In Review, Part 3

1. Honestly, I could have used this song to sum up my entire year and laid aside the other items on my list.  This song is “Never Once” by Matt Redman. Redman is probably my favorite worship artist and I fell in love with this song when I first heard it back in September. I just talked about losing my Grandpa on July 6, as many of you probably already knew. What many don’t know about is the intense spiritual battle our family went through just the day before.
   On Tuesday, July 5, 2011, my brother was undergoing his second set of steroid injections in his lower back to ease intense pain from two bulging discs. The procedure went fine, but as he was coming to, the doctor in charge of his procedure joined him and my mom in the recovery room. My mom made a comment in passing about “when Taylor gets better.”
   In what I fully believe was a direct spiritual attack against God’s word that had already been spoken to Taylor and our family about his full healing, the doctor began to repeat over and over again in a very unnatural and combative manner, “Who told you he would get better? People don’t recover from this injury. He is never going to be better. He is never going to get better…never get better.”
   Her words literally started making my brother and mother feel sick.
   You can ask my mom and brother for the full story, which I recommend because there is more than I am even able to fit in this post.
   Late that evening, when it was just the four of us, we spent quite a bit of time in prayer and praise, with the reassurance that the promise of healing was indeed true. Why else would the enemy try so hard to distract and discourage us?
  

What am I trying to say?
We are not unique.
We are not better.
We are not special.
Other families go through similar trials. Others go through far more intense trials.
I am simply sharing our story.
My brother’s back injury, my Grandpa’s death, other struggles and transitions were all negative events, at face value. They were laden with pain and grief, interlaced with unanswerable questions and wrapped in tears and stress.
But the story doesn’t end there. 
And that is the most important point, the only point, in fact!

Just like the song said, never once did God leave my family alone. Never once, did He leave ME alone. All our victories are because of Him. We were, and continue to be, carried by his constant grace and peace.  In the face of pain and loss, in the very face of what the Enemy meant for evil, God has returned manifold blessings to us.

Our family is closer and stronger than ever before.
Taylor is fully healed and is currently playing basketball WITHOUT any pain at the collegiate level.
My brother and I both had an awesome semester of school: his first, my next-to-last.
Special people have been brought into our lives, in ways that can only be attributed to God.
The list could go on…

More lessons will be learned. More grace and blessings will fall. We do forever breathe in His grace and breathe out His praise. Welcome, 2012!
“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”
—Proverbs 31:25 

In Review, Part 2

4. Above is a journal entry from Sept. 26 and this decision of mine had a tangible impact on my semester. The past 16 weeks were truly the most peaceful and least stressed I have had since I started college. While there are many assignments, deadlines, projects and schedules to keep straight in a semester, it doesn’t have to all be painful. I just told myself I was not going to get stressed, that my God is a more-than-capable helper and off we went. He met my needs every step of the way! It is a daily choice to lay down stress. Also, as Christians, it does not make us better, cooler or more elite to be super-stressed and busy all the time.  The peace that “passes all understanding” should visibly be resting over our lives as Christians.

3. “We have this as a sure and steadfast ANCHOR of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain.” —Hebrews 6:19

This is my necklace that a lot of you have most likely seen me wear. It was given to me by a friend at a significant time in my life. Earlier in the summer, I started thinking about goals and scriptures to focus on for my senior year. I usually take time to do that before each school year and at the beginning of each new calendar year. I was reading through Hebrews at the time and my spirit latched on to the above verse. An anchor. I could hardly think of a more appealing object. An anchor doesn’t move and it doesn’t waver. It’s job is to keep a ship in place and that is what God is for our souls. Little did I know that this scripture and the anchor symbol was to become far more important than I could imagine…

2. My Grandpa Ken (my mom’s dad) died suddenly on Wednesday, July 6, 2011. His death has been the toughest personal loss, within remembering, that I have had to live with. For once in my life, I did not know what to do with myself in the days following that awful morning in July. My brother Taylor and I were the main ones that spoke briefly at his graveside service the following Monday morning. I didn’t think that I could do it. I kept thinking, I shouldn’t have to do this. It was years too early.
   And yet, I made it through that day. We all did. And I didn’t just “make it,” I literally felt lifted up on wings that flew me above the natural grief, pain and never-ending questions and into supernatural peace and comfort. Though I didn’t openly talk about this event on my Twitter and Facebook accounts, many of you did contact me personally and I knew I was surrounded by prayers upon prayers. I felt them. I needed them. I am forever grateful for them.
   Less than two weeks after his death, I was picking out a new journal at Mardel’s when I saw the above card in a box of greeting cards. Its sweet image and simple message immediately spoke to me.
  “Today is no match for you and God.” God has proved this truth over and over to me since that Wednesday in July and I hope you realize He is ready and eager to prove the same thing in your life.

In Review, Part 1

New Year’s is one of my favorite holidays because it combines looking back and looking forward, two of my favorite activities. I love the chance to reflect on the 365 days that have passed and then make goals, dream and pray about the next 365 days, or in the case of 2012, 366 days. 🙂

2011 has been a very eventful year for my family, as I am sure it has been for other families as well. What I’d like to share is a countdown of the top quotes/scriptures/songs/journal entries that have had the greatest influence on me this year.

8. “The greatest enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin, but good choices which are not quite good enough. The good is always the enemy of the best.” —Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (May 25)

Subconsciously, this has long been a driving force in my life, but it came to the forefront of my mind time and again this year. I was faced with several decisions and this thought, this holding out for the best, was the main factor that influenced those decisions. I pray that I continue to have courage to focus on this truth!

7. Mary Englebreit’s artwork just flat out brings a smile to your face! I came across this poster on Pinterest this fall and it is the quote on my blog profile. Just to be is a blessing…with Christ, this is the absolute truth! And it simplifies your day to focus on that truth.

6. “Sorrows come to stretch out spaces in the heart for joy.” & “Where grows the golden grain? Where faith? Where sympathy? In a furrow, cut by pain.” —Streams in the Desert (Jan. 18 & 20)

Truthfully, I discovered this line about two years ago, but it was made even more real in my life this year. This school of thought will begin to make more sense as you see more of what happened in our family in Part 2 of my post. It is such a beautiful and hopeful image!

5. The final entry for Part 1 is a song by Selah called “All My Tears.” A group from my studio danced to this song about three years ago. It was beautiful and haunting…definitely one of my favorite dances. Little did I know that when we performed this in May 2008, it would be the last time that many of us would ever dance together for various reasons.
   Fast forward to October 2011. I received word that a friend of mine had been killed in a car accident. She was 20, and had been one of the dancers in “All My Tears.”  The morning of her funeral, I had been thinking of that very song, and as it turns out, they showed the dance at her service. That’s when it hit me. It is our passion as Christians who are dancers to dance for an audience of One.  Now she truly was in the presence of our Savior, dancing for Him…. Listen to the song below and just imagine…

Mentally Speaking

I started working on this particular post several weeks ago, but didn’t post it. I took another look at it and well, here it is.

Take a moment and visualize. That’s all I want you to do- just visualize. How do you view that which is most important and vital to your life?

For example, I view:
My parents as my counselors and friends
My brother as my best friend
Time as the most precious thing I can give anyone
Life as a journey (This is not a cliché comment, not every personality type views life like that)
Christianity as a relationship, not a religion

How you visualize something greatly affects how you act in relationship to that idea or person.
Basic? Yes.
Obvious? You would like to think so.

Stay with me.

Making a list of priorities is fairly important in this society, wouldn’t you agree? There are lists on what to list on your list of priorities, books, talks, etc., etc., on the very subject. You have work priorities, school priorities, family priorities, life priorities…is the word priorities looking and sounding weird now?

We are a very priority-orientated culture.

Again, I think we can all agree that the people, projects and “things” at the top of the list get more time and attention than those toward the bottom of the list. But it’s often a fight to keep that which we have deemed as being worthy of holding that top position in said position. Conversely, it is easy for priorities to change. So let’s be honest, the best-constructed priority chart is still a very liquid list.

For as useful as this is at focusing our energy and resources, I would like to propose that visualizing our relationship with God in the same way is not such a good idea. In fact, it could be a hindrance to growing in our relationship with Him.

I came across the following example about four years ago and it has stuck in my mind. I wish I could remember exactly where I read it, but that isn’t going to happen. 

What if we visualized God as the hub of our lives from which everything else radiates, like spokes on a wheel?

                                                            Google Images

How does that change your image of your relationship with God? How might that change how you interact with Him?

Arranging our lives with God as the hub means that He is going to have a greater chance to affect every aspect of our lives. We don’t have to pencil Him in. We don’t have to fight to make Him a priority. If we have placed Him at the center of our lives (and it is a daily choice) then He IS going to transform us and perfect us.

I think God deserves to be at the center of our lives, and not just at the top of our priorities.