Summing it up.....

I can’t believe it has been nearly a year. What a year it has been for us! Nothing we could have predicted, expected or planned for. God has a plan; He has His reasons, and the events unfolded in a way that has at times left us scratching our heads more than nodding with certainty. I was 8 months pregnant, and one cold Sunday afternoon in January Ryan came home after a meeting with our pastor and chairman of elders with a document in his hand. As we sat down together at the dining room table, he shared with me the details of that meeting. Ryan had been asked to resign his position as worship pastor effective immediately. Thankfully he was provided with a severance package through March, but little did we know what would unfold in the months to follow. We welcomed our sweet baby Chloe in March, so thankful for a healthy pregnancy and delivery in spite of the stressful circumstances we were dealing with. In the days and weeks that followed Chloe’s arrival, we would be shoved into the reality of what life is like for the unemployed and underemployed. We agonized and found ourselves extremely frustrated as we watched door after door close for Ryan, applying for any and every job opening he could find. Finally this fall after several temporary job situations, an opening presented itself with a large truck manufacturing company here in Brazil. Ryan has been working night shift with the company now for a couple of months and although it is extremely demanding physical work, we are thankful God opened the door to something in the form of reliable, steady income for him. We are still walking in some very challenging days, the hard work we have before us can be very exhausting mentally, physically, spiritually every single day. Somehow God’s peace and strength gives us the ability to put one foot in front of the other, to keep moving forward even though we are not happy with our current situation. God knows our hearts, and in spite of how difficult it is to wait, He has a purpose for us even right here where we are.
What have we learned this year? If you are expecting me to answer that with patience, sorry to disappoint you. Patience is something we all are likely to be working on for the entirety of our lives. I will admit to you in spite of how it may appear, I spend more of my prayer time asking God, “Why? When? How?” than I do telling Him, “You know, I get it, You are absolutely right on! I am happy to wait on You, Lord!” I suppose it is somehow strengthening, maturing for my faith to still communicate with the Lord even if it feels like I complain more than I praise Him. I think I’ve learned to hold on to the truth, the hope that He is good at all times, even when what He’s allowed to occur doesn’t make any sense to me. That He has purpose for me, every single moment of every single day, right where I am. That He will not fail me-ever! He will provide for me always! Let me just take a moment to boast about what the Lord has done---friends, family, sweet family of God, you have amazed us and you have blessed us so abundantly because you have listened to God’s prompting in your hearts! Do you know how God has used you to lighten our load? I have prayed daily, throughout my days, even in the depths of my struggle to understand God’s hand in all of this----blessings, abundant blessings on every single one of you for being so generous, so selfless, so giving of yourselves for our family. You didn’t have to do it, but because you did, I know God will richly and wonderfully bless you! We are so thankful for your constant prayer, encouraging words by mail, email and in person, so I hope you know what a treasure you are to us. We cannot say thank you enough, words are simply not adequate to express fully how grateful we are.
There is still work to do for the Kingdom, and we know God has something amazing, extraordinary for us and it will come about in His perfect timing. As we close out this difficult year, we realize in spite of the challenges, we are so blessed. I was reminded by a quote once again the other day, of what really matters. I will make the choice daily to thank God for loving me in spite of myself, focusing on what we do have rather than what we don’t have, and ultimately recognizing that nothing is wasted. God has purpose for each one of us, every single moment of every single day. I have to share with you what my Dad said to me in an email the other day because it is so good.

“After years of learning and experiencing the grace of God I have come to believe that the majority of life's experiences are not predetermined by God ... that these earthly days are part of the larger world, with all its complexities and the corruption of sin ... and we are certainly not excused from the rest of the world. BUT I believe very strongly that our trust in God and how we choose to live every day makes all the difference in whether we live as "victims" or whether we learn and grow into what God intends us to become. When Roman's 8:28 refers to "all things work together for good" for us I believe that God is declaring that nothing can circumvent the will of God and our part in that unfolding will. God is not some kind of fairy-god-mother who swoops in and magically changes everything. God continues to fulfill his purpose no matter what the obstacles, which is powerfully displayed in the horrendous suffering of Christ. The life and cross of Christ show us the unequalled power of God against all the tragedies of this world and even the considerable power of satan. Because we live with the limitations of the physical world and time, we cannot fully understand how God works in our lives, but we know He does. All that to say that God's love is never failing ... God's purpose will be accomplished for us and for those around us ... that we find our greatest hope in the cross and resurrection.
And God understands when we are frustrated, heartbroken, and have trouble holding on. He knew from day one we are not perfect and He does not expect us to be. That is grace!”

We are looking ahead to the New Year with hope, not in anything this world presents, but in everything that God presents! He has given us Jesus, and with that we have the greatest reason of all to live life fully, shining His love for all to see-- the hurt, the lonely, the broken, the helpless. Will you choose to shine in this dark world for them?
Blessings to you for a wonderful Christmas and an amazing New Year!
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