Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best Things About 2011

1. Red Rock Canyon

2.  Sea World (in the rain)

3. Fort Benning Trips

4. Ladies Nights

5.  Netflix
 

6. Turkey Trot


7. Cha Cha Lessons

8. Starbucks


9. Mark's Melon Patch visits

10. Sunrises & Sunsets

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Ripple

Sometimes I imagine more than just 2 people read what I have to say on here. I imagine some people care about what is on my mind and in my heart other than a passing comment they hear from me.

Truth is, though, I love to write.

So it is with any passion. You do it not so much for the attention, but for the joy of the activity. And when you do it for the simple joy of doing it, you find shelter from critics and cynics. You may still be attacked, but you're not really doing it for their approval.

So I write, I sing, I bike, I travel, I tinker on instruments, I love people, I help people.

I know my writing doesn't win any awards, my singing doesn't turn heads, my playing doesn't soothe any soul, my loving is considered futile, my help is seldom noticed, I can only visit so many places, and I'm going to get all sweaty biking.

But this is who I am.  This is where I find joy.  This is how I express myself.  I cannot walk away from who I am - regardless of those critics and cynics - or else I fall into a life of confusion.

Don't forsake who God has made you to be.  Don't settle for what others tell you that you are.  Challenge it with the One who made you, and find out really who you are.

Everyone has something wonderful to add to this life.  Even you.  Even me.  Let's do it and do it well.

This weekend ends one year and starts a new one.  You have another opportunity to throw yourself as a pebble into a pond.  You have the opportunity to create new, beautiful, adventurous, calming waves with who you are.

Go ahead, make your ripple.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Least of These: Compassion International

I've been sharing about organizations I'm close with that do an incredible job of sharing the opportunity to give to those who are looking for such an opportunity.  Just because Christmas Day is over, people are still in need.  Try to practice giving all year long this coming year and see how much joy it can bring you!

Today, I hope you'll visit Compassion International's website HERE to see what neat ideas you can do for Christmas giving.  As with Samaritan's Purse, you can give items such as chickens, cows, medical care,  or even survival kits!

This is a touching video explaining how giving on your end impacts the recipient.  YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE! It doesn't take much to make a ripple in a pond.  Throw a small stone in the pond of GIVING and see how big of an impact it can make.



Happy Giving!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day

"Christmas, my child, is love in action... Every time we love, every time we give, it's Christmas." - Dale Evans Rogers

Today, I'm thankful for the love-in-action that God spent on me with the gift of Jesus.  I desperately hope and pray that your Christmas Day is infused with this love in action... that in the deep recesses of  your soul, you will know that you were priceless to God, so He gave everything He had to win you:  He gave himself in the form of a baby.  And they called Him "Jesus".

Discover God again today. 

Blessings to you, my friend.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Noonday Sunshine

I recently had to make a decision regarding how I was going to respond to a controversial event in a professional setting.  I went back and forth for a few hours with, "if I don't do this, it will come across as being stiff-necked and not showing love", and "if I do this, it will come across as being tolerant and reaching out".  Back and forth, back and forth.

I went to e-mail the event to my friend for her perspective, and by the time I got to the end of the e-mail, I said, "I'm still trying to decide what I need to do".  At that point, I heard in my mind "Crystal, you know what you need to do."  So I deleted all the reference to the event in my e-mail and didn't even mention it.  Then, professionally and with grace and gratitude, I declined to be a part of the event.

Let me be straight with you - working in a secular environment has its perks, but your character is tested for strength so very often.  There are opportunities that have to be declined because your integrity will not allow you to go there.  And it seems as if you're walking away from everything good and prosperous.  Don't think for a moment you are.  When you follow God's Spirit's direction in your life, you are bound for treasures you cannot even begin to imagine.  Jesus was "offered" the whole world by the Devil himself.  And Jesus declined, knowing that His treasure was far greater than what the Devil was trying to deceive Him into accepting.

God has big plans.  I want to encourage you to stand by your values, hold fast to integrity, and let the character in you be strengthened during these controversial times.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. - Psalm 37:5-6

I pray that you, you reading this, will stand tall, and that you will let righteousness and justice shine like the sun at noon: bright and beautiful and warm.  :)



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Least of These: Hillcrest Children's Home

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I will be sharing some of the organizations that I am closest to in order to encourage you in what you might give to those in need.  I would love to tell you about Hillcrest Children's Home. 

Hillcrest is a division of AG Family Services Agency, and takes in abused and/or neglected children, nurturing them and provide hope, healing, and training to restore the life they were meant to live: one of abundance in Christ.

Hillcrest is a modern-day rescue home.  If you've ever considered giving, but feel led to limit your giving to domestic services, consider sponsoring a child from Hillcrest Children's Home this next year, or even just giving a one time gift to best support the needs of the organization.

If you want to donate, you can go HERE.

Remember, when you give to God, you never lose a penny of your investment.

Here's a short video telling a little more about AG Family Services Agency:

Monday, December 19, 2011

Keeping Giving Simple

In my opinion, giving does more for the giver than for the recipient.  As they say in a popular local version of "The Gospel According to Scrooge",  a present is not about the gift, but the giving.

I don't want to lose sight of the fact that giving comes in so many different forms.  A tangible gift is such a blessing most of the time, but there are times when someone simply needs an ear, a hand, or an encouraging word.  Here are some ideas I thought I might challenge you with.  Pick one and choose to do it during this holiday season to give a gift that can never be labeled with a price tag. And my hope for you is that you receive the joy of giving in response to your gracious act.

  1. Call or text a random friend to tell them something you think is spectacular about them.  
  2. Send a letter in the mail to someone you know spends a lot of time alone.
  3. Help your neighbor decorate, carry in groceries, or trim their lawn.
  4. Take a walk and give a genuine smile to every person you pass.
  5. Invite someone over for hot coco and a holiday movie when you know they're down.
  6. Accept the offer of the bagger to help you to your car, and ask them about their life.
  7. Send an e-mail to a friend who is struggling with a big decision to encourage them.
  8. Hug an elderly person at church (gently!).
  9. Give a high-five to a little kid who looks sad and tell them how awesome they are.
  10. Offer to pick up or take home a co-worker who lives nearby when they're having car trouble.
  11. Wish the cashier a "great day!"
  12. Let someone cut in front of you without allowing your blood pressure to rise - consider it a gift to them.
  13. Tell your boss how much you appreciate them.
  14. Make a homemade dish and double the recipe.  Share half of it with someone you know is struggling financially.
  15. Invite someone to your local coffee shop for a "catch-up chat".  And pay for them!
  16. Show up at a good friend's office and bring them a flower, a cup of coffee, their favorite tea, their favorite candy, or just a coupon you found that you know they would like. Or just give them a hug to let them know you were thinking of them.

What kind of ideas do you have that can brighten and encourage someone's day with little or no cost involved?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Out of Reach?

I was getting ready for work one morning, and I found my little dachshund, Ginger, climbing up a chair in our guest room trying to reach a stuffed Santa that was hanging from the ceiling.  There is no way she was going to get that Santa, but she would do anything possible to get it.  She was on a chair trying to climb up the back of it.  What a little monkey!

At times she will do this with a stuffed animal, and will be successful at reaching it and subsequently pulling all of the stuffing out of it.

So full of life, so full of hope, so full of stubborn ambition.

They say a pet reflects the personality of it's owner, though.  (Or maybe it's the other way around?)

I find that mostly to be true.  And I admire that little dog's persistence.  No matter how often she's looked at the possibilities and seen that there's no way to climb any higher, she keeps looking for an option, keeps trying to get higher.

Similarly, I've been told no so often.  By a person, by a circumstance, by a bad grade, by a lie.... and so many times, I've listened.  But....

It just so happens that God has a way of bringing hope and encouragement into a circumstance when there seems to be no more hope available.  And each time this happens, I climb back on the chair and look and tug and pull to try and find a way to reach my Santa. 

Here's my encouragement for you: listen to God's urging, His encouragement, not those around you.  He has a plan that most cannot see or understand.  And he has placed the desires for that plan deep inside your heart to let them grow and blossom there.  And don't give up whenever you are knocked down.  You've got this.  You can do it.  By God's grace and favor, you will make it to your dream or goal.

Trust in the Lord and do good.  Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.  Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart's desires.  Commit everything you do to the Lord.  Trust Him, and He will help you. - Psalm 37:3-6

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Winning from Losing

I am not a failure.  It sure seems that way sometimes, but I am not a failure. 

I've been studying for some very difficult, not often passed, state exams and taking them this year.  So far, every score has come back as "FAIL".

FAIL

By 1 point.
By 2 points.
How frustrating! 

But I know that the FAIL is not my final grade.  I will take the exams again.  I will PASS. 

Still, the frustration remains.  Thankfully, I can use that frustration and funnel it into a positive push toward studying for the next exam.  And this is where my FAIL is redeemed.  This is where I win from losing. 

I tend to start singing this song in my car when I'm so frustrated at the things life throws at me.  I hope it is encouraging to you today as well. 





We know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love them, who have been called according to His purpose. - Romans 8:28

This is the stuff that gets under my skin, but I've got to trust that You know exactly what You're doin'. - Francesca Battistelli

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Least of These: Samaritan's Purse

December is a month I think about giving.  Not just for the potential tax benefit, but most importantly, for blessing others in need.  Giving, to me, is one of the most fulfilling things in the world.

Some people give money, some give time, some give encouragement, some give prayers, there are many ways to give.

I was recently talking with a friend who said they are always looking for opportunities to give to "worthy causes", and it spurred me on to thinking about some of the "worthy causes" I'm close to.  I thought I'd share some with you.

Today, I want to tell you about Samaritan's Purse.  Samaritan's Purse is an organization that is one of the first responders for aid in foreign and domestic emergencies.  They are in as quickly as the Red Cross and have stations all over the world to ensure quick distribution of needed items to people in crisis.

I am really excited about what Samaritan's Purse is doing for Christmastime.  In addition to providing thousands of shoe boxes to children all over the world with Christmas gifts and discipleship programs to help them learn about God, they have compiled a "Gift Catalog" for people to choose the type of gift they would like to give toward.

For example, you can "Feed a Hungry Baby for a Week" with a suggested donation of $9.

$9.00

That's all it takes to feed one hungry baby for a week.

Do you like to shop for clothes or shoes?  How about this "Crisis Needs: Shoes and clothing".  You can provide an outfit or a warm coat for someone for a donation of $25.00.

And how about this one? Purchase baby chicks for a family to start making an income and work their way out of poverty.  I know a family who has decided to not purchase gifts for each other this year, but to purchase livestock for someone in poverty to be able to start making an income.  They choose sheep and have decorated the base of their Christmas tree with stuffed animals of sheep to represent the sheep that they purchased.  Look at this quick video to see how something like this works:



I've provided a link to the Samaritan's Purse Gift Catalog here for your convenience.  I would encourage you to take advantage of giving something to a child or a person in need this Christmas via Samaritan's Purse.

I promise your gift will not go unnoticed.  You never lose anything when you give to God. And when you give with this heart attitude, you are investing in something that you will never lose value in.

"When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.  

"Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me.' 

"Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and invite You in, or needing clothes and clothe You?  When did we see You sick or in prison and go visit You?'

"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.' " - Matthew 25:31-40

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Dowry Downfall

I just found this video online via ABC News.  Please pray for the country of India and the oppression of women and girls that happens simply because of the cost of a dowry.  And please do what you can to support organizations that help combat abortion by making way for other options such as adoption.


From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

- Crystal


video


Women Pregnant With Girls Pressured Into Abortions in India - ABC News

Red Rock Canyon

I've always been a bit of an adventurer.  I love my security, but I thrill on adventure.  I was in high school when I traveled half way around the world to work in a 3rd world country for a couple weeks one summer.  I've got the guts to jump out of a plane and fall 14,000 feet just for the fun of it.  But some of my most special moments come from just enjoying the beauty around me.

I love parks.  I may sneeze at every speck of dust, but I'd rather sneeze than not be wrapped up in the middle of that beauty. 

About a year ago, my family took a trip to Las Vegas and southern California to visit friends and family for a week.  One of my most favorite memories was from a hike I took up a trail in Red Rock Canyon with my brother and our friend Myron.  The views from the canyon are breathlessly beautiful.  The little bit of physical exertion to make those views possible makes me wonder why the trails weren't packed that day. 

Life is short enough as it is.  Find an adventure that you can't fit into your normal schedule, set a date, and make it happen.  Don't miss the beautiful fun that is available to you in your area!

Freddie, Me, and Myron:::Red Rock Canyon, January 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

Family Vacation: Cali & Vegas 2011

Ok.  I admit.  I'm a family girl.  In case you didn't know it, now you do!  :)


My family likes to take trips, but it's not always possible to make it happen.  This past year was special because we got to spend a good amount of time together despite the huge changes with my brother's amazing Army adventure.

In January, the week of my birthday, we were able to fly out to Las Vegas to visit Myron, go to the Hoover Dam, and visit family in southern California.  Here are some fun pictures from our trip.

I love family time.  I'm looking forward to more great family times in the future - whether we can all make it to a destination or not.  And I'm looking forward to spending time with new family as they come along.  You can never have enough family!


Visiting Freemont Street, Las Vegas:  Freddie, Dad, Mom, and I.

Visiting some shops on The Strip in Las Vegas with my brother

Hoover Dam, Nevada/Arizona border
Being silly with brother by the Hollywood sign
Touring the Reagan Museum & Library on my Birthday!  Mom and I.  From the looks of it, I was probably about to pull a practical joke on someone....
Freezing at one of the Southern Cali piers - yes - Freddie is freezing.  Don't tell him I told you! :)


Stop reading this!  Go enjoy time with your family!  :)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Remembering the Good in the midst of Tragedy

December 7, 1941 was a terribly tragic day in the beautiful Pearl Harbor.

I think of how many family members were looking forward to seeing their serviceman come home and spend a short holiday with them in just a few weeks. I think of how many servicemen couldn't wait to go home and hug their family members and just spend time with someone that they knew they would feel safe sharing their heart and their joys with.

What a terribly tragic day. 

And yet at the same time, I cannot ignore the incredible sacrifice that was given that day.  The servicemen, and their families who lost them, gave up so much for a war that we were able to eventually win.  They didn't have to, but they did.  And they knew all along that the sacrifice was a possibility.  This sacrifice has not redeemed the attack on Pearl Harbor, but it certainly shows a good thing: honor.

This is real honor to me - someone who knows the risk, someone who knows the sacrifice, someone who knows the need anyway, and who does the necessary to protect the ones they care for so dearly. 

70 years ago, 2,402 Americans were killed.  2,402 families were shattered.  And this tremendous sacrifice has made it possible for me to live my life today - a free, victorious life full of promise.  I hope I live my life with as much honor in my respective life purpose as all of those who sacrificed so much on December 7, 1941. 

And if they could all read this, I would want to say with all my deepest gratitude:

Thank you.





To read more about Pearl Harbor, you can find some information here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Gifts

Do you remember when you got your first bike??? 

This was one of the neatest gifts I received last year at Christmas, and I still use it every week! 

I LOVE my bike!  :)


Every year, my family does a scavenger hunt for someone's gift.  It is so much fun!  So much of our gift-opening time is spent just having fun.  The gift is special, yes, but the gift is more than just the product: it is the time the person put into thinking about the gift and seeking it out.  And it's the memories that are made when planning the surprise and enjoying the gift later. 


I found my bike!  This was the result of a Christmas-day scavenger hunt 2010!


Try doing something a little different this year and make a scavenger hunt! 

I'm off to take a ride....

Friday, December 9, 2011

Skydiving

A lot of people are surprised to learn that I have been skydiving.  They tend to be more surprised when I tell them I can't wait to go again.

So often, I find we do things that we know we'll be able to control.  And security is not a bad thing, but for my own sanity, my own faith, and my own reminder that I am not in control anyway, I find it good for me to do things such as skydive.

It is true that there is a risk.  You risk death, essentially.  But you gain a realization that even falling through the air with a parachute, God is in control.  When I went skydiving, I placed my life in the hands of my tandem diver.  But I knew I could trust him to get me to the ground safely because he wanted to land safely too!

God can do the same, for the same reasons.  God's "landing" is when we reach heaven.  The salvation of Christ is our figurative parachute, and as long as we stay strapped to God, we can rest assured we will land safely in His arms in heaven one day.

Interestingly enough, I did not have a fear of jumping.  I had a thrill of getting to do something I may never get the opportunity to do again, and I took it.

We must trust God enough to jump with Him and to come to salvation in Christ.  If we don't we risk doing something that we may never get the opportunity to do again.  Don't wait until tomorrow to decide to go jumping with God.  Make every day a dive in the sky.

And keep your mouth closed.  It helps you breathe.  :)


Skydiving July 2010 - Me and my tandem, Chad


The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance! - Psalm 16:6

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Very Proud Moment

There are moments in life whenever I am so tremendously proud and thankful for things, that it creates a tickmark on the timeline of my life.  I had one of those moments in October when my brother graduated as an officer for the U.S. Army. 

It is one thing to have an amazing brother.  It's another thing to have an amazing brother that lives life to be all that he can be (pardon the pun).  If there's one thing that makes my brother truly stand out, it is his attention to excellence. I greatly admire and respect him for that. 

Here's a glimpse of a very proud moment for my whole family...

Dad, Mom, Jeanna, Lt. Freddie, and Me


What a wonderful mark to stick on that timeline of mine.  Thank you, Lord.