Let's Review, Shall We?

Before I buy something, I always, always read through a few reviews first. I find it so helpful to know what other users thought of the product. Is it true to size? High quality? Were most of the buyers happy with the product overall? I find it so helpful, in fact, that I'm going to share a few reviews with you too.

Let's start off with something I am still loving. My Radiant Facial Oil Serum from MarieLynn Skincare. I purchased this product back in March when my skin was suffering from pregnancy hormones and I was desperate to keep breakouts at bay. Almost immediately I noticed improvement in the overall appearance of my skin; it glowed, nearly radiant. And now, four months later, I still see continual results. I've had many makeup free days, thanks to this oil and a skin kissed glow from the summer sunshine! My first bottle of oil is nearly empty, so today I placed a second order - this time taking advantage of the Skin Rescue Set, which also includes a French Green Clay face mask in addition to the Facial Oil. If you use the code SUMMER25 you'll get 25% off your order through the end of the month. 

Next up is a product I'm brand new to: Schmidt's Natural Deodorant. I went with the scent Lavender + Sage. I'm on a bit of a quest to switch all products my family and I use on our skin and in our home to be as natural as possible. I don't like the thought of harmful chemicals and fillers to be surrounding us and absorbed into our skin. I've been using natural deodorant for several years, but I never found one I was truly happy with, one that was mess-free and long lasting. The Crystal Stick only worked in the winter and Tom's of Maine left a gooey residue on the skin and clothing, that dried white. So far I've been liking the Schmidt's stuff; it comes in a glass jar, and is applied with a spatula, so it takes some getting use to, but it works. (At least I think it does. I should probably verify that with people who I'm around all day. They would probably know better than me.) It's made in the USA and one of the ingredients is hops extract. (Joleen, if you're reading this, this fact is for you. Start growing those hops plants to your hearts content. :) ) I bought mine from Amazon - I haven't seen it in stores... yet.

I also LOVE my Norwex Cloths and Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap for cleaning my home and my skin. Dr. Bronner's products are Fair Trade! And there are so many ways you can use them, which means I don't need to have a million different products to keep my home and kiddo's clean. It's basically like a million products all in one bottle. (The Dr. Bronner company advertising like 18 in 1 or something like that. Either way, I like it.)

And have I mentioned ThredUp lately? I'm still loving them. It's been almost a year since I first placed an order, and since then I've placed many more orders. I'm a thrifter at heart, I love good quality pieces for low prices. However, after I became a mom, fitting rooms have turned into a nightmare. I honestly have stories of running out of them, dressed beach-appropriate and not at all street-appropriate, in an attempt to catch my run away toddler who made a break for it, sliding under the fitting room stall door, when my back was turned and my ankles were caught in too skinny, skinny jeans. For the love! Online thrifting it is. I'll try those pretties on in the comfort of my own home, thank you.
Anyhow, ThredUp has a wonderful referral program. If you use this link, you'll get $20 off your first order of any amount, and I'll get $20 too for telling you about them. You can't lose, even if you never place another order from them again. 

And finally, there are two books I want to tell you about. Both worth your time.

The first is Unashamed: Drop the Baggage, Pick Up Your Freedom, Fulfill Your Destiny, by Christine Caine. Christine is the founder of the A21 campaign, which is one of the largest non-profit organizations in the world dedicated to rescuing victims of human trafficking. I first learned about her through Bianca Olthoff, another very inspiring woman who works with A21. When I heard about this book, I knew it would be one I would read. I have been inspired and challenge through Christine's life, her wisdom is something I want to glean from. In the book Christine addresses shame. Through personal experience she shares how Satan uses shame to discourage Christ-followers, to hold us back from being bold and radical. Shame doesn't discriminate, it lurks in the lives of both high achieving, successful people, and those who have been broken, abused and downtrodden. Christine writes like she speaks; with passion and vigor and energy she tells the reader how they can be released from the bondage of shame and walk into their Christ-centered calling. She uses passages of scripture to show how Christ is bigger than our fears and failures and inadequacies. 
This book left me inspired, looking at verses in scripture in completely new ways. Christine has a fire in her belly for truth and justice and wholeness in a world of brokenness and anger and pain - A fire I want to grow in my life too. 

And next, Heart Made Whole: Turning Your Unhealed Pain into Your Greatest Strength, by Christa Black Gifford. One of the reviews on Amazon said that this book is a must read for anyone who has ever had a broken heart. In other words, EVERYONE would do well to read this book. Christa writes from her own experiences of rejection and loss, from the pain in her heart that hasn't yet healed. I've never lost a child, she has. But I've had a lot of pain and tragedy and heartache; all things that take time to work through, and even after you think they're healed, the pain and ache still lingers. Christa takes time to show how that pain is there for a reason; how you need to be aware of it, and walk through it, not avoid it, in order to heal. She shares how we don't have to live controlled by our circumstances, but how we can turn that painful fire that sets out to destroy us into a friend that refines us, producing our greatest healing.
I read through this book in a weekend, but I intend to go through it again, slowing, following the steps and prompts. It was powerful, and I feel I would get so much more out of it with intention and purpose.

Note: Both books were given to me by BookLookBlogger.com in exchange for an honest review.

And there you have it... If you've stuck with me this long, why don't you tell me a few things you've been recently loving? 


A Plea for Rain

This morning I packed my children and a basket of soiled laundry into our Tahoe, and made the 20 minute drive over to my parents place.

We're in a state of drought right now. Our grass is brown and everything seems to be covered in a dusty film. It's been weeks since we had a good soaking rain to replenish the earth; our well is beginning to feel it. We've been trying to conserve water, a task you don't realize would be so difficult until you're made aware of the lack. Things like fresh laundry and daily showers and watering the garden suddenly feel like a luxury when faced with the possibility of needing to haul water in.

The ground is parched, cracked and aching for rain, and in a way, my soul is too.

I've snapped at Carson, my tone less than loving at times, and if the neighbors would overhear my language when talking to yelling at our dogs, they'd begin to question my profession of Faith, for in more complex terms, I have threatened to call the pound and even suggested doggy death-row for misdemeanors not deemed worthy of either of those punishments.

The burdens of the week -of diapers and potty training, of many nights of interrupted sleep and mornings waking up more tired than I was when I went to bed, of shootings and protests and racism- have left me weary.

I ache for rain, to be able to show grace to my children in the same way grace was given to me, to realize the drought is just a season. It won't last forever.

I worked on the laundry, two very large loads, while chatting with my mom and filling three 5 gallon thermos' with fresh drinking water to take along home. After we ate lunch together, I took Carson out to their pond for a swim. The little man was dirty, we had skipped baths last night to conserve resources, the berry stains and dust in his hair were proof; this might be his bath of the week.

My mind wandered as I watched the ripples splash across the water, first tiny, then growing larger and larger, until they reached the shore. I cannot shake the feeling that my silence might send the message that I don't care, that I don't see their hurt, or care about their pain.

I do. But I am silent because I'm scared. 

I think back to the events that played out a month ago, of a joke that was told, how I was the only one not laughing. How inside me a war was raging, but I stayed silent. If my black sister or black brother would have been there, would have my silence told them that I will fight for them? That I will stand up to injustice and stand beside them?

I know the answer, and I feel shame. 

This drought has forced me to pull in resources to remedy our lack so that life can continue to grow, so that we have clean water to drink, a way to do laundry and wash dishes.

In the same way, the systemic racism the has been a hot topic in media, effecting so many lives across our nation, has caused me to search for answers and search my heart. I've begun to pull in resources, to pour over blog posts and articles, to taking time to read what people of color are saying. To listen and learn and grow.

I'm praying for heavy rain to bring an end to this drought, replenishing the soil and our well, and for heavenly rain to flood my soul with grace and love and compassion and understanding toward my family, the white children I birthed and the people of every tribe and nation, my sisters and brothers of color.

And I pray that this work I am doing now, listening and learning and trying to understand, will have a ripple effect, passing down to my children and their children, growing in influence with each new generation. I pray that they will know that Black Lives Matter.

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. " -MLK


Things That Were Caught in my Filter

Some people wish they would learn to keep their mouth shut, to not blurt out exactly what they're thinking about the topic at hand; I, however, most often wish I'd work up the nerve to say exactly what is on my mind. In real life I'm maybe a bit over polite, pretending what someone did or said did not bother me, when the truth is on the inside I'm fuming mad or slightly irritated or silently amused. Too many things get caught in my filter, and today my friend, I'm letting them out. Be warned: This might turn into a series of posts, because gosh, I've stuffed things for so long.

I said share! And if I told you to share, that means you've got to give it to me. 

It was Wednesday, June 29th, 2016, at approximately 10:18 AM, Eastern Standard Time. How did I remember these unimportant details so vividly, you ask? The answer is simple; every Wednesday at Salvation Army is practically like Black Friday at Target -- the place is swarmed with customers wanting to get the best deals before someone else snatches them up. Common courtesy is thrown aside as people rifle through the racks of clothing and household goods, searching for the items that are half price. You see, on Wednesday all but one color tag is discounted. And I know it's approximately 10:18 because doors open at 10:00 and we weren't on time.

That voice you heard telling my son he needs to share, that's coming from a small child of 3 or 4 years. He's got gorgeous hazel eyes, skin that's glowing from the summer sun, and a tussled mop of brown curls. The only thing this handsome lad doesn't have going for him is his whiny and obnoxious attitude, which is less than handsome.

This all started a few months early when our dogs got a hold of several of Carson's sandbox toys. When we stumbled upon Lightening McQueen he was so mangled and messed up we had to send his bumper in for DNA testing to identify that it was really him. Needless to say, Carson was devastated. As I dried his tears, I silently thanked the Lord that it was only the 19 cent thrift-store McQueen car that was destroyed and not those vintage Tonka truck and skidloader toys I'm sort of fond of, and promised Carson that the next time we got to Salvation Army I'd let him pick out a few new toys to replace the ruined one.

Carson doesn't forget a thing. As soon as we pulled in the parking lot he eagerly told me he was going to pick out a new car!

And so there we were, in the infant and toddler section of the store. As I sorted through little girly rompers and jumpsuits, Carson sat playing among the toys. He had a yellow school bus and a yellow dump truck in his possession, not really caring about the rest of the scattering of blue and green and pink plastic toys around him, as he tried to decide of the two which one was going home with him.

You need to share, give it to me! The little boy began to tug and pull on the dump truck in a desperate attempt to pry it from Carson's grip. There were many other toys around him, but he had eyes for only one.

Don't grab it, I firmly told the child. But he's not sharing! And when I say share, that means share! the once-handsome-but-suddenly-ugly child whined. He was trying to manipulate me and I knew it. There are plenty of other toys here for you to play with. Find something else.

Find something else. It was that statement that sent the child into a full thrown tantrum. He cried and screamed and whined on that dust-bunny covered corner of the store. In an instant the adults in his life, the ones who hadn't been supervising him very well, were suddenly present. Oh what's wrong? Why are crying? Cooed his older sister in a sing-song voice. Did somebody hurt you? He continued to cry as his mother said, rather loudly so I would hear too, It's that little boy, he's taken all of the toys for himself and won't let Johnny have one.

Now this is where the story changes a bit. Remember I told you about my filter that caught what I was truly thinking? In reality Carson and I picked up those toys and walked away, but in my mind it played out so very differently. And I want to tell you about the differently part.

Now back to the story...

... It's that little boy, he's taken all of the toys for himself and won't let Johnny have one. I don't know where Johnny got his handsome looks, but I do know where he got his ugly entitled attitude from. It was in his mother's genes too.

I couldn't take it. I wasn't going to let her get away with her rude behavior. It was time for an object lesson. My dad always said the best way to remember things is to see them play out, and it's true. To this day I still remember the many children's church stories and activities because he was always so good at acting them out. So I guess you could say what happened next I got from him.

Her cart was filled with half off clothes and treasures. I couldn't help but wish I had found a few of them first. While she was still loudly stating that her poor son didn't have anything to play with because my son - the one who only had two of the hundreds of toys in the store - had taken them all for himself, I reached in to her cart and began to help myself.

What do you think you are doing! She yelled when she finally noticed, reaching for her items that were now beginning to fill the bottom of my cart. You need to share! I told her, grabbing another t-shirt in the process. It was a few sizes too large and sort of grandma-ish, but I pretended I still wanted it. And when I say you need to share, that means you have to give it to me.

I continued to empty her cart in to mine, and when she tried to stop me again, I did it, I acted exactly like her son. I threw myself on to the floor and began crying and screaming and saying that I wanted those goose dinner plates with pink ribbons and flowers on them. When she told me to get up, that I was embarrassing myself, I screamed a little louder.

By now there was a crowd gathered around us, and when she finally said, Take the darn dinner plates and shut the ( H-E-double hockey sticks) up! I calmly removed myself from that dust-bunny covered floor at the corner of the store, told her I changed my mind and didn't want her dinner plates after all, and walked away.

I hope she remembers this little object lesson, because if she keeps babying her son whenever he doesn't get his way, he's going to grow up to be as embarrassing of an adult as that young mom with two small children in the corner of the kids section at Salvation Army on the 29th of June at 10:18 AM.

(If you're still wondering, we got the yellow dump truck.)