A Harvest of Blessing
WHEN GOD RETURNS A PASSION

WHEN GOD RETURNS A PASSION

After a year of feeling a lack of a vision and as though God had taken my passion for the orphan away, this month it feels like it’s slowly coming back. Adoption and orphan care in general has really been on my heart for the past few weeks, after pretty much a year of a hiatus.

There are a few reasons adoption has been at the front of my brain more than normal recently:

ONE

November is National Adoption Month and I can’t help but see mention of it everywhere on social media since I follow so many people who have adoption as part of their story.

TWO

As I’ve been mentioning here (and on social media) all. month. long. this month marks Ephraim being in our family for one year! Still crazy to believe, it feels like he’s always been here.

THREE

Also, inspiring local friend of mine started an Instagram community a few years ago through the hashtag #knittogetherforadoption which has grown tremendously and every November they do daily prompts for those in the adoption world to join in with. I’ve never been good about joining in more than a few days a year but it’s always inspiring to go through and get to know some of the journey’s others have been on. If you or someone you know has adoption as a part of their story you (and they) should definitely check it out.

FOUR

Oh yeah, and another huge reason: my friend Marie, who has inspired me for years, you may remember I photographed their third adoption homecoming 2.5 years ago, I was just looking back on that post and the last thing I wrote was: “Marie, if God asks you to do it again, I’ll be waiting at the airport, camera in hand.” Well, they are doing it a fourth time and I get to photograph them coming through the airport doors this week! I’m already getting teary just thinking about it (hopefully I’m not too big of a mess when I’m supposed to be taking pictures).

FIVE

I just came across the Around the World with the Archibald Project Podcast, if you haven’t heard of The Archibald Project in their own words: The Archibald Project is an orphan care advocacy organization. We use media to tell stories. These stories advocate for orphans, educate on orphan care, build community and inspire people into action. Because of our stories fewer people are called orphans. I’ve been following the Archibald Project for years and loved their mission right from the beginning, I can get lost in their photos, videos and now their podcast. They have interviewed a variety of different people and often give some practical ways the average person can help with orphan care in some capacity.

So yeah, adoption, adoption, adoption.

To be honest, I think after we got back from South Africa last year I was a bit burnt out on adoption. Yes, we had just successfully complete ours and were obviously living it, but after the years of adoption ups and downs I was just ready to be done thinking about it for a bit. In some ways it was almost as though my heart was hardended to it, hmm, that’s probably not the right way to put it, but after years of watching every single adoption video and listening to every story I could find I purposefully went out of my way to avoid them, admittedly I even unfollowed some of my friends on Instagram who were heavily posting about adoption because I just needed a break. The few orphan care videos, blog posts and Instagram posts I did happen to see pretty much did nothing, they didn’t move me like they had for the 15 years prior. It was difficult to have such a desire taken away. In some ways it felt as though I had lost part of my identity.

Last week Raeca and I watched an adoption video on YouTube and by the end we were both teary – and it was a happy video and no one in it was even crying (except us). It really felt like God had returned my passion for the orphan back to me.

I feel like this post sounds like it’s coming around to some kind of announcement of us saying we are adopting again, it’s not that kind of post, trust me. But I do feel as though I’m ready to start advocating for the orphan again, I’m not exactly sure how that will look here but I just wanted to explain a little as to why I didn’t talk about adoption here much for the past year, besides some updates on Ephraim, and why my posts here and on social media may be swinging back around to sharing the knowledge and resources I have on orphan care.

I started this blog three years ago to advocate for the orphan and now with this passion returning it feels good, like I’m coming home. 

SAJE WELLNESS – POCKET PHARMACY REVIEW

SAJE WELLNESS – POCKET PHARMACY REVIEW

Saje Wellness Pocket Pharmacy Review

Like all my essential oil posts, I’m not getting paid or compensated to talk about certain oils or companies, I’m just as girl who started out a little skeptical about essential oils and thought I’d share my journey for any others out there that may feel the same way. You can read my previous posts about essential oils here.

Two weeks ago I went to a seminar at Saje given by the co-founder of the company, Jean-Pierre. It was a very informative seminar, not because he really told us anything about essential oils that I hadn’t already heard or known but I found it so very interesting to hear his personal story and how when he was at his lowest point (mentally and physically) he heard about and started looking into essential oils and that’s how the company all began.

I love that Saje is that it’s a Canadian oil company (finally!) and they offer free shipping in North America for orders over $75 so my American friends aren’t left out.  Plus, they have a physical location not to far from me, other than the seminar I’ve never been in there (and it was packed that night so I’m not sure if that counts anyway) but I love that they have testers and you can go in and talk to the staff, I’m definitely going to do that soon – you know, one day when it warms up and I don’t have to lug both of the kids out with me

After the seminar I purchased the pocket pharmacy because I’d been wanting to mix up some oils in roller balls to have in my purse anyway and this way I got a bunch of oils and a handy case as well. I love that it gives me a chance to try out a couple of different blends and the rollers are all refillable so when they are empty you can either put in your own blends or just purchase bigger bottles of the ones from Saje and refill them.

The pocket pharmacy kit contains 5 oils: peppermint halo, immune, eater’s digest, stress release and pain release. Since I’ve had a few weeks to use the oils I thought I would share my thoughts on each one!

A sidenote for anyone interested in the carrier oil used, Saje uses grapeseed oil in these blends.

peppermint halo (headache remedy): unfortunately this one doesn’t seem to work for me. I get headaches every few days, it always stems from my neck/jaw and this doesn’t work for those headaches for me. That being said, I’ve heard that this blend works really well for some people. I’m definitely going to keep trying it for awhile and if it still doesn’t work for me I might make my own blend to pop in this cute roller ball.

immune (germ & virus fighting): this little oil has been getting a lot of use in our house. I’ve been rolling it on my neck and feet and on the kids’ feet as well. Raeca asks for it and both kids like to roll it on their own feet. Our colds have definitely been reduced this year and I definitely think essential oils in general have made that happen. Having this blend in a handy little roller means I remember to use it more which definitely means it’s more useful.

eater’s digest (digestion easing): to be honest, no one in the house has really needed this oil yet (yay!) so I can’t comment on whether or not it actually works for us but it smells really good!

stress release (reduces anxiety and promotes relaxation): I haven’t used this oil much because I personally don’t like the smell but I have been using it on Raeca a fair amount (down her neck and onto her shoulders), she asks for it a lot. I haven’t noticed a difference with her yet but this one might be one of those oils where the results take awhile to show.

pain release (reduces inflammation and relieves muscle pain): absolutely my favorite oil in the kit. Truthfully, my roller is almost empty. I use it on any sore muscles I have and it works in a matter of minutes. I also have a problem with achy knees, ankles and feet, I think they usually flare up in the cold weather and when I’ve been on my feet a lot, so almost every day lately. This has been happening to me for years and I never found anything that eased the pain until this oil. I just use the roller to put some on my hand and then rub my hand all over my knees and within a few minutes the pain goes away. I actually never even realized that my ankles and feet also hurt because the pain in my knees was so bad, the first time that I tried this after a few minutes my knees felt better but I noticed my ankles hurt so I added some oil there and then after a few minutes they felt better but I noticed my feet hurt . . . and since that time I’ve realized that they all hurt but my knees are just so much more that it was blocking out most of the other pain, so now when they get back I just rub the oil all over my knees, ankles and feet and within a few minutes I’m good to go! This is one that I will definitely be refilling over and over again!

Have you ever purchased from Saje? Any product suggestions?
Do you have any blends (from any company or that you’ve mixed yourself) that you find work really well? If so, please share! 

MY FAVORITE ESSENTIAL OILS & WAYS I LIKE TO USE THEM

MY FAVORITE ESSENTIAL OILS & WAYS I LIKE TO USE THEM

Uses for Essential Oils

It’s been over a month now since I’ve received the bulk of my essential oils and I thought I’d share a few of my favorite ways I’ve been using them.

Since I got a little overwhelmed at the number of oils I have I decided to just start using a few of them for now and once I know the uses for those ones I’ll look into using some of the other ones.

Essential oils are usually diluted with a carrier oil because they are so potent on their own. For the most part I dilute the oils in coconut oil (I just melt the coconut oil and then add the essential oils in and it hardens again), except when it comes to Raeca, she reacts to coconut oil (gets a bit of a rash) so when I use essential oils on her I dilute them with almond oil.

Another thing I want to note: I’ve read that some essential oils with work for some people and not for others, kind of like how Tylenol works for some (not me) and Advil works for others (me!), so just because an essential oil doesn’t work for you when everyone else claims it’s amazing doesn’t mean that essential oils don’t work, but maybe you need to try a different one to find one that will work for you.

Uses for Essential Oils

Some of the oils I’m sharing about today are single oils and some are blends, for the blends I’ve also shared which store I’ve purchased the blend from just as an FYI, most brands will have similar blends. For instance, a few companies carry “thieves oil” while other companies have the same oil but call it something different, often a name with the word “immune” in it.

Also, I’m not a doctor or anything, this is just how I use essential oils for myself and my family.

SINGLE OILS

tea tree
* I use this undiluted on my face for acne, I just put one or two drops into my palm and then use my fingertip to put it on any breakouts, it does seem to help, I have a friend who says lemon works the same way for her but I haven’t found it to work for me (thought it does smell a lot better, so I wish it did!)
* this is also one of the oils I use in my diy deodorant

lemon
* any one out there use Goo Gone? lemon essential oil has completely replaced it for me, I add a bit of lemon essential oil to a cloth or paper towel and rub the sticky glue off of my old glass jars so I can reuse them
* lemon is a great oil for cleaning and I use this in my basic cleaning solution (I’ll share that recipe soon!)

peppermint
* I use this one in my diy deodorant as well

orange
* I add a few drops in to my kitchen garbage when I put a fresh bag in, it helps remove any nasty smells and makes it smell citrusy

lavender
* I’m not a huge fan of the smell of lavender but I’ve added one drop to my tube of mascara because I’ve heard it strengthens eyelashes, I don’t wear mascara very often so I can’t say I’ve noticed a difference yet but I figured it couldn’t hurt to try it

oregano
* when I feel a cold coming on I add 2-3 drops into about a quarter cup of water and drink it quickly with a straw (without the straw all your food for the rest of the day will taste Italian). I made sure the oregano oil I use says its for internal use (I have this one that I got from a local store) and it seems to stop a cold in it’s tracks

BLENDS

thieves (Eden’s Garden)
* I love putting this one in the diffuser, when diffused it is supposed to kill airborne germs so I often have this running when we have people over or shortly after they leave. friends, we love you, we just don’t want your germs :)
* it is also supposed to be good for building up immunity so I mix this with a carrier oil and put it on the my feet in the mornings (and I do the same for the kids’ feet)
* one of the oils used in my diy deodorant
* and of course there is my favorite thieves oil foaming hand soap

calming the child (Plant Therapy)
* I dilute this one in carrier oil and put it on Raeca’s neck before bed. Since I started doing this she’s had no night terrors, I’m not sure if that’s just a coincidence or not but it does seem to help calm her down in general too

purification (Eden’s Garden)
* this one I run in the diffuser when we’ve made something that doesn’t smell so great, like fish, or after breakfast since Jared usually boils a few eggs and I can’t stand the smell

muscle relief (Eden’s Garden)
* this one seems to work great on sore muscles, just mix it with a carrier oil and rub it on wherever you feel soreness

This is just a start into the oils I’ve been trying, I definitely think there will be a part two to this post in the next few months.

You can view the rest of my posts on essential oils here.

What are your favorite oils and ways to use them?

Linking up with Oak+Oats

*  *  *  *  *

Feel free to join the Share the Journey link up, a place where we could share our hearts and the journey’s we are all on.

And because link ups are created so we can share and find other blogs, if you link up please comment on at least the blog that is linked up before yours. 

SAGITTAL CRANIOSYNOSTOSIS

SAGITTAL CRANIOSYNOSTOSIS

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for some time now, a lot of people come to this blog after searching sagittal craniosynostosis so I thought I would take the time to write out Raeca’s story. I know the first thing I did when we were given the diagnosis of sagittal craniosynostosis was Google it like crazy, I just wanted to read a full story that would encourage me and help get rid of some of the fear I had of the unknown.

This story might not be all that brief but I wanted to share it for all those parents and grandparents out there who are in that same spot, Googling those same words because they have that same fear.

I’ve tried to keep everything as accurate as possible but I’m already forgetting a lot of the details and of course the journals where I would possibly have some of this written down are all packed away right now. If I remember more details as time goes on I’ll be sure to update this post.

On Saturday, October 2, 2010 Raeca was born, a full 10 days over her due date as the doctors had figured it, but right on the date I had calculated for her. We thought she was perfect in every way. The pregnancy had been relatively smooth, the doctors were worried that she was measuring small so we had a few extra ultrasounds done but she was doing well and she weighed in at 7lbs 9oz at birth and 20 inches long? (I think, man, it’s been almost 4 years, and I’m already forgetting). Our hospital stay was short and uneventful, we were released to go home on the following Monday.

sagittal craniosynostosis

A few days after she was born I noticed that her head was a little oddly shaped but didn’t say anything to anyone. I remembered that right after she was born the doctor said she came out with her hand up by her head so I figured that was maybe why it seemed to be a bit flat on the side and thought it would just take a little time to smooth out.

As the weeks went on I became increasingly aware of the flatness of the sides of her head. I had lot of other friends having babies around the same time and they were all concerned about the flatness of the back of their babies heads since doctors currently recommend babies sleep on their backs so it seemed strange that my baby was having the exact opposite problem.

At her 6 week check up Raeca’s doctor mentioned that her soft spot was very small and almost closed (they aren’t supposed to close until 18 months or so). I believe it was at this time it was mentioned that they would file the paperwork to refer her to a specialist.

The one disadvantage to the health care in Canada is the long wait times. We never did hear anything after that.

Then at around 5 months (the end of February 2011) we ended up having to take Raeca in to the emergency room as she had some eczema that quickly got infected, despite two trips to the doctor the day before and day of but it didn’t go away and only got worse.

sagittal craniosynostosis

in the hospital, the only place they could get the IV in was the top of her head
February 2011

This trip ended up being a blessing in disguise, they admitted Raeca fairly quickly and I remember hearing the nurse call up to pediatrics upstairs and from the sounds of things she was talking to someone we knew. Which wasn’t a huge surprise, we live in a small area and know a lot of nurses that work on peds in that hospital. But it turns out she wasn’t talking to a nurse but rather a pediatrician I knew because I had taken her family photos just the fall before, it was nice to have a pediatrician we knew and trusted. After Raeca was set up with antibiotics for the infection the doctor mentioned her head right away, and she said she would make sure to not release Rae until a specialist had been in to look at her. What a blessing that turned out to be! I think we stayed two or three nights in the hospital and one day a neurosurgeon did come up to look at her with his team and got some x-rays ordered to be done while she was still in the hospital. Then we were told we’d get an appointment set up for March with the neurosurgeon and go from there.

In March we met with the surgeon again and things were a little inconclusive. Of course we didn’t want our precious little girl to have to have surgery but we didn’t want to make the wrong decision by saying she wouldn’t have the surgery and then regretting that decision.

sagittal craniosynostosis

March 2011

So in May Rae went in for a CT scan in which we hoped to get a few more answers.

sagittal craniosynostosis

waiting for the scan in her cute little gown
and contrary to how it looks in this photo she does have two arms

The results came back pretty positive, there wasn’t pressure on her brain (aka her skull was big enough for her brain) so the surgery would be purely cosmetic but at this point her head had continued to grow long and not round and the neurosurgeon strongly suggested we do the surgery. That was all we needed to hear and we agreed with him.

On May 31st, Jared’s birthday we got the letter with her surgery date: July 11th, Rae would be just over 9 months at the time.

sagittal craniosynostosis

July 10th, 2011 – the day before her surgery
I wanted to document how long and narrow her head had grown

Monday, July 11th came and we needed to be at the hospital by 6am. While we were sitting there waiting for her to be admitted I remember looking at our paperwork and the section where it said that the surgery was funded by The Government of Saskatchewan. Honestly, I’d never cared much for public health care but in that moment I was ever so grateful. I remember reading on forums before her surgery that this same procedure had cost people $10,000+, it was so nice to not have to worry about that and I could just focus on her.

She was a trooper that morning, she wasn’t allowed to eat or drink since the evening before and between all the paperwork and our meeting with the anesthesiologist and other random doctors and nurses it was a few hours before she was ready to go in for surgery. When we finally went in to the room before they took her to the operating room I remember we were sitting by an older couple, the woman had cancer and was waiting to have surgery as well and Rae kept looking over at her and smiling, oblivious to what lay ahead for both of them but I loved that she was giving that lady something to smile about.

Then a nurse came to take Raeca, I found it very hard to let go but managed to keep it together until we got to the waiting room where both my parents and Jared’s parents were waiting, and then I finally let myself cry.

The procedure involves the surgeon cutting open the skull from one ear all the way up and over to her other ear and cutting pieces of the bone away where the soft spots should be. In addition they flattened the back of her head, I never did care to look up what that all involves.

I guess it took them awhile to get started because it took longer than they said it was going to but after a few hours we finally saw the surgeon coming down the hall. I remember nothing about what he said to us other than everything had gone well. That’s all my mother’s heart needed to hear.

It wasn’t long after that that I was allowed into the recovery room to be there when she woke up. She had a bandage over her head which I had expected but I did not expect her to be so swollen already and over her whole body. Honestly, I hardly even recognized her.

sagittal craniosynostosis

When she came to she was both thirsty and hungry, though couldn’t really keep much down. After a bit of time in recovery she was moved up to the observation room, I think we were in there for only one night if I remember correctly. Slowly her one eye swelled shut, and then the other started, but boy, did her smile melt my heart.

sagittal craniosynostosis

the day after surgery
her whole body was so swollen that she didn’t fit into the sleepers we had brought for her

She was moved into a regular room later in the day on Tuesday which was nice, she needed to be checked by nurses less often which meant she could sleep a little bit better. 

WHY MOTHERHOOD IS NOT A WOMAN’S HIGHEST CALLING

WHY MOTHERHOOD IS NOT A WOMAN’S HIGHEST CALLING

I am excited to have Whitney from Journey Mercies guest posting here again today. Her topic is one that I have thought about often and I love how she’s written it.

I am nervous to say it – a bit afraid of what you’ll think of me. Maybe you’ll breathe a sigh of relief and think, “Someone is finally saying it.” Or maybe you’ll become angry, calling me another liberal who wants to attack traditional gender roles.

Because today I’m talking about why motherhood is not a woman’s highest calling.

But before you judge my idea based on its title, hear me out.

I grew up on the fringes of Christian circles who often said, “Motherhood is a woman’s highest calling”. Many of my homeschooling friends were heavily influenced by extremely conservative Christian teachers, whose books were filled with lofty prose, outlining why a woman should pursue motherhood as the best and most spiritual use of her time, talents, and strength. Some of my female friends had a very different set of parental expectations and rules than the ones for their brothers, because it was assumed they would get married and have babies. That was a woman’s main purpose, right?

I listened and watched their lives, and occasionally I’d accept that thinking without much analysis. Scripture passages like 1 Timothy 2:9-15 and Titus 2:3-5 were shown as proof that women were supposed to be busy in the home (and nowhere else). Proverbs 31 was the ultimate ideal of a godly woman who spends her time and energy caring for family and home. On hard days, women were comforted with the idea that there’s nothing better they could be doing with their lives. And they felt pride when they performed in these roles well.

Underlying all of these arguments was the assumption that anything a woman did with her life was less than what she could be doing as a mother. And anything she put above, or chose instead of that (whether work, ministry, or creative pursuits), was disobedience to God.

But now, as a mother myself who is trying to figure out what Scripture says about my life, I’ve realized those arguments are partial lies.

I say “partial”, because it is true that some women are called to become mothers. But this “calling” falls under one that is much higher and better.

First, we have to look at Scripture and ask, what exactly are we supposed to be doing with our lives as women? We have to get rid of the idea that the number one calling for men and women is different. I’m not talking about gender roles; I’m talking about our core purpose as human beings.

When Jesus left earth, he gave us our main purpose as his followers:

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” 
(Matthew 28:18-20, NIV)
 

In the book of Matthew, these are the last recorded words of Jesus. He tells his followers what their mission in life is. Why didn’t they go with him to heaven, escaping all earth’s pain and suffering? Because they were called to tell others about him and build his kingdom on earth.

It is so easy for us to get wrapped up in the idea that we are called to be one type of person. But our identity as women should never be found in what kind of woman we are – whether single, wife, mother, widow, or entrepreneur. Our life’s purpose remains the same regardless of what season of life we are in: remain in Jesus and love others.

 

 “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me…My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:4, 12-13, NIV)

The beautiful thing about following Jesus is that we can do those things in every role he calls us to. Sometimes, laying down our lives means laying down my preferences for how I spend my time so I can nurture the child he has given me. Sometimes it means giving up my freedom to travel and work, so I can raise a son who loves Jesus fiercely.

But I should never mistake my role as a mother for my life’s ultimate purpose – because then I will judge my own worth according to how well I perform in that role.

How many times have you (if you’re a mother) felt like a failure because you snapped at your child? How often have you felt a sense of pride at your own abilities as a mother on a good day? Do you ever have the nagging feeling that maybe your sense of worth is misplaced?

If our life’s purpose becomes centered on us – our title, our role, and our ability to perform as a mother – our identity is not placed in Jesus. Our identity becomes centered on what we do as women, not in what Jesus has done for us.

And if our ability to perform disappears, whether by losing a child or having a child who turns away from God, our identity will disappear also. Or even more likely, we will develop pride and arrogance when our children turn out to be amazing lovers of God, because we have done our duty.

If we believe that our highest calling in life is to be a mother, what does that say about women who can’t conceive – or, shockingly, choose not to? What about the single woman whose husband never arrives on the scene – was she deemed unworthy to be a mother? Will she always be “missing out” on God’s will for her as a woman? What hope can we offer those women?

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” 
(Titus 2:11-14, NIV)

Our “blessed hope” is not motherhood – or ministry, or a great career, or a perfect spouse. Our hope lies in the return of Jesus to our world. And our work lies in telling others about that hope – that Jesus is coming back, and he can redeem the brokenness of our hearts and heal us. That means that all women have received the same calling; it’s just the way we obey that differs.

For many women, the way we live out that calling in our daily lives is to love the little ones that God has given us – to be excellent mothers who point their children to Jesus. When we understand that our main calling is to make disciples, we can stop trying to raise children who make us look good as mothers – well-behaved, religious, straight-A students – and start raising children who are passionate about the kingdom of God.

And at the same time, we can also live out our calling by teaching other believers, running an ethical business, or advocating for biblical justice. The way we follow God changes with the seasons of our lives. But these roles are no less valuable in the kingdom of God, if they are done by a woman who looks to Jesus as her only hope and is eager to do good, for God’s glory.

That is the kind of woman I want to be – one whose biggest passion is the glory and pursuit of God in all I do, whether mothering, working, or creating.

Why isn’t motherhood a woman’s highest calling? Because remaining in Jesus and loving others is her highest calling. And how God tells individual women to uniquely live that out is part of the amazing diversity of the family of God. Believing and embracing this allows us to stop judging other women – and ourselves – based on our status as mothers, and celebrate the ways God moves others to follow him.

I know there are likely to be many viewpoints one might have about a woman’s calling. I would love to hear yours! How do you view the purpose of women in light of the Gospel?

Whitney is a tea-drinking, extroverted, travel-addicted book nerd who currently lives in Cambodia with her husband and son. 

USE IT, WEAR IT, MAKE IT, DO WITHOUT

USE IT, WEAR IT, MAKE IT, DO WITHOUT

I am excited to have Whitney from Journey Mercies guest posting here on the blog today, especially with the topic that she has chosen, she sums up so much of what I have been thinking and living these last few months.

Hi, friends! I’m Whitney – wife, momma, expat living in Cambodia, lover of books and fine beverages and travel, and follower of Jesus. I blog at Journey Mercies and would be thrilled if you’d stop by to say hi. I’m taking over Chantel’s blog for the day to talk about living simply, Cambodian-style.

Living in Cambodia for three years has taught me countless lessons. One lesson is how to put the mantra of frugal living into practice: use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

If you’re not familiar with it, Cambodia is a developing country located in Southeast Asia between Thailand and Vietnam. Recovery from a four-year-long genocide in the 1970’s has taken decades, and most of the population still struggles along on a daily income of $1 in rural areas.

In the capital cities, Western food and conveniences are becoming more easily accessible, but they are mostly unheard of in rural towns, such as Poipet, where I live. Because of that lack of convenience, I have learned to live creatively within the restrictions of what’s locally available.

I hope that, by reading my story, you will also find ways to live creatively in the simple lifestyle you have chosen.

USE IT UP

Or, as my grandmother always preached, “waste not, want not.” When I lived in the United States, I was often careless about finishing off the last of my shampoo or peanut butter, or buying more make-up because I was bored with what I had, not because I needed any more. The easy access to new and exciting items (especially with sales and coupons!) made it less necessary to use up what was left before buying something new. (anyone else have three different kinds of body washes and shampoos in their showers, too?!)

But here in my town, I can’t buy peanut butter. Or a loaf of bread. Or cheese. So if any of those are in my fridge because of a recent shopping trip in the “big city”, I make sure I use them up before they go bad.

One thing that has actually helped us in this area is having a small refrigerator. Our fridge and freezer is about half the size of a normal American one. At first, I was baffled at how to fit all our food in. But now we’ve adjusted to the small size, and it actually helps us use up our food before it goes bad.

Sometimes having smaller spaces isn’t a problem. Don’t think about how to get a bigger space for more stuff – like a bigger closet for more clothes or more pantry space for more food. Think of how you can eliminate non-essentials to live creatively within the space you have.

WEAR IT OUT

If you looked at my closet at the condition of my clothes, you might think I’ve taken this a bit too far! But Cambodians know how to make something last.

In my past, if a garment had a hole or lost a button, it was often easier to chuck it than to bother repairing it. It didn’t help that many of my clothes were purchased at “fast fashion joints”, where quantity sold was valued over quality sold.

Our local tailor

Yet here, people repair the clothes they have and wear them til they can’t be worn anymore – then turn them into cleaning rags or cloth strips to use in packages and rugs. Tailors are also extremely affordable, which has allowed me to re-hem jeans whose edges have gone ragged and to resize garments a size too big. You can even get your shoes resoled on the street.

Although tailors may not be quite as affordable in America, you can still take time to learn skills that will allow you to maintain your wardrobe. If you also spend more on quality, ethically-made garments, you will also be more motivated to keep wearing them until they are worn out. Buy clothes that can last you years, and learn how to do simple repairs that will keep them working for you as long as possible.

MAKE IT DO

Did you ever watch the TV show “MacGyver” from the 1980’s? MacGyver was a spy who would use a Swiss Army knife, duct tape, and other random bits of household supplies to make a bomb or flotation device, saving the day and the episode.

I’m pretty sure MacGyver visited Cambodia and took notes, because Cambodians are incredibly creative at fixing solutions with few resources.

A few months ago, our breaker system outside our house was malfunctioning, causing the breakers to flip down and refuse to stay up, leaving us without power at random times of the day and night. The electric company was unreliable and took days to respond. In the meantime, our landlord propped open the breaker with a large stick tied in place through a wire fence. I don’t actually recommend this, but it should give you an idea of how people here “make do” with what they have!

Yup, that really happened…

It’s often easy to rush out when something breaks or isn’t quite right, and buy a whole new item, or find the quickest (but most expensive) fix. But this can leave you with a drawer full of tools you may never use again or items languishing on a shelf because you haven’t bothered to fix it.

But you can learn to “make it do” – and super glue does wonders. I’ve chipped serving bowls and broken the handle of my favorite mug, yet continue to use them because I take the time to fix what I have and keep using it.

Learn skills that allow you to take care of regular household problems, such as basic plumbing, painting, and woodwork. If something breaks, try to learn how to fix it before tossing it or donating it to the thrift store. If you’re working towards a simple lifestyle and have already minimized your possessions, the remaining ones will be valuable enough for you to take proper care of them.

DO WITHOUT

This was the hardest one for me to learn. It baffled me to not be able to buy a picture frame, canned tomatoes, or cereal in our town. And on our infrequent trips to the big city, I’d spend big money picking up those items.

But slowly, my buying habits have changed, and I’ve adjusted to occasionally going without bread or cheese or a new pair of shoes. I rarely wear make-up, and I can’t justify buying new jewelry when I hardly wear what I own now on a regular basis.

I’ve also learned to adjust recipes that call for exotic (and unavailable) ingredients, like feta cheese or olives. If you have a recipe that calls for an ingredient you wouldn’t use in anything else, just leave it out, or find a substitute that you already own. You’d be surprised at how easily adaptable most recipes are.

If there’s an item in your garage that you only use once a year, such as a rug cleaner or a mountain bike, consider selling it now and renting or borrowing it when the need arises. You’ll free up space and money for something else you may enjoy on a more regular basis.

I hope these stories and ideas have stimulated some thoughts on how you can use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without in your own life! What tips do you have to share about doing without? How will you “make it do” in the future? 

JACK OF ALL TRADES LINK UP #17

JACK OF ALL TRADES LINK UP #17

This link up is a place where we as bloggers can find new blogs to read,
to be able to give encouragement to others
and also be encouraged.

Hey friends, I hope everyone is having a fabulous Tuesday!

GOALS FROM LAST WEEK:

* run (ha, okay, very slowly jog) at least 3km over the course of the week – yes!
* work on lining up a place to live for 6-8 weeks – yes again!
* invite someone over for a meal – no  I think this will probably be postponed for awhile thanks to the move
* do something fun on Jared’s day off 
– well, we ended up doing a bunch of house stuff, not really what I had in mind but it was something!
* finish reading two of my library books – finished this one like I wanted, love, love, loved! As soon as I was done I wanted to read it through again, it’s going on my Christmas list. I didn’t finish any other ones but started about four more!
* skip night lunch 2 nights this week – I had no idea the comments this one would all stir up! If you don’t know what night lunch is you can read about it here, and yes, I was able to do it!

GOALS FOR THIS WEEK:

* improve my time time on my little jogging route and/or run farther – pretty much self explanatory. I’ve mentioned so many times, but I’m not good at running (though I was a decent sprinter in high school), my mom who had surgery on her foot before Christmas was just recently given the okay to start running again and is already running 5K at a time. Of all the genes I got from her, why did I not get the running one?!
* start a weekly instasale – I’ve been meaning to do this for awhile but wasn’t sure how to go about it, but if you follow me on Instagram starting tonight I will be doing very little instasales weekly on Tuesday evenings. I have some scarves like the one Raeca is modelling above (they fit kids with a triple loop or adults with a double loop), I’ve also got some fuller adult scarves and a bunch of jewelry. I’ve decided to run the sales on my own Instagram account (instead of setting up a separate one), so I will only be posting 2-3 photos a week so I don’t annoy all my followers. If you aren’t already following me you can do so here.
* get ahead on my blogging – we have some camping coming up and I want to start writing a few posts up so I can have them scheduled for when we are away
* figure out our mailing situation – I’ve got to find out where I need to redirect our mail to once we move and start updating our mailing address on a bunch of stuff

I’ve got Sarah from Joyfully Organized hosting the link up this week! Sarah is a virtual assistant, which I sounds like a pretty fun job.  I enjoyed her creative list of bridal shower gift ideas, I feel like I usually struggle in that area (actually, it’s not really a struggle, I just always buy gift cards, which I know many people think is a cop out). I love her take on community and how she is trying to open her home up to others since it is something I am learning right now as well.
Be sure to stop by and say hi to Sarah!

I send out an email each Tuesday morning to remind people that the link up is live (except last week where I totally forgot, sorry guys), if you are one of those that tends to forget about link ups just send me an email and I’ll add you to that list.

If you are interested in co-hosting the link up in the future you can do so here.

LINK UP RULES

  1. Link up to one of your blog posts (not your blog homepage), the post can be on any subject but I do ask that posts are family friendly, any posts linked with inappropriate content will be deleted.
  2. Since the purpose of this link up is to get to know other bloggers and create a community you must leave encouraging comments on at least THREE other blogs, the one that is linked up before yours and at least two other ones.
  3. Link back to this post so we can grow this blogging community, you can use the button below if you like (your post will have to have a link back to A Harvest of Blessing in order for it to work).
 

JACK OF ALL TRADES LINK UP #16

JACK OF ALL TRADES LINK UP #16

This link up is a place where we as bloggers can find new blogs to read,
to be able to give encouragement to others
and also be encouraged.

GOALS FROM LAST WEEK:

* make a point of biking and/or running at least 4 days this week – I sure did! I know it’s not much to some people but I’m proud to say I got a total of 22.5 km in this week (mostly biking), it may be peanuts to many of you but for a girl who does virtually no exercising it’s a lot!
* finish up my wood signs – I just have one more left to make (this one is my favorite so far) and then I need to try to sell them
* be a rockstar DVBS leader – not sure I was really a rockstar but the week went so well, we had a lot of kids come out and I had fun
* try one or two green cleaning recipes – yes! I can’t wait to share some recipes on here soon!
* finalize our house sale – our house is sold! wahoo! we’ve got to be out in a few weeks and currently don’t have a place to live in until our house is built, we’ll figure something out though, I’m not worried about it

GOALS FOR THIS WEEK:

* run (ha, okay, very slowly jog) at least 3km over the course of the week – my 5K run is coming up soon-ish and I’m nowhere near ready for it
* work on lining up a place to live for 6-8 weeks
* invite someone over for a meal
* do something fun on Jared’s day off 
– I have no idea what yet
* finish reading two of my library books – hopefully this one (it’s so good, so where I am at right now, thank you Katie for recommending it) and one other one from my library stack
* skip night lunch 2 nights this week – ah, this is a habit I got into after we got married, I never used to eat night lunch but Jared has always done so and a few years into our marriage I broke down and joined him, now it’s something I’d like to stop and save for special times instead of needing it every night

I’ve got sweet Robyn from Robyn’s Nest co-hosting the link up this week. Her and her husband are doing the funnest dates this year, monthly dates where they “travel” the world, she’s called it Passport to Fun, I love this idea since travelling is so important to me but travelling the world isn’t exactly in the budget right now (as I know it isn’t for a lot of you), this is a fun way to learn about different countries without leaving your area, you definitely need to check it out. Also, she recently saved a turtle from the side of the road, so that shows you just how sweet she is! And she ran her first 5K a while ago which I find so inspiring, I’ve really got to get training for mine! If you haven’t already, head on over and say hi to Robyn!

I send out an email each Tuesday morning to remind people that the link up is live (except last week where I totally forgot, sorry guys), if you are one of those that tends to forget about link ups just send me an email and I’ll add you to that list.

If you are interested in co-hosting the link up in the future you can do so here.

LINK UP RULES

  1. Link up to one of your blog posts (not your blog homepage), the post can be on any subject but I do ask that posts are family friendly, any posts linked with inappropriate content will be deleted.
  2. Since the purpose of this link up is to get to know other bloggers and create a community you must leave encouraging comments on at least THREE other blogs, the one that is linked up before yours and at least two other ones.
  3. Link back to this post so we can grow this blogging community, you can use the button below if you like (your post will have to have a link back to A Harvest of Blessing in order for it to work).
 

JACK OF ALL TRADES LINK UP #15

JACK OF ALL TRADES LINK UP #15

This link up is a place where we as bloggers can find new blogs to read,
to be able to give encouragement to others
and also be encouraged.

I’ve been finding that making and sharing weekly and monthly goals here has really increased how much I think about my goals and therefore how successful I am. Even though I may not always complete all my goals, I know I am getting more done than if I didn’t make any.

GOALS FROM LAST WEEK:

* make and photograph two recipes – made and photographed two and already shared one, the other will come later in the month.
* go for two jogs – I only managed to get one in but I did go for a couple of bike rides (one against some pretty strong wind) so I’m happy that I was at least intentionally active.
* paint a couple of signs – yes! we have some extra wood in our garage that I wanted to make into signs, I’ve done a few so far, you can see one here (sold that one already) and made a few more one you can view here.
* try a new craft – no! Some other stuff came up that will probably end up bumping most of my crafting to the back burner for awhile, maybe I’ll get a chance to try the stuff that I wanted to do closer to winter (not that I want to say the W word yet).
* record more of Raeca’s funny lines – mhmm, there is definitely going to be a second part to that series.

GOALS FOR THIS WEEK:

* make a point of biking and/or running at least 4 days this week – when I bike I’m usually pulling a 10 pound bike trailer with a 30 pound girl plus another 10 pounds of library books so it’s a bit more of a workout than it sounds!
* finish up my wood signs – and hopefully sell them all too
* be a rockstar DVBS leader – I’m leading the third and fourth grades for this week’s DVBS at our church
* try one or two green cleaning recipes – I got this book out from the library and she has so many different recipes that she shares
* finalize our house sale – we should know this week if it’s all going through, whoop!
Okay, link up time! Hosting today’s link up is Amy from Lovely Does It! I love all the recipes that Amy shares, especially since they are gluten free! Her and her husband, Adam, currently live up in Alaska and do lots of outdoorsy stuff which usually involves some camping and s’mores eating and I love seeing her photos from their adventures.

I send out an email each Tuesday morning to remind people that the link up is live, if you are one of those that tends to forget about link ups just send me an email and I’ll add you to that list.

If you are interested in co-hosting the link up in the future you can do so here.

LINK UP RULES

  1. Link up to one of your blog posts (not your blog homepage), the post can be on any subject but I do ask that posts are family friendly, any posts linked with inappropriate content will be deleted.
  2. Since the purpose of this link up is to get to know other bloggers you must leave encouraging comments on at least two other blogs, the one that is linked up before yours and one (or more) other ones.
  3. Link back to this post so we can grow this blogging community, you can use the button below if you like (your post will have to have a link back to A Harvest of Blessing in order for it to work).
 

LIVING A LIFE OF LESS | SOME INSPIRATION

LIVING A LIFE OF LESS | SOME INSPIRATION

I’ve been loving sharing this series with you and my own personal journey to live a life of less. I have a vision in my head of where I am striving to be, I’m definitely not there yet but I’m working towards it and I think that’s what matters. Today I thought it would be fun to share some ladies that I follow online that I find really inspirational as I try to live a life of less. I follow all of these ladies on Instagram and most of their blogs as well.

I’ve found that some of the criteria I’ve unconsciously put on people I follow on Instagram are: a) mothers b) homeschoolers c) eating real food d) growing their own food e) living in small spaces f) take gorgeous photos. Most of these ladies don’t fit into everyone of those categories, but definitely most of them. I think it should be obvious, but in case it’s not, all photos under their names are from their Instagram feeds, go and follow these inspiring ladies, you won’t be disappointed!

KRISTIN ROGERS

A homeschooling mom living in SoCal Kristin’s life always looks so adorable. I love the cozy corner they have decorated in their backyard, it would perfect for The Hospitality Project. Watching the photos of her girls together always makes me secretly (and apparently, not-so-secretly) hope we get referred a girl. Also, obviously I adore her guitar wall, it’s what inspired us to do the same last year. Other things I love about her: their home is only about 800 sq ft, if I remember correctly, so they make sure to keep their stuff to a minimum, oh and they have a chicken, enough said.

find Kristin: INSTAGRAM | HOMESCHOOL BLOG

OH DEAR DREA

Drea’s feed is always popping with bright colors and patterns, I’m not 100% sure I could live with all the patterns she has going on (I may be a little too OCD) but I love looking at photos of them! It has inspired me to look for some patterned cloth napkins and placemats though, I’ll start slow.:)Her daughter, Marlowe, is adorable and the same age as Raeca, and I love how they keep her toys to a minimum and don’t let the house fill with a bunch of useless items. She is currently writing a cookbook, it’s a plant-based cookbook and I’m already adding it to my mental wishlist if for no other reason than to look at her photos! My favorite post of hers is How to Have A Great Life Without Spending a Lot of Money, so many great ideas in there! Oh, and they also have an amazing outdoor space as well, I love their raised garden beds and their entertaining space.

find Drea: INSTAGRAM | BLOG

CARISSA GRAHAM

Carissa’s husband recently went back to school which resulted in them moving to a 650 sq ft apartment. I can’t imagine living in such a small space with two children and yet I’d love to try! She home schools her children and takes them outside a lot (how long can you really stay inside a tiny apartment?). She has some great posts on her blog about downsizing and living with less.

find Carissa: INSTAGRAM | PERSONAL BLOG

ASHLEY ANN / UNDER THE SYCAMORE

Ashley Ann is inspiration on so many levels, I’ve been following her for years and she never fails to surprise me. With five children (and homeschooling the school aged ones) it never ceases to amaze me how much she gets done in a day! Her family is currently on a month long road trip with their trailer, which they’ve so nicely redone.

find Ashley Ann: INSTAGRAM | BLOG

JOY PROUTY

First of all, Joy’s children are probably the most adorably dressed children ever. I’m sure if I ever tried to dress Raeca up in vintage dresses it would be a comical sight, but her girls can pull it off well! Between homeschooling and travelling all over the US while photographing weddings and families and teaching photography workshops there is never a dull moment on her feed. Last year they sold most of their possessions and travelled the US in their trailer for the year, I’m pretty sure Jared is concerned that I will have us doing the same if I keep following her (he has legitimate reason to be concerned, I think it sounds like fun).

find Joy: INSTAGRAM | BLOG

MARY BETH / ANNAPOLIS & COMPANY

Mary Beth is the creator of #theeverydayproject a hashtag I use all.the.time. If you ever need to find some people to follow on Instagram just start searching through that tag. I love how she gets her children involved in cooking and following along with all of their adventures. Her journey has been such a beautiful one to follow.