Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years... Where and Why?~ An Article by Amie Gregory

Have you ever wondered how New Year's got started or why we have some of the things that go along with New Years? Well my mom, Amie Gregory, did some research. Here's what she found out.

New Year's was first observed 4000 years ago in Babylon, around 2000 BC, beginning with the first new moon. The new moon came after the Vernal Equinox and was the first day or spring. The beginning of spring was the season of rebirth and planting new crops.

The Romans observed the New Year in late March, but their calendar was always being altered by different emperors. This caused the calendar to not be in sync with the sun. Not until Julius Caesar established the Julian Calendar, in 46 BC, did the New Year become January 1st once again. There was one problem with doing this. They had to have a year that drag on for 445 days to get back in sync with the sun. That is 99 days longer than out typical year.

New Years is observed by some denominations as the Feast of Christ's circumcision. Western nations have been celebrating New Years for about 400 years. The Tournament of Roses Parade, which began in 1886, was to celebrate the ripening of the orange crop in California. We now have the Rose Bowl football game. The New Years baby was a symbol of rebirth that was brought to early America by the Germans.

New Years is celebrated in different ways all around the world as a new beginning. I would like everyone to look back at the previous year and learn from it, praise God for it, and leave some of it behind. As for me, I am going to look back at the previous years and praise God for bringing me through abundantly, with grace and mercy and I will look ahead to the New Year as a new season of growing closer to our Savior, Jesus Christ, and being molded into His image. May HIS will be done.

by Lauren K.

Let your pages be worn and torn,
Let them be dog-eared and folded,
Let the pages be colored by Post-It notes.
Let the pages be colored by the mark of pens.
Let the binding come undone and let the cover become pliable and soft to the touch.
Let there be crumbs among the pages and droplets of water that nearly smear the lettering.
Let it look old like an antique.
Let it look fragile.

Now, most look new and in pristine condition-collecting dust while sitting as a centerpiece atop the living room table.
But make it look fragile.
Those who have the weakest Bible are strongest at heart.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Salvation Stands~ A Poem by Rachel Allen

When my heart fails me and strength escapes me,
My salvation stands.
When night finds me all alone with no one else to turn to,
My salvation stands.
 And when the darkness closes in and all other lights go out,
My salvation stands.

For when the light goes out, and darkness overcomes all things
God is the light. He does not falter, He does not sway, and He cannot be extinguished.
He is my light, my lamp, my path.
He leads me through dark passes,
And He guides me in the light of day.
No place is too light for Him to be present
And no place is too dark for Him to shine.

When I cannot bear to see the suffering of others,
My salvation stands.
When I am weighed down by doubts and worries,
My salvation stands.
And when my feet grow weary and I cannot hold myself upright.
My salvation stands.

For when all others fail me, all mortal men are weakened by desire, and all other kingdoms are brought to their knees,
God is strong. He does not fall, He does not forsake me, and He is not weak.
He is my rock, my strength, my shield.
He protects me from the toils and trouble of everyday life,
And He protects me from the giants that makes the battlefield to tremble.
Nothing is too small for Him to care about,
And nothing is too big for Him to take upon his shoulders.

When I am weak, when I am tired, when I am brought down by those around me, and when everything in the mortal world is not worth living for,
My salvation will always stand.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Amusing Adventures In Stores~ A Fun Article by Heather Young

Christmas has ended, and the new year is almost here.  During the Christmas season, I couldn’t help being wrapped up in the joy of the season (not that I have any objection to that J).  When my dad and I went shopping, we had way more fun than expected.
The most memorable and hysterical adventure we had took place in the toy section of a store.  As you have most likely noticed, many toys these days are battery operated and move or talk when you touch or get near them.  My dad and I happened to stumble into the aisle of toys where, just about everything made noise and moved when we walked by it. Dogs, cats, bears, birds, and hamsters of all sizes barked, purred, whimpered, chirped, and squeaked when pressed on their backs.  About half of the aisle was arranged with these creatures, and baby dolls were displayed in the other half.  An assortment of dolls lined the shelves, from babies in cribs to a baby on a toilet.  Of course, almost all of them cried, talked, and moved. We had a blast walking back and forth among them so that they would animate.
 The next isle over was even scarier.  Instead of cute little baby dolls or cuddly little kittens, this aisle contained battery-operated dinosaurs.  There was one little green dinosaur who didn’t work, but looked pretty scary because the picture on its box showed that it would squirt water or bite you if you touched it.  This dinosaur prepared me for a tan-colored pterodactyl—or so I thought.  The box said “Try me!” so I pressed the bump on the top of its head as told to do.  What I was expecting was it trying to bite me like the previous one was supposed to.  All it did was open its mouth, but nevertheless, I got so freaked out that I hit my hand on the shelf while trying to get it away from the pterodactyl.  I was so embarrassed, but thank goodness not one else was around at the time. Yet another dinosaur was displayed in a large clear case was even more fascinating. Only one out of the three buttons worked, but it was pretty entertaining to hear a green, fake reptile about the size of a chihuahua be introduced by the impressive voice of an announcer, then watching it “charge” towards the walls of its confinement.

Amidst the ridiculous moments, there were also some priceless moments.  During Christmas shopping, lessons are learned, memories are shared, and comic coincidences take place. While standing in line at one store, a little girl two spaces ahead of me was paying for something she wanted to buy. She laid a huge pile of quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies on the conveyor belt and said, in a sweet little voice, “It’s five dollars.”  The cashier counted it out, which took some time, but the event was worth witnessing.  The girl couldn’t have been taller than four feet or older than ten, but she was learning to be responsible for her money and to buy things with it.  I just find this so adorable!

 No matter how you celebrate New Year’s, or how excited you are about it, remember that the New Year is all about a new start.  Whatever absurd things happened in 2010 will just be a memory.  The year of 2011 provides new doors and windows for you to have even greater accomplishments than 2010.  Even if events that take place don’t seem significant, they are. Every choice you make will affect your future, but will not define it. Let’s make a New Year’s resolution to make right choices! Hooray for new beginnings! J

Monday, December 27, 2010

Youth Retreats and Youth Games~ A Fun Article by Lea Sadler

I remember the excitement I had about a year ago when I was packing up to go on my youth group’s, high school, winter retreat. I knew it had to be better than the year before. That year I, involuntarily, flipped off the inner-tube while zipping past trees, down a hill of snow and landed on my face in a mound of hard-packed ice! The rest of the trip I still had a good time, between removing and replacing bandages and rubbing in gooey medicine. Much of my skin was torn off under my eye, under my nose, and next to my mouth. That's not including the black-eye and a massive, swollen bruise down the left side of my face! This year though, was going to be great! Let me tell you, for once in my life, I was right!

Have you ever been on a winter retreat? If you haven’t, and if you’re old enough this year, take advantage of this chance and sign up to go with your youth group! Four days surrounded by friends, music, and God while sledding in the snow and playing games is totally the best way to fill up a segment of your winter, not to mention all the new friends you’ll meet!

Imagine this: you and your best friend from youth group getting the opportunity to escape your stressful lives for 96 hours. Together in a place filled with the Holy Spirit and heavenly hot cocoa! Doesn’t that sound just too horrible to pass up? Here are some fun ideas you could maybe suggest to your youth pastor:

1)      The trashcan game. This game is my personal favorite! Tugging, pushing, and whipping out cool matrix moves makes for an epic time!

Here’s what you need
a.       A trashcan about 30-35 inches tall.
b.      A wide open space such as a gym, field, etc.
c.       A group of people willing to play (the more the merrier)!

The point of the game is to NOT TOUCH THE TRASHCAN. With your large group of people, hold hands so you’re all forming a circle around the trashcan. As soon as the go ahead is given, everyone will start pulling, and pushing other people to try to get them to touch the trash can. If the circle is broken, the two people who let go of the other’s hand are out. Once someone touches the trashcan, that person is out and the circle closes up smaller than before and continues. It hurts, but it’s totally worth it!

2)      Ninja Destruction!: This game is probably one of the most fun I’ll ever learn! You can play with only two people or a hundred! And all you need is a partner! The point of the game is to get other people out by hitting their hand with yours and to avoid having your hand hit! With your group, stand in a circle and strike a ninja pose. The first person will start by making one swift movement to try to hit anybody’s hand. Once they move, they have to stay in their new position. Now it is the turn of the person next to them. That person is allowed to either try to hit someone’s hand, or to change their position. Everyone in the circle takes turns until there is only one left. The last one standing is the winner! Again, this game may be painful if you play with guys because they like to hit hard.

3)      The Blob: Have you seen the old movie “The Blob?” I haven’t, but the game based off of it is fun!

 Here's what you need:
                  a.       A large group of people.
b.      A volleyball net
c.       Two balls that won’t hurt too bad if you get whacked in the head.
d.      A big open space.
e.      Two “it” people (one for each side of the net).

The two “it” people start with the balls and choose one person from their side of the net to start the blob. The blob lays on the floor. Everyone else sits on the ground spread out from each other. They are not allowed to move from that seat. They can lean, duck, and dodge but they must stay where they are unless they are hit. Then, the “it” people start to throw the balls on the other side of the net to try to hit the people sitting on the ground. If you are hit, then you lay down next to the blob and become part of the blob. The last one standing (besides the “it” people) wins.

I’m sure you’re youth pastor will already have games planned and ready to go, but these are just some suggestions you can make if any of them sound interesting to you. Winter camps may cost a lot because of where you’re staying and the cost of food, but most churches allow  “scholarships” where you can work off the money and the church will pay for you to go. Besides all the fun with friends , and games, and sledding, and snowball fights, it really helps you make a new connection with God if you have begun to stray or doubt. The experience is phenomenal and being touched by God is the greatest feeling in the world. It's a feeling you get the chance to have at winter retreats. I totally encourage you and all your friends to go, the whole 96 hours is totally worth it!

Friday, December 24, 2010

White as Snow~ A Spiritual Article by Abby Massung

Christmas is probably one of our absolute favorite times of the year –and I am certainly no exception! I love spending time with family and friends and watching with anticipation as they open up the gifts that I put so much thought into selecting for them. Who doesn’t love all-you-can-eat cookies and goodies for a month (which I’ll inevitably spend the following month obsessing over how they increased my waistline FYI). On top of all that, there’s just something about the atmosphere at Christmas time that brightens up my entire outlook on life and the world around me.

  Christmas-time this year means some different things for me however. This year, Christmas-time includes tons of holiday shoppers to assist at my new job and lots of gift receipts to remember to print out. I must do all of this while smiling and wondering if I should say “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” as I bid my customers good-bye. Certainly, it is a much more busy time of my life than it has been in the past.

  As I sit here, considering how to capture the actual meaning of Christmas, I think back to a couple years ago. Back to a time when I had one of my many random insightful moments while I stared out a window at the beautiful, white landscape of rural Michigan.

  As I’d been sitting there, I’d thought about how the snow that we receive, during the time we celebrate Christ’s birth, symbolized a very special significance of the occasion (my apologies to those of you who don’t actually get any snow for Christmas). You see,  just the night before, we’d had a huge snowstorm (which is really a daily occurrence here in MI). Absolutely everything was coated in a heavy layer of thick, white snow. The sight just made me really stop and think about the real meaning of Christmas and how it affects my life personally.

Salvation and Snow…
  Before the snow came, you noticed all the dirt and mess of our world. You could see the dead brown grass in everyone’s yards, and could easily pick out those of your neighbors who had and hadn’t taken the time to rake up their leaves that year. Then, with one big snowstorm in the middle of the night, God covered over everything, making it all appear so perfectly pure and clean. Overnight, my world had been turned into a beautiful piece of artwork.

  This made me consider Christ’s birth on earth, and why He’d come to us. Just as God sent the snow to hide the blemishes of the world and to cover for those who hadn’t taken care of their leaves, so did He send Christ in order to hide our blemishes and cover for those who hadn’t done all they were supposed to. Through Jesus, our blemishes, scars, and mistakes are covered up. That was His sole purpose for coming to us. That is why we celebrate Christmas. It is the day that God sent His Son to fulfill His promise of salvation for His creation.

 After the snow finally stops coming, another miracle takes place. Suddenly, life seems to have been brought back to everything. The flowers, once again, begin to bloom and the grass regains its former green glory. Just like that, God uses Jesus to cover up our sins over and over. Later on, in God’s timing, He is going to make us completely new and beautiful, returning us to what He’d intended us to be all long before Adam and Eve’s, and thus our, fall into sin.

  Isn’t it a beautiful thought then? Realizing that God chose to give us this symbol of the work He is doing in the lives of each of us every day? How He demonstrates to us how He comes along and turns our messes into something so stunningly beautiful and bright that it’s sometimes hard to look at?

Capturing the Meaning…
  You can never fully capture the meaning of Christmas because it’s more than just some definition that you can recite. Christmas is an amazing feeling that steals over your heart and soul as you allow yourself to be drawn in closer to God.

  This year, as you plan out gifts and anticipate the reactions you’ll receive from your friends and family, think about God’s most precious gift to you. He planned for and anticipated giving you His gift for thousands of years.

 Really, we don’t know just how long He was thinking about it. After all, since He already knows everything before it happens, He could have been looking forward to sending Christ to save us since long before Adam and Eve even existed. Just try to wrap your head around that!  

  If you get excited over something as small as giving your brother his favorite, newly-released DVD, think about how excited God had to be about offering us such an enormous gift! Just as you’ll enjoy seeing your brother’s gratefulness and joy over the gift you’ll give him, God would enjoy it if you showed Him just how grateful and excited you are over His gift to you. Take time this Christmas to read the Christmas story (Luke 2:1-20; you also might like to read about the times leading up to the birth of Christ as well), and truly offer God a heartfelt offering of thanks for the ultimate Christmas gift He gifted us, setting off our tradition of giving gifts. Also, considered following the examples of re-gifting that the apostles and saints of old demonstrate in the New Testament by sharing God’s gift with others around you!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tips On How to Look Your Best Christmas Morning~ A Fashion Article by Haylie Gregory

Cameras are everywhere during the Christmas holiday. From plays to productions, from dinners to Christmas morning, cameras are going to be around. For me, Christmas morning starts early. The earlier we get up and ready, the longer the Christmas magic lasts, even without the snow most of you get. (Downfall to living in Florida) My morning are rushed, but I don't want to look bad in the pictures! I hate looking at pictures from Christmases past and seeing my nappy hair and non-matching Pj's. I'm going to share some tips I've learned that will help you look your best in a snap on Christmas morning.

When you wake up in the morning, is your hair a fizzy mess? A rat's nest? A disaster? Here are some ideas to help you overcome that.

~French braid your hair the night before. When you wake up Christmas morning, take the braids out and run your fingers through it gently. If you want, you can spritz some hairspray in it to make sure you keep the curls. you can even leave the braids in and take them out later.

~ Wash and straighten your hair the night before. When you wake up the nest morning, go over the messed up pieces with your flat iron. It'll look like you just did it.

~ Curl your hair Christmas Eve. Before you go to bed, put your hair up in a high ponytail and try not to squish your curls when you sleep (Example: When you lay on your pillow, throw your ponytail over your head so you don't sleep on it.) When you wake up the next morning, just take it down and tame the little bit a frizz it might have. You can either curl some of the pieces that might of messed up, let it down and leave it, or pull it back up in the ponytail, after you tame the frizz of course. Either way, you got some curly volume!

Makeup makeup makeup! Some girls wear a lot, some girls wear a little and some girl wear none. For those who wear makeup, here are a few ways to look like you just woke up that way!

~ Put a little bit of pressed powder or foundation on any red spots you see. If you broke out all over, put on your regular amount.

~ Put a small amount of mascara on your upper lashes. This makes them look long, but not too long.

~ If you want to add a  little more pop, add a little bit of eyeshadow on. I suggest wearing a light color that complements your eye color. For example, I have hazel eyes, so I will most likely wear a light green or light brown.

Before going to bed, think, "Will I be embarrassed to look back at these pictures a year from now?"

~ Wear your favorite pair of Pj's!

~ Make sure your Pj's match!

~If you have Christmas Pj's, wear them!

~Git slipper? Wear those too!

Have fun Christmas morning! Walk out of your bedroom and make your family wonder if you always look that good when you wake up! You girls are all beautiful, inside and out! Have a Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Eve Movie Party!~ By Kari Willinger

During the Christmas season, my family and I have a few traditions we like to do. I want to share these traditions and more with you. Traditions can come from all sorts of places, fun stuff for the family. One tradition my family does every year is bake cookies. We bake over 300 cookies in different Christmas flavors and give them all to our neighbors. This is not only a giving tradition but it is crazy and messy, the best combination for fun. Another thing you could do is make your own snowflakes to decorate your tree with, or take a nice nature walk and gather pine cones for decorating and be creative do what you want with the decorations.

 You can also have a movie night. Get about three great Christmas movies and spend the evening watching them. You can also do this with your friends instead of family for a kind of movie party. You can make Christmas treats and hot chocolate for snacks, and we can't forget the smores. Christmas time is a time to get out the best Christmas movies, whether they are cartoon or not. Here are a couple of movies that I think would be perfect for a movie night. I hope you enjoy these movies as much as I have.  

When Buddy (Will Ferrel) was a baby, he lived in an orphanage, until one Christmas eve night he climbed into Santa's sack and rode off to the north pole. When Santa finds Buddy he lets Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) raise him as his son. When Buddy grows into a man, Papa Elf allows Buddy to venture into New York city in order to find his birth father. After many misadventures and laughs, Buddy finds his father. Reluctant at first, Walter (James Caan) proceeds into a relationship with Buddy. When this relationships starts taking a toll on his work, Walter must sort through his priority's and find what is most important to him and what is worth giving away.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Jim Carrey (the Grinch) has a way with words, as you can see in this movie. A great story told and with great laughs. This movie is about The Grinch, a nasty creature living on the outskirts of Whoville. The Grinch tries and rids the world of Christmas until he is befriended by a tiny Who of the name Cindy Lou-who. When Cindy befriends the Grinch, he slowly gets his heart back and loves Christmas just as much as everyone else.
Miracle on 34th Street
A wonderful Christmas story, a man saying he really is Santa Claus or is he insane? We go through this story with Kris Kringle in an attempt to save Christmas. One of my favorite things about this movie is that it talks about how you have to have faith on things unseen, you have to believe in them. Even though this is talking about Santa Claus, I like to take it with me through life, a very valuable lesson indeed. Watch as people learn to love Christmas and believe in Santa Claus, through this touching and lovable movie.
The Santa Clause
When Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) accidentally kills Santa, he is magically fitted to take his place. Watch as Scott tries to juggle his job, his son, and being the new Santa Claus. A person favorite to me and I hope to you as well. If you really enjoyed this movie, watch the other two!
Home Alone
As the McAllistar family gets ready to go on a Christmas vacation, they completely forget about Kevin, the youngest. When Kevin gets left behind, he starts to have a great time, until two robbers try and break into the house. Kevin immediately jumps into action, wiring his own house with booby traps. Laugh along with Macaulay Culkin at the absurdity but highly entertaining traps the robbers get flown into.
Frosty the Snowman 
A story about a magic hat, a magician, and a snowman. Watch as Frosty the snowman comes to life but is in danger of melting. As he befriends a little girl, they run to the north pole to save him. Little do they know that they are being followed by a magician who want his hat back. This hat is the very same hat that is giving Frosty life. A wonderful kids story that is funny and cute.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

But This I Know~ A Short Story by Emily Ciszewski

December 13th,

Dear Diary,
They always say the first year without a loved one is the hardest. Who are "they" anyways? Did "they" lose someone? Or are "they" just "observant"?  It's not true.
Here comes the second Christmas already and, to me, it's just as hard as it was last year. I mean, yes, last year was a nightmare - mom and Jen bawling their eyes out,Haylie pretending to be all merry - Grandma Lu being extra quiet...and me? Let's just say I was last year's #1 Scrooge!

Kevin, my step dad, had a truck accident two years ago. I can truthfully say he was my rock. The kind of person everybody loves. Makes everyone laugh. He just had to go and die.

Last Christmas everyone brought food, presents, all that - the family and friends tried extra hard to make things easier for us.

I hated it.
This year it's like everyone forgot. Like - "everything is fine now".
I hate it too.
I know - I am so miserable.
Sorry. (Not really.)


December 16th,

Dear Diary,
Mom decorated the tree with blue and white lights again. Kevin's favorite colors - a total Cowboy's fan. I guess we all decorated. Jen came home with Mike. Haylie made popcorn. Jen's so lucky to have someone to hang on - and college to keep her occupied. High school is so not the place to "get lost in studies"! Haylie tries to make everything seem so normal, at least for her friends. But I can see right through her. She hates this as much as I do. And mom... she can be so bubbly around her friends - but now - watching her today - I know she hates this too - like the rest of us.

When Kevin died, I promised I would I would start going to youth group and church every week. That lasted a month or so. I know mom is going to start nagging me to go to the Christmas service. I didn't go last year. Mom, Haylie, and Jen all went last year. How could I be expected to go and celebrate the birth of a King who let my best friend die? How am I supposed to forgive Him? Mom says we'll see Kevin again, in Heaven. He asked Jesus into his heart a month or so before he died. He was such an awesome Christian. Real.


December 20th,

Dear Diary,
Today mom had coffee withone of her church friends - well actually, she's a neighbor that mom treats like a sister. I love her - I really do - it's just that mom always spills her guts when she talks to her. Plus, she cries. It's hard when she cries. Elaine, my 'aunt' loves coffee and I know she loves God and my family. She was talking with mom about strength - hanging on. I guess her mom has altimeters. But what really got to me was her talking about her faith.
"Mom was my faith helper - I believe in God and all - on my own - but without mom pushing me it gets so hard!"
I silently agreed about Kevin.
"Going on without her is just so hard!" They both cried. "This is the real test," she said, "when you have to go on alone and just believe he's there."

 I need to stop before I ruin this page with tears.


December 23rd,

Dear Diary,
Today I saw Cammy at the library. She's the pastor's daughter - we're pretty good friends. I told her all about my Christmas cranks. She's a real person. I love that about her.
She said she can understand why I'm angry at God. She said she'll pray for me. She also said she gets mad at God all the time - but she doesn't give up on Him. He doesn't give up on her. Ever. I can't stop thinking about that. I mean, God and I were never best buds - like Cammy seems to be - but I never hated him. Maybe I could forgive him. Someday.


December 24th,

Dear Diary,
I put all my Christmas gifts under the tree today. Mom is gonna love her necklace. We sang carols and sipped hot chocolate by the fire - it was nice. And singing about Jesus in a lame animal feed bin gave me goosebumps. Mom read the Christmas story for the first time out loud. It was nice. The pain is still here - inside - but it was nice. Jen and Mike are staying over tonight and are going to the service tomorrow. Mom didn't ask me to go yet.


December 25th, Christmas Day

Dear Diary,
The service was good. Real good.
Mom never did ask me to go - all she said was "love you" and "we'll bring you back a ginger-bread man". I decided to go after they left. I'm glad I did. It was perfect.
Pastor Rich did a simple sermon. He read the Christmas story, with passion. And we sang carols. It was beautiful.During "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" is when it happened. I invited Him back in. I know He never left, but I felt like I needed too.There were no fireworks. No one knew. Nothing was "all better". But this I know - Jesus loves me.
What better day to sing it?


Monday, December 20, 2010

Just The Way You Are~ An Issues Article by Hogan Stevens

In the world today, there is so much pressure for us to be beautiful. Everywhere you turn, you see thin models, attractive actresses, and even the popular girls that seem to have it all. As young women, we very often feel that we are not enough. We think that we are ugly or just plain unlikable.

I regularly struggle with my self-esteem. I have always been very shy and self-conscious, and there are some times when I just can’t look at myself without finding my smallest faults. When people compliment me and tell me that I am pretty, I find it hard to believe them.

Why is it we are like this? Why has society made it so hard for us to just accept ourselves? Everything has to be their definition of beautiful: full lips and a trim figure… otherwise known as perfect. But that’s just it! No one is perfect! Not even those lovely models that seem to be just what everyone wants to look like.  Did you know that even they sometimes struggle with their looks?! I think that every woman goes through a time where she feels like there is nothing pretty or lovable about her.

Watch this video. Not everyone is as real as they seem. They are not perfect.

And, of course, that is not true.

In God’s eyes, you are His adored and beautiful creation, the one He smiles upon with love, the one He wants to be with forever. To Him, you are beautiful just the way you are. Never mind trying to become someone you aren’t; God made you a certain way, and He doesn’t make mistakes, does He? No!

He thinks about you all of the time, as it says in Psalm 139:17-18, “How precious concerning me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.” Greater than the sand? Just think of how many grains of sand there must be in the world…God’s thoughts of you are many times more than that.

Still hesitant to believe that such a powerful, all-knowing God could possibly love someone like you? Well, if this is not love, then I don’t know what is: “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Jesus Christ came to this earth for one purpose: to sacrifice Himself for our salvation, so that we might one day be with Him in His kingdom.

And sometimes, we forget this love that God has so graciously shown us. We forget that He made us in His image, that He longs for us to come to Him…We get so caught up in trying to make ourselves beautiful by the world’s standards, that we fail to see the beauty we already have. This makes the Lord so sad! He hates it when His children feel inferior, when we cry because we think we are not enough.

There is one song that comes to mind as I write this. It is called “How Deep the Father’s Love” and my favorite line is, “How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure. That He should give His only Son and make a wretch His treasure.”

To God, you are more than enough. To Him, you are beautiful…just the way you are.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Traditions~ A Fun Article by Abby Massung

What are some traditions that your family has during the Christmas season? Do you tend to go out to see a movie in the theater together every year? Perhaps there’s a certain gift that your parents give you every year for Christmas, like pajamas or a special ornament. What are some things that you can count on your family doing every Christmas?
  One tradition my family tries to keep every year, is an advent calendar. Every day of the four weeks leading up to Christmas, my family tries to do something special together. As we all get older and get jobs it makes this more difficult, but we still try to do some things, even if we can’t do something each day.

  One of our yearly events is “Super Sundae Sunday” where we pretty much pile more toppings on top of ice cream than any human should ever eat. Another thing we do is “Triple Treat Tuesday” which is pretty self-explanatory for the most part (in case you haven’t already caught on, my family loves playing with words and eating, LOL).
  Every year we have a family tournament where the winner and the person who take last place get to open up a gift of their choice a day early. At first, we’d just all gather at one table together and play Yahtzee, passing around a couple sets of dice (you’ll have to imagine how long it would take nine people to play just one game that way. Patience is definitely a virtue). After the year that my parents bought an air-hockey table, a table tennis table, and a Foosball table, on an amazing sale, our tournament got a bit more sophisticated, including charts and competing at a variety of different “sports.” Invariably however, I’ve sadly always been in the middle –never a winner, and never the ultimate loser. 

  Yet another tradition we have is to have what we call “Mom and Pops Restaurant.” This is where my parents get up early and cook up a bunch of breakfast foods Christmas Eve morning. They’ll set the table nicely, and my brothers and sisters and I would get to “order” breakfast off special menus that our parents made just for this morning. For my brothers, it was always seemed to be a contest to see who could eat the most food.
  I have two all-time favorite traditions though. The first is where my Dad reads the Christmas story before we eat Christmas dinner. We all gather around the table before the meal, and he reads the story from the book of Luke out of our big family Bible. The second is when we buy a bunch of toys and things for Toys for Tots. We buy everything from a mp3 player and iTunes card, to dolls and other little toys. It’s fun getting to pick out things to give, and seeing the happy, grateful faces of the volunteers who receive them.
 What traditions does your family have, and which ones are your favorites? Which ones are you most likely to carry on with a family of your own one day? This year, why don’t you try starting a new family tradition? It could be something as small as reading a Bible passage together before dinner every Sunday in the four weeks prior to Christmas, or as big as a family cookie bake-off to see who can come up with the best unique cookies and bake them.

 Whatever you do, just make sure to have fun and not lose sight of the true reason for Christmas and its meaning!

   P.S. I would personally discourage making a tradition of going to Florida for Christmas. It’s not as warm as you might think, and you’ll very likely end up spending more time bumper-to-bumper on the highway trying to get there than you’ll spend actually visiting the state. One guess as to what my family did last year ;)

Abby came to Florida the one year it wasn't 80 degrees for Christmas~ Haylie

Friday, December 17, 2010

Delia~ A Store Review by Madeline Hunt

Delias is a fabulously amazing store!! Most of their clothes are really cute and totally wearable! I went a tiny bit over 100 dollars for this outfit, but if you already have some of the basics, it will cost you much less!

This jumper/dress is SO cute! My sister just bought it the other day and it looks even better in person then online! I chose to put a black long sleeved tee under it for this outfit but if you’re bold you could wear with a bright red or other brightly colored shirt and it would look just as fabulous! It’s totally worth the price of $39.50

  This basic black tee is great! The scoop neckline isn’t too low, but if it goes a little low than expected, we advise you to wear an undershirt with it. This tee would be a great investment if you don’t have a basic black tee. The price is amazing to at only $19.50

 Leggings with this dress is a must if you don’t want to freeze in cold weather also this dress is a few inches above the knee, but my sister got a size up so it would be longer but she wears leggings anyway! These great basic leggings are available for $16.50

Womens FioniWhitney Cuff Boot 

These boots are so fabulous! I love everything about them, from the heel to the cute bow! This makes me want to run to Payless Shoe Source right now and buy them! Boots really are important to wear with this out. Fit flats don’t really cut it, especially if you’re trying to stay warm! You can find them at Payless Shoe Source for the price of $39.99

The final outfit price: $115.49
Please remember don’t use my words as an excuse to dress immodesty. Clothes can be modest or immodest based on a person’s body type.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

We All Have Problems~ An Advice Column by Nadia

"It's almost Christmas time and that means lots family get togethers. I have this one relative that I don't really got along with. How do I handle this?"
~ Fighter

Dear Fighter,

I've read up on articles by women who are manners experts and the bottom line in this situation seems to be, if you can politely avoid contact with the family member, you should be ok. For example, you can avoid sitting by them at the dinner table or in the living room; you can greet them politely, but then other than that, not initiate conversation otherwise. If contact with this person is unavoidable, just be as kind and polite as possible.

Perhaps that person is really agitating and aggressive, and everything they say puts you on edge. Try talking to another family member about your feelings beforehand. Tell a trusted relative about your frustrations and ask them to help you out if you get into a sticky situation with that person. If you really need to just get out, perhaps you can retreat into your room for a few minutes to cool down, or go have a calming conversation with a good friend in the corner for a little while.

Also, before you go to your family get together, pray to God. He is the provider of everything. Ask Him to help you to show meekness and kindness to this person.

 I hope the spirit of Christmas will pervade your home and that you will have a wonderful holiday season! I know that you have it in you to be mature, kind, and peaceful, even if your agonizing relative cannot do the same. You've got God's strength in you! You can do this! God bless you, and have a very very Merry Christmas!

:) Nadia

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Remember Your First Love~ A Dating Column by Haley Oscar

 Mistletoe, snow ball fights and long, winter walks through the 20 feet of snow, if you live in Wisconsin, describe one, special holiday. Christmas is in the air! The greatest holiday is upon us! People go out of their way to buy their loved ones a gift, and when I say that,I mean tackle and attack to get the sales on gifts they will get you, on Black Friday of course. Other than the attacks and the "Merriment" of the season, December tends to be a romantic time of the year as well. We all want that special someone to be there with us. We all secretly hope for him to somehow end up under that mistletoe on Christmas Eve with you. Let's face it, EVERYTHING about this holiday screams romance, and it screams it even louder if you live in Wisconsin.  It seems to snow every three hours here!
In this season of romance, crazy shoppers and insane amounts of shoveling, we seem to forget the real reason why we have Christmas in the first place. We seem to forget that 2,000 years ago, a little baby was being born to parents who had no idea about what this baby would do. They would love Him dearly and teach Him right as He grew. He would grow up to be an amazing speaker. Large crowds would follow Him wherever He would go. They were attracted to His words. He would give these people hope. He would show them true love and He would heal their sickness and their broken hearts. He would love YOU so much that one day, He would die so you didn't have too.
That would be years down the line from that single moment. Then and their, this baby boy was being brought into the world through a miracle. His parents would look down at him in awe, totally unaware of what this baby would grow up to be and, one day, do.
 As you go through this season of wants, I encourage you to focus on the real meaning of Christmas. If Mr. Winter Romance hasn't made his way to you yet, then relax. He'll make his way to you in God's perfect timing. Put your focus on the true lover you have now, Christ. Try reading the stories of Jesus' birth in Matthew 1:18-25, 2:1-12 and Luke 1:26-56, 2:1-40. You could give a gift to that Ebenezer Scrooge in your life. Show him or her a little of Jesus' love for them. Who knows, they may get out of the Scrooge attitude. You could even write a letter to your future husband telling him that you're thinking about him in this season, maybe even drop a little hint to him about that mistletoe fantasy of yours!
With that I wish you a very Merry Christmas full of blessings and love!
Song of Songs 2:16

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

WOW 2011 Disc 2~ A music Review by Michelle Pell

Last month I reviewed Disc 1 of WOW 2011. Now we're moving on to Disc 2.

I wish I could tell you that I had a favorite one out of the two discs but, truthfully, I don't think I can pick between them. In past years of WOW albums, I have been able to determine which disc I enjoy more, but this year's collection has so many good songs on both discs and so many of my favorites, I just can't choose.
Some of the songs on Disc 2 are a little more rock sounding and some a little more pop. That's what I love about WOW...there's just something for everyone.

This is a great Christmas gift for that person on your list that you just have such a hard time picking out something they will like. This album has so many songs with different sounds, they're bound to find some they love!

  1. Get Back Up~ TobyMac
  2. Beautiful Beautiful ~Francesca Battistelli
  3. Born Again~ Third Day
  4. Lay Em' Down ~NeedToBreathe
  5. Healing Begins~ Tenth Avenue North
  6. Born Again ~Newsboys
  7. Hero ~Skillet
  8. Walk On The Water~ Britt Nicole
  9. Let The Waters Rise~ Mikeschair
  10. Forgiven~ Sanctus Real
  11. Your Love Is A Song Switchfoot
  12. Follow You~ Leeland (featuring Brandon Heath)
  13. More Beautiful You~ Jonny Diaz
  14. Starry Night~ Chris August
  15. No Matter What~ Kerrie Robert

  16. Deluxe Tracks
  17. I'm Not Alright (Broken-World Remix) ~Sanctus Real
  18. Walking On The Stars (Garcia Glam Mix)~ Group1Crew
  19. Live Life Loud (The Uprok Remix) ~Hawk Nelson