Friday, December 31, 2010

twenty-ten {and all that happened}

The year Two-thousand and ten is quickly fleeing from calendars all over the world and here I sit reflecting on this amazing, crazy, full year God gave me.
Oh, So much happened. 
To help myself with my reflections, I went back a whole year in my journals, to see exactly where my life was at...
The January 1, 2010 entry in my “dawn after darkness” journal summarizes the year pretty well...
“Well, It’s twenty-ten. The year I move to Slovakia for some months. The year my sister gets married. The year that God has already overcome. =)
I’m nervous and excited. 
I will not waste this year.”
I spent January studying the life of one of my role models, ‘Amma’, or Amy Carmichael. Her testimony has been a huge comfort and encouragement to me, as she served God wherever He brought her and in whatever circumstances surrounded her. I found a place at her feet through books like A Chance to Die, and looked toward where she pointed, at Jesus and the hope of His gospel.
February.... I saw my first Space Shuttle Launch. It was special because the pilot was our very own neighbor and friend Terry Virts! 
Another “Dawn after darkness” snippet says: “Those few minutes of complete sunrise in the dark were totally worth the 40 hours of driving and four days of terrible sleep. It’s been a long haul, but completely spectacular.” Yes, we drove 18ish hours straight both ways, waited up for a scrub at T-13 minutes the first night, and found the, like, only empty hotel room in the whole area to stay in. Sometimes, insanity = fun times!
I visited the “Happiest Place on Earth” with my family and grandparents In March... right after I turned 19. Those are some happy memories, right there... Staying at a resort, visiting Disney World, singing, playing games, cooking, wii, swimming, just being together. We had an absolutely wonderful time and it was only our second road trip to Florida this year! :)
The beginning of April brought on the beginning of non-stop-busy for several months, so we kicked it off with, yup, ANOTHER road trip to Florida! This time, it was to see our OTHER astronaut neighbor (Jim Dutton) pilot the Space Shuttle Discovery. It was a spectacular launch, a day I won’t be forgetting. Oh, and I do believe we had our Easter dinner at The Olive Garden, because we were in Florida waiting for the launch :) April also brought the packing, preparing and pre-travel jitters for me, as my trip to Slovakia drew ever-closer.
As planned, I left my job as  preschool chapel director a little before the school year actually ended, to head out to Slovakia on May 6.
WOW. Finding a place to start is... not easy! I guess before i get going on the summer, I’ll go ahead and insert a special story here: The day after I arrived in Slovakia, a new little bundle of love joined our family. We call this rambunctious, adorable, sweet little character “Allie”. Two years old, and quite the charmer, we’re hoping to adopt her soon after the new year. I cried (tears of joy) when I heard she had come to stay with my family. I got to meet her over Skype (oh, the wonders of technology) and I’m pretty sure she spent the summer thinking that my mom’s computer was named Bethany and could talk to you sometimes... 

Slovakia, *sigh* is where I spent most of May, June, July and August. It was by far the highlight of my year. Basically, I lived with my slovak “family”, the Abrmans, and joined in on whatever they were doing, as well as adding a bit of my own twist. I arrived, not exactly knowing what God had planned, but I was able to teach some Bible-focused English classes for neighborhood children, as well as help with craft classes, church events and preparing for the yearly Summer English Camp. I also had the opportunity to visit a Manna Center in Romania with some Slovak Christians, where we delivered clothes to children and had a story time and gospel presentation. I visited schools, spent hours with old and new friends, sang, traveled, baked cookies, learned (or at least tried) the Slovak language, laughed, cried, lived. It was a summer I will never, EVER forget. 
A snippet from my “Joshua 1:9” journal, “I remember coming, being shy of everything, being scared of doing something wrong, afraid of being real-- not perfect. These friends and experiences taught me oh, so much... I learned to speak love, not language. I learned to speak Slovak, sing it too. I learned (and am still learning) how to smile through pain.
-and to think I came here to teach! oh the irony of life...”
people aren’t missionaries because they have everything figured out already, people are missionaries because they just really, truly care about making a lasting difference in others lives. I pray I did that.
The very end of August brought me back to Friendswood, where I jumped back into the His Kids family, preparing for a new school year. I also jumped into the role of Maid-of-Honor, as we prepared for my dear sister’s October wedding. 
My last month with an older sister in the house, September, FLEW by. I was sick a lot, story of my life. Very quickly, ‘You Are For Me’ by Kari Jobe became my favorite song. “I know that You are for me, I know that You will never forsake me in my weakness...” As things changed so dramatically, I began to feel lonely and needed to ask myself some hard questions. Did I really, Really trust God? Or did I just say that I do. Did I trust that His plans are perfect, and that I could wait on Him? I went back and forth with myself: “I’m alone”, I’d think, “BUT GOD”, i’d know. God is so good. He never left me, and He never will. 
With the beginning of a new school year, I started my fourth year working at a Good News Club in a local public school. It has been incredible to be a part of the same children’s lives, year after year, watching them grow.
October 2 brought happiness and joy, my sister’s wedding day! It was positively the most perfect wedding, gorgeous weather, hundreds of family members and friends, a beautiful bride, a dashing groom. They exchanged vows early in the afternoon, and the celebrations went on for the rest of the day, so, so wonderful!
It’s been strange, not having Emily with me all the time anymore, but I’ve been so blessed to see her at least once a month. I went on a women’s retreat in mid-October to help lead the worship program. God really blessed me in the company of several wonderful women of God, as we spent two days studying the book of Ruth and just being together, encouraging each other. I finished out October in doctor’s offices, trying to discover why I spent two entire months sick. We didn’t really find any answers, but I'm trusting that God knows what He's doing!
November was probably the busiest, low-key month I’ve ever experienced. My mom spent a night in the hospital (don’t worry, she’s doing fine!) which sent our whole house into a “health-makeover”. The whole month was full of normal activities, doctors visits for several of us, as well as a new activity, called “taking it easy”. uhmmm, what else... I painted my room and we celebrated Thanksgiving.
Now it’s December (the 31, to be exact) and it’s been a pretty good one. The His Kid’s Christmas Program, a Michael W. Smith Christmas Concert and a weekend in Brenham are just a few major highlights of the month. Oh, and of course, Christmas! Every year, the story amazes me, of how a Deity, so powerful and perfect would give up his heavenly home and come to earth to be the Savior of all mankind. Jesus’ humility and love are so stunning. you can find my thoughts on Christmas here: 2000 Decembers Ago

As a new year is fixing to roll in, I have NO idea what God has planned, not really even an inkling, but I’m not worried. I do have tentative plans to return to Slovakia, for how long, I’m not sure.  And of course, I’ll continue serving wherever God drops me.
I don’t have any big New Year’s Resolutions. Yes, there are a stack of healthy cookbooks sitting on my floor. True, I’ve got some dreams I’d like to follow. But mostly, as this new year dawns, I’m just taking things a step at a time.
Out of the hundreds of verses I have claimed this year, John 16:33 was my “big picture” verse. I personalized it a little, but here it is:
“...These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In this year, you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome this year.”
He did overcome it. And He has already overcome 2011 as well!

wow that was really long, yet there's so much more I could have shared... If you've gotten this far down in the post, I'm impressed! Thanks for sticking around to check out my year! I hope it's blessed or encouraged you in some way, or maybe reminded you of a memory we share. 
I think that's enough of my own words for a while, so I'll let the Psalmist speak:
 The LORD is gracious and merciful;
         Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. 
    The LORD is good to all,
         And His mercies are over all His works. 
    All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD,
         And Your godly ones shall bless You. 
    They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom
         And talk of Your power; 
    To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts
         And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom. 
    Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
         And Your dominion endures throughout all generations. 
    The LORD sustains all who fall
         And raises up all who are bowed down. 
    The eyes of all look to You,
         And You give them their food in due time. 
    You open Your hand
         And satisfy the desire of every living thing. 
    The LORD is righteous in all His ways
         And kind in all His deeds. 
    The LORD is near to all who call upon Him,
         To all who call upon Him in truth. 
    He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
         He will also hear their cry and will save them. 
    The LORD keeps all who love Him,
         But all the wicked He will destroy. 
    My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,
         And all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.
Psalm 145:8-21

Praying blessings over your New Year,

Thursday, December 30, 2010

"In the Maze"

For some time now, I've been working with my dear friend Zuzana on the translation for one of my favorite songs 'V Bludiskach' and today we have come as close to finishing it as we can. I'm so excited to share it with you, that I'm posting it right away! There is a Youtube link at the end of this post, and even though it's in Slovak, it's really beautiful to listen to... I'd suggest you play it while you read the lyrics :)
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future..."
Jeremiah 29:11

In the Maze
Verse 1
Those few days were so troubled
You know, the fear that you'll fall
I know the fall caused a surge of losses
He's the one
for whom you're searching
Like rain that soothes the soul
He watches over and advises you
He's the dawn after darkness
that you wait for
He is laughter
sounding from the lips
He washes away sin
and banishes your fears
Because God gives you faith and strength
when you lose hope
When i'm lost in the crowd
when I have sorrow in my heart
Verse 2
Those few mornings
black, like the wings of crows
They color my world black
I know you're fearful
I wander in the maze too
but God watches over me
He watches over you too.
Like rain that soothes the soul
He watches over and advises you
He's the dawn after darkness
that you wait for
He is laughter
sounding from the lips
He washes away sin
and banishes your fears
Because God gives you faith and strength
when you lose hope
When I lose myself
I'm silent and alone
He who was
He who will be
Whose love is not rationed
He who has been
He who will change
our sorrowful world, to the happiness of heaven
The one who is
and forever will be 
The righteous
at the final atonement
whom all the angels worship
Whom I believe…. who
Like rain that soothes the soul
He watches over and advises you
He's the dawn after darkness
that you wait for
He is laughter
sounding from the lips
He washes away sin
and banishes your fears
Because God gives you faith and strength
when you lose hope

Friday, December 24, 2010

A thrill of Hope

A thrill of HOPE, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Oh, that night when Christ was born.

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

"thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins!" 

Let His Hope Thrill You, Today And Always,

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It Happened One December Night {Lunar Eclipse}

pictures taken in Friendswood, TX
Full Moon

The sun has one kind of splendor,
 the moon another and the stars another; 
and star differs from star in splendor. 1 Cor 15

Since the beginning of the world,
God's invisible qualities have been clearly seen
in what has been made... Rom. 1:20

When I consider your heavens, 
   the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
   which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
   human beings that you care for them? 
Psalm 8:3-4

God made two great lights;
 the greater light to rule the day,
 and the lesser light to rule the night...

Ye are blessed of the LORD
 which made heaven and earth Ps. 115:5

Colored By Earth's Shadow

The heavens declare the glory of God;
   the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
   night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
   no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
   their words to the ends of the world.
Psalm 19:1-4

Oh, the gifts He lavishes upon those He loves!

Monday, December 20, 2010

got verses?

FOR SERIOUSLY, having the flu really takes everything out of a person. I can't even come up with a good title for this post, I'm so "dead"...
Over the past few days, I've been trying to write a couple different blog posts, but every time I stop to think about a concept, or how best to word a sentence, my head starts to pound, my body starts to ache, my nose starts to run and I get shaky with cold, burning hot, or sleepy. Actually, anytime I try to do anything, that happens.
But you probably know how the flu goes. 

I'd be stupid to think I'm the only person spending this Christmas week curled up on the couch with a box of tissues and a pile of medicines, so I figured I'd just share some of the verses that either I've read, or others have shared with me these past few days. They really encouraged my spirit.
Maybe you're not out with the flu but you're going through some kind of rough situation, or maybe you're perfectly healthy and doing just fine...
these are for you too :)

Lamentations 3:22-26

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
   for his compassions never fail.
 They are new every morning;
   great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
   therefore I will wait for him.”
 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
   to the one who seeks him; 
 it is good to wait quietly
   for the salvation of the LORD. 

2 Corinthians 4:7-18
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.  So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
  It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak,  because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.  All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Psalm 73:23-26
Yet I am always with you;
   you hold me by my right hand.
 You guide me with your counsel,
   and afterward you will take me into glory.
 Whom have I in heaven but you?
   And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
 My flesh and my heart may fail,
   but God is the strength of my heart
   and my portion forever.

I'd love to see more verses! Obviously, this list is anything but extensive so there are a lot more passages out there. If you have a moment, please comment with a verse that speaks to you and might speak to others too.
Blessings on you this Christmas season,

Thursday, December 16, 2010

2000 Decembers Ago

I’m about to go on vacation from work. The reason: to celebrate Jesus!

The ONLY real reason for Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God with us. For many people, as time has passed, different traditions have lost their original purpose. 
People think of the holiday season more as a time to celebrate family, friends, peace, love. Time for parties, food, fun... but Christmas isn’t Christmas without Christ. 
Let’s face it. We wouldn’t have Christmas at all if it weren’t for the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior King! We owe it all to him, even our Christmas vacation time! 
The story of His birth is so spectacular, so original. It has so many underlying plots, so many twists and turns. So much unexpected, so much wonder, that it could only be crafted by a Master Craftsman. The absolute best of the best. God Himself?
Jesus’ birth fulfills century-old prophesies. It prepares the way for redemption, salvation for the whole world (Jew and Gentile alike) through the sacrifice of a truly spotless lamb. It introduces the world to its true King and Creator... and yet he was born in a feeding manger.
Oh, how I long to hear the angels' song. How glorious and perfect it must have been; the song prepared to announce the birth of God’s only Son! And to hold him in my arms, like Anna did in the temple.
To see the Savior, in all of His humanly humility. Who, to become our sin and to save us from a bitter end, gave up His own self and wrapped himself in human flesh. He breathed the very air we breathe. 
That’s what I celebrate. That’s why I celebrate!  How can you know all that and NOT celebrate?
Unto us was given the most amazing gift, free for the taking: eternal life. 
When you accept that gift from God, then there’s something to celebrate, a reason for the season.
Don’t leave Jesus out of Christmas. Without Him, it wouldn’t be!

Did it feel like a night any different 
Then at least a million before 
Was there any rare expectation 
Like there was some kind of somethin' in store 
Did the sky have to hold back the thunder 
Did the moon find new reasons to glow 
Could the children somehow sense the wonder 
2000 Decembers Ago 
Were the sheep as amazed as the shepherds 
At the new star that lite up the sky 
Did the willow trees whisper excitement 
To the rivers and streams passing by 
Did the joy ricochet off the mountains 
'Til it filled up the valleys below 
Did all the world sense love abounding 
2000 Decembers Ago 
Was anyone able to look at the stable 
And not see a child but a King 
I wish I could hear back over the years 
As heaven & nature sing, heaven and nature sing. 
Did the walls of the barn start to tremble 
With a glory they could not contain 
Did anyone wake with the feeling 
Of peace that they could not explain 
Oh the love must have been overwhelming 
As it warmed everyone in its flow 
For all of the earth is still telling 
Of 2000 Decembers ago 
Was anyone able to look at the stable 
And not see a child but a king 
I wish I could hear back over the years 
As heaven and nature sing, heaven and nature sing 
Oh the love must have been overwhelming 
2000 Decembers Ago