Year in Review: A Look Back at 2019

**Scroll down for our HGF 2019 reflection pod**

When you think back on 2019, what immediately comes to mind?

CF: There are three answers to this question: The first and most obvious is Milo. His arrival into the world, no question, was the highlight of the year. The second and not as obvious is the phrase, “finished strong“. Granted, this was part of my 2017 answer, but it’s arguably been more applicable this year. Last but not least is the phrase, “hope realized“. As my next post will attest, I can’t recall a year where I felt so spiritually buoyant amidst great uncertainty.

LF: On the surface, one would think everything that happened this year involved situations I’d already experienced. But under the surface, everything that could wrong did go wrong, be it pregnancy, work, ministry, etc. That’s just how the year feels at first glance. Glass-half full, I’d say everything that could be different was different in 2019. The need for grace and deeper trust has rarely been so high from what I can recall.

What were some of the highlights/defining moments?

CF: Apart from Milo, I’d say our anniversary/missions trip to France, starting a TDOT Bible study, getting ordained with Messenger Fellowship, and the transition to Foundation Group round up the top four. Come to think of it, it’s crazy how my former employer fits into half these spots, but this only testifies to God’s brilliant and timely plan. Also, while this fall featured one of the more turbulent stretches we’ve known, the way we came out of it…I’d say was defining for our family as a whole.

LF: France, definitely. Losing two clients due to their need for in-house support. A very challenging pregnancy that impacted every area of life. Frankly, there were many defining moments this year, but most of them were taxing, testing, or both. Quite the opposite from last year.

How would you compare this year of marriage to years prior?

CF: From the onset, I sensed a leap not only in my understanding of intimacy but my appreciation of the little things. Call it a serendipitous surge, I feel 2019 has been our best start-to-finish year from what we were able to grow and persevere through. Obviously, as a newly crowned family of five, quality time and discussion are limited so expectations have to adjust. But this is offset knowing we’re pouring more into our co-workers, clients, and the kids under our care.

LF: This year had some of its sweetest moments for sure, some hard, some adventurous. Really a little bit of everything. All in all, the more life has put on us, the more refreshing the teaming has been despite its twists and turns. Blows my mind we’re almost to seven years already!

What lesson from 2019 are you eager to apply in 2020?

CF: God not only gives us everything we need for goodness and godliness but faith and fearlessness. As I used to tell LEGACYouth, when you abide in Christ, the way to ‘yes’ becomes clear even if the way out isn’t. This is especially true in the midst of great pain or confusion. We may be blindsided by disappointment, but trusting God books our next appointment.

Also, this is more awareness than lesson, but 2019 really exposed the fact I’d rather serve God than be close to Him. My halftime reflection piece unpacks some of this further…

LF: Resting in my weakness and learning not to strive. I had to learn these lessons the hard way this year, but I’m excited to build off them next year. I guess anytime you find yourself wanting to acknowledge weakness in a ‘You got this, God, I don’t‘ sort of way, good things will happen. One more reason to be flex and flow when things don’t go how you want them to go.

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What has surprised you the most?

CF: In few words, the setting of adversity. While it’s no surprise the year had its ups and downs, the places we found support and the places we didn’t were far and away the biggest shock to me. We’ll see how much shaking we experience as a family in 2020. For now, it’s nice to know the two places I spend the most time are places I love to be.

LF: In general, I agree. Perhaps not to that extent, but I see where you’re coming from. I’d also add there were many answered prayers this year, but it’s hard to classify them as surprises when all is said and done.

What do you hope you’ll be saying at this time next year?

CF: “Hello, Davidson county!“, “You have questions about the Charleston Principles? Yes, I can help with that!“, “Welcome, Cameron and Lyssah. We’ve been expecting you.”
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ThanksLiving Right

It’s easy to love this time of year.

The smoky smells of autumn, the traces of fall color, the countdown to Christmas…

…the thought of a better year beyond the horizon.

But perhaps you’re like me in the sense the third of week of November has become this pre-holiday rush pedestal, a calm before the storm we all know as ‘the most wonderful time of the year’.

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If so, consider this post a take among many seeking to re-establish Thanksgiving as its own sacred entity.

For while most grasp the importance of giving thanks, not all see it as an unconditional reality as the will of God in Christ Jesus for us (1 Thessalonians 5:18) where gratitude is contagious, sacrifice a cheerful obedience metric, and thanksgiving a light share as opposed to a light switch (see Isaiah 58:8, Matthew 5:15-16; more on this in a moment).

The question is: If thanksgiving is more than periodical expressions of vertical delight, what’s stopping us from employing it horizontally?

Consider the following verses…

And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres.” ~ Nehemiah 12:27 (ESV)

I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O Lord, proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds. O Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells” Psalm 26:6-8 (ESV)

Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” ~ Psalm 50:22-23 (ESV)

But I am afflicted and in pain;let your salvation, O God, set me on high! I will praise the name of God with a song;I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” ~ Psalm 69:29-30 (ESV)

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,for his wondrous works to the children of man! And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!” ~ Psalm 107:21-22 (ESV)

“Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:13-15 (ESV)

Note when we drill down systematically, we find thanksgiving to be far more than temporary appreciation, but a call to invite people to taste and see that the Lord and His provisions are good (Psalm 34:8, Psalm 107:9,  Philippians 4:19). Applicably, this has profound implications.

For starters, while thanksgiving is often confined to altar calls, staged responses, and special events, when we recognize its pre-Mayflower, pre-creation context, we find sanctified space celebrating what has always been…perpetual love in continuous offering…giving and receiving simultaneously.

Unfortunately, for many of us, when it comes to thanksgiving, it’s easy to compartmentalize giving and receiving. I know for me, ego, independence, entitlement, and agenda can compromise my benevolence and negotiate my generosity if I’m not careful; however, I also know by dying to these rights, I expand the room God has to reveal Himself1

…which brings me the reason I’m writing this.

If we desire the lost and broken to see Jesus, not only must we be intentional in declaring thanksgiving, but sharing it as well. For when we engage thanksgiving as celebratory and communal worship, we inevitably position ourselves to glorify God as fresh revelations of His providence abound. Granted, this doesn’t mean we dial up the decibels of our praise to prove the goodness within. Clearly, our hearts would be misaligned if the visibility of our virtue preceded the availability of God’s power to provide it.

That said, by understanding thanksgiving as an outpouring of interdependent love and vulnerable relationship, we ultimately discover how our loved-by-God identity can extend God’s Kingdom through perfect other-centeredness.

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Think of it this way: When I praise God for who He is and what He has done, while the point of my adoration is to love Jesus first and foremost, the posture of my adoration opens me to overflow the love I receive in return. Accordingly, to the extent I abide in this rhythm, to that extent God’s heart (i.e. His love, goodness, kindness, compassion, faithfulness, etc.) inundates the people and places I encounter. Perhaps this is what the author of Hebrews meant when he wrote, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Hebrews 13:15).

Bottom line: Thanksgiving, at its core, celebrates the Trinitarian nature of God. While Pilgrims and Indians are worthy of mention, their actions in 1621 merely reflected a divine dance that has and will continue on into eternity.

As such, why not extend tomorrow (i.e. Thanksgiving) into each day? Why not [literally] give thanks as opposed to voicing it in isolation? Why not receive from the Lord as you inquire direction on what you have to offer?

After all, not only do you have something to offer, but a specific reason why. And that, my friends, is worth being thankfull for.

From my house to yours, have a Happy Thanks Giving…and don’t forget to look up as you reach out.

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Footnotes

  1. Also, the room is created for godly fear – not only loving what God loves and hating what God hates, but hearing what God says and seeing what He sees.
Cover photo creds: stmed.net