How To: PineCone Elves

pineconeelf

What You Need:

  • Hot Glue Gun & Sticks
  • Pinecones
  • Small Jingle Bells
  • Felt
  • Sewing Needle
  • Finetip Sharpie Marker Pen
  • 3/4 inch Round Wooden Bead
  • Clear Monofilament String or Fishing Wire
  • Scissors

Everything You Need

Steps

  1. Cut hat and scarves from felt
  2. Wrap hat around bead head
  3. Mark where felt overlaps, hot glue together
  4. Glue hat onto bead
  5. Glue jingle bell to the tip of the hat
  6. Glue bead to pinecone body
  7. Glue Scarf to back, & criss cross the scarf & glue again
  8. Draw face on bead
  9. Sew Clear thread through top of hat, tie knot
  10. Hang, and enjoy

 

EmTap Christmas

This Saturday we celebrated our fourth married Christmas! Since we got married in December, Christmas seems to have an added sentimental value.  It’s hard to celebrate such a joyful and memorable holiday without reminiscing over the ways we’ve changed over the years or how we celebrated in the past.

When we were dating, Tap was the first boyfriend of mine to ever stop by my house on Christmas day.  He swayed his hips to the beat of Dance Central, our hit family Christmas present that year.  When we were dating, we never swapped gifts, but always went on dates instead.  We celebrated by snowskiing in Northern Illinois.  During the ski-trip, we were taking a hot-cocoa break, and this was the first time Tap let me in on the notion of wanting to marry me.  He tells me now, that it was “the moment” he knew.  He took my sapphire ring off my right hand, and slipped it onto my left ring finger telling me, “Someday I’ll be putting a ring on this finger…” The next December we got hitched!

Ski Trip 2010

Our first married Christmas was a mere week from our honeymoon in Kauai.  I had hand-knit him a scarf and hand-painted a popcorn bowl which he still wears and uses today.  He made me a small scrapbook of the many ways he loves me, and filled my stocking with other things.

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The second Christmas, and our one year anniversary, we went snowskiing again; This time in Steamboat Colorado.  I bought him a used pair of snowski’s, and he gifted a beautiful green amethyst necklace to me for our anniversary.

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Christmas number three was our first Christmas away from Illinois.  Just the two of us celebrated with Christmas cookies from a local bakery, hot cocoa, and a gift swap.  We were in Ohio until he wrapped up his first Christmas Eve production, and we hit the road for a long 5 hour trip racing to hit the bed before Santa came.

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This year was Christmas Four!  We got up, ate cookies, drank hot chocolate, stayed in our pajamas, opened presents, watched a movie, and spent the whole day being lazy and loving one another.

…But I am going to be honest.  Christmas isn’t always picture perfect. Unfortunately this year, I was hormonal and grumpy.

I love Christmas, but I struggle with the materialism, the over-hyped anticipation, and the unrealistic expectations that influence my happiness.  I hated myself for being one of those.  I let myself take my life and the gifts for granted, I let myself get distracted from the true meaning of Christmas.  Not only that, but I even struggled with holding on to our special married meaning that Tap and I have created over the years.  After looking back I think it was a combination of things: breakdown from stress, being hormonal, selfishness, and distraction.  Yes there are things I could not have controlled or changed, but I could have- and eventually did- choose to react in a more positive way.

The moment I let go of me, and refocused on God- His ultimate gift, and His personal gift to me-my husband, our little celebration got better.  I am so thankful for my husband, who tirelessly encouraged me, and spiritually led me to the manger this Christmas.  If you feel yourself getting wrapped up in a bahumbug, stop and pray, and refocus on the true blessing this season.

Sparkle Box Progress Report

This year we started a new tradition- to fill a Sparkle Box full of presents to Christ for His birthday (you can read about it here).  On Saturday, we sat down and read a few scraps of paper of the things we did for “the least of these” this month.  It was great to focus on Christ, and know that not all the presents were for ourselves.  However, my hope is that this one tradition grows each year.  For our first year, I’ll admit, we weren’t perfect.  We often forgot about our goal to give a gift to Christ.  We ran out of time or money to do some things that we would have loved to do, and should have done.  Part of me feels bad, because I know that these are cheap excuses that our awesome God doesn’t deserve.  I am humbled by His perfection, His patience, and His unyielding love and time for all.

What gives me hope is that we don’t have to give back to God just in December… This was just a beginning to a wonderful tradition, full of worthy intentions.  And, just like my mom starts shopping for Christmas on December 26th and goes until the following December 25th, I think we will try to fill our Sparkle Box in the same way.

If you need ideas to fill your sparkle box, I found this great blog called The Shine Project.  Check out her entry on 51 Holiday Service Projects and get started with your Sparkle Box now.

How have you done with your Sparkle box? Do you have any great ideas and ways to fill it?

One Gift You Should Not Forget to Give

Have you read the book Sparkle Box by Jill Hardie?

Last Sunday, we had a children’s moment during the service.  All of the kids sat cross-legged crowding the stage, as someone read Sparkle Box to them and the whole congregation.  The story is about a little boy who is eager to open the Christmas present wrapped in a sparkly box.  His parents have to tell him that he must wait, because the box is not ready to be opened.  As he waits, the boy watches and helps his family in various service projects in and outside his community.  When Christmas approaches, they reveal what is inside the box and it is just a few hand-written notes.  However, each note captured something the family or the son did for someone else in need.

In the story, the parents say that the Sparkle Box represents their gift to Jesus.  Anything they did for someone in need was a gift to God.

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[f] you did it to me.’

Matthew 25:40

Each family concluded the service by making a Sparkle Box of their own.  Their challenge is to fill that box as a family, and present it to their loving Savior on His birthday.

Tap and I have decided to take this challenge as well.  It is important to remember that everything we have is not earned, but is a gracious gift from the Creator.  He has given us soo much, it would be good to be intentional in giving back to Him.

I will look back…

There are times in our Spiritual Journey where it feels that we are merely walking, one step at a time, through a dull and boring desert.  We feel far from the awe-inspiring mountains of God’s majesty, we desire the exhilaration of free falling into His oceans of grace, and we lose sight of His peaceful islands.  Instead, we feel stuck in a place of drought, but we receive postcards of all these wonderful places God is taking our friends or family… wondering when it will be our turn again for a vacation into a spiritual “high”.

Life may be a roller coaster of ups and downs, and we may be experiencing a plateau in our lives, but God is consistent.  We can trust that God is with us always, and that He is there even in the mundane.  During these times of silence, boredom, or uncertainty… It is important to look back…

Just this Sunday we were singing “I will look up,” and my tongue caught on the words “I will look back and see that you are faithful.

There are so many times that I am too busy, too caught up in my own life, that I forget to seek and remember my Lord and Savior.  All the prayers God has answered, and although I asked, I never waited to hear His response.  All I have to do is look back on my own life, and God consistently proves Himself and His love for me.

Through my body-image issues, and all my insecurity, God loved me and taught me to be confident in who He created me to be.  God forgave me for all my wrong-doings, and over time He helped unlock me from the chains of sin and guilt.  When I was too weak to make the right choices, He put roadblocks in my path and reminded me to turn around.  He protected me from the things I was unable to bare, and He strengthened me by challenging me in the things I thought were impossible.  God has seen me through, and continues to bless me with friends, family, forgiveness, love, food, shelter, and so much more.

What are some ways God has proved Himself to you over your life?

Let’s look back and see that He IS faithful.