Reflection

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It’s hard to believe that 2013 is drawing to a close. Before moving on to a new year I enjoy taking an a few hours to reflect on the last year and prayerful look forward to what’s next. Here’s a list of the questions I use for reflection. Enjoy! ~Keri

 

A Year in Review

  1. What was the best thing that happened in the last year?
  2. What is the most challenging thing that happened?
  3. What was an unexpected joy?
  4. What was an unexpected obstacle?
  5. Pick 3 words to describe the last year.
  6. What were the best books you read?
  7. With whom were your most valuable relationships?
  8. What was your biggest personal challenge?
  9. In what ways did you grow emotionally?
  10. In what ways did you grow spiritually?
  11. In what ways did you grow physically?
  12. In what way did you grow in your relationships with others?
  13. What was the most enjoyable part of your work professionally?
  14. What was the most enjoyable part of your work at home?
  15. What was the most challenging part of your work professionally?
  16. What was the most challenging part of your work at home?
  17. What was your single biggest time waster this past year?
  18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?
  19. What was the biggest thing you learned this past year?
  20. Create a phrase or statement that describes this past year.

Looking Forward

  1. What healthy character traits would you like to see developed in your life this year?
  2. What is your plan for maintaining accountability for progressing in personal growth?
  3. What are some of your learning goals this year?
  4. What books would you like to read this year?
  5. What is one area of growth at your job that you would like to develop this year?
  6. What is one area of progress you’d like to see this year for improving your physical health?
  7. What are some tangible daily choices you can add to your life that will improve your health?
  8. What are some goals you have to strengthen your marriage?
  9. In what ways can you grow in intimacy with your spouse this year?
  10. What will deliberate, regular family time look like this year?
  11. Do you have specific planned vacation time in mind for this year?
  12. What are some ways you’d like to see each of your children grow this year physically, emotionally, spiritually, and educationally?
  13. What is one specific area of progress you’d like to see this year in your financial health?
  14. How much debt do you have? In what ways can you eliminate a sizeable portion of it this year?
  15. How is your savings? In what ways can you save more money this year?
  16. Are you giving regularly? In what ways can you give this year?
  17. In what specific ways would you like to grow in relating to your friends this year?
  18. What are some ways you can be of service to your community?
  19. Who are some specific people in your life that can use some encouragement? What will you do to encourage them this year?
  20. Who are some people in your life that you admire? How can you positively use their influence in your life?
  21. Are there any damaging relationships in your life? What will you do this year to make it better?
  22. In what ways can you develop your prayer life this year?
  23. How do you feel about your consistency in reading the Bible? What steps will you take to see this area grow?
  24. What area of weakness do you feel like God wants to strengthen this year?
  25. What will be your spiritual theme for this year?

Empty Chairs

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“There’s a grief that can’t be spoken.

There’s a pain goes on and on.

Empty chairs at empty tables…”

Les Miserable

For three Christmases now there has been an empty chair at my table. That chair sits empty the other 365 days a year, but at Christmas time it’s glaringly obvious that it’s vacant; that my family is incomplete.

The Christmas movies, and carols and commercials tell us how Christmas is supposed to look. Tables filled with food and family. Trees covered in tinsel and lights. Presents perfectly wrapped and ribboned. Not empty chairs, or unlit trees, or presentless Christmas mornings.

How do you celebrate when the husband leaves, or arms ache for a child they can’t hold, or the bank account sits empty? How do you sing Joy to the World when your world is filled with grief?

I keep searching for the comfort. The metaphor in the midst of the missing. The thing to fill the empty chair. I think I’m supposed to say that Jesus fills the empty chair, fills the empty places in our hearts. But, He doesn’t. If He did then my heart would be overflowing, and it isn’t… it’s aching. Aching for something I can’t have. And as much as I pray and as much as I seek Christ, the empty chair and the empty heart remain.

So does that mean Jesus isn’t enough? No. I don’t think it does. Jesus is enough. He is all we need. But that doesn’t mean He fills every empty place, not that He can’t, just that He doesn’t. Some seasons Jesus allows emptiness to fill our days.

That doesn’t mean He abandons us to our grief… no, He enters in. He enters into our messy, less than, imperfect, empty places and sits with us. Not in the empty chair, but beside us as we face the emptiness. He gives us strength to face the empty places. Strength to accept the reality of the brokenness. Strength to face the injustice of this world we live in. He gives us permission to grieve our loss. Permission to be angry at the unfairness of it all.  Permission to be weak and tired and needy. He doesn’t demand that we pull ourselves together, or put on a brave face, or pretend like everything is just fine when it isn’t.

He is the God who comforts us. Who draws near to our broken hearts. Who binds up our wounds. He’s not afraid of our empty places, even when we are.

The truth is; this Christmas may not be as full as we hoped it would be. This Christmas there might be empty chairs at the table serving as reminders of prayers unanswered. The truth is Christmas isn’t always merry and bright. But if it weren’t for the miracle of Christmas and the baby that came to dwell with us, our empty places would be unbearable. Christmas reminds us that the baby who came to bring peace in the midst of chaos will come again to bring us to dwell with Him where there will never again be places of lack and longing. Until that day, I pray that you (and I) will find Him close and comforting in the empty places of life.

Emmanuel, God with us, come.

Love~

Keri

When Christmas Is Heartbreaking

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She would have been twelve.

I just assume that I only make girls. Being a self-professed girly girl, I soak in all the sugar and spice. Fairy tales and make believe, chasing after dreams like clouds thinking if I jumped high enough I would hold them in my hand.

I haven’t thought about her in a while. But, for years thoughts of her consumed my waking moments and my dreams.

It was Christmas time; all was jolly and bright with the gentle mixture of fear. What would motherhood be like and would I be good at it? All I knew was that strong desire to mother was within and we would figure it out together. I would grow into motherhood with each breath she took.

Three days before Christmas something happened. I knew something was wrong, I began to miscarry a dream, and a fragile life. I could see it every time I looked in the mirror, fear staring me in the face. I spent a few hours in an ER room longing to hear a heartbeat that was never meant to beat.

I pulled myself together, packed our gifts in the car, and said goodbye to my mother. All I really wanted was to stay there with her, but there was more family to be seen with Christmas days away. I tried my hardest to celebrate the birth of the baby that changed everything for me. And yet all I felt was heartache tinged with anger and questions. Why me?

A tiny cry that all of heaven celebrated, the God-child. Immanuel, God with us, and even as my heart broke He was with me unafraid of my questions. Never once did I feel Him condemning me. I just felt His all-consuming love.

I opened maternity gifts and I cradled the new life around me, and new additions to our family, and then I slipped upstairs to grieve without watching eyes. I laid down in the bed, pulled the covers over my head, and fell apart.

My mother-in-love followed me upstairs, sat next to me, and cried with me.

“It was our baby too.”

I’ve never forgotten that moment or that feeling, but at times I have returned that same gift of just crying with those who are hurting.

I don’t know what you are experiencing right now, but I know so many of you are dealing with a loss of a loved one or maybe even a death of a dream. I pray that you find joy, deep joy, in the season and know that the God-child came wrapped in flesh so that we might identify with Him. His love caused Him to leave the comforts of heaven to die for our sins.

Because of the baby in a manger, I have great joy and hope. I have experienced the pit of depression and have been awakened with greater joy in knowing that through that pain, God alone has a purpose in forming us into His likeness.

I have experienced healing and restoration in my body and received the joy of two beautiful girls. But, I haven’t forgotten that Christmas filled with tears and how God met with me and cradled me through it all. So many this season have experienced loss and I just wanted you to know that I am thinking of you, of your pain, and if I could I would sit beside you and carry that pain with you and just cry.

My prayers and thoughts are with you. If you have a prayer request or maybe a testimony like mine, leave a comment and we will be praying with you.

Much love,

Jennifer

Lessons from Mary

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Can you imagine being young and betrothed, wide-eyed and hopeful of what is ahead, and then all of a sudden the world stops for one tender moment and you hear this:

“Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women!”

She’s bewildered, confused, and frightened. What does all of this mean?

Once again she hears the words from the angel Gabriel, “You have found favor.”

He calms her troubled mind, tells her of her favor and worth, and then drops the bomb.

…And you are going to give birth to the Son of God.

Perhaps she had to remind herself to breathe as she asks, “How can this be?”

And the angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you;”

She takes it all in. He speaks again, “For with God nothing will be impossible.”

The favored one chosen to carry the Son of God speaks, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”

The angel departs. She decides to visit Elizabeth and she hears once again, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”

“Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told from her Lord.”

Mary begins to sing and I have my answer to why she was chosen. Why her among all of the others?

Her responsive obedience was the very thing that made her highly favored and the one handpicked by God.

There was just something about her, sweet and unassuming as her songs spills over from the depths of who she is.

Mary was devoted to God: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”

Mary was humble: “For He has regarded my lowly estate.”

Mary knew God and His character: “For He who is mighty has done great things.”

She speaks of His holiness, His mercy, His strength…and how He fills the hungry with good things.

I sit in wonder as I look at the life of Mary and how the Holy Spirit overshadowed her. Overshadowed is the same word used for the cloud from which the voice spoke at the Transfiguration. Both refer to the cloud that manifested the glory of God.

I identify with her questions and marvel at her responsive obedience. As I think about the things God has asked me to carry, I am reminded of all the times I have questioned him. How can this be?

But, my prayer is that I will take those questions and open my hands to give them over to the One who is higher than I. May I respond in obedience and sing a song of the faithfulness of God.

What has God asked you to carry?

Sweet friend, what He calls you to do He will equip you to do. May He overshadow you with His presence. Let’s press on together and light up this world!

Much love,

Jennifer