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.
I tend to lag behind the rest of the world when it comes to, well, basically anything that is popular at any given time. This is especially true of TV shows and movies. But, thanks to Netflix, we can now binge-watch all kinds of shows that we missed out on when they originally aired.
The hubby and I just finished watching all seven seasons of Sons of Anarchy, or SOA as many refer to it. It originally ran from 2008 – 2014. If you haven’t watched it, I won’t give away anything specific. But, I will tell you, it is a show that my hubby and I both got sucked into and ultimately really enjoyed. I think I was drawn to it because it is basically the story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but with a motorcycle gang set in modern day California. (And, well, I am a theatre nerd after all—so how could I resist?)
I will also tell you it gets really bloody, and really messed up. I mean really messed up. There are quite a few scenes that are very disturbing. Plus, the basic content of the show can be considered, well, bad. To give you an idea, it is about a motorcycle club that runs guns, porn, and gets into drugs. There is lots of gruesome stuff; killing and death. There is also a lot of bad language. Basically, it is a violent show. These reasons alone are solid reasons to NOT watch it—especially if you can’t handle those sorts of things.
On the other hand, if you enjoy lots of action, a ton of twists and turns, and highly complex characters that take you on a journey and can somehow make you either relate to them or have empathy for them or both, and can handle lots of blood and gore, then look no further. Sons of Anarchy is FX’s highest rated series of all time, so that should tell you something. I think it is also important to note that Hamlet is a tragedy, and so is SOA.
So, considering it can and probably is viewed by Christians as an unsavory show (to say the least), why on earth would I be writing about it on Focus on God + Good? Well, I must be honest with you: 1) because these characters reverberate the many ways in which we are all human and hence, flawed and 2) because I think there are some valuable lessons to be gleaned from watching this show.
Without going into specifics of the show and thus spoiling it too much for you, I thought I would share with you some of the bright spots that I took away from watching it.
First, people change. This is something that we all know. What I enjoyed so much about some, but sadly not all, of the characters on SOA is we see them go from having compulsive disorders or being addicted to drugs, to being rehabilitated, vibrant people who become valuable members of the SAMCRO family. (SAMCRO stands for Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original.)
It is a beautiful thing to see people go from bad to good, lost to found, unloved to loved. It is also a great reminder that in real life, people can and do change for the better. Seeing the characters that did change for the better gives you hope that, if they can do it, so can anyone.
Second, we get to witness the major internal struggles of the main characters. While many shows on TV gloss over the internal struggles of their characters, SOA hits them head on. The conflicts that arise on SOA are many, varied, and deep. And, the variety of ways that they are written into the show lends an honesty and credibility to the show.
As you watch the characters change and grow over the course of seven seasons, you come to identify with them and their trials. The actors on SOA do an amazing job of living out their unbelievable, complicated lives. They connect their characters to real life. They make you care about them. You understand them because maybe you or someone you know has been in a similar situation. Or, you think about how you would act or react if you were in their shoes. Or, as is the case for me, you just come to the realization that life can be a very complicated and messy thing. (If we let it.)
Next, and this is my biggest take-away from SOA, is that during the course of this show, a truth that I have known for a quite a while now was substantiated time and time again. And, that truth is this: forgiveness is a powerful and blessed thing.
I think the reason this was so poignant for me was because there seemed to be very little, if any, forgiveness in SOA. There was however, loads of revenge, tit for tat. During almost every season of this show, I kept thinking to myself how much better off these characters would be if they just learned how to forgive each other and themselves. All the retribution, all the death, it clearly ate away at the core of the characters, ate away at their souls. And, the really sad part to me, was that most of it did not need to happen. (Yes, I realize that this is a TV show where, had the characters learned how to forgive, there would not have been much of a show left. But, I digress…)
I kept thinking of how much trouble they would have saved themselves, if they had just learned how to forgive. I kept thinking of how many lives that could have been saved, if they had just learned how to forgive. I kept thinking of how much sorrow they could have avoided, if they had just learned how to forgive.
Learning how to forgive and extend grace and mercy are vital to our growth as Christians. I think the sooner that we grasp this, the better. Watching this show gave me an eye-opening perspective on just how beneficial forgiveness can truly be. And, why it is so worthwhile.
We learn from reading the Bible the importance of forgiveness. Lack of forgiveness blocks access to our wonderful God. Forgiving allows you to cleanse yourself of any resentment or bitterness you have. It frees you! It is the lack of forgiveness that weighs us down and comes between us and God. Matthew 5:23-24 tells us, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the alter and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the alter. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” We can also read about forgiveness in Matthew 6:14-15, Matthew 18:21-25, Mark 11:25, and Psalm 103:12, among other places.
Oddly enough, while there was very little forgiveness or mercy in SOA, there was quite a bit of religious symbolism that reared its head throughout all seven seasons. Just for fun, I thought I would end this post by sharing some of the ones I came across with you.
· There are many scenes located in the chapel of the local hospital, where one main
· The grandfather of the main character, Jax Teller, was a Reverend for fourteen years.
His name is Nate Madock. My favorite line from Nate is, “God forgives everyone
sweetheart.” (Yes! He certainly does.)
· The title of season 6, episode 11 is "John 8:32" (Then you will know the truth, and the
truth will set you free.)
· In season 5, episode 10, entitled “Crucifixed” a crucifix is used as a murder weapon.
· Season 6 premiered with a young boy shooting up his Catholic school.
· In the series finale, a homeless woman, whom we have seen before in other episodes,
is found eating a loaf of bread and drinking a bottle of wine.
· And, my favorite of all—in season 7, episode 6, called “Smoke ‘Em if You Got ‘Em”, has
the character of Juice in a convenience store looking for a specific brand of cigarettes.
The brand is called St. Dismas. Dismas was the penitent thief who was crucified at
Jesus’ right hand at Calvary.
As we say goodbye to winter, I realize that I have been remiss in sharing some beautiful pictures with all of you that I took over the last few months. So, better late than never, right? I mean, there is never really a bad time to look on God’s handiwork.
If you haven’t noticed yet, I adore nature. It is one of the few things in life that truly fills me up spiritually and emotionally. There is simply nothing better to me than being outdoors. I relish getting to hike, but because of my health issues, I don’t get much of a chance to do it. So, I settle for taking walks around my neighborhood and local parks. And, I have come to be thankful for these small excursions.
I am a creative person and enjoy creating things. And, I have had an infatuation with textures for as long as I can remember. So, a lot of these pictures were taken because I thought the textures were cool. I hope you enjoy them! And, happy last day of winter.
I hate to say it, but it’s that time of year again--that time of year when we have to start thinking about Christmas shopping. Some of you may actually enjoy it, and I hope you do. Me? I am not really a fan. For some reason, I find shopping for others hard.
Luckily I don’t have to do that much of it, so for that, I am thankful. But, for the majority of you who do have to shop, I wanted to share an idea with you: Shop Senoia.
It is no secret that The Walking Dead is filmed in Senoia. And, thanks to all the publicity that comes along with that, we have some great shopping here. The reason I like it so much is because, being in a small town, it has a genuine small town feel. And, I think that that makes your shopping experience so much better than if you were just shopping at the mall.
We have a variety of one-of-a-kind shops and places to eat that will make your visit worth the time from just about anywhere in the metro Atlanta area. Come early and plan on spending the day, you won’t regret it.
My favorite food in the world is breakfast food. And, if you want to start your day out right, I highly recommend having breakfast at Katie Lou’s Café. They offer fresh, homemade breakfast starting at 8:00am on Fridays and Saturdays. But, best of all, they serve breakfast all day long. All. Day. Long. YES!
The parents of Rutledge Wood own Katie Lou’s. If you a NASCAR fan or like the TV show Top Gear, you probably know who he is. You will usually find Rut’s mom, dad or sister at the café. They are really nice folks who serve up some really good food!
Do you have a thing for antiques? If so, Senoia is going to quickly become your favorite place. With shops like Beyond the Door, Foxxhollow Antiques, Gail’s Antiques, and Relish, you will be in hog heaven! Oh and Gail’s Antiques sometimes has set pieces from The Walking Dead for sale. It is creepy cool!
Are you more of a clothes hound? Yes? Then you have definitely GOT to come here. We have a vast variety of new and slightly used clothing stores that carry men, ladies, and children’s fashion. Get your shop on in Southern Heritage Outfitters, The Pink Chair, Sam’s Eclectic Collections, or Lace N Boots.
How about just some cool, unique gifts? We have got you covered there too! With shops like Table Talk, Beads & Lace Boutique, and The Woodbury Shoppe, which is the official Walking Dead Store, you can count on finding something that you and loved ones will melt over.
I especially like Beads & Lace Boutique, as 90% of their store is filled with handmade items from local artists! Plus, owner Lindsey Frazier has a heart for giving back and helping local people in need. She states on her website, “When you buy one our pieces you are blessing someone in need. God has blessed our business and we love to give back.” They support Community Welcome House and Pathway Home. So, if you are looking for some cute artisan gifts, accessories, jewelry making supplies, or bridal gifts, be sure to check them out!
Now, I have saved my two favorite stores for last. First up: The Queen’s Jewels.
The Queen’s Jewels is owned and operated by Jan Hipp. She, along with Master Jeweler, Jimmy Wheeler, make you feel right at home in this fabulous jewelry store. They have a nice assortment of jewelry, from items for special occasions to items for your everyday wardrobe. But, what I really like is that they don’t pressure you to buy anything, or spend more than you have allotted. If you tell them what your spending range is, they gladly show you what they have. They treat you like a friend, which is so refreshing in a jewelry store environment! They also sell Firefly jewelry, which if you haven’t seen it, you MUST check out. The Firefly pieces are bright, colorful, and gorgeous!
My second favorite store is The Georgia Mercantile Company. They specialize in Georgia based items such as jams, jellies, sauces, rubs, books, art, postcards, t-shirts, stationary, and more. All of their items are locally made, grown, or produced. It is an awesome place to find gifts for the foodie or hard-to-shop-for people on your Christmas list.
I told you to start out your day with breakfast, but shopping is hard work. As you shop your day away, remember that you need to stop and eat some lunch, snacks, and dinner as well. We have plenty of fabulous food options for you to choose from. Grab a great chicken salad sandwich at Senoia Coffee & Café, or some yummy pizza from Matt’s Smalltown Pizza. There is also Maguire’s Irish Pub, Main Street Fudge & Ice Cream, The Tomato House, or Nic & Norman’s Bar and Grill. All of these places are good in their own right. Actually, you probably want to make plans to come back and visit again, just to eat at all of these places. They are that good. Really.
I am sure I have left out some places…and I didn’t mean to. These are just the places that I frequent as a resident. There are lots of great places in and around downtown that you can visit. I hope I have convinced you that you need to come down and spend a day with us. We would love to have you!
Yesterday, my hubby and I returned from a quick trip to celebrate our four-year wedding anniversary. Apparently year four is magic. Or, at least in our case it was.
We went to Universal Orlando Resort to finally check out in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. If you are a true Harry Potter fan, like I am, then you have got to go visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Paul and I have been to Universal before, but not since the upgrade of adding Diagon Alley and the Hogwarts Express. And, believe me when I tell you, the word for it is definitely magical!
Diagon Alley is amazing! I didn’t want to leave. All the little details, I could have literally spent days taking it all in. Knockturn Alley, The Leaky Cauldron, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, Ollivanders Wand Shop, Borgin and Burkes, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions and Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour were all there! Being the ice cream lover that I am, I especially enjoyed trying the clotted cream flavor – completely delicious!! I also like the Butterbeer, but it was actually a little too sweet for my taste. I could only drink one cup of it.
The first afternoon we were there, we were looking around all the shops, at all the cool stuff you can buy. I immediately realized that I needed to go online to be sorted into a house, before I could buy anything. They had Gryffindor stuff, Slytherin stuff, Ravenclaw stuff, and Hufflepuff stuff. I naturally gravitated towards Hufflepuff, as their main color is yellow, and my favorite color is yellow. But, I wanted to go online and be tested, to see what house the Sorting Hat would put me into.
I took four online tests that evening--one, being pretty extensive, with more than 100 questions. You can check it out here. Then, of course, I took the test at Pottermore. All four online tests sorted me into Ravenclaw. Considering the fact that Luna Lovegood, Sybill Trelawney, and Garrick Ollivander are all Ravenclaws, I figure I am in great company!
There are also some great rides you have got to check out while you are there. The newest one is Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. It is a 3-D ride and definitely awesome. Oh, and it is the only ride at Universal. There are three other rides on the Islands of Adventure side: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Flight of the Hippogriff, and Dragon Challenge. Being a roller coaster lover, my favorite was Dragon Challenge. This is actually a pair of roller coasters, one blue and one red. The red one was much more fun, in my opinion!
Now, I need a few days to rest. And, I would like to re-read all the books now. Can we magically stop time for a little while so I can do both of these? Thanks! :D
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.