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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

In Review...And Looking Ahead...

 On January 27 of this year, I made a simple statement that God was placing on my heart. Five words that ended up holding so much weight in 2016. Five words that are still speaking to my soul nearly twelve months later: "this year is for faith." 
To quote a bit of that post (the full post can be read in the archives under 2016 January "This Year Is For Faith")...

"He has spoken with clear distinction: 2016 is the year for faith. There will undoubtedly be moments of uncertainty and trial, moments that are intermingled with joy and everything prosperous and plentiful. But through it all will sound this message: this is all Mine - trust Me. Believe. 
Perhaps this is where I can sense Him the best: in those times when the road is unclear and the steps seem only marked one at a time - put your feet here...then here...and so on. Perhaps this will be the way in which He will show up the biggest: in those times when I simply say, I may not understand, but I still believe; I may not see it all now, but I still trust. I choose faith over fear. "

It was a promise spoken to my waiting heart as I looked ahead to a New Year. When I wrote those words, so much had already happened. I had seen God show up big...and the year was only a few weeks old. It was clear that God would be asking me to greater heights of belief than ever before...but I could never have imagined just how great those heights would be! Sometimes, I am glad that God doesn't reveal everything about our future to us...I think He knows we might simply run away and want to hide. As the months rolled on, I had to deal with unexpected challenges that threatened to tear my faith right through into shreds. I had to face fears that often seemed like mountains standing in my way. There were days and even minutes when I felt I had nothing left. There were times I only felt like throwing in the towel and telling God, I can't do this. 
But...through it all, that message I had received at the start of 2016 kept coming back to me - with the question: will you choose faith over fear? I heard it when work left me with some situations that tested my trust and my perseverance; I heard it when I sat in the hospital parking lot...my dad facing yet another medical crisis...over and over, God kept bringing me back to the one thing I could hold onto in an uncertain world: there is a Sovereign God who is holding everything - holding you - in His hands, and your offering back to Him is thankfulness. Will you bless Him...even when the trials mount and hope seems impossibly distant? 
Every time I thought I would run...just try to get away and flee the fight of it all, He would remind me: remember this. And I would return to my place of rest. Faith over fear. It became the anchor for my soul-worries and when the storms hit hard, I could hold onto this truth and know that all these tests were for my benefit. God was still good, and I was still loved - no matter what. 
Looking back on this year, my faith has been tried, tested, and proven in some of the hardest things imaginable. But the constants have remained - the love of friends and family, the truths of His Word, the comfort of the Savior. And, as I reflect on what sustained me on the hard days, these were all I needed. At the start of 2016, I had no idea what lay ahead, but I did have a sense that big faith was required. 
Fears were conquered this year. And for that I'm grateful. Perhaps that is what I'm thankful for the most as this year comes to a close - that I'm not who I was at this time in 2015 leading into the New Year. And I know that God will make me even better in 2017. He's making all of us new from year to year, redeeming the dark places, filling the empty spaces with His love and grace. If we open our hands and hearts, it's amazing how He answers...how He shows us miracles in the ordinary that become extraordinary. Moments of His grace that turn us into believers in His ability to do the impossible. On so many mornings, I would hold open my hands and pray, "do with me what you wish." That simple heart-cry led to so many amazing things that I can look back and only say, "that was Him." 
Soon, another year will be placed in our hands. It will be another 12 months where we have the opportunity to be more. We will be granted more chances to make the daily choice (and it's so daily) to face fear with faith. To step out of our comfort zones and make bold steps of belief and obedience that lead to blessing. Last month, I announced my #365dare that encourages us all to stop playing life safe when it comes to following Jesus and to turn our thanks-giving into thanks-living - to look for little things to bless Him for, even when the moments tell us otherwise. His goodness isn't contained to merely the times of prosperity when all seems to go along well. Perhaps His goodness is more perceived and understood and His grace is more magnified with things lie in a heap and we feel broken....perhaps He is most glorified when we choose to praise and thank Him regardless. That seems to be my goal in 2017: dare big. I'm tired of putting myself (and God) into a box and setting limits on how far, how deep faith can take me. And I can't wait to walk into the New Year with great expectations and watch what He will do! I know already that He has special things in store, just waiting to be revealed. I'm going into a New Year with my eyes open and my heart full.
I invite you to come along with me...and let's all "dare big" in 2017! God only knows what we'll all have to share looking back in one year from now!