life: beautiful- A Review

One quiet house, a cool glass of water, a bag of “red hots” (the right kind… Brach’s Cinnamon Imperials), a warm cozy blanket, and a magazine.  it’s a recipe for relaxation.

About four months ago, I heard about a new magazine, life: beautiful, and decided to subscribe.  I don’t subscribe to any other magazines but since it was a Christian oriented magazine, I thought it might be nice to see what the hubub was all about and since living in the desert means that our news stands are limited to BH&G and People, I decided to treat myself to a year.  If I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to renew my subscription.

So, sipping on my water with a red hot tucked in my cheek very much like a squirrel and her acorns, I opened the Spring, 2009 issue of  life: beautiful.

Pretty isn’t it?  Ok, so you can read the cover topics yourself.  I opened it and immediately there is a two page spread of a barn with two adorable little lambs.  It announces “Spring” and a tribute to the beauty of God’s gift of nature in spring is written as a prayer and followed by the text from Genesis 1:1.  Two small paragraphs on two full pages.  Refreshing… as long as other pages have a little more to them.

Next we have the letter (which in my late night exhaustion I just spelled “ledder”.  Oh yes, I kin spelt that werd).  The topic?  The beauty of God’s hand in everything- even adversity.  I was encouraged by it.  I got a glimpse of what is coming in the magazine and the table of contents on the next pages gave me a more detailed idea of how I will be spending the next hour!

This magazine has a particular emphasis on beauty.  I like that aspect.  I know many magazines are about “beauty” but this is the first one that I personally have seen that seems to truly capture that.  The photography is stunning and the constant use of it is exciting.  I am rapidly becoming a fan, just for the pictures.  This could be a negative thing.  After thirty some odd years of being captivated by words, I am now reverting back to ‘looking at the pictures’.

The first article is by the editor.  10 Secrets to Happiness.  I love number one but um… is it evil that I am thoroughly annoyed at a sentence that is ambiguous at best?  Seriously, if she is trying to tell me that her mother-in-law’s last name is Marie but she goes by it as a first name and she’s known that woman for thirty years, then say so.  If that’s not what she’s trying to tell me, well, that’s what I finally deduced from the awkward sentence.  It was frustrating.  Minor, I grant you.  On the other hand, I think I would love to meet this woman she’s talking about… the one I’m calling Marie even if it isn’t her name.

Numbers two, three, and four are predictable.  They’re good reminders and I’m not suggesting that they shouldn’t be in there.  I just wonder if perhaps a new spin on them could take something we’ve all heard repeatedly, and make it come alive for us in ways it never has yet.  I loved number five.  It too is a little predictable but unlike the others, she added enough of a personal anectdote and instead of hearing the same-old, same-old… we got something fresh and interesting.  Three cheers for number five.  Six fits with the others though.  Good reminder but not so good presentation.  Seven, is new.  It’s not something I’ve heard people say when talking about happiness so I was excited about that.  I think her conclusion was presumptive at best and more likely, weak.  However, the originality of the idea carries it anyway in my opinion.  Eight is a good reminder, given in an encouragng way, and without the weaknesses of some of the other points.  While it lacked the punch of number five, I immediately thought of ways to apply it so I’m giving it a double thumbs up too.

On the next page are numbers nine and ten.  I must confess, the beautiful picture on the page did capture my interest before following the article did, but I don’t see that it’s such a terrible thing.  I did finally continue the article and I loved number nine.  It wasn’t original like five or the consistent reminder of eight.  Rather, it was a glimpse into who an inwardly happy person becomes and how much that blesses others.  I’m not sure that was the author’s point- I think she suggested praying for a happy heart, but my reaction was more of a , this is the result of infusing the other suggestions into your life.  I never do follow directions very well.

It is very “Spiritually Incorrect” to be annoyed at any admonition to “get in the Word first thing every morning” so I’ll just have to be spiritually incorrect.  I was irritated.  It wasn’t that we all know to do this.  We do, but it never hurts to be reminded.  It was just so utterly predictable.  I could have told you before I started the article that it would be one of the suggestions and if I was my grandfather the compulsive gambler, I would have put good money on it being the last suggestion.  I think I’d have only had a hint of mild irritation if the emphasis hadn’t been on “first thing”.  I get so tired of the presumption that if you don’t start your day in the Word, you aren’t giving God your best.  Everytime I’ve tried to do this, I’ve grown very stagnant in my relationship with the Lord.  I am just not alert enough in the morning to answer a semi-intelligent question from Lorna much less read God’s inspired Word with any kind of clarity.  So, while I don’t argue that it is a good suggestion, it was cliche and it was very frustrating to see the eternal ‘first thing’ emphasis.  Again.

So, the first article, while not life changing by a long shot, was a gentle nudge to remind us all that happiness is a condition of the heart that springs from correct thinking and a focus on the true Source of happiness.  All in all, if I had to rate the article with one to five star, I’d give it a two and a half or three.

Next, there is a lovely calendar for March, April, and May.  These have four scripture suggestions for reading every day.  I assume this takes you through the Bible in a year or something.  I love the calendar and if I used one of those homemaking notebook things, I’d tear them out, hole punch them, and stick them in the binder.  Why not have pretty pages!

Next is the “Family” section.  This is a question and answer session with James Dobson.  I assume it’s their version of “Dear Abby” but with parenting as an emphasis.  While I didn’t agree with him on everything he said (and let’s face it, I don’t agree with everything anyone says), aside from the comment than an undeveloped 13 year old needs a bra to ‘compete’ with her peers, most of it was sound.  (Yes, I agreed with him that th 13 year old undeveloped girl needed a bra.  If everyone at school is wearing them, kids are cruel and it’s not going to hurt the girl to wear it if she wants to.  Thank the Lord for homeschooling so this isn’t something I have to consider.)

Next, is the marriage section with Gary Smalley.  Ok, I confess, I was already feeling a bit unimpressed from the last section so I expected to disappointed.  While the parenting questions I’d give a two at best, the article Forgiving a Difficult Spouse rates a four.  It didn’t blame you for your spouse’s failures but neither did it give you room to seethe.  The point, obviously, is how to forgive– how to ‘be the better person’ as my dad always said.  He didn’t mean of course, that you are superior to another when you ‘are the better person’; he just meant that someone has to do the right thing so why be that person?  It was definitely an article I’d recommend to someone encountering anything from a normal bump in the road of matrimony to a completely washed out section of highway.  It was clear, scriptural, and encouraging while gently wielding  a very much needed 2×4 to the cranial region.

Oh the next page was delightful!  It’s the section “Finds”.  Here, they show us the cool beans things that might just make our wallets cringe but definitely would make some of us grin!  For instance, check out this gorgeous bowl set from White Forest Pottery.

Think Kevin would mind if I spent $300 on a gorgeous set of nesting bowls?  Yeah.  Me too.  I think I’ll have to try them with paper mache or something.  Not as functional but just as lovely.    This little bowl makes me smile and the price is definitely more ‘doable’.

Another suggetion were these gourmet candies.  They’re “Honey Caramel Bees from John and Kira’s.

Can someone explain to me why I am revolted at the idea of eating cute little bee candies but their ’boutique ladybug’ counterparts don’t seem to faze me?  Anyway, these too are out of my price range but they’re adorable anyway.  As always, the pictutres that they have of these and several other items, are exquisite, large enough to see true detail, and make you want to drool.  Just a bit.  Where did I put that napkin?

Oh boy. The next is an article by Joyce Meyer.  I’m not exactly a fan but I’m going to try to go into it with an open mind and see what happens.  The title:  The Problem with Change.  Ok, it was good.  I liked the article.  Only one statement jumped out at me as “erroneous”.  You can’t make a blanket statement that good intentions only drive you deeper into a rut.  That is just too broad to be supportable.  On the other hand, she said one thing that I found brilliant.  Simple… nothing we don’t know, but worded in a fresh way that jumped out and smiled at me.  She said, “You don’t have to be a superhero.  Give yourself permission to be who you are- an imperfect human being who needs help!”  Hallelujah.  The end of the article states that this article is  based somehow on Ms. Meyer’s book, 100 Ways to Simplify Your Life and can be purchased here.  This one definitely gets a 4 star rating.  Oh and the section was Life: Teaching.   Thought you oughtta know.

Oh goodie.  The next section is crafts!  Yeeeee haw!  I love crafts.  Off to read.  (psst.  The pictures are already amazingly gorgeous!)  How interesting.  Three craft ideas on a two page spread with one of those pages being a single gorgeous picture.  The other page is half instructions and half pictures.  The instructions are VERY clear, the ideas are VERY simple, but they’re fun!  They’re definitely economical and the results shouldn’t be difficult to achieve.  All in all, while one is absurdly simple and not anything we haven’t seen a dozen times, it does fit nicely with the other two so it makes sense that they included it.  I’m seriously tempted to weave me a message board… it looks cool!  Too bad I don’t use them.  Does anyone need a new message board at their house?

So far, by the way, the only advertisements have been for the magazine itself.  I’m on page 22 and still no sign of them.

Life: Dinnertime.  Oh the table is gorgeous.  Those square plates I drooled over at White Forest Pottery are waiting for the meal to come!  Vases from the same website are there and I would almost bet that those bowls are there too.  The next two pages have a theme of “marigold yellow” from a design hint to the suggestion of using a bit of honey in your salad dressing.  (It looks divine btw.)  I did a double take at ‘naval oranges’.  Do they have marine ones too?  They suggest that you scoop a bit of store bought sorbet onto a cookie sheet before dinner and stick in the freezer.  Then you go take them out, put them in footed glasses, add a sprig of mint, and serve.  Now tell me, why the freezer bit?  Seems like now you have another pan to wash.  The cheese souffle sounds heavenly but there is no recipe so I’m not sure if havartia and blue cheese souffles are any good and if they are, I don’t know where to find a recipe for them.  I’m not interested in their salad.  Greens, fruit, and nuts topped with honey dijon mustard dressing sounds repulsive to me.  Ugh.

Oh!  Next is money or as they call it, life: finances with Ellie Kay.  Never heard of her but that’s not to say she doesn’t have sound advice.  Off to see!  Ok, the article is in  Q&A format but it took two very closely related questions and made them into a solid encouraging article for how to work together to spend and save wisely.  Nothing earth shattering in the suggestions… but her personal story of what she did and how she did it when she tried to get out of severe personal debt was inspiring.  I plan to share it with a friend who is almost at the point to get to do her own debt busting!  I’ll give the article a 3 for helpfulness but a five for encouragement.  It’s always nice to hear someone’s success story.

On to order!  The order of the day?  Gardening!  A generic article encouraging you to get out there and do a little tilling and sowing!  While not earth-shattering, I do confess, by the time I was done reading, I wanted to look at seed catalogs and I’d built a few raised beds in my mind.  Oh, and I LOVE the idea of planting lettuce in pots along the north side of the girl’s room  I am definitely going to consider that.

Ahh… sleep.  The next section is on sleep and since I’m writing this at 1:29 in the morning, the irony is giving me the giggles.  This is the “body” section.  Let’s see what they have to say.  I’m guessing a few reminders of how beneficial good sleep is, how God designed us to need it, and how most of us don’t get enough sleep.  Am I right?  Ok, I was right but I have to confess, the health information offered was different than I’ve ever read.  In fact, it was such a compelling article, that I’m going to save the rest of this magazine for tomorrow.  I’ll give this one a five star rating for taking a common subject and making me interested enough in it to follow its suggestions immediately.

Buenas noches mi amigas.

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