Uninhibited Volunteering

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My girls have recently become involved with 4-H, which means, I have recently become involved with 4-H!  LOL.

It’s ok, I enjoy the company of other people, and gravitate toward others, rather than always being alone.

The girls volunteered for offices within the club, and I am now the proud parent of a Reporter and Health & Safety Officer for our local 4-H club.  I’m really proud of them, though they almost bit off more than they (or I!) could chew.

So far, the girls have (combined) volunteered for:  offices in the club, livestock showing, photography, forestry, community service of course, being on the Christmas Committee, and a few other things.  Now, I don’t mind all that, as long as they remain devoted to whatever endeavors they choose.  For instance, forestry will be very challenging for my oldest, only 10, but has the potential to develop into something wonderful.  I’m excited about the possibilities they have available.

Tonight,my 10-year-old volunteered to be the leader of the Christmas Committee, which will be in charge of delegating for the club party in November.  She is the 2nd youngest, next to my younger daughter only, yet will be heading up this committee.  This is a great leadership learning opportunity for her, and will give her another chance to serve others.

So, it all got me to wondering.  (And we all know what happens when I start wondering!)

How often do we volunteer OUR time as adults?  Do we jump in and offer to provide a service for someone less fortunate, or for a friend who simply can’t do it?

I’m not hounding, and I’m not advocating that you become someone who cannot say, “No.”  But, as I look at my own life, I wonder how much I put my own selfishness in the place of serving someone.  God commanded that we work 6 days and rest for only 1.  Yet, I feel cheated if I have to “work” on the weekends.

I’m a person who doesn’t like to feel that everything is scheduled….our homeschool is very much a “go-with-the-flow,” and reflects our lifestyle in a good way.  But, God has been showing me that some structure is not bad.  It doesn’t mean I have to schedule everything, but simply have a basic guide.  And, I’m learning something else….

When I have that basic guide, I can schedule in some volunteer service.

If I can know that my own personal work will be accomplished by a certain time, then I know I can offer my time to another.  And, if my own work is done, it is selfish of me not to offer my time.

My goal over the coming months is to schedule some volunteer work as a family, and perhaps even individually.  John has been wanting to serve dinners on Thanksgiving for years.  Perhaps this is the year.  I’ve always said, “But, we don’t know where to go?”  Well, isn’t that taking the easy way out?

I want my children to know that there are others who are much less fortunate than we are.  That even though we are not rich, and may never be, that serving others through volunteering is a way to serve the Lord God Almighty, and to show the love of Jesus Christ His Son to those who may not yet know Him.

Here’s hoping you’ll volunteer, too.

Happy serving!

Toni

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Hope you had a fabulous, blessed and peaceful Christmas!

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I know we had a great one!  The Christmas season seems to pass by so quickly within the worldly scheme of things.  And yet, we know, that Christmas, as our teacher said yesterday at church, is not simply a “winter event.”  Christmas is a miraculous, wonderful, blessed encounter with the Incarnate Christ!  Immanuel!  Let’s remember that throughout the year – as well as reminding others of the miracle of His birth, His death on the cross, and His resurrection.  As our teacher pointed out, again, these are the very pillars of our faith.  (Ok, he pointed us to Paul, who pointed that out.)  It was an awesome sermon/teaching session.  I think our teachers/church leaders always do a fantastic job, and yesterday they did not deviate from their goal of providing excellent “meat” for us to chew, and making sure they were in line with the Word.

May we Christians spend the entire year being true to the Word – not watering down the Gospel as we present it to the lost world.

Have  a blessed New Year…..and don’t forget to share a few of your New Year’s Goals with us!

Blessings,

Toni

Christmas Poetry

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Christ came to earth, one blessed
Holy night, to offer
Redemption to a world, so lost in His sight
Immanuel is His name, our
Savior He chose to be.
Three gifts were brought to Him, by the
Magi, for the One who would be
Atonement for sins – offering
Salvation to you and me.

Christmas Trees

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Have you ever noticed the differences in Christmas trees?

Some are simple – others are ornate.  Some are flocked – others are a beautiful evergreen.  Some are real – some are artificial.

It seems Christmas trees are a very personal thing in our country.  One person may have a designer tree full of gorgeous department store ornaments, ornate ribbons, and hundreds of lights.  Truly a sight to see.

Others may prefer a simpler decoration – perhaps just lights and some tinsel.  Or maybe all homemade decorations.  There are trees with ornaments depicting our hobbies and memorializing our deceased loved ones.  Some of us use garland, others use ribbons, some tinsel, and others pinecones.  Trees run the gamut from truly country-style to high-end upscale fashion.

Yes, Christmas trees are a personal expression of ourselves.  For us, our tree this year is one with multi-colored lights (I generally prefer clear, but am outnumbered by 3!) and decorations of all kinds.  There are the beautiful ones my Mom bought for my sister and I a couple of years ago.  There are ones the girls have made with no help from anyone.  A few were purchased at the girls’ first or second Christmases.  One is a photo ornament of my late father-in-law given to us by my sister-in-law last year.  Perhaps the most sentimental to me are the ones that John has chosen for the girls each year.  It is a special gift from him each year to his girls, and they all look forward to the tradition.  There are puffs of white tulle in various places on the tree (my attempt at simulating “snow” – actually very cute!), wonderful large ribbons of varying colors and types of ribbon – all made from bows received on ornately-wrapped gifts in the past.  Tucked in the tree in a few cozy spots are small teddy bears – remnants from a set of 12 we bought for Alexis when she was a toddler.  She insisted on using the red beaded garland, so that encircles the tree, as well as a 4′ length of cranberry garland she made this year.  With the exception of ONE – every ornament we have, I believe, is on the tree this year!  And, to top it off, they are all on the front 2/3 of the tree!  LOL….When I asked the girls if I could move a few to the back and rearrange a little – they both said, “NO!”  So, the tree remains a little “front heavy.”  Hopefully it will stand straight until Christmas!

The night our tree goes up, I always like to stay up after everyone goes to bed with the lights out and only the tree lit.  It somehow really helps to put me in the Christmas spirit.  This year was no different, and while I sat, God gave me this thought:

We (God’s children) are like Christmas trees. 

How?  Easy.  We are all different.  No two of us are exactly alike – we all come with different experiences (ornaments) and backgrounds (the tree itself).  The tree itself represents the whole of our lives, and the lights reveal His presence.  Like our individual Christmas trees are to us, we are all very special to Him, indeed. 

He sees the absolute beauty in each ornament as it adds something unique to our lives that no one else has.  He put it there!  The ornaments of our lives are used by the Lord to shape our hearts and bring us closer to Him, while showing an outward sign of what He has done for us, and can do for others.  The ornaments are one way for us to show the love of Christ.

He is the Light that illuminates our trees and shines so that the holes where ornaments are missing, or broken ornaments are placed, can be seen.  Clear or multi, the lights reveal empty spaces and magnify mistakes.  The Light of Christ reveals unrepented sin, and therefore, the lights are the most important of all the elements.

The tree itself was grown and handpicked specifically for us – God knew the exact tree:  shape, size, type, flocked or not – and He knows why that tree was chosen.  Sometimes we are disappointed in His choice of trees, but we shouldn’t be – #1 – we can’t change it.  Our past is our past and our background is what made us who we are today.  And #2, God has reasons far beyond our comprehension for choosing the background we have had.  He can and does use any circumstance for good, and for His purposes.

So, you see, your Christmas tree can remind you of more than the birth of Christ this year, although I am in no way taking that away.  I merely want to add that your Christmas tree can remind you, if you allow God to use it that way, of what He has brought you in your life.  Of what He has brought you out of in your life.  And when you look at the top of the tree – the star, the angel – let that be a reminder to know where He is taking you in your life.

I hope that after reading this, you look at your Christmas tree a little differently.  And I hope that you spend a little time in the Light of your tree, looking to the One who decorated it so beautifully.

Merry Christmas everyone.

The Christmas Gift

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I wrote this originally in my personal journal (don’t you feel like a special friend, now?) as a Valentines poem. But I have been wanting to share it with you.  I changed a few words so it pertains to Christmas…hope you like it…let me know.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 The Christmas Gift

Lord, I have forgotten Your ways

I haven’t read Your Word in too many days

I have missed the mark time and time again

Who am I to say that You are my friend?

 

But, Lord, in Your grace I want to grow

And I’ll need Your help, this I know.

To find my way back to Your Throne

This is a journey I can’t make alone.

 

Lord, I have called upon You only when in trouble

Perhaps that is why lately, all I do is stumble.

I’ve cursed and I’ve cried, I’ve felt I could die

But, Lord, You never left. You were always at my side.

 

You’ve never forsaken me, you’ve always been there

In the morning, at night, and when I say the occasional prayer.

You’re there when I sleep and there when I cry

You’re there when I slip, though I sometimes wonder why.

 

I wonder how a Lord so sovereign and good

Can still love a sinner like me – I’m not so sure I could.

But You do Lord, and I’m blessed

For of every gift in life, Jesus is the best.

 

So, Lord, this Christmas Day, I want to tell You

That whatever it takes, that’s what I’ll do

I’‘ll do what’s needed to get back that fire.

Lord, I just ask You to teach me to desire

 

The things that are good, righteous, and just

And to never lose faith in Your love, but to trust.

To trust in Your provision, Your love, and Your promise

For You o Lord, cannot be dishonest.

 

Lord, You have my heart from now until forever

I will love You Lord, and not lose faith, no never.

So, Lord, be with me as on this new journey I start

And Lord, please accept this Christmas gift – my heart.

The Greatest Gift

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I thought I would share this with you tonight….its not my best work, and I wrote it REALLY quickly last year for my daughter to read at our church Christmas program.  Here it is:

The Greatest Gift

The tree is all aglow

Here in Texas, there is no snow.

It’s Christmastime!

Shopping time!

Time for waiting in really long lines!

In search of a gift for a friend,

mom or dad.

We want something to give

that will make them happy, not sad.

The big day comes and

the gifts are all opened….

Did everyone get just what they were hopin’?

But wait, there is one gift left.

A gift for you and for me

This gift can’t be found

under any Christmas tree.

It’s the Savior child

Born so meek and mild

He’s come to bring Joy,

This sweet and precious little boy

He’s wrapped up tight

In His mother’s arms tonight

So make sure that on your

Christmas wish list

You have written

The Greatest Gift!

Homemade & Inexpensive Gift Ideas

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Here is a (very) short list of ideas for homemade or very inexpensive Christmas gifts (that could easily be used at other times of the year!)

Crochet/knit/sew a scarf or hat for a child

Take a favorite photo and frame it in an inexpensive frame for a distant relative

Create a coupon book to give to your spouse:  back rubs, date night, dinner for two at home, etc.

Coupons for your children:  30 minutes with Mom/Dad, picnic, extra game night, extra bedtime story, their choice for dinner, etc.

Coupons for neighbors, friends, parents, etc.:  help rake the yard, help spring clean the house (hint hint!), wash their car, etc.

Make loaves of fresh breads and wrap slices individually, labeling the flavor, and give a sampling to several people

For the kiddos, try our suggestion:  this year, at each house, the kids had to make their own gifts for one another….they chose names, chose the gift they would make, and made it.  The cost needs to be very low – no more than $5 each for materials – but preferably something you already have.  For instance, one of my girls chose to make bobby pins and barrettes with buttons as a gift.

Look up an inexpensive bath salt recipe online and make a batch.  Present them in cleaned, empty jelly jars with a small scrap of fabric covering the lid and tied with raffia or a ribbon.

Make flavored olive oil in small vintage bottles:  stuff fresh herbs into bottles, fill with olive oil, place a cork in each.  Tie with raffia, add some small silk flowers, and present in an inexpensive wicker basket filled with shredded tissue.

Make snack mixes, etc. and present in large clear plastic cups wrapped in colored celophane.  Tie a ribbon or raffia around each cup.

Make a set of scented sachets for a lady to place in her dresser drawers:  create 4×4″ pillows from scrap fabrics and fill with rice and some lavender buds, rosemary, or other favorite frangrance.

Pick up an inexpnsive calendar and paste your own photos on each month.  Be sure to add all the special dates the recipient has to remember!

Soup, jambalaya (for you Cajuns!), or other mixes – present with a wooden spoon and 2 pretty bowls.

Create a small pedicure kit for a young girl:  place dollar store finds in a small basket, paint can, or other container and wrap with ribbon.  The paint can has the advantage of a smooth surface that can be decorated very easily with paper and stickers you already have on hand.

Create placemats from photos that didn’t make the cut to go into your scrapbook:  on an 11×14 sheet of paper (posterboard will work, but since you’ll want to laminate it, it will get pretty thick), make a sort of “scrapmat” from your photos and scrapbook papers.  Be careful using items that are bulky, since once you are done, you will want to take these to your office supply store to have them laminated.  Sets of 4 are great gifts for grandparents, parents, etc.  You can vary this and use only papers with no photos for a more general theme.

Use the above method for creating coasters on a 3.5-4″ circle.  Laminate each.  (I recommend sets of 6 or 8.)

Let a young girl learning to cross-stitch create a sampler or small project for a grandparent or neighbor.

Be sure to involve your kids in the selection process!  They not only LOVE to make things, sometimes they have much better ideas than us big people do!

There are TONS of places online that can give you some great ideas for very meaningful Christmas (and other ocassions!) gifts.  I hope you and your family have a wonderful time this year creating this and other gifts so that you can enjoy the True Meaning of Christmas!

Blessings,

Toni

If you have some more great inexpensive or homemade gift ideas, please add your comment and let us know!

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