Happy New Year 2013!

It’s been a while since I blogged. We were busy the last couple of months of 2012. My sister and her family came to visit us for two weeks for Thanksgiving. I had not seen them for almost 2 1/2 years — and that visit was for my step-father’s funeral and was a short time together. We toured many museums and had so much fun watching the cousins together.

Christmas was wonderful. I often feel overwhelmed at Christmas with all that has to be done, but this year seemed very smooth and was so much fun. We entertained a few times in December, having students out twice, having our small group over, and hosting friends two or three times for dinner. One dinner party was unexpected and planned on short notice, but those seem always to be the easiest and best kind.

My husband’s family were all out of town this Christmas, so we enjoyed a quieter one with my mom. I’m so glad she moved here this year and is getting to spend a few weeks with us while the family that has rented the house to her are back in town for their Christmas vacation. It’s been great!

So now we enter a new year. I don’t like to leave the last year without some kinds of reflections and enter the new one without having a theme.

A few reflections for 2012:

I never did update after I took the 10 day prayer challenge in October about how my heart was being deceived. At first, I anticipated a specific answer each day, but there were 2 specific answers during that time. One was the blog post I wrote about bridling my tongue. That has continued to come to mind more times than I can count when I am in conversation. It has been an important truth for me to remember and an area where I can continue to grow.

The other answer came over several days and seemed to be a highlight of those days of prayer. It was a verse that showed up in both of my Bible studies during that time. And it was a verse I saw on Facebook and in other places during those days. It was this:

Matthew 16:24-25:

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

There were specific ways this was applicable to me at that time. Isn’t this such the reverse of what we would naturally desire? Self-denial, carrying a cross, losing our lives? But it’s in embracing those things as we follow Jesus that we really discover our lives and true joy! My heart can deceive me in these kinds of things.

So those were some meaningful verses for me in 2012.

Some “Favorites” from 2012:

A favorite song was 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman. The third and last verse will always remind me of our friend who went to be with the Lord in 2012.

Some Bible studies I enjoyed in 2012 were Beth Moore’s study of James, Beth Moore’s study of Esther that I did on my own and finally finished last night!, and the Bible studies we did at church on the minor prophets (spring) and the Storyline of the Bible (fall).

This is when it’s fun to keep a blog and scroll through some of the events from the last year and remember different things, from speaking at Women’s Bible Study in the spring, to the third book in my husband’s trilogy being released this summer, to knee surgery in the fall, to seeing our friend go to be with the Lord. It’s good to trace the journey of life through these seasons and record God’s hand at work in each of them.

Entering 2013, I don’t yet have a theme for the year. Last year it was prayer. I’ll give this some thought over the next few days and see what emerges. I am going to try to read through the Bible in a year. I’ve tried before, but never actually done it! This is the book I am using:

I’m very excited and enjoyed the first day today! We’ll see how it goes!

Happy New Year to whoever stumbles upon this blog! May you be blessed in the new year and know the joy of following Jesus daily.

2012 Theme: Prayer

It’s Friday, January 13, and I’m sitting at the park while the kids and a friend sled. We finally got our first big snow of the winter. January 12 was pretty late for it to arrive, but this Southerner has enjoyed the first warmer winter since I’ve lived here, now 10 years! We had temperatures in the 50s just two days ago! I stood in the sun outside talking to a friend and loved every minute of it.

The last few years I’ve had a theme for the year. Last year it was the Lord as my Shepherd. Every year, it’s such a blessing to ponder a theme, study more, and it seems to go with the circumstances of the year.

Last year as I was faced with a decision I didn’t know how to make, I realized I wanted to know the end answer immediately. But I had to trust that God knew that answer, and I simply needed to let Him show me one step at a time, to lead me as my Shepherd. Over the course of a few months, it became obvious and unmistakable what His plan was. He led me step by step, revealing just what I needed for each moment.

My theme this year is prayer. I had been in a bit of a rut lately, and two days ago, I finally took time to pray. I was amazed at the things that happened that very day after specifically praying about some things. I asked the Lord for wisdom about a friend, and she literally emailed me less than an hour later telling me the very answer I had prayed about!

I had asked him some things about purpose, like “am I missing anything?” I see some of my friends doing amazing things, adopting, moving around the world — and I was wondering if I was being faithful and pursuing all He wanted me to. It seemed so clear as people came to mind that the Lord was wanting me just to be faithful to the ones He has put in my path.

I needed to go out to get some books at the library, and ordinarily when I need to do that, I just go at lunch. But I decided to go out at 10:30 a.m. I debated this back and forth, this out of the ordinary timing. I was so close to turning around. But I went, and when I arrived at the library and parked, a lady was by her car beside me. When she turned around, we both looked at each other shocked. She is someone I haven’t seen in a while, who doesn’t live in the area, who I only knew through a previous work relationship. She went on to share some heavy burdens, and she said she had thought about calling me to pray for her. She felt sure God had brought us into each other’s path that day. And of course, I had no doubt about that. It was an answer to prayer.

I also was convicted by something the Lord had shown me to do in the past, children He has me outreach to, and its been awhile since I took the initiative. So today at the park, we are all together again, 3 sledding while one sits with me playing on the iPhone. I canceled dental appointments for my kids so we could invite them today after school.

Prayer. God used prayer to open my eyes to things I would have overlooked. He hasn’t asked me personally (at least yet!) to go on the mission field or adopt, though I can love and support those who do, but He has placed before me people to love and encourage, alongside my commitment to my family and my work. I am thankful that the Lord is gracious to lead me as my Shepherd, and I pray I will have ears to hear and eyes to see where He is leading. I pray I will pray with consistency and belief that those moments are powerful and effective because of Him.

A quote from Spurgeon to end: “Prayer must not be our chance work, but our daily business, our habit and vocation. As artists give themselves to their models, and poets to their classical pursuits, so must we addict ourselves to prayer. We must be immersed in prayer as in our element, and so pray without ceasing. Lord, teach us so to pray that we may be more and more prevalent in supplication.”

Happy New Year 2012!

We’ve had a really nice Christmas and New Year. We spent the entire 2-week break in town this year, which is unusual, but it was the most relaxed break I think we’ve had in years! We got a lot done around the house, spent a lot of time with family and friends, stayed up late, slept in, and truly rested!

The worship services at church were the highlight for me this Christmas season. It was a blessing to have church on both Christmas Eve (we went to the candlelight service) and on Christmas Day. After preparing for weeks for Christmas in all the ways that it requires, and enjoying Advent services and the Christmas Carol service along the way, to finally sit at church and rest from the busyness that the season brings and arrive at the reason for it all just fills my heart with great joy! Aaahh, we finally made it to THIS moment, to this time to worship. And to have Christmas Day on a Sunday — I would love that every year!

Surely as my heart and mind reflected on Advent in the weeks prior to Christmas, I worshiped, I hope. But for some reason, it always feels like a bit of a forced exercise for me during the season of Advent to try to read Advent books and keep up the reflection on Christmas. This must sound like an awful admission, but I find myself longing for all the other days of the year where I more naturally want to seek Him without it being in a more prescribed way. And yet I’m thankful that the reflection on Christ’s birth gives opportunity to people for more outreach and evangelism in ways that are unique to this time of year. It seems people are more giving and thinking more of others at Christmas, and all of that is good.

As I think about resolutions, it’s easy to want to say I’ll exercise more and eat better, but it occurred to me that maybe my resolutions don’t have to be centered on me. What about what I can do for others? Just something I’m thinking about as we enter the 2nd week of the year!

We struggled to get a good picture in front of the tree this year. This one will do, I suppose. 

I haven’t blogged in a while, and I don’t feel real eloquent tonight. I figure if you skip blogging on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year, you may not be a real blogger. 😦

I’ll try to gather my thoughts and write about my theme for the new year when I can. But for now, Happy New Year.

Slow Down

One of the messages of this past year for me has been to “slow down.” I can’t remember how it exactly started, but I believe it was a song:

Teach me to number my days
and count every moment before it slips away
take in all the colors before they fade to gray
I don’t want to miss even just a second more of this

It happens in a blink, it happens in a flash,
It happens in the time it took to look back,
I try to hold on tight, but there’s no stopping time,
What is it I’ve done with my life?
It happens in a blink.

Slow down, slow down, before today becomes our yesterday.
Slow down, slow down, before you turn around and it’s too late.

I remember the words “slow down” speaking so clearly to me. If I’d leave work and have something on my mind, I’d hear the song and realize I needed to let it go and focus on what was in front of me at home.

I was dropping my son off at his piano lessons one afternoon, and as I was walking across the street, I looked up at the store window that sells tea and such, and there in the window were the large words, “SLOW DOWN.” They weren’t there the next week; they were there though the day I needed to see them.

During our pastor’s sermon a week or two ago, I caught it when he clearly mentioned “Slow Down.” I remembered again the message this year that I had kept wanting to overlook. Because sometimes, slowing down means letting go of things we feel better at or things we enjoy doing in order to do the things that don’t come as easy (training children!). But it’s what my children need, and it’s what I need.

I don’t know that I’ve done a great job of assessing what it looks like for me to slow down, but as the year has gone on, it seems to be happening. This week has been our spring break, and I’ve enjoyed the days with my children, doing things we haven’t done together in quite some time, focusing on them, not just being physically present with them, but being there in the moment with them.

One thing I haven’t been able to get off my mind this week: a family we knew from our time in Virginia who were in our Sunday school class lost their son, a freshman at University of VA, in a tragic fall at the university Sunday night. They are now missionaries in Ireland, but the dad was in Charlottesville that weekend. He went to church with his son, they spent the afternoon together, went to dinner and a show with grandparents, and ended the evening around 10 when they dropped off the son at the dorms. His last words to his dad were, “I love you, dad.” Apparently, he went out then with some friends, and less than an hour and a half later, he was dead from a tragic fall. This same family lost another grandson in a drowning accident 2-3 years ago. I have been praying for them all week and trusting this is not in vain, that God knew the days ordained for this young man, and that He has good and perfect purposes. I am praying for their comfort, for his two brothers, for his precious parents and grandparents, that they are able to see even now some of the reasons and ways God is glorified in something that from man’s perspective is so harsh and tragic.

As my son played trick after trick on me today for April Fool’s Day (seems 12-year old boys especially enjoy things like short sheeting the bed, putting salt on toothbrushes, pretending to splash you with water, and such), I was reminded to just enjoy him and enjoy his joy in the fun.

I am excited about the days ahead and learning more what it means to “slow down” and finding the outcomes of what this means for our family.

**UPDATE**

I just finished this blog post and had to take my husband’s car to get a headlight replaced. As I walked to the porch to get my shoes, I found them with shaving cream in them! The jokes continue, and I try to remain glad!

On the way back home, we drove past this sign in a yard and it seemed timely:

The Lord is My Shepherd

Each new year, I try to choose a theme to reflect on for the coming year. In 2009, it was “the fear of the Lord.” In 2010, it was “God is Light.” I am always amazed at how much comes up during the year when focusing on a theme like this and how every time it comes up, I see something from a different angle.

Until this week, I hadn’t finalized my theme for 2011, though I had considered a “Shepherd” theme. In early December, I was praying through Psalm 23 one morning and read John 10:7-18 about Jesus being our good Shepherd. The good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep, knows His sheep and they know Him, and knows His Father. There is One Shepherd, and His sheep hear His voice.

On December 26, I wrote in my journal that I was considering this “Shepherd” theme for 2011. I read I Peter 2:25 and Ezekial 34 and thought about God as the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.

Well, the year got started and I had not formalized anything more on my theme, sort of jumping right into the new year. But my heart this week had been very restless and unsettled. I needed peace. I needed my mind to be calm and controlled by the Spirit. I went to work Wednesday, feeling tired and needy. I asked the Lord to give me a Word from Him because of my restlessness.

I went to chapel (at the school where I work) for the first time in a while. The chaplain to my surprise spoke on Psalm 23. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”

I loved those words of refreshment, restoration, reminding me of the confidence I have in Him that He is worthy of all my trust. He leads me in the right path. I have no need with Him.

I felt led to read Psalm 100 before I left the sanctuary. I did not remember that it also speaks of our Shepherd: “Know that the LORD Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.”

Finally, I ended in Ecclesiastes 12:11-14, finding that the words of the wise are given by one Shepherd. I am to fear God and keep His commands.

I’m so thankful for our faithful God who reveals Himself to us through His Word. I now have my theme firmly in place for 2011: the Lord is my Shepherd. I’m looking forward to seeing more how He leads and guides this sheep in the coming year!