Thursday, January 3, 2013

2013: A Year for Change?

2013. Wow. It sounds odd to say it and even more odd to see it in writing. Growing up, the 20--'s were often imagined as having flying cars, robots galore, and civilizations on other the movies at least. Though only 6 years in Los Angeles, thankfully, is still a far cry from the movie Blade Runner's depiction of the city in the year 2019 with a dark earth, flying cars, and robots indistinguishable from humans. That's the way we use to picture things by 2020, though. A cold, dark, technologically advanced world....a Sci-Fi nightmare. I am happy to say that the view of the Los Angeles lights when landing New Year's Eve night was a beautiful sight and we were not greeted by any "replicants" or human like robots. Though, Harrison Ford would have been a welcome sight. (I don't know or care how old he is...I love me some Harrison Ford). I guess we are going to have to push those story lines of a dark LA to the 21--'s because after a week of wintry weather in Tennessee, the sun almost blinded me New Year's Day.

I'm not sure what is more odd to me, though: the fact that it is already 2013 or the fact that I find myself living in Los Angeles. Just like the 1980's imagery of a 2019 LA was far from accurate, my world certainly doesn't look as I would've pictured it looking by 2013. Having said that...I must clarify that both of the realities of today are far better than imagined. Oh, I'm not saying LA is paradise....but I'd take the LA of today over Blade Runner's depiction any day....even if I was able to see Harrison everyday! Like the city, my own little world certainly has dark spots, too.'s closer to perfection than anything I had ever imagined.

2012 was full of changes. No, that's not quite accurate. EVERYTHING changed in 2012. Location, house, schools, church, and faces. I think that's why throughout this Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's season, I found myself reflecting more than I had before and appreciating each person and moment more than ever. Who says change isn't good?

Though it wasn't quite long enough, we had a great visit with family and friends in Tennessee over Christmas. Our last night there, we attended a special worship service with our old church family to help usher in 2013 with the proper perspective. I've been away for a few months now but I knew it had been a challenging time for those long faithful members keeping things going as they are between pastors right now while still dealing So, I was relieved as the pastor filling in made his suggestions Sunday morning for the evening service. I could tell that he knew just what they needed. As it turns out, it was what I needed, too. It was so beneficial to me that I knew I needed to write down my thoughts on the matter so I wouldn't forget. Then I really merits sharing. So....these are the 3 things he suggested for us to think of and share about if we wanted to that night:

1. A scripture that had spoken to us in 2012.
2. A blessing we received in 2012.
3. A goal for 2013.

It didn't take me long to think of the scriptures that had spoken most to me or the blessings I had received. The goals for 2013....well, I'm still trying to set those. Maybe I should figure out the best goal that would help me procrastinate less!:)

Scriptures: I think He actually gave me a specific scripture in 2011 to prepare me for the changes of 2012. He's good that way! Then He gave me one to help me deal in 2012.

First, in 2011, He repeatedly presented me with and sunk the meaning of 2 Timothy 1:7 into my bones:

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."

In this, Paul is reassuring Timothy in his commitment to serve Christ and not the world. There comes a point when a professing believer in Christ must grasp this concept and my time had come. He had been patient with me and was ready for me to stop trying to serve two masters. I had not demonstrated the sincere faith that Paul was commending Timothy for in the verses prior. He was gently nudging me from my long held position seated with white knuckles on the proverbial fence. Total obedience to the Lord lay on one side and conforming to the world on the other. I can't speak for any of you but the thought of going "all in" in any area tends to make the view from the fence suddenly more appealing to me. Anyone ever sat on an actual fence, though?  It's a balancing act trying not to lean too far to either side. Not exactly comfortable. One little word from this verse sums up why anyone would want to stay in that position....fear. Whether I was aware of it or not, I can see it now as plain as I saw the millions of lights when landing in Los Angeles New Year's Eve night. It was certainly fear....fear of uncertainty, fear of pain, fear of rejection maybe, fear of change for sure, fear of "what-ifs", etc. Just fear.

Yes, it's certainly true that total obedience to Christ alone is costly and uncomfortable by our worldy standards. The things we fear most may actually come to be. We may have to give up things we treasure; a job, a person, a habit, a place, a way of life or maybe the one we dream of. When our mind is centered on this world....the fear of losing those things can keep us on the fence or even drive us to climb down on the world's side. We love our children, our spouse, our family, our church, our job, our stuff, and on and on. We should. They are blessings. What I found that I had done though, and I'm sure many other believers do as well, is that I had placed those blessings in the position in my heart and mind that my God was always meant to hold. Yes, I was to appreciate and cherish them as blessings, but they were not meant to hold my allegiance. That turned His blessings into idols. Therefore my obedience to Him, on the big things and the little daily things, revolved more around how that obedience would relate to my treasures. Would it affect my relationships? Would it cost me something? I was a professing believer who didn't believe in the goodness of God and His faithfulness to the faithful.
I wish I could tell others on the fence that my fears were inaccurate and nothing changes just because you say "Yes" to God. But, I can't do that because when I began saying "Yes" to God....everything changed. I changed. My perspective changed. That's what He does though. If we are willing, He wants to work in the worldy, selfish hearts we are born with and transform us more and more into His image. This is where our fear takes hold on a very subtle but powerful level. When we begin to look like Him, we will inevitably stick out from the crowd. We will often even find ourselves feeling different from or seeming different to co-workers, friends we've known for years, family, and even church members. Because the life lived in obedience to Christ is far from what we typically see on a daily basis today. People tend to start looking at us like we're crazy for the truths we hold or the decisions we make....maybe even tell us so. That's always been an underlying fear of mine and likely for the majority of Americans to some extent. Why else would the phrase, "Keeping up with the Jones's" exist? We shouldn't understimate the power of our need for acceptance, to belong. It's the fear of not being accepted that keeps us conforming to this world. Fear is a very effective tool used by the enemy. No, our spirit of fear certainly does not come from God.
What He has clearly taught me is that the fear of losing the things we love in this world and especially our place in this world....will surely keep us from finding our purpose in it. We may seem radically different...even crazy to many and that's ok. When we allow Him to take His place in our hearts and as we seek to obey Him more and more, He drives out fear, filling us with His love and power. I know some may call me crazy, but I have never been more sound in mind in all of my life. That is the assurance that I can honestly offer to those on the fence. There is such peace in having a sound mind that I wish I had gotten off many, many years ago. It's rather hard for fear and peace to co-exist.
"Sound mind" is translated in the ESV as self control and in the NIV as self-discipline. All of which fall under having a sound mind. It means that those with a sound mind are not easily swayed, don't over-react, aren't continually making poor decisions, and maintain the proper perspective. For me, at it's root, there is just great peace in having a sound mind simply because fear is removed...along with it's symptoms of worry and anxiety.  It can certainly creep up and we have to turn it over to Him daily. The devil doesn't give up easily. Doesn't the bible tell us the enemy prowls around like a lion waiting to devour us? (1 Peter 5:8) But how freeing it is to be comfortable in my own skin, regardless of who I'm around. How relieving it is now to realize that even if my worst fears were realized on this earth....This is not my home. Nor is it my husband's or my children's. Oh, how I wish I had gotten off the fence years ago! The one on the world's side of the fence is really a captive whether they know it or not. But so was I when trying to balance myself with white knuckles.
"To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free."
~ John 8:31-32
In 2012, He gave me my greatest test of faith ever in our move to California. But, He was so faithful in His reassurances that fear was never allowed to take hold about the move, which was a miracle in and of itself! What began to surface then was more of an inward struggle with weaknesses...of which I still have plenty. The move would change everything for all of us and I questioned whether or not I could be all that I needed to be during this time of unprecedented change for our family. The answer to that question was most certainly, "No!"
Then in May of 2012, before the move, I had another verse soak into my bones. It was one I had heard a thousand times but never grasped beyond the superficial level of, "oh that's a nice verse." 
"And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." 2 Cor 12:9
This came as I somewhat hesitantly went on a weekend away with the Lord to an event called Faithwalk.  Along with this verse, I received one of my greatest blessings...not just of 2012 but of all the 34 years prior. I got a profound sense of His love for me and understanding for the love He has for us all on a level I never had before. When He says He loves us, He LOVES us. When He says He forgives, He forgives....and forgets. When He says He is sufficient for us, He is more than enough.
If you look at the passage in context, Paul has some sort of weakness. We don't know if it's spiritual, emotional, or physical. But he knows that he has been created less than perfect because when the Lord begins to reveal Himself to us in such personal's such an indescribable feeling that one could begin to feel so "special" that they grow a rather large head! So, He allowed Paul the experience....the priviledge..... of having to stay humble before Him. He loves us in spite of our weaknesses. So much that He is pleased to show Himself to us through those weaknesses.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “ My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
 Makes you want to shout "Amen!" doesn't it?
I know I'm not going to have all the answers. My weaknesses are going to get the best of me some days. I know I'm not going to handle everything the way a "good mom" should. Still, when I have days I have come up short, when I've blown it, or anytime I read scripture and realize that my heart looks nothing like my Savior's on the matter....He still loves me. He doesn't ask me to be perfect....He asks me to be obedient.  He can work with that! If we ever question whether or not He can still use us and our imperfect selves, we can just read the hall of faith in Hebrews 11. All He requires from us is faith. Faith sets our feet in motion along the path of obedience. Walking with Him is what makes us strong.  His grace is truly sufficient for me.
"For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth, to strengthen those whose hearts are fully commited to Him." ~ 2 Chronicles 16:9 
So, this year I only have one goal so far...make my time with Him a daily priority. He gives grace daily. Therefore, like tending a garden, I need to spend time with Him daily if I want to keep those feelings of fear and failure weeded out. Otherwise, how would I ever hope to grow to be fruitful?  That should be a goal for all of us as believers... to be glorify Him. We don't like to use the word "change" except when we are seeking a change for the better in some area at the beginning of each year. Don't get me wrong...goals for diet and healthy lifestyles sure help us to look and feel better and are important. Even in those weaknesses and "guilty pleasures" we obsess over...He is sufficient. Therefore, in 2013, instead of obsessing just over food choices, our imperfect bodies or character flaw, or any other resolution we've made so far, why don't we resolve to live a life of obedience, to be fearless in our walk with Him, and to make every effort to glorify Him in our choices. Then let's just watch and see what change He starts in our hearts and the power He pours into our lives in the New Year. 

Again I ask....Who says change isn't good?
Jude 1:24-25
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
To God our Savior,
Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and power,
Both now and forever.
Happy New Year!!!!

The Home Place: A few clips from our trip....definitely showing some roots!:)
The sistas
Lily & Jude:)
Slept through dinner Christmas Eve!
The reluctant annual photo at Me-Maw's before they get all messed up playing with cousins! 

Jude's cookies and note for Santa.

The guys Christmas morning with their new sweatshirts. They love them so much they've tried to wear them everyday since! Santa could've gotten off much cheaper had he known!
Jude and Maw making biscuits Christmas morning.
Jude working the biscuit dough...If you look closely, you can see Poppy ruining the Christmas will go down in the books for sure...Christmas 2012....the year Pop made an unauthorized adjustment to a 40 year old biscuit recipe:)
The annual Christmas morning show and tell!

The New Addition for the Browns, Hudson Taylor! Or as his uncle BB calls him in true southern fashion..."Hud Taylor"!
Snow Christmas night made for a memoral day after!
Thankfully not enough snow to keep me from having a short but sweet lunch date with sista girls!
Didn't take long for Jude to get reaquainted with everyone!

Steve (left) with his brother Jeff (center) while Jeff spoke and prayed in typical Jeff Brown fashion that typically makes us teary eyed:) It was our Cousin Jeff's (right) 50th birthday party.....pulled off by telling him we were all getting together before heading back west. Glad we got to be there for it!

Looks about typical. Cousins.  :)

Me-Maw and Grandaddy with "Wheet-tuff"


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