Faith in Quarantine

When you’re a child the world seems bigger.

The family retriever was the size of a horse, chapter books were intimidating, and twenty minute car rides took hours: which is why the three hour drive to my grandparent’s house in Wisconsin seemed to me like an all day affair. The trek was worth it though. I’d spend all week counting down the days until my parents packed up the car, strapped me into my car seat and backed out of the small driveway connected to our modest townhouse in Plymouth, Minnesota. At this time I was the only grandchild, and spending the weekend at Nana and Papa’s meant I got twice the attention. I’d wake up to pancakes and fall asleep to Nana’s stellar impression of Grandfather Frog as she read aloud to me from her old copies of Thornton Burgess stories.

Their cabin was surrounded by forest and sat on the top of a steep decline that led right to the lake. I spent hours outside, shaking off suburbia as I scampered down the damp stone staircase and straight into the sparkling lake. I built forts out of sticks, filled old mason jars with “perfume” made with water and crushed up flowers, and mixed together my own homemade exfoliant*. Sheltered by the shade of the leafy green trees made me feel safe and secure as I played contentedly on the forest floor, surrounded by God’s sacred beauty.

I tell you this because I’m guessing you have a special place of your own. It doesn’t even have to be nature. It could be curled up in your favorite chair in the corner of your favorite coffee shop, or standing, swaying with your eyes shut in front of the stage as the stirring strumming of a guitar pulls at your heart. You can understand how a special place is invaluable, which is why — when my dad came down with a cold the night before we were supposed to leave for the cabin…putting our morning departure in jeopardy — I immediately prayed to God. I wish this touching moment of a child praying for her sick father was without ulterior motive, but embarrassingly I was actually praying for his recovery so that we could still go to the cabin.

Yes, my childish selfishness mortifies me to this day.

Regardless of my prayer’s shady intentions, when I awoke the next morning to sounds of my parents packing I was overjoyed. 

Lying on my back in bed, I remember a feeling of immense gratitude. Overwhelmed, I did what any thankful child does. I stretched out my tiny arms as far as I could manage and circled them around the air in front of me, drawing an invisible God into the biggest bear-hug I could muster.

Let me get something straight: this is not the story of God answering the prayer of a simple and slightly selfish child (what kind of backwards moral would that portray?) No. This is a story of child-like faith. To me, it’s a beautiful image that brings me back to a time when trusting in God was the simple and easy solution and not the last-resort, risky task.

The older I get, the harder it is to trust God. Being an adult seems to imply the continued practice of taking on more and more responsibilities with each passing year. It’s no wonder that in a culture that encourages self-sustainment we struggle to allow room for God to act.

Especially now in this time of quarantine we find our worlds growing smaller than ever and our burdens greater. We find ourselves restricted from visiting the places that are most near and dear to our hearts. And those whose jobs require them to continue to brave the outside world face dangerous risks every time they leave the house. As we navigate this new and confined lifestyle we ask ourselves how there could possibly be room for God when we feel like there’s barely room for us. 

Having faith can seem tiring. Even when we try to listen to God in this time of chaos, it isn’t always clear that he’s there or listening to us. Is that God telling me to give myself bangs? Or is it my own stir-crazed gut?

As a shy child I grew up dependent on Joshua 1:9. Every time I showed up friendless to summer camp or tried something new I relied on the heartening command to “be strong and courageous.” I was always comforted by the thought that no matter how big the journey seemed, God was always along for the ride.

In her riveting year long memoir “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” Rachel Held Evans spends a month practicing aspects of biblical domesticity. Her reflection at the end of the month stuck with me as I read the rest of the book for class and is as follows,

“Somewhere between the chicken soup and the butter-bleeding pie, I’d made peace with the God of pots and pans — not because God wanted me to meet him in the kitchen, but because He wanted to meet me everywhere, in all things, big or small. Knowing that God both inhabits and transcends our daily vocations, no matter how glorious or mundane, should be enough to unite all women of faith…”

-Rachel Held Evans

Although the domesticity Held Evans refers to has more to do with an exploration of a woman’s traditional role in the household, I find that the general idea of “home life” is extremely relevant and her wisdom is widely applicable. God will be with you, wherever you go. Whether it’s at the hospital you work at, the aisle of the grocery store you’re stocking, or sitting at your kitchen table filming online lectures for your students…God will meet you there and he will make room even when you can’t.

*I know you’re probably wondering how you can get your hands on some of my homemade exfoliant. Unfortunately, mixing sand and water is not FDA approved (nor is it that great of an exfoliant). On the bright side, AVNS has some incredible exfoliating bars that are also fantastically sanitary! Try our Grapefruit Peppermint Luffa Body Bar, it’s packed with authentic dried luffa fiber. You can also check out any of our Salt Bars! Only Jesus can wash away your sins (but at least we can help with the dirt and dead skin)!


Knitting a New Year

Well, New Year’s Eve has come and gone. We’ve turned over those new leaves (whatever that means) and now we’re trying to decipher what the underside has in store for us. Some of us only take a peek before we quickly flip those leaves back over and pretend we never had any of those ambitious resolutions in the first place. Others are launching into new diets and exercise routines with a vigor that will most likely burn out within a month. If you’re like me, coming up with resolutions is a blast, but the follow-through proves to be a difficult task. Which is why I turned this year’s resolutions into resolu-fun!

The trick? Start small and have fun. Mini-resolutions, if you please. These mini-resolutions come in neat packages and promise instant gratification while hinting at a future opportunity for a change in lifestyle (if you so choose to accept your mission).

What in the world is she talking about? You ask, as you scan your list of resolutions to see if any of them seem mini, or at least small enough to fit in your mailbox.

Knitting. I’m talking about knitting.

yarn

I started knitting two days ago and not only am I already 1/16th of the way done with my first lumpy, puke-colored, spiderweb of a scarf, I have also (if I so choose to accept my mission) opened a crochet-covered door to a more self-sufficient lifestyle. Although currently a knitting novice, I optimistically imagine that someday I will become a professional. Every blanket in my house will be knit by me, every potholder in my kitchen will be a labor of my love, every gift I give will reek of the sweat I worked up as I frantically power-knit it the night before.

Of course, I’m not saying knitting is the be-all end-all for everyone. Raising one tomato plant could turn into a garden, playing a new card game could become a family tradition, buying one bar of Apple Valley Natural Soap could be the start of a more environmentally friendly and naturally healthy life.

Resolutions don’t have to be huge or life-altering, what matters most is embracing the promise of a new year.

With that being said, I understand that turning over into a new year also means facing the unexpected. We like resolutions because they give us a sense of control over our destinies. But the truth is, the New Year may bring on hardships that we’d rather not deal with. If you find yourself secretly dreading this upcoming year, don’t panic, you’re not alone.

My sweet Nana passed away unexpectedly at the end of October after a slow and tiring battle with a rapidly progressing form of dementia and my family is now faced with the unbearable process of moving forward. We find ourselves on the cusp of a new year forced to deal with something we didn’t anticipate. There is nothing neat or packable about death and there is nothing simple about moving forward.

monarch

Mentally, it seems unnatural. During difficult times, grief seems to occupy every moment and keeps us frozen in place, like leaves trembling upon a branch in the midst of a bitter winter. We define moving forward as an active process that requires “picking yourself up and dusting yourself off.” I would argue that this is not true. From what I have experienced these past couple months — in a spiritual sense — moving forward happens naturally.

Moving forward is a subtle process and for my family it involves crying. We cry over Nana’s music box collection, we cry over mushroom soup that will never taste quite right without her, we cry over butterflies and rainbows and dolphins and everything else beautiful that reminds us of the beautiful being she was. At first I mistook the crying for grief, but I’ve come to understand that the crying is actually a sign of moving forward. Every tear we share together is a step, a moment to thaw the grief. Moving forward doesn’t mean letting go, it means mending, knitting, and healing.

opened-glass-window-1906795

At first glance, this post doesn’t have much to do with soap. But Apple Valley Natural Soap’s mission is to help others embrace the blessings of natural ingredients through their products and it was reflecting on this idea that inspired me to consider the natural blessings of life. From the ability to knit, to the grace evident in the process of moving forward, God always provides an open window (and maybe crocheted curtains).


Fabulous Friday & Glycolic Peel

Have you ever had one of “those” days? 

You know, one of those days where you have great plans for everything you’re going to get done, but by the end of the day, even though you’ve been busy, you’re not quite sure how you managed to NOT get anything on your list done.

Well that’s been my day, well, it’s actually been my last week. At least it feels like it. 

Truthfully, I have been busy. Busy with the business (AVNS), busy with family, busy with life in general. But I don’t think I’m any more busy than most people, it seems to be the world we live in. But I guess that doesn’t make it okay. I’m starting to realize that when we’re busy, we miss out on so many things. So busy is okay for periods of time, then we need to do life with our family and friends.

Now I’m laughing at myself, this is NOT what I was going to blog about, but hey, welcome to my life!!!

This blog is over due, sorry! 

I thought it would be fun to give you all a recipe to try at home. We will eventually do some youtube videos, but we’re not quite there yet. So here’s a recipe I use at home on myself as a peel. Yes a homemade glycolic face peel, and I love it!

First, what is Glycolic Acid and it’s benefits?

Glycolic acid is simply an Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) derived from cane sugar. It has many benefits, some of which are:

  • Removes blackheads
  • Purifies pores
  • Improves texture of skin
  • Gently exfoliates dead cells
  • Gets rid of acne scars
  • Brightens skin tone
  • Reduces hyperpigmentation

I’m sure there are more, but I was super excited when I saw how the texture of my skin improved after doing this only once. You may be tempted to try this every day, but don’t, that would be too harsh on your skin. Start with once a week and then eventually move up to twice a week if needed. 

The items you’ll need:

Sugar, brown or white. Lemon juice or Yogurt. Manuka honey (opt.). Small bowl and spoon.

Before we get started, here are some details about the ingredients and why:

I already talked about why we use the sugar, so I’ll move onto an ingredient we have listed as optional. Manuka honey. It is expensive, so that’s why I made it optional, but here are some of the benefits to consider:

It is a potent anti-inflammatory, so soothes inflamed skin while healing blemishes. It also helps balance the skin’s pH and contains amino acids which slough away dead skin cells, helping to keep pores clear. Another benefit I like is that Manuka honey has been shown to increase collagen cross-linking, promoting the structural growth of collagen in skin cells. And since amino acids are the building blacks of collagen, they also protect collagen. Healthy collagen means healthy, firm, youthful-looking skin. It is also a natural humectant, drawing moisture into the skin. This hydration helps to further enhance the skin’s elasticity and cell regeneration, as well as promote healing.

Lemon juice. We use this because it’s rich in vitamin C, plus it contains citric acid which helps with the effectiveness of the peel. But if you have sensitive skin, you may want to try plain yogurt instead. Yogurt contains lactic acid, it’s still effective with the peel, but more gentle on the skin.

The recipe:

1 T soft brown sugar

1 T lemon juice (or 1 T plain yogurt)

opt. 1 T Manuka honey (if you use the honey, reduce the lemon juice down to 1 tsp)

Small bowl and spoon

That’s it!

The process:

I use whatever sugar we have in the house, which is typically Muscavado. So I need to blend/grind my sugar down to a powder so it is more gentle on my face. But if you’re using a fine grain/soft sugar, you’ll be okay.

  • Put your sugar into a bowl and add the honey (if using), and lemon juice (or yogurt).
  • Mix together until they are well combined. 
  • Apply gently in circular motions to a clean and slightly damp face. Avoid eyes and mouth.
  • Let it sit for 3-5 minutes
  • Rinse thoroughly with warm water, pat dry and follow with a moisturizer.
  • Love your skin!!!

Let me know if you try it 🙂

Until next time,

Marianne


Our Story

When thinking about whether or not I should start a blog, it really came down to, will I be able to write about things that people want to read? Ummmmm….hard to say. Will you be interested? Or have I already lost you? 🙂 

As many of you know, we already send out a newsletter every week, well, we try to anyway. That newsletter usually contains information about our company, our products, promotions, links to helpful information and so on. This blog will also contain some of that, but it’ll go more in depth. More “how to’s”, more behind the scenes and into our lives type of information. 

So to start this, I’ll tell you a little about us. Who are we? That is, who is the family behind Apple Valley Natural Soap? 

Back in 2010, I became frustrated with my options for natural skin and body care products. Why does it cost SOOOO much to use healthy products with healthy ingredients? That was the question that started me on the journey of creating recipes and products that wouldn’t cost us an “arm and a leg” to use. First came lotions. You may ask, how do you create natural lotions without all the “junk” in there? Glad you asked! The answer is LOTS of research. I used the EWG site to check ingredients and find those that will work, but that would also not have nasty side effects. I also turned the skin of a fewfriends orange in color (wish I had photos!!!!) from the organic carrot oil – pretty funny actually 🙂 Don’t worry, it washed off eventually. 

Fast forward a few years. Shortly after I became a customer of Apple Valley Natural Soap (yep, I didn’t start this company), I started making soap. I was inspired. Again, lots of research and funny “mishaps” but the soap recipes I landed on were awesome. That sounds like boasting doesn’t it? Hard to say something that you do, or own is great without it sounding that way….

Anyway, I was approached by numerous friends saying that I should sell what I was making. I didn’t feel ready, but both my husband and I felt that God was leading us down this road, so we took a step forward and started selling on Etsy.

Fast forward to 2015. We were approached by the owner of AVNS with the possibility of purchasing the company. Neither my husband or myself felt it was the right time for us to do so, even though our companies were very similar, it’s a big step to take on and take over someone else’s dream. 

Fast forward again to 2017. We were approached again about possibly buying AVNS. This time was different. Our son had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in June, 2017 and we had started down a road of “alternative treatment” for him. Plus with all the other time and financial commitments in our lives, you may ask why we wanted to  embrace another business!?!  But buying AVNS seemed like an answer to prayer. Were we sure? Nope! But that’s where we stepped out in faith. We prayed for doors to open if we were supposed to do this, and for them to close if not. They flew open. Ummmm….so what do you do when doors open?  You walk through them. And we did. 

Owning Apple Valley Natural Soap for this short period of time has been a whirlwind and a blessing. I love being able to create what is good for our bodies, knowing that the ingredients aren’t harming, but nourishing and cleansing in a good way.  Some of our products can even help with detox, LOVE that! It pairs well with what we’d already been doing, we just got busier thanks to FABULOUS AVNS customers!!! 

So, this is only the beginning of our story.

What are some things you may see in the next few months? The use of more organics in the recipes, the reappearance of some past products that are loved by many, and the introduction of new products that will expand the Apple Valley Natural Soap line.  I love being creative with my products, and our customers get to benefit for all the “crazy” ideas whirling around in my head. Hopefully that’s a good thing!

Above all, our goal is to honor God. We also want to serve our customers with joy, continue to make the best products we can with the cleanest ingredients, and help those in need.  

Until next time.

Marianne