Sunday, December 30, 2007

A girl's gotta spa

I savor a "spa day" any time of the year, but after Christmas I'm particularly in the mood to refresh and renew. Maybe its the coming new year that makes me look forward to all things fresh and new. Only I don't have much cash left after Christmas to book a manicure or day spa, so I go the at-home-spa route and I focus on health as much as beauty. If you're longing for a little beauty-time-pampering, maybe you'll get inspired by my basic protocol. Several of my favorite, relatively inexpensive home-spa essentials are hyperlinked below in case you are interested.

First, I fix a really large glass of ice water with lemon slices to sip on while I'm in the tub. Fresh lemon has great detoxing properties (thanks to God).

If I'm not using any scented bath products in the tub, I'll light a scented candle. Otherwise I just turn on some relaxing music. My all-time favorite CD for relaxing is Santorini Splendor by Solitudes. Its an uplifting, vacation-like instrumental with the gentle sounds of the ocean lapping at your door. Ahhhh!

Before filling my bath tub, I use a dry brush on dry skin to do body brushing using a natural bristle body brush. This simulates the lymph and immune system and exfoliates the skin. Supposedly it can help with cellulite also - and who doesn't want a little help with that! Begin by brushing at your feet and slowly work your way up your legs, then your hips, backside and stomach, then your hands and arms to your chest and neck. It is suggested to brush upwards in medium length strokes toward your heart and to brush softly on the areas of your body where your skin is the softest or thinnest. It is also suggested to brush more in a circular motion around the stomach and chest areas. This process doesn't take long - maybe 2-3 minutes - and its invigorating.

Next I take a hot bath with dead sea mineral salts - they're great for your skin and your immune system. (Thanks be to God for the salts too!) I really like the one pictured above by Masada. I get it when it goes on sale in my local grocery or health food store. If you don't have any Dead Sea salts like these, just use Epsom salts , they're really inexpensive and have similar muscle relaxing and detoxing properties. You can add a couple drops of eucalyptus essential oil or peppermint oil to get that refreshing, soothe-your-sinuses scent if you want. I do like my baths really hot, but it need not be hot to dissolve the salts.

The bath is a great time to apply a facial mask. You can use clay or cucumber if you want to go the natural route, or you can purchase a specialty masque to suit your skin's particular needs. But more often than not I choose to just relax bare-faced and let the steam open my pores.

If my hair were dry or damaged, I'd put an intensive conditioner on it while I'm in the bath and wrap my hair with plastic saran wrap and then a towel. I'd use something like Biolage's conditioning balm, but I haven't needed that. After a relaxing soak, I slather on the moisture! My drug store lotion of choice is Curel. Curel recently changed their bottle style and I found 5 of their old bottles on clearance for about $2 each - oh happy day! I buy it on sale because otherwise its like $7 a bottle. I also like Neutrogena's Light Sesame Body Oil , but it will leave skin somewhat greasier than the Curel lotion and it has a definite nutty-sweet scent. Personally, I enjoy its light scent, which lingers for hours on my skin. This bottle of oil will last a long time. With my bath complete, my skin soft, and my favorite robe on, I head to the kitchen and make a cup of decaf green tea to sip during at-home-spa-day-phase-two, which is the nails phase.

In my next post I'll cover my at-home manicures and pedicures. Are your cuticles dry and jagged? Are your heels looking positively prehistoric? I've got some tips coming for you!

Meanwhile, you can get started planning an at-home spa day. You can also post for us any bath, facial or spa products you simply wouldn't want to live without. If you don't have any faves to offer, you can tell us any we should definitely avoid. For instance, when I was a teen I created a home-made hair mask of mayonnaise and oatmeal (whole oats). My shower clogged and it took about 20 minutes of washing to get all that grease out of my hair. I think I smelt like mayo for two days too!

Share your best pampering ideas with us so we can both look and feel mahvolus in 2008!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve reflections

An angel appeared to Mary and told her, "You are blessed, because you believed that the Lord would do what he said." (Luke 1:45)

Mary responded, "Oh, how I praise the Lord. How I rejoice in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and now generation after generation will call me blessed. For he, the Mighty One, is holy, and he has done great things for me. His mercy goes on from generation to generation, to all who fear him. His mighty arm does tremendous things!" (vs. 46-51)

So, believing that the Lord will do what He says He will do is the path to an amazing adventure with God. This is true for anyone in any generation who is willing to follow Him with faith. My response to this truth, like Mary's response was, is to rejoice and thank Him today for who He is, for all He does, and for inviting me along to be part of the story.
Merry Christmas from my heart to yours.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Love is as Love does

I'm back from the greater Baltimore area where I spoke this week and met some new sisters-in-Christ at Mid Atlantic Community Church. The event went quite well and I enjoyed my time with them. My thanks to the women's ministry committee, the audio-video specialists, and most of all to Christ for giving us a reason to gather and celebrate.

I want to share with you a paraphrase of 1st Corinthians that reminds me where to keep my focus as I prepare for the upcoming holidays. Both of my children have birthdays the same week as Christmas, so I can easily get caught up in doing shopping, decorating, wrapping and entertaining. God's word pulls me back to what's real and eternal.

(a paraphrase)

If I decorate my house with poinsettias, bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny ornaments, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing a Christmas ham, arranging beautiful table centerpieces, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook.

If I volunteer at the soup kitchen, go caroling at the nursing home, and drop money in the Salvation Army bucket, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I set out the nativity, attend a bunch of holiday parties, and sing in the holiday cantata, but do not focus on Christ, I have completely missed the point.

Love stops the cooking, cleaning or wrapping to hug the child.
Love pauses the decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, even when busy or tired.
Love doesn't envy another woman's Christmas china.
Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way, but thanks God for them. Love doesn't give only to those who can return the favor, but rejoices in giving to those who can't.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love always wins.

MP3 players will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust ... but giving the gift of love will endure for all eternity.

In other words, you can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.

I pray today that you and I remember to love amidst all the things we do!

Monday, December 17, 2007

What's that in your hand?

First, let me extend a big southern welcome to gals visiting me from Lysa's blog! I'd pour you a glass of sweet tea but I'm getting ready to board a plane to Baltimore, MD for a Tuesday evening speaking engagement. So I'm guzzling green tea out of a Snapple bottle this morning.

I'm so glad you visited me, and so hoping you'll win today's drawing for the devotional book. Here's the secret deal - if you post a comment here today and you happen to be the winner Lysa draws, I'll throw in a special surprise with your book and Starbucks gift card! Shhh, don't tell, just go post in both places (Lysa's blog and mine).

Now if you haven't seen our devotional book before, it contains 175 of our devotions in a slightly shorter format than our online devotions. I'll give you a little taste of it with an example below.

But first, I'm just going to frankly admit that the holidays can bring chances to come face-to-face with people we may have preferred to avoid. Family gatherings can become prime opportunities for hurt feelings or tempers to flare. We get short-tempered with our spouse, for instance, over little things like which sweater (or t-shirt) he wears for the occasion. Grudges with siblings or cousins are dredged up. Old feelings of competition are sparked. The festivities are dampened, and the light of Christ in us somehow fades. With that in mind, maybe this devotion will be "food for thought" for your next holiday dinner and mine.

*Excerpted from God's Purpose for Every Woman (Harvest House, 2007):

Ice Princess
By Rachel Olsen

People with good sense restrain their anger; they earn esteem by overlooking wrongs. Proverbs 19:11 (NLT)

I gasped as the ice-dancing pair both fell in the final seconds of their routine. They had come out of retirement to skate in the Olympics before their home crowd, and skated well enough in the first round to be in first place heading into the second round of the three-day competition.

Both partners recovered from the fall in time to hit their final pose as the music ended. They headed to center rink where they’re expected to take bows. It was then the real drama began. The woman faced her partner with an intense look. Was she hurt? She stood staring at him for the longest time. The camera angle widened, allowing us to see his face also. At first he looked disappointed, then confused, and then he simply matched her stare.
As the staring contest wore on, the crowd grew quiet and uncomfortable. By this point it was clear she was communicating tremendous disapproval with her icy look. I suspect this man wanted nothing more than to take his partner’s hand, shrug off their shared disappointment, and take their bows – but his manhood was being challenged, in public no less.

Eventually they did bow and head to the “kiss and cry” to await their scores. She still didn’t give it a rest. She was not looking at the scores, crowd, or camera, but mostly glaring over at him in anger. As a skating fan, I’ve seen many drops, mistakes and falls, yet I’ve never seen a partner behave like this afterwards. They dropped from first place to seventh with one round left to skate, and the sun went down on her anger.

The next day the pair entered the arena separately, warmed up separately and didn’t speak a word to each other. You could cut the tension backstage with a knife. This behavior continued until they joined hands on the ice to begin their final routine. Both partners skated beautifully and the world waited to see what her reaction would be. She was pleased, so she dramatically hugged and kissed him. I’ve never seen a clearer picture of performance-based love.

Like this ice princess, I am prone to use the icy silent treatment when I’m mad at my spouse. I can say from experience that it’s not healthy, nor productive. The silent treatment communicates: If you do not please me 100%, you no longer exist in my world. After reading Matthew 5:21-22, I’m guessing Jesus would consider this method of anger-management murderous.

The Bible advises against performance-based love, and advocates grace-based love instead. Proverbs 19:11 explains we should be slow to anger and quick to forgive. The Message puts it this way, “Smart people know how to hold their tongue; their grandeur is to forgive and forget.” We’re also advised to stop mulling over our grievances.

First Corinthians 13 explains that a loving person is not irritable or demanding, and does not carry a grudge (vs. 4-5). After all, it’s hard to be graceful with a grudge in hand. Have you been full of grace lately, or slightly icy?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Crossing the border

Today I'm chewing on the following passage from Mark 12:28-34 in the Message translation:

One of the religion scholars came up. Hearing the lively exchanges of question and answer and seeing how sharp Jesus was in his answers, he put in his question: "Which is most important of all the commandments?"

Jesus said, "The first in importance is, 'Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.' And here is the second: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' There is no other commandment that ranks with these."

The religion scholar said, "A wonderful answer, Teacher! So lucid and accurate—that God is one and there is no other. And loving him with all passion and intelligence and energy, and loving others as well as you love yourself. Why, that's better than all offerings and sacrifices put together!"

When Jesus realized how insightful he was, he said, "You're almost there, right on the border of God's kingdom."

Why did Jesus consider this man insightful?  Is it because he asked an intelligent question? Nope. It's because when he heard Jesus' answer he recognized that zealously loving God and people is more important in God's eyes than all the money we give, all the church committees we sit on, all the times we fast, or how many verses we can recite by heart.

Not that there is anything wrong with any of those things. They are good in fact. But the single most important trait in God's eyes is being loving. Think for a minute what it means to be a loving person.

What would it look like for you to be a characteristically loving person?

What would it take?  That's what it will take for you to live fully in God's kingdom.

I pray that we will not simply dwell on the border of God's Kingdom - rather we will cross over and enter fully in. Let's jump in feet first without hesitation and live each day within these boundaries God has marked out for us. Let's become great lovers!

Keep your eyes peeled today for opportunities to simply be love to those around you.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Want to Win a free Gift?

Of course you do, who doesn't! My friend Lysa TerKeurst is doing a blog tour giveaway this month called the Cool Christmas Giveaway. Here is how it works: Visit her blog often as she'll be doing new posts daily. Read her (amazing and zany) entries and post a comment. Posting will automatically enroll you for a drawing for that day's cool prize.
Within the next several days I'll be one of the featured sponsors of the tour and I'm giving away a couple of my favorite things. First, a signed copy of the ministry's devotional book God's Purpose for Every Woman, which I know you'll enjoy. One of my great honors is to serve as editor of this book and of our online devotions which touch women's hearts and turn them towards God.

Second, is a Starbucks gift card. Let me just tell you that going to the coffee shop with Lysa is a spiritual exercise. Seriously. As she places her order you have the opportunity to practice the truth of:

Proverbs 29:25, "Fear of man is a dangerous trap, but to trust in God means safety." (TLB)

Lysa's order goes something like this: "I''ll have a White Chocolate Mocha - make it skim, three pumps, no whip, no foam, and extra hot please." You can see the look on the people's face behind the counter and behind us in line. That's when I start to proclaim in faith that I will not fear these people even though they look like they are ready to knock me down as they lunge for Lysa.

I'm a somewhat more simple Starbucks gal ... give me a coffee-frap or a chai tea-frap and I'm a happy girl. If you're not a coffee drinker there's all kinds of yummy non-coffee things in Starbucks. I love the low-fat blueberry coffee cake stuff.

I so hope that you'll win!

I never seem to win anything. My friend P.J., however, seems to win EVERYTHING she ever enters. This woman has even won her pick of a piece of furniture out of a high-end furniture store! Maybe you are like that too. Have you won something really cool - post and tell us about it. If not, don't worry as I decided not to tell P.J. about the Cool Christmas Giveaway - so you'll actually have a chance this time!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

1,582 emails OH MY!!!

See, my computer died back around September and I had to buy a new laptop, with a new operating system and a new email program. I had trouble getting my email address set up on my new computer. Meanwhile, I got another one set up so I could continue to work for the university and P31. Well, today (about 3 months later) I finally got that email address working ... and had 1,582 emails popping in my inbox!! Literally. Gulp!

SO IF YOU EMAILED ME in the last few months and did not get a response, this is why. I wasn't blowing you off - I just never received it until today! I'll work hard to plow through and respond to these this week. And thank you for writing to me because I truly do value that.

Friday, December 7, 2007

More pics from fall cruise event

My girlfriend Gwen and I are both on writing deadlines right now. So we email each other periodically to try to keep each other on track. Other times we email simply to make one another laugh. Gwen and I are on the same wavelength - we crack one another up, pretty much non-stop, with the goofiest stuff only we could appreciate. Its probably a good thing we only get to be roommates at events a couple times a year.

So the other day I'm writing and Gwen sends me an email that simply says "Remember them?" with a picture attached. Gwen is always taking and sending pictures. The picture she sent was of an older couple we saw walking together through the lobby of the Atlantic Hotel in Nassau. They looked a little bit corny, yet so cute and sweet at the same time. We adored them so we took a picture after they passed by. Here they are in all their adorable love and glory:

I told Gwen in 25 years she'll invite Rick and I to visit her and Brad during their annual vacation to the beach, as they have before. And Rick and I will show up in matching Hawaiian shirts. And when Gwen laughs at us I will say in all seriousness, "Whaaat?"

Actually, I truly do hope Rick and I are so in love in 25 years that we'd want to wear matching outfits while on vacation. Really, I'd be more than OK with that. Not now, mind you, but maybe then.
Just don't tell my image consultant friend Shari that I said so!
I hope you have a girlfriend that really makes you laugh. If you struggle with having female friendships, check out my devotion on that issue here.

Here's another cruise pic of me and Gwen with some of the lovely gals from Crossings Community Church:

Sunrise with God

The baking went well. I made two kinds of fudge, two kinds of cookies, and a pan of magic bar cookies. The party also went well yesterday. The Christmas cards, however, I never got around to. I have a million and two things to do today it seems, but chose this morning to spend an extended amount of time connecting with God and writing instead of worrying about that. I know I'll actually be more efficient this way.

Let me tell you about a new thing I've discovered that I love to have on during my morning time with God. Its a TV show called Sunrise Earth. Its one hour of the sun rising in a beautiful location in nature. There is no talking - only soothing and invigorating nature sounds from the location. Often there are wild animals in the camera shots, but there is almost never any humans, buildings or cars. I love it!

I can get it on the Animal Planet station, where unfortunately there are a few commercial breaks (TiVo could fix that). I also get it on the HDTV station, where it is absolutely stunning and commercial free.

If you can't get the program on your TV network, you can buy the DVD set here. It's a bit pricey. Or you can watch some of it for free on your computer - click here if you want to learn about doing that.

Just thought I'd pass along my latest quiet time tip as its really added to the experience for me. I wake up excited to watch the sunrise with God - from the recliner with my mug and Bible in hand. I'm the kind of gal that loves being in nature... as long as its not too cold (or too hot) ... and the mosquitoes aren't biting. OK, maybe I'm not that rugged after all. Therefore, for me, this show is ideal for spending winter mornings with God. Let me know if you try it, or if you already watch it and have a favorite "episode."

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Another pic of the tree

I'm still adding the just-right-thing here and there, but here's a full shot of this year's Christmas tree. Click to enlarge. Not all the lights are turned on. If you've got a picture of yours up on your blog, post your web address so we can all see it!
Today I need to address Christmas cards, run to the post office, run a few other errands, do some baking for tomorrow's Christmas party for my department at the university, and get a lot of writing done. I'm trying out a few cookie recipies I saw on the Food Nework - could be super yummy or turn out disasterous knowing the way I am in the kitchen! Thankfully, chili is already made and in the crock-pot for tonight.
Happy Holidays to you today.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

My Tree is Up

Today was decorating day at my house. That means almost a whole day enjoying some of my favorite things: Christmas carols, the Christmas tree, hot chocolate and time with my family. We put up the tree, set out the nutcrackers, hung the garland, wreath and mistletoe, and arranged the nativity scene.

I say "we" but mostly it was Rick and I doing the work because we also had 5 of the neighborhood kids in and out of our house all day playing with our 2 kids. I should also clarify that further ... the four girls did offer to help me decorate the tree but I just couldn't bear the thought of turning over my breakable ornaments to four giggling pre-teen girls. I also know myself well enough to know that if the lights and ornaments aren't placed on the tree in a somewhat balanced or symmetrical pattern, it will drive me nuts for the next four to five weeks! So the kids have their own mini Christmas trees they can decorate themselves and keep on their desks in their rooms.

Every year I like to do our Christmas tree a little bit differently. This year I've got kind of a theme - "The King's Tree" - going on with various crowns and wise men. What about you? Does your tree have a theme? Are you one of those laid back moms who lets the kids decorate the tree? Are you empty nesting and doing a tree differently than you've ever done before, or not at all? I'd love to hear about your tree, or your decorating traditions!