Author: Amanda Cunningham (page 1 of 66)

Quiet Reflections on the Resurrection

Palm Sunday has just passed and Resurrection Sunday is quickly approaching.   Lately I have been feeling like the weeks have been flying by!  Life with 3 Littles is a lot busier (a good busy) than it was with two.  Especially since the first 2 were getting older and to that stage where they could do a lot for themselves (get dressed, etc).   Having a baby in the house again has brought me back to that stage of complete dependence.   A lot of projects I thought I had time for again have been sitting in boxes or in random stages of completion around my house.  And I’m okay with that (to a point – the mess is not something I’m okay with!)

Our Little Guy is 5 months old and is growing so fast I want to push a stop button and just revel in these moments.  This last week he learned how to roll over (from stomach to back) and cut his first tooth!!!   He had a molar coming in around 2 months but that big ole’ sucker went back up into his gums, poor guy.  He is now sporting the top of a lower incisor and the way he bites things don’t anyone put your fingers near him! Hah.

This time of year, though, is one of my absolute favorites.  I love the coming of Spring.  There is something about the Spring sun and a holiday that just inspire passion in me!

This year it was made even more poignant with the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge  on Palm Sunday.  Most of you know I’m a huge Canadian history buff and I was more than a little disappointed to miss my Pastor’s presentation on this.  The two really seem to fit together when you think of the sacrifice that both Christ and thousands of men and women around the world made for the sake of freedom…both our freedom here on earth and our freedom from sin.

As I was thinking on this over the last few days I felt such shame at my own lack of emotion in regards to Christ’s death for our sins.   It made me realize how Christ’s death and sacrificial work can seem so such a part of my faith that it fails to rouse that passion inside me that it should!  When did it just become a “thing”?  It’s what I believe…His resurrection and victory over death and sin are such an integral part of who I am as a Christian.

And yet it takes a momentous occasion like Easter to remind me of all that He did for me!

At Christmas we are given a glimpse of what He gave up for us in leaving Heaven to come to this sin-filled earth as a baby.  To place Himself under the authority of the man that He had made was a huge sacrifice!  How many of us would be willing to do THAT much!

And then we come around to Easter and we look back at how He spent 33 years on this earth, healing people, loving them, and being rejected by them to the point that they sought His death!   How he willingly gave Himself to them and allowed them to crucify Him so that our sins could forever be cleansed.

My Sin, OH THE BLISS OF THIS GLORIOUS THOUGHT!

My Sin, not in part, but the whole.

Was nailed to the cross and I bear it no more.

Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, Oh my Soul!

(It Is Well, Phillip P Bliss)

Phillip Bliss found that passion when he penned the words to this amazing song!  I’ll admit it’s not a hymn I enjoy playing because it takes the right person to keep a congregation on the timing, hah, but, oh, I could listen to this song over and over…listen to the swell of voices as they reach this verse and the joy we can feel in shouting, “PRAISE THE LORD, PRAISE THE LORD, Oh my Soul!”

Let’s encourage each other this year to remember how special this saving work of grace was.  My prayer is that our hearts would be filled with the knowledge of His grace which in turn will inspire us to tell others.

Soap 101: My Personal Challenge

I am a very creative person.  I love to do creative things.  Since I was a little girl I loved making crafts, drawing, painting, making music, anything that allowed me to be creative.

When I lived on my own, I taught myself to crochet and quilt (whew, that was a project and a half).

Then I got married and I tried all sorts of things with baking and DIY projects for my home.

A couple of years ago someone taught me how to make soap.  Like real soap, not the melt in the microwave and pour in a mold soap, hah.  I was, understandably, a little nervous about using lye, but, really, as long as you are aware of what you are doing, it’s pretty safe.  And the whole process of learning has been so much fun!

Last year I branched out a bit and started playing around with making fancy soaps.  On Instagram they call it soap art.  This opened up a whole new avenue for me to be creative.  Because I like healthier options in my home from store-based products, I’ve tried to steer clear of fragrance oils and colourants.   I have used a few, though, to achieve what I wanted to with my soap.  My biggest issue right now is finding a natural blue colour.  The only way to really achieve that is to use Indigo which is super expensive!  I can’t justify that right now since soaping is just a hobby.   I have tried some micas (colourants) but was ecstatic to find a local seller that has natural reds (another colour I hadn’t figured out yet).

One of the great things about soaping as a hobby is that it also comes in handy with my family.  It took a while for my husband to get on board with it (he loved his Irish Spring), but now he loves using my soap and I love that he’s using good ingredients on himself.

I had looked at starting a soap business over the past couple years.  But after realizing all the work that is needed to get your soap compliant with Health Canada I decided to leave that avenue and just do it for fun.  I have declared my recipe with Health Canada and it was accepted (which is great since you need that even if you want to give your soap away), but preparing labels for everything (in French AND English) is a lot of work.  So, if 90% of my soap is only for personal consumption, that’s a whole lot less labels (and a whole lot less time).  Besides everyone’s recommendations of insurance, etc.  Like whoa!  Now we’re breaking the bank. =P

So this year, to keep myself moving – and learning (an important thing for any person!) – I decided to challenge myself to making a different soap once a week.  52 soaps in a year.  I need to get this week’s done, haha.  I have an idea for a Valentine’s one – yeah, I’m a little late – but if I hot process it, it will still be ready in time.

Here are some of the ones I’ve already done this year.   And I’m not doing a full 2lb batch each time.  My embeds were 1/2lb and the hidden hearts was only 1lb of soap.  This way I won’t end up with a ton of soap sitting in my cupboard (although with my husband using it that probably won’t happen) and I won’t make us go broke buying soap supplies (hehe)

52 Soap Challenge

 

This one had some rounded embeds and seashells on top and was scented with a promegranate fragrance oil (one of the few I actually like) and Spearmint and White Fir essential oils (it cuts down on the scent of the fragrance oil.  I really have a hard time with those.  I definitely like the natural smells of the essential oils much better.  I cut this into blocks but the mold was a little weird so I have to figure out the sizes for this one.

 

 

52 Soap Challenge - Warm Cider

 

This one also has a fragrance oil.  This is Warm Cider with a hand-molded apple on top.  I love hand molding embeds.  I found a fabulous recipe from a soap blogger and she has some great tutorials on Youtube as well.

 

 


52 Soap Challenge - Fireball

 

This was my take-off of a Fireball soap that I saw on another soap blogger’s website.  It didn’t turn out quite as I had hoped but I might try again.  I put way too much red iron oxide in the bottom layer (which was supposed to be the brown) and the top circle got too thick so it didn’t quite melt in.  I used turmeric essential oil to scent the top part and it turned the soap yellow, but when it hardened it went white again, so that was an epic fail, hah.  Next time I’ll use actual turmeric to colour it and give it the natural yellow colour.

 

 

52 Soap Challenge - Forcing Gel Phase

 

These were some embeds I made for Valentine soaps.  I wanted to try a different technique that I had read about that involved forcing what’s called gel phase, which is supposed to make the colours much brighter.  My big issue was that it called for using the oven, but these were in such tiny molds that I didn’t want to do that.  So I decided to try it in my crock pot.  Problem was: I had to feed a baby before they finished gelling and I forgot about them!  I ended up with a couple of them becoming volcanoes.  It was kind of cool, hah.  But as you can see in the picture most of them went through gel phase and turned a really nice shade of red, while the owls (which are really hard to tell what they are) are almost white (I didn’t put them in the crockpot).  I’ve never even seen the difference before.  It’s crazy.


52 Soap Challenge - Hidden Hearts

And last, but not least, is my hidden heart soap.  This is one I cut in half so you can see the heart.  I coloured part of the soap with spinach powder and left part white.  I used a square mold I had and placed part of the green in the bottom, then added white, poked the heart down inside, and then placed more green on top.  I love how they turned out!  The heart is completely encased in soap so it isn’t seen until you use the soap and it magically appears, haha.

 

I’ve been sharing my creations weekly (except for the last which was last week’s and I totally forgot to post it) on Instagram.  If you don’t follow me on there yet, you can by clicking here.

Check back once a month to see each month’s creations or join me on Instagram and see them weekly. =)  I’m excited to share my learning process with you all as I work on this personal challenge of 52 soaps this year!

Abundance of Possessions

Does an abundance of possessions make one happy? Check out what the Bible says about it. quietworkings.com

When we moved into our house last April, I knew I needed to downsize some things I had so that I wouldn’t feel cluttered or have tons of things to store.  We moved into a mini home (or trailor) that is about 1100 sq feet.  Plenty of room for our family of 5.  There is no basement and no extra closets for storage.  I am totally fine with this.

I have become increasingly aware of how an abundance of “things” affects my mood from day to day, though.  If my house is cluttered I am anxious and sometimes quite grumpy.  When things are neat, tidy, and clean, I tend to be happier.

Abundance of Possessions Quietworkings.com

Getting rid of things, though, is not always an easy matter.  We get attached to books, to hobby supplies, to toys, to clothing – and giving those up can sometimes be difficult.

I have spent about 3 months so far going through clothes, books, toys, etc, just trying to weed out what is unnecessary.   I loved this verse when I saw it last week while reading through Luke 12:

Luke 12:15 - what the Bible says about having an abundance of possessions. Quietworkings.com

“A man’s life consisteth NOT in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”

I find it is so easy to get caught up in seeing all these “things” that others have that we think we can’t live without.  We NEED that item in order to be happy.

BUT WE DON’T!!

One thing I have learned in getting rid of “stuff”, is that I’m actually happier without it!  I’m a collector.  I’ll freely admit that.  I collect fabric (I love to sew).  I collect soap supplies (I love soaping).   I collect books (Can I say I love reading?).  Collecting things could take over my life if I let them.  My husband received boxes of books from a relative a few years ago (he’s not a reader) and I went through them and kept all the books I thought I would “some day” read.  A year later, I realized how foolish that was.  We had bookshelves full of books that had never been touched and when I was honest with myself I knew I would never get around to reading 90% of them.  So I packed them all up and, surprisingly, that gave me room to clean up the kid’s books and have them neatly on a shelf instead of lying on their bedroom floors.  It was very freeing to do that.

I think great freedom can occur when we realize that we don’t need to be wrapped up in things.  I still have a long way to go to get my house to where I will be happy with the amount of items in it.  Getting things organized and stored properly will be such an amazing feeling.  Knowing that everything has a place and is in it will occur when I can get rid of the excess that doesn’t fit.  And accepting that my happiness is not wrapped up in these things will bring such great freedom to a cluttered life.

Do you feel overrun by clutter?  What would it take for you to experience the freedom of a clutter-free life?

Photo by Sean MacEntee

Brooklyn and Courtney: a Musical Duet

I’m always on the lookout for nice, quiet music to play around my house.  With a 5-yr old, 3-yr old, and a newbborn, it can get pretty loud at times.  I like to have peace and sometimes I crave the quiet (like being up at 6am when everyone is still sleeping even though I’ve been up most of the night).

I was really excited when I saw this cd was coming out.  As a family, we have enjoyed THIS family’s music for a number of years.  I have always loved hearing the girls play their violins, whether live, or on tv, or on cds.  They are a delight to watch and it often makes me wish I had someone to play with.  I love playing in harmony with other people and hated doing solos when I was growing up.

Violin music has never been a top play in my home.  I’m just not huge into classical music. Some of the music I can handle, but only in small doses.  Fiddle music is great, but again, you can only handle so much of that at one time.  Especially if you’re looking for peace and quiet.  Fiddle music does not always fit that requirement.

A few years back, a friend who took lessons from the same teacher I did growing up (and who became my teacher later on) made a gorgeous cd with a harpist.  Wow.  That one I could listen to over and over (did you know that music has therapeutic qualities?)

The key here?  Much of the music was sacred.  I could listen to instrumental hymns all. day. long.

This particular cd, Brooklyn & Courtney, is not completely sacred.  However, the pieces all fit together so well.  Including the Bach piece that they put with Great Is Our Lord.   The cd has been on repeat almost every day for the last month (since I got it).   I’m not always “listening” to it, but it is so calming to have on in the background.

The day I got the cd, we headed out in the car to go shopping while Little Man was out for the evening.   Little Miss, from the back seat, piped up, “Can you turn up the music?”

Melt my heart.   I plan on teaching her violin and maybe one day her and I can play together.  I can dream, right?

Seriously, though, with songs like, “At the Cross”, “What a Friend We Have In Jesus,” and “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus” this cd draws a particular thought out.   Add in some secular pieces like “Lover’s Waltz” (one of my personal favorites and one that I’ve played at a a few weddings), “The Prayer, ” and “Let There Be Peace,” and you have a cd that is sure to become a favorite in your home as well.

Recharging Day By Day: Finding Time for God

Lately I have become very aware of the need most of us, as women, have to enjoy just a few minutes alone.  With the entrance of our third child, my time for myself is often lost.  If I’m not making meals or cleaning up from them, I’m feeding the baby (and every so often I find time to write!).  And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  But I believe that it is important for women to recharge and have a time of quiet in their lives.   Recharging is extremely imporant.   We are really good at multi-tasking and our brains are constantly moving.  Because of this, burn-out can happen very quickly.

Burn-out happens even quicker when you add in a lack of sleep.   This can come in various forms but the outcome is always the same.  A nursing child, worry over finances or day-to-day circumstances – these things can rob of us a good night’s sleep and the joy that we should be experiencing in the Lord.  Recharging seems an impossible thing to attain.   But it’s not.

I’ve found that making time to be in God’s word is so important to me keeping my sanity.  Enjoying just a few minutes of quiet each day has given me time to think about my role as a wife and as a mother, and allows me to quiet my heart so that my emotional state has time to recharge.  I’ve learned to cut down on outside commitments (somewhat) so that I can focus on the work the Lord has given me to do.   I’m not perfect.  I still have a long way to go, but here are some tools that I have used and am using to encourage myself in the area of recharging.
Recharging Day by Day:  QuietWorkings.com

Last year, I was given a copy of A Heart Devoted by Patti Albert.  I really loved using this devotional book all year long because there were a few different ways I could use it, instead of following a single plan for the whole year.  The author states on the inside cover that the book is not meant to be a substitute for your daily Bible reading but includes schedules and encouragement to “whet your appetite for a daily walk with God.”

Each page includes a short devotional by a pastor’s or evangelist’s wife, a Scripture verse for the day, a song, a thought for the day, a Bible reading plan (for reading through the Bible in a year), and three sections for writing that allow you to apply that day’s devotional, write out prayer requests, and add any notes you want to.

Each day I could choose to read the devotional or leave it, read the Bible reading plan or use my own, memorize a verse, meditate on a hymn/song, and use the lined sections for my own personal thoughts and prayers.   It kept it from getting boring (as some reading plans often can), and I liked the option of using it as a journal of sorts.

Unfortunately, this particular devotional is no longer in print and out of stock on the one website I found it.  There is also a second book called A Heart Refreshed that also appears to be out of print.  So if you can find one in a bookstore or know someone who has one you’ll be set!

For ChristmThe Excellent Wife: A Biblical Perspective - Recharging Day By Dayas this year I asked my husband to get me two separate books.  The Recharging Day By Dayfirst is called, The Excellent Wife by Martha Pierce.   The second is called The Excellent Wife Day by Day by Karen Eiler.

The Excellent Wife is a Bible study that takes you through the Biblical role of women in marriage.  It also has a study guide that goes along with the book.  From what I am reading, I understand that it is meant to be used as a small group ladies’ study, not necessarily one-on-one.  But it does work as a stand-alone book  To say I am enjoying it would be hard to say.  It is very convicting and I have already found a number of ways that I, as a wife, need to work on my marriage and my commitment to the Lord.

The Excellent Wife Day By Day is a 5-day-a-week devotional that includes a short devotional section that coincides with Martha Pierce’s book, an Application section with bullet points that encourage you to put into action what you are learning (which often includes writing in a separate journal/note book that you provide), a section of verses (not KJV but easy to look up), and a verse to memorize for the week. This book covers 52 weeks (a year), but again, is only 5 days a week, giving 2 days to meditate and think on the things you’ve learned that week.  One thing I that I like about this particular book is that the verse you memorize is one a week, not one a day.  It gives you time to actually do what Psalm 119:11 says and hide God’s word in your heart.

As I haven’t finished either book I can’t, at this point, speak to the heart of them, but at this point I have been very encouraged and have seen nothing that concerns me.   I look forward to finishing the first one and using the second throughout the year.

Besides that, I am working on writing out Scripture this year.  I’ve always been impressed with the idea of rewriting Scripture to write it on my heart.  As a teacher I recognize that there are benefits in learning when you include all aspects of hearing, reading, writing, and saying.  It sticks in your heart just a little bit more every time you add in one of those concepts.  I want to know as much of the Bible as I can so that I can know as much of my God as I possibly can.  It’s a never-ending goal.  There’s always more to learn in this case.

And I do have a Bible reading plan that I am following.  It is not a “through the Bible in a year” plan, but goes through just a few books, allowing you time to meditate on just a few verses (10 – 20 verses usually) at a time.  I’ve done the Bible in a year, and in 90 days (which was intense but amazing).  I’m hoping that a slightly slower pace this year will allow me to focus on some other things (like adding the above books to my quiet time).  This will also slow down my quiet time – so even if I don’t have a ton of time, I won’t feel as rushed to get through a certain number of passages, allowing for that quiet feeling and recharging.

I would love to hear what books you are hoping to read this year and what you like to do in your Bible time.   What do you do to help yourself get to know the Lord better?  Are you taking that time to recharge?

 

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