Here are some sweet moments, cute pictures, and ponderous thoughts from the past month!
-At the beginning of the month our church had our annual Women's Retreat and it was incredible, as always. Being with my sisters---and enjoying a couple days full of rich conversations---always reminds me that Christ's kingdom is real and He is truly working among His people. This year we decided to really own our retreat, so all the leaders were from among us. My friend Jackey led the plenary sessions, I and two other ladies led breakout sessions, and there was no shortage of women who were perfectly fit for the task of leading discussion groups or worship through singing or all the other bits and pieces that go into making a great retreat. It was nothing short of heavenly.
-The next week, Peter booked a quick last-minute vacation to Disney's Ft. Wilderness Campground. I'm an enormous fan of this place and I've written about its greatness and economical value here: How to Have a Great Disney Vacation for $12/day Or Less. As I learn more about the joy of simplicity I discovered something shocking: visiting the parks was actually a distraction to making memories. Though we went at a relatively low-crowd time, it was still so busy. The kids were happiest when they were running around on a random patch of grass. So we made incredible memories at the Campground just riding our bicycles around and playing at the playground. It was so special. Also, in December some people completely deck out their campsite with Christmas decorations, so it was really fun looking at all the different lights. And at night, Peter and I ate snacks and watched The Office on a picnic bench while the kids slept. Lots of memories.
-I've just had great moments with the kids. We've been doing the Jesse Tree and it's been rich. I love these people.
What I Learned:
-It's been so nice being off social media. As a result of quitting Facebook, I don't think many people read my blog anymore, so that's been a bit of a bummer, but it's made me evaluate why I even write this thing and I'm reminded of how "viral" is not the same thing as "fruitful." Seeking platform is an empty goal. I suppose I didn't realize how discouraging social media is until I got away from it; the divisiveness of worldviews feels so brutal online but in real life it's not that big a deal and we can actually be friends.
-I spoke last month about how I've slipped into materialism. Ugh, it's gotten worse! I get at least one package in the mail every day, and I wish I could say these are all just Christmas presents. I shop online or look for travel deals when I feel restless. Spending money (or dreaming of spending money) is an escape. I never considered myself a shopaholic because I hate going to stores and I don't care about fashion or any of that, but here I find myself with an overflowing pile of cardboard boxes and I see that it's me. Totally humbling. I really hope the Lord helps me find joy in Him more than buying stuff. "More love to Thee, O Christ" is my favorite prayer and always the solution.
-Unto Us by JJ Heller. I typically don't like albums that take the words of Christmas songs and then butcher them however they see fit, so I really appreciate that JJ's album sounds very much like the classics but they're obviously infused with her style and warmth. Her original songs are great too, as expected. Plus, she changed the lyric on "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" from "If the fates allow" to "If the Lord allows" so she gets the highest kudos for that.
-Lowborn King by The Modern Post. I just love Dustin Kensrue's sound and lyrics so much. Who else would write a Christmas song called "This Is War"?! So awesome.
-Joy Has Dawned by King's Kaleidoscope. "All Glory Be to Christ" is the tune of Auld Lang Syne except amazing lyrics. We actually sing that song year-round at our church...because our church is awesome.
-Repeat the Sounding Joy by Citizens and Saints. I said I didn't like how bands reinvent Christmas songs, but I like it when Citizens and Saints does it. Props.
-Songs for Christmas by Phil Wickham. Fun fact: I quit listening to Phil Wickham when he got married because I was bitter ;) But now that I'm married too and I'm over my fangirling, and I can appreciate that this album is sweet. Plus it's free on Amazon Music so...can't beat that.
I finished the Old Testament, guys! I've never read through the Old Testament before. I sure didn't finish the Bible in a year like I hoped, but I got further than ever before and it's been rich all along the way. (I will admit, however, that I struggled through the Minor Prophets.) Many people have been pouring into me and reminding me of how crucial it is that I remain in God's Word even in a tricky season of life. I'm so grateful to God for these people because I am so quick to drift away. The joy of uncovering treasures from the living Word of God is truly unmatchable. I've forgotten how much it thrills me to the core when I actually make spending time "digging" a priority.
The verse that I've been thinking about most lately is Psalm 145:13b:
The Lord is faithful in all his words
and kind in all his works.
I finally feel like God is helping me trust that He is kind in all His works. Reading through the OT exposed a lot of my wrong thinking; I try to shy away from or downplay all the verses about God's sovereignty because God's sovereignty brings about downright devastating circumstances. I tend to resign unfavorable events as "evil from the enemy", "unfortunate", etc. But I need to see God's kingship over all things and really trust that He is kind in all His works. This has been so good for me.
Whelp, that's all for now! Here are the articles I've written this month and some pics of the kiddos:
Jesse Tree Introduction and Day 1 (along with all the other 24 days)
Things I Love About Piper: Year 3
Oxen, Clean Bathrooms, and Me
When Year-End Reflections Are Disappointing
Thanks for reading!
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 5, 3, 1, and not-yet-born. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today