Starting Seeds

If you hate starting seeds, fail miserably a lot, etc, then buy your plants from the garden center nearest you around the beginning to middle of April and skip past this section.

This is a big step, and it can be equally daunting.  I have been gardening for as long as I can remember, and to me, starting seeds can be the most confusing.  Some seeds need light, others don’t.  Some have to be soaked.  Some get planted deep, an inch or more.  Some should just be scattered on top.  And don’t get me started on planting them at the right time!

Of course, if you use Smart Gardener, than a lot of this is answered for you.  But I wanted to include some other great sites specifically for this.  Also because there is so much information out there, I don’t want simply keep rehashing what has already been said so well.

  • Garden Guides – This site is a wealth of information for all things gardening.  They offer a very simple explanation of some of the things you’ll need and how to actually plant your seeds.
  • You Grow Girl – These girls are fantastic!  They keep things very simple, but also include some nice DIY ideas as well.  They also have some great charts to help you get your seeds started if using the pencil & paper method.


Let’s talk dirt.  No, not gossip.  I mean what you have in your pots or beds or planters or whatever.  If you read some of the above articles, you will see that you need good soil just to get your seeds going.  To keep them going, you will need to keep your soil at the same level.

If you want, you can simply plow up a part of your yard and move on.  But, as we learned in January, good soil=good food with lots of nutrients.  Your yard has been sucking nutrients for years.  (Also, you will have a lot of invasive weeds.  That is NOT fun.  Trust me.)  I suggest making a soil mix that you can use instead.  This is especially useful if all of your soil is clay soil, which is like trying to plant things in a brick.  Doesn’t really work and your plants end up not producing.  They use all their energy just trying to put roots out.

I personally like Mel’s Mix, the guy who started Square Foot Gardening.  It allows plants to grow easily, is also super easy to pull weeds from, and has a lot of nutrients from the compost.  It can get a little pricey, if you are buying the compost.  So, be sure to shop around.  Better yet, look into composting yourself.  That, my friends, can be done for free.

Even though the ground is hard now, and unworkable, I am suggesting this so you can go ahead and have the mix made.  Last year, I tried making patches while I was working in my beds.  I ended making a lot of trips with my wheelbarrow and my back ached for days.  This year, I want to have a lot of it ready to go.

Are You Ready?

I know that I have barely skimmed the surface of getting started, but, as I already mentioned, I also don’t want to simply repeat what others have said.  Check out the sources and start working on your plan.  Also, if you do join Smart Gardener, my user name is sweetangel273.  I would love to link up!  (Just be aware that I haven’t planted anything yet.)  So, leave a comment with what you’re planning or any questions you may have!

DIY Roundup & A Sneak Peek

This is our weekly roundup of fantastic DIY projects from this month around the web and a sneak peek  of the coming month here on The Surrendered Life.

February DIY Roundup

Easy DIY Cone Pendant Lamp

Over at Design Milk, they have a fantastic tutorial on making your own pendant lamp that looks very IKEA.  And it looks incredibly simple.


Easy Homemade Butter . . . in a Blender

DIY Natural has a great and simple tutorial to make your own butter in your blender.  I have tried this with my Kitchen-aid, and let me say, it totally changed my view on the butter/margarine debate.  The taste was amazing!


DIY Natural Shaving Cream

The Mommypotamus has a natural recipe for shaving cream.  Making your own household and personal care products is a great way to save money and eliminate nasty, toxic ingredients.


Mini Tissue Holder

Make It and Love It has a cute mini tissue holder tutorial that I will definitely be adding to my to-do list of projects.


March Sneak Peek

After a lot of thought, I decided on two concurrent themes for March.

First, every Sunday, I will post a series called Get Your Garden On.  We’ll cover how to get a garden planned, starting seeds, and prepping your beds for this spring.  There will be some links out to some great sources, and probably some sort of post on how to use technology to help your gardening.

Second, starting next Wednesday, I want to do a series on Lent.  Even though I attend a very non-traditional church, I feel that some traditions are worth observing.  I will be focusing on repentance, self-evaluation, and preparing to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection at Easter.

So, stay tuned!

Beginning is Easy . . .

Finishing Can be Hard

By Jim Thurston [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Jim Thurston [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Hopefully, through the months of January and February, you’ve not only started making a few life changes, but it is possible you’re starting to see some progress as well.  And, right now, you are working under the adrenaline and excitement of something new and shiny.  We all love new and shiny!

But the big question?  How do you finish?  What happens when you wake up one morning, and for the one thousandth time you tie your shoes and go for that run first thing?  You’ve seen the scenery before, you’ve done this before.  In fact, it is getting harder and harder to get out of bed.  Or, you have consistently lost about a pound a week and those pants are getting really loose.  But then you have a two week stretch where you gain weight.  Henry David Thoreau!  You stare at the scale, wondering if all the work was worth it.

How do you keep yourself going when everything in you is ready to quit?


First, I want to talk about willpower.  That part of our soul that gets us to do what we need to do, even if we don’t want to do it.  Official definition:

: the ability to control yourself : strong determination that allows you to do something difficult (such as to lose weight or quit smoking)

And no matter what you may believe about it, studies have shown that doing many tasks that require self-control will deplete your willpower.  You will become more and more likely to give into temptation.  So, with limited willpower to actually accomplish your fitness and nutrition goals, how do you actually do it?

This comes down to smart choices, in my opinion.  There has been many a time that I have given in to half a cookie at work, so that I could have the willpower to workout later that day.  Is this something I do all the time?  No.  But, I have to weigh how a decision will affect my other decisions later on.  It is also why I don’t like diets as the answer to weight loss.  Simply put, it is a plan that relies on an infinite amount of something that you have in limited supply, willpower.  There is no way you will keep it up indefinitely, which means at some point, you will fail.  Check out this awesome video from TED Talks:

Motivation vs. Inspiration
(And how to make them both work for you)

I know, I know.  That sounds like the title of a cheesy, self-help novel.  But, there is a difference between the two, even if both can help you keep going.

Motivation:  This can be anything from a picture, a song, a quote.  Anything that motivates you to keep going.  If you want to lose 50 lbs, a picture of someone 50 lbs slimmer than you might help motivate you to keep going when you hit a plateau.  Need to get out of bed every morning?  Maybe you ask a close friend that’s up then anyways to call you to make sure you’re up.  A friend of mine has to pay her buddy $1 every time she doesn’t work out.  Financial loss is always a strong motivator.

Inspiration: Usually, I find my inspiration amongst people I know or average people I read about that do amazing things.  Whether it’s a friend that has lost weight, or another that is getting in shape for the first time in their lives, it can inspire me to realize that I can do it, too.  And while it can be tempting to look up to your favorite celebs, realize that the time, money, and clout they can throw around may not be realistic for you.  If you don’t have $2000 to drop on a personal trainer to come to your house and make you exercise, reading how the Kardashian’s lost all their baby weight in 3 weeks may inspire and then defeat you when you can’t do the same.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

Finally, realize that you can’t be perfect 24/7.  In fact, that kind of expectation will set you up for failure the first time you lose willpower or skip a workout.  Stuff happens.  All.  The.  Time.

So, I think this is the last crucial bit to keep in mind as you work towards your health goals.  You have to give yourself a break.  Make sure your goal is also reasonable.  Surprise!  You cannot lose 100 lbs in 4 weeks.  And expecting that is a setup for failure.  Leave room in your plan for mistakes, because they will happen.  And when they do, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep going.

What is something that motivates you?  Who is someone that inspires you?  Leave a comment with your answers!


Time to Workout!

© Stefan Krilla

© Stefan Krilla

So. You have a plan.  A nice, step-by-step plan based on a specific and measurable goal.  With a deadline.  Great!  Now what?

I am going to post some different types of workouts or apps for workouts that can help you achieve your goal.  I hope to give plenty of variety since goals could, and should, vary depending on where you are in life.  A pregnant woman, like I currently am, should not be trying to do 1000 burpees for CrossFit.  An elderly person may need to go slow at first.  A fitness buff may be able to jump right in.

Goal: Gain Muscle

It may seem like a no-brainer.  If you want to gain weight, you go to the gym and go through every weight machine the place has.  Some workouts have it broken done to work each teeny muscle in your body, based on what day it is.  It can be confusing.  It can be frustrating.  And it can simply not work the way you think it will.

I recommend starting with Body Weight Strength Training.  No equipment, no excuses.  And no crazy or impossible plans.  I find that the more complicated you make it, the less likely you are to do it.  If you are just starting out, I strongly recommend Steve’s Basic Body Weight Workout over at NerdFitness.  I started doing this, and I did not make it to 3 sets.  I was lucky to make it to 2 and still had to take a break.  But, that is where goals can help.  If you can’t do 3 sets, that is your goal.

Want something more advanced?  Then start adding in weights.  Nothing complicated and please, for the love of cheese, don’t separate out single muscles.  You don’t use single muscles in real life, you use groups of muscles.  You can

Goal: Lose Weight

For this, I still say read the above goal and work on gaining muscle.  The reason is two-fold: you will look good when the fat comes off, and you will burn more calories than cardio exercise alone.  So, start with doing the Basic Body Weight Workout 3 times a week.  When I started this, it usually took about 20 minutes and I could only complete 2 sets.  The other days would be when you add in some cardio.  If you are anything like me, you will find that an hour on a treadmill or stationary bike at the gym would be pure torture.  I bore easily.  For some people, though, this would be a great way to get in some cardio.

For me, I use the Run, Zombies! app to encourage me to walk.  Getting some form of reward, even an imaginary one, has a tendency to motivate me.  Another great option is Couch to 5K, because you can be a complete sedentary person with this program.  By the end, it will have you moving and you will feel fantastic!  No matter how you slice it, add in 2-3 days of cardio if you can.  I emphasize “if you can”.  The idea of working out 6 days a week can be overwhelming and daunting, especially if you’re starting out.  Maybe that should be a goal.  Start off with something and work your way up!


I know there are more than two goals out there, but those are usually the two biggest.  Some of your specific goals may fall under those two above.  If not, leave what you are working on in the comments and I’ll be happy to help you find the resources you need to get started!

Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

By Detroit Publishing Co., under license from Photoglob Zürich [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Detroit Publishing Co., under license from Photoglob Zürich [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

We’ve heard this phrase before.  If you think about the enormity of the Roman Empire, it truly wasn’t built in a day, or a year, or even a decade.  In fact, the Roman Empire existed for just over 500 years.  In comparison, the United States has only been around for around 240 years.  So, why am I giving this information to you?  And what does it have to do with exercise?

We use this phrase to emphasize that anything great takes time.  And as Steve Kamb states over at NerdFitness,

A robot doesn’t become a truck in one step.  You won’t lose 100 pounds overnight.  Slowly transform your diet, make changes that you can live with, and the new YOU will have a much better chance of fighting off the Decepticons and obesity.

So, let’s get started.

By Stefan Kahlhammer [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Stefan Kahlhammer [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The Biggest Thing You Can Do is Have A Goal!!!

And I don’t mean, “I want to lose a lot of weight.”  Or “I want to be ripped like Aa-nald.” (BTW, that kind of ripped doesn’t happen naturally.  It requires . . . “assistance”.)  While these are great as inspiration,  you need to get specific if you want to see results.  As in, you need a clearly defined plan.  Let me give you a couple of examples:

  1. I am just entering my third trimester of pregnancy.  For about a year before I found out I was pregnant, I had a very clear goal: I want to do a pull-up by December.  Then I broke it down.  I knew that I needed a lot more upper body muscle to pull this off (no pun intended).  So, I enlisted the help of a friend to personalize a training plan for one night a week.  It involved a lot of push-ups, a lot of burpees, and a lot of pain and sweat.  I also went with my husband to our local martial arts school to participate in their workout and kung fu lessons once a week.  This was clear, straightforward, and most importantly, something I could actually test.  Could I do a pull-up yet?  Were my muscles getting harder and more toned?  Was I increasing the difficulty of my workouts steadily?
  2. Let me mention a hero to me.  The person that convinced me that weight lifting doesn’t make you bulky.  And someone that inspired me.  Staci, at NerdFitness, started out weighing 170 lbs.  And she tried the “normal” way to lose weight.  She didn’t have a plan but just cut out fat (and food she needed) and ran a lot.  Until it almost made her sick.  She went down to 117 lbs, obsessed over every ounce, and felt physically and mentally miserable.  Until someone told her she was approaching it wrong.  She started researching nutrition and strength training.  And where is she today?  Though she has gained back weight, it is all muscle.  And she can now deadlift . . . 315 lbs.  Head on over to read the full testimony on her transformation, but it was incredibly inspiring to me.  Because I was heading down the same path when I read it.

So, in the first example, it was a clearly defined goal with a step by step plan that helped.  The second example brings me to another part of getting started.

Get educated

Don’t just believe that because someone said something about diet, nutrition, or exercise, that it is true.  Don’t believe me!  Do the research.  Look at the studies and read up on things like how your body processes nutrients or how your body responds to different types of exercises.  Use this information to help you make your plan.  Example: If my goal was a pull-up, cardio would not help me.  I needed to build muscle.  So, I shaped my plan around a lot more muscle building activities.  Do you want to run a 5k?  Then you need more cardio.

So, you have a clear goal, you’ve educated yourself and used that information to form a plan.  Now what?


One of the biggest reasons to quit is because you are trying to do it alone.  We all need a support group in our lives to help us through the challenging times.  It can be a group of online friends in a forum or a group of real-life friends.  It doesn’t matter who it is as long as they are their to support you.  Let me make it clear now, the friend that has something negative to say all the time about everything is not who you want.  You want positive support.  The day you don’t feel like getting up and working out?  You want someone who will keep cheering you on.  I recommend having at least one person in your life who will support you in this.  Maybe have them call you on the days you have a workout.  Or, even better, tell them you will pay them a set amount of money if you don’t workout.


Let me also add that all of this will not do any good if you don’t actually get started.  I have gotten stuck myself in the plan and research stage without ever moving forward.  It is a double-edged sword.  Without all of the above, it is easy to lose direction and focus, fizzling out like a wet firework.  (Think of the Ex-Wife from Iron Man 2).  But it is easy to feel like the planning is enough.  (“I planned every detail out and now I’m exhausted.  Time to watch some T.V.!!)  Try to find that balance between the two.

So, in the spirit of community, leave a comment with:

  1. Your specific goal
  2. A basic plan to reach that goal
  3. Who will your support as you follow the plan

The Sufficient Path – February . . . AKA Shake Weights Won’t Cut It


By Flickr User: Herrea; Artwork: Shake Weight (http://www.flickr.com/photos/herrea/4567507691/) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons


Greg Westfall © 2009

Greg Westfall © 2009

Let’s face it.  As a species, we really like the easy way out.  We play the lottery every week to try to make the financial problems go away.  We go through a drive-thru for food.  And yes, we buy Shake Weights to build muscle in just 6 minutes a day!  Let’s not forget we were willing to take Alli, even though their packaging and website clearly warns that taking Alli may cause “oily spotting, loose stools, and more frequent stools that may be hard to control” (from here).

But the truth of the matter is, convenience rarely produces positive results.  If you want a life that is amazing, it usually takes a little sweat.  And a lot of hard work.  This is especially true for our health.  There is no easy pill to make you look and feel good.

So, for the month of February, I want to go over some basics of exercise.  This is the second half of true health, but it must follow a healthy and nutritious diet that can support your exercise.

What can you expect?

  • How do you get started from ground zero?
  • Cardio – Is it worth all the hype?
  • Strength Training – Muscles are your friend.
  • Advancing to victory

Do you have a current exercise routine?  Have you wanted to start, but just couldn’t get going?  Leave a comment and let me know!