A Jar Full of Blessings

Thanks to the lovely, gracious, brilliant, and altogether wonderful Howlin’ Mad Heather, bloggess extraordinaire, and her recent post “Unexpected Journeys,” I have decided to start a Gratitude Jar for 2013.

Now that I’m a grown up (legally speaking at least), a year doesn’t feel as long as it used to, but it is still a pretty good chunk of time. Sometimes, I have trouble remembering what I had for breakfast, so trying to remember all the wonderful things God has done for me is impossible. Especially little miracles. Those are the ones that usually slip through the cracks in my memory.

It cost about $10 to buy all the materials at Michael’s, so this is a really cost effective and simple year-long project. And when 2014 dawns, we’ll have something to look through that will help us remember just how blessed we are!

It’s so simple, even a non-crafty person like me can do it, and I bet it’s hecka fun to do with kids.

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You’ll need a glass jar with a lid, some stick on letters, card stock, a pen, and scissors. I got the least “girly” set of colors because Wayne is going to use this, too. 🙂

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Fold the paper in half and score it in six equal pieces (more or less).

IMG_1289Cut each strip into two halves. You should get twelve strips per piece of cardstock.

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Leave your strips out so anyone can throw something in the jar at any time. I just had a glass cup tonight, but I might go out and get something cuter for this purpose later on. Make sure to leave the pen with it!

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Stick your letters on the outside. Some people label it “Thankfulness” or “Gratitude,” but for me, it’s “Count Your Blessings” because that’s exactly what these things are. I may not put a slip in when I wake up every morning, but even that is a blessing.

Being thankful really is an intentional thing, and that’s something I’ve resolved to do next year—to be more intentional about everything. I think I sometimes miss what God has to teach me because I’m just too busy to listen. However, if I slow everything down , including the traffic inside my own head, and intentionally focus on the things, people, and events God places in front of me, I’ll start to see even more things for which I should be grateful.

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Place your jar in a conspicuous place. If you have a kitchen table or a family room, that would be best. That way, it’s always there to remind you about the things you’re blessed with and to record them while the thought is in your head. Oh, I’d also suggest dating them or putting something on it to help you remember the specifics of the person, place, or thing that God used to bless you.

You’ll notice one is already in there. But I won’t tell you what it says because it’s a little embarrassing. 😉

Happy 2013!!! 

Water, Water, Everywhere

If you look through the Bible, you’ll find that God has done some amazing stuff with water.

It was there at the beginning of the world.

God used it to save Moses and deliver His people from Egypt. Men like NaamanGideon, and Elijah employed to prove His might.

Jesus walked on it, turned it into wine, used it to teach a Samaritan woman, and–most importantly–to make all things new.

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According to howstuffworks.com, “There are 326 million trillion gallons of water on our planet,” only a fraction of which we can drink. But it’s more than enough to support all living things.

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If you’re like me, you have an endless supply of it in your house to drink, cook with, and bathe in. It keeps your lawn green and your car clean. You play and swim in it. And the only time you even think about it is when it stops working. However, there are billions (yes BILLIONS) of people around the world who don’t have easy access to it and die because they are forced to drink from unsafe sources. According to the World Health Organization, “90% of the 30,000 deaths that occur every week from unsafe water and unhygienic living conditions are children under five years old.”

90% = 27,000 children who won’t get a chance to live full lives because they can’t get to something that God created in abundance.

160x600_jerryIn my mind, that’s inexcusable.

God has blessed us with amazing resources, and we should be putting them to use to help. Isaiah 41:17-18 says, “The poor and needy seek water, but there is none. Their tongues fail for thirst. I, the Lord, will hear them. I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will open rivers in desolate heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.”

It’s up to us, His people, to be the tools He uses to open those rivers in desolate places and free fountains hidden in the valley. He’s placed it there, and it only takes a little work for us to bless others with fresh water (and to be blessed ourselves in the process).

I discovered all these facts when I read an article by Craig Borlase on his website. In it, he profiles Scott Harrison, founder and CEO of charity:water. He was a believer who walked away from God for a time but came back to faith. He is now using his talents to bring about positive change. As a photojournalist, “he saw in the stagnant ponds and arduous, dangerous journeys lugging dirty H20 back to the most basic of homes, an issue that was right at the heart of so much suffering: water. Fix that, he realized, and life is almost instantly transformed.”

They’ve created a pretty impressive video that explains all the ways clean water changes lives.

All the research I’ve done revealed  charity:water is a 100% legit operation–totally transparent and above board. When you give, all of your money goes to a project, and you get the chance to see where your donation went. Once the well you helped pay to construct is complete, you receive GPS coordinates and photos from the building site.

2012 was an amazing year for me, one in which I was blessed in so many ways. I have an wonderful family who loves and supports me as well as a kind and godly husband who has cared for me for thirteen years. I go to work every day at a job I love and come home to a beautiful house we just purchased. I have an amazing church family and friends. However, I realize that God didn’t give me these good things just so I could keep them to myself.

To tell you the truth, I’m tired of building bigger barns. I feel like it’s time to love God and love my neighbors on this great big beautiful planet like I love myself.

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One of the ways I want to do this is by donating my birthday to charity:water. I’ve had a lot of awesome birthdays, so it seems only fitting that on my 35th, I help children so they can celebrate beyond their 5th.

Basically, rather than people sending me gifts or cards, taking me out for meals, or spending money on something I don’t really need, I’m asking them to donate that cash to my water campaign. (Though wishing me happy birthday on Facebook is still okay. It’s free after all.) 🙂

You can access my campaign–Aqua Jade–by clicking here.

$20 is enough to help one person gain access to fresh water, and it will change his or her life in ways you never dreamed possible. I’ve already made my donation, and I’m going to keep studying Scripture and blogging about the issue until my birthday on April 21, 2013. If you can, please consider donating….or better yet, start a project of your own!

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“And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”—Matthew 10:42

If you’re interested in donating, starting a project of your own, or telling me about your own experiences with this charity or others that are near and dear to your heart, I would love to hear about it. Share your stories and ideas in the comments section below!

Ho Ho Horrible?

It’s officially December, which means Christmas will be here before we know it. This year is our first in a house–a real home with a garage and trash day and lawn service–so we thought we’d celebrate Jesus’ birth in fine style with a real Christmas tree, which is something we’ve never had. It’s been up for two days, and the floor is covered in needles. But the house smells great (as does the cat’s head).

My grandmother was kind enough to give us a box or three of ornaments to save us a little money, but we wanted the tree to have a few things on it that were uniquely us. My parents’ tree is covered in different items gathered over a lifetime spent celebrating together, and there’s a story behind almost every piece. Wayne and I began that tradition this year. Here’s what I picked…

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Yes, it’s a very traditional choice, I know. However, it didn’t seem fitting to have a tree without a Rudolph themed ornament on it. Also, it’s a tree decoration depicting something decorating a tree. It was too meta to pass up.

Wayne chose to go with something a little less traditional but very much him.

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Yep, that’s Animal (his favorite Muppet) wearing a Santa hat. It’s positively festive if I do say so myself.

There are also a few musical notes and instruments—mostly French horns due to the fact they’re ubiquitous at Christmas. Sadly, few people associate the trombone (or even the sackbut) with the holidays.

I look forward to building our collection of tree trimmings, but there are also things my parents have that I look forward to owning one day. None more than the lovely and gracious decoration we fondly call Ho Ho.

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My mother made this guy when she was in middle school. Originally, the thing was supposed to be a pillow, but she got fed up with it less than halfway through. Instead, it’s pinned to what looks to be a piece of cardboard. There are six large circles about the size of liter glass bottles, and I swear I can see the faint impression of 7UP in one of them. The “Ho Ho” is done skillfully in the best felt her craft basket could offer. (Who cares if it’s one “Ho” short!?) You will notice that he is a bit askew. That’s because she lost count several times and made a few extra loops without changing colors first. Also, she didn’t have any black yarn, so Santa’s boots and eyes are an electric shade of purple. When I was a kid, I imagined Ho Ho was phasing, like someone on Star Trek, or he was a ghost taking shape. (I think I was mostly concerned because the poor little guy doesn’t have any arms.)

It started as a joke of sorts really, putting Ho Ho out in the house. For years, it was set above the doorway separating the den from the living room at my grandparents’ house in Arkansas. But when we moved to Florida, Ho Ho was placed in the box with essential decorations like the manger scene and precious and irreplaceable homemade ornaments. It wasn’t even a question of where it deserved to be.

At first, I think we gleefully put it out in a place of prominence to give my mom some grief. But every year, we’d all cheer when it came out of the box. Someone was given the honor of placing him on a table or a shelf where everyone who came to our home could see him in all his glory. And it was a big deal to do it! The first time Wayne was asked to do the honors, his face lit up because he knew he was truly a member of the family. I think Elisha handled Elijah’s mantle less carefully. (Okay, that may be gilding the lily a bit, but you get the idea.)

One of the many things I love about Christmas is that we all celebrate it, but no two families do so in exactly the same way. Last year, I wrote about Chipmunk Day, which is something I’ve always thought was fairly unique to my clan. However, there are tons of other things we look forward to. Getting new pajamas, making my dad sing “Two Turtle Doves” because it irritates the snot out of him, watching Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, eating party pizzas, reading the Christmas story from Luke, playing hearts and dominoes, my grandparents sneaking into our rooms on Christmas morning to sing and wake us up—this is the stuff that a truly joyful yuletide is made of. Other families may do totally different things to celebrate, and I’m willing to bet they look forward to their traditions as much as we do ours. Whatever you love as a family, that’s Christmas.

It’s pretty safe to say that no one else in the entire world has a Ho Ho. And that’s what makes him perfect. Martha Stewart might not call him a “good thing,” but we sure do.

Do you have some Christmas traditions you’re looking forward to? Do you have a “Ho Ho” of your own that’s already in a place of honor at your house? I’d love to hear about your traditions. Tell me about them in the comments section below!

Merry Christmas!!!

Selah In the Sky

It’s Christmastime at last! However, if you’re running a little low on Christmas spirit already or just need to be reminded what the whole things about anyway, try asking the stars.

If you would like to read the article online (and listen to the song I mention), please visit the In Touch Magazine homepage by clicking HERE.

Also, as always, if you would like a free subscription to In Touch Magazine, you can get one any time, by clicking HERE.

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