"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!'"

Luke 15:4-6

December 26, 2018


As we enter the last few days of 2018, I like to look back over the past year and reflect. I think it's good to take a bit of time to consider the past twelve months and thank God for His blessings, think about loved ones that have passed away, see where I need to make changes for the coming year, and prepare my heart for the coming New Year. I don't do it to beat myself up over mistakes I've made or for my failures, for what's done is done, but to see where I need to make changes. It's not a time to reflect upon all my wrongs, but more as a time to meditate upon how God has blessed me and Jon.

Jon and I both have been relatively healthy during 2018. I don't think either of us have had to visit the doctor due to sickness. Neither of us take any type of medication. We are strong and well. For that, I'm thankful.

I had a biopsy done on a deep nodule on my thyroid and the results came back that all is well. Again, I am very thankful for that, as well.

Neither of us have been involved in any accidents. We are incredibly grateful for God's protection over us, our vehicles, and our home. Our families have been safe this past year, also, and we thank God for that, too.

Jon was able to take some vacation time this year and relax.... yay! He took a week for our anniversary in June, then he took a couple more weeks in September. It had been quite some time since he had been able to take time off to just rest and relax, so that was a huge blessing.

We had 2 great-nephews born this past year; one on my side of the family and one on Jon's. Then my nephew and his wife were blessed by having a sweet newborn placed in their home, which they will be able to officially adopt soon in 2019.

My mom's last sibling past away this year. Wayne was the youngest of ten kids, so had experienced a lot of loss during his lifetime. His mother had passed away when he was only 12-13 years old. Shortly before his death he told his family that he was looking forward to his mom a big hug. Then he wanted to sit down and have a long visit with poppy, and his brothers and sisters. What a grand Parton family heavenly reunion that was! I am so incredibly blessed that my grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles were all christians and I know that one day I will see them all again.

Jon's mom experienced some issues with her eyes this year, which resulted in her decision to sell her car and not drive any longer. That resulted in a big change for her, but the car resulted in being a huge blessing to a single lady who desperately was in need of a good car. We are grateful that we still have Jon's mom with us and that she is overall doing very well.

I was able to babysit one of my great-nieces through May; but alas, she is in pre-K this school year. But after my nephew and his wife were blessed with the newborn placement in their home, I had a new little one to care for while the mama finished up nursing school.

Jon cut down a huge pecan in our yard in the summer, and thankfully, all went well and no one was hurt in the process!

I've made a lot of lap quilts this past year. Four of the quilts were made by special request and I was paid for them. I made 23 quilts and gave them away to family and friends. I prefer making quilts and giving them away as gifts; less pressure and more fun! Then I was able to sneak in a quilt for myself.

Work on our church remodeling has made huge progress this year. It is so exciting for our pastor and church family to see how many changes have taken place this year and how much work has been accomplished.

Overall, this has been an incredibly blessed year for Jon and myself. We've not experienced much hardship and things have mostly gone smoothly. We haven't encountered much difficulty in our journey this past year. For that we are extremely grateful.

You may be feeling the same, or you may be looking back over your year and seeing it as being more difficult than usual. Perhaps things haven't gone so well for you or your family. You may feel as if the hardships outweigh the blessings.

Jon and I have family members who have endured a lot of heartbreak and suffering, so I understand that some are ready to put this year behind them and move forward. But the truth is, our most difficult years are often the ones that we look back upon and remember. We may remember the sadness, but we also can look back and see how God was our strength and carried us through. We remember the events that shaped that year and pivotal moments. We remember conversations and people that touched our lives and goodbyes and funny moments that happened in the midst of our grief or suffering.

We all have incredibly blessed years and then years that seemed overwhelmingly difficult. Regardless of how your year went, God was always present and never left you. Remember those times when you felt His presence and knew that He was with you. Remember those people whom He sent to offer words of encouragement, who reached out and offered a helping hand, who were willing to give of their time; how someone spoke a word or sent a card or gave a gift or met a need somehow in that exact moment when you most needed it. Sometimes God allows you to feel His peace and presence in a very real way, and sometimes He uses people to be His arms and voice as they reach out and minister to you.

This is my prayer for you and your family for 2019: "May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you His favor and give you His peace." (Numbers 6:24-26)


Ironically, after Loretta had written the devotional, we both got sick. She wasn't very sick, and has already recovered. I'm on day 2, and expect to be better tomorrow, as long as I stay home from work.

We've had several relatives facing much worse than flu this year. Most of them have already beaten it, or expect to soon. A flu seems like a silly waste of time compared to cancer.

It does seem like the main time I get sick is when I have a long weekend. I'm under a lot of stress at work, and tend to carry that stress through the weekend. Then when I finally get a long weekend, I get to slow down, and get sick. But I'm sure it was sickness building up over a long time, and just showed itself when I slow down. God gave us the Sabbath, not just as a good idea, but for our health. We need to let go for a day, instead of building up for months.


Oven Caramel Popcorn

2 cups brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 sticks butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup corn syrup

6 quarts popped popcorn

1 teaspoon salt

Boil brown sugar, butter, syrup, and salt for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add baking soda and vanilla. Stir well over popped popcorn and spread in boiler pan. Bake in 200-degree oven for 1 hour, stirring at 15 minute intervals. Store in tight container when cooled.


New Years Day has always been special. Not only is it the beginning of a brand new year, but it was also Daddy's birthday. Growing up, an area church or my home church would usually have a New Years Eve singing and people from area churches would gather and sing and eat and ring in the new year together. It was a time of getting together with family and friends and enjoying an evening of hearing good singing, visiting, and eating good food.

Things change over the years. Now daddy is no longer with us, but it is my brother-in-law, Ken's birthday. I may not remember other birthdays of Jon's family, without looking at a calendar, but with Ken sharing my dad's birthday, I remember his. I'm not sure many churches get together and ring in the new year with a special service. Jon and I generally are awake when the new year arrives. Sometimes by choice, sometimes not. We always have people in our neighborhood who shoot off fireworks at midnight to ring in the new year. We know that will wake us up, so we generally stay awake until after the noise dies down. But that's fine, and we'd miss it if the firework noise didn't happen.

However you choose to bring in the year, if you choose to stay awake or go to sleep, if you are alone or with family and friends, be safe and enjoy.

Jon and I would like to wish everyone a very happy 2019!


Our hope is not in the new year....

but in the One who makes all things new. - unknown


We love you!

Loretta & Jon