Saturday, January 30, 2010

Keeping the Faith in Secular Classes

For the past two years, I have been enrolled in a post-secondary program that lets me take college classes for credit while I am still in high school. This program has been a blessing to me in many ways. I have saved thousands of dollars in tuition costs, since the state pays for all my classes and books. I spend way fewer hours in class each week, giving me a much more flexible schedule than I would have if I was still at the high school. And I get to study topics that I am actually interested in, rather than just ones that I have to study to meet district requirements. Overall, I am really glad I decided to do this! However, being enrolled in a secular institute generally involves taking classes taught from a secular worldview. This has definitely been the case in my experience. It seems every textbook I read assumes the belief that man is basically good, and that we must simply educate people to cause them to make right decisions. Of course, they also teach that there is no absolute standard of right and wrong (only "socially-acceptable" and "socially-inacceptable" behaviors, which obviously vary greatly between cultures), so they argue that we really shouldn't ever judge someone negatively for choosing to do something other than what we would have chosen to do. Moreover, evolution is regarded as absolute fact, and "alternative lifestyles" are seen as personal decisions that are to be supported by society. Yes, attending such classes on a regular basis can be very confusing, frustrating, and even depressing at times. But taking these classes also gives me countless opportunities to deepen my personal faith, share the hope I have in Jesus with others, and uphold a standard of truth in the classroom. Just last week, after stating that all real scientists accept the theory of evolution, one of my professors asked if anyone in the class still doubted that theory. Being the only one to raise a hand, I was then able to share one of the reasons why evolution should not be accepted as fact. In other classes, I have had opportunities to give oral presentations about my life. In those instances, I have always tried to share a bit about my testimony and about the ways my family's faith affects the way that we live. I have found that faithfully doing the things I am about to list has helped me to "keep the faith" in my secular classses. I hope that they will help some of you, as well! 1.) Be grounded in God's Word. Read your Bible every single day! You must know the truth in order to defend it. 2.) Pray for opportunities to share your faith, and then pray for wisdom in handling them when (not if!) the Lord provides. 3.) Remember that testimonies of how the Lord has worked in your life are some of the most powerful witnessing tools you have! 4.) When you encounter one of Satan's lies in a textbook or lecture, memorize a verse that disproves it. (Ex.: Lie: "Man is born inherently good." Truth: "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." (Psalm 51:5)) 5.) Show respect for your instructors. Greet them with a smile, listen attentively in class, and pray for them often. 6.) Take interest in the students around you. Ask how they are doing, and really listen to their answers. Encourage them with your words and pray for them, as well. 7.) Don't add to conversations of gossip or slander. If someone asks you something like, "I can't believe so-and-so gave us three papers to write this week! Doesn't she know that we have lives outside of her class?" you can reply, "Yeah, her class can be really challenging, but I like how she reads all of our papers so thoroughly to give us helpful feedback." Point out positives! 8.) Be real. If you're having a bad week, it's okay to say so. If you're struggling in class, ask for help. You don't have to wear a fake, cheesy grin on your face all the time. God never promises us that if we follow Him, we'll be happy all the time. But He does promise that He will be with us all the time. So even when you're feeling down, display the hope found in Christ through your words and actions. 9.) Watch your tongue. As Colossians 4:5-6 says, "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your converstations be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." If someone asks you what you believe on a certain topic, and you don't know what to say, admit it. Say something like, "You know, I am not sure how to answer that. I would like to think about it and research it a little before I give an answer. Could we talk more about it next week?" Then follow through with what you've said! 10.) If you deny an opportunity to share your faith, participate in a conversation that is displeasing to the Lord, or fail to encourage a classmate, don't be discouraged. Simply take it before the Lord, ask for forgiveness, accept His forgiveness, and pray for strength and courage to do better next time. I know I have missed many opportunities to share my faith, but God hasn't given up on me yet, and He won't give up on you either! So, what about you? How do you stay strong in your faith when the world surrounds you with lies? I would love to hear what God has been teaching you in terms of keeping and sharing your faith. Please leave a comment and let me know!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thrifty Tips, Tricks, and Treasures

I love finding great deals at thrift stores and on clearance racks! Especially when money is tight, those are great ways to be stewards of the resources God has blessed us with. A long time ago, I promised to post pictures of some of the good deals I've gotten at thrift stores, on clearance racks, as hand-me-downs, and as gifts. So, since you asked for pictures for the next few weeks, I thought this might be a great time to post them! However, let me warn you that these pictures were my first sorry attempts at fashion photography (I can almost hear you all saying "I hope she didn't quit her day job" ;-), and I had to climb up on my lofted bed to take pictures of the outfits I laid out on the floor, so the angle's a little odd. (Just for the record, no, my bottom half is not really that much larger than my top half ;-). Nevertheless, I had a lot of fun taking the pics, and have been looking forward to sharing them with you. In between pictures, I will share tips and tricks for navigating thrift stores. Enjoy! Outfit Stats: This fun shirt was a hand-me-down from my dear friend Katelyn, so it cost me $0.00! The black dress pants were practically brand new from a local thrift store, costing $3.99. The necklace I got so long ago that I don't remember the price, but it goes well with the outfit ;-). And the shoes were on clearance at Payless for $8.00 (marked down from $23.00). Thrift Store Tip #1: Only visit the thrift store when you have lots of time on your hands (I'd say at least an hour). The huge quanitities of clothes in thrift stores can be overwhelming, and you will need time to hunt for your treasures! Outfit Stats: The brown cami was $6.00 on a half-off sale at DEB. The white blouse was another freebie from Katelyn (Thank you so much, Katelyn!). The denim skirt was about $4.00 at a thrift store, and the necklace was a Christmas present from my favorite big sister (Thanks, Jules!) Thrift Store Tip #2: Go in with a plan! Have a list of items you could use. Be specific (i.e. "a white blouse" and "two pairs of jeans"). Then go directly to the sections containing items you want. This will save you loads of time! Outfit Stats: This denim skirt (no, it's not the same as the one in the last picture;-) was $3.95 at a thrift store. The warm, fuzzy sweater cost $1.97 at JC Penney's, and the necklace was on clearance for $3.24 at Target. Thrift Store Tip #3: Try on lots of clothes! Even if something looks too small, too big, oddly-shaped, or whatever, just try it on! You may be surprised by what looks good on you! Outfit Stats: The white cami was $6.00 on a half-off sale at JC Penney's, the purple flowered blouse was $1.75 at a thrift store, and the knee-length denim skirt was $2.95 at a different thrift store. Thrift Store Tip #4: Do not buy anything that is ripped, stained, stretched out, worn out, etc. If you're like me, you may never get around to fixing it, and your money will have been wasted. Pardon the wrinkles on this last outfit. I had to take it off to get a picture of it, and after a full day at preschool, my clothes are not always in the best shape :-D! Outfit Stats: This hoodie was $5.00 at a thrift store, and the jeans were $8.00 at Kohl's. Shirt Stats (Below): Each of these shirts cost between $3 and $4 at local thrift stores. Thrift Store Tip #5: Bring along a trusted friend or relative to give you honest opinions about the clothes you try on. Remember that as daughters of the King of Kings, all of our clothes should be worthy of being worn by princesses (for that is what we are!). They should be modest, feminine, attractive, and functional!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dealing with Disappointments and Fears

Sometimes it is so hard to understand what's going on in the world. In the past few weeks, my family and I (Amy) have dealt with a lot of disappointments and fears--some major and some minor, but all confusing. We experienced the death of a very special little girl we used to babysit. Two friends of ours had miscarriages, and two godly men we know received cancer diagnoses (one with an inoperable brain tumor). Business has been painfully slow, and my mom has been very sick. The Vikings lost the game that would have put them in the Super Bowl, and our annual sausage-making weekend (see previous post) turned out to be a flop due to a missing part on our machine (I know those last two sounded a little trivial in comparison, but they were disappointing to us ;-). Through it all, I keep praying that God would just fix everything--that He would somehow make everything okay again. But the hard truth is that this world is not okay. It is a hurting, broken, desolate place filled with hurting, broken, and desperate people. We, as Christians, are not meant to feel at home on this earth. We are strangers and aliens here (1 Peter 2:11), and life in this place should make us long to go home to our Savior. But we do have hope in this life, because, as hard as it may be to believe sometimes, our God does answer prayers. Sometimes He says, "yes," sometimes He says, "no," and sometimes He says, "wait." I remember all the times I prayed that the Lord would heal that precious little one we babysat. Yet for more than four years, she continued to be controlled by a horrible illness that drained her of energy and kept her from growing normally. When she died, I asked God why He hadn't answered our prayers. And then I realized that He had. That beautiful little girl is now completely healthy and whole and rejoicing in the house of the living God. You can't get any more healed than that! Furthermore, in the midst of trials and heartaches, we find rest in the promises of God. He will never leave us nor forsake us (Joshua 1:5). Nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39). And His mercies will be new every morning (Lamentations 3:23). He has seen us through darker days in the past, and He will do it again, for He is more than able. So take heart, my friends! The day will come when the LORD Himself will wipe every tear from our eyes (Revelation 7:17)--when there will be no more disappointment, no more pain, and no more fear. On that day, every trial of the past will seem to be just a hazy, distant memory, overtaken by the glory of our great God. Until then, we must pray without ceasing and continue to bring hope to the hurting people of this broken world. Press on, for Christ is coming soon!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Living Like a Hollyhock

Thanks, everyone, for your encouraging comments on yesterday's post, and thank you for your prayers. My mom was feeling a little better today, and I (Amy) am so thankful! My grandparents are here for the weekend to help us make venison sausage, so it's great that my mom can get in on the fun! My day today was much less stressful, and I even remembered to go to school ;-). Oh, and we got an email from Julie saying that the team landed safely in Poland. Praise God!
I promised you all a picture this time, but I'm guessing that you weren't expecting this one:
To be honest, I wasn't really planning to post this picture, either. But as I looked at it, I realized that it fits in perfectly with the topic on my mind tonight. On Wednesday night, a speaker at our youth group gave a great message on living out our faith. Since then, I've been pondering the question, "Does my daily life reflect that Jesus is my Lord?"
You see, I think that living as a Christian in today's society is like living as the hollyhock that grew in our garden this summer. Early on in the summer, that hollyhock grew several inches before it began to bend and sway under its own weight. We tied it to a wooden stake to straighten it out, and in no time at all, it was growing like a weed! In a bed full of tiny, withered plants, the hollyhock seemed to grow an inch every day until it stood over three feet tall. It never bent under pressure from the pounding rains. And when it blossomed, it held dozens of beautiful soft pink flowers that brightened our days and made for beautiful bouquets.
Yes, living for Christ is a lot like that. Once we realize that we cannot support the weight of our own sins, we must accept the redemption and correction for which Christ paid on His own wooden stake. Then we must strive to grow in our relationships with God, and in our ministry to others, every single day. In a world full of people with withered hearts and souls, we as Christians must stand tall, holding out the hope of the Gospel. And when struggles come, we must put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) and continue to worship Him, not bending to the pressures of this world. When we do these things, the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) will begin to blossom in our lives and bring joy to those around us. And friends, it will be beautiful!
So, am I living like a hollyhock? Yes and no. Since I began to fully surrender my heart to Christ four years ago, the Lord has graciously redeemed many aspects of my life, and has taught me more about serving Him than ever before. Yet I know that there are still things He and I need to work on in my heart. Two things that come to mind at this moment are conquering worries in my life and being an energy giver (as opposed to an energy taker) within my family. Praise the Lord that He is more than able to teach me these things and many more as I strive to submit to His will!
Now I'll ask you the same question and encourage you to bring it before the Lord this weekend. My friends, are you living like hollyhocks?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Day in the Life of Me, Myself, and I

Well, Julie's gone. I (Amy) already miss her, but I am so excited to see what the Lord does in and through her while she's in Poland and Belgium. Please keep her and her team in your prayers! Thanks, ladies, for your input on my postings for the next few weeks. Sounds like most of you like to read a mixture of practical posts, deep thoughts, and day-to-day activities, with lots of pictures throughout! So, I'll do my best to keep a variety for the next few weeks. Today I thought I'd give you a glimpse into my life. Unfortunately, I take very few pictures, so you'll have to go without this time. I will try to get pictures for my next post. Anyway, this was what my day looked like: 6:00 a.m.--My alarm rings. I spring out of bed, still way behind on sleep, but excited to see what the day will hold. I head upstairs to find out that my mom still has a migraine and will most likely be in bed all day :-(. I pour myself some cereal, grab a glass of O.J. and head to the living room to watch "18 Kids and Counting" with my little sis. It's kind of an unspoken rule in my house that we don't say anything requiring more brainpower than "Good morning" to each other before 8 a.m., so Katie and I sit in silence as we eat ;-). 6:30 a.m.--I go downstairs to my room, realize I forgot to get my laptop out of my parents' room yesterday, so I won't be able to listen to my usual Kevin Swanson radio show while I get ready :-(. I pick out some clothes to wear, straighten my hair, put on a little makeup, check up on Mom, and grab my gear for the day. 7:30 a.m.--I hop into the van, drop Katie off at school, and head over to the preschool I am interning at this semester. On the way there, I pray that God would use me to shine His light into the classroom, that my mom would get better soon, and that Julie, Hannah, and Andrew would have safe travels. I love this time with the Lord in the mornings! 8:00 a.m.--I spend a day at preschool, assisting the teachers, tidying up the classroom, rubbing backs at naptime, supervising the playground, pushing kids on swings, singing songs, calming tantrums, building block towers, tying shoes, coloring pictures, zipping jackets, and just playing with the kiddos. I really like this internship :-)! 2:30 p.m.--I head to the high school to pick Katie up while trying to find a radio station that's playing decent music at this time of the day. Since I am unsuccessful, I sing old country songs at the top of my lungs all the way there ;-). I then try to stay awake until Katie gets in the van. 3:05 p.m.--I head home with Katie in tow. On my way there, I have the awful recollection of the fact that I am supposed to be in a class that started at 3:00. Thus, I begin driving a little faster, trying (in vain) to figure out how I can turn back the hands of time and not be late to class :-(. I drop Katie off at home, check up on my mom again, grab my backpack, and head out the door. 3:25 p.m.--I arrive at school, only to find out that class is already over. Fortunately, while there I spot a dear Christian friend, exchange stories and prayer requests, and get caught up on class assignments :-). 3:40 p.m.--I email a note of apology to my very understanding professor :-). I check emails and online assignments. Then I talk with Katie for a while, as Mom lays on the couch feeling very nausceous (did I spell that right?). I get Mom something to drink, rub her back for a while, make supper, wash some dishes, and head downstairs to do homework. 8:00 p.m.--I take a break from reading an incredibly engaging textbook (did you catch the sarcasm there?) to take up the much-more-fun task of writing on our blog. I realize for the millionth time that writing is what keeps me sane, challenges my brain, and helps me to think things through :-). I talk with my dad, who has just returned from ice fishing without any good fish stories :-(. We catch up on each other's days and I silently thank the Lord for giving me such a great father. I sure love my daddy! 8:30 p.m.--Okay, so I haven't lived out this part of the day yet, but for the rest of the night, I plan to read some more of that stimulating textbook ;-(, do a bit more homework, exercise while listening to a sermon from (one of my new favorite sites), read some more in Proverbs and Colossians, write in my prayer journal, and get more sleep than I have the last few nights. Well, that's my day in a nutshell. Thank goodness tomorrow should be a little less hectic! Oh, and just as a disclaimer, I have never, ever, ever forgotten about a class before! I still can't believe I did that. Oh, well. Life has been pretty crazy around here lately. Praise the Lord that tomorrow is a brand new day and that His mercies are new every morning. And if you get a chance, please pray for my mom. Thanks for reading and good night!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

See You In 3 Weeks

Well, everyone, tomorrow's the day. We will drive down to the cities and fly out on Thursday. I am getting so excited I can hardly stand it. I haven't been sleeping well lately because I just have all these thoughts running through my mind all the time, and being this tired has put me in an oddly poetic mood. This afternoon I came up with the perfect sappy scenario to describe how I'm feeling. I feel like I am standing on a mountaintop, just before the sun comes up. I don't know what it is going to look like, if it will be a fiery orange, a rosy pink, or a crisp turquoise, if there will be clouds reflecting the rising sun in a million different rays, or a clear sky that goes on forever uninterrupted. All I know is that it is going to take my breath away, and I can't wait to stand there and watch the Son rise.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I Need Your Help!

If you haven't noticed, Julie has taken over the vast majority of our blogging recently. My (Amy's) hectic schedule, writer's block, and just plain forgetfulness have kept me from posting as often as I would have liked. Fortunately, my big sis does a wonderful job posting on everything from cute kids to beautiful cakes to deep reflections on life and God's word. Thanks for all those great posts, Jules! Here's the problem: Julie is about to leave for three weeks!!!! Now, I could be wrong here, but I'm just guessing that updating our blog won't be her first priority while she's traveling the world spreading the hope of the Gospel ;-). This means it'll be up to me to keep our blog updated for a while. But I need some ideas, and I'm asking for your help. What would you like to read about? Please, please, PLEEEEEASE leave a comment and give me some suggestions!!! Seriously....I'm desperate here! (Okay, that may be a bit of a dramatization, but I really do want your ideas.) So, what do you like to read about most? Do you prefer practical posts like yummy recipes and thrifty second-hand store finds? Want to catch up on our daily activities and time with the twins? Or are you the type who likes to read book reviews, daily devotional thoughts, and personal conviction essays? Think about it and let us know! Thanks for your ideas.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


At this time next Thursday, I will be at the airport waiting to leave for Poland! It feels like it has come up so fast, but at the same time, it can't come fast enough. I've had a lot of people ask me what our schedule will be like while we are there, so I thought I would post it here. I'll put all the times in Central time, so that you don't have to try to figure out the conversion.
  • January 21: 11:07 am - depart from Minneapolis

12:24 pm - arrive in Chicago

2:43 pm - depart from Chicago

11:45 pm - arrive in Frankfurt

  • January 22: 12:50 am - depart from Frankfurt

2:30 am - arrive in Warsaw

  • January 24: Worship service in Radom (pronounced ROD-um), camp/ministry planning, orientation, rest
  • January 25-29: Visiting English classes in local high schools, giving presentations on American life, and inviting students to come to the English camp. Students will also be invited to an evening program at the church.
  • January 30: Debriefing, rest, and possibly an little excursion to Krakow.
  • January 31: Worship service in Radom
  • February 1-5: Evangelistic English Language Day camp for high school students
  • February 6: Debriefing, sightseeing and shopping
  • February 7: Worship service in Radom
  • February 8: 1:35 am - depart from Warsaw

3: 10 am - arrive in Munich

(From here, the rest of the team will come back to America, but here's my schedule: )

3:45 am - depart from Munich (yes, I have only 35 minutes to catch my flight!)

5:10 am - arrive in Brussels

  • February 8-14: fun with Marie in Belgium!
  • February 14: 5:10 am - depart from Brussels

6:57 pm - arrive in Chicago (I think I have to stop in D.C. in there too)

8:00 pm - depart from Chicago

9:24 pm - arrive in Minneapolis

I would greatly appreciate any and all prayers for this trip. If you would like to pray for us, here are some specific things we would feel blessed if you would take before the throne of God:

  1. Open and hungry hearts in the Polish students.
  2. Hearts that shine the love of Christ and complete selflessness for the American team.
  3. That the American team would trust God to meet all our needs and we would not become frustrated or discouraged.
  4. That God would open many doors for us to share the Gospel with our students, and that He would give us the courage to walk through those doors.
  5. A true passion in the hearts of the American team to reach the lost.

I can't wait to see what God is going to do on this trip! Glorify your name, Lord, glorify your name!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Big Smile

Amy did Ella's hair one day in two pig tails - it was so cute, but Ella wasn't cooperating to get a good picture of it. Amy told her she just had to give her a big smile for one picture, then she would be done. Well, she got what she asked for!

I (Julie) apologize for the lack of posting this past week. Last weekend was the training for my trip to Poland, and I have been busy with getting ready. Amy keeps reminding me that I'm not leaving for another week. It's so hard to wait!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Collection Addition

Our Auntie Beth was told the I (Julie) am collecting salt and pepper shaker sets. She went on ebay and found this toaster set and gave it to me for Christmas. When you push down on the lever on the side, the pieces of toast lift out of the toaster a little so they are easier to grab. Whenever Kyle sees it, he says, "Pop!"

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


But now, this is what the Lord says- he who created you, O Jacob; he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."
Isaiah 43:1-2

Monday, January 4, 2010

Starting Early

Ella has always preferred chapter books over the little picture books we have for them. Whatever book Amy or I (Julie) are reading, that's the one she wants. We had checked this book out from the Covenant Church library, and Amy was reading it, so therefore, Ella wanted to read it. We keep telling her she doesn't need to read this book, she already IS irresistible!

Gift Certificate + Sale = Fun!

Our Grandpa and Grandma Olson gave me (Julie) a gift certificate for Gooseberry Patch for Christmas. For those who haven't heard of it, Gooseberry Patch is a company that sells things for the kitchen and home, as well as cookbooks, and everything they have is just cute! The Tuesday before Christmas, Gooseberry Patch started their big, up to 80% off sale. Well, I jumped right on the website, and got some wonderful deals.Here's what I got. L-R: a stockpot with a lid (it's red with white speckles), some Christmas recipe cards, a salt and pepper shaker set to add to my collection, an elf night-light, and an apron that I have had my eye on for a while. A closer shot of the shaker set. There is a little magnet between the two pieces, so the little boy looks like he is putting the nose on the snowman.

Christmas #4

Our fourth and final Christmas celebration was just as wonderful as the rest. This is our most traditional Christmas. Because of the weather, we drove down to Delano on Wednesday night, the 23rd. On Christmas Eve, we went to the service at Bop and Nanny's church, and then came home for Bop's wild rice soup. After a couple games, we all checked in a little early, so that Santa could come, you know. Waking early on Christmas morning, we always come down to a tree that couldn't possibly hold more presents underneath it, and bulging stockings on the fireplace mantle. Stockings come first, then presents. We all take turns opening so that we can see what everyone else is getting. Next comes breakfast: egg bake and cinnamon or caramel rolls. Our uncle, aunt, and cousins then go home to rest for a few hours and change clothes (pajamas are the uniform for the present opening), and when they come back in the early afternoon, we have a very bountiful lunch of Swedish meatballs, candied apples, boiled potatoes, corn, rolls, poppy seed bread, and lots of other things I (Julie) can't remember. Even though we all know Christmas isn't just about presents and good food, it is so special to get together with family, and Nanny and Bop, Bop especially, just love making it a storybook Christmas. The cousins in front of the tree. L-R: Katie, Emilee, Julie, Amy, Carson, Logan After lunch, some of the cousins went out to make some snowmen. The snow was perfect, and so were the snowmen, except for Duchess (Bop and Nanny's dog) kept stealing the carrot off his face. L-R: Carson, Logan, Amy

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Life Lessons from 2009

Happy New Year! Another year has passed, and what a year it was! As I'm sure is true for all of us, 2009 held many joys and sorrows for me (Amy). But looking back over the events of the past year, I see that 2009 was a year of lessons--lessons the Lord taught me, and is still teaching me, as he molds me into the woman he wants me to be. I hope to share some of those lessons with you in this post.
This year, I learned (in no particular order):
1.) That God is faithful to provide for all our needs, whether they be physical needs, financial needs, emotional needs, or spiritual needs. I don't think I could count the number of times this year that God sent a friend to encourage me when I was feeling down, or provided a needed item at a ridiculously low price just when finances were tight, or showed me a verse from His word exactly when I needed to read it. 2.) That when God neglects to fulfill a need, it isn't really a need. So often, I have begged Him for the things I so desperately wanted, only to look back later and realize that God withheld them, not due to an inability to provide them, but out of His wisdom and mercy, knowing that those things were not really best for me. 3.) That God put me where I am, with my specific family members, because He had a divine purpose for us. He fitted each of us with gifts, abilities, and personalities which fit together to prepare us to fulfill the ministry work He has placed in front of us.

my wonderful family

4.) That it is an honor, a joy, and a privilege to serve alongside my parents and sisters as we seek to please our Heavenly Father, and that treating it as such helps to make the work more enjoyable for each of us, and more honoring to the Lord. 5.) That my time is a precious gift and tool from God, and that I can either throw it away or use it productively. 6.) That friends are placed in my life not only so that they might encourage me, but so that I might encourage them. Many of my friends are enduring difficult trials at present, such as prolonged illnesses, financial hardships, broken and unhealthy relationships, loneliness, and self-destructive behaviors. Many have been in need lots of hugs, prayers, kind words, and sound counsel. All too often, I look only at what I can gain from a friendship, forgetting to consider what I might give. 7.) That God's love transcends divisions between races, genders, social classes, and denominations. This year I had the privilege of worshipping with believers of several cultures, and saw the Lord at work everywhere I went! 8.) That so much of life is about priorities, and that when my priorities are ordered incorrectly, my life becomes much more confusing.

a hug from my dad before leaving for Mexico

9.) That the more I share with my parents and seek to follow their advice, the more the Lord blesses and grows our relationships. 10.) And finally, that I am blessed far beyond what I deserve. It never ceases to amaze me that the Lord delights in redeeming the lives of those who surrender their souls to Him, and in giving them peace, love, and joy beyond their wildest dreams.

There were many more lessons to be learned in 2009, but these were just a few that I am particularly thankful for. If you get the chance, leave a comment and let us know something the Lord has taught you in the past year. We would love to rejoice with you!