The Rough Edges of a Smooth Life: New Year’s Eve

Focus

It’s New Year’s Eve! It’s that time of year again to focus on the events of the past…those good and bad things that naturally happen to all of us and so we begin to plan new year resolutions to not repeat the bad things that we made a mess of and to aim for more of the good things. But not the same good things, definitely better and much greater! We want to forget the messes we stirred up and the mistakes that we made.

Frankly, I’m done with planning New Year resolutions. In the past, I’ve written grand lists of self-centered improvement tactics that only infuriated me when I continued to do the things that I wanted to stop doing. I kept getting in my way of being successful. I need to continue to plan today to be productive tomorrow. 

Secondly, bad things and messes and mistakes will always occur. There will always be rough edges of a smooth life. While I don’t wish for anything awful to happen or to experience difficult situations, I know for a fact that I will, because every smooth life is designed with rough edges.

It is the rough edges that add the character development for self-improvement.

What I enjoy most about New Year’s Eve is reflecting on the year that is coming to its end. I like to think about the year in reverse. Instead of beginning in the winter of January 2013, I begin with September and the first beginnings of autumn. A family birthday celebration at the beach and early morning walks along the shore before the sun announced the new day.

A Better Story

Andy Layla

Remembering the season of red and orange leaves and the glorious days of family outings at a pumpkin patch, watching our little one march happily from pumpkin to pumpkin and climbing over hay bales. With each little foot step our little one takes or the squeeze of a tiny hand in mine, I am reminded that God has gone before us on the path our family has journeyed and he is holding us firmly in his strong right hand.

Layla at the Pumpkin Patch

Isla and Pumpkins

I remember a chaotic and exhausted feeling from fighting the never-ending bout of nerve pain. Those peaceful walks along a wooded path under the beams of sunshine cascading through golden leaves reminds me of God’s presence then and to celebrate that he knows the pain of those rough edges I felt and he did enable me to be vibrant through the rough.

Rough Edges of a Smooth Life Rough Edges of a Smooth Life

After autumn, I have a flashback to the hot days of summer and those oscillating fans blowing on my legs and face. I ventured on a missions trip that stirred my heart to move out of my comfort zone…to search for rough edges in the deep of another’s person life–to help them experience a smooth life, in some kind of way.

I am thankful that God has placed this longing in my heart to venture into the rough of an unknown community. It was good (and still is) to feel the sharpening of the Holy Spirit on those rough edges in my heart, melting them away, smoothing the edges with more mercy and grace.

View from the flag pole

When I think about spring, I remember having a new appreciation for the handiwork of God, the creator. I learned to have a consistent time of personal worship. I remember wanting more of Jesus and praying for God to change my heart. It’s good to look back through the year, as now I can understand that those rough edges in my life were being formed and shaped by the one who loved me the most, God. I was running four miles almost daily and felt like my space in this world could not get any better than running with worship tunes streaming through ear buds. My smooth life as I once knew it was soon going to change.

New Growth 2

Bird Song

Through daily personal worship, I began to see God in the smallest of insects or in the buds of a tree about to burst in color. I think back to those lonely days of adjusting to being alone yet being completely filled with joy and peace in the Creator, thankful that he sprinkled a bit of his creativity onto me through watercolor painting. God was beginning to show me more of the rough edges in my life that only he could smooth out.

Watercolor by Donna

Watercolor by Donna

And now, here we are at the winter and the close of a new year. A year of surrendering to the handiwork of God, creating and shaping my soul to want more of him, to want to be changed because of his grace alone.

It would take a year feeling the tenderness of more grace in the rough edges for me to surrender my strength and become even stronger through weakness and to know that a smooth life can still be smooth through the trials when it is God who is giving the strength to keep going. There is a void from a loss of a family member and we celebrate that God is making all things new.

Winter

I did something completely different this Christmas while celebrating Advent. While wanting to take the time to focus my heart on the fulfilled expectation of Christ’s first coming and the glorious expectation of His second coming, I also wanted to focus on the freedom I have in Christ to overcome an obstacle…a very rough edge. So, I began a “Lent in Advent” with the purpose of giving up something for the 25 days of celebrating Advent….a self-inflicted rough edge that controlled me. While focusing on the one…God’s Son, the one God promised to send to rescue me, I struggled through the Lenten process of giving up, running away from it and running into the fulfilled expectation of Jesus first coming and all that he accomplished for me (for us) on that cross. It is day 31 in “Lent for Advent”.

Looking back through the year shows me how God has kept his promise to love us no matter what. He has given us a gospel-centered community to intercede for us in prayer, encouragement and friendship. He is constantly rescuing us. Revealing his story to us when we need him the most. The storms and trials are rough yet Jesus is in the boat too. The storm knows his voice and life becomes smooth.  Without the rough edges, those hard trials, I would not have been able to celebrate real joy and victory through Christ. I would not want a smooth life any other way.

I am eager and excited to welcome 2014! I can’t wait to live the better story God has for us!

Happy New Year!

Don and Donna

The links on this page will take you to posts that I’ve written this year. Move the curser over the link for the title of the post. I hope you will be encouraged by reading. -Donna

Confia en Dios!

“Confia en Dios!” I heard those words everyday by the sweet and resounding voices of children, exclaiming very loudly and heard on the streets beyond the concrete walls. I, too, repeated those words over and over again throughout the week. When I woke up in the morning and as I fell asleep at night. “Confia en Dios!”

Trust in God. Trust in God, no matter what.

I just returned from a fantastic week of adventure in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, MX. What a privilege it was to be at Iglesia Bethel (in the above photograph) and help with a basketball camp, VBS, and serve the community. It was the most fun I’ve had on a missions trip in a very long time. Actually, it’s been a very long time since I’ve gone on a missions trip!

My husband has been to Monterrey much more than I have. For years he has encouraged me to go and see how God is working in the communities through the church planting efforts that we are passionate about. I usually had a number of good reasons or excuses for not going, but at this particular time I felt called to go…the persistent thought to stop delaying the inevitable–just GO! After a lot of prayer and pushing aside the rush of anxiety about the unknown, I purchased a round trip flight to Monterrey, MX. Now I was definitely committed!

On the way to the airport, my husband asked what I hoped to learn and what I hoped to accomplish while there. I replied that I didn’t have expectations for accomplishing anything, however I did hope that God would accomplish something unique and extraordinary in me. I was going to see first hand how God has answered our prayers, to celebrate the growing ministry of Bethel in their community of Apodaca and to live in the midst of life-on-life ministry for a fast and furious week. I wanted to experience traveling with a group of people whom I hardly knew and to hang out with Mexicans that I’ve never met before and [attempt to] communicate with them when I don’t know Spanish.

I am humbled by the generosity of the family I lived with and the extraordinary gift of God’s grace that was evident every moment of the day. The adventure was fantastic…more than I ever imagined! I hope to return to Monterrey to see the smiling faces of my new friends, to sweat together while running around a park with children from the neighborhood, to break bread and commune in fellowship.

There is too much to unpack about the week in a few paragraphs here and I’m sure I will write about the lessons God taught me in the weeks to come.  And regarding “unpacking” stuff…my suitcase was full of items that I never used! I have a long list of, “What not to pack” (FYI: no need to bring a roll of toilet paper or a small personal fan!)

While there, I met Sam Ferrand, a photographer documenting the church planting efforts of Mission to the World in Monterrey, MX. I love how she writes about Monterrey, photographs the mountainous landscape, while capturing the essence of a neighborhood and the precious expressions of lovely people. Check out her blog here: Keep Calm and Drink Teaquilla!  http://samferrand.blogspot.mx

You may also enjoy reading these posts I wrote about preparing for this trip:

Imagine the Adventure!   https://donnaharris.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/imagine-the-adventure/

A Simple Devotional About More: https://donnaharris.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/a-simple-devotional-about-more/

To Be Present: https://donnaharris.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/to-be-present/

Here are a few photos from the week:

To Be Present

Monterrey

Monterrey, MX

Here I go! The great adventure begins tomorrow morning at 3:27 AM when I wake up to sound of crickets coming from my cell phone alarm. I’m writing this quickly without editing so that I can close my heavy eyelids for needed sleep.

The best part of my everyday work life has been involved part-time to full-time in ministry to children and families. I get excited about helping parents help their children learn more about Jesus. It thrills me to be present in a community of people who are passionate about the same things that I am. I enjoy being present in the lives of young children every week but it’s especially grand to know them years later as teenagers still having fun learning about our awesome God…and if I’m really fortunate, I will meet them again as adults…

God is faithful to be present from generation to generation to generation. If you live long enough, you will experience seeing this too.

So, I’m going on an adventure to Monterrey, MX with some of those young adults that I knew in children’s ministry years ago. I love that! What gives me the most joy is that they will lead me on this mission trip. I love the full circle of this story about God’s faithfulness to be present as evidenced in the lives of these “kids.” And I love that we share the same passion to be present in the lives of more people–children!

We have teamed with Mission to the World, an organization that is very passionate about serving people all over the world such as: rescuing street children, working to stop human trafficking, church planting, mercy, clean water, education…the gospel. MTW’s vision is to be present. I am glad for the opportunity to partner with this organization, to serve children in a small community in Monterrey and also to connect with families in a rapidly growing new church. This church is making a big impact in their community.

I’ve written two other posts on the topic of this adventure. You can find them here.

Imagine the Adventure and A Simple Devotional about More

So, I’m going on an adventure in a few hours! More Grace to be present.

Números 6:24-26

Nueva Versión Internacional (NVI)

24 »“El Señor te bendiga
y te guarde;
25 el Señor te mire con agrado
y te extienda su amor;
26 el Señor te muestre su favor
y te conceda la *paz.”

Numbers 6:24-26

New International Version (NIV)

24 “‘“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’

Photo credit: Wikipedia/Monterrey

Linking up with everyone for Five Minute Friday, where a remarkably encouraging and loving community gathers to write for five minutes. This week’s prompt is: PRESENT.

Imagine the Adventure!

What if you were the only one to go?

What if you were the only one to go?

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.’ I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

In less than six weeks, I will impart on an adventure to another part of the world. Not too far away…I’m not leaving our continent but far enough to need a passport. The airline ticket is purchased. Survival kit for the backpack is coming together–band-aids, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, bug spray, fiber bars and toilet paper. I know how that sounds, but it’s the nasty disturbing uncomfortable things about adventures that concerns me.

I imagine the time away from home will be a challenge at first. Such as the heat, the crowded spaces, the heat, the smells, the heat, the language barrier and the heat. I am planning on sweating a lot.

They were looking for someone to share in an adventure, but it seemed difficult to find anyone. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been reminded, “The harvest is huge. But there are only a few workers.” (Matthew 9:37) Those words are usually preached by the ones who have already experienced adventures, like the one I am about to have. They know the beauty of bright eyes, happy smiles, laughter and hugs from grateful people.

I think with any adventure as this one, we imagine and anticipate seeing evidence of changed hearts and lives in the people we serve. I hope that happens. But actually, I think the evidence of change will be seen more in my own heart and life. I will leave that place but that place will leave with me.

Linking up with everyone for Five Minute Friday, where a remarkably encouraging community gathers to write for five minutes. This week’s prompt is: IMAGINE.