Powerful Words

Something I’ve been learning in a very real way this year is the power of words. My words have power to encourage, heal, buildup, or teardown, destroy, and hurt those around me. And not speaking words that could do good can lead to regret too.
For years, I have stayed quiet even while I thought good things about people. I didn’t have the boldness or didn’t take the time to tell them how much I admired them or appreciated them. I left good words unsaid. Over the course of the last 2 years, I have lost several people who were very dear to me, and I was not able to tell them just how much they meant to me before they left this Earth. I have resolved to do my best to say the good words to the people God has placed in my life. I believe that God has given me the ability to appreciate people- I often think, “Wow, she is great with words!” Or, “He is an excellent leader!”, But then I stop. I don’t say the words that could make their day, because I think, “I’m too shy,” or “they don’t need to hear those words from me”, or I just don’t take the time to call or write them a note to let them know what I really think of them. It’s sad how sometimes it takes losing the chance to say something to someone in order realize how important it is. I have been blessed with some very special friends who have been loving and bold enough to say words that I needed to hear to give me confidence to move toward my dreams- I want to be that kind of friend!
I hope this can challenge you to say the good words you may have left unsaid as well. We are always in need of an encouraging word! Let’s light up this world with our beautiful, encouraging words. See the good in the people around you- and say it! ❤️

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Homeschooling Struggles & Blessings

I’d have to say that our first 4 weeks of homeschooling this year have been rather rough. It’s been really hard to find a good routine that lets me give my older kids the attention they need for school while still giving my younger kids the attention and care they need. We have certainly had some tears and frustration, and I have felt like a failure as a teacher and mom on multiple occasions. We have not done all the fun things I had planned for our school days. We haven’t even done all of the things I had thought were necessary for learning what I had planned!
However, perhaps all is not lost. As I watch my kids play dress up, my daughter asks me whether I think her dress looks more like a Greek or a Roman dress as she informs me she’s getting ready to time travel to ancient Sumer. When my son tells me that he stacked the cups in the cupboard like the Tower of Babel, it warms my heart because I know he actually was listening for our rather short and interrupted history lesson. When my kids choose to play the dice addition game for fun and decide to plant their flowers into the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, I think perhaps something is sinking in.
We may not be checking all the boxes and doing things in a particularly school-like or academic way, but I think we are doing okay with integrating subjects into our daily life.

And isn’t that the goal? Don’t we want the things we learn in school to become a part of our daily lives? Will we remember the things we learn if they do not become a part of our daily lives? I don’t want our homeschool time to just be a block of time in the day and then we run off and play and do everything as if we had learned nothing.

My 9 year old daughter decided she wanted to do a presentation about the Platypus, so she read a book, drew a picture of a platypus, then asked permission to get on the computer to do her own research and took notes without any prodding from me. This is the goal in my homeschool- to develop independent learners who take delight in learning new things, developing new skills, and sharing what they have learned with others.

As my children watch me struggle through balancing homeschooling along with my other responsibilities, they are able to learn to appreciate things like time management skills, independent learning, and teamwork, and they often come to my rescue with helping hands and words of encouragement when I need them the most.

“Do not become weary in doing good, for at the proper heart time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up.” -Galatians 6:9

Below is an excellent and encouraging article which addresses a fear that often sneaks into my mind:

http://www.homegrownlearners.com/home/giving-my-homeschooler-enough?utm_source=Homegrown+Learners+Subscribers&utm_campaign=f32adb59bc-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_09_03_12_04&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_aea7fb32e5-f32adb59bc-194023973&mc_cid=f32adb59bc&mc_eid=56ca96c083

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Do Less, Say No, and Care for Yourself

God keeps bringing three messages into my life through friends, family, bloggers I follow, and even people I’ve just met! “Do less”, “Say no”, and “Care for yourself” have been resurfacing regularly for the past few months. I seriously struggle in these areas. As a wife, mom, homemaker, homeschooler, and businesswoman I’m constantly trying to do more, and to fit more things into my day. How can I possibly do less and still get everything done?? Jaime McLaughlin, a blogger I recently started following, shared an insightful answer: “I can do ANYTHING but I can’t do EVERYTHING.” Which brings me to the second message: I have to say no to some things. I’m TERRIBLE at saying no. I tend to say yes first and then try to figure out how to make it work, which sometimes works out, and sometimes causes a ton of stress! I have been finding that I’m doing lots of things, but not doing them well. I would really rather do a few things with excellence than do many things with mediocrity. The last message, to take care of myself, has been brought to light very clearly in the last year, but even more in the last month. It’s so easy to fall into a routine of caring for everyone else, and forget to take time for yourself! Since I started having kids, my self-care time kept shrinking each season until last summer I was barely getting in a shower and teeth brushing every day! When I joined SeneGence, I made self-care a higher priority, though I still sometimes felt guilty for the time I spent learning how to apply makeup and experimenting with different techniques. Heck, I’ve even felt guilty before about taking time alone in my garden to relax! Yet this is another thing Jaime addressed in her last email: “I have to sacrifice something in order to care for myself.”Whether I sacrifice my something on my to-do list, some sleep, or some time with my kids, I’m going to have to sacrifice time doing something else in order to take time for self-care. And self-care really is important! My sister gave me some advice when I got married: “take a little time for yourself every day.” For years I didn’t grasp what she meant or the importance of it, but now I finally understand what wise words she was sharing! I’m going to quote Jaime again, because I just couldn’t put it better myself! ☺️ 

“Committing to give yourself 10-15 minutes a day is life changing. It’s attitude changing. It’s marriage changing. It’s self confidence changing. But it does require some sort of sacrifice.”  This is so true!! Self-care looks different for different people, and it may even change from one season to the next, but whether it’s taking a bath to relax, going for a walk alone to clear your mind, putting on some makeup to feel pretty, or doing something completely different that makes you feel whole and good, please take time to care for yourself! It will help you stay sane and make you a better person, believe me. 😘

How are you doing less? What are some things you’ve had to say no to in your life? How will you take care of yourself this week? What do you need to sacrifice to fit in some self-care?

Stay beautiful my friend!!!

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Time to Eat- Basil, Oregano, Squash, Green beans, and Tomatoes!

This time of year is so HOT here!  I love being outside most of the year, but June-August in SC is pretty miserable most days to be honest.  I try to spend a few minutes outside early in the morning and again in the evening, but I use the afternoon heat as an excellent excuse to work on all of my inside projects. 😉  My garden usually suffers from the intense heat and lack of attention, even with automatic watering, but there are a few crops that thrive in our summer climate.  Basil, oregano, tomatoes, squash, and pole beans are some of the main ones that come to mind.  I absolutely love growing basil and oregano especially!

Basil is such a lovely, vigorous grower- just plop it in the ground in late may or early June, water well, and enjoy it fresh and dried for the rest of the year till frost.  One important tip for keeping your basil tasty and growing is to make sure you are harvesting it regularly.  For the best regrowth, try to cut stems just above leaf nodes.  This will stimulate new fresh leaf growth and delay plants from setting flowers.  Once a basil plant flowers, it puts it’s energy into producing seeds rather that growing new leaves.

Oregano is a lovely creeping perennial here, so it’s absolutely low maintenance! It spreads a little each year, and you can simply trim it as desired.  It has the best flavor before it flowers, so trimming it regularly throughout the summer is best.

Tomatoes are a hit or miss type of crop for me- as I mentioned, I don’t give my gardens much TLC this time of year, so I usually just plant a few tomato plants in different beds so that they won’t all get attacked by the same disease or pests, and we enjoy whatever pretty fruits they provide.  I had to include tomatoes though, because they go so well with basil and oregano!  Hello spaghetti sauce, caprese salad, and everything Italian and Greek!  Did you know that basil actually helps to cut the acidity of tomatoes which makes them easier to digest??

Pole beans are the only green beans I’ve had success with growing in our climate in the middle of summer, and they are a welcome treat on a hot day!  My personal favorite way to eat green beans is fresh or sautéed lightly with salt and basil and butter. Yum!

Last but not least, squash and zucchini are those lovely feast or famine veggies that are always plentiful in someone’s garden this time of year, even if yours were destroyed by squash bugs and vine borers.  My were destroyed this year, but my kind neighbor down the road brought me a big basket the other day, which we thoroughly enjoyed!  I tend to use squash and zucchini interchangeably in recipes- they are of course delicious sautéed with fresh basil, roasted, shredded into sweet breads, or made into squash fritters.  They keep pretty well on the counter or in the fridge if their skin is not broken, and you can also shred and freeze them easily for winter baking.

I hope you are enjoying your summer and appreciating all the gifts God has given you!

Enjoy life!!

 

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What is the Meaning of Life?

backlit branches dawn dusk

“Life is a series of suffering punctuated by moments of joy.”
-Mrs. Rodgers

Sometimes I lose sight of what life is really all about. I get caught up in getting things done, checking off my lists, making my family and friends happy, and trying to stay comfortable. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with doing these things- but they are not what life is all about.
As a believer in Jesus, my goal in life is to become as much like Him as possible- to be loving, kind, generous, forgiving, faithful, humble, gentle, self-controlled, long suffering… all that is good and lovely and Godly. How do I become these things? To learn to truly forgive, I must first have wrongs done to me; to learn humility, I must serve; to learn generosity, I must give freely and sacrificially; to learn self-control, I must be tempted; and to learn long suffering (or patience), I must suffer. I would have to say, I fall far short of perfection in any of these areas, but probably lack patience in suffering the most. Lately we’ve had plenty of little trials and inconveniences at our house- most recently, our hot water heater broke and we went without hot water for a week. I would not venture to call that suffering, but I found that even that slight inconvenience (a “first world problem” if you will) brought out some very negative emotions in me. I tried to think of all my friends overseas who never have hot running water, and thank God that I have it most of the time, but I still found myself groaning, “I HATE cold showers! Lord, why did this have to happen to ME??” Sometimes I wonder if I will have what it takes to face real suffering with patience… Have you ever wondered how you would respond if you were faced with real suffering? The loss of a child, a debilitating disease, famine, homelessness, captivity, persecution, or loved ones suffering and dying from an incurable, debilitating disease, as my pastor’s mom, Mrs. Rodgers faced. Last week and this week, my pastor shared words that have stayed in my mind all week, and I’ve been wanting to write them down and share them with you.
Here are some of them:
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”      -Matthew 6:31-33
When we choose to seek first the things of God and seek to be righteous and holy, He will provide all our needs. Perhaps not all our wants, but he will give us what we truly need.

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”     – Matthew 6:9-13
He shared that the Greek text actually says heavenly bread, so Jesus was teaching us to ask for spiritual food, not physical food- which as Jesus said in Matt. 6:32, God already knows we need. This reminds us that we are not in just a physical world, but in a spiritual world as well, and we need to seek the spiritual food and protection that only God can provide first, knowing that He will also provide for our physical needs. What a relief!

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”                    -2 Corinthians 4:16-18
This life is not about being happy or comfortable, not because there is something wrong with being happy or comfortable, but because happiness and comfort do not last and they do not draw us closer to God. Those “light and momentary troubles” Paul writes about are things like beatings, torture, and imprisonment! Yet in the midst of these trials, he was able to sing and praise God. How? Because his eyes were fixed on Jesus and eternal life with Him in heaven.
I hope and pray that we believers are able to keep this in mind as we live our lives and face small and large troubles of our own. It’s hard to find balance between enjoying the life God has given me and creating and appreciating beauty around me, yet not holding too tightly to the comforts and possessions of this world. Yet Jesus knows this struggle better than anyone, for He left the glory and comfort of heaven to come to earth as a baby, to live life as fully human, and to suffer terribly and die painfully on the cross so that we could have fellowship with Him. May we embrace the joys and the sufferings of this life equally as we look forward to the joy of seeing our Savior face to face!

If you don’t know who Jesus is, or have any questions, feel free to contact me, and I’ll do my best to answer. You can also read Romans 5:1-10 for a quick explanation of what Jesus has done for us.

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Time to Eat- Violets, Chickweed, and Dandelions!

Spring is coming fast here in the southeast, and healthy plants are popping up all over our yard!  Three of my favorite free spring edibles are violets, chickweed, and dandelion.  Sometimes I wonder why we bother growing lettuce when we have lovely greens all around us which are far more nutritious and fun to eat (at least in my opinion)!  Let’s take these plants (which some people mistake for weeds) one at a time.

violets flowering

candied violets

Violets- It’s easy to identify the delicate violet colored flowers and heart shaped leaves of the common violet plant, and both have a mild flavor and are chock full of vitamin C and vitamin A.  They are anti-inflammatory and support the immune system as well.  They are so tasty that I prefer to eat them raw, but they can also be cooked or made into tea.  Candied violets (leaves and flowers rinsed and then dipped in raw sugar and set out to dry to a crunchy treat) are my children’s favorite way to consume them.  Violets are also wonderful for your skin, and this is the perfect time of year to gather some to make Violet-chickweed Boo-boo Balm!

You may be a little less familiar with chickweed, but it’s a great plant to get to know!  The three photos above show the leaf shape, the tiny flower heads, and the growth habit of chickweed to help you identify it more easily.  Think of it as the “star of spring” – it has two sets of opposite leaves at the ends of the stems before it flowers, which remind me of a little star, and then the flowers are tiny white star shapes in clusters.  The whole plant grows outward from the center as you can see in the third photo. Some chickweed plants are more creeping, and some have a more upright growth habit.  I’ve noticed that the leaves of plants growing in fertile soil are also much larger than those on plants in poor soil, but the leaves always grow in pairs, as shown in the second photo.

Chickweed is extremely nutritious! Vitamin C, Niacin, Magnesium, Zinc, Iron, Potassium, Phosphorus, Selenium, and Silica are just a few of the vitamins and minerals found in this little powerhouse plant.  It’s deliciously crunchy raw, and reminds me a little of butter crunch lettuce, only so much better.  I literally crave this stuff in the spring!  You can also chop it up and add it to soups, stews, spaghetti sauce, or any other dish that could use a touch of green.  Just make sure you chop up the stems finely if you have picky eaters, and it easily passes for something like parsley.  You can also use chickweed externally to treat rashes and eczema.

Dandelions are one of the most under-appreciated and vilified plants in America.  It makes me sad to see people digging up or spraying poison on the very plant that could help their body flush poisons out.   Another nutritional power plant- dandelions are high in Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Magnesium, Iron, Calcium, and Potassium.  Fluffy yellow dandelion flowers are slightly sweet and fun to eat.  The leaves are toothed and range from tender and slightly bitter when they are young, to tough and bitter when they are old, but that bitterness actually helps your liver to work more effectively at removing toxins from your body, and stimulates your digestive system to work more efficiently.  If you feel sluggish, especially after meals, you probably need more dandelion in your life! =) You can add dandelion to salads, soups, sautés,  teas, or eat it straight.  You can also use dandelion roots to make a kind of coffee substitute.

I hope this encourages you to enjoy the bounty growing (hopefully) in your yard!  If you have any questions or thoughts on wild edibles, please comment below!

Enjoy!!

 

 

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Violet-chickweed Boo-boo Balm

My family has many different kinds of boo-boos and rashes over the years, so I’m always on the lookout for natural (and inexpensive) remedies for scrapes, sores, and rashes.

This Violet-chickweed balm is a combination of two wonderfully healing herbs, infused in olive oil, and made into an easily spreadable balm with the addition of beeswax.

Violets are one of my favorite spring flowers!  They pop up so early in spring and keep their dainty little flowers blooming even into the heat of summer if they are in shade.   Both the flowers and leaves are edible and can be added to salads or teas or made into a delicious treat called candied violets (my kids’ personal favorite).  Violet leaf is amazing for soothing and healing inflamed skin caused by rashes, eczema, and hives.  Of course, it’s important to also deal with the underlying cause of any rash (in our case, food allergies have been a leading cause of rashes), but while you are finding answers, violet balm can help soothe and speed healing on the skin level.  As I’m writing this in South Carolina in March, violets are in full bloom, so this is the perfect time to pick a bunch and start your infusion!

Chickweed is another wonderful spring “weed”! It’s one of the first greens available in spring, and it’s crunchy, mild tasting leaves are extremely nutritious, and delicious alone or added to a variety of dishes.  My kids and I first learned about the benefits of chickweed through a fun and educational book series called Herb Fairies, put out by Learning Herbs.  My kids are devoted chickweed fans, and often eat it by the handful when they are outside playing.  Chickweed is an incredible healing herb for all kinds of skin issues, from scrapes and insect bites to warts, and can even help soothe sore muscles when a strong tea called an infusion is added to a bath.  We keep chickweed salve on hand to use on any small cuts, scrapes, or insect bites.

This violet-chickweed boo-boo balm combines the strength of violets and chickweed to create a super soothing and healing balm.

Violet-Chickweed Boo-boo Balm

First, gather your chickweed and violet leaves.  You can use the photos above to help guide your search, but it’s best to have someone familiar with these herbs help you identify them.  Make sure you gather leaves and flowers from an area that has not been sprayed with chemicals or pesticides.  Never gather all of a plant in an area, but only take a few leaves or stems from each plant, leaving at least half of each plant to continue growing and producing more leaves.  You will want about 1 cup of fresh herb per cup of oil you intend to infuse.

Next, rinse your leaves if necessary (a salad spinner is great for this), spread on clean towels or paper towels, and allow your leaves to wilt for 1-3 days.  This allows much of the water to evaporate from the leaves, which will reduce the water content in you balm, and help it last longer.

After your leaves are dry or wilted, you can choose which way to infuse your oil.

violet and chickweed oil in jars

  1. The slow way: place your leaves in a jar, and add an equal amount of oil, and close tightly.  I usually use olive oil, but sunflower oil, avocado oil, jojoba oil, or other oils could be used or mixed. I do not recommend vegetable oil.  Let sit in a dark place (or put a sock over your jar) for 4-6 weeks, shaking every few days.
  2. The fast way: place your leaves in a jar, cover with an equal amount of oil, but don’t put the lid on yet.  Set the jar in a saucepan half filled with water and heat over low heat for 2-3 hours, being sure not to get water droplets in your oil and not to burn your infusion.

Once your oil is infused, strain out and discard the leaves.

To make your infused oil into a balm, add approximately 1 ounce of beeswax per cup of oil to a heavy saucepan (or a heatproof container set over a saucepan with a little water- like a double boiler) and warm over very low heat until the beeswax is melted.  Pour into small tins or jars to cool.  Your balm will solidify as it cools.  If it turns out too hard, you can re-melt with added oil.  If it is not solid enough, re-melt with more beeswax.

Be sure to label your tins and note how to use your boo-boo balm. =)

Enjoy!

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