Goals for 2018

The year that starts on Monday is “the year” for me in many ways. It’s “the year” my son graduates from high school, and homeschooling is completed. It’s “the year” that having an empty nest becomes a reality. (It won’t really be an empty nest since my son is staying in town for school, but it will be different since I won’t be teaching him anymore.) It’s “the year” that things change for me, and I enter a new phase of my life. That being said, I thought I would write down some of my goals for this upcoming year so I would have a written record that would hold me accountable.

My first goal is the one that holds some immediacy for me since it is related to my son’s graduation. I need to get his grades and transcript done in order to submit them to the head of our cover school so he can graduate. It’s not like I haven’t been keeping records all of this time. It’s just the matter of pulling everything together. It also hasn’t helped that I don’t need to submit a transcript to his college until it’s complete so it’s been easy to procrastinate. But, I will get it done before the last day. It’s my promise to myself. And once it’s done, I won’t ever need to do home school record-keeping again. Yay! Well, if I’m being honest, only part of me is happy about that, and the other part…not so sure.

My second goal is how I’m going to practice my faith. When I was younger, I attended churches that made a point (whether subtly or not so subtly) of saying that you could only serve God if you were married. Women were also relegated to serving in certain parts of the church–with other women, children, or in the kitchen. I recoil against both of those attitudes. Women have a lot to give to the church, and it’s time we realized it and allowed it to happen. I was able to write this in my journal earlier, and it showed me how far I’ve come in 2017. “I am a daughter of God all on my own! No one else is necessary for me to practice my faith!” Now, as far as my goals go, I have identified an area of service that I plan to get more involved in this year. I feel God calling me to it. I also will go to a Lifewalk group by myself, if necessary, to get the Christian community I want and desire.

The other three goals are directly related to the creative side of myself and will help me, I think, in deciding what comes next after May. The first of these goals is related to my crocheting. I want to learn how to crochet a prayer shawl. I have learned and been successful with two different stitches. I’ll probably need to learn more stitches, but I think crocheting a prayer shawl is a worthy goal for the year. It will help expand my creativity too.

My second creative goal is related to my writing. I need to be reading more so I can see and emulate good writing styles. Reading different genres will expand my horizons and will help me in my quest to use the creativity God gave me.

And finally, my writing goals. I think I was pretty consistent this year with blog posts. I wrote a lot about my faith and the questions it brought up. I was able to clarify my thoughts, feelings, and experiences as well. I also got a start on the novel I want to write before I got stuck. So, for this coming year, I want to get unstuck on my novel, write some short stories and articles, and start submitting. I will never know if I’m good enough if I don’t try, and I finally have the confidence to try. I’m looking forward to writing more and learning more about the trade of writing through submitting my pieces.

In conclusion, I hope that all of us, myself included, reach the goals we set for 2018 and that it’s a year of much blessings for all!

 

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

A Heart Like His

My sons have often asked me why I want to know something before everyone else does. I suppose it could be the natural inclination of wanting to be the first to tell someone information they don’t know. Or it could be the chance to tease someone about it. Did you ever say these words as a child? “I know something you don’t know.” This usually resulted in your friend pestering you until you told them whatever information you had. We all have a natural inclination to want to be first so thinking this would be my reason is plausible.

But, for the most part, this isn’t my reason for wanting to know something first. As a writer, I have a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world that demands time for me to think and process what I learn about my world. I need that time to process new information so I can write about it. Some of that writing is just for me, and some of it, I share with the world. The more time I have to think about and process a topic, the better my writing usually is. I understand the topic better as well, and it becomes rooted in my heart. Not only can I write about that topic specifically, I can use my knowledge as I write stories and blog posts further down the line.

I think it’s going to be that way with what I found out yesterday. I went to a ministry leader, shepherd, and staff meeting at my church. I’m grateful that these kind of meetings are open to all whether a person holds one of those titles or not. But, I digress. Yesterday, I found out what our theme for 2018 is going to be. A theme which all the sermons and Wednesday night classes are going to be intertwined with. A theme which, I think, will be beneficial to my own personal faith walk. And before the suspense gets to be too much, let me reveal the theme–A Heart Like His. How do we develop a heart like Jesus’ heart? Interesting question, right? We’ve spent the past year looking at Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus, and this year’s theme will deepen that idea. It’s a good theme, and one I will have a lot to say about in the coming year.

But, for now, some preliminary thoughts. Does having a heart like Jesus mean doing the increased amount of dishes that comes with having everyone home without complaint? Or scraping gum off the church carpet yesterday though I know I looked funny sitting there while people were walking out? What about being willing to sacrifice someone you love to a form of service in the church because there aren’t a whole lot of people willing to volunteer for that particular service? Or being content with what I have and not wishing I would have taken a different path twelve years ago?

I’ll remove the suspense. All of my questions come with “yes” answers, and those answers bring me closer to the heart Jesus wants me to have. Why do I wonder though, and why do I want to be selfish especially with my family’s time? Sin nature, I know, but still, why is it so hard to be the person Jesus wants me to be? Why doesn’t doing these things come automatically to me like they do to so many others? Why do I feel so deficient with my faith when I look at others who seem perfect? We all know these kinds of people. The people who never seem to have anything wrong with them. The people who never wonder. The people who never seem to struggle. The people who are never curious about the things they think are wrong. The people who never think differently.

I think that’s why God gave me that sense of wonder and curiosity though. He wants me to ask questions. He’s not afraid to dialogue with me, and He doesn’t want me to be afraid either. I have to tell myself that over and over, and some days I am more successful than others. But, as 2017 closes and 2018 beckons, I am going to do my best to move forward each day and use the gifts God gave me to bring my heart closer to His.

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

The Wispy Tendrils of Faith

I’ve been a Christian since I was a teenager–almost forty years, actually, and my faith has seemed to be different in every season of my life. From rock-solid faith to holding on by the barest thread, I have done my best to live according to this faith I say I hold.

Earlier in my life, living as a Christian meant saying the right words, doing the right things, and always putting up a front at church. If someone asked you how you were, the answer was always great. Most people I knew seemed to measure their faith by how well someone was doing–financially, socially, emotionally, mentally, or physically. The ones who were doing the best always claimed to be blessed by God which left me wondering what happened to those who didn’t appear to be so blessed.

Now that I’m in my fifties and have learned a lot of life lessons, I know this isn’t true. God blesses all of His children whether they are rich or poor, and His blessings are not just material ones. Being like Jesus is more complicated than you might think, and people in the church who you respect can and will let you down. I also understand better what Jesus said in John 16:33. “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have over come the world.”

I understand now that I will have trouble while I am here. It’s a fact. I’ve had plenty of trouble during my life so why should that change? And because of this, I shouldn’t try to do anything of worldly significance. Rather, I should be doing things that will have eternal significance because, won’t I be in heaven for eternity?

Where does that leave my faith, and what does today’s title mean? I thought you might ask. 🙂 Holding on to faith and trust is so hard these days. I was thinking about this yesterday and realized that the wispy tendrils that come from airplanes reminded me of my faith. You can see them just briefly as an airplane passes, and it’s almost like you can reach out and grab them before they disappear. That’s how I’ve felt like with my faith over the past few months. With all the bad things that have happened and no let-up in sight, I have grabbed on to whatever wisps of strength and encouragement God has sent me. More often than not, I can’t see them, and the parts of me that hurt hold onto the fragments of faith I still have. This helped me think of today’s title which led to this verse from Scripture.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

I’ve always liked this verse, but it means more to me now. It’s confidence in what is to come, not in what is happening now, and it’s assurance in God’s sovereign nature when we can’t see it. God gives us plenty of things we can see, but He wants us to trust Him when we can’t see what He gives us. That, in my opinion, is true faith.

So, I will keep walking; I will keep giving; and I will keep holding on to the wispy tendrils of my faith as God molds my character into the person He wants me to be! Thank you, Jesus!

Praying God’s blessings on all of you today!

 

The Hard Questions

Have you ever been in a meeting where the person ended his talk with asking ‘Are there any questions?’ Come on, raise your hands. We’ve all been there. This can happen in any situation–at work, school, church, or in the community. The speaker wants to know if anyone has any questions he can answer.

So, what happens after this particular question is asked? People can look like a deer caught in headlights. They stumble over their words. Some people try to think of a question that doesn’t make them sound confrontational, or maybe they do want to be confrontational to get the answers they want. 🙂 There’s no way to know the mindset of the people in the room.

Sometimes, the questions asked are not expected, and the speaker has to scramble for an answer. This happened to me recently. I was at a meeting about the resignation of a person. The first two people who raised their hands didn’t really have questions to ask. They just wanted to compliment the speaker and tell him how much his tenure had meant to them.

Then, I thought of my question. Since his resignation was going to affect my son, I asked it. He didn’t know how to answer and had to come up with something off the cuff. The question was fairly innocuous, but I was surprised that no one would have thought a parent of a child in the group would have the question I had.

But, then, my mind turned to wondering just like it does before I have a writing idea whether it be for this blog or something else. What about the hard questions? Why do people want to hurt each other? Why do people want to steal? Why do people try to conceal the bad things they’ve done? What makes a person want to do bad things? We can come up with pat answers to these questions. We can even say it’s because of “sin nature” and think we’re done with it.

What about the harder questions though? Why did my child have to die? Why did the tornado or hurricane destroy my house? How come I have cancer? Why did I lose my job? Why does it seem like I’m the only one who struggles? Why is life so hard?

And then there are those questions that come with being a believer. Why does it seem like God has forgotten me? Why are people looking at me? I thought the church welcomed everyone. Why is it wrong for people to want to create? How is it wrong to ask questions about the budget? Why do people seem to judge more than they love? Why can’t we embrace our differences? What kind of songs should we sing in church? How many times should we have communion in a month? Do I trust God for His provision? There are many more questions one could ask as a believer.

I know I’ve peppered this post with a lot of questions (that goes with the title and all, 😉 ). They are questions I can’t answer, and I don’t think a lot of you have answers either. I don’t believe we will know the answer to most of them until we’re with our Lord and Savior. So, what happens in the meantime while we are living in the tension between this world and the next? I’m glad you asked. 🙂 For me, I think it will be a continual work in progress. I will pray to God for faith, patience, and strength. I pray that I will lean into Him for His comfort when I run into these unanswerable questions. And I pray that I will show Jesus’ love in whatever situation I am in and be the agent of change He wants me to be. So grateful that my Lord and Savior is fine with me asking any question I want to, even the hard ones!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

 

Hope in God's Promises

It’s four days into December, and our thoughts have gone to having the most “perfect” Christmas possible. It’s what we see in the secular world. It’s what we see in the church. Everything has to be “perfect”at Christmas. It’s when Jesus was born.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the quotation marks I placed around perfect. We all know that life isn’t perfect at Christmas much as we might like to pretend it is. It’s not perfect at any other time of the year either. Why should Christmas be any different? The pictures of people on social media going through life with their best friends can be frustrating to people in a different reality. Social media, in general, can be frustrating to people at Christmas whose reality is far different from what the pictures portray.

That’s where I’m at today. Lack of money, lack of time, wondering what the next day is going to bring with all of the bad things that have happened recently. Trying to stay faithful to God, but knowing that the things I’d like to do just won’t be possible this year. You could say that this month is a frustrating end to a frustrating year.

But, it really isn’t so don’t quit reading. Even with the frustrations and the health issues, I do have blessings. I know I will be treasured on my birthday by my husband and my sons even if no one else remembers. I will be blessed by getting to spend time with my birthday buddy this weekend. I will be blessed when my first son turns 21 later on in the month. And I am thoroughly blessed that my sons know the true meaning of Christmas and that the trappings don’t matter to them.

I am even more blessed by God’s promises which is my point in writing this post today. Even if I had nothing and was homeless, I would still have my Lord and Savior, and that is what I consider the most important!

Here are a few of those promises so you can be comforted as I have been.

From Psalm 119:50, “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.”

Verse 76 in the same chapter says this, “May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.”

John 3:16 is the ultimate promise of the Christian faith. “For God so loved the World that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

I like this one from Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

I also like the one from Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

But, the one that I treasure the most and the one that I think is appropriate for this Christmas season comes from what Elizabeth said to Mary in Luke 1:45. “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her.”

So, if your circumstances are not the best this month, don’t look at what the world says about Christmas. Don’t even look at what the church says about Christmas. Go to God’s Word and read the promises He has written to us. They are the best hope we will ever receive!

May we all rest our hope in the Lord’s promises this morning!

(Feel free to add more of God’s promises in the comments.)