Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas


 


For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6
 
 
 
I hope each of you have a truly wonderful Christmas!
 
Love in Christ,
Alyson

Friday, December 20, 2013

Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes


 On December 18th I had the wonderful opportunity to travel with a group from my church to the Operation Christmas Child Facility in Charlotte, NC.  If you are not familiar with OCC (linked here) it is a wonderful ministry that delivers shoeboxes full of goodies to children all around the world, who wouldn't have gotten anything for Christmas otherwise.

At the facility- or processing plant actually, we have the pleasure of, you guessed it, processing the shoeboxes!  We go through a short training of how to operate and then we are assigned to a group leader who is a volunteer at the facility.  In the picture below you can see some of the stations set up and ready for workers.  There are large boxes filled with the smaller shoeboxes that are ready to be processed.
 To process a shoebox, first someone takes the rubberband off and then searches for any money that may be placed within.  It costs around $7.00 to ship one box and people are asked to place this money in an envelope and place it inside the box.  The next person looks through the box for any items that can't be shipped.  Liquids, army toys, guns, chocolate or other inappropriate items are removed and if needed additional items are placed inside from a stock of items in the center of the station.  The next person makes sure there is a label on the box with the appropriate age and sex of the child clearly visible, then they tape the box with packing tape.  Then they either hand the box to a person who packs it back into a larger box and it is ready to be shipped.  Or first it may need to be scanned so that the person who donated the box can track it and know exactly to which country it was sent. 

Our group signed up for a 10am-2pm time slot, but due to the fact that it was the last day and they needed additional people, we stayed an extra hour.  You may be thinking that 4 or 5 hours is just too long to stand up and continuously work.  And there are break areas available and some food and drinks for sale if needed.  But honestly the time passes so quickly, you hardly notice how long it has been.

The minimum age that a person can volunteer at the facility is 13, however there is no upper age. 
 In this picture, you can see that people can also sit and pack small bags of hard candy for the boxes. 

If you've never been to the Processing center, I highly recommend you sign up.  There are facilities in Georgia, Texas, Colorado, Minnesota, California, and North Carolina.  And even if you can't volunteer at one of the packing facilities, definitely pack a shoebox!

And you can check out the Operation Christmas Child link here for ways to serve all year!



Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas Movies

Photo from IMDB.com


There are so many wonderful things I enjoy this time of year and one is Christmas movies.  Already, my mom and I have been looking up movies on the Hallmark Channel, Lifetime, and Netflix to see which ones we would like to see.  And making plans to get together to watch some of our old favorites.  My list of must see movies has grown over the years, though growing up I never remember having a list. However sometime in my early twenties I began to notice that every year I made sure I watched White Christmas.  I don't really know why it's one of my favorites, but there are many reasons why it could be- Bing Crosby for one.  His deep melodious voice is just wonderful.  The version of the song "White Christmas" from this movie is my absolute favorite.  The setting is beautiful, as well as the costumes and dresses. The World War II scene and military hero reunion makes me think of my grandfather who served during that time.  And the "Sisters" and "Snow" songs are ones I used to sing with my cousins and sister.  So I guess it being one of my favorites is partly to do with the familial ties to this movie as well as the music and of course the Christmas romance. 

In addition to White Christmas, I discovered The Christmas Card about six years ago.  It is such a delightful movie about a woman who sent a Christmas card to soldiers with her church and the soldier who got her card and felt so drawn to the quaint town and people she described that he travels there. Hmmm, that sounds a bit stalker-ish, but it really isn't.  It has romance of course, but also humor and my favorite character may be Uncle Richard who makes it no secret what he thinks. 

Also on the list are:
A Boyfriend for Christmas
Holiday in Handcuffs
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

And here are some more that I enjoy, but usually don't have the time to see during the busy:
Charlie Brown Christmas
Garfield Christmas

Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer
Elf
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
While You Were Sleeping
Borrowed Hearts
Miracle on 34th Street- the original with Maureen O'Hara and Natalie Wood
All I Want for Christmas


What are some of your "must see" movies for Christmas?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

You are known!




Just read the words above again, even if you already have and let them seep into your heart and soul.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV)

This was my verse for quiet time this morning and oh how happy it made me.  So much so, that I decided to share it with you.

There are several nuggets of goodness or treasures for us in these verses.  The first is that God is in our midst, or God is with us.  He hasn't forgotten us or forsaken us, He is with us.  We know that Christ came to earth, 100% God and 100% man.  We can't begin to understand that, and we aren't meant to.  But by faith we believe.  And if we are Christians, we know that Christ died for our sins, and he rose again.  And this verse is referencing him when it says, God is in our midst, "a mighty one who will save."

Another gem in this verse, is that God rejoices over us with gladness. Now he isn't rejoicing over sinners, he is rejoicing over his children. Just as Jesus states in Matthew 18:12-13 while telling the parable of the lost sheep, "What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray." (ESV, emphasis added)

When we come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, God rejoices over us! The God of the universe is rejoicing over little ol' me? YES!  We are important. We have worth.

God loves us. The next treasure in this verse is that God will quiet us by his love.  This doesn't mean that God loves us so he smites us, or makes us mute.  No, what it means is that God quiets our fears.  He calms us by loving us.  There is no need to worry or stress, because God's love sustains us. 

And the last pearl in this verse, is one that really gets me excited.  And I know how in the world am I not already just bursting with joy- and I am.  But I love to sing and the last line of this verse states, "He will exult over you with loud singing." Now if you are like me, you basically get the gist of what exult means, but let me share with you what my Google search revealed about the word:
exult is a verb and it means to "show or feel elation or jubilation, especially as the result of a success."  So when we become Christians, God feels jubilation and elation and shows that by singing over us loudly! And I imagine it is the best sound ever heard because let's face it God wouldn't be singing off key! ;-)

Can you imagine this? God gets excited over his children being saved. Because despite what many people say, God is a loving God.  He doesn't send people to Hell.  We because of our own sins and actions are paving our own ways there.  But God, who is full of mercy and grace, sent Jesus to save us when we did not deserve it, even a little bit.  And when a person accepts that gift of salvation through Jesus that God has given to them, He rejoices! He exults! He calms or quiets and He sings! 

Anytime, you are feeling lonely or depressed.  If you're feeling unloved and sad, remember that if you are a child of God, He is with you, first of all- you aren't alone.  He loves you, secondly and quiets your worried heart and mind.  He is rejoicing over you, He knows you, He thinks about you. He is elated over you with jubilation and sings a song over you. You are a treasure and you fill Heaven with joy.  So now, in light of all of this, we should be filling the earth with joy as well!

 Love in Christ, 

Alyson

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Perfect Christmas

 
Photo by Lisa Worley Photography


Photo by Lisa Worley Photography
 
The pictures above were taken by my cousin-in-law, Lisa, who takes fabulous pictures, and these are a couple we took at her house. The appearance we were going for was that my son had crawled under the tree and was into a little mischief and also to get a shot of his cute reindeer hiney. And the second picture was to capture that "I caught you" moment.  The pictures (all of them) turned out wonderful.  But in actuality, my son isn't crawling, he's rolling, so I placed him under the tree myself. And there were numerous pictures that were taken of him trying to eat the presents, ribbons and other props- which is kinda adorable, but not the picture we were wanting.  And I workd up a sweat just trying to keep things out of his mouth and wiggle a jingle bear to get his attention and then try to make him smile and laugh.  But all that struggle isn't seen in the final results.  By appearances we placed him and he did a cute pose or adorable laugh and snap there it is frozen in time as a perfect picture.

And while that may work for actual picture taking, it doesn't work that way in life.  I've noticed this time of year especially, there seems to be such pressure to have "it all together."  We work ourselves into a tizzy trying to have just the right gift to give, wrapped perfectly, and a Christmas Tree that is perfectly centered with all the "holes" turned to the back.  We plan menus that would feed armies and try to create this perfect Christmas experience in our homes. And after days and weeks of trying to have a perfectly orchestrated season, we exhaust ourselves.  Or we may become so difficult to live with that by Christmas, relationships are strained and everyone is just ready for it all to be over!

How sad that this "picture perfect" Christmas has become our ideal of how Christmas should be. The truth of the matter is that the more we are focused on the "prettying" up of Christmas, the more we miss the whole point of Christmas.  Christmas is about Jesus.

Luke 2:11-12 says, "For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."


I guarantee this was not at all the "picture perfect" day that Mary would have wanted.  What mother wants to have her baby outside in a stable?  But the setting didn't have to be perfect for the perfect baby to be born.  And I imagine Mary and Joseph celebrated his birth anyway.  And when the shepherds arrived they celebrated some more.  Because it's not about the perfect tree, the perfect meal or the perfect setting and decorations-- Christmas is about the perfect Savior, Jesus Christ.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The World Around

I had hoped to have this post up before December 1, because I wanted to provide an alternative "Photo Challenge" for the month of December but it just didn't happen. But here it is 6 days late, I'm going to issue the December Photo Challenge anyway.  If you don't know what a photo challenge is, then you probably don't follow any teenagers on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.  Let me explain.

A Photo Challenge is different depending on who comes up with it, but for every day of the month there is a type of picture you are to take.  Examples include pictures of your toes, or a selfie, your room, the sunset, bff, etc.  Most of them include at least 2 selfies if not more disguised as ootd (outfit of the day) or a pic with your bestie.  Usually there is a list for each day.

Now I'm not a basher of pictures and love taking them myself.  But my photo challenge for December was going to be less focused on the picture taker and more on the world around you.  The hope would be that in focusing more on others, we would notice things we may not have noticed otherwise.  Like how stressed our parents are and that they probably need our help to get the nine hundred ninety-nine things done that need to be done this month.  Or notice the kid at school who is coming in without a coat on cold days, who could maybe wear one of the many coats, scarves or pairs of gloves you aren't using anymore. Or maybe you will see the people who just may need a smile or a hug this time of year.
Or perhaps you simply notice the beauty of God's creation.  How the grass is dead and brittle (we don't have to mow in the cold winter- yay!), and the trees have shed their leaves (to make way for the new buds and blooms of spring, or possibly to cover the cold ground or cold animals with a blanket of warmth) and how perfectly God created things to work with purpose and in harmony.

So this challenge isn't really about the negatives of selfies or the need for approval they illicit in the form of "likes" or comments that is hazardous to one's self worth. But this challenge is a challenge to think less of yourself this month and think more of others.  And hopefully more of Jesus.

John 3:30 says, "He must increase, but I must decrease." (ESV)  For Jesus to become more of our lives, our lives need to be less about us and more about him.  So here it is:

December Photo Challenge: Instead of selfies or pictures about things that are about you, or that you like or have anything to do with you, take at least one picture a day for the rest of the month that is not about you.  And post them to whatever social media you prefer using with the hashtag #lessofme. 

And as a bonus, please comment and let me know that your are participating in this challenge and if you feel comfortable share your username and which social media you are using so I can see your pics!  And why not challenge your friends this month too!

Happy Snappin'!

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Sick Week

One of the things I wanted to be diligent about with this blog was to post regularly, at least a couple of times a week.  But as with any intentions we have, sometimes life just gets in the way.  And this week sickness was the main culprit.

Not just any routine sickness, but the horrible nasty stomach bug. The one that has you in the bathroom more times in one hour than you usually go in a whole day. And combine that with chest congestion and a sick 7 month old, W, followed by a sick Nana who keeps W daily and then a sick husband and you know it has been one loooong week that I am happy to see coming to an end.

But on Sunday night after changing mine and W's clothes for the second time after he was sick all over them and snuggling him close in my lap tucked under my chin, I was reminded that in ALL things I am to be thankful. I mean, hello, I just wrote about it in the last post and challenged everyone to be thankful in all things, at all times, not just on Thanksgiving.

So I changed my prayer to one of thanks.  And then I thanked God that it wasn't as bad as it absolutely could have been.  And my whole prayer and outlook changed with that simple shift in attitude to one of thankfulness. 

And then I treasured the snuggle time I had with my little man because I know these days pass way too quickly.


Has anything happened in your life recently that could be handled better with an attitude shift?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

I have to admit I love Christmas but I also love Thanksgiving.  I enjoy getting together with family and the crisp Autumn weather.  And I do like to give Thanksgiving it's time (November 1 until that day) so I usually don't listen to Christmas music or watch Christmas movies until after.  And that has been my mindset for many years now.

But this year, I have been participating in a Thanksgiving Bible Study from Good Morning Girls. (I love their studies, and even though I usually do them at different times than they schedule, I do use their reading plans and the basic SOAP method of study that they lay out on their site.)  As I have been reading the various passages and studying them, I have really been struck by the overwhelming message of being thankful at all times.  I know, not a new concept.  I had always heard that we need to praise God at all times, just like it says in Philippians 4:4, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice." And certainly, I had heard and even used the A.C.T.S. method of praying. Patterning my prayers with Adoration first, then Confession, followed by Thanks, and then Supplication. 

But I had never put it together that anytime we come into his presence we are to come with thanksgiving at the very beginning.

Philippians 4:6 says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." ESV  [emphasis added]

This is a verse I have known for many years, but only through this study did it really get me that we are to come with thanksgiving in our prayers and supplications.  Even as we make requests to the Lord, we are to do so with a thankful heart.

And these verses don't just apply to Thanksgiving Day, or the month of November.   This thanksgiving needs to envelope our everyday quiet times with the Lord.  And be the attitude of our hearts in our prayer times and at ALL times.

So don't just remember to thank God for all the blessings He has given today, but keep that heart of thankfulness everyday! 

Psalm 95:2, "Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!" ESV


Happy Thanksgiving!








Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lack of Confidence- Part 2

In part one, here, I discussed the struggle I have been having with my self confidence and how it has been directly related to my self image.  And sadly I am seeing myself in the most negative ways.

But here is the truth: as a Christian, I am a daughter of God, no matter what size I am. I have worth, and value and I was created in God's image. My confidence shouldn't be determined by anything that I do or can't do, because honestly, I am a weak sinner. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Lack of Confidence- Part 1

I have been fighting the age-old battle of self confidence recently.  And it really makes me mad at myself.  So there you go, I feel sorry for myself and then mad for feeling that way... what a mixed up ball of emotions us women can have, huh?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Bloggy Beginnings

I feel that I should start with a disclaimer, I am not a writer.  I "missed the boat" on so many writing assignments in High School and College that I started rejoicing if I could at least spell my name correctly!  I was not an English major. My grammar and spelling will be wrong on many occasions and I do not have a large vocabulary. Somedays I will be critical of what I type and proceed with a type, delete, type, delete, copy, paste, reword approach at sharing life.  Other days, I will just let it go and hope someone in the world can understand the jumbled thoughts that fly out of my brain.

So given the previous information, why am I starting a blog?  And the answer is, that this is something I have felt brewing for a while now. And ultimately, I "write" blogs in my head all the time, so I took that as a sign to go for it.  The fears of rejection, criticism, being boring, and doubts have been pushed back.  They haven't been removed, but they are being eclipsed by the desire to do, for now. And in the interest of full disclosure, I'm not exactly sure where I even want this blog to go.  I read so many blogs myself about life journeyed in a foreign country, recipe and meal planning, being a Godly wife, being a Godly mother, being a Godly woman, and even health and beauty tips that I question whether I even have anything at all relevant or interesting to share.

But the reason I read the various blogs is because of the information and encouragement they provide.  So I may share a recipe or a "how to" every so often, but ultimately I want to encourage you.  I, myself, am still a work in progress, as this blog is, but what I do know is that I am a daughter of the King, and my sins are covered by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  He is my Savior AND my Lord.  And because of that my life is covered, by God, by grace, by the blood of Jesus and by a lot of prayer.

And hopefully, in covering my life events with you here, you will gain encouragement in the happenings in your life!

Welcome.