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Inspiration

In Inspiration on
December 6, 2017

‘Tis the season of advent

This coming Sunday marked the start of Advent. Growing up, living with my grandparents, I have fond memories of this time of year. Every night at dinner (6:30 sharp) my grandma would light the advent candle, which was displayed in the kitchen, and would be the focal point at our dinner table. I loved what it stood for and I loved waiting for the next week, where she would light the next candle. It was something special that I was a part of and wanted to carry on as a tradition in our family as well. To me, celebrating advent is a great reminder of what the season is truly all about.

The season of Advent lasts the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. It is a celebration of the time we are waiting and preparing for the celebration of the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas. The season of advent starts this year on December 3rd and ends on Christmas Eve.

One of the most common Advent traditions involves the use of evergreen wreaths, branches, and trees. On the first Sunday of Advent, churches and homes are decorated with green to symbolize the eternal life that Jesus brings. An Advent wreath—an evergreen circle with four colored candles surrounding a white one in the middle—is placed in a prominent spot. The candles are then lit one at a time, each Sunday leading up until Christmas. The first candle is the candle of “hope” or “expectation.” On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, the center white candle is lit, which is called the “Christ Candle,” a reminder that Jesus, the Light of the Word, has come.

The candle colors and their meaning:

Purple has traditionally been the primary color of Advent, symbolizing repentance and fasting. Purple is also the color of royalty and the sovereignty of Christ.

Pink is also one of the colors of Advent used during the third Sunday of Advent. Pink represents joy or rejoicing and reveals a shift in the season away from repentance and toward celebration.

White is the color of Advent representing purity and light. Many of the advent wreaths contain a 5th candle, the white candle. This is lit on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The white candle represents Jesus Christ, who is our sinless, spotless, pure Savior. He is the light come into a dark and dying world. Also, those who receive Jesus Christ as Savior are washed of their sins and made whiter than snow.

 

I did not have a ‘traditional’ round advent wreath, so I decided to go a little non-traditional this year. Being that I have a one year old, who could very easily get his hands on these candles, I decided to go with this metal taper candle holder, which could be kept high on our kitchen counter, being visible from all angles of our living space. I filled the inside of the box with evergreen to represent the eternal life that Jesus brings.

I look forward to lighting the candles each night at dinner with my family gathered around the table and being reminded of what this month is really about. As Advent draws closer, another candle will be lit. With each candle that is light, the darkness will disappear more and more. The advent wreath helps us to spiritually connect the story that surrounds the birth of Jesus, which ultimately leads to our salvation! Thank you Jesus for your promise.


What are some of your holiday traditions? Would love to hear from you!

In Inspiration on
November 15, 2017

10 Ways to Show Gratitude this Thanksgiving

What better way to kick of the holiday season than by showing others how much we care. This time of year always seems to bring out the best in people, so why not take that grateful spirit and help make a difference in the lives of those around us?

It’s not always easy to show gratitude in our daily lives- since, let’s be honest, it is so easy to get distracted and caught up in the business of our everyday lives. Can we make some time in our schedule to focus on putting a smile on someone’s face and trying our best to brighten up their day? Let’s join together to spread some kindness to others and let them know that we care, we are there for them and that they are special.

 

10 ways that YOU can show gratitude this Thanksgiving:

  1. Drive through difference – Have you ever done this? I heard about the DTD on the radio and was intrigued. Next time you are in line at the drive through, pay for the person behind you. When I did this, the cashier was like, “Wait, really?” and I was like “Yes!”. This really can make a big impact in someone’s day. Could you imagine someone just picking up your tab? How sweet and heartwarming. If you are more comfortable printing out a letter to pass along, you can find one here!
  2. Write a letter – Call, email or write your closest five people in your life and let them know how thankful you are for them and why.
  3. Put those cooking skills to good use – Make a friend their favorite meal. Drop it off on a day that you know they are so busy and could use a night of free cooking. Just imagine how thankful your friend will be to come home, eat a yummy meal and then relax!
  4. Sign up to serve – There is no better way to make a difference than to serve someone. If you are connected with a church, ask around if there are any projects needed to be done. See if your local community needs help setting up for an event, or sign up to serve a meal at your local soup kitchen. Maybe even arrange to walk your neighbors dog for them for a week. Any time that you can put aside will be so appreciated!
  5. Donate – Time some time to go through your garage. Rumage through your closests. Pick out some clothes that you no longer wear and are willing to part with. Have some extra toys lying around that your kid no longer uses? Have any old books that you are finished reading? Donate them to your local hopeless shelter or call your local GoodWill.
  6. Send a care package – Send a holiday care package to a soldier abroad. There are many websites out there with information on what is needed and where to send boxes. You can find different organizations here. Go shopping for a soldier this holiday season.
  7. Sponsor a family in need – TJ and I sponsor two children, Edwing from Nicaragua and Guiliana from Bolivia. It has been such an amazing experience being able to financially assist these children and their families. The best part is that we have created a special bond through back and forth letters. We love sponsoring and encourage you to do the same! Organizations like World Vision and Compassion International are great places to start!
  8. Host a Friendsgiving – Bless your friends this November by hosting a special dinner party. Don’t expect them to bring anything but themselves. Before dinner starts, go around the table and tell each friend why you are thankful to have them in your lives.
  9. Donate a Thanksgiving meal to a family in need – Donate that free turkey that you get from Shop Rite each year! 😉 Whatever you plan to make for your family this year, double. Ask your local church where you can donate food or if there is a family in need of a warm Thanksgiving meal.
  10. Get active – Pick an organization that you are passionate about. Gather a group of close friends or co-workers and sign up! Run or walk for a good cause.

I personally am going to try to do all of these this holiday season. Just think what an impact it could make! Will you join me?

Have any suggestions to add to this list? Leave your comments below!

In Inspiration on
August 25, 2017

Ten simple ways to turn your crappy day around

It’s only 2pm and you’re already on your fourth cup of joe. There’s a stack of papers a mile high you have to take care of before going home, there are plans tonight you don’t know if you can keep, and that nagging headache isn’t going away. Your coworker asks for help with a simple task and you snap. You throw your head down on your desk feeling defeated and wonder: “Will this day ever end??”

About 50% of our happiness is directly influenced by the things we deliberately do to make ourselves happy. That means good news for all of us: we have the power of turning a bad day around. Next time you have a hellish day at work or need a pick-me-up in the middle of a slow afternoon, try one of these proven tips to instantly lift your mood and make your day better. 

Get some Vitamin D.

If you can, take your lunch break outside.  Sit in a sunny spot and sip your drink with your eyes closed. Soak in the rays and absorb some Vitamin D, feel the warmth on your skin and meditate on what you are grateful for – it is healthy for your body, and proven to naturally lift your mood. 

Stop and smell the roses. 

We mean literally, stop and smell the roses. Fresh flowers are an easy way to brighten your day or week and put you in a good mood- especially on a cold, gloomy day when sun is not an option. Go to your local Farmer’s Market and pick up a bouquet of flowers for your home or work space, or grab a latte and stroll through your neighborhood nursery – studies show that plants help lower anxiety and calm your nervous system.  

Put your phone down.

Take a break from social media for at least one hour per day and focus on being fully present in whatever you are doing. Give your 100% full attention to your family or friends and engage in a real face-to-face, uninterrupted conversation. Social media can trigger anxiety and depression, and if your day is already going downhill, try to avoid any additional stress until you are fully recovered. 

Have sex.

You heard me. Get busy. It will bring you and your partner closer and will leave you feeling less stressed. Physical intimacy releases the “feel good” hormones in our brain and studies show that regardless of the activity, the process of deep connection with another human being increases happiness levels. You’re also not likely to be distracted by other issues, allowing yourself to be fully in the moment, another plus. 

Put it on paper.

Free your mind of the constant thoughts and ideas running through your mind. Journaling is said to be therapeutic and can even help decrease anxiety. If you like to draw, pick up a coloring book and pencils and get those creative juices flowing. This exercise helps to tune out the noise around you and centering yourself, which helps develop self awareness and self love. 

Unplug.

Free up some time in your busy schedule for YOU. Try and aim for at least 15 minutes of alone time everyday. Take the time sip your coffee out on your deck in the morning or to take a bath at the end of the night. Whatever it is, try to squeeze in time for you. You need to unwind, relax your muscles, and mentally decompress. 

Breathe in some fresh air.

My grandfather always told me to get out and breathe in the fresh air. But seriously, have you ever went outside and actually breathed inthe air deep into your lungs? It feels great and you can actually feel the oxygen rushing throughout your body. It can also help relieve any built up stress or tension from your day.

Break a sweat.

We make every excuse in the world to not get to the gym, but it is known to actually make us more productive and energetic. Try designating (at least) a half hour a day to working out – get that blood moving and heart pumping. Don’t have a gym membership? Get outside. Lace up those Nike’s and take yourself on a walk, a jog, or stretch out your yoga mat. The first step is the hardest, but just trust that you will feel much more energized and ready to conquer your day once you take the first step and get moving.

Listen to your favorite song on full blast.

Try unwinding from your busy day by listening to some of your favorite songs. Plug in those headphones during your lunch break and simply get lost in the melodies of the music. The music will help to keep your mind off things and give you a small break from reality. 

Get inspired.

Come up with one inspirational quote every Sunday that is meant to motivate you that week. You can keep it posted on a letter board like I do at home, or you can simply write it down on a sticky note and put it in your car or on the mirror at home. Wherever it is, just keep it where you will see it and let it serve as a daily reminder and source of encouragement.

 

This post was written by Jess but first found on Society Letters. 

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