Friday, September 30, 2011

Blog Highlight: Justice Pirate

Next in our Blog Highlight series is Justice Pirate.

Content:  At first glance, Victoria's blog may appear to be only a fashion blog, but it is so much more.  Besides her twice-monthly movie review and updates on her family life, Victoria uses her blog (and its popularity) to advocate for the weak.  In response to a conviction God placed upon her heart, she recently decided to stop purchasing vintage clothes.  Then people started sending her clothes to model on behalf of raising awareness for human slavery and sex trafficking.  Each time she posts a new outfit, she also gives some facts about slavery and trafficking.  I have learned so much through her blog, and her outspoken convictions have convicted me as well.  I am thankful to have her in my life to keep me accountable, and I would highly recommend following her blog.

Style: As I said before, she writes with conviction, but also with love.  I would say she has a "no-nonsense" approach to her writing style.  She tells it like it is, and because of her style, you are apt to listen.

Frequency: She posts about three times a week, sometimes more.  She also has frequent features to watch out for.

Don't Miss: Her Modest Fashion Features.  Each week, she scours the internet for the top modest-fashion picks.  Victoria is big on modesty and like to highlight that you can still express yourself through fashion and remain modest.  **update: no more modest fashion features, but you can totally look them up in the archives.  Also check out Ruby-Eyed Okapi, a modesty blog (of which I am a contributor!) that Victoria is the founder of.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

how to move a family in seven days or less

There was no Waste Not Wednesday, as you could probably tell.  This week, our lives have been overtaken by the impending move of our entire family.  In lieu of the usual-green-friendly-endeavor, I will instead ask the question:

How does a family with a three-month-old move with one week's notice?

Beats me, but we're trying.

The last time we moved, I was 8 months pregnant.

That had its own difficulties, and by the end of the day, I was sure I'd be going into labor overnight.
(I didn't.)

(Not then, anyways.  It took about a month later.)
This time, we have a little girl who needs the best of conditions to nap.

The last time we moved, I decided to become a minimalist and got rid of a ton of stuff we never used.

This time, we actually need a lot of the items we gave away.

We are already tired and feeling slightly broken from the weight of the week.

But somehow, some way, we will be moved out by Saturday.

And living in our own home for the very first time.

...praying for the Lord's strength to survive this crazy week...

Oh, and please subscribe/follow this blog:  subscriptions are to the left, following is at the very top of the blog page on the left.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

on confession

"Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other that you may be healed."
James 5:16

"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us of our sins and purify us of all unrighteousness."
1 John 1:8-9

Here's my confession:  I don't practice confession nearly enough.

Not to God, not to anyone else.

Somewhere along the line in my evangelical, Protestant upbringing, confessing daily sin seemed to take the back-burner to so many other things.  Sin-confession seemed to be reserved for "The Big Prayer," and that was it.

I find this to be a problem for two reasons:

  1. God tells us to make a habit of confessing -- to Him and to others.  Even Jesus, when he taught us to pray, included confession of sins.
  2. It's destructive for us if we do not confess, and God is not given any glory for those who cover up their sin.
Living in community has taught me a lot about confession and the potential destruction when it is absent.  Since our lives are usually very independent of one another, it's easy to harbor ill-feelings toward someone.  If you don't live with them day-in and day-out, there just seems to be no reason to rock the boat (especially if you're non-confrontational like me).  But when you live in community, harboring such feelings can become very destructive.  At least in my case, I tend to get very snippy.  I react.  I become indignant and self-righteous.

When I confess, I am humbled.  I let go.  I receive peace and healing.
And my relationships are restored.

Non-confession also breeds an atmosphere of deceit.  Sometimes the sins we have to confess do not directly relate to another human being, but are mainly destructive to ourselves.  Sometimes they are so dark and deep, that we feel we are not free to confess to anyone but God.  We are (rightly) ashamed of our sin, and so we (wrongly) hide it.

1 Peter 5:8 says, "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."  Now, it may just be me, but I think it's a lot easier to be devoured by a lion when you're hiding in the bush next to it.

Let's review that James passage again.  We should confess to one another so that we may be healed.  Confession is not left to "The Big Prayer" of salvation, and then forgotten about.  It's part of the whole discipleship process.  The passage goes on to say, "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  Elijah was a human being, even as we are.  He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years."

If you do not confess to another person, your prayers for healing will lay on your own shoulders.  If you do not share the burden with another, no one else will know how to pray for you.  The power of the sin will continue to wreak havoc as long as you keep it covered up and pretend like nothing is wrong.  We should confess so that the power will belong to Christ.  We should renounce our sin publicly to another, as if to proclaim, "This is sin, it has no place in my life, and I want freedom from it."

The glory will belong to God when others know about how He is helping us conquer our sins.
God is given no glory when we cover up our humanness.
We will also be revealed to be hypocrites if we pretend that we are perfect.

So really -- what's the purpose of not confessing?

I would love to hear from you:  how do you practice confession in your life?  What are the benefits you have seen from confessing, or the problems you have seen from not confessing?

Oh, and please subscribe/follow this blog:  subscriptions are to the left, following is at the very top of the blog page on the left.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

strange living

Alright, I have to admit it:  my life is strange.  Or rather, the life that my husband and I lead is strange.

It's so the opposite of everything I thought would happen in my life.  If you had told me five years ago that 1) I'd spend the first 2 1/2 years of my marriage living in community, or 2) that I'd be married at all by the time I was 25 (I think I was aiming for 40 at that point), or 3) that I'd have a child at 27 and be open to the idea of having more (I was thinking maybe one?  maybe?), or 4) that I'd be married, with a kid, and not owning my own home, or 5) that I'd be working in ministry and no longer acting full time, or 6) that I would relocate with barely two weeks of notice, then yeah -- I probably would have laughed in your face.

Five years ago, I had plans of my own.  And they didn't involve any of the above-mentioned things.
They also didn't involve God. 

But you know what?  I love this life -- this life of strange living -- of out-of-the-box thinking -- of focusing each day to live for the glory and delight of God.  It's exciting.  It's difficult.  It's unusual.  It's a lot of different things, but mostly: it's freeing.

God tells me again and again in His Word not to worry about the future.  Yet I have been a sinful creature plagued by worry -- worrying about going to the grocery store when it's too crowded, or about how we will pay the bills next year, or about what I will wear the next day, or about what people will think of me, or about a million other little and big things.  My life was one lived in fear -- of failing, of people, of uncertainty. 

But the plans I made for myself -- well, where are they now?  And what was it all for?  Why did I worry myself sick over things that never came to be?

Oh, friends.  Our God is so, so wise.  He has so much in store for us, and His plan is much better than what we could possibly anticipate.  We certainly can be diligent and prudent, and go in directions that make sense, but we must hold our plans with a lose grip.

Because any day, God could call you elsewhere.  He could call you to live in intentional community and be blessed by working through various personality types and relationships.  Or He could call you last-minute to live on your own in a beautiful neighborhood.  Or maybe He will call you to Ecuador.  Or Peru.  Or to stay. Right. Here.

But wherever He calls you, don't you want to be able to go and see what His plan is?

I know I do.  Because if I had followed my own plans, I would not be married to my best friend and spiritual partner.  I would not have my glorious little daughter to wake me up every morning with her joyful smile.  I would not be connected to an amazing church family who cares very deeply about us.  I would not have grown to know this Jesus so intimately that it leaves me speechless and blushing.

Seriously.  If you are living life on your own terms, you are missing out on the life you were designed for.

The life God has for you is waiting.

Will you accept it?

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  And not even one sparrow will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows."

Matthew 10:29-31 

Oh, friends.  He loves you so, so much.

Friday, September 23, 2011

visceral encounters with the Father

"O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is your name in all the earth.
When I consider your heavens, the works of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?"
Psalm 8:1, 3-4

I have been made speechless before the Lord.
All I can think of is the verse above.
All I can say is that when people talk about having a relationship with the Lord, they mean it.

I think of Genesis 32 and how Jacob wrestled with the Lord.  Physically.  And how we, too, are meant to wrestle with the Lord.  Sometimes it is very physical.  Sometimes you will feel that you are stretched beyond your ability to stretch.  You feel thinned out; you want to run.  But you don't.  You stay and have it out -- encountering God in a visceral way -- a type of suffering that is bound to bring blessings because you are encountering your heavenly Father as if He were right there in the room with you.  And He is.

And when you start coming out on the other side, praises are on your lips -- praises that you cannot even name or word because there are no words.  There is only awe.

"O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth."

It's in these moments that I feel so small.

"What is man that you are mindful of him?"

And all I can do is sit before the Lord and be.

"The son of man that you care for him?"

To be still and know that He is God.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Blog Highlight: Rage Against the Minivan

Next in our Blog Highlight series is Rage Against the Minivan.


Content:  Kristen is the mom of four kids: two adopted, two biological.  She has the everyday crazy stories of raising kids, to the not-so-everyday dilemmas, to the life-altering-type-events of adoption (hint: she was in Haiti during the earthquake), and everything in between.  Also, as the mother of two black children, Kristen deals head-on with issues of racism.  As you may have gathered from my last Blog Highlight, I appreciate honest conversations about race, and I adore Kristen's incredible articulation of this issue through life experiences.  Overall, her content is (honestly) fascinating.  Her life is full, and she welcomes you into the fullness through her blog.

Style: She's incredibly sarcastic, and crafty with words, which makes for an oft-hilarious time of reading.  I love her writing (and story-telling) so much, that I have easily been sucked into hours of going from post to post. 

Frequency: About four(+) times a week, unless you also follow her on the many blogs to which she contributes, in which case you might be reading Kristen nearly every day (hurray!). 

Don't Miss:  The "Best Of" page.  This might sound strange, but she does a really good job of collecting (in story fashion) some of her best posts on this page, and it's the greatest way to get acquainted with the blog.

regarding body image: sayonara, lies!

If you've known me -- like really known me -- for a good amount of time, you will undoubtedly know that I have struggled deeply with my body image.

It has been a crazy battle with my brain.  For the last ten years (yes, ten years - yikes!) I have gone between a steady diet of unsweetened tea and sugarfree gum to meal bars to sort-of-having-a-normal-diet-but-not to excessive exercise to having a semi-normal diet to cleanses to overeating-after-weeks-of-not-eating to having a super-duper-healthy diet to... well, you get the picture.

So where am I now?

I am in a place of renouncing the lies for what they are: dirty, godless, self-consuming, destructive lies.

Lies: I'm done with you.

And you know what?  My God is bigger than you.

It has only been through the last year -- through being pregnant -- that I have been able to let go of the lies.  Through pregnancy, God has revealed again and again that I am (thank goodness) not in control, and furthermore, that I don't (thank goodness) need to be in control.  And as I care for my little daughter day-by-day, I realize that it's not worth the energy to continue to try to be a certain size... because, well, I have a lot of better things to do with my time.

I'm not forsaking being healthy, as I find a lot of joy from taking care of this earthly body.  I love healthy things and I love exercising (and pushing my limits).  That's just a part of who I am.  And I encourage others to live healthy lives too.

But I'm done wasting energy.
I'm done consuming garbage.
I'm all about actually living.

'Cause hey.  Life is short.
I want to make good use of my time.

And to continue to fill my brain with reality, I'm putting this above my mirror:

These are all Olympic athletes.
Rock on.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Waste Not Wednesday: Homemade Hand Soap

Hand soap always frustrated me.

The little disposable dispensers are convenient, sure -- but the expense adds up quickly, and they produce a lot of needless waste.

For a while, we were just using a bar of soap.  But two problems arose from this method.  One, my soap dishes kept breaking (don't ask.  I'm clumsy.  I was also pregnant at the time.).  Two, the soap left a lot of soapiness on our sink (and it's hard to wash that stuff off, ironically enough).

So I decided a couple weeks ago that I would just start making hand soap. 

I collected together our empty soap dispensers and cleaned them out.

Then I mixed together 
1/2 cup Dr. Bronner's castille soap
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp vegetable oil

I put in the vegetable oil to aid in moisture.  And it really worked.
I have very dry hands, but I've noticed since using the soap that my hands are less dry.
And the castille soap makes it very soapy/bubbly.
Bottom line:  My hands feel very clean.  And not dry.


I'll give this recipe 5 out of 5 stars.

What about you?  What would you recommend for hand soap?

Friday, September 16, 2011

the nightly hauntings of my old self

When I close my eyes at night.  That's when it happens.

The hauntings.

The constant flood of memories and emotions -- of days beautiful and painful and somewhere in between -- all at once.
And the only way to control them -- to get some sleep, some rest -- is to block them out.  But I can't.  They keep coming back.

What do I do with these hauntings?

I ask God in the dark stillness of the night -- Why?  And, What?  What is the purpose, Lord?  Is there something hidden in the memories -- some secret code I am meant to uncover so that I can finally be released from them?  Or must I relive them over and over and over again?

What am I supposed to do?

It's confusing.  I don't get it.
I don't get how I've been made a new creation and yet I am still trapped, living the old-creation-me again and again and again, like one of those irritating pop songs that refuses to leave the echoing corridors of my brain.

Most of the time, I just try not to "go there" in my memory bank.  I take out my iPod, my headphones, and I drown out the haunting with music and podcasts.  But it doesn't work.  Not really.  Because the memories are always there again the next night -- ready to greet me -- forcing me to relive them.
And I do relive them, because I am an actress at my core and it is impossible for me not to feel exactly the way I felt when I lived them the first time. 

I get it.  I remember.  There were a lot of mistakes.  And good times.  
But also mistakes.
I get it, okay?  Okay, it was me.  I remember.  You won't let me forget.
But what do You want me to do with it?

Quite honestly, it's confusing, and I wonder: God, what do I do with these parts of my past - that are simultaneously shameful and beautiful?  How do I completely put off the old self and put on the new self while having memories flood back of an old self that still experiences (some semblance of) joy amidst the sin?


Do you know, dear reader?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

on becoming (or not becoming) a pastor's wife

It's 6:30 pm.
He said he would be home around now, or maybe a little later.
I clean up the plates from dinner, putting aside some food for him.
I text him: "Let me know when you're on your way home please."
He texts back: "Should be leaving soon, but I will let you know."

I go upstairs with the baby and get her ready for bed -- an hour-long ritual of library books and singing and a Bible story and prayer.  When she settles down, I stay with her and wonder if he's downstairs.  It's 7:30 and I haven't heard from him.

"Are you okay?"  I text.  "Did you leave yet?"
Nothing.  I wait 10 minutes.
"Where are you?  What's going on?"
Nothing.  I wait another 10 minutes.
I am starting to get worried.  I know he's out doing ministry work, and I know he is usually very good about communicating if he's going to be out late.
Finally a text back: "I'm okay.  I will be home soon."

Turns out he was having a very important conversation -- and when I heard about his dilemma in either staying or leaving, I understood why he had to stay.  And I understood why it was the rare occasion when he couldn't text back.  I got it.  But it didn't take away the hurt.

And when I was texting him and he wasn't texting back, I remembered this book review I read at her.menuetics.  In The Waiting Room (which I have yet to purchase or read), Eileen Button (a pastor's wife) refers to the church as "the other woman" in her relationship with her husband.  And last night was the first night I felt that way towards ministry.

Before, Elliott and I would go into work -- to do ministry -- together.  We were a team.  We are still a team today, but my part of the teamwork is mainly at home.  I don't begrudge him in the slightest -- it was my own choice after all -- and I really enjoy being home with my baby and taking care of household things.  But we are in a period of transition, and with this transition comes much growth and discovery and discernment.

One thing we have been discovering is Elliott's gifts leading towards becoming a pastor.  Through regular prayer and counsel, we have really seen God affirm this "call" on Elliott's life.  But last night, Elliott looked at me and asked, "Yes, we've seen affirmation in me becoming a pastor, but have you received affirmation in becoming a pastor's wife?"

The question stopped me dead in my tracks.  I felt my eyes swell with tears.  No, I hadn't received such affirmation.  I wasn't even looking for it.  I just assumed Elliott was gifted to become a pastor, and how could I stand in his way?  How could I stand in God's way?  I never thought to wonder if I would be suited for such a life.

I know being a pastor's wife is not the same as being a pastor, and my role in life is not "pastor's wife."  I will still be Rachel.  I will still be uniquely me, even if that unique me is not the typical pastor's-wifey type.  But even if I have a full time job (whether that be teacher or homemaker or somewhere in between), there are duties that a pastor's wife must fulfill.  Hospitality.  Service.  A being-there-ness.  I understand those duties, and I am not great at all of them.  I have a lot of room for growth.

But you know what?  Growth hurts.  Sharing hurts.
And when he asked me the question so pointedly, I wasn't sure.
My gut says, "No.  No more.  I want rest.  I want my husband."
But my gut's not always right.  Because sometimes my gut tells me to hide away and not cultivate deep relationships -- that it's safer to remain locked away from everyone besides my family.  My gut tells me to fear -- to fear achieving anything difficult, to fear perseverance, to fear even leaving my house at times.  My gut tells me to drink chai lattes every single day.

The bottom line:  I can't always trust my gut.

But last night I understood a little bit more what it would mean if Elliott became a pastor.
And it wasn't easy.
And I am left with two lingering questions:

For a pastor, is the church "the other woman?" 
And if it is, am I willing to share my husband if he becomes one?

Waste Not Wednesday: How to Eat All the Food in Your Fridge

There are four of us.
Four adults, two separate couples.

We share groceries.
We make meals together.
And we eat the leftovers together, too.

It's very easy to forget about leftovers -- to forget about the remaining lasagna or steamed broccoli, or even the three carrots that are left in the veggie drawer.  And when you're rushing from home to school and taking care of a baby while prepping dinner, the last thing you have time for is opening up all the tuperware containers in the fridge.

We found that we were inadvertently wasting a lot of food, and wanted to find a solution.  I would like to publicly say that it was Jocelyn who came up with an amazing solution.

Jocelyn found out that you can actually use your refrigerator as a wipe board.

It's true!

So we decided to write down what food was in the fridge

and who was making what meal when

and what we need to get for next week.

It's been a great system so far, and pretty easy to keep up with.

Oh, look!  It's my kitchen helper!

Hi, little kitchen helper!

Have you had this problem in your home?  How have you dealt with it?  Have any more ideas for me and the readers?

For some more thrifty ideas, visit Sorta Crunchy!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Blog Highlight: Mocha Momma

Next in our Blog Highlight series is Mocha Momma.

Content:  I stumbled upon Kelly's blog during a recent hype-up of a racial issue that happened at BlogHer (this is a big conference for blogging women).  You can read about Kelly's (very wise) take on it here.  Apparently, there are some racial tensions between some white bloggers and WOC bloggers.  I'm thankful that, as I have gotten into the blogging world bit by bit, I've been turned on to Mocha Momma.  Kelly's content is absolutely important for every human being, not just bloggers.  She faces issues head-on, unapologetically, and those of us who have been raised in a mainly-white culture (*raises hand*) truly need to listen what she has to say.  I'm also appreciative that Kelly (and her readers) respond to comments and keep the conversation going.  Our world is still so, so broken in this area, and we need to do every little bit we can to reconcile ourselves -- especially if you are a Christian.  God created and is interested in race and heritage and we need to honor our brothers and sisters by learning about their heritage, even (and especially) when it's painful.  It is hurtful to remain in the ignorant mindset of "I don't see color."  Anyways.  Ok, that's a topic I need to address in another post (coming soon) but basically, the content of Kelly's blog really gets me fired up, in a great way.  I hope that you will join the conversation at her blog.  It's also worth noting that she is an assistant principal, so a lot of her posts have to do with education (another passion of mine).

Style: Smart.  Convicting.  Hysterical.  She has a great sense of humor and can weave it into a serious topic.  She's also very personal and shares beautiful (and sometimes difficult) parts of her life.  Being an administrator in education, Kelly also has an expert-tone to her writing (because hey- she's an expert!).

Frequency: I believe she updates about five(+) times a week. 

Don't Miss: Her most recent posts on racial issues, in which she responds to various (common?) questions about race (so far there is a Part I, Part II, and Part III is coming soon!)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

in light of the previous post...

This is so encouraging - a post about a family selling all they had to move to Peru:

Please read!

the truth of it is I'm scared

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy... But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven."  
Matthew 6:19-20

"No one can serve two masters."  
Matthew 6:24

 "Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone instead?"
Matthew 7:9

"You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.  A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.  So it is with you.  Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy."
John 16:20-22

"Consider it pure joy, brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything."
James 1:2-4

It seems to be everywhere these days.

Hurricane Irene.
Tropical Storm Lee.
Wildfires in Texas.
Flooding.  Earthquakes.  Tsunamis.

It's easy to gloss over these news items with a mere sigh.  "That's so sad," we might think as we read about people losing their homes -- their lives.  But we manage to stay secure in our own homes.  It hasn't happened to us, and it doesn't seem likely to.

But I can't shirk these tragic realities.   People lost their homes.  And in some cases, their families.
And this doesn't even begin to cover tragedies worldwide, like in Haiti and Japan.

The realities make me think hard about what I'm seeking after.  Because to be honest, I dream of having a home.  I know that may come as a surprise as I rail against The American Dream and currently live in a different type of home, but it's true.  Deep down, I pray for a home to call our own.  A place to settle down in, for years to come.  Stability.  Comfort.  Yes, I do want these things.

And I don't think it's bad to want them, or even pray for them.  But when I read about these homes being destroyed, I'm reminded that we cannot put our hope and trust in our homes.  Or our bank accounts.  Or any of those things we are told will bring us ultimate happiness.  What happens when -- just like that -- they are gone?

It scares me.  It scares me because I don't know how strong I would be if we finally bought a home and then it was destroyed.  I hope that I would be confident in the Lord's provision and faithfulness, but I think it would be really hard for me.  And there's also a part of me inside that is afraid to ask for good things -- like if I ask God for a home of our own, that somehow my prayer will have the opposite effect and He will instead ask me to live in community for the rest of my life.  Or maybe He would give us a home and then take it away in a hurricane.

I know this isn't Biblical.  I also know from experience that this is not the character of our God.  But sometimes there are trials we must face that will bring blessings.  I think of Job.  I think of James 1.  I think of how, unlike The American Dream, Jesus promises steadfastness and hope and complete love, but he does not promise happiness.

And in this culture, that's tough to swallow, isn't it?  
In this person -- in my own person -- that's tough to swallow.  
Because the reality is that I want happiness and comfort and The American Dream.  And I want others to have it too.  I don't want people to be homeless and starving and babies to be crying because they don't have a warm blanket and are surrounded by rain.

But I know in my own life, I need to hold on to the things around me with a very loose grip.
And sometimes I find that very difficult to do.


Remember that passage about the rich man, the camel, and the eye of a needle?  


Lord, help me store up treasures in heaven.
And to trust and to trust and to trust.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Waste Not Wednesday: The Secret Weapon of Natural Cleaning

Now introducing...

The Wonderful!

The Amazing!

The All-Powerful!


(And I'm only partly joking.)

Seriously, do you even know how many uses you can get out of vinegar?  I'll highlight just a mere few, and then I'd love to hear any more of your suggestions and uses.  My housemate, Jocelyn, clued me into this wonder...uh, thing (what exactly is vinegar, anyways?) shortly after we moved in by making homemade all-purpose cleaner.

The ingredients?  Equal parts water and vinegar (although I think we go a little heavy on the water part).

What -- you may ask -- exactly do we clean with this all-purpose cleaner?  Here's a quick run-down:  the sink, the counter, the stove, the floors (be it tile or wood), the toilet, the bathtub, the shower, etc...

Need I go on?

My favorite part about the spray is that we don't have to worry about spraying toxins around little bitty babies.  So they like the spray too.

And if you're not too keen on having your kitchen smell like vinegar (it's not that bad and you get used to it fairly quickly), you can try to put some peppermint oil into the mix.  Although be forewarned:  sometimes your spray will smell like peppermint, sometimes it will smell like vinegar.  It's hard to evenly distribute the peppermint oil.

A word before we go on:  you may be asking yourself (I know I did) about why exactly vinegar is so good an all-purpose cleaner.  Don't we eat it after all?  How can it be so powerful that germs and bacteria will be killed off?  Here's what I found out (with some linkage):  According to The Vinegar Institute (oooh, fancy!), "Vinegar is made by two distinct biological processes, both the result of the action of harmless microorganisms (yeast and "Acetobacter") that turn sugars (carbohydrates) into acedic acid."  Yay, harmless microorganisms!  And I just found out from this website that vinegar has several vitamins and is made from fruit.  Cool.

But I digress.  We want to know why it cleans.  Ah, here we go:  "The acid in vinegar cuts through the grease and germs on your counter tops and is also the ingredient that makes your favorite pickles so tart and safe to eat by inhibiting bacteria and mold."

Ok, are you sold yet on the power of vinegar?  No??  Let's go on, then...

As I've mentioned previously, we use cloth diapers in this house, which means (yup!) we have to clean them ourselves.  We have special cloth-diaper detergent, but it's also important to be extra careful about removing bacteria in the pre-rinse wash cycle.  Now, I could spend a bit of money on specialized cloth-diaper-bacteria-killer, OR....

I could use vinegar!

Just put a 1/4 cup of white vinegar in the pre-wash, and say goodbye to bacteria!

(Are you excited yet??)

The next use of vinegar I want to highlight I have not actually tried yet, although I am planning on it soon.  I just need to find some extra time when I don't have to actually go out anywhere, just in case it flops.  I've heard (and have known some people who have done it) that you can use a vinegar concoction to clean your hair.  I am thoroughly intrigued, and will post the recipes I try and the results once I go through with the process.  I have to admit that I am thoroughly hooked on volumizing shampoo, so it might take a bit of time to get used to a vinegar rinse.  BUT it doesn't take away from the fact that vinegar is amazing.

I also enjoy eating the balsamic variety on my salads.

And so in the Waste Not Wednesday series, I'm giving vinegar

10 out of 5 stars.

Because it's my blog and I can.

For more green resources, check out this link every single week!  AMAZING!!!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Blog Highlight: Elizabeth Esther

Next in our Blog Highlight series is Elizabeth Esther.

Content:  The content in Elizabeth's blog is varied, personal, and pointed.  She talks about her upbringing in a cult and the effects it has had on her life, on now being Catholic, and on honest struggle with such things as depression.  I really think that main draw to her blog is that she's not afraid to say deeply personal and sometimes-controversial things.  Most recently, Elizabeth came back from a trip to Bolivia utterly transformed by the poverty she witnessed there.  It's been really exciting to see how bold she is in her new rejection of American consumerism, especially since she has such a wide influence.

Style: Like most of the blogs I read, Elizabeth's writing is witty.  But it goes beyond that.  She is convicting.  She writes from her own convictions and uses her words powerfully to convict others.  There is also an element to her writing that makes you feel like you're sitting next to her in her living room, hearing her confess the deepest of struggles directly to you. 

Frequency: I believe she updates about four(+) times a week.

Don't Miss: Her most recent thoughts since her journey to Bolivia and back.  Now is a great time to start following her!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

want some weekend reading?

Hey friends,

If you're looking for some new blogs, check out Elizabeth Esther's Saturday Evening Post.  It's a great way to discover undiscovered blogs.  If you find anything that you love, leave me a comment and let me know, since I unfortunately won't have time to read them all (hello, grad school!!!).


Friday, September 2, 2011

to the people who read my blog and think, "What is WRONG with this girl?"

There are people reading this blog that find me an oddity.
They don't get it.  They don't understand what happened.
They read my posts and wonder if this is the same girl they knew.  Because the girl they knew wasn't super-religious.  She didn't talk about God or act any differently from them.
They probably think my mind has been usurped by some sort of fringe cult.  Or maybe that Elliott brainwashed me or something.
And although some probably muse at my oddity in silence, others are tweeting and conversing about me openly, asking, "What the heck happened?  Who is this girl?"

I have a few things to say in response.

The first thing is that I was shamefully silent about what was really going on internally during all those years.  I may have seemed confident, happy, and carefree, but I was seriously torn up.  Although I have had active periods of running from God, I have never been separated from Him (I am living and breathing proof of Romans 8:38-39).  I was living in a constant state of befuddlement and confusion and wrestled daily with the Lord.  I wanted to think that it didn't matter -- that He didn't matter -- and that I could live my life the way I wanted and be happy.  But although you may have known one version of Rachel -- the outer shell, as I like to call her -- there was always another Rachel brooding underneath.  So if you look at my blog posts and status updates and wonder who the heck I am, the truth is I've been this person the whole time.  The only real difference is I am no longer fragmented because I have been made whole in Christ.

Which brings me to my second thought: despite what it may seem, my personality -- as a whole -- hasn't changed.  I am still goofy and slightly strange and still care about people.  I know, from truthful conversations, that some fear I have jumped off the deep-end into the scary-loud-evangelical-fundamentalist fringe.  I haven't.  The "Christians" that make the news -- those that picket funerals and preach a false gospel of hatred -- have nothing to do with me and the Lord.  I don't know what Bible those people are reading, but it's not the same Bibles we have in our home and at our church.  If you're interested in knowing the Christians that don't make the news, talk to me (or go here or here or even here).  And please know that I am always willing to have a conversation.  If you're wondering how it is I believe what I believe and what exactly I believe, just ask me:  chellysimko (at) gmail (dot) com

And thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I need to be honest and tell you what I told my friend the other night.  I have a friend who, over the course of the last 2-5 years, has experienced an immense amount of loss and suffering.  When we talk, it's hard to know what to say.  But the other night I said some (long overdue) things to her that I also want to say to you, whoever you are (I'm not exactly sure who reads this, but I have some ideas).

You need to know that you have inherent value because you are made in the image of your Creator.  No amount of "bettering" yourself -- through exercise or education or comparing to others -- will allow you to know how valuable you are in comparison to knowing that God. Created. You. Specifically.  You have value because you were created.  Period.  Accepting this will help you understand the love of God more clearly.  Psalm 139.

Another thing to know is that as long as you put your trust in anything of this world, you will get let down.  My friend mentioned that even when I have suffering in my life, I seem to be able to deal with it really well.  This doesn't mean I slap on a happy face and just dismiss suffering because "everything has a reason."  I do cry, I do mourn, I do question.  But I have hope because my trust is in the Lord -- not in Elliott, not in my family, not in myself.  If I put my trust in those things (as I have done in the past), then I am prone to despair because everything and everyone will, at some point, disappoint.  I trust in God because He has shown again and again to be faithful -- in my life, in other's lives, in the Bible -- and faithful not only in the way that I expect, and not only in the way that makes me happy, but faithful nonetheless.  I also trust in God because He asks me to, and He is God.  He is Sovereign and I sure-as-heck don't know what's going on in this world or my life.  But He does.  And so I trust.  (And no, it's not easy, but that's another discussion altogether.)

I also have hope because it's not about me.  This has been a huge paradigm-shift in my life, as I once bought into the lie that my life was about what made me happy and fulfilled.  Let me tell you straight up:  if life was about me, I wouldn't be here.  I would have given up long ago.  I have suffered deep depression and severe anxiety beyond my own comprehension.  And if life was just about me, I would have said enough and just ended it (not recently, but in the past, this was a severe struggle).

But one huge indication of the fact that it's not about me is the reality that if I were to end my life, it would affect others deeply.  We are all connected to each other in community -- we need each other -- and that is the way God designed it from the beginning.  I cannot do my own thing -- whatever makes me happy -- and not have it affect another human being.

And I have been given hope in knowing that not only is it not about me, but it is about God and the Greater Narrative.  When I doubt what is happening or ask why or want to throw my arms up and just say, "ENOUGH," I can remember that I am only part of the Greater Narrative.  And I am so thankful for that revelation.  It is incredibly freeing.

John 3:16-21
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of Gods one and only Son.  This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.   But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God."
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