Christmas

Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child

Packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child has been one of my favorite Christmas traditions for a long time. When I was young, I got such a thrill out of buying gifts (with my parents money of course) for another child! I dreamed about the look on their face when they opened up their box and found all of the wonderful gifts I had so carefully picked out for them! I knew that they would treasure each item they received and be so thankful for the generosity of someone they would never meet.

Each year I wonder about the child that will receive the box I packed for them. Where do they live? What is their life like? Will they share these gifts with siblings? What do their parents do? Do they have parents?

I image they wonder the same things about me. They might ask what possessed a stranger to send presents to a child they’ll never know.

The church Brad and I attend, Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Liberty, MO, has just finished a series over generosity – about living a life of generosity with our money, time, talents, and possessions because of the radical generosity God has showed us by sending His son Jesus Christ to die for our sins so that we might have fellowship with Him.

Packing my OCC box yesterday brought the truths the pastors of PV have spoken over the past few weeks to a reality for me. Acts 20:35 says that Jesus teaches us “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” But how often are we greedy with our money and time! How quickly I forget the joy that comes from giving a child a box full of goodies, or the blessing I receive when opening my home to the girls in my community group! Our selfishness creeps in and whispers, You can’t spend that $20! Or, You’ve been so busy lately, you don’t have time to meet with that girl. Remember, the Enemy is the Great Deceiver.

God is certainly teaching me a lesson in generous living during this season of giving and receiving. I pray that these truths may not be forgotten once the calendar marks 2015, but that my life would be marked by generosity through Christ.

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Our Christmas Week

Our Christmas week included baptisms, hospital visits, Christmas carols, a death, time with family, gifts, a funeral, and a new dog. Now as I sit in our home in Springfield I feel as if we finally got off the emotional roller coaster we had been on since last Saturday.

Many people have asked me how my Christmas was, to which I replied some version of Oh, it was a crazy week, because no one wants to hear that your Christmas included a funeral. My grandma’s husband, Frank, passed away on Christmas Eve. He had been battling poor health for several years now, and we had been expecting his passing for a while, but it is still difficult to deal with loss during Christmas time. However, we are joyous that he is now with The Lord, and no longer has to endure the physical obstacles he had faced for the past few years. Also, we were blessed to have two of his kids join in on our family Christmas. My favorite moment of the week was in my grandma’s basement with all of our family singing Christmas carols, led by my dad and husband before we read the Christmas story from Luke 2 and opened gifts. It was such a special experience and we decided to make it a new family tradition.

christmas carols

It was a difficult week, but I was constantly reminded of God’s goodness. I’m incredibly blessed to have a family that trusts in the Lord, and a husband that leads me with gentleness and truth.

You can read Frank’s obituary here.

Brad and I experienced a lot of joy this week as well! Our week began at Freshwater Church, Bolivar, where we had our first baptism service! God had been so good during these first four months as a church and it was so exciting to celebrate four people’s lives that have been changed because of the gospel! We also had a wonderful visit with both of our families. We even got a TV (thanks Lea!!)!

But our favorite Christmas gift was one that we had not expected at all! On Christmas we got together with Brad’s mom’s family at his grandmother’s house. His grandmother is getting married and moving soon, so she was looking for someone to take her dog. Brad and I have been wanting a dog, and we’ve always loved hers, so we called our landlord to see if it was okay if we got a dog. He said it was fine, so we picked her up the next day! Her name is Libby and she is a little cutie. She is 3/4 dachshund and 1/4 miniature pincher, so she mostly looks like a wiener dog, but not as long. We think she is dealing with a little bit of separation anxiety right now, but other than that she’s doing really well! She’s one of the most chill dogs ever and is mostly content to just sit by you (or on you). I’m sure you’ll be seeing plenty of her on my Twitter and Instagram!

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I hope that you had a wonderful time with family and friends this Christmas. I pray that you experienced the joy of giving, and the blessing of Emmanuel, Christ with us, this year.

Bartlett Christmas Card

Merry Christmas from the Bartletts!

merry christmas

We were considering whether or not to send Christmas cards, because let’s be honest, they’re kind of expensive, and most of the people that we would send Christmas cards to keep up with this blog, so people already know what we’ve been up to for the past year! So instead of sending cards out, we are doing this blog post. Brad will be joining me on this post and he will be writing in italics.

I will be writing in italics.

Okay here we go! (Also I’ll link to any past blogs I refer to if you want to read more.)

That way, she gets more views.

This was our first full year living in Springfield and as a married couple. We traveled, made new friends, tried new things, and helped plant a church.

For spring break, we decided to take a little road trip to Memphis, TN (I did two posts about this trip. You can see them here and here). It was close enough to drive and neither of us had ever been there before.

It ended up being the most expensive trip EVER!

Brad is right. On our way home back into town our car unexpectedly broke down. Zena the ZX2 had seen its last days.

Fortunately, the Lord is good and we found a great new-to-us car. It’s name is The Blueberry, our first big purchase as a married couple.

Except for that ring!

New car!!

This summer, we had the pleasure of being in two weddings. We both did the scripture reading in Matt and Molly’s wedding, and Brad was a groomsman in his friend Tyler’s wedding.

matt and molly

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(I just noticed I wore the same dress to both weddings. Haha)

We also went to Silver Dollar City like, a million times. We made sure to ride every roller coaster each time we went, and always ended our day with a funnel cake. How we didn’t throw up each time is beyond me. We went enough times that we got a super cool Christmas tree ornament!

funnel cake

sdc

One thing that Brad and I have always enjoyed doing together is running. We spent many evenings running at the wellness center at SBU when we were first dating. A year ago, we did a mile-a-day challenge in which we ran at least one mile every day during the month of December. That month was a great kick-starter into a year of fitness. We ran several 5Ks together this year and after pushing ourselves all summer and into the fall, we both met big goals. Brad ran his first HALF MARATHON!! And in helping him train, I was able to make it to 6 miles! I really appreciate having a husband that pushes me to be fit and healthy! A few years ago, neither of us would have thought that we would be able to run as far as we have.

half marathon!

It felt so great to finally reach such a big milestone! It was tough, but crossing that finish line made it all worth it.

We plan to run a half marathon together sometime in 2014!

This fall, we got to take another little road trip. Brad is an admissions counselor at SBU, so he has to travel to college fairs in his territory for a couple of months in the fall. He happened to have a college fair in Illinois during my fall break, so I got to go with him! This time SBU provided a rental car, so we didn’t have to worry about a repeat of our first road trip this year.

I got the chance to rent several awesome cars, and travel to some more great places throughout the Midwest. This was my longest trip of the season, so Katelyn’s fall break fell at a great time.

On our way home from Illinois, we were able to stay in St. Louis for one night. We went to the City Museum, which was really fun!

I was able to finally conquer some height-fear issues.

Then we were able get together with my old friend Lauren and her husband before we headed back to Springfield. It was a nice getaway. You can read more about the trip here.

city museum

Another huge part of our lives this year has been Freshwater Church.

The past year has been a blur when it comes to Freshwater Church. It seems like only yesterday that myself and a couple of men from Bolivar were sitting in a Panera Bread, dreaming of what a church in northern Springfield would look like. Now we have been meeting for over a year, and have had more than a hundred people enter our doors. It’s been a huge blessing to do life with these people, and in our next (and what will likely be our last) six months we are excited to see what the Lord will do with Freshwater Church Springfield.

Freshwater

My time at MSU is quickly coming to a close as I am about to begin my last semester of grad school. (Read about it here and here.) I’m finishing up my first publication right now and I plan to publish one more time sometime in the spring. My time at MSU has been a huge blessing and I’m so thankful for the people that I’ve met there and what I’ve learned. I’ll be sad to leave when I graduate, but I’m excited to see what is next!

Best of all, I’ve had awesome labmates!

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I also got to teach a class of all Chinese students from Qingdao University. It was a huge challenge, but such a blessing to teach them. It was so fun to get to know them and to see them learn over the semester. Getting to teach has been one of my favorite things about grad school. I’d love to get to teach again in the future.

A few more highlights of the year have been having Brad’s sister here in Springfield with us as she goes to MSU, my brother Dylan now plays baseball for Pittsburg State University, we went to our first marriage conference in February, our hometown Kansas City is actually having a great year sports-wise, and we got super obsessed with the TV show Parks and Rec this year.

Brad and I have one more week of work and school, then we are headed to KC for Christmas! We are blessed to get a week and a half break.

From us to you, we want to wish you all a very merry Christmas! May you be blessed to end the year with great memories as well. We can’t wait to see where 2014 takes us, and you can count on us sharing it with you!

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Christmas Bags, a family tradition

I love holiday family traditions. I was blessed to grow up in a great community of families. At Christmas time, everyone usually buys presents for their family members, but my family also wanted to show our friends how much we love and appreciate them by giving them bags full of Christmas goodies. This tradition began one year when my family arrived home to find a Christmas popcorn bowl full of treats from my mom’s good friend Carrie. We were so blessed by this surprise that we decided to make it a tradition of our own. Each year we would spend a Saturday in December in the kitchen making breads, cookies, and chocolate covered pretzels. We would buy plain brown paper bags to decorate, then my brother and I would deliver them in person.

There are so many aspects about this Christmas tradition that I love. Your family friends get something to munch on during the Christmas season, we spent quality time together as a family making and filling the bags, and my brother and I got the joy of chatting with our friends and wishing them a Merry Christmas when we dropped off their bags.

As Brad and I began building our own family traditions, I knew that this was one I wanted to continue for not only Brad and me, but also with our children in the future.

Growing up, we had too many family friends to make bags for all of them, so we switched it up every year. Brad and I have adopted this part of the tradition too. It’s so hard to decide who to give them to, but what a great problem to have! We’re so blessed to have such a great community here in Springfield.

We had a blast making and handing out our bags this weekend. This year we are filling our bags with banana bread, white and milk chocolate covered pretzels, candied nuts, and peanut butter Special K bars (my aunt Lori’s specialty).

Pretzels, YUM!

more pretzels!

For the Carringtons

I encourage you to make this a family tradition of your own, or even to try it just this year! There are endless people to bless with Christmas goodies: friends, family, neighbors, pastors, coaches, teachers, babysitters, your mechanic, the pharmacy, your bank, or the baristas at your favorite coffee shop. It’s a great way to spend time as a family and to bless those that are important to you during this season of giving!

6 Themed Gift Ideas

I love a good themed gift! It’s the perfect solution for when you aren’t sure what to get someone.

Here are a few theme ideas for this Christmas season!

1. Food. This is a great one for guys in college. Load them up on all their favorite snack food! Pringles, Cheetos, candy, pop… the possibilities are endless!

2. City. Center your gift around a cool city. Barnes and Noble have really cool coffee table books about major cities that are really fun to look through. I also love poster-maps like these

new york map

3. Sports team. The go-to would be to get a jersey or t-shirt, but try to think outside of the box! A cool car sticker, a book about the history of the team, or a picture of the team’s stadium are a couple of ideas. I like this one of the KC Royals Kauffman Stadium.

KC Royals

4. Breakfast. I love this one. Probably because I love breakfast. Include breakfast bars, gourmet coffee, creamer, yummy bread, jam, and a coffee cup! This is a really unique themed gift that I think will be a big hit.

5. Childhood. This is another great one for guys. Every guy still has a little kid in him. Buy him a Lego set, a wiffle baseball bat and ball, a Nerf gun, or a bag of water balloons. Get creative!

6. Crafts. Crafting supplies can get expensive! Stock up your crafter on washi tape, ribbons, scrapbook paper, scissors, felt, glue sticks, and yarn. Stroll the aisles of Hobby Lobby or Joann’s and it won’t take long to have a basket full of supplies that your crafty friend will love.

The key to themed gifts is thinking outside the box! Have fun creating your own themed gift!

35 Christmas Date Ideas

Christmas Date Ideas

My husband and I love Christmas time. I was brainstorming some fun things we could do this holiday season and I thought I’d share some of them! Merry Christmas!

1. Hot chocolate and Christmas movie marathon.

2. Make Christmas ornaments.

3. Bake Christmas cookies for your friends and coworkers.

4. Go to your local Mayor’s Christmas Tree Lighting.

5. Decorate your Christmas tree together.

6. Memorize the Christmas story together.

7. Talk about your favorite Christmas memories.

8. Go Christmas shopping for your families.

9. Wrap presents together.

10. Go to a local church’s Christmas musical or play.

11. Drive around and look at Christmas lights. (Last year, Brad and I made an “award” for the best Christmas lights in Springfield. Once we decided on the house with our favorite lights, we left it at the house for the owners to find!)

12. Buy ugly Christmas sweaters from a thrift store.

13. Go on a nighttime walk in the park (ideally in the snow).

14. Drive through your local Christmas lights display.

15. Make home-made gifts instead of buying this year.

16. Volunteer at a local food pantry or soup kitchen. (The Springfield Salvation Army is looking for volunteers this season!)

17. Make paper snowflakes.

18. Go to your local symphony or ballet.

19. Learn to play and sing your favorite Christmas songs.

20. Make a list of Christmas traditions for your family.

21. Make a gingerbread house.

22. Watch the Christmas episodes of all your favorite shows.

23. Go ice skating.

24. Go to a local Christmas Parade of Homes. (Midtown Springfield is having a home tour the first weekend of December!)

25. Chop down your own Christmas tree at a local Christmas tree farm.

26. Write a Christmas card letter about the past year to send your extended family.

27. Decorate sugar cookies.

28. Visit a live nativity.

29. Make home-made Christmas cards.

30. Have a “summer in December” date and go swimming at an indoor pool.

31. Run a holiday 5K. (Like the Turkey Trot or Silver Dollar City’s Race to the Lights.)

32. Watch old Christmas movies like It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, and White Christmas.

33. Go to a local Christmas pageant or play.

34. Go to a Christmas parade.

35. Go Christmas caroling at a nursing home.

Look for Christmas events going on in your town! Christmas only comes once a year, so enjoy it!

December

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Our first married Christmas was a great one! Here are some highlights:

We attempted the Mile A Day Challenge this December. I have to admit that we didn’t make it out to run everyday :( Sigh… I know. So lame. We missed the days we were in Kansas City for Christmas. We had planned to run everyday we were there, but with all the fooooooood…… and the freeeeeeeeeezing temperatures…… it got really difficult. I’m actually still ahead of schedule for making it to 31 miles this month, because I’ve ran more than one mile some days, BUT the point of the challenge was to make it everyday, so I am still a little disappointed in myself. I’m planning on trying to do it another month next year.

I got a little crafty this month! I made garland from some old hymnals and felt ornaments for our tree. It was fun making our little home Christmasy!

One of my favorite things about the season is the Christmas lights! We checked out some around town and at the best place to see Christmas lights, Silver Dollar City!

We had a lot of fun going to double the family Christmases this year! It was exhausting, but definitely worth it! We had a blast playing games, eating food, and playing my grandma’s old accordion. It was an especially exciting Christmas this year because we got to have fun with my cousin’s six month old!

All in all a memorable Christmas. We’re looking forward to many more Decembers together!