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Friday, December 31, 2010

The 6th, 7th, & 8th Blessing of Christmas

Yes, I will finish this series of posts....even if it takes until next year!

The Blessing of Beauty
Nothing accurately portrays the beauty of Christmas more than the Christmas Tree. Ornaments, beads, bows, and twinkling lights, nothing could be more enchanting for kids and grown-ups alike. Speaking of twinkling lights, there origination is said to be credited to the religious reformer, Martian Luther. Legend has it, as Luther walked home Christmas Eve, he could see the stars shining brightly through the Evergreen trees. He wanted to share this joy with his family so he cut down a small fir tree. When he returned home he decorated it with tiny, white candles to represent the stars. He said the glowing tree stood for Christ, the Light of the World. In my opinion, there is nothing more beautiful than that belief!

The Blessing of Friends
Christmas by nature is so festive and fun, and a great time to gather everyone together for some good old merriment! Surrounding yourself this time of year with those special people in your life can instantly bring a heart of gratitude for the blessing of your friendships. Sometimes friends are our family and sometimes family are our friends. It really doesn't matter so long as we remember to cherish them.

The Blessing of Love
I have to say, sometimes the emotion we can feel at Christmas can inspire us to do great things. And from this inspiration is born the blessing of Love. How best can we communicate this spirit of Love than through the power of prayer. It cost nothing to give, or receive, yet it's value is worth more than Silver and Gold. We all have someone in our lives that we can be praying for, prayer is a gift, a gift of love that blesses the lives of both those praying and those receiving. And biblical, the ultimate gift of Love.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The 3rd, 4th, & 5th Blessing of Christmas

At no other time of the year are people more inclined to give then during Christmas. Charity is never more alive, or more meaningful at any other time. Which brings me to the next Blessing of Christmas.

The Blessing of Kindness
Charity has been a part of Christmas for centuries, but the concept of Christmas Charity has largely been credited to the writing's of Charles Dickens.  Dickens used,  "A Christmas Carol", as an opportunity to spread public awareness and interest in  providing to those less fortunate. As time has passed, we have seen this story replayed in many various forms, in an effort to appeal to a wide range of audiences. This time tested classic has stared Mickey Mouse, Barbie, Mr. Magoo, Bugs Bunny, and even, Bill Murray. However, the concept remains the same. Learn from your past, live in your present, secure your future by giving of yourself to others.

Speaking of Christmas past, what do you remember most? Just like we store our decorations back in the attic each year, there are also Christmas keepsakes we store away in our hearts. They are treasures not to be forgotten, worthy of passing on to the next generation.

The Blessing of Memories
The best part of getting out Christmas decorations is sorting through the boxes. Perhaps as we uncover the treasures each box contains, we also uncover our memories of past Christmases. Our hearts are then flooded with the remembrances each item brings.

For me, ornaments conjure up the fondest memories. As I unpack each one, I am brought back to my wedding, each child's first Christmas, that hand print ornament that gets smaller every year, and vacations, every one is commemorated with a Christmas ornament. Basically, every ornament on my tree tells a story. The conversations I have had with my children about our ornaments have been both light hearted, mommies first ski trip, and blessed, my Cross ornament commemorating my Baptism.

Not only have I been blessed with being reminded of such grand and wondrous memories of events in my life, as well as in the life of my family, but the blessing of my memories is being passed down to my children. Leaving a legacy I have hope will last an eternity.

~ Oh take me back to long ago
   That I may see again,
Wondrous days of carefree play
   That surely had no end.
 And even though I'm happy
 With the soul that I became
I wonder why the Christmas pie
   Will never taste the same~
                                      T.J Mills

The Blessing of Faith
"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angles were gone away from them into heaven, the Shepard's said to one another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which has come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made it known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the Shepard's. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the Shepard's returned, glorifying and praising God for all things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them." Luke 2:11-20 KJV

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The 2nd blessing of Christmas

I wrote yesterday about the blessing of warmth, while it was literally freezing outside. And today, I find once again, life imitating art, though the only caroling I was able to enjoy was the Carol of the Coughs.

The blessing of Music
Music stirs the soul. It has the power to conjure up any and all emotion at the first note. It can take you back to your childhood, your wedding, make you cry, make you mad, or even infuse you with more energy than you good ever imagine. So what would the Christmas season be without it's beloved music. Many of our Christmas memories are stored away within the lyrics of our favorite carols. Offering the opportunity to provide another gift that can be given with the greatest of ease.

If you get the chance to go caroling, go! This can be done through a church group, a neighborhood group, or make your own group! Visit friends, neighbors, nursing homes, or hospitals, help bring joy into the lives of those who need it the most. Sing with your children-in the car, the bathtub, while you are baking, they will treasure those memories. We have been blessed with the spirit of Christmas through music. Remember to make a joyful noise!

The English word "carol" once meant, to sing and dance in a ring. As time passed, the word began to be associated with the holiday tradition know as "wassailing". Wassailing was originally the custom of blessing fruit trees during the Christmas season. The use of this word would eventually evolve into defining a toast, caroling, and a hot drink.

                                                                 "Joy to the world, the lord has come
                                                                  Let Earth receive her King"

Monday, December 13, 2010

The 1st blessing of Christmas

The next twelve posts will be based primarily on one of my favorite Christmas books, The Twelve Blessings of Christmas. With that said, how apropos is today's first blessing with it being 32 degrees and dropping!

The blessing of Warmth
Warmth can come from many different sources, a fire, a North Face, a pair of cozy mittens, but I am not speaking of the warmth you receive from any external source, rather, the warmth received from the wondrous event that is Christmas. It's a warmth we feel in our hearts that lasts the whole year long. Much like the warmth we feel from a visit with an old friend. It's a warmth that lasts far longer than any gift. It can also be given with the greatest of ease. Here are a few examples from my book to help ensure your friends and family stay warm this holiday season, and well into the new year.

1. Be a kid again, get excited, make projects with glitter & glue.
2. Bake Cookies until every corner of your home is filled with it's intoxicating aroma.
3. Sing Christmas songs with "the chipmunks".  I still want a hula hoop.....
4. Run outside with no coat in the cold night air to look at the twinkling lights on the house...nah!!
5. Enjoy every hug, kiss, story, and card.

"Glory to God- And let peace guide the way to the love and celebration of a joyous Christmas day"
- T.J Mills

Sending warmth with Christmas Greetings
The American history of the greeting card dates back to 1875, a German immigrant from Boston created the first Christmas cards available for purchase by the public. Of course, they were an instant hit. So, what can you do with Christmas cards of days past? Reuse them! Cut out any figures or sections from the card that do not have writing on the back. Then, punch a hole at the top with a hole puncher, write a message on the back, thread with ribbon, and tie to your gift. This can be a fun project for the kids during Christmas break. Also, serves as a great lesson in finding new uses for seemingly unusable items.

Friday, December 10, 2010

F is for Friday!

Today's Fun Friday F is..... Follow me ;) And that is all!
Have a wonderful weekend and check back for next weeks posts.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Testimony Tuesday: The blessing in brokeness

Over the past few weeks, it has been brought to my attention, that I have friends and acquaintances with little ones experiencing physical troubles that are feared to be lifelong. Nothing breaks my heart more then a child that has to suffer some deformity, due to birth defects, or accidents, and to know nothing will ever be able to fix it. I do try to keep it in perspective, children are so resilient, and the number one way to ensure success in that child is by the adults who surround them. I feel lead to address this, I feel I offer some insight for the adults with these gifts from God in their lives. These children are not broken, they are fearfully and wonderfully made in God's image, even if it's not the image we had in mind.

Does the term Amniotic Band Syndrome mean anything to you? For most, probably not. It has only been in recent years that even I became aware of this specific term. This is significant to me because I was born with ABS. What this means is, I only have one hand! I am missing about three inches of my arm, my wrist, and my left hand. And I have never let that stop me from achieving my goals, but I can only attribute that to my family. I remember the stories my mom would tell me of how she didn't get to see me for three days, and how they told her I would be developmentally delayed, not to have lofty expectations. Talk about dashing a mothers dream! Fortunately, there was someone there who saw things differently, and no one can remember who that person was! My grandmother tells me of a conversation she had in the waiting room with whom she thought to be a Doctor. He felt I would be able to accomplish anything I wished, but it would all depend on my families attitude toward the situation. He explained how I would only be restricted in my achievements by limitations my family imposed on me. I do believe there was some divine intervention in that conversation, I believe it made all the difference in how my future would evolve. It hasn't always been easy, I have shed many tears over life with "little hand". I can remember some pretty mean things that have been said and done, but they made me stronger, and I was rightfully shy a good portion of my life, not anymore, ha! I never placed any limitations on myself, though scared to try sometimes. I remember wanting nothing more then to be a Cheerleader (instilled at birth, I am sure, by my Drill Team mom), how was I going to do that? The stunts, the tumbling, how would I hold the pom-poms? That fear, held me back a whole year. And when I did try-out, I rocked it! I had to think out of the box and be creative. I also had the support of an encouraging mother and amazing friends. I was just as effective at stunting as my two handed counter parts, and I discovered I could tie my pom-pom on with a hair scrunchy. Tumbling? No problem, I had long accomplished the basics, my first attempt at a spotted back handspring however, landed me on my head! My response, "Do I get to try again"?! My senior year of High School we were state champs, I cheered in the Shrine Bowl, Florida Citrus Bowl, and competed at the national level in Orlando, Florida, ESPN, baby! I also had the opportunity to try-out as a UCA All-Star, I made it. I didn't stop there. I then took my passion for Cheering to the next level and earned a spot on the Cheerleading Squad at Francis Marion University.

To this day, I remain active as a Nationally Certified Fitness Instructor, I know my class gets a kick out of me tying my weight on with my pink bandanna. I even have my coffee mug handle fitted snugly on my arm as I type. There are ways around things. And my three children know full well, "I can't", is not language I accept! I have come to a place in my life were I have gained the understanding that I might spend a lifetime one-hand, which I wouldn't change, but I will spend eternity two-handed. That said, lets move on from my story. If you have questions, just ask.

I feel pretty confident in saying, when your child doesn't exactly meet your vision, you probably place blame on yourself, wondering what you did wrong, or could have done differently. You have to remember, God does not make a mistake. Once you can get past the guilt and isolation you feel you have to get creative. There is no time to consider the what if, take your what is and get moving. You have the blessed opportunity to learn more from your own child's special needs then you ever thought possible, and remember, your attitudes and actions will shape your child's image of themselves. With that in mind, it's important how you refer to them. Using language like, "He suffers from.....", "She can't do....." will affect how they see themselves. Building a vocabulary of positivity and encouragement is the best gift you could give any child. You have been given a grand assignment to care for a child with a special need, and you will never be given more than you can handle. I want to get across how humbling it should be that you have been entrusted with the care of an exceptional child. Finally, I know all situations are different, and can be difficult, but it takes the same tenacity, courageousness, and Faith, regardless of your circumstance. No one is broken, just unique, and all our gifts are given by the same spirit.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thristy Thursday: Quenching the funny bone, seniors style

Here are some funny anecdotes form the members of my Stretch & Strength class, comprised mostly of senior adults. Bare in mind these facts as you read: 1. They like to talk, all through class. 2. They whine and complain, but think it's funny. 3. Senior adults are not embarrassed, nor phased, by flatulence.

"This one's my favorite, the arms are the new face ya know".

"Well if arms are the new face, the legs are the new butt".

"It's a natural bodily function people".

"Can you keep your bodily function to yourself please".

"Oh, did we start".

"Yes we started! You can't be a top notcher, if you are going to be a clock watcher".

"I can't do that, I have titanium in that hip".

"That hurts my shoulder"....."That hurts my back"........"Joey! Joey!".........."My instructor in New York......."

Never a dull moment! They make me laugh!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Manic Monday: What do you mean your sold out!

Remember the Christmas debacle that was Tickle me Elmo? Well, it appears Dance Star Mickey is poised to be this years hottest Christmas toy! And of course, I want one, no, need one! I have been looking everywhere for the infernal thing, checking each time I visit any major retailer that would sell such an item. Never was I concerned until last night. I decided to check online, thinking it wouldn't be a problem. Walmart, sold out; Target, sold out; toys r us, sold out; Disney Store, sold out, all with no indication of future availability. I eventually find it on Amazon.com, marked up 50%!!! Seriously!? Then my marketing education kicks in and I realize exactly whats going on.

Once an item is touted as being the next big thing, the hawks swoop in. They quickly buy up all available inventory at it's original MSRP, or even a sale price. Once the general population gets excited about the product and is ready to buy, it's near impossible to find. And queue hawks. All the sudden the product is in ample supply again, but not through the average retailer. Instead, they are being sold through independent retailers you probably have never heard of. And you guessed it, the mark-up begins. In general, mark-up starts at 25%, but as supply stays low and demand increases, mark-up continues. To date, the mark-up is over 50% and estimated to rise. We are talking about a toy that original sales for $59.99, being sold for $96, and on one site, $199.99, crazy!

I have to say this, if Mickey should dance across my path this holiday at it's original price, I will be buying! Not only that, but Mickey will go on e-bay one week prior to Christmas and I am going to try my hand at this game! Then again, I am not very good at taking advantage of people. I will keep you posted. So, final thoughts; Marketing genius, or sticking it to us?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thirsty Thursday: Thirsty for Justice

This week I had the privilege (not!) of serving as a defendant in what was nothing short of an egregious lawsuit. I have long been baffled at how this suite was allowed to make it into a court of law, but it did, and I had to face the music and go dancing in a minefield. I will spare the details of that day, eight years ago, when I unfortunately was not able to maintain control of my vehicle. With less then desirable road conditions, I caused an accident. The short of it is, I ended up being served a lawsuit by an alleged passenger I vehemently assert was not even in the vehicle! Therefore, I digress in regard to the accident itself.

So, eight years and three days later...here we are at trial. I must say, in hindsight the process is fascinating. I am told pre-trial; "you are on parade, be polite, look nice, but speak to know one about your case!". With potential jurors arriving for qualifications, it was imperative I keep a distance and not divulge any information. The courtroom was just like something you would see on a TV program. Dark woods, low lighting, a jury box to the side of the witness stand, the plaintiffs table, the defendants table, it really was like a scene out of a movie. My case was first on the docket, so I was already seated at the defendant table with my attorney when the potential jury was brought in. First, the judge gives his speech about service and duty. Next, each juror must stand and provide just a bit of background information. Then, additional jurors are disqualified by exercising their exemptions. Finally, it's time for selection. Once we have our jury and a few housekeeping issues are resolved, we can begin. Plaintiff is first on the stand. Next, a doctor of questionable character. And that's was it for day one! Day two brings more doctors and another witness of questionable character. And the plaintiff rests. Time for the defense to take the stand...yikes...that's me! Although confident, I am still anxious to have to be on a witness stand! My testimony goes well, I even get off the stand to draw a diagram in front of the jury, remembering to always look and speak to them, not the judge, not the attorneys. Here comes the cross examination, this is what I am nervous about! I just watched my attorney respectfully shoot down the plaintiffs case. Yet, it was not in the least bit confrontational. Never was I asked anything that would "trap" me into contradicting myself. Never was my character brought into question. Never was I caught off guard. Of course, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff, not me. Still, I really thought I would be left in tears by the end.

Time for the deliberation. Seventeen minutes after the jury is excused, they have a verdict. I over hear the plaintiff's attorney say, "that was too fast". The foreman must pass the verdict sheet to a court official, who hands it to the judge, who then reads it aloud. It's a defense verdict! Yay! And that's it...after three days away from my family and eight years of having this on my mind, it's over. Anti-climatic, really. So, as always, I want to take the positive from this and reveal in a new experience I can add to my schema. Of course, this is hindsight talking.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

F is for Friday!

Today, F is for.....(drum roll)..... Fitness! I am pretty sure it's not a secret to anyone who may read this that I teach Group Fitness classes. Having this background puts me in a unique position of being able to share information I have regarding health & fitness. I have several interesting tips I am excited to share with you on fitness day's, but the first one will help lay the ground work for any health and fitness plan. Weight loss, weight gain, and weight maintenance is all about balance and numbers. Too many numbers go in, not enough numbers go out, and up your number goes. Conversely, when you lower the numbers coming in and increase the numbers going out, your number will go down. So, to help you get started ,here is an algebraic equation on helping you figure out how many "numbers" you need coming in. And by "numbers", I mean calories! Here is the Harris Benedict Equation to calculate your caloric needs.

Step 1. For Women: 655+ (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - ( 4.7 x age in years)
           
            For Men: 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years)

Step 2. Now take the number from above and multiply by the level of exercise listed below.

                 Exercise Factor                Category                    Explanation
                     1.2                                     Sedentary                 Little or no exercise
                     1.375                                 Lightly Active            Light Exercise (1-3 days)
                     1.55                                   Moderately Active     Moderate Exercise (3-5 days)
                     1.7                                     Very Active               Hard Exercise (6-7 days)
                     1.9                                     Extremely Active       Hard daily activity/physical job

Step 3. The number you have now is your caloric need to maintain your current weight!
             - For weight loss, subtract 500 calories per day from your current number.

* Remember to solve for the parentheses first.

Clear as mud, right? Now, this is just the ground work. The first step is to get moving and to know your numbers. Obviously, not all calories are created equal. If you need 1250 calories a day to loss 1-2 pounds a week (the safe and permanent way!) you can't eat 1250 calories in snickers and see the results you want. So, this is a tease, in hopes you will check back and learn a little more about how you should fill these numbers. TTFN!
               

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thristy Thursday: Quenching the soul!

 Are you thirsty? Do you drink and yet feel no satisfaction? Do you try something new, hoping this is the thing that will quench that deep thirst you have, a thirst you can't even define? Obviously, this is a metaphor for something more than literal thirsty. I am talking about the thirst you have in your life for something greater then yourself, yet you don't know what it is, or where to find it. We submerse ourselves in activities, maybe a new adventure, or new job. Heck, maybe it's even into a mouse ;) And we are satisfied, for awhile, but the thirst comes back. I do know this, I know exactly how to quench the deeper, longing, needing of something bigger, permanent, dare I say, eternal. And yet, I find I often step away from my well. I want to try a new drink I say. Maybe this; more fitness classes, or that; the Disney Moms Panel (don't get me wrong, I am still applying again next year!). I find they only serve as distractions, leaving me dehydrated, literally. So, as I regroup ,I return to the well and remind myself of this....

Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture said, streams of living water will flow from him.’” (John 7:37)

Get my drink...er..uh...drift? That thirst is a longing for God's word. I know we are not all at the same drinking fountain with this, but only quenching ourselves with water of the world will never provide the lasting fulfillment we are looking for.

So, "seek your hearts and check your cups, pursue your dreams, but don't forget to look up".- Faith Dority

Now, go take a drink and thirst no more.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Tuesday Two's

So what can you expect from the Tuesday Two's? Well, for one thing it is the second day of the week and a pretty boring day in my book, it's just....blah! You might find some tip on making Tuesday exciting for you and your significant other, oh la la. Of course, surprising the kiddos with a fun dessert might brighten the day up. Other Tuesday Two's you might encounter, funny anecdotes on life with my youngest, Brooks, when at 18 months I see signs of the terrible two's on the horizon. And the older two are always good for a funny story. Whatever the focus of this most nothing day, expect it to follow the theme of two's. So stayed tuned and learn how we make the second day of the week one to actually look forward to. In closing, here is today's thought on something two.....

There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle. - Albert Einstein

Monday, November 8, 2010

Manic Monday: What's for dinner? Applesauce Meatloaf?

Yep, applesauce meatloaf! Want a tasty treat that can feed the whole fam? Try this recipe inspired by First Place, a Christ-centered weight loss program.

INGREDIENTS:
2-lb. ground lean meat (beef, turkey)
1 C. unsweetened applesauce
1 onion, finely diced
1 green pepper, finely diced
6 slices whole grain bread, crumbled
1 egg
2 tsp. salt
pepper to taste

STEPS IN PREPARATION:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine all ingredients. Knead mixture with hands until well blended. Pack into loaf pan.
3. Bake for 2 hrs. If desired, pour 1/2 cup tomato sauce over top of loaf before baking.

Serve with steamed broccoli to keep your meal low-carb, or my favorite, crock-pot mac-n-cheese.

Usually yields 8 servings. Keep your portions small and use the leftovers for the next nights dinner. Buy a loaf of crusty french bread, add marinara, mozzarella,and voila, you have meatloaf subs!

Monday's don't need be manic, with a little extra preparation and planning a meal that can serve
double-day duty, you can keep the peace and start the week off right. We all know enough challenges will come during the week!