Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmastime is here!

I know I complained about Christmas coming to early in November, but it's after Thanksgiving and it's time for Christmas now!

A talking snowman outside the door, a wooden snowman in the windowsill, a small Christmas tree, lights around the window and the door, a Christmas tree candle. I whipped out my Rubbermaid with all my holiday decorations in it and switched out my Christmas items for my fall decor.

I like seasonal decorations. It makes me excited for the changing seasons, even when I don't look forward to some of the outside changes like the cold weather and the drab landscape before snow falls.

Decorations especially make me happy when they have memories attached. The snowman outside my door reminds me of my mom, because she got it at Goodwill, holding on to it for me even when a woman followed her around waiting for my mom to put the stuffed piece back.

One ornament on the tree is a little piece that I made for my friends last year, and another is a reindeer that we used to make when I was a little girl.

This year, I decided to put front and center a dried starfish that has a surfboard and sunglasses. I got it on the trip Nate and I took to California this year, when we visited Catalina Island. I put the year on it too, because I figure someday we will look back and not be able to remember when we took that trip. Now we will always remember.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Lord's Prayer

"Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen."

I wrote this out and put it on a sticky note on my computer screen so that I would start to read this and pray it at least once every day.

In the Bible, Jesus taught us how to pray. We try to follow all of Jesus' teachings, but how often do we say the exact prayer that he taught us?

Kids go to sleep saying the same prayer every night - Mine was, "Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take."

Now, the Lord's Prayer doesn't having any rhyming in it, but if a little kid can remember Veggie Tales songs they can memorize a prayer if they hear it often enough.

The Lord's Prayer really has everything in it. It addresses our sins, reminds us how to act toward others, asks for grace to get through the day and reminds us of God's power. I want to have this right in my face so that I am reminded of these things each day.

Let's see what kind of a difference this can make!

Monday, November 28, 2011

My "secret" dollar

"As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. [2] He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. [3] "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. [4] All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." (Luke 21:1-4)

We read this in Sunday school yesterday, and I said, "Is it bad that every time I read this I think that's not very smart?" I mean, God calls us to be good stewards of our money. However, giving away everything leaving us nothing to live on doesn't seem like a good steward. Where's she going to get money for food or shelter - rely on someone else?

I don't know about the monetary part, but I started to think about this as life more than as money.

God blesses us all with lives to live. However, if we give only a little piece of our lives it's not worth very much. Even though our lives are small, if we give up everything it is all God asks for.

I want so much to give up my entire life for God, and I think that I do give a lot. When I look at the things in my life that need to change, I have seen some great improvements in recent years. However, in my life's wallet there's a little coin section.

My mom used to keep a "secret" dollar in her purse, to use when she needed cash and hadn't gone to the ATM recently.

I have a secret dollar, some secret coins. I have some of my life that I want just for me. I have given a lot to God, and I hang on so tightly to that last bill, those last few coins.

However, God's watching. He knows who's giving up their all and who's not. I need to release my grasp on that last secret dollar. But my fingers continue to grasp tightly.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Quick, I'm thankful for...

How many items can you name that you are thankful for in two minutes?

My boyfriend
My job
Extra money for fun stuff like traveling and going out to eat
An apartment
Clothes in my closet
Favorite TV shows
Nail polish
Both day and night, light and dark
A happy marriage for my parents and brother and sister-in-law
A safe country
My church

Monday, November 21, 2011

Jesus is the reason for the season

If my memory serves me, my mom used to have a Christmas pin that said "Jesus is the reason for the season."

It's a common phrase around Christmas, when we think about Jesus' birth - the original reason for Christmas. However, I don't think that saying should be put to the back of our minds the rest of the year.

Jesus is the reason for every season. Jesus is the reason for life. Without God, we wouldn't even have seasons so the reason for the season is God, is celebrating our creator.

Jesus is especially the reason for Thanksgiving. Although God makes the sun shine on the faithful and unfaithful alike, Christians recognize that everything we have is a gift from God.

When you're sitting around your table on Thursday, going through the things in your life you're thankful for, don't just say it as a statement. Turn it into a conversation with God. Thank you God for...

Friday, November 18, 2011

Chances to serve

This season, we love to think about volunteering. From soup kitchens to donating presents to children in far-off lands through charities like Operation Christmas Child, many opportunities to give are presented to us.

In a magazine I write for, we did an entire edition revolving around service opportunities this time of year. However, in those stories I wanted to stress that opportunities to volunteer are available all year round.

I am thankful for opportunities to serve. Giving of yourself is great a variety of reasons - people are thankful, you are making a difference in someone's life, we are created to be in relationships with one another which also means helping one another, and it feel good. Knowing that you have helped someone in their time of need really satisfies something deep inside.

There are many ways to give of yourself. We can give financially, like giving to missionaries or purchasing gifts for the Angel Tree or Toys for Tots. We can give of our time, like helping a friend move or by baking cookies for a neighbor. We can give of our hearts, like giving a hug or sitting down to listen to someone's problems.

I think we often view service as an obligation or giving up something. However, when I take an opportunity to volunteer, I enjoy it. It makes me feel satisfied and content. Volunteering gives you something, just like you are giving something to someone else.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The aromas of life

This might sound silly, but I'm really thankful for the sense of smell.

I was going to write a post all about being thankful for candles, however, I decided that it even goes beyond that.

Candles are wonderful - the dim light, the warmth they can bring to a chilly room, the scents of the seasons. However, in general I think everyone would agree that the scents of candles are the best.

I just finished burning an autumn-spice candle and a coffee-scented candle my parents brought me back from Jamaica. My vanilla candle is almost out, and the lilac wax melter smells like springtime. I also just started burning a cranberry candle that is making it smell like Christmas, even though it's a little bit ahead of time.

They say that scent has the biggest tie to memory. That sounds interesting, because we normally think we use sight and hearing much more than smell. However, we smell things and create memories subconsciously, and I think that's why our sense of smell is tied so much to memory.

Smell is wonderful. Without smell, we can't taste - I know from the times I've been sick and have been unable to taste food because my nose is so clogged.

Smells can relax you immediately and make you think of good times - the smell of baking cookies, the scent of apple cinnamon on pinecones that remind you of the holidays, the smell of fresh-cut grass that immediately feels like the fun of summer.

Walking into a house that has a fresh scent makes you feel comfortable, but a bad smell can make you immediately tense up.

I'm so glad that I can experience life through so many different senses, including the sense of smell. It's a beautiful experience that we don't often think about, but I certainly appreciate the aromas of life.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Merry Christmas

People seem to walk on two sides of the fence this time of year, debating about what is really Christmas season.

Does Christmas start the moment Halloween ends or do you have to wait until after Thanksgiving for Christmas to start?

Well, for starters I don't think it's ever too early to celebrate the coming of Jesus to Earth. In that sense, Christmas can be all year long.

However, in a non-religious sense, I hate it when people begin to celebrate Christmas at the beginning of November. It doesn't affect me at all when people get over-exuberant, but it still bugs me.

My brother used to talk about people being holiday impaired. When people left their Christmas lights up after Jan. 1 - and kept them lit - he would say they were holiday impaired. I think instead of people leaving Christmas stuff up too late, people are becoming holiday impaired by putting them up too early!

Facebook is filling up already with pictures of people's Christmas trees. I even passed a house the other night that had candy canes lit up in the yard! Why do we feel a need to rush Christmas?

I love Christmas. I love baking, celebrating with friends, putting up the tree, shopping and wrapping presents, lighting cinnamon-scented candles, listening to holiday music. I appreciate the season as much as anyone.

We aren't allowed to celebrate our birthdays early. We don't celebrate Valentine's Day in January. We don't dress up for Halloween in September.

We have plenty of holidays to celebrate throughout the year. Let's time the time to celebrate each of them without rushing it. Thanksgiving should get its fair shake before Christmas, even if there aren't any presents to open.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I'm thankful for ... naps!

Today, I have to say that I am thankful for naps.

I don't have anywhere to go tonight, and there's also nothing pressing to do. However, I am have been up since 6 a.m. for our trip to the gym, so I was a sleepy this afternoon - I haven't readjusted my schedule yet (although I'm enjoying the time with Nate at the gym).

I got done with work at 2:30 p.m. as I had to work late a couple nights this week, so I took that time to work on a new project and then I curled up to watch a movie and fell asleep.

I think it was a pretty deep nap, because I woke up and left my apartment to hang out with a friend but told her that I couldn't keep my eyes open. I forced myself to open my eyes, and then I opened them to realize I was had still been asleep on the couch!

A nap within a nap - I must have been really tired.

For those of you who don't take naps anymore, I would really suggest slowing down long enough to take one. Whether it's by yourself, cuddled up with your spouse, your dog or your children, grab a few winks one afternoon this weekend.

Thank you Lord for having enough time to take naps!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hello baby girl!

This isn't exactly an everyday moment - this is a once-in-a-lifetime moment. I would like to introduce you all to my niece!

My sister-in-law had an ultrasound today, and we found out that she is going to give birth to a little girl in only a few short months.

It's an exciting time in life, because both my brother and Nate's sister are going to have new additions in their lives, quite soon actually. Both of them are going to be little girls, which I think is funny because we both have boys as the oldest in our families.

These may not be the only children that our siblings have, but they are the first - the first grandchildren for our parents. This is an exciting moment in life, and I don't even have much to add to that. I think these exciting things are self-explanatory!

Today, I'm thankful for healthy babies!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tops today

Here's what I'm thankful for today:

1. Answered prayers. Prayer has so much power, and I don't think we use it enough - at least I know that my prayer life is not where it should be. I don't talk to God anywhere near as much as I should to have a deep relationship with him. However, God still loves me enough to answer my prayers - like the prayers we all prayed for a friend's aunt yesterday.

2. Light and dark. I love the contrasts between light and dark. People think it odd that I like to not use artificial light too much during the day, but I love having both light and dark each day.

3. Color. How boring would life be without color? Watching design shows often reminds me about how much fun color can be.

4. Thanksgiving. It's so nice to be reminded to give thanks for all that we have. In Sunday school this week, the women were talking about what they are thankful for - many for where they are as opposed to where they used to be. I am thankful that I haven't had those absolutely awful times in my life that many people have had.

5. Names. Aren't names fun? Names tell so much about us and the stories behind our names are often interesting and meaningful. My mom thought up my name one day and just fell in love with it, and my middle name is in honor of her. I love that we have names, something to cling to and make us truly ourselves!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Take an interest

I have always thought that an important part of relationships is taking an interest in activities and topics that your loved ones like.

People aren’t always interested in the same things, even if they are close, but I think we should all take the time to talk and learn about what other people enjoy.

For example, although they may share some interests, couples often have interests that don’t even remotely intersect — a woman loves dance, a man loves war video games. What does the woman know about killing the opponent with a few buttons on an Xbox handset? What does the man know about the kids tapping on stage?

If you haven’t guessed, this is one example from my own life. I love to dance, and last night Nate came with me to a dance show at a local theatre. I knew that tapping would be most likely the kind of dancing he would actually enjoy, and I appreciated that he came even though his friend asked if he could stay home and play video games.

Although he said it got long, he didn’t complain that he had to sit through 1.5 hours of people tap dancing — sounds that get a little repetitive if you have no dance background.

In another way, he also takes interest in my dance by mixing music for me to choreograph to — a way for him to connect his interests with mine.

As for the video games, I have played a variety of video games through the years. Some video games I enjoy playing — Rock Band, Wii sports. However, I have played games like HALO and Toy Soldiers just to spend a little time with Nate, doing something that he enjoys. It always ends up being fun too.

We have other interests that we don’t necessarily share, but we share with each other, educate each other on just to connect our lives. Some things we even learn to like just by trying it out because the other person loves it — like football for me.

I have seen a lot of couples completely separate themselves. The woman — I hate sports, so if you want to talk sports or watch it, go do it with someone else. However, that same woman will get jealous that her husband is off with other people instead of spending time with her — even though that’s what she said she wanted.

I think to improve relationships, it’s important to take an interest in each other and each other’s interests, even if those interests don’t initially interest you? Did you get all that?

When your spouse, or even your friend, starts talking about something you aren’t interested in, stop and take a moment to listen. Even ask some questions. Make them feel like they are important to you just because what you are taking an interest in what they enjoy.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A new start

So, I often decide I'm going to do things to improve my life - working out, eating better, stop biting my nails, get up with my alarm.

All of them, I've succeeded at for various periods but then my priorities shifted and I ended up caring less and less about what I had decided to do.

This week, I bought a membership to a local 24-hour fitness club for the winter, so I would work out when I couldn't get outside much. Nate and I decided we would work out together at 6 a.m., when he got off work and before I had to go to work.

Well, first I am so not a morning person. In fact, if I could sleep in until 11 a.m. every day without feeling like a slug and without other people thinking I'm a slug, I probably would. I love sleeping!

I want to work out, and I want to spend time with Nate, so I decided I would do this for the winter. And I decided that I would do it without complaining these next few months.

I better keep this up - I already paid for the entire four months of gym membership!

Thanksgiving: Today, I am thankful for the money to get a gym membership. A lot of people don't have the extra money to do something like that, and I am thankful that God has blessed me with a job so I do!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Don't waste it

In my pastor's sermon this week, he noted an article written by John Piper called "Don't Waste Your Cancer." Piper gave 10 ways to waste the situation when you find yourself diagnosed with cancer.

  1. You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.
  2. You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.
  3. You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.
  4. You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.
  5. You will waste your cancer if you think that beating cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.
  6. You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.
  7. You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepening your relationships with manifest affection.
  8. You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope.
  9. You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before.
  10. You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ

I just found this extremely inspiring, and I don't think that you have to have cancer to waste your life in these ways. We should use all of our troubles, all of our daily messes, to make life better in these ways.

Also, my friend started a post on her blog about counting down to Thanksgiving by counting up her blessings each day - thinking of something she was thankful for each day through Thanksgiving. I wanted to start that as well.

Today, I'm thankful for getting time to get ahead at work.

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Treat people right, now

"A few hours later Jamie returned to them, strangely at peace. Whatever he and Sarah had shared in that time had given him the same radiance that remained in her now-still face when Trinity and the others went back in for a few moments. In death Sarah's lips still curved in a smile and Trinity remembered a conversation they once had.

"'Before I got married I heard a woman say that when she lost her husband, she felt sorry that she didn't treat him the way she wished she had. I made up my mind that I would always treat Jamie with all the love in my heart so if I ever lost him, I wouldn't be like that woman.' Softness crept into her eyes. 'I have too.'"

I was reading in my book today and found this quote, and I decided that I wanted to have this same outlook.

In another book I have read, it said to give your husband/wife a kiss every time you leave for work, because you never know if that's going to be the last time. You want to have something to beautiful and happy to look back on, not something to regret.

This same idea is reflected in numerous movies and TV shows, when people get in fights and then end up not having a chance to make up. For instance, on the show "The O.C." a main character tells her dad that he is going to die alone and then storms out, the last conversation she has with him before he dies.

Whether it's a loved one or simply the person in the office next to yours, make sure you treat people right, now. We never know how much time we are going to have, and you don't want to look back with regrets.

I am often at fault for not seizing the moment. I get stuck in a funky mood, and I treat people the way that I feel like treating them, or the way I think they deserve to be treated, and then I end up regretting it. I have never not had the chance to change my attitude or try to make up for it, but I don't want that to ever happen.

I want to be like Sarah and Trinity in the book - I want to always treat people, especially Nate, in a way that I will never regret it should something happen.

(Excerpt taken from "A Torch For Trinity" by Colleen L. Reece, part of the Inspirational Romance Reader, Historical Collection No. 1, published by Heartsong Presents, copyright 1992).