Friday, December 30, 2011

Stones of Remembrance 2011

2011 has been a whirlwind! Where did the time go, and why is my brain struggling to remember all of it? Because of all the hits on last year's reflection post, I decided to continue the trend.

In the Bible, stacked stones often represent a memorial or altar intended to remind people of God's faithfulness in a specific circumstance. In Joshua 4, the Israelites finally inherit the land promised to them by the Lord.

"And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God." 

As I reflect back on the past year, I have my own stones of remembrance: moments that shaped me, lessons that changed me, people who influenced me, and a God who never left me. As we usher in the new year, I hope you will join me in looking back on 2011 by celebrating and marking with stones of remembrance all the Lord has done. If you don't know my Jesus, there will be no better way to bring in the new year than to allow Him to be Lord of your life.

Stone 1: New job. 2011 began with a new writing job and a class through the Christian Writer's Guild that satisfied all that I missed in grad school.

Stone 2: In February, I headed back to Colorado for a my first big writing conference where I met with agents and editors to pitch my book idea, gained more insight into my field, and discovered a new network of writers who love the Lord. It's amazing how my rejection from grad school translated into a story bigger and better than I could have penned.

Stone 3: Friendships built. This year, my community group celebrated a year together. I am blessed to do life with these Godly women. Last year, I was lonely. This year, I have more community than I know what to do with and new friends added all the time.

Stone 4: Godly counsel. In April, it was back to Manitou Springs, Colorado where I spent several days under the teaching and coaching of Doc Hensley, DiAnn Mills, and Jerry B. Jenkins. I was "forced" to lead a devotional one morning which reminded me that despite my age, the Lord has a purpose and a plan. I can make a difference now. I ended the trip by conquering the Incline with my friend Amy. I can cross that off my bucket list!

Stone 5: Renewed creativity and inspiration. Where has this been locked up? There are so many story ideas and possibilities rattling in my head that I have to constantly remind myself to focus on one thing at a time. But I'm not gonna lie...I'm pretty excited about what's in store!

Stone 6: A new team. In August, I began serving on a young adults team at my church for The Porch. Every week, I am blessed with the opportunity to greet those who enter, pray for them, share the gospel, and encourage. My team is rock solid and running whole-heartedly after the Lord. Their walks encourage mine.

Stone 7: A story complete! I finished and submitted my first book in September. My website is launched. Now begins a new journey of trusting the Lord. Stay tuned. This blog will begin a new direction this year.

Stone 8: Dreams fulfilled. This year was full of travel within Texas and out. I was blessed with the chance to spend time with my cousin and her husband in England, Ireland, and Scotland for 3 weeks. Living the dream! Florida was the next stop with a Beach Camp for youth. That trip taught me more about myself, more about trusting the Lord, and more about speaking the truth in love than anything in a long time. A couple of my girls accepted Christ! San Antonio was another stop where I spent the weekend with another cousin and met up with one of my best friends from Focus to explore the historic city.

Stone 9: Family. This has been a rough year with several untimely deaths and two family members with cancer. I ended the year with a funeral of someone I loved dearly. A couple years ago, my reaction to these deaths would have been much different. My current reaction is a testament to the Lord's work in my life, and I am so thankful. I don't understand His ways, but these deaths didn't surprise Him. He has a plan and He is still good.

Stone 10: Above all, I learned to trust the Lord in a new way this year. I set out to study the great I AM's character. When I know who my God is, then I know and can trust who I am in Him. I have committed to practice being thankful in all things. Wow, it changes my attitude. The Lord is good in this time of waiting and wondering and asking what He wants me to do. In Him is my confidence, joy, and purpose. I pray I continue to learn that in 2012. 

So many exciting things are already on the calendar! Stay tuned! Follow me on Facebook and twitter. Join this site. If nothing else, pray and grow with me this year as we anticipate the big things the Lord desires to do in your life and mine! 

Happy New Year from Texas! May God richly bless you no matter what comes in 2012.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Another Soldier's Coming Home

On December 27, 2011, Buddy Angell's name was called, and he went to be with the Savior he loved above all else. The Lord changed him in the winter of his life and gave him an uncontrollable passion to share the gospel and use what he had been given to minister to others. Uncle Buddy had a sense of humor that bordered on cheesy. He was the grandfather figure I've desperately wanted to have nearby, always ready with a hug, kiss, and encouraging word. He loved with all he had, and his mercy smoothed his gruffness. He believed in second chances because the Lord had given him a second chance. He lived what it meant to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Yesterday, Uncle Buddy closed his eyes for the last time and opened them in the presence of Jesus. This morning, I woke up to a planet where he is no longer in pain and no longer a phone call away. He's cancer free and walking with his Savior.
  © Carrie Underwood
Two weeks ago, we were told his cancer had spread and that he only had months to a year if treated with chemo. Monday, we were told the cancer had spread through his whole body, and he only had a week.

I thought I would say one more goodbye, maybe sit in his hospital room and read to him while he rested. I would tell him how much I loved him, how much he meant to me, how his relationship with the Lord made me want to be like him. I would read those goofy chain emails that he loved to pass on just to make him smile. But with one phone call, he was gone.

Cancer is no respecter of person, age, character, or circumstance. It fails to distinguish between the good and the evil. It cannot be conquered with all the money in the world. No doctor can eliminate its reality. But my God knew Uncle Buddy's days. He knew that when I said goodbye Thursday morning before his surgery, it would be the last time I would see him on this earth.

It breaks my heart that he was in pain, but I know he is walking golden streets pain-free with Jesus. My life is richer for having known him, and I can only pray that this will be said of me when the Lord calls my name. Uncle Buddy fought the good fight, he finished the race, and at the finish line, the Lord called another faithful soldier home.

For those who are in Christ, death is never goodbye because Christ conquered death and the grave. It is merely a brief separation. We love and miss you, Uncle Buddy. See you soon.

"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." Philippians 3:20-22

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:4

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." Philippians 1:21

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Do You See What I See?

She enters the room every Tuesday night dressed to the nines. Her sleek hair hangs loose around her face, shielding red-rimmed eyes. The glow of her phone illuminates her face in the dim interior. She studies the screen, avoiding my smile, and dashes through the entryway to the nearest available seat.

She’s alone.

He struts in ever Tuesday night, his scrubs a testament to a long day. His ego is his shield and he winks, flashing a charming smile. I smile back, wondering how many girls have fallen for his charisma. Surely a line of broken hearts. But as his eyes dart around the room, seeking a familiar female face, I see the hurt, the insecurity, a broken boy shining from a man’s face.

He’s hurting.

The handsome couple slow as they enter the cavernous room. Clutching hands, this is clearly their first time.  She leans closer to him, her eyes round as a child caught stealing cookies. His mouth is set in a grim line. He looks neither to the right or left, only nodding slightly at my hello. They come seeking answers, counsel, peace.

They’re pregnant and scared.

© Casting Crowns
Every week, I stand inside the doors of Watermark’s sanctuary to welcome Porch-goers. The air is electric with conversations and laughter as friends and strangers mingle and meet. They come to hear a message. Truth. They come to meet others in their life stage. Hundreds of 20 and 30-year-olds.

I love to host those who enter. The smiling faces are as encouraging as they are energizing. But for every group of smiling faces, there is a loner slinking in behind them, intimidated by the crowd or the room. They are the ones my heart goes out to, because in their eyes and actions I see stories of the hurting, lost, lonely, confused, and curious

As we ended our year last night, I wondered how many of those at the Porch would be lonely this Christmas. How many will go home to families where they feel like the outsider? How many will gather around the table on Christmas and stare longingly at an empty seat where a loved one sat last year? How many will be so stressed about buying the perfect gift to please or appease that they will forget about the baby born in a manger? It is for these people that my heart aches. It is for them that I specifically pray that peace and joy and love will be theirs this Christmas season. The baby in a manger grew up to be a man, extended his arms on a cross, and walked out of a tomb because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, loved YOU. If you are lonely or in pain this season, I pray you remember the God who holds you and never lets you go.

 "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

Friday, December 9, 2011

5 Minute Friday - Color

Here's the challenge: Every Friday, I join with other writers to write for 5 bold, beautiful minutes. No editing, no overthinking, no backtracking. The theme today? Color. I can think of no better example than my night hike up Pike's Peak to watch the sunrise. Ready?

The sky was black as ink with the most brilliant pinpricks of light embedded in deep shades of purple.

The end was near.

We rounded the peak and stopped to take in our victory. I doubled over, hands on my knees. I made it. Sunrise was near. The town below us was awash in the glow of light - orange, yellow, white. Just enough to invade the darkness of night. The stars disappeared, and then from the black horizon appeared the deepest crimson.

Blood red.
The tiniest sliver of red crested, shimmering in the morning light, shooting a firework of color onto the rest of the blank canvas. I held my breath. Never had I seen colors so beautiful. They are the colors artists pray to imitate and desperately fail to capture. They are from the original Painter, and nothing else comes close to their brilliance. As the glowing red orb rose higher and higher, orange, pink, and yellow shot into the sky, smearing under the brush strokes of a Master Artist.

I watched it all from my seat on the cold cap rock, dirty, white snow off to my left. Silence adorned our tiny group. It was a new morning, and the blue sky emerging from the depths of red appeared all the more beautiful.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Ray of Hope

It began with a phone call my last day in England this past May. My cousin, her husband, and I had just walked in the door from a few days in the Scottish countryside. With the ringing phone, life as my cousin knew it changed forever.

Test results returned. Her mom was positive for breast cancer.

After months of chemo, my aunt went into surgery this past Monday to hopefully take care of any remaining cancer. Radiation will begin shortly after the New Year.

As we drove to Lubbock to support her this weekend, we received another call...

My uncle is no longer in remission. Chemo began Monday as my aunt went into surgery.

Needless to say, this weekend was tense. Waiting wore on our emotions and will, but despite the current events, there was an unprecedented sense of peace.


The waiting room was bathed in prayer by friends and family aware of the situation. Not all my family believes prayer is effective, however, they are seeing firsthand the peace and change it brings.

The suffering in my family breaks my heart. A few years ago, I would have doubted the goodness of the Lord. I would have asked where He is, why this is happening to my family, why He doesn't heal.

But not today.

I don't question His goodness. I know He is good. I know He is Healer, though He doesn't always choose to heal. I know He is in the middle of this, although He doesn't always work the way I desire.

I KNOW HE IS GOD, and I know He is in control. In that, there is hope. Listen to the words of Laura Story's song, "Blessings."
Suffering changes, builds, and grows us into better people if we allow it. Suffering is a blessing in disguise. I don't know what will happen with my family. I don't know what today or two years from now will bring. My aunt is healing at home, and both she and my uncle have a long road ahead. I do know that I serve a God who knows what's coming and holds us in His hands. He is the Comforter, Healer, and Immanuel, God with us. He is my hope, and I will cling to Him. I pray my family does, as well.

I know the Lord brings beauty from brokenness. I know He is in the business of making things new. I know that this is my temporary home, and that moments of brokenness are opportunities to draw closer to Him. 

"Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." Romans 5:3-5