Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Make A List...

I've been writing a lot of lists lately... grocery lists, work lists, cleaning lists, prayer lists, this-baby-is-coming-soon-so-get-it-done lists... (the list could go on). It helps keep me sane and on track. This is probably a habit from my corporate office days when I made daily agenda outlines to keep my tasks and deadlines straight. For my freelance work, I keep weekly to-do lists that seem to get longer as the week goes on. There's no denying the sense of accomplishment that comes with checking something off your list -- but sometimes it feels like every completed task adds up to 3 new ones!

This past spring, I was struggling through the physical strain of constant nausea during early pregnancy, and I challenged myself to write a daily 'Happy List'. The list included (seemingly) little things like a sunny day or a hot cup of coffee. This daily practice was not only encouraging, but convicting. It helped me to recognize the areas in my life that lacked gratitude and appreciation of all I've been given. The Lord has richly blessed me and my family and, even on my worst days, the awareness of His grace in my life is enough. Funny how easy that is to forget. But keeping a tally -- even just a daily mental list -- of the many good things He gives, is an incredible reminder.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17 

I need that reminder again as the arrival of this new babe approaches. With two little ones in tow, the days feel so long, and my temper very short. I struggle to stay inspired and alert when my energy is low and parenting struggles leave me discouraged. But, in the quieter moments, these littles lists in my head remind me of the end goal. And that I'm not pursuing it alone.

"I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14

Taking the time to slow down, re-focus on the task at hand, and enjoy the precious moments I've been given is time well spent. So, here is today's list:

  • A few quiet moments  to sit and think
  • Extended naptime for both children (after two days of bad/short naps)
  • A healthy baby girl (kicking me right now) who will be arriving soon
  • Modern technology that allows me to communicate with family and friends, near and far
  • Consistent freelance work and creative outlets
  • Fall! (I love this season)
  • Coffee. Always.
  • Anticipation of impending events, holidays and family gatherings
  • Good health and modern medicine

Really this list could go on... the more you think about it, the longer our list of blessings becomes. In this season of harvest, as the holidays and end of the year approach, it is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle. I'm savoring these quiet moments of "reaping" to appreciate and enjoy the generous harvest God has given this year. This favorite old English hymn comes to mind:

Come, ye thankful people, come,
Raise the song of harvest home!
All is safely gathered in,
Ere the winter storms begin;
God, our Maker, doth provide
For our wants to be supplied;
Come to God's own temple, come;
Raise the song of harvest home!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

All Natural Beauty Routine

It's been about a month since my 31st birthday -- which included a wonderful weekend full of celebrating -- and we are settling into a new back-to-school routine with 3 half-days of preschool for both children. 31 feels pretty good and, honestly, a lot more comfortable than 30 did. I guess I'm just still getting used to the idea of being in my thirties. The teens are long gone, but the twenties were so good... sometimes it's hard to let go! I'm not so worried about the passage of my youth, so to speak, as I am about the recognition that every day is a gift, at any age, and I want to enjoy it to the fullest extent.

But time passes, and things change, and generally that's a good thing. I am grateful for the blessings that the passage of time has brought into my life, and look forward to welcoming another new little "change" come late November. I'm counting down the weeks until baby girl's birth (hoping for an early arrival....before Thanksgiving) and attempting to predict just how much everything will change again once another little life joins our family. I'm a creature of habit, and routine is my jam these days. Throw a little change into the mix, and things can go haywire for a while. But that's the nature of life, and I'm learning to trust my anticipation/anxiety of change to the God who does not change (James 1:17).

But one thing I am really excited about changing up these days is my beauty routine. In different phases of my life, I've had varying degrees of interest in all-natural/organic/home-grown/etc. alternatives to the mass-produced products available on the market today -- from food and health products, to clothing and home goods, as well as beauty and self-care items. I've learned a lot about the toxins we are exposed to these days, even in the most standard of daily-use items. Lately, I've felt it's worth a little digging to discover ways of keeping things healthier and safer for myself and my family. So, for my 31st birthday, I decided to give myself the gift of a new, non-toxic beauty routine.

By researching items using the Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database and the app Think Dirty, I've come up with a new set of makeup that I feel completely comfortable wearing on a regular basis knowing that the nontoxic ingredients are not contributing to potential negative health impact. Both databases rate products based on overall hazard levels, including carcinogenicity, developmental/reproductive toxicity, allergies and immunotoxicity, and other use restrictions. If you read through the listing of ingredients used in every day products, it's scary how much potentially harmful junk is included! Identifying for beauty items that are paraben-free, sans sulfates and other preservatives or potentially toxic chemicals has gotten a lot easier with the help of these tools! I've been contemplating this switch for a while, and I knew it would be an investment, but I was also able to find several products that are both natural and affordable. I don't wear makeup every day anyway, and when I do, I tend to prefer a natural look, so this was more about finding products that would work best with my skin tone and even do double-duty for everyday, as well as the occasional "glam" wear.

From top left, clockwise:

I also received as a gift a fantastic all-natural lip gloss by Au Naturale that is the perfect shade for adding a little glam. I really like when items have a "tool" incorporated, like the brush on the brown pencil, and the smudge stick on the eyeliner. Makes me feel like I'm getting my money's worth! I've also been using Pacifica Alight Mineral BB Cream when I want a little more foundation coverage in combination with the BeautyCounter Skin Tint, and have a few other options on my wish list to try for base/foundation options (Pacifica Ultra Radiant Cream Foundation, Juice Beauty SPF 30 Tinted Moisturizer, Benecos Flawless Face Foundation). I'm also still looking for a neutral/shimmer eye cream that can be used as an eyelid primer and color, and would love to try this non-toxic nail polish as well! 

Below are pics of my before and after face. It still feels natural to me, but definitely adds pop to the eyes, cheeks, lips! I feel more put together, even if I'm just wearing gym clothes to the grocery store. ;) I like that the BeautyCounter Tint Skin provides enough coverage to even out skin tone, but still allow my freckles to show through. That's part of looking natural for my daily look, and I can always layer it with the BB cream for more coverage. I've really enjoyed testing out these new products and researching the most cost-effective ways to incorporate a healthier, non-toxic approach to my daily routine. 

*Please pardon the bad hair and RBF (resting bitch face) 😝

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A 31 (year-old) Woman

That's not me. It's just a picture of a woman with her arms wide open to the sky. But it fits, right?

As my 31st birthday approaches (this Friday!), the "Proverbs 31 woman" has been on my mind quite a bit. I guess this is cliche since it seems the topic has been exhausted by women's Bible studies, devotionals, books, podcasts, sermons, etc., in recent years. For many, this Biblical paragon is an elusive model of Christian womanhood that brings with it a tinge of bitterness....but I believe that is a mischaracterization we can attribute to the downfall of sin, as with many other Scriptural misinterpretations (read: It's tempting to feel intimidated by the poetic representation of a woman who appears to "do it all", as verse 29 states:

“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”  Proverbs 31:29

She is a woman of talent and character, hard-working and always putting the good of others before her own... she seems perfect, too good to be true. And perhaps she is. A tiny notation on these verses (Proverbs 31:10-31, "The Wife of Noble Character") states: "Verses 10-31 are an acrostic poem, the verses of which begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet." Ah ha! These verses are poetic -- symbolic, even! This isn't a representation of a real woman, it's just a collection of admirable attributes, individual character traits arranged in alphabetical order towards which we might strive, clever and pretty-sounding.... like a Dr. Seuss poem.... right??

While that would be an easy out, I'm inclined to think not. God never expects less than perfection. In fact, He requires perfection, which is exactly what we cannot achieve. On our own. He sent his perfect Son, Jesus, to achieve it for us. Even the Proverbs 31 woman knows this, because she is a woman "who fears the Lord", and "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10). She cannot become "a wife of noble character" on her own. She does not wake up every morning with a checklist to "bring good, not harm, all the days of her life." No, she begins with the fear of the Lord, the summation and binding factor of any praiseworthy deed. She is trusting in His provision to bring to completion the work He has begun (Philippians 1:6). And beginning with that trust, she can do all things in His strength.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Philippians 4:13

As I approach turning 31, I feel overwhelmed by all that I cannot do. This feels like a much larger hurdle than turning 30 last year. Even entering a new decade was not as daunting as approaching motherhood of three children 4 and under, while running a freelance design business, maintaining a functioning household, fostering personal relationships, and "extending my hands to the needy." These are all things the Proverbs 31 woman achieves. And still "she can laugh at the days to come"! Laughter is not the first thing that comes to mind when I anticipate the days ahead... unless it's the kind of hysterical laughter that accompanies insanity. But my fearful approach is not rooted in the fear of the Lord. He is the giver of all good things -- the greatest of these being our salvation in Christ -- and with the ransom He has paid comes an unquenchable hope, an undying joy. Suffering is inevitably a part of the Proverbs 31 woman's life, though this section of the poem does not recount it in detail. But, even knowing struggles will come, she can live without worry or anxiety, because she knows in Whom her strength is found.

"Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."
Romans 5:3-4

So, as I welcome 31 and all that may accompany it, I am armed with this timely reminder of the 31 woman. Hers is a high calling, and a worthy one. And not so intimidating when I cease relying on my own strength to accomplish the "good works, which God prepared beforehand..." (Ephesians 2:10). These traits of "a wife of noble character" are achievable and it is very good to have a model (alphabetized in Hebrew, no less) by which to recount them. Will I achieve them all this year? Not likely. Perhaps not even all in my lifetime, if that is not the plan God has laid for me. But I will cease to fear the task laid before me, fearing the Lord instead, and rejoice in the sufferings -- and the hope -- that come along the way.