Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Holiday Traditions #4 {Favorite Holiday Movies}

Good Evening, Dear Ones! Merry Christmas Eve! I hope this finds you enjoying time with your family and friends.

Well, when I started this Holiday Traditions Series, I was hoping to have at least five posts up by Christmas Day, but it doesn't look like I'm going to make it :(. But I guess its not that big of a deal :).
Anyway, let's get this fourth installment of the Holiday Traditions Series going! :)

I don't know you feel about Holiday films at your house, but they are a HUGE part of Christmas for me! Every Yuletide there are movies I MUST watch or it just isn't Christmas! My mother has her own tradition: that Christmas films are only to be viewed between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. To emphasize this point, she stores our Holiday films in the attic the remainder of the year. No, I'm not kidding. I've had to go out and purchase copies of my favorite ones to keep on hand year round! I mean, really! How could I survive an entire year without The Holiday

And, with that lead in, what follows are my Top Ten Christmas Movies! :)

1. If You Believe
If you've never seen this, do not hesitate!
Hayden Panettiere stars in this hilarious story
about an uptight book editor whose inner child 
appears just after Thanksgiving to save her future self from another lost Christmas.

2. Silver Bells
This movie is about a tree farmer whose son is nothing like him.
The father wishes to leave his tree farm to his son someday,
but all the son wants is to be a photographer.
He attempts to speak to his father about his dream,
but is quickly shut down.
The situation comes to a climax when the son runs away
and lives on the streets of New York City for entire year.
Eventually the family is reunited with the help of Anne Hache's character
and, of course, the Silver Bells.

3. The Holiday
Ever wanted to swap houses with someone in another time zone
and spend your Holiday in peace in quiet?
Well, that's what Cameron Diaz character thought she wanted.
Until she got it...then she was bored
until HE came along. By "he", of course, I mean Jude Law's character.
On the reverse side of things, Kate Winslet's character doesn't necessary wish for solitude
as much as she just wishes for a change.
And she gets exactly what she asked a whole lot more! :)

4. Fallen Angel
All Gary Sinise's character wants is to prove to himself and the world
that he is going to be a more successful man than his father.
After high school graduation, he leaves home and sets out to make his fortune.
He doesn't return until the sudden death of his father.
Upon returning home, many memories come back to him
including one that ends in tragedy and changes many lives forever.
He ends up taking over his father's caretaker job
and opens a lovely cottage for a prominent family for the Christmas Season.
Romance follows but then is suddenly interrupted by the old memories.

5. The Preacher's Wife
Denzel Washington plays an angel sent to help an exhausted minister and his family
during the rush of the Christmas Season.
Unfortunately, Denzel's character does a little too well at his job
and gets a little too close to the minister's wife, Whitney Houston's character.
In the end, though, things are put right 
and the minister and his wife enjoy Christmas as usual
and a re-ignited passion for each other and their marriage.

6. Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Jim Carrey gives the performance of a life time as the Grinch,
a very unfriendly neighbor of Whoville who despises all things Christmas.
In his quest to upset the Spirit of Christmas,
he raids the town of Whoville 
and makes off with everyone's presents, feasts, decorations, etc.
But somehow, Christmas still comes
and the townspeople still sing.
That's when Mr. Grinch realizes that Christmas isn't something 
that can be bought or sold.

7. Miracle on 34th Street
A Christmas classic that no home should be without!
Maureen O'Hara's character has been hurt
and has since centered her life around a very realistic point of view.
She has even taken to teaching this point of view to her young daughter.
It takes a new love and Santa Claus to work a Christmas miracle on 34th Street.

8. The Christmas Child
A Chicago reporter goes in search of his roots
in this fascinating Max Lucado story.
Beginning in his adopted father's safety deposit box
and ending in small town Texas, 
William R. Moses' character seeks the truth about his history...
and finds it and much more!

9. George Balanchine's The Nutcracker

Macauley Culkin stars in the title roll of this film production
of the classic ballet performance.

10. The Nativity Story
A fabulous, moving re-telling of the Birth of Christ
that will be cherished by all for generations to come!

What Christmas movies are a MUST SEE at your house? I would love to hear your stories!

Thank you so much for stopping by today! I wish you the Merriest Christmas possible!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Holiday Traditions #3 {It is More Blessed to Give than to Receive}

Good Morning & Merry Christmas, Friends and Family! I hope this finds you doing well and enjoying the Christmas Season. As I have mentioned before, this time of year is excessively busy for me and this year has been no exception. I've found that I've had to let my weekly blog posts fall to the back burner just so I can keep up with everything else going on :(.

But now that I am OFFICIALLY on Christmas Vacation, I'm hoping to get back into the swing of things! Starting right now with my 3rd installment of the Holiday Traditions Series.

As a child, I was privileged to attend a private, Christian school, New Life Christian Academy, which was associated with the church I was raised in. In addition to a top notch education, I also received LOTS of positive reinforcement and Biblical teachings. I was expected to memorize Scriptures at least on a weekly basis. At the time, I'm not sure I really appreciated that. But now, I wouldn't trade that upbringing for the world. These Scriptures have stuck with me over the years and have helped shape me into the person I am today.

One such Scripture is Acts 20:35b "...remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" This verse speaks to me particularly at Holiday times when there is an abundance of giving giving and receiving. From a child's perspective, there is nothing better than waking early on Christmas morning and rushing into the living to find a sea of gifts spreading out from under the tree and knowing, "Most of those are MINE!" I'll admit, I was one of "those kids". But as I grew up, I also found a great deal of pleasure in giving gifts and seeing the reactions of those I have given to. 

As I've mentioned numerous times in the past, I currently work in childcare and have for the past several years. Unfortunately the children I am involved with do not attend private, Christian schools like I did and therefore, do not have the opportunity to learn Biblical principles in that environment. So I suppose you could say that I've taken it upon myself to pick up the slack. At the beginning of the Christmas Season, I have made it a tradition to instill the principle of "It is more blessed to give than to receive" in the lives of the children I come in contact with on a daily basis. One way I have attempted to do this is through the Children's Home Wish List program.

Here in Central Illinois, we have a marvelous institution called the Children's Home. 

They are responsible for finding caring foster families for children in crisis and even housing children on their premises if necessary. Every Christmas they feature the Wish List program. Basically every child under their care and protection are available for "gift adoption". Meaning that a Wish List of their needs and wants is cataloged and made available to anyone in the general public who is willing to give. 

For the past several years, I have contacted the Children's Home and requested two Wish Lists and then, as a class, my little children and I have pooled our funds together and purchased a few of the gifts off of the Wish Lists. When I do this, I send a note home to the parents telling them exactly what I have in mind and requesting no more than $2 from each child (of course, I personally contribute too!). Furthermore, I request that the parents find a way to have the child EARN the money that they will give (to give the child the true sense of being apart). I usually set a deadline for when the money should be turned in, and then that day arrives, I take the funds and purchase the items from the Wish Lists.

I try to focus on the items the children need rather than just what they want. I realize this might not be much fun for the child, but in my mind needs always outweigh wants. In this particular case, the boy and girl were in need of long-sleeved shirts. So naturally, that's what I bought instead of the zebra rug the girl wanted and the bay blades the boy wanted. I brought the purchased items back to TJ with me so the kids could see what their dollars had purchased. Then I took them and delivered them to the Children's Home.

Every year when I do this, as I'm walking back down the steps of the Children's Home, I think to myself, "This. This is Christmas."

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Holiday Traditions #2 {Thankful Every Day of November Photo Project}

Good Morning, Dear Ones! I hope this finds you doing well!

Let me begin this post by apologizing for the quietness on the blog front. You know how crazy it gets around the holidays. But I'm back today with the second post in my Holiday Traditions series :).

As I have mentioned several times in the past, I am an avid Christmas lover. I put my decorations up at the end of November and leave them up until February. During the month of December, I wear a LOT of red and proudly wear artificial holly berries on my knit hat and metal candy canes on my lapel. I begin listening to Christmas Music and start my Christmas shopping in August (sometimes sooner than that). I admit it: I'm kind of a Christmas Fanatic.

But even with all that said, I still make a point to celebrate Thanksgiving as it's own unique holiday. I've taken a look at the world around me and it seems as if Thanksgiving has gotten a little lost in the Christmas hubbub. Once Halloween has passed, stores start decorating for Christmas and promoting Black Friday and Christmas Sales. I know of people who put their Christmas trees up on November 1st. And to that I say, to each his own. But I choose to wait. I live a very blessed life and have 26 years worth of things to be thankful for.

With that in mind, I am proud to introduce my 2nd Holiday Traditions topic:

I know of several people who participate in a project such as this. Some of them simply tell a different person every day why they are thankful for them. Others post similar statements on Facebook each day. And I think that's awesome. I just like to take it a step further and add photos to the mix. I'm sure this doesn't surprise you...I don't call myself a Pathological Picture-Taker for nothing! :) The following photos are accompanied by the original text I posted every day in November. Enjoy!

November 1st:
Today I'm thankful for the simple things in life:
Stacks of Cookbooks with pages filled
to the brim with Scrumptiousness!

November 2nd:
Today I'm thankful for fellowship with my friends and family.
Whether it be over a meal
or worshiping together in the House of God.

November 3rd:

Today I'm thankful for the little things in life...
like bright Christmas lights,
 stacks of firewood for a fire on a cold winter's night,
and Starbucks Red cups which initiate the beginning of the Christmas Season.

November 4th:

Today I'm thankful for the ability to order library books online.
It's so easy and convenient to walk into the library,
go straight to the "Hold" Shelf,
pick up my requested books,
and check out without being distracted
by the millions of books lining the other shelves!
(Ok, fine...I still get distracted...)

November 5th:

Today I'm thankful for the opportunity to be a person of influence
in the lives of the POP Kids!
I don't take that privilege lightly.

November 6th:

Today I'm thankful for Windy Days.
First, they allow me to take photos like this...
but also the Wind brings Change....
Change might not always be fun,
but it is necessary for life.

November 7th:

Today I'm thankful for bonfires
and the chance to fellowship with friends and family!

November 8th:

Today I'm thankful for small, seemingly insignificant traditions.
They bring realness to my life.

November 9th:

Today I'm thankful for the Magic of Reading.
You can go Anywhere and be Anything
in the pages of a book.

November 10th:

Today I'm thankful for the Continuity of Life.
It goes on no matter what comes my way...
even when I don't necessarily want it to,
it goes on.

November 11th:

Today I'm thankful for shelter and warmth
from this frigid autumn weather!

November 12th:

Today I'm thankful for my job.
Is it perfect? Am I always jumping out of bed eager to greet the day?
No...but I have job security and a reason to get up in the morning.
Not to mention great people to work with like this girl
and sweet kiddos to watch over.
Oh yeah, and the Y owns a popcorn machine...:)

November 13th:

Today I'm thankful for the snow.
This is my favorite time of year.
It is magical and the snow just adds to that :).
And I LOVE it! :)

November 14th:

Today I am BEYOND thankful for Buy One Get One Free at Starbucks!
Sufficed to say, I needed both of them...

November 15th:

Today I'm thankful for all the seasons life brings.
Life would be very emotionally taxing and boring
if nothing ever changed.

November 16th:

Today I'm thankful for yummy, homemade soup on a sick day...
compliments of my Mama!

November 17th:

Today I'm thankful for family near and far!
I'm am so blessed to have you in my life!
I love you all!

November 18th:

Today I'm thankful for early Christmas Presents!
With this extremely frigid weather we're having,
(Georgis couldn't figure out why I was taking a photo in the mirror...)

November 19th:

Today I'm thankful for a fixed computer screen!
You have no idea how difficult it is to edit photos with a cracked screen!

November 20th:

Today I'm thankful for the Living Word of God
that never fails to set me back on the path of righteousness.

November 21st:

Today I'm thankful for Baby Cuddles.
Nothing makes me feel better faster than baby time!

November 22nd:

Today I'm thankful for a Pastor who's main life goal is to follow God
and therefore lead the church in the right direction.

November 23rd:

Today I'm thankful for friends that can be family
and family that can be friends.

November 24th:

Today I'm thankful for the Blood of Jesus
which washes me whiter than snow!

November 25th:

Today I'm thankful my job allows me to lead prayer in public schools!

November 26th:

Today I'm thankful for everyone who has supported in the past
and still continues to support my photography ambition.

November 27th:

Today I'm thankful for this day...
a day set aside to be grateful in all things.

November 28th:

Today I'm thankful for my Pinterest friends
who inspire me with new Christmas Decorating ideas.

November 29th:

Today I'm thankful for the talents and abilities the Lord has blessed me with.

November 30th:

Today I'm thankful for all my kiddos!
They make me smile even when I'm sad
and remind me to live in the moment.

How do you celebrate Thanksgiving? Do you have a Thankful Project that you participate in over the month of November? I would love to hear about it!

I hope you as much fun reading this post as I had writing it! And I hope you will come back again soon! Thank you so much for visiting today!

Merry Christmas!