O Come Let Us Adore Him

I stood at church this Sunday and watched the light on the first advent candle [hope] flicker. Considering that I had no clue what an advent wreath was 5 years ago, I am quite thankful my church has one! The first week of advent, with three remaining. And here I am still detoxing from Thanksgiving gorging and family feels. As I see each candle lit consecutively it reminds me to reflect and shows me how short Christmas season really is.

I feel like holiday seasons pass by so much quicker as an adult. Does anyone else feel the same? And with Christmas being a time we give gifts, it can easily become more consumer focused than Christ focused.

I’m working on getting decorations up this week because they help remind me that there is more to this season, even if it’s just awe as I watch the Christmas lights sparkle and ponder Jesus taking human form (fully man, fully God) as I gaze at the nativity set.

I’m also working on an advent calendar for my nephews. I thought about my small but important part in their lives right now and how this Christmas I could make a spiritual impact rather than just giving a toy. I’ve decided to hand make an advent calendar for them with verses each day about the Christmas story with room for reflection and their parents to make it more of a devotion if they wish. I’ll also include some fun, of course. I have candies, stickers, and dollar bills to stuff in there as little gifts as they open one each day. I feel like this is the perfect year to give it now that the eldest is a great reader and the littlest is able to sit still and engage in the activity.

I need to clarify that I am doing this with their parents’ permission. I feel it very important, especially regarding spiritual things, that I get permission and that I do not overstep the parent’s spiritual instruction in their children’s lives as they are the main source and have a big responsibility before God to keep. But in this way, I can do my part this season to share Christ with them in a very special way.

Do you or your family have special traditions that help you remember the reason for the season?

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Thanksgiving Reflections and a Grocery Challenge

Christmas may be my favorite holiday as a whole (personal + spiritual reasons) but Thanksgiving is the main event of my year. This is because all my relatives gather from afar this one special time a year. One family comes from a neighboring state, a cousin going to med school on the opposite coast flies in, and a cousin in the south east for an awesome job got a ticket to come out just for T-day. On extra special occasions we have both sides of the family together; other times we make two thanksgivings out of it. This might be my favorite year of them all since we have a brand new member of the family joining our festivities: my baby nephew!

It’s also going to be a little bittersweet because this is the first big holiday gathering my Uncle N won’t be at. It’s hard to think that last Christmas is the last holiday we ever had with him and it makes me wish I took a little more time to spend with him one on one that day. I never thought less than two months later we’d be gathered around him in a hospital room as he drew his last breath. I want to remember him on Thursday. We always gather and hold hands and say what we’re thankful for before we pray to bless the meal. This time he will be what I’m thankful for. I want to consciously remember to spend a little more time talking to my aunts and uncles one on one instead of devoting most of my time with my cousins as a life lesson too. God willing, my cousins and I will have many decades more to enjoy each other, but our aging parents, we don’t know how many decades are left. It’s important for me to remember how fleeting life can be and really seek out meaningful times with them.

Here’s how the grocery challenge ties into Thanksgiving: my work generously gifted the office $100 gift cards for the holiday. For people with families of their own, that gift card will be gone in an instant just on the feast. Since I am only helping with a few dishes, I’m going to spend my own money now and save that gift card to stretch me through the holiday season.

My goal is to use up all the pasta, grains, cereals, and canned goods in my little pantry and be more mindful of grocery spending for the rest of 2016. This will help me get back on track with whole foods and make my pantry 100% back on diet plan. This last year with all the crazy I’ve accumulated a lot of boxed pasta, off plan snacks, and didn’t cook nearly as much as I used to so I have canned goods near expiration.  As a renter I’ve been told many times that my pantry isn’t desired in that location so ultimately my goal is to get rid of it and work with them to establish a place for my extra food items and small appliances. I honestly don’t think it looks bad, but I’m bending my will and trying to be compliant.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! May you have a blessed time of reflection and gratitude with friends/family and may digestion be on your side for all the goodies at your table!

Pragmatic Presents and a Kubo Review

Have I mentioned that my boyfriend is awesome? I managed to miss Kubo and the Two Strings in theaters and was super bummed, so when I saw it playing at our discount theater, I jumped on it. I asked him to get tickets and be there before me since he had the day off from working the weekend and I’d join him at the showing ASAP after work. I got there with a couple minutes to spare and was greeted by his smiling face with tickets in hand AND two of my choices of movie candy to pick from. I probably didn’t need a bag of sour patch watermelon, but it made my day in thoughtfulness. I’ll segway into thoughtfulness in gifting now and end with the Kubo Review (scroll down if gift giving thoughts sound booooring)…

With Thanksgiving around the corner, there is the topic of holiday shopping. Minimizing this year has left me with a more sensible eye and part of that is wanting to give (and receive) pragmatic presents. It matters more than ever that my gift is both thoughtful and useful. I used to search out the most unique gift I could find for people because I felt that it showed the most effort. However, many of these unique gifts, while meaningful, didn’t really have a purpose outside of looking pretty or being different from the rest. I’m consciously removing things like stuffed animals, nerdy notions that are too novel to use, nic nacs, dime-a-dozen beauty/fragrance/accessories, seasonal decor, and clothing that hasn’t been requested. While those items may fit a particular person and situation, they will no longer be items I purchase as general gifts.

The hardest part for me to mentally tackle was the fact that for some people, a thoughtful gift IS a gift card or cash because that’s what they really want or need. I personally used to think if I didn’t give them an item I wasn’t showing an effort or that I truly cared. I finally understand now that I’m wasting my time and effort to get something they may or may not use verses letting them pick out something perfect. I can easily express that effort in a handwritten letter/card that goes with the gift or by including a little something I personally know they enjoy with it. This is something that requires discretion, of course, but many times, people who want gift cards are vocal about it or extra particular about what they want.

Here is my holiday gift thought process:
1) Is it something they will like?
2) Is it something they will use?
3) How often will it be used? How practical is it?
4) Will it bring them joy?

If I were to let others know what/what not to get me, it would be please no clothes, scarves, ponchos, socks, lotions, nail polish, and body sprays, and yes please to books, art supplies, experiences, and music. The older I get the more I like gifts that require the gifter to do something with me. I like “take you to lunch/movie/beach” gifts because their true gift is their company and quality time spent together. I also like when the gift is sharing something they really love with me. That might be getting me a CD from their favorite artist so I can experience them too (even if I don’t end up liking them as much or just think it’s “ok”) or perhaps making me a meal that involves a family recipe passed down from generations.  I don’t have to feel guilty that I’m straining their wallet and at the same time I do feel like they are priceless gifts.

Now for Kubo and the Two Strings. This movie blew away my expectations. For one, the stop motion quality and imaginative design was breathtaking. It also doesn’t fit the emotional but safe trope of children’s animated films. Loss, identity, forgiveness, compassion and gratitude are very difficult themes to tackle and it gives the film a sense of maturity As a lover of fairy tales, I appreciate when tragedy isn’t sugarcoated but is overcome. The idea of bad things happening but looking for good and continuing to do what’s right is not only important in storytelling but in life. I also loved the sense of community felt at the end.

I wasn’t sure how to feel initially. There’s this little boy and his mom dies and his aunt and grandfather want to pluck out his eyes. Yeah – that premise is super creepy and doesn’t sound like something parents would want to take their kids to. But it all makes sense in time. There are some scary elements and the loss of a parent, so it’s not something I’d recommend for children under 10. But for the kids old enough, it is a journey for the eyes and the heart.

Healthy Fear is Fuel for Future Fearlessness

Healthy Fear is Fuel for Future Fearlessness

Try saying that ten times fast. I’m always in my head, trying to sort things out or sometimes just babble for my sanity. Today’s lasting thought is that healthy fear helps to create future fearlessness.

If I look back on good career moves and personal growth, I see fear. I see fear of the unknown, fear of full potential, fear of knowing what to do. It made it kind of scary but also very thrilling. And as I conquered or overcame them, that became a sense of pride. Fear becomes fearlessness in the end. It becomes a reminder that we did hard things and kicked butt and can do it again. 

In examining life right now, I’ve noticed I don’t have enough fear fueling me in the right way. My fears borderline unhealthy and say stay put, don’t overdo it, don’t risk what you don’t know. Am I talking huge things like quitting my job or moving 10,000 miles away? Heck no. But I am thinking it’s time to fan those flames in my favor towards something scary and exciting.

What fearful things am I thinking?

New friendships – I need a sense of community and sisterhood locally. I need to diligently do my part to meet new people and kindle something. It needs to specifically be someone with ambitious dreams so we can feed off each other’s encouragement.

Planning for my future – Really sitting down and going over financial numbers, what I desire and need to work on in my relationship, and thinking hard about where I want to be in the next year, five years, and decade.

Ministry – Braving bigger roles and practicing some lacking faithfulness and diligence that has made me feel kind of crummy lately. Digging deeper and knowing I’m not just a volunteer.

I need to keep reminding me I’m not scared of being scared. I need some fear, good fear, to help me continue to evolve into a better person. I’ve done it before, I can do it again. And again. And again. 🙂

Uncle Don’s Cabin: Why so many Evangelicals are still Pulling for Trump — (not so) completely. miserable.

I need to share this post with everyone — not to try to dissuade someone from voting for their candidate of choice, but to start a necessary conversation on a bigger picture: racism and white privilege in the church. 

Evangelicals are jumping off of the Republican ticket like never before – a truly unprecedented exodus. But an estimated 65% still remain faithful. While it’s true that Trump’s strong words against abortion, Gay rights, and the most vile human being an Evangelical can imagine have left so many still swooning, two recent studies suggest that […]

via Uncle Don’s Cabin: Why so many Evangelicals are still Pulling for Trump — (not so) completely. miserable.