At the end of the year, rather than make a bunch of resolutions, which I am no good at and prefer to accomplish whenever I feel like it rather than on a certain reset date, I would like to look back at the year and assess what God has shown me and how I have grown.
2020: What a year this has been. I know we have all felt the weight of this year…whether directly or indirectly. I was reminded to hold on to joy when I reviewed our photos for the year. I can’t say I’ve been holding on to joy this year as I navigated the circumstances. While I know I have a genuine desire to show kindness and act out my faith, it has turned into high expectations, then often missed expectations and not feeling like I’m doing enough or that I prioritized things in the wrong order. I need to tap into the joy of doing God’s work instead of pushing the productivity of it.
Unrelated to the current difficulties, I’ve also been shifting in my own personal walk with God. For about the last 6 years, I have been on fire for pursuing knowledge and understanding of God’s word. I was digging in and understanding things in a new and deeper way. I was making connections in new ways that came far more easily as they were stacked on a more solid foundation, much like the arch. You only make the connection at the top if the base is grounded and ready to support it. Some of you have joined me on this journey of really leaning into and beginning to understand the Bible and the bigness of God’s plan for all mankind throughout the books He inspired. I have loved helping others see what I came to find out…that everyone can understand the Bible. It may begin with a guide to help you and then start to click. It makes sense that I’ve spent so much time here and I’m so grateful for the studies that I’ve been able to do over the course of this intense knowledge season of my life. As I reflect on this year, I feel myself shifting and appreciating a summation of this knowledge season. Not that I’m done learning, as we never put Bible study behind, but that this season is preparing me for the next one…with a better appreciation of what my faith is truly grounded in.
I can now more confidently answer the reason for the hope that is in me (1 Peter 3:15). I am no longer as swayed by any wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). I am established in the doctrine taught by the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). I understand the transition from the old to the new covenant in God’s plan (Hebrews 8:6). And yet, that is not the end, but the beginning of a journey of faith. Knowing more fully increases the responsibility to obey from the heart and glorify God through our lives by shining his light.
I’m beginning to see the need to spend some time in my weaknesses. God expressed that to Paul for all of us…
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” -2 Corinthians 12:9-10
One big area of weakness for me is carving out time with God. For light study, prayer, reflection, repentance and simply time with God. I have never been good at this aspect of my faith and yet I desire to establish it so much. I tend to study in big chunks, often inspired by a teaching topic or blog. The smaller, daily study has always been more difficult for me. I’ve observed amazing dedication to these “quiet times” with God from others that have inspired me with helpful approaches and practices. I’d welcome any advice about how you approach these times.
2019: Parenting and faith…realizing the most important thing we can do for our children is work on ourselves with God’s help. Cameron and I have spent a large part of this year reading and considering how we would like to parent. We try to be extremely intentional with our children and how we raise our kids. We want to ensure that our Christian beliefs are the foundation of our parenting. We have certainly appreciated the books that have informed our parenting goals, but each one I read leaves me with this overwhelming conclusion that what I need to work on is myself. These books talk about what children need from parents to succeed in dealing with their emotions, develop their values and beliefs, and to become capable adults. If I want my children to learn how to work through their frustrations, I need to model self-control. If I want my children to be loving and kind to others, I need to reflect on the ways that I live that out in front of them. If I want them to learn to lean on God when they are struggling, I have to go to God in prayer and study. 2 Peter discusses the importance of growth in our Christian walk and ends the thought by saying that in the end is an everlasting kingdom!
2 Peter 1:3-11:
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
If we desire our children to strive for that, how better than to model that path by working on ourselves and growing in our faith, with God’s help. While I love to develop a parenting “strategy”, I know that what God expects most from me in parenting is to teach them His words all the time (Deut 11:19). To teach them, I have to study and learn God’s word and His wisdom and His ways. I then have to apply that knowledge as a way to live life and weave it into my instruction and example to my children. I love that a few verses later in 2 Peter, he says “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Both studying (knowledge) AND application (grace) are expected. They will not learn the Lord’s ways from the world, the culture, or even at church (in as much as 2-4 hours a week can teach). And ultimately, I can’t teach the Lord’s ways effectively without first seeking to embody them myself. So, parenting is helping me to focus on growing in my faith…and building an active faith that produces fruit. Hopefully it will inspire my children to set their focus on God and grow in His ways.
Parenting also presents a ton of struggles and difficulties that we have to work through, with our children often having a front row seat to our reactions. How do I handle myself when I am dealing with yet another bathroom accident in our potty-training journey? What do I do when I’m overwhelmed? How do I treat my husband when we are disagreeing (or let’s call it honestly–fighting)? I am amazed at how much my 3-year-old has picked up on as he watches us (whether we realize he is paying attention or not). James 1:2-4 says “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” I love this verse for dealing with trials in life, in whatever form they come. Parenting is sort of like a marathon trial in my eyes…18 years is pretty comparable to 26.2 miles in my opinion. And it can help to strengthen our faith and produce steadfastness, as the verses state, and hopefully help mold our children to learn to do the same.
So while this year seemed like it was focused on parenting and honing in on our philosophy, it mostly resulted in reflection and seeking to grow in the ways God asks me too. I believe that is the best thing we can do for our children…show them how to grow in faith to God.
2018: Thankful for God’s purpose! Not my will, but the Father’s.
“So whether you eat or drink, do all in the name of the Lord” 1 Corinthians 10:31
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” John 15:8
I have learned so much about God’s will. I have found that in the whirlwind of our life, I need to take time to pause and remember to ask myself, if I’m doing God’s will. I’m thankful that God answered our prayers for children and I’ve learned a new level of busy 🙂 I’m thankful that I met my husband and we decided to commit to marriage with each other for life. I’m thankful that Cameron’s business brought us to Indiana. But when I ask myself, what does God want for me, what is His will, I’m learning that the answer is not in where we will live or whether we are given children or what job I do, though God has blessed us in those ways. God wants me to glorify Him! He wants me to dedicate myself to Him in whatever this life brings…If I choose to stay at home and raise our children, I should glorify Him in that. If I am in Indiana, glorify Him! There are many different directions our life can take but in any of them, I should seek to glorify Him and do the work of the Father. This year, I learned about how I need to focus on glorifying Him in all things. It has helped me keep the right perspective when things get busy and reminded me of my purpose in this life and what God expects of me. It has also pushed me to dig deeper and focus on growing by studying and doing more acts of faith. Though I know we are busy and raising children, there is no reason that those blessings (which they are) should pull me away from spending time doing the work of the Father. I have challenged myself to make sure I am choosing to spend time glorifying Him, through my parenting or my discussions with friends and family, or whatever else I happen to be doing. Whatever I am doing, I can focus on God in doing it and I feel like that is an amazing freedom and also a great responsibility (almost a spiderman reference?). I can choose to do whatever I want, but I am trying to want what God has said He wants from us, that whatever I choose to do, I glorify Him. As a parent, it’s sometimes hard to remember to do that, but the amazing thing is, there are many ways, with my kids, friends, family and neighbors, I can glorify Him in the exact place I am with the people that I am around already 🙂 I can use my exact circumstances and phase of life to glorify Him. I’m thankful for the opportunity to do that and I pray that I remember to commit my life fully to God in all phases of life.
2017: This year I struggled to embrace the concept of God perfecting me (See Philippians 1:6…”For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”). I have a tendency to bare the weight of my obedience to Christ alone. I often found myself critiquing my lack of dedication and viewing God as continually disappointed in me…especially when I didn’t feel I was praying enough or studying enough or ____ (fill in the blank) enough—which was often. Don’t get me wrong, there is value in guilt to help encourage us to do better, but this type of mentality is not giving due credit to our creator and savior or realizing our inability to accomplish this on our own! It is my job to remain faithful and to commit my life to God, but it is God who can develop me in ways I couldn’t and perfect me. In so many ways in my life, I strive for perfection. Yet I have been reminded that I am only made perfect through Christ! He has not only cleansed me of my sins, but works in me to bring about change. He loves me as his precious child, or put another way that resonated with me this year, I am (as are all of you) His beautiful creation! He doesn’t take my pessimistic approach to His saints, chastising me for every error or lack of dedication; he loves me, forgives me, and asks that I draw near to Him so that He may accomplish His work in me! As I let go of my desire to attain perfection on my own and lean on Him who is perfect to mold me, I am seeing a level of depth in my relationship with God that gives me so much assurance. The difficulty of prioritizing God in my life shifted to a view of study and prayer as much needed time with God. This was especially needed as I completely restructured my life as I became a mother and left my job in the Air Force. I know this will be a continual effort but I am so grateful that I have a savior who is perfecting me, so that I may join Him in heaven one day…and until then, that His work in me helps strengthen me to be a light to others and spread His Word!
2016: In 2015, my post about the upcoming year held so, so true. So many changes have come this year, with the answered prayer of becoming pregnant, plus plenty to trust God about with a move and leaving the Air Force! Giving over the hardest things to God doesn’t mean you can check “trust God” off the list though…it is a continual effort and I’m happy God is strengthening me to give it all over to Him. This year, what I hadn’t expected was the desire to grow much deeper in my faith, with teaching children (and challenging my knowledge of the Bible) and really digging in to study and quiet time with God. I have become more bold about speaking about God, praying in front of/for others (something that terrified me before) and better at understanding the more challenging parts of the Word. In many ways, I have matured as a Christian and yet, the more I study, the more I realize that we should grow closer with the Lord all the time. I’m thankful for the answered prayers and the closer relationship with God and look forward to 2017!
2015: As I look back on 2015, I see that it was the same area of growth as 2014…trusting in God. I have continued to strengthen my trust in God’s plan and God’s will. I am beginning to understand that it is not just the couple of items that were hardest to give up control over (trying to conceive) that I need to let go of and give to God, but really all things…from my career and where we live to my health concerns. We can entrust everything to God and He cares for us. I believe that truly trusting God has opened up many new paths that I hadn’t ever conceived of in my little comfort bubble, like the calling to adopt a child and maybe even closing a significant chapter in my life (the AF). The peace that I have found by going to God has really surprised me. My husband will tell you, I am a worrier and a planner, and both have relaxed as I give things over to Him. As I look to 2016, I have a strong feeling that many things will change and I am happy that God has been slowly building me up to be ready for whatever He has in store. Last year, I was focused on God’s plan for my life, and this year, I have come to realize that His plan is much bigger than my life. It is about a God who loved us so much that He sent his son, Jesus, to die on the cross, and give us the opportunity for eternal life. His plan is already made complete in the church (Christians) and we all have the opportunity to take part in the promises it holds if we remain steadfast in the faith.
2014: “2014 taught me to trust in God with some of the hardest things to let go of control over and gave me patience in His plan for my life…plus patience in marriage. Still working on them but am thankful for all the blessings and opportunities for growth this past year! Here’s to 2015!”