Friday, December 30, 2005

A Year in Review

I love the end of the year...that time between Christmas and New Year's. The hubbub of the major holiday is winding down, life is still in neutral, and everywhere you look the world is recapping the previous year before we watch the ball drop in Times Square. What I really love are all those recaps and reviews....much of the reason why half of this blog is named "Reflections" - I love to reflect. So in honor of 2005 coming to a close, I thought I'd do my own personal "year in review."

January - I headed down to Alabama to visit my friends the last weekend of the month. I had a blast in my home away from home, but brought with me an ice storm. I thought I was escaping to a warmer climate in January.

February - This was a pre-transition month. A lot of little things happened that were a pre-cursor to some life changes I would experience the rest of the year, one of which was leading a small group during our Wednesday night women's Bible study time.

March - I was asked to sit on a panel for a girl's youth event, GirlTalk. That was my public speaking highlight of the year. I also was honored to be asked to co-lead the women's ministry at our church by Jessica, a leader I truly respect. To indicate even more changes, a job offer was on the table...

April - I left a job I took that truly wasn't a fit for me and accepted an offer to work with folks I've worked with for over 10 years. Yes, Virginia, you can go home again, and it feels wonderful. Due to the freedom and joy I felt from this change, my juices started flowing again, and this blog was launched.

May - My Dad made his fifth trip to the hospital, but thankfully, this one was successful. It was a long couple of weeks, and a long road to recovery, but I'm happy to say, he's still doing great

June - The most significant thing I can remember from this month was a multitude of weddings (including two on one day) and my joining of Blockbuster Online. Even the minor membership moves make the yearly review.

July - I made a return trip to Alabama for the 4th of July weekend. No ice storms this time! Truly, I feel at home there without an explanation other than precious friends who welcome me with open arms. The month ended with an infected wisdom tooth that had to be extracted - my first tooth extraction ever.

August - I joined a Fantasy Football League for the fourth year in a row. I'm consistent - I didn't make the playoffs again this year.

September - This was a big month - I turned 30-10. I really struggled with turning that age, but after living it for three months, it's not that bad - other than I still can't bring myself to type the number out. Ironically, the same month of my birthday, I was asked to come work in our college ministry, which has turned out to be a great blessing, even if, at times, it makes me feel old.

October - My month of unfortunate events. I never could shake the change of season cold and it got a good hold of me, sending me to the hospital for a little over a week. I've learned from that experience that if I don't feel good for more than a week or two, go to the doctor - I'm not wearing a cape, hence, I'm not superwoman. To top off the month, I fell on Halloween right after I left the hospital, and ended up with stitches on my forehead and a black eye as a conversational piece. I learned from that experience that I'm not in the Indy 500, no need to race through life.

November - After a little setback, November marked the beginning of the college girls' discipleship group, "The BRAT Pack - Biblical Relationships, Accountable Teaching." In just two months, I've witnessed these girls really growing and becoming special women. I love my girls and I can't wait to watch what God will do in their lives in 2006.

December - After my month of unfortunate events, I decided to be very lowkey for Christmas this year. I wanted to enjoy the holidays, enjoy the time spent with family and friends, and not get caught up in the shopping frenzy. I did all my shopping online or on December 23 and the stress factor was eliminated. I truly enjoyed the four-day holiday weekend I had and cherished the time I spent with my family and friends. I reflected on the past Christmases and realized how each year so much changes, and some things stay the same. I miss my Mom tremendously at Christmas, but I try to keep her jovial personality alive through all I do.

I hope you all will take time to reflect on your year. This is merely a snippet of my life - there is so much more that happened and that God did in my life, that mere blog pages couldn't do it justice. But, in my little corner of the blogworld, I will sit with my cup of java, scroll through my months of blog entries, and reflect on what soon will be last year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Let's Hear it for the Boy!

One of my favorite advertising characters is the Pillsbury Doughboy. I had my own Poppin' Fresh doll when I was little, and I just loved the way he giggled. I even tried out one year for the Pillsbury Giggle Off. I did my best to let out the funniest giggle, but I suppose it wasn't worthy of competition.

Poppin' Fresh debuted in October 1965 (right after my world debut) and has been bringing "lovin' to the oven" for years. Like Tony the Tiger and the Green Giant, just seeing that pudgy little baker communicates a warm feeling of hot cookies, buttery biscuits, and flaky pie crusts.

Now, Pillsbury has brought the Doughboy to life on your computer. The recent series of "Dancin' Doughboy" commercials inspired a site where you can create your own dance routine for Poppin' Fresh. He can disco, do the hustle, and even the butterchurn, all by your command.

My favorite commercial in this dance mix series starts off with the soothing sounds of Barry White playing in the background. The Doughboy dances around in a sultry fashion and these words appear on the screen, "Who brings lovin' to your oven?" The best line of all follows while Barry White music continues to play...."The Other Mr. White" You go, Doughboy!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Goodness of Google

About a month ago, I decided to look into monetizing my blog. I've always wanted to get paid for my writing, so I thought why not try the Google AdSense program. Google, in all its glorious fortune, provides at no cost. I've been in the internet game long enough to know that nothing comes for free, and to support their efforts, they allow companies to purchase AdWords. AdWords allows companies to spend small amounts of money to generate traffic to their site. For those who allow those ads on their blog, we reap the benefit, albeit small.

Some may find it an annoying banner for my blog, but it blends well with my color scheme so it's not too bad. I'll be honest, the money "reaped" so far wouldn't even buy a coke from our coke machine. But, I figure if I can support Google's business model, my blog will remain free forever...or at least a little bit longer. And, using the Google name everywhere in this blog ought to up my search results, therefore increasing my impressions, clicks, and moo-la.

All this sounds very corporate and profit hungry, but something rather incredible happened after my recent post on When the North Pole Meets Bethlehem. All Google ads are contextual, meaning their bots scan my posts to see what ads would most appeal to the reader based on the content. Much to my surprise, an ad "God Loves You" appeared shortly after my posting. I was intrigued enough to click through to see what it said. Lo and behold, it was the plan of salvation....explaining how we can know Jesus as our Savior.

For all the hype and hoopla around Google, their fortune, and their domination of search, I found that little contextual miracle impressive. There is nothing I'd love more than having someone read my viewpoints on Jesus' Birth, then having them learn exactly how they can benefit from that birth. Google spreads the Gospel. Obviously, God is in their alogorithm.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

When the North Pole Meets Bethlehem

I've had a few discussions lately about the Christmas celebration and how Santa fits into all of that. Given the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus, many people are shying away from recognizing Santa at all, so as not to deter from the reason for the season. Although I'm completely for lessening the commercialization of Christmas, I've struggled with how to fit Santa amongst the season. I posed this question to my fellow blogger, Katrina, who has an excellent post on the Santa issue. If you are a parent, this post is truly helpful in determining what to do.

I'll preface my thoughts here by saying that no matter where you fall on this issue, I respect your choice. It has taken me days to really think through how I feel, and, given that I'm not a parent, it's not an extremely pressing issue in my household.

I was raised in a Christian home by parents who told me the Christmas story and why we celebrate Christmas at all. At the same time, I wrote letters to Santa, set out cookies and milk for him, and anxiously awaited Christmas morning. I loved all the Rankin/Bass Christmas specials that ranged from the story of Rudolph to Nestor, the long-eared donkey, that protected Mary and Joseph as they traveled into Bethlehem. I don't remember how old I was when I discovered there was no Santa - but it wasn't revealed to me by my parents or anyone else - I think I just figured it out. I do remember that I played along with the Santa idea for a couple of more years so as not to disappoint my parents.

Believing in Santa didn't damage me for life. Nor did it keep me from understanding the true meaning of Christmas. I decided to give my life to Christ at the young age of 8 years old - and the Santa dilemma never confused that decision for me. In fact, as I reflect on things, I think believing in Santa and realizing who Santa was, made me trust and believe in Jesus that much more.

Santa really couldn't see me all the time, and he didn't know if I was naughty or nice. But, Jesus is with me all the time, and not only sees if I'm naughty or nice, He knows the evil things I think at times. Santa always seemed to get me everything on my list - or most everything - that I asked for. Jesus isn't Santa, but He gives me all that I need, when I need it - and sometimes without asking. And when the Barbie Townhouse fell down two weeks after Christmas, or the next big gift came along, the gift of blessings from Jesus were priceless and timeless.

When Christmas Eve would come, I could barely sleep, knowing that Santa was coming. Of course, the moment I fell asleep, he would creep in and fill my stocking and eat my cookies. I couldn't wait for Christmas morning to get here. One day, Jesus will come back, and oh how I wish each night as I lay my head on my pillow I got so excited about His Return that I could barely sleep. And, when He comes that glorious morning, I won't just awake to an empty tray of cookies or presents piled beneath a tree, I'll see my Savior face to face. Now, that's the best Christmas present ever.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Were it not for Grace...

A few weeks ago one of the soloists at our church sang a song that has been in my head ever since. For Brad, the soloist, this is known as his 'signature song' and he has sung it many times as a prelude to our pastor's sermons. It's an older song, and although I love the praise and worship of today, I miss songs like this that used to come out almost daily on the Christan music scene. Songs like this one really spoke a message in story-like format that always resonated with me.

I decided to share the words of the song here for multiple reasons. First, whenever I have something that stays with me this long, it usually means I need to share it. Second, one of my fellow bloggers, Katrina, shared her testimony and beliefs in on her blog recently. I thoroughly enjoy her writing, and seeing that talent used to express her beliefs was simply exquisite. And, third, I could write for days about what God has done in my life...the road where He has taken me, the evil me that sometimes went kicking and screaming, and the unending love that I can't fully grasp. But, I suppose the words of this song sum it up in a way that might take me much longer to convey. If you don't know that Grace, I'd love to share more with you...

Time measured out my days
Life carried me along
In my soul I yearned to follow God
But knew I'd never be so strong
I looked hard at this world
To learn how heaven could be gained
Just to end where I began
Where human effort is all in vain

Were it not for grace
I can tell you where I'd be
Wandering down some pointless road to nowhere
With my salvation up to me
I know how that would go
The battles I would face
Forever running but losing this race
Were it not for grace

So here is all my praise
Expressed with all my heart
Offered to the Friend who took my place
And ran a course I could not start
And when He saw in full
Just how much His love would cost
He still went the final mile between me and heaven
So I would not be lost

Were it not for grace
I can tell you where I'd be
Wandering down some pointless road to nowhere
With my salvation up to me
I know how that would go
The battles I would face
Forever running but losing this race
Were it not for grace