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Hope

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 My word for 2016 was HOPE. Circumstances and age itself can sometimes rob us of HOPE. To be honest, this was the first time in my life that I can remember that I really struggled to sense that there was hope in some specific areas of my life. I truly claimed these verses:

Jeremiah 29:11 - "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."

Joel 2:25-26  I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. 26 “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you..."

As I reflect today on the past 12 months, I prayed for that word to be realized in some very specific areas of my life...and it did happen. I think I learned that I have to come to the end of myself so that I can truly see God work in areas I know I have exhausted what I CAN DO. That's where He wants to me camp out and pitch my tent. Some were very personal experiences for me,  but let me share a few "hope-filled" highlights from 2016 (in no particular order.)

  • Our family was able to take a "once-in-a-lifetime" vacation together to beautiful Turks and Caicos last May. We had an amazing and memory-filled experience that I will treasure forever. My Dad felt well the entire week and he and mom were finally able to go to the Caribbean together. Todd and I enjoyed an anniversary breakfast together overlooking the ocean and enjoyed some meaningful time with my sister Christie and her family as well.
  • My father is still courageously fighting cancer and survived a very dangerous surgery this month and is home at last. I am hopeful of his recovery and more days ahead with him.
  • We did a Facebook LIVE service in the midst of our Hurricane Matthew evacuation to ATL in October with Andrea and Geno Miller (who evacuated there as well) None of us new what we would be coming home to and doing that service from my sister's living room (Thank you Christie and Bruce!) was the most worshipful service I did this year. I can truly say I worshiped from a place of totally reliance that God was in control because none of us were at all! Click here to check it out.
  • Early pictures Post-Hurricane Matthew looked as if our home was completely underwater. We were blessed to return to no significant damage to our home at all. Just trees and debris everywhere. Survivor guilt is a real thing as we walk this journey with so many friends who experienced significant damage and still continue to recover. We are still hopeful that our beautiful Island will return to life before Matthew. We are #HHISTRONG.
  • I took on a new role at HHICC as Ministry Operations Director. My task this year was to streamline our efforts as a staff-team in the areas of finances, ministry, and member development and help remove as much from Todd's plate as possible so that he could truly PASTOR and LEAD our staff team and congregation. The "hope"moment is that Todd and are actually STILL married (LOL!) Seriously, I am so proud of Todd, our staff team, Elders, and Stewarship Team for their support and for their patience with me in this new role and as we continue to learn together how we can all be our best in our unique roles at HHICC.
  • Sydney saw her dream realized of having a lead role as Fritz in The Nutcracker. She was "hopeful" for this experience and danced it beautifully this year. It was such a great two weeks having family come to HHI to support her.  I loved being a part as a volunteer and being in "her world." She is embarking on this form of art being her life's devotion and God continues to open doors for her to use it for Him. Click here to see what she choreographed and danced in this year's "An Evening in December." She got braces this year and is not "a little girl" anymore - Dad is in denial. I am really enjoying our "talks" and observing her choices and choosing her friendships. I love this! (I know, enjoy it while I can!)
  • Sean grew up this year. Too quick for my taste. His love for math and science has developed into a passion. He asked his teacher for more math homework! (yeah, weird kid...) He got a drum set this year and started learning to play. I'm loving it! He continues to thrive with Tormenta Soccer and we have grown to love our team and parents this year. We prayed that God would put us together with great parents and kids and HE DID. We love our #07BlackHHI boys! I love verbally hearing how Sean processes life. He has this cute way of using big words in the wrong context? It's hilarious. Todd and Sean love flying their drones, wrestling in the living room (help me!) and playing golf together. I love seeing "my men" spend time together and have fun.
  • Todd and I are learning and growing a lot right now as we embark on almost 22 years of marriage. We both have learned a lot from the past few years about ourselves and what lies ahead for us. It is so different with the kids growing up and already being so independent (which I highly recommend raising kids to be that way!) Date nights and daily meaningful conversations are not luxuries...they are a lifelines to us staying connected and a being a vital part of each other's lives. You take vows for a reason, right? The good, the bad, the scarry, the frustrating, the win, the loss...it's the TOTALITY of it all that makes a marriage. We are learning that and expecting God to continue to shape us for His purpose as we grow together in Him.
  • We purchased our HHICC campus...Finally! This was a big one. We were hopeful that this contract would close before the end of 2016, saving us thousands of dollars and on the last business day of 2016, Todd signed the papers and we purchased our 2 buildings and 3 acres. Todd had the best night of sleep all year last night! We are so blessed to have such an amazing group of leaders at HHICC who led this effort to GET IT DONE.

As I wrap this blog up on New Year's Eve 2016, I can't help but think this: I'm here. My kids and my husband are here with me. Thank you, God. There was so much uncertainty this year in our personal lives, in our country, our world, and in our community. But for me, hope was realized in so many beautiful ways throughout this year and I am indeed, so thankful.

My New Year's Eve Prayer..."Father God, our Provider and Sustainer, thank you for your faithfulness in 2016 and that it never ends.  Even when I lose heart...even when I feel that I am without hope...you are constant. Thank you that you prove over and over again that YOU are Faithful and that You will provide HOPE in YOUR time, in YOUR way...You are God and I am not. I need to be reminded of that way too often, Father! In the Name of Your Son, Jesus, AMEN."