Is it really the end of April? Is it really almost the end of the school year? Time surely is a-flyin’ by and most of us don’t stop to realize how quickly it passes each moment…each hour…each day…each year. One of my goals for 2014 is to stop and savor every moment…the large and the small, for they are all valuable and precious.
“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” -Cecil Beaton
Even though we had snow and ice on April 1 (April Fool’s from Mother Nature, haha), the past few weeks have been shaping up to be beautiful. We’ve had 80 degree days, 50 degree days, and a myriad of weather in between, so Seth and I have been trying out some different hiking trails in Central PA. We love to hike, be together, and unwind from the week.
Prince Caspian has been thrilled that we’ve been able to have the windows open. He loves to creep on the neighborhood from his little bubble.
I always hesitate to write about how busy things are because, let’s face it…everybody is busy. I don’t want to be the subject of a meme! But, things are busy. This is my ultra-busy season of the year, but it is also the most fun! I love, love, love our recital season at Reverence because God always does incredible things! It is so awesome to see the fruit of the labor the students, staff, and I have invested in throughout this school year.
Time is so precious! I pray that you would each savor every moment and live life to the fullest for His glory!
Okay, so maybe your year wasn’t quite as good as Katniss Everdeen’s…
2014 is just around the corner, and I want to jump, shout “Huzzah,” do cartwheels, sing Disney tunes, and dance around at its imminence. 2013 was a beast with ugly horns that growled (yes, I did intend those words in that order). It was CRAY. And yet, through it all I can honestly say that the Lord sustained me, strengthened me, and led me through this wilderness season into a new season of growth and abundance.
After all, it was my year of “more.” Not more money, not more candy…But more of Him. And, as this year has unfolded and I have been surrendering to Him each day, He’s been revealing more of Himself through every aspect of this year. You see, the more we get to know God, the more we want to know God, and the more we learn to trust Him wildly through every single day to do great things.
No matter how good or bad your year was, it’s important to take stock of it. Reflecting on your year, remembering what God has done in your life and in the lives of others, assessing yourself, and making goals and plans for the year ahead is essential to your personal and spiritual growth. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
What are three words to describe your 2013? Mine would be CRAY (in a hilarious and not-so-hilarious way), UPHELD (the Lord surely upheld me through the twists and turns of this year as only He can do), and BEAUTIFUL MESS (I know, it’s two words!).
What are your biggest accomplishments of 2013? I had several big personal goals this year: Enjoy running enough to complete a 5k, read the Bible through chronologically, carve specific time each day and each week for rest, and connect with people who I don’t get to connect with on a regular basis. By the grace of God I have done all those things! Yay God! Magdalene was a huge accomplishment in so many ways, and I give God the glory! I also consider any opportunity that I have to mentor and invest in others a huge accomplishment as well. Reverence celebrated 5 years as a small business dedicated to the Lord, which was HUGE! On a very personal note, this year I wanted to do a lot better at keeping up the house! It’s been working pretty well, and it’s made it so much easier for when people drop by or when we have a friend call at 8:30PM asking for a place to stay that night.
What has God done in your life in 2013? He’s forgiven me, loved me, showed me grace, and moved me into a new phase of life in incredible ways. If that would have been all that He had done for me, it would have been sufficient. He’s given me incredible relationships with my husby, family, friends, studio families, and random strangers who I’ve been able to reach out to! He’s grown Reverence Studios as only He can do and allowed us to be recognized as only He can do. He’s provided restoration and healing and hope. He’s increased my faith even as He enlarged my territory. Thank You, God.
What do I need to let go of before 2014? Too personal for me to post online, but something I’m definitely asking the Lord!
What did I do to step out of my comfort zone this year? I tried lots of new foods this year…and learned to love them! I reached out to people who hate me…and God gave me grace to extend them grace! My husband and I went through the home study process…and if you know nothing about that process, it is highly invasive for this extremely private lady!
What does God want to do through me in 2014? Each year the Lord gives me a different word to focus on–a gift that He wants me to unwrap throughout the entire year (I love how He is a deeply personal God who speaks directly to each of His beloved children!). A word that He’s been impressing on my heart for 2014 is: accomplish. I’ve had many things on my heart–requests, concerns, dreams, hopes–that I am trusting wildly in Him to accomplish next year as only He can do. And, in the process, I’m believing that there are some things that He wants to accomplish in and through me as He graciously allows me to be a part of His plan on earth. My theme verses for this year are: Isaiah 55:10-11, “For just as rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return there without saturating the earth and making it germinate and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do.”
Do you have an annual self-reflection ritual? How was 2013 for you?
One of my all-time favorite Christmas stories opens with a ghost visiting his bitter, greedy, miserly, old and selfish partner Ebenezer Scrooge. The ghost–Scrooge’s partner in business, Jacob Marley–woefully says, “I wear the chain I forged in life.” He warned Scrooge that the same fate would be his if he did not change his ways.
Christmas Eve that year ended up being a LONG, life-changing night for Scrooge.
Another old man received a surprise visit over 2000 years ago. He entered the Holy of Holies for a once in a lifetime chance to offer incense before his God and prayers for his people. He and his wife Elizabeth were both righteous before the Lord and followed His commands blamelessly. But, there was one thing that they longed for that they did NOT have…a child. To an ancient Israeli woman, infertility was a sign of shame and failure. The couple had undoubtedly spent many LONG days and nights grieving and praying and hoping. We don’t know what Zechariah prayed for when he entered the Holy of Holies, but we can be pretty sure that his wife–his bride, the love of his life–was on his mind.
“Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.” -Luke 1:11-15 (NIV)
What can we learn from Zechariah and Elizabeth’s story?
1. Righteous people can still experience pain. Being a righteous person who follows the commands of the Lord does not exempt anyone from pain. I love how The Message puts it in 1 Peter 4:12-13: “Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.”
2. God always hears our prayers. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” -1 John 5:14 (NIV)
3. The answer to our prayers is not always given right away. Zechariah and Elizabeth had prayed for decades for a child. God heard their prayer, but He delayed His answer until the fullness of His perfect timing.
4. Sometimes the delay in the “yes” is for an even greater “yes.” All of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s heartache culminated in the birth of the forerunner of the long-awaited Messiah.
You see, these long nights have a purpose. They are an opportunity to share a brief, glimmer in the suffering of our Lord. They are an opportunity to trust Him in our darkest moments. And most importantly, they are an opportunity to know Him in a greater, different way.
What is the status of your heart, my friend? It’s important for you to know….
The holiday season can drudge up a myriad of emotions for every single one of us. In addition to being thankful for much and celebrating stories from our faith, desiring peace on earth and good will to all, and loving our friends and family with a festive sparkle, we can feel so much more: Depression. Anger. Jealousy. Sadness. Thanksgiving and Christmas are linked with some of our most very distinctive memories and we need to be prepared for the emotions that are tied to those memories to return in full force.
The enemy of our souls loves to catch us off guard–it’s one of his favorite schemes! But, God’s Word tells us to be prepared for what comes (Ephesians 6:13). How can we be prepared for an onslaught of emotions during the holiday season?
#1: Remember that your emotions can bear good or bad fruit. Paul describes the acts of the sinful nature in Galations 5:19-21 (envy, hatred, discord, and so much more), and warns us against those emotions. However, in verses 22 and 23 of that same chapter, he writes about the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. As a woman who is incredibly passionate, I constantly have to remind myself to think about what kind of fruit I am bearing through my emotions before I unleash them.
#2: Let them come, but don’t let them control you. It is healthy and normal to feel things and to experience emotions. When we bottle up our emotions and do not allow ourselves to feel, we become angry and tired and hopless. Our emotions become unhealthy when we allow our them to consume us and influence how we deal with other people. To be honest with you, this is one of the reasons why I keep a private journal outside of this blog. There are many things that I think on and go through that are between me and the Lord, and not for public eyes.
#3: Consider the cost. We have all said things that we regret. Think before you allow your emotions to ruin a relationship. Can you be edifying and uplifting instead of jealous or hurtful? And, as Thumper says, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” There are times that I have specifically prayed that the Lord would shut my mouth so that I do not say anything that I will regret, and He answers that prayer in a number of creative, ironic ways.
#4: Forgive, forgive, forgive, and move on! If you have made every effort to reconcile with a person and they do not reciprocate (which happens more often than not), it’s time for you to forgive. Whenever I was going through a particularly hurtful and challenging time in a relationship, I decided that it was time to get over it and move on. Even though the person who had hurt me did not ask for forgiveness, I forgave them before the Lord. Yet, even after that, I felt the seeds of bitterness and anger continuing to take root in my heart. Well, that’s no good, I thought, Lord, didn’t I pray for forgiveness once already? And He specifically said, “Daughter, I didn’t ask you to forgive just once. I asked you to do it seventy times seven.” After that, whenever I felt those bad seeds starting to sprout, I squelched them with forgiveness. And then I moved on–even though the person who hurt me did not.
#5: Fill your heart and your soul with God so that bad fruit cannot take root. Philippians 4:8 tells us to dwell on whatever is true, right, noble, pure, admirable, and lovely. When we are feeling down on ourselves or backed into a corner, we are not able to focus on the truth. God’s truth.
Why in the world am I writing this when ya’ll are focused on turkey, trimmings, and travel? Because it is important to check in with yourself before the holidays so that you can be full of joy before the Lord regardless of your circumstances, and so that you can be filled to the brim and overflowing with God’s grace and joy and truth towards others.
I’ve been so honored to lead many women’s Bible studies throughout the past ten years–some through my churches, some through the studio, some from my home with friends, some in college, some in other various venues. Women’s ministry is something that I am very passionate about–I love to help other women grow in their relationship with the Lord! I love that when the Body of Christ operates how it’s supposed to operate so that we can all grow together. I’ve done Bible studies by the giants Max Lucado, Kay Arthur, Beth Moore, Elisabeth Elliot, Jennifer Rothschild, and Priscilla Shirer, and I’ve done Bible studies by the relatively unknowns at the time…and have enjoyed seeing them grow into those towering giants in the Christian publishing industry. Some of my favorites are…
Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver
He Speaks to Me by Priscilla Shirer
Mean Girls by Hayley DiMarco
Radical by David Platt
Believing God by Beth Moore
Me, Myself & Lies by Jennifer Rothschild
I also need to give a shout out to an author who is near and dear to my heart…Terry Magee! My Dad’s first book In the Grip of Prayer is a wonderful guide to developing a deeper and more meaningful prayer life. It’s great! I’m not just saying that because he’s my dad. Seth and I have loaned our copy out and people love it, and there is also a small group guide that area churches have done and enjoyed tremendously! In fact, Dad is running a contest on his blog involving this book…feel free to check it out at www.terrymagee.net!
How about you? What are some of your favorite Bible study books/resources?