Merry & Bright // Christmas Season

25 December 2014

Free Printable from Mari Orr // Found here: Mari Orr Shop
I am absolutely loving this free printable that I came across on Tumblr. It actually is found over on Mari Orr's Shop on her website. The link to the shop is in the caption for the picture. It is just such a fun little piece that totally fits the holiday season! Take a minute and go grab a copy of this printable while you can!

Now let's talk about Christmas...

In America, when we talk about Christmas we immediately think of Christmas trees, lights, ornaments, tinsel, garland, presents, Christmas cookies, and so on. We have become accustomed to this commercialized version of Christmas. The focus is put on the material side of life. We worry about getting the right present...
Did I buy the right shirt/pair of jeans/shoes for my kids?
Is this something that will be special to them?
Will this be the best present that so and so could get this year?

I have heard all of these questions and more. Our focus is on things that may seem good, and they are, but the pressure to have the perfect everything and to have a lot of gifts isn't good. Now I am not saying that giving gifts is bad, but rather the reasoning or the heart behind it needs to change. Yes, we look at this season as a season of giving. We want to get people things. This in and of itself isn't bad. But why are we buying people the things we do? 
Are we trying to one up some other relative or friend? 
Are we trying to make our kids love us by getting them the best things that we can? 
Are we trying to show off our wealth or how much we can spend?

Where are our hearts during this season? Are our hearts searching material fulfillment this Christmas season? Are they looking for some sort of earthly affirmation that they are doing this holiday thing right? Or are our hearts longing to celebrate the One who gives us a very reason to celebrate? I think that we need to reevaluate our take on Christmas. Family traditions are great, presents are good, but our focus is rarely aimed the direction it needs to be.

Christmas is a day to celebrate the birth of our Saviour. It is a day to remember that He has come and He will come again. It is a day to remember the gift that our Father has given us in His Son. It is a day to remember the many things that He has given us. The blessings, the joy, the peace. It is a day to remember who He is. 

While we should focus on Him on a daily basis, Christmas is a special day to totally and completely celebrate the precious gift that Jesus is. Yet we focus so often on the worldly, materialistic aspects of Christmas, making this special day not so special. It becomes a day where the focus is opposite of what Jesus stands for. 

Now before you categorize me as a scrooge who thinks we should get rid of presents and decorations entirely, stop to think through what I am saying. I am not saying to get rid of presents and decorations. Put up your tree and lights, enjoy the beauty of the season. Get a present for those you love. But make sure that your heart and focus are looking in the right direction.

The Birth of Jesus

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
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Christmas Eve & Day Traditions

24 December 2014

Most families have traditions that they follow for various events, especially when it comes to holidays. This is something that can clearly be seen during the Christmas season. We see the Facebook, Instagram and blog posts sharing a variety of traditions ranging from silly to serious. So it comes with no surprise that my family had some Christmas traditions that we did year and year. Today I want to share some of them with you.

Thinking back to my childhood I can recall the times when the calendar turned to December 1st and the countdown to Christmas Eve started. While Christmas Day was looked for to for all that it encompassed, Christmas Eve held a sort of special place for some certain reasons itself. During the day of Christmas Eve is was more likely than not that there was baking going on in the kitchen (cookies, breads, etc.), Christmas music or Christmas movies playing, and the plethora of Christmas mugs were out and regularly being refilled with hot chocolate or apple cider. 
When the evening drew near we would all spend some time getting dressed in our Christmas best to head on over to the church for the Christmas Eve Service. Hymns were sung, the Christmas story was told (the story of Jesus' birth), and candles were lit. We would stay and talk with friends after church, maybe exchanging a Christmas card or small gift with some. Then we would bundle up and get in the car to head out around town and look at Christmas lights. Being that Hastings wasn't a terribly large town, it generally took about 30-40 minutes on average to make a tour of town, hitting up our the favorite houses that were decked out every year.

Upon arriving back home we hung up coats and took off shoes and hurried to grab a spot on the couch or floor. We each grabbed the box with our name on it that was laid out just in front of the gifts for the following morning. We knew what was in the box but we didn't know what print, material, etc. these items were. Once mom had her camera and was situated where she could see all of our faces, we got the go ahead to open our Christmas Eve gift. 
Like many families traditionally do on Christmas Eve, we got a new pair of warm, cozy pajamas every Christmas Eve. This was a gift we could count on each year, but it was also one that held a sense of mystery and surprise with it as well. We would put on our new pajamas, curl up with blankets in the living room and watch a Christmas movie until we all fell asleep in the living room.

Like most kids we were up early the next morning anxiously awaiting the moment when our parents woke up. Tradition meant that stockings were always the first thing to be opened. If we were lucky we could convince them to let us do stockings before breakfast. Either way, our traditional Christmas breakfast consisted of cinnamon rolls, orange rolls, and sometimes pecan rolls. After we finished up breakfast we all grabbed a spot in the living room and we took turns each year passing out presents to one person at a time, watching them open their present before moving on to the next person.

A little while later when presents were all opened and wrapping paper was spread all across the living room, we would take a few minutes to pick it all up and straighten things out. Then we would lounge around the house putting together presents, having mini fashion shows, starting to tap into our candy stashes, and grabbing finger food as we went.

Christmas was always an event in and of itself. In the midst of the craziness we did try to take time out of the day to really focus on the reason that we celebrate this day. We spent time putting our focus on Jesus and what He did, the sacrifice He made. This is what makes for the ultimate tradition. 
Christmas is a wonderful time to spend with friends and family, but most importantly to celebrate the person who allows us to so freely and joyously share this time with those we love.

May you have a wonderful Christmas Eve enjoying your family traditions and soaking in the time you have to spend together. May you also be reminded and refocused on the reason that we celebrate the wonderful day that we call Christmas. 

Merry Christmas to all!!

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Chicago & A Wedding // Weekend In Review

23 December 2014

 This weekend in review post is coming a little late, but things have been a little crazier than I originally anticipated this weekend. I ended up doing up to Chicago on Friday which was totally unplanned... Luckily the Metro has $2 fares up to the Metra train that goes to Chicago. So after a little mix up on times and a couple hours on the bus and train, I made it to Chicago to spend the day with my sister while she waited for her train to New York.
On the Metra headed up to Chitown
 I took her to one of my favorite pizza places in Chicago, Lou Malnati's. Nothing like some cheesy garlic bread and deep dish pizza on a chilly Friday evening.

DQ wouldn't smile for a picure. She kept giving me this face.

We also stopped by this little art supply store in downtown called the Artist & Craftsman Supply Store. DQ thought that I didn't know where it was because it took a little bit to get there, but once we got there she was addicted!!

 After a long day with DQ in Chicago I got things ready to head a few hours away for my dear friend's wedding on Saturday. I got to wear a new pair of heels that I bought. It was a blessing just to be able to go up, let alone to be able to spend the day celebrating Jess & Phil's wedding. It was beautiful and Jess looked incredible! It was also wonderful to see how they used technology. Phil's older brother is currently stationed in Kuwait, so they Skyped him in so he could see the ceremony and hear the speeches at the reception. It was so awesome to see that!

 This was followed by a long Sunday with church and a Christmas Open House. My pastor and his family moved into a new house a few weeks ago and this past Sunday they hosted a Christmas Open House for everyone at church, as well as some of their new neighbors. It was fun to see some of the kids and talk with some friends that were there. It was such a reminder of the way that the people from church wrap their arms around those in need and in so many ways all of us college students. They open their homes for meals, laundry, a place to relax and a temporary home over breaks. They pay for gas for those who can't afford it. They are constantly doing whatever they can for others at church and in the community. It was a great time to be reminded of that!!

Well that is all for tonight. Nothing like a late weekend post that gets put up late at night. If you made it this far through this post, thank you for taking the time to read this and have a wonderful rest of your week as you spend it with family and friends!

Christmas Cocoa Date

18 December 2014

As much as I love coffee and would normally go for a coffee date any day of the week, today I am inviting you to join me for a hot cocoa date. I am asking you to join me in my tiny apartment for a cup of steaming cocoa and a talk about life.
If we were on a cocoa date I would welcome you into the warmth of my tiny on-campus apartment. We would head to kitchen where I have hot water ready in the coffee pot. There is a selection of hot cocoa choices...regular, the kind with mini marshmallows, and my personal favorite, dark chocolate. A selection of toppings and extras over to the side...Peppermint Mocha creamer, mini candy canes, mini chocolate chips, various kinds of marshmallows.

If we were on a cocoa date we would grab our steaming cups, a couple of blankets and curl up on the couches. We would talk about the basics of life, leisurely covering all the topics of small talk.

If we were on a cocoa date I would share with you how I am stressing over everything that needs to happen in the coming semester to prepare for life after my first graduation. I would share how I am worried that somehow I will forget to fill out some form, pay some bill, or cover a base. 

If we were on a cocoa date I would tell you how the 'planner' side of me is desperately needing some sort of set plan for the future, a set direction for where I am going next with my life.

If we were on a cocoa date I would share with you my deep want for some sense of consistency, permanency. How I just want to know that things can't just be uprooted any minute without care or worry.

If we were on a cocoa date I would share with you how I wish I could afford to visit all of my friends and family throughout the country, but unfortunately I am unable to take the time or money to do so. I wish I could take a weekend trip to Nebraska to visit my bestfriend, a trip to Ferguson to see family, even a brief trip up to the north east to exchange Christmas presents. 

If we were on a cocoa date I would tell you that although I wish there was someone in the apartment with me to talk to, I am enjoying time to just sit around without any sort of set schedule. I am loving the time to casually watch movies, read a book or two, catch up on some sleep, and get work done without rushing through it.

If we were on a cocoa date I would tell you how I am excited and nervous about how I am to be starting a new job at Fortin Villa in a couple of weeks. It will count as my internship and hopefully provide me with a secure job for a while down the road.

If we were on a cocoa date I would tell you how I am looking forward to seeing my former roommate and beautiful, wonderful friend Jessica get married to her best friend, Phil, on Saturday. I am looking forward to celebrating this special day with them as they start this new chapter of their lives together.

When we are done with our cocoa and done talking I would give you a hug and thank you for sharing some time with me. I would hand you a plate of cookies to take with you as you head out the door to go home. I would thank you one more time as I walk you out. As I walk back in and close the door, I would thank God for giving me friends like you to share life with. 

I look forward to sharing another cocoa or coffee date with you in the future.
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A Belated Thanksgiving! // Holiday Weekend In Review

01 December 2014

Hey everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful time with your families as you celebrated the holiday. I hope that you enjoyed the blessing of wonderful food, lots of laughter, and safe travels. Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday and a great time to share needed time with family.

This past week I headed down to Ferguson, MO to have Thanksgiving at my grandparent's house. A good chunk of the family came down. Cousins, sisters, aunts and uncles from Kansas and Ohio. Throw in a couple of boyfriends and there were 21 of us in one house the majority of the time. Craziness is what it can seem like and often is, but so fun to have so many of us all together.

The day after I got there it started snowing in the morning and kept going until late that night, which meant it looked like this all day...

It was a beautiful snow! Luckily it didn't keep anyone from getting to the house on Wednesday. Thursday we spent the day just hanging at the house since we weren't doing Thanksgiving dinner until Friday. We also got the chance to go down to the NICU to see the new triplets! They will be two weeks old this week. They were a couple months early, so they are around 3lbs each. So tiny! (Pictures courtesy of my aunt Angie...)

Baby Noelle Saundra
Baby Lila Kathleen
Baby Callan Andrea
Such tiny little blessings!! It was so awesome to get a chance to see them, even if we can't hold them for a couple of months. Welcome to the family and to the crazy clan of cousins!

We also spent some time playing Nertz, which is indeed a family tradition...

These are some intense games with our family. There's a lot of laughs, 'trash talk', and moments of rationalizing moves. I wish I had people to play with here at school!

I also decided to dress up the t-shirt I got from the International Justice Mission booth at the National Youth Workers Convention...

Tshirt: IJM / Sweater: a gift / Scarf: a gift / Earrings: Rahab's Rope
Overall it was a great Thanksgiving Break! After a week and a half of traveling I sort of enjoyed knowing that getting on the train to Kankakee from Chicago was my last bit of traveling for a while.

Headed back to the Bourb on Saturday

Here's to a great week!
God Bless!

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