Saturday, January 13, 2018

Onward, Upward ~ Pressing Ahead ~ One Word for 2018

"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 3:14
(KJV)


It is hard to believe, but it has been almost three weeks since the Lord called my brother-in-law, LD, home to Heaven.
Our hearts remain broken over the loss of LD, Dad Smith, and so many other deep heartaches from 2017 and years past.

As deep hurts from the old year linger fresh in our minds, and we try to put one foot in front of the other in this new year, I find hope as the words to this dear, old hymn come often to mind.

Onward, Upward
Written by Daniel O. Teasley

Onward, upward, Christian soldier,
Bravely push the battle on;
There’s a great reward before us,
Soon the conflict will be won.

Refrain:
Hallelujah! shout the chorus,
Onward, upward is our song;
Crowns of vict’ry lie before us,
Boldly march against the wrong.

Grasp the sword, then go with courage,
Ever humbly watch and pray;
Never, never be discouraged,
Never falter by the way.

Go the captives to deliver,
Leaving all the world behind;
Hoping, trusting—doubting never—
Crowns in heaven we shall find.

Onward, upward is the watchword,
Till the King of saints we see;
Then before His throne in glory,
We shall reign eternally.

We will always be touched by the things that happened in 2017 and past years, 
and our lives will nevermore be the same.
BUT, this is a new day...a new year.
Unlived.
Untarnished.
Untouched, except for the overwhelming grief that we had no choice but to carry into the new year.

Starting a new year always feels like turning a corner to me.
It always reminds me of a "Magic Slate".
Remember these?


I used to love to play with mine when I was a little girl, and if I remember correctly,
mine looked very similar to the one pictured above.
I loved Raggedy Ann & Andy, and I loved my magic slate!
I loved the fact that I could draw anything I wanted on it,
then when I tired of that picture, I could easily and gently lift the plastic sheet covering,
and, just like magic, the whole thing would just disappear.
After that, I had a brand, new, clean slate that was open to limitless possibilities.
This could be done countless times, simply by lifting that film to start completely over.

A new year is sort of like that...you get the chance for a complete do-over.
You are offered the opportunity to leave the past right where it happened, and move on.
Onward to the new things God has in store,
upward ever closer to Him and His perfect will,
and forward into the future that only He can see.

At the start of a new year, we have a choice.
We can futilely try to keep reliving the past and longing for what used to be,
or we can look ahead and embrace the life God is continuing to give.
After all, at the end of the day, regardless who is no longer with us,
life does have a way of going on, doesn't it?

As we press ahead, trying to come to terms with the past and eager to grasp on to the good things God has for us this year, my heart is encouraged to know that the same God who consistently brought us through yesterday's heartaches, is the same God who leads us forward.
One thing I have learned during my years serving the Lord, is that
God never leads backwards.

As we approached this new year, Kevin, Zach, and I began to seek God's face about our "One Word" of the year for 2018.
Right away, Kevin got his word.
It was "Answers", not in a questioning sort of way, but as in he hopes that this year will hold many answers to our prayers and the fulfillment of God's promises to us.
At the same, exact time Kevin got his word, Zach was given his word, "Revelation".
(Neither of them knew what God had revealed to the other, until later.)
We were amazed at how closely the two words related and how their meanings and their individual, personalized interpretations of them intertwined.
So, that left three remaining questions....
what was my "one word" for 2018, how could we tie the three of our words into one, and would the Lord give us a word that would serve as an acronym, as He has done in years past?
I felt like I was late to the party, since all I could seem to accomplish in prayer was a lot of crying over the deep, remaining grief, and feeling too spent to dig very deep concerning one, special word that God wants my little family and me to focus on in this brand, new year.

Then, all at once, out of the blue, I realized that what I seek most right now is a sense of clarity going forward.
SO much has changed and is now in the process of changing in our lives.
To be honest, I feel very lost.
Just so bewildered and uncertain concerning things that are no longer the same and so unclear as to how we are to move forward and approach daily life and decisions that are being forced upon us.
What is our new "normal" to be, and how do I let go of what was "normal" for so long?

Just as soon as the word "clarity" came to mind, I realized Kevin's word, "answers", and Zach's word, "revelation" were all a part of the wrapped-up mystery that lies in the "clarity" we all three seek for this season of life.
When the three of us sat down to discuss it all, it just clicked, and the acronym was apparent.

C   - Clearness
L    - Leading
A    - Answers
- Revelation
I - Illumination
T       - Truth
Y    - Yearning

Clearness - lucidity as to perception or understanding; freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity

Leading - guidance, direction

Answers - materialization, resolution, fulfillment, affirmation, results, accomplishment, realization, satisfaction, returns

Revelation - epiphany, discovery, inspiration, prophecy, uncovering, advisement, intelligence, explanation

Illumination - enlightenment, insight, perception, understanding, unraveling, instruction, knowledge, wisdom, awakening, vision, comprehension, interpretation

Truth - certainty, constancy, dependability, solidity, validity, reliability, stability, factuality

Yearning - fervent, earnest, zealous, eager

I think God allows new years to come, so we don't get stuck...so "new" is forced upon us,
and we have no choice but to walk forward.

"Then we turned, and took our journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea, as the LORD spake unto me: and we compassed mount Seir many days.
And the LORD spake unto me, saying,
Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward."
Deuteronomy 2:1-3

God doesn't want us to become stale and complacent,
compassing the same mountain in our lives over and over and over again.
There comes a time when He wants us to "turn northward", up and out of our sense of "the same".

He wants to make all things new, ever propelling us onward and upward.

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."
Isaiah 43:18,19
(NIV)

Comfort zones eventually become places of stagnation in our lives.

I learned from Dennis Rowan's book, called "Sheep Tracks", (which is a GREAT read, by the way, written by a true, modern-day shepherd and available to purchase by clicking on the highlighted link), if sheep linger too long in the same pasture, they overgraze and become parasite-infested.

God loves us too much to allow us to remain comfortable in a spiritually unhealthy environment,
so He compels us onward and brings "new" into our lives.
He knows us...intimately, individually, and fully, and He knows what is absolutely best for us.
He knows where we need to be in order for us to grow and thrive and become our best for Him.
So, He leads on, gently, but firmly, in spite of our tendency to resist change and our desire to "settle".

"I am the good shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine.
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me:
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand."
John 10:14,27,28

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me."
Psalm 23:1-4

The "valley of the shadow of death" not only overwhelms and engulfs the one who is passing over, but it casts its dark shadow over all who love them and feel the weight of their absence.
What a consolation to know that Jesus is our Shepherd, and He walks the valley road with us.
Even when He sends the rod of correction, it is for our benefit,
and when His staff leads in a direction that we would rather not go, He walks before us and sees things we do not see, and He is often sparing us from something worse.

I remind myself of these facts, as we walk a very uncertain path into the brand, new year,
resting in the assurance that our Shepherd not only leads the way, but He winnows our path, leaving only what He knows will work together for our good.

He is the doing the same for you, my friend.
I pray you are feeling the comfort of His presence with you each new day,
and may 2018 be filled with many spiritual blessings.
If God spares time and life, may we all look back over this year, and rejoice together.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your many emails, comments, sympathy cards, and other kind deeds during our sadness and difficulties throughout not only 2017, but in prior years, also.
Kevin, Zach, and I are eternally grateful to each one of you,
and your presence in our lives is an enormous blessing.
At the onset of this blogging journey, I never dreamed how many amazing, precious friends God would bring into our lives through this platform, and I cherish each one of you with all my heart.
You prove to us, time and time again, what true Christian fellowship and friendship is all about.
We love you all and appreciate you so very much.

Your continued prayers for my sister, Debbie, nephew, Mark, and all of my family during the coming days are appreciated more than I could ever put into words.
Reality is setting in, and it is so hard to deal with and accept.
We lean hard on our Shepherd for healing, restoration, and strength.
He is ever faithful.

53 comments:

  1. Hi Cheryl, it's Su Ann. Beautiful post. The words God spoke to each of you shows He is with you all. Yes, pressing on to the things which are ahead....
    I will continue to pray for you all. Thank you for these posts--sharing your heart for God. ��✝️

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    1. Thank you so much for your sweet visit and words, faithful friend. I never thought of it that way, but it comforts me to be reminded that God is with us. I am so grateful for your prayers, and I am surely praying often for you and believing God that 2018 will be your year for miracles. May He bless you abundantly!

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  2. Well, I never thought of starting the New Year compared to the children's slate! It is a very good example. Your message today reminds me of a gal who wrote about "unfettered" yesterday and I can't help but think of the similarities. It's a great reminder that God loves us and knows of our trials, hurts and losses but with His help we can face today and hope for a better tomorrow. Those traps like to hold us down but we in God's family know better. Thank you for your always inspiring words and friendship. Loving hugs from sunny Arizona!

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    1. Unfettered! If you happen to see this, I would love to read the post, if you care to share the link. :) Thank you for your kind words, my friend. I am praying for you often and hoping your knees are healing and you are feeling restored health. Sending love and hugs to you!

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  3. All so true - I think it's especially hard to no long for what used to be OR what might have been had things turned out differently. We just need to focus on the fact that nothing was a surprise to the Lord; it was all in His plan and His plans for us continue until the day WE are called home. So in the meantime, I TRY to look with anticipation at what He has in store rather than looking back at things I can't change. Thanks for another thought provoking post.

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    1. What a wonderful thought that nothing is a surprise to the Lord! I so appreciate that reminder, Lauren, and thank you for your kind words and encouragement. May the Lord bless you, my friend!

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  4. Dear Cheryl, Wonder post for all of us; sending big hugs and lots of prayers your way today. I usually have a strong leading to a word for the year, but this year the only word that came to me was Healing. So I'm claiming it, for both of us.
    Have a blessed Sunday.
    Noreen

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    1. I LOVE your word! Thank you ever so much for claiming it for both of us...oh, that truly means so much to me! I accept and receive it, in Jesus' name...I'm not sure when we have ever needing healing more, to be honest. Your friendship and support and encouragement through so many things is a precious gift to me, and I trust God will bless you abundantly in this new year...our year of healing!

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  5. I am often amazed at how God works and how He speaks to us. Your three words are so closely aligned with each others, just as I'm sure God intended them to. I pray that this is a year of answers, revelations and clarity for all of you.
    Thank you for your sweet email last week. I had a hard time getting online while there and my blog commenting and emailing were very sporadic. We truly appreciated your prayers. We arrived home very late last night and got up early to attend church, so this afternoon is a day of opening mail and generally playing "catch up".
    Have a lovely day my dear friend.
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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    1. Oh, thank you, dear Betsy! I was amazed, too, at how God did that with our words being so intertwined and closely-related. He is an awesome God who absolutely cares about the details of our lives. Oh, I am so thankful you are home safe, and I truly hope your time away was abundantly blessed...I surely understand about you not being able to write, and it was just so wonderful to see your comment here. Praying much for you, dear friend, and trusting God to bless you!

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  6. Hi Cheryl! It's so lovely to see a photo of you next to you name here. Fun!
    What a great word for you. I know this past year has seemed like one trial after the other. So much sadness too. I hope that you will gain the clarity, answers and revelation that you and your family seek. God bless you in this new year, and bring you many, many moments of joy, laughter and grace.
    God bless,
    Ceil

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    1. Oh, how sweet you are, Ceil! Oh, my, you aren't kidding about this past year and the sadness...one morning, I remember standing in Mom and Dad Smith's living room and looking up telling God, "I have reached a new low"...it is the only way I knew how to put it into words. Just SO much bearing down and pressing in! I can't thank you enough for your proclaimed blessings of joy, laughter, and grace for this year! I'll take it, my friend. Thank you ever so much for your consistent encouragement, friendship, and support. God bless you in a huge way!

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  7. God tells us many times in His Word not to turn or look back. Always looking forward and even up sometimes. It's good to clean the slate at the start of the new year, forgetting what is always behind us. Good post Cheryl!

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    1. You are right, Ed. I think the only time God wants us to look back is to trace His hand and see all of the amazing things He has done for us...to remind us of His goodness and increase our faith for what we now face. But, to look back and relive the bad stuff is just plain not wise. Thank you for your reminder about that and your kind words! I so appreciate your visit and insight. God bless you, brother!

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  8. Dear Cheryl,
    Oh what precious words the Lord gave to all three of you this New Year. He truly does knit us together, in our families, and in HIS family--His Body--also. My heart cries out so much for God's Grace for you and for all in your family. It seems so hard to move on, but the Lord is the only one who can carry us through that valley that we must walk through. I remember when He gave me that very passage from Deuteronomy 2 years ago, after a long dry season after a deep, burning trial. It had felt that we would never be able to move on, but He did bring us into a new place after that. Oh, how I pray that He will bless you this year my friend! I am so thankful for these connections through this blogging world that He has made also! Much Love & Hugs!

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    1. Yes, dear friend, He surely does knit us together in our families and His family, too! I love the way you worded that! Your precious prayers and the burden you have carried for us throughout our trials is just a PRECIOUS thing to us, and we appreciate you from the bottom of our hearts. I love how God gave you that same Scripture during your awful trial...I just love reading that and remembering how there is a fullness of times to every event in our lives, a time when God says, "enough...move forward out of this place". I think of Elijah in the cave and how God asked him what he was doing there, too. I am so thankful God brought you out of your dark trial, and yes, we are surely hoping for the same, my friend. Much love and hugs back to you...praying much for you!

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  9. Dearest Cheryl,
    thank you for sharing such a comforting and inspiring post, you truly warmed my heart, blessed be!

    Wishing you a most wonderful new week ahead,
    I'm sending hugs and more hugs to you

    XOXO Dany

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    1. Dear Dany! It was SO nice to see your dear comment tonight! I feel just awful that it has been ages since I got to visit you and connect. I am so grateful you do not give up on me, and your visits here are just such an uplift and encouragement. I send hugs and more hugs back to you, too, sweet friend, and I do trust all is well in your corner of the world. God bless you!

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  10. I've never seen someone use an acronym as their "word," but this is so fitting!
    What wonderful hope we have in God as we move forward. I'm always encouraged when I stop by your blog. I'm saying a prayer for you and your family today.

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    1. Thank you, Shannon! Your kind words were such a blessing to me today! I am so thankful to see that you visited, and I hope all is well with you. God bless you, my friend. :)

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  11. Isn't it funny how during times of great trial or sadness we wonder how in the world we will ever get through it? Sometimes the pain seems like a load too heavy to bear. We cry out to God and He hears us, time passes as we continue to cling to Him and before we know it, the pain doesn't hurt so much...yes, the sting of it is still there but we realize that the pain is much more manageable. Our God keeps his promises, doesn't He? God bless you and your family as you find new ways to fill those empty spaces with joy throughout this new year. Much love to you, dear Cheryl.♥

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    1. You are so right, Debby. We truly do wonder how we will get through, but somehow life does go on, and God does prove faithful, once again, and yes, He surely does keep His precious promises! Thank you ever so much for your dear words of encouragement...they are such a constant blessing to me. I send much love back to you and trust God will abundantly bless you in this new year, too, sweet friend!

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  12. Hi Cheryl, I am so glad to be connecting with you again. You always encourage me! 2017 was really tough and my hubby and I feel exhausted moving into 2018 yet we both believe this is a year of "answers" "fullstops" and "clarity" :) So funny how your family's words encompass how we feel in this moment. My word for this year is "Abide" I feel the only way I am to get through each and every day this year is to abide in my Lord and Saviour, to abide in His word. Its like the further along one gets, the more you need Him. Thank you too for the reminder that the physical change of year is a great opportunity to start fresh, to start anew. And I especially like what you say at the beginning, that God never leads us backwards. The only looking back we should do is to remind ourselves of all the Lord has already done for us as a way to build our faith!
    God bless my friend, I look forward to connecting and growing with you in 2018.
    Tracy

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    1. Oh, friend! It is so nice to be connecting with you again, too! Thank you for your kind words. You are surely an encouragement to me, also. I am so sorry 2017 was such a rough year for you. I love the way God is leading you to abide in Him...you are SO right! The longer I serve Him, the more I feel the need for Him! He is so faithful, no matte what life brings. So thankful to visit with you and to share the fellowship, and yes, I look forward to growing together in 2018! God bless you and your husband with a much better year. :)

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  13. Praying this year brings the Clarity you are longing for, and a peace for your heart.

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    1. Thank you so much, Becky! I appreciate your prayers, kind words, and sweet visit more than I can say. May the Lord bless you in this new year!

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  14. What a blessing that your family seeks God in finding each one word and then seeks how your words tie together for your family to focus on God all year.

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    1. Thank you, Debbie. It surely is a blessing that I thank the dear Lord for every day. He is so faithful. May He bless you and yours in this new year!

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  15. You brought back many favorite memories - lyrics to an old hymn sung in Sunday School often, the paper saver, and the Talley's!! May God continue to bring His comfort and strength for you all in 2018.

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    1. Oh, how wonderful that you knew the old hymn and the Talley's! So thankful for your kind words and visit today, Joanne. God bless you in this new year!

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  16. I've heard the clean slate analogy for years, but this is the first time I've seen it compared with a child's toy. The Etch-a-Sketch also comes to mind for me. Keeping your family in prayer.

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    1. Thank you ever so much for your prayers for us, Lesa! We appreciate them more than I can say. May the Lord bless you and yours in this new year!

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  17. Oh sweet friend, I continue to grieve with you as a result of your great losses, but I know that the Lord is already heaping upon you blessing after blessing as was very evident in how closely He tied your family's three words together. What an awesome God we have!

    Such powerful encouragement within the words of that hymn. Such a familiar hymn, yet I don't think I really delved into all of the stanzas.

    May the New Year bring you Clarity as you wait for answers and revelation from God Almighty.

    You are always close in prayer and heart. Love you dear friend.

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    1. Dear, faithful friend, your continued prayers, support, friendship, and encouragement are just SO appreciated. I do believe the dear Lord is with us, through it all, and yes, He surely is an awesome God! I love and appreciate you so very much and am praying for you daily.

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  18. I'm so very sorry for the losses of the last year. I love the courage you present here, though. I read into this a lot of hope! Beautiful! Blessings to you as you move from fear, to courage and trust!

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    1. Thank you so very much, Amy! I am so grateful for your precious visit and sweet words. You are such a blessing and encouragement. God bless you, my friend.

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  19. I don't see my comment from earlier. So I will post again. I am so sorry for your losses. I love what your shared and your word. I am starting a series on grief next week. You might find some of the posts helpful. The 2017 year seemed to be a year of losses for many. Us too.

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    1. Dear Maree, Thank you SO much for persevering to leave this dear comment. I have no idea what happened to the first comment...I don't see it anywhere. I would LOVE to read your posts on grief. I will click over to your blog now, so I can subscribe and not miss your precious posts. I am SO sorry for your grief, and I trust Jesus will hold you extra close during this difficult season. It is so hard. God help you through, my friend.

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  20. I love the word clarity . Don’t we all need it . The Lord uses you in a mighty way dear lady with your precious heart felt post . I love what you said about comfort . Oh yes staying in our comfort zones surely will cause us to become stagnant . Our pastor just talked about this on church . He said you will never get anywhere staying in the same place . That was one of those moments that i said wow ! So very true . I pray that you feel the Lord living on you today dear friend . Hugs and blessings , Cindy

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    1. Thank you ever so much for your dear, encouraging words, sweet friend! How very true...what your pastor said...that is a "wow" moment, for sure. Even though "the same" is comfortable, we will never make progress just staying there. I so appreciate you and your precious comments and prayers. You are such a blessing to me! God bless you richly, in return!

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  21. So much about this post dear Cheryl is beautiful! As I was reading your blog post, I was listening to a song on youtube called "Heaven's Point of View". The lady who was singing this song, sang the song knowing she had cancer, and her time on earth wasn't for long. It is a powerful song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbcPirz9q7I&sns=em And it reminded me that while we can't understand the hows and whys of things that go on here on earth, there is a place called heaven's point of view. I pray that the Lord comforts all of your family's heart in the midst of your grief and loss, and grants you comfort and peace as only He can. How wonderful of the Lord to give you each such a powerful word for the new year, and that your word would tie in so beautifully to Zac's and Kevin's. Oh dear friend! The Lord indeed is with you, and all these struggles that you are going through have a higher purpose, somehow. I pray the comfort of the Lord eases your heart and carries you through this time. Just like the Etch-A-Sketch, the Lord is able to make new that which did not seem possible. He is able. I do know that. Your precious family always remains in my prayers! Continuing to believe this year is a brighter and easier one! Hugs to you today dear one!

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    1. Oh, dear friend! Your precious words...I am most humbled and so grateful to you. The words to that song are just beautiful. Can you imagine what all of this must look like from Heaven's point of view? It also made me think of another similar song called, "The Shepherd's Point of View" by the McKamey's. One time, Kevin, Zach, and I heard that in the car...I could take you to the exact spot, we were sitting on a bridge waiting for the light to turn green, and we heard that song for the first time, and we all 3 just wept. I know your words are true that God has a higher purpose. I have no idea what it is, and discouragement is so near all the time, but I cling to the hope that things are better farther on. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this heartfelt encouragement. Sending much love and gratitude and many hugs to you!!

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  22. Beautiful post, as always, Cheryl. Your words comfort my heart and remind me that God does have the answers!

    I loved my magic slate, too! I had forgotten about them until you reminded me. So many fun hours drawing on it.

    Prayers for you and your family, my friend!

    Blessings - Julie

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    1. And, many, many prayers are going up for you, too, my friend. I pray for you every, single day and am believing God to bring you through your trials to a place of amazing victory! God's got this...all of it...all of your burdens, all of mine, all of the burdens of all of His trusting children. Jesus has big shoulders, and how grateful I am for that! I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your emails, prayers, kind words, encouragement, and friendship. God bless you abundantly!

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  23. Thank you for a thought provoking post. I have fond memories of playing with the magic slate.

    I'm saddened to hear all the loss that your family has been dealing with. I have not been keeping up on reading blogs very well, so at least some of it was news to me. May the Lord's comfort continue to sustain you and yours.

    I thought of this poem and wanted to share it with you.

    For All the Morrows

    Has the year brought sadness?
    Joy is yet in store.
    Has it given gladness?
    Next year giveth more.
    Let your Father measure
    All your pain and care,
    Let Him weigh the burden
    That your heart must bear,
    Sending light or shadow
    As He deemeth best,
    For in His sure wisdom
    You can safely rest.
    Peace for all the morrows,
    Strength for all the days,
    These shall be your portion
    Through the New Year's ways.

    Annie Johnson Flint

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    1. What a beautiful, precious poem, Mary! Thank you ever so much for sharing it. I appreciate your kind words and loving support. God bless you!

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  24. I had a magic slate, too, Cheryl, and I loved your analogy of starting a new year. Your three words are so suited for each other. I sometimes feel very lost, too, and I thank you for sharing that with us. My prayers continue for your family, especially for Debbie and Mark. Hopefully, this new year will bring peace for all of you.

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    1. It is such a comfort for us to share our struggles with one another and to know that we are not alone in the things we are feeling. My family and I all truly appreciate your continued prayers and support, and I want you to know that I am praying for you every, single day. I hope your dear mother is continuing to improve and things are going better. God bless you!

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  25. God never leads backwards. Gotta use this quote Cheryl, such truth. Thanks.

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  26. Praying for you right now. You will make it through this. God has been faithful. He loves you all so much. Fear not. He is with you in it all.
    Hugs,
    Laura

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    1. Yes, and amen, my friend! Thank you ever so much for your faithfulness and prayers! Praying for you every day. :)

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  27. Hi Cheryl, sorry...I am a little late in reading this. I am so sorry for the loss of your brother-in-law, how sad for all of you. God will see you through this.

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