It's hard to believe that 2013 is actually coming to a close, (Actually it's "closed"....That shows how long it has taken for me to wrote this post:) I still want to write 2003 as the date. I can't believe how many years can pass so quickly before our eyes.... A decade doesn't seem so very long now.
Anyhow, I thought I'd share some of the things I learned, accomplished, and God has taught me this year. This is by no means going to be an exaustive list, but probably more like highlights and things that stand out in my memory, so bear with me if I forget something.....I have a feeling this is going to be a long post.
This year was a year of great challenge and discovery for me. I learned how hard it can be to trust God in the face of opposition from many different sources. He never ceases to show us His unfailing love. God's ways no matter how hard are always best. I felt God asking me how much I was willing to give up and still love Him. Through the course of the year, He seemed to be touching each area of my life and saying "Can I take this, and you still love me?" "What about this person? Will thier absence cause you to question me?" "Will you stand strong for me in the face of this temptaion?" Friends, family, possessions, opportunities, desires, encouragement, and acquaintances. I soon realized how little I was willing to sacrifice for Him. This passage in Hebrews stood out as a promise and a source of hope in the midst of these times of sacrifice.
"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about by so great a cloud of witnesses let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with paitience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross despising the shame and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such cantradiction of sinners, against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children. My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord nor faint when thou art rebuked by him; For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he recieveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons, for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons." Hebrews 12:1-8
Another thing God taught me this year was how important it is to not stand in my own strength, and think that I have any cause whereby to glory on my own. 3/4 of this year was a season of great challenges for me, and I was once again thrust into the realization that people can change, and when they do, they will try to take us along for the ride. Time and time again, I found myself repenting and seeking God's strength to make it through another day. People will fail us, kingdoms will fall, but God alone must be my all in all. He gives strength to those who wait on Him.
For this season of my year, I felt like I was living 1 Corinthians 10:12 " Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take need lest he fall." Every moment seemed like another opportunity for satan to tug at my heart, and urge me to give in just a little. On how easy that would be, and how great and difficult the consequences.
Through a study called Choosing Graditude from Nancy Leigh DeMoss, I've been learning the importance of gratefulness this year. It's so easy for me to think I'm a self-made person, and be proud of my talents and abilities. But in reality, I have nothing in which to boast, apart from God, and the gifts and sacrifices many people have invested in my life. Without their encouragement, protection, love, teaching, and sacrifice, I would be nothing! I would have nothing! I began to keep a gratefulness journal in October, and I was shocked at how much I take for granted. And not just things that I have, but even things I don't have are sources of gratefulness. (Like not having cancer, or lymes disease, or blindness, or a million other health problems) "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not, they are new every mroning, great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion saith my soul, therefore will I hope in him." Lamantations 3:21-23
This year I was excited to complete some small accomplishments. I was blessed to be able to take harp, and singing lessons, and to even take ballet lessons for a short time. (Something I have always wanted to do) I was able to host another craft sale, raise money for Pregnancy Resource Centers, help host our local Bible Bee, volunteer at the National Bible Bee, (which BTW was an amazing experience....pictures of that are still forthcoming....I promise:) perform a piano duet with my brother Evan for the Chrisian Heritage Homeschool Conference, (that still seems unreal) sing in choirs, attend several excellent conferences, learn from many inspriing speakers, and visit relatives and friends across the country.
By far, my favorite trip this year, was when my mother and I were able to attend the birth of my sweet neice, Elizabeth Ann Smythe. Even though I was a bit apprehensive about going on the trip, I knew that it was what God wanted me to do, and in the end I was so blessed to be a part of such a life changing experience. I learned so much about life, had some very encouraging times with God, and found a renewed apreciation for Parents. It's unbeliveable that Elizabeth will be a year old next month. It just reminds me of God's mercy, which I have seen over and over this year. God is gracious to show me more of Himself in very real and unique ways and to help us trust Him in the face of uncertainty.
In the beginning of 2013, I asked God to make Him my first and only affection, and little did I know how faithful He would be to answer that prayer. Before I realized what was happening, some of my closest friendships were displaced, people who I admired and looked up to we're taken in deep sin, my sister (who was my closest friend) got engaged and married before I even had a chance to fathom the affects on the rest of my life, and things that I had thought were going to happen fell through. I was having a really hard time accepting these things and found myself complaining and upset with God's ways numerous times. I seemed to be living in the midst of Psalm 88:18 " Lover and friend has thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness."
And then, towards the end of the year, I was contemplating what had transpired throughout the year, and how very different life is from now on because of the changes that happened in 2013.....and then it happened....I was struck with the reality of what God had done. I was cleaning the house, and as I worked I was listening to some CDs a friend had told me about, and suddenly, I was struck with the words of this song.
"My Redeemer Is Faithful and True"
It was as though God spoke to me in a clear way, and said, "Don't you see, I've done what you wanted me to do...I've been here all year long, and you've failed to notice me. I've answered your prayers, and I'm still here throughout it all." It was then that I found myself in a state of utter gratefulness to God for His mercy, and it was then that I was able to say with Job, " Though He slay me yet will I trust in Him, but I will maintain mine own ways before Him.... He also shall be my salvation." Job 13:15-16a I looked back over the events of the year with complete confidence and a renewed trust in God, and my heart was finally able to say "Amen" to His will.
So once again in 2014, I'm asking God to be my first and only affection....and this time I'm looking forward to recognizing His answers, sacrificing even more, and accepting His will with gratefulness. For I know that whatever my God ordains is right, because He is my Redeemer, and He is always faithful and true....He is!!!!
So claim His promises today, they are written for you, and when His love once again shines through, thank Him that His mercies are new.........Happy 2014 to you and your family!!!!