Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Year in Review

As 2011 comes to a close, B.J. and I started to review our year after dinner tonight. We discussed our year for awhile and then decided we should write it down to help us remember our successes, failures, the overwhelming joy and sadness, and most importantly what the Lord has been so gracious to teach us this year through His Word and the experiences He used in our lives to bring us closer to Him. So, this may take some perseverance on the part of the reader (and the writer), but here goes…

January brought snow and ice! After several days of sledding, snowboarding, hot chocolate, and all the cookies we should have ever eaten in our entire lives, I was over it. My lack of patience “urged” B.J. to clear the driveway. Unfortunately, he slipped on the ice and broke his ankle. Clayton Speed and Bobby Erwin had to carry us (literally) to an Urgent Care where B.J. was fitted for the boot he would wear the next six weeks. “No weight bearing” for six weeks will teach one a great deal about patience! I knew I had a wonderful husband who helped with everything, but when I had to do everything alone and help B.J. – whew, now that was a test! Lance Pate came and cleared our driveway later that week which was very much appreciated because I had to go to work on Friday. Not just because I was supposed to, but because I had to get out of the house for goodness sakes! The accident did open the door for B.J. to enjoy our garden tub and take more baths than he says he ever wanted to! But, the time in the bath gave him the opportunity to memorize most of the Book of Phillipians.

February 5th was Joel’s 7th physical birthday and the 20th was his first spiritual birthday!! He made his decision public in the Venue at FBC Trussville on February 27th. We are so thankful God has called Joel to Himself and saw much spiritual growth in Joel throughout the year. Joel also raised over $500 for the Margaret Elementary Fun Run, running an amazing 37 laps!

In March, we celebrated our first Spring Break “Stay-cation”. We went bowling, to the park, and to the carnival. We finished off the week with what should have been our best camping trip ever, but on the last night I got the stomach virus. I had to abandon the boys on the camp site and drive to the Jameson Inn in Alex City! It was a nightmare, but turned out to be a very funny story to my wonderful girl-friends! This was David’s first camping trip and he had a wonderful time. Maybe we will get take him again and stay the whole time!

On April 17th, B.J. had the honor of baptizing our oldest son Joel. It was a wonderful day filled with the joy of the Lord. Joel requested that we have our entire family come to our house and eat lunch after the service. This was such a compliment to me and I hope that he will always feel like our home is a wonderful place to be. I will always enjoy and count it a privilege to open any home the Lord gives us to family and friends. The same evening, Caleb and Joel performed in the Children’s musical CAMP ABC at FBC Trussville. 10 days later on April 27th, our state experienced one of the saddest days that I can remember. Tornadoes wreaked havoc on much of our state, but it was as if they totally missed our lives. We had no damage to our home or our church, but the pain and suffering was all around us. These storms changed us forever. We had the opportunity to give in real, tangible ways to our own community and B.J. had the opportunity to help with the clean-up efforts. The boys and I had the opportunity to pray for our neighbors like we never have before. Caleb prayed for the people hurt in the tornadoes for months and even now, he often remembers them and asks God to help them and keep them safe.

May was filled with excitement! Caleb graduated from 4K, and Joel finished 1st grade. I finished my 30 week study on the Book of Isaiah through BSF. I could never articulate in words all that the Lord taught me through this study. His Word is true and it is the only source of truth. Everything we think, feel, and experience must be compared to His Word. One of the things He taught us was on discipline – how He disciplines and how we were disciplining. He is the perfect parent and His motives are never prideful or selfish, yet many of ours were. We read a great book called 1-2-3 Magic for Christian Parents at the suggestion of Terry Mashburn. It was a wonderful book and God used it to bring full-circle what He was teaching us about parenting and discipline through Isaiah. We finished off May with our family vacation to the beach. While we had a fabulous time, we learned that we are too big of a family to stay in a 1 bedroom condo for a week! However, we probably had the best time ever on the beach because we carried a large canopy, zero-gravity chairs, and tons of beach toys. Even though B.J. did not want to cart all that stuff 100s of miles, we were able to spend hours on the beach and truly enjoy God creation and each other. So he had to admit that I was right… again! J

June was filled with VBS, Fine Arts Camp, “Click, Clack, Moo” ACTA Drama Camp, and lots of fun on our new water slide! Cars 2 was also a hit with the James’ Family who are our favorite friends to go to the movies with! David moved into a “big-boy bed” because he decided it was time to climb out of his crib and onto his changing table during nap time. Half of the year is over and amazingly, I am caught up with my photobooking!! Who-hoo!

July brought home my brother and his new wife Cara. They were married in Africa and we had a family reception for them on July 4th at my Aunt Vallie’s house. God changed my life that day in a way that I certainly was not expecting. My Daddy gave me a book that day. Although it was probably not expensive and I think he found it at a used book store, it is priceless to me. It is priceless because by giving it to me I know that he “hears” me. He knows what I believe in and the causes that I am passionate about. I will never spend another second wanting him to be someone he is not, but will spend every possible moment enjoying him for who he is.

Caleb turned 5 on July 10th and David turned 2 on July 30th. They had a double party at Trussville Play Place on the 20th and our sweet David had to wear a little boot similar to the one B.J. wore when he broke his ankle. He had a soft-tissue injury and had to wear it for 2 weeks. He was so cute in it! Unfortunately, he hurt it the day I was scheduled to have my painful varicose veins fixed. I went ahead with the procedure, so B.J. had 2 crippled people to wait on for several days!

August ushered in the beginning of many, many changes in our lives. We had prayed that God would provide a buyer for our home in Margaret and provide a home for us in Trussville so we could be closer to our church and so Joel could attend Paine Primary with his friends from church. On August 15th when Joel started school at Margaret, it appeared that Jehovah-Jirah (God Our Provider) had said “NO” to this prayer – and He is big enough to do that! We recommitted ourselves to ministering to the school, teachers, and neighbors God had given us in Margaret. At peace with God’s decision, we moved on. Our entire family started Bible Study Fellowship and we were able to study God’s Word together during our Family Worship Time each day. This has been a tremendous blessing to our family as God’s Word will never return void and the Book of Acts has been right on time.

The Contemporary Service moved into the Sanctuary at FBC Trussville in August. This was a huge milestone, an exciting transition, and an amazing opportunity. We will never cease to be humbled and amazed by the fact that the Living God who created the universe has chosen to use us for His purposes.

August 29th, God brought a buyer for our home. And, not just a buyer – He answered our specific prayer for our home to be a blessing to the next people who would live there. We prayed He would bring someone who would love and enjoy it as much as we had. The sweet couple who bought our home in Margaret told us it was “absolutely perfect” – everything they wanted and in the exact place they wanted to live. God is SO ABLE!

September was a whirlwind of trying to find a house in Trussville and make it to Disney World by the 17th. After looking at almost every house in Trussville and driving our agent Shay Shellnutt crazy, we put an offer on our new house in Sherman Oaks on September 11th. It was accepted and we planned to close on September 28th. We went to Disney as planned and had an amazing time! So magical for the boys and such a wonderful memory as a family. My amazing mother-in-law packed up most of our house while we were gone. My mom came over and helped us pack up the rest when we returned home. But, then we hit a road-block. Our closing had been delayed. First a couple of days and then almost a week. I definitely identified with the Israelites living in tents for 40 years! We didn’t know whether we should unpack or not and we really didn’t know if possibly the whole thing might fall through! It was a very stressful time and I was seriously almost to go through the roof. I was praying, I was trusting, but my anxiety level was really high! My BSF group leader, Deanna, made the comment that I was really demonstrating the “peace of God”. I said, “Thanks Deanna, but I did take a Xanax!” God really does use medicine sometimes!!

We closed on our new home and Joel started Paine Primary School on October 5th. God used His Word in an amazing way that day. We had been studying about Stephen and how God comforted him as he was being stoned. Joel’s first day of school at Paine Primary, he was nervous. But, at 7 he trusted in Christ enough to know that if God was strong enough to comfort Stephen, He was big enough to comfort him if he was afraid at his new school. When I picked Joel up from school he said it was the “best day ever!” Glory to God!

After weeks of praying, we finally knew Joel’s teacher’s name – Sabrina Johnson. He did not know anyone in his class, but made fast friends. We believed that God was Sovereign over Joel’s new class, but throughout the rest of the year, He has made that even clearer. Joel’s speech continues to be an issue and we had fought for him to have speech services at the previous schools he attended. He was denied 3 times and we continued to do private therapy at intervals. We trust that we will continue to see God’s Hand at work in this area over the next few months. For now, we know that Joel is exactly where he is supposed to be and we are thankful.

Our life took on many new changes as we moved into Trussville. We cut our gas in half, had a laundry room, a fenced in back yard, threw away tons of “stuff” when we moved, made over $1000 at Kids Market/Craigslist , got a new playground from our awesome neighbors – The Stovall’s, and last but not least – we finally get to recycle!! We made some wonderful new friends – Brian and Laura Stanley who live next door and Tyler and Jennifer Eiland (missionaries living in the mission house). So thankful that God continues to bring new friends into our lives!

In November, we hosted Thanksgiving for our families and dedicated our new home to the Lord. This was my first opportunity to fix the “big food”. Thank goodness for Honey Baked Ham!! Our families had a wonderful time and we were thankful to be able to open our home to give thanks to God for all His blessings and this great nation. Since my family is used to celebrating in the wide open space of North Alabama, I obligated B.J. to take everyone on a hike to the Mighty Cahaba River. I think they should have carried some bottled water! Last but not least, B.J. and I endured the crowds at Wal-mart on Thanksgiving Night and got a new Television. So now my Daddy can stop making fun of my “fat –T.V”!

December is always extremely busy, but it is also the season of Advent. A little book called Looking Forward to the Nativity is what God used to spark our passion for family worship several years ago. We went through this devotional again this year and saw our children learn more about Christ’s incarnation. Joel read the devotion several days, Caleb memorized almost the entire second chapter of Luke, and David learned Isaiah 9:6 and all the Christmas songs. B.J had the privilege of leading one of the most worshipful services we have ever been a part of on December 18th. Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God is an amazing contemporary Christmas musical the Contemporary Worship Team led at FBC Trussville. I also had the opportunity to write and arrange the narration. This year I have been published in The Alabama Baptist, Christian, and The Christian Literary Journal, but when B.J. asked me to write narration for this anointed music – it was an honor beyond words.

Christmas was wonderful! The boys wanted to give Jesus a lamb because as Caleb said “Jesus is the Lamb of God”. We were so thankful to be able to give gifts to Christ on His birthday.

It is difficult to wrap this year up. God has taught us so much. We have learned what it means to be opposed and rejected for the Gospel of Christ and even though it brought us sorrow, we rejoice in joining with Christ in His sufferings. We have learned the importance on encouraging one another in the faith. We have had the privilege of growing new and old friendships. God has allowed us to encourage and counsel other believers with His Word which is the highest honor we could ever attain. His Word is our life and our hope. As we close 2011, we hope that in 2012 we will speak more of His Words than of our own. It is a privilege to be His child and His servant. Two verses surround this year that I want to close with:

“Here I am, send me!” Isaiah 6:8

“But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed , but of those who believe and are saved.” Hebrews 10:39