I feel a bit guilty because so many of my friends and family have had a horrible 2016 and are counting down the minutes to kiss this year good riddance. And although I've gone along with these sentiments out of respect for those suffering through 2016, deep inside my heart, this has been one of the best years of my life.
I got married this year...twice actually. Once in Vegas and then celebrated again in the most- amazing-wedding-ever in North Carolina. I got married to a man who has taught me more about love, life and relationships than I thought possible. Life is just such an adventure with him and I can't wait to see where God takes us in the future. I moved twice this year and traveled more than in previous years. We got a puppy and my old dog Reese is still kickin'. (Reese and I have a deal that he is to live until at least the age of 14. I'm glad to report he is holding up his end of the deal.) And I realized true friends remain friends regardless of the distance put between them. I love my tribe!
Although lots of amazing & exciting things have happened this year, there's been way more going on behind the scenes to make this year so great. If you've followed my blog since it's inception, you already know I'm big on New Year resolutions. Next week I'll post 2017 resolutions but today I'm living in the moments of 2016. My resolution this past year was to dedicate more time to prayer, to learn how to be a prayer warrior and to use prayer in a powerful way. And I can't believe everything God taught me through prayer this past year. Prayer has strengthen my faith in God more than ever before and I have a different outlook on life through the lens of prayer.
This time last year, I was getting ready to get married, move to a different state and quit a stable job to start a contracted position without guarantee of a stable income. I started seeking verses about God's plan for my life and claiming them as my own through prayer. God provided more than I needed this year and definitely threw some curve balls to drive His point home, like when we moved to Mississippi unexpectedly. When this news broke in our lives, I was so thankful to have a remote-based job that didn't require a resignation and subsquent search for a job when I needed to move (again). That "unstable" job God provided me, also allowed me the flexibility to drop everything and go be with my sister when she experienced a life crisis and needed help getting things squared away. Clearly, His plan was much better than mine. Thankfully, I spent extra time in prayer learning to trust His plan.
I also asked God to bring people into my life that needed prayer -- and this proved to be an overwhelming experience. God brought many different people into my life but one friend stands out in my mind. A relatively "new" friend of mine was accused of a serious crime and underwent a life-altering investigation. And yet God heavied my heart to pray for her. As the investigation continued, I actually didn't know if she was guilty or innocent but for some reason that didn't seem to matter. Whenever my mind wandered in that direction, I felt God sternly reminding me "I didn't ask you to judge her, I told you to pray for her". So I stopped thinking about her innocence or guilt and just prayed for her. Several months ago she asked me, "Why have you not judged me through this experience? I've lost so many friends and relationships with my family over this accusation and yet you barely know me and you haven't judged me." My reply was simple "It isn't my place to judge you. God told me to pray so my only job is to pray." For months I covered her and her family in prayer and just last week she was cleared of the accusations and life is slowly returning to normal for her. I know her journey has been tough (that's probably a huge understatment!) but I also know God has been with her every step of the way. And I learned, when you ask God to bring people who need prayer to your life, He delivers in a BIG way.
I could list many more examples of situations I prayed over to God and the amazing way He answered my prayers but instead of sharing my examples, I'm challenging you to ask God to show you the power of prayer! But I'm warning you, be ready to stand in awe.
The power of prayer to calm, protect, comfort, and change is beyond words. I've learned to study God's word and claim His word in my prayer.
1 John 5:14, 15
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of Him.
So as I reflect on 2016, I will remember a great year of prayer followed by tremendously blessings like an amazing husband, awesome experience and a crazy puppy.
No matter the circumstances of your 2016, I wish you a very Happy New Year. And thank you for reading my blog for yet another year.
Love, joy and prayers in 2016,
I’ve started thinking about the saying “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” and it just doesn't seem like an appropriate description of Jesus or Christmas anymore. I think it makes Jesus seem small and seasonal. And in my heart, Jesus is just so much more than a reason for a season. For me, He is just the reason…the reason for, well, everything.
Several weeks ago I streamed a sermon when a pastor challenged his church to learn whom Jesus was without using the Bible. The pastor explained that if someone doesn’t believe in Jesus, it is highly improbable he/she believes the Bible so using the Bible to explain Jesus is an act of futility. And as I listened to this pastor use non-biblical references to provide evidence that Jesus was born, died and then lived again, I started to think about who Jesus is to me on a personal level rather than according to the Bible. So I asked myself “Who is Jesus to me?”. And in fact, Jesus actually asked his disciplines the same question:
Matthew 16: 13-15
When Jesus came to region of Caesarea Phillipi, he asked his disclipes, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?”
I accepted my salvation through Jesus at a very young age and grew up being taught about Jesus. And although I’m grateful for my upbringing, I think every adult has to explore their faith and determine who and what they believe independent of their parents and upbringing. Honestly, I didn’t explore my faith until I came across people in my life that didn't believe in Jesus. There is truth to the statement “faith like a child” because believing in Jesus is easy when your parents tell you what to believe and life is relatively simple. As a child grows and is exposed to "life" a.k.a. pain, loss, troubled times, adversity, etc., faith becomes much more challenging. As an adult, I had to dig deep to figure out what it was I believed (as opposed to what my parents believed) and why I believed it. And after digging, studying and reflecting, Jesus remained at the center of my faith. And as life gets tougher and I experience more adversity, I find my faith only growing stronger. And I find myself wondering how people make it without faith in Jesus.
Jesus is my hope. He is the reason I get through every single day despite the circumstances around me. When I look back on my life (so far), it is like looking at a puzzle. I see individual moments, like puzzle pieces, that made no sense when I experienced them but become perfectly clear and beautiful when I reflect back on them. I see a beautiful story unfolding that would be simply impossible if left only to chance. The only explanation for the story of my life is Jesus. I don’t need a Bible or a history book to explain who Jesus is because I feel comfort, guilt, grace, love and joy directly from Him. And I know that no matter what happens this side of Heaven, I always have my hope in Him.
He is the reason why when I experience loss or pain or suffering, I ask Him to use it for good. I ask Him to use it to bless others. Because I’ve learned we have only one hope in this world and that is Jesus. And if you allow him to use all the positive and negative experiences in your life…if you allow Him to use the gut-wrenching pain we experience in this world, He will do amazing things to only grow and strengthen your faith. And you will find not only hope but comfort. As long as your hope is in Him, there is nothing that will steal you from the shelter and refuge of Him, King Jesus. And after the road comes to an end, you will be in His Glory. And if the comfort and love I’ve felt from Jesus, is just a glimpse of what His Glory will be like, that I can’t wait to see Him face-to-face.
So although Jesus is the reason for the season to many people, to me He is just my reason. And I can't think of a better reason to celebrate not only at Christmas but every single day.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Hope, joy and a very Merry Christmas,
THE. BEST. CHRISTMAS. EVER.
Chris and I adopted an Angel Tree child through a military event for Christmas this year...we intentionally sought an older kid with a hefty wish list since we do not have children and are in a position to help make Christmas extra special for someone in need. So with that we set out to create THE. BEST. CHRISTMAS. EVER. for this child. I mean...I was all about it. I put my 'perfected' Black Friday shopping skills to the test and aimed to get as many presents possible with what money we had to give. Of course, this was mostly online shopping since we live in a small city and shopping is sufficient but not abundant.
Four days before the gift drop due date, I got a delayed shipping notification from Old Navy stating the order would be delayed...delayed past the gift drop deadline. I was beyond frustrated because I bought a ton of clothes for a price I was not going to find elsewhere, on a non-Black Friday shopping day. I spent 30 minutes on the phone with Old Navy explaining not only my predicament, but my dissatisfaction with their delivery service. Although they kindly offered to reduce the cost to only 10% of the full-price total, it still left me in a bind. The cost was not the issue…timing and the inability to find the same quantity of clothes was my issue. Again, I had “THE. BEST. CHRISTMAS. EVER.” mentality and now this was going to be harder-than-ever to accomplish.
So with 4 days left, I set out again to shop for clothes and re-create THE. BEST. CHRISTMAS. EVER. I headed to JCPenney’s to get the best bang for my buck. And although I didn’t do as well as my Black Friday shopping, I was able to get our child exactly the clothes he asked for plus a “cool” Nike outfit (I did splurge a bit on this but I couldn’t resist!).
Due to some other crazy circumstances, I found myself gift wrapping two hours before the gifts were due at social services. I got all the gifts wrapped and started wrapping the clothes only to find the security ink tags still attached to two articles of clothing...my “splurge” Nike clothing. At this point…I yelled out to God, “I’m just trying to create THE. BEST. CHRISTMAS. EVER. over here…what gives?” I was frustrated and felt like an Angel Tree giver failure. And honestly, I was frustrated with God because we were just trying to do something good for someone less fortunate than us. But I took my frustration, collected the gifts minus the Nike gear and headed to the drop-off location.
Sometimes God is just SO much bigger than us. I wish I would remember this during times of my frustration. Sometimes I am just the little lost sheep, completely disconnected with His plan. This was one of those times.
When we got to social services to drop gifts, we learned there were two boys (brothers!) that did not get their names on the Angel Tree and were in need of Christmas presents. And do you know one of them just so happened to be the same, EXACT size as the Old Navy clothes being delivered to my house? The moment I looked down and saw the size, I knew that Old Navy shipment was never meant for our original Angel Tree Child. God had a different, more perfect plan. And naturally I immediately jumped on board with His plan because it involved creating THE. BEST. CHRISTMAS. EVER. for not one child but three. So I walked into JCPenney with my ink security-tagged Nike gear and exchanged it for 4 outfits for the younger brother and a mini drone toy for the older one.
Sometimes we think so incredibly small compared to His plan. Sometimes we are the lost sheep in need of a shepherd. Thankfully He always gathers us up and points us in the right direction.
Many are the plans in a person’s hearts, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
Lord never stop taking my small plans and making them BIG.
Christmas morning, gifts galore, and three boys,
Just a few reflections about everything God is teaching me in this life...a journey deeper into His purpose for my life.