Tuesday, February 27, 2007

1) Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Our house has been so dry and my skin is feeling it. Also, run a vaporizer every night.
2) Putter around the yard and garden for thirty minutes and take thirty minutes or so to give some intensive care treatment to a few ailing houseplants.
3) Spend thirty minutes sewing an apron or thirty minutes practicing the piano.
4) Find something sweet or romantic to do for my husband and do it.
5) Practice Phil. 4:4-8

Monday, February 26, 2007


Most of us know and love this line from Proverbs 31, "Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies."

I was reminded of it this morning as I glanced through the January/February issue of Southern Lady. It has an article entitled The Radiance of Rubies. The article was accompanied by eye-catching photos of ruby and diamond jewelry. The tag line says, "Prized throughout the ages, these jewels dazzle with their brilliant fire."

Many of you may know that the Hebrew word translated as rubies is paniyn (pronounced pawneen). It really means a precious jewel, and it's possible it could refer to valuable red corals or rubies or perhaps even other jewels.

Most of us also know that in Hebrew, this passage is an acrostic. Each verse begins with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It would be as if we had a poem in which the first verse started with A, the second with B, the third with C, and so on. For this reason, the passage was easily memorized and Jewish girls probably recited it a number of times as they grew up.

Isn't it interesting that this verse is written by a queen who sought to teach her son what to look for in a wife? This woman is not named, but her son is called Lemuel. Since this passage appears in a wisdom book, which is full of poetic imagery, there is some debate about just who this queen was. Some suggest that she was a figurative personification, rather than an actual person. Others believe that there was a king named Lemuel.

Many believe that Lemuel is another name for Solomon, since Solomon recorded Proverbs. If so, then the queen is, of course, Bathsheba.

At any rate, the queen asks her son, "Who can find a virtuous woman?" I don't think she's down on women, here. I think she's saying that many people follow the crowd, but a person who genuinely clings to God's word as his or her standard is rare. It takes uncommon faith to survive the pressures and persecutions of life without compromising our convictions.

I also think the queen is saying that there is much more to a woman than her appearance. A woman may or may not look beautiful to the eye. However, you must look beneath the surface to find what a woman is really made of.

After all, rare jewels require some mining. You have to search for them. You have to evaluate them to see if they are genuine or fakes.

Not only that, but diamonds and rubies in the raw aren't pretty to the untrained eye. They must be refined and polished and cut before their true loveliness appears.

So, the queen is using this comparison to warn her son. She is saying, "Don't fall for the first pretty face to come your way." She is also saying, "Don't overlook a woman just because her features may be less than perfect." Just as a jeweler uses a special lens to appraise gemstones, she wants her son to look at a woman through spiritual eyes.

She says, "Look for that woman -- that rare and precious woman -- who fears the Lord."

Isn't that what we all want for our children? Don't we all pray for God to provide them with mates who have a genuine faith. I am so thankful for my son in law, whose heart is devoted to the Lord. He has character and integrity. I am convinced that he is a gift from God to our family.

Interestingly, the queen draws for Lemuel (and for us) a picture of what a girl who trusts the Lord will be like as a mature woman. The woman she describes is old enough to have children who rise up and call her blessed. This would indicate to me that our example of the virtuous wife is not a new bride. The queen wants her son to look for a girl with the heart and the skills that will enable her to mature into being a capable wife. She also wants him to marry a woman with whom he can build a lasting love, rather than a relationship based on temporary infatuation.

The queen wants her prince son to marry someone who has the knowledge and the skill to manage his estate. She describes what it takes for a woman to manage a home and an estate in her time and day. To that end, she describes the many pursuits and accomplishments of the virtuous wife.

If we don't remember that the key to the virtuous woman's ability (See verse 30) is her fear the Lord, we can become intimidated by her example. On our way to becoming women above rubies, ourselves, we see our faults and our failings. We may even lack some knowledge of what is needed to manage a home and family in our time. We can feel that we are more like cracked concrete than we are like the woman whose worth shines above rubies.

The key is to depend on God. We must remember His promise that perseverance will yield character. God will mold the woman who truly fears the Lord into the woman whose worth is above rubies. Such a woman will bear the fruits of wisdom and ability, qualities that are more solid than ornamental charm and beauty. I've been married 26 years, and I still have a lot of growing to do to be more like the virtuous wife.

If Lemuel really is Solomon, sadly, he didn't learn his mother's lesson. Solomon accumulated a quantity of foreign political wives -- seven hundred wives and princesses and three hundred concubines. He went against God's warning when he married these pagan women, all of whom brought to Israel the idols of their various homelands. Solomon clung to these women in love. I Kings 11 tells us the sad results. These wives turned away Solomon's heart from God.

From what we know of Solomon's riches, we can assume that the women in his harem were decked to the hilt in precious stones. Imagine how breathtaking these women must have been! We can assume they were pampered and groomed and that their skin was soft and smooth. They may have had royal duties to perform. But, they would also have had plenty of time in their schedule to plan their wardrobes and try out new hairdos and otherwise attend to their appearance.

Surely, these women had access to the finest, most nourishing foods in the land, and they most likely benefited from expensive cosmetics and perfumes, as well. They must have been privy to whatever medical care was state of the art for the time.

As daughters of foreign kings, these women would have come to Solomon having learned charm, culture, and etiquette from birth. While their innocence would have been fiercely protected, they may have been taught how to please a future royal husband. And, once in Solomon's palace, they would have used whatever arts were at their disposal to attract and to keep the king's interest. After all, each one was competing against 999 other women for Solomon's attention!

I'm just speculating here, but I wonder if many of these women even had an agenda to get the great King Solomon to recognize whatever false god her people believed in. They may have also received pressure from home to curry favors for their homeland. If so, these women would have been even more earnest about enticing the king.

How these sparkling jewels of womanhood must have adorned Solomon's palace! Yet, where was the woman whose inner character was above that of jewels? Where was the woman whose heart was more precious than the glittering stones around her neck? Where was the woman who feared the true Lord? Where was the woman whose own faith would have inspired her husband to stay faithful to God? Where was the woman who would have stood beside Solomon as an example to the Isarelites of pure devotion to Jehovah? Sadly, such a woman was either rare or even non-existent among the myriad women of Solomon's harem.

Ecclesiastes tells us that Solomon eventually grew tired of his harem, as well as of other vain pursuits that took him away from God. We can happily assume from the end of the book that he came back to a relationship with the Lord. He sums up the essential concern of life with these words, "The end of the matter is this. Fear the Lord and keep his commandments." Despite his repentance, his 1,000 pagan marriages still yielded bitter consequences for both himself and his kingdom.

In my opinion, this passage isn't saying that its wrong to be pretty or to speand any time at all making ourselves look presentable. After all, it was God who gave us physical beauty. He created us in such a way that we take delight in our spouse's physical attributes. Just as we prefer for our husbands to tale care of basic grooming, our husbands enjoy it when we do, as well. Since men are even more visually oriented than women, a neat and feminine appearance is a gift that we can give to them. Being kind and fun to be around doesn't hurt, either.

However, this passage does re-direct our values. Our worldly tendency is to place more emphasis on what is outside, rather than what is going on within our hearts. We cross the line from enjoying an attractive appearance to valuing other people and ourselves according to how we look.

Other ways our focus on the outward shows up are when we value achievement rather than character, a religious appearance rather than true faith, and superficial relationships over deep friendships. In II Timothy, Paul tells us that the last days are marked by people who have a form of godliness, but deny its power. They look deceptively godly, but they aren't.

God knows our penchant for focusing on the outside of the cup, rather than the inside. That's why he reminds us that as beautiful as precious stones are, virtue is of higher valuable.

Precious stones, such as rubies or red coral, are exquisite creations of God, and they attest to his glory. In tomorrow's post, Lord willing, we'll spend some fun time just learning about rubies and corals.

Because of their beauty and their rarity, jewels come with high price tags according to how we humans measure economy. People pay incredible amounts of money to possess the most valuable stones. In fact, there have been cases where people have lied, stolen, or murdered in order to acquire a valuable diamond or a ruby. Rather than enjoying rubies in their proper place, as God meant us to, we have elevated them above their sphere.

Imagine what would happen if we could gather all of the rubies in the world into one warehouse. In God's eyes, the whole lot of those glittering, expensive, beautiful gems would pale in comparison to the value of one, single human soul. He doesn't measure us according to the world's superficial values, but He looks at the heart. And, He teaches us not to regard each other from a worldly point of view, but from a spiritual one.

He teaches us not to be insecure about our beauty, but to trust in Him. And, he teaches men to value women for who they are, and not for how they look. If we follow the example of the queen in Proverbs 31, we will pass God's values on to our children, so that they will not be overcome by the world's value system.

The jewelry companies have it wrong. Diamonds are not forever; souls are.

Thus, the message of Proverbs 31 is, "Go for the substance. Go for that which will last for eternity. Attain to that which is above rubies."


Friday, February 23, 2007


My eyes anticipate the night watches, that I might meditate on your words. Psalm 119:148 NAS

He who has ears to hear, let him hear. Matthew 13:9 NAS

Jesus called the crowd to him, and he said, "Listen and understand." Matthew 15:10

Therefore, God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.
Hebrews 4:7

When I was in second grade, our class went outside for recess. I fell in with some acquaintances who were not in my class, but who invited me to join them in a game of jump rope. All around me floated the happy voices of children at play. These voices faded into the background, as I became more and more absorbed with my acquaintances and the game.

When my teacher called for the class to go inside, my classmates heard her voice. They fell in line behind her, and they followed her to the classroom.

I was oblivious. I did not hear her call.

Finally, I realized that some time had passed. I looked up for my teacher. I couldn't see her. Neither could I see my classmates. My heart sank.

I was with acquaintances, but I did not know them nearly so well as I knew the boys and girls in my class. And, the other teachers were strangers to me.

No other teacher would do. I wanted my teacher. And, I wanted my friends. I did not like the feeling of being where I wasn't supposed to be. I felt alone.

An older girl called over to me, "Did you know that your class already went inside?"

Upon hearing that, I dashed for my classroom. My teacher chided me for not listening for her voice. But, she forgave me, and I took my seat. I felt safe again, because I was with the teacher. I was with my class. I was where I should be. All was well.

I learned an important lesson that day. No matter where you are or what you are doing in life, it's important to listen for the teacher's voice!

In John Chapter Ten, Jesus identifies Himself as the Good Shepherd. He teaches us that He calls his sheep by name and that they follow him, because they know his voice. He says that they do not follow the voice of a stranger, whose voice they do not recognize. Later on in the same passage, He comments that His sheep listen for his voice.

From the moment we get up in the morning until we lay our heads on our pillows at night, two voices fall on our ears: the stranger's voice and the Shepherd's voice. The stranger doesn't care about us. He just wants to lure us to destruction. His voice is a lie disguised as truth. His voice appeals to the sinful nature in us. It is, by turns, tempting and by turns accusing.

By contrast, the Shepherd came to give us life. He loves so much about us that He gave His life to redeem us. He loves us as individuals, and He calls each of us by name. He wants what is best for us, and He tells us the truth. His voice is the one we can trust.

That's why it's so essential that no matter how busy we are, we intently listen for and heed the Shepherd's voice. The Shepherd speaks to us in many ways, but we know him especially through his word. Having his word dwell in our hearts is essential to an intimate relationship with him.

As Jesus says, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own, they belong to the Father who sent me."
John 14:23.

What do we do when we receive a special letter from someone we love? We read it over and over again until we know it by heart. If the letter contains our loved one's special wishes or instructions, we eagerly carry them out. Why? Because we love the person, and it means a lot to us that the person has entrusted us with their words. How much more should we love reading and pondering the Shepherd's words?

Why do shepherds expect their sheep to follow them? Why do teachers ask children to listen to their voice? Why do parents want children to obey them?

Well, we want them to listen for the same reason my second-grade teacher wanted me to listen more carefully to her voice. I have no clue what she was thinking when I got separated from the class. Since I was in her care, perhaps it was partly her fault that I was left behind. But, no matter what happened, she did not want the same thing to happen again. She did not want me to go off alone, away from her protection.

We expect obedience because we love our children, and we want to train them and protect them. A child's life depends on whether or not he hears an adult's voice. Whether it's a two year old who'd headed for a busy street or a sixteen year old who drives too fast, listening to a parent's warning will deliver him from danger. Moreover, a child needs an adult to teach him the skills he needs for life, as well. Sometimes, a child may not understand our commands, but he must trust that what we say is for his best.

In the same way, God expects us to listen carefully to his words. We do grow and mature in Christ. But, who can ever say that we've outgrown the need for the Shepherd's instructions? Sometimes, we may not understand God's commands, but we must trust that what He says is for our best.

The beautiful thing about the Shepherd's voice is we can hear it the moment we listen for it. He does not walk off the playground and leave a willing, but absent-minded child stranded all alone. In fact, He searches all over the playground for the strays in order to bring them safely home again. (Luke 15). He will never abandon us, neglect us, or forget where we are.

However, there will come a time when the opportunities for responding to the Shepherd's voice in this lifetime are over. Thus, the Shepherd is serious about our need to hear and to obey His words now, and He lays out the dangerous consequences of neglecting them. He warns us against sticking our fingers in our ears and hardening our hearts to his voice.

The Shepherd's words protect us. His words guide us. His words refine us. His words ennoble us. His words challenge us. His words bear fruit in us. His words delight us. His words are life.

Let's Listen!


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Concerned or Controlling?

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret -- it only leads to evil. Psalm 37

Have you ever helplessly watched a loved one make a mistake and suffer for it? Have you ever wished that you could protect your loved ones, to the point of lashing out at someone who hurts a family member? Have you ever longed to control the outcome of a situation, but either you couldn't or it wasn't appropriate for you to do so? Have you ever been guilty of meddling -- of sticking your nose in something when it wasn't your business to do so? I have.

As women, we care about our husbands, our children, and our homes. We care about our extended family, our church, our neighbors, and our society. We want everyone to be in a right relationship with God, to be happy, to be healthy, and to have their needs met.

Caring about others is a good thing. God wants us to love our husbands and our children and to take care of our homes. He wants us to share the gospel and to defend the cause of the needy and the helpless. He wants us to speak up if someone is doing something harmful to themselves or to others, provided we do so with gentleness and respect. He wants us to give others support, love, and, when appropriate advice or correction.

However, we get into trouble when we cross the line from caring to controlling. Sometimes, we step over this line with the best of intentions. We want what is best for another's welfare.

At other times, our motives are mixed with the impurities of selfishness, anger, and fear. We may fool ourselves into thinking we know what's best for another person. But, the case may truly be that we want them to behave according to our own agenda.

Whatever the various motivations might be, we can trace our attempts to over-control situations and people back to one root: We aren't, in the moment, trusting God.

How do we know if we have crossed the line from being concerned to controlling? Here are some possible symptoms:

1) We pray superficially about a concern, but we don't really leave it in God's hands. We end our prayer too quickly, with our spirit still unsettled and un-surrendered. Even after we've prayed, we keep brooding and fretting.
2) We voice a concern or a desire to a loved one, but we don't leave it there. We keep nagging.
3) We find ourselves becoming nervous, uptight, anxious, pushy, touchy, or domineering. We set standards for other people that aren't in the Bible, and we become angry with people when they don't fall in line with our ideas.
4) We hold imaginary conversations in our head in which we rebuke someone who has hurt us. Or, we mentally take someone to task because they have hurt a person we love. Or, we re-hash past conversations and kick ourselves for not doing or saying the right thing.
5) We fail to distinguish between those times when God calls us to act and those times when he wants us to wait on him. We also fail to distinguish between righteous indignation and self-righteous contempt.
6) We find it hard to be merciful and forgiving. We keep mulling over hurts that have been done to us or to people we love.
7) We find it hard to trust our husband's leadership or to work with him as a one-flesh team. Or, we find it hard to let our children grow up into mature adults. Or, we find it hard to trust anyone we perceive as having the power to hurt us in some way.

When we are concerned, we are able to evaluate a situation calmly. We are able to pray about it and surrender it to God. We can then speak, act, or be silent, as God directs. We can give support to another person, or we can be the person who waits with open arms for a prodigal to come home. We can give counsel when appropriate. Even if we must say tough things to or draw some hard lines with another person, we can do so in a controlled manner.

When we seek to control others, we are anything but self-controlled. (That's ironic, isn't it?). We cannot evaluate the situation calmly. We do not surrender it totally to God. We speak and act in haste, and we often regret our words and our actions later.

If we find ourselves being controlling rather than concerned, what's the cure?

1) Identify and repent of any worry, lack of faith, and anger. Put on trust, compassion, and kindness. See Colossians Chapter 3
2) Trust in the Lord and do good according to God's instructions. Let God take care of the big picture. See Psalm 37. Put your hope in the Lord and do what is right without giving way to fear. Remember that a meek and quiet spirit has greater influence than a fretful, irritable, or controlling spirit. See I Peter Chapters Two and Three.
4) Pray about everything. Worry about nothing. Fill your mind with noble things. Be grateful. Put God's word into practice. Focus on doing the good you can do, rather than worrying about what you can't. See Phil. Chapter 4
5) If you are concerned about someone, remember that God loves them even more than you do. Do not doubt God's ability or desire to work in the life of your loved one. Do not doubt his desire to hear your prayers on behalf of others -- whether its regarding individuals or groups. See I Timothy 2:1-3 Also, leave room for others to learn and grow, and allow yourself the chance to learn and grow, as well. See Phil. 3:15-16.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Corn Light Bread

My mother's family has passed down a recipe for a Middle Tennessee favorite: Corn Light Bread. For those of you who aren't familiar with Tennessee, the state flag has three stars on it, each representing one of the three smaller "states" of Tennessee. In other words, Tennessee is divided into three secions, East, Middle, and West, each having its own distinct culture. For some reason, Middle Tennessee developed this unique form of corn bread, which is cooked in a loaf pan and has a texture somewhat like a sweet bread.

If you'd like to try a bit of Tennessee history, here's the recipe for Corn Light Bread:

2 cups of corn meal -- self-rising (If you don't have self-rising meal, add 1 tspn salt and 1tspn soda to plain meal)
1/2 cup white flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon yesast
2 cups buttermilk
2 or 3 Tablespoons melted shortening

Mix the ingredients. Pour into loaf pan. Bake for 55-60 minutes at 375 degrees. Check it at least once toward the end to make sure it's not cooking too long. Be careful not to shake the bread if you open the oven door.

While you have the buttermilk out to make corn light bread, why not try another Tennessee favorite: Buttermilk Pie? You never thought you would use the words buttermilk and pie in the same phrase, did you? But, trust me. It tastes delicious. It is very much like chess pie, only not so rich and artery clogging. Again, this is a family recipe.

1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 heaping Tablesppon flour
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 stick melted margarine

Pour in pie shell. Make sure that you have pricked the pie shell four or five times with a fork so taht it will not puff up into the filling.

Pake in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. You may want to place a pie crust shield over the edges of the crust for at least part of the baking time.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Staying motivated when you're somewhere "just under the weather"...

Have you ever had stretches of time when you were a little bit under the weather -- not really sick, but not really well? At such times, you are grateful that you don't feel ill enough to take to your bed. Yet, as you go about your daily life, you don't have the energy to accomplish all that you have in mind. Perhaps, your thinking isn't as sharp as usual, and you have a harder time setting and following through with priorities.

As someone who's battled chronic allergies, slight anemia, and a thyroid problem, I have had many such days. I've also experienced times like this when I was nursing babies round the clock, after recovering from illness or surgery, and during times of PMS. I've felt like this after passing through urgent life events, when my brain and body had been taxed beyond their normal limits.

Obviously, if you are in a season of feeling "puny", you will need to take some basic steps:
pray, identify and eliminate any sinful attitudes -- such as laziness -- that may be weighing you down, fill your heart and mind with good things, and attend to your physical health.

If you're recovering from an illness or you've passed through one of life's refining times, allow yourself some extra rest. Do this, even if it means you don't get around to everything that needs doing. The dust bunnies will wait for you! So will the papers on your desk, if you run your own home business or work outside of the home. Ease yourself back into your schedule by doing more each day.

If you don't know what's slowing you down, pray and, then, consult a doctor, a dentist, and an eye doctor. Often, draining fatigue can come from something as simple as an infected tooth or eyestrain. If the doctor pinpoints the origin of your discomfort as being something you can treat, follow his advice!

If your doctor can't identify the problem, don't fret. There are many physical, spiritual, and emotional causes of draining fatigue. Occasionally, the answer to why you feel so sluggish is not easily apparent. Do the best you can with the energy you have.

Assuming you've done all of these things, you may need some tools for getting and staying motivated. Here are a few simple ones to try:

1) If you feel "fuzzy-brained" from a chronic ailment or from a lack of sleep, you may find it harder than usual to identify what needs to be done first. This is especially true if you're so behind in your work that you feel overwhelmed. Yet, imagine that your dear husband calls and says he is bringing company over within the hour. Likely, you wouldn't have a problem deciding what needed to be done. You'd know exactly what you should do in what order to make the house tidy enough for you to receive guests.

So, set a kitchen timer for an hour and tackle the tasks in the order you'd do them if company was arriving at any moment. Once you've accomplished this basic tidy-up, your house will look better and you will feel better about your environment. Then, you can move on to other things as you have the strength.

Don't allow yourself to feel rushed as you might if a guest was really going to appear on your doorstep in 60 minutes. Just let the pretend deadline help you focus. The goal is to work steadily, calmly, and effectively.

2) Pray for each family member as you do their laundry or clean in their room. This will help you stay motivated for your tasks, even if your body and mind are feeling sluggish.

3) Remind yourself why you do what you do. Focus of the benefits you will reap if you accomplish a particular task. When you don't feel your best, activities that you normally enjoy seem daunting and activities that are less enjoyable, but necessary, seem insurmountable. In the short term, your usual enthusiasm evaporates. Focusing on your long term motivation can overcome a temporary lack of "oomph".

4) Set a timer for a half-hour or an hour and work at an easy pace. Or, take a gentle stroll for fifteen minutes or so. This idea is similar to #1, except that the goal here isn't to focus on a specific set of tasks. It's simply to get yourself moving. Sometimes, the act of doing something productive -- anything productive -- will unleash more energy, while procrastinating further drains you of strength. This is especially true if your sluggishness is due to a blue funk or an attack of the "lazies". So, dive into your tasks, and see if your energy revives. You might gain enough momentum to breeze through the rest of the day.

Sometimes, such mild work or exercise will tire you, rather than energize you. This is especially true if your fatigue is due to physical weakness. But, even if you do feel tuckered out, you can find satisfaction in having accomplished something. Besides, fatigue after a little activity is less wearing on the spirits than the restless fatigue that comes from too much inactivity. So, if you're just getting back into the swing of things after being in bed with an ailment, be thankful that you can be up and around -- even if its only for a bit.

If a little work tires you out, take a short break. Then, see if you can work for another hour or so.

Re-build your stamina slowly. Stretch yourself just a little more each day. If you find that you have not regained your normal strength within a reasonable amount of time, consult with your physician.

5) Be thankful for everything that you do get done. If we are physically weakened for some reason, and we are falling behind, we tend to focus on everything that we're not getting done. This can be frustrating, which, in turn, can make us feel even tireder. By contrast, being grateful for the strength we have and for each task we can do can lift the spirits and energize the body.

6) If you're not feeling up to snuff, now may be the time to do some creative task you've been wanting to do. You may not have the physical strength to mop the floor or clean the baseboards at the moment. But, you might be able to sew or paint or play the piano, at least in small amounts of time. If your fatigue is a result of mental strain, doing a creative task can revive your spirits and inspire you to tackle harder tasks.

Also, if you are feeling weary, review your past few weeks to see if you have taken some time just to have fun with friends and family. All work and no play can make Jill a weary woman.

7) On the other hand, be wary of over-indulging when you don't feel well. If we're under the weather, we may fatigue ourselves by watching too much TV or spending too much time on the computer or by engaging in some other pastime. For a time, such things do take our minds off our physical aches and pains. As long as we are not engaging in something sinful, this can be helpful. But, we may find that we over-do even wholesome diversions. For example, we may keep sewing when we should take a break and rest.

The proper amount of a pleasant diversion can be just what the mind and body need; too much can backfire on you and leave you feeling more drained than ever.

Likewise, if we are fatigued, we may reach for sweets or other foods to gain a boost of energy. Sometimes, fatigue can be due to low blood sugar, and a healthy snack can revive us. But, in the case of chronic or draining fatigue, a lack of food isn't usually the problem. I, myself, gained unwanted weight by reaching too frequently for something to eat. In my mind, I was hoping the food would soothe the pain and tiredness that comes with chronic illness. In fact, a few moments of fresh air or sitting down with my feet up would have been better options. After all, as I am learning the hard way, carrying extra weight only adds to fatigue!

8) If you are feeling extra fatigued for some reason, try drinking a soothing cup of tea or a glass of water. Many experts believe that you can develop a headache and fatigue if you are even slightly de-hydrated. Others debate this. But, it's worth a try to see if some liquid will refresh you. At the very least, taking a break while you sip your beverage can re-energize you.

9) If you would like to get out of the house for a bit, take a drive. If you feel to weak to drive yourself, ask someone to take you.

10) When your energy is limited, you may be tempted to skimp on taking care of your appearance. After all, you probably have a ton of important things to catch up on. Yet, keeping yourself freshly groomed and putting on something pretty will help your mood. It is also more pleasant for those around you. You don't have to devote a lot of precious stamina to this, but do try to keep up with the basics.

You can take care of hygiene and soothe aches at the same time. I find that minor pains are eased by a warm bath or shower. This is especially delightful at night, as the process of cooling down after a warm shower helps you drift into a peaceful sleep more quickly. However, if you are getting ready to go somewhere, really warm baths and showers can be too relaxing. A cooler shower is more energizing.

Throwing a little Epsum salts into your bathwater is a time-tested way to relieve minor aches and pains, as well. There are also fizzing bath tablets and scetned bath salts on the market that claim to do the same thing.

People who have been diagnosed with "chronic fatigue syndrome", which has a very specific set of symptoms, may have times when any sort of touch is painful. However, for most people, minor aches and pains feel better when you gently massage some lotion into your skin. Rub the lotion between your palms to warm it before you put it on your face and body.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

If A book is a good friend, meet one of my new pals.

I've finished my second reading of Bede's Charity by Hesba Stretton. Sarah, whose blog is called Bend in the River, commented that her husband lovingly wondered how she could read the Anne of Green Gables books over and over again. My dear hubby has had similar ponderings. He reads a book once and then sends it on to a good home. I, on the other hand, adopt certain books as lifelong friends, and I love them even when they have cracks in their spines and wrinkles on their covers. I suppose I shall love them even more now that the same might be said of me!

I'm thinking that Bede's Charity might join my circle of friends. To be honest, this new friend has a few flaws. The story is maudlin and the writing is too syrupy, especially for today's reading tastes. But, I love the way the author conveys the simple, child-like faith of her main character, Margery Beade. I also love the way the book describes Victorian London, where extremes of poverty and extremes of wealth co-existed within a small sphere. The book has a lot to say about using our lives either to serve others or to consume as much as we can for ourselves. It also has a lot to say about being content within the circumstances God has planned for us.

This slim little volume manages to cover several decades of Margery's humble life within a surprizingly few chapters. Margery begins life as a farmer's daughter in a small village, but circumstances force her to move to London. As she experiences a string of heartaches and privations, she focuses not on herself, but on how she can help those who are suffering more than she is.

Everything that happens to Margery -- whether it be a severe trial or a great joy -- reminds her in some way of the Lord. For example, when helping her uncle keep house, she reflects, "If the Bible did no tell us that He was poor, I shold have known it from His own words. Who would have talked about putting new pieces upon old garments or about sweeping diligently, if he had not seen his mother doing it? So, whilst I was busy over these and a hundred household works like them, I knew that he knew exactly all about them, and that made them sweet to me."

So, if you'd like to read about Margery's adventures, check out "Beade's Charity."


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Odds and Ends

When asked about aprons in yesterday's meme, I said my favorite one was made by French Women Don't Get Fat. I do enjoy it. But, I don't know why I didn't think of my truly favorite apron. It is a white one that I got from a craft store. I decorated it with applique hearts and the words, "Every woman needs a song in her heart and an apron in her kitchen." I learned that saying from a sappy Hallmark movie, and I love it. Wearing it on my apron makes me happy.

On a completely different subject, I've included a photography of Betty Crocker's Cook Book for Boys and Girls with this post. This was my first cook book. Would you believe that I still use it on occasion? The recipes are simple enough for a child to start learning, with adult supervision, but they are fun for an adult to use, as well. There are illustrations of cooking techniques, as well as comments from children. There are recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and cookouts, as well as lots of party ideas and some special cakes.

Let me hasten to say that I was too young to start cooking when this cookbook came out, as it is about as old as I am. My parents bought mine when I was about ten, and I assume it was a later printing than the original. But, the cover looked pretty much the same.

Alas, that cover is gone, as my copy is almost worn out. So, imagine how delighted I was to find out recently that this book has been reprinted. It's on my to-do list to buy myself a new one. I suppose Betty Crocker is capitalizing that there are so many of us nostalgic Baby Boomers out there. But, even if you're too young to have enjoyed this little cookbook, I'd recommend that at least borrow a copy some time. It's a great little resource for a family to have.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Julieann tagged me for this fun meme. I've been reading it on other people's posts, and I've enjoyed seeing all of the different answers. But, I can't remember just who all's done it yet! So, if you haven't done it on your blog yet, tag -- You're it!

Aprons – Y/N? If Y, what does your favorite look like?
Yes! I like to keep several. My current favorite is one I got from French Women Don't Get Fat. The woman with her little shopping cart and scarf and dog reminds me of Paris. I have some material on hand to make myself a new apron.

Baking – Favorite thing to bake

Clothesline – Y/N?
Ditto to what Julieann said: Association won't allow :( I did have one before though. I do use a drying rack which will hold a lot of clothing.

Donuts – Have you ever made them?

Every day – One homemaking thing you do every day
If you come to my house and my bed's not made that day, you know something's wrong!

Freezer – Do you have a separate deep freeze?
No. We have a side by side fridge/freezer which has a lot of freezer space. But, I'm kicking myself for not snatching up the freezer I saw at the Sears outlet store for only $200.

Garbage Disposal – Y/N?


Handbook – What is your favorite homemaking resource?
Not sure if this means your own calendar notebook or a reference book written by someone else. I love homemaking books and cookbooks and have a ton. I'd have to say that you can always find the answer to a homemaking question in "Home Comforts". :)

Ironing – Love it or hate it? Or hate it but love the results?
I enjoy it once I get started on it. But, I have to make myself get started.

Junk drawer – Y/N? Where is it?
Yes -- In the kitchen. There's also another drawer or two about the house that holds odds and ends that I'm not sure what to do with. I'm hoping those will disappear after I've completed spring cleaning and re-organizing.

Kitchen – Color and decorating scheme--
French country with lots of roosters and hens!

Love – What is your favorite part of homemaking?
Wow. There's so many things I could say here! The fun of loving my family, the flexiblity, the opportunity to be creative, the satisfaction of relaxing in a place that you've made cozy and neat....

Mop – Y/N?

My moppable floors are wooden, and, according to our builder, I am not supposed to use a wet mop on them. So, I use a special wood floor cleaner and a special mop that is flat with a terry cloth cover. I do have two smaller bathroom floors that could be mopped with water. But, I generally either scrub them by hand or use a wet swiffer-type mop with disposable covers.

Nylons – Wash by hand or in the washing machine?
By hand

Oven – Do you use the window or open the oven to check?
Unless it's something that would fall if you open the door, I open it!

Pizza – What do you put on yours?
Right now, I'm in a phase of loving ham and pineapple. But, normally, I love ground beef and black olives. We used to buy huge sacks of pepperoni and cheese at Sam's and made homemade pizzas when our kids were young enough to be at home. It was a favorite family tradition.

Quiet – What do you do during the day when you get a quiet moment?
Unfortuantely, in the winter, I turn to the computer or TV -- especially when I am ulta tired and not feeling well. But, one of my goals this year is to change that. I'd love to do more sewing and practice my piano more. In the spring through fall, I go outside and sit on my wooden swing for a few moments.

Recipe card box – Y/N? What does it look like?
I have a wooden recipe box that I painted with decorations when I was about 15 years old, and it contains recipes I collected from the time I was 15 through my first few years as a bride -- and they remind me of my mom and of friends. I keep newer recipes in other things. But, I hold on to that box for sentimental reasons.

Style of house?
Two Story, suburban. One realator calls the houses in our neighborhood "traditional", and I like to think mine is. It does have a lot of Georgian details. But, truth be told it also has a few modern details as well.

Tablecloths and napkins – Y/N?
I have several. I always keep tablecloths on my tables. But, I confess to using a lot of paper napkins. A goal is to use my cloth ones more.

Under the kitchen sink – Organized or toxic wasteland?
Depends on which day you ask me.

Wash – How many loads of laundry do you do per week?
I've never counted, but I do a lot!

X’s – Do you keep a daily list of things to do that you cross off?
Not always. Sometimes, I keep a list of all the things I want to accomplish in a week, and I cross them off as I do them. Sometimes, I wake up with mental to do list for the day, and I follow that. But, I am so much more efficient when I use a written list -- whether it is by day or by week.

Yard – Y/N? Who does what?
DH does the lawn, and he helps me start a new garden or flower bed. Once they are established, I mostly tend to the shrubs and gardens.

Zzz’s – What is your last homemaking task for the day before going to bed?
Shut down my computer -- which I use for work and personal use -- and then do all the little things you do to prepare yourself for bed.

Grow Old Along with Me
The Best Is Yet to Be
Robert Browning

Young Lovers Demand Perfection; Old Lovers Learn the Art of Sewing
Shreds Together and Seeing Beauty in a Multiplicity of Patches
How to Make an American Quilt

Love Does Not Consist of Gazing at Each Other
But of Looking Together in the Same Direction
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Those who love deeply never grow old;
The my die of old age, but they die young.
Sir Arthur Pinero

Love is never lost; If not reciprocated it will flow back and
soften and purify the heart.
Washington Irving

You can give without loving but you cannot love without giving.
Amy Carmichael

Happy Valentine's Day


Monday, February 12, 2007

Lessons Learned from Watching a Helpmeet in Action

Today, I want to share more about the woman I described in yesterday's post. First, let me say that I did not know her well. For a year or two, we were acquaintances mainly through our husband's business connections. Then, we moved to another town. I can't even remember her name!

However, this woman's character was such that when I did spend time with her, I took note of how she did things. I'm guessing that she was somewhere between 10-15 years older than I was, though it's possible that she was less than a decade ahead of me in life. Her children were grown and out of the house, and she even had grandchildren. I still had children who were preteens and young teens. I found there was much I could learn from her.

I am certain that to this day, this woman has no idea that I was looking to her for inspiration. I suppose that should make all of us think. We may have more influence over the lives of others than we realize. We never know who is observing our heart and character or watching what we do. That shouldn't scare us. That should inspire us that if we put our heart into what we believe and how we live, we can have a great impact.

Here are lessons I learned from this woman:

1) She was a wonderful helpmeet to her husband. Yet, she was an interesting person in her own right, and she followed pursuits of her own. A woman's Bible study was one of those pursuits. She also wrote some articles about the humorous side of famiy life, and those articles were published in the newspaper.

2) She knew the names of every person who worked for her husband, as well as the names of their spouses and children. She was interested in the details of their lives, and she was empathetic as they experienced the ups and downs of life. She made each person feel important. Some of the spouses were young wives and mothers. She was able to suggest motherly advice in a way that these young women appreciated. There is an art to giving advice without making the person on the receiving end feel insecure or resentful, and this woman was master of that art.

3) She often brought her husband a nice lunch, as well as homemade treats for the whole group to share.

4) Our husbands worked for a large company, and I'm sure that company hired its own designers. But, the offices of their particular department needed a little sprucing up. So, she decorated her husband's office. She didn't stop there. She added some decorative touches around the whole department to make it look nice for everyone. If I remember right, she even came in one weekend and helped paint the walls.

5) My husband and I hosted an event at our home for some people from the company's department, as well as some of our church friends. One of our friends -- a very young man -- asked the woman if she was with the company. She said yes. I watched this exchange. I knew what the young man was thinking: He assumed she worked for the company. Yet, she meant to communicate that her husband worked for the company. I thought to myself that, in a way, she really did represent the company. Her love for her husband and her kindness towards the people who worked for him added to her husband's success and his reputation. I never got any hint from her that she acted out of ambition for her husband to succeed. It was just that the love and kindness of her heart overflowed to her husband and his co-workers.

6) I know that this woman could not have accomplished all of the things she did without doing a lot of planning and hard work. Yet, she never appeared to hustle and bustle about in a tizzy, as I sometimes do. She was calm. She was able to take time for every person that she talked to, without being distracted by all of the things remaining on her to-do list.

7) She was trim and neatly groomed. Her style of clothing was classic. Her clothing was well-made, but not flashy.

8) She seemed like someone who was fulfilled and content.

9) Her home was decorated with love and care. She had some feminine spaces, but she also had a large room where men could feel comfortable. I suppose she learned how to do this from having a husband and four boys.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Well-Planned Table

My husband and I have people in our home at least two or three times a week. So, I do a lot of simple entertaining. I've had to learn how to pull together dinners, dessert parties, and snacks for a church meeting quickly.

Entertaining on short notice takes one skill set. It's good for all of us to learn how to do this. Every woman, at some time, will need to whip up a quick meal or host a little party without much time to prepare.

But, there's another type of hospitality: Often, we have plenty of notice before an event. At such times, we may want to "go all-out". After all, it's fun to set an extra special table, and it's fun to do little things for our family and guests that we might not be able to do when entertaining on short notice.

Many of our ideas of what makes for beautiful hospitality developed when people of even modest means had at least one servant in the home. Today's woman isn't likely to have outside help. She must take care of the preparation, serving, and clean-up herself or enlist members of her family to assist.

When I think of this, I remember the wife of my husband's former boss. She was a wonderful hostess. One year, the boss and his wife invited everyone in the department and their spouses to a Christmas dinner. The boss told my husband that his wife had started the preparations three weeks ahead. For one thing, the number of guests required that extra tables be set out, and they placed these about according to her plan. Then, she laid out the tablecloths and placed non-perishable decorations on them.

(One of my goals for my next "all-out" occasion is to iron the napkins ahead of time and set them out on the table).

Now, this woman's children were grown, as are mine now, though her grandchildren did visit her. If you have active children in the home, you might not be able to set out extra tables and keep tablecloths neat for three weeks. But, if you put your mind to it, I'm sure you can think of things to do ahead of time that will keep until your special occasion. You could fashion decorations for the table and keep them in a large plastic tub until the date of your dinner party, for example.

The boss' wife had one table set in the corner with ice and drinks and glasses on it so that people could have a little refreshment as they mingled while all the guests arrived. I'm sure she had a few appetizers set out as well, though I don't really remember. Then, she served dinner buffet style.

After dinner, she opened a cabinet, where she had set up coffee and cups. As we all set together, she suggested a game that helped everyone find our more about each other.
When we left, she handed each one of the couples a little wrapped gift.

Because of this woman's behind the scenes planning and hard work, everything went smoothly. The hostess had organized everything in a way that allowed her to serve everyone without appearing frazzled. She was able to manage the dinner and devote attention to her guests, as well. She had a knack for making everyone feel at home.

One spring, she had many of us over for an informal lunch. I can't remember the occasion, but I think it might have been Memorial Day. Again, she had planned well and had laid out things so that the luncheon moved along smoothly. She had set long tables in her screened in porch, which had a great view of the backyard. She used green tablecloths and inexpensive summer-themed plates. She served the yummiet lunch. Afterwards, we sat outside on the patio, which had been set up so that people could enjoy a leisurely conversation.

I'm sure that this woman, like all of us, had her moments when some little disaster threatened to throw her off her plans. But, she must have learned to take them in stride. I'm sure that she was an experienced enough hostess that she was able to go to "plan b" if "plan a" went awry.

Here are some ideas to help you plan for a dinner event:

From four to two weeks ahead: Determine guest list, extend invitations, plan menu, plan seating, determine if any guest who might be coming has special dietary need, decide what table coverings you will use, and determine, what, if any decorations you will need. Borrow extra tables or serving dishes if you need to. If you will be using a serving dish or cookware that you don't store in your kitchen, bring it out of storage and clean it. For example, you might keep your large turkey roaster put away, bringing it out for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Begin to buy non-perishable food items, so that you can gradually work the expense of the party into your grocery budget. If you want to give out hostess gifts, make them or buy them. If you are on a tight budget, the Dollar store is a great place to find little presents.
Make a schedule for whatever house cleaning you want to do before the party and start doing waht you can now. (Note: Guests will not be inspecting every corner of your house.)
Decide what you will wear and, if you have little children, think through what they will wear.

Two weeks ahead: Make a schedule for your meal. For example, the ham needs to go in at this time, and the potatoes need to go in that this time. Determine if any items can be prepared ahead of time and frozen. Polish silver if you are going to use it and if it needs it. Continue to work items into your grocery budget. Wrap hostess gifts. Make place cards if you really want to get fancy! Make sure you have tea, coffee, sugar.

One week ahead: Do a weekly house cleaning. Finish buying items you need for meal. Make final guest count and adjust seating and food preparation accordingly. If you can feed your family in kitchen, and you are going to have party in dining room, set the dining room table for the party and place a cloth over it to protect the setting from dust. Fill salt and pepper shakers. Do you have cream for coffee or tea if you are serving any? Get your outfit ready.

Plan the stages of clean-up. Plan a way to remove dirty dishes from the table after each course. You may have only the meal as one course and a dessert as another course, so plan how you will serve dessert. You may want to serve the main meal at a dining room table and then retire to a living space for dessert and coffee. Plan the steps you will take to get your house back in order after the party.

Ask one of your friends who will be attending the party if she will mind helping you do little things, such as watch out to see when guests need a refill of ice, water, or tea or slicing and serving a dessert. A good friend can also help keep the conversation going at moments when you need to be in the kitchen.

If you have daughters at home, helping you with hospitality is an important step to help them become confident in doing it on their own once they have their own home. Even sons can learn to have a serving heart by helping you with the dinner or party. At the very least, they can move chairs for you, etc.

Day before or day of party: Cut or buy fresh flowers, if you will be using them. Arrange them.

Night before: Prepare any food that can be prepared. Put new stick of butter in butter dish and place in fridge until you pull it out.

The morning of: Prepare relish trays if you are using them.

Day of: Cook meal, set out food at appropriate time. Freshen water for flowers, if needed. Do whatever is needed for your personal grooming.

Forty to thirty minutes before guests arrive: Take a few minutes to pray for your guests. Change into the clothing you will be wearing for the event. Relax for a minute or two. Then, when you feel refreshed, resume whatever needs to be done before you receive your guests.

Note: Most likely, you will take your apron off before your guests arrive. However, if your event is something homey rather than formal -- say an extended-family Sunday dinner -- you could change from a work apron into a dressier white apron.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Facial Exercises: Should you Do Them?

flower by freefoto.com

Proponents of facial exercises claim that these movements firm the muscles beneath the skin of your face, creating an uplifted, taut, more youthful complexion. Their thought is that if we deem it necessary to exercise our bodies, why shouldn't our faces need exercises, as well?

There are photos of youthful looking older women, who claim they have maintained their lovely skin through specific exercises for the face. Many state that you can achieve the same benefits through facial exercises that you would from a face lift.

Usually, exercises for the chin and neck are included in a facial exercise routine, as well.

Note: Many proponents of facial exercises are trying to sell you a book about their exercise routine or a gadget designed to help you work your face. If you want an unbiased opinion about the benefits of facial exercise, look for someone who doesn't have anything to gain by proclaiming that facial exercises work.

Opponents of facial exercises point out that our faces get plenty of exercise during our daily lives. Making expressions, chewing, moving our eyes -- these all work the muscles of our face. Likewise, we constantly move our neck, which exercises our chins and neck muscles. Opponents of facial exercises say that the repetitive movement of our faces is one cause of wrinkling. They note that actresses and models, who pull their faces into exagerrated positions underneath drying, hot lights often have a problem with premature wrinkling.

Facial exercises are generally derived from exagerrated forms of our natural expressions. Thus, opponents of these exercises are concerned that pulling your face daily into these exercises will cause our delicate facial skin to wrinkle more quickly.

So, what should we do? If the experts who study these things can't agree, then I, as a non-expert, certainly don't have the answer! But, here are my ideas -- which are just thoughtful guesses about the subject:

1) Our bodies were created to move. In the past, most people (except for the very wealthy) naturally got all the exercise they needed through their daily movements. Today, people who work vigourously without modern conveniences -- such as the Amish -- still get sufficient bodily exercise from the labor that they do. They do not need to add additional exercises to their daily routine in order to stay fit, as people with sedentary jobs do.

Those of us who work at home are more active than office workers are, but we probably don't get in as much activity about the house and garden as our great-great-grandma did. So, today, it is necessary for most people, include the woman at home, to do some type of bodily exercise in order to stay healthy.

However, the face is one part of our body that is never sedentary! Like our bodies, our faces were created to move. And, move they do, whether we realize it or not!

Even people who sit in a chair in front of a computer all day long continually use their faces. Every time they concentrate diligently on a task, their face works itself into a certain expresson. Every time they look up and smile at a co-worker, they move muscles. Every time they eat someting, they work their jaws and chin. Every time they register contentment, discontent, surprise, happiness, stress, etc., they are moving their faces. They work their heads and necks, as well, by turning them to look for something on their desk, looking up to find a book on a top shelf, or dropping the head down and to the side in order to take a paper clip out of a drawer.

Perhaps, our faces take care of themselves, exercise wise. To me, it doesn't automatically follow that if our bodies need additional exercise to stay fit, that our faces need specific exercises, too.

2) Having said that, the effort to cultivate a pleasant expression on our faces is an exercise in and of itself. Imho, this is a vital facial exercise. Making a concious effort to project a cheerful and empathetic look takes some work! But, it pays off. This is especially true with regard to mature women, whose facial muscles do gradually sag. (See yesterday's post).

So, at the least, we can let pleasantly upturned lips, frequent smiles, and a little lifting of the eyelids against a natural droop be our facial exercise routine. That could be all we need, in addition to the movements that our face and neck naturally make all day long.

3) In decades past, some women were taught to restrain their natural facial movements. This was, in part, an effort to avoid wrinkles.
Thus, some women worked hard to keep their smiles subtle. They put tape between their eyes so that they would feel a tug everytime they frowned, and this served as a reminder not to scrunch up their forehead. They held pencils between their upper and lower teeth and practiced ennunciating without moving their jaws too much. Hints like these were still popular in woman's and girl's magazines when I was a little girl in the sixties.

If you frown overly, sticking a little bit of tape between your eyebrows to remind you not to grimace could do some good. Just be sure to remove the tape before going out in public!

Otherwise, I'm not a big fan of suppressing our God-given expressions just to preserve our unwrinkled complexions. As I have said, I believe we should replace negative habits of thought and emotion with postive, cheerful ones. We should also remember that emotions make great servants, but poor masters. Once we've established godly habits of emotion, imho, it's best to let our faces function as God intended them to.

The hints for avoiding facial movement, however, do point out an irony of the beauty world. Some women go around trying to hold their faces unnaturally still in an effort to avoid wrinkling. Others exercise their faces by pulling them into exagerrated movements with the same goal in mind!

4) Facial exercises can relax tense facial muscles. This can help you let go of a frown caused by a sinus headache. It can relieve eye muscles that have tightened from a squint by focusing on sewing or the computer or a book. In that case, the exercises might actaully prevent you from scrunching up your skin, thus preventing some wrinkling. You may want to learn a few of these exercises so that you can do them when your face feels tense for some reason.

However, there are other ways to achieve relaxed skin. You can simply sit for a moment and conciously relax your facial muscles. You can lie down for a few moments with a warm, wet washcloth over your face. You can go outside and let your eyes wander restfully off to some pretty scenery in the distance. When you are doing work that requires that your eyes focus closely on something, take five minute breaks now and again. Look up from your work and let your eyes focus on something else in the room. Close your eyes for a few seconds.

5) If you would like to try a facial exercise, here's one that might be beneficial: Look up as far as your eyes will roll, look down as far as your eyes will roll, look to the right as far as your eyes will roll, and look to the left as far as your eyes will roll. This exercise might improve the health of your eyes and, imho, probably wouldn't harm the skin around your eyes. I try to remember to do this one, myself.

6) Some people do feel that the exercises suggested for sagging or double chins do work. Some of these don't reqire that you wrinkle your skin. So, my thought is that these exercises are worth a try.

7) If you would like to try facial exercise, look for ones that don't require you to crease your skin.

8) Certainly, too much indolence of the body can lead to a slack looking face. If we are lethargic, we won't have much energy to remain bright-eyed and smiling. If we carry too much extra weight, that can register itself in a slack-looking face. But, the best cure for for the effects of indolence on our face is probably to get our whole body moving and to get some fresh air as we can. That might cure the problem better than doing specific facial exercises.

9) Busy at-home women may wonder when they would ever have time to do facial exercises. If you do decide you want to give facial exercises a try, you will find that some routines only last only a couple of minutes or two. You could do a couple of facial exercises at the same time that you cleanse your face.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

flowers by freefoto.com

Tips forTaking Care of your Complexion

1) Skin, like hair, is lubricated by an oil produced by the body: sebum. When there is too little sebum, the skin flakes, wrinkles, and feels dry. When there is too much, the skin wrinkles very slowly and looks younger, but it is prone to breakouts. When the amount of sebum is normal, skin glows and looks healthy. Other factors besides our sebum production can affect skin's oiliness or dryness: unusually cold weather, dry air within a house during the winter, summer humidity, the less than fresh air on an airplane, drinking too little water, etc. Use products that are right for your kind of skin. (Note: Many young women have normal to oily skin on their foreheads, noses, and chins, and dry skin on their cheeks. This particular oily pattern is called the T-zone. Adjust your skin care accordingly. For example, you may want to use a toner only on the T-zone and a moisturizer only around the eyes and the cheeks).

Healthy skin, like hair, also has a certain external PH balance. This is why you find shampoos and soaps which advertise that they have a good PH balance for your skin. It's likely that you won't have to worry about selecting a product with the proper PH balance, as most are balanced to be in harmony with human hair and skin. This is generally true whether they advertise the fact or not.

2) In the past, English women were highly noted for having beautiful complexions. It's been said that their complexions remain lovely well into old age, because their faces are protected by England's foggy weather. The frequent fog and rain of England provide needed moisture for the skin, while protecting the skin from the aging effects of relentless sunshine. You don't have to live in England to get these effects. Use sunscreens and hats to protect your skin from too much sun. A little sun -- about fifteen minutes for a fair-skinned person and thirty minutes for a person of dark skin -- is healthy for your body. Beyond that, you want to shield your skin from the sun's aging rays.

Also, here's a method for steaming moisture into your face. Boil a pot of water. Take the water off of the stove. Hold a towel over your head to make a tent. Breathe in the steam. Be careful not to get your face so close to the pot that the heat hurts your face. Find the spot where you feel the moisture and the heat, but it's not uncomfortable. This will also help clear out any problems you are having with your sinuses, as well.

Just as we talked about keeping brushes and other hair tools clean, you want to keep things clean that come into contact with your skin. Clean powder puffs, make-up sponges, and make-up brushes regularly. If you use washcloths on your skin, buy a week's worth of soft washcloths and use a new one every day. I bought an inexpensive pack of baby washcloths for this purpose.

4) The cornerstone of a skin care routine is to cleanse your face every day. Generally, you will want to do this about twice a day -- once in the morning and once at night. You may find that your face does better if you simply splash some cool water on the skin in the morning before moisturising and then doing a thorough cleansing at night. I'm sure you know the old rule: NEVER go to bed with makeup on. If you do occasionally fall asleep with makeup on, do your throough cleansing in the morning.

The first rule of cleansing your face: be gentle!! Be extra gentle when working around the eyes. Don't pull and tug on the delicate tissue there.

There are a lot of wonderful skin products out there, some of which can be quite pricey. I know an older woman (seventies) who still has gorgeous skin, which she has maintained by using a partciular line of European cleansing products.

On the other hand, I've known beautiful older women who have kept their skin dewy fresh simply by using Pond's cold cream. You can do an adequate job of taking care of your skin using inexpensive products that you can find at your grocery store or a drugstore. The key is to be consistent when performing your daily routine. Don't feel that you have to spend lots of money to have beautiful skin, and don't let anyone sell you products that you don't want to or can't afford to buy.

You do need a cleanser that is especially made for the face. Skin on our bodies and skin on our faces have a different texture and a different oil balance. And, the skin on our faces is more delicate than say, the skin on our legs. Body skin also needs a heavier moisturizing lotion than facial skin. So, soaps and lotions made for the body are not formulated in the same manner as soaps and lotions made for the face.

A creamy cleanser, such as a cold cream, can be used both to remove makeup and to cleanse skin. If you use a facial soap, you will still need some type of makeup remover. Use the remover to take off your makeup first, so that the water and soap can get directly to the skin to do their job. Then, use your makeup reomover to spot clean away any traces of mascara or such that might be left in the eye area. Some women buy a general makeup remover and an eye makeup remover, as well. The eye makeup removers are wonderfully formulated for the gentle skin around the eyes. But, I personally don't use one. I have time only for a good basic skin routine. When I start collecting too many products for this and that, I forget to use them all! So, I just use cold cream or something with that consistency as my single makeup remover.

5) After cleansing, it's a good idea to apply a toner or astringent. This is step 2 of your skin care regimin. A toner removes dead cells and any dirt that the facial cleanser didn't get. This reveals the the newer, fresher layer of your skin, making you look younger and healthier.

Astringent is very strong, and it should be reserved only for oily, non-sensitive skin. There are different strengths of toner, as well. I find that for my ultra-fair, fine, mature skin, I need the gentlest toner I can find.

If you use an exfolient cleanser, you may find that it's too much to use a toner as well. Experiment to find out what suits your skin.

NEVER use toner around your eyes. The skin there cannot handle it, and you do not want to get it into your eyes. Remove any traces of eye makeup with a gentle cream, such as Pond's or a creamy cleanser made especially for the eye area.

6) After cleansing and toning, it's time to moisturize. Look for a product that works for your type of skin. Pond's can be used a moisturizer, as well as a cleanser, though it may be too heavy for very young skins.

Moisturizers protect the delicate chemical balance of your face from the elements. They hold in whatever moisture is already there, and they add moisture. They don't necessarily add oil, as that on top of your natural oils might be too much for someone with oily to normal skin. Moisturizers for dryer skin tend to be oilier.

While it's important to buy moisturizers for your skin's type, you may or may not want to buy all of the specialized moisturizers. For example, some companies sell a lotion that fills in your lines and goes underneath your daily moisturizers. Other companies sell a moisturizer for day and a moisturizer for night.

When I did use a product from Prescriptives that went underneath the daily moisturizer, I was pleased with the results. But, I haven't bought it again. As I said earlier, for me, the more basic the skincare routine, the more likely I'll be to follow it well.

If you're counting on your moisturizer to keep your skin wrinkle free forever, you'll be disappointed. Skin care products are changing as technology develops, so its possible that they will do more and more to keep our skin beautiful as time goes by. At the maximus, they will only help us look and feel our best for our age, and they may help us look a few years younger than we might if we didn't protect our skin. But, they will never stop the aging process entirely. To expect to have the skin we had at twenty when we are sixty is a losing battle. Therefore, we have to believe God's promise that a meek and quiet spirit is the true beauty that never fades.

7) Note in the Bible many references to oiling the skin of the face and the body. In some cases, this is mentioned in conjunction with a special religious signifigance, a subject which is beyond the scope of this article. However, people in Bible times also did this to protect their skin and hair. Many of the areas mentioned in the Bible had dry climates. And, people couldn't run to the drugstore to pick up a moisturizer. So, they made their own skin products out of fragrances and oils. The ancient idea of oiling the hair, skin, and body can be helpful even today.

When it comes to your body, you may find that smoothing a little olive oil, almond oil, or other light oil into the skin helps protect and moisturize your skin. If your facial skin is very dry, you can even dab a bit of oil onto it at night before going to bed. (And, you can gently pat a tiny dab of oil down the length of very long hair, as well, in order to keep it shiny).

8) Jojoba oil reportedly has a consistency similar to human hair and skin. I bought a bottle to use on the ends of my hair, but I ended up using it more on my face. I felt it was beneficial and intend to buy it again sometime. You can find a bottle of jojoba oil at a health food store. A little goes a long way, so buy the smallest bottle you can find. This not only keeps you from spending too much on it, it ensures that you will use it up before it goes rancid.

Other natural products that many people rave about are shea butter, carrot oil, and coconut oil. Most of us will find these do wonders for the skin on our bodies. Those of us with dryer skin may find them very helpful when applied lightly to the skin of our faces at night, as well.

When I was ten, my mother and I were in a car accident during snowy weather. My mother, who had lovely skin, ended up with a huge gash down her forehead. The gash had to be stitched. Our doctor told her to go to the drugstore and buy a brick of coconut oil and rub it across the wound once it got to a certain point of healing. She did, and her scar vanished!

Some people find that Vitamin E oil is helpful for their skin, particularly for removing small scars. Be careful, though, as some people have an allergic type reaction to using too much vitamin E on the skin. If you use Vitamin E and your skin feels irritated or breaks out into fine bumps, discontinue it.

9) As we get older, the lines of our faces naturally start to sag. This begins to show up sometime in middle age, and for some women this occurs even as young as age forty. Those of us who are of middle-age and beyond need to be aware of the effect this can have on the people around us. When we are sitting at rest, our faces can easily fall into severe-looking expressions, even though we may actually feel quite content and cheerful inside. This can intimidate younger people, who misunderstand the look on our faces. They think that we are giving them looks of disapproval, and they may feel insecure, wondering what they have done to offend us.

I remember feeling this way around some older women when I was young. Later on, when I read this tip in a book, I realized instantly that these women had not been frowning at me! They were simply unaware of how their expressions looked. Now, that I am more mature, I am aware of how easily my own face could look unhappy or disapproving, even when that's not what I'm feeling in my heart.

For this reason, as we age, we have to work harder to make sure that the lines of our face fall into a pleasant expression. This may take some practicing in front of a mirror, so that we can train the muscles of our face to counter-act the effects of gravity.

10) If you want to have a lovely face and expression, attend to the health of your eyes and seek medical attention for things such as frequent headaches. Sometimes, we squint because we need glasses, or we frown because of sinus congestion. A little medical attention can turn problems like theses around. Also, learning how to maintain good posture of the head and neck can improve the quality of our complexion. Squinting causes the skin to wrinkle prematurely, and slouching reduces the firmness of the muscles and tissues that support our facial skin.

11) The best cosmetic for all women is a loving, faithful, and peaceful heart.

Our faces are meant to express the full range of human emotions. So, stuffing all of our hurt or angry feelings inside while forcing ourselves to grin only distorts our face into an unnatural mask. A woman who spends her life mourning with those who mourn and rejoicing with those who rejoice writes a lovely message on her face: Here is a woman who has spent her life loving people, who is kind-hearted and sympathetic, who is real about her own life, and who will understand when I share my problems with her. We shouldn't be afraid of expressing real emotions, provided that we take these emotions to God for guidance and comfort.

However, daily bad habits of disposition and expression may write an unattractive message on our faces. Any woman of my age can tell you that the habits of a lifetime do etch themselves on your skin -- whether for good or for ill. Sometimes, we just let our thoughts and our faces become negative, when there is no reason to be so. When that happens, it's time to train our thoughts to dwell on the uplifting subjects that Paul mentions in Philippians and to train our faces to fall into pleasant lines.

None of us could function if we spent all of our time thinking about what our faces are doing. If you are working on your expression, start by looking in the mirror in the morning. Let your lips turn up a little, not so much that you look silly, but just enough to be pleasant. Note if your eyelids are droopy, and try to let your eyes look bright. Then, go about your day without being self-concious. You can leave little reminders for yourself to check your expression two or three times during a day. One way is to put a mirror by your phone and let the phone's ring remind you to take a peak at how you are doing. Another way is to set a timer and glance at a mirror once the timer rings. Still another way is to stick a few colorful post-its about your house. You can even place one in your car. It takes anywhere from six weeks to a year to eliminate bad habits and to form new ones. Eventually pleasant thoughts and a pleasant expression will become second nature to you. When that happens, you won't have to work so hard to project a pleasant disposition and a pleasant expression. After you pass through one of life's challenging times, it's good to check your habits of expression again.


Sunday, February 04, 2007

Nails and Skin (And Hair)

Last week, we talked about how to take care of our hair. Since skin, and nails have similar properties to skin, we might as well go on and explore tips for taking care of them, as well.

Remember, skin and nails, like hair, are a reflection of what is going on in your body. Doctors can diagnose many conditions simply by examining the nails and skin, as well as the hair (and by looking at the eyes, teeth, and gums, as well!) So, if you would like to improve the external beauty of your skin and nails, you need to start with the essentials for overall good health: nutrition, hygiene, adequate circulation, rest, fresh hair, pure water, and exercise. If you attend to these, you get a double benefit: you will not only increase your loveliness quotient, you will feel better and have more energy to give to others, as well.

If your hair, skin, and nails are not all that you'd like them to be, start by examinging your diet. If all three are dull and weak, then consider the following: Am I getting enough protein in my diet? (Remember, your body needs protein to produce hair, nails, and skin cells. Thus, people on low-protein diets often have problems with their hair, skin, and nails. If you do not eat any animal-based protein of any kind, you will need to be extra-careful to make sure that you get what you need through sources such as nuts, beans and a grain combination, etc.)
Am I anemic? (Do not diagnose this yourself. You will need to take a simple blood test to be sure, as taking iron when you are not truly anemic can be harmful to your health. As with everything, don't go to excess. But, if you find your external apperance lacks luster, try to add a reasonable amount of healthy protein to your diet).

Do I have a thyroid problem? (Again, do not diagnose this yourself.)

Am I eating a diet that provides me with the range of vitamins and minerals that I need, particularly the B-vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and calcium? (Try to get your vitamins and minerals from food. If you want to back up your diet with a supplement, make sure the supplement is balanced. Taking high doses of one vitamin or mineral can make the rest of your body's chemistry get out of whack. And, some vitamins and minerals are toxic in high doses.)

Am I getting enough essential fatty acids through my diet? Flax oil, evening primrose oil, olive oil, and walnut oil are good sources of healthy fatty acids, as is eating fatty fishes, such as salmon. Note that evening primrose oil is beneficial for female hormone levels, but probably isn't the best thing to give to the men in your family. Also, some peope are allergic to primrose oil or to walnut oil. Also note that eating fish from polluted waters can give you a problem with too much mercury in your system, something that will surely damage your skin, hair, and nails. So, do your research and follow nutritional guidelines for eating fish or for buying pure fish oil supplements. This goes doubly if you are pregnant.

Am I getting enough vitamin C? This affects the health of your skin. Vitamin C is an essentail ingredient that the body uses in producing collagen, the protein that protects the outer layers of the skin. Frequent bruising can indicate a Vitamin C definiciency. Frequent bruising can result from other conditions as well, or may simpy be how your particular body normally responds to the little bumps of life. So, if you or a member of your family bruises frequently, seek medical attention to be sure what the root cause is.

If you have acne, you may have been told that it comes from eating chocolate, fatty foods, or refined starches or some other food. In truth, acne is one skin condition that really isn't affected all that much by our diet -- at least not in the way a lot of common myths claim. Acne results from hormonal influences that cause an overproduction of oil glands. This overproduction of the oil glands interacts with bacteria on the skin to produce the breakouts we associate with acne. Your genes, your stress levels, the type of skin tissue you have, your insulin levels, and where you are in your menstral cycle are greater factors in acne than what you eat at a particular meal. If you do have acne, it's good to eat a generally healthy diet. You do want to increase fresh goods and cut down on processed foods, as there is a possible connection between eating too many processed foods and the hormone/insulin imbalances associated with acne. But, a little chocolate now and again or a reasonable amount of healthy fatty oils or even the occasional french fry probably won't hurt you.

Many skin creams, nail products, and hair products have vitamins. minerals, or anti-oxidants in them. Do these work? Well, some of these agents do act as exfolients, which cause your skin to slough off dead cells more quickly, revealing the younger skin underneath. And, some may provide sunscreen protection. However, overall, I'd have to say the answer to the question is...maybe. Remember that externally applied cosmetic products do not have to meet FDA regulations. That means they do not have to prove claims they make about a nutrient. For example, a company may claim that the Vitamin C in their moisturizer builds healthy collagen without having to pass rigorous governmental standards of proof. So, be wary of paying big bucks for a product simply because it lists a certain vitamin or mineral in its ingredient list. It's doubtful that the vitamin or mineral would hurt your body, but it might hurt your pocketbook!