A Journal Entry: Christmas Reflections

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I’m not going to lie and say that I didn’t have ideals for what I pictured for this Christmas. Going out to a tree farm to pick the perfect tree, together. Celebrating our first Christmas as married couple, in our own cozy little apartment. Decorating our tree with twinkling white lights, popcorn garland, and handmade ornaments. Wrapping colorful packages to place under our tree. Wearing cute matching pjs on Christmas Eve. You name it. I’m all about the traditions. 
 
I’ll stop myself there…because I know that’s not what Christmas is about. But I couldn’t help it, I wanted the family Christmas traditions that I’ve longed for to start this year. However, that’s just not where we are. For the most part I was trying to have a good attitude, but was still in denial about the state of my heart. Until Saturday morning. We were sitting in a church auditorium, beautifully decorated for Christmas with many people that we didn’t know. All of us were there to mourn (AND) celebrate the loss and life of our friend, Bryant. A man that Phil and I only knew briefly through our church…but he had an immediate impact on us. 
 
And we weren’t the only ones. There were hundreds of others that had been impacted by this dear man (there weren’t even enough seats for everyone). To many people in the world the atmosphere full of both grief and loss, but also joy and hope at a funeral would be quite foreign. As we stood to sing and worship God I was struck by the lyrics of a song, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus…look full in his wonderful face. And all the things of this earth will grow strangely dim. In the light of His glory and grace.” I felt my heart drop a bit, and I knew it was time to examine my heart. 
 
Even though I desire to follow Jesus closely and be all about him, I can still easily get caught up in the ways of the world. And none of the holiday traditions that I had in mind were wrong in themselves, but I had let these desires get in the way of what really mattered. As we finished up the song, with tears running down my face, I confessed and apologized to the Lord for my attitude. With as disappointed as I had felt about not having my dream Christmas, I cannot imagine the disappointment and pain that God was feeling to see his beloved daughter take her eyes off Him and allow the things of the world to be her focus. 
 
During the remainder of the service I continued to hear more lyrics, stories, and a message that point towards Jesus as the center of everything. You only had to know Bryant for a few minutes to see that he was all about Jesus. From his marriage, to his zest for life, to his laugh; Bryant examplified how the broken and imperfect can be made beautiful and redemptive through Christ. That is what Christmas is really about. Jesus who sacrificed his perfect life, to enter into the pain and hardship of the realities of this world. Not for himself, but for you and for me and even for those who choose to ignore the depth of his love. 
 
 Through both tears and laughter, I left the memorial service with a refreshed perspective. I found joy in our little plastic tree, ice skating with friends, painting, playing games, and time with my wonderful hubby. We have the rest of our lives to develop traditions; we also have the rest of our lives to grow in our marriage and lives, exemplifying the love of Christ for each of us and choosing to “Keep our eyes upon Jesus”. I have often heard people say “that Jesus is the reason for the season”, and this Christmas season I needed the reminder that Jesus is the reason for THIS season that we are currently in, and every season. 
 
“Oh soul are you weary and trouble? No light in the darkness you see? There’s light for a look at the Savior and life more abundant and free” 
 

Sight & Sound

Another year of marriage is definitely a reason for celebration (especially in our culture). So this year for my in-laws 28th anniversary, all of us kids pulled together to get them Sight & Sound tickets. Last week my in-laws flew in and my husband and I took them to see Sight & Sound‘s current performance, “Jesus” on Friday. Sight & Sound is a theatre in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (there is also one located in Branson, Missouri).

I grew up in Lancaster County so I saw numerous shows including Noah, Jonah, and the Miracle of Christmas. Jesus is a new show that they put on for the first time this year, and it was by far the most spectacular and my favorite show that I have seen. If you have never been to Sight & Sound it is definitely worth adding to your bucket list. The prices can be a little steep, but you won’t regret saving up for it. I’ve heard multiple people say that the performances rival those on broadway.

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The large theatre accommodates 2,000 guests; however once the show begins you will feel like you are part of the story. From wind throughout the theatre, to a rain curtain, from live animals in the isles and\ to angels flying in from above you; the performance is like nothing I’ve seen elsewhere. You will be in awe of the beautifully handcrafted scenery and the movement of the different sets on stage. And I haven’t even mentioned the performance of the talented actors and actresses; They will captivate you from their first words, bring you to tears with their singing, and give you goosebumps with the beautiful harmonies.

For those of you who enjoy singing and acting, Sight&Sound also presents another opportunity. They offer a postsecondary conservatory program, where students take part in classroom instruction and gain professional experience. Learn more here —> My in-laws were beyond impressed with the show and hope to take the whole family at some point. Not only are the shows incomparable, but they share a clear gospel message and use their production as a way to share God with all who enter through the doors. Sight & Sound is a definite must see for whole family-the young and the old!

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Gifts that Give Back

As Christmas Day approaches, many of us are overwhelmed with all of the shopping and detail prep that goes into the Holidays. There are a few days left where you can still order gifts online that will arrive in time for Christmas. Why not purchase gifts that will give back, while you finish shopping? All of these business give back in various ways. Such a fun way to show people you love them, while also helping to make a difference! (Note: Individual businesses have different dates you need to order by to recieve them in time, most found on their website).
Accessories:
5569499C-017F-4865-90EB-A0D15F1F18ACMudlove
These clay creations help to spread hope and love. Every product sold by Mudlove provides one week of clean water (through Water for Good). They have a variety of products including bracelets, necklaces, pottery, and other fun extras like apparel and stickers!
4D2D5644-AA15-49C9-B1D4-0E905D09F675Binding Love
These upcycled, one of a kind scarves are helping to fight against trafficking. Half ($10) of every scarf purchased goes to provide aid, healing, and hope for girls rescued out of slavery in Thailand. Their new winter collection has arrived on the website and is going quickly!
6A642F9E-76D1-4422-927B-2A13AC9F64DCHouse of Light Goods
This non-profit business sells beautiful blankets, scarves, headbands, and pillow covers. 100% of proceeds are use to provide empowered employment to single mothers in Primo Tapia, Mexico helping to bring positive change to vulnerable families and children.
Household Decorations:
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Tiny and Twitch
This company crafts charming signs and handmade pieces designed to brighten up any home. Plus 50% of their profits from their tabletop collection go to IU13, a program that works with refugees in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Clothing:
D0D06C74-5B9A-49BD-B48D-6DAB0C94B0D5My joy tribe
Choose from different merchandise including sweatshirts, shirts, hats, and mugs. Joy Tribe’s mission is to spread joy and cultivate a brave, loving, and joyful community. Also, 10% of every purchase goes to one of the  listed charities on the website and YOU choose which one charity to support!
415FE7D9-EACD-41A0-8C77-7B09B2D407B6The Happy Givers
100% of the profit from The Happy Givers goes to help relief work in Puerto Rico, Peru, and Ethiopia. They share positive messages of hope and love through men, women, and children’s apparel, as well as extras like hats, stickers, and mugs.
For babies:
6A4B2BBA-DB8D-4E78-BC73-432B3729A7DDMatimati Baby
A family-owned business that sells baby bandana bibs, burp clothes, 5-in-1 covers, and bamboo towels. A percentage of every Matimati bandana bib sold is given to Chain Reaction, an organization that fights against human trafficking and proactively rescues, feeds, and give children hope for a future.
Variety:
52C284E7-CC32-474F-B47F-F069AC6FC0CFTen Thousand Villages
This company is a maker to market movement. Ten Thousand Villages is a fair trade company that sells a large variety of items from all over the world. Their intricately handcrafted items are something to cherish. Shop from jewelry and accessories, to home and holiday decor, dishes games, candles, and more.
Other gifts:
Compassion International and World Vision
For those people who just seem to have it all, consider giving a donation in their name. Both Compassion International and World Vision are organizations that are helping to change third world countries through child sponsorship. They both have gift catelogs where you can purchase things like chickens, mosquito nets, educational classes, clean water systems and more for families around the world.
Child Sponsorship: Speaking of Sponsorship, this is an amazing gift to give a child. Getting them a sponsored child for a gift gives teaches them responsibility, love for others, and about the world outside of their own backyard.
B50C1CC0-D9E3-4CF3-8611-F38074A9E589Amazon Smile
For purchases on Amazon…make sure to use Amazon smile! By typing smile.amazon.com into your browser, you can select the charity of your choice (you still can use prime from logging in). Amazon will donate .5% of all eligible purchases to your chosen charity!! (As of October 2018, $105, 515, 619.04 had been given to charities through Amazon smile!).
These are many organizations and small businesses that have amazing ways to give back; these are just a few. Consider checking out these as part of your Christmas gift shopping this year. And please share with other people-many people can be impacted through your shopping this Christmas Season!