'Tis the Last Day of 2009


February 21, 2009
"I'm simply praising God for how good He is, when I deserve nothing."

Looking back over pictures and journaling from the past year, I think this short entry summarizes it pretty well. God is so good--all the time. I am humbled to recall some painful lessons ... but amazed to recognize God's incredible grace to me.

Some other entries bring a wonderful flood of memories; here are a few excerpts...

"God knew ... but I never dreamed!"

"His timing for all involved is truly miraculous, and He's provided..."

"His mercy is evident in the many things He's done through situations, conversations and interaction--that I didn't even realize."

"God was just preparing my heart, because He was one step ahead..."

"The last day and a half have been incredible testimonies to God's grace and faithfulness."

"...God's power and goodness in truly working things out for His definition of good."

A few pictures and notes from this wonderful year:

After signing up to provide entertainment for a banquet, John, Rach and I tried to look official for their ad. :) (It didn't work.)

I've been honored to share time with my three, amazing grandparents this year. In March, Nana Jean moved in with us! What began as a temporary arrangement has opened the door for her to sell her house and move here permanently.

I've played chauffeur for trips and appointments with Papa and Grammy, and always love being with them. Here they are with my cousin when we went to her graduation.

I was able to visit Kaylene during her discipleship program (January-July) in Oregon! Beautiful days, beautiful area, beautiful friend...

The spring violin recital (16 out of 20 students made it!) marked the end of my teaching--for now.

When I wasn't gone ... I was home. I love a Texas summer, a Texas sky, a Texas field.

Continuing volunteer work at the pregnancy center has been major highlight of this year. Besides the exciting projects and growth I've seen there, God's used my time there to teach me so much. The insight and example of the staff and volunteers has challenged me. I have been humbled by the incredible family God placed me in. I have been overwhelmed with the responsibility, and cried out to God. I have had the privilege to share the incredible Gospel of Jesus Christ over and over.
Although, looking back in my journal, I see that "more reading" was a goal this year, I don't think I did too much until mid-year when Dad challenged me with a number of books. Thank you, Dad, for your encouragement.

I joined a team of 28 on an God-ordained adventure in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia! When you try to go without expectations, you expect the unexpected. :) God worked above and beyond anything I could have asked or anticipated.

Four great friends + Thailand = memorable trip

Late summer found me in Oklahoma for a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) course, and Wisconsin to join a English camp of students from Tawain and Hong Kong. I met many new friends and learned so much.

After saying good-bye in Tokyo last summer, Rachel and I have kept the phone line busy ... but hoped to see each other in person! I had a great weekend in Pittsburgh in October with her--and got to see several other friends as well.
Naturally, we're really serious when we're together...

A writing project this year falls into no particular month, because it spanned several. It was a highlight of this year, not because of the project or the completion thereof, but because of what God taught me in the process. The topic, God's blessings, intrigued me. The mindboggling concept has been reduced to a religious catch-phrase. As I read and studied, God showed me how His blessings aren't giving me nice things and situations that I appreciate. His blessings are giving me what I need, what will make me know Him more, what will conform me to Christ. His goodness, His sovereignty, His grace, His truth ... these are true blessings.
And naturally, God wanted to change the mental knowledge to heart knowledge. I'm so grateful for His blessings this year to me.

He has allowed the blessing of not knowing what's next, so that I acknowledge my dependence on my all-knowing Author of my life.

He has allowed the blessing of brokenness at sin, so that I experience the power of His grace to me.

He has allowed the blessing of hard relationships, so that I seek His truth.

He has allowed the blessing of changed plans, so that I am amazed at His sovereignty.

God is good, all the time.
"I'm simply praising God for how good He is, when I deserve nothing."


On Relationships...

"The heart always provides for what it values (Matt. 6:19-34), and if we value God first, our capacity to love him and others will expand. If we value the world first, we will miss out on not only the joys of knowing God but also the joys of this life.

Relationships will degenerate into contacts, and we will seek to manipulate people to get what we think we want. We will be driven to accomplish and impress, and this will detract from quality time with those we love. Activities will take precedence over intimacy, both with God and with people.

The idol of accomplishment will erode the aesthetics of the spirit and leave us busy and weary. We will work harder to influence people, and by seeking our security in their responses, we will become disconnected from our true security in Christ. The only way off this treadmill is repentance and return to the pursuit of Christ in place of the pursuit of the world."

- Kenneth Boa


When I Grow Up...

I remember hearing sermons when I was little. Someday when I grow up I'll be that way.

I remember watching my Dad read his Bible every morning. When I'm older, I'll want to do that, too. I did it then, but because it was an expected habit, not because of my desire or spirituality. But when I grow up, I'll naturally do it.

I grew up. And I don't naturally do it.

Waiting for the constant desire for Christian disciplines is a downward cycle; it doesn't work that way. God is the One who changes my heart, but despite His sovereignty, He gave me the free will to seek or reject Him. The desire for Christian disciplines is a simple byproduct of surrender to Christ and taking small steps in obedience.

Several months ago, God used a series of events to return my heart to where it should be, seeking Him. I can't get my mind around all that He'd done through circumstances and people that He's placed in my life. He is so faithful to me.

One specific thing He brought was a Bible study on a book about Christian disciplines. I wasn't too excited, because I've been in a dozen step-programs that temporarily changed externals but never affected my spiritual life permanently. I was so tired of them.

But God used His truth in this book to teach me so much. It's not the book itself--I'm sure it would strike other people differently, depending on where they are. But it was exactly what I needed to hear.

Training versus trying, for example. That definitely struck a chord; what steps am I taking on a daily basis to obey the Lord and become conformed to Christ's image? Instead of "trying" to jump to sanctification--and being discouraged by failure--it's training ... daily obedience in small areas.

About the same time, I started a 40-day devotional. The challenge at the beginning was to fast from something that potentially distracts me from seeking God. My list of ideas was longer than it should have been. In the end, I chose the same thing that Kaylene did: no music while driving. Besides about ten minutes of Michael Medved, I haven't listened to anything, period, while I've driven alone the past weeks. (By the way, I haven't excluded talking on the phone.) :)

Imagine a hand automatically grappling for a volume knob to scan preset radio stations ... and then it drops in dejection. That was what it looked like for the first week or so, every time I got in the car.

It was so quiet.

It took a number of quiet drives for me to realize that I could spend that time somehow else.

Ever since Rachel began studying for the National Bible Bee (memorizing hundreds and hundreds of verses), I saw firsthand what it takes to memorize and meditate on Scripture. It's such a no-brainer, it's embarrassing to admit that it was a revelation. Time. Motivation.

Like other areas of my Christian life, I wondered why meditation on Scripture wasn't natural and automatic. 1) I didn't invest the time. 2) I was not motivated enough, i.e. not truly believing God's commands and promises.

I've printed up several Psalms and a couple chapters from Romans and Colossians. Let me tell you, my drives have been so much more worthwhile than the hours spent on Michael Medved, KLOVE or any Christian station. They have their place, maybe, but I sure don't think I've missed much these past weeks!

I realize these are pretty basic things ... that I should have learned a long time ago. But God is so gracious and merciful, to keep teaching me despite my inconsistency and weakness.

So I was excited by Kaylene's challenge to read through the Bible during January to July 2010. I intend to join her in it, and I would invite you to as well. Click on this image to read more about why she decided to do it, and let us know if you'll join us!

There's nothing magic about reading every word in the Bible in a certain time period. But seeking God's truth and committing to obey it is incredibly powerful, because God is powerful to change hearts and work miracles for His glory.

Remember how I used to think "When I grow up..."?

I've asked this question many times in sexual integrity counseling: "What are your personal goals for your marriage and family? ...Are your decisions today building toward that?" Nobody argues with the reality of sowing and reaping. So I'm asking myself the same question: "How are my decisions today moving toward the spiritual maturity I desire?"

It's not instantaneous. It's growing, and growing requires many small factors ... and time.

Where are your decisions today taking you?