Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Few of My Favorite Things - October 2016 Edition

This has been a year of favorites for me - discovering some new ones, enjoying a few classic ones, and of course, spending time with a handful of breathing ones!

Therefore, I thought I'd start a new ongoing series sharing some of my current loves with you. I always love it when friends share theirs with me. I inevitably find a new product I can't believe I never knew about. Whether it's a helpful timesaver, or something that's just fun, anything that makes my world easier, less hectic, and brings me joy, is a very good thing. 

This summer I was part of a Favorite Things Summer Swap. It's a FTL Launch Team (For The Love) thing where each participant sent a box of their favorite summer products, treats, etc., to another FTL sister participating in the Swap. One day a box shows up at your house and it instantly makes your day! 

This is what my Swapple, Carrie, sent! Don't even get me started on the Wonder Woman glass in the background. IN LOVE!
My "Swapple" (yes, we've taken this FTL thing a bit too far, but it's wonderfully fun and we love each other) included this lovely tonic in my box, Bai Antioxidant Cocofusion. I was a skeptic at first because I've tried to like coconut water. I really have, but every brand I tried tasted gross. Not this one!

However, I cannot seem to find this particular version (with lime) anywhere near me. So I simply squeeze in half a lime (which I always have limes on hand). However, my favorite way to drink this tasty concoction is in my morning smoothies. I chock them full of healthy stuff you really don't want to hear about, but please ask me if you do. I'm happy to share. I'm working hard at getting more healthy things inside of me. So drinking Bai Antioxidant Cocofusion makes me feel like I've accomplished that.

At the beginning of the summer, I started losing weight. I wasn't trying. You could say it was a mixture of stress from a recent venture, the onset of TMJ which kept me from eating most anything which had to be chewed thoroughly, and a bit of a waning appetite from the two combined. 

On a side note, I no longer have TMJ! The Lord healed it in one day and I've been pain free for two whole months! Friends, keep praying, keep asking, keep knocking. We have a God who heals!

Please hear me. I could care less about my weight. I am truly happy. I love who I am, and I have never been insecure about my weight. Someone needs to hear that it's okay to be who you are, whether you have a few extra pounds or you're as skinny as a rail! If I ever begin to obsess about my weight, Lord, please make me fat! I think obsessing about being fat is worse than being fat because it's a mindset that says, "I'm not good enough," or, "There's something wrong with me." 

Good grief! Just be healthy. Take care of you the best you can, and that's been my goal this year - to take care of me and to get healthy. It was a personal mandate the Lord impressed upon me early on this year. So I've been working on that, not on losing weight. 

By September, some of my favorite tops were swallowing me up alive, and a couple of my pants/jeans that I wore all the time weren't fitting at all. We're talking a belt would be pointless! I mean who wants to look like an orphan wearing hand-me-downs tied up to look like a sack of potatoes? Not me. That's when I found this awesome online resale clothing site called ThredUp.

I am very particular about resale. I am personally not a fan of resale shops unless I'm looking for furniture. (I found the PERFECT piece for my bedroom a couple of years ago at a resale shop - exactly what was I was looking to purchase retail, but for probably a third of what it would've cost me in a furniture store.) 

ThredUp isn't your average resale clothing site. You can choose to shop by brand names, sizes, clothing specifics, and my favorite - condition of the item. I only look for things in "excellent condition. Could mistake for new," and "New with tags." This way I can shop my favorite brands and only view the items that I am willing to consider. I have found some AMAZING deals this way, many with the tags still attached and in excellent condition. With my limited budget, I've been able to get what I need as my body is transitioning and continuing to lose weight, and pay far less than I would in any store. ThredUp is perfect for me and my budget!

Another way I started investing in my health and taking better care of me was through using essential
oils. I just purchased this gem for my office after a recent health diagnosis. I was already diffusing Young Living essential oils at home, and using them daily. This little Orb™ Diffuser sits under my desk, (on top was in too close proximity) and the fragrance fills my office. I've had people come in and ask, "What is that smell? I really like that!" Well it's Lavender and Stress Away essential oils, a heavenly  blended scent which keeps me calm and happy. 

I don't sell the oils or have a web site, but I am a Distributor because I use them every day and I get greats deals and discounts as a Distributor. It's worth it if you're going to invest in yourself in this way. If you decide to become a Distributor to either sell them or simply to benefit from the discounts for you and your family, please feel free to sign up under my Young Living ID#: 3758835. These oils have helped me tremendously in my effort to become a healthier me. I've been using a few of them for over a year and the difference is significant. So worth it!

Last but certainly not least is a fun one. I am all girl, and I love getting gussied up! I know. I'm showing my age with that term. 

I discovered this new (to me) shade of lipstick at a Mary Kay Relaunch Party for my friend, Angie. I was looking to replace a color I loved in another line, but could no longer find. Once I put it on I instantly feel in love with it! I can wear it with just about anything, and I do! It's called Rosette, and it's a satin finish. Super creamy and it lasts for hours. I typically only have to reapply once throughout my day, if that. I'm currently wearing another color in this same finish called, Spice 'N Nice, and I haven't had to reapply at all today. Effortless makeup is my fav!

I hope you find some new favorite things from my list. Please share yours with me. I love hearing about products that make life easier, and are good for you. Also, in case you missed it, be sure to check out my last post about one of my new favorite books! I almost included it on this list, bit since I'd already devoted an entire blog post to it, I thought that might be overkill. 

Until next time, blessings, and please take good care of you! 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Best (Christian Fiction) Book I've Read All Year

This summer I was invited to join a friend at the relaunch of her Mary Kay business. I know. I'm such a sucker for supporting other women that I said, yes, just to honor my friend and to lend my support. Plus I use some MK products and was looking for a way to get what I needed much faster. My friend carries most all MK products in stock. Yes!

I was there with a room full of ladies I didn't know except for my friend, the consultant, but in a crowd of strangers I could do what I like most - observe. So I didn't mind.

As I started to leave, one other guest followed me out the door. She wasn't leaving, but was trying to catch me as I walked out the door. The conversation went a little like this...

Other Guest: "Do you like to read?"

Me: "Why yes, I love to read. I'm usually reading three or four books at a time. Why do you ask?"

Other Guest: "Well I felt like I was supposed to give you a copy of my book. I never do this, but I felt like the Lord wanted you to have one."

My new friend's name was Cindy Schroppel. We chatted briefly about the book (Skandalon)
and then I promised to follow up and left, realizing this was most likely a God-ordained meeting. I drove home wondering to myself, "Just what was in that book?"

I'll tell you what was in it - 1) a story of redemption that almost rivals the Biblical story of Hosea, 2) a drama so well crafted that you forget that this is the author's first novel, 3) and probably the best fictional depiction I can imagine of the battle being waged in the heavenlies for our very lives. 

I read all kinds of works: historical fiction/drama, biographies, books on leadership and ministry, and books on Christian growth, probably what I read the most. But when I want to read for sheer pleasure, my go to genre is Christian fiction. To each his own! I have a stash of Janette Oake's earlier works I'd love to give away to some sweet young reader (teens-20's). It would be my honor to pass those onto someone who'd love them as much as I did. They are treasured works which helped fuel my love for reading after I left college. (I didn't like to read before then. Thanks, for ruining that for me, high school required reading lists!)  

Skandalon is that sort of book. It's not dark. It's not heavy. It's simply a very well crafted story that will have you turning page, after page non-stop, until like me, you suddenly realize you've read the first 154 pages all in one sitting! I could hardly put it down. So I always made sure I had large blocks of time to devote to reading it.

This was Cindy's first novel. The Lord told her to write a book, and so with much trepidation and uncertainty in her own ability, she trusted God and wrote Skandalon in nine months time. The result was this gem that had me riveted! There were times when I had to stop and pray because the details surrounding the things happening in the spirit realm, were so realistic that I could not go on. The Lord was doing things in me and reminding me that I don't wrestle against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). I was convicted at times, and encouraged at others. Skandalon took me on the wildest roller coaster ride the whole way through! It was awesome!

Now if you've read any of Frank Peretti's works with a similar theme, do not think for one second that Skandalon is like his books. I've read a few and while good and revealing for the reader about what's going on in the spirit realm, both for and against us, I find his writings a bit darker than Cindy's work. Skandalon is a true love story, from start to finish, that theme remains true all throughout. It's practical, laden with scripture used as a tool in intercession, spiritual warfare and worship, and it's a drama in every sense of the word. 

A few weeks after meeting Cindy at my friend's house, we met up for a lunch with another friend of hers. There are moments when you just know this is about more than just a book. God is doing something here. Neither of us is exactly sure of the magnitude of that meeting at the MK gathering just yet, but after reading her book I am most definitely a fan!

Cindy is writing a Bible study to go along with the book. It should be available sometime in January. Bible studies, teaching, and leading worship are where Cindy feels most comfortable. That's just crazy to me after reading Skandalon. I can't wait to see what words she puts to paper next, because if writing novels is among her least comfortable gifting, then good grief! Where do I pre-order her next work?

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Best Stress Reliever

I had a stressful summer. Or so I thought until just this week.

Back in May I developed TMJ. I didn't realize that's what it was until the pain became more frequent and someone mentioned TMJ as possibly the cause. So I did some research and without a doctor's visit (because there is little to nothing a doctor can do for TMJ), determined my friend might be right.

I had been under quite a bit of stress because of an upcoming event. I'd also been waking up in the morning, often with my jaw clenched. Two very distinct signs of TMJ. As a result of this new found discovery, I began to take action and implemented some changes in my diet, and I added some nutritional supplements that had been suggested by most online sites.

As the summer wore on, my stress level lessened, as did my TMJ issues. It was still a somewhat stressful season for me, more than most summers. Then this week happened. 

I've become expressly aware of just how much stress we carry in our bodies on a regular basis. Thanks to this awful TMJ, it's become difficult for me to ignore. 

Yesterday was one of the most excruciating pain-filled days I think I've had, ever. Very little I did early on brought any relief. I couldn't think straight. I was completely distracted. 

I was so grateful for the quietness of the day. Hardly anyone was in the office and the phones were down. So, gratefully, I didn't have to interact with anyone which is something I don't know that I could've done given how debilitating my pain level was for most of the afternoon. I looked forward to going home so that I could rest, but that's when things became much worse.

Once I was home, the pain increased and became consistent. No temporary reprieve, Just pain. Non-stop. 

Then I remembered something - this little post I wrote just the day before. It was for my weekly Wednesday's Washing devotional.

As I was literally writhing in pain trying to find the most comfortable spot, I began to try to relax. I know! I can barely keep a straight face and I just wrote those words! How can you relax while in pain so great you can't sit still? But I tried, and I did, for a bit.

The only thing I could think to do to help me relax was to quote scripture - scriptures about peace, stillness, and about pain and disease. I tried to be as still as possible and envision myself resting in the Father's arms, free from pain. Um, it worked! Okay, I was still in pain, but sitting still took the edge off and I was able to start thinking more clearly. 

I eventually had the good sense to go grab the cold compress out of my freezer and toss it in the microwave. Heat helps to relax the jaw muscles. DUH! Why didn't I think of that sooner?

Why? Because pain does weird things to our bodies, including how we think, and stress makes you stupid. It's true. Something happens in our bodies chemically that makes us forget, unable to think clearly, and otherwise, a different person than if we were stress free. Don't believe me? Click on those links in this paragraph and read for yourself. 

So when I stopped and did the excruciating work of trying to relax my mind, I got different results. When I focused on the Lord, and not on my pain, things began to change, however slight that change might have been. 

Regardless, I received enough clarity in that moment that it helped me find a solution that worked immediately to relieve my pain. As a result, the rest of my evening was completely pain free. 

My point is this. We are often too worked up in the midst of a crisis to see our way clearly through it. Therefore, we panic. We don't respond rightly. We do all the wrongs things to get out of the trouble we're in because we fail to step back and just breath. Relax in the midst of the chaos. Still our mind.

I wonder how many relationships would be saved by simply taking a breath before responding in a heated conversation? I wonder how many accidents could be avoided by relaxing our grip on the wheel and not allowing others haste to affect our pace? I wonder how over anxious individuals could find peace by simply choosing to still their mind? 

Let's face it. Stress is inevitable. In fact, some stress is actually good for us. It's how we handle that stress that determines who we choose to become. 

In truth, I am a mess most days. A beautiful mess, but a mess none the less! I want to become a person of peace and one who can easily be at rest whether in pain or pain-free, stressed or not. I don't want to be controlled by my emotions. 

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You,

because he trusts in You.  Isaiah 26:3
( of the verses I meditated one while I was in pain.)

Friday, July 29, 2016

My Brave Face

This summer I have officially proclaimed Fridays, No Makeup Day! It's true. I haven't worn makeup not one Friday in July, except for a little mascara and some lip gloss, because let's be honest. I am a girly girl, and some things are simply non-negotiable!

It's hot here where I live. I walk outside and all that effort simply goes to waste. So in a sense, I'm saving time and money by not wearing any makeup. At least that's my rational.

I won't lie. I've been blessed with good genetics when it comes to skin. However, it's taken me years to see that even though I've heard it all my life. So going without hasn't been that big of a deal for anyone else but me. In truth, I'm not sure anyone has noticed, but then no one is hardly in our office on Fridays. So maybe I'm not as brave as you may think.

Never-the-less, it's been a little liberating sleeping in just a tad bit longer on Friday mornings (all 1 - 2 minutes of it), knowing I could skip a step in my morning routine. There's been days when I've even felt slightly mischievous, like if caught, the makeup police might give me a warning or a slap on the wrist. 

It's all rather silly. I know. But it's made me think.

We all put on some kind of face. We want to show our best self, the one we want everyone else to believe about us. We hide the truth about our lives behind a pasted smile or a cheery greeting, when really we're a mess inside. We're not as put together as we'd like for everyone to believe.

So instead of baring our true face, the one we look at every morning in the mirror, the one full of pain, heartache, disappointment, shame, and regret, we cover it all up for fear of being exposed. We don't know what might come with such exposure. Rejection? Judgment? Blank stares? Therefore, we keep it all in.

This week I didn't just bare my true face - the one I see in the mirror every morning. I also bared the one I've been keeping under wraps - the truth about my pain. It was one of the scariest things I've ever done, and once I did it, I felt so exposed! There was nothing I could do except wait for the response, if any. I anticipated rejection, judgment, and blank stares. There's probably been some of all of that happening in the privacy of the homes of those who read my story. That's okay. It's the response of those who reached out that has made putting on my brave face worth it. I've had some powerfully life-giving conversations this week, and I feel a bit closer to those individuals than I did before.

I don't know what face you might be keeping under wraps, or how unpresentable you might think it is to reveal. Let me encourage you to put your brave face forward. Dig deep down to that place which longs to be known. It's inside of each of us. We all want that - to be truly known, pain and all. It's gonna take some chutzpah (audacity)! But I believe it's in you. 

More than that, I believe you are worthy of being truly known. Yes, you with all your flaws, insecurities, and imperfections. Yet the face you put forth is the one people will come to know. I guess it all comes down to how tired you are of covering it up. 

I've learned it takes more effort to hide the truth, when just an ounce of courage can bring it to light.

Here's my Friday brave face. That smile is the real deal. Playful. Grateful. Amazed.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

I Asked the Question, by Angela Petry

Hey, friends! Cheryl here for just a bit to introduce you to my friend and fellow writer, Angela Petry. Angela is a frequent guest writer on my weekly Wednesday's Washing devotional blog, and she grew up in the church I attend. I love her heart and how she chooses to see the world. So when she told me about this post she wrote around the same time I wrote my last post, I knew I HAD to read it! I cannot think of a better follow up to the words I penned over the weekend, and a better person to say them. For some of you, I think what she shares may help to answer those nagging questions and thoughts you may have about what to do. Angela is doing it so effortlessly, and I believe her example might shed some light for those of you wanting to help bring healing.


I did it. I knew it might not be a happy or an easy thing, but it was time. In light of recent national events, I’ve been realizing that life cannot go back to normal; so, as my small group sat down to dinner, I opened with the share question, “How have you been affected by racial tensions in your life?”

Seven sets of eyes slowly turned away from mine, suddenly wide open, to stare at hands, at feet, at windows, at the ceiling – at any part of the room that wouldn’t cause a chance encounter with another set of eyes. Seven sets of eyes, divided suddenly into four ethnicities. To be honest, I expected this. I ignored the squirming in my belly, and let the silence stretch. Gently, I added, “If you don’t feel comfortable sharing, that is perfectly okay. This is a sensitive issue. But if you would like to share, it would be good to hear your heart.”

This was not my first time to ask this question recently. In the last two weeks, I’ve sat down with my black friends and asked or been asked this question – at a work meeting, at church, over tacos, and over spaghetti and meatballs. And each time, a somberness settled even more deeply over me.

That night, as the girls sat around my table and the silence stretched almost to the point of breaking, the girls slowly began to share. 

Stories of a family splitting only a few years ago over a white/black marriage – with the pastor on the side of the racists…
… of a Korean girl being ignored for years at a business meeting – a CHURCH’s business meeting – and still not having one friend from that group.
… a Hispanic girl, still unable to speak publicly of the hurt in her heart.
… a white girl, so ignorant of current racial tensions, that she didn’t even know her friends were regularly insulted, pulled over by cops, and stalked in shopping malls.
… of a black girl, treated as “less than” (insulted or yelled at even by people VISITING A PLACE OF WORSHIP as she sits in the seats to join in), and always having to ask herself, “is the way I was treated because of my race?”
… of a girl, terrified for the safety of her black brothers, even though they are good men, living good lives.
… of a girl saying, “I’m just not sure how much longer I can last.”

These are some of the stories of the eight women sitting at my table, who have been meeting regularly for over 6 months, and who had no idea of the deeply personal and nightmare-ish struggles that some in our midst face daily.

I’m coming awake to the startling idea that, when it comes to race, we can live in the same place but still not live in the same world. I’m ashamed I didn’t know this. I have been one of the clueless ones, thinking racism was a thing of the past except in random, tiny pockets.

That night, most of us cried. There were good tears – healing tears of girls who realized they were not alone, and that girls of multiple race experienced similar pains; there were compassionate tears – tears of girls whose hearts began to break, grieving with those who grieve; and there were also reluctant tears – unexpected and forceful, eeking out through stammered explanations of, “I didn’t expect to cry.”

Honestly, it wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t fun. It hurt a lot – both for the people sharing, and the people listening. But we did it. We didn’t fix national issues, and we didn’t even talk about solutions – but we did see each other, and as our eyes locked over the table in the aftermath of our stories, the kindness and gentleness and connection was nearly palpable.

As the church, we are to mourn with those who mourn. We are to be known by our love. There are huge groups of our friends in deep mourning, deep pain – do we even know it? How many relationships do we each have with people of different races? Are we reaching beyond ourselves and what is familiar at all? Are we even positioned to hear about the lives of those who are different from us? Are we setting lunch dates with our friends of different races, just so we can ask them how their hearts and their families are doing in the midst of the violence and fear that is filling this nation right now? These are the questions I am asking myself.

I don’t have any pretty words to close this story. I just know it’s time to speak. It’s time to listen. It’s time to pursue connection with people of different races as a lifestyle – to do more than just have nice intentions. It’s time to mourn.

Our stories, our vulnerability, tie us together; silence and distance keeps us apart. Perhaps maybe, just maybe, one person at a time, our love and our tears can even be a part of the healing.