Friday, December 17, 2010

2010 Christmas letter - 'The Year of the Ironman'

I'll never forget when Eric announced to our kids around this time last year that he was going to do the Louisville Ironman in August, 2010. You would have thought he had just announced we were all leaving on the next plane out of town for Disney World. They were ecstatic. Their reaction, I'll have to say, was much more supportive than the reaction going on inside of myself. I had two very different trains of thought running through my head. On the one hand, I kept seeing it from 'my' point of view--'my' view couldn't get passed the fact that all of his training would impose on 'my' free time. I would have to pick up the slack at home so he could put in the hours of training. 'My' view believed that it was going to affect our time together in a negative way. How would we ever have time together as a family if he was always biking, running or swimming? 'My' point of view wondered how he could keep God and his relationship with Him #1 if he was doing all these extra hours of training. Thankfully, I didn't verbalize these reservations, but I definitely wasn't doing cartwheels over this decision like my kids were.

On the other hand, I had a completely different line of thought going on in my head and I believe this other view truly kept my mouth shut from voicing all the negativity warring inside of me. This other response had nothing to do with me and everything to do with God and His kindness. God knew I was going to need a little help in this area. He knew I needed to 'see' this working for someone else. Thus, He prepared my heart beforehand by bringing a friend into my life who's husband had done several Ironman races. She was very much a mentor (and still is) and I had been spending time with her on a regular basis. Her commitment to her husband and commitment to his leadership in their marriage prepared me to respond appropriately. Because her husband had done several Ironman races, I was able to see how it could actual be a positive thing and something that brings the family together. I am so thankful for such an example and thankful that God prepared my heart so that I could choose to be supportive of Eric and be on board with this goal.

I'll also never forget a few months later, sitting in the kitchen of these friends and learning for the first time the entry fee for the Ironman. Yep, Eric conveniently had kept this small piece of information to himself. My mouth fell open. I couldn't speak for several seconds. I was seriously in a state of shock. Are you kidding me? Let me get this straight...not only are you going to willingly subject your body to the worst pain and agony it will probably ever experience, but you are also going to pay someone a small fortune to do so? (I'm not going to divulge the amount; if you want to know the cost, go to the Ironman website!)

When Eric announced he was doing the Ironman to our kids, he explained he wouldn't be able to help coach their baseball teams because of the training commitment. I thought inside, 'whoa, they will not be okay with this--now it's getting personal.' Again, I was wrong. They were not sad in the least. It was like God had already given them the wisdom to know that this was a special thing that would take a little bit of sacrifice from each of us. As is so often the case, God was using our children's childlike, faithful responses to challenge and sanctify my own untrusting heart.

Thus, this is how 2010 began and why I call it 'The Year of the Ironman', because most of our year revolved around this central goal. Just as we are followers of Christ and we must run everything through the grid of keeping Him at the forefront of all we do, this goal required similar thinking. It was no small thing--it required a lot of intentional planning, hard work and discipline and everything we did had to be evaluated in light of keeping this goal out front.

An Ironman consists of swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running 26.2 miles. It is the triathlon of triathlons. It is a serious commitment. Thus, the first half of our year involved training, training and more training. Training doesn't happen without a plan. You have to pick a plan and fit it into your routine and be intentional about it. I relate it often to parenting. We must put in the hard hours of work in order to train our children and bring them up in the way that God would have them to go. It takes much intentionality. So does training for a race. During this time, Joshua, Wes and Jeremiah were playing baseball. When Eric wasn't biking, swimming or running, we spent our nights at the baseball field. If you'd like to read about our adventuresome baseball seasons, you may click on the following links:

With Spring, Comes Baseball

Unwrapping God's Gifts

Joshua's Season

Wes' Season

Jeremiah's Season

Ephesians 2:10 says 'we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.' When we surrender our lives to live for Jesus, we each become a masterpiece in the making. Each moment, each day, God puts a new stroke of color or shading on our painting. His strokes are deliberate and precise. He knows exactly what He is creating and He knows exactly when He is finished. In June of this year, God put the finishing touches on two beautiful masterpieces and called them home in all His glorious splendor. My grandmother, Mabel Winkler and Eric's grandmother, Margaret Polly passed away from this earth and on into the heavenly realm on June16 and June 27, respectively. These womens' lives reflected a love for God and their family. Please click on their names to read a tribute about each of their beautiful lives.

With July, came another turn of unexpected events. Eric had a bike wreck. Thankfully, he didn't break anything, but he received a mean down-to-the-bone cut just to the right of his knee cap. He had to take two weeks off from his training to recover. Two weeks may not seem like a long time, but it is when you are full throttle into your training regimen with only eight weeks to go. It's like turning your car off while your driving down the interstate at 65 miles per hour. You lose all momentum. In every race, though, there are unforeseen obstacles to overcome. It comes with the territory. Nike is a greek word that--most appropriately--means 'overcome'. Overcome. Exactly what you have to learn to do when you come up against adversity. And that is exactly what Eric did. At the end of those two weeks, he put his head down, set his mind on the task before him, and got to work. He put one foot in front of the other, little by little, step by step. In this part of his training, Eric got to physically experience God's Words: 'my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.' 1 Cor. 12:9. It was at this point that Eric realized in a more tangible way that it was going to take more than just physical strength to get him through this. He was going to have to rely on God and His strength when he came to the end of his rope.

As the countdown to the race came in sight, um, so did my 40th birthday. With my 40th birthday looming in view (it was seven days before the Ironman), my sanity went out the window. Seriously. I was off my rocker for about two weeks. We can laugh about it now, but I need to call a spade a spade. I was knee-deep in the sin of 'me-ism'. I really was. You know that 'other' competing train of thought that I mentioned at the beginning of this post? The one that had taken a back seat all of these months? Well, it reared its ugly head. It was short-lived, but no matter. It was there. I was certain Eric was not going to do anything special for my birthday because of the Ironman being right around the corner. The fact is, I really didn't know if he had or hadn't anything planned for me, but just in case he didn't, I was going to be mad at him. Proverbs 21:9 says 'better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife' and Proverbs 27:15 says 'a quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm.' Yes, I was leaky and annoying and Eric would have been better off living on the corner of our roof. Anyway, that it is the short version of it all. But I basically was a pain to live with for a couple of weeks! And guess what? Eric did some really, sweet things for my birthday and I allowed my ridiculous runaway emotions to spoil the time leading up to it. That is what happens when we allow our feelings to rule us rather than what we know is Truth or what we know is the right thing to do. Unfortunately, those memories will always be tainted with regret--regret that I chose my emotions to get the best of me. The bright side to this whole story is there is forgiveness and wide-open love on the other side of every sin. We can recognize our sin for what it is, turn from it and repent, thus restoring fellowship with our Creator and making our relationship with Him all that it is capable of. Whew. I am glad that part's over. And I am glad Eric didn't choose to shoot me during this time!

The morning of August 29. It finally came. We awoke at 4:30 am and I drove Eric down to the start line. Then I went home and got all my kids up and ready to go. Sporting our matching 'Team Groganator' shirts, we headed down to the start line at 6:30 am.

The day's forecast had an eerie ring to it. It was going to be in the upper 90's with high humidity. Brutally and stifling hot--the kind of day we in the Ohio Valley are used to in late August. The kind of day you want to spend lounging in a pool, not pounding the pavement. As we walked to the start line, in the distance we could see the Ohio River--an almost ominous steam settled lazily over its still, calm waters. Waters that would soon be torrent with activity.

The start of an Ironman is something to behold. For as far as we could see there were men and women lined up with their bathing caps and slicks on, their arms marked up with their racing number. There is music playing and an excitement in the air that is catching. As we watched the mass of people walk slowly forward waiting for their turn to jump in the water and start the 2.4 mile 'swim', I wondered what each of their stories were. In that crowd of people, there was one who had fought cancer and overcome and was now taking what he had learned through that physical trial and applying it to this monumental feat that stood before him. There was one who had suffered through a horrendous car crash, been told he would never walk again, yet--defying all odds--was standing in this line of people today. The oldest woman in the pack at the age of 62 was attempting her first Ironman. The oldest participant of all was a man of 79, who had twenty something Ironman's under his belt prior to this one. There was a woman who was here because she and her co-worker several months back had decided they were going to start doing triathlons to lose some much needed weight. Here she stood, 120 lbs lighter, doing her first Ironman. And among the participants there were many regular Joe's, such as Eric and two of his friends, Charlie and Scott. They were all three first-timers and had most everything in common except for the fact that (cough, cough) Eric is just a wee bit older than them.

After watching the start, we walked down to the transition area. The transition area is where the participants come up out of the water, change into their biking gear and retrieve their bikes. In the transition area there are rows and rows of bikes--2,600 to be exact. We stood on the side of the street, around the corner from where the bike course began, waiting to see Eric. We finally saw him. He stopped to talk to us. You could tell he was excited about his swim time. He looked strong and hyped up. He needed to be because 112 miles of rolling hills and lonely terrain loomed ahead of him; it would take him anywhere between 6 1/2 to 7 hours to complete the bike course. This is the part of the race that many of the participants' bodies would fall prey to the scorching heat.

The kids and I would now spend a large part of our day driving to different points along the bike course to cheer on Eric, Scott and Charlie. I now had my own Ironman challenge ahead of me: keep our five children in line (and off the streets!), make sure they had plenty of food and water, figure out where to stop and park along the race course, hopefully be able to find a place to park my ginormous big-rig, all the while sweating bullets in the thick of the heat.

We met a group of friends at a point about halfway along the bike course. We cheered on Scott--who seemed to pedal by effortlessly and then Charlie--whose smile seemed larger than his face--and then we waited. And waited. And waited. I began to worry. Was Eric, too, going to fall victim to this leg of the race? We finally saw him at the bottom of the hill. When I saw how white his face was I knew there was trouble. We learned his legs had been cramping basically since he had started biking. He was downing salt tablets, staying hydrated and eating. But nothing seemed to be working. His legs were just in one continual cramp. I began to wonder if he would be able to finish.

We continued to trek him along the bike course. As the day progressed, we saw the race bring more and more people down. Many were leaning against wooden fences or laid out in the shade of the trees, struggling through dehydration, heat exhaustion or severe leg cramps. Only mental toughness and sheer tenacity could get you through this part. Eric told us later that he started to wonder if he would be able to finish. He said his legs were cramping so badly he wonders how he got his pedals to turn and that he prayed and prayed and prayed over those long and lonely miles. Once again, he got to experience in a very tangible way the drawing upon the strength of the Lord when he had nothing left in himself. He drew on the bible verse 'that is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.' 2 Cor. 12:10, allowing the power of Christ to pedal him through.

It was long. It was brutal. It was tortuous. It was, for awhile, questionable--but he did it. Never was he happier to see that transition area as he finished mile 112, and never had he been more grateful to get off that bike! Now all he had to do was run a marathon. Yep. Just 26.2 miles. No big deal.

Of all the three components--swimming, running and biking--running is Eric's strength. The downfall, of course, is that you go into it with the brutality of the day weighing down on your body. Your muscles are sore and stretched beyond anything they have ever endured. You just have to resolve to keep going. You need a mind of steel that won't buckle under the physical strain of the pain. So many people came to cheer and root on Eric, Charlie and Scott that day. There were people along much of the running course that kept them going. Encouragement infuses courage and that is exactly what all of our friends and family did--they enfused those tired souls with courage.

As Eric approached the finish line, his excitement grew. His tired and sore muscles were forgotten as sheer exhiliration carried him. When he rounded the corner and saw the last one hundred yards in front of him, every grueling, painful inch of that race became worth it. As he ran those last steps, he thought to himself that what he was experiencing right at this moment must be a small glimpse--a snapshot--of what it will be like one day to step into eternity with our heavenly Father. At 9:26 pm, a mere 14 1/2 hours after he began, Eric came across the finish line. He got to hear those infamous words he had been waiting so long to hear: 'Eric Grogan--YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!' The words of 2 Tim. 4:7 had dual purpose for him that day: 'I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.'

August 29th--I have such a vivid recollection of snapshots in my mine from this day. I picture Joshua and Sophie setting their alarms for 4:30 am just so they could give their daddy a big hug and wish him luck, I picture all of us taking turns decorating our van, I picture my tenacious friend Amy Jo and her family riding along with us in the big rig, directing me down side streets and such, I picture another friend pulling us together to pray for Eric after seeing him looking white as a ghost, I picture others who got on each other's shoulders to cheer on Eric at one point, I picture Eric's good friend Jeff giving him a pep talk at the bottom of a hill, I picture my in-laws sitting in their lawn chairs waiting to watch Eric pass, I picture us in our Team Groganator shirts, I picture the zillion kids of all of our friends and family chasing Eric down the street like the Pied Piper. And my favorite snapshot is when he crossed the finish line and did that little victory thing with his arm you see great athletes do after a big win!

What a special day this was for our family! This day was a day of us coming together and seeing a dream fulfilled for the leader of our pack. From that moment on, there was a definitive change in all of us. It inspired our kids to give it their all in the midst of their cross country season. It inspired me to not give up in the midst of training for the Colombus marathon. It inspired each of us to persevere when the going gets tough--to draw on that resolve and steadfastness that we had seen in the face of each of those Ironman participants that hot, steamy morning of August 29th.

Yes, this was the year of the Ironman. I believe, in all of God's sovereignty, Eric completed and accomplished this feat in August, 2010, because the Lord God knew what was coming. He knew that in the latter part of 2010, Eric would need to be able to draw upon all that he had learned on that scorching, August 29th day. He knew that once again Eric would need to draw on the fact that 'His power is made perfect in weakness.' God knew that on November 19th, 2010, Eric would lose his job. He knew that Eric and our whole family would need to take what we had learned physically about persevering and apply it to a difficult, life circumstance.

My devotional today in 'Jesus Calling' said this:

'When you are plagued by a persistent problem--one that goes on and on--view it as a rich opportunity. An ongoing problem is like a tutor who is always by your side. The learning possibilities are limited only by your willingness to be teachable. In faith, thank Me for your problem. Ask Me to open your eyes and our heart to all that I am accomplishing through this difficulty. Once you have become grateful for a problem, it loses its power to drag you down. On the contrary, your thankful attitude will lift you up into heavenly places with Me. From this perspective, your difficulty can be seen as a slight, temporary distress that is producing for you a transcendent Glory never to cease!'

Oh, I can truly say to you that God has been and continues to be so faithful to our family amidst this trying time. We do see this as a rich opportunity for learning how to live more like Jesus. We are having to rely on our Father in a way that we have never had to before. It is increasing our faith and our children's faith. It is teaching us to hold loosely to that which has no eternal value. And, oh, how it has taught us to be thankful!

A wise friend told us not to miss the many gifts God has for us while we walk through this. I am thankful for that advice. He has given us many, many treasures to behold during this trial. We have been able to have a relaxed Christmas season with Eric home. It, honestly, is the first year things have not felt busy and rushed. I wouldn't trade the time we've had together as a family for anything. Now, I'm warning you, the things I am about to tell you will make you a tad bit jealous. Eric has labeled and organized everything in our pantry. Then, our laundry room, in the unfinished area of our basement, used to be hazardous to walk through. But not now. I can do cartwheels free and clear. It is neat, clean, labeled, and organized. Now, I actually look forward to doing laundry, but you know what? I rarely do it these days because my machine husband is all over it! And--get a load of this--currently, Eric is typing up and organizing all my recipes...I know! Now you are wishing your husband could be unemployed too! :)

Of course, I am not exactly thrilled with ALL that he has been doing around here. Recently, he enacted this policy:

Yes, these are circles for each of our children's cups. Each day they are to use only one cup and when they are not using it, they must put their cup in 'their circle'. Okay. I'm sorry. That is so ANAL.


Yeah, I know. Some of you anal people out there think this is brilliant and you're going to institute the circle policy at your house too. You go right ahead. Knock yourselves out. But I'm not putting my cup in a circle when I come over, I'm not!

...All kidding aside, we are holding fast to God's promises as we seek Him and what He has in store in the coming months. We don't know how all of this will end up and shake out. But we do know that God is Jehovah Jireh--the Great Provider. He provides all that we need, when we need it. He will provide for our family in our current crisis. I am thankful he has prepared our hearts for such a time as this and has taught us about overcoming adversity. I am thankful for his Word in James 1:2-4 that tells us to 'consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds because we know that the testing of our faith develops perseverance and perseverance must finish its work so that we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.' I am thankful for this present testing of our faith, for what good is faith that has not been tested?

Overcome. It has been the year to overcome. The year of overcoming deaths of loved ones. The year of overcoming a bike wreck. The year of overcoming back issues and physical ailments. The year of overcoming a job loss. But, with Christ, we are more than conquerors.

'...In this world their will be trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.' John 16:33

God brought his precious Son, Jesus, into this world--a world laden with great sorrows and tribulation--to overcome that which is in the world. Only through Him and Him alone, can we experience eternal joy and unsurpassing peace.

'For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.' 1 John 5:4-5

All of us will undergo difficulties and trials. That's just life. Our hope is that no matter what your present circumstances, you will be overcome by the Overcomer--Jesus Christ. May you not look to the temporary things of this world to fill you, but may you find your fulfillment in that which is eternal! And may you be overcome with the everlasting love that God the Father wants to lavish upon you!

Merry Christmas!

With Love,
Eric, Maria, Joshua, Sophie, Wes, Jeremiah and Owen

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

'Be Still and Know That I am God'

'Be still and know that I am God' Psalm 46:10.

The classic verse, right? Walk into any Christian bookstore and you are sure to find this verse throughout. It's that standard verse that is quoted over and over again, often off-handedly and flippantly, without much thought. We've heard it so many times that we've stopped really hearing it. Or maybe it's because our society has gotten so busy, so rushed and so hurried that we can't fathom, relate to or understand such a verse anymore?

Recently, a friend gave me this verse as a piece of vinyl wall art to hang on my wall. We put it up in our kitchen above the desk where I sit and spend time with the Lord each morning. I love having these words right over the spot where I meet with Him. What a beautiful picture--to literally sit under His Word as I study His Word. It helps me to envision that His Word is all around me--above me and yet also right below my finger as I read. So comforting. So soothing.

Having this verse above where I sit also reminds me that He wants us to not just read His Word, but get 'all wrapped up in it'. We must allow it to steep into us (as a tea bag steeps in a cup of water), until we are changed. The longer a tea bag steeps in water the more flavorful it becomes. This concept is true of us as we steep on God's Word. We must sit and soak in Him long enough to change us, so that when we get up from our place of meeting we are transformed. When we get up to start our day, it is no longer just ourselves on our own, but we now have our Helper, the Holy Spirit, ignited within us to guide us through our day.

As I have met with Him and under Him, He has whispered over and over to me: 'Be still, be still my child. You cannot truly know me if you cannot be still.' Through this wall art hanging above me, in His gentle and loving way, He has brought me face to face with the sin I have struggled with most this year--being still. I have had to look this sin square in the face and repent. I have had to ask my sweet Lord and Savior to please forgive me for allowing the cares of this world to usurp Him.

God longs for us to linger with Him, to spend the one thing that we in our western civilization truly never have enough of--time. I've heard it said before that children spell love 't-i-m-e.' Why do they spell love in such a way? Because they need a relationship with us and a relationship can only be built with the building blocks of time. It takes one daily brick after another. It takes work, sweat, sacrifice and dedication. It's not for the faint at heart (or shall I say for the ADD at heart?). It takes focus. It takes intentionality. It takes commitment. If, in order for our relationships with our children to flourish, it takes our invaluable commodity of 'time', how much more so does our relationship with our Creator Father require such? Oh, He longs for our time. He wants our stillness. He wants us to give up our 'time' and give it to Him. He whispers 'let go... let go... please quit clinging so tightly. Please quit being distracted with all this world has to offer. Focus, sweet child, focus. Commit your ways to me...'

Was this all that the Lord wanted me to hear and to learn from this single verse? Of course not. As an onion has many layers, so does the Word of God. Mere days after hanging my wall art, I was sent an email from a friend regarding this very bible verse. I learned something that I had never known before. The word 'still' actually means 'weak'. This bit of knowledge unpacked this verse, and transformed it, giving a deeper, hidden message:

'Be weak and know that I am God...'

Be weak because that is the only way you are ever going to see Me show up, child. Be weak becauase 'my grace is sufficient in your weakness.' Come to me up under this Word of mine, weak-kneed and weary. You must see yourself as nothing. No self sufficiency can you bring. Come empty handed, willing to wait in my presence. Humble yourself under my mighty hand and I will lift you up.

Yes, in my weakness, He is strong. Only in my weakness and nothingness will I truly experience Him. Isn't it just like God to do things 'upside-down/topsy turvy', completely foreign and unknown to our natural inclinations? You see, when left up to us, we want to busy ourselves and fill every inch of our life with activity. When left up to us, we try to 'buck up' and handle all that life dishes out to us on our own. Our society tells us, 'Be strong. Be independent.' Being still and weak doesn't quite fit into the picture, does it? In fact, the word 'doing' is not even in God's initial equation. The doing comes only after we've surrendered before him, weak and still. The doing comes out of the quiet, small voice of Truth He whispers to us as we come up under Him in the quiet, morning hours. His Spirit's voice is like that of a gentle breeze that we will easily miss and overlook if our ear is not inclined to hear.

Surrender your time, your strength, your idols, my child. Be still, be weak and know that I am God. The all-encompassing, all fulfilling God.

Lord, thank you for this teaching. Thank you that there is always a deeper, hidden meaning to your Word and that you reveal yourself in supernatural ways--in ways that we cannot put pen to words. You reveal yourself when we are willing to surrender before you in stillness. We know this, because Your Word tells us so: "'No eye has seen, no ear has heart, no mind has conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.' God has revealed this to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words." 1 Cor. 2:9-13

Thank you, sweet Jesus, thank you.

Amen. And Amen.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Today's Bible Reading: 1 Peter 1

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Lord Jesus, thank you for choosing me. Thank you that you are sanctifying me through and through. Thank you that this sanctification process makes me a 'work in progress', that I can look back over these years of knowing you and see you working out your purposes, that I can see you working in your holiness and working out my sinful nature. Thank you that Jesus perfects me--while I'll never be totally free of my sinfulness on this side of heaven, Jesus' work on the cross allows you to see me as holy. Lord I want to be obedient to you and Your Word today. Please give me the strength and ability to do that which I am incapable to do on my own.

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Oh, thank you for your mercy! For giving me a hope beyond hope through the resurrection of Jesus! While the things of this world will pass away, spoil or fade, my inheritance in you WILL NOT! My home will pass away, my latest decor will pass away, the latest clothing trends will pass away, my youth will pass away, but my estate in the heavenlies WILL NOT! Thank you for shielding me with your power, thank you that I can't understand all there is to know regarding my salvation--that you keep so much of it a mystery to me so that I must rely on You through trust alone.

I praise you and thank you for the current trials we are undergoing. First, the many deaths our family has experienced this year. We can't fathom or understand the timing, we can only walk forward and trust you and ask for your help to move through it. Allow this to strengthen our faith, as it reminds us that this life on earth is fleeting and temporary, but our life beyond here is not. That we can hope in a life eternally with you if we have an intimate knowledge of Jesus as our Savior.

Secondly, our current trial we are experiencing through Eric's job loss. Lord, we thank you, thank you, thank you, that this current trial is showing us more than ever before that our trust is NOT in the riches of this world. It is NOT in the silver, the gold and all of the 'things', we, in our materialistic society, put our hope in. Oh, we thank you that this current trial is strenghthening our faith! That it is being refined and tested! We beg you that our faith will be proved genuine and result in praise and glory in You and You alone!

8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

Thank you that your peace runneth through our souls in a way that we cannot describe but can only rejoice and treasure. Thank you that you are showing us what it means to truly rely on You and You alone. Thank you for the inexpressible joy you fill us with as we spend time with you. Oh, we love you so!

13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”[a]

Lord, forgive me for the many areas in my life that lack self control. Oh, for the many ways I waste time, the many ways I spend my time on selfish, fleeting things. Forgive me and help me see my time as a resource You have given me to spend for You and You alone. Forgive me for making my children's education too important. When I do that, convict me and help me make Your Word the core through which all else flows. Help me to put aside the many voices and thoughts from our society and be still and listen to You, through whom all real knowledge flows. May I focus on you so intently that others may even find me weird and that I wouldn't care what they thought. Forgive me for caring too much about what others think! Make my faith so strong that such thoughts don't even enter my mind.

Oh, Lord, forgive me for my disobedience! Oh, that I would not fall victim to the ignorance I once lived my life in before knowing You. When I do choose such behavior, I pray that I would quickly turn and repent immediately, align myself with You, and get back on the path of Holiness. Lord, thank you that while I will often struggle with sin and fall to it on this side of eternity, You see me as holy through the work of your son, Jesus.

17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

Lord your Word tells us the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Give me a reverent fear of you so that I will live wisely and within the boundaries that you have lovingly put in my life. I pray I would not for a moment put my trust today in silver or gold or perishable things that are empty and worthless.

22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.[b] 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For,

“All people are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.”[c]

And this is the word that was preached to you.

Now, Lord that you have preached your Word to me, you have convicted my soul and allowed for confession and repentation. Next, Lord, let me walk forward today in obedience to whatever you are calling me to SO THAT I may have sincere, deep love for those around me! Let that love be so evident and overflowing today! May this love invest in those around me and plant seeds that flourish into beautiful, flowering petals that do not wither or blow away. Petals that shout: 'This is the LORD!' Petals that are rooted in and grow up out of your Word! For such petals endure forever. Lord, that I may capture your vision today and fulfill it!

In the Precious Name of your Loving Son, Jesus,