NovelSisters

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Giving Tuesday

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Well today is Giving Tuesday, where lots of nonprofit organizations really push for donations. Several places have matched donations for today only, so if you give, the gift gets doubled. It’s funny to me how so many days surrounding the holiday season have come to have new titles: Black Friday, Cyber Monday and now Giving Tuesday. But of all the days, this one struck me. It might be because I’m currently working on a Lesson about Giving vs Getting for my middle school students, but I thought I’d share my thoughts.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are all about getting your Christmas shopping done early and saving money. It’s a great thing for a lot of people even though some shoppers can go a bit overboard with their enthusiasm. But Giving Tuesday focuses in on giving things that matter. That new TV would be great and whoever you’re buying it for will probably be very happy to receive it, but it isn’t a necessity. Most of the organizations promoting Giving Tuesday are seeking to give people around the world, things they really need: like food, clothes, clean water, education and the list goes on and on.

There are a million things on this planet that you could buy, for yourself or for others, but some things just keep their value longer. And I don’t just mean physical things. When we give to God, our gifts count for eternity and store up treasures in heaven. Treasures that never fade, or rust, or break, or get lost.

But for me, that is not the main reason I want to give to these non-profit organizations. It’s easy to have the mindset of what am I going to get out of this, even when we’re giving. I’ve done this plenty of times, like giving gifts to my siblings so that I could play with the game or take part in the gift myself. It was almost like I was really giving the gift to myself. So I don’t want to give because I’m thinking about a mound of treasure waiting for me in heaven. Especially when I’ve been learning that what God calls treasure or riches usually has to do with people and relationships, not more stuff.

You may have noticed the picture at the top of this post. It’s from a mission trip I took to Haiti about 4 years ago. While I was there, I got to hang out with some kids and I ended up making some little drawings for them of different animals. It wasn’t a huge gift, but they were so excited to get one. Their faces would light up and they’d laugh and dance around. And I got to see a glimpse of the joy of giving.

So, here’s the reason why I’ll be participating in Giving Tuesday:
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40

When I give to the poor, I’m giving to Jesus. And Jesus is the One who loved me when I was selfish and broken, who took my place on the cross and gave up his life for me. His love is more valuable than anything I own, and He’s given it to me freely. I want to love Him back, to give back to Him, to treat people the way He has treated me and show Him how grateful I am for his gift.

So, if you would like to join me, here’s a couple of the organizations that I’m giving to today:

Austin Disaster Relief Network

Giving Tuesday

 

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Christmastime is Here

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Everywhere you look, Christmas is there. The familiar tunes blare on the radio and in the stores you see the wintry themes and special deals. You’ve probably run into a few Santa’s by now, either taking pictures with children or ringing bells, or just figurines set up all over the place. Lights are decorating the parks, houses, streets and storefronts. The smell of pine needles may be filling your home, either from a real tree or a nice candle. And then there’s all the things to do: parties, shopping, baking, decorating, and whatever else the holidays bring.

I’ve noticed that my old blog post about what Christmas is about has gotten quite a few views even though it’s a very old post. When this time of years rolls around, it’s easy to get caught up in the hubbub and then wonder, wait, why am I even doing all this?

And that’s an important question. Why are you buying gifts? Why are you going to that party? Why are you decorating? What’s so important about Christmas?

My pastor talked last week about how Christmas has become an idol in our culture. We put all of this pressure on ourselves to have a “Perfect Christmas” and think that it will solve all our problems. So we try to get the perfect gifts for others, and give hints to our family and friends of what we really want. We spend all this money and time on doing things and most of the time, we just wear ourselves out. If that’s what Christmas is all about, it’s no wonder so many people get depressed around the holidays. It’s impossible to have a perfect Christmas. There’s always something that went wrong, something you never got around to doing, or something you had to say no to because you can’t say yes to everything.

But this year, God has been teaching me something about my heart. I’ve known the lies of consumerism and materialism and commercialism: Get More and You’ll be Happy. I know that isn’t true. But I’ve still bought into the habits. I feel a pressure to buy people gifts, even if they don’t really want what I’m giving them. I’ve started making lists of what I want for Christmas each year. And each year I just end up with more things that I can’t even remember who gave them to me.

So, after reading a radical book about decreasing called “7” by Jen Hatmaker. I decided that this December, I’d try my own kind of reduction. Instead of feeding the consumerism desires in my heart, I’m looking for ways to give. And not by going out and buying things to give away, but sorting through the things I already have and finding ones to let go of. I’ve already cleared through my bookshelf and stuffed animal collection. And boy things look a lot less cluttered. But more than that, I’ve started noticing places where I can give and finding joy in actually doing it. It’s not one more thing I need to do, one more thing I need to buy. It’s letting go of what I already have, what really belongs to God anyway and seeing someone else enjoy it. It’s so freeing.

So this year, I’m trying my best to give the way God has given, even when it hurts, and find joy in the true reason for the season: Jesus Christ who gave His perfect life for me.

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A Reminder to be Thankful

a thankful heart

As the Thanksgiving Holiday is approaching, I’ve been trying to be more thankful for things. But this past weekend, I got a surprise moment of thankfulness. So I hope you enjoy this little story and that it reminds you to be thankful this month too.

So, when I was growing up, I went to a church and our youth pastor had all of these events for us to invite our friends to. He wanted us to bring visitors and give us chances to invite friends who didn’t believe in Jesus. It sounded like a good idea and a great way to share the gospel. But unfortunately for me, I was a home schooled kid with no friends that didn’t already go to church. So I always felt a little guilty when he told us to invite our friends to these events because the only people I could invite were already Christians. Well, I did my best and invited some people I knew from other home school groups even though I didn’t think what I was doing had any significance or would make an impact. I thought the only good that could come from inviting friends to a church event was them becoming a Christian and following Jesus.

But the other day, I realized just how wrong I was, how big God’s plan is, and how thankful I am for His work in my life. One of the friends I invited to these church events was named Lindsey. We had one class together in High School and that was it. I was never in any other home school classes with this girl. With those odds, we wouldn’t have stayed friends. It would have been like a lot of other friendships that lasted for a year while we were around each other and ended when we no longer saw each other at school. But, that didn’t happen. I invited her to those church events we were supposed to invite friends to, and she actually came. We spent time together outside of school, and that gave us room to grow our relationship. Then we started hanging out at each other’s houses even when there wasn’t a church event to go to. And when I left for college, we emailed each other, and when I was back in town, we would meet up. Lindsey has remained one of my closest friends to this day. I even got to be maid of honor in her wedding last year.

As we were reminiscing about how we had met this past weekend, I realized how pivotal those church events had been to my relationship with Lindsey. I wondered if we would have ever stayed friends if I didn’t invite her to them. So now I am so thankful for those random events, like Super Bowl parties, and Christmas scavenger hunts, because they provided opportunities to grow relationships.

So today I want to say thank you to Jake Box, my old youth pastor for organizing all of those events and let him know I am thankful for what he did and amazed at how God used them in my life. And I want to say thank you to my friend Lindsey for her constant friendship and her willingness to say yes and go to another youth group’s event.

And I want to encourage my readers to say thank you to someone today and let them know how much you value them.

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Tis the Season

Girl, Plait, Person, Hair, Cold, Coffee, Smile, Winter

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/girl-plait-person-hair-cold-570556/

The holidays can be a blur of activity no matter what you are celebrating. It seems like time speeds up and the amount of commitments do too, so that you have less time to do more things. This year I’m adding my brother’s wedding to the craziness of my Christmas season.But something my soon to be sister-in-law said the other day has stuck with me. “We’re trying to find joy in the midst of busyness.” Instead of looking at the long list of to-dos and getting overwhelmed, she is trying to find joy in each task. I think this attitude is applicable to more than just wedding craziness, but can and should be applied in the holiday season too.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in all the details: parties, presents, dinners, decorations, traveling, and whatever else your holiday includes. These things can crowd out what’s really important.

So here are a few things that are really important about this season, at least to me. Your list may differ, but I would encourage you to figure out what they are, and try to focus on them this season.

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Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/christmas-children-holiday-child-1078274/

1. Family. Even if I don’t get my sister/brother/parents the perfect gift, we’re still family, and we still love each other. I want to focus more on spending time with my family while we’re together and enjoying them. We tell jokes together, watch funny movies, and play board games and those memories have been more precious to me than any gift I’ve received. So I don’t want to miss out on spending time with my family this year, and showing them how much I love them, through the time I spend with them.

Baby, Bethlehem, Bible, Christ, Christmas, Crib, Faith

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2. Christ. To me, Christmas isn’t Christmas without Christ. The whole reason I have hope, joy, peace, life, love, or anything good, is because of God. He showed his love for me, by sending Jesus into this broken and messed up world. He experienced all the heartaches of this place, and He made a way for me to be saved from it. He showed the greatest love by dying in my place, taking my punishment, and being separated from the Father. So now, I don’t have to. His precious gift of Himself, is what Christmas is all about. And if I forget that, I forget what’s most important.

 

Love, All, Space, Fly, 3D, Star, Font, Red

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/love-all-space-fly-3d-star-font-209900/

3. Love. This really stems from my other important things. Christ’s love for me is the reason I can love my family, even when they disappoint me, or love a friend even when they get on my nerves. God’s love reached out to His enemies, and that love, working in me, should reach out to strangers, outcasts, even enemies. I’ve heard that love is the most powerful thing in the world, and when it comes from God, I’d say that sounds pretty accurate. God’s love changes everything. It’s changed my life, and it is still changing this world.

So there’s my list of important things for this crazy season. I’m going to try to focus on loving others, including my family, from an attitude of thankfulness for how Christ has loved me. And I’m pretty sure that will help me have joy instead of stress this year. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and enjoy the holidays too.

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Free Birds

Free Birds

Because Netflix recently updated their available movies, I decided to watch Free Birds, the Holiday oriented film about turkeys trying to rewrite the Thanksgiving tradition. Though it inadvertently reminds me of a burrito, I had been interested in the film when it first came out. I wasn’t sure if it would be worth the ticket price, and never made it to the theater. Although I’m glad I didn’t spend the money on this fairly average family film, I still enjoyed parts of the movie.

The plot was mostly given away by previews, and the few twists were fairly predictable. Overall it didn’t have a very compelling story, and the humor was very childish, with many jokes simply repeated several times to make them more ‘funny’ or in this case annoying. There were a few good references to popular culture, such as the turkeys being called Angry Birds. And the visual quality of the film wasn’t bad.

I was also a bit offended at the treatment of the human characters, especially the Plymouth residents. Captain Standish was made into a obsessed villain and Governor Bradford into a selfish glutton who lied, and stole. I think the story would have been a lot more compelling if the villains were less flat and could be related too.

In the end, it was a decent family movie, however not one that needs to be watched more than once.

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