I don't think it's any coincidence that, in this age of Justin Bieber-mania and (insert your favorite sports icon)-worship, the Mutual Theme for our youth for 2011 is the Thirteenth Article of Faith:
"We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul -- We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things." (Joseph Smith)
The footnote to this Article of Faith references Philippians 4:8, which has been my FAVORITE SCRIPTURE for years and years. You will see how similar they are, but pay special attention to the word "any" (used twice) toward the end of the following verse:
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
I love this perspective on how to view life. It is so easy to feel frustrated, even sickened, with all of the filth and crudeness that assault us on every front. But we don't have to wallow in all that -- the Lord has asked that we stand on a higher plane, that we not only "think on" but "seek after" that which is virtuous and lovely. Even when it is darn hard to find, if there is ANYTHING PRAISEWORTHY in ANY SITUATION we find ourselves in, we are to hold fast to that.
And guess what? Seeing the good in things, and seeking out the lovely, can be an acquired habit. I know because I'm testing it out. It seems that the more I look for wonderful things that are of good report, the more there are that show themselves. When I choose to focus my virtue-lenses, I see good stuff nearly everywhere!
Examples of what I mean? Well, here's a list from my desk that I've been adding to for the past few days ... as Maria would say, "these are a few of my favorite things" right now, that are making my life a little more beautiful:
1. The photo above is of a fabulous poster on my 13 year-old daughter's bedroom wall. She may have initially preferred a poster of Justin with his new haircut or Taylor with her guitar and amazing eye make-up, but her mother prevailed.
In the back of a recent LDS Living magazine, I found a link to a website that sells posters created by artist Steve Nethercott. The poster you see above depicts this year's Mutual Theme, and I love it because not only does it present the words so beautifully, but the young woman is modest, happy, and her body looks like that of a real girl. The subliminal message to me (and I hope my daughter) is: real joy comes in living a virtuous life and in seeking after the best of things.
On the website, there is also an extensive series of "Who is Your Hero?" posters, with Nethercott's rendition of heroes from American History, the scriptures, and Church history. They are terrific and might be a welcome addition to any child's bedroom wall. (www.realheroposters.com) Check it out! Bonus: Nethercott's products are hugely affordable.
2. Let's be honest, what is our main criteria when we are choosing a shampoo?? Isn't it all about the SMELL?? I am loving my new Organix shampoo and conditioner in "Moroccan Argan Oil" formula. I have absolutely no idea what that means, or why this oil from the "southwest region of Morocco" is so special. And, I can't even testify that it does, in fact, create hair that is "soft, seductive, and of silky perfection". But it does smell so divine that I want to bathe in it. Purchased at Walgreen's for $7 each (light blue bottles with gold caps). Mmmm!!!
3. My husband and I have a new favorite ice cream: Haagen Dazs Five. The "five" refers to its short-list ingredients: milk, cream, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. What, no guar gum or dextrose-anything?? No, ma'am, it's ice cream straight up, just like it was intended to be.
However, the "pint" isn't even a true pint, but rather just 14 ounces at the same price as the other HD pints, and that really fries me! We try to really just eat a "serving" each (1/2 cup) and it lasts for a couple of evenings between the two of us.
My husband loves macerated strawberries (smooshed with the back of a small glass with a tad of sugar) on his ice cream, and I have been eating the opposite: ice cream on my strawberries: lots of strawberries with just a half-scoop (really!) of ice cream. This way I get the delicious taste of the five yummy ingredients melting down into the strawberry goodness, but I'm not eating the entire pint myself (in one sitting) like I did in the "good (?) ol' days"!
4. I have rediscovered my shelf of nineteen books by my favorite-author-of-all-time, Alexandra Stoddard. I've realized that I am who I am today because of three main influences: the Gospel of Jesus Christ, my mother, and Alexandra. She is a lifestyle expert / author / speaker, and her perspectives and insights would be just about perfect if she had the influence of the Gospel weaving through her brilliant writings on living beautifully. But despite that, she is still so incredibly inspiring! I have absorbed many of her philosophies over my years of studying her books.
If you're interested in checking out a book by Alexandra, I would especially recommend two: one I just finished last night in bed, "Choosing Happiness", and then her first book from the 1980s called "Living a Beautiful Life", which literally changed my life. If you hunger after things of beauty, and strive to make your home and life a reflection of this, I don't think you'll be disappointed. Alexandra has a way of putting into words what my spirit longs for and seeks after.
5. Oh! Before I go any further, CONGRATULATIONS TO THE WINNER OF THE DRAWING from two blog posts ago: (drumroll...) Amber from Maple Valley!!! Amber dear, I know where you live, and I will be sending you your very own Jonathan Adler "Inspire" journal with one of my favorite writing pens. Thank you for your wonderful comments on how you create productive mornings for yourself. I especially love that you completely shower and dress before your children leave for school so that you can hit the ground running right when you kiss them good-bye.
Thank you to the other fabulous women who posted comments both on the blog and in my facebook inbox. You inspire me! I am going to offer some sort of giveaway on a regular basis here on the blog, so keep coming back!
6. If you love to cook OR love to create, have I got the magazines for you!! I was just perusing the QFC racks, minding my own business, when the cover of "Where Women Cook -- The Heart & Soul of Cooking" jumped out at me. I grabbed it, started leafing through, and felt my heart start to race. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!! YES, YES, YES!! Inside were gorgeous photos of women food bloggers' real kitchens, a favorite recipe or two from each, lush photos of women's restaurants, packaging ideas for sharing homemade food with friends, an article about food fresh from the farm, and text written blog-style by these women themselves. And a Blackberry Coffee Cake recipe that my older daughter has already made and served to her friends. There were so many ideas packed into that magazine that it will take me months to process it all. Serious goldmine.
Also, there was a sister magazine perched right there beside it called "Where Women Create", which is the same idea only portraying the crafting areas of highly-creative women bloggers. I'm not much of a craftser, but if you are, you might really love this one.
Drawback: the magazines are $15 apiece, but the quality is top-notch and I will not be tossing it in the recycle bin anytime soon.
7. I'm really trying to purchase fresh, seasonal, and local produce these days. My greatest find today at Tracy's stand: Yakima cherries, which are half yellow / half red, and absolutely delicious. Far and away better than standard red cherries, I think. I lined a rustic bowl with ice cubes and put the cherries on top (to keep them cool), put a tiny bowl next to it for discarded pits, and set it on the kitchen counter ... my daughter and I keep finding ourselves there reaching for another couple of sweet jewels. (The other bounties I came home from Tracy's with: local asparagus, Romaine lettuce, and a half-flat of ruby-red-to-the-center strawberries)
8. My family loves to watch movies, and it is always a challenge to find good ones to rent that are appropriate for us all. I noticed recently on the covers of two terrific videos ("Invictis" and "Flipped") that they had both been awarded something called the Heartland Truly Moving Picture Award. I Googled that and found a site that recognizes especially inspiring movies with positive values. My kind of movies!!
If you visit their site, click on "Find a Film" and there are pages of movies (in order of release year) that have received the HTMP "inspiring" recognition. Many of my favorites are there, along with lots and lots of others I haven't seen ... a great reference when ordering Netflix or when searching for a "good movie" at the local rental store.
9. Here's a cute idea that I swiped from the latest Martha Stewart Living magazine. I had been asked to bring a salad to a potluck dinner recently, and wanted to do something different and healthy.
In clear, plastic, disposable cups (not tumblers, but a little taller with a more narrow base) spoon in 1" of your favorite healthy dip. Peel and cut a variety of colored vegetables into 6" spears: carrots, celery, cucumber, red/yellow/orange peppers. Into each cup's puddle of dip, press one spear of each different veggie. Toss in half a large radish for good measure. Finely chop fresh parsley and put a little sprinkle into each cup. Add a twist of freshly-ground pepper and a scant pinch of Kosher salt. Serve cups gathered together on a large basket tray.
Bonus: no worries of "double dipping" as each person has her own dip-in-a-cup! These were a hit at last week's BBQ. Thanks, Martha.
10. I was driving home from my mom's today and was looking in my console for something inspirational to listen to. I found a lone Disc 3 from an Audio Book called "The Broken Heart -- Applying the Atonement to Life's Experiences" by Bruce C. Hafen. Even though it had chocolate sauce stuck to it, and crumbs stuck to that, I cleaned it off and popped it into the CD player. Oh my goodness! Have you read / listened to this book?? I felt like this chapter, read by Elder Hafen himself, just SPOKE TO ME ... you know how that happens sometimes?
I would highly recommend "The Broken Heart", particularly Chapter Ten, ("Hope") where Elder Hafen discussed what he calls "The Gap", or the distance between the Real (what is) and the Ideal (what ought to be). It is for everyone who, like me, is trying to better line up those two things in their own lives. Good stuff!! Can't wait to give it another listen.
11. (Excuse me while I go grab a few more cherries...okay I'm back) Have you ever used a counter top cleaner spray in your kitchen? I have been lately, and I'm hooked. My favorite is the Cucina brand, in the Coriander and Olive Tree fragrance. I love using this as a last step in cleaning up the kitchen after each meal. Just a little "ta-da" as I finish up that not-very-fun task.
12. Do you have Chipotle Grill "fast-food" restaurants in your area? If so, you are lucky! This is our hands-down favorite place to stop as a family when we're out and about ... Chipotle has won the award repeatedly for freshest, healthiest fast food, and all of their tortillas, beans, etc. are made on-site daily. My favorite thing to order right now is the steak salad, which is a bed of chopped Romaine, black beans, pico de gallo, grilled chopped steak, a sprinkle of Jack cheese, and if I'm feeling a little wild and crazy, a scoop of their INCREDIBLE fresh guacamole. Then, they give you a little container of chili-lime dressing that is practically drinkable. My mouth is salivating just thinking about the dressing.
13. The last "lovely" thing for today: through a favorite blog, I discovered some yummy summer lotion and ordered tubes for myself and for my older daughter. We both love it! It is the energizing body butter by Illume, and the fragrance is a peppermint/grapefruit combination called "Yuzu Mint". It goes on smelling citrus-y, then morphs into a cool mint. Don't know how it does that, but it is fresh and clean and, as promised, energizing. Google Illume if you're interested in learning more.
I hope something in this list made you say "Oooohhh, I want to try that!" Don't you love it when things come highly-recommended from a friend? Many of my favorite lovely things life have been found this way.
What things are you adoring right now? Have you made any terrific discoveries lately? What things add beauty to your life? Share, share, share!!!
I hope you are enjoying your summer week ... stay busy with fun things as well as responsibilities, and don't forget to make time to soak up a few precious moments of sunshine with a glass of fresh lemonade in hand. I'll be back VERY soon with some thoughts on creating a home that is a refuge by focusing on the six (yes, six) senses.
And an update on my Excellent Experiment.
And if you're not an official follower of this blog, but check in regularly, would you leave me a comment here or on facebook and tell me what keeps you coming back? I'd love to know who's reading and why.
As always, loads of love to you.