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Highs and lows

The title gives it away I think. “Highs and Lows” or we also sometimes like to call it “Sweets and Sours”. That’s what life is made up of and I’ve heard that taking the time to actually notice them or communicate them is important because, well, just because! Or maybe because then we don’t get all down about one thing or one experience? Maybe it forces us to look for the good even in a seeming bad situation?

Anyway, thus came the great idea from Mom, to focus on our “Highs” this Christmas season and all the way till the end of the year. We have a jar in the kitchen and once a day, well mostly like at the end of the day, we fill it with a paper of our highs of the day. It can be one or two or however many we want to add in. On the last day of the year, we’ll read them out and enjoy all the good from this season. It will help us remember that Jesus is behind it all because really, he’s the only one ALL GOOD!

Well, we’ve been ending our days a lot with expressing our sweets and sours, that by now I have a hard time even thinking of any sours. Besides, Christmas is all about kindness, sharing, spending time with family and friends, getting other’s gifts, helping a poor lonely person and all that, so what could be sour about that?

Well, here are a few other “highs” I’ve added to the jar so far: Christmas market outing, Christmas decorations, all the lights, home-made cookies, enjoying the tree and fireplace, reading Christmas stories by the fire (it’s a fake one, but it’s still pretty cozy). Having a heating blanket in my bed to keep warm, enjoying Christmas music, how good it feels to help and serve others, being able to give to others who have less than me, being in a house with a bed to sleep on at night, going to a Christmas concert, enjoying a candied apple, looking forward to special gifts (I think!)…

You know what? I could drag this on for a very long time, because once I get going, it’s hard to stop. I can just go through my day and name all the things that happened in the day. Even my school is great because I get to learn something and my teachers are nice. I have friends, my school is not far from home so I can walk there, once in a while I get to go home early to do my projects… Oops! I was going to call it quits! So here goes… It’s a wonderful life! THE END!

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The candied apple

It’s just one week till Christmas and well… we haven’t done much Christmassy things yet. “We’re going to the Christmas market this evening!” Dad announced. But Mom was cold, Brother had no intention of going out anywhere and me… well, I wasn’t so sure about going to a place we’d never gone before, one hour away from home, in the cold and pitch darkness that suddenly came upon us at only 4:30pm. But… I was up for a challenge. If we never try anything, we’ll never know if we like it or not, right? I think Dad sometimes has a hard time getting the family out the door and it must be like trying to pull a tractor out of a swimming pool. (Don’t ask me where I get my imagination!) Anyway, after some reluctance, we were off. At the same time we had to pick up our Uncle from the bus station not far from where we would go, which explains going an hour away. Although the nice Christmas markets were about that far anyway.

Dad dropped Mom and I off while he found a place to park. We entered this ambiance of music, lights, drinks, snacks and every imaginable Christmas decoration you could find. And it was beautiful! A little cold, yes, so Mom and I would occasionally walk into a store to get warmed up and check out some other cool stuff like clothes and shoes and… well, I just picked out clothes and shoes stores, hee. Mom picked out one shop, with just soaps, any and all rare shapes and smells and colors of soaps.

Dad and Mom said we could pick out a snack, any snack we’d want. There were traditional Christmas German treats or sausage meals, chocolates, spiced breads, all kinds of yummy looking things. But I already knew exactly what I wanted – a candied apple, just how I remembered it from when I was younger.

Checking out each and every Christmas stall… and… I finally saw it! There it was, waiting for me, just wanting me to pick it up and devour it in great pleasure. But wait! Do I really want that? I hesitated for a moment and then for two and then three minutes passed by and I still hesitated as I felt overwhelmed with all the other delicious looking goodies. Mom suggested we take a look around and see everything there is before we make our final decision on what we’d like. I agreed with Mom on that one. You see, she has a real hard time making decisions and sometimes I do too, so I know where I get it from. Thanks Mom (or not!) Well, these steaming potatoes and mushrooms look really good. But wait, there are some nuts rolled in dark chocolate that look even tastier. Or better yet, a crepe filled with icing sugar… Ah no! What am I going to do? I can’t decide now, after seeing all those options.

Dad stops at one stall and chooses the first thing he sees. Okay, I’ll give it a try. And how would you have guessed, that right smack by those candied apples appeared this deliciously chocolate-coated banana and strawberry stick. And that’s what I chose! And it was just perfect, even better than the way I remembered that candied apple. It’s wise to wait! But it’s also wise to make a good choice, hee! Thanks Dad and Mom for that awesome Christmas outing! Just a little taste of what Christmas will really be like.

I realized too, that sometimes what we have in mind isn’t always the very best for us. Being so stuck on one thing might cause us to miss something very special, like the Christmas outing and that amazing chocolate coated dessert. Do I make you feel hungry yet?

What is YOUR favorite Christmas treat? 

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My Serving Experience

Can you imagine something not my plan, not my idea, yet still a great idea! Well, I’m kind of getting used to this because I notice that others around me, even those older than me (Can you imagine that?) can still have some great ideas. To start off, Mom and Dad offered their services at church for a full day of helping out, charity type of work. Great for them! I thought. But then when they told Brother and I that we were part of it too, I nearly fainted. Well, maybe not fainted for real, but in my mind, I couldn’t believe I would have to be at church ALL day and serving? I didn’t even know what serving meant. “All the more reason to come!” Mom said. “Instead of me telling you what it means, you’ll get to try it out and experience it for yourself.”

Okay, not my idea of a weekend fun or relax, but… I was willing to give it a try. Brother was a bit more reluctant and did some of his complaining, but he came along too. And, at the end, yes, I was a bit tired, yes, it was a lot of work, but hey, I had FUN! Real FUN! I served soup and drinks, along with bread and cream and napkins. I made a few spills to begin with, was a bit wobbly with the hot soup bowls, but I got better at it. That wasn’t enough so I served some cakes and desserts too. I didn’t want to stop there so I helped sell the clothes. Still more time so I helped sell the other stuff like toys and books. Boy, I felt useful and like I really did something with my day. I learned that service is not just serving soup but serving it with a smile and because I care and want to help out. Selling things to then give money to charity was not just to make money, but to later again be able to give to the poor and the needy. I certainly didn’t expect anything in return because I was there to give, but I did get something in return. I got a free serving of food! Imagine that! And good food it was. Then I got a free headband for the winter and a free sweater and shirt. I was about to pay for it, but the older ladies at the stand paid for me instead. They saw my cheerful giving and serving with the food and it made them so happy to give to me in return.

Most of all, what I got from this, was a really full heart of happiness. I didn’t understand the saying that “it’s more blessed to give than to receive” but I experienced it firsthand. Then I felt love bursting out too. I got home and wanted to keep on giving. I looked through my wardrobe if there was anything I could add to the giving bags.

You might need to try this out for yourself to know what I’m talking about here. Cause I’ve heard about it lots of times before too. I’ve heard others tell me their stories and all that, but it didn’t touch me or make me feel the way I feel today by actually doing it and being a part of it. It’s humongous!

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Our Advent Calendar in Reverse

You know those calendars that are numbered 1-24 and you get to pick something out to eat or to do or to read each day leading up to Christmas? Well, for this year, my mom said we will have a really special one. But when the first day of December rolled around, I didn’t see any calendar at all. Yes, that is some sneaky, invisible calendar. Brother asked Mom a few times at the store for those chocolate calendars and this year why not get one for each of us, not just for us to share? But Mom had her mind made up. “I already have one for this year.” she said.

She came into the kitchen with a shoe box all decorated in wrapping paper and a paper and pen, with 24 numbers written scattered on the paper. What was this for? I wondered quite suspiciously. The box was empty. Nothing at all to pick out of it. “We’re doing our advent calendar in reverse this year.” she said. What? In reverse? How mixed up and reverse is that? I thought.

Mom then explained: “You see, we usually get to pick something out for each day leading up to Christmas. But this year, we will put something in instead. At the end of the month, we will gift this box to someone who could really use a Christmas present.” Ohhhhh! (Notice the Aha! Moment.) So that explained the empty box and the empty paper.

Mom began to write down some things while I enjoyed a piece of pumpkin pie. As she neared number 6 I was eating my second piece of pie. When will this end? I thought. Okay, she stopped at 7 and then passed the paper on to me and Brother, for us to write anything we could think of that we could and would like to give and add to the box. We filled a few more empty spaces on the paper but couldn’t think of anything else. Mom put the paper aside and picked out the first thing on the paper to give and added it to the box. Number 1, done! The next day, we put in the second thing on the list. And on and on we’ll do until the 24th.

I guess that could be okay, filling up a box and on Jesus’ birthday giving it to someone in need. That’s really the best give we could give Jesus after all. Whatever I do for someone else, I’m doing it to Him. That makes it real and concrete, not just imaginary. I told Brother that we don’t really need chocolates every day. We get plenty of good food and even nice tasty treats and desserts or cookies Mom makes us. That’s enough. Many people get nothing at all for Christmas. I guess that kind of makes me a part of their Christmas present, doesn’t it? I like that and most of all that I’m giving Jesus what He really likes on His birthday —my love! And not only in thoughtfulness but also through my actions.