Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Word of the Year Goes To...

There are just hours left in this year in my part of the world, the year of 2014.  Not days...

Only hours.  And minutes.  And seconds.

The fire is built, attempting to take the chill out of the air these last cold days have brought.

 I decided to steal a few of these last moments to come sit here in this place with you.

On where I have been...
And where I am headed...

Each year I ask God to show me a word to focus on for the coming year. Since I have started this practice, I have been amazed at the events that my life encounters directly related to the word of my focus. For example...

2009 found this to be my word. I felt a selfishness buried deep in my soul that I knew I needed to work on. I wanted to learn to give more of my time, possessions, money, and my very self.

When I selected this word, I had no idea we would be asked to take in our little guy, let alone adopt him.

What God has taught me about my own selfishness has not been easy but oh so necessary. What God has shown me in the Bible and in the world around me about the blessings of generosity has been so revealing and affirming.

When I began 2010 with this as my word, I was sure my main focus would be learning to extend grace to others. Little did I know that God had plans to venture to the very depths of my soul, and that in those hidden places I would need to learn and be willing to extend grace... to myself.

This was my word selected for the year of 2011. As I began praying about a new word for 2012, this word continued to come to mind. I soon realized I was not being released from this word. It was my word of the year demanding intense focus for two years in a row!

This was my word for the year of 2013.  On this side of it, I have no doubt that the focus on this word carried me through many days.  To not just let things happen (or not), but to be intentional and purposeful.
And the Word of the Year for 2014 Goes to.....

My oh my, if I were to have any idea of what this last year had in store for me/us, I may have been a bit more hesitant to have so eagerly stepped over the threshold welcoming it.  This last year required me to dive into a place of faith, trust, and belief in God and who He is in a whole new way.

Through a variety of circumstances that all seemed to happen at once (coincidence?  I think not!), it was very clear to us that God was directing me to step away from my career of 20 years and my more recent title of the last 13... completely.

My/our time, energy, focus, and skill sets were to be used in other ways that would directly pour into others (starting with my children) and extending that out to meeting with other young women and couples, to joining the team at church in a supportive role, to opening my schedule to whatever He may have for it at any given moment in time for people.  Relationships.

As wonderful as this all seemed, it caused me to realize that I would have to develop really living out my faith in a new and real way when we realized that, not only would I need to work through all that came with stepping away from something (at least for a season) I had spent so long building, but to follow these steps of what we clearly believed God was leading us to would decrease our income by more than 60%. (Never mind the fact that our oldest was heading away to his first year of college.)

I can honestly say, though not every moment and decision has been so easy, since having taken the initial step of faith and continuing to walk in ever increasing faith every moment of every day, I am not the least bit sorry nor do I have any regrets!

(More to come in the days ahead of what God has and is teaching and showing as we have taken the steps He has placed before us this last year...)

I will readily admit that just because I focus on a specific word for a year does not mean I have mastered it when the year is up! Far from it.

I could still use work in all of these areas... and every other word I have ever chosen as a focus for a year.

What it does mean is that I have many situations experienced, lessons learned, and Scriptures revealed that have molded that word deep into my memory and my heart. I have a greater sense of the true meaning of that word and how it should apply in my life.

Although I do believe I have been given my focus for 2015, it has not been my practice to share my current word of the year. I leave it between me and God alone. I feel that this allows for a more objective application of it into my life.


My style is to find Scriptures that apply to my word. I have heard of some people that choose a Scripture to focus on for the year.

Either way, I find it a great exercise in personal character growth. To have something that is a specific area of focus keeps me aware of the situations around me and chiseling away at the debris in my heart that needs a bit of attention.

Have you ever tried a similar thing before? Do you have a similar practice?

If you don't and would like to give it a try I would encourage you to go for it!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Mary's Journal Entry 18: Risen & Return to the Manger

Previously in this series:
Mary's Journal Entries:
Introduction 1:The Announcement;  2:Elizabeth Visit;  3:Return Home from Elizabeth;  4:After Telling Joseph;  5:Joseph's Revelation;  6:Planning for a Trip;  7:Traveling to Bethlehem8: Arrival In Bethlehem  9: He's Here!!  10: Visitors in the Night   11:Visit to the Temple   12: Running to Egypt  13: Murder of Boys  14: .Return to Nazareth  15: Search for Jesus   16: Jesus Found!  17. He Has Died

The following as if journaled from the perspective of Mary, the mother of Jesus...

Today, the trembling has stopped.! Today ushers in the beginning of forever!!  Today, the tomb of Jesus is empty!!!  Today, as the sun rose over the horizon, the Son of God conquered death and rose from the dead!!!!

God is the God of the impossible.  He has conquered deaths and won the victory.  My heart rejoices and sings in praise and adoration to my God, my Jehovah, my provider of everything I need!

I get it now.  It has come to a close.  Jesus came to be my child, and in turn made it possible for me to be a child… the Child of God.  Without his sacrifice, his perfect blood, poured out for me just a few short days ago, there would be no hopes of a forever spent with God. 

But now, because of his death and resurrection, it has been made possible for all people who believe, not just the Jews, to become children of the most High God.  Elizabeth was the first to call me blessed for my belief.  Now, from this day forward, everyone who chooses to believe will be called blessed. 

Their faith alone in the death and resurrection of God’s Holy and only Son Jesus for their sins will be enough.  Faith will usher in salvation and there is no greater blessing than that!  To be saved.  To commit your life to Jesus.  To follow Him and His leading each step of the way. 

Following is not easy!  It is not guaranteed ease and bliss!!  There are very difficult times!!!   

I have learned very first hand that believing first means you must say “Yes” to God’s plan.  It means we must trust and believe God can do the impossible.  We must be willing to give up and sacrifice the things nearest and dearest to our hearts to follow His leading. 

It means sometimes we must flee.  It may require walking through great deep valleys before we reach a mountaintop.   It may feel at times as though swords are piercing our hearts.

It will give us blessings we could have never dreamed or imagined otherwise.  It will provide for a us a peace that passes understanding.  It will give us a security and knowledge beyond our ability to comprehend.  It will provide us with a personal, up close view of the very Jesus who lay in a humble manger, who walked the roads and healed, who chose to die… for each of us… individually.  Why? To save us from the wrong we have done, so that He can spend eternity with us. 

As I look back over my writings of years gone by, I wonder what my purpose has been in sharing these moments?  If someone were to encounter these in the future, what would I want them to see?

This story is not about me.  It is so very far from me.  It is all about him… Jesus, the very son of God.  May it always be about him.   

My hope would be that as one looks at the manger, and remembers the day of his birth, that the memory would not stop there.  
Do not let your memory stop at the manger or you miss the message and story of hope altogether.

No, the memory of the manger MUST take you to the cross and empty tomb!!!! 

It must take you to that horrific, horrible, graphic, glorious, saving day when Jesus, the very Son of God, gave of Himself.  Not for anything he had done.  But for everything we have done, past, present, and future.  His love, mercy and grace put Him on the cross.  His lov,e mercy, forgiveness, and grace kept him there.

The manger must always take us to the cross and empty tomb!

The manger must remind us that God is our Jehovah... our provider for everything we need.

May we all take the time to ponder and treasure these events.  Not just as nice sotries.  Not just a couple of times a year.  But forever and always.  May we all learn to treasure and ponder and store such memories in our hearts.

Today, in the moment of His resurrection, my manger brought me to this place... the cross and an empty tomb.  My Jehovah has provided for my salvation.

This was not the story I envisioned so many years ago.  It was not the plan I would have made.  But, I have so vividly learned... God's ways are not my ways... His thoughts are my thoughts.  May you also learn the blessing and peace in following his ways and not your own.

Through the birth, death and resurrection of my Son, my child Jesus, He has made a way for me to be a child of God!!!

For this reason, He came...

Merry Christmas!!


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Mary's Journal Entry 17: He Has Died...

Previously in this series:
Mary's Journal Entries:
Introduction 1:The Announcement;  2:Elizabeth Visit;  3:Return Home from Elizabeth;  4:After Telling Joseph;  5:Joseph's Revelation;  6:Planning for a Trip;  7:Traveling to Bethlehem8: Arrival In Bethlehem  9: He's Here!!  10: Visitors in the Night   11:Visit to the Temple   12: Running to Egypt  13: Murder of Boys  14: .Return to Nazareth  15: Search for Jesus   16: Jesus Found!

The following as if journaled from the perspective of Mary, the mother of Jesus...
Today my heart died.   

Will the trembling ever stop?  I have often thought of those words Simeon uttered straight to my soul 33 years ago when Jesus was still an infant.  “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”  I have contemplated what that meant.  What was he saying?  Today… I know.  But to say a sword pierced it is not near enough.  It feels as if a million swords have pierced it and a million more continue.

My baby, my boy, my son, my Jesus… died today.  Not just the death of an innocent man.  He died the death of a criminal… for crimes he did not commit.  It was more than I could bear. 

Although I tried to stay strong for him and those following, my heart died a slow painful death as I watched him.  There were moments the pain of my heart was so severe others caught me.  They said maybe it was too much.  Maybe I should leave.  Were they out of their minds?!  This was my boy, my flesh, my baby.  How could I dare dream of leaving him in this moment? 

I hesitate to write what I saw, but my hand continues...  For some reason, I must put it all down.  Not because I will forget it.  Oh how I wish I could… it’s more horrific than my worst imaginations!!

How I wish I could erase the memories, the visions, the sounds, the smells of these last days.  How he walked to his death is beyond me.  The amount of blood he lost and the amount of raw tissue and skin hanging from his body was enough to kill any man. 

The beatings delivered by whips with metal on the ends, the flesh being ripped from his body with each blow.  The beard pulled from his face.  The crown of thorns on his head.  The horrific blood.  It trailed behind him… at times poured out of him.  The screams of anger from everyone around. 

Why do they hate him so?  He says he is the Son of God… He is!  And yet they refuse to believe so desperately that they torture him… for their anger.  They put him to death for their desperate attempt to justify their false beliefs. 

Had I not known he was my son, I would not have recognized the pieces left they were calling a body.  He was battered beyond recognition.  That tears my heart out to even say that.  I couldn’t recognize my own son… that is… until I looked into those eyes.   

His eyes.

So soft, so gentle, so loving, so warm, so deep, so peaceful….so sad.  Yes, those were the same eyes of that sweet boy I gave birth to only 33 years ago. 

As I stood at the foot of the cross, his hands and feet nailed, his gasps for air, his blood falling to the ground, he asked John to take care of me and me to do the same for John.  Indeed, it is ending.  He is passing on the task of providing for me as his mother.  It is over.

I can’t say I fully understand the events that transpired today.  I don’t!!   

God, today my heart died.  God, today they killed my son.  God, today they killed your son.

What am I saying?!!? 

They didn’t kill Jesus.  He is the very Son of God.  I learned so personally years ago that God is the God of the impossible.  God could have saved him.  Jesus could have saved himself.   

Instead, his flesh was torn unmercifully, left open and raw.  His blood poured out and ran down.  No, today, they did not kill Jesus.  Today, Jesus gave his life… a sacrifice like none I’ve ever seen or even imagined. 


Monday, December 22, 2014

Mary's Journal Entry 16 : Jesus Found!

Previously in this series:
Mary's Journal Entries:
Introduction 1:The Announcement;  2:Elizabeth Visit;  3:Return Home from Elizabeth;  4:After Telling Joseph;  5:Joseph's Revelation;  6:Planning for a Trip;  7:Traveling to Bethlehem8: Arrival In Bethlehem  9: He's Here!!  10: Visitors in the Night   11:Visit to the Temple   12: Running to Egypt  13: Murder of Boys  14: .Return to Nazareth  15: Search for Jesus

The following as if journaled from the perspective of Mary, the mother of Jesus...
I sit writing tonight totally relieved!!  We found Jesus!  3 days of searching… but we found him.   

Why was I so alarmed?  Why was I so upset?  Could I not trust God to take care of him and know where he was??

My Jesus, 12 years old now, was not out playing with the other boys as I thought he might be.  He was not out exploring.  He was in the place I least expected him.   

While we were in Jerusalem, we noticed a crowd in the temple courts.  We approached the crowd, and there sitting in the middle of those men, those teachers, was my Jesus?! 

He was listening to them.  He was asking them questions.  They were amazed at his understanding and his answers to their questions.  I was absolutely astonished when I saw him!   

Of course my panic stricken relief began to immediately question him as to why he had treated us like this.  I was sure to let him know that we had been anxiously searching for him.

He did not seem alarmed.  He seemed puzzled, in fact, that we would be searching for him.  That we would not know he was in his Father’s house.  I’m not quite sure what he was meaning by that.  I was just relieved to have located him!

As we travel back to Nazareth, I have thought on this some more.  He is 12.  He is in that awkward stage of development that all children his age go through.  His body doesn’t quite seem to always know how to handle itself.  It doesn’t always appear to be comfortable in it’s own skin.  It is almost as if his body is growing faster than it can keep up.  His voice now occasionally cracks when he speaks.  It is deepening into that of a man.  He is as tall as I am… yet so obedient, so very respectful and obedient.

Where did my little boy go?  Who is this man beginning to appear before my eyes?  It seems like just yesterday I was holding that baby boy in my arms so helpless, so needy, so little.   

And now??  He sits among the temple courts with the teachers.  He is holding conversations with them beyond his years.   

As I take these moments to think back over the past twelve years… I treasure each memory deep within my heart and soul. Each journey, each path, each tear, each joy, each sorrow.   

The skinned knees, the rocks saved, the puddles jumped into, the thumb hit with Joseph‘s carpenter hammer… all of it… the good and the bad.  I treasure it deeper than even words or thoughts can penetrate. 

I’m not sure of the future in store for him.  I’m not sure I’m ready for what it may be.  But my Jesus, my son… is not just my son… He is God’s Son and I can be certain there is a plan… and it is not my plan.  Of that I am sure!

Jehovah, be the provider of the plan… Your plan.

Jesus is growing in wisdom, and stature, and in favor with God and man.  He is growing up in both body and spirit, blessed by both God and people.