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!

Off of the Paper and into my Heart

Two years ago, on Thanksgiving 2016, I had the opportunity to meet one of my sponsored children. It was a life changing experience. These are my thoughts from shortly after meeting her: 

I have been sponsoring children for quite a few years now and I really like what Compassion International is doing. But for the most part the children that I sponsored were a picture that I looked at and a letter that I received a few times a year and prayed for sometimes, and then went back to my everyday life. I’m guessing that’s the way it is for a lot of people who sponsor a child. 

Recently I have gotten more passionate and involved with Compassion so I jumped at the chance to have the opportunity to meet my child, Ruzeya, from Ethiopia, to see what the Compassion Projects actually looks like, and to see what difference my sponsorship is making. With the current situation in Ethiopia I was not sure if I would have the opportunity to meet her. But by the grace of God, I found myself traveling to meet her on Thursday.

It’s honestly hard to put into words what I experienced, but I will do my best. We first arrived to the Compassion Project where Ruzeya attends. Obviously not all projects are the same, but this project is blessed to have a lot of land with offices, the church, the project classrooms, and a school located on the grounds. There was also playground equipment and this project has a school for KG1 and 2 (prek and kindergarten), this is for children who are both Compassion Children and other children who live in the community to get a head start on their education and have better opportunities. 

I had a tour of the office, the church, and learned more about what the children do at the project and how all Compassion children attend Sunday school on Sundays, as well. After the tour, they took me back to the multi-purpose room where a group of students were gathered to sing to me a Welcome song. Ruzeya was at the front holding some pretty red flowers. At the end of the song she brought them to me and then hugged me. It was hard for me not to cry. 

Then the other children left and Ruzeya’s grandmother arrived to meet me. She hugged me for so long with tears in her eyes and I began to realize how much I mean to her whole family. The Compassion workers who weren’t with the children, the Pastor, and his family joined us for coffee and popcorn. Even though they have so little, I felt like I was treated like royalty. The told me a lot about the project and Ruzeya would sit shyly smiling at me. But she didn’t say a word.

Eventually I asked to go outside and they warned me that all of the children would rush over to me; which if you know me at all, you know that is something I would totally be fine with. Hand and hand Ruzeya and I walked outside, and sure enough the majority of the children rushed off the playground and surrounded us (probably 60-80 children). They hugged me, shook my hand, touched my hair, and some of them even fought over me. Not once did they push Ruzeya though, they knew that we belonged together. I was overwhelmed and wished I could take every single one of them into my arms. 

After a little while the Compassion workers, Abraham, myself, and Ruzeya and her grandmother headed off towards her home. The area where she lives is not currently being effected by the drought, especially thanks to rainy season and it actually rained the night before I arrived. We took the little taxis that are typical to the area but because of the rain the ground was muddy and we kept getting stuck. We walked part of the way and I learned that Ruzeya made the 25/30 minute walk to the project each day with just the other young children who attend school with her. 

Upon arriving to her home I met her mother, two little sisters, and her grandfather. She lives in a mud hut with her father, mother, and sisters, while her Grandmother and Grandfather live in the hut next door with her four aunts and Uncles who are still in school. They invited me into the little hut which had mud walls covered by newspaper, a grass floor, and two mattresses covered in thin blankets. They told me about how her father works a patch of land and her mother walks into town each day to clean. Ruzeya’s grandmother looks after Ruzeya’s little sisters and takes care of the family. 

As I talked to them and saw them interacting together I could feel my love for this family grow as if they were my own. blood family. Even though Ruzeya had hardly said a word, her mother told us that the previous day all day long she kept saying, “Do you know who is coming to visit me tomorrow?” I began to see just how important I was to this beautiful little girl and her family. I had the opportunity to bring her gifts and I brought her a backpack with some things including a blanket and a stuffed animal. The happiest moment of my life may be the smile that the little stuffed elephant brought to Ruzeya’s face. They even gave ME a gift of a traditional bone spoon with beads on the end!

Before I left they took me outside to show me the goat that they were able to buy through my sponsorship. There were many hugs and kisses and I struggled not to cry as I said goodbye to each one of them. Ruzeya and her little sister held my hands and walked me down to the entrance of their land. As I walked away the tears began to flow and even though I already had loved Ruzeya, she was no longer a picture on a piece of paper, but a piece of my heart. In fact, every single member of her family has now stolen a piece of my heart. 

 

I was really impressed by what I saw through my visit . I am only one person, but the 260 children who are being sponsored in that project each have one person behind them that God is using to change lives. A lot of the families in that community are Muslim (including Ruzeya’s), so for some of them, Compassion is the one opportunity they have to learn about God. The opportunity that I had to provide Ruzeya’s family with a goat can help to positively impact their financial future not just now, but also longterm. The tutoring, medical care, and other basic needs that Compassion provides on top discipleship aren’t just meeting short term needs, but impacting the future and the ETERNITIES of those children. 

I have now seen with my own eyes that Compassion is not an organization that merely gives a child a fish (feed them for a day), but it teaches them how to fish (feed them for a lifetime). What is happening cannot only transform the life of the child in the program, but also of the family, generations, of that family to come, entire communities, and the future of that community. By giving these families and children hope, Compassion is allowing the “least of these” to come into the Kingdom of God. And when that child (Ruzeya and others), is no longer just a picture on a piece of paper, but a part of my or your heart, thats when the possibilities become endless! 
Jesus said, “Let the little Children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” -Matthew 19:14

Sponsor a Child Today!

Thy Will

As I am writing this, my heart is hurting. Sometimes I make mistakes and know that the consequence is a result of the mistake, but there are other times where I’m belwildered. I know I’m in the center of God’s will-It doesn’t make any sense. As I fall to my knees I’m at a loss for my own words and these lyrics come to mind…..
“I’m so confused
I know I hear you loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here
I don’t want to think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan
When I try to pray
All I’ve got is hurt and these four words.
Thy will be done.”
This is the beginning of the song Thy Will Be Done by Hillary Scott. This is a song that my heart often cries out when I can’t put it into my own words. The song goes on to repeat “Thy will be done” over and over and I find myself clinging to these four words.

No one ever said that life was going to be easy, and God especially never told me that following him would make my life easier. But sometimes as Christians we put off the message that accepting Jesus as your savior will make your life easier- Sometimes people even think that if something bad happens it must be because you are not in God’s will. But in reality “picking up our cross and following Jesus” might be the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do. There are going to be times when you are in the center of God’s will when everything made sense and then suddenly it falls apart. The song goes on to say…
“I know you’re good
But this doesn’t feel good right now
And I know you think
Of things I could never think about
It’s hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that you’re God
And I am not”


The song goes onto express exactly what my heart is thinking…and sometimes the part I forget. Yes, it doesn’t feel good. Yes, it makes absolutely no sense. But God has the bigger picture and He is God, I AM NOT. Ultimately He has allowed this to happen even if it doesn’t make sense to me. And Yes I am hurting, but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t care and it doesn’t mean that He isn’t hurting with me. So whether it is a relationship, a job opportunity, or something I have been been praying about I cling to Him and..
“like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
I know you see me
I know you hear me, Lord
And I choose to trust in His promises even though I might not understand right now. Someday I will and now I choose to accept His will in my life.

Hillary Scott-Thy Will Be Done

The Heart of Giving

DAAE246B-5DDA-485B-AEE6-B6FCD7A186B5Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about giving and the heart behind why we give. Probably because right now I am in a season where I don’t have very much to give. At least I feel like I don’t. But I desire to give…I would give away every cent I owned, if that weren’t (usually) irresponsible. When I think of generosity and giving I mostly think of time and money (but obviously there are other ways to give). Over the last year with the wedding, moving, and related expenses I felt pretty dry in both areas. Phil and I are both in a place where we have more flexibility with our time, but things are still pretty tight on the financial end. 

When you look around at the world, you can see that there is so much need…I think of orphans in other countries and parents who work hard but can’t even afford to send their kids to school. There is a lack of medicine, food, and clean water in parts of the world. There are churches and missionaries on each continent short of funds and volunteers. There are also many needs and hurting people in the United States. The injustice and corporation in the world seems to be never ending. Personally, I often get overwhelmed by all the need and become upset that I cannot currently do more .

So how does someone who does not have many resources, still have a heart of giving? There are three words (focuses) that come to mind, when I think about giving and those are attitude, priorities, and trust. And with each of those words we need to ask ourselves a question. 

What is your attitude? I would like to say, that every time I consider helping someone and want to give I think of Jesus. But even as a Christian, it is easy to get caught up in a cause or the work that you are doing and forget why you are doing it. I have caught myself having a ‘save the world’ complex and I just want to fix it all. When I have this attitude about giving I am not only setting myself up for failure, but I am also not giving Jesus room to work through me. The foundation of why we give shouldn’t be about us or even about the end results, but about who. When our desire to give comes from what Jesus has done for us and He gave UP for us..then our attitude is shaped upon who He is and Not who we are. 

What are your priorities? We live in a society that is very individualistic and is always striving for MORE or BETTER. However, as Christians we are called to serve and to care for others. While it is not wrong to have nice things, we are also commanded to look out for the needs of others and care for not only the church body, but the widowed, poor, strangers, and orphans of the worlds. When your priority is to to live like Jesus in EVERY area of your life, you begin to see that more money frees up. When you once bought coffee a few times a week or have a closet full of clothing, you now first think of way God would desire you to use the money and then some of those funds begin to help others. But when our priority is ME or what I need, then it will become hard to find satisfaction and giving will always take the back burner. 

And finally, who or what do I put my trust in? In an individualistic society, even as a Christian it is easy to begin depending on ourselves. We try to better ourselves and to lives as better Christians (individually), and sometimes forget that we can’t do it on our own. Do I believe that God loves me? Do I believe that He knows the desires of my heart? If I truly trust Him with my life, then I need to be content with where I am. He knows my desire to serve Him and to give to others…and right now He is allowing me to be in this place in my life. In the same way when we look at our priorities and attitude and see that they are not quite aligned with Christ, we need to once again put our trust in Him and allow Him to change our hearts. 

God desires for us to be able to give. Not only does He desire it, He commands it. Some of us may be in a place where we can only give a little, while others of us may have the capacity to give a lot. It comes down  to our heart of giving…what our attitude is, where our priorities lie, and who we put our trust in. I would like to end with a passage that is often used in regard to giving, but often overlooked because it has almost become cliche. Nonetheless, it is very important and sums up where God desires our hearts to be. 

Mark 12:41-44“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd put their money into the temple treasury. Many people through in large amounts. But a poor widow came in and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put into the treasury more than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-all she had to live on.” 

 
 
 

An (extra)ordinary Life

A4F20BA7-2A67-48D7-87C5-73A1E7A53BD5Over the past few years, I’ve struggled a lot with the comparison of an ‘ordinary’ lifestyle and living RADICALLY. I have often felt that if I wasn’t in ministry or abroad doing missions (living a radical lifestyle) that I wasn’t living up to my potential as a follower of Christ. Luckily, God has really been working on my heart in that area, or I might be missing out on this wonderful phase of my life and the sweet babies that I get to nanny for each day.

After leaving YWAM and going to university back here in the States, I began to form the idea in my head that my lifestyle had to look radical in order to live more passionately for Jesus. The more radical your lifestyle looked, the more ‘spiritual’ or closer to God you must be. While you might tell me this isn’t true or you’ve read books or heard people speak on ordinary life, most of you have thought about it one time or another. I’ve heard and seen Christians putting missionaries, pastors, and other people in ministry on pedestals…Our Christian cultures sometimes seems to view these people as ‘more spiritual’.

And the reality is that they aren’t…necessarily. They still struggle with sin, emotions, and conflict with others. But what I am learning is that a life that looks seemingly ordinary on the outside, does not mean that a person cannot live radically FOR Jesus. As I was beginning to grapple with this, Phil and I joined a small group that happened to be reading a book called “The Liturgy of the Ordinary” by Tish Harrison Warren. I hope to write about the book more later, but this book goes through the process of an everyday life and how ordinary moments and routines can become sacred moments and habits in our relationship with God.

Right now Phil and I live in an apartment in the suburbs of Philly and both work ‘normal’ day jobs. Two years ago if you would have told me this is where I would be, I would probably scoff and say “Nope…I’ll be on the mission’s field” (I also wouldn’t think I would be married). But God had other plans and since He has been working in my heart, He has made this place so much more enjoyable. Now going to work each day and caring for babies, making dinner, cleaning up the house, going to bed, spending time with friends, and going to church isn’t necessarily radical..

However, it doesn’t mean it can’t be. I happen to have one of those important jobs in the world (in my opinion). Caring for the lives of two beautiful little human beings that will someday grow up to be a part of this crazy world. I not only get to teach kindness, encourage play, and give lots of snuggles, but in the midst of the diaper changes, feedings, and clean up I have the opportunity to pray over those sweet little smiles…over their development, relationships with God, and their future jobs and lives. (Side Note: Thank you to the working Mama’s who have given us nannies the privilege of helping to raise your precious children).

Not only do I have the time to pray for them, but I can spend my days in prayer for their parents, for my own family, for my church, and for my friends. I also have the opportunity to do other cleaning around the house and get to be a blessing to their parents. And with the flexibility of nannying, during some of my free moments, I am able to work on writing and have extra time to spend with God. Outside of work, with both of our (Phil and I) job flexibility we have the opportunities to start getting involved with Young life, mentoring college students, and we are able to be involved with things like mission’s board and the worship team.

Phil and I are praying about going overseas in the future…but in the moment I know I am exactly where God wants me. And not only that, but I can live each moment purposefully. My life can be mundane if I allow it to be, however I’ve come to understand a new foundation behind “radical living”. Jesus is what makes my lifestyle radical. It isn’t about where your house is located or the people that you work with, so much as that it is about seeking after Jesus in every little moment. The more we grow to love Jesus the more passionate we become. And as we transform, that is when our lives begin to be truly radical.  
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