Sunday, February 27, 2011

Blog Therapy - One

My personality is, for the most part, a steady one. However, I do have a streak of melancholy, and it surfaces frequently. Deep thinking, pondering bittersweet thoughts, worry about the future and the past, a too-serious view of life...these are minefields for me, and oftentimes the websites I choose to visit are crafted by women with similar temperaments. At first, this seems serendipitous, to find strangers who view life as I do, and often express thoughts and observations that have me nodding in agreement. Their images may be thought-provoking, revealing depth. Their words may be poetic, heartrending even. And this is a reflection of their expansive souls and a God-given gift of expression.

Yet, there are times when I am close to being emotionally depleted,  and I need to step away from reading the reflections of these like-hearted women for a season, so I do not drift too far into my own self.

What I do instead, when I feel as if I may soon succumb to melancholic tendencies, is visit a blog with a purposefully cheerful outlook, by a woman whose sanguine temperament counteracts my personal inclinations.  I have a few websites I would like to share with you over the next few days.  I always shut down the computer refreshed and more positive when I visit these websites. They encourage me to choose my attitudes and responses, and help me to see that a change in perspective can, indeed, be a miracle.

Firsw up, the adorably delightful Sugar Pie Farmhouse!

Ruthann tends her Sugar Pie Farmhouse with effervescence and care. Each thoroughly-realized post is chock-full of encouragement and ideas, cheerful images and happy-making music.  She peppers each essay with Scripture which is often just the thing I needed at just the right moment.  And she speaks often of choosing our attitude, how when we catch ourselves in a "whine" we have the opportunity to purposely change our minds about a matter.  Her family is adorable, and one thing I really love is advice from a mother who is a step ahead of me in experience.  I do think you will enjoy your visit to Ruthann's.  When I leave her website, I have a spring in my step, an extra measure of energy, and a heart bursting with love for my children, my husband, my home, and my Lord. 

More to come...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Decision Making, Made Simple

 Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.
                                                                                                            C. S. Lewis

My goal for myself is heaven.
My goal for my children is heaven.
If it doesn't keep our eyes fixed on heaven,
there is no room for it here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Singing His Praises

One sentence changed her life. 

She was told, suddenly and absolutely unexpectedly, that at a tender age, she was now a widow.

And she lived with a grateful heart before that moment, and she lives with a grateful heart still.

When we live so closely with another, all is obvious to us, the good and the not-so-good.  And how often do we dwell on the imperfect, even if it is offset by ten wonderful qualities and deeds? So, let us allow love to cover a multitude of sins.  I encourage us all, and have been taking my own advice, to embrace our husbands the way my friend would embrace hers if she could.  And pray for her empty arms, and quiet home, and still days, if you would, please. 

Thank you, God, for a husband who
1.  brought me white tulips on Valentine's day.  They are my favorite. 
2.  shoveled the snow.  Again.  I don't have to worry a whit.
3.  fills my car with gas without my asking.
4.  prays on Sacred Space with our eldest son.
5.  vacuums. 
6.  brings the children on errands.
7.  overlooks my flaws.
8.  chooses to work close by.  He could double his salary by commuting, but he would sacrifice two hours of family time each day.
9.  reads Scripture, and reads about Scripture.
10. when seeing me despondent over this recent tragedy, bent over me and placed his hands on me, and prayed.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


I would deeply appreciate it if you could pray for my friend L. who lost her husband in a tragic auto accident.  The funeral was today.  She has two young daughters, ages 9 and 6.  If you could lift them up before the Lord, I would be so grateful. 

Inexpensive Beauty Secrets

I find the internet to be such a contradiction...such potential for benefit and detriment, encouragement and danger.  I had fun participating in Kelly's beauty link-up last week, and I was looking forward to what she'd ask us to share this week, but when I saw that she asked us to share our alma maters, I was torn.  It was a bit more specific than I felt comfortable sharing, so I thought I'd do a Part II to last week's sharing.

I spend money very carefully, and I'd rather have a precious few things of high quality than lots and lots of stuff.  But, my motto is "use what works," and I especially like it when I make a discovery that proves quality can come with an inexpensive price tag. 

Three of my favorite beauty staples come from Avon.  A friend of mine sells Avon and she once gave me one of those booklets that turn an ordinary woman into a shopping addict.  Body cream, three for 9.99!  Bubble bath, two for 6.99!  Fragrances, buy one get one free!   Oh, the loot you could acquire for a twenty dollar bill!   My favorite product is Avon Wash-Off Waterproof mascara.  Now, I had always hated masara.  My eyelashes were long enough and dark enough, and anytime I tried mascara, they clumped together and I could never completely remove it from under my eyes, so I stopped even trying.   Then I gave birth to a child with the longest eyelashes I, or anyone in the grocery store, Target, or the doctor's office, had ever seen.  They were, and are, a sight to behold.  So when, on two occasions, two separate thoughtless people asked me, "So where did he get those eyelashes from?"  I swallowed my pride and my urge to correct their grammar, and I realized it was time to revisit the mascara question. Wash-Off Waterproof mascara, which you can currently buy for two for five dollars, is fabulous.   It does not clump, it does not over-thicken or over-lengthen,  it just provides the lightest, smoothest bit of natural definition to your eyelashes.  It is indeed waterproof, and it does indeed come off as you are washing your face.  I have terribly sensitive eyes, and this does not bother them.  Plus, it is so affordable that you can make sure you always have absolutely fresh mascara.  It rivals or surpasses the various Clinique, Bare Escentuals, Mary Kay, and Almay mascaras I've tried and tossed.

Avon also sells wonderful eyeliners called Glimmersticks which never misbehave on my eyes.  I am not a fan of eye pencils that need to be sharpened, so  I like that they always have a delicate point so that you can use them very subtly at the lash line.  These rival or surpass Clinique and Mary Kay eyeliners and are a fraction of the price, and I am so happy to have found them.  I believe the original formula is on sale for $2.99 right now.  They also offer waterproof and shimmering versions. 

My favorite lip balm is from Avon, too, Moisture Therapy Lip Treatment Ointment. It heals lips overnight, is not waxy, and sinks into lips rather than coating them and gathering in cracks.  I use this alone or under lipstick or lipgloss, and it layers beautifully because the consistency is so thin, yet effective.  Also, it has no smell and provides SPF 15.  Note that they also offer a balm in a tube which has an almost identical name, and this is a good balm, but I prefer the ointment.  $2.00!  And you can often get it on sale for less!

Okay, that's the end of my Avon rave.  They are having a President's Day event right now where you can get free shipping on orders over $10, too.  Surely you know a stay-at-home mom who is also an Avon lady who would appreciate your business.

One more thing:

I have always loved a good bar of soap.  I love how it is so luxurious and simple at the same time. One of my favorite soaps is Seignadou Soap in Milk and Honey, which is under five dollars for a four-ounce bar.  It smells delicate and is a pleasure to bathe with.  Most significant of all, however, is that these soaps, which are available in a bounty of other scents, from Vanilla Bean to Basil Citrus, are hand-crafted by cloistered Dominican nuns who hold the world up in prayer day and night.   Seignadou means sign of God, and the nuns produce these soaps to support themselves.  I have a special degree of devotion and gratitude toward the Order of Preachers, as our campus ministry in college was staffed entirely by Dominican priests and sisters, and their unique and prayerful spirit helped to strengthen my faith during those years.  Hmm!  So I guess this circled back to my alma mater, after all!

Thursday, February 17, 2011


When I told one of my good friends that I was fasting from media for an entire week, she asked if that included newspapers.  It was a funny question, because I haven't gotten my news from a real live piece of paper in a very long time.  And she seemed to wonder what I would do if something monumental happened.  "I guess my husband will let me know if the world is about to end," I joked.

Days passed.  I did not realize how insulated and softened I had become. We live in a major metropolitan area.  The nightly news is routinely chock-full of awful tidbits...accidents, murders, suicides.  But during my quiet week, I had been spared all of those mentions that make us desensitized to others' life-changing pain. 

So, on the Saturday of my fast, day six, I was truly caught off guard.  My husband was checking his ipad at the kitchen table late at night.  "You might want to know what's going on.  There's been a shooting in Arizona.  Somebody shot a congresswoman."  I walked up behind him and peeked over his shoulder.  There was a picture of a lovely woman on the screen.  Then, a doctor was announcing that, contrary to previous reports, Gabrielle Giffords was not dead.  Though I hadn't heard any of those previous reports, I felt relieved.  I walked away.  And that's when I heard the announcement that among the victims was a 9-year-old child, and that she had been killed. 

I gasped aloud.  I stepped back to my husband and grabbed his hand.  I pulled it in desperation and shock.  I turned and went into our bedroom, where I couldn't help the tears from falling.  A child was dead! 

My husband followed me into our room, and said, "Honey, we hear about stuff like this on TV all the time. You don't usually get so upset."  And that's when I knew that something greater was at work in this little media fast idea.  I had become a person who was used to hearing about children getting killed.  I heard about it so often that I usually didn't get upset.  That's horrible!  The constant bombardment of bad news had caused me to become emotionally cold toward tragedy. 

So many of you who read this are role models of mine, and among the things I admire about so many of you is that you have removed the television from your homes.  So, I am primarily lecturing myself when I say the following:  even those of us who believe we are making conscious choices about television, news sources, books, magazines, and games may do well to remove those things for a while and ask God to show us how they are truly affecting us.  Perhaps we have built a harder shell around our hearts than we may have meant to.  Perhaps we must remove that shell so that God can mold our hearts more easily.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Just for Fun

Just for fun, I thought I'd participate in this "Beauty Secrets" thing hosted by a young mother named Kelly.  Part of simplicity, for me, is finding something that works and crossing that decision off my list.  I do have some particular issues, and I have found some things that work for me.  While I'd love to talk lipstick shades and fragrance preferences,  tastes vary and I think it would be most helpful to highlight the real problem-solvers.

Skin Care:  For my blemish-prone skin, I use Clinique Acne Solutions soap, clarifier, and moisturizer.  I also use the emergency gel-lotion.

Sunscreen:  The very best facial sunscreen I have ever tried is Dr. Denese SPF 30 Defense Day Cream.  It is a tinted moisturizer with UVA and UVB protection.  It is sheer and looks like velvety skin.  It has never caused a breakout, and I never need a foundation.  I love using this every single day.

Hair Care:  I have naturally spiral curly hair that can be a true headache.  I apply Ouidad Climate Control Gel every day.  It has the best slip of any gel I have tried, and truly protects natural curls from frizz while never weighing it down.

Slimming:  Weight Watchers online.  I had always thought WW was for the very overweight, but I have found the online option to be perfect for those of us who are constantly battling those last five pounds. 

Smoothing:  This.  It hurts, but, with practice, it works, inexpensively and in absolute privacy.  That's all I'm going to say.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Media Fast

Is simplicity something you can add to your life?  I think, like happiness, it's more of a by-product of action taken or action not taken.  In any event, my media fast did simplify my life, and I am still in the process of trying to integrate what I learned into our lifestyle.  It has been hard, because I am good at cutting something out altogether, but moderation is more difficult. 

NO INTERNET:  There is an awful dissonance between how I want to act and how I do act when I am attending to some online matter.  This can be blog reading, blog writing, research for shopping, looking up a recipe, checking the news, whatever.  I wanted more patience and time with my children and spouse.  I wanted to be less distracted.  I wanted to feel less bombarded with information.  For these reasons, I decided to fast from the internet.

NO MAGAZINES OR CATALOGS:   I wanted time to read the important books piled beside my bed.  Interior Castle.  The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.  Boyhood and Beyond.  Unplanned.  Three to Get Married.  I could go on, for there are 40 on my list! What was preventing my reading these books?   I knew I always made time for the newest Pottery Barn catalog, or the latest copy of my subscriptions to Family Fun or Life Beautiful, so there was reading time available, it just needed to be better directed. 

NO TELEVISION:   I did not watch anything at all besides the DVD I exercised to each morning.  Also, while the children were not bound by the rules of the fast, I would not use television as a way of keeping the children occupied while I was busy.

As I began the fast, I was surprised  by a sense of restlessness and anxiety for the first couple of days.  I must have become accustomed to numbing a disquieted mind or shutting out anxious thoughts with the very practices I was now trying to avoid.  This did seem to greatly diminish after the first two-and-a-half days, but I ws surprised to notice that I did snack much more frequently.  I suppose I was looking for something to replace my distraction impulses, and food was fair game.  Unfortunately, the increased frequency of unplanned eating caused me to gain a few pounds which, over a month later, are still with me.  I usually use Weight Watchers online to track my points, but, having reached my goal, thought that I could do without that for a week as it was technically internet use.  Apparently, that was a flaw in my plan.

I did notice appreciably more time to work on projects with my children, lengthy things like 100-piece puzzles and baking, that I believe I would otherwise have thought I did not have the sustained time for.  I realize I had allowed the time to be eaten by other pursuits, although previously, I would just have told you I was busy.  This seemed linked to an diminishing of the "in the rush" feeling I lived with almost constantly, and as the rushing was eliminated, a serenity emerged.  This was what I was hoping for.  How often do we blame our children's rambunctiousness for a lack of peace in the home when in reality, it is our impatience and rush-rush that steals the peace?  Culling the unimportant creates not only more time and space for the important, it creates a greater tolerance within us for things like childish energy and noise that are not necessarily negative things in a household. 

Homework time can be a trying period of the day around our house.  Without the computer available to me, I was able to give my full attention to the children and their work, and became aware of some notable
study habits that my children possess, both negative and positive.   Also, as I did not suggest television to the young ones as they finished their work before my eldest child, the noise was not a distraction to him. 

Also, by the third day, the children were not watching a bit of television, and, moreover, didn't seem to notice.  Day 1, my youngest watched 1 hour, middle watched 15 minutes, and eldest watched none.  Day 2, youngest watched none, middle watched 1/2 hour, and eldest watched none.  As for me, I was tempted very infrequently, once when I was folding laundry and once on the final evening of the fast when I truly longed to join my husband on the sofa and laugh at a funny show and end our day together rather than apart.  Although I do believe I got much more adequate sleep during this period, as television does tend to make me quite alert, my own television viewing does not seem to be a huge issue.

I realized I did not have to temper my enjoyment of magazines and catalogs with my awareness that they could fuel materialism and covetousness.  Eliminating them eliminated the need for a heightened conscience, and that was an unexpected relief.  While a properly formed conscience is essential and frequent judgment and caution are so very necessary to live a moral life, when one removes certain things from that life, those tools of discernment are simply needed less. We must be ever so careful, as seemingly harmless things can indeed be occasions of sin. 

 - I had more patience and paid more attention to my family.  What could be more important?  I have fed the computer HUGE amounts of precious time, time that I had stolen from my children.  And I'm feeding it right now.  I am not unaware of this conflict. I believe the easiest and simplest rule is:  Children must be asleep or out of the house.  Husbands, too, must be otherwise engaged.  People come first.  If they are around, the computer is shut.  I have told them my rule and I allow them to keep me accountable. 
- My own watching of television is not a huge problem, and watching a show or two while sitting with my husband is good bonding time and provides us with common references for "inside" jokes and such.  I missed this the most.  Having DVR service means we can sit down to watch exactly the show we want at exactly the time we have, so there is no browsing.  I was SHOCKED, however, at how much less TV my children watched.  They must watch it because I suggest it, for one reason or another.  In just one week, the three of them had gotten so much better at playing imaginatively with each other.  I had never intended to use the television to babysit my children, and I realized that is just what I had been doing.  It was a painful discovery, and I have changed that habit.
-As for magazines and catalogs, I just decided to recognize the urge to reach for one of these things as the availability of reading time, and reach for one of the books I have going instead.  This was quite simple.  Previously, I thought I needed a stretch of time for a book, but I found I can get lots read in snippets.

I have misgivings even as I write this, because I know it will be shared online, and that seems like such a contradictory thing to do, since my fast seemed to highlight for me that while there is so very much good on the internet, I do not have time for it all.  In fact, I don't know if I have time for any of it, and perhaps by posting this,  I am siphoning other mothers' attention away from their families and homes and God. May it be an encouragment and reminder to all of us to laser-focus our attention on faith, husband, and family.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Simplicity in Communication

"You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear."     Ephesians 4:29

"True, kind, and necessary."

Elizabeth has written about a three-fold method for determining whether something is worth saying.  The link will bring you to another link, but I believe it's worth the trouble!  

I try not to over-post on this blog, and I realized that there is one essay that doesn't fully fit these criteria.  True?  Yes, unfortunately.  Kind?  Not so sure.  Necessary?  Uh-uh.

 I don't think it will be missed.

Grace and peace...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Note About "Yes" and "No"

(bittersweet- so often a mother's lot)

There has been lots of talk lately about saying yes and saying no.  "Women have got to learn how to say NO!"  "Mothers have to look past the messes and inconveniences and learn to say YES!"

Well, I think to the Christian mother that these two statements, taken alone, are incomplete.  The idea of saying NO usually comes along with a selfish "Take care of yourself first!" philosophy that grates against the grain of Christ's teachings.  On the other hand, we can easily feel overwhelmed and inferior when we feel unable to say YES to all the wonderful things we could possibly do with our children.  So, we have to learn to say the right nos in order to be able to say the right yesses. 

I think (note: I just think this; I have not mastered it in any way.  I just thought of it twelve minutes ago while I was switching the laundry from wash to dry.) that the idea would be to learn to say NO when it affords an opportunity to say YES to something larger...larger when submitted to Christ's measure, not the world's.


There are those times when I pause, overwhelmed, with elbows resting on a counter or dresser or table, my two hands cradling the sides of my head, sometimes thinking, sometimes voicing aloud, "Is it supposed to be this complicated?" 

And if I listen for the answer, of a husband or of God, or of God through the husband, the response is Truth.  It is always, "No."

When my children were little, they liked a TV show called "Caillou."  And when they'd watch that show, I'd feel my blood pressure rise.  I'd feel an increase in agitation, a lack of peace.  And then I realized it was because the little animated child on the show was incessantly whining or crying.  Now, it was always with the intention of teaching an object lesson, but the notion of inviting, and possibly encouraging, more whining into my home through the TV was ludicrous!  It could be hard to turn off the whine when my own children did it, but it was easy to turn off Caillou!  So I did. 

It's sort of like that with everything.  When things get tough or confusing or just too much, I realize I've taken on more than the Lord has for me.  Because His yoke is easy, and His burden is light, and when things get crazy, it's usually because I've taken on my own burdens.  My son has brilliant musical aptitude that he introduced to us at age three.  That is from God, and so we nurture it with time and energy and finances.  My kids like soccer, don't love it, and aren't especially gifted at it.  So time- and money-intensive travel teams are not God's assignment for us.  We are pared down and focused in our activities.

I believe in doing things well.  In researching and putting forth full effort.  I like to think long and hard about things, which can lead to over-complicating every single little detail of life.  But as I progress in this school called "motherhood,"  I also realize that not everything is for me, and that not everything is for my family.  And that once I've figured something out, found a good resource or product, hit on a good exercise program, or found a well-fitting brand of shoes, I stick with it.  It simplifies life and frees my attention for that which God has for me.

A little while ago, I performed a week-long fast from television, the internet, catalogs, and magazines.  While the experience is worthy of a longer post and more thorough explanation, I do want to mention it here, because my primary reason for performing the fast was because I had found myself strapped for time:  prayer had become perfunctory and infrequent, my home wasn't as organized as I'd have liked it to be, decorating projects were lagging, important books had gone unread, my patience at homework time and bedtime had become short (that's when I'd cradle my head in my hands!), marital conversation was brief and abrupt, and exercise became too infrequent.  I knew I needed to "make" time, and I had an inkling what the culprits might be.  By performing this fast, I did indeed rediscover loads of time and, what's more, a clear focus, because the temptation to seek out distraction was eliminated.  Some things shone as bigger issues than others, and it became clear what was NOT part of God's light and easy burden for me.

No one dodges bullets in this life.  We all encounter difficulties, some more desperate and life-changing than others, and those certainly do make life hard.  But they are God's burdens for us.  I do believe that it's what we take on for ourselves, day to day and minute by minute, not the momentous losses or battles, that we must cull in order to find simplicity.

Find more lovely reflections on Simplicity here.