Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Photo Gallery

After our trolley ride, we went into the resort to see their Christmas display.

This display was one of the many ones we saw inside the resort.

There was also a display of gingerbread houses. This was one that was extremely detailed. This was one of our favorites.

We took a trolley ride after dinner on Christmas to see the Christmas lights that were on the property. The tour took about 15 minutes but everyone had a great time.

When we went on a sleigh ride, we saw the horses at the "Barn".

It was cold on the ride, but we made sure we dressed for the weather.

When we checked in, we decided to take family pictures in front of the fire place.

It was nice having us all together for the holiday. The girls enjoyed their older sister being home from college.

Words of Encouragement

Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. - Psalm 105:1

Reflections. Year in review. We have come to the end of this year. As I sat the other day thinking about this year I thought about how much I need to thank God for what he has done. I want to be transparent today so that maybe someone may find hope as 2009 approaches.

In 2008 I faced many difficulties. I faced emotional difficulties. I had to seek God to help me through some of the emotional difficulties that have surfaced from my past. At times during the year things would come upon me and the enemy of my soul would try and used these things to condemn me and to make me doubt what God could do in my life.

I would have to battle through these times but it was God's word that would help me overcome them. "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." - 2 Cor. 10:3-5

I would hold on to the word of God to remind me that this battle is not mine and it will not be won through natural warfare. I go into 2009 with the hope and faith that all the emotional hurts from 2008 and before will be completely healed never to rise again. All the scares will be completely healed. I have seen how God has healed many of the hurts from my past and how he has grown me in the process of the release. So today I send encouragement to someone facing emotional hurt. That which is a reality now does not have to stay that way. What has hurt you or burden you (even if for years) does not have to have the power over you anymore. God's power is what releases the captives from all the hurt. Make that a pray of yours as you go into the new year. Ask God to release you from any emotional hurts that hinder you from worshipping him fully. Now when he does, be reminded that in order for the healing to take place, the hurts must first be revealed. They must be uncovered. It will be difficult to allow God to do that at first, but know that he does it so that you can find total freedom in him.

Another area that I reflected on was my financial difficulty this year. I do not mean that I simply did not have money for "stuff", but I mean there have been months where I did not have enough money to buy food or to pay my bills. These last few months have been the most difficulty. I have stood in the refrigerator looking at the emptiness and wondering when this season would pass? Yet let me share with you what I have learned in this year. In the earlier part of spring the Lord asked me about my fear. The fear he wanted me to look at was regarding tithing.

I know we often look at tithing as a "money thing", yet God wanted to show me something greater. The Lord showed me that fear was keeping me from total trust. He showed me that my fear about my finances was making me become doubtful. That doubt was leading to lack of trust or faith in what He could do. I made up my mind at that very moment I would not allow doubt or lack of trust (faith) to ever be what stood in the way of my total trust in God.

At that moment I began to give my tithes (regularly) no matter what my situation looked like. I also knew that I could not do this all by myself, so I asked a friend to be my accountability partner. I told her what my struggle was and asked her to call me each month before church to make sure I had my tithes. I was willing to be transparent and not worry about what others would think about me because I wanted to have the freedom from this fear.

I want to be clear I would tithe before, however whenever things become hard I would battle about giving my tithes and sometimes I wouldn't because I did not have the money. At that point that the Lord showed me about hindering what he wanted to do in my life, I have tithe no matter what my situation has looked like. It has been difficult, yet God has been faithful.

I give you an example. Christmas. I had no money and I was not sure what I would do for my family to help us have a wonderful time together. I didn't even have money to get the fixings for dinner, but I knew I would trust God. I was invited to dinner on Monday the 22nd so I was thankful because we were able to eat for the first day of that week. Before we got to Christmas, I had pretty much decided that if we could just be together that would be good enough. We had talked about it the year before, about trying to go somewhere but that was not going to happen. Until some friends became an avenue of blessing for us.

Some friends invited us to Lake Geneva for Christmas. We were able to go and only had to pay $21 for the cleaning fee for the usage of the place for two nights. They provided breakfast and dinner and we had a great time. I thank God for allowing us this opportunity to have a great Christmas. I shared this because I know that there is someone else out there that is struggling financially. You do not know where your money is going to come from. You do not know if you will be able to pay your rent, get food for your family and your situation looks bleak. I want to encourage you to make your prayer for 2009 one for God to show you his hand in your situation. Give thanks to God for even in the difficulties God still shows he cares for those he love.

My situation has not changed, but I have. I have learned to trust God. I have even been able to help those in worse situations than myself. Not out of my abundance, but even out of my own need and lack. That's God!

The last thing I want to share in hopes of helping someone else is my walk this year. There are times when things seem to be going well and you feel the presence of God in everything you do. There are also times when you feel as if you are alone and wonder is God still with me? I have had those times this year. I have wondered, Lord am I effective? Do the words I say or the encouragement I try to give do they really matter? Is what I'm doing relevant? At those moments of self-doubt the Lord has been so wonderful to me. He has reminded me that my obedience is pleasing to him.

When I have had to complete the difficult assignments and others did not understand me, he has reminded me that he knew my heart and that I was pleasing to him. When I have felt like I have had to stand alone, he reminded me he was there with me.

So why do I share this struggle with you? I share it for this reason, the enemy of our soul wants us to feel we are useless and that we have nothing to give to others. I come to encourage you that you do. God requires obedience from us. If we willing give ourselves to him he will and does wonderful things in us and through us. God helped me through the battles I have had regarding doing the Words of Encouragement. I have often battled the thoughts that no one really wants to keep reading what you have to say. The enemy has even said, look you are not getting the amount of traffic to your site like this person or that person. So he says, you might as well stop.

Then God reminds me you keep giving what I have given to you. You cannot see the changes or the affects your encouragement has had on others. You keep trusting me and out of your obedience I will make changes. So even thought I cannot see the difference I am making, I keep on because I know God wants me to be obedient to him. So today let me encourage someone to keep on giving what God has placed in you to give. Make your prayer for 2009 one of more service unto God. We may never see in our lifetimes how or what we do and how it affects others. Yet by faith we must continue to trust in God and make known to all the world what God has done.

So this week as we approach the new year I pray that God would continue to strengthen you and grow you in your walk with him. I also pray that something that I shared in 2008 helped you in your walk. I also pray that if God says so that in 2009 whatever I share with you in the Words of Encouragement would help you to become more of what God has determined for your life. If that is true, then I can rejoice in knowing that I too am fulfilling what God has purposed in my life, to spread the truth about him. God bless you.