Five kids. Five pieces of paper. Five pencils, at various shades of dull. End of the year, every year. Daddy always had us sit down and consider our last year. We were supposed to glance over the previous year’s goals and see if we actually accomplished any of them, but, more importantly, he wanted us to think about all the reasons God had given us to be thankful for the year that had almost passed.
I still do that now, although it has been a long time since my dad has ordered me to grab pen and paper. It’s a good way to remember God’s goodness and apply the trust I have learned in one year to the worries to come in the new year. And God has given me many gifts in 2015.
First, a husband. Last year at this time, David and I had been dating for all of 2 months. Now we’ve been married for nearly 5 1/2 months already. God sent me a wonderful husband who loves God and loves me. My husband humbles me with his readiness to forgive and ask for forgiveness and his willingness to change, and God has used him in my life in so many ways during the last year.
Second, a whole new family to add to my already-pretty-amazing family. I have another sister, y’all! And 3 new brothers, which brings my total up to 7 (nobody mess with this girl!). I have a gracious new mother who planned most of my wedding, relieving me of so much stress as I tried to finish my AmeriCorps hours of service before the wedding. (Both my own mother and my new mother set a very high standard as wives and mothers. I have a long way to go!) And I have a new father who can join my birth father in giving me wise and godly counsel. (I can thank these two people for raising David to be the gentleman he is.) Add to that a whole crew of uncles and aunts and really wonderful cousins, and I’m overwhelmed with blessings.
Third, the fellowship of believers. While I was in Costa Rica, there were definitely times when I felt isolated. I had to take a bus down the mountain to reach an evangelical church, and I had to go to the Saturday service because there wasn’t a midday bus run on Sundays. I really didn’t get to know many of the people in that church. In Houston, though, at Grace Family Baptist, I was given the gift of so many friends who were likeminded believers. So many, in fact, that it was very hard to leave them. (David had to remind me that I wouldn’t be crying if I didn’t have friends there–so I guess it was a good thing I was sad!) But now, here in our new town, we’ve found a really wonderful church. We haven’t even had to visit other churches, and we had our meeting with the elders for membership yesterday. God is so faithful to provide us with accountability and encouragement in the faith.
Fourth, jobs. I loved teaching English as a Second Language in Houston. Teaching is my passion and something God has enabled me to do fairly well, and until we got married and I moved, I was able to give people the tools they needed to thrive in their new country. Just a couple of weeks ago, I got a new job in this city. It’s so different from anything I’ve ever done, but I think I will enjoy it. And I’m so thankful to be working and useful. David also has a wonderful job now,and had a job he loved in Houston, as well. Work is truly a gift.
I can’t even begin to list all that God has done for us. He has provided for us financially, answered David’s prayer for more flight time, given us a place to live. God enabled me to join David in Montreal for his month of training and enjoy experiencing another culture with him rather than be separated during our first few months of marriage. We were also just given furniture for our house-to-be; people showered us with gifts of dishes and towels and all kinds of useful things when we got married.
Most importantly, though, He has given us salvation. Every year, every day, I take time to remember that gift. I love the passage in I Corinthians 6:9-11 where Paul is listing off all these awful types of sinners and then he points the finger at us:
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you.”
Without God, yes, that is what we are. But he goes on to remind us the reason for our hope in spite of our depravity.
“But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” I Cor. 6:11 ESV
Thank you, God, for 2015. May You bring glory to yourself in the coming year, even as you have in this year. Amen.
The Hartley family keeps growing!! And I just added a new last name to the mix!
Thanks, Crystal, for the beautiful picture with “our verse” on it!