Sickness & Voodoo

Oh, boy. What a week! Sickness struck me over the weekend and I went down. Way down. I’m back to the land of the living, but still in that phase where I’m not sick enough to need constant rest but still not well enough to function normally. Should be an awesome weekend?

If you are somewhere in that sick phase, or coming out of it, or going into it, or you might get sick at some point, I thought I would share some of what my husband calls my “voodoo” with you. As if referring to it as voodoo wasn’t enough, I’ll go ahead and disclaim this: I’m not a doctor. This is not medical advice, but rather voodoo/wives’ tale advice. I’m just a person who has been sick a lot and likes to think she has tips and tricks that help her through it. Also, I’m including some links for products I use, but I am not affiliated with those sites.

Get on the Vitamin/Liquids Train: I learned this from my mom. In my experience, it helps shorten the duration of a cold and may even keep you from falling victim. Whatever cold-fighting super-power you believe in– Vitamin C, zinc, echinacea– take it as soon as you start to feel sick. Also drink a cup of tea or water. Then, in an hour, do it again. Repeat every hour until you are asleep and resume when you wake up. Do it at least a day longer than you feel you need to (I often forget about that part). When I was sick this week I used tv episodes on Netflix as my “timer” (so about every 45 minutes) and the pattern looked like this: boil water for tea, drink a packet of Emergen-C with GSE in it, apply tea tree and/or frankincense essential oils to throat & neck, make tea, head back to bed for a new episode. Sometimes I will add in other vitamins or weird remedies I read about on Pinterest, like this garlic/honey/cayenne mixture.

Drink Goop: No, not that Goop. Thanks a lot, Gwyneth, for taking a word I like to use for a gunky substance and turning it into a fancy lifestyle brand. Anyway, a few years ago I saw an interesting substance recipe on Pinterest, tried it immediately, loved it, and tweaked it to make it my own. This was when I was really sick and would get sore throats all the time. I would drink this when I felt a sore throat come on, or once I inevitably became sick. Everyone I have shared it with loves it. It isn’t a healer but a reliever. It feels so soothing! The ingredients are:

-Honey

-Ginger

-Lemon juice

If making one serving, use a dollop of honey that at least covers the bottom of your mug, like a heaping tablespoon. Add the ginger; if it’s fresh use a teaspoon or so, and if it’s dry then just a couple of shakes. Add the lemon juice; for fresh I would suggest half a lemon, and if using the refrigerated stuff maybe a teaspoon. Add hot water, stir, and drink it as a tea. If you’re making a big batch (which I like to do), just increase the quantities but keep the proportions about the same. Put it in a glass jar, mix well, and refrigerate if you like. I’ve not had problems with leaving it at room temperature. It’s nice to have goop on the ready for emergencies. Adjust the proportions or ingredients to suit your taste. Mine is a little different each time I make it.

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Cold Sock Treatment: This is my most-pinned pin ever. Proof that when you’re sick you will do anything for relief. When you click through, scroll about halfway down the page for instructions and follow exactly. I have a really hard time going to sleep when I’m sick because I hate and dread the discomfort of it all– sinus pressure changing as you turn, feeling like you can’t breathe, dry mouth, cough, etc. etc. But this seemed to diminish my symptoms temporarily so I could get to sleep more comfortably. It’s weird and uncomfortable when you’re doing it, but once you get into bed you should feel some relief pretty quickly.

So there you have it– just a few tricks from my natural medicine cabinet. I hope you don’t need them right now! But pin them, because someday you’re gonna catch yourself a bug. 😦 I’ve heard that this latest bug going around comes with a lingering chest cough– how lovely– so I’m going to try some new tricks to beat that and will let you know if I find a winner.

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2015 Verse of the Week #4, Mark 12:30-31

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My fourth verse of 2015 is Mark 12:30-31. The Seeds song is called “Greatest Commandment,” track 4 on “Seeds of Purpose.” This is such an important verse to have memorized, and you can take Jesus’ word for it… in the verse! 🙂 Here it is:

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these.”

In verse 28 Jesus was asked what is the most important commandment. We know from the verses following this passage that the guy who asked the question, a teacher of the law, was genuinely looking for truth from Jesus and not trying to trap him as some others were. I enjoy how concise Jesus’ answer is while also covering broad ground. But just because Jesus said there is really only one important thing does not mean we have found an easy way out. To love God and love others covers everything. That’s how two commandments are actually one- if I love God, that will lead me to love others. This one commandment can guide my entire life from the inside out.

If Jesus himself said that these are the most important things to do and add up to the one greatest thing, I should hop to. It is something I can incorporate daily: how can I love God in this situation? How can I love others? How can I look for new opportunities and take advantage of the opportunities I already have?

For those of us who are teaching younger people how to follow the Lord, this passage is an important one. If there are two categories- loving God and loving others- how do our actions fit into each one? The good behaviors we try to teach children like sharing, honesty, politeness, obedience, responsibility, etc. can each fit into one of those categories. And as the adults in those relationships we need to be examples of how we strive to behave in similar ways, explaining why when we get the opportunity. Thankfully we don’t have to rely on our own strength to do this; God loves us and gives us his Spirit as our helper.

For some Old Testament background on this verse, look up Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18.

Weekend Time!

Right now in my life, weekends basically start Friday morning. It’s pretty awesome. This week was a little busier for me, but it was good. I felt very much at peace, and I know this peace came in part from having the words of Matthew 6:20-21 and Matthew 6:31-34 floating around in my head.

I thought I would share a few links to kick off the weekend.

-I came across this post about writing “love letters” to friends and thought it was a great idea. I’m planning some of my own for February, but will by no means hold back in the mean time. If you think someone is great…. tell ’em!

-I have enjoyed the Songza playlist “Rustic Outdoor Wedding” as the score to all kinds of activities including painting, cleaning, baking, reading, and even exercising. The mood is melancholy overall, but there are plenty of upbeat songs and the romantic theme keeps it from becoming depressing. Check it out.

-Doughnuts. There’s nothing like them, especially when you’re not supposed to have them! I am on the hunt for a recipe that is safe for me. I tried one yesterday that flopped pretty bad, but I will not be discouraged- I’m trying another one today. I have visions of kawaii doughnuts dancing around in my head, and if I didn’t have this recipe to work on I think I could sit and look at pastry-themed jewelry alllll day.

Happy Weekend!!!

Feeling Like an Old Dog

I love knowing things, but learning new skills is so gross. I’m currently in the process of learning to play piano chords. I wanted to be able to accompany myself at home, whether I was rehearsing a song for church or just messing around with old or new favorite songs, but I was limited by a lack of skill (i.e. only being able to play root chords with improper fingering). I was hesitant to commit to learning more because I was pretty sure it would feel exactly like this. When you’re learning something there’s usually that stage when you’re terrible at it and feel like you’ll never master it. I had a wonderful childhood with encouraging parents and teachers, so I know all the facts about persevering at learning something: you have to keep trying and doing your best, hard things are worth doing, practice makes perfect, someday it won’t be so hard because you kept going, etc. etc. All those things are true, and I am slowly (very slowly) gaining some skills.

But still, I hate the feeling. I knew part of this would be an exercise in humility– I had tried to learn chords on my own before and didn’t get very far, so I recruited a willing, patient “teacher” who is a dear friend of mine. It’s not pleasant for me to play my slow, halting notes for her but she is very kind, noticing the small improvements I make and putting me at ease. What a relief.

The worst part is actually practicing on my own because I am not nearly as gentle with myself! In my mind I can hear the things I want to play, and when what I’m actually playing is so far from that I get frustrated and start to beat myself up. While I knew there would be some humility involved in presenting my limited skills to a teacher, I didn’t anticipate the feeling of presenting my limited skills to myself.

This internal response to my currently-limited skill set seems to be linked to the opposite of humility: pride. My pride wants me to stop doing anything that makes me look less knowledgable or experienced or capable, but humility reveals that I need to grow and be taught, and that sometimes it’s okay to show a part of myself that needs work. Pride presents itself as safe and protective, but is really the enemy of my growth as a person. It’s my hope that as I work at the new skill of piano I can also work at the skill of being kinder to myself.

So as I practice my chords I’m also going to practice saying, “Shhhh” to that voice of pride. I will practice telling myself to accept where I’m at so I can get to the good place. And maybe someday, as I sit at my keyboard playing smooth, comfortable, pretty chords (like 20 years from now?) I’ll think, “Hey, maybe I should learn to [knit, french braid, weave baskets, build furniture out of pallets] now!”

Anything is possible.

How about you- do you like to learn new things? How do you deal with the “not-knowing” feeling?

2015 Verse of the Week #3, Matthew 6:31-34

This week I feel like January has finally picked up speed. I have a few extra things on my calendar, and events I once thought were so far away (“Oh, that’s not until March!”) are practically around the corner.

My third verse of 2015 is Matthew 6:31-34. The Seeds song is called “Seek First,” track 3 on “Seeds of Purpose.” Here is the text:

31  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

The “do not worry/be anxious” commands from the Bible are interesting to me. Worry is so natural and easy for us, yet we’re told not to do it. Thankfully, we are also given instructions for what to do instead.

I love that. In my work with kids I have often been tasked with stopping a child from engaging in a certain behavior. In those situations my main focus is actually not the undesirable behavior, but rather teaching a new behavior to replace it. (I have my training in Applied Behavior Analysis to thank for this principle- behaviors do not just disappear into a vacuum! We are always doing something.) This is true for young children, but also true for us. Just like a preschooler wants to grab a toy out of his friend’s hands, we want to worry. It’s our go-to, knee-jerk response. It seems like our only option. I know the blank stare that follows telling a child not to take toys from someone else. It’s a look that says, “But how else am I supposed to get it?!?” The child is desperate; he feels like he truly needs that toy! So when I give the “do not” command, I need to be ready with the “but.” The “but” is the part that tells us what we should do to get what we need and feel at peace. With little kiddos it’s, “Do not grab a toy out of your friend’s hands, but ask him if you can play with that toy next, and play with something else while you wait.” (Which, as we all know, doesn’t always work out, and usually there is need for adult intervention as we teach this skill. But I think the analogy still works.)

For worry, it seems our command is, “Do not worry, but seek God.” The passage tells me (implicitly) that if God knows we need something, he will make sure we get it. Worrying will not solve my problem or meet my need. Seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness will lead to greater knowledge of his character, and part of that character is taking care of his children. He loves to meet needs and give good gifts to them in his wisdom and time. As far as food and drink and clothing, I am reminded of one of my favorite verses from Psalms: “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” There is also Philippians 4:19, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” So instead of worrying I should look to God’s Word, trust his character, and keep taking those next right steps. He will make sure my physical needs are met, but more importantly his Spirit will give me peace in my mind and heart.

It’s my prayer that memorizing and meditating on this verse will lead to a week of less worry and more trust.

Do you have a favorite verse, quote, or technique that helps you to worry less?

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Verse thoughts | Matthew 6:20-12

Memorization-wise, Matthew 6:20-21 was an easy one. I had it down by Tuesday afternoon. Content-wise, I have a harder time figuring out the deeper meaning of the words, and what specific actions are required of me. But what I know for sure is I can’t wait for complete understanding before taking action. This is where faith and experience can propel us forward. I can have faith that Jesus was serious when he said (in verse 19 actually) “Do not store up treasures here on earth.” I can have faith that he was giving these instructions for people’s benefit, and I will be better off if I follow. This eliminates the excuse of “I don’t understand.” So until I feel like I completely “get” what he was saying, I need to follow the best way I know how.

For now it means I should not seek to unnecessarily accumulate things that can get dusty or moth-eaten or rusted out, or could be stolen. Basically, THINGS. All kinds of things.

I’ll be real honest: I have a pretty big fear of my house flooding or burning down, and it is because of all the things that would be destroyed in either event. I am afraid of how bad it would feel to lose my stuff and see it destroyed. I am so nostalgic and sentimental and a big part of my enjoyment of things is the memories they bring me, so I think that’s the main fear- losing the tie to those memories. But they’re still THINGS. Contemplating Jesus’ words this week reminded me to loosen my grip on my possessions so they don’t take up so much real estate in my heart.

Practically, I am editing and getting rid of unnecessary clutter, especially if someone else could use the stuff. I am giving things away. But what I really want is for my brain to be re-wired so I can look at my things with appreciation and gratefulness, but also with the understanding that it’s just stuff, and does not hold nearly as much value as heavenly treasures (like growing in humility to just name one). So I am giving myself reminders and asking myself questions. Would I rather have the perfect piece of clothing for every season and occasion so I can look great, or would I rather look more like Jesus in my words and actions? It’s easy to speak the correct answer, but a quick peek in my closet might indicate some misplaced value. That makes me sad. But I am confident that mental re-wiring can, will, and is taking place thanks to the Spirit of the one who spoke so long ago. My salvation is my greatest treasure, and my goal is for my life to reflect that value a little more each day. I can get there with grace, wisdom, and strength from above.

If you were memorizing/contemplating Matthew 6:20-21 this week, how did it go for you?

Note: I could have spent way more time on this post, especially on unpacking what Jesus meant, but I focused on immediate steps of obedience. For additional reading, look at the story of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-26. When I read 23-26 I usually cry. It is not only solid teaching from Jesus about how harmful it is for us to get wrapped up in material things, but also a picture of God’s grace as Jesus speaks to his disciples. You know what- go ahead and read through to the end of chapter 19, too. It’s all good stuff relating to this topic of where our hearts need to be.

Fan time

My Monday was significantly brightened by the news that Sufjan Stevens is releasing a new full-length album this Spring. I’ve been a fan of his music for probably a solid decade. For those unfamiliar with him and his work, I’ll just say he could definitely be classified as “out there.” He has done some pretty experimental stuff that I didn’t really connect with, but several of his albums are on my “enduring classics” list. I could listen to Seven Swans, Illinoise and Michigan on repeat. It’s desert island stuff. And his Christmas collection, Songs for Christmas, is now a staple of my Christmas music library… and should be on my desert island list, as well, because you don’t know how long you may be stuck on said island. You’d be kicking yourself if December rolled around and you didn’t have any holiday tunes. I digress.

Stevens’ music is unique, intricate, and layered; the lyrics poetic and thought-provoking. I really enjoy his take on relationships, places, and faith. My favorite songs of his ponder ideas of love, regret, faith, doubt, joy, pain, truth, and just the human experience with vivid imagery and tenderness. A number of his songs contain distinct biblical references, yet his music is not categorically “Christian.” One of my very favorites is Vito’s Ordination Song; to me it conveys perfectly God’s love and knowledge of us as well as Jesus’ earthly purpose- to make amends. Love, love, love it.

And when you write a poem
I know the words, I know the sounds
Before you write it down
When you wear your clothes
I wear them too, I wear your shoes
And the jacket too
I always knew you
In your mothers arms
I have called you son
I’ve made amends
Between father and son
Or if you haven’t one

Rest in my arms
Sleep in my bed
There’s a design
To what I did and said

Other songs of his just make me smile with playful horns, casual choral arrangements, even the titles. Who couldn’t get behind a Christmas song called, “Come on! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance!“??? Clearly the fan who made this awesome video is ALL IN.

This music is not for everyone, but it is right up my alley. If you enjoy walking on the quirkier, more eclectic side with your music, Sufjan Stevens is sure to please.

I can’t wait for Carrie and Lowell.

Thankful for

I almost didn’t post today. I still need to figure out my schedule for posting, pre-writing posts, etc.

But I was feeling very grateful today and wanted to share as an encouragement to anyone who’s reading. Hopefully “I’m thankful for…” is not a phrase we use once a year at the end of November, but one we can repeat day after day.

Last night I fell asleep pondering what “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” really means (from this week’s verse), and while I don’t have a definitive answer yet, it can’t be a coincidence that I woke up feeling a greater appreciation for my life. So here is my list so far. I’ve found that when I start these lists I tend to add to them mentally throughout the day. I hope you will find the same to be true for yourself.

-Two vehicles that work. For the first 8 years of our marriage we shared one car, so although we’ve had two cars for over a year now, it still feels kind of new, and whenever I see that second car my heart feels a little warmer. We can go anywhere we need to, at any time. We’re spoiled.

-Plenty of food. I’m at the grocery store a lot, but this week I don’t think I need to go, and it feels good to know that we have enough. If we needed to, we could probably eat for a month with what we have in our fridge, freezer and pantry. Maybe longer than a month- I haven’t really thought it out, because I haven’t had to. Compared to the rest of the world, we live like royalty and I don’t want to take that for granted.

-Connections with far-away friends and family. Most of our friends and family can be reached by Facebook, text, email or phone at pretty much any time! It is so fun to send someone a little “miss you” or “thinking of you” message from time to time, and I also enjoy sharing more deeply with those friends who are very close to my heart, but live very far away.

-People who care for me. If I have a problem, I have many people to turn to, and a small circle of people who will come to me if they notice I may be going through something but not speaking up. This is so valuable, and I feel so grateful when I think about it.

-My faith. I want this to be a shorter post, so I don’t think I can really put into words here how thankful I am to know our Creator personally and have the privilege of following and occasionally even “helping” him.

-On the lighter side, I am thankful for little things that brighten up my day- colors and flowers and gift wrapping and decorations. Sun shining in through the window, clouds that change shape and size and color. Even my dog- his hair is all over the house, but he depends on me, and he’s kinda cute.

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If Wally could express gratitude, I think ear scratches would be at the top of his list.

-The internet. Let’s get real- where would we be without it? I am thankful for the Internet on pretty much a daily basis. I often marvel at the things I can do that my childhood self could never have imagined. A phone that I can use to watch a movie? Search engines that will answer any question I have (accuracy aside ;))? What a world.

As I find myself saying often, this is the life! Now I’m off to go live it, hopefully with a little more gratitude.

2015 Verse of the Week #2, Matthew 6:20-21

Happy Monday! I got a bit of a slow start this morning after a late night, but I think my new habits will help me get off to a good start in spite of that “I want to go back to bed” feeling. I’ve checked a couple of items off my list already, and now blogging is easing me into mid-morning. 

My second verse of 2015 is Matthew 6:20-21. The Seeds song is called “Treasure,” track 2 on “Seeds of Purpose.” Here is the text from the song (which uses the 1984 NIV translation, btw):

20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

As I look around my home at all of my stuff, I can tell that meditating on this verse may not always be pleasant. I may need to ask some questions of myself along the lines of “what do I value most?” and ask some questions of God along the lines of “how do I align my values with yours?” I may need to take some action. I may need to say I’m sorry. I am sure to find some connections to that little word for 2015, humble. But even then, there is joy. Joy that it is possible to store up for myself treasures in heaven that I will eventually enjoy in God’s presence. Joy that I can learn God’s Word, and that it changes my heart.

Let’s go, Monday!

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p.s. I used the app Rhonna Designs to edit my photo.