Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 - a year in review

Last night around the dinner table, my parents, younger sister, and I were discussing this last year - 2016. 

We were looking for the good memories in a sea of hurts. 2016 was a hard year for our family and for many around us. Several friends and family members went to be with Jesus. The grief was hard. Is hard. Also, I have seen the effects of divorce in our family. I have felt the loss of our family breaking apart. And have also grieved that. With those things happening, it has made life hard; hard to make decisions, hard to do the day-to-day little things that need to be done. Everything else seemed to just intensify. I started to realize that some things I normally wouldn't get upset about were just harder to accomplish. But to say all that about hardship and trials and end there, would not be right...

My word for 2016 was: LOVED

My name, Mandy, means "beloved or  well-loved". 

First, I know I am loved by God. He loved me so much He sent His one and only Son to die for me, to pay the price for my sins and to save me from death, to give me eternal life. 

Second, I am loved by others. One of the greatest blessings that God gave me in the last year or so, is our church family. I have felt so loved and apreciated by them. A couple weeks ago, I was thinking about how we take our church for granted. Sometimes, I think we don't realized how blessed we are to get to see our spiritual family every week, sometimes twice a week! They have been a true encouragement to me and have shown me that I am loved. 

Last, I will admit, I'm not sure how well I have done at showing the people around me how much they are loved by me and by God. There have been moments, but there is always room for more improvement. 

While, I wasn't sure why "loved" was my word for this year, looking back, it makes more sense. God is good! All the time!

Looking at this blog post, I realize this is not where my thoughts were when I started this post. I was only going to share the ups and downs of the year, but I guess I got a little carried away!!!

So in closing, I will share with you 10 things I LOVED about 2016 (pun intended):

1. Jesus. I am thankful that I am loved by Him and can strive to serve Him in all I do. 
2. My family. Even though we have had hard times this year, I still love each one of them. 
3. Our church family. 
4. My new job at church in children's ministry. 
5. Opportunities and potential. 
6. Our vacation this summer which included many wonderful stops and the RNC Convention. 
7. My political friends. I am thankful for the many people I meet while being involved in politics. 
8. Working on a senate campaign and seeing our senator win and then become the majority leader for our state! 
9. Being involved in our local homeschool co-op. I love getting to know the kids, but I also love getting to know the moms. They inspire me! 
10. Seeing God work in my life. Someday, I will tell of my story to become  an RNC Delegate. There is no possible way I could have went if it were not for God's hand in many different situations. 

Well, there are 10 things I loved about 2016. I am looking forward to 2017 with anticipation. I'm am praying for what is to come. I am still thinking about my word for next year, but I think I'm getting closer to figuring it out! Stay tuned! 

Blessings to you as you close out this last day of 2016. Stay safe and I'll see you in the new year! 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas 2016

Merry Christmas!!!

Here are a few pictures for you:

Our Christmas napkins this year! 

Our advent tree that we made at church this year: 

Our Christmas tree:

Have a blessed Christmas and stay safe! 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Family Arrangement by Gabrielle Meyer - Book Review

A Family Arrangement by Gabrielle Meyer

This story by Gabrielle Meyer is about the founding of a little town in the MN Territory. I enjoyed the story because it is part of the history of my hometown. I know that the fictional struggles, as well as the real struggles, that the founders of this town went through, did eventually pay off because the town is here today! I appreciated that I could picture the small town as it was growing and being established. I could envision the streets and the buildings as they were going up. The book has a special connection for me because I love my hometown and it is fun to read this fictional story of its founding.

The story is about how a family can deal with trials and grief (the loss of their wife, mother, and sister). There are many struggles that went along with settling a new town. It took a strong person to pursue such an endeavor, but even then, it was still a hard battle. One of my favorite lines in the book was this: “’What dream has God planted in your heart?’ the reverend asked, searching the crowd. ‘What dream do you need to nurture and water, so it can produce a harvest? I urge you to ask God this question, and seek His answer.’” The main character, Abram Cooper, did have a dream of starting a new town for his family so he could leave them a legacy. He also had the faith to do it. The story includes friendship, love, history, and the stamina to endure through the trials of life. I think you will enjoy this story of Little Falls and how one man’s dream created history!

At Gabrielle's book signing of A Mother in The Making
A little more of the history of A Family Arrangement can be found here on Gabrielle's blog.

Here is the link to buy her book on Amazon.

(I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author/publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Monday, November 21, 2016

One More Song to Sing by Lindsay Harrel - Book Review

One More Song to Sing by Lindsay Harrel

Lindsay Harrel’s debut novel is a well-spun story! The story is one of hardships and successes, generational curses and the ability to overcome them, trials, heartaches, forgiveness, and love.

One More Song to Sing tells the story of one girl’s quest to find her mother and the story of the mother who left that child behind and the reasons why she left her. It shows how each one of the decisions in this book affect many different lives.

There are many different relationships in this story and each bring unique challenges to the interweaving of the different character’s lives. I love how you see the effects that one person’s life has on many others. Ultimately, you see the love that each character has for each other. There is the love of a grandma and granddaughter, a mother and daughter, roommates, co-workers, friends, and significant others. But most importantly, you see what a relationship with God looks like and the struggles that each character faces on their journey of faith. It is their faith and God’s love and grace for them that help them make it through. The forgiveness that is offered in this story demonstrates the forgiveness that God offers us.

There are too many wonderful things I loved in this story to mention them all here, so I will end with this. Read this story! You will not be disappointed with the depth of this first-time author’s story. I look forward to many more stories from Lindsay Harrel in the future. 

Amazon Link to Lindsay's Book

My mom, my sister, and I got to have our picture taken with Lindsay a couple months ago!

(R to L: My sister, my mom, Lindsay, and me) 

(I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author/publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Monday, November 14, 2016

Super Moon

Did you get a chance to see the Super Moon last night? It was beautiful. I love seeing God's creation! 

I was excited to get a couple of pictures of it to be able to share them with you!


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Circle of Grace

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 
Ephesians 2:8-9
Each year, I like to pick a word to focus on for the whole year. I have only been doing it a couple of years, but for 2016, I picked the word LOVED. And while I have seen this word played out in my life (also, it is the meaning of my name), there was another word that kept appearing - GRACE.

The circle of Grace.

It was probably about 1.5 years ago already that I started seeing the word, hearing it, thinking a lot about it.

The story is not all about me. In fact, I really only have a tiny part to play in it all. God is the author and our family, friends, and church play the supporting roles. This story has been a long time coming and there is so much more to it then I can even share, but here is a little bit of the circle of grace that I have seen over the last year.

In the Spring of 2015, my mom was asked to be a part of a new group starting called Grace Ladies' Fellowship. It was not at the church we were currently attending, but was at a church we had attended many years before. My mom was asked to be one of the main speakers at the event they were having and also head up the food aspect of it. After a lot of prayer and encouragement from our family, mom agreed to it. And of course, my sister and I helped with making the goodies!

Cheesecake tarts that we served
Some more of the yummy food we made
More desserts
That summer, we were asked to help with the food for a shower of a family friend. The shower was also held at Grace Covenant Church. 

Later in the summer as we headed into fall, a family friend was diagnosed with cancer. She also went to Grace. We attended 2-3 prayer services for her there. I watched as the family of God came around her and her family during this time. 

One of the prayer services
It was about that time, August 2015, that we started attending, once again, at Grace. (We had also went to a confirmation service for my nephew around the same time.)

We saw the grace that was extended to us as we returned and were a apart of the body of Christ. 

I continued to see the word grace and God's grace in different situations. 

Our friend that was going through cancer, her middle name was Grace.

One day, I had a friend named Grace call me and ask me about the gal who was going through cancer and she prayed for her with me right on the phone. 

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
Ephesians 4:7 

One of the most inspiring things that our friend with cancer said was along the lines of "If I live, I win, if I die, I win). She knew that whether God gave her more time on earth with all of us or called her home to Him, she won!

Jesus did call her home in June. When we had talked with her, earlier in the year, she had said she wanted cupcakes for her party (We had made them for her graduation). Whether it was a party to celebrate her coming home to her family or going home to Jesus, we were going to have cupcakes.

And we did indeed! Mom and I made over 800 cupcakes and then we had many helpers from church to decorate them!
Mom and I with all the cupcakes

This was the orange sunset on the day she went to be with Jesus.

It had been about a year since God had started showing me so many different ways. I thought it was maybe over, this year of grace. But God had one more surprise in store! There had been a job posting in the bulletin at church for a children's ministry assistant. I had thought about applying, but it was during my sabbatical time and I wasn't planning on working right then. But then I felt God tell me that the door to a job was not closed just because I thought it was during this time. So after the posting was no longer even in the bulletin, I inquired about the position. It turned out the position was still open. I ended up applying and being asked for an interview, but I was going to be out of town for about 3 weeks. They said they were willing to wait to interview me. So when I got home, I interviewed and was then offered the job at Grace. God is so good. He takes the unexpected and shows you His plan and He offers us GRACE!
This past weekend, I and another staff person were presented to the church and prayed over as we start these new jobs.
I have seen a circle of GRACE this year and I can't to see what God has in store next. I have loved seeing the community of Christ and how the church can work together. Grace really is a beautiful thing.