A Good Soak

I'm bringing back a post from last year (I'm not doing the cooking this year, so the 'brining a turkey' part doesn't apply, but the rest is relevant). Whatever your plans for this holiday, the next month or so can be really busy as we try to make sure everyone else has what they want/need. At the end of this post there's a recipe for bath salts; I hope you'll take the opportunity to take a bit of time to relax and pamper yourself. Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm brining a turkey for the first time this year. Alton Brown has long declared that it's the best--no, the only--way to get a really moist, flavorful turkey.

It's really counterintuitive to me. How can something that is used to dry things, also be used to make them moist? I mean, have you ever played with homemade playdough? The kind made with enough salt to preserve a side of beef for a cross-country trip in a covered wagon? That stuff does not moisturize my hands!

But nevertheless, when you add the right amount of salt to some water, and throw in some other spices for good measure, you get a juicy, sweet, turkey! (Who figures these things out?!)

The Bible talks about salt in a number of different places. One of my favorites is:

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." Colossians 4:6

It's estimated that there are more than fourteen thousand commercial uses of salt. There must be nearly as many effects of words. Words can inspire or undermine, affirm or tear down, motivate, destroy, manipulate, calm, stir up, persuade...the list goes on. It's easy to find parallels between the properties or uses of salt and the influence of words.

Salt is a flavor enhancer. Especially this time of year, this is probably the first use for salt that comes to mind. Salt, as a substance, doesn't actually do anything to the flavor of the food itself. The perception of "enhanced" flavor is a result of how it affects the tongue. The simple explanation is that it takes the senses of smell and taste to actually taste the flavor of foods (I'm sure you knew that). But did you know that when a salted food hits the tongue, it "wakes up" those taste buds and the brain then triggers the nose to start to work, which allows the flavor of the food to be sensed. The food has the same flavor whether it's salted or not, but the ability to distinguish the flavor is dependent upon salt.

Our words can do the same thing to our relationships with people.

When we first started dating, one of the qualities I most admired in Hubs was how he never intentionally said rude or unkind things. He once told me that he tried to measure his words by this standard, "Is it true, is it kind, is it necessary?" The more time I spent around him, the more I found my own tendencies for sarcasm and put-downs changing. The words we choose can enhance our relationships or tear them down.

Salt sets dyes—in other words, it permanently reinforces color. Has anyone ever said something to you that "permanently reinforced" something you thought about yourself? Perhaps when you were young someone called you "chubby" and you've been fighting that as you grew up. (In my case, as a knobby-kneed youngster it was "puny-bones." No one ever calls me that anymore!) We are more likely to remember the negative things we're told, but words can also reinforce positive concepts.

I remember being in first grade learning my telephone number and address. I pointed out to Mrs. Walker that there was a "p-h" where the "f" sound was. She responded with enthusiasm, "That's right Mary. 'P-H' makes an 'f' sound! Very smart." Actually, I was kind of confused by that "p-h," but as a very shy and insecure 6 year old, her praise meant the world to me. For years I remembered Mrs. Walker as my favorite teacher because she was the first person to make me feel smart.

Salt melts ice. We know that salt is used to defrost ice on frozen roadways and keep it from freezing over again. A Japanese proverb expresses the thawing power of words, "One kind word can warm three winter months.”

Salt is necessary for life. Salt is a mineral and the only non-biological food that humans eat routinely. Salt is required in the nutritional and bodily processes of all animals, including humans. It is present in all our body tissues and fluids. Without salt these systems would eventually shut down, resulting in death. Here too, scripture offers a parallel:

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue." Proverbs 18:21

Whether you're doing the cooking this year or accepting someone else's hospitality, it's likely that some time in the next few weeks you'll find yourself in a situation where you might need a reminder to make sure your speech is "seasoned with salt" and always full of grace.

While you're shopping for ingredients for your famous pie or your favorite side dish, pick up the ingredients for these simple bath salts and then take some time to "brine" yourself.

As you measure these skin softening salts into your bath, think about measuring your words. When you soak in the fragrant water, think about ways to use your words to refresh the hearts of people in your life and allow His spirit to soften you on the inside. (And in this busy week, you certainly have my permission to have this experience with any bath salts you have access to.)

Basic Bath Salts
1 cup Epsom salts
1 cup coarse sea salt (you can often find both of these at dollar stores)
10-20 drops fragrance oil or essential oil
10 drops food coloring (optional)

Place the salts in a large bowl and mix well. Add the fragrance oil and food coloring and mix well. Allow to air-dry overnight, then pour your salts into a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake every day for one week before packaging.
To Use: Draw a warm bath and add 1/4 cup of the fragrant salts to the running water.
Makes six to eight uses.

Happy(?) Holidays

"Why are you so tense?" Hubs asked as he slid past me in the kitchen.

"Did you see that?" I asked my husband. "Did you see the tight lips when she said that? I get so tired of the barbed comments all the time."

We'd been married several years but Hubs still didn't understand why family gatherings that should have been fun and festive always deteriorated into uptight and uncomfortable. My family wasn't the type to have obvious arguments. We excelled in subtle disapproval that, despite the fact I was well into my 30's, took me right back to childhood. And not in a good way.

For all the build up, I think many of our family holidays are like that. We go into the season with this expectation of smiling, appreciative faces around the table. Voices of gratitude and support sharing in meaningful conversation and hours of family fun, just enjoying one anothers company.

All too often though, the pressures of the preparations make us snappy, the troubles of travel make us tired and the unfortunate reality of the whole thing can be a big let down.

I posted one perspective of having a flawed family at Exemplify last week. I know that even if we learn to be thankful for the family we've been given, it can still be a trial to spend these moments of high expectation with them.

Here are a couple of tips that might help if your holidays are sometimes less than joyous gatherings:
  • Resolve not to take the bait. My family made snide comments so subtle that casual observers would miss the dig entirely. I finally decided not only not to respond in kind, but not to react in the first place. The remark would fall on the floor and the conversation could carry on in a new direction.
  • Rather than dreading the inevitable uncomfortableness, look for ways that you can bring new light into the situation. Find ways to serve from the heart--whether you are hostess or guest--busy yourself by making it a good experience for someone else. Play with children, get seconds or refills for others, find little things that will occupy you and remove you from the worst of it.
  • Pray for the people who bring the most drama with them. The act of praying for someone--even someone who stresses us out or causes us grief softens our heart toward them. Your prayers might not change the situation, but they may change you.

I'll spend the rest of the day in preparation for our holiday with family. I'll be praying for you as you anticipate your own celebration of God's goodness to us.

Never Left Out--5 Minutes for Faith

I'm blogging at 5 Minutes for Faith today. We'd love if you'd drop by.

Never left out: "...In the blogosphere we find ourselves competing for attention from people who have captured our fancy. We feel left out when they don't respond to the comments we leave them or when they don't visit us in return. When I start to feel that way, I try to remind myself of the reason I started blogging to begin with..."

Christmas in my Heart

Around the 'net and around the neighborhood, people are in varying degrees of Christmas preparations.

I know. I'm hardly in the Thanksgiving mindset yet and that's next week!

I'm not feeling particularly festive at the moment. Uncertainty does that to me.

I don't want to hear Christmas carols yet. It's a reminder that the year is nearly over and there's so much I planned but haven't accomplished.

I don't want to see Christmas decorations because I don't know whether I'll be unpacking ours to 'deck the halls,' or if I'll be packing them and everything else we own to move to who-knows-where.

And I don't really like the way Thanksgiving gets lost in between Halloween and Christmas and has been reduced to a day of 'carb loading' so people can get up (or stay up) in the middle of the night to begin a marathon day of shopping.

So no one would be more surprised than I when I visited the Christian bookstore, shopping for writing inspiration, and I didn't get past the children's Christmas book display.

As part of our Advent Nativitree tradition, I like to have a Christmas book to read to the boys each night. I'm trying to build a collection of books so I have one that corresponds to each aspect of our custom. So I had fun choosing some new books to fill some of the gaps (and right now some of last years books are still on clearance!).

I got excited thinking about adding to the experience this year now that Bug is old enough to read the scripture each night.

And I realized that I don't have embrace the commercial aspects of the season to have a heart that's ready to be filled with the anticipation of celebrating the coming of our Savior. In fact, maybe one is easier without the other.

So, ready or not, Merry Christmas! From my heart to yours.


Follow me to Exemplify Online

I'm excited to be one of the contributing bloggers to Exemplify Online Magazine's new Family Channel blog. My first entry goes up today; it's a children's devotion complete with an activity to help communicate the message to kids. I hope you'll take a look at today's devotion and check out the other great things going on at Exemplify.

I'll be contributing every-other Friday or so. Check back on the 20th for an entry that might help you head into Thanksgiving week with a new perspective on family matters, along with a new recipe that would be a great addition to your holiday dinner.

(I've been) Gone but (you're) not forgotten...

It's hard to believe it's been more than a month since my last post. But, considering the month it's been, it's not entirely unbelievable.

I didn't forget about finding my 'joy moments,' but I couldn't bring myself to log in and type them.

I realized yesterday that it isn't that I've been too busy (although it was a very full month with 3 birthdays, 1 anniversary, 4 pumpkin farm visits, 2 class parties, 1 kiddie party, the end of a job, several trips out of town to talk about possible jobs...it's been hard to find a routine).

The real issue is that I intend for this to be a place of refreshing for my friends who stop by. And I've discovered that sharing moments of refreshing has to come from a heart that is refreshed. Some of the events of the last two months have drained me to the point that there hasn't been an overflow to share from.

God has been faithful to meet my needs and I haven't actually felt depleted, but I think it's been a (hopefully brief) season of needing to soak in and not worry about giving out. That's not an easy place for me to be, and it's taken me a good while to see it.
It helps to remember this:
LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I have set the LORD always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body will also rest secure...
You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:5-9, 11)
I am hoping that a new month will bring renewed 'refreshment,' especially as we enter this holiday season that can be so draining, but really should be a time of rejoicing and 'being filled' (and I don't mean our tummies or our closets or other gift-related places).

Maybe, to get the ball rolling, you could share with us "What has refreshed you most in the past month?" or "What refreshment do you have to look forward to as we enter the holiday season?"

I'll give it some thought and be back to answer too.
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