Finding Hope in the New Year’s Resolution Resolution

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I don’t know about you, but I am looking at my calendar in utter amazement. Twenty-thirteen has just flown by, and we are almost ready to cross over into 2014.

Many of you are hard at work creating yet another list you’ll check twice as you are resolving to be less naughty and to be more nice — at least to yourself.

We create resolution lists about exercising more, eating less, cleaning out our inbox, making more time for others, etc., etc., etc., and, for at least a month, we do a pretty good job at what we’ve resolved.

Do you still have your 2013 list?
How did you do?
Why doesn’t it last? Only YOU can answer that question about your own resolutions!
You made them, so why didn’t you stick with them?

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. I used to, but many years ago, I resolved not to make resolutions.

I’d make good ones with good intentions where the results would be good for me and good for others around me. Even with the simplicity of them, I’d still fail at some point during the year. I got tired of failing at keeping them. The well-intentioned list became a list of glaring failures. I had enough of those in my life without adding to them each year, so I quit making resolutions for New Year’s.

So…now that you think I have a party-pooper attitude toward resolution making, are you wondering what I do actually do?

It’s really no big deal.
I still kiss my husband at the stroke of midnight.
I still raise a glass of whatever to ring in the new year.
I still resolve that the next year will be different.
I just don’t make a list.

For me, resolving not to make resolutions isn’t about refusing to change. A list doesn’t create change.

Change happens when the heart, the head and the Spirit connect. All of them.

Thing is…that rarely happens because a list has been written. And, if it does, the results are short-lived and are rarely long-lasting.

What has worked for me is listening to the Spirit within me leading me toward a change. (You’ll know it’s Him, because it’ll/He’ll keep showing up.) I then will pray about it — sometimes for quite a long time. Sometimes those prayers are whiney ones (because I don’t like change), sometimes they are “You need to help me” ones, and sometimes they are “if this is Your will” ones. Sometimes the head gets in gear before the heart; sometimes the heart has to convince the head.

When the Spirit leads and then the head and heart follow, amazing changes happen. Really amazing changes.

Isn’t that what we’re all really looking for?

My other issue with New Year’s Resolutions is with the timing. I see no reason to make changes on January 1st just because the calendar year is a new one. If change needs to happen — or if we are being led to change — it won’t just happen on January 1st. It might be January 21st, it might be March 2nd, it might be August 5th, or it might even be November 19th.

It’s my preference to allow the Spirit to lead me instead of the Gregorian calendar. I’ve just found more success that way. We need to be prepared to get on-board and change when change calls.

Now…some of you know me, and you know that over the last few years, I have named my years. This officially started for me in 2012.

In 2011, I went through some pretty terrible emotional tribulations. My world was turned upside-down in many ways through the choices of a few others close to me. Changes in faith, trust, relationships, truths, perspectives and hopes were on a rollercoaster ride, but when it all happened, I resolved — right away — to walk in more faith. I didn’t consciously choose to name 2011, but looking back, if I had named it, it would have been the Year of Faith.

The resolution get through 2011 walking in more faith led to me naming 2012 the Year of Obedience. The faith journey I clung to in 2011 brought to light a need for me to learn to be obedient to the Lord. I think obedience is an ever-learning, ever-growing and ever-needed trait, but 2012 was fruitful for me in that area, and many blessings were realized as I worked on my walk with Him.

Through obedience, hope blossomed. So when 2013 rolled around, I felt led to name it the Year of Hope. Most of us think of hope in terms of a wondering hope, but this was an expectant and trusting hope built on my walk with the Lord. In the Year of Obedience, I began to see glimmers of hopes I had desired, prayed for and yearned for become realities so much greater than what I had asked or “wonderingly hoped for.” I wondered if it were possible to surrender my wondering hopes to Him to see what He might be able to do with them … and He awed me beyond my belief. Many of my wondering hopes became expectant hopes in 2013 as I began to trust in His hand, His blessings and in His will for my life.

And so, here we are, ready to cross over into 2014.

Faith, Obedience and Hope have been good years, but there is still so much more of a work He needs to do in me. I feel the Spirit leading me to trust more. In my readings, my quiet time, my prayers, my praises, my celebrations, my obedience, my hope, and in my faith, trust keeps coming forward. So, I have resolved to name 2014 the Year of Trust, and to work on walking in His will in this area of my life.

His promises and His blessings are many. I know that, believe that and do trust in that when I read His Word. My expectant hope for 2014 is to learn to trust Him on a new level…one well beyond words.

However you resolve to handle your resolutions for the new year, may you find what He has planned for you…not just what you are looking for.

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Will You Give Christmas Away This Year?

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Will you give Christmas away this year?

Immanuel — “God with us” —  is not meant just to keep Him with us and in us. Yes, He came to dwell with us and among us, and His Spirit still does dwell within us. But the “with us” and the “in us” is not just for us.

He was meant to be shared.

In this wonderful season — this glorious time of the year — we have the choice in whether or not to share Him with others.

…not in a package, or a gift bag, or a present wrapped in a bow, but in the care, prayer and hope found in Immanuel.

…not in the tinsel, the wreaths, the stockings or the lights, but in the living ornaments of peace, strength, joy and hope we string through His purpose for us. These ornaments are the ones we keep out all year-long, not the ones we pack away and put into a box until next year. These are the real gifts that, when received, are perfectly acceptable and highly encouraged to re-gift to others.

Give Christmas away this year.

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Monday’s Musings – The Artificial Flavor of Life

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A discussion ensued in our household this morning after I was asked a question about my tea:  “Mom, are the flavors in tea real?”

I like to drink tea, and I also like to drink coffee. Not all teas and coffees appeal to me, though. I like REAL flavors.

I explained to the boys that anytime one sees “artificial flavors” on a tin, bag, box or label, there are chemicals used to make that product. In defining “natural flavors,” I told them how I like to find products that are flavored with true flavors, too, and not just labeled with a natural derivative.

As an example, I told them how I’ll look for a tea with “orange peel” or “vanilla bean” or “hibiscus flowers”  in the ingredient list, rather than “natural vanilla flavor,” which may really not be from nature at all. We also talked about how coffee can be flavored with spices, ground nuts or pure essential oils added on top of the grounds before brewing to have a real experience instead of grinding coffee beans that have been soaked in a lab-created substitute.

Artificial flavors have infiltrated a lot of our cupboards.

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Artificial “flavors” have also infiltrated our parenting, our marriages, our laws, our doctrines, our morals, our thoughts and our faith.

So often today, we can see what God intended for good has been made bad, and what He intended for evil has been made good. (Isaiah 5:20a) Lines are so often blurred that we no longer know what is real, what is good, what is right, or even what is desired based on His Word. We, ourselves, often blur those lines even more by rationalizing what we see as accepted by the world serves as more of an authority to us than what is taught in the Word.

You know what? He calls us to be a natural flavor, not an artificial one, and he calls us to live IN this world as Believers, but to be cautious about being OF this world.

Time to drink a cuppa and study some more…

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Where Can I Find Peace?

HeavenOffersPeaceEvery day

Heaven offers peace every day.

Every day.

Every single day.

It is there.

He is there.

He has it for you.

With compassion, He meets us at the point of our deepest need to bring us His hope and His peace.

In John 14:27, Jesus, himself, tells us: 

“Peace I leave with you;
my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

We just have to receive it, grab on to it, and move forward in it to experience the richness and comfort He is waiting to provide.

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Note:  If you would like to use the image associated with this post to share with others or to offer encouragement, you are more than welcome to do so. You can copy it or forward it from this website, from my Hope Surrendered Facebook page, from my Google+ page or from my Twitter images. I only ask that you not alter the image in any way so that it continues to be referred back to Hope Surrendered. Thanks so much. 

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Finding Hope in His Blessings

Numbers 6.24-26.COMPRESSED

My pastor is taking us through the book of Numbers in the Bible. I know…, right…? Numbers…

I thought the same thing when he told us which book would be next after we finished Leviticus—a great book exalting His holiness and communicating His call for us to also be holy. To my pastor’s credit, he jokingly acknowledged that the book of Numbers isn’t typically considered one of the most exciting books of the Bible.

I know I’ve read through the book (ok, skimmed…) at one time or another, but it’s not a book I’ve ever given any time to deep study as a whole. I recently did go through parts of it while doing a study on the tabernacle, and I learned a few amazing things from Numbers in that study which I had never known. With the exception of the pieces I studied, I think my overall impression of Numbers was that it was…, dare I say it? …boring?

I no longer think that way about the book. We’re just a few chapters into it, and, as we wrap up one week’s lesson, I can hardly wait until next week’s lesson gets here.

I want to take you to one section of Numbers and just share a few verses with you. Chances are, it’s a passage you’ve probably heard at one time or another…in a church at the end of a service, at the end of a wedding, perhaps even at a funeral.

Numbers 6:24-26 says,

“The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”

Sound familiar? To me, too!

I grew up in a very small town in central Pennsylvania. My parents attended a Presbyterian church there, so I did, too. Each Sunday at the close of the service, our pastor—clothed in a rustic grayish-white robe tied with a bold cord—would raise his hands, stand before us and recite these words before walking down the steps from the chancel, down the aisle of the church and out to the lobby to greet each church member before they made their way home.

I like familiarity, so when my current pastor read these words, memories of church as a child just flooded back. I could see my childhood pastor with his salt-and-pepper beard wearing that robe saying these words to us. He said them every week, and it became a ritual I expected to hear.

Perhaps, some time in the future, we can dig into the deepest of meanings of this blessing, but, for now, I just want to share a few things with you based upon my initial feelings on the surface of this passage… no study, no word origins, no commentary…just how it speaks to me and quickly captures my thoughts as I read it without studying the depth of it yet…

First, this blessing is FROM GOD and it was given by the LORD to Moses for Moses to share with Aaron and his sons to bless the Israelites throughout the generations to come.

“The LORD bless you and keep you”:  Remember, the LORD spoke these words, so when the words were to be conveyed to His people, the words were spoken through the priests, but they were directly from God. This verse tells me He is saying He is here to walk with me, to kneel beside me to serve me, and to be with me as I walk with Him and serve Him.

“The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you;”:  This verse tells me that HE has every intention of illuminating my life with His gracious and blessed presence, walking with me as I walk, and offering me his grace-filled forgiveness.

“The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”:  This verse tells me that not only is He going to do everything he’s already said he’s going to do in the previous two verses, but He’s going to watch me, give me his personal attention and—through whatever I have to go through—He’s going to give me His peace with it.

What awes me about our God, is how He plants seeds in our lives and then
tends to those seeds,
waters those seeds,
nurtures those seeds,
breathes life into those seeds and
grows those seeds.
He then watches those seeds sprout, helps them to bear fruit and takes care of every detail necessary for the seeds to reproduce in abundance for the future.

YOU are that seed! I am that seed!

Despite times of drought, poor soil conditions, hibernation and a failure to produce on our part, He still ALWAYS does His part for those who love Him. He doesn’t let His children go despite our foolish efforts or stubbornness in relation to our obedience to Him. And, when we do mess up or when He does allow us to be tested through trials, He promises us over and over again in His Word that our good and His glory are capable of coming from all of it.

It’s no coincidence I am sitting in a church in the todays studying these words, recalling times from the years-ago yesterdays when the words were planted into me, and walking through a life where His promises and His blessings are carrying me through the tumultuous trials, yet still revealing His amazing grace through it all.

There are no coincidences. I’m seeing another seed sprouting from His Word. Praise be to Him!

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