It is good, at significant junctures like the start of a new year, to look back and to look forward. Looking back reminds us of God’s faithful and sustaining presence. Looking forward reminds us that the same God who walked with us in the past will continue to walk with us in the present and into the future.
We gain great comfort in tracing the hand of God through the days of our lives. It reinforces our hope and calms our fears. I take great comfort in the promise of Isaiah 46:4:
“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
So here’s my year in review. As you listen to my family's story, I hope you'll remember that the same God who carried us will also carry you if you put your trust in him. Happy New Year.
Our year began with a huge change—we put the house where we’d lived for 29 years on the market. We’d lived in this home longer than anywhere else. We’d reared our daughters there, welcomed our friends, held Bible studies, extended hospitality, and shared happy family gatherings. In some ways, it was a hard decision, but God gave us peace that it was time to move.
Right before we moved, we lost Winston, our rescue dog. Only nine years after we adopted him, Winston's death was sudden and unexpected. As only he can do, God helped us focus on the nine wonderful years we had with him instead of deeply mourning the years we lost. He was my faithful walking buddy, patient writing companion, and ever-present comic relief. He also had the softest ears of any dog I've ever petted. I still miss him a lot.
In March we celebrated my dad’s 80th birthday. After several years of serious health challenges, he felt good enough for us to honor him with singing, gifts, and CAKE.
In the spring, I competed in the Toastmasters International Speech Contest. I shared a message called “I Am Rich,” based on Psalm 37:16. Even though it was my first year competing, I won first and second place in our club contest, area, and division. It was a great learning experience, and a wonderful way to remind people that it isn’t money that makes us rich.
After much searching and prayer, God led us to our new home in early April. It has a better layout for extending hospitality (very important, as we like to host prayer meetings, Bible studies, and other gatherings), and is in a much safer neighborhood. Best of all, we moved much closer to our daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughters. Now it’s much easier to be a regular part of their lives.
My husband and I started walking daily in our new neighborhood, something we feel much more comfortable doing now. We also began praying while we walked the 2.8-mile route, which was great preparation for what was to come next . . .
In May David lost his job of 17 years. It was a tumultuous time as we prayerfully sought God’s will for a new job. Although he was out of work for 3 months, God provided for all our needs, including expensive medication we were unable to afford because of the loss of his health insurance. We learned how intimately God knows and meets our needs—the medication ran out the week he became covered under health insurance at his new job. Jehovah Jireh—God provided.
Also in May, I had the honor and privilege of speaking at a Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony for my agent, Les Stobbe, at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. It was a joy to speak for the dozens of authors he has helped along in their publishing journey and pay tribute to his behind-the-scenes prayer and life partner, Rita.
The summer brought opportunities to spend time with family and friends, culminating in a trip to my hometown of Bristol, Rhode Island to welcome my daughter and son-in-law back from a 2-year assignment in Japan. We had the opportunity to reconnect with extended family and visit the little town about which I write so often.
In the fall, when my eldest daughter and son-in-law left Japan permanently, I received the fulfillment of a promise God had given me two years prior when I sent my beloved daughter 7,000 miles away:
“This is what the LORD says: ‘Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,’ declares the LORD. . . . ‘Your children will return to their own land’” (Jer. 31:16-17). Great was his faithfulness.
2016 also granted me many opportunities to encourage women through women’s ministry events. I shared “Dressed for Success,” “Stepping Out, How Our Footwear Impacts Our Faith,” and “A Hat for All Seasons, Serving God in Every Stage of Life” at churches in Savannah, Columbia, Lexington, and as far away as Brookville, Pennsylvania.
In November and December, I shared a brand new Christmas-themed program, “3 Keys to a Spirit-filled Christmas” at several churches, including ours, which hosted a lovely Christmas tea for the occasion.
And on December 28, Hubby and I celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary. During the more than three decades of our marriage, we've laughed, cried, mourned, and rejoiced. We've struggled and triumphed, despaired and persevered. We haven't always liked each other, but we've always loved each other. Our commitment to God and the truth of his Word has been the glue that has kept us together through the ups and downs of life.
In between these highlights, we’ve had spiritual, relationship, and financial challenges, but God has carried us through them all. He’s given us wisdom when we’ve asked, comfort when we’ve cried, and hope when we felt hopeless.
As we begin a new year, my prayer for your family and mine is that we will draw closer to God, be further conformed into the image of Christ, and shine ever brighter for his glory.
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21-23).