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Saturday, December 29, 2012

DIY Bananagrams

I first must confess, I've never played this game before. But my sister has and she really enjoyed it. Every year for Christmas my family draws names around Thanksgiving time for our Secret Santas. We all have to make a gift for the person we draw. We can purchase supplies for it, but it must be homemade.

DIY bananagrams

I love doing this each year! It's so much fun to see what everyone comes up with. This year I drew my sister's name and thought I would surprise her with a game, Bananagrams. The game is a little pricey at the store, around $15. I made mine for around $5. It could have been much cheaper if I already had everything I needed. Still...Five dollars isn't much!

If you've never played or even heard of Bananagrams, it's a lot like Scrabble. Except this game isn't played on a board and everyone is making their own crossword simultaneously.

My first step was assembling a bag to hold all the tiles, or pebbles that I made my game with.

DIY bananagrams

You start with the top of the bag. I had to buy a zipper, but the banana uses so little fabric you might be able to dig through your scraps if you have a lot. Next time, I would probably make my top a little skinnier. It made the banana a little misshapen with the wider top piece. My original top was almost the same size as the banana sides.

The bag was three pieces. The top with a zipper, and two banana shaped sides. You could make a liner, but I didn't.

After your zipper is sewn into the top piece, you pin your first side on, right sides together.

DIY bananagrams

You pin your next side onto the top piece, right sides together and sew along the edge. You can see from my picture below how the middle zipper piece is almost the same size. I would adjust that and make it smaller.

DIY bananagrams

Before you sew your banana shut, you want to make a small strap which resembles the banana stem. I folded mine in half, and then folded the sizes in a 1/4 inch.

Sew along one side, or both if you want it to look more professional. It is not necessary to sew along the width side. It will be sewn into the side of your banana bag.

You want to fold your strap in half, leaving both ends poking out a little bit. Make sure to place the stem in between the banana layers. I sewed my strap on the side where the zipper closes at. Before you sew the bag shut, make sure to unzip it enough so you can flip it right sides back out.

Now your bag is completed! You should have a banana ready to be filled with tiles. I thought about purchasing some Scrabble tiles to use, but decided it would be just as expensive as buying the Bananagrams game. I wanted to make my own.

For this part, you need a bag of clear pebbles. You can usually find these in the floral department at the craft store. I think they are commonly put at the bottom of flower vases for decoration. I know Hobby Lobby sells a bag for $2.99 and with a 40% off coupon that's only $1.80.

You also need mod podge, a 5/8" circle punch, and yellow paper. I used two sheets of paper to print off my letters.

Once you have printed out your letters, cut them into strips to make it easier to punch out the letters. You can cut these out by hand, but I would HIGHLY recommend getting the 5/8" paper punch. It makes it so much easier, and the circles are all uniform. I found the paper punch at Michaels for $2.40.

DIY bananagrams

The next part is very tedious and time consuming. I put on a few Christmas movies and didn't get off the couch for almost the entire school day. My son colored in a coloring book on the floor and we had a good time having a lazy but productive day together.

You can use a paint brush to apply the mod podge to the bottom, flat side of the clear pebbles. You put the letter face down, so it is magnified when you turn it over. Depending on the type of paper you chose to print your letters on, you may or may not want a coat of mod podge on top of the paper, yet. (See later note)

If you notice in the picture below, my paper was a little thin and you can see the letters showing through the back. I didn't want this. I figured it might be a temptation to cheat during the game and try to pick what letter you need. I glued the paper to the pebble, but I didn't finish them off with a clear topcoat yet.

I painted a design on the back of the pebbles to hide the letters, and to make them more fun and professional looking. Once I had my design painted on, I then added a couple coats of mod podge to seal the papers onto the pebble.

DIY bananagrams

Your game is all set and ready to be played with! Have fun!

DIY bananagrams

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas to You

"Rejoice, O people of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem!
Look, your king is coming to you.
He is righteous and victorious,
yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—
riding on a donkey’s colt."
Zechariah 9:9

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this." Isaiah 9:6-7

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Roman 15:13

"Now this is eternal life that they may know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent." John 13:3

“And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.” Luke 2:6-7

"When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy." Matthew 2:10

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." John 16:33

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12

"I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you." John 15:11-12

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him." John 3:16-17

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen."
1 Timothy 1:15-17

Merry Christmas from Mexico!! I pray your day is blessed by God, and that you remember how much we truly have been given when He sent His son. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas filled with Joy, Peace, Hope, and most of all Love.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Keep On Asking

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you." Matthew 7:7

I was texted this verse earlier in the week. I could not stop the tears from flowing. God is so amazing. I knew He was going to prove to me how big of a God He really is.

I want to start out by saying, as I sit and type this; it's the beginning of November. Because of the nature of the post, I will not be clicking publish until the week of Christmas. In fact, I will possibly be in Mexico when it's published. Even as I write this, I'm nervous. What happens if my secret is found out? What if the time comes sooner than I desire?

I have made known in an earlier post that I will be traveling to Mexico for Christmas. There will be no traditional family Christmas this year. I'm not saying I won't be celebrating Christmas. I'm saying things will be rather unconventional.

Our church has taken the initiative of "adopting" six families in Mexico this Christmas season. We will be purchasing gifts, and several ladies will have the privilege of flying those gifts to Mexico on Christmas Eve, and hand delivering them later that week. I am so excited to be one of the few.

I am even more excited that my daughter is also going to be joining me. This will be her first time flying on an airplane, and she will be flying to another country. This promises to be an experience we will never forget.

A blog is hardly the place to keep a big secret, hence the delay in posting. But I could not refrain from sharing with everyone the way God came through for me.

I told you my daughter has never flown before. What you may not have understood or thought of, she does not have a passport. You are not permitted to leave the country without one, and if you've never flown, you have no need for one.

This trip to Mexico is my daughter's Christmas gift. She will learn this season about giving to others and see it first hand in a very real way. I am certain there will be stories to tell when we return.

Right now, I wanted to share with you the miracle of my daughter's passport. It was a special dance we did to keep the secret alive. I had to very deceptively, in an honest fashion, get the picture of my daughter. I refuse to lie even when it's about something good. I will however, not offer up certain information if it means protecting the secret of the gift.

I hung a white sheet in my backyard, and told my daughter I needed her assistance for a special photography project I was doing. She knew she was my guinea pig. I didn't give her any extra information, and she didn't ask. I did tell her she was chosen to help out because she could follow my directions perfectly. Face forward. No tilting your head. Eyes open. Neutral expression. No glare on the glasses. No shadows. Properly focused. This was a tall order!

To say it was easy to get would be a lie. While I didn't work much at taking the photo, I did work at sizing the photo correctly. I worked even harder to get a good print. We are strapped for time so the passport needed to start processing as soon as possible. I gave myself a few hours to get everything assembled.

After dropping Gabe at school, I went to Walgreen's to make my print. Machine was broken. I drove to another Walgreen's and waited 30 minutes to see the prints. HORRIBLE. The lighting was beautiful on their computer monitor, but was printed extremely yellow in one, and dark in another. There was no way these pictures would be accepted. I wanted to cry. I couldn't possibly keep it a secret if I had her picture taken by a professional for a passport photo. The camera is very obvious.

Normally, I get all my pictures printed at Wolfs. It's a 15 minute drive there, so I originally went close to home to save on time and gas. I knew I could trust them with the prints. I went home and uploaded my photos to their website.

While that was going on, I decided to call the post office and ask how much would be required for my daughter to get a passport. I explained it was a secret and was there any way they could work with me on this. NO. The lady I talked with was very rude. She told me in a condescending voice, "Your daughter will know. There will be no secret about it." She refused to tell me what they required of her beyond the fact that she must be there.

I told her I knew she was required to attend; my question was about how much she would have to do or say. Could they just look at her? The lady interrupted me and placed me on hold. When she got back on the line, she informed me again that my daughter must be present. That was never in question for me. I knew she had to be there. I wanted to know what else she had to do. Her father and I could sign all the documents. She isn't old enough to legally sign for herself anyways. I tried to ask my question again. "What is required of my daughter beyond showing up?" I was answered with a dial-tone. The lady angrily said, "thanks for calling" and hung up on me.

You can imagine my despair. She didn't even try to listen to me. After I laid down the phone on the couch, I cried. I didn't just whimper either. I wept. My heart was broken. I wanted this to be a huge surprise for my daughter. I wanted to see her face light up when she opened her Christmas gift containing the passport. I didn't want to tell her at the beginning of November. This trip will be her big gift, probably one of her only gifts. I wanted her to have the anticipation of the Christmas season, wondering and dreaming about what might be.

I was working so hard for this, and for a moment, I gave up. I resigned to the fate I knew to be true. I didn't dare to hope.

Wolfs was done with my photos by this time, so I drove across town to pick them up. I was very sad the whole way there, but I tried to convince myself it would be okay. It wasn't like the trip couldn't happen. I began to dream up ways of telling my daughter the news. Anything to make it more exciting than just standing in a line at the post office. I wanted pictures and video when she found out.

The photos cost less than the previous set I had purchased at Walgreen's. I took them to the privacy of my car where it wouldn't matter how I reacted to them. I didn't want to face more disappointment. The pictures were beautiful! You could actually see my daughter's face in them. Hope was renewed. I dared to believe.

I decided to claim Matthew 7:7. I shared with you about God coming through with a donation for this trip. What I didn't share was the email I had originally received from my friend. She talked of asking a cousin if he could get us a discount, and I quote her, "I remember the Bible says you don't have because you don't ask ;) I figured the worst they can say is no ..."

If you aren't familiar with the verse it says, "Ask and it will be given, seek and you will find..."

Yesterday my sister shared on her blog another story. I quote, "I prayed a crazy prayer. A Matthew 7:7-8 kind of prayer. I told God if He wanted me to go to Mexico that I needed Him to provide for me. To make it crazy I said 'Hey, you can pay for my trip through my tips if you want. Be creative!' ;)" The next day she received a $60 tip. (She works at a cupcake shop.) That is not a normal tip. That's a God tip.

It seemed like the theme for this trip. "Ask and it will be given to you." I wanted my turn. I wanted to ask God for something and see Him work a miracle. I decided to believe again. I was going to ask. I figured it couldn't hurt anything to ask again. I didn't count on seeing the lady I talked with on the phone. She was in an office somewhere.

The hours were going by so slowly. I wanted my time to come so I could have peace. Everything was all jumbled up inside of me. I was nervous and anxious. I set it up with my daughter that I would take her out for lunch that day and we would just happen to drop by the post office.

Before I left to get her, I saw that I had a text from my sister. She had responded to a cry for prayer from me. I knew that if I had God's favor, and the worker was willing, we could keep this a secret from my daughter.

The text read, "I agree... I'll be praying! Matthew 7:7 :)" I knew it was fresh in her mind but I still found it pretty amazing that she referenced the scripture I was trying to hold onto.

With minutes left to get my daughter from school, I decided to look it up in my bible. This version was different than what I had been quoting in my head. It didn't say "ask and it will be given to you," it said, "Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for."

I cried again. I had asked once and been rudely turned down. I was going to KEEP ON ASKING. This time I knew it was going to work. God didn't want me to give up so quickly. The enemy sure does like to mess up our path, maybe throwing a few branches over it so we can't see the way. But God comes in and clears away everything. He sweeps it all away so the road is visibly clear. We need to follow the one who carries the broom.

When we arrived at the post office, I was scanning the faces to see who looked friendly enough to help me. I didn't get much of a choice. There was a lady yelling at us to bring all our papers over. I hesitated and she yelled again about checking to see if we had everything we needed to even start the process.

It was very obvious why we were there. Signs were everywhere for passports. I went ahead by myself and got my husband to take the kids aside. I quickly shared my story with the woman and she was so friendly! "Of course we can do that. All I gotta do is look at her. She can't sign anything anyways."

As she began to dump the contents of my envelope out, I knew it was going to work out. She checked my photos and first claimed they wouldn't work because of the coloring, but soon found there was a third in the envelope. It was perfect she said. My husband and I signed our names and watched as the kids played over to the side of us. The time came for Ariel to be observed.

We called her over and the lady took one look and said, "Yep, you look just like your picture." This confused Ariel a bit, but she didn't question us there. I stayed to finish up the paperwork while Titus took the kids to make a copy of his driver's license. Ariel asked him who was getting a passport and he responded, "Your mom needs a passport to get into Mexico."

It wasn't the answer to her question, but it satisfied her curiosity. When I made it out to the car I smoothed things over a little more. I apologized for taking so long to get the passport. I knew I had promised her lunch and I should have thought better than to take up her school time for my errands. She didn't mind a bit. You could tell the wheels were still spinning in her head when she asked me, "Why did that lady want to look at me?"

I told her the lady thought she was a pretty girl.

It was settled. The passport was purchased. The lunch began. We had a wonderful time together.

I am so thankful that God didn't let me give up. I pushed on when my heart was breaking and He fixed everything. Don't ever stop asking and seeking.

"For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened." Matthew 7:8

Ariel opened her passport today! She was very excited and didn't know a thing until this morning when she opened up one of her Christmas gifts, a new piece of luggage. Then the wheels started turning and she remembered the trip to the passport office. God is going to do great things on this trip!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Gift Exchange

Everyone loves a good game for exchanging Christmas gifts. Most people go for the traditional white elephant. Probably you've played the game but maybe you have no idea where it originated from.

The white elephant came from Asian countries where it is considered holy and rare. It is also very expensive to take care of. When a king was displeased with someone he would bestow a gift of a white elephant. It would usually end up causing the person to go bankrupt from trying to take care of the elephant; it's maintenance exceeded it's usefulness. And thus we have a white elephant gift exchange where we bestow our unwanted or useless items on our friends. Fortunately we are not doing this to financially ruin them. Typically it's done to get a good laugh or joke out of the gift.

In my circle of friends the game for the white elephant is started by all participants drawing a number. Number 1 goes first, and so on. You can choose any wrapped gift to open. On all subsequent turns the person may choose a previously opened gift, or a new gift. Once your gift is stolen from you, you may choose a previously opened gift or a new gift. The turn ends when a gift is unwrapped. I play with two rules for stealing; once a present has been stolen 3 times it is off limits and no longer open for play in the game. The other rule, you can't steal from someone who has just stolen from you, i.e. you can't take your stolen present directly back. The game continues until all presents have been unwrapped, and each person has a gift.

On Saturday I had a Christmas party with some friends of mine and we had an ornament gift exchange. This time we wanted to try something new! We had all done a white elephant exchange before, some of us the previous night.

cobweb gift exchange

We had a cobweb gift exchange, which was popular during the Victorian Era. You choose a room for the game and assign each person a different skein of yarn. We tried to stick with red and greens to make it festive. Before the party you zigzag all over the room. Under chairs, around the curtains, in the bookshelf, under couch cushions, a huge tangled web of yarn. One end of the yarn is tied to the gift and hidden somewhere you can't see it. The other end is given to the player of the game. Once you say, "Go" everyone untangles their strings.

cobweb gift exchange

It really was a fun idea! It took about 20 minutes for me and my mom to tangle the web, and only about 5 to 10 minutes for us to untangle it. The work was worth it. Next time you have a gift exchange, try something new!

Before the web was untangled we took a picture in the middle of it. Funny thing, we didn't pay much attention to whose gift was on the end of what string and all of us except for one got our own gifts. (You might want to work that out before you begin.) We did some quick thinking and read a left/right Christmas story.

To do this exchange, you simply sit in a circle and pass your present the direction that the story dictates. If you hear the word "left" you pass to the left. And if you hear the word "right" you pass your gift to the right.

This is such a wonderful group of ladies that I am privileged to call my friends. Every 3rd Saturday of the month we meet together to watch a movie and discuss a book we've read over the past month. These ladies brighten my days.

"Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble."
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Spreading Christmas Cheer

"Do you hear that? Those are sleigh bells and that means the holidays are here! I love this time of year because...I'm Mark the Moose and I'm on the loose -Spreading Christmas cheer- I want to wish you peace and happiness throughout the coming year. I love to skate and decorate with my Christmas lights aglow. I'm Mark the Moose the very merriest moose you'll ever know."

Mark the moose came to us several years ago as a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law. His batteries are still going and he's still singing... By the second year I had Mark's song memorized. And now, I'm convinced it's a song I will never be able to forget. I can sing it in my sleep. Talk about spreading Christmas cheer and I can break out into song that YOU will never forget.

I wanted to share some things my family has been up to. It's such a fun time of year.

Gabriel came home earlier this week from school with this "secret" note for our pastor. If you can't read the picture it says, "To my friend: Gordon. You are the best pastor and preacher. From your secret Santa." I thought it was a great idea for keeping the Christmas spirit alive. You can write a note of appreciation for someone you care about, and hide it somewhere they will find it. But make sure you don't get caught!

I almost want to go and share with Gordon that Gabe left him the note. What he probably won't understand is that this was a project from school, not church. It should be quite an honor to Gordon that Gabriel singled him out all by himself when he had the opportunity to choose anybody for this project. My son really admires our pastor.

Last week my daughter had the opportunity with her community group at church to adopt a 7 year old girl in foster care. This girl lost her mother two years ago, and is now in foster care due to her father's alcohol abuse.

While this is a great opportunity for Ariel, sometimes it doesn't always hit home with a kid when they aren't spending their own money on the gift. The community group leader challenged all the girls to find something special of their own to give this little girl.

I figured my daughter would choose a few of her own books she's outgrown and leave it at that. She knows this little girl enjoys reading.

She surprised me with her generosity. She prayed about what she should give and felt God told her to give her first American Girl doll, Annette, along with several clothes that I had sewn for the doll.

I've been especially proud of my daughter lately. She's learning what it means to give. God has so richly blessed us, it's hard not to want to share that blessing with others.

A last photo with Annette

“The righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’"
Matthew 25:37-40 (The Message)

One of the ways that our family tries to keep Jesus the focus of our Christmas is by doing random acts of kindness. We have a special "Jesus stocking" that hangs in our window. Every day we are supposed to be asking Him what gift or act of kindness we can do for others. It can be as simple as writing a note, bringing someone a snack, or saying a kind word to a friend. When we're done, we write it down and slip it into the stocking. On Christmas morning, before we open any of our gifts to each other, we first open Jesus' stocking. We take turns reading the acts of kindness and gifts that we have given Jesus.

It's been very inspirational to our family, and I love to see how this has grown each year. We're not doing the same things we've always done. We're looking for new ways to reach out to others; to show God's love in a unique and special way.

And now, on a less serious, but still important funny note, in the words of Elf, "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear."

I want to send a little holiday cheer your way. Zechariah was singing Jingle Bells to me earlier and I thought it was priceless the words he sang.

♪ ♪ Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells
Jingle on the Way.
All is Fun
Is to Ride on a Selfish Sleigh.
Hey! ♪ ♪

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Lately Zech and I have been doing a lot of Christmas shopping in our free time. There are so many people I want to buy for.

This morning we were making a quick trip to Lifeway. I was looking for a specific book I wanted to give someone, but unfortunately they didn't have it anymore.

I told Zech it was time to leave. They didn't have the book I wanted.

He seemed rather confused. "We don't have to pay to get out today?"

Such a silly boy! Apparently, I never leave Lifeway without purchasing something...

Monday, December 10, 2012


Last year my pastor shared this story during the Christmas season. It was incredibly touching to me. I don't believe there were many dry eyes in the crowd. In honor of the holiday, I thought it would be appropriate to share now.

[Author Unknown] In 1994, two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of education to teach morals and ethics (based on biblical principles) in the public schools. They were invited to teach at prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments and a large orphanage. About 100 boys and girls, who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of a government-run program were in the orphanage.

They relate the following story in their own words: It was nearing the holiday season, 1994, time for our orphans to hear, for the first time, the traditional story of Christmas. We told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger. Throughout the story, the children and orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word.

Completing the story, we gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins I had brought with me. No colored paper was available in the city. Following instructions, the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel [cut from a worn-out nightgown an American lady was throwing away as she left Russia], were used for the baby's blanket. A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt we had brought from the United States.

The orphans were busy assembling their manger as I walked among them to see if they needed any help. All went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat. He looked to be about 6-years-old and had finished his project. As I looked at the little boy's manger, was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger. Quickly, I called for the translator to ask the lad why there were two babies in the manger.

Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at this completed manger scene, the child began to repeat the story very seriously. For such a young boy, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the happenings accurately -- until he came to the part where Mary put the baby Jesus in the manger. Then Misha started to ad-lib. He made up his own ending to the story as he said, "And when Mary laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay.

I told him I have no mamma and I have no papa, so I don't have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with Him. But I told him I couldn't, because I didn't have a gift to give Him like everybody else did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept Him warm, that would be a good gift. "So I asked Jesus, 'If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?' And Jesus told me, 'If you keep Me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave Me.'

So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and He told me I could stay with Him -- for always." As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him -- for always!

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel which means “God with us”. Matthew 1:23

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Give When It Hurts

As a gift for entering middle school, we bought our daughter a cell phone. She is allowed to text her friends, but phone calls are prohibited to non-family members. The idea was for us to stay in better contact with her while she enjoys her new independence. She is away from us much more than ever before.

Earlier this month the youth group at our church participated in KU cleanup to raise money to buy Christmas gifts for some families in need. This required around 6 hours of picking up trash at a KU football game. Not the most glamorous way to earn money, but when you have a large amount of people it gets the job done quickly and has a huge payoff.

Of course, my daughter wanted to help. She is always willing to lend a hand, and the fact that it was done with her friends was a bonus. Unfortunately, while she was at the game, her cell phone mistakenly slipped from her pocket. After three months of freedom and a new social outlet, it was snatched from her.

We are under contract for two years for this phone of hers. Whether she has it or not, we pay for it. We gave the phone as a gift. It was sad that she lost the gift, but we wouldn't be replacing it for her. She would need to earn enough money to buy a new phone herself.

Responsibility. She earns a dollar a week for chores.

I grieved with her, but I also didn't want to take her problem upon myself. It was her negligence that caused the issue. We prayed for help from God.

The next day I was approached with an opportunity for babysitting, and agreed to help out a friend. I didn't need the money so I offered the work and money to my daughter. I told her she would be required to do absolutely everything, diapers included.

The terms were set, and she performed beautifully. By the end of the day I had one exhausted daughter. She had no idea taking care of a baby was so much work. I thought it was a good lesson for her to learn. She loved nap time! Now she knows why I push in the summer to have a rest period.

He fell asleep during her story. So sweet!

After over 9 hours of labor, the 25 dollars was hers. She was so close to getting a new cell phone... on EBay.

A week went by and it was proving difficult to find the phone for the price she had. You must understand she was not permitted to spend the entire 25 dollars, God was given some first.

We set up a Christmas tree in our commons area at church. On it hung some brightly colored ornaments with the names of children living in Mexico. Each ornament represented a present that needed to be purchased for a very deserving boy or girl. On Christmas Eve, myself and 4 other ladies will be traveling to Mexico to deliver the gifts.

My daughter was drawn to the tree. She has been very helpful in this entire endeavor. If you remember she lost her phone at a work day that was raising money to help out these families. At our church Thanksgiving dinner, she walked around and asked for donations for a Billy Vanilly cupcakes drawing we were having. (With her help we raised $95 for tickets!)

My daughter has a desire to serve. If I ever need help, my daughter is the first to jump in and work with me.

As we were closing down our Christmas tree for the day, I noticed on one of the signup sheets my daughter had signed her name. She chose a girl, Jazmin, who is the same age as her. Ariel agreed to buy her clothes. This touched me because right now clothes are very important to my middle school daughter. Just a couple weeks ago she made the comment to me while we were shopping, "I can't believe I want to spend my money on clothes instead of stuffed animals." She is growing up.

Once we left church I explained to my daughter that the present was supposed to cost $15. She didn't have any money; how was she going to afford that?

"I'm going to use my cell phone money."

What? Did I just hear her right? My daughter just said this to me? My son has always been known for his generosity with money. My daughter has not.

God has called us to give when it hurts. Sacrifice. The best gifts are the ones given when it costs us something. If it didn't hurt the giver a little, is the gift worth as much to the receiver? I know I always appreciate the gifts the most when you know the person had nothing left to give, and they gave their all for you.

It will be a beautiful sight to see Jazmin receive her gift from my daughter. She may never know how much the gift truly cost, but God does.

God loves it when we do this, especially when it's done with a cheerful attitude. "I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving."
2 Corinthians 9:7 (The Message)

I was so proud of my daughter; I couldn't contain the tears.

Earlier this week my daughter stayed home from school sick. She had thrown up the night before. I hate to say I enjoyed her being ill, but I really felt blessed to have her home with me. I don't get many days like that. By late morning she was feeling back to normal and we had a fun girl date baking caramel popcorn and watching a girly movie.

She was also able to have prayer journal time with us again. I miss having that with her. I wanted to share what she wrote.

    Please help everyone to have a good day. Help me to not throw up for the rest of the day and help me Gabe and Zech to have no cavities. (Dentist appointments) Help me tomorrow that I will not throw up.

    Thank you that I have a family and that Mom has the chance to go to Mexico. Help mom that she will have a safe flight to Mexico and help her to have fun at Christmas in Mexico.

    Thank you that Christmas is getting closer. Please help me to have enough time to make Christmas presents 4 everyone. Also help me to get enough money to buy a new cellphone (maybe a Samsung gravity).

    Please help me to not have very much make-up work at school. Thank you that I have the nicest teachers at school. Help Mrs. Singh to like my recipe for jello cookies. Thank you tomorrow's intramurals even if we play Mrs. Blakely's class again.

I believe God was very proud of Ariel too, and rewarded her for her sacrificial obedience. Last night she won the EBay auction for the Samsung gravity cell phone she really wanted, and I didn't have to pay a penny for it. We had to put a bid in before she went to bed, since the auction ended close to midnight. She prayed about the amount she was willing to spend. She won by 21 cents! Thank you, God, for answering my daughter's prayer and blessing her right back!

I challenge you to take a look at your giving this Christmas. Are you giving out of your surplus? Or are you giving to the point that it hurts? We cannot out give God; He loves to give it right back to us. I say this from experience. This Christmas let's try to be a blessing to others rather than expecting to be blessed ourselves.

“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Sense

Have you ever thought about which of your senses is most affected by Christmas?

Is it the sounds of Christmas?

Christmas carolers and Christmas music
The crinkle of wrapping paper
The bells of the street corner Santas collecting money
A Christmas greeting from strangers and loved ones
Christmas stories and books read aloud
Crunching of snow beneath your feet
Santa's Ho Ho Ho
Laughter of children

Or is it the smells of Christmas?

Fresh baked cookies and pies
Steaming hot apple cider
Homemade cinnamon ornaments
Scented candles burning
A freshly cut pine tree
Hot cups of creamy cocoa
Wet boots from playing in the snow
Fireplace burning

Maybe it's the sights of Christmas?

The colored blinking lights
The holly with bright red berries
Snowmen built with care
Christmas movies
Stars shining bright
Bows and ribbons
Gifts galore
Freshly fallen snow
A live nativity scene
Stores and streets decorated with red and green
Smiles on faces of those you love

Or is it the touch of Christmas?

A child sitting on Santa's lap
Soft Christmas stockings to reach into
Snuggling under a warm blanket
The heat of a fireplace burning
Snow to play in
Hugs from your loved ones
Sweaters that keep you warm and cozy
Opening that special gift or card

And last, we have the taste of Christmas

Marshmallows for toasting
A tall glass of eggnog
A fresh batch of fudge
Cookies hot from the oven
The best homemade pies
Turkey roasted to perfection
Snowflakes falling on your tongue
Feasting with your family and friends

Isn't it amazing how our senses work? With one smell, one touch, one sound, one sight, one taste, we can instantly be transported back in time to a place we knew and loved. God designed us so intricately and beautifully.

Can you choose just one sense you couldn't live without? Or do you need more than one to enjoy the Christmas season?

I found this to be a very intriguing question, if you could choose just one, what sense is most affected by the Christmas season? I shared it with my family and the results were varied. Everyone enjoys something different.

I couldn't decide between the smells and the sounds of Christmas. I feel that they all go together in one intricate package. You can't single out just one. I love the smell of hot apple cider, but I think it's because I know what it tastes like. They fit together. When you smell something, you can almost taste it and feel it.

God made us with five senses for a reason. They all fit together to make us experience life to the fullest. I can't imagine not having the use of one of my senses.

"I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way—the “lower” the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it’s a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair?

The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance."

1 Corinthians 12: 19-24

"Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end."
1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

My prayer for this Christmas season, and every season for that matter, is that we love each other. We all matter equally. None of us are better or worse than another. We each have a different function and a different purpose. Together we make a beautiful tapestry, intricately and beautifully woven together. God designed us to be together, to work as one.

Let's function the way we were built to function. We were created to love. Let's share our love with each other and see how we can serve others as this Christmas season comes upon us. I pray that we use all of our senses so that we can experience life the way God meant for us to.

What is your favorite sense during the Christmas season? What things do you love about this time of year? How can you use it to love and serve others?


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