----------------------------------------------------------------------- *ABIDE: I feel strongly that this year will be about learning how to abide. To make God the focus of every moment and to pray in every circumstance.
Learning to abide in Him was definitely a reoccurring theme this past year for me. You don't realize how much you compartmentalize the Lord in your life until you know what it feels like to need him every hour. I am hopeless without Him. I didn't go as far as tattooing it on my body but I did use a sharpie on my wrist to remind me on a few occasions. I thought that was better than writing it on my child's forehead. Check out the jewelry J's friend had made. So cool. Awww yes. To abide in Him is my [daily] life goal.
(friend's)(friend of a friend)
*BOLDNESS: I have a feeling this will be a continual theme. The years of "silent witness" seem to be behind me. It has become easier for me to speak the name of Jesus but God has provided an all together new opportunity for me this year. I am excited to see what God does in a new friendship with an unbeliever.
I'm not exactly sure I can say this goal was fulfilled this year. God faithfully provided many opportunities to speak his name boldly in regular conversations with my friend but I know I could do better here. Much of the fruit here might be unseen at this point.
*DIE TO SELF: It has become very clear to me that the only way God's love can flow through me to the lost and broken is for me to surrender all of me. It is not easy. I am a work in progress. But I am hopeful by the end of this year I will be able to look in the mirror and see less of me and more of Him. With disappointments, heartache, chaos, disruption, unpredictability on the horizon my focus can not be on what I want for this day if God is going to use me.
One of the biggest things I have learned in this area is that it is not really an attainable goal that can be measured at the end of the year. It is a daily effort that I have to work hard at but the result is always fruitful.
*PRAY: We spent 2011 learning to pray for the needs of others. We were overwhelmed to watch God work and answer prayers in his timing. Our faith was strengthened. Each morning we would open up our journal and lift up the names of so many people in our lives. Extended family, local friends, far away friends, our church. Over the months new names/needs would be added. God worked in many who didn't even know we were praying. He was faithful to show us more than once what He was doing. With a little perspective, we have come to realize we let our own family's prayer needs fall by the wayside without intention this past year. Is it possible we have been offering up other people's Isaac's and holding tight to our own? 2012 will be about learning to pray for ourselves very specifically. To pray for each other's hearts and weaknesses. To see God work in our marriage. To witness more transformation as he answers each prayer in his timing. We will still be praying for you all, but we are putting our names higher on the prayer priority list with a sense of urgency. We expect we will be praying a lot more this year. I guess that is how you learn to abide in Christ and He in you.
We have definitely learned how to pray for our immediate family's physical, emotional and spiritual needs this year. But we also learned something new on the topic. It is hard to want to pray for/with someone when you feel disconnected from them in the moment. We want God to reign in our marriage even when we don't feel like being around each other and that has taken some practice. Praying more intentionally for the needs of our own family has bound us together in a deeper way this year.
*SERVE: I want to be willing to be used by God in our church and community however would best bring him glory.
We have gotten more involved in our church this year. We have committed indefinitely to serve in the toddler nursery once a month. It has allowed us to stake out some of the younger families in our Body which has been a bonus. My Love volunteered to travel with a team from our church after Thanksgiving to New Jersey. They helped muck out homes after Hurricane Sandy. He continues to be an example to our family of having a true servant's heart and I hope to better follow his lead in this area in the new year. We were certified to become foster parents in our county this year after an eight week training and a home visit. We continue to wait for a placement and remain available to be used by God in this way when his timing is right. God has asked me to be more available to friendships in my community and that has probably been the biggest reason for the lack of blogging in recent months. We see opportunities for serving people in our local community more in the new year.
*HOSPITALITY: I want our home to be open to any and every one who might need a place to stay/eat/live. We honestly believe he gave us this house for his good purpose and we want the doors to be open to all at a moment's notice. I guess I should learn how to be a better house keeper too then. *sigh* A bigger house means more work for me. Cleaning does not make me jump for joy, people. I can think of 100 other things I would rather do. But I want our house to be available to be used by God at any time which means clutter needs to be addressed and bathrooms need to be maintained. Perhaps I will learn to love cleaning for his glory. How did this bullet point turn into doing house work? Is My Love reading this? Let's move on.
I wouldn't say my love for housecleaning has increased. Or that I clean any more often. But I do feel as if I have been more eager to open my home at a moment's notice when an opportunity arises. That sometimes means kid clutter and dog-hair bunnies and dirty dishes piled on the kitchen counter much too long, but fellowship still happens here and we love welcoming people in. Friends and family from near and far are welcome.
*READ: I need to make more time to read. As an adult, I have learned how to get lost in a book and I hope the new year allows for more opportunities to do that. Once again this brings focus to prioritizing better. With the addition of foster children, many things at the bottom of the list will be sacrificed. Our marriage, children, home, friendships, prayer, loving, serving, blogging, and reading seem to be the only things worth preserving. Kind of freeing actually.
It took me a while to realize how much reading I actually did this year. More than usual. I did three devotional studies. One with our women's Bible study (Enhancing Your Marriage by Judy Rossi). One with our Life Group (Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas). One with my sister via Skype (James: Mercy Triumphs by Beth Moore). I also did A LOT of reading about foster care through the library. Many, many educational and factual books about the System as well as books written by former foster children (The Lost Boy and A Man Named Dave both by David Pelzer, Castaway Kid by R.B. Miller) and foster parents (Another Place at the Table by Kathy Harrison). It consumed my down time for several months and I am thankful for all the information I was able to glean through the broad library resources. And after two years, I finally got an opportunity to read Hope Unseen by Scotty Smiley whose brother is a friend of ours. It is his written experience of becoming the first blind active duty solider and all that God did in and through him because of it. I highly recommend it. I also read Kisses From Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption by Katie Davis while traveling to see family. It was definitely an inspiring tear-jerker.
*DATE: Enough said.
We did do better about dates this year but they didn't actually look the way you might think. Because our Life Group meets every other Friday evening, we hired a babysitter so we could participate. We managed to sneak away for date on a few special occasions but it looks like 2013 might prove to be the best year for our dating life. With new-old friends moving to the area in early December, we have already had the chance to swap babysitting each other's kids for free. Oh yes. I could see this being a very good arrangement indeed.
*LOVE: I want to learn to love how Christ loves. To see others through his eyes.
Another work in progress that needs reminding.
*SALVATION: We are praying for many to come to know Jesus as their Savior and Lord. May this be the year that the Holy Spirit opens their eyes and hearts of those we have been lifting to Him. Will you join us by praying with confident expectation for the lost that God has put in your lives?
Our prayers are continually lifted on the behalf of many loved ones. He is Sovereign. His timing is perfect and complete.
*BOUNDARIES: With all this serving and hospitality we have learned some very important lessons. We need boundaries. We need firm priorities that are not affected by constant changes in the wind and rain of the storms coming. This is a time sensitive goal. With every long term house guest has come opportunities to learn this concept. God has been good to show us this need before the abnormal becomes normal. With boundaries and structure in priorities the unexpected that will fall in our laps will be less likely to blow us down. We choose to cling to our foundation and each other. Their can be peace in the chaos. We choose to abide...and create boundaries.
With My Love's lengthy stay home we had lots of opportunities to practice boundaries with our time and priorities. We have learned that good communication helps this goal tremendously. As well as understanding the overall mission of our family.
*EDUCATION: I REALLY want Brother to be in some kind of structured pre-K kind of schooling at home. He is more than ready and I know if he has something in place the unpredictable days ahead will be less stressful for him...and me. (temporary note: this Saturday is a homeschool gathering at our new church. Perhaps this goal will be well underway sooner than I think)
Brother has been thriving since April with the kindergarten curriculum we have chosen for him this year. We have created a good routine for schooling at home and it has been such a blessing for our entire family this year. So far so good.
*STUDY: My Love and I would like to do a Bible/book study together this year. It has been a few years since we have done something like this. I am hopeful it will open doors for better communication and deepen our connection. We are both really excited to see what God will teach us together. Have any book suggestions?
Our communication, connection, and understanding of each other continues to grow whenever we have a chance to do a study together. Thankful that this year included several.
And that is about it folks.