Angels Among Us

How many gifts do you think you’ll receive this Christmas? A dozen? Two dozen? More? Although receiving gifts is not what this season should be about, it is sad to think about the many children who will not get to experience the innocent, pure joy of finding gifts under the tree on Christmas morning. I’m sure that most of us have never had to wake up to a room void of gifts on this most memorable of mornings. We often don’t even have to worry about not getting that most coveted gift we’ve been thinking about for months—it’s usually there, waiting for us. But do we ever pause to think about the quiet disappointment that fills so many houses every Christmas? Not the disappointment of not finding that treasured gift among the other twenty, but of not even expecting a single gift at all.

Now is your chance to help a child get to experience the joy of Christmas morning that so many of us have always taken for granted. I’m sure many of you have seen Angel Trees placed in stores and schools in your area. These trees lend a wonderful opportunity to meet this childhood desire of someone who would otherwise not experience it. The process is fairly easy, but the unseen rewards are priceless.

Begin by locating a place that offers an Angel Tree. You can often find these at banks, grocery stores, and schools. These trees are decorated with paper angels, which have information about a specific child on the back. The information will include the age and gender of the child, so select an angel you feel you would be prepared to shop for. Ask someone in charge of the tree when the gifts should be returned, how they should be packaged (most prefer them to be left unwrapped), and where they should be returned (usually back to the same location). And then . . . let the fun begin! Designate an amount of money that you want to spend on this child (2 Corinthians 9:7). You may choose to do this as a family project, with a friend, or you may allot some of your income to this project. Remember that you will be the primary gift giver for this child, so consider that when you’re out shopping. Most angels will have a short list of “want” and “need” items for the child, along with sizes for clothing and shoes. In the past, I’ve tried to evenly apportion my attention and money to both the fun “want” items and the important “need” items for the angel I’ve chosen.

When you are finished shopping, package the items however the sponsor wishes, and, most importantly, return them with your angel paper back to the appropriate location on time. If you toss or lose the angel paper in the process of shopping, there will be no way for the sponsor to locate which child you’ve shopped for (although they do often write down your name and the angel’s ID number when you select it).

And now it’s time to sit back and enjoy the thoughts of a less fortunate child getting to experience the joy of discovering unexpected and thoughtful gifts on such a memorable morning—and a parent who can delight in his or her child’s simple happiness, provided by a giving stranger.

Lisa Grimenstein

Be Ye Thankful

We’ve made it to November, ladies! We get to fall off the wagon and eat lots of delicious delicacies. There will be turkey, ham, rolls, stuffing, corn, and lots more. Most likely we’ll eat so much that it’ll hurt to breathe, but that’s what it’s all about, right? Well, we have to remember that even though it’s a holiday and we’re celebrating it with our families, all that we have didn’t just come off a tree or just appear. Our parents provide for us every day and have provided for us since we were born. This month we’re going to show our parents our appreciation for all that they do and just how blessed we are to have them.

You can do just about anything for your parents to show your appreciation for them. Even little things like clearing the table after dinner, folding a basket of clothes for your mother, or just picking up your room is a tremendous help to your parents (especially to your mom). Bigger things like vacuuming the house, dusting, and unloading the dishwasher can help your parents in ways you can’t even understand. For example, recently, simply cleaning my room and washing the dishes made my mom so happy, and she even made it a point to tell me that I put her ahead of her housework by about two hours. However, don’t wait until your parents ask for your help to actually help them.

Surprise your parents by washing and drying your uniform for work (if you have a job and a uniform). You could also Windex the glass things in your house (TVs, computer screens, and mirrors), or dust all the surfaces. You could pick up around the house and/or even pick up (or even completely clean) your room. If you feel that all the things you’re doing around the house will only benefit your mother, then find some things to do to help your dad (if weather permits), like cutting the grass one more time before the cold weather sets in, or raking the leaves in your yard so that your dad doesn’t have to.

You could also cook dinner for your parents (see this month’s Cooking Corner for a delicious Thanksgiving dinner, or start a little simpler with some recipes from other months’ issues). You could plan ahead (since you would already have the recipe printed out) and stop at the store one day on your way home from school or work. Can you imagine your parents’ faces when they come home from a long day at work to find that you’ve made them dinner and dessert? This is a great way to give your parents a break from having to cook dinner––just make sure you also wash the dishes afterward! Make it a point to tell them just how blessed you are to have them and how thankful you are to them for everything that they do for you.

In all that we do we should always be thankful to the ones that help us through our days in this temporary life. However, we should never forget to thank our Lord in heaven for all that He’s supplied for us. It’s because of Him that our parents are able to provide for us. It’s because of the Lord that we’re taken such good care of by the ones that love us because the Lord Himself loves us. So especially on Thanksgiving (but hopefully every day of our lives) we should pray to the Lord and be thankful for everything that He’s given us.

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” Col. 3:15

By Alyssa Sturgill

To Keep Ourselves Virtuous

It’s now October. We’re far enough into the school year to know our routines pretty well and we can juggle more stuff that comes up. Autumn is just starting—it’s getting chillier and the leaves are starting to change colors. This month’s project is to “adopt” a young girl from your congregation and encourage her to be virtuous.

Before you get started, however, you need to examine yourself and pray that God will reveal to you where you might be lacking in this area. We cannot teach and encourage others if we are not willing to be virtuous ourselves.

Once you choose which girl to spend time with, ask your parents if it would be okay for her to come home with you for a few hours. Then ask her parents and explain to them what you would like to achieve by spending that day with their daughter. It doesn’t have to be all day; just a few hours would be fine. Respect the schedule of her parents and yours. Once you’ve received permission from both parents, it’s time to explain to the girl what being virtuous means, and ask her if she’d like to spend the day with you. Another great idea would be to involve the girl’s sisters! If both girls are at an age where they could understand and benefit from what you’re planning to talk about, ask the parents if you can take both girls for the day.

Talk to the girl(s) in a way she will understand. Give her ideas on how to be modest, to think before she speaks, and to remain calm and focused when agitated. For example, talk to her about praying to the Lord for relief and peace when she is angry, agitated, or sad. Talk to her about having a thankful heart and praising God in the happy times. This will (hopefully) help get her into a habit of praying to the Lord regularly, and will encourage her to have a reliance on God at a much younger age, therefore creating a closer relationship. If the young girl doesn’t understand something you’re talking about, try to come up with an example to show her what you mean.

By encouraging the younger generation, we’re helping to ensure the church’s future. The younger people (that are now kids to us) are the ones that are going to be responsible for spreading the gospel in the future. Their actions and how we encourage them to be godly will influence their decisions for the rest of their lives. We’re going to be the older, wiser people of the church that will be there for the younger ones even as we age. We all should be striving to the goal and challenge of keeping the church alive and interesting in the hearts of the younger people. Think of where we would be if someone hadn’t talked to us about Christ and showed us the true Light. Let’s encourage others to remain steadfast in being virtuous young women, just as someone else has encouraged us.

“And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman.” Ruth 3:11

By: Alyssa Sturgill

Understanding the Reading

Now that school is back and we’re back into the routines that we love, many of you are probably thinking of two things: homework and tests. You’re not the only one, believe me. However, we have to remember to encourage others, as well as ourselves, every chance we get! This month’s idea is to find someone in your congregation who has trouble seeing and help them read (or read to them if their eyesight is too bad) their favorite passage or Bible verses. In this project, you will not only be improving their minds, you would be improving your knowledge of the Bible as well.

Prayerfully consider someone you know who may have trouble reading on their own because of their eyesight. Ask them what their favorite Bible verse, book, parable, or story is. Then ask them if they would like for you to read to them. Plan on discussing what the verses are talking about and the purpose of them. You can ask them if they would like to start in Genesis and read through the Bible together (which would take more than one session), read a chapter or two, or if they would like for you to both read a whole book together.

The person I studied with is a very loyal Christian man named Clyde. Clyde has what is called retinal detachment. The retina is the part of our eye that sends messages to our brain so that our brain can decode the messages to form pictures (what we see). His eyesight has been deteriorating for a while and I can tell that it saddens him that he can’t read his Bible and study it like he used to. He told me his favorite Bible verse was John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”) I didn’t have to read that to him, however. He read it to me from his memory. He then told me that his favorite book is Hebrews and I started reading it to him.

It is a good idea to read a couple of verses and then stop and ask them what they think the Bible is trying to say through those verses. Remember to take the verses in their context and remember what the writer is talking about. If you’re reading a very symbolic book (like Revelation), read it slowly and carefully (as we should do with every book) and emphasize that it contains symbolism.

I learned a lot from Clyde just from him allowing me to read to him. I learned about his passion for God and God’s word, what a faithful Christian he is, and that he’s a wonderful influence for me on how to stay faithful and how to motivate myself to learn more about God’s word. I don’t think that many of the teenage ladies understand just how much knowledge the older members of the church have, both in regard to the Christian life and life in general. We must always be willing to spread God’s word––not just once in a while. We should always be striving to get His word out to non-Christians. We will be mocked and our feelings will get hurt, but we will be leaving a wonderful legacy and our words could influence someone to search the scriptures and learn God’s word. And through all the mocking, the tears, and the anger, if we help influence someone we love to become a Christian and want to live faithfully for God, then it’s all worth it.

“So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” – Nehemiah 8:8

By Alyssa Sturgill

Back to School Help

It’s time for school to start again. No more time for sleeping in and having all day to procrastinate on projects. We will begin to focus much of our minds on getting supplies, finishing up our summer work, and getting new clothes (which really isn’t bad…). We’ll be overtaken with getting everything ready, eventually starting school, and doing the homework from the early “starting” days of school that our teachers will probably give to us.

Let’s not forget, though, that by finding the time to help others, we uplift our spirits, and theirs, which is especially important amid the temptation and sin in the world today.

Since school is getting ready to start, I’ve decided to offer a way that we can help other kids who might not be as fortunate as some of us by giving them school supplies. You don’t even need to track down someone who you think needs the help because you can simply pick up the supply list from a school.

I went to the Dollar General store and got a girl’s backpack (they only had girls’, no neutral), thirty eraser caps, twelve colored pencils, six mechanical pencils, a portable pencil sharpener, two folders, and glue. The most expensive thing I bought was the backpack. I spent about $9 total on this project. That’s pretty good, especially considering how much we tend to spend on our own school supplies. I also looked around my house for things that I knew I would never use. For example, unsharpened wooden pencils. If you have any loose-leaf paper at home, you can take that too. I took the supplies to the local primary school and said that I’d like to donate the backpack and everything in it to the school to be given to a child who needed it. You might want to call a school in your area and ask them if they accept donations.

Don’t be discouraged if you can’t drive yet, or feel like you’re too busy. If you can’t drive yet, just ask your parent(s) to take you, and if you feel like you’re too busy, wait until the weekend, buy the supplies, and take your donations to school on Monday. Most of us feel too busy to help, but we still need to consider others and make time for them, or Satan will be able to entice us to always use the “too busy” excuse.

According to Matthew 6:3-4, we are commanded to give to the poor, without announcing to everyone what we are doing. “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” We can help others more than we know. We need to consider others to be as important as ourselves. God has given us time, and we need to give some of that back to Him, and use that time to show others who He is.

By Alyssa Sturgill

Grass Today, Gone Tomorrow!

Summer is here! The temperature is rising and the sun is shining brighter than ever. Now is the time for pulling weeds, mowing grass, and planting flowers. Summer work is some of the most challenging work to be done. There is a lot of strenuous activity that goes into yard work. But for now, mowing grass is the topic. Not all girls know how to cut grass, or even how to start the mower. That’s okay, really it is. Hopefully this article will help you in this area—not only to do the work, but also to keep from hurting yourself in the process.

First, find a mower that works. Yes, very obvious, but very important. You also want to scan the grass for items like dog toys, or anything that your parents might have to make it look pretty, such as young trees and plants—which can often happen to look very similar to weeds! In my yard, my mom put a lighthouse, two stone dogs that say “welcome,” a little squirrel, and a little bunny. I really have to make sure and look carefully, because she adds stuff all the time. Also, as obvious as it sounds, be sure to watch out for children. Children are often outside in the spring and summer, and this is a season when there are many outdoor accidents involving children. There should be no children around you when you are mowing!

When the scanning is done, make sure the mower is full of gas. It’s very frustrating when you’re mowing grass and your mower suddenly dies on you. Look inside the tank to check if you can see any gas, then shake it to see if any comes out. Fill the tank up a little, see if it overflows, then fill it up (slowly) until it reaches the top. Don’t worry if you go over. Just shake the mower and let the excess gas slosh on the mower. It’s meant to be dirty, and it’ll dry.

For push mowers, hold down the bar at the handle of the mower, pull the “pull start” (yes, that’s what it’s called, and it’s the cord to the right of the handlebar) hard and fast. Don’t pull the cord out; just pull hard and fast enough to start it. Pull it two or three times. If the mower still doesn’t start, go to the right (or left) side of your mower—there will be a red button that says “prime.” Push it two or three times, then hold the bar down and try to start the mower again. If you can do that, you’re pretty much good to go.

If you have a riding lawn mower, most of them start with a “key-switch.” It’s basically the same as an ignition switch on a car. Before starting the mower, push on the brake/clutch and start the mower. Then set the gear you want (there are five speeds and reverse), very gently let out the clutch; you’ll start moving, and you just go from there. A good speed to start out with is usually a three, unless your grass is really tall, and then you want to slow down so that you can thin out the grass more. Before cutting, adjust the height of the mowing deck (hold in the clutch while doing this so that the deck isn’t bouncing all over the place with the mower on). The same cutting principles apply as with a push mower. There is usually an “engage” button that starts the blades spinning. If your mower has this, then make sure you flip the button, otherwise the blades won’t spin and you won’t cut grass (the mower usually get louder when the blade is running). When finished cutting, disengage blades, raise the mowing deck to the highest position, and put away the mower.

Push the mower (in a line). When you come to the end of your line, push down on the handlebar to pivot the mower on its rear wheels. When you’re going back and cutting a new line, line your mower up with your old line. Keep the mower overlapping the old line just in case you missed some grass. Always overlap the end of the lines—or you’ll find out that you have to start the mower all over again just for that little bit of grass (riding lawn mowers included).

NEVER cut in the rain or cut wet grass! This is very important! If you want to get the grass cut, and you feel that you have to do it, just wait until the grass is dry. If you try to cut wet grass, it’ll stick to the bottom of the mower and the blades, damaging it. For those of you who have “bag” mowers, your job will be difficult and messy if you DO cut wet grass. The grass will come out in clumps, and will require you to shovel it out with your hand in order to empty the bag. If you do catch a wet patch and your grass does clump anyway, wear gloves (rubber gloves are fine)—unless you really want to be “out-doorsie” and use your bare hand. When cutting around trees, water lids, or sewage lids, pivot the mower (just like when you’re turning it around) cautiously around them to get all the grass.

That’s about it. It’s not an easy job, or one that you can put off for too long (or else the grass will get thicker, causing people with bag mowers to empty a lot more often), but it’s a good job that helps build arm and leg muscles (believe me!). Perhaps most importantly, it’s also something simple enough to do for someone who’s lost, or a sick shut-in. You’d be amazed at how something as simple as cutting someone’s grass will mean to them.

“I have showed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35

By Alyssa Sturgill

Closet Cleanup

Many Christians would love to start helping other people who aren’t able to do certain things. However, many don’t know where to start, or are too shy, and they often ask, “How do I start?” or “What if I can’t afford it?” There is one place we can begin. We can start by encouraging our shut-ins and the sick in our congregations. We can let them know that we’re there for them, that we miss them, and that we can’t wait to see them worshiping with us again.

To help out and spark ideas of your own, we have come up with some easy, cheap ways to help other Christians stay encouraged! For every issue of this part of the magazine, we’ll come up with projects to help, encourage, love, and get to know other people. We won’t leave anyone hanging—we’ll do the projects ahead of time to make sure that they’re exactly what they’re supposed to be—encouragement to others!

Our first project—and a great way to kick off the summer—is cleaning out one of our closets. Since I (Alyssa) came up with this idea, we cleaned out mine—and what an adventure it was! It was like Christmas! We found things of mine that I forgot I had!

To start, I suggest making three sorting piles. First, have an area designated for donation. This is a great category to have when you’re cleaning out your closets, or any other area of your house. Be realistic about what you can do without. Are you really going to wear that outdated skirt again? Does it even fit? If you plan on fitting into it in a year, will you even want it then? One of the best questions: Will you really miss it if it’s gone? And most of these questions can apply to more than just clothes. How about all those random papers you can’t seem to get rid of? Can you at least compile the information? Next, have a stack for keeping. Make sure it all has a purpose or significance. And it needs to fit back neatly where you’re going to put it. If there’s anything that goes elsewhere in the house, get it back to where it belongs. The third area is very simple: a trash bag. Throw stuff away! This includes anything that is not worthy of donating. If you really wouldn’t want something in its condition, no one else will either. Toss, toss, toss.

After we cleaned out my closet, we took our donation pile to the Goodwill. There are other places you can donate besides this—children’s homes, women’s shelters, clothing drives, and more. Check out your area for places collecting specific items. If your parents can’t take you right away, wait until they’re going out and ask for a ride. If you had a friend help you with the project, you can ask that friend if her parents can take you instead. Like we said, this project is very simple to start the summer out with, doesn’t take too much planning, is very cheap, and is absolutely worth the rewards!

“Go your way selling whatever you have and give to the poor and you will have a treasure in heaven; And come, take up the cross, and follow me.” Mark 10: 21

By Alyssa Sturgill and Rebekah Davis