Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Intentional this Holiday Season

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Family time, hot cocoa, emotional movies, warm blankets, baked goods, shopping, and the list could go on! I absolutely love the holiday season because of the enjoyment it brings. There is a little over a week left until the day some of us have been counting down to - Christmas Day. How exciting! Whether you're celebrating virtually or in-person with loved ones there’s something we need to keep in mind. 

Year after year I’ve caught myself getting wrapped up in the gift giving and stress of the holiday season. By the time the actual celebration comes along, all the joy is almost gone! On Christmas Day I’m so excited to open presents early, but when it comes to spending time with my family in the afternoon I’m just flat out annoyed. We would travel to my extended family's house and I would spend time on my phone instead of in conversation. If you find yourself spending more time on your phone or stressed out about gift giving I have a challenge. Let’s make an effort to be more intentional and genuine with our actions this holiday season. Be intentional about the conversation you make and be genuine with your family. In the end, it’s not about the presents, but more so about the time spent with loved ones. We don’t know the next time we will get to have a conver
sation with someone, so take this holiday season to be truly engaged in a conversation and intentional with your words. By taking this simple step, your holiday season will be a thousand times better! 

Being intentional this season,

Kylie Schakel

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Julia's Joytastic Guide to Christmas

If you’re anything like me, your Christmas tree was up on November 1st and Christmas carols were sung in October. I LOVE Christmas. There’s just something about the lights, the decorations, and the entire Christmas spirit that never fails to brighten my day. So, as we’re drawing closer to the holiday season, I will be sharing with you: Julia’s Joytastic Guide to Christmas! 

  1. Find a Christmas buddy. Find someone that shares the same passion for Christmas that you do. For me, that would be the one and only Taylor Roy. We Facetime almost daily and discuss Christmas, from movies and songs to where our new decorations should be. Celebrating with a buddy is incredible. 

  2. It’s never too early to start celebrating. Though some of my teammates disagree, I’m here to say that we can and should start celebrating the holidays early, perhaps even in March or April if you’re feeling festive. My tree was up on November 4th but I was ready to celebrate back in October. Don’t feel ashamed to celebrate early, it’s completely acceptable, and I highly encourage it. 

  3. Have a Christmas playlist ready at all times. Sometimes, I’ll be sitting in my bed here with the Christmas tree on and just feel a sudden urge to belt out some Christmas tunes. Be sure that you have All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey and 5 More Days Till Christmas by The Cheetah Girls on there, you’ll thank me later.

  4. There is no such thing as too many decorations. Some of my teammates may beg to differ, but you just simply cannot over-decorate for Christmas. Hang that wreath and put up that sign, it will look absolutely beautiful. 

  5. Christmas movies are the perfect way to end a cold November/December night. Cozy up with a big ole blanket with a nice mug of hot cocoa with marshmallows. I highly recommend Elf (shoutout to Emily Royster), How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and The Santa Clause series. 

  6. Write a letter to Santa. I’m 19 years old and still every year I sit down with my niece, Hayden, and we write our letters to Santa Claus. You’re never too old for the best Christmas traditions. 

  7. Make holiday desserts. My mom and I have a tradition where we make a list of holiday treats, such as puppy chow, peanut butter and oreo balls, fudge, and chocolate meringue pies. Try some new recipes and have fun with it. 

  8. Find ways to give. One of my favorite parts of this season is finding ways to give back. I always volunteer with The Salvation Army to ring bells at their kettles and work with my community for our Adopt a Family project. Giving can also be those small acts of kindness, like holding the door or leaving notes of encouragement. Try to find different ways to give to others this season and make someone else’s holiday season even better. 

  9. Get an advent calendar. Ever since I was a newborn, my mom has surprised me every December 1st with an advent calendar. It started with just chocolate calendars for 15 years and I suppiled myself with a Friends calendar this year. N
    ow, I wake up every morning and open the day’s slot to find a piece of Friends memorabilia that helps me start my morning on the right foot. 

  10. Surround yourself with your loved ones and have fun with it. The holiday season can be so magical, but we decide how we make the most out of this season. You’re never too old for a picture with Santa or driving through a Christmas lights display. 

If you follow these 10 steps, you are sure to have a joytastic Christmas holiday. Make like Buddy the Elf and spread Christmas cheer by singing loud for all to hear and don’t try to hug a racoon. Think like the Grinch and understand that Christmas, perhaps, doesn’t come from a store. That Christmas means a little bit more. As Charlie Calvin said, seeing isn’t believing, believing is seeing. The Polar Express Conductor stressed to just believe. Believe in the magic of Christmas and all that the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart. Kevin McCallister hopes you have a Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal and a happy new year. I hope that you have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas, as Clark Griswold once exclaimed. Thank you for reading over Julia’s Joytastic Guide to Christmas. 

Have a happy Holidays! 

Julia Hamblen

State President

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

2 Corinthians 5:17

So, I did something a little different for this blog post - I grabbed my bible and let my teammates pick any random verse they wanted. The rule was whatever verse they picked, I would write my blog about. So here we go… 

My fellow teammates and I have been in office for nearly six months now. That blows my mind to think about. I guess it's true that time flies when you’re having fun! As I was writing this I thought back to the beginning of the year when Kylie and I went on a little hike around the Leadership Center. Normally I wouldn't question going on a hike with Kylie, but there was a small problem: it was pouring rain, the only shoes I had were Crocs, she only had her Chacos, and all the trails were a complete mud pit. Did any of that stop us? Of course not! 

Off we go, hiking the trails of the Leadership Center. Was it muddy? Very. Did we slip and fall? Several times. Did I end up soaked after I fell in the creek? Yes, very much so. After we got tired of walking on the same trail, we “Forged our own path.” See what I did there? Long story short, we went so far off the trail that we got lost. By the time we realized that we were lost, we were stuck in this cycle of going forward and not turning back. This definitely was not a good idea. It took another 20 minutes of walking with no destination for us to decide we needed to turn back around. 

Have you ever been in a cycle like this or been stuck in your ways and not realized it? I have. In life it can be super easy to fall into these cycles. By the time we realize that we’ve gone too far off the trail we may think that we’re unable to turn around. Want to know my opinion? That is completely wrong. 

Alan Watts once said, “You’re under no obligation to be the same person you were 5 minutes ago.” If we apply that to Kylie and I going off the beaten path, we get something pretty similar. Watts probably would have seen me and Kylie, soaking wet, covered in mud, and laughing hysterically, and said something along the lines of “You are under no obligation to go the same direction you were 5 minutes ago.” Simply put, you don't have to stay in a cycle. In me and Kylie's case, we didn't have to continue to walk off the beaten path. We didn't have to stay in the rut we created ourselves that said “keep going forward.”

Most likely, you are not reading this during a hike and you are likely not walking off the beaten path. It is entirely possible, however, that you are stuck in a rut. You may think that you are stuck on this path and that you can't turn around. Let me tell you you can. 

You are never too far gone. Forge a new path. Embrace new opportunities.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here! 

2 Corinthians 5:17

Never too far gone, 

Luc Sproles