Wednesday, October 14, 2015

DIY carpet cleaner for a house with dogs

We left the house for the weekend - closed up all the windows and turned off the Air. When we arrived back home it was as if we could see the fleas jumping across the carpet and feel them jumping up our legs. I guess the dogs had tracked them in before we left and the warm house for a few days perked the fleas right up.

Now if there is one thing I hate, it is fleas. I lose sleep when I know I share my house with them. The "old" me would have immediately gone to the store to buy as many bug bombs as I could find. We have, however, worked in the past few months to rid our house of as many chemicals as possible. It seemed like a lot of backward motion to bring the chemicals we worked so hard to rid ourselves of back into our home and our bodies.

Light bulb went off.

I quickly dug through my sources for how I could use my essential oils and other items I had in my cabinets for a way I could remove the fleas without adding the harsh chemicals.

I regularly make my own vacuum carpet powder using baking soda and essential oils. I discovered that if you use salt instead, not only does it help to kill the fleas but it also the flea larvae. Fleas also are deterred by the smell of lavender, tea tree, and lemongrass (just to name a few). These oils also possess so many other antibacterial, calming, and purifying benefits so I knew if the salt trick failed, we would at least wake up to a clean smelling house.
So I gave it a shot.
For every cup of salt, I used 1/4 cup of baking soda (for good measure), 20 drops of lavender, 15 drops of tea tree, and 10 drops of lemongrass. I like to be liberal with my oils!
I mixed it all together in the container I had available. To cover the carpets in our house I filled the container 3 times with the mixture. I let it sit on the carpets overnight, for about 12 hours. 

It was successful! I went through the house twice with the vacuum. When I vacuumed up the mixture I placed all the dirt in an airtight bag and sealed it shut. I wanted to be sure that if I had gotten fleas, they would not escape. Not only did my mixture attach itself to the fleas but they were all dead in the bag. Plus 1 for me!

To be safe with my flea-ridding measures, I then mixed together my go-to household cleaner using some of the same oils. In my cleaner I used 1 part water and 1 part apple cider vinegar. Vinegar is another item that not only provides health benefits but also deters fleas. I have found great success cleaning with it, it gives an extra sparkle without the chemicals. I also make this cleaner using only water and the EOs, but the vinegar gives it an extra kick of power. 
I used approximately the same amount of oils in the cleaner as I did in the carpet powder.
I sprayed liberally around all the door frames to outside and all of the window sills. I also used this to clean the tile floors and the walls. 

In addition to the bath our dogs received, I also sprayed them down with this cleaner. I decided none of the ingredients were harmful and it would help protect them from those nasty bugs while they played outside.

I am happy to say that our home is now flea-free! Happy Cleaning! 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

It Is Well

"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger"

I, along with countless other Christians, went through a phase where this popular song was proclaimed, wept, and featured at every gathering. It became cliche, and I never heard anyone mention the gravity of what the words were asking. There was no warning that God will indeed take our trust to places it has never been before. He will allow us to be stretched to the end of our rope so that He can rebirth us into strong and powerful beings. And as He urges our feet deeper than we've wandered before, somewhere in the clamor He will whisper oh-so-quietly, "Do you trust me? Do you still have your eyes on me, when it hurts so deeply and the waves are crashing in around you? Do you really trust me?" Suddenly we'll be in the new territory, a place of trust we've never been before. It is alarming yet it is exactly what we prayed for.
But, there was little warning that the simple line of the song might actually happen.

Because then the terrifying prayer came true. In the blink of an eye, my trust was taken to a place where it had no borders. The heart that had declared through many choruses that it would walk on the water sank in doubt. I hadn't been warned to listen carefully for the small voice asking for my deep and true trust. Being taken to a place where trust is without borders is uncomfortable. For me it came in the form of Heartbreak. Hurt. Stress. Uncertainty. Grief. Doubt. I allowed the Enemy in, to steal my faith, kill my joy, and destroy the strength I possessed to keep my eyes above the waves.

Time has now diminished the intensity of the circumstances and I realize the trust that Christ was trying to work into the core of my soul. Time does not have to heal all wounds. I waited on time; Christ did not come so that I could wait on time, or allow the sadness to run its course. He came so that I might have abundant LIFE and healing. The permeating healing that my heart desperately needed comes only through victory in Christ.

And today I am victorious. My victory does not mean I did not feel sadness. Rather, I remained in that place for far too long. I learned the sweet comfort of knowing that the One who brings me to victory also sympathizes with my weakness, he bears my sadness. I had to endure the grief to understand how deeply the Father cares for me. He who carries my burdens, who stretches my trust and faith, is faithful to carry me to victory.

When I was dead in my sin, He made it well with my soul.
When I doubted, when I was chained in sadness, He made it well with my soul.
When I did not trust, He made it well with my soul.
When I did not listen to the small voice, He made it well with my soul.
When I allowed the Wicked One to use lies to drown out His promises, He made it well with my soul.
When I went to the Enemy's camp to reclaim all he stole from me, He made it well with my soul.

Today as I stand in victory, it IS well with my soul.
Today as I choose to embrace healing, joy, and peace, it IS well with my soul.
This is my reason to sing: Through it all, IT IS WELL.

Sunday, June 1, 2014


 My grandfather passed away last week and though my family is certainly mourning the loss, we are also rejoicing in him being with his Maker in perfect wholeness and healing. This has me thinking about the abundant life that Christians have and what abundant life means.

It was a few years ago around this time when I sat my mother down on a rainy evening and confessed that an eating disorder had wrapped its gnarly fingers around my heart and my health. It would still be a few months before I allowed Hope to shine its rays into my darkness and anchor my soul to the mercy found at the feet of Jesus. And even when I came to the point where I personally wanted freedom from bulimia, I have an enemy who wants to destroy every inch of freedom achieved.
When I went to a Christian college for my first semester I learned to become more comfortable with my testimony. I learned to tell my story not out of shame or disgust, but out of the attitude of "look how Christ has walked with me in my struggles." In the past six months, however, the enemy has found some chinks in my defenses. These fiery arrows that were shot at my heart turned into valuable lessons. Maybe I have not handled these circumstances with great spiritual maturity in the heat of the moment, but I have walked away from them as a much stronger person. I have learned the great value of speaking words that bring life to myself and to others, the importance of bringing thoughts captive, and that my heart must first and foremost be submitted to the authority of Christ.

There are certain things that I find sometimes trigger negative thought patterns and actions. I think it is incredibly hard to speak kindly to myself when others speak negatively to their bodies (or mine). It also is more difficult to think kindly about my body after a day of splurging or not exercising, or when I am tired or stressed. So this evening, after a weekend consisting of potlucks dinners, buffet-style meals provided to my family, and unhealthy road snacks for the trip to my grandfather's funeral I was almost surprised to find myself showing grace to my body and speaking life instead of encouraging a downward spiral in my thoughts. I realized that I am FREE, so why should I expect myself to still act or think in the ways I did when I was chained by my sin?
This led me to think of just how far I have come and what it's like to taste abundant freedom in this life, to know that chains no longer shackle my heart but to know beyond any doubt that I AM FREE. Sometimes I am tricked into thinking that I have to earn more freedom and only can lose one little chain at a time. This is a lie. When I surrendered my heart to Christ, He bought my freedom. He did not buy a short supply or one chain at a time. He paid for it ALL.
In Christ, I am not my struggle. I am not defined by the authority I chained my heart to in the past. I am not bound by what the enemy says to me or about me. My worth is not determined by others.
Every wrong that I have done is swallowed up in the right of Christ and wrong done to Him. My chains are swallowed, death is beaten, and sin has lost the battle.

And so today I am thankful for the glorious and abundant freedom that I have found and I choose to proclaim His excellencies to others.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Yoga's Life Lessons

Confidence and endorphins from a good workout led me tonight to add a longer yoga routine to my daily ritual (I definitely recommend this one!). I have my normal set of Sadie Nardini, Jillian Michaels, or BeFit yoga practices I enjoy but after a week of free styling my own practice I was in the mood for something structured and slightly different. Despite the familiarity of the poses, something about them felt especially challenging.
After holding each pose for what felt like an obscene length of time, Nardini's words, "Hold this pose for 3 more breaths" offered hope for shaky muscles and a tired mind. While inflicting such pain and weariness, however, Nardini repeatedly reminded that transformation does not come without pain. Transformation happens through the burn, the holding of poses, and the pushing through of those final breaths in the practice. Without those key ingredients, there is no transformation.
All of Nardini's talk of body transformation brought to mind a motivational (and, for once, not ominous) quote of Jillian Michaels. During one of her yoga instructions she states that "it's not about perfect. It's about effort. And when you bring that effort every single day, that's where transformation happens... It is not a future event, it is a present day activity."

Though these instructors mentioned transformation in relation to yoga, I find them true for life. Sometimes transformation cannot come without great pain. The sticky situations must be endured just a little longer and it may be tempting to give up or give in to discouragement when the best does not feel good enough. Life, however, is not about being perfect, it is indeed about effort. Transformation happens when effort is delivered. When the heart begins to shake from weariness the exhausted soul should not give up. Just as muscles have to shake and endure uncomfortable positions to see growth, the heart similarly must walk through fire. But push through; the path of seeming fire may lead straight to transformation.

I close with the words of C. S. Lewis:
"It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: It would be a jolly site harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad."

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Handiworks and Workmanships.

This is the sunset I followed all the way home after a long day at school. My heart was in awe of the beauty and creativity of God. I did not try to suppress my worship for the majesty but took advantage of the opportunity my commute provided me to bask in God's presence. 
The words that kept repeating in my mind were, "Your handiwork is glorious!"
Because really, that's what it is. It is beautiful and glorious and majestic; there are hardly words enough to describe the goodness of God in His creation, and certainly too few words to describe the Creator. The heavens declare God's grandeur. 
I have never once looked at a sunset or some other spectacular "handiwork" and scoffed at it. I've never seen it and stated, "You know, you really left a lot to be desired today. You actually are quite flawed. You didn't meet the mark of what I thought you should look like. Your colors were not vibrant, your originality was lacking, your beauty was in incomplete. Really quite inadequate." 

Back up 8 hours in my day to my commute to school when I listened to Ephesians on the YouVersion app. Chapter 2 states that we are God's workmanship, created in Christ to do good works. When I think of handiwork I imagine something designed by hand but not requiring the degree of skill or technique that a workmanship might. Still valuable, still important, and still beautiful but not a workmanship. Workmanship... Generally, when I think of qualities of a workmanship I envision an artist at work before a tapestry. He devotes every waking moment to crafting something glorious that will bring fame to his name. He pours his creativity, his time, and possibly his very soul into his workmanship. A good artist will ensure that each of his masterpieces possesses a unique character of himself, as if he imparts a piece of his image to his work. 
And when the artist completes his work, he takes a step back and admire his artistry. He will be proud of his work and overlook the flaws it might possess. He devoted his heart to creating it, why would he be quick to point out its shortcomings? He views it and sees its potential and goodness. He declares his art exceptional because it is his workmanship.

How fascinating that I cannot bring myself to speak negatively about the handiwork of God (his creation in nature) but daily speak harsh and disrespectful words to the workmanship (the image bearer). When I bask in the glory of creation, I bask in the very glory of God. The creation points to the creator. But I was struck that when I demote the creation, I likewise reduce the Creator. 
I recently have found myself slipping into the nasty old (yet very familiar) pattern of self-disrespect. I notice only the shortcomings and inadequacies. I pick a fine tooth comb through failures, faults, undesirable events and incompleteness. Yet when I take this workmanship and declare it unsatisfactory, I imply that the Creator and his creativity are faulty.

And so this is a daily reason to sing. When the creator looks at this creation he sees his image bearer. He does not see it as possessing too much of this or too little of that. He chooses not to see the glaring faults or not-so-glorious inadequacies. If God can believe in the beauty of his workmanship, the workmanship should believe in the beauty, too. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Sneaker Emotions

Some emotions are reliable, and it is easy to predict when they will arise. They are the steady ones experienced throughout the day, the week, the normal drone of life.
Recently, I have been surprised by a wave of sneak emotions. I tend to take advantage of the reliability of my "feels" - generally happy, generally optimistic, and generally a little slowed down after a string of cloudy days. These sneaker emotions came like a sucker punch in the gut. They appeared with zero warning yet invaded with optimal force. I despise the general feeling of sadness and often am guilty of covering them up with happiness (fake it till you make it, right?).
I have felt this set of sneaker emotions before and I hoped to not feel them again. A large portion of disappointment, an unhealthy pressure, a tinge of sadness, a darkening discouragement. When these sneaker emotions left me the last time, I remember pleading that I would not feel them again. I shook my finger at God and declared I was not strong enough to endure a second round.
It is tempting to cave to the popular idea that I have to be ok/fine/good. I believe the more courageous decision, however, is to allow oneself to feel all the feels sometimes.
And so today I decide to be brave. It takes far more courage to look these emotions in the eye and actually process and plunge deeper to the heart of their meaning than shoveling fake happiness over them. Growth is not easy and the adventure of experiencing the growing pains is rarely comfortable - but He who calls on the journey is faithful. Oh, He is faithful!
I was never created to be depressed, guilty, condemned, ashamed, or unworthy. I was created to be victorious. Victory does not mean never experiencing those feelings but it does mean I will have to look them in the eye and declare that in the end they do not have power over me.

I conclude with a quote by Edward Vernon Rickenbacker: "Courage is doing what you're afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you are scared."
So today, though I am afraid, I will feel all the feels coursing through my veins. I will feel them, face them, and conquer them.
Today, though I am afraid, I will put my trust in Him who feels the feels with me but is the author of all peace and joy and fulfillment.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Irreducible Minimum

This semester of college has presented me with numerous different experiences than I faced last semester. One of these new aspects is the commute. To redeem the 40 minute drive in the mornings, I decided to start listening to podcasts by motivational speakers or pastors. (One can only listen to the top 40 hits before memorizing every word and growing weary of the tunes.)
This morning's message was about the irreducible minimums in an individual's life. The speaker, Louie Giglio, posed the question of, when everything else is stripped away, what is the one thing (the irreducible minimum) that you cannot live without?

At first I gave the obligatory Christian response: The one thing I cannot live without is Jesus. Jesus is always a safe answer in Christian circles.
I almost forsook the podcast believing it would be just another preachy message about how Jesus needs to be first in a believer's life. I halfheartedly thought of the trivial things that add pleasure to my life but that I could easily (or not so easily) live without, such as coffee, Instagram, dark chocolate, Ella Fitzgerald, hot tea... these things are nice but in a life or death situation I could probably survive without them (though I am not too sure about the coffee).
Then the contemplations began (this 40 minute drive provides almost too much time to think). When someone has a revelation of the one thing they cannot live without, if they are wise they will do everything in their power to make sure they always have a steady supply of this, whatever it may be. They will chase it and pursue it and grab onto it with a persevering grip. It will be the prize that motivates their very existence. Pondering this somehow hit the nail on the head in my thoughts.

I have spent this semester chasing so many things, acting as if I only achieved them this growing hole in my heart could somehow be satiated.

I realized one "reducible" minimum when I viewed a test grade on this fateful Monday morning. My grades have been both a topic of pride and insecurity. Something whispers to my soul that my grades reflect my competencies not just as a student but as a whole human being. I am guilty of surrendering a piece of my worth to those numbers circled in red. I became comfortable and dependent upon my A average, mistakenly believing that my identity, worth, and competency were all reflected in that. I have often stated in the past that I would "not be able to handle" making anything less than an A. On this fateful Monday while the B swam before me through a few immature tears, I took a deep breath and repeated the words of Aibileen Clark from The Help: "You is kind. You is smart. You is important." Achieving all As is certainly a good goal, but it is merely a reducible minimum. Life goes on, even with Bs.

There is a more prominent, yet very reducible irreducible minimum that I have recently established in my life. I am attempting to convince myself that it is reducible and life will continue even though it has not gone as anticipated. At my former college, I took advantage of the very deep, vulnerable, honest, and close connections I made with people. In my optimistic spirit, I believed that life at my new school would be a continuation of my former college. I would make friends and establish a brand new identity in this brand new large circle of friends. These connections, too, would be deep and personal.
Unfortunately, my new college very much has the mindset of a commuter school. Connections are few and far between. I began keeping tally of the people I would speak to and conversations I would have in one day, in a desperate effort to challenge myself to speak to people even when these attempts were hardly productive. This tally soon began to feel like a number representing my silent pleas throughout the day, begging for that feeling of connection and belonging in social circles. The desire to establish friendship connections motivated a piece of my existence that simply was not being satisfied.
I firmly believe that friendships are important and I will not abandon either of these goals, to make As or to make friends, but when I elevate these goals to a position of being irreducible minimums, my hopes will be sorely disappointed and my heart never satisfied.

Instead of pursuing these goals and placing them as highest priority in my life, it is imperative to remember the goal that will not disappoint. "I run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God's heavenly call offers in Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:14).
As I pursue the prize of Christ, my grade will not be a reflection of my worth but of a best attempt - an attempt that brings honor to the One who is truly deserving.
As I pursue the prize, I will not seek to talk to others for my own benefit. I will connect with them so that I can love extravagantly and not prioritize my own "need" for friendship.
And really, as I pursue the prize of the call of Christ, this should be my goal anyways. To love extravagantly, to put others first extravagantly, to be extravagantly faithful, and to be extravagantly hopeful, joyful, and persevering.

All of these ponderings still do not answer the question. What is an irreducible minimum?