Thursday, January 12, 2012

Invitation to Grace

So, recently I've been using this blog to share my thoughts on life, God, Jesus and everything that goes with them. Yeah, I've made this my personal blog. My original intent was to share the happenings of WCM with you. And I have.

But since not much has been happening with WCM lately, I've been writing personal ramblings on here. So, I've decided to write a blog where I can post my thoughts on life and Christianity and leave this blog for WCM.

So as Jesus invited others to His grace, so I invite you to my blog

Feel free to share it with others. I hope and pray that it's a source of encouragement to you.

And this blog will be reserved for WCM, when there's information to share.

"Through Him [Jesus] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." 
~Romans 5:2 NIV

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Reflections

I’m reflecting over the last 12 months as the last few hours wind down for 2011. It was a good and difficult year. I don’t even remember January 1st, 2011.

In January, I worked for a company as a temp-to-hire and I actually loved my job. But they thought I just wasn’t the right fit. It was quite discouraging. Not quite the way I’d envisioned starting off 2011.

We went through a lot of culture shock during January and February. We missed West Texas. We missed home. A lot. 

February through April brought more discouragement as I continued to look for permanent full-time employment. In the meantime, we celebrated Valentine’s with the church having fun and great fellowship. 

In March we went to Lubbock for the 2008 AIM class graduation. It was good to see friends and my sister. We really missed them. A lot. 

I began working for a boy’s group home in April and was met with some difficult challenges dealing with some emotionally distressed boys (not to mention growing into teen-hood!). It was rewarding some days getting to talk with the boys about Jesus, baptism and living a life for God. Other days I wondered if I was making a difference at all. And I was told by a co-worker that she loved that I lived like a Christian--especially in the midst of being at a difficult job. 

Thanks. Really, I needed to hear that. Really. 

We also had a chili cook-off hosted by the Grass Valley Church. Steve contributed a Texas Rattlesnake Chili that was purdy tasty, if you ask me! It was a sweet and spicy chili. I think he should have won in the top 3 for at least one of the categories. But alas, he didn’t. Until that Sunday morning, one of the judges presented Steve the award of Most Unusual and Unique Chili! I was proud! Most people liked it! 

Pepperdine Lectureships in May in Malibu, California attending classes and being encouraged by the wonderful works that are going on around the world. It’s always good to be reminded of what God’s doing, especially when we feel like we can’t see what’s going on. That helps me to be motivated and encouraged… at least just having a glimpse. I know that we can’t always know what God’s up to, but it helps me to keep walking with optimism.

Being the realist (aka pessimist, aka dream squasher and ruiner) that I am, having hope has been difficult for me this year given all the disappointments I’ve encountered. I don't mean to be a dream squasher or surprise ruiner. Sometimes with my mind spinning I think about things and point out to others how practically speaking, some things just won't be effective. And I often ruin surprises (usually meant for me) because I notice oddities here and there and innocently ask about them. No really, I'm innocent. No, really. I am. 

And yet my sister reminded me that I was living as if I believe that God wasn’t powerful enough to provide for me. I believed in the truth of that statement that God can do anything. But lacking in hope and faith that God would take care of what I was asking for was putting limitations on an unlimited God. That was a good needed kick to my rear.

In June, we drove to see my family in Washington. We spent the days tending to my dad’s garden, fishing and talking about the Bible and God. On our way back, we stopped in Astoria, Oregon, where I was born and lived until I was 8. It was weird to see that old house. It looks smaller than I remember. It has since been boarded up and probably condemned. But I had some good memories there!

We attended the Tahoe Family Encampment in July. It’s always good to be refreshed by the saints you haven’t seen in a while! And the view was nice!

July and August for me meant work, which equaled stress. The longer I worked there, the more stressed I was becoming. But Steve was faithful to pray for me and encourage me. My shoulder was fractured in August (the same one that was fractured in my horse accident in January 2010) due to a work related incident. After that, I decided to quit. As much as I know those boys needed to hear about Jesus and see Jesus lived out, I couldn’t do it anymore. My emotional stress level was so high that I didn’t eat much, even when I wasn’t working. And I’d cry a lot before I went to work. A friend told me about a work from home job, so as soon as I had that lined up, I quit at the boy’s home. It was hard because even with the boy’s difficult attitudes, I did enjoy them—sometimes. But I sure do enjoy working from home! That was definitely a blessing!

In August we moved up to Grass Valley. Before that we were living with Steve’s parents about 80 minutes south of Grass Valley, called Rescue. We’d been looking for a house to buy while saving up some money. But we’d decided to rent until we could buy. But the housing market up here just doesn’t have what we want in our price range. So, we’re still renting while we’re waiting. Our realtor is great! I’d recommend her to anyone!

My good friend, Katrina, and her 4 kids came to visit. We spent the time gold panning, seeing California gold history and just enjoying a refreshing time together—all of us in our studio apartment. Did I mention that we moved into a studio apartment? No? Well, it was like a huge slumber party, Steve said.

I can’t think of anything memorable in September. Oh wait! I had a birthday! But it wasn’t memorable. I’m one of those that most years I don’t really care to celebrate my birthday. Maybe just with family and a few friends. Steve’s parents came up and we had a good time with them. Steve took me out to dinner and it was all around a quiet day.

Oh, yeah! And my good friend, Amy, flew me to Houston for the week for her birthday in September. It was good to be able to see her and spend time with her. I miss my friends in Texas.

I think we even had the college retreat somewhere in here. I just can’t remember what month it was. But it was good to get to know Ken, who hosted the event at his house. I love how the church supports each other! We read about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in the 3 synoptic gospels, gleaning from His wisdom and experience.

We spent a lot of weekends with Steve’s family in October—birthdays, pumpkin picking, gold panning. No, we didn’t strike it rich. With gold selling at over $1000 an ounce, it’s possible!

We also took the high school youth on a retreat for a weekend in October. It’s good to get to know the teens in a different environment and continue building relationships with them.

Steve’s brother, Jon, hosted Thanksgiving was in November for the Melton family. It was a blessed event. We got to take the leftover turkeys home and made lots of great dishes with leftovers! Turkey pot pie, turkey soup, turkey buffalo wings, turkey broth, turkey quesadillas…

December came and went so fast. My friend, Katrina’s, grandma passed away suddenly. So, we drove the 4 hours to help out in the few days before the funeral. Aside from the loss, it was good to spend time with them.

We spent Christmas with my family in Washington. It was good. My dad didn’t want to put up the Christmas tree (because he didn’t want to be the one to take it down), so we used a huge plant! And it worked well! We went fishing with my brother and nephew and didn’t catch anything. I got my bacon press that I’d been wanting. My dad thought I’d sent him on a wild goose chase because he couldn’t find it in most of the stores he went to looking for one. He’d thought I was making it up! Nope! It’s for real!

We came home, and the next day drove an hour to have coffee with our friend and current AIM student, Sarah Harris, and her sister, Katie. Sarah’s from the Tahoe area and was home for Christmas. We got to spend a couple of hours with them before Sarah headed back to her field in Miami, Florida. I always love hearing how God is working through them!

Then today, the last day of the year, we spent most of the day with Steve’s family exchanging presents with them while making memories. I’m not a big fan of Christmas because of the strong commercialism and materialism I feel retailers promote. However, those opinions aside, my favorite part is watching other people opening their presents. I don’t really care about getting stuff for myself (although I do enjoy my presents!). And we’re on a tight budget so we couldn’t afford to give much this year. But we’ve loved the time we were able to spend with those we did!

And throughout the year, Steve’s been teaching the youth class and filling in preaching when needed. We’ve had youth devos at various youth member’s houses and gotten to know some of the families in the church a little more.

The Wednesday evening church assembly was postponed until further notice as late fall was approaching and the skies were darkening earlier. (Not very many people were coming). Steve and I were a part of the youth classes teaching and facilitating discussions. (The guys and girls were separate on Wednesday nights at their requests). I was kind of sad to see it end for now. Hopefully, as the days are getting longer people will start coming again!

So, with Wednesday evenings “free”, we started driving to Auburn (about 45 minutes away) to participate in a small group with some church members who live there. It’s been an encouraging experience being with them!

West Coast Missions has been put on hold pending finding another family to come here to be a part of WCM full time. Earlier this year we all recognized that we need more help. So, until that lucky couple can be found (and willing to step out on faith, pick up their roots and move here), we’re waiting.

To sum up this year for me in one word would be discouraging.But 2011 had it's shining moments--some good laughs. So, reflecting on the last 12 months, I’ve also seen how God has been faithful to provide for us at every moment through friends and family. Through words of encouragement. Through words of rebuke. Through words of comfort and peace.

Yep, our God is awesome! Although I hate big changes and unmet expectations, God is still growing me and presenting me with opportunities to grow! And some days it's still tough to make the most of those opportunites... and then I get a card in the mail that reminds me to have hope and persevere that God will provide a way to make things work. I just need to keep walking by faith one step at a time. 

So, what’s my resolutions for 2012? I’d like to say eat right and exercise more. But hey, I’m a realist. I’m not sure that’s gonna happen—much.  Maybe. There’s hope, I suppose.

But here’s my commitment:
  • Pray more
  • Read my Bible more
  • Set my mind on things above more
  • Hope more
  • Be more joyful
  • Smile and laugh more

 And I think those are plenty of good things to work on and I believe that God will do good things through me and to me this year! So, as I end the year munching on homemade potato chips using my new Kitchen Aide slicer my brother-in-law, Dan, gave me, I contemplate the end of just another chapter in my life--a chapter where God has used me beyond my knowledge to shine the light of Jesus to others during my struggling times and he has used others to shine their light for me to see that I may be reminded of how good and awesome he is. 

And if the world does end in 2012, then I’m just happy to be going home! 

For God works out all things for the good of those who love him and who are called according to his purpose.—Romans 8:28

With God nothing is impossible.—Luke 1:37

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The End is Near!

Well, the end of the 2011 year anyways. 

Good-bye, 2011! You were a good year. I will remember some of you. 

Thanksgiving is now just a fading memory. Christmas is over. And the new year is quickly approaching. January 1, 2012 will be just another day~well, another Sunday anyways. 

And so, 2012 is rapidly approaching. The year the world is supposed to end according to some Mayan calendar. I guess that's who predicted it. 

And well, maybe there's some truth to that. Because it will be a different world in 2012 just as each day is a different day. The world our grandparents knew when they were children is a different world than we know it today. Technology didn't exist then as it does now. Lifestyles were different. Diet was different. So many things have come into existence that have greatly affected the "look" of this world. 

     The horse and buggy died sometime after cars were invented. 
     The internet has revolutionized communication, shopping and information gathering. 
     Facebook changed the definition of friend.
     Facebook, twitter and texting have affected social skills of today's younger generation. 
     Coffee can still be taken black with or without sugar... but we have so many more choices now! 
     Homosexuality is an accepted lifestyle practice. 
     Christianity seems to be vastly more criticized today than decades ago. 

I don't know when the world is going to "end" and when Jesus is coming back. Scripture doesn't clearly state that. And I don't know exactly how that's going to happen. But what I do know is this: 

  1. We have an eternal hope
  2. Jesus is coming back for His followers
  3. We will get to meet Him 
  4. We will get to be with Him forever
  5. And that is worth being encouraged and encouraging others! 
       ~I Thessalonians 4:13-18 

And so with all the adversity, transitions, trials and difficulties we may have faced this year (because everyone has them), those are all behind us. We can't change the past, but live in the present and look forward to the hope of the future blessings to come~the hope of Jesus taking us to heaven!

And that keeps me walking by faith.

And so, as 2011 closes and 2012 enters in I will probably go to sleep before midnight on December 31 and wake up on January 1 like it is any regular day~ because it is. 

And I will still thank God for his blessings as I assemble with the church that Sunday as I patiently wait for His return to come get me!