Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Celebrating the Savior with Service

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These are all simple little things that I've gotten to be a part of this holiday season, but they have been the most dear to my heart. 
 
 
These are a throwback!  In the fall we always have Camp Your Face Off, my favorite of our church's events. I have a race on Saturday, so I miss the first half, but I am so glad that I get to come for that afternoon and Sunday!
You know it's going to be a blessed day when you see three rainbows.
We have some awesome parents who give up more than just their weekend to help plan and prepare!  So many stay and serve during the retreat, too. Paul Brown and Eric Starnes are two dads who have become king cookers, grill masters.
Jenna is taking on new roles now that she's a couple years into college, but she's a major inspiration in all that she does!  This role: keeping beautiful baby Mabry happy.
These shirts were great both in design and meaning. 
Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone to follow where God wants you to go.
A huge Tennessee football game was on, so we played it on the big screen that night!
Patty and Laura were having some real fun being mommas on the retreat. I love our adults!
Saturday night is fajita night, and they are smokin!  As in hot. As in you would love them. Chicken and/or steak with peppers and onions and the trimmings!  Best way to have them-prepared over the giant skillets and fire.
I love my little ones, too. This is Gretchen Bolton, daughter of one of my mom's best friends and another couple adults who do awesome stuff for our kids and youth.

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Operation Christmas Child is something I've always done in November, but this year I got the opportunity to go a little further!  I'm so glad that Rob asked for some of us to come help load boxes at our local pick up center!
Lakeway Community Church is relatively small, so keep them in your prayers as they play such a large part in this wonderful ministry!
Another awesome thing I learned this morning is that Old Dominion is the official carrier of all the boxes across the country...for free!
Here are the next steps the boxes would take!
These are some really fun, faithful, and fantastic folks!  Surrounding yourself with selfless people makes every situation more enjoyable.
Stole this picture from Rob's Instagram. Thousands of boxes just from Morristown!

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Another annual thing we've been doing at First Baptist is Latte Moon. We set up hot chocolate, coffee, and apple cider stations around church to raise money for the Lottie Moon Christmas offering all through December!
I've been able to serve with many different youth members and leaders, each year gaining new friends along the way. Just being able to have this time to serve and fun chats between customers is a blessing!
The Living Christmas Tree has been going on 17 years now!  My family knows what to expect, but it's good to be able to sit and enjoy the atmosphere.

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This is one of my favorites!  I'm really going to miss the fun if I'm not done with school yet next year. The Equip Christmas party always has a theme for dress up, games, and sometimes the food, too!  This year was reindeer games, so-if you couldn't guess-we all dressed as reindeer and played games!
It was great to get to fellowship with the friends I've made over the years in our youth group!  Mattie was someone I always looked up to!  (And still do now). However, now I'm one of the oldest ones and have my own younger kids to make friends with!  I may not look like it, but yes, I am the oldest in the student ministry not including college. 
As I have heard a couple times in Bible studies, we all need someone to pour into and someone to pour into us, as well as someone to walk alongside us. My journey through the student ministry has given just that and more.
 
Patty is such a blessing to my life!  A kid at heart, she is so encouraging through my daily issues and open to prayer and service to any of us who need it. Humors and honesty are two of her best qualities, aside from her faith. She's been my small group leader since 8th grade, and I couldn't imagine what we would be without her!  This lady and our group are two more things that I'll miss next year, but it's a sure thing that we will keep in touch!
Reindeer games that I took part in:  scramble to find your name on a ping pong ball colored for your blitz week team
Octaball-our own version of handball/foursquare
We do things differently. We make up our own games.
I've been through several interns over the years, and I've loved them all!  I can't believe how fast it's gone...it seems like Erin Rogers should still be up there leading and singing...she's been teaching school a couple years now!  And Holly!  You're getting married?!  You should still be the junior or senior girl that we admire!  Ahh!  Thank you all for giving so much time and energy to serve and influence us. Also thanks to Justin, who came in not really knowing many of us, but has become a great leader with our group!
For a little celebration one Sunday, Patty treated us to Dunkin Donuts while we shared some amazing ways that we've seen God at work in our lives over the years.
The past few years we've been having a Christmas worship service led by Brooks and some of the other young and talented musicians in our church!  I am constantly amazed at how great some people in our church can sing with absolutely no help added to their voices.  They should be the famous ones.  No studio needed.
Going to this event was amazing and relaxing to just get to rest in the presence of God and dwell on His goodness, especially at Christmas.
 


Back in the summer I got the opportunity to volunteer at an Access Life event at the lake, and I was thrilled to hear that I would have the chance to do it again this Christmas!  Some of the sub deb girls got together to be buddies at a Christmas party for these special people, and it blessed our hearts as much or more as theirs.
Brooke and I were buddies with this precious little girl, River.  We got to chat and just hang out, eat, make crafts, open a stocking, and sing and dance to Christmas songs!  I had a great time celebrating, too!
Snowman treat decorating was such a fun craft.  Most of the kids ate theirs right away!  River wanted the scarf to be hair on mine, so I went with the fashion statement.
Each guest also got a stocking full of goodies!  River loved this part the best I think.  She just kept opening and repacking and reopening all her little gifts giggling and smiling in total amusement.  She didn't talk that much, but the joy was definitely felt!
This was one of my favorite activities of this whole Christmas season!  I truly loved the opportunity to have fun, serve, love, celebrate, and build bonds that I hope can continue on through life.  It's a gift that keeps on giving.
This is one of those things when you know it's God speaking.  I was posting a picture on instagram one day using a Steven Curtis Chapman song as the caption, so as I went to tag him, I quickly scrolled through his pictures.  This one looked good, so I enlarged it to "like" it, and just happened to see Lipscomb tagged in his caption.  WHAT ARE THE ODDS that he would be at Lipscomb in the one picture I chose to look at...God works in crazy ways.
When I'm decorating and doodling around Christmas time, I love to use verses that go with the holiday spirit.  Believe is a new one that I added to my plethora of holiday sayings for a lack of better terms, and I found three verses that I loved for "believe."  Believing is actually a huge part of Christmas.  Kids have the choice to believe in Santa (if they don't, they don't get presents!).  We all have the choice to believe that God truly sent His son through a virgin to live and die to save us.  Without this belief, there would be no Christmas.  Having this belief, we can enjoy the greatest joys of this already wonderful time of year!
 

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This was a new thing for me this year, but I am so excited to be able to come back in the summer and maybe next Christmas!  Some of the teachers at Manley have organized a reading program for some kids here in Morristown, and this year they had a Christmas party, too!

Abbey and some other girls came to help, too.  I'm so thankful for all these people who have such kind spirits to share with others.  We were absolutely freezing cold, but it was worth it.
There were cookies and ornaments eaten and made, songs sang, books read, gifts and new clothes given, and love shared.  Again, there were some who didn't really talk, but words aren't needed to share some love.
It was all fun and games until a neighbor's dog came barking and kids went screaming.
Don't worry!  He was a nice dog!  Order came back shortly.
Look how precious these little boys are!  I can't wait to go back this summer and spend more time with these kids.  There's nothing like the innocence of children to give you perspective and fill you with joy.

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In my gifts to my friends, I love to add personal stuff to make it special, and pictures are a great way to do that!  I tried to do all kinds of presents this year because it's my last Christmas season at home with these people.
  For my four closest friends, I made these frames with some of my favorite pictures of us and some verses that remind me of them.  Not only are these girls some fun friends, they are my greatest spiritual encouragement, which means more to my life than any material gift anyone could give!
 Chantal and Cherie have been gone most of the year to college, but I have had a blast getting to run with them while they were here on break.  Even though we are 6 hours apart, we still keep in touch almost daily, even if it's just a fun snapchat!  Prayer is also a huge thing that keeps us together.  I am so blessed to have these girls to pray for me no matter what it is.  Over the years, we've helped each other grow in faith so much.  I wouldn't be as strong in the Lord if it weren't for them.  We've been through many highs and lows, but we've been there to pray for God's will.  Having them here has been major help to me because they are two of the few people in this world that I have so much in common with; we can share and understand almost any situation we go through!  I have also come to know that one of their favorite sayings is "God is good all the time; all the time God is good."  Every time I hear it they come to mind!  That is why I chose this verse for their frame.  Even when life is terribly tough, we know that God is still good.
Emily and I have also been through a lot of stress together this year!  We have each had school, health, running, family, and other issues that we can relate to each other on, and we have both come out alive and better off!  I am thankful to have had her with me this year especially.  Now we're through the worst and on to only better.  Through the uncertainty, we have learned to trust God's plan, even when we don't understand it at all.  That's why I chose trust as the focus for Emily's verse.  In a few months we will be in new places and on new teams, but we will now have a great friendship to keep through the distance and when we come back to visit!  We are B^3!
 Oh Katlyn...the only friend to make it with me all the way since kindergarten...that takes a special person!  And that she is!  Her life is absolute chaos and tragic random things, but she is still such a happy person.  You wouldn't believe all the things that happen to her and how she still comes out not a nervous wreck, but that's how she inspires me and so many others around her.  She is a true light of the Lord.  I know I can count on Katlyn to be there to honestly encourage me when I'm feeling down, confused, or whatever the case may be. We've done so many crazy and fun things, and I cherish all those memories!  The third member of B^3, I'll miss her next year, but we've still got tons of f in ahead.