We're kicking off the New Year with our sweet friend, Hannah Sorvik Fordice, who has a blog of her own called Rubble and Rescue. If you've had a tough 2017, you too may be wondering how 2018 will unfold. Praying her words will minister to your soul...

 

 

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Last New Years Eve, I found myself sitting at the kitchen table next to an unopened bottle of champagne I had planned to bring to a friend's house; in my hands was a pregnancy test with two pink lines in the viewing window. 

 

At the time, my husband was in a work rotation that included night shifts, so even though it was 3pm he was sound asleep in our bedroom. I gently shook him awake (Im fairly sure my hands were shaking so hard, I probably only had to touch his arm for the effect), and said, "good morning hun, guess what?" and handed him the test. 

 

It was a new year, a new life, a new start - everything was full of promise. My resolutions included informing our parent's of their newly minted "grandparent status", creating a birth plan, learning how to change diapers, and decorating a nursery.

 

But like most new years resolutions... it didn't quite happen how I planned. 

 

Tomorrow it will be New Years Eve again, and I can't help but look at the last year and wonder, what the hell happened? 

 

My parent's house burned down, my dad died, I miscarried our baby and had emergency surgery, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with brain cancer, I quit my job to become a caregiver, had a complete mental break down, frequented the doctor for various health concerns, my niece and my uncle had open heart surgeries and seven months after her diagnosis, my mother-in-law also died. 

 

That is SO not how I thought 2017 would go. 

 

Call me crazy, but here at the turn of another year, instead of resolutions I keep having reservations. 

 

How do I believe that God has good plans in store for my life when so much bad has happened? How do I trust in the promise of an abundant life when so much has been taken away? How do I start to dream again, to open my heart again, to love again? 

 

And maybe, just maybe, you find yourself asking the same questions this year. 

“My heart’s been torn wide open, just like I feared it would be, and I have no willpower to close it back up.”
— Marie Lu, Champion
 

To be honest with you, I don't really have the answers. I wish I didn't fear the phone ringing, the fireplace crackling, or the possibility of becoming a mom again. I wish I knew how to expect good news instead of waiting for the other shoe to fall. These fears are real and I don't deny the uncertainty of life. 

 

But this I do know: living in anxiety instead of anticipation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you constantly worry, even the wondrous becomes wistful and opportunities become wasted.

 

To live in fear is to suppress a fruitful life. 

 

This year has broken me time and time again and it sure as heck wasn't what I dreamed of at the table last New Years Eve. Perhaps you know the feeling.

 

- But - 

 

Hopefully I have been formed into a better shape, pruned into a more fruitful person - and my gosh, I pray the same for you friend. 

“I have been bent and broken, but - I hope - into a better shape. ”
— Emily Dickinson
 

Whatever questions you bring to the table here at the turn of the year, whatever baggage is weighing you down, I propose this resolution: 

 

To be open to love and in turn, to cast out fear. For "There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear." (John 4:18) 

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open up to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. ”
— John Lennon

 

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Were you so engrossed in planning the "best" Christmas that you missed out on Christmas' best? Next year can be different.  Author and mother Alexandra Kuykendall found herself burnt out from planning previous holidays, so she ushered in a new way of "doing" Christmas.  Her experiment left her uttering words like hope, love, joy, and peace - keeping the focus on Christ and the reason for celebration. 

 

Before you put away the decorations, listen in for some ideas that might have you singing a different tune next year. 

 

Click hereto listen to Jo's conversation with Alexandra Kuykendall on her book, Loving my Actual Christmas: an Experiment in Relishing the Season

 

Catch Jo live on Connecting Faith every Friday at 12:00 p.m. on Faith Radio Network / KTIS AM 900 or online at myfaithradio.com

We pray that you had a blessed Christmas our dear readers. And as we ring in a New Year,

that you remember this...

 

 

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The Heart Matters gals,

 

LuAnn Adams

Heidi Lee Anderson

Julie Miller

 

 

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This week on Connecting Faith, Jo spoke with former athiest, Mark Clark about his journey of faith.  Listen in as they discuss his book,The Problem of God: Answering a Skeptics Challenges to Christianity 

 

Click here to listen in as they discuss the challenges of philosophy and science as well as how to equip believers to defend their faith.  

 

Catch Jo live on Connecting Faith every Friday at 12:00 p.m. on Faith Radio Network / KTIS AM 900 or online at myfaithradio.com

As the days countdown to Christ's birth, we Heart Matters gals thought that the best gift we could give you is some time set apart with Jesus. This quiet time experience Julie Miller has written is really the gift that Ignatius of Loyola left for us as one of his many legacies. Ignatius loved God's Word and approached it uniquely. Rather than read the word to

fill in blanks on a page, he stepped into it as if he were living the stories out.

 

So, in the words of Frederick Buechner...

 

 

We really can’t hear what the stories of the Bible are

saying until we hear them as stories about ourselves.

We have to imagine our way into them.

Frederick Buechner

 

 

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May you be blessed as you sit with the Savior today...

 

 


 

Today I invite you to imagine yourself up in the hill country near Bethlehem where only weary shepherds trod with their sheep. It’s a lonely place. Especially at night with only the stars for companions…and predators who remain hidden out of view.

 

It may take a certain amount of creativity and imagination on your part, but, you will be blessed if you allow the Spirit of the Living God to move how and where He wishes during this prayer experience. There is no right or wrong way to do this. So, set the Spirit free and breathe in what God has for you today.

 

A. To get the gist of what is happening in this passage, begin by reading through the passage slowly. It is printed at the bottom of this devotional.

 

B. It may help you to enter the story more fully by prayerfully breaking the passage down into smaller sections. Listen for the Spirits whisper to your heart. Stop wherever or whenever you feel the Savior wanting to dialogue with you further about a passage. Then, journal whatever you sense the Spirit is stirring in you.

 

If it proves helpful, you may want to use the following as a guide.

 

Take some time to sit with the following verse:

 

There were some shepherds in that part of the country who were spending the night in the fields, taking care of their flocks.

 

Using all your senses describe what you might be experiencing in the deepening darkness. What might you hear, see, smell and taste throughout the long hours in silence. What senses sharpen? Jot your thoughts in a journal.

 

To keep watch all night long you must remain vigilant, attentive, alert, and focused. Hours pass slowly. How do you stay awake and observant?

 

C. Read verse 9 again.

 

It wasn’t during the busy hubbub of the day that God appeared to these ordinary shepherds. It was in the quiet stillness of the night. When is the best time for God to get your attention?

 

Only in silence is one’s heart ready to hear God’s.

Frederick Buechner

 

Imagine for a moment the sky suddenly bursting with light and the angel of the Lord appearing out of nowhere from deepest darkness. I can hardly imagine it, being a Western-minded, analytical American that I am. But, to really understand what the shepherds were feeling we must try to imagine the scene. And the startling terror.

 

Jot down any thoughts that come to mind in your journal. Has God ever jolted you awake? Has he ever startled you with a thought out of nowhere?

 

D. Read verse 10. Imagine hearing those words in first person. They still ring as true today for us as they did for the shepherds. How do these sweet words minister to your heart… to your circumstances… today?

 

E. The startling terror that had once gripped them was quickly overcome by the grip of God’s love. Read verses 11-12. Can you imagine it? It wasn’t to kings or to the high priest this announcement was made. It was to lowly shepherds. And it was into this poverty that Jesus was born. Christ, the longed-for Messiah, wasn’t born a rich prince laid in a golden cradle, but, a poor little babe lying in a manger. What impact would that have had on those shepherds? What impact does it have on you today?

 

F. Re-read verses 13-14.

 

It’s breathtaking, isn’t it? Sit with this for a moment and journal your thoughts.

 

Peace had come down to dwell with men forever. No matter the suffering, the fighting, the storms, the distress, nothing now could ever take from the lovers of God the gift of his peace.

Elizabeth Goudge

 

G. Finally, read verse 15-17 and 20. Life would never be the same for those shepherds. Oh, their existence, shepherds as they were, would remain the same, but, their hearts had been changed forever. What might the Spirit be whispering to your heart as you ponder these verses in preparation for the holidays?

 

Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus, is your time on earth filled with glory.
―Betty Smith

 


 

There were some shepherds in that part of the country who were spending the night in the fields, taking care of their flocks. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone over them. They were terribly afraid, 10 but the angel said to them, “Fear not. Do not be afraid. I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people. 11 This very day in David's town your Savior was born—Christ the Lord! 12 And this is what will prove it to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

13 Suddenly a great company of heavenly host appeared with the angel praising God and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about. 16 So they hurried off and found Mary, Joseph and the baby in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the good news concerning what they had been told about this child.

20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen.”

Luke 2:8-17