Merry Christmas from the Neace's!
I hope you all are surrounded with love and laughter, good food and God's abundant blessings, but the most important thing...the light of Christ and the true reason for the season.
Rick and I have experienced a range of high highs and low lows this year. In January, we dealt with the excruciating journey of my precious dad's last days here on earth. After many hospitalizations, nursing homes, crisis care centers and assisted living facilities, my sweet daddy went home to be with Jesus on February 2nd.
January was also the time when our middle son left the nest and began his journey with New Tribes Bible Institute. Though my heart swelled with pride and thankfulness for such a godly young man and his quest to follow the Lord's will, I also ached at the thought of having another wonderful man in my life being taken away. Yet, God is good and His healing balm came in many different displays of love and support through people He had placed in our lives for this very season.
The end of January, Rick and I were able to spend time with a great group of police officers and their spouses in Alton, Illinois where we helped to kick off a year-long Bible study on God's Design for Marriage.
The middle of February took us to Wisconsin for a first-ever police wives conference. What an amazing time to spend with women experiencing the same types of trials and fears, not to mention the fact we got to visit our son at New Tribes and check out his new digs. :)
March blew in along with the privilege of speaking to a group of ladies at Temple Baptist Church in Sullivan, Missouri. I was also offered a part-time job at First Baptist Church, Villa Ridge - a definite answer to prayer.
April rolled around and I felt God's urging to begin writing a Bible study for Women on the layers hindering our hearts from intimately experiencing God. The previous eight or so months had been a stripping time of sorts, as God removed things in my life I often put before Him. It was a painful lesson, but one I needed to learn in order to help others.
The warm winds of late spring blew as May came and went. Our grandson enjoyed his first birthday, and we marveled at his good looks and genius-like qualities. Definitely a Neace trait. Wink.
The summer months brought drought and extremely high temperatures. Trying to keep our yard/garden watered and weeded, as well as my mom's, left me tired and parched. Yet, God in all of His goodness sent refreshing rains in the form of unexpected and much-needed money gifts, speaking opportunities and special moments along the way.
July ushered in our 23rd wedding anniversary with opportunity to get-away from the hustle and bustle. Rick, being a hopeless romantic (I love that), rented a little cabin on a river bank for a humble weekend away. However, as we pulled up to the check-in office amidst the old beat up trucks and flashing, neon silhouettes of posing ladies, a feeling of backwoodsy foreboding overtook me (I'm not judging...just a city gal who likes nice facilities). I do believe the Beverly Hillbillies would have been proud to stay in the bungalow we were taken to. It sat high upon stilts and had a mass of weeds and brush for a view. The inside, though cool by outside standards, had a ratty old bedspread on a bed long past its prime, and a 1960s T.V. with a VCR to boot. We didn't stay, but high-tailed it out of there and back on the road to our own homestead several hours away. Poor Rick. But you know what they say,"If momma ain't happy..."
August was time for school to resume and a certain teenage daughter to re-focus from summer love to Junior year of high school. Our house was a buzz of activity with football games and weekend work schedules. I had also taken on more hours at work and promoted, in essence, to Women's Ministry Director...a title I assumed I'd never acquire again, but, alas, God has different plans.
The end of September, Rick and I boarded a plane - a first for me, and many years past for him. I had been asked to speak at the Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers conference in Deland, Florida. It was one of the best events Rick and I have attended. We met so many wonderful people, got to explore a bit of Florida we hadn't seen before, and witnessed a total God moment in the middle of Walmart (find my previous blog about it).
October was Halloween and time for kids of all ages to sport their costumes in hopes for treats. Though I personally do not like Halloween or what it stands for, I guess you could say that having a grandson changes things. His momma dressed him up like a little firefighter and he and his sweet parents descended on our house. Who can't love a handsome guy in a bright yellow fire hat and coat?
In November, Rick and I were invited back to Alton, Illinois twice in two weeks to minister to and fellowship with the officers and their spouses we'd been with in January. Those folks are a great group of people who know how to put on a good chocolate spread. :) It was also a time of sadness as our nation set aside an opportunity to help save our nation and instead, chose to repeat history and turn a wild eye away from God's truths. Sigh. I keep assuring myself that God is still in control, amen?!
Finally, December has been a road of challenges. Rick and I have encountered God in numerous ways and on so many levels. The past few weeks have been times of financial uncertainty, unexpected blessing, several deeply emotional family situations, God's unfailing love and peace, angels in our bathroom mirror (I'll post pictures...otherwise you would not believe me), the loss of several officers close to our town, a close call while Rick was on duty, my first police funeral, and most recently, the very unexpected, tragic death of our daughter's boyfriend's father. I believe this month far exceeds the training ground I'd ever believe I could endure or want to experience in one lifetime. Yet...God is still on His throne, and for that I praise Him.
Never take for granted your loved ones. Take time to dance in the rain. Laugh a little. Listen for that still small voice of your Heavenly Father. Find ways to tell those you love, "I love you." Forgive and never hold grudges. Trust without apprehension. Face your fears head on with God as your guide. And finally, never, ever give up hope.
This Christmas, I pray you will find peace with God and a well-spring of joy within your soul. No matter what this year has been like, and with no idea of what tomorrow will bring, keep Christ the center of your life as you live, laugh and love, for HE is the reason for the season, and the hope of our yesterdays and tomorrows.