So Long 2017, You Have Blessed Me

Blessed: an inner quality unaffected by outward circumstances


With the new year underway,

just like everyone else, I am compelled to think about things need to change. Dissatisfaction is usually the driving force when it comes to resolutions. Life didn’t measure up somehow. The ‘if onlys’ try to take center stage, but truth be known, the ‘what is’ in life that should be my focus. What did happen this year has brought growth and change that has not disappointed.

So, instead of listing changes to be made, I am going to recount the blessings of the past year and give credit to God for each of them.

Here are some of the highlights of this year’s happenings—

• I worked with some other authors to complete a beautiful devotional journal based on Second Timothy called Legacy. The process was eye opening to say the least. Preparing everything to finally submit it for publishing was a challenge. So much goes into delivering a product you hope will catch someone’s attention. So far, the right person has not seen it, but it did win an award at last year’s Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Only time will tell if a publishing house will pick it up, but we’re hopeful.

• I continued to write a food column for Broken but Priceless Magazine. I love food, so this is right up my ally. It has been fun to come up with a theme for each issue, research recipes, prepare the food, and take photos. This has actually built up my own food blog, The Party’s in the Kitchen, and has brought another opportunity writing food articles for Southern California Christian Voice and its affiliates.

• I had a great opportunity to write devotions for the 40 Days of Compassion sermon series at my home church. It was an honor to be asked to participate in leading our small group members in discovering what compassion put into action looks like.

• I was invited be a guest writer by Katy Kauffman on her Lighthouse Bible Study Blog a couple of times last year. It was an honor to write for her. She has been a great encouragement in my life, and I have gleaned much from her wise words.

• In addition to the opportunities on the Lighthouse Bible study site, I contributed to their online magazine, Refresh. Two of the articles received special recognition. One was chosen as the lead article and the other was the feature article. I have also written a couple of devotions for a Bible study on renovating your heart that will come out in the spring.

•Girl on Adventure has been busy as well, averaging about a post a week. It also won an award at the Blue Ridge Conference in 2017. The blog, along with leading a women’s Bible study, meeting regularly with a group of local writers, and helping churches build loft houses for families in Mexico (Hands of Mercy), has kept my hands and heart full. I have traveled, spent time with friends, made so great food, knitted a sweater, read some books, lost a little weight, and had lots of fun in the process.

The year of 2017 brought a great deal of activity and accomplishment.  And best of all, I have been blessed with great opportunity to shine a light on God, His words, and His ways. I have grown in so many ways through it. My life is full to overflowing, and I can’t wait to see what the days to come have in store.

There are some new things I would like to try this coming year.

We’ll see what happens, but 2017 was far from disappointing and it only encourages me to continue following the course that God has laid out for me. I hope when you look forward to the next year, you look back and see the great things God has already done. His blessings will be my motivator for the days to come. I’m looking forward to the ‘what will be’ in 2018.

Reflect upon your present blessings—of which every man has many—not on your misfortunes, of which all men have some.

Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol and Other Writings

SoLong2017

When God Became Real

girlonadventure.com 

Now, the Word became flesh and took up residence among us.

John 1:14a

When I was a young woman, I walked away from the church. Maybe it was just the religious part of church I left behind. I just didn’t fit in. Where there should have been acceptance, I received rejection. Where I should have found encouragement, I found a bar set so high it was not only above my reach, it was far out of my sight. It was such a pity because I believed in God, yet I was left thinking Him too far away.

As you can imagine, life beyond the influence of regular input from God’s Word was precarious at best. I dabbled in risky behaviors of drugs, alcohol and sex. With the world as my guide, these things were not taboo. They were accepted—embraced even. Each step I took in the world’s direction distanced me a little farther from God. At least that’s what I thought.

A day did come when I wanted God back in my life. There seemed to be a very quiet whispering in my soul that I hadn’t heard in a while. In hindsight, I know it was actually His voice I was hearing. I had just forgotten what He sounded like.

During that time, I found myself at a women’s retreat. I don’t remember many of the speaker’s words, but something she said ignited a desire within me to know the God who became man and dwelt among us. She was of Jewish heritage, so she knew what it was like to believe in God without actually knowing Him. It was the knowing part I was intrigued with. At some point she shared that meeting Him would involve a simple turning in His direction.

I remember the moment that I changed course so clearly. It was as if I was coming out of a cloud. As I turned, Jesus came into my full view. His presence took on form in my mind’s eye. I can’t really explain it all without sounding too far-fetched, but I could picture Him. I have to admit, He looked a lot like the Sunday school room picture I saw when I was a kid—beard, robes, sash and all. Regardless of the image I saw, it was the look of acceptance on His face that touched my heart the most. There I stood, covered with the marks of worldliness in His full view, and all I could see was love in his eyes. That’s it. He loved me just as I was at the moment.

What happened next was extraordinary. It was as though He reached up and grabbed that bar that had been placed so high above my ability to achieve. He brought it down to a manageable level, took my hand and guided me across it. All I had to do was turn my eyes toward Him.

Religion gave way to relationship. Jesus moved into my life in a very tangible way bringing with Him a standard of living that elevated me. Acceptance and guidance brought a confidence that I had not experienced before. I cannot stress enough how my life is different. If you have never considered welcoming Jesus into your life perhaps you should give it some thought. There is nothing that isn’t made better by His presence.

We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth,

who came from the Father.

John 1:14b

 

Resolve My Life

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Matthew 5:8


new-year-586149_1920The end of every year brings with it a resolve to do better in the next. Better job, better education, better eating, better exercise and better organized seem to top the list of changes that would make life. . .better. And, who doesn’t want better?

My own resolution last year came as a suggestion from God. I am certain He whispered in my ear one day while I was begging Him for guidance. I was feeling a little misplaced and lost. Life had changed, and I was stuck wondering where it was all leading.

Create in me a pure heart! Psalm 51:10

I was thinking more along the lines of a road map complete with destination and time of arrival, Lord.

Don’t worry, we’ll get there. . . together.

As usual, I would have preferred the answer I came up with, but the Lord turned things on end and beckoned me to follow. So, I did. I started praying for a pure heart. When others asked how the they could pray for me, I gave them the verse. Little by little, change began. It took time but it was worth the wait. You see, my misplaced feelings were my own doing.  I had lost my trust in God and was paying the consequence for it. But, regardless how I landed in the mess, I still wanted a tangible, turn by turn, written down in black and white guide with a compass to show me the way out. God just wanted my faith to be purely in Him.

As I mulled over what a pure heart would look likethe several definitions came to mind.

Pure: untainted

This was where I started at the beginning of the year. I had just come off a difficult time in ministry. Relationships had been broken. Gossip had become common practice, and an unloving attitude had developed. I was ready to throw in the towel and call it quits. What I thought it a ‘circumstance problem’  was actually ‘heart trouble.’ Mine had been muddied up with my own involvement in the situation and the desire to protect myself. Walking away would have made no difference. The suffering would have just followed me home. And in the midst of my frustration, there was that Voice challenging me, “What about the others?”

Yes, I know, Lord.

My mission had not changed regardless of the dirt that seemed to be flying. A contaminate free, untainted heart was what I needed to walk through the difficulty. Each time I thought of the women I served, it reminded to live a life worthy of your calling. The verse from Second Thessalonians 1:11-12, goes on to say God will fulfill by His power every desire for goodness and every work of faith. . . My actions would need to be determined by my calling, and not tainted by hard feelings or irritating situations. Together, God and I could live that worthy life. Without Him, on my own, I didn’t have a chance. He was the One who brought the power to make things happen. My part was cooperation. Working in tandem, we could achieve goodness and works of faith the calling required.

Pure: in tune

With all that had gone on, I had gotten out of tune with God. The melody of life was all off. When two singers try to dominate the song, it sounds horrible. People tend to cringe and cover their ears. Not a good thing for someone who wants to be an influence rather than a disturbance.

To get back in tune, I would have to listen carefully and make adjustments to match my spirit to God’s. Faith again would play a part in making my heart pure. I had to trust where God was taking me, then, pay attention and conform to His ways. Again, it was my willingness and His strength, that together would develop into a pleasing harmony that would once again flood my soul.

Pure: saturated

This may be my favorite. It certainly is the most beneficial. When something is saturated it is fully satisfied; filled completely; loaded to capacity. I can think of no better state for my heart. And, if I am to navigate through the uncertainty of life, then I want to be soaked through and through with God. I cannot live an untainted, in tune life any other way. If He occupies my thoughts and His ways become my ways, there is no room left to get dirty or off key. I want to be steeped in God until His essence and qualities are all you can see. That’s going to take faith. God was right to insist on His way in this. If I continue to follow His resolve, life will not just be better. It will be the best one I can have.

But when Jesus turned and saw her he said,

“Have courage, daughter! Your faith has made you well.”

Matthew 9:22


 

Over the next few weeks, I am going to explore some of the other requests—Renew My Spirit, Restore My Joy, Give Me Your Words, Open My Mouth— found in Psalms 51, a book that speaks to building a relationship between God and man. I can’t wait to see where this new year will take me. I hope you find purpose in yours.

Happy New Year!