What Are You Really Afraid Of?

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I’ve been thinking so much about the verse from Hebrews, “It’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  {Hebrews 10:31}

I never quite understood the magnitude of the simple fact that God is on the throne and no one is exempt from His reign on this earth.  In these United States, in Syria, Israel, the Gaza strip, Iran, Australia, Spain or anywhere else there is life and breath… no one can outrun or side track the scope of His purposes.

The thing about it being “fearful” is that if you KNOW this to be true, this kind of fear naturally or supernaturally (depending on how you look at it) will draw you closer to Jesus and His mind, His ways and His heart than the other.  This kind of fear brings comfort because it brings you into the presence of God. It’s what compels you to be led besides still waters for your soul to be refreshed while you’re walking in the darkest valley of your life.  It raises questions in your head like:

“God where are You in this?”  Because he promises to be found by those who seek him.

“Where are You leading us?” Because he promises to lead those who trust him through straight paths.

The other kind of fear… the fear of man, fear of what people think, fear of whatever situation or mess you find yourself in.  This kind of fear adds chaos and confusion.  It leads you this way, that way… every way but his way.  It sounds more like this:

“What’s going to happen to us?”

“What will they say about us now?”

“Will things ever be normal again?”

The questions in themselves aren’t inherently bad, but where they can take you if you get stuck in them is troubling.  The first set of questions raises our eyes to God while the second set lowers them to ourselves and what’s in front of us.

There is nothing normal about God.  He is extraordinary and is more than you could ask or imagine.

He does not change but he promises you will.

God is so gracious, so loving, so kind and so powerful which is why He is God and no one else is worthy of that position.

If He is worthy of praise, then he needs to be put in his rightful place which is the place that proclaims His ways are not our ways, His plans are not our plans and they are good and hopeful.

It’s a fearful thing to fall in the hands of the living God. So if we believe that we place our whole lives in those hands: our relationships, our marriages, our ministries, our careers, our hopes, our dream and our fears… when that hand brings correction, moves us in and out of where we need to be and towards his purposes for us and this Kingdom we are a small part of… it’s exactly where we need to be.

No matter how painful, how tragic, how hopeful, how good, how exciting and how stretching.

There is no place I would rather be.

I’m Going to Camp!

Annually, 3.6 million cases of child abuse, neglect or abandonment are reported in America. One of these victims dies every six hours due to that abuse.

Fifteen years ago when we started attending our church, our eyes began to open to the foster care crisis in America.  Much of  this stemmed from families we have met that have taken in kids as their own and also our church’s involvement with Royal Family Kids Camp, a camp which purposes to give abused and neglected kids who are currently in foster care one week of their lives. A week with positive experiences in a Christian environment.

Until a few years ago, I believed that religion that is pure and faultless is to look after orphans in their distress, but my belief was nestled tightly in a box.  The box was the adoption box.  What I falsely believed in the depth of my heart was that if I was going to do it right… it had to be done a certain way. That if I was really going to believe what those words meant, it meant only one thing… that we had to adopt.

What I’ve learned since then is looking after the fatherless and the motherless can look a lot of different ways.  I never thought our family was called to adopt until a couple of years ago when Steve went to this camp.  For the first time, I questioned those thoughts and now my perspective has changed. While we still don’t feel called to adopt, what has changed is our willingness to do so and to become more involved in the solution regardless of the outcome.

Steve came back changed and therefore we changed. He has always been a great dad for our kids, but when Steve came home from camp, he came home zealous for other kids and also for finding ways to help dads be good dads.

Part of this change for our family has been a result of our relationship with one of Steve’s original campers.  As a mentor to this young man, Steve has been able to bring him around our home and in doing so, he has become family.  Not in the living with us kind of way, but in our love and affection for him. When he is with us, he is family.  And when he goes, our hearts bleed for him.  You see this boy, is just like my boys.  He loves adventure, he loves sports, he plays legos and loves to eat.  He is kind, he is loving and you would never know that every day he goes home, he wonders how long he will be there for. He wonders when he will get to live with his mom again and if he will see his dad again.  He wonders where he will go to middle school because the future is uncertain for him.

This year I am going to camp.

From July 7-11, I’m going to be a counselor to two little girls and my goal is to love them and let them have fun for one week. We will celebrate their birthdays no matter when their actual birthday is and we will celebrate any other milestones that come up during the week.

I am desperately hoping for laughter, joy and adventure. Mostly I’m praying they will leave believing they have value, hearing they are more precious than they realize and they have hope for their future.

Many of my good friends have gone before me to camp. They say I will never be the same. They say it is the hardest week of your life, but also the best week of your life.

Now that it’s one week away, my heart is filling with anticipation and fear.

Would you mind partnering with me?  Would you send me with YOUR prayers? Will you start now by praying for my girls {and the other campers too}.  Pray I will love them well. Pray I will be patient.  Pray I will have strength.  And pray I’m not a hot mess of tears all week long.  Lastly, pray for my boys and Steve who will be home. Pray for our boy at camp who graduates this year. This will be his last year at camp and I’m praying it will be his best. Pray the God of the impossible will do more than we can ask or imagine for him and for all the other campers too.

If you’d like to donate to Royal Family Kids Camp through King’s Harbor Church, your donation helps send kids to camp, provides their lodging, food, goes towards all the fun activities and gifts they will be sent home with.  You can make a donation here or send a check made out to King’s Harbor Church to me or to KHC Administrative offices with “Suzie Lind/RFKC” in the memo.

 

God Knows, God Sees, God Hears

One of the best things to do when struggling with faith and belief, when needing encouragement and to focus on truth is to remember the promises of God in His word. Write them down. Stick Post-It notes all over your house.  Change your screen lock on your iPhone. Whatever works.

The danger for me has always been in the waiting. Or the not waiting.

There have been many times when I’ve been tempted to move things along, make a decision or rush to judgment as though I could take the situation into my own hands and make things happen.  Turns out I’m not the only one.  There is a valuable lesson to learn from Sarah in Genesis 18.

I’m over at Trochia today writing about the God who has not changed and who’s promises are true and oh so good.  You can read more here.

Becoming Who You Already Are

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I’ve been dreaming about planting tomatoes, so my mind immediately went to raised beds and seedlings when this passage came up in church last weekend:

“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.

You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” {Matthew 5:13-16}

Jesus had barely just plucked his disciples from their ordinary lives with His invitation to “follow me” when He was preaching this first ever recorded sermon on the mountainside.  They had no clue what was in store for them or the world for that matter.  They were just barely beginning to understand who Jesus was. This man who was announcing what he was calling “Good News” about the kingdom. This rabbi who possessed power to heal all kinds of diseases and illnesses - he healed them all. It is written.

As they sat at his feet, hungering to know more, he spoke this over them and He still speaks it over us today:

You are.

This is what I love about Jesus.  He leads us to become who we already are.

The disciples hadn’t done anything remarkable yet. They were just watching, following and learning. Yet even later on when they did certain wonderful things, they were still like you and I… fighting against their old ways and learning to walk in the new. And regardless of what they did or didn’t do… regardless of what you and I have done or not done, Jesus says, “You are.”

When a tomato plant begins to fruit, the little yellow blossoms develop green buds that grow until full size. A little water and a lot of light ripens the fruit and as the light shines, the fruit gradually goes from green to red, from hard to soft, from sour to sweet… to the way it was always intended to be enjoyed.

But here’s the truth: In it’s budding, green and unripened state, a tomato is still a tomato.

It never stops being a tomato. The more it is exposed to the light, the more it becomes what it already is. The more it is exposed to the warmth and the radiance of the sun, the sweeter and juicier it becomes and the more it enhances the salad it’s tossed into.

Next time you slice up a yummy tomato, drizzle a little oil on it and don’t forget the salt! As that sweet taste of summer takes hold of your taste buds, let it remind you of who you already are.

For by grace you have been saved through faith.

And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” {Ephesians 2:8-9}

 

Cease Striving

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“Cease striving and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:10 {NASB}

 

I didn’t sleep well last night.

I crashed out on the early side, not sure why I was so tired after two days away.  Then I woke up in the middle of the night with all kinds of anxious thoughts consuming my mind.

Things to do.

Bills to pay.

Deadlines to meet.

Expectations of others to be met.

It was hard to get back to sleep and once I did, a little love woke me up with a need to be close.  To be held and comforted with the assurance of knowing he is not alone.

Then I came across this today.  Cease striving and know that I am God.

Today is Good Friday and this verse came at me with a weight of glory, reminding me my striving, my worry, my anxiousness bears no fruit and dims in the shadows of the cross.  As he hung there and the hyssop branch reached his lips, the Son of God breathed is last breath and said, “It is finished.”

It. Is. Finished.

My unproductive striving that leads no where but to sleepless nights has no place in life that lives with these words in place.

It is finished means, cease striving because the finished work of Jesus means all my little worries and fears have no place in a life led by a God who can bring a whole world into existence with a few words.

It is finished means, I hang on to Him, the One who hung on the cross because if He is exalted among nations, in the earth, why shouldn’t He be exalted in my heart and in my life.

Cease striving.

Know He is God.

 

 

Photo Credit: Creationswap

 

Yahweh: The All Encompassing God of the Universe

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Yahweh: The personal name of God.

The only name He gives Himself. It means the self-existing One.

“The name conveys the concept of absolute being, the One who is and whose dynamic presence works on our behalf. It conveys the meanings of “I am who and what I am, and I do not change.  I am here with you and for you.” ~ Warren W. Wiersbe

The One who was, Who is and Who is to come.  Your circumstances may change, you may be on the highest mountain or in the deepest, darkest valley. Regardles… He. Does. Not. Change. And neither does his commitment or promise to you.

He is the creator and sustainer of all that exists.

The Alpha and the Omega…The Beginning and the End.

Yahweh – Jireh: The LORD will provide and see to it. {Genesis 22:14}

Yahweh-Rophe: The LORD who heals. {Exodus 15:26}

 Yahweh-NIssi: The LORD our banner. {Exodus 17:15}

Yahweh- M’Kaddesh: The LORD who sanctifies {Leviticus 20:8}

Yahweh-Shalom: The LORD our peace {Judges 6:24}

Yahweh-Rohi: The LORD my shepherd {Psalm 23:1}

Yahweh-Sabaoth: The LORD of hosts {Psalm 46:7}

Yahweh-Tsidkenu: The LORD our righteousness {Jeremiah 23:6}

Yahweh-Shammah: The LORD is there {Ezekiel 48:35}

The same yesterday, today and forever. He is eternal, true, good and loving and in Him all things hold together.

When you sing, speak or shout “Hallelujah”, know that means “Praise Yahweh.”

In your hallelujahs of joy and your broken hallelujahs… He remains steadfast, secure and strong.

Sing it. Shout it. Cry it out.

Whatever you need today… because the all encompassing God of the universe is here.

Present among us.

He sees you and He knows YOUR name.

Hallelujah.

 

 

*Names of Yahweh resourced from Warren W. Wiersbe, Jesus in the Present Tense.

Spring Cleaning {Preparing for Lent}


We had one good dousing of rain over the weekend. A long awaited, much needed downpour for California to quench it’s dried up and thirsty landscape. Then today crept up to about 60 something and by this weekend it will be in the mid 70s. It feels like spring and yet winter hasn’t come.

I wonder a lot about seasons and their purpose and this counting it all joy business. Without the cold and wet of winter the soil isn’t adequately prepared for the growth of spring.  Eventually the lack of water will be enough to dry up roots and prevent buds from blooming to their fullest.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of various kinds, for you know the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” {James 1:2-4)

James talks about trials of various kinds.  Anything from a bad cold to cancer to a broken marriage to an addiction you can’t seem to stop on your own to the unbearable pain of grieving a death to the uncertainty of the future.  Joy in all of it because any kind of trial has the potential to test your faith or the faith of someone near you.

The trials don’t build our faith or increase our faith. There is no measure of faith that will get us out of our trials either. You aren’t experiencing a trial because you lack faith and you certainly are not still sitting there stuck in it because you don’t have enough.  Faith is simply being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we don’t see.  What trials do is produce steadfastness which is defined as fixed in direction, unwavering and firmly established.

The more we live, the more opportunity we have for our faith to be fixed in this direction of hope and firmly established in that which we do not see.  The thing about steadfastness according to James is that once you have it, you need to let it have it’s full effect which is apparently a life long process.  This steadfastness the Spirit is cultivating in us sustains us towards the perfection and completion God is working out in us. It’s not us or anything we do that makes us perfect and complete, it’s Jesus and the work He is doing in us.

Spring is a time of cleaning out closets, wiping down old contact paper and getting rid of the things we no longer need. It’s a time to weed and till up the soil to get it ready for planting.

Much like the ground in California, there are parts of my heart that have become hard and cracked.  There is no space to break in and plant something worth growing.

I think God knew what he was doing when he planned the calendar and put Lent exactly where it is.  Three months after the newness of a new year and I’m about ready for a do over.  Thankfully God is the God of new mercies. Every Morning.

Lent is often associated with “giving up” but this year I want to focus on filling up.  I’ve got a little Lent journal ready with some readings prepared and I’m going to focus these next 40 days on Jesus.  The author and perfecter of my faith. The One who is working in me through this steadfastness he is building in me. The One who makes me lack in nothing. The One who completes me.

This church in New Jersey posted something wonderful for those who are looking to give something up for Lent and this little piece by Mark D. Roberts from a few years ago gives a good overview of Lent and how it can make a difference in your relationship with God.

Do you practice Lent?  How so?

Photo Credit: GalleryHeart.com

 

What I’m Into {February 2014 Edition}

It’s been a long time since I’ve tended to this blog so today I am jumping back in and joining Leigh Kramer with her “What I’m Into” link up.

Okay so not going to lie… this year has been a little rough so far.  I was not kidding when I thought the reason behind choosing the word “fun” for the year was going to be out of necessity.  We’ve been to more funerals in 2014 than we’ve attended in most single years.  Many of our friends are suffering loss, illness and broken relationships. It’s been hard.

Also, I think I’ve come to terms with the fact my new year doesn’t feel like it starts until after our annual women’s retreat, because it pretty much just consumes me the first month of January and most of February. Now that March is upon us, I’m coming up for air and hopeful in a springy sort of way.  So cheers to February and all that came with it:

Books:

Sticky Faith  got me thinking a lot about the way we do youth ministry and community in general. It is spurring me on to better and more honest conversations with my boys about faith and being open to new ways in which we can bring their community into ours. I’m reading it slowly and thoughtfully.

Real Life Discipleship: Building Churches that Make Disciples is what I used to prepare for a leadership training session at the retreat. It’s written well and helps you learn how to walk with people the way Jesus did.

Blogs:

I’ve missed so many of my favorite blogs lately but one that I keep up on is the KHC Women’s Blog. We’ve got a growing group of contributors and it excites me that more women are lending their voices to strengthening our community in this way.

Music:

My sons are really into Lecrae and I’m just thankful there is actually really good and legit rap made by Christians that my kids can listen to. {Let’s not talk about the 80s and 90s} I also got the opportunity last week at the Justice Conference to hear The Brilliance and Josh Garrels.  This is a point of contention in our marriage because it makes this my third time to Steve’s zero on Josh Garrels live.

Things I Love:

  • Women. Eight years ago when the idea was stirring about for me to lead women’s ministries at my church, I was so reluctant.  I was worried about being with women all the time and having all my work be about women.  Now I can honestly say, my heart has been changed because I just adore them.  I love sitting and talking, listening and walking alongside them.  Our recent retreat confirmed so much about how much God loves and uses women to advance His Kingdom and bring about restoration.  There is something stirring in the waters here on earth and I love being part of it.  Remembrance Community, a nearby church that planted from us had their retreat the weekend before ours. The IF Gathering happened the same weekend as ours and it was good to hear much of what we were all talking about and praying were similar.  This is so much bigger than any of us or our imaginations.
  • Young Women.  We made a more purposeful effort to include young women 13 and up at our retreat this year and it is amazing to see the response and include these women in our community. Wouldn’t it be awesome to see young women raised up knowing who they are in Jesus, with a community that shows them loving Him is way more fulfilling than what the world will lure them to love?
  • Brides.  Several special people to me are getting married this year so #Bridalbootcamp2014 was a day spent on a local road trip visiting wise women who collectively have at least 100 years of marriage between them, teaching us about wifing.  I thought it was for them… to prepare them for marriage and how to be the best wife they can be.  I came home more encouraged about my own marriage and proof that what you pour out will be refilled to you thousands of times over.

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  • Baseball. ‘Tis the season and the boys seem to enjoy the game more and more as they grow up. Steve is coaching the Junior Varsity Pirates at San Pedro High School and caught this sweet moment from one Pirate to another on opening day.

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  • Voxer. Sarah got me using this app and it’s so fun. 
  • Rain.  We’ve got threeish days of here in SoCal and though it’s raining out our baseball games, I feel for the farmers, so I’m praying for more.

Favorite Instagram:

This one taken on Valentine’s Day with my boys. It says a lot about life right now.

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What about you? What have you been into lately?

 

One Word {2014 Edition}

For the fourth year I am abandoning New Year’s resolutions and choosing one word to focus on.

One word that will be the thing I look for, the thing I learn from and a word God will hopefully use to shape my character.

In the past, I’ve chosen the words Be, Faithful, and Peace.  They were all formative and I learned so much about who God is and who I am to be.

As I look forward to 2014, I have great hope and the blank canvas of a new year excites me. This year more than before, there is caution running through my spirit giving me a feeling things could potentially get hard.  So as I’ve prayed and considered, what comes to, mind is the word FUN.

Let me tell you straight up… there are a lot of definitions of fun I’m not particularly leaning towards. It’s a frivolous word. The definitions I do like are:  enjoyment, playfulness and the source of enjoyment.

It’s not a deep spiritual word by any means, but it can be the result of deep spiritual meaning.

Several weeks ago, I was visiting with my mom.  We were sitting at the table along with my dad, grandma and her caregiver who’s name by no coincidence is Grace.  We were discussing their struggles and some difficult things about what the future holds for my parents.  Suddenly, mom starts singing in her broken, never good singing voice:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Her voice is so bad, it’s funny and she cracked herself up as she sang.  Then she said this… “It may be a peculiar sound to you, but it is a joyful noise to the Lord, so I will keep singing.”

Another moment when I realized just how amazing my mom is.  Literally incapable of doing anything for herself, trapped a body atrophying from M.S., unable to do things her heart so desires, she is able to laugh at her vocals and sing, It. Is. Well.

This might be what it looks like to laugh at the days to come.

During a conversation with my favorite usher Bill on Sunday on the “Joy of the Lord,” Bill reminded me joy has nothing to do with your circumstances and everything to do with the person of Jesus.  It’s true.  Many a great theologians will remind us Jesus wants us to enjoy Him and the Psalmist tells us in his presence there is fullness of joy.

There is something lost in the joy of the Lord and that’s the actual manifestation of joy in us. That winsome quality that leads us to enjoy life, enjoy others and help others find joy as well.  I happen to think some of that joy should look like fun. Fun brings people together and keeps them coming back.  It lightens the load so what is serious can be carried with a more appropriate weight, it keeps us from taking ourselves more seriously than we ought.

Reading through the gospels and the stories of the disciples walking with Jesus, healing, casting out demons, turning water into wine… how would they have described those times?  Even post resurrection… running from persecution, singing so loud in prison that the chains fall off and people are set free.  I wonder, if we interviewed John on the island of Patmos at the end of his life and asked, “How would you describe those days with the disciples?”  I imagine among difficult, scary, dangerous, invigorating and others… “fun” might have been a word he would use.

Ministry, serving God, parenting, being a wife, being a friend certainly has it’s challenges. But there is nothing better than seeing someone set free. Seeing someone find freedom because of grace.  Knowing you are going against the tide of culture and being a part of transformation. Experiencing the joy of a child whose confidence has been built because of a lesson learned or a mountain climbed. Enjoying kids while they are young and playful.

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These things my friends, are fun.

So in 2014, I will look for the enjoyment that is to be enjoyed.  I will endeavor to be a fun mom in the ways I know how to be fun. I will enjoy my husband and I will be the source of enjoyment for my family. I will venture to cease complaining until I am one who is marked by praise instead of criticism.  I will take risks like painting the kitchen cabinets lime green because my kids chose the color.

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I will be fully present so I can point to the joy. I will try to encourage and be hopeful while not minimizing what is hurting.

Who knows, maybe the word fun won’t seem so frivolous after all.

Have you chosen a word for the year? Do you have New Year’s resolutions?

Share them with me and we will pray for one another.

The Christmas Card

Dear Friends & Family,

This year, we had to surrender what I love most about Christmas.  The Christmas Card.  In my refusal to get caught up in all things stressful, I had to let it go this time. It was hard because my absolute favorite thing about Christmas is receiving YOUR cards in the mail.

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Every day, we run to the mailbox and look through the photos, read your updates and cherish your words.  We hold on to your cards all year-long and on the nights we actually have dinner together as a family, we choose one and pray for yours.

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Maybe next year we will return to print cards.  For this year, from us to you… we wish you all the hope, peace, joy and love that IS Christmas.

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We’ve had a really fun year growing with these boys.

FunRS

 

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JasonRS

Jason is now 12 and will be 13 in April.  He is growing in faithfulness and is becoming a solid young man. He loves to surf, play baseball and though he will tell you he doesn’t enjoy 7th grade… he is doing really well. His favorite things to do are hang out at youth group, listening to music and keeping up with his friends.

SilasRS SeriousSilasRS

Silas entered into the double digits by turning 10 this year.  Our family tradition for turning 10 is having a “man dinner” where the 10-year-old invites a group of men of his choosing to come and speak blessings over his life. Each person who came is special to Silas {and us} in his own way. They spoke of his compassion, his ability to know how others are feeling, the way he cares for his family and of course his creativity.  Silas is doing well in 4th grade and becoming more and more independent. He loves to create with legos, paints, paper, markers or anything he gets his hands on.

JudahRS

Judah is 8 and continues to delight us with his wildcard ways. He is funny and charming and has a heart so big you can’t help but squeeze him. He loves being a big brother and plays so well with Nathan. He finds a best friend every where he goes and every night asks the question, “Is someone coming over for dinner?”  He loves being surrounded by people and helping in the kitchen.  Judah works hard and loves to learn in 3rd grade. He also plays hard at baseball and basketball and of course any video game he can get his hands on.

NathanRS

 

 

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Nathan “The Bonus” is now 2 1/2 and keeping us on our toes.  We love seeing him discover life and he brings so much joy to us. His vocabulary increases daily and he enjoys playing with friends, “eat time,” and his “choo choos.”  He loves his “bobos” the most and tries very hard to join in with whatever they are doing. This year, he is anticipating the arrival of “The Big Ho Ho Guy” while learning about the Baby Jesus who loves him and you. 

 

 

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We celebrated 15 years of marriage this year and are thankful to say it keeps getting better.  I had the gift of a sabbatical all summer long so we enjoyed a little time away courtesy of Papa and Gigi and our Nugents.  We also had a great time as a family in Carlsbad, Mammoth and long days at the beach.  Steve has been enjoying Stand Up Paddling and works in a few “board meetings” here and there while he works hard at Men’s Ministry and coaching San Pedro High School baseball.  After a nice break, I realized how much I love ministry and what a gift it is to be able to be with my family and do something I love at the same time.

This Christmas we celebrate Jesus who came as a baby and still promises:What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.”  {Genesis 28:15}

As we hold on to this promise, we pray you and yours would know the fullness of his love and this hope that remains with you also.

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*All photos courtesy of Emily Cannon Photography*