Being Present

Over the holidays I read a letter from me to my parents, apologizing for something I did in college. In it I sounded like a blathering idiot, and I laughed. But I kept reading and soaked up words about what I had thought God’s will was for my life at that time. It had been based on what someone in my life had suggested, and it definitely wasn’t from God! It got me thinking, fascinated, about how all my life I’ve been searching for God’s will. Somehow those words have been etched in my memory from very early childhood. I don’t remember where I first heard that phrase, but I latched onto it.

Fast forward to this year, when I will be thirty-seven. I think I’ve finally gotten an inkling as to what God’s will is all about for life. And I’m ready to explore it.

Over the last few years, I’ve worked too much, yelled too much, eaten too much, drunk too much, and wasted time — too much. When I contemplate it, I realize that I really could have been doing more. Not more for more’s sake…just it’s that I haven’t prioritized time well. The examples of my squandered time seem endless. That little gnawing curiosity draws me to Facebook or Twitter. I fill hours over the week with random interweb surfing, usually for my own knowledge thirst (addiction?). Even when my kiddos are begging me to play or simply look at something they’ve done.

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Yeah.

I’m over it.

There are too many things gnawing at me to change. I have had a feeling in my gut that I’ve blocked for too long. So I’m finally going to let go of the things I know distract me. I think it is the only way for me to focus on what I ought to be doing. In each moment of each hour of each day, to try to be like Him. To look through my eyes and really see the people around me. To savor the moments He has given me. And finally, to share His love, freely.

No change happens until there is a change of perspective. It does not wait and wonder if the the good will happen someday. It’s in the habit of seeing the good happening right now. Life is not an emergency. It’s a gift. Why race past the gift? What else are you trying to get to — the presence of God is in this present moment. -Ann Voskamp

Letting go of personal social media and … all random internet … this year, means letting God teach me … whatever that might be, I’m wide open and yearning for it.

Blessings to you this year, and always.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

 

A Pinterest Saturday

With a rabid Clemson fan for a husband, I expected to be left alone today, while he supported the Tigers against Florida State. Though Football and cooler weather go together, that’s not exactly how I wanted to welcome the first day of fall. 

Instead, as soon as the kiddos woke up, we got dressed and went to the donut shop to have a donut. Then we crossed the street to the park, where they had the entire playground to themselves. I learned why, since the first sliding experience “cleaned” the dew right off. They had sopping wet bottoms within minutes. Did that stop them? No. They had a ball; I can imagine it would be like at the amusement park but not having to stand in any lines.

We came home and cleaned up then went back out to the grocery store. Yeah, it is one of those must be done items, but again, we enjoyed ourselves. I got a missing ingredient to make one of the Pinterest recipes I planned to test.

Lunch, nap for the little, and a short but lovely visit with a friend, some laundry and now onto the tests. 

Technically, I’m testing three Pinterest pins today: baked eggs, pumpkin cake with apple cider glaze, and  a “woebegon whites” laundry miracle. The first two are finished, but the whites are still soaking. I’ll report back when I know if it worked (for me). 

So the apple cider cake didn’t have a chance to cool before I dug my fork in. I’m not a huge fan of pumpkin pie, but this pumpkin cake is pretty tasty. And fat free, ya’ll! I may or may not have eaten nearly a quarter of it already. And I am actually envisioning it with my coffee in the morning. Mmmmm.

The baked eggs turned out well — although not uniform in the least. I scrambled some and put whole eggs in the other muffin tin wells. As you can see, those eggs must have come from different mamas! Which reminds me that I forgot English muffins at the grocery store today. Oh well, it would have messed with my $50 savings!

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Enjoy the rest of YOUR first day of Fall, Autumn, whatever you call it. :)

Vinegar and Conditioning

I’m not “crunchy” or “granola”—at least not like most people would define those terms. I recycle, sure. But I use regular laundry detergent, wear perfume, and I love driving. My. Car. I’m also NOT one to advocate dreds or not shampooing. I find that gross and actually unclean.

So keep that in mind when I tell you I’ve quit shampooing in the “traditional” sense.

I’ve had pretty rough luck with normal shampoos for a long time. Apparently my scalp is pretty darn sensitive, and shampoos are either too harsh or too weak. I have barely been able to go more than a day in between washing with regular shampoo, simply because my hair is either greasy or doesn’t smell good after a day. Shampoos also tend to leave a residue or make my scalp unhappy in other ways, too, which creates other issues like anxiety when wearing black. And no, Selsun Blue does not work (for me).

For about a year now I’ve been using plain, white vinegar in my fabric softener cup for laundry, and it does a wonderful job. Then I started using it to clean the commode and many other household items. Between vinegar, baking soda, and Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds and liquid castile soaps, I’ve got my cleaners covered. Gone are the harsh toilet bowl cleaners, and I cannot remember the last time I used bleach.

So, I figured why not try something different on my hair, too.

I did a lot of research and found some very interesting recipes for “natural” shampoos. I just can’t get excited about scrubbing baking soda into my scalp or using water only. Pretty sure I’d be accused of having gone on an extended camping trip with no facilities. But then I stumbled onto this recipe. It was diluted more than others, but still had the addition of a couple of random ingredients that I do not (and don’t plan to) keep on hand. The first time I made this, I had major reservations. I halved the recipe to conserve my vinegar, but it would then also fit a plastic 16 oz squirt bottle. The gal with the recipe avoids all plastic, but this gal isn’t taking glass into the shower! To the mixture I added a couple of drops each of spearmint, sweet orange, and eucalyptus essential oils.

Result? I have not had a single moment smelling of vinegar, and my hair still smells ok the 3rd day after shampooing. I could NOT say that with regular shampoo/conditioner.

I have tested both. I’ve used a traditional shampoo and then this vinegar rinse with great results. I’ve also tried a diluted Dr. Bronner’s peppermint castile soap “shampoo” followed by this – with equally great results. I might actually prefer the castile soap, but it must be very diluted, or it is just too drying (for me).

So there you go. A random moment inside my life and maybe something you want to try – or are horrified by. :)

Vinegar as a Conditioner

  • Just under 4 cups of hot water
  • 3/4 cup vinegar
  • 3-6 drops of essential oils that make you happy

Make Your Own Chocolate Syrup

I love chocolate milk. The kind sold in the glass jar at Earthfare is easily my favorite. While I’m picky about chocolate milk, I’m even pickier about chocolate syrup.

 

 

 

 

 

When our first child was born, he was nursed and bottle fed both breastmilk and formula. He liked both but obviously did not enjoy regular cow’s milk when that transition was made. We dabbled with flavoring the milk only very slightly, and he was more open to it. Over the last few years we have tried different chocolate flavors and made some interesting discoveries.

First of all, we used Ovaltine exclusively, because it had vitamins and minerals. We felt more comfortable knowing we were fortifying him with something sort of nutritious, until we realized that it had loads of artificial colors.
Eww. I’m curious why you need red and blue when chocolate is brown naturally?!

So we switched to completely nutritionally-void chocolate syrup to avoid the colors (which he is sensitive to). We hardly use a teaspoon, but it can be enough! I disliked the added flavors and HFCS in something that is so simple, it just doesn’t need a whole lot more than chocolate and sugar.

We tried (and it is still my current store-bought favorite) the Midnight Moo (organic, even!) from Trader Joe’s.

 

 

 

 

 

But it still has weird ingredients. (Excuse the chocolate smudge!)

 

 

 

 

 

So I decided to try making my own. Turns out it is super easy. The hardest part was filtering through the many varying recipes on google. As I do often with a recipe, I tinkered, and determined that the following tastes very chocolatey and sweet enough.

Homemade Chocolate Syrup
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (used Trader Joe’s)
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
dash of salt (to taste)
1 cup water
2 tsp vanilla (made my own via Passionate Homemaking)

In a small pot combine all ingredients except vanilla. Wisk while bringing to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook a couple of minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Once cool add the vanilla. Stir and store in a squeeze bottle (my old Chocolate Moo bottle) or container of your choice. It does thicken considerably, so you need to be able to get to it with a spoon or shake it!

Then just enjoy!

One Thousand Gifts

I’m reading a book now called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. My older sister gave it to both my younger sister and me with the sidenote that we will understand how she thinks when we read this book. Silly sister, I already understand you! But joking aside, this book has been simply wonderful. And timely. In this very strange time I’ve found myself in this last year, and entering a new stage even now, this book has been such a blessing.

Eucharisteo – the giving of thanks – always precedes the miracle. Jesus broke bread, gave thanks, and then gave himself, the ultimate miracle. Throughout her book we are reminded of the tough action required of us. To be thankful in ALL things in order to receive the miracle — the grace. But then we must also let that grace flow from us. When we are blessed, then so can we bless. Like the river Jordan that ends at the Dead Sea, if there is no outlet for the good that comes in — if we are not sharing that same good/blessing others — then the good flowing to us will stagnate. We must open our hands to receive grace, and our hands must stay open to give that grace to others. The more thanks we give HIM, the more humble we become, and then the more He reveals Himself. It’s that the feelings of joy begin with thanksgiving.

Try it. I’ve been blessed by focusing on being thankful for anything I can think of when James makes a mess or Anna pinches him. When the laundry piles keep multiplying and I’m staring a proposal deadline in the eyes. Give thanks. And wait for the miracle.

Thanks, Claire!

Hating on Religion?

Have you seen the “I hate religion but I love Jesus” video, done by Jefferson Bethke? If not, maybe you should: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IAhDGYlpqY&feature=player_embedded) It has flooded my facebook and twitter feeds with mixed comments. While I usually don’t put much stock in these kinds of posts, for some reason I clicked on it. And it was impactful. It seems to be just what people are looking for, BUT…

While the spirit of it struck me as beautiful, something about it didn’t sit right either. I’m no theologian; moreover, I wish I was more studied in the scriptures. Even though I liked a lot of Bethke’s message, I was left with a worrisome feeling that maybe I shouldn’t like it so much.

Ever felt that way?

So I started researching…well, googling, to find some smarter people on this kind of subject. Thanks to a writer/scholar/minister (Kevin DeYoung) who validated my concern and explained the reasons with grace and backing of scripture. But he didn’t just knock the video, the artist or the faulty theology and leave it at that. He went quite a step further and actually talked with Jefferson about his poem. The dialogue between the two, shown in the email snippets in the below post link, is just full of grace, humility and a genuine love for one another as well as trying to get Jesus’ message shared…accurately.

Oh, how we could all learn from this and strive to be better at this kind of dialogue.

Enjoy the full post of the conversation here: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2012/01/14/following-up-on-the-jesusreligion-video/

A lesson from dust bunnies?

This is a rant. Or a scream for lack of sanity. Or a sigh of resignation.

Tonight I was supposed to be at two places at once. Just a bit earlier I sent the final draft of a proposal that I spent the entirety of this last weekend working on. And there’s a conference call at crack of dawn-thirty (7:30) in the morning to confer about said proposal. The kiddos will not be going to school, so guess who gets to participate in this conference call with me? Yep, Won’t that be fun? And professional? *sigh*

I’m annoyed at my life right about now, but there’s no one to blame but me. No one else accepted any of this. Just me. Yeah, very annoyed—angry even—at myself. See, that is NOT what this freelance, consulting gig was supposed to be about!

As I type, and think, I get more frustrated about what I’ve let happen. I’m an admitted workaholic, as I continue to prove to myself and family and some friends who know this about me. And now I think that I purposefully let this get in the way of allowing me to do what I (thought I) wanted to try and do: be more mom, less professional. I think I might be kind of afraid of being “just a mom.” Ha. That’s crazy.

No, what is crazy is that my goals of late have all been missed. Except for work deadlines, everything else–yes, everything else–has fallen to the wayside. My volunteer duties. My family. My mental health. My relationships with others.

Not all relationships. I’ve helped foster the relations of the dust bunnies. Yes, they have enjoyed—are enjoying—this time of my household neglect. While I’ve shirked my relationships, they have cultivated theirs. Looks like a reunion happening under the desk right now. Maybe there’s a lesson there. Or maybe not.