Monday, December 31, 2012

Farewell to 2012!

It was a year in which we didn't see a single snowflake (well, unless one shows up in the last few hours, but that's not likely), but there were many things to make up for that. 

I experienced what I think was pneumonia, and survived without visiting a hospital. I learned a lot about health as a result, and got the jump start I needed to lose a few pounds (which lasted until all the holiday sweets and treats wore down my defenses, but that will soon be remedied) and I think I've finally discovered the secret to keeping weight off long-term.



I checked an exciting item off my bucket list with my first plane trip. It was also the first time I had been away from my family for a whole week. I greatly enjoyed my trip to Michigan, and my time visiting my cousin and his wife and new baby girl!

We attended Wicked performed by Broadway on tour for our second time, and it was even more exciting than the first time!



My old computer crashed, and I purchased my first laptop. I also shared in the purchase of a macro lens with Sarah, but I've been the primary user, and it's now my favorite lens. 


Finally, after much searching and pondering, we got a source of raw milk (and other wonderful dairy and farm products like grass-fed beef) and I'm addicted. The raw ice cream with no guilt has certainly been one of my top health high-lights of this year.

We were able to take our beach trip in the late summer, and enjoyed lovely weather, except for one cozy, rainy day. 

 
I turned 21, which I always thought should feel like a landmark, but I still don't feel like I'm 21. I do think I grew and changed a lot this year, and while I feel older, I don't know that I feel like 21 yet. I'm certainly not where I thought I'd be 10 years ago, so maybe that's a part of my mental disparity.
 
Overall, this year seemed fairly calm and relaxed on the outside, but it was really an emotional roller coaster and mentally exhausting year for me. God used it all for my good, as He promised, and I'm learning to let go of my plans and dreams, and simply trust Him. 

For 2013, I'm hoping for a year with less internal turmoil. Faithfully following God where ever He leads, and leaving the rest up to Him. May we all experience a new year full of His peace and joy, no matter what the circumstances. 

These verses are simply loaded with encouragement, I will leave you with them. Happy New Year!

"And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
Colossians 1:9-14

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Eve!


I'm sitting by our nice warm fireplace...

...looking at our pretty tree. 


Gifts have been wrapped.

 


I've arranged my nativity set.


Baked the cranberry swirl cheesecake.



 All the pieces in our advent calendar are in place.

The Christmas lights are strung on the porch railing outside.

 

And there's a lovely sunset.


Merry Christmas Eve!!


Friday, November 30, 2012

Character Building

  "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."
- Helen Keller
We all go through trials and sufferings that could be used to build character, but I think the response you have to those trials is what determines whether you take full advantage of the opportunity. You can decide if you will struggle against it and let it turn you bitter, or if you will humbly submit and let it produce more of the sweetness of Christ in your spirit. 

I am afraid I tend much more towards bitterness in my trials. This is very silly because my trials are not large or overwhelming. I live in America and my trials are certainly not worth comparing to the suffering and torment of Christians in other countries, where they may be persecuted, imprisoned and tortured for their faith. As of yet, my freedom has not been taken away, but America isn't completely free of persecution, and I know it will continue to get worse in the future. If I'm so incompliant in trivial struggles, how will I respond to the greater persecution that is certainly coming?
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
–Romans 5:3-5
 Do you rejoice in your sufferings? It's certainly not natural to our flesh to rejoice in our pain and discomfort, however, remember that we are not rejoicing because of the suffering itself, but because of what the suffering produces. Suffering gives us endurance, endurance builds character, character gives us hope - and what a wonderful thing is hope! - and our hope will not disappoint us because our hope is in the Lord! His love has been poured into our hearts (I love the picture that gives me, of my empty, sad heart being filled to overflowing with His awesome love!) and the Holy Spirit inhabits us. 

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us."
                                                                    - Romans 8:18

Next time I have an opportunity to suffer and build endurance, character and hope, I want to keep my heart from bitterness and grumbling, and welcome the trial with meekness. My flesh might feel that the pain is unendurable, and I know I won't be able to rely on my own strength, but through Christ's strength, I will endure patiently.

'But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.'
-2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Chalk Paint Adventures

I've been wanting a new nightstand for Sarah's and my room. We'd been using one of those wobbly round table with the three screw-in legs that were popular a long time ago ever since just after they became unpopular. We picked ours up at a yard sale for $5 and it's been wearing an ill-fitting yellow skirt for a while. It's definitely time for a change.

We have a lot of wood furniture in our room, but I decided wanted something vintage and distressed, in a light cream color. After scouring Goodwills and gasping at the shocking prices on some fabulous pieces at HomeGoods, I finally decided that I should DIY, or rather, do it myself.

At first I was looking into tutorials on vintage styles with latex paint, but then I found Annie Sloan Chalk Paint™ at a vintage shop just around the corner from my house. Everything I read about it online made me more eager to try it! Extremely low VOC's, no prepping necessary (no sanding, no priming), quick dry time, and created to achieve the exact look I want! Then I found this post over at Perfectly Imperfect and I was sold.

I stopped by the stockist to buy my paint, and they were out of cream, so I bought some Old White and Arles to mix into my own cream. I also bought some Duck Egg Blue to paint a little shelf for the kitchen. Mom suggested it as a good practice project for me, and it was! Here's the before and after:


I jumped right in and just slapped it on; I didn't plan, scheme, test or over-think it, and I think it was a great first project! I painted it outside because I wasn't sure how it would smell, although I knew it should be fine, since it's low VOC paint. It was kinda cool outside, but it worked fine. The paint has almost no odor that I can detect, but the wax is kind of smelly, so I'm glad I stayed outside. The wax was also solidified, I don't know if it's supposed to be or not, but I didn't notice any problems with it, either. I put on one fairly thin coat of Duck Egg Blue, then waxed with the clear, and added a little dark wax on top. You can tell from the picture that I wasn't very consistent in painting style, but I didn't try to correct anything. This shelf will be stacked with recipe books most of the time anyway. This quick project took me 3 hours one afternoon!

I've already mixed up my own cream (one part Arles, 3 parts Old White) and tried it on a cheap old bookcase from Goodwill. Due to photographer error (I thought my camera was set to AV but it was actually on Manual) there are no before photos (well, there are, but they are blinding pure whiteness due to excessive overexposure) but some after photos may be coming soon, along with some photos of my next Chalk Paint project - painting the nightstand! Many other projects are also being schemed. I'm definitely addicted!

A new Chalk Paint fan,

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Finding Purpose

It's something everyone is searching for - the answer to the age-old question: what am I doing here? Why do I exist? What am I supposed to do? Without a reason to live, life has no luster. It's like simply floating in the middle of the sea, no raft, no paddle, in the middle of the night, with no idea what direction to go. 

As Christians, the answer really is obvious, but often seems a little trite; our purpose is to glorify God. Yes, I know that I am here to bring glory to God, to obey Him and serve Him, but what does that mean? Does it mean that I have to become a missionary? Spend all my free time in soup kitchens? Take an entire weekend just to hand out tracts at the mall? Am I worthless if I'm not doing something like that? No, of course not!

I know the truth, but how often I need reminding! You can bring glory to God in ANY situation - anywhere, anytime, every second. It doesn't matter if you work a boring desk job, spend your whole day doing housework or whatever else your typical daily tasks might be; you can bring Him glory every moment of every day. The God of the universe can bring glory to Himself through your humble, day-to-day life.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
-1 Corinthians 10:31 

When I stress about my life, and try to figure out what God's plan for my future is, I lose my focus on Him. I feel depressed, frustrated and hopeless. I can't be in control of what will happen, and I can't force my life to go the way I wish. The good news is that God has the best plan for my life here, and He is in control. That gives me such joy and contentment. It's so relieving to know that all I have to do is trust Him, simply living each day, and follow Him wherever He leads me! 

...walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
-1 Thessalonians 2:12b

It's so simple, it almost seems too easy, somewhat like the simplicity of salvation. It's so overwhelming and awe-inspiring that He loves us enough that He died to save us, and it cost us NOTHING! While we were still sinners He died for us, and all we have to do is accept His gift, and He creates a clean heart inside of us, and brings our dead spirits to life. His steadfast love, mercy and grace to us is unfathomable!

"I came that they might have life and have it more abundantly."
-John 10:10b

And so, I'm simply living for His glory, and looking forward to eternity with Him. I know that this short life on earth is temporary, and its end only means the beginning of my eternal life with my Savior. No sorrows, no worries and no frustrations; only His love and glory, living in the light of His presence and worshiping Him forever! Keep your eyes on Jesus and eternity with Him, and your life will never lack purpose, joy or contentment.
 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Delightful Fall

This might be my favorite time of the year (although I feel that way at the beginning of every new season); cool, crisp days that make sweaters, boots, hot tea and fires so cozy and inviting. The weather inspires me to cook stews, casseroles and root vegetables. And oh, do I love my winter squash! Butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash and pumpkin - all delicious with warm spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger... I'm making myself hungry. 
Acorn squash from above, baked and mixed with butter, nutmeg, cinnamon and some honey. Yum!

Last night I made a ground beef and broccoli alfredo casserole that was a hit with the menfolk, despite turning out a little too soupy. I will definitely be trying it again. I only remember to take pictures when things look pretty - my vanity at work, I suppose. But this is my slightly altered recipe:

2 pounds of ground beef
1 small onion
10 oz of broccoli (which is about two medium-sized heads, if you're buying fresh)
12 oz of cream cheese
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1 cup of romano cheese
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
1 tsp of garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp of nutmeg (optional)
1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley (optional) 

In a large skillet, cook ground beef and onion. I threw in a fresh-pressed clove of garlic right at the end. Meanwhile, steam broccoli until bright green, do not overcook. Drain very well (I probably didn't drain it well enough, that was likely my problem with soupy-ness). Mix softened cream cheese, with cheeses, spices and parsley, if desired. (I used the "farm" cream cheese, which has a more soft, runny consistency than store-bought cream cheese, that may have contributed to the runniness also.) Mix with the hamburger and broccoli in a greased casserole dish. I used our deep, 9X13 stoneware pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes, until bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

I thought it was very good, in spite of the unfortunate soupy consistency. And I personally thought it went well my favorite side - Sweet Potato Fries!
This is a wonderful recipe from Trina that I make any time I have sweet potatoes. I'm not a huge fan of the typical southern sweet potato casserole, and as a child I loathed baked sweet potatoes (slathered in butter and syrup and cinnamon, I still couldn't stand them) but I love these fries! I even like them more than regular fries. 

Here is the link to her recipe. My personal tips: 
-make sure not to crowd the fries. I started piling them on the baking sheet, since we love them so much, but then they don't crisp up, they turn out more like soggy noodles. Not so appetizing.
-if the fries are coated with the oil, they seem to cook better. I'd suggest gently melting the coconut oil and drizzling over the fries.
We usually end up cooking them a little longer (more like 45 minutes) probably because we do two pans in one oven. They turned out looking nice, but I didn't get a picture of them (maybe my vanity isn't actually affecting me, maybe I'm just lazy, or forget...)

I also made my own vanilla extract (another idea from Trina) and even though Mom and I accidentally ordered some very expensive organic vanilla beans, it was still much more economic than buying it! 

I had an empty 8oz vanilla extract bottle that I was saving specially for this purpose. I decided to use bourbon, and those are my expensive vanilla beans. I simply snipped 2 beans into thirds with scissors, dropped them in the bottle, and filled it up with bourbon. Later, I read another blog post suggesting the beans be sliced down the side to expose the pulp, but after only a day sitting in the bourbon, my extract was already smelling like vanilla, so I left it alone. 4-6 weeks, shaking occasionally, and it should be ready!

Here's some early fall shots I took with the macro lens Sarah and I bought. I am so obsessed with this lens, it's perfect for food pictures (when I take them) and does more than I could hope with simple flower shots - and those are my two favorite photography categories.
 



I am so enjoying this weather! Cooler weather tends to make me more contemplative, and I've been reminded of all His faithfulness through this year. I feel so refreshed and joyful with this new season!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
-Psalm 90:14

 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Letting Go

 I leaned against the door frame of my old bedroom and brushed a damp strand of hair off my forehead. Memories came flooding over me, countless in number, and flashing by almost like one's life might flash before one's eyes. So many happy, childish moments - playing with stuffed animals and dolls, twirling in skirts, and jumping on the bed (even though we knew we weren't supposed to). The short time when all four of us children shared the room, David in the crib by the closet, Joel on the twin bed in the corner, Sarah and I sharing the double bed. Complaining about going to bed while it was still light out on all those summer nights. And with the memories comes a nearly overwhelming feeling of wistful longing.

We left that little house 10 years ago for one nearly twice its size, but my parents still owned it, and rented it out for those 10 years. Somewhere around the age of 13 or 14, I incorporated it into my "future life" plan: when I got married at 18, my husband and I would buy Lynnwood from my parents, and my children would get to live in the same house where I lived my 4th-10th birthdays. They would sleep in my old bedroom, and play in the same backyard while I would watch from the kitchen window, just like Mom always did.


Well, my 18th birthday passed without a hint of a suitor, and now I'm 21, still with no prospects in sight. "My" house is for sale. We've spent the past two months working on it, replacing, repairing, updating, and cleaning. The whole process of seeing the poor little house go from its previous dilapidated condition to the squeaky clean, fresh and pretty condition that it's now in has been somewhat depressing for me, as I kept trying to squelch the wish that it was being prepared for me and my mister instead of some strangers. 

I know it's pretty silly to be so saddened over a house, because it is, after all, only a building, but as a physical representation of the end of my youthful dreams, God has used it to raise some important questions. I wanted to get married at a young age, to a godly man, and raise my 13 (yes, 13) children to His glory. What fault could He find with that? Yet here I am, the husband is about 3 years "late," and I'm two children "short" of schedule. Why?

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
-Isaiah 55:8-9

Do I trust Him with my future? Will I joyfully accept His will for my life even if it doesn't include the husband and children that I've always desired? Am I content in His love? I want my answer to be a confident, decisive and enthusiastic "YES!" every day of my life, my deepest desire only to bring Him glory through my life. I can feel a fist inside my heart, clinging stubbornly to my own dreams, but I must surrender them to Him. His ways are so much higher than mine that I can't understand, I can only trust Him. Why would I hesitate? He created me, and loves me so much that He died to save me. He is truly all I need. So I close my eyes, take a deep breath - and let go.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord
plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
-Jeremiah 29:11 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Weird Beliefs and Opinions: Hospitals, Doctors and Medicine

This is the beginning of what might become a series of posts about all my fanatical beliefs and opinions! I have quite a few. ;)


I am 21 years old, and I haven't been to a medical doctor in 19 years. I was born in a hospital, like the majority of babies born in the US, and for the first two years of my life, I got all the recommended vaccines. Then, my parents decided not to vaccinate me anymore, and I haven't been back to a doctor since. I don't remember any of my few trips to the doctor, and what I have learned, and continue to learn about doctors and the modern medical practice, gives me no desire to ever experience being a patient at a hospital. One of my most terrifying nightmares is being seriously injured, and waking up in a hospital. I think I might rather just die.

In a study by Dr. Barbara Starfield, and published by the Journal of the American Medical Association they found these shocking statistics:
  • 12,000 deaths/year from unnecessary surgery 
  • 7,000 deaths/year from medication errors in hospitals 
  • 20,000 deaths/year from other errors in hospitals 
  • 80,000 deaths/year from infections in hospital;
  • 106,000 deaths/year from non-error, adverse effects of medications 
These all total up to 225,000 deaths per year in the US from iatrogenic damage (which is adverse effects as a direct result of treatments by a physician.) That makes iatrogenic deaths the #3 cause of death in the US. Heart disease and cancer hold the #1 and #2 positions, respectively.

The first number, 12,000 deaths/year from unnecessary surgery, is not even close to the total number of unnecessary surgeries per year, it only tallies the unfortunate souls that died as a result. In Death by Medicine, Gary Null, PhD. estimates that 7.5 million total unnecessary medical and surgical procedures are performed each year. I find it horrifying that so many people spend thousands on surgeries that they don't even need, which instead often cause them damage and death. 
"...the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils." (1 Tim 6:10) 
Surgery makes doctors a lot of profit, and it's my opinion that some doctors either don't care about the damage they might do the patient, or delude themselves into thinking that surgery is in the patient's best interest, simply because of the monetary incentive for themselves. 

It seems if doctors aren't trying to hack out and slice up your body parts, they're trying to give you prescription drugs. Dr. Starfield's study listed 7,000 deaths/year from medication errors, and 106,000 deaths/year from NON-error, adverse effects of medications. NON-error, meaning that it wasn't a mistake to prescribe or take the medication, by the medical community's standards! My dad once heard a pharmacist describe drugs as "poisons with some beneficial side effects." As any commercial will tell you, there are also many possible negative side effects for these "poisons," which is why I believe taking any kind of drug is a mistake. I have never taken so much as a Tylenol or Advil. There are so many natural and healthy options!

If you thought of hospitals as a clean, sterile environment, you might be stunned to see that there are 80,000 deaths/year caused by infections acquired in hospitals. That is the main reason I find it disturbing that almost every American baby is born in a hospital. Low-risk births have no reason to be in a hospital. Besides the risk of infection, Caesarean sections are one of the most common unnecessary surgeries performed, they will try to pump the mother with drugs, rush the birthing process and vaccinate the baby with the unnecessary Hep-B shot immediately after birth. It's much safer to have a home birth with a midwife. 

A large part of the problem with the medical community is the average American's lack of interest in changing their lifestyle. Do they really expect to eat the SAD (Standard American Diet) - sugary pastry breakfast, fast food lunch, microwave TV dinner, veg out on the couch, junk ice cream before bed, and still somehow expect to live a "healthy" life? Doctors might give them the standard advice that everyone knows: get exercise, eat your veggies. But the average American tends to ignore that advice, and when they get sick, who makes money off of their poor health choices? Think about it, why would doctors push healthier lifestyles on people who are perfectly happy to just pay for them to "fix" the damage? 

They are treating human bodies like machines. Take out parts, put "new" parts in, insert metal or plastic and generally sticking their gloved fingers where they don't belong. What they seem to completely ignore is the body's miraculous ability to heal itself, in ways they don't, and never will, completely understand. God has designed life forms with wonderful, extremely complex bodies, and He has given us everything we need to live healthy lives, beginning with the basics: eating the healthy foods He created, drinking clean water and exercising, and including herbs with healing properties for injuries and illnesses. I have no intention of ever voluntarily trusting a medical doctor with my health. 

Every one of these topics I mentioned could be a whole blog post on its own, and I haven't even touched on all of them. If you implicitly trust doctors, and have never questioned what they tell you to do, I challenge you to take some responsibility for your own health. Do some research about drugs, vaccines, radiation, surgery and natural health. Don't just blindly accept what they tell you!
 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Illegally Delicious

It's rich, creamy, delicious, healthy and... illegal?

First order, raw milk, cream and cheese
Humans have been drinking animal milk for thousands of years. Until the 1890's, that milk was raw; then entered pasteurization and everything changed. Now, a little over 100 years later, unpasteurized milk is illegal to sell in many states, and can be difficult to acquire, unless you milk your own animal. So what happened, and what's wrong with unpasteurized milk, anyway?

Raw milk was incriminated in many deaths during the 1800's, caused by several factors: unhealthy cows, confined and fed an unnatural diet, sick dairy workers and an unsanitary milking environment (it's rumored the workers sometimes stuck their bare, dirty feet in the milk pails to keep them warm while milking! You can read more about the history of raw milk here if you're interested). In typical American style, instead of fixing the root of the problem, we took the "easy" way out, killed all the germs and drank the stuff anyway. Does that sound appetizing to you?

Now, in the 21st century, we're obsessed with a sanitary, sterile, germ-free environment. Anti-bacterial soaps and hand sanitizers are used religiously, and one can barely sneeze without getting prescribed an antibiotic. It's not a surprise that these germophobic people don't want to drink something that hasn't been sanitized, but what might be a surprise is that the majority of milk produced still needs to be pasteurized to actually be safe. "Conventional" dairy cows are usually still confined, still fed an unnatural diet (often GMO soy and corn), can still get sick, and diseases are spread more easily in confined areas, between animals that are weakened by their unnatural diet and habitat. These cows are given massive amounts of growth hormones and antibiotics - 29 MILLION pounds of antibiotics were used by factory farms in 2009 alone! Plus, since the milk is all going to be sterilized anyway there's no need for sanitary conditions; pasteurized milk might be contaminated with blood, pus and all kinds of other nasty things, but it's okay, it can't hurt you once it's been killed, right? To top all that off, the calcium you're supposed to be getting from your milk has rendered insoluble by the pasteurization process, so all you're drinking is dead, sterilized, junk calories, highly laced with a chemical cocktail of drugs. Organic pasteurized milk is a better option, but is still lacking in nutrients due to pasteurization.

The best option is organic, raw milk from cows that are pasture-raised. They eat their natural diet, live healthy lives, and produce milk that is rich in all the nutrients that milk is supposed to contain: calcium and other minerals, vitamins (like B, D and K), enzymes (some that help you digest lactose), beneficial bacteria, protein and saturated fat (don't let fat scare you, saturated fat has gotten an undeserved negative stigma, but that's another post...) This rich, delicious food is so good for you, but is illegal for sale in NC, except for pet consumption. 

I've been eager to get real milk for a while, and we finally found a co-op (that gets around the legality very intelligently). I immediately made ice cream. We all had two scoops after supper that night, and I didn't notice any congestion at all; usually that much dairy would have had me hacking for an hour or so. The cream was so thick and luscious, it almost wouldn't pour, so I scooped it into a measuring cup with a spoon. The flavor and texture of the ice cream was simply wonderful. We've been eating tons of totally delicious ice cream ever since, sweetened with raw honey... it's actually healthy, and absolutely delicious!

 So here's to wonderfully scrumptious, healthy, guilt-free dairy! (Unless, of course, you feel guilty for not drinking the government-approved swill. Then I can't help you.) I'll never want to eat Goodberry's for an ice cream treat again!
 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Summer Sun

 I haven't put a drop of sunscreen on my skin this summer. No, I haven't been hiding inside all summer; I've actually been cultivating my version of a tan, enjoying the sun and swimming outdoors at our club pool whenever I get the chance. So how's a fair-skinned red-head getting away with this? Won't this guarantee me tissue-paper crinkle skin by age 30, if I don't die of skin cancer first? The answer is no, and I'll explain why.

I avoid sunscreen because most sunscreens are bad for you. I know sunscreen is promoted as the only way to avoid skin cancer, but some of the common unhealthy ingredients, like oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate can actually increase your risk for skin cancer by causing hormonal disruptions and cellular damage. Many of these sunscreens don't even protect against UVA rays, which are the truly dangerous rays for your skin. UVB rays are what cause the pink/red skin of a sunburn, but UVA rays are what cause the most skin damage, although the effects aren't immediately apparent. UVB rays are actually good for you in appropriate amounts, because they are what your skin uses to produce vitamin D, which brings me to my next point.

Vitamin D is vital for health, and the absolute best way to get it is from the sun. Vitamin D has a myriad of health benefits, including protection against skin cancer - along with every other kind of cancer. This is because vitamin D is a powerful anti-oxidant and will deactivate the damaging free radicals created by UVA radiation. So if you use a sunscreen with SPF of 15, it likely won't block any UVA rays, but it should block about 93% of the UVB rays that are hitting your skin, which would leave you with all of the damaging UVA rays, and very little UVB rays to use for vitamin D production! That means your sunscreen is blocking the natural cure, leaving you with double damage from the UVA rays and the chemicals in the sunscreen and nutritionally deprived of this extremely important vitamin.

Coconut oil is wonderful for your skin, and works great as a natural tanning oil. Like vitamin D, it protects your skin from free radical damage, and helps to heal any damage that has already been caused. That's what I have been using instead of sunscreen, and I've been slowly building up my tan since May. I aim for turning my skin the slightest shade of pink, that's the point when you've reached your limit of vitamin D production. At the beginning of the summer, my limit is about 15-30 minutes since I'm so fair-skinned naturally, but even I can achieve a decent sun exposure tolerance in just a few weeks. With coconut oil, and my natural source of vitamin D, I'm not worried about skin cancer in the slightest.

(I could rave about coconut oil for hours, and I have done a post previously highlighting a few of its benefits as a lotion here. I encourage you to read more about this amazing and misunderstood oil yourself, The Coconut Oil Miracle is a great book to start with.)

So my recommendations:
  • Use coconut oil and time your sunning to build up a healthy tan and optimize your vitamin D production.
  •  The best time to soak up your vitamin D is the middle of the day. UVA is present whenever the sun is up, but UVB has a shorter wavelength and is strongest at solar noon.
  • Use hats and clothing to protect your skin from excessive sun. If you feel you must use sunscreen after your vitamin D dose of sun, find a healthy sunscreen (EWG has some good tips and suggestions) that protects from UVA. Keep in mind that NO sunscreen will completely block the sun's rays.
Don't let all the talk of skin cancer and wrinkles scare you away from the best source of vitamin D available! God has created our bodies with the ability to use the sun for health. Our skin is designed to absorb the sunlight. Many healthy things are harmful in excess, but that doesn't mean they should be completely avoided at all costs. So get outside and enjoy the last days of summer sun!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Lessons from Vanity

 The DMV, other wise known as "Devils, Maniacs and Villains." In the space of 4 days, I took two separate trips there. And I survived.

I went on Friday because, as fate would have it, my birthday was on a Saturday, and the DMV isn't open on Saturdays. This wouldn't be a problem, since you can get your license renewed up to 6 months ahead of time if you so choose, except I was hoping that by waiting as late as possible, perhaps I could avoid an "under 21" license. After all, they mail you the real license now, instead of giving it to you on the spot, so if I went in to get it renewed on Friday, and my 21st birthday was the next day, by the time I received the license I would be 21, so it makes sense, right? If they wouldn't do it, I'd just have to live with the "under 21."

I did my time standing in line. And then I sat there in that uncomfortable chair, reading "Great Expectations" and getting that involuntary leap in eagerness every time a new ticket number was called, even though I knew mine was still 8 numbers away. Finally, they called my number. I signed some new sex offender agreement, and signed the signature slip. I passed the eyesight and signs test. Then I asked if my license would say "under 21" even though my birthday was the very next day. She said it certainly would. As I was getting ready to mentally sigh, roll my eyes and resign myself to being under 21 until my 29th birthday, she offered me another option: "If you can come in Monday morning right at 8am, I'll let you finish then, so you'll avoid that 'under 21.' You won't have to wait in line, or take the tests again, just come in and pay, get your picture taken and get on your way." In a moment of mental abstraction, I heard myself agree, then I thanked her, and left. Without completing my object. No temporary license paper in my hand.

On the way home, I started coming back to my senses. At home, Daddy confirmed my sneaking suspicion that I had made a witless mistake. What does it really matter if my license said "under 21"? It was an example of how silly and vain I can be, how childish and petty. I certainly think that the state license design is stupid, and it's annoying to think that because of one 24-hour period, during which I wouldn't even be in possession of the actual license, I should be branded inaccurately for the next 8 years with that yellow underage tape. I'd already spent the last three years being "under 18" because I didn't think it was worth it to go into the DMV and pay to get a new license until it expired. Honestly, how terrible would it be for another 8 years? Anyone desiring to know my actual age could apply simple math skills to my birthdate.

Thus, my second visit to the DMV was of my own volition, and inconvenienced Daddy as well as myself, because I couldn't drive with my expired license. At 7:50am, there was already an extremely long line outside of the DMV, waiting for the office to open. I spent the next 10 minutes desperately hoping this would work better than it currently seemed possible. The examiner lady had given me a slip that read "Appt. with Examiner M----" and told me to come in the exit, and not stand in line. When the DMV officer finally opened the doors at 8am, I showed him the slip, went in the exit side, and straight to my examiner's desk. She breezed through the final steps, I paid, and she told me to take a seat, and "wait for him to call your name" for the picture. The only male officer I saw was the one who had opened the doors, and he was slowly handing out tickets to the long line of people waiting. After 5 minutes, I began to anxiously wonder if he would ever get to me, or if I would spend an hour or two just waiting to get my picture taken, and my temporary license printed. After about 10 minutes, my examiner lady was doing something else at the printer, and then she called me up and took my picture herself. While she was waiting for the temporary license to print, she rejoiced in finishing an exam paper last night, and praised her coworker's new hairdo. "She went on vacation, and came back a new woman!" She explained to me. Finally, the printer spewed out my piece of paper, and she sent me off with a smile and "have a nice day!"

I learned a few lessons from this experience. First, not to be so picky about things not going the way I want. I know what I think is best for many situations, but that's often not the way it goes, and I need to be able to get over it and go with the flow. I knew that I probably would be given an "under 21" license in spite of the imminent arrival of my 21st birthday. I should have just accepted it. Second, not to be swayed by tempting options. Having assumed that the government wouldn't bend the rules even slightly, I prepared to spend the next 8 years with a yellow underage license, but I caved under the opportunity to come back and not have to wait in line. And thirdly, not to consider the DMV a den of Devils, Maniacs and Villains. Besides my examiner, the male officer that opened the doors, and the changed woman coworker seemed very nice, and my examiner was obviously trying to be considerate and helpful. Also, I think that my attitude is improved, because rather than making fun of the DMV's license design for the next 8 years, I have been humbled by the realization of how immature I am, and instead of being unreasonably annoyed at the DMV employees (who have to follow the rules or risk their jobs) I have a pleasant experience with a woman who helped me as much as she could.

And on the way home, Daddy avoided hitting a turtle in the road, and then I got to get out and carry the little guy the rest of the way across the road. Small delights! ;)
 

Monday, April 16, 2012

One of the Delights of Childhood

The setting sun is fading, the sky is pale orange in the west, and deep blue is taking over. The wind is a strange mix of warm and cool as the heat dissipates, and the evening air sweeps in. I suck in a deep breath of fresh air, and pedal my bike faster over our bumpy rock neighborhood road. The first star has come out. I fly down the hill towards the lake and the air feels cooler. I toss my hair in the wind and abandon myself to the feeling of delight and contentment flooding me. Instantly, I'm 11 years old again, not a care in the world. Invigorated, I round the cul-de-sac and charge back up the hill, raising myself to a standing position on the pedals for more power. I reach the top, panting and refreshed, my mind cleared of the days fog and stress. The first crickets begin their nighttime chirping. Suddenly, I realize the exercise I was forcing myself to do has just become enjoyable.

When I was 11, most of my favorite activities were some form of exercise. I'd rather jump on the mini-trampoline than do math, when I was supposed to be helping with the garden, I'd run off to do cartwheels. Biking, rollerblading, baseball, tag, hide-and-go-seek, swinging, climbing trees, chasing lightening bugs and dancing barefoot through the grass all filled me with happiness. In the past few years, when I started feeling more like an adult, I didn't feel like I had as much time to go frolicking in freshly cut grass, and spending hours in such "useless" activities when there are so many more important things to claim my time. I realized that I felt like such things were too childish for me, nearing the advanced age of one-and-twenty. I had been "taking my exercise" in the form of running, swimming and some weights at the gym. You know, the "grown-up" stuff. Certainly, there's nothing wrong with that, but while I'm intentionally exercising for my health, I want to remember that exercise can, and should, be fun sometimes.

The end of my bike ride, in the last few minutes of fading twilight, I kick off my shoes, and run out into the freshly cut grass. Turn a few cartwheels, and then bend all the way back and land on my hands in a bridge. I slowly lower myself out of the arch onto my back in the grass, and admire the stars joining the first in the rich blue sky. The full-fledged cricket chorus swells. The only thing missing is a few fireflies...
 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Attack on Marriage

In the beginning, God created man. Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18) Notice that Adam was not totally alone; he was still in communion with God, and surrounded by animals. But God said it wasn't good for him to be without a helper, and so He gave him Eve. Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

That was the first marriage, personally performed by the Lord Himself. It is an earthly symbol of the relationship of Christ and His Bride, displayed through thousands of years of marriages. Every single one of those marriages has been an imperfect example, with a sinful man and a sinful woman, but it is still a holy union, designed by God.

"For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error." - Romans 1:26-27

This perversion has been labeled "homosexuality," although I think even describing it so lends too much unwarranted justification; the idea that human sexual "orientation" could be variable is just too ridiculous. After an enormous amount of pressure in our society to "accept" the gay and lesbian lifestyle as "normal," they are trying to redefine the sacred covenant of marriage to allow these shameless "couples" to marry. This is clearly an attack, driven by Satan, to destroy the true definition of marriage.

This May, in North Carolina, voters have a chance to defend marriage from this mockery of God's creation. 30 other states have already adopted a marriage amendment in their constitutions. Please get out and vote FOR the marriage amendment, and protect the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.