Monday, December 19, 2011

It's Christmas - Let's Pay it Forward!

One of my more recent blogs was written about a bad day I had and complaining about my car needing repaired. Looking back on 3 months ago, it was a crazy few days. The expression of when it rains, it pours was completely true. I won't bore you with the details of everything that went wrong (or maybe I should say not in my favor), but let's just say I was a bit overwhelmed and was afraid to ask "what next?" Because I didn't think I could handle any more downpours of bad luck!

I know that God always provides when we need him to. I am a personal testimonial to this. And I can personally say he has blessed our family with exactly what we have needed these past few months. Since we have been so abundantly taken care of these past few weeks, my girls and I talked about ways we could give back, even if it was just something small.

With Christmas just around the corner, we agreed that we wanted to get a Christmas tree angel from the giving tree. We decided to go to our local Wal-Mart and pick a name and go shopping. Well, time got the better of us, and we kind of procrastinated. But the good news is that when we went to pick a name off the tree, there were 3 names left. My little one wanted to choose a girl from the tree to buy gifts for, but all the girl names were all taken. All that was left were 3 boys who were pre-teen ages. We picked one of those tree angels off the tree and off we went. I am so used to shopping for girls, so it was really took some effort to think what this little boy might like. The angel tag from the tree listed his clothing sizes and interests so we picked out a variety of clothes and some toys we thought he might like. The girls loved help picking out stuff and I had a warm feeling in my heart when we dropped our bag full of goodies off at the drop-off location for this charity. Plus the girls got a taste of what the true meaning of Christmas is. They were able to help out someone and that feeling made them happy to be able to help someone in need.

Lately I have found myself doing little things for others, strangers included, just because I want to. I admit I've not always been great about offering to help others out because like most people, I'm usually in a hurry and on a mission to get things accomplished. Just like today, there was a lady in a power wheelchair while grocery shopping staring at me getting my milk out of the cold section. I started to walk away, but instead turned around and asked if she needed help with something. I'm certainly glad I asked because what she needed was on the very top shelf and she couldn't reach it. I was happy I could help her out, and it only took about 10 seconds of my time and cost nothing to help her. I'm not telling you this to receive a pat on the back. Just simply sharing a story of how we can help others if we just take a moment out of our precious time and offer our help.

If it has been awhile since you have paid it forward, I challenge you to try this task. It doesn't even have to cost you any money. It might only take a couple minutes of your time, but it would help someone out. Is there an elderly person you know who could use some help around their home, or maybe someone to drive them to the store, or maybe just visiting someone like this for a little while? Is there an organization that you know could use some help and you could offer some of your time? Is there a family or friend you know could use an extra little something that maybe you could make a meal for or offer a gift card for a meal? It's little things like these examples that travel a mile. Sometimes if we just make a least amount of effort, it means the world to those on the receiving end. So again, I challenge YOU to pay it forward, in some way, big or small, in the next week. There are plenty of ways to do this. And the greatest part is that you will love the feeling inside when you do pay it forward. And in return, God will provide for you when you need it. It may not be in the way you expect to receive it, but it always comes full circle. Do something good for someone else, and in return, something good will be given to you.

I recently read a story in my local paper about an anonymous donor paying off several customers who had things in layaway for Christmas at K-Mart stores. The lady's husband had passed away and she was paying it forward by helping others. She was even handing out $50 bills to people in the store. This, ladies and gentlemen, is an angel sent from Heaven to help others in need. What a lovely surprise to those who had their layaway balances reduced or even paid in full. God always provides when we need Him to, and this is just one small example.

Remember, pay it forward in some small way and you will receive blessings in abundance of your good deed. God will always take care of us when we need Him to. But He also asks that we take care of others when they need us to.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Making New Memories

It's that time of year again ~ Christmas just around the corner, Santa Claus coming to town soon, holidays, gatherings with family and friends, gifts, enjoying a few days from the normal routine, etc. I absolutely love this time of year, and as time passes, I love this season even more. The kids get a little taller each year, get a little smarter, and yes, another year older. Children don't stay little forever so I want to make the most of it while I can watching them grow up!

This year we experimented with a couple new things that may become our traditions. First thing, there is a Santa train that passes through our neighboring town on a Friday each year. I have always heard about it and thought it sounded neat, but decided that this was the year we were going to experience it for the first time. Luckily the day that it was due to arrive was my scheduled day off from work so after school, we loaded up in the car and off we went. We arrived 1 1/2 hours before it's scheduled arrival time because I knew the line would be long. And I'm glad we did! We were about 30 people back in line so I knew we'd get a good view of it when it came pulling up on the track. I saw some friends of mine and chatted with a few here and there while waiting in line. My girls found a friend of theirs they have known since she was a baby so they were running around with her. What was super nice about the place we saw the train is that it was located at the fire station. They set up lines to wait inside for the train so we weren't out in the cold. And what made it ever better was the hot chocolate and cookies they served each person. Even though I ended up wearing half of my 6 year old daughter's hot chocolate, it was all the well worth it.

The train arrived about 10-15 minutes ahead of schedule which was fabulous! I had no idea it would be as long as it was. What I was thinking would be 1-2 train cars turned into at least 5-6 (I couldn't count them all). The girls faces lit up as bright as the stars in the sky when they saw the Santa train. Then all of a sudden all of these cartoon and storybook characters started to climb out of the train. They were circling the crowd and dancing with each other and interacting with the kids. Buzz Lightyear even pulled my oldest daughter out and started dancing with her! It was amazing to see the inside of the train and the kids just loved seeing Santa and Mrs. Claus. The time inside the train was only about 10 minutes but so worth the long wait! Because when we left the line was wrapped around outside of the building and those poor folks had at least a 2 hour wait.

After the neat train episode, it was time to decide on dinner. There was a little cafe just down the street that I have passed for 31 years but never stopped in there. I asked my girls if they wanted to try something new and they were excited about that. Little did I know that they were closing about 5 minutes after we entered the restaurant. I noticed it was half full when we got there but within about 15 minutes, everyone has cleared out. I apologized to our waitress and she was so sweet and glad that we came in. She told us it was no problem and to take our time. It was a cute little place that served homemade food. I do believe we will be going back sometime!

The Santa train we finally got to see:

My girls with Santa & Mrs. Claus:

Girls with the Snowman:

Making New Memories ~ Part 2

I have always wanted to host a Christmas cookie exchange party. I decided this year I was going to do just that! I asked my oldest daughter if she wanted to help me because she loves helping to plan stuff like that. "Did you say cookies Mom? Cookies?? Why, of course, Mom, I'd love to!" That child would turn into a cookie if I would let her! So we set the date, time and sent out the invitation. We only invited a few ladies who lived close by, mainly our good friends and family. I must say I love hosting parties but they can be alot of work. Clean the house, make sure the kids keep the house clean, clean some more, bake the goodies, prepare the finger foods, get the drinks ready, etc. I love, love, love hosting events but it can sometimes take many hours/days to get ready for fun that only lasts for 2 hours. All was set and the guests started arriving as scheduled, with the exception of the grandmas who arrived early but that was fine. Each person brought in their yummy goodies. There were peanut butter blossoms, more peanut butter blossoms, peanut butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies, no bake cookies, peppermint cookies, cereal balls with white chocolate, gingerbread women men, different types of fudge, snickerdoodles, the list goes on and on...

The kids decided to play in the girls rooms while the ladies mingled and chatted. There was Christmas music playing, candles burning, and the feel of happiness and Christmas in the air. I can say our Christmas cookie exchange was a huge success and I think we have found our annual event to do again next year! After all, how could you not want to make one dessert and then bring some of each of these home??

We are making new memories each year that comes and goes. I love the feel of the holidays and the feel that is in the air during Christmas time. And I love the reason we celebrate CHRISTmas. I have taught my girls that Jesus's birthday is on Christmas Day. Without Jesus who died for our sins, who knows what this world would be like? I do not want to know what this world would be like without Jesus or God. Because without Him, we would not exist, or be who we are today. Thank you Jesus for the many blessings you have given the world. And for that, I cannot wait to celebrate your birthday in just a few days. Merry Christmas to all!