Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Letter 2015

I post this every year for those of you I may have inadvertently forgot to send our Christmas card to. Enjoy and Merry Christmas from our family to yours!  .....

Dear Family & Friends,                                                                                                                 December 2015

Well, this was our first full year as Californians, and I must say, we have lived it to the fullest. Legoland, Disneyland, San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, USS Midway, Joshua Tree National Park, Big Bear snow tubing, paddle surfing, whale watching, too many beautiful sunsets to count--from the desert, to the mountains, to the beaches, we live California.

Weston turned six in August, and in September he joined Savannah as a kindergartner at Grace Classical Academy. God answered so many years of prayers on my part by giving him the sweetest class of all boys, brothers in make-believe games and soccer battles. But September 20th marked the best news of all for us, when Weston said the prayer to accept Christ as his personal Lord and Savior in his church class. The Lord has been so kind to this doubting Mama to confirm over and over again in very clear ways the presence of the Holy Spirit in Weston's heart and life, and the change in him is undeniable. I can't wait to see what the Lord has in store for his tender, yet deeply understanding heart!

Savannah is still my joy and lover of life. She's taken second grade by storm, turning eight years old in October. She loves everything and everyone, and while I still pray daily for her salvation, I am grateful for all the conversations we are having now about life and faith and people. Her heart is so tender and loving and open toward others that I can't wait to see how God is going to continue to use her to draw people to Him. She is a constant source of energy and life in our family for which I am truly thankful, and I have learned she sees value in things I overlook or take for granted. God is already using her to smooth out rough edges I didn't know I had, and for that I am learning to be grateful ;)

Joey continues to love his job, and we are blessed beyond measure by both our Chick-fil-A family here in California and in the corporate office. Every year that passes, I am more and more grateful for the faithfulness of the Cathy family to have built a business based on biblical principles.

But perhaps the theme for this year, the over-arching lesson for both Joey and myself and our children has been: Do the hard thing. Not just the next thing, but the hard thing. When you’re not sure which step to take next, step in the direction that is hard to go.  God has met us down that path so many times this year.

I cannot think of a time in my life where I have more actively sought the face and will of the Lord more so than in this past year. I have sought Him in stillness and patience and quietness and long, deep pauses of life. A life not busy. A calendar not full. A day not scheduled. And if you know me, you know how hard this has actually been for me to sink into.

We have sought the Lord in the most difficult task of finding a church home, a place to belong, friends to call our own. This journey has forced us to dig deeper into God's Word and challenge what we think we know. It has been the hardest journey to discern what is best for our family at this stage of our life. The Lord was faithful to finally open some doors in October, and we find ourselves finally at peace for a season connected with some awesome people we hope become lifelong friends in a church home that preaches the truth of God's Word without watering it down or avoiding the tough issues. Just the Bible--that's all our family really needs.

In August after much prayer, we bought an RV, and have enjoyed the intentional memories it allows us to make with our children as a family, seeing the beauty of God’s creation that is all over the west coast, but that too was a hard path to choose to take. God continues to ask us to trust Him with our finances in so many areas, but I’m so grateful that every time He asks us to take a plunge of faith He meets us right where we are and provides in ways we couldn’t have foreseen.

I've prayed with so many this year, had so many conversations, read so many news and opinion articles. It has been a hard year for many, for our nation, for the world. If I’m being honest, it’s still hard. Joey and I are pressing into the Lord and into each other during this season.  We’re holding our marriage and our children up to the Lord in daily surrender, with open hands, trying not to have expectations and to let God be God. A godly marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. Separating the truth from the lies inside your own head is hard.

But friends, it is also SO VERY GOOD.  Hard, but good.  Because in the midst of choosing the narrow path, the hard path, the Voice of Truth comes and fills your life with meaning and goodness and a sense of purpose and fulfillment that only comes from a Good, Loving Heavenly Father who created us, so He knows exactly what fills the longings of our souls. You find His mercies truly are new every morning that His forgiveness covers a multitude of failings, giving you the renewed joy to try again.  You find refuge in His strength and not your own.  You find peace in His plan, so far out of your control that all you can do is trust and hope and try to be obedient.  And even though the obedience is the hardest part of all, the daily moment-by-moment choice to choose the Lord and His way, it is also where some of the sweetest moments of life are experienced.

I wonder if this year has been hard for you as well.  I wonder if you have taken the easy path, the fun path, the path you think you deserve, are entitled to, the life you think you should be living. I wonder if you have nothing to show for it but regret. I’ve made that mistake this year, and I’m so grateful that every time I turn around to try and choose a different way, the Lord is faithful to place before me the same hard path I could have chosen the first time. The path He always knew would be best. I didn’t miss it. He didn’t take it away, and He was right there to walk it with me every. single. time.

So my encouragement this year is to choose the hard. For me, I have to choose to be still instead of busy. Some need to become active instead of being still. For me, I need to pray more in secret and speak less in public, hence the fewer blog posts. For some, God is calling you to speak out the truth in love instead of holding it all inside. For me, I need to learn to be okay with being uncomfortable, to get comfortable with being rubbed raw and worked on from the inside out, and that is a hard journey I am only just beginning. Some of you have been uncomfortable you’re entire life, never feeling like yourself, and God is calling you to get comfortable with Him.

Do you see what I mean?  What is hard for me may not be hard for you!  We are all so different, so wonderfully made, so perfectly created. What is the hard thing to sink into at this point in your life, as this new year approaches?  What hard path have you been avoiding that you finally need to take the hand of your Heavenly Father and just trust Him, walk with Him down that path?

The words of Jesus Himself, John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble (guaranteed). But take heart! I (Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit living inside His believers) have OVERCOME the world!" (emphasis mine) Amen, Amen, and Amen!

Praying this Christmas season you can claim victory in Jesus as we celebrate His birth as the beginning of the end of the curse of man! The best gift of all because Jesus brought salvation for us all from it all. May you live a life of victory in 2016 choosing to do the hard things with Christ, overcoming and not losing heart.

“O victory in Jesus /My Savior, forever./He sought me and bought me /With His redeeming blood; /He loved me ere I knew Him /And all my love is due Him, /He plunged me to victory, /Beneath the cleansing flood.”
 –Bartlett, E.M, “Victory in Jesus”, 1939

Grateful every day Jesus took the hard path from heaven to earth, from earth to the cross, from death to life. Grateful he gives me a choice to follow His example, but also that He chose me to follow His example.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!
Praying you fully embrace the abundance of good in the midst of the hard,

Joey, Jennifer, Savannah, & Weston Durham

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