Halloween Throughout The Years

I have never been big on Halloween manly because I really don't like dressing up in a costume (or spending my money on a costume).  Even when I was in middle school while my brother and sister (yes, she is older) would go out trick or treating I would pass out candy with my Mom. I can only recall dressing up 2X since my elementary years, both time were not my idea, but I managed to have fun non the less. I was looking through my Mom's old scrapbooks today when I came across several years of Halloween's. There were a few "missing years" but the ones I did find I found pretty fun and I wanted to share!

                                                                               '95 Me
                                                          '95 Me and Kyle and some random
                                                                      '96 Me and Kyle
                                                                 '97 Kyle, Me and Erin
                                                                   '98 Me and Kyle 
                                                                 '98 Erin, Me and Kyle
                                                                 '00 Me, Erin and Kyle
                                                                  '01 Erin, Me and Kyle
                                                              '04 Alexa, Liz and Me
                                                           '04 Erin and her friend Erica
                                                            '10 Christina, Me and Hayley
                                               '10 Me, Christina, Jessie, Kayleen and Abbie

This year I am happy to announce I will once again NOT wear a costume but plan on passing out candy like the good old days in middle school.

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Philanthropy Watch Company

I am fortunate enough to work as a nanny for an amazing couple in Leesburg. They have two of the most beautiful, intelligent and funny little girls I have ever met. I love them to death and thank God everyday for giving me an opportunity to work with such a great family. Honestly I could not say enough good things about them.
Today I received an email from Phillip (the dad) telling me about a new project he has started. Below I attached the email. Please take the time to read it and considering giving to a number of great causes!  

I’ve been involved in fundraising for a number of years now, both with churches and non-profits. Although my consulting business is my main concentration right now, I decided a number of months ago to start a side project that I’m really excited about. 
Well, not only is it a lot of fun for me, but it’s a chance for me to be a part of something that wouldn’t be possible by myself.
I’ve called it Philanthropy Watch Company. And yes, on the surface it is a watch company. However, hopefully you picked up from the name that it is a lot more. Each Philanthropy watch purchase gives 50% of the purchase price to organizations and causes that make a difference. The best part is that the person purchasing the watch gets to choose where their support goes. This not only helps them give back to what is important to them, but it gets them directly involved in making a difference.
So why am I telling you about this?
My goal, although quite big, is to raise $5,000 to be donated through this “giving experiment” by the end of this year. That means I would have to sell roughly 500 watches. The remaining amount of funds will go towards expanding this concept in order to increase this goal for next year.
I need your help!

I thought this was a great idea and wanted to do something to help. These watches could be a great Christmas present, birthday present, or even just a little treat for yourself. Thank you for taking the time to read and considering giving! 

25 Days of Christmas (or 32)

In light of the beautiful snow that is falling outside I have decided to make an early post on the subject of Christmas. I love celebrating things. Whether it's a holiday, a birthday, a graduation, you name it and I can plan a day filled with events celebrating. My favorite day (days) to celebrate happens to be Christmas. I have always been big on Christmas even when I was younger. I was one of those children that believed in Santa and I can still remember when the fantasy came crashing down. My sister and I shared a room for a few years so after we were told to go to bed we would stay awake and do other things, whether it was playing or reading. On this particular night we decide to talk. Erin told me that Santa wasn't real. I of course started freaking out yelling at her and eventually when I couldn't take it anymore I left our room and ventured to the living room where I crawled on my moms lap and told her what Erin had said. That night I learned the truth, but let me tell you, that didn't stop me from pretending to believe for several years. I would still set out cookies and milk (one year I had to set out Doritos chips and came downstairs only to see my Dad eating them. After I told him those were for Santa I refilled the plate and went back to bed. After which I am sure he continued to eat them.) write him letters, and slept on the couch to "catch" him. Eventually I grew out of that and instead grew even more insane about this Holiday. (My mom sent me this link last year and said "This is you." And I have to say it is a pretty good representation: http://youtu.be/eHmJNK7ZwzM ) A few years ago I noticed that ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas was actually terrible, but a good concept. So I took from their well thought idea (not well executed) and began my own 25 Days of Christmas. I began with just movies, which than grew into movies and activities, which has know grown into movies, activities, and baking/cooking. It has also grown from 25 days to 32. Now I would like to say something. I realize Christmas is not all about material things or the commercialism. Christmas is a time to celebrate the Birth of Christ, and in that remembering all Christ did while He walked this earth. I make sure I don't let the true meaning of Christmas disappear. I do this in a few different way. I continue going to church, I do a Christmas bible study everyday, and I make it a priority to talk about the true meaning of Christmas as much as possible, whether it be with my family and friends or a complete stranger that I meet at one of my activities. The true meaning of Christmas is and always will be more important, more special, more beautiful, and more meaningful than anything on my list. I love celebrating Christmas so much not because of the commercialism or gifts but because of my family and friends. Anyone that has met me knows that I am kind of a homebody. My Mom once said like I was like a hermit and my home was my shell, I never wanted to leave it (I have somewhat grown out of this, somewhat). I love my family with all my heart and I love being able to spend time doing things with them, whether it be just watching a movie, baking or going out somewhere. The Christmas season has always felt like the best time to do things with your family because of all the activities that are going on, and everyone seems, well joyful (more willing)! So now that I have (hopefully) made it clear (if not than please talk to me!) that I know, remember, and cherish the true meaning of Christmas and do my 25 (32) Days of Christmas to spend time with family and friends, I can present to you my 25 (32) Days of Christmas List!

25 (Plus more!)
Days of Christmas

24. Movie- Jake Frost
Activity- Make Ornaments
Food: Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie
25. Movie- Aurthur Christmas
Activtiy- Black Friday Shopping
Food: Pumpkin Gingerbread
26. Movie- The Holiday
Activity-Thurmont Christmas Tree Lighting
Food: Majestic Cinnamon Rolls
27. Movie- The Family Man
Activity- Christmas Tree
Food: Grandma Gingerbread Pancakes
28. Movie- Last Holiday
Activity- Decorate The House
Food: Soft Gingersnaps
29. Movie- An All Dogs Christmas Carol
Activity- Decorate My Room
Food: Cinnamon Glazed Butterhorns
30. Ernest Saves Christmas
Activity- Lights Outside
Food: Cinnamon-toffee Croissant Bread Pudding
1. Movie- Surviving Christmas
   Activity- National Christmas Tree Lighting
Food: Holiday Bundt Cake
2. Movie- All I want for Christmas
   Activity- Bethesda Winter Wonderland
Food: Peppermint Bark
3. Movie- Christmas With The Cranks 
   Activity- Christmas in Colonial Williamsburg (Or Miracle on 34th Street)
Food: Fudge
4. Movie- Four Christmases
   Activity- Christmas Parade and National Harbor Outdoor Holiday Market
Food: Gingerbread Cookies
5. Movie- Eloise at Christmas Time
   Activity- Miracle on 34th Street (or Holiday Light Contest)
Food: Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Snowballs
6. Movie- Disney’s A Christmas Carol
   Activity- Sixteenth Gaithersburg Winter Lights Festival
Food: Christmas Buttons
7. Movie- I’ll Be Home For Christmas
   Activity- Get A Picture With Santa
Food: Fudgy Pinwheel Cookies
8. Movie- The Bishop’s Wife
   Activity- Wrap Presents
Food: Chocolate Mint Crinkles
9. Movie- Holiday Inn
   Activity- The Nutcracker
Food: Eggnog Kringla
10. Movie- White Christmas
   Activity- Cristkindlemarkt Bethlehem and Annapolis Christmas Light Boat Parade
Food: Peppermint Cream Tassies
11. Movie- Miracle on 34th Street
   Activity- Erin&Phil Early Christmas
Food: Peppermint Ribbon Cake
12. Movie- Rudolph, Frost and Santa Clause
Activity- Ice Skating
Food: Holiday Pinwheels
13. Movie- A Charlie Brown Christmas & Madagascar Christmas
   Activity- Gaylord National Ice
Food- Tiny Tim Cookies
14. Movie- This Christmas
   Activity- Make Gingerbread House
Food: Chia Tea
15. Movie- Family Stone
   Activity- National Zoo lights, Union Station and DC Holiday Market
Food: Peppermint Truffly Bars
16. Movie- Jingle All The Way
   Activity- Walk Around Downtown Frederick and Christmas Light Drive Through (Or Miracle Of Christmas)
Food: Chocolate Cinnamon Mud Balls
17. Movie- The Polar Express
   Activity- Radio City Christmas Spectacular
Food: Minty Hot Chocolate
18. Movie- Home Alone
   Activity- West Memphis Holiday Lights
Food: Banana Pancake Snowmen
19. Movie- Home Alone 2
   Activity- Living Christmas Tree
Food: Christmas Breakfast Casserole
20. Movie- National Lampoons Christmas Vacation
   Activity- City of Knoxville Holiday On Ice
Food: Merry Christmas Scones
21. Movie- Elf
   Activity- Christmas in Grace Land
Food: Cinnamon Chipper Snickerdoodles
22. Movie- The Santa Clause
   Activity- The Holiday Light Contest
Food: Sugar Cookies
23. Movie- How The Grinch Stole Christmas
   Activity- Enchanted Forest
Food: Peanut Butter Blossoms
24. Movie- It’s A Wonderful Life
   Activity- Drive Through Lights
Food: Chocolate Chip Cookies
Movie- A Christmas Story
Food: Santa Cake

If you wish to to do any of the above with me please feel free to contact me via facebook (or if you know my number)! The more the merrier!

Happy Snow Day!

Luke 2

 The Birth of Jesus
 1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.  4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
   and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

10k-Naval Academy

Once upon a time in the land of Frederick lived two girls. The two girls, Christina and Elise, were best friends. They did everything together. They would go to church together, out to eat together, watch movies together, go on bike rides together, they even went on vacation with each other families! They were inseparable and happy to be so. One of the best parts about their friendship is (and there are many) is that they support each other.

One day Elise decided to sign up for a 10k (6.2 miles) and the Naval Academy on a fall Sunday. Christina being the best friend that she is, agreed to go with Elise and run as well.

The day has arrived. It was 5:45 am when the sound of the alarm clock filled the room. Elise shut both alarm clocks of and turned to Christina and said, "Hey, it's time to get up." Christina made a grunt to which Elise replied, "I kind of almost don't want to get up and go." Christina agreed. They had had a late night due to sleeping in earlier that day. Elise than asked, "But what would our excuse be." Christina replied, "Because I'm tired." "Well that's not a good enough excuse!" "Okay, we'll go." So both Christina and Elise reluctantly rolled out of bed and began to get ready. They were in the car by 630 ready to make the 1:30 drive to Annapolis. But before they even got on the highway they had to stop by Duncan Donuts for some blueberry bagels. The combination of the bagels and music were able to wake both Elise and Christina up.

After Christina and Elise made it to the Naval Academy they checked in and got their bib numbers as well as timing chips. They had some time to spare to they went back to the car and laid down for 20 minutes. The 20 minutes flew by and suddenly it was time to gather at the starting line. The other runners manly concisted of families. From the looks of it there appeared to be 40 adults (at the most) and 40 kids. Everyone began at the same time, however, there were 3 different "races". The first race was a kids fun run, than a 5k, and lastly a 10k.

The beginning of the race started a little congestion but after some weaving, slowing down, picking it back up Elise and Christina settled into their own comfortable pace. For about 4.5 miles of the race Christina and Elise were able to enjoy beautiful views of the Chesapeake Bay.

Side Note: When you take the time to really look at your surrounds and breathtaking views of God's creation it can be overwhelming that you have (or can have if you don't already) a relationship with this powerful God. Not only can you have a relationship with God but He actually WANTS a relationship with us. He doesn't need it by any means, but that's just how much He loves us. It really is overwhelming how good our God is.

Elise finished the race first at 50 minutes, a slight improvement from her previous 10k. (Placed 1st in the 20-29 age group and 13 overall) Elise was happy that she finished and with a better time, but intends to get her time down even more for her next race. Christina finished at 1:10 which was also an improvement from her previous 10k!  Overall it was a great day to run and glorify God.

The End.

This was also my last Sunday race. After some thought I realized I no longer want to run a race on a Sunday. My intention with my running is to glorify God and I don't feel like my skipping church to run is the best way to do that.  Today I read a great sermon on the subject!

(THE IMPORTANCE OF CHRIST’S CHURCH By Don Krow) The Greek word for “church” is ecclesia and literally means an assembly of people together for the purpose of worship or prayer or praise or just looking unto God. Church is not a building nor something that makes you a Christian. The church is an assembly of people coming together for the purpose of looking to Jesus, praising the Lord, to receive direction from the Lord, to follow through with that direction. The primary purpose of the early New Testament church was edification. They met together for the purpose of building each other up in the faith. The early church was an evangelistic church. People were scattered everywhere,sharing their faith in Jesus Christ, and as they did, the Lord added to the church––not to a building—but added to the people of God as they repented and believed. Then they assembled themselves together to encourage one another, to exercise their spiritual gifts,to serve one another, and to have a time of fellowship with one another by sharing a meal together. When they were together, they exercised their spirituals gifts to edify one another. Then they would go out and preach the Word, and the whole cycle would begin again. They believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, and they assembled themselves together. It didn’t matter where they assembled. It could’ve been in a building or someone’s home. It could have been a large amount of people, or it could have been a small number of people meeting in homes. It didn’t really matter, as long as they met together in the name of the Lord for the purpose of exercising their gifts, to encourage one another, and to fellowship with one another with the end result being edification, or building, each other up. No matter what church you go to—no matter if you’re in a denominational church or a non-denominational church, if you are meeting in a mega-church or a small home group—the Scripture is telling us that as you see the Day approaching, and as sin abounds, the grace of God much more abounds. Grace is going to abound within these assemblies of God’s people. In the church where each believer has a part of the ministry of Jesus Christ, you can minister to one another, exhort one another, and encourage one another as you exercise your spiritual gift with one another.
We would all benefit by meeting with a group of believers in this way. Even if it’s just two or three that are meeting in the name of the Lord Jesus, we need to meet together on a regular basis. It is good to meet together to use our spiritual gifts, to exhort one another, to encourage one another, to look to Jesus together, and to pray for one another. There’s a lot we could say about the church. We could talk about the elders, overseers, pastors, and church government, but that’s not the purpose today. The purpose is to know the purpose of the church and to know we do not have to be isolated like one man on an island all to himself. We cannot survive that way. When we received salvation, God put us in the body of Christ––the universal body of believers. We need one another, and we need to meet together as God’s church to encourage one another and serve one another with the spiritual gifts that God has given us. I encourage you, meet together today with God’s people.

Hebrew 10:24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Sprint Triathlon

Background information:
I signed up for the Sprint Triathlon about a month and a half in advance. The sprint consisted of a ½ mile swim, 16 mile bike and 5k run. I had every intention of training that entire month and a half, however that never actually happened. If you've read my first post you know that I began this blog both as a motivational tool and to keep me focused on my purpose of serving and honoring God through all that I do. I am embarrassed/disappointed in myself to admit for the three weeks leading up to the Sprint I slacked off big time. I guesstimated I ran/biked about a total of ten days (10 days MAX) and never once got into a pool. To say I was unprepared is an understatement but I knew that my situation was my own fault, so I decided to suck it up and compete anyway.

Saturday (The night before the race):
The Triathlon was about two hours from my home whereas my sister only lives 40 minutes away. So I, along with my support team (Mom, Dad, Christina, and Hayley) drove down to my sister’s after dinner. The night started off ruff with my Dad insisting on watching football while I tried sleeping on the couch. After insisting he mute the T.V. I passed out. About 2am I woke up to use the restroom (yes this is necessary for me to share). Than at about 3am I woke up to my sister coming home from work and my Mom running down the stairs. Apparently my car was towed in the middle of the night. So after a phone call or two they found out where it was towed and left to go get it.  I was woken up again close to 4 when they returned. Finally I was woken up at 5:30 by my alarm clock. Safe to say it was rough night.

Sunday (Race day):
We got to Smallwood State park about 7am (along with 260 other participants). After I picked up my number and swimming cap I was able to go to the transition area and set up my station. In my area I had my bike, helmet, glasses, towel, shoes and socks and a shirt. All the things I would need after finishing the swim. After setting up we had some downtime so my support team decided to nap while I warmed up and stretched. The time went by quickly so before I knew it I was standing in my wet suite, goggles and cap in hand, staring at the lake. The course seemed a bit confusing and as I eavesdropped on other peoples conversations, the fact that I had not swam prior began to slowly feel like a bigger deal.
Everyone was broken up into three groups. The first group consisted of all men, the next was all women, and finally the third group, my group, consisted of newbie’s (also known as “novice”), athenas, and clydesdales. Each group was separated by 4 minutes so I was able to watch the first two groups and get a feel for what I was about to do. While for some people this may have calmed the nerves it only intensified mine. As I slowly began making my way down the dock the nerves got the best of me and I had to go to the bathroom, which I held the entire race. (Not prepared and a full bladder are two of the worst conditions to be in during a race, ask anyone.) I jumped in the lake and the shock hit me right away. I was reminded of a scene from the Titanic.

Rose: You're distracting me! Go away!
Jack: I can't. I'm involved now. You let go, and I'm, I'm 'onna have to jump in there after you.
Rose: Don't be absurd. You'd be killed!
Jack: I'm a good swimmer.
Rose: The fall alone would kill you.
Jack: It would hurt. I'm not saying it wouldn't. Tell you the truth, I'm a lot more concerned about that water being so cold.
[pause. She looks down at the water. Jack is slowly removing his boots]
Rose: How cold?
Jack: Freezing. Maybe a couple degrees over. You ever, uh, you ever been to Wisconsin?
Rose: What?
Jack: Well, they have some of the coldest winters around. I grew up there, near Chippewa Falls. I remember when I was a kid, me and my father, we went ice fishing out on Lake Wissota. Ice fishing is, you know, where you...
Rose: I know what ice fishing is!
Jack: Sorry. You just seem like, you know, kind of an indoor girl. Anyway, I, uh, I fell through some thin ice; and I'm telling you, water that cold, like right down there...
[He gestures with his chin down toward the Atlantic Ocean]
Jack: ... it hits you like a thousand knives stabbing you all over your body. You can't breathe. You can't think. At least, not about anything but the pain. Which is why I'm not looking forward to jumping in there after you.

So despite my wet suite, the water was freezing. After a minute or two treading water the whistle blew and my group was off. The beginning was a little rough. I got kicked and hit and I’m sure I hit and kicked others but soon the group was separated and other people were no longer my concern. Instead I became concerned about the slimy tangly weeds (I don’t know exactly what they were). Once again I was reminded of another movie, Harry Potter. If you do not wish to enjoy 6 minutes of Harry Potter skip to 5:05. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIQPoRc5Pd0
I got these “weeds” stuck on my hands legs and even face throughout the entire ½ mile swim. I got tired at first but quickly pushed through and finished the swim at 17 minutes. I ran about 200 meters from the lake to the transition area. Getting off the wet suite was a task within itself. My parents both told me I was taking too long as I was changing but I figured they were exaggerating. I took 4:36 which was entirely too long (wish I would’ve remembered to start my watch).
My 16-mile bike ride wasn’t too difficult. Most of the hills were what I call “endurance hills”, not too step but long. Honestly the biking was pretty relaxing (which it probably shouldn’t have been, but hey it was my first time) and I was able to enjoy the views and marvel and God’s creation. I finished the bike ride after 1 hour. I hoped off my bike and was out of the transition section after 55 seconds.
The first mile of my run was again, rough. My calf’s were extremely tight and I was afraid of getting a charlie-horse. As I climbed the first two hills I had a mental battle convincing myself to keep moving and not stop to walk. The other people around me walking made it even more difficult but I fought and soon my legs felt fresh and I was ready to catch some people. I finished the run at 26 minutes with a total time of 1:49.
After grabbing my knees for a couple of seconds, drinking some water and finally using the restroom I felt pretty good. I finished 3rd in the novice group, 8th in my age group, and overall 31st (seconds separated me from placing 27th).  I had the fastest running time in the novice group and the second fastest running time in my age group. 
For not training I was proud of myself but it also made me realize if I had trained I could have done even better. I have learned my lesson.  And I would like to emphasize that without God I know for a fact I would have never finished let alone done as well as I did. "Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” -Matthew 19:26 I am so thankful for my God as well as my amazing support team.
This was my first triathlon and will definitely not be my last.

1 Corinthians 10:31 – Whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.

All photo credit to Christina Nielson and Hayley Nielson!

Merchandise for Missions!

In a previous post I told you guys how I got the amazing opportunity to go on a missions trip to Rwanda and Ethiopia in December. Right now I am in the preparation stage. I am getting my passport, vaccinations, filling out forms and trying to raise support both financially and through pray. Recently visiting orphans announced that store merchandise can now be used for fundraising for my mission trip!!!

It’s easy! All donors have to do is:

1. Visit visitingorphans.org online store featuring shirts, belts, necklaces, bracelets, earrings and passport covers. (There are some truly beautiful items made by widows and orphans who receive a portion of the money which is used as their source of income!)
2. Select an item for purchase.
3. Designate my name for a portion of the donation.

Again, I understand if you are unable to help financially but you are still able to help through pray! 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 4:6-7
And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” Matthew 21:22

Thank you to everyone who is willing and able to support me!