Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Week

Happy Thanksgiving week friends! It's a busy week for us since we spent the weekend with Derek's family in Northern Kentucky and have a short week of work to be followed by a trip to Columbus for Thanksgiving. So I thought I would stop by the blog to make a quick list of fun things that have already happened or are going to happen so I don't forget.

1. We spent this past weekend celebrating Derek's dad's 60th birthday. Of course I was a slacker and took no pictures. It was still a full and fun weekend that included visiting with Derek's parents, brothers and their wives and kids, playing silly games with Henry, snuggling Connor, getting to lay eyes on Oliver (he may have started to cry any time I got close to him and acted like I was going to pick him up), going to Rob's art show and watching him and one of his band-mates do an acoustic set at the art show, giving gifts, watching movies, visiting with Brian and Fran, eating delicious food and not having a whole lot to worry about.

2. Our church small group met Sunday for a dinner that consisted of delicious soups, salads and bread, and some great fellowship and discussing Proverbs.

3. Sunday night we celebrated our roommate Keith's birhtday with cupcakes and singing.

4. Sunday night was also spent decorating for Christmas. Our house is all ready for the holidays. Since we're usually gone during Thanksgiving and Christmas we like to decorate early so we have time to enjoy the decorations. We put our tree in a new spot in the living room this year. We've had it in several different spots over the years and I'm not sure which I like best, but I really like how it turned out this year. We skipped putting up some decorations this year, but I'm ok with that. I think the house looks just the right amount of festive. Hopefully I will take pictures and share them some time before Christmas.

5. Our LCA friends, who are no longer LCA-ers but now college kids are starting to trickle back into town from being away at school. We got to see some of them Sunday night, and on Wednesday night we are having a reunion dinner. I can't wait to see everyone - we have missed them lots!

6. I can't wait to spend the weekend with my family. I'm so thankful for them. And my mom makes delicious Thanksgiving dinner that I can't wait to eat. And maybe we'll do some shopping this weekend. Columbus has way better shopping than Lexington.

7. Another Christmas gift idea for a good cause starts on Friday. Lots of crafters and Etsy shop owners have donated items to the Water for Christmas Etsy shop. (The store doesn't open til Friday, so if you click on the link before then there won't be anything there, but check back on Friday.) When you buy anything from this shop, the proceeds go towards clean water projects around the world. It's amazing how many people still do not have access to clean water. What a great opportunity to buy a unique, handmade Christmas gift for someone, and to be able to help provide clean water for those who need it.

Well, that's all I got! Sorry for the lack of pictures. I'll try to be back with a post that includes pictures soon. Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving and that we all take some time to reflect on all the blessings we have to be thankful for.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Salvation Stories - My Story

My blog friend Callie is having a link up today where people can share their salvation stories. I know I've talked about mine here before, but I thought it would be fun to write the whole thing out and share.

Salvation Stories

I grew up in a very loving family, and loved going to church when I was little. I loved Sunday school class. I was the annoying kid with all the answers. One thing I remember most about Sunday school is that I loved the service projects we did. I remember when we would collect canned food for the hungry. I brought in lots of bags full of food and was so happy that I could contribute. There was also a house right next to our church where homeless families would stay, and I remember preparing a meal for them and having dinner with them. I loved to do things like that. Growing up, I was a "good" kid. I didn't get into trouble. I was a typical oldest child overachiever.

When I was in high school, I started going to Young Life. I would go to these gatherings they had on weeknights where the cool upperclassmen would get up on stage and do hilarious skits, people would play ridiculous games, we would sing songs and someone would talk about Jesus. I loved everything about it. In the spring of my sophomore year, someone told me about Young Life camp. Since I loved going to Young Life so much I figured camp would be just as awesome. So I signed up.

And this is where I begin to see God's hand in my story. Because I signed up for camp without a single friend going with me. There were probably over 100 kids from my high school going on this trip and the only friends of mine that were going were some of my guy friends that I grew up with and had been friends with since elementary school. Which is better than no friends, but obviously we wouldn't be in a cabin together or on the same bus. Luckily I made friends with a girl named Sarah who was a year older than me that was going too. She didn't have very many friends going on the trip, so we were able to stick together. But it still amazes me that I signed up for this trip I knew nothing about, without any of my close friends.

So I arrived at camp and the whole week was amazing. There really aren't words to describe how awesome Young Life camp is. There were crazy games and activities we would do in the morning and in the evenings, and afternoons were free time spent by the pool or ziplining or blobbing into the lake, or making crafts or going on the giant swing or doing one of a million other fun things.

Also, in the evening, they had club, where a speaker talked about Jesus. I was tracking with everything the speaker was saying until one evening toward the end of the week. When he shared about Jesus' death on the cross and resurrection. It was like I was hearing it with fresh ears. I knew Jesus died on a cross and rose again. I had been told that before. But I never understood what it meant to be crucified, the significance of him being raised from the dead or what it had to do with me. All of a sudden I understood that because of my sinfulness, I couldn't have a relationship with God, but because of Jesus' sacrifice, I could.

It was such an incredible feeling, knowing how loved I was. Knowing that Jesus would go through the agony of being crucified for me. I knew right then that I wanted to accept this gift and spend the rest of my life living for Him.

I came home from camp a changed person. I was so excited to read my Bible. I wanted to know everything that it said. I went to campaigners, which was basically a bible study that Young Life had, and soaked in as much as I could. I invited all my friends to come to camp the next summer. And some of them did. And some of their lives changed too. And the following year, one of those friends and I got to lead a whole cabin of friends at camp. Which made me decide I wanted to be a young life leader in college. So I spent the next 10 years after that sharing Jesus with high schoolers through the ministry of Young Life.

I would say that outwardly, my life might not have looked a whole lot different after I decided to follow after Christ. After all, I was a "good" kid. In fact, I think I probably messed up and made more mistakes after. But the thing that changed was my heart. Before I was being good so that I looked good. I was living for myself. Now, I had a relationship with God and desired to live for him. So even though I made mistakes, and still do, as soon as I realize what I have done, I always turn back to God, and ask for forgiveness and continue to follow after Him. It's not a one time thing. It is a daily commitment. And that has made all the difference in the world.

If you want to read some posts about young life camp you can do so here, here and here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Christmas Gifting Season: Hello Somebody

I'm back today with another cool Christmas gift idea for you. This is a gift that you can buy for someone you love, and the proceeds go to a great cause. Check out the Hello Somebody watch.

You can buy a watch for $25 and when you do, you help feed and educate a child in Africa. Here is what the website says about it:

Hello Somebody has partnered with Africa New Life based in Kigali, Rwanda and is sponsoring 100 street boys to go to school and receive a first-class education and 2 meals per day. The program costs $100,000 for the entire year. That means for every 70 Hello Somebody watches that we sell, a child is completely sponsored.

The Young Street Boys Rehabilitation Program is broken up into 2 parts, primary and vocational. The 50 primary age boys are taken off the streets and put into primary level classes, where they have opportunity to grow and develop. The 50 vocational boys are teenage boys who are too far behind to be placed into primary age classes. Instead, they are given the opportunity to learn a trade. The vocational school teaches electrical engineering, advanced carpentry, masonry, auto mechanics and plumbing. Not only do all 100 boys receive a top-notch education, but also 2 meals per day, tutoring, mentoring and spiritual guidance.

Pretty cool, right? You can read more about it and the children that are involved here.

And the watches are really cool looking. I'd take one in that aqua color or white if anyone needs any gift ideas :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fall Swap Stuff

My blog friend Kristin, had a little fall swap party over at her blog back in October. This is the first blog swap I've ever done, and it was fun to pick fun little fall like things out for another person, and to get a fun package in the mail. My blog swap partner was a girl named Jennifer from North Carolina. And she sent me a box full of fun things. So I took a few pictures and thought I would share.

Contents included: a cute candle holder with a delicious smelling candle inside, a yankee candle car air freshener (in a fall scent of course!), back and body works hand sanitizer (also in a fall scent), a cute fall hand towel, fall patterned tissues and sticky pad, pumpkin spice hershey kisses in a little paper holder, apple cider, hot chocolate, tea and some awesome fall recipes.

There was a $15 price limit to spend on the package to send to your swap partner. I would say Jennifer did a great job of utilizing that $15 and sending me an awesome package. It was so exciting to get mail and see all the fun stuff that came.

Have you ever participated in a blog swap? I think I will definitely do it again!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Christmas Gifting Season: Redirecting Christmas

For some reason I am always tempted to start every single blog post with "So...". Does anyone else have that issue or is it just me?

So...a few days ago I did a post on my thoughts on Christmas giving. And I said that I would be back with some ideas for cool gifts to give, or organizations to give to.

The first organization I want to highlight is called Sixty Feet. I came across this blog not too long ago, and immediately fell in love with the ministry they created.  They minister to children in Africa who have been imprisoned. That's right. Children. In prison. And not juvenile detention centers that we have in the U.S. Chained to the wall, neglected, malnourished, not taken care of, prison. And there are children of all ages, babies to teenagers. Brought to prison for various reasons. Some because they don't have parents, some because they are beggars, you get the idea. And this awesome ministry wants to build a home to rescue and care for the most vulnerable children in these prisons. You can read more about it here.

Basically they have received a $60,000 matching grant to match money donated towards building this facility. And so this Christmas season, this ministry is trying to raise $60,000 to be matched to rescue these children. I think it's an awesome cause to put some Christmas money towards, whether your donation is a gift to a loved one who has a heart for orphans and ministry in Africa, or whether you just want to redirect some of your Christmas funds to this worthy cause. Either way, I hope you'll at least take a look at the Sixty Feet website and learn more about what they're doing. It's tragic to know that this situation exists in this world, but so encouraging to see a family stepping out in faith and being the hands and feet of Jesus there.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Christmas Gifting Season

While I'm not quite ready for Christmas decorations and full on Christmas season yet, I have started giving thought to our Christmas budget. I think it's important to do that in advance so we don't end up spending way more money than we anticipated.

Did you know that Christmas is a $450 billion industry? Now don't get me wrong, I love to give and receive gifts at Christmas time, but I do think that the materialism and consumerism of our culture has gotten a bit out of hand. I doubt that when the church established Christmas as a holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus, that this is how they envisioned it turning out.

Again, I'm totally not against giving or receiving gifts, or decorating or being festive. But one thing I do feel passionately about, is that as part of the richest nation in the world, we should not blow our budgets on buying tons of stuff for people who already have tons of stuff.

To me, this does not mean not giving gifts to family and friends. I get a lot of joy out of giving gifts and I know that our families do to. In fact, there are a lot of things throughout the year that Derek and I don't buy, and instead ask for for Christmas. Like clothes, books, DVDs, etc. Our luggage has been in pretty bad shape for a while now, but we have made it work through our trips this year, and intend on asking for new luggage for Christmas. So while we still plan on giving and receiving gifts this year, there are a few things that we would like to do and I would like to encourage you to consider doing as well.

1. Set an amount in advance that you would like to spend on giving gifts. And then don't spend it all on your family and friends. Spend some on gifts for family and friends, and some on gifts for those who are less fortunate, and give some of it away. There are lots of great ways that you can buy gifts for the less fortunate and great causes that you can donate some money to.

2. Buy gifts whose proceeds go towards a good cause. Whether it's buying fair trade, or buying a gift that supports an artisan in a third world country, or making a donation in honor of your recipient, there are lots of awesome ways you can give a gift that also helps someone in need.

One thing that I thought would be fun to do during this gifting season, is to post about different gift giving opportunities during the holiday season. Hopefully you'll get some new ideas for creative ways you can give gifts, as well as opportunities to give money and/or gifts to those in need. I'll be back tomorrow to highlight a really cool organization that I believe would be great to donate some Christmas money to.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fun Things

Happy Tuesday, friends! As you might have guessed by the title of this post, lots of fun things are going on around here. Unfortunately, I have no pictures to accompany said fun things. Sad :( But I will proceed to make a little list and include some links that have pictures.

1. I had a glorious 3 day weekend this past weekend.It consisted of:
  • Friday - Shopping for our end of the season soccer party, baking cupcakes, and Lexingtonian salad and sushi takeout from Malones
  • Saturday - Soccer party with little girls. We made bracelets, decorated cupcakes, made glitter pumpkin and played avalanche. Oktoberfest at the Poston's. See pictures here and here. It was such a cute party and was wonderful spending time with good friends.
  • Sunday - Church and perfect weather. I spent a good part of the afternoon raking leaves, pulling weeds and digging up what was left of my vegetable garden. The garden was not a great success this year. I'm giving it one more year and then I may give up. But, the weather was so awesome that I enjoyed being outside raking leaves and pulling weeds. Sunday evening consisted of dinner with friends and making crafts for Derek's work office that he recently redid. We took a bulletin board, spray painted the frame black and covered the inside with some fabric. Of course I have no pictures, but it turned out awesome and I felt really proud of our skills. 
2. I just bought Moose this Halloween costume on clearance from Target for next year:

2a. Speaking of Moose - this is a not so much  a fun thing, the poor pup is having a little procedure done tomorrow to remove a bump from his foot. The doctor doesn't think it is cancerous, but we're having it tested just to be sure and are praying that he is healthy.

3. Back to fun things, Gina, who I work with, brought me in her Better Homes and Gardens Soups magazine so I could pick out a few recipes to try. I love making soup in the winter and can't wait to try some new recipes. I'll share them with you if I have success.

4. I did a little fall decorating in my house. While buying mini pumpkins for our soccer party I found some great gourds. I spent $3 on the gourds, and then clipped some branches from our neighbors beautiful Maple tree and stuck those in vases I already had. I added some candles and ended up with a mantle I feel pretty good about. Now if I could just keep the rest of the room that surrounds it looking good. (Sorry for the poor picture quality, I just used my ipod and the lighting was not great.)

5. My blog friend Chloe is running the New York City Marathon this weekend. That's right - a full marathon. Six months after she had an emergency C-section and gave birth to a precious boy. She's amazing. You should go leave her some encouragement. She's also running for Team Samaritan's purse, raising money for their Children's Heart Project,  with the goal of raising $2200 - enough to cover the cost to bring a third world child with congenital heart disease to North America to have life saving surgery. If you want to help her towards her goal, you can click here. Even if you donate $5, it will all add up. 

6. So I had my first giveaway last week and it was almost a ginormous fail. Honestly, I was kind of surprised when they asked me to host a giveaway because I do not have large numbers of people who read my blog, and I don't really do much to promote it. I don't want it to be something I feel obligated to do, so I mostly just post what I want to, when I want to and don't worry about whether lots of people will read it or like it. But, for some reason, I was still asked to do a giveaway and figured that people like free stuff, so why not. Well, I guess not many people are interested in digital scrapbooking software because no one entered the giveaway. Until my sweet mom took the time to look at the site, choose some things she liked and leave a comment. Aren't moms the best? So thanks, mom, for keeping the giveaway from being a complete fail. And as a result, you are the winner of some fancy software! I'll be sending you an e-mail shortly!

Well, I think that's it for now. I feel like there are more fun things that I'm leaving out. I guess I can always do another post :) Hope everyone has a wonderful day!