Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 12 Posts of 2011

Well, 2011, it's been a great year.  In one little year, we had a baby, moved into our own home, and I finished my Master's in Education.  Additionally, blog traffic increased around summer time.  Since you may be new(ish) to my blog, I thought I'd pick out the highlights from each month.  To be honest, my most popular posts by far are the Waste Not Wednesday series (who woulda thunk it, huh?), but you can always look at them by clicking the tab above.

Please take a look and leave a comment.

Peace out, '11!  Can't wait to see what awaits us in '12!













Friday, December 30, 2011

an audience of one

"How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?"
John 5:44, NIV

It's so very easy to live in constant fear of man.
Everywhere we look, we are given a standard to be a certain way, to act a certain way, to want a certain kind of praise from certain kinds of people. It gets confusing. It gets frustrating. Does anyone ever live up to the (multiple/dualistic/superficial/spastic) standards of men?

Why do we get down on ourselves when we don't?

When we look in the Bible, we see a different standard. But how much are we looking to that standard of how to live? Without effort, we are inundated with the standard of man, but it takes effort to understand and digest and yearn for the standard of God. And when you do start to digest God's standard, you realize - "This is impossible. I can't ever live up to this way of living."

But why do we get down on ourselves when we don't?
We have already been told that we can't.

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
Romans 3:23, ESV

It doesn't end there, though. For although we fall short of God, we do not have to live in fear of falling short.

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
Romans 8:1, ESV

With this Good News in mind, please be freed of the standard of man.
Live and breathe for an Audience of One.

"This Journey is My Own" - Sara Groves

When I stand before the Lord, I'll be standing alone.
This journey is my own.
Still I want man's advice, and I need man's approval,
but this journey is my own.

Why would I want to live for man and pay the highest price?
What would it mean to gain the whole world, only to lose my life?

So much of what I do is to make a good impression.
This journey is my own.
So much of what I say is to make myself look better.
This journey is my own.
'Cause trying to please the world, it was breaking me down,
It was breaking me down.

Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one,
Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one.
Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one,
'cause I know this journey is my own.

Why would I want to live for man and pay the highest price?
What would it mean to gain the whole world, only to lose my life?

You can live for someone else, and it will only bring you pain.
I can't even judge myself.
Only the Lord can say, "Well done."

Reposted from August 15, 2010.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

dirty feet

Like Eve, I cover myself and hide away.
Because every day, I am more and more aware of my unworthiness.
My guilt and shame consumes me.

I look down and see my dirty feet, cracked and soiled and unpresentable.

Photo by joeyjoe000

I hide them. Then I hide my hands. Then my thighs. Then my face. My hair. My eyes. My soul. Everything.

"He poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet.
"No," said Peter. "You shall never wash my feet."
Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."
"Then Lord," Simon Peter replied. "Not just my feet, but my hands and my head as well!'"

We speak of repentance, and I feel my soul crushed by my need for repentance. I want to repent every day of every thing, but I feel that my efforts are never good enough. My prayers are never enough. I am still crushed. Like Peter, I cry out to my Father, "Clean all of me, Lord!"

"Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet;
his whole body is clean."

Jesus has already cleansed me.
I have already been forgiven.

But I still have dirty feet.

Repentance is good news.
It is recognizing where we have dirty feet,
and recognizing the horror if we keep those feet dirty.

Thank me.
Call out.
And I will save you.

(Thanks to Rev. John McElwain for his inspiration and teaching on this topic.)

Reposted from July 22, 2010.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

when plans change: victory through Christ

We have a plan. It is a good plan: a dinner date with new city friends. We leave from my class and arrive with time to spare. It is relaxing--fun--enjoyable. It is simple.

But as we turn the corner of yet another street void of available parking spots, I realize our plans must change. We are a half hour late with no parking space in sight. I search our phones for our new friends' phone number. We don't have it.

Finally--an idea: why don't I go upstairs to tell them and hang out until Elliott finds a spot?

It's a simple solution... unless you're a person with a recent history of severe agoraphobia.

Yet I knew it was the only solution, and so I step out of the car onto Rittenhouse Square and start searching for their high-rise, all the time keeping the Caedmon's Call song close to heart:

"This day's been crazy but everything's happened on schedule.
From the rain and the cold to the drink that I spilled on my shirt.
'Cause you knew how you'd save me before I fell dead in the garden.
And you knew this day long before you made me outta dirt."

God knew all of this craziness would happen. He knew I'd have to walk into a nearly-stranger's high-rise by myself. He knew, and so it must turn out okay. I must be okay in the end. I just have to keep going and trust him.

I walk into the cathedral-sized lobby and "announce" myself to the desk clerk. She calls up to their apartment and waits for an answer, and I'm grateful for the delay. I've never been in a place quite like this before. I'm intimidated. I keep praying for Elliott to walk through those doors. I walk slowly. I am overly thankful to everyone who helps me. I start to pace. She sends me upstairs, to floor 14.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."

And so I walk, praying for the grace to trust and for the feet to walk in straight paths. I step out of the elevator into a long, ominous hallway a la The Shining. It's at this point that I think I might have a panic attack. As I walk down the hallway looking for their unit, I feel myself begin to shake. Tears swell up in my eyes and I feel the impending doom falling upon me.

And then:  something new.

He said to me:  "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness."

I repeat the verse over and over again with each step, and feel the peaceful presence of the HOly Spirit descend upon me.  I stick out my right hand and it feels like the Lord takes it and guides me through the self-imposed dark tunnel.  And so we walk hand in hand to my destination.  And I forget about the anxiety.  I forget about the overwhelming feelings.  I am present.  Here.

I knock on the door.

Reposted from September 3, 2010.

Monday, December 26, 2011

this is your spiritual act of worship

We speak of Romans 12 and offering our bodies as living sacrifices. We acknowledge that life is to be our act of worship--that worship should not be shuffled off to one corner of our lives.

But as we go around and share prayer requests, I see that there is deep pain. There are serious concerns here. People are hurting.

The inevitable question is posed: "How can I live a life of worship when I am walking through life in so much pain?"

Does worship equal happiness? Does is always mean the raising of hands and joyous singing and smiles on faces?

I offer up a little something about living with God throughout the dark times and pain--that worship is more than how we conceive it--that maybe it's about walking with God in the every day, acknowledging our pain and grief and knowing that our Father grieves with us.

And then my husband gives better insight: "If Rachel and I didn't go through hard times, how would I ever know that we love each other?"

The light bulb clicks on in my head. The truth of this simple statement echoes into my heart. I know that my disposition tells me to run away from difficult things--to harden my heart or hide or ignore it. I want to run away from difficult conversations with Elliott, but we sit it out. We talk it through. And I always know he loves me, and he always knows I love him.

Isn't it the same with God?

And as we separate our own ideas of worship from the true spiritual act of worship mentioned in Romans 12, I would still encourage us to lift our hands up as a child lifts up her hands to her daddy... as if to say,

"I can't go on any more by myself. Pick me up."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

breathing hallelujah

I could keep going.
I could.
But I don't.

Instead, I put the tea on and heat up some soy milk.
I grab my best cup and saucer, putting a small square of dark chocolate on the side.
I situate myself on the couch, facing the Christmas tree, adorned with twinkling lights.

I breathe.

I accept the space given to me in this moment...
because so often, I just let these spaces slip right by me,
but today - I take the space.

I breathe.

My mind starts off in a whirlwind - I tell God about my day and all the things I've done and all the things I want to do, and all the things I have yet to do, and memories cloud my brain until there's so much noise-NOISE-NOISE rattling around that my mind has merely forgotten that my body is sitting still.

And it seems like this can sometimes be the season of noise...
if we let it.

But it's not a season for mere noise, but for joyful noise -
for sounds resounding - echoing throughout our lives.

Christ has come.
Christ IS come.
Christ will come again.

I breathe again into the stillness -- in and out -- 

a simple, a quiet, a truthful -


Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2011 though preparing for a newborn baby...

When we heard we were pregnant, we prepared.  We made ready our lives for our little one to arrive.  We collected used clothing, we registered for baby items, and we read books and blogs on becoming parents.  We prepared because it was the responsible thing to do, but we also prepared for another reason.  Even before we knew Gwendolyn's name -- before we knew if she was a boy or a girl -- we loved our baby.  And we wanted to express that love in some tangible way.  It seems hard to express love to a being that you can neither touch nor see, but we couldn't help ourselves.  And so as an act of love towards Gwendolyn, we prepared.

If you've ever prepared for a baby, or have known someone preparing for a baby, you know that such preparations are contagious.

And so it must also be with our preparations for the Lord.

Our preparations for Christ should be just as (and more) contagious as are our preparations for a baby.
Christ came once as a small baby, and though Mary and Joseph prepared for His arrival, no one else really did.  We often think of the manger scene with fondness, but have you ever considered the tragedy of the nativity?  Here He was!  Our King -- our Savior -- come to earth, but where were the trumpets to announce His arrival?  Where were His people?

Jesus came to earth as a baby.
And we messed up.
We missed it.

But let's not forget: we have a second chance.

And so -- just as we tangibly prepare for the arrival of an infant -- we must also prepare -- make space in our daily eating-breathing-doing-working lives for our Savior's return.

"The one who endures to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come... Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."

Matthew 24: 13-14, 44

Thursday, December 22, 2011

linking it up: kindred spirits!

My dear friend, Victoria, wrote a nice little post about our kindred-spirit friendship.  She also included some lovely pictures from our last visit together (we usually average one visit per year if that, but this year, we got two in!).  I've highlighted her blog before, so it may look familiar to you!  She also blogs here, alongside her husband.

(I have known this lovely lady since the second grade!)

Victoria and her husband run a photography business called Shine Like Stars photography.  She took the picture that adorns my header of the blog.  Please check it out, especially if you live in New Jersey!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

WNW: 'Tis the Dry Season: How to heal dry hands

It's not the cold.  It's not the snow.  It's not the Christmas lights adorning the homes nor the carols being played on the radio.  No.  Personally, I always know it's winter by my hands.  With the cold, dry air comes hurting, dry hands for this chica.  And I know I'm not alone.

It seems that each year, it gets worse and worse.  I tried to ignore it at first -- going through tube after tube of hand lotion before it was Spring again and my hands weren't painfully dry any more.  But two years ago, working as a barista left my hands victim to harsh hand sanitizers,wicked hot steam, and constant washing.  I couldn't ignore the dryness any more because it was just too painful.

So after researching and trying out different methods, I've stumbled upon a strange but foolproof (and natural/easy/cheap) way for keeping my hands soft in the in winter months.  I call it...


(Okay, okay.  This is really weird.  But bear with me.  If you've ever had a problem with dry hands, this is definitely worth a try if you're willing to laugh at yourself in the process.)

Basically, what you're going to do is re-introduce your hands to moisture and then lock it in overnight.  It's weird, but it works.

Step One: The Warm-Water Soapy Soak

Grab a basin of warm (or hot, depending on what you can stand) soapy water.  I use Dr. Bronner's castille soap because it's full of healthy, natural oils (and your hands will greatly benefit from the oil!).  If you don't have castille soap, try rubbing a spoonful of olive oil on your hands before soaking them.

Place your hands in the water and soak them for 15-20 minutes (usually I have Elliott talk to me or we watch a few clips on Hulu to let the time pass, since there's not much you can do with your hands soaking in a basin of hot water).

Step Two: Vaseline Is Your Friend

Petroleum jelly is so weird.  How in the world does it work so well??  I tried looking it up but I still can't really figure it out.  Anyways, get yourself a nice big jar of PJ and rub it all over your hands (YES, I know it's greasy, but trust me!), paying extra attention to dry spots.

Step Three: Sock Hands!!!

So if you have soft, clean, cotton gloves, you can simply put those on over your vaseline-covered hands. But if you are, like me, fresh out of cotton gloves, grab a pair of clean, cotton socks (yup, I'm serious) and cover those hands for the night.  Yes, I said for the night.  To be honest, I usually wake up in the middle of the night and take them off.

Step Four: Maintenance Through Hand Soap

To keep my hands soft day-in and day-out (and so I don't have to do the Sock Hands method every night), I use my homemade hand soap.  It really moisturizes and is super natural.  My hands revolt against me whenever I travel somewhere else, so I actually might start traveling with my own soap.

This post will be a part of the weekly link-up at Your Green Resource, so check it out!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I want to be a Mary

"As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.  she came to him and asked, 'Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me.;'

"'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'"

Luke 10:38-42

I have read this passage many times, and I have heard many speak on it.  I sort of haphazardly filed it away in my head as, "Good Lessons to Know but Not Think About," but didn't take it much to heart.  The other day, however, I felt unexpectedly drawn to read this passage.  While I was reading, Jesus stopped me in my tracks.  I distinctly heard Jesus say (in His very gentle way), "Rachel, Rachel.  You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed."

It was a gentle rebuke, but a rebuke nonetheless.  I immediately felt ashamed but lifted up at the same time -- my heart aching to do better but softened by the Lord's love for me.  

"Yes, yes, Lord -- I know.  I know.  But how do I do it?

I want so much to be a Mary.  I want so much to carve out time to be with my Lord.  I want so much to have time carved out to be with others as well -- to open enough time in my schedule to see people at the drop of the hat.

But maybe it's more than that.  Maybe it's more than just carving out time and making room in schedules.  Because it wasn't as if Mary didn't have things she could have done -- there was plenty to do, for sure -- but instead, she put aside one thing for something else -- the "one thing" that was "needed."  She knew what was really important and she didn't let a false sense of urgency dissuade her from that truth.

I want to be a Mary.
I want to sit at my Lord's feet when it's busy.
I want to sit at His feet when it's still.
I want to listen.
I want to open my home even when there's dirt on the floor and dishes in the sink.
I want others to know that they are more important to me than my to-do list.

But how?  How do we do that when the to-do list still needs to get done, and we have a responsibility to complete it?  How do we remain prudent with our jobs while having time for others and the Lord?  How have you been able to balance such things in life?  

Monday, December 19, 2011

learning lessons through a child

I stand in the nursery, my heart pounding.  It's less than a week before Christmas, and I'm already feeling the frantic energy that can sometimes overshadow the Christmas spirit with a humbug.  Coming back from a restful vacation week is both wonderful and exhausting.  It's familiar and peaceful to be back in our own home, but there is tons to do in preparation for Christmas.  I feel as though I've been placed on the ground just to start sprinting towards the finish line.

My daughter's cry has drawn me back into the small, darkened room.  She needs sleep, and right now she needs me to help her drift off into sleep.  Although my spirit feels pulled in every other direction, right now she needs me here.

I offer her quiet verses of Silent Night, allowing them to swirl and dance around the room before slowly bringing my head to meet her furrowed brow.  I whisper the verses in her ear as we rest cheek-upon-cheek, and I soak up her tears as her breathing becomes more patterned.  My hand lies to rest on top of her chest and I feel the pumpumpum of a little heart underneath my palm, oh-so-different from the ratatapapapum of my own distracted heart.  I know there are things to do -- my checklist only growing longer by the minute -- but I stay here a moment longer than she needs me to, and I drink in her stillness.

I thank God for the ways He teaches me about rest through my baby.  

Gwendolyn's middle name is Shiloh, which means peace.  When we were ruminating over names, God led me to this verse:

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
I do not give as the world gives, 
so do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."
John 14:27

We have prayed from the beginning (even before she was born) that our little Shiloh would have the peace of the Holy Spirit in her heart and life.  God is already answering that prayer.  Just a mere six months, Gwenny is living out her name, providing peace even to her mother, who can often get lost in the frantic sway of doing.  Through her, God reminds me to Be, especially during the crazy holiday times.

When I seek God and ask Him how I will stay still and keep His peace amidst the Christmas confusion -- how I will keep my eyes on eternity when the immediate is so pressing -- He answers me in an unlikely way:  through a child.  He has given me a small baby to teach me what is really important in life.

I pray you learn this lesson as well, even in the most unlikely of ways.

"For to us a child is born."
Isaiah 9:6

Saturday, December 17, 2011

i cannot deny home

I just want to sink
my feet
down deep
and feel the dirt crumble between the cracks of small toes
and as my toes expand and extend, I lay down the roots
that I uprooted long ago.

I allow my arms to stretch and reach
up toward the sky like a bad cliche
but I still let myself breathe in cliches
of no place like home and home is where the heart is
as my fingers turn into branches that soak in light
that feeds
and nourishes
and remembers.

And I wonder why it was
that long ago I thought I wanted to leave
and why
I clung on to adolescent dreams
and why
we believe the grass is always greener
and why it is
that it takes leaving a place to know
that you belong where roots can grow.

Certainly there are many places for roots to grow
but I like the nourishment of familiar soil
and memories that feed on familiar places
and the way the sunset hits the trees behind the house when it's getting ready to say

I like mountain views behind highways
and the NYC skyline amidst deer-ruled forests
and the occasional bear family that roams through our garbage
when they think we aren't looking.

I long for crisp October mornings
and the snow that inevitably hits and accumulates
and the knowing paths behind the house
that are still flattened by small innocent feet that have since grown and left.

And I cannot deny
the Irish and Scottish in me that wants me to return
to my home --
to the ground that knows be by name
and carries the songs of my childhood.

I cannot deny
that try as I might
there is no fight against
knowing where you belong.

And so I let my feet feel the crumble of dirt
and stretch up to the sky
pretending that maybe one day
I can let myself grow here again.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

it's in the rest that I find You

This week, I'm taking a break to be with my family.  I'm also catching up on some good reads (ie. books, not blogs), watching some classic Christmas movies, and hiking through the woods.  Check back next week, or at the end of this week if I just can't stop myself!

I hope you find some rest this week, too!  God bless!

Friday, December 9, 2011

changing habits and realigning perspectives

I've heard it since I was a little girl in Sunday school, and then as a teenager in youth group, as a college student in chapel, and I'm still hearing it as a young adult at my church.  You've probably heard it too.

"Start your day right.  Before you do anything else, get up early and spend time with God."

Generally, I would brush off these comments.  I get up super early as it is to exercise, and surely no one expected me to get up even earlier to read my Bible.  I wouldn't be able to focus anyhow.  The exercise thing I could handle, because I am immediately thrown into movement, and that wakes me up.  But sitting down and reading BEFORE exercise?  Not gonna happen.

My time with God has generally shifted with whatever stage in life I am currently living in.  When Gwenny was a newborn, I would spend time with God while holding her, or pray at night after putting her to sleep.  Now, I generally use the beginning of her morning nap to be with the Lord.   Usually, it's a good system.  Except on the days that are extremely busy.  Or the mornings that don't really go as planned.  Or when we have to be out during her first nap.  Or if *insert another million possibilities here* happens.

And the thing is, this habit of taking time with God during her first nap won't be something I can carry on through life, because eventually she will grow out of that first nap.  And eventually, I will probably be working outside the home again (unless we DO get that little piece of land with chickens and goats and I have to stay home to homestead!  Or homeschool, but that's another matter entirely... and I'm pretty sure spare time in the morning won't be an option.).  So the habit that I'm forming now won't stick.  It won't be consistent.

Seven years ago, when I decided that exercise was important for my health, I made an effort to change my current habits.  I started getting up and out to the gym to exercise before I did anything else, because I knew that was the only way I would fit it into my lifestyle, and it was very important to me.  I did it when I was pregnant, and I still do it, even with a small baby.  If I could make a massive lifestyle change with exercise, shouldn't I also be able (and willing) to do it with God?

This question was set before me while reading through my own comments section.  I was both encouraged and challenged by the lifestyle of Tim and his wife:

"My wife and I also try to do prayers together daily, and those were at night for the longest time but we found that we could not stay awake so we decided to do them before the gym. Which means I have been getting up at 4:25 for years now to pray with her and then go to the gym Mon-Fri. She gets up at 4 to do her quiet time first."

So there are people who get up earlier than I do in order to spend time with God.  After reading this testimony, I decided that this is something I want to implement into my life.  Just like exercise, even though it's really hard to get up so early to do it, I know I won't regret it.  My day will be better because of it.  My perspective becomes more aligned the earlier I spend time with God.  

I want a properly aligned perspective.  I want to make a habit that will last, no matter what stage of life I find myself in. 

What habits do you want to change to realign your perspective?
What habits have you changed already?  How did you see success?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

celebrating the "lasts" of last evening

This was it.

After years upon years of schooling -- after brief flirtations with different graduate programs, from museum studies to acting and finally to secondary teaching -- I had handed in my last (30 paged) paper, thanking my last professor for a last semester well-spent.  I was walking out the school doors to freedom.

I'm not really one to celebrate until all is said and done -- in other words (in this instance), until the diploma is actually gripped in my own hand -- and so I resisted the initial urge to splurge on hot chocolate and instead battled my way through the rainy night to come back to home sweet home.

It wasn't until I climbed the stairs and walked into our kitchen to see the pile of dishes awaiting me in the sink that I realized -- Yes.  I need to celebrate tonight.

And so as quickly as I walked into the house and took off my vest, hat, and rain boots, I walked back downstairs and put on my vest, hat, and rain boots.  I grabbed my keys and walked out the door, welcoming a celebratory night of peppermint hot chocolate (and subsequently -- temporarily -- breaking my no-refined-sugar rule because special occasions just don't count!) and writing.

The mundane and everyday will always be there -- there will be never-ending dishes to wash and dirt to dust and clothes to launder -- but there will only be one last night of graduate school to celebrate.

Last night was my final night as a graduate student.  And even though I don't yet have that diploma in hand, I decided to celebrate.

Hot chocolate, you were a great celebratory companion.

revisiting the productive/unproductive battle

I am distracted by my need to be productive each day.
And by distracted, I mean it literally consumes my thoughts.

It's rough, too, because although I aim to be extremely productive each day, there are certain very important things that are not exactly productive in terms of getting things done.  For instance, spending time with God is not exactly productive (well, it is productive in an eternal sense, but not perhaps in a practical "I-need-to-make-the-bed-today" sense).

Why have I always measured my worth by this idea of productivity?  Where did I get this from?  -- Is it my German background or my American upbringing or both or a combination of those things and a little something else?  What does the Bible say about productivity?  How does God say I should spend my days?

"Trust in the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."
Proverbs 3:5-6

"Be still and know that I am God."
Psalm 46:10

"Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven."
Matthew 6:20

"Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself."
Matthew 6:34

"If anyone would be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me."
Matthew 16:24

"'Love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
Matthew 22:36-40

"Do all things without complaining and arguing, so that you may remain blameless and pure."
Philippians 2:14

"You must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking... Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."
Ephesians 4:17, 24

"Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground...Stand firm."
Ephesians 6:13-14

Judging from (just a small slice of) Scripture, it seems that my own idea of productivity does not come from the Lord.  I feel this need to do everything to the best of my ability in order to glorify God.... but to what end, friends?  Because in my pursuit to "do everything for the glory of God," I have instead become bogged down by (read: made an idol out of) deadlines and perfectionism.  I have made my goal the completion of the thing itself, rather than the glorification of the Lord.  So where do I draw the line and take some steps back?  When does taking it slower/loving my neighbor/not worrying about the day/etc. do more to glorify God than earning the imaginary gold star for my day?  What if I cast down my own ideas of productivity, and replaced them with the Lord's ideas?

It starts by changing habits -- putting God first in every single day -- sacrificing that one extra hour of sleep to awaken to His stillness and come into His presence.  And it is indeed a further sacrifice for a productive-junky to choose stillness over constant movement, but I was not made to only make beds, wash dishes, write posts, sing, or teach.  I was made to make beds, wash dishes, write posts, sing, and teach for God's glory.  I was made to glorify the Father through all things -- and some days, that means glorifying Him by my productiveness for the day, and other days it means glorifying Him through my unproductiveness for the day.

What do you think?  Have you wrestled with being productive over spending time with and glorifying the Lord?  What have you learned about how God calls you to live each day?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Waste Not Wednesday: The Great No-'Poo Experiment

Well, folks, I've done it.  Completely.  Like, I've gone through the whole-icky-transition-phase of this no-'poo thing, and well:  I've converted.

But that's the end of my tale.  Let's start at the very beginning (a very good place to... okay!  okay!  No musicals!):

I was interested to the no-'poo (that's no-shampoo) method of washing hair when I got Simple Mom's book, Organized Simplicity.  I was intrigued, but not convinced.  But as I worked my way through the book, having great successes with the oil facial-cleanser, baking soda/coconut oil toothpaste, and borax dishwashing soap, I thought: hey, why not give it a whirl?  (I now know why people don't just "give it a whirl" when it comes to no-'poo-ing it, but I'll get to that later.)

First thing's first:

Homemade No-'Poo
(instead of shampoo)

1 tbsp baking soda
1 cup (warm) water

Mix the baking soda with the water in a squeezable container.  When showering, work the mix into your hair by starting at the scalp, massaging in circular motions.  After six weeks, if your hair is still dry, use less baking soda in the mixture, and do not wash your hair every day.  Eventually one to three times a week will be plenty.

Homemade Clarifier
(instead of conditioner)

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup (warm) water

Mix the APV and the water in a squeezable container.  After using the baking soda mix, work the APV mix into the ends of the hair.  Let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse.  It's best not to use every day; one to three times a week will be fine.

(Really??  That's all it takes to clean my hair??)

The first time I tried this method was about three or four weeks postpartum.  I figured I wasn't getting out much anyways, so if it was a huge failure, no one would have to be subjected to my hair (aside from my housemates and husband).  To my surprise, my hair was clean.  It was soft... and clean.  But it seemed flat and dry.  Instead of sticking with it, I thought I'd give it a mediocre review and move on with life.

But then I started reading more and more success stories with the no-'poo method, and I found myself wanting to find out what my natural state of hair would look like (considering I've put it through years of dying and hair-drying, I thought it was the least I could do for it).  I was also sold on the ill-effects of shampoo, as it strips our hair and skin of its natural serum.  In addition, I've just been way wary these days of buying anything mainstream (seriously, you just never know what sort of (child?  slave?) labor you're supporting), and I thought I'd try something cheaper than fancy green-friendly shampoos from the natural market.

Take Two happened a few weeks ago.  I tried the every/other approach first:  one day washing with the no-'poo method, the next day washing with regular shampoo, etc.  Pretty much immediately, I found my hair to be SUPER-DUPER-INTOLERABLY dry after using my regular shampoo.  So my hair decided for me:  I had to do this thing all-out, or nothing.  And since my hair was already getting used to not using shampoo, I went with all-out.

It should be mentioned that I already have a schedule where I only wash my hair every other day.  I think that helps in this method, because you really can't wash with baking soda and vinegar every day.  Your hair doesn't need it, because you're no longer stripping your hair of its awesomeness (technical term).  So when you do this method, wash every other day, and slowly taper off until you're only washing one to three times a week (I haven't gotten to this place yet; I still wash my hair about four times/weekly).  You can, however, simply rinse your hair every day.  I've done this, and it's pretty amazing how it (sometimes) looks like you've actually washed your hair by simply rinsing.  

The bad bit about this whole thing is that many people (*raises hand*) experience a transition or detox phase, in which your hair is just incredibly oily.  The thing is that your hair is over-producing serum because the shampoo keeps stripping your hair of its natural oils, so when you switch over, it takes a little while for your hair to stop over-producing.  I gotta say that I probably only made it through that week or two by putting my hair in pig tails and um... well, staying at home.  It wasn't fun.  You have to really push through.  My friend, Christina, over at Ecottached gives some tips for getting through the transition phase.

Now?  I'm really liking my hair.  It's not as dry as it used to be, and it still can be styled with volume.  Plus, if I don't blow-dry my hair, it gets really wavy.  So, with no further ado, drumroll please......

4.5 out of 5 stars
(0.5 taken off for transition phase; 
you might take off more if you have a day job)

Have you tried the no-'poo method?  What was your experience?
Would you ever try this method, or do you think it's a little too "out there?"

Check Your Green Resource weekly for some great green ideas!!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

an unproductive, productive day

Today has been an unproductive day.

I have not done the laundry.
I have not swept and mopped the floors.
I have not washed the dishes.
I have barely had time to eat, let alone time to make things to eat.
I have not written the words that I've been wanting to write.
I have not been able to read the news or catch up on blogs.
I have not ordered the Christmas presents.
I have barely had time to answer e-mails.  Or comments.
I have not made those important phone calls I swore I'd make today.

But today has also been a productive day.

I fed my baby.
I made sure she had clean diapers to wear.
I sang carols and read rhymes.
I played with little toes and tickled a tiny tummy.
I calmed wild tears due to a stuffy nose.
I attempted to un-stuff said-stuffy nose.
I rocked a wailing baby to sleep.
I watched a beautiful little girl sleep soundly in my arms.
I listened to her breathing.
I prayed with her, and over her.

I thanked the Lord for the chance to be with my baby, 
on this unproductive, productive day.

Friday, December 2, 2011

holding out the word of life

God, I can't do it.
I can't find the words to pray - to write - to express my heart's cry.
I sit here quietly and calmly composed -- just another patron of this local coffee shop -- nothing out of the ordinary.  But inside, I am wailing.  Weeping.  Throwing up my hands and asking for mercy and understanding -- pleading for wisdom for an entire generation.

I want so much for everyone to understand. understand that the road, although narrow, is worth it. understand that the life You have given is full and complete.
I want so much to find the right words.
...loving words.
...gentle words.
...words that build up and do not tear down.

And a part of me wants to shake everyone (including myself sometimes) and just say, "Why don't you SEE it??  This FULL LIFE is right before your very eyes -- within your grasp -- why don't you reach out and grasp it??"

We don't reach out and grasp it
...because the way is difficult.
...because we have cultivated a life for ourselves in which we can barely discern between the world's teachings and Jesus' teachings.
...because right now, it is easier to live for the flesh.

I, too, have fallen victim to the world's enticing.  I, too, have called myself a Christian and not followed the teachings of Christ.  I have believed that it's okay to live for self, to rely on money, to seek after earthly things.  I have believed that life is about the here and now -- about carpe diem! and living without ever wondering, "What if?"

But the carpe diem attitude has left gaping wounds in my soul.
My mind still fights against mistakes and misrepresentations of what it means to be God's child.
I am still doing battle with my past.

And now the "What if's?" have turned into -- "What if I had followed Christ the whole time?"  "What if I had obeyed from the beginning?"  "What if I had taken the responsibility of being a Christian seriously?"  

How could my life have been different if I had just let God transform me from the very beginning?

I try not to dwell in these "What if's?" because what's done is done.  I cannot go back.  And God can redeem even the worst parts of my past to bring Him glory -- and I have witnessed Him doing so through the hopeful tears of a college student girl who feels like no one in the world understands her struggles.  

I understand.
I have been there.
But I do not want you to have to be there.
I do not want you to have to go through what I have gone through.
I want you to experience the life I now experience -- the peace and love of the Lord that infiltrates every bit of my life.

Philippians 2:15-16 says I am to shine like a star in the universe as I hold out the word of life.

This is me holding out the word of life to you.

I do not just live and breathe it.  I want to offer it.
Please reach out and grasp it -- grasp the beautiful reality --

  • that God has made you.
  • that He loves you.  Adores you.  Thinks you're pretty awesome.  
  • that He wants to dance with you.
  • that He is so holy and there is nothing you can do to earn your way into His presence.
  • but that it's okay, because He sent His Son to take our place.  And since the Son and the Father are one, this means that the Living God came down to us as a baby -- the lowliest of the low -- and put Himself in our place.
  • because we do not deserve eternal life and God's favor, because we have fallen short.  We mess up, time and time again.
  • but if you confess that you have no business coming to the Father out of your own merit, that you are a hopeless sinner and need Jesus to cover you before the Lord, and if you make this God of the universe LORD of your life (and that means all of it), that you will be saved.
  • and right now -- RIGHT NOW AS YOU LIVE ON EARTH -- your life will forever be transformed.
But hey.  I can't say it better than my buddy Paul:

"But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ.  God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood -- to be received by faith.  He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished -- he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.  Where then, is boasting?  It is excluded.  Because of what law?  The law that requires works?  No, because of the law that requires faith.  For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law."

Romans 3:21-28

Get ready for a wild ride.
It's not easy, but it is so worth it.

Please.  Take my word for it.  I am living, breathing proof of the transformation Christ offers.  It's not fluff.  It's not brainwashing.

It's real living.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

doing the mommy dance

We sit in a circle in the library -- indian-style on the floor -- holding onto our little ones while stealing bashful smiles at other babies.  We barely make eye contact, not wanting to tread on personal space.

Instead, the babies do it for us.  They inch towards one another with clumsy crawls, uninhibited smiles, and small reaches of the hand.  They do not shirk away from looking a stranger straight in the eyes, and we secretly envy their innocent gumption.

We let the babies share their toys, make their faces at one another, and we laugh at their antics -- usually just to ourselves, in our own safe bubble of private space.

But then -- a question is ventured:

"How old is she?"

An answer comes, and then the question is thrown back.
With that, the dance partners are chosen.

Then -- another question emerges:

"What's her name?"

And from this second dance step, we feel comfortable enough to talk about nap times and the difficulty of making our way to play group in the first place -- about milestones and feeling fortunate to be home with the baby "for now, at least -- but that could change."  

As we leave, we tentatively gauge distances from each other -- testing the waters for a potential friendship.  We ask the mommy-version pickup lines, such as, "Do you live around here?" and maybe even, "So... do you come here often?"

Before the door opens and we step out to leave, perhaps this social dance has gone so well as to ask for numbers and e-mails -- to possibly set up a future time for play-dates and much-needed SAHM socialization.  And then finally, the realization --

"Oh - what's your name, by the way?"

-- because it's always a vital dance step to realize that we only made it so far as to ask for the babies' names.  We simultaneously feel foolish but smile the understanding smile that communicates: yes, in fact, our children are taking over our identities.  At least, part of the time.

We conclude with waves -- both from and to each other, as well as from and to the babies -- and politely say grownup things like, "Okay, take care!" and, "Nice meeting you!" before heading off on our separate paths home, waiting until next week to begin the mommy dance all over again.

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