"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
December 27, 2017
At the end of every December, I tend to look back and reflect back over the year. I think about what all took place, any changes that may have occurred, and consider my own life and if I'm pleased with myself and how I lived my life.
2017 was an incredibly busy year and there were many major changes that took place.
Jon's father passed away this past year, after a long battle with Alzheimers. Although we were happy that he no longer had to deal with that horrible disease and the loss of no longer being able to do all the things that he so dearly loved, our hearts were saddened and we grieved the loss of a wonderful man. Jon had great respect for his dad and learned so much from him over the years, and he cherishes all the precious memories that he has stored within his heart.
Leading up to Stan's death, our lives were somewhat consumed with being there for him; as well as for Jon's mom. Stan fell and had to have hip surgery, and we stayed at the hospital overnight with him during his stay here, due to him having Alzheimers and being confused when he was surrounded by strangers. The week leading up to him taken to heaven, we spent most nights at the nursing home with Stan, knowing that his time was short and not wanting him to be left alone. Then Jon and I were sitting by Stan's bedside and I was singing to him when he took his final earthly breaths and entered eternity. Those weeks were a very emotional time for us, as well as the rest of Jon's family.
The past couple of months or so, Jon's mom has been having some vision issues. She has seen two specialists so far, and has found the main cause is some damage caused by glaucoma. That seems to be under control at this time, and we are praying for no further damage and that her vision will remain stabilized. But that has brought more changes into her life and something else that she has had to deal with.
My oldest sister got a staph infection this year and could have died, had she not gone to the hospital when she did. She had a long road of recovery, but thank God, she is still here with us and doing well.
But there have also been happy occasions that we have celebrated. I had two great-nieces and one great-nephew born this past year. All three babies were healthy and are growing and doing well!
Jon and I have been overall healthy this year. There were some nodules found on my thyroid and I had to have a couple ultrasounds and had to see a specialist twice; but praise God, they are not growing and nothing needs to be done. They will keep an eye on them for a while, but I don't have to go back for a year!
Things at our church have finally moved forward and we've seen much progress on our remodeling project. We were at a standstill for well over two years, waiting for city permits and a few other details to get straightened out regarding the property. Finally, we have been able to begin work on the building that will be our sanctuary and have made a lot of good headway in the right direction.
We also had a deaf man from China who came here on a Visa, for the specific purpose of learning about God. He ask Jesus into his heart shortly after his arrival, was baptized, and has had a real heart for learning as much about God as he possibly can. He has been a blessing to our church and has taken great pleasure in learning how to use power tools when he's helped with our remodeling; as well as cooking a delicious, authentic Chinese dinner for our church recently.
After being in the military for a few years, then having a difficult time finding what career path he wanted to go on afterwards, one of my nephews began teaching 6th grade in August of this year. He is doing well and has seemed to find his niche.
One of Jon's nephews is in Army Reserves and completed a year of deployment in Washington DC this past summer. He had to spend a year away from his two kids and his wife; only getting to see them for short visits from time to time.
Jon has had a stressful year at his job and has been incredibly busy. I've stayed busy being a housewife and taking care of things here at home; as well as babysitting a great-niece twice a week on a regular basis.... and filling in with helping out with other great-nieces and great-nephews regularly.
I'm sure that there have been other things that have happened that I'm forgetting at this time! But it has been a very busy, emotional, stressful, mournful, happy, healthy, fulfilling year.
When considering my personal life, I've been overall pleased with myself; which some years I've looked back and can't really say that.
I feel that I have truly grown and matured in my relationship with God this past year. The Holy Spirit has revealed things to me and I've finally "got" things that I've heard, but never truly understood. I've become more passionate about spiritual things and really hearing from God and knowing Him. My faith has become stronger, believing God for the impossible and knowing that He can truly do what I often see as too difficult. It has been a remarkable, exciting spiritual year for me!!
I've seen Jon's faith increase and his hunger for God to continually grow. There have been a few things that have happened that has greatly touched my heart and has really let Jon and I know that God is near and loves us greatly! Finding a cows tooth right beside our back porch when Jon needed it for a science illustration.... Jon spontaneously washing my feet during a small prayer group.... actually "smelling" the fragrance of the presence of God one Thursday evening during prayer at our church.... It may sound strange to others, but we KNOW that it was real and it was incredibly touching!
God has provided for us, protected us, shown Himself to us in so many ways, blessed us abundantly, held us when we were without strength of our own, comforted us, led us, given us good health, and kept us in His care 24/7! What more could we ask for?!
None of us know what a new year will hold. Things can often change very quickly, sometimes God opens doors and redirects our steps in ways that we never anticipated, there are goodbyes said as loved ones pass away; but there are also hellos and welcomes as babies are born or families grow through marriage, and sometimes things that have been slowly developing comes to either an end or a beginning -- depending on the situation.
One thing that we can always hold onto and know as truth is this: Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever and He will never change. We may not always understand His plan or things that happen, we can always trust that He loves us and never takes His eyes off of us. We can know that He loves us with an everlasting love, and He will never stop loving us. We can place our faith in Jesus, knowing that He truly cares for us. We can take our burden to the Lord, and leave it there, knowing that He can handle it and take care of it much better than we can.
I leave you with this scripture as we enter a brand new year. Perhaps it was a really bad year, a really good year, or somewhat mixed. Perhaps you made some huge mistakes and have some regrets, or perhaps you feel as if you grew in your relationship with God and others and did well. Regardless, this is one thing that we all can do and need to do:
"But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14)
2017 is drawing to a close and there is nothing that we can do to go back and change what has happened or bad choices or regrets; but we can choose to forget what lies behind and reach forward to what lies ahead. In 2018 we can press on toward Jesus and determine to keep our eyes fully on Him!
May the Lord bless and keep you in the coming year, may He make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)
This has felt like a very long year. But looking back, I can't really explain why. It did seem like a long ordeal with my dad. But that really doesn't explain it. I've had several things with work that seemed to drag on-and-on. That really doesn't explain it. We've gotten to put a lot of work into the church. That doesn't seem to explain it all, either. Put together, and along with a dozen other things I can't think of quickly, the year has just felt very full, busy, and stressful.
It has been enough to make me really want to back up and take stock of my priorities.
God is of course my top priority. And the time I've spent working on our church has been great. It really is relaxing to me in many ways. Probably one reason is that I can focus on one project, and have some hope of seeing it through to the end. Even with that in mind, I started on a ceiling repair for our older building that we use as a sanctuary now, and put that on hold because so many people want us to focus on the future sanctuary instead. But on the new sanctuary, I've been able to install some nice-looking conduits to use for audio and video wiring. I designed it to handle all future expansion, and any need we have for cables for decades to come. I'm just an hour or two away from finishing that project. It's going to feel even more relaxing when I can finish it.
Work keeps pushing to the next top priority. I would love to finish a project at work. But I'm in the group that handles the last details on most jobs. It seems like something I could see to an end. But it seems like I keep getting jobs almost to the end; far enough that the system can be put into use. Then, any final touches it needs suddenly drop to the bottom of my urgency list, and some emergency comes ahead of it. And I never seem to get any jobs 100% finished. Most of the ones that seem 100% finished, we only list as 99% because there is such a high risk of something showing up after it gets used for a few weeks. The best I usually get is "Looks right, but let's try it for a while", and then never hear about it again (hopefully).
Even though I keep acting like work is my second priority, I don't want it to be. I'd rather put both family and health above work. I'm hoping in the following year I can see that come to reality.
Black Forest Trifle
1 Devils Food cake mix, prepared according to package directions
1 large box instant chocolate pudding, prepared according to package directions
3 cups whipped cream or tub of Cool Whip
1 large (or 2 small) cans cherry pie filling
Bake cake and allow to cool. Cut cake into cubes. Mix pudding according to package directions. In a large bowl layer cubed cake, pudding, cherry pie filling, then whipped cream (or Cool Whip). Continue layering until ingredients are used. (Generally makes 3 layers -- and there may be some cake leftover.) Refrigerate for a few hours prior to serving.
The Friday before Christmas I took my nephew's two kids out on a "date". We all had so much fun!! We went out for lunch at McAlisters, then went to Dollar Tree (where everything costs $1.00) and I let each kid pick out a few things that they wanted. Lastly, we had ice cream. When I dropped them off at their home, they told me that it was one of the best days that they've had in a long time; which made my heart happy.
When we went for lunch, I had ordered and paid and the cashier was getting our drinks. The amount was like $21.57. I didn't think Owen was even paying attention, until he piped up and said, "Fifty-seven cents.... Grandma is 57!" I agreed that yes, she is. He asked how old I was and I told him that I was 52. He said, "If Grandma is older than you, how come you two are the same size?" He is age five, where people comment about him growing and getting bigger as he gets older; so, in his mind, the older you get the bigger you continue getting. I tried to explain to him that there comes a point when you stop growing.... you don't just keep getting taller and bigger the older you get! A while back he was confused why his daddy was taller than his grandma, because he was younger than she was. Kids are so much fun!!
Stop living within the confines of how others define you!
You weren't created to live their life; you were created to live yours -- so live it!
Be unapologetically you! - Steve Maraholi
We love you!
Loretta & Jon