40 Holy People: Week Three

28 Feb

40 holy people

Day 11: Fanny Crosby: Using What I Have For God

Fanny_Crosby

Fanny Crosby was born is 1820. Blind from birth or shortly after. At the age of 8, Fanny wrote her first poem. Fanny was raised in a Christian home and by the age of 15 had memorizes the four gospels, the Pentateuch, the book of Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, and many Psalms. She learned to play the piano, organ, harp, and guitar.

In 1843, Fanny became the first woman to speak in the United States Senate. She advocated for the education of the blind.

Her first poem was published is 1841. Her first hymn was published in 1844. She continued to write hymns about her faith and her country and poems about her convictions.

By the time she died in 1915, Fanny had written almost 9,000 hymns. Fanny’s goal was to win people to Christ through her songs. During the time of her hymn writing, Fanny lived in areas where she could help the poor and immigrants. She was said to give away most of her money as soon as she got it. She kept only the money to pay for her basic necessities and gave the rest away to the poor around her.  Though she was blind herself, she used everything she had to point others to Jesus, whether in giving her money or time to help the poor or using her talents to write songs.

What do you do for God with what you have?

What could you do for others with what you have?

Activity: Listen to or sing one of Fanny’s hymns. (“All the Way My Savior Leads Me”, “Blessed Assurance”, “I Am Thine, O Lord”, “Jesus Is Tenderly Calling You Home”, “Near The Cross”, “Redeemed, How I Love To Proclaim It!”, “Rescue The Perishing”, “Take The World, But Give Me Jesus”…)

“Blessed Assurance” sheet music- You can print this out for your kids to see what a hymn looks like in a hymnal. (Not all churches still have hymnals.)

Day 12: John Wesley: Taking Jesus To The People

John_Wesley_by_George_Romney

John Wesley was born in 1703. He was the 15th child (of 19). His mother, Susanna, taught the children to read, speak Latin and Greek, and learn many parts of the New Testament by heart. His mother was very devoted to helping her children develop a relationship with God.

In 1735, John and his brother, Charles, made the trip from their home in England to Savannah, Georgia. He spent a few years in Georgia as Savannah’s parish priest and gathered many holy men and women and grew the church there.

Upon returning to England, Wesley began taking church to the people. He would preach in streets and where people were instead of waiting for them to come to church. He felt the need to go out and meet those who didn’t know God and introduce them. He travelled around on horseback, preaching two or three times a day. (To preach means to proclaim the gospel, to tell people about Jesus.) Like Fanny, Wesley gave most of his money to the poor. He kept only what was necessary to meet his basic needs. He wrote books, he peached sermons, he met people where they were, and taught them about God and how to live a holy life.

Wesley did in 1791. His final words were, “Farewell, farewell. The best of all is, God with us.” He left 135,00 members and 541 preachers in newly named “Methodist” churches.

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” – John Wesley

 Coloring Page

Day 13: Helen Roseveare: Do Something For God

helen-roseveare

Helen was born in England in 1925. In Sunday School as a child, she first felt she might be called to life on a foreign mission field. He father thought highly of education, and Helen became a doctor. She still felt called to missions while in school, and said, “I’ll go anywhere God wants me to, whatever the cost.”

After 6 and half years of medical school, 6 months in a missionary training center, 6 months in Belgium studying French and tropical medicine, and 5 week trip to the Congo before she found herself where God was calling her. She was the only doctor for 2.5 million people. She began her work in a mud and thatch hospital while she built the building she needed and learned Swahili. In 11 years, she had a 100 bed hospital and maternity complex and saved thousands of lives.

In 1964, Helen was taken as a prisoner of rebel forces in the area and educed beatings and torture. Once released, she returned to England to tell the people there that God’s grace had been sufficient during her time as a prisoner. She returned to the Congo in 1966 and continued her work helping the sick and injured until 1973. Helen is still alive today, writing books and encouraging people to be the hands of Jesus and do something for God.

“If I truly believe in Him, I’ll trust Him to desire for me that which is for my highest good, and to have planned for its fulfillment.” – Helen Roseveare

“It would seem that God had merely asked me to give Him my mind, my training, the ability that He has given me; to serve Him unquestioningly; and to leave with Him the consequences….How wonderful God is, and how foolish we are to argue with Him and not to trust Him wholly in every situation as we seek to serve Him!” – Helen Roseveare

What do you think you could do for God now?

Use this map to color and find the Congo on the map.

Day 14: Teresa of Avila: Visions of Castles

teresa of avila painting

Teresa of Avila lived during the 1500s. (1515-1582, to be exact.) She lived in Spain and grew up in a family who converted to Christianity from Judiasm. Teresa became a Carmelite nun early in adulthood. These nuns were devoted to prayer, though they were pretty lax about it when Teresa joined. Teresa worked to reform and strengthen her Cloister. (A cloister is a group of people living in a place of seclusion, much like a monastery.)

Teresa sought a deeper relationship with God through prayer and encouraged those around her to do the same. She had many visions during her quiet time with God . One of her visions was that of a castle. She described your spiritual life as walking through a castle, closer and closer to Christ at the center.

“Let nothing disturb you.

Let nothing make you afraid.

All things are passing.

God alone never changes.

Patience gains all things.

If you have God you will want for nothing.

God alone suffices.” – Teresa of Avila

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”- Teresa of Avila

Teresa of Avila is considered a Saint by many Christian Traditions. She devoted herself to prayer and to others finding a closer walk with God. Do you think you are devoted to prayer? Do you think you help others on their walk with God?

Coloring Page.

Day 15: Samuel Kaboo Morris: A Prince With A Mission

samuel morris

Samuel was born in Leberia in 1873 as a Prince among his tribe. When he was 14, he became a Christian, the same year, he was captured by a neighboring tribe. He was beaten daily and used as ransom to get his tribe to bring riches to his captors. One night, Kaboo saw a flash and voice told him to flee. His ropes fell off, he felt strong, and he ran off into the jungle, where he wandered for several days. He found a plantation and stayed there to work.

Samuel felt God calling him to America to learn more about God. He met a missionary who told him all she knew. He asked the missionary who taught her, and she gave him the name Stephen Merritt. Samuel walked to the shore and prayed that God would send a ship to take him to America. Samuel saw a trade ship and asked the Captain to take him to America. The Captain said no. But then several of the workers on the ship ran off, so the Captain asked Samuel to come on board to work. When he first boarded the ship, the other sailors abused him and made fun of Samuel. But by the time they reached America, they were all praying and singing hymns.

In America,  Samuel found Stephen Merritt. Mr. Merritt asked Samuel to wait for him at his mission. When Mr. Merritt returned, Samuel had begun a prayer meeting and lead almost 20 men to Christ. Samuel met many people and displayed love and passion for Christ.

Samuel was used by God to draw many people to the Lord. He attended school and many students would come to pray with him. People around the world would come to hear him speak. He inspired people to do something thing for God. Samuel wanted to go back to Liberia and tell the people there about Jesus. When he was 20, he got pneumonia. He prayed for God to heal him. But God told him his work was done and it was time to come home. Other students encouraged him to pray and that he needed to get better so he could go back to Liberia and spread the gospel. Samuel said, “It is not my work… It is His. I have finished my job. He will send others better than I to do the work in Africa.”

After his death, many of his fellow students felt God calling them to go to Africa to be missionaries. Today, 85.6% of Liberians are Christian.

Do you pray for your neighbors? Your city? Your country?

Do you think God is calling you to share Him with your neighbors?

Use this map of Africa to color and find Liberia.

Day 16: Perpetua: I am a Christian!

Perpetua

In 202 AD, Christianity was illegal. Perpetua was a Christian. Perpetua was arrested as she was preparing for Baptism. Her father, a nobleman, asked her to say she was not a Christian, so she would not be put to death. She replied, “Could this vase of water be called any name other than what it is?” Her father said it could not. She replied, “Well, so too I cannot be called anything other than what I am, a Christian.”

At first, Perpetua was held under house arrest. She was baptized in the house while under arrest. She and her fellow Christians were then moved to a prison and locked in a dungeon. She was eventually moved to a better part of the prison where she could receive visitors. Perpetua was sentenced to death in an amphitheater. She told those with her, “You must all stand fast in the faith and love of one another, and do not be weakened by what we have gone through.”

Before her death, Perpetua asked God for a vision, showing if she would be condemned or freed. Perpetua received this vision from God. She saw a narrow ladder reaching to heaven, but only one person could climb up at a time. She saw a garden with a man dressed as a shepherd at the top of the ladder. Around the shepherd were thousands of people dressed in white. When the shepherd looked up and saw her, he said, “I am glad you have come my child.”

Perpetua, along with another martyr with her, Felicitas, are recognized as Saints by many Christian traditions.

Coloring Page.

Coloring Page.

40 Holy People: Week Two

21 Feb

40 holy people

Day 5: Polycarp — And the Fire Will Not Touch Him

polycarp

Polycarp was a disciple of John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. He lived in the second century. So, Polycarp was among the first Christians. Polycarp was one of the three Apostolic Fathers. The Apostolic Fathers lived during the New Testament times and were the bridge between the Apostles, who wrote the New Testament, and those who came after. During Polycarp’s life, there was much being said about Christ, but not all of it was true. Polycarp’s role was to keep the message of the Gospel true and not let others change it.

In his old age, it is said that Polycarp was burned at the stake for refusing to burn incense for the Roman Emperor. Polycarp said, “How then can I blaspheme my King and Saviour? Bring forth what thou wilt.” When the fire did not consume and kill Polycarp, he was stabbed. He is now regarded as a Saint in many Christian traditions. (A saint is a person who is recognized by the Church as someone who lived a very holy life. We also call those who die having faith in Jesus saints.) And we can thank Polycarp for keeping the story of the Gospel true and unchanged.

Coloring Page

Day 6: Athanasius — Defender of the Trinity

Athanasius

Athanasius was born around 296 AD. He was born into a Christian family in Egypt. As a child, Athanasius would baptize other children in the river outside of the church. When the Bishop of Alexandria saw, he declared that the baptisms done by Athanasius were genuine and invited the children to begin training for a clerical career.  In his young adulthood, he was a secretary for the Council of Nicaea, from which we get the Nicene Creed. (A creed is a basic statement of faith.) What we know today about the Trinity– that God is three Persons– well, you can thank Athanasius for defending that truth in the early Church. He wrote great truths and preached them, as well.

Nicene Creed

Athanasius was exiled five times, fleeing or being exiled by Emperors. After his fifth exile, he returned to Alexandria to resume writing and preaching, particularly about the Incarnation. (Incarnation is a big fancy word that means that Jesus was completely God and actually became a Man.) Quietly in his bed, Athanasius died in 373, surrounded by his clergy and faithful supporters. Athanasius is recognized by many Christian traditions as a saint, like Polycarp.

“Jesus, who I know as my Redeemer, cannot be less than God.”

-Athanasius at the Council of Nicaea (c. 325)

Map of Alexandria, Egypt

Coloring Page

Day 7: Jim Elliot — My Life for Yours

jimelliot

Jim Elliot was a Christian missionary to the Auca people in Ecuador. A missionary is someone who goes to another culture to spread the Gospel of Christ. As a child, Jim grew up in church and had a heart for people who died without ever hearing about Jesus. He knew from a young age that God was calling him to the mission field.

Jim first went to Shandia, Ecuador, to minister to the Quichas. After three years with the Quicha people, Jim felt God calling him to share Jesus with the Aucas, even though he knew the Aucas killed outsiders and had killed many Quichuas. To win the trust of the Aucas, Jim and fellow missionaries began dropping supplies to the Aucan people, using a bucket to lower the supplies down. After months of supply drops, the Aucas sent a gift back up in the bucket of the plane. Jim felt it was time to meet the people face to face.

Jim and four other missionaries were flown in and dropped off on the Auca beach. After waiting of four days on the beach, an Auca man and two women appeared on the beach. The missionaries tried to show them friendship and asked them to bring the others with them. For two days, the missionaries waited for the Aucas to return. On the sixth day, the Aucas returned but did not appear friendly. They came with spears raised. Though Jim carried a gun, he chose not to use it. He knew the Aucas did not know Jesus and did not want them to die without knowing Christ. Jim and his friends– Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Nate Saint, and Pete Flemming– were all killed by the Aucas.

When the men did not call, a plane was sent out looking for them. Eventually, the bodies of the missionaries were found. Though this sounds very sad, the story is not over.

In less than two years, Jim’s wife and daughter, Elisabeth and Valeria, were able to move with Rachel Saint (Nate Saint’s sister) into the Auca village. Many of the Aucas became Christians and they are now a friendly tribe with missionaries, including Nate Saint’s son and family still living there. Though Jim and the other four missionaries died, the Aucas were still able to hear about Jesus because of them.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

-Jim Elliot

Map of South America

Color and decorate this typography. Hang it somewhere to remind you of the boldness and heart that puts others before yourself.

Day 8: Anthony of Egypt — Running from Temptation

saintanthony3

Anthony of Egypt is known as the Father of All Monks. He was born around 251 AD. While not the first monk, he made it a habit of going out in the wilderness to be alone. Seeing the world full of snares and temptations, he ran to the wilderness to be closer to God. Most of what is known of Anthony was written in a biography by Athanasius. (Remember: we learned about him earlier this week.)

When Anthony was eighteen, his parents died. Shortly after this, Anthony decided to follow Jesus. He gave away and sold everything he had and donated the funds to help the poor. He followed the tradition of the hermit and went to live in the desert alone. (A hermit is a person who lives a simple life away from others for religious reasons.) The devil still fought to tempt Anthony through boredom, laziness, and phantoms of women, yet he overcame temptation through prayer. (There are many paintings depicting the temptation of Saint Anthony.)  It is said that, after this, Anthony went to live in a tomb, where local people would bring him food. In the tomb, the devil beat him till Anthony became unconscious, but his friends from the village found him and brought him to a local church.

Anthony then moved further into the desert, where again, Satan resumed his war on Anthony sending phantoms in the form of wild beasts, wolves, lions, snakes, and scorpions. As the beasts would attack Anthony, he would laugh at them and say, “If any of you have any authority over me, only one would have been sufficient to fight me.” And the phantoms would disappear like smoke.

the-temptation-of-st-anthony

In 311, Anthony traveled to Alexandria and visited those imprisoned for the sake of Christ and comforted them. The Governor told Anthony not to come back to the city, but Anthony did not listen and came anyway. When the Governor did not kill Anthony, he returned to the desert.

But this time, disciples followed him to the desert to be taught by him. A monastery developed around him deep in the desert and Anthony taught his disciples, now fellow monks, to pray and work. At his death, he was buried in an unmarked, secret grave.

Anthony of Egypt is recognized as a Saint in many Christian traditions.

Anthony ran to the desert to escape temptation (a strong urge or pressure to do wrong); how far would you go to escape temptation?

Anthony used prayer to overcome temptation; try praying for God to help you overcome temptations in your own life.

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Day 9: The Cappadocian Fathers — God in Three Persons

Cappadocian Fathers

First, where is Cappadocia? Well, it was just south of the Black Sea, near modern-day Turkey. (See the map.)

cappadocia map

The Cappadocian Fathers are three men. Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus. They were all born sometime around 330 AD.  Basil and Gregory of Nyssa were brothers. Gregory of Nazianzus was their close friend. They helped finalize the 381 version of the Nicene Creed. (We read about the first version, from 325, when we talked about Athanasius.) They, too, were defenders of the Trinity– God in Three Persons.

In the early days after Jesus died and after all his disciples died, there were many wrong things being taught about the Gospel. People were trying to make Christ fit into the ideas they already had about religion and thought. They wanted to change Jesus to fit into what they already thought instead of letting Jesus change their minds. These early Church fathers were those who fought for the truth. We might think of them as people just sitting around thinking and writing, but they were actually working hard to preserve the truth of Jesus so that we could really know Him.

Back then, many people tried to say that Jesus was not God– that, sure, he was like God, but of course, he wasn’t really God. Some even said the Jesus wasn’t God at all– just a created man who God used. The Cappadocian Fathers insisted that people know the truth–that Jesus is fully God, that there is one God who is actually three Persons– Father, Son, and Spirit. They knew the truth, and they fought for it so that it would be passed down to you and me. Even now, their work actually helps us really know God.

Basil cared for the poor, and after his death, the poorhouse, hospital, and hospice of Ceasarea became the the lasting monuments of his life. Basil is considered a Saint by many Christian traditions.

Gregory of Nyssa is considered a Saint by many Christian traditions, though the year and cause of his death is unknown.

Gregory of Nazianzus is also considered a Saint. Gregory died of old age in Arianzum, six years after retiring from his work in the church.

Constanopolitan Creed

Day 10: Irenaeus — Standing for Truth

200px-Saint_Irenaeus

Iranaeus lived in the early 2nd century and is an early Church Father and Apologist. (An apologist is someone who defends or supports something that is criticized or attacked by other people. In this case, he defended the Gospel and the Church.) Irenaeus was a hearer (someone that listened) to Polycarp, about whom we read earlier this week.

Irenaeus’ main apologetic topic was against Gnosticism. ‘Gnosis’ means knowledge. Some people back then (and some people now) think the way to salvation is through intellectual knowledge (by learning more information than others). Irenaeus knew that the only way to salvation was through trusting what God did in and through His Son, Jesus. While the Gnostics say knowledge just comes to them through some secret teachings, Irenaeus used Scripture to defend his position– that salvation is available in Christ.

Just like many other Church Fathers, we remember and celebrate Irenaeus for his boldness to stand for truth. Thankfully, the truth of the Gospel was then passed down to you and me.

Nothing is known of Irenaeus’ death. Some say he was a martyr, that he died because of his faith in Christ. He was buried under the Church of Saint John in Lyons, which was renamed St. Irenaeus in his honor.

Standing for truth isn’t always easy. Sometimes it is hard to tell the truth or defend it. Have you ever found it tough to tell the truth? Have you ever had to defend the truth?

Coloring Page

Second Coloring Page

40 Holy People: Week One

17 Feb

40 holy peopleThis first week is a short week, beginning on Ash Wednesday. Lent is a time of reflection, a time to recenter our lives. We look around, see what is necessary and what is extra. We give up some comforts and excesses. And we learn to thank God for enough. We deny ourselves and find we can see God a little more clearly. Each day brings us a little closer to the Cross. As we look at the lives of these extraordinary individuals, remember that, had they not focused on God, they wouldn’t be extraordinary. Extraordinary begins with steps outside the ordinary.

Day One: John the Baptist — Preparing the Way of the Lord

john-the-baptist fx

It is fitting that we begin this season of fasting with John the Baptist. Clothed in camel hair and eating locusts and honey in the wilderness, John the Baptist knew giving up worldly pleasures. John the Baptist was far from normal. His birth was foretold by angels. He was born to a barren couple. He was set aside from birth for a holy life. He was the one who prepared the way for Jesus. While still in the womb, he leapt at the presence of His Savior. He was “the voice crying in the wilderness”. Can you imagine that being the thing said about you? He preached of the coming Savior, and crowds followed him. You can read about John’s ministry in Matthew 3, Mark 1, Luke 3, and John 1. Even after John baptized Jesus, he continued to be the wild-haired desert preacher. He made some people very uncomfortable, even made some mad, but he continued to spread the word he’d been given. John the Baptist spoke the truth, and that isn’t always easy for people to hear. In Matthew 14, we read of John’s death, which was far from pleasant.

What worldly pleasures will you give up during this season of Lent as you prepare for the Lord?

What truth has God given you to share? How can your life point more toward Christ?

Coloring Page

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Day Two: Dietrich Bonhoeffer — Courage for the Sake of Others

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born February 4, 1906, in Germany. He was a pastor, theologian, and martyr. When the Nazis rose to power in Germany, Bonhoeffer spoke out against them. At the urging of friends, Bonhoeffer left his home for the United States, to escape persecution by the Nazis. However, he soon regretted his decision and decided to go back home to his people and stand with them. “I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period in our national history with the people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people… Christians in Germany will have to face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose, but I cannot make that choice from security.” Bonhoeffer returned to Germany and continued to rebel against Nazi power, even helping in forming assassination attempts against Hitler.

On April 5, 1943, Bonhoeffer was arrested and imprisoned. In 1945, he was moved to a concentration camp. On April 9, 1945, two weeks before the United States liberated the camp he was in, Bonhoeffer was executed. “I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer… kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.” (Eberhard Bethge, witness to the execution)

Bonhoeffer could have easily stayed in America, safe from the evil on the other side of the world. Instead, he chose to stand up against evil– to stand with his people. He suffered for it, but ultimately, it was the right thing to do. He insisted, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

“Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.” (Eric Metaxas) [If you’re interested in learning more about the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I recommend reading Eric Metaxas’ biography Bonhoeffer.]

Day Three: Amy Carmichael — Showing the Love of Christ

Amy_Carmichael_with_children

Amy Carmichael was born in 1867 in Ireland. She was the oldest of seven children. As a teenager, Amy started a Sunday morning group for mill girls which grew to over 500 participants. Amy first became a missionary to Japan but fell ill and had to return home after 15 months. She then went to Ceylon and finally to India, where she found her life’s work. She mainly worked with girls and young women who were forced into a kind of slavery to earn money for pagan temple priests. Children in India seemed drawn to Amy; when asked why, they would often say it was because of her love. Amy started a home for children in India, saving them from bleak futures in forced pagan temple service. She rescued more than 1,000 children in India. Amy died in India at the age of 83. Instead of a headstone, the children she rescued put a bird bath over her grave and labeled it “Amma” (the Tamil word for ‘mother’).

“One can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving.”

-Amy Carmichael

“Give me the Love that leads the way
The Faith that nothing can dismay
The Hope no disappointments tire
The Passion that’ll burn like fire
Let me not sink to be a clod
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.”

-Amy Carmichael

How could you show others the love of God?

How have you felt the love of God through someone else?

Map of India

Optional Craft: Make a bird bath. Using a terra cotta pot and a pot base (or you could use a glass bowl), paint or decorate the pot, remembering that it will be used upside down. Glue the pot base or bowl onto the bottom of the terra cotta pot. If your pot base has a hole, you’ll want to take some caulk or putty and cover the hole. Once the putty is dry, fill your bird bath with some water and put it outside for the birds to enjoy.

Day Four: Stephen — Love Your Enemies

the-martyrdom-of-st-stephenIn Acts 7, we read about Stephen, who was the first person to die for His faith in Christ after Jesus himself died. Stephen proclaimed the Gospel to those who had persecuted Jesus. He wanted them to see that the Messiah had come. They were angry with Stephen for what he said. When they drug Stephen out of the city, Stephen looked into the Heavens and saw Jesus standing next to God the Father, and he told them what he saw. The elders became even angrier, refusing to listen. Instead, they picked up stones and stoned him to death. While Stephen was dying, he prayed that God would not hold his death against those who were killing him.

We easily say, “Love your enemies,” but do you think loving his enemies was easy to do in Stephen’s case? His enemies were killing him, yet he still showed love.

How can you show love to those who wrong you?

Coloring Page

Optional Craft: Get large river rocks and using paint or Sharpies, write on the rocks, “Love your enemies.” It will be both a reminder of the love shown by Stephen and a reminder to love those who are against us. For younger kids, you may want to write on the rocks and then let them decorate with paint, stickers, or glued on gems.

40 Holy People

17 Feb

For Lent this year, our family devotional is centered around holy people… people that used their lives for others, people that inspire us to be more. Since there are 40 days in Lent (not counting Sundays), we’re looking at 40 Holy People. Some are Saints, some are missionaries, some are evangelists– all are examples of what we can do in Christ. I’m praying that the lives of these 40 individuals inspire my children (and honestly, myself) to get out of our comfort zones and do something for God, to deepen our faith, and to press us toward holiness.

40 holy people

Links will be updated throughout Lent.

Week One

Week Two

Week Three

Week Four

Week Five

Week Six

Week Seven

2014 Books In Review

1 Jan

I’ll admit it, I did not read very much in 2014. I honestly don’t know what happened. I just had a slow reading year. I ended up reviewing a bunch of non-book products (crib sheets, stroller, baby carriers, vacuum, toys, etc.). But I did read, on average more than one book per month. Here they are:

revivalRevival: Faith As Wesley Lived It by Adam Hamilton

5 Stars

Written by a United Methodist Pastor, Revival is divided geographically. Each chapter focuses on a place in Wesley’s life and ministry and ties that back to Wesley’s teachings. You’ll find pictures of the author’s journey to these places. You could even use the book as a guidebook to a Wesley centered trip. He quotes Wesley’s sermons and relates them to modern life. This is a book easily understood by laity, and easily appreciated by clergy. You’ll find snippets of Wesley’s life, snippets of Wesley’s thoughts, and snippets of current Wesleyan perspective- all in one book. While not exhaustive, it is certainly a good peak into the life and mind of Wesley and into the theology of Wesleyans.

hereinisloveHerein Is Love, Volume 3: Leviticus by Nancy E. Ganz

5 Stars

I cannot tell you enough how much I love this book. I got it for homeschooling. We’d been going through the Old Testament and I found myself stumped when it came to Leviticus. This book is amazing. It ties the Old Testament to the New in a way that kids can understand. It is set up with lessons in the beginning and questions in the back. It can easily be used for Sunday School type curriculum, as well. This is understandable by grammar school age kids, but isn’t below middle or even high schoolers. My 5 year old was able to remember all the steps to becoming a priest! This book was a huge help and a huge blessing. I cannot recommend it enough!

soupclub

The Soup Club Cookbook by Courtney Allison, Tina Carr, Caroline Lasko, and Julie Peacock

5 Stars

At first, I just wanted this book for the soup recipes. And there are plenty of those! The range of the recipes is pretty wide, but if you’re not a foodie, not many of them are going to appeal to you. There are also some very difficult to find specialty ingredients in a lot of the soups. If you live near a large metro area, it likely won’t be difficult for you to acquire them. If you live in more rural areas, you’ll have a lot more trouble with a lot of the ingredients. (We’re talking about things like Marmite, specialty cheeses, fresh chestnuts, celeriac bulbs, sunchokes, masa harina, kombu, nori, etc.) There are also several non-soup recipes. I was thrilled with the recipes included. And the recipes are huge, which is a plus for this large family momma.
But what really surprised me is how much I actually like the idea of a soup club. I usually shy away from dinner clubs, mostly because they just don’t work for my family. But soup club is something I could really get used to. I look forward to finding a few friends to try soup club with me.
You’ll need a few things to make this cookbook work for you. You’ll need a huge stock pot. The soup recipes are intended to be split among 4 families. That means each recipe makes 8-9 quarts of soup. (And if you’re a large family mom, like myself, that means their might even be leftovers!) You’ll need an immersion blender for several of the soups. You may need a food processor for several soups. And if you’re starting a soup club, you’ll need quart sized jars, small jars for garnishes, and canvas tote bags for delivery.

crochetwithoneCrochet with One Sheepish Girl by Meredith Crawford

5 Stars

I am a very beginning crocheter. This book has the basics in the beginning of the book, though crochet is a little hard to grasp in book form, so you may want to watch some YouTube videos to help with the beginner basics. There are several patterns in this book, all of them pretty unique. (I hate it when I buy a craft book and can find every single pattern for free on the internet. This book isn’t like that.)
Patterns include: Granny Square Infinity Cowl, Color Block Ribbed Turban, Bow Brooch, Striped Bow Clutch, Sweater Makeover (Adding crochet hearts to a sweater, not the pattern for the sweater), Collared Shirt Makeover (Adding a crochet trim to a button up shirt), Scallop Stripe Cowl, Home Cozy Home Pillowcase, Crochet Edge Frames, Yarn Bag Makeover (Adding Crochet touches to a ready made canvas bag), Ombre Basket in Three Sizes, Crochet Hook Organizer, Heart Pocket Apron, Teacup Coasters, “Enjoy” Place Setting Placemat, Cottage Tea Cozy, Diana Camera Purse (looks like a camera, doesn’t hold a camera), Tablet Case, Gift Boxes, Chocolate Latte (crochet to go coffee cup, doesn’t actually hold coffee), Blueberry Muffin (again, a “play” muffin), Party Hat Garland, Snow Cone Garland, and Crochet Edge Cards and Tags (cards are printed in the back of the book so you can make copies of the cards she has or add the trim to your own).

charcuterieThe New Charcuterie Cookbook by Jamie Bissonnette

4 Stars

This is a well laid out book. There are plenty of pictures, even step by step pictures helping you wade through the unfamiliar territory. You’ll need more than the average American kitchen contains, though. You’ll need a meat grinder. For many recipes, you need a separate meat curing fridge. You’ll need a sausage stuffer. None of these recipes will make your kitchen more efficient or save you money. This is more of a hobby cooking type endeavor. (Telling you his first few hams didn’t turn out, so don’t worry if yours doesn’t won’t fly when you’re counting on that ham for dinner.)

You should also be aware that this book, particularly in the introduction, is quite crude and contains a few profanities. I wouldn’t usually expect that in a cookbook, but think it is pertinent info, particularly for those giving the book as a gift.

Overall, a beautifully laid out, well explained book. Just not something the average American home cook is going to necessarily employ.

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Good Advice from Bad People by Zac Bissonnette
4 Stars
This makes for an interesting coffee table book. Organized with a quote on one page in large print and then the story of why the quote is so humorous coming from that person follows on the next page or two. Some of the quotes and stories are not so amusing, some are. Makes a great conversation starter, for sure.
afterworlds
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfield
3 Stars
This book is two books in one. You have the book, “Afterworlds”. Then you have the story of a young up-and-coming author writing “Afterworlds”. Chapters alternate between the stories. The timing between the stories is very well done.
“Afterworlds” by Darcy Patel would have gotten a 5 star review. And I would sit anxiously awaiting “Untitled Patel”. It was the second story of Darcy Patel flowing through the pages that brought the rating down. Don’t get me wrong, the book premise was genius, the timing of the stories flowing together was nothing short of epic. The characters in the Darcy Patel story just lost their fizz and definition as the love relationship in that story began. The plot took over and left nothing for the characters themselves to be. Darcy began acting not like Darcy, but by a pawn of the plot. Huge bummer because this book could have been epic. Darcy was just all wrong from the beginning. (She should have been a dude- that would have made so much more sense because she didn’t ever feel like any girl I have ever known. The soul of the character felt like an insecure boy.) Read it, because you have to- this is Scott Westerfeld we’re talking about. Enjoy the genius in the premise and in the Afterworlds story. But know that the Darcy Patel story is just a flat, soulless blah once you get beyond the perfect timing, insightful industry look, and innovative idea.

Parental blurb: (This book is YA. Recommended for 14 and up. So I am dutifully including the info parents might want to know.) This book contains the following:
-terrorism
-cult in minor detail
– violence, but nothing excessively graphic
– violence against children
– cursing, not excessive, but a few f-bombs
– underage drinking
– sex in vague passing references, nothing graphic
– homosexual relationship is one of the main stories in the book

breastfeeding
5 Stars
I have breastfed all five of my children, so I am not new to this, nor was any of the information in the book really new or unheard of to me. However, this made me heart just sing reading about the beauty God created in the mother and child dynamic shared in breastfeeding. I will go back and read this again and again. And I highly recommend it!

Note: I am not Catholic, but I found the book amazing nonetheless. I am Protestant/Methodist.

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Hyperbole and A Half by Allie Brosh
4 Stars
I don’t read the blog, but I bought the book anyway. I wasn’t exactly aware of how much the author likes the F word. I found the book amusing. I would caution readers that it does contain a lot of profanity, so if that is something that bothers you, skip this book. There is no getting around the profanity.
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The Fallout by S.A. Bodeen
4 Stars
I did not think The Compound really needed a sequel. It was a great stand alone story. I wish authors would rebel against this new trend toward making everything a series. With that said, I liked this book. I didn’t want it tagged onto The Compound, but I did enjoy it.
baked
Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
5 Stars
If you know me, you know how much I love baking. And I love the premise of these recipes- decrease the sugar where you can, add more chocolate where you can. There are recipes for cookies, cakes, pies, tarts, and more. If you’ve never baked a cake before, you might want to start with something simpler, but for those that know their way around a mixer, you’ll love this book!
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Lectures in Old Testament Theology by Dennis Kinlaw with John Oswalt
5 Stars
As I was preparing to teach the kids about the Old Testament this year, I found myself with a lot of questions. So, instead of trudging along blindly, I picked up this book and began to read and help answer some of those questions. This book was undoubtedly a blessing to me. It helped me understand the Old Testament, helped tie it to the New Testament, and gave me more insight into the Bible than I have had before. While this book was written for academia, I find it very easy to understand with no theological or Biblical degree. I would recommend it for clergy and laity, alike.
bibleamongthemyths
5 Stars
In addition to the previous book, I picked up this book to help further answer some of my questions. Living in a time where everyone spouts “truth” as it is known to them, it is easy to find yourself a bit confused on what is and isn’t actually true. This book helped frame the world when the Bible was written. It helps you understand the concepts of myth and history and how the Bible fits into that. It is a little more difficult to read than Lectures in Old Testament Theology, but readable nonetheless, for those with an interest in the subject.
Note: Dr. Oswalt was one of The Pastor’s seminary professors.
holdon
Hold On To Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate
5 Stars
I read this book at such an opportune time. My kids have just started playing with other kids around the neighborhood and I was able to see a lot of what the authors were discussing playing out in the early stages. And I was really surprised how quickly the kids’ attachments went from our home to homes around the neighborhood. It has definitely given me more to think about and more of a leg to stand on when certain relationships my children have make me uncomfortable. (And usually, it isn’t a matter of the other kid being a bad kid. It is just how much emphasis and how much of themselves they throw into the relationship, even at relatively young ages.) This is definitely a book to read, particularly for those entering the world of raising kids who have their own friends and relationships outside of the family. It is easier to foster healthier relationships from the beginning than to be scrambling to fix them when things go bad. (Though if you’re in that second camp, this book will help, too.)
angryconvos
Angry Conversations With God by Susan E. Isaacs
4 Stars
I really couldn’t relate to Susan’s story at all. I don’t know what it is like to be a single adult searching for your mate. I don’t know what it is like to move across the country while single. I don’t know what it is like building a career while searching for Mr. Right. I didn’t do those things. And that life is so foreign to me, I just couldn’t relate. I know nothing about church hopping and trying to find the perfect church. (I’ve always been of the “grow where you are planted” variety and try to make my church better and take the things that I dislike about it to make myself a better person. I’ve never moved to a new city and had to shop for churches. In every move, I had a church home waiting for me, and I made that the best I could.)
This book is funny and snarky. And I enjoyed it, despite the author being nothing like myself. I like peeking into the spiritual journey’s of others. It gives me more insight into choices they make and why they tick. So, I did enjoy the book, though I didn’t necessarily find it personally edifying or touching.
handsfree
You’ve already seen my review of Hands Free Mama and all the ways I dislike it. If you haven’t, go read it. I gave it 2 out of 5 stars, and I think that was being pretty generous.
protecting
Protecting The Gift by Gavin de Becker
4 Stars
I really liked Gavin de Becker’s book, The Gift of Fear. That book really should be read by all parents. This book, had its great points. If I was in a different situation in life, needing childcare providers on a regular basis or something, this book would have likely gotten 5 stars. There are screening questions for daycares, schools, and babysitters. There are tips on things to look for, things to ask that you may not think about, and just the general word to trust your gut. Parents today need to hear that. Trust your gut. We get so bogged down in the lists and the comparing that we often try not to listen to ourselves, even when we should. This book also helped me navigate some personal parenting issues that had come up in my life, which was invaluable. I just found that I really liked about half the book and then just kind of got through the other half. It isn’t a topic we usually like to dwell on, but Gavin de Becker does such a great job of getting right to the heart of the matter that it immediately deals with our anxieties and then leaves us with nothing but newfound strength.
makingafamilyhome
Making A Family Home by Shannon Honeybloom
2 Stars
The book is full of beautiful pictures… of the author’s perfect home and perfect kids and perfect life. Of course, likely all taken on the same day and likely not quite as perfect as projected. (I think we’ve all seen similar on social media.) It was seriously just room by room of her house and how to make your house like her home. I didn’t find it all that helpful or inspirational, it just felt pretentious. But the pictures were pretty.
lovingthelittleyears
Loving The Little Years by Rachel Jankovic
4 Stars
Overall, I enjoyed this book. There were parts that were very encouraging. Parts that had me tearing up. Parts that I felt convicted to do better for my kids. I think her views on how children change a mother’s body are amazing and could read an entire book just on that subject.
I did conclude that Mrs. Jankovic and I are very different parents. And to me, that is okay. However, I wish she wouldn’t have talked so much about discipline in her book since that is where she and I would majorly disagree. I also didn’t find it helpful to the overall grounding and encouraging tone of the book. I also found it humorous that a mom whose oldest child is 5 is talking about long term discipline approaches. She really should have left that part out, added a few more uplifting and encouraging chapter, and called it a five star book.
mamarazzi
Mamarazzi by Stacey Wasmuth
4 Stars
This book is overall a good help to taking great pictures of your kids. It contains tons of pictures along with the camera settings uses to take each picture. There are tips on how to make handmade photography helps, like diffusers and reflectors. It is a very good resource for the technical aspects of photography, explaining aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. There were tips and tricks for photographing newborns through teens. It also has info on how I choose a professional photographer when you need one.
The downsides of this book are small, but keep it from being a 5 star book. The book was copyrighted in 2011, so many of the website and specific products recommended are gone. Including websites in a book is helpful, but certainly dates a book. All the photo editing is specifically geared to Adobe Photoshop. There are recommended iPhone apps, which only scratch the surface of what is currently available. The advice on choosing a camera is really limited to Canon and Nikon. There are plenty of other options available. It also recommends a dSLR because of previous limitations with digital cameras. I own a dSLR myself, but there are plenty of digitals that are blowing folks away these days.
I think my favorite quote from this book is, “Buying a fancy camera does not make you a photographer.”

The Day The Comments Wouldn’t Quit

30 Dec

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Remember that time when I said I was going to blog the annoying things people say to me so I don’t go crazy on people in public? No. Well, I said it. At some point.

People aren’t always mean. In fact, last week, a few days before Christmas, a lady came and asked me if they were all mine while we waited for a table at a local Mexican restaurant. I replied that they were, and I even smiled. She just smiled and walked away. A few minutes after we were seated, she appeared again, and told me that we reminded her of her family when her kids were small. They are all grown now, she informed me. She said that someone had once paid for their dinner around the holidays, and it was such a blessing to them. Seeing us, she was reminded of that night, and was doing the same for us. Merry Christmas. And that was awesome. So generous, so sweet.

Four times over the weekend (my inlaws were in town, so we were eating out more than often), someone approached me or The Pastor to tell us how wonderfully behaved our children were and how great it was to see our family. (A couple times, I might have looked a little shocked. It isn’t easy on my end to keep them civil while waiting at the chiropractor or waiting for a table in a busy restaurant. And my boys are, well, all boy.) But I was surprised and encouraged. It took a lot of work to keep them quiet, feet not on seats, and eating with silverware, but apparently my hard work was working! People were not bothered by my children, but delighted by them.

boys

Then I have a day like today, and all those positive, encouraging interactions seem to fly out the window in the face of some crummy ones. Today, I felt like a walking target. The kids were being decently behaved. We took them to Waffle House for breakfast. We had to wait on a table because apparently everyone decided Tuesday was Waffle House day. But they were waiting well, in anticipation of waffles and hot cocoa, I suppose.

Then came the comments.

And they came. And they came. And they came.

“Are they all yours?!”

“Oh my God! And pregnant again?!”

“Bless your heart.” (And you Southerners know this is NEVER a compliment.)

“Better you than me.”

“Your hand are full!”

“Please tell me it isn’t twins again! Or worse, triplets!” (Apparently, my boys being dressed alike made many people assume they were triplets or twins.)

“You must have more patience than me! I could just never…!”

And all this, repeated over and over, in front of my kids, while I am working my butt off at that thing where I keep them all nice and polite in public places and not let them tear Waffle House down with their bare hands. I think the worst part was most of it coming from the employees. We couldn’t even get orders out without multiple snide comments. Let me just say, I wanted to be mean. I wanted to put someone in their place. I wanted to scream.

I don’t like being in the spotlight. I didn’t have kids to be in some bizarre public spotlight. This is just our life. A life that I could do without the snide commentary on.

And I’d like my kids not to feel like outcasts, particularly from adults who should know better. (And especially from adults who are expecting a tip from my order for 7 people!) I don’t need pity. My kids don’t need pity.

I wanted to tell these Waffle House workers that yes, the children are all mine and I thank God that I get to be their mom every day. Yes, I am pregnant again, and I find it just as miraculous as I did the first time. The infertile couple now has six, count them, six children! That is what God can do. I’m amazed. Still. Yes, my heart is very blessed and I am very thankful. And while I am glad that God has given these to me, it does make me sad that so many people are so clueless to the blessings that children can be. I am glad that it is me, but I would like for you to be just as blessed, if not more! Yes, my hands are full. My life is full. My house is full. The car is full. All things I am extremely thankful for. My days are filled with a thousand hugs and kisses. (Even kisses on my hands like I am some kind of Queen because my 3 year old insists on kissing my hands all the time.) No, there are no multiples in the bunch. Not in my belly. Not at the tables. I’m not sure why this is disappointing or surprising. Those boys you think are triplets are 3, 5, and 7. They aren’t that close in age. Sorry to disappoint you. Yes, God has given me more patience with the passing years. It is one of the miracles of motherhood, that God uses it to make us better, to make us holier people. Each child makes me a better person if I can let go of myself long enough to let God change me. I didn’t start this journey with unnatural patience. I still don’t claim to have that much, but proof that I endured this barrage of negativity is probably proof that I do, indeed, have more than I once did. But I am happy. We are happy. This is our life. We’re living it like everyone else here right now, eating Waffle House for breakfast on a Tuesday. And we’re enjoying it. My kids are not burdens. They are not problems to be dealt with. They are awesome little people that I am lucky enough to know.

But I didn’t. Instead, I ordered. I pretended the comments didn’t bother me. I helped my kids cut their waffles. I held it in, knowing that just days ago, I encountered encouraging people who helped build me up. I held it in knowing that I knew what they didn’t- we are happy, all of us, and that is something. I let them overcharge me for my meal. I tipped without a grudge. And I hoped that maybe later, we’ll come across some more of those encouraging people who make the days easier. And hoping that I could be that encouraging person that makes someone else’s days easier.

Where Do I Even Begin?

30 Dec

By now, you’ve certainly heard about essential oils. You’ve likely got a friend or two (or five) that rave about them on social media daily. You may be wondering if they’re up to all the hype (depends on what you’ve heard). You may be wanting to check them out yourself. But where to even begin?

There are really two ways to begin this journey. You can buy one or two oils at a time and ease in gently. Or you can buy a handful of oils and jump in both feet first. There are pros and cons to each way and neither is really right for everyone.

eo begin

Easing in- You’ll buy one or two oils and slowly start building your collection. You’ll likely want to start with lavender, lemon, or peppermint. Those are the common oils that can treat a whole slew of maladies and complaints. Rub lavender on boo-boos. Use peppermint for heartburn or as a pick me up. Use lemon to clean, kill offensive odors, or help wake you up in the morning. You’ll find dozens of uses for the basic oils.

There are pros and cons to this method. You’ll spend less initially. You’ll be able to grab the same two or three oils across several brands to compare them if you wish. You’re not putting a lot of money into the start up. The downsides will be that you’ll be less likely to spend money for a diffuser, which is an awesome way to use your essential oils, since it will only add to the initial cost. You’ll not get into the habit of reaching for an oil to help. You’ll likely find you want an oil for coughing, but only don’t have one on hand or you’ll want an oil for deodorant and none of the few you’ve got are adequate. You’ll find yourself a little frustrated at the lack of variety. And you’ll be running out of oil and having to replenish it eventually, slowing down your accumulation plan. Essential oils in an amber bottle should never expire. Exposure to heat will lessen their effectiveness, but they won’t go bad. They’ll survive the apocalypse with you. A bottle of essential oil lasts me anywhere from 6 weeks to years, depending on the oil and what is going on in our household. The common oils you’re likely to buy in the beginning will run out faster than obscure oils simply because you’re using them more often. (I find cheaper oils don’t last as long, because I’m having to use double or triple the number of drops for the same strength.)

Jumping In- This is how many people prefer to go about it. You can usually buy a starter kit that makes the overall “deal” better than wading in slowly. For example, a Young Living Premium Kit contains 11 oils plus a diffuser and some samples for $150 (plus tax and shipping). My DoTerra Family Physician Kit contained 11 oils for $150. If this doesn’t seem like a deal to you, know that lavender, lemon, and peppermint oil alone from either company would be over $50. So, you get more bang for your buck.

There are pros and cons to this way, too. You’ll be putting more money in up front. And say, you wanted an oil for thyroid function, well, that isn’t in the kit. You’ll have to add that to your collection. The kits generally contain basic, widely used, oils. Oils for relaxation, immune boosting, boo-boos, skin care, coughs, etc. They aren’t going to have the more specific oils like myrtle, helichrysum, ocotea, myrrh, etc. You will  build the habit of using oil when you have this many, though. You’ll find ways to use it. You’ll likely find you have an oil on hand for most things you find you need. And in some cases, you’ll also have a diffuser to diffuse oils, which is an awesome way to use them. (You can also buy essential oil diffusers on Puritan’s Pride and Amazon for relatively low prices.) But the initial cost is going to be more. For some people, that means they’ll actually make themselves use it. For others, they don’t want that much money investing in something they aren’t sure they’ll enjoy.

So which oils should I try?

Lavender is the most common, basic oil to have on hand. It is especially good when you’ve got kids, since it is a good first aid oil. It can be used on cuts, scrapes, bruises, burns, stings, and more. Some people (The Pastor included) report it helping reduce allergy symptoms. It is also calming, helping you relax and sleep.

Lemon oil is also very common. It can be used in cleaning, both your house and yourself. It makes your house smell clean. It uplifts your mood and helps you focus. It is great to use in the morning to help wake you up. (This really goes for all citrus oils. They just smell so uplifting. It is a great scent to start the day.) Can be used to help smooth the skin on your feet. It can also help in the dishwasher for those with hard water. You’ll find so many uses for lemon oil.

Peppermint oil is very common with many uses. Of course, you know it will freshen your breathe. The smell can also help uplift you and help with nausea. Peppermint is also good for heartburn. Many people use lemon and peppermint together to help them on their weight loss journey. Peppermint is also of great help for people with headaches. Use it to help keep you awake and alert.

Thieves/On Guard is an oil blend. Most oil companies carry some version of this oil. (Clove, lemon, eucalyptus, cinnamon, rosemary) Also similar is just straight cinnamon bark oil. This is the oil used for immune boosting and germ killing properties. Many people get into essential oils for this blend. You can use is for cleaning (I personally mop and clean my counters with cinnamon bark oil), homemade hand sanitizers, diffusing to kill germs and boost immunity, rubbing on your feet to help boost your immune system, on toothaches, and as a natural air freshener. Some people drip it in their vacuums or rinse their carpets using a steam cleaner. This blend is what makes many fall in love with essential oils. (If you get a food grade version, know that a couple drops in a simple sugar glaze makes an awesome addition to spice cakes.)

Melaleuca (Tea Tree Oil) is also a great starter oil. You’ll want to be cautious with this one with pregnant women. (Well, you always want to be cautious with pregnant women and kids. Check oil safety and dilute them!) It is great for cleaning! Use it in your steam cleaner, mop water, counter spray. You can use it on your pets (and sometimes kids) for lice, fleas, and ticks. It is also a good oil for fungus and parasites, like yeast and ringworm. It is also great for skin issues like razor burns, athlete’s foot, and other skin conditions. You’ll find so many ways to use it. There are several different varieties of melaleuca. Melaleuca Alternifolia is the common “tea tree oil” variety. Other varieties may be milder or better for specific issues.

Frankincense is another common oil that is all the rage. You may be curious about this one, since it was a gift for the baby Jesus and all. And most people aren’t really sure what on earth frankincense is even good for, or what it smells like. It is great skin care. I personally use it in my hand cream. It has healing properties and kills germies. It is calming, and meditative. It can help reduce the appearance of scars. Seriously, skin LOVES frankincense. It helps with anxiety, stress, sadness, and moodiness. It helps boost your immune system. It soothes itchy skin. It can help back and joint discomfort. This oil is so soothing. You can use it on scrapes, and I do, especially if they are on the face. There are also lots of stories about frankincense being used by those with cancer. You’ll have to search for those personal stories, since I have none personally to share.

Those are the most common oils. There are others than many would argue are more important than those above, like thyme (great for congestion), eucalyptus (there are several varieties), oregano, patchouli (a personal favorite), valerian, tangerine, orange, lime (another personal favorite, dubbed “happiness in a bottle” by me), cedarwood, copaiba (there is a Wild Kratts episode about Orangutans that talks about copaiba). The lists just go on. Really, any essential oil is going to have its great uses and its own cautions. What becomes your household favorite remains to be seen. Then there are blends by various brands for anxiety, stress, depression, energy, grounding, etc. I found the Young Living blend Joy is one of my favorites. Right now, I’m also digging Gentle Babies by Young Living. I loved DoTerra’s InTune blend, as well as their Balance and Slim & Sassy blends.

What essential oils are not.

Essential oils are not going to make you loose weight while you eat cheeseburgers on your couch. They can help you crave more wholesome foods and help give you the energy to get started on that work out plan you’ve been saying you’re going to start.

They aren’t going to make up for years of bad decisions. They’ll help balance you. They’ll help with your symptoms. They’ll help get you on the road to better health. But they aren’t going to erase years of damage overnight.

They are not the be all and end all. There are other things you need for your health. Essential oils are one preparation of something. You might need something different for different issues. You may find dandelion tea is much better for your water retention than lemon essential oil. Essential oils are just part of a healthy lifestyle. They’re not the whole thing. We still use herbs, tinctures, teas, vitamins, food, and when needed, pharmacologicals in my house. Things have their place.

They are not a scam. Essential oils have worked for centuries. Just because we in the west have forgotten does not mean they aren’t valid and useful. Sure, some oil quality is better than others. You’ll find a slew of info floating around the internet about various oil quality issues. But they do work. They’re not going to be a miracle cure for every ailment. But they can help alleviate some of your discomfort and address many of your issues.

How not to use essential oils. 

One drop is good, so ten drops is better, right? NO! Wrong! Less is more when it comes to essential oils. Essential oils are highly concentrated. And yes, some oils are such quality that you will have to use more, but you work up to that. A single drop of oil on a boo-boo is all you generally need. 4-5 drops of oil in a diffuser is usually plenty. You don’t have to douse yourself in it for it to work. You can use too much.

Dilution makes it weak, right? Wrong! Dilute 2 drops of essential oil in 2 drops of vegetable oil and you still have 2 drops of oil. Sometimes dilution HELPS the oil work. It helps it absorb slower, which is a good thing. It can help your skin absorb the oil better. It can add soothing properties to your oil. Always dilute with kids. Always dilute if you’re not sure about dilution. If an oil isn’t working the way you want, don’t add more oil, dilute the oil and see how it helps. You might be surprised.

Do not ingest all oils! Some oils can be ingested. There is a lot of debate on when, how much, what, and who should be in charge of these things. But some oils are edible. But not ALL oils are edible. If you don’t know, don’t eat it. And ingestion isn’t the best way to deal with every problem. A cough is better helped by diffusion. A cut is better helped by direct contact. A tummy ache is better cured rubbing diluted oil on the outside of your tummy. Where ever your research with ingesting oils takes you, be cautious. (And actually do the research!)

How do I even use essential oils?

There are several ways to use essential oils. You can diffuse them. A machine puts the tiny oil droplets into the air where you will breathe them in and enjoy their scent. Diffusing is great for many oils and many issues. You can rub them onto your skin. Some oils need to be diluted (see above). You can rub them onto the troubling spot, be it a sore neck, upset tummy, scraped knee, etc. You can rub them on your feet (this is an especially good option for kids). You can look at a reflexology chart and see where on the bottoms of your feet corresponds with which body system. You can add them to your homemade cleaning products and personal care products. (That links to some recipes I posted.) Some people ingest them, adding them either to water, milk, or empty gelatin capsules. (You want to research that option fully and make sure the oil you purchase is a quality that is edible. I wouldn’t ingest any oil from a company that says not to.) You can add a drop to a damp cloth and place on a sore muscle or over your chest. You can place a drop or two in warm water and cover your head with a towel to inhale. You can add a drop or two to your scarf, to smell while you’re out and about. (I especially like to do this with mood uplifting oils.) You can put a drop in your hands, rub your hands together, and inhale from your cupped hands.

You don’t want to heat the oil. A candle warmer isn’t a great diffuser. (Believe me, I tried using my Scentsy warmers to diffuse oil before buying a diffuser. It just doesn’t last long and the oil get broken down by the heat. If you insist on trying it anyway, add water to the warmer, then a drop or two of oil. You’ll only get 5-10 minutes of scent. Though therapeutic range is 15 minute intervals of diffusion, so it is something, I guess.) You don’t want to add it to a simmering pot on the stove. You won’t get benefits from cooking it into your soups or stews. (If you want to add it to cooked items, add it post cooking. And make sure your oil is edible and don’t use too much! A drop of oregano oil IS NOT equal to a pinch of dried oregano. It’s more like an entire oregano plant up in your spaghetti!)

How do I decide who to purchase oil from?

I used essential oils from the natural food store for years. I used their tea tree oil in my carpets and for my kids who just had a diaper rash his entire time in diapers. I used their eucalyptus oil to make shower soothers when I had a cold. (15 drops of their oil on a wet wash cloth in the bottom of the shower.) I’d add a couple drops of their thyme to the kid’s bath water when they were snotty. I was fairly happy with it. I didn’t always get the results I wanted, particularly from their lavender, but overall, I was pretty content. The Pastor used their patchouli for cologne for quite some time. You may find yourself happy with these brands, too. You may find that they are enough for you. That you don’t mind 15 drops of eucalyptus for your cold to be too much. You don’t mind the carpets getting cleaned with their tea tree oil. You’ll likely find the lavender doesn’t do anything people say lavender does, but it’ll smell nice at least.

You may want to try a company like Plant Therapy. Their prices are low. They aren’t a club or multi-level marketing set up. You just go on the website and buy oils. Simple. Their quality is better than I found at the mass natural food store. So, it is a step up from that. But they aren’t quite as good as DoTerra or Young Living, in my opinion. However, you’ll find some oils, like vanilla, that DoTerra and Young Living don’t have. There are other companies like this one. Eden’s Garden, Native American Nutritionals, Rocky Mountain Oils, etc.  (Note that I have not tried any of those companies. It is on my to-do list. But I cannot speak to the quality of those oils.)

You may decide you want to buy in bulk from a company like Liberty Natural Products. Their prices are extremely low and you can buy a lot of oil! Think of the oil you could split in a co-op! My midwife recommends this company. I haven’t had an opportunity to try them yet. They also have various bottles and containers you can purchase for your oil concoctions.

You may decide you want to try one of the current big two: Young Living or DoTerra. They are MLM set up, but both offer wholesale membership instead of insisting on you being a distributor. The ordering is a bit more complicated. You’ll have to do things like give them your social security number (for taxes, since you have the potential of being paid by the company). They both now have pretty minimum order limits per year to maintain your “membership” or distributor status. They get all complicated with the MLM set up. But the oil quality is really there. (I personally found Young Living to be slightly better than DoTerra for my needs.) Both have great kit set ups if you want to go the “jump in” route. But both are MLMs, and that turns a lot of people off. Just know, you’ll be personally giving part of the money from your kit to your distributor, if that makes you feel better about your initial purchase. (I personally get about $50 from every $150 kit that someone buys with my member number 1650325. Just to give you an idea of how much of your purchase is going to help a family out.) I found this to be a great way for me to go, especially for the kits,  but know it isn’t really for everyone.

Ultimately, it is up to you who you choose to purchase oil from. There are also likely herb shops in your community that sell oils. (Though many sell oils from one of the other places I listed above.)

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