Fearfully & Wonderfully Made*

*Title is a reference to Psalm 139:14.

IMG_8166

A couple weeks ago, the chain slipped off a bicycle my husband was riding, causing him to wreck and resulting in a sore shoulder and severely skinned knee. He was in a fair amount of pain for a few days, and of course I tried everything I could think of to bring him some relief–Deep Relief for the muscle injury, Sweet Bee Magic for the road rash–all my old favorites plus a few new experiments. I was snapping photos of his knee, thinking maybe I could do a sequence collage to show how great the all-in-one healing skin cream worked. But I decided against it, and here’s why:

His knee really didn’t need anything put on it; it would have healed up just fine on its own. My knowledge of anatomy and medicine is minimal, but our cells and skin and tissue and blood vessels have intricate protocol to follow after sustaining an injury, and they go straight to work on the healing process. Automatically. No essential oils, creams, or supplements needed. Now of course we know that some of these things can support the health of the systems that take care of these things, and speed things along, and help to prevent infection, and provide temporary pain relief, but in the end, they’re not the things that do the healing.

I thought of posting the pictures anyway, and saying something like: This is what road rash looks like after 1 day…3 days…5 days of… a magic cream? a miracle supplement? a superior brand of essential oils? Nope. This is what it looks like after sitting back and watching the incredible design of the human body, created by a divine Creator, do its job.

But, the pictures were gross, so I decided to spare you. 😉

Seriously though, this thought has been haunting me ever since. How many times do I attribute healing or other forms of betterment or improvement to a man-made product, or my own mind, rather than the Creator of all things and Author of all that is pure? It’s good for me to be reminded that every good and perfect thing comes from above.

I talk a lot, here on the blog and in real life, about products and places and activities and ideas that I think are really great. But I want my life in general to ultimately point to the One who is higher than the things or the people of this earth. And I want to consistently seek Him in and know him through the goodness and the beauty that earth contains.

Poison Ivy/Oak/Sumac Relief

IMG_7930

I’m one of those people who is extra allergic to poison ivy and its relatives, and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten through a Lancaster County summer without a bout or two of the miserable rash. In my 2+ decades of dealing with this little fiend, I’ve tested and tried nearly every product on the market, natural and conventional alike, for relief. If you’re a fellow sufferer, this post is for you to pin or bookmark for when you need it. These are the remedies I’ve found most effective.

  1. Gold Bond® Anti-Itch Lotion is by far the best itch relief cream out there. If you are susceptible to poison rashes or even just bug bites, you HAVE to have this in your medicine cabinet. Anything else, calamine or otherwise, doesn’t come close to the relief this offers. And the aloe in it is cooling, which is a huge added benefit.
  2. Apple cider vinegar is the second thing that’s absolutely necessary for me to have on hand for treating this kind of thing. When my hand was covered with the blisters the other week, between my fingers and the worst right around my wedding rings (which I made the mistake of not removing while I had the chance), I had my hand soaking in a bowl of ACV every chance I got.
  3. Two years ago I discovered how good a simple paste of baking soda and water felt. The baking soda really seemed to draw out the itch/burn. Only problem with this method is that it gets really messy as it dries. I just kept the vacuum cleaner closeby to sweep up the area I was sitting in.
  4. This year for the first time I had essential oils to put to the test. Purification seemed to help a bit, though Lavender and the other options listed in my reference book didn’t seem to do much for me at all. I was also washing my hands frequently with my Thieves hand soap, and my hand cleared up faster than any of the other areas, so I’m sure that was good for it as well.

The Gold Bond lotion and the apple cider vinegar are my primary absolute must-haves. As long as I have access to those two, I can survive the worst case of the awful stuff. What about you — is there some potion or remedy you’ve found to be magical for treating a poison ivy reaction?

Recent Goodie Realizations | Version 08.15

IMG_7911

  1. These water bottles are keeping me hydrated + healthy and cool + classy during these hot summer days.
  2. This hammock is my favorite hiatus.
  3. This book has been so much fun to peruse, since it includes lots of history on the local family business begun by my great-great-grandparents.
  4. This skincare product has been the biggest go-to around our house this month for sunburns, brushburns, bites, rashes, and more.
  5. This fun fashion find has been the most delightful new companion to my capsule wardrobe project. (Read more here.)
  6. These reusable facial rounds are made of the softest organic bamboo fabric and work well with my makeup remover and essential oils. Best thing I’ve ever introduced to my face.
  7. This little friend has saved me so much money: 5% off your entire purchase + 30 extra days for returns + free shipping on every order (no minimum).
  8. These milkshakes — milk + vanilla ice cream (both from Lapp Valley Farm, of course) + fresh or already-thawed frozen peaches — have been on the menu pretty often around here. We don’t even bother to peel the fruit; the skins add delicious texture.
  9. This hat has been on constant rotation since I bought it. Well worth every penny!
  10. This essential oil is my go-to right now. It’s the best scent I’ve tried, for aromatic purposes! (Learn more here.)
  11. This piece is a current wardrobe favorite. It’s going to transition well into fall, too — I can’t wait!

Easy DIY Homemade Beard Oil

My husband’s beard is growing full and healthy these days, and I couldn’t love it more. I can’t say if I ever met a beard I didn’t like…I really do love me a good set of facial hair. It’s been a process though, talking Caleb into letting it get as long as it is. I understand that the growing-out process can be quite uncomfortable at the beginning…itchy, sensitive, and downright unpleasant.

A beard of such epic proportions necessitates dedicated maintenance and tender care. A soothing, moisturizing, cleansing concoction is key to any beard’s health, growth, and general well-being. I bought one online a couple years ago, and when it ran out recently, Caleb talked me into making one myself, using essential oils. I cleaned out the bottle he had been using and recycled that, but here’s a link to this type of bottle, if you want to buy empty ones. Lemon essential oil worked like magic for cleaning off the persistent residue from the original label after I peeled it off. (Seriously, if you haven’t tried lemon for this purpose yet, go find some stickiness on something somewhere right now — it’s that fun.)

IMG_7522

And the recipe is this simple:

  • 2 drop Lemon essential oil (for scent + purification)
  • 6 drops Tea Tree essential oil (for healthy skin)
  • 6 drops Lavender essential oil (for soothing, healing, and even an aphrodisiac)
  • 12 drops Cedarwood essential oil (for cleansing + manly scent)
  • grapeseed oil to fill the rest of a 2-oz. bottle (full of Vitamin E, sweet-smelling + non-greasy)

(Learn more about essential oils and sign up for a wholesale membership from Young Living, where I purchase mine, here.)

Graphic for your pinning convenience:

IMG_7517

And there you have it! Long live great beards.


On a completely unrelated side note, get ready for The Realization of Good‘s inaugural giveaway, coming soon! I love giveaways and am sure this will be the first of many. Stay tuned next week. 🙂

The Life-Changing Power of Chiropractic Care

IMG_7301

Chiropractic care is popular in our area of the country. Here in Lancaster, we have plenty of practitioners to choose from, and I’ve always known a number of friends and relatives who get monthly adjustments. But I’d never been to one myself until just five years ago, after I suffered a concussion during an intense game of volleyball.

Since I was still complaining of headaches more than a month after the incident had occurred, friends urged me to try a chiropractor. I was reluctant, believing that if I went once, I’d become “addicted.” I wasn’t interested in making room for such an expense in my budget, especially since the modest salary I received from my employment at a small Christian school at the time didn’t allow for many “extras.” But once I gave in, I quickly realized how worthwhile the cost would be.

A co-worker and close friend of mine referred me to Family Chiropractic of Lancaster, a father/son-owned practice near my home. On my first visit to their office, I easily sensed their commitment to holistic health (of which I knew very little, at the time) and natural well-being. My doctor and his staff take the importance of education very seriously, and that day began my journey of learning the role of the spine and its effect on the rest of the body and on general health.

In a nutshell, here’s what I’ve learned about chiropractic care:

  • Varied, frequent stress on our incredible backbones (because our bodies work so hard!) cause minor misalignments in the spine.
  • These subluxations, as the misalignments are called, affect every system of the body — causing pain and dysfunction, and generally impairing the body’s ability to heal itself.
  • Regular chiropractor adjustments to the spine help to restore the spine’s proper alignment.
  • A properly-aligned spine is a key element to living a healthy life.

Needless to say, my fear of needing to return to the chiropractor regularly was realized — but I don’t regret it. Not only do my monthly visits relieve my muscle tension and stiffness, but my immune system is much stronger and my body recovers from illness and injury significantly faster. And when X-rays are done, I can see the curve in my spine caused by the scoliosis I was born with receding!

Chiropractic care is something I highly recommend when I hear about things like debilitating headaches, frequent cold/flu viruses, and fussy newborns (yes, that arduous journey through the birth canal can and most often does put a baby’s spine out of alignment)! If it’s something you’d like to hear more about, I’m happy to share more of my experience.

What about you? Have you had a positive experience with chiropractic treatment?

My Daily-Use Essential Oils

IMG_7338

There are lots of people who have been using essential oils on a regular basis much longer than I have, and I’m always intrigued by their “day in the life of an oiler”-type posts. Today I’m sharing my own list — these are the oils I use every day.

Learn more about my use of essential oils by clicking here.

  1. Lavender is part of my beauty routine. I wipe 2-3 drops all over my face and neck with a reusable makeup remover pad from Marleys Monsters both morning and evening, right before moisturizing with this [truly magic] All In One Healing Skin Cream. I think putting it on before bed helps me relax and fall asleep, too. We also use lavender for bug bites.
  2. We use Peppermint for pain relief. A few drops on the temples and/or neck help to ease a tension headache, and it feels great rubbed onto my calves or back for muscle soreness as well.
  3. Grapefruit is my go-to for scent. I think at this point it’s the only oil whose smell I really love! I throw it in the diffuser on a regular basis, add a few drops to my dryer balls, and even put it on cotton rounds to stick in behind the air conditioner vent (a smarty-pants tip from my sister-in-law).
  4. I rub Progessence Plus onto my forearms and neck once or twice a day for help with hormones. I credit this in part for helping to get things straightened out after my miscarriage. I’ve heard that it works wonders for menstrual cramps, too.
  5. Lemon is such a great little multi-purpose oil! I add 5-6 drops to a dishpan full of water to clean produce, diffuse it for that just-cleaned kitchen scent, and mix a little in with my homemade cleaners. But possibly my favorite use for lemon is that it works just as well as Goo-Gone for removing sticky residue!

Fellow essential oil fans, what are your favorites?

Camping Essentials

IMG_7221It’s Friiiiiday, I’m in love! (The Cure song reference, in case you wondered.) We’re packing up the car for a weekend getaway! — looking forward to some good old-fashioned family time, camping with my in-laws this weekend.

Caleb and I (and the rest of his family) are “real” campers, as we like to call ourselves — as in, when we say we’re going camping, we mean we’re going to be sleeping in a TENT, and making ALL our food over an open fire. Getting back to the basics and connecting with nature, baby!

Here are some of our favorites, that we won’t leave for a campground without.

  • Trash bag holder — such a brilliant invention! Beats trying to tie a garbage bag to a tree branch or having it on the ground in a heap, by a long shot.
  • Empty laundry detergent bottle upcycled into a hand-washing station — inspired by this pin a long time ago…fill it with water and set it on a rock or an end of the picnic table with a bottle of hand soap and towel close by, and this obsessive hand-washer (ahem) is a happy camper.
  • My homemade all-natural bug spray (recipe here) is an obvious must-have!
  • These citronella candles not only help to keep the bugs at bay, but also add to the campsite aesthetic and ambiance.
  • This super cheap hammock from Target (online only) might be my favorite purchase of the YEAR. What’s camping without a good hammock, anyhow?

Not pictured:

  • Our trusty double sleeping bag makes the nighttime cozy!
  • My [awesome] eye mask from AllNaturalSleepShop…because when I’m on vacation, I want to sleeeeeeep in and early morning light in the tent is not so conducive to that. 😉
  • Nutella, because s’mores…enough said.
  • This flashlight is TOP of the line as far as flashlights are concerned. A bit pricey maybe, but you’ll never buy another — and yes, that’s pretty much a personal guarantee. We give these as gifts sometimes because they are SO good.

If you’re a camper, what are some of the things YOU have to take with you? I’d love to hear about your tried-and-true favorites!

Essential Rewards Program Freebies

IMG_7128

So if you caught my Homemade Bug Spray post last week, you know by now that I’m on the essential oils bandwagon. I’d wager a guess that if you’re reading this, you don’t live in a hole 🙂 and have been hearing buzz about the incredible healing + cleaning properties of of essential oils, or earth’s medicine, as I like to call them.

You may also have caught wind of the controversy among the different brands of oils that are available today, many of which are sold by MLM (multi-level marketing) companies, and their often-quite-passionate reps. I’m not going get into that in today’s post, but for now I have chosen to buy and sell Young Living’s products, largely because of their Seed-to-Seal promise.

I’m a sucker for rewards, and I’ve been enrolled (for free, by the way) in Young Living’s Essential Rewards program for a little over three months now. In a nutshell, I get points based on a percentage of my $50-minimum monthly order that I can redeem for free product. I recently placed my first “ER” order using the points I’ve been accumulating, and there was a box waiting on my doorstep when I got home from work today containing my freebies.

IMG_7125

I can’t wait to start using this essential oil-based foaming hand soap, since this officially marks the beginning of my switch from Bath & Body Works hand soaps to something cleaner and more natural. Its namesake ingredient, the Thieves essential oil blend, helps support a healthy immune system. It’s called Thieves because, as legend has it, a band of fifteenth-century French thieves discovered this particular combination of essential oils that enabled them to pillage the dead and dying and remain unscathed during the various plagues of the medieval age. When they were captured, they were offered less severe punishment in exchange for their secret to avoiding these otherwise then-deadly diseases. I’m all about sanitary and anti-germs, so this is my kind of product!

Caleb, my farrier husband, has a hard time getting the scents of his livelihood (horses, manure, steel, and burning hoof–which is akin to burning hair) out of his hands so I’m extra excited to see how this works for him. Much gentler and safer than that Fast Orange stuff!

Want to know more about Young Living + essential oil products? Click here for my info page.

Homemade Bug Spray

IMG_7015

I’m by no means an expert on essential oils OR homemade alternatives to conventional chemical-filled household products (yet) ;). But today I thought I’d share the recipe I came up with for a great-smelling, clean-feeling, quick + easy homemade bug spray.

I decided I wanted to make some for my sister before she left on her missions trip to Belize this summer, with only a few days left before her departure. Since I didn’t have time to order any oils that I didn’t already have on hand, this was my best effort at improvising + combining several other recipes I found online.

Here’s what I used: 10 drops of Purification (a blend that includes Citronella), 5 drops of Peppermint, and 5 drops of Thieves, in a 2-oz. glass spray bottle (glass because essential oils can actually permeate + erode plastic). I added Witch Hazel until the bottle was about half full, and poured distilled water the rest of the way to the top. Finishing touch: one of these cute labels. (Or these would be fun as well.)

IMG_7012

| If you haven’t taken the plunge and given essential oils a try yet, go here for more info. |

Now I know you’re wondering, does this stuff actually work? We believe so! So far, we’ve put it to the test while camping and while biking along a creek. The bugs kept their distance! It helps to reapply regularly, but you have to do that with OFF!® too, right? I can’t stand the feeling of those sticky sprays, so I tended to just go without. But this stuff feels refreshing and evaporates quickly — AND smells pleasant! I love it.

Have you tried an all-natural insect repellent? What did you use and how did it work for you?

The Time Management Plan | Market Day

IMG_7005Anyone remember my [quite idealistic] time management plan from one of my very first posts here at The Realization of Good? Here’s an update on how that’s working out for me so far: I’m LOVING it! 🙂 Sure, I don’t get all the things done every day (and I didn’t expect to, at first). But I am certainly making baby steps in the right direction and am getting closer and closer to my goal of being at the point where I actually am getting all those tasks completed each week.

Today was my market day! There’s a great farmer’s market grocery store near the retail job I work on Tuesdays, so I head there once I close the store. I don’t know why I didn’t form the habit of getting groceries on the same day each week long ago. It makes meal planning and kitchen organization so much easier!

My shopping list is about 75% produce these days. And that works out great, because hanging out in those lush, color-filled fruit and vegetable aisles is not an unpleasant experience whatsoever. I’m not one of those people who lives for summer (I love snow, and winter is full of so much cozy), but I do love all the wonderful earth-food that’s in season right now. More of those delicious + nutritious smoothies, coming right up! 🙂