2011: The Year of Faith

"Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions, give it all you've got, be resolute, and love without stopping." 1 Cor. 16:13-14 (MSG)

2010 was a year of renewal. It was a time of returning to God after losing myself in motherhood (don't all moms do that for a time?). It was full of conviction, a desire for intentionality, a longing for a life lived well. 2010 made me the mother of a 2-year-old, with so much laughter, so many smiles shared between the hubs and I, and so many frustrating "I don't know how to do this" moments too.

It was a year of getting to know my son as he began to string words and sentences together. Yes, it was a year of words. I fell in love again with words, with The Word who was made flesh. Words are powerful and strong and important, because The Word is. So I tried to talk less, listen more, and use my words well. I wrote... oh did I write... emails, articles, FAQs, status updates, tweets, texts, prayers, lists, plans, poems, and blog posts. Lord, let the words of truth and beauty stand.

And so (because words have power) I've decided to give 2011 a name: The Year of Faith. I've been living with a lot of fears... of inadequacy, imperfection, failure, rejection (oh, the list goes on)... and I'm realizing that it's when I step through those fears and have Faith - it's then that I truly live and truly love. And for me, Faith isn't some soft cusion to fall back on; it's a rock-solid, death-defying, mountain-moving reliance on my Maker.

One summer at Bible camp, my two best friends and I bunked with a girl who was mentally challenged (what's the right word for that these days anyway?). I started the week with a resistance toward her (fear of what I didn't understand); I ended the week wiping vomit off her sweater after she got carsick. Truly loving means moving through fear, stepping out in faith, forgetting about my desires, and letting God take over.

So my prayer for this year isn't for health, success, or wealth... it's that I would recognize those moments of fear and step through them to rely upon my Savior. Oh, that I would lose myself in Him so that He can shine through me!

"God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we're free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ's. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love." 1 John 4:17-18 (MSG)


An achingly beautiful, peaceful, wild, challenging Christmas

"Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—” Psalm 103:1-2

It was an achingly beautiful, peaceful, wild, challenging Christmas. I guess Jesus' day of birth could've been described with some of the same adjectives. :) There were moments of quiet candle-lighting, prayer and scripture, and moments of stressful discipline, time-outs and deep breaths. We were so blessed to be able to give to those in need this year. Putting Jesus' great love into action is something I want to do every moment of my life, and especially at Christmas. I want to teach my family to give sacrificially, to love sacrificially, like God did for us. I hope your Christmas was more than just merry... I hope it was meaningful this year.

What love the Father has bestowed on us, that He should call us His children and give us good gifts at Christmas and always!

177. Sleeping in until 7:30!
178. Hearing J say "thank you God for making rocks"
179. A super-productive day at work
180. The generosity of our worship pastor, taking time to help me figure out my cello part for Christmas Eve
181. My sweet husband supporting me in playing cello
182. An extra day off of work to prepare for Christmas
183. My dad making it safely through his shoulder surgery
184. Rehearsal for Christmas Eve... losing myself in worship, kneeling with the worship team and dedicating the service to God's glory
185. Getting J up for the day and watching the squirrels climb & jump in our back yard
186. The way his little arms reach up to me from his crib... the way he says "time to get up, mommy!"
187. Snow falling softly on Christmas Eve morning
188. The Lamb of God who lifts off the sin of the world
189. Playing cello for three beautiful Christmas Eve services... hearing my pastor's words of Peace and letting them sink into my heart
190. A peaceful Christmas Eve dinner with the Prihoda's
191. Watching J interact with his baby cousin
192. Hearing about our family's "Jesus gifts"... sharing the love God was so much more wonderful than receiving more for ourselves
193. The incredible love of God that indwells me, upholds me, surrounds me
194. The joy of giving gifts to those I love
195. Hand-sewn gifts from my talented mother-in-law
196. One Thousand Gifts coming in the mail soon!! :)
197. Quietly lighting candles in the dark hours of Christmas morning
198. Snuggling with my family in bed on Christmas morning
199. The joy of watching my son play with his new toys... in his own little world
200. An ice cream maker from my sweet husband... one that's been on my wish list for most of 2010!
201. All of my grandparents there for Christmas
202. Being at my childhood home for Christmas
203. Such a sweet, encouraging, supportive family
204. My old bedroom... a refuge for my overwhelmed, overtired, sick son to eat dinner (a banana) on Christmas
205. A restful Sunday sabbath at home to wind down after a busy week
206. Seeing the Trans-Siberian Orchestra with friends - what a show! What adventures in the snow! :)
207. Looking forward to the lights and music and sights and fellowship there'll be in Heaven


Praising my sweet Savior for His many gifts...

It's almost Christmas... it's a busy week... and there is SO MUCH to praise God for! Christmas for me is so much more than gifts and family and lights and the tree. It's about a God who humbled Himself, who came down to be born of a virgin, who lived and was tempted just like I am, but didn't sin. It's about a Savior who suffered and ached and bled with love for me. A Savior who hung in my place.

He is the perfect Gift... enjoy Him, revel in Him, live for Him this Christmas and always!

Praising my sweet Savior for His many gifts...

150. A productive, crazy week at work
151. Watching the efforts of the past year of work starting to come to fruition
152. A co-worker who shares her coffee maker :)
153. Remembering the waiting and longing and hand of God in Israel's past... all leading up to Jesus
154. Getting a T-Rex for my son at a White Elephant gift exchange
155. Making muffins with my son (even if it does take twice as long and make five times the mess!)
156. Fellowship and good food with EaganMoms
157. Lunch and good conversation with a friend... watching our kids play and talk and laugh... commiserating about the joys and challenges of motherhood
158. Catching up with my sweet sisters over lunch - watching my son interact with his aunties, catching up on all the usual things, the time always flying by
159. Safe driving and bus rides in the snow
160. Watching the MN Orchestra and a 300-person choir perform beautiful Christmas music
161. The way the Body of Christ is even more beautiful than the best orchestra
162. Spending time with my grandparents
163. My patient husband loving me despite my crankiness
164. Catching up with my brother
165. Delicious dinner at my childhood home... so many wonderful memories there
166. How my brain and fingers remember how to play cello, and the opportunity to play again
167. Eating the bread and the wine and remembering the Bread of Life who was born in Bethlehem, the House of Bread
168. The sweet words of my son... when I ask "Who is Jesus?" he says "Fights the bad guys". :)
169. Dreaming and planning with my husband... his grace and desire to bring me back when I start living life on my own
170. Time for a sanity break after J refused to nap
171. The way my Father never forgets me, even when I forget to give thanks and praise and honor to Him.
172. Hearing my son start to sing "Deep and Wide" in the car... so grateful for his Sunday school teachers. He does remember what you teach, dear ones. :)
173. Sweet Christmas cards in the mail
174. The way my son claps at the end of a worship song and says "Yay, Jesus!"
175. A seat on the bus during my 2.5-hour commute in a snowstorm... and making it home safely
176. God's perfect gift... His Son, a love offering, a Savior for all who will trust in Him

A merry, meaningful, worshipful Christmas to you!


For tea, and safety, and soft little hands...

It's been a hard week to give thanks, again; and maybe that's the point. Praising God when it's easy keeps me safe in my cocoon, but praising Him when it hurts stretches me, and makes room for Him. When I'm sick and exhausted, when it snows two feet, when I forget who I am... still He loves me, still He gives me good gifts. Praise Him with me in the storms of your life...

116. Marriages that last (even as my heart cries out for those that don't...)
117. Sweet young ladies holding a bake sale for Samaritan's Purse
118. An impromptu lunch with my mama
119. A friend safely getting to the hospital to deliver her baby son amidst a blizzard
120. A warm home, a refuge in the storm
121. Chai tea lattes and hot cocoa
122. A beautiful time of worship at youth group... Remembering to believe the words I sing.
123. A working snowblower and a husband who has the fortitide to plow after a long day of work
124. Eating soup and discussing a good book with my lovely small group girls
125. An unprompted "thank you making dinner mommy" :) (he's getting quite good at this!)
126. Sweet little hands showing me how they can be nice (after hitting me!) by stroking my cheek
127. Wonderful friends and becoming a part of old traditions
128. Extra time to sleep off this cold while being "snowed-in"
129. Making cookies with my boys; helping J push them down with a fork
130. An encouraging tweet from my sweet sister
131. Talking and dreaming with my husband about our future together :)
132. A seat to sit on on the bus
133. A friend at work sharing her last bit of cold medicine
134. Coffee to warm up on a frigid cold morning
135. God's sustaining joy and strength during a busy time at work
136. My Advent devotional, reminding me to remember
137. Pictures of my niece who was once so tiny and weak, sitting up on her own!
138. Basking in the sunshine as I walk through the skyway
139. Patience
140. Grace


Every Gift I Need

It's been a hard week for every reason and no reason, and yet God is every gift I need. Work is busy and presents new little challenges every day. Motherhood... the same. :) And God knows what it is to be pressed on every side and in Him is all the escape I'll ever need. He's my hiding place, my rock, my source...

Clinging to Him and praising Him for these gifts that just keep coming...
91. Dinner and girl talk with my sweet sisters
92. The easy way we move around the kitchen together, like a choreographed dance with no song but our words and laughter and clanging dishes and pans
93. Sanity and grace after failing to get my son to nap (and trying for waaay too long!).
94. My husband being there to save the day… literally!
95. Taking in the beauty and creativity of God's creation
96. A warm, cozy home
97. Watching my son and husband watch football, and J cheering “Go Tawaris Jackson!” J
98. Making cookies with the youth group ladies
99. Hearing about all God is doing in our youth group at leader training
100. My first tea party… beautiful snow, decorations, music, conversation, and message
101. A safe drive in the snowstorm
102. True, lasting joy despite a rough week at work
103. Cuddling on the couch with the hubs, watching HGTV
104. Dusting off the cello, helping my son pluck the strings and move the bow
105. Still being able to play and read music after a 2-year haitus! :) (And a cello that still works and is practically in tune after a 2-year hibernation!)
106. Laughing at silly email drama at work
107. Listening to Christmas music
108. Accidentally sleeping in on the weekend due to a faulty alarm
109. Grace, mercy, forgiveness... knowing God's at work in this life despite who I was... 110. My son saying "thank you for making dinner, mommy" without prompting! Brought tears to my eyes!
111. A job I can leave at the office
112. Reminders that He's enough, He's every gift I'll ever need
113. Jehovah Jireh's faithfulness to provide throughout all generations... knowing He's providing still
114. A husband who snowblows the driveway and starts up my car in the frigid cold
115. Little hands stroking my hair as I pray over them; making my hair into a tent and laughing


Good Tidings of Great Joy!

"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." Luke 2:10

Everything about this week has pointed to this one tiny word: JOY. In one sense, I'm indignant about Joy. It's word that's thrown around carelessly this time of year on advertising, gift wrap, cards, and mall decorations. We're to have joy because of the season, the feelings, the goodwill, the snow, the shopping, the family and friends. But joy that's founded on fleeting things is worthless in the end. When the Christmas lights are stored away, when the parties are finished, when the holidays are over, there's this sense of let-down... that the joy didn't last.

And so I've been considering a lasting joy this Advent. The announcement of Jesus' birth by the angel promised good news and great joy for all people. This is the joy that lasts. The God-man coming down from Heaven, the all-powerful God limiting Himself to a virgin's womb, for you. The all-just God becoming your punishment, your shame. The holy, pure, light of the World coming into darkness, getting Himself dirty, for you. The Word that spoke the universe into existence, speaking on your behalf. This is the ultimate story of reconciliation, of redemption, of beautiful incredible unfathomable love.

So this Advent, this Christmas, and every day of my life, I choose joy. I choose to see beyond my circumstances and trust that I'm in my Father's hands. What joy and life there is there!

Charles Spurgeon's sermon, "Joy at Bethlehem", speaks the words I'm trying to say much more eloquently. Here's an excerpt:

"Rejoice, O sinners, everywhere for the restorer of the castaways, the Saviour of the fallen is born. Join in the joy, ye saints, for he is the preserver of the saved ones, delivering them from innumerable perils, and he is the sure prefecter of such as he preserves. Jesus is no partial Saviour, beginning a work and not concluding it; but, restoring and upholding, he also prefects and presents the saved ones without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing before his Father's throne. Rejoice aloud all ye people, let your hills and valleys ring with joy, for a Saviour who is mighty to save is born among you."

(Thanks to Cheri Dobbs who spoke at the Eagan Hills Christmas Tea for her words of truth and life, which inspired many of the words written here.)