Wednesday, March 4, 2015

How Easily We Forget

Do you ever feel like a character from a movie? Sometimes I feel like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. No, I'm not talking about the part where the flying monkeys are after her, I'm talking about the poppy fields. The part where Dorothy gets so sleepy she forgets her mission. 

How easily we forget our mission. How easily I forget that tying heart strings is more important than a clean house. How easily I forget that I should be putting my husband second only to God. How easily I forget that God puts people in my path because He wants me to tell them about Jesus.

If you've been feeling like Dorothy, and you've gotten so sleepy that you've forgotten your mission, its time to wake up! It's time to put God first again and keep Him there. It's time to see every interaction with others as a chance to shine the light of Jesus.

It's time to stop beating yourself up and instead extend some grace. It is often easier to forgive others than to forgive ourselves. We need the reminder that God has placed our sins as far away as the East is from the West. It is only the beginning of March, but I think a lot of us have forgotten the joy and peace of Christmas already. We have forgotten our wonder at the marvelous story of Jesus coming to earth as a baby to prepare a way for us. 
We somehow want to hurry our lives along to some future point, yet in doing so, we've forgotten that our days are ordained by God. We cannot give ourselves any more time on this earth than God has allotted to us.

May we choose to slow down and listen. God is speaking. The book of Isaiah reminds us in chapter 30, verse 21 about listening for His voice:  And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it," when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.  Are we listening? Am I listening? 

May I no longer count the seasons by the weather outside, but by the work God is doing inside my heart and mind. May each new season draw me closer to Him. May each passing season have me listening to His voice. My desire is that I would no longer be so quick to forget His Word and His plan. May I walk forward along God's path.

I do not want to be a forgetter, I want to be a rememberer. I want to remember all Christ has done, and continues to do. May I follow Christ's example of a life devoted to showing God's glory. 

This is the way, walk in it.

Monday, March 2, 2015

More than just a flower

When is a flower more than just a flower? Every single day. Sometimes we receive flowers from a friend or a loved one. That gift of flowers might be in celebration of a special event like a birthday or anniversary, or it might be a 'just because' gift. Sometimes we buy flowers at the store because we want to cheer ourselves, or brighten a room. There is a special joy in taking time to really look at a flower.

A flower is a masterpiece created by God. Whether the flower grew in your own yard, along the side of the road, or in a greenhouse, it is still a masterpiece. Flowers contain minute details and intense amounts of color. Whether they are 1/4" or 6" wide, flowers take time to grow and mature to be able to bloom.

Maybe we can learn something from the flowers that brighten our world.

People take time to grow and thrive. We are masterpieces created by God. We are his workmanship. We can brighten a room, or celebrate with others. 

Unfortunately, just like we can ignore flowers, we sometimes ignore people. Maybe we think they are too small to require our notice, or too showy. Maybe we think they need more care than we are willing to give. That is not what God wants from us or for us! God wants us to take the time to see and appreciate His workmanship, whether flowers or people. 

God has placed those people in your path for His purposes. Maybe those small people (like your children,) are there to teach you about patience and trust, maybe those showy people are there to teach you about joy. Take time to get to know the details about the people God has placed in your life. Ask Him to show you His hand at work maturing them. Ask God to help you grow.

If you are too busy to notice a flower, then you are too busy to notice a person. 

A flower is more than just a flower when God uses the flower to remind you to slow down. It matters not if it is a rose or a dandelion, stop and smell the flowers! See the amazing details God has placed in each and every flower. As you learn to slow down to appreciate a flower, you will learn to see the amazing details God has placed in each and every one of us.

Our days on this earth are numbered, fleeting actually, spend each one appreciating the beauty God has designed. Mark 8:36 is a daily lesson for us to learn - "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?" Grasp not for the world, for it is fleeting. Grab hold of God, for He is eternal!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Koru Naturals - A Happy Crew Review

We have been blessed many times over the years to review products with The Schoolhouse Review Crew. Most of them are educational, either curriculum, games, or supplementary programs. Every once in a while we get one that is NOT for the girls to review, its just for me, the Mama. I call those happy reviews, ones I can keep for myself, or share if I think they would be good for everyone. Our recent shipment from Koru Naturals was one of those happy reviews. We have spent the past ten years or so trying to convert as many personal care products as possible in our house over to all-natural ones, so we are always on the lookout for new ones to try. We received two outstanding products from Koru Naturals, their Emu Oil, and a four-pack of tubes of their Pure Lanolin Lip Balm. I was really nice and shared. :) Kurt, Emily, and I all tried one of the lip balm tubes, and the girls and I shared the Emu Oil. Yes, that does leave one more lip balm... that one I'm not sharing.

emu oil, lanolin lip balm

The first thing we noticed about the lip balm (retail price $9.80 for a 4 pack) was how thick it is. I know, that shouldn't have surprised us, as we've used lanolin before. I guess we just didn't think about how it would be to put it on your lips as opposed to on your hand or arm. My recommendation is to use this as a dab it on lip product, instead of a swipe it on balm. If you swipe it, you could end up with a lot more than you need, and might be like the first time Kurt tried it... "mmm, I think my lips are stuck together"-LOL! These tubes (also available in pots if that's your preference,) are simply 100% pure anhydrous lanolin. That means no water, no perfume, no weird flavors. 

This is just the kind of lip balm we needed this winter. It has been particularly cold and dry the past two months, and these worked really well. Because the lip balm is just lanolin, it keeps the moisture you have inside your lips, and protects them from the wind. Kurt liked these because the lanolin stays on. You're not always reapplying like with other natural lip products. We received the box just over a month ago, and even after using this lip balm at least once a day, it seems like I've hardly used any at all. Emily wants to remind you that you could put it in your pocket to soften it up, but don't leave it there too long or it will get really soft and you'll end up applying too much. I was a little concerned that if I left it in my pocket, I might forget it. I don't think lanolin and laundry would mix well. Emily sometimes likes to use natural tinted lip balms, but they often dry out quickly, so she used this lanolin lip balm from Koru Naturals over the top of her tinted balm to seal in her lip's moisture. 

I also want to mention that this is the most portable form of lanolin I've come across. That is great news for people who might have fingertips or knuckles that tend to crack in the winter. Just toss it in your bag and take it along. Choosing the Pure Lanolin Lip Balm in pots would be a great gift idea, especially for new Moms, gardeners, or outdoorsmen.  Also, since they come in a four pack, you can share with your family without sacrificing your own tube. I am a fan of lanolin. In the summer when the girls are volunteering at the local living history park, I often go see the lambs in the barn. I love running my hands over their fleece and feeling how soft the lanolin makes them. If you've been around sheep, imagine this lip balm as the clean version of kissing a lamb on the head.

The second treasure in our box from Koru Naturals was a 2oz bottle of fully refined natural Emu Oil. Where has this been all my life?! I'm a huge user of natural oils for skincare. Usually I spend each winter slathering my dry face with coconut oil. Coconut oil works great as a moisturizer, but it leaves you feeling a bit greasy. Emu oil does an even better job of moisturizing my skin, without the greasy feeling. This Emu Oil (retail price $9.85 for 2 oz) looks milky white, has a very mild, almost unnoticeable, smell, and works tremendously! A little bit goes a long way... a really long way. Emily and I have used this every single day for the past month, and we've maybe used half an ounce. I've been using it once or twice a day on my face, and several times a day on the ends of my fingertips and around my cuticles. Usually in the winter I have to break out the lanolin and wear cotton gloves to bed every single night to keep my fingertips from splitting. This month I've been using the Emu oil about four times a day, skipping the lanolin, which, by the way, you should not use on your hands when you're using electronic devices like your phone or laptop, and have hardly ever needed to wear gloves to bed.

Arlene says the Emu Oil is magic. She had a couple spots on her scalp with some dandruff that wasn't going away even when using dandruff shampoo. I used just a few drops of the Emu Oil on those spots and by the next morning they were 80% gone. I like how well moisturized the Emu Oil makes my face feel. It only takes a few drops for my whole face. Since the weather has been super cold and dry, or cold and snowy all month, this came at a great time.

Emily has been using the Emu Oil on her psoriasis. She frequently gets small outbreaks on her arms, either near her elbow, or near the wrist. Using the emu oil twice a day has made as significant improvement in her skin. This refined Emu Oil retains the Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids. I think if you struggle with any type of dry skin you should give this a try. If you decide you want to use it as an all-over body moisturizer, you'll be glad to know it comes in various sizes, 2, 4, or 8 ounces.

Overall, we were quite impressed with the quality of both of the products we received. Koru Naturals has many more products, some of which were reviewed by other members of the Crew. Click on the banner below and join me in reading about Koolpurrie Restoring Balm, New Zealand Pure and Simple Lanolin Cream, and Manuka Oil and Honey Shampoo and Conditioner.

P.S. You can visit Koru Naturals on Pinterest 

Koru Naturals Review

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Live Long

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Week 8 - The Living Room, or, Why small spaces need TLC too!

This week's challenge from Michele was fairly simple. Clean your Living Room. Ok, maybe not so simple, because first you have to actually be home, second you have to go to the living room, and third...your living room might be a real mess. Today was the first day this week we didn't have something extra going on, so I figured I needed to get to work.

If you read last week's post you might remember that a lot of what is in the Living Room is Kurt's. Since he didn't have time to clean this week (two jobs will do that to you sometimes,) I focused on the small corners that have my stuff... or the girls' and my things. 

Small spaces need TLC too!

Our living room isn't big, maybe 12' x 14' so anything out of place shows up. Thats part of why I try not to keep much in here. It's not a relaxing place to be when books are left out or blankets not put away. When the room is clean it can be a real haven. 

Pull, purge, dust, organize.

Next week will be infinitely more involved since Michele challenged us to sort, clean, and de-clutter our books - yikes! I will probably need at least two weeks for that task. At least this shelf is already done!

Yes, that is a tote full of Steeler's stuff... mostly Kurt's Terrible Towel collection. For a flashback to when the girls were little, scroll down on this Post-Gazette article to the 9/19/2007 section. It features Kurt and his friend Jason.

The Living Room does look much better now, I even dusted around the ceiling, which is no small feat since its 9 feet high! Hopefully now I can get the girls to vacuum for me, and we can start on those book shelves for next time!

Have a great week!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thankful Thursdays - 2/26/15 - Indoor Flowers

There are a lot of things to be thankful for this week:
a warm house
a full pantry
the thought that Spring will actually arrive someday
every day it makes it above 20 degrees Fahrenheit
my Christmas Cactus is getting ready to bloom again!

I have had this Christmas cactus for at least a dozen years. It has probably only bloomed four or five times, never two years in a row, and hardly ever near Christmas. The picture below is from when it bloomed in December of 2014. There were two blooms then. Right now there are two more buds growing. Hopefully it will bloom in the next couple of weeks.

So why do I keep this picky plant around? Because the blooms are spectacular and worth waiting for! They remind me of a hummingbird in flight, only in pink and white. I love plants that bloom indoors, especially during the long, cold winters. 

Christmas Cactus, thankfulness

What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

In Freedom's Cause Audio Drama - A Crew Review

Heirloom Audio Productions has done it again - they’ve produced a rousing, riveting audio drama about Sir William Wallace and King Robert the Bruce that will keep you on the edge of your seat for the full 2 & 1/2 hours! This newest release, In Freedom’s Cause, tells the story of how Wallace, and then Bruce, fought alongside their Scottish countrymen in an historic series of battles, peace times, and unrest that eventually culminated in Scotland’s permanent freedom in 1327 with the Treaty of Edinburgh. We were excited when we learned we were chosen for this review as a part of The Schoolhouse Review Crew.

G.A. Henty, Christian audio drama, In Freedom's Cause

This is the second audio drama we have reviewed from Heirloom Audio Productions, and if possible, is even more exciting than the first one, Under Drake's Flag! For this review we received the In Freedom's Cause Single Package. It includes the 2 Audio CD’s, and three downloadable  extras: a copy of the Prayer of William Wallace, The eStudy Guide, and the In Freedom’s Cause soundtrack MP3 download. The musical score was composed by Emmy Award Winner John Campbell, and is a wonderful collection of the 29 tracks written for this audio drama. I like to listen to the music in the background while doing other things on my computer … like typing reviews. :)

The study guide for In Freedom’s Cause has several sections to help enrich your experience, and to help you explain more of the story and Biblical concepts to your children, especially the younger ones. As the parent, you may wish to start near the end of the study guide by looking over the brief Scottish history notes that help set the stage for the events covered in In Freedom’s Cause. Then I would suggest you head back to the beginning of the study guide and read the biographical sections covering G.A. Henry, Sir William Wallace, and King Robert the Bruce. Now you should be prepped and ready to listen to this terrifically terrifying true tale that includes voices you’ll recognize such as Joanne Froggatt, Billy Boyd, and Skander Keynes. I was a little disappointed when I learned that Billy Boyd’s character turns out to be a traitor, but you’ll need to listen to the audio drama yourself to find out how that unfolds!

There are various ways to both listen to the story, and use the study guide. The method you choose will probably depend on a couple key points. First up for consideration is the age of your children and their familiarity with the 1200's and 1300’s. If you, or your children, have not brushed up on your 1300's vocabulary recently, you may want to visit the study guide first before listening to the drama. In the study guide, there are three types of supplements for each segment (4-10 minutes long) of the story. There are Listening Well and Thinking Further questions, but probably most importantly are the Defining Words lists. These short lists let you know about the unusual words used in each section. While you may know the definition for many of these words, such as: glade, monastery, incorrigible, tartan, and usurp, your children may not know the first thing about what a dunderhead is. I highly recommend helping your younger children look these words up before listening to each section.

If you’re ready to jump right in and start listening to this great tale, use the second approach: keep a piece of paper handy, and make notes on the words you don’t understand. There is plenty of context in the story for most listeners about ages 12 and up to figure out these defining words themselves. If your children are in the 6-12 year old range, you probably want to help them out with these words.

Also included in the Study Guide are three Bible Studies to help you and your child get a deeper understanding of the main themes of this look at the lives of Wallace and Bruce. They include I Will Fear No Evil, Vengeance and Forgiveness, and Freedom. Even though Arlene and Emily understood these themes while listening, I am planning to have each of them do the Bible Studies during the next month as reinforcement.

At our house we love a good story, and this audio drama is an excellent adaptation of Henty’s book, without all the hefty reading. Arlene (age 14) opened the CD’s and listened to the whole story in one day while waiting for me to get home from work. The next day we took the CD case in the car with us and started listening together. At first Emily (age 16) was not sure if she wanted to listen, because she wasn’t sure she agreed with what Wallace and Bruce did. As the story progressed, so did Emily’s understanding of the great personal sacrifices and struggles both men went through as the people  of Scotland fought for their freedom. Arlene has decided that G.A. Henty’s stories are infinitely more fun to listen to than to read. “I liked In Freedom’s Cause because I love history. I had never learned about this part before. I like the drama version because it is like watching a movie without the video!” She is right. You will feel like you are right in the midst of the sword fighting, walking through the woods, or rowing on the lake trying to help Lady Marjory escape. If you’re blessed to be able to listen at home, you can close your eyes and feel like you’re really there watching the battles.

Heirloom Audio Productions has once again done a stellar job of balancing the telling of the story with the sound effects and soundtrack to make an overall wonderfully delightful experience. Remember that they also have the swashbuckling good drama Under Drake’s Flag available that we reviewed last year. We were really stoked to learn that they are working on two more audio dramas for release later this year. The first one will be Henty’s With Lee in Virginia, a Civil War story.

Gird up your loins, gather up your children, and get ready for some rousing Scottish history with In Freedom’s Cause!

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In Freedom's Cause Review

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