I have always enjoyed making things and doing artsy-craftsy stuff. Ever since I can remember, I have had creative juices flowing through my veins. In the past, I would often make items to give as Christmas gifts. I have made hair barrettes, jewelry, storage containers, and photo albums. I have knitted scarves and throws. I have painted pictures and sewn zipper bags and books. And, it has been years since I have done this. So, this year I thought I would get back to my artistic roots—but in a little different way.
Ever since I found out about my “mystery” illness, I have done lots of research on what could be possible causes. In my research, and in my walk with Christ, I have come to my own personal conclusion that the more natural substances we can consume and come in contact with, the better. There are so many chemicals in what we eat and come into contact with each day, that are having very harmful effects on us. It is just not good.
God has created our bodies to be wonderfully complex. They have the power to heal themselves. If we just give our bodies the proper nutrition, the proper fuel, you can feel a difference. This is why I try my best to eat as many organic fruits and vegetables and grass-fed/natural proteins as I can. I limit my intake of anything processed. I am also working towards being completely gluten free and eating only natural sugars.
Most of the products we come in contact with, and use on a daily basis, are filled with harmful chemicals. I am talking about harmful chemicals that can be found in our water (fluoride for instance), food, plastics, furniture, cookware, cans, carpets, electronics, shower curtains, beauty products, and even home cleaning and body cleaning products. They are everywhere! (I warn you, don’t google it, unless you want to freak yourself out.)
When I first started reading up on this, I wanted to sell everything we own, buy some land in some remote part of Georgia, move, and figure out how to live off the land. Sadly, my hubby would never allow this! So, I am trying to do the next best thing—limit my contact and exposure to these chemicals as much as I possibly can. (A great resource is Suzanne Somers book Tox-Sick.)
So, how does one do this, you ask? And, what does this have to do with making Christmas presents?
Well, first, let me start by telling you that you can make your own cleaning and body products at home. Most of them are easy to make and are exponentially safer for you and your loved ones. Plus, in most cases, it is cheaper too! The majority of the all-natural ingredients you will need are probably already in your home: castile soap, baking soda, vinegar, witch hazel, raw honey, essential oils of your choice, and carrier oils of your choice. It is also good to have some washing soda and Himalayan sea salt handy.
Below I have a list of some of the most basic household items that we use day in and day out. These are all things you can make at home. I have included handy-dandy links from some great bloggers on how to make them.
These are the top 20 items I want to try and make soon. If you do research on Pinterest, you can find recipes for just about anything and everything. I am sure there are lots more than just these 20 items—but these will get you started. (In alphabetical order)
(Also, I would be remiss if I did not share with you about a company called Norwex. A friend of mine from high school introduced me to them. You can purchase wonderful, chemical free and all natural products from Norwex. My personal favorites, so far, are their EnviroCloths and kitchen towel and cloth sets. The EnviroCloths are great for cleaning just about every surface of your home. Check Norwex out by clicking here.)
Now, on to the gifts. Buy your ingredients and some cute containers to put them in and get to work! Instead of making Christmas cookies this year, make some peppermint body wash or lavender laundry detergent! Trust me when I tell you, your body will thank you. And, so will everyone you give these special homemade gifts to. There is nothing quite like receiving something that was specifically created just for you.
Thanks to Thanksgiving being in November, November has become known as the month for thankfulness. As I posted last year, One Day Isn’t Enough to be thankful. I think now is the perfect time to remind each of you, and myself as well, that having an attitude of gratitude every day is vitally important for our emotional well-being and general overall health.
Being grateful is defined as “warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received; thankful.” As we grow in our spiritual lives, and realize how powerful and transformative gratitude is, we will embrace all it has to offer with arms open wide. Every experience we have, every situation we face, no matter how seemingly good or bad, is an opportunity to look for things to be grateful for. In every situation, a blessing can be found.
Oftentimes, these blessings can only be found as we look back. Retrospectively looking back allows us to find hidden gems that we couldn’t see at the time—if we only take some time to search for them carefully. I know that in my own life, I have repeatedly found this to be true. Every time this happens I think of the “beauty from ashes” Bible verse. (See Isaiah 61: 1-3)
When we have an attitude of gratitude about everything in our lives, it will change our perspective. We shift. We grow. And, ultimately, we will transform. And, that my friends, is exactly what God wants us to do. It benefits not only us, but everyone around us as well.
When we start looking at our lives through the eyes of gratitude, it can greatly change our views. All those little annoyances that drive us crazy every day, all those petty, insignificant jabs that life throws at us on a day-to-day basis, they can be gone in the blink of an eye. How? Gratitude! It is the way in which we can overcome all these things and more.
If you do some research online, you will find numerous scientific studies have documented a multitude of benefits come from practicing gratitude. Being grateful increases joy, pleasure, and optimism, as well as reduces anxiety and depression. When we are grateful, our physical health improves; our blood pressure lowers, our immune system strengthens, and our symptoms of illness are reduced.
Grateful people sleep better. (And, who doesn’t want that??) They get more sleep, spend less time awake before falling asleep, and wake up feeling more rested. If you want to sleep more soundly, this is the perfect opportunity to spend good quality time in prayer, thanking God for all your blessings.
Having a grateful attitude bolsters relationships. It lets us feel closer and better connected to our family, friends, and even strangers. It has been proven that when partners feel and express their gratitude for each other, they become more satisfied with their relationships.
When we are grateful, something magical happens. We become more loving, compassionate, gracious, helpful, and generous. In essence, we become more like Jesus. His love and light shines through us for others to see. And, then a domino effect starts to take place. When others see, and sense our gratitude and the joy and contentment it brings, they want to be like that too. It is such a beautiful way to live our lives and share the glory of the Lord with others. Don’t you want to try it?
I leave you today with a quote from Richard Carlson:
“Demonstrate gratitude for the simple things in life…a sunset, rain, insects, birds, children laughing, or a kind gesture…Appreciative people are happy; they see the beauty in life while others miss it.”
Christmas comes but once a year. Thank goodness! I know I should love Christmastime, but, honestly, as an adult, I just don’t. Not really. Not like I should. I love Jesus, I love that He was born. I love what Christmas stands for. I even love putting up Christmas decorations. And, I especially love the tastes and smells that go along with Christmastime. (Real Christmas trees smell so good. Sweets and candies and baked goods, taste so yummy!) I don’t like Christmastime for the simple fact that it is stressful. And, I hate anything that is stressful.
Now, that stuff being said, there is another thing that I do LOVE about Christmastime—the music! Oddly enough though, I can’t listen to it nonstop for the whole month of December anymore. I used to be able to do that. Now, I have to enjoy it bits and pieces at a time. I will listen to it for a while, then switch to something else. Then, later, I will switch back to it. I think the main reason is because I hear a lot of the same old Christmas songs over and over and over. And, while I do love what I refer to as the “old classics”, I can’t deal with hearing them over and over and over in the same day. I know, I know, I know…I am turning into a crotchety old lady!
However, there are some great Christmas songs that I adore, that I can’t get enough of. In fact, most of these I only hear because I play them for myself. They don’t get much air play on the radio, or Pandora, or XM. So, I thought I would share them with you. Below, in no particular order, are my favorite Christmas songs of all time that I don’t hear much on the radio. This is my Christmas gift to you. Merry Christmas! You can thank me later!
1) “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” – Viva Voce on Happy Christmas Vol.2
Ok, I lied before. (About the “in no particular order” thing. After this song, that applies.) This song is my very favorite Christmas song ever. That is why I have it first. I have always liked the lyrics of this song. But, Viva Voce cranks it and their version ROCKS!!! I can listen to this one song on repeat for hours. (Yes, I know, it’s sad.)
2) “Santa’s Beard” – They Might Be Giants
I am a huge TMBG fan. I have been since high school, thanks to my friend Sabrina. Two guys named John make up the band. They are just fun. Most of their songs are completely crazy and/or silly and I love it! I mean, sometimes life just calls for things that put a huge smile on your face.
3) “Blue Christmas” with Porky Pig
I am also a huge fan of cartoons. I grew up on Bugs Bunny. If you are at least my age or older, I am sure it was a staple for you too. So, I know you love Porky Pig just as much as I do.
4) “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” – Alvin and the Chipmunks
My mom and dad bought me this album, yes the vinyl kind, when I was a kid. I always thought Theodore was the best. And, their version of this classic, where they talk to Rudolph, is my favorite version of this song. I love to hear Rudolph talk!
5) “Christmas in Hollis” – Run-D.M.C.
This song and the video make me laugh. And, if you grew up in the 80’s, Run D.M.C. is a staple.
6) “Father Christmas” – The Kinks
When you grow up in a household where your dad is a musician, you tend to follow his taste in music. The Kinks are one of my dad’s favorite groups and this song has a great beat!
7) “Grown Up Christmas List” – Natalie Cole
Now this song is one of my hubby’s favs. As an adult, I love the lyrics and agree with them completely. Add in Natalie’s spectacular voice and this song brings tears to my eyes every. time.
8) “Wonderful Christmastime” – Jars of Clay
No offense to Sir Paul McCartney, but I do NOT like his version of this song. Actually, I have heard other versions of this song and didn’t like those either. I am not sure exactly what it is about this Jars of Clay version, but they not only make this song good, but they make it heart-filling. (And, as a side note, their whole Christmas album, entitled Christmas Songs, is really good.)
9) “I’d Like to Hitch a Ride With Santa” – The Andrews Sisters
I am a sucker for the swing and boogie-woogie era. I could watch those movie musicals all day long. Of course, The Andrews Sisters are the epitome of that era. They had the vocal range and harmonies that many people, even today, would kill for. And, this little ditty is just a fun and different Christmas tune!
10) “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” – Aaron Shust
This song they actually do play a good bit on the radio. And, I am sooo glad. It is different in that the music sounds like it is from Israel or something. It is super cool!
11) “We Three Kings” – Hugh Jackman, David Hobson, and Peter Cousen
This Christmas song is one of my all-time favs. And, you NEVER hear it anywhere. I just don’t understand. I even had a hard time finding a version online to share with you guys. But, I did come across this cheesy version featuring Hugh Jackman. And, I am a fan of both Hugh and cheese!
12) “2000 Miles” – The Pretenders
What woman who loves music, doesn’t love Chrissie Hynde? Her voice is so, well, Chrissie. And, this song isn’t strictly a “Christmas” song. It is one of those rare songs that you can play year-round.
13) “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” – Harry Connick, Jr.
I am a HUGE Harry fan. When his Christmas album “When My Heart Finds Christmas” came out in 1993, I went out and bought it and basically wore it out, I played it so often. The whole album is great, but this song and “(It Must Have Been Ol’) Santa Claus” are my two favorites. “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” is a song from the movie “Babes in Toyland”. This is a fun old Disney movie from 1961. If you get the chance to watch it, you should! But, in my humble opinion, the best “Babes in Toyland” is the 1934 version with Laurel and Hardy. Talk about a fun movie—it is one I try to catch every year at Christmas. It is a classic, and even though it was made 83 years ago, it still holds up well. The simple, silly comedy makes it such a pleasure to watch. Sorry, I digress…
14) “Carol of the Bells” – Family Force 5
“Carol of the Bells” is such a popular song, you can find a plethora of different versions of it, and just about all of them are good. While Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s version is probably everyone’s favorite and the most played and well-known, this version by Family Force 5 is cool and kitschy and addicting. (At least, I think so.) Give it a listen and see what you think.
15) “Most Beautiful Time of the Year” – Beckah Shae
Never heard of Beckah Shae? I hadn’t either until about a week ago. I am not sure what rock I have been living under, but thankfully I have seen the light! Beckah is a Christian pop artist and her voice is AMAZING. I just had to include it. High energy, it makes you want to get up and dance. And, it is another one that I can listen to over and over and over.
So, what do you guys think? Did I leave your favorite off the list? Have a rare gem you want to share with me? I would love to hear from you. Leave me a comment below. And, I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas!
Yeah, I know, I am a little late with this post. But, as the old saying goes, “better late than never.” So, here is my Thanksgiving post. Thanksgiving is a national holiday that started out as a day to give thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. And, while it is nice to have a nationally recognized day to give thanks, one day just isn’t enough.
We, especially those of us who call ourselves Christians, should be giving thanks to God each and every day of our lives. That is how God wants it, and it should be how we want it too. We are to give God thanks for everything in our lives, even the trials and misery that we face. While that sounds backwards to many, once you become a Christian, you start to understand why this is a vital part of our spiritual growth.
God wants us to take the adversity that we face in our lives and use those opportunities to lean on Him. He wants us trust in Him to get us through. He wants us to have faith in Him that everything will be okay. Or, at the very least, that He will work everything out for our good. How do I know all of this? The Bible tells us so. (This is why it is so important to read your Bible daily.)
Do you remember being a kid and having some aches in your legs? I sure do! I had them often. When I complained to my parents, they would always tell me they were growing pains. If I wanted to get taller, that was the price I had to pay. Our spiritual growth is the same way. Anytime we grow and stretch ourselves, there will be pain involved. So, while giving thanks to God during our trials is tough at first, and maybe even counterintuitive, it is the best possible thing you can do for yourself during those times. God sees and hears you and eventually He will bless you for it.
So, as we continue through this season of thanks, remember to give thanks to God each and every day for every circumstance, good or bad that you have. Stretch your spiritual muscles and grow strong in your faith and in the Lord.
If you are a fan of “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young, today’s devotional lines up perfectly with this post. Sarah writes:
“Rest in the deep assurance of My unfailing Love. Let your body, mind, and spirit relax in My Presence. Release into My care anything that is troubling you so that you can focus your full attention on Me. Be awed by the vast dimensions of My Love for you: wider, longer, higher, and deeper than anything you know. Rejoice that this marvelous Love is yours forever!
The best response to this glorious gift is a life steeped in thankfulness. Every time you thank Me, you acknowledge that I am your Lord and Provider. This is the proper stance for a child of God: receiving with thanksgiving. Bring Me the sacrifice of gratitude, and watch to see how much I bless you.”
1 Peter 5:7; Ephesians 3:16-19; Psalm 107:21-22
I will end by circling back around to what I said at the beginning: giving thanks only one day year is just not enough! Let’s all remember to give thanks to God every day.
Thinking ahead to Easter and in writing my blog post last week, I have been reminiscing a lot lately about the old hymns that we sung in church while I was growing up. I really miss those songs of old. So, in this post, I thought I would share with you some of my all-time favorite hymns. Check them out below. They are in no particular order. I was trying to decide which is my favorite, and I just can’t choose. I hope you enjoy!
Easter will soon be upon us once again. I love Easter for many reasons—warmer weather, pretty flowers and trees blooming. (And, if I am completely honest, Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs. Those little peanut butter and chocolate eggs are divine!) But, mainly Easter is an awesome reminder of Jesus’ love for us. Jesus gave himself willingly to die on the cross. He shed his blood to pay for all of our many, many sins. It’s truly the most humbling thing I know, or can even think of.
Easter also reminds me of that song, “Are You Washed in the Blood?” written in 1878 by Elisha A. Hoffman. (I love the internet and being able to look this kind of stuff up!) It is one of those great old hymns that we sang often in the church I grew up in. As a kid, when you hear the words “washed in the blood” your mind can think of some crazy stuff. Well, in my case, I was often literal. I remember picturing in my mind a bathtub full of blood, and having to take a bath in it. Eww! I also remember thinking that blood couldn’t possibly get you clean, only soap could do that. Thank goodness, I have grown up and learned about metaphors!
Being a theatre nerd, I also think of Jesus being crucified in conjunction with Jesus Christ, Superstar – the rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber. I can hear the chorus members shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” over and over. (I have to give a shout out to my awesome college professor, David Moore, who gave my friend TeeJay and I tickets to see Jesus Christ, Superstar at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. I think it was 1994. It had Carl Anderson as Judas and Ted Neely as Jesus—it was spectacular!!)
Thanks to seeing that performance, it was easy to picture the real Jesus being tortured and crucified. What I can’t imagine is what it must have been like actually be Jesus. It would be horrible enough to see that happen to someone, but I’m sure it doesn’t even begin to compare with having it happen to you.
Of course, I have a feeling that what caused Jesus to suffer most was not necessarily the corporal punishment he received, which was horrendous and brutal, but the sadness he must have felt for humanity. Why do I think this? I guess because it has always stuck with me that while he was on the cross dying, he prayed to God and said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Forgive them. Forgive them. Can you imagine asking for forgiveness for the people who are killing you?
But, that is what Jesus came to earth to do. He came to die on the cross so that our sins would be be forgiven. He didn’t die because of anything that he did, but what we did. Our sins. Ours. Not his. And, he gave his life willingly. I doubt that there are very many people alive today who would do that.
Let’s all take some time to reflect on this gift that God gave us: His son, Jesus. His son, who died on a cross for our sins. With a crown of thorns on his head, and nails through his hands and feet, He suffered mightily. (J. Lee Grady has an eye-opening blog post on How Jesus Endured the Pain of the Cross – read it. You won’t look at Jesus the same afterwards.)
The fact that He gave His life, means that we can live. I don't know about you, but I believe that this is the greatest of all gifts ever. It is certainly something worth celebrating. This Easter, I will thank Him and praise Him, for He is worthy!
Listen to Willie Nelson sing "Are You Washed in the Blood?"
This Thursday is Thanksgiving. If you are like me, you are finding this hard to wrap your head around. It has been so warm here in the metro Atlanta area that has made it even harder to grasp.
The whole purpose of Thanksgiving is for us to give thanks. As a nation, we have set aside this one-day each year to do just that: give thanks. But, as Christians, shouldn’t we be doing this each and every day anyway? My answer is YES!
Knowing that God loved us enough to send his own son to die on the cross for us should make us thankful every single day. (See John 3:16)
Knowing that God is full of grace and mercy that is new each day should make us thankful each day. (Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23)
Knowing that if we are truly sorry and ask for forgiveness from our sins, God is faithful to forgive us. (See 1 John 1:9)
These three truths alone should be enough to make us grateful and thankful each and every day. Cicero was noted as saying, “A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues.”
But, just as a reminder, below I have a list of other things we can be thankful for. Now, all of these may not apply to you, but I am hoping that most of them do.
Things to be thankful for:
I also wanted to share with you some of my favorite quotes on gratitude and being thankful. These top the list:
It is necessary, then, to cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude. ~ Wallace D. Wattles
Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude. ~ Denis Waitley
O Lord that lends me life,
Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.
And though I ebb in worth, I'll flow in thanks. ~John Taylor
For hearts that are kindly, with virtue and peace, and not seeking blindly a hoard to increase; for those who are grieving o'er life's sordid plan; for souls still believing in heaven and man; for homes that are lowly with love at the board; for things that are holy, I thank thee, O Lord! ~ Walt Mason
Got no check books, got no banks. Still I'd like to express my thanks — I got the sun in the morning and the moon at night. ~ Irving Berlin
Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving. ~ W.T. Purkiser
I hope these reminders will help you to be thankful not only on Thanksgiving Day, but each and every day of your life. Because, as an unknown author has so rightfully shared, “Gratitude turns what we have into enough."
I am so glad you are here! I am Erica Strickland, a girl who loves God. My goal here is to simply share His love and light and any good thing that I come across.